Chemicals Monthly – Activisms

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Graham Copley / Nick Lipinski



May 18th, 2015

Chemicals Monthly Activisms

  • The Chemicals space remains volatile with all of the themes from earlier in the year remaining relevant: activism, oil volatility, currency headwinds and valuation dispersion. Our favorite long opportunities appear to be getting fresh legs (PX, DD and EMN) though the expensive names in the group, in our view, remain expensive.
  • With higher oil, a modestly weaker dollar and supply disruptions (driving higher prices) outside the US, the commodity space has proven resilient. Ethane pricing has remained essentially flat as has propane, but the case for propane based ethylene production has diminished as propylene prices have moved lower again in both April and May.
  • US cash costs remain low with ethane and propane both still depressed. However, the case for investments has not improved much even as gas and oil have rallied over the last month. Within commodities the chlor-alkali space is very weak, with global PVC and caustic prices suffering from significant oversupply. Recent weakness in OLN and AXLL reflects this issue.
  • Commodity names LYB, DOW and WLK all moved higher, possibly just a reflection of rising oil prices. Upwards revisions and LYB’s announcement of another repurchase program keep the positive news flow going, but LYB and WLK in particular looks expensive again.
  • Coatings remain the most expensive group in our chemicals coverage. Affirmations of growth as a result of a less expensive basket of raw materials have kept valuations intact but rising oil and currency may put a dent estimates should they persist.
  • Our favorite names have not changed in spite of recent volatility. PX remains inexpensive and can be paired with APD which we expect to underperform, DD’s valuation is even more compelling after Trian’s proxy battle loss and EMN remains inexpensive as investors sort out its complex businesses and wait for a better signal on long term growth.
  • Research since our last monthly has included a piece on DD’s value regardless of the winner of the proxy vote, an update to our previous complexity work, an analysis of EMN’s complexity and its upside if it can focus on ROC, a commentary on the value added to DD and DOW by activists and further exploration of our Industrial Gas names APD and PX.

Exhibit 1

Source: SSR Analysis

Exhibit 2

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

OverviewHearing the Signal through the Noise

Special situations in the Chemicals space have taken almost all of the limelight lately. These include a potential deal between Monsanto and Syngenta with a potential side sale of Syngenta’s seed businesses; the failure of Trian in its proxy effort with DuPont and new regulatory proposals for MLPs from the IRS affecting WLK among others.

We have discussed DD and the implications of activist involvement for several months and our arguments have generally not changed; in fact, we believe that DD is a more compelling buy now that its valuation has fallen over the last week
regardless of the outcome of the vote
. The market is now more aware of the company’s complexity and cost opportunity – Exhibit 3 – and management is under more scrutiny to perform than ever before. A possible missed agricultural opportunity also does not help the board’s case – Syngenta is a better fit for DD than MON in our view, but DD has a couple of problems. First the company has likely taken its eye off the strategic ball over the last several months, which sparring with Trian; and second, in its current form, DD is not focused enough to earn a multiple needed to compete for the assets, without significant dilution. We have doubts that the current management team will still be in place if it cannot curb its unjustifiable optimism and instead focuses on the cost opportunity/problem.
There are mixed messages coming from shareholders on the issue of management. We have the endorsement of management by voting with the board but then we have investors voting with their feet and sending shares down over 7% in the days since the May 13th meeting. A potential concern comes from the company’s
complexity which we have shown constrains multiples and inhibit performance
. It is almost certain that the Trian plan to break the company up and thereby reduce complexity and cost will not come to fruition even if management takes a hard look in the mirror. Still, we are confident that this downturn offers a buying opportunity and that change for the better is due in the coming months. If it goes back to being “business as usual” at DD the stock will drift lower as we still expect more negative revisions this year.

Exhibit 3

Source: Company Reports, Industry Sources, SSR Analysis

There has not been any meaningful shift in commodity chemicals since we last wrote despite higher oil and US natural gas prices. Even as WTI and Brent hit their highest prices of 2015, NGL prices remained stubbornly low with forecasts calling for propane to tumble as propylene prices fall, jeopardizing the economics of to-be-developed on-purpose propylene plants. Ethane has also been reluctant to take off despite a roughly 17% gain in natural gas prices over the last month and the return of the Williams cracker. Economics for ethane and propane are at parity but could both decline in the near term should ethylene inventories build as capacity successfully restarts and/or if oil and natural gas give up some of their recent gains.

Longer term, the case for trade has modestly improved with the dollar weakening ($1.14/euro vs. $1.07/euro) and Brent rising ($67/barrel vs. $60/barrel) while capacity restarts have the potential to drive inventories up and domestic pricing down while widening the export arbitrage. Inventories for propylene are now above their five year high while ethylene builds remain high in Texas as previously mentioned pipeline outages limit the ability to move ethylene along the coast. Even with elevated inventories, the case for new capacity is still weaker than it was 12 months ago and it is not clear that pricing and economics will improve in the near future, potentially delaying some of the Gulf Coast projects we have written about in the past. See slide 37 of the linked
LyondellBasell presentation
which illustrates the diminished returns associated with building a cracker today compared to 2014 and 2012.

The last month brought earnings calls for our Industrial Gases names and our negative stance on APD was justified as it appears that the CEO’s grace period may be ending. Costs associated with employee severance, incentive based compensation, pensions and currency are mounting as economic concerns around the globe place the company’s outlook under question. While PX hit a reset button with its earnings call, APD missed this chance and has downside as we approach the second half of the year.

preferred names
have not changed despite recent headlines and volatility. We like DuPont because we believe that the
cost opportunity is large
and elevated
scrutiny of management lends itself to a leadership change and possible reduction of complexity
. It also appears that the most meaningful downside is now behind us.
due to its
inexpensive valuation though its complexity may weigh on shares
; and PX, based on valuation, pricing improvements coming across the gases names plus a history and outlook based on excellent cost and capital management.
PX has already fully priced in its downside and the opportunity is compelling at this price
. 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 4 summarizes our valuation work and the subsector classifications are summarized in Exhibit 5. Revisions were not the problem in the last 30 days that they have been in previous months. Commodity chemical names actually saw positive revisions for the first time since 2014 as oil’s rebound has awoken hopes of a more permanent pricing fix. Coatings are still apparently immune to negative revisions.

Exhibit 4

Exhibit 5

In Exhibit 6, we show sector discount from normal value as measured by our valuation framework, and in Exhibit 7 we show discount by company. Subsector valuations have not moved much relative to each other but the Commodity group once again became more expensive as oil rose. Diversified and gases appear appropriately valued but there is some dispersion within the subsectors as PX is inexpensive while APD is expensive. Similarly, HUN and NEU are at opposite ends of the valuation spectrum. Ag names remain the least expensive. Coatings are still the most expensive with SHW marked in red due to its 10 year valuation high in Exhibit 7. Both NEU and CYT are still trading near valuation highs. Note that SHW is an outlier in our model as much because of its very high earnings and earnings growth as because of its declining capital base – our normalized model drives earnings off a return on capital trend and as SHW has falling capital our model has falling earnings – this is clearly an area for further analysis. SHW is driving much of the sector premium in Exhibit 7. PPG remains very inexpensive relative to SHW.

Exhibit 6

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 7

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibits 8 and 9 show absolute and relative performance, respectively, of the Chemicals subsectors since the publication of our March Chemicals Monthly. Commodity names continued their march higher, piggy backing off of oils gains. Coatings saw outperformance despite the increase in oil and Ag Chemicals also outperformed. Diversified and gases both lagged as concerns about global growth mount in the face of questions concerning China, Greece and even the US.

Exhibit 8

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 9

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibits 10 through 12 show profitability at the sector, subsector, and stock level.

In Exhibit 10, 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 7. 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 10

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibits 11 and 12 show the net income margin for the Chemicals sector as a whole and for the individual subsectors, respectively. Earnings have been elevated for several months but recent moves would suggest that they are coming over the hill. Historically, they have been mean reverting so it is possible that we are now beginning a down turn though data does not uniformly support that notion.
Exhibit 11

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 12

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Portfolio Performance

The last month’s portfolio selections are shown in Exhibit 13. Volatile performance continues and the last month was not kind. Our short group did not cooperate with LYB rallying along with CF and CYT. We performed better on the long side with all of our names up slightly with the exception of EMN. Historically, the names with favorable readings in terms of valuation and
our Skepticism Index
have produced alpha – Exhibit 14.

Exhibit 13

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 14

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Industry Driver Summaries – Data/Anecdotes Behind Exhibit 1

Consumer Spending

  • March was another anticlimactic month with spending up 0.27% – Exhibit 15. Upward revisions to the figures from February are encouraging but it is possible that there is fundamental weakness here despite lower energy costs.
  • Mixed revisions and generally sluggish data do not inspire confidence that there has been or will be meaningful growth in consumer spending as a result of relatively low oil and a supposedly improving economy. Data from March, the most recent month for which there is data, lends itself to our somewhat skeptical view.

Exhibit 15 Exhibit 16
Source: BEA


  • The latest revisions have brought both February and January up by about $5 billion each, from roughly $968bn to $973bn. These both cast a more positive light on what have been mixed or negative revisions for the past several months and perhaps point to strength in what is usually a weaker part of the year.
  • March’s construction was up 2.03% from March 2014 despite being down sequentially. Still, the latest numbers push construction even further below trend with potentially negative implications for a number of names in our coverage. Forecasts are optimistic as we approach the warmest months of the year but there have been too few bright spots over the past several months to give us much optimism.

Exhibit 17

Exhibit 18

Source: US Census Bureau


  • Crops were down over the last month. After a month of modest outperformance, corn was down 5%. Soybeans were down 0.71% while wheat was down 3%. These price declines came despite yield projections for corn and soybeans which are now below the record numbers of 2014. The May 12 USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report provides a more detailed outlook for each crop.

Exhibit 19

Source: Capital IQ, SSR Analysis


  • April was another lackluster month for the PMI with the latest figure at 51.5, unchanged from the previous month. New orders ticked up from 51.8 to 53.5 and production increased from 53.8 to 56. Inventories were down again, this time at 49.5, suggesting that they are actually contracting for the first time since December 2014. Production and inventories are apparently diverging again which would be consistent with an accelerating economy.
  • Growth around the world remains very variable. With the dollar weakening over the past several weeks (Exhibits 23 and 24), it is possible that North America will continue to play its role as the preferred global geography for growth. Europe’s apparently improving outlook has seen mixed data lately and concerns about a “Grexit” are resurgent. The Chinese outlook is increasingly uncertain as monetary policy initiated last year has apparently done little to stimulate growth and investments in fixed assets, the main driver of growth for the better part of a decade, have taken a hit over the last year.

Exhibit 20

Source: ISM
Exhibit 21

Source: ISM


  • The green line in Exhibit 22 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 strengthened modestly since we last wrote with Brent now at roughly $67/barrel and the dollar weakening from its peaks in March and April. A slight offset is natural gas which now trades for roughly $2.90/MMBtu.
  • Trade moved up 2.6% in March from February in spite of the strong dollar and lower oil that prevailed at the time.
  • Even with recent weakening, the USD continues to outperform against almost all other major currencies. The Ruble is now 44% off against the dollar while the Real is down almost 35% year over year. The Euro has also been weak, with the USD now 20% stronger versus the Euro in 2Q15 vs. 2Q14 – Exhibits 23 and 24. We expect currency headwinds to cause sales and earnings downside for the full year 2015 across our space.

Exhibit 22

Source: US Census Bureau

Exhibit 23

Source: Capital IQ, SSR Analysis

Exhibit 24

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, and this is evident in the very slow growth from 2012 to 2014 and the slightly better market we see today.

Williams remains online and Chevron Phillips has also restarted a unit in Texas furthering the inventory build there. In propylene, various FCCs are now running again after turnarounds earlier in the year contributing to its inventory issues and pricing declines. PDH units coming online later in the year may find that the party is over by the time they arrive should the export market not provide the outlet that domestic producers of propylene and derivatives need it to. We would expect cheaper propylene to have an incrementally positive impact on demand growth as there will likely be some substitution based growth for both polypropylene and acrylates, at the expense of ethylene.

Polyethylene has remained tight in East Asia as Chinese capacity additions and operating rates in excess of 90% have not been able to offset outages and temporary demand spikes. The arbitrage to Asia remains economical. In Western Europe, a significant chunk of capacity remains offline and recent closures have also limited supply. Margins have now widened for the remaining European producers due to these sizeable supply disruptions but exports to the region from the US were not previously economical. Prospects for trade should improve if prices in Europe continue to rise at the rate that they have through the beginning of May.

Ethylene production is summarized in Exhibit 25 and operating rates are summarized in Exhibit 26. 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 25

Source: IHS, Wood Mackenzie and SSR Analysis
Exhibit 26

Source: IHS, Wood Mackenzie and SSR Analysis


Energy markets are keeping a close watch on US oil inventories lately. Despite historically high inventories in absolute terms – Exhibits 27 and 28 – crude has performed well over the last month as weekly inventory drawdowns came in in excess of expectations for a few weeks. However, Saudi Arabia has recently upped production (only slightly) and there are signs that some US operators are again operating rigs that were idled when cost structures were a bit fatter. Whether or not the recent oil rally can last is unclear. With Brent up another 12% since we last published, it is possible that the rally has gotten ahead of itself and that a temporary pause or fall is in store should we have an unfavorable inventory or production number.

Exhibit 27

Exhibit 28
Source: EIA, SSR Analysis Source: EIA, SSR Analysis

Natural gas production in the Marcellus appears to be tapering – Exhibit 30 and 31 – despite its all-time high production. Storage has also started building as we come out of the winter – Exhibit 29. Still, prices have risen sharply from $2.53/MMBtu to almost $3.00/MMBtu. These gains appear to be due to the expectation for flattening production in the Marcellus, as well as several inventory numbers that have come in below expectations spurring hopes of higher demand. Note that it is possible that the explanation here is maintenance and upgrades taking some storage temporarily offline only for it to come back with greater capacity in the summer. Whether or not sustainable gains can be made in natural gas pricing based on short term inventory target misses is debatable. We view an inability to squeeze more gas out of each rig in the Marcellus as much more likely to drive prices up in the longer term.

Exhibit 29

Source: EIA, SSR Analysis

Exhibit 30
Exhibit 31
Source: EIA, SSR Analysis Source: EIA, SSR Analysis

Exhibit 32

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Ethane pricing has not changed much since we last wrote with a gallon now trading for $0.17 to $0.18. Propane has also lingered around $0.52/gal. Estimates are calling for gains in ethane prices as demand grows with crackers coming online. Tightening ethane inventories are now expected so it is not clear how long its low cost basis will be sustained. Still, there is little upward pressure on propane prices and the credits that we have discussed in the past still factor into its economics. Also supporting this theory are recent reports of regional hubs being overloaded with incoming propane train cars and at least one domestic declaration of force majeure as a hub was unable to accommodate the volume of incoming and accumulated cars. If this is symptomatic of a larger capacity problem across the US, then storage issues may yet yield greater price declines. However, without these storage issues, it is possible that most of the feedstock shifting is behind us given ethane’s still incredibly low cost basis and propylene’s fall since March. The Conway – Mont Belview ethane spread has opened up after several months of tightness but prices at each location are barely two cents apart, not far enough to warrant discussion of serious inventory / supply and demand dislocations – Exhibit 34.

Exhibit 33

Source: IHS, Mackenzie Wood and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 34

Source: Midstream Business and SSR Analysis

Propane and butane remain attractive feedstocks in the US. This is less obvious in Exhibit 35, which uses a 12 months rolling average. As mentioned on the previous page, propane is trading at around 52 cents per gallon in the US Gulf and is roughly flat as rising crude was offset by rising inventories. Propane inventories have built again over the last month and now stand at almost 67 million barrels. 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, despite lower natural gas pricing and cheaper ethane. Margins have converged and are now at parity compared to the 6-8 cent butane and propane advantage seen in December. The explanatory factor here is likely the decline in propylene – a major source of co-product credits for both butane and propane. Spot propylene has fallen more than 13% over the last two months across its different grades.

Exhibit 35

Source: IHS and SSR Analysis
Basic Plastics

Polyethylene pricing has picked up for the second month with outages around the globe giving pricing to those players still in the game. This has been especially true in Europe and East Asia where demand questions linger but supply issues have caused short term spikes in pricing. We also suspect that rising oil and what should be the end of destocking have also contributed to price increases. Demand appears to be robust, but not growing meaningfully in the US. The narrow export arbitrage that opened over the last couple of months persists but the extent to which producers are seizing this opportunity right now is not clear. This also explains the uptick in HDPE prices at home and the margin gains shown in Exhibit 36. Spot/export HDPE today is roughly $0.60/lb, a price not seen since late in 2014. However, risks remain should downed capacity come back online with any timeliness. With supply gains there and increases in US ethylene production, it is possible that the US will be forced to export product at the same time that the rest of the world sorts out its supply problem creating pricing difficulties later in the year.

Exhibit 36

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 (37) summarizes the results and is a repeat of Exhibit 4.
Exhibit 37

Valuation Charts – Exhibits 3840

Exhibit 38

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 39

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 40

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 41 shows each subsector’s Skepticism Index value. The subsectors have not changed their positions meaningfully since we last published. However, Ag chems have seen their value increase while Industrial Gases move closer to negative territory. Exhibit 42 shows R2 by subsector, measuring the extent to which valuation is explained by return on capital. Exhibit 43 shows that the Specialty and Ag subsectors have some disconnects between valuation and earnings. In Exhibit 44, EMN has been replaced by HUN as the company with the highest SI in our Chemicals coverage. As we have noted in the past, the company is both overearning and inexpensive.

Exhibit 41

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 42

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 43

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 44

Source: Capital IQ and SSR Analysis


Recent Chemicals Research

May 13, 2015 – The DuPont Vote – Short Term Noise – Change is Coming Either Way

May 12, 2015 – Corporate Complexity – Less Is More

May 6, 2015 – EMN – Time to Focus on the Shareholders

April 27, 2015 – DD and DOW – Backing The Activists

April 20, 2015 – Air Products is Running Out of Gas – Praxair is Refueling!

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 45 to 49

Exhibit 45

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 46

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis
Exhibit 47

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis


Exhibit 48

Source: Company Reports and SSR Analysis

Exhibit 49

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 50 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 50A

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 50B

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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