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Daily Newsletter, Tuesday, 07/31/2007

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Table of Contents

  1. Market Wrap
  2. New Option Plays
  3. In Play Updates and Reviews

  4. Market Wrap

    Subprime Returns To Haunt

    The morning started out great with the Dow rebounding to 13500 and 140 gain but it ended ugly with a -146 loss. Subprime returned again to plague traders much like Freddie Kruger returned time and time again to wreak havoc in the Friday the 13th movies. We keep beating this dead horse but it keeps coming back from the dead to trample the financial sector and the broader market.

    Dow Chart - Daily

    Nasdaq-100 Chart - Daily

    It was a very busy day economically with 9 different reports. Chain store sales rose 1.1% for the week, a very strong showing and the best week since Feb-3rd. Reportedly the gains were due to back-to-school demand. Declining gasoline prices also helped consumer sentiment. Personal income rose 0.4% in June and that also helped fuel additional spending. This was the second consecutive month of gains but still below expectations for a 0.5% gain. The core PCE deflator, an indicator of real inflation at the consumer level, came in at 0.1% pushing the year over year inflation rate down to 1.9% from 2.0%. Inflation, ex-food and energy, is still falling although very slowly. Ironically consumer confidence shot up to 112.6 in the final July reading from 105.3 in June. The present conditions component shot up 10 points to 139.2 to lead the charge. That is the highest level since 9/11.

    The Employment Cost Index (ECI) for the second quarter rose 0.9% and slightly more than the 0.8% Q1 rate but less than the 1.0% expected rate. The gain was right inline with the average for the last four quarters. Employee benefits rose sharply but growth in wages slowed preventing a sharp uptick in overall compensation. This was a positive event for inflation watchers with wage inflation pressures easing.

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    On the downside the business conditions in New York City weakened in July with the NAPM-NY headline number slipping to 446.4 and a 6-month low falling -5.1 points from the June level of 451.5. Nearly all components showed declines with a notable drop in the current conditions component to 39.7 from 52.5 in June. A level under 50 denotes contraction. The outlook component, which measures sentiment for the coming six months, fell to 62.5 from 66.7 and the lowest level since July 2005.

    Confirming the drop in the NAPM-NY was a sharp drop in the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) to 53.4 in July from 60.2 in June. The internals fell sharply and this is a major red flag that the economy may have reversed directions. New orders fell to 53.4 from 65.7, order backlogs fell to 37.4 from 50.8 and production fell to 59.0 from 66.5. The prices paid component is the only component steadily rising, now at 73.1, and indicating inflation growing at the wholesale level. The sharp drop in order backlogs was another key indicator of a slowing economy.

    Construction spending fell -0.3% with a -0.7% drop in residential construction leading the headline drop. This was the biggest drop in 5-months. Agricultural prices spiked 2.2% in July with livestock prices gaining 2.2% and crop prices adding 1.4%. Food commodities rose 2.9% for the month being pushed up by higher prices for milk and eggs. Farmers paid higher prices for feed and fertilizer. Most people don't realize that nitrogen based fertilizers, by far the largest in use, are petroleum based and derived primarily from natural gas. Since oil and gas prices are linked as the price of oil rises so does the price of fertilizer. Many U.S. fertilizer companies have already gone out of business or have moved overseas where large supplies of natural gas are cheaper. The cost of fertilizer and the eventual shortage in years to come is going to have a serious impact on the eventual carrying capacity of the planet. Without nitrogen fertilizers the vast nutrient depleted farmlands in the U.S. would not even grow weeds. More on this subject in future commentaries.

    Earnings tried to move back to the forefront of investor interest today but were overshadowed by the subprime news making the rounds again. Sun Microsystems (SUNW) posted another quarterly profit and gained 21 cents. GM posted its first profitable quarter in two years and lost -21 cents. After the close today Whole Foods (WFMI) beat the street on earnings and spiked sharply gaining 10% in after hours. That after hours news failed to produce even a slight uptick in futures.

    Apple (AAPL) lost -9.67 on an erroneous report from TheStreet.com that iPhone production had been cut in half. TheStreet attributed the report to a trader at Miller Tabak. However the spokesman for Miller Tabak said TheStreet called them and asked if they had heard the rumor. When they answered yes they had heard a rumor TheStreet reporter then attributed the rumor to Tabak. Tabak does not even have an analyst that follows Apple or follows tech in general and denied ever releasing any comments on Apple stock. TheStreet ended with egg on their face and Apple shareholders lost over $8 billion in market cap. Another Street.com writer interviewed after the close and after the news on the erroneous story broke, ignored questions about The Street's error and blamed the stock drop on the market and overbought conditions in AAPL.

    September Crude Chart - Daily

    Oil prices closed at an all time record of $78.21 today and well over the prior $77.03 record seen on July 14th 2006. The intraday high of $78.27 came very close to the historic intraday high of $78.40 on that same day in 2006. Helping to push oil prices higher was more violence in Nigeria and news of new refinery problems. The appearance of the 3rd named storm of the season, Chantal, also spiked prices even though Chantal is off the coast of Canada not Florida. Just the appearance of another named storm reminds traders that the peak of the hurricane season is only 40 days away on Sept-10th. The National Weather Service also highlighted the potential formation of another storm over the next 48-hours just southeast of Cuba and that one would be a major problem if it tracks between Mexico and Cuba and the normal launching ramp into the Gulf oil patch.

    Linda lives in Texas and they have been inundated in rain for the last couple months. This prompted several forecasters to dig into historical records to research hurricane patterns after summers of record rainfall. Linda sent me some results of those searches. There was a good correlation of major storms making landfall later in the summer after record rains. Since this summer could be the wettest on record for Texas those on the Gulf coast should be prepared.

    The two biggest challenges to traders today were the closing of the $3 billion Sowood hedge fund and the warning from American Home Mortgage. Sowood sent a letter to investors yesterday saying losses in the credit markets driven by exposure to the subprime meltdown had forced the closing of the fund. The $3 billion fund was managed by an individual that helped build Harvard's endowment fund to nearly $30 billion. Sowood had leveraged the $3 billion invested into $15 billion in positions. When those positions turned against them they could not exit fast enough. Once bids evaporate it makes no difference what the collateral is really worth.

    I wrote about this several times over the last few weeks. Leverage works both ways and those leveraged to the credit markets are getting killed. Sowood said they were ok last week but the sudden deterioration in the credit markets after Countrywide warned of defaults moving up the credit scale knocked -$1.5 billion off Sowood's positions. The "mark to model" method for valuing positions has been coming under increasing pressure over the last few weeks. Every time the value of these credit instruments takes another hit the model weakens. I have mentioned this many times before that the degree of decline in the value of these credit instruments was going to eventually force a "mark to market" valuation rather than mark to model. That is beginning to happen across the sector and as we have seen in the case of Sowood and AHM the results are disastrous. Sowood's lenders forced a mark to market valuation on Sowoods credit investments and that produced a monster margin call that Sowood could not meet. In the letter to investors Sowood said it had sold nearly all its assets to Citadel resulting in a 53% loss in capital and the closing of the firm. Citadel is a $14 billion hedge fund and a known purchaser of distressed assets. Citadel joined with JP Morgan to purchase the distressed energy assets of Amaranth late in 2006.

    AAmerican Home Mortgage (AHM) said today that it can no longer fund home loans and may be forced to liquidate its assets. AHM said lenders cut off access to credit on Monday leaving it unable to fund $300 million in mortgage closings. AHM said it may be unable to fund an additional $450-$500 million in loans on Tuesday. AHM hired Milestone Advisors and Lazard to evaluate options and advise on the orderly liquidation of assets. AHM is not a small company. It holds about a 2.5% share of the U.S. mortgage market. Contrary to popular belief AHM does not deal in subprime mortgages. They specialized in Alt-A mortgages, which fall between subprime and prime. This is another confirmation of the warning given by Countrywide last week on rising defaults in prime loans. The default rate across the entire spectrum of the mortgage market is causing serious problems for those exposed to credit risk. AHM shares fell -90% to close at $1.04 on fears that any liquidation of assets would wipe out shareholder equity. AHM owes money to almost every major banker including $2 billion to UBS, $2B BSC, $1.3B BAC and $1B to Barclays. These major banks took another major hit to their stock prices on losses to the credit sector. Goldman Sachs lost -$7.40, BSC -$6.03, LEH -$2.80 and MER -$2.51.

    AHM Chart - Weekly

    Since HM did not have any subprime exposure this collapse will cause another round of concerns about those stocks involved not only in subprime but all the way up the credit ladder. MGIC Investment (MTG) and Radian Group (RDN) said they might have to write off a combined $1.03 billion invested in C-Bass, a joint venture related to subprime mortgages. MTG fell -15% and RDN -16% after the announcement.

    TThe market was doing well until AHM reopened for trading after a 2-day halt and dropped -90%. At the same time St Louis Fed President William Poole said the Fed will not come to the rescue of the stock market. Poole warned that should the Fed be overactive in responding to the current crisis it would set a precedent for future market events. Poole said Bernanke is trying to move away from the "Greenspan Put" and let the markets move on their own rather than always depend on the Fed to bail them out. The phrase was coined after the Fed under Greenspan pumped up the money supply in order to stabilize the markets after the 1987 and 1989 crashes, the Long Term Capital Management implosion and the tech bubble bursting back in 2000 and the post 9/11 crash. Poole said the Fed must wait and react over time to changing economic conditions rather than run when somebody yells fire.

    With new damage from the credit crisis breaking out all over and a Fed President saying the Fed was not going to ride to the rescue the impact to the market was an immediate sell signal. The morning's 140 opening bounce turned into a -146 point rout and there was not any uptick at the close. The Dow ended at another new 2-month low at 13211 and just 39 points over the 100-day average at 13172. This was the second time in 3-days the Dow has closed at the low. The Nasdaq fell farther and faster losing -37 points to close at 2546 and UNDER its 100-day average at 2551.

    Rick Santelli, CNBC anchor on the bond floor in Chicago pointed out a critical technical event on the S&P-500 that could be predicting a major reversal in equities. He pointed out that the S&P created what is called an "outside month", a higher high and lower low, with a close under the prior months low. This is a technical sell signal that is widely followed by many fund managers. The S&P at 1455 also closed well below its 100-day average at 1488.

    With sell signals breaking out all over on the technical side and financial companies going under almost daily the outlook for the equity market is turning darker. You could make a case that today's drop was a needed retest of the prior low but it would be a very weak case. The market appears to be setting up for a full -10% correction if not more. Bulls keep reminding everyone that earnings are growing not shrinking and the market will move higher. Buy the dip. The bears are reminding the bulls that the market lost -50% in 1973/74 and earnings continued to climb. The 1987 crash also occurred on no decline in earnings. Sell the rallies.

    I think it is simpler than that. It is clear that the financials can't free themselves from the subprime slime and now it is turning into a prime slime with the accelerating defaults in prime loans. Some analysts are now saying we could see as many as half of the loans made in 2006 default. That would be a monumental number and produce losses well over the $100 billion risk limit quoted by Bernanke and others. Even worse it would force home prices even lower with that many foreclosures and forced sales hitting the market. This would impact consumer spending as the value of their equity falls and send the economy into recession if it plays out as some are suggesting today. It is not a pretty picture and funds did the only thing they could do to raise cash to cover their sinking credit investments and that is sell equities. Add in oil at record levels pushing costs higher for everything made from oil and the economy is under increasing pressure.

    S&P-500 Chart - Weekly

    Russell-2000 Chart - Weekly

    Everyone thought Monday's rebound was the beginning of a recovery after indexes touched new intraday lows at the open. The increasing buying as the day continued suggested the sellers have finished. Unfortunately it appears they were just regrouping and today's bad news was all they needed to start another wave of selling. I would be bearish until we see if the market shakes off today's financial news but late Tuesday evening Bear Stearns said a third hedge fund was in trouble. The Bear Stearns Asset-Backed Securities Fund speculates in subprime mortgage loans and was worth $850 million in March. Bear Stearns announced late today the fund had suspended redemptions and expects losses for July. BSC said this fund was not leveraged and would not be susceptible to margin calls like other funds are now seeing. Bear said the fund was well positioned to wait out the market uncertainty. But, well positioned or not, BSC lost -$6 in after hours trading to $115 before buyers appeared cutting losses in half to $118. It does not bode well for Wednesday's open.
     


    New Plays

    New Option Plays

    Call Options Plays
    Put Options Plays
    Strangle Options Plays
    None None None

    Play Editor's Note: The markets look very weak here. We would be very cautious with any bullish positions still open and would definitely hesitate before opening any new bullish positions at this time.


    New Calls

    None today.
     

    New Puts

    None today.
     

    New Strangles

    None today.
     


    Play Updates

    In Play Updates and Reviews

    Call Updates

    Allegheny Tech - ATI - cls: 104.93 change: -1.88 stop: 98.49

    Tuesday turned out to be a very bearish session with the DJIA produced a 280-point drop from its intraday highs. Shares of ATI followed suit with some early morning strength and then a sell-off. Today's move in ATI is a bearish failed rally pattern under resistance near $110 and its 50-dma. If you're nimble enough you could buy puts on today's move with a target near $100.00. Shares definitely look poised to drop toward support near $100 and its rising 200-dma. Currently we're suggesting readers buy a dip near support but the sell-off is looking so ugly you might want to wait for that dip to show signs of bouncing first. Our suggested entry range to buy calls is the $100.5-100.00 zone. If triggered at $100.50 our target is the $107.50-110.00 range.

    Picked on July xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
    Change since picked: 0.00
    Earnings Date 10/25/07 (unconfirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 2.0 million

    ---

    Celgene - CELG - cls: 60.56 change: -1.19 stop: 57.49

    Reversal alert! CELG has produced a bearish reversal, failed rally and bearish engulfing candlestick pattern. We are not suggesting new positions at this time. Technically CELG "should" have support near $60.00 and its 50-dma near $59.60. We think shares are headed toward $59 and probably $58.00. More conservative traders may want to take another look at their risk and adjust their stops.

    Picked on July 27 at $ 61.25
    Change since picked: - 0.69
    Earnings Date 07/26/07 (confirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 4.1 million

    ---

    Diamond Offshore - DO - cls: 103.18 chg: 0.30 stop: 99.75

    DO closed in the green but today's session was far from bullish. Crude oil managed to hit a new all-time high over $78 a barrel today yet oil and energy stocks traded lower with the market. Shares of DO produced a bearish reversal near $106 and its simple 10-dma. The stock appears headed for the $100 level and technical support at its 50-dma. Wait for a bounce before considering new bullish positions. We're suggesting two targets. Our conservative target is the $114.00-115.00 range. Our more aggressive target is the $119.00-120.00 range. The P&F chart points to a $137 target. FYI: We are expecting this to be a two or three week play since we plan to exit oil-related stocks when crude eventually corrects.

    Picked on July 26 at $106.36
    Change since picked: - 3.18
    Earnings Date 07/26/07 (confirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 2.6 million

    ---

    Lam Research - LRCX - cls: 57.84 chg: 0.10 stop: 53.90*new*

    LRCX also closed higher today but the move looks anything but bullish. Shares produced a bearish failed rally pattern under the $60.00 level. LRCX closed near its lows for the session and looks headed for short-term support near $56.00. We suspect that the stock will trade closer toward the $55.00 level so we're adjusting our buy-the-dip entry point from $56.10-55.00 to $55.10-54.00. We'll adjust our stop loss to $53.90. We'll have two targets. Our conservative target is the $59.75-60.00 range. Our aggressive target is the $63.75-65.00 range. The P&F chart points to a $81 target.

    Picked on July xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
    Change since picked: 0.00
    Earnings Date 08/24/07 (confirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 2.9 million

    ---

    PACCAR - PCAR - cls: 81.82 change: -2.42 stop: 79.45

    Watch out! PCAR is another stock that has seen its oversold bounce roll over into a very bearish failed rally pattern. The stock appears headed back toward what should be support near $80.00. Wait for some signs of a bounce after trading near $80.00 before considering new positions. Our target is the $89.50-90.00 range. Yes, given the volatility, we would qualify this as a higher-risk, more aggressive play. FYI: The P&F chart is very bearish and points to a $61 target.

    Picked on July 26 at $ 82.87
    Change since picked: - 1.05
    Earnings Date 07/24/07 (confirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 1.8 million

    ---

    Penn National Gaming - PENN - cls: 57.50 chg: -0.30 stop: n/a

    PENN continues to drift lower and the future isn't looking good. The company's 45-day window to solicit a higher bid is over. Furthermore the fact that shares are trading at $57 instead of $67 is telling us the market doesn't believe this deal is going to get done. We're not suggesting new positions at this time.

    Picked on June 17 at $ 62.12
    Change since picked: - 4.62
    Earnings Date 07/26/07 (unconfirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 1.0 million

    ---

    Sears Holding - SHLD - cls: 136.79 chg: -2.25 stop: 127.49

    Look out below! Retail stocks were hammered today. The RLX index lost 2%. SHLD fell 1.6% after producing a failed rally near $141. If you're nimble enough then consider buying puts here with a target near $130. We're still suggesting that SHLD will bounce near support around $130. We are suggesting that readers buy calls on a dip into the $133.00-130.00 zone, which is where we expect it will bounce. If triggered we'll target a rebound into the $139.50-140.00 range. Bear in mind that we don't want to hold over the mid August earnings report.

    Picked on July xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
    Change since picked: 0.00
    Earnings Date 08/16/07 (unconfirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 1.7 million

    ---

    Terex - TEX - cls: 86.25 change: -3.03 stop: 79.49

    It was a very ugly day and TEX gave back about half of yesterday's gains. The move looks like a bearish reversal. We are not suggesting new positions at this time. Yesterday the stock hit our first target in the $89.50-90.00 range. Our second target is the $94.00-95.00 range.

    Picked on July 26 at $ 83.87
    Change since picked: 2.38
    Earnings Date 07/25/07 (confirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 1.1 million
     

    Put Updates

    Baker Hughes - BHI - cls: 79.05 change: -0.17 stop: 84.15

    Shares of BHI rolled over near $81 and the move looks like another bearish entry point to buy puts. Crude oil is hitting new all-time highs but the oil stocks can't seem to build on it. Our target is the $75.25-74.00 range. The 200-dma near $74 is probably support.

    Picked on July 29 at $ 79.43
    Change since picked: - 0.38
    Earnings Date 07/27/07 (unconfirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 4.6 million

    ---

    Harley Davidson - HOG - cls: 57.32 change: 0.17 stop: 60.26

    Our concern over yesterday's bullish reversal in HOG may be short lived. The stock produced a bearish failed rally near $58.00 and under its 10-dma today. Considering the market's weakness on Tuesday this may be a new entry point for puts. Our target is the $52.50-50.00 range. The P&F chart already points to $42.00.

    Picked on July 23 at $ 57.75
    Change since picked: - 0.60
    Earnings Date 07/27/07 (unconfirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = million

    ---

    Lubrizol - LZ - cls: 62.66 change: -0.17 stop: 65.26

    LZ has produced a bearish failed rally under the $64.00 level. We would use this as a new entry point to buy puts. Our target is the $57.00-55.00 range. $57.00 is near the top of the April gap and $55.00 is near technical support at its 200-dma.

    Picked on July 29 at $ 61.62
    Change since picked: 1.04
    Earnings Date 07/27/07 (confirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 563 thousand
     

    Strangle Updates

    (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.)

    ---

    Advanced Micro - AMD - cls: 13.54 chg: -0.25 stop: n/a

    Both AMD and the SOX index continued lower on Tuesday. AMD lost 1.8% and closed at a new six-week low. Volume came in pretty heavy on the decline, which is normally bearish. We're not suggesting new strangle plays at this time. The August options we suggested were the August $16 call (AMD-HQ) and the August $15 put (AMD-TC). Our estimated cost was $1.18. We want to sell if either option hits $1.85 or higher. More conservative traders may want to think about taking an early profit now. The August $15 put is trading at $1.53bid/$1.58ask.

    Picked on July 15 at $ 15.43
    Change since picked: - 1.89
    Earnings Date 07/19/07 (confirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 26.1 million

    ---

    DaimlerChrysler - DCX - cls: 90.75 chg: 0.96 stop: n/a

    We suspect that GM's big earnings surprise to the upside is what lifted shares of DCX today. DCX gapped open higher and then slowly began to fade under the $92 level. This oscillation back and forth around the $90 level is deadly for a neutral play like this. More conservative traders may want to abandon this play early. We are not suggesting new strangles on DCX at this time. The options in our suggested strangle were the August $95 calls (DCX-HS) and the August $85 puts (DCX-TQ). Our estimated cost was $3.70. We want to sell if either option rises to $6.45.

    Picked on July 22 at $ 89.75
    Change since picked: 1.00
    Earnings Date 07/25/07 (unconfirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 1.3 million

    ---

    Lexmark - LXK - cls: 39.54 change: -0.89 stop: n/a

    LXK plunged again. The stock lost 2.2% and broke down under support at the $40.00 level. Odds are pretty good that LXK will decline again tomorrow morning and the put side of our strangle will hit our target. We are not suggesting new strangle positions in LXK at this time. The options in our strangle were the August $50 calls (LXK-HJ) and the August $40 puts (LXK-TU). Our estimated cost was $0.75. We want to sell if either option rises to $1.50. The August $40 put (LXK-TU) is trading at $1.35bid/$1.45ask.

    Picked on July 22 at $ 45.43
    Change since picked: - 5.89
    Earnings Date 07/24/07 (confirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 1.9 million
     

    Dropped Calls

    Goldman Sachs - GS - cls: 188.34 change: -7.40 stop: 188.49

    Our speculative, buy-the-bounce near support play in GS has ended. GS reached an intraday high near $199 but reversed course. The news from AHM about not being able to find funding and its 85% drop on the news reinforced the recent sub-prime fears and the brokers were hammered today! GS lost 3.7% and closed at a new relative low under support near $190. Our stop loss was at $188.49.

    Picked on July 26 at $195.12
    Change since picked: - 6.78
    Earnings Date 09/12/07 (unconfirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 6.9 million
     

    Dropped Puts

    Southern Copper - PCU - cls: 112.71 chg: 0.72 stop: 113.55

    PCU displayed a lot of strength this morning with a gap open higher at $113.49 and a rally to $115.92. Our stop loss was at $113.55 so the play is closed. However, we would keep a close eye on the stock. PCU failed to rally past its previous highs. This might be the beginning of a short-term (bearish) double-top pattern. We remain longer-term bullish on PCU but we'd prefer to buy a dip near $100 or its rising 50-dma.

    Picked on July 29 at $109.04
    Change since picked: 3.67
    Earnings Date 08/02/07 (unconfirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 2.0 million

    ---

    Ryanair Holdings - RYAAY - cls: 41.49 change: 4.79 stop: 40.15

    This is a great example of why we don't want to hold over earnings. The airline sector index (XAL) sank 2.3% but shares of RYAAY completely ignored the market weakness. Shares of the European airline rose 13% after reporting better than expected earnings. Unfortunately, the earnings report date wasn't anywhere we could find leaving today's news an unexpected surprise. The stock opened at $41.09, which is above our stop loss.

    Picked on July 22 at $ 38.13
    Change since picked: 3.36
    Earnings Date 06/05/07 (confirmed)
    Average Daily Volume = 812 thousand

     

    Dropped Strangles

    None
     

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

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