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Daily Newsletter, Monday, 09/24/2001

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The Option Investor Newsletter                   Monday 09-24-2001
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******************************************************************
MARKET WRAP  (view in courier font for table alignment)
******************************************************************
       9-24-2001           High     Low     Volume Advance/Decline
DJIA     8603.86 +368.05  8649.39  8242.32  2.0 bln   2414/806
NASDAQ   1499.40 + 76.21  1507.51  1459.47  2.1 bln   2808/1109
S&P 100   513.03 + 21.33   516.35   491.70   Totals   5222/1915
S&P 500  1003.45 + 37.65  1008.44   965.80
RUS 2000  393.79 + 14.90   393.79   378.90
DJ TRANS 2129.99 + 75.15  2156.56  2055.25
VIX        41.33 -  6.94    45.52    40.05
VXN        69.52 -  8.21    77.79    68.93
TRIN        0.53
Put/Call Ratio       .55
******************************************************************

Green On My Screen!

What a relief it was to boot up my charting application this
morning and see the futures indicating a sharply higher open.
It has been so long since I saw that, that it took me a few
minutes to orient myself for the day ahead.  Of course, a strong
bounce was overdue and after getting through the weekend without
a global meltdown, investors were in a far better mood than when
they headed home Friday afternoon.

The extreme oversold condition of the market had the odds
favoring a bounce after the weekend, and with a solid rally
overseas (most European markets ended with 5-6% gains), and a
bullish article in Barron's over the weekend, the bulls were
pawing the ground by the time the opening bell rang.  A strong
gap-up open lifted most groups well off their lows and this
movement managed to maintain traction throughout the day, helped
along by upgrades on long-distance carriers (CIBC World Markets
raised its ratings on T, WCOM, FON and Q) and bullish calls from
the likes of Goldman Sachs and Banc of America Securities.

Whether it was real buying of perceived values or nervous shorts
covering their positions, the internals of the markets looked
good throughout the day.  There was a slight slackening of the
bullish move in the middle of the day, but then buyers pushed
all the major indices higher, with all of them closing just off
the highs of the day.  The buying was broad-based, with strong
gains in Internet (INX.X up 7.52%), Chemical (CEX.X up 7.10%),
Software (GSO.X gaining 6.25%), Retail (RLX rebounding 5.98%),
Semiconductor (SOX.X advancing 5.50%) and Banking (BKX up 5.49%)
stocks all posting solid gains.  This was in the face of some
negative calls on Retailers and Semiconductor Equipment stocks,
raising the possibility that the economic impact of the terrorist
attacks of September 11th has been factored into the market.

At the closing bell, the DJIA posted a 367 point gain (it's
fifth biggest ever) on just over 1.7 billion shares -- robust
volume, but down from the record volume numbers posted last week.
Up volume swamped down volume by a ratio of more than 5:1 and
the advance decline was 3:1.  The picture was similar over on
the NASDAQ, as the Tech index gained 76 points, closing just
below 1500 on just over 2 billion shares.  Good volume, but not
great.  Up volume beat down volume by 6:1, while the
advance-decline ratio was 2.4:1.

If it seems to you like we ought to be beating the bullish drum
after a day like that, I'll point you to the daily chart of any
of the major indices.  How many big one-day rallies have we had
since June that have just turned into failed bear-market rallies?
I'll save you the time by saying that there have been a lot. 
What I found particularly unsettling is that the early buying
surge failed to entice heavy buying which would have pushed the
markets sharply higher from their opening gap.  Instead, we saw
a reluctant, gradual rally that dragged the short-term
oscillators into overbought without clearing any major overhead
resistance.  And although volume was robust, it wasn't heavy
when compared to the levels seen last week.


 

Despite a solid rally that took the hourly charts into overbought
territory, we have yet to see the DJIA challenge even its
near-term resistance at 8725.  And even if the bulls can scramble
above that level, they still have formidable resistance near 9000
waiting for them.  You can bet there will be a long line of bears
waiting to short any rally that gets that far.


 

The NASDAQ wasn't left out of today's rebound, but looking at
the chart doesn't inspire great confidence.  While the fast line
of the daily Stochastics oscillator managed to creep out of
oversold territory, the COMPX couldn't quite clear the 1500
resistance level.  More overhead supply (likely a lot of it) is
waiting near 1630, right at the bottom of last Monday's gap open.

What we need is a strong positive catalyst to power these markets
higher, and with earnings season (likely to be abysmal) just
around the corner, I don't expect the catalyst to come from that
corner.  This rally may last for a few days, or it could fall
apart at the opening bell tomorrow...I just don't know.  We
could see some more weakness in the morning after AOL finally
warned that ad revenue was going to impact their bottom line.
Look for this type of admission to be more common as earnings
season approaches.  Bullish investors will have their conviction
tested in the days and weeks ahead.  They will need to hold firm,
indicating that the current and future economic weakness is
already priced into the markets, or the bears are likely to go
another rampage.  I expect to see a retest of last week's lows
before we see a sustainable rally.  For an in depth look into
my expectations, check out my Trader's Corner article tonight.

There's one more factor that has me nervous in the near term and
that is the action of the VIX relative to the broad market
action.  Not the direction of the moves, but the magnitude.
After shooting above 57 last week, the VIX was due to retrace
some of that ground, and with the markets in rally mode today,
it was no surprise to see the VIX fall back.  But look at the
chart comparison of the S&P500 (SPX) and VIX below.


 

The SPX is off its lows by about 65 points, but the VIX has
fallen a whopping 16 points!  That is nearly 30% in less than 2
days.  Pessimism doesn't evaporate that fast in markets that
are behaving in a rational manner; hence my expectation that we
haven't yet seen the bottom of the current decline.

In the non-news department, we had the LEI (Leading Economic
Indicators) released this morning at -0.3%.  This was just the
latest economic report to be released with little fanfare due to
the fact that the data preceded the market-shaking events of
September 11th.  We'll get a much better read on what to expect
from the economy tomorrow morning when Consumer Confidence
numbers are released.  This report will include readings both
before and after the terrorist attacks and should give us a
glimpse of how badly consumers are reacting to the tragedy in
terms of their future spending habits.  Due to the sharp plunge
in the University of Michigan index (-8.6%) prior to the
destruction of the WTC, Briefing.com is estimating Consumer
Confidence at 100.0, which is a 12.5% drop.  Also on the
economic front are existing home sales, but this is also based
on August data, meaning the impact to investor sentiment will
likely be minimal.

There is some speculation that the markets could stage a modest
rally leading up to the October 2nd Fed meeting, where Alan
Greenspan is widely expected to give the economy another
interest rate cut.  The debate over 25 or 50 basis points will
likely intensify over the next week, but the actual effect of
another cut is probably already factored into the market.
Should we rally up to that event, I would definitely be looking
for a "sell the news" reaction by the markets.  In my opinion,
any rally is suspect unless it can string together 3 or more
solid gains in a row, and on strong volume.  Today gave us the
first day.  Trade carefully until we see some conviction that
can push the major indices through some of the overhead
congestion.

Let patience and caution be your guide in what has become a
treacherous market both for the bulls and the bears.  Remember
to trade only when the reward/risk ratio is in your favor.


Mark Phillips
Research Analyst


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****************
MARKET SENTIMENT
****************

Boing!

Stocks got an overdue bounce today.  Be it short covering or 
bargain hunting, it was nice to see some green on my screen for a 
change.  

The Dow responded with its fifth largest point gain ever, and the 
Nasdaq tacked on 5.35%.  Breadth was positive with advancers 
beating decliners 24 to 8 at the NYSE and 27 to 11 at the Nasdaq.  
Volume was brisk with over 2 billion shares traded at the Nasdaq 
and 1.7 billion at the NYSE.

Market augur Abby Joseph Cohen exacerbated the ecstasy in 
equities by raising her recommend equity weighting 5% to 75%.  
Bank of America's Tom McManus also raised his equity weighting 5% 
to 70%.

Airline Index Daily Chart

 

Airline stocks gained 5.87% today, benefiting from the $15 
billion bailout package and an extreme oversold condition.  
Technically the Airline Index (XAL) could see a bounce to 74, or 
even retrace 38.2% of this summer's loss by climbing to 95.  
Fundamentally the picture is still clouded by small revenue swing 
greatly affecting earnings.  Airlines are only running at 50% of 
capacity.  Up from last week, but still below normal.

Retailers finished the day up 5.98% amid some mixed outlooks. 
Federated Department stores warned that September same store 
sales could be down 15 to 20 percent, and Sears also warned of 
lower than expected September sales.  Wal-Mart and JC Penny 
expect sales to meets forecasts.  Dollar General was too busy 
fixing some accounting irregularities to worry about sales 
forecasts.  Dollar General closed down 23% after announcing they 
were restating financial statements for the past three years due 
to improperly accounting for leases.

Gold Index Daily Chart

 

Gold stocks lost their luster today as investor pulled out of the 
safe haven to go wading back into more adventurous waters.  The 
Gold Index (XAU) dropped 3.24%, and now rests close to the 50-day 
moving average and 10-month up trend.

Crude oil suffered its largest one-day decline since the gulf 
war, and oil and oil service stocks finished down 3.00% and 4.84% 
respectively.  Oil stocks are just as oversold as the rest of the 
market, but an expected lack of demand is keeping oil prices 
lower.

Call it undervalued or oversold, today's action looked like 
prices settling back to normal after last week's steep sell off.  
While today's action was very encouraging for bulls, a basing 
period may be required before stocks can move substantially 
higher.  That's not to say we might not get a few more bullish 
days, but earnings warnings and economic reports might start to 
weigh on investors minds again.  We'll find out tomorrow when 
investors digest an earnings warning from AOL, consumer 
confidence and existing home sales.

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

            Support                Close              Resistance
DJIA       | 8,062  |      |      | 8604 |      |      |   9,110|
NASD       | 1,385  |      |      | 1499 |      |      |   1,670|
S&P 500    |   944  |      | 1003 |      |      |      |   1,100|
Rus 2000   |   373  |      |      |  394 |      |      |     420|
Semis      |   363  |      |      |  402 |      |      |     455|
Biotech    |   405  |  416 |      |      |      |      |     475|
Internet   |    84  |      |   92 |      |      |      |     105|
Networking |   210  |      |  224 |      |      |      |     260|
Software   |   100  |      |      |  124 |      |      |     159|
Banking    |   550  |      |      |  576 |      |      |     595|
Retail     |   695  |      |      |  734 |      |      |     765|
Drugs      |   353  |      |  361 |      |      |      |     377|

Last week's volatility has changed almost all support and resistance levels.

Support Alerts: 
Resistance Alerts:
            ____________________________________________________
           |   Long    |   Short   |   Strength    | Relative   |
           |   Term    |   Term    |     of        | Strength   |
           |   Trend   |   Trend   |    Trend      | vs S&P 500 |
DJIA       |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Negative  |
NASD       |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Negative  |
S&P 500    |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |    --      |
Rus 2000   |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Negative  |
Semis      |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Negative  |
Biotech    |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Negative  |
Internet   |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Negative  |
Networking |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Negative  |
Software   |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Negative  |
Banking    |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Neutral   |
Retail     |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Neutral   |
Drugs      |  Bearish  |  Bearish  |    Strong     |  Neutral   |

            _____________________________________
           | Short-Term  |          | Point and |
           | Overbought/ | Momentum |   Figure  |
           | Oversold    |          |   Signal  |
DJIA       | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
NASD       | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
S&P 500    | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
Rus 2000   | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
Semis      | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
Biotech    | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
Internet   | Oversold    |  Flat    |   Sell    |
Networking | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
Software   | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
Banking    | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
Retail     | Oversold    |  Falling |   Buy     |
Drugs      | Oversold    |  Falling |   Sell    |
             AP OB = Approaching Overbought
             AP OS = Approaching Oversold

*****************************************************************


**************
TRADERS CORNER
**************

Looking For The Bottom
By Mark Phillips
Contact Support

The most popular question among traders (and all the talking
heads on CNBC) these days centers around where the bottom is for
these crazy markets we're enamored of.  Yes, I know it's
improper to end a sentence in a preposition, but I doubt my High
School English teacher is reading this.  Back to my point.
Trying to pick a bottom when the markets are in a news-driven
free fall is roughly the equivalent of trying to go ice-skating
just as the lake is beginning to freeze.  You might get lucky
and hit all the thick spots, but odds favor that you'll hit one
patch of ice that is just a bit too thin, resulting in an
unpleasantly cold trip home...if you are fortunate to climb out
of the icy water before freezing to death.

The prudent course of action would be to wait for more
adventurous souls to gingerly test the thickness of the ice
before you.  When you can see that they are staying above the
surface of the recently-liquid body of water, you will have much
more confidence that you will also enjoy your first outing of
the year.  Carrying this analogy back to the financial markets,
we really want to see some strong buying conviction to change
the nature of these markets (at least temporarily) from down to
up, before we start trying to game the upside.

No matter how you squint at the chart below, it is an ugly
picture for the bullish trader.  I've used the same chart twice
in the past week, mainly because I think it tells us so much
about the current market environment -- namely, the bears are
firmly in control.  I am using the S&P500 (SPX.X) chart because
I think it gives a good representation of the broad market.  The
concepts I'll talk about tonight would likely apply to other
market indices as well as individual sectors.


 

This long-term chart paints a bearish picture and it looks like
a forgone conclusion that we will test the $900-950 level before
taking off on a rebound of any significance.  But what would
happen if support failed to hold at $900?  That's right, we'd be
taking aim at the $800 support level, with a possible dip to the
$62% retracement near $770.  Traders that tried to pick a bottom
before it was time would be feeling intense amounts of pain,
would likely miss out on a profitable downward move and would be
too scared to venture into new long positions when the bottom
did appear.

Rather than try to pick levels at which we could try to catch
the falling knife, I spent some time over the past week looking
at historical charts and trying to put together a hypothesis for
what the bottom MIGHT look like when it arrives.  This is by no
means what will happen, BUT if the picture I describe does come
to fruition, then I would consider it a high-odds bullish trade.
So come look over my shoulder and see if you think my thought
process has any merit.

I've written extensively in recent months about the Stochastics
oscillator and the application of Divergence, and have recently
added an in-depth discussion of Bollinger bands and how we can
use them to the greatest advantage as a trading tool.  If you
missed my earlier articles and anything I'm talking about seems
unclear, let me invite you to browse through some of my older
articles in the Trader's Corner.  They are all archived on the
website for those looking to further their education.  

What I'd like to do here tonight is use all these tools along
with some gazing into my crystal ball to try to envision what
that elusive bottom (although maybe not THE BOTTOM) would look
like.  The model I have used for my ruminations is the bottom
that formed earlier this year in late March/early April.  Here's
what the SPX looked like on March 22nd shown side-by-side with
our most recent decline.


 

On the surface, these two charts look rather similar, and we
have the added evidence of similar extremes in the VIX (high of
42 in March and 57 last Friday) and a high put-call ratio.  We
also saw sharp bounces off the lows (from well below the lower
Bollinger band) on the last days shown on each chart.  But all
that taken together only gives us the knowledge that both charts
are deeply oversold and primed for a bounce.  Without a catalyst,
it is unlikely to occur with any significant force.

So let's fast forward a few days on the chart from March and see
what happened.


 

The doji candlestick on April 4th indicates some indecision in
the market, but there is still no bullish indication on which to
base a well-considered trade, even though the VIX is once again
above 40.  The Stochastics are heading towards oversold, and we
have a new yearly closing low for the SPX.  The Bollinger band
is looking better, slowing its descent.  But it is not yet rising
to meet the declining price (which would be a solid bullish
reversal signal).  That is until the next day...


 

That's where we get a strong upward move that pushes the lower
Bollinger band into a positive slope and reverses the Stochastics
into an up move.  For 3 days, the 20-dma holds back the bulls
until they get the strong confirmation of price charging through
that level and ushering in a 7-day, 100-point rally.  This was
the first stage of the spring rally that took the SPX above 1300
before the bears once again took over the market action.
River-boat gamblers could have jumped into calls on the 4th or
5th of April, but the solid entry was on April 10th as the bulls
cleared the 20-dma.  As an added bonus at that time, the monthly
Stochastics had flattened out just above oversold and the weekly
Stochastics were just starting to turn up from the oversold
region.  Lots of indicators across multiple time-frames were all
saying the high odds move was to the upside.  

So what does this have to do with the current market?  Nothing,
unless the charts continue to build a similar formation.  This
is just one possible outcome of our current market conditions,
but one that will have me piling into distant-month calls if
everything lines up.  So what am I looking for?  First, we need
a near-term bounce in price that serves to relieve the downward
pressure on the lower Bollinger band.  I would expect that bounce
to run out of steam near the 20-dma, with the bears driving price
down for a retest of the price lows.  Ideally, we would look for
this process to involve one cycle of the daily Stochastics from
oversold to overbought and then back to oversold again.  And if
we're really lucky, we'll get some bullish divergence between
price and Stochastics movement.  I didn't highlight it, but did
you all notice the bullish divergence in the chart above between
the March and April lows?

Right now, we still have a market that is locked in a vicious
and protracted decline, but is getting close to an oversold
bounce.  I wouldn't be an aggressive player of that first bounce,
but a W-bottom that resembles that of March/April of this year
could give us an attractive entry into what could be a very
tradable rally.  Students of history can scan through their
charts looking for other sharp declines and subsequent rallies
and decide for themselves whether I am focusing on a high-odds
pattern or just grasping at straws.  Some other examples that
grabbed my attention as being rather similar are April 1997 and
October 1998.  And how about the end of 1994, just before the
bulls really took charge of the market?  Anyone see any
similarity to the current SPX chart?

Of course we are in a different economy right now and any
comparisons to market action over the past decade should be
evaluated in that light.  But I thought it might be instructive
to lay out a possible trading scenario for a near-term and
significant bear-market rally.  It's not likely to last long-term
due to the bearish monthly chart shown at the top of this
article.  But it could definitely provide a solid bullish trade
or two for those that are ready to pounce when the conditions
are right.  And we can use those profits to take advantage of
bearish plays again when the bulls have once again exhausted
their enthusiasm.  Don't you think that catching a high-odds
bullish move like I've outlined here is preferable to a
premature adventure on thin ice (i.e., trying to catch the
proverbial falling knife)?

Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome.  Have a
great week!

Mark Phillips
Contact Support


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*****
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*****

calls
^^^^^
No Dropped Calls for Monday.


puts
^^^^
HDI $41.79 +3.08 (+3.08) Harley motored higher into Monday's
session thanks to the broad market recovery.  The company's
encouraging statements last week could've added to Monday's
strength, which resulted in HDI closing above our stop at the
$40 level.  Traders with open positions should look to any
weakness early Tuesday to exit plays.
 

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**********************
PLAY OF THE DAY - CALL
**********************

PPDI - Pharmaceutical Product Dev. $27.51 +1.89 (+1.89 this week)

PPDI and its subsidiaries provide a broad range of research,
development and consulting services in two segments, development
and discovery sciences.  In the development segment, the company
provides worldwide clinical research and development of
pharmaceutical products, medical devices and analytical
laboratory services.  The discovery sciences division pursues
target identification and validation, compound creation,
screening and compound selection.  PPDI provides services under
contract to clients in the pharmaceutical, general chemical,
agrochemical, biotechnology and other industries.

Most Recent Update

In light of the wild gyrations in the broader market, trading
in shares of PPDI was rather calm, with the stock trading within
a $2 range all day, and posting a small fractional loss at the
close.  That keeps our play looking like a good bullish
candidate, owing to the impressive relative strength.  No doubt
a big part of that strength stems from the company raising its
Q3 earnings guidance Wednesday night, an uncommon event in the
current economic climate.  While volume fell back significantly
from Thursday's heavy action, we still saw 70% more shares trade
hands than the daily average.  With Stochastics on the rise, it
looks like there is still some room to run.  We're still looking
at intraday dips in the $23-24 area as attractive entries,
although more cautious traders will want to see PPDI clear the
$26 resistance level before taking a position.  Needless to say,
volume is going to be the key.  

Comments

PPDI followed-through in Monday's session.  The stock staged an
impressive showing of strength and is poised to work higher if
the market continues rallying.  Bullish traders can look for a
breakout above the 200-dma at the $27.81 level early Tuesday.
Beyond that level, the stock has some congestion at $29 to clear
before hitting $30.

BUY CALL OCT-25*PJQ-JE OI=203 at $4.10 SL=3.25
BUY CALL OCT-27 PJQ-JY OI=309 at $2.65 SL=2.00
BUY CALL OCT-30 PJQ-JF OI=776 at $1.40 SL=0.50
BUY CALL JAN-25 PJQ-AE OI=  7 at $6.00 SL=5.00
BUY CALL JAN-30 PJQ-AF OI=464 at $3.80 SL=2.75
BUY CALL JAN-35 PJQ-AG OI= 92 at $2.20 SL=1.50

Average Daily Volume = 729 K



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