Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Thursday, 1/21/2016

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

ECB Supports Prices

by Thomas Hughes

Click here to email Thomas Hughes
The market rebound on dovish comments from the ECB; could this be the Draghi Bottom?


The market rebound from yesterday's lows after dovish comments from the ECB. The central bank held its key interest rates and policy steady but comments from Mario Draghi make it clear that there could be additional QE in the EU as early as next month. The comments; "there are no limits on how far we are prepared to act" and the back would "reconsider its policy stance at the next meeting". The reasons include a significantly diminished inflation outlook and the reemergence of increased downside risk. EU and US indices rallied on the news.

Asian indices did not get a lift from the ECB, they were closed long before the news was announced. These indices are likely to bounce back in Friday trading.

Market Statistics

Futures trading gave a mixed picture. In early trading they were indicating a negative open for the markets but this changed throughout the morning. The ECB comments gave the biggest boost but economic data and earnings helped as well. Following the 8:15AM ECB statement and the 8:30AM release of data futures climbed to break-even levels, and then into positive territory with an indicated opening gain of about 10 points for the SPX.

The open was a little weak. The indices opened positive, made a quick try for higher prices and then dipped into the red. By 9:45AM support, just below yesterday's closing prices, was hit resulting in a rally and today's move higher. By 10AM the indices were back in positive territory and continued to make gains up to and through the lunch time hour. Intraday gains were in the range of 1.5% to 2% but these levels did not hold. After lunch the rally lost its spark and fell back to break even level. This level held and led to a late day rally which reclaimed about half of the early gains by the close of the session.

Economic Calendar

The Economy

Initial claims for unemployment added 10,000 to hit 293,000. Last week's figure was revised lower by -1,000 for a net increase of +9,000. The four week moving average also rose, adding 6,500 to reach 285,000 for the first time in nearly 10 months. On a not adjusted basis first time claims fell -24.9%, slightly less than the -27.3% predicted by the seasonal factors. Not adjusted claims are now only -1.5% lower than last year, the narrowest margin since October 2015. The increase in claims is seasonal and should reach a peak over the next month or so. Despite the rise claims remain low relative to the long term trend and at levels consistent with the recovery.

Continuing claims fell by -56,000 to hit 2.208 million from last week's upward revision. Last week was revised up by 1,000. The four week moving average rose 3,250 to 2.227 million, steady near 2.225 as it has been for several months. So far the rise in initial claims has not affected this number but that will likely change over the next couple of weeks as seasonal job losses hit the market. Until then, this figure remains trending near the long term low and consistent with labor market health.

The total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits jumped 302,793 to hit 2.852 million. This is the highest level since the comparable week last year and was predicted by the historical data. If the historical indication remains constant this week should be the peak in total claims. With the gain this week's data is -6.5% below last year and consistent with strengthening labor market trends. We'll need to keep an eye on all of these figures over the coming 6 weeks noting the peak and duration of claims increases relative to last year.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey was reported at -3.5 for January, the 5th straight month of negative readings and contraction in manufacturing. Although negative, the number was a little better than expected and shows a notable increase from December's -10.2. Readings of sub indices were mixed; Shipments gained +12 to hit positive levels for the first time in 4 months while New Orders, Employment and Inventory all declined into negative levels. The 6 month outlook remains positive but has declined below 20. Responses to a question about energy prices reveal that manufacturers see low prices as positive for the overall economy.

Tomorrow Leading Indicators and Existing Home Sales are both released at 10AM. Leading indicators are expected to remain steady with a 0% increase over last month. Existing home sales are expected to rise above 5.0 million from last month's 4.76 million. Next week's calendar is full as well with the key event the FOMC meeting on Wednesday.

The Oil Index

Oil prices were volatile today, imagine that. WTI fell more than -1% in early trading to dip below $28 only to spike on the ECB news. Oil gained more than 5% in later trading to move back above $30 but this move is likely to be driven by profit taking and short lived. Inventory data, released today because of the holiday, shows a much larger than expected build in US stockpiles and only increases the bearish outlook for oil. At the same time there are other signs of increased production, not even counting Iran. We may be getting close to a bottom in oil but I'm don't think we're there just yet.

The oil sector was able to bounce back from yesterday's decline with today's pop in oil prices. The Oil Index itself gaining close to 3%. Today's action may indicate a bottom in the near term but that is yet to be seen. If today's bounce continues higher there is resistance just above at the 950 level and the 78.6% Fibonacci Retracement. The indicators are mostly bearish but we may see further upside in the near term. MACD is diverging from the latest new low and stochastic is oversold with a bullish crossover, both consistent with a bear market rally. A break above 950 would find next resistance near 1,000 and the short term moving average, of course dependent on oil prices. If the rally in oil prices peters out any rally in the oil sector will do the same.

The Gold Index

Gold prices had a seesaw day today although prices are holding steady near $1100. Prices were up in overnight trading on safe haven bids then fell after the ECB meeting, neither event having much strength, probably because of the FOMC meeting next week. I don't think they are likely to raise rates again so soon but their view of when the next will come will drive the dollar and move gold. The ECB has set the euro up for weakness, if the FOMC sounds hawkish at all it could send the dollar index back above 100.

The miners got lift from today's rally but remain near their recent lows. The miners ETF GDX gained about 0.15% but remains below recently broken support. The indicators are bearish with stochastic pointing lower but diminishing momentum may indicate the latest down turn in prices is coming to an end. Resistance is now $13, my previous support target, and needs to be reclaimed else prices may fall to new low. If broken next target for resistance is just above near the short term moving average. If resistance holds and prices decline next downside target is $10.

In The News, Story Stocks and Earnings

Rail carrier Union Pacific reported before the bell and missed expectations. The street was calling for earnings near $1.45, actual results were $1.31 and a 19% decline from the previous quarter. Volume and lower surcharge revenue are primary culprits, volume declined by -9% and was only partially offset by price gains while declining oil prices reduced the impact fuel surcharges had to revenue in the prior year. Shares of the stock fell more than -5% in pre-open trading and fell to a new low. The indicators are bearish but significant divergences in both stochastic and MACD suggest support may be present near $70.

Not all transportation companies are hurting. Trucker JB Hunt reported before the bell, beating expectations by a penny. EPS of $1.01 is a 9% gain from last year, driven by a 6% increase in volume. The east led with an 8% increase in loads but all areas saw increases. Product mix and fuel surcharges combined for a 1% gain in revenue; +5% discounting the affect surcharges. Shares of the stock jumped in early trading, opened with a gap and sold off from there. Momentum may be shifting to the upside with support target $65 and resistance near $70 and the short term moving average.

Starbucks reported after the bell and didn't quite live up to market expectations. Bottom line earnings of $0.46 beat by a penny on slightly weaker than expected revenue but that's not what got investor attention. Guidance for the 2nd quarter of $.048 did not meet approval and sent the stock down in after hours trading. Shares closed the session with a gain near 3.7% then gave up all of those gains and more in the after market.

Boeing gave an earnings warning in the after hours. The company announced that it is cutting production of the 747 in half due to lack of demand and is going to be taking a $0.84 per share charge on its upcoming report. Shares of the stock fell -3.5% on the news.

American Express also reported after the bell. The credit and charge company announced earnings per share of $1.23, more than 10 cents above median estimates and despite currency exchange headwinds. The company also provided mixed guidance which probably accounts for mixed performance in the after hours market. 2016 guidance is in a range above consensus but 2017 guidance is below. Shares of the stock popped on the news then quickly gave up the gains.

The Indices

The indices tried to bounce today and did an OK job of it. Today's action is promising, at least in the near term, but needs to see some follow through before we start getting too bullish. The Dow Jones Transportation Average was today's market leader. The transports gained about 1.20% in a move confirming yesterday's test of support. Support is between 6,500 and 6,700, about even with a bullish continuation pattern which formed in 2013, and is beginning to look stronger.

The indicators are consistent with support and a possible bounce but not strong or bullish. The current MACD peak is diverging from the new low, set yesterday, and rolling over in the near term, consistent with support and/or a bounce but not a bullish signal. Stochastic is similar showing a bullish crossover and oversold in the near term while remaining weak and consistent with a bear market in the short term. Upside target is near 7,000 or 7,250 if the first target is broken.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average made the second largest gain in today's session, just under 1%. Today's action helps confirm support at 15,700 and yesterday's closing price. Today's candle is another sign that bulls are present in the market and when combined with the Hammer-like quality of yesterday's candle make 15,700 the strongest candidate for support we've seen since this down turn began. The indicators are mixed; they are weak and bearish but showing signs consistent with support and a possible bounce. If the market follows through on today's move upside target is near 16,500.

The SPX made the third largest gain in today's session, about 0.82%. The broad market has also confirmed support and managed to close above the August low of 1867. In the nearer term it looks like momentum may be shifting to the upside. Additionally, an oversold stochastic is firing a bullish crossover so it looks like a bounce is coming. In the short to long term the indicators show a weak market and strong downside momentum so a retest of 1,850 is likely, even if a sustained bounce develops now. A move up from here will find some resistance at the 1,900 level and then clear sailing up to 1,990. If the market falls through 1,850 a move to 1,800 is probable.

The NASDAQ Composite made the smallest gain in today's session and while confirming yesterday's test of support, it is also confirming resistance at 4,500. The small doji candle says it all, balance in today's session but indecision of where the market is going. The indicators are consistent with support and could lead to a bounce but remain weak in the longer term. If the index can break above 4,500 a move to 4,800 is possible. Risk is that the index will remain range bound near the recently set low.

The market has been in correction since the first of the year and now looks like it may have found support and begun to bounce. Today's action was a promising follow up to yesterday but needs additional follow through to confirm. Earnings and may help us to hammer out a bottom over the next couple of weeks. The reports are mixed but so far more positive than negative, support should step in so long as the long term outlook for earnings growth remains positive. If oil prices or a sluggish economy drag 1st quarter earnings growth into the negative we could see more downside.

The real risk is the FOMC. If they decide to raise rates, or sound to hawkish in the statement, it could drive the market lower simply out of fear. If they back off and indicate a more dovish approach we may see a repeat of today's ECB driven rally and make today the Draghi Bottom.

Until then, remember the trend!

Thomas Hughes

New Option Plays

What Goes Up

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown
What goes up today will likely go down tomorrow. One day does not make a trend and the longer-term trend is down for this stock.

The bounce in crude prices today was a function of the switch to a new contract when the February contract expired. It also helped that ISIS attacked an oil facility in Saudi Arabia and set some oil storage tanks on fire.

Oil inventories rose by 4.0 million barrels and gasoline inventories rose by 4.6 million to a new record at 245 million. This is not bullish for oil but the severely oversold conditions from Wednesday caused a short term bounce in crude prices. This will pass and prices are going to set new lows in the weeks ahead. I am proposing we take advantage of the bounce to buy puts on an energy stock.


No New Bullish Plays


DVN - Devon Energy

Devon Energy primarily engages in the exploration and production of oil and gas. The majority of their production is natural gas from more than 19,000 wells but they are making a concentrated effort to expand oil production. At year-end they had 689 million barrels of oil equivalent reserves. Company Description

In Q3 they produced 282,000 barrels of oil per day. That was a 31% increase over Q3-2014. That was the 5th quarter they exceeded guidance on oil production growth. That compares to their 680,000 Boepd of total gas and liquids production showing that oil was only about 41% of their total production. However, in Q3 oil accounted for 74% of total upstream revenue.

Devon is a well run company and highly regarded but the price of oil is killing them. They do have significant midstream assets including pipelines and processing facilities in the EnLink Midstream business. They own 70% of ENLC and 29% in ENLK. Those midstream companies generated $270 million in cash distributions in 2015.

The EnLink revenue is supporting Devon through this down cycle in the energy sector. Devon is also acquiring Access Pipeline in the first half of 2016 and that will add to their midstream assets.

If crude prices were to rally long term Devon would be a great company to own. However, in this period of falling oil prices from now until April the company is at the mercy of the declining sector.

On Thursday Devon shares rebounded with oil prices to resistance at $24.50 and then faded. When the switch to the March contract fades and crude prices begin to fall again I expect Devon to revisit the lows under $20 from Wednesday.

Earnings are February 16th so this will be a short-term play.

With a trade at $23.45:

Buy March $22 put, currently $2.19, stop loss $26.65

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Jim Brown

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In Play Updates and Reviews

Less Than Expected

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

The markets opened strong after Draghi talked about QE but the +271 point Dow rebound faded to only +115 at the close. Where is that real rally?

There was volatility in the market today but nowhere near the volume we had on Wednesday. Crude prices rallied as the front month contract moved to March and that boosted the energy sector and the Dow stocks Exxon and Chevron. The big gainer was Home Depot (HD) as traders bought the stock ahead of the blizzard in the Northeast.

The Dow dipped to only +40 in late afternoon but buyers appeared to lift it back to +115 at the close. The Nasdaq and S&P traded in negative territory midday but rebounded back into the green at the close.

The Russell posted a miraculous rebound yesterday but was flat for most of the day today. The one spike at noon was quickly sold.

The biotech sector was a big driver for the market rebound on Wednesday but the $BTK gave back -92 points today.

I am not excited about the market outlook. The fade in the afternoon suggests there are still some sellers and this may have been just a bear trap rebound from severely oversold conditions.

Current Portfolio

We are changing the format slightly this week. The entry date, earnings date, current price, change for the day and stop loss are all in the portfolio graphic. They will no longer be listed in the individual play descriptions. Everything you need is now available in a single location.

Current Position Changes

Stop Loss Updates

Check the graphic above for any new stop losses in bright yellow. We need to always be prepared for an unexpected decline.

No Changes in Current Positions

Original Call Recommendations (Alpha by Symbol)

IWM - Russell 2000 ETF

ETF Description


The Russell 2000 traded higher intraday but faded at the close. There was no follow through to the big Monday rebound.

Original Trade Description: January 20th

The IWM is the Russell 2000 ETF and the Russell was the only major index to close positive for the day other than the Biotech sector index. The Russell is in a bear market with a -24% drop from its highs. The Russell declined -47 points intraday and rebounded to gain +4.4 at the end of the day. The 960 level where it bounced was support from early 2013 and it was the 300-week average.

Typically, the small caps are the strongest index in December and January. That was not the case this year and there is a good possibility fund managers will bargain hunt there first when the buying begins.

Resistance from Tuesday's gap higher open is $101.20. I was going to recommend an entry trigger at $101.50 to get us past that level. The IWM closed at $99.18. However, by waiting to get past that resistance the option premiums could rise by more than $1. I would rather just buy the open and we will take what the market gives us.

Position 1/21/16:

Long March $102 call @ $2.76, no initial stop loss.

PCRX - Pacira Pharmaceuticals

Company Description


The excellent relative strength from Wednesday faded with a -$4 loss as the biotech sector gave back some gains.

Original Trade Description: January 16th

PCRX delivered a very bumpy ride for investors in 2015. The stock outperformed the year before with +54% gain in 2014. Then sentiment changed last year and by October 2015 shares of PCRX were down -58% for the year and down -70% from its February 2015 highs. Fortunately some strong earnings news and a legal win helped PCRX pare its 2015 loss to -13%. Today PCRX is bouncing from support and looks poised to continue its late 2015 rebound.

PCRX is in the healthcare sector. According to the company, "Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the clinical and commercial development of new products that meet the needs of acute care practitioners and their patients. The company's flagship product, EXPAREL® (bupivacaine liposome injectable suspension), indicated for single-dose infiltration into the surgical site to produce postsurgical analgesia, was commercially launched in the United States in April 2012. EXPAREL and two other products have successfully utilized DepoFoam, a unique and proprietary product delivery technology that encapsulates drugs without altering their molecular structure, and releases them over a desired period of time."

The legal win I mentioned above was a fight between PCRX and the F.D.A. There was a disagreement over how PCRX was marketing its Exparel drug. The FDA argued the treatment was only approved for a couple different types of surgery. The company filed a lawsuit against the FDA in September last year. On December 15th they announced a resolution with the FDA. The lawsuit was dropped and the FDA officially rescinded its warning letter about how PCRX was marketing Exparel. Shares of PCRX soared about 15% on the news.

Some of the volatility last year was likely due to PCRX earnings. The company has beaten Wall Street's earnings estimates in three of the last four quarters. Yet they have missed the revenue estimate twice. At the same time Revenue growth has slowed from +84% to +59% to +25% to +19.6% in the most recent quarterly report.

PCRX did offer some good news this year. On January 7th they pre-warned that Q4 revenues would be better than expected. Wall Street was estimating $67.4 million for the quarter. PCRX is now forecasting +12.2% improvement from a year ago to $69.4 million. They also raised their full-year 2015 guidance.

The stock market's sell-off in 2016 pulled PCRX down toward support in the $60 area but traders started buying the dip in a big way on Thursday. PCRX has outperformed the market the last two days in a row. If this bounce continues it could spark some short covering. The most recent data listed short interest at 23% of the relatively small 33.7 million share float. Another positive is PCRX's point & figure chart shows the bounce off support and is currently forecasting an $83.00 target.

Earnings: Feb 26th, before the open.

Position 1/19/16:
Long Feb $75 Call @ $2.75, initial stop loss $61.45

QQQ - Nasdaq 100 ETF

ETF Description


The Nasdaq Composite closed barely positive but the Nasdaq 100 added +6 points. Still not a big follow through but better than a loss.

Original Trade Description: January 20th

The Nasdaq fell -163 points intraday and rebounded to positive territory just before the close. Some late selling in the last few minutes knocked it back to -5 for the day. From -163 to -5 is a monster rebound. The biotech stocks led the way but solar stocks, semiconductors and even Apple and Netflix got into the act and rebounded strongly.

Netflix declined from its afterhours high of $123 to a low of $97 intraday before rebounding to close at $108. I would have loved to buy Netflix at $97. What a bargain.

Obviously, a lot of that rebound was short covering and we do not know if it will last. However, the intraday low on the Nasdaq Composite was 4,319 and very close to the flash crash low of 4,292 from August. While it was not a perfect retest, it was close enough that a lot of traders closed shorts and bought stocks.

The Nasdaq 100 ($NDX) and the index the QQQ tracks, failed to decline anywhere close to the same distance as the Composite. The NDX dropped to 3,992 with major support at 4,000. The rebound there was very strong and from the right support level.

After the bell FireEye (FEYE) raised guidance and F5 networks (FFIV) beat on earnings. That could help with sentiment on Thursday. Nasdaq futures are up +6 in afterhours.

I am recommending the March $104 call with no entry trigger. If the market is going to open up I want to be there on the opening bell. These short squeezes can run for days and most lasting rallies begin with short squeezes.

Position 1/21/16:

Long March $104 call @ $2.63, no initial stop loss.

STZ - Constellation Brands

Company Description


STZ is still holding over the 50-day but the relative strength faded when the markets rolled over.

Original Trade Description: January 14, 2016:

STZ was one of last year's best performing stocks with +45% gains in 2015. Consistently raising earnings and revenue guidance can do that for a stock. The company is seeing so much demand for their beer products that STZ just announced they're building a huge new brewery in Mexico. Meanwhile their wine and spirits business is seeing stronger margins due to recent acquisitions. Overall STZ is moving into 2016 with the wind at its back.

STZ is in the consumer goods sector. According to the company, "Constellation Brands is a leading international producer and marketer of beer, wine and spirits with operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Italy. In 2014, Constellation was one of the top performing stocks in the S&P 500 Consumer Staples Index. Constellation is the number three beer company in the U.S. with high-end, iconic imported brands including Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo and Pacifico. Constellation is also the world's leader in premium wine, selling great brands that people love including Robert Mondavi, Clos du Bois, Kim Crawford, Rex Goliath, Mark West, Franciscan Estate, Ruffino and Jackson-Triggs. The company's premium spirits brands include SVEDKA Vodka and Black Velvet Canadian Whisky... Based in Victor, N.Y., the company believes that industry leadership involves a commitment to brand-building, our trade partners, the environment, our investors and to consumers around the world who choose our products when celebrating big moments or enjoying quiet ones. Founded in 1945, Constellation has grown to become a significant player in the beverage alcohol industry with more than 100 brands in its portfolio, sales in approximately 100 countries, about 40 facilities and approximately 7,700 talented employees."

STZ has been killing it on the earnings front. They have beaten earnings the last three quarters in a row. Management has raised their guidance the last three quarters in a row. Their most recent earnings report was last week on January 7th. Analysts were expecting a profit of $1.30 a share on revenues of $1.62 billion. STZ beat estimates with a profit of $1.42 a shares. Revenues were up +6.4% to $1.64 billion. Strong beer sales has helped fuel double-digit shipment increases. The company announced they were building another brewery and raised their guidance again.

This bullish outlook sparked a couple of new price target upgrades ($172, $174 and $185). The stock soared to new highs and broke through key resistance near the $145.00 level on its earnings news and guidance. Shares have seen some profit taking since its spike to new highs. Now STZ is near support at one of its long-term trend lines of higher lows. The simple 50-dma should offer technical support at $140.40. Meanwhile the $140.00 level could offer some round-number, psychological support. Both of these are converging near its trend line of higher highs.

STZ underperformed the market today, which may mean more profit taking ahead. We want to buy calls on STZ as it nears support in the $140.00-140.50 area. Tonight we are listing a buy-the-dip trigger at $140.50 with a stop loss $138.25, just under its early January low.

Position 1/19/16:
Long April $150 Call @ $4.70, initial stop loss $138.25

Original Put Recommendations (Alpha by Symbol)

VXX - iPath S&P 500 VIX Futures ETN

Company Description


The afternoon market slide caused a rebound in volatility at the close.

Original Trade Description: January 16th

At the risk of stating the obvious, the last two weeks in stocks have been brutal. Investors have taken a risk-off attitude and sold just about everything. The small cap Russell 2000 index is already down -11% in the first ten trading days of 2016. The NASDAQ composite is off -10%. The S&P 500 has declined -8%.

The New Year has suffered a parade of negative headlines from disappointing economic data both in the U.S. and China. China devaluating its currency. N. Korea claiming to have hydrogen bombs (several times worse than normal nukes). Crude oil crashing into multi-year lows. Plus falling sentiment for corporate earnings, which are expected to be negative two quarters in a row.

No one wanted to be long over the three-day weekend, which helped drive stocks even lower on Friday. The S&P 500 dipped to 15-month lows before paring its losses on Friday. The fact that Friday was also options expiration just added to the volatility.

Stocks normally don't move that fast in a straight line for very long. Markets a very oversold and way overdue for a bounce. The rebound could show up this week. One way to play it is the volatility indices. The VXX follows the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index. When investors panic volatility spikes but these are almost always short-term events. You can see on the long-term weekly chart below these spikes always fade.

Tonight we are suggesting put options on the VXX to capture the decline as volatility fades again and it will sooner or later. We are betting on sooner. We want to buy the March $23 puts at the opening bell on Tuesday.

Position 1/19/16:
Long March $23 Put @ $2.41, no stop loss

XLE - Energy Select SPDR ETF

Company Description


The shift to the March crude contract as the front month caused a temporary rebound in the sector. Short covering was very evident with some energy stocks up 12-15%. This will pass.

Original Trade Description: January 19, 2016

The XLE is an ETF that represents the majority of the stocks in the energy sector. With the price of crude oil plunging and analysts predicting bankruptcy for 30-50% of the U.S. producers there is nothing to provide support for this ETF.

The few stocks that have dividends including Exxon, Chevron, Conoco and a few others, cannot support the sector. There are 45 stocks in the ETF with Exxon, Chevron and Schlumberger the largest weightings. That leaves about 40 stocks to drag the sector down as oil prices continue to fall.

This play does not need a lot of explanation. We are betting the energy sector will continue to decline as oil prices head for the low $20s.

This is the period of the year when oil inventories build. Demand is low and refineries will begin to shut down for spring maintenance in February and that will continue into March. Last year from the second week in January to the fourth week in April, U.S. inventories rose nearly 112 million barrels to record levels. They cannot repeat that this year because there is not enough available storage. This will drive prices even lower when producers run out of locations to store the oil.

We will plan on exiting this position the first week of March. I am not putting a stop loss on it initially because we could see some volatility whenever the shorts get squeezed. Once we are in the position for 3-4 days I will assign a stop loss

Position 1/20/16:

Long March $50 Put @ $2.62, no initial stop loss.

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