April 7, 2008

Market Comments for April 7, 2008

1) The big news of the day was the Washington Mutual (WM) bail out. The troubled bank will receive $5 billion in financing through the issuance of high yielding common and preferred stock to a private equity fund. The stock soared 35% on the news in a market that closed unchanged on the day.

2) A lot of opposition is building in Washington to the housing bailout bill by free marketeers. There is talk of privatizing profits, but socializing risk, of giving homebuilders a free call on the market.

3) British Airways says that business travel is off 5% as the recession starts to take hold. Talk about an industry that can’t catch a break.

4) I Tunes have become the largest music retailer in the world with 4 billion tracks sold since 2003, thanks to the runaway success of the IPOD. It sold 200 million tracks just on Christmas day, 2007 alone.

5) What is the top performing stock in the S & P 500 year to date? Pulte Homes, up 47%, a stock I recommended in early February as part of my homebuilder screen and listed in my March US stock portfolio.

6) NBC has said that advertising for the Beijing summer Olympics is 75% sold out, well ahead of expectations. This is a good leading indicator showing that many companies believe that the US will start coming out of the recession by the summer.

7) March saw record cash inflows into short oriented ETF’s, another good contrary indicator presaging a rising stock market.

8) Interesting fact of the day: Late fees on credit cards totaled $12 billion last year. Go Visa, Master Card, and Amex!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

On my return from the Grand Canyon I saw modern mining equipment being unloaded at a number of old gold mines. With gold at $1,000 an ounce the economics of extraction are returning to these historic sites. Many of these have not been worked for 60 years when gold was last at $32 an ounce. I also saw dozens of amateur sluice miners bobbing around in inner tubes in the Kern river panning for gold 49er style.

April 4, 2008

Market Comments for April 4, 2008

1) Non farm payrolls came in at -80,000, much worse than expected. Earlier months had big revisions downward. The biggest loser: construction at -50,000. The unemployment rate jumped from 4.9% to 5.1%. It was the most brutal report since September, 2005. As I predicted, the economic data continues to be horrific. Futures are now showing a 50% probability of another 50 bp rate cut to 1.75% at the Fed May meeting. The Dow ended up unchanged on the news.

2) The Senate is proposing giving $6 billion in emergency tax credits to the homebuilding industry. They are proposing allowing losses to be carried back six years instead of the usual two. The industry has written off $22 billion in the last two years. The stocks rocketed on the news. For individuals they are offering a $7,000 tax credit for buyers of new or foreclosed homes, a band aid at best. Still, a $6 billion package pales in comparison to the $3 trillion in US residential real estate losses in the past year.

3) Constellation Brands (STZ) announced a smaller than expected loss of only $832 million in Q4, smaller than expected. Wine sales were down 2% on the quarter for the Franciscan Oakville Estate, Simi, Ravenswood, and Arbor Mist labels. In November they bought the wine operations of Fortune Brands for $885 million adding 1,500 acres of grape production and 2.6 million cases per year of ‘super premium’ wine production, including Clos du Bois. The stock has fallen from $32 to $20 over the past year. The company is expecting a profit this year on the back of an increase in wine sales, especially in the premium area. The stock rose 12% on this news.

4) Copper is ready to break out to a new time high above $4. It will soon replace gold as the leading speculative metal and is also a good predictor of a recovering economy. Every Prius has 100 pounds of copper in it.

5) LA hedge fund manager John Paulson was paid $4 billion last year, the biggest payday in Wall Street history. He started highly leveraged shorting of sub prime loans in 2005. Could you ever cut a bonus check that big? I bet you could if I made $20 billion for you.

6) Robert Toll sold $244 million of his insider stock in Toll Brothers in Q1 1995 when it was above $36. It hit $14 in January when he could buy the same amount of shares back for $150 million. ??Nice sale.

JOKE OF THE DAY

The good news is that Walmart (WMT) has started giving away a free bank with every toaster. The bad news is that they haven’t sold any toasters yet. Also, the market has started calling the US dollar the ‘US peso’.

April 4, 2008

Market Comments for April 4, 2008

1) Non farm payrolls came in at -80,000, much worse than expected. Earlier months had big revisions downward. The biggest loser: construction at -50,000. The unemployment rate jumped from 4.9% to 5.1%. It was the most brutal report since September, 2005. As I predicted, the economic data continues to be horrific. Futures are now showing a 50% probability of another 50 bp rate cut to 1.75% at the Fed May meeting. The Dow ended up unchanged on the news.

2) The Senate is proposing giving $6 billion in emergency tax credits to the homebuilding industry. They are proposing allowing losses to be carried back six years instead of the usual two. The industry has written off $22 billion in the last two years. The stocks rocketed on the news. For individuals they are offering a $7,000 tax credit for buyers of new or foreclosed homes, a band aid at best. Still, a $6 billion package pales in comparison to the $3 trillion in US residential real estate losses in the past year.

3) Constellation Brands (STZ) announced a smaller than expected loss of only $832 million in Q4, smaller than expected. Wine sales were down 2% on the quarter for the Franciscan Oakville Estate, Simi, Ravenswood, and Arbor Mist labels. In November they bought the wine operations of Fortune Brands for $885 million adding 1,500 acres of grape production and 2.6 million cases per year of ‘super premium’ wine production, including Clos du Bois. The stock has fallen from $32 to $20 over the past year. The company is expecting a profit this year on the back of an increase in wine sales, especially in the premium area. The stock rose 12% on this news.

4) Copper is ready to break out to a new time high above $4. It will soon replace gold as the leading speculative metal and is also a good predictor of a recovering economy. Every Prius has 100 pounds of copper in it.

5) LA hedge fund manager John Paulson was paid $4 billion last year, the biggest payday in Wall Street history. He started highly leveraged shorting of sub prime loans in 2005. Could you ever cut a bonus check that big? I bet you could if I made $20 billion for you.

6) Robert Toll sold $244 million of his insider stock in Toll Brothers in Q1 1995 when it was above $36. It hit $14 in January when he could buy the same amount of shares back for $150 million. ??Nice sale.

JOKE OF THE DAY

The good news is that Walmart (WMT) has started giving away a free bank with every toaster. The bad news is that they haven’t sold any toasters yet. Also, the market has started calling the US dollar the ‘US peso’.

April 3, 2008

Market Comments for April 3, 2008

1) Two days of Bernanke testimony in Congress come to a close. These are like watching the most brilliant professor in the school give a lecture and the Q & A is done by only the dumbest students in the class. Listening to Alan Schwartz, the CEO of Bear Stearns, outline what happened was heartbreaking.

2) Apple is completely sold out of I Phones nationwide. The speculation is that the company deliberately allowed this to happened in order to run down inventories prior to the imminent launch of their third generation phone. When they announce the new product, which will have many new features and is intended to go head to head against Blackberry’s new Pearl 9000, the stock will skyrocket.

3) The price of rice has increased from $9 to $21 in the last 12 months causing hoarding in Asia. India has announced rice export controls to prevent domestic famine. We are probably only six months away from reading about mass starvation in Africa, which can no longer afford to pay for food.

4) Weekly jobless claims jumped from 369,000 to 407,000. The big monthly number, the non farm payroll, comes out tomorrow at 5:30 AM.

5) Up to 200,000 job cuts are expected in the banking and financial sectors this year as firms rush to cut costs. Entire fixed income departments will be axed as their instruments no longer exist. Hardest hit will be New Jersey, which receives 40% of its revenues from Wall Street in some form or another.

6) A melt up in corn prices is setting up. Monday’s crop report showed that farmers will plant 8% fewer acres this year. Meanwhile stocks are near record lows and ethanol demand is booming. If there is any weather problem this summer, the least bit dryness, then you could get a very rapid doubling of prices from the current price of $5.80 like we saw in wheat in February. I would be a strong buyer of Corn at current levels.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

I believe that the stock market has temporarily hit bottom and that there is a major tradeable rally to play. You should be buying the down days from here on. On an individual stock basis this means you are risking 10% to make a 100% return or more. The risk reward ratio doesn’t get any better than that. This is a great opportunity to rent stocks short term, not buy them for the long term.

April 3, 2008

Market Comments for April 3, 2008

1) Two days of Bernanke testimony in Congress come to a close. These are like watching the most brilliant professor in the school give a lecture and the Q & A is done by only the dumbest students in the class. Listening to Alan Schwartz, the CEO of Bear Stearns, outline what happened was heartbreaking.

2) Apple is completely sold out of I Phones nationwide. The speculation is that the company deliberately allowed this to happened in order to run down inventories prior to the imminent launch of their third generation phone. When they announce the new product, which will have many new features and is intended to go head to head against Blackberry’s new Pearl 9000, the stock will skyrocket.

3) The price of rice has increased from $9 to $21 in the last 12 months causing hoarding in Asia. India has announced rice export controls to prevent domestic famine. We are probably only six months away from reading about mass starvation in Africa, which can no longer afford to pay for food.

4) Weekly jobless claims jumped from 369,000 to 407,000. The big monthly number, the non farm payroll, comes out tomorrow at 5:30 AM.

5) Up to 200,000 job cuts are expected in the banking and financial sectors this year as firms rush to cut costs. Entire fixed income departments will be axed as their instruments no longer exist. Hardest hit will be New Jersey, which receives 40% of its revenues from Wall Street in some form or another.

6) A melt up in corn prices is setting up. Monday’s crop report showed that farmers will plant 8% fewer acres this year. Meanwhile stocks are near record lows and ethanol demand is booming. If there is any weather problem this summer, the least bit dryness, then you could get a very rapid doubling of prices from the current price of $5.80 like we saw in wheat in February. I would be a strong buyer of Corn at current levels.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

I believe that the stock market has temporarily hit bottom and that there is a major tradeable rally to play. You should be buying the down days from here on. On an individual stock basis this means you are risking 10% to make a 100% return or more. The risk reward ratio doesn’t get any better than that. This is a great opportunity to rent stocks short term, not buy them for the long term.

April 2, 2008

Market Comments for April 2, 2008

1) A $7 dollar rise in crude to $105 from the Monday lows put the stock rally on hold. This despite a near record 7 million barrel weekly increase in crude stocks announced this morning. Go figure. The Fed also hinted that it may pause its interest rate cuts to give time for its existing measures to work.

2) Jumbo lender Thornberg Mortgage was effectively taken over for only $1.1 billion, down 95% in value from a year ago by a consortium of banks and private equity firms. This insures their presence in the market in any future recovery. They say they will resume lending in weeks.

3) RIM (RIMM) announced blockbuster Q4 earnings today. Over 4.4 million Blackberries were sold with 2.2 million new subscriptions. There are now more than 14 million Blackberry users. 50% of new sales paid for by employers. RIM uses 1/100th the bandwidth of I Phone. ??RIM will soon bring out the Pearl 9000, its I Phone killer. Sneak previews have been very favorable. The stock has been a big out performer of Apple this year.

4) One good ‘All Clear’ signal will flash when the two year Treasury rate exceeds the Fed funds rate, indicating that the flight to safety is over. At the moment the two year is at 1.75%, 50 bp under the 2.25% Fed funds rate.

5) The severity of this recession is nowhere near the 2001-2002 recession. The last time the Fed funds rate was at 2.25% 1.3 million jobs had been lost. This time only 80,000 jobs have been lost. The incredible strength of the multinational, energy, and commodities sectors this time is taking up the slack.

6) Alcohol consumption in the US has been flat for the past ten years, so at least it won’t go down in a recession. This makes it a classic defensive, counter cyclical play. The most profitable firms in this arena will be large multinationals benefiting from the rapid growth of alcohol consumption in the emerging economies and have the resources to deal with rising commodity prices. A good example of this is Diageo PLC (DEO) which owns 8 of the world’s top 20 brands, including Guinness beer, Smirnoff vodka, Gordon’s gin, Jose Cuervo tequila, and the Rosenblum, Chalone, and Sterling vineyards.

7) The U.S. residential real estate market has lost $3 trillion in value in the past 12 months. Foreclosure headlines and horror stories are going to become much worse from here, further scaring off buyers.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

I drove through Las Vegas on my way back from my trip. The city has dozens of ‘ghost town’ neighborhoods on the edge of the desert with hundreds of completed but empty homes and condos built by every major listed homebuilder.?? These are cookie cutter homes with 5 feet of spacing between them and no backyards. Tumbleweeds blow down empty streets. Beyond them were thousands of acres of land graded for streets and lots where development has been frozen. The accompanying strip malls, all tastefully done in Mediterranean hues with pleasant, but dusty and windblown outdoor sculptures, are also deserted. ??It all looks like some sort of Rod Serling set. Anyone who believes the housing crisis will end soon hasn’t been in the field. Maybe I should go to Stockton for a weekend?

April 2, 2008

Market Comments for April 2, 2008

1) A $7 dollar rise in crude to $105 from the Monday lows put the stock rally on hold. This despite a near record 7 million barrel weekly increase in crude stocks announced this morning. Go figure. The Fed also hinted that it may pause its interest rate cuts to give time for its existing measures to work.

2) Jumbo lender Thornberg Mortgage was effectively taken over for only $1.1 billion, down 95% in value from a year ago by a consortium of banks and private equity firms. This insures their presence in the market in any future recovery. They say they will resume lending in weeks.

3) RIM (RIMM) announced blockbuster Q4 earnings today. Over 4.4 million Blackberries were sold with 2.2 million new subscriptions. There are now more than 14 million Blackberry users. 50% of new sales paid for by employers. RIM uses 1/100th the bandwidth of I Phone. ??RIM will soon bring out the Pearl 9000, its I Phone killer. Sneak previews have been very favorable. The stock has been a big out performer of Apple this year.

4) One good ‘All Clear’ signal will flash when the two year Treasury rate exceeds the Fed funds rate, indicating that the flight to safety is over. At the moment the two year is at 1.75%, 50 bp under the 2.25% Fed funds rate.

5) The severity of this recession is nowhere near the 2001-2002 recession. The last time the Fed funds rate was at 2.25% 1.3 million jobs had been lost. This time only 80,000 jobs have been lost. The incredible strength of the multinational, energy, and commodities sectors this time is taking up the slack.

6) Alcohol consumption in the US has been flat for the past ten years, so at least it won’t go down in a recession. This makes it a classic defensive, counter cyclical play. The most profitable firms in this arena will be large multinationals benefiting from the rapid growth of alcohol consumption in the emerging economies and have the resources to deal with rising commodity prices. A good example of this is Diageo PLC (DEO) which owns 8 of the world’s top 20 brands, including Guinness beer, Smirnoff vodka, Gordon’s gin, Jose Cuervo tequila, and the Rosenblum, Chalone, and Sterling vineyards.

7) The U.S. residential real estate market has lost $3 trillion in value in the past 12 months. Foreclosure headlines and horror stories are going to become much worse from here, further scaring off buyers.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

I drove through Las Vegas on my way back from my trip. The city has dozens of ‘ghost town’ neighborhoods on the edge of the desert with hundreds of completed but empty homes and condos built by every major listed homebuilder.?? These are cookie cutter homes with 5 feet of spacing between them and no backyards. Tumbleweeds blow down empty streets. Beyond them were thousands of acres of land graded for streets and lots where development has been frozen. The accompanying strip malls, all tastefully done in Mediterranean hues with pleasant, but dusty and windblown outdoor sculptures, are also deserted. ??It all looks like some sort of Rod Serling set. Anyone who believes the housing crisis will end soon hasn’t been in the field. Maybe I should go to Stockton for a weekend?

April 1, 2008

Market Comments for April 1, 2008

1) UBS announced $19 billion in sub prime write offs and a $15 billion equity infusion. Their illiquid toxic waste will be spun off into a separate entity. My old boss, chairman Marcel Ospel, will retire in shame. This is what sparked the 391 point rally on Wall Street. Total sub prime write offs now exceed $200 billion.

2) Lehman’s Dick Fuld has asked the SEC to investigate collusion among short sellers of Bear Stearns, who coincidently have also been targeting Lehman. Fuld did the same in 1998 when a major Lehman client, Long Term Capital Management, went under.

3) Centex, the nation’s largest homebuilder, sold $900 million worth of land for $161 million to a Dallas partnership. Centex will reap $250 million in tax refunds from the sale.

4) Blackstone raised $10.9 billion for a new real estate fund. This is long term bottom fishing money.

5) Some three billion people are expected to join the middle class over the next ten years, all outside of the US. They will eat more and buy more. This will be the primary driver of commodity prices for the next 5 years. We are probably in the 4th inning of a nine inning game in this boom.

6) Aloha Airlines went under, the source of many fond memories for me and my family. Expect more bankruptcies and consolidation in this area. This is your worst nightmare of a sector.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Taiwan is another country that may be worth watching. The country has just had an election which put in place a government far more sympathetic with mainland China. This will lead to a raprochement with the PRC which would greatly benefit Taiwan’s economy. Taiwanese companies have better accounting standards, disclosure, and liquidity than Chinese companies, yet trade at a fraction of the mainland multiples. It is a double play in that you can expect the Taiwanese dollar to also appreciate as a result of this. The Chinese yuan is fixed against the dollar. You can participate through the Taiwan exchange traded fund EWT which has fallen 17% from $17.5 to $14.5 since late last year. You can also buy Taiwan Semiconductor directly.

Taiwan0401.png picture  by sbronte

April 1, 2008

Market Comments for April 1, 2008

1) UBS announced $19 billion in sub prime write offs and a $15 billion equity infusion. Their illiquid toxic waste will be spun off into a separate entity. My old boss, chairman Marcel Ospel, will retire in shame. This is what sparked the 391 point rally on Wall Street. Total sub prime write offs now exceed $200 billion.

2) Lehman’s Dick Fuld has asked the SEC to investigate collusion among short sellers of Bear Stearns, who coincidently have also been targeting Lehman. Fuld did the same in 1998 when a major Lehman client, Long Term Capital Management, went under.

3) Centex, the nation’s largest homebuilder, sold $900 million worth of land for $161 million to a Dallas partnership. Centex will reap $250 million in tax refunds from the sale.

4) Blackstone raised $10.9 billion for a new real estate fund. This is long term bottom fishing money.

5) Some three billion people are expected to join the middle class over the next ten years, all outside of the US. They will eat more and buy more. This will be the primary driver of commodity prices for the next 5 years. We are probably in the 4th inning of a nine inning game in this boom.

6) Aloha Airlines went under, the source of many fond memories for me and my family. Expect more bankruptcies and consolidation in this area. This is your worst nightmare of a sector.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Taiwan is another country that may be worth watching. The country has just had an election which put in place a government far more sympathetic with mainland China. This will lead to a raprochement with the PRC which would greatly benefit Taiwan’s economy. Taiwanese companies have better accounting standards, disclosure, and liquidity than Chinese companies, yet trade at a fraction of the mainland multiples. It is a double play in that you can expect the Taiwanese dollar to also appreciate as a result of this. The Chinese yuan is fixed against the dollar. You can participate through the Taiwan exchange traded fund EWT which has fallen 17% from $17.5 to $14.5 since late last year. You can also buy Taiwan Semiconductor directly.

Taiwan0401.png picture  by sbronte

March 31, 2008

Market Comments for March 31, 2008

1) The market staggered to a close for the quarter, bringing in the worst quarterly performance in 5 years. Brokers were down 25%, technology down 16%, and banks were down 9%. Homebuilders, which have been savaged for two years now, were unchanged. Drug stocks, normally a safe haven, were down 13%.

2) A study was published today by the respected New England Journal of Medicine saying that the anti-cholesterol drug Vytorin is useless in life extension. Merck and Shering-Plough were down 20% and 25%. This is why I never touch this sector. Everything always comes out of the blue. Vytorin accounted for 60% of the latter’s profits, and with this fall, the stock now has a 10% dividend yield.

3) Builder DR Horton held an ‘unauction’ in LA where it sold 200 homes down 30% from list. It is cheaper to dump houses at a bottom cycle price now than to wait 5 years for prices to get there.

4) Steel prices are up 60% in a year. When the economy recovers physical shortages of steel may dramatically drive up all types of construction costs and create delays ??due to the long lead times needed to increase production of this commodity.

5) Inflation in the euro block hit 3.5% in March, the highest in the history of the currency, reducing chances that interest rates will be cut there.

6) At the market peak, the US housing stock was worth $21 trillion. It may drop to $14 trillion before the housing collapse ends.?? That is a huge negative wealth effect and means the loss of a lot of purchasing power in the US over the next few years. Good bye home ATM!

7) According to Cal State University, research people who have fun at work are more creative, productive, work better in teams, stay at work longer, and have fewer sick days. Funny bosses are listened to more than unfunny ones. The most fun companies to work for are Nike and Microsoft.

8) ‘Girls Gone Wild’ offered ‘Kristen’ $1 million to appear nude in a future video, but then withdrew the offer when they found out that she had already appeared in their 2003 ‘Girls Gone Wild Spring Break’ video. You can’t make this stuff up.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Russia is a country that bears close watching. It is the largest commodity exporter in the world and is the largest non OPEC oil producer, making an investment hear a great inflation hedge.?? The economy is growing at 8% a year, allowing the rapid emergence of a middle class. This is the same argument you hear for buying China. Their companies are not leveraged and there is no financial crisis. The ways to play this are to buy the Moscow Fund (.RRTS) or just directly buy Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer and the largest company in Russia. It?s a great emerging market play as long as oil keeps going up. If it doesn?t, watch out!