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Weekly Newsletter, Saturday, 10/15/2005

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Table of Contents

  1. Commentary
  2. Changes in Portfolio
  3. Portfolio Listing
  4. New Plays
  5. Existing Plays
  6. Watch List

Leaps Trader Commentary

Serious Volatility

Everything was going so well until Thursday morning. The bottom fell out at the open on Thursday on what I am going to call the Refco drop. Energy futures gapped down on the open and hardly even slowed when the inventory reports showed a decline in all refined products and a slowing build of natural gas reserves. For some unknown reason the bottom fell out of energy stocks far in excess of the dips recorded in the energy futures. There have been many reports by analysts that the sudden drop could have been the unwinding of energy positions by Refco and by Refco customers fleeing to cash. Whether this is just a wild guess or reality we will never know.

Unfortunately it knocked us out of all but one position less than a week after we reloaded the portfolio from scratch. The extreme volatility did trigger all the watch list plays so there is a little good with the bad.

I was hoping to see the portfolio post some gains before the energy earnings begin in earnest the week of the 24th. After Thursday's drop I am not holding out hope for that possibility. I wanted to get well above our entry points before any negative earnings surprises shook the sector. Now we are faced with some positions that are underwater only two days into them. Not a pleasing scenario.

I was pleased to see the end of day rebound on the oil and gas futures on Friday and hopeful they will continue on Monday. September turned out to be the fourth warmest on record so natural gas reserves continued to build although at a lower than normal rate. The average for last week is a build of +54 bcf and they only rose by +44 bcf due to the production problems in the Gulf. With cold weather starting to appear I am hoping for an even smaller build when reported on Thursday. Oil imports are down -7.9% below last years level and U.S. production is -18.5% below the same period in 2004. These facts do not paint a picture that justifies lower oil prices. We are also hearing that at least 3 bcf of daily gas will be offline until March and 750,000 bpd of oil will be offline until at least January. 10% of our refining capacity is also offline for another 60-90 days. This suggests the remaining refiners will be running at 100% IF they could get enough oil to process. With imports and production both down the picture is not rosy. It is a known fact that production, import and pipeline capacity is insufficient to support winter consumption. Each year 2.0-2.5 TCF must be added to storage before the winter heating season begins. With lost production nearing 300 billion CF in the Gulf these injection efforts are running behind. Currently there is 2.987 BCF in storage and the target is 3.200 BCF. This would require an injection of more than 99 BCF in each of the next two weeks to bring the levels up to the requirement before the Nov-1st deadline. Fortunately the deadline can shift several weeks later if the weather remains warm. A colder than normal Halloween could get us off on a bad start and have supplies playing catch up from the start of the season.

How that impacts oil and gas prices and more specifically how it impacts energy stocks is still unknown. We have seen demand numbers fall -2 to -3% for refined products but it is unsure how much is related to price and/or the lack of a functioning economy in the Gulf disaster areas. This is likely to remain a confusing picture for at least another month.

November 1st is typically the start of the winter heating season and the beginning of strong demand for natural gas and heating oil. Forecasters are calling for a colder than normal winter and that could produce stronger than normal demand. It boils down to a lot of "ifs" and no real evidence of any trend for prices.

Oil futures are actually in a downtrend since the Katrina spike with resistance at $65 and support at $60. The futures have been clinging to the 100-day average at just over $62 although there has been strong bouts of volatility in both directions. What we are missing is a resumption of the bullish trend in prices despite what could be called an energy disaster. This causes me to question the validity of adding any further energy stocks until that trend resumes.

We also have the problem of energy earnings the week of Oct-24th. Many companies have exposure to hurricane damage and loss of production in the Gulf. In this weekend's OIN commentary I mentioned the sudden appearance of TV ads for Conoco Phillips ahead of their earnings. With the stock only $9 below a new high I fear they are trying to reassure investors ahead of their earnings and a potential negative surprise. Their website provides a detailed list of "problems" that might impact their earnings performance including damage, lost production and refinery outages. I would say the odds are good many companies will take hurricane related charges. How that will impact prices is unknown given the high price of oil offsetting the cost of repairs and lost production. It is a toss up but one that should be avoided.

I am going to reinstate two of the plays from last week that were stopped out, CHK and UPL. Neither have exposure to the Gulf and both are primarily natural gas producers who will benefit from colder weather and higher prices. We should only see positive surprises from both unless they hedged large amounts of gas at less than current rates. Many producers thought $7 to $8 gas back in June and July was a top in the market and presold production at those rates thereby limiting upside. Hopefully neither CHK nor UPL capped their income substantially.

Of the watch list plays triggered EOG, ECA and DVN are gas producers. EOG has reportedly NOT hedged the majority of its gas and should report record profits. TSO is a west coast refiner and has no hurricane exposure but should also report record profits due to the high prices of gasoline. NOV is an oil field equipment provider and business should be booming considering all the damage to offshore facilities. NOV had a $1.2 billion backlog of orders as of August 5th and that backlog should have grown substantially in the last 60 days. Earnings are scheduled for Oct-28th.

After many months of above average returns we were bound to hit a rough patch eventually. I am looking to keep the portfolio skinny until after earnings and then add to it only if a new uptrend in prices appears. We will be a lot pickier about adding positions with an eye towards a decline in energy prices after January. March is typically a good period for entering long-term positions ahead of the summer demand cycle. There will always be plenty of opportunity but every market has cycles that must be respected.

On Friday afternoon gas prices shot up from $12.80 to close at $13.24 without any specific news. If the end of week drop was due to Refco positions being unwound then hopefully the closing spike was the all-clear signal. Up until that spike there was a bearish head and shoulders pattern forming on the daily chart. That pattern has not been erased but the spike at least offers hope that it will fail.

Natural Gas Chart - 5 min

Natural Gas Chart - Daily

Oil prices are right in the middle of a down trend in place since the Katrina spike. The 100-day average at $62.50 is acting as support but the pattern is currently bearish until a break of $65 to the upside with a break over $68 as confirmation. I do not expect that until demand recovers and all refiners are back online. This negates any plays strictly related to the price of oil until a new uptrend develops. We saw the same uptick in oil at Friday's close but other factors suggest caution.

Crude Oil futures Chart - Daily

Crude Oil Futures Chart - 5 min

 


Changes in Portfolio

New Plays

Dropped Plays

New Watch List Plays Triggered

Portfolio Listing & Top Picks


New Plays

Most Recent Plays

UPL $50.55 Ultra Petroleum ** Stop Loss $46.00 **

Ultra was rebounding nicely until Thursday morning when the bottom fell out taking it all the way back to $46.50. There was no news and the dip was quickly bought. I tightened the stop this time around and another break below last weeks low will take us out for the last time.

Earnings Schedule: Oct-25th

Company info:

Ultra Petroleum Corp. is an oil and gas company engaged in the development, production, operation, exploration and acquisition of oil and gas properties. The Company's operations are focused in the Green River Basin of southwest Wyoming and Bohai Bay, offshore China. During the year ended December 31, 2004, it owns interests in approximately 166,974 gross (92,997 net) acres in Wyoming covering approximately 260 square miles. The Company owns working interests in approximately 241 gross productive wells in this area and is operator of 41.5% of the 241 gross wells. Through Pendaries Petroleum Ltd., it is active in oil and gas exploration and development in Bohai Bay, China. The Company also owns interests in 15,518 gross (14,652 net) acres in Pennsylvania, as well as interest in approximately 720 gross (320 net) acres and interests in three productive wells in Texas.

March $60 Call UPL-CL @ $5.10

Entry $50.55 (10/16)

CHK - $32.60 Chesapeake Energy ** Stop loss $30.00 **

CHK also fell on no news on Thursday to stop out our play from last week. The low of $30.20 also corresponds to the longer-term uptrend in the stock. CHK earnings is later than most and hopefully they will occur at a much higher level.

Earnings Schedule: Nov-4th (approx)

Company Info

Chesapeake Energy Corporation is an oil and natural gas exploration and production company engaged in the acquisition, exploration and development of properties for the production of crude oil and natural gas from underground reservoirs and the marketing of natural gas and oil for other working interest owners in properties that it operates. The Company's properties are located in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Montana, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico. The proved oil and natural gas reserves as of December 31, 2004 were approximately 4.9 trillion cubic feet of gas equivalent (tcfe). At December 31, 2004, approximately 89% of the Company's proved reserves (by volume) were natural gas, and approximately 70% of its proved oil and natural gas reserves were located in the primary operating area, the Mid-Continent region of the United States, which includes Oklahoma, western Arkansas, southwestern Kansas and the Texas Panhandle.

APRIL $35 CALL CHK-DG @ 4.20

Entry $32.60 (10/16)

ECA - $49.11 - Encana ** Stop Loss $45.75 **

Encana retreated to uptrend support just like the rest of the crowd and triggered our breakdown entry at $48.50 on Thursday. Encana should not see any negative impact from the hurricanes and sales of gas should have expanded to fill the available pipeline capacity.

Earnings Schedule: Oct 26th

Company Info:

EnCana Corporation is an independent crude oil and natural gas exploration and production company. Its key landholdings are in western Canada, the United States Rocky Mountains, Ecuador, the United Kingdom central North Sea, offshore Canada's East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. EnCana explores for, produces and markets natural gas, crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) in Canada and the United States. EnCana is also engaged in exploration and production activities internationally including production from Ecuador and the United Kingdom central North Sea. EnCana has interests in midstream operations and assets, including natural gas storage, NGLs gathering and processing facilities, power plants and pipelines.

APR 2006 $55 CALL ECA-DK @ $4.80

Entry $48.50 (10/13)

EOG - $66.83 - EOG Resources ** Stop Loss $63.25 **

EOG rallied to trigger our breakout level at $70.50 on Tuesday by only +30 cents before crashing back to earth with the rest of the sector. The sharp drop on Thursday gave us a solid stop for the current play although we are underwater at present.

Earnings schedule: Nov-2nd

Company Info:

EOG Resources, Inc. (EOG) explores for, develops, produces and markets natural gas and crude oil primarily in major producing basins in the United States, Canada, offshore Trinidad, the United Kingdom North Sea and, from time to time, select other international areas. At December 31, 2004, EOG's total estimated net proved reserves were 5,647 billion cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe), of which 5,047 billion cubic feet (Bcf) were natural gas reserves and 100 million barrels (MMBbl), or 600 Bcfe, were crude oil, condensate and natural gas liquids reserves. At such date, approximately 50% of EOG's reserves (on a natural gas equivalent basis) were located in the United States, 25% in Trinidad, 24% in Canada and 1% in the United Kingdom North Sea. EOG's operations are all natural gas and crude oil exploration and production related.

APR 2006 $80 CALL EOG-DP @ $5.20

Entry $70.50 (10/11)

DVN - $62.03 - Devon Energy ** Stop Loss $58.50 **

Devon retreated to support at $60 but not before triggering the breakout stop at $64.50 on Tuesday. The selling on Thursday knocked nearly -$5 off the price with a strong rebound on Friday recovering much of the loss.

Earnings Schedule: Nov-2nd

Company Info:

Devon Energy Corporation (Devon) is an independent energy company engaged primarily in oil and gas exploration, development and production, the acquisition of producing properties, the transportation of oil, gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) and the processing of natural gas. Devon operates oil and gas properties in the United States, Canada and various regions located outside North America. Devon's North American properties are concentrated within five geographic areas. Operations in the United States are focused in the Permian Basin, the Mid-Continent, the Rocky Mountains and onshore and offshore Gulf Coast. Canadian properties are focused in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta and British Columbia. Properties outside North America are located primarily in Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, and areas in West Africa, including Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Cote d'Ivoire.

APR 2006 $70 CALL DVN-DN @ $4.80

Entry $64.50 (10/11)

TSO - $57.24 - Tesoro Corp ** Stop Loss $53.75 **

Tesoro fell below uptrend support and did not rebound until hitting the 100-day average at $53.56. Tesoro is a west coast refiner and has no hurricane exposure. Profits should be high due to high gasoline prices and no capacity restrictions.

Earnings Schedule: Nov-3rd

Company Info:

Tesoro Corporation, is an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products with two major operating segments, Refining and Retail. Through its refining segment, the Company manufactures products, primarily gasoline and gasoline blendstocks, jet fuel, diesel fuel and heavy fuel oils for sale to a variety of commercial customers principally in the mid-continental and western United States. It operates six refineries in the United States with a combined rated crude oil capacity of 558,000 barrels per day. During the year ended December 31, 2004, approximately 50% of the Company's total refining throughput was heavy crude oil. Its retail segment distributes motor fuels through a network of branded gas stations, primarily trading under the Tesoro and Mirastar brands. The Company markets its products to wholesale and retail customers, as well as commercial end users. On November 8, 2004, the Company changed its name to Tesoro Corporation.

FEB 2006 $65 CALL TSO-BM @ $4.40

Entry $58.50 (10/13)

NOV - $56.40 - National Oilwell Varco ** Stop Loss $53.50 **

NOV had a record $1.2 billion backlog of orders as of August 5th. After two damaging hurricanes that backlog should have grown with increased profits as demand sent prices higher. NOV retreated back to uptrend support at the 100-day average at $54 on the 13th and rebounded Friday with the rest of the sector. The price of oil should not be as critical for NOV but earnings guidance will be the key.

Earnings Schedule: Oct-28th

Company Info:

National-Oilwell Varco Inc., formerly National-Oilwell, Inc. designs, manufactures and sells systems, components and products used in oil and gas drilling and production, as well as distributes products and provides services to the exploration and production segment of the oil and gas industry. The Company's Products and Technology segment designs and manufactures complete land drilling and workover rigs, as well as drilling-related systems on offshore rigs. Non-capital revenue sources within its Products and Technology segment include drilling motors and specialized downhole tools that are sold or rented, spare parts and service on the large installed base of its equipment, expendable parts for mud pumps and other equipment and smaller downhole, progressive cavity and transfer pumps. Company's Distribution Services segment provides maintenance, repair and operating supplies and spare parts to drill site and production locations throughout North America and to offshore contractors.

FEB 2006 $60 CALL NOV-BL @ $4.10

Entry $57.50 (10/13)


Play Updates

Existing Plays

STR - $77.42 Questar ** Stopped $77.50 **

The selling on Thursday knocked -$6 off Questar and Friday's rebound regained half of that. The outlook is still good for STR but we are not going to reenter at this time. STR did not return to prior uptrend support at $80 and although it did not reach the 100-day average the beating left bruises. Maybe after earnings we will reenter if a new uptrend develops.

Earnings: Oct 26th (estimate)

Company Info:

Questar Corporation (Questar) is a natural gas focused energy company with three principal lines of business gas and oil exploration and production, interstate gas transmission, and retail gas distribution. Questar conducts most of its operations through its subsidiaries Questar Market Resources (Market Resources), Questar Pipeline Company and Questar Gas Company (Questar Gas). Market Resources is a sub-holding company that owns Questar Exploration and Production Company (Questar E&P), Wexpro Company (Wexpro), Questar Gas Management Company (Gas Management) and Questar Energy Trading Company (Energy Trading). Questar Pipeline provides interstate natural gas transmission, storage and gas processing and treating services. Questar Gas conducts retail natural gas distribution.

APR 2006 $90 CALL STR-DR @ $6.10, exit $3.10, -3.00

Entry $86 (10/04)

BTU - $77.68 Peabody Energy ** Stop Loss $73.00 **

Peabody is my hero! BTU is the only stock in the portfolio that was not stopped out and actually finished with a gain for the week! A move over $79 would trigger additional buying and confirmation of a new uptrend.

** CAUTION - earnings are OCT-18th **

Company Info:

Peabody Energy Corporation (Peabody) is a private-sector coal company in the world. During the year ended December 31, 2004, the Company sold 227.2 million tons of coal. It sells coal to over 300 electricity generating and industrial plants in 16 countries. The Company owns, through its subsidiaries, majority interests in 32 coal operations located throughout all the United States coal producing regions and in Australia. Most of the production in the western United States is low-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin. In the West, it owns and operates mines in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. In the East, it owns and operates mines in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. The Company owns four mines in Queensland, Australia. Most of the Australian production is low-sulfur, metallurgical coal. In addition to the mining operations, the Company markets, brokers and trades coal.

MAR 2006 $80 CALL BTU-CP @ $6.30

Entry $74.65 (10/09)

UPL $50.55 Ultra Petroleum ** Stopped $48.00 **

Ultra was whacked with the sector losing -$5 on Thursday. By the close on Friday it had returned to within a buck of its Wednesday close. I reinstated UPL as a current play today.

Earnings Schedule: Oct-25th

Company info:

Ultra Petroleum Corp. is an oil and gas company engaged in the development, production, operation, exploration and acquisition of oil and gas properties. The Company's operations are focused in the Green River Basin of southwest Wyoming and Bohai Bay, offshore China. During the year ended December 31, 2004, it owns interests in approximately 166,974 gross (92,997 net) acres in Wyoming covering approximately 260 square miles. The Company owns working interests in approximately 241 gross productive wells in this area and is operator of 41.5% of the 241 gross wells. Through Pendaries Petroleum Ltd., it is active in oil and gas exploration and development in Bohai Bay, China. The Company also owns interests in 15,518 gross (14,652 net) acres in Pennsylvania, as well as interest in approximately 720 gross (320 net) acres and interests in three productive wells in Texas.

March $60 Call UPL-CL @ $5.70, exit $3.80, -1.90

Entry $52.39(10/9)

CHK - $32.60 Chesapeake Energy ** Stopped $31.00 **

CHK only lost -$3 in the Thursday crash and held up better than most of the sector. All the news is good surrounding CHK and I reinstated it as an active play today.

Earnings Schedule: Nov-4th (approx)

Company Info

Chesapeake Energy Corporation is an oil and natural gas exploration and production company engaged in the acquisition, exploration and development of properties for the production of crude oil and natural gas from underground reservoirs and the marketing of natural gas and oil for other working interest owners in properties that it operates. The Company's properties are located in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Montana, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico. The proved oil and natural gas reserves as of December 31, 2004 were approximately 4.9 trillion cubic feet of gas equivalent (tcfe). At December 31, 2004, approximately 89% of the Company's proved reserves (by volume) were natural gas, and approximately 70% of its proved oil and natural gas reserves were located in the primary operating area, the Mid-Continent region of the United States, which includes Oklahoma, western Arkansas, southwestern Kansas and the Texas Panhandle.

APRIL $35 CALL CHK-DG @ 5.30, exit $3.70, -1.60

Entry $33.99 (10/09)

BR - $70.06 Burlington Resources ** Stopped $68.00 **

BR took the hit along with the rest of the crowd and is now trading below support. Despite the strong gas play here there is some hurricane exposure. We will wait until after earnings for a new trend to develop before reentering.

Burlington has over 12 trillion CF of gas reserves and onshore gas in the U.S. accounts for more than 85% of their production. BR is very well positioned to profit from a continuing rise in gas prices.

Earnings Schedule: Oct-18th

Company Info:

Burlington Resources Inc. is one of the world's largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies, and holds one of the industry's leading positions in North American natural gas reserves and production. Our hallmarks include long-life reserves, strong cash flow generation and high expertise in producing from complex geologic reservoirs. Our reserves base of 12 trillion cubic feet equivalent of natural gas at year-end 2004 was concentrated in North America, which supplies nearly 85 percent of current production, with a key focus being the Rocky Mountain gas fairway of the U.S. and Canada.

Burlington's producing areas include the giant San Juan Basin Field of New Mexico and Colorado, where Burlington is the leading producer; Wyoming's highly productive Madden Field; the Williston Basin of North Dakota; the Anadarko Basin in Oklahoma; the Barnett Shale and Bossier trends in Texas, and South Louisiana. Major Canadian production comes from the Deep Basin, O'Chiese, Foothills, Northern Plains, Kaybob and Southern Plains areas. We also produce natural gas in the East Irish Sea, the Dutch North Sea, Argentina and China, and oil in Algeria, offshore China and Ecuador. With headquarters in Houston, we employ more than 2,200 people.

Buy FEBRUARY $80 Call BR-BP @ $3.90, exit $1.85, -2.05

Entry $72.71 (10/09)

SWN - $68.13 Southwestern Energy ** Stopped $68.00 **

SWN started selling a day before the rest of the sector and gave up nearly -$10 from Tuesday to Thursday's lows. The strong rebound on Friday did not rebuild my confidence after such a strong beating.

Earnings: Oct 28th

Company info:

Southwestern Energy Company is an integrated energy company headquartered in Houston, Texas, primarily focused on the exploration for and production of natural gas. Originally organized in 1929 as a local natural gas distribution company in Arkansas, today the Company is involved in many different activities.
Natural Gas and Crude Oil Exploration and Production - Southwestern is engaged in natural gas and oil exploration, development and production in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana. At December 31, 2004, the Company's proved oil and gas reserves totaled 645.5 Bcf equivalent, of which approximately 92% were natural gas. The Company primarily conducts its exploration and production activities through its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Southwestern Energy Production Company and SEECO, Inc.
Natural Gas Distribution - The Company's utility subsidiary, Arkansas Western Gas Company, is engaged in the gathering, distribution, and transmission of natural gas to approximately 145,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in northern Arkansas.
Natural Gas Marketing and Transportation - Southwestern provides natural gas marketing and transportation services through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Southwestern Energy Services Company. Additionally, Southwestern Energy Pipeline Company owns a 25% interest in the Ozark Gas Transmission System, a 723-mile interstate natural gas transmission system that extends from eastern Oklahoma across northern Arkansas.

Buy DEC-$80 Call SWN-LP @ $5.10, exit $4.20, -0.90

Entry $72.00 (10/9)

KMG $85.32 Kerr McGee ** Stopped $84.00 **

KMG actually rebounded above its Thursday open and erased all the end of week losses. However, we still got stopped at $84 and I want to see a rebound above $89.00 (Tuesday's high) before reentering. We were killed on the exit and I am gun shy.

Company Info:

Kerr-McGee Corporation (Kerr-McGee) is an energy and inorganic chemical holding company whose consolidated subsidiaries, joint ventures and other affiliates (together, affiliates) have operations throughout the world. The Company's core businesses include exploration and production, and chemicals. Kerr-McGee's oil and gas exploration and production areas are onshore in the United States, in the Gulf of Mexico, the United Kingdom sector of the North Sea and China. In addition, the Company has exploration programs in Alaska, Brazil, Morocco, Bahamas and Benin. Kerr-McGee affiliates engaged in chemical businesses produce and market inorganic industrial chemicals, lithium-metal-polymer batteries and heavy minerals. On June 25, 2004, the Company completed a merger with Westport Resources Corporation. On Oct 7th, 2005, the Company announced its decision to proceed with the proposal to spin off its chemical business in Q4-2005.

APRIL $90 Call KMG-DR @ $7.40, exit $4.30, -3.10

Entry $87.59 (10/9)


Leaps Trader Watch List

After being blown out of the water last week on what should have been some really good plays I hesitate to add any new watch list entries this week. If the trend is changing we could go broke buying the dips. If the trend reappears then we have plenty of time for a few more entries before year-end.

All the watch list entries from last week were triggered and are now plays. If you are just dying for something new to bet on I like the following but I am not adding any official watch list entries this week:

BR - Burlington Resources. 12 TCF of reserves, 85% of production onshore but does have some Gulf exposure.

COP - Conoco Phillips. Earnings Oct-26th and a very strong possibility of a negative surprise. Buy the dip.

AHC - Amerada Hess - good trading stock. Buy over $122.

APC - Anadarko - Very good value in a gas stock valued at $10.80 per BOE of proven reserves. Was upgraded twice in the last week on valuation. Limited exposure to the Gulf and no damage reported. Buy over $92.

OXY - Occidental - Bought Vintage this week using cash on hand and added 430 mb of proven reserves. OXY was down in advance of the news suggesting there was an information leak. Target $70 for a dip buy.

Be careful of entering new positions ahead of energy earnings beginning the week of Oct-24th.


Good luck!
 

Dropped Entries

None


New Watch List Entries

None

Current Watch List

None


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