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OptionSIZZLE is created to help you better understand and become more familiar with options and what the professional traders are doing everyday in the market and provide effective options trading strategies to allow you to trade better and trade smarter. We have found over the years some of the... More
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  • The Ugly Truth About Buying Options

    (click to enlarge)Now, if you've read Why You Should Avoid Trading Options All Together, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of selling option premium (responsibly). In fact, I'm constantly surveying the market for unusual options activity… looking for the best trading candidates (using my SIZZLE Method).

    Often times, premiums get jacked up after these monster-sized institutional orders hit the tape… that's when I'll look to be a seller of high premium (or possibly construct a spread, to slow down the role of time decay and reduce the effect of implied volatility).

    I just feel that risk vs. reward it makes the most sense.

    However, that doesn't mean you should never buy options, in fact, being a premium buyer has its own unique benefits. Namely, the opportunity to have greater returns if something extraordinary happens to the stock price of a company.

    Of course, it can be very tricky, that is, selecting the right option strike price and expiration period. Hence, most option buyers end up failing falling flat on their face… and end up losing money on their trades.

    Are you losing money because you're buying too much time or not enough?

    Are you seeing the stock price move in the direction you predicted, but still end up losing on the trade?

    Look, there is a learning curve involved with trading options, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, it's OK. No one was born with the knowledge to trade options; they all learned from studying and trading the markets.

    For many, that means learning from mistakes (AKA paying your tuition to the market… in the form of trading losses).

    Besides, I wouldn't be honest if I told you that I haven't paid my fair share of tuition in the past. However, I'd like to think I've graduated…and I'm ready to share with you a couple of things I've learned about buying options outright.

    1. When you buy options, you are not just trading direction. Many new investors think that if they buy a call and the stock price goes up, they'll make money…or if they buy a put, and the stock price drops, they'll make money. WRONG!

    2. There are several components that go into pricing an option. Most importantly, the price movements of the stock, the option strike price selected, the time to expiration and the implied volatility. The option pricing model is simply a probability model.

    3. An option is composed of intrinsic value and extrinsic value.


    FACEBOOK on April 1, 2014 closed at 62.62

    article image

    The mid-price for the 4/ 4/14 (expiration) 61 call is $2.01

    Intrinsic value is what the option would be worth if today was hypothetically expiration.

    In this case, the intrinsic value is $1.62.

    The extrinsic value is the time value and volatility component.

    In this case, it's $2.01 minus $1.62 or $0.39.

    The mid-price for the 4/4/14 (expiration) $62.5 call is $1.04

    article image 2

    The intrinsic value $0.12 and the extrinsic value is $0.92. As you can see, time value and volatility consist of most of the value in this option.

    Remember, at expiration, all options are left with their intrinsic value.

    It's just another way of saying that they will either expire in the money or expire worthless.

    In this case, if the stock settled at $62.62, these options would lose 88% of their current value. With only three days to expiration, you can see how quickly the time value and volatility get sucked out of these options.

    4. Only in-the-money options have intrinsic value. With that said, at-the-money and out-of-the-money options have extrinsic value only. The deeper in-the-money an option is, the more the option price will move along with the underlying stock.

    An at-the-money option will move with the stock, however, it has to overcome the time value (that is accelerating)…the option may gain value if option volatility rises…or the option may lose value if option volatility drops.

    5. Near term option trading is referred to as "trading gamma" and farther out (in time) option trading is referred to as "trading vega". What does that mean? It means if you select near term options to buy, you are making more of a bet on the directional move of the stock.

    If you select farther out options, you are not only making a bet on the direction of the stock, but you are also betting that the option volatility rises. (The option Greek Vega measures the sensitivity to volatility).

    Now, there is nothing wrong with trading longer term options that only have extrinsic value, however, most directional traders aren't really sophisticated enough to have an opinion on whether or not option volatility is cheap or expensive.

    In fact, this is where a lot of the mistakes occur. If you are buying at-the-money or out-of-the-money options, you need the directional move to overcome the time decay… and you need option volatility to rise.

    Whenever you buy an option outright, you're always long vega (or option volatility).

    A perfect example would be after an earnings announcement…in almost all cases, option volatility gets crushed, sometimes so much…that it overcomes the gain made from the stock moving in your direction, which ends up causing the option to be a loser.

    6. Time value always accelerates as we approach expiration. Further, option volatility is a wild card. In fact, it can be driven by a number of different factors.

    For example:

    Uncertainty- Often time's option volatility will be elevated in biopharmaceutical companies if they have a pending drug approval announcement. The market doesn't know if the news will be positive or negative…however, they feel that it will cause the stock price to have a monster-sized move.

    A recent case is Mannkind (MNKD). On April 1, 2014, the stock was trading at around $4 per share. The $4 calls and puts (straddle), expiring on 4/4/14 were pricing a +/- $2.40 move.

    After the close, their diabetes drug got FDA approval and the stock price gained over 100% in the after-hours.

    The following trading day, option volatility got crushed because the uncertainty disappeared.

    Supply & Demand- This usually occurs from unusual options activity. For example, on April 1, 2014, Gastar Exploration Inc (GST) saw 7.5x usual options volume.

    This demand for options caused the implied volatility in the options to have a huge spike.

    In fact, the implied volatility had a change of over 21.2%.

    On the flip side, if large option sellers come into the market, the value of the option premium decreases and implied volatility declines.

    7. The higher the implied volatility is, the more expensive an option is. The lower the implied volatility is, the cheaper an option is.

    8. Delta is the Option Greek that tells us how much we expect the option to move in relation to the stock price movement. For example, if we are long a 50 delta call option, and the stock moves up $1, we can expect to make $0.50 on our option. Keep in mind, we will lose some money from the time decay.

    Also, we will make money if implied volatility rises or we will lose money if implied volatility declines.

    Ultimately, if you are going to be using options to make directional bets, you want to be trading deltas. Ideally, you'd like the time value and volatility component to be reduced as much as possible.

    To get a better understanding, check out these options in FACEBOOK (FB).

    FACEBOOK: stock price on April 1, 2014, $62.62

    Expiration in 3 days

    75 Delta Options

    Intrinsic Value: $1.62 Extrinsic Value: $0.39

    article image 3

    53 Delta Options

    Intrinsic Value: $0.12 Extrinsic Value: $0.92

    article image 4

    23 Delta Options

    Intrinsic Value: $0 Extrinsic Value: $0.31

    article image 5

    Expiration in 31 days

    72 Delta Options

    Intrinsic Value: $5.12 Extrinsic Value: $1.98

    article image 6

    50 Delta Options

    Intrinsic Value: $0 Extrinsic Value: $3.93

    article image 7

    25 Delta Options

    Intrinsic Value: $0 Extrinsic Value: $1.41

    article image 8

    Expiration in 81 days

    75 Delta Options

    Intrinsic Value: $7.26 Extrinsic Value: $2.82

    article image 9

    48 Delta Options

    Intrinsic Value: $0 Extrinsic Value: $4.58

    article image 10

    23 Delta Options

    Intrinsic Value: $0 Extrinsic Value: $1.68

    article image 11

    As you can see, the greater the delta, the more intrinsic value the option has. In addition, the closer to expiration, the less extrinsic value for higher delta options.

    Again, if you're buying options for a directional move, you want to try to reduce the time and volatility component that goes into its pricing.

    9. When implied volatility rises, it's like adding more time on the option. For example, when implied volatility rises, the options are worth more…in a sense, it's like time was added to the option.

    On the flip side, when implied volatility drops, it's like time was taken out of the option. When implied volatility drops, the option becomes worth less.

    Putting it all together

    Now, one of the issues that premium buyers have is that they don't gauge the timing and implied volatility of the option correctly. After all, their thought process is, if I buy a call and the stock rises, my options should increase in value.

    As we've learned, if you buy an at-the-money option (or an out-of-the money option), the move in the stock price needs to overcome what you'll lose from the time decay and potentially a drop in implied volatility.

    If you're goal is for a directional play only, you want to try limit the time and volatility aspect. Forgive me if I'm sounding like a broken record…but I can't stress this point enough.

    How do we do this? Well, there are two ways.

    First, buy options with high intrinsic value. For example, buy an option with a delta of 70-75. In many ways this could be viewed as a stock substitute. However, you've still got a great deal of leverage and a built in stop.

    Often times, equity traders will set stops for themselves, when you buy an option, you've already defined your risk.

    The benefit of this approach is that there isn't much extrinsic value in the option. With that said, if the stock doesn't move much, you won't get killed in time decay.

    What time frame should you buy?

    Well, that should be based on your opinion on where you think the stock will go.

    Is it a day trade, a swing trade or a longer term position?

    By answering this question, you'll have a better clue on which option contract to select. For example, weekly options are best for day trades, for swing trades you can use options that expire in 14-30 days. Of course, for longer term swing trades you can go out 45 days to 90 days.

    Why not longer?

    Well, because these options don't have a great deal of extrinsic value, you can always "roll" the position, meaning close out one contract and buy a later dated month. Now, don't get caught up in these numbers, it's really based on where you think the stock will go and by when.

    I know traders who will go out 45-65 days on swing trades and 180 days for longer term trades.

    There are no hard rules or magic time frames…it's really based on your opinion.

    Now, I'm not saying you can't make money by buying at-the-money or out-of-the money options…because you most certainly can. However, you'll need a fast and aggressive move in the stock if you're trading options with 30 days or less left till expiration.

    If you don't see that, the time decay will melt that option premium away.

    When you go farther out in time, you are also betting on volatility to rise. Again, for the average retail trader, volatility is very complicated subject matter. It involves doing analysis on historical volatility and comparing it to implied volatility.

    In addition, you have to put it into context… to figure out if volatility is cheap or expensive.

    If you're buying an option because you think the stock price will go up or down, don't you want to make things as simple as possible for yourself?

    I know I do.

    Too many times traders get hung up with buying cheap options because they're cheap and they can buy a lot of them. They feel that they are getting a better deal than buying the more expensive in-the-money options.

    Now, the reason why I showed you all those different FACEBOOK options is that I wanted to show you that "expensive" options are actually cheaper than at-the-money and out-of-the money options.

    The chances of making money on an out-of-the money option are not favorable. In fact, the odds are actually horrible.

    Besides, your goal is to make money on the trade, not to load up on as many option contracts as you can.

    Second, you can buy a spread. A long spread is simply a long call (or put) against a short call (or put). Because the option you bought is more expensive than the one you sold, the trade is done for a debit.

    Why would we do this?

    Well, by selling an option against our long, we are reducing the effect of time decay and volatility.

    In essence, it's another way to play for a directional move. Not only that, but spreads also reduce your overall cost.


    FACEBOOK (FB) options expiring in 31 days, stock price on April 1, 2014 is $62.62

    72 Delta calls: $57.50 strike, priced at $7.10 (with an intrinsic value of $5.12 and extrinsic value $1.98)

    25 Delta calls, $71 strike, priced at $1.41 (with $0 intrinsic value and $1.41 of extrinsic value)

    If you bought this spread, it would cost $5.69. In addition, the intrinsic value would still be $5.12…however, you're extrinsic value would decrease to $0.57. That means if the stock stayed at the same price on expiration, you'd only lose $0.57.

    Not only that, but your break-even point has improved, when compared to buying the outright call. You see, by selling the $71 call, we've reduced our exposure to time decay and implied volatility.

    Of course, if the stock trades north of $71 at expiration, this spread could yield a return of over 135%…not too shabby.

    At the end of the day, you've got to be right on your opinion on whether or not the stock will trade higher or lower. What I've done is shown you two methods to express that opinion…that reduce the role of time decay and effect of option volatility.

    Lastly, I'd like to thank you for this post. You see, I get a lot of questions about this in emails, on Twitter, Facebook and StockTwits. I'd be lying if I said you didn't inspire me to write this.

    "He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever."

    I really love that Chinese proverb; I think it's so true. With that said, don't be shy and keep the questions coming. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Apr 14 4:58 AM | Link | Comment!
  • How To Underperform The Market And Get Paid Like A Rock Star

    (click to enlarge)

    Would you like to receive monster-sized checks, drive a different car for every day of the week and own multiple estates across the globe; all while underperforming the market?

    I know…I know…sounds too good to be true, right?

    But it isn't. You see, a small fraternity called fund managers can actually afford to live this way. Best of all, you help fund their lavish lifestyle.

    Doesn't sound fair, does it?

    Well, without your support it wouldn't be possible. They live in the lap of luxury, raking in (your) money from (their underserved) fees.

    It's no secret; most mutual funds and hedge funds underperform the market. In fact, according to a study conducted by Motley Fool in 2013, only ten of ten thousandactively managed mutual funds were able to beat the S&P 500 consistently over the past decade.

    Now, I'm no mathematician, but it seems like the odds of finding a top-notch money manager… is just as good as having a perfect March Madness bracket. OK, maybe it's a little better, but I think you get the picture.

    Year after year, these funds print money…well, not really…they just take yours.

    Here's what they're all about:

    First, everything is relative in this business. A good or bad year is determined by how a fund performs relative to its benchmark, in many cases, it's the S&P 500 index. According to SPIVA (S&P Indices Versus Active Funds), in 2013, 56% of large-company funds and 68% of small-company funds failed to beat their benchmarks. Year after year, it's the same old song and dance.

    Check out this chart taken from the SPIVA( US YEAR-END 2013 REPORT), the full report can be downloaded at


    Now, a fund can have an "up" year; however, it's all relative. For example, if the "market" is up 20% and the fund is up 10%, the fund is underperforming. However, they can always advertise their performance in a positive way.

    On the other hand, if the "market" is down 10%… and the fund is down 8%, the fund is outperforming. Again, this can be twisted into being a positive.

    What if the majority of funds do poorly?

    Well in that case, they can compare themselves to their peers, not the benchmark. As you can see, everything can be spun into a positive. They are graded on a curve…unfortunately, the real-world doesn't work that way.

    Bottom line, if you simply bought a product that resembled the S&P 500 index, you'd beat the majority of mutual funds out there. I know, it sounds crazy, but it's true. You'd think with all those advanced degrees in a room, an army of analysts at their disposal and countless hours of research, that these funds would have an edge.

    I know it seems unbelievable but facts are facts!

    But it gets worse.

    The average mutual fund will charge you around 1.25% - 2.5% in fees, this covers the management fee, administrative costs, marketing and advertising fees. That's right folks… next time you see your mutual fund featured in a TV commercial, make sure to brag to all your friends, because it was your money that helped pay for the spot.

    Also, keep in mind that transaction costs from trading are not included in the "expense ratio." Not only that, but some funds will even charge a loading fee (aka the f**k you fee). This fee rewards the stockbroker who recommended the mutual fund to you; after all, they have to get in on the piece of the action. Why would they recommend something to you if there wasn't anything for them to gain?

    Now, when you join a health club, you pay a membership, in return you have access to their equipment and the tools needed to get in shape. When you sign up for a mutual fund, you are charged a fee to pay the manager and their staff, in return, you're promised nothing back.

    In other words, your hard earned money goes towards feeding their lavish lifestyles. The game is simple, the more money invested in the fund, the more money they make in fees. Of course, this requires marketing and salesmanship to get the job done.

    Nevertheless, everything is devised to sound sophisticated and necessary. I know, because I was once on their side. Working as a stockbroker, I learned first-hand that a lot of this business was simply founded on good ol' fashioned sales and marketing. Believe me; it didn't take long for me to cut ties with this dark side of the biz.

    At the end of the day, the majority of these funds offer the sizzle but not the steak. Ironically, having your money invested in these funds give off the impression that you're responsible and smart.

    After all, you're delegating duties to "professionals" who know their stuff. But let's face it, we know this isn't true. They underperform while nickel and diming you in fees.

    So what gives?

    The majority of investors are scared to take on the responsibility of taking financial matters into their own hands. If their money manger underperforms, they can use them as a scapegoat. However, if they take control… it's all on them. Of course, this can be very intimidating at first.

    But you know what?

    No one is going to care more about your money than you. A money manager is going to get paid no matter what.Ultimately, their goal isn't outperforming the market; it's to stay level with their peers (other money managers). As long as they can add AUM (assets under management) and collect fees, they are doing their job…AKA well for themselves.

    How About Hedge Funds?

    Sadly, hedge funds are even bigger fee vacuums. In Sinon Lack's book, The Hedge Fund Mirage, he offered some incredible statistics pertaining to hedge fund performance and fees. For example, from 1998 to 2010, hedge fund managers earned $370 billion in fees. However, their investors earned a whopping $70 billion in investment returns.

    In the summer of 2013, Bloomberg Businessweek, wrote a piece titled: Hedge Funds Are for Suckers, debunking the myth that hedge fund market wizards consistently outperform the market. As mentioned earlier, this isn't breaking news…it's been well documented for years.



    Advantages You Have:

    1) Mutual funds are generally fully invested at all times; they are competing against their peers, not the market. On the other hand, you have no competition. With that said, you don't have to be invested all the time.

    Often times, being in cash, is the best market position for you to be in, but not for them since their business model is to invest your money so they can get paid. In addition, you can be more selective with your investment decisions.

    2) Using options to generate better opportunities and success. The probability of a stock price rising is 50/50; however, with options you can structure positions that skew the odds more in your favor.

    In addition, options are leveraged, meaning you can use less capital to achieve better returns. Not only that, structured option strategies allow you to define your risk and hedge core investment positions.

    Best of all, you don't need a specific market condition in order to invest with options. In fact, they can be used during periods of high or low volatility, bull and bear markets…as well as choppy and sideways markets.

    Now, do you want to delegate your finances to funds, which underperform and hammer you with undeserved fees? Of course, it's going to take some courage on your side to end this vicious cycle.

    For years, I've helped investors take this monumental step, showing them methods and strategies that could potentially lead them to financial freedom. I understand that not everyone has the same time to devote to their investments.

    That's why I've created specific courses for investors who are strapped for time. I believe through the right investor education, you'll gain enough confidence to take control of your financial future. That's why I frequently send out emails to subscribers that highlight: trading opportunities, timely market analysis, free reports, video lessons and much more.

    In addition, I'm always available to answer questions via Facebook or Twitter…you can even email me directly.

    In the end, I'd like to maintain a lively and active community, where we all learn from each other. After all, these funds aren't helping our cause.

    Now, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we can stop these fee thirsty funds and their shenanigans, in the comments section below.

    Also, make sure to sign up to receive my mega-valuable emails about investing and the financial markets. In addition, I'll send you my latest free report.

    Or visit now and grab hold of my free report "Predict Explosive Moves in Stocks & Options"

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Mar 26 5:20 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Why I Only Follow Those Who Have Skin In The Game

    (click to enlarge)Now, when it comes to financial television, my favorite way to watch it is on mute. I could care less about their opinion on the stock market. After all, they don't call them talking heads for nothing. I mean seriously, how active can these people be in the market?

    Don't they have positions to monitor, ideas to generate, research to do, trades to enter or exit? Silly me…if they were actually doing that, they wouldn't have time to tell us where they think the market is going next.

    To be honest, the reason why I stopped providing commentary to the financial media is because it proved to be a distraction that took away time from my trading and clients.

    Why would I take advice or follow someone who has no skin in the game…someone who has nothing to lose if they are wrong? It makes no sense.

    Just follow the money trail.

    Even before I founded OptionSIZZLE, I've always focused my attention on the real-money players, the institutions and hedge funds who make (or lose) fortunes from executing their trading ideas. For me, nothing gives an investor more information on the future direction of a stock than watching unusual options activity.

    After all, they have hundreds of thousands of dollars (sometimes multi-millions) riding on these make or break decisions.

    Now, if you don't know, unusual options activity is simply above average volume on a particular stock option. What makes it so unique, unlike watching stock order-flow, is that we can identify if these are opening positions (new trades).

    How so? Simple, every option contract traded on a stock has volume and open interest.

    Now, of course, volume refers to all the options traded on a specific stock option (strike price) on that day, which includes options that are bought or sold. Well, naturally, open interest refers to all the contracts that are outstanding (open positions that have yet to be closed out) for a specific option contract (strike price).

    For example, if someone buys 4000 Micron 24 calls (expiring 4/24/14), with 1000 contracts of open interest…we know for a fact that thisis an opening position (new trade). However, we don't know if the trade was placed as a hedge against a short stock position or if it's speculation that the stock trades higher.

    Of course, trying to figure out the WHY is the most important element…even though we'll never know for certain. That's why I'm always looking for ways to connect the dots. Now, it doesn't matter if you're an investor or trader…knowing how the smart money is positioned is mega-valuable information.

    Let's look at a recent example to see how this all works.

    On Wednesday, March 12, there was a large put buyer in Con Edison (ED) at around 12:15 Eastern Time, when the stock was trading at $54.59. They came in and bought 9,294 April 52.5 puts for .35 per contract.

    At the time of the order, the bid price was .25 and the ask price was .35. The open interest was 52 contacts.

    Of course, we know that this was an opening position because volume was greater than open interest. In addition, we know that this was an aggressive order because the trader was willing to lift the offer (buy the ask price) vs. trying to buy the options at the mid-price (.30).

    The order gave the trader the right (but not obligation) to be short 929,400 shares of stock. Now, what made this order interesting… is that ED on average trades 983 option contracts a day.

    On Wednesday, it traded 22,670 contracts… 98% of those contracts were puts! Again, that's 23 times usual options volume.By the way, this is unusual options activity at its finest. However, we don't know why they put this order on.

    We're assuming whoever put the trade on is an informed trader…after all; they're willing to bet over $325k on their idea…putting their money where their mouth is.

    Again, is this speculation or a hedge? I have series of questions that I rundown whenever an unusual options trade interests me. Allow me to share some with you.

    First, is this speculation on upcoming earnings? Probably not, their earnings are on 5/01/14…we can scratch that off the list.
    Is this a hedge against a long stock position?

    Possibly…however, I like to look at a chart to see if the stock has been in an up or down trend. If the stock is trending higher, they might want to buy puts to protect their profits and hedge.

    Why I Only Follow Those Who Have Skin In The Game

    Well, for one thing, the chart looks pretty weak…it's hard to imagine someone hedging a long stock position with such a bearish looking chart. Speculation that the stock drops further vs. a hedge makes for a more compelling argument.

    Moving on.

    Are they presenting at a conference or have been recently downgraded? No and No.

    You see, it's important to have a corporate calendar nearby in order figure this stuff out. In addition, you should search for any related news that could possibly give us hints on why this large option trade went through.

    If you don't subscribe to any news services, you can always use Twitter… a lot of times they'll break news quicker than financial television will.

    In this case, Twitter was very useful.

    Why I Only Follow Those Who Have Skin In The Game

    It turned out earlier in the day there was a horrific explosion in East Harlem, New York. Sadly, it left several people dead and injured. First, let me say, my thoughts and prayers go out to anyone affected by this tragic accident.

    I'm still shaken up from hearing about Malaysia Flight 370 over the weekend…hearing about this accident in New York, only reminds me how precious life is.

    Now, was Con Edison at fault?

    Is there a potential lawsuit in the works?

    Is this why they bought these put options?

    I don't know…but it could be a potential catalyst to drive the stock price lower.

    Well, on Thursday, Con Edison was downgraded at Barclays, the stock price declined 1.7% and those put options traded as high as .70 per contract…doubling from where the large trader initially got in.

    We were able to identify this as an aggressive unusual options order…we'll never know why the trade was put on, but felt there was a catalyst behind the order… along with a weak looking chart.

    At the end of the day, finding unusual option trades is easy…trying to figure out the WHY is always going to be the challenge. Currently, I've written two reports, outlining my process in full detail, along with providing tons of examples for what constitutes as worthwhile opportunities (and which ones don't).

    As you can see, it pays to follow those who have skin in the game. Think about it, these large option trades are placed by some of the sharpest minds on the street, they probably have an army of research analysts and access to information we simply can't afford to get our hands on.

    Now, I'm not advocating that you should start trading off unusual options activity.

    What I'm saying is that you should strongly consider incorporating it in your research and decision making process. As my go-to indicator, it's proven itself countless times.

    To learn more about how you can use this can't miss indicator…

    Click on the button below, don't worry, the report is 100% free…

    …Inside I'll teach you how to:

    Hand-pick potential big movers

    Weed out the noise

    Track activity using my proven method

    Nail the approach down by learning from case studies

    And much, much more…

    Visit now and grab hold of my free report "Predict Explosive Moves in Stocks & Options"

    Mar 19 11:48 AM | Link | Comment!
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