Posts

September 16, 2019

Global Market Comments
September 16, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or CHOPPY WEATHER AHEAD),
(SPY), (TLT), (FB), (GOOGL), (M), (C),
 (XOM), (NFLX), (DIS), (FXE), (FXI)

August 22, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 22, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:


(WHAT THE NEXT RECESSION WILL LOOK LIKE),

(FB), (AAPL), (NFLX), (GOOGL), (KSS), (VIX), (MS), (GS),
(TESTIMONIAL)

What the Next Recession Will Look Like

The probability of a recession taking place over the next 12 months is now ranging as high as 40%. If the trade war with China escalates, you can mark that up to 100%.

And here’s the scary part. Bear markets front-run recessions by 6-12 months, i.e. now. The bear case is now more persuasive than at any time in the last decade.

We’ll get a better read when the Chinese announce their retaliation for the last American escalation of tariffs on September 1, or in eight trading days. The timing couldn’t be worse. The bad news will come over the US three-day Labor Day weekend, allowing market volatility (VIX) to bunch up, setting up an explosive Tuesday, September 3 opening.

So, it’s time to start asking the question of what the next recession will look like. Are we in for another 2008-2009 meltdown, when friends and relatives lost homes, jobs, and their entire net worth? Or can we look forward to a mild pullback that only economists and data junkies like myself will notice?

I’ll paraphrase one of my favorite Russian authors, Fyodor Dostoevsky, who in Anna Karenina might have said, “all economic expansions are all alike, while recessions are all miserable in their own way.”

Let’s look at some major pillars in the economy. A hallmark of the last recession was the near collapse of the financial system, where the ATMs were probably within a week of shutting down nationally. The government had to step in with the TARP, and mandatory 5% equity ownership in the country’s 20 largest banks.

Back then, banks were leveraged 40:1 in the case of Morgan Stanley (MS) and Goldman Sachs (GS), while Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns were leveraged 100:1. In that case, the most heavily borrowed companies only needed markets to move 1% against them to wipe out their entire capital. That’s exactly what happened. (MS) and (GS) came within a hair’s breadth of going the same way.

Thanks to the Dodd Frank financial regulation bill, banks cannot leverage themselves more than 10:1. They have spent a decade rebuilding balance sheets and reserves. They are now among the healthiest in the world, having become low margin, very low-risk utilities. It is now European and Chinese banks that are going down the tubes.

How about real estate, another major cause of angst in the last recession? The market couldn’t be any more different today. There is a structural shortage of housing, especially at entry-level affordable prices. While liar loans and house flipping are starting to make a comeback, they are nowhere near as prevalent a decade ago. And the mis-rating of mortgage-backed securities from single “C” to triple “A” is now a distant memory. (I still can’t believe no one ever went to jail for that!).

And interest rates? We went into the last recession with a 6% overnight rate and 7% 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Now, overnight rates are at 2.25% and the 30-year is at 3.6% with both falling like a stone. It’s hard to imagine a real estate crisis with rates at zero and a shortage of supply.

The auto industry has been in a mild recession for the past two years, with annual production stalling at 16.8 million units, versus a 2009 low of 9 million units. In any case, the challenges to the industry are now more structural than cyclical, with new buyers decamping en masse to electric vehicles made on the west coast.

Of far greater concern are industries that are already in recession now. Energy has been flagging since oil prices peaked seven years ago, despite massive tax subsidies. It is suffering from a structural over supply and falling demand.

Retailers have been in a Great Depression for five years, squeezed on one side by Amazon and the other by China. A decade into store closings and the US is STILL over stored. However, many of these shares are already so close to zero that the marginal impact on the major indexes will be small.

Financials and legacy banks are also facing a double squeeze from Fintech innovation and collapsing interest rates. There isn’t much margin in a loan where the customer is paying only 3.6%, and 2% in a year. All of those expensive national networks with branches on every street corner will be gone in the 2020s.

And no matter how bad the coming recession gets, technology, now 26% of the S&P 500, will keep powering on. Combined revenues of the four FANGs in Q2 came in at $118.7 billion and earnings were at $26.5 billion. That leaves a mighty big cushion for any slowdown. That’s a lot more than the “eyeballs” and market shares they possessed of a decade ago.

So, netting all this out, how bad will the next recession be? Not bad at all. I’m looking at a couple of quarters small negative numbers. Then the end of the China trade war, which can’t last any more than 18 months, and ultra-low interest rates, will enable recovery and probably another decade of decent US growth.

The stock market, however, is another kettle of fish. While the economy may slow from a 2.2% annual rate to -0.1% or -0.2%, the major indexes could fall much more than that, say 30% to 40%. Don’t forget, we already saw a horrendous 20% swan dive in the run-up to last December.

Earnings multiples are still at a 17X high compared to a 9X low in 2009. Shares would have to drop 47% just to match the last low, and earnings are already falling. Equity weightings in portfolios are high. Money is pouring out of stock funds into bond ones.

Corporations buying back their own shares have been the principal prop from the market for the past three years. Some large companies, like Kohls (KSS), have retired as much as 50% of their outstanding equity in ten years.

So get used to the high market volatility (VIX) we have seen in August. It could be only the trailer for the main show.

 

 

 

 

The Next Bear Market is Not Far Off

August 7, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
August 7, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(CORD-CUTTING IS ACCELERATING)
(DIS), (T), (NFLX), (CMCSA)

Cord-Cutting is Accelerating

Cord-cutting is picking up steam – that is the last thing traditional media want to hear.

There are several foundational themes that this newsletter has glued onto readers’ foreheads.

The generational pivot to cloud-based media is one of them.

It’s easy to denominate this phenomenon down to Netflix (NFLX) but in 2019, this trend is so much more than Netflix.

E-marketer published a survey showing that cord-cutters will surpass 20% of all U.S. adults by the end of 2019.

The rapid demise of traditional television has been equally as mind-numbing with the 100.5 million subscribers in 2014 turning into 86.5 million subscribers today.

Comcast (CMCSA) has tried to buck the trend by homing in on fast broadband internet, but that strategy can only go so far.

Disney (DIS), WarnerMedia, and NBCUniversal Disney have really gotten their ducks in a row and are on the verge of launching their own unique streaming services.

Disney’s service entails a 3-segment strategy bringing in Hulu and ESPN Plus to the Disney fold.

The Disney service will revolve around family content at its core so don’t expect Game of Thrones lookalikes.  

WarnerMedia’s hopes to cash in on its HBO brand while peppering it with original series and programming from Warner Bros. and DC.

Disney will be able to lean on family brands of Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar, and newly acquired National Geographic.

Marvel Cinematic Universe is a growth asset pumping out more than $22 billion at the box office across 23 movies.

Disney Plus will also have a solid collection of Disney films to play with, which could make it indispensable to parents and comes with no ads making it even more appealing to kids.

Disney will also deploy some mix of bundles to diversify its offerings and personalize services for viewers who do not want its entire lineup of content.

The soon-to-be HBO Max will implement HBO original content along with WarnerMedia brands like Warner Bros., DC Entertainment, TBS, TNT, and CNN.

HBO Max will have a treasure trove of old Warner Bros. movies and TV shows, like “Friends” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” that has played extremely well on Netflix.

HBO will get those titles back at the end of 2019.

HBO has also tied up with BBC Studios to stream “Doctor Who.”

“You should assume that HBO Max will have live elements,” said Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, on the company’s second quarter conference call.

This roughly translates into HBO Max snapping up live sports and music events to complement scripted content.

This is something that Netflix has shied away from and live events are best monetized through live ads.

The last big label service to go into effect is NBC’s yet to be named streaming service.

NBCUniversal will have the luxury of offering their cable subscribers a chance to pivot to an in-house online streaming service making the move seamless.

At first, the 21 million US cable-TV subscribers will receive the streaming content for free.

Some of the assets that will trot out on the NBC platform are “The Office,” because NBC is removing it from Netflix for 2021.

As cord-cutters hasten their move to streaming, this trio of loaded content-creating firms will benefit as long as they maintain a high quality of content and the pipeline to please fidgety consumers.

 

 

 

July 26, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 26, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(WHY 3D PRINTING WILL BOOST THE AIRPLANE INDUSTRY),
(SSYS), (ETSY), (MSFT), (BA), (NFLX), (GE), (LMT)

Why 3D Printing Will Boost the Airplane Industry

If you need a new investment idea – here’s one.

3D printing.

Yes, the same 3D printing that was once considered a raging but hopeless fad.

A lot has changed since then.

Early adopters were largely cut down at the knees as they tried to traverse the rocky terrain from a niche market to going full out mainstream.

The teething pains echo bitcoin which was the fad of 2017, on the contrary, this technology it is built on is rock solid, yet the path to sustainability is littered with corpses.

Production complications and the lack of specialists in the industry meant that problems were rampant and nurturing an industry from scratch is harder than you think.

It is time to stand up and take notice of 3D printing, this time it is here to stay.

Certain tech companies love this technology.

Etsy (ETSY) e-commerce participants gravitate towards 3D printing because it gets firms from paper to the real world in a fraction of the time.

The cost of production doesn’t change whether you’re producing one item or a million because of the economies of scale.

The previous 3D printing bonanza was a frenzy and this corner of tech became known for the use of buzzwords representing the potential to reinvent the world.

With lofty expectations, there was a natural disappointment when outsiders understood growing pains were part of the critical evolution instead of a direct route to profits.

The initial goal was to democratize production which sounds eerily similar to bitcoins mantra of democratizing money.

The way to do this was to make it simple to produce whatever one wishes.

That would assume that the general public could pick up professional production 3D printing skills on arrival.

That was wishful thinking.

The truth was that applying 3D printers was time-draining and aggravating.

Issues cropped up like faulty first-generation hardware or software -problems that overwhelmed newbies.

Then if everything was going smoothly on that front, there was the larger issue of realizing it’s just a lot harder to design specific things than initially thought without a deep working knowledge of computer-aided software (CAD) design.

Most people know how to throw a football, but that doesn’t mean that most people can wake up one day in their pajamas and convince themselves they will be the next starting quarterback to lead an NFL team to the Super Bowl.

The high-quality 3D printing designs were reserved for authentic professionals that could put together complicated designs.

The move to compiling a comprehensive library will help spur on the 3D printing revolution while upping the foundational skill base.

Then there is the fact that 3D printing technology is a lot better now than it once was, and the printing technology has come down in price making it more affordable for the masses.

These trends will propel broad-based adoption and as the printing process standardizes, more products can rely on this technology from scratch.

The holy grail of 3D printing would be 3D printing on demand like Netflix (NFLX), but imagine this on-demand 3D printing would function to personalize a physical product on the spot.

Think of a hungry customer walking into a restaurant and not even looking at a menu because one sentence would be enough to trigger specific models in the database that could conjure up the design for the meal.

This would involve integrating artificial intelligence into 3D printing and the production process would quicken to minutes, even seconds.

At some point, crafting the perfect meal or designing a personalized Tuscan villa could take minutes.

The 3D printing industry is reaching an inflection point where the advancement of the technology, expertise, and an updated production process are brewing together at the perfect time.

The company at the forefront of this phenomenon is Stratasys (SSYS).

Stratasys produces in-office prototypes and direct digital manufacturing systems for automotive, aerospace, industrial, recreational, electronic, medical and consumer products.

And when I talk about real pros who have the intellectual property to whip out a complex CAD-based 3D design, I am specifically talking about Stratasys who have been in this business since the industry was in infancy.

And if you add in the integration of cloud software, 3D printing would dovetail nicely with it.

All the elements are in place to fuel this industry into the mainstream.

Take for example airplanes made by Boeing (BA) and Airbus, 3D printer-designed parts comprise only 0.1% of the actual plane now.

It is estimated that 3D printed design parts could consist up to 20% of the overall plane.

These massive airline manufacturers like Boeing (BA) have profit margins of around 15% to 20%, and carving out more 3D printer-designed parts to integrate into the main design will boost profit margins to up to 50%.

The development of the 3D printing process into aerospace technology is happening fast with Boeing inking a five-year collaboration agreement with Swiss technology and engineering group Oerlikon to develop standard processes and materials for metal 3D printing.

Any combat pilot knows who Oerlikon is because they are famed for building ultra-highspeed machines to shoot down, you guessed it, airplanes and missiles.

They will collaborate to use the data resulting from their agreement to support the creation of a standard titanium 3D printing processes.

Only last November, GE announced that GE’s Aviation’s GEnx-2B aircraft engine for the Boeing 747-8 will apply a 3D printed bracket approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the engine, replacing a traditionally manufactured power door opening system (PDOS) bracket.

With the positive revelations that the (FAA) is supporting the adoption of 3D printing-based designs, GE is preparing to begin imminent mass production of the 3D printed brackets at its Auburn, Alabama facility.

Eric Gatlin, general manager of GE Aviation’s additive integrated product team gushed that “It’s the first project we took from design to production in less than ten months.”

Defense companies are also dipping their toe into the water with aerospace company Lockheed Martin (LMT), the world’s largest defense contractor, winning a $5.8 million contract with the Office of Naval Research to help further develop 3D printing for the aerospace industry.

They will partner up to investigate the use of artificial intelligence in training robots to independently oversee the 3D printing of complex aerospace components.

3D printed designs have the potential to crash the cost of making big-ticket items from cars to nuclear plants while substantially shortening the manufacturing process.

Further emphasis on cornering the North America aerospace market could cement this stock as a no-brainer buy of 2019 as the (FAA) embraces more of the technology opening up the addressable market for the active participants.

As it stands, Stratasys is the industry leader in this field, and placing best of breed tech companies into your portfolio will put you in better position to weather the squalls of the capricious tech sector.

The company is still relatively unknown even though it has been around for ages.

Stratasys is a company to put on your radar and remember this space as the 3D printing market blossoms.

It’s nonetheless still a speculative punt but a compelling part of the tech industry.

 

 

July 5, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 5, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(THE BALL IS IN NETFLIX’S COURT)
(NFLX), (DIS), (AAPL), (IQ), (KHC)

The Ball is in Netflix’s Court

Being as volatile as it is, investors are afforded ample opportunity to get into one of the premium tech stocks in the land Netflix (NFLX).

Chasing this one higher is a dangerous thought, as habitual 30% dips is part and parcel of being attached to this supreme online streaming stock.

December of 2018 gave you that sinking feeling when Netflix dropped off a cliff dipping to $260 but spiking after the turn of the year as the Fed swiveled on a dime to save the equity market from implosion.

Let’s make no bones about it, the long-term narrative for Netflix is intact as it’s ever been.

The company simply makes a great product, period, and systematically taps endless demand.

What many cable companies don’t understand is that you cannot make a high-quality film product that wedges in annoying commercials and equally as obnoxious, dictate the window of time in which they should watch the content.

Optionality is value and Netflix has this spot on.

I know many Millennial consumers that would rather jump off a building than subject themselves to commercials.

These factors erode the quality of the product just as if an employer would dictate to one of his or her employees that wanted to take a vacation to Africa.

But the vacation to Africa would have some strings attached.

He or she would only be able to visit at the height of summer in 120-degree Fahrenheit weather while every activity he or she chose to do, would be pre-empted by numerous advertisements that he or she must be shown.

Consumers don’t need these sideshows anymore; the world has developed away from these models and corporates have lost this control.

The loss of corporate control of the consumers is because the internet gives consumers millions of different options at the tip of their fingers.

Tapping into the optionality and the habits that revolve around it is paramount to corporate America.

This is the same reason why big box food companies like Kraft Heinz (KHC) is getting smacked around, consumers have better options and are more aware of them because of technology.

Another example of corporate miscalculation comes in the form of supply chains being redirected from China to South East Asia.

It was clear as day that during my time in China that companies were making a terrible mistake going into China in the first place.

This shows how many corporates are dragged down by a lack of vision and do an awful job of anticipating paradigm shifts that are becoming more common because of the accelerating rate of change of the corporate climate, weather, technology, rule of law, and human migration.

Netflix is effectively blocked from China and China has its own Netflix called iQIYI (IQ), they had no chance from the beginning like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and the many other American tech firms.

Netflix’s business model now has scale working for them and growth numbers will be the main recipients going forward if they focus on high quality content.

That means expect high pay packages to the best media talent in the world.

They can afford to pay a tier 1 actor $50 million per movie because the data buttresses this strategy.

At the same time, Netflix is crushing competition by hoarding the talent with extraordinary pay packages while allowing these highly paid specialists 100% creative control over what they do.

Who would want to work for a company that paid more than double and whose management gave them free reign on creative decisions?

Sounds like an artist’s dream and it’s exactly that for actors like Will Smith who have signed onto Netflix’s project.

I would even suggest that Netflix needs to overpay actors just for the reason of taking them off the market for competitors.

This truly is the lucrative golden age for actors, producers, and directors who are the top 1% of their craft, but for everyone else, it’s a hard slog.

This usually means becoming a tier 1 actor before the migration to online streaming happened.

The picture I am painting is that Netflix’s success and future prospects aren’t about Disney or other competitors, but entirely about them.

He who has the most chips at the table with the best cards is in best position to win and the same goes for Netflix.

The rest of the bunch like Apple (AAPL) and Disney who are late to the party will be feeding off the rest of what Netflix cannot exploit and that’s the best-case scenario.

Disney should be able to have moderate success with its array of great movie, television, and sports content.

I’d be surprised if Disney failed because they possess the ingredients to concoct a delicious cocktail.  

Apple has a harder proposition because of the lack of entertainment value in their content. They are still tied to the hardware sales and much of the service sales come from their app store and servicing the hardware.

But Apple does have money, and a lot of it to throw at the problem, but I don’t believe CEO of Apple Tim Cook is the right man to navigate through the travails of the online content world. He’s an operations guy and has never proved anything more than that.

Netflix still has substantial opportunity to grow its brand and the runway is long.

The demand for watching great original movies and television programs without commercials whenever consumers want is still in the first innings.

Even though Disney will remove some non-original content from Netflix’s platform, the content spend on a massive pipeline of new projects will more than fill the void left by Disney’s content.

In fact, Netflix should thank Disney for all those years that Disney allowed them to build their brand through 3rd party premium content like the television program Friends.

I believe Netflix does not need 3rd party content anymore, that is how much Netflix has bolted ahead in the past few years.

The company has introduced price hikes with its 4K premium package going from $14 to $16 per month.

But Netflix is still underpricing itself to the consumer to grab market share, and there is still pricing headway in the future if the company wants it.

In the coming months, Netflix plans to offer more detailed reporting on its metrics and the transparency will give investors even more insight into why this company is brilliant.

I believe the numbers will show that Netflix is absolutely killing it.

As for the trading, Netflix has settled in a range of $320 to $380 and any dips to the $340 range should be quite appetizing.

Add incrementally and use any large dip to drop your cost basis.

Stand aside if you cannot handle heightened volatility.

 

July 1, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 1, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(THE DEATH OF HARDWARE)
(AAPL), (CRM), (NFLX), (HUAWEI)