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March 29 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese Stocks Wrap Up Best Quarter Since 2014 With a Huge Rally

This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Friday’s surge in Chinese stocks rounds up a winning quarter for the country’s investors. China’s equities have outrun every other national market in the world in the three-month period. The CSI 300 Index’s 29 percent rally is its best since the end of 2014, when the nation’s equity bubble was forming. Apart from a Taiwanese chipmaker, a Brazilian steel producer and Latin America’s largest utility, all the top 30 performers on MSCI Inc.’s emerging-market benchmark are Chinese companies.

Managing a momentum-driven investor base, where turnover is in the hands of almost 150 million retail traders, has always been a challenge for the government. China’s experienced two massive bubbles in the past decade, with a tight-grip approach to tame the rally backfiring in 2015, drawing the ire of foreign investors. Analysts predict Beijing will be more successful this time in engineering a slow bull market.

“It’s a critical time for the market,” said Liao Zongkui, an analyst at Lianxun Securities Co. “Investors are keeping a close eye on earnings from heavyweight companies. A good results season will be a big confidence boost, and will ensure the stock-market rally can continue.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Veteran subscribers will be accustomed to our long-time contention that monetary policy beats most other factors most of the time. That’s particularly true on Wall Street and is an even more important factor in the age of extraordinary monetary policy. In China, the state dictates the fate of the market so it is clear that bull markets are state sponsored.



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March 29 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Erdogan's Real Test Comes Monday When Election Calendar Clears

This article by Cagan Koc and Selcan Hacaoglu for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“We’re going to implement structural reforms that will make our economy stronger against such attacks with great speed following the election,” Erdogan said.

The question is if investors will stick around long enough to see if he delivers this time. With Turkey succumbing to its first recession in a decade and unemployment at the highest in nine years, Erdogan will have an uphill battle ahead. It will be far harder to make headway on such key challenges as overhauling the labor market now than during a period when economic growth of 5 percent or more was the norm for Turkey, according to Naz Masraff, director for Europe at Eurasia Group.

Elections Loom
“It’s almost the least likely period to do structural reforms after the elections,” Masraff said. “If Turkey hasn’t managed to do them when growth was higher and the country was doing economically better back in 2011, 2012, it’s really difficult to do it in a downturn.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Turkey has a great deal of US Dollar denominated debt and with the Lira under pressure that is only going to be a progressively more burdensome obstacle to recovery. While extraordinary measures are underway to support the currency ahead of this weekend’s municipal elections, the broader question is what measures are going to be put in place to repair the economic fabric after the election.



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March 29 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Zombie Crypto Stocks Resurface as Bitcoin Extends Recent Gains

This article by Tatiana Darie for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Crypto-tied stocks, the former market darlings that quickly languished when the Bitcoin bubble burst, are showing signs of reawakening.

Small firms linked to blockchain and cryptocurrencies are following Bitcoin higher as it extended gains for a second month. The top digital token rose for the fourth consecutive session on Friday, reaching its highest level since late December. The price broke above its 100-day moving average for the first time since August 2018 this week, extending this quarter’s gain to 11 percent after tumbling 45 percent in the previous quarter.

Shares of Marathon Patent Group Inc. and Social Reality Inc. each rose about 6 percent in early trading, while Grayscale Bitcoin Trust BTC and Riot Blockchain Inc. gained about 4 percent.

Other tokens such as Ether and Litecoin also rose on Friday, helping push the Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index up as much as 2.1 percent. Despite recent gains, the gauge remains down more than 80 percent from its highs in early 2018.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Most assets get interesting again after an 80-90% decline and so it is with Bitcoin. The price has held a progression higher reaction lows since December and closed above the psychological $4000 level today for the first time since November. As long as the sequence of higher lows is intact, we can conclude a low of medium-term significance has been found.



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March 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video Commentary for March 28th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Some of the topics covered include: predicative power of the yield curve spread, bonds ease, stock steady, Eurozone weak, Brexit drama is an indictment of the political process, palladium peaks, precious metals weak, oil firms from intraday lows, India steady, China consolidating.



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March 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Brexit Stalemate Deepens as U.K. Fails to Agree on a Way Forward

This article by Robert Hutton, Alex Morales and Tim Ross for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The U.K. has two weeks to go to the EU with a plan for its next steps or face the prospect of leaving without a deal, something Parliament also opposes. The likeliest outcome is that May will ask for a longer delay to Brexit, but she will have to convince European leaders that Britain is on a path to solving its apparently intractable problems.

Hours after May promised her Conservative members of Parliament on Wednesday that she’d step down if they back her Brexit deal, she still looked short of having the numbers needed to win. It’s already been overwhelmingly defeated twice.

Meanwhile, votes in the House of Commons intended to break the deadlock by finding a consensus also saw every proposal rejected. The pound fell.

May must decide on Thursday if she is going to bring her deal back for another vote and meet the EU’s Friday deadline for getting it passed. The government declared that it was still the only option in play. Yet it too appears to be doomed despite the capitulation of some Brexit hard liners.

Liz Truss, a member of Theresa May’s cabinet, told ITV television that Wednesday’s votes show there are no other “serious options” than the one already negotiated with the EU, and that has “focused minds.”

“There has been a significant shift now of people recognizing the reality of the options,” she said. “What we have seen today is Parliament does not have an option apart from the prime minister’s deal that is really a viable option for the future.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

This chart from Bloomberg highlighting the range of options puts me in mind of Walter Scott’s quote from Marmion “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”



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March 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Indian anti-satellite missile test meets with success

This article by NewAtlas may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Anti-satellite weapons aren't new. Systems capable of destroying orbital spacecraft have been around since the 1960s and include everything from specialized anti-satellite satellites packed with explosives, to repurposed shipborne anti-missile missile systems that can take out space targets without any special modifications.

However, for various technological and diplomatic reasons, very few spacefaring nations have actually developed anti-satellite weapons. Today's test makes India the fourth to do so after the United States, Russia, and China.

The Indian government says that the test was conducted by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and was fully successful, demonstrating the country's ability to knock out a satellite with a high degree of precision using indigenous technology. The missile was a DRDO Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor developed as part of India's general missile defence program. It operated as expected, but carried no explosive warhead. Instead, it was what is known as a "kinetic kill," where the hypersonic velocity of the interceptor is enough to destroy the target.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The proximity of an Indian general election is a good explanation for the timing of this demonstration as well as the sorties over the Pakistani border. By pandering to the Hindu nationalist wing of the BJP, Modi needs to appear strong and is eager to demonstrate India’s technological prowess as a way of doing that.



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March 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Have Yield Curve Inversions Become More Likely?

Thanks to a subscriber for this note by Renee Haltom, Elaine Wissuchek, and Alexander L. Wolman for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section.

The flip side of the previous point is that if the term premium narrows, yield curve inversions will become more likely even if there is no increased risk of recession. And, indeed, there is reason to believe the term premium has fallen. Recently, the ACM model’s estimates of the term premium have moved persistently lower. The average values since 2006 and 2012 are 0.77 and 0.20, respectively. (See Figure 2).3

Two authors of this Economic Brief (Wissuchek and Wolman) recently evaluated how changes in the term premium affect the likely frequency of yield curve inversions.4 In principle, one could do this by conducting a statistical analysis of historical data to assess the relationship between the level of the term premium and the frequency of yield curve inversions. However, the number of inversions is too small to produce a reliable estimate using this method. Instead, Wissuchek and Wolman’s exercise involved simulating data for the short-term interest rate and then measuring how the frequency of yield curve inversions in the simulated data varies with the behavior of the term premium.

To build intuition for this simulation exercise, Figure 3 illustrates the qualitative relationship that would arise between the frequency of yield curve inversions and the level of the term premium if the term premium were fixed at different levels. For very high values of the term premium, the yield curve would never be inverted because the expected decrease in short-term rates would never be large enough to outweigh the term premium. Conversely, for very low (negative) values of the term premium, the yield curve would always be inverted because the expected increase in short-term rates would never be large enough to outweigh the term premium. And, if the term premium were fixed at zero, then over long periods the yield curve would be inverted roughly half the time. In reality, the term premium is not constant, so the simulation involves looking at how the frequency of yield curve inversion varies as the distribution of the term premium changes.

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the most predictable outcomes of an inverted yield curve is the discussion about whether it will be a predicative tool on this occasion because so many mitigating factors have arisen since the last inversion to suggest this time is different.

What I find particularly interesting on this occasion is other Fed economists are coming out with alternative measures which support the view we are looking at an impending recession even while they contend the yield curve spread is an imperfect measure.



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March 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lynas looks to WA, not Wesfarmers, for its Malay solution

This article by Hamish Hastie, Colin Kruger and Darren Gray for the Sydney Morning Herald may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

"These discussions are preliminary in nature and no formal submission for any change has been presented to the EPA," a spokeswoman for the agency said.

The discussions could help solve the problems in Malaysia which threaten the company's future, and made it vulnerable to what analysts and investors described as a low-ball bid from Wesfarmers on Tuesday.

Lynas faces an uncertain future after the Malaysian  government imposed strict new conditions on its billion-dollar Malaysian operation which could force it to shut down in
September.

This includes the permanent removal of a residue with naturally occurring radiation, Water Leached Purification Residue (WLP), from Malaysia.

According to institutional investors, Lynas discussed plans last month to relocate some of its rare earths processing  back to Western Australia. All processing is currently handled
in Malaysia.

Lynas chief executive Amanda Lacaze denied there was any plan to extract and retain the controversial WLP residue in WA - the state where it is mined - but did confirm it planned to expand its processing operations outside of Malaysia.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A great deal of capital was invested in new rare earth metal projects after the price spike caused by China limiting exports in 2010. Lynas is the only one of those that made it to production and refining of heavy rare earth metals.



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March 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video Commentary for March 27th 2019

March 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Aramco to Buy $69 Billion Sabic Stake in Record Mideast Deal

This article by Matthew Martin, Dinesh Nair, and Archana Narayanan for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, will buy a majority stake in local chemical giant Sabic from the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund for $69.1 billion.

The Middle East’s biggest deal will transfer a big slug of cash into the Public Investment Fund, helping Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman finance his economic agenda. It also weights Aramco away from its core oil production business, pumping 10 percent of the world’s crude, and more toward the production of fuels and chemicals.

“This transaction is a major step in accelerating Saudi Aramco’s transformative downstream growth strategy of integrated refining and petrochemicals," Amin Nasser, chief executive officer of Aramco, said in the statement.

The deal, first mooted last year, values the Public Investment Fund’s 70 percent stake at 123.4 riyals per share according to a statement. The remaining shares, traded on the Saudi stock market, aren’t part of the transaction.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This merger is a clear signal of Saudi Arabia’s long-term intentions. They know as well as any of us that the USA is going to become a competitor for established energy markets which means they have to produce more value-added products in order to compete with higher cost producers. That is particularly bad news for Canada and Brazil where supply bottlenecks, grades and deep water all represent challenges that are only likely to be overcome by higher prices.



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March 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Frontier Markets

Thanks to a subscriber for Meketa Group’s end of year report which contains some educative data I believe will be of interest to the Collective. Here is a section:

The opportunities that an investment in Frontier Markets offers can be summarized as a growth story at a good price. To get a sense of how the growth expectations within frontier markets compare with growth across the world, we examine the World Bank’s growth expectations for different countries and groups.

The chart above highlights that all but one of the Frontier Market countries have higher growth expectations than the U.S. and other advanced economies. We can also see that many are higher than the world average, which indicates that these economies tend to be a positive influence on the global average.

Frontier Market equity returns since inception have been less efficient when compared to U.S. equity market returns, but have still seen periods of very strong growth.

Closely tied to the growth opportunity in Frontier Markets are the demographics, which have been shown to be a driving factor in GDP growth across many studies. 2 Much of the growth story in these markets is driven by their relative youth.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Economic growth is important, particularly for emerging and frontier markets because of the base effect. It is simply easier to go from 50₵ a day to a $1 a day than it is to go from $10 - $20. With small markets liquidity is an issue and therefore one has to have some long-term perspective when participating and also to buy at the right time. One is reminded of the Baron de Rothschild quote “buy when there is blood in the street, even if it is your own”



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March 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Palladium hit by 'Barrage of Selling'

This note by Justina Vasquez for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

The rally in the U.S. dollar triggered an investor exodus from precious metals on Wednesday. Spot palladium led declines as mounting concerns over global growth threaten the outlook for demand for the commodity used mostly in auto catalysts. The slump accelerated as the price of the least-liquid asset among its peers broke below the $1,500-an-ounce level, triggering “a barrage of selling,” Miguel Perez-Santalla, a sales and marketing manager at refiner Heraeus Metals New York LLC, said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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March 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video Commentary for March 26th 2019

March 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gold: Ringing the bell

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from UBS which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber;s Area.

The clearest rationale for a positive view on gold is when we have evidence of negative real interest rates. That is becoming an increasingly likely scenario since global central banks are desperate to stoke inflation and are willing to allow their economies to run hot in order to achieve a self-sustaining cycle. That further supports the argument we are at the top of the interest rate cycle.



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March 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The debate over Modern Monetary Theory

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from UBS which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The discussion about Modern Monetary Theory is inconvenient because it brings into the public eye what governments and central banks have been doing all along. It is very convenient to sport a façade of adherence to the ideal of balanced budgets, spending within your means, low inflation and preservation of purchasing power. However, if we look at the history of government these ideals are rarely realised. Meanwhile, deficit spending, lavish social programs and rising debt ratios are the rule rather than the exception.



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March 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Apple goes all-in on services, with new video, games and news subscription packages

This article by David Neald for NewAtlas may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Last and definitely not least, Apple unveiled a serious move into video content production, called Apple TV Plus. Dedicated to "the best stories ever told," the service will feature high-profile content from a variety of big names – Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Jason Momoa were some of the stars who appeared on stage.

Again, we don't know how much it's going to cost, but it will involve a monthly fee and it will work across all Apple devices. It's coming to more than 100 countries later this year, and will use downloads rather than streaming. You can think of it as Apple trying to be HBO as well as Apple.

Apple is adding some improvements to the existing TV app as well as launching its own programs, including iTunes movie integration and easier navigation, and it's introducing a separate service called Apple TV Channels at the same time.

The idea is you only pay for the channels you need, and access them all through the one TV app on your Apple devices. HBO, Showtime, and Starz are three of the channels that are going to be available, and live sports and movies get pulled in too (assuming you've subscribed to the necessary channels).

Eoin Treacy's view -

Apple has come up with something to do with its cash and it is going to have to outbid Netflix in order to get the best shows. In the near term it is going to be selling those shows to a smaller audience of Apple product users than the vast number of Android, Microsoft and smart tv users that will be outside its ecosystem. 



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March 25 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 25th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Some of the topics covered include: yield curve analysis and discussion of what an inverted yield curve represents, Treasury yields continue to contract, gold steady, oil pauses, Wall Street quiet, banks weak, utilities breaking out, Europe and Japan likely to steady, QE4 a real possibility.  



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March 25 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Beware Misreading Inverting Yield Curve

This article by Mohamed A. El-Erian for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“The extraordinary abrupt end to central bank hiking cycle + Fed paranoia of credit event is uber-bullish credit & uber-bearish volatility,” strategists including Michael Hartnett wrote.

While negative yields on paper suggest that investors lose money just by holding the obligations, bond buyers could also be looking at price gains if growth stalls and inflation stays low. But along the way, risk assets may be entering the danger zone.

“We’ve never seen monetary easing so long, so broad, so big,” said Brian Singer, head of dynamic allocation strategies at William Blair, a Chicago-based fund manager that oversees $70 billion overall. “What’s happened after every significant period of accommodation is a reckoning. This time the bubble is lower-rated credit and illiquid private assets.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is always an argument about the efficacy of an inverted yield curve as a lead indicator. It was exactly the same back in 2005 when the yield curve first became inverted. There were calls that this occasion is different because of the bull market in commodities, the rise of China and the strength of the housing market all of which proved to be fallacious.



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March 25 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lyft Leading Wave of Startups Debuting With Giant Losses

This article by Eliot Brown for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“Many of their business models have not been tested fully,” Ilya Strebulaev, a Stanford University business professor who studies late-stage startups, said of the large private companies. “I would not be surprised if many of these companies would not be as successful as investors expect them to be.”

Of the five companies with the largest losses before an IPO, four of them—discount marketplace Groupon Inc., biotech Moderna Inc., social-media company Snap Inc. and communications company Vonage Corp. —have performed poorly on the public markets. A fifth, Viasystems Group Inc., went private years ago at a fraction of its IPO value.

For investors betting on the coming IPOs, the main appeal is rapid growth, which Lyft has made a centerpiece of its push to Wall Street. Its revenue doubled last year to $2.2 billion in what would be the third largest annual revenue of a U.S. startup pre-IPO, behind Facebook Inc. and Google, according to Capital IQ. Both Facebook and Google were profitable before their IPOs.

Lyft hasn’t publicly outlined when it hopes to turn a profit, but company executives and bankers point out that spending on high-cost items like marketing is falling as a percentage of revenue. It is also pushing to reduce insurance costs.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is nothing that signals late cycle activity quite like a slew of IPOs from companies that have little prospect of turning a profit.



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March 25 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Investment Strategy: 'Trading Sardines?'

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from Jeffrey Saut who I had the pleasure of meeting at the American Association of Professional Technical Analysts's (AAPTA) conference on Friday. Here is a section:

"When investors hear yield curve inversion, they automatically think 'recession.' That’s because every recession since 1962 has been preceded by an inversion. But, not every inversion has been followed by a recession, so keep that in mind."

Myth number two is that we are into the late part of the business cycle. If that is true why are the late cycle stocks acting so poorly? I have argued that the economic downturn was so severe, and the recovery so muted, that what we have done is elongate the mid-cycle. This implies there is much more time until the mid-cycle ends and the late cycle begins.

Myth number three has it that earnings are going to fall off a cliff. I do not believe it. Certainly earnings momentum has slowed, but earnings continue to look pretty good to me. And, if the earnings estimates for the S&P 500 are anywhere near the mark, the SPX is trading at 16.3x this year’s earnings and 15.5x the 2020 estimate. I think with 2Q19 earnings myth number three will evaporate.

As for Friday’s stock market action, readers of these missives should have found last week’s action as no surprise. I have talked about the negative “polarity flip” that was due to arrive last week for a few weeks. How deep the pullback/pause will be is unknowable, but I have stated I do not think it will be much. It was not only the economic data, and PMIs, that sacked stocks, but as I have repeatedly stated it was also the Mueller Report. The result left the senior index lower by ~460 points and the S&P 500 (SPX/2800.71) resting at the lower end of my support zone of 2800 – 2830.

Eoin Treacy's view -

As a brief aside. I am now the membership chair for the organisation, which is a member of IFTA. If anyone would like to pursue membership, has at least seven years of professional experience using technical analysis, and enjoys a collegiate environment for sharing ideas and methodolgy please reach out. 

The focus of Jeffrey’s Saut’s talk at the conference was to reiterate his view we are in a secular bull market. I felt a lot more comfortable when I went to conferences and was the only person making that call. It is not a majority opinion today but there are definitely more people espousing it.



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March 22 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

March 22 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch March 21st 2019

Thanks to subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

It stands to reason that by excluding a sector for reasons other than what might be considered strictly financial it increases the potential for that sector to outperform later. By flushing out holders selling for what they perceive as ethical reasons, it returns the price to a value stage where the potential for future outperformance is bolstered.



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March 22 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What Is the Future of Ecommerce? 10 Insights on the Evolution of an Industry

This article by Aaron Orendorff for Shopify may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

For all its enduring hype — physical versus digital, offline versus on — the old war is over. In fact, it’s always been a lie. Choice, not location, is commerce’s greatest opportunity and its most-looming threat.

In defense of retail’s “apocalypse,” brick-and-mortar losses are mounting; the four-year bankruptcy count now sits at 57 once-landmark chains. Manufacturing market share and in-store sales for consumer packaged goodsare flat or declining. Born-online “microbrands” have devoured the lion’s share of growth. And ecommerce’s gains continue to trounce retail as a whole.

Here’s the uncomfortable twist: brick-and-mortar still dominates online sales by over $20 trillion. And the gap will widen. After a quarter century, ecommerce’s spread is slowing, 80% of 2018’s gains belonged to Amazon, and (in the U.S.) the top five online retailers own 64.7% of sales:

Eoin Treacy's view -

I found this report to be very interesting because it comes from a company whose business model is to supply small and start up sellers with an ecommerce platform and provides a partial counterweight to Amazon’s more than 50% share of the online retail market in the USA.



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March 22 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Morgan Creek Capital Management

Thanks to a subscriber for this report which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

 A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

I spent today at the American Association of Professional Technical Analysts conference which is a forum a I enjoy where market veterans share what works for them. Scott Fullman reported today that he was at a fundamental research conference from Emerald Research a few weeks ago where they opined that only about 10% of trading today is based on pure fundamentals.
 



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March 21 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 21st 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include Fed goes on pause, yield curve spread contracts, bond market pricing in a rate cut, Wall Street rallies on a reduced headwind from liquidity contraction, banks pull back, Dollar rebounds, emerging markets steady, gold eases.  



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March 21 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Traders' Rate-Cut Bets Shift Goalposts for Fed Playing Catchup

This article by Liz Capo McCormick for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Money-market traders have proven skeptical in recent years -- and much of the time rightly so -- about just how much the central bank might be able to push rates back up toward more historically normal levels. Officials on Wednesday scaled back from two to zero the number of rate increases they foresee in 2019.

Futures markets, which were already leaning toward a cut this year, have pushed the probability of easing to about 50 percent. For next year, a cut is fully priced in. The turnaround in Fed expectations in recent months has been accompanied by a rebound in stocks, which tumbled in December amid concern about the economy and the prospect of rate hikes.
 

“The Fed got the signal from markets last year as they were crashing and were pretty much devouring the economy,” said Robert Tipp, chief investment strategist at PGIM Fixed Income, which oversees about $716 billion. “A cut this year is possible. This is a good environment for U.S. fixed income,” and the 10-year yield has room to fall, he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The big question after the Fed’s about face on raising rates is, are they moving early enough to avoid an economic contraction? The logic is reasonably straight forward. The Fed would not have announced such a major shift in policy unless they were worried about the economic and market outlook. By going on pause and waiting for additional information they are signaling a willingness to listen to what the market is telling them.



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March 21 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Powell Aims to Avoid Japan Deflation Trap With Dovish Tilt

This article by Rich Miller and Craig Torres for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

That’s the type of situation that Japan fell into two decades ago and with which Europe is flirting now. It’s a path that could ultimately lead to a deflationary downturn as households and businesses put off borrowing and spending today because they’re convinced prices will be lower tomorrow, no matter how far the central bank lowers interest rates.

“We are not getting any inflation and the risk is that we find out -- as did Europe and Japan -- that we are stuck and that the central bank isn’t able to raise inflation,” said Mark Spindel, chief investment officer at Potomac River Capital in Washington.

The Fed hasn’t hit 2 percent inflation on a sustained basis since formally adopting that objective in 2012. In December, the personal consumption expenditures price index that the Fed targets rose 1.7 percent from a year earlier.

The extra yield investors demand to hold 10-year Treasuries over two-year notes was 13 basis points, highlighting market conviction that inflation will stay subdued over the next decade.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Fed has stated in the last week they are willing to let inflation run hot in order to create a self-sustaining trend which suggests we are likely to have an easy monetary environment for the foreseeable future.



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March 21 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

America's Best Weapon in the Opioid Epidemic Just Got Cheaper

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

It’s potentially a really big deal,” said Brendan Saloner, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who has studied the opioid addiction crisis. Suboxone Film has “a really important role in the overall strategy of combating the overdose crisis,” he said, adding that placing patients on the drug cuts their risk of overdose in half.

For now, the U.S. opioid epidemic shows few signs of abating: annual opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. are expected to climb to 81,700 in 2025, a 147 percent increase from 2015, according to a study last month by the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Technology Assessment. The human and financial costs have led states, counties and cities to sue drugmakers and distributors, seeking billions of dollars.

Opioid Crisis
Suboxone Film allows the opioid-based drug buprenorphine to be absorbed through the mouth to help control cravings and stave off withdrawal. When combined with counseling and support services, that type of medically assisted therapy is considered one of the most effective ways to treat opioid addiction. It’s also expensive, especially for uninsured patients.
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The trend of opioid use remains a worrying development in the USA, where heroin, prescription drugs and fentanyl all represent avenues through which addiction is expanding. The availability of these drugs is an obvious problem which has been exacerbated by over prescribing medications, the war against the Taliban which has boosted heroin production and cheap fentanyl exports via regular mail from China.



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March 20 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 20th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include: Fed confirms dovish tilt. Dollar pulls back which boosts the outlook for Europe, commodity producers, commodities, energy and gold. US Treasury yields compress, taking the conclusion that the next move in interest rates will be downwards. 



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March 20 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fed Sees No 2019 Hike, Plans September End to Asset Drawdown

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

“This was definitely a dovish outcome and even a bit of a surprise,” said Ben Emons, managing director of global macro strategy at Medley Global Advisors in New York. “The Fed took out the entire rate hike scenario for this year.”

Reaction in markets confirmed the dovish interpretation. Stocks pared losses, the dollar turned lower and Treasuries rallied. Traders lifted the odds of the Fed cutting rates. In a separate statement Wednesday, the Fed said it would start slowing the shrinking of its balance sheet in May -- dropping the cap on monthly redemptions of Treasury securities from the current $30 billion to $15 billion -- and halt the drawdown altogether at the end of September. After that, the Fed will likely hold the size of the portfolio “roughly constant for a time,” which will allow reserve balances to gradually decline.

Beginning in October, the Fed will roll its maturing holdings of mortgage-backed securities into Treasuries, using a cap of $20 billion per month. The initial investment in new Treasury maturities will “roughly match the maturity composition of Treasury securities outstanding,” the Fed said. The central bank is still deliberating the longer-run composition of its portfolio and said “limited sales of agency MBS might be warranted in the longer run.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Fed has cemented its about turn around with today's statements. That confirms a somewhat bearish tilt in their reasoning since the only way a pause can be justified is if growth figures are downgraded.



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March 20 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Corporate America = Vapourware?

This article by Bernard Tan may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to this insightful note and a section from it are posted in the Subscriber's Area.

One of the most significant side effects of ultra-low interest rates has been the creation of a clear incentive to take on as much leverage as possible. Whether that is justified as reducing the weighted average cost of capital, providing the funding for buybacks and dividend increases or for improving the veneer of EPS growth, the result is the same. Leverage has increased substantially.



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March 20 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy set to formally endorse China's Belt and Road Initiative

This article from the Financial Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Chinese investments have become increasingly contentious in the EU. Diplomats in Brussels and influential western European capitals have long worried the 16+1 grouping of China and central and eastern European states, including 11 EU members, is a Trojan horse to divide the bloc. Beijing has denied this suggestion.  EU member states such as Germany and France have pushed for tougher screening criteria for Chinese investments. They want the bloc to develop a more unified strategy amid rising tensions over the security implications of using Chinese technology from companies such as Huawei, the telecoms group. Other countries including Greece and Portugal, where Chinese groups have invested billions of euros since the financial crisis, have adopted a more lenient approach.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I can’t help but think of the adage “a drowning man will clutch at a straw”. Italy’s populist administration has need of both funds for investing in public works and also a desire to snub the federalist ambitions of Northern European creditors. Meanwhile, China has a clear ambition to draw European countries within its sphere of influence in an effort to cement export markets and to weaken the chances of a concerted effort to blunt its expansionism.



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March 19 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 19th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A lnk to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include: Semiconductors Index surmounts 1400 again, Wall Street pauses, commodity producer currencies firming except Rand, Mid Caps turn back to outperformance in Europe and UK but not USA, India firm, China pauses, Bonds steady, gold steady.



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March 19 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Another Swing at the Plate

This updated report from KKR on the 2019 forecast published in January may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The rally that began on boxing Day continues to impress with the S&P500 now trading back above the psychological 2800-point level. This move has now broken the sequence of lower rally highs and increases scope for the Index to consolidate above the trend mean.



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March 19 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Under "Basel III" Rules, Gold Becomes Money!

Thanks to a subscriber for this article from Zero Hedge which may be of interest. Here is a section:

If banks own and possess gold bullion, they can use that asset as equity and thus this will enable them to print more money. It may be no coincidence that as March 29th has been approaching banks around the world have been buying huge amounts of physical gold and taking delivery. For the first time in 50 years, central banks bought over 640 tons of gold bars last year, almost twice as much as in 2017 and the highest level raised since 1971, when President Nixon closed the gold window and forced the world onto a floating rate 

And

The only way governments can manage the levels of debt that threaten the financial survival of the Western world is to inflate (debase) their currencies. The ability to count gold as a reserve from which banks can create monetary inflation is not only to allow gold to become a reserve on the balance sheet of banks but to have a much, much higher, gold price to build up equity in line with the massive debt in the system.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Federal Reserve values the gold certificates it holds from the Treasury at $42 an ounce which is the statutory gold price set in 1973. It is unlikely that any change to the way the Bank of International Settlements treats gold will alter that valuation.  



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March 19 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Alberta Pork Reports A Fourth Confirmed PED Case

This article from High River Online may be of interest to subscribers.

A fourth case of the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus has been confirmed in Alberta.

Alberta Pork announced the outbreak on Friday, March 15, saying this is the fifth reported case in the province, however one of the reported cases turned out to be a false positive.

The virus has previously been found in Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and PEI, but was reported for the first time in Alberta back in January.

Earlier this year, Alberta Pork Executive Director, Darcy Fitzgerald, said the disease made its way into the United States from Asia, and was first confirmed in Canada in 2014.

The farm group says hog operations within 60 kilometres of the fourth confirmed case will be notified.

PED affects pigs with no risk to human health. This incident has also not caused any food safety concerns.

For more information on what you can do to protect your farm, visit Alberta Pork's website to view their PED toolbox.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Swine flu has decimated the Chinese herd and new cases are being found all the time. It was reported in Belgium earlier this year and is now in North America. There is no cure so the only recourse is to cull the herd and maintain quarantine but that is very difficult.



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March 19 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mental compass: New evidence suggests humans can sense Earth's magnetic field

This article by Michael Irving for NewAtlas may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Alpha-ERD is a strong neural signature of sensory detection and the resulting attention shift," says Shin Shimojo, co-lead author of the study. "The fact that we see it in response to simple magnetic rotations like we experience when turning or shaking our head is powerful evidence for human magnetoreception. The large individual differences we found are also intriguing with regard to human evolution and the influences of modern life. As for the next step, we ought to try bringing this into conscious awareness."

The team took plenty of steps to ensure that participants weren't sensing other things. The test chambers were shielded from outside electromagnetic signals, and the copper wires that generated the magnetic field were wrapped so they wouldn't produce an audible hum.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Dousing or witching for water and electrical wires has been something people have been doing for generations. The practice offers empirical, though not especially reliable, evidence that humanity has the ability to sense electromagnetic signals. However, it has until now been largely beyond the ability of science to test with any kind of reliability. The clear result of this confirmation is there is scope for a broader range of understanding into what drives human activity or how we are influenced by our environment.



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March 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 19th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include: Teasuries at a short-term resistance ahead of the Fed, China clears the way for outszied credit growth, ASEAN, India and Emerging Markets rally, Europe recovering, Wall Street steady, gold and oil steady,  



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March 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Wants Its Stock, Bond Markets to Step Up Funding Role

This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“We need to create a strong capital market,” Guo Shuqing, the country’s chief financial regulator, said at the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative session which wrapped up last week. “We could do more work especially in the capital market -- stock market, bond market -- for direct financing.”

China is trying to transform how it funds its economy after decades of relying on state-run banks that benefit from the implicit backing of the nation’s treasury -- but tend to direct most loans to other government-owned companies. The difficulty that small and private firms have in securing funding was one reason for an explosion of shadow-banking, and the rapid increase in debt and risk that came with it.

Spurred to act by a record $34 trillion debt pile, authorities in recent years have cracked down on risky loans, squeezing businesses that relied on such funding. While leaders including Guo have called on the banks to do more to finance private companies, lenders are grappling with their own concerns about loan quality and default rates. Even so, outstanding banks loans in China have increased by about 27 percent since 2016, while capital-market funding rose by around 15 percent.

“We shouldn’t put all the pressure on banks,” Xu Kuijun, an NPC delegate and vice president at Bank of China Ltd. In Shanghai said in an interview at the sidelines of the gathering. “We have to rely more on direct financing, and capital markets should do more.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is nothing says “We are done with tightening” quite like the statement “capital markets should do more”. The dominant policy narrative in China for the last three years has been the need to curtail speculation and most particularly in the shadow banking sector.



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March 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

March 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What the Federal Reserve Got Totally Wrong about Inflation and Interest Rate Policy: Getting Real About Rents

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Cornell research Academy of Development, Law and Economics by Daniel Alpert. Here is a section:

The foregoing factors present perceptional problems especially when met with sizable gains in employment that would normally result in rapid household income growth. It is tempting to see rent and OER increases as only the result of higher levels of demand. But despite recent glimmers of meaningful wage growth (mostly in lower wage, lower hours employment sectors) and the longer term reduction in U-3 unemployment to historically low levels, median U.S. household income in 2018, adjusted for inflation, remained less than 4% higher than it was at the turn of this century, 18 years ago (see Figure 13).

So there is something else going on here. As Figure 5 illustrates, the contribution of rent and OER to core CPI inflation hit a historic high of 81% in the summer of 2017. While such contribution moderated some in 2018, it remains the lion’s share of core inflation and is again increasing in proportion.

This begs another question, what would be the level of core inflation without price growth in rent and OER? There was evidence at the end of Q4 2018 that rents declined nationwide on an annual basis for the first time in more than six years, according to the Zillow Group real estate database9.  Now this data, if the trend continues, will take some time to percolate through to the BLS and BEA data - even longer for it to migrate from rents to OER estimates – but if it persists it will clearly result in materially lower inflation data in 2019. Far lower than the FOMC was banking on to support its monetary policy actions of 2018.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I found this to be a very interesting and educative report not least for its breakdown of the composition of CPI figures. The Fed dot plot which will be released on Wednesday, along with its rate decision, is being eagerly anticipated by investors for some perspective of just how dovish the Committee has become.  



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March 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

March 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Wireless Set to Transform Communications/Cloud

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Oppenheimer, dated June 2018, which is one of the best primers on the evolution of 5G I have seen. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

5G is what I regard as an enabling technology. It is an investment theme in its own right because it will displace the legacy infrastructure we use today. but it also acts as the framework upon which additional services can be built. Telecom companies are selling the first 5G plans at present and Samsung and others are in the process of rolling out the first dedicated 5G handsets. Additionally, the roll out of products like smart speakers, digital assistants, web-connected doorbell cameras, etc, give us a clue to how the initial phase of the Internet of Things is going to progress.



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March 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Licence for value hunting

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from Amundi Asset Management which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to this note and another from Morgan Stanley are posted in the Subscriber's Area.

A European portfolio manager recently remarked to me that India is better covered among analysts he talks to than Europe. That is a clear testament to how much the constant barrage of negative news from Europe on the political, social and economic fronts have damaged sentiment.



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March 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China makes major U.S. pork purchase despite steep import tariffs, as hog virus takes toll

This article by Tom Polansek for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Buyers in the world’s biggest hog producer and pork consumer struck deals for the meat despite import tariffs of 62 percent imposed by China on U.S. pork as a consequence of the trade war between the two countries.

The duties had slashed China’s imports of U.S. pork from companies such as WH Group Ltd’s Smithfield Foods since last summer.

The sale of 23,846 tonnes of U.S pork in the week ended March 7 comes after a months-long outbreak of African swine fever in China that has spread to 111 confirmed cases in 28 provinces and regions across the country since August 2018.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Pork is one of the most popular proteins in China. Rising living standards have only boosted demand for what many people consider to be a staple and with so many pigs dead from disease there is a shortage.



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March 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Why Central Banks Like Canada's Are Finding It Hard to Get Home

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

Poloz counters by pointing out that the leverage already out there makes tightening risky too. Plus, he sees potential long-term benefits from frontloading demand.

Exports and investment remain below pre-crisis levels as a share of the economy, leaving Canada reliant on consumption and housing. Wage gains are smaller than in the past. The number of new firms being created, an important metric for Poloz, is lackluster. What if Canada’s economy is on the cusp of an investment boom that may not be detectable yet, and companies are holding back because they lack confidence? Productivity typically picks up late in the business cycle, and policy makers shouldn’t get in the way of that by removing stimulus too quickly.

Yet, if the purpose of low rates has been to nurse the economy back to normal, then the ability to raise them should be the ultimate gauge of health.

With the jobless rate at four-decade lows, and underlying inflation back near the 2 percent target, there were signs that the economy was nearing its capacity -- which is why Poloz began to hike.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The dilemma facing the Bank of Canada is similar to that facing the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Bank of England for that matter. They are all facing into housing markets that are expensive by any measure and household sectors that are very sensitive to interest rates.



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March 14 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 14th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include: Pound continues to hold its breakout, Bond yields contracting globally, Indian Rupee breaks above the trend mean, Australian Dollar tests its lows, Industrial resources ease with China, but commodity exporter stock markets outperforming. Wall Street quiet.



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March 14 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Old allies turn tough: How the EU will react to Theresa May's request for a Brexit extension

This article by James Crisp for The Telegraph may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

One senior EU source predicted that the leaders would be uncompromising and some, if not all, would lean on the prime minister to extend Article 50 as long as possible.

“Every time Mrs May has spoken to the leaders, their final decision has been tougher than was predicted by their officials,” the source said, pointing out the prime minister’s dismal record at the European Council.

“None of the leaders want to be blamed for a no deal Brexit," said one EU diplomat, “but they know that if they will be by their businesses if there is one.”

It is up to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, to broker a consensus between the EU-27.  On Thursday morning, he made it clear he would ask the heads and state of government to look favourably on a request for a long extension, understood to be between nine months and a year, which opens the door to a general election or second referendum.

Meanwhile influential MEPs such as Guy Verhofstadt and Manfred Weber are adamant that a British extension cannot hijack the European Parliament elections.

Broadly, countries with socialist governments hanker for a longer extension in the expectation of more left-wing British MEPs being elected in upcoming European Parliament elections, while centre-right governments fear a Eurosceptic surge if Britain is forced to run the vote in May.

Officials in Brussels, veterans of many marathon late night summits, are fond of saying, “you can never predict what will happen when the leaders get together”.

But here is a look at the EU’s movers and shakers on Brexit stand on extension today.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The decision to hold a third vote on May’s deal on the eve of the summit with European leaders is a cynical, though perhaps not unexpected move, by the UK government to have another stab at getting the deal passed. That is aimed at imposing a “my deal or no Brexit ultimatum” on the hold outs in the Eurosceptic movement. It also puts pressure on the European side since they will not know whether the deal is to be accepted or not until the night before they propose their conditions for an extension.



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March 14 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

DHFL, Wadhawans And Ownership Webs

This article by Aman Kapadia for Bloomberg Quint may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

This story started with the loans made by DHFL to four developers. When the developers bought a stake in Darshan Developers, the money moved to Kyta. Kyta used most of the proceeds, Rs 1,324 crore, on a joint venture, details on which are not available in the company’s filings.

The remaining Rs 100 crore was used to repay unsecured loans it had received from unknown sources.

In February, BloombergQuint asked DHFL about the use of its loan funds by these developers and the connection with Wadhawan entities. The company said it was awaiting the outcome of an internal investigation into the Cobrapost allegations.

"You are aware that over the last two weeks, we have issued various media statements as also clarifications. The clarifications issued by us clearly sets out the motivation of the complainant, and also states that statements, allegations and accusations contained in the complaint are utterly false and baseless.

Eoin Treacy's view -

As happens with all major collapses, the details of the wrongdoing and the untangling of the web of deceit that led to the collapse happens well after the decline. Dewan Housing Finance collapsed abruptly from its September peak, falling from INR700 to its recent low of INR100 as the full extent of the misallocation of capital started to become clear. That was helped along by the RBI stepping in to instil discipline in the banking sector which resulted in a number of privately held banks pulling back sharply.



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March 14 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A quantum experiment suggests there's no such thing as objective reality

This article from the MIT Technology Review may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

They use these six entangled photons to create two alternate realities—one representing Wigner and one representing Wigner’s friend. Wigner’s friend measures the polarization of a photon and stores the result. Wigner then performs an interference measurement to determine if the measurement and the photon are in a superposition.

The experiment produces an unambiguous result. It turns out that both realities can coexist even though they produce irreconcilable outcomes, just as Wigner predicted.  

That raises some fascinating questions that are forcing physicists to reconsider the nature of reality.

The idea that observers can ultimately reconcile their measurements of some kind of fundamental reality is based on several assumptions. The first is that universal facts actually exist and that observers can agree on them.

But there are other assumptions too. One is that observers have the freedom to make whatever observations they want. And another is that the choices one observer makes do not influence the choices other observers make—an assumption that physicists call locality.

If there is an objective reality that everyone can agree on, then these assumptions all hold.

But Proietti and co’s result suggests that objective reality does not exist. In other words, the experiment suggests that one or more of the assumptions—the idea that there is a reality we can agree on, the idea that we have freedom of choice, or the idea of locality—must be wrong.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I apologise if this going to sound a little wonkish but there are important considerations raised that have a direct impact on the nature of markets and crowd psychology.

Every electrical engineer is taught that you change a system by measuring it. The change is obviously very small but there are phase modulations that occur when you interfere with the system to measure it. That is a clear fact.

At The Chart Seminar, I often talk a little about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle which is that the more you know about the position of the particle the less you know about its velocity.

Then we have the above piece citing the assumption that the choices people make do not have an influence on the choices other make. In the markets we absolutely know that the choices other people make have a definite impact on the decisions of everyone who has yet to make a decision. We also know that the more a winning strategy is seen to work the greater the reliance investors place on it.



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March 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 13th 2019

March 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's economy is 12% smaller than official data say, study finds

This article by Gabriel Wildau for the Financial Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

For years, the sum of China’s provincial GDP has exceeded the national figure, a clear sign of statistical inflation at the local level. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has previously acknowledged that “some local statistics are falsified”, and in 2017 the central government accused three provinces in China’s north-east rust belt of fabricating data. 

The Brookings paper highlights how the NBS in Beijing struggles to make adjustments to the inflated data it receives from local officials. The analysis finds that the central government’s adjustments to local data are mostly accurate before 2007-08 but “after this date no longer appear to be accurate”. 

The NBS said last year that it would assert greater control over provincial data collection beginning in 2019 to eliminate discrepancies between local and national data. 

“NBS has done a lot of work to weed out the fake numbers added by local government, but it just doesn’t have enough power and capacity, nor the right incentives,” Michael Zheng Song, economics professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a co-author of the paper, told the FT. “It would be unfair to blame NBS for fabricating GDP numbers.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The reliability of Chinese data has been an enigma investors’ have been pondering for decades. It’s not really a question we can answer with any degree of confidence so the best course of action is to monitor the actions that can be backed up with some degree of confidence.



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March 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Brookfield to Buy Marks's Oaktree to Make Alternatives Giant

This article by Gillian Tan and Scott Deveau for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

As the private equity industry gathers near record sums of assets, institutional investors aim to make big allocations to fewer firms with a wide range of products. Today’s deal creates such a one-stop-shop: it bolsters the credit business of Brookfield, which has traditionally focused on real estate, and provides Oaktree, a specialist in distressed debt, exposure to assets that thrive outside turbulent economic times.

“We had difficulty, up until now, meeting the strict terms of some of those mandates,” Brookfield Chief Executive Officer Bruce Flatt said in a phone interview. “Very few firms in the world are able to do that.”

Oaktree co-Chairman Howard Marks said in the interview that the two firms mesh “culturally and in terms of product lines without competing and overlapping.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Warren Buffett has been preaching for years about the merits of owning a piece of a business and private equity investors have been listening. Private equity has taken private exactly the same kinds of companies Buffett favours, which are generally those with niche businesses, strong cashflows and low leverage.



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March 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Investors Are Still Waiting for a Gold-Mining Merger Wave

This article by Alistair MacDonald and Ben Dummett for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Miners and bankers give a variety of reasons for why the gold mining merger wave hasn’t come. The poor performance of gold miners’ shares means that sellers want to hold out for better valuations and buyers are reluctant to use shares they believe are undervalued for acquisitions.

The S&P TSX Global Gold Index is down 51% since its 2011. The S&P 500 has doubled in value in that time.

The industry as whole has a poor record in M&A. Miners overspent during the decadelong bubble that ended in 2011. That put off investors and made some executives wary of doing deals.

In 2016, PwC calculated that big miners had written off $200 billion of the value in acquisitions and projects over the previous five years.

Executives may be reluctant for another reason, investors say. They don’t want to put themselves out of a well-paid job by merging or selling their mines.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Ore grades at gold mines have been contracting for years but the massive investment in additional new greenfield sites during the bull market did not result in massive new sources of supply. Nevertheless, mining productivity remains high because production is more efficient today because of technological improvements.



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March 12 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video Commentary for March 12th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include: Stock markets steady, Pound extremely volatile as Theresa May's deal is voted down again, China pauses, US inflation below forecasts compresses yields and supports gold, oil pauses, wheat rebounds, lumber weak as trading margins increase.



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March 12 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Sharing Economy Was Always a Scam

This article by Susie Cagle for Medium.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In some instances, the sharing economy appeared to inflame the very problems it purported to solve. The supposed activation of underutilized resources actually led to more, if slightly different, patterns of resource consumption. A number of studies have shown that the ease and subsidized low cost of Uber and Lyft rides are increasing traffic in cities and apparently pulls passengers away from an actual form of sharing: public transportation. Students at UCLA are reportedly taking roughly 11,000 rides each week that never even leave campus. In putting more cars on the road, ride-hail companies have encouraged would-be drivers to consume more by buying cars with subprime loans or renting directly from the platforms themselves.

Alongside making it easy to rent out spare rooms, vacation rental platforms encouraged speculative real estate investment. Whole homes and apartment buildings are taken off the rental market to act as hotels, further squeezing housing markets in already unaffordable cities.

Early sharing champions were ultimately correct about technology enabling a shift away from an ownership society, but what came next wasn’t sharing. The rise of streaming services, subscription systems, and short-term rentals eclipsed the promise of nonmonetary resource sharing. The power and control wasn’t decentralized; it was even more concentrated in the hands of large and valuable platforms.

Why go through the trouble of swapping your own DVDs for a copy of Friends With Benefits, after all, when you can stream it through Amazon Prime Video for $2.99? The idea of paying for temporary access to albums rather than outright owning them may have been galling at first, but we’re increasingly comfortable with renting all our music, along with our software, and our books. Downloading and sharing the materials that live on these streamed resources is impossible, illegal, or both.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The evolution of the subscription business model has helped to streamline balance sheets and has essentially turned the lumpy cashflows of technology companies into the equivalent of consumer staples. That is one of the primary reasons they have continued to be able to command such high valuations.



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March 12 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oil 2019: Analysis and forecast to 2024

This summary report from IEA may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The United States leads global supply growth The United States continues to dominate supply growth in the medium term. Following the unprecedented expansion seen in 2018, when total liquids production increased by a record 2.2 million barrels per day (mb/d), the United States will account for 70% of the increase in global production capacity until 2024, adding a total of 4 mb/d.

 

Important contributions will also come from other non-OPEC countries, including Brazil, Canada, a resurgent Norway, and newcomer Guyana, which together add another 2.6 mb/d in the next five years. In total, non-OPEC production is set to increase by 6.1 mb/d through to 2024.

 

Among OPEC countries, only Iraq and the United Arab Emirates have significant plans to increase capacity. These gains have to offset steep losses from Iran and Venezuela, which are subject to sanctions and political or economic turmoil. As a result, OPEC’s effective production capacity falls by 0.4 mb/d by 2024.

The United States is also turning into a major player in the global oil trade
As a result of its strong oil production growth, the United States will become a net oil exporter in 2021, as its crude and products exports exceed its imports. Towards the end of forecast, US gross exports will reach 9 mb/d, overtaking Russia and catching up on Saudi Arabia. The transformation of the United States into a major exporter is another consequence of its shale revolution.

Greater US exports to global markets strengthen oil security around the world. Buyers of crude oil, particularly in Asia, where demand is growing fastest, have a wider choice of suppliers. This gives them more operational and trading flexibility, reducing their reliance on traditional, long term supply contracts.

Global trade is not simply a story for the United States. The second-largest increase in crude exports comes from Brazil, which ships an extra 0.8 mb/d of oil by 2024. Following Brazil, Norway is enjoying a renaissance and will overtake Kazakhstan and Kuwait in the next five years a remarkable achievement.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

“Unconventional oil and gas are gamechangers for the energy sector” has been a refrain at this service for more than a decade and the full extent of that change is now becoming clear. When we first talked about the USA becoming energy independent it sounded to many like a fanciful view but the country is already an exporter and will reverse decades of imports in the coming couple of years.



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March 12 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Wheat Futures Climb Most Since August as Texas Ratings Decline

This note by Michael Hirtzer for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers.

May wheat futures up as much as 4.4% to $4.47 1/2 a bushel in Chicago.
Intraday advance is biggest since Aug. 2
Prices are rebounding from May contract record low reached Monday
NOTE: Winter-wheat conditions in Texas drop, USDA data showed Monday
Texas good/excellent rating lowered to 28% from 36%
Futures also climb amid short covering, Terry Reilly, senior commodity analyst for grain and oilseeds for Futures International in Chicago, says by telephone

Eoin Treacy's view -

There was also news today that Ukraine’s wheat crop is coming in ahead of expectations so there is no global shortage of the commodity. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence of a short-term oversold condition and today’s upward dynamic is the first positive news for wheat in months. Potential for some additional short covering has certainly improved.



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March 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 11th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include: Technology share lead rebound, India firms as Modi strengthens in polls. Indonesia unwinding overbought condition, South African rand at potenital support, Brazil continues to extend rebound, Pound rallies, oil firm, gold eases, silver holds gain, bonds steady



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March 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Apple Upgraded at BofAML as Pullback Presents Opportunity

This article by Ryan Vlastelica for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here ii is in full:

Apple Inc. was upgraded to buy from neutral at BofAML, which wrote that it saw “ten reasons to be bullish” on the iPhone maker. It also raised its price target to $210 from $180.

Shares rose 2.1 percent, taking the stock to its highest level since December.

The firm’s 10 reasons touched on a number of factors, including valuation, an “overshoot in negative estimate revisions,” a reacceleration in the company’s services division and a growing base of users. The company has a “highly loyal user base,” with “low churn where demographic changes are in Apple’s favor,” analyst Wamsi Mohan wrote.

The firm was also positive on the company’s critical iPhone line, which has been the subject of investor anxiety given demand issues, particularly in China. BofAML now forecasts “stability of supply chain order cuts,” as well as a “large reversal of inventory overhang in iPhones.”

The lower inventory is “a net positive, which after [the first quarter of 2019] could start to drive some stability in supply chain orders with new builds picking up after the next few months.”

Shares of Apple have gained more than 20 percent from a January low, though they remain more than 25 percent below a record hit in October, a pullback that BofAML wrote “presents opportunity.”

According to Bloomberg data, BofAML’s call marks the first Apple upgrade since New Street Research raised its view on the stock in early January.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Few companies are as exposed to China’s economy as Apple. It both depends on China for manufacturing and as a major demand growth market for its products. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before the share declined in line with pessimism about a trade accord. As perceptions have improved the outlook for the status quo persisting has lifted the share.



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March 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Indonesia's imminent presidential election

This article by Lex Rieffel and Alexander R. Arifianto for the Brookings Institute may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Another vulnerability for Jokowi is the nation’s economic performance during his first term. Indonesia’s exceptional track record of sound macroeconomic policies since the transition in 1998 has been maintained. However, as The Jakarta Post noted in a 2016 article, he has been unable to lift the growth rate from the lackluster pace under his predecessors. His promised surge in infrastructure investment has not materialized, the state enterprise sector is largely unreformed, and a host of environmental challenges are not being addressed adequately.

The possibility that disenchanted voters will abstain from the election and that enthusiasm among potential voters backing Subianto will produce a surge of votes in his favor has led independent observers (including one of us—Alexander) to conclude that electoral support for both candidates is actually in a statistical dead heat.

The one point of consensus among most analysts is that neither of these two candidates is a committed democrat, implying that Indonesia is likely to continue drifting away from democratic rule in the near term.

A Jokowi-led government will clearly be more aligned with American values than a Subianto-led government because it will be more respectful of human rights and the rule of law. By contrast, a Subianto-led government might be more favored by the Trump administration due to its tough-guy, authoritarian approach to domestic governance and its hardline foreign policies.

The best outcome for long-term U.S.-Indonesia relations would arguably be a landslide victory for Jokowi that makes it easier for him to fix some of the weaknesses of Indonesia’s democratic political system, especially the role of the parliament. His policy leverage during a second five-year term may be enhanced significantly. According to a January 23 piece in Republika, Jokowi’s party, the Indonesian Democratic Party Struggle (PDIP), and its coalition allies are expected to control approximately 56 percent of seats in the new parliament that will also be elected on April 17.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A third of the world population is voting this year and with populist rhetoric already on par with what was witnessed in the 1930s there is ample scope for continued populist uprising. After all, we are now talking about a global phenomenon whereas the pre-War era was really just Europe.



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March 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Modi Hopes $27 Billion Bet on Women Will Swing Election His Way

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

A record 65.3 percent of India’s 260 million women voters cast a ballot in the 2014 polls that swept Modi to the biggest parliamentary majority in three decades. In most states, female turnout has surpassed males in recent ballots. And that is now starting to produce real change: Modi’s government has raised expenditure on sanitation and education for girls, provided safer cooking fuels and instituted the death penalty for rapists.

“In 2019, Modi sees women as an important demographic that can help power the party’s reelection,” said Milan Vaishnav, South Asia director at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The BJP believes that women will reward the party for their welfare delivery schemes.”

The loan program is called Aajeevika (it translates to livelihood), and it was started in the 1990s as a local poverty alleviation program for women’s groups in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. It was adopted country-wide in 2011 under the Congress-led government that Modi ousted three years later.

Once in power, Modi expanded Aajeevika to 622 of India’s 640 districts and increased annual outlays by about three times. The federal government makes funds available and local governments oversee implementation—a task made relatively easier with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and allies ruling 16 of India’s 28 states.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Narendra Modi was the first of the world’s populist upstarts to gain power. His appeal to Hindu nationalism in the election campaign is a testament to his continued support for populist causes but also to the electoral math that helped him get elected in the first place. The one thing we can say with certainty is Modi has an understanding that access to credit forms the bedrock of economic development, most particularly in emerging markets. Together with his support for markets and economic development, that makes him the darling of investors.



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March 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Rand Bears in Ascendance as Risks Rise From Moody's to Poll

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

Short Positions
Investors in the futures market are becoming more pessimistic, with non-commercial short-rand contracts outweighing longs, CFTC data show. That’s a turnaround from February, when traders were net long-rand for a brief period.

Selling Out
Foreign investors are getting out of South African bonds and stocks. Non-residents have been net sellers of government bonds at an average rate of 115 million rand ($8 million) a day over the past month -- not a huge number, but a turnaround from mid-February, when inflows averaged 434 million rand a day. And offshore investors have been net sellers of South African equities for the past 14 days, the longest streak since October 2017.

Eoin Treacy's view -

What I find particularly interesting about this article is it provides a very good example of a reporter providing details of what people have already done with their money.



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March 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

March 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on differences between the performance of the FTSE A50 Index and the Shanghai A-Shares Index.

Would you care to comment on the different behaviour of the China A-50 future and the A-Share indices themselves?  It has been ironic, and frustrating, that while you and all the media talk of surging A-Share prices, the A-50 future, which is the one one can actually trade, has come down very sharply in the last few days.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email which highlights an interesting development. The FTSE-50 is much more concentrated that the Shanghai A-Shares Index which has 1453 members. In fact, its largest constituent, Ping An Insurance, occupies 12.31% of the Index. That is the largest weighting for an insurer in any of the China focused indices and ensures the Index does not track the performance of the mainland market as closely as one might like.



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March 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

An 80 Billion-Share Mystery Surrounds Buybacks

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

Yardeni says the companies in the S&P 500 have spent roughly $4.5 trillion on buybacks over the past 10 years, yet by his calculation, which include some adjustments, the shares outstanding of those companies has dropped by just 2 percent during that time. What accounts for the difference? Employee stock compensation.

Buybacks haven’t returned cash to shareholders, or boosted share prices, Yardeni says. All they have done is bought back the shares that have been issued to employees, essentially enabling higher executive compensation by picking up the tab of stock options. Based on data from S&P Dow Jones Indices, the current members of the S&P 500 had 284 billion shares outstanding in early 2009, and have bought back bought 81.5 billion shares through the end of 2018. That means shares outstanding should have dropped by nearly 29 percent, instead of falling 2 percent, by Yardeni’s calculations – or rising
slightly, as data from S&P show.

Even after accounting for equity issuance and share-count changes due to acquisitions, I calculate that roughly two-thirds of what companies spent on buybacks appears to have gone toward offsetting executive compensation. And there’s more to the story.

The tale usually told about buybacks is that companies have this pot of profits and they are choosing to use it to prop up their stock with buybacks. But back in 2005, the Financial Standards Accounting Board began forcing companies to expense the cost of option grants, even though they aren’t a cash
outlay. That means buybacks aren’t really funding stock grants. Corporate bottom lines already include the cost of stock options. By the time you get to the bottom line, that money has effectively already been “spent.”

Repurchases are just a way of squaring that accounting. Without buybacks, shareholders would effectively be paying for stock compensation twice – once when they are expensed and a second time from the dilution of additional shares. Executives get the options either way. And indeed, the growth of buybacks in the past decade-and-a-half correlates pretty closely with the 2005 accounting change for options. There is even some research to suggest causation.

Eoin Treacy's view -

We are about 18 months out from the next US Presidential Election and positions are being staked out. So far, we have seen some quarters on the progressive left support modern monetary theory and many from the financial community decrying the suite of policies as sacrilegious. We have heard calls for free healthcare for all and simple questions about how it is going to be paid for. We have seen calls for big companies like Amazon and Facebook to be broken up. Where there has been clear evidence of cross-party support has been to either tax or reduce buybacks. That suggests it is going to be an election issue which has potential to be enacted.



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March 08 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Stashes Away Tons and Tons of Gold as Tensions Pick Up

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

“China will keep buying on a regular basis, but we would not be surprised if there were months when they don’t,” said Ross Strachan at Capital Economics Ltd. “Overall, we would expect them to be the second-largest purchaser this year. The motivation will be to diversify their foreign-exchange reserves, and increase gold from its current very low percentage of these reserves.”

While China’s gold holdings are the sixth-largest by country, they account for only 2.4 percent of its reserves, compared with more than 70 percent in Germany and the U.S., WGC data show.

Central bank purchases are likely to be sustained in 2019 at the same level as last year amid elevated geopolitical tensions and less pressure on emerging-market currencies, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a March 4 report. Kazakhstan added about 50 tons last year, and was joined by other countries including Poland, India and Hungary, which picked up smaller amounts.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The reason China has such a low proportion of its total reserves in gold is because it has been holding Treasuries in an effort to recycle Dollars and keep the value of the Renminbi down. Unless China is going to allow the Renminbi to float freely, which appears unlikely in the near-term, there is little chance of the country’s gold holdings approximating those of the USA or Germany.  



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March 07 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 7th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include: Euro breaks lower on disappointing ECB liquidity provision news, Bund yields at new near-term rally highs, Italian yield compress, Eurozone banks weak, China remains steady, Australian Dollar under pressure at 70c. S&P500 pulls back and suscetible to additional consolidation of recent gains, Russell 2000 and SOX leading lower, gold steady.



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March 07 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

More Action Is Less With Draghi's Policy Package

This note by Jamie Murray and David Powell for Bloomberg Economics may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The ECB recalibrated its rates guidance today, indicating no rate hike will come this year. With financial markets already pricing in no hike until mid-2020, this does not create additional stimulus. And at the margin, it could even reduce it if investors come to interpret the guidance as meaning the first rate hike will come in 1Q.

What the rates guidance does insure against is an earlier tightening of financial conditions if the economy beats forecasts this year.

The ECB also announced a third round of targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTRO). However, the terms are less favorable than the TLTRO II loans. The new maturity will only be two years. Previously, the funds were available for four years. In addition, the cost of borrowing will be indexed to the main refinancing rate. That now stands at 0%. Previously, it could have been as low as the deposit rate, which is currently -0.4%.

In addition, it seems the new loans won’t completely replace the funding provided by the old ones. The next lending operation won’t be launched until September. However, in order to meet regulatory requirements for their net stable funding ratios, banks need to have funding with a maturity of at least one year. That means fresh funds from the ECB won’t be available in June to replace the loans expiring in June of next year.

Even though a big dose of stimulus is absent, we think GDP growth will begin to pick up in any case and that the labor market will continue to tighten.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The ECB made a mistake in caving to political pressure and ending its quantitative easing program. Confidence is a fragile thing and the big mismatch in Target2 balances, with capital accruing in Germany while there is a paucity of capital on the periphery is a clear signal that the market has no faith in the ability of the bloc’s economic expansion to self-sustain without the support of stimulus.



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March 07 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How a Chinese Exodus is Exacerbating Australia's Property Slump

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

Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe noted the withdrawal of foreign buyers in a speech Wednesday as he sought to explain the drivers of Australia’s property slump. The central bank is closely watching the decline, especially as it’s starting to impact household spending and slow the economy.

“Another demand-side factor that has influenced prices is the rise and then decline in demand by non-residents,” said Lowe. “The timing of these shifts in foreign demand has broadly coincided with –- and reinforced –- the shifts in domestic demand.”

While Chinese buyers helped inflate the property bubble, they’re unlikely to return in sufficient numbers to stabilize the market. For one thing, shifting money abroad from China is tougher these days as authorities there are strictly enforcing rules aimed at curbing capital outflows.

There are other domestic factors suggesting prices could keep declining too. Australian banks have turned gun-shy on lending following an inquiry that exposed widespread misconduct in the industry and more homes are coming to the market.

Eoin Treacy's view -

While in Melbourne last April, all anyone wanted to talk about was the impact of the Royal Commission’s inquiry and the price of property. Prices are high relative to incomes and Australia’s private sector debt to GDP is among the highest in the world. With short fixes on mortgage rates and floating rates dominating, the Australian consumer is very interest rate sensitive and has a lot of net worth locked up in property.



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March 07 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Next Industrial Revolution: Computational Biology & Bioplatforms

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by James Currier at NFX, a private equity company focusing on biotech. Here is a section:

It bears mentioning that computational biology is objectively important. We’re talking about life itself: human DNA; the food we eat; infectious diseases; the evolution of species, and so on. "Biology is the only technology that can directly address fundamental problems facing the world like planetary and human health," says Arvind Gupta, Managing director & Founder of IndieBio and partner at SOSV. "These are world scale problems looking for technological solutions that will be developed in the next 20 years and those that do stand to create trillions of dollars of value". Rather than manufacturing tools for us to use, like cars or software, we’re now beginning to manufacture life itself.

Jennifer Doudna, co-inventor of CRISPR and co-Founder of Mammoth Biosciences(an NFX portfolio company) told us, "Scientists have spent centuries carefully studying how living things work. We have now entered into a new era of biology where it is possible to move beyond observation and towards rewriting the underlying code of living things, creating countless opportunities to improve the world we live in, from diagnosing and treating human disease to restoring the environment around us."

Further, something that has become clearer to us at NFX in the last three years: computational biology touches every industry. There are at least 90 companies worth over $20BN that are eyeing the CompBio space: agriculture; industrial; pharma; energy companies; plus all the big tech companies, like AWS, Google, and Microsoft. (Microsoft, for example, DNA that it hopes can replace cumbersome tape drives).

All of these industries are looking deeper at computational biology, trying to see how it is going to impact them.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Healthcare represents virgin territory for big data because it throws off so much data. The human brain has yet to be mapped, and one of the primary reasons is because the quantity of data required to be processed is in the order of petaflops. Colloquially, that is the computing capacity of all of Google’s programming power.



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March 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 6th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Some of the topics covered include: Wall Street likely to at least consolidate, ECB moving towards additional quantitative easing, Euro steady,China's rally continues to rebound, Australian Dollar testing the 70 cent area, gold and oll steady, lumber limit up, coffee retests $1.

 

 



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March 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Scale of ECB Outlook Cut Is Said to Justify New Long-Term Loans

This article by Jana Randow and Carolynn Look for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Armed with the forecasts, policy makers will debate on Wednesday the design of fresh funding operations based on their existing targeted lending program, with a focus on how long they should last and at what interest rate, the people said. The discussions will feature the sort of staff presentations that preceded previous major announcements, though that doesn’t necessarily mean all details of a decision will be available this week, they said.

The ECB’s forecasts aren’t official until President Mario Draghi unveils them after policy makers’ decision on Thursday. He and his colleagues have framed discussions on any extension of the so-called TLTRO program around having a monetary-policy case, rather than simply pandering to the needs of individual lenders.

The ECB is just the latest central bank to respond to a slowdown that’s gripped the global economy since last year. The Federal Reserve has already put its rate-hike cycle on pause, the Bank of England has cut its economic outlook, and China lowered its growth target this week.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The ECB is faced with a Eurozone economy that is impacted both by terrible domestic demographics, a high debt load, high unemployment and an export sector that is highly leveraged to the outlook for the global economy. On top of that the transition ongoing in the automotive sector represents a significant threat to one of the continent’s stalwart industries. Against the background it is hard to imagine how they can raise rates or stop trying to depress bond yields as they try to foster inflation.



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March 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Europe's Dirty Money Was Flagged for Years, But Little Happened

This article by Boris Groendahl and Ruben Munsterman for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“More centralized money laundering controls and systems probably makes sense in the euro zone,” said Howard Davies, the chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, which was pulled into the scandal this week. “I suspect in 3 to 4 years there will be a euro-zone anti-money-laundering regulator.”

With a financial system barely recovered from a decade of serial crises, policy makers in European capitals need to strike a balance between tightening the screws on their own lenders and keeping banks on the road to sustainable profitability.

Financial institutions from Stockholm to Amsterdam face uncomfortable questions about their handling of tainted funds, with investigations under way in the Baltic nations, the U.S., the U.K. and the Nordic countries. Almost daily revelations suggest there are more surprises to come on the misconduct.

“It’s a big paradox that you have one single market with free movement for capital and services and so on, but you have 28 different anti-money laundering systems," said Jeppe Kofod, a Danish lawmaker in the European Parliament who helped in a year-long effort to investigate tax evasion and financial crime. “The financial sector is so interconnected and so transnational, it doesn’t make sense to have this kind of fragmented system.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

When I worked at Bloomberg in the early 2000s my beat was Belgium and Luxembourg. Back then it was normal to have a money counting machine in every client meeting room. Every August in Luxembourg, there would be a line of camper vans queuing on the road in from Germany, with people stopping off at their respective private bank to pick up cash for their holiday by the Mediterranean.

The simple fact is that cash is highly prized in Europe because the national past time in many countries is tax evasion. There are obviously clear arguments about the value of cash as an asset in an era when investors are increasingly leery of governments acquisitive intentions with such high debt loads. However, that only enforces the conclusion, cash is most highly prized by those wishing to shade their wealth from the eyes of government.



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March 06 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings From the Oil Patch March 3rd 2019

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section:

One of the more interesting points about scrubbers was that based on several studies, scrubbers on ships using high-sulfur fuel oil remove more than 98% of the sulfur oxides from the exhaust gases, resulting in emissions lower in sulfur oxides than those of marine gasoil, which is considered the benchmark for the IMO 2020 low sulfur regulation.  As a result, scrubbers are an approved compliance option for shippers to meet the IMO 2020 regulation by the IMO, European Union and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  This emissions performance supports why shippers have equipped well over 2,000 vessels with scrubbers and plan to add more.  Those decisions are based on the ship’s owners estimates of the capital and installation costs of scrubbers, the payback time based on projections of the cost differential between high-sulfur fuel oil and low-sulfur alternative fuels, and the anticipated remaining life of the ship.  

Why is the EC rushing to get their proposal before the May IMO committee meeting?  No one seems to know for sure, but within two weeks of the draft proposal surfacing, the commission had taken the proposal to a one-day working party review and then submitted it to the IMO.  This speedy process became an end-run around the time that would normally be accorded to impacted parties to hold an open discussion and deliberation of the proposed rule’s impact.  The policy appears to represent a major departure from the existing rules.  Moreover, the policy seems to be based more on speculation than science.  All of this drama comes as the shipping and refining industries are in the final 11-month countdown before IMO 2020 becomes effective.  There remain many unknowns about how the shipping industry will deal with the fuel switch mandate, especially since they do not know exactly what fuel options will be available at each port worldwide.  Therefore, potentially foreclosing an option approved by regulators seems extreme, unless there is a clear health or environmental risk.  Whether it is possible for a uniform rule about wash-water disposal in ports, after some have declared that they will be banned, seems unlikely.  Therefore, the likely outcome appears to be a global ban on wash-water discharge in ports, further adding to the regulatory nightmare IMO 2020 is creating for the shipping industry, let alone the possibility of safety issues if ships are forced to switch fuels at sea.  

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Shipping is a greater emitter of pollutants than ground transportation in absolute terms. That is the primary drive behind improving emissions standards and is likely to have an impact on oil prices and refinery profitability when it goes into effect.



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March 05 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 5th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics covered include: China embarks on a large fiscal stimulus which is beneficial for every country that depends on its demand growth, Europe steady, Dollar steady, industrial resources firm, gold and oil pause, Treasuries steady, Wall Street pauses. 



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March 05 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Sees Tough Battle in Boosting Growth Without Debt Blowout

This article from Bloomberg news may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In all, Li rolled out tax cuts worth almost 2 trillion yuan ($298 billion) and pledged further stimulus ahead. While that emphasis on stronger fiscal policy can be seen as a loosening from last year’s vow to curb financial risks and trim the budget, the overall goal is still to buffer the economy without letting debt accelerate once more. That’s a balancing act that will be severely tested should any new threats to growth appear.

“It’s a big fiscal push,” said Michael Spencer, global head of economics at Deutsche Bank AG in Hong Kong. “There’s a reluctance to just turn on the infrastructure tap if they don’t need to.”

Li warned that China faces a graver and more complicated environment this year. He’s trying to rekindle lending to the private sector, mindful that the total debt pile is approaching 300 percent of GDP. “China must be fully prepared for a tough struggle,” he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Fiscal stimulus is in fashion and why should China be any different? The global economy is transitioning from a period of synchronised global monetary expansion to fiscal expansion. That is also stimulative but is likely to have more of an effect on consumer demand that central bank balance sheets.



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March 05 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The message behind the Target balances

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from Commerzbank which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

If the European Commission’s preference for a Eurozone suitor for Deutsche Bank rather than a domestic merger candidate is any guide, we can conclude that the Eurozone bureaucracy continues to favour a continued drive towards cohesion and banking union. In fact, if we simply look at the measures which have been taken rather than the bluster of the media, nothing has happened to change the direction of policy in the EU towards further cohesion.



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March 05 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Nickel Rallies as Steel Markets, EVs Lure Investors

This article by Mark Burton and Caleb Mutua for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Nickel climbed to a fresh six-month high in London as rallying steel markets, falling inventories and rising electric-vehicle sales bolster the outlook for the metal. Industrial commodities increased as markets were soothed by China’s announcement of a major tax cut and optimism that a resolution with the U.S. over trade is in reach. Prices advanced even as the world’s biggest consumer trimmed its growth target for the year. Steel futures are up this year and the outlook appears brighter as China plans to trim the value-added tax rate that covers the manufacturing sector and as the usage of electric-vehicle batteries gains momentum.

China policymakers seek to pull off a gradual deceleration while grappling with a debt legacy Nickel inventories in LME warehouses hit the lowest since 2013Copper inventories fall to 118,600 tons, the lowest since May 2008.


“We’ve seen that metals like nickel, zinc and tin, which feed into the ferrous sector, have all been on a bit of a tear recently,” Robin Bhar, an analyst at Societe Generale, says by phone from London “Nickel could still be the darling of the complex, given the uplift that you have from batteries”“ Chinese stimulus measures are aimed at goosing consumption and helping manufacturing, so the best-positioned metal is probably copper,” Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO Capital Markets, says by email “I think nickel is a spec play and if the rolling ball of money is back, it can definitely drive it a long way”

Eoin Treacy's view -

8:1:1 battery chemistries in the Tesla Model 3 are going to be deployed in just about all electric cars in the coming years. That represents a significant growth story for nickel but most particularly for nickel sulphide which is a purer form of the metal that falls outside of the delivery parameters set for futures trading at the LME. That suggests there is going to need to be substantial investment in higher grade production of the metal.



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March 04 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for March 4th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of topics discussed include: cloud computing pullback suggests some reticence to support prices at new all-time highs. Amazon remains firm, China failed to hold intraday gains, Europe flat, platinum pulls back in a dynamic manner, silver approaching the psychological $15 area. Treasury prices firm, Dollar steady, 



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March 04 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

March 04 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Cloud-Software Stocks Tumble From Highs With Salesforce on Deck

This article by Jeran Wittenstein for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

The week got off to a rough start for cloud-software companies as some of the highest-profile stocks tumbled from records.

Salesforce.com Inc. fell as much as 5.5 percent on Monday after ending last week at a record $126 billion market valuation. The software maker reports fiscal fourth-quarter earnings this afternoon. Twilio Inc., Splunk Inc. and Zendesk Inc. tumbled more than 7 percent, while ServiceNow Inc. and Workday Inc. both fell more than 5 percent. Atlassian Corp., which also closed at a record Friday, slid as much as 10 percent.

Cloud-software stocks have been among the best performing groups in the post-Christmas rally as investors in search of revenue growth bet that businesses will continue to spend on software services. The S&P 500 software and services group has outperformed the broader index since Dec. 2

Eoin Treacy's view -

Cloud computing, and the savings companies get by outsourcing to remote servers rather than trying to keep their in-house kit up to speed, has been one of the primary drivers of the expansion in technology shares over the last few years. Software as a service is a complimentary theme and has allowed companies to offer all manner of intelligence and analytics on customer and employee action from the data collected from cloud servers.



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March 04 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Does anyone still ask about silver?

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from UBS. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Interest in precious metals has perked up over the last six months as economic figures have deteriorated which increased the scope for monetary and fiscal intervention. The potential for the trade war to ease is weighing on gold because of a perception that a hedge is not as necessary. However, the trend towards fiscal laxity may be boosted by this development rather than restricted so there is a clear reason to think about precious metals as they dip.  



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March 01 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

March 01 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Summary Edition Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook 2019

Thanks to a subscriber for this report which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The long-run average of returns is indeed somewhere between 3.5% and 4%. However, despite the neat mathematics of the 119-year history we know from experience that manias occur and are inevitably followed by bear markets where valuations correct.



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March 01 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

March 01 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese Shares Gain Global Sway Thanks to Index Firm's Move

This article by Shen Hong and Michael Wursthorn for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Analysts say managers of funds that track MSCI’s emerging-markets index, such as the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets exchange-traded fund, are expected to make the necessary changes to bring their vehicles in line with the new weightings.

BlackRock Inc.’s global head of markets and investments for iShares and index investing, Manish Mehta, welcomed MSCI’s move, saying “the gradual addition of onshore Chinese securities deepens the investment opportunity for global investors, and we look forward to continued development in the market and regulatory environment to facilitate this increased access.”

Morgan Stanley analysts estimate that foreign inflows into mainland Chinese stocks could reach $100 billion to $220 billion a year over the next decade, with foreign ownership of the market rising to as much as 10%, from 2.6% now.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It will be impossible for the vast majority of foreign investors who invest in emerging markets to avoid China when these index changes go through. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is already heavily weighted by Chinese companies and with the introduction of the State-Owned sector and smaller Chinese tech companies the influence of China on perceptions for the entire emerging world will only increase.



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February 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for February 28th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include: odds of a global reflation trade are improving. China in particular has scope to stimulate, gold easing, oil steady, bonds ease but Gilts steady on increasing odds of a Bank of England rate hike if a soft Brexit is agreed. Australian Dollar eases, industrial resources steady



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February 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla Owner Takes Delivery, Heads for Autobahn Experience

This article by Bill Howard for Extreme Tech may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Tesla Owner Takes Delivery, Heads for Autobahn Experience – This article by Bill Howard for Extreme Tech may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

If this were a pickup truck video, one of the tags would be “hold-my-beer-and-watch-this,” and in the final frames, the video might appear to be upside down. Now that the European deliveries of the Tesla Model 3 have begun (Feb. 6), we’ll be seeing all manner of Model-3-in-Europe videos.

Here’s YouTuber “Dan’s Tesla,” who apparently took delivery of a Model 3 in mid-February in the Netherlands, then proceeded 80 km (50 miles) to Germany’s Autobahn for a satisfying high-speed Fahrt lasting 213 seconds. Dan does note he’s “not used to driving on the autobahn” and backed off after a bit. Survive to live another day and all.

And

Dan described his trip thusly:

I took my brand new Model 3 to the german highway, just 80KM away from the Tilburg delivery center. 209KM/h while wifey [“wifey”?] is holding her laptop [and phone], no problem. I was too afraid to keep pushing as I’m not used to driving on the autobahn and it was difficult to judge when to apply brakes.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The most rational people will contend that it is pointless having a fast car when there is nowhere to take it up to speeds that would allow you to experience its full potential. That’s particularly true when you are stuck in traffic on the morning commute. Nevertheless, it is nice to have a burst of speed when you want to overtake or change lanes. Even more relevant is no ever said the choice of what car to own is a rational decision. For many people it’s as much about prestige and one-up-man-ship as it is about utility.



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February 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Rio Tinto investors partying like it's 2014

This article by Cecilia Jamasmie for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Rio Tinto’s (ASX, LON:RIO) investors will be celebrating Christmas in February, as the miner is giving them a $4 billion special dividend, or $2.43 cent a share, after posting its highest annual underlying earnings since 2014.

The world’s second largest miner reported Wednesday a 2% increase in underlying profit, up to $8.8 billion, beating market forecasts of $8.5 billion on the back of rising revenue of $40.5 billion. The special dividend also came after a string of asset divestments, including Rio’s entire interest in Indonesia’s Grasberg mine for $3.9 billion.

Since Jean-Sébastien Jacques took the helm in July 2016, Rio has focused on cutting costs, generating cash and returning as much of it as possible to investors through dividends and share buybacks.

Last year, the company waved all its coal assets goodbye and is now the only major miner with a fossil-fuel-free portfolio. In total, Rio has sold $12 billion worth of unwanted assets since 2015.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The special dividend got shaved off the share’s price in the last couple of days as it tests the region of the June peak near 4500p. Nevertheless, a sustained move below the trend mean would be required to question medium-term scope for continued upside.



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February 28 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

In China, Distressed Debt Can Be AAA

This article by Chris Anstey and Lianting Tu for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. 

Enter the Foreign Raters! authorities have a record of pulling out the stops to aid some corporate debtors, including pressuring creditors into providing funding even after a company has defaulted. So it’s hard to imagine they’d be patient with downgrades by a foreign ratings company that could make it difficult for a troubled borrower to refinance.

Yet regulators in Beijing recognize that allowing credit to be priced based on the risk of the borrower could make investment across the economy more efficient. The People’s Bank of China says a certain amount of defaults can be healthy. And it sees foreign investors as a catalyst for reform. Given that those investors would prefer ratings akin to what they’re used to elsewhere, China in 2017 opened the door to the big three global ratings companies to operate wholly owned units.

S&P has hired at least 30 analysts for its Beijing office, preparing to open for business soon, says Simon Jin, chief executive officer of the company’s new China unit. The question on the minds of observers is just how S&P, along with Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings—if and when they follow—will manage to produce ratings that enjoy the confidence of international investors while also expanding business in a market that may not welcome hard truths about creditworthiness. Jin says “there is genuine demand for objective and reliable ratings in China” and that S&P plans “to provide Chinese market participants the same standards of transparency and independent analysis as we do anywhere else in the world.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

China’s growth since it began to open up over the last few decades has been supported by protectionism on the one hand but by outright support for domestic industry on the other. That manifested itself in free land for factories, generous open- ended credit availability through the banks, zero to low taxation, lax or no regulation, ignoring environmental standards and the creation of markets for the products produced. That resulted in rampant credit growth and, with clear government support, there were very low credit standards provided it served the national interest of industrialisation and full employment. 



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February 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for February 27th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to today's video commentary is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topics discussed include: Cohen and Powell testify in front of Congress, Wall Street little changed, bond prices fall, Pound extends rally and a soft Brexit increases the scope for the Bank of England to raise rates, oil steady, gold eases, palladium pauses following acceleration. India/Pakistan deteriorating relationship has little effect on assets as long as war is avoided.  



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February 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

India and Pakistan Have Lost Control of the Story

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

 

There was a brief moment after the Indian Air Force’s strike in Pakistani territory in the early hours of Tuesday when it appeared that a way to thread that needle had been discovered. Rather than restricting itself to attacking terrorist training camps just across the Line of Control that divides Kashmir, India for the first time in decades struck areas that were undisputedly part of Pakistan itself. Strategists in New Delhi seemed confident that they’d fundamentally shifted the red lines in Kashmir and expanded India’s arsenal of possible retaliatory measures against Pakistan-backed militant attacks.

For that to be true, however, both Indian and Pakistani politicians would need to retain control of their (mutually incompatible) domestic narratives. The Indian government -- facing a tough re-election campaign in just a few weeks – had to be able to tell its electorate that it had made Pakistan pay, claiming unofficially to have killed as many as 300 terrorist recruits. Pakistan had to be able to assert the opposite – that the Indians had hit nothing but a forested hilltop before being chased off by Pakistani fighter jets.

That’s why the Indian government was initially very careful to have its chief diplomat brief the press, rather than anyone connected with the military. India’s foreign secretary also stressed that this was a “non-military” action, meaning that it wasn’t directed at the Pakistani military, and that a central aim of the planning was to ensure there were no civilian casualties. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ruling party was busy mocking the Indian media’s claims on Twitter, accusing journalists of watching too many Bollywood movies.

In general, as long as both sides focus on reassuring their domestic constituencies rather than contradicting each other’s version of events, the chances of conflict are paradoxically lower. The problem is that in this crisis like any other, facts inevitably intrude.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The escalation in tit for tat attacks is not great for sentiment but both Pakistan and India have been very clear not to call these examples of aggression acts of war. That suggests there is a clear aim to contain the situation and they despite the requirement to placate domestic firebrands, the respective administrations are interested in de-escalating the situation.



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February 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on global liquidity:

The emphasis you have given to liquidity as a principal driver of equity markets is being vindicated as prices continue to rise despite slowing money supply.  See attached article from Mises.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this interesting article. Here is a section:

Money supply growth can often be a helpful measure of economic activity. During periods of economic boom, money supply tends to grow quickly as banks make more loans. Recessions, on the other hand, tend to be preceded by periods of falling money-supply growth.

Many factors contribute to these trends. In recent months, money supply growth — in both M2 and TMS — has likely been impacted by falling growth rates in real estate loans at commercial banks. In January, real estate loans grew 2.9 percent, year over year, which was a 49-month low. The demand for mortgage loans has softened as mortgage rates have risen. In January, the 30-year, fixed average mortgage rate reached 4.46 percent, which was down from November's recent high of 4.87. January 2018's average mortgage rate was much lower, however, coming in at 4.03 percent. 

The problem with relying on the expectation that bank loan growth is a reflection of economic activity is banks have been hindered in their ability to make loans because of the damage done to their balance sheets during the credit crisis. Instead of lending they have been lodging excess reserves at the Fed in return for a modest, but risk-free interest rate.



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February 27 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Barrick-Newmont merger would leave up to $7B of assets up for grabs

This article by Cecilia Jamasmie for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Canada’s Barrick Gold's (TSX:ABX)(NYSE:GOLD) hostile $17.8 billion bid for rival Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) could free up a group of assets the combined company would no longer consider key, such as their Kalgoorlie super pit 50/50 joint-venture in Western Australia.

After launching the offer on Monday, Barrick chief executive officer Mark Bristow said he had already been contacted by parties that have expressed interest in the company’s Australian assets.

The divestment goals announced by the Newmont-Goldcorp tie-up and the recent Barrick-Randgold merger provide “a significant opportunity” for ASX-listed names to acquire assets, according to UBS analysts.

“Australian gold producers have stronger balance sheets than their North American peers. We think Evolution and Northern Star are best placed to make accretive acquisitions given their strong track records in this area,” said UBS in a note last month.

Market rumours indicate that one of the potential buyers could be Melbourne-based Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM), especially after Bristow said there was “a very good chance” of some Australian operators becoming involved.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The pace of M&A activity in the gold mining sector remains brisk. There is a good reason for that. Many miners have all-in sustaining costs in the order of $800-$900 and the price of gold is north of $1300. Considering the share prices of many gold miners are still reasonably close to multi-year lows it makes a lot more sense to buy and established company with production capacity already paid for than to engage in the expensive and risky business of exploration and development of greenfield sites.



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February 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for February 26th 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

 A link to today's video is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Some of the topcis discussed include: Pound rallies on soft Brexit enthusiasm, FTSE-250 in the region of the MA, Treasuries pricing in no rate hikes in the next two years, Wall Street pauses in the region of previous peaks, gold steady but coffee and wheat break downwards. 



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February 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letter 2019

Thanks to a subscriber for this issue of Warren Buffett’s annual missive. Here is a section:

Berkshire will forever remain a financial fortress. In managing, I will make expensive mistakes of commission and will also miss many opportunities, some of which should have been obvious to me. At times, our stock will tumble as investors flee from equities. But I will never risk getting caught short of cash.

In the years ahead, we hope to move much of our excess liquidity into businesses that Berkshire will permanently own. The immediate prospects for that, however, are not good: Prices are sky-high for businesses possessing decent long-term prospects.

That disappointing reality means that 2019 will likely see us again expanding our holdings of marketable equities. We continue, nevertheless, to hope for an elephant-sized acquisition. Even at our ages of 88 and 95 – I’m the young one – that prospect is what causes my heart and Charlie’s to beat faster. (Just writing about the possibility of a huge purchase has caused my pulse rate to soar.)

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full letter is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Buffett suggests he is thinking about buying back shares because they do not see suitable opportunities for their cash in the public markets. That is a testament to the fact that valuations are high by many historical standards and liquidity is not as abundant as it was earlier in this bull market. It is also a reflection of the fact that he is aware of the risks to a number of Berkshire business from competition and obsolescence and that there is a risk perception of the conglomerate’s fortunes will sour.



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February 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Your Avocados and Olives Are Pricier Because Fat Is In Fashion

This article by Lucy Craymer for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The average prices of avocados, butter, olive oil and salmon have climbed as much as 60% since 2013, after stripping out seasonal price patterns and the effects of unusual weather events, according to various sources. Over the same period, prices of corn, soybeans, sugar and wheat either fell or didn’t change significantly.

These changes in fortune reflect the broad dietary shifts of recent years. Many people have switched to eating more foods that are high in natural fats from high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets. And government agencies and nutritionists are recommending that people avoid consuming industrial-made fats and margarines and instead eat more fish, nuts and healthier oils.

Stephan Hubertus Gay, a senior agricultural policy analyst at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said consumers are eating products that contain fat again. But he said “we were a bit surprised that it came so fast,” referring to the sharp increase in demand.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The write down of goodwill in Kraft Heinz is a clear signal sugar is out of fashion and the foundation of many snack food brands is based on the addictive qualities of the sweetener.

Kraft Heinz remains weak and a clear upward dynamic will be required to check momentum beyond a pause.



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February 26 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

To Save Capitalism, We Need to Save Communities

This excerpt from Raghuram Rajan, former head of the Reserve Bank of India, new book may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

When it comes to trade, on the other hand, the losers are clear: In developed countries, they are the workers with a moderate education. When manufacturing supply chains were entirely contained within those nations, their jobs were safe; the indivisibility of the production process allowed them to bargain for higher pay, lower and more pre­dictable work hours, and more safeguards at work. As the production process has fragmented, though, with each segment undertaken in the most appropriate country, they have been exposed to the full force of competition from cheaper, more flexible, and equally competent labor elsewhere.

Well-paying unionized jobs in low-tech manufac­turing industries have been most adversely affected. Such jobs have typically been located near smaller towns and rural areas in the interior of countries, where the cost of living and thus of labor has been low. The incomes these jobs provided also helped
keep local hairdressers, laundries and shops in business.

Moderately educated workers whose firms close because of trade competi­tion typically have few palatable alternatives. With few new jobs near the small towns or semirural areas where they live, and most such jobs to be found in companies beset by the same competitive woes, workers have bleak prospects if they stay put. Yet, according to one U.S. study, that’s exactly what
they do.

Why? Retraining is hardly easy, espe­cially for manufacturing workers who went to work after high school many years ago and who really have not used computers at work or at home. Cities offer service jobs but also demand higher rents. For many, not moving and hoping old jobs return seems the best bet; after all, there are still friends and family nearby.
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

I consider this to be a very accurate characterisation of the root causes of populism. Rajan knows this better than most since he was forced out of his job at the RBI because he was unwilling to acquiesce to the demands of Narendra Modi’s populist administration.



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February 25 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for February 25th 2019