I have to tell you that flip-flopping from extreme optimism to extreme pessimism and back is a trader’s dream come true. Volatility is our bread and butter.
Long term followers know that when volatility is low, I struggle to make 1% or 2% a month. When it is high, I make 10% to 20%, as I have for two of the last three months.
That is what the month of October has delivered so far.
To see how well this works, the S&P 500 is dead unchanged so far this month, while the Mad Hedge Fund Trader alert service is up a gangbuster 10% and we are now 70% in cash.
While the market is unchanged in two years, risk has been continuously rising. That’s because year on year earnings growth has fallen from 26% to zero. That means with an unchanged index, stocks are 26% more expensive.
Entire chunks of the market have been in a bear market since 2017, including industrials, autos, energy, and retailers. US Steel (X), which the president’s tariffs were supposed to rescue, has crashed 80% since the beginning of 2018.
The great irony here is that while the Dow Average is just short of an all-time high, all of the good short positions have already been exhausted. In short, there is nothing to do.
So, the wise thing to do here is to use the 1,200-point rally since Thursday to raise cash you can put to work during the next round of disappointment, which always comes. If we do forge to new highs, they will be incremental ones at best. That’s when you let your passive indexing friends pick up the next bar tab, who unintentionally caught the move.
In the meantime, we will be bracing ourselves for the big bank earnings due out this week which are supposed to be dismal at best. JP Morgan (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), and Citigroup (C) are out on Tuesday and Bank of America (BAC) publishes on Wednesday.
That’s when we find out how much of this move has been about unicorns and candy canes, and how much is real.
Trump demoed his Own trade talks, creating a technology blacklist and banning US pension investment into the Middle Kingdom. He also hints he’ll take a small deal rather than a big one. Great for American farmers but leaves intellectual property and forced joint ventures on the table, throwing the California economy under the bus. I knew it would end this way. It’s very market negative. Without a trade deal, there is no way to avoid a US recession in 2020.
The Inverted Yield Curve is flashing “recession.” The three-month Treasury yield has been above the 10-year bond yield since May, and that always says a downturn is coming. The time to batten down the hatches is now.
US Producer Prices plunged in September, down 0.3%, the worst since January. It’s another recession indicator but also pushes the Fed to lower rates further.
Inflation was Zero in September, with the Consumer Price Index up 1.8% YOY. Slowing economy due to the trade war gets the blame, but I think that accelerating technology gets the bigger blame.
New Job Openings hit an 18-month low, down 123,000 to 7.05 million in August, as employers pull back in anticipation of the coming recession. Trade war gets the blame. The smart people don’t hire ahead of a recession.
FedEx (FDX) is dead money, says a Bernstein analyst, citing failing domestic and international sales. No pulling any punches, he said “The bull thesis has been shredded.” Not what you want to hear from this classic recession leading indicator. Nobody ships anything during a slowdown.
Loss of SALT Deductions cost you $1 trillion, or about 4% per home, according to an analysis by Standard & Poor’s. Quite simply, losing the ability to deduct state and local tax deductions creates a higher after-tax cost of carry that reduces your asset value. If you bought a home in 2017 you lost half of your equity almost immediately. The east and west coast were especially hard hit.
Fed to expand balance sheet to deal with the short-term repo funding crisis, which periodically has been driving overnight interest rates up to an incredible 5%. Massive government borrowing is starting to break the existing financial system. What they’re really doing is trying to head off to the next recession.
The Fed September minutes came out, and traders seem to be expecting more rate cuts than the Fed is. Trade is still the overriding concern. The next meeting is October 29-30. It could all end in tears.
Apple (AAPL) raised iPhone 11 Production by 10%, to 8 million more units, according Asian parts suppliers. Great news for its $1,089 top priced product ahead of the Christmas rush. It turns out that an Apple app is helping Hong Kong protesters manage demonstrations. I’m keeping my long, letting the shares run to a new all-time high. Buy (AAPL) on the dips.
The Mad Hedge Trader Alert Service has blasted through to yet another new all-time high. My Global Trading Dispatch reached new apex of +347.48% and my year-to-date accelerated to +47.24%. The tricky and volatile month of October started out with a roar +9.82%. My ten-year average annualized profit bobbed up to +35.64%.
Some 26 out of the last 27 trade alerts have made money, a success rate of94%! Underpromise and overdeliver, that’s the business I have been in all my life. It works. This is rapidly turning into the best year of the decade for me. It is all the result of me writing three newsletters a day.
I used the recession fear-induced selloff after October 1 to pile on a large aggressive short-dated portfolio which I will run into expiration. I am 60% long with the (SPY), (IWM), (USO), (WMT), (AAPL), and (GOOGL). I am 10% short with one position in the (IWM) giving me a net risk position of 50% long. All of them are working.
The coming week is pretty non-eventful of the data front. Maybe the stock market will be non-eventful as well.
On Monday, October 14, nothing of note is published.
On Tuesday, October 15 at 8:30 AM, the New York Empire State Manufacturing Index is released. JP Morgan (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), and Citigroup (C) kick off the Q3 earnings season with reports.
On Wednesday, October 16, at 8:30 AM, we learn the September Retail Sales. Bank of America (BAC) and CSX Corp. (CSX) report.
On Thursday, October 17 at 8:30 AM, the Housing Starts for September are out. Morgan Stanley (MS) reports.
On Friday, October 18 at 8:30 AM, the Baker Hughes Rig Count is released at 2:00 PM. Schlumberger (SLB), American Express (AXP), and Coca-Cola (KO) report.
As for me, I’ll be going to Costco to restock the fridge after last week’s two-day voluntary power outage by PG&E. Expecting Armageddon, I finished off all the Jack Daniels and chocolate in the house. We managed to eat all of our frozen burritos, pork chops, steaks, and ice cream in a mere 48 hours. But that’s what happens when you have two teenagers.
Hopefully, it will rain soon for the first time in six months bringing these outages to an end.
Good luck and good trading.
John Thomas CEO & Publisher The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/john-flowers.png375499Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-10-14 04:02:552019-10-14 04:16:36The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or Unicorns and Candy Cane
It was another dreadful DAY for the banks. All bank shares are now down in 2019 with the sole exception of JP Morgan, which is up a modest 10% since January 1. Although their core business is good, the share price hasn’t even bothered to mail it in.
So, I thought it would be time to take another look at what is disrupting the 200-year-old business model of this sector. And that would be Fintech, shorthand for Financial Technology.
To say that fintech was gobbling up the financial industry’s lunch would be a vast understatement. But here’s the problem. Fintech is taking over the world one transaction at a time in an industry that sees billions of transactions a year. The change is almost invisible. If someone were blowing up bank branches on a large scale this would be a far easier trend to see, but the net effect is the same.
The potential market is enormous. While the world’s physical money totals $5 trillion, actual assets controlled by banks today total a staggering $90 trillion.
Why this is all happening now is due to a confluence of several independent technologies. The number of people on the Internet has soared from 1.8 billion in 2010 to 4 billion today, to 8 billion by 2024.
Smartphone usage is diffusing at a similar rate. The roll out of 5G wireless assures that all communications will occur seamlessly, quickly, including financial transactions. Blockchain is enabling encryption on an industrial scale.
This has enabled the rise of a number of online firms over just the last few years that are rapidly taking over a number of traditional banking functions.
So far, the greatest impact has been overseas. Many countries that lack banking infrastructure are leapfrogging straight to mobile. It makes a ton of sense. Poor countries lack the capital to build expensive branch networks to raise fund, and the expertise on how to invest the deposits once in hand.
Good Money (https://goodmoney.com ) is an example of the new online banks that have burst onto the scene. The company offers depositors a generous 1.8% interest rate on overnight funds. Legacy banks are still paying close to zero, even though the Fed has raised rates seven times in three years.
US banks charge an average of $400 in fees a year for a full-service account. Good Money charges nothing.
You will never know where the money goes when you place it with Citibank (C), Bank of America (BAC) or Wells Fargo (WFC). At Good Money, you can specify that your funds be lent to a certain industry or even a specific company. While this means nothing to you or me, it is important issue to oriented Millennials.
Such efforts are called Crowdlending. It first took off in the US with startups like Prosper and Lending Club in the mid 2000s. We’re not talking small potatoes here, or a market that might develop someday. In 2018, some 22,000 businesses extended $380 billion in such loans.
There are other big markets ripe for disruption. I had to pay a Filipino developer $500 for some work he did on my website. Wells Fargo wanted to charge me $50 and the wire transfer would have taken a week. An outfit called Payoneer, Israel-based, did it for $5 and it took 5 seconds.
Wire transfer fees are in fact a global industry worth billions of dollars a year that is there for the taking. The SWIFT international transfer network alone processes some 24 million transactions per day.
It may not surprise many of you that China already has a huge lead in this area. It’s logical since their established banking system is primitive at best. China has three times more mobile phones than the US, five times more Internet customers, sees 10 times more eat-out orders, and 50 times more mobile transactions. In a future where data is currency, this is huge.
Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba (BABA), is in the forefront, facilitating an eye-popping $8 trillion worth of transactions in 2017. Using artificial intelligence to scour public records for past borrowing, income, education, web surfing preferences, and even political leanings, smart finance can use artificial intelligence to gin up a quickie FICO score and generate a new $200 micro loan in as little as eight seconds.
Bank of America eat your heart out.
What gives the Chinese such an advantage here is their huge market, with some 800 million online participants. The money Ant Financial makes isn’t important now. It’s the digitized data they’re collecting and the way it can be manipulated with artificial intelligence. That gives them immense market power. Remember, in the new world, data is the new currency and the Chinese are creating more than we ever will.
The problem with early, under-the-radar but broad-ranging trends, it can be tough to flesh out pure investment plays. Listed liquid tradable stocks are few and far between. You can simply go out and buy Square (SQ) and PayPal (PYPL) and you’d be half the way there in getting some good exposure.
Here’s the problem with that plan. PayPal has tripled in the last two years, while Square has gone ballistic with a 2,000% gain. I expect further appreciation from here, but those ships have already sailed.
A better way to participate might be the Global X Fintech Thematic ETF (FINX), granted you have all the usual problems with specialized ETFs here such as liquidity, high management fees, and tracking error. But you do get exposure to a number of companies that are either domiciled abroad or are not yet publicly listed.
The five largest holdings of (FINX) include Square (SQ), Wirecard AG (WCAGY), Temenos Group AG, Fiserve Inc (FISV), and Intuit (INTU).
You could also simply buy Alibaba. However, as long as America’s trade war with China continues, all Chinese stocks will perform poorly. Given the stubbornness of both sides, the earliest that can happen is January, 2021.
To learn more about (FINX), please go to the manager’s website by clicking here.
Days Gone By
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.png00Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-10-09 02:02:182019-12-09 13:03:40How Fintech is Eating the Banks' Lunch
Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader August 21Global Strategy Webinar broadcast with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader. Keep those questions coming!
Q: Hey Bill, how often have you heard the word “recession” in the last 24 hours?
A: Seems like every time I turn around. But then we’re also getting a pop in the market; we thought it bottomed a few days ago. The question was: how far were we going to get to bounce? This is going to be very telling as to what happens on this next rally.
Q: Can interest rates go lower?
A: Yes, they can go a lot lower. The general consensus in the US is that we bottom them out somewhere between zero and 1.0%. We’re already way below that in Europe, so we will see lower here in the US. It’s all happening because QE (quantitative easing) is ramping up on a global basis. Europe is about to announce a major QE program in the beginning of September, and the US ended their quantitative tightening way back in March. So, the global flooding of money from central banks, now at $17 trillion, is about to increase even more. That’s what’s causing these huge dislocations in the bond market.
Q: If we’re having trouble getting into trades, should we chase or not?
A: Never chase. Leave your limit in there at a price you’re happy with. Often times, you’ll get done at the end of the day when the high frequency traders cash out all their positions. They will artificially push up our trade alert prices during the day and take them right back down at the end of the day because they have to go 100% cash by the close of each day—they never carry overnight positions. That’s becoming a common way that people get filled on our Trade Alerts.
Q: Will Boris Johnson get kicked out before the hard Brexit occurs?
A: Probably, yes. I’m hoping for it, anyway. What may happen is Parliament forcing a vote on any hard Brexit. If that happens, it will lose, the prime minister will have to resign, and they’ll get a new prime minister. Labor is now campaigning on putting Brexit up to a vote one more time, and just demographic change alone over the last four years means that Brexit will lose in a landslide. That would pull England out of the last 4 years of indecision, torture, and economic funk. If that happens, expect British stock markets to soar and the pound (FXB) to go up, from $1.17 all the way back up to $1.65, where it was before the whole Brexit disaster took place.
Q: Is the US central bank turning into Japan?
A: Yes. If we go to zero rates and zero growth and recession happens, there’s no way to get out of it; and that is the exact situation Japan has been in. For 30 years they have had zero rates, and it’s done absolutely nothing to stimulate their economy or corporate profits. The question then—and one someone might ask Washington—is: why pursue a policy that’s already been proven unsuccessful in every country it’s been tried in?
Q: Will US household debt become a problem if there is a sharp recession?
A: Yes, that’s always a problem in recessions. It’s a major reason why financials have been in a freefall because default rates are about to rise substantially.
Q: Given the big spike in earnings in NVIDIA (NVDA), what now for the stock?
A: Wait for a 10% dip and buy it. This stock has triple in it over the next 3 years. You want to get into all the chip stocks like this, such as Micron Technology (MU), Lam Research (LRCX), and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
Q: Baidu (BIDU) has risen in earnings, with management saying the worst is over. Is this reality or is this a red herring?
A: I vote for A red herring. There’s no way the worst is over, unless the management of Baidu knows something we don’t about Chinese intentions.
Q: When will Wells Fargo (WFC) be out of the woods?
A: I hate the sector so I’m really not desperate to reach for marginal financials that I have to get into. If I do want to get into financials, it will be in JP Morgan (JPM), one of my favorites. The whole sector is getting slaughtered by low interest rates.
Q: Any idea when the trade war will end?
A: Yes, after the next presidential election. It’s not as if the Chinese are negotiating in bad faith here, they just have no idea how to deal with a United States that changes its position every day. It’s like negotiating with a piece of Jell-O, you can’t nail it down. At this point the Chinese have thrown their hands up and think they can get a better deal out of the next president.
Q: Would you short General Electric (GE) or wait for another bump up to short it?
A: I would wait for a bump. Obviously—with the latest accounting scandal, which compares (GE) with Enron and WorldCom—I don’t want to get involved with the stock. And we could get new lows once the facts of the case come out. There are too many better fish to fry, like in technology, so I would stay away from (GE).
Q: How do you put stop losses on your trade?
A: It’s a confluence of fundamentals and technicals. Obviously, we’re looking at key support levels on the charts; if those fail then we stop out of there. That doesn’t happen very often, maybe on 10% of our trades (and more recently even less than that). Our latest stop loss was on the (TLT) short. That was our biggest loss of the year but thank goodness we got out of that, because after we stopped out at $138 it went all the way to $146, so that’s why you do stop losses.
Q: How about putting on a (TLT) short now?
A: No, I think we’re going to new highs on (TLT) and new lows on interest rates. We’re just going through a temporary digestion period now. We’ll challenge the lows in rates and highs in prices once again, and you don’t want to be short when that happens. The liquidity is getting so bad in the bond market, you’re getting these gigantic gaps as a global buy panic in bonds continues.
Q: Do you have thoughts on what Fed Governor Powell may say in Jackson Hole, and any market reaction?
A: I have no idea what he might say, but he seems to be trying to walk a tightrope between presidential attacks and economic reality. With the stock market 3% short of an all-time high, I’m not sure how much of a hurry he will be in to lower interest rates. The Fed is usually behind the curve, lowering rates in response to a weak economy, and I’m not sure the actual data is weak enough yet for them to lower. The Fed never anticipates potential weakness (at least until the last raise) so we shall see. But we may have little volatility for the rest of the week and then a big move on Friday, depending on what he says.
Q: What is your take on the short term 6-18 months in residential real estate? Are Chinese tariffs and recession fears already priced in or will prices continue to drop?
A: Prices will continue to drop but not to the extent that we saw in ‘08 and ‘09 when prices dropped by 50, 60, 70% in the worst markets like Florida, Las Vegas, and Arizona. The reason for that is you have a chronic structural shortage in housing. All the home builders that went bankrupt in the last crash has resulted in a shortage, and you also have an immense generation of Millennials trying to buy homes now who’ve been shut out by higher interest rates and who may be coming back in. So, I’m not expecting anything remotely resembling a crash in real estate, just a slowdown. And new homes are actually not falling at all. That’s because the builders are deliberately restraining supply there.
Q: What is a good LEAP to put on now?
A: There aren’t any. We’re somewhat in the middle of a wider, longer-term range, and I want to wait until we get to the bottom of that; when people are jumping out of windows—that’s when you want to start putting on your long term LEAPS (long term equity anticipation securities), and when you get the biggest returns. We may get a shot at that sometime in the next month or two before a year in rally begins. If you held a gun to my head and told me I had to buy a leap, it would probably be in Boeing (BA), which is down 35% from its high.
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/john-telescope-e1503946045827.jpg328400Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-08-23 01:02:022019-10-14 09:40:44August 21 Biweekly Strategy Webinar Q&A
The current business model of social media is dead, and the future model seems in doubt – that was the take away from world’s largest social media platform at F8 that I attended, its annual developer conference.
Co-founder and CEO Facebook (FB) Mark Zuckerberg stated at the event that “in our digital lives, we also need both public and private spaces,” an impromptu call to action to migrate users into a new private digital world with Facebook dictating the terms.
The sushi must really be hitting the fan for Zuckerberg to announce his future vision of social media, and the writing is on the wall for his current social media experiment, that is, if he continues along at the same rate.
The projected $5 billion fine incurred by Facebook from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy handling of personal data is peanuts for the social media company, but this could be the first of numerous fines doled out by regional and national regulatory bureaus that span from the Bay Area to Vietnam.
Facebook is a company that made over $55 billion in revenue last year and the $5 billion would amount to less than 10% of annual sales.
From that $55 billion, Facebook earned profits of over $22 billion, and this $22 billion is what the regulatory battles are about, along with the co-founder’s tenacious defense of deploying his users as free content.
The firm has continued to post operating margins of over 40% and delivered margins of 46% last quarter, a sequential rise of 4% in Q4 2018.
The Oracle of Omaha better known as Warren Buffet cited necessitating accountability for CEOs that drive a company into a government bailout especially banks.
He advocated that these executives and their spouses should be stripped of their net worth if they damage shareholder value.
The comments were directed at the way Wells Fargo’s (WFC) former CEO Tim Sloan crippled Wells Fargo and has since been sidelined during the long bull market in equities.
At some point, Zuckerberg could confront similar ructions because of his efforts at perverting democracy that has caused innumerable damage to American democracy and global society, and I am certain his legion of lawyers are already hatching a plan to tackle this thorny predicament.
If you ponder about his announcement in a zero-sum environment, it makes no sense for Facebook to pivot to “private” messages.
This leads me to believe his words are smoke and mirrors so that Facebook can perpetuate its duopoly and force digital ad players to continue to drink from the same Kool-Aid.
As before, Zuckerberg still believes this game of cat and mouse is a half-baked marketing fix.
This is why many of his trusted disciples such as former executive Chris Cox left under a shroud of mystery citing “artistic differences” in terminating his tenure at Facebook.
It is clear to many that Facebook is barreling straight into an even more frightening future.
What does the announcement mean from a business perspective?
Zuckerberg will continue to purge anyone that disagrees with him, even trusted lieutenants, and continue to integrate the family of apps into one big platform that includes Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp messenger.
These three will become one and thus, Zuckerberg’s ad machine rolls on like the dystopian action film Mad Max.
Let me remind you, these drastic measures boil down to Facebook doing everything they can to keep content costs down.
If they, for example, have to go the same route as Netflix (NFLX) – overpaying for the best actors and directors to generate premium content, the stock would halve the next day.
And that is what Zuckerberg is desperately hoping to avoid after the 30% dip in shares in 2018 because of regulatory headwinds.
Combining the three apps would be impossible to regulate at a time that regulation is rearing its ugly head.
Zuckerberg is intentionally upping the ante and accruing more risk in the hope that Facebook can outmuscle its way through in one piece.
The ad industry is crying out for something new, but as long as Zuckerberg’s claws are firmly into the meat of the digital ad budgets for most companies, he gets to decide how the industry develops because he knows the ad dollars will stick.
In the future, your private chats won’t be private because Zuckerberg will be mining the data for ad dollar revenue.
No matter what he says, nothing will change unless Facebook goes in an entirely new direction which would inhibit sales.
Until the fines become material, let’s say 70% of annual revenue or something of that nature, a $5 billion hit to the bottom line will not persuade the management to transform their practices.
Expect less privacy, and WhatsApp and Instagram to be heavily monetized through ad promotion and data mining even though Zuckerberg pledging his company won’t hold user data “longer than necessary.”
As for Facebook itself, Zuckerberg can’t throw his baby out with the bathwater and will hope to minimize its deceleration by bundling it with the growth trajectory of WhatsApp and Instagram.
Instead of major structural changes, Zuckerberg continues to beat around the bush saying, “You should expect that we’re not going to store your data in countries where there’s weak data protection.”
This is not the crux of the problem and shows Zuckerberg is still paying lip service and not ponying up to reality.
Attaching Facebook and its dying model is not an attractive strategy leading to a slew of executive resignations.
I believe this could all end in calamity for Zuckerberg as he figures piling on more risk onto the elevated risk levels is the right decision making Warren Buffet’s point for him about CEO’s accountability.
Should Zuckerberg refund shareholders if his flight turns into a suicide mission then claims to be an unwitting victim?
And how does he even refund democracy with his apps causing major unrest to society such as killings that occur because of the distribution of fake news on his platforms?
Making a hot potato hotter might work for the short term and if ad dollars stream into WhatsApp and Instagram, Zuckerberg will claim victory.
But at some point, the potato will scald his hands so bad that it will drop.
Your private chats will be the content at the fulcrum of his data broker empire since his “digital town square” approach isn’t working anymore.
The company is utterly incentivized to figure out how to continue this ad revenue carnival because 93% of total revenue last quarter came from digital ads which is up from the prior year when it constituted 89%.
It all sounds like a big brother apocalyptical novel, which we are in, scarily, in putting out this dialogue before the firestorm starts, Facebook wants to normalize, and front runs the craziness of selling your private chat data before it becomes a national issue.
Will regulators shut this down or will they be naïve and turn a blind eye?
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/fb-operating-margin-1.png718974Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-05-07 04:06:462019-07-11 13:16:46The Lurking Dangers Behind Facebook