I have to tell you that flip-flopping from extreme optimism to extreme pessimism and back is a trader’s dream come true. Volatility is our bread and butter.
Long term followers know that when volatility is low, I struggle to make 1% or 2% a month. When it is high, I make 10% to 20%, as I have for two of the last three months.
That is what the month of October has delivered so far.
To see how well this works, the S&P 500 is dead unchanged so far this month, while the Mad Hedge Fund Trader alert service is up a gangbuster 10% and we are now 70% in cash.
While the market is unchanged in two years, risk has been continuously rising. That’s because year on year earnings growth has fallen from 26% to zero. That means with an unchanged index, stocks are 26% more expensive.
Entire chunks of the market have been in a bear market since 2017, including industrials, autos, energy, and retailers. US Steel (X), which the president’s tariffs were supposed to rescue, has crashed 80% since the beginning of 2018.
The great irony here is that while the Dow Average is just short of an all-time high, all of the good short positions have already been exhausted. In short, there is nothing to do.
So, the wise thing to do here is to use the 1,200-point rally since Thursday to raise cash you can put to work during the next round of disappointment, which always comes. If we do forge to new highs, they will be incremental ones at best. That’s when you let your passive indexing friends pick up the next bar tab, who unintentionally caught the move.
In the meantime, we will be bracing ourselves for the big bank earnings due out this week which are supposed to be dismal at best. JP Morgan (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), and Citigroup (C) are out on Tuesday and Bank of America (BAC) publishes on Wednesday.
That’s when we find out how much of this move has been about unicorns and candy canes, and how much is real.
Trump demoed his Own trade talks, creating a technology blacklist and banning US pension investment into the Middle Kingdom. He also hints he’ll take a small deal rather than a big one. Great for American farmers but leaves intellectual property and forced joint ventures on the table, throwing the California economy under the bus. I knew it would end this way. It’s very market negative. Without a trade deal, there is no way to avoid a US recession in 2020.
The Inverted Yield Curve is flashing “recession.” The three-month Treasury yield has been above the 10-year bond yield since May, and that always says a downturn is coming. The time to batten down the hatches is now.
US Producer Prices plunged in September, down 0.3%, the worst since January. It’s another recession indicator but also pushes the Fed to lower rates further.
Inflation was Zero in September, with the Consumer Price Index up 1.8% YOY. Slowing economy due to the trade war gets the blame, but I think that accelerating technology gets the bigger blame.
New Job Openings hit an 18-month low, down 123,000 to 7.05 million in August, as employers pull back in anticipation of the coming recession. Trade war gets the blame. The smart people don’t hire ahead of a recession.
FedEx (FDX) is dead money, says a Bernstein analyst, citing failing domestic and international sales. No pulling any punches, he said “The bull thesis has been shredded.” Not what you want to hear from this classic recession leading indicator. Nobody ships anything during a slowdown.
Loss of SALT Deductions cost you $1 trillion, or about 4% per home, according to an analysis by Standard & Poor’s. Quite simply, losing the ability to deduct state and local tax deductions creates a higher after-tax cost of carry that reduces your asset value. If you bought a home in 2017 you lost half of your equity almost immediately. The east and west coast were especially hard hit.
Fed to expand balance sheet to deal with the short-term repo funding crisis, which periodically has been driving overnight interest rates up to an incredible 5%. Massive government borrowing is starting to break the existing financial system. What they’re really doing is trying to head off to the next recession.
The Fed September minutes came out, and traders seem to be expecting more rate cuts than the Fed is. Trade is still the overriding concern. The next meeting is October 29-30. It could all end in tears.
Apple (AAPL) raised iPhone 11 Production by 10%, to 8 million more units, according Asian parts suppliers. Great news for its $1,089 top priced product ahead of the Christmas rush. It turns out that an Apple app is helping Hong Kong protesters manage demonstrations. I’m keeping my long, letting the shares run to a new all-time high. Buy (AAPL) on the dips.
The Mad Hedge Trader Alert Service has blasted through to yet another new all-time high. My Global Trading Dispatch reached new apex of +347.48% and my year-to-date accelerated to +47.24%. The tricky and volatile month of October started out with a roar +9.82%. My ten-year average annualized profit bobbed up to +35.64%.
Some 26 out of the last 27 trade alerts have made money, a success rate of94%! Underpromise and overdeliver, that’s the business I have been in all my life. It works. This is rapidly turning into the best year of the decade for me. It is all the result of me writing three newsletters a day.
I used the recession fear-induced selloff after October 1 to pile on a large aggressive short-dated portfolio which I will run into expiration. I am 60% long with the (SPY), (IWM), (USO), (WMT), (AAPL), and (GOOGL). I am 10% short with one position in the (IWM) giving me a net risk position of 50% long. All of them are working.
The coming week is pretty non-eventful of the data front. Maybe the stock market will be non-eventful as well.
On Monday, October 14, nothing of note is published.
On Tuesday, October 15 at 8:30 AM, the New York Empire State Manufacturing Index is released. JP Morgan (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), and Citigroup (C) kick off the Q3 earnings season with reports.
On Wednesday, October 16, at 8:30 AM, we learn the September Retail Sales. Bank of America (BAC) and CSX Corp. (CSX) report.
On Thursday, October 17 at 8:30 AM, the Housing Starts for September are out. Morgan Stanley (MS) reports.
On Friday, October 18 at 8:30 AM, the Baker Hughes Rig Count is released at 2:00 PM. Schlumberger (SLB), American Express (AXP), and Coca-Cola (KO) report.
As for me, I’ll be going to Costco to restock the fridge after last week’s two-day voluntary power outage by PG&E. Expecting Armageddon, I finished off all the Jack Daniels and chocolate in the house. We managed to eat all of our frozen burritos, pork chops, steaks, and ice cream in a mere 48 hours. But that’s what happens when you have two teenagers.
Hopefully, it will rain soon for the first time in six months bringing these outages to an end.
Good luck and good trading.
John Thomas CEO & Publisher The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/john-flowers.png375499Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-10-14 04:02:552019-10-14 04:16:36The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or Unicorns and Candy Cane
Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader September 18Global 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: What would happen to the United States Treasury Bond Fund (TLT) if the Fed does not lower rates?
A: My bet is that it would immediately have a selloff—probably several points—but after that, recession worries will take bond prices up again and yields down. I don’t think we have seen the final lows in interest rates by a long shot. That’s why I bought the (TLT) last week.
Q: Is it good to buy FedEx (FDX) considering the 13% fall today?
A: I use the 3-day rule on these situations. That’s how long it takes for the dust to settle from an earnings shock like this and find the real price. The problem with FedEx is that it’s a great early recession predictor. When the number of delivered packages decreases, it’s always an indicator that the economy as a whole is slowing down, which we know has been happening. It’s one of the most cyclical stocks out there, therefore one of the most dangerous. I wouldn’t bother with FedEx right now. Go take a long nap instead.
Q: Would you be a buyer of Facebook (FB) here, given they seem to have weathered all the recent attacks from Washington?
A: Not here in particular, but I would buy it 20% down when it gets to the bottom edge of its upward channel—it still looks like it’s going crazy. They’re literally renting or buying buildings to hire an additional 50,000 people in San Francisco anticipating huge growth of their business, so that’s a better indicator of the future of Facebook than anything.
Q: Will junk bonds be more in demand now that rates are cratering?
A: Junk bonds (HYG), (JNK) are driven more by the stock market than the bond market, as you can see in the huge rally we just had. Junk bonds are great because their default ratios are usually far below that which the interest rate implies, but you really have to trade them like stocks. Think of them as preferred stocks with really high dividends. When the stock market tops, so will junk bonds. Remember in 2008, junk yields got all the way up to 15% compared to today’s 5.6%.
Q: What will happen to emerging markets (EEM) as rates lower?
A: If lower interest rates bring a weaker US dollar, that would be very positive for emerging markets over the long term and they would be a great buy. However, emerging markets will take the hardest hit if we actually do go into a recession. So, I would pass for now.
Q: What are your thoughts on Alibaba (BABA) and JD.com (JD)?
A: They are great for the long term. However, expect a lot of volatility in the short term. As long as the trade war is going on, these are going to be hard to trade until we get a settlement. (JD) is already up 50% this year but is still down 40% from pre trade war levels. These things will all be up 20-30% when that happens. If you can take the heat until then, they would probably be okay for a long-term portfolio globally diversified.
Q: What do you have to say about the ProShares Ultra Short 20+ Year Treasury ETF (TBT)—the short bond ETF?
A: If you have a position, I’d be selling now. We just had a massive 20%, 4-point rally from $22 to $27 and now would be a good time to take a profit, or at least get out closer to your cost. The zero interest rates story is not over yet.
Q: Would you short the US dollar?
A: I would most likely short it against the euro (FXE), which now has a massive economic stimulus and quantitative easing program coming into play which should be positive for it and negative for the US dollar (UUP). That’s most likely why the euro has stabilized over the last couple of weeks. That said, the dollar has been unexpected high all year despite falling interest rates so I have been avoiding the entire foreign exchange space. I try to stay away from things I don’t understand.
Q: If all our big tech September vertical bull call spreads are in the money, what should we do?
A: You do nothing. They all expire at the Friday close in two trading days. Your broker should automatically use your long call position to cover your short call position and credit your account with the total profit on the following Monday, as well as release the margin for holding that position. After that, we’ll probably wait for another good entry point on all the same names, (AMZN), (FB), (DIS), (MSFT).
Q: If the US fires a cruise missile at Iran, how would the market react?
A: It would selloff pretty big—markets hate wars. And the US wouldn’t send one missile at Iran; it would be more like 100, probably aimed at what little nuclear facilities they have. I doubt that is going to happen. The world has figured out that Trump is a wimp. He talks big but there is never any action or follow through. Inviting the Taliban to Camp David while they were still blowing up our people? Really?
Q: Will the housing market turn on the turbochargers after this dip in rates?
A: It wouldn’t turn on the turbochargers, but it might stabilize the market because money is available now at unprecedentedly low interest rates. However, we still have the loss of the SALT deductions—the state and local taxes and real estate taxes that came in with the Trump tax bill. Since then, real estate has been either unchanged or has fallen on both the East and West coast where the highest priced houses are. It’s the most expensive houses that take the loss of the SALT deduction the hardest. Don’t expect any movement in these markets until the SALT deduction comes back, probably in 16 months.
Q: What catalyst do you think would cause a 10% correction in the next 2-3 months?
A: Trump basically saying “screw you” to the Chinese—a tweet saying he’s going to bring another round of tariff increases. That’s worth a minimum of 2,000 points in the Dow Average (INDU), or about 7% percent. Either that or no move in Fed interest rates—that would also create a big selloff. My guess is that and adverse development in the trade war will be what does it. That’s why my positions are so small now.
Q: We have a big short position in the United States Oil Fund (USO) now. Are you going to run this into expiration until October $18?
A: Even though oil has already collapsed by 10% since we put this position on last Friday, premiums in oil options are still close to record levels. So, it pays us to hang on for the time decay. The world is still massively oversupplied in oil and the Saudis were able to bring half of the lost production back on in a day. Oil will keep falling unless there is another attack and it is unlikely we will see one again on this scale. And, we only have 20 more days to go to capture the full 14.8% profit.
Good luck and good trading. John Thomas CEO & Publisher Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
You Can’t Do Enough Research
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Sell any and all rallies in FedEx (FDX) – that’s my quick takeaway from the Chinese communist party publishing a sharp retort to their de-facto mouthpiece of a publication called the Global Times signaling FedEx’s imminent demise in greater China.
The Global Times is often used as thinly veiled statements to a wider global audience and mimics the ideology of the ruling communist party and their main positions on critical issues.
As regards to FedEx’s business in China, it said:
“There are rising calls for China’s postal service regulator to cut off FedEx from China market, as Huawei has accused the US express courier of diverting and rerouting its packages.”
FedEx is crushing the Chinese logistics market currently and is the go-to carrier holding firm at 54.6% market share.
They have been around in China for as long as the economic boom has percolated inside the mainland from 1984, far before any of its local competitors were even up and running by a decade or two.
FedEx’s latest acquisition of Dutch-based TNT Express in 2016 solidified its dominance.
Foreign competition is a mainstay of international shipping patterns in China with the top three rounded out by DHL (DPSGY) with a 25.07% market share and United Parcel Service (UPS) with a 16.94% market share.
If these assertive claims do result in FedEx meaningfully losing China revenue, UPS wouldn’t stand to pick up the leftovers and could be put out to pasture by the same issue of hailing from a country that has an active adversarial economic policy against China’s.
If anyone would benefit, it would by DHL, given that Germany has a far less hawkish stance towards China, and they are unwilling to bite off the hand that feeds them.
The current situation is a concerning sign for the future of Germany as an industrial power and ability to sustain itself against China Inc.
It could be somewhat true that Germany has overextended themselves and only time, Made in China 2025 project, and the mood of the Chinese communist party can delay the inevitability of full tech hegemony over their western European counterpart.
The communist party could choose to just bypass DHL altogether and kick out all foreign invaders gifting courier responsibilities to Alibaba-based (BABA) subsidiaries and the likes of ZTO Express (ZTO) who provide express delivery and other value-added logistics services in China.
DHL will hope that China delays any draconian measures and pray that its active partnership with a local logistic firm has real legs.
DHL’s revenue sharing agreement with SF Express does not preclude them from the anger of Chinese regulators, but the risk of Chinese regulators favoring local couriers has risen another 25%.
Playing by the rules goes a long way in China, even if they change every day, and for customers across DHL’s target audience of industries including technology, health care, retail, automotive, and e-commerce.
DHL CEO Frank Appel said, “Combined with our global operations standards and network support, the agreement provides a solid foundation to continue exploring further opportunities in China in the coming years.”
From an outside perspective, this sounds more like forced cooperation with forced technology transfers with the mainland companies slurping up Germany tech knowhow.
Doing a deal with the devil for access to a 1.3 billion customer market is being put through the ringer.
When I view the snippets through the lens of geopolitics, it’s hard to believe that at such a sensitive time, FedEx would actively “reroute” packages and knowingly approved this behavior, they simply can’t be that clumsy.
The situation smells like an overt show of nationalism by a group of individuals, and it questions the longevity of FedEx operating in China all the same.
FedEx promptly responded confessing:
“We regret that this isolated number of Huawei packages were inadvertently misrouted.”
An unintentional mistake offered a golden opportunity to tie the logistics company to the U.S. government’s aggressive nature and going forward FedEx will remain in a shroud of mystery until investors can get further grips on the rates of growth of their Chinese operations.
If FedEx were afraid about this, then they must be tearing their hair out about the domestic behemoth that is Amazon (AMZN) and their desires to install a full-service logistic service to blanket FedEx from e-commerce deliveries.
This has been the initial premise of my short call on FedEx, which has proved correct, and the regulatory nightmare in China will cast another cloud around its business.
Any strength in FedEx shares will be met with a cascade of selling activity, and as the economy slows down because of tariff-induced headwinds, this is a stock to outright short.
Back to China, FedEx slashed its full-year profit forecast for the second time in three months after reporting weaker-than-expected third quarter earnings.
The Chinese economy is absolutely slowing down, and its effects are impacting surrounding Asian nations.
Manufacturing cuts will cause the number of courier packages to slide in China and there is no telling how bad this trade stand-off could get.
It doesn’t look good for FedEx, and I reiterate my short stance on the company.
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Amazon’s free 2-day shipping for Prime Customers is on the verge of becoming free 1-day shipping after the company recently announced this new wrinkle to their business model.
Amazon’s competitors should be shivering in their wake.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the other e-commerce giants, hardly so, the gap up in the fierce competition will do what General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules in Europe did to competition – enclose the existing players off from the smaller fish.
In examining who will be the last man standing, I have come to the conclusion that it will not just be one or two grinding it out in a vacuum, but more like several winners that will all benefit to certain degrees.
The outsized denominating factor in the e-commerce wars is logistics and who can best put this segment together.
E-commerce companies are being bullied into leaner models because of the premium on heavy scaling that will pile on added costs to make 1-day free shipping a reality.
This isn’t selling lemonade on your driveway, getting 1-day shipping to work will be a tough nut to crack.
The result will be the imminent deterioration of FedEx (FDX) and United Parcel Service (UPS) on the expectation that Amazon will crowd them out.
It could be the case that Amazon improves its logistical capabilities to the point that FedEx and UPS will have to sell itself off or risk death by a thousand cuts.
There looks like no navigational path ahead for these two legacy logistic companies because of the nature of being lower down on the value chain.
The only other choice is if FedEx or UPS is able to jump into the e-commerce business themselves by buying a Kroger to maneuver into the integration process through the other side.
Either way, acquiring a supermarket is no guarantee of future success considering the stakes are about to become higher and higher.
I believe that Walmart will respond to Amazon by rolling out free 1-day shipping with no membership fee, boosting its customer experience while attracting and retaining customers.
Walmart is in this fight until the bitter end and they have invested heavily in improving the technological aspects of the company.
Where does this end?
Logistics will perpetually improve as companies drain more money into logistics, and customers will eventually receive their e-commerce packages in a drone less than 1-hour after payment.
Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky told investors that Amazon is plunking down $800 million over the quarter in its fulfillment network and that number should rise every year as Amazon has targeted logistics as a huge competitive advantage that they must capitalize on and thrive in.
Amazon already has the option for 1-day free shipping in the European Union and Japan where the delivery distances are truncated.
America poses geographical challenges that will cost more to solve and will rely on the deregulation of future drone flights and cooperation with Amazon sellers to deliver this big step up in customer experience.
The constant iteration upgrades in logistics for the past 20 years have made this possible, and I believe Amazon would be well served to bite the bullet and splurge for UPS or FedEx to make it easier on themselves.
It is not shocking there is a scarcity value of logistic carriers and e-commerce giants will need more logistical capacity to execute free 1-day shipping and eventually free 1-hour shopping.
Amazon hasn’t figured out how to transport physical goods through a computer yet, but I am certain, if there was the technology, they would spend unlimited amounts to get it to that point.
The most ironic aspect of the e-commerce wars is that supermarkets, being a part of e-commerce and the logistics behind it, is the most innovative part of technology at this moment.
Tech companies have identified that customers need to eat three times per day as paramount and are sizzling through cash to build this unfathomable logistics system – effectively working miracles and becoming whirling dervishes to seize this part of the economy.
I would probably label automobiles and the self-driving autonomous technology behind logistics as the second most innovative part of technology at this moment.
As for Amazon’s earnings report, it was a mixed bag, but the good in the bag was astounding.
Profitability boosts through the scaling and efficiency savings inflated the bottom line with EPS in Q1 at $7.09 compared to expectations of $4.72.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is still commanding enormous growth rates which is miraculous for a division its size, the cloud unit grew 41% YOY which is down from 49% last year.
On the negative side, the advertising business experienced a sharp slow down growing only 34% YOY to $2.7 billion.
Remember that ad sales were expanding over 100% YOY in prior quarters.
Total Revenue only grew 16.9% which shows how difficult it is to grow at Amazon’s size and brings down the digital ad growth rate almost on par with Facebook.
Walmart and Target will be forced to compete with free 1-day shipping, and this will make their services better as well.
The question is how much pain can investors handle in terms of capital investments?
I believe substantially more.
Walmart and Target shares are poised to move higher on the news because the improvements in their logistical services will widen the gap between the haves and have nots.
These companies are in the midst of persuading investors they should be revalued as tech companies and duly receive growth multiples.
They are doing a great job and imagine how badly this news feels for medium-tier grocers with a minimal digital footprint.
Investors will come to grips that Amazon, Walmart, and Target will pull away from the pack and trade blows with each other.
This time it’s Amazon, but it’s not the last laugh.
Where does this all lead?
The end game is voice-triggering smart speakers where Amazon and its Echo speaker have a distinctive lead and a market share of around 70%.
Graphic interfaces will exist in only voice-activated form and content will be bundled into voice technology where even managing a Walmart order will require Amazon Echo to register sales.
That type of future is still a way off, but these are the next baby steps in that direction.
In short, revelations of free 1-day shipping to Amazon prime customers is convincingly bullish for Amazon, quite bullish for Walmart, Target, and a death knell for smaller e-commerce platforms and logistic dinosaurs.
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