Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Thursday, 4/18/2013

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Data and earnings take the S&P to two week lows

by Thomas Hughes

Click here to email Thomas Hughes

The markets were quiet this morning, tired from the volatile first half of the week. Earnings and data were in the spotlight here at home as more of big banks, semiconductor makers, fast food restaurants and tech companies reported for the calendar first quarter. So far the season has been OK. More companies are beating than missing but not all are meeting estimates for revenues. This is the same thing we saw last quarter.

The Economic Data

Early in the morning the release of unemployment claims figures was met with only passing interest. Expectations weren't high for a big drop in claims so the 352,000 initial claims reported did not make much impact on futures trading. The 352K is 6,000 from last weeks reported figure but still at low levels relative to the past 12 months. The spike in claims we saw 2 weeks ago is beginning to fade and this weeks housing starts figures may renew hope of a housing led jobs recovery. The four week moving average is still being impacted by the spike but its effect will wear off soon. So long as the weekly numbers don't deteriorate the long term trend in initial claims will remain flat to downish. This is good for a mildly growing economy but not a strong or booming one. Initial claims needs to come down a fair bit before I can believe in a real improvement in the unemployment sector.

Continuing and initial claims both fell this week. This is a good sign for the labor markets and could lead us to another drop in the official unemployment rate. Of course this is not taking into account the declining participation rate which has been another big cause for the decline in unemployment figures. Continuing claims dropped -35,000 to 3.068 million. This is a mild drop from last weeks reported number and a large drop from the revised one. In any case it brings the continuing claims numbers down near the long term low and looking like it could trend lower. Of course this too hinges on a pickup in labor and the economy.

Total claims fell by about 125,000 to 5.152 million. This is the 6 month low for total claims. A sustained drop in this number below 5 million would be a great sign for the economy. The drop in continuing and total claims may be a sign that jobs creation is rebounding this month. The housing starts figures lead me to believe there has to be some hiring going on. On side note the rate of decline in total claims is expanding again. This weeks release is 1.6 million(24%) less than last year, this had declined to about 21% in the earlier part of the year.

Leading indicators confirms what we know but it also isn't that bad. It only dropped -0.1% which is a much lower peak than the last four retractions of the index. If the index performs as it has over the past 12 months it will turn positive for next month. The expectations were for a reading of 0% so the release helped the markets reach their morning lows. There are no economic reports tomorrow, just earnings. Next week is a big one for the housing sector with Existing Home Sales, New Home Sales, Price Index and Mortgage Index. Other important releases include Durable Goods, Michigan Sentiment and the advance number for 1st quarter U.S. GDP. From what I can tell expectations for the 1st quarter range from 0.1-0.3% but I think there is a chance for a positive surprise.

Richmond Fed President Lacker did not help sentiments today with his statements. During a CNBC interview he said emphatically that if up to him QE would end. He believes the evidence of it working is “sketchy” and that the FED should begin to taper the purchases soon. He also believes that the unemployment rate will drop into the low 7% range by the end of the year. As for GDP and inflation, he thinks both will remain around 2%. His view, aside from ending QE, is basically in line with market expectations.

Around The World

China's GDP release Monday was a real shock to the system. A slowing China along with signs of inflation and a potential housing/credit bubble are a growing danger to the world economy. Asian markets tanked on the news and now the Hand Seng Index is trading near 6 month lows. The Nikkei suffered this week as well but is still being propped up by BOJ policy. The Nikkei retreated to a near term support but did not make any significant losses. The active devaluation of the yen is only just begun. The yen traded flat versus the dollar today above the near term support of 97.50. The pair is in a bounce from the moving average and looks like it is consolidating for a retest of the 100 level. Longer term targets for this pair remain 110 and 120.


The European markets ended mixed today after a mild rebound. The DJ Stoxx 600 has now made a lower low and a lower high but is still above a potential long term support level. News of rampant fraud in the EU system was a big blow to confidence. It seems that those in charge are still living well on the backs of the people. The euro rallied versus the dollar but is caught in a tight band of technical support and resistances. Long term sup/resistance lines, the 38% Fibonacci retracement, the 30 day EMA and I'm sure other indicators are bracketing the pair. A stronger U.S. versus a weaker EU may soon tip the balance to the downside. Adding to the pressure are growing talks of an ECB rate cut. An end to QE in here and more QE there would be very bearish for this pair. For now, the previous two candles look suspiciously like a blow-off top that would have at least some near term relevancy. Downside target here is around 1.2750.


The Oil Index

Oil made a small rebound today and gained about 0.75% during today's session. Even with the bounce oil is still trading well below $90 and beneath significant resistance levels. Early in the day oil did see some weakness and hit a new intraday low. Support kicked in, at least for today, and sent price up to its highs by lunch time. A slowdown in the economy could help oil prices continue to slide, downside projections take price as low as $80 per barrel. However, should the recent round of weak data be a temporary thing the low prices today could be near the bottom. The Oil Index made another long tailed candle, almost a doji, which is a sign of buying. There may be some support coming into the market at this level but it is still too soon to tell. MACD and stochastic both support a further decline in this index with a first target around 1250.

Oil Index

The Gold Index

I can honestly say that even though I was bearish on gold and the gold index I did not expect the declines we saw this week. I expect gold prices to remain highly volatile in the near term as late sellers and early buyers fight over price direction. Gold made a small bounce today but remained sub $1400. The Gold Index made a similar bounce and this is to be expected. The index, and the metal, made huge a huge retreat in just a few days and hit a major technical level. There may be a short term trade here but the long term indications are down at this time. I am looking for a retest and possible break through of support at $115 on the index and $1350 for the metal.

Gold Index

Earnings, Earnings And More Earnings

Earnings are dominating the scene this week. Today was a big one for names in the financial and tech industries. BB&T and Morgan Stanley are the two big banks that reported today with at least nine other smaller regional reporting as well. IBM, Google and Microsoft all reported after the bell. Throughout the day scattered reports from the semiconductor sector were interlaced with reports from the likes of Pepsi, Verizon and others. There are a few rough spots but the general headline shared among them is “earnings beat”. Revenues are coming in a little light and in some cases the earnings growth is being driven by higher prices and fees for consumers.

In the financial sector Morgan Stanley reported profits of $0.50 per share versus a net loss in the year ago quarter. This was above some expectations but also came with a warning sign. The bit of news the markets took hold of was the huge drop in trading revenues. As a brokerage MS relies on trading activity to generate revenue and the 42% drop does not bode well for future expectations. In the statement company executives were upbeat about the future even though the global economy was still experiencing moments of “fragility”. The stock lost 4% today, firmly shutting the window opened last with last quarters release.

Morgan Stanley

Morgan was not the only financial to lose on good news. BB&T also beat the streets expectations for adjusted EPS and lost value in today's trading. JPMorgan has been trading to the downside ever since its release last Friday and Wells Fargo is trading down as well. The Banking Index has been trading lower too and has now made a lower low after making a lower high. The long term trend is still up but the banking sector may be in the beginning of a correction back to trend/support around $52.50. The regional banks are not immune to this retreat. Looking at banks like USB and FITB you can see that the regional banks are trading down toward the lower end of long term ranges. There are still dozens of small banks yet to report over the next 5-6 days so there should be plenty of short term trades in this sector.

Banking Index

Verizon may or may not have surprised the street with a strong earnings report. The company reported gains in all areas with strong growth in sales and services, increases in revenues, earnings and margins. The stock responded by gapping up more than 3% to form what may become a shooting star. Verizon has been making big strides over the last few quarters and has had quite a run up. Shares of VZ have gained more than 24% since the beginning of the year and are diverging from indicators on the daily chart.


Pepsico beat estimates for EPS and revenue. The release sent the stock shooting through resistance. Pepsi's earnings release and statement was concise and to the point; Pepsi is committed to growing into the future. The company has been able to streamline operations and improve margins. PEP gained over 3.5% in today's trading. The move took the stock well into all time high territory and sparked a little selling and a long upper candle wick. This area may prove resistance in the near to mid terms should Pepsi continue it's move up.


The semi conductor industry continued to disappoint investors. Cypress, Fairchild and AMD all reported earnings that sent share prices crashing. The Semiconductor Index fell more than 1.5%, stopping just shy of making a new lower low. A support around 415 is forming, a break down from here would be bearish for the index. Outlook from the industry for the second quarter is a little mixed. Estimates for chip sales are down but Fairchild Semi at least says that bookings for the first quarter were “robust”.

Semiconductor Index

The Indexes

The indexes continued to decline today with the S&P 500 losing about a half percent. Earnings reports are not sparking much interest in stocks and the economic reports remained mixed. The thing to remember is that economic data is still trending to the better. This weeks drops have been substantial but they have not come close to breaking the long term trend. It's not surprising the markets picked up some volatility when it crossed into new all time high territory. On the daily charts the S&P has made a new intraday lower low, not surprising with what I've seen in other indexes. This is only a mildly bearish pattern so long as the index remains above trend. A break below 1525 would do that now. Looking at the indicators the momentum is building but it doesn't look too strong now. Stochastic is trending down, relieving overbought conditions but has not yet made any overtly bearish signals.


The Russel has retreated to a level that could become the neck of a head and shoulders. 900 is going to be significant going into the near term. The indicators are not clear with this one, stochastic is ticking up and MACD is diverging, suggesting a bottom is present or near. A clearer confirmation is required for me to trade on this though. A test and retest of 900 might do it for me.


There are not any signs of a robustly growing U.S. economy but there are also not any signs of a weak economy. We have gotten a round of disappointing data recently but it can't always be great. The recent weakness, including China GDP and the drop in gold, has certainly caused a correction but not a very deep one I think. There is still some downside potential in the markets but I think they could find support closer to the long term trend.

Until then, remember the trend!

Thomas Hughes

New Option Plays

Poised to Slip Lower

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown


S&P500 ETF - SPY - close: 154.14 change: -0.97

Stop Loss: 155.65
Target(s): 149.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
The stock market's up trend is in serious jeopardy. The bullish breakout to new highs last week has reversed. Now the SPY is has broken down below technical support at its simple 50-dma. It still has some price support in the $153.50-154.00 area. If the SPY continues to break down the sell-off will likely accelerate.

I am suggesting a trigger to buy puts at $153.40. If triggered our target is $149.00. More conservative traders may want to exit near $150.00 instead. Please note that there are several short-term options for the SPY. Make sure you pick the right option symbol. May's option expiration is May 17th. The open interest on the option we selected is over 330,000.

Trigger @ 153.40

- Suggested Positions -

buy the May $150 PUT (SPY1318Q150) current ask $1.52

Annotated Chart:

Weekly Chart:

Entry on April -- at $---.--
Average Daily Volume = 130 million
Listed on April 18 2013

Vulcan Materials - VMC - close: 46.03 change: -1.70

Stop Loss: 47.55
Target(s): 40.25
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: exit PRIOR to earnings in early May
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
VMC makes building materials. Unfortunately the U.S. and global economies appear to be slowing down, which would suggest a slow down in building and construction and thus demand for materials. The stock fell sharply on the recent U.S. homebuilder confidence poll, which has been turning lower.

Shares of VMC are in a bearish trend of lower highs and lower lows and recently broke down below its simple 200-dma. The stock is currently testing potential support at its simple 300-dma (near today's low). Monday's low was $45.42. I am suggesting a trigger to buy puts at $44.90. If triggered our target is $40.25. However, keep in mind that VMC is scheduled to report earnings in early May (not date yet) and we will plan to exit prior to the announcement.

Trigger @ 44.90

- Suggested Positions -

buy the May $45 PUT (VMC1318Q45) current ask $1.60

Annotated Chart:

Weekly Chart:

Entry on April -- at $---.--
Average Daily Volume = 581 thousand
Listed on April 18 2013

In Play Updates and Reviews

Stocks Look Vulnerable

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Editor's Note:

The S&P 500 index closed just below what should have been technical support at its simple 50-dma. Will stocks rebound off this level or continue to break down?

KMB was closed this morning.
LLL was stopped out.
FDX was triggered.

Current Portfolio:

CALL Play Updates

American Tower Corp. - AMT - close: 80.06 change: +0.28

Stop Loss: 78.75
Target(s): 84.75
Current Option Gain/Loss: -21.9%
Time Frame: Exit prior to earnings in early May
New Positions: see below

04/18/13: For the second time in three days traders bought the dip in AMT near the $79.00 level. If the market will cooperate we could see AMT breaking out to new highs soon. I'm still bullish on AMT but concerned the broader market looks weak. I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

Our target is $84.75. More aggressive traders could aim higher. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for AMT is bullish with a $94 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long May$80 call (AMT1318E80) entry $2.05

Entry on April 11 at $80.25
Average Daily Volume = 2.2 million
Listed on April 09 2013

Gilead Sciences - GILD - close: 50.86 change: -1.08

Stop Loss: 49.75
Target(s): 56.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: -31.9%
Time Frame: Exit PRIOR to earnings on May 2nd
New Positions: see below

04/18/13: GILD underperformed the market with a -2.0% decline on Thursday. Shares retreated to the bottom of its short-term trading range in the $50.50-52.50 zone. If the market turns lower again tomorrow we could see GILD break down and hit our stop loss at $49.75.

Earlier Comments:
I do consider this a more aggressive entry point. More conservative traders may want to wait for a pullback near the $50.50-50.00 zone as an alternative entry point. Our target is $56.50 but we'll plan on exiting prior to the May 2nd earnings report.

- Suggested Positions -

Long May $52.50 call (GILD1318e52.5) entry $1.94

Entry on April 15 at $52.25
Average Daily Volume = 11.7 million
Listed on April 13 2013

PUT Play Updates

Atlas Air Worldwide - AAWW - close: 38.18 change: +0.14

Stop Loss: 40.05
Target(s): 33.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: -20.5%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

04/18/13: Thursday was a quiet session for shares of AAWW. Shares churned sideways near the $38.00 level. Today's low was $37.75. More conservative traders may want to wait for a new drop below $37.75 as an alternative entry point to buy puts.

Our target is $33.50 but more conservative traders could exit early near $35.00 instead. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for AAWW is bearish with a $29 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long May $37.50 PUT (AAWW1318Q37.5) entry $1.70

Entry on April 17 at $38.00
Average Daily Volume = 262 thousand
Listed on April 16 2013

FedEx Corp. - FDX - close: 91.87 change: -2.25

Stop Loss: 96.25
Target(s): 86.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: +27.3%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

04/18/13: We have been waiting for FDX to break down below support and hit our trigger at $93.50. The stock got a push over the edge this morning with an analyst downgrade. This news sparked a gap lower at $93.18 and FDX fell to a -2.39% decline. The gap down triggered our play.

Trigger @ $93.50

- Suggested Positions -

Long May $92.50 PUT (FDX1318Q92.5) entry $2.12

04/18/13 trade opened on gap down at $93.18, trigger was $93.50

Entry on April 18 at $93.18
Average Daily Volume = 3.3 million
Listed on April 15 2013

Dow Jones Transportation ETF - IYT - close: 105.79 chg: -0.08

Stop Loss: 107.05
Target(s): 100.25
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

04/18/13: Surprisingly the IYT transportation ETF did not see further weakness. The downward pressure was stymied by a bounce in the railroad industry. Shares of the IYT drifted sideways. Overall I don't see any changes from my prior comments.

I am suggesting a trigger to buy puts at $104.75. If triggered our target is $100.25.

Trigger @ 104.75

- Suggested Positions -

buy the May $105 PUT (IYT1318Q105) current ask $2.20

Entry on April -- at $---.--
Average Daily Volume = 904 thousand
Listed on April 17 2013


Kimberly-Clark - KMB - close: 100.66 change: -0.92

Stop Loss: 99.45
Target(s): 104.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: +12.2%
Time Frame: Exit PRIOR to earnings on April 19th
New Positions: see below

04/18/13: Our KMB trade is closed. The plan was to exit positions this morning at the opening bell. Shares opened at $100.64 before surging to a new intraday high above $102.00.

- Suggested Positions -

May $100 call (KMB1318E100) entry $2.45 exit $2.75 (+12.2%)

04/18/13 planned exit this morning
04/17/13 Strategy change: ready to exit tomorrow at the opening bell!
04/16/13 prepare to exit by Thursday's closing bell
04/15/13 new stop loss @ 99.45
04/13/13 new stop loss @ 98.75
04/11/13 new stop loss @ 97.85


Entry on April 10 at $100.25
Average Daily Volume = 2.3 million
Listed on April 06 2013

L-3 Communications - LLL - close: 80.19 change: -0.12

Stop Loss: 79.90
Target(s): 84.85
Current Option Gain/Loss: -87.5%
Time Frame: Exit prior to earnings on April 25th
New Positions: see below

04/18/13: I cautioned readers yesterday that given the market's and LLL's recent weakness we would likely see this stock hit our stop loss. Shares did trade below the $80.00 mark and they hit our stop at $79.90 before paring its losses.

- Suggested Positions -

May $85 call (LLL1318E85) entry $0.80 exit $0.10 (-87.5%)

04/18/13 stopped out
04/17/13 LLL is showing relative weakness. More conservative traders may want to exit at the open tomorrow


Entry on April 10 at $82.50
Average Daily Volume = 600 thousand
Listed on April 08 2013