The morning economic reports were led by the Producer Price Index (PPI), which spiked +1.1% on the headline number. Core prices rose only +0.2% and that is good if you don't eat food and use energy. Even at the relatively benign +0.2% for March it is still rising at a 5% annualized rate. Core prices for crude materials rose +3.5% for the month and +16.7% year over year. Prices for finished energy prices rose at a 22.5% annualized rate in Q1. In earlier stages of processing the rates were much higher. Intermediate energy products grew at a 46.4% rate and crude energy products grew at a 120.7% rate. Regardless of how you slice and dice the numbers the impact of rising oil prices is pushing the prices we pay for everything to record levels. With this much inflation in the pipeline the odds of future Fed rate cuts are dropping fast. The odds of a 50 point cut at the end of April FOMC meeting is now only 64%.
Dow Chart - Daily
We got a surprise this morning from the NY Empire State Manufacturing Survey when it came in fractionally higher at +0.6 compared to the -22 in March. After two months of sharp decline of -22.2 and -11.7 the survey returned to positive territory although only fractionally. Consensus estimates were looking for a drop of -16. Shipments improved to 17.5 from -5.2 and stood out as the only component to really improve. New orders, back orders and employment were mixed but with only minor movements from the prior month. The headline number appears to be an anomaly from the spike in shipments and not a new trend. Prices paid rose again to 57.3 from 50.6 and confirming the data we saw in the PPI.
In a "no news is good news" report the NAHB Housing Market Index was flat at 20 for the third consecutive month. This is still 52 points below its high in June 2005. Buyer traffic is picking up but very slowly. With consumer confidence falling to decade lows and loans becoming harder to get it was surprising that conditions did not decline. I suspect the slight recovery over the last three months is simply a function of spring buyers getting a head start knowing it was going to be a battle getting to the closing table. Unfortunately we also got the latest foreclosure numbers for March that came in with a 57% increase.
NAHB Housing Market Index Chart
A survey from BigResearch made the news today with the depth and breadth of how consumers are reacting to the higher gasoline prices. When better than 50% of respondents are actively taking steps to counter the price of gasoline this shows how oil prices are adding to the downturn in the economy.
Oil Price Survey
Economic reports for Wednesday include the Consumer Price Index (CPI), Mortgage Applications, New Residential Construction, Industrial Production and the Fed Beige Book. The two most important are the CPI (8:30) and the Beige Book (2:00). The CPI will tell us how much of the inflation seen in the PPI has filtered down to the consumer level. The Beige Book will give us some insight into the Fed's rate cut mentality. If conditions continued to decline in all the Fed's regions then there may be some more cuts ahead. If some of those regions showed improvement or maybe just no additional decline then the Fed could move to the sidelines.
Earnings in the U.S. are entering a nuclear winter according to the new Goldman Sachs U.S. Investment Strategist David Kostin. Kostin replaced Abby Joseph Cohen as their mouthpiece on the market. Kostin may be trying to make a name for himself with this week's call for the S&P to decline to 1160 over the next couple months. The S&P closed today at 1334 making a drop to 1160 an additional -13% drop. His year-end target is only 1380 or only 3% above where we closed today. This is quite a change from the perma-bull stance of Abby Cohen.
Oil prices hit $114.08 just after the close of regular trading as we close in on the expiration of crude options on Thursday and crude futures next Tuesday. Helping to push oil prices higher was news that imports from Venezuela fell -18% after shipments to Exxon were halted. That is a non-event since there was ample oil available elsewhere to replace it. The news still added to the market hype. This was the third consecutive day key Mexican ports were closed due to bad weather. That cut exports to the U.S. but again, it was just a temporary halt and not material on a long-term basis. The IEA also reported that Russian oil production had declined for the first time in ten years and the term "peaked" was used over and over in the press releases. Russia is one of the biggest global producers with about 10 mbpd of production. They have been expected to peak for a couple years. This is just one more data point suggesting global peak oil may not be far away. Nigeria reported a small outage of 5,000 bpd due to civil strife and Shell's Capline pipeline in the U.S. was shutdown for a few hours to fix a leak. Lots of news, none of it relative to $114 oil.
May Crude Futures Chart
Petrobras (PBR) gained +$12 over the last two days after Brazil's National Petroleum Agency said the company had discovered 33 billion barrels of oil. The NPA statement was quickly denied by Petrobras but the gains stuck. On Tuesday even the NPA said the report was in error but the gains stuck. Petrobras has only drilled one well in the Carioca field and is currently drilling a second well in a smaller area nearby. They are months if not a year or more away from saying they found any specific quantity of oil. They have not even presented their plan on proving out the field to the NPA. This will take multiple exploratory wells to 25,000 feet or deeper. The targeted deposits are under 7,000 feet of water, 10,000 feet of sand and rock and another 6,600 feet of salt. There is no assurance this deposit can ever be commercially completed. The salt structure is very difficult to drill and produce because shifts in the salt can crush pipes and close the well. Any completion requires heavily reinforced well pipes and the associated problems of working at depths of 25,000 feet in 7,000 feet of water. Nobel Corp (NE) was awarded a $4 billion contract by Petrobras to drill in similar conditions in the recently discovered Tupi field, which is next to the Carioca field. Think about that number. $4 billion to drill a group of deepwater wells. This is extremely difficult and expensive and Petrobras could have more than $10 billion invested before the first barrel is produced. It will be more than ten years before any production is seen from the Carioca field and that assumes it can be commercially completed. I like Petrobras and I suspect they will eventually achieve production status of some amount from these finds but it may not be material until 2020. I would be a long-term buyer of PBR on any material pullback.
After the bell today the first of the big techs reported and there was nothing to worry about. Intel (INTC) reported earnings inline with estimates of 25 cents per share or $1.44 billion in profits. Gross margin was 53.8%. Revenue rose to $9.67 billion and just barely over the $9.63 billion analysts expected. Intel raised guidance for Q2 to a range of $9.0-$9.6 billon and gross margin of 56%. Analyst current estimates for Q2 are for a profit of 28 cents. CEO Paul Otellini said "We saw healthy demand in processors and chipsets across all segments. Looking forward we remain optimistic about our growth opportunities." INTC shares rose +1.50 on the news.
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Seagate Technology (STX) saw its profit jump +62% but saw sales of disk drives for laptops decline. STX posted earnings of 70 cents compared to 37 cents in the year ago quarter. Analysts had expected 69 cents. Seagate had raised guidance in March saying it sold more drives than expected as shipments jumped +20%. They sold 43 million drives in Q1.
Washington Mutual posted a loss of -$1.1 billion as their provisions for bad loans doubled. That equates to -$1.40 per share compared to a profit of +0.86 cents in the year ago quarter. WM said it had to set aside $3.5 billion to cover bad loans in its $250 billion portfolio. WM was volatile on the announcement but returned to gain +31 cents on the news.
Railroad operator CSX said fuel surcharges and rising volumes of ethanol and grains pushed profits +46% higher in Q1. CSX earned 85 cents per share compared to 52 cents in the year ago quarter. Revenue rose +12%. Analysts had expected only 74 cents giving CSX an 11-cent beat. CSX also raised guidance to the upper end of its prior range. CSX spiked to $59.63 in after hours after closing at $57.90.
The biggest disappointment for the day came from State Street (STT). They posted profits of $1.39 per share compared to analyst estimates for $1.30 per share. STT initially rose on the news but the excitement was short lived. State Street said it was facing unrealized losses of billions of dollars. On the conference call the CFO said it already suffered a loss of $3.2 billion on its portfolio and a $2.5 billion loss on its conduits. S&P and Fitch immediately suggested the bank could be downgraded given the revelations of possible further losses. State Street manages $14.9 trillion in assets for banks and investors and has a $75 billion investment portfolio of its own. STT lost -7.63 or -10% on the news.
Crocs Inc (CROX) was hammered for a -43% loss after warning on almost every metric on Monday night. Is it time to kiss the plastic shoe trend goodbye?
CROX Chart - Daily
Big earnings on tap for Wednesday include EBAY, IBM, JPM and WFC. So far this week's results were strong in techs and weak as expected in the financials. This could be setting up for a positive surprise for the week. With the market on pins and needles already this could produce a sigh of relief and bring some buyers off the sidelines. Just remember what David Kostin from Goldman Sachs predicted on Monday, a -13% S&P drop from here. Obviously very educated and highly thought of analysts can still err in their forecasts so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the week and month play out. Futures are up strong in evening trading so it appears tomorrow could start off strong.
The Dow had declined to rest on support on 12300 for the last two days and it struggled to a +60 point gain for the day to close at 12355. Dow futures are up +50 overnight and could climb higher by tomorrow morning if Asia gains on the Intel news. After holding over 12300 for two days that sets up a clear level to short if that support fails.
The Nasdaq declined to support at 2265 ahead of the Intel earnings but recovered to close at 2285. Futures are showing +20 overnight and with Intel raising guidance and Seagate shipping 20% more drive than expected it looks very positive. The land mine in our immediate future would be IBM earnings on Wednesday. If they post good earnings and guidance then we will be headed higher, possibly much higher. IBM is either going to be the spoiler or the leader when they announce on Wednesday. IBM recovered $2 on Tuesday to finish flat and they are up another $1.25 in after hours. IBM gets 65% of its earnings from overseas so a weak U.S. market may not impact them enough to cause a big miss.
Nasdaq Chart - Daily
S&P-500 Chart - Daily
The S&P never reached my 1320 support level this week and that is bullish for me. The tone of the markets intraday was negative but the S&P found buyers on every dip. The S&P closed at 1334 and futures are up +8 overnight. Resistance is strong at 1380 and I would really love to see a monster short squeeze on techs and financials to push us back to that level. With WFC, SLM and JPM reporting tomorrow morning we could get a financial bounce if they report better than expected. Those three stocks are not really in the line of fire today although all of them still exist in a sector in trouble. If all the bad expectations are priced in then we have the potential for a positive surprise. The State Street earnings would be the type of report we do not want from JPM or WFC and nobody really expects it. The biggest financial earnings risk for the week is the Merrill Lynch earnings on Thursday. Merrill is the most leveraged of the big brokers and they could produce the biggest positive or negative surprise. Put buying on Merrill is running 3:1 over calls.
Just because the tone in the market appears to be turning positive does not mean we can just throw money at it. We still need to be cautious and wait for a clear breakout before backing up the truck. We should still trade this reversal of sentiment but with caution. My recommendation for the last two weeks has been to buy dips above SPX 1320 and that still stands. Should that level be broken I would still reverse to a short. Remember, we are approaching the "sell in May and go away" period that starts the worst six months of the year on a historical basis. Given the crash from the October highs I personally doubt that the next six months are going to be lower from here but that is always a possibility. Goldman Sach's David Kostin obviously thinks so and his pay grade is much higher than mine. Just trade what the market gives us and let the big dogs make the forecasts. We can always cheer their calls or laugh at them later.
CH Robinson Worldwide- CHRW - cls: 58.25 chg: +0.67 stop: 56.89
Why We Like It:
Note: speaking of transports we still think UNP looks tempting as a call play.
BUY CALL MAY 55.00 CJQ-EK open interest=2675 current ask $5.20
Picked on April 15 at $ 58.25
DryShips Inc. - DRYS - close: 70.32 chg: +3.21 stop: 64.99
Why We Like It:
BUY CALL MAY 65.00 DQR-EM open interest=1849 current ask $8.70
Picked on April 15 at $ 70.32
Essex Prop. - ESS - close: 112.07 chg: +1.05 stop: 109.45
Why We Like It:
BUY CALL MAY 110 ESS-EB open interest= 1 current ask $6.90
Picked on April 15 at $112.07
ExxonMobil - XOM - cls: 90.80 chg: +1.10 stop: 87.95
Why We Like It:
BUY CALL MAY 85.00 XOM-EQ open interest=2375 current ask $6.85
Picked on April 15 at $ 90.80
Merrill Lynch - MER - cls: 43.34 chg: +0.46 stop: n/a
Why We Like It:
April strangle - very speculative, will be worthless after this Friday. Estimated cost $0.90. Want to sell if either option hits $1.80 or more.
BUY CALL APR 47.50 MER-DW open interest=17128 current ask $0.53
BUY CALL MAY 50.00 MER-EJ open interest=8695 current ask $0.91
Picked on April 15 at $ 43.34
Ashland Inc. - ASH - close: 51.35 change: +0.34 stop: 48.95 *new*
It was another mild day for ASH. The stock continued to trade sideways and Tuesday marked the third time in the last few sessions that traders have bought the dip near $50.50. We are raising our stop loss to $48.95. More conservative traders may want to tighten their stops even further. There is potential resistance at its 200-dma in the $54 zone. Our target is the $57.00-58.00 range. We do not want to hold over the late April earnings report.
Picked on April 06 at $ 51.25
Bunge Ltd - BG - close: 108.58 chg: -0.84 stop: 102.45
BG's rally ran out of steam at $111.77 this morning and shares pulled back a bit in profit taking following yesterday's gains. A dip near $106-105 can be used as a new entry point for calls. Our target will be $114.50-115.00. The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $129 target. We do not want to hold over the April 24th (before the opening bell) earnings report.
Picked on April 14 at $105.25 *triggered
Baker Hughes - BHI - close: 75.15 chg: +2.08 stop: 69.45
BHI displayed relative strength today with a 2.8% gain. Shares rallied to a new two and a half month highs and closed above the simple 100-dma for the first time in months. The P&F chart is bullish as the stock has broken through resistance and points to an $89 target. Our target is the $78.50-80.00 range. We do not want to hold over the April 22nd earnings report.
Picked on April 10 at $ 72.76
CONSOL Energy - CNX - cls: 79.02 chg: -0.25 stop: 74.99 *new*
Rival coal producer Massey (MEE) was upgraded again this morning. MEE's upgrade fueled another burst higher for coal stocks. CNX opened at $80.33 and surged to $82.00 before paring its gains. Yesterday we had added a second breakout higher entry point to buy calls at $80.55 so the pl ay is now open. Our new stop loss is $74.99. Our target is the $88.00-90.00 zone. Remember, we do not want to hold over the late April earnings report, which does not give us much time left.
Picked on April 15 at $ 80.55
Fluor - FLR - close: 149.90 chg: +1.60 stop: 144.45
FLR added 1% today and is acting like it's ready to rally again. We're sticking with our comments from yesterday and suggest waiting for a rally past $151.00 or $152.00 before launching new call positions. Our first target is the $159.00-160.00 zone. Our second target is the $168.00-170.00 zone. We do not want to hold over earnings in early May. FYI: The P&F chart is bullish with a $184 target.
Picked on April 01 at $146.50 *triggered
CurrencyShares Euro - FXE - cls: 157.96 chg: -0.47 stop: 156.45
The U.S. dollar actually showed some strength today so it's natural that we see a dip in the FXE. The trend of higher lows (support) is still intact so readers can use this dip as a new entry point to buy calls. There is some resistance in the $159 region and more conservative traders may want to wait for a new high to launch positions. Our target is the $164.00-165.00 range. Our time frame is three to five weeks.
Picked on April 13 at $158.57
Hovnanian - HOV - close: 11.01 chg: +0.49 stop: 9.69
Investors bought the dip at $10.50 yesterday and they did it again today. We're starting to wonder if we should have left our buy the dip entry point at $10.50 instead of moving it down to $10.25-10.00. We're going to stick with our plan for now. More conservative traders may want to use a tighter stop loss if we do get triggered. If triggered at $10.25 our first target is the $12.75-13.00 range. Our second, more aggressive target will be the $14.50-15.00 zone.
Picked on April xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER 10.25
Joy Global - JOYG - close: 70.78 chg: +1.68 stop: 68.45
JOYG also displayed some relative strength today. Shares gapped open higher, rallied toward $72.00 and then caved in intraday but just low enough to fill the morning gap. Shares still look poised to rally through resistance in the $72.00-72.50 zone to hit new all-time highs. We're suggesting readers buy calls at $72.55. If triggered our target is the $79.50-80.00 range. The P&F chart is already bullish with an $88 target.
Picked on April xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Lincoln Elec. - LECO - cls: 69.88 chg: +0.21 stop: 68.74 *new*
This is the sixth day in a row that LECO has been stuck trading sideways and oscillating on either side of the 200-dma. The last three sessions have seen a $69.00-70.50 trading range. Readers could buy LECO now but we would suggest a tight stop. As a matter of fact we are raising our stop loss to $68.74. However, readers might want to wait for some sort of breakout like a move over $70.50 or $71.35 before launching positions. Our first target is the $74.85-75.00 range. Our second target is the $78.00-80.00 zone. The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $91 target. We do not want to hold over the late April earnings report.
Picked on April 07 at $ 73.73 *triggered/gap higher
Arcelor Mittal - MT - close: 84.95 chg: +1.54 stop: 79.45
MT could be poised to run. Shares were upgraded to a "buy" this morning, which sparked the gap open higher at $84.79. The stock retraced this gain and essentially "filled the gap" from this morning before rebounding higher into the closing bell. This is good news for the bulls. Our target is the $89.00-90.00 zone. The P&F chart is very bullish and just saw its price target jump from $101 to $113 this past week.
Picked on March 31 at $ 82.03 *triggered/gap open
Potash Corp. - POT - close: 184.41 chg: +2.51 stop: 159.90
The taunting continues. POT posted another gain and another new all-time high. We love the relative strength in this group but nothing goes up in a straight line for very long. We're sticking to our plan for now. Right now we're suggesting readers buy calls in the $170.50-167.50 zone. Honestly, if the market really sees a sell-off we'd rather buy bullish positions in POT near $160 and its 50-dma. We have a very wide stop because the stock and this group has been so volatile. If triggered near $170 we have two targets. Our first target is the $184.00-185.00 range. Our second target is the $194.00-200.00 zone. FYI: The P&F chart is bullish with a $218 target. POT is due to report earnings in the last half of April and we do not want to hold over the report, which doesn't give us a lot of time so don't count on hitting that second target.
Picked on April 03 at $ xx.xx <--see TRIGGER
Ultra Petrol. - UPL - close: 83.85 chg: +0.50 stop: 78.95 *new*
UPL is also setting new highs. Traders bought the intraday dip. We are raising our stop loss to $78.95. Our target is the $89.50-90.00 zone. The P&F chart has broken through resistance and points to a $95 target.
Picked on April 10 at $ 81.50
United States Oil - USO - close: 91.44 chg: +1.80 stop: 86.49*new*
Crude oil futures surged to a new record at $114 a barrel. This helped push the USO past psychological resistance at the $90.00 mark. The USO also closed at a new record higher. The situation looks set for USO to hit our first target at $92.50 soon. We are raising our stop loss to $86.49. Our second, more aggressive target is the $97.50-100.00 zone.
Picked on April 07 at $ 86.49 *triggered/gap higher
Ambac Fincl. - ABK - cls: 5.05 change: -0.01 stop: n/a
ABK hit new three-month lows at $4.75 today. Shares were approaching their January 2008 low of $4.50. ABK did manage a bounce but still closed in the red. ABK is due to report earnings on April 23rd. If ABK does not see a steep sell-off this week or in reaction to its earnings report on the 23rd we're going to want to exit since we are down to the last five weeks of May options. Option price premiums see their decay speed up as we enter the last 30 days to expiration. We don't have a stop loss on this play because the stock has been so volatile in the past. However, we're considering a stop loss at $6.51 to close the play on any unexpected strength. We are not suggesting new bearish positions in ABK. This remains a very speculative play. We will definitely hold over the April earnings if we get the chance. Previously we had been suggesting the May out-of-the money puts ($5.00 and $2.50 strikes).
Picked on January 27 at $ 11.54
Capital One - COF - close: 45.97 chg: -1.15 stop: 52.55
COF witnessed an early morning spike to $48.80 but it quickly reversed course and shares posted another 2.4% decline. Investors are naturally worried about the company's upcoming earnings report. Normally we never want to hold over a company's earnings report but we're strongly considering an exception with COF. The company reports on April 17th after the closing bell. Our target is the $41.50-40.00 zone. The Point & Figure chart is bearish with a $38 target.
Picked on April 13 at $ 48.30
eBay Inc. - EBAY - close: 31.58 chg: +0.21 stop: 32.26
EBAY tried to rally again this morning but stalled under the $32.00 level. Tomorrow is earnings day and we wouldn't expect to see a lot of movement in EBAY until after the report, which comes after the closing bell tomorrow. Wall Street is looking for a profit of 39 cents a share for the first quarter. Normally we do not hold over an earnings report. This is an exception to that rule and we're betting on a post-earnings sell-off. This does raise our risk since an earnings surprise could obviously send shares higher. Because of this unknown risk variable (earnings, whisper number, etc) we're labeling this an aggressive play. EBAY reports earnings on April 16th after the closing bell. Our initial target is the $26.00 mark.
Picked on April 13 at $ 30.87
Fannie Mae - FNM - close: 25.95 chg: +0.61 stop: 30.26
After several days of declines we're finally seeing an oversold bounce in shares of FNM. Readers can watch for the bounce to continue but look for a failed rally in the $27.50-29.00 zone as a new entry point for shorts. FNM has already exceeded our target at the $25.25 mark. Our second target is the $21.00-20.00 zone.
Picked on April 08 at $ 29.00 /1st target exceeded 25.25
Humana Inc - HUM - cls: 42.86 chg: +0.44 stop: 45.76
HUM tagged another new five-week low this morning but quickly reversed higher. Shares ended with a 1% gain although we did note that volume was very low today. This is probably nothing more than an oversold bounce. Our target is the $40.50-40.00 zone. More aggressive traders may want to aim lower. Currently the P&F chart is so bearish it points to a target of zero ($0.00).
Picked on March 30 at $ 45.20
iShares Financial - IYF - close: 81.47 chg: +0.79 stop: 85.55
The IYF bounced near the $80.00 level. This looks like a short-term oversold bounce. Watch for a failed rally in the $83-85 zone as a new entry point for shorts. Our target is the $76.00-75.00. We're adding a second target in the $71.50-70.00 zone.
Picked on April 13 at $ 82.51
iShares Fincl.Servcs. - IYG - cls: 85.49 chg: +0.99 stop: 92.26
It's the same story here with the IYG. The financial services iShares bounced from its intraday lows but it doesn't look serious. A failed rally under $90.00 can be used as a new entry point for puts. We have two targets. Our first target is the $82.00-80.00 zone. Our second, more aggressive target is the $76.00-75.00 zone.
Picked on April 13 at $ 87.26
Juniper Networks - JNPR - cls: 22.73 chg: -0.38 stop: 24.55
The picture doesn't look good for JNPR. Today's move looks like both a failed rally under the 10-dma and a bearish engulfing candlestick (reversal) pattern. Volume was below average. The move under $23.00 has reversed the P&F chart into a new sell signal with a $16.00 target. We do not want to hold over the late April earnings report. Our target is the $20.15-20.00 zone.
Picked on April 09 at $ 22.95 triggered
MBIA Inc. - MBI - close: 11.53 change: -0.19 stop: n/a
Shares of MBI still seem to be fading lower. We are not suggesting new bearish positions at this time. We had been suggesting the out-of-the-money May puts (7.50, 5.00 and 2.50 strikes).
Picked on January 27 at $ 14.20
(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.)
Goldman Sachs - GS - cls: 164.20 chg: +0.61 stop: n/a
The broker stocks saw a bounce today as the Lehman Brothers CEO was quoted as saying the "worst is behind us" for the credit crisis. We've heard that cry before so we are not convinced very easily. Shares of GS dipped to $161.68 and then began to bounce, very slowly. The stock was arguably short-term oversold. We are not suggesting new strangles at this time. The options we suggested for this strangle were the May $190 calls (GPY-ER) and the May $160 puts (GPY-QL). Our estimated cost was $8.70. We want to sell if either option trades at $14.50 or higher. FYI: The May $160 puts hit a high of $7.70 today.
Picked on April 06 at $175.40
Today's Newsletter Notes: Market Wrap by Jim Brown and all other plays and content by the Option Investor staff.
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