Archive for 2008

Synergized Out Of A Job

Mish discusses synergies and downsizing in merging and non-merging financial entities, more job losses in non-financial companies due to downsizing, and more layoffs to after Christmas.

19,000 WaMu Employees Will Be Synergized Out Of A Job

Courtesy of Mish

Forbes is reporting JPMorgan Plans To Ax The WaMu Suits.

Up to 19,000 employees of Washington Mutual face being laid off this weekend as JPMorgan Chase turns up the synergy on its recent acquisition.

On Friday, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) said it expects to retain the 22,000 employees who work at Washington Mutual branches and 2,000 workers in the mortgage and wealth management divisions in California, spokesman Tom Kelly told Forbes.com. The company has not yet determined the total numbers to be cut in other states, but it planning to inform all former WaMu employees of their job status by Monday.

WaMu had about 43,000 employees as of June, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Combined, Chase and WaMu have about 5,400 branches. The company said it only plans to close about 10.0%.

The bulk of the job cuts will be at the Washington Mutual headquarters in Seattle due to the overlap in operations with the current employees at JPMorgan. 

Merger Synergizing

Expect to see more synergizing from all mergers we have seen. Here is a list of synergy discussions no doubt underway.

  • JP Morgan and Washington Mutual
  • Bank of America and Countrywide Financial
  • Bank of America and Merrill Lynch
  • JP Morgan and Bear Stearns
  • Wachovia and Wells Fargo

More Synergizing Coming

Still more synergy will come from hundreds of regional banks that have not yet gone under but will as the FDIC adds 54 more banks to its ‘problem list’

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday the list of banks it considers to be in trouble shot up nearly 50 percent to 171 during the third quarter — yet another sign of escalating problems among the institutions controlling Americans’ deposits.

The 171 banks on the FDIC’s "problem list" encompass only about 2 percent of the nearly 8,500 FDIC-insured institutions. Still, the increase from 117 in the second quarter is sharp,


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Unfair Bailouts

David Merkel, at the Aleph Blog, updates his thoughts on the bailouts.  A step-by-step how-to for large corporations.   

Bailouts are Unfair to Those Who are not Bailed Out

Excerpt:  "If you run a large corporation in trouble, there is a drill that you must follow.

  • In measured tones, tell the public that liquidity is no issue, and that you are more than capable of meeting all obligations.
  • Scream loud behind closed doors to Congress/regulators, saying that you have been a prudent manager, but the economic environment is beyond belief.  You need help and you need it now, and the change in administration might be too late for you.
  • Explain how many other jobs would be lost if you disappeared.  (A canard, because the company won’t disappear…)
  • In the crisis atmosphere, judgment will be suspended (as it was before the Iraq war and at the debates over the bailout), and legislators will vote for something that won’t work, but must be done out of the appearance that Congress must be doing something to fix matters.  Anything to justify their existence…
  • Receive the bailout, and thank them for their wise decision on behalf of the American people.
  • When the bailout monies fail ask for more.  (Think of AIG; you might even get really soft terms.)
  • Because Congress has bought into the original premise of bailing you out, they will do it again…

As a CEO with a company in trouble, the objective is to get your foot in the bailout door..."

Full article here.

 





Darker and More Dangerous Reality

Michael Panzner, at his new site, When Giants Fall, discusses the global financial crisis and the potential for severe social, political and geopolitical fallout, and the implications on the price of gold. 

Fear of a Darker and More Dangerous Reality

What a difference a year or two makes.

Back in early 2007, any mainstream analyst or commentator who raised the prospect that we might soon see the worst financial crisis of all time, the developed world’s first synchronized downturn since World War II, or a far-reaching, multi-trillion dollar bailout of the financial industry would have been encouraged to seek urgent medical attention or look for another job.

Now, though, a growing number of people are suddenly open to the possibility that the future might look a lot different than it does now.

But that doesn’t just refer to economic developments. Some are also beginning to grasp the idea that social, political and geopolitical turbulence often coincides with and follows in the wake of dramatic financial upheavals.

In "Citigroup Says Gold Could Rise Above $2,000 Next Year as World Unravels," The Telegraph‘s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reveals that the money crowd fears a far darker, more dangerous reality what we have now.

Gold is poised for a dramatic surge and could blast through $2,000 an ounce by the end of next year as central banks flood the world’s monetary system with liquidity, according to an internal client note from the US bank Citigroup.

The bank said the damage caused by the financial excesses of the last quarter century was forcing the world’s authorities to take steps that had never been tried before.

This gamble was likely to end in one of two extreme ways: with either a resurgence of inflation; or a downward spiral into depression, civil disorder, and possibly wars. Both outcomes will cause a rush for gold.

"They are throwing the kitchen sink at this," said Tom Fitzpatrick, the bank’s chief technical strategist.

"The world is not going back to normal after the magnitude of what they have done. When the dust settles this will either work, and the money they have pushed into the system will feed though into an inflation shock.

"Or it will not work because too much damage has already been done, and we will see continued financial deterioration, causing further economic deterioration, with the risk of a feedback loop.


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Too Smart

Sunday Morning Coffee

with Random Roger, courtesy of Random Roger’s Big Picture.


Barry had a post about Bob Rubin’s diminished credibility and while the post was a good read there was a secondary point in there that I think is a very useful learning tool (or reminder) for just about anybody.

In there was a snippet from the WSJ that included the following;

Mr. Rubin… acknowledged that he was involved in a board decision to ramp up risk-taking in 2004 and 2005, even though he was warning publicly that investors were taking too much risk."

My take on this (and if you click through and read the whole thing you might agree) is that he knew there was greater risk but felt the bank would be able to out-maneuver that risk. I imagine there was some sort of complex plan of exactly how they were going to that. No doubt that going in it probably sounded pretty good.

Conclusion (fair or not): They were too smart for their own good. This is a behavior that does in all sorts of people.

This is something I have tried to be aware of over the years and why I try to make the big portfolio decisions based on very simplistic things like yield curve inversions and the market going below its 200 DMA. Both indicators warn you trouble is coming. They do nothing to tell you the magnitude of the trouble. I don’t believe magnitude is the most important thing, certainly not as important as heeding the warning. Heeding the warning is more difficult than it sounds because there are so many people telling you why this time is different.

A good example of this is a debate of sorts I had with Howard Simons on the columnist conversation section of the RealMoney website in November, 2005 (I recapped this on my blog here). If you know who Howard is you know I will not out debate him on anything. My point was essentially inverted curve bad for financials and the market. Howard said it was less relevant because of how much financing was being done with floating rates. He clearly out debated me, his argument had many more points than my inverted curve bad but of course none that stuff mattered.

No…
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New Realities

In this article, Michael Panzner at Financial Armageddon discusses the effects of the economic crisis on the commercial real estate market.  Michael’s other website is When Giants Fall (name of his soon-to-be released new book).  

New Realities

Courtesy of Michael Panzner

Back in June, I had a brief chat with an investment banker who specialized in commercial real estate financing. He focused on securitizations, where mortgages on hotels, office buildings, malls and other income-producing properties were sliced, diced and repackaged into instruments that were then sold to institutional investors such as insurance companies.

In his view, the commercial market was somewhat immune to the problems afflicting the residential property sector. Among other things, he believed his segment had witnessed less of the speculative excess that had undermined housing markets, the major players were more sophisticated and had deeper pockets, and the revenue streams that supported new and existing developments were solid and dependable.

I countered that while those differences might have meant something under normal circumstances, his sanguine view failed to take account of new realities. Like the fact that various aspects of the economy had become highly interdependent; or the degree to which leverage had permeated Wall Street and Main Street; or the now apparent reality that greed and short-termism had swamped prudence and patience when it came to how things were really being done in the financial sphere.

Needless to say, he remained unconvinced and told me so. Unfortunately for him, that means he probably did not make the kinds of adjustments in his lifestyle or operating environment that would have allowed him to prepare for the unfolding reality described in the following MSNBC report, "New Crisis in Commercial Real Estate Looms."

Malls, hotels may foreclose and banks can’t renegotiate loan terms

The full scope of the housing meltdown isn’t clear and already there are ominous signs of a new crisis — one that could turn out the lights on malls, hotels and storefronts nationwide.

Even as the holiday shopping season begins in full swing, the same events poisoning the housing market are now at work on commercial properties, and the bad news is trickling in. Malls from Michigan to Georgia are entering foreclosure.

Hotels in Tucson, Ariz., and Hilton Head, S.C., also are about to default on their mortgages.

That pace is expected to quicken. The number of late payments and defaults will double, if


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Rubin Takedown by WSJ

Here’s an article by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism on Robert Rubin and accountability, citing a WSJ article "Rubin, Under Fire, Defends His Role at Citi" (subscription required). 

Mirabile Dictu! Rubin Takedown by the Wall Street Journal!

Excerpt:  "This ought to be a celebratory event, the scrutiny of a powerful player in the financial system who heretofore seemed immune to criticism. And what is interesting about the spotlight on Citigroup consigliere and board member Robert Rubin is that, unlike Greenspan, the reassessment is starting while he would still appear to have his hands on the reins of power. After all, he is still on Citi’s board; his protege Timothy Geithner is slotted to become Treasury Secretary, his buddy Larry Summer is head-of-the-National-Economic-Council-in-waiting.

Yet if the reaction in New York is any indication, the outrage about the speed and size of the second Citigroup rescue is considerable, and a recent Wall Street Journal piece fingered Rubin as a moving force behind Citi’s disastrous strategy to take on more risk in debt markets in pursuit of profit and better competitive rankings. And the only consequences to Rubin will be (hopefully) lasting damage to his reputation. But he gets to keep his cash and prizes.

Rubin refuses to take an iota of responsibility for the bank’s tsuris (and that also comes from the Goldman playbook. The firm always circles the wagons and admits nothing). Get a load of this:

Robert Rubin said its problems were due to the buckling financial system, not its own mistakes, and that his role was peripheral to the bank’s main operations even though he was one of its highest-paid officials.

"Nobody was prepared for this," Mr. Rubin said in an interview. He cited former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan as another example of someone whose reputation has been unfairly damaged by the crisis.

Yves here. Unfairly damaged? Is this what leadership amount to in America? You have the power, you get the perks, but you only take credit for the good stuff?

A very simple psychological construct places people on a spectrum of internalizing versus externalizing:

When something goes wrong, we look for answers as to why-what caused this? How we deal with setbacks


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Updating Atlas Shrugged

Here are a few excerpts, to share Updating Atlas Shrugged by Jeremiah Tucker, and an Introduction by Barry Ritholtz.  In an effort to focus on the political and economic theory being parodied, I’ve left out the sexually explicit parts. 

Updating ATLAS SHRUGGED for the Financial Crisis

Excerpt from Barry Ritholtz’s introduction:

Friday flame bait:

Has ever a more pedantic, tedious tome been penned by any theorist before or since Atlas Shrugged? The odious combination of ideological rigidity and academic purity makes for a compelling manifesto for the naive and weak-minded.

The work has become the Das Kapital of the 20th century . . . Both were wrong, too long, and poorly written — and each has proven to be wildly destructive to the political economy.

Ironically, only one has been shown to be damaging to capitalism itself — and that wasn’t Marx’s s work,…

Excerpt from Updating ATLAS SHRUGGED for the Financial Crisis,

How he hated his debased need for her, he who loathed self-sacrifice but would give up everything he valued to [leave to your imagination]… Did she know?

“I heard the thugs in Washington were trying to take your Rearden metal at the point of a gun,” she said. “Don’t let them, Hank. With your advanced alloy and my high-tech railroad, we’ll revitalize our country’s failing infrastructure and make big, virtuous profits.”

“Oh, no, I got out of that suckers’ game. I now run my own hedge-fund firm, Rearden Capital Management.”

“What?”

He stood and adjusted his suit jacket so that his body didn’t betray his shameful weakness. He walked toward her and sat informally on the edge of her desk. “Why make a product when you can make dollars? Right this second, I’m earning millions in interest off money I don’t even have.”

He gestured to his floor-to-ceiling windows, a symbol of his productive ability and goodness.

“There’s a whole world out there of byzantine financial products just waiting to be invented, Dagny. Let the leeches run my factories into the ground! I hope they do! I’ve taken out more insurance on a single Rearden Steel bond than the entire company is even worth! When my old company finally tanks, I’ll make a cool $877 million.”

Their eyes locked with an intensity she was only beginning to


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Weekend Wrap-Up

 

Well, what's to be said?

It was the best week in the markets since 1933 – the only question is: Was it real?  The fact that the market did not stop going up despite a terror attack in India made us think not and at 12:32 on Friday, with the Dow at 8,760, I decided it would be a good time to take the DIA puts and DXD calls to cover, leaving us 50/50 into the weekend as it was just hard to buy into the rally even though the Dow did finish 60 points higher for the day.

We have moved our concentration of shorts from financials to the Dow as I think enough money has been plowed into the financial sector to take a collapse mostly off the table.  Last weekend I put the "only 450-point drop" into perspective and we did enter this week bullish.  I said in last week's wrap-up: "Whether it takes one year or 5 for the markets to turn around, turn around they will and our job is simply to stay in the game so we can be there when opportunity knocks.  Meanwhile, we stay well hedged and ready to take advantage of the small trends we do see."  Little did we know that we would get gains in the high teens just 5 days later – more than the markets usually give us in two years! 

To some extent, it was on oversold bounce, of course but we made some good technical levels and now all we need to do is hold that 8,500 line and we can at least begin to refer to it as a bottom without looking over our shoulder constantly.  Finding a real bottom is the key to being able to move to a 70:30 bullish posture when we get low enough and mama – that's where the fun is… but let's not get ahead of ourselves as we're still in a very dangerous, very choppy market.

Hello Bill?  Cancel my Mayback.  No, not the red one.  No, not the blue one - the white one...  I'm cutting back...  I have to go, I have a really hot chick with me... I think.From Monday's open at 8,048, where C alone was given $326Bn to Thursdays close
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How Did We Get Here?

Brad DeLong excerpting from The End, by Michael Lewis

How Did We Get Here? Michael Lewis’s View…

Michael Lewis believes that the seeds of our financial crisis were sown when Wall Street investment banks transformed themselves from partnerships to public corporations--that that destabilized their internal risk controls and incentives and made them go for variance.

He has lunch with John Gutfreund:

The End of Wall Street’s Boom: John Gutfreund did violence to the Wall Street social order—and got himself dubbed the King of Wall Street—when he turned Salomon Brothers from a private partnership into Wall Street’s first public corporation. He ignored the outrage of Salomon’s retired partners. (“I was disgusted by his materialism,” William Salomon, the son of the firm’s founder, who had made Gutfreund C.E.O. only after he’d promised never to sell the firm, had told me.) He lifted a giant middle finger at the moral disapproval of his fellow Wall Street C.E.O.’s. And he seized the day. He and the other partners not only made a quick killing; they transferred the ultimate financial risk from themselves to their shareholders. It didn’t, in the end, make a great deal of sense for the shareholders. (A share of Salomon Brothers purchased when I arrived on the trading floor, in 1986, at a then market price of $42, would be worth 2.26 shares of Citigroup today—market value: $27.) But it made fantastic sense for the investment bankers.

From that moment, though, the Wall Street firm became a black box. The shareholders who financed the risks had no real understanding of what the risk takers were doing, and as the risk-taking grew ever more complex, their understanding diminished. The moment Salomon Brothers demonstrated the potential gains to be had by the investment bank as public corporation, the psychological foundations of Wall Street shifted from trust to blind faith.

No investment bank owned by its employees would have levered itself 35 to 1 or bought and held $50 billion in mezzanine C.D.O.’s. I doubt any partnership would have sought to game the rating agencies or leap into bed with loan sharks or even allow mezzanine C.D.O.’s to be sold to its customers. The hoped-for short-term gain would not have justified the long-term hit.

No partnership, for that matter, would have hired me or anyone remotely like me. Was there ever any correlation


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Holiday Shopping Scrooge

Mish reports on Holiday Shopping. 

Holiday Shopping Scrooge 

Santa Claus may be hard at work as the holidays approach, but he will find many Americans struggling with a troubled economy. A CNN Poll On Holiday Shopping is an indication of what many of us suspect: This will be the worst Christmas shopping season on record. Let’s take a look.

CNN Shopping Poll

Slow Sales And Layoffs

Here for the holidays: Slow sales and layoffs

What’s going well for small businesses? Not much, according to The National Federation of Independent Business’ monthly Small Business Optimism Index, which fell 5.4 points in October and landed at the third-lowest reading in the history of the survey.

"We’re mired in a recession," said the NFIB’s chief economist, Bill Dunkelberg. "Small business sales will be weak in fourth quarter, which may mean a negative Christmas," said Dunkelberg. "And that may spill over to the first quarter of 2009."

Only 5% of respondents think now is a good time to expand their facilities, the lowest reading since 1982 and the second lowest in the survey’s 35-year history. The net percentage of owners reporting higher sales in the past three months fell to the worst reading the survey has ever recorded. Overall, 37% reported sales lower than they had three months ago, and 41% said their earnings have declined.

The employment picture was also grim. The average employment per firm dropped by .41 workers, and almost twice as many businesses reporting cutting employees as hiring them.

"When you hear about the layoffs, small businesses are the big picture," Dunkelberg said. "We hear about mass layoffs, but really the layoff of .41 employees per firm is a very big decline because small businesses employ so many." Small businesses with 500 or fewer workers employ about half of all private-sector workers, according to data gathered by the Small Business Administration.

Fewer gift cards this holiday season

On October 21, speculating about the bankruptcy of Circuit City, I offered these Circuit City Inspired Christmas Shopping Tips.

Shopping Tips

A big fancy fruit basket and items from food specialty stores may look practical but they are not. The markup on those things is astronomical. If you want to give someone a fruit


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Zero Hedge

Johns Hopkins, Bristol-Myers Face $1 Billion Suit For Infecting Guatemalan Hookers With Syphilis 

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

A federal judge in Maryland said Johns Hopkins University, pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Rockefeller Foundation must face a $1 billion lawsuit over their roles in a top-secret program in the 1940s ran by the US government that injected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis, reported Reuters.

Several doctors from Hopkins an...



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Phil's Favorites

This Is The One Chart Every Trader Should Have "Taped To Their Screen"

Courtesy of Zero Hedge

After a year of tapering, the Fed’s balance sheet finally captured the market’s attention during the last three months of 2018.

By the start of the fourth quarter, the Fed had finished raising the caps on monthly roll-off of its balance sheet to the full $50bn per month (peaking at $30bn USTs, $20bn MBS, although on many months the (balance sheet) B/S does not actually shrink by this full amount which depends on the redemption schedule) and by end-Q4 markets also experienced some of the largest volatility and drawdowns in nearly a decade.

As Nomura&...



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ValueWalk

The Competition For Capital Has Made Stocks Cheap

By Michelle Jones. Originally published at ValueWalk.

The new year is upon us, and now is the time many investors look at what 2018 was and prepare for what 2019 might be. Recession jitters are starting to pick back up again, especially now that the full picture of 2018 is in the books. But what if you could pick only one theme for 2018? Jefferies strategist Sean Darby and team have a suggestion which is especially timely given that it appears to mark the end of an era.

StockSnap / PixabayVolatility carries into the new year

This past year was one of extremes, and the markets ended i...



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Kimble Charting Solutions

Stock declines did not break 9-year support, says Joe Friday

Courtesy of Chris Kimble.

We often hear “Stocks take an escalator up and an elevator down!” No doubt stocks did experience a swift decline from the September highs to the Christmas eve lows. Looks like the “elevator” part of the phrase came true as 2018 was coming to an end.

The first part of the “stocks take an escalator up” seems to still be in play as well despite the swift decline of late.

Joe Friday Just The Facts Ma’am- All of these indices hit long-term rising support on Christmas Eve at each (1), where support held and rallies have followed.

If you find long-term perspectives helpf...



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Digital Currencies

Transparency and privacy: Empowering people through blockchain

 

Transparency and privacy: Empowering people through blockchain

Blockchain technologies can empower people by allowing them more control over their user data. Shutterstock

Courtesy of Ajay Kumar Shrestha, University of Saskatchewan

Blockchain has already proven its huge influence on the financial world with its first application in the form of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It might not be long before its impact is felt everywhere.

Blockchain is a secure chain of digital records that exist on multiple computers simultaneously so no record can be erased or falsified. The...



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Insider Scoop

Cars.com Explores Strategic Alternatives, Analyst Sees Possible Sale Price Around $30 Per Share

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related 44 Biggest Movers From Yesterday 38 Stocks Moving In Wednesday's Mid-Day Session ...

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Chart School

Weekly Market Recap Jan 13, 2019

Courtesy of Blain.

In last week’s recap we asked:  “Has the Fed solved all the market’s problems in 1 speech?”

Thus far the market says yes!  As Guns n Roses preached – all we need is a little “patience”.  Four up days followed by a nominal down day Friday had the market following it’s normal pattern the past nearly 30 years – jumping whenever the Federal Reserve hints (or essentially says outright) it is here for the markets.   And in case you missed it the prior Friday, Chairman Powell came back out Thursday to reiterate the news – so…so… so… patient!

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell reinforced that message Thursday during a discussion at the Economic Club of Washington where he said that the central bank will be “fle...



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Members' Corner

Why Trump Can't Learn

 

Bill Eddy (lawyer, therapist, author) predicted Trump's chaotic presidency based on his high-conflict personality, which was evident years ago. This post, written in 2017, references a prescient article Bill wrote before Trump even became president, 5 Reasons Trump Can’t Learn. ~ Ilene 

Why Trump Can’t Learn

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore (...



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Biotech

Opening Pandora's Box: Gene editing and its consequences

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

 

Opening Pandora's Box: Gene editing and its consequences

Bacteriophage viruses infecting bacterial cells , Bacterial viruses. from www.shutterstock.com

Courtesy of John Bergeron, McGill University

Today, the scientific community is aghast at the prospect of gene editing to create “designer” humans. Gene editing may be of greater consequence than climate change, or even the consequences of unleashing the energy of the atom.

...

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Mapping The Market

Trump: "I Won't Be Here" When It Blows Up

By Jean-Luc

Maybe we should simply try him for treason right now:

Trump on Coming Debt Crisis: ‘I Won’t Be Here’ When It Blows Up

The president thinks the balancing of the nation’s books is going to, ultimately, be a future president’s problem.

By Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay, Daily Beast

The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a “hockey stick” spike in the nationa...



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OpTrader

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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Promotions

Free eBook - "My Top Strategies for 2017"

 

 

Here's a free ebook for you to check out! 

Phil has a chapter in a newly-released eBook that we think you’ll enjoy.

In My Top Strategies for 2017, Phil's chapter is Secret Santa’s Inflation Hedges for 2017.

This chapter isn’t about risk or leverage. Phil present a few smart, practical ideas you can use as a hedge against inflation as well as hedging strategies designed to assist you in staying ahead of the markets.

Some other great content in this free eBook includes:

 

·       How 2017 Will Affect Oil, the US Dollar and the European Union

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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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