Let’s get to the ugly truth. Since inception (July 2014), my passive portfolio is up only 2.18%, 19 times less than the market return during the period. For 2017, the portfolio returned only 3.82%, 6 times less than the market return. Um….um….um, let me try to justify the low returns.
My peers and people jealous of me would be laughing like this:
When I opened the account in the summer of 2014, TD Ameritrade gave me 2 months to trade for free. So during that time, I wanted to fill the account with stocks. The only problem was I did not know which stocks to buy. At the same time, I did not know how to research potential investments.
Mostly guided by “expert” recommendations and positive headlines, I bought some stocks which destroyed my portfolio, including Ford (F), J.C.Penny (JCP), Cisco (CSCO), General Electric (GE), and General Motors (GM). In 2015, I still did not know which stocks to buy. I wanted to do my own research. I decided to research all the stocks that were bought the previous year.
From my research, I found CSCO, GE, and JCP attractive. So I decided to keep them in the portfolio. I even wrote about CSCO and GE on the blog. I did not write on JCP as I was not profoundly convinced. Funny thing is I have never shopped at JCP, just at its competitors. Even my mother did not like J.C. Penny.
I did not like F, yet I decided to keep F in the port because it was not worth getting rid of them at $10 commissions. For GM, I was on the fence. In addition to these names, I decided to research new names and bought some of them. 70% of my portfolio was in cash in January of 2015. In December, it was 42%.
The new stocks I bought in 2015 were non-dividend yielding risky names, such as Bellatrix Exploration (BXE), Twitter (TWTR), and GoPro (GPRO). All of which did not work out well to this day. BXE, because I tried to find a good energy company at the time every energy companies were distressed. I’m very active on Twitter and use GoPro most of the time. So I wanted to invest in them. At that time, I thought Twitter would get acquired, and GoPro management would start to turn things around, and the Karma Drone would be positive for the company’s financials.
In 2016, I continued to research new stocks. However, I did not invest in any of them. I deposited more money into the account during that year. At the end of 2016, 82% of the portfolio was in cash.
I always found real estate interesting. Used to read about them. My interest in the real estate market skyrocketed after my first ever internship, at a small real estate firm. In January of 2017, I decided to buy WPC, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). During the year, I also bought Verizon (VZ). I did not want the remaining cash in the port to sit idle. So I decided to purchase free commission based short-term bond funds, very stable dividend yielding cash parking (and one high-yield ETF). At the end of 2017, 17% of the port was in cash.
Over the past month, I have been researching consumer goods companies. I’m looking to add one to the port. When I do, I will be sure to write about it.
I’m currently holding 10 companies; CSCO, GE, GM, BXE, WPC, JCP, F, TWTR, GPRO, and VZ.
All shares of 10 different companies belong to 1 class: domestic equity. 62% are in large cap., and 38% are in mid-cap.
On February 16, 2015, I recommended going long Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) when the share price was $43.95. Since then, it is up 101%*. I made a mistake of not buying when I wrote about it. “Put your money where your mouth is, Khojinur.”
On April 12, 2015, I recommended going long General Electric (NYSE: GE). Since then, GE is down 33%*. Dividends are automatically invested in new shares. Average price I paid for the shares is $26. I’m down 29%. Despite the 50% dividend cut recently, I’m staying with the stock for two reasons. The cost-cutting will be the best bet for us the shareholders. The $7 commission fee won’t be worth it, especially since the stock was bought in 2015 when I had less money. If I can open second Robinhood account, I’ll transfer from Ameritrade to the free-commission based brokerage.
In the summer of 2015, I wrote about CSCO (part 1, part 2 AND 4Q FY’15 earnings report). Since the first article, the networking giant is up 44%*. Average price I paid for the shares is $25.11. I’m currently up 57%.
On November 21, 2015, I wrote my first article on LLY and believed it was overvalued (it still is). Since then, the pharmaceutical company is up a mere 1.25%*. The second article on LLY was posted a year after the first article. I personally am not short the stock as I cannot short.
On December 26, 2015, I recommended going long GoPro (NASDAQ: GPRO) and believed it was a buy. Since then, the action camera maker and I are down whopping 59%.
On January 20, 2017, I recommended going long W.P. Carey (NYSE: WPC). Since then, the REIT is up 11%*. Average price I paid for the shares is $61.44. I’m currently up 10%.
On May 9, 2017, I recommended going long Verizon (NYSE: VZ). Since then, the telecom is up 46%*. Average price I paid for the shares is $46.05. I’m currently up 47%.
*dividends not calculated
Estimated the portfolio dividend yield is 2.48% (that is very similar to the 10-year yield), with largest being 6% and lowest 0%. I plan to increase the portfolio dividend yield by getting rid of non-dividend yielding stocks and/or buying dividend-yielding stocks. That will happen fast, if I can make second Robinhood account and transfer the portfolio to there.
When I started doing research in-depth and writing down my findings and thoughts, everything started to improve. Writing is powerful!
Every new trade and investment will first be announced on Twitter. Almost always!
As you may know, I published my forex performance for 2016 and since inception. From now on, I will also share my quarterly performance. March 31st marked the end of first quarter, here are my performance results for FX trading.
Forex Trading Performance – Q1 2017
For currency trading, I was up 2.15%. I know, it’s low (in % terms at least). But, allow me to explain.
Before this year, my currency trades used to be in 1,000 units (or 0.01 lots), lowest I can trade. Since I usually had about 10 positions, each of 1,000 units, the nominal amount was large enough. After depositing more money and getting a clear picture of my Forex performance, I decided to increase my trades to 2,000/3,000 units (or 0.02/0.03 lots) for each position.
Getting a clear picture of my performance – average gain/loss, drawdown, trade duration, the percentage of profitable trades, etc – helped me improve my performance significantly.
This quarter [Q1], I further minimized my drawdowns. By minimizing drawdown, I minimized my returns. And that works for me. Stable uptrending P/L with a low risk.
It is true Forex is way riskier than other assets classes due to its leverage, mostly 1:50. But, that does not mean your portfolio has to include a lot of risks.
While 2.15% return this quarter from Forex trading is low, it’s still big in nominal terms for me and I’m getting a much better understanding of my weakness/strengths as I look through the metrics.
I don’t have the key metrics (besides the returns) and charts to share with you for this quarter for one reason: FXCM was Banned from the U.S. (I’m not even surprised after what happened on January 15, 2015).
FXCM is a retail FX broker and my former broker. They were banned by CFTC for defrauding retail foreign exchange customers and engaging in false and misleading solicitations.
As a result, FXCM customers were automatically changed to a different broker, Forex.com by Gain Capital Holdings, on February 24th. Unlike FXCM, this broker did not offer an analysis of trades. In addition to that, a third-party software did not offer an analysis of trades for Gain Capital’s customers since the broker did not allow the software to be connected with it.
Good news is that I’m currently in process of changing the platform to MetaTrader, which will make it easier for me to track performance metrics. The other platform, ForexTrader made it harder for tracking key metrics.
For the next quarter’s results, you can expect to see more performance metrics for FX trading.
Live On Twitter
As you may know, I tweet out trades/investments I’m making. That’s one of many reasons you should follow me on Twitter if you haven’t already. One of many ways I measure success is through twitter followers, believe it or not.
These tweets, as you can guess – sent the shares of Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), which is the supplier of F-35 program, and Boeing (NYSE: BA) – down. From both tweets, Lockheed Martin lost billions in market cap. The rival Boeing was barely unchanged at the end, as it means more opportunities for them to gain more contracts.
However, Trump targeted Boeing in earlier December when he tweeted this;
Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!
Trump’s tweets are just awesome. The volatility it brings allows me to make more money than the non-volatility. As I mentioned in my previous article, I recently opened RobinHood account, broker with $0 commissions. Using the broker in the future, I’m planning to buy some shares of the companies Trump negatively targets, especially if investors overreact.
Since it seems Trump has a strong hatred towards Mexico and the U.S. companies working there, here are the potential targets;
Algos have yet to incorporate Trump’s tweets into their codes. It’s not that simple yet as it can be difficult to determine the sentiment from a tweet. Algos can easily get the direction of the stock wrong. We need more tweets to better analyze it.
But, will the future tweets move the markets or not? It all depends on how successful Trump is in implementing what he tweets. If Trump is unable to do so, he will just lose credibility.
Meanwhile, markets will react to the tweets and I plan to take advantage of them.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Yes, I know markets have been rallying and S&P 500 has been hitting all-time highs. But, remember Brexit?
In case you forgot, the people of United Kingdom voted to leave European Union on June 23rd. Markets then destroyed more than $3 trillion in paper wealth in the next 2 days (Friday and Monday).
After that, market just shook it off. As Taylor Swift says, “Shake It Off.” “It’s gonna be alright.”
The actual businesses and people in the UK just cannot shake, shake, shake, shake, shake,….it off.
The UK job market went into “freefall” as the number of people appointed to full-time roles plunged for a second successive month in July, according to a survey. An index of permanent positions dropped to 45.4 from 49.3 the previous month, the lowest level since May 2009. A number below 50 indicates a decline in placements (contraction). Employers in the survey cited Brexit-related uncertainty.
The same uncertainty that scared away some investors and sit on cash, including me. 91% of investors made money in July as US markets kept hitting record highs, according to Openfolio, an app that allows you to connect and compare your portfolio to 60,000 other investors. Average cash holdings of these investors grew 25% over the past three months leading up to July.
75% of investors lost money in June as Brexit uncertainly weighted in. The portfolio of the majority of investors are tracked with S&P 500. The problem here can be described by Ron Chernow,
As a bull market continues, almost anything you buy goes up. It makes you feel that investing in stocks is a very easy and safe and that you’re a financial genius.
93% of investors lost money in January as the energy prices plunged and uncertainty in China scared investors.
Here’s another quote by Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad),
As a bull market turns into a bear market, the new pros turn into optimists, hoping and praying the bear market will become a bull and save them. But as the market remains bearish, the optimists become pessimists, quit the profession, and return to their day jobs. This is when the real professional investors re-enter the market.
I’m naturally contrarian like Bill Ackman. I love going against the crowd. I love Bill Ackman. When I met him, I had no problem keeping my cool after learning my lesson from the Ben Bernanke experience.
Being contrarian has made me money. It has also got me into “value trap” like buying $TWTR around $34.
On Thursday (August 4th), Bank of England (BoE) cut rates by 25bps (0.25%) to 0.25%, the lowest since the central bank was founded in 1694 (322 years) and the first cut since March 2009.
The central bank signaled further cut to the interest rate if the economy deteriorates further, “If the incoming data prove broadly consistent with the August Inflation Report forecast, a majority of members expect to support a further cut in Bank Rate to its effective lower bound at one of the MPC’s forthcoming meetings during the course of the year.” (I’ll address the recent economic reports and BoE’s forecasts later in this article)
During the press conference, Mark Carney (The Governor of BoE), stated he is not a fan of negative interest rates. He clearly stated that MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) is very clear lower bound is above zero. Options other than NIRP (Negative Interest Rate Policy) are available, “we have other options to provide stimulus if more stimulus were needed.”
Carney told banks they have “no excuse” not to pass on the rate cut in full to customers. In other words, he’s telling them not to mess with him.
“With businesses and households, anyone watching, if you have a viable business idea, if you qualify for a mortgage, you should be able to get access to credit.”
With 6-3 vote, they will provide an extra 60 billion pounds ($78 billion) of newly created money by buying government bonds over six months, extending the existing quantitative easing (QE) to 435 billion ($569 billion).
To cushion the blow to banks’ profitability, BoE will provide up to 100 billion pounds ($130 billion) of loans to banks close the base rate of 0.25% under the Term Funding Scheme (TFS). The scheme will charge a penalty rate if banks do not lend.
“The TFS is a monetary policy instrument. It reinforces the transmission of Bank Rate cuts and reduces the effective lower bound toward zero, it charges a penalty rate if banks reduce net lending, it covers all types of lending, and it is funded by central bank reserves.” (Page 6)
With 8-1 vote, BoE will also buy as much as 10 billion pounds ($13 billion) of corporate bonds in the next 18 months, starting in September. For that, BoE is targeting non-financial investment-grade corporate bonds, issued by “firms making a material contribution to the UK economy” (Page 3)
I did not expect that much of stimulus.
I expect .25% rate-cut by Bank of England. But, not more QE. There's a little chance I think QE will be less than £20bn. $GBPUSD#BoE
Activity among UK manufacturers contracted at its fastest pace at the start of third quarter. UK manufacturing PMI (Purchasing Mangers’ Index) fell to 48.2 in July, down from 52.4 in June, the lowest levels since February 2013.
Manufacturing sector accounts for 11% of the UK economy.
“UK manufacturing employment decreased for the seventh straight month in July, the rate of job loss was the second-sharpest for almost three-and-a-half years” the PMI report said.
It also stated “Weaker inflows of new work and declining volumes of outstanding business also suggest that employment may fall further in coming months.”
Contributes to 10% of GVA (Gross Value Added), which measures how much money is generated through goods and services produced. In 2014, GVA per head on average in the UK was 24,616 pounds ($32,113), growing 3.6% Y/Y.
Accounts for 44% of total exports. Exports alone account for 27.4% of the UK’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Export orders rose for the second successive month in response to the weaker pound. On July 6th, sterling plunged to $1.2788, the lowest since 1985.
Represents 69% of business research and development (R&D), which accounts for mini 1.67% of the UK’s GDP.
What is also interesting in the PMI report is the input price. Input price inflation rose to a five-year high in July, “reflecting a sterling-induced rise import costs.” Some part of the increase in costs “was passed through to clients.”
UK construction industry, accounting for 6.5% (Parliament.uk – PDF download) of the economic output, suffered its sharpest downturn since June 2009 as the sector came under pressure from the uncertainty. UK construction PMI inched down 0.1 to 45.9 last month.
Clients of the construction firms had adopted “wait-and-see” approach to projects rather than curtailing and canceling the projects. The same “wait-and-see” that has caused investors like me to sit on cash (Cash on sidelines).
“Insufficient new work to replace completed projects resulted in a decline in employment numbers for the first time since May 2013” the PMI report stated. The construction industry accounts for 2.1 million jobs, 6.62% of the working population. The industry contributes to 6.5% of GVA.
And services too. UK services PMI plunged to 47.4 in July from 52.3 in June, the first contraction since December 2012 and the fastest rate of decline since March 2009 and the steepest M/M decline (-4.9) since PMIs began in July 1996.
The sector accounts for 78.4% of the UK economic output.
Not surprisingly, the sentiment of businesses dropped to the lowest since February 2009.
Bank of England slashed its growth and increased its inflation forecasts. The central bank slashed its growth forecast for 2017 to 0.8% from initial estimate of 2.3%, making it the biggest downgrade in growth from one inflation report to the next. They now expect inflation to hit 1.9% in 2017, from previous estimate of 1.5%.
For 2018, the economy is expected to grow at 1.8% from previous estimate of 2.3%, and CPI is expected to hit 2.4% from previous estimate of 2.1.
Unemployment is expected to reach 5.4% next year from initial estimate of 4.9%, that is more than 250,000 people losing their job….even after the stimulus.
The bank’s outlook also includes lower income and housing prices to decline a “little” over the next year.
UK house prices fell 1% in July, according to a survey by Halifax, Britain’s biggest mortgage lender. The reports for the next few months will sure be interesting.
Confidence will continue to fall in the coming months as uncertainty will continue to exist and businesses will be extremely cautious with regard to spending, investment and hiring decisions, and people will be cautious with regard to spending.
All these survey conducted shortly after Brexit reflects an initial reaction. What matters now, especially after the new wave of stimulus, is the level of uncertainty and the magnitude of contractions. The three PMIs – manufacturing, construction, and services – accounting for almost 96% of the economic output, does not cover the whole economy as the retail, government and energy sectors (Oh energy), are excluded. However, it is clear the UK economy is slowing and is likely to slow in the coming quarters. Until clouds stop blocking the sun from shining, we won’t have a clear picture of the economy.
Will there be a recession or not? I’m not calling for any recession at the time. I will get a better idea of where the UK economy is heading as we get more data.
In two weeks:
Consumer Price Index (CPI) – With data reflected in the PMIs and the amount of stimulus announced by BoE, inflation overshoot is possible. This report in two weeks will only reflect July. We should get better of where inflation is going in September and October.
In four weeks:
Another manufacturing and construction PMIs. The services PMI comes the week later.
I should make a call on whatever the will be recession after the data and some by mid-September.
Without fiscal stimulus, monetary stimulus alone cannot offset most of the Brexit ills. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, signaled loosening of fiscal policy in October. By then, it just might be too late.
Extra: Bad Karma
Since Brexit (voted for by pensioners) UK 10y yield has plunged from 1.40% to record low 0.65%…decimating pensions pic.twitter.com/CtVUoufWuF
Silicon Valley is the fintech capital of the world. London is the fintech capital of Europe. After the Brexit vote, the rise of fintech in UK might be under a threat.
Total venture capital investment in technology for UK increased to over $3.6 billion in 2015, 71.43% increase from 2014. Of that, London-based tech start-ups accounted for 62.55%
In the last 5 years, UK technology companies have collectively raised $9.7 billion, with London-based companies accounting for 54.52% of it or $5.3 billion.
Since 2010, investment in the British firms soared over 12-fold, while investment in the London-based firms soared over 53-fold.
Brexit can halt the growth of UK fintech industry.
Why is that? UK could lose its “passport.”
Many companies in EU, including fintech, use mechanism known as “passporting” to access Europe (European Economic Area) by getting licensed in a EU nation and be able to sell their products/services across the bloc. If the passporting privilege is lost, companies will have to submit application in every single country it wishes to operate in, which is time consuming and cost prohibitive.
Not only fintech companies, but also international banks would have to find a new legal home base. Large U.S. banks, such as Goldman Sachs (GS), Citi (C), and JP Morgan (JPM), employing thousands of people, would have to move its operations to other cities, such as Paris or Frankfurt.
Fintech companies could take the same direction as the banks. It is possible they will move to Ireland (Dublin). Ireland is European home (EU base) to Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOGL, GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), Dell, Twitter (TWTR), Airbnb, and more. The corporate tax rate, which is one of the most important part of Irish investment attraction, is 12.5%, one of the lowest in Europe. That’s very low compared to United Kingdom’s 20% rate and Europe average of 20.24%.
One other important part of Irish investment attraction is its KDB (Knowledge Development Box). Certain intellectual propriety income, such as patent/copyright, are subject to just 6.25% tax, half of its famous 12.5% corporate tax rate. Not only that, but there is also 25% tax credit for research and development spending.
The KDB is clearly aimed at incentivizing innovate R&D. It provides 50% deduction in tax rate from qualifying profits. In other words, 50% allowance. No wonder so many U.S. tech companies are using Ireland as their European base.
In Europe, overall fintech investment increased 120% between 2014 and 2015. The number of deals increased by 51%. Both should continue to increase as states like Ireland continue to attract start-ups and talent. However, if UK files for Article 50 and other EU members plans to follow the same path, it is very possible the increased uncertainty over the EU cartel will scare away start-ups and international investors.
There’s also the issue of free movement of labor. One in three UK start-up workers are outsiders. Of the 34% workers from outside the UK, 20.7% are from the EU. 66% hold UK passport. The most common non-UK nationalities were Irish, American, and Spanish.
Brexit is likely to make it costlier and complicated for start-ups to attract and retain talent. Will the UK allow the free movement of labor? I don’t think so. One-third of leave voters stated the main reason for wanting to leave the EU “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” Plus, other EU members, such as Ireland, probably want start-ups and talents to come to their cities, not stay in the UK.
In 2014, financial and related services employed nearly 2.2 million people, 7% of the UK workforce. The industry contributed 11.8% of UK economic output in 2014. London, the financial center of the UK and the world, accounted for 714,000 of the employment.
The British fintech firms employ about 61,000 people (2015 data), 2.8% of the financial and related services employment and 5.7% of financial services employment (both of which 2014 data).
The stakes are definitely high here.
Peer-to-peer (P2P), money-transfer and payments start-ups would be hardest hit by Brexit and by the end of EU passporting.
In April 2015, London-based P2P lending company, Funding Circle secured the largest single deal of the year with a $150 million funding, valuing the startup at over $1 billion, going straight into the “unicorn” club, private companies valued at $1 billion or more. The company is online marketplace that allows investors to lend money to small and medium-sized businesses.
In 2014, UK P2P business lending market size was 998 million euros ($1.1 trillion), 42.70% of total UK alternative finance market size. As I said above, “The stakes are definitely high here.”
Brexit could reduce lending, especially to 5.4 million small businesses in the UK accounting for 99.3% of all private sector business. Collectively small businesses account for 50% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and 60% of employment.
Many of these businesses will encounter financial problems, leading to layoffs of employees and so on (domino effect).
In addition to above, money-transfer and payments start-ups could also be hit hard as they will lose their “passporting” privilege. 54% of UK fintech firms focus on banking and payments. To sum up what I said about “passporting” above, if you’re regulated in UK, you’re regulated across the EU.
Other EU members, such as Ireland, will try to use Brexit to their advantage. They will try to make its laws more attractive to entice fintech firms away from London.
There is also chance the UK will get to keep its fintech firms, only if it differentiates itself with streamlined regulation, tax breaks, and increased support for innovation.
The UK will have to renegotiate the financial regulation with the EU. But I don’t believe they will get what they want. EU is already playing hard-ball. UK has more to lose than the EU.
Article 50 won’t likely be triggered until late this year or early next year. If by then, anti-Brexit campaign gains momentum and the presence of pro-remain politicians increase in the UK government, it is likely UK will not leave EU.
If you have any views, I would love to know in the comments below. If you have any questions about any issues related to Brexit, I would be happy to answer them ASAP. Don’t be surprised if the answer is 5 paragraphs long. Thank you.
One huge risk that I will not address here, but will address in a future article is “lack of liquidity”. While I was doing research, I came across more information that I expected. I’m still getting more information and I believe it will be a great article. I will give a sneak peek of the article in the bottom of this article.
Earlier last month (December 10, 2015), Third Avenue’s Focused Credit Fund (FCF), a large mutual fund specializing in risky, high-yielding bonds, announced it would block investor redemptions, “no further subscriptions or redemptions will be accepted.” In mid-2014, they had $3.5 billion assets under management (AUM). As of December 31, 2015, they only had AUM of $660.67 million, as investors rushed to get their money back because of weakness in the junk bond market.
Now, investors’ money are being held hostage. “The remaining assets have been placed in a liquidating trust”, said David Barse, CEO of the firm, as the investor requests for redemptions and the “general reduction of liquidity in the fixed income markets” made it impossible for the fund to “create sufficient cash to pay anticipated redemptions without resorting to sales at prices that would unfairly disadvantage the remaining shareholders.”
The process is a pain in the ass, “Third Avenue anticipates that the full liquidation process may take up to a year or more.” Again, investors’ money are being held hostage.
This events highlights the danger of “over-investments” into risky areas, high levels of corporate debt, AND the lack of liquidity (will be addressed in a future article). With interest rates hovering around 0 (well, before the rate-hike in December), U.S. companies have rushed to issue debt.
Investors who poses a higher risk appétit can find junk bonds, yielding higher interest rates, to be “useful” for their style and capacity of investment. More rewards for more risks, right?
As the global economy continues to struggle, namely China and emerging markets, yield on junk bonds have been increasing since they are a higher chance of defaulting.
Rising interest rates adversely impact bond prices, pushing their yield of the bond higher (inverse relationship). While increase in rates does not largely affect junk bonds since they have a higher coupon (yield) and shorter maturities (shorter maturity means less price sensitivity to rates), current junk bond market combined the impacts of a stronger dollar and low commodity prices can be extremely adverse and dangerous.
High-yield debt yields, as represented by Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Master II Effective Yield, have been increasing since mid of last year. It rose from 5.16% (June 23, 2014) to current 9.23%. That’s whopping 78.88% increase, representing the growing risks of junk bond market.
According to Lipper, investors pulled out a total $13.88 billion from high-yield funds in 2015, with $6.29 billion in December alone. As redemptions increase, funds may suffer as high-yields are harder to trade due to its lack of liquidity (will talk more about the major risk of illiquidity in a future article) and funds may have to take an action like the Third Avenue did.
Credit spreads (difference in yield between two bonds of similar maturity but different credit quality) are widening, which possibly signals a wider economic trouble ahead. Widening credit spreads mark growing concerns about the ability of borrowers to service their debt. Not only borrowers will suffer, but also lenders since they lost money.
BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II Option-Adjusted Spread, representing the credit spread of the high yield bond market as a whole, have been increasing the middle of 2014. It’s currently at 775 (7.75%) basis points (bps).
BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield CCC or Below Option-Adjusted Spread is currently 1,804bps wide (18.04), a level of highly distressed territory. Credits are defined as distressed when they are trading more than 1,000bps (10%) wide.
I believe it will continue to increase this year, reflecting the worsening of the credit conditions that would cause greater concern among investors and policymakers (Hi, Ms. Yellen. Time to reverse the policy?)
iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE: HYG), an index composed of U.S. dollar-denominated, high yield corporate bonds, is already down 1.39% year-to-date (YTD) and was down 10.58% in 2015, expressing the increasing uncertainty by the investors, as they pull back their money from high-yielding bonds/ETFs. The exposure of the index to CCC rated bonds, B rated bonds, and BB rated bonds, are 8.88%, 38.73%, and 50.25%, respectively. Stronger U.S. dollar and lower commodity prices are expected (and it will) to hurt the earnings of U.S. companies, increasing the chances of defaults, especially in energy.
The index’s energy exposure is 9.38%. Recently oil prices plunged to levels under $30. Energy companies borrowed a lot of debt during oil price boom, to increase production (so that they can gain more market share), are now being haunted by their own actions. A lot of energy companies are currently under an extreme pressure to make a dime, as oil prices plunge. According to law firm Haynes and Boone, 42 North American oil and gas producers filed for bankruptcy last year. Those 42 defaults account for approximately $17 billion in cumulative secured (over $9 billion) and unsecured debt (almost $8 billion).
Out of those 42 bankruptcy filings, 18 of them come from Texas, a leading state in energy production. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Texas had a capacity of over 5.1 million barrels of crude oil per day and accounted for 29% of total U.S. refining capacity, as of January 2015, and accounted for about 29% of U.S. gas production in 2014.
In 2014, Texas gross domestic product (GDP) increased 5.2% year-over-year (Y/Y), the second greatest change in state GDP after North Dakota. Mining industry accounted for 1.25% increase to GDP, its largest contributor. Texas’s GDP accounted for 9.5% of U.S. total GDP in 2014.
The collapse of energy prices over the past several years are “fracking” down the Texas economy. The Dallas Federal Reserve’s general business activity index “collapsed” to -34.6 in January, the lowest reading since April 2009, when Texas was in recession. Same with company outlook index, it fell to -19.5 in January from -10.5 in December.
The production index – a key measure of state manufacturing conditions – fell all the way from 12.7 in December to -10.2 in January. New orders index fell -9.2 in January from -7 in December.
Employment Index, on the other hand, sharply dropped to -4.2 in January from 10.9 in December. Texas is a home to many energy giants, such as Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB), Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI), Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP). The companies slashed off tens of thousands of jobs over the past year and cut capex significantly, as the current stressed energy market heavily weighted on them.
In January 21, Schlumberger reported 38.7% decrease in fourth quarter revenue Y/Y, and net income declined substantially to a loss of $989 million, compared with profit of $317 million in the same period of 2014. Texas-based energy giant’s North American region 4th quarter revenue fell 54.79% to $1.9 billion from $4.3 billion in the same quarter of 2014. The company’s earnings announcement warned of a “deepening financial crisis in the E&P industry, and prompted customers to make further cuts to already significantly lower E&P investment levels. Customer budgets were also exhausted early in the quarter, leading to unscheduled and abrupt activity cancellations.” As a result of a weaker quarter and worsening conditions, they plan to lay off 10,000 workers, adding to already laid-off 34,000 workers, or 26% of its original workforce, since November 2014.
On Monday (January 25, 2016), Halliburton reported its fourth quarter earnings. Halliburton’s 4th quarter revenue fell 42% in Y/Y to $5.08 billion, including a 54.4% plunge to $2.1 billion in its North American region, which accounted for 42.4% of total revenue in 4Q. On a GAAP basis, the Texas-based energy giant (and another one) reported a quarterly net loss of $28 million ($0.03 per share) compared with net income of $9.01 million ($1.06 per share) in the fourth quarter of 2014.
On Thursday (January 28, 2016), Baker Hughes reported a 48.85% decrease in fourth quarter revenue to $3.4 billion from $6.6 billion in the same period of 2014. On GAAP basis, the Texas-based energy giant (and another one) reported a quarterly net loss of $1 billion ($2.35 per share) compared with net income of $663 million ($1.52 per share) in the fourth quarter of 2014. Its North American region revenue fell 65.59% to $1.14 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with $3.30 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Chevron Corp., (NYSE: CVX), California-based energy giant, posted its first loss since the third quarter of 2002 on Friday (January 29, 2016). It reported a fourth quarter loss of $588 million ($0.31 per share), compared with $3.5 billion ($1.85 per share) in the same period of 2014. During the same period, its revenue fell 36.5% to $29.25 billion from $46.09 billion.
Below is a graph by EIA, showing how the cost of debt service for U.S. oil producers has grown since 2012. In the second quarter of 2015, more than 80% of these producers’ cash flow went to service their outstanding debt, leaving very little cash to fund operations, to pay dividends, and to invest for the future. To adjust to those pains, the producers have significantly reduced capital expenditures.
During the end of Q2 2015, oil prices were around $58. It’s currently at $38. Clearly, the situation has only gotten worse.
Both Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips will report its fourth quarter earnings next week.
I believe oil prices have hit bottom and it won’t break $27 this year.
I BELIEVE THE OIL HAS HIT BOTTOM. I'M GOING LONG!!!$CL_F
I believe the market already priced in Iran’s entry into oil war. Recently, hedge fund bearish bets on oil were at all-time high (crowded trade). Crowed trade includes: a large numbers of participants who share similar beliefs and heavy short-term bag holders (speculators). I tend to take advantage of this types of situations.
Not only bearish bets on oil are at all-time high and not only I believe Iran is already priced in, but some OPEC countries, including Nigeria and Venezuela, already started calling for emergency meetings to try to cut production. I’m starting to believe that they can no longer handle the pain. While this is a political game – to gain and preserve more market share – it won’t last long enough to get oil breaking below $27. They can no longer bluff.
For many OPEC members, operating costs are around $30. With slowing global growth, they can’t afford to have even lower oil prices.
Conclusion: Oil has hit bottom and it won’t break below $27 this year. If you disagree with me, feel free to comment below.
Speaking of junk bonds, the energy sector makes up about a fifth of the high-yield bond index. Fitch Ratings forecast the US high yield energy sector default rate to hit 11% this year, “eclipsing the 9.7% rate seen in 1999.”
According to Fitch Ratings, at the beginning of December of last year, “$98 billion of the high yield universe was bid below 50 cents, while $257 billion was bid below 80 cents. The battered energy and metals/mining sectors comprise 78% of the total bid below 50 cents. In addition, 53% percent of energy, metals/mining companies rated ‘B-‘ or lower were bid below 50 at the start of December, compared to 16% at the end of 2014, reflecting the decline in crude oil prices.”
The collapse in oil prices, strong U.S. dollar, and weakening global economy “crippled” manufacturers across the country. The Empire State manufacturing index fell to -19.4 in January from -6.2 in December, the lowest level since March 2009. The reading suggests manufacturing sector is slowing down and it raises questions about the outlook for the economy.
Manufacturing is very important to the U.S. economy. According to National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), there are 12.33 million manufacturing workers in the U.S., accounting for 9% of the nation’s workforce. Manufacturers recently contributed $2.18 trillion to the U.S. economy. “Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the ninth-largest economy in the world.” according to NAM. For more facts and details, click here.
The manufacturing index have been below zero since July. Not only did the headline fell, but so did new orders index and shipments index. New orders fell 23.5 in January from -6.2 in December. Shipments fell -14.4 in January from 4.6 in December.
Slump in new orders can shift the production into lower gear and possibly jeopardize jobs. The employment (number of employees) index continued to deteriorate for a fifth consecutive month. The weaknesses in the Empire State indexes suggests that the earnings of manufacturers are under pressure.
According to FactSet, the S&P 500 is expected to report a Y/Y decline in earnings of 5.7% for the fourth quarter. For Q4 2015, the blended earnings decline is -5.8%. A Y/Y decline in earnings for the fourth quarter will mark the first time S&P 500 has reported three consecutive quarters of Y/Y declines in earnings since Q1 2009 through Q3 2009.
For Q1 2016, 33 companies out of S&P 500, so far, have issued negative EPS guidance and 6 companies have issued positive EPS guidance.
Another drag on earnings can be the current inventories to sales ratio. Since early 2012, the ratio has been increasing.
An increasing ratio is a negative sign because it shows companies may be having trouble keeping inventories down and/or sales have slowed. If they have too much of inventories, they may have to discount the products to clear their shelves, dragging on the earnings.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and/or leave comments below. Thank you.
Sneak peek of a future article that addresses one huge risk (lack of liquidity):
“With low liquidity in the bond market and increasing HFT transactions in it, the threat is real. Automated trades can trigger extreme price swings and the communication in these automated trades can quickly erode liquidity before you even know it, even though there is a very high volume. While liquidity in the U.S. bond market is high, it’s not high enough to battle the power of the technological progress.”
Global markets crash. Currency wars. What’s next? Good buying opportunity?
US markets: Markets plunged dramatically on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 530.94 points (3.12%), the worst one-day loss since November 2011 (on a % basis). The index is now down 10.2% (correction territory) below the May 19 closing and all-time high of 18,312, for the first time since 2011. For the week, the index is down 5.8%, the steepest decline since September 2011.
S&P 500 fell 64.84 points (3.19%), the worst one-day loss since November 2011 (on a % basis) and falling below 2,000 level for the first time since February. For the week, the index is also down 5.8%, the steepest decline since September 2011.
NASDAQ fell 171.45 (3.52%). For the week, the index is down 6.8%, the biggest weekly decline since August 2011.
European Markets: European stocks fell into correction territory on Friday. The Stoxx European 600 1.3% to 368.59. The index is down 11% from April 15 closing and all-time high of 414.06. For the week, the index is down 4.6%, the worst weekly performance since December. Other indexes fell into correction territory also. Germany’s DAX Index is down 18% from its highs. So far, 13 out of 18 western-European markets have lost 10% or more from their highs.
US oil prices fell just below $40 for the first time since February 2009, due to demand concerns and increasing supplies. US oil prices fell for their 8th consecutive week, the longest losing streak since 1986.
The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) (also known as “Fear Index”) jumped 46.45% to $28.03 on Friday. For the week, the index rose 118.47% (from $12.83 to $28.03), largest % move ever in a week.
Three factors driving the free-fall of the global markets:
Growing concerns (or uncertainty) about China’s economy
US rate-hike uncertainty. Uncertainty is the market’s worst foe
Plunging oil prices
There are concerns about slowing growth in emerging economies, particularly China. Economic data from China showed manufacturing PMI in China fell to a 77-month low of 47.1 in August, down from July’s final reading of 47.8. A reading below 50 represent a contraction. About two weeks ago, China’s trade data showed that July exports declined by 8.3% year-over-year (Y/Y) due to a strong yuan and lower demand from its trading partners. Exports to the Japan, European Union, and United States fell 13%, 12.3%, and 1.3%, respectively. Exports are China’s strongest growth machine. The weakness in the fundamentals started (still is) putting pressures on policymakers. Then, a surprise move came.
On August 11 (days after the exports data), the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) made a surprising move to devalue its currency (so called “one-time” move), the renminbi (RMB) (or yuan), against the US dollar (greenback) by 1.9%, the biggest devaluation since 1994 and first devaluation since the yuan was de-pegged from the dollar in 2005. PBOC decided to lower daily reference rate – which sets the value of yuan against the greenback – to make yuan more market-oriented exchange rate.
Three reasons behind China’s move:
Weak fundamentals, including exports
Desire to be included in IMF SDR basket
Impending US rate-hike
China’s move increased concerns over the health of its economy (second largest economy in the world) and shocked the global markets which continues today. China’s devaluation signaled that the economy there must be worse than what everybody believes. Continuous slowdown as it shifts from an export-led economy to a consumer-led economy has led Chinese government (or PBOC) to help stimulate economic activity. Over the past year, they cut interest rates four times and cut RRR (Reserve Requirement Ratio) several times. The goal is to combat slowing growth by strengthening liquidity and boosting lending (so far, unsuccessful). The recent devaluation will make imports expensive and help boost exports (reminder: exports fell 8.3% Y/Y in July).
Another reason behind China’s recent move is its desire for the yuan to be included in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDR), a basket of reserve currencies, in which the US Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, and British Pound are part of. Earlier this week, IMF decided to extend its scheduled revision of SDR basket (revision takes place every five years) by nine months (to September 30, 2016), giving China more time to make yuan (or Renminbi ) “freely usable”, a key requirement join the SDR basket.
Last reason behind China’s recent move is impending rate-hike in the US, which would support the greenback and would have consequences for China. The recent devaluation ended the era of Yuan appreciation which began in 2005 (reminder: yuan was de-pegged from the dollar in 2005). Ever since “Strong Yuan” policy began in 2005, Yuan (CNY) appreciated 28% against the US Dollar (USD), 30% against the Euro (EUR), and 65% against the Japanese Yen (JPY)
Rise of Yuan against most of its trading partners’ currencies has made its trading partners exports attractive. US rate-hike would have made China’s export rivals even more attractive. Now that China devalued its currency in the wake of falling exports (reminder: exports fell 8.3% Y/Y in July), its trading partners would want to protect their exports share. Therefore, China has fired the first shot to start currency wars.
Consequences of China’s actions:
Countries like Australia, Thailand, New Zealand, Malaysia and Canada are likely to suffer from China’s devaluation. These countries are largest exporter to China. Don’t also forget that these countries can affect other countries. Basically, it is “Domino Effect” economically.
Earlier this week, Kazakhstan – whose top trading partners are China and Russia – switch to a free float (which means that the central bank stopped managing the exchange rate), causing its currency, the tenge (KZT), to fall 25%. The move comes due to three reasons; crude prices (Kazakhstan is central Asia’s biggest crude exporter) fell 55% in the past year, Russian has allowed its currency (ruble) to depreciate significantly as commodity prices plummeted, and due to the yuan devaluation. The motivation for the move is to preserve its export competitiveness.
Vietnam has also allowed its currency, the dong, to weaken further due to the recent devaluation by its biggest trading partner, China. Who will be next to devalue their currency in this crisis; Asian Crisis Part 2.
Commodities denominated in US dollars will become more expensive to buyers in China, the world’s largest consumer of raw materials. When China’s economy slows, demand for raw materials, such as copper, Iron-ore, etc decreases and the lower demand puts downward pressure on commodity prices.
China, second-largest oil consumer, is causing oil prices to drop non-stop, which will hurt oil exporters, such as Canada (possibly leading to another rate-cut).
Falling commodity prices mean one other thing; deflationary pressures.
Slow growth and lower commodity prices most likely will lead other central banks, especially large commodity exporters to maintain their easy monetary policies for longer. Countries with large current account deficits and/or corporations with large amount of debt denominated in US dollars could see their economic/financial conditions worsen, causing them to further increase/expand their easy monetary policy (rate-cuts, for example). Not only commodity exporters and emerging countries will suffer, but also US companies.
US companies with significant exposure to China will suffer from China’s devaluation. Such companies are Wynn Resorts, Micron Technology, Yum Brands, and Apple, accounting for China sales exposure of 70%, 55%, 52% and 30%, respectively.
When I noticed China economic getting worse earlier this year, I knew Apple depended on China a lot, so I said that Apple was overvalued as more competitors were emerging and China’s economy was about to get worse. Even though Apple’s earnings came out better than expected, I went ahead on twitter and responded to Carl Icahn’s comments on the Apple and the market. He expected (maybe still expects) Apple’s stock price to double, which I did not (and I still don’t). More competitors are starting to emerge and China’s economic conditions are getting worse (debt bubble coming).
Mr. Icahn believed the market was extremely overheated and expected market bubble. I have to agree with him. I preferred (still prefer) to use the term “correction”. At this time, I believe current market sell-off is temporary and the dust will be settled in a month (good-buying opportunity). I expect “market bubble” after the Fed raises interest rates to the range of 0.70% and 0.80% (early 2017?). That’s when market sell-off will be much worse than the current situation.
I’m calling Mr. Icahn to respond to my questions; how do you think China’s action will affect global economies (or markets)? Do you still think Apple could double in price?
Now, let’s get back to how else China can affect global economies (deflationary pressures). I expect Europe’s economy and Japan’s economy to slow down.
Europe’s economy will slow down due to export demand decreasing and the uncertainty created by Greece (Yes, they did get a bailout deal, but it’s not over). That’s why I believe European Central Bank (ECB) will either lower interest rates even further or they will increase current Quantitative Easing (QE) program, pushing Euro currency lower. Current falling prices in the European markets are a golden opportunity. Lower interest rates and/or increased QE program will send European equity prices higher>>>all-time highs will be made.
Japan, China’s largest trading partner, will also suffer due to export demand decreasing. The devaluation of yuan (or, Renminbi) will make Japanese exports less competitive. Japan’s economy is still suffering despite Abenomics (similar to QE). Recent data showed GDP (Gross Domestic Product) falling at annual pace of 1.6% in 2nd quarter, due to slowing exports and lack of consumer spending. Abenomics has failed. Additional monetary easing coming? If the economy does not get any better in the next several months, I expect additional monetary easing by the Bank of Japan (BoJ).
I don’t believe the Federal Reserve will stop its plan to hike the rates, but it will slow the pace of it. On Wednesday (August 19), Fed minutes of July meeting (leaked earlier) showed that Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) members “…judged that the conditions for policy firming had not yet been achieved, but they noted that conditions were approaching that point.” They also said that “…the recent decreases in oil prices and the possibility of adverse spillovers from slower economic growth in China raised some concerns.” US dollar has been falling ever since the release of fed minutes, as expectations for September rate-hike decreased.
Now more troubles emerged, I wonder what the Fed will say or do. There are many US economic reports that will come until the Fed’s September meeting. The reports will decide the fate of rate-hike for September. At this time, I expect the Fed to hike the rates in September by 10 basis points (or 0.10%).
If the current China situation (or Asian Crisis Part 2) gets out of control, there will be no rate-hike for the rest of year even if there’s strong US economic reports.
All comments welcomed. Thank you.
Disclaimer: The posts are not a recommendation to buy or sell any stocks, currencies, etc mentioned. They are solely my personal opinions. Every investor/trader must do his/her own due diligence before making any investment/trading decision.