“Getting information off the Internet is akin to trying to sweep back the ocean with a broom,” said Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google.
From time to time, I receive emails from a subscribers telling me that they are unable to get executions on trade alerts that are as good as the ones I get.
There are several possible reasons for this:
1) Markets move, sometimes quite dramatically so. That’s why I include a screenshot of my personal trading account with every trade alert to reliably source the price for the readers.
2) Your Trade Alert email was hung up on your local provider’s server, getting it to you late. This is a function of your local provider’s lack of adequate capital investment and is totally outside our control.
3) The spreads on deep-in-the-money options spreads can be quite wide. This is why I recommend readers to place limit orders to work in the middle market. Make the market come to you. Never buy at market or pay the offered side of the market.
4) Hundreds of market-makers read Global Trading Dispatch and many have attached algorithms to my service. The second they see one of my Trade Alerts, they adjust their markets accordingly.
This is especially true for deep-in-the-money options. A spread can go from totally ignored to a hot item in seconds. I have seen daily volume soar from 10 contracts to 10,000 in the wake of my Trade Alerts.
On the one hand, this is good news, as my Trade Alerts have earned such credibility in the marketplace, with a 90% success rate. On the other hand, it is a problem for readers encountering sharp elbows when attempting executions in competition with market makers.
5) Occasionally, emails just disappear into thin air. This is cutting-edge technology, and sometimes it just plain doesn’t work.
This is why I strongly recommend that readers sign up for my free Text Alert Service as a backup. Trade Alerts are also always posted on the website as a secondary backup and show up in the daily P&L as a third. So, we have triple redundancy here.
The bottom line for all of this is that the prices quoted in my Trade Alerts are just ballpark ones with the intention of giving traders some name-picking and directional guidance.
You have to exercise your own judgment as to whether the risk/reward is sufficient with the prices you are able to execute yourself.
Sometimes it is better to pay up by a few cents rather than miss the big trend. The market rarely gives you second chances.
Good luck and good trading.
Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) are dominant to the extent that the U.S. administration is hoping to dismantle them.
The two companies enjoy a flourishing duopoly and guzzle up digital ad dollars.
Governments around the world are scratching their heads attempting to figure out how to put a dent in these fortresses and so far, have been unsuccessful.
Big tech has made governments look bad, to say the least, and their response has been even more shambolic.
Alphabet installed Google CEO Sundar Pichai as the top decision-maker for all Alphabet assets preparing for the onslaught of digital privacy headwinds and regulation that the E.U., U.S., and everyone else will throw at them.
Luckily, they do not need to deal with the Chinese communist party as big tech minus Apple was effectively banned years ago.
What’s on Google and Facebook’s plate right now?
Attorney General William Barr has pointed the finger at these two platforms for hiding behind a clause that gives them immunity from lawsuits while their platforms carry material promoting illicit and immoral conduct and suppressing opinions.
Barr is currently looking into potential changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was passed in 1996 and has been also referred to as the supercharger to tech riches.
What could eventually come of this?
Barr could decide for the Justice Department to explore ways to limit the provision, which protects internet companies from liability for user-generated content.
This could open up Google and Facebook to higher costs of managing content on their platforms and lawsuits related to malcontent in which they fail to remove.
Even though platforms love to market that they actively thwart bad actors, at the end of the day, they aren’t on the hook for what happens.
Massive alterations could fundamentally weaken their business models and force them to review each word and photo that is thrown upon their platform.
They have already hired an army of hourly paid contractors, but at their massive scale, content is simply impossible to smother.
Content generators understand how to sidestep machine learning algorithms which are based on backdated data, meaning they would not be able to catch a new iteration of past content.
Absolving themselves of any responsibility for policing their platforms has been an important catalyst in the outperformance in shares for both Facebook and Google.
The social side of this has cringeworthy unintended consequences.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association, a tech trade group that counts Google and Facebook as members want the government to stay out of it as they believe they are overreaching.
Government has been slowly making inroads in combatting the strength of these digital platforms, and the first successful foray was when Congress eliminated the liability protection for companies that knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking.
Big tech won’t go with a whimper and they will propose a range of changes to avoid direct damage to their business model such as raising the bar a smidgeon on which companies can have the shield, to carving out other laws negating attempt to weaken their platforms, to delaying the repealing of Section 230.
There is too much shareholder value on the line and as the coronavirus rears its ugly head, it’s ironic that investors perceive safety in not only the U.S. dollar but in the vaunted FANG tech group.
Ultimately, the math wins out and these companies with gargantuan earnings can weather any storm with a moat as wide as ever.
It’s to the point that a $10 billion fine is a massive victory, and what other group of companies can boast about that?
We can only trade the market we have in front of us and not the one we want.
I pulled the trigger on a Google call spread and I believe this narrow group of power tech players and their partners in crime cloud stocks of the likes of Twitter (TWTR), eBay (EBAY), Fortinet (FTNT), Adobe (ADBE), and a few others will hoist the market on its back like I predicted it would at the beginning of the trading year.
We all love our FANGS.
Not only have Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX), and Alphabet (GOOGL) been at the core of our investment performance for the past decade years, we also gobble up their products and services like kids eating their candy stash the day after Halloween.
Three of the FANGs have already won the race to become the first $1 trillion in history, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.
In fact, the FANGs are so popular that we need more of them, a lot more. So how do we find a new FANG?
Here is where it gets complicated. None of the four have perfect business models. All excel in many things but are deficient at others.
So, there are at least four different answers as to what makes a FANG. A more accurate answer would probably be 4 squared, or four to the tenth power.
I will list the eight crucial elements that make a FANG.
1) Product Differentiation
In medieval times, location was the most important determinant of business success. If you owned Ye Olde Shoppe at the foot of London Bridge, you prospered.
Then, great distribution was crucial. This occurred during the 19th century when the railroads ran the economy.
Products followed with the automobile boom of the 20th century, when those who dreamed up 18-inch tailfins dominated. This strategy was applied to all consumer products.
The Financial age came next, when cheap money was used to assemble massive conglomerates that was the primary determinant of success.
The eighties and nineties spawned the era of global brands, be it Coca Cola, MacDonald’s, Lexus, or Gucci.
Today, the global economy is ruled by those who can provide the best services. Facebook offers you personal access to a network of 1.5 billion. Apple will sell you a phone that can perform a magical array of tricks.
Netflix will stream any video content imaginable with lightning speed. Alphabet will deliver you any piece of information you want as fast as you can type, but charges advertisers hundreds of billions of dollars to get in your way.
This has created what I call an “Apple” effect. It stampedes buyers to pay the highest premiums for the best products, assuring global dominance.
While Apple accounts for less than 10% of the smart phone market, it captures a stunning 92% of the net profits. Everyone else is just an “also ran.”
Instead of driving my car into a dingy dealership every few months to get ripped off for a tune up, Tesla (TSLA) does it remotely, online, while I sleep, for free.
Unlike battling for a smelly New York taxi cab in a snow storm, a smiling Uber driver will show up instantly, know where to go, automatically bill me at a discount price, and even give me restaurant recommendations in Kabul.
And you all know what Amazon can do. It beats the hell out of looking for a parking space at a mall these days, only to be told they don’t have your size (48 XLT).
2. Visionary Capital
If you have a great vision, you can get unlimited financing free from investors anywhere. That puts those who must pay for expensive external financing for growth at a huge disadvantage.
Have a great vision, and the world is your oyster.
Elon Musk figured this out early with Tesla. By promising a “carbon-free economy,” he has been able to raise tens of billions of equity capital even though his firm has never made a real profit.
Alphabet is “organizing the world’s information”, while Facebook is “connecting the world.”
Chinese Internet giant Alibaba (BABA) invented a holiday from scratch, “Singles Day,” November 11, which has quickly become the most feverish shopping day in history. In 2019, they booked an unbelievable $30.8 billion in sales in a single 24 hours period, up 27% from the previous year.
And you know the great thing about visions? Not only do venture capitalists and consumers love them, so do stock investors.
3) Global Reach
You have to go global or be gone. A company with 7 billion customers will beat one with only 330 million all day long.
Go global, and economies of scale kick in enormously. This is only possible if you digitize everything from the point of sale to the senior management. Some two-thirds of Facebook users are outside the US, although half its profits are homegrown.
By the way, the Mad Hedge Fund Trader is global, with readers in 135 countries. Our marginal cost of production is zero, and the entire firm is run off my American Express card. It’s a great business model. And boy, do I get a ton of frequent flier points! Whenever I board Virgin Atlantic’s nonstop from San Francisco to London, the entire crew stands up to salute.
Who doesn’t like Mark Zuckerberg, with his ever-present hoodies, skinny jeans, and self-effacing demeanor. And who did Facebook send to Washington to testify about internet regulation but the attractive, razor-sharp, and witty Sheryl Sandberg? The senators ate out of her hand.
Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer? Not so likable. Their arrogance invited a ten-year antitrust suit against Microsoft (MSFT) from the Justice Department which half the legal profession made a living off of.
And here’s the thing. If people like you, so will consumers, regulators, and yes, even equity investors. It makes a big difference to the bottom line and your investment performance.
5) Vertical Integration
Crucial to the success of the FANGs is their complete control of the customer experience through vertical integration.
When FANGs don’t manufacture their own products, as Apple does, they source them, rebrand them, and sell them as their own, like Amazon.
The return on investment for advertising is plummeting. Just ask the National Football League. So, it has become essential for companies to keep a death grip on the customer the second they enter your site.
Some, like Amazon again, will keep chasing you long after you have left their sites with special offers and alternative products. Even if you change computers they will hunt you down.
One of my teenaged daughters used my computer to buy a swimsuit last summer, and let me tell you, booting up in the morning has been a real joy ever since.
This was the genius of the Apple store network. Buy one Apple product and they own you for life, like an indentured servant. They all integrate and talk to each other, a huge advantage for a small business owner. And they are cool.
No pimple-faced geeks wearing horn-rimmed glasses here. Get your iPhone fixed and you don’t talk to a technician, but a “genius.” It’s all about control.
Expect other strong brands to open their own store chains soon.
6) Artificial Intelligence
There is probably no more commonly known but least understood term in technology today. It’s like counting the number of people who have finished Dr. Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” (I have).
A trillion-dollar company absolutely must be able to learn from human data input and then use algorithms to analyze it. Data has become the oxygen of the modern economy.
The company then use other algos to predict what you’re most likely buying next and then thrust it in front of your face screaming at the top of its lungs.
This has been evolving for decades.
First, there was demographic targeting. White suburban middle-class guys have all got to like Budweiser, right?
This turned into social targeting. If two friends “liked” the same brand, regardless of their demographics, they should be targeted by same advertisers.
Now we live in the age of behavioral targeting. There is no better predictor of future purchases than current activities. So, if I buy a plane ticket to Paris, offerings of Paris guidebooks, tours, French cookbooks, French dating services, and even seller of discount black berets suddenly start coming out of the woodwork.
It would be a vast understatement to say that behavioral targeting is the most successful marketing strategy ever invented. So, guess what? We’re going to get a lot more of it.
As depressing as this may sound, the number one goal of almost all new technological advancements these days is to get you to buy more stuff.
Better to use the public computer at the library to buy your copy of “50 Shades of Gray.”
If you want to throw gasoline on the growth of a company, you absolutely have to have the best people to do it. The companies with the smartest staff can suck in free capital, invent faster, develop speedier services, and always be ahead of the curve when compared to the competition.
This has led to enormous disparities in income. Companies will pay anything for winners, but virtually nothing for losers.
I’ll never forget the first day I walked on to the trading floor at Morgan Stanley (MS). I am 6’4” and am used to towering over those around me. But at Morgan, almost all the salesmen were my height or a few inches shorter.
The company specifically selected these people because they delivered better sales records. Height is intimidating, especially to short customers.
And that’s what the FANGs have, the programming equivalents of a crack all-6’4” sales team.
A few years ago, my son got a job as the head of International SEO at Google. He was rare in that he spoke fluent Japanese and carried three passports, US, British, and Japanese (born in London with a Japanese mom and American dad).
However, when he met his team, they all spoke multiple languages, were binational, and were valedictorians, National Merit Scholars, and Eagle Scouts to boot!
This is why immigration is such a hot button issue in Silicon Valley these days. If you can’t get a work visa for a graduating PhD in Computer Science from Stanford, he’ll just go back to China or India to start a local competitor that may someday eat your lunch.
By the way, if you get a FANG on your resume, even for a short period, you are set for life. Oh, and by the way, Apple gets 100,000 resumes a month!
It all about location, location, location. It’s no accident that Silicon Valley took root near two world class universities, the University of California at Berkeley (my alma mater), and the godless heathens at Stanford across the bay.
When the pioneers moved west in covered wagons in 1849, they came to a fork in the road. The god fearing families went right to the verdant farmland of Oregon, while young men cashing in on the latest get-rich-quick scheme chose left for the gold fields of California. Nothing has changed since.
Cal in particular was the recipient of massive government funding for the Manhattan Project that built the first atomic bomb during WWII. The tailwind lingers to this day. The world’s first cyclotron still occupies a local roundabout.
Universities provide the raw materials essential to create hot house local economies like the San Francisco Bay Area. And as much as every region in the US or country in the world would like to do this, none have been able to.
There is only one place in the world were a company can hire 1,000 engineers from scratch on short notice, and that is the Bay Area.
Also, innovation is city centered. Some two-thirds of future GDP growth will emanate from cities.
So, if you want to move your career forward, you better count on spending some serious time in Silicon Valley, New York, London, and Tokyo.
I’ve done all four and it paid handsomely.
So there you have it. Now we know what makes a FANG. I’ll be addressing who the most likely FANG candidates are in a future letter.
I want to thank my friend, Scott Galloway of New York University’s Stern School of Business for some of the concepts in this piece. His book, “The Four” is a must read for the serious tech investor.
So Where is the Next FANG?
The coronavirus hammer finally came down and hit one of the dominant soldiers of big tech.
Apple (AAPL) led morning headlines nationwide by slashing quarterly revenue guidance stemming from production delays and weak demand in China.
Deleting the China demand for new iPhones is enough for the company to signal a looming revenue miss and rightly so, coronavirus has been 24-hour news for the past 2 months on the Asian continent.
As we speak, the cruise liner named the Diamond Princess is parked outside the port of Yokohama with the victims of infected rising by the day.
The optics are ugly, and China’s cover-up of the spreading went awfully awry and now pandora’s box is open.
Naturally, tech stocks can expect a few percentage points shaved off of this year’s annual growth targets and short-term sluggishness in shares exposed to China revenue.
What are the ramifications?
Telecom companies are in the incubation period of building out 5G wireless networks.
Naturally, tech shares will receive a bounce as network deployment gains traction as management commentary, during company earnings calls, on 5G business heats up.
However, the Mobile World Congress was cancelled by organizers stealing the chance for 5G stocks to hype up their position in 5G.
It is almost guaranteed at this point that China coronavirus will slow down the schedule for 5G wireless network buildouts.
Think about this, SARS lasted roughly half a year during 2002-2003, and the coronavirus appears to be worse than that.
Chinese telcoms will need to delay 5G and related equipment along with business that has around 150 million Chinese ensnared by the domestic quarantine.
Apple’s 5G iPhones in late 2020 could be delayed if there is no meaningful breakthrough in the contagion of the coronavirus and its ill effects on global business.
Apple stock appreciated on the hope that 5G iPhones aim to deliver the first meaningful consumer upgrade cycle in several years with a hefty price tag of $1,250.
This next generation iPhone could get pushed back to 2021 as Apple’s supply chain has been put on ice in mainland China.
If Verizon Communications (VZ), AT&T (T), T-Mobile US (TMUS) and Sprint (S) desire to aggressively expand their 5G networks, they might be in for a rude awakening because semiconductor companies might be stretched to limit and cannot provide the right components with supply chains pressured everywhere.
The truth is that supply chains are impacting diverse and interconnected sectors of the electronics industry.
And the epidemic, arriving at dawn of 5G’s mainstream deployment phase, is guaranteed to disrupt the progress of the next-generation wireless standard, as the crisis slows the production of key smartphone components, including displays and semiconductors.
Chip companies and their shares have naturally been rocked by the recent news and they aren’t the only ones.
Expedia (EXPE), the online travel company, revealed it will avoid providing a full-year forecast as the online travel services company reevaluates the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its operations.
Investors can imagine that on mainland China, the situation is grim exerting a fundamental impact on the country’s consumers and merchants and will slice off revenue growth in the current quarter.
Alibaba (BABA), the Amazon of China, told investors that the virus is undermining production and output in the economy because many workers are stuck at home.
The virus has also changed the commerce patterns of consumers by pulling back on discretionary spending, including travel and restaurants.
The Chinese e-commerce giant’s revenue surged year-over-year by an impressive 38% to 161.5 billion yuan ($23.1 billion), while net income rose 58% to 52.3 billion yuan, but that could symbolize the high-water mark.
Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang and Chief Financial Officer Maggie Wu were explicit in mentioning that risks from the pandemic could deaden a piece of revenue moving forward and they weren’t shy about stating this.
Sound bites such as “overall revenue will be negatively impacted,” and expecting growth to be “significantly” negative is quite black and white.
China is almost certain to print weak GDP growth numbers because of cratering imports and a big drop in demand.
Echoing Alibaba’s weakness was network infrastructure company Cisco (CSCO) with a revenue shortfall of 3.5% year-over-year as major product categories like Infrastructure Platforms and Applications were hit.
Cisco must find new cycles in core activities to regain any momentum and chip companies must do the same as the administration turns the screws on Huawei and injects more barriers to U.S. chip companies selling abroad.
This adds to the broader risks of elevated corporate debt and the upcoming U.S. election where tech management is nervous that a new President could throw big tech under the bus.
The coronavirus pours fuel on the flames.
The silver lining is the blows to these companies are softened by the ironic fact that big tech has become the safety trade to the coronavirus and even if 5G is delayed, chip stocks will eventually benefit from a fresh wave of revenue drivers when the 5G network is finally deployed.
However, it is way too early to announce the death of big tech, there are far too many secular tailwinds driving these companies.
The tech bull market is still intact and there will be opportunity to buy.
Like it or not, we have a trade alert drought on our hands.
I just ran the numbers on 200 potential trades in stocks, bonds, foreign exchange, commodities, precious metals, and real estate, and there was not a single one that was worth executing.
They all had one thing in common: for taking huge risks, there were only paltry profits on offer. Even with a 90% success rate, I would still lose money.
And here is the problem. Massive quantitative easing from the US Federal Reserve is keeping the prices of all assets artificially high. But fears of a global Coronavirus pandemic are keeping all prices capped. The spread between the bid and the offer is only 3%. That is not enough to make an honest living, nor even a dishonest one.
I’ve seen all this before. The US in 1974, Tokyo in 1989, NASDAQ in 1999 presented similar trading dilemmas. The outcome is always the same. Prices always go up much longer than expected and then are followed by horrific crashes. Only when the last dollar is sucked in do trends change.
So, for right now, I would rather do nothing than something. We are in a contest to see who can make the most money with the fewest drawdowns, not to see who can strap on the most trades. The latter makes your broker rich, not you.
Cash is a position, it is an opinion, and it has option value. A dollar at a market top is worth $10 at a market bottom. Opportunity cost is not to be underestimated.
For the time being, everything depends on the Coronavirus. It is universally believed that the Chinese data is wildly inaccurate, possible by tenfold. The risks to the markets are similarly underestimated by US investors.
That became screamingly clear to me after returning from a trip halfway around the world where my temperature was taken every time I crossed a border and planes had to be sterilized before boarding
So, the smart game here is to be patient and learn some discipline. Wait for the market to come to you. This is a year when it will be incredibly difficult to make money and extremely easy to lose it.
All trade alert droughts end. Whether it will be sooner or later is anyone’s guess.
China is planning massive stimulus, to get the economy back on track. GDP could drop from 6% to 0% and maybe -6% thanks to the Coronavirus. A borrowing stampede is underway as shut down companies seek to address hemorrhaging cash flow.
Tesla (TSLA) exploded again to the upside, up 10% at the opening. The company has become a good news factory. The German government stepped in to subsidize a massive Gigafactory there. I won’t touch the stock here, but my long terms target is still $2,500.
Tesla finally took my advice and launched a $2 billion common stock offering at these lofty prices. It should be $5 billion. They can retire all their debt, including the convertible bonds, and with no dividend they can operate at a zero cost of capital. Elon Musk is taking $10 million of the deal. He took $100 million of the last offering. Buy (TSLA) on dips. Losses pile up for the short-sellers. Tesla always does the right thing after trying everything else out first.
The Fed’s Jay Powell cheers the economy but warned that the Coronavirus could become a factor. He also cautioned about a federal deficit that will top $1 trillion this year.
With the economy growing at a 2.2% annual rate, it’s below the Obama era growth. Did anyone notice that he said he would trim back QE by reigning in the repo program initiated last fall? Risk in the stock market is now extremely high.
Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT) are now 10% of the entire stock market and are wildly overbought. Such incredible concentration is a typical sign of a topping market. Virtually all the stocks Mad Hedge has been recommending for the last decade are at new all-time highs. Be careful what you wish for.
Household Debt soared hitting a 12-year high. It’s up $601 billion to $14 trillion. It’s pedal to the metal for consumer spending, another classic market-topping indicator. What happens when the bill comes due and interest rates rise?
MGM (MGM) canceled guidance as the Coronavirus upends their business. High-end Chinese gamblers won’t show up to lose gobs of money at the gaming tables if they can’t get here. The epidemic has put the whole gaming industry into turmoil. Call me after new virus cases peak in China. Avoid (MGM).
Boeing had no net deliveries of aircraft in January, the first time since 1962, but the stock rose anyway. That tells me the bottom is firmly in. Buy (BA) on dips. When will the suffering of one of America’s best-run companies, accounting for 3% of GDP, end?
Despite the fact that we may be facing the end of the world, the Mad Hedge Trader Alert Service managed to maintain new all-time highs. I came out of my last position in Boeing (BA) to beat the ex-dividend day and a possible call on my short February $280 calls.
My Global Trading Dispatch performance rose to a new high at +359.00% for the past ten years. February stands at -0.04%. My trailing one-year return is stable at 47.39%. My ten-year average annualized profit ground back up to +35.31%.
All eyes will be focused on the Coronavirus still, with deaths over 1,800. The weekly economic data are virtually irrelevant now. However, some important housing numbers will be released.
On Tuesday, February 18 at 8:30 AM, the NY State Manufacturing Index for February is released.
On Wednesday, February 19, at 9:30 PM, January Housing Starts are out.
On Thursday, February 20 at 8:30 AM, Weekly Jobless Claims come out. The February Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index is announced.
On Friday, February 21 at 10:30 AM, January Existing Home Sales are printed. The Baker Hughes Rig Count follows at 2:00 PM.
As for me, I’ll be driving back from Lake Tahoe, where I spent the long weekend catching up on the markets. There was virtually no snow, amazing for February, but great hiking.
Since I will be dropping 7,200 feet from Donner Pass and I have the new expended range Model X, I will be able to make it the 220 miles home on a single charge.
In two years, I’ll be able to make the 440-mile round trip on a single charge when the new Tesla Cyber truck comes out. Of course, people will think I’m nuts and my kids have refused to be seen in the cutting edge vehicle, but when did that ever stop me?
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
Behavioral trends have a sizable say in which tech companies will outperform the next and a recent report from SimilarWeb offers insight into how much users navigate around the monstrosity known as the internet.
The optimal way to comprehend the trends are from a top-down method by absorbing the divergence between desktop traffic and mobile traffic.
It’s no secret that the last decade delivered consumers a massive leap in mobile phone performance in which tech companies were able to neatly package applications that acted as monetization platforms by offering software and services to the end-user.
Thus, it probably won’t shock you to find out that desktop traffic is down 3.3% since 2017 as users have migrated towards mobile and the trend has only been exaggerated by the younger generations as some have become entirely mobile-only users.
All told, the 30.6% expansion in mobile traffic has penalized tech firms who have neglected mobile-first strategies and one example would be Facebook (FB), who even though has a failing flagship product in Facebook.com, are compensated by Instagram, who is showing wild growth numbers.
The fact that mobile screens are smaller than desktop screens means that users are staying on web pages not as long as they used to – precisely 49 seconds to be exact.
This trend means that content generators are heavily incentivized to frontload content and scrunch it up at the top of the page. This also means that sellers who don’t populate on Google’s first page of search results are practically invisible.
The high stakes of internet commerce are not for the faint of heart and numerous companies have complained about algorithm changes toppling their algorithm-sensitive businesses.
Even using a brute force analysis and investing in companies that are in the top 15 of internet traffic, then the companies that scream undervalued are Twitter (TWTR) and eBay (EBAY).
Twitter is a company I have liked for quite a while and is definitely a buy on the dip candidate.
The asset is the 7th most visited property on the internet behind the likes of Instagram, Google, Baidu, Wikipedia, Amazon, and Facebook.
This position puts them just ahead of Pornhub.com, Netflix, and Yahoo.
And if you take one step back and analyze traffic from the top 100 sites, traffic is up 8% since 2018 and 11.8% since 2017 averaging 223 billion visits per month.
Rounding out the top 15 is eBay who I believe is undervalued along with Twitter – these two are legitimate buy and holds.
Ebay was the recipient of poor management for many years and they are now addressing these sore points.
Certain content is suitable for mobile such as adult sites, gambling sites, food & drink, pets & animals, health, community & society, sports, and lifestyle.
And just over the last year or two, other categories are gaining traction in mobile that once was dominated by desktop such as news and media, vehicle sites, travel, reference, finance, and others.
Many consumers are becoming more comfortable at doing more on mobile and spending more to the point where people are making large purchases on their iPhones.
The biggest loser by far was news – they are losing traffic in droves.
Traffic at the top 100 media publications was down 5.3% year-over-year from 2018 to 2019, a loss of 4 billion visits, and down by 7% since 2017.
Personally, I believe the state of the digital news industry is in shambles, and Twitter has moved into this space becoming the de facto news source while pushing the relevancy of news sites down the rankings.
Facebook and Twitter are essentially undercutting the news by forcing news companies to insert them between the reader and the news company because they have strategized a position so close to the user’s fingertips.
The negative sentiment in news is broad based on popular news, entertainment news and local news all showing decreases of more than 25%.
Finance and women’s interest news categories are the only ones showing positive traffic growth.
The state of internet traffic growth supports my underlying thesis of the big getting bigger and the subsequent network effect stimulating further synergies that drop straight down to the bottom line.
The top 10 biggest sites racked up a total of 167.5 billion monthly visits in 2019, up 10.7% over 2018 and the remaining 90 largest sites out of the top 100 only increased 2.3%.
This has set the stage for just five gargantuan tech firms to become worth more than $5 trillion or 15.7% of the S&P 500’s market value and 19.7% of the total U.S. stock market’s value.
Now we have real data backing up my iron-clad thesis and these cornerstone beliefs underpins my trading philosophy.
Many of the biggest wield a two-headed monster like Google who has Google.com and YouTube video streaming and Facebook, who have Facebook.com and Instagram.
It doesn’t matter that Facebook has lost 8.6% of traffic over the past year because Instagram compensates for Facebook being a poor product.
And if you are searching for another Facebook growth driver under their umbrella of assets then let’s pinpoint chat app WhatsApp who experienced 74% year-over-year traffic.
Beside the news sites, other outsized losers were Yahoo’s web traffic shrinking by 33.6% and Tumblr, which banned adult sites in 2018, leading to a 33% loss in traffic.
If I can sum up the data, buy the shares of companies who are in the top 15 of internet traffic and be on the lookout for any dip in eBay or Twitter because they are relatively undervalued.
Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader February 12 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 do you think about Facebook (FB) here? We’ve just had a big dip.
A: We got the dip because of a double downgrade in the stock from a couple of brokers, and people are kind of nervous that some sort of antitrust action may be taken against Facebook as we go into the election. I still like the stock long term. You can’t beat the FANGs!
Q: If Bernie Sanders gets the nomination, will that be negative for the market?
A: Absolutely, yes. It seems like after 3 years of a radical president, voters want a radical response. That said, I don’t think Bernie will get the nomination. He is not as popular in California, where we have a primary in a couple of weeks and account for 20% of total delegates. I think more of the moderate candidates will come through in California. That’s where we see if any of the new billionaire outliers like Michael Bloom or Tom Steyer have any traction. My attitude in all of this is to wait for the last guy to get voted off the island—then ask me what’s going to happen in October.
Q: When should we come back in on Tesla (TSLA)?
A: It’s tough with Tesla because although my long-term target is $2,500, watching it go up 500% in seven months on just a small increase in earnings is pretty scary. It’s really more of a cult stock than anything else and I want to wait for a bigger pullback, maybe down to $500, before I get in again. That said, the volatility on the stock is now so high that—with the short interest going from 36% down to 20%—if we get the last of the bears to really give up, then we lose that whole 20% because it all turns into buying; and that could get us easily over $1,000. The announcement of a new $2 billion share offering is a huge positive because it means they can pay off debt and operate with free capital as they don’t pay a dividend.
Q: Is Square (SQ) a good buy on the next 5% drop?
A: I would really wait 10%—you don’t want to chase trades with the market at an all-time high. I would wait for a bigger drop in the main market before I go aggressive on anything.
Q: What about CRISPR Technology (CRSP) after the 120% move?
A: We’ve had a modest pullback—really more of a sideways move— since it peaked a couple of months ago; and again, I think the stock either goes much higher or gets taken over by somebody. That makes it a no-lose trade. The long sideways move we’re having is actually a very bullish indication for the stock.
Q: If Bernie is the candidate and gets elected, would that be negative for the market?
A: It would be extremely negative for the market. Worth at least a 20% downturn. That said, according to all the polling I have seen, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that could not win against Donald Trump—the other 15 candidates would all beat Trump in a 1 to 1 contest. He’s also had one heart attack and might not even be alive in 6 months, so who knows?
Q: I just closed the Boeing (BA) trade to avoid the dividend hit tomorrow. What do you think?
A: I’m probably going to do the same, that way you can avoid the random assignments that will stick you with the dividend and eat up your entire profit on the trade.
Q: When do you update the long-term portfolio?
A: Every six months; and the reason for that is to show you how to rebalance your portfolio. Rebalancing is one of the best free lunches out there. Everyone should be doing it after big moves like we’ve seen. It’s just a question of whether you rebalance every six months or every year. With stocks up so much a big rebalancing is due.
Q: I have held onto Gilead Sciences (GILD) for a long time and am hoping they’ll spend their big cash hoard. What do you think?
A: It’s true, they haven’t been spending their cash hoard. The trouble with these biotech stocks, and why it’s so hard to send out trade alerts on them, is that you’ll get essentially no movement on them for years and then they rise 30% in one day. Gilead actually does have some drugs that may work on the coronavirus but until they make another acquisition, don’t expect much movement in the stock. It’s a question of how long you are willing to wait until that movement.
Q: Is it time to get back into the iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX)?
A: No, you need to maintain discipline here, not chase the last trade that worked. It’s crucial to only buy the bottoms and sell the tops when trading volatility. Otherwise, time decay and contango will kill you. We’re actually close to the middle of the range in the (VXX) so if we see another revisit to the lows, which we could get in the next week, then you want to buy it. No middle-of-range trades in this kind of market, you’re either trading at one extreme or the other.
Q: Could you please explain how the Fed involvement in the overnight repo market affects the general market?
A: The overnight repo market intervention was a form of backdoor quantitative easing, and as we all know quantitative easing makes stocks go up hugely. So even though the Fed said this wasn’t quantitative easing, they were in fact expanding their balance sheet to facilitate liquidity in the bond market because government borrowing has gotten so extreme that the public markets weren’t big enough to handle all the debt; that’s why they stepped into the repo market. But the market said this is simply more QE and took stocks up 10% since they said it wasn’t QE.
Q: What about Cisco Systems (CSCO)?
A: It’s probably a decent buy down here, very tempting. And it hasn’t participated in the FANG rally, so yes, I would give that one a really hard look. The current dip on earnings is probably a good entry point.
Q: Should we buy the Volatility Index (VIX) on dips?
A: Yes. At bottoms would be better, like the $12 handle.
Q: When is the best time to exit Boeing?
A: In the next 15 minutes. They go ex-dividend tomorrow and if you get assigned on those short calls then you are liable for the dividend—that will eat up your whole profit on the trade.
Q: Do you like Fire Eye (FEYE)?
A: Yes. Hacking is one of the few permanent growth industries out there and there are only a half dozen listed companies that are cutting edge on security software.
Q: What are your thoughts on the timing of the next recession?
A: Clearly the recession has been pushed back a year by the 2019 round of QE, and stock prices are getting so high now that even the Fed has to be concerned. Moreover, economic growth is slowing. In fact, the economy has been growing at a substantially slower rate since Trump became president, and 100% of all the economic growth we have now is borrowed. If the government were running a balanced budget now, our growth would be zero. So, certainly QE has pushed off the recession—whether it’s a one-year event or a 2-year event, we’ll see. The answer, however, is that it will come out of nowhere and hit you when you least expect it, as recessions tend to do.
Q: Would you buy gold (GLD) rather than staying in cash?
A: I would buy some gold here, and I would do deep in the money call spreads like I have been doing. I’ve been running the numbers every day waiting for a good entry point. We’re now at a sort of in between point here on call spreads because it’s 7 days to the next February expiration and about 27 days to the March one after that, so it’s not a good entry point this week. Next week will look more interesting because you’ll start getting accelerated time decay for March working for you.
Q: When are you going to have lunch in Texas or Oklahoma?
A: Nothing planned currently. Because of my long-term energy views (USO), I have to bring a bodyguard whenever I visit these states. Or I hold the events at a Marine Corps Club, which is the same thing.
Q: Would you use the dip here to buy Lyft (LYFT)? It’s down 10%.
A: No, it’s a horrible business. It’s one of those companies masquerading as a tech stock but it isn’t. They’re dependent on ultra-low wages for the drivers who are essentially netting $5 an hour driving after they cover all their car costs. Moreover, treating them as part-time temporary workers has just been made illegal in California, so it’s very bad news for the stocks—stay away from (LYFT) and (UBER) too.
Q: Is the Fed going to cut interest rates based on the coronavirus?
A: No, interest rates are low enough—too low given the rising levels of the stock market. Even at the current rate, low-interest rates are creating a bubble which will come back to bite us one day.
Q: Household debt exceeded $14 trillion for the first time—is this a warning sign?
A: It is absolutely a warning sign because it means the consumer is closer to running out of money. Consumers make up 70% of the economy, so when 70% of the economy runs out of money, it leads to a certain recession. We saw it happen in ‘08 and we’ll see it happen again.
Good Luck and Good Trading
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader is now celebrating its 12th year of publication.
During this time, I have religiously pumped out 1,500 words a day, or eight double-space typed pages of original, independent-minded, hard-hitting, and often wickedly funny research.
I’ve been covering stocks, bonds, commodities, energy, precious metals, real estate, and agricultural products.
You’ve been kept up on my travels around the world and listened in on my conversations with those who drive the financial markets.
I also occasionally opine on politics, but only when it has a direct market impact, such as with the recent administration’s economic and trade policies.
The site now contains over 12 million words or 13 times the length of Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace.
Unfortunately, it feels like I have written on every possible topic at least 100 times over.
So, I am reaching out to you, the reader, to suggest new areas of research that I may have missed until now which you believe justify further investigation.
Please send any and all ideas directly to me at email@example.com/, and put “RESEARCH IDEA” in the subject line.
The great thing about running an online business is that I can evolve it to meet your needs on a daily basis.
Many of the new products and services that I have introduced since 2008 have come at your suggestion. That has enabled me to improve the product’s quality to your benefit.
This originally started out as a daily email to my hedge fund investors giving them an update on fast market-moving events. That was at a time when the financial markets were in free fall, and the end of the world seemed near.
Here’s a good trading rule of thumb: Usually, the world doesn’t end. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes.
The daily emails gave me the scalability that I so desperately needed. Today’s global mega enterprise grew from there. Today, the Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader and its Global Trading Dispatch are read in over 140 countries by 24,000 followers. The Mad Hedge Technology Letter and the Mad Hedge Biotech & Healthcare Letter also have substantial followings.
I’m weak in North Korea and Mali, in both cases due to the lack of electricity. But that may change.
If you want to read my first pitiful attempt at a post, please click here for my February 1, 2008 post.
It urged readers to buy gold at $950 (it soared to $1,920), and buy the Euro at $1.50 (it went to $1.60).
Now you know why this letter has become so outrageously popular.
Unfortunately, I also recommended that they sell bonds short. I wasn’t wrong on that one, just early, about eight years too early.
I always get asked how long will I keep doing this?
The government tells me that the latest I can start drawing down on my retirement funds and Social Security is 70. That’s some three years off for me.
Given the absolute blast I have doing this job, that is highly unlikely. Take a look at the testimonials I get on an almost daily basis and you’ll see why this business is so hard to walk away from (click here for those.)
In the end, you are going to have to pry my cold dead fingers off of this keyboard to get me to give up.
Fiat Lux (Let there be light).
Autonomous or bankrupt; that is the ultimate fate of Uber (UBER).
In the short-term, Uber is a master at moving the goalposts in order to breathe life in the stock.
CEO of Uber Dara Khosrowshahi can only pray that the Fed will continue to pump cheap money into the market because without artificially low-interest loans, tech firms like Uber would implode.
Is it really time to give Uber the benefit of the doubt?
No more hype, just profits? Is the calculus to profits legitimate?
That’s what we call a bubble. Bubbles always burst. Here’s the scary part.
Many people are counting on the continued existence of Uber and Lyft to provide “cheap transportation.”
Commuters will have to get suddenly unused to it.
There are many companies today that are running the same scheme as Uber in the “gig economy.”
It’s true that management loves to use a lot of flowery language to disguise a lack of profitability.
But as the conditions are ripe for a leg up in tech, the tide rises, and even Uber’s boat rises with it.
I have yet to see even one realistic analysis of how Uber or Lyft is going to become profitable – not even basic math!
I have met a plethora of drivers for both companies, and hope they do well, but there is only so long that one can put lipstick on a pig.
So here we are, Uber in the green everyday because they moved the goalposts yet again and promise us earlier than expected profitability but still losing billions of dollars.
Lyft and Uber have apparently increased revenues somewhat by reducing promotional discounts to riders, but that does not project to even a breakeven point and the unit economics tell me no even if my heart says yes.
The only trick up their sleeve seems to be fare increases, but where is the roadmap detailing this treacherous path?
Once we get to the point in time when Uber is supposed to be profitable, I bet that management will call in another trick play and move the goal posts yet again.
It is quite laughable when so called “tech experts” want Uber to join the ranks of Facebook Inc. (FB), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), Netflix Inc. (NFLX), and Alphabet Inc.’s Google (GOOGL) as part of a FANGU acronym.
Reasons for this new bundle is thought to be because of the ability to take advantage of its massive scale while working toward profitability.
Uber is the global ridesharing leader and is becoming the global food delivery leader, but do they really add value?
What if the local government finally got their finger out and built a proper transport system?
They are merely taking advantage of a broken system and passing on the costs of paying drivers to the drivers themselves by designating them as hourly workers.
Are we supposed to celebrate when Uber becomes more “rational?”
Meaning that players have limited their attempts to undercut one another with the sorts of pricing and big discounts that had at one time suggested the business might be a race to the bottom.
Uber projected a lower loss than analysts were expecting for 2020, does less loss mean profits in 2020?
And I do agree that it is encouraging that the company is finally disclosing more data, but shouldn’t they be doing that in the first place?
Love it or hate it, there is a “war” going on between profitability and growth at Uber as the company manages the trade-offs.
Uber had previously talked up that it would become Ebitda profitability by the end of 2021, but Khosrowshahi now forecasts profitability for the fourth quarter of this year.
He says it is possible because Uber initiated a “belt-tightening program” in the last half of 2019, exiting unprofitable ventures and laying off about 1,000 employees.
For instance, Uber sold its food-delivery business in India to a local startup, Zomato, in return for a 9.9% stake in that company.
I do believe that they haven’t done enough to build credibility with investors and the stock’s price action is behaving as we should trust Uber’s management with whatever comes out of their mouths.
The lack of visibility and uncertainty around trends in ridesharing and Eats outside the U.S. continue to be hard to quantify.
So that sounds great! Uber is more serious than ever about becoming profitable and investors have backed them up with the stock flying to the moon.
The trend is your friend and I would suggest readers to get out of the way of this one because you could get trampled on just like the Tesla bears.
And I do support Uber in making steps in the right direction and it also can be said that stocks appreciate the fastest when they transform from a horrible company to a less horrible company.
But there is no way that I am giving Khosrowshahi a pass for Uber’s current situation and no chance I am praising him to the hills.
It is what it is, and Uber is less bad than before, and if they don’t meet their targets, I don’t think investors will believe Khosrowshahi version of a spin doctor forecast anymore.
Uber will rise in the foreseeable future and if they fail to become profitable by 4th quarter, expect a massive drawdown.
If they succeed, expect a vigorous wave of new players to buy into Uber shares.
The stakes have never been higher for Uber and Khosrowshahi.