Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Monday, 01/07/2008

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Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Stocks Mixed; Oil Retreats

The major averages finished mixed-to-higher to start the week in an active yet choppy trade, where despite rising tensions between Iran and the U.S. in the Straits of Hormuz over the weekend, oil prices tumbled to settle down $2.82, or -2.88% at $95.09 on the Nymex.

On Saturday, five Iranian revolutionary guard boats harassed three U.S. Navy warships sailing in the Straits of Hormuz with threatening moves and radio transmissions.

While February Crude Oil Futures (cl08g) traded as high as $98.40 at their floor session open, selling prevailed toward the close with traders citing both warmer temperature forecasts this week for much of the eastern U.S. Traders also cited some plain old profit taking on demand concerns from slowing U.S. economic growth.

Meanwhile, February Natural Gas futures (ng08g) gained $0.038, or 0.48% to $7.879/mmbtu as the storm that left tens of thousands of Californians without power headed east to parts Utah, Colorado and New Mexico with frigid temperatures expected to increase demand for the primary heating commodity this week.

Treasuries found price gains at the 5, 10 and 30-year maturities with yields falling with traders anticipating further rate cuts coming when the Federal Open Market Committee meets at the end of the month. The benchmark 10-year Treasury Yield ($TNX.X) fell 1.5 basis points to 3.839%, its lowest yield close since June 27, 2005.

New high and new low indications remain weak, yet very "oversold" short-term.

Today's 425 new lows at the big board were fewer than Friday's 561, while today's 375 new lows at the NASDAQ also an improvement from Friday's 475.

Still, Friday's 475 new lows at the NASDAQ were notable as it took out the more recent 11/08/07 low measure of 445 (81 NH/445 NL) and would suggest to this analyst some further slippage at the bottom.

It is difficult to simply note the number of new highs and new lows on a given session, but more meaningful if seen visually with a chart.

Here is an updated NYSE NH/NL Ratio Chart where I show both the "f"ive day average ratio and the 10-day average ratio using the Point and Figure methodology of O (supply outstripping demand) and X (demand outstripping supply).

NYSE NH/NL Ratio Chart - 2% box scale

The NYSE's "f"ive day NH/NL ratio has been slowly retreating from the 32% found on 12/28/07. Having reached a recent inflection high of 40% (on chart) on 12/12/08, this more intermediate-term indicator of bullish/bearish leadership has been trying to stabilize at 22% since 12/24/07.

Should we see the number of NH's exceed 62 and NL's fewer than 300 at the big board, that could be clue of a strong short-term bounce, fueled largely by short covering.

NASDAQ Comp. NH/NL Ratio Chart - 2% box scale

We can see from the NASDAQ's "f"ive day NH/NL ratio that a range is being developed for this short-term indicator of bullish/bearish leadership. Recent 40% inflection highs came on 12/11/07 and 12/28/07 and were one "reason" I thought bulls should protect gains in my 12/24/07 Market Wrap.

I should probably suggest that BEARS be protective of some handsome short-term gains tonight.

Not unlike the NYSE, the NASDAQ's 10-day NH/NL ratio has been treading water around the 28% measure since mid-December.

One additional note regarding some NH and NL indications that should be concerning to BULLS is that Friday's number of new lows among the S&P 500 components had just 7 stocks achieving a new 52-week high, while 134 members saw a new 52-week low trade.

I checked my spreadsheet and that is the largest number of new lows I've observed since I began tracking the S&P 500 components NH and NL on February 27, 2006.

U.S. Market Watch -

The Biotechnology Index (BTK.X) 789.89 +2.10% and Pharmaceutical Index (DRG.X) 342.95 +2.57% were both atop today's list of sector winners.

Shares of Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) $59.22 +7.24% once again threaten to reclaim a still rising 200-day SMA after the drug maker said 2007 earnings will be above the top end of its previous estimates and that revenues are expected to rise 15% per year through 2010.

Schnitzer Steel (NASDAQ:SCHN) $61.80 -2.90% plunged as low as $58.19 at the open, but found buyers just above its rising 200-day SMA ($58.12) after the company said earnings rose 17% to $24.7 million, or $0.85 per share in its recently completed first quarter. The company did say it was seeing some pricing pressures in California and that tight global shipping markets could weight on future results.

In Thursday's Market Wrap, I once again touched on the "crack spread" between oil and unleaded gasoline. Tonight's 5-dayNet% and 20-dayNet% would show further deterioration and some narrowing of margins for refiners.

Shares of Valero Energy (NYSE:VLO) $63.70 -0.68% did trade under the $63.00 level, a good entry point for an INITIAL position, say 1/4, but no more than 1/2 position (if you normally buy $10,000 of a stock as FULL position, then perhaps buy $2,500, or $5,000 at this point) but understand for more meaningful strength than the recent inflection high of $72.00, "crack spread" improvement must eventually confirm (see Continuous Unleaded vs. Continuous WTIC chart from Thursday). You can see a FREE chart at StockCharts.com by simply typing $GASO:$WTIC in the symbol field.

I did not profile a CALL Option Trade in today's Market Monitor at OptionInvestor.com for Valero, but would be looking to RISK $3.00/contract (1 contract = $300) in the June'08 $72.50 calls (ZPY-FV). I would want an expiration to at least be found as the summer driving season begins.


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Signs of Recession?

Several sessions ago I mentioned in the OptionInvestor.com Market Monitor that my 2008 forecast was for a "modest recession" to be found in 2008.

In Friday evening's I reviewed some of the various TECHNICAL reasons for why I think that market participants see a "modest recession," where economic indicators would confirm such analysis is April'08.

Of course, this is only from the belief that the market is a FORWARD LOOKING instrument.

Let's first get some updates on the major market bullish % from the institutionally followed data from Dorsey/Wright and Associates.

At the time of this writing, Dorsey/Wright had only tabulated the NYSE Bullish % (BPNYSE), the Over-The-Counter Bullish % (BPOTC) and the S&P 500 Bullish % (BPSPX).

StockChart.com's equivalent symbols would be $BPNYA, $BPCOMQ and $BPSPX.

All we're doing here is measuring the number of point and figure charts that have a "buy signal" still intact on their supply (O) and demand (X) charts.

Major Market Bullish % -

My "modest recession" call still has some work to be done as for any confirmation of that analysis, I would have to see an NYSE Bullish % (BPNYSE) measure of 32%, which would signal further deterioration and a "sell signal" for the more institutionally held stocks listed on the NYSE. There are just more than 3,000 stocks listed on the NYSE, so this is a VERY BROAD indicator of supply (O) and demand (X).

Here perhaps you can begin to see how the BPNYSE seems rather SIMILAR to the NYSE 10-day NH/NL measures.

Measuring two different types of internals, but both weak and nearing "oversold" levels. For the major market bullish %, levels at or above 70% are deemed "overbought," while levels at or below 30% are deemed "oversold."

Also a broad measure would be the BPOTC. Again, just more than 3,000 supply demand charts. One stack containing those charts with a "buy signal" still intact, the other stack containing those charts with a "sell signal" intact. On 11/19/07 the BPOTC generated a "sell signal" at 32% and suggested that supply of stock was outstripping demand on a broader measure.

For the S&P 500 Bullish % (BPSPX), there are now roughly 171 stocks (34.14% of 500 = 170.7) with a PnF "buy signal" intact on the chart, but 329 showing "sell signal" intact on the supply (O) and demand (X) chart.

One reason I see a "modest recession" in 2008 is that I again received multiple email at the beginning of 2008 (as I did 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007) regarding the sell-off of biblical proportions about to happen.

While some "scenarios" of why the U.S. economy as best depicted by the S&P 500 (SPX.X) 1,416.18 +0.22% have been witnessed (ie housing bubble, credit crunch) we are now at some more "oversold" broader market measures and I would then have to think that market participants have largely accounted for some type of economic slowdown.

With most economies always experiencing a cycle (expansion and contraction), the thought of a "modest recession" in 2008 isn't out of the question.

January and Q1 Pivot Levels - High/Low/Close derived

In Thursday's Market Wrap, I showed some historical SPX YEARLY Pivot levels.

The above table is January's MONTHLY Pivot levels, which may bring this month's PRICE action into closer perspective.

We could "zoom out" a bit and take a look at Q1 2008 levels.

Just as we observed in Thursday's Market Wrap that the SPX had just kissed its YEARLY Pivot (1,470), we also see that the SPX has not yet been able to trade its QUARTERLY Pivot (1,483.56), or its MONTHLY Pivot (1,476.19).

One additional level I noted in my 12/03/07 Market Wrap is the Dow Diamonds (DIA) $128.06 -0.08% MONTHLY S1 for January ($129.78).

For me, and perhaps another trader/investor that initiated a 2 million share trade at roughly $128.98, January's MONTHLY S1 becomes important.

Certainly the Russell 2000 ($RUT.X) 723.95 +0.32% ability to trade its MONTHLY S1 would give hint to some U.S. domestic economic weakness.

The thought here is that the bulk of small caps would be more dependent on U.S. economic trends as the bulk of stocks derive most of their revenue and earnings here at home.

Russell 2000 ($RUT) - 10-point box

Most institutional traders and investors will view the $RUT on a 4-point box chart, but for purposes of tonight's Market Wrap, I'm showing its chart on a 10-point box to bring into view some of 2005 and 2006 trade.

The major observation isn't just the new 52-week low, but the violation of some meaningful support that held for all of 2007 with the $RUT having NEVER traded 730.

The ability for the $RUT to trade 730 and now 720 certainly would suggest to this technical analyst (Jeff Bailey) that some more meaningful economic slowing is perceived by market participants.

New Plays

New Option Plays

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

Play Editor's Note: I haven't had a chance to read the wrap yet but I'll throw in my two cents worth. The market's rebound today was laughable at best. However, if you look at an intraday chart you will see that bulls were trying and stocks produced a mini-double bottom intraday today. Don't be surprised to see the market bounce tomorrow.

New Calls

None today.

New Puts

None today.

New Strangles

None today.

Play Updates

In Play Updates and Reviews

Call Updates

Covance - CVD - cls: 92.70 change: +2.61 stop: 84.99

We are kicking ourselves for not making our alternative entry point at $90.50 an official entry point. Over weekend we suggested buying a dip in the $88-87 range and mentioned that momentum traders may want to buy a breakout over $90.00 if the stock doesn't dip. We didn't officially state that was a newsletter entry so we're not going to take it. Now that CVD has broken resistance at $90.00 this level should be new support. We are now suggesting that readers buy a dip into the $90.50-90.00 zone. We are raising our stop loss to $86.99. We are setting two targets. Our first conservative target is $94.50-95.00. Our second, more aggressive target is the $99.00-100.00 range.

Picked on January xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 01/23/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 395 thousand


Encana - ECA - close: 68.89 change: -0.71 stop: 67.75

Crude oil dipped about 2.7% and the oil stocks followed it lower. Shares of ECA came close to hitting our stop loss but bulls managed to defend it near short-term support near $68.00. A bounce from here can be used as a new bullish entry point to buy calls but more conservative traders may want to see a new rise over $70.00 before initiating positions. Our short-term target is the $74.85-75.00 range. FYI: The P&F chart is bullish with a $92 target.

Picked on January 03 at $ 70.10 *triggered
Change since picked: - 1.21
Earnings Date 02/14/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.7 million


Hess Corp. - HES - cls: 92.92 chg: -0.43 stop: 89.90

HES provided multiple opportunities to buy a dip into our suggested entry zone of $92.00-90.00. It was encouraging to see buyers putting a floor under the stock near $91.50. Now that the play is open our target is the $99.00-100.00 range. We do not want to hold over the late January earnings report.

Picked on January 07 at $ 92.00 *triggered
Change since picked: + 0.92
Earnings Date 01/30/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 4.5 million


Hologic - HOLX - close: 70.51 chg: -0.61 stop: 66.45

HOLX experienced some profit taking today but traders bought the dip at $68.74. A bounce from here could be used as a new bullish entry point but if you're launching new plays now we'd suggest a tighter stop near $68 or today's low. HOLX has already hit our initial target in the $69.50-70.00 range. Our more aggressive target is the $74.00-75.00 range. FYI: The P&F chart is bullish and points to an $87 target. FYI: HOLX is due to present at an investor conference in San Francisco on January 9th.

Picked on December 18 at $ 66.22
Change since picked: + 4.29
Earnings Date 01/30/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.8 million


Humana Inc. - HUM - cls: 81.56 chg: +2.09 stop: 75.99

There was not much of a dip in HUM today. Investors were running into the healthcare-related stocks as safe haven plays. Traders bought HUM near $79.00 before sending it to a new all-time high over the October 2007 peak. This is a bullish move and more aggressive traders may want to buy it now. We are still wagering on a pull back. However, we're adjusting our suggested entry zone to $79.00-78.00. Our initial target is the $84.50-85.00 range. More aggressive traders may want to aim higher. The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $96 target.

Picked on January xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 02/04/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.3 million


Inverness Medical - IMA - cls: 57.89 chg: +0.37 stop: 54.49

Investors were hungry for biotech and drug stocks today. Both sectors out performed the market. Shares of IMA inched closer to a breakout over resistance near $58.00 and its 50-dma. We do not see any changes from our previous comments. We're suggesting two alternative entry points. One entry point is $58.15 should IMA breakout. Our second entry point would be a pull back into the $56.00-55.00 zone. We'll start the play with a stop loss at $54.49, just under Friday's low. Our target is the $64.00-65.00 range near its highs. FYI: IMA will be presenting at the huge healthcare/drug/biotech conference this coming week.

Picked on January xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 02/26/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 857 thousand


Noble Energy - NBL - close: 79.02 chg: +0.19 stop: 77.45

A sharp dip in crude oil futures weighed on the oil stocks. Shares of NBL dipped to $77.83 but managed to bounce back and close in the green. The $78.00 level is supposed to be support so a bounce from here can be used as a new bullish entry point. Our target is the $84.50-85.00 range. The P&F chart is bullish with an $86 target. FYI: The short-term technicals have turned bearish. I suggest waiting on the bounce to appear.

Picked on December 19 at $ 78.25
Change since picked: + 0.77
Earnings Date 02/26/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.5 million

Put Updates

Air Methods - AIRM - close: 47.54 chg: -1.23 stop: 51.50

AIRM hit our trigger for real this time. The stock broke down under support at $48.00 and closed with a 2.6% loss. We were suggesting a trigger to buy puts at $47.95. Our target is the $44.10-44.00 range since the $44 level should be support. More aggressive traders may want to aim for the 200-dma near $41-42. The P&F chart is bearish with a $39 target. Something to be aware of is AIRM's high degree of short interest. The most recent data put short interest at almost 16% of the stock's very small 10.6 million-share float. We normally don't play stocks that have an average daily volume under 250,000 shares. AIRM's volume is under that amount. The combination of low volume and high short interest probably makes this a higher-risk, more aggressive play.

Picked on January 04 at $ 47.95 *bad tick-entry
Change since picked: - 0.41
Earnings Date 03/06/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 149 thousand


Boeing - BA - close: 82.87 change: -2.95 stop: 88.05 *new*

Target exceeded! BA continues to under perform. The stock broke down under what should have been support near $85.00 on big volume. Shares lost 3.4% and closed near its lows for the session. Our initial target was the $85.55-85.00 zone. Today's low was $82.17. Our second more aggressive target is the $81.50-80.00 range. We are not suggesting new positions at this time. BA is oversold and could bounce but the stock should find new resistance in the $85.00-86.00 region. We are adjusting our stop loss to $88.05. We highly recommend that you do some profit taking and take some money off the table if you have not already. The P&F chart is bearish with a $75 target.

Picked on December 04 at $ 91.43 *triggered/gap down
Change since picked: - 8.56
Earnings Date 01/31/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 7.0 million


Essex Property - ESS - close: 89.48 chg: +1.74 stop: 95.34

ESS produced an oversold bounce today. Shares hit a low of $86.68 before bouncing back. We would not be surprised to see ESS try and fill the gap from Friday morning. We're not suggesting new positions at this time. The stock has already exceeded our first target in the $90.25-90.00 range. Our second target is the $85.50-85.00 zone. If you have not done any profit taking yet we suggest you do so. We do not want to hold over the early February earnings report, which the company just confirmed will occur on February 6th. FYI: Our biggest risk is a short squeeze. The most recent data puts short interest at close to 16% of the 22.9 million-share float. That is a relatively high amount of short interest and a small float. This does raise the risk for this play.

Picked on December 30 at $ 95.34
Change since picked: - 5.86
Earnings Date 02/06/08 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 315 thousand


Shire Plc - SHPGY - close: 65.43 change: -0.14 stop: 70.05

SHPGY continues to test round-number support at the $65.00 level. The stock under performed its peers in the drug and biotech industry groups. While this relative weakness is encouraging we'd still expect a bounce from here. We are not suggesting new positions in SHPGY at this time. The $68.00 level should be overhead resistance. The stock has already hit our 65.25-65.00 target zone. Our second, more aggressive target is the $62.00-60.00 zone. The Point & Figure chart is bearish with a $54 target. FYI: Any time we play a biotech or even a drug stock we're dealing with a higher-risk situation. We are at risk that some FDA decision or some clinical trial news could send the stock gapping one direction or the other.

Picked on December 13 at $ 68.07 *triggered/gap down entry
Change since picked: - 2.64
Earnings Date 02/00/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 956 thousand


Vornado Realty Trust - VNO - cls: 83.91 chg: +1.12 stop: 86.55*new*

Prepare for some volatility in VNO. The stock dipped to a new two-year low today at $81.28 but rebounded back into the green. We're seeing a mix of technical signals but today's bounce suggest there is more upside to come. The stock should find resistance in the $85-86 region so we're adjusting our stop loss to $86.55. Wait for a failed rally before considering new bearish positions. Our initial target is the $80.50-80.00 range. We are considering a second, more aggressive target near $75. Currently the P&F chart is bearish with a $73 target. We would not want to hold over the late February earnings report.

Picked on December 30 at $ 86.30
Change since picked: - 2.39
Earnings Date 02/27/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.3 million

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.)


Encana - ECA - close: 68.89 chg: -0.71 stop: n/a

It's not looking good for our speculative strangle play on ECA. The clock is running out for us. We don't see any changes from our weekend comments. If given the chance readers will want to consider exiting early to salvage any capital. This was a high-risk play but that doesn't mean we have to wait for the options to expire worthless. We're not suggesting new strangle positions at this time. The options we listed for the strangle were the January $75 calls (ECA-AO) and the January $60 puts (ECA-ML). Our estimated cost is $0.65. We want to sell if either option hits $1.25 or higher. FYI: The P&F chart is bullish with a $92 target.

Picked on December 20 at $ 67.52
Change since picked: + 1.37
Earnings Date 02/14/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.7 million

Dropped Calls

Energen - EGN - close: 64.23 change: -0.16 stop: 63.45

EGN only lost 16 cents by the closing bell but the early morning dip hit our stop loss. Shares of EGN broke down under technical support at its 50-dma and hit $63.27 before bouncing back. Our stop loss was at $63.45. We would keep an eye on EGN just in case this is a bear trap. Watch for a new rally over $66.00 as a potential entry point to buy calls. The P&F chart is bullish with a $74 target.

Picked on December 18 at $ 65.32
Change since picked: - 1.09
Earnings Date 01/24/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 700 thousand


Express Scripts - ESRX - cls: 77.58 chg: +4.06 stop: 69.89

Target achieved. Investors are turning to healthcare stocks as a safe haven play and the huge healthcare conference going on this week only intensifies the market's interest in this sector. Shares of ESRX continued to soar and the stock added 5.5% on Monday with strong volume. Shares hit an intraday high of $77.96. Our target was the $77.50-80.00 range. We remain bullish on ESRX and would continue to watch it for another entry point.

Picked on December 23 at $ 71.09
Change since picked: + 6.49
Earnings Date 02/07/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.5 million

Dropped Puts

Allegheny Tech. - ATI - cls: 79.24 chg: -3.57 stop: 88.75

Target exceeded. ATI continued to drop and it did so in a big way. Shares lost 4.3% and broke down under what should have been support at the $80.00 level. ATI hit an intraday low of $77.86. Our target was the $80.50-80.00 range. The stock is oversold and due for a bounce but we'd keep an eye on it for another entry point down the road.

Picked on December 31 at $ 86.75
Change since picked: - 7.51
Earnings Date 01/24/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.0 million


ICU Medical - ICUI - close: 35.69 change: +0.50 stop: 37.05

We are pulling the plug on ICUI before the play even begins. Our suggested strategy was to buy puts on a breakdown under $35.00 with a trigger at $34.90. We have decided to remove the play since there has not been any follow through on last Thursday's bearish reversal. Plus, the high amount of short interest should makes bears more than nervous. Aggressive traders may want to keep an eye on it for a breakdown under $35.00.

Picked on January xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 01/29/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 80 thousand


Sears Holding - SHLD - cls: 101.10 chg: -0.32 stop: 107.75

We're choosing to close the SHLD play. SHLD broke down to new multi-year lows at $97.36. Unfortunately, the stock bounced back and looks poised to rebound higher. The pattern is still very bearish for SHLD. However, at this time we'd rather close this play and look for a new entry point down the road. The stock has exceeded our initial target in the $100.50-100.00 range. We can keep a look out for a failed rally at its trendline of lower highs or a new relative low under $97.00 as potential entry points for new put positions. Our next target would be the $90 level but you could argue that SHLD is forecasting an $80 target.

Picked on December 11 at $110.28
Change since picked: - 9.18
Earnings Date 10/27/07 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 3.3 million

Dropped Strangles


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


Option Investor Inc is neither a registered Investment Advisor nor a Broker/Dealer. Readers are advised that all information is issued solely for informational purposes and is not to be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor is it to be construed as a recommendation to buy, hold or sell (short or otherwise) any security. All opinions, analyses and information included herein are based on sources believed to be reliable and written in good faith, but no representation or warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, is made including but not limited to any representation or warranty concerning accuracy, completeness, correctness, timeliness or appropriateness. In addition, we do not necessarily update such opinions, analysis or information. Owners, employees and writers may have long or short positions in the securities that are discussed.

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