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Why Worry Wednesday – Same Problems No Longer Bothering Markets

Nice and bouncy!

Check out our Big Chart.  Check our our bounce levels, which I posted on Monday and still are

  • Dow 12,720 weak, 12,950 strong. 
  • S&P 1,375 weak, 1,400 strong.  
  • Nasdaq 2,900 weak, 3,000 strong. 
  • NYSE 8,000 weak, 8,100 strong.
  • Russell 790 weak, 805 strong. 

Just two days later we're right in the zone and – most importantly, our weak bounce lines held on yesterday's dip – that's a very good sign.  

The best thing about re-establishing trading ranges is that it lets us take advantage of channel bets like yesterday's USO trade from the morning post, where we caught a nice 50% gain for the day and we took that money and ran as oil tested the $86 line – just $1 off our target without all that tedious waiting…  Of course the Futures bet on /CL was well-timed and a $3 move in the Futures pays $3,000 per contract so thanks to the oil crooks for being so predictable.  We got our cease-fire rumor in the Gaza and that was all it took to knock oil back 3% but it was a rumor only – which is why we quickly got out and now, maybe, we'll be able to do it all again on a new set-up (oil currently back at $87.50).  

Unfortunately, the HPQ Jan $12 puts we also talked about in the morning post only made it to $1.17 at the open but, as expected, they have already fallen back to .90 for a 23% gain on the day.  Trades like that simply follow PSW's Rule #1 (and there are only 2): "ALWAYS sell into the initial excitement."  Our job is to sell premium – so we always look for ways to take advantage of a good opportunity to make a sale at inflated prices.  

Notice that HPQ made a nice bottom in the morning and that inflated the price of the Jan $12 puts to $1.17 and, even though the stock only recovered .20 by the end of the day, the puts dropped .27 – still with a pretty hefty premium at .90 (net entry of $11.10).  In Member Chat, we also took advantage of the situation to sell some long-term HPQ puts, as well as BBY, which had similar action on their AWFUL earnings.  

We're certainly not expecting much of a move today as it should be light trading into the long weekend (the markets are open 1/2 day on Friday but no one takes that seriously).  Also, next week, we still have 5 trading days to the end of November so there's no need at all for positioning this week.  

We'll have more information on Europe and the US Fiscal Cliff and whether China will provide more stimulus next week than we do now – all the better to make our trade decisions with.  

Yesterday's EU meeting broke up without "fixing" the Greek situation after EU Finance Ministers and the IMF failed to agree on a debt-reduction package.  True to form, Germany refuses to put up fresh money or offer any debt relief and there simply isn't enough available from other sources to do it without them.  Thank goodness Spain says they don't need any aid or we'd be really screwed, right?

We'll see if we can hold those weak bounce levels for one more day (we should) and then, next week, it's time to attack those strong bounce lines.  Meanwhile, have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

- Phil

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  1. Oil Lines

    R3 – 91.55
    R2 – 90.36
    R1 – 88.54
    PP – 87.35
    S1 – 85.53
    S2 – 84.34
    S3 – 82.52

    Yesterday's high and low – 89.18 / 86.17
    Daily Fib lines – 91.04/90 and 85.46/85.02

  2. Wow, nice little sticky stick yesterday for a feel good moment….

  3. Income Portfolio News:

    CMG - Announced an accelerated stock buyback
    HPQ - Downgraded from Outperform (where have they been?) to Market Perform at RBC…

  4. Morning phil
    I wish to initiate a  very conservative long term income type portfolio total amount 100000.
    Ten thousand a piece total allocation to the following symbols employing full scaling.
    I would be thrilled to earn 15% a year.
    Could you possibly suggest best choice of the buy/write or artifical b/w or just sell puts for each symbol.
    HPQ , GLW, CSTR, TIVO, BA, NAK, CLF, AA, HRB AND EITHER NLY OR ANLY whichever you consider better.
    I know this is alot to ask but i cant seam to get started on my own im trigger shy.

  5. US Preliminary PMI better than expected at 52.4 (51 expected). 

  6. Good morning.

    Dollar 80.98 so we could get a nice little lift now.  

  7. Good Morning!

  8. Someone asked about CRIS…..still in them, still like them.  Any new position is better than mine.

    CLSN – see BSDM.  Using heat to hit cancer is a good thing. 

  9. HPQ …. StJ …. was initiated as a sell at Pharm's World news.  Buy…, um, um. BMY.  There.

  10. Phil -
    Thanks for the general advice to roll down AAPL calls during the panic for approximately $24 per $50
    I rolled Jan 2015 550s down to 450s for less than $50 – could be my best trade of the year if it holds.

  11. Pharm – Any Stem cell companies you like?  I would like to add a few as longer term plays.

  12. List/Tommy – Best to remind me over the weekend but, if you have $100K to disburse, that's $10K per position and, generally, you want to commit just 1/4-1/2 of each allocation to buy/writes so it will be a couple of years before you are getting 15% returns.  Also, failure to be patient can be fatal – why not watch them and, when one goes one sale, THEN begin a position.  You are not "very" conservative with CSTR, NAK, HPQ, TIVO, CLF or the REITS – very conservative means investing in dividend-paying blue chips with solid cash-flows that you are almost 100% certain will be there in 20 years – those are not them.  Another thing you missed is a good VIX, now 15.  That's 20% off the top so you are going to be selling long puts for 20% less without having less risk.  

    AA is in a good spot and you can buy the stock for $8.25 and sell the 2015 $7 puts and calls for $3.40 for net $4.85/5.93 and that's a nice 28% discount if 2x is put to you so, on a $10K allocation, you could go with 500 shares to start and risk owning 1,000 because – if the 2nd 500 is put to you, you're only going to do another buy/write and knock the base price of 2,000 potential shares down below $5 for a $10K total at about 40% off the current price.  Keep in mind that if you are not fully committed to owning 2,000 shares of AA at 40% off the current price – it is idiotic to buy 500 shares at $8.25, isn't it?  

    Meanwhile, you are spending net $2,425 in cash and tying up another $1,000 in margin and, if you get called away over $7 (the intent would be to roll, of course), you make $1,075 for your troubles – just about 10% over two years on your full allocation.  If you want to be more aggressive and intend to use margin to own $200,000 worth of stocks down the line with your $100,000 in cash, you can double the initial buy but, be aware, you end up with a lot less flexibility if the market does have some sort of black swan event.  

    The idea of building a portfolio with slow and steady buy/writes is that you can weather almost any storm and, over the course of 4-8 years, you end up with full positions at 40% discounts – one way or the other and THEN your annual collections begin to return 20% of your original full allocations.  If you try to rush the process, you increase the risk substantially and that's not being "very conservative."  

    PMI/StJ – Sentiment getting better.  

    AAPL/Nice going Samz.  The gist of it is, we see a good investment and we buy some.  If it goes on sale after we buy it – we buy more.  Not a complex strategy but hard for a lot of people to follow as they get emotional over short-term action.  

  13. Stem cell Co's.  No, don't like stem cells.  Geron is selling their stem cell business to IBIO I think.  Could look at them.

  14. AAPL/Nice going Samz.  The gist of it is, we see a good investment and we buy some.  If it goes on sale after we buy it – we buy more.  Not a complex strategy but hard for a lot of people to follow as they get emotional over short-term action.
    Phil, with a stock like AAPL that gets whipsawed around without any apparent actual change in their business, you are quite correct not to get emotional over price action. Not that it applies in this case, but I want to point out that some stocks that we see as a good investment actually present the market with new, scary developments at some point downstream that cry out for panic in the mind of the investor. Constantly adjusting (and, perhaps growing) a position that originally looked brilliant but now looks iffy is questionable at least. This is a lesson I have learned after repeated whackings.

  15. $25KPs:

    • SVU – Fine with stock at $2.50.
    • AMZN – Looks good
    • XLF – Sort of on target but need to see how next week looks.
    • CMG – Looks solid now
    • FAS – On a better track
    • AAPL – Kind of the whole portfolio as it moves up and down.  Looking good, want that cover over the weekend.  
    • TNA – TNA right at $52 so 100% in the money should be $5 and net is $3.45.  Certainly not a sure thing but let's hold on and see how next week looks.
    • QQQ – Right on track now.  
    • QID – Good protection but hopefully we kill it next week.  

    FAS Money – May as well sell 2 next week $107.50 calls for $1.10.  The short puts offset it and it's a shame not to collect money on that side.

    AAPL Money – Back on track.

    Europe up 0.6% and they are the ones that are giving us problems so no reason for us to be down.  

    Dollar back over 81 is dragging us at the moment. 

  16. Whew!….sporting quite the look after an evening bender of Roy Rogers and smores……
    Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!  :)

  17. Been doing some research on stem cell companies and like Stem, Cur, and Nbs. I agree that they are small entries for the long term. Some exciting stuff happening but very speculative.

  18. There are a lot of exciting things going on with tissue regeneration and stem cells. The problem is, which co. has its ducks in order?  I don't know, as creating a clone is a good thing…but also bad.  Creating a kidney from a stem cell is great, but how do they control the growth?  How does one make all the different cells in a kidney from one type of cell?  Stem cells are exciting, no doubt, but understanding how to differentiate one cell into another is a monumental task, and one that I am not willing to invest in at this point.  They will be there no doubt in the future, just very, very early on.  I would rather own GTHP, or YMI or CRIS…at this point, as I know my risks.  Stem cell co.s are ALL risk.

  19. AA is my quiet little money maker. Phil do you have any recs for other rangey low maintenance optionable stocks like this one? 

  20. I am very thankful for the opportunity we chat together and for
    all of the successes and challenges we have in stock market as well as other investment markets and will continue to face
    together for some time to come. Happy Thanksgiving.

  21. Big draw in inventories.  -1.5Mb in both oil and gasoline and -2.7Mb in distilates so a very bullish report but it's not moving the market very much.

    EIA Petroleum Inventories: Crude -1.5M barrels vs. consensus of +0.6M. Gasoline -1.5M barrels vs. +1.1M. Distillates -2.7M barrels vs. -0.4M. Crude +0.8% at $87.46

    10:00 AM On the hour: Dow +0.31%. 10-yr -0.17%. Euro +0.05%vs. dollar. Crude +0.83% to $87.47. Gold +0.01% to $1723.75.

    Oct. Leading Indicators: Leading Index +0.2% to 96.0vs. +0.2% expected, +0.6% prior. Coincident Index +0.1% vs. +0.2% prior. Lagging Index +0.3% vs. +0.1% prior.

    Nov Reuters/UofM Consumer Sentiment82.7 vs. 84.0 expected and 84.9 prior

    More on Consumer Sentiment: The 82.7 print shows a an usually large decline from November's initial read (pre-election) of 84.9. The weakness came from expectations, which declined to 77.6 vs. an initial 80.8. "The momentum signalled in this report is not a positive going into the big Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping surge." S&P 500 back to flat. (full report)

    The Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index edges lower to -33.9 from -33.1 last week. A separate question on expectations hits a 10-year high, with 37% saying the economy is improving, up 7 points from last month and 30 points from a year ago. The gain, however, came entirely from Democrats, no doubt celebrating the re-election of the President. A full 63% of Democrats see the economy improving, up 12 points from October, and against 26% of independents and 15% of Republicans in agreement.

    Is The Largest Weekly Inflow Into Bank Savings Accounts On Record, A Flashing Red Alarm? (graphs)

    The U.S. may be moving away from coal but the rest of the world isn't, with ~1,200 coal plants on the drawing board, the World Resources Institute reports. Many of the proposed new plants are in China and India, and a growing number are being proposed for developing countries such as Cambodia, Guatemala and Uzbekistan, nations looking for cut-rate sources of energy to fuel economic growth.

    Best Buy (BBY -3.5%) isn't feeling any holiday cheer from the Street: shares are making new multi-decade lows after receiving a flurry of target cuts in response to its FQ3 miss and cash flowguidance cut. Jefferies argues it's time for the electronics chain todump its international business, which is bleeding cash and could be worth $3/share. Investors will be paying close attention to how Black Friday goes, and how Best Buy's price-matching offer is receiving in the following days.

    Hewlett’s Loss: A Folly Unfolds, by the Numbers (DealBook)

    NAND flash memory contract prices fell 1%-5% in 1H November, according to DRAMeXchange, as soft USB flash drive and memory card demand offset healthier orders from the mobile device and solid-state drive markets. Goldman and others have argued the supply/demand balance should remain favorable until mid-2013 for the likes of SanDisk (SNDK), Micron (MU), and Samsung (SSNLF.PK), but the industry has a history of surprising observers, and a poor DRAM market could lead to extra capacity being shifted to NAND.

    Claiming its BlackBerrys "have been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate," the NTSB says itlooking to abandon Research In Motion's (RIMM) hardware for iPhones (AAPL). That makes the NTSB the latest in a string of government organizations to either fully end its BlackBerry use or give employees the option to use alternatives. RIM, which just receivedFIPS 140-2 security clearance for BlackBerry 10, says it has 1M government customers in North America.

    Windows 8 — Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users (

    U.S. iPhone 5 (AAPL) supply is now nearly even with demand, claims Gene Munster following his latest checks at Apple Stores and  AT&T/Verizon/Sprint shops. Munster noted last week the supply situation was getting better, after having first raised alarm bellsin early October. Apple's online store is now showing a 2-week shipping time for all models, down from 3-4 weeks not too long ago.

    To Reduce Inequality, Tax Wealth, Not Income (NYT)

    Republican-Heavy Counties Eat Up Most Food-Stamp Growth (Bloomberg)

    The Confederacy of Takers (Washington Post)

  22. Indexes/Burrben – in vegas you mentioned the tax advantages of gains from some ETFs/index funds.. something like 60/40 LT v ST gains no matter how long you hold.. can you (or anyone) give a recap of this? thx 

  23. Whackings/Barf – As long as you are good at identifying which is which, it's a fantastic system.  Obviously, we don't stick with something if the Fundies change but look what I went through the past few weeks trying to defend sticking with AAPL and, more importantly, taking advantage of the moves down to improve (spend more money on) our positions.  Same with XLF last year, HOV, WFR, CHK….  HPQ and BBY are the failures of the moment, but it will be another year or two before we can pass a final judgment.  As I said in Vegas – it's all about your time-frame.

    Mitt/1020 – Poor guy.  

    Rangey/Kwan – Remind me on Friday as I have to look at which ones still have good front-month premiums to sell.

    Thanks Neet, Happy Thanksgiving to you too.  

  24. FAS Money / stj, Phil,
    Your thoughts, please, on the amount of money one needs to allocate to the FAS Money portfolio to trade the number of contracts being suggested.
    Also, if I'd like to trade a larger sum of money on this portfolio, is it just a matter of proportionally increasing the number of contracts, or would I have to bring in any other considerations?

  25. Confederacy of Takers / Phil – Let them secede:

    Among those states with large numbers of petitioners asking out: Louisiana (more than 28,000 signatures at midday Tuesday), which gets about $1.45 in federal largess for every $1 it pays in taxes; Alabama (more than 20,000 signatures), which takes $1.71 for every $1 it puts in; South Carolina (26,000), which takes $1.38 for its dollar; and Missouri (22,000), which takes $1.29 for its dollar.

    More money for us in the blue states!

    Yet would-be rebels from the red states should keep in mind during the coming budget battle that those who are most ardent about cutting government spending tend to come from parts of the country that most rely on it.

  26. FAS Money / Sank – On XLF side, not much is required, but when you start shorting FAS options, you have a lot of margin requirements because it's a 3x ETF. On a Reg-T account, you need 90% margin. On a PM I believe it's 30% but it depends on how close your strike is to the underlying instrument. I believe last week we had 5 short puts and margin was close to $40K.

  27. Oil draw / Phil – Could be bullish but still way too much of that stuff:

  28. Can one imagine if CA became it's own country?  Our 21c loss could actually balance our budget, make teachers and police whole, and we would actually have a surplus…..1020…let's run on that platform!

  29. Scottmi / 60,40
    Hi!  They are called 1256 contracts and the rules were created by powerful Chicago options/futures traders for their own tax advantage.
    Basically, any security that settles to Cash, not a underlying is eligible.  So anything in futures /ES, /CL, or Index options: RUT, SPX, NDX.  Generally not SPY,QQQ, since they settle to a underlying security.
    This is good presentation

  30. FAS Money / stj,
    Thanks. And proportional increase in number of contracts if I want to trade a larger sum on this portfolio, correct?

  31. Sank / FAS Money
    To use larger sums, really investigate how your broker will handle margin on the short FAS positions since it's a 3x.  IB for example gives awful margin treatment to FAS so you need to have a lot of gunpowder in reserve in case Phil calls for 2x or 3x rolls in tough times.  

  32. Looks like the weeklies for Nov 30 are out today.

  33. Phil – Just catching up.  Good advice to Tommy (9:28).  What "dividend-paying blue chips" would you recommend?

  34. FAS Money / Sank – As Burrben points out, you need to keep a lot of margin available for that as we might need to go from 2 short FAS to 6 for example and you would be looking at $60K of margin!

    Right now we have 15 longs and 3 short (well 4 but 2 on each side so no more margin needed) so a 5/1 ratio. We have gone to 3/1. You could double it and go with 30 longs and 6 shorts but be prepared to go 10 shorts. But you are then looking at $100K in margin possibly. 

  35. PHIL /AA
    I don't understand the reference to 10% from your AA suggestion to Tommy. I read a return, if called at 7 , at 41% over two years on cash and 31% on cash plus margin.  What am I doing wrong?
    Meanwhile, you are spending net $2,425 in cash and tying up another $1,000 in margin and, if you get called away over $7 (the intent would be to roll, of course), you make $1,075 for your troubles – just about 10% over two years on your full allocation.
    And what KWAN said—-- i also am interested in such a "conservative" list.

  36. UK FTSE +0.1%
    German DAX +0.2%
    French CAC +0.5%
    Spain IBEX +0.2%
    Italy MIB +0.8%

  37. The AAPL chart is starting to look very much like what happened in April/ May this year. We has a nice correction (not as big as this time) and then a period of consolidation around where we are now then broke toward $615, corrected again to $565 and then took off to $700. Might history repeat itself?

  38. phil, stj, burr et al,
    thanks for all your help.
    can anyone give me the link or the roll on the bby for the income portfolio…….
    happy thanksgiving to everyone

  39. FAS Money / stj, Burrben,
    Thanks for the inputs. I have just moved to PM with tos and the margins allowed are much better. Of course, I'll need to keep potential true risk in mind apart from margin requirements….

  40. Pharm – I'll be your campaign manager!  :)

  41. FAS Money/Sank – The cash required is minimal, 15 long XLFs is just over $4,500.  It's the margin requirement that varies by broker for selling the FAS calls, as StJ notes.  Of course, this is perfect for people building portfolios, as I was discussing with Tommy at the top of the morning, as you end up with tons of unused margin for the first year or two and a trade like this can make you an extra 10-20% on $100K while you wait to fill the rest of your positions.  

    Also, for FAS Money – It is possible to substitute the sale of 2/15 the FAS next weekly $107.50s at $1.10 ($220), which are 3% out of the money for the sale of, for example, 6 XLF next weekly $15.50 calls for .19 ($1.14) – as you can see, FAS pays much, much better but it's not like XLF doesn't pay at all and the risk is not too dissimilar but with about 1/10th the margin requirement.  

    Also, it is possible to just buy 3 FAS 2015 $120 calls for $23 and sell $80 puts for $22 so, even if your broker requires 100% margin on the short puts – it's just $24,000 for 3 (our usual sale amount) and then you will have only a small margin requirement on the short call sales.  Of course, if you need to play these kinds of games to reduce margin on FAS Money – you shouldn't be playing FAS Money – it's very volatile!  

    Red States/StJ – Too bad these are facts, so we can pretty much assume they won't influence the people in those states.  

    Oil/StJ – And look how poorly they reacted to this draw.  Very bad sign for oil bulls.  

    Cali/Pharm – It would be a good idea, even if just to draw attention to the issue.  

    FAS Money/Sank – Also, if you have that much money, you really should talk to your broker about a PM account – just make sure you don't USE the PM, except for things like this. 

    Dividend blue chips/Grant – It's up to you guys to remind me on Friday.  I'll be around in the morning and we have all weekend to make a list. 

    AA/Gerry – I'm counting on the whole $10,000 allocation, including the unused money that's on the sideline.  It's a conservative, worst-case way of looking at it.  As I just said above, there are plenty of things to do, short-term with the spare margin while you wait like FAS Money or poking at short puts in something you are REALLY willing to buy at the next strike when there's an opportunity like CMG and AMZN in our $25KP.  DECK dropped recently and we did them as well – you never know when there will be opportunities to put margin to use but, if you don't have any spare margin to use – it won't matter when it does come along, right? 

    As to this conservative list – didn't we go over every single Dow component and how to play them in Vegas?  That was a nice list of conservative blue-chip plays – don't we have some kind of saved audio?  

    Europe with so-so close but positive so we have no reason to close lower.  

    AAPL/StJ – I think some kind of Black Friday weekend sales report on AAPL will knock them up another $30 towards $600. 

    BBY/Mill – That was yesterday's comments. 

    Thanks StJ!

    PM/Sank – Useful and dangerous toy – like a spot welder – never forget how badly it can burn you!  

  42. UPDATE 7:04PM IL: Israel and Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a ceasefire deal, said a Palestinian official with knowledge of Egyptian mediation between the two sides (Reuters).

  43. Phil / AAPL – Need some help adjusting positions.  I am long two Feb '13 600 calls at avg price of 41 so down 50% but bought back two of the feb '13 650 callers for gain last week which offset some of that.  I am long one April 2013 550 call at price of 37 which was a roll down/out from feb 600 on late friday afternoon and worked out well so far.  wish i had done the other two.   I am short one call Feb '13 650 at $9 so about even on it.   My longer term positions are good but need to start selling front month calls as you noted earlier today.  I have one Jan 2015 500/600 bull call spread (down ~20%), two Jan 2015 550/700 bull call spread (down ~20%) and short one Jan 2015 400 put (even).  what should i sell against these?  thanks.  

  44. Phil,
    Everything I read would agree with your outlook for another $30 bump in AAPL. Bloomberg reported this morning that when children from 6-12 were asked about their toy preference, 48% requested an iPad. 
    I would also be surprised if we didn't get a further $30+ bump if the "cliff" is resolved prior to Dec 31.

  45. FAS Money, PM / Phil,

  46. Pharm/STJ
    St.Jude is at multi-year lows after today's news. Do you follow them at all? Too dangerous to sell any puts?

  47. Burrben – thanks..!

  48. stjeanluc -
    AAPL portfolio – you have the cover listed as Nov. 5 – do you mean 30?
    thanks for all your work.

  49. MA & V/Phil – i have some aging long puts on these, bought as hedges for disaster. At this point, not sure if any threat that would whack these (more than, say, DIA or AAPL) is still out there. Are these really so fragile to expect a 20% or greater drop on some event? War? why would these tank? Fiscal cliff? nope. Market meltdown? We have QEinf.. i just see more people using more credit until the economy slowly comes back and they pay down after wildly profitable times for these Credit companies. What am i missing?

  50. Portfolio / Samz – It's the way it's listed – Nov5 for the week 5 of November (expiring 11/30). This week is Nov4. 

  51. WFR moving up…

  52. St. Jude, EW, MDT and even JNJ are all in the cardiovascular space.   This area is taking a small beating due to the CV device space being a bit of a manufacturing nightmare.  Quality control can get lax, and if something goes wrong…it will go very wrong.  I would avoid.

    VOLC is one that I am watching as they are in the CV space, but more involved in the diagnostic and outpatient surgery area.

  53. Wow, now that I look at their chart and everything….I need to dive into the data and pipe for them.  Compelling though.  Wait for a while longer, as they will most likely bounce and then start to fall a bit more. (ie STJ).


    Someone put a 2500 bet on the Jan 27/25 P and 35/37.5 C.  I am betting they are looking for a price rise.

  54. Phil – You did receive my E-mail, yes?

  55. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has the most successful retail stores by a wide margin. According to RetailSails, a retail and consumer goods consulting firm, the tech giant’s 372 worldwide locations sold goods at a rate of more than $6,000 per square foot of floor space in the past 12 months. The average store of the next most successful company in the United States, Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF), sold less than half that figure per square foot.

  56. That would be Jan14…..I am trying for 1.  easy double.  otherwise 25c credit.

  57. BBY – it it had it's bounce, it is one really dead cat.

  58. Covered a bit of CLSN.

  59. Fiscal cliff comments:


    I’m not eager to see all the tax cuts expire, but I think the cliff does offer a rare opportunity to correct a historical error. The cuts introduced all sorts of harmful wrinkles and distortions into the tax code, in ways that privilege passivity over labor. There’s no earthly reason why capital gains and dividends should be taxed at 15 percent while wages for hardworking professionals are taxed at twice that rate. There’s no reason estates should be taxed at such low levels. There’s no reason carried interest—the wages private equity and hedge-fund managers effectively take for managing other people’s money—shouldn’t be taxed as income.


    All these low rates were intended by their designers to be temporary—the better to mask their long-term cost. But because these tax cuts have powerful, well-connected constituencies, it has been difficult to slay them. Once we’ve gone over the cliff, the conversation about taxes will take on an entirely different tenor than the pre-cliff one. After a lost decade in the markets and the economy, advocates for the absurdly low rates of taxation on capital will have to make their case for lowering them again. Good luck to them.

    When you think about, it is insane that someone actually working for their money would pay higher taxes (percentage wise) than someone who inherited it and relies on dividend income for a living. There is something un-American about that but somehow changing that situation is what is being decried as such.

  60. LNKD – anyone following this stock? did we just get the cup for a cup and handle?

  61. I have been too busy to post much lately, but I still follow y'all very closely.  I wanted to take a moment though and share my gratitude.
    This year, I am grateful for my continued remission from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma(4 years post Stem Cell Transplant and still no sign of the disease) and that my latest bout of skin cancer was caught early enough that removal was the only requirement.  I am thankful for my family, my beautiful wife, wonderful daughter, my parents and too many other relatives and friends to acknowledge here.  
    And, to Phil and the people of this site, I am grateful for the friendship and support from this terrific place.  I will raise a glass in toast on the morrow, but for now please know you are all in my thoughts and prayers.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  62. AAPL/Terra – Why does everyone take such short-term positions???  Seriously you bet $41 that AAPL would be over $600 in Feb.  So what happens on earnings if they miss and those calls go worthless in 30 seconds?  What was the plan then?  I would try to consolidate back in 2015 and then you have 24 months to sell.  As to what to sell – make a budget.  What did you spend on your long positions?  That's what you want to sell over the next 24 months.  Stop buying premium and start selling it and all these idiotic bets you made will suddenly be money pouring in to you from other suckers who think they know what AAPL is going to do in the short run.  Maybe you end up with 4 long $150 spreads that you spent $75 on.  That means you have 24 months to make back $300 so $15 a month spread across 4 short calls so $3.75 each – not a bad goal and you end up with totally free long spreads.  

    AAPL/CSL – My biggest worry with AAPL is that it gaps up on us and messes up our short calls.  

    You're welcome Sank.

    MA & V/Scott – If the economy was tanking and consumer sentiment was declining, they would fall quickly.  Obviously that premise seems blown so dead trades but I still think they're too toppy to go long.

    WFR/Terra – Wow, nice move today.  

    Email/1020 – Not that I know of.  Try re-sending. 

    Taxes/StJ – That's the real key, those tax cuts were so weighted to the top 1% that it really tipped the economic scales right over the cliff and now the top 1% will fight tooth and nail to keep them – which was the original plan as fighting tooth and nail means donating to the GOP and GOP lobbyists – those guys aren't totally stupid…

    LNKD/Scott – I think they have a good model but p/e out of control.  Still, can't bet against them as they are growing pretty fast.  

    Thanks Travis – Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well. 

  63. Pharm/STJ

  64. STJ – The carried interest of hedge funds is the most egregious.  Why should they pay capital gains rates on someone else's money ?    It's a fee, pure and simple, and should be treated as such.

  65. Good to hear from you Hoss… Best of luck!

  66. Happy Thanksgiving Travis !   May your health continue to improve.

  67. Great news Travis!!! Be well.

  68. Congrats Travis. I will be in your area for the Birkie.  Maybe we can get a few pints of New Glarus' spotted cow.

  69. Phil,
     I've rolled down to the AAPL Apr 500 calls and now am looking to get into a spread to work down my cost (I've been rolling since $700) but can't figure out how to time the selling of calls. Do you look at Fib levels to figure out the best time to sell calls?

  70. Hoss
    I always look forward to your posts. I am very happy to hear of your recovery. Have a great holiday and hope to hear from you more often down the road.

  71. Phil – do you have both a weekend hedge and a current disaster hedge that you would suggest? Thx!

  72. I wasnt in vegas if anyone that was has the conservative blue chips list that was gone over and  how to play them i would sure like to have a look?
    glad to provide email or mailing address if needed
    Thanks in advance and happy thanksgivng

  73. Phil--Any opinion on TROX???

  74. A very happy Thanksgiving to all – back in the U.S. 18 hours now, always nice to be "home", although I don't actually live here for the moment.  I have no particular insight in respect of the U.S,  economy, seems like it's bottoming but who knows; what  I can say is that the college age+ children of an awful lot of well-off families in Europe see no professional future for themselves any time soon and are bailing out for U.S. shores. 
    It's very sad for their parents, and hard for them, but they can't sit on their hands for the first five to seven years when they should be out learning business or other professions, because younger people will come along and they will be a lost generation.  As will happen to the many without the means, or pull, to get out.  Creating a common currency zone with no fiscal transfer measures to support it was a collosal f-up, the arrogance of bureaucrats written all over it. and it will reverberate for generations.  It's down to hope now, and we know how effective a strategy that is.

  75. I have prjected a high level for IWM of 79.80 and long now. FWIW

  76. NOK is a rockin…..

  77. Hopefully this is the flush!

  78. NOK / Pharm – Making the highs from August so likely to hit some resistance around here.

  79. StJ – yep….and selling Jan $4s and Jan $3 Puts. 

  80. AAPL/Japar – You just have to try to consistently sell a little premium, which can work out to a lot in AAPL.  Monday, for example, when AAPL hit $560, we sold 6/10 $560 calls (next week) for $10.75 and put a stop on 3 of them at $17.  If 3 stop out at $17 we lose $18.75 but we collected $32.25 on our other 3 so hopefully we come out even or we can roll those for no harm.  Either way, AAPL is going up so good for our longs.  If it fails to hold $560, we made our $3.25 against 10 longs in two weeks and we only have to do that a dozen times and our longs are "free".  As I said above, the trick is to have a budget, stay within the budget and make disciplined sales without trying to "win" something.  Premium erodes and that's an absolute so if we sell $60 worth of premium, no matter what, we will collect that $60 by the month's end, the rest is a bet on AAPL holding $660 or not but, if I make that bet 20 times a year and collect $1,200 in premium – then those 6 calls can burn me for $200 each before I'm really in trouble so worrying about whether or not we make or lose $10 in any given weekly sale is really missing the point.

    Weekend hedge/Deano – TZA is still the best, with the Jan $15/19 bull call spread at $1.45 and you can offset that with something like the AXP Jan $52.50 puts at .66 for net .79 on the $4 spread that's already $1.80 in the money or maybe the CHK Jan $17.50 puts at $1.03 for just net .42 on the same spread.  Anything you REALLY want to buy if it's cheaper works – heck, you can sell an AAPL $500 put for $7.70 and pay for 6 of them.  That one works as weekends or disasters.  

    TROX/Jabob – I don't understand them.  The total value of the company seems to hinge on the outcome of a lawsuit with APC but I don't follow it.

    Thanks ZZ – Not much to be thankful for in Europe this year, what a mess. 

    Volume just 60M on the Dow but not too many sellers as of 3pm.

  81. NOK – Good initial sales of Lumina 920.  Repordedly back ordered 1-2 weeks at AMZN and selling well elswhere.
    Question is:  Is this due to low stocking levels or high demand ?

  82. CCJ/phil – tempting…getting really tempting. thinking of selling Jan 14 $15 puts. or just going with a Jan 14 $15 buy write.

  83. CCJ – but everything still pointing DOWN on this unloved stock.

  84. Seems the latest mideast thing is fixed for at least thanksgiving. Evern Hillary needs a turkey!

  85. NYSE right on the strong bounce line (8,100) and that's our broad index. 

    A bit of perspective on the mildness of the recent pullback, CJ Mendes provides a graph of the percentage of NYSE stocks 2 standard deviations below their 200-day moving average. It's at the high end of the range, but not at an extreme, nor anywhere close to the levels reached during last fall's great buying opportunity.

    The October AIA Architecture Billings Index rises to 52.8 from 51.6 previously, the 3rd consecutive month above the 50-line marking growth from contraction. The New Projects Inquiry index rose to 59.4 from 57.3 previously. "It's beginning to look like demand for design services has turned the corner," says AIA's Kermit Baker.

     Freddie Mac's new mortgage survey, released a day earlier than usual this holiday week, shows the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at a record low 3.31% vs. 3.34% a week ago; at this time last year, the 30-year fixed averaged 3.98%. The average 15-year fixed rate fell to 2.63% from 2.65%, also a record low; a year ago the rate averaged 3.30%.

    Home values rose 1.1% in October and gained 4.7% on a Y/Y basis, according to Zillow. It's the 12th consecutive month of gains and the largest monthly pop since August 2005. "Skeptics will point to the large role that investors are playing … of the large number of foreclosures yet to hit the market," says Stan Humphries, but homes are very affordable and buyers are taking advantage.

    Just months after it began shipping the Model S, Tesla (TSLA +1.4%) says it plans to raise the price of the luxury electric sedan, and might also make some features that now come standard part of optional packages. The Model S, which has a starting price of $49.9K, has received solid reviews.

    California’s CO2 now has a price, but it's a low one. For each metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted, businesses, utilities and industries that bought allowances will pay just $10.09. The results ofCalifornia's first CO2 auction came as a relief to state officials that all of the 23.1M allowances covering emissions up for auction were sold, but some analysts had expected a higher price.

    Also piling on Best Buy (BBY -3%) is Fitch, slashing the firm's credit rating to BB- with negative outlook. Financial leverage hit 2.9X at the end of Q3, up from 2.6X at the end of 2011, and Fitch believes it could hit the 4X area in 2013-14. (previous) 

    Facebook (FB +5.8%) is rallying again in the wake of last Wednesday's lockup expiration; shares are now up 23% since 773M shares became eligible for sale. While short-covering ahead of Thanksgiving weekend is undoubtedly a factor, Facebook's trading volume is well above average on a low-volume day. This morning, French carrier Orange (FTEannounced Party Call, a service that allows Facebook users to place individual and group calls to each other via their smartphones, no numbers required.

    After steadily climbing today on volume over 2x its daily average, Nokia (NOK +13.7%) is at levels last seen in August. Optimism regarding Lumia 920 sales following some positive datapoints (III) could be a factor, though Swedish i-bank Handelsbanken cautioned this morning early Lumia 800/900 sales triggered a similar response. SA's Jacob Steinberg pointed out today net institutional ownership of Nokia has been rising.

    More stuff you'll never hear on Fox:

    U.S. Deficit Shrinking At Fastest Pace Since WWII, Before Fiscal Cliff

  86. AAPL/ Phil: Any additional covers for the wknd or is a gap up on Black Friday still a variable?


    CJR Says Fiscal Cliff is a CNBC Scam

    By Barry Ritholtz – November 21st, 2012, 7:32AM

    Just a quick note before I run out this morning: Today’s must read is a brutal takedown of the CNBC driven narrative of the fiscal cliff. Its written by Ryan Chittum of The Audit, which is the Columbia Journalism Review’s site that focuses on the financial press.

    Here is a quick excerpt:

    “Any time you see Wall Street CEOs and CNBC campaigning for what they call the common good, it’s worth raising an eyebrow or two.

    So it is with CNBC’s “Rise Above” crusade, which has blanketed its airwaves and adorned its lapels since the day after the election with pleas for a solution to the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

    You’ll note that CNBC has not Risen Above for the common good on issues like stimulating a depressed economy, ameliorating the housing catastrophe, or prosecuting its Wall Street sources/dinner partners for the subprime fiasco. But make no mistake: even if it had, it would have been stepping outside the boundaries of traditional American journalism practice into political advocacy. And that’s precisely what it’s doing here, at further cost to its credibility as a mainstream news organization instead of some HD version of Wall Street CCTV.

    The big question: Why is a news organization running what’s effectively a political campaign for Simpson-Bowles, complete with thirty-second spots and campaign buttons? Look, kids. You can get your very own Rise Above pin, wrapped in the flag, just like your favorite business-news personalities! Roger Ailes himself must blush at this kind of grandstanding, but I have a hard time believing the business class and CNBC would be so worked up over this austerity program if it weren’t for the major tax increases contained therein.”

    You really must read the entire thing.

    When you do, think about the things that have gotten the press in general worked up into a tizzy. In particular, consider what CNBC has and has not gotten worked up about in the past, and what they completely missed. They are a fairly reliable fade . . .

    Rise Above, CNBC’s move into advocacy: Corporate America’s house organ starts an anti-political political campaign
    Ryan Chittum
    The Audit, November 20, 2012 

  88. Stj,
      Can you post the fib levels for AAPL? Thanks.

  89. CCJ/Scott – They are super-volatile.  I'd suggest selling the 2015 $13 puts for $2 and buying the $15/22 bull call spread for $2.40 so the worst case is having 1x put to you at net $13.40 (20% off) and your best case is a very nice $6.60 profit on net .40 cash for 1,550% profit.  Good profit on margin too.  

    NOK/Albo – I'd say a little of both. 

    Fixed/Shadow – Until the next bomb goes off.  I think cease-fire in Arabic means "reload".  

    AAPL/Newt – We're 60% covered and I'm really not 60% worried so feel like over-covered to me already.  I doubt we'll get numbers earlier than Monday so we have time to pull covers ahead of news hopefully but also, having been burned badly by AAPL over and over again in the past month – I'd feel like a real idiot not to have the covers we do have.  Also, as I said the other day – it's not so much about making a short-call bet we're trying to "win" nor is it just about protection – we made a $15 gain on our longs and we sold about 50% of it to lock in the gains and all we're really risking is not making as much on the next $25 move up – you have to be able to live with that. 

  90. Phil: Thanks. Covering is a fine balance- at least it, the act/art of having them, is becoming second nature.  I just need to refine quantity (%) and when is a good time to sell additional premium.

  91. Good Afternoon—-Happy Thanksgiving everyone

  92. Well that was hard to take but now out. 79.80 will have to wait till Friday

  93. All, Happy Thanksgiving.  Safe travels for those out and about.

    - Pharm

  94. Phil
    I only said so Hillary could eat turkey! Now that I bailed looking like my target will be hit. I did OK this week including today.

  95. Phil,
    Any thgts on ecol in the trash disposal space ? Fundies seem to be btr than WM but vol is much less.

  96. 2 minute markets, missed the top and maybe still a top or you can get f   ted no matter what you do with BOT comtrol!

  97. Wishing everyone a safe and fantastic holiday. Thank you Phil, and Stjean for all you do.

  98. Phil and all the gang, you all have a happy thanksgiving.
    Just for Phil we do have headless turkey tomorrow why not stop by.

  99. I must start believing in my self 79.73 top, only off by .7%.

  100. Hope everybody has a great holiday and spends some quality time with their family!

  101. Phil,
      Thanks. I'm currently in the hole about $60 per contract on AAPL. I was thinking that next week would be better for selling some calls. I see the 200 SMA at $597 as the next resistance pt and then the 50 SMA at $625 the next. I have the Apr 500 and the Apr 600. I figure I will sell Apr calls at and above $600 if we don't break the 200 SMA next week. If we do, I'll sell Apr call above $625. Does my thinking make sense?

  102. WM/8800 – Good boring company in a good boring sector.  ECOL may be good too but I'd never paid attention as they are tiny – basically a penny stock in the same space and not the kind of thing I like to get involved with. 

    Thinking/Japar – In a word, no.  You are still gambling that AAPL will gain $40 by April just so you can get to zero on your $600s.  What is you SALES plan for paying off your debt.  Can you sell $15 a month between now and April with 90% certainty that you won't get burned to get your $60 back?  Of course not.  So you don't have an investment, you have a gamble.  I hate to say this over and over and over and over and over and over and over again but in what trade idea for AAPL have I EVER had an out of the money call as the trade?  The ONLY way I like to play AAPL is to take a long-term in the money bull call spread (and or a short put) and sell short-term calls against it.  This is not because I guarantee that AAPL will finish at some certain target on some certain date but because I KNOW that I can sell weekly or monthly calls against AAPL to the endless supply of suckers who are willing to pay huge premiums TO ME against my long positions.   Your April $600 calls, where you pay $32 for the honor of being $40 out of the money, are exactly what I like to sell in a lazier set-up against a 2015 $550/700 spread at $70 because that nets me in for $38 on a $150 spread and the only way I lose is if AAPL runs up over $700 so fast that I get burned on the short calls before I can roll them to safety while anything less than a spectacular move like that leaves you sucking wind – AND – I STILL have 7 more quarters like that to sell.  

    You can't get out of a $60 hole by digging more $60 holes for yourself and hoping one of them strikes gold.  That's NOT the way to play and if you can't develop a selling discipline for AAPL – DON'T PLAY WITH IT!   

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  103. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  104. Burrben: Good summary of the tax treatment of investments – Sec 1256 was one reason I selected SPX for my strangle strategy, the other being that you can not be "assigned" as sometimes happens when you use other instruments to strangle. SPY is easier to work with given the tight spreads, but it fails the big two tests. 
    In my portfolio margin account, the margin rate on SPX is 10%. I would submit that if you want to strangle, it makes no sense to use anything else than SPX, but to each his own…
    I am short puts on AAPL, on several time frames. I often sell weeklies, even when the thing looked like it would auger in, and yes, I had to roll several of those positions. This is a wonderful bull-side trader's stock as it moves a lot, is heavily traded, and the company basically has figured out how to print money the old-fashioned way, so I don't worry so much about turning on the computer in the morning and discovering they are toast, as used to happen to me with some frequency in the old days.
    I think there are several other stocks that exhibit similar characteristics, but I don't have the time or energy to get comfortable with their price movements. 
    I have never owned a share of AAPL, but you could say it paid for my house. I have never owned an AAPL product, even though everyone around me is up to their ass in the stuff. They simply don't teach how to do what I and quite a few others on this board have figured out to do, and I'll betcha we all do it differently. 
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  105. One more word about SPX. It can explode on you. The very low margin rate enables you to get to multiples of your original position, which sometimes happens. My basic position uses about 4% of my account, and I wouldn't go much heavier than that if you are planning to roll out of trouble should it come. Just saying…

  106. Phil,
    Thx for trash sector cmts.
    Happy Thanksgiving

  107. In a country where nobody saves money any more, it may make no sense to have different tax rates for what you earn on your savings, but the different tax treatment of investment income was intended to incentivise savings and investment, on the theory that investment ought to be encouraged.
    Of course, "investment" used to mean, primarily, that people would start businesses, and increasingly it now means speculation, which is a dirty word in class warrior terminology.
    If you earn a dollar, then pay tax on it, then save the $.65 that you have left, some might argue that you shouldn't have to pay anything on what it earns. I understand completely why this makes no sense any more, but keep in mind that that was the idea why social security was not taxable income originally. Taxes were paid already. I am sure our gargantuan government operation will eventually require that 100% of SS benefits should be taxed, so that's another lost argument.
    We extend our reach, and our promises, until we will someday claim title to everything everybody has, because the government needs those resources to pay for the things it has decided everybody should have. Can anybody stop it?

  108. Thanks for the kind wishes all, and the same to all of you – enjoy the turkey, football, feast, and most important, the family. Thanks to all of you members, in particular St Jean, Pharm and Phil, for making this holiday a prosperous one for me and my family. Thoughts & prayers to all, in particular jromeha, for safety & safe travels!

  109. Happy Turkeyday everybody, enjoy the break!

  110. Deano – THank you for the kind words! We'll definitely have to do lunch or something when I get back to beantown. 26 days until I come back to the US of A. I studied abroad in eastern europe in college but I have never been as thankful to be born in America then after coming here. This country and its people might as well be from a different planet… 26 days! Hopefully Ill be able to go to the next Vegas get together and meet all the fine people from this site. Happy Thanksgiving!

  111. jrohema – beer's on me when you're near beantown – maybe a nice sam adams to celebrate!

  112. Happy Thanksgiving all!  We (the short strangles players) are thankful that we haven't had a big spike this year (knock on wood) and that is fabulous!

  113. Phil,
      Thanks. I miswrote the last time. I was more thinking about when to sell and at which strike to sell to give me the best chance to have the call expire worthless. You're right about selling monthly calls to work off the premium I paid for the Apr 500s and 600s. How do you pick which strikes to sell? Is it based on Fib lines or resistance points? So next week, I should look to sell the Dec 600 calls against my Apr 500 calls and hope to repeat that for January and February, etc. I understand what you are saying, I am just having difficulty determining which front month strikes to sell. Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  114. Barfinger: I would add that, no matter how many times the government manages to tax the same income, it saves the best for last and confiscates 50% of one's net worth upon one's demise.  While I am not against redistribution of wealth for the greater good within certain limits, the economically sub-optimal maneuvering that takes place on a massive scale to avoid these taxes would be better spent paying a more reasonable sum without the labyrinth of  "special vehicles" that must be now created to reach that amount.  Having spent the last few weeks flying across half the world to accomplish exactly that, I feel entitled to suggest that tax simplification and moderation would go a long way towards creating both a more egalitarian and more efficient society.

  115. Shadow – Thanks for your IWM lines. You were so close.  Good job. Your prediction made me hold on.  (I got out of TNA at 52.94 today ,but it was just luck when TNA hit my sell limit.)   I'm watching the dollar more these days  to get an idea of how TNA/ TZA will react. I miss JRW and hope he is o'k.

  116. Cramer says sell HPQ – and you know what that means…time to buy!

  117. Ritholtz on HP: the Ultimate Value Trap?

  118. Albo / carried interest
    I agree that performance fees should be taxed as ordinary income.

  119. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
    Feel better Phil!
    Ron and Derek

  120. Well balanced article on HPQ

  121. Happy Thanksgiving gang!

  122. Europe's agricultural budget of Euro 57 Billion is fast becoming the elephant in the room in the context of European "austerity."  The Single Farm Payment of Euro 39 Billion directly supports otherwise uncompetitive farmers, including 500,000 farms in France, the biggest single beneficiary.  These subsidies are not tied to production, and have had the unfortunately side effect of pushing up food prices and making many Third World farmers uncompetitive at the same time.  France, needless to say, is the largest beneficiary of the subsidy; the UK is a net contributor to it.  France's  insistence on "austerity' in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece is looking rather hypocritical in the contexts of the Great Sucking Sound emanating from French agriculture.  France was downgraded to AA this week, and I have been long/short German/French bonds for about a month, and I would guess it is going to work out fairly well. 
    The Eurozone's attempts to reach an equitable agreement on which countries should be enjoying net contributions from the others is, I would guess, not going to work out so well.  I've mentioned more than once that UBS has been predicting a 1.15 Euro / dollar by this year's end, and that possibility is the single biggest potential buzzkill for an end-of-the-year U.S. equity rally. The ECB is trying to keep its finger stuck in the dike, but I've spent a lot of time in finance and can't come up with any way to make all the still-piling-up EuroDebt Mountain go away short of debasing their currency — alot.  The fact is that it has already been debased, and is now just resembles a Wiley E. Coyote cartoon wherein he runs off the cliff onto thin air but hasn't looked down yet.
    The evident Green shoots in the U.S. will just accelerate the flight of capital already threatening, and the Germans will never act quickly enough to stem the tide, since it's not in their interest to pick up the French Food Bill or any of the other wrong-headed cross-subsidies that have made most of Europe uncompetitive in world markets.  I cannot imagine Germany having the stones to abandon the Euro, letting the Euro freefall while a "Neue Deutschemark soars to 1.90/$ and then offering a brotherly fiscal support package, but if there is some incremental way to fix the Eurozone, I am not credulous enough to believe in it.  .

  123. On this Thanksgiving day, let's thank the Lord for all we have. India's poor are forcibly starved!

  124. Forgot to post the lines on Wednesday evening…

    I will not update portfolios this morning as this is a BS day anyway! I'll post the weekend update as usual.