Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Tuesday, 03/16/2004

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The Option Investor Newsletter                 Tuesday 03-16-2004
Copyright 2004, All rights reserved.                       1 of 3
Redistribution in any form strictly prohibited.

In Section One:

Wrap: Jobs Lagged
Futures Markets: See Note
Index Trader Wrap:
Market Sentiment: Turning Defensive

Posted online for subscribers at http://www.OptionInvestor.com
MARKET WRAP  (view in courier font for table alignment)
      03-16-2004           High     Low     Volume   Adv/Dcl
DJIA    10184.67 + 81.80 10221.11 10103.41 1.87 bln 1882/1334
NASDAQ   1943.10 +  3.90  1961.99  1927.69 1.96 bln 1438/1694
S&P 100   545.56 +  3.30   547.14   541.20   Totals 3320/3028
S&P 500  1110.70 +  6.21  1113.82  1102.61
W5000   10844.34 + 45.70 10891.48 10771.38
SOX       477.04 +  5.30   480.45   470.01
RUS 2000  566.64 -  0.31   573.85   562.67
DJ TRANS 2788.35 -  2.10  2815.66  2771.04
VIX        20.34 -  0.79    20.94    19.86
VXO (VIX-O)20.71 -  0.67    21.34    20.20
VXN        27.34 +  0.21    27.66    26.66
Total Volume 4,175M
Total UpVol  2,605M
Total DnVol  1.473M
Total Adv  3742
Total Dcl  3465
52wk Highs  159
52wk Lows    55
TRIN       1.08
NAZTRIN    0.63
PUT/CALL   1.06

Jobs Lagged

The Fed met and caught up on all the pertinent family news,
enjoyed a leisurely lunch, talked a little economics then
threw the markets into a turmoil with a carefully worded
announcement. How do you get a job like that?

Dow Chart - Daily

Nasdaq Chart - Daily

The morning started off a little rocky with the second drop
in a row for New Housing Starts. The drop surprised everyone
when a gain was expected. The headline number at 1,855M was
the lowest level since last August. January was revised up
slightly but not enough to offset the -4% drop in February.
The decline was broad based and across all product types.
Permits also slowed which suggests there will be even fewer
starts in March. Analysts are still claiming that winter
storms have been particularly numerous although not very
severe. If this is running the construction teams behind it
could mean we are going to see prices soar in the spring due
to lack of inventory. The continued low interest rates now
dropping even lower should offset any weakness from the
lack of new jobs. I feel we are just passing time until the
spring weather and buying season arrives and the explosion
will begin.

The Manpower Survey for Q2 was also announced and the results
were very strong. According to the survey 28% of employers
plan to hire in the 2Q compared to 20% in the first quarter.
Only 6% plan on cutting jobs in Q2 compared to 13% in Q1. If
these projections hold true it means there is a significant
jump in hiring in our near future. To put this in perspective
the net number, percentage planning increases minus the
percentage planning cuts was 22% for the 2Q. This was up
from only 7% in Q1 and an average of 11% all the way back
to 2003-Q1. This is double the quarterly number for the
last five quarters and triple the Q1-2004 number. This is
very bullish in my opinion. We still have to see these
projections turn into real job growth but the fuse has been
lit. Historically a net number over 20 has coincided with
net job growth of 200,000+ per month.

The big news of the day was of course the Fed meeting and
the resulting market impact. The Fed left rates unchanged
as everyone expected and they left the announcement ALMOST
unchanged from January. The keyword there is almost. The
jobs statement changed from "Although new hiring remains
subdued, other indicators suggest an improvement in the
labor market" to "Although job losses have slowed, new
hiring has lagged." The change from "improvement" to "new
hiring has lagged" sent the bond market through the roof.
The acknowledgment by the Fed that jobs are slipping should
mean the Fed is on hold for a considerable period instead
of raising rates any time this year as some have feared.
The ten-year yield fell to the lows for the month and
closed at 3.68%.

They also changed the economic growth statement from "the
evidence confirms that output is expanding briskly" to
"indicates that output is continuing to expand at a solid
pace". Note the subtle difference with "confirm" and "briskly"
to "indicates" and "solid pace". This suggests that the
confirmation has failed and the Fed has briskly moved away
from any affirmation of strengthening growth. Solid pace
sounds like a mall walker with a cane where briskly is a
vision of an outdoor power walker being towed by a dog on
a leash.

The Fed also refused to discount deflation as a threat and
would only say that the risks of inflation/deflation were
"almost equal" with deflation still getting the nod. Also
failing to stimulate any positive market response was the
risks to upside/downside sustainable growth remain "roughly
equal." Roughly equal? Sounds like the odds of sustainable
growth or returning recession are a coin toss. What was
expected to be a lackluster repeat of the prior position
could be interpreted as a caution that things are not as
positive as they seem. The bond market definitely took it
that way and so did some equity traders.

The Dow made three trips between 10100-10200. The opening
spike bled points until the Fed announcement and then dove
to the 10100 level on the weak interpretation. Buyers who
felt the Fed statement meant they were on the sideline for
the rest of the year bought the dip and the Dow rebounded
to hit 10200 before the close. The Dow finished up +81
points but the Nasdaq only managed +3. Tech stocks remain
under pressure despite the morning bounce and they barely
returned to positive territory before time expired.

The challenge appears to be the small caps with the Russell
closing negative for the day. Even the SOX closed in positive
territory. The Russell broke support today and failed to
recover despite an end of day bounce. The afternoon drop
took it within one point of the 100dma but the rebound was
lacking. This could be a prime example of a shift in the
market sentiment. We know techs are being sold despite the
guarantee of low rates because business is not booming.
It also suggests there is rotation underway from small caps
into blue chips. This is the most troubling symptom for me.
It could mean institutions are expecting trouble ahead and
they want to be in the highly liquid issues where they can
still be in the market but exit quickly if they must. The
Russell weakness really began last Wednesday when the first
Al Qaeda link to the bombings in Spain was reported.

The best analogy I can draw would be in ice fishing. The
best fishing is sometimes far from shore in the deeper
water and somewhat thinner ice. In the spring the more
aggressive fishermen may ignore the potential for thinning
ice in hopes of a bigger return. One day while they are
fishing they start to hear the ice groaning and creaking.
After discussing it they decide they are probably safe until
the April temperatures really start to thaw the ice quickly.
Suddenly there is a loud crack and the ice shakes. They
realize the threat was closer and more dangerous than they
thought. No longer are they concerned about catching the
last of the big fish for the season but in getting off the
ice before it breaks under them. Apply this analogy to
mutual funds, tech stocks, April earnings, bombings in
Spain and the realization that Al Qaeda may have found
a way to shatter the ice faster with terror events before
key world elections. Get me the heck out of here and back
to the safety of liquidity, quick. Fortunately we are not
seeing any race to the exits and this is just an analogy
but the March winds may not be bringing just April showers.

Schwab reported today that trading volume in February fell
-21% from January levels. They also said March was on track
to post the same meager levels as February. That analysis
bears out if we look at the volume over the last couple
weeks. The only heavy volume we have had was on down days.
The few bounces have been on relativity light volume showing
a lack of interest by buyers. Mutual funds reported negative
cash flows for last week. That was the first time since last
July that funds failed to see gains. With the rising levels
of uncertainty the "sell in May and go away" crowd may not
be waiting until May.

I know this potential analysis may seem very negative and
I definitely do not want to give that opinion. Markets tend
to do exactly the opposite of what they are indicating on
the surface and especially when they can embarrass the most
people. I would love to see the rebound we saw today blossom
into a raging bull again but we need to see some proof before
we can claim it.

There were several critical levels hit today that could be
seen as support for a new rally. I have been pointing you to
the SPX uptrend support and 100dma at 1100. We came within
two points of hitting that level today and saw a strong
rebound. This is the closest and strongest support the bulls
can claim as their bottom. The Wilshire is fighting to hold
the 10800 level which is also the uptrend support. The SOX
has held above strong support at 475 for the last five days
despite the major market drops. This is very bullish if it
can continue to hold this level. The NDX has spent three of
the last four days fighting to hold 1400 and median support
from the fourth quarter. This is a key level for the NDX
with the 200dma at 1375. This is a very strong support range
for all of these indexes.

SPX Chart - Daily

Wilshire-5000 Chart - Daily

SOX Chart - Daily

NDX Chart - Daily

The Dow ventured as low as 10103 today and while that is
not a real support level it has held for the last two days.
The next support level is Dow 10000 and while it is more of
a large psychological target than a support level I expect
the market makers and funds to try and hold it. A drop back
below 10000 would send such a negative message to the market
that funds would hemorrhage cash. When they have cash
outflows they have to sell stock and it produces a self
perpetuating cycle. They should try to hold that level at
all costs. This also equates to Nasdaq 1900 although it is
less visible. The 1900 level is strong support on the Nasdaq
and a level that could be tested at any time. We are only
one down day away from 10000/1900.

One potentially bullish sentiment indicator is the number
of oversold stocks on the Nasdaq. In March of 2003 and at
the lows for the year there were only 22 Nasdaq stocks
over their 100dma. As of today there were only 31. We are
very close to what many would call bargain hunting levels
that were worth the risk.

The rest of the week could be incredibly exciting or very
boring. This is a quadruple expiration week and there could
be some heavy position adjusting over the next three days.
If however we saw that adjusting over the last week as
evidenced by the last four days of 100 point swings in the
Dow then we could just expire in the current range. Index
option volume is running nearly twice the normal average
and it suggests traders are either betting on a change or
protecting existing positions.

The points where the most index options will expire
worthless is generally slightly higher than our present
level and suggests we could see a slightly higher bias
as the market makers try to steer the prices to those
levels. These are the levels most favorable to the
market makers.

SPX 1125 NDX 1450 DJX 104 OEX 550 RUT 580 SOX 500 QQQ 36

I am not going to try and suggest what will happen for
the rest of this week because the number of internal
and external factors are enormous. There is no way to
quantify them all into some sort of comprehensive view.
Quite a few analysts think this is a terrific buying
opportunity, others are suggesting selling the rallies.
Earnings are still growing as evidenced by the MMM news
yesterday and a couple of the home builders today. We
are far from down and out but the market discounting
mechanism is in full swing and compressing PE ratios
left and right. Volume today as in Friday's rally was
light. New 52-week highs at 160 were at their low for
the year and at levels not seen since August-7th. The
VXO has traded in the 21 range for the last three days
and at levels not seen since October. Make no mistake
there is risk in the market for both the bulls and the
bears. Play in the traffic if you must but be sure to
look both ways before stepping off the curb.

Enter Passively, Exit Aggressively.

Jim Brown


Futures wrap is not emailed due to the excessive number of charts.
It may be read on the website at this address.


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Guinness Stew

It was a little bit'a dis, and a little bit'a dat as the major
indices danced in contorted fashion after the Federal Open Market
Committee announced its decision to leave its target for the fed
funds rate at unchanged.

Like a good bowl of Guinness Stew, full of rump steak, 2 cloves
of crushed garlic, beef stock and a 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, it
took traders a while to chew through just what the Fed was saying
in its brief March statement released late this afternoon.

Bond traders seemed well versed in Fed lingo, as modest selling
turned into a strong round of buying in the Treasury pits, almost
as if a Leprechaun waved cast a magic spell over traders, sending
the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond's YIELD falling 8.0 basis
point by the close to finish with a 3.688% yield, its lowest
closing yield since July of last year.  Homeowners that have been
waiting to refinance their mortgages; today might be your lucky

But it took a while for stock traders to figure out, or react to
what the Fed was saying, when a slight change of tone, or wording
was found in the Fed's comments regarding jobs.

"The evidence accumulated over the intermeeting period indicates
that output is continuing to expand at a solid pace.  Although
job losses have slowed, new hiring has lagged.  Increases in core
consumer prices are muted and expected to remain low.

After thinking about things for 20-minutes, stocks turned notably
red, with the major indices darting back near yesterday's lows,
where the tech-heavy NASDAQ-100 Index (NDX.X) 1,407.07 +0.51%
actually violated those lows, but like a good Leprechaun, kissed
its WEEKLY S1 like a Blarney Stone, to then finish a shade of
shamrock green by the close.

A good Guinness Stew indeed, as intra-day traders will be taking
a swig from the keg before adding the main ingredient.  Twelve
ounces of Guinness!

Fellow analyst Jane Fox may have said it best in this afternoon's
Market Monitor... "Dear Diary - do not trade on Fed meeting days.
I was not able to get a winning trade all day (well a few, but
not many) even with this wonderful volatility.

I (Jeff Bailey) will raise my glass to Jane's comments, and it
was probably a good thing for me, that e-mail server problems
kept the IT department and myself pre-occupied this afternoon, or
I'd be sipping some Guinness with a neck brace around my neck.

Market Snapshot / Internals - 03/16/04

Advancers held their ground over decliners at the NYSE for the
full session, but our four and five-lettered friends listed at
the NASDAQ showed little sign of bullish life after the first 90-
minutes of trade.  New high/new low indications continue to
deteriorate at both the NYSE and NASDAQ, where today's 29 new
lows are the highest number of new lows since November 19, 2003,
when on that day, there were at least 117 stocks at the NASDAQ
hitting new highs.

NYSE and NASDAQ NH/NL Indications - 02/11/04-03/16/04

On Tuesday of last week (03/09/04) we noted that the 5-day NH/NL
average ratios were just about to cross back below the 10-day
NH/NL average ratios.  On Friday, the NASDAQ NH/NL 10-day ratio
reversed back lower into a column of "O" on its points and figure
chart (we chart 2% box size) and with today's trade complete, the
NYSE NH/NL 10-day ratio has reversed into a column of "O," where
both begin to suggest intermediate to longer-term loss of bullish

NASDAQ Composite 52-week High/Low - (10-day Avg) 03/16/04

Here's a hand charted point and figure chart of the NASDAQ
Composite 52-week High/Low (10-day Avg.), where using the 3-box
reversal technique of charting, I'm simply charting the NH/NL 10-
day average of NASDAQ Composite NH/NL indications.  This gives
the trader/investor at just how darned bullish, the NASDAQ
Composite has been since March of last year, how this indicator
of bullish leadership has stayed at such "overbought" levels
above 70% for months, but is starting to lose some of that
bullish leadership of late.  The reason I show the above chart,
is I received several e-mail from a few investors, that were
becoming interested in some longer-term QQQ LEAPs calls.  I would
WAIT to buy any type of longer-term LEAPs calls on the QQQ right
now, and look for more "oversold" risk levels at or below 30% in
both the NH/NL indications, and the bullish % charts themselves.

I'll show the NYSE Composite 52-week High/Low 10-day Avg. in
tomorrow evening's wrap, but due to time constraints, I've got to
move on.

Pivot Analysis Matrix -

Is a St. Patrick's Day bounce in the making?  It looks like
there's potential, but I would think any type of bounce is going
to be highly tied to this week's option expiration.

Here's an option chain of the QQQ for March expiration that I put
together at tonight's close, where I've sorted by open interest,
similar to that shown in this weekend's Ask the Analyst column.

QQQ $34.94 - March Option Contracts - 03/16/04 Close

Comparing the above option chain to that shown in this weekend's
wrap, I quickly sorted the March expiration by Open Interest, and
for graphical purposes, placed RED (falling open interest), GREEN
(rising open interest) and BLUE (unchanged).

ONLY with a mindset of how an options market maker can try and
make as much money as he/she can into Friday's options
expiration, I quickly look to see what options holder has the
greatest amount of PROFIT RISK into Friday's expiration.

Despite today's gyrations, both the $35 PUT and CALL option
holders don't know what to do, and I've highlighted today's
"AvgOHLC" box, which gives the average price that those options
would have traded today.  This develops a near-term "collar" of
roughly $0.36 either side of the $35 strike.  Or gives the
observation of such a collar.

Certainly a $35 call buyer has some risk, but a market maker
knows that there's roughly 131,144 contracts that might be
profitable right now, where some bigger fish might be fried, or
INFLUENCED should a QQQ rally unfold toward $36, which would have
the $36 PUTS and $37 PUTS seeing some profit erode.  Note though,
how open interest has been falling since last week.

My thinking right now, is that the QQQ is collared from $35.36-
$34.64, where it might take a trade either side of this range, to
really bring in some more extreme movement in the QQQ.

It would also have to be my thinking that if a QQQ market maker
is out to try and make some additional money before expiration,
then it would serve him/her best to try and go after the March
$36 and $37 put holders, and the only way to do that, is to try
and stage a short-term bounce back higher.

Now... with that said, Alexis Glick, CNBC's trading correspondent
(formerly head of floor operations at the NYSE for Morgan
Stanley), said that most of the institutional trader's she has
talked to have largely positioned themselves flat at this point
into expiration, and that it would take some type of "extreme"
move outside of a near-term range, to really see any type of
volatility be found into Friday's expiration.

With that comment in mind, lets quickly look at the major indices
bar charts.

NASDAQ-100 Tracking Stock (AMEX:QQQ) - Daily Bar Chart

There's nothing bullish I could point out in the QQQ, to suggest
a rebound at this point.  The only thing I see that could
possible trigger a bounce would be option expiration related.

One thing I will do into an expiration, is monitor the NASDAQ-100
Market Volatility Index (VXN.X) 27.34 +0.77% for any DIVERGENCE
from QQQ trade.  For example, if QQQ is trading lower, but I see
VXN.X falling, I would quickly turn to the Option Chain, similar
to that show above, and look for anything suspicious.  If I saw a
heavy volume trade in the March $36 puts and $37 puts, and some
heavy volume, but to a lesser extent in the $35 calls, that might
hint of an option expiration bounce.  I would be pressed to think
the QQQ could muster a move much above $35.81.

S&P 500 Index (SPX.X) Chart - Daily Intervals

St. Patrick's Day fell on a Monday last year, and Triple Witching
was 4-days later.  The SPX saw a dip lower open, and Irish bulls
sang the SPX higher into the close, with an impressive trade that
encompassed a range of 827.12-862.79.  I'd have to say it will
take some Irish luck to see such a performance tomorrow.

Dow Industrials (INDU) Chart - Daily Intervals

One of Ms. Glick's comments caught my ear, as it related to this
week's expiration.  She thought that a trigger for a rebound
would most likely take a "key stock like MMM" breaking out of a
recent range.  I think what she is talking about is a LEADING, or
STRONGER stock breaking out of a range, to catch trader's
attention, which would be some DIVERGENCE from recent weeks.
Last week I touched on Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) $103.06 +0.52%,
where after giving upside guidance to earnings and trading a new
52-week high just four sessions ago at $107.21, has now come
right back to the price level where bullish guidance was given.

Jeff Bailey


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Turning Defensive
- J. Brown

Alas another FOMC meeting has come and gone and interest rates
have remained unchanged as expected.  Any day the FOMC is due to
announce a decision tends to produce volatility and this one
seemed even more prone to swings given the quadruple-witching
options and futures expiration this Friday.  Overall the tone of
the session seemed defensive.  Yes, the markets bounced but they
didn't bounce very high and they failed to close or even trade
above yesterday's highs.

The good news has been the string of upside preannouncements.
Dow component MMM guided higher last night following GE's on
Monday morning.  These are just two off the top of my head.
There were more last week.  If this trend continues it might
inspire some courage ahead of the April earnings season.  If not
well we're doomed to more sideways to down trading as the second
half of March tends to be more bearish than the first - at least
according to the Stock Traders Almanac.

Keep an eye on the SOX.  The Semiconductor index pulled back to
support at the 470 level earlier today and bounced.  While this
is encouraging I don't think the trend has changed yet for the
chips and the SOX is likely to hit its 200-dma a few points lower
before really turning higher again.  Also keep an eye on the
homebuilders.  I know we're constantly being bombarded with are
they or aren't they overbought questions.  It's hard to argue
that the group hasn't performed very well over the last several
days.  KB Homes (KBH) announced earnings after the close tonight
and beat by 16 cents with profits jumping 40%.  This could
reignite the group again tomorrow.


Market Averages


52-week High: 10753
52-week Low :  7779
Current     : 10184

Moving Averages:

 10-dma: 10371
 50-dma: 10536
200-dma:  9774

S&P 500 ($SPX)

52-week High: 1163
52-week Low :  827
Current     : 1110

Moving Averages:

 10-dma: 1131
 50-dma: 1137
200-dma: 1051

Nasdaq-100 ($NDX)

52-week High: 1559
52-week Low : 1014
Current     : 1407

Moving Averages:

 10-dma: 1435
 50-dma: 1490
200-dma: 1374


It was a volatile day but in the end the volatility indices only
churned sideways.  Given their current position we can surmise
that the selling may not be over yet.

CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) = 20.34 -0.79
CBOE Mkt Volatility old VIX  (VXO) = 20.71 -0.67
Nasdaq Volatility Index (VXN)      = 27.34 +0.21


          Put/Call Ratio  Call Volume   Put Volume

Total          1.06        784,976       830,306
Equity Only    0.93        543,232       504,419
OEX            1.07         47,943        51,150
QQQ            1.90         33,392        63,494


Bullish Percent Data

           Current   Change   Status
NYSE          72.1    - 1     Bull Confirmed
NASDAQ-100    43.0    + 0     Bear Confirmed
Dow Indust.   80.0    + 0     Bull Correction
S&P 500       76.8    - 3     Bull Correction
S&P 100       84.0    + 0     Bull Confirmed

Bullish percent measures the number of stocks in an index
currently trading on a buy signal on their point and figure
chart.  Readings above 70 are considered overbought, and readings
below 30 are considered oversold.

Bull Confirmed  - Aggressively long
Bull Alert      - Cautiously long
Bull Correction - Pause or pullback in upward trend
Bear Alert      - Take defensive action if long
Bear Confirmed  - High risk if long, good conditions for shorting
Bear Correction - Pause or rebound in downtrend


 5-dma: 1.75
10-dma: 1.64
21-dma: 1.35
55-dma: 1.12

Extreme readings above 1.5 are bullish, and readings below .85
are bearish.  These signals don't occur often and tend be early,
but when they do, they can signal significant market turning


Market Internals

            -NYSE-   -NASDAQ-
Advancers    1654      1440
Decliners    1158      1575

New Highs      63        40
New Lows       13        19

Up Volume   1178M     1144M
Down Vol.    618M      771M

Total Vol.  1833M     1960M
M = millions


Commitments Of Traders Report: 03/09/04

Weekly COT report discloses positions held by small specs
and commercial traders of index futures contracts at the
Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade. COT data
can be found at www.cftc.gov.

Small specs are the general trading public with commercials being
financial institutions. Commercials are historically on the
correct side of future trend changes while small specs tend
to be wrong.

S&P 500

Commercial traders are committing new money to both long
and short positions but they are turning more and more
bearish in the large S&P contracts.  Small traders are
holding relatively steady.

Commercials   Long      Short      Net     % Of OI
02/17/04      416,148   415,278       870     0.0%
02/24/04      417,490   416,502       988     0.0%
03/02/04      411,932   418,936    (7,004)   (0.1%)
03/09/04      418,394   433,237   (14,843)   (1.7%)

Most bearish reading of the year: (111,956) -  3/06/02
Most bullish reading of the year:   23,977  - 12/09/03

Small Traders Long      Short      Net     % of OI
02/17/04      141,533    84,227    57,306    25.3%
02/24/04      141,559    85,171    56,388    24.9%
03/02/04      148,383    84,135    64,248    27.6%
03/09/04      155,947    88,317    67,630    27.7%

Most bearish reading of the year:  (1,657)- 5/27/03
Most bullish reading of the year: 114,510 - 3/26/02

E-MINI S&P 500

Wow!  We really saw some money come into the e-mini's
this week.  Commercial traders added nearly 90K new long
contracts and more than 90K new short contracts.  They
remain net bearish on the S&P.  Small traders also added
more to their positions but remain net bullish.

Commercials   Long      Short      Net     % Of OI
02/17/04      296,313   371,703    (75,390)  (11.3%)
02/24/04      320,425   387,255    (66,830)  ( 9.4%)
03/02/04      344,805   395,112    (50,307)  ( 6.8%)
03/09/04      431,623   485,268    (53,645)  ( 5.9%)

Most bearish reading of the year: (354,835)  - 06/17/03
Most bullish reading of the year:  133,299   - 09/02/03

Small Traders Long      Short      Net     % of OI
02/17/04     144,014     64,391    79,623    38.2%
02/24/04     129,894     63,524    66,370    34.3%
03/02/04     119,382     67,453    51,929    27.8%
03/09/04     135,233     76,558    58,675    27.7%

Most bearish reading of the year: (77,385)  - 09/02/03
Most bullish reading of the year: 449,310   - 06/10/03


Commercial traders have slowly been turning more and more
bullish on the NASDAQ 100 over the last few weeks.  As of
March 9th, they hit new extremes surpassing they're last
bullish peak dating back to June 11th, 2002.  Unfortunately,
this reading is before the steep Wednesday-Thursday sell-off
this week and before the Thursday morning terror attack in
Spain.  We'll have to wait until next week to see how
commercial traders, or "smart money", reacts to the last
few sessions.  Small traders have also turned more bullish
but they're not hitting extreme readings.

Commercials   Long      Short      Net     % of OI
02/17/04       46,104     40,385     5,719    6.6%
02/24/04       47,266     40,452     6,814    7.8%
03/02/04       49,959     41,059     8,900    9.8%
03/09/04       57,368     46,082    11,286   10.9%

Most bearish reading of the year: (21,858)  - 08/26/03
Most bullish reading of the year:  11,286   - 03/12/04

Small Traders  Long     Short      Net     % of OI
02/17/04        9,630    12,338    (2,708)  (12.3%)
02/24/04       12,388     7,310     5,078    25.8%
03/02/04       11,605     7,128     4,477    23.9%
03/09/04       15,533     8,070     7,463    31.6%

Most bearish reading of the year: (10,769) - 06/11/02
Most bullish reading of the year:  19,088  - 01/21/02


Commercial traders or institutions have been slowly growing
more and more bullish on the Dow over the last few weeks.
Again, this latest data is before the Wednesday-Thursday
sell-off and the Thursday terror event but it is encouraging.
In contrast small traders have turned more bearish and actually
hit a new extreme in their bearishness, surpassing last
December's readings.  This is a contrarian bullish indicator
since small traders tend to be wrong.  Yet I would hesitate
to draw too many conclusions until we see next week's data
and investor reaction to the terrorist attacks.

Commercials   Long      Short      Net     % of OI
02/17/04       24,451    12,907   11,544      30.9%
02/24/04       27,176    13,918   13,258      32.3%
03/02/04       27,594    14,166   13,428      32.2%
03/09/04       26,867    12,845   14,022      35.3%

Most bearish reading of the year: (8,322) -  1/16/01
Most bullish reading of the year: 15,135  - 10/16/01

Small Traders  Long      Short     Net     % of OI
02/17/04        6,768    15,623   (8,855)   (39.5%)
02/24/04        6,509    14,919   (8,410)   (39.2%)
03/02/04        6,898    15,874   (8,976)   (39.4%)
03/09/04        7,053    19,159  (12,106)   (46.2%)

Most bearish reading of the year: (12,106) -  3/09/04
Most bullish reading of the year:   8,523  -  8/26/03



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The Option Investor Newsletter                  Tuesday 03-16-2004
Copyright 2004, All rights reserved.                        2 of 3
Redistribution in any form strictly prohibited.

In Section Two:

Dropped Calls: None
Dropped Puts: UTX
Call Play Updates: AET, ATH, CFC, EBAY, JNPR, LXK, RNR, TARO
New Calls Plays: None
Put Play Updates: CHIR, ETN, IVGN
New Put Plays: DHR


When we drop a pick it doesn't mean we are recommending a sell
on that play. Many dropped picks go on to be very profitable.
We drop a pick because something happened to change its
profile. News, price, direction, etc. We drop it because we
don't want anyone else starting a new play at that time.
We have hundreds of new readers with each issue who are
unfamiliar with the previous history for that pick and we
want them to look at any current pick as a valid play.




United Technologies - UTX - cls: 88.04 chg: +0.14 stop: 89.51

We're going to cut our losses on UTX.  Well, actually we don't
have a loss yet but we don't want it to turn into one.  Monday's
upgrade to a "buy" by Deutsche Bank really put a crimp on our
play.  The analyst there told clients to buy UTX on weakness
because the stock should see favor as investors rotate into
quality big cap names.   Plus UTX should benefit due to its
defense contracts.  That makes sense to us.  We were only playing
UTX on the technical breakdown.  Bears will point out that UTX
really didn't move much on Tuesday even though the major indices
traded higher.  This could be a case of our caution getting in
the way but we'd rather preserve our capital for another day.

Picked on March 09 at $ 88.75
Change since picked:   - 0.71
Earnings Date        01/20/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume:     2.3 million
Chart =


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Aetna Inc. - AET - close: 87.14 change: +0.55 stop: 85.95*new*

The rally continues for shares of AET after the company raised
its Q1 and full year earnings guidance on Friday.  Today's
relative strength was pretty impressive.  Normally, we'd be
inclined to see some profit taking after such a big move but the
bounce in the broader markets probably helped AET maintain its
gains.  AET's management reaffirmed their plans to grow operating
earnings by 15% a year at a recent investor conference.
Considering the big move we are not suggesting new bullish
positions at this time. As a matter of fact we're suggesting
traders take profits.  However, instead of closing the play now
we're going to tighten our stop loss to $85.95.  We're also going
to set an official upside exit price at $89.00 just in case we
get another spike higher in the next couple of days.

Picked on February 29 at $80.79
Change since picked:     + 6.35
Earnings Date          02/12/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume:       1.2 million
Chart =


Anthem, Inc. - ATH - close: 89.90 change: +0.90 stop: 86.50*new*

Just over a week ago, we were kicking ourselves for not dropping
our ATH play on that blowoff spike over the $90 level.  But our
faith has been restored over the past 2 days, as the stock has
come roaring back on strong volume, reclaiming the strength that
initially attracted us to it.  After recovering back over the 10-
dma (now at $88.02) on Friday, the stock used that average to
spring higher over the past two days.  While not quite able to
close over $90 today, ATH did manage to post a new all-time
closing high and with volume running well ahead of the ADV, it
looks like there's more upside to come.  With the renewed bullish
action, the lows from last week ($86.61) should not be revisited,
so we're raising our stop to $86.50 tonight.  Dips near the 10-
dma are the best we can expect in terms of new entry points, and
the next upside hurdle will be the $92 area, which was the site
of the 3/05 intraday high.

Picked on February 26th at   $85.37
Change since picked:          +4.53
Earnings Date               4/28/04 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =     1.46 mln
Chart =


Countrywide Financial - CFC - cls: 93.12 chg: +0.54 stop: 90.00

CFC is starting to concern us.  Bond yields dropped strongly
again today, which pushes mortgage rates lower.  Lower mortgage
rates mean more business for big lenders like CFC yet the stock
is meandering sideways above the $90.00 level.  On top of it all
the company announced a 3-for-2 split this morning, its second
split in six months, but the stock barely moves.  The up trend is
still in place and the recent pull back looks like a bullish
entry point but the lack of movement is a warning flag.  Its P&F
chart is also flashing a "high pole" warning.  We're going to
leave our stop loss at $90.00 for now.  The 3:2 split is
effective on April 12th.

Picked on February 24 at $91.63
Change since picked:     + 1.49
Earnings Date          01/27/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume:       2.3 million
Chart =


eBay Inc - EBAY - close: 67.92 chg: +0.10 stop: 66.50

Some positive comments from Goldman Sachs on Monday were not
enough to fuel any upside move in EBAY.  The stock actually under
performed the markets on Tuesday with its 10-cent gain.  Shares
slipped toward technical support at the simple 50-dma intraday
before bouncing.  While we are encouraged that the 50-dma held
we're disappointed that an Internet leader like EBAY isn't
bouncing higher.  One possible explanation are the recent
concerns over valuations but then EBAY has always been an
expensive stock so that reasoning doesn't sit very well here.
We're still suggesting that the average trader wait for EBAY to
trade back above the $70.00 mark before evaluating a bullish
entry.  More aggressive types can use these dips to the 50-dma to
gauge an entry point. No change in our stop loss at $66.50.

Picked on March 09 at $ 70.05
Change since picked:   - 2.13
Earnings Date        04/20/04 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume:     7.0 million
Chart =


Juniper Networks - JNPR - close: 24.40 chg: -0.39 stop: 23.64

To be honest we're a little disappointed with JNPR's performance
this week.  Friday's close looked great with the breakout above
the $25.00 mark, its 50-dma and the trendline of lower highs.
Unfortunately, Monday was a pretty bad day for the networking
sector.  Nortel Networks announced that it was putting two
officials on paid leave while the company completed an audit over
some accounting concerns and shares of NT fell something like
18%.  This was a major drag on the NWX networking index.  JNPR
followed the group lower with a terrible-looking failed rally and
a close back under $25.00.  Of course Monday's session looked
pretty terrible no matter where you looked.  So it was
disappointing to see the NWX as one of today's worst performers.
Once again JNPR followed its peer group and failed to bounce with
most of the market.  This weakness is forcing us to be cautious.
We would not suggest any new bullish positions in JNPR until
shares trade back above the $25.00 mark.  More conservative
traders can wait for JNPR to trade above its 50-dma.  In other
news the government has ended its antitrust review of JNPR's
planned merger with NetScreen.  Industry experts believe the
combined company will be a much better competitor to larger rival
Cisco Systems (CSCO).

Picked on March 14 at $ 25.81
Change since picked:   - 1.41
Earnings Date        04/21/04 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume:    15.7 million
Chart =


Lexmark Intl. - LXK - close: 87.50 change: +0.74 stop: 82.00*new*

With an initial surge through our $87 target, LXK got the week
off to a bullish start yesterday.  That initial surge faded, but
the bulls showed their conviction by steadily pushing the stock
higher and achieving a close just below that level.  Continuing
the bullish trend this morning, the stock rose through that level
and closed at $87.50, somehow dodging the broad market volatility
surrounding the FOMC meeting.  With this week's breakout to new
highs, we have yet another confirmation that the 50-dma ($82.07)
is rock-solid support, with bulls continuing to aggressively buy
dips near that level.  LXK is likely to make a run at the $90
level before pulling back for another test of support and a near-
term move to that level should be used to harvest some short-term
gains.  The next pullback should find strong support near $84-85
and a bounce from that area can be used for new entries.  Note
that we've raised our stop to $82, just under both Friday's
intraday low and the 50-dma.

Picked on March 14th at      $85.77
Change since picked:          +1.73
Earnings Date               4/19/04 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        937 K
Chart =


Renaissancere Ltd - RNR - close: 52.90 chg: -0.40 stop: 52.00

The IUX Insurance index has been hit pretty hard in the recent
sell-off.  Fortunately, it bounced with the Dow on Friday and
again on Tuesday.  Of course this hasn't helped RNR much since
the stock tends to march to its own beat.  Over the last several
days we've been suggesting that traders looking for a new entry
point wait for a pullback toward the $52.00 level.  Actually on
Sunday we mentioned a bounce from $52.50 would be ideal.  We got
that bounce today. Shares of RNR dipped to $52.57 and rebounded
with volume improving towards the close.  Technicals have turned
bearish over the last two weeks but that's to be expected given
the profit taking.  Even though this looks like an entry point to
us traders might want to wait for RNR to trade back above the
$53.00 or even the $53.50 level to confirm the bounce.  No change
in our stop loss at $52.00.

Picked on February 15 at $50.83
Change since picked:     + 2.07
Earnings Date          02/03/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume:       238 thousand
Chart =


Taro Pharma. - TARO - close: 60.34 chg: -0.56 stop: 59.00

Hmmm... we will admit that we were looking for a much bigger
bounce from TARO's rebound late last week.  The Monday-Tuesday
pull back to retest support at $60.00 and its simple 200-dma is
okay as long as we see a bounce from current levels - and
quickly!  If we don't see some upside appreciation soon we may
drop the play before it sours on us.  More conservative traders
may want to consider waiting for TARO to trade back above the
$62.00 level before considering positions.  No change in our stop
loss at $59.00.

Picked on March 14 at $ 61.85
Change since picked:   - 1.51
Earnings Date        02/17/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume:     284 thousand
Chart =




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Chiron Corp - CHIR - close: 46.73 chg: +0.13 stop: 48.85*new*

Good news!  The breakdown in shares of CHIR is starting to pick
up speed.  It's taken a while to garner some momentum but the
stock is finally headed toward our target in the $44-45 range.
CHIR is certainly short-term oversold and we can still expect
bounces back toward the simple 10-dma (currently near $48.00) but
the trend is intact.  We're going to lower our stop to the simple
21-dma at $48.85.

Picked on February 24 at $49.11
Change since picked:     - 2.38
Earnings Date          01/28/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume:       1.7 million
Chart =


Eaton Corp. - ETN - close: 55.46 change: +0.71 stop: 58.75

When we initiated coverage on ETN, we liked the way the stock had
broken below the 100-dma, but voiced concerns that a near-term
bounce could be forthcoming.  Sure enough, the bulls bought the
dip on Friday, pushing the stock above the $56 level, at the
bottom of our ideal entry zone.  Sure enough, that level proved
to be stiff resistance prior to yesterday's sharp selloff to
fractionally break the lows from last Thursday.  Volatility has
been pretty wild the past several days though, and yesterday's
drop was bought this morning.  The net result of the past four
days though is that ETN really hasn't gone anywhere, pinned
between resistance just over $56 and support just under $55.  It
appears the stock is building a sideways continuation flag and
since the stock was moving down when it entered the consolidation
pattern, we can expect a downside break to be forthcoming.  New
entries look favorable either on a failed bounce in the $56-57
area (reinforced by resistance at the 10-dma) or on a breakdown
below the $54.50 level.  Maintain stops at $58.75, which is still
below the 50-dma ($58.58) and target an eventual decline to the
$49-50 area near the 200-dma ($49.42).

Picked on March 11th at       $54.82
Change since picked:           +0.64
Earnings Date                1/21/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =      1.17 mln
Chart =


Invitrogen - IVGN - close: 66.00 chg: -2.19 stop: 70.01 *new*

Our put play in IVGN is performing pretty well.  It took a couple
of days for IVGN to finish consolidating under the $70.00 level
but we're finally starting to see some momentum in the selling
again.  Volume has been strong on the declines and today's 3.2%
drop was fueled with volume 50% above the norm.  Our short-term
target is the $63.00 level but more aggressive traders might be
able to target a move toward the simple 200-dma near $60.00.
We're going to lower our stop loss from 71.01 to 70.01.

Picked on March 11 at $ 67.26
Change since picked:   - 1.26
Earnings Date        02/12/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume:     910 thousand
Chart =


Danaher Corp. - DHR - close 89.39 change: +0.99 stop: 92.75

Company Description:
Danaher Corporation operates in two business areas:
Process/Environmental Controls and Tools and Components. The
company's Tools and Components segment produces and distributes
general purpose mechanics' hand tools and automotive specialty
tools.  Among the household names they are responsible for are
Sears' Craftsman line, Allen wrenches, and NAPA hand tools.  The
Process Controls division, led by Veeder-Root, makes leak
detection systems for underground storage tanks, as well as
sensors, switches, measurement devices, and communications and
power protection products.

Why we like it:
No matter how you slice it, the past 12 months have been very
good to DHR investors, as the stock has risen from the $62 area
to as high as $95 earlier this year.  But in the past several
weeks, the stock seems to be losing its strength and has been
building a pattern of lower highs and lower lows.  The volatility
in the overall market has knocked the stock down to the 100-dma
($88.20), which has been providing support for the past few days.
If the stock loses support at the 100-dma, it could be a swift
fall down to next support in the $84 area.  That would likely
only be a speed bump on the way to strong support in the $80-81
area, which is also the site of the 200-dma ($80.63).  The PnF
chart hints that the breakdown is coming, as last week's dip
below $88 produced the first PnF Sell signal since last May.  The
current vertical count projects a price objective of $81, which
lines up nicely with our target at the 200-dma.

The past couple months have seen the stock tracing out a series
of lower highs and for the bearish case to hold merit, DHR cannot
trade above the top of its most recent peak at $92.60, making
$92.75 a sensible location for our stop.  But we want to make the
stock prove itself to us before taking the plunge, be using an
entry trigger of $87.50.  That is below both the 100-dma and last
week's intraday low of $87.65.  Entries look favorable on the
initial break, although more conservative traders may want to
wait for a subsequent failed bounce back near the $88.50 level or
even as high as $90, which by that time should be very strong
resistance.  Once triggered, we'll look to lower our stop to just
above the 50-dma (currently $91.40).  We should expect to see
near-term support come in near $84 and then again at $82.50 on
the way to our $81 price target, so conservative traders may want
to harvest partial gains near those levels in anticipation of re-
entry on the next failed bounce.

Suggested Options:
Aggressive short-term traders will want to use the April 85 Put,
as March options are too close to expiration to consider.  Those
with a more conservative approach will want to use the April 90
put.  Aggressive traders looking for more insulation against time
decay will want to utilize the June 85 strike.  Our preferred
option is the April 90 strike, as it is currently at the money
and should provide ample time for the play to move in our favor.

! Alert - March options expire this week!

BUY PUT APR-90*DHR-PR OI= 495 at $3.50 SL=1.75
BUY PUT APR-85 DHR-PQ OI= 933 at $1.55 SL=0.75
BUY PUT JUN-85 DHR-OK OI=2494 at $3.30 SL=1.75

Annotated Chart of DHR:

Picked on March 11th at       $89.39
Change since picked:           +0.00
Earnings Date                1/21/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =      1.14 mln
Chart =


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The Option Investor Newsletter                  Tuesday 03-16-2004
Copyright 2004, All rights reserved.                        3 of 3
Redistribution in any form strictly prohibited.

In Section Three:

Watch List: Homes, Metals, Biotech and more


Homes, Metals, Biotech and more


How to use this watch list:
  Readers can use the candidates below as a springboard for their
  own research.  Many are in the process of breaking support or
  resistance or in the process of starting new trends or
  extending old ones.  With your own due diligence these could be
  strong potential plays.

KB Home - KBH - close: 79.25 change: +1.09

WHAT TO WATCH: Homebuilders have weathered the recent sell-off
with amazing strength.  The group even held up well with today's
economic reports showing housing starts down 4%.  However, while
the stocks have held their gains there are several that are
starting to show signs of strain and hinting at potential
weakness.  Not so for KBH.  Shares of KBH have been very strong
and coiling under resistance at $80.00 as investors waited for
its Q1 earnings report.  That report came out tonight and KBH
beat the estimates by 16 cents.  Profits jumped 40%.  KBH is
trading above resistance at $80.00 in after hours and could lead
the sector higher tomorrow.



Phelps Dodge - PD - close: 80.90 change: +1.66

WHAT TO WATCH: PD has been a frequent candidate on our watch list
ever since it pulled back toward its simple 50-dma.  This
technical support has held for months and traders have done well
to buy dips to this level in the past.  This time the 50-dma
coincides with round-number and horizontal price support at
$80.00.  We're encouraged by its short-term trend of higher lows
but selling has been strong near the $81.75 region.  Fortunately
for PD copper prices have been rising the past couple of days and
we could see PD spike higher to play catch up.  Traders could
initiate positions here with a stop loss ranging from $77.50 to
$79.00 depending on how much heat you're willing to take.  Or one
could wait for PD to trade above the $81.75 mark.  Either way
this trade is a little aggressive considering the long-term over
bought stature of both PD and the metal copper itself.



Amgen Inc - AMGN - close: 59.05 change: -0.43

WHAT TO WATCH: The BTK biotech index was one of the worst
performers on Tuesday confirming its Monday breakdown below the
simple 50-dma.  Contributing to this weakness was AMGN, its
biggest component.  AMGN broke down below the $60.00 level on
Monday's sell-off and continued lower today.  The stock looks a
little oversold but aggressive traders could evaluate bearish
positions here with a target on the $55 level.  There is some
support between $56-57 but it looks like the bottom of a
descending channel.



United Parcel Services - UPS - close: 68.07 change: +0.09

WHAT TO WATCH: The transports were pretty weak today in spite of
the market's bounce.  UPS was weak as well and broke below
support at $68.00 and its simple 200-dma intraday before bouncing
back by the close.  The downtrend looks pretty solid here but UPS
is definitely oversold.  Short-term overhead resistance is the
10-dma.  Bulls can use a breakout above the 10-dma as an early
warning signal but we probably wouldn't start considering longs
until it broke above the $70.00 mark.  Bears can look for a close
under the 200-dma.


RADAR SCREEN - more stocks to watch

BSC $88.00 +0.97 - Bear Stearns is expected to report earnings
tomorrow morning.  Odds are good they'll surpass estimates just
as LEH did today.

CCL $40.91 -0.56 - Both CCL and RCL (both are cruise lines) have
been in a steady sell-off since the Thursday terrorist bombings
in Madrid.  Eventually this terror-driven profit taking will
subside and these two stocks will be poised for a rebound.  CCL
is approaching what could be support at the $40 level and its

BBY $47.48 -0.00 - That's right!  BBY closed unchanged on
Tuesday.  The stock has been consolidating with a bearish bias
under the $50.00 level after last week's breakdown.  It still
looks bearish now but the company is due to report earnings on
March 31st.  Trade carefully.


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Brokerage Group, addressing the demand for personalized,
experienced service for both securities* and futures trading
within the same firm. Licensed Option Principals Andrew Aronson
and Alan Knuckman specialize in live assistance of stock*,
option* and futures traders. The combination of the proven Man
Financial global presence and the convenience of one group for
all trading needs provide customers with the tools needed for

Live Broker and Online Trading Available     888-281-9569




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Option Investor Inc is neither a registered Investment Advisor nor a Broker/Dealer. Readers are advised that all information is issued solely for informational purposes and is not to be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor is it to be construed as a recommendation to buy, hold or sell (short or otherwise) any security. All opinions, analyses and information included herein are based on sources believed to be reliable and written in good faith, but no representation or warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, is made including but not limited to any representation or warranty concerning accuracy, completeness, correctness, timeliness or appropriateness. In addition, we do not necessarily update such opinions, analysis or information. Owners, employees and writers may have long or short positions in the securities that are discussed.

Readers are urged to consult with their own independent financial advisors with respect to any investment. All information contained in this report and website should be independently verified.

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