Tuesday, October 31, 2006


The WSJ’s „Ahead of the Tape” column discusses Valero (VLO), whose stock remains 23% below where it was at the start of August. That might make it a good time to buy. The main reason for the Valero stock tumble was that everybody built up inventories of gasoline and other energy products in expectation of more big hurricanes, which hammered refineries in ’04 and ‘05. With no big hurricanes this year, there is plenty of fuel on hand. That has pushed down profits. Refining margins are much lower than they were earlier this year. But they are still far higher than they were in the late ‘90s, says Howard Simons of Bianco Research, and they seem unlikely to go down much more. That is b/c US refineries still need to run at close to full capacity just to keep up with demand. Moreover, it seems unlikely that refiners will add much new capacity in the years ahead. So supply may be outstripping demand for the moment, but that might not last. "Over the long term, the refinery business is still a good business to be in," says Mr. Simons.

Barron’s Online “Inside Scoop” section highlights record sales by Travelzoo (TZOO) head honcho Ralph Bartel, that indicate more turbulence ahead for the already volatile shares. Late last week, Bartel, who has served as Chmn, CEO and president since founding Travelzoo in ‘98, sold 990K shares for $33.5m. His brother Holger Bartel, a Travelzoo EVP and director, sold 10K shares for $338K.

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