Saturday, September 15, 2007

HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

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Peter Stolcers

Let me start by welcoming many new subscribers this week. I live for set-ups like the week ahead and the opportunities are lining up. I’m glad to have you onboard!

This is the calm before the storm. Last week the market rallied on expectations that the Fed will lower rates. The debt market has priced in a 70% probability of a .25% rate cut and the 30% probability of a .50% rate cut. The dismal Unemployment Report dramatically increased rate cut forecasts.

The U.S. dollar hit new 30-year lows against the Canadian dollar and against the Euro this week. We have a huge trade imbalance and a weak dollar forces us to pay more for the goods we import. Translation: a weak dollar is inflationary. Oil has just hit an all-time high. Last week, TSN said that profit margins are being hurt by higher food costs. I've even heard that Italians are boycotting pasta because wheat prices have forced it up 25%. There are countless examples of inflation (tuition, health care, local taxes) that don’t show up in the Fed’s numbers. Tuesday, a “hot” PPI number could add to the excitement.

I believe the Fed will reluctantly lower interest rates by .25% next week. They will lace their rhetoric with inflationary comments to curb future rate cut expectations. The market will have an initial negative reaction.





The earnings releases by LEH, GS and BSC will be much more important. To a degree, the Fed’s actions are priced in. However, no one really knows the earnings impact from the sub-prime/credit crunch debacle. Historically, LEH has made a 2% move after releasing its earnings. The option implied volatilities are pricing in an 8% move in either direction. Lehman releases before the open Tuesday while Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns will be releasing earnings Thursday, after the Fed's decision. FDX also announces this week and transportation activity measures economic strength. GIS and CAG will shed light on food costs.

Earnings and the Fed’s actions/statements will determine the market's direction for the next month. Quadruple witching will throw gasoline on the fire, accelerating the move. All you can do in these situations is to have your stocks lined up. We will trade relative strength and weakness in a balanced manner.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Timer Digest Market Commentary

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Fari Hamzei

Once you study our Timer and Vol Index Charts, two issues are worth noting:

First our Timer Chart shows (mentioned here last Friday) that we are short-term overbought and due for a pause -- which BLS delivered today with the first negative NFP data in 4 years (and a massive revision to July NFP data).


Secondly, our Vol Indices chart sets the volatility retest targets both in shape and intensity (when overlaid with Sigma Channels).



Given that the seasonality data calls for September being a negative month, dollar being at 15-year low and CFC announcing a 20% layoff after the close today, we hope you have been SHORT this market and getting ready to lower your buy stop.


Just remember: the second mouse gets the cheese !!

HOTS Weekly Options Commentary

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Peter Stolcers

I have been bullish on the economy and Friday's unemployment number tainted my bias. I did not expect the dramatic decline this month and I certainly didn’t expect the huge revisions for June and July. For the month of August, analysts were expecting 115,000 new jobs. The actual number showed a decrease of 4000 jobs. That is a whopping 119,000 miss. June and July numbers were reduced by about 81,000 in total.

High consumer debt levels (and I'm not just talking subprime mortgages) will threaten the strength of this economy if workers get laid off.

Last week, the Fed invited major homebuilders to share their perspective on the economy and I’m sure Chairman Bernanke got an earful. A rate cut is almost certain after this dismal employment report. Inflation is in check and now the Fed can ease rates without the appearance of a subprime bail out.

Next week the economic calendar is light with consumer credit, retail sales, industrial production and consumer sentiment on deck. These releases don't pack the same punch and I believe Friday’s Unemployment Report will induce selling pressure until the FOMC. Traders are scrambling to determine if the Fed will cut rates by a ¼ or a ½ point.

If the Fed reacts quickly and lowers the rate by a ¼ point before the FOMC, it might be viewed as a progressive move and that might be enough to satisfy the market. On the other hand, a ¼ point cut during the FOMC will not carry the same urgency. The market could view that as stingy, feeling that the data justifies a ½ point rate cut.




In this week’s chart you can see the long-term uptrend is still intact and the breakout from April has also held. If the SPY 145 level is violated my bias will turn bearish.

We have bullish positions and this week’s trade will hedge some of our risk.

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.



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