Normally, the morning after an FOMC decision day, traders' gazes would be riveted on their intraday charts. They would be watching a formation that would have set up after the initial post-decision volatility, with that volatility usually settling into a well-defined triangle. On a Thursday after an FOMC decision day, traders would normally be waiting for prices to break out of that triangle, giving them the final short-term direction out of that post-decision volatility. While that method of determining next short-term direction wasn't fool-proof, it had worked reasonably well over the last year.
Yesterday's reaction proved atypical, with all the volatility in one direction: up for equities and down for bond yields. The reaction had broken the Russell 2000 out of a formation on the daily chart and had pushed the SPX back up into the rising channel that it had been threatening to break below.
Without that intraday formation to watch and with yesterday's post-decision reaction being termed excessive by some, traders then dealt with a bombardment of pre-market economic releases, earnings reports and geopolitical news. The aftereffects of the pre-market releases left bulls feeling as if they had avoided any bombshells that could shatter yesterday's late-day rally. They came out in droves only to be shaken up for a while mid-morning by the whistling of another bomb, the January ISM or Institute of Supply Management Index. Then they gathered the troops together and stormed the fields again.
Google (GOOG) shares traded lower in the pre-market after its Wednesday night earnings report, but market watchers figured that Michael Dell's resumption of his place as chief executive would send Dell (DELL) shares higher, countering the negative effect of GOOG's pre-market slide. Exxon Mobil (XOM) was going to help, too, they thought, with revenue and earnings that fell from the year-ago level but that managed to beat forecasts. All three stocks were reacting as expected in the pre-market session, but not all three maintained their positions after the cash markets opened.
International bourses had exploded a few bombs, too, even if they were exploded so far away that the sound barely reached our shores. Chinese stocks plunged further overnight, still reacting to the vice-chairman of the National People's Congress warning of a bubble in the equity markets there. That particular global bomb was supposedly going to be countered here in the U.S. by the warm afterglow of the FOMC's assurances yesterday, some market pundits theorized. Those market pundits appeared to be right, too, with some early morning economic releases looking more like troop support packages than bombs. Those releases supported yesterday's conclusion that the U.S. had avoided any possible dire consequences of the FOMC's war against inflation.
Futures turned higher, moving sharply above fair values. Celebrating bulls and some wounded bears forced to change sides sent the Dow and Russell 2000 to new record intraday highs and the SPX to another new six-year intraday high. Then the ISM headed down, whistling its warning as it delivered a dangerous bomb. Bulls stopped in their tracks to listen, but ultimately decided to press forward into new intraday highs.
Because of the number of economic releases and earnings reports today, this Wrap will be long. If you were reading my Wraps on Wednesdays before Keene and I switched, you know that I have them organized so that you look at the charts just below and then skip to the "What About Tomorrow?" section, if you don't want to read about those releases and reports.
Last Thursday, I warned that although the decline that day had felt calamitous, the same sort of decline to channel support had occurred several times in previous months, and that "anything still goes." RSI hadn't broken out of its triangle pattern, and we couldn't assume that the SPX was going to plummet out of its channel. It didn't.
Annotated Daily Chart of the SPX:
Today's action showed strength, pushing the SPX right up to that midline. Breadth indicators were supportive. However, this midline has proven to be strong resistance ever since late 2006, and it will take concerted big-money moves to maintain any breakout above this level.
Watch out tomorrow morning for a possible pop-and-drop move above this trendline, producing the typical doji-type daily candle or actual downturn that has accompanied previous approaches to this midline over the last few months. If you're in long positions from the bottom-of-the-channel test, decide tonight where you want your stops to be and whether you want to carry your positions over the weekend if the SPX should indeed produce a doji-type day at resistance tomorrow.
Intraday charts show that the SPX has approached strong 30-minute resistance on the Keltner charts, too, with that resistance at about 1,446.50 on 30-minute closes. The 15-minute chart shows a breakout already in progress, with a line currently at about 1,445 providing support on 15-minute closes. This line will have moved after the first few minutes of trading tomorrow, but it can serve as an early guideline. The SPX needs to gap below or sustain values below that line to even begin to change its short-term bullish tenor and then might find short-term support at 1,443-1,443.50 and then again at about 1,441.
So, at the close, the SPX was in breakout mode on one of these intraday charts and facing strong resistance on another.
The Dow also faced resistance as the day ended.
Annotated Daily Chart of the Dow:
Last Thursday, I warned that the negative day looked ominous but that traders couldn't afford to assume that formations would be broken to the downside. This Thursday, I must warn that all has looked bullish since yesterday afternoon, but traders can't afford to assume that these formations will be broken to the upside. Just trade what you see and set those stops in case what you see is a deliberately maneuvered fake-out move.
The continued resistance at the top of this formation shows that it will take a concerned effort by big-money people to sustain any breakout above the top trendline. It doesn't take so much of a concerted effort to temporarily break prices higher, of course, especially not on the narrow Dow. Such tests can and do happen, and it will be the results of that test and not the fact that such a test occurs that tells us what we need to know. If you're already long or contemplating going long on any upside breakout, be aware that such a breakout is a test, and that it's a test that can fail. Set stops appropriately.
The Dow's 30-minute chart shows the Dow ending the day at light 30-minute resistance, with stronger resistance on 30-minute closes a bit higher, at 12,702 or so. Support on 30-minute closes was at 12,661, which also happened to be the breakout level on the 15-minute chart. If the Dow remains within that 40-point range on that first 30-minute close, it really hasn't shown us much of anything even if it's moving higher. By then, these Keltner lines will have aligned themselves somewhat differently.
Although we might fear a pop-and-drop action tomorrow that traps some bulls, at least the SPX and Dow charts show clear support and resistance levels to watch. The Nasdaq's chart is a mess.
Annotated Daily Chart of the Nasdaq:
Clearly, that green triangle's trendlines have lost their relevance. Crossing that top trendline tells us nothing, either direction. RSI has not yet again approached its top trendline, so we can't even say with any confidence that RSI is showing that strong resistance has been reached.
The SOX did this, too, after it broke sideways out of its rising channel off last summer's low. It ambled sideways, appearing to set up formations and perform tests, and it all meant nothing. I've looked at long-term charts, going way back to study Fibonacci retracements from the decline off the Nasdaq's 2000 high into the 2002 low and just about everything else I can think of doing, and nothing is showing me any clear-cut evidence that this thing is the key or that thing is the key to next direction.
If you know what that thing is, that key, you're a better technician than I am because what I see is chop, chop that is dangerous for bulls and bears alike. I don't trade much of anything but credit spreads these days, but even when I was trading mostly either pure bearish or bullish plays, I avoided trading anything with a chart that looked like this. There are better ways to spend your money than paying brokers for the privilege of being chopped out of plays.
On the short-term, the Nasdaq ended the day facing 30-minute resistance from 2,468-2,470. Next resistance on that chart was at about 2,487 on 30-minute closes, so if the Nasdaq breaks higher first thing tomorrow morning, watch for resistance there. Support levels are layered thinly, so it's difficult to suggest which might hold, but 2,456 and 2,448 look to be the strongest as of today's close. The lines could align differently tomorrow morning after the first thirty minutes of trading.
Part of the problem with the Nasdaq lies in the fact that it appears to be trying to follow the Dow, SPX and OEX higher, but the SOX hampers any upward movement it's attempting to make. The SOX gained today, but it's still chopping around, too.
Annotated Daily Chart of the SOX:
If the SOX were to leap higher, across that river of moving averages that are now serving as resistance, the short-term tenor at least might become more bullish, but symmetry unfortunately suggests that the SOX could chop sideways to lower for quite some time and that any upward leap across those averages might result in no more than a day or two of gains before the SOX chops lower again. The problem with such chop is that the SOX spends a week or two when it's looking much more bullish and then a week or two when it's looking much more bearish, as it has been since the end of January, but, like what we're seeing on the Nasdaq, none of those week-or-two-long changes means anything. I want to reiterate again that it's not being indecisive to look at a chart and say it shows nothing: it's far more decisive to say that it shows nothing than to ignore the evidence to the contrary and try to trade the thing or tell someone else to do it. It's part of our job as traders to discern those times when something just isn't a good trading vehicle. While the SOX has been great for those of us trading spreads, it perhaps hasn't been such a felicitous vehicle for those in pure directional plays unless they've been good at buying support, getting out and then selling resistance.
The day ended with the SOX facing 30-minute resistance at about 464.55 on a 30-minute closing basis. On a sustained move above that, the SOX sets an upside target of 472.80, but if the SOX is turned back there, it might drop back to support gathering at 458-459.44. Below that, next support lies at 453.30.
While the SOX chopped, the RUT charged higher.
Annotated Daily Chart of the RUT:
The RUT's breakout has come as interest rates have pulled back from the levels they were testing late last week and early this week. While there's not always a moment-by-moment correspondence, a rise in interest rates hurts the components of the RUT, and so anyone trading the RUT's options or component stocks should watch interest rates. This may prove particularly important tomorrow as the jobs numbers may convince bond traders to move yields one direction or another.
The RUT has broken out on both the 15-minute and 30-minute Keltner charts, with a 30-minute line now at about 805.90 providing support on 30-minute closes ever since the FOMC decision was announced. Until the RUT breaks through that still-rising line on 30-minute closes, it hasn't changed its short-term tenor. Unless it's pushed down strongly tomorrow, it should find next short-term support at 803.20-804.63. Resistance is obvious, at the rising trendline it tested today.
Today's downgrade of TRAN component C.H. Robinson WW (CHRW) certainly didn't hurt the TRAN as it tentatively confirmed that continuation-form inverse head-and-shoulders that I've been noting for months. As I've also been noting, this is a long-term formation, and so it's going to be the weekly close that's important, not a daily one, so that's why I term the breakout "tentative" for now. As I've also noted, continuation-form inverse head-and-shoulders are not completely trustworthy, so I wouldn't necessarily count on the TRAN reaching any upward price projections based on this formation, but these formations are still useful to watch for what they tell us about bullish or bearish strength.
Annotated Daily Chart of the TRAN:
Whatever the TRAN is going to ultimately do, it looks as if it's time for either a consolidation day or a real pullback tomorrow. That's just natural to consolidate gains, but if it's a doji-type day, that's only going to prolong the what-next agony on other indices, too. Perhaps with these gains in the background, the Dow, SPX and OEX can make further gains if the TRAN just consolidates, but they don't typically tend to go far in any direction without the TRAN's participation.
Ahead of tomorrow's Employment Report, Monster Worldwide released its January Employment Index. Bullet points noted that the index climbed one point from December's number, to 168, but that the monthly gain was down 11.3 percent when compared to last January, when the index had produced a strong surge over the previous December's number. The index's current 168 is higher, however, than last January's 151. So, to clarify, the January number is higher but the month-over-month growth was less than it had been a year ago.
Under the headline number for this January, results for different job categories and regions were mixed, with increased online job availability in only 12 of 20 industries and 5 of 23 occupational categories. The report did note, however, that construction recruitment climbed as did recruitment for the category of real estate and rental and leasing. Recruitment for those two categories had been slow during the second half of last year. Monster says these results may indicate some stabilization in the residential real estate sector when their data is combined with recent economic reports related to that sector.
However, some of Monster's own figures may refute that conclusion. Some of the reduction in recruitment for blue-collar jobs was in areas that might relate to this industry. Of interest to those who watch the transportation index was a decline in recruitment for jobs in the transportation and material moving industries. Two regions showing growth were the West South Central and West North Central regions. Recruitment in the Pacific region eased further.
The Challenger Gray report on January layoffs was released at 7:30. The index rose 15 percent month over month but was down 39 percent when compared to the year-ago level. The telecommunications companies led in the number of layoffs, with pharmaceutical companies also contributing to the number of layoffs. Challenger Gray's chief executive guided market watchers to expect layoffs in automotive, auto-parts, building supplies, real estate and construction companies.
No bombs there. Both those numbers reassured market watchers. At 8:30, the U.S. Labor Department reported that first-time claims for the week ending January 27 for state unemployment eased to 307,000, down 20,000 from the week-ago level. This is a seasonally adjusted number. Continuing claims rose 30,500, though, with this the highest rise in more than a month. Still, there were no bombs in that data.
Also at 8:30, the Commerce Department reported on December's Personal Income. The report showed core inflation, the so-called core-PCE deflator, rising a lower-than-expected 0.1 percent. This, taken together with the other economic releases of the morning, was good news, reinforcing yesterday's conclusions by the FOMC. For those who might have slept through yesterday's FOMC meeting or missed last night's Wrap, those conclusions were that inflation would gradually decrease and economic growth would remain moderate, this despite yesterday's pesky-but-largely-ignored economic contraction figure for Chicago's PMI.
It should be noted, however, that the headline number that includes energy and food costs rose a more robust 0.4 percent. For the year, headline consumer inflation has risen 2.3 percent and while the core personal consumption expenditure price index rose 2.2 percent. Reportedly, the FOMC prefers a core rate of 1-2 percent, so that rate remains higher than the number the Fed reportedly prefers.
Within this release are components relating to real consumer spending and real disposable incomes. Real consumer spending rose 0.3 percent and real disposable incomes climbed 0.2 percent, with that being the lowest increase in seven months. For the fourth quarter, real spending rose 4.4 percent, but higher energy costs impacted both real spending and real disposable incomes in December, the Commerce Department concluded. The "real" appellation indicates that the figures are adjusted for inflation, and it was these adjusted-for-inflation numbers that were touted today. If not adjusted for inflation, incomes rose 0.5 percent and spending climbed by 0.7 percent.
Of course, you may have noticed that spending rose more than disposable incomes. The natural conclusion is that personal savings rates fell, and they did, to a negative 1.2 percent. For the year, they fell to a negative 1 percent, with the Commerce Department pegging this as the lowest annual savings rate since 1933. Wow.
Dow Jones Newswires also released another number related to jobs creation, with this number being another estimate of where Friday's jobs numbers might go. Yesterday, the ADP had released another estimate. A Dow Jones Newswires survey of 24 economists resulted in a median estimate for payrolls to increase 155,000. These economists anticipate that the jobless rate will stay at 4.5 percent again while average hourly earnings are expected to rise 0.3 percent.
The big news of the day, however, bombing hopes that the economy was growing for now, was the Institute for Supply Management's report. That hit the ground at 10:00, stopping the bull's advance across just-claimed new territory.
January's ISM index fell to 49.3 percent, below the benchmark 50 that marks the difference in a contracting and an expanding economy. Economists had expected the index to rise to 52.0 percent, up from December's 51.4 percent. This is the second of two months out of the last three months that the ISM has dipped below 50.
The news proves worse when components of the number are examined. The price index rose to 53.0 percent, up from the previous 47.5 percent. New orders slipped closer to 50 percent, dropping to 50.3 percent. December's number had been 51.9 percent. Rising prices and a contracting economy is not the combination that market watchers want to see. This news should have knocked bulls back further than it did, but momentum was strong after yesterday's surge.
The National Association of Realtors reported better news, saying that pending home sales increased 4.9 percent in December. The association claimed this was the largest gain in almost three years. This index measures signed sales contracts while existing home sales, reported late last month, measure sales at close. All four regions saw an increase in pending home sales.
This was a seasonally adjusted number. The association points to warmer-than-normal weather and favorable mortgage rates as reasons for the increase, but also pegs it on increasing confidence on the part of home buyers "that their local market has bottomed out," according to the chief economist for the association.
To give these numbers some context, it's important to realize that numbers are lower on a year-over-year basis. This is true of the national number, down 4.4 percent from the December 2005 number. It's also true of each of the four regions.
Weekly natural-gas inventories were released by the Energy Department at 10:30, the last economic release of the day. That figure showed a draw of 186 billion cubic feet, far less than the expected 215-228 billion cubic feet, depending on the source. Natural gas prices immediately began dropping but ultimately bounced off the 7.31 low of the day, which roughly coincided with the 10-sma. The bears weren't totally successful today when they drove these prices lower because that bounce kept the prices within a narrow rising channel off the year's low. Volume was high, too. Coupled with that strong bounce off the low, that high volume indicated that someone was buying on the dip, at least for today, absorbing the supply that was dumped on the market when the inventories number proved bearish for this commodity.
CNBC noted that yesterday had seen a record volume on electronic trading on this contract. In his Tuesday Wrap, Jim mentioned Monday's expiration of the futures contract and the short-term effect that was having, so the increase in volume was perhaps not unexpected.
That ended the economic releases of the day, but company news figured in the day's actions, too. These days, earnings reports are also capable of delivering either bombs or reinforcement for the bulls. Dell garnered a couple of upgrades to buy ratings, with these from J.P. Morgan and Merrill Lynch, but as the day wore on, Dell's warning last night about the fourth quarter began to weigh on all that optimism about Michael Dell's return as chief executive. Dell's shares had opened at the converging 30-sma and 200-ema's, but bears targeted it all day, and by early afternoon, it had dropped to touch yesterday's closing level and dip below it. Dell closed at $24.21, down from the day's high of $25.51 and even a penny below yesterday's close of $24.22.
Companies reporting earnings Thursday morning included Exxon Mobil (XOM), Valero (VLO), Royal Dutch Shell, Comcast (CMCSK), CVS (CVS) and Monster Worldwide (MNST). Because of the number of economic releases today, this Wrap has been lengthened already beyond what is optimal, so the summaries of these reports will be brief. Remember, too, that a day after earnings releases, the first impressions will sometimes be recast by analysts. However, here are the first impressions, as detailed by various news services. XOM's revenue dropped to $90.03 billion, but still beat expectations. So did Q4 earnings, although they also dropped from year-ago levels. However, headlines touted the company's record $39.5 billion earnings in 2006, the biggest profit ever for any U.S. company. Valero beat expectations and is considering selling a refinery in Ohio. Royal Dutch Shell's profit climbed more than expected as the company increased production in Nigeria and realized tax benefits and increases from valuations of derivative contracts. CMCSK's adjusted earnings were termed less than expected, but earnings topped year-ago levels. CVS reportedly beat expectations while MNST missed. Anheuser-Busch also reported, with its first-quarter earnings per share disappointing, according to one source, while its revenue beat expectations.
Upgrades of note include a Prudential upgrade of Eli Lilly (LLY) to an overweight rating, a Banc of American upgrade of builder Hovnanian Enterprises to a buy rating, a Citigroup upgrade of Valero (VLO) to a buy rating and numerous upgrades of Gilead Sciences (GILD). Downgrades include a Lehman Brothers downgrade of NVIDIA (NVDA) to an equal-weight rating and a Credit Suisse downgrade of C.H. Robinson to a neutral rating.
January auto sales figures began appearing throughout the day. Ford's (F) sales to retail customers fell 5 percent in January. Its sales for autos dropped 32.5 percent from its year-ago level while its sales for light trucks dropped 9.8 percent in the same period. Ford expects weakness in new home construction to push its sales of full-size pickups lower throughout the first half of the year. DaimlerChrysler said that its Chrysler division produced its best January performance in six years, and Mercedes topped that, with its best January performance ever. Toyota is still being touted as the successor to Ford's previous number two position in U.S. sales.
After-hours developments include Amazon's (AMZN) earnings report. As this report is prepared, AMZN was trading at $38.74, up a few cents from its $38.70 close. Headlines disdain the company's 51-percent drop in net income, but note that holiday sales soared, sending sales 34 percent higher. Higher taxes and spending hurt the net income figure of 23 cents a share, down from the year-ago 47 cents a share, but those sales of $3.99 billion proved much higher than the year-earlier figure of $2.98 billion. One source pegged expectations at $0.21 a share on revenue of $3.77 a billion. Some also pointed to the company's forecast as exceeding expectations.
Electronic Arts (ERTS) also reported after the close. As this article was prepared, shares were trading at $52.60, up strongly from the $50.54 close. The video game published reported earnings of $0.50 a share or $0.63 on revenue of $1.28 billion excluding the cost of stock options and other items. On this basis, it appeared that analysts expected $1.27 billion or $0.57 a share
Jonas Ferris picks good companies whose insiders are buying, too. With this record, it's easy to see that tracking insiders works; now see how we make it easy.
Tomorrow's Economic and Earnings Releases
Friday's key report will be the January employment report at 8:30. Wednesday, the ADP report suggested that the current consensus of 140,000 new jobs might be exceeded, but the ADP has now had at least three significant misses. Most misses have been in overestimating the number of jobs, but last month's was in underestimating. As already noted, the Dow Jones Newswires survey also suggested a slightly higher number.
Although the FOMC noted Wednesday that inflation appeared to be gradually decreasing, easing rate-hike fears, today's ISM might make everyone nervous, and neither the FOMC nor the equity bulls want to see wage pressures adding to inflation. A number that's too much higher than the expected number might frighten some worried about inflation, and a number that's far too low might alarm some worried about that contracting ISM number and what it means.
January's Consumer Sentiment and December's Factory Orders will be released at 10:00. At times in the past, Consumer Sentiment has been a market mover, but it seems less influential these days. I would be wary of either a big increase or a big disappointment in this number, however. Again, that contraction in the ISM might make markets skittish about anything that suggests declining economic prospects. A flat number of 98 is anticipated.
The ECRI Weekly Leading Index comes next, at 10:30.
Important companies announcing earnings tomorrow include BYX, ITT, R, WEN, ERIC.
What about Tomorrow?
The RUT and the TRAN are two indices that sometimes serve as leading indicators, and both are leading to the upside. Unfortunately, the SOX also has previously served in that leading-index capacity, and it's not charging across any new territory. Although they're not mentioned as often, the RLX, the S&P Retail Index, and the BIX, the bank index, also often lead to the upside. Today, the RLX broke to new highs not seen in almost four years, but the BIX's performance presents more difficulty in interpretation. The BIX moved higher, but its formation looks suspiciously like a head-and-shoulders formation, and it's going to need to break higher than the end-of-year high last year to violate that impression.
The SPX is at a precarious place. It's facing midline resistance that has held for a couple of months. It's facing it after having made gains over two days that some call overdone. It's facing it on a Friday. The SPX's typical response to such a midline test has been to attempt to pierce it and then fall, closing near it, or else just to plummet back through the channel toward stronger support. The jobs number tomorrow may determine which it will be or even whether we'll see a break up through the upper half of the channel again. The possibility remains that this time the SPX will push up through the top half of that channel again, but I'm a strong proponent of the belief that what typically happens is what is most likely to happen again . . . until that changes.
So, what do you do if the SPX breaks out first thing tomorrow morning, during the dangerous amateur hour period, above that trendline? Exercise extreme caution. If you're already in a long play from the test of the channel bottom, then your task is easier. You decide tonight what you're going to do about that test, whether you're going to take at least partial profits and then hike up the stops on the rest, take full profits and enjoy your weekend while you let the SPX prove to you that it can sustain those values above the midline or let it all run with appropriate stops. If you're going to let it all run, however, you better think tonight about what you're going to do if the day ends tomorrow with a little doji sitting there at resistance. Are you going to hold over the weekend or not? Make your decision tonight when you're calm and away from the action.
If you're not yet in a long play and the SPX attempts to break out, your decision is tougher, particularly with the SPX's recent habit of consolidating or either pulling back from this midline after it's been approached. Trade with care if you're going long on an early morning attempted upside breakout. You'll want corroboration from breadth indicators and from the TRAN.
All should watch the RUT and the TRAN. The TRAN is attempting to push above its all-time high, and the RUT is already there, but facing a potential kiss-goodbye test of its former supporting trendline. The RUT's breakout has set an upside target of about 830-831, but that trendline may get in its way.
We've had upside breakouts on those two leading indices. Important upside breakouts. If it weren't for all the technical reasons for yields to pull back within the context of a potentially bullish formation that might take another month or so to unfold, I might be more confident about the RUT's breakout, but then the RUT can run a long way to the upside in a month, can't it? If it weren't for the ISM arguing against the FOMC's conclusion that economic growth was firming and for Monster Global's prognosis that transportation hiring might slow, I might not be so wary of the TRAN's breakout, but those factors do make me a bit wary while not yet bearish. I sold some stock in two big caps that I had held for many years in a sort of buy-and-hold strategy test, though, choosing this week to lock in prices as it just felt as if it was the right time. I'm not long-term bearish yet, but I am long-term wary now.
I'm also short-term wary about the SPX due to the chart characteristics I see there, so I think if I were a bullish day-trader who traded the SPX, I'd just take the day off tomorrow. If signs set up and confirm a downturn toward stronger support, a bearish play might make a better day trade, but the right signs would have to be in effect, and that would include breadth indicators and a downturn in the TRAN, too. I absolutely would not try a bearish trade if the TRAN was climbing or even staying still, and if breadth indicators were not on your side. Either way, I would absolutely set hard stops and keep them appropriate to my risk level.
My gut-level instincts? I don't have any regarding the SOX or the Nasdaq. Each of their charts is a mess. I don't have any regarding the RUT, either, ahead of the reaction of bond yields to tomorrow's jobs number. And the SPX? I don't think there will be a tradable day unless there's a downturn, and I give that only a 50/50 chance unless either someone in Asia says something else to blow up performances in global bourses overnight or the jobs number does something to change the outlook tomorrow morning. Either is a possibility, but no government officials in Asia have clued me in and, although I firmly believe some big-money people know about economic releases before the rest of us do, my trading account doesn't qualify me as one of those.
Burlington Nor.SantaFe - BNI - cls: 81.47 chg: +1.11 stop: 77.99
We did not have to wait very long for BNI to hit our trigger and open the play. Transport stocks continued to rally and the Dow Jones railroad index gained another 1.47%. Boosting the railroads was a positive story about how railroads will benefit from the rising ethanol industry. Shares of BNI surged to a new multi-month high of $82.54 before paring its gains. Volume on today's 1.38% rally was relatively strong. Now that the play is open our target is the $87.00-87.50 range. If you are the patient type then consider waiting for a dip back towards $80.00 as a new entry point to buy calls. FYI: The Point & Figure chart points to $100 and the inverse H&S pattern also suggests a $100 target.
Picked on February 1 at $ 82.01
Macerich - MAC - close: 96.28 change: +0.75 stop: 91.95*new*
Shares of MAC, a REIT, continue to set new all-time highs. We're not suggesting new positions as the stock has entered an extremely overbought condition. If you are looking for a new entry point consider watching for a bounce near its simple 10-dma. We are adjusting our stop loss to $91.95. This remains an aggressive, higher-risk play. Our target is the $98.00-100.00 range. We do not want to hold over the February 13th earnings report.
Picked on January 28 at $ 93.46
OM Group - OMG - close: 50.14 change: +1.28 stop: 45.75 *new*
Another bullish day in the markets helped OMG post a strong 2.6% gain and produce a technical breakout over round-number resistance at the $50.00 mark. Volume continues to come in very low and that should put bulls on alert. We are adjusting our stop loss to $45.75. OMG should find short-term support in the $47.50-48.00 region. Our target is the $54.00-55.00 range. We do not want to hold over the early March earnings. FYI: The P&F chart points to a $57 target.
Picked on January 25 at $ 48.05
RTI Int. - RTI - close: 83.79 change: +2.04 stop: 76.75
Our new play in RTI is off to a strong start. Traders bought the morning dip near $81.30 and the stock rebounded to hit new all-time highs (above $83.33). We do not see any changes from our previous comments on the stock. Our target is the $88.00-90.00 range. The P&F chart points to a $105 target. In other news the company announced that its current president and CEO will step down on April 27th but will continue to work with management through his official retirement date in July.
Picked on January 31 at $ 81.75
Teleflex - TFX - close: 67.60 chg: +0.82 stop: 64.75
What a difference a couple of days can make. TFX has bounced strongly from support near $65 and its rising 50-dma. Today's rally saw the stock breakout to multi-month highs and past the mini-(bearish) double top in mid January. Our biggest concern today was the lack of volume on the move. Our target is the $71.00-72.00 range. FYI: The P&F chart points to an $81 target. We plan to exit ahead of the mid February earnings report.
Picked on January 14 at $ 67.11
F5 Networks - FFIV - close: 71.81 change: +0.40 stop: 76.25
We do not see any changes from our previous comments on FFIV. The stock produced a minor bounce following yesterday's decline. FFIV appears to be trading inside a narrow, bearish channel over the last two and a half weeks. The simple 10-dma should be short-term overhead resistance. More conservative traders may want to wait for more confirmation and only buy puts on a break down under $70.00. A 38.2% Fibonacci retracement would be very close to $65.00 and FFIV's rising 100-dma so we are aiming for the $66.00-65.00 range. FYI: The Point & Figure chart has produced a triple-bottom breakdown sell signal with a $63 target. Plus, the company announced an analyst meeting for February 7th in New York.
Picked on January 28 at $ 72.70
Whole Foods - WFMI - close: 43.97 chg: +0.78 stop: 45.51
A bullish day for the markets helped WFMI produce another oversold bounce (+1.8%) but shares continue to struggle under their trendline of resistance (lower highs). A failed rally under $44.00-44.50 can be used as a new entry point. Our target is the $40.25-40.00 range. We do not want to hold over the February earnings report. FYI: The P&F chart points to a $26 target.
Picked on January 19 at $ 44.85
(What is a strangle? It's when a trader buys an out-of-the-money (OTM) call and an OTM put on the same stock. The strategy is neutral. You do not care what direction the stock moves as long as the move is big enough to make your investment profitable.)
Google - GOOG - cls: 481.75 change: -19.75 stop: n/a
It seems that investors were not satisfied with GOOG's earnings results last night. The company beat estimates and gave a positive conference call but that wasn't enough to stave off the profit taking. Analysts' reaction to the earnings news was almost universally positive with plenty of firms reiterating their buy ratings or raising estimates or raising price target on GOOG. Yet this "news" was not enough to stave off the profit taking. The stock produced a bearish engulfing candlestick pattern on very big volume. Typically these patterns are seen as one-day bearish reversals. Today's decline was extra bearish as GOOG broke down past its trend of higher lows. GOOG closed almost on its low for the day and that is typically a bearish signal for the following session. We are not suggesting new strangle positions at this time. In the Sunday newsletter we suggested two different potential strangle strategies. One involved the February $530 call (GOP-BW) and the February $470 put (GOP-NG). This strategy had an estimated cost of $17.40 and we want to exit if either option rises to $29.00 or more. The second strangle strategy involved the February $550 call (GOP-BY) and the February $450 put (GOP-NJ). This second strategy had an estimated cost of $8.70 and we want to sell if either option rises to $16.00 or more. Editor's note: Many times the biggest move in GOOG is on the first day after earnings but it might pay off to hold the strangle position for two or three days to capture the largest chunk of any post earnings news. If after three days following the earnings report and the options have not hit our target we'll probably exit.
Picked on January 28 at $495.84
Intuitive Surgical - ISRG - cls: 99.32 chg: +0.91 stop: n/a
Bulls continued to control the direction for shares of ISRG as investors placed their bets ahead of the company's earnings report due out tonight. The stock rose 0.9% on strong volume and challenged the $100 level twice. We are no longer suggesting new strangle positions. After the closing bell ISRG reported earnings that were 11 cents better than consensus estimates of 51 cents a share. While management said that the first quarter of 2007 might be light the company guided higher for all of 2007. Trader reaction to the news was positive. After hours markets saw ISRG trade to a high near $117.00 and as of this commentary the stock was trading near $114.20. We can probably expect the stock to gap open higher tomorrow. Given the sharp after-market move traders might want to raise their target to exit. We're going to keep our target on the options at $14.80. Our suggested strangle involves the February $100 call (AXQ-BT) and the February $90 put (AXQ-NR). Our estimated cost was $7.20 and we want to sell if either option rises to $14.80 or more.
Picked on January 28 at $ 94.98
United Parcel Srv. - UPS - cls: 73.64 chg: +1.36 stop: n/a
UPS continued to bounce thanks to a rally in transports and a pull back in crude oil. The stock's 1.8% gain today pushed the stock high enough to "fill the gap" from January 30th. The question now is whether or not shares will continue to rally and breakout over its trendline of resistance or will it turn over and renew the bearish trend. We are not suggesting new strangle positions in UPS. We are going to need to see a much bigger move in UPS if our strangle play is going to be profitable. We suggested the February $75 call (UPS-BO) and the February $70 put (UPS-NN). Our estimated cost was $1.65. We want to exit if either option rises to $3.75 or more.
Picked on January 28 at $ 72.49
Alexandria RealEst. - ARE - cls: 109.57 chg: +1.21 stop: 103.99
Target achieved. Shares of ARE continued to show impressive relative strength and posted another gain, making this the eight gain in a row. Volume has been coming in above average during the entire weeklong rally. The stock hit an intraday high of $109.94, which was enough for our target in the $109.90-110.00 range. We would keep an eye on ARE for a dip back toward $105-106 as a potential entry point for new plays but bear in mind the company's upcoming earnings report so you don't hold over the announcement.
Picked on January 29 at $105.51
KB Home - KBH - close: 54.55 change: +0.33 stop: 49.99
Target achieved. Homebuilders continued to rally following yesterday's positive comments from the Fed on a stabilizing housing market. Shares of KBH traded to an intraday high of $55.27. Our target was the $54.90-55.00 range. We're closing the play but given the improved outlook on the homebuilders we would continue to watch KBH and the group for potential plays. Another dip and bounce near $52.00 or a breakout past $55.00 might be alternative entry points. FYI: The Point & Figure chart points to a $76 target.
Picked on January 21 at $ 51.74
Mohawk Ind. - MHK - close: 85.79 chg: +3.37 stop: 77.45
Target achieved and exceeded. We still cannot find any specific news to account for MHK's super strong rally over the last couple of days. Yesterday's positive comments on an improving real estate market certainly didn't hurt but MHK's reaction has been abnormally strong. We suspect this has been a short squeeze with bears racing to cover positions following the breakout over resistance at $80.00. The most recent (January) data put short interest at just over 10% of MHK's 53.3 million-share float. Our target was the $84.00-85.00 range.
Picked on January 21 at $ 78.38
Today's Newsletter Notes: Market Wrap by Linda Piazza and all other plays and content by the Option Investor staff.
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