Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Tuesday, 11/25/2008

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Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Don't Breath Yet!

The Dow completed its third consecutive day of gains for the first time since mid September. Buyers are holding their collective breath in fear these gains are just a temporary relief from the selling. If this is you please don't breath yet!

Market Stats Table
[Image 1]

The market opened weak after Treasury Secretary Paulson announced a new round of incentives and the GDP revision came in weaker than some expected. The GDP revision for Q3 fell to -0.5% from the -0.3% with revisions to consumer spending and exports. This report shows that the economy is firmly in a recession and the next revision could be even lower. Over the past year the GDP has increased only +0.7% and the slowest rate since Q4 of 2001. Retail sales of domestic products fell -1.4% in Q3 compared to a rise of +4.4% in Q2. Personal consumption expenditures fell -3.7%, a downward revision from the initial 3.1% drop. Corporate profits fell -3.8% at an annualized rate in Q3 and have now fallen for five straight quarters. Business fixed investment fell -5.6% and the largest decline in almost four years.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Survey came in very negative at -38 compared to October's reading of -26. This is the lowest reading since the report began back in 1993. Shipments fell seven points to -31 and new orders fell 13 points to -48 and by far the lowest reading since the report began. This was an extremely bearish report showing how sharply demand has fallen. Demand from export markets has also weakened indicating the recession is impacting countries worldwide. The current tight credit market is slowing sales of big-ticket consumer items.

Richmond Fed Manufacturing Survey Chart
[Image 2]

Other reports included the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which showed home prices continued to decline in September. On a year over year basis prices in the top ten markets fell -18.6% compared to -17.7% in the prior month. The FHFA Purchase Only House Price Index fell -7% year over year compared to -5.9% in the prior month. As the southern states slide into recession the price of homes accelerated lower.

Surprisingly Consumer Confidence rose from 38.0 to 44.9 in the final reading for the month. Most analysts had expected a further decline but the drop in gasoline prices was credited with the rebound. You may remember the initial November reading fell -22 points and the largest drop in history. That decline was obviously overdone and probably contained some census anomalies. The majority of the rebound came in the expectations component, which rose from 35.7 to 46.7. This could also have been a residual impact from the election with some people thinking the new president will improve conditions quickly. With gasoline falling under $1.80 per gallon in much of the U.S. and predictions of continued drops this has got to help build confidence in consumers who were paying over $4 just a couple months ago.

Consumer Confidence Chart
[Image 3]

The economic calendar for Wednesday is busy ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. The most notable reports are the Chicago Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) and the Kansas Fed Survey. The Kansas Fed Manufacturing Survey is expected to mirror the Richmond Fed report we saw today. The PMI is going to be an advance indicator of the National ISM report due out next week. None of these reports are expected to be positive so the bulls will have plenty of economic bricks to add to their wall of worry.

[Image 4]

The Federal Reserve announced some new programs today designed to address mortgage rates and consumer loans. The new program called the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility or TALF will provide $200 billion for top rated consumer loans including student loans, auto and small business loans. By providing a backstop for these sectors the Fed is indirectly funding new lending by banks. Auto sales have fallen to their lowest level since the 1980s because of the lack of financing. The Fed is trying to break the gridlock in the consumer-lending sector. The negative to this announcement is the delay until February before the program will become active.

Another Day, Another $800 Billion
[Image 5]

The Fed also announced it will purchase debt issued by Fannie and Freddie to boost the availability of home loans and lower the costs of credit for homebuyers. The 30 year fixed mortgage rate is poised to move under 6% by as much as half a point. The Fed is going to purchase $100 billion in Fannie and Freddie debt through competitive auctions that will begin next week. They also plan on buying $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities backed by Fannie/Freddie to free up the securitization market. This program will not begin until closer to year-end but Fannie Mae spreads narrowed significantly on the announcement. If the government would just say it was backing all new debt issued by the GSEs they would not have to buy these mortgages back and the pair could borrow money today at nearly zero interest. It would be cheaper for the Fed and the taxpayer. The Fed is rapidly reaching a point where their balance sheet is going to be over extended as well. Globally the bailouts are reaching $7 trillion.

[Image 6]

Tech stocks took a hit today after Cisco said it was going to shutdown its U.S. and Canadian operations for the last week of December because of slowing sales. An analyst with UBS first reported the mandatory shutdown and Cisco confirmed it later in the day. They will close for four days in the last week of the year as part of a broader effort to trim $1 billion in costs amid slowing in IT sales. CSCO fell -6% to $15.42. Analog Devices (ADI) reported earnings and warned on Monday after the close. ADI said current quarter earnings would be less than expected due to weak demand and rising inventories. ADI said it cut capex-spending plans to $55 million from $157 million. ADI lost -7%.

The impact of the Cisco plant closure was felt across the entire tech sector with the Nasdaq off sharply intraday and the only major index to close negative after the late afternoon bounce. Hewlett Packard (HPQ) lost -6% to $33.42 despite affirming estimate on Monday.

Google rallied +24.61 or nearly +10% on news they would significantly cut their workforce of 10,000 contractors. Google's permanent workforce of 20,123 is augmented by the 10,000 contractors as a way of not incurring long-term employee liabilities. Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the force would be reduced through vendor management, converting some to regular employees and through some other approaches. Google has been on a massive cost cutting binge of late suggesting they are also seeing a drop in ad spending. An analyst at Merriman Curhan Ford said keyword prices are down %5 to 30% and click through rates on ad listings are declining as well. The analyst put a sell rating on GOOG with a target of $200-$240. I suspect there is going to be some serious volatility around their next earnings release.

Miner Rio Tinto PLC (RTP) lost -$40 or -27% after BHP Billiton (BHP) said it was dropping is $66 billion takeover bid. This acquisition battle has been running for nine months and would have been the largest takeover ever. With the credit market meltdown BHP ran out of options and had to abandon its bid. The drop in commodity prices over the last nine months also help kill the deal. The deal was worth $150 billion when it was announced with an offer of 3.4 BHP shares for each RTP share. As commodities crashed so did BHP's stock price from $95 back in May to less than $25 last week. After BHP said it was going to drop the bid their stock soared to close at $37 today.

After the close today Fitch raised its rating on Morgan Stanley to stable from negative suggesting the worst may be over for the sector. Goldman Sachs (GS) became the first bank to sell FDIC insured debt with a $5 billion note offering. The amount was initially in the $3 billion range but there was so much interest they raised the total. This should be the first in a wave of borrowings with JPM and MS next up on the list. With the FDIC insuring the debt it takes out the risk and there is plenty of cash waiting on the sidelines for a safe investment. The notes will yield $3.367% and about 2 points over treasury debt. With recent non-insured borrowings going in the range of 7.25% more than comparable Treasury debt this is a major breath of fresh air for the major banks. This FDIC insured debt program announced in October has created a huge demand and analysts estimated there was as much as $1.4 trillion in the system that would qualify for refinancing under the FDIC program. That much paper leaving the commercial market and being repackaged under an FDIC seal of approval would create a serious vacuum in the non-insured market place with buyers all lining up at the FDIC product window. Reportedly there is $500 billion in debt expiring by next June that would be eligible for refinancing under the FDIC umbrella. Hopefully the buyers of this debt actually read the rules that the FDIC guarantee was only temporary.

I caught a lot of flack for my comments in the Sunday newsletter about Friday's dip to Dow 7500 being a buying opportunity. I got a ton of email thinks to the "email Jim" link on the commentary. It looks like the readership has turned into a bearish horde rather than a nation of bulls. That is quite a change from prior years when less than 10% of our readers would consider buying puts. Actually I think that is an evolutionary leap for readers. Maybe everyone should go back and read those last two paragraphs from Sunday again. I was not suggesting backing up the truck but nibbling at some opportunities and looking for some gold nuggets in the charred rubble of the market. My feelings have not changed. I think the bottom is behind us but that feeling could change any day if we get a new dose of bad news. I believe that even if we do move lower there are quite a few good stocks that are very attractive and I doubt would drop much more even it there was a new low in our future. There is never a guarantee that the worst is over or a direction is cast in concrete but I do believe than good stocks bought today in small quantities will be worth a lot more this time next year.

Dow Chart
[Image 7]

Technically the Dow has come to a dead stop at resistance of 8500 and I was very surprised at the closing rally today. I thought sure we would have to pull back and digest those gains from the biggest two-day rally since 1987. The fact we rebounded to close positive today is a very bullish sign but that resistance is still solid. A move over 8500 could really attract some volume. I can't tell you how many times I have heard "short the rally" or "I sure would not buy it after a +1000 point bounce." Obviously shorting bounces has been a very profitable strategy for months now and I have to admit buying a 1000-point bounce sounds crazy. However, I think we are approaching a point where we need to look at the markets in a different light. Eventually one of these rebounds is going to stick and I don't want to be kicking myself for the next 1000 points while repeating shoulda, woulda, coulda. If the investing public has all turned bearish, as it would seem from my emails, then the bottom may definitely be in. Whenever sentiment is 100% in one direction we should run in the opposite direction. Look for a move over Dow 8500 as confirmation the bulls are climbing that wall of recession worry. That would equate to 865 on the S&P.

The Nasdaq is the anchor the Dow must drag higher. With the continued warnings from tech stocks about slowing sales and weak chip demand I am surprised we saw any rebound this afternoon. That rebound gave us a new support level of 1430 so that is the level I would watch for a failure of the current rebound.

Nasdaq Chart - 120 Min
[Image 8]
Russell Chart - 120 Min
[Image 9]

The Russell was my hero today with the largest percentage gain of any index other than the Dow Transports. The Russell closed at a new five-day high at 443. You know what I am going to say next. If the Russell is being bought then funds are moving back into the market. It was a small gain and probably more short covering than outright buying but it was a bullish close. We are moving into the Santa Claus rally cycle where in theory fund managers buy small caps to prepare for the January effect. Personally with all the volatility we have had over the last two months I think all the normal cycles are shot for the year. I would just keep watching the Russell for a clue to market direction. A +6 point gain may not sound like much but that came after a +70 point rebound in the prior two days. ANY move higher from here would be bullish. Likewise a move back below 425 would be a cause for alarm. As you can see in the chart the long-term resistance is still ahead making the current rebound suspect until that long-term resistance is broken.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Jim Brown

New Option Plays

Surgery, Smallcaps, & Travel

Play Editor's Note: I am reluctantly adding new bullish positions to the newsletter tonight. Selling rallies has been a successful move for months, why is this time any different? You could argue that we're still deeply oversold in spite of the best two-day rally in years. I suspect the bounce still has a few days left. I do believe this is just a bear-market bounce until the market proves me wrong but it still feels like being long is less risky than being short albeit both seem like high-risk propositions at this time. Our new plays should be considered aggressive and higher-risk. --

Intuitive Surgical - ISRG - close: 124.39 change: +0.55 stop: 118.75

Why We Like It:
The trend in ISRG is still very much down. We're just trying to catch a short-term bounce. It looks like ISRG made a trading bottom last week and we might be able to catch a move back toward the $140-150 zone. Our plan is to buy out of the money calls now or on a dip back toward $120. Our target is $140.00. More aggressive traders may want to aim higher but we would expect resistance near $150. The P&F chart is still bearish but a move over $130 would be a new buy signal.

Suggested Options:
Options on ISRG, a volatile stock, tend to be expensive. We're suggesting December calls.

BUY CALL DEC 130.0 AXQ-LV open interest= 107 current ask $8.30
BUY CALL DEC 135.0 AXQ-LG open interest= 130 current ask $6.50
BUY CALL DEC 140.0 AXQ-LX open interest= 134 current ask $4.80

Annotated Chart:

Picked on November 25 at $124.39
Change since picked:      + 0.00
Earnings Date           01/29/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       1.4 million  

iShares Russell 2000 - IWM - close: 44.22 change: +0.72 stop: 42.49

Why We Like It:
The IWM ishares and the RUT showed some relative strength closing near their highs for the session. It looks like the small caps might actually lead us higher. We're suggesting readers buy calls here with a stop loss under today's low. Our target is the $48.00 mark. More aggressive traders may want to try the double-long Russell ETF with the UWM instead.

Suggested Options:
We're suggesting the December calls. Strikes are available at $1.00 increments.

BUY CALL DEC 42.00 IWM-LP open interest=7054 current ask $4.05
BUY CALL DEC 44.00 IWM-LR open interest=5779 current ask $2.86
BUY CALL DEC 48.00 IWM-LV open interest=15440 current ask $1.21

Annotated Chart:

Picked on November 25 at $ 44.22
Change since picked:      + 0.00
Earnings Date           00/00/00
Average Daily Volume =       119 million  

Priceline.com - PCLN - close: 62.82 change: +1.21 stop: 57.45

Why We Like It:
It would appear that PCLN has built a bottom over the last several weeks. Shares began building a bullish trend of higher lows after its October 28th dip to $45. Shares broke through resistance near $57.50 last week and traders pushed shares past round-number resistance at $60.00 and technical resistance at its 50-dma. PCLN out performed the broader market indices today. This might be a seasonal play as investors bet on consumers traveling more during the holiday season.

We are suggesting readers buy calls here or on a dip near $60.00. We are listing a wide, aggressive (higher-risk) stop loss at $57.45. More conservative traders may want to use a stop loss under today's low near $59.00 instead. We are listing two targets. Our first target is $69.90, just under the mid October high. Our second target is $74.85. We suggest readers take most of the position off the table at our first target. FYI: The Point & Figure chart is bullish with an $84 target.

Suggested Options:
We are suggesting the December calls. More conservative traders may want to use January calls instead.

BUY CALL DEC 60.00 PUZ-LL open interest= 534 current ask $6.90
BUY CALL DEC 65.00 PUZ-LM open interest= 947 current ask $4.10
BUY CALL DEC 70.00 PUZ-LN open interest=1917 current ask $2.15

Annotated Chart:

Picked on November 25 at $ 62.82
Change since picked:      + 0.00
Earnings Date           02/12/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       1.9 million  

In Play Updates and Reviews

Hitting More Targets

CALL Play Updates

Axsys Tech. - AXYS - close: 66.45 change: +1.40 stop: 61.83*new*

Yesterday we suggested buying a dip and today was another entry point. AXYS hit some profit taking this morning but traders stepped in to buy the dip near $62.50. The strong close near its highs is bullish for tomorrow. If the market is positive on Wednesday I think AXYS will do well. We are upping our stop loss to breakeven at $61.83. Our exit target is $69.50.

Picked on November 22 at $ 61.83
Change since picked:      + 4.62
Earnings Date           02/19/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       195 thousand 

Entergy Corp. - ETR - close: 83.99 change: -0.96 stop: 79.65

I am on the edge about whether to keep ETR as a bullish candidate or not. Yesterday I said that if ETR didn't bounce we might drop it. Shares closed lower but they bounced from a dip near $82.00 and its 50-dma. Is this just another entry point? If we look at the intraday chart it almost appears like a short-term bull-flag pattern. We currently have a stop loss under round-number, psychological support near $80.00. More conservative traders may want to just exit early due to lack of follow through higher or raise your stop loss toward today's low around $82.00. We're going to keep it on the play list but I would hesitate to open new positions.

The P&F chart is bullish with a $104 target. We're setting two targets. Our first target to take profits is $92.50. Our secondary target is $97.50. Keep a wary eye on possible resistance at the 100-dma and exponential 200-dma overhead.

Picked on November 22 at $ 85.76
Change since picked:      - 1.77
Earnings Date           01/29/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       2.3 million  

Sears Holding - SHLD - close: 33.39 change: -1.94 stop: 29.99*new*

Investors were quick to take profits in SHLD. The stock has been incredibly volatile with a rally from $30.00 to $36.22 yesterday and a drop back to $30.33 intraday on Tuesday. Today's afternoon bounce might be a new bullish entry point but you'd need to keep an aggressive stop under $30.00. We're inching up our stop loss to $29.99.

The stock hit our first target at $34.90 yesterday. We're currently aiming for $39.50.

Picked on November 22 at $ 31.58 /gap open higher/1st target hit
Change since picked:      + 1.81 /originally listed @ 30.44
Earnings Date           12/02/08 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       2.2 million  

PUT Play Updates

*Currently we do not have any put play updates*

Strangle & Spread Play Updates

SPDR GOLD Trust - GLD - close: 80.87 change: -0.04 stop: n/a

Gold suffered some profit taking today even though the U.S. dollar continued to fall. The GLD hit $79.28 intraday before bouncing back to almost unchanged. Resistance at the 100-dma and exponential 200-dma remains directly overhead.

We are not suggesting new strangle positions at this time. Our remaining strangle involves December options.

What is a strangle?
A strangle involves buying both an out-of-the-money call and an out-of-the-money put. We don't care what direction the stock goes as long as it moves one direction. If the stock moves far enough one side of our trade will rise in value and pay for the entire trade and make a profit.

-December Strangle-

We suggested readers buy the December $75 call (GVD-LW) and the December $70 puts (GVD-XR). Our estimated cost was $6.30. We want to sell if either option hits $12.00.

Picked on November 09 at $ 72.50
Change since picked:      + 8.37
Earnings Date           00/00/00
Average Daily Volume =      19.3 million  

Ultra S&P500 ProShares - SSO - close: 24.37 change: +0.72 stop: n/a

There are definitely a lot of opinions out there. Some are suggesting traders short the S&P here with a tight stop. Others are suggesting investors buy the market with both hands. This play is neutral. We really don't care what direction the market goes but we do need it to move!

We're not suggesting new positions at this time.

Note: The SSO is an ultra-long ETF that typically moves twice the daily performance of the S&P 500 index.

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.

-December Strangle Details-
We suggested readers buy the December $30.00 call (SOJ-LD) and the December $20.00 put (SOJ-XT). Our estimated cost is $3.75. We want to sell if either option hits $6.00.

Picked on November 12 at $ 24.84
Change since picked:      - 0.47
Earnings Date           00/00/00
Average Daily Volume =       126 million  


Ball Corp. - BLL - close: 33.80 change: +1.33 stop: 29.75

Target achieved. BLL rallied over the $34.00 level this morning. The intraday high was $34.27. Our suggested exit to take profits was the $34.00-34.50 range. Our play is closed but we would keep BLL on the watch list. A breakout over the 50-dma or $35.00 might be an entry point for a new bullish run.


Picked on November 22 at $ 30.73 /gap open higher
Change since picked:      + 3.07 /originally listed at 30.18
Earnings Date           01/22/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       1.3 million  

Fluor Corp. - FLR - close: 39.07 change: +1.89 stop: 33.45

Target exceeded! FLR rallied to an intraday high of $40.78. Our secondary target to take profits and close this play was $39.50. FLR ended the day up 5% following yesterday's huge move. FLR has rallied from $29 to almost $41 in two days. It's probably time for a little correction. We'd keep it on our watch list.


Picked on November 22 at $ 33.64 /gap open entry/ 1st target hit 11/24
Change since picked:      + 5.43 /originally listed at 31.90
Earnings Date           02/26/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       5.7 million  

Research In Motion - RIMM - close: 41.50 change: -3.76 stop: 41.25

RIMM has been incredibly volatile. In three days the stock has moved from $41.50 to over $48.00 and back to $40.26. RIMM hit our first target to take profits yesterday at $48.00. Unfortunately, the stock hit our stop loss at $41.25 this morning. Evidently there were some negative analyst comments out today forecasting lower cell phone sales in 2009.

More aggressive traders might be tempted to buy today's bounce from $40.00 with a stop loss around $39.90 and a target at $47.00.


Picked on November 22 at $ 45.79 /gap higher entry/1st target hit
Change since picked:      - 0.53 /originally listed at $44.80
Earnings Date           12/18/08 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =      35.6 million  


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