Chemicals Monthly – Short Term Spikes

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Graham Copley / Nick Lipinski



April 20th, 2015
Chemicals Monthly Short Term Spikes

  • Recent moves in Commodity Chemicals stocks would suggest that they are now one trick ponies – as oil goes, so do they. We believe that this is too simple of a view as domestic profitability is much lower than a year ago and the dollar is stronger – estimates have come down and continue to fall making multiples ambitious and a risk of lost confidence “again” quite high – we would be very cautious on WLK and LYB.
  • Even as oil has recovered, the case for US exports remains limited. Polyethylene prices have increased across the globe over the last month as supply disruptions in Europe and Asia cause a short term pinch. US exports of polyethylene are rising, but we need a lower ethylene price before we get an increase in PVC exports and ethylene availability is rising.
  • Depressed ethane and propane pricing are helping keep US ethylene costs low, but increased use of propane is causing weakness in propylene pricing, which will likely continue. Good for propylene consumers, but bad for those starting PDH units this year.
  • As oil rebounded over the last month, so did the commodity chemicals names. LYB and WLK were both up over 14% in absolute terms while DOW picked up almost 6% since March 16th. We still believe that these companies are overvalued and that they are bound to disappoint when they report in the coming weeks and/or lower guidance for the year.
  • Coatings remain the most expensive group in our chemicals coverage. Earnings releases from PPG and SHW did not boost the stocks (PPG beat and SHW missed) but currency headwinds and more limited of organic growth have apparently been shrugged off by investors, at least for the time being – SHW is much more vulnerable than PPG.
  • Our favorite names have not changed despite volatility since the start of the year. DD and PX are even more favorably valued than they were at the start of the year and EMN remains a clear value opportunity with a number of potential catalysts – see dividend piece.
  • Research since our last monthly has included a piece on dividends and payout ratios in the industrials space as well as piece about small and mid-cap opportunities. We have also published on buyback abilities. EMN screens as a company that would do well to increase its dividend and both PPG and DD could benefit from either buyback or dividend increases without compromising financial ratios – PPG moves to favored list as a result.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2

Source: SSR Analysis –
See Appendix 1
for background and see
Appendix 2
for a larger version of this table.

Overview – The Cost Advantage is Not Dead, But It May Be the Only Game in Town

Oil rises; buy the ethylene stocks. Oil falls; sell the ethylene stocks – it all seems very straightforward! The reality is that there are way too many moving parts for it to be that simple. Rising oil is pushing up international feedstock costs for ethylene, and we have certainly seen a stabilizing of export prices as this has taken place. But export prices are at very low levels and in many cases the difference between US domestic prices for ethylene derivatives and spot export prices are at unsustainably high levels – in the case of PVC it is more than 25 cents per pound and for some polyethylene grades it is more than 10 cents per pound – the list is long.

Ethylene and integrated polyethylene margins in the US are much lower, even with a weaker natural gas market, as prices have fallen to the level required to support export – which are rising and need to rise to absorb the additional ethylene available in the US – growing with the recent restart of the Williams unit.

Exhibit 3

Source: Wood Mackenzie, Industry Sources, SSR Analysis
There is some near-term, but we think temporary, excitement in the market caused by a global shortage of some grades of polyethylene – not because of demand growth but because of production issues. However, while ethylene inventories remain quite low in the US, the Williams restart should begin to push inventories higher and keep prices low enough to encourage further exports.

But exports where? The US has enjoyed several years of extremely attractive feedstock advantage and the benefit of a weak dollar, but US chemical exports have not really risen. We can take the view that the US surplus has not been that great over the last 3-4 years, but at the same time there has not been much “pull”, as the rest of the world has plenty of product to meet its own needs and is willing to price to keep it – Exhibit 4
Exhibit 4

Source: Capital IQ, SSR Analysis
Despite the better crude/natural gas spread in the US, ethylene and derivative prices and margins are materially lower in 2015 than they were in 2014 and the stocks today look expensive. We believe that there is likely to be volatility in earnings for LYB, WLK and DOW as well as volatility in energy and we would expect to have opportunities to buy and sell the group more than once this year – today, at current prices, we would be sellers.

Outside the commodity volatility, there remains a focus on activism, with DuPont front and center, and campaigning like a presidential candidate in the last weeks before an election. The company is reaching out to individual and institutional holders to vote for its slate of directors and reject the proposal put forward by Trian. It may not be coincidental that the company is pushing hard for returned votes ahead of its quarterly earnings as it is likely, given well documented weakness in TiO2 and the strength of the dollar that DuPont will struggle to meet estimates and may need to take guidance down again – presenting Trian with more ammunition.

Likewise, Air Products may wobble if the new plan does not produce an earnings beat in its fiscal Q2. Estimates have not come down for the quarter despite the move in the dollar. By contrast, Praxair’s estimates for the same quarter are down 11% since December 31st.
preferred names
and underlying reasoning are mostly the same as they have been in previous months: DuPont because we believe the cost opportunity is large and activist involvement provides a catalyst to achieve it, though fundamentals and valuation are less inspiring than for our other favorites. Absent the activist involvement, the stock has downside.
because of the greater relative value afforded by recent downward moves (even with last month’s outperformance) and heightened clarity on the propane hedge; and PX, based on valuation, pricing improvements coming across the gases names plus a history and outlook based on excellent cost and capital management. Recent work on both
dividend policy
buyback opportunities
suggest that both EMN and DD have alternative possible strategies that would likely result in greater shareholder returns.

Exhibit 5 summarizes our valuation work and the subsector classifications are summarized in Exhibit 6. Downward revisions continue across the chemicals space with the last month seeing the biggest downward revisions from the Industrial Gases names, for the most part driven by currency. Commodity chemicals names have also been hit as currency and energy markets act against them.

Performance has been mixed. The commodity names have moved in lockstep with oil. The coatings segment is notable in its ability to resist the sector’s negative earnings revisions with SHW affirming its outlook for the year on April 16th. We view the group cautiously and are wary of the large international exposures and currency headwinds that PPG and VAL have. PPG however, sits in one of categories that we like – companies with more than one lever to pull to drive earnings. The company still has plenty of cost alignment/cutting opportunities from its acquisitions and as we have highlighted in recent work, could increase both its dividend and/or buy back more stock without stretching itself financially.

Exhibit 5
Exhibit 6

In Exhibit 7, we show sector discount from normal value as measured by our valuation framework, and in Exhibit 8 we show discount by company. Subsector valuations have not moved much relative to each other but the Commodity group has become more expensive over the last month as oil rose. Gases and Diversified both moved from modestly expensive to modestly inexpensive driven by ARG and DD, respectively. Ag names remain the least expensive with MOS and MON both in our top 5 least expensive companies. Coatings remain expensive with SHW marked in red due to its 10 year valuation high in Exhibit 8. RPM has come off its valuation high but is still expensive. NEU and CYT are also trading at valuation highs.

Exhibit 7

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis
Exhibit 8

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibits 9 and 10 show absolute and relative performance, respectively, of the Chemicals subsectors since the publication of our March Chemicals Monthly. Commodity names saw a sharp upwards move as oil ran up from its March lows. Gases were led down by ARG after the company lowered guidance. Diversified also performed poorly as DD led the group lower due to concerns over whether or not Trian will be able to accomplish anything against an increasingly combative DuPont.

Exhibit 9

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 10

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibits 11 through 13 show profitability at the sector, subsector, and stock level.

In Exhibit 11, we highlight several companies in green – all are at 10 year or all time peaks in return on capital. SHW and CYT therefore have some earnings support for the valuations in Exhibit 8. HUN is still inexpensive and overearning and therefore makes our Exhibit 1 screen. Coatings as a group are overearning which explains, at least somewhat, their steep valuations.
Exhibit 11

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibits 12 and 13 show the net income margin for the Chemicals sector as a whole and for the individual subsectors, respectively. Earnings continue to exhibit strength but it appears that the negative revisions seen in most sectors are being borne out as the steep gains of the last year are flattening.
Exhibit 12

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 13

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Portfolio Performance

The last month’s portfolio selections are shown in Exhibit 14. This month’s positive performance is reversal from March and for the better. We had a couple of bad picks with bets on ARG (a company we view favorably) and LYB (a company we view negatively) both moving against us. However, EMN (one of our favorites) and ALB both performed well. Historically, the names with favorable readings in terms of valuation and
our Skepticism Index
have produced alpha – Exhibit 15.

Exhibit 14

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 15

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Industry Driver Summaries – Data/Anecdotes Behind Exhibit 1

Consumer Spending

  • February brought a chill to consumer spending with the figure falling but only by 0.1% – Exhibit 16. Weather has been blamed but it is possible that the mainstream media is missing fundamental weakness over the past several months by focusing on oil and weather.
  • Mixed revisions for the results from the past several months now shine an unfavorable light on consumer spending which has been sluggish for months and decreased from January to February – the most recent month for which there is data.

Exhibit 16 Exhibit 17
Source: BEA


  • December and January have seen mixed revisions with December up and January down in comparable amounts. February continued January’s downward move but only by 0.1%.
  • February’s construction was up 2.12% from February 2014. Construction growth has slowed after appearing primed to take off at this time last year. The temptation is to say that the recent bad numbers have been a result of the weather or factors beyond anyone’s control but we remain vigilant of a potential slowdown in one of the key drivers of the industrials and materials sector as construction moves further below trend.

Exhibit 18 Exhibit 19

Source: US Census Bureau


  • Crops were again mixed but mostly flat over the past month. Both soybeans and wheat were down roughly 1% while corn was up 0.2%. Muted transportation concerns have all but disappeared and concerns of oversupply have kept prices more or less flat since the middle of March.
  • See our colleague Rob Campagnino’s recent research for more thoughts on the agricultural space.

Exhibit 20

Source: Capital IQ, SSR Analysis


  • March was a continuation downward trend seen since Octomber’s ISM peak but the index is still in expansion territory at 51.5. New orders declined, from 52.5 to 51.8 but production increased from 53.7 to 53.8. Inventories ticked down modestly but it appears that there is some mean reversion occuring in the ISM indices.
  • Growth around the world remains very variable. North America remains the preferred global address for growth but doubts have begun to form especially as currency rears its head at this beginning of this earnings season and the IMF cuts its US growth forecast. Europe and Japan have recently seen most upgrades to their otherwise lackluster prospects. The outlook for China remains questionable and should keep a lid a global growth expectations without unforeseen fiscal and monetary moves.

Exhibit 21

Source: ISM
Exhibit 22

Source: ISM


  • The green line in Exhibit 23 is a twelve month rolling average. Cutting through the month to month volatility, we see Chemical trade volumes have been flat for the past several years. The case for US exports has weakened over the past several months with the plunge in oil driving a convergence in global commodity chemical cash costs even as natural gas and ethane sell for incredibly low prices off of record production in the Marcellus.
  • Equally concerning, and mentioned in our recent research and above, is the stronger US dollar. Both trade and pricing will suffer for the US relative to the rest of the world while the dollar keeps its strength. For these reasons, it is somewhat surprising that the trade balanced ticket up in February.
  • The US Dollar continues to outperform against almost all other major currencies. Over the last year, the Russian ruble is off 65% against the dollar and the Brazilian real is down 41%. The Euro has also looked weak, with the USD now 22% stronger versus the Euro YTD 2015 vs. 1Q14 – Exhibits below – given the most recent Euro data, US producers could easily be facing a 20% Europe currency headwind for Q1 2015.

Exhibit 23

Source: US Census Bureau

Exhibit 24

Source: Capital IQ, SSR Analysis

Exhibit 25

Source: Capital IQ

Commodity Fundamentals


Please see our
December 2013 piece
for the way in which we think about ethylene supply/demand and our more recent
September update
. We remain concerned that high absolute pricing for chemicals are constraining growth. Given the significant production outages in the US in 2014, we would have been in all sorts of supply and pricing troubles had there been robust real demand growth.

Note that we have made a change to our external data source in 2014 and that we are now using chemical market data from Wood Mackenzie. The supply/demand data for 2013 is very similar to that of IHS and we have not changed our historical data.

As is shown in Exhibits 26 and 27, 2014 had some uninteresting overall ethylene production and operating rates (of nameplate capacity) given the additions to capacity and the expectations that existed at the beginning of the years. Production problems were the root cause of lower production in 2014 and they continue as most operating capacity has been doing so at a very high rate. Problems were well above average in 2014 and unplanned outages continued for much of the start of the year. Williams began production without complications at its Geismar cracker for the first time since the 2013 explosion that marked the start of a lengthy period of downtime. Even with the successful restart bringing new supply to market, exports do not seem to be the silver bullet that the industry is looking for in this time of depressed margins. With currency uncooperative and cash cost compression across the globe as a result of falling oil, the US exporter currently sits between a rock and a hard place. Even with operating ethylene facilities are running at rates in excess of 90% and pricing in the US below pricing in Europe and Asia, there is not a sufficient international price spread to drive meaningful gains in trade. We expect the currently operating units to run on at their high rates as inventories continue to be restored and with a potential flood of capacity coming online as the Spring matures and turnarounds wrap up, pricing may become even more depressed in the US and give some footing for the export argument. We expect that companies who were punished for delaying maintenance will be inclined to run their plants flat out when they come back online which should lend even more support to the case for exports. After a few weeks of recovery, spot ethylene prices have retreated but are higher than last month’s prices at $0.35/lb today. The Evangeline pipeline is still offline, creating a situation where ethylene inventories may build in Texas while Louisiana depletes its stocks. However, the William’s plant should offset this somewhat and the spread that has opened (10-15 cent/lb spread from Louisiana to Texas) should gradually diminish. Ultimately, the pipeline system will have to come back online to bring the spread back to historical levels but the timeline on that happening is not clear.

The story of European polyethylene lately has also been one of geography inducing wild price swings. Contract pricing has seen price spikes in April as declarations of force majeure have hit several plants with HDPE losing the most capacity. It is possible that this creates a window of opportunity for US exports but we remain somewhat doubtful about the prospects of exports as we have written earlier.

Ethylene production is summarized in Exhibit 26 and operating rates are summarized in Exhibit 27. Note that at no point in the forecast period do we see operating rates that would suggest a tight market as in 2000 and briefly in 2005/2006.

Exhibit 26

Source: IHS, Wood Mackenzie and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 27

Source: IHS, Wood Mackenzie and SSR Analysis


Deciphering energy markets has not become much easier since we last wrote though it does appear that fundamentals are again in focus after several weeks of speculation over geopolitical concerns. After several weeks of concern about fighting in Yemen and its potential implications on shipping oil through the Bab el Mandeb, the focus has returned to US production and inventory levels. The most recent inventory figures from April 15th point to shrinking production and growing demand, a thesis offered by our colleague Grayson Anderson for several months now. Brent is up 17% and WTI is up 20% over the last month as it becomes increasingly apparent that US oil production has peaked or is peaking.

Natural gas production out of the Marcellus remains the driving force in determining US natural gas prices. Production for the region hit another peak according to EIA data through the end of March but the rate of growth has been slowing over the past several months. Nonetheless, storage remains elevated compared to its levels from last year and the most addition of 63 billion cubic feet exceeded expectations for a gain of 52 billion cubic feet, driving down prices towards $2.59/MMbtu; a decrease of roughly 5.5% compared to last month.

Exhibit 28

Source: EIA, SSR Analysis
Exhibit 29

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Ethane remains very weak as a result of both incredible production from the Marcellus as well as ethylene margins from propane and ethane being near parity. While spot ethane is priced at roughly $0.16/gal-$0.17/gal compared to spot propane at $0.52/gal, co-product credits have offered propane support for the last few months and are doing so again in April. We discuss the attractiveness of propane on the next page. Regarding pricing, ethane has moved in line with natural gas while propane has moved more closely with oil, perhaps not surprisingly. Storage issues are no longer flavor of the month now that oil has come off of its lows. Should prices continue to rise and bring propane along with it, ethane may once again become the preferred feedstock given its very low cost basis. Counteracting this is the previously mentioned Williams restart which we believe may consume enough ethane to bring prices up a few cents. Still, we believe that most of the feedstock shifting is behind us barring another steep decline in oil. Certain analysts have also forecast a propane price under 40 cents per gallon which would work against the thesis that ethane will be the preferred feedstock in the months to come but we believe that a figure that low is a bit too bearish given available information. The Conway – Mont Belview spread remains incredibly tight and is even tighter than it was last month despite the prices appearing to be almost at parity – Exhibit 31.

Exhibit 30

Source: IHS, Mackenzie Wood and SSR Analysis
Exhibit 31

Source: Midstream Business and SSR Analysis
Propane and butane remain attractive feedstocks in the US. This is less obvious in Exhibit 32, which uses a 12 months rolling average. Today propane is trading at around 55 cents per gallon in the US Gulf and has not tracked the improving crude price. Propane inventories are very high and a few weeks ago we saw storage limits reached and some very interesting intra-day pricing in parts of the country to try and find places to put the product. Both propane and butane are finding their way into the ethylene feedstock slate and have been more attractive feedstocks than ethane for a couple of months now, despite lower natural gas pricing and cheaper ethane. However, one of the reasons for the attractiveness of both feeds has been the relatively high price or propylene – a major cost credit when cracking propane and butane. Propylene supply has risen because of the production increase and propylene pricing is dropping quickly. This will make both propane and butane less attractive feedstocks unless prices fall further, which may happen given limited alternate uses and a saturated export market for propane.

Exhibit 32

Source: IHS and SSR Analysis
Basic Plastics

Polyethylene pricing has picked up, following oil through its lull in March and recovery in April. Demand appears to be robust, but not growing meaningfully in the US. The risk is that more ethylene availability in the US as the year progresses requires higher levels of polyethylene exports and this has a depressing effect on domestic pricing. In the very near-term, international pricing has also been on the move up with both Western Europe and East Asia seeing pricing gains in HDPE, LDPE and LLDPE. This has been driven for the most part by production problems and low inventories rather than demand growth. This is “pulling” exports from the US for the first time in months and the US spot market HDPE buyer is now paying roughly $0.50/lb which is up from roughly $0.45 at this time last month. Oil’s recent gains have helped to drive pricing but we note that margins are still way down from their 2014 peaks, hence our negative views on LYB in particular as well as DOW and WLK.
Exhibit 33

Source: Wood Mackenzie, Midstream Business, Industry Sources, SSR Analysis
Valuation Charts

The exhibits below show our mid-cycle “normal” valuation framework for the chemical sub sectors and the first exhibit (34) summarizes the results and is a repeat of Exhibit 5.
Exhibit 34

Valuation Charts – Exhibits 35-37

Exhibit 35

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 36

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 37

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Skepticism Analysis

We apply the framework from our skepticism analysis on the broader Industrials and Basic Materials sectors to the Chemical space – see
our past research for more detail
. The primary conclusions are:

  • Exhibit 38 shows each subsector’s Skepticism Index value. This chart (Exhibit 13) looks a bit different since we last published as we have updated our models to incorporate the Normal Value and Return on Capital trends since 2014 which were previously not included. The subsectors have not changed their positions meaningfully since we last published even if the values themselves are lower across the group. Exhibit 39 shows R2 by subsector, measuring the extent to which valuation is explained by return on capital. Exhibit 40 shows that the Commodity, Specialty and Ag subsectors have some disconnects between valuation and earnings. In Exhibit 41, EMN remains the company with the highest SI in our chemicals coverage, with valuations suggesting an earnings decline far in excess of the losses from feedstock hedging. HUN is also notable in this framework, with an inexpensive valuation despite above trend earnings.

Exhibit 38

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 39

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 40

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 41

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis


Recent Chemicals Research

March 9, 2015 – Prices Falling, Dollar Rising – Stocks Defying Gravity

February 9, 2015 – Industrial Gases – Pricing Coming and Good for All

January 27, 2015 – US Ethylene – Who Will Blink First

January 13, 2015 – Own Goal Investing – EMN Presents Another Opportunity

January 12, 2015 – Favorites for 2015 & Industrials & Materials Methodology Review

January 5, 2015 – The Ethylene Conundrum: EMN the Value Play

December 9, 2014 – Weaker Global GDP Suggests Some Heroic Expectations/Assumptions

December 8, 2014 – LYB and DOW – A Holiday Present From Europe With Interesting Implications

December 4, 2014 – LyondellBasell and Westlake – Not Yet!

November 24, 2014 – Praxair – An Unusual GARPY Opportunity
November 11, 2014 – Eastman: A Good Story, But At Risk Of A Complexity “Own Goal”

November 6, 2014 – Capital Allocation – Why The Activists Are Where They Are

October 31, 2014 – The Power of Positive Thinking – APD and the DD read-through

October 16, 2014 – Commodity Chemicals – Overdone? Maybe Not

October 2, 2014 – DuPont Can Be a Bad Stock: If Trian is Right, But Gives Up

September 23, 2014 – Why 2015 Could Be a Short Sharp Storm for US Ethylene

September 17, 2014 – Rising Dollar and Falling Crude: Bad For Commodity Chems

September 11, 2014 – Oil: The Big Uncertainty for US Chemicals

September 9, 2014 – Marcellus Opportunity: Why We Should See More Chemical Investment

Appendix 1 – Exhibit 1 Analysis

In Exhibit 1 the following apply:

  • Green is good – Red is bad. The more intense the shade of green or red the more interesting or negative the factor looks for the sector.
  • Length of bar – wider signifies more important
  • Arrow direction – “Up” means the situation is becoming more positive from a stock selection perspective. So a green valuation bar with an upward arrow means that the stocks look cheap from a valuation perspective and they are getting cheaper. A red ISM bar with a downward arrow means that the ISM numbers suggest downside and they are getting worse.
  • Arrow size – how significant the move is.

Input Analysis

In the input analysis bar we attempt to show how important the natural gas/oil advantage is for each sector (length of bar); how positive it is (color of bar); and which direction it is moving (direction of arrow).

Demand Analysis

For each of our industry sub-sectors we have taken company by company data and generated an average segment exposure. For some companies this information is provided explicitly and for others we have taken estimates from presentations, annual reports and other sources. The segment break-downs are summarized in the charts below: Exhibits 42 to 46

Exhibit 42

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 43

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis
Exhibit 44

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis
Exhibit 45

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 46

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis

We have then grouped the categories into buckets for which we can measure growth drivers. Those groupings are summarized in Exhibit 48 below.

The first table summarizes the data in the pie charts above and then shows which market driver we use to model each end market. The second table then breaks each sub sector into these market driver buckets and then adjusts for how much business is in the US and how much is external. We add a factor which we call “trade” which brings into play the US trade balance and the strength/weakness of the dollar.

This analysis then drives the “Demand” section of the schematic in Exhibit 2.

Exhibit 47A

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis

  • Note that for the “trade” component, we have arbitrarily assumed that 25% of offshore sales are influenced by the US balance of trade and by exchange rates, while 75% of offshore sales are influenced by the same factors as listed above. It is more than likely that this is a different split for different sub-sectors and this will be a subject for further analysis.
  • Note also that we have done some initial correlation work to look at the impact of the factors below on revenue growth and it does show that sub-sectors with a greater exposure (in our analysis) to the ISM data (for example) have a greater correlation between the ISM numbers and demand growth. This will also be the subject of future research.

Exhibit 47B

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis

Valuation Analysis

The valuation analysis draws from our mid-cycle “normal value” work detailed above and our revisions work also detailed above. We have – for the moment assumed that valuation is 60% of the story and revisions is 40% for each sector. We will test this more empirically in the coming months.

Appendix 2

©2015, SSR LLC, 1055 Washington Blvd, Stamford, CT 06901. All rights reserved. The information contained in this report has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, and its accuracy and completeness is not guaranteed. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the fairness, accuracy, completeness or correctness of the information and opinions contained herein.  The views and other information provided are subject to change without notice.  This report is issued without regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific recipient and is not construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future results.

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