August 16, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 16, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(TLT), (QQQ), (DBA), (EEM), (UUP)

May 6, 2019

Global Market Comments
May 6, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(DIS), (QQQ), (AAPL), (INTU), (GOOGL), (LYFT), (UBER), (FCX))

April 29, 2019

Global Market Comments
April 29, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(SPY), (TLT), (DIS), (INTU), (FCX), (MSFT),
 (QQQ), (CVX), (XOM), (OXY), (TSLA)

The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or Another Leg Up for the Market

This is one of those markets where you should have followed your mother’s advice and become a doctor.

I was shocked, amazed, and gobsmacked when the Q1 GDP came in at a red hot 3.2%. The economy had every reason to slow down during the first three months of 2019 with the government shutdown, trade war, and terrible winter. Many estimates were below 1%.

I took solace in the news by doing what I do best: I shot out four Trade Alerts within the hour.

Of course, the stock market knew this already, rising almost every day this year. Both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ (QQQ) ground up to new all-time highs last week. The Dow Average will be the last to fall.

Did stock really just get another leg up, or this the greatest “Sell the news” of all time. Nevertheless, we have to trade the market we have, not the one we want or expect, so I quickly dove back in with new positions in both my portfolios.

One has to ask the question of how strong the economy really would have been without the above self-induced drags. 4%, 5%, yikes!

However, digging into the numbers, there is far less than meets the eye with the 3.2% figure. Exports accounted for a full 1% of this. That is unlikely to continue with Europe in free fall. A sharp growth in inventories generated another 0.7%, meaning companies making stuff that no one is buying. This is growth that has been pulled forward from future quarters.

Strip out these one-off anomalies and you get a core GDP that is growing at only 1.5%, lower than the previous quarter.

What is driving the recent rally is that corporate earnings are coming in stronger than expected. Back in December, analysts panicked and excessively cut forecasts.

With half of the companies already reporting, it now looks like the quarter will come in a couple of points higher than lower. That may be worth a rally of a few more percentage points higher for a few more weeks, but not much more than that.
So will the Fed raise rates now? A normal Fed certainly would in the face of such a hot GDP number. But nothing is normal anymore. The Fed canceled all four rate hikes for 2019 because the stock market was crashing. Now it’s booming. Does that put autumn rate hikes back on the table, or sooner?

Microsoft (MSFT) knocked it out of the park with great earnings and a massive 47% increase in cloud growth. The stock looks hell-bent to hit $140, and Mad Hedge followers who bought the stock close to $100 are making a killing. (MSFT) is now the third company to join the $1 trillion club.

And it’s not that the economy is without major weak spots. US Existing Home Sales dove in March by 5.9%, to an annualized 5.41 million units. Where is the falling mortgage rate boost here? Keep avoiding the sick man of the US economy. Car sales are also rolling over like the Bismarck, unless they’re electric.

Trump ended all Iran oil export waivers and the oil industry absolutely loved it with Texas tea soaring to new 2019 highs at $67 a barrel. Previously, the administration had been exempting eight major countries from the Iran sanctions. More disruption all the time. The US absolutely DOES NOT need an oil shock right now, unless you’re Exxon (XOM), Chevron (CVX), or Occidental Petroleum (OXY).

NASDAQ hit a new all-time high. Unfortunately, it’s all short covering and company share buybacks with no new money actually entering the market. How high is high? Tech would have to quadruple from here to hit the 2000 Dotcom Bubble top in valuation terms.

Tesla lost $700 million in Q1, and the stock collapsed to a new two-year low. It’s all because the EV subsidy dropped by half since January. Look for a profit rebound in quarters two and three. Capital raise anyone? Tesla junk bonds now yielding 8.51% if you’re looking for an income play. After a very long wait, a decent entry point is finally opening up on the long side.

The Mad Hedge Fund Trader blasted through to a new all-time high, up 16.02% year to date, as we took profits on the last of our technology long positions. I then added new long positions in (DIS), (FCX), and (INTU) on the hot GDP print, but only on a three-week view.

I had cut both Global Trading Dispatch and the Mad Hedge Technology Letter services down to 100% cash positions and waited for markets to tell us what to do next. And so they did.

I dove in with an extremely rare and opportunistic long in the bond market (TLT)  and grabbed a quickie 14.61% profit on only three days.

April is now positive +0.60%.  My 2019 year to date return gained to +16.02%, boosting my trailing one-year to +21.17%. 
My nine and a half year shot up to +316.16%. The average annualized return appreciated to +33.87%. I am now 80% in cash with Global Trading Dispatch and 90% cash in the Mad Hedge Tech Letter.

The coming week will see another jobs trifecta.

On Monday, April 29 at 10:00 AM, we get March Consumer Spending. Alphabet (GOOGL) and Western Digital (WDC) report.

On Tuesday, April 30, 10:00 AM EST, we obtain a new Case Shiller CoreLogic National Home Price Index. Apple (AAPL), MacDonald’s (MCD), and General Electric (GE) report.

On Wednesday, May 1 at 2:00 PM, we get an FOMC statement.
QUALCOMM (QCOM) and Square (SQ) report. The ADP Private Employment Report is released at 8:15 AM.

On Thursday, May 2 at 8:30 AM, the Weekly Jobless Claims are produced. Gilead Sciences (GILD) and Dow Chemical (DOW) report.

On Friday, May 3 at 8:30 AM, we get the April Nonfarm Payroll Report. Adidas reports, and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/A) reports on Saturday.

As for me, to show you how low my life has sunk, I spent my only free time this weekend watching Avengers: Endgame. It has already become the top movie opening in history which is why I sent out another Trade Alert last week to buy Walt Disney (DIS).

I supposed that now we have all become the dumb extension to our computers, the only entertainment we should expect is computer-generated graphics with only human voice-overs.

Good luck and good trading.

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








April 24, 2019

Global Market Comments
April 24, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(TLT), (TBT), (LQD), (MUB), (LINE), (ELD),
(QQQ), (UUP), (EEM), (DBA)

Why Are Bond Yields So Low?

Investors around the world have been confused, befuddled, and surprised by the persistent, ultra-low level of long-term interest rates in the United States.

At today’s close, the 30-year Treasury bond yielded a parsimonious 2.99%, the ten years 2.59%, and the five years only 2.40%. The ten-year was threatening its all-time low yield of 1.33% only three years ago, a return as rare as a dodo bird, last seen in the 19th century.

What’s more, yields across the entire fixed income spectrum have been plumbing new lows. Corporate bonds (LQD) have been fetching only 3.72%, tax-free municipal bonds (MUB) 2.19%, and junk (JNK) a pittance at 5.57%.

Spreads over Treasuries are approaching new all-time lows. The spread for junk over of ten-year Treasuries is now below an amazing 3.00%, a heady number not seen since the 2007 bubble top. “Covenant light” in borrower terms is making a big comeback.

Are investors being rewarded for taking on the debt of companies that are on the edge of bankruptcy, a tiny 3.3% premium? Or that the State of Illinois at 3.1%? I think not.

It is a global trend.

German bunds are now paying holders 0.05%, and JGBs are at an eye-popping -0.05%. The worst quality southern European paper has delivered the biggest rallies this year.


These numbers indicate that there is a massive global capital glut. There is too much money chasing too few low-risk investments everywhere. Has the world suddenly become risk averse? Is inflation gone forever? Will deflation become a permanent aspect of our investing lives? Does the reach for yield know no bounds?

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Almost to a man, hedge fund managers everywhere were unloading debt instruments last year when ten-year yields peaked at 3.25%. They were looking for a year of rising interest rates (TLT), accelerating stock prices (QQQ), falling commodities (DBA), and dying emerging markets (EEM). Surging capital inflows were supposed to prompt the dollar (UUP) to take off like a rocket.

It all ended up being almost a perfect mirror image portfolio of what actually transpired since then. As a result, almost all mutual funds were down in 2018. Many hedge fund managers are tearing their hair out, suffering their worst year in recent memory.

What is wrong with this picture?

Interest rates like these are hinting that the global economy is about to endure a serious nosedive, possibly even re-entering recession territory….or it isn’t.

To understand why not, we have to delve into deep structural issues which are changing the nature of the debt markets beyond all recognition. This is not your father’s bond market. 

I’ll start with what I call the “1% effect.”

Rich people are different than you and I. Once they finally make their billions, they quickly evolve from being risk takers into wealth preservers. They don’t invest in start-ups, take fliers on stock tips, invest in the flavor of the day, or create jobs. In fact, many abandon shares completely, retreating to the safety of coupon clipping.

The problem for the rest of us is that this capital stagnates. It goes into the bond market where it stays forever. These people never sell, thus avoiding capital gains taxes and capturing a future step up in the cost basis whenever a spouse dies. Only the interest payments are taxable, and that at a lowly 2.59% rate.

This is the lesson I learned from servicing generations of Rothschilds, Du Ponts, Rockefellers, and Gettys. Extremely wealthy families stay that way by becoming extremely conservative investors. Those that don’t, you’ve never heard of because they all eventually went broke.

This didn’t use to mean much before 1980, back when the wealthy only owned less than 10% of the bond market, except to financial historians and private wealth specialists, of which I am one. Now they own a whopping 25%, and their behavior affects everyone.

Who has been the largest buyer of Treasury bonds for the last 30 years? Foreign central banks and other governmental entities which count them among their country’s foreign exchange reserves. They own 36% of our national debt with China in the lead at 8% (the Bush tax cut that was borrowed), and Japan close behind with 7% (the Reagan tax cut that was borrowed). These days they purchase about 50% of every Treasury auction.

They never sell either, unless there is some kind of foreign exchange or balance of payments crisis which is rare. If anything, these holdings are still growing.

Who else has been soaking up bonds, deaf to repeated cries that prices are about to plunge? The Federal Reserve which, thanks to QE1, 2, 3, and 4, now owns 13.63% of our $22 trillion debt.

An assortment of other government entities possesses a further 29% of US government bonds, first and foremost the Social Security Administration with a 16% holding. And they ain’t selling either, baby.

So what you have here is the overwhelming majority of Treasury bond owners with no intention to sell. Ever. Only hedge funds have been selling this year, and they have already done so, in spades.

Which sets up a frightening possibility for them, now that we have broken through the bottom of the past year’s trading range in yields. What happens if bond yields fall further? It will set off the mother of all short-covering squeezes and could take ten-year yield down to match 2012, 1.33% low, or lower.

Fasten your seat belts, batten the hatches, and down the Dramamine!

There are a few other reasons why rates will stay at subterranean levels for some time. If hyper accelerating technology keeps cutting costs for the rest of the century, deflation basically never goes away (click here for “Peeking Into the Future With Ray Kurzweil” ).

Hyper accelerating corporate profits will also create a global cash glut, further levitating bond prices. Companies are becoming so profitable they are throwing off more cash than they can reasonably use or pay out.

This is why these gigantic corporate cash hoards are piling up in Europe in tax-free jurisdictions, now over $2 trillion. Is the US heading for Japanese style yields, of zero for 10-year Treasuries?

If so, bonds are a steal here at 2.59%. If we really do enter a period of long term -2% a year deflation, that means the purchasing power of a dollar increases by 35% every decade in real terms.

The threat of a second Cold War is keeping the flight to safety bid alive, and keeping the bull market for bonds percolating. You can count on that if the current president wins a second term.






Why Are They So Low?

January 28, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
January 28, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(XLNX), (LRCX), (AMD), (TXN), (NVDA), (INTC), (SOXX), (SMH), (MU), (QQQ)

Buy Dips in Semis, Not Tops

Don’t buy the dead cat bounce – that was the takeaway from a recent trading day that saw chips come alive with vigor.

Semiconductor stocks had their best day since March 2009.

The price action was nothing short of spectacular with names such as chip equipment manufacturer Lam Research (LRCX) gaining 15.7% and Texas Instruments (TXN) turning heads, up 6.91%.

The sector was washed out as the Mad Hedge Technology Letter has determined this part of tech as a no-fly zone since last summer.

When stocks get bombed out at these levels – sometimes even 60% like in Lam Research’s case, investors start to triage them into a value play and are susceptible to strong reversal days or weeks in this case.

The semi-conductor space has been that bad and tech growth has had a putrid last six months of trading.

In the short-term, broad-based tech market sentiment has turned positive with the lynchpins being an extremely oversold market because of the December meltdown and the Fed putting the kibosh on the rate-tightening plan.

Fueled by this relatively positive backdrop, tech stocks have rallied hard off their December lows, but that doesn’t mean investors should take out a bridge loan to bet the ranch on chip stocks.

Another premium example of the chip turnaround was the fortune of Xilinx (XLNX) who rocketed 18.44% in one day then followed that brilliant performance with another 4.06% jump.

A two-day performance of 22.50% stems from the underlying strength of the communication segment in the third quarter, driven by the wireless market producing growth from production of 5G and pre-5G deployments as well as some LTE upgrades.

Give credit to the company’s performance in Advanced Products which grew 51% YOY and universal growth across its end markets.

With respect to the transformation to a platform company, the 28-nanometer and 16-nanometer Zynq SoC products expanded robustly with Zynq sales growing 80% YOY led by the 16-nanometer multiprocessor systems-on-chip (MPSoC) products.

Core drivers were apparent in the application in communications, automotive, particularly Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) as well as industrial end markets.

Zynq MPSoC revenues grew over 300% YOY.

These positive signals were just too positive to ignore.

Long term, the trade war complications threaten to corrode a substantial chunk of chip revenues at mainstay players like Intel (INTC) and Nvidia (NVDA).

Not only has the execution risk ratcheted up, but the regulatory risk of operating in China is rising higher than the nosebleed section because of the Huawei extradition case and paying costly tariffs to import back to America is a punch in the gut.

This fragility was highlighted by Intel (INTC) who brought the semiconductor story back down to earth with a mild earnings beat but laid an egg with a horrid annual 2019 forecast.

Intel telegraphed that they are slashing projections for cloud revenue and server sales.

Micron (MU) acquiesced in a similar forecast calling for a cloud hardware slowdown and bloated inventory would need to be further digested creating a lack of demand in new orders.

Then the ultimate stab through the heart – the 2019 guide was $1 billion less than initially forecasted amounting to the same level of revenue in 2018 – $73 billion in revenue and zero growth to the top line.

Making matters worse, the downdraft in guidance factored in that the backend of the year has the likelihood of outperforming to meet that flat projection of the same revenue from last year offering the bear camp fodder to dump Intel shares.

How can firms convincingly promise the back half is going to buttress its year-end performance under the drudgery of a fractious geopolitical set-up?

This screams uncertainty.

Love them or crucify them, the specific makeup of the semiconductor chip cycle entails a vulnerable boom-bust cycle that is the hallmark of the chip industry.

We are trending towards the latter stage of the bust portion of the cycle with management issuing code words such as “inventory adjustment.”

Firms will need to quickly work off this excess blubber to stoke the growth cycle again and that is what this strength in chip stocks is partly about.

Investors are front-running the shaving off of the blubber and getting in at rock bottom prices.

Amalgamate the revelation that demand is relatively healthy due to the next leg up in the technology race requiring companies to hem in adequate orders of next-gen chips for 5G, data servers, IoT products, video game consoles, autonomous vehicle technology, just to name a few.

But this demand is expected to come online in the late half of 2019 if management’s wishes come true.

To minimize unpredictable volatility in this part of tech and if you want to squeeze out the extra juice in this area, then traders can play it by going long the iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX) or VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH).

In many cases, hedge funds have made their entire annual performance in the first month of January because of this v-shaped move in chip shares.

Then there is the other long-term issue of elevated execution risks to chip companies because of an overly reliant manufacturing process in China.

If this trade war turns into a several decades affair which it is appearing more likely by the day, American chip companies will require relocating to a non-adversarial country preferably a democratic stronghold that can act as the fulcrum of a global supply chain channel moving forward.

The relocation will not occur overnight but will have to take place in tranches, and the same chip companies will be on the hook for the relocation fees and resulting capex that is tied with this commitment.

That is all benign in the short term and chip stocks have a little more to run, but on a risk reward proposition, it doesn’t make sense right now to pick up pennies in front of the steamroller.

If the Nasdaq (QQQ) retests December lows because of global growth falls off a cliff, then this mini run in chips will freeze and thawing out won’t happen in a blink of an eye either.  

But if you are a long-term investor, I would recommend my favorite chip stock AMD who is actively draining CPU market share from Intel and whose innovation pipeline rivals only Nvidia.




October 15, 2018

Global Market Comments
October 15, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(SPY), (QQQ), (TLT), (VIX), (VXX), (MSFT), (JPM), (AAPL),

July 27, 2018

Global Market Comments
July 27, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(QQQ), (SPY), (SOYB), (CORN), (WEAT), (CAT),
(DE), (BA), (QCOM), (MU), (LRCX), (CRUS),