Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Thursday, 03/25/2004

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The Option Investor Newsletter                Thursday 03-25-2004
Copyright 2004, All rights reserved.                       1 of 3
Redistribution in any form strictly prohibited.

In Section One:

Wrap: Back From The Brink
Futures Markets: See Note
Index Trader Wrap: See Note
Market Sentiment: Bulls Stampede

Posted online for subscribers at http://www.OptionInvestor.com
MARKET WRAP  (view in courier font for table alignment)
      03-18-2004           High     Low     Volume   Adv/Dcl
DJIA    10218.82 +170.60 10226.08 10049.49 1.90 bln 2295/ 912
NASDAQ   1967.17 + 57.70  1967.17  1923.22 1.94 bln 2280/ 825
S&P 100   544.31 +  9.82   544.87   534.49   Totals 4575/1737
S&P 500  1109.28 + 17.95  1110.38  1091.33
W5000   10842.86 +180.30 10850.60 10662.52
SOX       485.53 + 17.20   486.34   468.14
RUS 2000  571.53 + 13.90   571.69   557.63
DJ TRANS 2828.74 + 67.40  2831.37  2761.74
VIX        17.88 -  1.93    19.58    17.61
VXO (VIX-O)17.76 -  2.73    19.99    17.65
VXN        23.70 -  2.36    26.01    23.49
Total Volume 4,243M
Total UpVol  3,771M
Total DnVol    434M
Total Adv  5120
Total Dcl  2036
52wk Highs  204
52wk Lows    34
NasTRIN    0.17
TRIN       0.45
PUT/CALL   0.70

Back From The Brink

The bulls had been pushed to the cliff's edge with more
than a couple being turned into hamburger on the rocks
below but the remainder of the herd dug in its heels,
lowered their horns and pushed their way back from the
brink. There was no magic moment, no sudden change in
economics or smooth tongued words of wisdom by a Fed head.
After three days of trying to force the bulls over the
cliff the sellers just ran out of ammo.

Dow Chart - Daily

Nasdaq Chart - Daily

The economic reports started with the Jobless Claims and
at 339,000 they came in right in line with last weeks 338K
and still at a positive level. The four-week moving average
fell to a post recession low of 341,500 and at this level
jobs have historically seen gains. The continuing claims
fell to just over three million. The continuing claims
are reduced by about -80,000 a week as benefits expire.
This does not mean 80,000 a week are finding jobs.

The 4Q-GDP came in at 4.1% as expected with corporate
profits rising at +7.2%. As long as this number holds it
will mean the GDP for 2003 will be +3.1% and the best since
2000. If you read Mark's article on Thursday night you know
this number is questionable. Makes you wonder where we would
have been without that +8.5% gain in Q3. For today's revision
the consumer spending number was revised up to +3.2% from
+2.7% in the prior revision. Considering the 3Q was so hot
it is amazing that the 4Q actually posted another gain but
then holiday spending did finally come through in the last
week of the year.

Business inventories rose for the first time in three
quarters although the gain was cut to only $9.0B from
$14.9B in the prior revision. The weaker dollar continued
to improve the balance of trade and add to the overall GDP
level. The GDP growth at +4.1% is above the standard goal
of 3.0-3.5% and while not exciting it is not yet strong
enough to cause rising inflation. It is kind of like the
Goldilocks economy from the late 90s. The porridge is not
too hot and not too cold but a little warmer would be

Existing Home Sales rose to 6.12 million in February and
up from 6.0 million in January. The bad weather in Feb
depressed sales and the overall quarter is shaping up to
be weaker than expected. This could depress GDP for Q1
as housing sales ripple through the entire economy. I am
still expecting the 2Q to be very strong with continued
low rates and the strong tax refund cycle. This spring
and summer may be the last big boom with a moderate
slowing in the 4Q. The application rate for adjustable
rate loans has risen to 28% and far above the 15% level
during last years boom. This suggests that the buyer pool
is weaker and they are stretching to be able to afford a
new home. Most consumers who wanted to move up took
advantage of the low rates over the last two years. There
is still a ready market that is only slightly weaker and
inventory is relatively low so builders will still be
able to control pricing power. The next six months could
be the peak for the building community without a strong
economic recovery to provide the next round of buyers.

The best news of the day was the increase in the Help
Wanted Index to 40 from 39. No, it was not a big jump
but it was the highest level since Feb-2003 and January
was revised up one point. This makes two months of small
increases and we are well off the lows of 35 last May.
After six months of hovering around 37 the move up could
be the start of a real pickup in hiring. It is still a
weak reading but any gain to a yearly high should be
well received. Jobless Claims have been trending down
and now help wanted ads are trending up. Looks like a
real change in progress. Hiring could be stronger than
this index suggests because of the shift away from
newspaper advertising to online methods. Also, the
quantity of workers applying for every job means
companies don't have to run as big an ad or as many ads
as when there was competition for employees in the late
90s. There is also a trend to employing more contractors
to cut down on the high benefit costs. I am not
disregarding the higher index number but only suggesting
that real hiring activity may actually be stronger.

While the economic activity today was positive it was
definitely not responsible for the bullish blowout. The
gains today sent the Nasdaq to the strongest one day
gain in nine months. The Dow and S&P posted their biggest
gains since October. Guess who lead the gains? Those who
had been beaten down the most. Microsoft rose +3.19% and
Intel +4.74% to name just a couple. The bottom appeared
to be put in earlier in the week and some of the tech
stocks actually began to post gains on Wednesday despite
the weakness in the Dow and S&P. Intel closed at a high
for the week on Wednesday and then blasted out of the
gate on Thursday. Same with Microsoft when the EU fine
failed to knock it back to the lows. Buying opportunity?
At least that is the way it appeared in hindsight.

I reported earlier this week that the SOX was showing
strength despite the broader market weakness and a quick
check of the SOX shows a +6% rebound, +3.67% today alone,
and right back to the resistance from early March. Today
may have surprised some traders but most expected a
rebound soon. We were very oversold and right on the edge
of the cliff. We had to hold the line or die and after
three days of trying the bears could not push us over
that cliff. That gave buyers courage and we were off to
the races. Semis normally recover first, then techs in
general and this is exactly what happened.

The Dow recovered to close at 10215 and well off the
10,000 danger point where we had fought the battle all
week. The +170 point gain was very strong and came very
close to having curbs in on the upside. Can you imagine
that? The Nasdaq rallied +57 points to close at 1965 and
only a hop, skip and a buy program of points away from
2000. Volume was moderate at 4.2B but the internals were
very strong. On Monday we had a 10:1 down day which
normally suggests a capitulation event. Today we had
nearly a 9:1 up day. Very strong! Unfortunately advancers
were only slightly better than 2:1 over decliners. Still
some traders not convinced. With good reason I might add.

Yes, you knew there was a "however" lurking around here
somewhere. The Nasdaq rallied very strong off three days
of support at 1900 and closed at 1965. Unfortunately the
1970-1980 level is very strong resistance. If this rally
turns into a one day wonder like March-17th then this is
the place it will fail.

The Dow has a little breathing room from its close at
10215 to strong resistance at 10300-10325. This was the
level that stopped the previous rally from last week.
Using the broader S&P that room stretches to 1120-1125
from the 1108 close.

This suggests the bulls can get a running start in the
morning and hit these resistance levels at a dead run
but the odds of a wreck are good. I would love to see
the rally continue to rebound into April earnings but
I keep thinking there is another shoe waiting to drop.
We dropped over the last two weeks on profit taking,
jobs, economy and terror. The jobs indicators are showing
a continued slight improvement and the economic indicators
are starting to suggest another uptick as we near the end
of the quarter. Earnings are still rising at +16.0% and
earnings warnings are very minimal. While everything
appears to be on track for stocks we still have the
terror component and the election component as wild
cards that can appear at any moment.

The terror threat that was used as an excuse to take
us lower still exists. Today Al Jazeera broadcasted a
new tape from Al Qaeda number two man Ayman Al-Zawahri
calling on the Pakistan army to depose General Musharraf.
He claimed Pakistan was working for America in attacking
the Pastun tribes suspected of protecting him. Obviously
he is not in the rubble and not trapped in the current
standoff. He appears to be alive and well and could try
to pull off another attack to emphasize that fact. This
raises the weekend event risk for many.

I explained last week how earnings and the economy do not
always produce higher stock prices but that is a long term
outlook not just weeks. We had a true correction on most
fronts and traders are starting to see value once again.
At least that is what the analysts are saying. I tend to
think they got tired of waiting on the sidelines for the
selling to stop and finally jumped in for a quick trade.
It was more boredom and greed than value.

The challenge for Friday will be to hold the gains and
try to move closer to those resistance levels I mentioned
earlier of 10300/1980/1120. While it would be great to
see another breakout I would be really surprised to see
it on Friday. Weekend event risk may prevent back to back
strong gains. That is ok in my book. If they would just
post another gain to get us closer to resistance then we
will be ready to start with a clean slate on Monday.

Next week is quarter end and we should begin to see some
window dressing from funds sitting on cash over the last
couple of weeks. Nobody wants to publish statements that
show them in cash if a rebound really took hold. If the
truth was known I would not doubt if some of the buying
today was probably related to window dressing. Wednesday
is the end of the month so time's a wasting if they want
to put that cash to work.

If we can make it to Monday without a retracement and
without any terror event then we could be in good shape.
The week, other than Monday, is chock full of economic
reports that could help build investor confidence. We
have NAPM, PMI, Factory Orders, Semi Billings, Construction
Spending, ISM and of course the Jobs report on Friday.
With the continued weakness in Jobless Claims, the
dramatic drop in the Monthly Mass Layoffs and the boost
in the Help Wanted Index we may actually get a Jobs
report with jobs. That could be a good news bad news
event depending on the number. The estimate is for +100K
and that is also the right temperature for Goldilocks
porridge. Not too hot to stimulate the Fed and not to
cold to throw water on the economy but just enough to
show that employment is really increasing.

Keep your fingers crossed for Friday that we do not see
a retracement of the gains and we do see some follow
through. Follow through will set us up for next week.
Lack of follow through could quickly remove any budding
bullish sentiment and put us back in limbo once again.
Since the broad market sell off began on March 8th we
had an initial four day drop, followed by three days of
consolidation. The big rally on the 17th was followed
by two days of drops and then three days of consolidation.
Is the cycle going to repeat with another lower low ahead?
Nobody knows. Keep those fingers crossed but keep those
stops in place.

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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Bulls Stampede
- J. Brown

To be brief investors sentiment was pretty easy to read today.
After weeks of selling and suffering some sharp declines in the
last few days investors finally bought the dip boosted by what
was probably some frantic short covering.  The Dow's 170-point
gain ended a 5-day losing streak with 29 of its 30 components
closing higher.

Meanwhile the biggest action was in the NASDAQ with a 57-point
gain (3.02%) marking its best one-day performance in five months.
Analysts made a lot of hoopla about the heavy down volume on some
of the declines in the last couple of weeks but we saw an equally
impressive turnaround today.  Advancing stocks swamped decliners
3-to-1 on the NYSE and 22 to 8 on the NASDAQ.  Up volume was
almost 6-to-1 over down volume on the NYSE and it hit 17-to-1
over down volume on the NASDAQ.  We certainly don't see that
every day.

Yet be careful before your enthusiasm gets out of hand.  Seeing
the markets finally buy the 5% and 10% corrections in the S&P 500
and the NASDAQ, respectively; is good news but the recent trend
has been for a snap back the opposite direction any time the
market makes a big move and today certainly qualifies as big.

In summary today's rally was refreshing and instilled some
confidence that the bull market is still alive and we'll be on
the look out for the next round of bullish play candidates.


Market Averages


52-week High: 10753
52-week Low :  7929
Current     : 10218

Moving Averages:

 10-dma: 10170
 50-dma: 10488
200-dma:  9815

S&P 500 ($SPX)

52-week High: 1163
52-week Low :  843
Current     : 1109

Moving Averages:

 10-dma: 1108
 50-dma: 1135
200-dma: 1056

Nasdaq-100 ($NDX)

52-week High: 1559
52-week Low : 1014
Current     : 1425

Moving Averages:

 10-dma: 1404
 50-dma: 1473
200-dma: 1381


Volatility indices collapsed as the markets produced a huge rally
that swept across all sectors save the oil index.

CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) = 17.88 -1.93
CBOE Mkt Volatility old VIX  (VXO) = 17.83 -2.66
Nasdaq Volatility Index (VXN)      = 23.70 -2.36


          Put/Call Ratio  Call Volume   Put Volume

Total          0.70        976,574       679,442
Equity Only    0.60        816,089       488,795
OEX            0.65         30,572        19,975
QQQ            1.11        193,164       213,641


Bullish Percent Data

           Current   Change   Status
NYSE          70.5    + 0     Bull Correction
NASDAQ-100    38.0    + 0     Bear Confirmed
Dow Indust.   76.7    - 3     Bear Confirmed
S&P 500       72.0    - 2     Bear Confirmed
S&P 100       77.0    - 5     Bull Correction

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: 1.64
10-dma: 1.40
21-dma: 1.46
55-dma: 1.19

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    2123      2259
Decliners     696       788

New Highs     106        79
New Lows       17        16

Up Volume   1569M      1792M
Down Vol.    266M       105M

Total Vol.  1848M     1927M
M = millions


Commitments Of Traders Report: 03/16/04

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

Hmm... there's been a lot of action in the commercial traders'
positions the last few weeks.  It's almost like they can't decide
what direction to go.  The latest data shows them switching from
net bearish to net bullish again.   Small traders are more
consistent and remain net bullish although less so than recent

Commercials   Long      Short      Net     % Of OI
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%)
03/16/04      454,635   449,505     5,130     0.6%

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
02/24/04      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%
03/16/04      159,054   115,023    44,031    25.3%

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

Whoa!  Commercial traders have turned very bearish on the
S&P e-mini's.  Contract volume in both longs and shorts have
soared but they bought almost 90K new shorts pushing bearish
sentiment to new levels not seen in weeks.  Small traders
also increased their positions but remain bullish.

Commercials   Long      Short      Net     % Of OI
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%)
03/16/04      472,809   574,241   (101,432)  ( 9.7%)

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
02/24/04     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%
03/16/04     192,136     96,691    95,445    33.0%

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


Commercial traders are continuing this bullish trend and
hit another new high in bullish sentiment.  Is everyone
just buying the dip?  Small traders may have taken notice
as they nearly doubled their number of long contracts but
then the more than doubled their short contracts.  At least
the brokers are making some money on commissions.

Commercials   Long      Short      Net     % of OI
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%
03/16/04       68,285     54,899    13,386   10.9%

Most bearish reading of the year: (21,858)  - 08/26/03
Most bullish reading of the year:  13,386   - 03/16/04

Small Traders  Long     Short      Net     % of OI
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%
03/16/04       27,859    18,333     9,526    20.6%

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


Not too much change here for the commercial traders although
they've become significantly less bullish than recent weeks.
Small traders are moving the other direction and becoming
less bearish!

Commercials   Long      Short      Net     % of OI
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%
03/16/04       32,317    17,514   14,803      29.7%

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
02/24/04        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%)
03/16/04       10,002    20,970  (10,968)   (35.4%)

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                 Thursday 03-25-2004
Copyright 2004, All rights reserved.                        2 of 3
Redistribution in any form strictly prohibited.

In Section Two:

Dropped Calls: ATH, DGX, ONXX
Dropped Puts: MXIM, QLGC
Call Play Updates: LXK
New Calls Plays: MGG
Put Play Updates: ETN, IVGN, RIMM, SLAB
New Put Plays: None


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.


Anthem, Inc. - ATH - close: 88.12 change: +0.63 stop: 87.25

It's the end of the road for our ATH play.  Price action has
gotten progressively more volatile over the past couple weeks and
this morning's early dip below $87 was enough to take our stop.
We've been steadily inching our stop up, just under the 20-dma
and each relative low and this morning's dip cleanly sliced
through both.  To its credit, ATH managed to bounce back into the
end of the day, but it feels like the stock has lost its bullish
momentum.  Any early strength on Friday should be used to effect
a more profitable exit.

Picked on February 26th at   $85.37
Change since picked:          +2.75
Earnings Date               4/28/04 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =     1.46 mln
Chart =


Quest Diagnostics - DGX - close: 81.01 change: -0.24 stop: 79.00

Never cooperating enough to activate our trigger at $83.50, DGX
has been steadily deteriorating all week.  The real blow to the
bulls came yesterday when the stock plunged below the short-term
rising trendline as well as the 50-dma.  Reinforcing the reality
that the bulls appear to have abandoned DGX, the stock was
completely unable to participate in Thursday's broad market
advance.  With a lack of bullish interest and a couple of key
support levels broken, we're removing DGX from consideration and
dropping the play tonight.

Picked on March 18th at      $82.97
Change since picked:          -1.96
Earnings Date               4/22/04 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        612 K
Chart =


Onyx Pharm. - ONXX - close: 40.40 change: +3.93 stop: 34.00

Blast Off!  After 2 weeks of consolidating just above support,
shares of ONXX caught fire this morning, with the stock rocketing
higher on very strong volume and ending very near its high of the
day.  By the end of the day, the stock had notched a gain of
nearly 11% and clearly volatility expanded in the past 24 hours.
This looks like a great point to harvest gains on the play and
move to the sidelines in anticipation of some profit taking.
We're dropping coverage of ONXX tonight, but we'll keep our eyes
open, looking for another opportunity to get on board for another
strong bullish move.

Picked on March 21st at      $36.07
Change since picked:          +4.33
Earnings Date                   N/A
Average Daily Volume =        580 K
Chart =


Maxim Int. Prod. - MXIM - close: 47.28 change: +1.47 stop: 47.75

Did anyone get the number of that truck?  MXIM broke down on
Tuesday, taking out recent support and the 200-dma in one fell
swoop.  At the same time, the stock fell through its bullish
support line on the PnF chart and with the SOX having broken
support, it looked like more weakness was in store.  But the
bulls came charging back on Thursday, with the SOX tacking on
3.66% and ending well above the $470-475 broken support level.
MXIM vaulted higher by more than 3% can came within spitting
distance of our $47.75 stop before relaxing ever so slightly at
the end of the day.  This looks like a failed bearish play, with
the bear trap having been sprung. Confirmation of that view will
arrive on Friday if the stock is able to move above the $48
level, taking out its mid-March high.

Picked on March 23rd at       $44.40
Change since picked:           +2.88
Earnings Date                4/27/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =      5.23 mln
Chart =


QLogic Corp - QLGC - close: 42.84 change: +1.72 stop: 42.30

In spite of its 4.18% rally today QLGC is still in its five-month
bearish trend on both its daily chart and its point-and-figure
chart.  The rally stalled just under its 40-dma where the stock
struggled just a couple of weeks ago.  While we have never yet
been triggered on the play (QLGC never traded below the $40.00
mark to open it for us) we're going to close it due to what
appears to be new rotation into the chip sector.

Picked on March xx at $ xx.xx <-- see trigger
Change since picked:   - 0.00
Earnings Date        04/27/04 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume:     3.8 million
Chart =


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Lexmark Intl. - LXK - close: 90.31 change: +2.60 stop: 87.25*new*

Moving to the next level, LXK finally managed to close over the
$90 level on Thursday, helped along by the strong rebound in the
broad market.  Ever since the initial breakout over $87, we had
been looking for a pullback near the 10-dma (currently $88.35) to
provide a secondary entry point, and that opportunity arrived
today.  After an initial dip to $88, the stock rebounded smartly
and ended the day at a new all-time closing high.  If the bulls
can continue charging ahead, we can expect to see a push through
the $91.10 intraday high from earlier in the month.  Following
today's breakout, we can once again reduce our risk in the play,
raising our stop to $87.25, which is just below Monday's low.
Look for new entries either on another successful test of the 10-
dma or on a breakout over $91.25.

Picked on March 14th at      $85.77
Change since picked:          +4.54
Earnings Date               4/19/04 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        981 K
Chart =


MGM Mirage - MGG - close: 45.69 change: +0.88 stop: 43.25

Company Description:
MGM MIRAGE, one of the world's leading and most respected hotel
and gaming companies, owns and operates 12 casino resorts located
in Nevada, Mississippi, Michigan and Australia, and has
investments in two other casino resorts in Nevada and New Jersey.
The company is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, and offers an
unmatched collection of casino resorts with a limitless range of
choices for guests. Guest satisfaction is paramount, and the
company has approximately 40,000 employees committed to that
result. Its portfolio of brands include AAA Five Diamond award
winner Bellagio, MGM Grand Las Vegas -- The City of
Entertainment, The Mirage, Treasure Island ("TI"), New York-New
York, Boardwalk Hotel and Casino and 50 percent of Monte Carlo,
all located on the Las Vegas Strip; Whiskey Pete's, Buffalo
Bill's, Primm Valley Resort and two championship golf courses at
the California/Nevada state line; the exclusive Shadow Creek golf
course in North Las Vegas; Beau Rivage on the Mississippi Gulf
Coast; and MGM Grand Detroit Casino in Detroit, Michigan. The
Company is a 50-percent owner of Borgata, a destination casino
resort at Renaissance Pointe in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Internationally, MGM MIRAGE also owns a 25 percent interest in
Triangle Casino, a local casino in Bristol, UK. (source: company
press release)

Why We Like It:
Casino stocks have been one of the strongest sectors of the
market this year.  MGG alone is up 22% YTD and doesn't show any
signs of slowing down.  Recently Merrill Lynch raised its 2004
earnings estimates for MGG and lifted their price target from $44
to $53.  A lot of the Vegas hotel chains have been turning in
some impressive numbers in their room pricing power, which is up
significantly from last year.  Add a little bit of consumer fears
about traveling overseas and major players in Vegas and Atlantic
City should continue to see an increase in customers above and
beyond what they might see from an improving economy.
Coincidentally, Bank of America reiterated their "buy" rating the
same day Merrill did.

We like the bull flag breakout today combined with a turnaround
in MGG's short-term technicals.  This is a new all-time closing
high for the stock and we're going to target the $50 level, which
is well below the $61 price target forecasted by its P&F chart.
Should MGG see a pull back traders can look to buy the dip to
$45.00-44.50.  We're going to stick our stop loss at the 40-dma
where MGG found support earlier this week.

Suggested Options:
Earnings are coming up less than three weeks from now and we
don't plan to hold over the report.  That means we can probably
get away with using April calls, which expire two days after MGG
reports.  More conservative traders may feel more comfortable
using May or June calls.

BUY CALL APR 40 MGG-DH OI= 136 at $6.10 SL=3.90
BUY CALL APR 45*MGG-DI OI=2249 at $1.85 SL=0.95
BUY CALL MAY 45 MGG-EI OI=  93 at $2.75 SL=1.35

Annotated Chart:

Picked on March 25 at $ 45.69
Change since picked:   + 0.00
Earnings Date        04/14/04 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume:     597 thousand
Chart =


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Eaton Corp. - ETN - close: 54.50 change: +1.26 stop: 57.00*new*

If volume tells the story of the strength of a move, today's
bounce in shares of ETN may be a problem for the bears.
Recouping its losses from Tuesday and Wednesday, the stock
actually saw buying volume nearly 4 times the daily average.  But
we don't want to panic out of a trade that seems to be working
for us, especially with the current pattern of lower highs and
with price having broken solidly below the 100-dma ($55.60).  If
not for the magnitude of the buying volume today, we'd
immediately be looking for a rollover near resistance, but due to
the strong volume, we prefer a wait and see attitude.  The $56
level looks like strong resistance at this point, and that's
where we'd suggest aggressive traders look for new entries on a
rollover.  We've lowered our stop slightly to the $57 level, as
that will be below the 20-dma ($57.01) by tomorrow.

Picked on March 11th at       $54.82
Change since picked:           -0.32
Earnings Date                1/21/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =      1.15 mln
Chart =


Invitrogen - IVGN - close: 68.74 chg: +1.05 stop: 70.01

Uh-oh.  It may be time to start considering an exit.  The markets
roared higher today and IVGN followed the herd with a 1.55% gain
of its own.  More importantly it appears to be trying to bottom
with Wednesday painting a higher low than last week's dip.  IVGN
still has resistance at the $70.00 level, which is bolstered by
its 21-dma and 100-dma but if the markets continue higher we
don't think this will stop traders from buying the dip here.
Hopefully we'll get some profit taking tomorrow and we can exit
on some weakness closer to our entry price.  Odds are good we'll
close this play in the weekend letter unless the unexpected
occurs and IVGN drops sharply.

Picked on March 11 at $ 67.26
Change since picked:   + 1.48
Earnings Date        02/12/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume:     910 thousand
Chart =


Research In Motion - RIMM - cls: 89.22 chg: +3.20 stop: 90.01

The early morning drop on Wednesday looked great but by the close
RIMM looked ready to bounce.  Sure enough a mega-rally in the
NASDAQ (+3%) on Thursday inspired a stronger response in RIMM
(+3.72%) and the stock almost hit our stop loss at $90.01.  The
real question is whether or not this is just an oversold rally
for RIMM or a true reversal?  Of course it probably won't matter
if the NASDAQ keeps climbing.  Fortunately, the trend in the
markets lately is for the major indices to snap back the opposite
direction after any big moves.  That could set up for a failed
rally pattern in RIMM under the $90 mark. However, we would
remain cautious about initiating new positions with so much
market volatility.  Review Tuesday's play description for all of
our caveats on this play.

Picked on March 23 at $ 86.64
Change since picked:   + 2.58
Earnings Date        04/07/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume:     6.1 million
Chart =


Silicon Labs. - SLAB - close: 52.09 change: +1.96 stop: 54.00

Semiconductor stocks have been the favorite whipping boy of the
bears for the past several weeks, and a rebound was overdue.  The
magnitude of the rebound is a bit disconcerting though, with the
SOX tacking on 3.66% on Thursday and now solidly above the 200-
dma again.  At the same time, our SLAB play saw concerted buying
interest today, propelling the stock back from its recent
breakdown under $50 for a nearly 4% rise.  The only thing the
bears can cheer about is that buying volume was rather light, at
only about 60% of the ADV.  We've been looking for a new entry
point on a failed bounce near resistance and today's rally is
certainly giving us that setup.  SLAB has strong resistance in
the $52-53 area, reinforced by the broken 50-dma ($52.86), so a
rollover in this area looks good, especially if it occurs at the
same time as the SOX stalling out in the $495-500 resistance
area.  Maintain stops at $54.

Picked on March 21st at       $51.35
Change since picked:           +0.74
Earnings Date                1/26/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =      1.42 mln
Chart =




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The Option Investor Newsletter                 Thursday 03-25-2004
Copyright 2004, All rights reserved.                        3 of 3
Redistribution in any form strictly prohibited.

In Section Three:

Watch List: Lots to Watch for Friday!
Option Spreads: It’s Time For A Penal Implant


Lots to Watch for Friday!


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.

Valero Energy Corp - VLO - close: 56.55 change: -0.57

WHAT TO WATCH: A reader brought VLO to our attention today and
asked for some comments.  Normally we would cover reader requests
in the "ask the analyst" column on the OptionInvestor.com website
but we wanted to jump in before the weekend newsletter.  VLO is
an oil refiner.  The group has really been soaring the last few
months as crude oil prices reach record highs.  There is a strong
demand for more refining capacity in the U.S. but no one wants a
refinery built in their backyard.  Those refiners that are
operating are seeing a lot of business.  Most of the analyst
comments I could find were bullish with many expecting the group
to produce a blow out quarter.  Speaking of which VLO is due to
announce on April 20th or April 28th there seemed to be some
confusion there.  After a huge run up from October through
February VLO began to see some profit taking that coincided with
a decline in the OSX oil service index in mid-March.  More
recently there has been a big rotation out of oil service stocks
that was hastened by a $1.52 drop in crude today.  Fortunately,
VLO has held up relatively well compared to the OSX the last
week.  VLO is still in its upward bullish trend but the stock
looks weak.  Technicals are pointing lower and the stock has
already hit its P&F chart price target.  Is this a buy or a sell?
One thing to consider is the OSX.  This group looks very oversold
and due for a bounce.  If that occurs then bulls might want to
look for a bounce in VLO at its 50-dma or the $55.00 mark.  What
makes us cautious is the trend of lower highs over the last
couple of weeks.  Plus there has been a lot of conjecture lately
that maybe we've seen the top in oil and gas prices (even though
unleaded gas has hit new all-time highs for three days in a row).
If we were to go long we'd use a tight stop and be prepared for
some volatility as the markets speculate on whether OPEC will or
won't follow through on their April production cuts.  Bears can
look for a breakdown below the $55 mark.



General Dynamics - GD - close: 87.75 change: +0.43

WHAT TO WATCH: After a four-week correction shares of GD have
spent the last several days trying to build support above the
$85.00 mark and its simple 200-dma.  It appears to be working.
GD has broken out above its simple 10-dma, which has been recent
resistance and is now challenging its 21 & 100-dma's.  Also
noteworthy are GD's bullish technicals with the RSI and
stochastics pointing higher and its MACD producing a fresh buy
signal on Thursday.  The intraday chart suggests GD might pull
back tomorrow but a bounce above $86 might be a bullish entry
point.  Watch out for resistance at $90.00.



University of Phoenix - UOPX - close: 84.87 change: +3.87

WHAT TO WATCH: Some of the education stocks are doing very well.
UOPX and its parent company APOL are both hitting new highs.  We
like the bullish breakout over resistance at $84.00 in UOPX.
Combined with the new bullish buy signal in its MACD and its
bullish P&F chart pointing to a $112 price target this may be a



Schnitzer Steel Industries - SCHN - close: 40.97 change: +0.60

WHAT TO WATCH: We're a little surprised that SCHN, a steel
producer, isn't doing better.  Steel stocks have been one of the
few pockets of strength lately.  In contrast SCHN has drifted
back towards support at $40.00 and looks ready to breakdown below
it.  There is technical support at its 200-dma near $38 but the
trend looks pretty weak.  What makes the weakness more surprising
is that SCHN is due to split 3-for-2 tomorrow so there's been no
pre-split excitement here.


RADAR SCREEN - more stocks to watch

CSCO $23.58 +0.91 - CSCO turned in a 4% gain today but remains
within its sideways channel between $22 and $24.  Look for a

SYMC $45.26 +2.24 - With absolutely no slow down in the number of
viruses and worms hitting our computers it's no wonder that SYMC
is hitting new highs.

PCAR $54.73 +1.37 - Heads up!  PCAR just broke out over its
simple 50-dma and is challenging its descending trendline of
lower highs.  A breakout here could lead to a run toward the $60

SANM $10.84 +0.37 - The bounce from its 200-dma and the $10.00
level of support looks tempting.  A stop loss at $9.99 or $10.19
might be a low risk entry point but watch for some resistance
near $11.50.

TTWO $34.93 +1.61 - Video game makers have been on the move
lately and bulls can use a trigger above $35.00 to catch the next
breakout in TTWO.


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Option Spread Strategies

It’s Time For A Penal Implant
By Mike Parnos, Investing With Attitude

At this writing, the jury is still out.  They’re deliberating on
the fate of Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz – the TYCO CEO/CFO
twosome who helped themselves to $600 million of TYCO money.
There are no two thieves more deserving of a penal implant.
Martha Stewart looks like Mother Theresa compared to these guys.
They should be planted firmly in the penitentiary and only watered
once a week.  At the very least they should be put into a room
with TYCO shareholders for a few hours.   I’d like to buy a put on
their life expectancy.

A $2 million birthday party?  An $18-million Fifth Avenue
apartment?  A $6,000 shower curtain?  They didn’t get caught with
their hands in the cookie jar.  They took the whole damn jar.  It
will be interesting to see if our justice system really works.  If
there is any justice at all, they’ll get a hefty dose of reality,
a cellmate named Leroy and a diet of chipped beef on toast for
about 20 years.  Good help is hard to find.  TYCO will survive.
Will Kozlowski and Mwartz?  Maybe, maybe not.

While that question goes unanswered, at least temporarily, we’ve
got some answers to some of your email questions.

Dear Mike,
Thank you for all your profitable suggestions in the past.  I have
leaned towards index spreads and iron condors because I feel that
indices are less volatile than stocks.

However, I am concerned about a one-time catastrophic event
(bombing in the USA) causing a one time major drop in all
stock/indices.  Is there any way to hedge against the downside
when entering an iron condor?  I thought about selling unbalanced
iron condors – less put spreads or less contracts of the put
spreads – or just selling call spreads.  Are there any other
techniques available? – Marc

Dear Marc,
When you put on an iron condor trade, you are accepting an element
of risk.  We purposely define our risk when we purchase the long
options as part of the bull put and bear call spreads.  You know
going in the results of the worst case scenario – and you can live
with it – maybe not be happy about it, but accept it as a cost of
having a “trading” business.

It’s true that we may be able to make some adjustments along the
way if a trade starts moving against us.  We may be able to lessen
the loss or perhaps even shift positions in mid-stream.  But,
don’t count on it.  There may be times we’re faced with taking the
full loss.

Consider this example as a possible solution.  When we put on the
bull-put spread portion of an iron condor, we may typically sell
10 OEX 515 puts and, for protection, buy 10 OEX 505 puts.  If you
want further protection, you can buy some additional 505 puts or
perhaps buy some 500 or 490 puts.  They should be relatively
inexpensive, but it’s still money out of your pocket.

The only problem is that, in our iron condor, we are usually
working pretty tight.  There isn’t a lot of extra premium –
especially with the recent low volatility in the market.  If you
spend a lot on additional long puts, you’re eating away at your
potential profits.  By the time you’re done protecting the upside
and the downside, there’s probably not going to be enough left
over to make the trade worth doing.

Very often, when there are “catastrophic” events, the market will
move dramatically and quickly.  Then, the bargain hunters will
move in and, almost as quickly, the market will return to its
previous level

If you are going to worry about catastrophic events every time you
put on a trade, you may want to consider whether on not you should
be trading.   There is risk involved.  The have to assess your
risk tolerance.  When you cross the street, you take a chance of
being hit by a bus, but that doesn’t stop you from crossing the
street.  If you don’t cross that street, you can’t get where
you’re going.  Is your destination worth the risks it may take to
get there?

You’re probably saying, “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean
they’re not after me.”  Famous old time baseball pitcher Satchel
Paige has been quoted as saying, “Don’t look over your shoulder.
They might be gaining on you.”  But finally, and most importantly,
the philosophical sage Baretta said, “Don’t do the crime, if you
can’t do the time.”

I love calendar spreads particularly the kind you profiled for
OSX.   I now know when to take these spreads off if they move in
my direction (using the delta).  I still have a real problem as to
when to remove them if they move against me. I have tried using
the normal charting procedures but, I think you can give spreads a
little more leeway. When do you remove a spread that has gone
against you? -- Jane

Hi Jane,
You keep an eye on support levels and/or trend lines.  If they are
violated, then it's time to GTFO and conserve your trading
capitol.  In the OSX trade, there is not much at risk, so
(depending on your risk tolerance) you may be able to be a little
more patient.  That's the benefit of having three months.

If you want to trade a little more aggressively, when the OSX
moves down, while you're waiting, you can buy back the short April
call for less, lock in profit and then possibly sell it again if
the OSX bounces back up in the same cycle.

Good Morning Mike:
I searched, but could not find any info on exiting a combination
play during expiration week.  How do you recommend exiting during
this time assuming that the price of the underlying is within our
safety range?  Do you normally allow your positions to expire or
do you exit?  Thanks for your help. -- Kevin

Hi Kevin,
It all depends on what kind of strategy you're talking about, the
cost to exit, and the purpose for exiting.

If you can buy back a short option for a nickel or dime, it's
never a bad idea to eliminate your exposure.  But, if it's in the
middle of a large safety range and at no risk with only a day or
two to go, there is no need to spend the nickel and the
commission.  If you want to do it to free up maintenance dollars
to use elsewhere, then it may a wise thing to do.

I allow positions to expire only if I'm not going to be using the
money for something else.  Usually, if it only cost a nickel or a
dime to close a short position, I will close it because I will
make that back (and often more) by being able to put on another
position sooner (when more premium is available).


April Position #1 – SPX Iron Condor – 1109.19
We sold 4 SPX April 1075 puts and bought 4 SPX April 1050 puts for
credit of: $2.50 (x 4 contracts = $1,000).  Then we sold 10 SPX
April 1170 calls
And bought 10 SPX April 1180 calls for a credit:  $1.40 (x 10
contracts = $1,400).  Total net credit and potential profit of
about $2,400.  Maximum profit range is 1075 to 1170.  Safety range
is about 1072.60 to 1177.40.  Maintenance: $10,000

April Position #2 – RUT Iron Condor – 571.53
We sold 10 RUT April 530 puts and bought 10 RUT April 520 puts for
a credit of  $1.10.  Then sold 10 RUT April 610 calls and bought
10 RUT April 620 Calls for a credit of $1.15.  Total net credit of
about $2.25.  Potential profit: $2,250.  Maximum profit range: 530
to 610.  Safety range: 527.75 to $612.25.  Maintenance: $10,000.

April Position #3 – XAU Iron Condor - $101.50
Sold 10 XAU April 95 puts and bought 10 XAU April 90 puts for a
credit of  $.85 (x 10 contracts = $950).  Sold 10 XAU April 110
puts and bought 10 XAU April 115 puts for a credit of $.55 (x 10
contracts = $550).  Total net credit: $1.40.  Potential profit:
$1,400.  Maximum profit range $95 to $110.  Safety range: $93.60
to $111.40.

April Position #4 – OSX Calendar Spread Plus – $99.68
OSX is the Oil Index.  This is a play on the common belief that
oil prices will continue to move up over the next month or two.
Bought 10 OSX June $115 calls (36 delta) and sold 10 OSX April
$115 calls (23 delta) at a cost of  $2.15 ($2,150).

We also put on an April $100/$90 bull put spread and took in an
extra $.70 ($700) to reduce the cost basis to $1.45 ($1,450).

QQQ ITM Strangle – Ongoing Long Term -- $35.34
We bought 10 contracts of the 2005 QQQ $39 puts and 10 contracts
of the 2005 QQQ $29 calls for a total debit of $14,300.   We make
money by selling near term puts and calls every month.  Here's
what we've done so far:
Oct. $33 puts and Oct. $34 calls – credit of $1,900. Nov. $34 puts
and calls – credit of $1,150. Dec. $34 puts and calls – credit of
$1,500.  Jan. $34 puts and calls – credit of $850.  Feb. $34 calls
and $36 puts – credit of $750. Mar. $34 calls and $37 puts –
credit of $1,150. Apr. $34 calls and $37 puts – credit of $750
Total credit: $8,050.

Note:  We haven't included the proceeds from this long term QQQ
ITM Strangle in our profit calculations.  It's a bonus!  And it's
a great cash flow generating strategy.

ZERO-PLUS Strategy.  OEX – 544.31
In my Feb. 8th column, I outlined a strategy based on an initial
investment of $100,000.  $74,000 was spent on zero coupon bonds
maturing in seven years at a value of $100,000.  The principal
$100,000 investment is guaranteed.  We’re trading the remaining
$26,000 to generate a “risk free” return on the original

Long Term: Bought 3 OEX Jan. 2006 540 calls @ $81 (x 300 =
March: Sold 3 OEX 585 calls @ $3.10 (x 300 = $930)
March: 535/525 Bull Put Spread for credit of $1.10 (x 300 = $330).
Bought back 3 OEX March 585 calls for $.10 & sold 3 of March 560
calls for $1.35.  A credit of $1.25 x 300 = $375.00.  Bought back
March 560 calls for $.15, locked in profit of $120 x 3 = $360.
Cash position is $3,320 ($1,620 plus the unused $1,700).

April: New Positions
OEX Bull Put Spread - $544.31.  Sell 5 OEX April 515 puts and buy
5 contracts of April 505 puts for credit of  $.90 (x 5 contracts =
Sell call against long 540 call. Sell 5 OEX April 570 calls for
$1.35 (x 5 contracts = $675).

New To The CPTI?
Are you a new Couch Potato Trading Institute student?  Do you have
questions about our educational plays or our strategies?  To find
past CPTI (Mike Parnos) articles, first look under "Education" on
the OI home page and click on "Traders Corner."  For more recent
columns, you can look under “Strategies” and click on
“Combinations.”  They're waiting for you 24/7.

Happy Trading!
Remember the CPTI credo: May our remote batteries and self-
discipline last forever, but mierde happens. Be prepared! In
trading, as in life, it’s not the cards we’re dealt. It’s how we
play them. Your questions and comments are always welcome.

Mike Parnos
CPTI Master Strategist and HCP

Couch Potato Trading Institute Disclaimer
All results reported in this section are hypothetical. While the
numbers represented here may have been achieved or beaten by our
readers, we make no representation that any individual investor
achieved these exact results. The tracking for the plays listed in
this section uses closing prices for the day the newsletter is
published and it is not meant to imply that any reader actually
received those prices or participated in these recommendations.
The portfolio represented here is hypothetical and for investment
education purposes only. It is only an illustration of what type
of gains a knowledgeable investor might receive utilizing these


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