Posts

May 17, 2019

Global Market Comments
May 17, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(APRIL 15 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(MSFT), (GOOGL), (AAPL), (LMT), (XLV), (EWG), (VIX), (VXX), (BA), (TSLA), (UBER), (LYFT), (ADBE),

(HOW TO HANDLE THE FRIDAY, MAY 17 OPTIONS EXPIRATION), (INTU),

May 15 Biweekly Strategy Webinar Q&A

Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader May 15 Global Strategy Webinar with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader. Keep those questions coming!

Q: Where are we with Microsoft (MSFT)?

A: I think Microsoft is really trying to bottom here. It’s only giving up $8 from its recent high, that’s why I went long yesterday, and you can be hyper-conservative and only do the June $110-$115 vertical bull call spread like I did. That will bring in a 13.68% profit in 28 trading days, which these days is pretty good. This morning would have been a great entry point for that spread if you couldn’t get it yesterday.

Q: How will tariffs affect Apple (AAPL) when they hit?

A: The price of your iPhone goes up $140—that calculation has already been done. All of Apple’s iPhones are made in China, something like 220 million a year. There’s no way that can be moved, they need a million people for the production of these phones. It took them 20 years to build that facility and production capacity; it would take them 20 years to move it and it couldn’t be done anywhere else in the world. So, that’s why Apple led the charge on the downside and that’s why it will lead the charge to the upside on any trade war resolution.

Q: How bad is the trade war going to get?

A: The market is betting now by only going down 1,400 Dow points it will be resolved on June 28th in Osaka. If that doesn’t happen it could get a lot worse. It could get down to my down 2,250-point target, and if it continues much beyond that, then we’ll get the whole full 4,500 points and be back at December lows. After that, you’re really looking at a global recession, a global depression, and ultimately nearing 18,000 in Dow, the 2016 low.

Q: Will global trade wars force US Treasuries down to around 2.10% on the ten year?

A: Yes. Again, the question is how bad will it get? If we resolve the trade war in six weeks, treasuries will probably double bottom here at around a 2.33% yield. If we go beyond that, then 2.10% is a chip shot and we go into a real live recession. The truth is no one knows anything, and we really don’t have any influence over what happens.

Q: How will equities digest and increase in European tariffs for cars?

A: It would completely demolish the European economy—especially that of Germany (EWG) which has 50% of its economy dependent on exports (primarily cars) and mostly to the U.S. And if we wipe out our biggest customer, Europe, then that would spill over here very quickly. Anybody who sells to Europe—like all the big Tech companies—would get slaughtered in that situation.

Q: Is it time to buy the Volatility Index (VIX)?

A: It’s too late to buy (VIX) now. I don’t want to touch it until we get down to that $12-$13 handle again because the time decay on this is enormous. Time decay is more than  50% a year, so your timing has to be perfect with trading any (VIX) products, whether it’s the (VXX), the (VIX) futures, the (VIX) options, or so on. There are countless people shorting (VIX) here, and they will short it all the way down to $12 again.

Q: What should I do about Boeing at this point?

A: We went long, got out, took our profit and caught this rally up to $400 a share. Then (BA) gave it up and it broke down. It’s a really tempting long here. Along with Apple, Boeing has the largest value of exports to China of any company. They have orders for hundreds of airlines from China, so they are an easy target, especially if there is a ramp up in the intensity of the trade war. That said, something like a June $270-$300 vertical bull call spread is very tempting, especially with elevated volatility up here, so I’m watching that very closely. We’re looking for the recertification of the 737 MAX bounce which could happen in the next few weeks; if that does happen it should rally at least back up to 380.

Q: Are your moving averages simple or exponential?

A: I just use the simple. I find that the simpler a concept is, the more people can understand it, and the more people buy it; that’s why I always try to keep everything simple and leave the algorithms for the computers.

Q: What stocks are insulated from a US/China trade war?

A: None. When the whole market goes risk off, people sell everything. Remember that an overwhelming portion of the market is now indexed with passive investment funds, so they just go straight risk on/risk off. It makes no difference what the fundamentals are, it makes no difference who has a lot of Chinese business or a little—everyone gets hit and everyone will get boosted when the trade war ends. There is no place to hide except cash, which is why I went 100% cash going into this. People seem to forget that cash has option value and having a lot of cash going into one of these situations is actually worth a lot of money in terms of opportunities.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on Uber’s (UBER) bad performance?

A: Yes, the whole sector was wildly overvalued, but no one knew that until they brought it to market and found out the real supply and demand for the issue. The smartest company of the year has to be Lyft (LYFT), which got a nice valuation by doing their issue first and keeping it small. So, they kind of rained on Uber’s parade; at one point, Uber was down 25% from their IPO price. That’s awful.

Q: Is Trump forcing the Fed to drop rates with all this tariff threat?

A: Yes, and if you remember, Trump really ramped up the attacks on the Fed in December. And my bet is at the first sign the trade talks were in trouble, they wanted to lower rates to offset the hit to the U.S. economy. There was no economic reason to suddenly demand huge interest rate cuts last December other than a falling stock market. The tariffs amount to a $72 billion tax increase on the American consumer, felt mostly at the low end, and that is terrible for the economy in that it reduces purchasing power by exactly that much.

Q: Would you buy the dollar as a safe haven trade?

A: No, I would not. The dollar may actually go down some more, especially with the collapse in our interest rates and European interest rates bottoming at negative levels. The best thing in the world in a high-risk environment like this is cash—don’t try to get clever and buy something you think will outperform. You could be disappointed.

Q: Why is healthcare (XLV) behaving so badly?

A: You don’t want to get into political football ahead of an election. That said, they’re already so cheap that any kind of recovery could very well take healthcare up big, especially on an individual company basis. This is a sector where individual stock selection is crucial.

Q: Would you buy deep in the money calls on PayPal (PYPL)?

A: Yes, I would. Wait for a down day. Today we’re up slightly, but if we have a weak afternoon and a weak opening tomorrow morning, that would be a good time to add more longs in technology. PayPal is absolutely at the top of the list, as are names like Adobe (ADBE) and Alphabet (GOOGL).

Q: Should I be buying LEAPS in this environment?

A: No; a LEAP is a one-year long term deep out-of-the-money call spread. That was a great December bottom trade. The people who bought leaps then made huge fortunes. We’re too high here to consider leaps for the main market unless it’s for something that’s just been bombed out, like a Tesla (TSLA) or a Boeing (BA), where you had big drops—then I would look at LEAPS for the super decimated stocks. But the rest of the market is still too high for thinking about leaps. Wait a couple of months and we may get back to those December lows.

Q: What happened to your May 10th bear market call?

A: Actually, it’s kind of looking good. It’s looking in fact like the market topped on May 2nd. If saner heads prevail, the trade war will end (or at least we’ll get a fake agreement) and the market will go to a new high. If not, then that May 10th target forecast I made two years ago IS the final top.

Q: You’re saying today we’re at a bottom?

A: We’re at a bottom for a short-term trade with a June 21st target. That was the expiration date of the options spreads I did this week. Whether this is the final bottom in the whole down move for a longer term, no one has any idea, even if they try to say differently. This is totally dependent on political developments.

Q: What do you have to say about Lockheed Martin (LMT)?

A: This sector usually does well with a wartime background. Expect that to continue for the foreseeable future. But at a certain point, the defense stocks which have had fantastic runs under Trump will start to discount a democratic win in the next election. If that does happen, defense will get slaughtered. I would be using any future strength to sell out of the whole defense area. Peace could be fatal to this sector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 15, 2019

Global Market Comments
May 15, 2019
Fiat Lux

(SPECIAL CHINA ISSUE)

Featured Trade:

(WHY CHINA IS DRIVING UP THE VALUE OF YOUR TECH STOCKS)
(QCOM), (AVGO), (AMD), (MSFT), (GOOGL), (AAPL), (INTC), (LSCC)

Why China is Driving Up the Value of Your Tech Stocks

Reduce the supply on any commodity and the price goes up. Such is dictated by the immutable laws of supply and demand.

This logic applies to technology stocks as well as any other asset. And the demand for American tech stocks has gone global.

Who is pursuing American technology more than any other? That would be China.

Ray Dalio, founder and chairman of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, described the first punch thrown in an escalating trade war as a “tragedy,” although an avoidable one.
 

Emotions aside, the REAL dispute is not over steel, aluminum, which have a minimal effect of the US economy, but rather about technology, technology, and more technology.

China and the U.S. are the two players in the quest for global tech power and the winner will forge the future of technology to become chieftain of global trade.

Technology also is the means by which China oversees its population and curbs negative human elements such as crime, which increasingly is carried out through online hackers.

China is far more anxious about domestic protest than overseas bickering which is reflected in a 20% higher internal security budget than its entire national security budget.

You guessed it: The cost is predominantly and almost entirely in the form of technology, including CCTVs, security algorithms, tracking devices, voice rendering software, monitoring of social media accounts, facial recognition, and cloud operation and maintenance for its database of 1.3 billion profiles that must be continuously updated.

If all this sounds like George Orwell’s “1984”, you’d be right. The securitization of China will improve with enhanced technology.

Last year, China’s communist party issued AI 2.0. This elaborate blueprint placed technology at the top of the list as strategic to national security. China’s grand ambition, as per China’s ruling State Council, is to cement itself as “the world’s primary AI innovation center” by 2030.

It will gain the first-mover advantage to position its academia, military and civilian areas of life. Centrally planned governments have a knack for pushing through legislation, culminating with Beijing betting the ranch on AI 2.0.
 

China possesses legions of engineers, however many of them lack common sense.

Silicon Valley has the talent, but a severe shortage of coders and engineers has left even fewer scraps on which China’s big tech can shower money.

Attempting to lure Silicon Valley’s best and brightest also is a moot point considering the distaste of operating within China’s great firewall.

In 2013, former vice president and product spokesperson of Google’s Android division, Hugo Barra, was poached by Xiaomi, China’s most influential mobile phone company.

This audacious move was lauded and showed China’s supreme ability to attract Silicon Valley’s top guns. After 3 years of toiling on the mainland, Barra admitted that living and working in Beijing had “taken a huge toll on my life and started affecting my health.” The experiment promptly halted, and no other Silicon Valley name has tested Chinese waters since.

Back to the drawing board for the Middle Kingdom…

China then turned to lustful shopping sprees of anything tech in any developed country.
 

Midea Group of China bought Kuka AG, the crown jewel of German robotics, for $3.9 billion in 2016. Midea then cut German staff, extracted the expertise, replaced management with Chinese nationals, then transferred R&D centers and production to China.

The strategy proved effective until Fujian Grand Chip was blocked from buying Aixtron Semiconductors of Germany on the recommendation of CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States).

In 2017, America’s Committee on Foreign Investment and Security (CFIUS), which reviews foreign takeovers of US tech companies, was busy refusing the sale of Lattice Semiconductor, headquartered in Portland, Ore., and since has been a staunch blockade of foreign takeovers.

CFIUS again in 2018 put in its two cents in with Broadcom’s (AVGO) attempted hostile takeover of Qualcomm (QCOM) and questioned its threat to national security.

All these shenanigans confirm America’s new policy of nurturing domestic tech innovation and its valuable leadership status.

Broadcom, a Singapore-based company led by ethnic Chinese Malaysian Hock Tan, plans to move the company to Delaware, once approved by shareholders, as a way to skirt around the regulatory issues.

Microsoft (MSFT) and Alphabet (GOOGL) are firmly against this merger as it will bring Broadcom intimately into Apple’s (APPL) orbit. Broadcom supplies crucial chips for Apple’s iPads and iPhones.
 

Qualcomm will equip Microsoft’s brand-new Windows 10 laptops with Snapdragon 835 chips. AMD (AMD) and Intel (INTC) lost out on this deal, and Qualcomm and Microsoft could transform into a powerful pair.

ARM, part of the Softbank Vision Fund, is providing the architecture on which Qualcomm’s chips will be based. Naturally, Microsoft and Google view an independent operating Qualcomm as healthier for their businesses.

The demand for Qualcomm products does not stop there. Qualcomm is famous for spending heavily on R&D — higher than industry peers by a substantial margin. The R&D effort reappears in Qualcomm products, and Qualcomm charges a premium for its patent royalties in 3G and 4G devices.

The steep pricing has been a point of friction leading to numerous lawsuits such as the $975 million charged in 2015 by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) which found that Qualcomm violated anti-trust laws.

Hock Tan has an infamous reputation as a strongman who strips company overhead to the bare bones and runs an ultra-lean ship benefitting shareholders in the short term.

CFIUS regulators have concerns with this typical private equity strategy that would strip capabilities in developing 5G technology from Qualcomm long term. 5G is the technology that will tie AI and chip companies together in the next leg up in tech growth.

Robotic and autonomous vehicle growth is dependent on this next generation of technology. Hollowing out CAPEX and crushing the R&D budget is seriously damaging to Qualcomm’s vision and hampers America’s crusade to be the undisputed torchbearer in revolutionary technology.
 

CFIUS’s review of Broadcom and Qualcomm is a warning shot to China. Since Lattice Semiconductor (LSCC) and Moneygram (MGI) were out of the hands of foreign buyers, China now must find a new way to acquire the expertise to compete with America.

Only China has the cash hoard to take a stand against American competition. Europe has been overrun by American FANGs and is solidified by the first mover advantage.

Shielding Qualcomm from competition empowers the chip industry and enriches Qualcomm’s profile. Chips are crucial to the hyper-accelerating growth needed to stay at the top of the food chain.

Implicitly sheltering Qualcomm as too important to the system is an ink-drenched stamp of approval from the American government. Chip companies now have obtained insulation along with the mighty FANGs. This comes on the heels of Goldman Sachs (GS) reporting a lack of industry supply for DRAM chips, causing exorbitant pricing and pushing up semiconductor companies’ shares.

All the defensive posturing has forced the White House to reveal its cards to Beijing. The unmitigated support displayed by CFIUS is extremely bullish for semiconductor companies and has been entrenched under the stock price.

It is likely the hostile takeover will flounder, and Hock Tan will attempt another round of showmanship after Broadcom relocates to Delaware as an official American company paying American corporate tax. After all, Tan did graduate from MIT and is an American citizen.

The chip companies are going through another intense round of consolidation as AMD (AMD) was the subject of another takeover rumor which lifted the stock. AMD is the only major competitor with NVIDIA (NVDA) in the GPU segment.

The cash repatriation has created liquid buyers with a limited amount of quality chip companies. Qualcomm is a firm buy, and investors can thank Broadcom for showing the world the supreme value of Qualcomm and how integral this chip stalwart is to America’s economic system.

 

 

 

 

May 15, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
May 15, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(TRUE COST OF THE CHINA TRADE WAR)
(EXPE), (TRIP), (GOOGL), (CTRP)

True Cost of the China Trade War

As the trade misunderstanding escalates to a new stratum of ferociousness, certain parts of the economy are ripe to be battered.

Tourism and in particular, international travel, will be one of the first luxuries to be sliced off consumers’ list.

China’s most popular online travel agent Ctrip.com (CTRP) has suffered a damaging drop in demand from would-be international travelers.

Jonathan Grella, spokesman at the US Travel Association said, “The US runs a US$28 billion travel and tourism trade surplus with China” and preliminary numbers appear that Chinese travel to the US in the past year has dropped around 20%.

Compounding the woes is the weakening of the Chinese yuan which could become collateral damage from the trade negotiations if American and Chinese corporations repurpose supply chains to other countries and stop sending dollars to the mainland.

The ball is already rolling with 93 percent of Chinese companies considering making some changes to their supply chains to mitigate the effects of trade tariffs in an ingenious way to circumvent extra costs.

Of these, 18% are open to a complete supply chain remake and production transformation, with 58% making meaningful changes.

A further 17% plan to make minor tweaks in response to the trade war, with only 7% making no changes at all.

Chinese and American companies are reconsidering their Chinese manufacturing bases to avoid the tariffs placed on US$250 billion of Chinese exports by US President Donald Trump.

The unintended consequence will be a powerful surge in economic activity in South East Asia with also India benefitting from the chaos.

Apart from the supply chain complexities, the worsening of Chinese yuan strength could put a massive damper on Chinese international travel plans.

The annual Chinese international travel growth rate of 5.5% would be in dire straits translating into current travel demand rerouted to lower margin Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia which are quite popular for budget travelers.

If lower sales do not manifest itself because tourists opt to forego expensive western countries, this demand will correlate into fewer dollars per traveler because of cheaper destinations which might force companies to double down on promotions to lure higher volume.

The same goes for American consumers who will be on the hook for the tariff-loaded consumer items that trickle onto our shores.

Decaying relations have already poisoned the US tourism sector that’s seen its growth flatline for the first time in 10 years.

And while only a small percentage of the 80 million visitors to the US in 2018 were Chinese, the potential for that segment’s growth remains robust.

Only 6 percent of Chinese citizens have passports signaling an imminent rise in outbound Chinese tourists that will reach 220 million by 2025.

The opportunity cost of these dollars migrating to other locations will be a kick in the teeth.

I reiterate my negative call for American online travel companies with recent damage control coming from TripAdvisor for last quarter’s debacle when the company reported dismal top-line results combined with a drop in monthly average unique visitors.

The company’s first-quarter revenues of $376 million missed badly up against the consensus forecast of $386.8 million.

TripAdvisor’s quarterly revenues fell 1% YOY as a result of the core hotel business underperforming and revenues from TripAdvisor’s Hotels, Media & Platform (or HM&P) showing zero growth at $254 million.

Revenues from its fringe businesses, which includes rentals, Flights/Cruise, SmarterTravel, and Travel China, plunged 33% to $42.

The proof is in the pudding with the company’s falling unique visitor count putting the kibosh on TripAdvisor’s growth prospects.

The company’s average monthly unique visitors cratered 5% YOY to 411 million users in the first quarter, contrasting with TripAdvisor’s performance last year when it reported an 11% YOY unique visitor growth.

Google is the boogie man in the equation with the company rolling out a more holistic travel product to integrate flight and hotel search functions while organizing people’s travel plans and saving research.

Alphabet will also repurpose more travel data on Google Maps, and integrate hotel and restaurant reservations for customers who are logged on.

Linking the Google travel and map functions seem like a no brainer to me and will be the precursor before the company starts selling ads on Google Maps including travel ads.

Google’s pivot into online travel marks an existential crisis for the incumbents and will strengthen its position in travel by driving further searches and potential higher-qualified leads for its partner companies, such as airlines and hotels.

Consumers have already recognized Google as the go-to place where to do travel research.

In a zero-sum game, Expedia (EXPE) and TripAdvisor (TRIP) will directly lose out.

Highlighting the erosion was Expedia’s super growth asset Vrbo whose gross bookings totaled $4.16 billion, up a paltry 5 percent from a year earlier.

The growth rate was less than half of the main online travel agency business which should sound off alarm bells.

As it stands now, Google generates referral traffic although it does process some bookings on its own site for other travel merchants.

Unlike travel agencies such as Expedia or Priceline, Google doesn’t directly sell travel products such as hotel rooms or airline tickets but that could change quickly.

This ties back to my continuing thesis of the low-value proposition of broker apps in the tech ecosystem, either there will be one with a monopoly, or a bigger fish will hijack their business model and become the new monopolistic dominator.

Such is the high stakes of Silicon Valley in 2019.

 

 

 

May 6, 2019

Global Market Comments
May 6, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, OR HERE’S ANOTHER BOMBSHELL),
(DIS), (QQQ), (AAPL), (INTU), (GOOGL), (LYFT), (UBER), (FCX))

May 6, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
May 6, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(PAYPAL GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH)
(PYPL), (SQ), (GOOGL), (LYFT)

PayPal Goes From Strength to Strength

It’s time to revisit one of my favorite tech picks for 2019 that is a constant trade alert candidate.

The attention is warranted with the stock performance delivering a tidal wave of euphoria rising around 30% in the first half of 2019.

I expected PayPal to have a great year, but I didn’t expect them to perform better than Square who are growing from a lower install base.

PayPal’s overperformance signals to the wider business establishment how important a broad install base can be that can tap the network effect to reel in profits.

This is how once legacy dinosaurs can reinvent themselves in months.

The lack of entry points is a concern prodding investors to chase the stock if they want a piece of the action.

This is one of the drastic side effects of PayPal’s meteoric rise that has been buttressed by dovish Fed policy.

Investors are literally praying to the skies for any softness in tech earnings reports because for the best of the bunch, there have been no moderate pullbacks of note since last winter.

PayPal did offer a slight data point that might be construed as disappointing when total payment volume (TPV) of $161 billion was slightly lower than the consensus of $163 million for the quarter.

It’s slim pickings for the bear camp with not much to feast on in an otherwise pretty solid earnings report.

As PayPal expanded by 9.3 million new active accounts, bringing its total up to 277 million, management has super charged this legacy fintech company into an outright renaissance.

Doing even more to shed the tag of a legacy company, PayPal invested half a billion dollars at $47 per share into the upcoming Uber IPO signaling possibilities that their payment software could at some point integrate into Uber’s network down the road.

Alphabet (GOOGL) has shown that if you get in early with these Silicon Valley unicorns, synergistic effects are plenty with Alphabet lapping up revenue charging Lyft (LYFT) for providing digital ad capabilities on top of the appreciating value of their investment stake.

And if you remember that way back, PayPal was tied to eBay before it was spun out.

Better to attach future hopes and dreams to a leading visionary and innovator instead of a legacy e-commerce platform.

Illustrating the tough task of turning around eBay, eBay clocked in negative TPV growth of 4% in the past quarter.

PayPal offered us more detail into active-account numbers for its Venmo peer-to-peer service with more than 40 million people using Venmo for at least one transaction in the last 12 months.

Venmo processed $21 billion in TPV last quarter, mushrooming by 73%, while the core PayPal platform’s TPV grew 41% to $42 billion.

The success paved the way to raise its full-year EPS outlook from $2.94 to $3.01 ensuring that its prior forecast on revenue and TPV will be met.

PayPal previously guided lower with an expected $2.84 to $2.91 in adjusted EPS and $17.75 billion to $18.1 billion in revenue.

When we tally up all the positive points, it’s hard to ignore the 12% YOY increase in revenue to $4.13B and the more impressive 37% YOY rise in EPS growth signaling the company is applying its giant scale to maximum effect.

Customer engagement of 37.9 payment transactions per active account rose 9% YOY while the TPV which came in lower than consensus was still growth of 22% YOY.

I love that PayPal has migrated towards the heart of innovation while being a legacy fintech company.

Venmo and the Venmo card are rapidly infiltrating the center of consumer’s daily financial lives wielded for groceries, gas, and restaurants.

In February, PayPal introduced a limited-edition rainbow card which became the fastest adopted Venmo card.

I want to reiterate how the proof is in the pudding with Venmo volume increasing 73% to approximately $21B in the quarter.

Not only does this legacy fintech have super growth drivers, they have become quasi venture capitalists applying a horde of capital to snap up attractive assets.

An example is a $750 million investment in the e-commerce and payments leader in Latin America called MercadoLibre which creates a network effect to PayPal’s core business in the region.

If the steady drip of news wasn’t good enough, PayPal announced a partnership with Instagram to process payments when customers are shopping on Instagram in the U.S.

Management is convincingly delivering the goods with 110 basis points of operating margin expansion.

PayPal’s flawless performance is a great model in how to survive the volatile times of rapid tech shifts, and the best way to alter a model to reduce existential threats.

The company has growth drivers, have migrated capital into growth tech, are innovating with the best of them, and management is executing surgically taking advantage of a massive install base.

Buy on any weakness, entry points are few and far between.

 

 

 

May 2, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
May 2, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(APPLE’S HOME RUN)
(AAPL), (CRM), (GOOGL)