Option Investor

Weekly Newsletter, Saturday, 05/05/2007

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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

Buying Opportunity

Crude prices surprised everyone with a -3% drop back to $61.89. The resistance at $66.50 proved too tough and I believe traders simply decided to take profits given the lack of headlines to push prices higher. I consider any return to the vicinity of $60 as a strong buying opportunity ahead of summer driving demand and hurricane season.

Also surprising traders was the sudden spike in natural gas prices to a new four-week high at $8.10. The Sempra Energy (SRE) CEO said on CNBC that he expected gas prices to rise due to the forecast for a warmer than expected summer. Shares of nearly all gas producers rose as the week progressed.

Chesapeake posted a large drop in profits to 50 cents per share compared to $1.44 in the comparison quarter. They were hurt by a $193 million charge from a mark-to-market hedging program. Excluding the charges the operating income came in at 87 cents and nearly a dime more than analysts were expecting. Production rose +12% but prices received fell -15%. Chesapeake's proven reserves rose to 9.4 tcf but that is expected to double as existing fields are proven. CHK has acquired 18,000 acres in the Barnett Shale. They also own 1.1 million acres in the Fayetteville Shale with expectations of 6.5 tcf in additional reserves. They have only drilled 20 test wells in this play and the potential has not yet been proven or priced into CHK stock according to the CEO. They also own 350,000 acres in the Bossier field in East Texas and plan to increase active rigs from the current one rig to six rigs by year-end. Last week they announced plans to acquire additional interests in East Texas from Gastar Exploration for $92 million. CHK also upped its ownership in Gastar Exploration to 20.5%.

Chesapeake also announced plans to drill 16 wells on the 157 acre Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. The Colonial has sponsored numerous PGA tours over several decades. CHK said with the Colonial agreement they will be able to reach surrounding residential areas like Park Hill and Alamo Heights without having to physically drill within the neighborhoods. Drilling in the Fort Worth area has reached into the city with wells springing up even closer to the downtown area.

I visited the Jonah Field in western Wyoming early this week and it was an amazing visit. The gas wells are literally within a stones throw of each other. Spacing is officially between 5-40 acres but as you can see by the map of the Jonah field below they are literally almost on top of each other.

Pindale, Jonah and Labarge Fields.

Drillers in the area claim a 17-year inventory of wells to be drilled in the Jonah and Pinedale fields. I visited a well owned by Encana and being drilled by Ensign Energy Services, the 5th largest contract driller in the US. While I was there I found out that Encana had just released five of the 12,000 ft Ensign rigs from their contract. Given the inventory of wells to be drilled I was surprised to see a major cutback in the drilling effort. The unofficial explanation had Encana cutting back on expenses while gas prices were significantly cheaper than in prior years. Why rush to production at premium rates only to sell your gas at what they consider is a discount price? Encana just reported a drop in net income of 66% due mostly to a paper loss of $427 million in their hedging operation due to mark-to-market accounting rules. That same rule generated a $830 million paper gain in Q1-2006. Operating earnings rose +24% on a large jump in natural gas production. Earnings came in at $1.10 compared to analyst's estimates of 99 cents. Encana specifically mentioned sharp gains in gas production at the Jonah field and several others as the reason for stronger earnings. It will be interesting to see what happens to those 5 Ensign rigs when they finish their current wells. It could be a day-rate play by Encana to negotiate a better rate or they simply found a cheaper driller. With the dozens of drillers in the field it should not be a problem to find rigs. Likewise with a 17 year inventory of wells to be drilled I would think any rig off contract would not have any trouble finding work.

Jonah Field - This is the view in every direction

Rig Floor Showing Hydraulic Tongs

Ensign Rig #77, Drilling to 12,000 Feet, Note the flag at full
extension in a blustery cold Wyoming wind. No smile because I am
freezing in the sudden storm.

I saw rigs belonging to every company I could think of and several I had never heard of before. There were some huge Helmerich & Payne (HP) rigs dominating the landscape. HP just reported earnings of $1.02 including items and 79 cents after items. Analysts had expected XX cents. HP said it was continuing to deploy new rigs at the rate of four per month and expected to have 18 more at work before year-end. They did report a decline in rig revenue of 5% with 97% of their rigs working compared to 98% in the prior quarter. Net income was $106 million on revenues of $372 million. That is a very nice margin if you can get it. According to the roughnecks I spoke to they were all coveting a position on a new HP rig. HP said there were an increasing number of competitors older rigs stacked and off rent as new and more capable rigs replaced them. We have heard about slowdowns in the gas-drilling sector and it is starting to be seen in even more earnings reports. If gas prices begin to tick up again as they did this week we can expect that slowdown to be brief.

Gas prices rose to a national average of $3.01 for unleaded last week and I can tell you I paid a lot more than that on my latest trip. The highest price paid was $3.44 in western California but I know it is higher than that in some places on both coasts. I was glad to get back to the $2.74 here in Colorado. AAA warned on Friday that prices could hit record highs before month end and many feel $4 is in our immediate future.

Europeans have been paying much more than this for years with equivalent prices in the $5-$7 range. This has forced Europeans to develop a different mindset about transportation and focus on smaller cars. The GM CEO said this week that GM may have to start making more fuel efficient cars to combat the inroads made by Toyota and others. Just how much money are they paying him to make those startling revelations? The key will be to get Americans to buy those cars from GM and not Toyota. Toyota said this week they are expecting to sell 4.3 million vehicles in 2007.

You may have noticed a spike in PetroChina since Tuesday's close under $113. PTR shares spiked to $130 after it announced a major oil find of nearly 7.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent. Three billion of those barrels are already proven. The discovery in the shallow water of the Bohai Bay close to Beijing was more than the total reserves of the countries 3rd largest producer and rival CNOOC Ltd (CEO). They should begin production in 2009 at 100,000 bpd and could ramp up to 500,000 bpd within 10 years. This was the biggest oil discovery since the 2 billion tonne Kashagan field was found in the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan in 2000. The Kashagan field is expected to eventually produce 1.5 mbpd but requires billions in investment to make it commercially viable. This discovery in China is in shallow water and can be produced rather quickly and cheaply once infrastructure is completed. It was China's largest find since 1974. China currently imports 43% of its oil and demand rose 14.4% in 2006.

Warren Buffet is a major shareholder in PetroChina (1.3%) and with the annual shareholder meeting this Saturday several shareholder groups were planning demonstrations in an attempt to get Berkshire Hathaway to unload its investment in PTR because it has operations in the Sudan. There is also a shareholder resolution up for a vote to force Berkshire to divest its PTR holdings. I wonder how this will play out now that PTR is up +12% for the week and has the potential to double or triple over the next several years? Berkshire contends that PetroChina has no direct involvement in the Sudan and selling its stake would have no impact on the Darfur problem.

The PetroChina discovery will undoubtedly bring up questions about the validity of Peak Oil. Fortunately for investors the data is still on our side. A recent study by prominent geologist Myron Horn shows 220 such fields were discovered in the 1970s compared to only 72 in the current decade. The Centre for Global Energy Studies calculated that the average output from giant fields found in the 1990s is only about half of that of the 1970 fields. Current finds are normally harder to produce and are more expensive.

Jim Brown

June Crude Futures Chart - Daily

June Gas Futures Chart - Daily

June Gasoline Chart - RBOB Daily


Changes in Portfolio

New Plays

With most energy stocks up strongly over the last few weeks I really don't want to add any at these levels until after earnings are over.

Dropped Plays


New Watch List Plays Triggered
ATI $108.68 Alleghany Tech

Portfolio Listing & Top Picks

New Plays

Most Recent Plays

ATI - $108.68 - Allegheny Tech

ATI fell back to support at the 50-day average and gave us our entry point at $110. This has been strong support in the past and should continue to be support. The dip came after RTI reported earnings of 95 cents that nearly double the comparison quarter but missed analyst estimates of $1.09. Banc of America upgraded the titanium stocks after the drop saying the fundamentals remained strong for at least the next three years and possibly well into the next decade.

Company Info:

Allegheny Technologies Incorporated (ATI) is a diversified specialty metals producer. The Company operates in three segments: High Performance Metals, Flat-Rolled Products and Engineered Products. The High Performance Metals segment produces, converts and distributes a range of high-performance alloys, including nickel and cobalt-based alloys and superalloys, titanium and titanium-based alloys, zirconium, hafnium, niobium, nickel-titanium and their related alloys. The Flat-Rolled Products segment produces, converts and distributes stainless steel, nickel-based alloys, and titanium and titanium-based alloys. The Engineered Products segment produces tungsten powder, tungsten heavy alloys, tungsten carbide materials and carbide cutting tools. ATI products are used in various markets. These markets include aerospace, defense, chemical process industry, oil and gas, electrical energy and medical.

Breakdown target $110.00 hit 04/30

Call spread:
LONG JAN-09 $110 LEAP Call OYG-AX @ $21.50
SHORT JAN-09 $140 LEAP Call ZKG-AH @ $9.50


Play Updates

Existing Plays

TSO - $116.96 -2.21 - Tesoro

TSO pulled back slightly from last week but what you don't see is the spike on Monday that nearly hit $126. Friday's close was -$10 from that level. The spike came from pre earnings excitement and the crash from an earnings miss. TSO reported earnings that more than double to $1.67 per share from 61 cents in the comparison quarter. Analysts were looking for $1.84. TSO said the earnings shortfall was related to maintenance outages at the Golden Eagle and Salt Lake City refineries. They also announced a 2:1 split and doubled the quarterly cash dividend. The record date for the split is May-14th with a pay date of May-29th.

For initial commentary see April 29th newsletter.

Earnings: May 3rd, $1.67 vs 61 cents in comparison qtr

Breakout target: $110 hit 10:AM on 4/23/07
Position: 2009 $120 LEAP Call ZGC-AD @ $16.68


ATW $67.29 +2.98 - Atwood Oceanics

Atwood continues higher on no news. Analyst Waqar Syed with Tristone recommended ATW as his top pick saying earnings should grow +84% this year and next. No complaints here.

Interesting article in Investors Business Daily regarding Atwood.

For initial commentary see April 29th newsletter.

Earnings schedule: May 8th est $1.08

Breakout trigger $60.50 hit 4/23/07
Position: 2009 $70 LEAP Call ZFJ-AN @ $6.50


TS - $47.52 +.37 - Tenaris ** Stop Loss $45.50 **

Tenaris reported earnings after the close on Friday that rose +14%. Revenue was below analysts estimates and Tenaris said a slowdown in Canadian drilling and imports from China were to blame. Tenaris bought Maverick Tube for $3.19 billion and Texas based Hydril (HYDL) for $2.16 billion in 2006. The Maverick acquisition has closed and Hydril will close on Monday. Both are seen as significant additional sources of revenue for 2007 and beyond. Tenaris reported after the bell on Friday and fell -$3 in after hours trading on extremely low volume. Resistance at $48 is still holding firm. If TS opens down on Monday at the $44 level where trading ended on Friday it will stop us out of the position. I would suggest removing the stop until after the open to see if we get a rebound. Leaving the stop in place at the open will almost guarantee being filled at the low of the day.

For initial commentary see April 14th newsletter.

Earnings: May 4th 41 cents


Position: Sept $50 Call TSW-IJ @ $3.80 Stop TS @ $45.50


BHP - $51.63 +2.71 - BHP Billiton

BHP rose on a bounce in metals prices and on a Merrill Lynch note that speculated BHP could be a profitable takeover target. With a market cap of $120 billion Merrill said it would be a tough deal to structure but an LBO could derive a 30% internal rate of return or better if they decided to try it. Merrill speculated BHP could be acquired and the individual parts sold for a substantial profit. This sent both BHP and RTP higher on Friday. Separately JP Morgan said if metals prices held at existing levels for another two years BHP would be lifted by an additional 30%. No earnings date announced.

For initial commentary see March 17th newsletter.

Earnings schedule: No date announced.

Breakout target $43.50 hit March 12th

Position: JAN-09 $50 LEAP Call ZPK-AJ @ $6.00


CCJ - $50.35 +4.10 - Cameco

CCJ continues to sprint to new highs on no news. It is likely the talk about the coming uranium futures contract on Monday is providing the focus for retail traders. CCJ has guided to significantly higher profits for all of 2007 and beyond and investors are hoping the stock remains radioactive. No change in play.

There has not been a weekly drop in uranium prices since 2003. The NYMEX announced it would begin trading a uranium commodity contract on May 7th. The contract would cover 250 pounds of uranium. The symbol will be UX plus the month codes.

Worldwide there are 28 new reactors being built, 64 on the drawing boards and 158 in the proposal stages. If all were built it would be a 57% increase from the 435 reactors now in operation. In 2006 the world consumed 180 million pounds of uranium but produced only 100 million pounds. The rest came from Russian nuclear warheads being decommissioned. The supply from those warheads is dwindling and will be completely gone by 2015.

For initial commentary see March 10th newsletter.

Earnings: Apr-27th, -47% due to revenue timing

Breakout trigger: $37.50 Hit March 7th

Position: JAN-09 $40 LEAP Call ZBK-AH @ $7.80


PTR - $125.92 +10.94 - Petrochina

PTR announced a multi billion barrel oil find in the Bohai Bay area of the China Sea. This monster discovery in shallow water just off the coast near Beijing is liquid gold to PTR. It will be easy to produce and very near where demand is greatest. PTR spiked to nearly $130 before cooler heads prevailed and it declined to $125. Still a nice gain for the week and it is not likely to give much back. No change in play.

For initial commentary see March 10th newsletter.

Breakdown target:
$110 1/2 position - hit Mar-5th

Position: JAN-09 $120 LEAP Call ZJK-AD @ $10.70
Cost reduction 4/19 $10.70 -2.25 = $8.45

Cost reduction play:
Position: stopped @ $114 4/19
Short June $105 Put PTR-RA @ $3.40, exit $1.15. +2.25


SNP - $89.99 +0.73 - Sinopec

Sinopec recovered from an early week dip on no news. Resistance appears to be $91 and then $95. No change in play.

For initial commentary see March 3rd newsletter.

Breakdown target $82.50 hit on 2/27

Position: OCT $85 Call SNP-JQ @ $7.00


CHK $35.54 +1.87 - Chesapeake Energy ** Stop loss $32.00 **

CHK had plenty of news last week plus earnings that came in less than expected due to a paper loss from a mark-to-market charge for hedging strategies. On an operating basis earnings were 87 cents compared to estimates for 78 cents. I raised the stop loss to $32 in case the current euphoria fades.

For initial commentary see Dec-9th newsletter.

Earnings: May 4th, 87 cents vs est of 78 cents

Current recommendation: Hold

Position: 2009 $35 LEAP VEC-AG @ $5.30

Insurance put:
Oct $30 Put CHK-VF @ 90 cents. Profit stop $28


MRO $104.41 +1.61 - Marathon Oil

MRO reported earnings of $2.07 down from $2.13 in the comparison quarter. On an operating basis earnings were $2.04 compared to analyst estimates of $1.93. Oil production fell to 339,000 bpd from 377,000 bpd in 2006. Refinery output increased to 968,000 bpd from 898,000 bpd in 2006. Lower prices for oil were blamed for keeping profits from growing even more. The earnings were good enough to push MRO to a new high! No change in play.

For initial commentary see Nov-18th newsletter.

Earnings: May 1st, $2.04 vs est $1.93

2:1 Stock Split June 18th, record date May 23rd

Current recommendation: Buy at $85

Position 2009 $100 LEAP Call VXM-AT @ $12.60
Cost update: Expired March put +65 cents to $13.25

Insurance put: 2/18/07
Position: March $85 PUT MRO-OQ @ 65 cents. expired


HES - $58.18 +1.16 - Hess Corporation
(Formerly (AHC))

Hess recovered from its post earnings slump and returned to test the historic high from the prior week. No news and no change in play.

For initial commentary see Nov-4th newsletter.

Earnings: Apr-25th, $1.17 vs $2.22

Current recommendation: Buy at $47

11/05/06 2009 $50 LEAP Call VHS-AJ @ $6.80
Cost adjustment put exit +1.60, cost = $8.40

Insurance Put: Triggered Jan-3rd @ $49
01/03/07 May $45 put HES-QI @ $2.60, exit 1/26 $1.00

Insurance Put: 2/26/07
MAY $50 PUT IGG-QJ @ $1.35, profit stop $46
May $55 Put IGG-QK @ 80 cents. Profit Target $51


BTU - $48.91 -.01 - Peabody Energy

BTU continues to knock on the resistance door at $50 but nobody is answering. Coal has been getting a lot of positive press recently and BTU is the granddaddy of them all. No news and no change in play.

For initial commentary see Oct-22nd newsletter.

Earnings schedule: April 19th, -32% on special items

Current recommendation: Buy at $37.50

10/22/06 Jan-2009 $50 LEAP Call ZZT-AJ @ $8.70
02/05/07 March put stopped -$1.00, cost = $9.70

Insurance put: Triggered with drop through $39
01/03/07 March $35 Put BTU-OG at $1.15, stopped @ $42.50


SLB $74.61 -1.03 Schlumberger

No news and no movement but SLB continues to hold near its historic highs set back on April 17th. We are just waiting on some new event to produce a new trend. I am adding an insurance put just in case the slowdown in drilling impacts SLB.

Insurance put:
BUY June $70 PUT SLB-RN currently $1.15

For initial commentary see Oct-14th newsletter

Earnings: April 20th, 96 cents vs est of 91 cents

Current recommendation: Buy at $60, stop at $55

LEAP Position:
1/2 9/11/06 @ $8.60
1/2 9/12/06 @ $8.00
Position: 2009 $70 LEAP Call VWY-AN @ $8.30
Cost update for expired Jan put +2.00 = $10.30

Insurance Put: 9/18
Position: Jan $50 Put SLB-MJ @ $2.00, expired


SUN $76.12 -0.67 - Sunoco

SUN held up extremely well after missing earnings on Wednesday. The miss was due to some major maintenance work on the Philadelphia refinery, which impacted production during the quarter. Reports were mixed as to whether SUN actually missed earnings with some saying they were inline with estimates. I am adding a cheap insurance put just in case support fails.

Insurance put:
Buy June $70 PUT SUN-RN currently 85 cents.

For initial commentary see Oct-14th newsletter

Earnings: May 3rd, 70 cents vs 59 cents in comparison qtr

Current recommendation: Buy at $60, stop at $54

LEAP Position:
9/12/06 Position: 2009 $70 LEAP Call VUN-AN @ $13.50
Cost update expired Jan put +2.40 = $15.90

Insurance Put:
Position: Jan $55 Put SUN-MK @ $2.40, expired


VLO $73.35 +2.14 - Valero Energy

Friday was another new historic high for Valero and there appears to be nothing to stop them from printing money. Valero announced it was selling its 165,000 bpd Lima Ohio refinery to Husky Energy for $1.9 billion. Valero said the proceeds would be used to buy back stock. Valero has said it was going to streamline operations by divesting non-core assets. The Lima refinery was acquired in the $8 billion purchase of Premcor in 2005. No change in play.

For initial commentary see Oct-14th newsletter

Earnings: April 24th $1.86 vs $1.32

Current recommendation: Buy at $65, stop at $57

LEAP Position:
9/24/06 Position: 2009 $60 LEAP Call VHB-AL @ $7.70
Cost update expired Jan put +2.25 = $9.95

Insurance Put:
Position: 9/25 Jan $45 Put VLO-MI @ $2.25, expired


DO - $88.56 +0.62 - Diamond Offshore ** Stop $79.00 **

DO set a new 52-week high on Friday and continues to rise on positive news about deepwater drillers. Land drillers may be in the dumps but the deepwater crowd is still afloat. No news and no change in play.

For initial commentary see Oct-14th newsletter

Earnings: Apr 26th, $1.64 vs $1.06

Current recommendation: Buy at $75, stop at $69

LEAP Position:
8/29/06 Position: 2009 $80 LEAP Call VCT-AP @ 14.20
Cost reduction: Oct $70 Put profit -3.15, cost now $11.05
Cost increase: Dec $60 put expired -2.40, cost now $13.45

Insurance Put:
10/08 Dec $60 Put DO-XL @ $2.40, expired

Position closed:
10/03 October $70 put DO-VN @ $1.65, exit @ $4.80, +3.15

Non-Energy Positions

TOL - $29.51 -0.69 - Toll Brothers

Toll is holding under resistance at $30.50 ahead of earnings on May 8th. We will get another chance to see if their outlook is better than the rest of the sector. No change in play

For initial commentary see Apr-21st newsletter

Earnings schedule: May 8th

Breakout target: $28.50 hit 4/16
Position: 2009 $35 LEAP OTY-AG @ $3.50


BZH - $33.33 -1.51 - Beazer Homes ** LEAP PUT **

Beazer finally halted its rebound after admitting that the SEC had given them notice they were going to conduct an informal inquiry into their financial transactions. Hovnanian also put the brakes on the sector with another downgrade of projections on Thursday.

Beazer is being flooded with suits, some seeking class action status on charges it practiced predatory lending, filed illegal loan documents and manipulated its stock price. These types of suits appear whenever bad news appears about a company but in this case it looks grim.

For initial commentary see March-31st newsletter

Earnings: April 26th, -1.12 vs +2.35 in the comparison quarter.

Position: Jan-08 $25 PUT WZF-ME @ $3.10

No stop loss

Leaps Trader Watch List

Dropped Entries
UPL Ultra Petroleum Moving away from us quickly.

New Watch List Entries
Deutsche Bank

Current Watch List

TEX - Terex Corp *** New Target ***

Terex Corporation (Terex) is a diversified global manufacturer of capital equipment delivering solutions for the construction, infrastructure, quarry, mining, shipping, transportation, refining and utility industries. The Company operates in five business segments: Terex Construction, Terex Cranes, Terex Aerial Work Platforms, Terex Materials Processing & Mining, and Terex Roadbuilding, Utility Products and Other. The Company's products are manufactured at plants in North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and South America, and are sold primarily through dealers and distributors worldwide. During the year ended December 31, 2005, it acquired Halco Holdings Limited and its affiliates, and Power Legend International Limited and its affiliates. It entered into a joint venture with North Hauler Joint Stock Company Limited to produce high-capacity surface mining trucks in China. It has a 50%-ownership interest in Sichuan Changjiang Engineering Crane Co., Ltd.

Breakdown target $72.00

Call spread

Breakout target $81.00 *** New Target ***

Buy Jan-09 $90 LEAP Call VXQ-AR


AAPL - Apple, Inc *** New target ***

Apple blew out estimates for the quarter and it appears earnings are only going to get stronger. I want to buy a dip in the stock to something in the low 90s.

Company Info:

Apple Inc., formerly Apple Computer, Inc., designs, manufactures and markets personal computers and related software, services, peripherals and networking solutions. It also designs, develops and markets a line of portable digital music players along with accessories, including the online sale of third-party audio and video products. Apple Inc.'s products and services include the Macintosh line of desktop and notebook computers; the iPod line of portable digital music players; the Xserve server and Xserve redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAID) storage products, a portfolio of consumer and professional software applications; the Mac OS X operating system; the iTunes Store, a portfolio of peripherals that support and enhance the Macintosh and iPod product lines, and a variety of other service and support offerings. It sells its products worldwide through its online stores, its retail stores, its direct sales force, and third-party wholesalers, resellers and value-added resellers.

Breakdown target: $92.00

Buy Jan 2009 $100 LEAP Call VAA-AT

Breakout target: $102.00 *** New Target ***

Buy Jan 2009 $110 LEAP Call VAA-AB


DB - Deutsche Bank

I wanted to buy DB when it broke resistance at $140 in early April. Afterwards I kept telling myself I would buy the next dip. Unfortunately there has not been a dip and the chart suggests we could see a breakout over $156 very soon.

Company Info:

Deutsche Bank AG offers investment, financial and related products and services to private individuals, corporate entities and institutional clients around the world. It has three divisions: Corporate and Investment Bank, which comprises Corporate Banking and Securities and Global Transaction Banking that serves large and medium-sized corporations, financial institutions, public sector and multinational organizations; Private Clients and Asset Management, which comprises Asset and Wealth Management and Private and Business Clients and serves retail and small corporate, as well as affluent and wealthy clients and provides asset management services to retail and institutional clients, and Corporate Investments, managing the majority of Deutsche Bank's alternative assets portfolio and other debt and equity positions. In January 2007, the Company acquired MortgageIT Holdings, Inc., a residential mortgage real estate investment trust. The Bank is headquartered in Frankfurt/Main, Germany.

Breakout target: $156.50

Buy Oct $160 Call DB-JL (No LEAPS)


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