Securities Research Services

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sentiment Readings Near Dangerous Levels

Today is the last trading day of the quarter and it serves the interests of fund managers for this day to close near current levels for the purpose of their reporting to investors. Of course it's irrational to use benchmarks, such as new all time highs for the Dow, to measure real investment performance. Nevertheless, headlines attract investment dollars into the market and keep the investors happy. Interestingly enough, scans show very little that would attract us into buying this market. Most of the movement in the indices over the past few weeks has been accomplished by large companies, such as Microsoft and Oracle, doing most of the heavy lifting. In fact, it is into the large float blue chip stocks that most money has been flowing. If institutions are worried about a breakdown in the trend, the safest place they can put their money to work – and remember, they must put their money to work by quarter end as the requirements of most funds are that the managers be fully invested as the quarter expires – is into stocks that offer enough volume to allow them a quick and relatively painless retreat once things start to slide. Yesterday the market held its highs in what we would consider a consolidation pattern. Major indices – in particular the Dow and S&P – seem to be gearing up for a spike higher. It is our opinion that the spike higher will attract sellers, but today at least there is a better than even chance the blue chips will close out the quarter on a high note. Several sentiment readings put traders at over 90% bullish levels, the highest they have been since right before the 2001 market collapse. While the market may look good after today's session, unless you are daytrading this is certainly not the time to be going long the market.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Selling Tech

The Dow made a new high yesterday, causing the media to turn on their hype machine, which finally convinced the crowds to buy this rally as measured by the OEX options pit, which sold nearly 3 call options on the S&P 500 to every put. This is where smart money wants the crowds. Smart money has been unloading into this rally as we showed yesterday. With the crowds finally reaching levels of exuberance, now smart money is able to short heavily into the euphoria without creating too much of a panic. The blue chips may have another day or two or even three to rally or at least maintain their highs. The QQQQ on the other hand, has lagged and is now primed for a top. Note the rising wedge pattern that has confined this rally over recent weeks. Yesterday the price bounced off overhead resistance, but found weak late day buying. Today, now that the crowds have had a chance to go home and watch the news and read their journals, they may be in an early buying mood today. This could theoretically push the QQQQ up to or even above $41. There we would look for sellers to step in heavily. For the second week in a row the SMH has been rejected at $35. Yesterday's hard reversal and failure to bounce at the end of the day even as the broader market recovered somewhat, is the canary in the mine that has stopped singing. This sector is the leading indicator for the broader tech sector and this sector tells us that tech is weak. Tops take time to form, but while the blue chips are working out their top, we suspect that, like the last top in April the QQQQ will start to come down early.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Time for Caution

In August, right before the market began to rally, we ignored an important buy signal in lieu of chart and volume patterns, which indicated more downside. Because we ignored this signal, we were caught on the wrong side of the trade. Now, interestingly enough, we are getting the same signal, only this time in reverse. NASDAQ 100 emini Sell Signal: At the beginning of August, futures markets for the NASDAQ 100 emini contract showed a breakout in money flow, which preceded the breakout stocks. Now the same contract has a money flow indicator that reveals smart money selling into the current rally.

Also note the important break in the uptrend line yesterday, even as QQQQ shares traded higher. Adding insult to injury, the S&P 500 made a new 5-year high yesterday, while the NASDAQ lagged significantly. This type of bearish divergence has preceded each failed rally for several years now. Gaming Window Dressers: End of month window dressing has been increasingly gamed by traders who have learned the pattern. Not that long ago window dressing would result in rallies which took place during the last three days of the month, and sometimes extended into the first two trading days of the following month. Now, however, traders have been taking advantage of the rallies and selling into them during the later days, causing the rallies to start to fizzle during the last day or two of the month. If this pattern persists, it means that today should market the last day where window dressing is able to push the market higher. S&P Rising Wedge: One of the most bearish of all rally patterns is the rising wedge, a pattern we have highlighted several times over the past few weeks in the S&P 500 index. We have hypothesized that before this wedge gives way to selling, a strong upside breakout would occur in order to draw in bag holders. Yesterday we got the initial move of just such a breakout, as can be seen below.

Window dressing may take this breakout up another day, perhaps two, but we argue that this breakout is very likely a bull trap, which will fail only to send the index tumbling back down to July lows during the month of October. Of course this last point is only speculation, but the rising wedge pattern is fairly predictable and given the divergence with the NASDAQ, the emini sell signal, and the fact that the 4-year Cycle low has not yet exerted its pressure, we think there are some pretty good reasons to take a seriously defensive posture starting this week. Once current buyers walk away and sellers are left without competition, this market can come down fast.

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Time for Caution

In August, right before the market began to rally, we ignored an important buy signal in lieu of chart and volume patterns, which indicated more downside. Because we ignored this signal, we were caught on the wrong side of the trade. Now, interestingly enough, we are getting the same signal, only this time in reverse. NASDAQ 100 emini Sell Signal: At the beginning of August, futures markets for the NASDAQ 100 emini contract showed a breakout in money flow, which preceded the breakout stocks. Now the same contract has a money flow indicator that reveals smart money selling into the current rally.

Also note the important break in the uptrend line yesterday, even as QQQQ shares traded higher. Adding insult to injury, the S&P 500 made a new 5-year high yesterday, while the NASDAQ lagged significantly. This type of bearish divergence has preceded each failed rally for several years now. Gaming Window Dressers: End of month window dressing has been increasingly gamed by traders who have learned the pattern. Not that long ago window dressing would result in rallies which took place during the last three days of the month, and sometimes extended into the first two trading days of the following month. Now, however, traders have been taking advantage of the rallies and selling into them during the later days, causing the rallies to start to fizzle during the last day or two of the month. If this pattern persists, it means that today should market the last day where window dressing is able to push the market higher. S&P Rising Wedge: One of the most bearish of all rally patterns is the rising wedge, a pattern we have highlighted several times over the past few weeks in the S&P 500 index. We have hypothesized that before this wedge gives way to selling, a strong upside breakout would occur in order to draw in bag holders. Yesterday we got the initial move of just such a breakout, as can be seen below.

Window dressing may take this breakout up another day, perhaps two, but we argue that this breakout is very likely a bull trap, which will fail only to send the index tumbling back down to July lows during the month of October. Of course this last point is only speculation, but the rising wedge pattern is fairly predictable and given the divergence with the NASDAQ, the emini sell signal, and the fact that the 4-year Cycle low has not yet exerted its pressure, we think there are some pretty good reasons to take a seriously defensive posture starting this week. Once current buyers walk away and sellers are left without competition, this market can come down fast.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

As Long as Everyone is Bearish, This Rise Will Continue

A few days ago we used the analogy of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf in relation to the market's uptrend. We pointed out that as long as the market participants continue to try and time the top by buying puts into the rallies, the market would keep on climbing the wall of worry. Each time the market rallies higher, these shorts are required to cover their short positions at their stop loss points. Covering shorts drive the market ever higher. Eventually they will learn the market's lesson and stop shorting the rallies. When this finally occurs, the market, which has been crying wolf, will then reverse. The time is not yet considering that 2-1 puts were purchased against calls yesterday. This market could be headed for a blow off top this week, which will hopefully finally convince the bears to turn bullish. When they do, we can get the correction that we admit we have been way to anticipatory of. Much of the current strength can be explained by end of the month window dressing. Later in the week it is likely that this will be faded and we could see a quick reversal that at least does the job of shaking out the bulls. We are likely to see higher prices before that occurs though.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Window Dressing Should Prop Up Weak Market

With indices overbought and near extreme resistance levels it is getting too late to buy, bar for a few specific issues. Likewise, now that we are entering the last week of the month, fund window dressing (an illegal, but oft performed activity) should make life difficult for the shorts. As we move into October, the chances for a larger correction increase. The semiconductors have already likely seen their top as can be seen in the weekly view of the SMH below. Note the inability of this ETF to make it over resistance at $34 over the past four weeks. Each attempt has been met with stiff selling. Why is this index important? If you recall, it led the way up in this oversold rally that is now showing signs of aging. There remains potential for the S&P to test its highs this week. We will be surprised, but not completely shocked, if the QQQQ is able to also test its highs. We would use late week strength to look for short positions. Finally, for those feeling a twitch of concern at our market outlook, consider that after a corrective retracement, the probabilities for a strong late year rally are very good.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Market Cracks Some More

Profit taking yesterday and a continued divergence between big caps and the small caps and semiconductors shows that the cracks in this trend are increasing. We won't call it a top unless we see the S&P 500 break below 1310 though. Don't forget, we are nearing the end of the month where buying usually picks up.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

SMH Fails to Make a New High

The tech sector had in fact not made a top as yesterday provided. The market did prove to utilize the bear trap as we predicted it would. Longs have been extremely aggressive in this market. This does not mean that we are closer to a true break out than we are of a more serious correction. The first crack in the trend is the fact that the QQQQ made a new high, but the semiconductors (original leaders of this rally) did not confirm. The QQQQ is making new highs on the sudden enthusiasm in the old guard stocks ORCL, MSFT, and CSCO; all of which are extremely extended and nearing resistance

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Monday's Scenario Still In Play

Yahoo sneezed yesterday, traders dumped their positions in panic, and the options market was stormed with orders for put contracts. What does it all mean? That the bear trap has been set and that the top is probably not yet in place. In order for this bear market rally to top the market first has to teach the crowd to lean the wrong way so that it can catch them in a "hold and hope" situation as their positions slowly erode. In order for the market to teach the crowd this perverse lesson, it has to cry wolf a few times (referring to the story of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf). Yesterday, we believe, the market cried wolf yet again. If the market rallies higher from here, stopping bears out of their positions once again, they will likely have learned the lesson that the market is trying to teach: that is, if you short me again, I will burn you again. But alas, once that lesson is learned and the crowd learns to be afraid of the short trade, then the market will get what it wants: a downtrend with as few people on board as possible. In fact, this plays out well with the scenario we drew on Monday. The S&P has now pulled back near support. A reversal here and a new high would catch the most people unaware and the market always takes the path that catches the most people off guard. A push higher from here would very likely get a lot of people bullish and would allow smart money to make their final distributions. The crowd will then very likely hold those positions they bought here at the top all the way down to this summer's lows. If the market then takes out those lows, those who held and hoped from the top will very likely release their shares at much lower prices to the same smart money crowd who sold to them at the top. This is why we say that the market has a perverse nature. Bottom line: We will be eyeing carefully any strength as we enter the end of the month for shorting opportunities. And, should the four year cycle low take the market back down to this summer's lows, we will start looking carefully at weakness for good long opportunities. The tech sector remains weak here and may have already put in its top.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Buyers Still in Control/Tech May Have a Top

The QQQQ left a doji and the semiconductor sector tailed off at the top yesterday as profit takers nervous about giving up gains kept the tech sector from extending its gains. It looks unlikely that the tech sector indices will be able to mount any further gains from here without first correcting. The S&P and Dow are in sideways corrections, so the scenario we drew yesterday, which indicated a dip, then a rally, then a sell off, may actually skip the "dip" stage as oversold pressure is worked off in a sideways pattern. Nevertheless, there should be some good long and short side trades that last through the end of the month.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Support Test Coming Up

Friday's high volume gap up on the NASDAQ marked what is likely a near term top. Over the next few days we are likely to see indices work their way lower back to support levels. Currently the QQQQ has support at $39 and the SPY at $131. We will be operating under the thesis that the market will bounce from support as the crowd once again becomes too quickly bearish. The following bounce then should take early bears out of their positions as the S&P tests overhead resistance. From there, however, we should see the larger 4-year cycle reassert itself (see SPY chart below). On September 5 we outlined five reasons why we were expecting the market to return to this last summer's lows before it provides a true longer term buying opportunity. We were a bit early in our analysis at the time, but those reasons remain valid and by October they should assert themselves on the market. The QQQQ set up is a little more unclear as it has shown good relative strength lately. The bottom line: We are seeing some good long set ups at this time that should continue higher over the next couple of weeks. As we enter October the market becomes more vulnerable to a larger correction. Should the above scenario play out like it looks like it might, the return to the summer lows will provide an excellent long term buying opportunity. Participants are likely to be extremely bearish at that point and those who play it cautious as the market makes its top here will be in great shape to capitalize at very good prices indeed.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Watching and Waiting

Today is triple witching options expiration, which is accompanied by several economic reports that are being looked to with anticipation. We will withhold comments today and wait to see how the market responds. Remember, it is not important what the news is, but how the market responds to that news that is key. Take a breather today and don't open new positions.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pavlov's Lesson

Over the past 18 or so months the market has become increasingly less volatile as upside breakouts have been stymied by sell programs and downside breakdowns failed to gain momentum. This period of time has trained trades, including admittedly us, to distrust large market moves and to bet firmly against them. This "lesson" the market has been teaching is very much like the stimuli that Pavlov used to train his dogs. This pavlovian response caused a lot of people to distrust this rally and as such the rally scaled a wall of worry unlike one we have seen in quite some time. Up until yesterday, puts were purchased on every dip causing subsequent covering to drive the prices higher and higher. Even so, we need to be careful here as the market is very close to reaching that point of recognition which will cause the tables to turn. As mentioned yesterday, the rally on Tuesday quite likely pushed back the expected correction another couple of weeks. This is not the time to lose our heads. That said, the market internals have been quite good over the past couple of days as breadth has improved immensely and stocks making new highs continues to grow. There should be some long side plays as long as good trailing stops are used to protect against any downside. For the time being, we are going to abstain from any further predictions and stick with what is right in front of us. We are also going to try and take a bit more risk since being too conservative has kept us from participating in this rally. What is in front of us today are a few decent long side set ups. Will they follow through? It's likely, but who knows for how long?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bulls Refuse to Give Up

After a weak rally built on poor volume and breadth, volume followed through yesterday and breadth turned utterly bullish as fund managers worried that they had missed the bottom for the year piled in. The head and shoulders pattern that the QQQQ had been putting together was denied after the index sliced through its 200-day average and closed at a new near term high. We continue to believe that the market is very vulnerable for a correction. However, yesterday's rally (based on dropping oil prices and speculation that the economy is due for a soft, rather than hard landing next year) very likely pushes back the expected correction toward the end of the month or even as late as early October. We are looking for the QQQQ to drift lower toward Friday's options expiration as options sellers "park the car" into maximum pain prices. Maximum pain for the QQQQ is $39 this month. The bottom line here is that you can't argue with the market. Has this rally been built on a poor foundation? Yes. Is it possible that yesterday's strong rally occurred based on spurious reasons? Yes. Can the market continue to rally higher than seems reasonable? Yes. Will it eventually correct and come back to build a better base? Yes.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Watching Tech's Head and Shoulders

We are doing our best to stay objective here and look for the bullish case to balance out our current bearish outlook. It's not easy to do however when even after two up days in a row now scans do not produce any long side set ups that don't scream "Risk!" The big story yesterday was the huge follow through lower in the commodities sectors. Oil stocks crashed through support levels on their double top patterns and the metals crushed their last line of support on heavy, heavy volume. This led to what could possibly be a rotation into the tech sector, but if so, it begs a question. If money that is rolling out of commodities is moving into tech, why did tech only experience a weak rally yesterday that was turned back at right shoulder resistance of the head and shoulders patterns we pointed out in yesterday's report? There is a huge amount of money leaving commodities and yet breadth was only slightly positive in the tech sector yesterday and it was negative in the blue chips (more stocks were down in the S&P than were up). All these negatives we keep harping about lately do not mean that the market cannot go up from here. They do probably mean that any upside move is likely to get knocked back down hard though. As mentioned, yesterday's upside move fits in well with the thesis that tech is trading in a head and shoulders formation. Any follow through higher today that sticks into the close would negate this hypothesis. What is very clear is the fact that things are just not real clear in the broader market and with options expiring Friday, it's difficult to trust this market. With so many unknowns, it's better to stay with open shorts and wait in cash with the rest of your money. Note: we would like to get short more commodities. If the sector can experience an oversold bounce here it will be worth looking for entry points. If it just keeps heading lower, we will likely have missed a speeding train lower.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Three Potential QQQQ Scenarios

Options expire this week, but bulls and bears are fairly even, so hopefully undue volatility will be held to a minimum. On Friday the market bounced, but it looked to be more of a corrective move off of the overly bearish sentiment that was building since the market reversed last Wednesday. At this point, the QQQQ could be building one of two patterns: Head and Shoulders top (bearish)

If this is indeed the case, we should see the price bounce around between $38.00-$38.70 through options expiration, and then potentially break lower. Cup and Handle (bullish)

If, however, the QQQQ is forming a bullish cup and handle pattern, we might see the price move back to fill the gap at $37.70, only to reverse and then potentially break higher. The third scenario could be that the market is done pulling back and prices will follow through higher from Friday's rally. Technically this should not happen, but as we found out a few weeks ago, you can't apply logic to the market's actions; it sometimes just goes where it reasonably should not.

Friday, September 08, 2006

No Advantages to Forcing a Trade

With the S&P now breaking the lower support line on the bearish rising wedge pattern, the path of least resistance is now down. As we mentioned yesterday, however, there are too many bears out there to get much downside momentum started. We saw this play out yesterday as dip buyers stepped in, probably in response to ultra bearish sentiment, and kept a bottom under the market. The QQQQ tried to rally yesterday, but sold off in the late day, indicating that sellers are in charge, even though sentiment is giving some support. Drilling down to our scans, though, we find a very neutral near term picture. Reading the indices, we need to keep a bearish bias until we have a better reason not to. At the same time, we struggled to find anything that constituted anything close to a reliable trade set up on either the long or short side. When stocks are not setting up, it is always best to go to the sidelines and wait for better developments. There is no better way to lose money in the market than by forcing a trade. Days like today are best traded only by day traders. Days like today are usually short-lived and those who are patient and keep some cash on the sidelines waiting to act are quickly rewarded as better set ups emerge in their wake.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Stay Patient, Sentiment Will Swing Again

Yesterday the QQQQ (NASDAQ 100) left a strong sell signal as it failed at major resistance. On the chart below, the green line represents the 200-day average. On Tuesday the price closed strongly above this line, which we described yesterday as a temporary head-fake move designed to entice enthusiastic longs to buy more shares. Yesterday's gap back down and subsequent strong volume sell off confirmed our theory. The tech sector will probably bounce from yesterday's lows, but now any rally attempts are very likely to get stuck in the mud and prices will begin working their way lower; frustrating any hopeful longs who buy the dips. The SPY (S&P 500) moved down to support yesterday, but it has not yet provided a sell signal. Money flow perked up at the end of the day indicating that smart money has not yet determined that the rally is completely played out. There are just too many retail traders who have quickly jumped to the bear camp after yesterday's weakness. The market's perverse nature is likely to frustrate put option buyers by failing to provide immediate gratification. If the SPY can break below the blue uptrend line it closed at yesterday, it will signal a sell.

Right now we wouldn't be surprised to see the blue chips retest the highs. Should the S&P turn quickly around here and move back up to 1325, which we outlined yesterday as a magnet price for this index, those who turned bearish so quickly yesterday will very likely get bullish very quickly. The bottom line is that tops take a while to carve out. We expect to see some good shorting opportunities in tech over the next trading day or two. What we are going to be looking for is a bearish divergence between tech stocks and blue chips. If the S&P can indeed retest its highs, but the NASDAQ and semiconductors can only manage a weak bounce, we will aggressively short tech. If on the other hand the S&P is so weak that it can't hold support, there will be a number of breakdown plays, which should also provide shorting opportunities. Go long today if you are day trading, but don't look for any sustainable rallies to develop from here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Be Careful Here

The S&P is just about back at formidable resistance (1325). This area will likely act like a magnet as bulls seek to drive prices higher, keeping bears off balanced. The QQQQ temporarily regained its 200-day average, but with the semiconductors still struggling, it is unlikely that this index will be able to surmount much more of a gain from here. This is especially true with the bond markets struggling. Right now it is best to sit on your hands if you have the urge to go long. The prospects for any meaningful price gains from here are poor. Shorts should start nibbling on positions as the S&P closes in on 1320-1325.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What September May Hold

Today large money managers return from vacation in droves after spending the hot months of August in their vacation homes. Below we are listing our reasons for why we believe the institutions will unload their positions in September and why we believe that an excellent buying opportunity is coming later in the month. So, if you missed the latest rally out of distrust like we did, never fear, there will be a second and better chance to participate at perhaps even cheaper prices. Reasons we are looking for a decline from here: 1. During the last two weeks of August the market rallied, but on decreasing volume. The QQQQ rallied right into its broken 200-day average. Take a look at the volume patterns during the decline from April and the late summer rally. Note the increase in sellers on the way down and the decrease in buyers on the way back up.

2. Likewise, the S&P 500 and Dow have rallied back to their April failure points. However, note the notable decrease in stocks making new highs during the latest rally (the yellow bars represent stocks making new highs, while the blue line represents the S&P price levels). This is a very strong bearish divergence, which makes a breakout to new highs very unlikely.

3. September has traditionally been the worst month of the year. This September the market is facing an additional seasonal factor, the reliable 4-year cycle. Longs have thus far done a great job at shaking out early shorts from their positions, which is generally what happens right before a large market move. 4. Overly bearishness has given way to overly bullishness. Last week Baron's magazine was cheering on the market as it approaches new highs. Money managers have a perfect opportunity to book profits into the crowd's enthusiasm. 5. Market volatility levels are back near all-time lows; another measure of the crowd's complacency as the market moves back up to test its highs. Bull markets climb walls of worry, and there is just not enough worry to move the market through the ceiling. Summary: Given the fact that the market has rallied for two weeks on low volume, that fewer and fewer stocks are making new highs even as the indices are nearing their highs, and now that the crowd is getting excited, it's a good time for the 4-year cycle to reassert itself. Outlook: Not all is bleak. Tech has shown some excellent relative strength and there are murmurings now that the Fed will once again start lowering rates to stave off an impending recession next year. The bond market has been behaving in such a way as to indicate this is true. September could be an ugly month for the bulls, but if the market is able to move back down to its June and July lows, we will be buying madly as this will mark a clear opportunity to take advantage of what is shaping up to be a strong rally in coming months. If you are worried about the market, make sure you are not mixing up your time frames. The outlook is pretty bearish directly ahead, but not so many weeks out in front, the outlook becomes much more bullish. Today: As we mentioned, the financial magazines and the crowds are fairly bullish after last week's strong close. The S&P looks like it wants to make a run back at its May highs. Meanwhile, money managers are going to come back looking to book profits made by their assistance and programs over the past few weeks. Early week enthusiasm then makes for a very nice opportunity to sell into strength. For the reasons we outlined in today's report, any further strength is not to be trusted.