Tuesday, January 31

Trading and Innovation

Trading is a boom industry. Here are the graphs of some of the more interesting publicly traded trading related companies in the United States.

Look at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, CME. After forming an eight week base on top of a long run up, it still has the strength to break out to new highs above $400.

The Chicago Board of Trade, BOT, an IPO from last year is also doing well. The quick money is gone. It may now be in stronger hands and under accumulation. Yahoo Finance shows that The Vanguard group is the only significant holder but a few other big funds have started to take positions at the end of last year.

Both the Arca Exchange, AX, and the Nasdaq, NDAQ, have shown big volume rallies off of their moving average supports with similar chart patterns.

AX of course owns the Pacific Exchange and is merging with the NYSE.

Do you want a link to most of the exchanges around the world? I found a pretty good one here.

This stodgy old industry is becoming more dynamic as new technology forces its way in, and those who refuse to innovate, get bought out or die.

Competition from abroad forces regulatory changes in the United States and elsewhere that never would have occured without it. Those who benefited from the lack of competition in the past would have watched their order flow dwindle down to a trickle.

The Self Regulated Organization, SRO, model is a failure. A P&L is crucial in decision making. It forces institutions to serve real people, and rewards the best for doing so efficiently.

This is an industry that is slowly being released from its bureaucratic bondage, into a world where it has more to gain from tech innovation than any other. These firms will come to realize that they are nothing more than networks.

An exchange used to be defined by its location. But no longer. The concept of an exchange is being released from its earthly location. If the Pacific exchange abandons it's trading floor in San Francisco and goes virtual with all of its market makers participating electronically, is it still the PCX? The customer may not even notice a change.

...and you are holding IBM in your IRA?


Monday, January 30

Time's Up

According to the Stock Trader's Almanac, the end of January signals the end of the best three months of the year for stocks. The average gain for the Nasdaq since January, 1971 is 3.7%.

For the S&P 500, the probability of an up day today is about 67%, but tomorrow is historically one of the best trading days of the year with the probability of an up day at 81%.

It also happens to be the day of the FOMC meeting.

Bernanke's coming, look busy.

Saturday, January 28

Half-Point Rate Increase from the Bernanke Fed?

Jim Otis over at Prudentbear.com speculates on one rate manipulation strategy for new Fed Czar Bernanke.
As an exercise for the students, compare and contrast the results from raising a boring quarter point now and another quarter point at the next meeting, versus a bold half point increase now and no increase at the next meeting. The following Fed meetings will show the timing value of a sharp increase in rates now. By then, the media will talk about little more than the dreaded deflation toward which our economy is surely falling, and the Fed will be able to cut rates by a half point at each of the next few meetings to protect us from the dastardly deflation fate which would otherwise crush our economy (despite the contrary evidence offered by energy and metals prices which will be setting new record highs). Those sharp rate cuts over the spring and summer, combined with the ever increasing M3 money supply which will no longer be published, will have our economy running at full speed again by late fall, and will push stock prices to record highs. Coincidentally, that will put voters in a good mood by November.

If you were the new head of the Fed how would you play it?

Tuesday, January 24

GM, Kerkorian Outed by Matias

In my last post I noted that GM showed unusual strength on that big down day on Friday. Evidently much of that strength was due to Kirk Kerkorian's stealthy accumulation of More GM shares on the cheap, raising his stake to 10% of the company.

Kerkorian, rumored to be a dedicated reader of this blog, The Moon and the Sixpence, realized he'd been outed and decided to go public with his activities.

Note the last three bars (elongated) are the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday just past. Friday, which on most other stock charts is a big red slash, is an almost nonexistent dot on GM's chart.

Why is he buying again?
His latest move may indicate he believes GM is listening to his ideas for improving the company. In a speech to Wall Street analysts this month, Kerkorian's top aide Jerome York called on GM to cut its annual dividend in half and set profitability goals and a timetable for achieving them.

York said Kerkorian was interested in buying more GM shares and was optimistic about its recovery efforts, but he said it was time for GM to get into a "crisis mode."

GM just broke it's intermediate term downtrend. The company will report quarterly and full year results today.

Sunday, January 22

Dow Check

Here are the graphs for most of the Dow stocks.

Of the bunch, McDonalds is the only one that had a strong up day on Friday, when most of the market got whacked.

T, Pfizer and Merck showed mild relative strength. And surprise surprise, GM may be forming a bottom while no one else is paying attention.

Nasdaq Check

With the QQQQ as a proxy, on a 3-year chart showing strong support at $40. Let it come in, then if the market action starts to look better, get long.

Friday, January 20

INGR Closing

We are short the Jan 45-50 put spread which means we are short the 50 puts and long the 45 puts. On expiration both will go to parity at the end of the trading day. Since the stock is around $49.50, parity for the 50 puts is 50 cents, and for the 45 puts zero.

All we really need to do is buy back the short 50s before the close.

Assuming that the market will be neutral, the stock should be drawn to $50 a share intraday and when it is, those 50 puts will have little value--their price will drop. So when the stock makes a run up through fifty, we should buy them back. Going into the morning let's keep a 20 cent bid in mind. But unless the stock runs up big, we will buy them back by the close.

To remind you, the opening trade was selling this put spread for $1.90. Let's see how well we do closing it.

Thursday, January 12

AAPL legging Out

Apple, we'll be an $.85 bid on our Jan 80 puts to close. If it trades, we'll still be long the Jan 75 puts from the spread we sold on Monday.

Quick Charts; Oil and Exchanges

Here are a few good oil related stocks and exchange and trading related stocks. We'll need them in the future.

Wednesday, January 11


Just as I thought, the stock tried to punch through the $40 mark, as you can see on this intraday chart, but failed and closed down.

Fortunately we had a $5.80 offer out on the Jan 35 calls which got taken out on the stock's run up, and we then closed out the other part of our vertical, the short Jan 40 calls, to close.

Bought for $1.50, sold for $3.60.

$210 profit per spread on the initial $150 investment.

CMED, Legging out

We paid $1.50 for the CMED Jan 35-40 call spread--buying the Jan 35 calls and selling the Jan 40 calls--and since the stock has met our expectations we are looking to get out as the stock hits a ceiling at $40.

But CMED presents a problem common to stocks with illiquid options markets; the bid-ask spread is wide and we don't want to give that much money away.

On tuesday the stock closed at $39.41, and the Jan 35 calls, the part of our spread that we are long, was $4.60 bid, at $5.40--$.80 wide. Too wide.

We'll put out an offer to sell this Jan 35 call at $5.80 and see what happens. Why?

If the rest of the market is neutral we can bet that CMED will make another attempt at crossing above $40, even if it does not close above it. When it does make the run, those Jan 35 calls, which are deep in the money, will move up almost as much as the stock itself.

So if the stock moves up the required $.60 to hit the $40 mark, the calls should move up, let's say $.50. The $5.40 offer on the exchanges will rise to $5.90 uncovering our offer at $5.80--and we will become the best one; the next to sell to those momentum call buyers.

Even if the professionals keep lowering their offer to remain the best one, the stock may continue to rise and they will be forced to fade and maybe buy our call themselves in order to get us out of their hair.

Once we sell the 35 call we can pay the offer on the Jan 40 call or work out of it, and we will be out of the spread.

In the real world you can react to the market in real time, but it is always good to go into the trading day with a plan. As old Gomp used to say "ya've gotta have a plan". Of course that always included a sixer of King Cobra...

Saturday, January 7

STJ Missed

Do you like apples?

Well I turned around and wasn't paying attention to STJ for a few days while it came back in to $50 and support at its 50-day moving average and so I missed my chance to sell the Feb 50-55 put spread for fat cash how do you like them apples?

AAPL Trade

AAPL Jan 75-80 put spread let's hypothetically sell it at a $3.20 limit. If the stock comes in closer to $75 during the day (mon.) it might get taken. The stock should find support @ $75 after it broke through and closed above resistance there.

As we've noted before, vertical spreads have a limited profit and a limited loss. To sell a Jan 75-80 put spread, you have to sell a Jan 80 put and buy a Jan 75 put. The difference between the two prices is what the spread trades for, if we sell it, someone else buys it.

Then net amount of money goes into our trading account and sits there until we close out the trade by buying the same spread back. Hopefully for a lot less than we sell it for if our offer gets taken.

Stay tuned...

Friday, January 6

China Shifting Away from the Dollar?

If so, the dollar gets weak and long term bond yields rise.
Economists estimate that more that 70 per cent of the reserves are invested in US dollar assets, which has helped to sustain the recent large US deficits. If China were to stop acquiring such a large proportion of dollars with its reserves - currently accumulating at about $15bn (EU12.4bn) a month - it could put heavy downward pressure on the greenback.

Goods imported to the U.S. will themselves become more expensive, and will no longer have as much of a dampening effect on domestic prices here, paving the way for a "surprising" uptick in future CPI numbers, including the phony "core" rate of inflation.
However, according to Stephen Green, economist for Standard Chartered in Shanghai, although the language was "vague", Thursday's statement was the first time Safe has publicly indicated a shift away from dollar assets.

"It is a subtle but clear signal that they are interested in moving away from the US dollar into other currencies, and are interested in setting up some kind of strategic commodity fund, maybe just for oil, but maybe for other commodities," he said.

And their appetite for commodities from around the world will continue to grow. Thanks to prudentbear.com for the pointer.

Thursday, January 5

Under the Skin, All Central Banks are Alike

On the Prudence of China's central bank, again from Bloomberg.com:
"The People's Bank of China plans to restrict growth in M2, the broadest measure of money supply, to 16 percent this year, the central bank said on its Web site, citing an annual working conference held yesterday."

And Citigroup's best chimes in...
``The M2 target is in line with the aim of having a healthy and stable policy,'' said Huang Yiping, Citigroup Inc.'s Hong Kong-based chief Asia economist.

He makes it sound so easy...
``The M2 target is in line with the aim of having a healthy and stable policy,'' said Huang Yiping, Citigroup Inc.'s Hong Kong-based chief Asia economist. ``We aren't expecting any big tightening moves until inflation picks up and becomes a risk.''

China's consumer prices rose 1.3 percent from a year earlier in November, compared with a 1.2 percent gain in October. Inflation has eased from a high of 5.3 percent in July and August 2004 after the government clamped down on bank lending to industries such as steel and real estate.

It will be fun to watch all of this unfold.

No Inflation Here

"Inflation? What inflation? Didn't we tell you the core CPI was low--nothin' you needed to worry about?"

Yeah, sure.

Another piece by Bloomberg (Commodities rise to Record...) in the growing body of evidence, that in spite of the 13 headline-capturing rate hikes by the Fed, it has actually been a prolonged period of easy money.

The core rate of inflation is only two percent, you say? Man, you are well trained!

From a story over at the Financial Times (FT.com), metals prices continue to surge.

More to follow...

Wednesday, January 4

AAPL, Bite It?

While it's better to wait until a stock is trading near it's 50 day MA and basing for six to eight weeks, watch AAPL if it closes above $75 on strong volume. You may get paid off for taking a bite.

Go East Young Man

Think the U.S. is the leading growth market for retail equity derivatives? Think again. Think kimchi and...well, read on at FT.com.

Is the Alleged Tight-Money policy Over?

From Bloomberg:
The number of rate increases needed to control inflation ``probably would not be large,'' yesterday's minutes from the Fed's December policy meeting showed. The ``measured'' phrasing was retained to avoid any suggestion of bigger rate increases, the central bank said.

No wonder they want to get rid of M3, managing 'inflationary expectations' is half the fun of it.