Option Investor
Newsletter

Daily Newsletter, Monday, 12/14/2009

Table of Contents

  1. Market Wrap
  2. New Option Plays
  3. In Play Updates and Reviews

Market Wrap

Positive Catalysts Abound As Stocks Start The Week Higher

by Todd Shriber

Click here to email Todd Shriber
News of a massive energy sector acquisition, Citigroup's TARP repayment and a bailout for Dubai combined to help stocks start the week on a positive note, sending the S&P 500 higher by nearly eight points to a close of 1114.11. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted a gain of nearly 30 points to finish the day at 10501.05 and the Nasdaq gained almost 22 points to close at 2212.10.

Stats Table

Abu Dhabi assuaged nervous investors with news that it would bailout Dubai's Nakheel PJSC, the investment fund that sent markets tumbling last month on news of a possible default. Dubai will receive $10 billion from Abu Dhabi to help get its financial house in order, but that may not be enough to convince investors the long-term outlook is rosy. According to Goldman Sachs, Dubai and its state-controlled enterprises have $55 billion in debt coming due in the next three years. Dubai, the second-largest of the states that make up the United Arab Emirates, borrowed $80 billion over the past few years to morph into a financial and tourism hub, but with the crash of global credit markets, real estate values in the state fell by as much as 50%.

Dubai-based companies may need to restructure as much as $46.7 billion in debt and more firms there may need help making repayments, a Morgan Stanley report noted. So the bottom line here is that while Abu Dhabi's bailout is a step in the right direction, Dubai is likely to need a lot more cash before investors become convinced all is well. So-called ''risky'' assets like commodities suffered at the hands of the Dubai news, as evidenced by the chart below, but today's bailout news did little to jolt the price of crude oil or gold.

Dubai Chart

Stocks also got a boost from news that Citigroup (C) would repay $20 billion it borrowed under the Troubled Asset Relief Progam (TARP), making the bank the last of the Wall Street giants to exit the now infamous program. With Citi's TARP repayment, PNC Financial (PNC) and stands out as the remaining big bank that has yet to repay taxpayer funds. That little factoid may leave some investors wondering why PNC and is lagging behind in the repayment process given that it used TARP money to its acquisition of National City. Wells Fargo (WFC) announced after the close of U.S. markets that it will exit the TARP program by raising $25 billion in fresh capital.

Citi will issue about $17 billion in new shares this week and another $7.2 billion early next year to repay Uncle Sam, further diluting a stock that put the ''D'' in diluted. Assuming a closing price of $3.70, Citi's capital raises will result in roughly 654 million more shares being added to its already gargantuan shares outstanding sum of 22.86 billion shares. I am not sure exactly how many new shares will be issued by the downtrodden bank, but assuming the offerings result in 650 million-700 million new shares, that is about a day and a half worth of volume for Citi, which averages 452.5 million shares traded per day.

Much like the Dubai bailout news, news of Citigroup's TARP repayment is a step in the right direction, but it is highly doubtful this will be enough to send the bulls running into the stock. Keep in mind the shares languish below $4 and Citigroup has been shedding prime assets to raise cash. In addition, many fund managers cannot touch stocks below $10 and even more cannot buy stocks below $5, so expecting retail investors and day traders to lift Citi shares more than a couple of percentage points is probably asking for too much.

Citigroup Chart

The biggest news on Monday came from Exxon Mobil (XOM), the largest U.S. oil producer and a member of the Dow, said it would acquire natural gas firm XTO Energy (XTO) for $31 billion in stock. XTO shareholders will receive nearly 0.71 shares of Exxon Mobil for each of their shares. Bloomberg News reported this is the energy sector's largest acquisition since 2006 and it is Exxon's biggest buy since acquiring Mobil in 1999. The deal values XTO at a 25% premium to XTO's Friday closing price.

Even though Exxon Mobil shares are down about 10% year-to-date, the cash-rich company can use those shares as currency for acquisitions and did so with the purchase of XTO. The acquisition bolsters Exxon's presence in the U.S. natural gas market at a time when oil companies, struggling to find high-quality crude reserves, are making significant bets on natural gas as a future alternative to crude oil. XTO gives Exxon exposure to the gas-laden Barnett Shale area of Texas, the largest unconventional natural gas field in the U.S. XTO is also a significant player in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and the Marcellus Shale in Pennyslvania.

An Exxon executive said last month that worldwide energy demand will rise 30% by 2030 and that natural gas may eventually surpass coal as the number two energy source behind crude oil. The chart below illustrates that natural gas demand in the coming years is expected to be quite robust.

Natural Gas Demand Chart

The acquisition predictably fueled speculation about what companies may be next to run the altar of energy mergers and acquisitions. One analyst speculated that European firms such as Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) and Total (TOT) that are looking to increase natural gas production may be on the prowl for acquisitions. Press reports mentioned EnCana (ECA), Range Resources (RRC) and Ultra Petroleum (UPL) as possible targets. Another analyst highlighted Anadarko Petroluem (APC), Devon Energy (DVN) and EOG Resources (EOG) as potential takeover plays.

An interesting way to play increased M&A activity in the natural gas sector may be the iShares Dow Jones US Oil & Gas Exploration Index (IEO). IEO has one of the largest weightings to XTO of any ETF and Anadarko, Devon and EOG can all be found among the IEO's top holdings. The ETF got a 5% pop on news of the Exxon-XTO deal and is now close to regaining its 50-day moving average.

IEO Chart

Looking ahead to the rest of the week, considering we are not in earnings season, there are several noteworthy reports on the horizon, including an update from Best Buy (BBY) tomorrow. The stock was up 2.32% on Monday and has gained 15% in the past three months. Best Buy is expected to post earnings of 43 cents a share on sales of $11.98 billion and Citigroup upped its estimate to 45 cents from 38 cents today.

As Jim mentioned in the weekend Market Wrap, investors will most likely be paying more attention to Best Buy's fourth-quarter guidance than the third-quarter results. After all, Best Buy is a prime Christmas shopping destination and it does not have to compete with Circuit City this holiday season. With less than two weeks left before Christmas, any disappointing news from Best Buy regarding the fourth quarter would likely spell an end to Best Buy's recent rally.

Best Buy Chart

Tuesday also marks the start of another Federal Open Market Committee meeting and the market will absorb Producer Price Index (PPI) news at 8:30 A.M. Eastern time. The November PPI number is expected to rise to 0.8% from a previous reading of 0.3%. Another number worth watching is the November industrial production report, which is expected to rise to 0.5% from October's reading of 0.1%.

Again, considering that we are not in the throws of earnings season, Thursday is a big day for corporate reports. Updates on Thursday will give investors clues about the strength of the economic recovery as Oracle (ORCL), FedEx (FDX), General Mills (GIS), Nike (NKE), Research In Motion (RIMM) and Palm (PALM) all step into the earnings confessional. That is a broad swath of industries and some of those reports, namely FedEx, Nike and RIMM, may join Best Buy in giving investors further insight as to how much consumers are spending this holiday season.

RIMM was throttled the last time it delivered results and the stock is especially active when it announces quarterly results. Last week, the company announced it is expanding its presence in China, a move investors seemed to cheer. I noted in the Market Monitor last week that there was some bullish options activity in RIMM, including brisk volume in the January 80 calls, which are obviously deep out-of-the-money.

RIMM Chart

Moving to the charts, the Dow's close at 10,501 means the index is just barely above resistance at 10,500. A couple of more closes above this key level could bring resistance at 10,650 into play before the end of the year. Still, the Dow is locked in a range between 10,250 and 10,500, and has resided in that area for about four weeks now. With time running out on 2009, 11,000 appears to be off the table, but any close above support at 10,250 could be a positive catalyst heading into next year.

Dow Chart

With a close in the area of 1114, the S&P 500 once again finds itself above the all-important 1100 level and in decent position to make another attempt at breaking through resistance at 1120. The lingering question is if the index can snap out of a month-long range move higher, above and beyond 1120.

Consolidation patterns always end, it is just a matter of when, and as I have been saying for several weeks, the more closes above 1100, the better. In fact, it would be best if 1100 could emerge as support because a move to previous support at 1085 would signal another failure, giving the bears some room to exert pressure on stocks.

S&P 500 Chart

Three cheers for the Nasdaq remaining above 2200 and those higher lows the chart is sporting. This is kind of an interesting week the Nasdaq because the catalysts do exist for a move higher in the form of Oracle and RIMM's earnings reports. Curious has been the lack of support from Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) over the last month. Apple is down 4% in that time and Amazon is flat. The Nasdaq is up only fractionally over the same time frame and that makes me wonder if I should be impressed or worried that tech stocks are living on borrowed time. Until support at 2160 is violated, and may be that does not happen, tech names continue to be compelling.

Nasdaq Chart

Overall, Monday's trade was a decent start to the week and if Best Buy delivers good news on Tuesday, stocks should get another boost. I like the fact that higher-quality, large cap stocks are asserting themselves and we could see more of that through out the week. If investors, fund managers and average Joes alike, are going to make one last dash for big year-end gains, this is the week to do it because volume will start to be an issue with Christmas coming up next week and New Year's Eve the following week.

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New Option Plays

Defense and Lumber

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown


NEW DIRECTIONAL CALL PLAYS

General Dynamics - GD - close: 70.66 change: +1.65 stop: 67.45

Why We Like It:
GD has been on our watch list for days. The stock has finally broken out past key resistance at the $70.00 level and did so on above average volume. The sector is also breaking out to new 2009 highs. I am suggesting readers open bullish positions but we want open just half a position. If the stock pulls back to retest old resistance as new support near $69.00 then we'll consider adding the second half for a full-sized bullish trade (a "full-sized" or normal-sized trade is determined by you, the size of your trading account, and how much risk you want to take).

Our first target to take profits in GD is $74.95. FYI: The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $105 target.

Suggested Options:
January options would work well but I'm suggesting the February $75 calls.

BUY CALL FEB 75.00 GD-BO open interest=1487 current ask $1.10

Annotated Chart:

Entry  on  December 14 at $ 70.66 (half position)
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            01/27/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.6 million  
Listed on  December 14, 2009         


Weyerhaeuser - WY - close: 42.51 change: +0.47 stop: 40.75

Why We Like It:
Shares of WY have spent the last several days digesting its early December breakout to new highs. Now the stock is bouncing from short-term support at the rising 10-dma. We can use this as a new entry point to buy calls with a relatively tight stop loss. I would open small bullish positions now. Our first target is $44.95. Our second target is $49.00.

Suggested Options:
I'm suggesting the January calls. My preference is the $43 strike.

BUY CALL JAN 43.00 WY-AX open interest=2399 current ask $1.60

Annotated Chart:

Entry  on  December 14 at $ 42.51 
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            02/05/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.6 million  
Listed on  December 14, 2009         



In Play Updates and Reviews

New Highs & New Stops

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

The stock market hit new highs for 2009 and we're updating several stop losses.


CALL Play Updates

Bucyrus Intl. - BUCY - close: 52.81 change: +1.83 stop: 48.99

A widespread market rally and a decline in the dollar helped BUCY gain 3.5%. The stock is now above short-term resistance near $52.00. We'll plan to take profits at $54.90. loss.

Entry  on  December 09 at $ 50.72 
Change since picked:       + 2.09
Earnings Date            02/18/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        2.8 million  
Listed on  December 01, 2009         


Capella Education - CPLA - close: 74.94 change: +2.49 stop: 72.40 *new*

It was a good day for CPLA. Shares posted a 3.4% gain and are now testing resistance at the $75.00 level. We only have four days left before December options expire. I'm raising our stop loss to $72.40. More conservative traders may want to exit early. I am adjusting our exit target down to $78.50.

Picked on  November 24 at $ 72.55
Change since picked:       + 2.39
Earnings Date            02/11/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        126 thousand 
Listed on  November 24, 2009         


EQUINIX Inc. - EQIX - close: 105.66 change: +4.03 stop: 99.75 *new*

A positive market allowed EQIX to rally to new 2009 highs. The stock closed up almost 4% on the session. I am raising our stop loss to $99.75. Our target is $109.50. The plan was to use small position sizes.

Entry  on  December 09 at $103.02
Change since picked:       + 2.64
Earnings Date            02/10/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        501 thousand 
Listed on  December 09, 2009         


Fedex Corp. - FDX - close: 90.56 change: +2.62 stop: 84.90 *new*

FDX hit a new 2009 high and set a new closing high for the year with today's 2.9% rally. I am raising our stop loss to $84.90 More conservative traders might want to use an even tighter stop. The stock has already hit our first target near $90.00. We're currently aiming for $94.90.

Picked on  December 01 at $ 85.75 
Change since picked:       + 4.81
Earnings Date            12/17/09 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        2.6 million  
Listed on  November 30, 2009         


F5 Networks - FFIV - close: 51.51 change: +1.46 stop: 47.99

Traders are buying the dip near $50.00. This bounce in FFIV looks like a bullish entry point. Our stop loss is a little wide so keep your position size small. Our first target to take profits is at $54.90. Our second target is $57.45.

Entry  on  December 09 at $ 52.08
Change since picked:       - 0.57
Earnings Date            01/20/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.2 million  
Listed on  December 09, 2009         


Infosys Tech. - INFY - close: 53.40 change: +0.92 stop: 49.90

INFY gained 1.75% and broke out to new 2009 highs. If you were waiting for a move over resistance at $53.00 you got it today. Our first target to take profits is at $55.75. Our second and final target is $59.50. We will plan to exit ahead of the January 12th earnings report.

Entry  on  December 05 at $ 51.88 /gap down entry point
                           /originally listed at $52.46
Change since picked:       + 1.52
Earnings Date            01/12/10 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.4 million  
Listed on  December 05, 2009         


Ishares Financial - IYF - close: 51.86 change: +0.42 stop: 49.99

The Dubai bailout news and the Citigroup news to repay the TARP is generally bullish for the financials. I'm surprised the IYF didn't perform better. This ETF gained 0.8%. I remain cautious and hesitate to open new positions at this time. More conservative traders may want to wait for a new rise over $53.00 before launching positions. Our multi-week target is $59.00. I would use small positions.

Entry  on  December 03 at $ 52.60
Change since picked:       - 0.74
Earnings Date            --/--/--
Average Daily Volume =        3.1 million  
Listed on  December 02, 2009         


MSC Industrial Direct - MSM - close: 47.39 change: +0.44 stop: 44.90

MSM rallied to new six-week highs with today's 0.9% gain. We only have a few days left before December options expire. I would use a move over $47.50 as a new entry point but buy January or March calls.

Picked on  November 17 at $ 46.62
Change since picked:       + 0.77
Earnings Date            01/07/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        513 thousand 
Listed on  November 17, 2009         


Norfolk Southern - NSC - close: 53.08 change: +0.86 stop: 49.75

NSC has finally broken through resistance near $53.00 and set new 2009 highs. This looks like a new entry point to open bullish positions. Our first target is now $56.50. Our second and final target is $59.50. Our time frame is several weeks. FYI: The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $65 target.

Picked on  November 21 at $ 51.84 (small positions)/gap higher entry
Change since picked:       + 1.24
Earnings Date            01/27/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        5.4 million  
Listed on  November 21, 2009         


Precision Castparts - PCP - close: 113.55 change: +1.58 stop: 107.25 *new*

PCP gapped open higher this morning at $112.92 and closed with a 1.4% gain. I am raising our stop loss to $107.25. Our first target to take profits was hit at $112.45. Our second target is $118.75. The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $131 target.

Picked on  December 01 at $107.35
Change since picked:       + 6.20
                            /1st target hit $112.45 (+4.7%)
Earnings Date            01/20/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        817 thousand 
Listed on  November 28, 2009         


UnitedHealth Group - UNH - close: 30.95 change: +0.47 stop: 26.99

UNH managed a 1.5% gain but the stock spent almost the entire session hovering sideways near the $31.00 level as if this was new overhead resistance. I'm still bullish given the breakout over $30.00 and I'd still consider new (aggressive, small in size) call positions here or on a dip back toward $30.00.

Our first target is $34.00. Our longer-term target is $36.00. Our time frame is several weeks. If you buy March calls you might want to think about holding over the late January earnings report.

Entry  on  December 10 at $ 30.31 
Change since picked:       + 0.64
Earnings Date            01/21/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        819 thousand 
Listed on  December 10, 2009         


United Tech. - UTX - close: 69.91 change: +0.51 stop: 67.45

UTX rallied higher but was unable to break resistance at $70.00 today. If the market continues to post gains UTX should eventually breakout. It could happen tomorrow. The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $95.00 target. I'm suggesting traders use a trigger to buy calls at $70.25. If triggered our first target is $74.75.

Entry  on  December xx at $ xx.xx <-- TRIGGER @ 70.25
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            01/21/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        4.0 million  
Listed on  December 12, 2009         


Valmont Industries - VMI - close: 81.54 change: +0.71 stop: 78.45 *new*

Traders bought the dip in VMI at $79.50. I am suggesting readers use this intraday bounce as a new bullish entry point. I'm raising the stop loss to $78.45. Our first target to take profits is at $84.90. Our second target is $88.75. FYI: The most recent data list short interest at 9% of the very small 20.1 million-share float.

Entry  on  December 10 at $ 81.00
Change since picked:       + 0.54
Earnings Date            02/10/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        238 thousand 
Listed on  December 05, 2009         


Vertex Pharma - VRTX - close: 40.60 change: +0.70 stop: 38.35

VRTX is back above the $40.00 level. I am suggesting readers use this rebound as a new bullish entry point to buy calls. Our target to exit is at $44.25. My time frame is several weeks.

Entry  on  December 03 at $ 40.25
Change since picked:       + 0.35
Earnings Date            02/09/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        3.2 million  
Listed on  November 23, 2009         


PUT Play Updates

Bucyrus Intl. - BUCY - close: 52.81 change: +1.83 stop: 51.90

It looks like the stock market is finally poised to breakout from its trading range. If BUCY sees any follow through higher tomorrow I'll drop this trigger to buy puts at $48.95.

The plan is to buy puts if BUCY hits $48.95. Use small positions. If triggered I'm suggesting the January puts. My preference is the $50 or $45 strike. Our first target is $45.50 (just above the 50-dma). Our second target is $40.50.

Picked on  December 01 at $ xx.xx <-- TRIGGER @ 48.95, small positions
Change since picked:       + 0.00
Earnings Date            02/18/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        2.8 million  
Listed on  December 01, 2009         


Freeport McMoran - FCX - close: 78.84 change: +2.03 stop: 80.55

Hmm... It's probably time to step on the brakes here. Stocks were a lot stronger than expected. A drop in the dollar powered some strong gains for the commodity sector. FCX rose 2.6% toward the top of its recent trading range. At this time I would wait and watch for a failed rally under $80.00 before initiating new positions. Remember, we should consider this an aggressive, higher-risk trade because the dollar, commodities, and shares of FCX can be somewhat volatile. The plan was to use very small positions to limit risk. Our first target is $72.50.

Entry  on  December 12 at $ 76.81 
Change since picked:       + 2.03
Earnings Date            01/26/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       12.6 million  
Listed on  December 12, 2009         


Goldman Sachs - GS - close: 166.10 change: +0.10 stop: 170.25 *new*

Goldman Sachs continues to under perform the market. However, if the S&P 500 finally breaks out higher from its trading range we probably don't want to be long puts on GS. I am lowering our stop loss down to $170.25. More conservative traders may want to just exit early right now or lower their stop toward $168.00. I'm not suggesting new positions at this time. Our target is $155.50. More aggressive traders could aim for the $150 area or the simple 200-dma.

Picked on  November 25 at $168.75
Change since picked:       - 2.75
Earnings Date            12/15/09 (unconfirmed, could be in January)
Average Daily Volume =        9.5 million  
Listed on  November 21, 2009         


Strangle & Spread Play Updates

(What is a strangle? It's when a trader buys an out-of-the-money (OTM) call and an OTM put on the same stock. The strategy is neutral. You do not care what direction the stock moves as long as the move is big enough to make your investment profitable.)

Apple Inc. - AAPL - close: 196.98 change: +2.31 stop: n/a

A widespread market rally helped AAPL recover from its morning lows near $192.50. December options expire in four days. I am not suggesting new strangle positions at this time.

We have an aggressive December strangle and a less aggressive January strangle. The options in the December strangle were the December $210 calls (AJL-LV) and the December $190 puts (APV-XR). Our estimated cost is $3.83. We want to sell if either option hits $8.00 or more.

The options in the January strangle were January $220 calls (AJL-LV) and the January $180 puts (APV-XR). Our estimated cost is $5.60. We want to sell if either option hits $10.00 or more.

Picked on  November 30 at $199.91
Change since picked:       - 2.93
Earnings Date            01/21/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =       15.1 million  
Listed on  November 30, 2009         


Goldman Sachs - GS - close: 166.10 change: +0.10 stop: n/a

We're running out of time. December options expire in four days. I am no longer suggesting new strangle positions on the stock.

The options suggested were the December $180 calls (GPY-LP) and the December $160 puts (GPY-XL). Our estimated cost is about $4.61. We want to sell if either option hits $9.00 or higher.

Picked on  November 21 at $171.67 /gap open entry
Change since picked:       - 5.57
Earnings Date            12/15/09 (unconfirmed, could be January)
Average Daily Volume =        9.5 million  
Listed on  November 21, 2009         


Ultra(Long)-S&P500 - SSO - close: 38.17 change: +0.49 stop: n/a

December options expire in four days. I'm not suggesting new strangle positions at this time.

The options suggested for this strangle were the December $40 calls (SUC-LN) and the December $34 puts (SOJ-XH). Our estimated cost was $1.70. We want to sell if either option hits $3.00 or higher.

Picked on  November 11 at $ 37.08
Change since picked:       + 1.09
Earnings Date            --/--/--
Average Daily Volume =         32 million  
Listed on  November 11, 2009         


United Parcel Service - UPS - close: 58.99 change: +0.98 stop: n/a

Finally! After several weeks shares of UPS are breaking out from their trading range. Sadly December options expire in four days.

December Strangle
The options suggested for this trade were the December $60 calls (UPS-LL) and the December $55 puts (UPS-XK). Our estimated cost is $1.05. We want to sell if either option hits $1.95 or more.

January Strangle
The options suggested for the January strangle were the January $60.00 calls (UPS-AL) and the January $55.00 puts (UPS-MK). Our estimated cost was $1.35. I would plan to sell if either option hit $3.50 or more.

Picked on  November 21 at $ 57.99 /gap open entry
Change since picked:       + 1.00 
Earnings Date            02/02/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        4.7 million  
Listed on  November 21, 2009         


CLOSED BEARISH PLAYS

Sears Holding - SHLD - close: 75.99 change: +1.67 stop: 73.26

SHLD has continued to bounce and the stock has now cleared short-term resistance at $75.00. I am removing it as a bearish candidate. The stock has not hit our trigger at $69.50. More nimble traders may want to use bullish positions to capture a run at resistance near $80.00. Over $80.00 we might look at SHLD as a new bullish candidate.

Chart:

Entry  on  December xx at $ xx.xx <-- TRIGGER @ 69.50 (small pos)
Change since picked:       + 0.00           *NEVER OPENED*
Earnings Date            02/25/10 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume =        1.6 million  
Listed on  December 08, 2009