Saturday, July 21, 2007

HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

HOTS Weekly Options CommentarySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Peter Stolcers

Two weeks ago the market staged a convincing rally to new all-time highs. The buying continued right in the close Friday and it looked like the table was set for an awesome option expiration week. Throughout the course of this last week the market had some large intraday swings but it was unable to add to the breakout. Going into the week I expected solid earnings from financial stocks to spark that sector and fuel the market.

Merrill Lynch and State Street Bank both posted big numbers that handily beat expectations. To my surprise, both stocks sold off even though their exposure to subprime lending is limited. Clearly, higher interest rates are the larger concern. They have the potential to impact consumer spending, corporate financing, and private equity deals. Without the help of the financial sector, a sustained rally is unlikely. These stocks comprise 20% of the S&P 500. Tuesday, Bear Stearns dropped the second shoe on subprime lending woes when it announced its hedge funds in that area were going belly up. The magnitude of this problem has yet to be identified. In the second day of his testimony before Congress, the Fed Chairman said that subprime lending issues will get worse before they get better. Years ago, home buyers opted for 3-year and 5-year ARMS and those adjustable rate mortgages are just starting to kick in. As long as the unemployment level stays below 5%, I believe homeowners will be able to adjust their spending patterns and avoid catastrophe.

In the chart you can see the QQQQ/SPY overlay. Tech stocks have been strong relative to the SPY. They broke out and they have continued to make advances while the SPY has stalled. Tech stocks are still 50% below their peak from 2000 and they have lagged the rest of the market. I have not bought in to the recent tech rally because guidance has not been raised. Only 13 stocks account for the recent NASDAQ 100 rally and the move lacks depth. Last week, two tech leaders (Intel and Google) failed to meet expectations. Cyclical stocks were even more disappointing. They released solid earnings and in many cases beat expectations, yet the stocks sold off after the news. Friday, Caterpillar announced earnings and missed expectations. This overall price action tells me that stocks in general are “fully priced”. Unless we get an extraordinary round of earnings next week, I fear that the market might be putting in a temporary top.

I don’t believe that the economic numbers next week will drive prices. On deck we have new home sales, durable goods, GDP and consumer sentiment. Interest rates will stay put for the rest of the year and that places greater importance on earnings.

I can’t possibly name all the companies that are announcing this week, but here is a list of some that I’m interested in: ACI, ALTR, AXP, CNI, RE, HAL, LNCR, MRK, NFLX, TXN, STLD, AKS, AMZN, T, BTU, BP, BNI, CDWC, DD, LLY, ENR, LM, LMT, NOC, PCAR, PNRA, PEP, PCP, SII, UPS, VRTX, AKAM, AAPL, CL, DADE, FFIV, FMC, FCX, GD, OSG, SLAB, TSCO, ZBRA, ZMH, WLP, MMM, AET, AMGN, BZH, BWA, BDK, BG, CLF, CRS, F, KLAC, NTGR, ODP, POT, SI, SPAR, DOW, WEN, WDC, BHI, CVX, IR, LZ, SEPR.

As I look at the list, I can’t visualize where the strength is going to come from. Energy, mining and heavy equipment are all priced for performance. The tech stocks on the list have performed well and they are trading at lofty P/E ratios. The chemical stocks have the potential to outperform and they are just showing signs of strength. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to carry the market. I’m expecting a choppy week of earnings and the market will do well just to hold its current level. If it falters and it falls below SPY150, it could retest the relative lows we made in June. I would be suspicious of any rally that does not include financials stocks.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Takeover Mania, Uncle Ben and Earnings Season

Takeover Mania, Uncle Ben and Earnings SeasonSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Sally Limantour

Another strong week on Wall Street and the focus continues to be on takeover activity and stock buyback news. Vodaphone is considering a $160 bn takeover bid for Verizon which would rival AOL’s takeover of Time Warner and Vodaphone’s earlier acquisition of Mannesmann.
The FT this morning is quoting Stephen Jen, Morgan Stanley’s currency strategist on major emerging market economies. He is saying that while cheap credit may be drying up the emerging market economies are flush with cash and their growing interest in establishing sovereign wealth funds could well drive equity and other capital markets around the world to new heights. ”Major emerging market economies currently have a collective $1,500bn worth of excess reserves, - defining “excess” as official foreign reserves exceeding the amount needed for liquidity purposes, based on their “conservative rule-of-thumb”.

Dr. Bernanke is to appear before the House and the Senate this week. Those appearances which occur Wednesday before the Senate and Thursday before the House will dominate the discussions for the week. The market will be listening for any mention of inflation concerns as well as thoughts on the economy and housing.

The news is of better-than-expected earnings reports thus far, and 2nd quarter reporting is in full swing. Expectations for further upbeat earnings will support the market, but at what point does high energy prices, weak consumer spending, subprime problems and higher interest rates come into the picture? I am still looking at mid August for this market to correct, but blow off phases can be much longer and stronger than we can imagine.

Commodity prices are strong lead by the metals and crude oil. The gold ETF (GLD) rose 60% over the past two years while stocks such as Barrick has risen 30% and Newmont +14%. Perhaps it is time for the gold mining stocks to play catch-up. Attention will be paid to future earnings from gold mining operations.

Energy is on a tear as I pointed out the spreads weeks ago were starting to show the tightness. The market is showing demand is so strong that crude oil is not being moved into storage, but brought to market. That is bullish and should keep prices firm.

Good Trading to All

Sunday, July 15, 2007

HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

HOTS Weekly Options CommentarySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Peter Stolcers

Monday, the market tried to resume the prior week’s holiday rally. It struggled to add to the gains and by Tuesday morning and it looked like the market had added a third lower high to the technical pattern. If you had connected the tops from each rally you would have seen a downward sloping resistance line. Sears and Home Depot provided a dismal glimpse of retail sales and Moody’s announced that they were about to downgrade sub-prime lenders. Tuesday morning’s decline was exacerbated by a prepared speech that was delivered by the Fed Chairman. By late afternoon, the market was in one of its typical “no-bid” slides. The S&P 500 closed 20 points lower. After sleeping on it, traders realized that the Moody’s news was already “baked in” and that Ben Bernanke did not shed any new light during his speech. Wednesday, the market started off on a nervous note and it rallied strong right into the close. Thursday, the market jumped higher after retail sales beat dismal expectations. Legitimate buying and short covering fueled the market to its largest one day gain in years. Friday, GE posted better-than-expected earnings and the market was able to make new all-time highs.

As I’ve been saying, no matter how ugly this market looks, it has the potential to annihilate short sellers at a moment’s notice. In this week’s chart you can see the strong trend and the temporary consolidation phase we went through the last two months. The big picture looks as bullish as ever. The trend lines are in place and there are multiple breakouts to suggest a continued move. If you simply viewed a daily chart, the market looked like it was ready to rollover. Over the last few weeks I have also pointed out that the volatility has increased. That is normally a precursor to a big breakout. That’s exactly what we got this week and I believe we will see continued strength next week.

From an economic standpoint there are a few big releases (PPI, Capacity Utilization, CPI, Housing Starts, LEI, Philly Fed.), but all eyes will be on the inflation numbers. The Government’s definition of inflation is different from mine. I feel that prices are moving higher in many areas (healthcare, college tuition, gasoline, travel), but those increases are not reflected in their calculations. As long as the market feels that inflation is contained, that’s all that really matters. The market has actually been able to rally off of the last couple of PPI and CPI numbers. I expect the same this week. In fact, I believe that all of the economic releases during the next two weeks will take a back seat to earnings. Earnings and interest rates drive the market and right now interest rates don’t look like they’re going anywhere.

Next week we will get a huge round of earnings releases. Here are some of the stocks that are on deck: ETN, GWW, REDF, AMD, FCX, MER, MOT, NFLX, PCAR, INTC, JNJ, MAN, WFC, YHOO, ABT, JPM, PJC, AOS, UTX, MO, EBAY, PFE, TER, TEX, ALL, JNPR, ME, DHR, HOG, HSY, HON, POOL, RS, TXT, VFC, BAC, BAX, CY, GOOG, IGT, ISRG, MSFT, NUE, BRCM, COF, SNDK, STX, SYK, BIDU, CAT, C, SLB. There are some great plays and some traps that lie ahead.

Strangely, the market is taking comfort in higher oil prices believing that it confirms robust global expansion. Liquidity is creating a supply/demand imbalance in equities. Flush with cash, corporations and private equity firms are aggressively buying shares and they are taking the shares out of circulation. Meanwhile, new funds continue to flow into the market. The macro conditions are in place for a continued rally and as good as things might seem in the U.S., we are the weakest link internationally.

I believe the market rally is legitimate and that earnings and option expiration will overpower any potential weakness in the economic releases. The market has rallied to a point where option related buy programs will be prevalent next week.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

HOTS Weekly Options CommentarySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Peter Stolcers

Last week the market did not take a holiday with the rest of the country. It started the week strong on the coat-tails of M&A activity and it closed higher on Monday. That theme was revisited Thursday when Blackstone announced a $26 billion takeover of Hilton Hotels. Takeovers are creating a feeding frenzy and at any moment a stock can jump 10% higher on speculation. It is almost impossible to short stocks in this market. The trend is so strong that “even the dogs are barking ". That's “the street’s” way of saying that the weak stocks are rising with the tide.

The table was set for a positive reaction to the Unemployment Report. As I mentioned last week, this report has generated a positive reaction each month this year. Initially, strong employment numbers pushed the 10-year bond yield over 5.2% and the market reacted negatively. Traders digested the news and quickly concluded that full employment might actually be good for the economy. The wage inflation component came in at .3%. That is a little hot, but it was within expectations. Next week, the economic calendar is fairly light.

Consumer credit, wholesale inventories, trade balances, retail sales and consumer sentiment are scheduled for release. Retail sales has the potential to impact the market. As a sector, retail same-store sales only increased 1.2% in the last week of June. Last Tuesday, we learned that the percentage of loans that were 30-days past due rose to their highest level since 2001. Delinquencies on home mortgages are rising due to adjustable-rate loans and May marked the 26th consecutive month where the personal savings rate was negative. (As a side note, I will ride this market higher, but the negative savings rate has me very concerned 3-5 years out. Aging baby-boomers must start saving for retirement and that noose will draw tighter with every passing year.) The retail sales number will give us some insight on the strength of the consumer. My suspicion is that the number will come in light and the blame will fall on higher gasoline prices and the weather. Ironically, gasoline prices have actually come down during the last few weeks. I believe that inflation, debt levels and higher interest rates are tapping the consumer out.

Next week, the new earnings season will begin with Alcoa on Monday. The big releases won't kick in for another week, however, there are a few interesting stocks this week (AA, PEP. INFY, DNA, FAST, TXI, YUM, CTAS, GE). Yum could set the tone for the restaurant group. I feel this strong stock may be faced will the same issues plaguing the retail sector. INFY will give us some insights on rising wage inflation in India. DNA could spark a lackluster biotech sector. GE is one of the largest stocks in the world and it recently had a three-year breakout. I expect solid earnings from the industrial divisions to more than offset weakness in other areas.
From a technical perspective, the SPY is within striking distance of the all-time high. Even the tech stocks are making a new multi-year high and the QQQQ has shown relative strength. I still struggle with this sector because I have not seen a corresponding rise in guidance. Certainly there are pockets of strength, but overall, the earnings have not been revised upwards. Consequently, I still like keeping my money in the heavy equipment stocks and the energy group. I expect companies with an international footprint to do well. I'm a bit more skeptical of companies that rely solely on domestic revenues.

The market has become much more volatile in the last month and I suspect a major move is looming. Earnings are likely to determine the direction. Last quarter, low ball estimates were handily exceeded. Now the expectations have been adjusted and with rising interest rates it will be more difficult to surprise “the street”. The bid to the market is very strong and I am expecting a choppy move higher from this point on. It will be important to buy dips and to take profits on any rally that loses its steam. That pattern will continue until the Fed raises rates. I'm not expecting that this year so I believe we will have a good run the rest of the year. Stock selection will be critical.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

HOTS Weekly Options CommentarySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Peter Stolcers

Last week the market opened with a whimper. Monday morning prices followed through to Friday's decline. Throughout the day it touched the SPY 149 support level and it bounced. Tuesday the market added to the decline and it broke below that support level. Just when things looked like they might finally breakdown, a snap back rally on Wednesday saved the day. Prices started out unchanged and once the bears exhausted their selling, the bulls took charge and rallied the market throughout the day. By the close, the S&P 500 futures had posted a 20 point gain. Thursday, a weaker than expected GDP report included "hot" inflation data and the market somehow viewed that as positive. Before the Fed released its FOMC comments, the market was moving higher.

Their rhetoric changed slightly and a few new words were added. After the release the market gyrated back and forth while it tried to decode the secret message. Friday, the PCE index showed that prices increased .1%, last month leaving the one year rate at 1.9%. That is just under the Fed’s 2% target and the market liked the news. I'm amused at the inflationary analysis. These numbers exclude food and energy. This is analogous to my neighbor analyzing my putting, "… apart from speed and direction, it was a great putt.” Soon they will need to exclude additional items and the report could read like this, “… excluding food, gasoline, health insurance, college tuition, medicine and travel - inflation is contained.” Obviously, the Fed is still concerned about inflation even if it doesn't show up in the standard metrics. Consequently, I believe the best case scenario is that rates will remain unchanged the rest of the year. Foreign interest rates are on the rise and it's widely expected that China will be the next country to raise.

A few weeks ago I came to the conclusion that the market would fall into a choppy, sideways trading pattern. My analysis was based on two facts. Earnings had been released and interest rates will remain unchanged. Those are the two driving forces behind the market and they are both "knowns". The market is searching for something to sink its teeth into and in the end; all of the little knee-jerk reactions will be meaningless. I did not expect an increase in volatility. It seems that once an intraday direction has been established, the buyers or sellers (whichever the case may be) step aside.

In this week's chart you can see that the volatility has recently expanded. Prior to June, the market was trading in a nice tight pattern. Now, large intraday price swings are common. Wednesday really caught my attention. Tuesday the market had a large range and it opened near the high and closed near the low. Wednesday the exact opposite happened, however Wednesday's open was below Tuesday's close and by the end of the day Wednesdays close eclipsed Tuesday's open. This created a large green candlestick and this is known as an engulfing pattern. It is normally considered to be bullish. What makes this so unusual is that the engulfing pattern occurred a day after an extremely large range. Friday was another example of a reversal. After a higher open, prices weakened and the market sold off going into the close. The S&P 500 has a 20 point range. An increase in the daily range usually precedes a large move. If I had to assign probabilities I would give the market a two thirds chance of breaking out to the upside and a one third chance for a breakdown.

The macro conditions are still in place for the market to move higher. Earnings are solid, balance sheets are strong, employment is robust, valuations are in line, interest rates are relatively low and inflation is "in check". The bid to the market is very strong and the market will continue to adjust to the notion of higher interest rates.

Next week’s economic releases are highlighted by the Unemployment Report that comes out Friday. Over the past few months, the market has rallied after the number. "Full employment" and moderate wage increases are good for the economy. The unemployment estimates have been in line, diminishing the importance of the ADP employment index (Thursday release). The ISM manufacturing and services numbers are also unlikely to have a major market impact in a quiet holiday setting. On the earnings front, I don't see a single stock that would catch my attention.

Next week you can expect a quiet week of trading. I believe that the recent volatility will start to calm down.

Have a great holiday!

Monday, June 25, 2007

A note from Brad Sullivan

A note from Brad SullivanSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Dear Friends,

I would like to announce that earlier this month I accepted a trading position at a proprietary firm here in Chicago and will no longer be able to appear in the HA Virtual Trading Room for live commentary. From a subscriber point of view, this clearly comes out of left field, yet I felt this opportunity to be too good to pass up.

As a compromise, I will supply Hamzei Analytics with my morning commentary and two intraday updates to be posted in the SuperPlatinum Virtual Trading Room only. Feel free to continue emailing any questions or comments to

I have enjoyed our trading discussions online and believe that we have created a unique venture within our virtual trading room. While I may not be on the screen each day, you will have my market thoughts and feedback throughout the session, albeit in a different format.

Thanks for all the fun over the past several years,


SubPrime Worries Persist

SubPrime Worries PersistSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Sally Limantour

Last week the main focus was on the subprime mortgage mess, hedge fund blowups and widening credit spreads. The contagion effect is making folks nervous and the S&P closed under the 50-day moving average for the first time since March. Whether this is a pause, a consolidation or the beginning of a big correction remains to be seen, but higher interest rates are definitely not supportive. As the technical analyst John Roque recently wrote when looking at the 10 year yield and seeing that it has moved above the 50 and 200-day moving average, “It’s a trite line, but if the yield were a stock we’d be getting long.” A black cloud hanging over the bond market creates a vicious circle – more subprime downgrades increased counterparty risk, potential belly up hedge funds and liquidation which can feed on itself.

Bank stocks are vulnerable as Bank of America is breaking an important trend line and has been under the 200 day moving average since May. Wells Fargo, Wachovia and JPMorgan are also technically weak and looking as if they are struggling under the 200 and 50 day moving averages. This does not bode well for the market in general. Adding to the list of negatives Friday 14 Democrats from the US House of Rep. proposed a bill that would raise taxes on “carried interest.” This would double the tax rate for this type of income and take billions away from private equity chiefs.

While everyone cheered the $4.1 billion Blackstone IPO, on Friday, Andrew Barry ponders in Barrons this weekend if it “could be a high water mark for the private equity business.” He is concerned with higher rates, more conservative lending standards, tax changes and increased competition for the buyout business.

The week coming up we will be focused on the FOMC meeting starting Wednesday and any hints as to the direction in interest rates. The bulls are hoping they will remove that annoying inflation language, but I doubt we will hear that. Friday will report the core personal consumption expenditure deflator which is an inflation gauge the Fed likes to watch and the consensus is for an advance of 0.2%.

Speaking of inflation, Pizza Hut is forced to raise its prices on our favorite American food due to a 55% increase in the price of cheese. The signs are everywhere and I am afraid that producers cannot contain price increases and it is popping up in the food you buy and the places you dine.. Now, when you go to order your large cheese pie they will charge what it costs to purchase a large cheese and pepperoni pizza, but you won’t get the pepperoni.
It will be interesting to see what ConAgra Foods and General Mills has to say about commodity prices this week as they report earnings.

The week is full of economic reports with Friday being the most active day. Traders will be watching oil prices, subprime news, hedge fund fall outs and interest rate wording from the meeting. Technicians will be paying attention to the 50-day moving average, the percentage of Dow stocks above their 50-day moving average and the number of new highs at the NYSE which has been constricting lately. We will also be monitoring volume which was large on this last downdraft. In market profile terms 1528.00 is an important level and if we are unable to capture that early the market should stay on the defensive. Trades that worked well last week were shorting opportunities as failures at the previous day’s value area low were rewarding. Once the market failed there it was typically a fast run down.

This morning we are coming in with the Shanghai market off 3.7 % and most commodities down with gold off $4.00.

Finally, A psychologist/trader I admire has this to share about a health crisis and trading lessons:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

HOTS Weekly Options CommentarySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Peter Stolcers

I’ll start by saying that I am bullish over the next six-month period. Earnings are strong, valuations are in-line, interest rates are relatively low, employment is high, inflation is in check and global economic growth is robust. On a short-term basis I'm starting to see some warning signs. The market has run up and we have not seen a decent correction in a very long time.

In the chart you will notice a few developments. The volatility has increased greatly and it is depicted by the long red-bodied candlesticks. Two recent events tell me that the resistance level at the all-time high is growing. The first event happened two weeks ago when we had the gap down after the all-time high was established. That was followed by a very bearish down day. After the market had one of its typical snap back rallies, it was not able to challenge the previous high before it was slapped down. That move came this Wednesday. The market had a positive opened and it looked like it might make a run at the high. Instead, it made a key reversal and by the close the S&P 500 futures had lost 20 points. Thursday’s rally was a half-hearted and once the market was unable to add to Wednesday's decline, the buyers came in to shakeout the short sellers. Today the market is off to a weak start and I’m writing my comments an hour after the open.

Concerns over the Bear Stearns hedge fund bailout (exposed to sub-prime lending) are putting pressure on the market. Overnight, the Shanghai Index fell 3% as traders believe that a rate hike there is eminent. In the U.S., interest rates have been creeping higher and next week the FOMC convenes. I believe their comments will dictate stock prices for the next month. The Fed has already stated its bias favors an increase. Earlier in the year, traders were wondering when the Fed might ease, now they are wondering how long the Fed will hold off on a rate hike. This realization will be bearish for the market as traders adjust their models. Short-term, I am starting to think that the SPY 146 level will be tested soon. That will ultimately set-up a great buying opportunity. The market needs to get accustom to higher interest rates. Once it does so, all of the other pieces are in place for a continued rally.

The economic releases from this week were balanced. Slower housing starts were offset by an increase in building permits. A robust Philly Fed number showed the highest level of manufacturing in two years, however, manufacturer’s sentiment for the next six months fell to its lowest level this year. Next week will be filled with economic releases (Consumer Confidence, Durable Goods, PCE price index, Chicago PMI) but they will all take a back seat to the FOMC comments.

Two earnings releases are of particular interest next week (WAG, LEN, NKE, CAG, BBBY, MU, PAYX, RHAT, MON, RIMM). RIMM and MON have run up and we will see if they are able to meet raised expectations.

Given my longer-term bullishness, it will be difficult for me to short this market. The snap back rallies have been extreme and I don't want to get caught in any of them. I will adjust by reducing my long positions and by selling call credit spreads on stocks that I feel are weak. The retail and restaurant groups are strained and they will experience selling pressure for the next quarter. The key is to identify the underperformers in each group.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

US Equity Indices & Bonds

US Equity Indices & BondsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Jason Roney

Yesterday was a very dynamic day in markets of course. Let’s first note where we are in the cycle for equities. It’s the week after expiration. SP does not trade with same underlying bid it had the week before because of the expiration. At same time, stocks are increasingly sensitive to interest rates (just look at BKX index versus fixed income).

Now we throw in the Bear Stearns fund fallout. The fund held more than 20bill of derivative investments mostly backed by subprime mortgages. as redemptions came in, the fund was forced to auction off assets from in an already illiquid market (sub-prime stuff). actually, the subprime index began to melt down very late Friday afternoon.

due to conflicts of interest between fund / house, Bear Stearns had to allow other firms to handle the liquidation. this produced the "bid wanted" lists from MER, DB, etc. buyers of these had to of course sell treasuries against.

Early part of week, stocks held in relatively well as the bear fund assets had not yet been auctioned off, treasuries were still near their pullback highs, and Asian equities remained well bid. Yesterday morning we opened above prior day high with potential for breakout. But once the other firms sent out the bid wanted list and began auctioning off the bear assets, two things happened: (1) treasuries sold off as a result of the necessary hedge and (2) market began to realize there was very little liquidity for the bear assets. Those two combined to create selling pressure in SP. Given the expiry up bias was removed stocks were highly vulnerable to a meaningful pullback. Once the outside day was in (yesterday’s move below Tuesday’s low), the hook was in. classic trend day from gap reversal.

To revisit things I mentioned in the chat a few weeks ago. There were several “tells”: (1) SP pit session had 4 consecutive days range less than prior day range (as of Monday close) – implying larger than expected move was imminent. (2) SP had shown clear relationship with fixed income over the prior week(s) and fixed was clearly the lead. (3) Because it was the week after expiration, any surprise move should have been to the downside.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

SPX at a Critical Conjuncture (Monthly Pivot)

SPX at a Critical Conjuncture (Monthly Pivot)SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Fari Hamzei

Notice in the chart below, that for the last 11 months, only during last March, SP500 Cash Index (SPX) traded below its Monthly Pivot Level (Yellow line). Given the price action today -- we hit a number of air pockets (no buyers during upswings and then followed by massive drops on huge volume) -- the US Market, in our opinion, is ready to crack. Make sure your portfolio reflects a defensive posture going forward for the next 4 to 8 weeks.

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