Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Will Historic Returns => Additional Gains?

Monday Morning Outlook: Will Historic Returns Give Way To Additional Gains?
Can The S&P 500 Index Extend Its Historic 5-Day, 12-Percent Rally?

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By Todd Salamone, schaeffersresearch | 1 December 2008

Today's in-depth look at the week ahead begins with a recap of last week's historic 5-day gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, despite the Thursday Thanksgiving holiday. Next, Schaeffer's Senior Vice President of Research Todd Salamone looks at the potential for solid market returns following the S&P 500 Index's (SPX) impressive 12% rally. Joe Sunderman, Vice President of Financial Market Analytics, dives into the Nova/Ursa ratio, and why you should keep a close eye on this sentiment indicator. Finally, we wrap up with a look at some key economic and earnings reports slated for release this week.

Recap of the Previous Week: The Dow Jones Industrial Average Posts Best 5-Day Point Gain Ever
By Joseph Hargett, Senior Equities Analyst

Last week was one for the record books for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). Despite the shortened-holiday week, the Dow gained 1,277 points, or 17%, in just 5 sessions, marking its best 5-day percentage gain since 1932, and its best 5-day point gain on record. The venerable average kicked last week off with a bang, rallying 396 points, or 4.93%, after word hit the Street that the U.S. government would bailout Citigroup (C), thus dodging another Lehman Brothers-style collapse.

Tuesday's gain amounted to just 36 points for the Dow, but it kept the streak alive despite a downwardly revised third-quarter gross domestic product and news that the Federal Reserve would buy up to $600 billion in mortgage-backed securities. Traders regained their footing on Wednesday, as the Dow jumped 247 points, or 2.91%, heading into the Thanksgiving day break. The rally wasn't easy, however, as traders fought their way past the sharpest drop in consumer spending since September 2001, the fastest contraction in durable-goods orders in 2 years, and a 25-year high in the 4-week moving average of initial jobless claims. Wall Street was "closed" on Thursday for the holiday, but traders returned with sated appetites on Friday.

Despite anxiety over a potentially weak showing for Black Friday, the Dow rallied 102 points, or 1.17%, bringing the average's gain to 9% for the week. Still, the impressive 5-day rally wasn't enough to save November, as the DJIA dropped 5% for the month. Elsewhere, the S&P 500 Index (SPX) added 12% for the week, but lost 7% for the month. Finally, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) rose 11% last week, but shed 10% for November.

What the Trader Is Expecting in the Coming Week: Does an Historic Weekly Return Indicate Continued Market Strength?
By Todd Salamone, Senior Vice President of Research

The S&P 500 Index (SPX) rallied 12% last week, raising an interesting question: When did we last see the SPX exceed a weekly rally of 7%, and what happened during the subsequent months? I'll answer this question in a moment, but first, let's rewind to the week that preceded this historic 1-week return in the SPX.

Two weeks ago, we experienced a 6.7% decline in the SPX, but an impressive late-Friday surge broke the selling fever on Wall Street, as news hit that President-elect Barack Obama would name Timothy Geithner as his Treasury Secretary. As a result, the SPX rallied back above its 2002 lows at 768.63 and its October 2007 half high at 788.05. As I mentioned in last week's Monday Morning Outlook, the late-Friday rally from 2 weeks ago put the bulls back on life support.

I discussed the 3 consecutive days in which the International Securities Exchange all-equity call/put ratio fell below 1.0, and the fact that the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) traded at a premium to its 20-day historical volatility for the first time since October 10. As we now know, that build-up in short-term fear preceded announcements from President-elect Obama regarding members of his economic advisory team. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the government came out with 2 additional measures last week to ease the credit crisis: the $200-billion term asset-backed securities loan facility to help unclog consumer and small-business-related loans, and the $600-billion government-sponsored entities purchase program designed to target mortgage-backed securities at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The latter action pushed mortgage rates down, with the benchmark 30-year fixed rate at 5.76% heading into Friday, down from 6.77% only 4 weeks ago. Plummeting mortgage rates are the first major tailwind for the housing sector in quite a while. The culmination of this bottled-up fear in the market and the government action resulted in a huge rally in the SPX last week, further justifying our advice about positioning oneself for an "anything can happen" outcome.

Historically, the bulls can garner some encouragement from last week's price action. When the SPX notches a 1-week gain of 7% or more, the following 3 weeks to 3 months have proven extremely bullish for stocks. Specifically, the SPX returns, on average, between 2.47% and 9.13% during the 3-week to 3-month time frames following a 7% or greater move.

So, could we see a repeat of these types of returns in the weeks and months ahead? Most certainly, as we saw some heightened fear ahead of a catalyst that created a tailwind for the housing and refinance market. At the same time, keep in mind that volatility in the market is at historic highs, so exaggerated short-term moves may be less meaningful in their implications.

Moreover, the new measures designed to address asset-backed loans and mortgage-related securities are not due to launch until February 2009. With the aforementioned tailwinds in mind, the issue of hedge-fund redemptions still looms. In the blink of an eye, forced selling could once again engulf the market, sending stocks spiraling lower.

As we enter this week, we see potential resistance for the SPX at the 965 level, site of its 50-day moving average. Last month's high at 1,000 is also a level at which sellers could emerge. On the downside, the 850 level on the SPX could be supportive on pullbacks, as this marks the site of the October lows.

Should 850 break, we would prepare for a retest in the 768 or 788 levels, site of the 2002 low and half-high of October 2007, respectively. If you are looking for a sector to dip your toes in on the long side, we would recommend the housing sector, with stocks such as Meritage Homes (MTH) and Toll Brothers (TOL) rising to the top. Meanwhile, continue to avoid energy, technology, and pharmaceutical stocks.

Indicator of the Week: Nova/Ursa Ratio
By Joe Sunderman, Vice President of Financial Market Analytics

Background: A sentiment indicator that we monitor each day is provided by the Nova and Ursa funds from the Rydex Series Trust. The Nova fund is designed to have a target beta of 1.5. In other words, using equities, stock index futures contracts, and options on those securities and futures, the fund has a target performance benchmark equal to 150% of the S&P 500 Index (SPX). Traders who invest in this fund are considered bullish on stocks. Meanwhile, the Ursa fund is designed to provide a performance inverse to that of the SPX by using a combination of short selling and options on stock index futures. Investors in this fund are considered bearish on stocks.

Data Interpretation: We can get an accurate view of the sentiment picture by comparing the amount of assets in each fund. Specifically, we divide the total adjusted assets in the Nova fund by the total adjusted assets in the Ursa fund to arrive at a Nova/Ursa ratio. A high Nova/Ursa ratio indicates an extreme amount of optimism (everyone investing in Nova bullish fund). A low Nova/Ursa ratio indicates an extreme amount of pessimism (everyone flocking to Ursa bearish fund). We have frequently found that lows in the Nova/Ursa ratio precede rallies in the SPX, while peaks in sentiment will often front run a decline in the index.

Current Reading: Below is a graph of the Net Asset Value Adjusted Nova/Ursa Ratio. The current reading for this sentiment measure is 0.89, meaning the adjusted assets of the Nova Fund amount to 89% of the adjusted assets in the Ursa Fund.

Implications: Concerning us at this moment is the promptness of Rydex fund speculators moving assets from Ursa Funds (bearish fund) to Nova Funds (bullish assets). Our interpretation of the data is that fund traders are looking for a bottom too readily. As seen by the previous peaks in the data (circled areas on graph), this level of optimism (as defined by the Nova/Ursa ratio) has been ill-timed the past several months.

Given that the market is "overbought" by Relative Strength Index (RSI) measures, and the Rydex herd is moving into bullish funds, we recommend defensive positioning following last week's bear-market rally. As Bernie Schaeffer has mentioned in the Option Advisor commentary, "I would remain quite defensive, looking to hedge any long stock exposure with shorts or with put positions on ETFs, including the "double inverse" ETFs on such still-vulnerable sectors as energy and technology."

This Week's Key Events: November Nonfarm Payrolls on Tap
By Joseph Hargett, Senior Equities Analyst

Here is a brief list of some of the key events for the upcoming week. All earnings dates listed below are tentative and subject to change. Please check with the respective company websites for official reporting dates.


The economic calendar starts off light on Monday, with the release of October's construction spending report and the November Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) manufacturing index. In earnings news, Inergy (NRGY), Linktone (LTON), and Shanda Interactive (SNDA) are scheduled to release their quarterly reports.


Data is light on Tuesday, with only November's automobile and truck sales slated for release. In earnings news, Beazer Homes (BZH), Solarfun Power (SOLF), Marvell Technology Group (MRVL), and OmniVision Technologies (OVTI) are scheduled to release their quarterly reports.


The economic calendar heats up on Wednesday, as the November ADP Employment report, the revised third-quarter productivity report, the ISM services index, and the Fed's Beige Book are scheduled for release. In earnings news, Del Monte (DLM), Aeropostale (ARO), Collective Brands (PSS), and Jo-Ann Stores (JAS) are scheduled to release their quarterly reports.


The pressure lightens up on Thursday, as only weekly initial jobless claims and October's factory orders are on tap. In earnings news, Toll Brothers (TOL), Williams-Sonoma (WSM), Guess (GES), Novell (NOVL), and Wind River (WIND) are scheduled to release their quarterly reports.


All eyes will be on Friday's economic data, with the release of November's nonfarm payrolls, the unemployment rate, hourly earnings, and average workweek. Capping off the day, October's consumer credit report is slated to hit the Street. In earnings news, Blyth Industries (BTH) is scheduled to release its quarterly reports.

And now a few sectors of note.

Dissecting The Sectors

Sector: Housing— Bullish

Outlook: Since bottoming near the 54 level in late November, the PHLX Housing Sector Index (HGX) has rallied more than 45%. Contributing to this resurgence in the housing market has been the government's moves to bolster lending to consumers, with particular focus on mortgages. Specifically, the Federal reserve announced a $600-billion government-sponsored entities purchase program designed to target mortgage-backed securities at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

This move pushed mortgage rates lower, with the benchmark 30-year fixed rate at 5.76% heading into Friday, down from 6.77% only 4 weeks ago. Despite the government action and strong technical performance, investors remain heavily bearish on housing stocks. Specifically, Toll Brothers' (TOL) Schaeffer's put/call Open Interest Ratio (SOIR) of 1.42 rests in the 92nd percentile of its annual range, while Meritage Home's (MTH) SOIR has ballooned to a reading of 5.44, meaning that puts more than quintuple calls among near-term options.

Additionally, Wall Street is betting against the group. 5 of the 6 analysts following MTH rate the share a "hold," while 5 of the 10 brokerage firms covering TOL have issued "hold" or worse ratings. An unwinding of this negativity could help pressure the housing sector steadily higher.

Sector: Energy— Bearish

Outlook: The deteriorating economic environment has left many sectors beaten and battered, but few have felt the impact quite as directly as the energy sector. Specifically, crude-oil prices have plunged more than 63% to about $54.43 per barrel since peaking at $148.35 in early July. Underscoring this decline is the lowered global demand forecasts for crude oil by the International Energy Agency and the lack of any price support following production cuts by the Organization or Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Against this backdrop, the Select Sector Energy SPDR (XLE) has dropped more than 36% since late January.

The exchange-traded fund is battling resistance at its 10-week moving average, which has taken up residence just above the round-number 50 level— potentially bolstering this technical hurdle. Despite this poor price action, the XLE's Schaeffer's put/call Open Interest Ratio (SOIR) of 1.20 rests at an annual low, indicating an extreme degree of optimism from the speculative options crowd. Should this wealth of optimism begin to unwind, it could provide additional selling pressure for the sector.

Sector: Large-Cap Technology— Bearish

Outlook: Technology stocks continue to lead the major market indices lower. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite (COMP) dropped 10% in November, outpacing its Wall Street brethren. Furthermore, the index remains below resistance at its declining 10-week and 20-week moving averages.

In addition, the Select Sector Technology SPDR Fund (XLK) is trading below resistance in the 15.50-16 region. On the sentiment front, there are still a number of overloved names within the technology sector. Microsoft (MSFT) has garnered 17 "buys" and 4 "holds," while Google (GOOG) has acquired 21 "buys," 2 "holds," and no "sells".

Even Apple (AAPL), with its year-to-date decline of more than 53% remains a heavy bullish favorite. Currently, AAPL's SOIR of 0.73 rests below 83% of all those taken during the past year, while 15 of the 21 analysts following the shares rate them a "buy" or better. With losses mounting, and confidence in the sector declining in the current economic environment, we could see this bullish sentiment unwind in the form of added selling pressure.

  M O R E. . .


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