Global Market Comments
November 6, 2019
(THE QUANTUM COMPUTER IN YOUR FUTURE),
(THE WORST TRADE IN HISTORY), (AAPL)
Global Market Comments
November 6, 2019
(THE QUANTUM COMPUTER IN YOUR FUTURE),
(THE WORST TRADE IN HISTORY), (AAPL)
Global Market Comments
November 4, 2019
(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or WELCOME TO THE SUMMIT)
(GM), (BA), (MSFT), (SPY), (TLT), (TSLA), (AMZN)
Global Market Comments
October 29, 2018
(PLAYING THE SHORT SIDE WITH VERTICAL BEAR PUT SPREADS), (TLT)
(WHY TECHNICAL ANALYSIS DOESN’T WORK)
(FB), (AAPL), (AMZN), (GOOG), (MSFT), (VIX)
Santa Claus came early this year.
The long-expected Christmas rally has already started in the wake of the horrendous economic data. Maybe.
We have now rocketed all the back from negative numbers to a feeble 5.7% return for the Dow Average for 2018. By comparison, the Mad Hedge Fund Trader is up a nosebleed 49.60% during the same period.
If you had taken Cunard’s round-the-world cruise two years ago, as I recommended, you would be landing in New York about now, wondering what the big deal was. Indexes are nearly unchanged since you departed, with the Dow only inches short of an all-time high.
This truly has been the Teflon market. Nothing will stick to it.
It makes you want to throw up your hands in despair and throw your empty beer can at the TV set. All this work and I’m delivered the perfectly wrong conclusions?
Let me point out a few harsh lessons learned from this most recent meltdown, and the rip-your-face-off rally that followed.
Remember all those market gurus claiming stocks would rise every day for the rest of the year? They were wrong.
This is why almost every Trade Alert I shot out for the past five months has been from the long side, but only after cataclysmic market selloffs.
We have just moved from a “Sell in May” to a “Buy in November” posture.
The next six months are ones of historical seasonal market strength. Click here for the misty origins of this trend at “If You Sell in May, What To Do in April?”
Most importantly, this year’s “Sell in May” got you out of the best performing sectors of the year at their highs.
Those include big techs like Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG), and Microsoft (MSFT), all stocks that I was banging the table about during the first half of 2019.
The other lesson learned this summer was the utter uselessness of technical analyses. Usually, these guys are right only 50% of the time. This year, they missed the boat entirely. In other words, they can beat a coin toss.
When the S&P 500 (SPY) was meandering in a narrow nine-point range, and the Volatility Index (VIX) hugged the $11-$15 neighborhood, they said this would continue for the rest of the year.
When the end October rally started, pitiful technical analysts told you to sell into it.
If you did, you lost your shirt. The market just kept going, and going, and going.
This is why technical analysis is utterly useless as an investment strategy. How many hedge funds use a pure technical strategy? Absolutely none, as it doesn’t make any money.
At best, it is just one of 100 tools you need to trade the market effectively. The shorter the time frame, the more accurate it becomes.
On an intraday basis, technical analysis is actually quite useful. But I doubt few of you engage in this hopeless persuasion.
This is why I advise portfolio managers and financial advisors to use technical analysis as a means of timing order executions, and nothing more.
Most professionals agree with me.
Technical analysis derives from humans’ preference for looking at pictures instead of engaging in abstract mental processes. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and probably a lot more.
This is why technical analysis appeals to so many young people entering the market for the first time. Buy a book for $5 on Amazon and you can become a Master of the Universe.
Who can resist that?
The problem is that high-frequency traders also bought that same book from Amazon a long time ago and have designed algorithms to frustrate every move of the technical analyst.
Sorry to be the buzzkill, but that is my take on Technical analysis.
Hope you enjoyed your cruise.
Global Market Comments
October 28, 2019
(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or DON’T FIGHT THE FED),
(BIIB), (IBB), (TSLA), (VIX), (BA), (AMZN), (AAPL), (MSFT), (GM)
Don’t fight the Fed.
That was the overwhelming message of the market last week as it ground up to a new intraday all-time high. The economy may be going to hell in a handbasket. But as long as the Fed keeps lowering interest rates, stocks will go up, kicking and screaming all the way. It’s that simple.
America’s central bank will get its next chance to cut rates on Wednesday at 2:00 PM from the current overnight rate of 2.00%.
The big question is: Will the curse of the Fed continue? For the last two times the Fed lowered interest rates, substantial stock market selloffs ensued, the last one reaching a 7.5% haircut. We will know shortly.
The Mad Hedge Lake Tahoe Conference held last weekend was a blowout success, with a great time had by all. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, with the lake waters calm and crystal clear. A day of market insights were delivered by me and Mad Hedge Technology Letter author Arthur Henry.
The only drawback was that several guests were prevented from going home by mandatory evacuations of several Bay Area cities and the closure of Interstate 80 going back to San Francisco. A handful (including me), had no electric power to return to when they got home.
I’ll share with you the most disturbing chart of the entire day showing the S&P 500 (SPY) has been grinding up to new highs, earnings forecasts have been absolutely falling off a cliff. Clearly, with the Volatility Index (VIX) back down to the lowly $12 handle, this is a market that is cruising for a bruising….someday.
Brexit failed again, taking the quagmire into its fourth year. An EC deal is postponed until January 31, but they’re really not interested at all. British pounds collapsing, creating a new “RISK OFF” leg worldwide. Prime minister Johnson has lost 5 consecutive parliamentary votes, an all-time record. When will he get the message?
US Capital Investment has ground to a halt, with business fixed investment down 1% YOY. No one knows where to put their money, inside the US or not, so they’re doing nothing until it is sorted out. Call me when its over.
Biogen (BIIB) exploded to the upside on its FDA application for its new Alzheimer’s drug. Written off for dead six months ago, the company secretly kept working on Aducanumab until today’s blockbuster announcement. The drug reverses amyloid plaques thought responsible for Alzheimer’s. The stock is up an incredible 38% and has even dragged up the biotech ETF (IBB) 3%. Buy (BIIB) on dips.
Boeing soared on accelerated production timeline for 2020. Good thing I bought it just recently. The stock had been severely oversold on a $45 dive in two days. Buy (BA) on the dips.
The trade war is back in business with the Chinese demanding a total end to tariffs before any big ag buys. The rumors knocked stocks back on their heels. The Middle Kingdom also takes issue with recent Pence comments about basketball. Trump is definitely cornered. The trade war pain has gone global, with Europe taking the biggest hit. Some 40% of Germany’s GDP comes from exports. Growth will be on the skids for the next two years, even if a deal is done tomorrow.
Tesla shocked, bringing in a profit for only the third time in company history, and causing the stock to soar $55. The 100,000-unit production target within yearend looks within reach. Most importantly, they opened up a new supercharger station in Incline Village, Nevada! Tesla is now America’s most valuable car maker, beating (GM). The ideological Exxon-financed shorts have been destroyed once and for all. Buy (TSLA) on dips. There’s a ten bagger in this one.
Amazon put out a gloomy Christmas forecast on the back of a disappointing earnings report, crushing the shares by 7%. Looks like the trade war might cause a recession next year. Q3 revenues were great, up 24% to an eye-popping $70 billion. Good thing I took profits on the last option expiration. Poor Jeff Bezos, the abandoned son of an alcoholic circus clown, dropped $7 billion in net worth on Thursday. Buy (AMZN) on the dips.
The safest stock in the market, Microsoft, says it’s all about the cloud. Azure revenues grew a stunning 59% in Q3. (MSFT) is now up 37% on the year. Keep buying every dip, if we ever get another one.
Apple stock soared to new all-time high, taking the market cap just short of $1.1 trillion. iPhones are now less than 50% of total sales. The company is firing on all cylinders. My target is $200. Buy (AAPL) on dips.
Existing Home Sales dropped, down 2.2% in September to 5.38 million units. It’s shocking given the incredibly low level of interest rates. A shortage of supply?
This was a week for the Mad Hedge Trader Alert Service to stay level at an all-time high. With only one position left in Boeing (BA), not much else was going to happen.
My Global Trading Dispatch reached new pinnacle of +349.47% for the past ten years and my 2019 year-to-date accelerated to +48.42%. The notoriously volatile month of October stands at a blockbuster +11.91%. My ten-year average annualized profit held steady at +35.24%.
With my Mad Hedge Market Timing Index sitting around the neutral 62 level, it is too close to neutral to do anything dramatic.
The coming week is pretty non eventful of the data front. Maybe the stock market will be non-eventful as well.
On Monday, October 28 at 8:30 AM, the September Chicago Fed National Activity Index is published. Alphabet (GOOGL), and AT&T (T) report.
On Tuesday, October 29 at 9:00 AM, we get a new S&P Case Shiller National Home Price Index for August. Amgen (AMGN) and Pfizer (P) report.
On Wednesday, October 30, at 8:30 AM, the first read on US Q3 GDP is announced. At 10:30 AM, EIA Energy Stocks are published. Then at 2:00 PM, we obtain the FOMC interest rate decision. Apple (AAPL) and Facebook (FB) report.
On Thursday, October 31 at 8:30 AM, Weekly Jobless Claims are out. US Steel (X) reports.
On Friday, November 1 at 8:30 AM, the October Nonfarm Payroll Report is released. AbbVie (ABBV) and ExxonMobile (XOM) report.
The Baker Hughes Rig Count follows at 2:00 PM.
As for me, I’ll be driving back home from Lake Tahoe. I wonder if I’ll make it.
Good luck and good trading.
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
Anti-A.I. physicist Professor Stephen Hawking was a staunch supporter of preserving human interests against the future existential threat from machines and artificial intelligence (A.I.).
He was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1963 at the age of 21 and sadly passed away March 14, 2018 at the age of 76.
Famed for his work on black holes, Professor Hawking represented the human quest to maintain its superiority against quickly advancing artificial acculturation.
His passing was a huge loss for mankind as his voice was a deterrent to A.I.’s relentless march to supremacy. He was one of the few who had the authority to opine on these issues.
Gone is a voice of reason.
Critics have argued that living with A.I. poses a red alert threat to privacy, security, and society as a whole. Unfortunately, those most credible and knowledgeable about A.I. are tech firms.
They have shown that policing themselves on this front is remarkably unproductive.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook (FB), has labeled naysayers as “irresponsible” and dismissed the threat. After failing to prevent Russian interference in the last election, he is exhibiting the same defensive posture translating into a de facto admission of guilt. His track record of shirking accountability is becoming a trend leading him to allow politicians to post untrue marketing material for the 2020 U.S. election.
Share prices will materially nosedive if A.I. is stonewalled and development stunted. Many CEOs who stake careers on doubling or tripling down on A.I. cannot see it die out. There is too much money to lose – even for Mark.
The world will see major improvements in the quality of life in the next 10 years. But there is another side to the coin which Zuckerberg and company refuse to delve into…the dark side of technology.
Tesla’s (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has shared his anxiety about robots flipping the script on humans. Elon acknowledges that A.I. and autonomous vehicles are important factors in the battle for new technology. The winner is yet to be determined as China has bet the ranch with unlimited resources from the help of Chairman Xi and state sponsored institutions.
The quagmire with China has been squarely centered around the great race for technological supremacy.
A.I. is the ultimate X factor in this race and whoever can harness and develop the fastest will win.
Musk has hinted that robots and humans could merge into one species in the future. Is this the next point of competition among tech companies? The future is murky at best.
Hawking’s premise that evolution has inbuilt greed can be found in the underpinnings of America’s economic miracle.
Wall Street has bred a culture that is entirely self-serving regardless of the bigger system in which it finds itself.
Most of us are participating in this perpetual money game chase because our system treats it as a natural part of life. A.I. will help a select few do well in this paper chase to the detriment of the majority.
Quarterly earnings performance is paramount for CEOs. Return value back to shareholders or face the sack in the morning. It’s impossible to convince anyone that America’s capitalist model is deteriorating in the greatest bull market of all time.
Wall Street has an insatiable hunger for cutting-edge technology from companies that sequentially beat earnings and raise guidance. Flourishing technology companies enrich the participants creating a Teflon-like resistance to downside market risk.
The issue with Professor Hawking’s work is that his timeframe is too far in the future. Professor Hawking was probably correct, but it will take 25 years to prove it.
The world is quickly changing as science fiction becomes reality.
People on Wall Street are a product of the system in place and earn a tremendous amount of money because they proficiently execute a specialized job. Traders are busy focusing on how to move ahead of the next guy.
Firms building autonomous cars are free to operate as is. Hyper-accelerating technology spurs on the development of A.I., machine learning, and enhanced algorithms. Record profits will topple and investors will funnel investments back into an even narrower grouping of technology stocks after the weak hands are flushed out.
Professor Hawking said we need to explore our technological capabilities to the fullest in order to avoid extinction. In 2018, exploring these new capabilities still equals monetizing through the medium of products and services.
This is all bullish for equities as the leading companies associated with A.I. to reap the benefits.
And let me remind you that technology is still the least regulated industry on the planet even with all the recent hoopla.
It is having its cake and is eating it too. Hence, technology is starting to cross over into other industries demonstrating the powerful footprint tech has extracted in economics and the stock market.
The only solution is keeping companies accountable by a function of law or creating a third-party task force to regulate A.I.
In 2019, the thought of overseeing robots sounds crazy.
The future will be here sooner than you think.
Note to readers: Sorry for the short letter today but PG&E is about to turn off my electric power to reduce the risk of a wildfire during these high, hot winds from the east.
The Teflon market is back.
Bad news is good news. Good news is good news.
What could be better than that?
However, there are a few issues out there lurking on the horizon that could pee on everyone’s parade.
Risks of an asymmetric outcome right now are huge. Let me call out the roster for you.
1) The China Trade War Escalates – Every day economic advisor Larry Kudlow tells us that the trade talks are progressing nicely, and every day the administration pulls the rug out from under him with new sanctions. The last chance to avoid the next recession is upon us. A trade deal is the rational thing to do. Oops! There’s that “rational” word again.
2) Economic Data Gets Worse – After a great data run into last winter, they are suddenly rolling over. All of the forward-looking data is now 100% terrible.
3) The Fed Doesn’t Cut Interest Rates– This has been the world’s greatest guessing game for the past three years. The Fed has never cut interest rates in the face of a GDP 2.0% growth rate and 3.5% unemployment rate in history. Will it now do it for a third time?
The Fed lives in perpetual fear of the American economy going into the next recession with interest rates near zero! That would leave them powerless to do anything to engineer a revival.
4) Another Geopolitical Crisis – You could always get a surprise on the international front. But the lesson of this bull market is that traders and investors could care less about North Korea, ISIS, Al Qaida, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Russia, Ukraine, or the Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.
Every one of these black swans has been a buying opportunity of the first order, and they will continue to be so. At the end of the day, terrorists don’t impact American corporate earnings, nor do they own stocks.
5) A Recovery in Oil – The next drone attack against Saudi Arabia could send oil really flying. If it recovers too fast and rockets are back to the $100 level, it could start to eat into stock prices.
6) The End of US QE – The Fed’s $4.5 billion quantitative easing policy ended three years ago. Anyone who said QE didn’t work obviously doesn’t own stocks.
7) A New War – If the US gets dragged into a major new ground war in Iran, North Korea, Syria, Iraq or elsewhere, you can kiss this bull market goodbye. Budget deficits would explode, the dollar would collapse, and there would be a massive exodus out of all risk assets, especially stocks.
8) US Corporate Earnings Collapse – With the trade war with China getting worse by the day US corporate earnings, growth is expected to plunge from 26% a year ago now to 0% sometime in 2019. That immediately makes them 26% more expensive. Do you think stocks (SPY) will notice?
9) Another Emerging Market (EEM) Crash – If the greenback resumes its long-term rise as I expect, another emerging market debt crisis is in the cards. Venezuela and Argentina are just the opening scenes.
With US interest rates (TLT) falling slower than those of any other country, how could it go any other way? This is because too many emerging corporations have borrowed in dollars, some $2-trillion worth.
When their local currencies collapse, it has the effect of doubling the principal balance of their loans and doubling the monthly payments, immediately.
This is the problem that is currently taking apart the Brazilian economy right now. It happened in 1998, and it looks like we are seeing a replay.
10) China Goes Into Recession – So far, the Middle Kingdom (FXI) has resorted to devaluing its currency, cutting interest rates, easing bank reserve requirements, and selling big chunks of its US Treasury and Eurobond holdings to reinvigorate its economy.
What if it doesn’t work? Look for a new China scare to hit US stocks and don your hard hat.
11) Inflation Returns – Steep tariff increases on everything Chinese is rapidly feeding into rising US consumer prices. What do you think the Amazon (AMZN) wage hike to $15 means? If McDonald’s (MCD), Walmart (WMT), and Target (TGT) join them, we’re there. This is a stock market preeminently NOT prepared for a return of inflation.
I know you already have trouble sleeping at night. The above should make your insomnia problem much worse.
Try a 10-mile hike with a heavy pack every night in the mountains. It works for me.
Down the Ambien, and full speed ahead!
Global Market Comments
October 1, 2019
(LAUNCHING THE NEW MAD HEDGE BIOTECH AND HEALTHCARE LETTER)
(THE NEW AI BOOK THAT INVESTORS ARE SCRAMBLING FOR),
(GOOG), (FB), (AMZN), MSFT), (BABA), (BIDU),
(TENCENT), (TSLA), (NVDA), (AMD), (MU), (LRCX)
A better headline for this piece would be “The Future of You,” as artificial intelligence is about to become so integral to your work, your investment portfolio, and even your very existence that you won’t be able to live without it quite literally.
Well, do I have some great news for you. A blockbuster book about the state of play on all things AI was released in September last year, and I managed to obtain and read a copy before it was released. The title is AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Dr. Kai-Fu Lee.
The bottom line: The future is even more unbelievable than you remotely imagined. We are in the very early days of this giant megatrend, and the investment opportunities will be nothing less than spectacular.
And here is a barn burner. The price of AI is dropping fast as hundreds of thousands of new programmers pour into the field. Those $10 million signing bonuses are about to become a thing of the past.
Dr. Lee is certainly someone to take seriously. He obtained one of the first PhDs in AI from Carnegie Mellon University. He was the president of Google (GOOG) China and put in stints at Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL). Today, he is the CEO of Sinovation Ventures, the largest AI venture capital firm in China, and is a board director of Alibaba (BABA).
AI is nothing more than deep learning, or super pattern recognition. Dr. Lee dates the onset of artificial intelligence to 1952 when an IBM mainframe computer learned to play checkers and beat human opponents. By 1955, it learned to develop strategies on its own.
Dr. Lee sees the AI field ultimately divided into two spheres of dominance, the U.S. and China. No one else is devoting a fraction of the resources needed to become a serious player. The good news is that Russia and Iran are nowhere in the game.
While the U.S. dominates in the original theory and algorithms that founded AI, China is about to take the lead in applications. It can do this because it has access to mountains of data that dwarf those available in America. China processes three times more mobile phones, five times more Internet customers, 10 times more eat-out orders, and 50 times more mobile transactions. In a future where data is the currency, this is huge.
The wake-up call for China in applications took place two years ago when U.S. and Korean AI programs beat grandmasters in the traditional Chinese game of Go. Long a goal of AI programmers, this great leap forward took place 20 years earlier than had been anticipated. This created an AI stampede in the Middle Kingdom that led to the current bubble.
The result has been applications that are still in the realm of science fiction in the U.S. The Chinese equivalent of eBay (EBAY), Taobao, doesn’t charge fees because its customer base is so big it can remain profitable on ad revenues only. Want to be more beautiful in your selfies sent to friends? A Chinese app will do that for you, Beauty Plus.
The Chinese equivalent of Yelp, Dianping, has 600,000 deliverymen on mopeds. The number of takeout meals is so vast that it has been able to drop delivery costs from $6 a meal to 60 cents. As a result, traditional restaurants are dying out in China.
Teachers in Chinese schools no longer take attendance. Students are checked off when they enter the classroom by facial recognition software. And heaven help you if you jaywalk in a Chinese city. Similar software will automatically issue you a citation with a fine and send it to your home.
Credit card fraud is actually on the decline in China as dubious transactions are blocked by facial matching software. The bank simply calls you, asks you to look into your phone, takes your picture, and then matches it with the image they have on file.
Dr. Lee sees AI unfolding in four waves, and there are currently companies operating in every one of these (see graph below):
1) Internet AI
The creation of black boxes and specialized algorithms that opened the door to monetizing code. This was the path for today’s giants that dominate online commerce, Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN), JD.com (JD), and Facebook (FB). Alibaba (BABA), Baidu (BIDU), and Tencent followed.
2) Business AI
Think big data. This is the era we just entered where massive data from online customers, financial transactions, and healthcare led to the writing of new algorithms that maximize profitability. Suddenly, companies can turn magic knobs to achieve desired goals, such as stepping up penetration or monetization.
3) Perception AI
Using trillions of sensors worldwide, analog data on any movement, facial expression, sound, and image are converted into digital data and then mined for conclusions by more advanced algorithms. Cameras are suddenly everywhere. Amazon’s Alexa is the first step in this process, where your conversations are recorded and then mined for keywords about your every want and desire.
Think of autonomous fast food where you walk in your local joint and it immediately recognizes you, offers you your preferred dishes, and then auto bills your online account for your purchase. Amazon has already done this with a Whole Foods store in Seattle.
4) Autonomous AI
Think every kind of motion. AI will get applied to autonomous driving, local shuttles, factory forklifts, assembly lines, and inspections of every kind. Again, data and processing demand take an enormous leap upward. Tesla (TSLA), Waymo (GOOG), and Uber are already very active in this field.
The book focuses a lot on the future of work. Dr. Lee creates a four-part scatter chart predicting the viability of several types of skills based on optimization, compassion, creativity, and strategy (see below).
If you are a truck driver, in customer support, or a dishwasher, or engage in any other repetitive and redundant profession, your outlook is grim. If you can supplement AI, such as a CEO, economist, or marketing head, you’ll do fine. People who can do what AI can’t, such as teachers and artists, will prosper.
The Investment Angle
There have been only two ways to invest in AI until now. You can buy shares in any of the seven giants above whose shares have already risen for 100- or 1,000-fold.
You can invest in the nets and bolts parts providers, such as NVIDIA (NVDA), Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Micron Technology (MU), and Lam Research (LRCX), which provide the basic building blocks for the Internet infrastructure.
Fortunately for our paid subscribers, the Mad Hedge Trade Alert Service caught all of these very early.
What’s missing is the “in-between companies,” which are out of your reach because they are locked up in university labs or venture capital funds. Many of these never see the light of day as public companies because they get taken over by the tech giants above. It’s effectively a closed club that won’t let outsiders in. It’s a dilemma that vexes any serious technology investor.
When quantum computing arrives in a decade, you can take all the functionality above and multiply it by a trillion-fold, while costs drop a similar amount. That’s when things really get interesting. But then, I’ve seen trillion-fold increases in technology before.
I hope I live to see another.