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Daily Newsletter, Saturday, 10/1/2011

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

September to Remember

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

The good news, September is over. The bad news Q3 was the worst quarter for the markets since the Great Recession. Bad Q3s are normally followed by strong Q4s.

Market Statistics

It was an ugly quarter with a -14.3% decline in the S&P but it could have been worse. The S&P hit a high of 1356 on July 7th and a low of 1101 on August 9th. That was an 18.8% drop. Even though September will be remembered for some extreme volatility it was significantly better than the beginning of the quarter.

September is normally the worst month of the year for the markets and October, even though it is known for new lows, it is also known as the "bear killer" month because many bear periods in the market have ended in October and many times with dramatic rebounds. Obviously nobody knows if that will happen this year but we are definitely coming to a crisis point in Europe that could either tank the global markets for the rest of the year or provide the relief rally that produces a strong Q4.

Economic reports on Friday actually provided a slight glimmer of hope but it was very slight. The ISM Chicago, formerly PMI, rose to 60.4 in September from 56.5 in August. Analysts were expecting a small decline. The new orders component rebounded strongly to 65.3 from 56.9, an increase of nearly 10 points. Employment also rose to 60.6 from 52.1 and the first time over 60 since May. The production component rose to 63.9 from 57.8. The only material decline came in the backorders, which declined to 45.4 from 49.6. The gap between new orders and back orders at 19.9 is the widest gap on record. The average is 7.1 points.

The ISM Chicago is influenced by the automakers. As automobile production increases it generates thousands of orders for supplies and components. Even though this report is influenced by autos it is still a positive report and any business improvement is welcomed.

Chicago ISM Chart

The ISM New York for September was 538.0 and a minor gain over August at 537.6 but still a gain. August was the first decline in two years so any rebound is encouraging. The current conditions component rose to 50.6 from 47.8 but the current conditions component declined to 55.9 from 59.9. The quantity of purchase component rose sharply to 54.8 from 47.1 and the first positive number since May. A number under 50 represents contraction.

The New York area suffered from Hurricane Irene and from the Verizon strike that put 45,000 people out of work. The heavy security presence surrounding 9/11 probably depressed activity as well. Policemen with machine guns on every corner tend to keep a lot of people off the streets. I expect this report to rebound sharply next month.

Consumer sentiment for September rose unexpectedly by +3.7 points to 59.4 when most analysts were expecting a decline due to the drop in stocks. Falling stock prices normally depress sentiment but then the August reading of 55.7 was the lowest since November 2008 so it was already low. That reading was the result of the debt ceiling debacle and the S&P downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. I guess a few hundred points on the Dow was not as negative as those events. The survey declined -8.7 points in the first two weeks of August and has been rising slowly ever since.

Consumer Sentiment Chart

We hear constantly in the news about better than expected or worse than expected economic reports. Many times you can have both on the same day. I went back and recapped the material reports for the entire month of September so you can see visually how the month transpired. Those highlighted in yellow were worse than the prior month and those in green were better than the prior month. The reports covering August were worse than July 16 times and better only 5 times. Those covering September were better 8 times and only two were worse than August. You can't really develop a definitive analysis until this time next month when we can measure like periods.

However, there is nothing in these reports that suggests we are entering a recession today. The mixture of positive and negative reports is appropriate for a stagnant economy not a recessionary economy.

September Reports

However, the ECRI Weekly Leading Index declined for the seventh time in the last eight weeks and the annualized growth rate declined to -7.2%. This is a very long term index that takes into account data from many of those reports in the graphic above. The WLI does not move in big increments but is more of a directional index than a sudden wakeup call that something just happened. The WLI is reaching levels we saw back in 2010 when everyone was afraid of a double dip recession. If the index moves below that 2010 low it would generate a fear trade as institutions begin moving to cash on recession fears.

The ECRI titled their report U.S. Economy Tipping into Recession.

ECRI WLI (Moody's Chart)

The economic calendar for next week is crowded but there are only a handful of critical reports. The ISM on Monday will be key however the improvement in several of the regional reports suggests the ISM will remain above the 50 level and in expansion territory. Analysts are expecting it to be close so any upside surprise would be positive. Likewise a dip much below 50 would be seriously market negative. However, it takes a number in the low 40s to indicate a recession.

The Nonfarm payroll report on Friday is expected to show an increase of 60,000 jobs compared to the zero from last month. I expect that zero reading to be adjusted downward to show a loss of jobs in August. It never has the same impact when prior months are adjusted lower so there is always the question on whether the officials are adjusting to remain positive in the initial report and then correcting their adjustments once it is old news. The consensus range for September is from a loss of -10,000 jobs to a gain of 90,000 so plenty of disagreement among analysts.

The ADP Employment report on Wednesday will be a market mover as it tries to predict the nonfarm numbers due out on Friday. The ADP report has a lousy record of performance on forecasting the numbers but it is still gets a lot of attention when it is released.

We have seen numerous regional reports recently that have shown improvements in the employment components. The weekly jobless claims last week fell to 391,000 and the lowest level since April 2nd. On the surface that should indicate the jobs number will be positive although probably only by a small amount. However, many analysts reported there was a potential problem with the seasonal adjustment for last week and the headline number may not be correct. That is why the forecast for this week is much higher at 411,000 and back in line with the recent trend.

Economic Calendar

Europe received another shot of the hope drug last week when Germany and Austria voted to approve the EFSF at 440 billion euros. The German market promptly lost another -2.5% after the vote was announced. That means Germany's portion of the EFSF liability rose to 211 billion euros from 123 billion. That works out to tax bill of 4,000 euros for everyone in Germany if the loans defaulted. Since the eventual end of this story is a Greek default it would appear Germany just voted for a large tax increase for its citizens.

These sugar highs from the various positive events out of Europe are going to continue to wear off faster and require more stimulus to rekindle the closer we get to Greece flipping everybody off and restarting the printing presses to print drachmas.

With that said there is always the hope that someone in the European high command will decide to grow a backbone and force something to happen before Greece gets to that point. Europe could fix this problem but it would be expensive and that is why they continue to take baby steps towards the cliff because they know it is going to hurt a lot when it finally happens.

Along with Germany's vote was a firm stand against any further "enhancement" of the EFSF. Since the 440 billion version is not going to be enough that firm stand may be the beginning of the end. It may take another year to play out but the eventual end is known.

The 440 billion problem everyone is voting on today, no longer exists. When the EFSF was first created and then expanded it might have been enough to solve the problem. Unfortunately the problem has grown over the last six months from billions to trillions as the situation deteriorated in Italy and Spain. Everyone continues to warn about a domino decline once Greece defaults but instead of dealing with it now they continue to kick the can down the road in hopes of a miracle solution.

Did you know that Italy, Spain and Portugal are guarantors of the EFSF bailout funds just like Germany and France. Since Italy, Spain and Portugal need bailouts of their own from the fund, just how is that going to work? They can't afford to put any money in despite their signatures to the agreement. Portugal guaranteed part of the EFSF bond to Ireland but Portugal is just as bad off as Ireland. Two later EFSF bond issuances were to bailout Portugal. That means in the case of default the countries with money like Germany and France will be forced to come up with even more. Lastly the EFSF is not prefunded. When the money is needed the EFSF will have to come up with investors willing to part with billions of euros to invest in a vehicle with an ever expanding mandate that lends money to banks and governments that the markets have decided are insolvent. Greece is a prime example. How easy will it be for the EFSF to continue raising money to fund Greece when everyone knows at any time they may only be days away from a default?

The only sure event in Europe's future is that quite a few people are going to lose a lot of money. In the event of a default banks all over Europe are going to be wiped out. Everybody that owns a piece of the 357 billion euros that Greece owes is going to be hurt badly with a 50-90% loss. Stockholders in the banks and institutions holding the debt will be wiped out. As a condition to recapitalization by the EFSF those stockholders will be erased. It is not going to be pretty.

The calendar for next week includes the meeting on Monday of the 17 euro zone (EZ) finance ministers. You can bet Greece will be at the top of the agenda. The troika will be in Greece going over their progress on the bailout conditions. The EZ leaders will decide on the 13th on whether Greece gets the next tranche of eight billion euros. On the 17th Greece will run out of money if they don't get the payment. They said they would print IOUs to bridge the gap but basically they are bankrupt. If the payment is made it will be just another dose of currency crack and Greece will be right back knocking on the drug dealers door very soon looking for another dose.

You can't cure too much debt with more debt. Nobody has ever been able to survive for long by getting a cash advance on one credit card in order to pay their other credit cards. Eventually you run up so much debt that no lender will extend your credit line and you implode. That is Greece today. They are borrowing money from their lender of last resort and their credit line with the EFSF will eventually be exhausted. The only way they will ever be able to pay back their debts is when the face value of that debt is slashed dramatically.

Denmark announced an expanded $72.8 billion liquidity increase for its banks. Danish bank failures have made it more difficult for the remaining banks to access credit. Denmark said it would expand the collateral it accepts for loans and they would offer six month loans in addition to the normal seven day loans. The credit crisis continues in all forms.

In stock news for Friday it was one of those days when nothing was working and there were some ominous signs of distress. With the Q3 earnings cycle kicking off in just over a week there were several earnings disappointments. Darden Restaurants (DRI) and Nucor (NUE) both warned earlier in the week. Darden said customers ordered fewer appetizers, drinks and deserts at its various restaurant chains. They said customers in general were being more frugal with their spending.

On Friday Ingersoll Rand (IR), a maker of climate control systems and residential security systems, warned that consumer related sales were "significantly affected" in the third quarter. Commercial security sales were also slower than expected. Ingersoll now predicts earnings of 77-80 cents for Q3 compared to 85-95 cents previously forecasted. Full year earnings are now expected to be $2.70-$2.80 and reduced from $2.90-$3.10 per share. IR missed estimates of 93-cents in Q2 with earnings of 88-cents. IR had reaffirmed its profit guidance on August 8th. The stock was crushed on the news.

United Technologies (UTX) also warned in July the air conditioner market was soft. UTX makes Carrier air conditioners.

Ingersoll Rand

Micron (MU) lost ground after posting a loss of 14-cents per share compared to analyst estimates for a profit of 2-cents. Micron said weak demand for personal computers was the cause. That pushed prices lower for DRAM chips. Revenue fell -14% to $2.14 billion. Micron is the only remaining U.S. based maker of DRAM chips with all others made in Asia. DRAM prices fell -15% for the quarter. Micron also warned the jury was out in its legal dispute with Rambus. A negative verdict would have a material impact on Q4 earnings. Micron shares fell -14% on the news.

Micron Chart

Eastman Kodak (EK) may be going the way of the Polaroid camera and 8-track tape. The stock fell -54% on Friday after news broke they had hired Jones Day, a law firm known for bankruptcy cases. Kodak sold the first consumer camera in 1888. The company denied it was going to file bankruptcy and said it was looking for a way to monetize its patents of which it has thousands worth an estimated $2 billion. The company had already hired Lazard to advise on strategic options on its patents. With its market value at roughly $210 million on Friday it would appear to be an easy target for a hostile takeover just to get the patents. Kodak was worth $31 billion in 1997.

Kodak shares had already declined on Monday after it said it drew down its $160 million credit line. The stock hit a 38-year low on Monday and exceeded that on Friday. Several analysts theorized that a bankruptcy and then a sale of the patents would maximize the value of the patents for the benefit of creditors. Prospective buyers today would be worried about potential suits if Kodak sold its most valuable assets while owing millions of dollars to creditors. Shareholder suits would also be suppressed in a bankruptcy. Shareholders are already hostile to management because of the share price decline.

Kodak invented one of the earliest digital cameras but shelved the project because it did not want to risk damaging its lucrative film business at the time. Oops!

Kodak Chart

The agricultural sector was hit by a plague of locusts on Friday after the USDA released data showing that corn stockpiles were 150 million bushels larger than previously expected. Corn futures imploded and the fertilizer companies were crushed. The sector has been a roller coaster this year with alternating floods and droughts checker boarding the country and making yield projections a dart throw. Corn futures declined -6.3% to limit down at $5.92 per bushel.

Corn Futures

Fertilizer companies were hit pretty hard with POT falling -5%, CF -12% and MOS -10%. Mosaic was already heading lower after reporting disappointing earnings earlier in the week. The company also said that margins would continue to be tight due to rising costs for ammonia and sulfur. Mosaic missed earnings estimates despite significant improvement over the same period in 2010. Earnings for the quarter were $1.17 compared to 67-cents in 2010. Analysts were looking for $1.29.

The drop in share price caused the planned secondary offering to be cancelled. The Cargill family trust selling the 21.3 million shares said it was unwilling to sell its shares at the current prices. Mosaic was going to buy the shares to increase the available shares in the market in conjunction with being added to the S&P-500. The Cargill trust owns the shares as a result of the initial Mosaic spinoff. The shares were priced at $57.65 the previous Friday with a planned closing of the offering on Thursday. With MOS shares at $49 on Friday I doubt that offering will be rescheduled soon.

Mosaic Chart

Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz said despite months of economic turmoil sales at Starbucks were strong. "Starbucks is having its best year and our business remains strong." He was asked if his customers were responding the same way as the Darden customers and he said absolutely not. He saw no signs of summer weakness. That failed to help the stock with SBUX falling nearly $4 since the Wednesday high.

Starbucks Chart

Morgan Stanley shares fell -10% on Friday on growing worries over its exposure to Europe. Morgan Stanley has claimed in recent weeks that it has zero net exposure to Greece but analysts fear it might have indirect exposure through banks in Europe. On their annual 10-K for the end of 2010 Morgan Stanley said it had cross border exposure of roughly $96 billion with France accounting for about $39 billion of that amount. That is 60% more than Morgan Stanley's market capitalization Based on their most recent filing the exposure to France has declined to $29.3 billion.

Morgan Stanley Chart

Alibaba Chairman, Jack Ma, said he was very interested in buying Yahoo. Ma said late Friday he has had discussions with Yahoo as well as some other potential buyers. Alibaba is 40% owned by Yahoo so Ma has a valid reason for buying Yahoo if only to reacquire that 40% stake. He said there were quite a few people interested in Yahoo but he would not disclose any names. Shares of Yahoo rose +5% when the news broke after the close on Friday. Yahoo executives said earlier in the week they have answered inquiries from "multiple parties" interested in "unspecified options."

The Yahoo spokesman said they were pursuing many strategies including seeking a new CEO after Carol Bartz was fired in August. The process for reviewing strategic options is likely to take "months, not weeks," according to a memo signed by co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo and Chairman Roy Bostock. Jack Ma and Jerry Yang are reported to be close friends but after Alibaba split off Alipay without Yang's knowledge you have to wonder if those rumors are true.

Reportedly private equity firm Silver Lake is considering a bid for Yahoo and would sell off the Asian assets (Yahoo Japan and Alibaba) and then focus on the core Yahoo business. Silver Lake has approached other parties to gauge interest in purchasing Yahoo's main business.

Yahoo Chart

The U.S. Dept of Energy completed $4.75 billion in loan guarantees for four solar projects on Friday. That was the deadline for the 2005 program funded by the stimulus act. The projects were being developed by ProLogis, SunPower and First Solar. Many had expected the Solyndra scandal to halt or delay the loan guarantees due to the revised paperwork required after the scandal broke. There were some projects that failed to receive guarantees because of the short timeframe to complete the new post-Solyndra documentation. Over the life of the program it has provided guarantees for more than $11.4 billion covering 25 solar, wind and geothermal projects. Solyndra was $535 million of that total.

Copper declined -26% for the month to close at $3.11 and a new 52-week low after the HSBC PMI for China for September came in at 49.9 and in contraction territory for the third consecutive month. The preliminary reading had been 49.4. The HSBC survey covers more than 400 companies and is weighted towards small businesses that have been hit harder by the tightening monetary policy. China was quick to claim the underperformance was due to the months of tighter monetary policy and the lag effect of rate changes.

China's official PMI, prepared by the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing came in at 51.2 and 0.1 point ahead of a Bloomberg survey of 13 economists for a reading of 51.1. This was the highest reading in four months and a small +0.3 gain over the 50.9 in August. The survey of more than 820 companies in 20 industries has not fallen below 50 since February 2009. China is still expected to grow at 8.5% to 9.0% in the coming years and that is well over the rest of the world.

However, China's credit default swaps (CDS) have been rising. Manufacturers are rumored to be struggling to make payments for supplies and analysts are becoming increasingly worried these may be the early signs of China's bubble bursting. The worries over China have caused declines in oil, copper, steel, coal and other commodities even though there has been no real decline in orders.

Copper is normally seen as a predictor of global growth. Copper is used in so many products that demand has been a reliable predictor of economic activity. That does not prevent dips and spikes on rumors but the longer trend is usually correct. The trend for September was counter to the current expectations for growth and that has produced numerous rumors of hedge funds in trouble and liquidating futures positions. While there are probably many hedge funds in trouble I believe the selloff in copper, gold, oil, etc is related more to raising cash rather than a sudden fear about a China crash. The CME raised margin rates the prior Friday and that accelerated the decline.

Copper Chart

The worries out of China plus the rising recession worries in Europe and the USA helped to push oil prices below support at $80 at the close. Prices held above $80.50 until just after 2:PM and then the bottom fell out producing a $3.39 loss.

U.S. WTI Crude Chart

U.S. WTI Crude Chart - 5 min

The sharp drop at the close in futures and equities suggests it was not stock or sector specific but institutions closing the books on the quarter by going to cash wherever possible. When the market is plunging towards new lows many fund managers want to show more cash and fewer positions on the end of quarter statements. In a rising market managers will buy more stocks at the end of a quarter in what we call window dressing to put the best spin on their portfolios.

In quarters where stocks are declining they do the opposite with a "window washing" cycle where they slim down positions and eliminate others to produce the most conservative picture possible for bear market viewing by shareholders.

The market was really bad in Q3. That should be no surprise to anyone reading this newsletter. The equity markets had the worst quarter since the Great Recession. So where did the money go? Investors and institutions moved money out of equities and into bonds. When the debt ceiling debacle was coming to a close just before August 1st the flood of money into bonds rose to a tsunami. Bond yields on the major instruments declined 40-45% for the quarter. That is about a 10 point move on the Richter scale for bond investors.

Ten-year Note Yield Chart

How bad was Q3? It was the worst quarter since the Great Recession. The only real gains were limited to bonds, gold and the dollar. All of those turned into flight to quality assets but even gold gave back much of its gains as the quarter came to a close. Cash was the only asset that did not depreciate and that depends on your point of view.

Quarter Statistics

The S&P close at 1131 was fitting for the worst quarter in three years. The only spot that would have been better would have been a close at critical support at 1120. It would appear likely that we are going to see new lows. The market sentiment has been growing increasingly bearish and without a bullish stampede at the open on Monday I expect that 1120 support to be tested and possibly broken next week.

However, and there always has to be a however, if last week was a window washing event we could easily see money put back to work in those same beaten down sectors that were crushed so badly last week. Any new money coming into the market from retirement contributions is going to be looking for the most oversold sectors to minimize downside risk.

Since the Greece bailout payment may not be resolved for two weeks there will be plenty of negative news to weigh on the markets. If managers are looking for one more big crash before putting money back to work they may wait until after the Greek payment to avoid unnecessary risk. The lack of purchases while waiting on Greece could allow us to test those lower levels.

In the best case scenario Greece would be awarded the money, the can kicked down the road until December and a relief rally would be born. If that scenario comes to pass then the next market hurdle would be the super committee in Washington and their $1.5 trillion in new budget cuts due around Thanksgiving. If they don't come up with the cuts another $1.2 trillion will automatically go into effect and those cuts are far less desirable. This suggests there will be another deadline disaster with political brinksmanship. Let's just hope it is far enough down the road that a post Greece rebound can gain some traction.

All that assumes the Nonfarm Payroll report is not double ugly and knocks the market for a loop next Friday. Event risk is still our number one problem.

S&P-500 Chart - Daily

S&P-500 Chart - Weekly

The Dow closed on the low for the Day but still managed to gain +141 for the week. I suspect that was a fluke and only because time expired on Friday. Once 11,000 broke the decline was fairly rapid. I don't recall seeing this many Dow components with a loss of more than a dollar in a long time. IBM was the big loser with a -4.30 drop and accounting for more than -35 Dow points.

If the selling continues on Monday the odds of a retest of 10,600 are very good. I am so tired of this negative and choppy market I almost wish we could get an event to push the Dow to 10,000 and end the pain. That is a long way off and I think it would be an excellent buying opportunity. I don't think 10,600 is going to hold unless we have a sudden burst of good news.

Dow Chart - 30 Min

Dow Chart - 90 Min

Dow Chart - Daily

The Nasdaq closed at the low for the day and the low for the month at 2415 and a loss of -65 points. It has been under heavy pressure since 2:PM on Tuesday when the markets all rolled over in unison. The selling across all markets was coordinated but techs and small caps were the hardest hit. Considering tech stocks are normally strong performers in Q4 you would have thought bargain hunters would have some buy orders pending.

The drop below support at 2430 appears to be targeting 2340. Even Apple was sold hard with a -$9 drop to $381 and a three week low. Amazon has been falling since the tablet announcement on Wednesday saw the stock rally to more than $235. Analysts believe they will take a loss on every Kindle Fire sold in hopes of gaining market share and encouraging buying in the Amazon marketplace from Kindle Fire users. Others believe this is a winning strategy because it does not compete directly with the iPad and improves the shopability of the Amazon market. They will definitely sell more products to anyone with a Kindle Fire. The decline is a normal sell the news event but it did help push the Nasdaq lower.

Google also closed right at a four week low at $514 with a $12 loss. Everyone producing an Android tablet will now have to compete with the Kindle Fire on price and that means margins are going to get squeezed.

The pressure continued on Chinese stocks after the SEC said it was investigating accounting irregularities. The Chinese stocks have been decimated over the last week and that included U.S. stocks with a presence in China. Wynn Resorts (WYNN), with a major investment in Macau has declined -$25 in the last two days since the news broke.

Priceline (PCLN) was hit for -$31 on Friday and is down -$90 over the last seven days.

Priceline Chart

If the market opens negative on Monday I think we will eventually see that retest of 2340. Sentiment has turned seriously negative and recent earnings surprises from companies like Micron suggest the semiconductor sector is going to lead techs lower.

Nasdaq Chart - 90 Min

Nasdaq Chart - Weekly

The Russell 2000 small caps are in bear market territory with a decline of more than 22%. The Russell closed very near a new 52-week low on Friday with a break of support at 650. If the 640 level fails next week we could see a retest of 590. That should be very strong support and I would definitely be a buyer at that level. It would be an opportunity most fund managers would not be able to pass up. A break below 590 is inconceivable at this time without some additional deterioration in Europe, economics and earnings.

That comment will probably come back to haunt me but that is the way I see it today. Conditions can always change. However, sentiment is already seriously negative. We have a higher probability of a positive change from positive earnings and a temporary resolution in Europe than conditions continuing to worsen and become even more bearish.

Russell 2000 Chart - 90 Min

Russell 2000 Chart - Weekly

The Dow Transports have decent support at 4050 but that support could weaken if earnings guidance deteriorates. Freight shipment guidance is very mixed with some carriers claiming business is good and others saying it has fallen off over the last 60 days. We will have a better picture once they begin reporting earnings and guidance.

Best Buy reported it was only going to hire half as many seasonal workers this year because sales were not expected to be strong and inventory would be lower. Multiple manufacturers and analysts have reported lower orders for this holiday shopping cycle. It will be interesting to see if shoppers perform as expected or clamor for more products. The auto sector is booming and that would seem to suggest consumers are not that bearish about future prospects.

Smaller holiday inventory orders would require less shipping but higher volumes of new cars and trucks as well as oil and coal could make up a lot of that volume.

Dow Transport Chart - 90 Min

Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P, pointed out that whenever there is a sharp decline of more than 10% in a quarter it is normally followed by a 7.2% gain in the next quarter. When the decline happens in Q3 the chances for a strong rebound are even greater. He said investors are like hyper active first graders playing musical chairs. Every investor is trying to "out anticipate" the other on when to jump back into the market. The -14.3% decline in the S&P removed about $1.7 trillion in capitalization from the market.

Stocks are also relatively cheap today. The S&P-500 is trading at a PE of only 10.7 times what analysts think companies will make in 2012. That is historically cheap compared to the 10-year average of 15 and 17-18 in bull markets. In February it was trading at 13.6 times. Q3 earnings expectations have come down from the July 1st level of +17% earnings growth to just over 13% today. The key to that future PE calculation is the assumption that companies are not going to disappoint when they begin reporting or guide lower for Q4 and beyond.

My outlook for next week is negative but there is always the possibility of an opening bounce for the new quarter. New retirement contributions will be flooding in and managers have plenty to choose from in the way of distressed assets for long term investments. There will probably be a strong short squeeze in our immediate future and how traders react to that squeeze will be key. Eventually one of these squeezes will fail to roll over and the race will be on to higher ground.

Fund managers are seriously negative for the year with some funds down over 30%. They are going to be grabbing at every opportunity to add performance into year-end in order to save customers and their bonuses. I think it is too early to expect that next week but once we get into the first real week of earnings (17th to 21st) any positive surprises could provide fuel for the rise higher.

Jim Brown

Send Jim an email

"I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."
Thomas Jefferson


New Plays

Technology, Materials, and Semiconductors

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Editor's Note:

In addition to tonight's new candidates, the following stocks look like bearish trades right now:

MWV, NYX, LUK, X, DD, EXPE, and EMR

If you're looking for more bearish candidates you may want to consider the following:

UWM, MUR, MRO, VLO, MCHP, ATI, ETN, ALL, PCAR, SPLS, HCN, ILMN, ADP, SNA, DIS, L, CA, AKAM

If you're looking for a generic bet on the market then consider shorting the DIA or the SPY.

-James


NEW BEARISH Plays

Research In Motion - RIMM - close: 20.30 change: -0.86

Stop Loss: 22.65
Target(s): 18.25, 16.25
Current Gain/Loss: unopened
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
The big gap down in September was reaction to RIMM's earnings report. Now the oversold bounce has failed at the 10-dma. RIMM has sunk to new multi-year lows. The company is struggling with huge competition from AAPL's iPhone and GOOG's Android phones. Now there are bearish rumors circling that the company's Playbook tablet PC could be shut down as the company considers exiting the tablet market. There are dozens of new tablet PCs hitting the market but no one seems to be able to compete with AAPL's iPad.

I am suggesting bearish positions now. We'll use a stop loss at $22.65. More conservative traders could tighten that stop. It's possible that the $20.00 level is round-number, psychological support but if the market breaks down to new lows then I suspect that RIMM will too.

Our downside targets are $18.25 and $16.25. I would keep our position size small. RIMM is likely to see some volatility.

- Small Positions -

Suggested Position: short RIMM stock @ the open

- or -

buy the OCT $20 PUT (RIMM1122V20) current ask $0.73

Annotated chart:

Entry on October 03 at $ xx.xx
Earnings Date 12/15/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 27.7 million
Listed on October 01, 2011


Vulcan Materials Co. - VMC - close: 27.56 change: -1.39

Stop Loss: 30.25
Target(s): 25.25, 23.00
Current Gain/Loss: +0.0%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
Nearly everything related to materials and industrials has been hammered lower. Investors are exiting stocks that might be hit hardest by a recession. VMC has now fallen to multi-year lows. Helping fuel the move was a downgraded. A few days ago S&P's rating service downgraded its outlook on VMC from stable to negative on worries that demand will be sluggish going forward. This puts VMC's "BB" credit rating at risk.

I am suggesting small bearish positions now. I'm a little concerned that VMC might be short-term oversold here. Patient traders may want to wait for a bounce back and/or failed rally under the $30.00 level before initiating positions. We'll start this trade with a stop loss at $30.25. Our targets are $25.25 and $23.00. The Point & Figure chart for VMC is bearish with a $20 target.

FYI: Investors should note that the most recent data did list short interest at 19% of the 128 million share float. That is pretty high interest and raises the risk of a short squeeze if the market bounces.

- small positions -

Suggested Position: Short VMC stock @ the open

- or -

buy the OCT $26 PUT (VMC1122V26) current ask $1.45

Annotated chart:

Entry on October xx at $ xx.xx
Earnings Date 10/31/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.0 million
Listed on October 01, 2011


Xilinx Inc. - XLNX - close: 27.44 change: -0.92

Stop Loss: 29.55
Target(s): 25.20, 23.00
Current Gain/Loss: +0.0%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
It looks like the semiconductor sector is starting to break down. Micron (MU) missed its earnings number this past week. ALTR recently warned. XLNX cut its revenue forecast for the third quarter. Technically the group looks pretty ugly as well.

I am suggesting bearish positions now. As an alternative you could wait for another bounce near the 10-dma instead. We'll use a stop loss at $29.55. More conservative traders may want to use a stop closer to the 10-dma instead. Aggressive traders will want their stop above $30.00. Our targets are $25.20 and $23.00. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for XLNX is bearish with a $20 target. The bear-flag pattern on the daily chart would suggest a downside target near $23.

Suggested Position: short XLNX stock @ the open

- or -

buy the OCT $27 PUT (XLNX1122V27) current ask $1.00

Annotated chart:

Entry on October xx at $ xx.xx
Earnings Date 10/19/11 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 5.1 million
Listed on October 01, 2011



In Play Updates and Reviews

Rolling Over

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Editor's Note:
The stock market is rolling over and looks poised to test or break down under its 2011 lows.

The tone of trading has definitely turned bearish again and investors need to stay defensive. Keep positions small. Adjust your stop losses.

-James

Current Portfolio:


BULLISH Play Updates

Bristol-Myers Squibb - BMY - close: 31.38 change: +0.26

Stop Loss: 29.90
Target(s): 33.50
Current Gain/Loss: +0.7%
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: BMY displayed some relative strength on Friday and closed up +0.8%. Shares didn't quite get past their 2011 highs set two weeks ago but they're close. While the trend is bullish for BMY I would hesitate to launch new positions. Market weakness could pull BMY back down toward support at the $30.00 level.

current Position: Long BMY stock @ $31.15

- or -

Long 2012 Jan. $30 call (BMY1221A30) Entry $2.26

09/27 new stop loss @ 29.90
09/26 trade opened

chart:

Entry on September 26 at $31.15
Earnings Date 10/26/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 13.6 million
Listed on September 22, 2011


PowerShares Gold Double Long - DGP - close: 52.52 change: +0.23

Stop Loss: 49.40
Target(s): 59.00, 64.00
Current Gain/Loss: -4.9%
Time Frame: 8 to 10 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: Gold is still trying to bounce after a painful two-week sell-off. The DGP is hovering near technical support at its exponential 200-dma. Volume has been declining as this ETF moves sideways. I would prefer to launch positions on a dip closer to $50.00 or wait for another bounce off the $50 mark before initiating positions.

- Small Positions -

current Position: long the DGP @ $55.26

09/27 trade opened
09/26 reload this trade. Buy the open tomorrow, new stop 49.40
09/26 Trade opened on gap down at $51.96.
Trade stopped out at $51.45 (-0.9% loss)

chart:

Entry on September 27 at $55.26
Earnings Date --/--/--

1st Attempt:

Entry on September 26 at $51.96
Exit on September 26 at $51.45 (-0.9%)


Average Daily Volume = 1.3 million
Listed on September 24, 2011


Red Hat Inc. - RHT - close: 42.26 change: -1.67

Stop Loss: 41.75
Target(s): 46.50, 48.00
Current Gain/Loss: -1.0%
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: Warning! The action in the stock market and in shares of RHT this past week looks ominous. Early this past week RHT broke out past resistance at its 200-dma. Yet the rally stalled at the $45.00 mark. Now shares are back under the 200-dma again. On a short-term basis the stock has a bullish trend of higher lows. Yet long-term the action this past week looks like a failed rally at an old trendline (see weekly chart).

I am not suggesting new positions at this time. If the correction in RHT continues then we'll see it hit our stop loss at $41.75 soon.

Current Position: Long RHT stock @ $42.72

- or -

Long OCT $45 call (RHT1122J45) Entry $1.15

09/29 new stop loss @ 41.75
09/27 new stop loss @ 41.40

chart:

weekly chart:

Entry on September 26 at $42.72
Earnings Date 12/21/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.7 million
Listed on September 24, 2011


U.S. Oil ETF - USO - close: 30.49 change: -1.48

Stop Loss: 30.45
Target(s): 34.50
Current Gain/Loss: -0.7%
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: Ouch! Crude oil's drop on Friday produced a -4.6% plunge in the USO and erased all of our gains. I am surprised that this trade is still open. The USO hit an intraday low of $30.46 on Friday. Our stop loss is at $30.45. Readers will want to seriously consider an early exit immediately. My concern right now is this sell-off continues over the weekend and the USO could gap open lower on Monday, which would exacerbate our loss (currently -0.7%). I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

current Position: Long the USO @ $30.71

- or -

Long NOV $32 call (USO1119K32) Entry $1.81

09/28 Cautious traders may want to exit early now
09/27 new stop loss @ 30.45
09/26 trade opened at $30.71
09/24 removed conditional entry, adjusted stop to $29.75.

chart:

Entry on September 26 at $30.71
Earnings Date --/--/--
Average Daily Volume = 10.7 million
Listed on September 22, 2011


BEARISH Play Updates

Avon Products Inc. - AVP - close: 19.60 change: -0.23

Stop Loss: 20.25
Target(s): 17.75, 15.50
Current Gain/Loss: +1.8%
Time Frame: 4 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: So far so good. AVP tried to rally on Friday but reversed near the $20.00 level. The stock looks poised to breakdown to new lows under $19.50 soon. I would still consider new positions now. Please note our new stop loss at $20.25.

Earlier Comments:
Our targets are $17.75 and $15.50. Readers may want to consider the November puts instead of Octobers. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for AVP is bearish with a $7.00 target.

Current Position: short the stock @ $19.96

- or -

Long OCT $20 PUT (AVP1122V20) Entry $0.79

10/01 new stop loss @ 20.25

chart:

Entry on September 29 at $19.96
Earnings Date 10/27/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 3.9 million
Listed on September 28, 2011


CSX Corp. - CSX - close: 18.67 change: -0.91

Stop Loss: 20.26
Target(s): 18.10, 16.25
Current Gain/Loss: + 4.9%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: The railroad stocks continue to underperform. CSX lost -4.6% on Friday. The stock looks poised to hit our first exit target at $18.10 soon. I would still consider new positions now but you may want to tighten your stop loss if you open new plays.

Earlier Comments:
Our first target is $18.10. Our second, much more aggressive target is $16.25, which could take a few weeks to get there.

Current Position: short CSX stock @ $19.65

- or -

Long OCT $20 PUT (CSX1122V20) Entry $1.20

chart:

Entry on September 28 at $19.65
Earnings Date 10/18/11 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 12.4 million
Listed on September 27, 2011


Phillip Morris Intl. - PM - close: 62.38 change: -1.63

Stop Loss: 64.25
Target(s): 60.25, 57.50
Current Gain/Loss: +2.8%
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: It looks like the sell-off in PM might be accelerating. The stock normally does not move that fast but shares fell -2.5% on Friday. I would still consider new positions now or you could wait for a new failed rally under the $64.00 level. Please note that we're lowering our stop loss down to $64.25. More aggressive traders will want to keep their stop above $65 and its 200-dma instead.

Current Position: short PM stock @ 64.21

- or -

Long NOV $60 PUT (PM1119W60) Entry $1.60

10/01 new stop loss at $64.25

chart:

Entry on September 29 at $64.21
Earnings Date 10/20/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 10.9 million
Listed on September 28, 2011


CLOSED BULLISH PLAYS

Energy XXI Ltd. - EXXI - close: 21.48 change: -1.09

Stop Loss: 20.85
Target(s): 25.00
Current Gain/Loss: - 4.1%
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: It was another volatile day for EXXI. Shares were slowly consolidating lower most of the day. Then late in the afternoon there was a spike down and shares fell -3.5% in less than two minutes only to rebound just as fast. That intraday spike hit our stop loss at $20.85.

I am concerned about the recent trend and a breakdown under $20.00 would be very bearish for EXXI and could signal a drop toward $15.

Earlier Comments:
We wanted to keep our position size small to limit our risk.

closed Position: Long EXXI stock @ $21.75, exit $20.85 (-4.1%)

- or -

OCT $23 call (EXXI1122J23) Entry $1.15, exit $0.80 (-30.4%)

09/30 stopped out at $20.85
09/27 readers may want to take profits now
EXXI +8.4%, option bid @ $1.85 (+60.8%)

chart:

Entry on September 26 at $21.75
Earnings Date 10/26/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 983 thousand
Listed on September 22, 2011


Human Genome Sciences Inc. - HGSI - close: 12.69 change: -1.04

Stop Loss: 12.89
Target(s): 16.25, 17.50
Current Gain/Loss: -9.9%
Time Frame: 4 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: HGSI suffered a -7.5% plunge due to negative news on an European government reimbursement for patients using one of their drugs. The stock broke down under its 20 and 30-dma and the $13.00 level to hit our stop loss at $12.89.

(Small Positions)

Closed Position: Long HGSI @ $14.31, exit $12.89 (-9.9%)

- or -

OCT $15 call (HGSI1122J15) Entry $0.83, exit $0.31 (- 62.6%)

09/30 stopped out at $12.89

chart:

Entry on September 26 at $14.31
Earnings Date 10/27/11 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 4.8 million
Listed on September 24, 2011


iShares Russell 2000 ETF - IWM - close: 64.30 change: -2.03

Stop Loss: 63.40
Target(s): 69.75
Current Gain/Loss: +0.0%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

Comments:
10/01 update: We are throwing in the towel for IWM. It looks like the bulls have lost this fight. The bearish reversal that began a few days ago has pushed IWM back toward its 2011 lows. This small cap ETF looks poised to breakdown. I am suggesting an early exit immediately.

Last week's low was $63.49. Traders may want to open new bearish positions on a drop below $63.40.

closed Position: Long IWM @ $64.25, exit $64.30 (-0.0%)

- or -

NOV $68 call (IWM1119K68) Entry $2.69, exit $2.69 (+0.0%)

10/01 exit immediately
09/29 Planned to sell half at the open.
IWM @ 66.73 (+3.8%)
bid NOV $68 call $3.56 (+32.3%)
09/28 Sell HALF of our positions now!
09/27 readers may want to exit/take profits now
IWM (+5.5%), option bid @ $4.35 (+61.7%)
09/26 new stop loss @ 63.40

chart:

Entry on September 23 at $64.25
Earnings Date --/--/--
Average Daily Volume = 76.7 million
Listed on September 22, 2011