Option Investor
Newsletter

Daily Newsletter, Monday, 3/21/2011

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

''Let's Make A Deal'' Lifts Stocks

by Todd Shriber

Click here to email Todd Shriber
Good news out of Japan regarding the country's efforts to cool nuclear reactors and a return of Merger Monday helped the market overlook what is a deteriorating situation in Libya as stocks spent a third consecutive in rally mode. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average both jumped 1.5% while the Nasdaq added 1.8%.

Stats Table

Overall, Monday's headlines were positive for the most part, but there was some gloomy news and it came courtesy of the housing sector (where else?). I will start with this so the bad news is out of the way first. The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales in February fell to 4.88 million units on a seasonally adjusted basis.

That is well below the 5.4 million units seen in January's upward revision and the 5.02 million units in February 2010. Remember that economists usually say a reading of 6 million units is positive. Making matters is the fact that the median home price fell to its lowest level in nine years last month.

For those looking for something positive out of this report, NAR says existing home sales remain 26.4% above the cyclical low seen last July and that first-time buyers accounted for 34% of purhases last month. Still, NAR says ''unnecessarily tight credit'' is hampering the housing market. On that note, I offer this anecdote: A friend of mine, who has good credit and makes over $100,000 per year, recently tried to purchase a home here in Southern California for $399,000. He went to Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) with an $80,000 down payment and was rejected for a mortgage by all three.

Home Sales Chart

Mergers and acquisitions news was in full bloom today and I will get into the big deals of the day in the minute, but it is worth noting that just week a removed from the announcement that Berkshire-Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B0 will acquire Lubrizol (LZ) for $9 billion, Warren Buffett was providing life to the markets again by saying he is still on the hunt for more big deals. Buffett is currently in South Korea and called the country a ''hunting ground'' for acquisitions. Buffett already holds a stake in South Korean steelmaker Posco (PKX), though that name was not specifically mentioned as a possible Berkshire target.

The big deal of the day was actually announced on Sunday when Dow component AT&T (T), currently the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., said it will acquire Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA business for $39 billion in cash and stock. The deal will allow AT&T to surpass Verizon's (VZ) Verizon Wireless business to become the largest U.S. mobile phone carrier.

AT&T will add 34 million new subscribers, but that is of course assuming none of them leave for Verizon or other competitors. No surprise here: The deal, which is the largest in the wireless business since 2004, could face heavy antitrust scrutiny as it combines the second- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless providers, according to Bloomberg News. In its statement, AT&T cautioned that regulatory approval could take up to a year to win.

Still, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said he is confident his company will win approval for the deal. Purchasing T-Mobile represents AT&T's biggest acquisition since the 2003 deal to acquire Bell South for $83 billion.

As is usually the case in the financial markets, there are clearly winners and losers with this deal. Deutsche Telekom is clearly a winner. The company has had some issues with execution in the U.S. and will retain in an 8% in T-Mobile after the deal is completed so it can potentially benefit from AT&T's hard work.

Clearly, Apple (AAPL) is a winner, too. AT&T lost its exclusive rights to the iPhone and analysts are expecting Verizon to sell 11 million iPhones this year, but T-Mobile never had access to the iPhone partly because Apple never wanted to make a version of the phone that operates on T-Mobile's 3G network. It is safe to assume some of these T-Mobile customers want an iPhone and Apple will not need to do any work to convert them. Again, AT&T is doing the legwork by making this deal.

Sprint (S) is clearly the loser here. The company had been trying to acquire T-Mobile itself, but the two sides could never come to terms on valuation. Now Sprint is destined to be the smallest U.S. wireless carrier and they do not even have access to the iPhone. Shares of Sprint lost 13.6% today.

AT&T agreed to a $3 billion breakup fee if the deal fails to go through, Bloomberg reported, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter.

AT&T Chart

The AT&T/T-Mobile is a deal I expect will have some impact on more than a few readers, but another acquisition that was announced on Monday is one that I suspect is also noteworthy to Option Investor readers. Charles Schwab (SCHW), the largest U.S. discount broker, is looking to beef-up its options trading offerings and its $1 billion acquisition of optionsXpress Holings (OXPS) certainly helps accomplish that objective.

While Schwab has been active in the past 18 months or so in terms becoming a player in the ETF business, the company has not made an acquisition of note in about 10 years. As I am sure you know, options volume on U.S. exchanges has been soaring in recent years and Schwab's all-stock deal to acquire optionsXpress is viewed as a move by the company to attract and keep more of the savvy investors that generate more brokerage commissions through active trading. The company currently gets about 10% of its daily average revenue trades from the options arena.

The deal values optionsXpress at a 17% premium to where the stock closed on Friday. Under the terms of the transaction, optionsXpress investors will trade each of their shares for 1.02 shares of Schwab. California-based Schwab is expected to issue 60 million new shares for the deal that is slated to close in third quarter.

optionsXpress had 379,000 client accounts and $7.9 billion in client assets at the end of last year; Schwab had nearly 8 million accounts and $1.6 trillion in assets, according to Reuters. This deal is easily summarized: Options traders have triple the assets and trade six times more often than other clients, Reuters cites Schwab as saying.

optionsXpress Chart

In other M&A news, and I admit this is from Friday, but I think the deal is not getting much attention, General Mills (GIS), the second-largest U.S. food company, is now in exclusive talks with French private equity firm PAI Partners to acquire 50% of Yoplait. General Mills confirms is in said talks on its Web site though does not give a price tag. Several reputable press agencies have reported $1.1 billion is what Big G is offering for the world's second-largest yogurt brand.

Minnesota-based General Mills already distributes Yoplait here in the U.S. and I mention the deal for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the difficulty foreign firms face when trying to acquire French companies. Sodiaal, which owns the other half of Yoplait, will retain that stake and the French government has been vocal in its desire to see another French firm at least gain part of the stake that PAI is looking to part with.

General Mills reports earnings on Wednesday before the open, another reason I mention the deal, and perhaps we will get an update on the Yoplait news then. Full disclosure: I am long General Mills.

General Mills Chart

In today's ''putting lipstick on a pig'' segment, there is Citigroup (C). Several of Citi's big rivals made headlines by announcing the dividend increases investors had been clamoring for from bank stocks. Citi was not conspicuous by its absence because CEO Vikram Pandit had previously said 2012 would be the year his company started to return capital to shareholders.

So imagine the market's surprise when Citi announced it will begin paying a dividend of a penny a share later this year. That's not all. Citi is pulling an AIG (AIG) and implementing a 1-for-10 reverse split on May 6. The split makes sense as there are nearly 30 billion Citi shares outstanding, though I remember opining about the AIG reverse split a while back and that stock was hammered following the split. Only time will tell if the same fate awaits Citi.

As for the dividend, something is better than nothing, but at just one cent a quarter, the yield on Citi shares will be just 0.09%, the third-lowest dividend yield among S&P 500 dividend stocks, according to Bloomberg News. As one who is long Citi, I am not sure what to make of this news, but as the Wall Street Journal notes, there are probably a few high-frequency traders out there that are less than happy about the reverse split.

Citi Chart

Looking at the charts, the S&P 500 could only manage a flirtation with 1300 today, showing that area has probably become psychological resistance. When the index moved above 1275 last Friday, that became intraday support and I think the lifespan of that support level has now been extended. Today's close above 1290 should be a small positive, but put me in the cautious camp because it sure looked like the market glossed over Libya and rising oil prices today.

S&P 500 Chart

A somewhat similar situation can be found with the Dow as the close above 12,000 may be a good sign, but there is plenty of resistance just 40-50 points away from Monday's close and then again just over 12,200. If the Dow retreats again, I am watching 11,800 to see how strong that support is, though I have a feeling a firmer floor can be found at 11,600.

Dow Chart

As for the Nasdaq, I'd like to see a close over 2700, before I start becoming intrigued, but the move above 2690 today could be a start and support should be found at 2675. There is still Japan-related headline risk here and I do not want to rain on anyone's parade, but I happened to see some pictures of Apple CEO Steve Jobs on the Web last week and he did not look well. These photos were taken and published by reputable sources and I think it goes without saying Jobs' health is an issue tech investors need to be mindful of, if they are not already.

Nasdaq Chart

To be sure, the market has proven resilient over the past few days. That was certainly case on Monday when it appeared that news out of Libya was all but ignored. On Saturday, Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya's National Oil Corp. said that Libyan output is plunging and I feel like the only reason I know about this is because I wrote a news article about it for OilSlick, which you can register for (HERE).

Point is, Libya is still an issue to contend with though I get the feeling the news flow out of Japan has taken a turn for the better. Perhaps that will be enough to lead the market higher this week.


New Plays

Energy Sector Strength

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Editor's Note:

In addition to tonight's new candidate check out these stocks that caught my eye. You might want to put them on your radar screen:

DHR - After several weeks of consolidating sideways a breakout past $52.00 might be a bullish entry point.

SUN - SUN set a new 52-week closing high. Readers might want to consider bullish positions with the move over $44.00.

BBY - I am not suggesting positions on BBY. The company has earnings in just a couple of days. Shares of BBY are trying to hold support near $31.00. A breakout past $32.00 could signal a change in trend but the key will be the market's reaction to their earnings results and guidance. I'd keep an eye on it and see how it trades after earnings.

DFS - This financial stock has broken out to new three-year highs. It might be an entry point.

SVU - This grocery store stock has been underperforming the market. However, it looks like SVU might be in the process of forming a bullish double bottom. For now the tend is still down but I'd keep an eye on it.

NE - A rally past $46.00 might be a bullish entry point for this energy stock.

Potential candidates from the weekend editor's note: PLL, HSY, HAS, DPS, SWY, and PBCT.

- James


NEW BULLISH Plays

Tesoro Corp - TSO - close: 25.63 change: +1.01

Stop Loss: 23.95
Target(s): 29.90
Current Gain/Loss: unopened
Time Frame: 4 to 6 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see trigger

Company Description

Why We Like It:
TSO is an oil refiner and the stock is trading near multi-year highs. Shares did not see that much of a sell-off during last week's market decline. A breakout past resistance should herald a new leg higher after four weeks of consolidating under the $26.00 level. Readers can choose to open bullish positions on a move past $26.00 or wait for a move past the March 14th high of $26.72.

I am suggesting we buy TSO at $26.15 and we'll put our stop loss at $23.95. Given the stock's recent volatility over the last month or so I would consider this a higher-risk trade. Keep your position size small.

FYI: The most recent data listed short interest in TSO at more than 13% of the stock's 141 million-share float. A breakout past resistance could spark another short squeeze.

Trigger @ 26.15

Suggested Position: Buy TSO stock @ 26.15

- or -

Buy the May $27.00 calls (TSO1121E27) current ask $1.55

Annotated chart:

Entry on March x at $xx.xx
Earnings Date 04/25/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 8.2 million
Listed on March 21st, 2010


In Play Updates and Reviews

Picking Up Speed

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Editor's Note:
The oversold bounce was picking up speed. It was encouraging to see the small cap stocks performing well. Fueling today's gains was news that Japan was making progress cooling its troubled nuclear reactors. The U.N. forces were successful in knocking out Gaddafi's air force and taking the pressure off of the Libyan rebels. News that AT&T (T) would spend $39 billion to buy its rival T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom was seen as a sign of confidence by Wall Street. The acquisition would leapfrog AT&T into the largest U.S. carrier, past Verizon.

-James

Current Portfolio:


BULLISH Play Updates

ACI Worldwide Inc. - ACIW - close: 32.00 change: +0.79

Stop Loss: 29.35
Target(s): 33.00, 34.75
Current Gain/Loss: + 8.0%
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
03/21 update: ACIW contniues to rally with shares adding +2.5% today. News that ACIW had purchased ISD Corporation, a secure payment management software company, failed to slow down ACIW's gains. Financial details were not disclosed. I would still consider bullish positions in ACIW on dips near the $31-30 zone. Our bullish targets are $33.00 and $34.75.

FYI: ACIW does have options but the spreads are very wide, which puts us at a significant disadvantage.

SMALL bullish positions

Current Position: Long ACIW stock @ $29.63

03/19 New stop loss @ 29.35

Entry on February 25 at $29.63
Earnings Date 04/28/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 122 thousand
Listed on February 24th, 2010


Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. - DKS - close: 39.51 change: +0.43

Stop Loss: 36.75
Target(s): 42.25, 44.50
Current Gain/Loss: +0.3%
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
03/21 update: As expected DKS continued to bounce on Monday. Our plan was to launch small bullish positions at the open. I would still consider new positions now. Or you could wait for a dip into the $38.50-37.50 zone. I'm suggesting profit targets at $42.25 and $44.50.

FYI: The Point & Figure chart for DKS is bullish with a $65 target.

- Small Positions -

Current Position: Long DKS stock @ $39.39

- or -

Long the June $40 calls (DKS1118F40) Entry @ $2.35

Entry on March 21 at $39.39
Earnings Date 05/18/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 1.6 million
Listed on March 19th, 2010


Ford Motor Co. - F - close: 14.59 change: +0.10

Stop Loss: 14.19
Target(s): 16.45, 17.45
Current Gain/Loss: unopened
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see trigger

Comments:
03/21 update: Investors must still be feeling cautious on Ford. The stock gapped open this morning but failed to breakout past short-term resistance at $14.80. Gains were limited. The stock added +0.69%. Aggressive traders may want to go long over $14.80. I am suggesting a trigger at $15.05. Should we get triggered at $15.05 we'll use a stop at $14.19. Our targets are $16.45 and $17.45.

Trigger @ $15.05

Suggested Position: Buy F stock @ $15.05

- or -

Buy the April $15 calls (F1116D15) current ask $0.50

Entry on March x at $xx.xx
Earnings Date 04/21/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 82 million
Listed on March 15th, 2010


Gildan Activewear - GIL - close: 31.33 change: +0.68

Stop Loss: 29.70
Target(s): 34.85, 38.00
Current Gain/Loss: + 3.2%
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
03/21 update: Monday proved to be a little bit of a rocky day for GIL. When it was all said and done GIL added +2.2%. I'm cautiously bullish here. However, instead of buying GIL I am starting to think there are better candidates for our money right now.

Current Position: long GIL stock @ 30.35

- or -

Long the April $30 call (GIL1116D30) Entry @ $1.60

03/19 New stop loss @ 29.70
03/08 Triggered $ 30.35
03/01 Adjusted buy-the-dip trigger to $30.35
03/01 Adjusted stop loss to $28.99

Entry on March 8 at $30.35
Earnings Date 05/12/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 634 thousand
Listed on February 28th, 2010


Jos. A Bank Clothiers Inc. - JOSB - close: 45.95 change: +0.38

Stop Loss: 44.75
Target(s): 49.85, 52.25
Current Gain/Loss: - 0.0%
Time Frame: 4 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
03/21 update: Uh-oh! The stock market was in a widespread rally mode but the action in JOSB doesn't look very enticing. The stock did add +0.8% but that was definitely below average today. If we see another bounce from the $45.00 level then I might buy JOSB. Otherwise I would wait.

FYI: The most recent data listed short interest at almost 25% of JOSB's 27.3 million-share float. There is definitely room for some short covering here. Plus, the Point & Figure chart for JOSB is bullish with a $62 target.

- Small Bullish Positions -

Current Position: Long JOSB stock @ $45.99

- or -

Long the April $50 calls (JOSB1116D50) Entry @ $0.95

Entry on March 7 at $45.99
Earnings Date 03/30/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 355 thousand
Listed on March 5th, 2010


NVIDIA Corp. - NVDA - close: 17.76 change: +0.14

Stop Loss: 16.85
Target(s): 19.95, 21.75
Current Gain/Loss: - 2.3%
Time Frame: 4 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
03/21 update: Strength in the tech sector on Monday was very encouraging but NVDA did not truly participate. The SOX semiconductor index was up +1.8% and the NASDAQ composite closed up +1.8% yet NVDA only gained +0.7%.

NVDA is consolidating sideways near this key support level. Yet the consolidation has a neutral pattern of higher lows and lower highs. Unfortunately while this is supposed to be a neutral pattern the prevailing trend usually wins out and for NVDA that trend is down.

Wait for another dip or bounce at $17.00 or wait for a move over $18.35 before launching new bullish positions.

Prior Comments:
This is a very speculative, higher-risk trade. Our upside targets to take profits are at $19.95 and $21.75. Remember to keep your positions small to limit your risk.

- small bullish positions -

Current Position: long NVDA stock @ $18.19

- or -

Long the April $20 calls (NVDA1116D20) Entry @ $0.72

Entry on March 14 at $18.19
Earnings Date 05/12/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 35 million
Listed on March 12th, 2010


Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. - PTEN - close: 27.88 change: +1.04

Stop Loss: 25.95
Target(s): 31.50, 34.00
Current Gain/Loss: unopened
Time Frame: 4 to 6 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see trigger

Comments:
03/21 update: Energy stocks were strong performers today. PTEN added +3.8% but remains under resistance at the $28.00 level. Our trigger to open bullish positions is at $28.25 so we're still sitting on the sidelines.

Prior Comments:
The $30.00 mark might offer some resistance but I'm targeting a climb to $31.50 and the $34.00 levels.

Trigger @ 28.25

Suggested Position: buy PTEN stock @ 28.25

- or -

Buy the May $30 calls (PTEN1121E30) current ask $0.90

Entry on March x at $xx.xx
Earnings Date 04/28/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 2.8 million
Listed on March 17th, 2010


Southwestern Energy Co. - SWN - close: 41.61 change: +0.49

Stop Loss: 37.95
Target(s): 44.85
Current Gain/Loss: unopened
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see trigger

Comments:
03/21 update: The strength in energy stocks lifted SWN to a +1.1% gain but volume was significantly lower than what the stock saw last week. There is no change from my weekend comments.

I am suggesting we launch bullish positions on a dip at $40.25 since resistance at $40.00 should be new support. More conservative traders might want to wait and hope for a dip closer to the $39.00 area. If we are triggered at $40.25 we'll use a stop loss at $37.95. Our firs target is $44.85.

FYI: The Point & Figure chart for SWN recently broke out past resistance and is now signaling a bullish target of $51.

Buy-the-Dip Trigger @ $40.25

Suggested Position: Buy SWN stock @ 40.25

- or -

Buy the June $42 calls (SWN1118F42) current ask $2.53

Entry on March x at $xx.xx
Earnings Date 04/28/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 6.9 million
Listed on March 19th, 2010


Weyerhaeuser Co. - WY - close: 25.06 change: +0.67

Stop Loss: 22.95
Target(s): 27.25, 29.25
Current Gain/Loss: + 1.5%
Time Frame: 4 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
03/21 update: WY was showing relative strength today. The stock added +2.7% and managed to close over round-number resistance at the $25.00 mark. Personally I would prefer to launch new positions on a dip near $24.00.

Prior Comments:
Keep your positions small to limit your risk.

Suggested Position: long WY stock @ $24.68

- or -

Long the July $25 calls (WY1116G25) Entry @ $1.64

Entry on March 16 at $24.68
Earnings Date 04/29/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 6.4 million
Listed on March 15th, 2010


BEARISH Play Updates

Lennar Corp. - LEN - close: 19.82 change: +0.15

Stop Loss: 20.25
Target(s): 16.75
Current Gain/Loss: - 1.8%
Time Frame: 1 to 2 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
03/21 update: Why homebuilders like LEN would be rising today is a mystery. Well, actually it's not. LEN is probably rising due to the widespread market gains. However, the homebuilders should be struggling. This morning's existing home sales report was terrible. The National Association of Realtors said sales fell 9.6% and prices fell to their lowest levels in nine years. Plunging prices is going to squeeze margins on the new homebuilders.

Yet we can't fight the market's trend. I still see resistance near $20.00 for LEN but more conservative traders may want to exit early. I am not suggesting new bearish positions at this time.

Our plan called for small positions to limit our risk. LEN is expected to report earnings on March 29th. If our play lasts that long we will exit prior to the announcement to avoid holding over earnings.

FYI: I do want to point out that the most recent data listed short interest on LEN at 21% of the 159 million-share float. That is a high amount of short interest and raises the risk of a short squeeze although we are certainly not expecting a short squeeze with the market in decline.

- Small Bearish Positions -

Current Position: short LEN stock @ 19.47

- or -

Long the April $19 puts (LEN1116P19) Entry @ $0.80

Entry on March 17 at $19.47
Earnings Date 03/24/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 4.3 million
Listed on March 16th, 2010


Overseas Shipholding Group - OSG - close: 31.03 change: +0.74

Stop Loss: 33.55
Target(s): 27.75, 25.25
Current Gain/Loss: + 3.6%
Time Frame: 8 to 9 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
03/21 update: We were expecting an oversold bounce in OSG so today's gain was not a surprise. Look for resistance in the $31.50-32.00 zone. A failed rally in this area could be used as a new bearish entry point. We might want to consider lowering our stop loss toward the $33.25 or $33.00 levels.

Our plan was to use small positions to limit our risk. The P&F chart is forecasting a $25 target.

- Small Bearish Positions -

Current Position: Short OSG stock @ $32.20

- or -

Long the April $30 PUTS (OSG1116P30) Entry @ $0.75

03/16 New stop loss @ 33.55

Entry on March 11 at $32.20
Earnings Date 05/04/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume: 705 thousand
Listed on March 10th, 2010