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October 11 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on negative sentiment

October 11 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Mexico

I'm forwarding to you the most recent free, weekly commentary of Michael Drury, in house economic analyst for McVean Traders, a Memphis (Tennessee) based commodities broker-dealer. I find the commentary, an evaluation of the current status of the Mexican economy, to be quite lucid and educative. Perhaps others of your readers would find it so, too?

Warm regards and with great appreciation for the service you render.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and this report which may also be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

At the Bank of Mexico, much of the conversation centered on Mexico’s current very high rate of inflation – which is largely due to surging energy costs after deregulation of the electricity sector a year ago.  As with Japanese VAT tax increases, these reforms caused a pig in the python effect as they work their way through reported annual CPI increases.  Mexico’s CPI should plunge lower toward 4% early  next year as the energy hikes pass out of the data.  This is still high compared to the 3% target, but should drift within the 1% acceptable band around the target.  The Bank sees more recent data as confirming that new inflationary pressures (which were mostly from the pass through effect of higher energy cost) are small.  As a result, recent hikes in the central banks reference rate are expected to end – though they will not be quickly reversed.  The combination of sticky rates and plunging inflation suggest a threat to Mexican growth from sharply higher real interest rates.  However, real economic growth has surprised to the upside recently, while high inflation has reduced the burden of earlier debt accumulation.  Long term interest rate appear already to have peaked as Bank rate hikes are ending. 

One perennial problem for Mexico is a low domestic savings rate and underdeveloped financial markets.  Combined with the earlier commitment to the view that all Mexican oil is a resource for the people and so no foreign ownership should be allowed, this meant that Mexican oil resources were underutilized and inefficiently operated.  However, as the deregulation of the telecom industry has shown, competition increases consumer options and lowers prices.  Private firms (from Italy and Houston) have recently found 3.4 million barrels of oil – out of an estimated 9 billion in Mexican reserves.  Perhaps those figures will have to be revised higher.  However, issues concerning crossownership and the upcoming election – where Obrador is campaigning for a roll back of energy reforms -- are clouding the speed with which these huge finds will be developed.  

 



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October 11 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

JD Logistics Launches World's First Unmanned Parcel Sorting Centre

This video is representative of the highly or fully automated future of logistics. 

October 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Not Business as Usual

Thanks to a subscriber for this heavyweight 329-page report from Deutsche Bank which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Not business as usual for the oilfield services industry 
This is an industry that is still in transition, and these are companies that still need to navigate this transition. The commercial development of tight oil reserves in the US was disruptive and it derailed the normalization of the cycle. The business models that worked last cycle will not necessarily work again this cycle. We believe in the long term, the oilfield service franchises that will be the winners will be those that evolve with innovative business models, and those that acquire or invest in niche technology leaders. 

Pressure pumping demand poised to recover to 2014 highs 
The biggest common denominator among our top picks is exposure to pressure pumping. As US producers tailor their drilling programs to focus increasingly on their core acreage and best wells, there will be a disproportionate mix of leading edge, longer lateral wells with tighter stage spacing and higher sand loadings. This will drive the average completion intensity per well even higher, which should restore the demand for horsepower to the 2014 highs despite a lower rig count.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Oil service companies have been among the primary targets for cost cutting by major oil producers. As wave after of wave of rationalization gripped the sector during the oil price collapse the major oil producers cancelled green field sites, abandoned deep-water drilling and committed to a lower for longer price forecast which dramatically altered their spending plans. The result was that the oil service sector is now a fraction of the size it attained at the oil peaks in 2008. That is before one considers the current optimism for electric vehicles, renewable energy and domestic batteries. 



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October 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Funding Battle Heats Up for World's Strongest Material

This article by Andrew Marc Noel for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“Our revenue is starting to come through but it’s not substantial enough yet to offset the costs in the business,” Applied Graphene Chief Executive Officer Jon Mabbitt said in a phone interview, adding that its number of graphene-related projects has quadrupled to about 100 during the past year. “The momentum is building and the U.K. is doing pretty well."

Applied Graphene has little competition in its specialty of using the material in coatings and composites, according to the CEO. The company is working with about 50 manufacturers including Sherwin-Williams Co. on displacing traditional additives like chromates, phosphates and glass flakes used by coatings industry.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Graphene is often referred to a wonder material and for good reason. However rather than speculate on the myriad uses it can conceivably be put to the obstacle to widespread adoption has been mass production. That is the area where the majority of R&D money is being spent. A race is on to gain market share as the sector evolves and explains why small companies are attempting to source fresh capital. 



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October 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Commodities report

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from MacQuarie which may be of interest. Here is a section on precious metals: 

In the PGMs, we have again reduced our platinum price expectations. The rally we had been calling for from July did happen, but when it came it was so unconvincing, mainly based on a higher gold price, it might have been better if it had not happened at all. When gold lost steam it was exposed for what it was. A number of bullish factors we had cited – such as strong Chinese imports – have faded, and our expectations of a stabilisation of the European diesel share look to be premature. We continue to believe – absent a sharp decline in the rand – that platinum’s worst days are behind it, and our gold and FX forecasts imply decent gains in 2018/2019. A better world economy should help platinum jewellery demand, while the Chinese diesel sector offers some respite from the European negativity. But platinum simply isn’t in short supply at present. 

Whereas palladium is. We still can’t quite believe it should be worth more than platinum, and we don’t think it will be for long. But the internal forces that would bring this about are currently quite weak – gasoline engines continue to gain market share vs diesel, and substitution of platinum, while now making more sense than the reverse, is not an immediate thing. So while palladium is still set to fall back over 2018, that will be largely on external factors – weaker US and Chinese car sales – and that process has been delayed by the stronger-for-longer world economy we now see. Adding to this, investor sales have dried up. This matters as the market is in deficit, and we had expected investors, scared by the prospect of EVs, to fund it. That EVs haven’t scared them is perhaps understandable given limited volumes so far, but the deficit still needs funding, and a higher price for longer is the result. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Palladium has been outperforming the other precious metals and indeed the industrial metals all year but it has paused in the region of $1000 and some consolidation has been underway for the last couple of months. Nevertheless, a sustained move below the trend mean would be required to question medium-term scope for additional upside. 



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October 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Beneath Hurricane-Hit Payrolls, U.S. Labor Market Shows Strength

This article by Patricia Laya and Sho Chandra for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“You have to qualify a lot in this report,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York. That said, outside of the hurricane effects, the labor market “seems to be still solid.” The drop in unemployment and rise in participation are positive signs, and “we’re still creating more than enough jobs to absorb new entrants. The slack is diminishing.”

Average hourly earnings jumped from a year earlier by the most since the expansion started in 2009, in part because the storms boosted utility workers’ overtime pay and kept people away from work, especially in low-wage industries such as leisure and hospitality. There was also a calendar quirk that tends to produce stronger wage growth when the 15th of the month falls within the survey week.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Labour force participation has been a worrisome missing ingredient for the Fed as it moves towards raising interest rates. However, it stands to reason that with plenty of jobs on offer it is only a matter of time before wages increase enough to encourage people back into the workforce. 



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October 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

During Irma's Power Outages, Some Houses Kept The Lights On With Solar And Batteries

This article by Adele Peters for fastcompany.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Of course, if a storm is strong enough to tear solar panels off a roof and the battery can’t recharge, this type of system wouldn’t work for long. It’s also expensive: A single Powerwall unit, which can store 14 kilowatt-hours of energy, costs $5,500 plus supporting hardware and installation that can cost up to $2,000. A similar battery from Mercedes-Benz ranges from $5,000 to $13,000 for a 20 kilowatt-hour system including installation. In the U.K., where Ikea now sells both solar panels and batteries, its batteries are also nearly $4,000 at current exchange rates. Beyond cost, if someone rents an apartment or house and can’t install solar panels, it’s not an option.

But the cost is likely to drop, and battery storage and solar power could also be used in community solar projects, where customers don’t have solar panels at their own homes, but invest in or buy power from a nearby microgrid. In Orlando, customers can buy solar energy from a 12-megawatt solar farm built on top of a landfill; while the power is currently sent back to the grid, in the future, it’s possible that it and other community solar farms could use batteries to provide local backup power from multiple locations in emergencies.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Microgrids, batteries and solar cells have the potential to grow exponentially as costs come down and business models evolve. There are two additional points that are likely to prove attractive to consumers as well as government. The first is that the utility network is likely to be a target in any future war and foreign governments have already demonstrated both the intent and ability to tamper with it. 



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October 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Spain Warns Catalonia Independence Bid Risks Economic Meltdown

This article by Maria Tadeo, Esteban Duarte, and Angeline Benoit for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Spanish 10-year bonds rose, with the spread over German bunds narrowing by six basis points at 11:38 a.m. in Madrid to 119 basis points. Spain’s benchmark stock index has lost about 1.2 percent since Catalans voted in defiance of the Constitutional Court, while Catalan companies including lender CaixaBank SA are moving their legal bases out of the region.

Nadal, the energy minister, suggested Catalonia would be jeopardizing electricity supplies and communications networks. Catalonia has little control over energy supplies and is reliant on the big Spanish companies that, in theory, could suspend service and turn the lights off.

“It so terrible a scenario the idea of independence, that everything won’t work from the single moment from which independence is declared," Nadal said in a Bloomberg Television interview. "There will be a problem in the energy sector, there will be a problem in the telecom sector, in the financial sector of course.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The only way an independent Catalonia can function would be to introduce capital controls. There is already evidence of capital flight with Caixa Bank, for example, moving its headquarters to Madrid. If the Catalan administration does in fact wish to declare independence they have no time to waste. 



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October 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Macro Morsels

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Hardings report for Maybank which today includes a section by Russell Napier. Here is a portion:

While developed world central bankers claim and deserve some credit for saving the world from a depression in 2009, their colleagues in the emerging markets may also have been key players in staying disaster. As OECD broad money growth actually contracted in late 2009, China saw broad money growth around 30% and India around 20%. 

Could this have been a key factor in preventing a debt deflation? If so, we need to be concerned that as broad money growth in the OECD slows rapidly the growth of broad money in India and China has reached new lows. 

In China M2 growth year on year, at 8.9%, is the lowest level of growth recorded since records began. That is a marked slowing from the growth rate of above 11% when the world thought Chinese growth was collapsing in 1Q 2016. That tightening in monetary policy occurs as three-month interest rates in China have risen from a low of 2.7% in 2016 to 4.7% today.  

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

China is attempting to clamp down on property market speculation as prices continue to climb. That could well be behind the slow pace of money growth. However, it is also worth considering that the cuts to reserve requirements on its banks announced Wednesday were designed to act as some incentive to increase money supply

The Hong Kong Financials Index, which is comprised primarily of mainland banks and insurance companies, continues to outperform the China Enterprises (H-Share) Index. The 4000 level has acted as an area of psychological resistance since 2008 and it rallied above it on Wednesday. A break in the progression of higher reaction lows would be required to question medium-term scope for additional upside.

 

The Shanghai Property Index pulled back sharply before the mainland market closed for the Mid-Autumn festival and is now testing the region of the trend mean and the progression of higher reaction lows. It will need to bounce soon if potential for higher to lateral ranging is to be given the benefit of the doubt.

 

Russell Napier’s contention that risk is growing in the financial sector is far from a lone voice in the wilderness and there is some weight to the argument however if we assess the consistency of trends across global markets there is scant evidence of top formation development, at least right now.  



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October 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Baidu Invites China's Cybercops to Label, Rebut Fake News

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

The platform links 372 police agencies who will use sophisticated artificial intelligence-driven tools to monitor and respond to fake news, blogposts and other items across about a dozen Baidu services, including the popular search engine, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. More than 600 organizations and experts in different areas will be enlisted to weigh in on their respective fields, according to an email sent by Baidu. They included official organs such as the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as well as media outfits such as Shanghai United Media Group and Caijing.

Internet giants from Facebook Inc. to Twitter Inc. are struggling to deal with a proliferation of spurious news articles across social media services. Baidu’s approach allows the Chinese government to intervene directly and write articles in rebuttal. Items that its system decides are fake will be clearly labeled a “rumor” at the very top of search results, alongside an explanation penned by the relevant agency or organization, according to a sample page Baidu provided.

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the reasons companies like Alphabet and Facebook cannot gain access to China’s market is because they are unwilling to acquiesce to the demands the central government makes in terms of unfettered access to user data. Domestic Chinese companies do not have the luxury of choice. 



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October 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon Is Said to Test Delivery Service to Rival FedEx, UPS

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

 

Last year, Amazon introduced Seller Fulfilled Prime, which lets merchants who don’t stow items in Amazon warehouses still have their products listed with the Prime badge, meaning they’ll be delivered within two days. The merchants had to demonstrate they could meet Amazon’s delivery pledge, and many used UPS and FedEx for deliveries. The new service gives Amazon control over those deliveries instead, even if it continues to use third-party couriers.

Amazon has started looking beyond its own warehouse network to give shoppers quick access to an abundant assortment of goods. Its Fulfillment by Amazon offering already lets merchants ship goods to Amazon warehouses around the U.S., where they can be stored, packed and shipped to customers. That centralized approach can create logjams, particularly during the busy holiday shopping season.

Seller Flex would also give Seattle-based Amazon more visibility into the warehousing and delivery operations of its merchant partners, potentially helping it make full use of their product inventory, storage space and proximity to customers while still guaranteeing quick delivery.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Mrs.Treacy’s Amazon business was invited onto Seller Fulfilled Amazon yesterday so I will inform subscribers of how that works out once we have some experience of it. 



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October 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

India's Digital Leap - The MultiTrillion Dollar Opportunity

Thanks to a subscriber for this highly educative heavyweight 124-page report from Morgan Stanley which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Digitization is that idea in India, right now. The government and the Central Bank are on a mission to rapidly formalize and financialize the Indian economy. India has introduced a universal biometric identification system (Aadhaar), initiated measures to boost financial inclusion (Jan Dhan), moved to a new fully online value-added goods and services tax system and implemented real-time payment systems (Unified Payments Interface and Bharat QR). Coupled with rising smartphone penetration, likely doubling from 300 million to nearly 700 million by 2020, these changes are driving India's digitization. We expect a step change in India's per capita income, banking system and stock market performance over the coming years. The channels of change include more financial penetration,
greater tax compliance and increased credit to micro enterprises and consumers.

The result could be a multi-trillion dollar investment opportunity. Aside from the near-term teething issues involved in execution of such big changes and other cyclical problems faced by the economy, there is scope for visible shifts in economic activity starting in 2018 eventually leading to India being a) the third-largest economy in the world with a GDP of US$6 trillion, b) among the top five equity markets in the world with a market capitalization of US$6.1 trillion and c) the country with the third-largest listed financial services sector in the world with a market cap of US$1.8 trillion by 2027. We also expect India's consumer sectors to add about US$1.5 trillion to their current market cap of US$500 billion over this period.

There are implications beyond India. The concomitant increase in e-commerce, consumption basket, financial products and investments will make India a significant market for global corporations. Most importantly, if India succeeds, it will become the template for other emerging nations. While increasing financial inclusion has been the policy objective across emerging nations, India can provide leadership with its unique model. Hence, it is very important for corporates, investors and policymakers across the globe to observe and understand these developments in India. Indeed, there may be lessons for developed countries too.  

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Governance is Everything but it is not an absolute designation. Governance is all about the trajectory of policy and in India we can unabashedly say the trend is upwards. That is of course in full realisation that is it coming from a low base. 



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October 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

More Lean, More Green

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Goldman Sachs dated June 5th which is no less relevant today and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

We expect the costs of wind and solar to fall below the level of European power prices in the early 2020s (Exhibit 4). As costs fall below the price of the marginal technology, we expect utilities to ramp up their renewables installations, to keep/gain market share in the generation mix. We expect this to significantly change the generation mix in Europe, and would expect thermal technologies (mainly coal and gas) to be negatively impacted in terms of output. We would expect most governments (aside from those keen to protect a particular technology, such as domestic coal) to support this, as it should help reduce carbon emissions and lower electricity tariffs.  

Profits for wind developers/manufacturers to accelerate We estimate that the reduction in costs for wind/solar that we forecast will trigger a 30% step-up in annual global renewables investment (MWs) globally, post 2020, for the main European developers (Exhibit 7). We expect this trend to accelerate net income growth to c.2.5% (2017-36E) from 1.5% currently (Exhibit 8). 

For the European wind turbine manufacturers, we expect an average step-up in annual revenues of c.17% globally over 2017-36E, vs. 2017E (9 pp higher than previously anticipated), boosting annual net income by 58%. We estimate that this will support an equity value c.15% higher than we previously anticipated for the manufacturers.  

Our forecasts assume a significant change in the generation mix only in Europe: therefore, we would see upside to our renewables estimates if we were to extrapolate this globally.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

When thinking about the march of technology we need to force ourselves to think about the consequences of something that is happening today on the future. The pace of innovation is accelerating; often in an exponential manner so the linear trajectory of our personal experience is often not the best way to think about the how markets will evolve. It would be easy to look at the wind or solar sector today and conclude it is not yet competitive but technology is changing so quickly that it is almost inevitable it will be cost competitive in future. That is the whole point of the exponential way of thinking Ray Kurzweil pioneered. 



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October 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Human-Robocar War for Jobs Is Finally On

This article by Aarian Marshall for Wired.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

It’s a small but noteworthy loss for the burgeoning self-driving trucking industry and the innovators therein, like Uber, Tesla, and Amazon, which have all lobbied for clear national rules governing the autonomous big rigs they want to build, sell, or use. And it’s an early win for the labor unions, whose influence in Washington has taken a precipitous dive since the 1980s, and more specifically for the Teamsters, which represents almost 600,000 truck drivers nationally and had asked legislators to keep their commercial vehicles out of the discussion, at least for the time being.

“The issues facing autonomous commercial trucks are fundamentally different, and potentially more calamitous, than those facing passenger cars, and warrant their own careful consideration,” Teamsters rep Ken Hall told the Senate during a hearing on autonomous trucks earlier this month.

It makes sense that trucking is the focal point of nascent AV regulation. From a technological perspective, implementing self-driving in trucks is easier than self-driving personal cars, or even self-driving taxis. Big rigs primarily operate on highways with long, straight stretches and (mostly) clear lane markers and signs. (City driving, by contrast, includes more mercurial creatures: cyclists, pedestrians, traffic lights.) Autonomy offers clear safety benefits, because trucks are overrepresented in road fatalities, and kill about 4,000 people a year on US roads. The economic case is also obvious: Trucking is a $676 billion industry in the US. Shipping faster, more efficiently, and without paying a human driver could only make it more profitable.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Subscribers are probably more than familiar with our refrain that technological innovation is changing the world but it is also worth considering regulation represents the framework in which all businesses perform. This is why companies spend so much time lobbying. If they can bend rules to their favour or limit the abilities of others to compete the effort is worth it. Unions think along exactly the same lines, as they attempt to protect the interests of their members even if that curtails the roll out of innovative solutions.



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October 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

on a missing link to a talk on bitcoin

Your Comment of the Day yesterday (Oct. 3) included an article regarding Bitcoin which referenced an 18min video which I would like to view. Perhaps I missed it but I do not see a link to the view. Perhaps you have one? Warm regards (to you and to David) and eternal thanks for your service,

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks for letting me know and I apologise for the omission. I've added the link to the original article and here is a link to the talk.



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October 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Micro-grids at the threshold

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

Batteries allow micro-grids to tap multiple revenue streams: Storage is helping micro-grid to transition beyond suppliers of just back-up power. Aggregation of storage and generation assets within a micro-grid creates a VPP and is capable of providing much-needed resiliency services to the central grid. Demand for these services is more than doubling every five years due to rising renewables in the generation mix. In Europe, this trend will likely continue considering targets to increase renewables by 20% by 2020. 

Block-chain and batteries make electricity trading possible: Utilities in the US and Europe are trialling block-chain technology, which, coupled with storage, can enable electricity trading within and also between micro-grids. Unhindered electricity trading is necessary if we are to overcome the intermittent, geographical and seasonal limitations of renewables. Batteries only offer a limited solution as overcoming these issues in the absence of fossil fuel generation would need uneconomic oversizing of storage capacity. 

Smart grid will be based on storage, micro-grids and electricity trading: We forecast the grid-connected micro-grid market globally to grow to $10bn by 2021 from under $0.5bn in 2016. Battery storage (residential and large) is estimated to play a major role and we expect 30GWh of micro-grid, which translates into a $5bn market opportunity by 2021. Fuel cells could be important for micro-grids as they are the most efficient generation technology – 15% adoption of fuel cells in microgrids will translate into 7.5Gw of demand and a market worth more than $2bn.       

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Electricity traders have represented one of the largest demographics at The Chart Seminar over the last few years. At least part of the reason for that interest in Behavioural Technical Analysis is because it is a market with a bewildering array of fundamental inputs; coming with a slew of local considerations which contribute to volatility. That is before one considers the innate volatility of the energy markets. Therefore, an understanding of crowd psychology, the rhythm of markets and how one market can affect another are valuable tools which are going to be all the more important as the energy markets fracture with the growth of microgrids. 



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October 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Space: The Next Investment Frontier

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Goldman Sachs which is dated April 4th but is no less relevant today. Here is a section:

The commercial space economy has stood nearly still for decades. More satellites have gone up and growth has been solid, but the fundamental commercial landscape has remained relatively stagnant. We are witnessing an inflection point in the significance of the space economy, where it becomes central in providing Internet access and basic services to more than half the world’s population, compounding growth. The coming decade will be one of pruning, where only the strongest and most innovative survive the wave of new technology and business models, but that is necessary to propel the mainstay manufacturing and services industries forward. 

The commercial satellite services industry is entering an arms race to acquire the most capacity as pricing collapses in end markets. A single satellite is now being built with more Internet bandwidth than everything launched into orbit, ever. A constellation of small satellites will likely grow the amount of bandwidth on orbit by a factor of at least 10X, at a rapidly falling cost. At the same time, pricing in the launch industry is plummeting. On a cost per kg to LEO basis, prices will soon have fallen by about 90% over the last decade. Decreased launch cost lowers the barrier to entry and helps incumbents that may take advantage of lower capex to flood the market with additional capacity. 

We do not expect all existing players to survive the turbulence that is unfolding, but we also expect new companies to rise to the challenge to take the place of those that fail. The near term will present challenges, but in the back half of the next decade we see supply and demand balancing once prices have fallen sufficiently to fit the budgets of the rural populations of developing countries. Given our view on elasticity in the space economy, though with some stickiness, we expect lower prices to spur demand for launch, spacecraft, and satellite services.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

A few years ago the 21st century was heralded as China’s century but advances in technological innovation suggest that provided standards of governance continue to improve the region most likely to benefit will be Africa. The introduction of microgrids for power, satellites for internet connectivity and the potential elimination of malaria will allow the focus of infrastructure development to focus on roads, schools and healthcare which should contribute to continued urbanisation and improving crop yields. Since Africa will account for the bulk of global population growth in the first half of this century the stakes couldn’t be higher for achieving a better standard of living for literally billions of people. 



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October 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How is David?

Eoin Treacy's view -

I made a pilgrimage down to Devon today to visit David in the most pastoral of settings. I was delighted to see he is well on the mend and is in high spirits following what was a traumatic time for him over the summer. His new team of specialists in Exeter have made all the difference, treating him like the individual he very much is rather than a commodity. He asked me to extend his thanks to all the subscribers who have sent through their well wishes.  



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October 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

European Equity Strategy

Thanks to a subscriber for this heavyweight 153-page report from Deutsche Bank which is chock full of charts many of which are worthy of additional consideration. Here is a section on Europe:

Flash Euro area composite PMI new orders rebounded to a six-year high of 56.3 in September, up from 55.5 in August and consistent with Euro area GDP growth of 3%+ (slide 6). However, PMI momentum – the six-month change in the PMI and a key determinant of European equity market momentum – remains close to zero, having peaked at +4 points in February. We think the current level of the PMI is unlikely to be sustained, given that: (a) PMIs are consistent with GDP growth significantly above our economists’ forecasts (2.2% for this year, 2.0% for 2018) and consensus (2.1% for 2017, 1.8% for 2018); and (b) the PMI has overshot the level suggested by the Euro area credit impulse, which, at 0.1% of GDP, is consistent with a PMI of 51. We expect the PMI to fade back to around 53 by year-end, consistent with our economists’ growth projections. This would imply PMI momentum turning negative over the coming months. Yet, because of the slower-than-expected fade in macro momentum and a sharper-than-expected fall in the European political uncertainty index, our models now point to a flat market by year-end (with temporary upside to 400 on the Stoxx 600, or 4% above current levels; slide 7), before renewed weakness in response to negative PMI momentum in Q1 2018 (with a projected trough below 360 on the Stoxx 600). We expect to turn tactically positive on European equities on signs that PMI momentum is troughing, which is typically associated with a strong rebound (slide 9). Our current projections imply a trough in PMI momentum in early Q2 2018.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The Eurozone’s impressive Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey was also a subject covered by Jeff Gundlach at his talk last week. It reflects both the fact we are in a period of synchronised global economic expansion and that the ECB’s monetary largesse has in effect bought an economic expansion. If the PMI weakens it will represent another reason why the ECB should hold off on tapering. 



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October 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on blockchain

Been following some of your spreadbets successfully and thought I'd repay the favour with an interesting video on blockchain. Some readers may want to skip to about half way through this 18 min video

Best regards

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this thought provoking video and congratulations on taking opportunities as they appear in the markets.

The idea he proposed that each person can take back their identity and only share what they choose is a powerful notion and could easily be a rallying call around which people coalesce to support the technology. The continued rise of cyber criminality and the enormous profits of companies like Facebook and Alphabet could both become politicised topics which help to grow participation in blockchain applications. 



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October 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese EV market nearing 2% penetration

This article from mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In 2016 Chinese electrical vehicle makers represented 43% of the global EV market, or 873,000 units, overtaking the United States for the first time, according to a July report by McKinsey & Company. The report notes that not only did China up its share of the EV market by 3% compared to 2015, it also made gains on the supply side of EVs including components such as lithium-ion batteries and electric motors. "One important factor is that the Chinese government provides subsidies to the sector in an effort to reduce fuel imports, improve air quality, and foster local champions," McKinsey explained.

The Chinese government has announced that "new energy vehicles" (NEVs, which includes hybrids) should account for 8% of the passenger vehicle market by 2018, 10% by 2019 and 12% by 2020, according to EV Volumes.com.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Anyone who has spent any time in Beijing over the winter knows how badly the entire north east of the country needs to combat air pollution. On my first strip in 2005 I developed a cough as if I have been smoking my entire life that only let up once I got back on the plane home. If anything, the air is worse today than it was then. 



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October 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How Far Can the Catalan Rebellion Go?

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

Rajoy would need someone reliable to enforce the ruling. With the loyalty of the Catalan police force in doubt, that probably means the estimated 10,000 national police and Civil Guard officers who’ve been sent to Catalonia as reinforcements.

They have the numbers to remove Puigdemont, but it would trigger a rejection in the streets. More than 800 people were injured when those officers tried to shut down Sunday’s vote, so there’s a clear risk that the situation could spin out of control.

The Catalan police force adds another element of uncertainty. Sunday also saw a minor scuffle between Spanish and Catalan police, one Catalan officer was arrested for attacking a national police vehicle and tensions between the different forces are running high. If Spain took control of Catalonia, Rajoy would probably need support from the Catalan police to impose and maintain order.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Catalan independence vote can be seen in the wider context of a condemnation of the severe fiscal austerity handed down by the European Commission and ECB, to countries on the Eurozone’s periphery, in response to the credit crisis. Forcing governments to absorb the bad debts of private institutions, without recourse to a sharply devalued currency, has put great pressure on the populations of the respective countries and Spain’s current political impasse is a real-time example of what that can lead to.



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October 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Missile Defense: Money Well Spent; Budgets Unlikely to Stay Flat

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

The threat from expanding missile technology by potentially adversarial nations is on the rise and has been since the early 2000s (see Figure 3). The most visible signal of that being the acceleration in missile technology breakthroughs and launches by North Korea. On the back of this accelerating tension is a rising tide of political support. A bipartisan call for higher missile defense spending seems to be gaining traction, with the "Advancing America's Missile Defense Act of 2017" gaining 27 cosponsors in the Senate (21 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 1 Independent) introduced in May 2017. The bill laid out a few points for its rallying cry, but in particular drove home that a 23% decline in Missile Defense Agency budget since 2006 (while Iran and North Korea activity was going in the opposite direction) needed to be corrected. In the Bill, there is explicit language to: 1) increase the number of ground-based interceptors (by 28 with expansion to 100 interceptors vs. the 44 scheduled to be in place at the end of 2017, 2) reintroduce the development and deployment of space-based missile defense sensors (e.g. Space Tracking and Surveillance System--STSS), and 3) evaluation and testing of radar and sensors for the ground-based midcourse systems (e.g. LRDR) as well as the system as a whole (for which testing funding has declined over 83% since 2006). More additions are possible following recommendations from the Department of Defense's upcoming Ballistic Missile Defense Review ("BMDR") and Missile Defeat Review ("MDR"). Even more near-term, the DoD this week released details of a budget reprogramming request for 2017 for over $400M ~5% of the Missile Defense budget) toward previously unfunded missile defense efforts consistent with the desires laid out in the "Advancing America's Missile Defense Act of 2017". 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Subscribers are probably aware that I was intrigued by the many topics covered in Elon Musk’s presentation to the 68th International Astronautical Congress. There were some big claims made which highlighted the rapid pace of innovation in the space sector, the introduction of private capital has achieved. However, there are some pressing geopolitical considerations that should also be considered from this evolution. 



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October 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China sees new world order with oil benchmark backed by gold

This article by Damon Evans for the Nikkei news agency may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

China's move will allow exporters such as Russia and Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions by trading in yuan. To further entice trade, China says the yuan will be fully convertible into gold on exchanges in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
"The rules of the global oil game may begin to change enormously," said Luke Gromen, founder of U.S.-based macroeconomic research company FFTT.

The Shanghai International Energy Exchange has started to train potential users and is carrying out systems tests following substantial preparations in June and July. This will be China's first commodities futures contract open to foreign companies such as investment funds, trading houses and petroleum companies.

And 

The existence of yuan-backed oil and gold futures means that users will have the option of being paid in physical gold, said Alasdair Macleod, head of research at Goldmoney, a gold-based financial services company based in Toronto. "It is a mechanism which is likely to appeal to oil producers that prefer to avoid using dollars, and are not ready to accept that being paid in yuan for oil sales to China is a good idea either," Macleod said.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is an interesting gambit from China because while it is the biggest importer of oil it is the largest producer of gold. The futures contract is not yet active but for oil producers who are not happy to transact in Dollars, physical gold has definite attractions. It also raises the stakes in China’s attempts to establish the Renminbi as a viable reserve country. 



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October 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

African entrepreneurs have made Guangzhou a truly global city

This article by Gordon Meadows for Quartz may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

A Kenyan gave a more analytical view, comparing China to his own country: “You . . . have to be impressed with Guangzhou and with China. The infra- structure, the town planning. The government can provide for a billion people, with a rail network, roads, recreational facilities, parks— things that are lacking in Africa. All the time I’ve stayed here, I’ve not experienced a single electricity blackout. Yes, I want Kenya to become like China!” 

A West African trader with long- term residence in the United Kingdom had a darker view: “Africans who come to China straight from Africa see it as wonderful, and they want China to be like that. But those who have lived in Europe or the U.S. don’t like China much. For me, after the United Kingdom, China was like ‘the world turned upside down.’ The laws aren’t followed in China. Contracts are like toilet tissue.”

A Kenyan gave a more analytical view, comparing China to his own country: “You… have to be impressed with Guangzhou and with China. The infrastructure, the town planning. The government can provide for a billion people, with a rail network, roads, recreational facilities, parks—things that are lacking in Africa. All the time I’ve stayed here, I’ve not experienced a single electricity blackout. Yes, I want Kenya to become like China!”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the reasons I am still optimistic about the ability of impoverished African nations to lift themselves out of the poverty is because of how many ambitious African traders I’ve met all over China, not just in Guangzhou. 



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September 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musk Wants to Build a Rocket That Will Get You Anywhere on Earth in an Hour

This article by Dana Hull and Perry Williams for Bloomberg includes a video of Musk’s full presentation at the 68th International Astronautical Congress. Here is a section:

"Fly to most places on Earth in under 30 mins and anywhere in under 60," Musk wrote in an Instagram post after he’d left the stage without taking questions. "Cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft. Forgot to mention that."

With many commercial satellite operators as customers, the revenue from those contracts will help fund the development of the BFR, which would be capable of carrying satellites to orbit, crew and cargo to the International Space Station, and complete missions to the Moon and Mars, said Musk. He said the BFR would contain 40 cabins capable of ferrying roughly 100 people at a time.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The cost of lifting payloads into space is dropping fast. Meanwhile the size of satellites is decreasing meaningfully while their technical specifications are improving even more rapidly. Economics 101 dictates that if the cost comes down demand will rise. 



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September 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Russian campaign on Twitter and Facebook aims to splinter America

This article by Rhys Blakely for The Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Thousands of Twitter accounts linked to the Kremlin were churning out material designed to splinter America along political, racial and religious lines yesterday, even as tech executives arrived at Capitol Hill to field questions on Russian meddling in last year’s US election.

An analysis of 600 Twitter accounts linked by the German Marshall Fund, a think tank, to the Russian government has provided the most vivid insight yet into how the Kremlin is seeking to use social media to undermine western societies.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

United we stand, divided we fall. The Russians and Chinese know that as well as anyone. Maybe Western constitutional democracies need to wake up to that reality. 



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September 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A $6.4 Billion Windfall Awaits Big U.S. Banks in Trump's Tax Cut

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

The six largest U.S. banks could see net income rise $6.4 billion, or 7 percent, if President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress can push through their proposed corporate tax rate cut.

Banks stand to benefit more than other industries because they typically have fewer deductions. The top six firms -- JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley -- paid an average of 26 percent in federal taxes last year, almost twice the average for nonfinancial companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Republican framework released Wednesday calls for lowering the corporate rate to 20 percent from 35 percent.

The estimates for the tax savings are based on the firms paying a 20 percent effective U.S. federal rate, assuming current deductions are no longer allowed. While earlier versions of Republican tax proposals have talked about eliminating some deductions, the latest plan has scant information on such changes. If some deductions are kept, banks would end up with a lower effective tax rate and their savings would be even greater.

Eoin Treacy's view -

US Banks were among the biggest initial beneficiaries of President Trump’s election victory last November, but have spent much of this year ranging as details of just how they might benefit have remained elusive. The plan currently proposed lends some clarity. Since the cut to corporate tax rates is a cornerstone of the legislation, banks will benefit both from paying less but also from customers with more free cash flow. 



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September 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Catalan Independence Drive to Haunt Madrid Whatever Happens Next

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

Catalonia, which includes Barcelona and accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy, is attempting to become the first of 17 autonomous regions that already enjoy a measure of self-government to hold a binding plebiscite on independence. It staged a nonbinding ballot three years ago that was backed by about 80 percent of voters, though barely 30 percent of those eligible turned out.

The rebel administration is pressing ahead with the referendum even after Rajoy’s government seized 10 million ballots, deployed thousands of police and arrested more than a dozen Catalan officials.

“This is the most serious constitutional crisis Spain has faced,” said Alejandro Quiroga, professor of Spanish history at the University of Newcastle in the U.K. “The Catalan question could trigger a competition among the other regions to test how far they can go. It’s a very complex matter.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

How much did the discovery of America, and the riches that flowed into Spain as a result, cement the binding together of Castille and Aragon when Isabella and Ferdinand were wed? There is no doubt economic abundance reduces nationalistic tendencies but the opposite is also true. 



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September 28 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 28 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Trump's Tax Cuts Seen Producing Short Job Growth 'Sugar High'

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

There is good news for Trump and the Republican Congress: A short-term economic jolt might help make congressional elections next year smoother for them.

In effect, making the deduction temporary would “pull forward” companies’ future purchases and “juice economic activity in the front, during this term leading into re-election,” said Michael Drury, the chief economist of McVean Trading & Investments in Memphis.

Grover Norquist, the president and founder of the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform, says he thinks the tax plan would produce sustained growth. But he acknowledged the issue’s political importance.

“This tax bill, and its growth, is going to be the central piece of legislation that voters will vote on in October and November of 2018,” Norquist said earlier this week.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Trump administration is going to need to deliver on at least one major success if it is to succeed in sustaining the Republican Party’s electoral success. That will be a central motivation for politicians as they assess the merits of this plan which is still notably skimpy on details. That also suggests a willingness to negotiate on the details so long as the central thesis of lower corporate tax rates and higher tax-free bands remain. 



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September 28 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gleanings: "When Smart People Talk, We Listen"

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Jeffrey Saut for Raymond James which may be of interest. Here is a section: 

1. Invest in something when people say they never want to invest in it again, when they are throwing it out the window. Think about that.  We know people that liquidated their portfolios around the March 2009 lows vowing to never buy a stock again.  The same can be said about tech stocks as they were bottoming between November 2002 and May 2003.  Currently, the same thing is being said now about energy stocks, especially the midstream MLPs.

2. Investing is both qualitative and quantitative. There is room for both disciplines (qualitative and quantitative) in one’s portfolio just like there is room for both passive and active investment management, although currently we favor active. 

3. The more people ridicule and question you, the more likely you are probably onto a good thing no matter what it is. This was like us buying oil sands stocks in the late 1990s when everyone was buying tech.  Or like when we bought tech stocks near the end of 2002; and, what we are doing now in buying the out of favor energy stocks. 

4. Don’t invest in an area just because it is depressed, find and wait for the change and invest just before it happens while still unrecognized by the market. My father use to tell me, “Good things happen to cheap stocks,” but stocks can stay cheap for a really long time if other investors do not recognize their cheap valuations.  The charts will tell you when other investors will recognize them too.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Many investors seeking to follow the buy-low-sell-high maxims laid out in this report are hunting for sectors that look cheap by historical standards. The most obvious candidate is the energy sector which is still struggling with the profound changes unconventional supply have wreaked, not to mention the anticipated surge in demand for electric vehicles. 



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September 28 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The World Is Creeping Toward De-Dollarization

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Ronald-Peter Stöferle for the Mises Institute. Here is a section:

A clear signal that something is afoot would be the abolition of the Saudi riyal's peg to the US dollar. As recently as April of this year economist Nasser Saeedi advised Middle Eastern countries to prepare for a “new normal” — and specifically to review the dollar pegs of their currencies: “By 2025 it is clear that the center of global economic geography is very much in Asia. What we’ve been living in over the past two decades is a very big shift in the political, economic, and financial geography.”

While the role of oil-producing countries (and particularly Saudi Arabia) shouldn't be underestimated, at present the driving forces with regard to de-dollarization are primarily Moscow and Beijing. We want to take a closer look at this process.

There exist numerous political statements in this context which leave no room for doubt. The Russians and Chinese are quite open about their views regarding the role of gold in the current phase of the transition. Thus, Russian prime minister Dimitri Medvedev, at the time president of Russia, held a gold coin up to a camera on occasion of the 2008 G8 meeting in Aquila in Italy. Medvedev said that debates over the reserve currency question had become a permanent fixture of the meetings of government leaders.

Almost ten years later, the topic of currencies and gold is on the Sino-Russian agenda again. In March, Russia's central bank opened its first office in Beijing. Russia is preparing to place its first renminbi-denominated government bond. Both sides have intensified efforts in recent years to settle bilateral trade not in US dollars, but in rubles and yuan. Gold is considered important by both countries.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Oil and its derivative products are used in every country in the world so it is logical that the acquiescence of major suppliers to a Dollar standard is a necessary condition of the USA’s international currency hegemony. However, it is not the only consideration. 



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September 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Trump Hails Tax Plan as "Revolutionary Change" for Middle Class

This article by Julie Hirschfeld David and Alan Rappeport for the New York Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The framework also gives Congress the option of creating a higher, fourth, rate above 35 percent to ensure that the rich are paying their fair share. But it does not specify what income levels would be associated with the higher rate, what that new rate might be or explicitly direct Congress to implement a fourth bracket.

The plan aims to simplify and cut taxes for the middle class by doubling the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and to $24,000 for married couples. That would allow people to avoid a complicated process of itemizing their taxes to claim various credits and deductions. It would also increase the child tax credit from $1,000 to an unspecified amount and create a new $500 tax credit for dependents, such as the elderly, who are not children.

Provisions such as the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax, a tax on inherited wealth which Mr. Trump has derided over the years, would be gone under the Republican proposal. Most itemized deductions, including those widely used for state and local tax expenses, would also be eliminated. However, the plan would preserve the deductions for mortgage interest expenses and charitable giving and keep incentives for education and retirement savings plans.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A point Jeff Gundlach made yesterday is that the only way the Trump tax plan can remain revenue neutral is to remove the state and local tax deductions. That is primarily a challenge for high income earners in high tax states like California and New York which are also the most populous states. That represents a major challenge in getting this legislation passed. It’s certainly not impossible but neither should we ignore the challenge in getting these proposals passed. 



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September 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

2017 at the Three Quarter Pole

Thanks to a subscriber for securing an invitation for me to attend Jeff Gundlach’s presentation yesterday which as always was an educative experience. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

There were a number of interesting points raised but I believe the most relevant for subscribers’ centre on what he said about shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet, the outlook for the Dollar, commodity markets, the relative attractiveness of emerging markets and his best guess for when to expect the next recession.



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September 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Another Look at Why the Return to Capital is Low

Thanks to a subscriber for this highlighting this article by Marc Chandler for Brown Brothers Harriman. Here is a section:

Similarly, a new strategy to deal with the surplus capital, not within our grasp.  In the meantime, officials are trying to come up with other ways to absorb the surplus, including changes in the regulatory environment.   In some ways, it might be helpful to think about QE itself as an attempt to deal with the surplus capital.

When farmers have a bountiful crop, and the price threatens to fall below the cost of production, governments often invent schemes to buy the crop and warehouse it and let it agricultural produce come to market when at a better (i.e., lucrative) time.  In some ways, QE can be understood as a similar strategy:  Warehouse the surplus capital.  This is not a permanent solution.  There is a political push back on the grounds that it blurs monetary and fiscal policy.  There is an ideological resistance to the “interference” with market forces.  There are economic arguments against the distortion of prices and the mutation of printing signals.

Interest rates are low, not simply because central banks are buying bonds and maintaining large balance sheets by recycling maturing issues.  Interest rates are low because there is too much capital.  It is a recurring source of the crisis in market economies.  We should anticipate that returns to capital will remain low until a new strategy to deal with the surplus is devised and accepted, and the risk is that we are still in denial.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is an interesting take on the condition we see today in the financial markets and is a topic worthy of consideration because it will influence how high interest rates can rise in the current environment. 



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September 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Sam Zell on Global Growth: "Where's the Demand?"

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Julie Hammond for the CFA Institute may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“Last year, I was saying that the CRE industry was relatively benign and supply and demand was in balance,” he said. “In the last 18 months, however, there has been an enormous increase in supply.”

Zell is concerned about oversupply in nearly every segment of the real estate market. Growth in multifamily residential units is at an all-time high, he observed, with 380,000 being added in 2017 — a pace not seen since 1972, a time when the sector was the only game in town.

Office space supply is rising when occupancy rates are on the decline. Due to secular shifts in the way we work — towards higher density workspaces and more efficient use of space — occupancy has fallen from 240 square feet per employee to 180 square feet, maybe less.

“We are behind the rest of the world in terms of adapting to shrinking office space,” he said. Zell says retail space has a difficult road ahead given excessive supply, though he believes there will always be room for brick and mortar. “Only the very top-end malls and the very bottom ones are doing okay,” he said. “Anything in between is obsolete.”

Hotels in major cities like New York and Chicago are overbuilt by about 20%, he said. The only segment that has an appeal from a supply-and-demand perspective is mobile homes because of how difficult it is to obtain park permits and because of the “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) stigma associated with them.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

When one is shipping to Amazon the last thing you want is to have the name of the factory you are ordering from emblazoned on the container. The number of small businesses Amazon has simply bypassed so it could sell their goods itself is high so caution is warranted. Therefore when Mrs. Treacy is importing her inventory she needs a warehouse for a few days before shipping it to Amazon. This year she used a large public storage locker.



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September 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ermotti Rues EU's Future While Diamond Sees Benefits of Brexit

This article by Francine Lacqua and Christian Baumgaertel for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Bob Diamond says Brexit is bringing the Continent together, or at least benefiting its banks. That prompted Sergio Ermotti, days after Germans gave Angela Merkel a weaker mandate, to say the European Union is broken.
Ermotti, head of Switzerland’s UBS Group AG, warned Europe is doomed to fall behind the U.S. and Asia unless the EU breaches the “taboo” of closer federalism. He struck a gloomy note in response to Diamond, the ex-Barclays Plc boss turned optimistic investor in Greek and Italian banking, who called Brexit a “net positive” for European bank reform moments earlier.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

What I found most interesting today about Macron’s speech on EU reform was he made special mention of his belief mutualisation of debt across the EU was unnecessary; not to mention untenable considering the current political environment in Germany. 



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September 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Tesla's gigafactory

If one assumes a breakthrough in battery composition and manufacturing in the near to medium term future, then one would have to question Musk's wisdom in investing in building his battery mega factory which apparently is designed to build conventional lithium batteries.

Eoin Treacy's view -

By going for scale even in conventional battery production Tesla has in many respects broken the mould of what had been the battery manufacturing sector by introducing economies of scale. It is true that the gigafactory is churning out batteries that are in many respects scaled up versions of what we have in our phones, but what else is the company supposed to put in its cars today?



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September 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

BHP, world's largest miner, says 2017 is 'tipping point' for electric cars

This article by Clara Ferreira-Marques and Gavin Maguire for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Balhuizen said he expected the electric vehicle boom would be felt - for producers - first in copper, where supply will struggle to match increased demand. The world’s top mines are aging and there have been no major discoveries in two decades.

The market, he said, may have underestimated the impact on the red metal: fully electric vehicles require four times as much copper as cars that run on combustion engines.

BHP, Balhuizen said, is well-placed, with assets like Escondida and Spence in Chile, and Olympic Dam in Australia. BHP said last month it was spending $2.5 billion to extend the life of the Spence mine in northern Chile by more than 50 years.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Copper is currently in contango suggesting a short-term supply deficit is not what has driven prices higher over the last couple of months. The outage at Escondido which restricted supply was a consideration that contributed to the gain but was not enough to push the futures curve into backwardation. Enthusiasm about the demand vector electric vehicles represents for metals like copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt could be a better explanation despite the fact these represent medium rather than short-term considerations. 



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September 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Chinese customer service

My first experience of Shanghai customer service was in 1987. One afternoon we were bussed around the local Friendship Stores to spend money; but, I was having no more of it and took my camera to get some shots of real locals rather than Communist Party guides! My broken Mandarin got me an invite to join some locals at a table for food and beer. I politely declined the offer of food but said I would indulge in a beer. Unfortunately, the glass had a viral bug on it which 2 hours later caused my anatomy to require plenty of boiled eggs to help reverse my problem! We were staying at a hotel on The Bund. At 5pm we asked for room service and requested lots of boiled eggs on toast, only to be told, sorry, we only serve eggs at breakfast time! 30 years ago, Customer Service was unheard of.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for sharing you experience which gels with my own, at least until this most recent trip. 



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September 25 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Video commentary for September 25th 2017

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Some of the topics discussed include: Lots of political events influencing markets, oil jumps on Kurdistan referendum, Euro down on AfD success, Wall Street pausing ahead of tax reform announcement, New Zealand Dollar weaker on election upset, Yen firmer on Japanese election announcement. Gold steadies and VIX may rallies.



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September 25 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Next Financial Crisis

Thanks to a subscriber for this report by Jim Reid for Deutsche Bank. Here is a section: 

Perversely, the current post Bretton Woods system also allows for huge operations/stimulus to overcome any crisis/shock. We also shouldn’t underestimate the positive impact that this can have on nominal asset prices. Cash is arguably a far more dangerous asset in a fiat currency but unstable regime than it is in a more stable less crisis prone one. However, by continually using stimulus to deal with crises and not letting creative destruction take over, you make a subsequent crisis more likely by passing the problem along to some other part of the global financial system, and usually in bigger size. In a fiat currency world, intervention and money creation is the path of least resistance. In a Gold standard world, mining new gold was the only stable way of increasing the money supply.  

We think this leaves the current global economy particularly prone to a cycle of booms, busts, heavy intervention, recovery and the cycle starting again. There is no natural point where a purge of the excesses is forced by a restriction on credit creation.  

So we’re quite confident that there will likely be another financial crisis/shock pretty soon with their frequency continuing to be high until we create a more stable global financial framework.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

When I read this report three of David’s Fullerisms came to mind. “Central banks are serial bubble blowers”. Another is “central banks have killed off more bull markets than all other factors combined”. To round out the triumvirate “Money policy beats most other factors most of the time”. Therefore, monetary policy is critical if we are to have any hope of identifying the difference between medium-term topping activity and a major top. 



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September 25 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Turkey Warns Iraq Kurds It Can "Close the Valves" on Oil Exports

This article by Onur Ant and Khalid Al-Ansary for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The referendum isn’t limited to the three Kurdish governorates, or provinces, of Iraq; people in the disputed, oil-rich area of Kirkuk are also participating in the poll.

Iraq’s central government also condemned the KRG for including Kirkuk in its referendum and has threatened to retaliate.

Turkey and Iran, which also has a population of Kurds, have been among the most outspoken opponents of the referendum and were among the first to act. Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported that Iranian airspace bordering the Kurdish region had been closed at the request of Iraq’s government, and that the Iranian military was conducting exercises in frontier provinces.

The vote was “laying the ground for hot conflict,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Monday. Turkey now considered the Iraqi government the sole counter party in its arrangement over oil exports to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

No one in the region wants a sovereign Kurdistan except of course the Kurds themselves. Today’s referendum is a landmark event but the fact it also included Kirkuk is almost certainly going to set the region up for additional disagreement and potentially conflict. Turkey, in particular, is ambivalent to the idea of a sovereign Kurdish state on its border. 



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September 25 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Merkel wins fourth term but far-right populists make gains

This article by Stefan Wagstyl, Guy chazan and Tobias Buck for the Financial Times. Here is a section: 

AfD supporters were jubilant. Alexander Gauland, a party leader, pledged to “hunt” Ms Merkel in parliament and said: “We will take our people and our country back.”

The Social Democrats, Ms Merkel’s coalition partner, suffered their worst defeat and said they would go into opposition. Martin Schulz, the SPD leader, said it was “a difficult and bitter day for German social democracy”.

Official results published on Monday by the federal returning officer gave Ms Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc 33 per cent of the vote. The Social Democrats won just 20.5 per cent. The AfD secured 12.6 per cent.

Under Germany’s election system, the parliament will have 709 members compared with 631 during the last session. The AfD is set for 94 seats.

The chancellor, who will remain at the heart of European affairs, benefited from Germany’s strong economy and low unemployment record, as well her role as a cautious global leader in an uncertain world, characterised by crises and surging nationalism, not least in Donald Trump’s White House.

But she lost many votes, especially in the former communist east, to the AfD as Germans protested against her decision to keep its borders open for more than 1m asylum seekers in 2015-16.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The illusion Germany has been immune to the rising tide of populism was questioned over the weekend with the surge in support for the AfD. That is going to have a profound effect on the cosy environment of the Bundestag which has been the preserve of the major parties for the last sixty years. It is above all going to create a national platform for the AfD to debate its agenda which will likely elicit a policy response from the established parties to try and blunt it. 



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September 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

May Makes Commitment on Cash in Bid to Break Brexit Deadlock

This article by Tim Ross , Simon Kennedy , and Ian Wishart for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

In delivering her most detailed roadmap yet for the divorce, May gave the clearest indication yet that Britain will pay to smooth its departure from the bloc. Her words were immediately welcomed by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

“The U.K. will honor commitments we have made during the period of our membership,” May said in a much-anticipated speech in the Italian city of Florence. A government official later clarified that meant she was open to discussing financial commitments beyond the scope of the EU budget, and the U.K. would honor its dues more broadly.

She made the promise while also proposing paying money and accepting the EU’s rules for two years after Brexit takes effect in March 2019 in return for a transitional period which mirrors the status quo of tariff-free, regulation-light commerce -- and freedom of movement.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The May administration is willing to concede to EU demands that it meet previously agreed obligations to the EU budget and will also uphold just about all the EU’s regulations for at least two years after the exit is completed. The announcement of a willingness to pay was welcomed by the EU. 

“The speech shows a willingness to move forward, as time is of the essence,” Barnier said in an emailed statement on Friday. “We need to reach an agreement by autumn 2018 on the conditions of the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union.”

 



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September 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Philippine Central Bank Chief Brushes Off Credit Growth Concerns

This article by Karl Lester M. Yap for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Philippine central bank Governor Nestor Espenilla downplayed risks of surging credit growth, saying the trend is consistent with the fast pace of economic expansion.

“From a micro level, loans are being very carefully managed from a risk perspective,” Espenilla said in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s David Ingles and Haidi Lun on Friday. “At the macro level, the 20 percent growth is relatively consistent with the rapid growth of the economy.”

An economic boom accompanied by surging credit growth has fueled speculation that Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas may raise interest rates as early as the fourth quarter. That would be a divergence from other central banks in Southeast Asia, like Indonesia and Vietnam, that have eased policy this year. The Philippines kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low of 3 percent on Thursday.

Commercial bank loans have risen quickly this year, with mortgages surging more than 20 percent in June. Bangko Sentral has adopted measures in the past to cool the property sector, including capping the value of real estate that can be used as loan collateral.

Domestic credit to the private sector in the Philippines stood at 45 percent of gross domestic product in 2016, according to data from the World Bank. The ratio exceeded 100 percent in Malaysia, Thailand, and China.

“The Philippines is basically in catch up mode right now,” Espenilla said, referring to the credit expansion.

The Philippine economy is headed for a sixth year of growth exceeding 6 percent, among the world’s fastest. That hasn’t yet translated into an inflation problem, with the central bank maintaining its forecast for this year and next year at 3.2 percent. The bank’s goal is to keep inflation within a range of 2 percent to 4 percent until 2020.

“We are on track with meeting our inflation target which is the main driver for our policy decision,” Espenilla said. “Our assessment is inflation remains firmly under control.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Philippines has mostly made headlines for the aggressive pace of Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against drug traffickers and others deemed to be malcontents. However, what has often gone unnoticed is this activity has not arrested the pace of economic growth. 



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September 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

France Is Germany's Big Banking Hope? That's Gotta Hurt

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

That makes a merger attractive to buyers with an existing presence in the German market, such as UniCredit, which acquired HypoVereinsbank in 2005, or Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s largest lender. Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank held discussions last year about a possible merger, before Commerzbank announced its new strategy. After the talks broke down, John Cryan, Deutsche Bank’s CEO, called for consolidation in Europe to help the region’s banks compete.

​The renewed interest in Commerzbank has been catalyzed by the investment of Stephen Feinberg’s Cerberus Capital, which already controls Austrian lender Bawag PSK Bank. Private equity firms such as Cerberus pool money from investors to buy companies, using additional debt to finance the transactions, in the hope of selling them for a profit later.

UniCredit executives have held discussions with German officials about a potential combination with Commerzbank once the lenders’ restructuring is complete, according to a person with knowledge of the talks. The German government would prefer a tie-up with France’s BNP Paribas SA, WirtschaftsWoche reported, citing unidentified insiders.

“UniCredit and Commerzbank have large restructuring plans underway, to be completed in 2019 and 2020 respectively,” Tom Kinmonth, a strategist at ABN Amro wrote in a note. “Either way, the interest and the turnaround in the German lender has brought great performance this year.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

I remember the days when I was the Bloomberg account manager for just about all German banks in Luxembourg. That was back when old ladies turned up at the bank to clip coupons on their bonds at the end of the month and when meeting rooms all had money counting machines. In Kirchberg, queues of RVs form in the summer to pick up cash before driving down to the Mediterranean for their summer holidays. 



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September 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Shanghai police turn to facial recognition software to catch misbehaving cyclists

This article from the South China Morning Post may be of interest subscribers. Here is a section: 

On the same day, another e-bike user who had previously been caught twice driving in the opposite bike lane was fined 100 yuan for doing so a third time.

If traffic law breakers do not accept the charges, police will publicly broadcast details of their offence on the surrounding advertising billboards until the culprit hands themselves in.

Shanghai traffic police said that following the success of the pilot, more “electronic police” surveillance units will be set up at major traffic intersections across the city.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

While in China this summer I was amazed at the improvement in customer service that has come about as a result of the online review system available via many different social media services. The fear of receiving negative reviews has literally changed behaviour beyond recognition in service establishments. 



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September 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on maturity extensions

Why does the US not shift its bonds to 20 and 30-year duration, increase inflation to, say, 2% and pay back the money in 20 or 30 years’ effectively free of interest? This would really kick the can down the road and give them many years to sort out the mess.  When I asked this of Americans five years ago, they thought it would cause interest rates to spike if the Fed tried to drastically increase the duration.  I think the last few years have proved that the duration could be increased without causing panic in the markets. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email and since no one has ever successfully taken trillions of Dollars out circulation before I suspect everyone is asking how this can be done effectively. The Fed went through a maturity extension program between 2011 and 2012 which swapped about 667 billion from short-dated to longer dated securities. Here is a section from the Fed’s 2012 press release on the subject: 

Specifically, the Committee intends to purchase Treasury securities with remaining maturities of 6 years to 30 years at the current pace and to sell or redeem an equal amount of Treasury securities with remaining maturities of approximately 3 years or less. This continuation of the maturity extension program should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative. 



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September 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The great nutrient collapse

This fascinating article by Geoff Johnson and Helena Bottemiller Evich for Politico may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

What he found is that his 2002 theory—or, rather, the strong suspicion he had articulated back then—appeared to be borne out. Across nearly 130 varieties of plants and more than 15,000 samples collected from experiments over the past three decades, the overall concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron had dropped by 8 percent on average. The ratio of carbohydrates to minerals was going up. The plants, like the algae, were becoming junk food.

What that means for humans - whose main food intake is plants - is only just starting to be investigated. Researchers who dive into it will have to surmount obstacles like its low profile and slow pace, and a political environment where the word “climate” is enough to derail a funding conversation. It will also require entirely new bridges to be built in the world of science - a problem that Loladze himself wryly acknowledges in his own research. When his paper was finally published in 2014, Loladze listed his grant rejections in the acknowledgements.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Over the last couple of years I’ve been paying a lot more attention to my health and well- being because I intend to be around for a long time and prevention is better than the cure. I have basically replaced my previous intake of processed sugars and carbohydrates with fruits and vegetables. Since carbohydrates are processed into sugars quickly after ingestion nutritional balance is always about choosing where you get the protein, fat, sugars and minerals necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle. 



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September 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Google bets anew on smartphones, pays $1.1 billion for HTC's Pixel division

This article by Jess Macy Yu and Paresh Dave for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The all-cash deal will see Google gain 2,000 HTC employees, roughly equivalent to one fifth of the Taiwanese firm’s total workforce. It will also acquire a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property and the two firms agreed to look at other areas of collaboration in the future.

While Google is not acquiring any manufacturing assets, the transaction underscores a ramping up of its ambitions for Android smartphones at a time when consumer and media attention is largely focused on rival Apple Inc (AAPL.O).
“Google has found it necessary to have its own hardware team to help bring innovations to Android devices, making them competitive versus the iPhone series,” said Mia Huang, analyst at research firm TrendForce.

The move is part of a broader and still nascent push into hardware that saw Google hire Rick Osterloh, a former
Motorola executive, to run its hardware division last year. It also comes ahead of new product launches on Oct. 4 that are expected to include two Pixel phones and a Chromebook.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

I keep a close eye on what my children and their peers use because it is an expedient way of identifying what is going on in the wider world outside of the sanitised environment of the market. At their acting class, last week one of the kids was showing off his new Pixel phone and their school has pretty much ditched iPads in favour of Chromebooks. The reason for that decision was apparently because high schools use laptops and they need to have some familiarity with them before moving up. 



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September 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fed Asset-Shrinking to Start Next Month; Rate Hike Seen in '17

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

“The labor market has continued to strengthen” and economic activity “has been rising moderately so far this year,” the Fed statement said. The FOMC repeated language saying “near- term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced.”

The decision to leave the target range for the federal funds rate unchanged and begin the balance-sheet runoff in October was unanimous. The Fed reiterated that interest rates are likely to rise at a “gradual” pace, though updated forecasts indicated that officials see the path as less steep than before.

In their new set of projections, Fed officials estimated three quarter-point rate hikes would be appropriate next year -- the same number they saw in June -- based on the median in the so- called dot plot of interest-rate forecasts.

Crisis Action
The Fed's decision to exit from balance-sheet policies comes a decade after the global financial crisis began to tip the economy into a recession at the end of 2007. The reduction in assets will be slow -- just $10 billion a month to start. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Fed’s balance sheet has been steady at close to $4.5 trillion since early 2015 when the process of tapering quantitative easing ended. The issue facing the Fed is that they want to continue to raise interest rates, but that is going to have a deleterious effect on the Treasury’s finances as bonds mature and are refinanced at higher rates. The answer they are experimenting with is reducing the size of the balance sheet so there are fewer bonds which need to be refinanced. 



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September 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

It's Not Just Toys R Us. More Credit Weak Spots Emerge

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

Money managers are grappling with an uptick in operational and balance-sheet challenges late in the business cycle, with debt-laden Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. the latest retailer to file for bankruptcy this week, catching bond markets off guard. Just two weeks ago, credit-default swaps, which allow traders to hedge against losses, were pricing in a low probability of near-term default at about 10 percent based on contracts expiring in June.

"Companies with the weakest fundamentals often show problems first late in a cycle, and the retail sector has many such examples," said Adam Richmond, Morgan Stanley’s chief credit strategist.

"Investors initially treat those issues as idiosyncratic, and then the problems spread, when credit conditions begin to tighten,” he said. “That is how the late cycle can transition to end of cycle."

These risks are hard to see at the index level, with the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. high-yield benchmark up almost 7 percent this year, led by CCC-rated names. Still, the latter has underperformed the broader market over the past two months, suggesting investors are increasingly compelled to price-in deteriorating fundamentals -- reminiscent of a market in its late winter, according to the U.S. lender.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

“You don’t know who’s been swimming naked until the tide goes out” is one of Warren Buffett’s most memorable sayings. There is no doubt that abundant cheap liquidity has aided a considerable number of what might otherwise have been considered marginal businesses to remain solvent. The big question now is how they are going to refinance debt at equally attractive levels when it comes due over the coming years?



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September 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Proterra Catalyst E2 MAX Sets World Record And Drives 1,101.2 Miles On A Single Charge

This press release contains some impressive statistics and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Today Proterra, the leading innovator in heavy-duty electric transportation, announced it has set a world record for driving the longest distance ever traveled by an electric vehicle on a single charge at the Navistar Proving Grounds in New Carlisle, Indiana. Proterra’s 40-foot Catalyst E2 max traveled 1,101.2 miles this month with 660 kWh of energy storage capacity. For the last three consecutive years, Proterra has demonstrated improved range and battery performance. Last September, Proterra drove 603 miles with 440kWh of energy storage, and in 2015, Proterra drove 258 miles with 257kWh of energy storage on a single charge. This year’s world record range marks exceptional performance improvements over prior years, and underscores Proterra’s commitment to innovation and accelerating the mass adoption of heavy-duty electric vehicles.

“For our heavy-duty electric bus to break the previous world record of 1,013.76 miles — which was set by a light-duty passenger EV 46 times lighter than the Catalyst E2 max — is a major feat,” said Matt Horton, Proterra’s chief commercial officer. “This record achievement is a testament to Proterra’s purpose-built electric bus design, energy-dense batteries and efficient drivetrain.”

Beyond meeting transit agencies’ range requirements, the Catalyst E2 max is poised to make a significant impact on the transit market because of its low operational cost per mile compared to conventional fossil fuel powered buses. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, lithium-ion battery prices have dropped by roughly 72 percent since 2010, and the economics for batteries continue to improve. Between li-ion battery cost savings and improving vehicle efficiency, electric vehicles represent the most disruptive mode of transport today.

“Driven by the best cost savings-per-mile, we believe the business case for heavy-duty electric buses is superior to all other applications, and that the transit market will be the first to transition completely to battery-electric powered vehicles,” said Ryan Popple, Proterra CEO. “Early electric bus adopters like our first customer, Foothill Transit, have paved the way for future heavy-duty applications, like motor coaches and commercial trucks. As we see incumbents and more companies enter the heavy-duty EV market, it has become very apparent that the future is all-electric, and the sun is setting on combustion engine technology.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the primary arguments often trotted out to combat ambitious forecasts about the future of long haul and large passenger vehicles is the battery would have to be so large and heavy as to make the endeavor untenable. 



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September 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oil Traders Empty Key Crude Storage Hub as Demand Booms

This article by Rupert Rowling and Javier Blas for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Oil traders are emptying one of the world’s largest crude storage facilities, located near the southernmost tip of Africa, as the physical market tightens amid booming demand and OPEC production cuts.

Total SA, Vitol Group and Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. are selling crude they hoarded in Saldanha Bay, South Africa, during the 2015-2016 glut when the market effectively paid traders to store oil, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named discussing private operations. 

Crude demand is now seasonally outstripping supply, tightening the physical market for some crude varieties to levels not seen in the last two years and encouraging traders to sell their stored oil.

“The market is selling inventories from everywhere,” Mercuria Chief Executive Officer Marco Dunand said in an interview in Geneva.

Although largely unknown outside the oil trading industry, Saldanha Bay is one of the world’s largest crude storage facilities, with the capacity to hold 45 million barrels in just six gigantic, partially-buried concrete tanks. By comparison, Cushing, the better-known U.S. oil storage center in Oklahoma that serves as the pricing point for the West Texas Intermediate oil benchmark, can hold about 75 million barrels in more than 125 tanks.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

We are in a period of synchronized global economic expansion so that should be generally positive for commodity demand, all other factors being equal. The hurricanes which hit the US and meant that the strategic reserve was tapped means it will need to be refilled while refineries will be running at capacity once they get back on line to make up for lost time.



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September 19 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 19 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Large Cap Tech

Eoin Treacy's view -

Large Cap Tech – The Fed is meeting over the next two days and we may hear something about how balance sheet rationalization. Meanwhile the S&P500 is trading above 2500 and the Nasdaq-100 is trading above 6000 while an increasing number of Asia Pacific markets are breaking on the upside as well. 

The major constituents of these indices from the tech sector, namely Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft have considerable influence on the ability of these indices to continue to extend their breakouts so I thought it would be instructive to highlight their current chart patterns. 

 



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September 19 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Markets Are Betting That Japan's Abe Would Win a Snap Election

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

Markets are suggesting that any snap election called by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would take advantage of his opponents’ weakness and see him retain power.

A victory would ensure the continuation of Abenomics, the recipe of mega monetary easing, flexible fiscal policy and selective deregulation that’s helped Japan’s economy to its longest sustained expansion since before the global crisis. Abe, who’s expected to decide on the early ballot after returning from a U.S. trip, is capitalizing on growing public support for his management of the North Korean crisis.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

We learned from Theresa May’s experience that being presumptuous about the ability of politicians to extend their majority can be a dangerous game. Nevertheless, Abe is a seasoned campaigner and one of Japan’s longest serving Prime Ministers. With a fresh mandate, he could help promote further reform. 



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September 19 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on wind farms

In my trip last week across the Texas Panhandle, I observed a continuing explosion in the number of power-generating windmills (picture is from last year's trip). Last year, vast numbers of these were not operating - this year, most are, suggesting that the power lines to major cities (e.g. Dallas-Ft. Worth) are now working and that purchase contracts are now in place. I spoke at length with a friend who farms a dozen or so square miles there about this subject, which he is very knowledgeable about.

Ah, but all is not well. The company that built hundreds of windmills in around 2002 up in the (windy) OK Panhandle has gone bankrupt, and the windmills are being torn down for scrap. Alas, the cost of these reclamation efforts are not fully covered by the original reclamation bonds bought by the now-bankrupt company, meaning either the farmers who own the land or the government (taxpayers) will have to cover the cost. Meanwhile, the productive farmland that was used for these remains unusable and unproductive until they are torn out, including their huge concrete bases. A 15-year life is not what anyone was promised...

When a farmer agrees to allowing windmills to be built on his land, he is effectively giving up on irrigating that land using modern, efficient center-pivot irrigation systems. Dryland wheat yields 1/4 that of irrigated wheat in the best rain years (which are few and far between), and 10% or less in dry years (lots of years). Most now grow at least some corn, and corn is not a dryland crop in these parts. Yes, he could go back to the horribly inefficient and water-wasting row irrigation method, but that has serious long-term aquifer depletion issues, as well as cost of pumping and labor cost increases. The windmills themselves, the power lines, and the access roads all reduce the crop acreage. Annual payments to the farmers make up for some of this, and some farmers do make money on the windmill contracts, but many smart farmers are turning down the offers. 

Despite all this, the building boom continues, and like all booms, will ultimately lead to substantial overcapacity, bankruptcies, finger pointing, and pain. With over 50% of the power generated being consumed by power line losses, it is not clear that such projects will ever create significant profits before government (taxpayer) subsidies are counted.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Even in the windiest locales onshore wind has a hard time being economic and the turbines installed 15 years ago bear little resemblance to those being erected today. European manufacturers have been promoting offshore turbines the size of skyscrapers. They are betting on scale to achieve efficiency gains and Denmark’s Dong Energy made headlines a few months ago by winning contracts to install offshore turbines with no subsidies from the German government. Of course, it remains to be seen if it can in fact deliver on its promise. 



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September 18 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 18 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gold in correction mode

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

Precious metals: Gold has dropped to a 2½-week low of $1,315 per troy ounce this morning amid increased risk appetite among market participants. Gold in euro terms is trading at only around €1,100 per troy ounce. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indices in the US had both climbed to new record highs on Friday. The rise in stock markets is continuing in the Asian region today. What is more, bond yields in the US have increased significantly of late, which makes gold less attractive as an alternative investment.

Presumably this is also why Friday saw the second consecutive daily outflow from gold ETFs. Portugal’s credit rating was upgraded on Friday evening by the ratings agency S&P, achieving an investment grade rating again for the first time since January 2012. Ireland was also upgraded, this time by the ratings agency Moody’s. Wednesday could see further volatility on the gold market, as this is when the US Federal Reserve meeting will take place.

If the market’s currently low rate hike expectations increase as a result of the meeting, this is likely to weigh on the gold price. According to the CFTC’s statistics, speculative financial investors further expanded their net long positions in gold in the week to 12 September, putting them at 253,500 contracts now. This was already the ninth weekly increase in a row.
The price rise to a 13-month high of just shy of $1,360 was thus driven largely by speculation. Given that the gold price is now trading considerably lower, positions have presumably been squared in the meantime

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

We are in a period of synchronised global economic expansion where central banks are only just beginning to turn the corner towards tightening; with the USA’s Federal Reserve in the lead. Commodities no longer share the trending commonality evident at the dawn of the commodity boom in the early 2000s. Industrial resources including palladium are recovering while energy and agricultural prices have been subject to a great deal of volatility. 



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September 18 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Superpower India to Replace China as Growth Engine

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

``India will account for more than half of the increase in Asia’s workforce in the coming decade, but this isn’t just a story of more workers: these new workers will be much better trained and educated than the existing Indian workforce,’’ said Anis Chakravarty, economist at Deloitte India. ``There will be rising economic potential coming alongside that, thanks to an increased share of women in the workforce, as well as an increased ability and interest in working for longer. The consequences for businesses are huge.’’

While the looming ‘Indian summer’ will last decades, it isn’t the only Asian economy set to surge. Indonesia and the Philippines also have relatively young populations, suggesting they’ll experience similar growth, says Deloitte. But the rise of India isn’t set in stone: if the right frameworks are not in place to sustain and promote growth, the burgeoning population could be faced with unemployment and become ripe for social unrest.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

India has lots of young people who urgently need work and millions more entering the workforce over the coming decades. Little wonder China is racing to move up the value chain in manufacturing and employing robots to boost productivity. Competition for the moniker of workshop of the world is heating up and India has a fighting chance at providing competitive low-cost labour, with no language barrier, to the world’s manufacturers of low cost goods, many of whom are owned by China. The key to achieving that kind of growth in employment will be heavily dependent on standards of governance improving. 



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September 18 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Is Said to Draft Plans for Financial Sector Opening

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

As part of an early package of reforms agreed between the two leaders, Beijing agreed in May to allow U.S.-owned card payment services to begin the process of obtaining local licenses, in a move that would erode the near-monopoly held by China UnionPay Co.

China will open up its insurance market further, mainly by encouraging foreign insurers already operating locally to enter the health, pension and catastrophe insurance sectors, China Insurance Regulatory Commission Vice Chairman Chen Wenhui said earlier this month.

Chinese regulators last year decided to open up the nation’s fund market, allowing investment firms in China to be 100 percent owned by foreign managers. At least a dozen global money managers such as Man Group Plc, Bridgewater Associates and Fidelity International have announced plans since then to start private securities funds. Before the rule change, foreign firms were restricted from running such private funds in China but could take stakes in mutual fund companies and provide advice to onshore funds.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The most basic premise of insurance is to pool risk among as wide a grouping as possible to minimise the exposure any one individual takes on. Taken from that perspective the timing of the decision by Chinese officialdom to begin allowing foreign investors access to its capital markets is interesting. 



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September 18 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Toys R Us hires law firm as it explores possible bankruptcy filing

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

Toys R Us has hired a law firm to help restructure its roughly $400 million in debt due in 2018, a move that could include the marquee toy store filing for bankruptcy protection, sources familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

Addressing the retailer's debt load prior to the crucial holiday season could give its major vendors such as Mattel and Hasbro clarity into the company's long-term viability to help ensure the toymakers continue to stock its shelves throughout the holidays.

Toys R Us has hired restructuring lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis to help address the looming payments, the people said.
Hiring a law firm like Kirkland is not indicative of a bankruptcy filing, and many companies work with law firms to successfully refinance or restructure their debt without filing for protection. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Companies like Toys R US do the majority of their business in the last six weeks of the year so they have to carry a lot of inventory and they have to maintain large stores to cater to the crush around the holidays. That all comes at a cost and is expensive to maintain while online businesses only need to hold the inventory for a short period of time and have no stores. If Toys R US avoids bankruptcy it is going to have to figure out how to leverage its brand name to become a significant online store. 



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September 15 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 15 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 15 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Electric Vehicle Boom: ICE-ing The Combustion Engine

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

Many manufacturers undertaking all-solid-state battery R&D Manufacturers that aim to make all-solid-state batteries commercially available in 20202025 include Toyota, Sekisui Chemical, Hitachi Zosen, and Ohara. There have been announcements also from Panasonic, Samsung Electronics, Daimler, Sony, and Hyundai Motor about R&D efforts, but it is not clear when these companies aim to start mass production. BYD says it has set up a research team that is focused on all-solid-state batteries. Bosch, which is the largest auto parts maker, has acquired the all-solid-state battery startup Seeo, while household appliance maker Dyson entered the battery industry with its acquisition of Sakti3. This suggests there are growing expectations for the potential use of all-solid-state batteries not only in automobiles, but also in household appliances. 

Advantages of all-solid-state batteries 
An all-solid-state battery has the potential to offer not only greater energy density, but also greater safety as well as flexibility in terms of operating temperatures. The advantage of these batteries is that they do not contain electrolyte solution, which is flammable and can react to temperature changes. The batteries also do not require separators, which eliminates the risk of damaged separators causing the battery to short-circuit. Moreover, sulfur-based solid electrolytes have the potential to substantially reduce recharging times as they demonstrate greater ion conductivity than electrolyte solution. 

Disadvantages of all-solid-state batteries 
We think the technological hurdles hampering mass production are the main drawback for all-solid-state batteries. Manufacturing all-solid-state batteries will require new production processes including pressing (in the case of sulfur-based batteries) and sintering (oxide-based batteries). In the case of sulfur-based batteries, which appear to be a strong candidate for automobiles, there is a risk that the sulfur-based solid electrolyte will react with moisture to create hydrogen sulfide. Companies are considering ways around this issue, which include housing the battery in a solid case to reduce the risk of it being damaged, or incorporating a hydrogen sulfide gas detector that would raise the alarm early. On the production side, it has been suggested that all-solid-state battery factories should have a super-dry room with a dew point of -100 degrees. There are also concerns that when all-solid-state batteries are used in automobiles, the vehicle’s vibration may reduce interface stability. It would appear that Toyota therefore faces a number of hurdles to overcome if it is to be ready to commercialize such batteries in 2022.   

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Innovations in the energy sector have profound effects on all financial markets by reducing the cost of production and transportation of just about everything. That is why batteries represent the lynchpin for the dawn of a new energy future where electricity becomes a local industry and transportation is no longer dependent on extraction of resources from politically unpalatable regions. 



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September 15 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Portugal Regains Investment Grade Rating From S&P on Growth

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

Portugal’s credit rating was restored to investment grade by S&P Global Ratings as the country’s economic growth accelerates.

The rating was revised to BBB- from BB+, which was one level below investment grade, S&P said in a statement on Friday.

The outlook is stable. Portugal had been rated junk by S&P since January 2012, when the country was going through a bailout program provided by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

“The upgrade reflects our improved forecast for Portugal’s growth during 2017-2020, as well as the solid progress it has made in reducing its budget deficit and the receded risk of a marked deterioration in external financing conditions,” S&P said. The company raised its forecast for the country’s economic growth through 2020 to an average of about 2.2 percent a year. 

Tourism and exports have been boosting the economy, with the Bank of Portugal forecasting growth will accelerate to 2.5 percent this year. The faster growth is helping the country’s minority Socialist government manage the budget deficit, which last year was the narrowest as a percentage of gross domestic product in four decades of Portuguese democracy.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It’s been a decade of tough decisions for the Eurozone’s peripheral members but they are slowly but surely returning to growth; helped in no small part by the low borrowing costs the ECB has supplied through its quantitative easing program. 



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September 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pound Sentiment Is Now the Most Bullish in More Than Three Years

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

Currency traders haven’t been this upbeat on the pound in more than three years. 

The cost of owning one-month call options on sterling relative to puts reached six basis points, the steepest since February 2014, as the Bank of England said the market is underpricing the prospect of rate increases.

The premium on calls shows the market’s conviction that the currency’s more than 3 percent rally against the dollar this month has legs.

The key question on investors’ minds at the moment is: where does the pound go from here? To some extent, the currency’s fortunes against the dollar will be influenced by what the Federal Reserve does, and in this context next week’s FOMC meeting will take on added significance. Witness also that stronger-than-estimated consumer-price inflation data out of the U.S. on Thursday failed to damp bullish sentiment for the pound.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Pound has the clearest signs of base formation completion against the Dollar not least because the Dollar has been so weak since early January. It is now breaking up out of a first step above the type-2 base and a clear downward dynamic would be required to question medium-term scope for some additional upside. 



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September 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oil Breaches $50 as Worldwide Energy Demand Outlook Brightens

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

Oil topped $50 a barrel for the first time in more than a month amid heightened optimism that a demand resurgence is in the offing.

Futures rose as much as 2.4 percent in New York, extending the longest upswing since July. Two of the most influential organizations in world oil markets -- the International Energy Agency and OPEC -- nudged their demand forecasts higher, signaling continued erosion of a global glut that has weighed on prices.

Oil demand for 2017 will expand by the most in two years, the Paris-based IEA said on Wednesday. That followed OPEC’s increase of its estimate for how much crude buyers will seek from the cartel next year, driven by rising consumption in Europe and China. In the U.S., hurricane-driven refinery outages spurred fuel distributors to pull a record amount of gasoline from storage tanks to cope with shortages last week, government data showed.

“The market is continuing to digest that information and realizing that the rebalancing process is working,” Mark Watkins, a Park City, Utah-based regional investment manager at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, which oversees $142 billion in assets, said by telephone.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Saudi Arabia’s decision to sell a part of Aramco with the aim of setting a valuation so they could borrow against the balance led investors to conclude it believes oil prices are in terminal decline. Anecdotal evidence it is planning to delay the IPO has had the opposite effect on sentiment and is contributing to recent strength. 



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September 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on China's real estate sector

A friend is telling me that XJP hates the real estate sector. He thinks it is a waste of capital. He wants China's money in infrastructure both domestic and abroad. Above all, in science and engineering. In fact, there appears to be a shortage of engineers in China now - can you believe it? And real estate companies are worried because XJP is cutting off their growth pathways at every turn.  If this is true, my respect for XJP has gone up a big step.

It tallies with this story attached.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China’s economic growth model depends on increasing the size of the services sector and ensuring higher value-added jobs are created to ensure productivity increases in line with labour costs. Creating a domestic microchip sector is a big part of that ambition. However, China’s ambitions are being stymied in Europe and the USA as an increasing number of acquisitions are facing government scrutiny. Here is a section from an article focusing on a Chinese-backed private equity firm’s attempts to take over Lattice Semiconductor and now Imagination Technologies: 

Canyon Bridge, which says it’s based in Silicon Valley with an office in Beijing, is keen to structure a bid to avoid scrutiny from U.S. regulators, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The company’s $1.3 billion purchase of Portland, Oregon-based Lattice Semiconductor Corp., whose programmable logic chips are used in military communications, is being opposed by U.S. national security officials, and President Donald Trump is considering whether to block the deal.



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September 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Truckers Are in No Hurry to Have Their Hours Tracked

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

Some smaller companies that operate just a few trucks and independent drivers are resisting the switch. “I don’t plan on it until the last minute,” said Monte Wiederhold, president of B.L. Reever Transport Inc., a six-truck fleet in Ohio.

He and other smaller fleet operators say allegations of cheating on paper logs are exaggerated and the safety benefits overstated. With drivers paid an average of 40 cents a mile, small operators say the $1,000 cost for an electronic log and the monthly service fees of around $40 per truck to process the data is a financial burden. Small fleets and owner operators account for about half of 1 million heavy-duty trucks for-hire in the U.S.

Acknowledging those concerns, the consortium of state and federal law enforcement agencies overseeing the change said last month that they will fine truckers found without electronic logs starting in December, but won’t force their trucks off the road until April. Fines for log violations are based on state statutes and vary from state to state.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

On the flight home from Dubai earlier this year I chatted with the owner of a haulage company who stated the introduction of electronic log books was a much more pressing issue for his business than any speculation about impact of autonomous vehicles.



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September 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch September 12th 2017

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

If a homeowner installs a charging station in his garage, there may not be much impact on the grid.  However, if all his neighbors do the same thing, there could be a problem.  Transformers are necessary to regulate the power flowing into a home, and they usually service multiple homes, generally four at a time.  A problem is that utility companies do not know exactly how much power is being used by a particular home relative to its neighbors until a transformer fails.  Upgrading transformers can be expensive and limited by weight limits for units mounted on power poles.  One estimate suggests moving from a 50KVA pad-mounted transformer serving four homes to a 75KVA unit costs about $3,000.   

For underground power installations, upgrading the transformer units may be easier, but not necessarily less costly.  One study by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers says that the problem is at the local level.  If multiple Level 2 chargers that fully recharge a car in 2-3 hours, are plugged in at the same time at night, they may prevent transformers from cooling as they are designed.  Sustained excess current will eventually ‘cook’ a transformer’s copper windings, causing a short and blacking out of the homes attached to the device.  This problem was observed from a study of the habits of EV owners in an Austin, Texas suburb.  Over a two-month period, the residents tended to recharge their EVs at the same time – when returning from work – that coincided with air conditioning loads increasing along with the use of other appliances. 

A similar study was conducted in the UK, which conducted an 18month study of resident habits when 100% were using EVs.  The study’s result show that at least a third of the UK’s power grid will need to be upgraded to support an EV sales rate of 40% of new car sales by 2023.  That doesn’t address the load issue if 40% of the entire UK vehicle fleet were plug-in EVs. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The rollout of electric vehicles, which is anticipated to ramp up as manufacturing capacity for both batteries and cars comes on line in the next few years, is going to put strain on the electrical grid both from a generating and traffic perspective. While it can be argued how much additional supply with be required, the introduction of charging stations to the residential environment will certainly increase the consumption of electricity at individual homes. 



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September 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

After hurricanes, flood of storm-damaged cars heading for market

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

Scafidi expects the number of flood-damaged cars to be greater for Harvey than it was for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, both because of Harvey's bigger footprint and because in the last 12 years more vehicles rely on computer technology and electronics.

"Beneath the surface, water can permanently damage computers that control everything from the gas pedal to steering," said Cliff Wood, chief operating officer at CarMax, a leading used car dealer.

Katrina damaged about 600,000 vehicles, Basso said. Carfax is still working on an estimate for Harvey.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It has been my experience that insurance companies are more than willing to write off cars even with little more than superficial damage, so they are likely to have little compunction in writing off flood damaged cars. Even if the estimates of upwards of half a million vehicles being written off are too high, there are still going to be a lot of new cars bought or leased in the next few months as people claim insurance. 



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September 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Yet Again?

Thanks to a subscriber for this memo by Howard Marks at Oaktree which may be of interest. Here is a section on Bitcoin: 

So what’s my real bottom line?

Advocates say if Bitcoin is accepted as described above, you’ll make more than 50 times your money. Thus success doesn’t have to high probably for buying Bitcoin to have a huge expected return. This is called “lottery-ticket thinking”, under which it seems smart to bet on an improbably outcome that offers a huge potential payoff. We saw in in full flower in the dot-com boom in 1999-2000, and I think we’re seeing it in action again today with regard to Bitcoin. Nothing is as seductive as the possibility of vast wealth. 

Several of the “seeds for a boom” that I listed in “There They Go Again…Again” are at work in the Bitcoin surge (a) there is a grain of underlying truth as set out above; (b) there’s the prospect of a virtuous circle: widespread demand will lead to wider acceptance as legal tender, which will lead to widespread demand; and (c) thus this tree may grow to the sky, as there is no obvious limit to this logic. None of these necessarily make Bitcoin a mistake. They merely say elements that contributed to past bubbles can be detected today with regard to Bitcoin. 

Finally, Bitcoin isn’t alone. There are hundreds of digital currencies already – including electric with market capitalisations of over a billion dollars – and no limits on the creation of new ones. So even if digital currencies are here to stay, who knows which one will turn out to be the winner? Hundreds of e-commerce start-ups appreciated rapidly in the tech bubble based on the premise that “the Internet will change the world” It did, but most of the companies ended up worthless. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The key advantage government backed currencies have is the high barrier to entry in created new currencies. However, cryptocurrencies do not enjoy that privilege. It is getting progressively easier to mint new tokens and the number is proliferating. That both increases supply, which is symptomatic of market tops but it also saps demand for the established brands because new entrants are expected to perform better.



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September 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Apple Unveils iPhone X With New Display as Rivals Grow

This article by Alex Webb and Mark Gurman for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Apple Inc. unveiled its most important new iPhone for years to take on growing competition from Samsung Electronics Co., Google and a host of Chinese smartphone makers.

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook showed off the iPhone X with an edge-to-edge screen during an event at the company’s new $5 billion headquarters in Cupertino, California, on Tuesday. Cook pronounced the name "ten," but it’s written as "X." The device, coming a decade after the original model, is Apple’s first major redesign since 2014 and represents a significant upgrade to the iPhone 7 line.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

At almost 2 hours the Apple event was a serious time commitment but two things stood out to me apart of course from the price. Animated emojis are something that a lot of people will appreciate but the augmented reality features will also speak directly to the younger generation. 



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September 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.K. Inflation Jumps More Than Forecast to Match 4-Year High

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

The numbers, as well as intensifying a squeeze on households, may put fresh pressure on Bank of England policy makers, who are grappling with price growth above their 2 percent target. While just two of the nine-member Monetary Policy Committee voted to increase interest rates from a record-low 0.25 percent last month, some economists say a third -- Andy Haldane -- could join them at this week’s meeting.

A 6-3 vote “could prompt a re-appraisal of the potential path of interest rates,” said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING in London. “But we feel that the economic uncertainty brought about by Brexit will lead the committee to hold fire until there is much greater clarity on the U.K.’s post Brexit environment.”

The data on Tuesday from the Office for National Statistics also showed that core inflation accelerated more than economists expected last month, reaching the most since 2011. The pound climbed to a one-year high, jumping 0.9 percent to $1.3281 as of 11:46 a.m. London time.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The UK has previously been willing to run inflation hot to allow it to erode the massive quantity of outstanding debt. BoE Governor Carney has clearly stated that the repercussions of the Pound’s decline would stoke inflation and contribute to lower living standards. Whether than means he is willing to raise rates to temper inflation is a big question. 



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September 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Chinese online retailers and online universities

Hello as you are familiar with China, what do you think of JD.com? I was also wondering if you could analyze universities who enable you to do their programs online 

Eoin Treacy's view -

– Thank you for these questions which may also be of interest to the Collective. I reviewed the online retail sector when I was in China in July. It has developed considerably since my last visit two years ago together with online payments, banking and same day delivery services. Here is a link to comment of the Day on July 25th. 



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September 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the ground experience from the Texas panhandle

I had the pleasure of spending several days with a friend who is an executive in a drilling company. He indicated that the recovery had brought a boom in drilling, but that customers were demanding the latest high-tech drilling rigs (faster, more efficient, much bigger pumps, able to drill longer laterals). This requires very large capital investments with uncertain payback times. Older, lower tech rigs are left unused, which creates dramatically lower rig utilization rates for drillers. Unfortunately, the past month has seen a bit of a slowdown, with some new tech rigs coming off of pads with no new contract (meaning the rig goes to the yard and sits, and the crew have no jobs). While this may be a short-term issue, it could alternatively be a sickly-looking canary.

Unlike last year, when vast numbers of pump jacks were idle (indicating the well is not producing at that moment), this year more than 75% of the pump jacks I saw were pumping, and most looked well-maintained. Pump jacks do not normally pump full-time, as they shut down for maintenance, and when their storage tanks are full, etc. A lot of the oil in the area is pumped into tanks and then picked up by trucks. 

The beef, pork, chicken, and nuclear weapon businesses all appeared to be thriving.

Probably needless to say, but the Texas Panhandle is about 700 miles from the flooding.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this trip report which I’m sure will be appreciated by subscribers. Relatively low prices, at least compared to a few years ago, put pressure on services businesses to employ the most sophisticated technology which requires fewer people and more capital. That benefits larger companies with the financial heft to prosper while it is likely to have a negative effect on smaller operations. 



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