Posts

July 3, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 3, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(CHIPS ARE BACK FROM THE DEAD)
(XLNX), (HUAWEI), (AAPL), (AMD), (TXN), (QCOM), (ADI), (NVDA), (INTC)

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.

 

March 13, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
March 13, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(NVIDIA STEPS UP ITS GAME),
(NVDA), (INTC), (MSFT), (ANET), (CSCO), (MCHP), (XLNX)

Nvidia Steps Up its Game

Nvidia (NVDA) was right to pull the trigger – that was my first reaction when I first learned that they had aggressively acquired Israeli chip company Mellanox for $6.9 billion.

The fight to seize these assets were fierce triggering a bidding war -American heavyweights Intel and Microsoft were also in the mix but lost out.

CEO of Nvidia Jensen Huang touted the importance of the deal by explaining that “the emergence of AI and data science as well as billions of simultaneous computer users, is fueling skyrocketing demand on the world’s data centers.”

Therefore, satisfying this demand will require holistic architectures that connect massive numbers of fast computing nodes over intelligent networking fabrics to form a giant datacenter-scale compute engine.

Mellanox and its capabilities cover all the bases for Nvidia and will nicely slot into its portfolio offering, an added bonus of cross-selling and upselling opportunities to existing clients.

The strategic motives behind the deal are plentiful with increased importance of connectivity and bandwidth enhancing Nvidia’s ability to provide datacenter-scale computing across the full stack for next-generation high-performance computing and AI workloads.

The agreement is the result of the company’s shift toward next-gen technology as adoption of cloud, AI, and robotics ramps up and Nvidia will be at the forefront of this massive migration.

As the fourth industrial revolution advances, Nvidia is best of breed of semiconductor companies and the imminent adoption of 5G will aid the likes of Microchip Technology (MCHP) and Xilinx (XLNX).

Technology is rapidly changing, and the data center is the segment that is accelerating at a faster clip than in previous years translating into de-emphasizing current revenues of gaming and autonomous on a relative growth basis.

These segments will be secondary to the addressable opportunity in data center and signing up Mellanox is a key strategic initiative to exploit this growth opportunity.

Missing the boat on this compelling opportunity could have dragged Nvidia into an existential crisis down the road as the missed opportunity costs of lucrative data center revenues would begin to bite, and with no quick fix on the horizon, Nvidia’s growth drivers would be potentially disarmed.

Investors need to remember that Nvidia derives half of its revenue from China and up until this point, gaming had been a huge tailwind to its total revenue, however, the Chinese communist party has identified gaming addiction in young adults as a national crisis and have been refusing to deliver new gaming licenses to gaming creators.

As the data center via the cloud begins its next ramp-up of insatiable demand, Nvidia was acutely aware they could not miss the boat and to grab a foot hole against larger player Intel.

Almost overpaying to have more skin in the game does not do justice to what the ramifications would have been if Intel or even Microsoft were able to hijack this deal.

The two-fold victory will in turn boost sales of Nvidia’s data center products long term while depriving Intel of extending the lead in data center.

And after the lack of recent underperformance in the prior quarter, Nvidia needed a gamechanger to cauterize the blood flow.

Nvidia’s total revenue plunged more than 24% YOY in Q4 of 2018, and shareholders have been looking for remedies, especially after the once mythical cryptocurrency business blew up and the company was stuck with a glut of inventory.

The purchase of Mellanox will help Nvidia start competing with other dominant players like Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Arista Networks (ANET).

Mellanox is one of a handful of firms selling hardware that connects devices in the data center through network cards, switches, and cables.

The deal still needs regulatory approval and could be a stumbling block if Chinese authorities drag this into the orbit of the trade war and make it a bullet point in negotiations.

The net result is positive to the overall business model, and this move will breathe oxygen into Nvidia’s long-term narrative with a flow of revenue set to come online once the 5,000 Mellanox employees are integrated into Nvidia’s levers of operation.

Shares should be the recipient of short-term strength and after getting smushed by a poor last quarter, there is substantial room to the upside.

A dip back to $150 would serve as a good entry point to strap on a short-term bullish trade in Nvidia shares.

 

 

 

January 28, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
January 28, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(BUY DIPS IN SEMIS, NOT TOPS),
(XLNX), (LRCX), (AMD), (TXN), (NVDA), (INTC), (SOXX), (SMH), (MU), (QQQ)

January 28, 2019

Global Market Comments
January 28, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(THE MARKET FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or IT’S FINALLY OVER)
(SPY), (TLT), (FXE), (MSFT), (AAPL),
 (PG), (F), (LRCX), (AMD), (XLNX)

The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or It’s Finally Over

Last week, I was too busy to cook dinner for my brood, so I ordered a pizza delivery. When an older man showed up with our dinner, I told the kids to tip him double. After all, he might be an unpaid federal air traffic controller.

It is a good thing I work late on Friday afternoon because that’s when the government shutdown ended after 35 days. The bad news? The government stops getting paid again in only 18 more days. If you have to travel, you better do it quick as the open window may be short.

The most valuable thing we learned from all of this is that the weak point in America is the airline transportation system which relies on 4,000 flights to get the country’s business done.

Having once owned a European air charter company, I could have told you as much was coming. Every nut, bolt, and screw that goes into a US registered aircraft has to be inspected by the federal government. They are painted yellow when viewed which is called “yellow tagging”. No inspection, no screw. No screw, no airplane. No airplane, no flight. No flight, no economy. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a $30 million aircraft grounded by a failed 50-cent part.

And here’s what most investors don’t get. We lost 75 basis points in GDP growth from the shutdown. We may lose another 75 basis points restarting. And if you lose 1.50% from a post-Christmas period that is normally weak anyway, Q1 GDP may well come in negative. Hello recession!

We won’t know for sure until the first advanced estimate of Q1 GDP from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis is published on April 26. That’s when the sushi will hit the fan. That, by the way, is perilously close for the May 10 prediction of the end of the entire ten-year bull market.

How did investors fare during the shutdown? We clocked the best January in 32 years with the Dow Average up 7.55%. Maybe the government should stay closed all the time!

It is not like the government shutdown, the fading Chinese trade talks, and the arrest of the president’s pal were the only things happening last week.

A slowing China is freaking out investors everywhere. Even if a trade deal is cut tomorrow, it may not be enough to pull the economy out of a downward death spiral. Look out below! A 6.6% growth rate for 2018 is the slowest in 30 years.

Existing Home Sales were down a disastrous 6.4%, in December and 10% YOY, the worst read since 2012. The government shutdown is made closings nearly impossible.

The EC’s Mario Draghi said there would be no euro rate rises until 2020 and the US bond market took off like a rocket. Another point or two and we’ll be in short selling territory again. Don’t count on Europe to pull us out of the next recession. Whoever came up with the idea of putting an Italian in charge of Europe’s finances anyway? Like that was such a great idea.

Procter & Gamble (PG) beat with an upside earnings surprise. It must be all those people buying soap to wash their hands of our political system. But Ford (F) disappointed, dragged down by weak foreign earnings. The weakest big car company to get into electric cars is really starting to suffer. The last of the buggy whip makers is taking a swan dive

The semis have bottomed in the wake of spectacular earnings reports from (LRCX), (AMD), and (XLNX). The great artificial intelligence play is back in action after a severe spanking. I never had any doubt they would come back. Now for an entry point.

Farmers are leaving crops to rot in the field as the trade war with China destroys prices and the Mexicans needed to harvest them are trapped at the border. There’s got to be an easier way to earn a living. Avoid the ags and all ag plays. Short tofu stocks!

Investors are now sitting on pins and needles wondering if we get a repeat of the horrific February of 2018, or whether so far great earnings reports will drive us to higher highs. Earnings tail off right when the next government shutdown is supposed to start so our lives will be interesting, to say the least.

My January and 2019 year to date return soared to +7.24%, boosting my trailing one-year return back up to +30.23%. 

My nine-year return climbed up to +308.14%, a mere 1.72% short of a new all time high. The average annualized return revived to +33.61%. 

I have been dancing in between the raindrops using rallies to take profits on longs and big dips to cover shorts.

I started out the week using the 4 1/2 point plunge in the bond market (TLT) to cover the last of my shorts there, bring in a whopper of a $1,680 profit in only 13 trading days. To quote the Terminator (whose girlfriend I once dated, the Terminatrix), I’ll be back.”

I used the big 500-point swoon in the Dow on Monday to come out of my (SPY) short at cost. An unfortunate comment on interest rates by the European Central Bank forced me to stop out of my long in the Euro (FXE), also at cost.

That has whittled my portfolio down to only two positions, a long in Microsoft (MSFT) and a short in Apple (AAPL). As a pairs trade you could probably run this position for years. I am now 80% in cash.

The goal is to go 100% into cash into the February option expiration in 14 trading days, wait for a big breakout, and then fade it. Essentially, I am waiting for the market to tell me what to do. That will enable me to bank double-digit profits for the start of 2019, the best in a decade.

The upcoming week is very iffy on the data front because of the government shutdown. Some government data may be delayed and other completely missing. Private sources will continue reporting on schedule. All of the data will be completely skewed for at least the next three months. You can count on the shutdown to dominate all media until it is over.

Jobs data will be the big events over the coming five days along with some important housing numbers. We also have several heavies reporting earnings.

On Monday, January 28 at 8:30 AM EST, we get the Chicago Fed National Activity Index.

 On Tuesday, January 29, 9:00 AM EST, the Case Shiller National Home Price Index for November is released.  The ever important Apple (AAPL) earnings are out after the close, along with Juniper Networks (JNPR).

On Wednesday, January 30 at 8:15 AM EST, the ADP Private Employment Report is announced. Pending Home Sales for December follows. Boeing Aircraft (BA) and Facebook (FB), and PayPal (PYPL) announce.

 Thursday, January 31 at 8:30 AM EST, we get Weekly Jobless Claims. We also get the all-important Consumer Spending Index for December. Amazon (AMZN) and General Electric (GE) announce.

On Friday, February 1 at 8:30 AM EST, the January NonFarm Payroll Report hits the tape.

The Baker-Hughes Rig Count follows at 1:00 PM. Schlumberger (SLB) announces earnings. Home Sales is released. AbbVie Inc (ABBV) and DR Horton (DHI) report.

As for me, I will be celebrating my birthday. Believe me, lighting 67 candles creates a real bonfire. I received the best birthday card ever from my daughter which I have copied below

Good luck and good trading.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.