Posts

August 6, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 6, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(I HAVE AN OPENING FOR THE MAD HEDGE FUND TRADER CONCIERGE SERVICE),

(DON’T MISS THE AUGUST 7 GLOBAL STRATEGY WEBINAR),
(HAVE WE SEEN “PEAK AUTO SALES”),
(GM), (TM), (F), (HMC), (TSLA), (NSANY), 

Have We Seen “Peak Auto Sales”?

There is no limit to my desire to get an early and accurate read on the US economy, which at the end of the day is what dictates the future returns on our investments.

I flew over one of my favorite leading economic indicators only last week.

Honda (HMC) and Nissan (NSANY) import millions of cars each year through their Benicia, California facilities where they are loaded on to hundreds of rail cars for shipment to points inland as far as Chicago.

In 2009, when the US car market shrank to an annualized 8.5 million units, I flew over the site and it was choked with thousands of cars parked bumper to bumper in their white plastic wrappings, rusting in the blazing sun and bereft of buyers.

Then, “cash for clunkers” hit (remember that?). The lots were emptied in a matter of weeks, with mile-long trains lumbering inland, only stopping to add extra engines to get over the High Sierras at Donner Pass. The stock market took off like a rocket, with the auto companies leading.

I flew over the site last weekend, and guess what? The lots are full again. Not only that, the trains lined up to take them away are gone. US Auto Sales peaked in October 2017 when they fell just short of a 19 million annualized rate. As of the end of June this year, they had fallen to a 15.1 million annualized rate. July is looking worse still.

And this is what I’m worried about. Auto Sales may not only be peaking for this economic cycle. They may be peaking for all time.

This is my logic.

As they slowly age, Millennials are about to become the principal buyers of automobiles. The problem is that Millennials are purchasing cars at a far slower rate than previous generations.

This is because they have a much higher concentration in urban areas where the cost of car ownership is the most expensive in history. $40 for parking for an evening? Give me a break. But good luck finding free on-street parking, and if you do, your windows will probably get smashed.

In cities like San Francisco, public transportation, bicycles, and electric scooters are the preferred mode of transportation.

It doesn’t help that this generation is shouldering the burden of the bulk of $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. When you owe $2,000 a month in interest, there is little room for a car payment, and you probably don’t have the credit rating to buy a car anyway.

When they do buy cars, all-electric is their first choice, if they can get access to overnight charging. A lot of companies are making this easy by offering free charging for electric commuters in corporate parking lots. This explains why Tesla (TSLA) has taken deposits from 400,000 for their low-end Tesla 3, which has a two-year waiting list for new buyers.

When Millennials do drive, such as on business, for weekend trips or summer vacations, they either rent or “share.” Driving around the city, you see cars parked everywhere with bizarre names like Upshift, Getaround, Zipcar, Turo, and Casual Carpool.

Indeed, Detroit takes the car-sharing threat so seriously that the Big Three have all bought into the technology, with General Motors taking a stake in Maven. (GM) plans to start its own peer-to-peer car-sharing service this summer.

This is all a mystery for my generation, which grew up tearing apart old cars and putting them back together. I spent a year trying to put the engine on my 1955 Volkswagen back together. When I gave up, I towed the car and a big box full of greasy parts to a local mechanic, a German Army veteran. When he finished, even he had four parts left over.

Do you know who believes my rash, possible MAD theory? Investors in auto stocks, one of the worst-performing sectors of the stock market this year. Shares like those of General Motors (GM) keep breaking new valuation lows.

What was (GM)’s price earnings multiple today? Try a miserable zero since the company loses money, one of the lowest of all S&P 500 stocks. Hapless portfolio managers keep getting sucked into the shares, which have become one of the ultimate value traps.

It is all further evidence that my cautious view on the US economy is correct, that multiple crises overseas are ahead of us, and that the stock market could drop 5%-10% at any time. The auto industry should lead the charge to the downside, especially General Motors (GM) and Ford (F).

As for Tesla (TSLA), better to buy the car than the stock.

Sorry, the photo is a little crooked, but it’s tough holding a camera in one hand and a plane’s stick with the other while flying through the turbulence of the San Francisco Bay’s Carquinez Straight.

Air traffic control at nearby Travis Air Force base usually has a heart attack when I conduct my research in this way, with a few joyriding C-130s having more than one near miss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 28, 2019

Global Market Comments
January 28, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(THE MARKET FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or IT’S FINALLY OVER)
(SPY), (TLT), (FXE), (MSFT), (AAPL),
 (PG), (F), (LRCX), (AMD), (XLNX)

The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or It’s Finally Over

Last week, I was too busy to cook dinner for my brood, so I ordered a pizza delivery. When an older man showed up with our dinner, I told the kids to tip him double. After all, he might be an unpaid federal air traffic controller.

It is a good thing I work late on Friday afternoon because that’s when the government shutdown ended after 35 days. The bad news? The government stops getting paid again in only 18 more days. If you have to travel, you better do it quick as the open window may be short.

The most valuable thing we learned from all of this is that the weak point in America is the airline transportation system which relies on 4,000 flights to get the country’s business done.

Having once owned a European air charter company, I could have told you as much was coming. Every nut, bolt, and screw that goes into a US registered aircraft has to be inspected by the federal government. They are painted yellow when viewed which is called “yellow tagging”. No inspection, no screw. No screw, no airplane. No airplane, no flight. No flight, no economy. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a $30 million aircraft grounded by a failed 50-cent part.

And here’s what most investors don’t get. We lost 75 basis points in GDP growth from the shutdown. We may lose another 75 basis points restarting. And if you lose 1.50% from a post-Christmas period that is normally weak anyway, Q1 GDP may well come in negative. Hello recession!

We won’t know for sure until the first advanced estimate of Q1 GDP from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis is published on April 26. That’s when the sushi will hit the fan. That, by the way, is perilously close for the May 10 prediction of the end of the entire ten-year bull market.

How did investors fare during the shutdown? We clocked the best January in 32 years with the Dow Average up 7.55%. Maybe the government should stay closed all the time!

It is not like the government shutdown, the fading Chinese trade talks, and the arrest of the president’s pal were the only things happening last week.

A slowing China is freaking out investors everywhere. Even if a trade deal is cut tomorrow, it may not be enough to pull the economy out of a downward death spiral. Look out below! A 6.6% growth rate for 2018 is the slowest in 30 years.

Existing Home Sales were down a disastrous 6.4%, in December and 10% YOY, the worst read since 2012. The government shutdown is made closings nearly impossible.

The EC’s Mario Draghi said there would be no euro rate rises until 2020 and the US bond market took off like a rocket. Another point or two and we’ll be in short selling territory again. Don’t count on Europe to pull us out of the next recession. Whoever came up with the idea of putting an Italian in charge of Europe’s finances anyway? Like that was such a great idea.

Procter & Gamble (PG) beat with an upside earnings surprise. It must be all those people buying soap to wash their hands of our political system. But Ford (F) disappointed, dragged down by weak foreign earnings. The weakest big car company to get into electric cars is really starting to suffer. The last of the buggy whip makers is taking a swan dive

The semis have bottomed in the wake of spectacular earnings reports from (LRCX), (AMD), and (XLNX). The great artificial intelligence play is back in action after a severe spanking. I never had any doubt they would come back. Now for an entry point.

Farmers are leaving crops to rot in the field as the trade war with China destroys prices and the Mexicans needed to harvest them are trapped at the border. There’s got to be an easier way to earn a living. Avoid the ags and all ag plays. Short tofu stocks!

Investors are now sitting on pins and needles wondering if we get a repeat of the horrific February of 2018, or whether so far great earnings reports will drive us to higher highs. Earnings tail off right when the next government shutdown is supposed to start so our lives will be interesting, to say the least.

My January and 2019 year to date return soared to +7.24%, boosting my trailing one-year return back up to +30.23%. 

My nine-year return climbed up to +308.14%, a mere 1.72% short of a new all time high. The average annualized return revived to +33.61%. 

I have been dancing in between the raindrops using rallies to take profits on longs and big dips to cover shorts.

I started out the week using the 4 1/2 point plunge in the bond market (TLT) to cover the last of my shorts there, bring in a whopper of a $1,680 profit in only 13 trading days. To quote the Terminator (whose girlfriend I once dated, the Terminatrix), I’ll be back.”

I used the big 500-point swoon in the Dow on Monday to come out of my (SPY) short at cost. An unfortunate comment on interest rates by the European Central Bank forced me to stop out of my long in the Euro (FXE), also at cost.

That has whittled my portfolio down to only two positions, a long in Microsoft (MSFT) and a short in Apple (AAPL). As a pairs trade you could probably run this position for years. I am now 80% in cash.

The goal is to go 100% into cash into the February option expiration in 14 trading days, wait for a big breakout, and then fade it. Essentially, I am waiting for the market to tell me what to do. That will enable me to bank double-digit profits for the start of 2019, the best in a decade.

The upcoming week is very iffy on the data front because of the government shutdown. Some government data may be delayed and other completely missing. Private sources will continue reporting on schedule. All of the data will be completely skewed for at least the next three months. You can count on the shutdown to dominate all media until it is over.

Jobs data will be the big events over the coming five days along with some important housing numbers. We also have several heavies reporting earnings.

On Monday, January 28 at 8:30 AM EST, we get the Chicago Fed National Activity Index.

 On Tuesday, January 29, 9:00 AM EST, the Case Shiller National Home Price Index for November is released.  The ever important Apple (AAPL) earnings are out after the close, along with Juniper Networks (JNPR).

On Wednesday, January 30 at 8:15 AM EST, the ADP Private Employment Report is announced. Pending Home Sales for December follows. Boeing Aircraft (BA) and Facebook (FB), and PayPal (PYPL) announce.

 Thursday, January 31 at 8:30 AM EST, we get Weekly Jobless Claims. We also get the all-important Consumer Spending Index for December. Amazon (AMZN) and General Electric (GE) announce.

On Friday, February 1 at 8:30 AM EST, the January NonFarm Payroll Report hits the tape.

The Baker-Hughes Rig Count follows at 1:00 PM. Schlumberger (SLB) announces earnings. Home Sales is released. AbbVie Inc (ABBV) and DR Horton (DHI) report.

As for me, I will be celebrating my birthday. Believe me, lighting 67 candles creates a real bonfire. I received the best birthday card ever from my daughter which I have copied below

Good luck and good trading.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 10, 2018

Global Market Comments
October 10, 2018
Fiat Lux


SPECIAL TESLA ISSUE

Featured Trade:
(OCTOBER 14 SAVANNAH GEORGIA STRATEGY BREAKFAST),
(THE BULL CASE FOR TESLA),
 (TSLA), (GM), (F)

October 8, 2018

Global Market Comments
October 8, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(THE MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or GET ME OFF THIS ROLLER COASTER),
(THE INCREDIBLE FUTURE OF THE AUTOMOBILE),
(TSLA), (GM), (F), (TM)

September 27, 2018

Global Market Comments
September 27, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(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),
(TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2018, MIAMI, FL,
GLOBAL STRATEGY LUNCHEON)

How to Gain an Advantage with Parallel Trading

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 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.

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.

Suffice it to say that parallel trading is an incredibly useful trading strategy.

Ignore it at your peril.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Long and Winding Road to Get Here

September 26, 2018

Global Market Comments
September 26, 2018
Fiat Lux

SPECIAL CAR ISSUE

Featured Trade:
(SAY GOODBYE TO THAT GAS GUZZLER),
(GM), (F), (TSLA), (GOOGL), (AAPL)

September 4, 2018

Global Market Comments
September 4, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2018, HOUSTON GLOBAL STRATEGY LUNCHEON),
(DON’T MISS THE SEPTEMBER 5 GLOBAL STRATEGY WEBINAR),
(THE MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or
THE WAR WITH CANADA STARTS ON TUESDAY),
(MSFT), (VXX), (TLT), (AAPL), (KO), (GM), (F)