David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - General

    Gold-Backed ETFs Have Never Seen a Run of Inflows Like This

    This article by Ranjeetha Pakiam for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Global investors are stashing more and more assets into gold as the coronavirus outbreak spreads and appetite for risk takes a hit.

    The global tally of bullion in exchange-traded funds swelled by the most in more than a month on Tuesday as equities sank. That was the 25th consecutive day of inflows, a record. At 2,624.7 tons, the holdings are the largest ever.

    After surging 18% last year, gold has extended its rally in 2020, with prices hitting the highest since 2013. The haven has been favored as the virus outbreak has spread beyond China, threatening a pandemic and slower growth.

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has said that should the disruption from the disease stretch into the second quarter, prices may rally toward $1,850 an ounce. Spot bullion was last at $1,644.67, up 0.6%. It touched $1,689.31 on Monday.

    A global recession is likely if the coronavirus becomes a pandemic, according to Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi. The odds of that outcome now stand at 40%, up from 20%, he said in a note.

    The threat of a prolonged downturn in growth due to the impact of the virus may keep gold elevated, according to Morgan Stanley. Further ETF inflows are likely as long as real interest rates remain negative, it said in a note.

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    Brazil Confirms Coronavirus Case, the First in Latin America

    This article by Simone Iglesias and Fabiola Moura for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    A 61-year-old Brazilian man who lives in Sao Paulo was infected during a recent trip to Northern Italy and tested positive upon returning to the country, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said Wednesday at a news conference in Brasilia. The patient, who traveled via France on the way back to Brazil, is doing well and is at home, a Sao Paulo state official said.

    “We’ll have to see how the virus reacts in a tropical country in the middle of summer,” Mandetta said. “We still can’t say how lethal this virus will be.”

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    Berkshire Hathaway Inc Shareholder Letter

    Thanks to a subcsriber for this letter by Warren Buffett. Here is a section on utilities:

    Berkshire Hathaway Energy is now celebrating its 20th year under our ownership. That anniversary suggests that we should be catching up with the company’s accomplishments.

    We’ll start with the topic of electricity rates. When Berkshire entered the utility business in 2000, purchasing 76% of BHE, the company’s residential customers in Iowa paid an average of 8.8 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Prices for residential customers have since risen less than 1% a year, and we have promised that there will be no base rate price increases through 2028. In contrast, here’s what is happening at the other large investor-owned Iowa utility: Last year, the rates it charged its residential customers were 61% higher than BHE’s. Recently, that utility received a rate increase that will widen the gap to 70%.

    The extraordinary differential between our rates and theirs is largely the result of our huge accomplishments in converting wind into electricity. In 2021, we expect BHE’s operation to generate about 25.2 million megawatt-hours of electricity (MWh) in Iowa from wind turbines that it both owns and operates. That output will totally cover the annual needs of its Iowa customers, which run to about 24.6 million MWh. In other words, our utility will have attained wind self-sufficiency in the state of Iowa.

    In still another contrast, that other Iowa utility generates less than 10% of its power from wind. Furthermore, we know of no other investor-owned utility, wherever located, that by 2021 will have achieved a position of wind self-sufficiency. In 2000, BHE was serving an agricultural-based economy; today, three of its five largest customers are high-tech giants. I believe their decisions to site plants in Iowa were in part based upon BHE’s ability to deliver renewable, low-cost energy.

    Of course, wind is intermittent, and our blades in Iowa turn only part of the time. In certain periods, when the air is still, we look to our non-wind generating capacity to secure the electricity we need. At opposite times, we sell the excess power that wind provides us to other utilities, serving them through what’s called “the grid.” The power we sell them supplants their need for a carbon resource – coal, say, or natural gas.

    Berkshire Hathaway now owns 91% of BHE in partnership with Walter Scott, Jr. and Greg Abel. BHE has never paid Berkshire Hathaway a dividend since our purchase and has, as the years have passed, retained $28 billion of earnings. That pattern is an outlier in the world of utilities, whose companies customarily pay big dividends – sometimes reaching, or even exceeding, 80% of earnings. Our view: The more we can invest, the more we like it.

    Today, BHE has the operating talent and experience to manage truly huge utility projects – requiring investments of $100 billion or more – that could support infrastructure benefitting our country, our communities and our shareholders. We stand ready, willing and able to take on such opportunities.

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    Reddit's Profane, Greedy Traders Are Shaking Up the Stock Market

    This article by Luke Kawa for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    The do-it-yourself traders of r/WSB are waging a kind of guerrilla warfare in the markets, trying to exploit what they see as weaknesses in the system to move prices where they want them. For anyone who wondered about where the small day traders who made the 1990s so wild went, meet the 2020 version. After years of indifference, individual investors seem to be finding their way back to stocks, for better or worse. They’re flexing muscles in ways that can easily call to mind excesses from the dot-com era.

    “There is no denying the fact that in the month of February 2020, the public is back,” says Julian Emanuel, chief equity and derivatives strategist at BTIG LLC. He thinks the S&P 500 can jump an extra 10% because of small-investor enthusiasm. “This bull market is not going to end until the public falls in love with stocks, and that process may just be beginning.” Of course, timing the moment when irrational exuberance gives way to a mass exit isn’t so easy. Chatrooms where stocks were hyped are seminal artefacts of the 1990s boom and the following bust. They were a setting for bare-fisted digital brawls among all manner of hustlers and promoters, many of whom could move shares on a dime—sometimes just enough so they could get out and leave others holding the bag.

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    Coronavirus threatens the global economy with a 'sudden stop'

    Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for the Telegraph. Here is a section:

    Contagion experts Peter Sandman, Ian Mackay, and Jody Lanard sum up my view in this passage from Past Time to Tell the Public: It Will Probably Go Pandemic, and We Should All Prepare Now:

    “We are near-certain that the desperate-sounding, last-ditch containment messaging of recent days is contributing to a massive global misperception about the near-term future. One horrible effect of this continued 'stop the pandemic' daydream masquerading as a policy goal: it is driving counter-productive and outrage-inducing measures by many countries against travellers from other countries, even their own citizens back from other countries.

    “But possibly more horrible: the messaging is driving resources toward 'stopping' and away from the main potential benefit of containment – slowing the spread of the pandemic and thereby buying a little more time to prepare for what’s coming.”

    For readers who can spare the time, I suggest tuning out media noise – much of it dwelling on the malevolent distraction of which individual may have been spreading Covid-19 – and going straight to research papers being released daily by PubMed Central, the data bank of the US National Library of Medicine.

    That way you avoid the sort of misunderstanding I just heard on the BBC, which stated that the death rate is comparable to flu. No, it is not. The average morbidity of flu annually is 0.1pc; Covid-19 is an order of far greater magnitude.

    The latest tracking data as of Feb 22 (unreliable, but the best we have) is that the mortality rate is 4pc in Wuhan, 2.8pc in Hubei, and 0.8pc in other regions of China, though all figures are creeping up as slow deaths hit the data.

    There can be long lag times after infection so it is too early to infer ratios from South Korea, Italy and Iran, but this is surely more like the Spanish Flu of 1918 than anything we are used to. Chinese data suggests that roughly 14pc of those infected over the age of 80 are dying.

    You can read most of the PubMed abstracts free and can see what is coming out of labs in China – some of them excellent – or in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Europe and North America. There are already 80 peer-reviewed papers. The unfiltered findings are arriving almost in real time. They give you an extra edge.

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    Exxon Drops to 15-Year Low Ahead of Annual Strategy Presentation

    This article by Kevin Crowley for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:


    Exxon Mobil Corp. fell to a 15-year low on Monday amid a broad selloff in equity and commodity markets and just over a week before Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods is scheduled to present the oil explorer’s long-term strategic plan to investors and analysts.

    The shares have been under pressure since Exxon disclosed disappointing fourth-quarter results in late January and prospects for a near-term recovery were dimmed by the spreading coronavirus. Excess supplies of natural gas, chemicals and motor fuels also weighed on the oil supermajor.

    Exxon fell 4.7% to close at $56.36 on Monday in New York as Brent crude tumbled to about $56 a barrel. The last time the Texas-based driller’s stock traded at this level was the end of 2005, when crude fetched $59.

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    EU's Barnier Hits Boris Johnson With Brexit Trade Ultimatum

    This article by Ian Wishart for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    “Our overriding priority is to retake control of our laws,” Slack told reporters in London as Barnier spoke in Brussels. “The British public were promised we will take control of our fishing waters and that’s what we’re going to do.”

    The EU does have level playing field conditions in other trade deals -- including its tariff-free agreement on goods trade with Canada that the U.K. wants to replicate -- but they aren’t as stringent. The EU says it needs to be tougher with the U.K. because the British economy is so close and so large.

    That is reflected in the final negotiating mandate European ministers approved on Tuesday. In it, the bloc requires the U.K. to broadly follow any future changes in EU rules on competition policy, environmental protections, tax, and labor law.

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