Posts

October 7, 2019

Global Market Comments
October 7, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or WILL HE OR WON’T HE?)
(INDU), (USO), (TM), (SCHW), (AMTD), (ETFC), (SPY), (IWM), (USO), (WMT), (AAPL), (GOOGL), (SPY), (C)

The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or Will He, or Won’t He?

Once again, the markets are playing out like a cheap Saturday afternoon matinee. We are sitting on the edge of our seats wondering if our hero will triumph or perish.

The same can be said about financial markets this week. Will a trade deal finally get inked and prompt the Dow Average to soar 2,000 points? Or will they fail once again, delivering a 2,000-point swan dive?

I vote for the latter, then the former.

Still, I saw this rally coming a mile off as the Trump put option kicked in big time. That’s why I piled on an aggressive 60% long position right at last week’s low. Carpe Diem. Seize the Day. Only the bold are rewarded.

Or as Britain’s SAS would say, “Who dares, wins.”

It takes a lot of cajones to trade a market that hasn’t moved in two years, let alone take in a 55% profit during that time. But you didn’t hire me to sit on my hands, play scared, and catch up on my Shakespeare.

I think markets will eventually hit new all-time highs sometime this year. The game is to see how low you can get in before that happens without getting your head handed to you first.

Last week saw seriously dueling narratives. The economic data couldn’t be worse, pointing firmly towards a recession. But the administration went into full blown “jawbone” mode, talking up the rosy prospects of an imminent China trade deal at every turn.

This was all against a Ukraine scandal that reeled wildly out of control by the day. Is there a country that Trump DIDN’T ask for assistance in his reelection campaign? Now we know why the president was at the United Nations last week.

The September Nonfarm Payroll Report came in at a weakish 136,000, with the Headline Unemployment rate at 3.5%, a new 50-year low.

Average hourly earnings fell. Apparently, it is easy to get a job but impossible to get a pay raise. July and August were revised up by 45,000 jobs.

Healthcare was up by 39,000 and Professional and Business Services 34,000. Manufacturing fell by 2,000 and retail by 11,0000. The U-6 “discouraged worker” long term unemployment rate is at 6.9%.

The US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index collapsed in August from 49.7 to 47.9, triggering a 400-point dive in the Dow average. This is the worst report since 2009. Manufacturing, some 11% of the US economy, is clearly in recession, thanks to the trade war-induced loss of foreign markets. A strong dollar that overprices our goods doesn’t help either.

The Services PMI Hit a three-year low, from 53.1 to 50.4, with almost all economic data points now shouting “recession.” The only question is whether it will be shallow or deep. I vote for the former.

Consumer Spending was flat in August. That’s a big problem since the average Joe is now the sole factor driving the economy. Everything else is pulling back. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, edged up 0.1% last month as an increase in outlays on recreational goods and motor vehicles was offset by a decrease in spending at restaurants and hotels.

The Transports, a classic leading sector for the market, have been delivering horrific price action this year giving up all of its gains relative to the S&P 500 since the 2009 crash.

Oil (USO) got crushed on recession fears, down a stunning 19.68% in three weeks. The global supply glut continues. Over production and fading demand is not a great formula for prices.

Toyota Auto Sales (TM) cratered by 16.5% in September, to 169,356 vehicles in another pre-recession indicator. It’s the worst month since January during a normally strong time of the year. The deals out there now are incredible.

Online Brokerage stocks were demolished on the Charles Schwab (SCHW) move to cut brokerage fees to zero. TD Ameritrade (AMTD) followed the next day and was spanked for 23%, and E*TRADE (ETFC) punched for 17. These are cataclysmic one0-day stock moves and signal the end of traditional stock brokerage.

The Mad Hedge Trader Alert Service has blasted through to yet another new all-time high. My Global Trading Dispatch reached new apex of 341.86% and my year-to-date accelerated to +41.72%. The tricky and volatile month of October started out with a roar +5.40%. My ten-year average annualized profit bobbed up to +35.06%. 

Some 26 out of the last 27 trade alerts have made money, a success rate of 96.29%! Under promise and over deliver, that’s the business I have been in all my life. It works.

I used the recession-induced selloff since October 1 to pile on a large aggressive short dated portfolio. I am 60% long with the (SPY), (IWM), (USO), (WMT), (AAPL), and (GOOGL). I am 20% short with positions in the (SPY) and (C), giving me a net risk position of 40% long.

The coming week is all about the September jobs reports. It seems like we just went through those.

On Monday, October 7 at 9:00 AM, the US Consumer Credit figures for August are out.

On Tuesday, October 8 at 6:00 AM, the NFIB Business Optimism Index is released.

On Wednesday, October 9, at 2:00 PM, we learn the Fed FOMC Minutes from the September meeting.

On Thursday, October 10 at 8:30 AM, the US Inflation Rate is published. US-China trade talks may, or may not resume.

On Friday, October 11 at 8:30 AM, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment for October is announced.

The Baker Hughes Rig Count is released at 2:00 PM.

As for me, I’m still recovering from running a swimming merit badge class for 60 kids last weekend. Some who showed up couldn’t swim, while others arrived with no swim suits, prompting a quick foray into the lost and found.

One kid jumped in and went straight to the bottom, prompting an urgent rescue. Another was floundering after 15 yards. When I pulled him out and sent him to the dressing room, he started crying, saying his dad would be mad. I replied, “Your dad will be madder if you drown.”

I never felt so needed in my life.

Good luck and good trading.

John Thomas
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 4, 2019

Global Market Comments
October 4, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(LAST CHANCE TO BUY THE NEW MAD HEDGE BIOTECH AND HEALTH CARE LETTER AT THE FOUNDERS PRICE)
(SEPTEMBER 18 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(SPY), (VIX), (USO), (ROKU), (TLT), (BA), (INDU),
 (GM), (FXI), (FB), (SCHW), (IWM), (AMTD)

October 2 Biweekly Strategy Webinar Q&A

Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader October 2 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: Would you do the S&P 500 (SPY) bull call spread if you didn’t have time to enter the short leg yesterday?

A: I would, because once again, once the Volatility Index (VIX) gets over $20, picking these call spreads is like shooting fish in a barrel. I think the long position I put on the (SPY) this morning is so far in the money that you will be sufficiently safe on a 12-day and really a 2-week view. There is just too much cash on the sidelines and interest rates are too low to see a major December 2018 type crash from here.

Q: I could not come out of the United States Oil Fund (USO) short position—should I keep it to expiration?

A: Yes, at this point we’re so close to expiration and so far in the money that you’d need a 30% move in oil to lose money on this. So, run it into expiration and avoid the execution costs.

Q: How do you see TD Ameritrade (AMTD) short term?

A: Well, it was down approximately 25% yesterday, so I would buy some cheap calls and go way out of the money so as not to risk much capital—on the assumption that maybe next week into the China trade talks, we get some kind of rally in the market and see a dramatic rise. 25% does seem extreme for a one-day move just because one broker was cutting his commissions to zero. By the way, I have been predicting that rates would go to zero for something like 30 years; that’s one of the reasons I got out of the business in 1989.

Q: Would you consider buying Roku (ROKU) at the present level?

A: Down 1/3 from the top is very tempting; however, I’m not in a rush to buy anything here that doesn’t have a large hedge on it. What you might consider doing on Roku is something like a $60-$70 or $70-$80 long-dated call spread. That is hedged, and it’s also lower risk. Sure, it won’t make as much money as an outright call option but at least you won’t be catching a falling knife.

Q: Will we see a yearend rally in the stocks?

A: Probably, yes. I think this quarter will clear out all the nervous money for the short term, and once we find a true bottom, we might find a 5-10% rally by yearend—and I’m going to try to be positioned to catch just that.

Q: At which price level do you go 100% long position?

A: If we somehow get to last December lows, that’s where you add the 100% long position. And there is a chance, while unlikely, that we get down to about 22,000 in the Dow Average (INDU), and that’s where you bet the ranch. Coming down from 29,000 to 22,000, you’re essentially discounting an entire recession with that kind of pullback. But we’re going to try to trade this thing shorter term; the market has so far been rewarding us to do so.

Q: The United States Treasury Bond Fund (TLT) looks like it’s about to break out. How do you see buying for the November $145 calls targeting $148?

A: We are actually somewhat in the middle of the range for the (TLT), so it’s a bit late to chase. We did play from the long side from the high $130s and took a quick profit on that, but now is a little bit late to play on the long side. We go for the low-risk, high-return trades, and $145 is a bit of a high-risk trade at this point. I would look to sell the next spike in the (TLT) rather than buy the middle where we are now.

Q: Will Boeing (BA) get recertified this year?

A: Probably, yes—now that we have an actual pilot as the head of the FAA—and that will be a great play. But if the entire economy is falling into a recession, nothing is a good play and you want to go into cash if you can’t do shorts. That would give us a chance to buy Boeing back closer to the $320 level, which was the great entry point in August.

Q: Do you expect General Motors (GM) shares to bounce if they settle with the union on their strike?

A: Maybe for a day or two, but that’s it. The whole car industry is in recession already. The union picked the worst time to strike because GM has a very high 45-day inventory of unsold cars which they would love to get rid of.

Q: What are the chances of a deal with China (FXI)?

A: Zero. How hard do the Chinese really want to work to get Trump reelected? My guess is not at all. We may get the announcement of a fake deal that resumes Chinese agricultural purchases, but no actual substance on intellectual property theft or changing any Chinese laws.

Q: Will they impeach Trump?

A: Impeach yes, convict no; and it’s going to take about 6 months, which will be a cloud hanging over the market. The market’s dropped about 1,000 points since the impeachment inquiry has started.

Q: What about the dollar?

A: I’m staying out of the dollar due to too many conflicting indicators and too much contra-historical action going on. The dollar seems high to me, but I’ve been wrong all year.

Q: E*Trade (ETFC) just announced free stock trading—what are your thoughts?

A: All online brokers now pretty much have to announce free trading in order to stay in business, otherwise you end up with the dumbest customers. It’s bad for the industry, but it’s good for you. The fact that all of these companies are moving to zero shows how meaningless your commissions became to them because so much more money was being made on selling your order flow to high frequency traders or selling your data to people like Facebook (FB).

Q: What’s your take on the Canadian dollar (FXC)?

A: It will go nowhere to weak, as long as the US is on a very slow interest rate-cutting program. The second Canada starts raising rates or we start cutting more aggressively is when you want to buy the Loonie.

Q: Fast fashion retailer Forever 21 went bankrupt—is it too late to short the mall stocks?

A: No but be very disciplined; only short the rallies. Last week would have been a good chance to get shorts off in malls and retailers. You really need to sell into rallies because the further these things go down, the more volatility increases as the prices go low. Obviously, a $1 move on a $30 stock is only 3% but a $1 move on a $10 stock is 10%. If you’re the wrong way on that, it can cost you a lot of money, even though the thing’s going to zero.

Q: Comments on defense stocks such as Raytheon (RTN)?

A: This is a highly political sector. If Trump gets reelected, expect an expansion of defense spending and overseas sales to Saudi Arabia, which would be good for defense. If he doesn’t get reelected, that would be bad for defense because it would get cut, and sales to places like Saudi Arabia would get cut off. I stay out of them myself because it’s essentially a political play and we’re very late in the cycle.

Q: Mark Zuckerberg says presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s proposal is an existential threat. Do you agree with him and her policies? Will they crash the economy?

A: They would be bad for the economy; however, I think it’s highly unlikely Warren gets elected. The country’s looking for a moderate president, not a radical one, and she does not fit that description. If you did break up the Tech companies, they’d be worth more individually than they are in these great monolithic companies.

Q: Does the Russell 2000 (IWM) call spread look in danger to you?

A: It’s a higher risk trade, however we are hedged with that short S&P 500, so we can hang onto the long (IWM) position hedging it with your short S&P 500 (SPY) trade reducing your risk.

Q: What do you have to say about shrinking buybacks?

A: It’s another recession indicator, for one thing. Corporate buybacks have been driving the stock market for the last 2 years at around a trillion dollars a year. They have suddenly started to decline. Why is that happening? Because companies think they can buy their stocks back at lower levels. If companies don’t want to buy their stocks, you shouldn’t either.

Q: When is the time for Long Term Equity Anticipation Securities (LEAPS)?

A: We are not in LEAPS territory yet. Those are long term, more than one-year option plays. You really want to get those at the once-a-year horrendous selloffs like the ones in December and February. We’re not at that point yet, but when we get there, we’ll start pumping out trade alerts for LEAPS for tech stocks like crazy. Start doing your research and picking your names, start playing around with strikes, and then one day, the prices will be so out of whack it will be the perfect opportunity to go in and buy your LEAPS.

Q: Was it a Black Monday for brokerages when Charles Schwab (SCHW) cut their commission to zero?

A: Yes, but it’s been one of the most predicted Black Mondays in history.

Q: Will the Fed save the market?

A: I would think they have no ability to save the market because they really can’t cut interest rates any more than they already have. There really are no companies that need to borrow money right now, and any that does you don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. The economy is not starved for cash right now—we have a cash glut all over the world—therefore, lowering interest rates will have zero impact on the economy, but it does eliminate the most important tool in dealing with future recessions. You go into a recession with interest rates at zero, then you’re really looking at a great depression because there’s no way to get out of it. It’s the situation Europe and Japan have been in for years.

Good Luck and Good Trading
John Thomas
CEO $ Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader

 

 

 

 

 

August 23, 2018

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
August 23, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(THE RACE TO ZERO FOR BROKERAGE COMMISSIONS)
(JPM), (WFC), (ETFC), (SCHW), (AMTD)

The Race to Zero for Brokerage Commissions

The other shoe has dropped.

No more waiting for it as it was only a matter of time, but it was going to happen soon enough.

The acceleration of the race down to zero for brokerage commissions has moved into full throttle.

In a bid to engage new customers, especially millennials, J.P. Morgan (JPM) will offer its customers 100 free stock or ETF trades for one year.

The new service will be available on Chase’s mobile banking app called “You Invest” and also does not require a minimum balance as do so many of the competitors.

Last year, J.P. Morgan was still charging customers a horrific $24.95 per trade, a ridiculous sum in an age of brokerages slashing fees left and right.

Recently, I chronicled the start-up fin-tech brokerage Robinhood, which rolled out the zero-commission model to the chagrin of the traditional brokerages on the verge of major disruption.

Well, Wall Street has stood up and taken notice. There is no way back from this new normal.

The catalyst for J.P. Morgan to change direction was its lack of competitiveness in the digital brokerage space and a free model of luring in business is seen as a quick recipe to correct its ills.

J.P. Morgan has pumped in $300 million in the past two years into digital initiatives but still lacks the volume it was hoping for. This could help capture fresh accounts that could eventually turn into a meaningful business.

Freemium models made popular in Silicon Valley are catching fire in other parts of the economy as potential customers can dabble with the service first before committing their hard-earned money.

This is dreadful news for the fin-tech brokerage industry as it indicates a whole new level of acute pressure on margins and revenue.

The brokerage business has been under fire the past few years after regulators discovered Wells Fargo (WFC) was cunningly ushering clients into higher fee trading vehicles, taking a larger cut of commissions.

Wells Fargo did everything it could to rack up costs for high net worth clients. The atrocious behavior was a huge black eye for the entire industry.

Technology has forced down the cost of executing a trade and each additional trade is almost nil after fixed costs because of software and hardware carrying out these functions.

E-brokerages are set for a rude awakening and their cash cows are about to be disrupted big time.

Charles Schwab (SCHW) has 11.2 million brokerage accounts, and no doubt clients will get on the ringer and ask why Schwab charges an arm and a leg to execute trades.

Schwab might as well start charging clients for emails, too.

The cut in commissions has already started to affect margins with Schwab revenue per trade sliding from $7.96 in 2017 to $7.30 in the most recent quarter.

TD Ameritrade (AMTD) is experiencing the same issues with revenue per trade of $7.83 last year dropping to $7.30 last quarter.

The beginning of the year provided e-brokers with respite after euphoric trading sentiment pushed many first-time equity buyers into the markets, making up for the deceleration in revenue per trade.

However, that one-off spike in volume will vanish and margins are about to get punctured by fin-tech start-ups such as Robinhood.

J.P. Morgan’s move to initiate free trades is a huge vote of confidence for upstart Robinhood, which charges zero commission for ETFs, option trades, and equities.

I recently wrote a story on the phenomenon of Robinhood, and the new developments mean the shakeout will happen a lot faster than first anticipated.

TD Ameritrade, E-Trade (ETFC), Fidelity, and Charles Schwab could face a deeply disturbing future if Silicon Valley penetrates under the skin of this industry and flushes it out just like Uber did to the global taxi business.

E-Trade shares have experienced a healthy uptrend and it is now time to pull the rip cord with the rest of these brokerages.

It will only get worse from here.

Investors should be spooked and avoiding this industry would be the right move at least for the short term.

The golden age of trading commissions is officially over.

Turning this industry into a dollar store variety is not what investors want to hear or hope for.

The decimation of commission fees has coincided with the rise of passive investing.

Only 10% of trades now are performed by active traders.

Brokerages earn demonstrably less with passive investing as the volume of trading commission dries up with this buy-and-hold-forever strategy.

Index funds have been all the rage and quite successful as the market has returned 400% during the nine-year bull market.

When the market stops going up, the situation could get dicey.

The real litmus test is when a sustained bear market vies to implode these ETFs and what will happen with a massive unwinding of these positions.

A prolonged bear market would also scare off retail investors from executing trades on these e-brokerages.

Many will take profits at the speed of light not to be seen or heard again until the next sustained bull market.

Moreover, it is certain the global trade war is scaring off retail investors from their trading platforms as the uncertainty weighing on the markets has thrown a spanner into the works.

Tech has been the savior to the overall market with the top dogs dragging up the rest, but for how long can this continue?

Other industries are experiencing minimal earnings growth and tech cannot go up forever.

Regulations are starting to bite back at the once infallible tech narrative.

Chinese tech is also having its own headaches where Tencent has been perpetually stymied by local regulators blocking access to gaming licenses needed to monetize blockbuster video games.

Tencent missed badly on its earnings report and there is no end in sight to the delay.

Social media has been torn apart as of late and the weaponization of its platforms is accelerating with government operations moving onto them to fight against each other.

Interest rate revenues are the saving grace for these brokerages that account for 50% or more of revenue.

As interest rates rise, there will be a bump in interest rate revenues. However, as competition heats up and commission falls to zero, will these clients stick around for the e-brokers to reap the interest rate revenues or not?

Millennials are hard-charging into Silicon Valley start-ups such as Robinhood, and the traditional brokers’ clientele are mainly directed on the lucrative middle-age cohort.

The next development for e-brokers is who can best harness artificial intelligence to best enhance their customer experience and products.

If the Charles Schwab’s of the world must compete with nimble Silicon Valley start-ups in technology, then they will find a hard slog of it.

One of these big e-brokers is likely to implode setting off another round of consolidation.

The race down to zero is fierce, and I would avoid this whole industry for now.

There are better secular stories in technology such as the e-gaming phenomenon capturing the hearts and minds of global youth.

 

 

 

 

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Quote of the Day

“Expect the unexpected. And whenever possible, be the unexpected,” – said Twitter and Square cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey.