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Still-Merry Monday – Markets and Covid Cases Remain at All-Time Highs

My daughter got Covid for Christmas.

So did 1.5M other people in the past week, ruining a lot of Christmas' and how many people went to family gatherings not knowing they had it (it's almost impossible to find test kits in NY/NJ).  So a Covid test kit is a great new holiday gift and we should invest in test kit companies because one person gets it and a dozen people she was in contact with end up getting tests – at $20 each – that's Capitalism in action!  

Jackie goes to school in Hoboken at Stevens, where she has an apartment with 4 other girls and where they plan on holding in-person classes next semester (3 weeks from now) and she came home and visited her friends and got sick the next day (Christmas Eve) and took a home test, which showed positive.  There was nowhere to get a confirming test so hopefully today or tomorrow but it was impossible to book an appointment and the last place we want her to go is a hospital or clinic, packed with people who have various strains of covid.  

Friends in New Jersey tell us not one pharmacy or walk-in clinic in a 100-mile radius has appointments available in the next week.  The question that haunts us now is that, almost two years into this crisis and an $11 Trillion U.S. Fiscal and Monetary spending deluge, we still don’t have an adequate testing infrastructure? It blows us away –  we are still dealing with endless waiting lines, no availability of testing appointments, shortages of at-home tests and overwhelmed testing labs scrambling to process vials.  Where did all that money go? 

So we're going to get her to a drive-through center for a proper test but, if it's positive, then she has to isolate for 10 days (of course she is already self-quarantining and Christmas was ruined).  Still, thank God it seems no worse than the flu at the moment – not that that's a picnic.  She says she has the worst headache she's ever had but breathing is OK.  

Around the country, we had another 9/11-type day on Thursday, with 3,354 deaths and we're averaging 1,409 deaths per day – up from 300 over the summer and before Omicron, which is, as I'm sure you've heard – "milder"  We have a different sort of problem now as so many people are sick at the same time it's affecting the workforce – including health care professionals.  

If we already have a shortage of Doctors and Nurses, it certainly doesn't help of 1-2% of them have Covid, does it?  Understaffed airlines had to cancel over 2,800 flights this weekend, including 1,200 yesterday alone.  Ironically, this then causes hundreds of passengers per flight to spend hours in crowded airport termiinals with nothing to do but breath on each other….  At the moment, the US solution has been to change the guidlines so health care workers can go back to work after 5 days instead of 10 days – that does not sound like a great idea.

American Airlines cancels more than 1,400 weekend flights, citing weather  and staffing issuesNone of this seems to be bothering the stock market, even though it's clearly going to affect productivity, etc. for Q1.  Holiday sales were up 8.5% over last year as consumers spent more money on clothes, jewelry and electronics, according to a report from Mastercard SpendingPulse.  Sales surged 47% for apparel, 32% for jewelry and 16% for electronics compared with 2020, with all three categories up at least 20% from their pre-pandemic levels in 2019 as well.  Department stores saw a 21% jump from last year and gained 11% from two years ago.  Online shopping surged 11%, according to the report, which tracks retail sales across all payment types. E-commerce now accounts for roughly 21% of all holiday sales. 

Of course, those of us who are actually shopping know that the 8.5% increase is not because we're buying more stuff but because the stuff we are buying is more expensive.  There was a lot of sticker shop at those retail stores and a lot less sales than usual.  People may be making a little more money in a tight labor market but it's not making it to the bank with so many rising expenses along the way.  

We'll start to see Q4 earnings in a couple of weeks and we're finally done with Q3 reporting so it's all about the data this week – and there's not much of that either so it's going to be another low-volume week with most people taking Friday off – although the markets are technically open in the US.  The Fed is off from speaking and there's very little data – as I said last week, this is a good time to take a break:

Just keep that in mind…

Since August – we have had THREE sub-80 readings from the University of Michigan Consumer Economic Confidence Data.  Looking back over the last 30 years – it is HIGHLY unusual for the Fed to hike rates with consumers in this kind of pain. Inflation´s taxing powers over the consumer have already hiked rates 100bps for the Fed in our view – colossal demand destruction has taken place. These stagflationary conditions erode people’s real disposable income, making them worse off. Ultimately, most of the $11 Trillion ended up benefiting the top wealthiest Americans, by inflating the prices of assets such as bonds and stocks and lowering interest rates for borrowers with the highest credit rating. For the average citizen, this has been a very raw deal.


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  1. Geez, Phil, you all take care. Atlantic's covid reporters, as usual, nail it:

    They make the same point you just made, i.e., so what if it's "mild", we're getting a flood of sick people covering the spectrum of severity.

  2. Hope Jackie feels better soon. Doesn't take much to topple hospitals since we took out capacity and alienated workers to squeeze the last penny out of both. Not likely any lessons will be learned, but there will be fewer people to collect entitlements so we can have another tax cut for billionaires.

  3. Good Morning.

  4. Covid really bites when it's your kid :(


    Hang in there, Phil. I hope Jackie gets well soon!

  5. London’s Covid hospitalisation rate soared 62% in a week

  6. France sees over 100,000 daily virus infections for 1st time

  7. Good morning!

    Mild/Snow – As I was bitching about last week (and last year), we're putting business interests ahead of health interests and, unfortunately, the population is far too easily swayed by wishful thinking rather than actual science.  

    Hospitals/Seer – That above quote does make you realize we spent $11Tn on various forms of Covid relief and we STILL have essentially zero response-capability.  There's no profit in being prepared – so we don't.

    Thanks 1020.  It was statistically bound to happen.  My niece is a guidance counselor and her whole family (4) got it twice already.  Fortunately, no noticable long-term issues – that's what we pray for.  

    Speaking of praying – I guess that's why God does go with the occasional plages and disasters – all of a sudden, everyone is praying…

    covid-19 – sticky comics

  8. Oh, and speaking of the shot – no, Jackie did not get her 3rd shot because Hoboken was booked up into finals and she figured she'd get it this week when things calmed down.  Oops….

  9. I'm hearing the boosters may only be good for about 4 months – Still a good time go go long MRNA

    PFE hasn't come down:

    HOLX is probably a good buy still as their forward assumption was a 50% drop in sales in 2022 as Covid testing went away and $76.50 is 20x those lower ($1Bn) projected sales but I think the covid testing will have more legs than the company thinks – so it's worth taking a good look at:

    ABT is big in testing, of course and QGEN.  DGX, QDEL and LH are also worth a look.  

  10. Phil-Sorry about Jackie. Our granddaughter and roommates all got it and they were able to throw if off with no long term problems. My son is struggling with  longhaul symptoms after a year, but twice the age of Jackie. You and Snow are right and the Atlantic article was right on. Those who do not learn from past mistakes ie our government and unvaccinated people are doomed to repeat them. It's a repeat of what i said from the onset two years ago, there is NO financial benefit in getting a universal vaccine to whip this thing and save millions of lives. Says it all-money is everything.

  11. Glutathione prevents COVID and many coronaviruses from replicating. Couple of small studies on NCBI using intravenuous and oral administration (acetyl glutathione and precursor NAC orally) successfully. The latter are OTC. Clinical trials in process.

  12. Thanks, Seer – I know nothing about these meds, but here's the thing. Any treatment, no matter how effective, assumes the patient is diagnosed, has access to care, can afford it, and can take the time off from work to get treated and recover. This does absolutely nothing to stop an epidemic.

  13. Because by the time all that has occurred – symptoms leading to visiting a clinic, getting diagnosed, etc etc – that person has spread the bug to who knows how many other people. If the R has been calculated right (and it hasn't been yet for omicron) that'll mean at least 6 – 8 other people infected, who in turn will spread it on down the line – and maybe all those people will get treated – but so what.

  14. Snow – Thought it might be helpful for Jackie. Studies emerging on NCBI indicate that it may be helpful as a prophylaxis too. The epidemic is already here so now we have to do whatever we can in addition to the vaccine. 

  15. Sure, I was a little hasty, Seer. It's just that I see people saying "if only we had a pill", without thinking how that works.

  16. And up and up we go.


    Oil going crazy:


    I'm not seeing any particular reason for this.

    Thanks Seer.  So far, tea and honey are what we're using. 

    Infections/Snow – I've seen some nasty projections for Omicron – like 50% of the population.  It better be mild.

    • U.S. movie theaters saw what best be described as a mixed Christmas weekend at the box office as the latest Spider-Man film continued to set milestones, but other notable releases sputtered with moviegoers.
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home showed no signs of giving up its top spot among movies currently in theaters, as it added $81.5 million in receipts over the holiday, to send its U.S. ticket total to $467.3 million, according to Box Office Mojo. With the Christmas numbers added to its overall tally, No Way Home reached $1.05 billion in worldwide ticket sales and became the first movie to surpass $1 billion at the box office since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. No Way Home is a co-production of Sony (NYSE:SONY) and Disney (NYSE:DIS).
    • Sing 2 also proved to be a hit, taking second place with $23 million in ticket sales over the weekend, to give it $41 million in since its release on December 22. Coming in third place was The Matrix Resurrections, the fourth film in the Matrix series. However, Resurrections has proved to be a disappointment among moviegoers as it only took in $12 million over the weekend, and $22.5 million since its release last Wednesday.
    • Fourth place went to The King's Man, with $6.35 million over the weekend. The movie has been largely panned by critics, and has taken in only $10 million since its release last week. American Underdog, the biopic about NFL Hall of Famer, put it a respectable fifth-place appearance with $6.2 million in ticket sales in its first weekend of release.
    • Rounding out the top ten box office performers for the Christmas weekend were Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, with $2.8 million, the new Paul Thomas Anderson film, Licorice Pizza, which brought in $2.33 million, A Journal For Jordan, directed by Denzel Washington, which took in $2.2 million in its debut weekend, Disney's Encanto, with another $2 million in ticket sales, to give it a box office take of $88.3 million ahead of it debuting on the Disney+ streaming service on Friday, and '83, about the Indian cricket team in the 1983 Cricket World Cup, which debuted with a take of $1.76 million in ticket sales.
    • As U.S. theaters and studios looked to end the year on an upbeat note, a new survey by Fandango found that Marvel Studios' (DISBlack Panther: Wakanda Forever is the most-anticipated movie on the horizon for 2022.
    DIS -1.82%Dec. 27, 2021 12:30 PM ET3 Comments

    • Marvel's (NYSE:DIS) "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" has topped the most anticipated movie of 2022, according to a newly published survey from Fandango.
    • Fandango, the online ticket retailer, surveyed more than 6,000 ticket buyers in December and found that the sequel to the 2018 "Black Panther," which grossed more than $1.3 billion at the box office, was ahead of other highly anticipated movies, such as Marvel/Sony's (NYSE:SONY) animated "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse – Part One -," Warner Bros. (NYSE:T) "The Batman" and Marvel's (DIS) "Thor: Love and Thunder."
    • Coming in fifth place was Universal's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) "Jurassic World: Dominion," the sixth movie in the "Jurassic Park" franchise. It is also the third movie in the "Jurassic World" trilogy, with the two prior films grossing more than $3 billion at the box office.
    • "Audiences are looking for unforgettable experiences at the theater and 2022 promises to deliver a bounty of exciting new movies that you must see on the big screen," said Fandango Managing Editor Erik Davis in a statement.
    • "From some of the biggest returning characters like Spider-Man, Batman, Catwoman, Doctor Strange and John Wick, to memorable franchises like Black Panther, Top Gun, Mission: Impossible and Jurassic World, the new year is packed with thrills, chills and adventure around every corner."
    • Rounding out the top 10 movies are Disney (DIS)/Marvel's "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," 20th Century Studios (DIS) "Avatar 2," Warner Bros. (T) "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," followed by Paramount's (NASDAQ:VIAC) "Top Gun: Maverick" and Paramount's (VIAC) "Mission: Impossible 7."
    • In addition to finding out the most anticipated movies, the Fandango survey gleaned some insights into the behavior of the movie-going public. Ninety-four percent want to go to a theater more often in 2022 than they did this year, while 89% were "gratified" to see new movie releases on a big screen this year.
    • Other insights include:
    • -88% said they were excited by the 2022 line-up of theatrical releases.
    • -86% picked Action/Adventure as one of their favorite genres.
    • -80% said they hoped to see five or more movies on the big screen in 2022.
    • -70% said they planned to see movies in premium large-screen formats whenever possible.
    • Last week, Bank of America reiterated its overweight rating and $191 price target on Disney (DIS), ?implying almost 30% upside in shares, as the company is likely to benefit from strong additions to Disney+ this quarter, such as "The Beatles: Get Back," "Hawkeye" and "Boba Fett," and a recovery in its parks business.

    JNJ +0.74%Dec. 27, 2021 12:47 PM ET12 Comments

    • The number of new daily COVID-19 cases across the country is now the highest it has been since January.
    • Cases began accelerating in October 2020 thanks to the introduction of the Delta variant, with that variant peaking in January 2021, according to CDC data.
    • The latest data shows that on Dec. 22, there were 243,817 new cases with a seven-day moving average of 176,097. When Delta peaked, those figures were, respectively, 294,015 and 250,438.
    • Given the spread of the Omicron variant and the boost in testing, these recent figures are likely to increase in the coming days.
    • So far, however, hospital bed utilization is still not at the levels seen when the Delta variant was at its worst. According to CDC data, as of today, 71.3% of in-patient hospital beds are in use and 74.7% of ICU beds are. Among ICU beds, 21.6% are occupied by COVID patients.
    • In a call with state governors today, President Biden said he is looking at ways to expand testing even more than he previously stated. Last week, Biden talked about efforts to ramp up vaccinations and distribute 500M at-home COVID tests beginning next month.
    • Among the vaccine names, Pfizer (PFE +0.8%), BioNTech (BNTX +0.9%), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ +0.7%), and AstraZeneca (AZN +0.5%) are all modestly higher, while Moderna (MRNA -0.7%) is modestly lower. Novavax (NVAX -11.3%), however, has been hit hard.
    • Some diagnostics test makers — in particular, Cue Health (HLTH +17.1%) and Lucira Health (LHDX +5.3%) -- are performing well today.
    • Dear readers: We recognize that politics often intersects with the financial news of the day, so we invite you to click here to join the separate political discussion.

    Notice how Seeking Alpha worries that it's "too political" to discuss the FACTS of Covid.  WTF has happened to our World?  

    And this is based on people who don't understand the difference between a vaccine and a treatment:

    MRNA -0.67%Dec. 27, 2021 12:44 PM ET4 Comments

    • The vaccine makers, Moderna (MRNA -0.7%) and Novavax (NVAX -11.4%) have dropped further, continuing their recent losing streak that coincided with the FDA clearances won by Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Merck (NYSE:MRK) for their COVID-19 pills last week.
    • Another intraday decline for Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) would indicate its fifth consecutive loss, the longest since October 2019. The Financial Times reported on Sunday that the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech was battling a shareholder proposal over the pricing for its blockbuster COVID-19 vaccine and the company’s reluctance to share its technology.
    • London-based asset manager, Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), has argued that Moderna’s (MRNA) investors deserve to know how the U.S. funding for the company’s vaccine research impacts “access to such products, such as setting prices.” Even with $2.5B funding from the U.S. government, the company has delivered vaccines mostly to rich countries and has not shared its technology with manufacturers in low- or middle-income nations, LGIM added.
    • Meanwhile, the rival vaccine maker, Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX), has lost more than a tenth, its sharpest since early this month, to record its fifth consecutive intra-day loss. A lower close could mark the longest losing streak for the Maryland-based biotech since early May when its shares came under pressure on a delay for the regulatory submissions for its COVID-19 vaccine, NVX-CoV2373.
    • As shown in the graph, Moderna (MRNA) shares have more than doubled for the year so far, while Novavax (NVAX) has underperformed with only ~59.0% YTD gain despite recent regulatory clearances for its COVID-19 shot.

    And Jackie just got confirmed via WAG test that she does indeed have Covid.  

  17. Speaking of Pirate's conspiracy theory:

    XLV +0.71%Dec. 27, 2021 11:22 AM ET3 Comments

    • Healthcare sector exchange traded funds top all-time highs on Monday heading into 2022 as the market segment has been the best performing sector in the S&P 500 over the past month, returning investors +8.2% during that period.
    • The Health Care Select Sector SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLV), and iShares Global Healthcare ETF (NYSEARCA:IXJ), have topped record trading highs today while the Vanguard Health Care ETF (NYSEARCA:VHT) is scratching those levels, just a few cents shy. Below is a YTD chart of all three funds:

    • Fueling each ETF’s topside moves is the aid from Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), which is each fund’s third-largest holding. PFE is +59.4% YTD and +14.9% over a one-month period. XLV has a weighting in PFE of 6.11%, VHT at 5.09%, and IXJ at 4.28%.
    • Moreover, all three ETFs have been supported by recent capital inflows. Since Nov. 1, XLV has experienced a surge of $2.15B in new investor money, VHT took in $381.2M, and IXJ attracted $52.5M. Data is per
    • From a performance vantagepoint XLV is +22.8% YTD, VHT is +18.3% YTD, and IXJ is +16.8% YTD.
    • While all three funds are similar in that they provide exposure to the broad-spectrum healthcare industry, they also have some key differences.
    • Expense ratio wise VHT is the cheapest at 0.10%, XLV is right next to it at 0.12%, and XLJ is more towards the higher end at 0.43%.
    • Additionally, from a holdings standpoint, VHT provides the wideset diversity spread with 457 holdings, IXJ has 131 holdings, whereas XLV provides the most concentration with 66 holdings.
    • Assets under management goes to XLV as the fund has $35.61B under its belt. Coming in second is VHT with $17.05B and XLJ in third with $3.6B.

    ABT +1.20%Dec. 27, 2021 11:21 AM ET10 Comments

    • The extremely high demand for at-home COVID-19 tests in the face of the rising number of cases is causing a spike in the share price of some test makers.
    • Cue Health (HLTH +12.3%), Lucira Health (LHDX +13.6%), and Fulgent Genetics (FLGT +4.8%) are the three with the biggest gains today.
    • Quidel (QDEL -1.8%), one of the largest makers of at-home tests, is an outlier in the group.
    • Abbott Laboratories (ABT +0.2%), Becton, Dickinson (BDX +0.3%), OraSure (OSUR +0.2%), Danaher (DHR +1.1%), and PerkinElmer (PKI +1.5%) are all up, albeit modestly.
    • Cue Health, which had its IPO in September, hit a three-month high today.

    NG1:COM +7.21%Dec. 27, 2021 11:19 AM ET17 Comments

    • Europe's acute energy price pain appears to have passed for the moment, as rising temperatures and 20+ cargoes of liquified natural gas head to the Continent.
    • Prices for January natural gas futures at the Dutch TTF hub have fallen from a recent high of ~$60/mmbtu to ~$42/mmbtu; comparable to year ago prices of ~$5/mmbtu and US natural gas prices at ~$4/mmbtu (NG1:COM).
    • Driving the decline, winter temperatures look to reach into the 50s F / 20s C across major population centers later this week.
    • At the same time as weather warms, a significant supply response is sailing across the Atlantic, with 20+ gas cargoes en route to Europe from Gulf Coast and Caribbean liquefaction plants owned by BP (NYSE:BP), Shell (NYSE:RDS.A), Exxon (NYSE:XOM), Cheniere (NYSE:LNG) and others, according to Bloomberg.
    • Nevertheless, Russia's Yamal pipeline remains shut to European gas importers, while European natural gas inventories remain at the lowest seasonal level seen since 2012.
    • While commodity traders speculate about weather and gas import availability in coming weeks and months, investors looking for exposure to a structural change in European energy markets are dissecting small cap names with disproportionate exposure to European natural gas prices, like Vermillion (NYSE:VET) and North European Oil Royalty Trust (NYSE:NRT).

    • High-profile analyst Thomas Lee predicted that the recent rise in stock prices, which has taken the S&P 500 to within striking distance of his aggressive year-end target, still has room to run as Wall Street heads into 2022, with the S&P 500 potentially hitting 5,000 in early January.
    • However, the Fundstrat Global Advisors research chief told CNBC that 2022 represents a "treacherous" year, given the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will start to raise rates.
    • "If we are at 5,000 in January, we could be down by June from there," he said.
    • Looking longer-term, however, Lee still sees the U.S. stock market as a good investment. He acknowledged that P/E growth in the S&P 500 would likely slow in the coming years, but an acceleration in earnings growth, in part fueled by inflation, could drive stocks further.
    • "I think it's possible that we could compound the S&P at 20% in the next 10 years," he said.
    • Lee began calling for a 4,800 year-end target for the S&P 500 back in October. At the time, this represented a rally of more than 7%. In Monday's midday trading, the S&P 500 topped 4,776, leaving it less than a percent shy of Lee's prediction.
    • A rally from current levels to 5,000 would represent an advance of about 4.7%.
    • In explaining why he sees further upside in early January, Lee argued that a "panic" in response to the emergence of Omicron sent stocks tumbling late last month, causing traders to position themselves "as if the market was crashing."
    • Meanwhile, Lee's model shows cases of the new COVID strain reaching a peak in early January, suggesting that stocks have already reached a near-term bottom.
    • "I think the rally we're seeing has a lot of fuel," he said of the current market upswing. "I don't think the rally in the past five days has put much cash to work."
    • Looking for more from Tom Lee? See what he thinks of the Fed's recent policy shift.

    TSLA +4.22%Dec. 27, 2021 1:16 PM ET1 Comment

    • The electric vehicle sector is seeing mixed results despite strong showings by Tesla (TSLA +4.2%) and Rivian (RIVN +6.4%).
    • Last week, the Department of Energy reported that 13 new U.S. electric vehicle battery plants are announced and expected to be operational by 2025 in addition to Tesla's Austin gigafactory. The opening of battery plants by traditional automakers Ford (F +2.8%), General Motors (GM +0.9%), Stellantis (STLA +1.8%), Toyota (TM +1.2%), and Volkswagen (OTCPK:VWAGY -0.4%) highlights the shift from ICE vehicles to EVs.
    • Other notable gainers include Hyzon Motors (HYZN +5.7%) and Lucid Group (LCID +2.0%). Meanwhile, Nio (NIO -1.4%), Nikola (NKLA -0.7%), Xpeng (XPEV -0.6%), Li Auto (LI -2.4%), and Workhorse (WKHS -4.3%) are in the red.
    • Tesla is on the way to its largest four-day gain since March but is still down 3.7% in December. If the loss holds, it will be Tesla's worst month since falling nearly 12% in May 2021. The automaker recently informed the NHTSA that it would disable its "Passenger Play" feature, which allows games to be played on the central touchscreen, while its cars are in motion.
    • Goldman notes that Tesla is the stock with the tenth largest disparity in analyst price targets. See which stock leads the list here.

  18. Best wishes for Jackie, Phil.

    Did they say if it was omicron?

    You said she came home .. was that to your place or her place (we worry about you ;)

  19. Apparently they don't distinguish in the rapid tests.  

    And no, she came home up in NJ, she's supposed to come here next week.  

  20. Morning. My son has it too and he's boosted. 3rd day feeling really crappy but thankfully no hospital. So many of his fully vax'd friends are getting it. Very contagious but hopefully less severe and maybe the next step to it becoming endemic

  21. The Biggest Career Crashes Of 2021

  22. Europeans Ponder Living With, Not Defeating, Covid

  23. Watched "Don't look up" on Netflix last night. Definitely worth watching in my opinion. Really sums up where we are as a country now which is not good. 

  24. Sorry to hear that Jeddah, best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.   Don't look up sounds interesting.  

    Oil topping out at $76 but still a bit scary to short as it's been way higher.

    Still it seems to be up only because of the XOM refinery issue and that's a stupid reason to be up so I'm hoping for a chance to short it.

  25. Finishing at the highs, great way to start the week – silly though it may be.

    Date Open High Low Close* Adj Close** Volume
    Dec 27, 2021 472.06 477.11 472.02 477.01 477.01 42,804,017
    Dec 23, 2021 468.75 472.19 468.64 470.60 470.60 56,384,300
    Dec 22, 2021 462.79 467.81 462.58 467.69 467.69 58,890,200
    Dec 21, 2021 458.61 463.21 456.31 463.06 463.06 69,806,300
    Dec 20, 2021 454.48 455.40 451.14 454.98 454.98 107,134,800
    Dec 17, 2021 461.55 464.74 458.06 459.87 459.87 135,511,600