Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Wednesday, 7/8/2009

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Lower Crude Prices, Disappointing IMF News Put Brakes on Rally

by Judy Alster

Click here to email Judy Alster
It was a less than sensational day on almost all counts, as a mixed outlook on the economy from the International Monetary Fund and falling commodity prices sent stocks retreating from a morning rally. Before climbing back, the Dow and the S&P500 hit levels not seen since May; the Dow managed a 14.8-point gain; the S&P and Nasdaq were about flat.

Dow Jones Industrial Average:


Like the other two indexes, the Nasdaq remains below its support and could easily revisit its May lows:


Both the Dow and the S&P 500 have shed about 7% since their June 12 highs, albeit on unenthusiastic volume. A continuing lack of really good news will almost certainly pull things lower.

Market Statistics for Wednesday:

Maybe it wasn't exactly on tenterhooks, but the market waited for news of Alcoa's (AA) second-quarter earnings, which came in after hours. They were lower, as expected. In its third consecutive quarterly loss, the company lost $454 million or 47 cents a share, evidence, if we needed it, of slumping orders from key buyers in aerospace, automotive and construction; analysts predicted a loss of 38 cents. (Excluding restructuring charges, Alcoa's loss would be 26 cents per share.) A year ago the company earned $546 million or 66 cents. Since then, aluminum demand has fallen with the global economy, driving up stockpiles and driving down prices while production has fallen.

Alcoa (reporting after hours)

Alcoa used to be considered one of the bellwethers of the economy, but many analysts no longer think it is. One respected analyst claims that it now only tells you about the health of the aluminum industry, and considers FedEx (FDX) and United Parcel Service (UPS) better signs of a trend. Both are down since May.

Even if Alcoa -- the first member of the Dow to release earnings -- had reported a bundle of orders, it probably wouldn't presage a real turnaround, as most customers let their inventories go down in recent months and are now restocking while aluminum prices are relatively low.

However, aluminum prices have been showing a slight uptick over the last six months, something to keep an eye on, as the metal price will rise well before the stock price does:

Aluminum prices, last six months:

Copper prices, which I've always considered as accurate a bellwether as aluminum, are also sneakily rising lately, although copper stocks aren't (yet):

Copper prices, last six months:

In economic reports, the Mortgage Bankers' Association's (MBA) purchase application index jumped a very noteworthy 6.7% in the week ending July 3 to 285.6, a level that hints, gently, at improved demand for housing. The refinance index also jumped, up 15.2% to 1,707.7. The index measures applications at mortgage lenders; it's a leading indicator for single-family home sales and housing construction. Mortgage rates weren't much changed in the week; they're at a still-appealing 5.34% for a 30-year fixed mortgage.

It's hard to judge from just one instance, but a few more reports like this could be an indicator of better times for housing. Still, none of the five big housing stocks - Pulte (PHN), Lennar (LEN), Centex (CTX), D.R. Horton (DHI) and Beazer (BZH)- responded whole-heartedly.

Lennar Corp.:

And here's a quick look at existing and new single-family- home sales through May. Is the worst over for housing? Stay tuned.

Single Family Home Sales (through May):

Crude oil prices fell for the sixth straight day, dropping $2.79 to $60.14, after hitting an eight-month high last week of $73. The Energy Information Administration's weekly petroleum inventory showed large buildups offsetting a 2.9 million barrel drawdown in crude oil for the week ending July 3.

Gasoline stocks rose 1.9 million; distillates jumped 3.7 million, with refineries continuing to operate at an active 86.8% of capacity. Summer driving has nudged demand up 1.3% year over year, but the rising gasoline and distillate stocks still indicate a slowing demand for crude, and crude supplies have been high all year. Investors are interpreting falling oil prices as a sign of economic weakness as industrial and manufacturing activity remains sluggish.

AMEX Oil Index

And not helping matters in the least was the International Monetary Fund's lowering of its global economic forecast. The IMF said it expects the world economy to shrink by 1.4% this year, slightly worse than its April estimate of 1.3% and further confirming investors' fears that their hopes and dreams for a solid recovery this year were probably premature.

Next year, it said, global activity should expand by 2.5%, higher than previously thought. On a fourth-quarter-over-fourth-quarter basis, real GDP growth is projected at 2.9% next year, also higher than previously thought. In short, the global economy is starting to pull out of a recession unprecedented in the post–World War II era, but stabilization is uneven and the recovery will not be robust. I think we knew this going in.

Since mid-June, after three months of a rising market, investors have become worried that the world economy may take longer to emerge from recession than they'd hoped, and the markets have shown it.

IMF Projection:

On the upside, demand was at record levels in today's $19-billion, 10-year Treasury auction, pushing prices up while yields fell to their lowest in about seven weeks; it was the third of four major auctions this week. Yields on 10-year-notes fell 13 basis points to close at 3.32%, the lowest close since May 20. (Yields on 2-year notes declined 4 basis points to 0.93%, after earlier declining to the lowest in more than a month.)

Bidders offered $3.28 for every dollar sold, compared to $2.62 at the last auction in June. That's the highest "bid-to-cover" since at least 2001. The Treasury Department sold the 10-year notes at a yield of 3.365%, well below expected levels, with the amount offered matching the amount sold last month. This contrasts with comparatively tepid results in recent coupon auctions.

Indirect bidders, a class of investors that include foreign central banks, bought 43.9% of the sale, compared to 34% last month (although the proportion of sales to indirect bidders jumped last month after a change in tabulation methods). Another 13% of the sale went to direct bidders, or investors buying the debt for their own accounts. The more the auction goes to direct and indirect bidders instead of primary dealers, the better for the market, as dealers often turn right around and have to sell the debt, pressuring prices.

10-Year U.S. Treasury Yields:

The 10-year notes, and Thursday's sale of $11 billion in 30-year bonds , are so-called "reopenings" of securities sold during the government's quarterly refunding in May, meaning they carry the same coupon and maturity date as the original debt. The Treasury is using reopenings as a way to spread out the sales of increasing amounts of debt needed to finance the government's and the Fed's programs to revive the economy and ease credit-market strains.

Analysts have paid more attention to the government's debt sales in the last few months, looking for signals of whether investors, particularly foreign central banks, remain willing to buy U.S. debt.

You'll note that after falling on the IMF report, the market responded well, if briefly, to the auction news. Later it managed to recover after news that credit was still pretty tight:

S&P500 Intraday:

The Consumer Credit report brought some not-terrible news: the dollar value of consumer installment credit outstanding contracted much less than expected in May, at $3.2 billion vs. April's monster shrinkage of $16.5 billion. Expectations were more than twice that, at negative $7.5 billion. May's contraction was mostly focused on revolving credit (the open-ended credit line such as you get from a credit card), which came in at $2.9 billion after April's $8.7 billion in revolving credit debt. Which is to say, consumers are saving, not spending, and banks are pulling back available credit on credit cards. Nonrevolving credit, such as auto or student loans, fell .4 billion in May.

Credit card companies have been tightening available credit while consumers have pulled back on spending-either due to job loss or the fear of it. The scarcity of credit and the unwillingness to draw on it are major factors limiting economic improvement, not just in the consumer sector but in the business sector as well. It seems that Americans have gone from spending like sailors directly to stuffing money in their mattresses. Neither is good. A successful economy requires levels of spending, and saving, somewhere between the two.

In further earnings news, discount retailer Family Dollar (FDO) soared $3.56 or 12.8% after reporting that its fiscal third-quarter profit rose 36%. The economy, not surprisingly, has been driving more and more consumers to Family Dollar's stores. In the latest quarter, Family Dollar earned $87.7 million or 62 cents per share, up from $64.7 million or 46 cents a year ago. The company also gave profit guidance that was higher than the consensus, saying it would earn 39 cents to 43 cents a share in the fourth quarter, compared to analysts' estimate of 39 cents, and that sales trends would improve in July and August.

Family Dollar Stores:

Dollar stores are among the few companies that benefit from a recession. Shoppers still want to buy staples at a discount. Dollar Tree (DLTR) followed its rival up $3.23 or almost 8% and 99 Cents Only Stores (NDN) gained 47 cents or 3.6%.

Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. (PBG) reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as price increases and stronger U.S. sales of carbonated soft drinks helped offset declining demand for pricier beverages. Those falling aluminum prices also helped boost earnings. Soft drinks are selling well as consumers look for less-expensive treats, although Pepsi Bottling said sales volume had fallen here and in Canada. The stock, which jumped 22% on an April bid from PepsiCo, is up over 76% since March. It had a quiet day.

Pepsi Bottling Group:

Decidedly unglamorous but absolutely essential* lubricant and cleaning products maker WD-40 Co. (WDFC) posted a better-than-expected third-quarter profit despite a 15% drop to $6.9 million or 41 cents a share, down from $8.1 million or 49 cents a share a year earlier, but above estimates. The stock, although volatile, has been on a more or less steady uptrend since March. (*There's rarely any Pepsi in my house, but I haven't been without a can of WD-40 since Gerald Ford was President.)

WD-40 Co.:

After the close, the Treasury at last took the wraps off its plan to cut bank toxic assets. Much smaller than originally called for, it's a public-private government program designed to take up to $40 billion in so-called toxic mortgage securities and other assets off bank balance sheets, with the Treasury picking nine investment managers to participate in the program. The Treasury said the goal of the program is to "jump start" trading in the mortgage securities.

It's rather less than the $1 trillion in toxic assets the Treasury expected to clear from financial institutions when it unveiled the overview of the program in March. The toxic asset program has transmuted many times in the past nine months and now some industry analysts say interest in the program has faded. Perhaps financial institutions hesitate to sell assets because they think their valuations will rise as the economy turns around.

Tomorrow the Bank of England determines interest rate policy at its monthly Monetary Policy Committee meetings; if the outcome is different from expectations, which are No Change, the effect on the markets can be dramatic. Also reported will be jobless claims.

In earnings, the market awaits Chevron (CVX), networking solutions firm 3COM (COMS), beauty products company Helen of Troy (HELE) and enterprise software maker Lawson (LWSN).

Please note: I won't be posting the Wednesday wrap for the next two weeks, but will be back with you on the 29th.

Judy Alster

New Plays

Waving the Red Flag

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown


Intl. Speedway - ISCA - close: 24.00 chg: -1.39 stop: 27.05

Why We Like It:
ISCA recently reported earnings and investors were unhappy with management's guidance. The stock has spent almost a month consolidation under resistance near $27.00 and its exponential 200-dma. Now that the earnings news is out I don't see a catalyst for investors to buy this stock. Rising unemployment and a struggling consumer will continue to weigh on sales.

More aggressive traders may want to open bearish positions now. I think the market and ISCA might bounce tomorrow. Our plan is to open positions in the $24.75-25.50 zone. I'm suggesting a stop loss at $27.05 but more conservative traders may want to try a stop closer to $26.00. Our first target is $22.10. Our second target is $20.25. My time frame is six to eight weeks.

Annotated chart:

Entry on      July xx at $xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER  
Change since picked:     + 0.00   			
Earnings Date          07/07/09 (confirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       342 thousand
Listed on  July 08, 2009    

In Play Updates and Reviews

MDR and GME score twice

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

BULLISH Play Updates

Dell Inc. - DELL - close: 12.95 change: -0.05 stop: 12.75

DELL slipped to its exponential 200-dma but managed to bounce from $12.76. That's right - one cent above our stop loss. If the market bounces tomorrow readers may want to start taking profits if DELL reaches the $13.50-14.00 zone again. I'm not suggesting new positions in DELL.

Entry on      June 09 at $12.55 
Change since picked:     + 0.40   			
Earnings Date          08/27/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:        29 million 
Listed on  June 06, 2009    

3x Energy Bear ETF - ERY - close: 27.35 change: +0.06 stop: 22.40 *new8*

Hmmm... could this be a short-term top for the ERY? Crude oil sank to new multi-week lows, down about 17% from its recent highs. Yet oil stocks bounced from their intraday lows and the oil service stocks actually closed in positive territory. This could be a warning sign for energy sector bears. If you haven't taken any profits yet I suggest you do so now.

I am not suggesting new positions. Yesterday we moved the stop loss to $22.40. More conservative traders may want to move their stop to breakeven at $23.30. ERY has exceeded our first target at $27.40. Our second target is $29.90.

This is a very volatile (triple-leveraged) ETF so we're using a wide stop loss and I'm suggesting readers only trade half (or less) their normal position size.

Entry on      July 02 at $23.30 *triggered       
Change since picked:     + 4.05
                              /1st target hit @ 27.40 (+17.5%)
Earnings Date          00/00/00 
Average Daily Volume:       4.0 million 
Listed on  July 01, 2009    

MEDNAX Inc. - MD - close: 43.46 change: -0.94 stop: 41.40

MD hit some profit taking but the trend is still higher. I am not suggesting new bullish positions. Our first target is $47.40.

Entry on      July 01 at $43.01 *triggered       
Change since picked:     + 0.45   			
Earnings Date          08/03/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       367 thousand
Listed on  June 30, 2009    

Morgan Stanley - MS - close: 25.50 change: -0.65 stop: 24.49

Our new entry point on MS has been hit. Financials were showing relative weakness earlier today and MS dipped to $24.85 before paring its losses. The $25.00 level is round-number support that is bolstered by technical support at its rising 100-dma and the bottom of MS' bullish channel. We had a trigger to buy MS at $25.25.

Our first target is $27.75. Our second target is $29.75. We don't want to hold over the late July earnings so the play may close early.

FYI: It's important to note that Goldman Sachs (GS) reports earnings on the morning of July 14th. GS' earnings report and their comments could have a big impact on shares of MS.


--New Trade, buy dip @ 25.25 --
Entry on      July 08 at $25.25 *triggered       
Change since picked:     + 0.25   			
Earnings Date          07/22/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:      29.4 million 
Listed on  June 23, 2009    

Western Digital - WDC - close: 25.15 chg: +0.16 stop: 24.45

Right on cue WDC tested technical support at its 40-dma and bounce. Now the bounce wasn't very impressive but it was moving higher into the closing bell. I wrote last night that a bounce from $24.70 would be a tempting entry point to buy WDC. The low today was $24.68. Our first target is $29.75.

Entry on      June 25 at $26.10 *triggered       
Change since picked:     - 0.95   			
Earnings Date          07/23/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       4.6 million 
Listed on  June 24, 2009    

Wellpoint Inc. - WLP - close: 50.28 change: -0.93 stop: 48.75

WLP has failed at $52.00 again but traders bought the dip at $49.26 this morning. The larger trend remains up. Readers can buy this bounce off the lows but consider inching your stop toward $49.00 or $49.25. Our first target is $54.00. Our second target is $57.40.

Entry on      June 22 at $49.25 *triggered       
Change since picked:     + 1.03   			
Earnings Date          07/29/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       4.4 million 
Listed on  June 20, 2009    

BEARISH Play Updates

Broadcom - BRCM - close: 23.35 change: -0.24 stop: 25.45

BRCM garnered some positive analyst comments today but it failed to have much impact on the stock price. Readers might want to wait for a bounce and failed rally near $24.50-25.00 as a new entry point. There is potential support near $22.00 so we're setting our first target at $22.05. Our second target is $20.25. We do not want to hold over the July 23rd earnings report.

Entry on      July 07 at $23.59 
Change since picked:     - 0.24   			
Earnings Date          07/23/09 (confirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       9.8 million 
Listed on  July 07, 2009    

Carpenter Tech. - CRS - close: 17.18 chg: -0.76 stop: 20.25

CRS almost hit our second target today. The intraday low was $16.53. Traders may wan to go ahead and take profits now anyway. I'm not suggesting new positions. Our first target to take profits was $18.05. Our second target is $16.25.

Entry on      July 04 at $19.62 /gap down entry
                              /originally listed at $20.06
Change since picked:     - 2.44   		
                              /1st target hit @ 18.05 (-8.0%)
Earnings Date          07/28/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       586 thousand
Listed on  July 04, 2009    

DuPont - DD - close: 24.18 change: +0.14 stop: 27.05

DD is still clinging to support near $24.00. The fact that shares did not break this level during the market's sell-off this morning is bullish and should make the bears a little nervous. Overall the trend is still bearish.

I am not suggesting new positions at this time. I repeat my previous comments that more conservative traders may want to lower their stops to just above new resistance near $26.25. I'm leaving the stop above the 200-dma near $27.00. Our first target $22.25. Our second target is $20.25.

Entry on      June 16 at $25.20 
Change since picked:     - 1.02   			
Earnings Date          07/21/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       9.1 million 
Listed on  June 16, 2009    

iShares Mexico - EWW - close: 34.45 change: -0.62 stop: 38.05

EWW has slipped toward short-term support near $34.00. I would not be surprised to see another bounce toward $36.00 before this ETF moves lower. What is interesting was the big volume today.

More conservative traders can lower their stop toward last Wednesday's high of $37.61. Our target is $30.25. My time frame is probably another four to six weeks.

Entry on      June 22 at $34.92 
Change since picked:     - 0.47   			
Earnings Date          00/00/00 
Average Daily Volume:       3.9 million 
Listed on  June 22, 2009    

Fastenal Co. - FAST - close: 31.14 change: +0.58 stop: 34.05

FAST managed a little oversold bounce today. Look for over resistance in the $32-33 zone. Our first target is $30.15. Our second target is $28.05.

Entry on      July 04 at $31.90 
Change since picked:     - 0.76   			
Earnings Date          07/13/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       1.8 million 
Listed on  July 04, 2009    

Gamestop - GME - close: 20.94 change: +0.48 stop: 23.25

GME summoned up an oversold bounce after hitting our second target at $20.25 this morning. I am not suggesting new positions at this time but a failed rally under $22.00 could work as another entry point.

GME has now hit our first target at $22.05 and our second target at $20.25. We are now aiming for our third and final target at $18.15.


Entry on      June 02 at $24.32 
Change since picked:     - 3.32
                              /1st target hit @ 22.05 (-9.3%)
Earnings Date          08/20/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       6.3 million 
Listed on  June 02, 2009    

Gen-Probe - GPRO - close: 39.80 change: -0.85 stop: 44.05

GPRO continues to break support this time at the $40.00 mark. I don't see any changes from my prior comments. Our first target is $38.05. Our second target is $35.25. FYI: The P&F chart is bearish with a $32.00 target.

Entry on      June 23 at $42.03 /gap higher entry
                             /originally listed at $41.64
Change since picked:     - 2.23   			
Earnings Date          07/30/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       449 thousand
Listed on  June 23, 2009    

Liberty Global - LBTYA - close: 14.64 change: -0.26 stop: 16.20

LBTYA lost another 1.7% and closed under its 30 and 40-dma. Volume was a little bit above average, which is good news for the bears. I see no changes from my previous comments. I'm suggesting bearish positions now or on a bounce toward $15.50. Our first target is $12.25. We may want to consider a second target near $10.00. The P&F chart is bearish with a $10.50 target. P>

Entry on      July 07 at $14.90 
Change since picked:     - 0.26   			
Earnings Date          08/08/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       2.5 million 
Listed on  July 07, 2009    

iShares Materials - MXI - close: 43.17 change: -0.30 stop: 47.50 *new*

MXI dipped to $42.00 this morning but managed a decent bounce off its lows. It's possible this is a short-term bottom. The MXI is a little oversold here. Traders may want to consider taking profits now and exiting early. I am lowering our stop loss to $47.50. We're not suggesting new positions. MXI has exceeded our first target at $44.00 and we're currently aiming for $41.25. P>

Entry on      June 16 at $47.55 
Change since picked:     - 4.38
                              /1st target hit 44.00 (-7.4%)
Earnings Date          00/00/00 
Average Daily Volume:       170 thousand
Listed on  June 16, 2009    

PACCAR Inc. - PCAR - close: 29.13 change: -0.57 stop: 31.05

Our new play on PCAR has been triggered at $28.90. Volume was very strong on today's breakdown. Our first target is $25.25. Our second target is $22.65. We don't want to hold over earnings.


Entry on      July 08 at $28.90 *triggered       
Change since picked:     + 0.23   			
Earnings Date          07/21/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       4.1 million 
Listed on  July 07, 2009    

Raytheon - RTN - close: 42.17 change: +0.09 stop: 45.75

It was a quiet session for RTN. My only concern was the lack of participation in the market's sell-off this morning. I'm not suggesting new positions at this time. Our first target is $40.25. The P&F chart is very bearish with a $13 target.

Entry on      June 24 at $44.22 
Change since picked:     - 2.05  			
Earnings Date          07/23/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       3.5 million 
Listed on  June 24, 2009    

Steel Index - SLX - close: 37.85 change: -0.55 stop: 44.05

The SLX dipped to $36.55 but rebounded off its lows. I'm sticking with the plan to short SLX on a bounce in the $41.50-42.50 zone. Our first target is $35.50. FYI: The Point & Figure chart is bearish with a $30.00 target.

Entry on      July xx at $xx.xx <-- see TRIGGER  
Change since picked:     + 0.00   			
Earnings Date          07/23/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       297 thousand
Listed on  July 06, 2009    

Homebuilders ETF - XHB - close: 10.73 change: -0.13 stop: 12.55

The XHB hit new relative lows today. Our target is $10.10. I am setting a secondary target at $9.10 but I strongly suggest readers take some money off the table at $10.10.

Entry on       May 23 at $11.96 
Change since picked:     - 1.23   			
Earnings Date          00/00/00
Average Daily Volume:        10 million 
Listed on   May 23, 2009    

S&P Retail SPDRs - XRT - close: 26.61 change: +0.54 stop: 28.45

The XRT delivered a bounce thanks to strength in Wal-Mart (WMT) and a strong performance form the $1.00-type of stores. If the XRT is going to bounce then we want to wait and open new positions in the $27.50-28.00 zone. Otherwise look for a new drop under $25.90 to open bearish plays. Our target is the $22.25 mark. This could be a volatile ETF as we move through the earnings season. My time frame is about six weeks.

FYI: The retail sector could see some volatility tomorrow as investors react to the monthly same-store sales numbers. P>

Entry on      July 07 at $26.07 
Change since picked:     + 0.54   			
Earnings Date          00/00/00 
Average Daily Volume:        19 million 
Listed on  July 07, 2009    


A.O.Smith Corp. - AOS - close: 31.86 change: -0.32 stop: 31.75

We raised our stop loss on AOS yesterday on concerns the S&P 500 would breakdown. Sure enough the market did breakdown and AOS hit our stop closing the play.


Entry on      June 23 at $30.25 *triggered       
Change since picked:     + 1.50<-- stopped @ 31.75 (+4.9%)
Earnings Date          07/17/09 (confirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       195 thousand
Listed on  June 20, 2009    

Bank of Montreal - BMO - close: 39.30 change: -1.23 stop: 39.90

Financials helped lead the market lower on Wednesday and BMO broke down under the $40.00 level stopping us out. Shares dipped to their 50-dma before finding any support.


Entry on      June 25 at $41.38 
Change since picked:     - 1.48<-- stopped out @ 39.90 (-3.5%)
Earnings Date          08/25/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       729 thousand
Listed on  June 25, 2009    


McDermott Intl. - MDR - close: 16.65 change: -0.79 stop: 21.25

MDR hit both our downside targets in one day. Shares fell to $16.04 this morning. We had a target to take profits at $17.25 and then planned to exit completely at $16.05. MDR looks very oversold here so I'd be super careful if you did not exit.


Entry on      July 04 at $18.83 /gap down entry
                              /originally listed at $19.34
Change since picked:     - 2.18   	
                             /1st target hit @ 17.25 (-8.3%)
                             /2nd target hit @ 16.05 (-14.7%)
Earnings Date          08/11/09 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       3.2 million 
Listed on  July 04, 2009