Friday, August 31, 2007

Timer Digest Market Commentary

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Fari Hamzei

S&P-500 Cash Index 1480 is our line in the sand. Low volume market advance below this level is only noise to us. What matters most now is that we are extremely overbought on the short-term basis. Next week, a short-term pause is a given. Once the market reopens after the Labor Day Weekend, we shall look for robust market action combined with healthy volume to chart the proper course for our equity markets.

I have attached our updated Timer Chart here for your audience.



HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

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Peter Stolcers

When John Vogel, the founder of Vanguard Funds, says that in his 50 years of investment experience he can't recall this type of volatility, it means something. He is one of the industry’s innovators and you would think that he has seen it all. Huge day-to-day reversals have become the norm. From a trader's perspective it means one thing – uncertainty.

The bulls are very strong in their conviction and they believe that the current decline represents a fantastic buying opportunity. They point to the low unemployment rate, solid earnings growth, global expansion, and relatively low interest rates as signs of strength. Most quantitative models show that stocks are an attractive value.

The bears also have a long list of items to substantiate their bias. They point to increasing debt levels across the board (federal, state, municipal, personal) and they believe the credit squeeze is just beginning. From 2000 – 2005, almost 50% of the employment growth came from the housing sector. This number includes lenders, realtors, construction workers... everyone. They believe that the sub prime woes will continue to spread into other areas and the unemployment rate will rise. They also believe that hedge funds are highly leveraged and that the current credit crisis could force another round of liquidations. In a worst case scenario, they believe that some of the “fluff” will be taken out of the emerging market run up. Once profit taking sets in, that could have a cascading affect as investors run for cover.

Personally, I'm going to stay out of this fight. When a winner emerges I will know who to back. In the meantime, the implied volatilities are very high and option selling strategies make sense. This is a time to rely on stocks with relative strength/weakness and to keep your distance from the action.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Timer Digest Market Commentary

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Fari Hamzei

We have four charts for your review this evening: SPX, RUT, XLF & XLE.

Let us start by stating that market action today, unlike two weeks ago, was not marked by forced liquidation, but rather it was an act of deliberate selling by many players. SP-500 Index (SPX) in the last 30 minutes of trading touched its last week's lows while Russell 2000 Index (RUT) took out its last week's lows in the first hour of trading this morning.



The next major support levels for S&P-500 Index (SPX) are located at 1421 (MS1) and 1387 (MS2). The fact that our coveted CI Indicator crossed its signal line below the ZERO LINE is very ominous. Today SPX also crossed below 200 day and 20 day Moving Averages. Down Volume to Up Volume on NYSE was almost 26 to 1. This tells us that last week the big players bid the market up to get out of their troubled positions and now they are getting ready for a big push down. A top ranked technical analyst on the Street and a contributor to my book, Master Traders, on Monday August 20th, wrote us that his SPX target for the bounce from the August 16 low is 1480. Four trading sessions later, the bounce stopped 60 cents below his target last Friday !!




Another technical analyst for whom I hold tremendous respect for (yes, he works for a bulge bracket investment bank) told us two weeks ago that his SPX downside target is 1300. If you look that how Russell 2000 (RUT) has behaved in August (never crossed its 200 day Moving Average during eight sessions during each of which it had a chance to do so). Because RUT normally leads the SPX, the RUT price action today means, the 1370 retest on SPX is a given, and the 1300 target for SPX is more plausible now than ever. Worth noting is that the next major support for RUT is 745 (MS1) which on the way up last year was a key resistance level.

The next chart really drives it home. Financials are in trouble after MER downgraded them today and when 20% of SPX is in trouble, we all are in trouble. CFC problems are far from over and if our calculations are right, we have not seen the worst of XLF. The next support is its MS1 located at 31.56 which it bounced from on August 16.





Of course the Market won't sell off in a big way till the mightiest fall and that honor goes to Mega Oil. Here we present you with its ETF (XLE) which closed today at 66.88, pretty close to its MS1 at 66.5. Keep an eye on that 10% of SPX, with key support at 64 (MS2) and its 200 day MA at 63. Once these levels are broken, the free fall should begin in earnest.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend.........




Editors' Note: MS1 stands for Monthly Support 1

Sunday, August 26, 2007

HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

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Peter Stolcers

Thursday's price action was very telling. The market had posted five consecutive late day rallies and it received a dose of great news after Wednesday's close. Bank of America was making a large investment in Countrywide Financial. In after-hours trading, the S&P 500 futures gapped 10 points higher on the notion that mortgage lenders present investment opportunities.

As the market prepared to open Thursday morning, those gains started to deteriorate. Soon after the normal trading hours started, the futures fell back to unchanged. At that juncture it was difficult to determine if the market had reached a resistance level, or if traders simply felt that the news did not justify the reaction. The momentum from the early reversal paved the way for bears to maintain selling pressure and they were able to push prices lower. By late afternoon, the market was able to stage another rally and finish unchanged for the day. The SPY 146 level was preserved.

This price action shows that buyers are willing to step up and buy stocks. It also demonstrates that we are not going to have a melt up rally. A great deal of nervousness still exists and any rally will be hard-fought.





Friday, strong durable goods orders created a bid to the market. That positive economic news was complimented by new home sales that came in better than expected.

The market avoided a sell off Thursday and it mounted a constructive grind higher on Friday. This week there are many economic numbers that will be released. Barring any new sub-prime defaults, I believe the economic numbers will show stability and they will pave the way for a continued rally. As we move above SPY 146, greater pressure will be placed on the shorts to cover. Next week, the market should also gain strength from end-of-month buying.

Here are some of the stocks that will announce earnings: SNDA, BGP, SAFM, BIG, BWS, JOYG, WSM, PSS, COST, CIEN, HRB, SHLD, TIF, DELL, FRO. As we saw this week, most of the bad news has been factored into the retailers. HPQ announced last week and I don't feel DELL’s numbers will pack any punch. Earnings will not have much of a market impact this week.

The shorts are no longer able to sell into every financial stock rally. There is a bid in those stocks and stability there will fuel the market since they comprise 20% of the S&P 500. It's still too early to give the all clear signal. This sell off was different from the one we had in February. Back then, there were phantom lending issues. This time around, the market had a more severe reaction as it counted the casualties.

As a side note, I feel the Fed has handled this crisis masterfully. They provided assistance when needed without compromising their stance or bailing out corporations that made poor lending decisions.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Have You Hugged Your T-Bills Lately ??

Have You Hugged Your T-Bills Lately ??SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Jason Goepfert

There are two defining moments from late last week - an incredible rush to safety, and a washout in terms of market breadth.

There are many ways to watch for extreme moments of risk-aversion. One sign of that came from Rydex mutual fund traders, as they were three times more likely to invest in a "safe" fund than a "risky" one. But in the bigger scheme of things, Rydex funds are small potatoes. The Treasury market is not.

And in that Treasury market, we saw a huge rush to one of the safest of all instruments - the three-month T-Bill. Over a two-day period, the yield on T-Bills dropped by more than 20% (near Thursday's nadir), which means that there was a big demand for those Bills. Like all credit, when demand is strong and supply is restricted, then prices rise and yields fall.





That two-day decline was one of the steepest in five decades. Using data from the Federal Reserve for secondary market rates on T-Bills, I could find only two other times since 1950 that yields dropped so much in such a short period. Those two times were February 24, 1958 and September 17, 2001. Both led to an imminent halt in selling pressure in equities (or very close to it in 2001), and the S&P 500 was about 8% higher a month later both times.






That rush to safety was accompanied by traders dumping shares at a record rate. NYSE volume set a record on Thursday, and the past two weeks have seen several days with volume nearly as high. Large share turnover in the midst of a decline is typically a mark of a bottoming market.

Going back to the 1960's, I looked for any time total NYSE volume was at least 50% above its one-year average for at least five out of the past ten sessions, AND the S&P 500 was at least 5% below it's highest point of the past year. Looking ahead three months, the S&P was positive 90% of the time (92 out of 102 days) with an average return of +7.6%.

Much of that volume was traders wanting to get out of their shares, and selling at any price. By Thursday, a phenomenal 1,132 stocks had hit new 52-week lows, the second-most in history.

Expressed in terms of total stocks traded, that comes out to 33%. There have only been three times in the past 20 years that more than 30% of stocks hit a new low on the same day - 10/19/87, 8/23/90 and 8/31/98. Those were exceptional times to initiate intermediate-term long positions.

Also near a couple of those dates, we saw extraordinary one-day reversals on heavy volume, and brokers exploding out of one-year lows…just like Thursday. Fundamentally, there are many reasons to expect more bad news and possible selling pressure to come. And technically, the markets look quite weak. But looking at some of the intangibles, a good argument can be made that despite some likely short-term testing of Thursday’s low, that testing should succeed and result in a one- to three-month recovery.

Financial Sector and this Fed

Financial Sector and this FedSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Sally Limantour

The biggest question over the weekend was whether the engineered discount rate cut by the Fed was enough to safely say the lows were put in last Thursday. There are reasons to be skeptical in looking at the market players and the Federal Reserve.

We have been witnessing the phenomenon of deleveraging and if history is any guide this rarely occurs smoothly, or without some effect on the wider economy. It is hard to imagine that what took years to create is over in a few weeks. The ability to slice and dice risk and spread it around has us questioning the vulnerability of the economy.

In addition, there are clear signs that the pain is spreading from hedge funds to banks. The total amount of rescue financing has placed tens of billions of dollars at risk for many of the biggest banks. Most charge nominal fees for the guarantee of liquidity and some banks did not properly reserve for the risk since the prospect of default seemed remote.

Citigroup (C) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM), for example, have guaranteed more than $90 billion of liquidity, or about 5 or 6 percent of their total assets, according to a recent Banc of America Securities report.






State Street(STT), a custody bank, guaranteed about $29 billion, or 23 percent of its total assets.


That has ignited fear that the subprime contagion has spread to the global banking system — and, some suggest, caused the Federal Reserve Board to take action yesterday.

“The Fed is concerned because of the banks’ exposure. The banks are on the hook for potentially tens of billions of dollars,” said Christian Stracke, an analyst at CreditSights, a fixed-income research firm. “That could tighten credit conditions significantly if all that paper is tied up in things that none of the banks want to hold."

Bernanke’s Fed

The perception that the Fed will bail us out is still in the background for many, but if Bernanke turns out to be more like Volcker than easy Al as I wrote on August 13th, then the current Fed will inject liquidity when needed but may quickly remove it when markets stabilize.
Mr. Bernanke may not follow in the footsteps of the former Fed chairman and provide what fondly became called the “Greenspan put.” Under that philosophy whenever a crisis brewed Greenspan would slash the fed funds rate and provide cheap money to those who needed it as well as those who used it to add on layers of derivative speculation.

The Greenspan put helped during crisis such as the 1987 stock market crash and the 1998 Long Term Capital Markets hedge fund fiasco, but it also built up a huge speculative fervor and added on layers of risk that would not be there if cheap money had not been available.

Friday’s move by the Fed to lower the discount rate – not the Fed Funds rate made liquidity available to banks and depository institutions. They could borrow against collateral, such as asset-backed securities but the important distinction is that this discount window is not available to the more speculative group such as hedge funds and in this sense is quite different from the insurance that Greenspan provided.

We are going forward confronted with decisions to make both with our portfolios and with daily trading. I am approaching the markets as if I am still walking in a minefield and highly alert as to where I step. Listening for further news from institutions holding subprime debt as well as the language and actions of the Fed will be paramount as to how we navigate this treacherous terrain.

During the day I am trading “light and tight” meaning small positions with tight stops. I still believe we are at the beginning - not the end of a volatile time in many asset classes and we should not get lulled into complacency if markets are calm for a week or two. That said, my other twin always reminds me I am too close to the game and I am reminded of the words from Julian Jessop of Capital Economics as he puts it rather directly: “People in financial markets always think they are more important than the real world.”

Ouch!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Timer Digest Commentray

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Fari Hamzei

What a tumultuous week we went thru.

Market Internals and chartpatterns of key indices this past week tell us that Fed's Discount Rate Reduction by 50 bp was immediately viewed as very constructive by our equity markets. While we do not view Thursday SPX low as the final bottom of this leg, DJIA low print on Thursday, for all practical proposes, came in at our first support level (12,500).

We expect this low to be tested as Fed's combat of the SubPrime Mortgage Debacle is still an ongoing event. Ideally this test (and its accompanying vol retest) should come, ceteris paribus, in about 2 to 4 weeks from now. That process will build the tradable bottom which we have been looking for. We plan to go long then and hold it into Xmas.

I have attached our updated Timer Chart.



HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

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Peter Stolcers

Here are the nuts and bolts from this week's action. The sell off was caused by loose credit and poor lending decisions. Defaults had a cascading affect and they started a run on short-term debt instruments. That liquidity crunch culminated when T-bill rates dropped 1% this week. That type of move is almost unprecedented.

The squeeze spilled over to brokerage firms and they raised margin requirements to control risk. Instantly, hedge funds that utilize quantitative analysis were forced to liquidate their holdings. They employ a long/short portfolio strategy where they buy value and sell "fluff". Theoretically, they are market neutral. Many financial institutions view this as a conservative strategy and they allow these hedge funds to leverage up to an 8:1 ratio. When brokerage firms change the rules, the hedge funds have to pare their holdings. That is why we saw so many quality stocks get trashed this week. Companies that just announced earnings and raised guidance were pummeled even though they trade at low P/E's.

The sell off Thursday was exacerbated by option expiration sell programs. Regardless, the market staged an impressive intra day reversal without the help of the Fed. Friday morning before the open, the market was down 25 S&P 500 points in response to overseas declines. As the opening approached, the futures were only down 8 points. Clearly, we were near a short-term low. At 7:15 a.m. CST, the Fed lowered the window discount rate to avert a liquidity crunch and the rally was on.

The Fed’s action allowed financial institutions to pledge securities and borrow cash. This allows companies to meet their short-term obligations without having to dump their holdings at artificially depressed prices. The Fed has not had to use this tool for many years.

There are many other leveraged “conservative” strategies like this and when liquidation is forced, the market is thrown out of whack. The yen-carry trade is a widely-cited example. The most important thing to remember is that the macro business conditions remain intact. The adjustment process needs to run its course before everything can return to normal.




The Fed has conveyed that they are aware of current market forces and they are on alert. Next week the economic releases are very light. Retailers make up the majority of earnings announcements and dismal results are priced in. The market has staged back-to-back late day rallies and I believe it will follow through next week. If it can get above SPY 146, that would be a short-term bullish sign.


Editor's Note: Take Advantage of HOTS Special Offer

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Timer Digest Commentary

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Fari Hamzei

As you can see from the S&P-500 Cash Index (SPX) chart below, we are about to puncture thru Monthly Support Level One (MS1). On a relative basis, this level became Support in March and early June with much of run-up spent above Monthly Pivot (yellow line). And since mid-July, SPX and other major indices (not shown in this chart) are on left translation mode which is very BEARISH. Once we have a close below 13,000, we expect the redemptions to speed up and market upheaval as measured by vol indices will take over.


Bryon Wein, the legendary Market Strategist, formerly with Morgan Stanley & Co., was interviewed on CNBC yesterday and reiterated his downside target for SPX at 1380 which translates to our 12,000 on Dow (see March Lows).

Keep in mind, about half of what was lost in global market cap during the last four weeks has been pumped in last week by major central banks (Fed, ECB and BoJ). It is obvious now, with XLF in a rout, this is no more than a band-aid and this market will continue to bleed until it can find a tradable bottom -- where is it ?? -- we will find it after we have had our much dreaded vol retest !!

Stay SHORT and Sell the Rallies...............there are no bargains here !!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Water (H2O)

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Sally Limantour

There is a wacky Broadway play called UrineTown that deals with the concept of water – or the lack of. The premise is as original as it is unpleasant – in a city suffering from unending drought, private bathrooms are outlawed. Everyone must pay crippling fees to use public latrines run by a monopolistic corporation. Those who cannot pay get dragged off to "Urinetown," a mysterious place from which they never return. Finally, one latrine manager leads the people in rebellion. The catch is that the ingĂ©nue he loves is the daughter of the corporation's greedy president.
Watching this play a few years ago had me think how crazy the world will get as water becomes a scarce commodity. In many parts of the world this is already a problem and as populations grow and industrialized economies develop water becomes more precious everyday.

Water Stress and Water Scarcity

In the water industry the terms, “water stress” and “water scarcity” are often used. These terms have to do with a country’s annual supply of renewable fresh water. A severe form is when a country’s annual supply of renewable fresh water falls to less than 1,000 cubic metres per person. Such countries can expect to experience chronic and widespread shortages of water that hinder their development. Many countries fall in this category and do not have the technology to access clean water.

Water Shortages

One of the best books written on the topic of water is called, When The Rivers Run Dry, by Fred Pearce. He drives home the point that we do not realize how much water we actually use on a daily basis. Between drinking, washing and flushing we use approximately 40 gallons a day. In some areas where sprinklers and swimming pools and others uses are higher it can be double. When we add in water usage that is needed for what we drink and eat the numbers are astounding. It now takes 11,000 litres to grow the feed for enough cows for a quarter-pound hamburger, and 25 bathtubs of water to produce a single T-shirt. As a result, at the World Water Week in Stockholm, the International Water Management Institute claimed that a quarter of the world’s population now lives in areas of ‘physical water shortage’.

In a report from the Global Water Partnership of Stockholm, Sweden, it was stated that $4.5 trillion is needed to be invested between 2000 and 2025 to improve the global infrastructure.
The reality is that more than one third of the world’s population lives in countries where consumption of drinking water exceeds available supplies. In China alone it is estimated that their water supplies can support 650 million people which is only half of its 1.2 billion population. China has 617 cities of which 300 have serious water shortages.

The Middle East imports 91% of its fresh water needs from other countries as Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia all suffer from water shortages and in Africa it is estimated that 2/3 of the population who live in rural areas lack an adequate water supply.

Here in the U.S. the 1,400 mile long Colorado River is at record low levels and a decade long drought is threatening drinking water supplies for major cities and irrigation for food production in the western part of the U.S.

Pollution

In addition to shortages pollution is a major problem in much of the developing world. In China you have a double whammy – both water scarcity and pollution. Not only are they threatening human health and development, but water problems also jeopardize China's economic plans. The impact of water pollution on human health and water shortages together has been valued at approximately U.S. $15.1 billion by Chinese sources.

The lack of resources and advanced technology are partially responsible for the slow progress in solving these problems.

Half of China's population (nearly 700 million people) consumes drinking water contaminated with animal and human waste that exceeds the applicable maximum permissible levels. Liver and stomach cancers in China are caused in part by water pollution. China has the highest liver and stomach cancer death rates in the world. Liver and stomach cancers are 3-7 times higher in polluted rural areas of China.

Increased Funding for Water Infrastructure

As water becomes more of a problem world wide you will see governments and the private sector increasing funds to fix the aging infrastructure as well as to develop technologies to clean and reuse water. As it stands now the global water market is estimated to be $365 billion while the U.S. market is $87 billion.

The investment demand for companies involved in water management and conservation will grow as the industry matures. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that $140 billion will be needed in the next ten years just to meet the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Many in the industry feel this number is grossly underestimated.

The hot spots for growth in the water sector is in the replacement of aging water infrastructure in developed markets and the installation of basic water infrastructure in emerging markets. While the number of pure water plays has been reduced we are seeing large companies, like GE gobble up some of the water companies. GE has purchased Betz Dearborn a water treatment business and Zenon which makes advanced membranes for water purification, wastewater treatment and water reuse. The company pioneered the use of technology for water and wastewater treatment that is spreading rapidly throughout the world. GE is also building one of the largest desalinization plants in Algeria. The Danaher Corporation recently agreed to buy Centrist, a water treatment products and services provider and I foresee some of the large sovereign wealth funds (SWF) buying up water related companies in their need to provide their countries with clean water. As water becomes more scarce, tensions are likely to arise among different users within countries and also across borders. Companies operating in water-stressed regions will have to be aware that they are competing for an essential resource and will have to manage any potential flare ups.

So how can private investors tap into these markets? There are a number of ways and one play is to purchase the US Power Shares Water Resources or individual concentrated water funds, such as Aqua Terra Asset Fund, a relatively new water fund run by an environmental engineer. One can also go to the International Securities Exchange (ISE) where a water index is the basis for cash-settled index options (symbol, HHO), ETFs (symbol: FIW), and ETF options. Cash-settled futures on the index are coming soon.

There are also individual companies such as Aqua America or Calgon Carbon. Hyflux traded in Singapore is an interesting water company and recently bought into a business in Saudi Arabia which in addition to producing oil for export is also one of the world’s largest consumers of less expensive “used” oil. This is oil that has been collected from shipyards, power plants and other related industries. Hyflux owns a method that recycles the oil and they expect this aspect of their business to grow and equal their water technologies in terms of income.

The following are stocks and funds in the water sector that look attractive: American States Water (AWR), Aqua Terra Asset Fund (KWIAX), Aqua Water (WTR), Badger Meter (BMI), Calgon Carbon (CC), Clarcor Corporation (CLC), Hyflux (HYFXF), Insituform (INSU), Nalco (NLC), Pentair (PNR), Sinomem (SMMKF), Tetratech (TTEK), US PowerShares Water Resources (PHO) and Watts Water (WTS).

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