Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Thursday, 8/3/2017

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Steady Market Waits On Data

by Thomas Hughes

Click here to email Thomas Hughes


The market held steady in a day of light action and heavy data ahead of the monthly NFP release. Today's releases were generally bullish, expectations for tomorrow's NFP is about the same. So long as there are no surprises bull market conditions should persist. The real risk, if there is one, is that the number will be too hot and bring a third 2017 rate hike back into play.

International markets were mixed. Asian indices fell with losses led by Korea. Shares in that country fell more than-1% while others in the region shed closer to -0.25%. Chinese Services Sector PMI came in a tenth below expectations and may have dragged on sentiment. European indices were firmly in the green save for the German DAX. Markets were bolstered by the BoE's decision to keep rates unchanged and indications they would only raise rates 2 times in the next 3 years. The DAX fell -0.22%, others in the region gained between 0.46% and 1.02%.

Market Statistics

Futures trading was flat to positive throughout the early morning. The trade firmed after 8:30AM data releases but not significantly. The open was like yesterday, positive with sellers quickly stepping to trim profits, and not very strong. After an initial downturn price action moved sideways the remainder of the day and winding within a very narrow range. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was the star of today's show, moving up to close with a gain and setting a new all time high.

Economic Calendar

The Economy

Today's first release was the Challenger, Grey & Christmas report on planned layoffs. The report shows 28,307 layoffs planned in July. This is a 10 month low, -9.7% from the previous month and -37% lower than this same month last year. It is also only the third time layoffs have been sub-30K in the last 10 years. In terms of hiring the report shows 88,000 planned hires last month, the 3rd highest level this year and the highest July total in 23 years. The July figure brings the full year 2017 YTD total to +84% over last year.

Initial claims for unemployment fell -5,000 to 240,000, as expected. The last week's figure was revised higher by 1,000. The four week moving average of claims fell -2,500 to 241,750. On a not adjusted basis claims fell -10.2% versus an expected -8.2% and are down -9.6% over last year. These numbers remain low relative to long term trends, near the 43 year low and consistent with ongoing labor market health.

Continuing claims rose by 3,000 to 1.968 million. Last week's number was revised higher by 1,000. Te four week moving average of continuing claims rose by 750. Despite all this continuing claims remain low relative to trend, near the long term low and consistent with ongoing labor market health.

The total number of claims fell -22,735 to 2.006 million. The total number remains elevated after last week's surge but also within seasonal expectations and in line with long term trends. We can expect to see it begin to fall off again as soon as next week, and then to hit another seasonal and long term low in early October. I would expect to see the October low come in below 1.750 million.

ISM Services PMI came in at 53.9% in July. This is the 91st month of positive reading but down -3.5% from the previous. The number shows continued economic expansion but at a slower rate than previous. Within the report activity fell -4.9% to 55.9%, new orders fell -5.4% to 55.1% and employment fell -2.2% to 53.6%.

Factory Orders rose 3.0% versus an expected 3.6%. The gains are driven on an increase in unfilled orders and inventories, shipments fell -0.2%.

Markitt's Flash Services PMI came in at 54.7, up 0.5% from last month. The increase shows a solid increase in business activity according to Markitt economists. Data within the report shows new business growing at the fastest pace in 2 years and the workforce growing at the fastest pace so far this year.

The Dollar Index

The dollar weakened slightly on today's data. While positive today's releases were a bit weaker than expected and do nothing to firm forward rate hike expectations. The Dollar Index fell in early action, dropping below the $93 level, but losses were paired by the end of the day. The index remains in downtrend and may continue lower provided the NFP data does not strengthen FOMC outlook. Next downside target is $92, a break below this level would be more firmly bearish with targets at $90 and $88.

The Gold Index

Gold prices held stead in today's action. Spot prices hovered near $1,275 and once again confirmed near term support at this level. Momentum remains bullish with upside targets near $1,290 and $1,300. Tomorrow's NFP is the likely catalyst.

The Gold Miners ETF GDX continues to trend sideways within the near term congestion band at the midpoint of a greater 7 month trading range. The ETF is up on rising gold prices and poised to move higher provided gold moves higher first. The indicators have weakened a bit since yesterday but still consistent with consolidation within the near term up trend. Support appears to be at the short term moving average and near today's closing price, a drop below here would be bearish. A bounce would be bullish and in line with the near term trend with upside targets near the upper boundary of the short term range.

The Oil Index

Oil prices fell more than -1.30% on signs of rising OPEC output. Yes, the cartel who is even now actively working to support prices with a production cap is seeing production rise among its members. The gains are led by Libya and Nigeria as their oil field come back on line. The two are expected to participate with future caps but at this time are not constrained. WTI shed $0.65 to trade below $49 but remains at the top end of the expected trading range. If nothing emerges to support prices a move down to the bottom of the range could be coming.

The Oil Index fell more than -1% in response to oil's decline. The index fell from resistance at the long term moving average and retreat to support just above the short term moving average. This move is alarming but at the same time a positive for the market, bringing prices back down to current realities. The indicators are rolling over in confirmation of resistance but do not yet indicate a sell. Stochastic is weakest but viewed in light of bullish momentum and positive convergence with recent highs suggests a buying opportunity may be developing. Support is likely to be found near the short term moving average in the range of 1,120 to 1,130, a break below there would be bearish. Longer term outlook remains positive so I am still bullish on the sector.

In The News, Story Stocks and Earnings

Another big day for earnings as the season begins to wind down. This morning Kellogg reported before the bell. The maker of delicious corn based cereals reported a -2.4% drop in revenue but still beat expectations. Revenue of $3.19 billion beat by $30 million, EPS of $0.97 beat by a nickel. The company CEO says they are on track to meet 2017 goals even amid challenging conditions for the industry. Full year guidance was reaffirmed and helped drive the stock up by 1% in the premarket. Bullishness persisted throughout the day adding another 4% to prices by the close of trading.

After hours action was busy as well. GoPro reported a top and bottom line beat that helped to send its stock moving higher. The camera company lost less money than was expected on better than expected revenue. Revenue was driven by above forecast shipments of cameras that led management to issue positive guidance. Shares of the stock jumped more than 15% on the news.

Shake Shack beat on the top and bottom lines as well but was not able to please investors. The burger joint was not able to improve comp store sales despite beating revenue and earnings estimates raising the question of valuation and forward growth prospects. Shares of the stock fell more than -3% on the news

The Indices

The indices continue to move out of sync. One moves higher to set a new all time high, another is bouncing from long term support and yet others are moving sideways within near term trading ranges. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, although it did not post the largest gain in today's session, moved higher to set another new all time closing and intraday high. The blue chips created another small doji like candle while doing so and appears set to creep higher into the near term. Both indicators are bullish and gaining strength in support of this move. Upside target is near 22,500 should upward movement continue.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average made the largest gain as it bounces from support at the long term moving average. Today's action gained 0.29% and created a small green bodied candle sitting on the moving average, the second such candle in a row. The indicators are consistent with a touch to and possible bounce from support although convergence with the recent low suggest it could be tested again. Upside target is near 9,300 in the near term, a break above that would be trend following and confirm the bounce from long term support with a potential target at the recently set all time high.

The NASDAQ Composite posted the largest decline as profit taking continues to ripple through the tech sector. The tech heavy index fell -0.35% creating a small red bodied candle. Today's action brings the index down to retest near term support above the short term moving average. The indicators remain bearish suggesting support will be tested again, they are also only weakly bearish which leaves them consistent with bullish entry within an up trend. A fall below the moving average would be bearish in the near term with downside target near the long term up trend line at 6,200. A bounce from this level would be trend following with upside target at the current and recently set all time high.

The S&P 500 posted the smallest decline, -0.21%, and created a small red bodied candle. This is the 12th day the index has traded sideways within the congestion band. Price action appears to be a consolidation within an uptrend with bullish outlook. The indicators are contrary to this outlook having pulled back to produced bearish crossovers. The caveat is that within an uptrend, and while the index is able to hold at/near high levels, such crossovers lead to bullish entry signals more often than not. If the index were to move lower support is likely at the short term moving average, just below current levels.. A move up would be bullish and trend following with upside targets near 2,550.

The indices remain mixed and in rotation. The good news is that forward economic and earnings outlook remains positive so this rotation is likely to lead to buying opportunities. Tomorrow's NFP report could be the catalyst to move the market but I am not expecting too much out of it. A shocking surprise may induce fear of economic slowdown (downside miss) or fear of FOMC rate hikes (upside surprise) but anything less will give the green light for business as usual. At this time that means trimming profits where you can, cutting losers where you need and getting ready for the fall trading season. We're only a month away from Labor Day and the start of the traditionally busy "trading" season. I remain bullish for the long term, cautiously bullish for the near.

Until then, remember the trend!

Thomas Hughes

New Option Plays

Not Today

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

The market divergence is increasing with all the indexes negative except for the Dow. If you simply looked at all the other indexes it would appear the August decline has already begin. The Dow is the lone winner and it was a fight today to remain in positive territory. August has been down 5 of the last 7 years. August has only been up 5 of the last 20 years. Typically, the August decline begins in the second week of August. We already have multiple short positions on the market and I do not see any reason why we should add more risk ahead of a summer Friday.


No New Bullish Plays


No New Bearish Plays

In Play Updates and Reviews


by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

The Dow traded on both sides of 22,000 but managed to close positive with a 10-point gain. The Nasdaq closed right on support and a two-week low. The tech sector weakness is growing and a final break of support could finally drag the Dow lower.

The Russell 2000 also declined further and is now threatening support at 1,400. Every index except the Dow was negative.

The Dow is being levitated by 3M and UNH today but mostly by a lack of sellers.

Current Portfolio

Stop Loss Updates

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

Profit Targets

Check the graphic below for any profit stops in green. We need to always be prepared for a profit exit at resistance.

Current Position Changes

VAR - Varian Medical Systems
The long call position was entered at the open.

COST - Costco
The long call position was stopped at $158.25.

If you are looking for a different type of option strategy, try these newsletters:

Credit spreads and naked puts = OptionWriter

Long term option investments = LEAPS Investor

3-6 month Option Trades = Ultimate Investor

Iron Condors = Couch Potato Trader

Long and short equity trades = Premier Investor

BULLISH Play Updates

COST - Costco - Company Profile


Costco reported same store sales of 6.2% for July and beat estimates for 5.3%. Revenue rose 8.8% to $9.4 billion. Despite the great numbers shares fell -$3.37 to stop us out in a sell the news event. Shares had been up strongly over the last week. I will recommend them again once the market finds a bottom.

Original Trade Description: July 26th.

Costco Wholesale Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, operates membership warehouses. It offers branded and private-label products in a range of merchandise categories. The company provides dry and packaged foods, and groceries; snack foods, candies, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, and cleaning supplies; appliances, electronics, health and beauty aids, hardware, and garden and patio; meat, bakery, deli, and produces; and apparel and small appliances. It also operates gas stations, pharmacies, optical dispensing centers, food courts, and hearing-aid centers; and engages in the travel businesses. In addition, the company provides gold star individual and business membership services. As of August 28, 2016, it operated 715 warehouses, including 501 warehouses in the United States, Washington, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; 91 in Canada; 36 in Mexico; 28 in the United Kingdom; 25 in Japan; 12 in Korea; 12 in Taiwan; 8 in Australia; and 2 in Spain. Further, the company sells its products through online. Company description from FinViz.com.

Costco shares were knocked for a $32 loss on the news that Amazon was buying Whole Foods. There was panic that Amazon was getting into the grocery business and would decimate the sector. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if it was it would cause the most trouble for chains like Kroger, Safeway, Sprouts Farmers Market, etc.

If the acquisition goes through, and there is growing doubt, I do not foresee Whole Foods selling big screen TVs, winter parkas, cameras, caskets, cruises or ketchup and toilet paper by the case. The two stores are not compatible.

Furthermore, 45% of Costco members are already Amazon Prime members we as well based on a Morgan Stanley survey. Members of both services are looking for deals.

Costco makes the majority of its money from memberships (75%) and very little margin on its products. Amazon and Whole Foods are not going to undercut Costco on prices. Costco had 48.3 million members at the end of last quarter, up from 47.9 million. There were 37.4 Gold Star members and 18.3 million executive memberships. Total cardholders rose from 88.1 million to 88.9 million. Whole Foods has 350 stores and only about 12 million estimated repeat shoppers.

Did you know that Costco sells its products on Amazon. Costco's private label brand, "Kirkland" makes up about 20% of Costco's sales in the stores and those same products are available on Amazon. Actually, sales of the Kirkland products on Amazon are higher than in the stores.

Earnings August 24th.

Costco shares are starting to recover from the decline. Shares appear to have bottomed at support at $1.50. I expect them to rise as we get closer to earnings. Any remaining shorts will not want to hold over an earnings report that is likely to be strong. It the market decides to weaken in August, Costco is insurance since it has already sold off. Investors will be looking to buy the beaten down stocks as a safety play.

Update 7/28/17: WR Baird reiterated an outperform rating with a $200 price target. They see the 15% decline a major buying opportunity and expect revenue to grow 4% to 5% in the current quarter. They see Costco as the leader in the retail sector.

Position 7/27/17:

Closed 8/3: Long Sept $155 Call @ $2.40, exit $5.38, +2.98 gain.

VAR - Varian Medical Systems - Company Profile


No specific news. Shares declined with the market.

Original Trade Description: Aug 2nd.

Varian Medical Systems, Inc. designs, manufactures, sells, and services medical devices and software products for treating cancer and other medical conditions worldwide. It operates through two segments, Oncology Systems and Imaging Components. The Oncology Systems segment provides hardware and software products for treating cancer with radiotherapy, fixed field intensity-modulated radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy, volumetric modulated arc therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, stereotactic body radiotherapy, and brachytherapy. Its products include linear accelerators, brachytherapy afterloaders, treatment simulation, verification equipment, and accessories; and information management, treatment planning, image processing, clinical knowledge exchange, patient care management, decision-making support, and practice management software. This segment serves university research and community hospitals, private and governmental institutions, healthcare agencies, physicians' offices, oncology practices, radiotherapy centers, and cancer care clinics. The Imaging Components segment offers X-ray imaging components for use in radiographic or fluoroscopic imaging, mammography, special procedures, computed tomography, computer aided diagnostics, and industrial applications. It also provides Linatron X-ray accelerators, imaging processing software, and image detection products for security and inspection purposes. This segment serves original equipment manufacturers, independent service companies, and end-users. In addition, the company offers products and systems for delivering proton therapy; and develops technologies in the areas of digital X-ray imaging, volumetric and functional imaging, and improved X-ray sources. Company description from FinViz.com.

Expected earnings October 26th.

On July 26th, Varian reported earnings of $1.04 that beat estimates for 95 cents. Revenue of $662.4 million just barely missed estimates for $663.2 million due in part to currency translation issues. They sell their high dollar imaging systems all over the world.

The guided for the current quarter for earnings of $1.15-$1.23 and analysts were expecting $1.18. This should have been positive but the stock fell $6 because of the minor revenue miss.

If the market is going to be historically weak in August, shares that have already been beaten up will fare better than the rest of the market. I am choosing the $105 strike instead of the $100 strike for reduced cost/risk going into August.

Position 8/3/17:

Long Nov $105 call @ $1.75, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

VIX - Volatility Index - Index Profile


No material gain as the weak market had no volume and no direction.

Original Trade Description: July 12th.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX Index) is a key measure of market expectations of near-term volatility conveyed by S&P 500 stock index option prices. Since its introduction in 1993, the VIX Index has been considered by many to be the world's premier barometer of investor sentiment and market volatility. Several investors expressed interest in trading instruments related to the market's expectation of future volatility, and so VX futures were introduced in 2004, and VIX options were introduced in 2006.

The VIX closed at a 24-year low on July 14th at 9.51. The index has been spending a lot of time under 10 over the last three months and this is highly abnormal. The VIX typically trades up to 20 or more three times a year or more. That has not happen since the days before the election. This period of abnormal volatility WILL eventually end.

With the Trump administration getting more desperate to achieve some legislative goals there is always the risk they will go to extremes to get them accomplished. Add in the unknown but rapidly expanding Russian probes and anything is possible. We saw the Dow fall triple digits intraday on just the release of 5 emails from Trump Jr. If the probe actually uncovered something material, it could cause a major market meltdown.

The debt ceiling and the budget expire on Sept 31st. If Congress cannot get a budget passed and raise the debt ceiling, the government would shut down on October 1st. We have seen this before. The last time it happened the U.S. lost its AAA credit rating and the market declined sharply for more than a week.

What about North Korea? Military force could be used at any time but North Korea seems dead set on testing another nuke and expanding its ICBM tests. If fighting breaks out between the U.S. and North Korea it would cause a significant market decline because of the geopolitical concerns and the potential loss of life in Seoul, South Korea.

Even if none of those events occurred, there is always the risk of a 10% market decline just because we have not had one in a very long time. With August and September the worst months of the year for the market, the potential for a correction this year could be higher than normal. The Nasdaq is already up 18% and the Dow 9% for the year. The FAANG stocks are at record highs, which many say are unsupported by fundamentals.

There are so many potential opportunities for a market disaster. It only makes sense to take out some protection while the volatility is at record lows. I am recommending a November call to get us past the Aug/Sep period and the potential for a debt ceiling event in early October.

Position 7/20/17:

Long Nov $15 call @ $1.85, no stop loss. Target $22 to exit.

BEARISH Play Updates (Alpha by Symbol)

DIA - Dow ETF - ETF Profile


The Dow posted another positive close thanks to gains in 3M and UNH. The Dow traded at 22,000 most of the day and finally squeezed out a 9-point gain with all the other indexes in negative territory. The Dow continues to become even more overbought.

Original Trade Description: July 27th.

The SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF Trust seeks to provide investment results that, before expenses, correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (the "Index"). The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is composed of 30 "blue-chip" U.S. stocks. The DJIA is the oldest continuous barometer of the U.S. stock market, and the most widely quoted indicator of U.S. stock market activity. The DJIA is a price-weighted index of 30 component common stocks.

The Dow closed at a new high in an ugly market solely because of big gains in Boeing, Disney and Verizon. If the rest of the market continues lower, the Dow will eventually crater as well. I am recommending we enter a put position on the Dow ETF at the current high.

Position 7/28/17:

Long Oct $215 put @ $3.33, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Short Oct $205 put @ $1.29, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Net debit $2.04.

FTNT - Fortinet - ETF Profile


No specific news. Shares are testing support at $36.

Original Trade Description: July 29th.

Fortinet, Inc. provides cybersecurity solutions for enterprises, service providers, and government organizations worldwide. The company offers FortiGate physical and software licenses that provide various security and networking functions, including firewall, intrusion prevention, anti-malware, virtual private network, application control, Web filtering, anti-spam, and wide area network acceleration; FortiManager product family to provide a central management solution for FortiGate products comprising software updates, configuration, policy settings, and security updates; and the FortiAnalyzer product family, which offers a single point of network log data collection. It also provides FortiAP secure wireless access points; FortiWeb, a Web application firewall; FortiMail email security; FortiDB database security appliances; FortiClient, an endpoint security software; and FortiSwitch secure switch connectivity products. In addition, the company provides FortiSandbox advanced threat protection solutions; FortiDDos and FortiDB database security appliances; and FortiSIEM family of products to provide a cloud-ready security information and event management (SIEM) solution for enterprises and service providers. Further, it offers security subscription, technical support, training, and professional services.Company description from FinViz.com.

Expected earnings October 25th.

The company reported Q2 earnings of 14 cents that beat estimates for 8 cents. Revenue of $363.5 million also beat estimates for $361 million. All the normal metrics were good to great but their guidance failed to impress. Full year guidance was higher but Q3 guidance disappointed.

They guided for revenues in the $367-$373 million range and analysts were expecting $372 million. Earnings guidance for 22 cents matched estimates. Investors normally do not want a match, they want a raise. The lower level on the revenues is also a caution. Shares fell $3 over the last three days and are right on the verge of breaking through support.

The entire cybersecurity sector has been weak despite the recent attacks. This is another weight on FTNT.

Position 8/1/17:

Long Sept $36 put @ $.90, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

IBM - International Business Machines - ETF Profile


No specific news. Shares posted a minor gain thanks to the Dow strength.

Original Trade Description: July 29th.

International Business Machines Corporation provides information technology (IT) products and services worldwide. Its Cognitive Solutions segment includes Watson, a cognitive computing platform that interacts in natural language, processes big data, and learns from interactions with people and computers. The company's Cognitive Solutions segment also offers data and analytics solutions, including analytics and data management platforms, cloud data services, enterprise social software, talent management solutions, and solutions tailored by industry; and transaction processing software that runs mission-critical systems in banking, airlines, and retail industries. The company's Global Business Services segment offers business consulting services; delivers system integration, application management, maintenance, and support services for packaged software applications; and business process outsourcing services. Its Technology Services & Cloud Platforms segment provides cloud, project-based, outsourcing, and other managed services for enterprise IT infrastructure environments. This segment also offers technical support, and software and solution support; and integration software solutions. The company's Systems segment offers servers for businesses, cloud service providers, and scientific computing organizations; data storage products and solutions; and z/OS, an enterprise operating system for z systems. It has a strategic collaboration with ABB Ltd to develop industrial artificial intelligence solutions. The company was formerly known as Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co. and changed its name to International Business Machines Corporation in 1924. Company description from FinViz.com.

Expected earnings October 17th.

IBM reported revenue of $19.29 billion, down -5% annually and the 21st consecutive quarterly decline. Analysts were expecting $19.49 billion and that was already on the low side. Earnings were $2.97 and beat estimates for $2.74 thanks to a lower tax rate of 9.2%. Full year guidance was reiterated for "at least" $13.80. Several years ago, they made a big deal out of forecasting $20 a year in earnings. That is not likely to happen in this decade. All five of IBM's reporting segments posted revenue declines.

The problem with IBM is the lack of a light at the end of the tunnel. There is no way out of this problem without major changes which could include splitting the company up or going on an acquisition spree. Shares hit $182.50 in February but hopes have now been dashed twice with Q1 and Q2 earnings. The outlook is dim.

If the market were to roll over and the Dow decline materially, IBM would be a leader in that decline. It has been losing ground even when the Dow is setting new highs.

With earnings Oct 17th we can use the Oct options which expire on the 20th. They should hold their premium well.

Position 7/31/17:

Long Oct $140 put @ $3.10, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

SPY - S&P-500 ETF - ETF Profile


Only a minor decline of 5 points on the S&P and the index remains near its recent highs. August has been down 5 of the last 7 years and up only 5 of the last 20 years. If the historical trend is going to appear I wish it would hurry. Next week is typically the start of the August decline.

Original Trade Description: July 24th.

• The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust seeks to provide investment results that, before expenses, correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the S&P 500 Index (the "Index") The S&P 500 Index is a diversified large cap U.S. index that holds companies across all eleven GICS sectors.

The S&P is marching slowly towards a date with destiny and 2,500. Since the median estimate by the top 16 analysts was a 2,450 yearend price target on the S&P, the arrival at 2,500 could be a tripwire that triggers an August correction. We have not had a 5% drop in a year and it has been 9 months since a 3.5% decline. With earnings rapidly playing out and most of the high profile companies will finish reporting by next Wednesday, I am going to recommend a bearish position for August/September.

I am going to set an entry trigger for a SPY put with the S&P at 2,495. Since aggressive traders normally want to anticipate a particular number, I want to enter the position just before we reach that level.

Update 7/26/17: The Dow was up +100 points, Nasdaq +10, Nasdaq 100 +20 and the S&P only gained 70 cents. The Russell 2000 lost -6 and the S&P-400 lost -15. We may not get to that 2,495 level. I am going to add another trigger/strike in case we get a failure from this level.

Position 7/27/17 with a S&P trade at 2,465:

Long Oct $243 put @ $3.65, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

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