Option Investor

Weekly Newsletter, Saturday, 06/02/2007

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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

BP, Beyond Petroleum

BP, one of the oldest integrated oil companies in the world changed their name from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum several years ago to shift focus to new forms of energy other than oil. It looks like they may need to change it again to Beyond Pain given the number of problems they are experiencing around the world.

In the U.S. their largest refinery in Whiting Indiana suffered a fire several months ago and was taken offline for repairs. While the majority of the plant was offline they decided to install some upgrades at the same time. It was estimated it would take 4-6 weeks. It has been several months now and a significant amount of production is still offline with no expected restart date. While other refiners are printing money producing gasoline to sell at record prices the Whiting refinery continues to limp along at a fraction of its capability. BP was forced to declare force majeure last week on purchases of Canadian oil in order to focus what capacity they had left on producing gasoline from light sweet crude. By refusing to accept any more Canadian crude this causes upstream suppliers to slow crude production or find alternate outlets.

You may remember the leak in the Alaskan pipeline several months ago that shutdown oil to the west coast for a month. That was a BP problem caused by shoddy maintenance. They are replacing 16 miles of pipeline as a result. About two weeks ago BP reported another leak in the same facility as the first and had to shutdown 100,000 bpd of production. That outage took nearly two weeks to correct.

About 4 weeks ago BP's longtime CEO, Lord John Brown, was forced to step down in disgrace after he made false statements to a court about a sexual relationship with a 27-year-old male student. He forfeited about 15 million pounds in compensation as a result of the termination. Last Wednesday BP announced that the head of their refining division had quit to accept the CEO position at Talisman Energy.

The $1.5 billion BP platform Thunder Horse was nearly sunk by the hurricanes and required hundreds of millions of dollars in repair and refit expenses. Once replaced on station in 6000 feet of water in the Mississippi Canyon Block in the gulf additional problems arose requiring reengineering of several components. Thunder Horse was supposed to begin production in 2005 and now that production has been delayed until the end of 2008. Thunder Horse expects to produce 250,000 bpd of oil and 200 mmcf per day of gas. That is roughly $17 million a day in revenue that was supposed to come online in the fall of 2005. Instead of revenue they have been pouring money into the project in what seems like a bottomless pit. The new CEO Tony Hayward said production from Thunder Horse will eventually happen. "Thunder Horse is something that has not been done before and we probably pushed the technology envelope a little bit too far."

As big as all of these problems are they pale in comparison with the one they have this week. BP is about to lose a $20 billion investment in the Kovykta gas field in Russia. BP developed the field with plans to use the field for gas exports to China. Last year Russian authorities began their attack on BP in order to return the project to Russian ownership just like they have to all the other major energy projects owned by non Russian entities over the last five years. The Kovytka project is the last major project owned by outsiders and that will be rectified next week. Russia has found a way to seize control of these projects that appears perfectly legal but is nothing but pure government snatch and grab.

For other projects like Shell's $20 billion Sakhalin II gas project they "found" environmental violations that required the government to terminate their operating license. No license, no production, no revenue and no way out. Shell's Sakhalin project along with a handful of other projects have all been returned to the state or to Russian controlled companies. Exxon recently invested $60 million to explore off Eastern Siberia only to have production rights to the newly discovered oil given to a Russian company leaving Exxon out in the cold.

With the BP's Kovykta project they found another ploy to cripple BP and return ownership to the state. Remember, Kovykta was developed to export gas to China. Once completed Russia, through its government owned gas export monopoly Gazprom, banned any exports from Kovykta to China since Gazprom has its own rival project to supply China. If you can't get top dollar for your gas then eliminate the competition. BP was forced to curtail production severely to supply only local needs at a fraction of potential. Russia then said it was going to revoke BP's operating license due to "under production" at the field. That is an amazing strategy for Russia. Russia allowed BP to invest $20 billion to develop a field for export outside Russia and then ban exports once completed. Russia then cancels their license for lack of production and BP can kiss their investment goodbye.

IIn other cases the operators like Shell hoped to recover some of their investment by retaining a minority ownership after relinquishing control to the various Russian entities. In the case of BP they tried to recover some of their investment by ceding control to Gazprom and retaining a minority interest. Gazprom refused saying they had no interest in the field. What energy company, even a government-controlled entity, would have no interest in a $20 billion project with enough gas to supply the entire world for a full year? It is ludicrous at best. It is simply a ploy for the Russian state to take full control, kick BP out and then transfer the project to Gazprom or Rosneft for pennies on the dollar.

The revocation of the license was expected to be announced last week but that was postponed until after this week's G8 summit and its landmark economic forum. It is not easy to announce you nationalized a $20 billion project and then have to go make nice with your peers from truly capitalistic countries. It might make for some uneasy questions over dinner. By not announcing a decision they can still say they are working on a plan and not have to face condemning statements for taking action. Once the G8 meeting is over Russia can boot BP from Kovykta with a two-line announcement and then sweep it under the rug to be forgotten just like the prior thefts of other projects.

Russia is the second largest oil producer on the planet at 9.6 mbpd and has the largest gas reserves, nearly double Iran at the number two spot. As the largest energy producer in Europe it has recently shown it plans on using its energy to exert increasing control over its neighbors. Russia needs the money but it also knows the exports are critical for survival to the consuming countries. They are in the drivers seat and they know it.

While it seems BP has been cursed there have been some positive developments. BP just announced a new project in Libya where it will invest $2 billion to search for natural gas in a 35,000 square mile region. The exploration phase will take seven years followed by a substantial investment to build out infrastructure to transport production with commercial production not expected until 2018. BP believes there are significant reserves of both gas and oil in the region and more than enough to justify the investment in time and money.

Despite the bad news BP stock refuses to die and continues to trade sideways between $65 and $70. I believe the loss of the Kovykta field in Russia is already priced into the stock but I would not be a buyer until after the official announcement, if at all. There are better plays. Because of the new Russian confiscation schemes I am also avoiding ConocoPhillips (COP) despite its strong trend. COP owns a 20% stake in Lukoil and that $20 billion stake could be erased with the stroke of a pen. For integrated oils Chevron and Marathon are better choices today. I also avoid ExxonMobil because of the large share base of more than 5.6 billion shares. That prevents it from making strong moves even though it is the most diversified and has the largest reserves.

Late Saturday the FBI reported it had charged four people with plotting to attack JFK airport by blowing up the 40-mile long Buckeye fuel line, which is the main source of fuel for the airport. The targeted section would have been between Linden, NJ and JFK. The terrorists were quoted as saying they expected to cause greater destruction than 9/11, kill several thousand people and destroy a large part of the Queens borough where the line runs underground through the city. One terrorist, Abdul Kadir, was a former member of Parliament in Guyana but left his post last year to plan this attack. Cutting off fuel supplies to JFK would be seriously detrimental to the U.S. transportation network and severing the pipeline in an explosive maelstrom consuming millions of gallons of jet fuel could have taken weeks to repair.

For next week I believe oil prices will continue to wander between $63-$68 without a major event to push up prices. Friday marked the start of hurricane season and right on cue tropical storm Barry appeared in the gulf with 60 mph winds. It quickly moved over upstate Florida and back into the Atlantic with mo impact on the oil patch. As the second named storm of the year it was just another warning that hurricane season is here and we could easily be talking $75 oil very quickly if one appears headed for the oil patch. This will be an environment where few traders will want to be short crude and that will take away a lot of the volatility.

We are nearing our planned exit on many of our energy plays. Oil prices typically decline as summer draws to a close, driving demand slows and hurricane season winds down. We want to exit many of our positions on any late summer storm generated spike and then prepare to enter new positions on the fall dip. The chart below shows that Sept 10th is the normal peak of hurricane season and therefore a likely peak in oil prices.

Hurricane History Chart

I sent out a note on Wednesday suggesting we exit the play on Apple. Apple was trading at $118 when I sent the email. After running up nearly $20 from our entry we had over $11 profit in the LEAP. The play concept was to capture the expected excitement prior to the release of the iPhone and we did that. I was afraid that any news of a delay in the release, technical problems or just the release itself on June 20th could produce a significant sell the news event. Better to take profits now and let others capture the risk.

Jim Brown

July Crude Futures Chart - Daily

July Gas Futures Chart - Daily

July Gasoline Chart - RBOB Daily


Changes in Portfolio

New Energy Plays
HDY Hyperdynamics Corp

New Non-Energy Plays


Dropped Plays
AAPL Apple Inc

New Watch List Plays Triggered


Portfolio Listing & Top Picks

New Plays

Most Recent Plays

HDY - Hyperdynamics Corp

Hyperdynamics is a Texas company with a very small market cap of only $120 million. Somehow HDY has managed to acquire a 31,000 square mile offshore lease with the Republic of Guinea. How they acquired the lease along with production rights is a long story but suffice to say they are poised to reap windfall profits in the not too distant future.

They are relatively unknown and their stock trades for only $2.44 but that is a significant improvement from the $1.44 just two weeks ago. The spike came from the announcement and analyst discussions after they reported results from a two-year period of seismic exploration that suggested "world class" carbon deposits. They went back to the Guinea government with their results and negotiated a profit sharing agreement and drilling rights to the entire 31,000 square mile block. Currently the Guinea National Assembly and Ministry of Mines is reviewing the profit sharing agreement and is expected to pass it into law giving HDY security in case future administrations change. Once this agreement is put into law HDY said exploration and production would be placed on a fast track. HDY is currently in talks with multiple prospective partners for drilling rights. HDY may never drill a well itself but contract that to other companies while retaining the profits. It is the perfect deal if HDY can pull it off and with them 5 years into the project and potentially days away from the Assembly ratifying the agreement the outlook is bright.

The outlook is bright for us as well. With HDY stock at 2.44 and less the cost of most leaps we have an inexpensive opportunity to capitalize on a growing opportunity with no expiration date and minimal risk. Despite the recent spike I am recommending we take a position now before the Guinea Assembly passes the agreement into law.

BUY HDY stock currently @ $2.44


Play Updates

Existing Plays

TSO - $63.74 +3.85 - Tesoro

TSO split 2:1 after the close on Tuesday and our $20 LEAP split into two $60 LEAPS. Contrary to the normal post split depression TSO spiked +$4 post split as new investors took advantage of the 50% reduction in share price. No change in play.

For initial commentary see April 29th newsletter.

2:1 Split: Record date May-14th, Pay date May 29th.

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
Post split: (2) 2009 $60 LEAP Calls ZGC-AL @ $8.34


ATW $65.93 +1.60 - Atwood Oceanics

Slow and steady wins the race and Atwood is nearing the May highs at $67 and recovering nicely from the early May dip. No news and no change in play.

Interesting article in Investors Business Daily regarding Atwood.

For initial commentary see April 29th newsletter.

Earnings: May 8th est $1.08, actual $1.01

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


BHP - $53.94 +2.99 - BHP Billiton

BHP continued to rise with Friday's close another historic high. BHP named Marius Klopper to be the new CEO. Klopper is known as a deal maker so that fueled speculation that another acquisition is near. No specific news and no change in play.

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 - $53.19 +2.09 - Cameco

CCJ finally broke out of its consolidation phase and set a new historic high at Friday's close. Uranium is not getting any cheaper and CCJ announced a new agreement with Kazakh to pursue additional production opportunities.

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 103 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 - $130.70 +1.75 - Petrochina

PTR continues to hold near its five month highs but is being overshadowed by continual new discoveries by its sister company Sinopec. Patience is definitely a virtue here. No news and 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


CHK $35.04 +.15 - Chesapeake Energy ** Stop loss $33.50 **

CHK is consolidating from the prior weeks gains on the DFW drilling news. No news this week to move the stock and gas prices are holding near $8. Raise the stop to $33.50.

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 $126.76 +7.16 - Marathon Oil

MRO exploded higher once again after announcing a new discovery and adding $500 million to their buyback program. Even the sharp dip in crude prices mid week did nothing to slow Marathon from even higher highs.

MRO reported on Wednesday that their Droshky discovery in the Gulf probably contained 80-90 million barrels of oil equivalent and test wells had discovered several zone of net pay. The field is only 2 miles from a pipeline collection terminal and therefore extremely easy to produce. The depth of 2900 feet is also shallow enough to be considered routine. Nice piece of news for Marathon!

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: Hold

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 - $60.26 -.02 - Hess Corporation *** Stop Loss $57 ***
(Formerly (AHC))

HESS moved sideways on no news and despite several recommendations it just can't seem to follow Marathon's example.

I am adding a stop loss at $57. When good companies don't perform along with the sector it could be a warning sign that trouble is coming.

For initial commentary see Nov-4th newsletter.

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

Current recommendation: Hold

11/05/06 2009 $50 LEAP Call VHS-AJ @ $6.80
Cost adjustment put exit +1.60, cost = $8.40
Cost adjustment May puts +2.15, cost = $10.55

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 expired
May $55 Put IGG-QK @ $.80 expired


BTU - $54.70 +0.74 - Peabody Energy

BTU continues to coil tighter just under $55 and this could be the last opportunity for adding to this position. BTU said this week they are investing $10 million into a RenTech (RTK) coal-to-liquids plant in IL. They will also supply 1 million tons of coal per year to the facility. Rentech is planning on producing 400,000 barrels of synthetic fuel per year as well as 545,000 tons of nitrogen fertilizer. In other news China said it had upped its coal imports and they get their coal from Australia and BTU is the supplier. No change in play.

For initial commentary see Oct-22nd newsletter.

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

Current recommendation: Buy at $46.50

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 $78.19 -1.05 Schlumberger *** Stop Loss $77 ***

SLB is still struggling after the strong bounce in mid May and then downgrades on drilling slowdowns. I am not ready to exit SLB but we have an $8 profit in the LEAP and summer could be rocky for the service companies. I am adding a stop loss at $77. If current support fails we will bail.

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

Insurance put:
Position: June $70 PUT SLB-RN @ $1.15


SUN $81.11 +2.82 - Sunoco *** Stop Loss $76 ***

No news but the dip buying continues. SUN closed at a new high on Friday with a final breakout over resistance at $80 dating back to last August. I added a stop at $76.

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

Insurance put:
Position: June $70 PUT SUN-RN @ 85 cents.


VLO $75.88 +1.14 - Valero Energy *** Stop Loss $72.00 ***

The volatility continues in Valero and was enhanced by the sharp dip in crude prices over the week. However Valero recovered nicely and closed at the high for the week. With $13 profit in the LEAP I don't want to take any chances. Raise the stop to $72.

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 - $94.47 +1.09 - Diamond Offshore ** Stop $91.00 **

DO spiked out of its recent consolidation range to hit $96.34 on Thursday and that is almost exactly the resistance high set in May-2006. There was absolutely no news as though DO had turned into a stealth stock for two weeks running. Due to the steady drift down from May 2006 I am going to raise the stop to $91 to capture as much of the current $10.50 LEAP profit as possible if a roll over occurs.

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

TEX - $86.08 +5.08 Terex Corp *** Stop Loss $80.00 ***

Terex spiked +$6 on no specific news but another crane company said the demand was way in excess of supply and the backlog on getting new cranes built was well over a year. I raised the stop to $80. We were triggered on a spike on our initial entry that sent LEAPS prices soaring. As a result those prices have faded and we are barely profitable despite the strong gains. I don't want to give that back.

For initial commentary see May-13th newsletter

Breakout target $81.00 Hit 5/07

Position: Jan-09 $90 LEAP Call VXQ-AR @ $16.40


AAPL - $118.40 +4.78 Apple, Inc *** Closed ***

Apple sprinted higher as the iPhone release date approaches. Unfortunately as that date approaches so does the risk to profits on any negative news. That is why I recommended closing the play at $118 on Wednesday. We pocked $12 in LEAP profits for only 4 weeks in the play.

For initial commentary see May-13th newsletter.

Breakout target: $102.00 Hit 05/07

Jan 2009 $110 LEAP Call VAA-AB @ $17.50, exit 29.50, +12.00


ATI - $116.54 +5.48 - Allegheny Tech

Another stellar week and another historic high on Friday. No news and no change in play.

For initial commentary see May-5th newsletter

Breakdown target $110.00 hit 04/30

Call spread:
LONG JAN-09 $110 LEAP Call OYG-AX @ $21.50 (now 26.50)
SHORT JAN-09 $140 LEAP Call ZKG-AH @ $9.50 (now 12.10)


TOL - $28.76 -1.20 - Toll Brothers *** Closed ***

My patience has expired with Toll and the builders in general. Various negative statements by builders last week and downgrades by S&P may be too much weight for these fragile stocks to carry. There is no reason to hang on just because they will eventually recover. We have better places to put our money. Exit now for a minor -20 cent loss and call it a day.

For initial commentary see Apr-21st newsletter

Earnings schedule: May 24th

Breakout target: $28.50 hit 4/16
Position: 2009 $35 LEAP OTY-AG @ $3.50, exit $3.30, -20 cents


BZH - $35.17 -.18 - Beazer Homes *** STOP LOSS $37.50 ***

Beazer has fallen back to support at $35 and with debt downgrades from Moody's and continued legal problems I can't help but think BZH will turn farther south very soon. To limit our risk of going even farther in the hole I added a stop at $37.50.

Beazer has several suits pending, some seeking class action status on charges it practiced predatory lending, filed illegal loan documents and manipulated its stock price.

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

Leaps Trader Watch List

Dropped Entries


New Watch List Entries
Bristow Group
HOS Hornbeck Offshore Services

Current Watch List

BRS - Bristow Group

Bristow recently reported earnings that rose +36% on increased flight hours and better pricing. They provide flight services to offshore platforms around the world. Since offshore drilling is rapidly expanding and the distance from shore is increasing I expect Bristow to continue to grow earnings.

Last week they announced a private placement of $250 million in debt. They plan to use the proceeds to fund the purchase of additional aircraft to handle the increased workload.

Company info:

Bristow Group Inc., formerly Offshore Logistics, Inc., is a provider of helicopter transportation services to the worldwide offshore oil and gas industry with operations in the United States Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. The Company also has operations, both directly and indirectly, in offshore oil and gas producing regions of the world, including Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia and Trinidad. The Company also provides production management services for oil and gas production facilities in the United States Gulf of Mexico. As of March 31, 2006, the Company operated 331 aircraft, and its unconsolidated affiliates operated an additional 146 aircraft worldwide. The Company operates business in two segments: Helicopter Services and Production Management Services. Bristow Group Inc. conducted Helicopter Services through six business units: North American, South and Central American, Europe, West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Other International Operations.

Bristow has no LEAPS

Breakout trigger: $50.50
Buy Dec $50 Calls BRS-LJ

Breakdown trigger: $48.00
Buy Dec $50 Calls BRS-LJ


HOS - Hornbeck Offshore Services

Hornbeck recently beat estimates by a mile and reported that business was very good as offshore exploration and development increased. I would like to buy them on a dip given their recent gains but that may not be possible.

Company info:

Hornbeck Offshore Services, Inc. provides offshore supply vessels (OSVs) to customers in the offshore oil and gas industry, primarily in the United States Gulf of Mexico and in select international markets. The focus of the Company's OSV business is on complex exploration and production activities, which include deepwater, deep well and other logistically demanding projects. Such other projects include, among others, the construction, maintenance and repair of offshore infrastructure. Hornbeck Offshore Services, Inc. is also a transporter of petroleum products through its tug and tank barge segment serving the energy industry, primarily in the northeastern United States and Puerto Rico. Oil companies, independent oil and gas exploration, development and production companies, and oil service companies constitute the majority of its customers for its OSV services, while refining, marketing and trading companies constitute the majority of its customers for its tug and tank barge services.

Breakdown trigger: $39.00

Buy 2009 $40 LEAP Call ZIG-AH


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