Legendary Investor Carl Icahn Was Right Next To Me And I Didn’t Even See Him!!! (Video)

As you may know, I met legendary investor Bill Ackman (Short Herbalife) in the first half of this year. He was taller and bulkier than I expected. Ackman speaks in a soft voice (to strangers of course) and has a firm handshake. My tiny hands were nothing compared to the strong hands of Mr. Bill Ackman.

Great meeting with Mr. Bill Ackman, Founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management
Great meeting with Mr. Bill Ackman, Founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management

In case you don’t know, Ackman is one of the world’s most famous hedge fund managers and activist investors. Pershing Square Capital Management net return was 40.4% in 2014, the highest among its peers. Since inception in 2004, Pershing Square posted net gains of 567.1% versus 135.3% return for the S&P 500. The hedge fund’s 1.5% base fee and 16% performance fee is low relative to industry standards.

Last Tuesday (September 13th), another legendary investor Carl Icahn (Long Herbalife) was right next to me at the Delivering Alpha and I didn’t even see him.

Yes, I know!!! Oh my god.

In case you don’t know, Icahn is one of the world’s most famous hedge fund managers and activist investors. As the chairman of Icahn Enterprises LP, Icahn says “Some people get rich studying artificial intelligence. Me, I make money studying natural stupidity” according to his Twitter bio. I love that quote.

How did this happen? During a coffee break before Stephen Schwarzman – Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Blackstone (another legend) – was due to speak in front of investors, press, students (me unfortunately), etc…I lost my focus.

How did I lose my focus? I wanted to be on the cover of Institutional Investor magazine. Well, not the real magazine. There was a photo booth at the conference.

Why was the fake magazine cover so important? Besides being in love with finance, I wanted to get a picture of my handsomeness. Someone who works for NBC even told me I was handsome when I was leaving the event. My response was “I always look handsome” which is a fact.

…So here I am, stepping on the booth while Icahn is just passin’ by!

Baby Boy right to the Crazy Old Man
The legend is on the left. I’m on the right. Is Icahn looking at me?

I was 5-10ft away from the man I admire and I didn’t even see him. I didn’t even notice the cameraman with a strong lighting. I noticed nothing. I was thinking about how I made it to the cover of Institutional Investors magazine and Forbes is next.

Here is the video of me on CNBC for the first time and Carl Icahn on the same screen.

I messed up…for this handsome picture of myself.

Khojinur Usmonov on the cover of Institutional Investors magazine.
Khojinur Usmonov on the cover of Institutional Investors magazine.

Although I didn’t see Icahn there, I did see him on stage after the interview of Schwarzman with CNBC’s Becky Quick.

Schwarzman Interview at the 6th Annual Delivering Alpha:

Great summary of the interview can be found on the Institutional Investor’s website.

BECKY QUICK: I think Blackstone has gone from something around $35 to around $26 over the course of the last year. Why is that? What is that a reflection of?

STEPHEN SCHWARZMAN: That’s a reflection that investors are wrong.

I love the sarcasm.

STEPHEN SCHWARZMAN: I don’t want to be selling an asset that’s gone down because the world has gone down. If it’s a wonderful company, if I want to sell it, I’d sell it after everything goes well.

What Schwarzman is trying to say is…

“Investing is the only business I know that when things go on sale, people run out of the store” – Mark Yusko

Here comes Carl Icahn on stage:

Everybody excited. Their phones are out. Chairs are being moved to get a better angle of the legend.

img_5222
Carl Icahn, Icahn Enterprises chairman during his keynote at the 6th annual CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference

And no, Bill Ackman did not show up again.

Transcript of the CNBC interview with Icahn can be found on CNBC’s website.

CARL ICAHN: I think Ackman’s a smart guy.

CARL ICAHN: and, again, I think Ackman’s smart

CARL ICAHN: I really think he’s [BILL ACKMAN] a smart guy.

CARL ICAHN: I sort of like him [BILL ACKMAN]. I think he’s smart.

CARL ICAHN: I really believe Ackman being smart

I also think/believe Ackman is smart and so is Icahn.

I didn’t know Icahn was right next to me until I came home. At around 8:40 P.M, I come home. Until 10:24 P.M, I eat my dinner and some snacks, while checking emails and twitter, and reading news.

At 10:24 P.M, I’m scrolling through @CNBCnow twitter and that’s when I saw the video. My reaction was too graphic to describe it here.

The rest is history.

Delivering Alpha 2016 is one of the moments I will forever remember. I really enjoyed the conference and meeting people from the media and hedge fund world.

Although I came late to the conference, at around 1:40 P.M, and missed Ray Dalio, the experience was still amazing. Not just amazing, but also incredible, stunning, astonishing, etc.

Delivering alpha as a concept is all about beating the market. Over the past six years, the investment conference has brought many great investors who got a track record of actually delivering alpha to speak in front of audience.

CNBC and Institutional Investor hosted the annual Delivering Alpha conference at NYC’s Piere Hotel.

I will forever remember this day, September 13, 2016.

What’s Next?

So far I met Ben Bernanke, Marcus Lemonis, Chamath Palihapitiyaa (CEO of Social Capital), Bill Ackman, and Carl Icahn. Who’s the next high-profile person I will meet? Janet Yellen? Mario Draghi? Warren Buffett? Stay tuned.

So far I made it to Bloomberg (for real) and Institutional Investors (literally), what’s next? Forbes? WSJ? Time Person of the Year? Stay tuned.

It’s only matter of time before I’m on stage at the Delivering Alpha and media asks me questions. Stay tuned.

October Jobs Report Strong: It Is Just One Report

On November 6 (Friday), jobs report for October had the winds of 120 miles per hour and blew everyone away. Non-farm payrolls showed 271,000 jobs were added in October, the most gain since December and a huge beatdown on expectations of about 185,000. It’s the best month for job growth so far this year. The report follows two consecutive months (August and September) of weak jobs growth below 160,000.

The total job gains for August and September were revised 12,000 higher. August was revised 17K higher to 153K from 136k, and September was revised -5K lower to 137K from 142K. Over the last 12 months, employment growth had averaged 230K per month, vs. 222K in the same-period of 2014. In 2014, average monthly payrolls was 260K. This year, it is 206K. Not only jobs gains for October were strong, but also unemployment and wages.

Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change
Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change

The unemployment rate dipped 0.1% to 5%, its lowest level since April 2008. Average hourly earnings rose by 9 cents an hour to $25.20. It rose 2.5% year-over-year (Y/Y), the best level since July 2009. For most of the “recovery”, wages has been flat. The increase in earnings is significant for two reasons. More money for employees means more spending (don’t forget debts), which accounts two-thirds of the economy. Second, wage growth might suggest that employers are having trouble finding new workers (should I say “skilled” workers) and they have to pay more to keep its workers and/or to get new skilled workers. This could draw more people back into the labor market, increasing the participation rate. Without the right skills, good luck.

Average Hourly Earnings and Average Weekly Hours
Average Hourly Earnings and Average Weekly Hours

The labor force participation rate remained unchanged at a 38-year (1977) low of 62.4%. The long-term decline in the participation rate is due to the aging of the baby-boom generation and loss of confidence in the jobs market. There hasn’t even been a rebound in participation rate of prime-age Americans (between the ages of 25 and 54).

Unemployment Rate + Labor Force Participation Rate

More than 122 million Americans had full-time jobs at the end of October, the highest since December 2007 (121.6 million).

Full-Time and Part-Time Employment

Immediately after the jobs report, the probability of a rate-hike in December lifted. Fed funds futures currently anticipates about 65% chance of a rate hike next month vs. about 72% immediately after the report and about 55% before the report.

Federal Reserve Chairwoman, Janet Yellen, lately has been saying that December’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting was “live” for a potential rate-hike. While this jobs report is positive, I believe it is too early to jump in on conclusions.

The policymakers should not be too quick to act on one report. In September, the Fed left rates unchanged mainly due to a low inflation. Inflation is still low and we will get a fresh look on Tuesday (November 17) when Consumer Price Index (CPI) is released.

In March, the Fed expressed worries about the strength of the U.S. Dollar, just after the greenback hit above $100 mark. The greenback then tumbled and has never recovered back to $100….yet.

US Dollar ("/DX" on thinkorswim platform) - Daily
US Dollar (“/DX” on thinkorswim platform) – Daily

Right after the jobs report, the dollar skyrocketed and was 40 cents away from hitting $100 mark. It’s currently at $98.88 and there is a very high chance it will go above $100 until December 15, the first day of FOMC meeting.

If the November job numbers does not surprise to the upside (released in December 4), inflation stays low, and the dollar keeps strengthening, I do not believe the Fed will hit the “launch” button for a rate-hike liftoff.

Market Reactions:

US Dollar ("/DX" on thinkorswim platform) - Hourly
US Dollar (“/DX” on thinkorswim platform) – Hourly
S&P 500 Index ("SPX" on thinkorswim platform) - Hourly
S&P 500 Index (“SPX” on thinkorswim platform) – Hourly

Another Quantitative Easing In The United States?

Last Thursday (September 17), the Federal Reserve left rates unchanged due to low inflation, recent turmoil in financial markets and in economies abroad, particularly China.

Markets were pricing less than 30% chance of rate-hike and most people in the financial markets were not expecting rate-hike. Well, not me. I was actually expecting 0.25%, 10 basis points rate increase, as I stated in my previous post.

“Recent global economic and financial developments may restrain economic activity somewhat and are likely to put further downward pressure on inflation in the near term.” Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in statement. They are referring to events that took place in August, that can be described in one word; uncertainty.

Before we go any further, let’s compare the last two Fed statements.

Statement Comparison in PDF

Federal Reserve "Dot Plot" - September 2015 Meeting
Federal Reserve “Dot Plot” – September 2015 Meeting

 

According to the Fed’s famous “Dot Plot” – that is where committee members think interest rates are going – one committee member, for the first time ever, thinks the U.S needs to move to negative interest rates until the end of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

During the press conference, Janet Yellen – the chairwoman of the Fed – indicated that negative rates were not “seriously considered at all today” and that the policymaker in question was “concerned by the inflation outlook”. The Fed looks at a model “Phillips Curve” which states that inflation and unemployment have a stable and inverse relationship. It hasn’t been working lately.

We know, as of today, both employment and inflation is low, likely due to the fact that many people are not in labor force and they are not included in unemployment calculation and due to low energy prices.

She said something that I found very interesting, “That’s something we’ve seen in several European countries. It’s not something we talked about today. Look. If not– I don’t expect that we’re going to be in the path of providing additional accommodation but if the outlook were to change in a way that most of my colleagues and I do not expect and we found ourselves with a weak economy that needed additional stimulus, we would look at all of our available tools and that would be something that we would evaluate in that kind of context.” This shows that even the Fed is uncertain about the future and another quantitative easing is a possibility.

If you want to see the body language from Yellen as she said it, go watch the press conference video. It can be very interesting. Any body language experts here?

The Fed also raised growth forecast for the year and cut unemployment projection.

Federal Reserve Economic Projections - September 2015 Meeting
Federal Reserve Economic Projections – September 2015 Meeting

Yellen expressed that some countries other than China are also danger to the U.S, “…we saw a very substantial downward pressure on oil prices and commodity markets…significant impact on many emerging market economies that are important producers of commodities, as well as more advanced countries including Canada, which is an important trading partner of ours that has been negatively affected by declining commodity prices, declining energy prices….important emerging markets have been negatively affected by those developments. And we’ve seen significant outflows of capital from those countries, pressures on their exchange rates and concerns about their performance going forward. So, a lot of our focus has been on risks around China but not just China, emerging markets, more generally in how they may spill over to the United States.”

Back to “wait and see” mode again. Weak start in the year hammered the chances of rate-hike in June. Now, outsiders hammered the chances of rate-hike in September. Next stop?

If the current situation stays unchanged, I expect rate increase of 0.10% (again) in October (FOMC press conference will be called if the Fed decides to change rates). But, the current situation might get much worse. The bad news might come from China again.

Xi Jinping, China’s president and Communist Party chief, will arrive in the U.S next week to meet President Obama and business leaders. After the meeting when Mr. Xi is back in China, unpredictability arrives.

China would not want to create tension with the U.S before they meet face-to-face. Thus, unpredictability comes in two or three weeks. China might devalue their currency again, by 5% or more. They might even dump much more U.S Treasuries again.

It’s reported that China dumped U.S Treasurys of $83 billion and $94 billion in the month of July and August, respectively. Why would China sell U.S Treasurys? China is in dire need of cash. Capital outflows are increasing substantially and their stock market are declining substantially. China would want to cut its holdings of treasurys to support the yuan.

According to latest data from the U.S Treasury Department, China’s holdings of U.S Treasuries was $1.240 trillion in the end of July (is probably much less now), the smallest since February 2015. In end-June, China held $1.271 trillion. China remains the world’s largest holder of U.S debt. What does that mean for the U.S?

If U.S’s #1 lender stops supporting or stops buying U.S debt, the cost of everything that depends on Treasury rates could rise, putting pressure on the Federal Reserve and prevent the Fed from raising rates. Treasury yields (inverse relationship with prices) are the benchmark that sets the cost of borrowing.

China’s abandonment of U.S Treasury debt is a warning.

Imagine if China’s major trading partner, Japan, joins China in selling U.S Treasuries. Japan is the second-largest holder of U.S. Treasuries, with $1.197 trillion in July. The devaluation of Yuan will make Japanese exports less competitive. Japan’s economy is still suffering despite Abenomics. As I stated in my post “Global Markets Crash + Asian Crisis Part 2“, Abenomics has failed. Soon enough, Japan might also be in dire need of cash and they might start cutting their holdings of U.S Treasuries.

Recently, Standard & Poor’s slashed its ratings on Japanese debt from AA- to A+ because of weak economic growth, blaming Abenomics “…we believe that the government’s economic revival strategy–dubbed “Abenomics”–will not be able to reverse this deterioration in the next two to three years.” According to Standard & Poor, Japan’s Debt/GDP ratio currently stands at 242.4%, a dangerous level for developed country.

I believe Bank of Japan (BoJ) will increase its purchases of government debt to cover the danger of Japan’s Debt/GDP ratio and will sell portion of U.S Treasurys.

We can conclude everything will probably get much worse. The Fed will have no other choice, but to start another round of quantitative easing. In other words, debt monetization, a process of buying Treasury and corporate debt on the open market, increasing money supply. When increasing money supply, interest rates should fall.

The Fed is being held hostage by outsiders, such as China and Brazil. It probably won’t end well for the U.S, promoting another round of Quantitative Easing.

Markets’ reactions to the Fed report:

S&P 500 (“SPX”) – Hourly Chart
S&P 500 (“SPX”) – Hourly Chart
US Dollar (“/DX”) – Hourly Chart
US Dollar (“/DX”) – Hourly Chart
Gold ("/GC") - Hourly Chart
Gold (“/GC”) – Hourly Chart
EUR/USD - Hourly Chart
EUR/USD – Hourly Chart

 

Expectations for the Fed to raise rates ticked higher

Last Friday (May 22, 2015), U.S Consumer Price Index (CPI) report for April was released and it was in line with expectations. CPI increased a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in April and core-CPI (excludes food and energy) increased 0.3%, largest since January 2013. CPI reflects what people pay for goods and services. It’s an important indicator for inflation. The Federal Reserve watches inflation numbers closely, to determine the health of the US economy and whenever to raise interest rates.

CPI and Core-CPI (Jan 2014 - April 2015)
CPI and Core-CPI (Jan 2014 – April 2015)

Over the past 12-months, CPI declined 0.2% (biggest year-to-year drop since October 2009), largely due to the plunge in energy prices (energy index), which fell 19.4% over the last 12-months. However, core-CPI (which excludes food and energy, the violent categories) increased 1.8% over the last 12-months.

The positive inflation report may suggest that the Fed may not be that far away from raising interest rates. Stronger numbers gives a sense of relief that the US economy is pulling itself out of a slump that dragged growth down to 0.2% (GDP report previous post) in the first quarter of 2015. However, the inflation is far below the Fed’s 2% target.

The positive change in core prices was driven by rising costs for housing, medical care, furniture, and vehicles, while clothing and airfare prices declined. Fall in the oil prices led airplane companies to lower their airfares, to complete with competitors. I believe clothing and airfare prices will start to rise soon because summer is here. In the summer, people tend to travel more often (demand increases), pushing prices up. Oil has rebounded to the range of $60, as oil inventory decreases.

The dollar rose after the CPI report. The greenback (the dollar) gained almost 1%, rising to a highest price level since late-April. US markets were flat on Friday after both the Dow and the S&P 500 hit new records this week.

Dollar Index (/DX) - Hourly
Dollar Index (/DX) – Hourly

According to Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting minutes released last Wednesday (May 20, 2015), FOMC expects inflation to gradually rise as the labor market improves and transitory effects such as low oil prices fade away. They believed that there would not be enough information of overall health of US economy to start raising rates at their next meeting in June. The next policy meeting takes place on June 16 and June 17.

Chances of rate hike in June are very low, but the door is not closed. If the next non-farm payroll and Prelim GDP (Gross Domestic Product) (Friday, May 29, 2015) comes out very positive, the Fed will likely raise the rates. Prelim GDP is the second estimate of the last quarter. If you want to know more about the first GDP estimate of the last quarter, click here.

Last Friday (May 22, 2015), Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen spoke about the US economic outlook at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook in Rhode Island. She said that the Federal Reserve is on track to raise short-term interest rates this year, but will likely proceed slowly and cautiously.

As to trading, I would go long on the dollar and short EUR/USD. Why would I short EUR/USD? Recently, EUR/USD rebounded all the way to above 1.1450. As of right now, it’s around 1.1000. The recent rise in EUR/USD is an opportunity to go short.

News: First, I believe the U.S economy will rebound and future US economic reports will be positive, sending USD higher. Second, I believe Greece will default and eventually leave euro-zone (Greece exiting euro-zone is also known as “Grexit”), which will plunge Euro. Current Greece headlines are just background noises, until we know for sure that Greece will be staying or not.

Technical: If you look at 1-HOUR chart of EUR/USD, you can see that EUR/USD broke a strong support level that used to be resistance. If you look at WEEKLY chart of EUR/USD, you can see that there is a Bearish Engulfing Pattern. Technical seems to be bearish.

EUR/USD - Hourly
EUR/USD – Hourly
EUR/USD - Weekly
EUR/USD – Weekly

 

If you have any questions/comments, feel free to leave comments below and/or contact me by going to “Contact Me” box above. I can also be reached on twitter (@Khojinur30). Thank you.

Fed removes “patient”, and adds twists

Last Wednesday (March 18, 2015), the Federal Reserve released its statement on the monetary policy and its economic projections. The The Fed dropped from its guidance “patient” in reference to its approach to raising the federal funds rate. It was largely to be expected to be removed, which would have send U.S Dollar higher and U.S market lower. However, the opposite happened because of two twists; they lowered their economic projections, and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen’s words during the press conference.

According to the “dot plot”, the Fed lowered median “dot” for 2015 to 0.625% from 1.125% (December). What is “dot plot”? The Dot Plot is part of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)’s economics projections and it shows what each member thinks the federal funds rate should be in the future. It is released quarterly. Sometimes, it might be released more than that, depending on economic circumstances. It gives you a perspective of what each member of FOMC thinks about economic and monetary conditions in the future.

Again, the Fed lowered median “dot” for the end of 2015 to 0.625% from 1.125% in December (-0.50%). The Fed also lowered the “dot” for end of 2016 and 2017. For the end of 2016, it is at 1.875% from 2.5% in December (-0.625%). For the end of 2017, it is at 3.125% from 3.625% in December (-0.50%). Besides, the “dot”, Yellen said one thing that took a toll on the U.S Dollar.

Even though the Fed removed “patient” from the statement, Yellen had “patient” tone during the press conference. Yellen said ““Just because we removed the word “patient” from the statement does not mean we are going to be impatient,”. This sentence alone halted US Dollar from rebounding after it dropped on the statement. There are other things that complicates the timing of the rate-hike.

It’s now more complicated to predict the Fed’s next move because of three reasons; very strong US Dollar, low inflation, and economic crisis in Europe and Japan, if not United Kingdom too. US Dollar is too strong, hurting U.S exports. Inflation has declined due to falling energy prices. The struggling foreign countries economically can also hurt U.S economy. I believe two majors factor of the Fed’s next move are the strong US Dollar, and the low inflation. When both of them are combined together, it makes imports cheaper and keeps inflation lower. I believe Europe will start to get better–as Quantitative Easing (QE) fully kicks in–money starts flowing in Europe. European stocks will probably hit new highs in the coming years because of QE program. Once, the Fed raises the rates, the money will probably flow into Europe from the U.S because of negative interest rates. Low rates have been a key driver of the bull markets in the U.S stock market the past six years. Lower rates makes stocks more attractive to the investors.

Since, the “dot” has dropped harshly, I believe this could be a sign of late delivery of rate hike. They might hike the interest rate in September, not June. However, if non-farm payrolls number continue to be strong, average wage (indicator for inflation) lifts and oil prices rebound, then the door for rate-hike for June might still be open. For now, there is no sign of oil rebounding since it has dropped sharply this week. We will get the next non-farm payroll, which also includes average wage, on April 3.

In the statement, FOMC stated “The Committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term. This change in the forward guidance does not indicate that the Committee has decided on the timing of the initial increase in the target range.”

The Fed want to be cautions before raising the interest rates. They want more time to be sure; “further improvement in the labor market” and “reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent…” Although, non-farm payrolls have been strong lately, inflation is too low. The inflation is low because of the stronger dollar and the plunge in oil prices.

The Fed is in no hurry to increase the interest rate. The Fed said it would definitely not act on rates at “…April FOMC meeting.” and might wait until later in the year. I believe September has higher chance than June, from the rate-hike.

It looks to me that the Fed planned to send US Dollar lower. They probably wanted the US Dollar to be weaker before raising the rates, which could send the US Dollar a lot higher. Their plan worked. The US Dollar dropped so much that it sent EUR/USD (Euro against US Dollar) up 400 pips (above 1.10). U.S market rose after they were down ever since the release of non-farm payrolls for February. Dow gained over 200 points, as well as other indices.

 

Dow Jones (DJI) - 30 Mins
Dow Jones (DJI) – 30 Mins
US Dollar - 30 Mins
US Dollar – 30 Mins
EUR/USD - 30 Mins
EUR/USD – 30 Mins

 

Feel to contact me and/or to leave comments. Don’t forget to follow my twitter account @Khojinur30. At any moment, I might post my view on certain things. Thank you.