Global Market Comments
November 29, 2019
(WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE GREAT DEPRESSION DEBT?)
($TNX), (TLT), (TBT)
Global Market Comments
November 29, 2019
(WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE GREAT DEPRESSION DEBT?)
($TNX), (TLT), (TBT)
Granted that technology companies have been the mule carrying the load for the broader market, beneath it is an ugly underbelly of venomous spirits.
Digital tech companies are frauds.
This could crater the broader market if the worst-case scenarios play out.
What do I mean by labeling them frauds?
Well, first, not all tech companies are charlatans. The ones producing components like semiconductor companies and others creating hardware are not the target of my wrath.
Since content has migrated into an all-out assault on traditional media, there is a dirty little secret that is festering because the new online media isn’t regulated.
The numbers are all a lie.
Much of the analytics and calculus involved with crafting cost to the other side is being entirely gamed by tech companies quoting prices based on fake analytics.
Instagram switched over its algorithm to displaying photos chronologically, to now display posts that engage the most, more specifically, what gets clicked the most.
Consumers have complained about it being significantly harder to gain likes and followers because, for the ones that don’t have many clicks, it’s harder to get those added clicks if your post is relegated down the feed.
The platform has also been a breeding ground for fabricating likes, friends, views, clicks and so on. Companies can be hired per like, resulting in a beefed-up profile built on fantasy.
Ad companies gauge each Instagram profile by the amount of engagement generated and if most of them are fraudulent likes, there will be weak follow-through in sales after ad purchases since a good chunk of the potential audience is a mirage.
Instagram is the preferred social platform of most influencers and Facebook is attempting to merge both assets into one in order to claim to regulators that they can’t be separated.
Much of digital marketing has migrated down the path of growing a large following for the reason to qualify as an effective brand ambassador and siphon off influencer marketing budgets from corporates who desperately want to penetrate a target audience.
In an age of automated robocalls and strict email rules, companies hesitantly confess that the only way to reach their end buyer is through social media channels.
Corporates are wasting billions of dollars because they aren’t getting what they really pay for and are basically being fleeced by tech companies.
And if you think this is mutually exclusive to Facebook (FB) and Instagram, it happens in every tech company that involves data.
Tech companies are monetarily incentivized to flat out lie about their data, partially because the penalties are minimal or absent in many cases.
Marginal tactics to fast-track the process by buying likes should be rooted out of the eco-system.
They are not only hurting the trust users have with the platform, but misrepresenting the brand that associates with a product.
Tech firms ward off anyone and everything from taking a peek at internal data by claiming it is their proprietary IP causing them to effectively police themselves.
That is not even the worst part of it all.
Parent company Facebook is turning a blind eye to something that could crash the company.
Mark Zuckerberg’s old classmate Aaron Greenspan published a report complaining that over 50% of Facebook accounts are fake.
Facebook is on record admitting that between 2-3% of accounts are fake, but that number is a dream and artificially low by a country mile.
If it is true that half of Facebook accounts are fake, this would mean that Facebook sits on over 1 billion fake accounts.
Never mind the fake likes or clicks issue, Facebook shareholders could lose most of their worth in this stock if the truth is ever discovered.
Remember, the network effect works on the way down just like it works on the way up as a de-facto force multiplier.
Facebook and many other tech firms are a black box just like the Google (GOOGL) search algorithm.
Yelp (YELP), the online review company, could potentially sub-contract out fake reviews and never disclose how many of them are truly fake, they have no incentive to.
I recently stayed in an Airbnb rental whose active management was sub-contracted to a local property manager.
When I met him, he told me “This apartment was just bought and you are the first guest to stay in this apartment, so if there are any issues, please contact us as soon as possible.”
Wait, hold on, in my head, I am thinking, how did I see 45 great reviews from the apartment’s profile if I am the first guest?
I logged on to reread some reviews and some of the responses were completely inaccurate about the apartment.
It was clear these were made up and paid for and I was, in fact, the first to stay in this apartment like the property manager said.
Expectedly, there was more wrong with the apartment than just the fake reviews.
The television, stove, and hot water didn’t work, the key to the apartment was half broken and I had to perform miracles just to get the front door open.
There is a reckoning coming to technology companies because of the rampant misuse of the technology by nefarious actors monetizing the platform while perverting it.
Companies look the other way because they don’t want a revaluation of their business model which would add costs and, in some cases, bankrupt a company if the problem isn’t fixable.
As we move forward, the problems enlarge.
In a nutshell, this is why everyone hates tech now and its already stomach-churning enough that these firms steal your personal data and sell it to whomever they want.
A harsh reckoning will eventually hit the involved companies, but until then, tech business models are manipulated to the extreme and they continue to print real and fake growth mixed together as one.
One day, that fake growth will vanish and these companies will have to explain why to their shareholders.
In the meantime, just assume all online reviews are fake and enjoy the bull market in tech.
Global Market Comments
November 27, 2019
(IS USA, INC. A SHORT?)
What would happen if I recommended a stock that had no profits, was losing billions of dollars a year and had a net worth of negative $44 trillion?
Chances are, you would cancel your subscription to the Mad Hedge Fund Trader, demand a refund, unfriend me from your Facebook account, and unfollow me on Twitter.
Yet, that is precisely what my former colleague at Morgan Stanley did a few years ago, technology guru Mary Meeker.
Now a partner at venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins, Mary has brought her formidable analytical talents to bear on analyzing the United States of America as a stand-alone corporation.
The bottom line: the challenges are so great they would daunt the best turnaround expert. The good news is that our problems are not hopeless or unsolvable.
The US government was a miniscule affair until the Great Depression and WWII when it exploded in size. Since 1965 when Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” began, GDP rose by 2.7 times, while entitlement spending leapt by 11.1 times.
If current trends continue, the Congressional Budget Office says that entitlements and interest payments will exceed all federal revenues by 2025.
Of course, the biggest problem is with health care spending, which will see no solution until health care costs are somehow capped. Despite spending more than any other nation, we get one of the worst results, with lagging quality of life, life spans, and infant mortality.
Some 28% of Medicare spending is devoted to a recipient’s final four months of life. Somewhere, there are emergency room cardiologists making a fortune off of this. A night in an American hospital costs 500% more than in any other country.
Social Security is an easier fix. Since it started in 1935, life expectancy has risen by 26% to 78, while the retirement age is up only 3% to 66. Any reforms have to involve raising the retirement age to at least 70 and means testing recipients.
The solutions to our other problems are simple but require political suicide for those making the case.
For example, you could eliminate all tax deductions, including those for home mortgage deductions, charitable contributions, IRA contributions, dependents, and medical expenses, and raise $1 trillion a year. That would more than wipe out the current budget deficit in one fell swoop.
Mary reminds us that government spending on technology laid the foundations of our modern economy. If the old DARPANET had not been funded during the sixties, Google, Yahoo, eBay, Facebook, Cisco, and Oracle would be missing today. Tech generates about 50% of all the profits in the US today.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were also invented by and is still run by the government and has been another great wellspring of profits. I got to use it during the 1980s while flying across Greenland when it was still top secret. The Air Force base that ran it was called “Sob Story.”
There are a few gaping holes in Mary’s “thought experiment.” I doubt she knows that the Treasury Department carries the value of America’s gold reserves, the world’s largest at 8,965 tons worth $576 billion, at only $34 an ounce, versus an actual current market price of $1,288.
Nor is she aware that our ten aircraft carriers are valued at $1 each, against an actual cost of $10 billion each in today’s dollars. And what is Yosemite worth on the open market, or Yellowstone, or the Grand Canyon? These all render her net worth calculations meaningless.
Mary expounds at length on her analysis which you can buy in a book entitled USA Inc. at Amazon by clicking here.
Thanks to both of you for taking the time to answer me back. I am going to hang in there.
I like your newsletter because the unbiased perspectives you share and the way in which you look at market opportunities in a realistic, factual manner. I am just hoping to turn that advantage into profit and learn.
I don’t like financial advisors as they open your account, offer canned advice, and disappear after they take your money. I want to have the independent skills needed to manage my own wealth, as I grow old.
I don’t expect that to happen overnight or without advice, but I am hoping that your newsletter is something above par not just in appearance, but in results.
Time will tell.
Thank you again for returning my emails. That says a lot.
Hammond, New York
Global Market Comments
November 26, 2019
(WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOW?)
($INDU), (EK), (S), (BS), (CVX), (DD), (MMM),
(FBHS), (MGDDY), (FL), (GE), (TSLA), (GM)
(WHY YOUR OTHER INVESTMENT NEWSLETTER IS SO DANGEROUS)
I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Deloitte Private Technology Trends report named, “Seizing Opportunity.”
I’ll break down some of the gems I took away that will give us insight into the current state of technology.
This might not be necessarily a new idea because artificial intelligence has been around for a while, but it certainly is gaining steam with respondents placing greater value on artificial intelligence to drive business results.
Firms are using AI for analysis automation 48% of the time in 2019 versus 30% in 2018, putting the responsibility on this technology to super-drive profits.
It’s not a surprise that big data analysts have become one of the most sought-after commodities in Silicon Valley.
It’s appropriate to say that the FANGs have pulled away from any resemblance of competition in 2019 and this if forcing many mid-market and private companies to view talent and emerging technologies as the x-factors to stay competitive.
Behemoth tech companies have the luxury of cheap access to capital to buy out competition or break it by throwing money at problems until they can copy the technology and scale it applying force multiplier ecosystems to cross-pollinate and intertwine services with each other.
These same companies buy back their own stock with cheap capital enriching stakeholders and management.
In fact, Apple (AAPL) is buying back so much stock that it will have bought out its entire trove of stock by 2030 to effectively go private.
Deloitte found that 43% say they are spending more than 5% of their firm’s revenue on technology, a 15-point increase since 2016.
More than half of respondents forecast annual growth rates of 11% or higher and 68% plan to hire to harness the emerging technology.
Another trend that will pick up steam that I have noted before is the predictive analytics and legacy system modernization, and this is topping private companies’ investment priorities list.
In fact, the number of private companies surveyed using predictive analytics to diagnose business results skyrocketed 65% over the past five years.
Firms are prioritizing information security risks, the adoption of 5G technology, and business innovation over the next 365 days.
Digital disruption is the norm du jour.
Firms expect shifts in sales (55%), marketing (50%), and supply chain roles (49%) in the next 3-5 years.
In preparation, 54% of mid-market and private companies are re-skilling employees and 52% are reconfiguring jobs to accommodate this shift.
Also, 72% believe internal development and reskilling is a method to enhance employees’ potential because of the exorbitant costs of talent acquisition.
Over two-thirds (69%) will construct new talent acquisition strategies to marry it up with the trend of hiring in data analytics, AI and other emerging technologies.
In a major reversal, respondents are less likely to seek out crowdsourcing and gig economy workers because these types of workers are less effective than full-time workers and have high turnover rates.
More than 32% of private companies acknowledge that embedded value is trending towards machine learning, robotic process automation and other cognitive capabilities, a 12% increase from 2018’s survey results.
Although executives are experiencing greater benefits from AI technologies, more than one-half of respondents (55%) are worried about the use of AI, particularly when it comes to HR decision-making.
Personally, I believe using AI in HR is mostly flawed.
In short, firms are doubling down on “emerging technologies” and to combat the superior business models of big tech companies.
They almost have no choice.
These conditions favor the status quo of behemoth tech titans who can invest in machine learning and artificial intelligence because of their cheap sources of capital.
From the data, smaller companies are desperate to hang on to their talent because of a shrinking talent pool and high talent acquisition cost.
The belief that leveraging foundational technologies to springboard revenue is only getting stronger. This favors the goliaths at the top because they have the resources to integrate these levers unlike companies further down the food chain.
This article could almost signal why investors can’t be short Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Google (GOOGL).
They are at the vanguard of every major technology trend and they have demonstrated that they are definitely “seizing opportunity.”
Global Market Comments
November 25, 2019
(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or CATCHING OUR BREATH),
(MSFT), (GOOGL), (TLT), (VIX), (TSLA)
There are certain parts of tech that I routinely bash on like travel tech, music streaming tech, and the usefulness of social media companies.
One other group of companies that I’m just as sour on are the discount e-brokers.
Yes, tech has embedded deflation into every company causing operations to become more efficient while boosting performance.
That doesn’t necessarily translate into more sales for some, and they have cut down the barriers of entry to e-brokers who have struggled.
The race down to zero finally hit rock bottom a few months ago when Interactive Brokers (IBKR) announced doing away with trading fees.
Buying and selling stocks and ETFs now costs the consumer nothing and this has been great news for investors and traders who don’t need to shoulder the extra trading costs.
But what about the e-brokers themselves?
Today Charles Schwab (SCHW) announced they are in negotiations to buy out the smaller TD Ameritrade (AMTD).
This was due to happen and is just another round of an industry-wide reshuffle.
I have never once thought these e-broker companies were a candidate for a tech alert, there are so many better companies out there.
Smaller commissions mean less revenue and the exact opposite of what investors should hope for in a tech company.
The lack of pricing power stems from the issue that e-brokers offer a commodified service of selling standard products and pricing is the only way to differentiate themselves.
The first startup company to offer zero was Menlo Park, California dark horse Robinhood which was recently valued at $7.6 billion.
They make money on the interest from customer deposits and sell data flow to high-frequency traders who in turn monetize the numbers using faster internet connections.
The spirited startup was found in 2013 and has added over 6 million users who are mostly from the Millennial age group.
These 6 million also represent the numbers lost to the discount e-brokers.
Robinhood’s influence in the industry cannot be understated as they singlehandedly forced an e-broker to cut commissions one by one blowing up their business model.
E-brokers had no choice but to cut to zero unless they were content to bleed customers.
Don’t forget that TD Ameritrade acquired competitor Scottrade just two years ago as the consolidation merry-go-round began.
The Schwab and TD Ameritrade deal will create over $5 trillion in asset management together.
Moving forward, the big question is how can these companies sustain themselves.
Exactly, there appears to be no panacea and I would recommend any investor to avoid investing in these e-brokers.
Schwab appears to be hanging their hat on their additional financial services they will be able to provide customers like offering mutual funds.
In addition to offering online brokerage accounts and robo-advisor services, Schwab and TD Ameritrade play a pivotal role in the independent advisory space because they custody assets and offer related services to RIAs.
According to Financial Advisor magazine, Schwab is the leading RIA custodian, and TD Ameritrade ranks third after Fidelity.
A merged company can theoretically offer more services to RIAs, but could also create opportunities for others.
Could these services become a race down to zero as well?
Disruption is in the early innings and round two could see Interactive Brokers or E*Trade (ETFC) in the next round of consolidation.
Smaller e-brokers will in time go bust or get bought out.
This reaffirms the broad trend of financial jobs eroding rapidly as the onslaught of technology has made certain jobs obsolete.
U.S. financial jobs are set to slide by 10% in the upcoming years.
Back office bank jobs are disappearing as we speak and the next big wave of job losses after that will be the front-office broker.
Yes, your Schwab broker could become an algorithm.
At some point, there will be a few managers left over, a handful of executives, and an army of software engineers.
Global Market Comments
November 22, 2019
(TRADING THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION)
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