July 3, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 3, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:


Chips are Back from the Dead

The overwhelming victors of the G20 were the semiconductor companies who have been lumped into the middle of the U.S. and China trade war.

Nothing substantial was agreed at the Osaka event except a small wrinkle allowing American companies to sell certain chips to Huawei on a limited basis for the time being.

As expected, these few words set off an avalanche of risk on sentiment in the broader market along with allowing chip companies to get rid of built-up inventory as the red sea parted.

Tech companies that apply chip stocks to products involved with value added China sales were also rewarded handsomely.

Apple (AAPL) rose almost 4% on this news and many investors believe the market cannot sustain this rally unless Apple isn’t taken along for the ride.

Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture is needed to digest this one-off event.

On one hand, Huawei sales comprise a massive portion of sales, even up to 50% in Nvidia’s case, but on the other hand, it is the heart and soul of China Inc. hellbent on developing One Belt One Road (OBOR) which is its political and economic vehicle to dominate foreign technology using Huawei, infrastructure markets, and foreign sales of its manufactured products.

Ironically enough, Huawei was created because of exactly that – national security.

China anointed it part of the national security apparatus critical to the health and economy of the Chinese communist party and showered it with generous loans starting from the 1980s.

China still needs about 10 years to figure out how to make better chips than the Americans and if this happens, American chip sales will dry up like a puddle in the Saharan desert.

Considering the background of this complicated issue, American chip companies risk being nationalized because they are following the Chinese communist route of applying the national security tag on this vital sector.

Huawei is effectively dumping products on other markets because private companies cannot compete on any price points against entire states.

This was how Huawei scored their first major tech infrastructure contract in Sweden in 2009 even though Sweden has Ericsson in their backyard.

We were all naïve then, to say the least.

Huawei can afford to take the long view with an Amazon-like market share grab strategy because of possessing the largest population in the world, the biggest market, and backed by the state.

Even more tactically critical is this new development crushes the effectiveness of passive investing.

Before the trade war commenced, the low-hanging fruit were the FANGs.

Buying Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Facebook were great trades until they weren’t.

Things are different now.

Riding on the coattails of an economic recovery from the 2008 housing crisis, this group of companies could do no wrong with our own economy flooded with cheap money from the Fed.

Well, not anymore.

We are entering into a phase where active investors have tremendous opportunities to exploit market inefficiencies.

Get this correct and the world is your oyster.

Get this wrong, like celebrity investors such as John Paulson, who called the 2008 housing crisis, then your hedge fund will convert to a family office and squeeze out the extra profit through safe fixed income bets.

This is another way to say being put out to pasture in the financial world.

My point being, big cap tech isn’t going up in a straight line anymore.

Investors will need to be more tactically cautious shifting between names that are bullish in the period of time they can be bullish while escaping dreadful selloffs that are pertinent in this stage of the late cycle.

In short, as the trade winds blow each way, strategies must pivot on a dime.

Geopolitical events prompted market participants to buy semis on the dips until something materially changes.

This is the trade today but might be gone with one Tweet.

If you want to reduce your beta, then buy the semiconductor chip iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX).

I will double down in saying that no American chip company will ever commit one more incremental cent of capital in mainland China.

That ship has sailed, and the transition will whipsaw markets because of the uncertainty in earnings.

The rerouting of capital expenditure to lesser-known Asian countries will deliver control of business models back to the corporation’s management and that is how free market capitalism likes it.

Furthermore, the lifting of the ban does not include all components, and this could be a maneuver to deliver more face-saving window-dressing for Chairman Xi.

In reality, there is still an effective ban because technically all chip components could be regarded as connected to the national security interests of the U.S.

Bullish traders are chomping at the bit to see how these narrow exemptions on non-sensitive technologies will lead to a greater rapprochement that could include the removal of all new tariffs imposed since last summer.

The risk that more tariffs are levied is also high as well.

I put the odds of removing tariffs at 30% and I wouldn’t be surprised if the administration doubles down on China to claim a foreign policy victory leading up to the 2020 election which could be the catalyst to more tariffs.

It’s difficult to decode if U.S. President Trump’s statements carry any real weight in real time.

The bottom line is the American government now controls the mechanism to when, how, and the volume of chip sales to Huawei and that is a dangerous game for investors to play if you plan on owning chip stocks that sell to Huawei.

Artificial intelligence or 5G applications chips are the most waterlogged and aren’t and will never be on the table for export.

This means that a variety of companies pulled into the dragnet zone are Intel (INTC), Nvidia (NVDA), and Analog Devices (ADI) as companies that will be deemed vital to national security.

These companies all performed admirably in the market following the news, but that could be short lived.

Other major logjams include Broadcom’s future revenue which is in jeopardy because of a heavy reliance on Huawei as a dominant customer for its networking and storage products.

Rounding out the chip sector, other names with short-term bullish price action are Qualcomm (QCOM) up 2.3%, Texas Instruments (TXN) up 2.6%, and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) up 3.9%.

(AMD) is a stock I told attendees at the Mad Hedge Lake Tahoe conference to buy at $18 and is now above $31.

Xilinix (XLNX) is another integral 5G company in the mix that has their fortunes tied to this Huawei mess.

Investors must take advantage of this short-term détente with a risk on, buy the dip trade in the semi space and be ready to rip the cord on the first scent of blood.

That is the market we have right now.

If you can’t handle this environment when there is blood in the streets, then stay on the sidelines until there is another market sweet spot.


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.




December 28, 2018

Global Market Comments
December 28, 2017
Fiat Lux


Featured Trade:


Peeking into the Future with Ray Kurzweil

This is the most important research piece you will ever read, bar none. But you have to finish it to understand why. So, I will get on with the show.

I have been hammering away at my followers at investment conferences, webinars, and strategy luncheons this year about one recurring theme. Things are good, and about to get better, a whole lot better.

The driver will be the exploding rate of technological innovation in electronics, biotechnology, and energy. The 2020s are shaping up to be another roaring twenties, and asset prices are going to go through the roof.

To flesh out some hard numbers about growth rates that are realistically possible and which industries will be the leaders, I hooked up with my old friend, Ray Kurzweil, one of the most brilliant minds in computer science.

Ray is currently a director of Engineering at Alphabet (GOOG), heading up a team that is developing stronger artificial intelligence. He is an MIT grad, with a double major in computer science and creative writing. He was the principal inventor of the CCD flatbed scanner, first text-to-speech synthesizer, and the commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.

When he was still a teenager, Ray was personally awarded a science prize by President Lyndon Johnson. He has received 20 honorary doctorates and has authored 7 books. It was upon Ray?s shoulders that many of today?s technological miracles were built.

His most profound book to date, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, was a New York Times best seller. In it he makes hundreds of predictions about the next 100 years that will make you fall out of your chair.

I met Ray at one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, Morton?s on Sutter Street. I ordered a dozen oysters, a filet mignon wrapped in bacon, and washed it all down with a fine bottle of Duckhorn Merlot. Ray had a wedge salad with no dressing, a giant handful of nutritional supplements, and a bottle of water. That?s Ray, one cheap date.

The Future of Man

A singularity is defined as a single event that has monumental consequences. Astrophysicists refer to the big bang and black holes in this way. Ray?s singularity has humans and machines merging to become single entities, partially by 2040 and completely by 2100.

All of our thought processes will include built in links to the cloud, making humans super smart. Skin that absorbs energy from the sun will eliminate the need to eat. Nanobots will replace blood cells, which are far more efficient at moving oxygen. A revolution in biotechnology will enable us to eliminate all medical causes of death.

Most organs can now be partially or completely replaced. Eventually they all will become renewable by taking one of your existing cells and cloning it into a completely new organ. We will become much more like machines, and machines will become more like us.

The first industrial revolution extended the reach of our bodies, and the second is extending the reach of our minds.

And, oh yes, prostitution will be legalized and move completely online. Sound like a turn off? How about virtually doing it with you favorite movie star? Your favorite investment advisor? Yikes!

Ironically, one of the great accelerants towards this singularity has been the war in Iraq. More than 50,000 young men and women came home missing arms and legs (in Vietnam these were all fatalities, thanks to the absence of modern carbon fiber body armor).

Generous government research budgets have delivered huge advances in titanium artificial limbs and the ability to control them with only our thoughts. Quadriplegics can now hit computer keystrokes merely by thinking about them.

Kurzweil argues that exponentially growing information technology is encompassing more and more things that we care about, like health care and medicine. Reprogramming of biology will be the next big thing and is a crucial part of his ?singularity.?

Our bodies are governed by obsolete genetic programs that evolved in a bygone era. For example, over millions of years our bodies developed genes to store fat cells to protect against a poor hunting season the following year. That gave us a great evolutionary advantage 10,000 years ago. But it is not so great now, with obesity becoming the country?s number one health problem.

We would love to turn off these genes through reprogramming, confident that the hunting at the supermarket next year will be good. We can do this in mice now, which in experiments can eat like crazy, but never gain weight.

The happy rodents enjoy the full benefits of no caloric restriction, with no hint of diabetes or heart disease. A product like this would be revolutionary, not just for us, health care providers, and the government, but, ironically, for fast food restaurants as well.

Within the last five years, we have learned how to reprogram stem cells to rebuild the hearts of people who have suffered heart attacks. The stem cells are harvested from skin cells, not human embryos, consequently circumventing the political and religious issues of the past.

If we can turn off genes, why not the ones in cancer cells that enable them to pursue unlimited reproduction, until they kill its host? That development would cure all cancers, and is probably only a decade away.

The Future of Computing

If this all sounds like science fiction, you?d be right. But Ray points out that humans have chronically underestimated the rate of technological innovation.

This is because humans evolved to become linear thinking animals. If a million years ago we saw a gazelle running from left to right, our brains calculated that one second later it would progress ten feet further to the right. That?s where we threw the spear. This gave us a huge advantage over other animals and is why we became the dominant species.

However, much of science, technology, and innovation grows at an exponential rate, and consequently is the reason we make our most egregious forecasting errors. Count to seven, and you get to seven. However, double something seven times and you get to a billion.

The history of the progress of communications is a good example of an exponential effect. Spoken language took hundreds of thousands of year to develop. Written language emerged in thousands of years, books in a 100 years, the telegraph in a century, and telephones 50 years later.

Some ten years after Steve Jobs brought out his Apple II personal computer, the growth of the Internet went hyperbolic. Within three years of the iPhone launch, social media exploded out of nowhere.

At? the beginning of the 20th century, $1,000 bought 10 X -5th power worth of calculations per second in our primitive adding machines. A hundred years later a grand got you 10 X 8th power calculations, a 10 trillion-fold improvement. The present century will see gains many times this.

The iPhone itself is several thousand times smaller, a million times cheaper, and billions of times more powerful than computers of 40 years ago. That increases price per performance by the trillions. More dramatic improvements will accelerate from here.

Moore?s law is another example of how fast this process works. Intel (INTC) founder Gordon Moore published a paper in 1965 predicting a doubling of the number of transistors on a printed circuit board every two years. Since electrons had shorter distances to travel, speeds would double as well.

Moore thought that theoretical limits imposed by the laws of physics would bring this doubling trend to an end by 2018, when the gates became too small for the electrons to pass through. For decades I have read research reports predicting that this immutable deadline would bring an end to innovation and technological growth, resulting in economic Armageddon.

Ray argues that nothing could be further fr
om the truth. A paradigm shift will simply allow us to leapfrog conventional silicon based semiconductor technologies and move on to bigger and better things. We did this when we jumped from vacuum tubes to transistors in 1949, and again in 1959, when Texas Instruments (TXN) invented the first integrated circuit.

Paradigm shifts occurred every ten years in the past century, every five years in the last decade, and will occur every couple of years in the 2020s. So fasten your seat belts!

Nanotechnology has already allowed manufacturers to extend the 2018 Moore?s Law limit to 2022. On the drawing board are much more advanced computing technologies, including calcium based systems, using the alternating direction of spinning electrons and nanotubes.

Perhaps the most promising is DNA based computing, a high research priority at IBM and several other major firms. I earned my own 15 minutes of fame in the scientific world 40 years ago as a member of the first team ever to sequence a piece of DNA which is why Ray knows who I am.

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) makes up the genes that contain the programming which makes us who we are. It is a fantastically efficient means of storing and transmitting information. And it is found in every single cell in our bodies, all 10 trillion of them.

The great thing about DNA is that it replicates itself. Just throw it some sugar. That eliminates the cost of building the giant $2 billion silicon based chip fabrication plants of today.

The entire human genome is a sequential binary code containing only 800 MB of information which, after you eliminate redundancies, has a mere 30-100 MB of useful information which is about the size of an off-the-shelf software program, like Word for Windows. Unwind a single DNA molecule, and it is only six feet long.

What this means is that, just when many believe that our computer power is peaking, it is in fact launching on an era of exponential growth. Super computers surpassed human brain computational ability in 2012, computing about 10 to the 16th power (ten quadrillion) calculations per second.

That power will be available on a low-end laptop by 2020. By 2050, this prospective single laptop will have the same computing power as the entire human race which is comprised of about 9 billion individuals. It will also be small enough to implant in our brains.

The Future of the Economy

Ray is not really that interested in financial markets or, for that matter, making money. Where technology will be in a half century and how to get us there are what get his juices flowing. However, I did manage to tease a few mind-boggling thoughts from him.

At the current rate of change, the 21st century will see 200 times the technological progress that we saw in the 20th century. Shouldn?t corporate profits and, therefore, share prices rise by as much?

Technology is rapidly increasing its share of the economy, and increasing its influence on other sectors. That?s why tech has been everyone?s favorite sector for the past 30 years, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. For two centuries, technology has been eliminating jobs at the bottom of the economy and creating new ones at the top.

Stock analysts and investors make a fatal error estimating future earnings based on the linear trends of the past, instead of the exceptional growth that will occur in the future.

In the last century, the Dow appreciated from 100 to 10,000, an increase of 100 times. If we grow at that rate in this century, the Dow should increase by 10,000% to 1 million by 2100. But so far, we are up only 8%, even though we are already 16 years into the new century.

The index is seriously lagging, but will play catch up in a major way during the 2020s, when economic growth jumps from 2% to 4% or more, thanks to the effects of massively accelerating technological change.

Some 100 years ago, one third of jobs were in farming, one third were in manufacturing, and one third in services. If you predicted then that in a century farming and manufacturing would each be 3% of total employment and that something else unknown would come along for the rest of us, people would have been horrified. But that?s exactly what’s happened.

Solar energy use is also on an exponential path. It is now 1% of the world?s supply, but is only seven doublings away from becoming 100%. Then we will consume only one 10,000th of the sunlight hitting the earth. Geothermal energy offers the same opportunities.

We are only running out of energy if you limit yourself to 19th century methods. Energy costs will plummet. Eventually, energy will be essentially free when compared to today?s costs, further boosting corporate profits.

Hyper growth in technology means that we will be battling with deflation for the rest of the century, as the cost of production and the price of everything falls off a cliff. That makes our 10-year Treasury bonds a steal at a generous 2.60% yield, a full 460 basis points over the real long term inflation rate of negative 2% a year.

The upshot to all of this, these technologies will rapidly eliminate poverty, not just in the US, but around the world. Each industry will need to continuously reinvent its business model or it will disappear.

The takeaway for investors is that stocks, as well as other asset prices, are currently wildly undervalued given their spectacular future earnings potential. It also makes the Dow target of 1 million by 2100 absurdly low, and off by a factor of 10 or even 100. Will we be donning our ?Dow 100 Million? hats then?

Other Random Thoughts

As we ordered dessert, Ray launched into another stream of random thoughts. I asked for Morton?s exquisite double chocolate mousse. Ray had another handful of supplements. Yep, Mr. Cheap Date.

The number of college students has grown from 50,000 to 12 million since 1870s. A kid in Africa with a cell phone has more access to information than the president of the United States did 15 years ago.

The great superpower, the Soviet Union, was wiped out by a few fax machines distributing information in 1991.

Company offices will become entirely virtual by 2025.

Cows are very inefficient at producing meat. In the near future, cloned muscle tissue will be produced in factories, disease free, and at a fraction of the present cost, without the participation of the animal. PETA will be thrilled.

Use of nano materials to build ultra light, but ultra strong, cars will cut fuel consumption dramatically. Battery efficiencies will improve by 10 to 100 times. Imagine powering a Tesla Model S1 with a 10-pound battery! Advances in nanotube construction mean the weight of the vehicle will drop from the present 3 tons to just 100 pounds but will be far safer.

Ray is also on a scientific advisory panel for the US Army. Uncertain about my own security clearance, he was reluctant to go into detail. Suffice it to say that the weight of an M1 Abrams main battle tank will shrink from 70 tons to 1 ton, but will be 100 times stronger.

A zero tolerance policy towards biotechnology by the environmental movement exposes their intellectual and moral bankruptcy. Opposing a technology with so many positive benefits for humankind and the environment will inevitably alienate them from the media and the public who will see the insanity of their position.

Artificial intelligence is already far more prevalent than you understand. The advent of strong artificial intelligence will be the most significant development of this century. You can?t buy a book from Amazon, withdraw money from your bank, or book a flight, without relying on AI.

Ray finished up by saying that by 2100, humans will have the choice of living in a biological or, in a totally virtual, online form. In the end, we will all just be files.

Personally, I prefer the former, as the best th
ings in life are biological and free!

I walked over to the valet parking, stunned and disoriented by the mother load of insight I had just obtained, and it wasn?t just the merlot talking either! Imagine what they talk about at Alphabet all day.

To buy The Singularity Is Near at Amazon, please click here. It is worth purchasing the book just to read Ray?s single chapter on the future of the economy.

The Singularity Is Near

Ray Kurzweil

BorgDid You Say ?BUY? or ?SELL?

John Thomas - AmsterdamThe Future is Closer than You Think