Global Market Comments
April 20, 2020
(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or WHAT’S A FED PUT WORTH?),
(INDU), (SPX), (TLT), (ZM), (TDOC),
(NFLX), (UAL), (WYNN), (CCL)
Global Market Comments
April 20, 2020
(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or WHAT’S A FED PUT WORTH?),
(INDU), (SPX), (TLT), (ZM), (TDOC),
(NFLX), (UAL), (WYNN), (CCL)
What is a Fed put worth?
That the question that traders and investors alike are pondering.
If the government had taken no action whatsoever in the face of the Corona pandemic the Dow average would easily be at 15,000 today, if not 12,000.
After all, the economic collapse we have seen has been even greater than the Great Depression. More than 22 million unemployed in four weeks? Back then, the Dow Average fell by 90%.
Enter the Feds.
Throw in $6 trillion in expected fiscal spending and $8-$0 trillion in Federal Reserve stabilization of the money markets and quantitative easing, and it makes a heck of a difference. As a result, the national debt will rocket from $23 trillion to at least $32 trillion by next year, a far faster increase than seen after Pearl Harbor.
Stocks love this.
In the past three weeks, the Dow Average has jumped an eye-popping 35% from 18,000 to over 24,000. We are likely trading at 25 X 2020 earnings, but that is just a guess at best. Nobody knows, with essentially all companies withdrawing guidance. On a valuation basis, stocks are now more expensive than at any time since 1929.
You can be excused for being confused, befuddled, and gob-sacked.
All of this adds up to a value of the Fed put of 9,000 in Dow Average terms, 17,000 in a worst-case scenario, and 27,000 if you want to go back to 1933 share valuations.
Stocks here are now priced for perfection. To buy shares here, you are making the following rosy assumptions:
1) The Corona epidemic is peaking and it is clear sailing from here.
2) Shelters-in-place ends in two weeks.
3) Critical shortages of medical supplies end.
4) US Deaths top out at 60,000 from the current 40,000, the most optimistic White House forecast.
4) Business will immediately bounce back to pre-epidemic levels
5) Domestic and international travel resume immediately
If all of the above take place, then at a stretch, shares are justified at maintaining current levels and will churn sideways from here.
Here is what is more likely:
1) We are nowhere close to a peak, especially in states that never sheltered-in-place, and there could be a secondary peak in the fall. At 2,000 a day, US deaths will easily top 100,000 in a month.
2) Shelters-in-place will extend to June in the most populous states.
3) Medical supply shortages will continue for the indefinite future, with 50 states bidding against each other to buy fake masks from China.
4) Dozens of large companies and perhaps a quarter of the country’s 30 million small businesses will go bankrupt before the recovery begins.
5) There is no sign that domestic and international travels are getting off the runway anytime soon.
If that is the case, then stocks here that are wildly overpriced are due for a retest of the Dow 18,000 and (SPX) 2,400 lows.
No matter what happens, traders should be cognizant of an enormous bifurcation of the market that has taken place.
Stay at Home stocks, like Zoom (ZM), Teladoc (TDOC), and Netflix (NFLX), have spectacularly outperformed the market. Many of these had already been recommended by the Mad Hedge Technology letter and the Mad Hedge Biotech & Healthcare letter because they were leaders in their own technologies (click here).
The problem with these companies is that they are all expensive, in some cases trading at hundreds of times their earnings.
Then there are the Reopening Stocks that will deliver outsized returns once we make it to the downslope of the epidemic. These include United Airlines (UAL), Wynn Hotels (WYNN), and Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL), which we heavily sold short near the market top, and led the recovery of the last three weeks.
The problem with these companies is that they may have to go bankrupt first, or at least accept a heavy government ownership and dilution of existing shareholders before they return to normal.
It’s a quandary that would vex Solomon.
I always tell people, if you want to make an easy, reliable, and safe living, get a job at the Post Office. Avoid the stock market.
OPEC cut oil production by 10 million barrels/day, for two months, and then 8 million barrels a day for the rest of the year. Oil prices plunged anyway to a 20-year low at $18.50 a barrel, as it only puts a small dent in the 34 million barrel a day oversupply. It only postpones the day when many energy companies go bankrupt.
The Economy could be turning on and off for 18 months, believes Fed governor Neil Kashkari. He may be partly right. I am expecting two Coronavirus waves to lead to two shutdowns in the spring and fall, and the stock market may reflect the same. If so, stocks are wildly overpriced here, and the bear market could last another year. Sell shorts, or at least add hedges, and buy the (SDS).
US Budget Deficit to top $3.8 trillion this year, the most since WWII. We were already headed for a monster $1.5 trillion in red ink before the virus hit. Now we are pouring gasoline on the fire. It’sis my worst-case scenario, I had the national debt rising from $23 trillion today to $30 trillion in a decade. It looks like that will happen by next year.
Only 90,000 cleared US airport security in one day, down from a typical 2.2 million, or down 95%. It appears that 90,000 people a day don’t care if they get Covid-19 or have already had it. Some 80% of all flights globally are grounded, with many countries now stranded. With massive debt loads, it is only a question of how soon the big US airlines go bankrupt and how much the government gets to own on the way back up. Don’t buy any airlines no matter how cheap they get.
US Retails Sales collapsed by 8.7% as the paycheck-free economics takes hold. The March Empire State Manufacturing Index crashed to a record low of 78% and March Industrial Production is off 5.4%, the lowest since 1946. The parade of the worst economic data in history has begun. And we go into this with stocks at record high valuations, more expensive than they were in January.
Goldman Sachs says this depression will be four times worse than the Great Recession of 2008-2009, likely falling 35% annualized in Q2. Unemployment will hit 15% or higher, but stocks will not retest the March lows. The bounce back in H2 will be bigger than any seen. It more or less corresponds to my view. They must have some smart people at (GS).
March Homebuilder Confidence brings the biggest crash in history, down 42 points to a reading of only 30. It’s the greatest decline since the 35-year history of the index. The last time we were this low was in June 2012. Some 21% of builders are reporting virus disruption.
Housing Starts collapsed a stunning 22.3% in March, the worst one-month figure ever recorded. Social distancing makes open houses impossible. But this will be one sector that leads us out of the depression. There is still a chronic generational housing shortage.
Weekly Jobless Claims topped 5.1 million, taking the grim four-week tally to a staggering 21 million. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.
Gilead Sciences (GILD) drug sent stocks soaring, up 900 points overnight. Its Remdesivir brought rapid recovery in already infected patients at the University of Chicago in a phase three trial. The market is hypersensitive to any good Corona news. Sell into the rally.
China GDP took a 6.8% hit in Q1 as the Corona pandemic takes its toll. Services are recovering faster than manufacturing, which is why the smog has not come back yet. And international trade has ground down to zero. Public transit has been abandoned for private cars. It could be a preview to our own recovery.
When we come out on the other side of this, we will be perfectly poised to launch into my new American Golden Age, or the next Roaring Twenties. With interest rates at zero, oil at $18 a barrel, and many stocks down by three quarters, there will be no reason not to. The Dow Average will rise by 400% or more in the coming decade.
My Global Trading Dispatch performance recovered nicely this week, thanks to some frenetic trading. I used the Monday 700-point dive in the market to cover most of my bearish positions and add short-dated longs in Apple (AAPL) and Facebook (FB).
Finally, I dove back into selling short the US bond market on the assumption that unprecedented borrowing will destroy prices.
My short volatility positions (VXX) were hammered again, even though volatility declined on the week. There seems to be heavy short selling of deep out-of-the-money puts on the assumption that the Volatility Index (VIX) won’t rise above $50 again.
We are now up +0.45% in April, taking my 2020 YTD return down to -7.97%. That compares to a loss for the Dow Average of -15% from the February top. My trailing one-year return returned to 33.88%. My ten-year average annualized profit returned to +33.67%.
This week, Q1 earnings reports continue, and so far, they are coming in much worse than the most dire forecasts. The only numbers that count for the market are the number of US Coronavirus cases and deaths, which you can find here.
On Monday, April 20 at 7:30 AM, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index comes out.
On Tuesday, April 21 at 9:00 AM, the March Existing Homes Sales are released.
On Wednesday, April 22, at 9:30 AM, the Cushing Crude Oil Stocks are announced.
On Thursday, April 23 at 8:30 AM, Weekly Jobless Claims will announce another blockbuster number.
On Friday, April 24 at 7:30 AM, US Durable Goods for March are printed. The Baker Hughes Rig Count follows at 2:00 PM. Expect these figures to crash as well.
As for me, I am sitting here eating a pineapple upside-down cake that my daughter just whipped up. It’s my favorite cake made by my mother, which I always got on my birthday.
Of course, I have to wash the dishes. If anyone wants to supplement their trading income, housekeeper and domestic and wants to live in mansions at Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, please contact customer support immediately.
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
“The worst advice I have received is to look in the rearview mirror and think that what led to success somehow can lead you to new success. Because it doesn’t. History will come back and bite you in the ass,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.
Nimble tech firms like online taxi company Lyft will be penalized in the coronavirus economy as it de-globalizes for a period of time.
If you read the Mad Hedge Technology Letter, you already know that I believe rideshare business models will never become profitable.
Fast forward to today and ask yourself how can these companies make profitability headway when the state mandates shelter in place policies?
The answer is they cannot.
It is not exactly the type of foundational policy that promotes more ride-sharing volume, so bad news for Uber and Lyft.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told investors that ride volume has gone down by as much as 60%-70% in ground zero cities like Seattle, and that’s before you consider the pauses in some of its secondary services and the dubious distinction of becoming one of the earliest proof-of-concepts of just how fluid this virus really is.
But Khosrowshahi also told investors that Uber is “well-positioned” to ride the troubles out even in the worst-case scenario of rides down by 80% for the year. And even as ride volume crashes, it is also considering leveraging its network for delivering other things, such as medicine or basic goods.
Basically, Uber specializes in losing money and lots of it.
Then imagine how demoralizing it is for the inferior version of Uber, it’s little brother Lyft.
Lyft has no “other” businesses such as food delivery service Uber Eats, leading me to conclude that this massive retracement in shares must be a bear market rally that will run out of steam.
Finding entry points to short growth stocks is an imprecise endeavor but I do believe that poor revenue reports in the upcoming earnings season is going to cap this bear market rally in Lyft’s shares.
What do we know already?
A global and tech recession will be sharp and it will be worse than the global financial crisis possibly by a factor of 4.
Investors still cannot wrap their head around whether this contagion will spill over into being a depression.
Tech investors will need to respect the “new, new normal” following the pandemic, in which corporates make aggressive cuts to their spending side– again, bad news for Uber and Lyft.
This type of scenario is especially problematic for Lyft who must spend illogically just to stay in business.
Lyft burned $463.5 million in the third quarter of 2019, which was almost twice the amount that the company lost over the same period of time the previous year.
The fourth quarter net loss includes $246.1 million of stock-based compensation and related payroll tax expenses as well as $86.6 million related to changes to the liabilities for insurance.
That translates into an adjusted net loss of $121.6 million, which is better than the adjusted loss of $245.3 million over the same period last year.
Considering the elevated amount of cash burn to Lyft’s model pre-virus and aware that nobody knows how long the cash burn will accelerate beyond Lyft’s earnings – investors are staring into a black hole of infinite losses moving forward as Lyft’s business model looks worse every day.
I must conclude that the post-coronavirus economy is highly likely to not be kind to marginal companies like Lyft who is a glorified taxi service.
Uber controls about 60% of the ride-sharing market in the US and managed to accomplish this by losing $5.2 billion in the Q2 2019.
Lyft has already slashed its R&D budget by deleting the autonomous vehicle development program.
Yes, the very program that was supposed to be the x-factor in its quest for real profits.
Laughably, Lyft’s executives emphasized that they believed the company will turn a profit in the fourth quarter of 2021, a year earlier than they had previously projected, but that forecasts looks foolish in hindsight.
The one miniscule silver lining for Lyft – fewer discounted rides than it did a year ago.
Lyft is also trying to boost the number of more-profitable rides, which are premium trips such as “airport” or “business” trips.
It’s a shame these premium trips have gone to zero.
The narrative has quickly pivoted to “grow at all costs” to “survive at all costs” and it’s not surprising to see Lyft grossly underperform the Nasdaq index in relative terms and most quality cloud stocks are in the midst of a v-shaped recovery.
Lyft is a sell on a rally type of stock.
Global Market Comments
April 17, 2020
When the Commandant of the Marine Corps asks for a favor, I say “Yes Sir” without hesitating.
So, when General David H. Berger called me and asked to represent him at the 78th annual memorial service for the 1942 Battle of Guadalcanal, I started booking my flight. It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It also may have saved my life.
He needed a Marine veteran who had family members on both sides of the battle and spoke fluent English and Japanese. It turns out that there is only one such individual in the United States, and that would be me.
Both my father and my uncle Mitch fought at the Canal, where he won a Medal of Honor. My late wife’s father was a Captain in the Japanese Army. His family had the government monopoly for supplying “sniper boots”, or “jikatabi.” That enabled me to sympathize with the Japanese families attending the service who lost loved ones.
I have acted as a diplomatic representative for the Marine Corps for many decades. Over the years, I have met presidents, most Medal of Honor winners, and Navaho code talkers.
Guadalcanal was the decisive battle of WWII. The Americans lost 7,000 men, 25 ships, and 175 planes. The Japanese lost 30,000 men, 25 ships, including a major battleship, and 450 planes.
Before Guadalcanal, the Japanese had never lost a battle. After Guadalcanal, they never won. If the US had lost the battle of Guadalcanal, WWII would have continued until 1948 or 1949.
Today, Guadalcanal is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita income of about $3,000 a year, That’s just a guess from Australian aid workers. Less than 50% of the population participate in the modern economy. Some 70% of the modern economy is accounted for by Chinese logging of ancient tropical hardwood trees.
The rest live a more traditional lifestyle of fishing and growing jungle fruits and vegetables. There are countless barefoot kids running around everywhere. Most families have more than five kids and birth control is unknown. Not helpful to the island’s poverty of course is the still present devastation by this military activity from WWII; you can read about it’s impacts here.
I hired a local guide and translator of the local language of pigeon, a sturdy four-wheel drive SUV, and sought out the local WWII battlefields. It wasn’t easy, as there were only 20 miles of paved road in the entire country and no street signs.
I was not disappointed.
The first stop was Paige’s Ridge, also known as “Hennikan’s Ridge”, where my uncle won his Medal of Honor, fighting a heroic night battle where he mowed down 2,000 charging Japanese in a torrential rainstorm. For a more detailed description of Mitch, please click here.
Reading from his diary, I was able to locate his exact fighting position, where I used a shovel to dig out several Japanese 6.5mm Arisaka bullet that had been fired at him.
A mob of local kids huddled around me watching my every move. I finally told them to bring me their souvenirs so I might buy some.
What came back was amazing.
One boy around nine years old showed up with a tattered old Marine rucksack and spilled the contents on the ground. There were several live Japanese hand grenades, some unexploded mortar shells, and spent bullets of several kinds. I warned him, these could explode at any time and that he should be careful not to drop them.
My next stop was Hill 27, the subject of the 1998 movie Thin Red Line, and where my dad fought. I found my dad’s foxhole dug out of the coral and extracted out more Japanese bullets. It was moving to finally grasp the suffering he went through as a 19-year-old, starving, afraid, and suffering with malaria.
Scouring the hill, I managed to dig up some USMC dog tags still readable. I forwarded them to the US Marine Corps Historical division so that I might return them to the families. My dad gave me his dog tags right before he died 20 years ago.
In the village near the summit of Hill 27, everyone had huge collections of war relics; pieces of Japanese zero fighters, helmets, coke bottles, rusted-out machine guns, and prewar coins from both sides. One citizen had amassed at least a kilo of morphine in military sachets. I even found a bottle of Old Spice aftershave, my dad’s favorite.
Another offered me a Japanese skeleton in a plastic bag for $10. He said I could get as many as I wanted. There are in fact 23,000 Japanese missing in action on Guadalcanal. So, I emailed a friend in the Japanese government in Tokyo asking if he wanted any wartime remains.
He said not to worry. Once a year, the government sends a scouting party to pick up all the remains they can find. They then cremate them, take the ashes back to Japan, and inter them at Yasakuni Jinja, the country’s equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery.
Next, I drove deep into the jungle to find a graveyard of US fighter planes. They were all there, rusting away in all their glory; Wildcats, Corsairs, and Aircobras. On the way back, I managed to find a battered Sherman tank.
I was invited to explore an intact Boeing B-17 bomber discovered only two years ago. But it involved hiking four hours into the mountains. Since one of my companions hadn’t taken anti-malaria drugs and the mosquitoes were present in great clouds, I passed.
I went on to visit several other historic sites. I saw Red Beach, site of the initial Marine landing, where I found a nearly buried Japanese tank. I spent time at the Alligator Creek, where the Marines wiped out the Ichiki battalion.
With great difficulty, I found John Basilone’s machine gun bunker. John also won a Medal of Honor. I stopped by the soaring monuments of Bloody Ridge, where Edson’s raiders held off another Japanese onslaught. The original wartime tower for Henderson field can still be found at the airport.
Only recently did I realize that this trip commemorating the battle of Guadalcanal may have saved my life. To keep malaria at bay, I took Chloroquine for a week before, during, and after the trip. It is now being explored as a Coronavirus drug.
My original intention had been to make a 45-minute documentary video and give it to you and the Marine Corps. The stock market crashed the day I got back so everything is now on hold. Maybe if things quiet down this summer, I can get to it.
After all, I won’t be going anywhere.
Captain John Thomas
“The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!” said Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, 1945.
Global Market Comments
April 16, 2020
(MORE LONG-TERM LEAPS TO BUY AT THE BOTTOM),
(TSLA), (CRSP), (MU)
The final bottom in this bear market is fast approaching. It may come in weeks or months. After the cataclysmic meltdown in March, markets are becoming more orderly and tradable. What does this mean for LEAPs?
It means the next bid dip in share prices is the one you want to buy.
Readers have been besieging me with more ideas on long term LEAPS to buy at the next bottom. So, here is another generous serving of red meat.
I am often asked how professional hedge fund traders invest their personal money. They all do the exact same thing. They wait for a market crash like we are seeing now and buy the longest-term LEAPS (Long Term Equity Participation Securities) possible for their favorite names.
The reasons are very simple. The risk on LEAPS is limited. You can’t lose any more than you put in. At the same time, they permit enormous amounts of leverage.
Two years out, the longest maturity available for most LEAPS, allow plenty of time for the world and the markets to get back on an even keel. Recessions, pandemics, hurricanes, oil shocks, interest rate spikes, and political instability all go away within two years and pave the way for dramatic stock market recoveries.
You just put them away and forget about them. Wake me up when it is 2022.
I put together this new portfolio using the following parameters. I set the strike prices just above the all-time highs set in February. I went for the maximum maturity. I used today’s prices. And of course, I picked the names that have the best long-term outlooks based on our own intensive in-house research.
You should only buy LEAPS of the best quality companies with the rosiest growth prospects and rock-solid balance sheets to be certain they will still be around in two years. I’m talking about picking up Cadillacs, Rolls Royces, and even Ferraris at fire-sale prices. Don’t waste your money on speculative low-quality stocks that may never come back.
If you buy LEAPS at these prices and the stocks all go to new highs, then you should earn an average 400% profit from an average stock price increase of only 75%.
That is a staggering return 5.3 times greater than the underlying stock gain. And let’s face it. None of the companies below are going to zero, ever. Now you know why clever hedge fund traders only employ this strategy.
There is a smarter way to execute this portfolio. Put in throw-away crash bids at levels so low they will only get executed on the next cataclysmic 1,000-point down day in the Dow Average.
You can play around with the strike prices all you want. Going farther out of the money increases your returns, but raises your risk as well. Going closer to the money reduces risk and returns, but the gains are still a multiple of the underlying stock.
Buying when everyone else is throwing up on their shoes is always the best policy. That way your return will rise to ten times the move in the underlying stock.
If you are unable or unwilling to trade options, then you will do well buying the underlying shares outright. I expect the list below to rise by 50% or more over the next two years.
Tesla (TSLA) – June 17 2022 $1,080-$1,100 vertical bull call spread at $4.00 delivers a 400% gain with the stock at $1,100, up 51% from the current level. The pandemic is vastly accelerating all trends. One big one is the migration from internal combustion engines to electric power where Tesla has a ten-year and expanding head start. Sales at its new Shanghai factory in the first country to recover from the Coronavirus are blowing away its most optimistic view. The Model Y small SUV at the end of this year is expected to be the company’s biggest-selling model ever.
CRISPR Therapeutics (CRSP) – January 15 2021 $85-$90 vertical bull call spread at $1.00 delivers a 400% gain with the stock at $85, up 77% from the current level. It’s shorter-dated than the others, but this was the longest maturity posted on my trading platform. CRISPR Therapeutics is the dominant player in gene-editing technology, which is key to many biotech developments going forward. That includes beating the Coronavirus. The stock is an incredible bargain at this level, off 36% from its all-time high.
Micron Technology (MU) – January 21 2021 $85-$90 vertical bull call spread at $1.00 delivers a 400% gain with the stock at $90, up 96% from the current level. Coming out on the other side of the pandemic, there will be a massive global shortage of the computer chips that Micron Technology makes with already huge profit margins. A total no-brainer and I love visiting their Boise, Idaho headquarters.
To review my last list of Ten Long-Term LEAPS to Buy at the Market Bottom, please click here.
Yup, I Think I See Another Great LEAPS Opportunity
Global Market Comments
April 15, 2020
(GOODBYE TO THE OLD WORLD, HELLO TO THE NEW)
(TGT), (WMT), (ZM), (NFLX), (PYPL), (SQ), (AMZN), (MSFT)
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