Option Investor
Newsletter

Daily Newsletter, Monday, 7/6/2009

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

A Little Something Is Better Than Nothing

by Todd Shriber

Click here to email Todd Shriber

After the drubbing doled by last week's dour unemployment data and the selling action in the earlier part of Monday's trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 finished the session higher while the Nasdaq was down 0.5%. Hey, two out of three is pretty good, all things considered. Coming out of the holiday weekend and with earnings season ready to kick off, trade was not exactly robust today, but stocks found a way to erase earlier losses to lead two of the three major indexes up on the day.

No, there was not much to write home about with the Dow up just 44.13 to 8324.87 and the S&P 500 up a meager 2.30 to 898.72, but small gains are better than losses of any kind, so perhaps the market is ready to sing a more optimistic tune. While the Dow continues to hold the critical 8320 level, noteworthy is another close below 900 for the S&P 500, but things could have been worse as the measure of the 500 largest US stocks did traipse as low as 886.36 on the day.

Stats Table

Concerns that Treasury's penchant for rabidly issuing new debt will not be met by sufficient demand were tempered, at least for today, as an auction of $8 billion in 10-year inflation-linked securities garnered a yield of 1.92%, below the 1.933 forecast by economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. That was one bright spot for the market today. Another came in the form of news that Moody's may upgrade its ratings on Brazil's debt.

While many investors in emerging markets seem enthralled with China, and with good reason, the ''B'' in the ubiquitous BRIC acronym has been on fire this year. The iShares MSCI Brazil Index Exchange Traded Fund (EWZ) is up 50% year-to-date, well ahead of the S&P 500. An upgrade by Moody's of Brazilian debt, which appears warranted, would be a boon for the US banks that hold billions in the South American nation's bonds.

The EWZ is heavily weighted in energy and industrial materials issues with those two sectors accounting for about 47% of the ETF's holdings, but this should not scare off potential investors. After all, Brazil is one of the only countries to have significant new discoveries of crude oil in recent years and the commodities-rich nation may be the safest place to invest of the four BRIC nations.

EWZ Chart

News of the possible upgrade lifted some financial shares, such as Goldman Sachs (GS), JP Morgan Chase (JPM) and Bank of New York Mellon (BK). American Express (AXP) also rallied 5.3% on an upgrade to ''hold'' from ''sell'' by Stifel Nicolaus. That makes me wonder how much American Express shares would have jumped had they been upgraded to ''buy,'' but I guess we will have to wait and see on that.

Of course, not all of the financials participated in the Brazil-upgrade rally. Bank of America (BAC) fell 49 cents to $12.15 despite claiming the top spot among global asset managers in a report released by a UK-based research firm. Wells Fargo inched up 2 cents despite the heavy put buying I highlighted in today's Market Monitor. It seems that some options traders are taking a keen interest in the August 15 and August 17.50 Wells Fargo puts. A fall to either of those prices would be a pretty hefty percentage drop from today's close of $23.10 for the fourth-largest US bank. Maybe the Warren Buffett favorite is inviting the bearish trade by its announcement that it is intent on growing its presence in investment banking.

The Financial Select SPDR ETF (XLF) closed up just a penny to $11.48, keeping it below both its 50 and 200-day moving averages. For lack of a crystal ball, I do not want to hazard a guess as to where the XLF is headed next, but it is probably worth keeping an eye once bank earnings start to trickle in next week.

XLF Chart

With earnings season ready to kickoff with Alcoa (AA) reporting after the close on Wednesday, it is a good time to take a look at what to expect in terms of earnings erosion. With the way the employers are shedding jobs, any upside surprises may lead to thuds on trading desks across the country as jaws drop to the floor. While that rosy scenario is possible, it is not probable. Forecasts are calling for a 34% drop in second-quarter earnings for the S&P 500. That comes on the heels of a 33% decline in the first quarter and a 60% thrashing in the fourth quarter of 2008.

If you want to call it improvement, the expectation for the third quarter is a year-over-year decline of ''only'' 21%. Some experts are calling for earnings to turn positive in the fourth quarter, but that may be more a result of comparing 2009's fourth quarter numbers to that aforementioned 60% beating suffered in Q4 2008 rather than actual increases in quality of profits.

In other words, all those lost jobs we have been hearing about for so many months mean consumers are spending less money. That is the first ingredient in a bad recipe for US companies. The second is the fact that folks that are fortunate enough to still be employed appear intent on bolstering their savings, so even in the rare cases of folks with some disposable income, the income is not being disposed of at their local Best Buy, car dealer, Starbucks or wherever. At least not in volume noteworthy enough to get the economy headed in the right direction.

Take a look at the chart below to get an illustration of the decline in S&P 500 earnings.

S&P 500 Earnings Chart

One sector that has suffered mightily at the hands of the weak economy and the newly frugal consumer is the airline group. Speculation is abound that some of the major US carriers may seek another round of bankruptcy protection, the second such move since 2001. The group is hemorrhaging cash and at least one analyst expects the biggest US carriers, including Delta Air Lines (DAL), AMR (AMR), parent of American Airlines, and UAL (UAUA), parent of United Airlines, to post a combined loss of $1 billion, up from a previous estimate of $600 million.

Crimped by rising fuel costs, slack business travel and anemic leisure demand, airlines might not be able to fill a plane charging only $10 a seat. That may be a bit of hyperbole on my part, but the outlook is grim for this particular sector.

Oddly enough, there was not an airline ETF available to investors until earlier this year when the Claymore Airline ETF (FAA) made its debut. Dispite the cute ticker, FAA is down more than 10% this year, embodying the decline of its holdings. FAA is thinly traded and has now slumped below its 50-day moving average. Finding positive catalysts to spur the ETF and its holdings higher is likely to be a tough task.

FAA Chart

The tech sector and the Nasdaq have been holding up relatively well, due in no small part to the fortress-like balance sheets of many large tech companies. That said, the group has not been able to escape the fallout from the weak economy. Press reports are saying Google (GOOG) is likely to report its second slowest quarterly growth rate since going public when it reports earnings and Microsoft may report a second straight decline in quarterly sales.

Those anecdotes had no bearing on the battle being waged for data storage firm Data Domain (DDUP). EMC (EMC), the king of the data storage space, and rival NetApp (NTAP) have been duking it out for Data Domain and I mentioned several weeks ago in the Market Monitor that EMC was likely to increase its $30-a-share cash bid and that would push Data Domain above $32. EMC did just that today, offering $33.50 a share and Domain closed at $34.06. That values Data Domain at $2.1 billion, above EMC's previous $1.9 billion offer and well above NetApp's $1.5 billion bid.

The proverbial ball is now in NetApp's court and Data Domain shareholders appear poised to benefit the longer this battle is drawn out.

DDUP Chart

Barring any surprises, Tuesday appears to be light in the way of economic news and there is not much in the way of earnings offerings, so it would not be surprising to see another day of lackadaisical trade as investors batten down the hatches in anticipation of earnings reports, which start to flow on Wednesday.

As I mentioned earlier, Dow component and aluminum giant Alcoa will be watched intently after the close Wednesday. Analysts are expecting a loss of 34 cents a share for the second quarter. There are a couple of earnings plays that may be worth a gander before the open Wednesday. Family Dollar (FDO), the discount retailer that is up about 9% this year, is expected to report profits of 59 cents a share. Pepsi Bottling (PBG) is the other pre-market earnings report of note on Wednesday. Analysts are calling for 73 cents in profits there.

Taking a look at market internals, perhaps another docile, double-digit day would be a good thing tomorrow. With the Dow resting in the neighborhood of 8320, it appears attempts at breaking 8600 failed and downside support at 8250 could become an issue of the market continues to languish as it has a penchant for doing in the summer months.

A violation of 8250 would be just the invitation the bears need to come roaring back and send the Dow down to 7800, or perhaps lower. The near-term performance of the Dow is almost entirely dependent on the earnings its 30 members deliver over the coming. If the bulls like what they hear, another run at 8600 could be attempted. If not, a break of 8000 could be in the offing.

Dow Chart

Things are even more precarious for the S&P 500, which made a valiant attempt to close above 900 last Thursday before sellers took advantage of buyers that had presumably left early to kickoff the long weekend, sending the index below the critical 900 level. While the S&P 500 was up on Monday, it was not up enough to get above 900 and the more closes below 900 the market sees, the more concern is likely to grow.

A lot has been lately of a head-and-shoulders pattern forming in the S&P 500 charts and the support the index finds in the 880 area. This level for the S&P is a lot like 8250 for the Dow. A bounce from those levels could rejuvenate the bulls. A break to the downside, well, I shall just call that scenario bleak and leave it at that.

S&P 500 Chart

The Nasdaq now rests a mere 15 points above the 50-day moving average of 1772.43, which could be a support level in the near-term, though 1760 has shown to be a support range as well. Factoring in Monday's decline, the Nasdaq is down 50 points in the past week, which normally would not be overly troublesome, but the calendar shows this is historically the weakest time of year for technology stocks.

If the bears really get a hold of the Nasdaq and force it below the 1750 area, unfortunately, 1675 has to be introduced to the conversation. While the tech-heavy index has not broken down per se, it certainly has not broken up either, and now several closes above 1800 will be need to get the bulls cheering again.

Nasdaq Chart

I have spent some time lamenting the importance of second-quarter earnings, but another factor to consider it trading volume. If trade continues to remain lethargic, even good earnings news may be like the tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. That may be the unfortunate consequence of earnings expectations that have been pared and pruned the way they have been over the past year. When the bar gets set too low, no one cares if it is cleared.


New Option Plays

Ready for the Bounce

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown


NEW DIRECTIONAL CALL PLAYS

Visa - V - close: 60.67 change: +0.59 stop: 56.40

Why We Like It:
Short-term the trend in Visa is down. Shares have fallen from $70 to $60 in the last four weeks for a 14% correction. The stock is currently testing support near $60.00 and its 100-dma. Yet I don't want to buy calls yet. This is a volatile market. I suspect that V will break the $60.00 level only to find stronger support near $57.50. We're only trying to catch a bounce since the short-term trend is still down.

The plan is to buy calls at $58.00 with a tight stop at $56.40. Our exit target is $63.50.

Suggested Options:
Aggressive traders can use July options but they expire in less than two weeks. I'm suggesting the August calls. Remember, our trigger to buy calls is at $58.00.

BUY CALL AUG 60.00 VEH-HL open interest= 751 current ask $3.80
BUY CALL AUG 62.50 VEH-HO open interest=4905 current ask $2.60

Annotated Chart:

Picked on     July xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked:      + 0.00
Earnings Date           07/29/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       7.7 million  
Listed on  July 04, 2009         



In Play Updates and Reviews

Mining stocks crumble. Oil slides.

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown


CALL Play Updates

Alcon Inc. - ACL - close: 115.67 change: -0.36 stop: 113.75 *new*

ACL temporarily dipped under support at $115.00 but the stock was rebounding higher into the close. While I'm cautious on the broader market this move in ACL looks like a new entry point to buy calls. The low was $113.90. I'm raising our stop loss to $113.75. Our first target is $119.90. Our second target is $124.50.

Picked on     June 25 at $115.25 *triggered    
Change since picked:      + 0.42
Earnings Date           07/23/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       688 thousand 
Listed on  June 24, 2009         


Becton Dickinson - BDX - close: 70.33 change: +1.28 stop: 67.75

BDX displayed some relative strength with a bounce from its intraday low at $68.75. Shares closed up 1.8% and back above its exponential 200-dma and above the $70.00 mark. I'm saying the same thing I said in the ACL update. I'm worried about the broader market (S&P500) and think it will head lower but this looks like a new bullish entry point in BDX. More conservative traders may want to raise their stop loss toward today's low.

Our first target to take profits is $74.90. Our second target is $79.00. Currently the Point & Figure chart is bullish and forecasts an $86 target.

Picked on     June 25 at $ 70.51 *triggered     
Change since picked:      - 0.18
Earnings Date           07/23/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       1.8 million  
Listed on  June 18, 2009         


Bunge Limited - BG - close: 58.96 change: -1.11 stop: 58.49

I don't see any changes from my weekend comments. BG is still slipping lower. The stock is on the verge of breaking its 50-dma and its longer-term up trend. More aggressive traders might want to consider bearish plays on a breakdown under $57.00, under the 100-dma or the $55.00 level (depending on your level of risk). We're still waiting for a break higher with a trigger at $62.55.

If triggered at $62.55 our first target is $67.45. Our second target is $69.95. More aggressive traders may want to aim for the $74-75 zone but we plan to exit ahead of the late July earnings report.

Picked on     June xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked:      + 0.00
Earnings Date           07/23/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       1.7 million  
Listed on  June 27, 2009         


Covance Inc. - CVD - close: 48.07 change: -0.43 stop: 45.90

The short-term action in CVD still looks a little bearish even though the bullish trend of higher lows is still in place. Traders need to decide... do you keep your stop loss under clearly defined support at $46.00 or do you adjust your stop for the bullish trend of higher lows. If you choose the trend of higher lows then you may want to raise your stop loss to $46.45ish or toward today's low near $46.86. I am not suggesting new bullish positions at this time. Our first target is $52.40. Our second target is $57.00 but we may run out of time.

Picked on     June 25 at $ 48.28
Change since picked:      - 0.21
Earnings Date           07/29/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       654 thousand
Listed on  June 25, 2009         


Quest Diagnostic - DGX - close: 55.90 chg: +0.90 stop: 53.40

DGX delivered a bounce gaining 1.6% but I hesitate to open new positions at this time. Wait for a dip or a bounce near the $54.00 level before considering new call positions. Our first target to take profits is $58.25. Our second target is $59.90. More aggressive traders may want to aim higher. The Point & Figure chart has a new triple-top breakout buy signal with a $75 target. We do not want to hold over the late July earnings report.

Picked on     June 24 at $ 54.28
Change since picked:      + 1.62
Earnings Date           07/22/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       1.1 million  
Listed on  June 24, 2009         


Express Scripts - ESRX - close: 66.65 change: +0.40 stop: 63.75

ESRX also displayed some relative strength but the bounce was pretty meager. I would expect a dip back toward the $65.00 level, which should be support. More conservative traders might want to consider a stop loss closer to $65.00. Our first target is $69.90. Our second target is $74.75.

Picked on     June 22 at $ 65.25
Change since picked:      + 1.40
Earnings Date           07/29/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       3.7 million  
Listed on  June 18, 2009         


Edwards Lifesciences - EW - close: 66.12 change: -0.00 stop: 64.85

EW closed unchanged on Monday, which is somewhat encouraging. Fine tuning our strategy a bit let's look for a bounce over $67.00 or a bounce from $65.00 as our next entry point. Bear in mind that if the S&P 500 really begins to breakdown I do not expect EW to hold the current up trend.

The Point & Figure chart is bullish with an $84.00 target. Our target is $74.00. We will plan to exit ahead of the July 20th earnings report.

Picked on     June 30 at $ 68.03
Change since picked:      - 1.91
Earnings Date           07/20/09 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       369 thousand 
Listed on  June 30, 2009         


Euro Currency ETF - FXE - close: 139.81 chg: -0.19 stop: 137.90

Some strength in the U.S. dollar this morning sent the FXE lower but intraday the trend was higher following the morning gap down. Look for another rise past $140.00 as a new entry point to buy calls. Our first target is $144.50. Our second target is $148.50. The P&F chart is bullish with a $168 target.

Picked on     June 23 at $140.76
Change since picked:      - 0.95
Earnings Date           00/00/00
Average Daily Volume =       461 thousand    
Listed on  June 23, 2009         


Lorillard Inc. - LO - close: 69.68 change: +1.73 stop: 67.30

Investors were turning more defensive this morning and shares of LO shot higher posting a 2.5% gain. Unfortunately resistance at $70.00 held strong. The intraday high was $70.05. We have a trigger to buy calls at $70.10. If triggered our first target is $74.00. Our second target is $76.75. FYI: The Point & Figure chart is very bullish and currently forecasts a $92 target.

Picked on     July xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked:      + 0.00
Earnings Date           07/27/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       1.8 million  
Listed on  July 01, 2009         


Millicom Intl. - MICC - close: 57.07 change: +0.53 stop: 53.95

Right on cue MICC dipped to $55.00 and traders bought the dip near its rising 50-dma. This looks like a new bullish entry point. More conservative traders may want to consider a stop loss closer to $55.00. Our first target is $59.95. Our second target is $64.50. We only have about two weeks before MICC's earnings so we may not reach the second target.

Picked on     June 25 at $ 56.37
Change since picked:      + 0.70
Earnings Date           07/21/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       1.0 million  
Listed on  June 25, 2009         


PUT Play Updates

Agrium Inc. - AGU - close: 39.11 change: -1.26 stop: 41.65

Our put play on AGU is now open. The stock slipped to $38.30 this morning. Our trigger to buy puts was at $38.75. I am adjusting our exit strategy. We want to take some profits at $35.10. We'll exit completely at $31.00.

FYI: Readers should note that AGU is trying a hostile takeover for CF Industries, which is itself trying a hostile takeover of Terra Industries.

Chart:

Picked on     July 06 at $ 38.75 *triggered     
Change since picked:      + 0.36
Earnings Date           07/27/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       4.2 million  
Listed on  June 30, 2009         


Autozone Inc. - AZO - close: 153.02 change: +3.02 stop: 155.25

AZO displayed some relative strength with a sharp bounce off its lows this morning. Shares should have short-term resistance at $154.00 and then again near $155.00. The Point & Figure chart is forecasting a drop to $134. I'm suggesting bearish positions now with a stop at $155.25 or you can wait for the bounce to roll over before launching new positions. Our first target is $141.00. Our second target is $132.50.

Picked on     July 04 at $150.00
Change since picked:      + 3.02
Earnings Date           09/22/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       1.0 million  
Listed on  July 04, 2009         


Core Labs - CLB - close: 81.69 change: -1.11 stop: 88.30

Weakness in crude oil futures weighed heavily on the energy sector. Shares of CLB gapped open lower at $81.00 and traded sideways the rest of the session. CLB is arguably short-term oversold. Look for a bounce near $85.00 as a new entry point to buy puts. Our first target is $80.25. Our second target is $76.00. FYI: The P&F chart is bearish and forecasts a $71 target.

Picked on     July 01 at $ 83.16 /gap down entry
                              /originally listed at 84.53
Change since picked:      - 1.47
Earnings Date           07/22/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       232 thousand 
Listed on  July 01, 2009         


Compass Minerals Intl. - CMP - cls: 53.82 change: -1.58 stop: 56.26

The morning sell-off in stocks saw CMP gapped open lower at $52.76 and dip to $52.25 before bouncing. Our trigger to buy puts just happened to be $52.25 so the play is now open. I would expect the bounce to continue so look for CMP to trade near $55.00 or even $55.00 (so that it fills the gap) and then open new put positions. Our first target is $47.50. Our second target is $43.00.

Chart:

Picked on     July 06 at $ 52.25 *triggered     
Change since picked:      + 1.57
Earnings Date           07/27/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       792 thousand 
Listed on  June 29, 2009         


Costco - COST - close: 45.70 change: +1.06 stop: 46.10

COST was showing some significant strength with a 2.3% gain and a bullish engulfing candlestick pattern. Fortunately we're still on the sidelines. Our plan is to buy puts with a breakdown under $44.00 (trigger 43.90). If triggered our target is $40.25.

Picked on     July xx at $ xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked:      + 0.00
Earnings Date           10/08/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =      4.75 million  
Listed on  July 04, 2009         


Freeport McMoran - FCX - close: 45.94 change: -3.78 stop: 53.01

Target achieved! FCX hit our first target at $45.25 a lot fast than expected. Unfortunately shares also gapped open lower this morning so our entry point wasn't $49.72 but $47.92 (that's not a typo). Shares should have short-term support at $45.00 so I'd expect a bounce now probably back toward $49.00, which is where we can use a failed rally to open new positions again. Our second target is $41.00.

Chart:

Picked on     July 04 at $ 47.92 /gap down entry
                               /originally listed at $49.72
Change since picked:      - 1.98
                               /1st target hit @ 45.25 (-5.5%)
Earnings Date           07/22/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        18 million  
Listed on  July 04, 2009         


L-3 Comm. - LLL - close: 66.02 change: +0.27 stop: 70.25 *new*

LLL hit another new relative low at $64.51 this morning. Shares were looking a little oversold so the bounce this afternoon is not surprising. Look for the bounce to reach the $68.00 level. I'm lowering our stop loss down to $70.25. LLL has already hit our first target at $66.00. Our second target is $61.00.

Picked on     June 16 at $ 71.75
Change since picked:      - 5.73
                               /1st target hit @ 66.00 (-8.0%)
Earnings Date           07/23/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       976 thousand  
Listed on  June 16, 2009         


MetLife Inc. - MET - close: 28.86 change: +0.82 stop: 30.35

MET also managed a little bit of an oversold bounce after Thursday's sell-off. That's okay. My weekend comments suggested using a bounce into the $29.50-30.00 zone as a entry point to buy puts. Our first target is $25.25. Our second target is $21.75.

Picked on     July 04 at $ 28.04
Change since picked:      + 0.82
Earnings Date           07/30/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       7.4 million  
Listed on  July 04, 2009         


NII Holdings - NIHD - close: 18.83 change: +0.22 stop: 20.10

Nothing has changed from our weekend comments on NIHD. I'm suggesting put positions now or on a bounce back toward the $19.50 region. Our first target is $16.15.

Picked on     July 04 at $ 18.61
Change since picked:      + 0.22
Earnings Date           07/23/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       2.9 million  
Listed on  July 04, 2009         


United Parcel Serv. - UPS - close: 49.14 change: +0.54 stop: 51.55

The transports delivered a nice bounce off their intraday lows and UPS did the same. The stock could try bouncing back to its 200-dma again. Wait for the bounce to fail there and use it as a new entry point to buy puts.

Our first target to take profits is $45.50. We do not want to hold over the late July earnings report.

Picked on     June 26 at $ 49.50 *triggered     
Change since picked:      + 0.36
Earnings Date           07/23/09 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       5.2 million  
Listed on  June 17, 2009         


Weyerhaeuser - WY - close: 29.99 change: +0.48 stop: 31.51

Lack of follow through on WY's breakdown from Thursday has me turning slightly more cautious. The trend is still very bearish but we have a relatively tight stop loss. I could see WY traded up towards $30.75 to fill the gap down on Thursday. Look for an entry point there (near 30.75) or wait for the bounce to roll over first and then enter positions. Our first target is $26.00. Our second target is $23.00. The P&F chart points to a $24 target.

Picked on     July 04 at $ 29.51
Change since picked:      + 0.48
Earnings Date           07/31/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       2.1 million  
Listed on  July 04, 2009         


Wynn Resorts - WYNN - close: 32.69 change: -0.72 stop: 37.65

Gambling stocks were weak with the DJUSCA index losing 3.3%. WYNN was leading the way lower this morning with a drop to $31.82 but shares pared their losses by the close. The 100-dma might offer WYNN a little support. I'm not suggesting new positions at this time. Our first target is $30.25. Our second target is $26.00.

Picked on     June 22 at $ 34.28
Change since picked:      - 1.59
Earnings Date           07/30/09 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       3.4 million  
Listed on  June 22, 2009