This column was originally published on RealMoney on May 14 at 8:46 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for readers. For more information about subscribing to RealMoney, please click here.

Today feels like it will be a quiet day, with few big-name earnings and no economic data on the calendar.

This week's data deluge begins tomorrow with the consumer price index and continues on Wednesday with housing starts and manufacturing gauges such as industrial production and capacity utilization.

That said, sharp declines can come anytime, and for this reason, I'm maintaining downside protection in the

Options Alerts Model Portfolio in the form of

Spyder Trust

(SPY) - Get Report

puts. But as demonstrated by last Thursday's single-day decline, one needs to be nimble to benefit from any pullback.

For this reason, I'm leaving open orders that are good till cancel (GTC) to sell some of the SPY puts I own to take profits at specified price limits. I'd rather do that than sit back during those rare selloffs and think, "Could this go all the way down?" (using my best Howard Cosell imitation), only to see the bulls take back the ball and return it to new highs.

The auto sector should be in the spotlight today, helped by

news of the



sale. In addition, the Ford family is

reportedly discussing a sale of its controlling stake in its namesake


(F) - Get Report

. Expect the LEAP options in these automakers to be quite active today, but this will be more a function of bond traders buying default insurance than pure equity trading or investing activity.

An article in

The Wall Street Journal

this morning, describing the deteriorating conditions of Florida's housing market, prompted me to take a closer look at the sector and to contemplate a bearish position. Not one name -- from



, which focuses on low-end first-time buyers, to


(TOL) - Get Report

, which caters to luxury and second-home buyers -- has given any indication of seeing a bottom in the market.

I'm not prone to superstition, but as a card player, I do believe one can go through hot and cold periods. So not to question his investing prowess, but Carl Icahn's recent failure to gain a seat on



board has me thinking that was a prelude to other defeats. In fact, his pursuit of

WCI Communities


might prove to be his Waterloo.

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 appreciates your feedback;

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