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Toppy Tuesday – Markets Continue to “Ignore and Soar”

Up and up we go.

The volume on the up moves is negligible but what does it matter if you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time?  Yesterday's volume was the lowest since the Friday after Thanksgiving though it was not a holiday yet we spiked up to make a new all-time high on the S&P at 2,855 and this morning, on even less volume, we're testing 2,860 where I'm putting my foot down and shorting /ES.

Well, it's a light foot, with tight stops over the line as none of our Futures shorts have been working for the past week but they are, primarilly, hedges against our long positions, so it's OK to take small, manageable losses on the way up – as they lock in our ill-gotten gains.  

The real question is, why is nobody trading?  I know I'm on vacation and a lot of our Members are on vacation but surely, we can't be the only ones trading the market, can we?  Well, considering this volume, maybe we are!  Also interesting yesterday was a strong uptick in VIX volume, as well as VIX options, where call volume outpaced puts by 6.5 to 1.

That's not the kind of action you expect in a "healthy" market but it's hard to argue with the headlines, which are relentlessly UP, pretty much since July 1st, when the S&P was testing the 2,700 line (6% ago).  According to our 5% rule, this is a 5% run with a 1% (20% of the run) overshoot and, while 2% (strong) overshoots can happen – they are pretty rare and need a catalyst and I don't see one likely to turn off the SellBots this morning so let the market open and then we can start shorting.

Profits are up at the S&P, so far, with 3/4 of the companies reporting, earnings are up 23% from last year, due to a fairly strong economy but mostly dues to tax cuts as Corporate Tax Rates have been cut from 35% to 21% since the same quarters last year.  And you might say, "well, that only accounts for 14% of the profit increase" but that's not what profits are. 

United Renals (URI), for example, had a gross profit of $229M last Q2 and paid $88M in taxes (38%) but this Q they had a gross profit of $359M (up 56%) but paid the same(ish) $89M in taxes (25%), which put their net profit up to $270M, which is up 91% – quite a difference!  As you can see from this chart – this isn't the first time an unpopular President has lowered taxes in order to make the economy look better than it is – we fell for this BS in 2007/8 and, gosh darn it – we're falling for it again in 2018.  See, you CAN fool some of the people ALL of the time! 

Apple (AAPL) is another one, making $11.3Bn last Q2 and paying $2.6Bn in taxes to net $8.7Bn but this year, AAPL grossed $13.3Bn and paid just $1.8Bn in tax (13.5%) to net $11.5Bn for a $2.8Bn increase in net profits, with not just $800M of it coming from the tax cut that is obvious, but the taxes that were not paid on the additional $2.8Bn in profits – another $800M tax benefit.  So $1.6Bn (57%) of Apple's gains were from taxes and, without the tax cuts, AAPL would have been just 14% higher than last year, not 32%.

AAPL is, of course, now a $1Tn company at $208, up $68 (48.5%) from $140 at this time last year and yes, I think AAPL was undervalued last year and it's still not overvalued at $1Tn but that's the BEST example of an S&P company and we can still see how, if the tax breaks are removed or mitigated, that it has gained far too much to account for the actual gains in the business.  

At least until November, we have to consider the possibility that the Democrats take control of Congress and begin to reverse these tax cuts or, failing that, that the Republicans might keep the House and run up trade deficits to unsustainable levels, though it's hard to say what "unsustainable" is when your deficit is already $21Tn and you are adding $1Tn this year and $1.3Tn next year, etc.  

Government Expenditures are now 22% higher than they were before the last crash and Government Revenues are 10% lower.  Corporate profits are the only things benefitting so far from all these tax cuts and we'd better hope our Corporate Masters feel the urge to trickle on us soon – or it's really going to hit the fan! 

All in all, the market is essentially priced – not just to perfection – but to perfection without the possibility of that perfection ending in the Future and that makes it very, VERY dangerous to play with.

Be careful out there!


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  1. Funny how the movie Christopher Robin is being banned in China because Winnie the Pooh is being used for memes to make fun Xi Jinping! I understand that the Trump/Pence campaign for 2020 thought that it was a good idea and is looking to ban streaming of Dumb and Dumber!

  2. "Since the beginning of time and for the rest of it, investors will be looking for clues that a turn is coming. We want to know what time it is, but we’re all staring at a clock with no hands."

    (Michael Batnick)

  3. How visions of bitcoin changed over time:

  4. OSTK

    Advill, the only firm I found that follows OSTK is D. A. Davidson, a well respected regional firm.

    Believe it or not, their 12-18 month target is $103 ! ! !

    Unlikely, IMHO.   But am curious about their crypto involvement.

  5. Good Morning.

  6. AVGO

    ~~AVGO +0.2% (resumed with a Overweight at Barclays; target $365).

    Nice target !

  7. ~ETSY -

    Etsy +9% at new all-time highs after beating Q2 estimates and raising FY18 guidance.


    ~~BHC – Formerly Valiant:

    Bausch Health beats by $0.13, beats on revs; reaffirms FY18 revs guidance, raises Adj-EBITDA outlook .

  8. Good morning! 

    7,485 on /NQ!  Have to short that with conviction to 7,500 but feels like a suicide run the way things are going.  

    1,695 on /RTY with stop over 1,700 is also a fun play.

    /CL $69.50 is a good short too.

    Big Chart – When I get home I have to capitulate and move those must hold lines.  Even a 20% correction would barely get us in range now.  The question is, since the Big Chart is for long-term moves – do we assume tax cuts last forever?  How long can the Government pretend it doesn't need money to function?

    Xi/StJ – Like this?

    Image result for winnie the pooh xi jinping memes

    Not much going on so we'll just have to sit back and see what sticks when (and if) volume ever picks up.

  9. Phil// Given the trade tariffs, Apple is a popular brand and Chinese want to use them a tool to get back at USA for the trade policies, wouldn't you think that Apple should be down instead of up?  So what is keeping Apple high?  Thanks.

  10. Phil,  What are your thoughts on OLED going into earnings?  I've got a Jan 2020 85/100 spread that now has a 4K profit, far from its potential, but I am queasy about the market.  

  11. Phil// I did the SCO sep 2018 bcs 15/18 for $1.35.  Not sure if you had recommended to adjust that trade or leave it alone.  Let me know if I need to adjust it.  Thanks.

  12. Wow, 25,600 too! 

    Still 1,000 below it's high.

    Can't short anything with /ES over 2,860.

    Except oil!

    Dollar has been a big help this morning but should become a headwind now.

    AAPL/Rookie – It's part of the overall concept that US traders are completely ignoring the threats of tariffs and their potential implications.  There is no bad news at all priced into this market – same as in 2007/8 but it's very hard to say what will finally wake people up.  Hell, just this weekend one of the major firms warned of a 10% correction and we zoomed higher yesterday.  Look at /NGChina has targeted LNG for tariffs, which will cause it to stall here and flood the market with supply but – nothing.

    OLED/John – I think they are fairly valued around $80 so it's a good bounce but, from $200 is down $120 so call them $25 bounces and $105 is weak.  I think AAPL considered the OLED screens too annoying and expensive and seems to have pulled back on the idea for their other phones so hard to see what the big catalyst is.  I'd rather wait and see than bet on it and, with a spread like that, I'd at least 1/3 cover into earnings.  Sept $105 calls are $5+ and your $85/100 spread is about $7.50 with an 0.12 delta so a $10 move would only hit you for $1.50 so 1/3 protection covers that and still gives you room to roll.

    6.66M job openings – Another record for Trump.  This one is not very good for Corporate Profits but, who cares?  

    Last 20 months we added 2.8M jobs under Trump.  20 months before that – 4.3M jobs per CNBC.  

    SCO/Rookie – In the OOP,  we had the 10 short Sept $16 puts at $1.80 and 20 long Sept $13 calls at $2.65 and we took the calls off last week and left the puts.  I guess you mean this one for the STP:

    Submitted on 2018/07/19 at 12:06 pm

    Oops, I forgot our SCO spread in the STP.

    SCO Sept $16 puts can be sold for $1 – not an exciting number for the STP so we'll wait a bit but net $15 is a good floor.  The Sept $15 ($3)/18 (1.50) bull call spread is a good play as $17.50 is $68.50 and we're expecting to be below that so, at the moment, the combo with a full cover is net $0.50 on the $3 spread or net $1 with just 1/2x cover so I think I'd go for that and sell 10 puts ($1,000) against 20 bull call spreads ($3,000) for net $2,000 on $6,000 worth of spreads that are pretty much in the money.  

    At he moment, the Sept $15 are $1.55 and the $18s are 0.40 so $1.15 net and the $16 puts are $1.10.  We knew oil might go higher into the holiday weekend and we were playing for a drop after that.  The holiday weekend is still 3 weeks away so there's really not much to do at the moment.  

  13. .Phil//  Thanks.  Yes, the SCO trade mentioned above is the one I have but didn't sell the puts.  I guess I can go ahead sell the puts now.

  14. OSTK reports tomorrow and the tZERO block chain is closed as of last night. They have been bleeding cash, but what I found remarkable is they hired 5K more employees in the LAST year versus less than 1K before. They are paying much less taxes of course, but their options are pricey. I wonder how much is hype because in this low volume environment it is tough to get any trend. Anyone else looked into this?

  15. Phil/Vol

    I looked up the trading volumes from last year (2017) (NASDAQ) and they are pretty much the same between (7/24 and 8/6).  If anything 2018 is slightly higher.  Volume is low, but pretty normal for this time of year.

  16. Pirate / OSTK  thanks for the info… I appreciate it

  17. Talk about cord-cutting – I have 5 kids in a 2br with 3 TVs and not one of them has been on in 3 days.  I have a 1Br room with 2 TVs and they're both on.  This is a very serious problem for the networks!  Katzenberg and Whitman have a "New TV" company that just raised $1Bn (from the networks) to attempt to get content straight to phones.  

    OSTK/Pirate – I remember what a nut job Pat Byrne is from the last time that company collapsed from $75 to $12 but, only 10 years later – people take him seriously?  It's a stay away stock for me. 

    Is Patrick Byrne America's Nastiest Dumbest CEO? – The Big Picture

    To Overstock After CEO Locks 40 People In A Room …

    Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne explains rationale for $250M ICO …

    Volume/DC – Well, it is a big vacation week but we weren't climbing on no volume last year, were we?  Last Aug we had a big sell-off, in fact (but then a full recovery by the end of the month).

  18. Small wheee so far. 

  19. cord-cutting – also a problem for those of us (admittedly old) who do not want to have to subscribe to 10 different services and watch shows on small devices.

  20. Advill I have shopped at OSTK in Fla and noticed they did have some good deals. Reminded me a little of TJX. But they are expanding apparently worldwide and that could account for the cash burn. I noticed on many stocks that the options are nose bleed high. Maybe that is why trading is down. OSTK has a big short interest also with a six day plus recovery. Figuring how devious company's are was wondering if they are looking to burn the shorts? That Byrne is a nut job but I think a lot of them are -ANYWAY to get even. Remember Herbalife?

  21. MY laugh of the day ."There are three things intolerable in life-cold coffee, lukewarm champagne, and overexcited women.." Orson Welles.

  22. Phil / Chord Cutting.   I see it in my house.  My older son ( a Sr. In college home for a couple of weeks) has not watched TV once.  Also gives me a hard time when he sees me watching any recorded TV ( I only watch live business and sports programs) says I should be on HULU Netflix or others.   My younger son watches the same – never tv – Netflix Hulu.    Additionally Tim Cook on Apple's earnings call said chord cutting is happing faster than anyone thinks.  What's the play here for us on this trend?

  23. Trump: Sanctions reinstated against Iran for ‘WORLD PEACE’

  24. Indonesia bets big on biodiesel to limit costs of oil imports

  25. Trump’s political base is weaker than it seems, our new study finds

  26. Here are the most common ancestries in every US state

  27. census – that's my favorite – people in KY and TENN have now forgotten about the boats…

  28. Cord-cutting/Tangled – I just can't get into watching things on my phone, not even my giant IPad.  With the kids it's the opposite – TV is a thing they hold in their hands. 

    Trend/Batman – Well it makes me cautious about the networks and I don't like NFLX – hard to say who'll win this one.

    Wow, TSLA popped $12 on rumor that Saudi's Sov Wealth Fund has taken a $2Bn stake.  Even if true, it's just 3% of TSLA and 0.1% of the fund.

    By the way, that Trump tweet above (12:01) is not a parody by SNL or Colbert, showing how Trump could indict himself via twitter – he actually wrote that!   Cutting out unnecessary words we have …. my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower.. a meeting to get information on an opponent."  Whether Trump thinks it was legal or not or whether they got good information or not is not the point – this was an act of treason!  

    Not only that but he already admitted dictating the memo from Trump Jr about the meeting which denied it involved campaign issues so there's obstruction QED.  Treason is "the helping of a foreign adversary against one's own country" – they are going to have to argue in circles because PUTIN said he wanted Trump to win and PUTIN's agent offered to help Trump win and Trump's main staff (without Trump's knowledge, he says) held a meeting in a building with Trump's name on it while Trump was upstairs saying "I wonder where everyone went?"  This is starting to become a farce but maybe a bit too much tragedy in this case….

  29. OMG!  

    Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.


    That's a massive security violation and jail time if it's not true! 

  30. Phil – Why not sell the Jan 2020 $440 calls for $47 ?

  31. Let's take Elon at his word and sell 2 TSLA Jan $420 calls for $23 ($4,600) in the STP and buy 3 Jan $450 ($100)/420 ($79) bear put spreads for $21 ($6,300).  That's net $1,700 on the $9,000 spread. 

  32. TSLA – what am I missing?  Would it really take that much premium to buy out all the shares?  If such an offer really existed how could the board not take it as their fiduciary responsibility?

  33. Trump / Phil – He doesn't care, his message is getting through:

    All told, 43 percent of self-identified Republicans said that they believed “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Only 36 percent disagreed with that statement. When asked if Trump should close down specific outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, nearly a quarter of Republicans (23 percent) agreed and 49 percent disagreed.

    There has always been a lunatic fringe on both sides, but now we have one party that is it's own lunatic fringe. This is not the same country I immigrated to 34 years ago.

  34. I would thing that would force a vote, a 20% premium to the current price.   I assume he's working with the Saudis to pump up the stock as they are the most obvious people to make a "firm" offer to go private, which then enriches them on the shares they bought and Musk declines but it costs them nothing.

    Remember he sent out that Hitler video yesterday…

    Trump/StJ – Scary.

  35. What drama on TSLA – Seems to me he must have the money, he's not so dumb as to commit a crime but still should have halted the stock before making a statement like that.  Assuming it's true(ish), we should see $375 on this run, at least but then, if he says he's not doing it – the stock will sell off again.  Oddly, the short $500 calls we sold in the Fund aren't hurting us because $420 is far from $500…

    DIS very bullish into earnings – must have the numbers on my kid's spending! 

    There is that Solo misfire and a lot of money spent building Star Wars park (and they're building a massive gondola to connect several hotels too), so I don't think they pass $120 and maybe back to $110 on earnings.  

  36. Phil. can you look at the pricing again on the TSLA idea.  The stock is up $4 since you posted it and I would assume the $420 calls would have increased but they are only $19.  Thx

  37. Phil – I'm not sure if you caught Bill Mahre last Friday, speaking with a Duke University Professor who had some interesting comments….


    It's always been about the big picture and these guys have been busy….. :(

  38. HALTED!!!!

  39. Now it's halted!  "News Pending on TSLA" at $367.25.  

    Pricing/Options – It's all over the place.  The reason the calls aren't going up fast is because he put a short-term cap on them at $420.  

    Maher/1020 – Missed it this week with the traveling.  

    Well, TSLA is keeping the Nas up at the moment.  Musk is not letting up on the manipulation:

    Replying to 

    My hope is *all* current investors remain with Tesla even if we’re private. Would create special purpose fund enabling anyone to stay with Tesla. Already do this with Fidelity’s SpaceX investment.


    Shareholders could either to sell at 420 or hold shares & go private

  40. Marketwatch article says the $420 price indicates a 4/20 marijuana day joke.

  41. 420 Rubles???

  42. TSLA. – Trading halted

  43. It looks to me like the best possible solution for Musk with TSLA! An shareholders can't be complaining that they didn't get any value!

    Maybe time to sell 100 contracts of these 500 calls!

  44. I don't see how you can NOT take $420/share as a board Member.

  45. when are they supposed to start trading again??

  46. jabo/tesla- At $420 per share, Tesla would be valued at approximately $70 billion. Such a deal would represent the largest leveraged buyout (LBO) in history, eclipsing the $33 billion LBO deal for hospital operator HCA last year. Trading of Tesla shares was halted pending the release of material news. No trade resumption time is currently listed.

  47. thanks DaveH!

  48. What a great day for people who sell premium (like our fund does!):

  49. Well, TSLA has blocked out all other market news.   

  50. Tesla confirms they are considering a private offer.

  51. TSLA to resume at 3:45, I think $375, at least.

  52. maybe, the emperor actually has clothes???

  53. Be careful, Jabob!


  54. BOOM!

  55. Holy crap – hit $380.  Option spreads are insane at the moment – can't really play it, unfortunately.

    TSLA/Jabob – I said when they didn't lose $1Bn for the Q that I may have to change my mind on them.  


  56. Tsla/Phil- I didnt get filled on the earlier STP trade, I cancelled when tsla halted.. you still think it's a play?

  57. Jim Chanos and other short sellers will be in for a world of hurt if they go private.

  58. I sold all my TSLA puts, and sold more 2020 $450 calls for $40 right before it halted.  The puts had lost 50% already.  Who the hell would buy them for $71B?!  GM is worth $51B, and made $8B in profit (not revenue) last year, TSLA just lost $750M.  Just insane.  I just sold a few more 2020 $500 calls for $18.  

  59. Maybe he sold out to T Cook. 

  60. Well at least F is up 4 cents.

  61. BOOM!!!!

  62. TSLA/STP, Dave – I think the set-up is good since it's not likely they'll get a better offer and we get paid at $420 and, if they wrap the deal up early, we get paid early.  The stock is all over the place and so are the options.  Even if you get the fills, it's going to be a very volatile position to hold. 

    Chanos/Albo – Einhorn too, those guys lost about $1Bn each today.

    TSLA/Palotay – They claim to have a buyer lined up and I don't see how they could not take the offer at that price.  

    Cook/That – Oddly enough, even at $75Bn, AAPL could buy it with 1/3 of their cash. 

    F/Yodi – Ha, value wins!  crying

    Well, that was crazy – I'm off to the pool.  Will check back before dinner in case something crazier happens.  

  63. Phil// How can we capitalize on the low VIX?  Thanks.

  64. TSLA call selling/Phil – seems like selling $500 TSLA calls at that time you sold the $420 calls would (assuming filled) be as close to a sure thing as ever was.  Either the deal closes and you can close the shorts for full value or the deal does not happen and stock falls and close early for some profit.  But underwriters are not usually very wrong on option pricing.  Was this just a lucky window of time during the turmoil or am I missing something?

  65. Pool closed due to lightning!  angry

    Low Vix/Rookie – When the VIX is low we look to buy premium to sell against later so look for positions you wish to improve your longs on and see if they are a good price.  

    As to playing the VIX – it COULD go lower but pays better up than down, most likely so maybe something like VXX Oct $23 ($6)/30 ($3) bull call spreads for $3 as you're $5.66 in the money with a potential 133% upside at $30+

    TSLA/Tangled – We have sold $500-somethings in the Hedge Fund but I wanted a shorter-term, rollable sale in the STP so it's not likely it will rise fast enough to hurt us – even if they do drift up to $420.  Ridiculous as it seems, they could, possibly, get a competing offer to drive them higher but I"m not even sure this one is real enough to go to completion.  Don't forget – he may have an "offer" but the people who are offering are not likely to have seen his books yet!  

    We used to say more often – "ALWAYS sell into the initial excitement" which means we take opportunities like this to sell premiums to suckers who hear that a company is being bought for $420 and then go pay double for a $500 call.  Those people NEED to lose their money – so don't feel badly taking it! 

    In the case of the play above, I sold 2 TSLA Jan $420s for $23 as they peaked out ($25.50 was the high) because that's well over what Musk says the offer is for and I don't believe it will happen anyway.  Then I know the $450 puts don't have a lot of premium and people are panicking out of them so we buy those for $100 (now $79) and we sell the $420 puts for $79 (now $60) as that's $21 on the $30 spread less about $15 on the 2/3 short calls is net $6ish on the $30 spreads and it's ALL premium on the $24 we hope to collect on anything below $420.

    That's how you take advantage of a stock when big news hits it.  The key is to step back and come up with a rational number you're willing to take a stand at. 

  66. TSLA – well I had a chance and missed it.   In this case where the stock is taken private are all the option positions closed at the final price such that if you sold the $500 calls you would get all the premium?  If one public company buys another do options also close or do you end up with some adjusted options of the buyer?

  67. TSLA – from WSJ 

    Even if no deal for Tesla materializes, the stock bounce following Mr. Musk’s tweet could help the company preserve needed cash. Tesla has more than $1.1 billion in convertible bonds that will come due over the next seven months absent a sustained rise in its share price.

    That starts with $230 million of convertible bonds set to mature in November if its stock doesn’t reach a conversion price of $560.64, followed by $920 million that mature in March, if shares remain below the trigger price of $359.87.

    The March notes would be convertible into Tesla stock instead of redeemable for cash—a scarce resource for the company. 

  68. Thanks for sharing batman.  What a circus!  I'm feeling a little foolish for panicking out of my long puts.  M

  69. Phil / TSLA

    I bought a few hundred shares at 376, and am looking to cover   I'm thinking of covering w/ a Oct 380 Calls at a 28 and them maybe see how that plays out….  The stock will fluctuate a lot once the funding is better understood.   Given that Musk just traveled to china and announce a factory project there, I would not doubt if they will have a roll I the financing, of possibly HSBC taking a slice.  

  70. Elon Musk Considers Taking Tesla Private, Jolting Markets

  71. Phil/TSLA – If the deal doesn't go through, would we see a very large sell off?  All the previous information you shared (poor manufacturing numbers, F/GM market caps, cash burn rate).  And, now reading his letter to employees (thanks for sharing  DaveH), it sounds as if… he has run out of rope to justify the current valuation and now tries to avoid a major correction in their market valuation.  

    I don't see how this company survives.  Branding alone… you have Ford, Toyota, Nizzan cars everywhere here in Asia and even when living in Central Florida, I only saw a handful of Telsa cars on the road.  When electric cars become the norm, the big boys will drive down the cost enough for everyone to own one and for sporty models, I think people go for BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, etc…   Are they really more of a tech company as they claim?

  72. 5 Takeaways From Tuesday’s Election Results

  73. World shares mixed on news of US tariffs for Chinese exports

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  75. Good morning!

    My thinking on TSLA is that it's a scam, I can't get my head around someone paying $75Bn for TSLA AND paying off their debts and taking the go-forward losses when they could just buy F for $40Bn ($50Bn at + 25%) who make $7Bn a year now.

    Apparently, he conned (or colluded – good luck proving that!) someone into making an offer but that person probably hasn't even begun due diligence, so who knows what BS Musk told them to get the offer (or, more simply, they are in on it).  That buys Musk time to scramble for a real offer or to get some financing while he loses another Trillion and misses more goals in Q3 because notice how no one is talking about that now?

    I think, on the whole, the now-cheaper TSLA puts may be getting interesting.

    TSLA/Batman – You should thank God (or Musk) they got back there and GET OUT!!!  I would at least sell the 2020 $300 calls for $110, which is $410 so close to what Musk is promising and at least your basis drops to $266 but I'd still be worried about the downside.

    TSLA/Grass – If the deal doesn't go through, right back to $300 but maybe worse if there's no back-up plan. TSLA's whole thing is a scam – they don't make $35,000 Model 3s – they make $60,000 Model 3s and they are using up all the Federal Tax Credits so the people who put down deposits on cars that were supposed to cost $35,000 with a $7,000 credit are totally screwed (and still waiting 3 years for a car).  The whole company is based on empty promises and I think $420 is just another one.  

    Aside from the cars noted in your articles  (and that Jag is nice at $69,500), check out the Chevy Bolt at $36,620 (really!) and, of course, the BMW I8 at $147,500, which is incredible looking to the point where I don't really care how it drives…  

    Image result for 2019 BMW i8

    Otherwise, we're flatlining into the open but the Trade Wars are heating up still.