“We still have a lot of wood to chop. There is no way we continue to run huge deficits without a severe market consequence,” said my old friend and former client, Leon Cooperman, CEO of mega hedge fund Omega Advisors.
Global Market Comments
September 24, 2019
(AN EVENING WITH GENERAL JAMES MATTIS),
Marines are familiar with the concept of the ‘Old Breed.”
In WWI, it was a reference to those who fought the dreaded Huks in hand to hand combat in the Spanish American War in the Philippines. In WWII, it was those who fought in WWI and the banana republic wars that followed. During Vietnam, if was a reference to WWII veterans.
Today General James Mattis has “Old Breed” status in the new Marine Corps. The corps knows him as the “Warrior Monk,” a reference to his personal library of 7,000 books, almost entirely in military subjects. His code name was “CHAOS.”
Troops call him “Mad Dog,” an ironic reference to his modest, controlled approach to everything. In fact, every rank gets a new reading list of military history when promoted so Mattis knows how to precisely address them with future orders.
So, when I had the opportunity to meet him with some senior officers at the Marines Memorial Club in San Francisco, I jumped at the chance.
My family has long considered Mattis our in-house general. As a commander of the First Marine Division, he was my boss in the Gulf War and my nephew’s in Iraq. Both my father and my uncle served in the Marine First Division on Guadalcanal, which I will be visiting in a memorial ceremony in January.
General Mattis was the Secretary of Defense fired by Donald Trump at the end of 2018. Mattis gave two months’ notice to ease the transition to the next Secretary of Defense. In one of the pettiest moves I have ever seen, Trump refused to accept the notice and ordered him out of his office immediately.
The big difference Mattis had with Trump was over the value of our foreign allies. Mattis considers them essential, having managed large multinational forces in the Persian Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, and the War in Iraq.
Trump considers allies useless and expensive. Trump won and Mattis walked, preceded by General H.R. McMaster, another intellectual leader of our modern military.
Today, Mattis absolutely refuses to speak on the matter, unwilling to comment adversely on a former commander while still in office. Once Trump is out, it may be another matter. I can’t wait.
It was great listening to Mattis with a group of insiders, several of whom who had served with him in past campaigns. Occasionally, he’d say, “Thanks for laying out that minefield in Iraq right when I needed it,” or “We really appreciated those helicopters you gave us in Afghanistan.”
Mattis is highly critical of Chinese expansion in the South China Sea, the so-called “War of the Dots.” He sees Russia’s primary goal as the breaking up of NATO, crucial for Western Europe’s defense. He believes that climate change is a major threat to national defense.
Mattis is also in favor of the mutual defense with Japan. Mattis liked to inspect the front lines firsthand and more than once a Marine found that the general had dove on top of them to avoid incoming fire.
Mattis, a native of rural Washington state, came into the Marine Corps as a member of the naval ROTC in 1972. His reading of history is so extensive that he believes every contemporary battle has already been fought sometime in the past. All he has to do is identify which battle in history is being repeated and he will know the outcome.
One has to be an avid historian just to be following what he is saying. In the course of an hour and a half, I strained to recall references to Xenophon, Von Clausewitz, Bismarck, Napoleon, Patton, and the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The Persians clearly blew it at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.
Mattis supports the “two-state solution” for Israel, arguing that west bank settlement are a threat to peace. He didn’t believe that the Iran Nuclear deal was a perfect agreement, but thought it was a mistake for Trump to tear it up. Mattis has never been married, devoting his entire life to the Marine Corps.
As our meeting came to an end, there were even a few comments about him making a future run for the presidency, which he laughed off. As I walked out, I thought, “Wow, they certainly don’t make them like that anymore.”
Jim Mattis is two years older than me.
Bought a leap on LRCX. It’s up over 50% in one day. My account is small,
but I’m up 26% in two months. Take a look at this screenshot:
Well done Andrew. The student becomes the teacher.
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet,” said General James Mattis, former US secretary of defense.
Global Market Comments
September 23, 2019
(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or GRIDLOCKED),
(MSFT), ($INDU), (SPY), (TLT), (GM)
Market’s are gridlocked.
Traders don’t want to chase the market at an all-time high on top of a 2,000-point rally. They don’t want to sell short either since a Tweet could come out at any time triggering a squeeze.
Will the trade war continue for another week or a year?
On top of all that, we have a president who attempts to manipulate the market more than any in history.
And here is the problem. While the major indexes remain dead unchanged over the past 18 months, earnings have been falling. That has made them more expensive than at any time over the past several years.
And this is in the face of an onslaught of negative economic data that continues to deteriorate by the day, all caused by the trade war.
So, as a result, there is nothing to do here. The market is too high to buy and too low to sell. Clients call me with trade ideas, and I tell them they are reaching. There is nothing worse than reaching for the marginal trade when there is really nothing to do.
At least I’ll have something to do in the coming week. I’ll be launching the Mad Hedge Biotech and Health Care Letter, the newest addition to our family of research services. In addition to technology, I expect Biotech and Health Care to be one of the top-performing sectors in the coming decade.
I have taken out a full-time researcher in the field who has been grinding out reports for me since January 1. The invitation to the webinar should reach you in a few days where I will explain why keeping up with this sector is so important.
There is no law that says you have to have a trade on every day of the year. Cash is beautiful. Better than that, cash has option value. It’s worth a fortune to have dry powder when markets meltdown or melt-up. You get to catch other investors’ trades when they are puking. That is the best time ever to make money.
When my four technology positions expired at their maximum profit point on Friday, I celebrated. I went down to a bankruptcy sale for an antique store in Berkeley and bought a vintage Champaign magnum bottle for $10.
The week was kicked off by mass drone strikes that took out Saudi oil production, axing 6 million barrels a day off the global market. Half of that will be back in a day. Oil prices spike $10, the largest one-day move in history. This is clearly the end result of the US unilaterally pulling out of the US Iran Nuclear Agreement and the economic sanctions that followed, thus inviting retaliation.
General Motors (GM) workers struck, with 48,000 hourly workers hitting the picket lines. The last strike in 1998, also at a market top, lasted for 54 days. Could be this the long-awaited inflationary run-up in wages? Expect many more strikes to come.
China’s economy slowed, with Industrial output up 4.4%, the slowest since 2002. Trade war impacts will keep hitting the economy for months to come. The bad news? Business is not responding to recent stimulus and, with 70% of the country’s oil originating in Saudi Arabia, they now have a bigger headache.
Recreational Vehicle sales are falling off a cliff, down 22% YOY, as consumer cut back discretionary spending. It’s another reliable pre-recession indicator.
Recession fears are the highest in a decade, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch fund manager survey. Some 38% of managers are making the bear call versus 34% in August. Only 7% of managers expect value to outperform growth over the next 12 months.
Some 53% of CFOs think we’ll be in a recession in a year, and 67% by end 2020. These are the highest pessimism numbers in a decade. Germany already in recession is the largest concern, followed by a slowing China. It’s all linked. We are all one global economy, like it or not.
Philly Fed plunged, from 16.8 to 12.0, indicating fading business confidence. The trade war universally gets the blame. Notice how nervous everyone is getting.
Apple got tagged with a $14 billion fine in another “not invented here” penalty issued by the Irish government. It’s another attack on American big tech. Apple says they followed Irish tax law to the letter.
The Fed cut a quarter but talks down future rate hikes. Buy the rumor, sell the news. Probably no rate cut for October, so December is the next time we get a swing at the piñata. This will have zero effect on the economy, but further punishes savers.
Microsoft (MSFT) announced a $40 billion share buyback and raises its dividend by 11%. It’s a huge positive for the company and the market in general. I’ll try to buy the Thursday opening if it doesn’t open up at a stupid price. Buy Seattle real estate….and more Microsoft. Bill Gates’ creation has bought back 25% of its shares over the past decade.
The Mad Hedge Trader Alert Service still doing well in this indecisive market. My Global Trading Dispatch reached a new all-time high of 336.07% and my year-to-date ground up to +35.83%. My ten-year average annualized profit bobbed up to +34.57%.
I took profits in my long bond position (TLT) earlier in the week, capturing a four-point rally there. I am left with my short position in oil (US), which needs a $9 a barrel move against it to lose money. That should be fine as long as there is not another attack on the Saudi oil fields.
It is interesting to note that this ramped up the implied volatilities on oil options going into the Friday close over fears of just such an event. We will get all that back at the Monday morning opening….as long as the weekend proves peaceful.
On Monday, September 23 at 8:30 AM, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index for August is out.
On Tuesday, September 24 at 9:00 AM, the S&P Case-Shiller National Home Price Index is updated, for July.
On Wednesday, September 25, at 8:30 AM, we learn August New Home Sales.
On Thursday, September 26 at 8:30 AM, the Weekly Jobless Claims are printed. We also obtain the final read for Q2 GDP.
On Friday, September 27 at 8:30 AM, the August Durable Goods is printed. The Baker Hughes Rig Count is released at 2:00 PM.
As for me, I’ll be doing a ten-mile backpack through Point Reyes National Seashore with a 60-pound pack and feasting on freeze-dried food in front of a campfire. Got to remain bootcamp-ready. You never know when Uncle Sam is going to come calling again.
Good luck and good trading.
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
5G is overhyped but that doesn’t mean everyone will be a loser.
The shift to fifth-generation wireless technology, or 5G, will offer investors numerous compelling investment opportunities.
It has been predicted that 5G phone shipments will rise from 17 million this year to 130 million in 2020 and 327 million in 2021.
However, on the flip side of it, 5G, especially for the technically astute consumer and at current prices, is oversold.
At least for 2020.
Some percentage of teens and students will want to watch movies and play high-bandwidth games on their phones but when they discover the data costs, they will retreat from such purchases.
Also, many who hype 5G aren’t aware of the technical limitations especially for those outside of certain metro areas.
It could turn out to be a vanity buy for some or most.
It will benefit businesses, of course, but not the majority of the cell phone market. Certainly not in the US.
Even for me, everything I use on my smartphone wouldn’t need 5G.
If there is no noticeable effect, then do consumers really need this technology?
I would say not until something more comes out that requires us to need 5G and I do not see that on the horizon.
Back in the world of the stock market, many analysts understand that RF (radio frequency chip) supply chain companies are compelling in their new growth opportunities for 5G phones.
Even if many consumers do not need 5G, many device makers will splurge on their supply chain to get there, meaning chip companies who sell 5G components will gain.
The marketing of 5G entails the standard hyping-up of the shift to 5G.
And industry participants would say it is substantially important to the semiconductor and telecom industries, but it will take time to absorb on the consumer side.
Analysts expect 5G to deliver speeds 10 to 40 times faster than current 4G LTE networks. Its lower latency promises to enable new applications from augmented reality and automated factories to self-driving and cloud gaming.
But as I referenced above, there are only a handful of consumers that need cloud gaming and augmented reality.
Automated factories work with the current speed of technology and in a global slowdown, corporates will want to wait for a healthier environment to initiate a new CAPEX cycle.
Here are some chip stocks that supply chain could benefit from.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSM) is a stock with thematic drivers that can potentially benefit from the upcoming 5G renaissance and global supply chain shifts.
TSM has a large foundry and advanced chip-making technology leadership.
Broadcom (AVGO) will also become a vital winner of 5G smartphone adoption while supplying specialized processors for 5G front and back haul.
Broadcom will supply chips to both Apple and Samsung for their 5G smartphones.
The rapid run of chip shares could have more to go for the end of the year as investors have front-run chip stocks for the past few months.
However, I do believe that the downdraft in smartphone demand and connected devices will hurt the end product sales.
Consumers will hold off on buying 5G-supported Huawei, Samsung, and Apple products, meaning chip stocks could stall out after this nice run.
Global Market Comments
September 20, 2019
(SEPTEMBER 18 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(TLT), (FDX), (FB), (HYG), (JNK), (EEM), (BABA), (JD), (TBT), (FXE), (UUP), (AMZN), (FB), (DIS), (MSFT), (USO), (INDU),
(THE GREAT TRADING GURU SPEAKS)
Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader September 18 Global Strategy Webinar broadcast from Silicon Valley, CA with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader. Keep those questions coming!
Q: What would happen to the United States Treasury Bond Fund (TLT) if the Fed does not lower rates?
A: My bet is that it would immediately have a selloff—probably several points—but after that, recession worries will take bond prices up again and yields down. I don’t think we have seen the final lows in interest rates by a long shot. That’s why I bought the (TLT) last week.
Q: Is it good to buy FedEx (FDX) considering the 13% fall today?
A: I use the 3-day rule on these situations. That’s how long it takes for the dust to settle from an earnings shock like this and find the real price. The problem with FedEx is that it’s a great early recession predictor. When the number of delivered packages decreases, it’s always an indicator that the economy as a whole is slowing down, which we know has been happening. It’s one of the most cyclical stocks out there, therefore one of the most dangerous. I wouldn’t bother with FedEx right now. Go take a long nap instead.
Q: Would you be a buyer of Facebook (FB) here, given they seem to have weathered all the recent attacks from Washington?
A: Not here in particular, but I would buy it 20% down when it gets to the bottom edge of its upward channel—it still looks like it’s going crazy. They’re literally renting or buying buildings to hire an additional 50,000 people in San Francisco anticipating huge growth of their business, so that’s a better indicator of the future of Facebook than anything.
Q: Will junk bonds be more in demand now that rates are cratering?
A: Junk bonds (HYG), (JNK) are driven more by the stock market than the bond market, as you can see in the huge rally we just had. Junk bonds are great because their default ratios are usually far below that which the interest rate implies, but you really have to trade them like stocks. Think of them as preferred stocks with really high dividends. When the stock market tops, so will junk bonds. Remember in 2008, junk yields got all the way up to 15% compared to today’s 5.6%.
Q: What will happen to emerging markets (EEM) as rates lower?
A: If lower interest rates bring a weaker US dollar, that would be very positive for emerging markets over the long term and they would be a great buy. However, emerging markets will take the hardest hit if we actually do go into a recession. So, I would pass for now.
Q: What are your thoughts on Alibaba (BABA) and JD.com (JD)?
A: They are great for the long term. However, expect a lot of volatility in the short term. As long as the trade war is going on, these are going to be hard to trade until we get a settlement. (JD) is already up 50% this year but is still down 40% from pre trade war levels. These things will all be up 20-30% when that happens. If you can take the heat until then, they would probably be okay for a long-term portfolio globally diversified.
Q: What do you have to say about the ProShares Ultra Short 20+ Year Treasury ETF (TBT)—the short bond ETF?
A: If you have a position, I’d be selling now. We just had a massive 20%, 4-point rally from $22 to $27 and now would be a good time to take a profit, or at least get out closer to your cost. The zero interest rates story is not over yet.
Q: Would you short the US dollar?
A: I would most likely short it against the euro (FXE), which now has a massive economic stimulus and quantitative easing program coming into play which should be positive for it and negative for the US dollar (UUP). That’s most likely why the euro has stabilized over the last couple of weeks. That said, the dollar has been unexpected high all year despite falling interest rates so I have been avoiding the entire foreign exchange space. I try to stay away from things I don’t understand.
Q: If all our big tech September vertical bull call spreads are in the money, what should we do?
A: You do nothing. They all expire at the Friday close in two trading days. Your broker should automatically use your long call position to cover your short call position and credit your account with the total profit on the following Monday, as well as release the margin for holding that position. After that, we’ll probably wait for another good entry point on all the same names, (AMZN), (FB), (DIS), (MSFT).
Q: If the US fires a cruise missile at Iran, how would the market react?
A: It would selloff pretty big—markets hate wars. And the US wouldn’t send one missile at Iran; it would be more like 100, probably aimed at what little nuclear facilities they have. I doubt that is going to happen. The world has figured out that Trump is a wimp. He talks big but there is never any action or follow through. Inviting the Taliban to Camp David while they were still blowing up our people? Really?
Q: Will the housing market turn on the turbochargers after this dip in rates?
A: It wouldn’t turn on the turbochargers, but it might stabilize the market because money is available now at unprecedentedly low interest rates. However, we still have the loss of the SALT deductions—the state and local taxes and real estate taxes that came in with the Trump tax bill. Since then, real estate has been either unchanged or has fallen on both the East and West coast where the highest priced houses are. It’s the most expensive houses that take the loss of the SALT deduction the hardest. Don’t expect any movement in these markets until the SALT deduction comes back, probably in 16 months.
Q: What catalyst do you think would cause a 10% correction in the next 2-3 months?
A: Trump basically saying “screw you” to the Chinese—a tweet saying he’s going to bring another round of tariff increases. That’s worth a minimum of 2,000 points in the Dow Average (INDU), or about 7% percent. Either that or no move in Fed interest rates—that would also create a big selloff. My guess is that and adverse development in the trade war will be what does it. That’s why my positions are so small now.
Q: We have a big short position in the United States Oil Fund (USO) now. Are you going to run this into expiration until October $18?
A: Even though oil has already collapsed by 10% since we put this position on last Friday, premiums in oil options are still close to record levels. So, it pays us to hang on for the time decay. The world is still massively oversupplied in oil and the Saudis were able to bring half of the lost production back on in a day. Oil will keep falling unless there is another attack and it is unlikely we will see one again on this scale. And, we only have 20 more days to go to capture the full 14.8% profit.
Good luck and good trading.
CEO & Publisher
Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader