Today was the day that the FOMC delivered its long-awaited June rate decision and accompanying statement. While no one expected a change in the rate, many worried about or hoped for a change in the accompanying statement. Throughout June, U.S. equity markets had proven increasingly sensitive to economic data that suggested any change in stance by the FOMC. Markets responded with increasing volatility, chopping out difficult-to-trade consolidation zones.
That's been true of some commodity markets as well as equity and bond markets. Today crude traders tried for a breakout, sending crude costs above $70.00 within the first few minutes of the trading day. Equity traders jockeying for position ahead of the FOMC decision and statement had to factor in that action in crude futures as well as a multitude of economic and earnings reports.
As the cash market closed, traders might have been disappointed by the day's events. If I had accidentally uploaded last Thursday's charts without changing the annotations, not all that much would have changed. If today was to be the day that would provide clarity for next direction, it failed to deliver. As charts will show, however, although some indices ended today in positions congruent to last week's with respect to nearest support or resistance, some chart characteristics did change for the worst.
Many indices ended the day today near their levels last Thursday, and the SPX was one.
Annotated Daily Chart of the SPX:
When bulls have been so well rewarded for so long for buying support, it's dangerous to get too bearish based on a chart setup, but resistance clearly held today. That suggests that more sideways consolidation or another pullback to test the 72-ema and horizontal support might be needed. Such action might even be the highest-probability next move, but it certainly doesn't prove that will happen. Those who want the indices to hold up can read charts as well as I can, and can determine that indices definitely need to be defended now. Whether you're in the camp that attributes such "saves" to the alleged PPT or just to bulls buying support, such action is what has turned many an apparently bearish chart setup into mush as bulls stampede over the best conclusions of many a technical analyst.
If you're entering bearish plays on tests of that converging resistance, you need to be watchful for a sudden burst higher to test next resistance at the top red trendline. If the SPX does roll lower, have a profit-protecting plan in place for tests of the 72-ema and horizontal support, both near 1489-1490. Potential support extends down to 1477, but a sustained move below 1480 would be bearish in and of itself and a daily close beneath the 72-ema certainly would be. The SPX's daily chart, like the Dow's, has begun to take on a rounding-over appearance. Be aware that previous to 2003, prices could drop precipitously once the rounding-over process had completed, and it was sometimes difficult to tell when that completion could occur.
The same concerns--the potential for a rounding-over process to be completed, the warning that these formations haven't performed reliably for years--applies to the Dow's daily chart. Last week, the Dow's daily chart suggested that prices could chop around a bit longer within its potential rounding-over formation. Chop was exactly what the market action produced.
Annotated Daily Chart of the Dow:
The Dow's pattern doesn't appear to show any special relevance to the 72-ema, as do some other indices such as the tech-related ones and the OEX and SPX. Therefore, the bearish signals on the Dow would come more from daily closes beneath the red trendline, the trough between the two peaks and the 50-sma, a more traditionally watched moving average. Given the recent volatility and the typical success of bulls who buy support, a push up through the moving-average resistance can't be ruled out yet. Neither can a breakout to a new high, although this chart certainly suggests that it's not the highest probability outcome.
Watch for the possibility that this rounding-over formation and the others seen on the SPX and some other charts could modulate into a rectangular consolidation pattern, a more bullish formation if that's what sets up.
Annotated Daily Chart of the Nasdaq:
The SOX is poised between strongest nearby support and strongest nearby resistance, not a high probability level from which to enter a play of any type.
Annotated Daily Chart of the SOX:
Annotated Daily Chart of the RUT:
Annotated Daily Chart of the TNX:
Annotated Daily Chart of Crude Futures:
Today's 2:15 release of the FOMC decision and statement of course trumped all other market events. As had been expected, the FOMC voted unanimously to keep the rate steady. As had been fervently hoped, the committee's accompanying statement also dropped the word "elevated" when it discussed the risks of rising core inflation.
However, the committee added new wording that complicated the inflation outlook a bit. "Readings on core inflation have improved modestly in recent months," the committee noted, but the members also added the concern that "a sustained moderation in inflation pressures has yet to be convincingly demonstrated." As is the way of the FOMC, members failed to provide specific guidelines as to what it would take to convincingly demonstrate such a moderation in inflationary pressures.
The committee did tag the "high level of resource utilization" as potentially sustaining those pressures. The lack of a convincing demonstration led the committee to state that its "predominant policy concern remains the risk that inflation will fail to moderate as expected."
The committee will base any future decisions on the way that the outlooks for both inflation and economic growth evolve. Economic growth did moderate the first half of the year, the committee concluded. The members believe the economy is likely to "continue to expand at a moderate pace over the coming quarters."
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When all the statement changes are considered together, the FOMC appears to have taken a step back in its inflation watch while remaining watchful for any reversal that will necessitate a raising of rates. The language may have disappointed some listeners who so fervently wanted the removal of any hint of a need to hike rates. Some of us are surely glancing askance at charts of crude futures today while pondering that emphasis on "core inflation." We know our costs are rising whether they're trickling through to that core rate or not. However, a CNBC commentator also noted that the FOMC was unlikely to raise rates based on this statement if it hadn't done so when that "elevated" language had remained in the statement.
That may be true. Although I'm only slightly more fluent in Fedspeak under Bernanke's leadership than I was under Greenspan's, many will assume that the FOMC was signaling that the committee taking such a step back while retaining the right to act without shocking the markets, should the need arise. Can the FOMC jump from this statement directly into a meeting in which they would raise rates, without an intermediary meeting in which the statement signals an escalating risk of inflation? Of course. I think that was the intention. The FOMC may also want caution on the part of equity and bond investors to do some of their work for them, keeping treasury yields sufficiently high to help moderate those inflation pressures.
The statement did not mention the sub-prime problem, unless I missed it. The statement did mention the "ongoing adjustment in the housing sector," saying that the moderate economic growth had been obtained despite that adjustment.
If I feel only slightly more fluent in Fedspeak these days, other market participants shared my impression. Equities performed their usual post-FOMC gyrations. Thirty minutes after the statement was released, the SPX was within a few cents of its pre-release level, but that didn't mean it hadn't moved. The SPX had moved in an eight-point range from high to low within that thirty minutes.
Although market participants focused on the conclusion of today's FOMC meeting, other market events included several numbers related to the economy.
Both the final version of the first quarter's GDP and initial jobless claims for the week ending June 23 were released at 8:30. The GDP was expected to ring in higher by 0.70 percent with the prior number having shown a 0.65 percent increase.
The final Q1 GDP met expectations. Headlines touted that as the slowest quarter in four years, but ahead of that announcement, CNBC commentators had already been assuring listeners that the year's growth would be slow but steady. The annualized GDP is 4.9 percent to $13.62 trillion.
Perhaps the most notable part of that release was found in the GDP deflator. The GDP deflator was higher by 4.2 percent, its biggest increase in sixteen years. A MarketWatch.com article attributed the spike in the deflator, a number measuring economy-wide inflation, to pay raises for government workers that were put into effect at the first of the year.
Core consumer prices rose at an annualized 2.4 percent, higher than the previously reported 2.2 percent. Higher physician services drove core prices higher, that same Marketwatch.com article noted.
The release included many more details specifying what happened with corporate profits, exports, government spending, consumer spending and other aspects of the economy, but this Wrap will already be lengthened by the number of import reports today. I can go over only the most salient parts of reports.
The salient point to take from that report was that growth slowed, although not quite as much as previously reported, and inflation pressures increased. That combination is not optimum, of course, although the committee certainly didn't seem concerned about the findings when they composed their statement this afternoon. This morning, however, before the FOMC decision and statement, inflation moving further above the FOMC's perceived comfort level of 1-2 percent diminished hopes that the softening economy would lead to a lessening of rates and heightened fears that an increase might be next on the docket instead.
Bond markets reacted immediately, with yields bursting higher than their levels at yesterday's close. They soon settled back, however, as bond traders waited with everyone else for the FOMC decision.
Initial claims were expected to ease slightly to 318,000 from the previous 324,000. They eased a bit more, to 313,000, a decline of 13,000, the Labor Department reported, with the previous week's claims revised to 326,000. The four-week moving average rose by 1,000. Continuing claims fell 27,000 with their four-week average rising 6,750.
The Conference Board released its May Help-Wanted Index at 10:00. The index fell to 27, its lowest level in 49 years. It dropped two points from the previous 29. When the FOMC and market participants are on inflation watch, a lessening of pressure from the labor market might be a case of "when bad news is good news," but no one wants to see a 49-year low. Many debate the reliability of this number that was typically based on newspaper job ads, however, since the advent of Monster and other Internet-based job-search tools. I'm not familiar enough with the makeup of the survey to judge whether those criticisms are valid.
Natural gas inventories followed at 10:30. Industry experts had predicted a build of about 83 billion cubic feet, with the average weekly build currently running at about 90 billion cubic feet. Instead, the build was far above the average, at 99 billion cubic feet. July's future contract expired yesterday, and the thought had been that the expected lower-than-average build might be bullish for natural gas prices, which had been falling ahead of that expiration. Instead, the number proved bearish.
More attention was focused on another energy-related futures contract: crude futures. After a brief pullback from the first, early morning push above $70.00, those futures surged above it again, although that level was not maintained into the close, as the daily chart illustrated. Some industry watchers were noting that crude-related indices such as the OIX and XOI did not confirm crude's breakout.
The Kansas Fed District released its June Manufacturing Survey at 11:00. The summary of this report noted that "Tenth District manufacturing activity slowed markedly in June." The District report noted that producers continued to be optimistic about future factory activity, however. Perhaps of some small relief to those contemplating the inflation implications in the GDP revision, the Kansas City Fed reported that most price indices eased. Manufacturers noted only limited pass-through of any increased prices. The previous release had headlined at 20.0, with the current number dropping two points to 18. The year-over-year production index also declined.
Company-specific news included a Lehman Brothers' upgrade of Intel (INTC) to an overweight rating from its previous equal-weight one. The firm anticipated that INTC would report improving margins, new products and a restocking cycle of INTC products from DELL and HPQ. CSCO and SBUX also received upgrades today. None of the three produced anything resembling a wildly bullish candle today, however.
Not-so-happy news came from Novellus Systems (NVLS) and LSI Logic (LSI). Both issued Q2 warnings.
Companies reporting earnings today included 3Com Corp (COMS), Apollo Group (APOL), Family Dollar (FDO), General Mills (GIS), KB Home (KBH), Micron Technology (MU), Monsanto (MON), Palm (PALM), Research In Motion Limited (RIMM), Rite Aid (RAD) and Solectron (SLR).
Because of the number of important developments today, these earnings reports cannot be covered in any detail, but some notable points should be mentioned. Like many homebuilders of late, KBH took charges related to the abandonment of some of its land options, as well as inventory and joint venture impairments. The company reported a loss of $2.26 a share. After briefly trading above yesterday's high, KBH closed below it, completing a doji for today's candle.
MON closed higher after its earnings report but the day's candle was far from bullish. It closed almost on its low of the day after failing to break out of its recent consolidation zone. Articles touted the company's 71-percent profit increase in the third quarter.
In other company-related news, GM announced that private equity firm The Carlyle Group and Canada's Onex Corp. have agreed to buy its Allison Transmission business for $5.6 billion.
After the bell, RIMM announced a 3-for-1 stock split and said that its earnings grew 73 percent. PALM's Treo devices apparently failed to impress as much as RIMM's Blackberry. As this report was prepared shortly after the close, RIMM traded at $187.55, with the close at $165.59. PALM traded at $15.85, with the close at $16.56. Remember that after-hours trading is not always indicative of trading the next day.
Also of interest was the International Monetary Fund's Rato announcement that he will leave the IMF in October. Reports quoted him as saying the resignation was for personal reasons.
Tomorrow's Economic and Earnings Releases
Unlike many Fridays of late, one economic release or market-related event will follow closely after the other tomorrow, all morning long.
The 8:30 release of May's Personal Income will be closely followed by the 9:30 release of the June NAPM-NY Report, a potentially market-moving report. June's Chicago PMI, also a potentially market-moving report, follows fifteen minutes later. Jim noted last weekend that the official estimate for this number was for an easing to 58.0 from the prior 61.7, but the whisper numbers suggested that a strong gain would be reported instead.
As if those weren't enough, May's Construction Spending and June's Consumer Sentiment will both be released at 10:00. I can remember times when Consumer Sentiment could turn the markets, but market participants may be reeling from overload from the week's and the day's heavy release schedule by the time this number is released, and the number hasn't proven as important in recent months anyway. If placing trades, however, I would remain aware of its release time and plan accordingly.
Lesser-watched numbers also appear. The ECRI Weekly Leading Index for the week of June 22 follows at 10:30. The first quarter's bankruptcy filings will be also be released during the day, although I do not have a specific release time. June's agriculture prices will be released at 3:00.
In addition to these releases, the day of course will see the much-anticipated release of Apple's iPhone. Today, some articles and on-air reports suggested that Vodafone Group (VOD) was in discussions to be Europe's exclusive supplier of the iPhone.
What about Tomorrow?
Before looking at intraday charts, it's important to put them in perspective. Many daily charts revealed that resistance held today with some showing a sign of building resistance in the form of converging trendlines and important moving averages. Some charts showed that the highest-probability next move was either consolidation or a further rounding over into a retest of support. Given that background, let's look at the intraday charts.
Annotated 30-Minute Chart of the SPX:
The Dow's chart proves similar to the SPX's. The Dow appears to be chopping around between Keltner support layered to about 13,391 on 30-minute closes and up to about 13,516.50 on 30-minute closes. Without an early strong break of one of those, the Dow might need to chop around a bit, too, before deciding on next direction. Potential upside and downside targets of 13,766 and 13,212-13,253 were in place as of today's close, but neither had been set as a potential target while the Dow was still mired in a net of Keltner support and resistance.
Annotated 30-Minute Chart of the Nasdaq:
Put this intraday chart into perspective when thinking back to the daily one, however. The intraday chart looks more bullish than bearish, but perhaps the daily chart suggests that the bullishness will consist of nothing more than a retesting of resistance. The Nasdaq needs a strong and sustained move to overcome the implications of today's today and its long upper shadow.
Annotated 30-Minute Chart of the RUT:
New Long Plays
New Short Plays
Long Play Updates
Cal-Maine Foods - CALM - cls: 16.10 chg: +0.29 stop: 14.90 *new*
CALM continues to look strong. Shares spike to a new multi-year high at $16.78. For the last few days we've been suggesting that more conservative traders exit near $16.50. We are a little bit cautious here given the big pull back from its intraday high, which looks like a failed rally pattern. We're adjusting the stop loss $14.90 to reduce our risk. Our target is the $17.40-17.50 range.
Picked on June 17 at $14.80
China Netcom - CN - cls: 55.71 chg: -0.29 stop: 53.95
CN continues to slip lower but so far the $55.00 level is holding as support for the U.S. traded ADR shares of CN. The sharp pull back has put a bearish crimp in many of the technical indicators. A bounce from here could be used as a new entry point but readers may want to tighten their stops. The P&F chart points to a $73 target. We're aiming for the $59.50-60.00 range. More aggressive traders could aim for the highs near $62.50.
Picked on June 17 at $55.60
Columbia Sportswear - COLM - cls: 68.85 chg: +0.05 stop: 65.95
Lack of real follow through after COLM's big rebound yesterday is disappointing at best and potentially bearish at worse. Look for a dip back toward $68. Readers may want to wait for a new rise past $69.50 before opening positions. Our target is the $73.50-75.00 range. The P&F chart is very bullish with an $89 target.
Picked on June 17 at $68.54
EMC Corp. - EMC - close: 17.83 change: -0.10 stop: 16.46
We don't see any changes from our previous comments. EMC produced another failed rally near $18.00 today. More conservative traders may want to think about exiting early now to lock in a gain. We're not suggesting new positions. Our target is the $18.50-20.00 range.
Picked on May 27 at $16.46
Verasun Energy - VSE - cls: 13.74 chg: +0.44 stop: 12.89
VSE is showing some relative strength as investors buy the dip near $13.00. The stock rose 3.3% on big volume after the company announced its first retail location in Washington D.C. to pump VE85, which is VSE's brand of E85 ethanol. More aggressive traders might want consider trying to buy a bounce here. We are adjusting our suggested entry point. Our new trigger to buy the stock is at $14.21, which is just above the June 22nd high. More conservative traders may even want to wait for a rise past $15.00 before buying the stock. We are going to use a wide (aggressive) stop loss under the recent low. Our target is the $17.75-18.00 range, just under the simple 200-dma. We'll be watching the 50-dma and 100-dma as potential resistance. FYI: The P&F chart is still bearish.
Picked on June xx at $xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER
Short Play Updates
Broadcom - BRCM - cls: 29.60 change: -0.76 stop: 31.65
BRCM is showing a lot of volatility. Yesterday is bounced higher in what looked like a bullish reversal. Now the stock has reversed again with today's 2.5% decline and close back under $30.00 again. Contributing to the weakness was an analyst downgrade and news that QCOM had rejected BRCM's patent-dispute settlement offer. This looks like a new entry point for shorts. If you're feeling cautious then consider a stop above yesterday's high. Our target is the $27.00-26.00 range. FYI: One of the larger risks with shorting BRCM will be any sort of headline-making news events in the legal battle between BRCM and QCOM.
Picked on June 25 at $29.75
Continental Airlines - CAL - cls: 34.09 chg: +0.89 stop: 35.26
It was a big day for the airline stocks. The XAL index rose just over 2% making it the best performing sector on Thursday. Fueling the big move was an analyst at J.P.Morgan who upgraded six airline stocks. CAL was upgraded to an "overweight" and shares jumped 2.6%. Resistance at the $35.00 level is holding for now. We would hesitate to open new positions at this time. Our target is the $30.50-30.00 range. We do not want to hold over the mid July earnings report.
Picked on June 12 at $34.10
Healthcare REIT - HCN - cls: 40.17 chg: -0.10 stop: 42.01
HCN big bounce has stalled, which is good news for the bears, but we're not convinced the rebound is over. We're not suggesting new positions at this time. More conservative types may want to tighten their stops toward $41.00 or at last to breakeven. Our target is the $38.50-38.00 range.
Picked on June 11 at $ 41.73
Staples Inc. - SPLS - cls: 24.18 chg: +0.23 stop: 25.15
The overall trend still looks bearish for SPLS but short-term it's trying to bounce. Look for another decline under $23.85 before opening new shorts. Readers may want to tighten their stops. Our target is the $22.00 mark.
Picked on May 27 at $24.40
U S T Inc. - UST - close: 53.10 chg: -0.04 stop: 54.51
Lack of follow through on yesterday's rally is good news for the bears. However, the company reaffirmed its earnings guidance after the closing bell. We didn't see any big after hours moves in the stock so we'll have to wait until tomorrow to see if investors react to the earnings guidance. We're not suggesting new positions. More conservative traders may want to exit early. UST has already hit our target in the $52.60-52.50 range. Now we're aiming for the $50.50-50.00 zone.
Picked on May 23 at $54.96
Closed Long Plays
Group 1 Auto - GPI - cls: 40.96 chg: -0.33 stop: 39.95
We are giving up on GPI. The stock has been consolidating above short-term support near $41 for days but the consolidation has turned bearish with a short-term trend of lower highs. Today's high at $42.66 is actually a bad tick. We're suggesting an early exit now to cut our losses. However, we'll keep an eye on GPI for a bounce near $40.00 as a potentially bullish entry point or a drop under $39.00 as a potential bearish entry point.
Picked on June 17 at $41.96
Encore Wire Corp. - WIRE - cls: 29.60 chg: -0.60 stop: 29.26
We are throwing in the towel on WIRE. The stock can't seem to maintain any sort of direction and now the momentum is starting to stall. Today's session looks like a bearish failed rally and the close under $30.00 is not a good sign for the bulls. We're suggesting an early exit now to avoid or limit any losses.
Picked on May 27 at $29.26
Closed Short Plays
Today's Newsletter Notes: Market Wrap by Linda Piazza and all other plays and content by the Option Investor staff.
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