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As we approach the final turn of today's trading day, the tension is building among ticket holders (longs and shorts) and all those who chose simply to be spectators. With stocks slipping back toward session lows, I don't think today's session provides anyone with a clear view on today's finish or where the short odds are for the upcoming sessions.

Breadth remains positive, but is flattening from an overwhelming 4:1 towards a simple 2:1 advancer advantage. New highs are matching new lows at around 70 each, and overall volume is improved but still light for the third consecutive day. That again confirms there are a lot of people simply moving to the sidelines and waiting for some better opportunities.

The put/call ratio has receded to 0.73, a decided pullback from recent intraday readings but not enough to qualify as a rollover or bullish signal. Likewise, the VIX is down some 7% to 17.9, a nice pullback from recent highs but not yet sufficient to form a spike or reversal indicating that the short-term bottom is in place or providing a buy signal.

Individual issues with some notable option activity include

Washington Mutual

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, whose June $40 call has traded some 11,000 contracts, three times its daily average and in excess of the 8,600 contracts of prior open interest.

Research In Motion


, which jumped some $16, or 18%, to $106 over the past two days, is seeing above-average volume in the June $90 put. Probably people buying some protection after the recent run-up.

Steven Smith writes regularly for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He was a seatholding member of the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) and the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) from May 1989 to August 1995. During that six-year period, he traded multiple markets for his own personal account and acted as an executing broker for third-party accounts. He invites you to send your feedback to