Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Tuesday, 09/02/2008

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Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Bulls Couldn't Hold Back the Flood

Market Wrap

Jim is under the weather today and I'm filling in. While he has a virus attack on his body I had a virus attack on my computer and therefore I'm behind the power curve in trying to get a newsletter out tonight. I'll provide as complete a summary of today's activities and what the charts look like and then get into my more thorough market wrap on Thursday.

It wasn't just Hurricane Gustav that caused some flooding over the Mississippi levees. After the bulls flooded the market with buy orders the bears decided to cause a little flood of their own with some selling and soon the selling overflowed the buying. A nice +237-point rally in the DOW turned into a negative 30-point day. At this afternoon's low the DOW had a 311-point reversal off its high so the low-volume volatility of last week became a higher-volume volatile day today. It was not a high-volume day today but at nearly 8.2B shares trades it was certainly more than any day last week.

The complete reversal of this morning's rally was certainly discouraging for those who had done some early buying at this morning's open. When we see this kind of selling into rallies we know it's bearish for the market. Big money uses the rallies to offload some of their inventory and while we could certainly see additional rallies, including higher into opex week (which I'll show on the charts), stay aware that liquidation of inventory is probably the number one goal of many fund managers. If they can get higher prices to sell into it will be all the better.

The reversals of rallies, like today's, is a reason I've been cautioning that it's better to only trade the long side and not hold onto positions (if you want to trade the long side that is). As we head into the vulnerable period of the year--September through November--and especially with the continuing bad news in the credit markets there are a lot of nervous money managers who are hoping for rallies but more fearful of declines. The coming months have historically been unkind to bulls. Dodging the decline into the fall and loading up for a year-end rally can give one's portfolio a powerful boost.

The trouble of course with jumping out of the market in August is that it doesn't always play out with a decline into October. In fact the years between 2003 and 2007 saw either benign declines in September or downright bullish moves. Last year saw a strong rally off the August lows into the October highs. Of course 2003-2007 was a cyclical bull market. Unless you believe we're heading back into a bull market you agree we're in a bear market for at least a little longer period. And in bear markets the months of September and October have been particularly cruel to investors.

Expectations for a bearish September/October could of course be bullish. The market has a wicked sense of humor about such things as expectations. When too many expect something (and prepare for it with trading positions) we often see the boat flip over and watch everyone scramble to unwind their positions that are suddenly going against them.

So here we are in a recognized bear market and we've got many people suggesting we could see a nasty downturn (hence they're selling into rallies). But what if Ms. Market decides the timing is not quite right and wants to catch all those with September options positions leaning bearishly into options expiration (September 19th). It's possible we could see a rally instead into the middle of the month, catch the bears napping, bop them on the head, get the bulls all excited about the potential for another early and strong rally into October or into the end of the year, get them scrambling to join the buying since they'll feel they're late and then proceed to bop them on the head with a nasty reversal into strong selling. The potential for some violent price swings in the next month is significant.

Not only do I see the potential for the above scenario from a psychological perspective but I also see the potential in the EW (Elliott Wave) pattern, at least for the blue chips whereas the tech indexes actually look more bearish right here. I'll review the primary indexes that we track and then a couple of other charts to help us get an idea of where the market might head next, or at least what clues to watch for the broader market. I'll skip my normal sector charts tonight as I did not have the time to get them updated. I'll be sure to update them on Thursday night.

One of the other charts I'll review tonight is the 10-year yield as it's nearing a level of potential support so it might be a good time to lock in a rate on your home if you've been waiting to do so. However, just like the stock market I see a strong possibility that yields are going to drop hard. I'll give the key levels to watch.

Dow Industrials, INDU, Daily chart

I referred to a bullish sideways triangle pattern last Thursday and I'm still tracking that possibility. The pattern called for one more leg down inside the triangle and then a strong rally leg out of it, shown in dark red and Friday's and Monday's price action has the DOW working its way lower. The bottom of the triangle is near 11400 so that's the downside potential but the last leg in a triangle (wave e) is very unreliable--it can stop short of the bottom or do a throw-under (or throw-over in a bearish triangle pattern). If this is a bullish triangle the upside Fib projection out of it is very close to the 62% retracement of the May-July decline.

As long as 11125 is not violated I have to consider the bullish potential out of this pattern as a good possibility, especially with all the 3-wave price action going on inside the triangle pattern. But regardless how corrective the price action looks, a drop below the August low near 11290 would be a heads up that the triangle pattern will probably get negated.

Key Levels for DOW:
- cautiously bullish above 11718
- bearish below 11340, confirmed bearish below 11125

S&P 500, SPX, Daily chart

For SPX I'm showing the same bullish sideways triangle pattern, the bottom of which is near 1270 tomorrow morning (closer than the DOW's). If it breaks below 1269 tomorrow morning and doesn't immediately reverse higher (leaving a throw-under) it will be bearish. The next level to watch would be 1251 (two equal legs down from August 11th high, which will be support if we're going to get another rally leg into the middle of the month). But basically a break below 1261 would be the time to look to short all rallies unless the bulls can get it back above 1300.

Key Levels for SPX:
- cautiously bullish above 1300
- bearish below 1261

S&P 500, SPX, 120-min chart

The 120-min chart shows the triangle in more detail and the levels to watch. I've included a couple of other trend lines (dotted) since they're still having an influence on traders. For example, SPX bounced off its uptrend line from July 15th through the August 26th low but closed back below its downtrend line from May 19th.

Nasdaq-100, NDX, Daily chart

NDX (and the COMP) broke below its uptrend line from July 15th. Last week I had pointed out the break of the RSI uptrend line and then the retest of the line (which failed). RSI typically breaks its trend line before price and is always a very good heads up for a trend change. The retest was good confirmation that the bulls are losing it here. But so far the pullback for NDX from its August 11th high remains in a parallel down-channel and bounced off the bottom of it today after failing at the top of it this morning. The price action inside this down-channel can be interpreted as very bearish (a series of 3rd waves to the downside is about to unfold) or it's corrective within a bull flag. The bearish scenario requires a hard breakdown from here while the bullish (pink) scenario requires an immediate bounce back up. Therefore we could have an answer soon on Wednesday morning.

Key Levels for NDX:
- cautiously bullish above 1938
- bearish below 1800

Russell-2000, RUT, Daily chart

I could argue equally strongly for a bullish or a bearish resolution out of the current pattern. It takes a break below 716 to put the bears in control and in that case we should see strong selling.

Key Levels for RUT:
- cautiously bullish above 739
- bearish below 716

NYSE, NYA.X, Daily chart

I continue to watch the NYSE for a broader market picture and so far the bounce off the July low remains a bear flag. The only question is whether or not we'll see another bounce to the top of the flag near 8724 or a continuation lower right from here. A break below 8180 says the latter.

I also like to keep my eye on what bonds are doing since they often telegraph the direction of the market before equities. For a while we've seen yields and equities track together (e.g., selling in bonds drives yields higher which frees up cash which then heads into equities so equities rise with yields). This direct relationship (or inverse relationship between the prices of equities and bonds) will not always hold but for now it is and therefore worth watching. The 10-year yield dropped sharply today after a brief rally from the open (just as equities did) so I'm watching for where support might be found.

10-year Yield, TNX, Daily chart

The direction of interest rates for the past month has been a bit of a challenge (along with equities--the market is definitely confused at the moment). I've been eyeing a downside target of 3.619% for the 10-year and I think that's still a good target based on the pattern from the July high. That's the level where the decline in rates from June would have two equal legs down. Whether TNX gets down to that level, or stops there, we'll just have to wait and see. But a quick drop down to 3.6% and then reversal back up would mean a selloff in bond prices and that could mean a rally in equities into September opex.

If TNX drops much lower than 3.6% I suspect we'll see it drop to the March low just below 3.3%. That would also likely mean a selloff in equities. But a rally back above 4.0% would likely mean a rally to new highs above June's and that could be a bullish sign for stocks.


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Therefore, if you're watching rates in hopes of locking in a lower rate, keep an eye on the TNX chart if and when it reaches 3.6%. If it keeps dropping lower you could get a nice break on your loan as rates drop (unless the spreads continue to increase as they have been in which case all consumer and home loans will continue to get more expensive).

One other chart worth reviewing this evening is the volatility index. It has risen sharply the past two days and that could be a bearish sign for what's coming. Either that or too much fear is entering the market and there's lots of put buying going on. From a contrarian perspective we need to stay aware of the potential bullishness from that. Also, notice that VIX is nearing potential resistance (potentially bullish for stocks):

Volatility index, VIX, Daily chart

The uptrend line from December 2006 through the June 2007 low has seen VIX tagging it repeatedly since April as it breaks it, climbs back above it, breaks it, etc. Today's "rally" in VIX stopped dead at the trend line again, and it's just below the 50 and 200-dma's. If VIX reverses back down from here it will be accompanied by a stock market rally. That's the setup anyway. The bulls now need to take advantage of the setup.

Economic reports, summary and Key Trading Levels

Today's economic reports were blamed for the reversal of the early rally this morning but to me it looked like an early setup for a bull trap. Equity futures were jammed higher from a low near 4:00 AM, especially the DOW's futures, and it looked "fabricated". The lack of participation of the tech stocks had the market showing intermarket bearish divergence and the combination had me warning on this morning's live Market Monitor to not trust the move up. At any rate, the trap was set and the subsequent selling hurt a lot of early buyers. The economic reports had nothing to do with it.

Tomorrow should also be benign as far as economic reports go. We might see some action around the reports on Thursday and Friday. But ignore the news--news is for, well, not for chartists. We trade the charts and let the noisy news play out.

The market has been trading in a very choppy manner since the July lows and essentially sideways for the past six weeks. This log jam will soon break and it will be good for at least 700-800 points on the DOW (as much as 100 points for SPX) in a matter of a couple of weeks. If it ends up being a rally into September opex it will be a fantastic short play setup for a huge move down into November. If it ends up being a selloff right from here it will be a huge move down into November.

The only difference between those two scenarios is when the selling will begin in earnest and from what level. Be careful in positioning too early for the move--let the market tell us when it's ready for us to climb aboard the southbound train. In the meantime, if we start seeing some key levels to the upside break, join with the bulls but take profits often and early. Surprises will be to the downside. Keep repeating that to yourself and don't get complacent about any rally.

Good luck and I'll be back with you on Thursday.

Key Levels for SPX:
- cautiously bullish above 1300
- bearish below 1261

Key Levels for DOW:
- cautiously bullish above 11718
- bearish below 11340, confirmed bearish below 11125

Key Levels for NDX:
- cautiously bullish above 1938
- bearish below 1800

Key Levels for RUT:
- cautiously bullish above 739
- bearish below 716

Keene H. Little, CMT
Chartered Market Technician

New Plays

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Play Updates

Updates On Latest Picks

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Call Updates

CBOE Volatility Index - VIX - close: 21.99 chg: +1.34 stop: n/a

The VIX rose sharply today as traders grew more fearful since the market was unable to maintain its gains. The volatility index broke out from its bearish pattern of lower highs. Our readers might want to consider new call positions here. We're going to maintain our previous suggestion to wait for a move over 22.50. Don't forget that this is a very speculative play (as in no stop loss) as we bet on a strong enough market sell-off to send the VIX toward 30.00. In our favor is the time of year with September and the first several days of October historically the worst time of year for stocks. Plus, we have the ongoing credit crisis, financial sector woes, and escalating tensions with Russia (not to mention Iran), oh and let's throw in a couple of hurricanes. 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: - 0.58
Earnings Date 00/00/00
Average Daily Volume = x million

Put Updates

Air Products - APD - cls: 91.09 change: -0.76 stop: 94.15

Right on cue shares of APD continued to roll over. I don't see any changes from our previous comments. We would still consider new bearish positions here. More conservative traders might want to wait for a breakdown under $90.00 before initiating positions. We are listing two targets. Our first target is $87.00. Our second target is $84.00. The Point & Figure chart is bearish with a $73 target.

Picked on August 31 at $ 91.85
Change since picked: - 0.76
Earnings Date 10/22/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.8 million


L-3 Comm. - LLL - close: 103.94 chg: -1.65 stop: 105.05 *new*

The market's strength this morning and news that LLL had won a $60 million contract from the U.S. Navy helped send the stock to an intraday high of $106.98. Our stop loss was $106.65. Our brand new play has already been stopped out. However, the rally failed, which does not inspire a lot of confidence in LLL's stock. We'll mark this as a loss today but we re-listing LLL as a put play. However, this time we're suggesting a trigger to buy puts at $102.00 since LLL appears to have support near $102.50. Our target is $97.50 or the 50-dma, whichever LLL hits first.

Picked on September x at $ xx.xx <-- trigger 102.00
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 10/23/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.0 million


Lindsay Corp. - LNN - cls: 77.74 chg: -4.17 stop: 83.35

LNN is off to a good start. Shares broke down under support near $80.00 and hit our trigger to buy puts at $79.85. If you don't want to chase it here then look for a bounce back toward $80.00, which should be new overhead resistance. We have two targets. Our first target is $75.25. Our second target is $71.00.

Picked on September 2 at $ 79.85 *triggered
Change since picked: - 2.11
Earnings Date 10/08/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 480 thousand


Millicom Intl. - MICC - cls: 78.58 chg: -0.79 stop: 81.55*new*

Sometimes the greatest challenge as a trader is to not let emotions influence your trading. Today the performance in MICC was frustrating. Over the weekend we adjusted our stop loss down to $81.55. This morning, when the market was in rally mode, shares of MICC hit an intraday high of $81.56. We've been stopped out for a loss. The stock continues to look bearish. We are suggesting that readers re-open new put positions if you were stopped out. We'll adjust our stop loss to $81.65. We have two targets. Our first target is $75.05. Our second target is $72.50. FYI: A move under $78.00 will produce a brand new Point & Figure chart sell signal.

Picked on August 28 at $ 78.58 *stopped out/re-listed
Change since picked: + 0.88
Earnings Date 10/23/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.0 million


Monsanto - MON - close: 109.34 chg: -4.91 stop: 118.55

Another strong gain for the U.S. dollar and a plunge in crude oil sent shares of MON lower today. If you don't want to chase an entry point here readers could wait for a bounce back into the $112-114 zone and enter new put positions there. Our target is the $101.00. The $100.00 level should be round-number support.

Picked on August 31 at $114.25
Change since picked: - 4.91
Earnings Date 10/08/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 6.7 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: 16.13 chg: +0.04 stop: n/a

It sounds like Wall Street is trying to talk up a rescue for LEH but the rally in the stock today struggled. We do not see any changes from our weekend comments. We're not suggesting new strangle positions in LEH at this time. We only have three weeks left and LEH still has to make some big moves. We 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: - 0.92
Earnings Date 09/18/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 63 million

Dropped Calls

Arch Coal - ACI - close: 46.19 chg: -8.05 stop: 52.37

Shares of ACI suffered a crushing blow on Tuesday. The reaction was based on plummeting oil prices. Hurricane Gustav weakened as it neared the coast and appeared to inflict a lot less damage than previously expected. This hurricane news and a pop in the U.S. dollar sent crude oil plunging. Oil was down almost 9% overnight but recovered to a 4.5% loss around $110 a barrel. Oil and coal stocks have been trading in sync lately. ACI was hammered with a 14.8% loss after gapping down this morning at $51.50. Our suggested stop loss was $52.37 (breakeven) so we would have been stopped out at the open.

Picked on August 20 at $ 52.37 /stopped 51.50 gap down exit
Change since picked: - 6.18
Earnings Date 10/20/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 6.4 million


Chesapeake Energy - CHK - cls: 45.24 chg: -3.16 stop: 46.90

The plunging price oil also yanked the carpet out from under natural gas prices and this in turn impacted CHK. Shares of CHK gapped open lower at $46.15. This was under our suggested stop loss at $46.90 so we would have exited at the open.

Picked on August 20 at $ 48.05 */stopped 46.15 gap down exit
Change since picked: - 2.81
Earnings Date 11/06/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 20.2 million


Itron Inc. - ITRI - close: 100.78 change: -2.80 stop: 101.25

ITRI displayed relative weakness today. Most of the market rallied higher this morning. ITRI did not participate in the morning pop. Instead ITRI was weak from the start and slid toward round-number support at $100.00. Shares hit our newly revised stop loss at $101.25 closing the play. Note: ITRI had previously hit our first target of $105.75 on August 28th.

Picked on August 14 at $ 101.50 /stopped out 101.25
Change since picked: + 2.08
Earnings Date 10/30/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 616 thousand


United States Oil - USO - cls: 89.19 chg: -3.68 stop: 89.79

If you haven't heard by now hurricane Gustav did not pack much of a punch and most believe that the storm did a lot less damage than expected. This sent the price of crude oil crashing lower. The USO gapped open lower to reflect overnight trading in oil and the USO opened at $86.88, below our stop loss and below several levels of potential support at $90.00 and its 200-dma. Oil did rebound from its lows but we would have been stopped out at the opening bell. This play on the USO was triggered one hour after the August 27th oil inventory report, which is how we arrived at the $95.12 entry point.

Picked on August 27 at $ 95.12 /stopped out 86.88 gap down exit
Change since picked: - 5.93
Earnings Date 00/00/00
Average Daily Volume = 13.9 million


Whiting Petrol. - WLL - cls: 90.65 chg: -5.59 stop: 91.95

WLL is another casualty of the sell-off in oil today. The stock gapped open lower at $93.97 and plunged to $89.41 before paring its losses. Our stop loss was at $91.95. The play is now closed. WLL did manage to close above $90.00. It might be worth keeping WLL on your watch list to see if shares rebound or breakdown. A drop under $89.00 might be an entry point for a move toward stronger support at $80.00.

Picked on August 26 at $ 95.80 /stopped out 91.95
Change since picked: - 5.15
Earnings Date 10/30/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.1 million

Dropped Puts

Chipotle Mex.Grill - CMG - cls: 73.60 chg: +4.28 stop: 73.65

CMG popped higher with the broader market and then stayed higher. The ongoing strength today was probably short covering since the initial pop broke through CMG's short-term trend of lower highs but not the longer-term trend of lower highs. Our stop loss was $73.65, which was hit this morning. Readers may wan to keep an eye on it. A failed rally at the 50-dma or a new decline under $70.00 could be another bearish position.

Picked on August 20 at $ 69.90 */stopped out 73.65
Change since picked: - 0.58
Earnings Date 10/30/08 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 888 thousand

Dropped Strangles


Today's Newsletter Notes: Market Wrap by Keene H. Little and all other plays and content by the Option Investor staff.


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