RF's Financial News

RF's Financial News

Sunday, October 27, 2019

This Week in Barrons: 10.27.2019

This Week in Barrons: 10-27-2019:

“They’re effectively out of business.  They just doesn’t know it yet.”  Mark Cuban

Thoughts from our e-mail bag:

1.    The quote was said by Mark Cuban, and could easily refer to the fact that the  current U.S. administration succeeded in growing our 2019 federal deficit by an astounding 26% in 2019.  This made the gap between revenues and spending ridiculously out-of-hand – with defense, Medicare and our own interest payments being the 3 largest outflows that need to be contained.  

2.    Per MJP, everything worth doing is: ‘really hard’.  If it wasn’t, it would have been done already.  The hard part normally becomes easier with more resources and effort, but that’s the point of working on it – to whittle away at the hard part.  It’s often more fun and relaxing to focus on the easier parts, or pretend that the hard parts will go away.  I believe it’s better to believe that the work is worth doing, and get serious about the parts that require the effort.

3.    I often find it amusing when companies cannot tackle the hard questions.  For example, the number one ‘perk’ asked for by employees prior to being hired is: unlimited vacation days.  Netflix offers an entire year of leave to new parents.  Twilio gives its workers a Kindle and a $30/month to buy books.  Twitter has on-site acupuncture, catered meals, and classes on improv.  Newspapers are offering doctors and nurses on site, and free rides home at the end of a shift.  But 72% of new hires are most interested in unlimited paid time off.  My sense is that employees just don’t understand how ‘unlimited anything’ really works.  After all, 55% of those surveyed in 2019 said they did not use all of their 2018 vacation days.  And the number of unused vacation days was 9% higher in 2018 than 2017.  ‘Unlimited vacation’ agreements come with performance requirements that are loved by the high performers and hated by ‘slackers’.  So depending upon where you fall on the performance spectrum – be careful what you wish for.  

4.    American Universities are proving to be NOT the ideal solution for their BEST students.  For example, both Facebook and Microsoft were not just founded at Harvard – by dropouts, but specifically founded during the January “reading period” when students are supposed to be studying for exams.  Statistically, it seems that the most lucrative months in Harvard’s history are the months when students are to be studying for exams.  I expect the college dropout rate to rise as professional jobs get automated and the creative and investing classes continue to explode.  Reverse globalization will hurt most American universities, and a ton of prime real estate will need to be repurposed.  Factually, Y-Combinator is creating a lot of wealth by providing a more focused version of the undergrad experience in about 5% of the time and cost.  It seems that the most successful alumni are the ones who refused to attend the institution in the first place.

5.    Finally, I wish every person inside an organization was forced to wear one of 2 buttons.  One button would say: “I don’t care,” while the other button would say: “I’d like to help.”  The choice would be up to the person, but they have to own it and believe in it.  It’s entirely possible that you and your team manage the “I don’t care” bus.  If that’s true, admit it, wear it, and save us all a lot of heartaches by telling everyone the truth.  On the other hand, if you want the satisfaction that comes from wearing the “I’d like to help” button – you’ve got to keep your promise.

The Market:  

   Just maybe the UK got it right.  Germany’s GDP is flat, and near recession level.  Why – because Germany is reliant on exports and global growth rates have been declining for some time now.  Couple this with positive numbers in the UK (even during the BREXIT evolution), one might conclude the effort to detangle from the EU has had a positive impact on the UK economy.  And you have to believe that the U.S.’s and the U.K.’s retractions from the global trade stage directly impacted Germany’s declining economic health.  Combine that with something SF pointed out: that more than half of the world’s banks are already in a weak position before any downturn that may be coming, according to a report from consultancy McKinsey & Co.  A majority of banks globally may not be economically viable because their returns on equity aren’t keeping pace with costs.  
   Look at what is going on in the rest of the world – everybody is easing.  The entire world is printing because monetary stimulus is the only way to keep the nations' economies alive.  President Trump is in quite a bind here, because if the economy goes in the tank ahead of the election – he’s going to get blamed.  Therefore, his cabinet is about one thing and one thing only – keeping this stock market UP at all cost.  They know the data stinks.  The banks are so illiquid that the Feds are jamming overnight repo's to the tune of $75B, $105B, and $130B.  The system is horribly broken.  This was the headline on Friday morning:  N.Y. Fed pushes $77.3B of securities in overnight REPO.”  I remember when we only did $60B in a month.
    What’s a Repo you ask?  Fair enough: the issue is that there’s not enough money out there, and the money that is there – banks don’t want to lend.  The U.S. Treasury is trying to sell our debt to other countries around the world, but if they don't buy it – the primary FED banks are obligated to pick it up.  So the banks are spending all of their money buying our own debt, and therefore need to go into the overnight ‘repo’ market to get short term loans from the FED to tide them over.  The FED takes the Treasuries off their hands, and the whole thing happens again the next day.  The reason no one is buying our debt is because it’s junk – and everyone knows it.  But also because we've made such enemies around the globe that no one wants to help us out.  Countries like China already have a trillion dollars of our debt, and don't want any more.  We need to continue to sell our debt, because we need billions just to service the debt we already have, not to mention the trillion dollar deficits.  And that’s where (because we need the money so desperately) the legalization of marijuana and other items is no longer an ‘if’ but rather a ‘when’.  Our various governments just need the money desperately.
   There's only a couple ways this can ultimately play out.  The first is that the Central banks create their "back up" plan and then at the time of their choosing, pull the pin on the farce we're in now.  Central Banks are very aware of the problem and are now talking about: "if the system collapses, GOLD can serve as a basis to build it up again."  WHAAT?  A Central banker suggesting that maybe gold bugs aren't crazy?  In fact, so precious is their gold, Central Banks are actually moving it onto military bases for safe keeping.  Others believe that the plan could be for a completely digital currency, based on something such as Bitcoin.  And then there are the hybrids that suggest some form of digital currency backed by a percentage of gold.  My point is that when the re-set comes, no one is going to be satisfied with paper money or digital money. They're going to want something physical, and gold has served that purpose throughout history.  All of the nations that are easing their fiat currencies – are accumulating gold. 
   This era is being termed: Financialization, and it has a benefit plan for almost everyone.  Wall Street gets a valuation story to sell.  Management gets stock-based compensation.  The FED gets a very grateful Wall Street.  And the White House gets re-elected.  To echo Howard Lindzon and Ben Hunt: the WeWord story is being repeated every day in countless S&P 500 companies, and it’s been going on for a DECADE.  Jamie Dimon, Bob Iger, Tim Cook … they’re not founders like Gates or Bezos.  They’re not even inventors like Buffett or Dalio.  They’re manager billionaires.  Their captains are centimillionaires, and their lieutenants are decamillionaires.  Everyone seems perfectly fine with this.  It’s not good or bad – it just IS.  It is no wonder that indexing is all the rage, because no sane person can figure out the math in this era of financialization.
   It’s fine to try and capture what you can while you can in market land.  But it's also a good time to rethink some gold, silver and Bitcoin.  When you have Central Banks suggesting that gold might help get us through a system collapse you know the end is at least in sight.  If they are buying gold – maybe it's a good idea for you too?

Info Bits:
-       Sweet Revenge:   Tesla’s earnings were up.  I can imagine Elon sitting in a spaceship-themed mansion cackling over alien memes and screaming, “I did it.  I told you so!” in a dialect only his homies from Area 51 can understand.

-       Snuggle up to Netflix…   because they added 6.8m new subscribers over the last 3 months — all of them overseas.  What drove new sign-ups was that a record 64m households tuned into Stranger Things after its July launch.  They’re adding the equivalent of 130 seasons of non-English speaking content in 2020.

-       Overly hospitable...   as Airbnb’s pre-IPO financials showed revenues rising a solid 31%, but losses more than doubling.  Marketing costs jumped 58%, but doubling your losses isn't in style right now.

-       “10% of JPM’s 2019 new hires had criminal records   said JPM’s Heather Higginbottom.  “We’re not lowering our standards, just broadening our horizons.”

-       $165m…   is a state’s average tax bump when a billionaire dies within their state.  David Koch is estimated to mean $4.17B in taxes for New York where he lived.

-       “No more negative waves…”   After being linked to helping fuel the opioid crisis, Teva Pharmaceutical announced a $23B settlement - $250m a year for 10 years to opioid addiction treatment.  How much do they make again per year?

-       46 State Attorneys General…   have joined the New York antitrust investigation against Facebook.  This raises the stakes that could result in massive changes to the FB's business practices.

-       Free Stuff:   Verizon is offering its customers a year of Disney+ free of charge.

-       Pronoun Confusion:   I’m so used to pronouncing she/he/it as one word.

-       The 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' trailer is here:   So the world has 2 months to obsess over it before the movie comes out on Dec. 20.

-       Boeing Earnings:   Despite reporting a significant earnings and revenue miss, Boeing was higher this week.  Proving there is no justice in the world. 

-       Researchers grew lab meat from cow and rabbit cells:   “Love the smell of science in the morning.”

-       Boeing ousts executive:   Boeing fired the head of the company’s commercial airplanes division.  Somebody had to be the ‘fall guy’ for this fiasco.

-       CEOs be gone:   The CEOs of Nike and Under Armour are also stepping down.

-       In Hong Kong, a parking space sold for $1m…   officially making Hong Kong the most expensive city in the world.

-       Bye Bye Birdie?   Twitter was down this week on its earnings miss.  I’m wondering whether management even looks at their financials anymore?

-       Update complete:   The U.S. nuclear arsenal has just completed updating their computer systems from using 8-inch floppy disks.  Welcome to the 1990’s?

-       Tim Ryan for Pres…   not so fast.  “Tim’s withdrawal from the race sent shock waves through the rest of the elevator,” said Seth Meyers.

-       This BUD is definitely NOT for you…    as BUD fell 10% after reporting horrific earnings this week. Dinosaurs die hard.

-       The Godfather is Back:   Business is boomin’ for Microsoft, and Bill Gates has reclaimed the top spot (over Jeff Bezos) as the richest man in the world.  I suspect Jeff will be back shortly.

   Softbank is betting their company on WeWork.  SoftBank plans on investing an additional $8.5B in WeWork.  $1.7B of that will go directly to Adam Neumann.  So after investing a total of $18.5B, SoftBank will soon have a company worth $7B.  Yes, you read that correctly.  How many ways can I say“Throwing good money after bad” OR “You could buy REGIS for less.”  WeWork has been managed so badly that it can’t even fire people right now because it can’t afford the severance.  SoftBank is paying Adam Neumann $1.7B to walk away from a ‘dumpster fire’.  My only hope is that SoftBank’s CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.) Group won’t give their approval – causing WeWork to declare bankruptcy – paying Adam Neumann $0 for his efforts.  I can only dream!

-       Bitcoin – would you like an endorsement from China?  Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, has said the country needs to “seize the opportunity” afforded by blockchain technology.  President Xi said that blockchain technology has a wide array of applications within China from financing businesses to mass transit and poverty alleviation. “We must take the blockchain as an important breakthrough for independent innovation of core technologies.”  Bitcoin jumped 20% on the news.

-       On the other side…   we learned this week that the Trump administration (in 2017) acted DIRECTLY to deflate Bitcoin’s valuation.  It seems that the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Treasury, the SEC, and the National Economic Council director Gary Cohn – worked directly on deflating the value of Bitcoin by launching Bitcoin futures.  “And it worked,” said Christopher Giancarlo – former director of the CFTC.

-       Good to know who your friends are:   As an apparent response to the Facebook-led Libra cryptocurrency, Congress may consider a bill to classify stablecoins as securities.  This would give the SEC authority over stablecoins and their issuers.

-       Twitter is NOT a friend of Libra…   according to its CEO.  Jack Dorsey replied with a conclusive “Hell no” on the question of his firm’s potential membership in the Facebook-led crypto payments club.  He explained that Libra was not based on an open standard, “but rather born out of a company’s intention, and it’s not consistent with what I personally believe and want our company to stand for.”

-       ‘What, me worry?’  Tencent, the Chinese internet giant, said Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency poses serious risks to WeChat's existing digital payment structure.  Tencent believes Libra could quickly win market share in countries that do not have a credible local currency or stable financial systems.  That type of move would be impossible for any Chinese company to replicate.  “Any internet company that has a relatively mature digital payment system, such as WeChat Pay and Alipay, would be threatened by Libra if it is ever launched.

   Last week Mark Zuckerberg testified before he U.S House committee about the legality of Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency, Libra.  Mark noted that they will only proceed with their involvement in the Libra association if all regulatory approvals are received and they agree with the objectives of the larger association "If I feel like Facebook can't be a part of it, then Facebook won't be a part of it."   Zuckerberg stressed the fact that Libra is not trying to build a currency but rather a payment system, however, they have not "locked down how this is going to work."  Throughout the hearing, topics ranged from political interference to cryptocurrencies.  Congress seemed uninformed and more focused on theatrics and grandstanding.  This matters because the hearings continue to illuminate the regulatory climate around the general crypto ecosystem – even if Libra is different than Bitcoin.  You have people like Patrick McHenry saying: “Maybe it's not about Libra, not about ads, not about Facebook at all – but about you answering for the digital age." Warren Davidson (R-OH) said, “It’s hard to subpoena Satoshi Nakamoto.”   The conversation was less focused on the use of stable digital currencies than it was a political event for Congress to show their constituents toughness against one of the richest men in the world.  I’m reminded of 2008 – when Obama issued a rallying cry against ‘fat cat bankers’, and again in 2016 when there was disdain for big pharma.  Be aware, 2020's political circus could narrow in on big tech.

Last Week:   Repo is QE – just ‘hidden’ and by another name.

   Boeing earnings came out and they were a disaster. Estimates of $2.09 in profits weren’t even close as they posted $1.45.  Boeing is a hot mess.  It was once the envy of the world.  They built world class jet liners, with amazing technologies.  But they could have committed the ‘fatal’ mistake.  By ‘fatal’ I mean the end of the company.  I’m trying NOT to be a drama queen, but I won’t fly on a 737 Max, and according to surveys – neither will millions of other people.
   Right behind Boeing came Caterpillar (CAT) that blew it on both the top and bottom line.  Which is nothing new for Caterpillar (that ended the week higher).  Texas Instruments and Twitter also showed us how badly things stink out there – even in tech and semi-conductor land.  Amazon’s profit fell for the first time in more than 2 years, and the company expects another earnings decline in the holiday-shopping season.  Falling earnings into the Holiday season – that’s a certain recipe for success - aye?   Everywhere I look I find disastrous results – but the market is near all-time-highs.  There's no fundamental reason for this market to be higher except:

-       The New York FED BOOST REPO TO AT LEAST $120B as of Oct 24th

   Yeah, there it is.  The FEDs are pumping umpteen billions into the banks every night to keep our markets afloat.  Caterpillar can't sell tractors.  Boeing can’t sell planes.  And our FED can’t even avoid nightly meltdowns.  I've screamed for 15 years that the market is rigged, but it bears repeating.  Our FED either keeps injecting money, and propping up the stock market, or the whole house of cards collapses in a tsunami of unpaid debt.  Debt that is almost incalculable.  Virtually everything is "rehypothecated" – meaning pledged several times.  For example: you pledge your Treasury holdings to Bank-A for a Loan, then Bank-A pledges your Treasuries to Bank-B for collateral on a real estate deal.  Bank-B thinks they have clean collateral and pledges those same Treasuries to Bank-C for some other Sovereign debt.  And on and on it goes – with the trail being difficult to follow and impossible to repay.  So, either our FED keeps feeding the beast, or we have a 1930's style melt down.
   Yet there we were Friday afternoon. The S&P had hit the all-time high set at 3027.  It doesn't matter that Amazon lowered their sales targets or that air freight has cratered.  It doesn't matter that series 8 truck sales are at 10 year lows, or that the rails are struggling.  It doesn't matter that 3M can't sell their sticky notes or that CAT can't sell tractors.  Certain talking heads are suggesting that "This time it's going to be worse than the 1930's."   Why?  Because this time it isn't just one nation that's going bankrupt – it’s the whole damn planet that’s in trouble.  We're facing a GLOBAL nightmare where everyone is broke.  The only way to play this is to ‘inflate or die’ – because everyone has no choice.
   Can they keep this up forever?  No, but they can keep it up for a lot longer than anyone thought.  At some point there's a fracture in the debt structure and collateral gets called in.  Because no one really has the collateral (it’s been pledged 20+ times) – the game stops.  I don't know when.  But when our Central Banks start suggesting we purchase GOLD and Bitcoin – I would think they are seeing something I am not.  

Weed:   Revenues and Searches are doubling, and banking is making it Legal

-       Over 65% of Americans support legal marijuana despite the vape crisis.

-       Northeast U.S. governors weigh in on regional cannabis coordination of… legalization, licensing, taxation, minority and small-business participation, and THC potency.  The population density and relatively small geographic footprint make competition (customers crossing borders) a major impetus to cooperation.  Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island and Ned Lamont of Connecticut all signed onto the summit and news release.  Noah Potter, cannabis attorney from Hoban Law thinks: “The key is that New York and New Jersey are communicating because they are the core.”  Pennsylvania Republicans might not want to hand a victory to the state’s Democratic governor, but they might face overwhelming negative public relations if N.Y and N.J. both legalize. 

-       Beverages and edibles are everywhere…   Aurora is planning a variety of cannabis concentrates including gummies containing 2 mg. of THC or 10 mg. of CBD.  Hexo plans to launch 6 cannabis beverages through its joint venture with Molson Coors with each beverage containing 10mg of CBD.  Tilray has a number of beverages in addition to Fluent (its JV with A-B) including a new line of chocolates and gummies.

-       A Marijuana breathalyzer is here:   A device from Hound Labs can tell how recently someone has consumed THC, and one from Sanntek can detect whether someone is high from THC.  These new marijuana breathalyzer tests are much more sensitive than the ones used for blood alcohol levels, and have been dubbed 'game-changers' by law enforcement agencies.

-       SAFE Marijuana banking is coming:   To take a company public you need revenue, excitement, presumably profitability, and definitely a legal banking path.   There’s an abundance of global sources sitting waiting to pour investment into the U.S. cannabis industry.  Their money is on the sidelines because they’re looking for safer bets – and that starts with a legal and regulated marketplace.  In the days to come, when the SAFE Banking Act is approved – then the sidelined money will start to flow into the U.S.

-       Is anyone really interested in CBD?  Google searches for CBD have increased since 2014 and are accelerating.  During the month of April 2019, there were 6.4m CBD Google searches – and the number of total searches will double in 2019 over 2018.  "It's booming and it's way bigger than anybody imagined," said research author John W. Ayers.  "There's a large demand in all 50 states.  For every two searches in the U.S. on Google on dieting, there's one for CBD.”   Ayers sees the claims of wide-reaching health benefits persisting which only serve to: “erode trust in our healthcare and evidence-based medicine.  It’s really going to be hard to put that genie back into the bottle.”

-       Dollars ‘n Cents:  Prices on wholesale flower are re-bounding from a low of $500 a pound, and currently in the $1,000 to $2,800 per pound range.  Growers are seeing prices as solid – in the $1,200/lb. range” says Gendron.  Moberg is seeing: “Demand is going through the roof.  I’m saying no to retailers asking for product, and processors buying up entire crops.  I’m seeing all good news including an improved wholesale flower market that is up 10 to 20% from 2018.”

Next Week:  Prepare for the transition BACK to Volatility

   Volumes and volatility are dead, but don’t get caught off guard.  Prepare for a transition back to volatility.  As shown above, we are currently trading in a tight range with minimal volume.  The longer and tighter the range continues – the more violent the exit from the range.  We are simply accumulating more risk.  We will either violently break-out or break-down from the 2,983 to 3,020 range in the SPX.  Watch the bonds next week – as they will be the reason the S&Ps come back to life.  Factually, the data sucks, but who cares.  Germany is in a recession.  China’s GDP is not good.  And Japan is pointing toward a recession.  There’s a 93% probability of a quarter-point rate cut this week by our FED.  Three potential trade ideas:
1.    Take a short-term, short position in Bank of America / Citi / and-or JPM, 
2.    Look at an ‘infinity spread’ on TLT out into February, and 
3.    Be a buyer of premium outside the expected move of the S&Ps next week.

   Next week, we may pull back a bit before moving higher with all the FED / QE money floating around.  Yes it's crazy, and no I don't like it.  It is what it is.  If I'm right, look to pick up some longs after the FED results on Wednesday afternoon – potentially in stocks such as UTX and Amazon.  They simply have no choice but to keep select tech, select manufacturing, and select financials up – or the overall market can't advance.  The best bets are going to be playing the big names that populate every hedge fund and pension fund portfolio such as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. 


Top Equity Recommendations:
-       Aurora (ACB = $3.80 / in @ $3.07)
-       First Majestic Silver (AG = $10.75 / in @ 10.50)
-       Canopy Growth Corp (CGC = $21.92 / in @ $22.17),
-       DRD Gold (DGD = $4.74 / in @ $4.20),
-       GBTC Bitcoin (GBTC = $10.31 / in @ $10.01), 
-       Pan American Silver (PAAS = $17.02 / in @ 18.00)

-       Bitcoin (BTC = $9,600)
-       Ethereum (ETH = $185)
-       Bitcoin Cash (BCH = $260)

-       RIOT ($1.68): 
o   Bot Jan 17, Sold $3 Call / Sold $3 Put / Bot $4 Call for $1.85 CR
o   Bot Jan 17, Sold $2 Call / Sold $2 Put / Bot $3 Call for $1.45 CR
o   (can only lose money if RIOT falls below $0.70).


-       GOLD (GLD = $139.79) hits a double despite its actual implied volatility (IV) slipping a bit over the past couple of days.   Apparently, GLD being stuck in a range for the past few weeks has a bigger impact on its IV than politics in Britain, a weak dollar and record gold holdings by ETFs (including GLD).   If recent events can’t get either GLD or its IV to budge, maybe nothing will.  At least for the next few weeks.  GLD’s relatively high IV metrics indicate tasty credits for short option spreads.  That’s why you might want to take advantage of them if you think GLD will continue to trade in a wide range.  The short iron condor that’s long the $134 Put, short the $136 Put, short the $145.5 Call and long the $147.5 Call in the end of November series is a neutral strategy that collects a credit 1/3 of the width of the strikes, and has a 75% probability of making 50% of its max profit before expiring.

   Follow me on StockTwits.com to get my daily thoughts and trades – my handle is: taylorpamm.

Please be safe out there!

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