Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Monday, 07/16/2001

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The Option Investor Newsletter                   Monday 07-16-2001
Copyright 2001, All rights reserved.                        1 of 1
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MARKET WRAP  (view in courier font for table alignment)
        07-16-2001        High      Low     Volume Advance/Decline
DJIA    10472.12 - 66.94 10568.69 10446.60 1.03 bln   1184/1877	
NASDAQ   2029.12 - 55.67  2091.68  2025.41 1.48 bln   1466/2234
S&P 100   620.60 -  6.25   629.69   618.61   totals   2650/4111
S&P 500  1202.45 - 13.23  1219.63  1200.05
RUS 2000  483.80 -  6.91   491.40   483.77
DJ TRANS 2962.79 + 22.44  2975.35  3937.45
VIX        25.31 +  1.44    25.66    23.70
Put/Call Ratio      0.58

Buckle Up, Baby

The week ahead is going to be a wild one.  Second-quarter earnings
are in full effect, Greenspan appears mid-week and option contracts
expire Friday.  Whoa, welcome volatility.

The earnings picture Monday morning was painted with a lot of
colors and viewed with mixed perceptions.  Citigroup (NYSE:C)
reported profits that beat consensus estimates by one penny, and
although its shares ended modestly higher, they lost the majority
of earlier gains as the day wore on.  Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)
also reported earnings that beat expectations, but its shares
weakened throughout the day, similar to the trading in shares
of Citi.

The late day weakness in the aforementioned banking shares was
perhaps partially a product of the earnings shortfall of Bank
of New York (NYSE:BK).  The company missed consensus estimates by
one penny, and provided cautious guidance for the remainder of
the year due to the global economic weakness.  Its shares shed
13 percent.

The KBW Bank Sector Index (BKX.X) finished rather poorly Monday,
which may be indicative of further downside in the bank sector,
thus the broader market as measured by the S&P 500 (SPX.X)  In
fact, a few of us in the office this morning were mulling the
probabilities of shorting some weak bank stocks...To digress, I
can't emphasize enough that the bank/finance sector is ultra
critical to the broader market, and should serve as a leading
indicator.  In fact, a trader might do well to monitor the BKX
in conjunction with bond yields to get a feel for the supply and
demand dynamic in the market.  The BKX settled near its day lows
Monday and meaningful support now lies around the 870 level,
while the 900 level on the upside should serve as resistance.

What the bank sector is to the broader market, the Philadelphia
Semiconductor Sector (SOX.X) is to the Nasdaq.  The SOX steadily
declined throughout Monday's session in the wake of cautious
comments from Merrill Lynch chip analyst Joe Osha.  The selling
of semi stocks was perpetuated by cautious guidance delivered by
an Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) executive out west at the
Semicon West Conference, which is a large gathering of chip
businesses.  The conference should continue to produce guidance,
in one form another, as the week progresses.

After the bell, Novellus Systems (NASDAQ:NVLS) - a chip equipment
maker akin to AMAT - reported earnings that beat previously
lowered estimates, but delivered guidance that was less than
positive.  In essence, Novellus stated that they weren't sure
whether or not the bottom had been reached in their business and
remained cautious going forward.  The stock dropped another $1.50
in the after hours session, and dragged alike chip shares lower.

The SOX should gap lower Tuesday morning off of Novellus'
guidance, depending upon how the sell-side of Wall Street paints
the picture.  The SOX is below most meaningful support levels,
but does have some minor support between the 540 - 550 range.
Of course a convincing breakdown below that level could offer
bearish traders the green light to get short weak chip stocks
and should portend further weakness in the Nasdaq Composite
(COMPX).  But keep in mind that Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) - the mother
of all chip companies and about 6 percent of the Nasdaq-100
(NDX.X) - reports after the bell Tuesday.

The weakness in the SOX dragged the COMPX back towards the
psychological 2000 level.  The COMPX remains a bit of a
conundrum in its recent range, unless you've been shorting
strength and buying weakness.  With the COMPX, keep in mind
that it has an unfilled gap down to the technically
significant 1975 support level, which looks like it's going
to get filled this week without some help from corporate

The S&P 500 is also approaching a key support level at 1200.
Actually, it's already there.  The S&P has traced a pattern of
lower highs and lows since late May, like the rest of the major
market averages, and could be setting up to take out its lows
between the 1170 - 1180 range.  In terms of overbought versus
oversold, the S&P is in neutral territory.  Therefore, it's
certainly possible that it could take out its relative lows,
giving traders opportunities for profits on the short side in
weak sectors.

Also worth noting, as it pertains to the broader market, is
the continued slide in bond yields.  On balance, yields continue
to fall as bonds are bought, which could translate into less
demand for equities.  The 30-year Treasury Bond YIELD (TYX.X)
is approaching a key support level, so bullish and bearish
traders alike may want to monitor its action this week as it
relates to equities.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDU) may also be having
trouble due to bond yields.  It has stalled around the 10,550
level in the past two trading days, and on balance is having
difficulty around the 10,500.  That much is not surprising
given the fact that 10,500 provided substantial support on the
way down.  Should the Dow continue to act heavy around the
10,500, it is likely to roll back down towards 10,250 in the
short-term.  Conversely, the 'right' catalyst could propel
the index above the 10,550 range and catch some shorts off

Aside from corporate earnings this week, perhaps Greenspan's
appearance Wednesday could serve as a positive catalyst.  The
Fed Chairman is scheduled to give his semi-annual state of
the economy testimony before Congress Wednesday morning.  Market
participants will be listening for guidance from the Doc on
the current state of the U.S. economy, the Fed's forecasts on
growth and inflation and, perhaps most importantly, the Fed's
future actions on interest rates.  Therein lies possible
catalysts, but whether Greenspan remains mum or not remains to
be heard.

The list of companies reporting earnings Tuesday is a long one,
but here are several companies worth mentioning that are slated
to report, either before or after the bell:  Apple Computer
Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), General Motors (NYSE:GM), Intel,
International Paper (NYSE:IP), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ),
Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Veritas (NASDAQ:VRTS) and Wells Fargo
(NYSE:WFC).  Again, within that list lies the possibility of
a catalyst either in one direction of another for respective

Add to the mix that Friday marks July expiration which, in and
of itself, should produce some rather wild gyrations.  My best
advice for those who can't watch the market actively this week
is to be very selective when putting on trades.  But for those
with the ability to monitor price action closely, there are sure
to be several big profit opportunities available this week.  Just
take a look at two of the Biotech short plays we had on the
list over the weekend in Myriad Genetics (NASDAQ:MYGN) and
Human Genome Sciences (NASDAQ:HGSI), whose shares lost 15 and
10 percent, respectively.  Fear can be a wonderful thing if
you're on the 'other' side.

Eric Utley


By Jeffrey Canavan

As a dyed-in-the-wool technician, I must yield to fundamentals
this week.  Technical indicators will still their impact, but
they could easily be trumped by positive or negative earnings
surprises.  As technicians, one thing we can watch is how the
markets react to the upcoming earnings announcements.

Take the Banking Index for example.  Citigroup and Bank of
American reported better than expected earnings, yet gave up most
of their profits by the end of the day.  Citigroup was up $1.85
at one point in the day, but only finished up $0.29.  By the end
of the day, the Banking Index was in negative territory.  An
argument could be made that a future profit warning from Bank of
New York hurt the index, but positive earnings from the No. 1 and
No. 3 banks should have had a bigger impact.  Overall this sector
looks susceptible.

Then again, most sectors are stuck in a downtrend and look
susceptible.  The Internet Index had a chance to break its
downtrend today, but failed.  Tomorrow could be the Retail
Index's turn, but the way it retreated today doesn't bode well.

The only sectors that come close to resembling an up trend are
transports and its cousin airlines.  Biotechnology and oil
services are oversold, but have fun trying to catch that falling
knife.  Overall shorting looks like the best policy, and it's
going to take a lot of positive earnings to change that.

Luckily we have a plethora of earnings to choose from this week.
The main focus will be on what IBM and Intel have to say, and we
should then focus on how the market reacts to that.  If IBM and
Intel meet or beat estimates and the market still sells off,
something could be amiss.

*************************Sector Watch****************************

            Weekly   Daily     Overbought    Support  Resistance
            Trend    Trend      Oversold

DJIA        Bearish  Bearish    Neutral       10,200   10,600
NASD        Bearish  Bearish    Neutral        1,940    2,125
S&P 500     Bearish  Bearish    Neutral        1,170    1,240
Rus 2000    Neutral  Bearish    Neutral         465       500

Semis       Bearish  Bearish    Neutral          525      585
Biotech     Bearish  Bearish    Oversold         490      550
Internet    Neutral  Bearish    Neutral          160      186
Networking  Bearish  Bearish    Neutral          300      365
Software    Bearish  Bearish    Neutral          188      210
Banking     Neutral  Neutral    Neutral          625      670
Retail      Neutral  Bearish    Neutral          850      900
Drugs       Bearish  Bearish    Neutral          365      390

                 Percent Change
            Last      Last       Last     Relative Strength
           5 Days    10 Days    30 Days      vs S&P 500
DJIA         2.8%     (0.3%)     (3.4%)       Positive
NASD         0.1%     (6.2%)     (5.6%)       Neutral
S&P 500      0.3%     (1.8%)     (4.6%)          N/A
Rus 2000    (0.4%)    (5.6%)     (3.6%)       Neutral

Semis       (1.0%)   (10.6%)     (9.6%)       Negative
Biotech    (11.9%)   (18.7%)    (20.0%)       Negative
Internet    (1.6%)    (7.9%)    (18.8%)       Neutral
Networking   0.5%     (7.3%)    (21.8%)       Neutral
Software    (3.5%)   (12.1%)    (10.6%)       Neutral
Banking     (0.4%)    (1.6%)     (2.0%)       Neutral
Retail       6.1       3.3%      (0.6%)       Positive
Drugs       (2.5%)    (0.6%)     (7.1%)       Neutral


Analyzing Those Amazing Analysts
by Mark Phillips

If you are like me, you grew up hearing of the experts on Wall
Street and mentally assigning a rather high status to their
ability to analyze a company and determine whether a given stock
was over-valued or under-valued.  As a matter of fact, it wasn't
that long ago that I began to question the vaunted wisdom of
analysts at the major Brokerage houses.

Conventional wisdom says that if the leading Semiconductor
analysts at Merrill Lynch, Robertson Stephens, Goldman Sachs and
Bear Stearns all rate INTC a Strong Buy, with a 12-month price
target of $70, while the stock is trading below $30, we should
all run out and buy the stock, right?  Not so fast, Sparky!

We know that mass psychology moves the markets, but most people
assume that applies only to investors.  Analysts are people too,
driven by the same hopes and dreams as individual investors.
Why is it that 9 different analysts come out on the same day to
downgrade a stock when the company issues a negative press
release or earnings warning?  You think they all arrived at the
same conclusion independently?  No way, Jose!  They are each
motivated by staying with the crowd and not being out of step.
Afterall, that could make the tardy or contrarian analyst
unpopular with investors if they deem him to be out of touch
with the stock/sector/market, and will take their investment
business down the road to another firm that is more "in touch"
with the market.

My question is, "Where were they BEFORE the warning came out?"
If with all their research resources, they can't see the bomb
before it hits, then what good are they?

If you think that is a harsh statement, let me propose that it
is the kindest face I can put on the behavior of analysts, as
it presupposes that they are moved by simple mass psychology.
Nothing more, nothing less.  Unfortunately the water gets a lot
muddier.  First there is the problem of trying to interpret what
the various ratings mean.  It can be a daunting task with a list
of ratings that includes Aggressive Buy, Strong Buy, Buy, Hold,
Sell, Market Perform, Market Outperform, Market Underperform,
Attractive, Neutral, Accumulate, Trading Buy, Maintain, Avoid,
Recommended List and Top Pick.  Could somebody please point me
to a roadmap for this confusing list of ratings.  Why can't we
just have Buy, Sell and Hold?  I think it is deliberately
confusing to further propagate the illusion that analysts have
some great secret knowledge, which they are willing to dole out
in limited quantities to their loyal (read that, high net worth)

And don't even get me started on the issue of conflict of
interest.  With the large percentage of the revenue of large
brokerage houses coming from their investment banking arms,
analysts are frequently pressured to not make negative comments
about companies that provide substantial revenue to the
investment banking side of the business.  We need to understand
this relationship, as it makes it clear that following analyst
ratings is not necessarily in the best interest of individual
investors.  The analysts do not issue their ratings for us.
They do it to keep the investment banking revenue stream

I'd be willing to bet the analyst in question is motivated by
the fact that his year-end bonus is tied to performance.  And
that performance has NOTHING to do with the accuracy of his
prognostications in the stock market; but it has everything to
do with the amount of revenue the analyst brings into the firm,
either directly or indirectly.  The translation is that for the
most part, analysts seem to move as a crowd, you know, lemmings.

Well, let's be fair - maybe analysts really are a cut above,
possessing some great hidden wisdom, and we should pay
attention.  Let's grab a random example, say AMZN, and look at
the upgrade/downgrade history over the past 21 months for three
different, big-name firms (Prudential, Banc of America, and
Merrill Lynch).  That takes us back to early September, 1999.
Let's look at Prudential first.

On 9/23/99, Prudential initiates coverage of the stock with a
Strong Buy rating when AMZN is trading for $67.  Just over a
month later, on 10/28/99, the firm drops their rating to a Hold
with the stock now trading at $69 (after dropping back from the
early October high of $90).  Then after the Technology market
finished with its blowoff top in early 2000, Prudential was back
on the Strong Buy bandwagon on April 27th.  With the stock
trading near $50 at this point, it must have looked like a
bargain; doubly so when AMZN dropped to $33 in late June,
prompting a reiteration of the firm's Strong Buy rating.
Thinking it over a month later, the call must not have looked so
smart, as it was dropped back to a Hold on July 27th with the
stock trading near $30.

Now here's a quick aside.  The strict definition of a Hold
rating is to maintain your current position in the stock.  Don't
sell it, but don't add more money into the position at this
time.  Due to their desire to maintain investment banking
business with publicly traded companies, brokerage firms very
rarely issue an actual sell rating.  That leaves it up to us,
the investing public to decipher the analyst code and deduce
that a Hold rating actually means Sell.  And if they ever issue
a Sell rating, it means "Get out fast, run for your lives, the
world is going to end, yadda, yadda, yadda".

So back to the trail of ratings left by Prudential.  After the
Hold on July 27th, they reiterated that rating 5 times by the
end of January 2001, as the stock continued to fall.  Then
finally on February 15th, Prudential threw in the towel and
issued a Sell rating with AMZN trading near $14.  Since that
time we have watched the stock come under additional selling
pressure, declining as low as $8.37 in early April.  But the
burning question is, what is the point of issuing the Sell
rating at that point?  Investors that followed the advice of
Prudential would have purchased the stock between $35-55 and
held it all the way down to a price of $14, before finally
cutting their losses and avoiding the final $6 loss.

Adding insult to injury, AMZN has since recovered significantly.
While it hasn't shot to the moon, it has several times topped
the $17 level, most recently on Friday.  Prudential is still
sitting on their Sell rating, while AMZN is now trading much
better than at any time over the past 18 months when the
brokerage held Buy and Strong Buy ratings.

Lest you get the idea that I'm picking on Prudential, let's look
briefly at the performance of our other two brokerage firms.
First let's look at Merrill Lynch.  Starting with a downgrade
from Buy to Accumulate on October 28th, 1999, with AMZN trading
at $69, the firm had no less than 11 revisions to its ratings
up through November, 2000.  Bouncing back and forth between Buy
and Accumulate (which I think means Buy more slowly), with
numerous reiterations, Merrill Lynch looks like their goal is to
have their clients dollar-cost-average all the way to zero.
Despite the fact that their rating on the stock (Near-Term
Accumulate/Long-Term Buy) hasn't changed since November of 2000,
the price of the stock is down another 60%.  That's not exactly
what I would call stellar guidance!

Not to belabor the point, but let's take a quick look at our
third brokerage firm, Banc of America Securities.  Starting with
a Buy rating on October 28th, 1999, the firm quickly dropped
its rating to Market Perform, helping their clients to miss out
on the run above $100.  Not to miss out again, the firm joined
the orgy of upgrades on February 1st and 3rd, 2000, quickly
moving AMZN up to Buy and then to Strong Buy.  That highest
recommendation was maintained all the way until July 27th, when
the stock had declined back to the $32-33 range (down from
north of $80).  After quickly ratcheting their rating back down
to Market Perform on July 28th, Banc of America has been fairly
quiet, with their latest statement on the matter coming with a
reiteration of their rating on January 9th.

So what's the point of all this analyst bashing?  It is
two-fold.  First I want you to be aware that analysts are not
any smarter than you or I - they look at the same data and draw
their own conclusions, which are handed down like so much pablum
for consumption by the masses (you and I).  Mass psychology,
greed, fear, and hysteria are just as dominant in their
decision-making process as it is in ours.  But we are
responsible for our own investing success, and need to do our
own research.  All the information we need for making well
informed investing decisions is available online - all we need
to do is buckle down, go find it, and then draw our own
conclusions.  The results are bound to be at least as good as
the kind of 'advice' we get from the analyst community.

But here's the second way we can learn from the behavior of
analysts.  If they behave like a crowd, can't we use them as
a contrarian indicator?  If our analysis says that a stock may
be approaching a point where all the good news is priced in and
it could be due for some weakness, could it be that most of
the analysts will be lined up on the Buy/Strong Buy side?  If
so, it would seem to be a good contrarian indicator that will
confirm our own analysis.  Or better yet, find an analyst or
group of analysts that seem to defy the 'madness of crowds'
and actually arrive at their own conclusions.  If they can
demonstrate a good-track record, maybe you have found a
reliable analyst that you can listen to as one of your inputs
for analyzing various investments.

The bottom line is, "Trust Yourself"!  Nobody else will be as
serious about looking out for your financial interests as you
will, and you are just as capable of assimilating the
information necessary to make informed investment decisions
as the Grand Wizards of Wall Street.


No new calls tonight


SRNA - Serena Software $23.13 -2.81 (-2.81 this week)

Serena Software is a provider of eBusiness software change
management (SCM) solutions.  The company's products and
services are used to manage and control software change for
organizations whose business operations are dependent on
managing information technology (IT).  SRNA's product
offerings support the industry standard IBM mainframe
platforms, including MVS, and are marketed under the brand
name Full Cycle mainframe.  This product suite automates the
software application life cycle and creates an IT environment
that facilitates concurrent development efforts by separate
programming teams, improves process consistency, enhances
software integrity and protects valuable software assets.

Following the broader Software index (GSO.X) lower, SRNA is
having its own problems, which commenced with a sharp decline
earlier this month.  Despite a strong bounce last Thursday, the
index is rolling over again ahead of major earnings reports due
out this week, beginning with SEBL on Wednesday and MSFT on
Thursday.  Failing to break through the $37 resistance level,
SRNA quickly fell back through the $31 support level, then the
200-dma (currently $29.05), before today's technical failure,
where SRNA dropped through the $25.50 support level.  This
completed a triple-bottom breakdown on the Point and Figure
chart, which is now giving a tentative bearish price target of
$15.  Volume the past 2 days has been very heavy, adding to the
bearish picture.  With earnings still a month away, the stock is
likely to be subject to the whims of the broader Software
sector.  Watch for the GSO index to continue its decline,
pushing SRNA towards a test of the $20 support level.  If the
GSO index falls through the $190 support level, look for SRNA to
break that important support level and take aim on the next
level of support near $16.  Target failed intraday rallies below
$27.50 for new entry points, as this is also the site of major
resistance and the 50-dma.  Alternatively, wait for SRNA to fall
through the $22.50 level before taking a position in the ongoing
decline.  We are initially placing our stop at $27.50.

BUY PUT AUG-25.0 NHU-TE OI=120 at $4.00 SL=2.50
BUY PUT AUG-22.5*NHU-TX OI=188 at $2.75 SL=1.50
BUY PUT AUG-20.0 NHU-TD OI=225 at $1.40 SL=0.75

Average Daily Volume = 697 K


BBY  - call
Adjust from $64 up to $65

JCI  - call
Adjust from $76 up to $78

AT   - call
Adjust from $61 up to $62

LEA  - call
Adjust from $37 up to $38

LH   - call
Adjust from $79 up to $80

MYGN - put
Adjust from $53 down to $45

AMGN - put
Adjust from $57 down to $56

HGSI - put
Adjust from $49 down to $46

AES  - put
Adjust from $42 down to $40


No dropped calls tonight


No dropped puts tonight


LH - Laboratory Corp. of America $85.20 +1.22 (+1.22 this week)

Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp) is the #2
clinical laboratory service in the world, behind Quest
Diagnostics.  LH performs 2000 types of tests for more than
100,000 clients, including health care providers, pharmaceutical
firms, physicians, government agencies and employers.  With 25
major laboratories and some 1200 service sites nationwide, the
company emphasizes specialty and niche testing such as allergy
tests, HIV tests, blood analyses, and substance abuse

Most Recent Write-Up

It took some time to build a new base after the sharp decline
in shares of LH that commenced in early January, but the price
action over the past 4 months has done a good job of
establishing a new uptrend.  The ascending trendline is now
resting near $79, giving us a reasonable location for our stop.
Breaking above the top of the long-term bullish wedge at $82 on
strong volume Friday is what really got our attention though,
as it opens the door for LH to move up and retest its January
highs near $90.  Chiming in with an ascending triple-top
breakout on Friday, the Point and Figure chart casts its vote
in favor of the bulls as well.  CS First Boston helped to get
the stock moving up last week by reiterating their Strong Buy
rating and with earnings scheduled for the afternoon of July
23rd, it looks like a momentum run is in the making.  We'll
target intraday pullbacks to the $82 or $80 level for new
entries, although a volume-backed move through $84 looks
attractive as well.


LH bucked the broad market weakness Monday, and actually closed
on its day high.  We're looking for the buying to follow
through into Tuesday's trading as the stock faces little in the
way of near-term resistance.  Bullish traders can enter new
positions at current levels early Tuesday if others in the
sector such as DGX and PPDI are advancing.  Otherwise, wait for
a pullback on light volume down to $83.

BUY CALL AUG-80 LH-HP OI=731 at $7.80 SL=5.50
BUY CALL AUG-85*LH-HQ OI=408 at $4.80 SL=3.00
BUY CALL AUG-90 LH-HR OI=123 at $2.65 SL=1.75
BUY CALL NOV-85 LH-KQ OI= 32 at $9.20 SL=6.50

Average Daily Volume = 486 K


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