Global Market Comments
October 20, 2020
(WHY SPAC’S ARE A SCAM)
Global Market Comments
October 20, 2020
(WHY SPAC’S ARE A SCAM)
Every investment bubble creates its own special instruments of destruction and this one is no different.
There were highly touted leveraged commodity and gold funds during the seventies, portfolio insurance during the eighties, money-losing tech companies with lots of “eyeballs” in the nineties, and subprime lending in the 2000s.
In this cycle, we have the Special Purpose Acquisition Company, otherwise known as a “SPAC.”
The goal of an SPAC is to raise money first on some generalized investment theme and then merge with a target company to achieve those goals.
SPACs have their advantages for some people. It enables start-up companies with no track record to go public fast without the costs and regulatory scrutiny of the burdensome IPO process. Promoters promise to get investors into the next Amazon (AMZN) or Facebook (FB) early.
Easier said than done.
Some $42 billion has been raised for SPACs in 2020, the largest being hedge fund manager Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Tontine Holdings Ltd. (PSTH) at $4 billion. There is even an SPAC for SPACs, the Defiance Gen SPAC-Derived ETF (SPAK).
The performance of SPACs so far has been dismal. There have been 315 SPACs created since 2015. Only 93 managed to invest their funds in a target company and only 29 of those have produced a profit. This was during one of the greatest runaway bull markets of all time.
You would have done better by simply buying the cheapest Vanguard index fund. In the meantime, the issuers of SPACs, for the most part, became wealthy.
The quality of the management who had stepped forward to run SPACs has been mixed at best, including Ackman himself, who recently ran two gargantuan money-losing years back to back. They include former House Speaker Paul Ryan and NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neil, not exactly known as financial wizards.
Then there’s Nikola, an electric/hydrogen vehicle company that has promised to take on Elon Musk, unfazed by the complete lack of a functioning vehicle. These shares have cratered by 83% since their market peak.
SPACs reflect a problem endemic in investing today. The appetite for risk is enormous. With stocks at all-time highs, interest rates at zero, and the Fed flooding global markets with cash, investors are more than ready to leap at the latest shiny new thing.
The risks and limitations of SPACs are legion. You are essentially betting on the good faith and judgment of a single individual unmoored by any filings with the SEC. There are no guarantees they can achieve anything. These disclosures to the government are there to protect you. Without them, you are dancing naked.
The conflicts of interest are enormous. SPAC issuers get to buy the equivalent of call options on their funds at deep discounts prior to issue. When issuers make fortunes overnight with little money upfront you want to run a mile.
And here is the big problem with SPACs. They are essentially roach motel investments, easy to check in but impossible to check out. Liquidity going in is unlimited but coming out is nil. You can often only redeem your investment at a huge discount, or if another buyer is willing to take out at any price. That makes marks to market challenging at best.
Suffice it to say that if PT Barnum were working in the financial markets, he’d be up to his eyeballs in SPACs.
Personally, I’ll give them a pass. You should too.
“Nobody knew it was August 1982 until it was August 1984,” said Christopher Verrone, head of technical analysis at research boutique Strategas.
Global Market Comments
October 19, 2020
(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD,
OR WHY THE NEXT TWO WEEKS ARE A WRITE-OFF)
You can pretty much write off trading for the next two weeks.
The election has been decided. It’s going to be a scandal a day in the media, but everyone has already made up their minds. All attention will be devoted to politics at the expense of trading, investment, and research. In the end, the president will lose by more than 15 million votes. All that is left but the imprimatur of the Electoral College.
Yet the Democrats are not declaring victory, with the memory of the 2016 debacle too fresh, when overconfidence and complacency ruled.
The few who are trading are jockeying around to position for the 2021 market. That means keeping big tech and adding to positions in domestic recovery and industrial stocks, like banks, couriers, railroads, and drug companies.
Tech will keep rising because of the catapult into the future provided by the pandemic yet to be reflected by share prices. Domestic industrials will see a recovery that is normal when coming out of a tradition recession, or Great Depression.
But they are doing so hesitantly, with little conviction.
After all, there are national elections in two weeks.
As for me, I have limited myself to the cautious two positions, one long in Visa (V) and one short in the S&P 500 (SPY), both of which are making money.
So, it is a good time to do your research, build your short lists of stocks to buy, and gird your loins. The main event begins after November 3.
Markets jumped on stimulus hopes. Investors don’t really care if stimulus happens before or after a Biden win. They’re buying now. And Biden will almost certainly double up spending later in the year. No dips for latecomers. The post-election market melt-up has begun and new highs beckon. Fears of election disruption have vaporized.
Markets just entered the strongest six months of the year. It’s the inverse of sell in May and go away. October to May portfolios have yielded 64% annually for the past 20 years, while May to October investments yield exactly 4%. It traces back to America’s agricultural cycle of a century ago. Take every tailwind you can find.
The IMF predicted negative 4.4% growth for 2020, the worst since the Great Depression. Believe it or not, this is an upgrade from more dismal numbers. By comparison, the 2008-09 Great Recession brought only a 0.1% drawdown. If the US passes another stimulus package, it will recover its 2019 GDP in 2021 instead of 2022.
The new 5G iPhone is out! After a year of speculation, we get a better screen, improved camera, and magnetic charging for $999. The stock dumped on a classic “buy the rumor, sell the news.” Also out is a new mini iPhone for $699. Your neighborhood won’t have 5G for a year. Buy Apple (AAPL) on dips.
The US PC market saw best quarter in a decade, with millions of new home offices joining the fray. Some 71.4 million computers were shipped in Q3, up 3.6% YOY. Think enormous demand for new chips. Buy (AMD), (MU), and (NVDA) on dips.
Used car prices are soaring, jumping the most since 1969, and lifted the Consumer Price Index by 0.2% in September. It’s the fourth straight month of increasing inflation.
Ships are backed up in Los Angeles waiting to unload. America’s import boom and soaring trade deficit with China leaves no available dock space on the west coast. It’s another sign of a recovering economy.
US Producer Prices pop in September bringing the first YOY gain since March. They were up 0.4% following a 0.3% gain in August. Another sign of a recovering economy.
Weekly Jobless Claims ballooned to 898,000, now that California is reporting again. Not what you want to see going into an election. A slowing economy and spreading virus don’t help either. Some 25.5 million Americans are out of work.
When we come out 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 still at zero, oil cheap, there will be no reason not to. The Dow Average will rise by 400% or more in the coming decade. The American coming out the other side of the pandemic will be far more efficient and profitable than the old. Dow 120,000 here we come!
My Global Trading Dispatch hit a new all-time high last week by staying 100% in cash. I was just as grateful for having no positions on the up 600-point days as I was on the down 600-point days. Safe to say that I will be an increasingly more aggressive buyer on ever smaller dips and a seller on bigger rallies. October has now reached to a welcome 1.61% profit.
That keeps our 2020 year-to-date performance at a blistering +36.11%, versus a gain of 0.3% for the Dow Average. That takes my eleven-year average annualized performance back to +36.13%. My 11-year total return stood at a new all-time high at +392.02%. My trailing one-year return appreciated to +42.67%.
The coming week will be a dull one on the data front. The only numbers that really count for the market are the number of US Coronavirus cases and deaths, now at 219,679, which you can find here.
On Monday, October 19 at 8:30 AM EST, the IMF/World Bank virtual annual meeting starts, so we can expect Fed speakers every day. (IBM) reports earnings.
On Tuesday, October 20 at 8:30 AM EST, Housing Starts for September are announced. Netflix (NFLX) reports earnings.
On Wednesday, October 21 at 10:30 AM EST, the EIA Cushing Crude Oil Stocks are out. At 2:00 PM EST, the Fed Beige Book is published, a transcript of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting from six weeks ago. Tesla (TSLA) reports earnings.
On Thursday, October 22 at 8:30 AM EST, the Weekly Jobless Claims are announced. At 10:00 AM EST Existing Home Sales for September are out. AT&T (T) reports.
On Friday, October 23, at 2:00 PM, we learn the Baker-Hughes Rig Count. American Express (AXP) reports earnings.
As for me, I saw a curious thing driving back from Lake Tahoe this weekend. Usually, I see a never-ending parade of out of state license plates moving to the Golden State.
This time, I saw telephone poles coming in by the truckloads, hundreds of them. These are to replace the many burned down in the horrific wildfires that incinerated an area the size of Connecticut. Apparently, California has run out of telephone poles.
Is there a public stock for a company that sells telephone poles?
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
“The most dangerous word in the English language is “cheap”” said a hedge fund manager friend of mine.
Global Market Comments
October 16, 2020
(HOW TO GAIN AN ADVANTAGE WITH PARALLEL TRADING),
(GM), (F), (TM), (NSANY), (DDAIF), BMW (BMWYY), (VWAPY),
(PALL), (GS), (RSX), (EZA), (CAT), (CMI), (KMTUY),
(KODK), (SLV), (AAPL)
One of the most fascinating things I learned when I first joined the equity trading desk at Morgan Stanley during the early 1980s was how to parallel trade.
A customer order would come in to buy a million shares of General Motors (GM) and what did the in-house proprietary trading book do immediately?
It loaded the boat with the shares of Ford Motors (F).
When I asked about this tactic, I was taken away to a quiet corner of the office and read the riot act.
“This is how you legally front-run a customer,” I was told.
Buy (GM) in front of a customer order, and you will find yourself in Sing Sing shortly.
Ford (F), Toyota (TM), Nissan (NSANY), Daimler Benz (DDAIF), BMW (BMWYY), or Volkswagen (VWAPY), are no problem.
The logic here was very simple.
Perhaps the client completed an exhaustive piece of research concluding that (GM) earnings were about to rise.
Or maybe a client old boy network picked up some valuable insider information.
(GM) doesn’t do business in isolation. It has tens of thousands of parts suppliers for a start. While whatever is good for (GM) is good for America, it is GREAT for the auto industry.
So through buying (F) on the back of a (GM) might not only match the (GM) share performance, it might even exceed it.
This is known as a Primary Parallel Trade.
This understanding led me on a lifelong quest to understand Cross Asset Class Correlations, which continues to this day.
Whenever you buy one thing, you buy another related thing as well, which might do considerably better.
I eventually made friends with a senior trader at Salomon Brothers while they were attempting to recruit me to run their Japanese desk.
I asked if this kind of legal front running happened on their desk.
“Absolutely,” he responded. But he then took Cross Asset Class Correlations to a whole new level for me.
Not only did Salomon’s buy (F) in that situation, they also bought palladium (PALL).
I was puzzled. Why palladium?
Because palladium is the principal metal used in catalytic converters, which remove toxic emissions from car exhaust, and have been required for every U.S. manufactured car since 1975.
Lots of car sales, which the (GM) buying implied, ALSO meant lots of palladium buying.
And here’s the sweetener.
Palladium trading is relatively illiquid.
So, if you catch a surge in the price of this white metal, you would earn a multiple of what you would make on your boring old parallel (F) trade.
This is known in the trade as a Secondary Parallel Trade.
A few months later, Morgan Stanley sent me to an investment conference to represent the firm.
I was having lunch with a trader at Goldman Sachs (GS) who would later become a famous hedge fund manager and asked him about the (GM)-(F)-(PALL) trade.
He said I would be an IDIOT not to take advantage of such correlations. Then he one-upped me.
You can do a Tertiary Parallel Trade here through buying mining equipment companies such as Caterpillar (CAT), Cummins (CMI), and Komatsu (KMTUY).
Since this guy was one of the smartest traders I ever ran into, I asked him if there was such a thing as a Quaternary Parallel Trade.
He answered “Abso******lutely,” as was his way.
But the first thing he always did when searching for Quaternary Parallel Trades would be to buy the country ETF for the world’s largest supplier of the commodity in question.
In the case of palladium, that would be Russia (RSX) followed by South Africa (EZA), which together account for 74% of the world’s total production.
Since then, I have discovered hundreds of what I can Parallel Trading Chains, and have been actively making money off of them. So have you, you just haven’t realized it yet.
I could go on and on.
If you ever become puzzled or confused about a trade alert I am sending out (Why on earth is he doing THAT?), there is often a parallel trade in play.
Do this for decades as I have and you learn that some parallel trades break down and die. The cross relationships no longer function.
The best example I can think of is the photography/silver connection. When the photography business was booming, silver prices rose smartly.
Digital photography wiped out this trade, and silver-based film development is still only used by a handful of professionals and hobbyists.
Oh, and Eastman Kodak (KODK) went bankrupt in 2012.
However, it seems that whenever one Parallel Trading Chain disappears, many more replace it.
You could build chains a mile long simply based on how well Apple (AAPL) is doing.
And guess what? There is a new parallel trade in silver developing. For whenever someone builds a solar panel anywhere in the world, they are using a small amount of silver for the wiring. Build several tens of millions of solar panels and that can add up to quite a lot of silver.
What goes around comes around.
Suffice it to say that parallel trading is an incredibly useful trading strategy.
Ignore it at your peril.
Global Market Comments
October 15, 2020
(OCTOBER 14 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(VXX), (INDU), (TLT), (GLD), (IB), (XPEV),
(TSLA), (MRNA), (AMD), (SDS), (ITB)
Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the October 14 Mad Hedge Fund Trader 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: Do you think Interactive Brokers (IB) will give better executions?
A: No, these executions are all done by identical computers with identical programs now, across eleven differences of electronic exchanges. It’s like trying to decide whether to buy Exxon or Mobile gas. It’s all the same stuff. The only real difference in brokers these days is in customer service; and you really have to shop around there and find what you like. Even on customer service, most brokers have cut back staff to a minimum. In the end, the only difference among brokers may be “hold” times.
Q: What are your thoughts on Xpeng, Inc. (XPEV), the Chinese electric car manufacturer?
A: The Chinese have actually had electric cars longer than Tesla (TSLA) has and I have visited their factories in China, like BYD Auto (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BYD_Auto). The problem has always been quality—the batteries tend to catch on fire, the cars fall apart—and that’s why they have never exported an electric car to the U.S. I don’t expect that to change. What’s more likely is Tesla building more factories in China, where they overwhelmingly have the technology, brand, and quality lead. I don’t think any electric car company can threaten Tesla now that they’re so far ahead.
Q: Is it a good time to buy the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX)?
A: No, because you only make money on the (VXX) when you get a volatility increase almost immediately after you buy it. So, if you have some great insight on the next volatility explosion, try it; otherwise, the time decay will kill you. By the way, everyone knows there is going to be a presidential election in three weeks so it’s already in the price.
Q: What is the likelihood of a financial transaction tax, and how would it affect our trading?
A: It wouldn’t hurt our trading, because we’re mostly small fry. It would wipe out high-frequency trading where they’re trading for a penny with no transaction costs. And that, in fact, would be the goal: to wipe out high-frequency trading. Unfortunately, they’re about 80% of the market now, so I’m not sure who would step in and fill in that space. But there’s always someone.
Q: What about Moderna (MRNA)?
A: Yes, I like it for the long term. I think next year will be another golden age for biotech, and they have had a great rally so I’d be looking to buy on dips. MRNA is certainly going to participate. After Corona, there are 100 other diseases they could be working on. It’s not a COVID-19-only story, which is what some of the short sellers got wrong.
Q: How far does Gold (GLD) go down before it goes up?
A: Probably not much more; we have had a decent 10% correction. I was actually thinking about buying gold today, but I also hate leaning into a downtrend. So, any downtrends are temporary, we’re looking at new highs in gold next year. This is a QE (quantitative easing) trade, not a risk-off trade like it used to be. So, the continuation of QE for years means that gold goes higher.
Q: When is it time to trade bonds (TLT) again?
A: Bonds just had their narrowest trading range in years in the last month. We only want to play on the short side; it broke down last week so we don’t want to do anything here.
Q: Is a 1% drop in Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) a dip?
A: No, a 10% drop in AMD is a dip. Buying a 1% drop is a chase, which is an invitation to a lot of pain.
Q: Have SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Corporation) replaced IPOs?
A: I think SPACs are one of the greatest scams of all time. Everybody will get ripped off after paying enormous fees, and once these things go illiquid, no one will be able to get out, so I would not chase the SPAC game. They are only created to dodge the investor protections in the IPO process, I’ve seen too many of these fads happen over the last 50 years. They always end in tears.
Q: I think there will be another surprise Trump win similar to 2016. How would the market react to a Trump win?
A: It would crash because the market has built in a Biden win and chased up Biden sectors. So, if that doesn’t happen, the market has to give up all those gains and reorient itself. Trump had a 2-3-point polling deficit last time, and now he has to overcome a 17-point deficit or whatever the number is depending on the poll you look at. So, I don’t think so. Remember, Trump only won the election by 78,000 votes in three states. The 220,000 who have died from the pandemic are definitely NOT voting for Trump, nor are their 10X family members. That’s 2.2 million votes lost. Remember, the Corona death rate in red states is far higher than in blue states.
Q: Do you think a Bollinger Band squeeze is forming in Tesla right now?
A: Yes, even though this stock has had a prolific run, it looks like it wants to go higher. I wouldn’t go short.
Q: What about over issuance of US debt?
A: Any concerns about over issuance of debt won’t hit for a while because the Fed is going to keep the short-term rates at zero, which will anchor everything else at low levels. The initial heat will be felt in the ten- and 30-year bonds where you should be permanently short.
Q: Reminder that 4 years ago, you said a Trump win would crash the market.
A: Yes, I did say that, and it did crash the market—it dropped 1,000 points overnight and made it all back the next morning. I spent that entire night rebuilding portfolios which then had a massive run, so I remember that very well. That is the only election I was wrong on in 50 years. So, the lesson is don’t bet against the guy who’s only wrong once in 50 years and count on him being wrong again. There are hundreds of data points now which show that Trump has no chance of winning and he’s acting in a way that backs that up.
Q: Is there a second COVID wave priced in yet?
A: No, the way these things work is scientists predict waves, traders say no it will never happen, then it happens and the traders puke out. And if that happens, we will know that is the buying opportunity of the century because that is exactly what we got on the last puke out in March. And yes, I was wrong; I said the stocks would double in two years and instead they doubled in three months.
Q: Do you think a real estate bubble is forming?
A: Yes, but it may not pop for another 10 years because we have 85 million millennials trying to buy housing right now, with interest rates near zero. I just refinanced my home at 2.75%. And only 65 million Gen Xers have homes to sell them, which is being expressed in higher home prices. That’s why I love the homebuilders (ITB).
Q: What about ProShares Ultra Short S&P 500 2X bear ETF (SDS)?
A: I would bail on that because the long-term trend is still up. Dow 120,000 here we come! You only want to use the (SDS) on short term dips, and then come out at the bottom.
Good Luck and Stay Healthy
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
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