» Simit's Stock Portfolio & Trading Plan
The portfolio below does not include Simit's investments in high growth potential companies with market capitalization below $100 million. Those investments and more are available to Gold Club subscribers.
1. I'm willing to risk at least 50%, while looking for at least 5X return on overall portfolio.
2. Buy at support, or a massive sell-off. Focus accumulation of uranium miners employing ISR techniques, gold miners with unique properties, royalty gold stocks, and firms with top management.
3. If any position doubles in value, sell half.
4. Hold the rest till top of market. For uranium miners, this is at least a price per pound of $140 in the uranium market; for gold, it depends: need to see a new international monetary agreement and some type of resolution to the global sovereign debt crisis.
5. Exit uranium if China and India back off nuclear.
6. Possibly exit on change of management.
» Join the Gold Club
Gold Club subscription provides members with
- Recommendations of companies whose market capitalization is under $100 million that are believed to have explosive growth potential
- Monthly updates on Simit's portfolio and recommendations of all stocks he holds
- A watchlist of stocks he is considering buying on dips
- Email access to Simit for any of your personal portfolio questions
To get a sample of Simit's writing style, and to see his coverage of macro issues as well as companies with a market capitalization larger than $100 million, see his commentary on SeekingAlpha.
As this is a new offering, subscriptions are currently available at a discounted price of $100 per year.
Register first -- then click the button below to choose your subscription option.
» Albania maintains rate, may cut further if risks worsen
Dec 19, 2014 - by InformedTrades
Albania's central bank maintained its key interest rate at 2.25 percent and expects to maintain an expansionary monetary policy as the balance of risks remain to the downside and said any worsening of risk scenarios "may require further revisions of the monetary policy stance."
The Bank of Albania, which has cut its rate by 75 basis points this year, most recently in November, said the rise in November inflation was in line with expectations and inflation should rise gradually in coming months despite weak inflationary pressures.
Albania's headline inflation rate rose to 1.7 percent in November from October's 1.4 percent due to higher prices of unprocessed food, medicine and rentals.
The Bank of Albania issued the following statement:
"Today, on 18 December 2014, the Supervisory Council of the Bank of Albania reviewed and approved the Monthly Monetary Policy Report. After scrutinizing the latest domestic economic and monetary developments, and following the discussions on their expected performance in the future, the Supervisory Council decided to maintain the key interest rate unchanged at 2.25%. The Supervisory Council evaluates that the current monetary policy stance and financial conditions support the return of the economy to its potential and the gradual return of inflation to target in the medium-term period.
Inflation was 1.7% in November, up from the previous month. Inflation rose due to the higher contribution from unprocessed foods, from medicaments and from rental prices. The other items’ contribution to annual inflation remained relatively unchanged from the previous month.
The increase of the inflation rate was in line with Bank of Albania’s expectations, but its realised rate remained on the lower bound of projections. Inflation is expected to rise gradually during the subsequent months, but the overall balance of inflationary pressures remains weak. Our economic and monetary analyses show that the stable return of inflation to target will materialise in the medium-term period.
Low inflation rates over the last quarters reflect weak pressures from both the demand and the supply side. Although edging up, domestic demand appears insufficient to fully utilise production capacities in the economy. Unutilised resources in the labour and capital markets, as well as low inflation expectations have contributed to slow growth in wages, production costs and profit margins. This dynamic is reflected in the low core inflation rates. In parallel, inflation rates in Albania's trading partners appear moderate and the transmission to the domestic market is hampered by the cyclical weakness of demand. Lastly, the current monetary expansion and the liquidity situation in the economy are in line with low inflation levels.
The Bank of Albania expects a gradual improvement of the factors contributing to inflation. In particular, economic growth and the cyclical position of the economy are expected to improve, responding also to the stimulating monetary policy we have implemented.
The economic activity is evaluated to have improved in the second half of the year, upheld mainly by the recovery of domestic demand. Following the key interest rate cut by the Bank of Albania, lending standards appear improved and have supported the increase of consumption and private investment.
The external economic environment has not supported the growth of Albanian exports during 2014. Coupled with some structural changes in export-oriented industries, this factor has been reflected in a progressive slowdown of growth rates of Albanian exports and in an expansion of Albania's trade deficit. In annual terms, the nominal trade deficit for goods expanded by 20.4% in October. In contrast to the first half of the year, the performance of goods exports gave a negative contribution to the trade deficit enlargement. On the other hand, imports continued the upward trend that had begun in the last quarter of the previous year.
Fiscal policy pursued an overall consolidating stance throughout 2014. Until October, the budget deficit was around 31% lower than in the same period in the previous year, reflecting the rise by 12.6% of fiscal revenues and the increase by 5.1% of public expenditures. The speed of fiscal consolidation decelerated in the second half of the year and the fiscal policy was stimulatory during this period. However, in the medium term, fiscal policy is expected to remain committed to reducing the public debt.
Projections for low inflationary pressures and below-potential economic growth have guided the progressive increase of the monetary stimulus. At the end of November, the key interest rate was cut down to 2.25%. This move is already reflected in short-term interest rates in the interbank market and is expected to be reflected also in other segments of the financial market. While interest rates remain at low historical levels and liquidity conditions are stable, risk aversion of businesses, households and of the banking system still prevails. Private sector credit was up 3.5% in annual terms in October, from 2.1% in the previous month. Despite the positive trend, credit recovery remains sluggish and is not supported by solid fundamentals. Credit demand is expected to grow steadily, in line with the expected positive performance of economic activity in Albania. On the other hand, lending is expected to be also supported by the adjustment of the banking system’s balance sheets from non-performing loans, and by the financial policies of banking groups that operate in Albania. These factors will determine the credit in the next year.
Our projections suggest an upward trajectory for the Albanian economy in 2014 and in the medium-term. The economy is expected to benefit from the stimulating macroeconomic policies, the improved confidence of economic agents, and the easing of financing conditions. Within the monetary policy’s timeline of impact, the Bank of Albania expects its stimulus to be reflected in both bringing financing costs down and stimulating demand for consumption and investments in the economy. Moreover, the rigorous commitment of the government for fiscal consolidation and the completion of structural reforms in the economy should help reduce risk premia and facilitate initiatives for foreign and domestic investments in the country.
The above projections are consistent and will require maintaining the stimulating trend of the monetary policy in the future. On the other hand, the Bank of Albania judges that the balance of risks remains on the down side. Materialisation of risk scenarios or shift of our projections on the down side may require further revisions of the monetary policy stance.
After concluding the discussions, the Supervisory Council decided to maintain the key interest rate unchanged at 2.25%. The Supervisory Council assessed that the prevailing current monetary conditions are suitable to support price stability in the medium term. Judging from the projections in the base line scenario, the Supervisory Council assesses that, to achieve the inflation target in the medium term, it is necessary that the monetary policy stance remains expansionary for the upcoming quarters. "
Go to Original Story
0 Replies | 6 Views | Go to Discussion Page
» Outside the Box: The Burning Questions For 2015 (John Mauldin)
Dec 19, 2014 - by InformedTrades
Originally Published by Mauldin Economics
Louis Gave is one of my favorite investment and economic thinkers, besides being a good friend and an all-around fun guy. When he and his father Charles and the well-known European journalist Anatole Kaletsky decided to form Gavekal some 15 years ago, Louis moved to Hong Kong, as they felt that Asia and especially China would be a part of the world they would have to understand. Since then Gavekal has expanded its research offices all over the world. The Gavekal team’s various research arms produce an astounding amount of work on an incredibly wide range of topics, but somehow Louis always seems to be on top of all of it.
Longtime readers know that I often republish a piece by someone in their firm (typically Charles or Louis). I have to be somewhat judicious, as their research is actually quite expensive, but they kindly give me permission to share it from time to time.
This week, for your Outside the Box reading, I bring you one of the more thought-provoking pieces I’ve read from Louis in some time. In Thoughts from the Frontline I have been looking at world problems we need to focus on as we enter 2015. Today, Louis also gives us a piece along these lines, called “The Burning Questions for 2015,” in which he thinks about a “Chinese Marshall Plan” (and what a stronger US dollar might do to China), Abenomics as a “sideshow,” US capital misallocation, and whether or not we should even care about Europe. I think you will find the piece well worth your time.
Think about this part of his conclusion as you read:
Most investors go about their job trying to identify ‘winners’. But more often than not, investing is about avoiding losers. Like successful gamblers at the racing track, an investor’s starting point should be to eliminate the assets that do not stand a chance, and then spread the rest of one’s capital amongst the remainder.
Wise words indeed.
A Yellow Card from Barry
What you don’t often get to see is the lively debate that happens among my friends about my writing, even as I comment on theirs. Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture pulled a yellow card on me over a piece of data he contended I had cherry-picked from Zero Hedge. He has a point. I should have either not copied that sentence (the rest of the quote was OK) or noted the issue date. Quoting Barry:
Did you cherry pick this a little much?
“… because since December 2007, or roughly the start of the global depression, shale oil states have added 1.36 million jobs while non-shale states have lost 424,000 jobs.”
I must point out how intellectually disingenuous this start date is, heading right into the crisis – why not use December 2010? Or 5 or 10 years? This is misleading in other ways:
It is geared to start before the crisis & recovery, so that it forces the 10 million jobs lost in the crisis to be offset by the 10 million new jobs added since the recovery began. That creates a very misleading picture of where growth comes from.
We have created 10 million new jobs since June 2009. Has Texas really created 4 million new jobs? The answer is no.
According to [the St. Louis Fed] FRED [database]:
PAYEMS – or NFP – has gone from 130,944 to 140,045, a gain of 9,101 over that period.
TXNA – Total Nonfarm in Texas – has gone from 10,284 to 11,708, for a gain of 1,424.
That gain represents 15.6% of the 9.1MM total.
Well yes, Barry, but because of oil and other things (like a business-friendly climate), Texas did not lose as many jobs in the recession as the rest of the nation did, which is where you can get skewed data, depending on when you start the count and what you are trying to illustrate.
My main point is that energy production has been a huge upside producer of jobs, and that source of new jobs is going away. And yes, Josh, the net benefit for at least the first six months until the job non-production shows up (if it does) is a positive for the economy and the consumer. But I was trying to highlight a potential problem that could hurt US growth. Oil is likely to go to $40 before settling in the $50 range for a while. Will it eventually go back up? Yes. But it’s anybody’s guess as to when.
By the way, a former major hedge fund manager who closed his fund a number of years ago casually mentioned at a party the other night that he hopes oil goes to $35 and that we see a true shakeout in the oil patch. He grew up in a West Texas oil family and truly understands the cycles in the industry, especially for the smaller producers. From his point of view, a substantial shakeout creates massive upside opportunities in lots of places. “Almost enough,” he said, “to tempt me to open a new fund.”
On a different note, everyone is Christmas shopping and trying to find the right gift. Two recommendations. First, the Panasonic wet/dry electric razor (with five blades). I just bought a new set of blades and covers for mine after two years (you do have to replace them every now and then); and the new, improved shave reminded me how much I was in love with it when I bought it. Best shaver ever.
Second, and I know this is a little odd, but for a number of years I’ve been recommending a face cream that contains skin stem cells, which I and quite a number of my readers have noticed really helps rejuvenate our older skin. (I came across the product while researching stem-cell companies with Patrick Cox.) It clearly makes a difference for some people. I get ladies coming up all the time and thanking me for the recommendation, and guys too sometimes shyly admit they use it regularly. (It turns out that just as many men buy the product as women.) The company is Lifeline Skin Care, and they have discounted the product for my readers. If you can get past the fact that this is a financial analyst recommending a skin cream for a Christmas gift, then click on this link.
It is time to hit the send button. I trust you are having a good week. Now settle in and grab a cup of coffee or some wine (depending on the time of day and your mood), and let’s see what Louis has to say.
Your trying to catch up analyst,
John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Boxsubscribers@mauldineconomics.com
The Burning Questions For 2015
By Louis-Vincent Gave, GavekalDragonomics
With two reports a day, and often more, readers sometimes complain that keeping tabs on the thoughts of the various Gavekal analysts can be a challenge. So as the year draws to a close, it may be helpful if we recap the main questions confronting investors and the themes we strongly believe in, region by region.
1. A Chinese Marshall Plan?
When we have conversations with clients about China – which typically we do between two and four times a day – the talk invariably revolves around how much Chinese growth is slowing (a good bit, and quite quickly); how undercapitalized Chinese banks are (a good bit, but fat net interest margins and preferred share issues are solving the problem over time); how much overcapacity there is in real estate (a good bit, but – like youth – this is a problem that time will fix); how much overcapacity there is in steel, shipping, university graduates and corrupt officials; how disruptive China’s adoption of assembly line robots will be etc.
All of these questions are urgent, and the problems that prompted them undeniably real, which means that China’s policymakers certainly have their plates full. But this is where things get interesting: in all our conversations with Western investors, their conclusion seems to be that Beijing will have little choice but to print money aggressively, devalue the renminbi, fiscally stimulate the economy, and basically follow the path trail-blazed (with such success?) by Western policymakers since 2008. However, we would argue that this conclusion represents a failure both to think outside the Western box and to read Beijing’s signal flags.
In numerous reports (and in Chapters 11 to 14 of Too Different For Comfort) we have argued that the internationalization of the renminbi has been one of the most significant macro events of recent years. This internationalization is continuing apace: from next to nothing in 2008, almost a quarter of Chinese trade will settle in renminbi in 2014:
This is an important development which could have a very positive impact on a number of emerging markets. Indeed, a typical, non-oil exporting emerging market policymaker (whether in Turkey, the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Argentina or India) usually has to worry about two things that are completely out of his control:
1) A spike in the US dollar. Whenever the US currency shoots up, it presents a hurdle for growth in most emerging markets. The first reason is that most trade takes place in US dollars, so a stronger US dollar means companies having to set aside more money for working capital needs. The second is that most emerging market investors tend to think in two currencies: their own and the US dollar. Catch a cab in Bangkok, Cairo, Cape Town or Jakarta and ask for that day’s US dollar exchange rate and chances are that the driver will know it to within a decimal point. This sensitivity to exchange rates is important because it means that when the US dollar rises, local wealth tends to flow out of local currencies as investors sell domestic assets and into US dollar assets, typically treasuries (when the US dollar falls, the reverse is true).
2) A rapid rise in oil or food prices. Violent spikes in oil and food prices can be highly destabilizing for developing countries, where the median family spends so much more of their income on basic necessities than the typical Western family. Sudden spikes in the price of food or energy can quickly create social and political tensions. And that’s not all; for oil-importing countries, a spike in oil prices can lead to a rapid deterioration in trade balances. These tend to scare foreign investors away, so pushing the local currency lower and domestic interest rates higher, which in turn leads to weaker growth etc...
Looking at these two concerns, it is hard to escape the conclusion that, as things stand, China is helping to mitigate both:
Beyond providing stability to emerging markets, the gradual acceptance of the renminbi as a secondary trading and reserve currency for emerging markets has further implications. The late French economist Jacques Rueff showed convincingly how, when global trade moved from a gold-based settlement system to a US dollar-based system, purchasing power was duplicated. As the authors of a recent Wall Street Journal article citing Reuff’s work explained: “If the Banque de France counts among its reserves dollar claims (and not just gold and French francs) – for example a Banque de France deposit in a New York bank – this increases the money supply in France but without reducing the money supply of the US. So both countries can use these dollar assets to grant credit.” Replace Banque de France with Bank Indonesia, and US dollar with renminbi and the same causes will lead to the same effects.
- China’s policy of renminbi internationalization means that emerging markets are able gradually to reduce their dependence on the US dollar. As they do, spikes in the value of the US currency (such as we have seen in 2014) are becoming less painful.
- The slowdown in Chinese oil demand, as well as China’s ability to capitalize on Putin’s difficulties to transform itself from a price-taker to a price-setter, means that the impact of oil and commodities on trade balances is much more contained.
Consider British Columbia’s recently issued AAA-rated two year renminbi dim sum bond. Yielding 2.85%, this bond was actively subscribed to by foreign central banks, which ended up receiving more than 50% of the initial allocation (ten times as much as in the first British Columbia dim sum issue two years ago). After the issue British Columbia takes the proceeds and deposits them in a Chinese bank, thereby capturing a nice spread. In turn, the Chinese bank can multiply this money five times over (so goes money creation in China). Meanwhile, the Indonesian, Korean or Kazakh central banks that bought the bonds now have an asset on their balance sheet which they can use to back an expansion of trade with China...
Of course, for trade to flourish, countries need to be able to specialize in their respective comparative advantages, hence the importance of the kind of free trade deals discussed at the recent APEC meeting. But free trade deals are not enough; countries also need trade infrastructure (ports, airports, telecoms, trade finance banks etc...). This brings us to China’s ‘new silk road’ strategy and the recent announcement by Beijing of a US$40bn fund to help finance road and rail infrastructure in the various ‘stans’ on its western borders in a development that promises to cut the travel time from China to Europe from the current 30 days by sea to ten days or less overland.
Needless to say, such a dramatic reduction in transportation time could help prompt some heavy industry to relocate from Europe to Asia.
That’s not all. At July’s BRICS summit in Brazil, leaders of the five member nations signed a treaty launching the US$50bn New Development Bank, which Beijing hopes will be modeled on China Development Bank, and is likely to compete with the World Bank. This will be followed by the establishment of a China-dominated BRICS contingency fund (challenging the International Monetary Fund). Also on the cards is an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to rival the Asian Development Bank.
So what looks likely to take shape over the next few years is a network of railroads and motorways linking China’s main production centers to Bangkok, Singapore, Karachi, Almaty, Moscow, Yangon, Kolkata. We will see pipelines, dams, and power plants built in Siberia, Central Asia, Pakistan and Myanmar; as well as airports, hotels, business centers... and all of this financed with China’s excess savings, and leverage. Given that China today has excess production capacity in all of these sectors, one does not need a fistful of university diplomas to figure out whose companies will get the pick of the construction contracts.
But to finance all of this, and to transform herself into a capital exporter, China needs stable capital markets and a strong, convertible currency. This explains why, despite Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations, Beijing is pressing ahead with the internationalization of the renminbi using the former British colony as its proving ground (witness the Shanghai-HK stock connect scheme and the removal of renminbi restrictions on Hong Kong residents). And it is why renminbi bonds have delivered better risk-adjusted returns over the past five years than almost any other fixed income market.
Of course, China’s strategy of internationalizing the renminbi, and integrating its neighbors into its own economy might fall flat on its face. Some neighbors bitterly resent China’s increasing assertiveness. Nonetheless, the big story in China today is not ‘ghost cities’ (how long has that one been around?) or undercapitalized banks. The major story is China’s reluctance to continue funneling its excess savings into US treasuries yielding less than 2%, and its willingness to use that capital instead to integrate its neighbors’ economies with its own; using its own currency and its low funding costs as an ‘appeal product’ (and having its own companies pick up the contracts as a bonus). In essence, is this so different from what the US did in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s with the Marshall Plan?
2. Japan: Is Abenomics just a sideshow?
With Japan in the middle of a triple dip recession, and Japanese households suffering a significant contraction in real disposable income, it might seem that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has chosen an odd time to call a snap election. Three big factors explain his decision:
1) The Japanese opposition is in complete disarray. So Abe’s decision may primarily have been opportunistic.
2) We must remember that Abe is the most nationalist prime minister Japan has produced in a generation. The expansion of China’s economic presence across Central and South East Asia will have left him feeling at least as uncomfortable as anyone who witnessed his Apec handshake with Xi Jinping three weeks ago. It is not hard to imagine that Abe returned from Beijing convinced that he needs to step up Japan’s military development; a policy that requires him to command a greater parliamentary majority than he holds now.
3) The final factor explaining Abe’s decision to call an election may be that in Japan the government’s performance in opinion polls seems to mirror the performance of the local stock market (wouldn’t Barack Obama like to see such a correlation in the US?). With the Nikkei breaking out to new highs, Abe may feel that now is the best time to try and cement his party’s dominant position in the Diet.
As he gets ready to face the voters, how should Abe attempt to portray himself? In our view, he could do worse than present himself as Japan Inc’s biggest salesman. Since the start of his second mandate, Abe has visited 49 countries in 21 months, and taken hundreds of different Japanese CEOs along with him for the ride. The message these CEOs have been spreading is simple: Japan is a very different place from 20 years ago. Companies are doing different things, and investment patterns have changed. Many companies have morphed into completely different animals, and are delivering handsome returns as a result. The relative year to date outperformances of Toyo Tire (+117%), Minebea (+95%), Mabuchi (+57%), Renesas (+43%), Fuji Film (+33%), NGK Insulators (+33%) and Nachi-Fujikoshi (+19%) have been enormous. Or take Panasonic as an example: the old television maker has transformed itself into a car parts firm, piggy-backing on the growth of Tesla’s model S.
Yet even as these changes have occurred, most foreign investors have stopped visiting Japan, and most sell-side firms have stopped funding genuine and original research. For the alert investor this is good news. As the number of Japanese firms at the heart of the disruptions reshaping our global economy – robotics, electric and self-driving cars, alternative energy, healthcare, care for the elderly – continues to expand, and as the number of investors looking at these same firms continues to shrink, those investors willing to sift the gravel of corporate Japan should be able to find real gems.
Which brings us to the real question confronting investors today: the ‘Kuroda put’ has placed Japanese equities back on investor’s maps. But is this just a short term phenomenon? After all, no nation has ever prospered by devaluing its currency. If Japan is set to attract, and retain, foreign investor flows, it will have to come up with a more compelling story than ‘we print money faster than anyone else’.
In our recent research, we have argued that this is exactly what is happening. In fact, we believe so much in the opportunity that we have launched a dedicated Japan corporate research service (GK Plus Alpha) whose principals (Alicia Walker and Neil Newman) are burning shoe leather to identify the disruptive companies that will trigger Japan’s next wave of growth.
3. Should we worry about capital misallocation in the US?
The US has now ‘enjoyed’ a free cost of money for some six years. The logic behind the zero-interest rate policy was simple enough: after the trauma of 2008, the animal spirits of entrepreneurs needed to be prodded back to life. Unfortunately, the last few years have reminded everyone that the average entrepreneur or investor typically borrows for one of two reasons:
Unfortunately, the second type of borrowing does not lead to an increase in the stock of capital. It simply leads to a change in the ownership of capital at higher and higher prices, with the ownership of an asset often moving away from entrepreneurs and towards financial middlemen or institutions. So instead of an increase in an economy’s capital stock (as we would get with increased borrowing for capital spending), with financial engineering all we see is a net increase in the total amount of debt and a greater concentration of asset ownership. And the higher the debt levels and ownership concentration, the greater the system’s fragility and its inability to weather shocks.
- Capital spending: Business is expanding, so our entrepreneur borrows to open a new plant, or hire more people, etc.
- Financial engineering: The entrepreneur or investor borrows in order to purchase an existing cash flow, or stream of income. In this case, our borrower calculates the present value of a given income stream, and if this present value is higher than the cost of the debt required to own it, then the transaction makes sense.
We are not arguing that financial engineering has reached its natural limits in the US. Who knows where those limits stand in a zero interest rate world? However, we would highlight that the recent new highs in US equities have not been accompanied by new lows in corporate spreads. Instead, the spread between 5-year BBB bonds and 5-year US treasuries has widened by more than 30 basis points since this summer.
Behind these wider spreads lies a simple reality: corporate bonds issued by energy sector companies have lately been taken to the woodshed. In fact, the spread between the bonds of energy companies, and those of other US corporates are back at highs not seen since the recession of 2001-2002, when the oil price was at US$30 a barrel.
The market’s behavior raises the question whether the energy industry has been the black hole of capital misallocation in the era of quantitative easing. As our friend Josh Ayers of Paradarch Advisors (Josh publishes a weekly entitled The Right Tale, which is a fount of interesting ideas. He can be reached at email@example.com) put it in a recent note: “After surviving the resource nadir of the late 1980s and 1990s, oil and gas firms started pumping up capex as the new millennium began. However, it wasn’t until the purported end of the global financial crisis in 2009 that capital expenditure in the oil patch went into hyperdrive, at which point capex from the S&P 500’s oil and gas subcomponents jumped from roughly 7% of total US fixed investment to over 10% today.”
“It’s no secret that a decade’s worth of higher global oil prices justified much of the early ramp-up in capex, but a more thoughtful look at the underlying data suggests we’re now deep in the malinvestment phase of the oil and gas business cycle. The second chart (above) displays both the total annual capex and the return on that capex (net income/capex) for the ten largest holdings in the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE). The most troublesome aspect of this chart is that, since 2010, returns have been declining as capex outlays are increasing. Furthermore, this divergence is occurring despite WTI crude prices averaging nearly $96 per barrel during that period,” Josh noted.
The energy sector may not be the only place where capital has been misallocated on a grand scale. The other industry with a fairly large target on its back is the financial sector. For a start, policymakers around the world have basically decided that, for all intents and purposes, whenever a ‘decision maker’ in the financial industry makes a decision, someone else should be looking over the decision maker’s shoulder to ensure that the decision is appropriate. Take HSBC’s latest results: HSBC added 1400 compliance staff in one quarter, and plans to add another 1000 over the next quarter. From this, we can draw one of two conclusions:
1) The financial firms that will win are the large firms, as they can afford the compliance costs.
2) The winners will be the firms that say: “Fine, let’s get rid of the decision maker. Then we won’t need to hire the compliance guy either”.
This brings us to a theme first explored by our friend Paul Jeffery, who back in September wrote: “In 1994 Bill Gates observed: ‘Banking is necessary, banks are not’. The primary function of a bank is to bring savers and users of capital together in order to facilitate an exchange. In return for their role as [trusted] intermediaries banks charge a generous net spread. To date, this hefty added cost has been accepted by the public due to the lack of a credible alternative, as well as the general oligopolistic structure of the banking industry. What Lending Club and other P2P lenders do is provide an online market-place that connects borrowers and lenders directly; think the eBay of loans and you have the right conceptual grasp. Moreover, the business model of online market-place lending breaks with a banking tradition, dating back to 14th century Florence, of operating on a “fractional reserve” basis. In the case of P2P intermediation, lending can be thought of as being “fully reserved” and entails no balance sheet risk on the part of the service facilitator. Instead, the intermediary receives a fee- based revenue stream rather than a spread-based income.”
There is another way we can look at it: finance today is an abnormal industry in two important ways:
1) The more the sector spends on information and communications technology, the bigger a proportion of the economic pie the industry captures. This is a complete anomaly. In all other industries (retail, energy, telecoms...), spending on ICT has delivered savings for the consumers. In finance, investment in ICT (think shaving seconds of trading times in order to front run customer orders legally) has not delivered savings for consumers, nor even bigger dividends for shareholders, but fatter bonuses and profits for bankers.
2) The second way finance is an abnormal industry (perhaps unsurprisingly given the first factor) lies in the banks’ inability to pass on anything of value to their customers, at least as far as customer’s perceptions are concerned. Indeed, in ‘brand surveys’ and ‘consumer satisfaction reports’, banks regularly bring up the rear. Who today loves their bank in a way that some people ‘love’ Walmart, Costco, IKEA, Amazon, Apple, Google, Uber, etc?
Most importantly, and as Paul highlights above, if the whole point of the internet is to:
a) measure more efficiently what each individual needs, and
b) eliminate unnecessary intermediaries,
then we should expect a lot of the financial industry’s safe and steady margins to come under heavy pressure. This has already started in the broking and in the money management industries (where mediocre money managers and other closet indexers are being replaced by ETFs). But why shouldn’t we start to see banks’ high return consumer loan, SME loan and credit card loan businesses replaced, at a faster and faster pace, by peer-to-peer lending? Why should consumers continue to pay high fees for bank transfers, or credit cards when increasingly such services are offered at much lower costs by firms such as TransferWise, services like Alipay and Apple Pay, or simply by new currencies such as Bitcoin? On this point, we should note that in the 17 days that followed the launch of Apple Pay on the iPhone 6, almost 1% of Wholefoods’ transactions were processed using the new payment system. The likes of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon have grown into behemoths by upending the media, advertising retail and entertainment industries. Such a rapid take- up rate for Apple Pay is a powerful indicator which sector is likely to be next in line. How else can these tech giants keep growing and avoid the fate that befell Sony, Microsoft and Nokia? On their past record, the technology companies will find margins, and growth, in upending our countries’ financial infrastructure. As they do, a lot of capital (both human and monetary) deployed in the current infrastructure will find itself obsolete.
This possibility raises a number of questions – not least for Gavekal’s own investment process, which relies heavily on changes in the velocity of money and in the willingness and ability of commercial banks to multiply money, to judge whether it makes sense to increase portfolio risk. What happens to a world that moves ‘ex-bank’ and where most new loans are extended peer-to-peer? In such a world, the banking multiplier disappears along with fractional reserve banking (and consequently the need for regulators? Dare to dream...). As bankers stop lending their clients umbrellas when it is sunny, and taking them away when it rains, will our economic cycles become much tamer? As central banks everywhere print money aggressively, could the market be in the process of creating currencies no longer based on the borders of nation states, but instead on the cross-border networks of large corporations (Alipay, Apple Pay...), or even on voluntary communities (Bitcoin). Does this mean we are approaching the Austrian dream of a world with many, non government-supported, currencies?
4. Should we care about Europe?
In our September Quarterly Strategy Chartbook, we debated whether the eurozone was set for a revival (the point expounded by François) or a continued period stuck in the doldrums (Charles’s view), or whether we should even care (my point). At the crux of this divergence in views is the question whether euroland is broadly following the Japanese deflationary bust path. Pointing to this possibility are the facts that 11 out of 15 eurozone countries are now registering annual year-on-year declines in CPI, that policy responses have so far been late, unclear and haphazard (as they were in Japan), and that the solutions mooted (e.g. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s €315bn infrastructure spending plan) recall the solutions adopted in Japan (remember all those bridges to nowhere?). And that’s before going into the structural parallels: ageing populations; dysfunctional, undercapitalized and overcrowded banking systems; influential segments of the population eager to maintain the status quo etc...
With the same causes at work, should we expect the same consequences? Does the continued underperformance of eurozone stocks simply reflect that managing companies in a deflationary environment is a very challenging task? If euroland has really entered a Japanese-style deflationary bust likely to extend years into the future, the conclusion almost draws itself.
The main lesson investors have learned from the Japanese experience of 1990-2013 is that the only time to buy stocks in an economy undergoing a deflationary bust is:
a) when stocks are massively undervalued relative both to their peers and to their own history, and
b) when a significant policy change is on the way.
This was the situation in Japan in 1999 (the first round of QE under PM Keizo Obuchi), 2005 (PM Junichiro Koizumi’s bank recapitalization program) and of course in 2013-14 (Abenomics). Otherwise, in a deflationary environment with no or low growth, there is no real reason to pile into equities. One does much better in debt. So, if the Japan-Europe parallel runs true, it only makes sense to look at eurozone equities when they are both massively undervalued relative to their own histories and there are expectations of a big policy change. This was the case in the spring of 2012 when valuations were at extremes, and Mario Draghi replaced Jean-Claude Trichet as ECB president. In the absence of these two conditions, the marginal dollar looking for equity risk will head for sunnier climes.
With this in mind, there are two possible arguments for an exposure to eurozone equities:
1) The analogy of Japan is misleading as euroland will not experience a deflationary bust (or will soon emerge from deflation).
2) We are reaching the point when our two conditions – attractive valuations, combined with policy shock and awe – are about to be met. Thus we could be reaching the point when euroland equities start to deliver outsized returns.
Proponents of the first argument will want to overweight euroland equities now, as this scenario should lead to a rebound in both the euro and European equities (so anyone underweight in their portfolios would struggle). However, it has to be said that the odds against this first outcome appear to get longer with almost every data release!
Proponents of the second scenario, however, can afford to sit back and wait, because it is likely any outperformance in eurozone equities would be accompanied by euro currency weakness. Hence, as a percentage of a total benchmark, European equities would not surge, because the rise in equities would be offset by the falling euro.
Alternatively, investors who are skeptical about either of these two propositions can – like us – continue to use euroland as a source of, rather than as a destination for, capital. And they can afford safely to ignore events unfolding in euroland as they seek rewarding investment opportunities in the US or Asia. In short, over the coming years investors may adopt the same view towards the eurozone that they took towards Japan for the last decade: ‘Neither loved, nor hated... simply ignored’.
Most investors go about their job trying to identify ‘winners’. But more often than not, investing is about avoiding losers. Like successful gamblers at the racing track, an investor’s starting point should be to eliminate the assets that do not stand a chance, and then spread the rest of one’s capital amongst the remainder.
For example, if in 1981 an investor had decided to forego investing in commodities and simply to diversify his holdings across other asset classes, his decision would have been enough to earn himself a decade at the beach. If our investor had then returned to the office in 1990, and again made just one decision – to own nothing in Japan – he could once again have gone back to sipping margaritas for the next ten years. In 2000, the decision had to be not to own overvalued technology stocks. By 2006, our investor needed to start selling his holdings in financials around the world. And by 2008, the money-saving decision would have been to forego investing in euroland.
Of course hindsight is twenty-twenty, and any investor who managed to avoid all these potholes would have done extremely well. Nevertheless, the big question confronting investors today is how to avoid the potholes of tomorrow. To succeed, we believe that investors need to answer the following questions:
The answers to these questions will drive performance for years to come. In the meantime, we continue to believe that a portfolio which avoids a) euroland, b) banks, and c) commodities, will do well – perhaps well enough to continue funding Mediterranean beach holidays – especially as these are likely to go on getting cheaper for anyone not earning euros! Like Outside the Box?
- Will Japan engineer a revival through its lead in exciting new technologies (robotics, hi-tech help for the elderly, electric and driverless cars etc...), or will Abenomics prove to be the last hurrah of a society unable to adjust to the 21st century? Our research is following these questions closely through our new GK Plus Alpha venture.
- Will China slowly sink under the weight of the past decade’s malinvestment and the accompanying rise in debt (the consensus view) or will it successfully establish itself as Asia’s new hegemon? Our Beijing based research team is very much on top of these questions, especially Tom Miller, who by next Christmas should have a book out charting the geopolitical impact of China’s rise.
- Will Indian prime minister Narendra Modi succeed in plucking the low-hanging fruit so visible in India, building new infrastructure, deregulating services, cutting protectionism, etc? If so, will India start to pull its weight in the global economy and financial markets?
- How will the world deal with a US economy that may no longer run current account deficits, and may no longer be keen to finance large armies? Does such a combination not almost guarantee the success of China’s strategy?
- If the US dollar is entering a long term structural bull market, who are the winners and losers? The knee-jerk reaction has been to say ‘emerging markets will be the losers’ (simply because they were in the past. But the reality is that most emerging markets have large US dollar reserves and can withstand a strong US currency. Instead, will the big losers from the US dollar be the commodity producers?
- Have we reached ‘peak demand’ for oil? If so, does this mean that we have years ahead of us in which markets and investors will have to digest the past five years of capital misallocation into commodities?
- Talking of capital misallocation, does the continued trend of share buybacks render our financial system more fragile (through higher gearing) and so more likely to crack in the face of exogenous shocks? If it does, one key problem may be that although we may have made our banks safer through increased regulations (since banks are not allowed to take risks anymore), we may well have made our financial markets more volatile (since banks are no longer allowed to trade their balance sheets to benefit from spikes in volatility). This much appeared obvious from the behavior of US fixed income markets in the days following Bill Gross’s departure from PIMCO. In turn, if banks are not allowed to take risks at volatile times, then central banks will always be called upon to act, which guarantees more capital misallocation, share buybacks and further fragilization of the system (expect more debates along this theme between Charles, and Anatole).
- Will the financial sector be next to undergo disintermediation by the internet (after advertising and the media). If so, what will the macro- consequences be? (Hint: not good for the pound or London property.)
- Is euroland following the Japanese deflationary-bust roadmap?
Sign up today and get each new issue delivered free to your inbox.
It's your opportunity to get the news John Mauldin thinks matters most to your finances.
The article Outside the Box: The Burning Questions For 2015 was originally published at mauldineconomics.com.
0 Replies | 45 Views | Go to Discussion Page
» BOJ maintains stance but strikes optimistic tone
Dec 18, 2014 - by InformedTrades
Japan's central bank maintained its aggressive easing stance with the aim of boosting the monetary base by an annual 80 trillion yen but sounded optimistic about the recovery of demand following the recent slump in reaction to a tax increase in April.
The Bank of Japan (BOJ), which in October raised its target for the monetary base by 10-20 trillion yen to prevent deflationary expectations from taking root, said the decline in demand following front-loaded increases prior to the tax rise had been "waning on the whole" - a more optimistic view in comparison to November when the bank merely said demand remained weak.
Describing Japan's exports, the BOJ was clearly more upbeat, saying exports "have show signs of picking up," compared with November's statement when it said exports were flat.
Addressing housing investment, the BOJ was also more optimistic, saying the decline following the front-loaded increase prior to April "has recently started to bottom out," a slightly more optimistic view than in November when its had there were "signs of bottoming out."
The Bank of Japan issued the following statement:
- At the Monetary Policy Meeting held today, the Policy Board of the Bank of Japan decided, by an 8-1 majority vote, to set the following guideline for money market operations for the intermeeting period:[Note 1]
The Bank of Japan will conduct money market operations so that the monetary base will increase at an annual pace of about 80 trillion yen.
- With regard to the asset purchases, the Bank decided, by an 8-1 majority vote, to continue with the following guidelines:[Note 2]
- a) The Bank will purchase Japanese government bonds (JGBs) so that their amount outstanding will increase at an annual pace of about 80 trillion yen. With a view to encouraging a decline in interest rates across the entire yield curve, the Bank will conduct purchases in a flexible manner in accordance with financial market conditions. The average remaining maturity of the Bank's JGB purchases will be about 7-10 years.
- b) The Bank will purchase exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and Japan real estate investment trusts (J-REITs) so that their amounts outstanding will increase at annual paces of about 3 trillion yen and about 90 billion yen respectively.
- c) As for CP and corporate bonds, the Bank will maintain their amounts outstanding at about 2.2 trillion yen and about 3.2 trillion yen respectively.
- Japan's economy has continued to recover moderately as a trend, and effects such as those of the decline in demand following the front-loaded increase prior to the consumption tax hike have been waning on the whole. Overseas economies -- mainly advanced economies -- have been recovering, albeit with a lackluster performance still seen in part. In this situation, exports have shown signs of picking up. Business fixed investment has been on a moderate increasing trend as corporate profits have improved. Public investment has more or less leveled off at a high level. Private consumption has remained resilient as a trend with the employment and income situation improving steadily, and the effects of the decline in demand following the front-loaded increase have been waning on the whole. Housing investment, which continued to decline following the front-loaded increase, has recently started to bottom out. Against the backdrop of these developments in demand both at home and abroad, industrial production has started to bottom out, due in part to the progress in inventory adjustments. Business sentiment has generally stayed at a favorable level, although some cautiousness has been observed. Meanwhile, financial conditions are accommodative. On the price front, the year-on-year rate of increase in the consumer price index (CPI, all items less fresh food), excluding the direct effects of the consumption tax hike, is around 1 percent. Inflation expectations appear to be rising on the whole from a somewhat longer-term perspective.
- With regard to the outlook, Japan's economy is expected to continue its moderate recovery trend, and the effects such as those of the decline in demand following the front-loaded increase prior to the consumption tax hike are expected to dissipate. The year-on-year rate of increase in the CPI is likely to be at around the current level for the time being.
- Risks to the outlook include developments in the emerging and commodity-exporting economies, the prospects regarding the debt problem and the risk of low inflation rates being protracted in Europe, and the pace of recovery in the U.S. economy.
- Quantitative and qualitative monetary easing (QQE) has been exerting its intended effects, and the Bank will continue with the QQE, aiming to achieve the price stability target of 2 percent, as long as it is necessary for maintaining that target in a stable manner. It will examine both upside and downside risks to economic activity and prices, and make adjustments as appropriate."
Voting for the action: Mr. H. Kuroda, Mr. K. Iwata, Mr. H. Nakaso, Mr. R. Miyao, Mr. Y. Morimoto, Ms. S. Shirai, Mr. K. Ishida, and Mr. T. Sato. Voting against the action: Mr. T. Kiuchi. The member voting against the action considered that the guideline for money market operations before the decision regarding the "Expansion of the Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing" on October 31, 2014 was appropriate.
[Note 2] Voting for the action: Mr. H. Kuroda, Mr. K. Iwata, Mr. H. Nakaso, Mr. R. Miyao, Mr. Y. Morimoto, Ms. S. Shirai, Mr. K. Ishida, and Mr. T. Sato. Voting against the action: Mr. T. Kiuchi. The member voting against the action considered that the guideline for asset purchases before the decision regarding the "Expansion of the Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing" on October 31, 2014 was appropriate.
[Note 3] Mr. T. Kiuchi proposed that the Bank will aim to achieve the price stability target of 2 percent in the medium to long term and designate the QQE as an intensive measure with a time frame of about two years. The proposal was defeated by an 8-1 majority vote. Voting for the proposal: Mr. T. Kiuchi. Voting against the proposal: Mr. H. Kuroda, Mr. K. Iwata, Mr. H. Nakaso, Mr. R. Miyao, Mr. Y. Morimoto, Ms. S. Shirai, Mr. K. Ishida, and Mr. T. Sato."
Go to Original Story
0 Replies | 42 Views | Go to Discussion Page
» Why Russia Will Halt the Ruble’s Slide and Keep Pumping Oil (Marin Katusa, Chief Energy Investment Strategist)
Dec 18, 2014 - by InformedTrades
Originally Published by Casey Research
The harsh reality is that U.S. shale fields have much more to fear from plummeting oil prices than the Russians, since their costs of production are much higher, says Marin Katusa, author of The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp.View the Casey Research Guide to Crisis Investing on InformedTrades
Russia’s ruble may have strengthened sharply Wednesday, but it’s plunge in recent days has encouraged plenty of talk about the country’s catastrophe, with some even proclaiming that the new Russia is about to go the way of the old USSR.
Don’t believe it. Russia is not the United States, and the effects of a rapidly declining currency over there are much less dramatic than they would be in the U.S.
One important thing to remember is that the fall of the ruble has accompanied a precipitous decline in the per barrel price of oil. But the two are not as intimately connected as might be supposed. Yes, Russia has a resource-based economy that is hurt by oil weakness. However, oil is traded nearly everywhere in U.S. dollars, which are presently enjoying considerable strength.
This means that Russian oil producers can sell their product in these strong dollars but pay their expenses in devalued rubles. Thus, they can make capital improvements, invest in new capacity, or do further explorations for less than it would have cost before the ruble’s value was halved against the dollar. The sector remains healthy, and able to continue contributing the lion’s share of governmental tax revenues.
Nor is ruble volatility going to affect the ability of most Russian companies to service their debt. Most of the dollar-denominated corporate debt that has to be rolled over in the coming months was borrowed by state companies, which have a steady stream of foreign currency revenues from oil and gas exports.
Russian consumers will be hurt, of course, due to the higher costs of imported goods, as well as the squeeze inflation puts on their incomes. But, by the same token, exports become much more attractive to foreign buyers. A cheaper ruble boosts the profit outlook for all Russian companies involved in international trade. Additionally, when the present currency weakness is added to the ban on food imports from the European Union, the two could eventually lead to an import-substitution boom in Russia.
In any event, don’t expect any deprivations to inspire riots in the streets of Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity has soared since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis. The people trust him. They’ll tighten their belts and there will be no widespread revolt against his policies.
Further, the high price of oil during the commodity supercycle, coupled with a high real exchange rate, led to a serious decline in the Russia’s manufacturing and agricultural sectors over the past 15 years. This correlation—termed by economists “Dutch disease”—lowered the Russian manufacturing sector’s share of its economy to 8% from 21% in 2000.
The longer the ruble remains weak, however, the less Dutch disease will rule the day. A lower currency means investment in Russian manufacturing and agriculture will make good economic sense again. Both should be given a real fillip.
Low oil prices are also good for Russia’s big customers, especially China, with which Putin has been forging ever-stronger ties. If, as expected, Russia and China agree to transactions in rubles and/or yuan, that will push them even closer together and further undermine the dollar’s worldwide hegemony. Putin always thinks decades ahead, and any short-term loss of energy revenues will be far offset by the long-term gains of his economic alliances.
In the most recent development, the Russian central bank has reacted by raising interest rates to 17%. On the one hand, this is meant to curb inflation. On the other, it’s an direct response to the short selling speculators who’ve been attacking the ruble. They now have to pay additional premiums, so the risk/reward ratio has gone up. Speculators are going to be much warier going forward.
The rise in interest rates mirrors how former U.S. Fed Chair Paul Volcker fought inflation in the U.S. in the early ‘80s. It worked for Volcker, as the U.S. stock market embarked on a historic bull run. The Russians — whose market has been beaten down during the oil/currency crisis — are expecting a similar result.
Not that the Russian market is anywhere near as important to that country’s economy as the US’s is to its. Russians don’t play the market like Americans do. There is no Jim Kramerovsky’s Mad Money in Russia.
Russia is not some Zimbabwe-to-be. It’s sitting on a surplus of foreign assets and very healthy foreign exchange reserves of around $375 billion. Moreover, it has a strong debt-to-GDP ratio of just 13% and a large (and steadily growing) stockpile of gold. Why Russia will arrest the ruble’s slide and keep pumping oil
And there is Russia’s energy relationship with the EU, particularly Germany. Putin showed his clout when he axed the South Stream pipeline and announced that he would run a pipeline through Turkey instead. The cancellation barely lasted long enough to speak it before the EU caved and offered Putin what he needed to get South Stream back on line. Germany is never going to let Turkey be a gatekeeper of European energy security. With winter arriving, the EU’s dependence on Russian oil and gas will take center stage, and the union will become a stabilizing influence on Russia once again.
In short, while the current situation is not working in Russia’s favor, the country is far from down for the count. It will arrest the ruble’s slide and keep pumping oil. Its economy will contract but not crumble. The harsh reality is that American shale fields have much more to fear from plummeting oil prices than the Russians (or the Saudis), since their costs of production are much higher. Many US shale wells will become uneconomic if oil falls much further. And it they start shutting down, it’ll be disastrous for the American economy, since the growth of the shale industry has underpinned 100% of US economic growth for the past several years.
Those waving their arms about the ruble might do better to look at countries facing real currency crises, like oil-dependent Venezuela and Nigeria, as well as Ukraine. That’s where the serious trouble is going to come.
The collapse in oil prices is just the opening salvo in a decades-long conflict to control the world’s energy trade. To find out what the future holds, specifically how Vladimir Putin has positioned Russia to come roaring back by leveraging its immense natural resource wealth, click here to get your copy of Marin Katusa’s smash hit New York Times bestseller, The Colder War. Inside, you’ll discover how underestimating Putin will have dire consequences. And you’ll also discover how dangerous the deepening alliance between China, Russia and the emerging markets is to the future of American prosperity. Click here to get your copy.
The article Why Russia Will Halt the Ruble’s Slide and Keep Pumping Oil was originally published at caseyresearch.com.
0 Replies | 61 Views | Go to Discussion Page