Stocks opened higher spurred in part by a stronger dollar after the Commerce Department said the current account deficit widened to a record $225.6 billion in the third quarter, which was slightly less than economists' forecast for a deficit of $228.0 billion.
The current account, also known as the balance of payments, is the broadest measure of international flows of goods, services and capital in and out of the U.S. In other words, the current account measures just how much Americans need to get in investment and lending from abroad to fund their consumption and investment.
A look inside the numbers from July thru September showed the deficit on goods and services trade increased to $200.3 billion from $193.1 billion. Meanwhile, the deficit on goods alone rose to $218.6 billion from $210.6 billion as goods imports totaled $480.7 billion compared to goods exports of $262.1 billion.
While goods were running a deficit, services ran a surplus, with the surplus increasing to $18.3 billion from $17.5 billion.
The Commerce Department also noted a deficit on income, which increased to a record $3.8 billion from $2.2 billion as U.S. investment income from assets owned abroad rose to $160.01 billion from $155.3 billion, while foreign investment income from assets owned in the U.S. rose to $162.2 billion from $155.8 billion.
The Commerce Department said foreign acquisition of U.S. assets increased by $400.2 billion after falling to $364.6 billion in the second quarter. Foreign acquisitions hit a record $527.5 billion in the first quarter.
Foreign accounts were net buyers of Treasuries, purchasing $138.8 billion of U.S. paper, which was up from $127.3 billion in the second quarter. On the equity front, foreigners bought $22.4 billion in U.S equities after selling $1.4 billion in Q2. Purchases of corporate bonds fell to $90.7 billion from $100.6 billion, while purchases of agency bonds edged lower to $25.7 billion from $28 billion.
Additional data showed foreign direct investment in the U.S. increased $44.1 billion compared to $45.8 billion in the second quarter, while U.S. acquisitions of foreign assets increased by $223.8 billion.
Current-Account Balance and Its Components - 1998 - current
Reading the Commerce Department's quarterly current account balance report would likely put most to sleep, if not have our eyes glazing over. However, the above graph does a very good job in my opinion of giving investors a view of what goes into the current account balance. As you can see, the DEFICIT is created largely by the U.S.'s appetite for GOODS, while foreigners' appetite for SERVICES offered here in the U.S. runs a surplus.
One of the "economic concerns" that has been mentioned for years, not just for the U.S., but on a global level, is the DEFICIT currently represented by the balance of goods.
Few economists believe a current account deficit of 6.8% GDP is sustainable, and global economic policymakers have said the U.S. current account deficit (and corresponding surpluses in China) represent a major threat to global growth.
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And it is for this reason, that I (Jeff Bailey) believe there will be great focus on talks between the U.S. economic delegation and China, where the U.S. is "gently prodding" Chinese leaders to take further steps toward that country's economic reforms. One item of focus has been China maintaining a close link between the yuan and the dollar. To maintain the link, China must intervene in foreign exchange markets to buy dollars with their yuan.
To date, China has been able to avoid increases in domestic money supply through sterilization, selling bonds for yuan, but Mr. Bernanke has warned "if it continues to use this strategy it will eventually encounter problems."
Sometimes, I (Jeff Bailey) feel that Mr. Bernanke's words of caution are taken as the U.S. trying to flex its muscle on world monetary systems, but when the realization sets in that U.S. demand for global goods and services may also be at risk, then the global economy is at risk.
U.S. Market Watch - 12/18/06 Close
The U.S. Dollar Index (CEC:DXY) has risen notably (+1.10%) since last Monday, and while it finished Monday's session relatively flat with Friday's close, early morning gains to 84.22 were the best level for the dollar-weighted index since 11/24/06.
Additional economic data released today had the National Association of Home Builders' index of builder confidence for sales of new homes slips one point in December to 32, near its lowest level in 15 years. However, expectations for sales in next six months rose three points to 48.
Last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said its purchases index rose to its highest level since January 2006, increasing 8.7% for the week ended 12/08/06 to 463.8.
Merger news also gave a morning lift with $90 billion worth of deals announced today. With only 13 days left in the year, announced deals have already amounted to almost $4 trillion worldwide, beating out $3.33 trillion set in 2000.
Some of the bigger deals had Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX) $69.97 +1.90% launching a bid to buy Caremark Rx (NYSE:CMX) $55.58 +10.49% for $26 billion in cash and stock, an offer Express Script says represents a 15% premium over CVS Corp's (NYSE:CVS) $30.01 -1.67% all-stock offer from early November. Analysts say CVS could still sweeten its offer.
Harrah's Entertainment (NYSE:HET) $82.18 +3.37%, the world's largest casino company, also agreed to a $16.7 billion buyout offer from two private equity groups, said a person with knowledge of the negotiations. The deal reportedly values Harrah's at $90.00 a share.
Realogy Corp. (NYSE:H) $30.40 +19.21%, which owns the Caldwell Banker real estate franchise, said it agreed to be acquired by private equity firm Apollo Group for about $6.65 billion.
Health care equipment manufacturer Biomet (NASDAQ:BMET) $41.59 -0.97% said it agreed to be acquired by Blackstone, Goldman Sachs Capital and KKR for $44 a share. Shares of European rival Smith & Nephew (NYSE:SNN) $50.58 +7.27%, which had been a suitor of Biomet rose sharply.
So what happened to the rally? Upgrades, downgrades and Google.
Large caps seemed to be the focus of broker upgrades and downgrades, where energy names Exxon/Mobil (NYSE:XOM) $75.51
Weakness in the energy complex didn't help the Oil Service HOLDRs (AMEX:OIH) $143.94 -3.78%, or the CBOE Oil Index (OIX.X) 650.46 -2.59% which gave back the bulk of last week's gains and then some. Warmer temperatures across much of the nation had January Natural Gas futures (January Crude Oil (cl07f) settling down $0.334, or -4.51% to $7.07 and a new multi-year low. January Heating Oil futures (ho07f) settled down $0.061, or -3.42% at $1.7207. January Crude Oil futures (cl07f) ended its 3-day winning streak, settling down $1.22, or -1.92% at $62.21.
Meanwhile, Citigroup (NYSE:C) $55.44 +2.53% and General Electric (NYSE:GE) $38.00 +1.71% built on recent gains and positive comments from brokers.
Internet search giant Google, Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) $462.80 -3.64% fell $17.50/share, its biggest drop in more than a month after The Wall Street Journal Analysts reported that analysts remained concerned that the company cannot maintain the kind of earnings power it has seen in prior quarters.
Have bears cried "wolf" one-too-many times?
For months, some may have been hearing words of caution and predictions that each new high was the last and a major decline was soon to be found.
Often time, the continued bearish calls, which see higher highs and higher lows, eventually lead to bullish complacency.
Yes, the very bullish complacency that bears have been warning about since early September soon becomes a "cry wolf" call.
However, there is one sign that some weakness, or internal damage is starting to evolve, and it is among 4 and 5-lettered stocks.
In Tuesday evening's Market Monitor at OptionInvestor.com, I was reviewing some of the market's internals, where Stockcharts.com's NASDAQ Summation Index ($NASI) on a 10-point box chart gave its first "sell signal" at +210 at the conclusion of that day's trade. Its first "sell signal" since giving a "buy signal" at
What is this NASDAQ Summation Index? In simple terms, it is a way of measuring the advance/decline line, where recent measures suggest to me that on a broader scale, internals are starting to weaken.
Now, you've certainly heard the term "bullish complacency" for a couple of months. And you've seen the major indices, including the NASDAQ Composite march to new 52-week highs, if not all-time highs.
Due to vertical limitations, I can't fully capture a picture of the $NASI's 10-point box here, but if you want to actually see what this supply/demand chart looks like, and the "buy signal" back in August (after red 8) and recent "sell signal" at the 210 measure, then here is the http://stockcharts.com/webcgi/Pnf.asp?S=$NASI&Y=U&B=10&N=C&C=2
Now I'm going to increase the $NASI's chart to 20-point box size (that's the scale on the left) where here I can capture the vertical picture.
NASDAQ Summation Index ($NASI) - 20-point box
Looking at the "internals" is just as important, if not more important than looking at the EXTERNALS, where the externals represent the PRICE of an index.
But a market technician, like a good doctor won't just look at his/her patient and diagnose them. If a patient doesn't "feel well" then a good doctor my run some tests, take a blood sample, and see if anything comes back "negative."
Hopefully, the above chart will give you three important observations.
The first is the "sell signal" back in early May, just after the "red 5." That may have been interpreted by the "good doctor" as a warning sign that the patient (NASDAQ Composite) wasn't feeling too well.
The second is the "buy signal" in early-to-mid August, after the "red 8" where the $NASI rises, and the column of X (demand) surpasses a prior column of X at 580. Here the "good doctor" might well observe that the patient is showing signs of life again, and starting to strengthen.
And now, the "sell signal" just witnessed. Here the "good doctor" is saying the lab tests show something might be wrong and the internals of this patient once again weakening.
Now that we recognize some HISTORICAL signs of internal weakness and strength from the $NASI's point and figure style of charting, let's take a look at the patient itself.
Here's a 20-point box chart of the NASDAQ Composite ($COMPQ) from Stockcharts.com. The NASDAQ Comp. was down 21.63 points today and closed at 2,435.57.
NASDAQ Composite ($COMPQ) - 20-point box chart
When comparing the "internals" of the $NASI against the "externals" of the NASDAQ Composite ($COMPQ) directly above, the term "bearish divergence" would be used. That is, the recent deterioration of the $NASI and its "sell signal" at measure 200 suggests to me that there is pending weakness in the $COMPQ itself and a $COMPQ trade at 2,380 on the $COMPQ would then "confirm" the internal weakening.
At this point in time, I could NOT recommend that bears get aggressive, BUT, if you're a bull, that has been "cried wolf" to, too many times, then I need your attention!
Don't be complacent. Get OFF long margin, and as the saying goes, don't be a "hog and get slaughtered" should the $COMPQ give a PRICE "sell signal" with a trade at 2,380.
Once, or IF the $COMPQ gives a "sell signal" at 2,380, THEN a bear could initiate some partial short positions. PUT options are a better way to control risk, if looking to play the BEARISH side. Just don't over leverage your account.
Asside from the NASDAQ Summation Index ($NASI), another EXCELLENT, yet slower moving supply/demand measure that I STRONGLY SUGGEST traders and investors monitor is the NASDAQ Composite Bullish % ($BPCOMPQ) from Stockcharts.com. This bullish % SHOULD BE VIEWED on a conventional 2%-point box size chart.
Here is a http://stockcharts.com/webcgi/Pnf.asp?S=$BPCOMPQ to the NASDAQ Composite Bullish % ($BPCOMPQ). Imagine you were charting roughly 3,000 stocks that were listed on the NASDAQ Composite, not just the advance/decline line of those 3,000 stocks, but the actual supply/demand charts of those stocks.
As of tonight's close, approximately 58.69% (1,761) of the stocks listed at the NASDAQ still had a point and figure "buy signal" associated with their chart. That means, approximately 1,761 of the 3,000 charts still showed a supply/demand "buy signal" still intact. For further sign of weakness, this very broad measure of market strength/weakness would need a reversing lower reading of 52%.
New Long Plays
New Short Plays
Long Play Updates
AllState - ALL - close: 65.52 change: +0.31 stop: 63.49
The S&P IUX Insurance index managed to close in the green on Monday. Shares of ALL were contributing to the sector's strength with a 0.47% gain and another new high. We remain bullish on the stock above $65.00. Our target is the $69.00-70.00 range.
Picked on December 15 at $65.25
Florida East Coast - FLA - cls: 60.69 chg: -1.21 stop: 59.89
Transports continued to look weak on Monday in spite of a drop in crude oil prices. Shares of FLA fell 1.9% on Monday following Friday's bearish reversal. It looked like shares were trying to bounce near $60 late in the session but the move wasn't strong enough to make it convincing. We remain very cautious here and we repeat our suggestion from the weekend that more conservative traders may want to exit early. We're not suggesting new plays.
Picked on December 05 at $62.14
ONEOK Inc. - OKE - close: 42.99 change: -0.51 stop: 42.25 *new*
The XNG natural gas index sank almost 3% on Monday so OKE's 1.1% decline might be considered relative strength. However, we have been cautious on the stock for a few days now and the lack of upward momentum has turned the technicals bearish. We're not suggesting new plays at this time and more conservative traders may want to exit early or tighten their stops. We're adjusting our stop loss to $42.25.
Picked on November 28 at $42.25
Raytheon - RTN - close: 52.99 change: +0.33 stop: 49.85
RTN is still inching higher. Shares ignored the weakness in the DFI defense index and RTN managed to tag a new all-time high today. We remain somewhat cautious given the weakness in the major market indices and are not suggesting new positions. Our target is the $54.50-55.00 range.
on November 29 at $51.05
St.Paul Travelers - STA - cls: 53.97 change: +0.41 stop: 51.95
Insurance stocks continued to show relative strength and STA rose 0.7% to hit another new high. We do not see any changes from our weekend play description. Our target is the $57.50 level. The P&F chart is bullish with a $76 target.
on December 17 at $53.56
Short Play Updates
Cheesecake Factory - CAKE - cls: 25.09 chg: -0.77 stop: 27.01
Our bearish play in CAKE is now open. Shares of CAKE finally broke down under support near $26.00 and its 100-dma. We were suggesting a trigger to short the stock at $25.65. Chart readers will note that volume was pretty strong on today's breakdown, which is good news for the bears. Our target is the $22.25-22.00 range. We do expect some support near $24.00 but given the bearish technicals on the weekly chart we think any bounce at $24 would be temporary. The P&F chart currently points to a $4.00 target. FYI: The most recent (November) data puts short interest at 11.8% of CAKE's 73.7 million-share float. That is relatively high short interest and could raise the risk of a short-squeeze if CAKE manages to rally.
Picked on December 18 at $25.65
Colonial Prop. - CLP - close: 46.60 change: -0.11 stop: 48.26
CLP produced a failed rally under its 10-dma and exponential 200-dma on Monday morning. Readers can use the move as a new entry point for shorts. We do not see any real changes from our weekend play description. Our target is the May 2006 lows but we will plan to exit at $42.75. We do not want to hold over the late January earnings. FYI: Traders should know that in the past few months CLP has been noted as a potential takeover/acquisition target in the real estate sector. If a deal is announced it could be very painful for shorts but we haven't heard anything further on the subject. Meanwhile short interest is about 3% of the 43.4 million-share float.
Picked on December 17 at $46.71
New Century - NEW - close: 34.00 change: -0.18 stop: 36.55
After a week of consolidating sideways NEW finally broke down under support at the $34.00 level. Yet the stock managed to rally back to broken support by the closing bell. We remain bearish on NEW and traders can choose a breakdown under $34 or a failed rally under $35.50 as a new entry point. Our target is the $31.00-30.00 range. FYI: The most recent (November) data put short interest at 22% of the company's 50 million-share float. That is a very high degree of short interest and it does raise the risk of a short squeeze if NEW reverses sharply higher.
Picked on December
10 at $34.47
NTL Inc. - NTLI - close: 24.96 change: -0.14 stop: 26.01
NTLI is still struggling under its bearish trendline of lower highs. We would still consider new bearish entries here but more conservative traders may want to tighten their stops. An alternative entry point would be to wait for a drop under the 10-dma (near $24.70) or a drop under the $24.00 mark. The Point & Figure chart points to a $9.00 target. We will target a decline into the $21.00-20.00 range. FYI: The most recent (November) data put short interest at 3.5% of the company's 324 million-share float.
Picked on December 10 at $24.44
21st Century - TCHC - close: 24.92 change: -0.18 stop: 26.01
The bears appear to still have the upper hand with TCHC but shares witnessed a rebound late in Monday's session. The stock tends to be volatile but more conservative traders may want to tighten their stop loss anyway. The intraday drop under $25.00 or $24.84 looked like a new entry point for shorts but the last hour bounce is a bit unnerving. Our target is the $21.50-20.00 range. The most recent (November) data puts short interest at over 6% of TCHC's 6.4% float. That's a very small float so 6% might be enough short interest to really increase the risk of a short squeeze should TCHC reverse higher. Bear that in mind when considering positions as you may want a tighter stop loss.
Picked on December 10 at $24.84
World Accpt. - WRLD - close: 45.74 change: -0.07 stop: 47.75
The financials and banking stocks were inching higher thanks to big strength in shares of Citigroup. Yet shares of WRLD continue to under perform. WRLD produced another failed rally under $47.00 and a new short-term relative low. We would continue to open new bearish positions at current levels. More conservative traders may want to wait for a decline under 44.40. Our target is the $40.50-40.00 range. We're going to set a relatively tight stop just above the December high. FYI: It is important for investors to note that the latest (November) data puts short interest at almost 15% of WRLD's 17.1 million-share float. That is a high degree of short interest and definitely raises the risk of a short squeeze if the stock suddenly turns higher.
Picked on December 18 at $45.81
Closed Long Plays
Amer. Electric - AEP - close: 42.13 chg: -0.31 stop: 41.89
We have been stopped out of AEP at $41.89, our newly revised stop loss from this weekend newsletter. Utility stocks were unable to avoid the profit taking that hit most of the market on Monday. Shares of AEP dipped under what should have been support near $42.00 and hit an intraday low of $41.89.
on December 03 at $42.03
Beazer Homes - BZH - close: 46.08 change: +0.08 stop: 44.75
The homebuilder confidence numbers came out today. Industry experts are confident that the sector will see a rebound in the second half of 2007. Unfortunately, short-term the group is still poised for more weakness. Most of the homebuilders traded lower today. After days of waiting for a significant bounce from the $45.00 level we're going to abandon the play and suggest an early exit. More aggressive traders may want to keep the play alive since there is still a chance that the $45.00 level will hold as support just be aware of potential technical resistance at the 200-dma.
on December 03 at $45.84
Complete Prod. - CPX - close: 21.75 chg: -0.25 stop: 21.49
A sharp decline in crude oil futures undermined any strength in energy stocks and the group suffered some heavy profit taking. Shares of CPX fared better than some of its peers but Monday's session was a volatile one with an intraday high over $22.50 and a dip towards short-term support near $21.50. Monday's move does reflect a failed rally pattern although aggressive traders might be tempted to buy the late afternoon rebound. We're choosing an early exit to cut our losses. Lack of follow through on last Thursday's breakout from the consolidation pattern is not good news for the bulls.
on December 14 at $22.26
D.R.Horton - DHI - close: 26.81 change: -0.31 stop: 25.95
The homebuilders continue to struggle and today's confidence numbers did not inspire any new buying. Shares of DHI produced another failed rally near $27.50. We're suggesting an early exit to avoid future losses. More aggressive traders might want to keep the play alive since the $26.00 level still looks like potential support underpinned by its 200-dma.
Picked on December 03 at $26.59
Grant Prideco - GRP - close: 41.19 chg: -2.75 stop: 42.69
We have been stopped out of GRP at $42.69. Oil service stocks tend to be more volatile than their oil-producing brethren and GRP was a good example of that today. We didn't see any company-specific news but shares slipped 6.2% and broke down under technical support at the 200-dma.
Picked on December 14 at
Guitar Center - GTRC - close: 44.39 change: -1.29 stop: 44.89
We have been stopped out of GTRC at $44.89. The stock tried to rally this morning but failed at the $46.00 level. The stock quickly broke down under support near $45.00 and its 200-dma.
Picked on December 05 at $46.40
Noble Energy - NBL - close: 49.91 change: -2.88 stop: 49.75
The profit taking in the oil sector is getting pretty rough, especially following today's decline in crude oil futures. NBL suffered a rough session after hitting new all-time highs last Thursday. Shares lost 5.4% today and closed under what should have been round-number support at the $50.00 level. We're suggesting an early exit to cut our losses.
Picked on November 29 at $53.11
NATCO - NTG - close: 33.88 change: -2.06 stop: 34.65
As an oil service stock shares of NTG suffered a beating on Monday. Shares lost 5.7% and closed under short-term support before finally coming to rest near its 50-dma and 100-dma. We were on the sidelines waiting for a breakout but given today's relative weakness we're dropping NTG as a bullish candidate. Our suggested trigger was at $36.51 was never hit.
Picked on December xx at $xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Rowan Cos. - RDC - close: 35.33 change: -1.94 stop: 34.75
We are abandoning the RDC play. Oil stocks, especially oil service stocks, really suffered some heavy profit taking following a sharp reversal in crude oil. RDC dropped over 5% and closed back under its 200-dma. Today would qualify as a bearish reversal so we want to exit immediately.
Picked on December 14 at $37.05
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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