Option Investor
Newsletter

Daily Newsletter, Wednesday, 12/9/2009

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Indexes Make Small Gains, but Nothing Special Wednesday

by Judy Alster

Click here to email Judy Alster
Maybe you remember a play, which was later a movie, called "Marty." In it, Marty's friend Angelo would frequently say, "Hey, Marty -- Whaddaya wanna do?" and Marty would invariably reply, "I don't know, Ange -- Whadda you wanna do." That's the kind of market we had Wednesday — vacillating, irresolute, but at least we ended higher than we began. The dollar, like Marty and Ange, was undecided, and in reaction stocks were choppy, but narrowly. The major indexes managed a fractional rise:

INDEX WRAP, Wednesday, Dec. 9:

The dollar's early jump came not on any particular sign that the greenback was strengthening, but on word that Standard & Poor's revised its outlook for Spain from stable to negative just a day after Greece's credit rating was cut and Moody's grumbled about massive debt in the U.K. (As a friend puts it, "It's like winning the spelling bee because all the smart kids are home with the flu.")

U.S. DOLLAR INDEX, a breather after four good sessions:

After jolting commodities, as it's done by rising more than 1.5% since last week, the buck ended the day slightly lower due to falls against the euro and the yen, helping stocks make a comeback on the day. Gold put the brakes on after three losing sessions, closing around $1,134.58, up $8.22.

DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE:

Non-farm commodities were not happy, though:

CRB COMMODITIES INDEX:

The Dow rose 51 points or 0.5%, the S&P 500 index gained 4 points or 0.4%, and the Nasdaq put on almost 11 points or 0.49%. Advancers and decliners were roughly equal; volume was okay.

S&P 500 leaves 1,100 behind for the second day:

U.S. home loan demand rose last week to the highest level in about two months as the Mortgage Bankers Association's purchase index jumped 4%. It was boosted mainly by buyers (owners, really) locking in low rates with refinancing, which was up a hefty 11.1%; nearly three of every four loan requests last week was for a refinancing rather than a purchase. Also helping were purchase applications tied to government stimulus.

NASDAQ:

An $8,000 credit that was set to end November 30 for first-time buyers was extended, with contract signings now due by April 30 and loan closings by June 30; a new $6,500 tax credit to bait move-up buyers was added. Supporting it all is extremely low (although higher than the previous week's) mortgage rates, averaging 4.88% for 30-year loans. Although it won't be all smooth sailing — another wave of foreclosures by late next year is not out of the question — things are certainly improving. Unbridled optimism won't be called for next year or even the year after, but at least the housing market no longer gives you that horrible sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Like housing stocks, some major residential REITs have been lagging the uptick:

MORTGAGE MARKET: Apps up last week, REITs down:

Most homebuilder stocks are well off their August and September highs, and today's news about D.H. Horton (DHI) didn't help matters. When Horton's CEO Donald Tomnitz recently exercised the right to sell a chunk of company stock that was part of his compensation package, investors took it as a bearish sign and pulled out of the stock. As it happens, Tomnitz just needed a few bucks for a tax bill -- he wasn't bearish on his own company, but try telling that to other shareholders, especially with Horton announcing a fiscal-year loss of $542 million or $1.72 a share.

We can expect to see more scenes like this, what with the shift to increased stock-based compensation in American corporations, since CEO sales of stock can be and are easily misconstrued as harbingers of bad news. On Wednesday it became clear that the share sale by Horton's Tomnitz was only half the story: New SEC filings showed just how much Tomnitz was paid this year while his company otherwise cut costs: his comp package is valued at about $6.4 million, more than half in stock and option awards and a performance-based cash bonus of about $2.3 million, up 26% from last year's bonus. Listen, I don't mind CEOs of public companies making a pile of dough —but only if it's well-deserved, and that number strikes me as a whole lotta money to pay a skipper whose vessel is still navigating red ink. If I'm wrong, tell me. I don't mean to pick on the man; he's not alone, nor is he the worst case. Examples abound (so do studies) that show a strong inverse correlation between outsized CEO compensation and below-average stock performance. If you have an idle moment, Google "CEO compensation related to below-average stock performance". Here's what Horton looks like lately; it's similar to most other homebuilders:

D.R. HORTON, correlating inversely to CEO pay:

As to the Commerce Department's wholesale trade report, inventories rose 0.3% in October, ending more than a year of declines (13, to be exact) and offering new evidence that the inventory correction is at least trying to wind down. Despite the buildup, inventories relative to sales slipped to 1.16; sales at the wholesale level rose 1.2% in the month, better than the expected 0.7%. Petroleum products contributed, up 4.6%, and an 11.4% rise in farm-product inventories accounted for much of the month's build, as this agribusiness ETF shows, gaining over 3% in October:

MOO:

The results for components were actually mixed, with many of them still posting significant reductions. Specifically, there was a big draw in apparel inventories matched by strong sales. Machinery and furniture saw declines in both inventories and sales during the month; the decline in machinery is no surprise given deep slumps for it in durable goods data and continuing weak business investment in capital goods. Furniture sales at the retail level were also weak in October but more recent reports from retailers hint at a rebound. Both inventories and sales of autos were up in October.

Hiring (not job creation: they're two completely different things) depends to a significant extent on the broad need to build inventory, both of which we have yet to see. October's round-up of inventory data concludes with Friday's Business Inventories report.

Wednesday the Energy Information Administration reported a 2.5-million-barrel build in crude stocks at the West Texas Intermediate Crude delivery point in Oklahoma, along with a 2.2 million barrel build in total gasoline stocks and a 1.6 million build in distillates. On the other hand, it announced a 3.8- million-barrel draw in total crude inventories to 336.1 million barrels. Oil and gasoline imports were both down last week; domestic output of gasoline and distillates were up with refineries finally rousing themselves and operating at 81% of capacity, still very low but better than previously. The major refiners Demand for gasoline was steady in the week but demand for other distillates dipped. Oil first fell $1 then rebounded $1 to trade at $73. It closed lower, however:

CRUDE FUTURES:

Supply in the petroleum market, despite the week's draw in crude, is still heavy and a threat to the oil industry should the global economic recovery stall. As I've said before, refiners usually zoom in an economic turnaround after demand for gasoline and distillates rises, and they pay dividends, always to be desired. Three I watch are Valero (VLO, yielding 3.7%), Tesoro (TSO, yielding 1.6%; it just cut its dividend in half) and Western Refining (WNR, who recently raised its dividend, yielding 5%).

In earnings, retail stocks fell Wednesday after venerable timepiece company Movado Group (MOV) and clothing retailer Men's Wearhouse (MW) among others delivered disappointing outlooks and took dives themselves. The watchmaker reported third-quarter results that fell short of Street expectations, swinging to a loss of $20.9 million or 85 cents a share, from a profit of $15.7 million or 62 cents a share last year; sales fell to $129 million from $135.8 million. On top of which Movado lowered its fiscal 2010 forecast to a loss of $1.40 to $1.50 a share, including $1.05 a share in charges. Analysts didn't like that, especially since they were expecting a profit of 62 cents a share in Q3 and a full-year profit of 46 cents. Blame tight inventory control and "destocking" as many jewelers closed their operations and liquidated inventory during the last year, which hasn't helped sales at high-end stores like Movado.

MOVADO:

Men's Wearhouse shares responded to the company's after-hours Tuesday announcement that its third-quarter net income rose to $19.7 million or 37 cents a share from $14.6 million or 28 cents last year on increased revenue, beating estimates on both, by falling 7%: Investors were disappointed in the outlook of a 15-to-19-cent Q4 loss while same-store sales are projected to be flat to down.

MEN'S WEARHOUSE:

Maker of popular athletic wear Lululemon Athletica (LULU) announced a very fine third quarter with revenue up 29.7% to $112.9 million; net income of $14.1 million, up from $8.8 million; and earnings per share of 20 cents, up from 13 cents; the company beat on revenue and earnings, and apparently didn't disappoint with its outlook, since the stock finished nicely higher. It's had a staggering run, up some 520% since March. The stock now looks like it's running out of steam, with its flattening top and non-confirming MACD. But one never knows, does one.

LULULEMON, what a run:

Tuesday night Texas Instruments narrowed its earnings and sales outlook, but pointed to a much better fourth quarter. The stock gapped down on the open but managed to crawl back some, losing only 34 cents or 1.29% to $25.99 . . . . Fluid management company Pall Corp. (PLL) said sales were down but profit up in the latest quarter. Pall shares fell 18 cents to $31.39 in regular trading; after the report in after-hours trading, they gained $2.33 to $33.90 . . . . I'd be remiss if I didn't mention CIT Group (CITGQ), who boldly expects to emerge from bankruptcy protection, all shiny and reorganized, on Thursday. CIT was the largest lender to small and mid-sized businesses in the U.S. It filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 1, a few weeks after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. refused to guarantee CIT's debt. Its plan calls for a $10.5 billion reduction in its debt load. It closed Wednesday at around 4 cents.

Nothing looks primed for a big move up right now, and of course nobody likes to see the S&P under 1,100. We could see a drift more or less lower till Christmas . . . then possibly some strength to take us into the new year. Buying on dips is not a bad idea.

With Christmas almost upon us, those of you who live with members of the under-six-year-old set may be noticing this phenomenon:

THE CLOSER IT GETS TO DEC. 25th . . . .

Thursday could bring us one or two market movers. There's the Bank of England rate announcement, the International Trade Report, Jobless Claims (always worth watching), the Natural Gas Report and the Treasury Budget.

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New Option Plays

Momentum in Technology

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown


NEW DIRECTIONAL CALL PLAYS

EQUINIX Inc. - EQIX - close: 103.02 change: +0.50 stop: 97.45

Why We Like It:
EQIX is an IT services firm that is hitting new 52-week highs. The breakout over resistance at the $100 level is certainly bullish and the stock should have a clear path toward the $110 level. I'm suggesting small bullish positions now with a stop loss at $97.45. Our target is $109.50.

Suggested Options:
I'm suggesting the January calls. My preference is the $105 strike.

BUY CALL JAN 105 FQS-AA open interest=683  current ask $3.70

Annotated Chart:

Entry  on  December 09 at $103.02
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            02/10/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        501 thousand 
Listed on  December 09, 2009         


F5 Networks - FFIV - close: 52.08 change: +0.78 stop: 47.99

Why We Like It:
This is a momentum play. FFIV is hitting new eight-year highs with the recent breakout above resistance at the $50.00 level. I'm suggesting readers open small bullish positions here with a stop loss at $47.99, which is just under the 30-dma. Our stop loss is a little wide so keep your position size small. Our first target to take profits is at $54.90. Our second target is $57.45.

Suggested Options:
I'm suggesting the January calls. My preference is the $55 strike.

BUY CALL JAN 55.00 FLK-AK open interest=846  current ask $1.45

Annotated Chart:

Entry  on  December 09 at $ 52.08
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            01/20/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.2 million  
Listed on  December 09, 2009         



In Play Updates and Reviews

Possible Entry Point

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

The afternoon bounce in the stock market presents a potential entry point for some of our trades.


CALL Play Updates

Adobe Systems - ADBE - close: 35.85 change: -0.23 stop: 35.79

There is no change from my prior comments on ADBE. The stock isn't moving much and we're still waiting for a breakout higher. I am suggesting a trigger to buy calls at $37.25. If triggered our first target is $39.95. Our second target is $42.25 but this might be a little optimistic. We won't have much time. ADBE is due to report earnings on December 15th and we don't want to hold over the announcement.

Entry  on  December xx at $ xx.xx <-- TRIGGER @ 37.25
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            12/15/09 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        4.8 million  
Listed on  December 05, 2009         


Bucyrus Intl. - BUCY - close: 50.72 change: +0.96 stop: 48.99 *new*

It's been a rocky session for the commodity-related stocks. The group eventually broke higher as the dollar rolled over. BUCY broke out past a short-term trend of lower highs. Originally we had a plan to buy calls on BUCY if it rallied past resistance near $55.00. Then we added a trigger to buy puts if it hit $48.95 because shares were starting to breakdown. Thus far neither trigger has been hit.

I suspect that BUCY will bounce from here so I'm suggesting very small bullish positions with a tight stop under today's low. We'll take profits at $54.90. I'm keeping the trigger to buy puts at $48.95 active in case BUCY rolls over.

For the bullish trade we want to use the January calls. My preference is the $55 strike (HIK-AK) current ask is $1.80.

Chart:

Entry  on  December 09 at $ 50.72 
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            02/18/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        2.8 million  
Listed on  December 01, 2009         


Capella Education - CPLA - close: 73.05 change: +1.17 stop: 69.65

CPLA is showing some strength with a 1.6% gain following yet another bounce from the $70.00 level. I would be tempted to buy calls right here but more conservative traders may want to look for a new rise over $75.00 first. Our target is $79.50.

I do consider this an aggressive, higher-risk trade. Currently the Point & Figure chart is bullish with an $85 target.

Picked on  November 24 at $ 72.55
Change since picked:       + 0.50
Earnings Date            02/11/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        126 thousand 
Listed on  November 24, 2009         


Fedex Corp. - FDX - close: 89.00 change: -0.88 stop: 83.90

FDX suffered some profit taking after yesterday's pop higher. Technically today's session produced a bearish engulfing candlestick pattern but I'm not that alarmed by it. FDX is a little overbought and due for a pull back. The stock has already hit our first target near $90.00. We're currently aiming for $94.90.

Picked on  December 01 at $ 85.75 
Change since picked:       + 3.25
Earnings Date            12/17/09 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        2.6 million  
Listed on  November 30, 2009         


Infosys Tech. - INFY - close: 52.49 change: +0.73 stop: 49.90

INFY is bouncing back toward its highs. While I'm bullish on INFY right here readers might want to wait for a move over $53.00 before launching positions. Our first target to take profits is at $55.75. Our second and final target is $59.50. We will plan to exit ahead of the January 12th earnings report.

Entry  on  December 05 at $ 51.88 /gap down entry point
                           /originally listed at $52.46
Change since picked:       + 0.61
Earnings Date            01/12/10 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.4 million  
Listed on  December 05, 2009         


Ishares Financial - IYF - close: 51.12 change: +0.13 stop: 49.99

The financial sector is still going nowhere. The IFY traded in a narrow range. It will be interesting to see if the sector will move tomorrow following news out tonight after the bell that Citigroup is considering a capital raise to help pay back the TARP money.

I'm not suggesting new positions at this time. We need to see a clearly defined bounce from the 100-dma or a new move over $52.50 (more cautious traders can wait for a move over $53.00) before I'd consider new positions. Our multi-week target is $59.00. I would use small positions.

Entry  on  December 03 at $ 52.60
Change since picked:       - 1.48
Earnings Date            --/--/--
Average Daily Volume =        3.1 million  
Listed on  December 02, 2009         


MSC Industrial Direct - MSM - close: 46.28 change: -0.09 stop: 44.90

It was another forgettable session for MSM. The stock bounced from the $45.55 level and almost made it back to breakeven. I'm not suggesting new bullish positions. Our first target is $49.75. Our second target is $52.50.

Picked on  November 17 at $ 46.62
Change since picked:       - 0.34
Earnings Date            01/07/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        513 thousand 
Listed on  November 17, 2009         


Norfolk Southern - NSC - close: 51.27 change: -0.03 stop: 49.75

NSC slipped to $50.64 near its 30-dma this afternoon before paring its losses. Nimble traders may want to consider buying a bounce from here. More conservative traders can wait for a breakout over $53.00. Our first target to take profits is at $54.90. Our second target is $58.50. Our time frame is several weeks. FYI: The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $65 target.

Picked on  November 21 at $ 51.84 (small positions)/gap higher entry
Change since picked:       - 0.57 
Earnings Date            01/27/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        5.4 million  
Listed on  November 21, 2009         


Precision Castparts - PCP - close: 109.69 change: +0.02 stop: 104.95

Traders bought the dip in PCP at $107.50 twice this morning. The stock broke higher this afternoon and broke a very short-term trend of lower highs. I think PCP is poised to move higher if we get a cooperative market. I'd consider this afternoon bounce a new entry point to buy calls.

Our first target to take profits is at $112.45. Our second target is $118.75. The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $131 target.

Picked on  December 01 at $107.35
Change since picked:       + 2.34
Earnings Date            01/20/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        817 thousand 
Listed on  November 28, 2009         


Valmont Industries - VMI - close: 80.44 change: +1.88 stop: 77.65

VMI is showing some relative strength with a new three-week high. The close over $80.00 is bullish and shares are challenging the 100-dma. More aggressive traders could jump into bullish trades now. I am suggesting a trigger to buy calls at $81.00. If triggered our first target to take profits is at $84.90. Our second target is $88.75. FYI: The most recent data list short interest at 9% of the very small 20.1 million-share float.

Entry  on  December xx at $ xx.xx <-- TRIGGER @ 81.00
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            02/10/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        238 thousand 
Listed on  December 05, 2009         


Vertex Pharma - VRTX - close: 40.18 change: +0.36 stop: 38.35

The rebound in VRTX continues. The close back over $40.00 is bullish. Readers could open bullish positions now or wait for a new relative high over $40.44. Our target to exit is at $44.25. My time frame is several weeks.

Entry  on  December 03 at $ 40.25
Change since picked:       - 0.07
Earnings Date            02/09/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        3.2 million  
Listed on  November 23, 2009         


PUT Play Updates

Bucyrus Intl. - BUCY - close: 50.72 change: +0.96 stop: 51.90

It looks like BUCY has a good chance at bounce from here. I've added it back to the call-section with a new entry point, stop loss and target. However, we're keeping this trigger to buy puts at $48.95 active in case BUCY rolls over. If triggered I'm suggesting the January puts. My preference is the $50 or $45 strike. Our first target is $45.50 (just above the 50-dma). Our second target is $40.50.

Picked on  December 01 at $ xx.xx <-- TRIGGER @ 48.95, small positions
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            02/18/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        2.8 million  
Listed on  December 01, 2009         


FISERV Inc. - FISV - close: 46.67 change: -0.07 stop: 48.05

FISV is still producing a short-term bearish trend of lower highs and lower lows but it's not moving very fast. I am not suggesting new positions at this time. Currently our bearish target o FISV is $42.25.

Picked on  November 28 at $ 46.29
Change since picked:       + 0.65
Earnings Date            02/02/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.4 million  
Listed on  November 28, 2009         


Green Mountain Coffee Roasters - GMCR - cls: 61.72 chg: -1.10 stop: 66.15

The bounce in GMCR failed at the $64.00 level. The stock lost 1.75% on the session. I am not suggesting new positions at this time. Our second and final target is $56.00. This is a higher-risk trade considering the risk of a short squeeze.

Picked on  November 19 at $ 64.75
Change since picked:       - 3.03
                                /1st target hit @ 60.25 (-6.9%)
Earnings Date            01/28/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.5 million  
Listed on  November 18, 2009         


Goldman Sachs - GS - close: 166.44 change: +4.60 stop: 171.05

I warned readers yesterday to expect an oversold bounce from $160. The low today was $160.72 and GS shot higher to out perform the market with a 2.8% gain. I'm not suggesting new positions at this time but a new failed rally at $170 would work as a new entry point. Our target is $155.50. More aggressive traders could aim for the $150 area or the simple 200-dma.

Please note our new stop loss at $171.05.

Picked on  November 25 at $168.75
Change since picked:       - 2.31
Earnings Date            12/15/09 (unconfirmed, could be in January)
Average Daily Volume =        9.5 million  
Listed on  November 21, 2009         


Sears Holding - SHLD - close: 71.32 change: +0.33 stop: 73.26

Shares of SHLD hit the $70.00 level and bounced although the bounce didn't get very far.

I am suggesting traders buy puts if SHLD hits $69.50. Use small positions at least 1/2 your normal trade size. If triggered our first target is $65.25. Our second target is $60.50.

Entry  on  December xx at $ xx.xx <-- TRIGGER @ 69.50 (small pos)
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            02/25/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.6 million  
Listed on  December 08, 2009         


Strangle & Spread Play 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.)

Apple Inc. - AAPL - close: 197.80 change: +7.93 stop: n/a

It was a bad day for bears in AAPL. The stock surged 4% and closed back above the 50-dma. However, AAPL still has overhead resistance near $200.00 and the bottom of its broken bullish channel. Plus there is a four-week trendline of lower highs.

If AAPL trades back in the $199.00-201.00 zone I would consider launching a new strangle trade with January options.

We have an aggressive December strangle and a less aggressive January strangle. The options in the December strangle were the December $210 calls (AJL-LV) and the December $190 puts (APV-XR). Our estimated cost is $3.83. We want to sell if either option hits $8.00 or more.

The options in the January strangle were January $220 calls (AJL-LV) and the January $180 puts (APV-XR). Our estimated cost is $5.60. We want to sell if either option hits $10.00 or more.

Picked on  November 30 at $199.91
Change since picked:       - 2.11
Earnings Date            01/21/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       15.1 million  
Listed on  November 30, 2009         


Goldman Sachs - GS - close: 166.44 change: +4.60 stop: n/a

An oversold bounce in GS added 2.8% to the stock. I am no longer suggesting new strangle positions on the stock.

The options suggested were the December $180 calls (GPY-LP) and the December $160 puts (GPY-XL). Our estimated cost is about $4.61. We want to sell if either option hits $9.00 or higher.

Picked on  November 21 at $171.67 /gap open entry
Change since picked:       - 5.23
Earnings Date            12/15/09 (unconfirmed, could be January)
Average Daily Volume =        9.5 million  
Listed on  November 21, 2009         


Ultra(Long)-S&P500 - SSO - close: 36.91 change: +0.23 stop: n/a

The S&P 500 is bouncing from the bottom of its trading range. Odds are against us with less than two weeks to go. I'm not suggesting new strangle positions at this time.

The options suggested for this strangle were the December $40 calls (SUC-LN) and the December $34 puts (SOJ-XH). Our estimated cost was $1.70. We want to sell if either option hits $3.00 or higher.

Picked on  November 11 at $ 37.08
Change since picked:       - 0.17
Earnings Date            --/--/--
Average Daily Volume =         32 million  
Listed on  November 11, 2009         


United Parcel Service - UPS - close: 57.76 change: +0.02 stop: n/a

I am still amazed that UPS has been this quiet for so long. The stock continues to churn in a very narrow trading range. Our December strangle may not survive but I would actually consider opening up new strangle positions with January options with UPS trading in the 57.00-58.00 zone. Note: I've adjusted our exit price for the December trade.

I'm suggesting the January $60.00 calls (UPS-AL, currently about $0.65) and the January $55.00 puts (UPS-MK, currently about $0.70). Our estimated cost is $1.35. I would plan to sell if either option hit $3.50 or more.

December Strangle
The options suggested for this trade were the December $60 calls (UPS-LL) and the December $55 puts (UPS-XK). Our estimated cost is $1.05. We want to sell if either option hits $1.95 or more.

Chart:

Picked on  November 21 at $ 57.99 /gap open entry
Change since picked:       - 0.23 
Earnings Date            02/02/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        4.7 million  
Listed on  November 21, 2009