Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Tuesday, 05/23/2006

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Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Not A Fun Day For Bulls

Bulls who were brave enough to rush back into the market on stronger commodity and energy prices and the recovery in overseas markets slammed headlong into a wall of sellers. The opening ramp on a strong overnight build in the futures pushed the Dow to a high of 11202, +76 points to capitalize on the rebound from yesterday's lows at 11040 and stretch that rebound to +162 points. Unfortunately sellers were waiting just like we expected and selling into that rally was the right play for today. The Dow lost -102 points from its morning high to close at 11099. The Nasdaq rebound failed at 2200 for the second time after crashing to 2156 on Monday. After the +44 point rally failed the Nasdaq returned to close near its lows again at 2159. On Sunday I suggested we would see some range bound trading between 1250-1295 on the SPX. We hit a low of 1252 on Monday. I also suggested selling any rallies and that worked out exactly as we expected.

Dow Chart - Daily

Nasdaq Chart - Daily

The morning started out with a very strong dead cat bounce in several global markets as they shook off a very bad Monday. The Bombay Sensex index lost -9% intraday on Monday on forced margin call selling. The index rebounded +3.21% on Tuesday. Russia's market fell -10% and limit down on Monday and was closed for trading. This mirrored the declines in many global markets with emerging markets the hardest hit. The selling became severely overdone and traders rushed in to try some bottom fishing. The FTSE 100 rebounded +2.64%, Xetra Dax +2.33% and CAC-40 +2.45% to name a few. Minerals prices spiked from their severely oversold conditions and oil rose on hurricane fears and comments out of Venezuela about a production cut. Traders rushed to pickup shares that had been crushed but they may be reconsidering their actions tonight.


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On the economic side the news was market negative. The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Survey fell to a headline number of 1 for May compared to 18 in April. This was a sharp deceleration from the prior two months of very strong growth with the March reading spiking to 21. The -18 point decline in the headline number, -20 over the last two months was led by a drop in shipments from 26 to 2 and orders from 22 to 3. Order backlog fell from its already negative reading of -3 in April to -8 in May. This was a very negative report and suggests the economy is beginning to slow more quickly than previously expected. The only positive component trend was a slowdown in prices paid for raw materials to +2.95% on an annual basis compared to the +3.72% rate seen in April. This should be a Fed friendly report indicating a rising danger from future rate hikes but the component slowdown is market negative.

Richmond Fed Survey Table

The Monthly Mass Layoff report showed that layoffs increased in April to 1140 events involving more than 50 employees. The total worker layoffs totaled 121,589 compared to 921 events and 111,838 workers in March. The rise in energy prices is putting the profit squeeze on manufacturers and the rise in layoffs is not surprising as the economy slows into the second half of 2006.

The Q1 GDP revision is due out on Thursday and is expected to show +5.7% growth. However the outlook for Q2 and beyond is falling fast. Currently the consensus growth estimate for Q2 has fallen from +3.2% to +2.8% but that is just the start of the decline. Goldman Sachs was out with a note today calling for a drop to +2.5% growth for the second half of the year. High Frequency Economics also predicted today that growth for the first half of 2007 could decline to only +1.5%. If these numbers are correct and almost everyone is seeing the same trend then the Fed would be right to pass in June and for the rest of the year. If stagflation, inflation with no growth, is heading our way then the Fed is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They will need to raise rates to offset inflation but raising rates slows growth even further. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Under this scenario they need to take a pass in June to take the rate worry off of corporations. Currently the Fed funds futures are pricing in a 25-point hike in June. That meeting is on June 28th not the 20th as I incorrectly typed in the Sunday newsletter.

In stock news today Dell, the originator of the direct sales model for its PC products, said it was going to open two retail stores. These stores will not stock any inventory but carry a complete line of Dell products to enable customers to better customize their orders for later delivery. Essentially they will be brick and mortar catalog centers. Look, touch, test, configure and then order. Dell is hoping that customers will up sell themselves into the top of the line models instead of the low cost budget models currently being ordered online. It is a big selling point to be able to play with the fastest computers with big flat screen monitors. Hard to go back to basics after you experience the best. The initial stores will be in Dallas and New York. Investors were not impressed and Dell lost ground into the close.

Toll Brothers (TOL) reported earnings that rose only +3% and cut its outlook once again for the remainder of 2006. Toll lowered its full year estimates from $4.69 to $5.16 from its prior cut in January to $4.77 to $5.26. Analysts had lowered their estimates to an average of $4.83 per share. Toll said increased materials costs, higher Q2 markdowns and a lack of urgency among buyers would contribute to the decline. Toll said fear of a bursting housing bubble and the future of housing prices was keeping buyers on the sidelines. Toll did say they would end 2006 with 295 communities under construction compared to 230 at the end of 2005. This jump in construction locations is the result of land acquisition, approvals and pre-construction planning that has been in the works for years. Toll feels this broadening of offerings across the country will lead to increased sales through greater choices in more sales arenas. Some Toll communities with very high demand are still under a lottery system to determine buyers. Toll rose slightly on the day despite the slowing profits. Toll is starting to look like a buy in my book. Don't try to catch the falling knife but I would buy a move back over $29.

Vonage priced its IPO tonight and is expected to offer 31.25 million shares at $17, right in the middle of its expected $16-$18 range under the symbol VG. This IPO is receiving a lot of heat by analysts saying Vonage is not offering any product that Ebay, Google or any major telecommunication carrier can't offer tomorrow. Google and Ebay already have products in place that compete with Vonage. The potential for increased competition is very high and I would not be surprised to see it trade down very quickly.

MasterCard is set to price its IPO to begin trading on Thursday. It will issue 61.5 million shares between $40-$43 for about $2.6 billion. MasterCard is also coming public under a cloud of criticism and a flood of class action lawsuits. While MasterCard is not expected to have as rocky a start as Vonage the outlook is questionable. It is an established, highly profitable company with a lock on its portion of the card business but there is a revolt brewing. Many major banks are considering offering a card of their own rather than continue building the MasterCard/Visa brands. This would provide higher profits for the banks and cut into the card market for the established products of MC/Visa, AXP, Diners Club and Discover. Citigroup, Chase and Bank America would lead the list of those considering a private offering once the current anti competitive restrictions are removed.

July Crude Oil Chart - Daily

In the oil sector prices rose for multiple reasons to a high of $72.15 intraday. Initially oil prices rose based on the official hurricane outlook released on Monday which confirmed the prior predictions of a stronger than normal season. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, try writing that name 50 times a day, said we could have up to 10 hurricanes. Also putting upward pressure on prices was talk from Venezuela saying a cut in production was justified at the OPEC meeting in Caracas next week. Nobody expects any OPEC country to turn off the spigots when they are getting over $70 a bbl today. Venezuela has repeatedly argued for a more active policy of price fixing through production cuts to push prices higher. Venezuelan production is slowing and they can't make their current OPEC quotas. The only way they can get more money is if everyone else slows production to push prices up. The oil inventory report on Wednesday is expected to show a gain in crude of +300,000 bbls, +800,000 in gasoline and +100,000 in distillates. Valero had a fire in a refinery over the weekend that cut diesel production by -55,000 bbls per day. Valero expects to recover +10,000 bbls when some production is restored next weekend. Gasoline production was reduced by -25,000 bbls.

Energy prices had taken a substantial tumble on a reduction in positions by speculators. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission's Commitment of Traders report showed a substantial liquidation of open positions. We knew this was happening last week as funds unwound the bond/commodity carry trade. What is unclear is whether or not the selling is over. This morning's sharp spike in energy stocks was quickly erased in many issues. There were some winners with the Petrochina (PTR) the largest gainer (+5.90) and my current favorite. The copper and coal stocks also came back and for the most part held their gains. I would continue to be cautious until we see a new trend develop. What we got was a simple oversold bounce and oil is trading about -$1 off its intraday highs in the overnight market. One day does not make a trend but we did see many successful tests of support at the 100-day averages. We may test it again and I would consider a successful test a new buying opportunity.

Bernanke was in the news today with an apology of sorts for his offhand comment to Mari Bartiromo on CNBC. Several weeks ago he mentioned to her at a New York event that the markets got him wrong during his congressional testimony. Maria reported he felt the markets had misunderstood his stance as dovish on inflation on CNBC and the market imploded in fear of another rate hike. He was questioned by a member of the Senate Banking Committee today on the wisdom of the comment to Bartiromo. He said, "That episode you refer to was a lapse of judgment on my part. In the future, my communications with the public and with the markets will be entirely through regular and formal channels." The timing of the remark and the casual revelation to Bartiromo attracted substantial criticism and was seen as a rookie mistake that cost him some of his previously high credibility. He is expected to revert to a more hawkish mode to recover credibility and that could be dangerous to the markets. He did reiterate again that future hikes would be data dependent. Based on current data the expectations are for another hike but there is more than a month of additional data due before they meet again.

The market outlook for the rest of the week is very cloudy. At 1:30 the Dow was trading at 11200 and advancing volume was 3:1 over declining volume. Advancers were 2:1 over decliners. Everything appeared right with the world except for the third intraday failure at 11200. The first came at the open and the second at 10:30. The third time was the charm and that failure brought the sellers out in force. Selling volume shot up sharply adding 2.5 billion shares of down volume in the last two hours of trading to finish 3:2 declining volume over advancing. This was a very sharp reversal that erased 102 Dow points and sent it back to near the lows for the week. This type of internal reversal, intraday spike failure and closing at the lows for the day typically indicates further declines to come. The Dow tested 11060 twice on Monday with an 11050 test in the middle. On the surface it would appear we are going back for another test of that 11050-11060 level and a successful second test could be a sign for buyers to return. However, I am not convinced. The setup appears too convenient.

The afternoon decline today was blamed on possible human-to-human transmission of the bird flu in Sumatra. The World Health Organization was quick to the scene and claims the initial tests rule out a virus mutation but a cluster of six humans did come down with the virus and died quickly. Research is continuing into how each got the virus and whether or not the virus has mutated. Any mention of the possible beginning of a bird flu pandemic will be very detrimental to the markets. Everyone with a futures account will be shorting heavily due to the potentially earth shaking impact of a pandemic the way a bird flue pandemic has been described.

S&P futures are down overnight but appear to have stabilized at 1247 at 7:30ET and are beginning to firm. If the bird flu had anything to do with the drop then the sudden reassurance by the World Health Organization may continue to cool that selling pressure. However, we were expecting rallies to be sold and the bird flu could have been just another straw on the market camel's back. This unknown at a time when the market is already very nervous could lead to further cautionary declines even if the rumor of flu transmission turns out to be untrue.

The Nasdaq can't afford any further reasons to sell. The tech index closed back on tentative support at 2160 and a break here targets 2100 pretty quickly. The -10% correction point at 2137 could be just a fleeting blip in the downdraft if investors are starting to worry more about geopolitical concerns than growth and earnings outlooks. Nasdaq 2160 is going to be a critical test of conviction by the bulls and a break there could find a lot more bears jumping on the bandwagon.

The SPX returned to support at 1250-1255 and this is also a critical level to be monitored. This represents multiple support points dating back to early December. It is also the 200-day average (1258) and so far this support has held. Like the Nasdaq at 2160 a break of SPX 1250 could get ugly very quickly. A -10% correction would take us back to 1192 and that could easily become the target if 1250 breaks.

SPX Chart - Daily

Another problem facing our markets is the current selling overseas. We did see a dead cat bounce today in several markets but the severity of the selling has been extreme. Volatility has increased substantially and much of it has to do with the exchange traded funds and iShares. Years ago the foreign exchanges lacked the volume currently attributable to the billions of dollars now managed by the funds. The foreign markets are much more fragile in many cases than the U.S. markets and can't absorb strong sell programs if those funds wanted a quick exit. Today's bounce averaging +3% in many was actually weak given the prior weeks carnage. If the overseas markets fail to continue their rebound overnight the odds are good we will see another leg down as everyone runs for the sidelines. Since overseas markets normally mimic our results at the open they should be setup for a negative start and an uphill battle.

My recommendation for Wednesday would be to buy a bounce from SPX 1255 and short a break under 1250. If a bounce does appear I would look to reverse to a short on any weakness around 1275. A break over 1275 would target a rally failure at 1295. It would be a nice run from 1255 to 1295 but I would not count on it. We had the perfect opportunity for buying to trigger a massive short covering rally at Tuesday's open. It did not appear and was quickly sold. That suggests to me there is risk of further selling ahead even without the bird flu scare. The lack of any material futures rebound as of 7:45ET on the multiple reports the bird flu breakout was not human-to-human is simply another sign that traders are very nervous. It may still be early and traders are just waiting to see how the overseas markets react before buying the futures.

Don't fight the tape. I know many traders have given back substantial sums trying to buy the dips over the last couple weeks. The market can always remain "wrong" far longer than most traders can remain liquid. It is not a question of your bias being right or wrong but more a matter of successful money management. If you take small losses you will never have to take the big ones. Trade the trend or step aside and wait for the market to conform to your bias. Either strategy works well.

New Plays

Most Recent Plays

New Plays
Long Plays
Short Plays

New Long Plays

None today.

New Short Plays

Akamai - AKAM - close: 31.15 chg: -0.35 stop: 34.76

Company Description:
Akamai is the leading global service provider for accelerating content and business processes online. Thousands of organizations have formed trusted relationships with Akamai, improving their revenue and reducing costs by maximizing the performance of their online businesses. Leveraging the Akamai EdgePlatform, these organizations gain business advantage today, and have the foundation for the emerging Web solutions of tomorrow. (source: company press release or website)

Why We Like It:
It is always surprising what can happen within a few days of trading. Three to four days ago AKAM was bouncing from technical support at its 50-dma and looking like a bullish candidate. Now the stock has reversed course and broken down through support. Short-term technicals have reversed and the weekly oscillators look negative but some of the other technicals remain mixed. If you're considering this play be ready for more volatility. Odds are good we'll see another bounce at the $30.00 level, which is the next level of support. However, if the NASDAQ continues to dive then AKAM is likely to breakdown head toward its next level of support near $27.50. We're going to set our target at $27.75-27.00. More aggressive traders may want to aim lower toward the $25.00 level, which is also support. Be advised that we don't have the greatest risk/reward here. We have a wide stop loss due to AKAM's volatility but we'll try and tighten the stop if shares do close under $30.00. The latest data puts short interest at 3.3% of AKAM's 143 million-share float.

Picked on May 23 at $31.15
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 07/26/06 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 3.2 million


Comcast - CMCSA - close: 31.11 chg: -0.22 stop: 31.81

Company Description:
Comcast Corporation is the nation's leading provider of cable, entertainment and communications products and services. With 21.4 million cable customers, 8.5 million high-speed Internet customers, and 1.3 million voice customers, Comcast is principally involved in the development, management and operation of broadband cable systems and in the delivery of programming content. (source: company press release or website)

Why We Like It:
The bull run in shares of CMCSA is in jeopardy. Actually the stock has already broken through the bottom of its narrow rising channel. The daily chart's MACD has produced a new sell signal and the weekly oscillators have turned bearish. Plus, the P&F chart points to a $17 target. We want to see some confirmation that the next move is lower. Thus we're suggesting a trigger to short the stock at 30.85, which is under yesterday's low. If triggered we'll target a drop to $29.85, which is near potential support at the top of its gap from late April. More aggressive traders may want to target the bottom of the gap near $29.20. The latest data puts short interest at 2.9% of CMCSA's 1.99 billion-share float.

Picked on May xx at $xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 02/16/06 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: thousand


Starbucks - SBUX - close: 35.59 chg: -0.64 stop: 36.65

Company Description:
Through the dedication of our passionate partners (employees), Starbucks Coffee Company has transformed the way people in 37 countries enjoy their coffee, one cup at a time. Starbucks is the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world, with more than 11,000 retail locations in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim. (source: company press release or website)

Why We Like It:
SBUX's oversold bounce from support at the 100-dma appears to have failed under the $37.00 level. The stock has already broken down under support at its 50-dma and now shares look poised begin their next leg lower. Short-term technical oscillators are bearish and its weekly chart's MACD has produced a new sell signal. We are suggesting shorts with SBUX under $36.00. More conservative traders might feel better waiting for the stock to trade under its 100-dma (currently 35.38). We are going to target the top of its February gap (33.00) with an exit range of $33.15-33.00.

Picked on May 23 at $35.59
Change since picked: + 0.00
Earnings Date 08/02/06 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 5.7 thousand

Play Updates

Updates On Latest Picks

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Long Play Updates

Health Net. - HNT - close: 41.83 chg: -0.47 stop: 39.95

HNT experienced some profit taking today. We are not suggesting new bullish positions given this bearish market environment. Be ready for HNT to dip toward the 10-dma or the $40.00 level to find support. 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 (44.68) continues to descend.

Picked on May 16 at $41.12
Change since picked: + 0.71
Earnings Date 08/07/06 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 1.1 million


Iconix Brand - ICON - close: 16.39 chg: +0.04 stop: 15.99

We are surprised that ICON showed any strength today. It was our expectation that shares would dip toward $16.00 and probably stop us out. Considering the market weakness this afternoon we're suggesting that conservative traders consider an early exit to minimize any losses. We are not suggesting new positions.

Picked on May 21 at $17.38
Change since picked: - 0.99
Earnings Date 07/27/06 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 498 thousand


SLM Corp. - SLM - close: 53.71 chg: -0.46 stop: 52.85

SLM spent most of the day churning sideways. Unfortunately, the stock gave into the market weakness this afternoon. We would expect a dip toward $53.00 and its simple 50-dma. We are not suggesting new bullish 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*
Change since picked: - 1.50
Earnings Date 07/20/06 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 2.0 million

Short Play Updates

Coach Inc. - COH - close: 29.47 chg +0.05 stop: 31.55

Shares of COH produced another failed rally, this time near the $30.00 region. We see no changes from our previous updates. 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). Keep in mind that COH is looking pretty oversold and due for a bounce!

Picked on May 11 at $31.45
Change since picked: - 1.98
Earnings Date 04/25/06 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 2.3 million


K-Swiss - KSWS - close: 26.73 chg: -0.48 stop: 28.51

We are finally starting to see some real movement in KSWS. Shares lost 1.7% and closed at a new one-year low. 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.

Picked on May 12 at $27.45
Change since picked: - 0.69
Earnings Date 04/27/06 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 300 thousand


Ryan's Restaurant - RYAN - cls: 12.70 chg: +0.18 stop: 13.01

It was an odd session for RYAN. The stock had a volatile morning with a spike to $12.89 before reversing course near its 10-dma. Shares spent the rest of the session in a very narrow 4-cent range. We expect the next move to be lower but we're not suggesting new positions until RYAN trades back 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
Change since picked: + 0.41
Earnings Date 04/26/06 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 268 thousand

Closed Long Plays

Advanta - ADVNB - close: 35.87 chg: -0.35 stop: 34.99

The closing numbers today do not tell the whole story. Most of the market weakness on Tuesday occurred late in the session. ADVNB was no exception but the stock produced a sharp failed rally/bearish reversal near $38.00 early this morning. We are suggesting an early exit to minimize our losses. It is true ADVNB appears to have technical support at the 100-dma near 35.30 but we don't feel like risking it.

Picked on May 21 at $36.58
Change since picked: - 0.71
Earnings Date 04/26/06 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 89 thousand


Universal Health - UHS - close: 51.52 chg: -1.33 stop: 51.45

Tuesday was pretty bearish for UHS. Shares were weak from the start and the selling only got worse as the day wore on. Oddly the volume did not even hit its daily average but we did note that the MACD on its daily chart produced a new sell signal. We have been stopped out at $51.45.

Picked on May 10 at $52.15
Change since picked: - 0.63
Earnings Date 04/27/06 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 571 thousand

Closed Short Plays

Yahoo! - YHOO - close: 30.76 chg: +0.30 stop: 31.31

YHOO's oversold bounce continued into Tuesday. Shares gapped open higher at $31.03 and traded to $31.63 before fading lower. The move looks like a failed rally under its 50-dma and a potential entry point for new shorts. The bad news is that we've been stopped out at $31.31. We had the stop pretty tight to protect ourselves against a market-wide rebound, which oddly enough has failed to appear.

Picked on May 14 at $30.81
Change since picked: - 0.05
Earnings Date 07/26/06 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 20.2 million

Today's Newsletter Notes: Market Wrap by Jim Brown and all other plays and content by the Option Investor staff.


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