MorningWord: 12/1/11

by Dan December 1, 2011 9:10 am • Commentary

MorningWord: 12/1/11: Not much to add as far as yesterday’s 4.33% rally in the SPX other than it seemed like we were due.  While many market participants had been waiting for some sort of coordinated intervention by central bankers, I am not sure many expected yesterday’s specific action or in my case I really don’t understand why lowering the rate on dollar swap lines is such a big deal.  So the cost for European banks to borrow dollars from central banks is now 1/2 point lower…..OK.  I guess the big thing is that investors saw a coordinated show of force and now finally expect more.  But what I don’t really understand how this attacks the root of the sovereign debt problem (if any of you can explain this to me I would love to hear it).  I don’t mean to sound cynical, I obviously recognize that yesterday’s strength had less to do with the actual program and more to do with sentiment.  There is a crisis of confidence in our banks and our leaders (both economic and political)  and this sort of response helps to make the leaders look a little bit more “proactive”.

But the Cynic in me definitely thinks back to all of the “proactive” policy responses to our 2008 financial crisis and how every rally predicated on increasing liquidity measures to the then strained financial system between the Bear Sterns failure in March 2008 to early 2009 were a flat out sale.  Are we reliving this pattern? Have we had our Bear Sterns Failure that will be the tipping point of this crisis? What are the odds that “half measures” like lowering rate of dollar swaps can solve the sovereign debt problems?  Answers to those questions and a couple bucks will get you a seat on the downtown bus, but to where??

As for my own trading, I am short high valuation stupid cult stock names (HANS, GMCR & LULU) through Put Spreads, I am long some (reduced position risk dramatically early last week by rolling up the short put strikes) MS and BAC Jan Put Spreads and long some DEC GS and MS Call Spreads that I will look to sell on any continued strength for almost a double in a week.  So I am maintaining a balanced single stock trading book and continue to look to short gap openings to the upside with index etfs.   That was a bit of a losing battle yesterday with the SPX closing about 1.25% higher than the open and on the dead highs.  I am eying 1265 the 200 day moving avg to really lay them out, and who knows at this rate we could see that later today.

Check back after the open for updates on how I will manage my LULU Dec 47.50/42.50 Put Spread with the stock trading down 14% at my short put strike in the pre-market.


MorningWord: 11/30/11:  Well this mornings opening gap of approx 3% in the SPX is the exact reason why I have not wanted to be net short since early last week.  The pressure was just too great for central bankers not to act in what appeared to be an impending equity and credit market disaster that had the potential to send the world back into a recession.

This morning has seen 2 pieces of news that had stemmed the early morning losses in the equity markets the world over; 1st China lowered the reserve ratios that banks need to maintain and this turned European and the S&P Futures positive to up 1-2% around 6am (the first gap higher in chart below), and 2nd the U.S. Fed and 5 other central banks coordinated to lower the dollar swap rates by 50bps to 50bps.(second gap higher at 8am).

S&P 500 futures Nov 30th intra-day from Bloomberg



My take for what its worth is that this sort of action needed to be taken for pure sentiment reasons as most investors have been scratching their heads and wondering why European leaders and central bankers can’t get their act together and put together a plan to attack their debt problems.  The overnight news does little to attack the problems and merely focusing on some of the symptoms, largely for fear of a large bank failure and what the aftermath could be for the global financial system (see LEH failure circa 2008).

In  a lot of ways this mornings actions by central banks remind me of the sort of action that we got leading up to LEH, the news would squeeze shorts, some hedge funds and dumb mutual funds would chase performance a bit for fear of missing the bottom but ultimately the markets would make new lows.

As I have detailed in this space for the past week I have been running a balanced book as far as single stock exposures and I just short the market through index etfs intra-day. I have not wanted to go out net short for fear of this sort of action, but i am happy to short this open with a relatively tight stop.  The bank stocks will be the key today, if they act similar to the way they did on Monday where they had fabulous opening gaps and then spent most of the rest of the day going down then I will tell you again, that they could see lower lows in the coming weeks. In a lot of ways they hold the key for me to the real sentiment of the market.  Yes I know that the sentiment is piss pour in the space but maybe for good reason.  It is also interesting to note that BAC made a new closing low dating back to March 2009 on day where a buyer of the Jan12 calls, (about 190k traded yesterday) were the most active single stock option in the entire market….This also came on a day that S&P downgraded the bank after the close.  SO again lots of crosscurrents and while the price action says that the sentiment is very poor there are clearly sum that are willing to take the other side of that (also remember there was a large buyer of Dec bank calls last Wednesday).

SO my game plan is the usual, Just as I wouldn’t press a down opening of 1% or more I wouldn’t buy an up opening liek this either, I will look to trim some longs and I will definitely look to short the opening (or a little after) with index etfs (with a tight stop).  Just as I have refused to get carried out short on an overnight gap (that is why I am just shorting intra-day rallies), I refuse to get carried out on a move of up 3% to up 5%.  SO I remain cautious but nimble, not to stubborn.


MorningWord: 11/29/11: European markets and our futures were up about a % point earlier in front of an oddly anticipated meeting of Euro Finance ministers in Brussels today.  I guess the uneasy markets will cling to any little bit of hope at this point. The DAX started the day down about 1% and then rallied to up a little more than 1% and now is unchanged on the day.  Our futures have traded in sympathy.  Given yesterday’s fierce short covering rally, today’s action so far seems a bit tame.  What struck me about yesterday’s rally is that even after the apparent reasons that initiated the bullishness were struck down the equity markets maintained their gains.

As I had been saying  for a couple days, we had become very oversold on a near term basis and as we approached 1150 in the SPX it seemed like a good spot to retrace a bit of the previous 2 weeks’ sell-off.  I bought some Dec weekly and regular calls and call spreads in some banks and covered some shorts on Wednesday in anticipation of this rally, but generally I was unimpressed with the action of the one group, the BANKS, that could actually change my generally bearish attitude towards everything on a near-term basis.  The banks in my opinion dramatically underperformed the broad market rally (excluding C which was up 6%). These stocks will make new lows this year in my opinion if there is no intervention by the ECB, IMF and EU to halt the impending debt contagion in Europe.

As for my trading, as I suggested in my morning note yesterday I faded the open by shorting SPY and while this was slightly uncomfortable until late in the day, I traded it pretty decently and covered after a 10 handle sell off in the SPX only to buy some SDS weekly calls on the close (SDS is the 2x inverse SPY etf).

I am not impressed with yesterday’s rally and in a lot of ways it was healthy and much needed, but some of the cross currents are disturbing….Every high-flier net IPO of the year got crushed, as GRPN made new lows down 9%, LNKD down ~5%, P -2.4% and AWAY 14%…..this is not good action as it tells me real money investors are puking out of this crap that their brokers saddled them with earlier in the year when things felt a bit better.   Also disturbing is the continued downward volatility in Chinese Internet names like FMCN that have been attacked by short selling research firms….the mere suggestion by the WSJ that SINA‘s CEO sits on the board of FMCN and that they could be the next target of Muddy Waters research sent the stock down 15% in a straight line and only recovering a bit to close down 5.5% even after Muddy Waters made a statement that they are not doing any work on SINA……they might just do it now after the investor reaction.

SO I guess my point is the market remains fairly jittery even on a day where the SPX was up about 3%.  When you look under the hood things look a little bit ugly.  Any continued under-performance in the banks stocks today and I think there is a good chance that they drag down the broader market. My book remains fairly balanced on single stock exposures, but I look to short every rally, such as yesterday’s opening with index ETFs.  I will continue to do so intra-day but will usually cover as I DO BELIEVE THERE REMAINS SIGNIFICANT CHANCE OF INTERVENTION BY THE TROIKA THAT COULD CAUSE A 5-7% RALLY AT ANY POINT.  So basically overnight I want to have balanced single stock risk, and defined risk in index etf’s through options, and then intra-day I actively trade the index etfs on the short side.  As I have said before this is not a strategy for everyone, especially if you are not sitting in front of your screens all day and don’t have the benefit of years of experience and a decent track record doing it.

For today I will stick to the script, looking to avoid getting carried out on the short side by some tape bomb out of Europe and trade the sector etfs with tight stops….I will continue too look for extended names to short and beat up names to buy, all with an eye towards a catalyst.


MorningWord: 11/28/11: This morning’s world-wide euphoric equity market rally predicated on a BS rumor (here) that the IMF was readying a loan for Italy greater than their actual lending capacity was exactly what the longs were desperately waiting for.  In a lot of ways this set up was kind of obvious with such miserable price action last week in a holiday shortened week on what had to be low volume.  Whether the report of IMF support is true or not (IMF has denied) we were either gonna do one of 2 things this week, bounce and stabilize a bit, or crash, and don’t think for a second that today’s gap higher takes either option off of the table.

Last Wednesday and Friday (see below) I wrote that I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable riding shorts as the SPX approached 1150 which seemed to be fairly decent support and started to take off or reduce shorts and actually add longs…..

As for this morning, it’s all about the banks…if they can hold their opening gains then I think you try to press longs for a couple days.  Investors got pretty beared up and if there is any validity to IMF and ECB intervention in Europe we could squeeze for at least a couple days and retrace 50% of the move lower from Nov 15th which would be about 1225. A close above 1200 today would be fairly Bullish to say the least.

1 YR SPC chart from Bloomberg


As usual I will take a shot on such a strong up opening on the short side, but will use tight stops as today has the potential to turn into an epic short squeeze into month end…..coming into today the SPX was down about 7.5% for the month which had to be up there with one of the worst month to date performances in a long time.  So while I am talking out of both sides of my mouth that is largely because I have no clue what is going to happen.  Even with IMF denying the loan to Italy the market holds its gains and this tells me that there are those out there who want to keep this thing up into month end……but the cynic in me wants to take a shot on the short side as any opening strength in the last few weeks had been met with selling…..I have some longs that should perform well and I have dramatically reduced my shorts so I feel I have some dry powder.  But as always I will not be stubborn and dig in if it is obvious I am wrong.


MorningWord: 11/25/11: Walking in this morning on what we will be a shortened day of trading, things feel about as crappy as they did Wednesday.  European equity markets are down again this morning, after yesterday’s give back of early gains.  The DAX is now on it’s 9th consecutive down day (actually just went up small on day right before I went to publish), and down about 11% from the interim high made Nov 14th.

15 day chart of the DAX from Bloomberg


The Euro is quickly approaching the lows last seen when the SPX was on its lows back on Oct 4th.   The chart below is kind of stating the obvious, but it is interesting none the less.  The SPX is about 8% off of the intra-day Oct low, while the Eur vs the U.S.$ is only about 1% away.  The obvious reason being investors are more focused on the root of the problem and view our equity, debt and currency as a sort of flight to quality.

1 YR SPX vs EUR / USD from Bloomberg


We can talk about equity markets until we are blue in the face, but the real issue driving weakness in every asset class the world over is the cost for European nations to borrow, and the rate at which it is going up. German bund yields ticking up to 3 year highs on Wednesday stoked fears that the even the strongest and most austere nations in Europe will not be shielded from the impending debt contagion.  Business Insider had a great little analogy this am to describe the debt issues facing Italy (read here).

SO what to do with the SPX opening this morning around the 50% re-tracement level of the entire peak to trough move off of the Oct lows.


As I said on Wednesday I have become increasingly less interested in pressing the short at this relatively key support level and feel we could be do for a near-term bounce.  The macro situation appears to be deteriorating fairly quickly and this leaves central bankers with few options as we head into year end, but in my opinion points to only one fairly necessary action, INTERVENTION.

In my own trading I began to take some shorts off, or trimmed them at least, and added a couple beta longs in the event we did get some real ECB action.  This is not a position I am wed to, but I have come to the conclusion that my positioning for most of the year has been spot on; SHORT and I refuse to get carried out in some artificially created short squeeze into year end.  SO I guess the decision I have made here is that If we crash in the coming weeks I will have a far more balanced (as far as exposures) trading book then I have had all year, which means that I will likely miss the home run trade in that situation.  But I am ensuring that I will not get blown out on a 5-10% short covering rally caused my intervention that attacks the symptoms of our debt/budget issues but not the problems.

Now don’t get me wrong, I remain Bearish, and in some ways would love to see a 5 or so % rally in the coming weeks because I think i could be a great opportunity to lay them back out on the short side.

The banks stocks could be ready for a little bounce as they quickly approach the Oct lows……there is no doubt that if things in Europe these stocks will make new lows and look particularly ugly, but if the news settles a bit and European central bankers do ANYTHING, these stocks could bounce 10% quickly.  Again, I remain long Jan12 put spreads in BAC and MS, but on Wednesday I committed a small amount of premium in Dec weekly and regular call spreads in MS and GS.  This is a bit of a punt.  I reserve my right to change my opinion on this matter though, last Friday on Options Action the guys on the desk wanted to play this and I categorically disagreed and suggested a strong likelihood that they close on the lows of the year, which I still stick by, but in any event the stocks are 5-10% lower than when I made that argument and I am positioned for either move.

So today, be careful as always not to press a down opening, and as we head into what will likely be a low volume day I don’t think it makes a ton of sense to get too convicted on either side of the market….


MorningWord: 11/23/11: This is going to be short and sweet this morning as I hope to get in Holiday mode very soon, but first we have to deal with some of the news overseas that caused a bit of weakness in the equity markets the world over….. this morning Germany is the focus for once as 2 factors are weighing on investor sentiment (although the DAX is actually unchanged on the day) as Germany failed to receive their desired target for 10 year bunds in an auction this morning on a day that saw weak manufacturing data out of Germany and China.

Overnight China’s flash PMI came in weaker than expected, and refutes some of last months optimism for a soft landing for their overheated economy, and could add a slight wrinkle for the bull case as we head into year-end and contemplate the probability of a global economic recession in 2012.  Anyone who goes on TV or on the web and states emphatically that things are fine and we are just in a soft patch are just full of crap, because no one know right now and things appear to me about as bad as can be for the worlds economic outlook, largely due to the level of uncertainty that remains with Europe but also our nations own inability to deal with our debt/budget issues and what appears to be a credit bubble of epic proportion in China.  Bulls cling to coordinated intervention by the ECB (and the whoever else they can muster) to finally backstop all Eurozone Sovereign debt to save the day, but this appears will only be done if and when we are in a full-on panic mode that probably comes at some point as sovereign yields blow out to new all time highs and our equity markets are retesting the Oct lows.

As for today with the S&P futures headed for a down open of slightly less than 1%, I would be careful to press them as today will likely be a light volume day as most traders/investors try to make an early exit.  That being said if we get a rally off of the opening lows (which we have often been getting) than I think u can take a shot on the short side……there are a few ways today can go…..1st traders refuse to be long heading into the next 4 days that will only see 3.5 hours of trading in U.S. markets between today’s close and Monday’s open, and a lot can happen overseas in that time period…..investors may look to pare back risks and the market could get sloppy today on low volume.  Second investors fear that we are in an oversold condition on a near term basis and that any little shred of decent news could cause a fairly healthy short covering rally on light volume and therefore reject the notion of being short into the holiday weekend.   And last but not least, 3rd we open lower and then work our way back to unchanged into the European close and spend the rest of the day on auto-pilot hovering unchanged for the day.  All scenarios in my opinion are equally likely, but with the market opening lower I will look to trim shorts and reduce the risk of any of these scenarios hurting me as I head into the weekend.

While I have been leaning short for weeks, I am getting less comfortable with this position and while I am not looking to get long individual names as I think any short covering rally that we get near-term will not have legs, I am becoming increasingly weary of remaining net short below 1150 in the SPX.  So I remain cautious and defensive, but I am looking to cover shorts on down openings like this and occasionally add longs when I think specific stories appear to be getting overdone on the downside.


MorningWord: 11/22/11:  Last night the Congressional Super”Less” Committee announced what we all suspected when it was formed this past summer following the budget impasse: Failure.  And don’t go and worry your little self just yet, the venerable Standard and Poors rating service did exactly what we expected this time and affirmed their AA+ rating on the U.S.  Pfew.  Disaster averted.   Now we can start worrying about how our funny little European friends are going to save their own skins by circumventing that “dreaded” Treaty of Lisbon” and have the ECB do its thing.  Ok, so you note a faint hint of cynicism here, well, the truth is things are playing out about as badly as possible for those in the camp who think that solutions to budget and debt crises were right around the corner.  The longer this drags out here and in Europe the greater the risk to the world economy falling back into recession.  Now as many of you know I am by no means a macro expert, this is just common sense stuff, but our economic recovery is fragile and little speed-bumps can have unintended affects.  The calendar should become an increasing concern as we head into the  final 40 days of this already volatile year and will see 2 holiday shortened weeks.  With every passing moment of increased uncertainty brings with it the lessened likelihood of a year end rally. Or if we do rally, the question will be from where and to make back what losses.  Hedge funds continue to get turned around and my sense is that most have under-performed the broader markets and that already placed investor redemption’s could cause year end selling pressure right up till the final ticks.

As noted in this space, the recent under-performance of stocks like AMZN, that was once up ~35% on the year, and now only up ~5%, and technically breaking down. Could be a sign of more difficult times to come.  In some ways the rally off of the Oct. bottom was  narrow and appeared to be largely a grab for beta in an effort for fund managers to chase performance.  This was evident by the massive rallies seen in bank stocks off of those very oversold conditions.  Stocks like BAC and MS saw rallies of 40% plus, now only to be within a few bad trading days of those Oct lows.  SO what this tells me is that investors are giving up on the catch up trade.

Yesterday’s action was a bit less orderly than some of the weakness we saw last week…..Some stocks/sectors felt a bit panicky.  AMZN at one point was down more than 5%, MS was down almost 7% and CAT down about 5%, all before closing well off of their lows.  There continues to be the outliers like FMCN that at one point was down 65% based on independent research firm report speculating fraud in the Chinese outdoor LCD screen advertiser.  Investors clearly have their fingers on the triggers and are shooting first and asking questions later.  This is my opinion sets up for a very bad day in the markets coming very soon.

Yesterday I added to a couple shorts in names like GMCR and HANS, and took some profits in names like HPQ and INTC.  I feel very strongly that names like HANS that have not broken yet, will and soon, and likely before year end.  One thing has become apparent to me after the moves in names like AMZN, NFLX, CRM and GMCR is that cult stocks have no place in this market environment and it is just a matter of time before the air comes out of names like HANS, CMG, DECK, LULU, LNKD and GRPN.

In the last 30 mins since I have been writing the S&P futures have gone from up slightly to down about 50bps on a GDP reading that was less than forecast.  SO basically the hits just keep on coming and the likelihood of any positive news out of Europe this weak seems slim.  As I said yesterday as traders head into tomorrow’s close I can’t imagine people will want to be long over what could be 2 days (Thurs we are closed and only open half Friday) where the European markets and news will dominate with little to be done over here.

SO I remain cautious and clearly leaning short.  As always on down openings I take small profits on market shorts in effort to provide some dry powder to re-short on rallies.  I guess the most important thing here in what will likely remain a volatile week on potentially light volume is to remain nimble, don’t press shorts on dramatic sell-offs and don’t chase every short covering rally on every EFSF “Bazooka” headline or rumor.  The path of least resistance at this point is lower and in my opinion there is no reason to fight it given the seasonal factors that I feel could become more pronounced in the coming weeks.

The short term risks to a market reversal remain any coordinated policy initiatives in Europe……but they seem incapable of this at the moment.


MorningWord: 11/21/11: Friday’s sideways action at the low end of the recent trading range capping a 5 day period that saw losses in the SPX a shade below 4% was in hindsight a precursor to continued weakness.  As I said in this space on Friday,  “who the hell would want to be long in this uncertain environment?”, and that still stands walking in this morning with the S&P futures down about 1.25% and the DAX down about 2.25%.  This morning’s weakness has less to do with widening credit spreads (which is still going on with focus now shifting towards France)  in Europe and mostly having to do with our “Congressional Super-Committee” which has failed to reach a budge agreement by Wednesday’s predetermined deadline.  So again, heap on a whole host of uncertainty to an already volatile environment, and what do you get?? an environment where investors will look to reduce risk and book gains for the year in individual names or macro positions.  At this point there is no place to really hide as Gold continues lower this morning, down about 5% in a week, Crude also down and I guess U.S. treasuries likely to remain in vogue even if for counter-intuition reasons.  For more comments on some things are sticking out to me in this environment look at last nights Trading Diary post (here), specifically worried about prior leaders in the Nasdaq like AMZN and AAPL and the price action in the banks threatens to sink this whole thing.

With every fading moment the likelihood of a re-test of the Spring highs becomes dimmer and dimmer, but what does become apparent is that any late year rally in an attempt to mark portfolios should be sold as their does not appear to be any real solutions that can stave off what appears to be growing debt contagion.  In some ways the fate of the PIIGS reminds one of the contagion that hit U.S. banks in 2008; Greece=Bear Stearns, Italy=Merrill Lynch, Spain=Morgan Stanley, France= Lehman Brothers and so on and so forth down the the ironic combo of Germany=Goldman Sachs.  The  route really didn’t stop with government intervention or stimulus, it just stopped with time and a massive oversold condition, which probably wasn’t really until the one year anniversary of Bear’s failure.   While the equities of many U.S. and European banks sit near multi year lows and appear oversold on a long term basis they may not on a short term basis and I would argue until we see new lows in the names there will be those who will need to reduce exposure to the space as many large hedge fund managers appeared to do in the latest round of 13f filings.  If people on TV suggest these stocks should be bought hand over fist on valuation for a long term play, that’s probably a fine suggestion if you don’t mind having what could be substantial % losses in the near term.

The point of this site is turn those sorts of traditional investing myths on their heads…..if you agree with that notion of the bank stocks cheaper than ever before then buy them on the next panic when everyone wants to sell them, not when they are still 10-20% off of the Oct lows and people still defending them.   I will continue to ride my short positions in JEF, BAC and MS and look for opportunities to press them on rallies.  I will look to cover though on a puke, until now over the last 2 weeks the weakness in most of the names (except JEF) has been very orderly.  I may even look to get long before year end as you could see some bargain hunting in the new year.

As for walking in this morning with world equity markets under pressure, I will look to take small profits on some market shorts but also feel convicted in laying out shorts on the first rally.  The likelihood of ECB intervention and some palatable resolution to our budget issues in a holiday shortened weak is not great at the moment.  The path of least resistance is probably lower heading into Wednesday’s close, as European markets will be open Thursday (ours are closed Thurs and half of Friday, while our bond markets are closed both) and I am not sure traders will be feeling the holiday spirit taking the associated risks of remaining long while feasting on Turkey and Football for the back half of the week.

As for the SPX, the chart has a lot of room to the downside as it goes through support this morning at 1200.  Chart below shows the lack of support to about 1150.

1 Yr SPX chart from Bloomberg


Without any meaningful ECB intervention or some 11th hour agreement in our congress the markets likely to remain under pressure for the balance of this week.  I will look to short rallies,while not pressing shorts on down openings like today.

BONUS: check out video of The Airborn Toxic Event perform “sometime around midnight” Friday night at Terminal 5.  If you like these guys u gotta try to see them live, they put on a great show.  Yes my hand is a bit steadier writing on the site as opposed to recording video at a concert.  Enjoy.

MorningWord: 11/18/11: Thursday’s afternoon action in the S&P felt a little panicky for the first time all week. There weren’t too many places to hide as financials, tech and energy all under-performed the broader market, while gold and crude got slammed.  The SPX which is still the best performing broad index in the world ytd is now down about 3.3%  vs the DAX which is down about 15%, FTSE down 8.5%, Shanghai down 14% and the Bovespa down about 17.5%.   U.S. equities are clearly a flight to quality and possibly for very good reason when you consider that our economic data continues to come in slightly above dampened expectations as evidenced by yesterday’s jobless claims and housing starts.  There continues to be cross-currents on the earnings front with recent disappointments from NTAP, SHLD and ANF, but generally they have been better than most would have expected.  One thing is clear that while companies are beating earnings on tighter cost controls, share buy backs but lack real revenue growth and any real visibility.  One thing is for sure, and to state the obvious, that the situation in Europe, if continues to drag on will ultimately drag down the worlds economic recovery.

This morning European markets and our futures have rallied out of the red to be slightly higher on the day as rumors of the ECB buying Italian sovereign debt continue to make their way through the markets and  buoy hopes that the central bank will step up their purchases at the behest of z Germans.   This is where I kind of step out, I don’t pretend to have any unique knowledge of what the ECB can or can’t do.  A lot of people on TV or on the web want to through around terms like “treaty of Lisbon” and the like, makes them sound smart, but the word “treaty” brings me back to my poli-sci days in college and this is when I hit the Google.  CC linked to a fairly good rundown from the Washington Post over night if you haven’t seen it yet (read here).  The only thing that an opening rally predicated on ECB buying of Itialian debt means to me as that I get a decent opportunity to short the opening!

As far as my trading I got a bit more active yesterday once the market started moving and it appeared that we were going to break out of the tight range in the SPX of 1230 to 1270.  I still want to lean short, but will continue to look for tactical opportunities on the long side as I did yesterday in AMZN (read here).  But I still believe the trade is to short overvalued high-fliers into events or after as I did yesterday in CRM (here) and GMCR (here) yesterday.  Check back after the opening for trade management on my CRM put fly as the stock is trading right at my long strike and this once could be dicey on expiration.

So I continue to lean to the cautious side, my bearish bank bets in MS, BAC and JEF are helping me with this thesis as they show no signs of life and in some ways look very near to re-testing the previous lows from Oct.  If we get another flush down today before the weekend (who the hell would want to be long in this uncertain environment??) then I will look to cover some market shorts.  But with near term bearish bets on AAPL (here), acting the way it does I am trying real hard to be patient.

After a week that has seen about a 3.5% sell off though you want to be careful and not press the short at the lows.  So today’s opening bounce will likely see one sell off, if things get sloppy like yesterday after trying to hold then we likely close very poorly, but if the marker comes in 50 bps and then makes a new high on the day we could be off to the raises as shorts trip over each other to cover.  Remember all this ECB monetizing of debt and treaty of Lisbon talk means that traders/investors are worried about some form of coordinated action by ECB , IMF and who knows who to attempt to stabilize things in Europe.  So shorts are nervous as are longs and that makes for a volatile uncertain situation that can be hard to dig your heels in, so be nimble I guess is my point.


MorningWord: 11/17/11:  Well, this is starting to get old, the 4th day in the last 4 that we walk in to see our futures down on the back of European weakness, but like we’ve seen alot lately, they have turned more positive on the back of stronger than expected economic data here in the U.S..

Yesterday’s late day sell off spooked market participants a bit as most didn’t know until after the close what the cause for the weakness actually was. Really???? a report from Fitch titled “Eurozone Contagion Threatens Outlook for US Banks”.  Hey Fitch “Iceberg Sinks Titanic.”   I guess the point here is that the markets are fairly nervous and most investors have their fingers on the trigger.  This is not bullish action.  Yesterday’s intra-day swings of 15-20 S&P handles every few hours does not speak to a calm market ready to rally.  For the last 10 trading sessions the SPX has been trading with a range of 1230 and 1270 and now looks poised to once again test the lower end of that range.

The DAX is down almost 4% this week, the Euro is down almost 2.5% during the same period while Italian 10 Yr yields still hover around 7% (well off this mornings highs and now under 7%).  While many are fixated on Italian yields some are starting to focus on the spread between German and French bonds that at one point this morning was greater than 200 bps.

Bank stocks should be the focus here, not the fundamental issues facing their business models, but the price action of the stocks.   Many investors thought the worst might have been over for the group at the end of Oct as most names like MS, GS and C broke above the the Aug and Sept ranges and capped runs of more than 30% off of the lows.  In the last 2 weeks, the stock have retraced about half of those gains and now look poised to once again break-down.  The way these stocks have been moving I wouldn’t be surprised to see a re-test of the previous lows in the coming weeks.

Our futures just went up on the day on the heels of slightly better than expected Jobless claims and Housing Starts.  Our economic data continues to be “less bad” and our corporate earnings continue to surprise to the upside for the most part.  So any near term resolution to the debt contagion in Europe could clearly put in place a year end rally.

As for today I will wait until maybe 1/2 of yesterday’s sell-off is retaken on the upside and try to short the rally, and always with tight stops. I am doing some work on CRM into tonight’s earnings, so check back later as I think there is probably a trade to do, the options market is currently implying about an 11% move vs its 4 qtr average of 8%.




MorningWord: 11/16/11:  Walking in this morning, the third day in three where our futures are down in sympathy with Europe…….Equity markets the world over have been moving around the last 16 hours……Shanghai Comp had its worst day in weeks down about 2.5% , the DAX is now 2.8% off of the morning highs and down over 1% at the lows of the session and our futures are down about 1%.  The Euro continues to slide breaking a key technical level at 1.35,  Crude oil broke $100 on the  upside for the first time since early August, while all eyes remain fixed on the PIGS debt, specifically on Italian 10 yr which continues to hover around the psychologically important 7% level.

As for our markets, earnings continue to be mixed with DELL beating on eps but missing on revenues and giving a cautious outlook, while TYC beat slightly.  The real story in our markets was the Nasdaq out-performance yesterday largely fueled by the reversal in AAPL.  Once AAPL broke its 1 week malaise, it carried with it many other names that have been showing relative strength.  INTC for instance closed at a new 52 week high, while GOOG continues to push towards the highs made back in the summer.  Tech is obviously a bit of a save haven here, and until we see a rotation back in to financial stocks it is likely to remain a sector that money managers keep over-weighted. So here’s what I will be doing today:

As for this this morning, I think once again you want to be careful pressing shorts on the open and as always wait for a rally.   Markets are starting to move around a bit and the VIX above 30 may be telling us to hold on to our hats cause we could be in for some increased volatility in the weeks to come.  Maybe 30 is the new 20 in the VIX (20 being the long term average and the level below which some vol traders look to get long premium).

As always look to take some profits on shorts on down openings and then wait for rallies to put them back.  I still struggle with identifying longs and as I said the other day at some point in the next week or 2 I will throw in the towel and look for beta names to play into a potential year end rally.   In the meantime I will look to make defined risk bets around events such as ADSK last night.  The company beat and slightly raised last night and the stock is only up 2.5% (under-performing the implied move of about 7%) in the pre-market.  This one has the potential to reverse intra-day if it can’t get a head of steam.  I will keep a close eye on this position and look to salvage some premium from this put spread if the stock starts to come in as there is not much time before expiration.   Please check back later for any updates on my trade management.


MorningWord: 11/15/11: European equity markets are getting knocked around a bit this am, although most of the major indices are about 1% off of their lows of the session.  The news flow and the set-up this morn seems a bit similar to yesterday’s, as all eyes on are on the weak Euro and rising bond yields among the PIGS.  It appears that the “honeymoon” of just a couple days is over following the Burlesconi resignation, and now the Italian 10 yr is hovering right back around the psychologically important 7% level.

One of the more interesting comments I read this morning was from a Bloomberg article speaking of the challenges new Italian Prime Minister Monti now faces:

Monti, a former European Union competition commissioner, struggled to get political parties to agree to participate in his so-called technical Cabinet during talks in Rome yesterday. A government lacking political representation will find it harder to muster support from the parties in parliament to pass unpopular laws. Monti said he’ll conclude his talks today.

I guess what many market participants who bought the Greek and Italian leadership changes late last week failed to properly price is what does this new level of uncertainty bring to debt and equity markets that are desperately seeking some stability?

Yesterday’s sell off in the SPX was anything but scary as the market traded on fumes in one of the lowest volume days in a long while.   The weakness never felt like it had a chance to get sloppy like last Wednesday and in some ways was almost healthy given Thursday and Fridays melt up.

The news flow over here this morning continues to be ok with Retail Sales and New York Manufacturing coming in better than expected as inflationary data was milder than expected.  The S&P futures which were down a little more than 1% about an hour ago in sympathy with European have now halved those losses and will be looking for some leadership on the opening….Leadership has been hard to come by of late as the banks can’t seem to get out of their own way and some large Tech like AAPL seem to be for sale.   Lots of retail earnings out this week;  HD beat and raised this morning with the stock trading up 2% in the pre-market but this is on the heals of a solid report out of competitor LOW yesterday and should not have come as a surprise.  On the flip side WMT is trading down 2% in the pre-market, as the company missed earnings on weaker than expected gross margins.  Both stocks have outperformed the broader market this yr about about 9% and both are up at least 22% from the August lows.  I am not sure this will be the sector that will continue to lead the market as a tight consumer may be the merging theme as we get closer to the holiday selling season.

As for today, I think you want to be careful not to press the down opening on the short side, but if you must, as I probably will, wait for a rally to lay them out.  European leaders seem to be back towards their clueless-ness and as we get closer to our super-committee deadline for budget cuts Nov 23rd, we could see a market that doesn’t know which way is up.

So I remain cautious and defensive, I just don’t see the risk reward on the long-side of the market, but clearly recognize the need for many market participants to want this thing to close higher than current levels at year end.  I think any extreme weakness in the coming week or so before Thanksgiving will be met with buyers in an effort to keep the markets within a few % points of unchanged on the year.  That way as we head into a holiday shortened month of December they have a good shot of ripping them back towards the previous highs.


MorningWord: 11/14/11:  Just when you thought our markets could once again focus on stuff like our own economy and corporate earnings, Italy has to go and try to sell some Treasury’s to fund itself.  The 5 yr auction this morning  with “yields at 6.29 percent, the highest since June 1997 and up from 5.32 percent at the last auction on Oct. 13.”   So even with a new Italian govt in the process of being re-organized, the credit markets are telling investors that they don’t care.  The Euro is down 80bps and most European equity indices are down betwn 1/2% and 1% (the DAX though is down about 1.7% from the opening highs).

This past Thursday and Friday saw a fairly impressive rally, albeit one on low volume, which recaptured much of Wednesday’s losses……Our markets appear to be in a bit of a holding pattern between 1220 and 1270 in the SPX and they clearly want to go higher…….The closer we get to next week’s holiday shortened week the more likely we are to see low volume spikes higher like we did Friday while the bond market is closed…….Make no mistake about it most institutional money mangers share the same self interest to push this thing higher into year end and this is not a battle you want to fight from the short side.  Everyone and their mother prefers equities to go up and when you consider the massive under-performance by most mutual fund and hedge fund managers in a volatile yr like we have seem, the path of least resistance at this point is up in an effort to mark their current positions so their performance looks “less bad”.

So my healthy dose of caution as it relates to most late year rallies has to do with my long standing belief that it is a fairly rigged game.  I continue to short opening gaps higher with tight stops, and I will continue to look to short over extended single names.  So while I think from a seasonal standpoint, the market points higher between now and Xmas, I think the hard trade is to try to short rallies.  As long as there remains an uncertain solution to the Euro debt crisis, I will continue to lean short….at some point I may through in the towel and buy names like AMZN and AAPL for beta moves into holiday selling season.  I’ll be sure to let u know when that happens.