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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 15, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 15, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(HOW SOFTBANK IS TAKING OVER THE US VENTURE CAPITAL BUSINESS),
(SFTBY), (BABA), (GRUB), (WMT), (GM), (GS)

How SoftBank is Taking Over the US Venture Capital Business

The man with the 300-year vision – Softbank’s Masayoshi Son.

He is the sole force exerting stultifying pressure on the venture capitalists of Silicon Valley.

What a ride it has been so far.

His $100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund has put the Sand Hill Road faithful in a tizzy – utterly revolutionizing an industry and showing who the true power resides with.

He has even gone so far as to double down on his exploits by claiming that he will raise additional $100 billion fund every few years and spend $50 billion per year.

This capital logically would flow into what he knows best – technology and the best technology money can buy.

Lately, Son said it best of the performance of the Vision Fund saying, “Results have actually been too good.”

So good that after this June, Son changed his schedule to spend 3% of his time on his telecom business down from 97% before June.

His telecommunications business in Japan has turned into a footnote.

It was just recently that Son’s tech investments eclipsed his legacy communications company.

Son vies to rinse and repeat this strategy to the horror of other venture capitalists.

The bottomless pit of capital he brings to the table predictably raises the prices for everyone in the tech investment world.

Son’s capital warfare strategy revolves around one main trope – Artificial Intelligence. 

He also strictly selects industry leaders which have a high chance of dominating their field of expertise.

Geographically speaking, the fund has pinpointed America and China as the best sources of companies. India takes in the bronze medal.

His eyes have been squarely set on Silicon Valley for quite some time and his record speaks for himself scooping up stakes in power players such as Uber, WeWork, Slack, and GM (GM) Cruise.

Other stakes in Chinese firms he’s picked up are China’s Uber Didi Chuxing, China’s GrubHub (GRUB) Ele.me and the first digital insurer in China named Zhongan International costing him $500 million.

Other notable deals done are its sale of Flipkart to Walmart (WMT) for $4 billion giving SoftBank a $1.5 billion or 60% profit on the $2.5 billion position.

In 2016, the entire venture capitalist industry registered $75.3 billion in capital allocation according to the National Venture Capital Association.

This one company is rivalling that same spending power by itself.

Its smallest deal isn’t even small at $100 million, baffling the local players forcing them to scurry back to the drawing board.

The reverberation has been intense and far-reaching in Silicon Valley with former stalwarts such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers breaking up, outmaneuvered by this fresh newcomer with unlimited capital.

Let me remind you that it was once considered standard to cautiously wade into investment with several millions.

Venture capitalists would take stock of the progress and reassess if they wanted to delve in some more.

There was no bazooka strategy then.

SoftBank has promised boatloads of capital up front even overpaying in some cases in order to set the new market price.

Conveniently, Son stations himself nearby at a nine-acre estate in Woodside, California complete with an Italianate mansion he bought for $117.5 million in 2012.

It was one of the most expensive properties ever purchased in the state of California, even topping Hostess Brands owner Daren Metropoulos, who bought the Playboy Mansion from Hugh Hefner in 2016 for $100 million.

If you think Son is posh – he is not. He only fits himself out in the Japanese budget clothing brand Uniqlo. He just needed a comfortable place to stay and he hates hotels.

SoftBank hopes to cash in on its $4.4 billion investment in WeWork, an American office space-share company, proclaiming that WeWork would be his “next Alibaba.”

The company plans to shortly go public.

Son continued to say that WeWork is “something completely new that uses technology to build and network communities.”

Other additions to SoftBank’s dazzling array of unicorns is Bytedance, a start-up whose algorithms have fueled shot form video content app TikTok.

The deal values the company at $75 billion.

They have been able to insulate themselves from local industry giants Tencent and Alibaba.

Son has revealed that the Vision Fund’s annual rate of return has been 44%.

Cherry-picking off the top of the heap from the best artificial intelligence companies in the world is the secret recipe to outperforming your competitors.

At the same time, aggressively throwing money at these companies has effectively frozen out any resemblance of competition. Once the competition is frozen out, the value of these investments explodes, swiftly super-charged by rapidly expanding growth drivers.

How can you compete with a man who is willing to pay $300 million for a dog walking app?

This genius strategy has made the founder of SoftBank the most powerful businessman in the world.

Son owns the future and will have the largest say on how the world and economies evolve going forward.

July 5, 2019

Global Market Comments
July 5, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(FRIDAY JULY 19 ZERMATT SWITZERLAND STRATEGY SEMINAR)
(WHERE THE ECONOMIST “BIG MAC” INDEX FINDS CURRENCY VALUE),
(FXF), (FXE), (FXA), (FXY), (CYB),
(WHY US BONDS LOVE CHINESE TARIFFS),
(TLT), (TBT), (SOYB), (BA), (GM)

Why US Bonds Love Chinese Tariffs

For many, one of the most surprising impacts of the administration’s tariffs on Chinese imports announced today has been a rocketing bond market.

Since the December $116 low, the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) has jumped by a staggering $16 points, the largest move up so far in years.

The tariffs are a highly regressive tax that will hit consumers hard in the pocketbook, thus reducing their purchasing power.

It will dramatically slow US economic growth. If the trade war escalates, and it almost certainly will, it could shrink US GDP by as much as 1% a year. A weaker economy means less demand for money, lower interest rates, and higher bond prices.

There is no political view here. This is just basic economics.

And while there has been a lot of hand-wringing over the prospect of China dumping its $1.1 trillion in American bond holdings, it is unlikely to take action here.

The Beijing government isn’t going to do anything to damage the value of its own investments. The only time it actually does sell US bonds is to support its own currency, the renminbi, in the foreign exchange markets.

What it CAN do is to boycott new Treasury bond purchases, which it already has been doing for the past year.

The tariffs also raise a lot of uncertainty about the future of business in the United States. Companies are definitely not going to increase capital spending if they believe a depression is coming, which the last serious trade war during the 1930s greatly exacerbated.

While stocks despise uncertainty, bonds absolutely love it.

Those of you who are short the bond market through the ProShares Ultra Short 20+ Year Treasury ETF (TBT) have a particular problem that is often ignored.

The cost of carry of this fund is now more than 5% (two times the 2.10% coupon plus management fees and expenses). Thus, long-term holders have to see interest rates rise by more than 5% a year just to break even. The (TBT) can be a great trade, but a money-losing investment.

The Chinese, which have been studying the American economic and political systems very carefully for decades, will be particularly clever in its retaliation. And you thought all those Chinese tourists were over here just to buy our Levi’s?

It will target Republican districts with a laser focus, and those in particular who supported Donald Trump. It wants to make its measures especially hurt for those who started this trade war in the first place.

First on the chopping block: soybeans, which are almost entirely produced in red states. In 2016, the last full year for which data is available, the US sold $15 billion worth of soybeans to China. Which are the largest soybean producing states? Iowa followed by Minnesota.

A major American export is aircraft, some $131 billion in 2017, and China is overwhelmingly the largest buyer. The Middle Kingdom needs to purchase 1,000 aircraft over the next 10 years to accommodate its burgeoning middle class. It will be easy to shift some of these orders to Europe’s Airbus Industries.

This is why the shares of Boeing (BA) have been slaughtered recently, down some 13.5% from the top. While Boeing planes are assembled in Washington state, they draw on parts suppliers in all 50 states.

Guess what the biggest selling foreign car in China is? The General Motors (GM) Buick which saw more than 400,000 in sales last year. I have to tell you that it is hilarious to see my mom’s car driven up to the Great Wall of China. Where are these cars assembled? Michigan and China.

The global trading system is an intricate, finally balanced system that has taken hundreds of years to evolve. Take out one small piece, and the entire structure falls down upon your head.

This is something the administration is about to find out.

 

 

 

May 16, 2019

Global Market Comments
May 16, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(WHY US BONDS LOVE CHINESE TARIFFS),
(TLT), (TBT), (SOYB), (BA), (GM)
(THE BEST TESTIMONIAL EVER)

April 23, 2019

Global Market Comments
April 23, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(LAS VEGAS MAY 9 GLOBAL STRAGEGY LUNCHEON)
(APRIL 17 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(FXI), (RWM), (IWM), (VXXB), (VIX), (QCOM), (AAPL), (GM), (TSLA), (FCX), (COPX), (GLD), (NFLX), (AMZN), (DIS)

April 17 Biweekly Strategy Webinar Q&A

Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader April 17 Global Strategy Webinar with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader. Keep those questions coming!

Q: What will the market do after the Muller report is out?

A: Absolutely nothing—this has been a total nonmarket event from the very beginning. Even if Trump gets impeached, Pence will continue with the same kinds of policies.

Q: If we are so close to the peak, when do we go short?

A: It’s simple: markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain liquid. Those shorts are expensive. As long as global excess liquidity continues pouring into the U.S., you’ll not want to short anything. I think what we’ll see is a market that slowly grinds upward until it’s extremely overbought.

Q: China (FXI) is showing some economic strength. Will this last?

A: Probably, yes. China was first to stimulate their economy and to stimulate it the most. The delayed effect is kicking in now. If we do get a resolution of the trade war, you want to buy China, not the U.S.

Q: Are commodities expected to be strong?

A: Yes, China stimulating their economy and they are the world’s largest consumer commodities.

Q: When is the ProShares Short Russell 2000 ETF (RWM) actionable?

A: Probably very soon. You really do see the double top forming in the Russell 2000 (IWM), and if we don’t get any movement in the next day or two, it will also start to roll over. The Russell 2000 is the canary in the coal mine for the main market. Even if the main market continues to grind up on small volume the (IWM) will go nowhere.

Q: Why do you recommend buying the iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXXB) instead of the Volatility Index (VIX)?

A: The VIX doesn’t have an actual ETF behind it, so you have to buy either options on the futures or a derivative ETF. The (VXXB), which has recently been renamed, is an actual ETF which does have a huge amount of time decay built into it, so it’s easier for people to trade. You don’t need an option for futures qualification on your brokerage account to buy the (VXXB) which most people don’t have—it’s just a straight ETF.

Q: So much of the market cap is based on revenues outside the U.S., or GDP making things look more expensive than they actually are. What are your thoughts on this?

A: That is true; the U.S. GDP is somewhat out of date and we as stock traders don’t buy the GDP, we buy individual stocks. Mad Hedge Fund Trader in particular only focuses on the 5% or so—stocks that are absolutely leading the market—and the rest of the 95% is absolutely irrelevant. That 95% is what makes up most of the GDP. A lot of people have actually been caught in the GDP trap this year, expecting a terrible GDP number in Q1 and staying out of the market because of that when, in fact, their individual stocks have been going up 50%. So, that’s something to be careful of.

Q: Is it time to jump into Qualcomm (QCOM)?

A: Probably, yes, on the dip. It’s already had a nice 46% pop so it’s a little late now. The battle with Apple (AAPL) was overhanging that stock for years.

Q: Will Trump next slap tariffs on German autos and what will that do to American shares? Should I buy General Motors (GM)?

A: Absolutely not; if we do slap tariffs on German autos, Europe will retaliate against every U.S. carmaker and that would be disastrous for us. We already know that trade wars are bad news for stocks. Industry-specific trade wars are pure poison. So, you don’t want to buy the U.S. car industry on a European trade war. In fact, you don’t want to buy anything. The European trade war might be the cause of the summer correction. Destroying the economies of your largest customers is always bad for business.

Q: How much debt can the global economy keep taking on before a crash?

A: Apparently, it’s a lot more with interest rates at these ridiculously low levels. We’re in uncharted territory now. We really don’t know how much more it can take, but we know it’s more because interest rates are so low. With every new borrowing, the global economy is making itself increasingly sensitive to any interest rate increases. This is a policy you should enact only at bear market bottoms, not bull market tops. It is borrowing economic growth from futures year which we may not have.

Q: Is the worst over for Tesla (TSLA) or do you think car sales will get worse?

A: I think car sales will get better, but it may take several months to see the actual production numbers. In the meantime, the burden of proof is on Tesla. Any other surprises on that stock could see us break to a new 2 year low—that’s why I don’t want to touch it. They’ve lately been adopting policies that one normally associates with imminent recessions, like closing most of their store and getting rid of customer support staff.

Q: Is 2019 a “sell in May and go away” type year?

A: It’s really looking like a great “Sell in May” is setting up. What’s helping is that we’ve gone up in a straight line practically every day this year. Also, in the first 4 months of the year, your allocations for equities are done. We have about 6 months of dead territory to cover from May onward— narrow trading ranges or severe drops. That, by the way, is also the perfect environment for deep-in-the-money put spreads, which we plan to be setting up soon.

Q: Is it time to buy Freeport McMoRan (FCX) in to play both oil and copper?

A: Yes. They’re both being driven by the same thing: China demand. China is the world’s largest new buyer of both of these resources. But you’re late in the cycle, so use dips and choose your entry points cautiously. (FCX) is not an oil play. It is only a copper (COPX) and gold (GLD) play.

Q: Are you still against Bitcoin?

A: There are simply too many better trading and investment options to focus on than Bitcoin. Bitcoin is like buying a lottery ticket—you’re 10 times more likely to get struck by lightning than you are to win.

Q: Are there any LEAPS put to buy right now?

A: You never buy a Long-Term Equity Appreciation Securities (LEAPS) at market tops. You only buy these long-term bull option plays at really severe market selloffs like we had in November/December. Otherwise, you’ll get your head handed to you.

Q: What is your outlook on U.S. dollar and gold?

A: U.S. dollar should be decreasing on its lower interest rates but everyone else is lowering their rates faster than us, so that’s why it’s staying high. Eventually, I expect it to go down but not yet. Gold will be weak as long as we’re on a global “RISK ON” environment, which could last another month.

Q: Is Netflix (NFLX) a buy here, after the earnings report?

A: Yes, but don’t buy on the pop, buy on the dip. They have a huge head start over rivals Amazon (AMZN) and Walt Disney (DIS) and the overall market is growing fast enough to accommodate everyone.

Q: Will wages keep going up in 2019?

A: Yes, but technology is destroying jobs faster than inflation can raise wages so they won’t increase much—pennies rather than dollars.

Q: How about buying a big pullback?

A: If we get one, it would be in the spring or summer. I would buy a big pullback as long as the U.S. is hyper-stimulating its economy and flooding the world with excess liquidity. You wouldn’t want to bet against that. We may not see the beginning of the true bear market for another year. Any pullbacks before that will just be corrections in a broader bull market.

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

 

 

 

 

February 27, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
February 27, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(HOW AUTONOMOUS DRIVING WILL CHANGE THE WORLD),
(TSLA), (GM), (GOOGL)