Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Wednesday, 12/30/2009

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Major Indexes Up Again, But for How Long?

by Judy Alster

Click here to email Judy Alster
Wednesday's indexes weren't quite as boring as watching grass grow, and the three major indexes did squeak out new 52-week closing highs, but when you've said that you've said it all. After a slide at the open followed by a short-lived jump on the Chicago PMI's strong manufacturing report, the trading range was pretty narrow.


On Wednesday the Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index showed that business activity in the U.S. expanded at a much faster-than-expected pace in December (except for the Kansas City region). The Chicago business activity index rose to 60.0% from 56.1% in November; readings over 50% indicate more firms in a survey believe business is improving better instead of getting worse. It was the fastest pace of Chicago-area business expansion since January 2006. In January of this year the Index stood at 31.4%. The survey is broad-based, canvassing purchasing professionals in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing, and confirms what we've been hearing since April: there's been a gradual improvement in the U.S. economy. If you're an early-ish Baby Boomer you may remember how aptly Jimmie Cliff phrased it in the movie of the same name: "The Harder They Come, the Harder They Fall," so gradual is just fine with me, and I hope you feel the same.

Most economists expect growth to accelerate in 2010, though few are predicting a strong recovery. Demand is still soft, unemployment refuses to move much off 10% and companies are not hiring in droves. Kind of a vicious cycle. But when inventories get low you must rebuild, and orders for goods and services seem to be creeping up. The Chicago new orders index, for example, rose to 63.5% in December from 62.8% in November. Order backlogs were similarly strong with month-to-month growth at 53.0. Similarly, the inventories index climbed to 39.4% from 34.9% and the production index jumped to 65.8% from 57.6%.


The employment index managed to rise to 51.2% from 41.9%, indicating some firms have stopped cutting jobs and may even be adding workers; the employment index reached its highest level since just before the recession began in late 2007.

New highs: The Dow closed at 10,548 Wednesday, up 3.10 points or 0.03%; the S&P500 gained a hardly-worth-mentioning 0.23 points or 0.02% to 1,126.42 and the Nasdaq rose 2.88 points or 0.13% to 2,291.28. The Dow's low volume, contrary MACD and contracting range continue to be worrisome and make a January correction look likely:


The S&P also looks like steam may be running out:


Volume, as befits the second-to-last trading day of the year, was underwhelming as many traders closed their books for 2009, partly not to be caught with too many losers on hand, partly to have some cash going into 2010. Composite volume in NYSE-listed names was well below the year's daily average. The caution, as is often the case, helped push up the dollar.


Something fairly exciting did happen, if you were at work in the Nasdaq building. Staff working there were evacuated around mid-day due to a "suspicious vehicle," a van, parked outside; the Nasdaq building was, oddly, the only one evacuated. After the vehicle was poked and prodded, pedestrians and vehicles were allowed to return to Times Square, which had been cordoned off. It didn't have much effect on Nasdaq trading, which is conducted electronically; the location isn't central to trading. And Nasdaq employees probably went home early.

You know, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the VIX, subject of the well-known rhyme that all children learn in the nursery: "When the VIX is low/It's time to go." Especially when the VIX is below 20, a screaming "Sell" signal for many traders. It possible for the market to rise when the VIX is below 20, but it's rare.


The Mortgage Bankers' Association is nobody's fool: Its offices are closed for the holidays until next Tuesday, when it opens with two weeks of data. So I have no mortgage purchases to report today. MBA's offices are closed for the holidays. The mortgage application report will resume Jan. 5 and will include two weeks of data.

Are we junk yet? Also on Wednesday, benchmark 10-year notes yielded 3.80%, while 2-year notes yielded 1.09%. As the economy continues to improve, consensus has it that Treasury bond prices will fall next year, lifting yields. It will give investors another reason to avoid a sector which just suffered its biggest annual loss in three decades. Concerns about increasing government debt will no doubt also lift yields: Many reasonably conservative investors will start favoring high-grade corporate debt over U.S. government debt, if they haven't already, which will increase the U.S.'s recently low, low borrowing costs. Yields on 2-year notes, closely linked to the Federal Reserve's key interest rate, are seen rising to 1.26% by mid-2010 and 1.95% a year from now, according to analysts.

Yields on 10-year notes, the benchmark for a broad slab of debt including corporate bonds and mortgage rates, are expected to stay around 3.76% in the next six months, but end 2010 near 4.16%, according to the survey. Some of the dealers surveyed believe the Fed could begin raising interest rates as early as June, others say no, not until late 2011, which about covers the field. (I'm on the earlier-rather-than-later side.) The biggest concern is that the government will issue even more debt in 2010, topping the heart-stopping 2009 record. At least one dealer expects the Treasury to sell $2.6 trillion in fiscal 2010, a% increase year-over-year.

Not only will the government have all those stimulus programs to fund, but the bond market will lose the Federal Reserve as its big buyer of securities as it ends it $300-billion Treasury-security buying spree to attack the credit crisis. That didn't seem to have much effect on prices, but in March the Fed will end its purchases of $1.425 trillion in mortgage-backed securities and debt from Fannie and Freddie. Those purchases have in fact redirected buyers away from the mortgage-bond market into other fixed-income instruments and the end of that program could help push up Treasury rates. Who'd've thought that one day only aggressive traders would be buying U.S. debt, once considered almost laughably conservative.


Wednesday, Treasurys were mixed after a well-attended auction of $32 billion in seven-year notes. The two-year note was unchanged, yielding 1.091%. The benchmark-10 year note was up 1/32 to yield 3.8%.

The banking sector treaded water today but Horizon Bancorp (HBNC) gained 7% as it agreed to acquire the banking-related assets and deposits of American Trust & Savings Bank of Whiting, Ind., and its parent, Am Tru Inc.; the American Trust assets come to about $110 million.

HORIZON BANCORP up on acquisition news:

Semiconductor stocks were movers Wednesday, up after Tuesday's slump, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX) up 1.5%. Broadcom (BRCM) led the way with a 1.8% rise after agreeing to pay $160.5 million to settle a pending class-action lawsuit.


Marvell (MRVL) closed the day up 2.8% at $20.83, expecting to see growth in its storage semiconductor business . . . Nvidia (NVDA) closed trading up 3.6% at $18.67; the company is on a roll and on almost everybody's list of companies positioned to benefit from higher computing graphics sales . . . Chipmaker Broadcom Corp. (NASDAQ:BRCM) saw its shares rise 1.8% following news that it has settled a class-action shareholder lawsuit related to past stock-option practices. Intel (INTC), Dell (DELL), Apple (APPL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Cisco (CSCO) and Yahoo (YHOO) and IBM (IBM) all managed gains.

NVIDIA looks invincible:

Decliners included China BAK Battery (CBAK), down a thudding 24% to $2.77 after it denied rumors that it would provide batteries for Google's new smartphone. The company's shares had rallied more than 60% on Tuesday. Hmm . . . . Japan Airlines (JALS.Y) is having a hard time and needs to file for bankruptcy in order for the government to bail it out; it was down 12% . . . . Trico Marine Services (TRMA) lost over 11%. The provider of ships and services for the offshore oil-and-gas industry expects to report a fourth-quarter impairment charge of possibly $120 million to reflect cancellation of shipbuilding contracts in India. Continued softness in the North Sea for all offshore activity isn't helping.

Crude stockpiles fell again in the week ending last Friday, this time by 1.5 million barrels, according to the Energy Information Administration's weekly report; it was the fourth decline in a row, coming in at a little better than analyst expectations of 1.7 million barrels. At 326 million barrels, crude inventories last week hit their lowest level in nearly a year. Also down were gasoline inventories by 300,000 barrels; distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, declined two million barrels, also a bit better than expectations but still down. Very cold weather across much of the country played a part in depleting heating oil.

Demand for gasoline was moderate; it was lower for distillates except for jet fuel, where demand is on the rise. Refineries used more crude last week, which pushed inventories down as well (see yesterday's Market Wrap explaining the tax advantage of not having too much crude, which counts as property, on hand at year-end) and stayed steady at 80.3% of capacity.

Crude oil for February delivery finished Wednesday up 41 cents or 0.05%, at $79.28 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its highest level in seven weeks. The oil-tracking US Oil Fund (USO) closed up as well, as did such majors as BP Plc. (BP) and Chevron (CVX).


Weighing somewhat on the crude rise Wednesday and on other dollar-denominated commodities was the dollar, which strengthened against most of its major rivals. The dollar index gained eight cents or 0.11% to $77.86, its best level since early September. If this keeps up, crude may retrace some of its recent sharp rise, or go sideways for a while.


Helping the buck Wednesday was news from the IMF that holdings of U.S. dollars by foreign central banks bounced back in the third quarter. In countries who report their holdings, the share of U.S. dollars bounced up to 62% in the third quarter after an unusual drop to 37% in the second.

As for that rising demand for jet fuel, the Christmas-day foiled terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines didn't beat up airline stocks very much, even Northwest's owner, Delta (DLA); the major airlines are down just slightly on the news, but of course that could change. Airline stocks have been rising steadily in recent weeks, largely on word that OPEC will leave production volumes unchanged, it says which prompted a hearty upgrade. Even if travel demand doesn't continue to strengthen, passenger revenue could rise 5% by the end of February, by some estimates. Airlines were mostly unchanged today or off a few pennies, but United (UAUA) rose over 1%, AirTran (AAI) gained 0.78% and U.S. Airways (LCC) gained 0.43%.


(Oddly, late Tuesday the American Petroleum Institute reported an increase of 1.73 million barrels in U.S. inventories, a surprise that pushed down oil prices slightly in late trading Tuesday. The API also reported that gasoline inventories fell 1.4 million barrels while distillate supplies fell 3.46 million barrels. The EIA and the API use different criteria [obviously] to measure stockpiles.)

Even though trucking stocks are among the first to move up in an economic turnaround, it was announced Wednesday that trucker YRC Worldwide (YRCW) could file for bankruptcy and close its doors as early as this weekend despite its effort to complete a critical debt-to-exchange offer. (Arrow Trucking closed down messily just before Christmas.) The last time a trucking company about the size of YRC went out of business was in 2002, after Consolidated Freightways filed for Chapter 11 protection.

YRC WORLDWIDE . . . . not good:

So-called "less-than-truckload" carriers like Consolidated and YRC, which consolidate shipments from many sources at company terminals, do very well in a thriving economy but not in tough times mainly because of high fixed costs and greater difficulty making loads. Diversified transportation and logistics companies like Werner (WERN) and Landstar (LSTR) have done well and look like they're edging into new trading ranges. Arkansas Best (ABFS), trying to break through resistance, even pays a 1.9% dividend.

WERNER ENTERPRISES keeps on . . . .well, you know:

As long as I was a wet blanket about the VIX, before I go I may as well continue in that vein about market breadth. Promising breadth data may be the best, or certainly one of the best, indicators of a general uptrend, and I have to report that breadth is not looking terrific lately. First we have today's Advance/Decline Diary, which needs no explanation:


Then we have the Trin, or the Arms Index, which as you know measures not just the breadth of advancers vs. decliners but also the volume that may, or may not, be supporting the market. Briefly, the lower the Trin, the greater the advancing volume in the market; the higher the Trin, the more declining volume there is. A value less than 1.0 is bullish; a value greater than 1.0 indicates bearish demand. Currently, the Trin is above 1.4; on the upside, it's better than it was Tuesday.


Finally, in the annals of Gee, I Shoulda Bought That: We have pork bellies. Norway has frozen salted salmon bellies. And had you only bought those babies a few years ago, what a zippy profit you'd have made. Ah, well:


On Thursday as always, jobless claims and the Energy Administration's natural gas report may move the market. Friday is New Year's Day, on which we will wrench themselves away from our computer screens.

Best wishes for health, happiness and good trades in the coming year.

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New Plays

Watch List of Candidates

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Editor's Note:

The market is trading sideways and we're faced with a potential correction in January so I'm hesitant to add more bullish candidates when we have so many already. However, the trend is your friend, right?

If you're looking for bullish candidates you may want to check these stocks out:

AMB: traders bought the dip in AMB twice today. I would be tempted to buy AMB right here with a tight stop loss.

BRKL: this stock is consolidating under resistance near $10.00 and its 200-dma. Readers may want to use a trigger at $10.05 to open bullish positions. Look for resistance near $11.00.

RSYS: This stock is consolidating sideways under resistance at $10.00. Consider using a trigger at $10.15 to open bullish positions.

VICR: Shares of this stock looks poised to breakout from their sideways consolidation. Either buy the bounce now with a very tight stop or wait for a new relative high.

In Play Updates and Reviews

Limit Your Risk

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Stocks may have seen a late day bounce but we are raising several stop losses.

BULLISH Play Updates

Adobe Systems - ADBE - close: 37.18 change: -0.03 stop: 36.45

This morning it looked like ADBE might breakout but shares failed at the $37.50 level. We're still waiting for the breakout. I'm suggesting a trigger to buy ADBE at $37.75. If triggered our first target is $39.95. Our second, longer-term target is $42.25. FYI: The P&F chart is bullish with a $52 target.

Entry on  December xx at $xx.xx <-- TRIGGER @ 37.75
Change since picked:     + 0.00   			
Earnings Date          03/17/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       5.3 million 
Listed on  December 22, 2009    

Bank of Hawaii - BOH - close: 47.65 change: -0.21 stop: 45.90

Financials were mixed today but overseas they were underperformers. BOH managed a bounce from the bottom of its new trading range. I am not suggesting new bullish positions. I am consolidating our targets to just one at $49.85. Broken resistance near $46.50 should offer some support.

Entry on  November 18 at $46.20 
Change since picked:     + 1.17   			
Earnings Date          01/25/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       424 thousand
Listed on  November 17, 2009    

Broadcom - BRCM - close: 31.85 change: +0.55 stop: 29.45

BRCM erased yesterday's losses with a 1.75% gain. I'm still not suggesting new positions at this time. Our first BRCM target is $34.75. Our second target is $37.00. Our time frame is several weeks.

Entry on  December 07 at $31.25
Change since picked:     + 0.60   			
Earnings Date          01/28/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       7.4 million 
Listed on  December 05, 2009    

CSX Corp. - CSX - close: 49.12 change: -0.04 stop: 47.40

Railroad stocks were drifting lower today and CSX traded under $49.00. It looks like a minor intraday bounce from the 40-dma but I wouldn't buy it. I would be very cautious here with the stock under $50.00. Look for a bounce back above $50.00 as our next entry point. Our first target is $54.90. We will plan to exit ahead of the mid January earnings report.

Entry on  December 24 at $50.30 
Change since picked:     - 1.18   			
Earnings Date          01/19/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       3.0 million 
Listed on  December 22, 2009    

Disney - DIS - close: 32.28 change: -0.10 stop: 30.85 *new*

Wednesday was a quiet session for DIS. The sideways consolidation appears to be narrowing and suggests the next move will be higher. I am raising our stop loss to $30.85. Our target is $34.75. We will plan to exit ahead of the February earnings report. FYI: The Point & Figure chart currently points to a $45 target.

Entry on  December 12 at $31.70 
Change since picked:     + 0.58   			
Earnings Date          02/09/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:      11.0 million 
Listed on  December 12, 2009    

EMCOR Group - EME - close: 27.52 change: +0.05 stop: 25.75 *new*

Traders bought the dip in EME at its rising 10-dma. Shares still looks a little overbought here. I'd wait for a deeper pull back before launching new positions. Please note our new stop loss at $25.75. The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $42 target. I'm listing our first target at $29.85. Our time frame is several weeks.

Entry on  December 21 at $27.18 
Change since picked:     + 0.34   			
Earnings Date          02/25/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       514 thousand
Listed on  December 21, 2009    

Home Depot - HD - close: 29.13 change: -0.14 stop: 27.40

HD is little changed from yesterday and continues to slide sideways. Our first target is $30.60. Our second target is $32.45. We'll plan to exit ahead of the February earnings report. FYI: The P&F chart is very bullish with a $44 target.

Entry on  December 14 at $28.82 *gap higher entry  
Change since picked:     + 0.31   			
Earnings Date          02/23/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:      15.7 million 
Listed on  December 12, 2009    

Johnson & Johnson - JNJ - close: 64.91 change: -0.03 stop: 61.75 *new*

The stock closed virtually unchanged on the session. I'm raising the stop loss to $61.75. I'm not suggesting new positions at this time. Our target first target is $67.50.

Entry on  November 23 at $63.05
Change since picked:     + 1.89   			
Earnings Date          01/26/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:      12.6 million 
Listed on  November 21, 2009    

Kansas City Southern - KSU - close: 33.83 chg: -0.28 stop: 29.95

KSU is still out performing its peers but the stock has been stuck in a sideways range this week. If you haven't taken any money off the table yet I suggest you do so now. I am not suggesting new positions at this time. We've already taken profits once at $34.05. Our second target is $37.50. We'll plan to exit ahead of the late January earnings report.

Entry on  December 14 at $30.90 
Change since picked:     + 2.93
                          /take profits 12/26/09 @ 34.05 (+10.1%)
Earnings Date          01/28/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       677 thousand
Listed on  December 14, 2009    

Potlatch Corp. - PCH - close: 32.41 change: -0.26 stop: 30.30

Traders did buy the dip near $32.00 intraday but I am not suggesting new positions at this time. Our first target to take profits is at $33.60. Our second target is $35.75. FYI: The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $56 target.

Entry on  November 16 at $30.30
Change since picked:     + 2.11   			
Earnings Date          02/11/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       503 thousand
Listed on  November 11, 2009    

Renolds American - RAI - close: 53.47 change: -0.20 stop: 51.45

RAI continues to drift sideways with short-term resistance at $54.00. I'm not suggesting new bullish positions. Our target to exit is $54.90. More aggressive traders may want to aim for the $56.50-57.00 zone.

Entry on  November 14 at $50.32 
Change since picked:     + 3.15   			
Earnings Date          02/11/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       1.6 million 
Listed on  November 14, 2009    

Starbucks Corp. - SBUX - close: 23.31 change: -0.20 stop: 21.75

SBUX suffered some profit taking and dipped to its 10-dma. If the dip continues we can look for short-term support near $22.50 and at the $22.00 levels. I'm not suggesting new bullish positions at this time. Our target to exit is $24.90.

Entry on  December 10 at $22.25
Change since picked:     + 1.36   			
Earnings Date          01/28/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:      10.9 million 
Listed on  November 30, 2009    

Sonoco Products - SON - close: 29.88 change: -0.23 stop: 28.49

SON also dipped toward its rising 10-dma. Look for a bounce back above $30.00 before considering new positions. Our first target is $34.50. Our time frame is several weeks. FYI: The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $42.50 target.

Entry on  December 26 at $30.31 
Change since picked:     - 0.43   			
Earnings Date          02/04/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       343 thousand
Listed on  December 26, 2009    

Seagate Technology - STX - close: 18.44 change: +0.63 stop: 16.49 *new*

Positive analyst comments with a new set of estimates and a new $22 price target gave STX a boost today. The stock shot higher with a 3.5% rally and a new 2009 high. I am raising our stop loss to $16.49. We want to keep our positions small. Our target is $19.75 as the $20.00 level will probably act as round-number, psychological resistance. We will plan to exit ahead of the mid January earnings report.

Entry on  December 19 at $17.83 /gap open higher
Change since picked:     + 0.61  			
Earnings Date          01/19/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       8.2 million 
Listed on  December 19, 2009    

Texas Instruments - TXN - close: 25.98 change: +0.61 stop: 25.24

The semiconductor sector was one of the best performers today and this time shares of TXN actually contributed to the gain. I didn't see any company specific news but the rally pushed TXN to a 2.4% gain. Shares appear to have broken the short-term trend of lower highs and now TXN is challenging resistance at $26.00. Readers may want consider short-term bullish positions on a move over $26.10 or $26.20. We were aiming for $29.75, which is a little optimistic but we'll try and keep our stop loss tight a TXN moves higher.

Entry on  December 02 at $26.15
Change since picked:     - 0.17   			
Earnings Date          01/26/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:      12.6 million 
Listed on  December 01, 2009    

United Parcel Service - UPS - close: 58.18 change: -0.37 stop: 56.95

Sadly there is no real change in UPS with the stock erasing yesterday's gains. I am suggesting traders wait for a move over $60.00 before initiating new positions. Our target is $64.50.

Entry on  December 14 at $58.99 
Change since picked:     - 0.81   			
Earnings Date          02/02/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       4.2 million 
Listed on  December 14, 2009    

Warner Chilcott - WCRX - close: 28.45 change: +0.15 stop: 26.25 *new*

WCRX continues to inch higher. I am raising our stop loss to $26.25. I am not suggesting new positions at this time. Our first target has been hit at $27.40. Our second target is $29.45.

Entry on  December 01 at $24.77 gap open entry point (small positions)
Change since picked:     + 3.68   	
                         /1st target hit @ 27.40 (+10.6%)
Earnings Date          02/25/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       1.8 million 
Listed on  November 28, 2009    

Wright Express Corp. - WXS - close: 32.03 change: +0.10 stop: 29.99

WXS hit some profit taking this morning but traders bought the dip twice and shares eventually closed in positive territory. Depending on your style you could buy a bounce from here or just wait for a new relative high (over 32.65). Our target is $35.90. Our time frame is several weeks probably the first of February. FYI: The Point & Figure chart is bullish with a $41 target.

Entry on  December 21 at $32.30
Change since picked:     - 0.27   			
Earnings Date          02/10/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       209 thousand
Listed on  December 19, 2009    

Wyndham Worldwide - WYN - close: 20.40 change: -0.18 stop: 18.88

It's not surprising to see WYN continue slipping toward round-number support at $20.00. There is no change from my prior comments. More conservative traders may want to exit early right now or raise their stops toward $20.00. I am not suggesting new positions at this time. Our first target has already been hit at $21.00. We're currently aiming for $22.40. The plan was to use small positions (1/2 a position).

Entry on  November 10 at $18.88 (1/2 position) /gap open higher
Change since picked:     + 1.52
                          /1st target hit @ 21.00 (+11.2%)
Earnings Date          02/11/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       3.5 million 
Listed on  November 10, 2009    

BEARISH Play Updates

Wells Fargo - WFC - close: 26.82 change: +0.14 stop: 27.55

Financials were losers overseas but the sector was mixed here in the U.S. Shares of WFC managed a 0.5% gain. I am not suggesting new positions in WFC at this time.

We knew this was going to be an aggressive, higher-risk trade so the plan was to use smaller positions. Our first bearish target for WFC is $23.10. Our second and final target is $21.00.

Entry on  December 10 at $25.75 (small positions)
Change since picked:     + 1.07   			
Earnings Date          01/27/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:        37 million 
Listed on  December 08, 2009    


Williams Sonoma Inc. - WSM - close: 20.98 change: -0.51 stop: 20.95

I am giving up on WSM as a bullish candidate. Shares have broken their bullish trend of higher lows. Our plan was to buy the stock with a trigger at $22.60 but that has yet to be hit.


Entry on  December xx at $xx.xx <-- TRIGGER @ 22.60
Change since picked:     + 0.00   			*never opened*
Earnings Date          03/24/10 (unconfirmed)    
Average Daily Volume:       2.2 million 
Listed on  December 21, 2009