Archive for the ‘Phil’s Favorites’ Category

Why Altered Carbon is not about the future – nor is any other science fiction


Why Altered Carbon is not about the future – nor is any other science fiction

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Courtesy of Gavin Miller, University of Glasgow

The hopes and dreams of the technological movement known as “transhumanism” have been brought into the media spotlight thanks to Netflix’s new science fiction series, Altered Carbon (based on Richard Morgan’s 2001 novel).

Transhumanists believe that our species will soon undergo a technological evolution into a new and superior form. While there is no single template for transhumanism’s imagined future, there are a number of recurring motifs, such as enhanced cognition, improved bodies and extended lifespans. Sometimes the emphasis is on enhanced biology; sometimes on the supplementation or replacement of the body by technology.

Altered Carbon plays with the ingredients of one transhumanist vision in particular. This is personal immortality through the transferal of the individual human mind into a computer program, which may then be indefinitely preserved and duplicated through a succession of different bodies. And so one could easily think of Altered Carbon as simply an elaboration of the transhumanist worldview – a prophecy of the near future presented in popular entertainment for a mass audience. This assumption is certainly encouraged by promotional coverage, which invites cast members to predict technological developments of the next 200 years.

But is Altered Carbon, or any other work of science fiction, really an attempt to foresee the future? In fact, science fiction has a more important job to do: not to show us the future, but to show us our present-day reality afresh. The real aim of science fiction is to make the everyday world become strange and unfamiliar.

SF futurology

Admittedly, the futures imagined in science fiction sometimes come true (although often they don’t). Science fiction writers told stories about going to the moon before anyone actually went there. They told stories about artificially intelligent machines before these were invented. And so on. This means readers may try to rummage through science fiction for prophetic images, especially of future technologies. Such supposed prophecies needn’t be endorsements, of course. The dystopian vision of Altered Carbon…
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Meet the new ‘renewable superpowers’: nations that boss the materials used for wind and solar


Meet the new 'renewable superpowers': nations that boss the materials used for wind and solar

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Blue Planet Studio / shutterstock

Courtesy of Andrew Barron, Swansea University

Imagine a world where every country has not only complied with the Paris climate agreement but has moved away from fossil fuels entirely. How would such a change affect global politics?

The 20th century was dominated by coal, oil and natural gas, but a shift to zero-emission energy generation and transport means a new set of elements will become key. Solar energy, for instance, still primarily uses silicon technology, for which the major raw material is the rock quartzite. Lithium represents the key limiting resource for most batteries – while rare earth metals, in particular “lanthanides” such as neodymium, are required for the magnets in wind turbine generators. Copper is the conductor of choice for wind power, being used in the generator windings, power cables, transformers and inverters.

In considering this future it is necessary to understand who wins and loses by a switch from carbon to silicon, copper, lithium, and rare earth metals.

The countries which dominate the production of fossil fuels will mostly be familiar:

The list of countries that would become the new “renewables superpowers” contains some familiar names, but also a few wild cards. The largest reserves of quartzite (for silicon production) are found in China, the US, and Russia – but also Brazil and Norway. The US and China are also major sources of copper, although their reserves are decreasing, which has pushed Chile, Peru, Congo and Indonesia to the fore.

Chile also has, by far, the largest reserves of lithium, ahead of China, Argentina and Australia. Factoring in lower-grade “resources” – which can’t yet be extracted – bumps Bolivia and the US onto the list. Finally, rare earth resources are greatest in China, Russia, Brazil – and Vietnam.

Salt flats in South America contain much of the world’s lithium. Guido Amrein Switzerland / shutterstock

Of all the…
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Chaos and confusion for Ontario’s Conservatives


Chaos and confusion for Ontario's Conservatives

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Ontario Conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown addresses supporters in Toronto on Feb. 18. The former party leader resigned his position after sexual misconduct allegations, only to re-enter the race for his vacated position after refuting the allegations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Courtesy of Paul Thomas, Carleton University

The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario began 2018 riding high.

Despite allegations of improper conduct in some nomination races, the PCs were leading in the polls, membership had grown to more than 200,000 and its platform for the upcoming June election was already developed.

Now almost everything has changed, first with leader Patrick Brown’s resignation over allegations of sexual harassment, and now with his stunning attempt to get the job back.

The Ontario PCs face an uphill battle to prepare for the June election, with the leadership race poised to expose internal divisions and drain resources while also distracting from much-needed organizational reforms.

Here’s how it all imploded, and the challenges the party faces to rebuild.

The crisis

On Jan. 24, CTV News contacted Brown for comment on a story alleging that he had sexually assaulted two young women while serving as the federal Conservative Party MP for Barrie, Ont.

At a news conference that night, Brown denied the charges and insisted he would remain as leader. But following the mass resignation of party staff and unanimous pressure from the Conservative caucus, a resignation was issued in Brown’s name the next morning.

On the 26th, the caucus chose MPP Vic Fedeli as interim leader. They also recommended that Fedeli lead the party into election, arguing there wasn’t enough time to get a new leader in place before the election.

Nonetheless, later that day, the party’s executive voted to hold a leadership contest.

The PCs’ troubles then deepened further. The party’s president, Rick Dykstra, resigned on Jan. 28 in advance of an article describing allegations that he had sexually assaulted a federal Conservative staffer in 2014 while serving as an MP.

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These Are the Goods


These Are the Goods

Courtesy of 


An investor without a faith is doomed.

By Dan Egan

The fully-invested bear

By James Montier

Humans are social animals. But the internet is a cesspool.

By Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein

If there were inter-market relationships we could set our watches by, everyone would always know what time it was.

By Josh Brown

Absolutes in a Relative World

By Nick Maggiulli

Most of the time the reason stocks fall is because they can’t simply rise forever

By Ben Carlson

There is an inverse correlation between the length of the question and the difficulty of answering it.

By Michael Lewis

Not on our watch.

By Tony Isola

Dollar-cost averaging verses lump sum investing is often a difficult decision fraught with emotion.

By Corey Hoffstein

A sell-side analyst with only “hold” recommendations is of little value to clients

By Todd Wenning


I built 5,127 prototypes before I got this right.

With Guy Raz and James Dyson

Funnel wide and filter high.

With Patrick O’Shaughnessy and Josh Wolfe

One way or another it’s the human element that makes these things happen.

With Michael and Ben

Anybody who’s successful and says they created their own luck is an asshole.

With Bill Simmons and Scooter Braun

Short term crisis affects are hard to capture.

With Jeremy Schwartz, Wes Gray and Kathryn Kaminsky


We don’t make lines to predict the outcome of a game. We make lines in anticipation of where the action will come.

By Adam Kucharski

North Korea’s growing criminal cyberthreat


North Korea's growing criminal cyberthreat

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Money is a crucial target for North Korea’s hacking efforts. rega rega/

Courtesy of Dorothy Denning, Naval Postgraduate School

The countries posing the greatest cyberthreats to the United States are Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Like its counterparts, Kim Jong Un’s regime engages in substantial cyber espionage. And like Russia and Iran, it launches damaging cyberattacks that wipe data from computer disks and shut down online services.

But the North Korean cyberthreat is different in two ways. First, the regime’s online power did not grow out of groups of independent hackers. Even today, it seems unlikely the country has hackers who operate independent of the government. Second, North Korea’s cybercrime efforts – all seemingly state-sponsored – steal money that is then used to fund its cash-strapped government.

Government-controlled hacking

One reason for North Korea’s apparent lack of independent hackers is that most North Koreans do not have internet access. Although the country has had an internet connection through China for several years, it’s reserved for elites and foreign visitors. Would-be hackers can’t launch attacks across borders; they can’t even pick up hacking manuals, code and tips from the many online forums that other hackers in other nations use to learn the trade and share information.

On top of that, North Korea maintains exceptionally strong controls over its population. Any hacking attributed to North Korea is likely done for the government if not by the government directly.

State-sponsored hackers

North Korea’s cyber warriors work primarily for the General Bureau of Reconnaissance or the General Staff Department of the Korean People’s Army. Prospective candidates are selected from schools across the country and trained in cyber operations at Pyongyang University of Automation and other colleges and universities. By 2015, the South Korean military estimated the KPA employed up to 6,000 cyber warfare experts.

North Korean hackers operate from facilities in China and other foreign countries where their government sends or permits them to work. Indeed, the country has reportedly sent hundreds of hackers into nearby countries to raise money for the regime. Many of the cyberattacks…
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Alarm Bells Sounded on Wall Street’s Derivatives

Courtesy of Pam Martens

Andy Green, Managing Director, Economic Policy , Center for American Progress

Andy Green, Managing Director,  Economic Policy Center for  American Progress

On February 14, the week after the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced two separate days of more than 1,000-point losses, the House Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities and Investment convened a hearing to discuss various legislative proposals to return to the wild west era of derivatives trading on Wall Street. (Many, including Wall Street On Parade, believe that we’ve never left that era – the risks have simply been hidden behind a dark curtain. See related articles below.)

One lonely voice for sanity on the witness panel, which was stacked with industry trade groups, was Andy Green, Managing Director at the Economic Policy Center for American Progress. Green’s written testimony stated that the legislative proposals “slice, dice, or otherwise poke holes – sometimes large holes – in the firewalls placed in the derivatives markets by post 2008 reforms….”

Green also reminded the Congressional members present that the “unregulated OTC derivatives market was at the heart of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, which cost 8.7 million Americans their jobs, 10 million families their homes, and eliminated 49 percent of the average middle-class family’s wealth compared with 2001 levels.”

Green provided a litany of the derivative horrors that led to panic and financial contagion during the financial crisis. The collapse of the giant insurer AIG from credit default swap derivatives and its role as counterparty to some of Wall Street’s largest banks. (In response to the AIG collapse, the U.S. government bailed out the company to the tune of $185 billion. Half of the bailout money effectively went in the front door of AIG and then out the backdoor to the big Wall Street banks and hedge funds that had used AIG as their counterparty to guarantee their bets on Credit Default Swaps.)

Also noted by Green was Lehman Brothers’ “disorderly failure” which “was exacerbated due to the company’s extensive OTC derivatives portfolio.” Green reminded attendees that Lehman “had around 930,000 OTC derivatives contracts at the time of its failure.”

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Wal-Mart Tumbles After Missing Earnings, Guidance Disappoints, Online Sales Slow

Courtesy of Zero Hedge

Walmart reported Q4 non-GAAP EPS of $1.33 (GAAP $0.73), missing consensus est. of $1.37 if more than $1.22 a year ago, largely thanks to the company's plunging tax rate (Q4 at 21.6%, down 9.2%) on revenue of $136.3BN, also above the est. of $134.83BN, and up 4.1% from the $130.9BN a year earlier (the number includes $1.12BN from membership and other income, down 5.8% y/y). For the full fiscal year 2018, total revenue was $500.3 billion, an increase of $14.5 billion, or 3.0%.

More disappointing was Walmart's Q4 gross profit, which declined 61bps to 24.1%, even as the company's effective tax rate tumbled 917bps to 20.3%.  Furthermore, gross merchandise volume (a measure of all the goods it sells online) rose 24% in 4Q vs 54% in 3Q;

Also disappointing was Walmart slower Q4 eCommerce sales, which rose only 23% in Q4, down from an average of 50% in the last three quarters. Walmart has been aggressively investing in its eCommerce business to catch up with Amazon, and the efforts had generally paid off until the current slowdown, even if online shopping still makes up only about 4% of the company’s nearly $500bn in annual sales. Looking ahead, the company hopes that eCommerce sales growth will revert back to "approximately 40%."

But the biggest disappointment to investors is that despite reporting stronger than expected US comp sales of 2.6%, beating expectations of 2.0%, Walmart guided full year 2019 EPS of $4.75-$5.00, well below the consensus estimate of $5.13.

Some more details on the fourth quarter ended Jan 31:

  • Walmart U.S. comps. ex-fuel up 2.6%, est. up 2.0%; forecast up 1.5%-2.0%

    • Wal-Mart U.S. traffic up 1.6% y/y, avg ticket up 1.0%
    • Wal-Mart U.S. E-commerce sales up 23% y/y, GMV up 24%
  • Sam’s Club comps. ex-fuel up 2.4%, est. up 1.9% (CM, avg of 19); co. saw up 1.5%-2%
  • Sam’s Club traffic up 4.3%, avg ticket down -1.9%

Commenting on the results, WMT CEO Doug McMillon said that "we have good momentum in the business with solid sales growth across Walmart U.S., Sam's Club and International. We're making real progress putting our unique assets to work to serve customers in…
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How Amazon could lose its health-care bid while drug distributor stocks win


How Amazon could lose its health-care bid while drug distributor stocks win

Courtesy of Vitaliy Katsenelson, Contrarian Edge has been one of the most innovative and disruptive companies of this century, with incredible success in areas that lie outside of what has been historically perceived as its core business (book selling).

Thus every announcement or speculation that Amazon will enter into a particular industry sends stocks of that industry into a tailspin. Investors sell first and ask questions later. When Amazon announced its purchase of Whole Foods, grocery stores declined as much as 30%. Even Tesco separated by an ocean from Whole Foods, was down on that news.

A big part of Amazon’s success has come from not being taken seriously by its competition. Amazon was able to create a huge lead in AWS (Amazon Web Services) because the competition (Alphabet and Microsoft did not give Amazon enough respect. Competitors thought, “what does a book seller know about the cloud?” Well, according to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, such thinking gave Amazon a much bigger lead over its rivals. Today, everyone takes Amazon seriously. Indeed, fear of Amazon is reaching paranoia levels.

McKesson shares, for example, took a 20% dive during the fourth quarter of 2017 on speculation that Amazon would start distributing pharmaceuticals in the U.S. As McKesson shareholders, my firm took this speculation seriously, but upon further investigation, it became evident that such concerns were overblown. After the market cooled off from fourth-quarter worry about Amazon, McKesson shares recovered.

Then in late January, news that Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway will join forces to drive down U.S. health-care costs hit health-care sector stocks, including McKesson.

How big of a punch could this be? McKesson is the largest distributor of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. Its 2018 sales are on track to exceed $210 billion. It is important to point out that McKesson is not a retailer but a distributor. It is one of three railroads for drugs in the U.S. McKesson distributes drugs to thousands of independent pharmacies, as well as giants like CVS Health, Rite Aid and Walmart McKesson operates two distinct distribution businesses: branded and generics. Though these businesses may look similar on the surface, the economic models of branded and generic businesses are quite different.

In the…
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Ryan Grim Interviews Elizabeth Warren


Via Ryan Grim's newsletter (sign up here): "Elizabeth Warren grew up in Oklahoma hearing stories of the dust bowl and the Great Depression, but was married at the age of 19, a mother just a few years later, and did not take a serious turn toward politics until she was well into her 40s. I talked with her about her highly unusual political development. I think that even if you know an awful lot about Warren — a loyal newsletter reader — you’ll find something new in this article. Story is here" [and below]. ~ Ryan Grim


Courtesy of Ryan Grim, The Intercept

ELIZABETH WARREN’S FIRST political memory is from around the time she was six years old, listening to stories about the Great Depression from her grandmother, Hannie Crawford Reed. 

“They lost money when those banks closed up,” she said of her grandparents and others in her extended family in Oklahoma. “They watched these little towns shrivel up when the bank was gone. There was no money, there were no jobs. So my grandmother used to say one thing that was political that I can remember. She’d say, ‘Franklin Roosevelt made it safe to put money in banks,’ and she would say, ‘and he did a lot of other things, too.’”

The Depression loomed especially large in her family lore. “I wasn’t born until long after the Depression, until after World War II, but I grew up as a child of the Depression, because my grandmother and grandfather, my aunts, my uncles, my mom and my dad, all my older cousins had lived through the Depression. And it was such a searing experience in Oklahoma, that the Depression hung around our family like a shroud. It was always there,” she said.

As a politician from Massachusetts, Warren has had little incentive to talk about her time growing up in Oklahoma or her early years as a young mom in Texas. But they were formative political experiences, which Warren spoke of at length in a recent interview with The Intercept. Oklahoma, when Warren was a child in the 1950s, was still home to a vibrant movement of populist,…
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Trump’s challenge to the US legal system must be taken seriously


Trump's challenge to the US legal system must be taken seriously

Courtesy of Emma Long, University of East Anglia

Donald Trump was elected president in the middle of perhaps the most contentious battle of recent times over the Supreme Court, as congressional Republicans refused to so much as hold hearings on Barack Obama’s nominee to fill an empty seat on the bench. Less than a month into his tenure, Trump courted controversy by criticising judges who struck down his travel ban on people from several mostly Muslim countries. And now, a little more than a year on from his inauguration, Trump is playing politics with the judicial system more brazenly than any president in recent memory.

Trump has repeatedly suggested that the courts are no different to the other branches of government, that they are as political as Congress or the president. He has specifically accused judges of acting out of political antipathy: “It would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right,” he fumed in February 2017.

In response, some of Trump’s critics have accused him of ignoring the constitutional limits of his office. But for all the consternation over Trump’s words, the politicisation of the courts – and especially the Supreme Court – is not new. Trump is being more open about it, but he’s far from the first culprit.

Political football

As I’ve written elsewhere, the modern trend to play politics with the Supreme Court dates back to at least 1987, when the Senate rejected Ronald Reagan’s nominee, Robert Bork, who was considered “too conservative”. In 1991, when accused of sexual harassment by former colleague Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas all but accused the all-white Senate Judiciary Committee of racism; in 2010, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described Obama nominee Elena Kagan as “someone who has worked tirelessly to advance a political agenda.” (Kagan and Thomas both sit on the court today.)

Then came the unprecedented 2016 battle over whether Obama should be allowed to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat during his last year in office. Republicans refused to hold hearings on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland,…
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Phil's Favorites

Why Altered Carbon is not about the future - nor is any other science fiction


Why Altered Carbon is not about the future – nor is any other science fiction


Courtesy of Gavin Miller, University of Glasgow

The hopes and dreams of the technological movement known as “transhumanism” have been brought into the media spotlight thanks to Netflix’s new science fiction series, Altered Carbon (based on Richard Morgan’s 2001 novel).

Transhumanists believe that our species will soon undergo a technological evolution into a new and superior form. While ...

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Zero Hedge

North Korea Bailed At The Last Minute On Secret Meeting With Pence

Courtesy of Zero Hedge

Two weeks ago, followers of geopolitics couldn't help but speculate about the chances of a clandestine meeting between North Korea and the US when the news first broke that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister, Kim Jo Yang, would be attending the Winter Games in PyeongChang.

After all, US Vice President Mike Pence was already confirmed to be stopping by South Korea during the beginning of the Games as part of a five-day Asia tour. But the White House was quick to repudiate this chatter, announcing that there were no plans for diplomatic talks, though both US and North Korean rhetoric since then has left the door open for such a meeting.

But as it turns out, just as the White House was denying it, plans for talks were being set in motion...

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Chart School

Sellers Come In But Semiconductors Gain

Courtesy of Declan.

Markets were set up for sellers with most indices experiencing broad selling. However, the one index which looked set up best for shorts - the Semiconductor Index - actually managed to gain.  Anyone taking up Friday's short in the latter Index will have been stopped out but another shorting opportunity may have presented itself. Technicals haven't returned to becoming net bullish but only the ADX remains to shift.

The S&P eased a little lower but didn't return below what was channel support. Te...

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Bill Nygren's Stock Picks

By VW Staff. Originally published at ValueWalk.

Bill Nygren, Harris Associates U.S. equities CIO and Oakmark Funds portfolio manager, shares his top stock picks and long-term investment strategy.

H/T Dataroma

]]> Get The Full Seth Klarman Series in PDF

Get the entire 10-part series on Seth Klarman in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues.

Bill Nygren's Stock Picks

Pro: Three hot stocks to watch from ...

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Insider Scoop

Stifel Sees Reboot Opportunity For Chipotle, Upgrades From Sell To Hold

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related CMG Benzinga's Top Upgrades, Downgrades For February 20, 2018 The Market In 5 Minutes: Albertsons-R... more from Insider

Digital Currencies

As Bitcoin Nears $11,000, Here's A History Of Its Biggest Ups And Downs

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

The cryptocurrency rebound off Feb 5th's bloodbath lows (below $6,000 for Bitcoin) has been impressive, as a 'mysterious' massive buyer 'bought the dip' and momentum took care of the rest.

With Bitcoin now nearing $11,000 (almost a double off the lows), ...

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What is 'right to try,' and could it help?

Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.


What is 'right to try,' and could it help?

In this March 18, 2011 photo, Cassidy Hempel waved at hospital staff as she was being treated for a rare disorder. Her mother Chris, left, fought to gain permission for an experimental drug. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Morten Wendelbo, Texas A&M University and Timothy Callaghan, ...

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Mapping The Market

The tricks propagandists use to beat science

Via Jean-Luc

How propagandist beat science – they did it for the tobacco industry and now it's in favor of the energy companies:

The tricks propagandists use to beat science

The original tobacco strategy involved several lines of attack. One of these was to fund research that supported the industry and then publish only the results that fit the required narrative. “For instance, in 1954 the TIRC distributed a pamphlet entitled ‘A Scientific Perspective on the Cigarette Controversy’ to nearly 200,000 doctors, journalists, and policy-makers, in which they emphasized favorable research and questioned results supporting the contrary view,” say Weatherall and co, who call this approach biased production.

A second approach promoted independent research that happened to support ...

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Members' Corner

An Interview with David Brin

Our guest David Brin is an astrophysicist, technology consultant, and best-selling author who speaks, writes, and advises on a range of topics including national defense, creativity, and space exploration. He is also a well-known and influential futurist (one of four “World's Best Futurists,” according to The Urban Developer), and it is his ideas on the future, specifically the future of civilization, that I hope to learn about here.   

Ilene: David, you base many of your predictions of the future on a theory of historica...

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Swing trading portfolio - week of September 11th, 2017

Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.


This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...

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NewsWare: Watch Today's Webinar!


We have a great guest at today's webinar!

Bill Olsen from NewsWare will be giving us a fun and lively demonstration of the advantages that real-time news provides. NewsWare is a market intelligence tool for news. In today's data driven markets, it is truly beneficial to have a tool that delivers access to the professional sources where you can obtain the facts in real time.

Join our webinar, free, it's open to all. 

Just click here at 1 pm est and join in!

[For more information on NewsWare, click here. For a list of prices: NewsWar...

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Kimble Charting Solutions

Brazil; Waterfall in prices starting? Impact U.S.?

Courtesy of Chris Kimble.

Below looks at the Brazil ETF (EWZ) over the last decade. The rally over the past year has it facing a critical level, from a Power of the Pattern perspective.


EWZ is facing dual resistance at (1), while in a 9-year down trend of lower highs and lower lows. The counter trend rally over the past 17-months has it testing key falling resistance. Did the counter trend reflation rally just end at dual resistance???

If EWZ b...

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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

Reminder: Harlan is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

Click here for the full report.

To learn more, sign up for David's free newsletter and receive the free report from All About Trends - "How To Outperform 90% Of Wall Street With Just $500 A Week." Tell David PSW sent you. - Ilene...

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About Phil:

Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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About Ilene:

Ilene is editor and affiliate program coordinator for PSW. She manages the site market shadows, archives, more. Contact Ilene to learn about our affiliate and content sharing programs.

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