Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Friday, 03/18/2005

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Table of Contents

  1. Market Wrap
  2. New Option Plays
  3. In Play Updates and Reviews
  4. Trader's Corner

Market Wrap

Exactly As Expected

WE 03-18

WE 03-11


WE 03-04







+  98.95



-  33.81


-  29.01


+    5.21

S&P 100


-    5.61


-    9.68


+    4.66

S&P 500


-  10.43


-  22.04


+  10.75



-  91.78







-  13.75


-    5.50


-   10.32



-    4.27


-  18.11


+    7.42



-  81.51


+   1.12
















Last Sunday I suggested that the S&P rebalancing would weigh heavily on the major indexes and support at SPX 1185 and Nasdaq 2020 would be tested. A Nasdaq break of 2020 would set up a serious psychological test of 2000. The rebalancing caused selling that sent us to SPX 1183 and the Nasdaq to 1999.98 before the dip buyers appeared. Quadruple witching provided added volatility and the indexes closed at lows for the week, month and even for the year in the case of the Nasdaq.

Dow Chart - Daily

Nasdaq Chart - Daily

The big news for Friday was the added volume and volatility from the S&P rebalance but the economics were not to be ignored. Leading off the Friday list was a drop in Consumer Sentiment to 92.9 for the initial March reading. This was down from 92.1 in February. This was the third consecutive monthly drop from the recent December high at 97.1. Choppy markets, gas prices over $2 and rising interest rates are pressuring consumers and the constant droning on oil prospects is having an adverse effect. Actually with the negativity on oil we should have seen a lower number but the positive jobs number in early March supplied positive support.


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Import Prices rose +0.8% in February and that was slightly higher than estimates at +0.6% but only slightly over the +0.7% from January. For the month petroleum prices jumped +3.9% so it was almost a miracle for the headline number to gain only +0.8%. If you take out the oil price jump the import prices for everything else rose only +0.2% for the month. The gains should not be a serious impact to the PPI/CPI next week but there is fear behind the scenes that we will see some higher inflation numbers as the FOMC meeting begins.

Another overriding weight on the market was the huge drop in the Philly Fed report on Thursday. The drop to 11.4 and the lowest level in 20 months suggests there was a dramatic slowdown in the manufacturing sector. If this is an anomaly then we should see a rebound next month. BUT, since this is the second month out of the last three for a number in the low teens it suggests the manufacturing sector in general may be softening. This worry around a continued series of conflicting economic reports is preventing the market from gaining traction as we head for Q1 earnings.

Another minus for techs was the semi book-to-bill for February, which was announced late Thursday night. The BTB came in at 0.78 and unchanged from January and while it is the cycle low it is far from the 0.44 we saw back in April 2001. At 0.78 we are back at the levels we saw in October 2002 and well off the 1.23 we saw in Dec-2003. While the market was preoccupied with the S&P rebalancing the SOX still managed to lose nearly -1% on the news. Now at 413 with decent support at 400 I believe the lack of a continued drop in the BTB could be a positive for next week. Semis have been weak for two weeks and it is time for a bounce. The 420 support failed but it could have been a byproduct of expiration and the rebalance. Over 400 I might nibble at some SMH calls for a short-term bounce but would be out before April closes.

While the volatility was due to options expiration the volume was due to the S&P reweighting. Over 5.25 billion shares traded and down volume was 3:2 over up volume. It was exactly what we expected with large cap stocks with high ratios of captive shares receiving a lower weighting resulting in index fund selling. Smaller stocks found themselves rising on the rating scale and saw buying from index funds. In my opinion Friday was much ado about nothing. The selling was artificially induced and had nothing to do with market sentiment, earnings or expectations. It was simply an index adjustment day complicated by option expiration.

While the very large big caps like WMT and MSFT attracted the most adjustment due to the large insider holdings it was not limited to them. Tech stocks, EBAY and ORCL, were also examples of stocks with large insider blocks. This week's adjustment was only for a portion of the S&P and the balance will be adjusted in September. The second round is not expected to cause as much disruption but it is coming just ahead of the normal October volatility.

Crude Oil Chart - Daily

If you had to pick one story for the week it would have to be oil once again. OPEC formally raised their quota by +500,000 bbls per day on Wednesday and prices soared. Why? Because OPEC members were already busting quotas and producing all they could sell to take advantage of the price. The oil minister from Kuwait said OPEC was already producing well over quota before the meeting. How did he know this? Because Kuwait was already pumping +500K over quota by itself. There were several industry experts who suggested OPEC was actually producing 1.7 mbpd over quota before the meeting. This means any "official" production increases under 1.7 mbpd would already be priced into the market. If you need any further proof that OPEC is behind the curve we only need to move forward to Thursday. OPEC was surprised that oil went higher on their announcement and made the unprecedented move of announcing ANOTHER +500K increase as soon as next week IF prices failed to decline. Prices immediately rose to another new all time high at $57.50 on the second announcement. Anybody watching and putting 2+2 together should realize that OPEC is no longer able to control prices with choppy press releases. The genie is out of the box and all hell is about to break loose.

Move forward to Friday and OPEC issues another press release saying they were prepared to pump 30.3 mbpd in Q4 to offset expected production shortfalls. Their current quota is only 27.5 mbpd. Demand in Q3 is expected to rise to more than 28.5 mbpd but that is just the tip of the iceberg. In its monthly report for March OPEC said that production in February was estimated to have been 29.6 mbpd. With their quota at 27.5 mbpd and actual production 29.6 mbpd you would have expected prices to fall. Instead oil prices continued to rise because DEMAND IS STRONGER THAN MOST "EXPERTS" REALIZE. OPEC also said in their report on Friday that that Q4 demand is expected to rise to 86 mbpd or higher and OPEC will have to pump at FULL CAPACITY of 30.3 mbpd to meet that demand.

Personally, if they busted their quotas that badly and pumped 29.6 mbpd in February and they could barely stay ahead of demand I have a hard time believing that full capacity at 30.3 in Q4 when demand is expected to be much higher is going to do the trick. OPEC's own document said non-OPEC supply is expected to rise ONLY +1.1% to 50.8 mbpd in 2005. Doing the simple math and using their numbers Q4 looks like this. Non-OPEC 50.8mb plus OPEC at 30.3mb equals 81.1 mbpd. Their own demand estimates for Q4 are for 86 mbpd. That would be a -5 mbpd shortfall. I did not make this stuff up and I find it hard to believe anyone with a 4th grade education still believe their ocean of oil story.

I am going to try and simplify this. The graph below shows the average demand for the last four years and the expectation for 2005. I will emphasize it is the average quarterly demand for the year. An average means you can be standing with one foot in a bucket of ice water and the other in a bucket of boiling water and your average temperature will still be 98.6. The demand for Q4-2004 was 84.3 mbpd and Q1-2005 is estimated at 84.3 mbpd. In both Q4 and Q1 oil prices soared as demand hit 84 mbpd because that stresses the limits of production for usable oil. (light sweet crude) The average for all of 2005 is estimated to be 84.0 and right at our production ceiling but that is not the whole story.

Annual Crude Demand Graph - Five Years

For 2005 the demand picture looks like this. Demand is expected to drop seasonally in Q2 and then accelerate into Q4. Estimated demand in Q4 is rising daily with current estimates between 85.9-86.3 mbpd. If the system is stressing and prices hitting new highs just trying to pump 84 mbpd then we could be looking at a serious shortfall in Q4.

Quarterly Crude Demand Estimates for 2005

The black line at 84.5 represents the maximum sustained production we have seen in the last year. Once demand moves over 84.5 mbpd we are in the danger zone where bidding for available supplies could turn into a bidding war rather than just trying to get the best price. Refiners will be faced with idling their plants or outbidding everyone else just to maintain product flow. Heaven help us if we have a series of early cold fronts that accelerates heating oil demand. The bottom line here is that refiners are not stupid. They will be looking to lockup supplies on any dip in Q2 and then keep the pipeline flowing as demand increases.

The real problem is the annual demand growth as evidenced by the first graph. With China on a crash build out process trying to get ready for the 2008 Olympics and demand exploding in India, Brazil and several other countries it is entirely possible demand for 2006 could start at 86.1 mbpd and move up from there. Several analysts are talking about 89-90 mbpd for 2006. This is not going to happen! The demand may be that high but there is not any huge production blocks of light sweet crude coming online in that time frame to satisfy the demand. I hate to keep harping on this but I want our readers to be prepared for the disaster ahead.

Goldman Sachs raised their estimates for the oil sector on Friday to levels unheard of just a year ago. They said Exxon could jump by +49% over the next year despite its huge gains in 2004. Chevron Texaco could increase by +102% and Conoco Phillips by as much as +126%. They finally came to their senses and recognized a fatal flaw in pricing oil stocks. Current prices are based on oil valuations averaging $35 a barrel. This is a new level up from the prior OPEC band in the mid $20 range. Given the various factors of increasing demand and shrinking supply they finally realized that oil under $40 would be a miracle and the new bottom could be in the $46-$50 range and only briefly. Given that new paradigm oil stocks could move in doubles and triples over the next three years and still retain their 12-15 PE ratios. If anyone reading my commentaries fails to capitalize on this move it will not be my fault. I have gone out of my way to paint the picture for the last nine months. If you read and acted on my end of year Oil Crisis report you are already well ahead of the pack with some stocks already up +$20 or more. I am telling you again to buy any Q2 dip and expect doubles and triples over the next three years. End of rant!

Bush played the nuke card on Friday and called for a new era of safe nuclear energy and a move away from fossil fuels. While the U.S. has not had a new plant in 30 years the world has not been dormant. There are 440 operational plants worldwide with 35 currently under construction and more planned. China is building or in planning stages on 28. France is working on ten with other countries on slower growth paths but heading to the same conclusion. Worldwide nuclear power accounts for 16% of all electricity generation. For reference the rest of the breakdown looks like this, oil 9%, coal 36%, gas 21% and renewable sources that include hydroelectric, wind, solar and various types of burned materials 18%. Uranium or yellow cake has more than doubled in price from 10.20 lb to 21.75 lb in two years. Cameco, a producer of uranium and one of my Oil Crisis picks at $96 hit $148.50 intraday on Friday, split adjusted for a 3:1 split in January.

This energy explosion is not lost on the market and I believe it will be a major reason why the highs for 2005 are already in place. This week's market action, while somewhat artificially induced, is still indicative of problems with the underlying sentiment. The Dow struggled with support at the 100-day average at 10590 and spent much of Friday below it and the crucial psychological support level at 10600. Only a buy program just before the close rescued it from a nasty defeat. Even at 10600 the Dow is still technically in an uptrend but it is not a pretty picture. 10450 is looking more likely as critical support ahead. Just bear in mind that the Dow was definitely hurt by the big cap rebalance and could rebound next week.

The Nasdaq hit 2000 and triggered a couple of weak buy programs but they were unable to provide much relief with a close at 2006. The Nasdaq has broken below all the major averages with the exception of the 200-day, which is waiting patiently for its chance at 1992. The Nasdaq close was a five-month low and definitely suggests worse times ahead. The Nasdaq was also hurt by the rebalance with MSFT, EBAY, ORCL, DELL, etc, suffering from the index fund selling. Still there was little buying interest even at these levels.

As I mentioned earlier the SOX appears to have a date with support at 400 but I expect some buyers to appear either at that level or slightly higher. This should help the Nasdaq recover if it does happen. I would not bet the farm but I believe a bounce from 400-405 would be tradable.

Goldman also said on Friday that IT spending for 2005 could rise +3.6% with tech Capex spending at +2.9%. Full year tech spending could reach +4-5%. Those are pretty anemic numbers and they added to their recommendation that Q2 could be rocky. We are moving into Q1 earnings warning cycle next week and all ears will be on the lookout for signs that the guidance is slipping. If you remember guidance was less than stellar when Q4 earnings were released in January. This could also keep tech buyers on the sidelines with performance anxiety.

Ironically the S&P, the cause of the index unrest, is still holding well above its lows and only allowed a brief dip below 1185 support before recovering. The net change on Friday was less than a point and that is due specifically to fund managers having to put any money from selling big caps right back into the smaller companies that found their status moving higher. This kept the S&P from breaking the 100-day average at 1187 for more than a brief program related dip.

SPX Chart - Daily

Wilshire 5000 Chart - Daily

The relative strength in the S&P is the number one reason I suspect we could see a bounce next week. The Wilshire 5000 is showing the same strength and suggests the broader market is still in good shape. The Dow and Nasdaq may have been pummeled by the reweighting but the broader market is hanging in there. Monday could still suffer from a confusion hangover but I would not expect any material drops without a material news event. All the indexes are at critical levels and in many cases are oversold. The Dow bottomed at 10557 and -427 points off its March 7th high just two weeks ago. The Nasdaq is -100 points off its recent highs. This oversold condition could attract buyers ahead of the Q1 earnings parade but possibly not until after Tuesday.

The Fed meets on Tuesday and all indications are they will raise +25 points and toughen up the measured pace language. Why they would do that with the Philly Fed implosion and the markets at the lows for the year is beyond me but they don't ask for my opinion. Bonds have leveled off with the ten-year yield holding at 4.5% and waiting for the Fed announcement. Next week is full of economics with the PPI, CPI, Durable Goods, New Home Sales and two Fed surveys, Chicago and Richmond. This should be plenty of data to either quiet the inflation hawks or send them soaring.

My recommendation for this week was to buy the dip to SPX 1185 if oil fell under $53. That turned into wishful thinking on oil prices but the SPX is holding at 1185 and waiting. At this point I would expect a trading bounce next week from that 1185 level and one that could last a couple weeks. Oil back at new highs could kill that thought quickly but I am still leaning in that direction. I am still looking for a dip in oil prices as we exit March and I believe that will be just what equities need. Once oil cracks the drop could be swift given the magnitude of profits traders have accumulated. We are also approaching the end of the quarter and I believe mutual funds could take profits in oil and buy this dip in equities in anticipation of dressing up their statements for quarter end. If we do get a dip in oil I would look to buy oil stocks at their 100-day average. Once we get into mid-April I would not want to be long equities. That is about as black and white as I can lay it out for the next six weeks and it is just my opinion. There is plenty of easy money ahead of us but patience is the key. Enter passively and exit aggressively!

New Plays

New Option Plays

Call Options Plays
Put Options Plays
None PHS

New Calls

None today.

New Puts

Pacificare Health - PHS - close: 59.04 chg: -2.45 stop: 62.01

Company Description:
PacifiCare Health Systems is one of the nation's largest consumer health organizations with more than 3 million health plan members and approximately 10 million specialty plan members nationwide. PacifiCare offers individuals, employers and Medicare beneficiaries a variety of consumer-driven health care and life insurance products. Currently, more than 99 percent of PacifiCare's commercial health plan members are enrolled in plans that have received Excellent Accreditation by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). PacifiCare's specialty operations include behavioral health, dental and vision, and complete pharmacy benefit management through its wholly owned subsidiary, Prescription Solutions. (source: company website)

Why We Like It:
PHS has been a huge winner for the bulls for four out of the last five months but this past month has seen PHS' momentum stall. Now this severely overbought stock has broken its up trend. Friday's decline broke through technical support at the 50-dma and round-number support at the $60.00 level with volume surging to three times the average. The P&F chart shows a similar reversal with a new sell signal pointing to a $51 target. We want to suggest puts at current levels and target a move into the $54-55 range.

Suggested Options:
We are suggesting the May puts but we do not plan to hold over the late April earnings report.

BUY PUT MAY 65.00 PHS-QM OI=355 current ask $7.10
BUY PUT MAY 60.00 PHS-QL OI=440 current ask $3.80
BUY PUT MAY 55.00 PHS-QK OI=347 current ask $1.80

Picked on March 20 at $ 59.04
Change since picked: - 0.00
Earnings Date 04/28/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.1 million

Play Updates

In Play Updates and Reviews

Call Updates

Cleveland Cliffs - CLF - cls: 76.06 chg: -0.14 stop: 71.00

CLF is a new bullish candidate from Thursday's newsletter. The stock did not change much during Friday's session and the strategy remains the same. A reprint of Thursday's original update follows:

Traders are buying the bounce in CLF. The rising costs of commodities don't hurt Wall Street's expectations for CLF's profits. The stock shows it too with a very strong run over the last several months. Traders have bought dips to CLF's simple 40 and 50-dma's before and they are doing it again. We also like how CLF's recent consolidation has already produced a new P&F buy signal. However, shares are long-term overbought and the major market indices are looking bearish. We're encouraged by CLF's relative strength today but this should be considered a higher-risk play. We will use a TRIGGER at $77.05, above current short-term resistance at $77.00. Our target will be the $85.00-87.50 range.

Suggested Options:
We are going to suggest April calls. Julys are also available if you feel you need extra time.

BUY CALL APR 70.00 CLF-DN OI=1744 current ask $8.50
BUY CALL APR 75.00 CLF-DO OI=1361 current ask $7.10
BUY CALL APR 80.00 CLF-DP OI=1004 current ask $2.50
BUY CALL APR 85.00 CLF-DQ OI= 595 current ask $1.85

Picked on March xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 02/16/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.2 million


Parker-Hannifin - PH - close: 68.12 change: +0.47 stop: 63.99

PH continues to hold above the $67.00 level and its 50-dma. This sideways consolidation could be considered bullish compared to the broader-market's pull back over the last couple of weeks. Now that the Industrials and the S&P look ready to bounce we could see PH breakout over the $70.00 level. We would consider a move over $68.75-69.00 as a new bullish entry point or if you're feeling conservative wait for PH to trade over the $70.00 mark. Our target remains the $73.00-75.00 range.

Suggested options:
We are suggesting the May calls although Aprils are available.

BUY CALL MAY 65.00 PH-EM OI=215 current ask $5.40
BUY CALL MAY 70.00 PH-EN OI=968 current ask $2.45

Picked on March 03 at $ 68.11
Change since picked: + 0.01
Earnings Date 01/18/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.0 million


Progressive - PGR - close: 90.21 change: +1.30 stop: 87.49

So far so good. PGR continues to climb inside its narrow rising channel. Traders bought the dip on Friday near the bottom of its channel, which just happened to coincide with the 21-dma and the 100-dma. Now that the Industrials and S&P look ready to bounce we could see PGR make some progress towards our $95 target. This looks like a new bullish entry point. Just remember that we do not plan to hold over PGR's late April earnings report.

Suggested Options:
We are going to suggest the April calls since we do not plan on holding over the April earnings report.

BUY CALL APR 85.00 PGR-DQ OI= 60 current ask $6.00
BUY CALL APR 90.00 PGR-DR OI=587 current ask $2.40

Picked on March 07 at $ 89.20
Change since picked: + 1.01
Earnings Date 04/21/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 770 thousand


Red Robin Burger - RRGB - cls: 49.20 chg: -0.90 stop: 44.99

RRGB was a relative strength play we added when shares broke through its two-month downtrend of resistance and all its significant moving averages. The stock continued to climb last week but finally hit some profit taking on Friday. We would watch for a possible dip towards the 47.50-48.00 level as a new entry point but look for the bounce first before initiating new positions. Our target remains the $54.00 region.

Suggested Options:
We are suggesting the June calls.

BUY CALL JUN 45.00 QZR-FI OI= 49 current ask $6.20
BUY CALL JUN 50.00 QZR-FJ OI= 67 current ask $3.30
BUY CALL JUN 55.00 QZR-FK OI= 69 current ask $1.50

Picked on March 10 at $ 48.00
Change since picked: + 1.20
Earnings Date 02/14/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 199 thousand

Put Updates

Allergan - AGN - close: 71.71 chg: +0.01 stop: 76.05

AGN continues to look weak but it is very noteworthy that shares have held near support at the February low of 71.26. All of AGN's technicals are bearish and its P&F chart points to a $61.00 target. The bad news is we expect AGN to bounce early next week. The DRG drug index, which has been sinking the past couple of weeks just produced a bullish reversal from the 310 level near its 200-dma. The DRG is short-term oversold and we expect it to produce a short-term bounce next week. That means we can look for AGN to rebound back towards the $74.00 level, which should be resistance. Actually the $75-76 level is tougher resistance but we suspect AGN will struggle near the $74 area. We do not suggest new bearish plays until we see where AGN's bounce begins to fail.

Suggested Options:
We are not suggesting new positions at this time:

Picked on March 13 at $ 73.09
Change since picked: - 1.38
Earnings Date 04/29/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 777 thousand


Apollo Group - APOL - close: 74.59 chg: -0.25 stop: 76.75 *new*

It has been somewhat of a volatile week for APOL. The stock bounced sharply after investors responded to positive comments from CECO in regards to the government investigation nearing a close. Fortunately for APOL bears the bounce failed at its descending trendline of resistance. The stock looks poised to continue drifting lower next week. We are still planning an exit at the $72.00 level but APOL has to break support in the $72.75-73.00 range. We are lowering the stop loss to $76.75.

Suggested Options:
We are not suggesting new positions at this time:

Picked on January 23 at $ 77.61
Change since picked: - 3.02
Earnings Date 12/16/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.4 million


Beazer Homes - BZH - close: 154.91 chg: +0.61 stop: 162.01

BZH is a new bearish candidate from Thursday's newsletter. There was little change in the stock and our strategy remains the same. However, if the Industrials do bounce early next week, and they look like they will, readers may want to sit back and watch how the homebuilders and BZH respond to a market rebound before considering new bearish plays. A reprint of the original play description follows:

The five-and-a-half month rising channel in the DJUSHB home construction index appears to be breaking down. The DJUSHB lost 1.79 percent on Thursday to close under its rising, simple 50-dma. Technicals are bearish on the sector index and the picture looks very similar on shares of BZH. BZH pulled back from its highs a week ago and have been consolidating near support at its own 50-dma near the $155 level. Today's decline is a breakdown of support at both the 50-dma and the $155.00 level. The P&F chart looks very bearish with a $134 price target. We're not sure investors will let BZH trade to $134. There are still a lot of bulls in the homebuilding sector and some of them would like a pull back to use as a new entry point. We would certainly consider doing the same especially with the spring and summer home selling season just around the corner! However, BZH and the sector are long-term overbought and due for a more significant correction. Today's decline looks like the beginning of the next leg lower. We are going to target the $140-144 region, which is where we expect BZH to find new support. More conservative traders might wait for BZH to confirm this breakdown with a drop under $152 before initiating positions. Readers should also know that BZH has an upcoming 3-for-1 stock split next week on March 23rd. Normally we would view a stock split as positive influence on shares but this time we believe the prevailing influence of a breakdown in the sector index (and the markets in general) will pull BZH lower.

Suggested Options:
We are going to suggest the April puts.

BUY PUT APR 160.00 BZH-PL OI=1115 current ask $10.70
BUY PUT APR 155.00 BZH-PK OI=1080 current ask $ 8.00
BUY PUT APR 150.00 BZH-PJ OI=1342 current ask $ 5.90
BUY PUT APR 145.00 BZH-PI OI= 498 current ask $ 4.30

Picked on March 17 at $154.30
Change since picked: + 0.61
Earnings Date 01/27/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 742 thousand


Google Inc - GOOG - close: 180.04 chg: +0.75 stop: 185.01

GOOG broke down through major support several days ago but has spent the last few sessions consolidating sideways mostly under the $180.00 level. We're a little surprised that positive comments this Friday from JP Morgan on the Internet stocks didn't do more to send GOOG higher. We remain bearish, especially with the P&F chart pointing to a $148 price target. However, it would not surprise us to see GOOG bounce back toward the $182.50 level before continuing lower. Our target remains the $165.00 region. Remember that this is a high-risk aggressive play and we expect lots of volatility.

Suggested Options:
We're going to suggest the April puts but the June puts would also work well if you can afford them.

BUY PUT APR 185 GOU-PQ OI=2514 current ask $12.20
BUY PUT APR 180 GOU-PP OI=3798 current ask $ 8.00
BUY PUT APR 175 GOU-PO OI=5145 current ask $ 5.00
BUY PUT APR 170 GOQ-PW OI=3696 current ask $ 3.10 *symbol change*

Picked on March 10 at $179.49
Change since picked: + 0.55
Earnings Date 02/01/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 10.9 million


Cheniere Energy - LNG - close: 70.75 chg: -0.91 stop: 75.01

LNG has not produced the kind of follow through we expected it to with the breakdown on March 10th. Yet the bounce two days later didn't see any follow through either. Shares continue to look extremely overbought and way overdue for some consolidation. News that the company announced a 2-for-1 stock split this past week did not inspire much buying, which is good news for the bears. The P&F chart remains very bearish with a $59.00 target. Our target remains the $62.00-60.00 range but we would look for a new relative low under $70.00 or better yet under $69.00 before considering new positions.

Suggested Options:
We are suggesting the April puts.

BUY PUT APR 75.00 LNG-PO OI=122 current ask $6.60
BUY PUT APR 70.00 LNG-PN OI=224 current ask $3.80
BUY PUT APR 65.00 LNG-PM OI=833 current ask $1.85

Picked on March 11 at $ 69.49
Change since picked: + 1.26
Earnings Date 03/10/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 517 thousand


Intl Bus. Mach. - IBM - close: 89.28 chg: -0.58 stop 92.15

Good news! IBM's decline on Friday helped confirm the recent breakdown and solidify its drop below support at the $90.00 level and its 200-dma. It's also noteworthy that it helps confirm the breakdown below IBM's longer-term rising trendline of support dating back to the 2002 low. Plus, IBM's Friday drop came on volume well above the average suggesting more weakness ahead. Traders do need to be on the alert though. The major indices (minus the NASDAQ) look poised for an oversold bounce early next week. We would look for IBM to bounce back toward the $90-91 range before turning lower again. Use any such bounce as a new bearish entry point. Our target remains the $85.00 region.

Suggested Options:
We are going to suggest the April puts.

BUY PUT APR 95.00 IBM-PS OI=26545 current ask $6.00
BUY PUT APR 90.00 IBM-PR OI=28108 current ask $1.95
BUY PUT APR 85.00 IBM-PQ OI=11259 current ask $0.40

Picked on March 17 at $ 89.86
Change since picked: - 0.58
Earnings Date 04/14/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 4.8 million


Mcgraw Hill Cos - MHP - close: 88.70 chg: -0.28 stop: 90.21

An oversold bounce from the big March 9-10th breakdown was to be expected but so far the $90.00 level and its 100-dma are holding up as overhead resistance. The P&F chart is bearish and points to a $75.00 target. We are looking for a continuation of the new down trend toward the $84.00-85.00 range, near its exponential 200-dma. Confirm direction before considering new positions.

Suggested Options:
We are suggesting the May puts but we do not plan to hold over the late April earnings report.

BUY PUT MAY 90 MHP-QR OI= 239 current ask $3.40
BUY PUT MAY 85 MHP-QQ OI= 352 current ask $1.35

Picked on March 15 at $ 88.40
Change since picked: + 0.30
Earnings Date 04/26/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 751 thousand


Millipore - MIL - close: 43.87 chg: -0.02 stop: 46.05

Almost everything on MIL looks bearish. The multi-month trend points lower. The failed rally after filling the gap from four days ago is a bearish reversal. Plus, the stock painted what looks like a bear flag pattern. Technical oscillators are bearish and its MACD is in a new sell signal. Readers can choose buy puts at current levels, look for a new relative low under $43.50 or look for another failed rally this time near 44.25-44.50 as a new entry point. Our target remains the $40.00 level.

Suggested Options:
We are going to suggest the April puts.

BUY PUT APR 45 MIL-PI OI=272 current ask $1.95
BUY PUT APR 40 MIL-PH OI=186 current ask $0.30

Picked on March 16 at $ 43.95
Change since picked: - 0.08
Earnings Date 04/19/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 358 thousand


Toll Brothers - TOL - close: 77.13 chg: +0.32 stop: 81.50

TOL is a new bearish candidate from Thursday's newsletter. There was little change in the stock and our strategy remains the same. However, if the Industrials do bounce early next week, and they look like they will, readers may want to sit back and watch how the homebuilders and TOL respond to a market rebound before considering new bearish plays. A reprint of the original play description follows:

Our play in TOL is based on the same strategy in BZH, except this time we don't have to worry about any upcoming stock split and the breakdown looks more dramatic. TOL has been a real winner for the homebuilders for months but the stock pulled back toward the bottom of its rising channel and support near $80.00 and its 50-dma a few days ago. Today's drop in the DJUSHB index under its 50-dma helped spur the breakdown in TOL on volume that was over twice the average. We are targeting a drop toward the $70.00 level.

Suggested Options:
We are suggesting the April puts.

BUY PUT APR 80.00 TOL-PP OI=3638 current ask $5.50
BUY PUT APR 75.00 TOL-PO OI=4728 current ask $3.10
BUY PUT APR 70.00 TOL-PN OI=5723 current ask $1.75

Picked on March 17 at $ 76.81
Change since picked: + 0.32
Earnings Date 02/23/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.1 million

Dropped Calls

Hartford Financial - HIG - cls: 70.19 chg: -0.46 stop: 69.95

Another sharp drop in insurance giant AIG produced a similar move in the IUX insurance index and both put pressure on HIG. Shares of HIG dipped under support at the $70.00 level and its 50-dma on an intraday basis and traded through our stop loss at $69.95. Of course all three (AIG, HIG and the IUX) all bounced back into the close and look ready to rebound into next week.

Picked on February 06 at $ 71.17
Change since picked: - 0.98
Earnings Date 01/26/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.2 million


Texas Industries - TXI - cls: 66.29 chg: +0.29 stop: 63.49

Time has run out. Coal-producer TXI hit our initial target weeks ago and we've been trying to play the stock for a second rally higher into the 69.00-70.00 range. Unfortunately the momentum appears to be slowing and the company is due to report earnings next week. We'll be sure to keep an eye on TXI for another opportunity after its earnings report.

Picked on January 09 at $ 60.18
Change since picked: + 6.11
Earnings Date 12/16/04 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 238 thousand

Dropped Puts

Ishares Dow Jones US Energy - IYE - cls 77.48 chg: +1.17 stop: 80.01

Caution may be the better part of valor here so we're closing this play on the IYE now that the ishares have broken through the top of its short-term consolidation. We will keep an eye on it to see how shares react with the $80.00 level, which should be resistance.

Picked on March 09 at $ 76.25
Change since picked: + 1.23
Earnings Date 00/00/00 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 124 thousand


Oil Service Holders - OIH - close: 95.40 chg: +0.61 stop: 100.01

The OIH holders haven't quite shown the same strength that the IYE ishares have but we're going to play it safe and exit early, especially given the strength in the price of crude and the OIX oil index. Traders still interested in bearish plays on the OIH can watch for a breakdown below its 40 or 50-dma.

Picked on March 09 at $ 96.10
Change since picked: - 0.70
Earnings Date 00/00/00 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 3.1 million

Trader's Corner

Using Keltner Channels to Set Targets

Traders Corner articles last year introduced Keltner channels. One detailed several uses of nested Keltner channels, including their utilization in setting upside and downside targets. This month's developments on the OEX illustrated how those targets might be set.

For those new to Keltner channels, a brief review might be appropriate, with the review gleaned from last yea'rs articles. Charles Keltner has been credited with formulating these channels as a type of moving-average envelope. Bollinger bands are another type of moving-average envelope familiar to most traders. Keltner built his envelopes around a central moving average, with the envelopes spaced around that moving average by a multiple of the average true range. He intended the channels to identify breakouts, although some traders now combine the channels with oscillator signals to trade from one side of the channel to another. A breakout, the type of play Keltner wanted to identify, occurs when prices close outside the channel lines.

Keltner Channel Breakout on OEX

However, the above chart, employing a single Keltner channel, lacks a vital component. After the breakout, what is the upside target? Nesting several Keltner channels within each other helps to set potential targets.

Setting an Upside Target After a Breakout:

Conclusion of Upside Breakout Play:

The downside target set in the preceding chart was met, too.

Continuation of the OEX's 15-Minute Chart:

Because Keltner lines move as price moves, the next target dropped as the OEX dropped. At times, a tendency exists to meet only the original breakout target, the reason that the most conservative traders might take automatic full or partial profit at that original target. However, the OEX was to more than meet that original 576.63 downside target.

Meeting the Downside Target:

Including the basis lines provides an early warning of a change in trend.

A Change in Trend

What happens if there's a breakout above or below the widest Keltner channel? How is the next target set? On the preceding chart, prices bounces after hitting the lower Keltner channel. If the candles had broken through that channel line instead that Thursday, a trader might have dialed up to a 30-minute or 60-minute chart to look for the next downside target. Anecdotal experience has indicated that dialing up from a 15-minute to a 60-minute chart usually proves more helpful when watching the OEX.

Sixty-Minute Nested Keltner Chart for the OEX:

Trading a vehicle different than the OEX might produce different results. On the OEX and with the Keltner settings shown in this article, three-minute, five-minute, 15-minute, 60-minute, daily and weekly charts appear to work best. They've worked well throughout the rest of March, with a 60-minute breakdown signal on March 16 setting a then almost unbelievable downside target of 564.71, a target that was to be met by Friday, March 18.

For the TRAN, five-minute channel lines appear to work better than either the three- or seven-minute intervals. The Dow and TRAN both conform rather well to the 15-minute charts.

Keltner Settings Employed in This Article:

The first number in each set is the length of the basis line; the second, the multiplier. Experiment with settings, the number of Keltner channels to nest, and the appropriate time intervals that prove a best fit for your trading vehicle.

Other uses for nested Keltner channels exist, but setting upside or downside targets remains one of the most useful.

Today's Newsletter Notes: Market Wrap by Jim Brown, Trader's Corner by Linda Piazza, and all other plays and content by the Option Investor staff.


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.

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