Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Wednesday, 06/15/2005

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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

Oil and economics provide choppy trade

Oil and economics provide choppy trade

The major equity averages finished green in what would best be described as a choppy trade with advancers edging out decliners at both major exchanges by a 3:2 margin.

Oil's trade kept equity traders on the edge of their seat early with July Crude Oil futures (cl05n) jumping as high as $56.75 intra-day to finish up 57 cents, or 1.04% at $55.57. 

The intra-day time line of our internals will drive home just how much impact oil prices can have on an equity trader's psyche. 

Stocks found a bid early in the session after the government said consumer prices declined 0.1% in May, a reversal of unexpectedly large increases the prior four months. The decline came in part as energy prices fell 2.0% in May. Core prices, which remove the volatile food and energy components rose 0.1%, which was shy of economists' 0.2% forecast. The core rate of consumer prices has risen 2.2% year-on-year, while consumer prices are up 2.8% year-on-year.

"Older" economic data had April business inventories rising and expected 0.3%, with sales up a healthy 1.2% that month. The inventory-to-sales ratio fell to 1.30 months from March's 1.31 reading, and down from a February reading of 1.32. 

Additional economic data showed production at the nation's factories, mines and utilities rose by 0.4%, double the gain analysts had expected. It reversed a 0.3% drop in industrial production in April and reflected a surge of 0.6% in output at American factories.

Equity bulls scratched their heads early as stocks began giving back gains. 

At 10:30 AM EDT, the EIA reported a 1.8 million barrel draw in crude oil inventories, while gasoline inventories fell by 900,000 barrels for the week ended June 10. Distillate inventories rose by 2.5 million barrels (see last Wednesday's wrap), but remain in the lower half of the average range for this time of year. 

Upon release of the EIA's report, July Crude Oil futures (cl05n) spiked to an intra-day floor trade high of $56.85, but settled up a still respectable 57 cents, or 1.04% at $55.57. With capitalism alive and well July Heating Oil futures (ho05n) settled down 1.8 cents, or -1.07% at $1.6211, while July Unleaded Gas futures (hu05n) settled up 2.16 cents, or 1.4% at $1.5625.

News that OPEC agreed to bring its output ceiling in line with actual production from July 1, a move that equates to a 1.8% hike, or 500,000 barrels a day found little response from traders. OPEC itself admits that production isn't the main problem of solving higher oil prices, but capacity constraints at the refining end continue to create the bottleneck.

Once heating oil, then crude prices abated, stocks firmed as there was still another serving of economic data yet to be release.

At 02:00 PM EDT, buyers stepped in after the Fed's latest Beige Book report, which is anecdotal, showed economic activity continued to grow from mid-April through May in all 12 Fed regions, while price pressures were generally moderate.

Treasuries found a choppy trade with shorter-dated maturities finding the bulk of the selling as the 5-year yield ($FVX.X) backed up 1.6 basis points to close at 3.890%, while the belly of the curve had the 10-year yield ($TNX.X) falling 1.2 basis points to 4.115%. The longer-dated 30-year yield ($TYX.X) edged down 0.7 bp to finish at 4.422%.

On a Wednesday-to-Wednesday timeframe, we've seen the 5-year yield ($FVX.X) rise 44.5 bp, the 10-year yield ($TNX.X) rise 44.4 bp, while the 30-year yield ($TYX.X) has risen 46.6 bp. A very fractional re-steepening of the curve.

U.S. Market Watch - 06/15/05

Homebuilders as depicted by the Dow Jones Home Construction Index (DJUSHB) 968.87 +2.10% traded an all-time high and took today's top spot among sector winners. Broker A.G. Edwards lifted its targets on several names in the group, a shocking move that comes from one of Wall Street's "value" shops. The firm cited recent new home sales as reason for further price appreciation.

Commercial airliners were pressured on oil's rise and were today's sector loser.

On a Wednesday-to-Wednesday basis, Oil Service (OSX.X), Gold Miners ($XAU.X) and Oil producers (OIX.X) have been top performers, while the Transports (TRAN) have yet to get back into a bullish gear.

Look at those "small caps!" with the Russell 2000 Growth (RUT.X) up 2.69% on the week. Even Jim Brown was surprised at how strong they were. 

Late last week, as if Bear Stearns' downgrade of truckers wasn't enough to rattle sector bulls, Morgan Stanley downgraded shares of United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS) $69.86 -0.27% from the $72.34 level on concern that pricing pressures from a highly competitive market could weigh on earnings growth.

Dow Transports (TRAN) - Daily Interval

The market seems to be listening to what Bear Stearns had to say last week. That's fine, and I'll establish a "BEAR Stearns" trend. Still, the market hasn't totally given up on this economically sensitive group. 

The bullish side of me (Jeff Bailey) hasn't given up entirely on the TRAN. We "knew" 3,490 was important, and now it gets the ultimate test. Who has the conviction? Buyers (demand) or sellers (supply)?

Dow Transports (TRAN) - 10-point box

At some point a trend takes hold and becomes formidable longer-term. As of tonight's close, Dorsey/Wright and Associates' Transport / Non Air Bullish % (BPTRAN) was still "bear correction" status at 51.16% and was up 1.16% today. In early May (red 5) this sector bullish % had just reversed back up to 40% from a recent relative low reading of 34%. Earlier this month (red 6) it was reading 50% bullish. 

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

Tick, tock, tick, tock. It's triple-witch expiration and I've been doing a lot of work in the Market Monitor regarding option chains. It is tedious work, but hopefully traders have gotten a feel as to how option open interest is having some influence on trade. 

No new comments here. Marginal week-to-week gain in the SPX Bullish % ($BPSPX), but internals do confirm price action.

Let's face it! The TRAN isn't at 3,750. That's a fact. Energy stocks have undoubtedly helped the broader SPX and I think SPY "Max Pain" theory of $119 (SPX 1,190 equivalent) has too. Keep an eye on the TRAN!

Speaking of bullish % readings. On Thursday of last week, Dorsey's very broad NASDAQ Composite Bullish % (BPOTC) reversed up to "bear correction" status at 44%. Today, StockCharts.com's very broad NASDAQ Composite Bullish % ($BPCOMPQ) reversed up to "bear correction status" at 44%.

Last Wednesday we looked at a WEEKLY interval bar chart of the NASDAQ Composite (COMPX) 2,074.92 +0.28% and I thought it might take price action above 2,110 to see the $BPCOMPQ to reverse up. Nope.... and bulls should be ready to leg further into positions as internals continue to improve!

Here's the same chart viewed last week, but now with daily intervals.

NASDAQ Composite (COMPX) - Daily Intervals

The PINK retracement from January highs to recent lows would certainly suggest that the 61.8% retracement is "in play" as resistance. Yesterday (Tuesday), fell analyst Marc Eckelberry thought he felt a "bid" in the NASDAQ and wondered if this week's option expiration was propping up the NASDAQ. I also wondered if expiration keeps things in a tight range. It is possible that expiration could be holding it down too!

But with the very broad NASDAQ Composite Bullish % (BPCOMPQ) reversing up (all major equity market bullish % now in column of X), I thought it worth a trade in the QQQQ. Have you been following the QQQQ PnF chart using the 1% box size. I showed this PnF technique back in the May 25th Market Wrap.

QQQQ - 1% box size

Never got the 3-box reversal back to $36.74, but did get a 3-box reversal to $37.48. As my dad used to tell me when I was being potty trained. Either "do something" or get off the pot!

The bullish % measures are all reversed back up into a column of X. Whatcha gonn'a do? 


New Plays

New Option Plays

Call Options Plays
Put Options Plays
None None

New Calls

None today.

New Puts

None today.

Play Updates

In Play Updates and Reviews

Call Updates

AmerisourceBergen - ABC - close: 67.21 change: +0.03 stop: 63.85

No change from our previous update on 06/14/05. Today's intraday bounce is helping the MACD creep closer to a new buy signal. 

Picked on June 13 at $ 65.57
Change since picked: + 1.64
Earnings Date 07/21/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.3 million 


Amer. Intl Group - AIG - close: 55.41 chg: -0.16 stop: 53.95 

No change from our previous update on 06/14/05. We're still suggesting that readers wait for AIG to trade over the $56.00 level before considering new bullish positions. 

Picked on May 26 at $ 55.05
Change since picked: + 0.36
Earnings Date 02/09/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 15.5 million 


Ashland Inc - ASH - close: 69.62 chg: +0.26 stop: 66.99

No change from our previous update on 06/14/05. We're suggesting that readers use a trigger over resistance at $70.05 to open the play. 

Picked on June xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 07/25/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.1 million 


Caterpillar - CAT - close: 98.58 chg: +0.01 stop: 92.49 

No change here. CAT continues to show strength and is very close to our target in the $99.25-100.00 range. We are preparing to exit and suggest readers do the same. We strongly suggest that more conservative players exit now to avoid any surprises should the DJIA suddenly reverse course under resistance at the 10,600 level. 

Picked on May 18 at $ 92.35
Change since picked: + 6.23
Earnings Date 04/20/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.8 million 


Chubb Corp - CB - close: 84.87 change: +0.75 stop: 82.49

No change from our previous update.

Picked on June 10 at $ 85.05 
Change since picked: - 0.18
Earnings Date 07/25/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.2 million 


Rockwell Collins - COL - close: 48.03 chg: +0.13 stop: 44.95

No change from our previous update. We are suggesting that readers buy a bounce near the 100-dma. Our suggested entry range is $46.75-46.00.

Picked on May xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 04/27/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 800 thousand 


Eagle Materials - EXP - close: 93.71 chg: +1.02 stop: 86.95

EXP continues to show lots of strength with another gain and another new high. 

Picked on June 09 at $ 90.45
Change since picked: + 3.26
Earnings Date 08/03/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 134 thousand 


Netease.com - NTES - close: 56.01 chg: -0.04 stop: 53.95

No change from our previous update on 06/14/05.

Picked on June 13 at $ 57.29
Change since picked: - 1.33
Earnings Date 07/26/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 752 thousand 


Occidental Petrol. - OXY - close: 78.34 chg: +1.61 stop: 71.95

OXY has been downgraded to a "hold" on valuation concerns but that didn't stop the stock from surging to another new high. Our target is the $78.75-80.50 range. 

Picked on June 09 at $ 75.51
Change since picked: + 2.83
Earnings Date 07/26/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.7 million 


Pulte Homes - PHM - close: 81.16 chg: +1.81 stop: 75.95

It was a strong day for the home builders as the DJUSHB index broke out over resistance at the 950 level with today's 2.1 percent gain. PHM paced the move with a 2.2 percent gain and a breakout over resistance at the $80.00 level. Our entry point to go long/buy calls was at $80.25 so the play is now open. Our short-term target is the $84.75-85.00 range. 

Picked on June 15 at $ 80.25
Change since picked: + 0.91
Earnings Date 07/25/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.7 million 


Teekay Shipping - TK - close: 43.39 chg: -0.51 stop: 42.45

No change from our previous update. We continue to wait for TK to breakout over resistance at the $45.00 level and its 100-dma. Our trigger to go long is at $45.05. If TK continues to decline we'll probably drop TK as a candidate fairly soon.

Picked on June xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 07/20/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 681 thousand 


Total S.A. - TOT - close: 115.37 chg: +0.06 stop: 110.95

No change from our previous update. Our target is the $119.50-120.00 range. 

Picked on June 09 at $114.00
Change since picked: + 1.47
Earnings Date 08/04/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 857 thousand 


United Technologies - UTX - cls: 52.36 chg: -0.58 stop: 51.25

UTX's relative weakness during today's market rally is not a good sign. The stock pulled back toward support near the $52.00 level before producing a meager bounce this afternoon. We would certainly turn cautious here. 

Picked on May 23 at $ 53.12
Change since picked: - 0.76
Earnings Date 04/20/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 4.0 million 


Wellpoint Inc - WLP - close: 69.20 chg: -0.58 stop: 64.90

No change from our previous update.

Picked on June 05 at $ 68.40
Change since picked: + 0.80 
Earnings Date 07/27/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 3.5 million

Put Updates

ITT Industries - ITT - close: 94.81 chg: +0.31 stop: 96.01

No change from our previous update on 06/14/05. 

Picked on June 08 at $ 93.85
Change since picked: + 0.96
Earnings Date 07/22/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 581 thousand 


MedcoHealth Sol. - MHS - close: 51.95 change: +0.79 stop: 52.21

Uh-oh! It's time to go to red alert. MHS has continued to rebound and today's 1.5 percent gain put the stock above its simple 50-dma. Shares are still under the $52.00 level but if they don't reverse tomorrow morning then odds are we'll be stopped out pretty soon. 

Picked on June 01 at $ 49.90
Change since picked: + 2.05
Earnings Date 07/26/05 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.0 million 


Quality Systems - QSII - cls: 48.86 chg: -0.53 stop: 51.51

Ding! The play is now open. QSII hit our trigger at $47.75 this afternoon. Today's decline has produced a new P&F chart sell signal that points to a $39.00 target. The stock remains volatile and it could rebound before turning lower. Traders may want to open positions carefully. Our stop loss might be a little too tight. More aggressive players may want to consider a wider stop.

Picked on June 15 at $ 47.75
Change since picked: + 1.11
Earnings Date 06/13/05 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 330 thousand 


Semiconductor Holders - SMH - cls: 34.25 chg: +0.07 stop: 35.05

Ding! Our bearish SMH play is now open. The HOLDR opened higher and then promptly fell through the $34.00 level before the afternoon rebound pull the SMH higher again. While bearish indicators look stronger with today's new relative low we are concerned. It may prove to be a bear trap since today's candlestick has produced a "hammer" pattern. We would not suggest new bearish positions until SMH trades back below the $34.00 level. 

Picked on June 15 at $ 33.95
Change since picked: + 0.30
Earnings Date 00/00/00 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 26.3 million 

Dropped Calls


Dropped Puts


Trader's Corner

Bollinger Bands VS. Moving Average Envelopes

I see you using trading bands, but they look different than Bollinger bands? What difference between the two kinds and is one type better than the other for general use? You got something again using Bollinger? 

Well, John (Bollinger) is a good guy and a smart market analyst. He also shares my affinity for California coastal climes and is a fun guy to go out with; and, can drink me under the table. But that's another story. 

As far as Moving Average Envelopes being "better than" Bollinger bands or vice versa, there is a use for EACH type. Otherwise, John would not be still listened to on the market and I would not still be using moving average envelopes and finding them helpful in stock index options trading. 


The way that John Bollinger chooses to present his trading indicator is as follows: 

Bollinger Bands are a technical trading tool created in the early-80s. John saw the need for 'adaptive' trading bands, based on his observation that volatility was dynamic, not static, as was widely believed then. 

The purpose of 'Bolli' Bands is to provide a relative definition of high and low. By definition, prices are high at the upper band and low, at the lower band. This definition can aid in rigorous pattern recognition and is useful in comparing price action to the action of indicators to arrive at market trading decisions. 

Bollinger Bands consist of a set of three curves drawn in relation to securities prices. The middle band is a measure of the intermediate-term trend, usually a simple moving average, that serves as the base for the upper and lower bands. 

The interval between the upper and lower bands and the middle band is determined by volatility, typically the standard deviation of the same data that were used for the average. The default parameters, 20 periods and two standard deviations, may be adjusted to suit your purposes: 

1. Middle Bollinger Band = a 20-period simple moving average
2. Upper Bollinger Band = Middle Bollinger Band + 2 * (multiplied by) a 20-period 'standard deviation'
3. Lower Bollinger Band = Middle Bollinger Band - 2 * a 20-period standard deviation 

Now that you're completely numb from too much technical talk, let's see what these bands look like on the current S&P 500 (SPX) chart: 

You'll note on the SPX chart below, that the bands expand upward or downward with the trend. However, when the trend goes sideways or falters, the bands start contracting. Currently, you'll see that the upper band stopped climbing and turned down to meet price. This could suggest that the index is susceptible to a decline, but there is nothing definite in this. 

One reservation I have in their use is that I find it hard to pinpoint a specific buying or selling area, as these bands expand or contract according to market volatility. This is both I think, the techniques strength and it's weakness. 

Bollinger Bands (BB) as I noted as in indicator is computed based on a 20-day moving average and is NOT shown (usually). BB combines the moving average envelope technique with a measurement of current and recent price volatility to determine placement of the upper and lower lines. 

The purpose of the BB Indicator is not that different from the "moving average envelope" indicator: are prices high or low on a relative basis? 

With the Bollinger indicator, the two bands (the convention to call these lines "bands" helps distinguish them from the fixed percentage 'envelope' technique) are placed above and below the centered, unseen moving average. The average is usually, but not always, set to a "default" setting of 20 by the charting software. If not, you can change to a 'length' setting of 20. 

Bollinger states: "Two important tools are derived from the indicator: 1.) BandWidth, a relative measure of the width of the bands, and 2.) percent b (%b), a measure of where the last price is in relation to the bands." 

BandWidth = (Upper Bollinger Band - Lower Bollinger Band) / (divided by) the Middle Bollinger Band; percent b = (Last - Lower Bollinger Band) / (Upper Bollinger Band - Lower Bollinger Band) 

BandWidth is most often used to quantify something called "The Squeeze", a volatility-based trading opportunity. Percent(%)b is used to clarify trading patterns and as an input for trading systems. 

What this means is that when the distance between the bands substantially narrows in from a usual pattern with a stock or index, look for signs of a break out move, above or below the recent narrow trading range. 

Good examples of such "Squeeze" opportunities were seen in the SPX chart in late-Sept/early-Oct 2004(upside reversal ahead) and again by late-Feb/early-March 2005 (downside reversal ahead). It could also be noted that the narrowing 'squeeze' in the Bolli Bands first occurred in December '04 and a downside break also followed, but the decline after early-March led to a more prolonged and deeper decline. However, both instances preceded great index option trading opportunities. 

With the addition of the 20-day moving average to the same SPX daily chart below, you can see that the upper and lower lines do not track at equal distances above or below the centered moving average. Rather, when there are more wide-swinging fluctuations above and below the 20-day moving average, the bands widen out. With more a steady price move in one direction, the bands narrow in; i.e., there's less volatility. 

This is the nature of how lines that are plotted two 'standard deviations' above and below an average like this would operate. 

"Standard deviation" describes how prices are arrayed around an "average" value. One standard deviation is a set of values that contains close to 70% of the price fluctuations that occur above and below the moving average used in the Bollinger band 
calculation. 95% of the fluctuations will occur within two standard deviations of the moving average in question. 

Since each Bollinger bands is placed at a fluctuating line that is equal to two standard deviations, 95 percent of all price action will theoretically occur within the upper and lower lines. Each band represents therefore, implied support or resistance. Price swings are unlikely to be sustained above or below these lines for long.

Because of how they are constructed, Bolli bands expand or contract in order to reflect market volatility or the degree of movement in the price swings occurring at any given time. 

If the bands are relatively narrow, the market is experiencing lower price volatility or narrower price swings and the lines will intersect at upper and lower points that will tend to mark the extremes (highs and lows) for these quieter market conditions. 

If prices are experiencing wide-ranging price movement, the bands expand to reflect the higher volatility that exists. If the bands are wide and you can usually quickly see this visually in the pattern of price activity, the market is experiencing higher volatility the lines then suggest where an extreme will be reached based on a more volatile and stronger recent price trend. 

As with envelope lines, they can be used on everything from intraday to daily to weekly charts, although I find that the most common use seems to be with daily charts. 


John Bollinger cited an increasing use of his indicator in helping to spot or clarify chart patterns. For example, a Head & Shoulder's (H&S) top or bottom has a typical Bollinger Band "signature", or a pattern for the Bands that is similar, but slightly different than the actual H&S price pattern.

The use of Bollinger bands in helping better define a chart pattern can be seen in a stock chart [Qualcomm: QCOM] from 2000-2001 and used in my book (Essential Technical Analysis). Here the Bolli Bands made a good outline or "definition" of something that really looked like the outline of a Head and two peaks that looked even more like "shoulders" although the right one has a bit of a spike to it. 

There was especially good definition of the Head; more so than just the price pattern alone. Use of Bollinger Bands here helped highlight an excellent opportunity in puts. 

By definition, prices are "high" (on a relative basis) at the upper band and "low" at the lower band. Armed with this information, you can compare price action to the action of the BB indicator to help you arrive at trading decisions. 

1. As with moving average envelops, prices can and do "walk" up or down the Bollinger Bands. 

2. The moving average used was designed to best detect the "intermediate" trend; e.g., 2-3 weeks or longer. 

3. Unlike moving average envelopes, at least the way I use them, closes above or below the Bollinger Bands can suggest "continuation" signals for the trend rather than "reversal" type indications. 

With the line (close-only) chart of the Nasdaq 100 (NDX) below, there are a few instances shown by the (yellow) circled price action, where closes above or below the BB suggested a continuation of the trend was likely; # 1, 2 and 4. Instance #3 preceded a bottom in NDX. All instances of closes outside the Bolli Bands were significant: 3 as 'continuation' patterns, one as a reversal (#3), occurring before the double bottom. 

4. If the (centered) moving average is lengthened, the number of standard deviations needs to be increased; e.g., from 2 at 20 periods, to 2.1 at 50 periods. Likewise, if the average is shortened, the number of standard deviations should be reduced; e.g., from 2 at 20 periods to 1.9 at 10 periods.

5. The moving average used is a "simple" moving average because a simple moving average is used in the standard deviation process, so the same type of average is logically consistent. 

6. A "touch" to the upper or lower line is just that - a tag or touch. These are not, in and of themselves, a buy or sell 

I'm going to do book-end Trader's Corner articles and go into the use that can be made of "straight" moving average percent envelopes in my next Trader's Corner next Wednesday. 

By way of visual contrast to leave you with, this last S&P 500 chart (SPX) chart below shows a centered 21-day moving average with upper and lower envelope lines that represent a value each day equal to 2 percent above and below the 21-day moving average for each close.

You'll note that almost all trading during the period shown occurred WITHIN values that were 2% above/below the 21-day average, with a couple of circled exceptions. 

When prices shot up in early-November, SPX rallied to above the upper trading 'envelope', suggesting rally strength. And, after a prolonged decline into April, SPX fell under the lower (2%) envelope line, which turned out to be predictive for an 'exhaustion' of the decline and an upside reversal to come. 

But, as I said, a more detailed look at the moving average envelope indicator next time. 

Until, then ... 

Good Trading Success! 

Please send any technical and Index-related questions for possible use in my next Trader's Corner article to Contact Support with 'Leigh Stevens' in the Subject line. 

Today's Newsletter Notes: Market Wrap by Jeff Bailey, Trader's Corner by Leigh Stevens, and all other plays and content by the Option Investor staff.


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