Saturday, 6 February, 2010

How You Could Have Seen Imclone's Implosion Coming

Warning: This will be an "I told you so" column. We're going to look at a recent horror story and see why you should have bailed out by now. If it hits too close to home, you might want to move on and read something a little more pleasant. We're taking no prisoners today.

The RealMoney staff love to flutter their wings about the latest blowups. But I have a confession to make. I think the companies we chatter about are extremely boring.

Enron? That's an extinct bird, isn't it? And although I think Halliburton is a beautiful actress, she doesn't look that good in asbestos.

My problem with companies like Enron and Halliburton is they don't have four letters. After all, the Nasdaq is where I spend most of my time. It's also where other traders hang out, because of the direct-access systems. So how about a little more gossip about OTC bloopers, screwups and nose dives?

Momentum favorite ImClone Systems is a good place to start. It's fallen over 50% in the last three weeks and may not stop until it hits ground. In fact, every time knife-catchers step in to call a bottom, they wake up the next morning with long blades planted firmly in their backs.

It's easy enough to see where the five-month ImClone rally ended. After all, that's why they call it a broken trend line. Now this routine event isn't the end of the world. Broken rallies often lead to sideways markets, not death spirals. But sideways isn't nearly as good as up, so we'll mark the breakdown as Warning No. 1.

Warning No. 2 comes just two bars later, when the stock breaks the 50-day moving average on strong volume. Definitely not good news if you own the stock. In fact, it gives investors a very good reason to sell. The stock then waves another red flag. Price bounces back to the 50-day moving average from below but fails to break it for four sessions. Hear that ominous sound? Warning No. 3 just rang a very loud bell.

OK, this is getting serious. The selloff expands out of the failed test and closes at the low -- right at the 100% retracement of the last rally. This level should provide strong support and stop the selloff. So how come day-traders didn't step in and bounce the stock before the close? Members of the jury, I give you Warning No. 4.

Armageddon strikes the next day. Price rips a 19% gap on high volume and breaks the 200-day moving average. Enter Warnings No. 5 and No. 6. I wish that was the end of the story, but it isn't. While the gap does great technical damage on the daily chart, watch what happens when we zoom out and look at the long-term chart.

Warning No. 7 nails the coffin shut. The gap triggers the failure of a multiyear channel breakout. This opens the door for a trip all the way back to the lower $20s.