Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Tuesday, 08/26/2008

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Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Holiday Churn

Market Wrap

As we count down to the Labor Day weekend volume is going to continue to slow and our trading range is likely to tighten. Support has weakened but that is probably due more to a lack of traders than an abundance of sellers. The next three days are likely to be a lot of flash but no substance. Low volume is going to make any moves meaningless because they can be reversed in a heartbeat when traders return next week.

NYSE Composite Index Chart - Daily

There were eight economic reports today but none were earth shaking. Weekly chain store sales came in a +0.2% after a +0.1% gain the prior week. Both numbers illustrate how lackluster the back to school shopping season has been.

The S&P/Case Shiller Monthly Home Price Index for June showed home prices fell -17.0% over the past year. This was actually a positive report because prices were down -16.9% in the May report. A minor -0.1% decline over the last month is not a problem in my book. Unfortunately this is a lagging report and June is still part of the spring selling season and therefore prices would have been higher. As we get the reports from later in the summer the odds are good we are going to see larger declines. Most government economists expect declines in the 20% range. Another flaw in this report is the trailing 12-month calculation. Home prices could be down 40% over the last two years and the report would only show the last 12-month decline.

TThe OFHEO Purchase-only House Price Index also held steady in June after a few of the regional markets rallied. The OFHEO index showed prices were down only 4.8% overall over the same period in 2007. The flaw in this report is it only covers FHA conforming loans. It does not include jumbo loans or Alt-A and subprime loans. As such it shows the middle range of the housing sector is still relatively ok with only a small annual decline. Of course we know the subprime sector has imploded and jumbo loans are at a standstill with million dollar and higher homes down 50% in some areas.


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New Home Sales for July improved slightly over June to 515,000 compared to 503,000 homes. The rate of sales has been in this range for four months and suggests that sector is stabilizing. The months of supply of completed homes fell to 10.1 months and the lowest level in five months. This is also a positive sign of improvement. However, the annualized decline in sales for Q2 was still -26% below Q2-2007. Sales are still slow but with builders slowing the pace of construction over the last year the industry is on the road to a recovery. Inventory has fallen -23% from July 2007 levels.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Survey held at -16 for August and the same level as July. This was the fourth consecutive month in contraction territory. Raw material prices increased +3.65% but that was less than the +4.41% increase in July. Shipments improved 10 points to -13 but new orders fell -5 points to -22. The six-month outlook rose +10 points to positive territory at +6. Overall the outlook for the Richmond region declined in August despite no change in the headline number.

Consumer Confidence improved to 56.9 from the earlier 51.9 reading for August. The expectations component was responsible for the gain. This was the second monthly gain suggesting the worst is over. Assessments of current labor market conditions worsened. Those planning to buy a home increased to 3.3% from 2.8% and those planning on buying an appliance rose to 31.6% from 28.6%. Falling gasoline prices are a big part of the improvement in confidence.

CConsumer Confidence

The FOMC minutes from the August 5th meeting were released today and as expected the members were concerned about the continuing risks to growth. Most expected inflation to moderate but there was still a battle between the hawks and doves on the committee. The committee did not feel the current policy of 2% Fed rates was over accommodative. Payrolls continued to fall with widespread job losses. Consumer spending picked up but members felt it was only stimulus checks being spent. They were encouraged by the slowing decline in the housing market. Business investment remained soft with a decline in spending on equipment and software. Headline inflation was expected to slow now that energy prices have moderated. There were several acknowledgements that the committee was split. In terms of prices "most meeting participants thought inflation would moderate in coming quarters." Also, "nearly all meeting participants saw continuing downside risks to growth." This was clearly a sign the tension between the inflation hawks and those who want to keep rates low. Richard Fisher has dissented at every FOMC meeting this year in favor of raising rates. The minutes expect growth to be depressed for several more quarters with it not returning to its potential until the second half of 2009. The committee also felt the credit crisis was not over and expressed concern about the continued weakness. The committee felt the next rate move would be a rate hike but agreed the timing and size of such an increase would depend on the economic circumstances. The FOMC comments suggest there will not be a change in rates for several months. Once growth finally finds some traction we can expect the Fed to raise rates aggressively.

Economic reports for Wednesday include the Mortgage Application Survey, Durable Goods and the Oil and Gas Inventories.

The quarterly FDIC problem bank report was also released and it was not pretty. The number of problem banks rose to 117 from the 90 in the first quarter. Assets of problem banks rose to $78.3 billion from $26.3 billion in Q1. $32 billion of this increase was due to the IndyMac failure. That will stay on the FDIC books until they are successful in selling those assets. The FDIC also said the insurance fund had declined to a fund to asset ratio of 1.01% and below legal requirements. The FDIC said it would have to raise additional capital to get back into compliance. The fund ratio stood at 1.32% just a couple years ago. Today at 1.01% there is $45 billion in FDIC funds insuring about $4.5 trillion in deposits at member banks. To increase this ratio the FDIC will raise fees to all FDIC banks at a time when profits are near record lows. Bank profits for all the FDIC insured banks in the U.S. fell to only $5 billion in Q2. That is a drop of -86% over the $38.6B in Q2-07. The FDIC said the credit crisis had not bottomed and loan loss reserves at member banks needed to be increased again. Corporate credit spreads widened over the past week by 17 basis points and are very close to the high set back in March. Credit is continuing to tighten and credit losses are rising. When the FDIC and the FOMC both express concern over the continuing credit crisis on the same day we should pay attention.

Oil prices continued their extreme volatility ahead of tomorrow's inventory report. Crude fell overnight to $112.36 and then rallied to $117.89 on news that tropical storm Gustav had been upgraded to a category one hurricane and is expected to enter the gulf on Sunday as a possible category four storm. The volatility has been huge in the crude contract with more than a $10 range over the last week. Fay finally evaporated after nearly two weeks of wandering around the eastern gulf and away from the oil patch. Unfortunately Gustav appears to be aiming for a direct hit on the oil patch and New Orleans. Winds are already at 90 mph and it should hit the oil patch about 5PM on Sunday. Of course the leading winds will start battering those oil platforms early Sunday morning. This suggests traders will be getting long before the weekend or at least covering their shorts. I believe traders are going to wait until after the weekly inventory report Wednesday morning before changing positions. There are three more storm systems heading for the Caribbean about a week behind Gustav. Odds are good at least one will turn into a storm named Hannah.

CCrude Oil Chart

Storm Plot Chart for Gustav

This is a holiday week with many traders already away from the market and enjoying the last week of the summer at their favorite vacation spot. Volume has been falling for the last week and that favors the bears rather than the bulls. However, the markets tend to ramp into a holiday. The Stock Traders Almanac suggests there are several conflicting trends heading into the weekend. The last four days of August have been up the last four years but the next to the last day (Thursday) has been down 10 of the last 11 years. This is seen as the last real trading day before the holiday even though the market is open on Friday. Analysts view this decline as short covering before the holiday and preparation for the normal September decline. September is historically the worst month of the year for the markets. Fund managers tend to come back from the Labor Day holiday and begin cleaning house as they approach year-end. They unload losers and then cash out on some winners to offset the losses. The cash they generate they reinvest into the next set of hopefuls for 2009. The day after Labor Day has been up 11 of the last 13 years but then the markets begin to fade with the September triple witching week the worst week of the month. br>
MMarket Internals Table Showing Decreasing Volume

With volume slowing and market support eroding I would be very skeptical of any rallies the rest of the week. The Dow has not declined to initial support at 11300 but came close at 11350 on Tuesday. The Friday short squeeze has been erased and were it not for a buy program late Tuesday we could have easily closed on that 11300 level. A break under 11300 should retest 11000. With the worst month of the year ahead I think we have a very good chance of seeing that 11000 level. Remember, the Dow and the S&P has a very high beta to the financial sector. With the OMC minutes and the FDIC report both claiming the credit crisis is worsening again the banks are probably not going to be moving higher. The FDIC assets at risk doubled without counting the IndyMac failure. The worries over Fannie and Freddie are continuing and nationalism continues to be discussed. Without any strength in banks the Dow and S&P will continue to be weak. The XLF closed just over support at $20 and a break there could easily test the July lows. The S&P bounced off support at 1265 for a minor +6 point rebound. A break there could test 1250 and then 1210.

DDow Chart - Daily

Financial Sector SPDR XLF Chart - Daily

S&P-500 Chart - Daily

The Nasdaq hit support at 2350 today and saw some immediate buying interest with AAPL, RIMM, CSCO and INTC returning to positive territory before the close. Unfortunately it was not enough buying to return the Nasdaq to positive territory. The tech sector and small caps were the only things moving the markets higher over the last month. Without this supporting cast the path of least resistance is down. The next support level for the Nasdaq is around 2275 followed by 2200.

Nasdaq Composite Chart - Daily

Russell-2000 Chart - Daily

The Russell tested support at 720 on Monday and then broke that level at 2:PM this afternoon to trade as low as 716. The end of day buy program took it back to 722.77 and technically over support but it appears very week. The asdaq and Russell both hit new two-week lows today. The tide has turned and until the internals and volume improve significantly I would not buy these dips for anything but a short-term trade. The next support level on the Russell is 700 followed by 660.

I hope I have painted a picture of a change in market sentiment to negative as we head into September. Just remember there could be some trading bounces heading into the holiday and early next week. I would not view them as a positive change in sentiment but as potential short squeezes. There is a market axiom that says, "Don't short a dull market." I have given back tens of thousands of dollars over the years ignoring that axiom. Dull markets on low volume can be pushed around like Gustav would push a sailboat. The smallest of buy programs can cause very sharp spikes triggering trailing stops only to see prices return to the lows shortly thereafter. This is not a week where professional traders are in the markets. They know to avoid the quicksand and the traps hidden under it. I would strongly suggest everyone trade the next three days with only the risk capital you can afford to lose and definitely take profits early. The herd is starting to lean to the downside and that is a risky position in a dull market.

I would like to invite everyone to attend the 2008 Peak Oil Conference with me on Sept 21-23 in Sacramento. About 20 Option Investor subscribers and myself will be attending and it will definitely be fun and entertaining. There are dozens of speakers and all the presentations will have reams of data on Peak Oil and its impact. It is not specifically on investing for Peak Oil although there are presentations on that in the schedule.

The conference will convince anyone that peak oil is real and give you a countdown calendar for its arrival. I have dozens of people email me every week asking questions about peak oil. This is where to get your answers. The first day is the story and all aspects of the coming problem will be presented. The second day covers the impact. What role will coal play? What is the future for aviation? How will governments react to the changes? What hardships will ordinary people be forced to endure? What is the future of transportation?

AAll the Option Investor attendees will sit together so we can talk about the presentations during the breaks. I will be holding an evening session just for OI attendees and it will be Q&A and a general discussion about what we heard that day and how to profit from it. I strongly suggest anyone concerned about their future not miss this opportunity.

Go here to register: http://www.aspo-usa.org/aspousa4/

On the third page of the registration put my name in the "How did you hear" box. That way I can track the registrations and send you emails about meeting times and places. I guarantee you will not be disappointed with what you learn.

See you in Sacramento!

Jim Brown

New Plays

Most Recent Plays

Click here to email James
New Option Plays
Call Options Plays
Put Options Plays
Strangle Options Plays
WLL None None

Play Editor's Note: Oil and energy stocks are on the move again and almost all the stocks I reviewed in this sector look poised to move higher. The threat of hurricane Gustav hitting the Gulf of Mexico could push crude oil higher. Plus, we have the ongoing conflict with Russia and Georgia and the rising tensions between the U.S./Nato and Russia over this conflict. Oil tends to move up into the middle of September and then reverses lower once the worst of hurricane season has passed and the summer driving season ends.

FYI: More oil stocks that look like bullish candidates are: OII, OXY, BHI, HP, OIS, SPN and the XLE.

New Calls

Whiting Petrol. - WLL - cls: 95.80 chg: +2.38 stop: 89.95

Company Description:
Whiting Petroleum Corporation, a Delaware corporation, is an independent oil and gas company that acquires, exploits, develops and explores for crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids primarily in the Permian Basin, Rocky Mountains, Mid-Continent, Gulf Coast and Michigan regions of the United States. (source: company press release or website)

Why We Like It:
Please read tonight's Play Editor's Note. WLL is a bullish looking oil stock. Shares have broken out from its trendline of lower highs and technical resistance at several moving averages. Volume has been light but that is normal for late August. We are suggesting readers buy calls on WLL now. Or you can wait until after the oil inventory report Wednesday morning. Oil might dip on the report and WLL could dip with it. Odds are good that hurricane Gustav will hit the Gulf of Mexico and that should drive oil higher. We are setting two targets. Our first target is $103.50. Our second target is $107.00. FYI: More conservative traders may want to play with a stop loss at $91.45, under the recent low. Meanwhile the Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $132 target.

Suggested Options:
We expect this play to be over in three weeks so we're listing September options. October options should also work well.

BUY CALL SEP 95.00 WLL-IS open interest=1072 current ask $6.40
BUY CALL SEP 100.0 WLL-IT open interest= 821 current ask $4.20
BUY CALL SEP 105.0 WLL-IA open interest=1338 current ask $2.45

Picked on August 26 at $ 95.80
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 10/30/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.1 million


United States Oil - USO - cls: 93.90 chg: +0.80 stop: 89.79

Company Description:
The United States Oil fund is an exchange traded fund (ETF) that mimics the performance and price of West Texas Intermediate light, sweet crude oil.

Why We Like It:
I expect crude oil to rally by the end of the week and into next week thanks to the oncoming hurricane Gustav. Yet short-term the commodity could dip on Wednesday's oil inventory report. The report comes out tomorrow around 10:30 a.m. We are suggesting readers buy the dip following the report. I would look for a pull back near $92.00 or potentially $90.00. The newsletter's strategy will be to buy calls on the USO at 11:30 a.m., about 1 hour after the report. You may want to adjust your entry based on how the market and oil is acting tomorrow. Our short-term target is $99.50.

Suggested Options:
This play will be over in three weeks so we're suggesting the September calls. More conservative traders may want more time and buy Octobers. Strikes are available at $1.00 increments. Pick the strike you like the best.

BUY CALL SEP 92.00 IYS-IN open interest=2174 current ask $5.50
BUY CALL SEP 95.00 IYS-IQ open interest=9777 current ask $4.10
BUY CALL SEP 98.00 IYS-IT open interest=2314 current ask $2.90

Picked on August xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 00/00/00
Average Daily Volume = 13.9 million

New Puts

None today.

New Strangles

None today.

Play Updates

Updates On Latest Picks

Click here to email James

Call Updates

Arch Coal - ACI - close: 54.33 chg: +0.45 stop: 49.95

Coal stock ACI continued to trade sideways. The market couldn't make up its mind on what direction to go and ACI just bounced around. We remain cautious and more conservative traders may want to raise their stops toward $52.00 or $52.50. We are not suggesting new bullish positions. Our target is the $58.00-60.00 zone. The P&F chart is bullish with a $68 target.

Picked on August 20 at $ 52.37
Change since picked: + 1.96
Earnings Date 10/20/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 6.4 million


Chesapeake Energy - CHK - cls: 49.45 chg: +1.45 stop: 46.90*new*

Natural gas futures soared higher today and that lifted shares of CHK. The stock hit $50.24 intraday but failed to close over round-number resistance at $50.00. We are adjusting our stop loss to $46.90, which is under Monday's low of $47.11 and CHK's 10-dma. If you're looking for another entry point wait for a dip back toward $48.25-48.00. We have two targets. Our first target is $52.00. Our second target is $54.85. FYI: As expected CHK produced a brand new P&F chart buy signal that now points to a $62 target.

Picked on August 20 at $ 48.05 *triggered
Change since picked: + 1.40
Earnings Date 11/06/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 20.2 million


Itron Inc. - ITRI - close: 101.64 change: -1.60 stop: 99.90

Our unrealized gains in ITRI are quickly vanishing. We've been warning readers that momentum has been fading and a dip back toward $100 is not that unexpected. Given the current circumstances we are not suggesting new bullish entries at this time. We've set two targets. Our first target is $105.75. Our second target is $109.90.

Picked on August 14 at $ 101.50
Change since picked: + 0.14
Earnings Date 10/30/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 616 thousand


Research In Motion - RIMM - cls: 127.18 chg: +0.15 stop: 124.65

As expected shares of RIMM dipped back toward support near $125.00. Fortunately, the stock managed a late day bounce. The bad news is that the technical indicators, which were already struggling, have turned more bearish. The daily chart's MACD is near a new sell signal. A bounce from here could be used as a new entry point but I'd probably wait for a new move over $130 before initiating new positions. Or you could try timing a jump on another dip near $125. Overall this is not a great environment to be launching new bullish plays. We have two targets. Our first target is $143.50. Our second target is the $155.00-160.00 zone. However, readers should expect RIMM to encounter some resistance in the $145-150 area.

Picked on August 21 at $132.30
Change since picked: - 5.12
Earnings Date 09/25/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 19.1 million


UltraShort S&P 500 - SDS - cls: 66.58 chg: -0.44 stop: 64.95

The SDS "rallied" to $67.45 intraday before trimming its gains. We don't see any changes from our previous comments. We want to see the SDS clear last week's highs. We're suggesting a trigger to buy calls at 68.01. If triggered our target is the $73.50-75.00 range. We would consider this a slightly more aggressive play since the SDS is going to be twice as volatile as the S&P 500. For every 1% the S&P goes down, the SDS will go up 2%.

Picked on August xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 00/00/00
Average Daily Volume = 25 million


CBOE Volatility Index - VIX - close: 20.49 chg: -0.48 stop: n/a

The VIX failed to breakout over its trendline of lower highs. We don't see any changes from our prior comments. We have been suggesting that readers wait for a new rally over 22.50 to buy calls again. We're betting that the market will see another sharp sell-off and investor fear will rise enough to push the VIX toward 30.00 and all before the October option expiration. Our target is 29.75 but readers might want to consider scaling out of positions in the 28-29 region.

Picked on August 03 at $ 22.57
Change since picked: - 2.08
Earnings Date 00/00/00
Average Daily Volume = x million

Put Updates

Bank of Amer. - BAC - cls: 29.02 change: +0.06 stop: 31.05 *new*

BAC managed a minor bounce following yesterday's reversal lower. The overall trend remains bearish although short-term technicals are a mixed bag. You could argue that the MACD on the daily chart is potentially building for a turn higher. We are inching our stop loss down to $31.05. More conservative traders may want to use a tighter stop near $30.50 instead. We have two targets. Our first target was $28.00, which has already been achieved. Our second target is $25.50.

Picked on August 07 at $ 31.52 /1st target exceeded
Change since picked: - 2.50
Earnings Date 10/16/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 90.4 million


Chipotle Mex.Grill - CMG - cls: 70.37 chg: +0.24 stop: 73.65

Darden Restaurants (DRI) issued an earnings warning this morning and that weighed on all the restaurant stocks. Shares of CMG spiked to $66.40 this morning before fighting its way back into the green. Look for this bounce to roll over in the $71-72 zone before considering new put positions. The MACD on the daily chart is very close to a new sell signal. We have two targets. Our first target is $65.50. Our second target is $61.00.

Picked on August 20 at $ 69.90 *triggered
Change since picked: + 0.47
Earnings Date 10/30/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 888 thousand


iShares Russell 2000 - IWM - cls: 72.17 chg: +0.11 stop: 74.15

Wow! It was a close call today. The markets didn't do much and the major averages bounced around. The IWM dipped to $71.46 this afternoon before recovering. Our suggested trigger to buy puts was at $71.45. Technically we're still sitting on the sidelines. We're going to stick to our entry point but more nimble traders may want to try and enter on a failed rally under the 10-dma near $73.50. If you prefer to see more momentum to the downside then wait for a drop under the 50-dma (near 70.85) or wait for a drop under $70.00. Our target is the $66.50 level.

Picked on August xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 00/00/00
Average Daily Volume = 110 million


Millicom Intl. - MICC - cls: 79.58 chg: -0.11 stop: 80.75

We don't see any changes from our previous comments. MICC still acts like its path of least resistance is down. Traders did buy the dip near its 20-dma midday. We are going to stick to our original plan and use a trigger at $78.49. If triggered we're listing two targets. Target number one is $75.05. Target number two is $72.50.

Picked on August xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 10/23/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.0 million


Regional Bank HOLDRs - RKH - cls: 98.29 chg: +0.59 stop: 103.05

Banking stocks staged a rebound late in the session and the RKH managed to close in the green. We don't see any changes from our previous comments. More conservative traders may want to tighten their stops toward the $102 region. We have two targets. Our first target is $91.00. Plan to exit all or most of your position there. We'll set an aggressive, secondary target at $86.00. FYI: The top three holdings in the RKH are JPM (19%), WFC (13.6%) and WB (10%).

Picked on August 18 at $ 99.80
Change since picked: - 1.51
Earnings Date 00/00/00
Average Daily Volume = 3.1 million


Uniao de Bancos Brasil - UBB - cls: 115.36 chg: +0.22 stop: 117.75

UBB is back to testing major support in the $113-115 zone. Traders bought the dip again. Aggressive traders could try buying calls on a bounce over $116 with a tight stop loss and try to scalp a few points. We're waiting for a breakdown under support given the ongoing concerns in the financial sector. Our suggested entry point to buy puts is at $112.50. If triggered our target is the $102.50-100.00 zone. FYI: More nimble traders may want to switch to bullish strategies if UBB can bounce above the $123.00 mark.

Picked on August xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 11/06/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.5 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.)


Lehman Brothers - LEH - close: 14.03 chg: +0.58 stop: n/a

Here's an idea. No one seems to be willing to step up to the plate and invest in or buy LEH these days. So now LEH is thinking about creating a new, separate company, with the help of some un-named outside investors. The sole purpose of this company is to buy some of LEH's mortgage-backed assets that everyone is so worried over. Who is going to buy this stuff unless it's 25 cents on the dollar? You have to wonder if they're talking to real investors or just thinking, "what if?"

We don't see any changes from our previous comments and we're not suggesting new strangle positions. We have four weeks left before September options expire and need to see LEH significantly above $24.00 or under $10.00. The options we suggested were the September $24.00 calls (LYH-IR) and the September $10.00 puts (LYH-UB). Our estimated cost is $2.15. We want to sell if either option hits $3.50 or higher.

Picked on July 27 at $ 17.05
Change since picked: - 3.02
Earnings Date 09/18/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 63 million

Dropped Calls

Adobe Systems - ADBE - close: 43.36 chg: -0.31 stop: 43.34

ADBE continued to drift lower following Monday's failed rally under its 10-dma. Tuesday saw shares hit our stop loss at $43.34 and close the play. Short-term technicals have turned negative and we would look for a dip toward the 50-dma or 100-dma.

Picked on August 05 at $ 43.34 /stopped out 43.34
Change since picked: + 0.02
Earnings Date 09/16/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 6.5 million

Dropped Puts


Dropped Strangles


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


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