There are signs that the major indices are trying to stabilize, but at the close, market participants still depict an uncertainty that a near-term "bottom" is in.
As I reviewed several sector indices this weekend, one test for strength, which would give sign of stability, was where great weakness has been found the last few weeks. The Semiconductor Index (SOX.X) 469.16 -4.19%!
But from the opening bell, the SOX easily relinquished the 477 level, a first level of support I felt a test for buyer's conviction would be tested. Mind you, not just a "bull's" conviction, but more importantly, a short-covering bear's convictions.
No, a 10% drubbing of chip equipment maker KLA-Tencor (NASDAQ:KLAC) $40.54 -10.38% didn't help the sector. Needham downgraded the stock to "hold" from "buy," even after the stock had retreated 10% from its early May highs of $51. Adding to, if not exacerbating today's weakness was the company's CFO saying it had been served with a subpoena by federal prosecutors seeking information on stock options grants.
Juniper Networks (NASDAQ:JNPR) $15.49 +2.85% was another technology company reportedly being reviewed by federal authorities as to the improper pricing of executive stock-option grants.
KLA-Tencor and Juniper join more than a dozen companies that over the past two months have faced probes about the improbable timing of executive option grants. Both companies are currently among 17 found at "high risk" of having backdated options issued last week by the Center for Financial Research and Analysis.
At issue is that high-level management may have received stock option grants prior to significant run-ups in the company's stock prices.
Just after 02:00 PM EDT, the majors did show some bullish life with the S&P 500 (SPX.X) springing off its lows near 1,256 after Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher issued some hawkish concerns regarding inflation.
"Inflation is running too high for my comfort," Fisher said in comments after a speech Monday before a group in Dallas. And while he didn't say what that meant for Fed rate policy, Fisher noted "our job is to keep inflation at bay. I'm very harsh on that front" and inflation "cannot be allowed out of its cage."
But he did offer that in deciding what to do next with rates, "we have to impute into our discussion, obviously, the time lag of previous tightening initiatives and many other variables." Mr. Fisher said "we shall see what ensues in the data and the anecdotal evidence that we pick up between now and the next meeting."
Mr. Fisher's words followed a speech in which he tackled the topic of globalization, and how that force has changed many of the ways policy makers must evaluate the economy. He also said in his speech that globalization has helped reduce U.S. wage gains, but added that better global growth was helping to boost inflationary pressures.
U.S. Market Watch - 5/22/06 Close (04:45 PM EDT)
So here we are, a week after my last Market Wrap and the Dollar Index (dx00y) 84.37 is relatively unchanged (5-dayNet%), but many of the major indices, and sector indices viewed in the U.S. Market Watch continue to "overshoot" relative to the dollar's attempt to stabilize.
I can "feel" trader's voting intra-day with their buy/sell decisions based on the dollar's apparent strength, then weakness. At this point in time, I feel it would take a dx00y close above 85.00 to even begin to think the major indices are trying to find a bottom from the recent decline.
My point is this, and it comes very much from a supply/demand relationship.
It is as if market participants are "OK" with the thought that the dx00y ranges between 84.00 and 91.00, but current levels have EQUITY market participants sitting on pins and needles.
It is almost as if the dx00y is the "piggy bank" that holds the cash, or dollars for purchase of equities.
Not just Dow Industrial components, or the more volatile NASDAQ-100 components. And as you can see from the U.S. Market Watch, many precious metals equities that comprise the Amex Gold Bugs Index ($HUI.X), which has fallen 7.3% since Monday's chat.
It is as if "there just isn't enough cash to go around," and "what cash there is, has been flowing into Treasuries."
Here we are. The FOMC has set its target for the fed funds rate at 5.0% and the 10-year YIELD ($TNX.X) is at 5.036%, where last Monday, the 10-year YIELD ($TNX.X) closed at 5.153%.
It is difficult to explain, but we've seen this before, and noted it in past Market Wraps I've written. It is as if the MARKET is working off an equation of EQUITIES = (+/)- Dollar (+/-) Bonds (+/-) Oil.
As it stands tonight, and on a week-to-week basis, the Dollar is unchanged, Bonds have found BUYERS (+), Oil is unchanged, and that leaves equities in need of cash, perhaps dollar strength.
An equation such as EQUITIES = Dollar , bonds, oil is very simplistic for sure, but let us remember the CURRENCY markets are "gargantuan" relative to the bond markets, and the bond markets are "huge" relative to the equity markets.
With equity markets under some selling pressure of late, lets take a quick look at how the MARKET has removed some BULLISH risk the past week.
In my opinion, the point and figure methodology and Sector Bell Curve is an excellent way for a trader/investor to visualize how a MARKET (you, me, institutions around the world) view things from a RISK perspective.
Sector Bell Curve Comparison (05/12/06 to 05/19/06)
From time-to-time I'll review the Sector Bell Curve from Dorsey/Wright & Associates. If it has been your observation that there's been "nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide" from the bullish side in recent weeks, the above time comparison gives credence to that observation for just the past week. Yes, this is what many would refer to as a "stock picker's market."
The thought behind the "bell curve" is that the MARKET, say the S&P 500 Index (SPX.X), will have some point of equilibrium (generally the mid-point of the bell curve), and the MARKET is very, very good at assessing and managing risk.
From the perspective of HIGH RISK, it hasn't mattered that the dollar index (dx00y) is unchanged, when the PRECious metals sector, say the AMEX Gold Bugs Index ($HUI.X) was shifted far to the right and perhaps held the greatest amount of BULLISH sector RISK.
BANKs and RESTaurants have held together reasonably well from a sector bullish % observation, but a lower TIDE can have bearish implications.
Yes! The S&P Banks Index (BIX.X) 386.26 +0.80% was a sector of "strength" today, and as has been the case the past couple of years, has been a sector/index that tends to lead the majors out of a decline.
BIOMedics, perhaps best depicted by the Biotechnology Index (BTK.X) 658.19 +0.30%. Now enters into a more "oversold" area. See how it was weaker, perhaps lacked the sponsorship of BULLISH cash at 05/12/06 bell curve benchmarking?
Look at OIL stocks playing "catch up" to the downside? RISK being removed? Profit taking? I'd argue BOTH!
So what does a trader/investor do?
Tread lightly, trade SMALL POSITIONS and take profits when you get them!
One indicator I want to address this evening is the Market Volatility Index (VIX.X) as it is doing something that "surprises me."
I've never been one to say a "fear" indicator should be ignored. Lack of "fear" for excessive "fear."
For those traders/investors that like to trade OPTIONS, don't only think "fear," but also think PREMIUMS of the options you're trading.
Market Volatility Index (VIX.X) - Weekly Intervals
I personally DON'T CARE, that the VIX.X action of late depicts that MARKET PARTICIPANTS are either "worried" or "fear" further downside for the S&P 500 (SPX.X).
What I DO CARE about is this.
OPTIONS are a derivative that came to fruition as a TOOL for institutional investors as well as individual investors to HEDGE RISK.
In the spring of 2003, a trader noted that the VIX falling sharply below 25.00 as the major indices began to rebound in what was still viewed as a recession was a VIX indication that the "oversold bounce" would soon reverse. That was around SPX 925.
Last week, I was really looking for the VIX to see a rather sharp reversal back lower, a signal to me that PUT SELLERS were seeing some type of "value" on the recent pullback in equities.
I may focus, or provide EMPHASIS on PUT SELLERS as it would be the NAKED PUT SELLER that during a decline takes on a greater degree of RISK!
I have to ask myself "is there an explanation as to why MARKET PARTICIPANTS aren't as willing to sell these higher premiums as depicted by the VIX?"
One "reason" I sense, based on observation (Pivot Analysis via Market Monitor and week-to-week benchmarking) is that the dollar index (dx00y) is at a level where further weakness could "suck" further cash from the equity markets.
Jonas Ferris picks good companies whose insiders are buying, too. With this record, it's easy to see that tracking insiders works; now see how we make it easy.
One other reason will strike home with option traders and my noting of "Max Pain Theory" levels for Friday's recently completed option expiration.
I haven't had a chance to read Friday's Market Wrap, but I would note that for an April Friday expiration, VOLUMES at the NYSE and NASDAQ were VERY HEAVY at 3.03 billion and 2.59 billion shares respective.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX.X) closed below its April "Max Pain" theory value of 1,300 and out of curiosity, I started checking future month's "Max Pain" Theory values. "Max Pain" Theory is simply based on a "sum" of all put/call option open interest for a particular month that options expire. One think I found at Friday's close was for several months into the future (June, July, August and September), the SPX's "Max Pain" Theory value was 1,300.
Now, Friday's April expiration isn't the first time we've seen the SPX, or other major indices finish an option expiration BELOW their Max Pain Theory levels since this great bull market began in 2003. But it does suggest that at the LEAST, the MARKET (SPX) is digesting gains, resting and in need of some type of consolidation.
S&P 500 Index (SPX.X) - Daily Intervals
Imagine at SPX 1320, or 1325 that there was "excessive" PUT SELLING at the 1300 strike, where some traders/investors were betting that the SPX would surely close above 1300, or near that level and the NAKED PUT sellers were even WILLING and ABLE to take possession of this basket of stocks at 1300 less any PREMIUMS received.
Just like that, we can envision a bunch of trader/investors find their coffer filled up with stocks.
This could be a reason that we haven't seen the "sharp reversal" back lower in VIX, where over the past several months, it has been common to see a sharp reversal back lower.
Various market internals like the advance/decline line and NH/NL ratio (5-day and 10-day) have VERY SIMILAR readings as found at the inflection lows of October 2005 and has me thinking that at a minimum, we should expect some of the same trade action found in October near-term, perhaps the next couple of weeks.
Some strategies I've been implementing of late in my OptionInvestor.com Market Monitor profiles is to SELL PREMIUMS if the trade "makes sense."
Yes, it is stock option related where today for instance, shares of "oil-related" shares of PetroChina (PTR) $104.40 -7.20% have now fallen from the $120.00 level, where I look to SELL PUT OPTION PREMIUM at a level I don't think the stock will trade by June's expiration (June 16) and SELL just one (1) of the OUT-THE-MONEY June $95 Puts (PTR-RS) for $1.10.
What I'm saying by doing this is ... "I'm willing and ABLE to buy 100 shares of PTR at $95 - $1.10 = $93.90." And "I think PREMIUMS are too high, and I want to sell PREMIUMS where I don't think a stock should trade."
I'm not selling NAKED PUTS on 10 stocks in one day.
NAKED PUT, or NAKED CALL selling is NOT a strategy for EVERY TRADER/INVESTOR. Some avoid it as it may not fit their RISK profile.
But if nothing else, PRETEND for a week or two that YOU are an institutional investor and might be willing to nip away at SELLING PREMIUM or a higher VIX on a particular security. Maybe the NASDAQ-100 Tracker (NASDAQ:QQQQ) $38.97, or the Energy Select Spdr (AMEX:XLE) $53.71 -0.57%, both trade options.
And PRETEND to "sell the strike you don't think it can trade by June expiration." Then each night, or every couple of nights, check to see where the security is trading and what the VIX.X is doing?
If the VIX is falling and the security you PRETENDED to sell NAKED PUTS on rising, then you've got the feeling that institutions are in agreement with you on one of the RISKIER trades an options trader could be implementing.
And remember .... institutions and the MARKET are very, very good at SELLING and MANAGING RISK.
New Long Plays
New Short Plays
Long Play Updates
Advanta - ADVNB - close: 36.22 chg: -0.36 stop: 34.99
ADVNB started the session weak but tried to rally after 2:00 PM today. Unfortunately, the rally did not get very far and shares reversed course at the 10-dma, the first level of technical resistance. That does not bode very well for the bulls. More conservative traders may want to wait for a move over the 10-dma (36.70) or the 50-dma (37.11) before opening positions. Our target is the $39.85-40.00 range. Traders should note that short interest looks relatively high at 8.2% of ADVNB's 22 million-share float. That creates an opportunity for a short squeeze.
Picked on May 21 at $36.58
Health Net. - HNT - close: 42.30 chg: +0.67 stop: 39.95*new*
HNT continues to show relative strength. The stock added 1.6% and broke through minor resistance at the $42.00 level. We are raising the stop loss to $39.95. Our target remains the $44.50-45.00 range for now but we'll adjust it lower as potential overhead resistance at the 50-dma (44.80) continues to descend.
Picked on May 16 at $41.12
Iconix Brand - ICON - close: 16.35 chg: -1.03 stop: 15.99
Wow! We are not off to a glamorous start here with ICON. Retail related stocks spiked lower at the opening bell today and slowly tried to creep higher at least if you look at the RLX retail index. ICON just spiked lower and slowly sank after a brief midday burp. We are not suggesting new plays and if you did enter a long position this morning it might be prudent to exit immediately. We expect shares to fall toward the $16.00 level and if the major market indices are weak again on Tuesday then odds are strong we'll be stopped out of ICON at 15.99.
Picked on May 21 at $17.38
SLM Corp. - SLM - close: 54.17 chg: -0.23 stop: 52.85
Hmm... today was a strange session for SLM. If you look at the intraday chart on SLM shares never traded above $54.66. Yet most of the quote providers are listing the stock's opening trade at $55.21. We'll go with $55.21 but we feel it's bogus. That is above our trigger to go long the stock at $54.75 and the drop lower puts us at a disadvantage. We are not suggesting new positions until SLM once again trades over $54.75. More conservative traders may want to wait for a move over $55.00 first. Our target is the 57.40-57.50 range.
Picked on May 22 at $55.21*gap higher*
Universal Health - UHS - close: 52.85 chg: +0.48 stop: 51.45
Healthcare stocks were one of the few sectors of the market that closed mostly higher today. Shares of UHS bounced from the $52.00 region to set a new eight-month closing high. This might be a new bullish entry point. Our target is the $56.00-57.00 range. The P&F chart points to a $64 target.
Picked on May 10 at $52.15
Short Play Updates
Coach Inc. - COH - close: 29.42 chg -0.61 stop: 31.55*new*
Retail-related stocks continued lower this morning. Shares of COH gapped down and eventually closed with a 2% loss. We are going to lower our stop loss to $31.55. Our target is the $28.25-27.50 range. More aggressive traders may want to aim lower since the P&F chart points to a $22 target (it was $24).
Picked on May 11 at $31.45
K-Swiss - KSWS - close: 27.21 chg: -0.09 stop: 28.51 *new*
We are not seeing any momentum lower with KSWS. We're going to keep the stock on the play list for now but we're not suggesting new positions. Please note we're adjusting our stop loss to $28.51. Our target is the $25.15-25.00 range. More aggressive traders may want to aim lower. The P&F chart has seen its bearish target drop from $21 to $19. Short interest is at 5.8% of its 27-million share float.
Picked on May
12 at $27.45
Ryan's Restaurant - RYAN - cls: 12.52 chg: -0.09 stop: 13.01
Be careful here. Our short play in RYAN is now open. Our trigger to short the stock was at $12.29, under last week's low and the 200-dma. Shares dipped to $12.28 this morning before bouncing higher again. The lack of follow through on the sell-off this morning is a concern. We are not suggesting new positions at this time. Wait for a new low under $12.25. Our target is the $11.35-11.25 range. Traders should note that the most recent data puts short interest at 5% of RYAN's 42 million-share float.
Picked on May 22 at $12.29
Yahoo! - YHOO - close: 30.46 chg: +0.93 stop: 31.31
Watch out! YHOO is back above round-number support/resistance at the $30.00 level. Shares actually gapped higher to open at $30.42. Fueling the rally was a positive story on the company in Barron's and more positive comments from an analyst firm. We are not suggesting new shorts at this time. Traders should double check their stop loss placement make sure you're comfortable with the risk level. The stock appears to have short-term resistance near $31.25.
Picked on May 14 at $30.81
Closed Long Plays
Closed Short Plays
Today's Newsletter Notes: Market Wrap by Jeff Bailey and all other plays and content by the Option Investor staff.
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