Monthly Archives: March 2011

Did Someone Leak Something?

by Tyler Durdensilent

Something rather disturbing from a European trading desk…

TODAY TWO LARGE MACRO FUNDS OVER HERE HAVE GONE WILDLY LONG S&P. NOT LONG. WE TALKING 250% NET LONG. IT LOOKS LIKE CONCERTED ACTION ON GDP DGRADES FROM GS AND BOFA ARE THE LETTER DELIVERED TO BEN ON QE3. HUGE DIRECTIONAL BET WITH NEW CAPITAL PUT AT WORK. MOST LIKELY THE TWO INSTITUTIONS ARE COORDINATING ACTION WITH OFFICES IN CONNECTICUT. CHECK INFLOWS OF BLUE CHIP HEDGE FUNDS IN JAN FEB. APPLY 2.5 LEVERAGE. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT SOME 40-60BN PUT AT WORK PRIMARILY ON EMINIS AT THE MOMENT. WHETHER SOME EXTERNAL FORCE WILL LEAVE THEM HIGH AND DRY I DON’T KNOW. BUT IF ANYTHING SEEMED TO BE AT LEAST NOT TOO IRRATIONAL UP TO NOW, IN THIS THIRD WAVE, BE READY FOR REAL ROCK AND ROLL.

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SPX HANGING IN THE BALANCE WHILE SOCIAL MOOD DETERIORATES FURTHER

“We crawl on our knees for you,
Under a sky no longer blue
We sweat all day long for you,
But we sow the seeds to see us through
‘Cause sometimes dreams just don’t come true,
Look now at what they’ve done to you.”

- Rise Against: Re-Education (Through Labor) -

Before getting into the broader markets, I thought it was pertinent to share with readers that recently I have noticed a trend in alternative music, also known as modern rock. As a fan of music in general, I have noticed that more modern and mainstream music is starting to underscore the deterioration in social mood. Mainstream songs are having a resoundingly similar lyrical undertone which outlines the “us against them”, “rich versus poor”, and the political class versus everyone else.

While I am not a sociologist nor do I have any real training in the area, the underlying tone in a lot of artistic mediums highlights the current chasm between the haves and the have-nots. While some might argue that it does not matter, if you as a reader, trader, or investor believe in behavioral finance you might agree that social mood matters a great deal. After all, the entire premise of technical analysis is an attempt to quantify market participant behavior at specific price levels.

Social mood is but one catalyst that can have a dramatic impact in price discovery, and thus must at the very least be monitored. Current music trends are literally screaming loud and clear that the average American can relate to the undertones and messages of song lyrics with the same resounding tone as the Rise Against lyrics listed above. Believe me, it may not matter right now, but it will matter and when it does it will likely be too late for financial markets.

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Now that I have my little rant out of the way, why don’t we take a look at where the S&P 500 has been, where it is now, and where it might be going. Currently price action in the S&P 500 is sitting on the edge of a fence. We could be looking at an intermediate bottom or it could end up being a bull trap. As for me, my recent prediction for lower prices has indeed come to pass, but from hereon I have no real idea where price action is headed. Mr. Market is leaving a few clues behind which I will outline, but anything is possible. We have seen stocks climb a wall of worry for nearly two years now so there is precedent for a rally from this current point of indecision.

The daily chart of the S&P 500 listed below illustrates key technical levels on the daily chart, however readers will notice that we are currently caught between a ton of overhead resistance and a key support level. Until we see price move in either direction with volume confirmation, I will be sitting on the sidelines.

Another key chart to consider is the SPX weekly chart. A quick glance at the slow stochastic readings at the bottom of the chart reveal that the S&P 500 might have additional downside left before the market is able to form a solid bottom. If that is true, we could see the SPX test the 200 period moving average on the daily chart which would be around the 1186 price level. Additionally, the 50 & 200 period moving averages on the weekly chart correspond with the 1180 price level which is likely not coincidental. The level also corresponds with key resistance areas going back to the November 2010 lows. While a downward move that large seems a bit extreme to me at this point, anything is possible.

As can be seen from the chart above, price action is currently sitting above the 20 period moving average on the weekly SPX chart. Key support levels are around the 1225 and 1180 price levels. I would also point out that a Fibonacci retracement of the recent pivot high to the recent pivot low gives us a possible 1.618 retracement around the 1190 price level. Additionally, the slow stochastic on the chart above is eerily similar to levels that were seen on the weekly chart back in May of 2010. Will price action work lower? Will the weekly slow stochastic reading kiss the 20 level?

At this point, a few of you might think I’m outlining the case for lower prices in the equity market. I honestly have no idea where price is going from here, I’m just outlining some key aspects that I have found in my analysis to the downside. The upside is just as likely and we could see the SPX price bounce off of the 20 period moving average on the weekly chart and a challenge of the recent highs could play out. Should recent highs give way to breakout, the SPX would likely test the 1,400 price level at some point in the future.

If we look at the VIX for any clues, all that can be seen from that chart is a spike higher and a subsequent selloff as fear and uncertainty leave the marketplace. The VIX is currently arguing for higher prices in equities, however the financials represented by XLF are the fly in the proverbial ointment. The banks were unable to attract a bid on Monday’s strong advance and they experienced additional selling pressure on Tuesday.

In fact, the XLF’s daily chart shown below reveals a key test and subsequent failure.

A quick look at the XLF daily chart and it is rather obvious that price action in XLF has been weak in the past two sessions. Price moved higher off of the recent lows, tested the 20 period moving average and rolled over. Price is currently below key support levels, but we could witness a reversal on Wednesday. I am going to be watching the financials (XLF) quite closely in coming days as I believe the banks will provide traders with clues as to which direction Mr. Market is favoring. Right now it would appear that Mr. Market is favoring lower prices, but that would seem a bit too easy from these eyes.

We could consolidate at these price levels for a period of time. The volume on Monday and Tuesday was light and we have non-confirming signals showing up in a variety of underlying indices. I am unwilling to accept any directional risk at this point. I will let others do the heavy lifting while I sit safely in cash and watch the price action play out.

The price action will eventually give us a confirming signal as to which direction prices will be heading, but right now I believe the prudent thing to do is remain in cash and wait for Mr. Market to signal which direction he favors. We are either sitting at the beginning of a major move higher or we are at a precipice and prices are about to plunge. Either way, risk remains high and the risk / reward is simply not there to warrant an entry. As I have said many times, sometimes the best trade is no trade at all!

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JW Jones

Equities & Gold to Surge? – Get Ready

Equities and Precious Metals are on the edge of another rally and it could start as early as tomorrow.

On March 13th I posted some of my analysis online showing how the market was trading at a key pivot point and that a sharp price movement was about to unfold. I also provided everyone with the direction in favor which played out perfectly catching a 4.5% in three days.

As of today we are getting the same setup I saw on March 13th, but this time it’s pointing to higher prices. Take a quick look at the charts I was looking at for both the SP500 and gold and you will notice that the SP500 and gold both moved to the support levels before starting to bounce.

While we caught the move down on the SP500 playing the SDS Double leveraged inverse fund we did not take part in falling gold prices. Reason being, there is so much fear in the market and the amount of surprise news popping up each week I don’t think shorting precious metals is a safe call. Rather I am looking for a pullback to cleanse the holders of the commodity then I will buy once price confirms the continuation pattern has completed.

Now, stepping forward to this week’s price action

SPY Daily Chart
We can see in the chart below that price is currently testing a key resistance level. Before the week is over we could see some big price movement equities. I need to see what happens tomorrow but I have a feeling we could see a breakout to the upside for a long position.

Gold Miners Fund Daily Chart
Gold stocks have be under performing the price of bullion for a few months but it looks as though they could be starting a sizable rally. If gold stocks continue to move sharply higher out of this pattern, then it’s a positive sign that gold and silver bullion will both continue to move up.

Gold Daily Chart
Gold is testing a key resistance level and if it breaks above this pattern then expect much higher prices. I can see GLD moving up $5 from this level and gold futures moving up $60 per ounce fairly quickly.

Mid-Week Trend Report:
In short, stocks and commodities may have shaken the weak positions out of the market during the recent pullback in price. Things could be ready to start another multi month rally and trade setups. Keep your eyes on the charts…

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Oil Sands: Fueling the Future

By Marin Katusa, Casey Energy Opportunities

For many years, trying to tap an oil sands deposit accomplished about as much as sipping molasses through a straw, but that is changing. So do oil sands companies make a good investment now?

Humans and bacteria share a surprising number of features, not least in what they consider good food. In general, the smaller and simpler the molecule, the easier it is to digest. So, about 50 million years ago, when and where bacteria had a chance to chow down on some of the rich hydrocarbons we call oil, one might expect them to start on the smaller, tidier mouthfuls, and indeed they did.

What’s left today of these bacterial banquets are deposits of oil molecules so big and cumbersome that they flow like molasses in winter, if at all. At the extreme end is bitumen, which looks rather like sticky asphalt:

The oil sands that contain this heavy oil and bitumen have long posed an intriguing “what-if” for the industry. heir potential is staggering. One of the world’s largest deposits, in the Canadian province of Alberta, spreads over the size of Wisconsin and may hold two trillion barrels of oil – eight times the reserves of Saudi Arabia.

For just about as long, however, oil sands have been minor players at best in the world’s energy picture. The very qualities that native peoples have exploited to seal their boats make these heavy oils and bitumen tough to suck out of the ground and shove down a pipeline. And that’s before they even get to a refinery.

Two developments in recent years have brought oil sands in from the cold: rising oil prices and new technology to pry bitumen out of deposits and make it run, not walk, to the nearest processing facility.

So let’s take a look at how oil sands came about and what we can do with them.

The Tale of Two Oil Deposits

We’re back to millions of years ago, this time to the hundreds of millions, when algae and the simple organisms that fed on them died, drifted down to the seafloor, and were gradually buried under sediments and subsequent generations of ancient life.

As the ages passed, the pressure of layers above and heat from inside the earth broke down and reassembled these simple plants and animals into chains of carbon atoms bristling with hydrogen. Under pressure, these hydrocarbons squeezed through grainy, porous sedimentary rock until blocked by nonporous rock, known as capstone. There accumulated the first of our tale, a deposit of what we now call conventional oil.

The other deposit was in for a second ride. Geological forces lifted these oil-bearing rocks up toward the surface of the earth, within reach of water and bacteria. You know what happened next.

Because of this additional history, oil sands differ in structure as well as content from conventional oil deposits. The bitumen coats the grains of sand like a film and is in turn surrounded by water. Scraping the bitumen off the grains is the first step in extraction.

The uplifting also means that oil sands deposits are relatively shallow: some can even be surface-mined like coal.

This geological process happened in places like Venezuela and the United States, and particularly in Canada. In the province of Alberta are three major oil sands areas: the Athabasca (the largest), Peace River, and Cold Lake. Current estimates put the combined bitumen in these deposits at 1.7 trillion barrels, and some geologists believe more field work will jack that number up a fair bit further.

The catch is that, at present, only 10% or 170 billion barrels of that bitumen is considered economically recoverable, that is, worth a producer’s considerable effort to bring it to market. Even so, 170 billion barrels places Alberta second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of proven oil reserves, and ever-developing technology is likely to bring more in reach.

We’re going to focus on Alberta because it’s home to the largest and most developed oil sands deposits in the world.

To Market, to Market: Step 1

Surface mining operations dig up and crush the oil-soaked rock, then mix it with water heated to 50-80°C. In such conditions, the bitumen floats off. All told, bitumen recovery from strip mines approaches 90%, and the mining and processing costs come in at about US$8.00 per barrel.

However, only about 20% of Alberta’s bitumen is shallow enough for surface mining. The remaining 80% requires drilling and in-situ methods that extract the oil from the rocks in place. There are several methods to do this, and more in development. What they generally have in common is pumping down steam to heat the trapped oil, making it less viscous. Then a producer can actually pump the bitumen to the surface.

Many oil sands companies use this in-situ method, called steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD).

Another factor in-situ methods have in common is the large amounts of energy required to generate the steam. At present that energy usually comes from natural gas, which comprises 65-80% of total operating costs.

According to government statistics, Alberta is host to 91 producing oil sands projects as of 2009. Of these, only four are mining projects, while the remaining 87 use various in-situ recovery methods. In 2009 those projects produced an average of 1.49 million barrels of bitumen per day (bbpd), which represents more than 40% of Canada’s total oil production. That 1.49-million figure is projected to reach 3 million bbpd by 2018.

To Market, to Market: Step 2

However it’s recovered, this stiff black glop needs further work in order to sell it. An oil sands producer has two choices: to upgrade it and make synthetic oil, or to dilute it with lighter hydrocarbons so it can run down a pipeline to a refinery.

Upgrading usually requires two steps. First the bulky hydrocarbon chains are broken into smaller ones in a process called hydrocracking; upgraders may also remove carbon to produce the smaller chains along with coke. The second step adds hydrogen to “fill out” the new carbon chains and to remove impurities like sulfur. Currently five upgraders in Alberta churn out a bit over 1 million barrels of synthetic crude oil each day, and there are plans for more.

Bitumen that’s not upgraded is blended with diluents that make it runny enough to pipe to refineries throughout North America. The diluents are usually a mixture of light hydrocarbons, such as light crude oil and naphtha. Companies can recycle diluents that stay within Alberta, a significant consideration in project planning.

The investment to get the industry to this stage has been massive. Between 1999 and 2009, an estimated $91 billion was pumped into developing Alberta’s oil sands. In 2009 industry invested another $10 billion, and almost $170 billion worth of oil sands projects are currently underway or proposed in the province.

Environmental Issues

Environmental groups have labeled bitumen “dirty oil” and are calling for an end to oil sands operations. They have three main complaints: that ugly mines and tailings ponds destroy habitat, that projects gulp energy and emit significant emissions for every barrel of oil, and that the whole process uses a significant amount of water.

The groups are certainly right on some fronts. In-situ operations cause minimal disturbance, but surface mining – even though it represents only 20% of oil sands operations – does make an unsightly mess of boreal forests and marshlands. And in-situ projects have their own issues. The roughly 30 cubic meters of natural gas and three barrels of water consumed to produce one barrel of bitumen are indeed high.

Well, oil sands aren’t going away. Their potential is too vast, global demands for energy too high, and for governments like Alberta, they contribute too much to the coffers.

But more encouraging yet, industry is developing less intensive techniques. Quick-drying tailings ponds can be returned to nature faster, for example. And companies have a double incentive to develop in-situ methods that require less energy and water: they would lower operating costs as well as mitigate complaints.

[One of the current picks of the Casey Energy team is a company that’s proving up an extraction method that’s both more efficient and easier on the environment… a future winner if we’ve ever seen one. Sign up now to receive Casey’s Energy Opportunitiesfor only $39 per year – and find out all about this low-risk value play in oil sands.]

AT&T to Buy Deutsche Telekom T-Mobile Unit for $39 Billion

Bloomberg

AT&T Inc. (T) agreed to buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE) in a cash-and-stock transaction currently valued at about $39 billion, a combination that would create America’s largest mobile-phone company.

The purchase price will include $25 billion in cash and the balance in AT&T stock, subject to adjustment, according to a statement today. The deal may give Deutsche Telekom an 8 percent stake in the Dallas-based carrier, which will add a Deutsche Telekom executive to its board of directors.

If completed, the deal would allow AT&T, now the second- largest U.S. wireless operator, to add 34 million customers and surpass Verizon Wireless as the largest in the country. The acquisition, the largest in the wireless industry since 2004, may face regulatory scrutiny because it combines the second- and fourth-largest wireless providers.

“This is a very surprising deal,” Jonathan Atkin, an analyst atRBC Capital Markets, said in an interview. “AT&T is certainly buying scale. AT&T can integrate T-Mobile from an operations standpoint fairly easily because they use the same technology.”

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