Investment Themes - Global Middle Class

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June 22 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

'Value' Label Haunting Japanese Shares Again: Taking Stock

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

As a key “value” market, Japan’s shares have gotten rolled up in the reversal of the reflation trade sparked by the Fed’s hawkish turn last week. The market capitalization of traditional value sectors financials, industrials, energy and materials is about 36% of the MSCI Japan Index, versus around 24% for the U.S. equivalent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

With stocks trading higher Tuesday, after a value share rally in the U.S. overnight, it would seem the path for Japanese shares -- at least in the short-term -- is linked to the fate of global reflation bets.

Back at home, the slow vaccination rollout is still a risk especially with the Olympics looming. Only about 6% of Japan’s population have been fully vaccinated, a sharp contrast to other Asian markets like Singapore and Hong Kong, where 35% and 17% of the population have received two doses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The vaccine rollout is picking up, but risks of a resurgence will increase as Japan lifts the state of emergency and welcomes thousands of Olympic athletes and officials,” wrote Barclays Plc’s Tetsufumi Yamakawa and Kazuma Maeda in a note Friday.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It would be nice to think that Japan’s growing success in vaccinating the population and fighting the pandemic is behind renewed demand in the stock market. Instead, the more likely scenario is there is a swarm of hot money lurching from one asset class to another as perceptions about growth and inflation ebb and flow.



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June 21 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's tech workers pushed to limits by surveillance software

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

In China, technology adoption promises its swelling middle classes an easier, more productive life. But as companies bring productivity-enhancing tools into everyday office life, their efficiency is being channeled, not into leisure time, but into squeezing ever more value from employees.

Just as algorithms have come to govern the workdays of blue-collar warehouse workers at Alibaba Group Holding and food delivery riders for Meituan, elsewhere, white-collar workers are becoming affected by the creep of software-driven management and monitoring into their professional lives.

This is particularly the case in China's tech industry, where rapid technological development, paired with poor labor regulations, has created a potential for labor abuse. The big tech companies themselves, locked in cutthroat competition for new business opportunities, are pioneering these technologies and tools in their own operations. From hiring and goal-setting to appraisal and layoff, productivity-enhancing technologies look to quantify workers' behavior by collecting and analyzing extensive amounts of personal data.

Some scholars warn that some practices can be unethical, invading employees' privacy and burdening them with greater workload and mental stress. Others draw parallels to the fatigue faced by factory laborers during industrial revolutions, where workers chased the pace of machines.

"I felt that I was getting busier and having less time for myself," said the engineer Wang, looking back on his five years at Chinese internet companies.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Asian work culture is not something many in the West are familiar with. Long hours, arriving before the boss and leaving after him are normal work practices. Not taking holiday, an expectation to do whatever is asked and the assumption of absolute loyalty are common characteristics of working in Japan, China, South Korea and elsewhere. When a Japanese newspaper talks about potentially overworking individuals it is worth paying attention. Afterall Japan has a word for being worked to death. (karoshi - death by overwork).



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June 18 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

"Mosquito smoothies" streamline production of promising malaria vaccine

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

This new process, spearheaded by scientists at Imperial College London, could make the process far more efficient. The method involves the batch processing of whole mosquitoes, which are reduced to a slurry that is then filtered by size, density and electrical charge. This process of making "mosquito smoothies" leaves behind the necessary sporozoite products for vaccination.

“Creating whole-parasites vaccines in large enough volumes and in a timely and cost-effective way has been a major roadblock for advancing malaria vaccinology, unless you can employ an army of skilled mosquito dissectors," says lead researcher Professor Jake Baum, from Imperial College London. "Our new method presents a way to radically cheapen, speed up and improve vaccine production.”

In addition to making the process faster and cheaper, the technique can also make the vaccine more potent. Traditional extraction of sporozoites brings with it contaminants such as unwanted proteins and other debris, which can affect the infectivity of the sporozoites and possibly the immune system response, compromising the efficacy of the whole parasite vaccine. Conversely, the mosquito smoothies result in pure uncontaminated samples.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The promise of a vaccine against malaria is a significant piece of the missing puzzle to economic development in Africa. Malaria is a wasting disease that strikes people in their prime. It reduces productivity and requires other people to care for the invalid, which only compounds the effect. It is one of the biggest taxes on productivity on the continent. If malaria is solved, it frees up resources and productive capacity for significant evolution of human potential.



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June 17 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lifting the mask

 This initial article by Edward Snowden for his new letter may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

One history of the Internet — and I'd argue a rather significant one — is the history of the individual's disempowerment, as governments and businesses both sought to monitor and profit from what had fundamentally been a user-to-user or peer-to-peer relationship. The result was the centralization and consolidation of the Internet — the true y2k tragedy. This tragedy unfolded in stages, a gradual infringement of rights: users had to first be made transparent to their internet service providers, and then they were made transparent to the internet services they used, and finally they were made transparent to one another. The intimate linking of users' online personas with their offline legal identity was an iniquitous squandering of liberty and technology that has resulted in today's atmosphere of accountability for the citizen and impunity for the state. Gone were the days of self-reinvention, imagination, and flexibility, and a new era emerged — a new eternal era — where our pasts were held against us. Forever.

Everything we do now lasts forever... The Internet's synonymizing of digital presence and physical existence ensures fidelity to memory, identitarian consistency, and ideological conformity. Be honest: if one of your opinions provokes the hordes on social media, you're less likely to ditch your account and start a new one than you are to apologize and grovel, or dig in and harden yourself ideologically. Neither of those "solutions" is one that fosters change, or intellectual and emotional growth.

The forced identicality of online and offline lives, and the permanency of the Internet's record, augur against forgiveness, and advise against all mercy. Technological omniscence, and the ease of accessibility, promulgate a climate of censorship that in the so-called free world instantiates as self-censorship: people are afraid to speak and so they speak the party's words... or people are afraid to speak and so they speak no words at all...

Even the most ardent practitioners of cancel culture — which I've always read as an imperative: Cancel culture! — must admit that cancellation is a form of surveillance borne of the same technological capacities used to oppress the vulnerable by patriachal, racist, and downright unkind governments the world over. The intents and outcomes might be different — cancelled people are not sent to camps — but the modus is the same: a constant monitoring, and a rush to judgment.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Censorship is not something I thought I would ever write about and yet today we are surrounded by it. It is not so much that the law has changed, but that we find ourselves in a position where speaking one’s mind comes with consequences that can stretch into a lifetime. Most people’s default is to play along to get along so self-censorship is an easy answer. That’s a challenge and it is not easily overcome.

The chasm between tribes who believe in the rightness of their opposite positions is a recipe for continued political polarisation. Politicians continue to contort themselves so they can appeal both to the fringe and the core, so they can win elections.



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June 15 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Zombies Are on the March in Post-Covid Markets

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

Recessions are supposed to lead to more bankruptcies, and make it harder for companies to borrow. Rises in debt outstanding, all else equal, should increase the risk of bankruptcies down the line. So what has happened in the last 12 months virtually surpasses understanding. French bankruptcies had steadily declined since the brief recession caused by the sovereign debt crisis, while companies took advantage of the dirt-cheap credit that had been engineered to save the euro to refinance and take on more leverage. When the crisis hit, they were then able to borrow far more, while bankruptcies tumbled.

Logic might dictate that an increase in bankruptcies lies ahead. This should mean that debt investors demand a higher yield to compensate them for the greater risk of defaults. In the U.S., this is exactly what has not happened. The spread between the yield on “high-yield” bonds (which might need to be renamed) over five-year Treasury bonds hasn’t been this low since the summer of 2007. And we know what happened after that:

Eoin Treacy's view -

Interest expense is seldom the reason for companies to get into trouble. It’s when large portions of a company’s debt approaches maturity and needs to be refinanced that the potential for trouble increases.



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June 09 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Inflation: The defining macro story of this decade

This is a thought-provoking report from Deutsche Bank’s new What’s in the tails? series of reports. Here is a section:

The Fed’s move away from pre-emptive action in its new policy framework is the most important factor raising the risk that it will fall well behind the curve and be too late to deal effectively with an inflation problem without a major disruption to activity. Monetary policy operates with long and variable lags, and as we have noted, it will also take time to recognize that inflation has actually overshot excessively and persistently. As inflation rises sustainably above target, forward looking expectations are likely to become unanchored and drift higher, adding momentum to the process.

By this point, the Fed will likely be moved to act, and when it does the impact will be highly disruptive to the markets and the economy. In the past, the Fed has not been able to reverse a sustained run-up in inflation without causing a recession and potentially large increase in unemployment. Being behind the curve when it starts will make the event that much more painful. Rising interest rates will also cause havoc in a debt-heavy world, leading to financial crises especially in emerging markets. If the Fed lets up and reverses rate increases in response to rising unemployment and other economic pain as occurred during the 1970s, inflation could back up again, leading to a repeat of the stop-go economic cycles that occurred during that period.

Depending on the timing of this potential inflation scenario, the 2022 midterm elections could be crucial. A surprisingly strong showing on the Democratic side could even pave the way for modifying the Federal Reserve Act to raise the inflation objective. This discussion has been brewing in academic circles for some time, not the least as a way to enhance the Fed’s power to move interest rates into negative territory when needed. But such a move could damage the Fed’s inflation fighting credibility. It could also lead to still higher inflation over time and ultimately intensifying the kind of boom-bust cycle experienced during the 1970s.

In brief, the easy policy decisions of the disinflationary 1980-2020 period appear to be behind us.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The response to the credit crisis resulted in massive asset price inflation which exacerbated inequality across society in most countries. The response to the pandemic is aimed at reversing that trend and providing greater opportunity to the people left behind by the last recovery. That implies massive money printing, spending and social programs.



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June 09 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Warner-Discovery, French Deal 'Dramatically' Push M&A Up European TV Agenda

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

While European broadcasters are still profitable, “and some very much so,” Godard highlighted, “savvy investors believe this is looking suspiciously like the high earnings of printed newspapers circa 2007, or a Wile E. Coyote run over the edge of the cliff. Broadcasters are capturing a declining share of total video audiences and their capacity to finance attractive content is shrinking as talent is bid up by SVOD operators.”

The analyst then outlined two consolidation options that have emerged in Europe.

“The first path — heralded by Bertelsmann RTL Group — would aim at creating national broadcasters with the content scale to operate compelling online platforms” via domestic acquisitions, Godard said, calling this the “possibly more defensive but also more realistic” option.

The second path is “more ambitious but lacking a credible backer,” he argued. It targets “the never achieved idea of pan-European synergies, leveraging increased international appetite for non-English language content” by merging assets across borders, something that the likes of Italy’s Mediaset and Vivendi have talked about. “But its champion, Italy’s Mediaset, lacks capacity to deliver,” Godard concluded.

“The group is already the biggest broadcaster in Italy and Spain and has built a 24 percent stake in Germany’s ProSieben, with the remaining shareholding fragmented,” he explained. “The problem is, if the cross-border strategy is sound, Mediaset may be its worst possible proponent. Besides bringing in strong leadership to its Spanish division, Mediaset never extracted significant synergies from its two Mediterranean units, despite their cultural affinity.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

National broadcasters survive because they have state backing and a captive audience. The value proposition they represent is tied to continued support from governments because they provide domestic language content. That does not transfer well internationally. This map of the 12 most spoken languages in the world suggest the biggest opportunities are in the Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindu-Urdu and Arabic speaking parts of the world. 



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June 07 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Peru Riven in Two With Presidential Election Too Close to Call

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

Peru’s currency and stocks tumbled after incomplete results of Sunday’s presidential runoff showed the leftist candidate gaining momentum even as he trailed by a thin margin in the count.

The sol headed to its biggest drop in more than a decade at one point and the S&P/BVL Peru General Index fell as much as 6.8%, the most since November, with mining companies and financial firms among the hardest hit. Overseas bonds edged lower in light trading while the cost to insure against a default climbed.

Analysts were left to scour incomplete vote tallies for hints at who had the advantage, after investor favorite Keiko Fujimori saw her early lead over leftist opponent Pedro Castillo fade overnight and in the early morning. With almost 93% of votes counted, Fujimori had 50.1% support to 49.9% for Castillo, a former school teacher turned union organizer from the Peruvian highlands.

“The country is pretty much split down the middle,” said Alfredo Torres, director of Ipsos Peru. An unofficial quick count published earlier by Ipsos gave Castillo a 0.4 percentage point advantage over Fujimori, within the margin of error, while an Ipsos exit poll after Sunday’s voting showed Fujimori with a slight lead.

Fujimori, who is under investigation for corruption and campaigned while out on bail, gets more of her support from urban centers, while Castillo has the advantage in the countryside. She has vowed to save the country from “communism” by preserving a liberal economic model and boosting cash payments to families affected by the pandemic. The daughter of a jailed former president, it’s her third attempt at the top office.

Castillo, who launched his political bid with a Marxist party and was virtually unknown at the start of the year, ran on a platform of extracting more taxes from multinational miners and oil drillers to increase outlays on education and health. He blames the country’s inequality on the ruling elite whom he says have long been content to run Peru from Lima while ignoring swathes of the country.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The gulf between populist left and right-wing parties conspires to create volatility in all manner of financial assets prices. However, the reality of governing has been less revolutionary because most left-wing populists have achieved victory by slim margins which has curtailed their ability to implement their policy goals.



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June 04 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Secular Themes Review June 4th 2021

Eoin Treacy's view -

On November 24th I began a series of reviews of longer-term themes which will be updated on the first Friday of every month going forward. The last was on May 7th. These reviews can be found via the search bar using the term “Secular Themes Review”.

The pandemic panic is now one year in the rear-view mirror. It seems to have lost its ability to scare us so that begs the question what happens next? That’s the big conundrum

Some still believe that technology will solve all our problems and that the largest companies in the world will continue get even larger. Others believe that the inflation genie has been releases so it is inevitable that bonds will collapse in value. Others believe that we are in for a long grind of subpar growth because the debt is so large, it will sap the will to live out of every speculative asset. Others believe we are in a stock, commodity and property market bubble that could pop at any moment. Still other believe that cryptocurrencies are the solution, though no one is exactly sure what the problem is. So how do we make sense of these divergent views?

Personally, I have a strong feeling of déjà vu. In late 1999 and early 2000 I was selling Optus cable connections door to door in Melbourne. When I tired of backpacking, I went to London and within three weeks had started at Bloomberg. I was amazed at the speed of the Royal Mail. I saw an ad in The Times on a Wednesday for European sales people. I posted my CV that afternoon and had a reply back from Bloomberg delivered the next day. I had an interview on Monday and started on Tuesday. To say they were desperate for sales people is a gross understatement. I was in Belgium, visiting private banks, 10 days later. That was the top of the market and it was evidence of a true mania in the TMT (Telecoms, Media and Technology) sectors.

By the end of the Nasdaq bear market in 2003 the number of Bloomberg terminals being sold to mortgage bankers was surging. I was even offered a job by one. The Dollar was pulling back, there were fears about financial repression, China’s demand for commodities was only beginning, emerging markets were breaking out and gold was completing its base formation. A year later oil broke out.



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June 03 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on post pandemic recovery candidates

Dear Eoin I hope that your move went well. The chart of Carnival (CUK in the USA) is making an interesting breakout. It is a classic example of a company that suffered greatly from Covid and that has a great recovery potential.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which may be of interest to the Collective. Thanks also for the well wishes. We are settling in nicely. Cruises were either the bargain of the year or a boondoggle for consumers in December. I had brochures arriving at my home offering buy one get one free and thousands in onboard credits and shore excursion for sailings into 2022. I thought of it as a value proposition. The rest of the family were not so keen.



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June 02 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Australia's Economy Powers On, Recouping Pandemic Losses

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

Australia’s rapid rebound has been underpinned by its ability to limit Covid-19 outbreaks, boosting consumer and business confidence. A massive fiscal-monetary injection strengthened the financial position of households and firms during the lockdown, and consumers are spending and companies hiring.

“Australia is in rare company here -- only five other countries can boast an economy that’s larger now than before the pandemic,” said Kristian Kolding, a partner at Deloitte Access Economics. “Maintaining this trajectory is now the task at hand -- the lockdowns in Victoria are a stark reminder that the pandemic is far from over.”

Deloitte noted that on average, economies in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development are 2.7% smaller than they were before the pandemic. The U.K. is almost 9% smaller, the European Union is 5% smaller and the U.S. has shrunk 1%, it said.

Yet a potential risk to the outlook is the sluggish rollout of a Covid vaccine. This has been magnified by a renewed outbreak of the virus in Melbourne that prompted a lockdown in the nation’s second-largest city, and has now been extended for another week.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Victoria is back in lockdown but the number of cases is comparatively low and the rest of the country is reasonably unaffected. Investors are taking the news in their stride. After more than a decade of liquidity infusions the reality remains liquidity beats most other factors most of the time. Central bankers also understand that logic and must feel vindicated in their actions. Every time there is a problem, they boost money supply and act to depress yields and the economy rebounds. They are unlikely to do anything different until that policy stops working.



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June 02 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Vietnam Stocks Set to Rally Further Despite Virus Resurgence

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

Local investors have continued to snap up stocks despite a domestic coronavirus surge, with more than 4,000 local virus cases reported since the end of April - three times more than new cases last year. Last month, the index gained more than 7%, the most in the region.

That compares to a 25% slump in March last year as the global pandemic erupted, and a decline of about 4% in January when another wave hit the country.

Stocks have remained resilient in part due to efforts by the government to contain the outbreak and demand from the Vietnamese making the most of low interest rates. Trading value for Vietnamese stocks climbed to all-time high Monday-- at more than $1 billion, as retail traders poured funds into the market.

On Tuesday, the main bourse halted trading in the afternoon as turnover surged. The VN Index is trading at about 15 times estimated earnings for the next year, compared with more than 16 times on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Vietnam has been dealing with new case loads from the coronavirus but the broader success of the economy in keeping factories and businesses open is more important to investors.



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May 28 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

First named storm of hurricane season comes early because of warming seas

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

"The system is considered a subtropical cyclone rather than a tropical cyclone since it is still entangled with an upper-level low as evident in water vapor satellite images, but it does have some tropical characteristics as well," according to the National Hurricane Center.

There have been pre-season named storms in the past six years, but Ana’s addition to the group is distinct for another reason. Storms in May normally form near the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the western Caribbean Sea or the Southeastern coast of the United States, CNN reported. But subtropical storm Ana is distinct because it formed in the Atlantic. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded a record-breaking 30 named storms in 2020. NOAA reported that 2020 was the fifth consecutive year with an “above-normal” hurricane season. There have been 18 “above-normal” seasons out of the last 26. 

“As we correctly predicted, an interrelated set of atmospheric and oceanic conditions linked to the warm AMO were again present this year. These included warmer-than-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a stronger west African monsoon, along with much weaker vertical wind shear and wind patterns coming off of Africa that were more favorable for storm development. These conditions, combined with La Nina, helped make this record-breaking, extremely active hurricane season possible,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

La Nina has dissipated and we are now in the lull before a new El Nino forms. How long that takes is likely to have an impact on how storms form over the summer months. Seven years in a row for an early hurricane season is not an aberration but looks more like a trend.



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May 28 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ECB Expected to Keep Its Higher Bond-Buying Pace Through Summer

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

The pandemic purchases were ramped up in March when the U.S. rebound was fueling a global rise in borrowing costs while the euro zone was in a double-dip recession. The ECB will unveil new economic projections that should confirm a far brighter outlook as vaccinations pick up.

A European Commission report on Friday showed economic confidence in May at the highest level in more than three years as restaurants, hotels and shops across the region start to reopen.

Yet in a sign that the recovery remains fragile, French data on Friday came in much weaker than expected. Consumer spending fell 8.3% in April from the previous month, more than twice as much as forecast, and first-quarter gross domestic product was revised to show a decline. Finland also posted an unexpected contraction.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Over the past few decades there have seldom been times when European equities outperformed the S&P500. The equity cult in the USA is much stronger than elsewhere which creates demand for domestic growth stories. The presence of strong consumer brands, companies with long histories of paying and increasing dividends, the ready supply of new exciting stories from Silicon Valley and the largest consumer base in the world means Wall Street has tended to outperform.



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May 27 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bank of England likely to raise rates at some point in 2022

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

“In that scenario, the first rise in Bank Rate is likely to become appropriate only well into next year, with some modest further tightening thereafter,” he added.

The government’s furlough programme, which pays the wages of more than 2 million workers, does not expire until Sept. 30 and Vlieghe said it would take time for the true health of the economy until early in 2022.

If unemployment in the first quarter of 2021 was low and upward pressure on wages stronger then than the BoE expected, “a rise in Bank Rate could be appropriate soon after, along a slightly steeper path than in my central case,” Vlieghe said.

However, if concerns about COVID infection risks persist - possibly as a result of new variants of the disease - higher unemployment could prove persistent and the economy might need more BoE stimulus. (Reporting by David Milliken and Andy Bruce)

Eoin Treacy's view -

Dominic Cummings and his lengthy testimony in front of Parliament are making headlines today but crowds have short memories.

Psychologically, we tend to remember a whole experience by how we feel at the end. Christmas is a good example. All of the preparation, decoration and rushing around are worth it because of the positive experience at the climax of the festival.



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May 25 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Stocks Jump Most Since July Amid Record Foreign Purchases

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

Beijing’s efforts to talk down commodity prices and impose more control over financial markets have sent investors into more defensive assets such as consumer stocks with steady cash flows. Liquor giant Kweichow Moutai Co., mainland’s biggest stock, rose 6% after Chinese media outlets reported its parent company aimed to double revenue by 2025.


“Beijing’s crackdown on commodity prices has forced more funds to seek shelter,” said Zhang Gang, a Central China Securities strategist. “Stocks such as Moutai are attractive given its stable earnings outlook and relatively reasonable valuation following this year’s correction.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Two pieces of news on China hit the headlines today. The first is that Goldman Sachs and ICBC have formed a joint venture for wealth management clients. The second is the central bank is at least comfortable with the current strength of the Renminbi and may be inclined to allow it to appreciate further. Both are positive for asset prices.



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May 24 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Cars Are About to Get a Lot More Expensive

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

Consider a car manufacturer with $100 billion in sales. A 10% decline in sales volume would push earnings before interest and tax down by 40%, the Boston Consulting Group has estimated. That's an optimistic scenario — and this analysis assumed the company could eliminate all variable costs such as raw materials and labor. In the current situation, that’s not quite possible.

No doubt, carmakers could digest the rising cost of production a bit longer by reducing incentives and discounts they’ve used to lure buyers. But that's already been happening in the world’s largest auto markets, the U.S. and China, and you can’t trim back enticements forever. 

Companies have few options to offset creeping manufacturing expenses. With prices already high, consumers aren’t going to be as liberal with their wallets. So far, they have been willing to
accept a 12% premium, or around $5,000 over the sticker price, according to Kelley Blue Book and Cox Automotive. But a U.S. vehicle affordability index has started ticking down, signaling people are beginning to think twice before splashing out. Almost 40% of those who were going to buy cars have now put off their purchases. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The challenge for consumers is prices rarely go down after they go up because companies pocket margin. That’s as true of cars as it is of every other product. The additional premium companies are no enjoying will help as they redeploy resources towards developing electric replacements for their biggest sellers. That was going to happen anyway so in many regards the current go-slow on production is being welcomed by manufacturers.



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May 23 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

May 21 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Canadian Dollar is pick of commodity currencies

This trading note from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The Canadian dollar may fare better than other commodity currencies in the remainder of the year as resurgent growth spurs the nation’s central bank to wean the economy off stimulus.

While already perched near multi-year highs, the loonie still has potential to add to its gains given the surge in commodity prices and an economy that is forecast to grow at the fastest pace in several decades. And with the Bank of Canada having unveiled a scale-back of government debt purchases while accelerating the timetable for a possible interest-rate increase, money markets have lost no time in pricing an aggressive rate trajectory.

Other G-10 commodities, too, have fared well this year. While Norway’s central bank is likely to raise rates sooner than its Canadian counterpart, the differential between 10-year yields in the two nations is a considerable hurdle for the krone to overcome. The Australian and New Zealand dollars, meanwhile, face considerable headwinds to climb from current levels given that they are both overvalued from a fundamental perspective, especially against a backdrop where their central banks are likely to stay accommodative for a long time yet.

The Canadian dollar also stands out in relation to its peer group by its muted volatility, which reduces the overall risk in a portfolio setting. All told, it’s been plain sailing for the loonie so far this year. If the current macroeconomic backdrop prevails, 2021 may well turn out to be annus mirabilis for the currency, not only against its commodities peer group but also the wider G-10 complex.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Canada has a long history of fostering upstart companies that come to dominate their respective niches during the prevailing bull market of the time. Nortel Networks, Blackberry, Canopy Growth Corp, Brookfield Asset Management and Shopify all come to mind. Amid the significant media attention these companies receive, it is worth remembering that the oft-maligned extractive sector forms the basis for the country’s wealth and stability.



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May 21 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

South African Central Bank Maintains That Next Rates Move Is Up

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

The Reserve Bank’s hawkish stance is likely to draw criticism from politicians and labor unionists, who say it should be doing more to support the economy and reduce unemployment that’s at a record high.

The central bank cut the key rate by 300 basis points last year. Its contribution to an economic recovery will now be predictable policy, according to Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo.

“You need low, predicable rates during the recovery to support economic activity, to encourage people to lend, to encourage businesses to invest,” he told reporters. “That’s the contribution of the SARB during a crisis.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

South Africa has joined the ranks of countries signaling the lows for rates are in. Interest rate differentials are once more a factor in how currencies are valued. Commodity exporters are leading this trend because of their much-improved balance of payments and that is true of both emerging and developed markets.



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May 21 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on type-2 top formation development and completion

Thank you, Eoin, for the service. Your call on BTC topping out was excellent. Could you please explain again the signals for your call? You were discussing inconsistency in trend, I believe. In what period? Also, it would be great to hear (based on your latest audio comment) why do you think BTC is not in a secular bull? Thank you. Kind regards, 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind email which may be of interest to subscribers. One of the oldest adages from The Chart Seminar is “a consistent trend is a trend in motion”. That means the rhythm of the market will persist until something happens to change it. When a consistent trend becomes inconsistent, it tells us the imbalance between supply and demand has altered. That is a warning sign that trouble may lie ahead.



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May 18 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Eurozone in Double-dip Recession as Mediterranean Economies Risk Another Lost Summer

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

But Robert Alster at Close Brothers Asset Management warned of a divide between industrial economies in the north and tourist-reliant nations in the south, despite the start of UK tourism to Portugal. This could spark a return to the two-speed Europe which raised questions over the stability of the bloc after the financial crisis.

Mr Alster said: “The risk now is that the north/south divide continues to widen. Germany’s economic growth is not far behind the UK’s, with its vaccination programme set to overtake, whereas Spain’s economy has been hardest hit,” he said.

“The northern countries have benefited from strong manufacturing growth, with the US and China driving global demand, whereas the Southern countries are on tenterhooks to see whether the European tourism season can go ahead.”

Two consecutive quarters of contraction mean the currency area is officially in recession again, despite not fully recovering from the initial shock of Covid.

GDP remains more than 4pc below its pre-pandemic peak at the end of 2019.

Employment fell by 0.3pc in the first quarter of 2021, meaning the number of people in work is still almost 3.6m below its pre-Covid level.

Jack Allen-Reynolds at Capital Economics said the jobs market should soon start to recover too, but that the rebound in hiring will probably be quite slow.

He said: "Many firms will be able to raise output by increasing employees’ working hours before they start taking on more staff."

Eoin Treacy's view -

Europe and the USA adopted very different methods of supporting the economy during the pandemic. The USA favoured giving direct support to workers by boosting unemployment benefits. Europe favoured supporting companies so they would not fire large numbers of workers. Both sets of policies have resulted in unintended consequences.



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May 13 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on China's growth potential

That some manufacturing will move to other parts of Asia makes sense (especially as Chinese labour costs rise)

But the comparison some make with Japan needs to take account of the facts that:

a) Even now only 60% of the Chinese population is urbanised (93% for Japan)

b) Output per capita must still be much lower than advanced countries so they can also catch up in that? Most developing countries have the constraint that they don't have the capital to invest for that but lack of capital is not China's constraint.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email which raises some important points. The base effect helps to spur economic growth for frontier markets because small improvements tend to have big effects on economic potential for poor countries. Obviously, the larger a country becomes, the greater the challenge to maintain high growth rates. That’s where China is today.



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May 12 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Days of Low Treasury Yields Are Numbered

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

Today, there’s ample reason to expect a positive term premium to return. For one, the Fed has a new, more patient monetary policy stance. As a result, inflation will be higher and more variable — a risk that must be compensated with higher long-term yields. Also, keeping inflation in check will require a higher peak fed funds rate, reducing the risk that the Fed will again get pinned at the zero lower bound. Beyond that, deficit financing is expanding the supply of government bonds: Treasury debt outstanding has quadrupled since 2007, and the Biden administration is seeking to add several trillion dollars more. Meanwhile, one big source of demand for the bonds is set to dwindle as the Fed phases out its asset purchases, most likely next year.

Putting the pieces together, one can expect a 10-year Treasury yield of at least 3%: The 2.5% floor set by the federal funds rate, plus a term premium of 0.5% or more. But that’s not all. The Fed says it wants inflation to exceed its 2% target for some time, to make up for previous shortfalls. This, in turn, could stoke inflationary fears and lead markets to expect a higher path for future short-term rates. As a result, the 10-year Treasury yield could more than double from the current 1.6%. And if persistent deficit financing prompts concern about growing U.S. debt, the yield could go to 4% or higher.

Anyone who has been in finance for less than a decade has rarely seen 10-year Treasury note yields above 3%. So what’s coming could, for many, be quite a shock. The secular bond bull market that began nearly 40 years ago is finally ending.

Eoin Treacy's view -

US job openings now far exceed the pre-pandemic peak. At the same time credit card balances are declining even as debt loads are increasing. Meanwhile the unemployment rate is holding at 6%.

The conclusion is simple. Households are buying capital goods like houses and cars, that do not require credit cards, because they are flush with cash. Companies are desperate for workers, but unemployed people are in no hurry to take up offers. The reality is the stimulus enacted in the first quarter was overly generous and has created economic disincentives. It exacerbated bottlenecks and enhanced consumer perceptions of rampant inflationary pressures.



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May 12 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Romania Holds EU's Highest Rates as Economy Trumps Inflation

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

The central bank is switching to a “wait-and-see mode,” Commerzbank analyst Alexandra Bechtel said. “The rate-cut cycle is complete.”

The jump in inflation has brought to an end a run of four reductions in the benchmark during the pandemic.

That easing helped fuel an economic revival: Economic growth outshone the rest of the EU in the last quarter of 2020. The expansion has added to upward price pressures that are mainly being driven by higher global energy costs and the liberalization of the domestic electricity market.

With borrowing costs stable, central bank Governor Mugur Isarescu has said he may make the national currency’s exchange rate more flexible to keep inflation in check without choking the nascent economic recovery.

Eoin Treacy's view -

MSCI’s Eastern Europe ex-Russia index was last updated in 2016. Generally speaking, when esoteric benchmarks are abandoned, it is because investment demand has evaporated. The ETF issuance business is driven by fashion and momentum. The incremental cost of creating new funds is low and success is measured by the number of assets they attract. When a sector falls out of favour ways to invest in it disappear.



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May 10 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on shipping investment vehicles:

Further to your longer-term theme review on Fri., the Collective might want to consider this new shipping fund launch.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this press release which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The seed portfolio consists of 23 Handysize and Supramax ships, which are all fully operational and income-generating, and are expected to be purchased soon after the listing. According to the intention to float document published today, these classes of vessels have historically demonstrated average annual yields over 7%.

That will enable the investment company to target an initial dividend yield of 7% in its first year. Once fully invested, the fund managers will target a total return including dividends from the underlying portfolio of 10-12% per annum.

The seed assets have an estimated average remaining life of 17 years. Of the 23 ships, 17 are already under the commercial management of Taylor Maritime, while the rest are being sourced from vendors with established relationships with the managers. About $24m worth of the seed assets will be acquired in exchange for shares in the new fund, issued in consideration.



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May 10 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pound Surges 1% as Risk of Imminent Scotland Referendum Recedes

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

Then there’s the prospect of another divisive campaign, and issues over Scotland’s future currency, the state of its finances, EU membership and the border with England coming to the fore again. That’s something many in Scotland remain unwilling to get into again.

“We haven’t demonstrated that we have the capability,” said Rachel Martin, 63, a bank worker in Glasgow, which as a city voted for independence seven years ago when the country as a whole rejected it. “I haven’t seen the politicians answer the questions that weren’t answered at the last referendum that we had.”

Sturgeon may need the political capital she’s been accruing since taking over as Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader following the 2014 vote to stay in the U.K.  

Eoin Treacy's view -

Scotland voted for the status quo in both the independence referendum and the Brexit referendum. The demise of the Labour Party is a bigger story than the success of the Scottish Nationalist Party in many respects. During a time of economic and political strain people favour revolutionaries because they offer change. Labour’s vision has calcified and that has left a political vacuum which the SNP has filled. However, that does not mean Scotland is ready to approve independence when so many questions about what the new country would look like remain unanswered.



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May 07 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Secular Themes Review May 7th 2021

Eoin Treacy's view -

On November 24th I began a series of reviews of longer-term themes which will be updated on the first Friday of every month going forward. The last was on March 5th. These reviews can be found via the search bar using the term “Secular Themes Review”.

After a crash everyone is wary. We all seek to learn lessons from our most recent experience because it is the only way to help us emotionally move past the trauma. Coming out of the pandemic most investors wished they had sold everything at the first sight of virus news in early 2020 and bought everything back again following the crash. Today they are worried that there is another big shock waiting around the corner that will cause a repeat of pandemic panic.

The challenge for investors is less to learn from the most recent mistake but rather to know when to deploy the lessons learned. The best time to be wary about a massive decline is when no one is worried about it. The time to take precautionary action is when it seems like a waste of time and when you are most afraid of giving up on the potential for even better gains. That’s the best time to remember the experience of the crash but the interval of time and the positive reinforcement of experience in an uptrend make it difficult.



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May 06 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Kellogg Gains Amid Unexpected Organic Sales Growth in 1Q

Kellogg shares rose as much as 3.9% to $65.50 premarket, which would be the highest intraday level since November, after the packaged food company surprised analysts with positive organic sales growth in the first quarter, vs expectations for a decline.

“K impressed this morning, as another large-cap food name tops revenue and profit expectations, partially driven by positive shipment timing and emerging market strength,” Jefferies analyst Rob Dickerson writes

Eoin Treacy's view -

Commodities prices are running higher and that raises the question of how you can pass on higher costs to consumers. It’s the same old corn flakes or shredded wheat so you need to do something. Organics are a great way to do that. Fair trade is another rationale to charge more. Reusable packaging, different shaped packaging and substitution with additional ingredients all allow food producers to protect margins. During this bull market I fully except to see carbon footprint credentials printed on each individual box of food and that will be used as the rationale for price increases.



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May 04 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Yellen Says Spending May Spur 'Modest' Interest-Rate Increases

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

“It may be that interest rates will have to rise somewhat to make sure our economy doesn’t overheat,” Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, said in an interview with the Atlantic recorded Monday that was broadcast on the web on Tuesday. “It could cause some very modest increases in interest rates.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Investors relying on momentum want to hear that the money will keep flowing and there is no risk the punchbowl will be taken away. Whenever that desire is fulfilled, we see the stock market climb to new highs. However, when it is even modestly questioned it is cause for profit taking.



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May 04 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Cautious German Savers Brave the Stock Market

This article from the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Michael Schacht, 70 years old, is a typical German saver. Risk-averse, the clothing-shop owner kept the equivalent of $300,000 in a local bank in a small town near Hamburg.

Then, earlier this year, Mr. Schacht’s bank told him it wanted to charge him a negative 0.5% interest rate to hold his money.

Furious, Mr. Schacht did something he never considered: He put it all in the market. His portfolio includes investments in stocks and corporate bonds from Europe and elsewhere through funds, plus gold and silver.

“I don’t want to make lots of money, I just want a low-risk investment that provides a reasonable return on capital, like 2%, 4%,” Mr. Schacht said. “That has always been realistic in the past.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is an example of how investors are being forced to speculate. Negative interest rates are an obvious tax on savers so they have no choice but to buy riskier assets. It is a choice between guaranteed modest losses or potential gains with the added scope for bigger losses.  This is particularly acute in places like Germany where retail investors don’t generally invest in the stock market.



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April 29 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

EBay Warns Pandemic Sales Boost Could Soon Fade; Shares Tumble

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

EBay Inc. warned investors that its sales boost tied to the pandemic and government stimulus checks may be coming to an end.

Shares tumbled as much as 7% in extended trading Wednesday after the online marketplace issued a revenue forecast for the current quarter suggesting spending on the site could recede as more people get vaccinated, businesses reopen and stimulus checks dry up.

Investors are watching to see which companies can build on their pandemic gains and which will fade. Google parent Alphabet Inc., Facebook Inc. and Shopify Inc. all hinted at lasting momentum in their earnings reports this week, sending their shares higher. EBay joined social media platform Pinterest Inc. as a potentially short-lived pandemic phenom.

“This is a relative challenge for EBay to not be able to fully hang on to the gains from the pandemic,” said Ygal Arounian, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Rebounding consumer behaviour, renewed hiring and generous handouts have boosted earnings for all manner of consumer companies in the first quarter. That has been particularly true for the mega-caps with Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft all posting impressive results.

The fact that about half of people are better off unemployed than working has also helped to boost consumption of goods in particular. Those benefits will expire in September so there is still room for revenue support absent the spikes associated with stimulus cheques. 



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April 28 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What 175 years of data tell us about house price affordability in the UK

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

Houses have rarely been more expensive relative to earnings than they are today in more than 120 years. Prices are stretched everywhere but London and the south of England stand out. Things look even less affordable for women.

The last time there was a sustained decline in the house price-earnings multiple was the second half of the 19th century. Average house prices fell for more than 50 years thanks to substantial building of houses, many of which were smaller than existed before. At the same time earnings rose.

How likely or even desirable would that be today? The UK’s heavily mortgaged consumers would struggle to cope with 50 years of falling house prices. It would also be political suicide for whoever was deemed responsible. A shift towards the building of smaller houses would also seem unlikely  – research has found that houses are smaller today than at any point since at least the 1930s[1]. Hobbit homes cannot be ruled out entirely but I’m not sure how positive an outcome that would be.

Which leaves us with earnings. Earnings growth has been weak since the financial crisis but has recently picked up strongly – average earnings in the final quarter of 2020 were 4.7% higher than the same period of 2019. A period of stronger pay growth may represent the best hope of improving affordability (with the caveat that stronger earnings may result from a stronger economy which could result in a stronger housing market).

The elephant in the room here is interest rates. A Bank of England working paper[2] concluded that nearly all of the rise in average house prices relative to incomes between 1985 and 2018 can be seen as a result of “a sustained, dramatic, and consistently unexpected, decline in real interest rates as measured by the yield on medium-term index-linked gilts”[3]. The Bank doesn’t rule out other factors, but concludes that they have had more of a short-term impact. It furthermore concludes that: “An unexpected and persistent increase in the medium-term real interest rate of 1 percentage point from its level as at end 2018 could ultimately generate a fall in real house prices (over a period of many years) of just under 20%.”

However, depending on whether you are a current home owner or a prospective buyer, you are likely to be encouraged and discouraged in equal measure by the Bank of England’s scepticism that this is likely to materialise. Just because house prices are expensive relative to earnings does not mean there is a good reason to expect them to cheapen materially.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The view that property is a better investment than stocks has grown considerably in the UK because the FTSE-100 peaked in 2000 and has spent the last twenty years ranging in a volatile manner. Against that background investing in property has been the right decision regardless of the costs of maintenance and taxes. The big question for investors is whether that will continue to be the case.



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April 27 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

New malaria vaccine reports milestone 77 percent efficacy

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

There is still a long road ahead before this new vaccine comes close to large-scale use. A phase 3 trial is commencing now, spanning four African countries and enrolling close to 5,000 children.

However, the importance of developing an effective malaria vaccine cannot be understated. Over 400,000 people still die from malaria every year. Lynsey Bilsand, from vaccine research charity Wellcome, calls this new breakthrough “significant and exciting” in the ongoing battle against this major global health problem.

‘Despite global efforts against malaria, too many lives are still lost to this disease, especially babies and young children,” says Bilsand. “Vaccines could change this. This is an extremely promising result showing high efficacy of a safe, low-cost, scalable vaccine designed to reach the huge numbers of children who are most at risk of the devastating impact of Malaria.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Malaria represents both a human tragedy and massive tax on productivity in tropical and many sub-tropical areas. The death rate is bad enough but knocking people out of the workforce and making them a burden on their families is one of the primary reasons economic compounding does not result in better outcomes in Africa. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the introduction of a vaccine would have a massive impact on long-term growth potential for the SubSaharan African region.



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April 26 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Container Shipping Insights The 'mega' trend to continue

Here is a section from a JPMorgan report focusing on shipping costs.

Global liners are stepping up de-carbonization efforts and experimenting with alternative fuels
To achieve the industry target, many global liners such as A.P. Moller Maersk (viewed an industry bellwether) are stepping up de-carbonization efforts, recently unveiled plans to fast-track its de-carbonization efforts, with a target to put the world’s first vessel powered by carbon-neutral fuel into operation in 2023, seven years ahead of its original schedule. Specifically, Maersk will install its smaller feeder vessels (capacity of around 2,000 TEUs) with dual fuel technology, power them using alternative fuels including methanol (produced from plant waste) while retaining the option to use VLSFO if necessary. Maersk is also currently experimenting with other alternative fuels including ammonia. Looking ahead, Maersk targets to operate more methanol-fueled vessels in the future and expects methanol and ammonia to emerge as more viable future fuel options.

Adoption of new technology and alternative fuels will take time to achieve commercial feasibility. There are inherent limitations towards adopting alternative fuels. Referencing remarks made by Mr. Morten Bo Christiansen (Maersk head of de-carbonization), methanol has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15% vs conventional marine fuels while enjoying other advantages including having well-established infrastructure and manageable vessel retrofitting cost. Having said that, methanol has inherent limitations including low energy density and certain safety-related challenges. With respect to ammonia, Maersk expects ammonia to be an ideal replacement from a net zero carbon perspective, but overall technology capability remains at a nascent stage and no vessels today are equipped to utilize this fuel type. Maersk also takes a contrarian view compared to its peers and does not view Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as a viable alternative, given its upstream and onboard emissions.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The IMO 2020 regulations on emissions for the global shipping sector took more than a decade to agree and finally to implement. That was emblematic of an era when there was some commitment to reducing emissions but no real sense of urgency and where industry lobby groups were given priority. Today, the situation could not be more different. Shipping companies see the future of regulation and taxation and expect to be able to pass on green premiums to customers. That will put an additional cost on everything and represents an even bigger tax on global activity than an oil price spike because it is permanent in nature.



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April 23 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Longer-Run Economic Consequences of Pandemics

This report from the San Francisco Fed may be of interest to subscribers. Here is the conclusion:

Summing up our findings, the great historical pandemics of the last millennium have typically been associated with subsequent low returns to assets, as far as the limited data allow us to conclude. These responses are huge. Smaller responses are found in real wages, but still statistically significant, and consistent with the baseline neoclassical model.

Measured by deviations in a benchmark economic statistic, the real natural rate of interest, these responses indicate that pandemics are followed by sustained periods—over multiple decades—with depressed investment opportunities, possibly due to excess capital per unit of surviving labor, and/or heightened desires to save, possibly due to an increase in precautionary saving or a rebuilding of depleted wealth. Either way, if the trends play out similarly in the wake of COVID-19 then the global economic trajectory will be very different than was expected only a few months ago.

Should we expect declines of 1.5%–2% in the real natural rate, however? There may be at least three factors that could possibly attenuate the decline of the natural rate predicted by our analysis, but their presence and magnitude is uncertain and unknowable until therapies to fight COVID-19 are more developed. First, the death toll of COVID-19 relative to the total population might be smaller than in the worst pandemics of the past, but we cannot know for sure at this point. Second, COVID-19 primarily affects the elderly, who are no longer in the labor force and tend to save relatively more than the young, so the demographic channels could be altered, although the recent pick up in infections is now affecting younger individuals. Third, aggressive counter-pandemic fiscal expansion will boost public debt further, reducing the national savings rate and this might put upward pressure on the natural rate, even though our analysis suggests that this expansion of public debt should be easier to sustain in the long-run.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This report has obviously helped to inform the view of the Fed in how they expect the path of interest rates to play out. They are worried that the rebound from the pandemic will not translate into a sustained path of outsized growth because of the damage done to the economy and animal spirits will take time to overcome.



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April 22 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Stocks Drop on Biden Plan to Lift Capital-Gain Tax

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

“Sticker shock over some of these tax figures will be hard to shake off for some investors,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda Corp, wrote in a note. “Some traders are looking for an excuse to lock in profits and they might choose to use this tax story as their catalyst.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The rationale is clear. Do you want to sell now and pay 23% or later and pay 43%? Another way of asking that question is do you believe the stock market is going to rally another 36%, imminently, to compensate you for the additional tax you will pay on the higher future figure? That implies an S&P500 level of 5631 versus the current value of 4141.



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April 22 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ECB's Failure to Communicate Frustrates Markets

This note from Bloomberg may of interest to subscribers.

Frankfurt, we have a communication problem. And that could feed into a growing ECB credibility issue –- even as European bond markets are shrugging off details of today’s confab.

Markets crave clarity on pandemic bond buying, and instead are getting ambiguity. Madame Lagarde again warned against reading too much into weekly PEPP purchases. They are not the most relevant -- what matters more are the monthly numbers, she said, and accounting for redemptions, those reveal that “significant” increase pledged in March. They have “readily implemented” that ramp up as of March 16 -- and are continuing to do so clearly and without any wavering, according to Lagarde.

Except the data suggests otherwise looking at the recent run-rate. There is no “normal” pace of bond purchases given the need for flexibility and the ongoing pledge to preserve favorable financing conditions -- no wonder ECB-watchers are exasperated. Sure, risks to the outlook remain balanced in the medium-term and Europe remains an “economy on crutches” -– but so much for any clarity on the semantics around “significant” and what exactly front-loading means.

At least Lagarde confirmed that policy won’t be in tandem with the Fed. That much seemed obvious. As for significant PEPP purchases, guidance remains a case of constructive ambiguity -- let’s wait for those monthly numbers, and maybe more excitement in June.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The ECB has opted to talk their way through providing assistance rather than actually doing it. That’s the only signal we can gain from their unwillingness to put numbers of the purchases they are willing to make while at the same time saying they will be as large as needed.



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April 20 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

April 19 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How fintech companies are wrestling with commercial banks in Nigeria

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

Nevertheless, while banks have the customer base and staff numbers to tackle the disruptive potentials of fintech startups, their responses have been quite passive.

Fintech companies like Paystack, PiggyVest, Kuda Bank and others are innovating past traditional institutions by making digital financial services like lending, savings, or investing readily available to people. They have been able to recognize the pain points for users, which have not been addressed by commercial banks.

Other fintech startups have fueled the growth of alternative lenders which offer both higher yields to investors and faster, cheaper, more convenient loans for borrowers compared to traditional banks. Startups like Carbon and Branch offer lower loan rates than commercial banks and this is mostly because fintech companies are not subject to the operational costs involved in running a traditional bank with multiple branches.

In an exclusive interview with Nairametrics, Femi Oshinlaja, the COO of Cassava Fintech, a pan-African Fintech Group that enables digital financial services for Africa’s mobile consumers, explained why digital solutions are fast spreading across the African continent by stating;

“With the growth in smartphone penetration and greater pervasiveness of the internet, we see the convergence of the online channels with more consumers opting to use digital channels to send money home as they see the convenience of doing so from the comfort of their homes and not having to queue to make the transaction in addition to the affordability of the online option.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Massive populations of young ambitious people represent outsized potential demand for banking and credit services. Since the vast majority of Africans have no experience of the traditional banking relationship, they represent fertile growth for the fintech sector. As a result, Africa is likely to where we see active efforts to introduce a blanket form of digital payments.



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April 16 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.S. Infrastructure Plan May Lift These Three Brazilian Stocks

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

Two weeks ago, Biden unveiled a $2.25 trillion plan to overhaul the country’s physical and technological infrastructure. He has said the plan needs to go far beyond bridges and roads and has called for investment in electric vehicles, renewable power and the electric grid.

Shares of Gerdau and Tupy are up 27% and 15% this year, respectively, while the benchmark Ibovespa index is down 0.6% and Weg is little changed.

“Limited geographical diversification puts a cap on Brazilian companies seizing this moment, but we can see some clear winners,” the analysts said. “Although we believe they have not gone unnoticed by the market, recent performance indicates that the impact is likely larger than what is currently priced in.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Brazil is currently dealing with the challenge of rising pandemic case numbers and deaths. That’s a near-term challenge for the economic recovery and it might be a few months before the worst is over. 



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April 15 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

S. Africa Central Bank Governor Sees Room to Keep Rates Low

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

South Africa’s central bank is likely to maintain its accommodative monetary policy stance to support the economy for as long as it has room to do so, according to Governor Lesetja Kganyago.

“As long as inflation is remaining contained, the central bank would have no reason to remove the accommodation that we are currently providing,” Kganyago said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

The monetary policy committee has cut the benchmark interest rate by three percentage points since the start of 2020, of which 275 basis points of easing was in response to the impact of Covid-19 on the economy. That’s taken the rate to a record-low 3.5%. Last month’s decision was the first time since the 2020 rate cuts in which no member voted for a reduction and expectations have now shifted to when the first hike will come.

While the implied policy rate of the central bank’s quarterly projection model, which the MPC uses as a guide, indicates two rate increases this year of 25 basis points each -- next month and in the fourth quarter -- policy makers see risks to the inflation outlook as balanced and feel that they can continue to offer support to the economy, Kganyago said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

South African government bonds yield 9.08%. Obviously, in a world of ultra-low rates that outlier must exist for a reason. South African growth is expected to be in the order of 3% this year but the big question for investors will be on the trajectory of governance and the speed at which the pandemic can be overcome.



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April 14 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ECB's Lagarde: Economic Support Needed "Well Into the Recovery"

Here are a couple of soundbites from Christine Lagarde’s statements today.

“We consider that both fiscal and monetary support are needed and will be needed until the pandemic crisis is over” and “will be needed well into the recovery,” ECB President Christine Lagarde says at Reuters event.

Preserving favorable financing conditions is a condition for the economy to recover -- “they go hand in hand”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The question is not whether the ECB will provide assistance but rather how much. The spectre of deflation has been hanging over Europe for most of the last decade and there is a credible argument the region is heading into a Japan-like era of lower consumption and low growth. Avoiding that potential is the primary goal of both the ECB and every Eurozone government.



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April 14 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Russia Scores New Bond Record as Yields Drop on Summit Hopes

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

Russia sold a record volume of ruble bonds as state banks continued to prop up demand and sanctions jitters faded after U.S. President Joe Biden proposed a summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The Finance Ministry sold 213 billion rubles ($2.8 billion) of fixed-coupon debt due in March 2031 in its second auction of the day, beating a record set two weeks earlier. The yield on Russia’s 10-year bonds fell the most since November as Tuesday’s phone call between the leaders appeared to reduce the possibility of penalties targeting the nation’s local OFZ debt.

“We’re seeing considerable demand once again, with big local players buying about 70% of both offerings today,” said Stanislav Ponomarev, a money manager at Transfingroup JSC in Moscow. “There’s been demand from foreigners since the morning, but it looked more like they were closing short positions rather than increasing their Russia allocations.”

The prospect of fresh sanctions has been mounting for the best part of a month and the recent troop buildup on the border with Ukraine has added to the tensions. State banks have stepped in to backstop the recent auctions as foreigners stay clear.

“The market was extremely negative on Russia,” said Sergei Strigo at Amundi Ltd. “Now there is a pullback on renewed hope of some sort of normalization in relationships, even if it’s short-term. Levels on the ruble and OFZs look much more attractive.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

How serious is the US administration in countering China? That’s the primary question for investors as they assess the potential for a normalisation of relations between the USA and Russia. As a major commodity producer, seller of advanced weapons systems and with significant experience in space, Russia is being courted by China.



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April 12 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Impatience

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is one theme that seems to be running through every asset class at present. Perhaps it is because we have been locked up for a year, and literally can’t wait until it is all over, but there is a distinct air of impatience in every circle of life. The pandemic has accelerated the decision-making process for everyone in every facet of our lives.

Mrs. Treacy and I have been discussing moving from Los Angeles for two years but there was never a push big enough to stir us into action. We looked at Las Vegas suburbs in 2019 and toured schools but my eldest daughter was accepted into one of the most prestigious high schools in Los Angeles, so we decided to linger.

The experience of living in Los Angeles during the lockdowns, from schooling to public safety, made us impatient for a change. Like many others we decided to move and have only been delayed by reapplying to schools for our daughters and finding a suitable home.



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April 01 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Secular Themes Review April 1st 2021

Eoin Treacy's view -

On November 24th I began a series of reviews of longer-term themes which will be updated on the first Friday of every month going forward. The last was on March 5th. These reviews can be found via the search bar using the term “Secular Themes Review”.

The pandemic has been an accelerant. The full ramifications of what that means are becoming increasingly clear.

The pandemic took trends that have been in evidence for a while and exaggerated them. At the same time, it introduced new challenges which require new solutions.

Corporations operating without the safety net of cash on the balance sheet has been a feature of the markets for decades too. They continue to be bailed out when they get into trouble. There is no evidence that the trend of using all available means to buy back shares has ended. In fact, buybacks are back at pre-pandemic levels. Companies were touting “resiliency” last summer. It appears to have been just talk. Buybacks represent a powerful tailwind for stock markets that were absent for much of 2020 but are now back in force. 



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March 31 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Biden Plans $2.25 Trillion Spending, Corporate Tax Hikes

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

A major undercurrent through the infrastructure plan is addressing inequality and expanding help for segments of society that the administration judges have been left out in the past. For example, in addition to fixing the “ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction,” there’s $20 billion for a new program that will “reconnect” neighborhoods that were cut off by past investments, such as the I-81 highway in Syracuse, New York. And all lead pipes will be replaced, to address water-quality issues.

Eoin Treacy's view -

$2.25 trillion is still a lot of money and if it passes it will represent a significant additional surge of liquidity through the economy. At a minimum that will help to spur commodity and building materials demand growth over the next decade.



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March 30 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Dutch Stock Benchmark AEX Set to Close at Record High

This article by Jan-Patrick Barnert for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

After more than 20 years, the main Dutch equity benchmark is set to reconquer its record high. The AEX Index gained 0.6% on Tuesday to 702.44, surpassing a peak reached in September 2000 during the dotcom bubble era.

And just like back then, the technology sector has driven the advance. Chip stocks ASM International NV, BE Semiconductor Industries and ASML Holding NV have all more than doubled in price over the past 12 months, in addition to the online payments firm Adyen NV. But the old economy has also helped the index. Steelmaker ArcelorMittal SA is the best-performing stock over the period, as basic material shares climb on the prospect of China’s recovery and its hunger for commodities. The gains in Royal Dutch Shell Plc and ING Groep NV have also been major contributors.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam’s initial public offering market is on track for its best-ever first quarter with $5.7 billion of proceeds after hosting the 2.8 billion-euro ($3.3 billion) listing on InPost SA, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Since dislodging London as the continent’s top place to buy and sell shares following Brexit, the Dutch city has emerged as a strong contender as the venue of choice for new listings. Amsterdam has also become the premier destination for SPACs in Europe. The Dutch capital has hosted three of the six blank- check listings in the region over the past year. The latest of the cohort, EFIC1, which is backed by a former chief executive officer of Commerzbank AG Martin Blessing, fell as much as 1.5% in its debut session on Friday after raising 415 million euros.

“The AEX index is definitely a rare combination of good European tech companies with the addition of other top-of-the- class names in their relative industries,” said Alberto Tocchio, a portfolio manager at Kairos Partners, adding that the benchmark gauge is “a bit the Nasdaq of Europe, with the benefit of also having an exposure to some value sectors.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Euro’s weakness has been a tailwind for European equities on several occasions over the last decade. That’s equally true at present with the Euro pulling back and the larger European markets breaking on the upside.



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March 29 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A Tiger Cub's Huge Margin Call Means More Pain Ahead

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

A market optimist might brush off Friday’s massive liquidation as a one-off event — a huge stumble by a fabled player now in decline. But this is no time to be optimistic. Hwang is representative of, not distinct from, the rest of the hedge fund crowd. His bets are also their bets. He may have gotten margin calls faster because he was more leveraged. But his positioning is by no means unique — and that commonality is where trouble may lie. 


Take the trades involved. Media companies such as ViacomCBS and Discovery have net exposures that are the “highest level we have seen since 2016,” according to a recent note from the prime brokerage unit at Morgan Stanley, which, alongside Goldman, managed some of the block trades on Friday. Last week, when ViacomCBS was using the steep run-up in its stock to sell new shares and bolster its balance sheet, the pressure on leveraged hedge funds must have been intense. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Rising yields and companies selling additional shares at rich valuations puts pressure on leveraged trades. It was inevitable that the rotation out of stay-at-home champions, who saw a one-time boost to business, would see a reality check in 2021. Last week’s block trades were an example of that.

Credit Suisse and Nomura took the brunt of selling pressure in the financial sector because of their net exposure. However, exposure has been limited within the broader sector so far.



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March 26 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

On Target March 2021

Thanks to Martin Spring for this edition of his letter which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Indonesia. is expected to see 67 per cent growth of its people becoming ultra-high-net-worth over the next five years, according to British property consultancy Knight Frank.

That’s those with personal wealth, including the value of primary residence, of more than $30 million. It’s not just the super-wealthy who are doing well. According to the World Bank Indonesia’s middle-class consumption has grown at an average annual rate of 12 per cent since 2002 and now accounts for almost half all household consumption.

The richer Indonesians get, the more they spend on cars, health, education and other services. Asia is the region where personal wealth is growing fastest and is already home to more billionaires than any other – 36 per cent of the world’s.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The rise of the middle class in ASEAN remains a secular theme because they have improving standards of governance, favourable demographics and higher growth potential. Indonesia is also a major exporter of commodities and has adopted an unobjectionable attitude towards China.



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March 24 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

PBOC, BOJ May Be Driving Some of the Stock Rout Infecting Asia

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

China hasn’t been this frugal in its cash offerings to banks in almost a year.

The People’s Bank of China has avoided net injections of short-term liquidity into the financial system since late last month, increasing concern that access to funds is becoming more difficult. The CSI 300 is headed for its steepest monthly loss in more than two years.

Japan’s Nikkei is falling for a fourth straight day after the BOJ said last Friday that it’s scrapping its annual target for stock purchases.

Stocks in both China and Japan had gotten used to these forms from the central banks. Now this backing, while not going away, is ebbing, and that could mean less central bank handholding for equities. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The PBoC has been quite vocal in stating they do not want a bubble to form. They have very different priorities from the Federal Reserve. China’s administration wishes to preserve social harmony at all costs. In their view that is the only way to ensure the continued survival of single party rule. That means they will prioritise stability over asset price growth in the property or stock markets.

If that means restricting liquidity to the banking sector and curtailing the reach of the tech sector, those are deemed acceptable measures for China. The ChiNext Index is full of smaller companies that purportedly represent high growth. The Index has experienced it largest pullback since the lows and will need to find support soon if the benefit of the doubt is to be given to the recovery.



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March 22 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Germany to Sell Record Debt of Up to $576 Billion in 2021

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

The final decision on next year’s budget will be taken by the government that takes charge of Europe’s biggest economy after Chancellor Angela Merkel steps aside following the election.

Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc is on track to lead the next administration and favors a return to frugality once the coronavirus recedes, while Scholz’s struggling SPD and the surging Greens have pledged to invest billions in technology and tackling climate change.

As things stand, Merkel’s bloc could form a coalition with the Greens, though the outcome is far from certain with discontent increasing among citizens weary of virus restrictions and unhappy with the slow pace of Germany’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

With the contagion rate on the rise again, Merkel is holding talks with cabinet ministers and regional leaders later on Monday to decide the next steps in the government’s pandemic strategy.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Generally speaking, the junior member of a coalition government comes out worse off after entering government. That’s because voters had faith in them to deliver on their promises, but the sacrifices they have to make to enter power mean their primary goals are unrealisable. At the same time the senior partner takes credit for any successes.



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March 19 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Vietnam is 'Most Preferred Frontier Market' HSBC Says

This note quoting an HSBC report may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Vietnam is “more investable than many think,” with positive factors including accelerating FDI, a government push on infrastructure, structurally increasing purchasing power, and the rising profitability of the banking system, HSBC wrote in a note to investors.

  • “Profitability, attractive valuations, strong balance sheets and market reforms point to the likelihood of a multi-year bull run,” HSBC said
  • Likes Vietnam growth story, citing low inflation, a stable currency and healthy earnings
  • Disagrees with common perception that Vietnam’s equity market is too small; says Vietnam now has 11 stocks with market cap of more than $5b vs 2 in 2015, while daily trading value has come close to $1b
  • Says government has passed new laws that should reduce restrictions on overseas investors and put Vietnam in line for an upgrade to emerging-market status
  • Says covered warrants and new diamond index are helping foreign investors gain exposure to companies at their foreign ownership limits
Eoin Treacy's view -

Vietnam is run by a communist party in the mould of China in the 1990s. They are primarily interested in economic development and raising living standards for the population. Dreams of global domination are not on the horizon. In fact, Vietnam’s primary concern is probably to remain independent and prosperous in an era of great power competition.



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March 18 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ByteDance embarks on hiring spree in Singapore

Thanks to a subscriber for this article from the Financial Times which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Singapore is viewed as a neutral city by Chinese technology companies as tensions continue to rise between Washington and Beijing. Tencent and Alibaba both announced last year that the city would serve as a key international hub, with Alibaba spending half a billion dollars to buy a skyscraper in the heart of the financial district in May.

ByteDance has not confirmed which of its international offices is its global hub outside China but its expansion in Singapore — it moved into a larger premises in a landmark office tower late last year — comes amid setbacks in India, the US and the UK, where it has been blocked or accused of breaching privacy regulations.

“As we grow our presence in Singapore, we continue to look for the best global and local talents to support our business and augment local skills and capabilities,” the company said.

The Financial Times reported last year that ByteDance could seek to separate TikTok and other units into a global business that was separate to its Chinese entity. Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing an executive order from former president Donald Trump that sought to force the sale of TikTok’s US operations.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Hong Kong is quickly being absorbed into the Chinese economy. That means its system of governance, with a focus on rule of law and contract negotiation, is being subverted by deference to political will. There is a need for an alternative East-meets-West centre. Singapore is well placed to fulfil that role.



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March 17 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

BlackRock, Lombard Say Faster Inflation Calls Are Premature

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

“As the dust settles in the wake of today’s FOMC, we will be focusing upon whether any additional back-up in yields is accompanied by a further widening of breakevens,” said Richard McGuire, the head of rates strategy at Rabobank. “If so then this argues that the move higher in rates is sustainable.”

But as long as U.S. yields don’t rise in a chaotic fashion, risk assets including emerging-market and high-yield corporate debt are expected to outperform, according to BlackRock’s Seth. “Rates can drift higher and still remain a positive backdrop for the risk assets, as long as the vulnerability is under control,” he said.

A Bloomberg Barclays index on global credit returns has gained 11% over the past year, compared with a loss of 2% for a gauge tracking Treasuries. BlackRock switched to a neutral duration position in February from underweight. The fund likes notes sold by Chinese real estate companies and the nation’s onshore bonds.

“The lack of correlation with the rest of the global developed markets also provides a diversification benefit,” Seth said of Chinese debt.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Fed remains wedded to its view nascent inflationary pressures will not last long. There is a logical argument to support the view that the bounce back from the pandemic lows is exaggerated by the base effect and everything will settle down over the course of the next year or two. Since the Fed is willing to wait and see with inflation, it could be two full years before they are willing to draw firm conclusions.



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March 17 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lennar Shares Spike on Plan to Spin Off Startup Investments

This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Lennar Corp. soared after the homebuilder said it will create a spinoff with at least $3 billion in assets.

The new company, which will have $3 to $5 billion in assets and no debt, will include Lennar’s technology investments, according to an earnings call Wednesday.

Lennar, which said it made about $470 million on its investment in Opendoor Technologies Inc., jumped as much as 9.5% to $97.09 in New York. The stock had gained 16% this year through Tuesday’s close.

Miami-based Lennar reported orders on Tuesday that beat estimates as it benefited from the pandemic housing market. It got also a boost from Opendoor, which began trading in December.

Lennar said two other “technology-driven” companies it has invested in also have announced agreements to go public through mergers with special purpose acquisition corporations, or SPACs.

Those companies are Doma, formerly known as States Title, and Hippo, the home-insurance startup that’s merging with a blank-check company led by Zynga Inc. founder Mark Pincus and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman

Eoin Treacy's view -

It is a clear sign of the times that a home builder, which is about as brick and mortar as it gets, has upwards of $5 billion in technology investments. It’s good news that the company has made wise decisions in what are now highly valued digital assets. However, that decision to prioritise risk in non-core businesses is also a symptom of the wider lack of building new homes that has been a feature of the recovery from the 2007-12 housing recession.



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March 11 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Remit For The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)

This letter and response between the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England may be of interest to subscribers. 

To achieve this objective, the government’s economic strategy consists of:

• operationally independent monetary policy, responsible for maintaining price stability and supporting the economy;
• a credible fiscal policy, maintaining sustainable public finances, while providing the flexibility to support the economy;
• structural reform to level up opportunity in all parts of the UK and to transition to an environmentally sustainable and resilient net zero economy, including through regulation, and an ambitious programme of investment in skills, infrastructure and innovation, in order to sustain high employment, raise productivity and improve living standards;
• maintaining a resilient, effectively regulated and competitive financial system that supports the real economy through the provision of productive finance and critical financial services, while protecting consumers, safeguarding taxpayer interests and supporting the transition to a net zero economy. 6

ACCOUNTABILITY
The Monetary Policy Committee is accountable to the government for the remit set out in this letter. The Committee’s performance and procedures will be reviewed by the Bank of England’s Court on an ongoing basis (with particular regard to ensuring the Bank is collecting proper regional and sectoral information). The Bank will be accountable to Parliament through regular reports and evidence given to the Treasury Committee. Finally, through the publication of the minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee meetings and the Monetary Policy Report, the Bank will be accountable to the public at large.   

Eoin Treacy's view -

Central banks are “operationally” independent. All that means is politicians do not get involved in their day-to-day affairs. The central bank still takes orders from politicians. When elected officials feel the “need” for change they simply announce it in the budget. Today we “need” to save the planet so it is now the central bank’s job to do that.



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March 11 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Worst-Performing Asia Stock Index Turns Winner on Value Love

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

“Singapore stocks look attractive because of their relatively better valuations and high dividend yields,” said Stuart Rumble, a multi asset investment director at Fidelity International. The large share of property firms and banks also make the market “highly geared” to economic re-opening, he added.

The Straits Times Index closed up 1.2% on Tuesday to the highest in more than a year. The gauge is trading at 14.7 times 12-month forward earnings, behind most of its regional peers and the MSCI Asia Pacific Index’s 16.8 multiple, according to Bloomberg-compiled data. The Singapore gauge’s dividend yield is estimated at 3.8% for the next 12 months, higher than the regional benchmark’s 2.3%.

The export-oriented economy suffered its biggest contraction since independence last year due to the global pandemic. Now, new daily Covid-19 infections locally are hovering near zero and the government expects growth to rebound to between 4% and 6% in 2021.

The three local banks -- DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. and United Overseas Bank Ltd. -- that make up nearly half of the index’s weight, contributed the most to the benchmark index’s rise amid higher yields, climbing more than 10% each this year. Investors are awaiting the easing of a regulatory cap on bank dividends introduced last year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Singapore Dollar is a strong regional currency that does best in periods of economic growth led by Asia. The rate has been ranging between S$1.3 and S$1.45 since 2015 but that situation may now be coming to a conclusion as Asian growth ramps up following a milder contraction than the rest of the world and with a rebound fuelled by positive demographics.



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March 11 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on China and the coronavirus:

I am shocked at your remarks about China. It is not the China I know, and have seen develop over the last 40 years. A country where Harvard (Ash Center 9 July 2020) surveys found 95.5 percent of respondents were either “relatively satisfied” or “highly satisfied" with their government compared with 38% in the US.

The article from Politico is am interesting read, but does not mention that a partner of the Wuhan Institute was the US Galveston National Laboratory, of whose activities we know very little too.

Bad things happen in every country, including China and the US, but it behooves us to have a sense of proportion and get the facts both right and complete. Take one example: you mention a man in China who altered a gene to suppress HIV - he ended up in jail for breaking the rules.

I am sure you would embrace Deng Xiao Ping's instruction "find the truth through facts", and please recognize that most of the almost 1.5 billion people in China have just finished a perfecting satisfactory day!

And this from David Brown:                 

Thank you for this article and comment Eoin. On February 13 2020 I gave a presentation at my company's All Hands meeting about the viral epidemic in China. I made slides describing the evidence trail going back many years that indicated it was manufactured in the Wuhan lab. I removed those slides at the last moment as the meeting organiser gave me just 10 minutes for a 30 minute presentation - as you can imagine, the remaining content of the 1 hour meeting was trivia. Staff reaction to my presentation could be described as 'has he gone crazy!' They thought I was exaggerating. Nevertheless, I had them practice 3 days working from home, and we have not returned to the office since those days. I am sad to say that woke culture has come into the company as it has expanded over the past year with naive virtue-signalling new recruits, and I would be causing a storm if I now presented those slides showing the likely origin of the virus or showed them your comments. It's a sad world that has emerged in the past couple of years. I am glad I do not have many years to live.
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you both for these comments which are representative of the divide in perception. I might also add we all wish a mind such as David Brown’s will be with us for years to come.

No country is perfect and most have some part of their history they are embarrassed about.  However, there is the world of difference between countries with an independent judiciary and free press compared to authoritarian regimes. Freedom to discuss alternatives and to openly air grievances is the basis for western liberal society.



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March 09 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

'Reddit Raider' Favorite GameStop Soars After Latest Cohen Push

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

Monday’s rally came despite short interest being near the lowest level in at least a year. Roughly one-quarter of shares available for trading are currently sold short, according to data compiled by S3 Partners. That compares to a peak of more than 140% in January.

“Shorts will continue to be squeezed out of their positions as GameStop’s stock price continues to trend upwards,” said Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3 Partners.

Shorts sellers are down nearly $6 billion in year-to-date mark-to-market losses, including $609 million in Monday’s trading alone, Dusaniwsky said by email.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The rebound of reflation plays and retail investor favourites is partly a response to short-term oversold conditions. It is also because $1.9 trillion is still a lot of money, even after a decade of printing.

$1400 for individuals and each child as well as extended benefits the unemployed means many families will see bumps of several thousand dollars in the nest month.  According to this calculator a family of four with an income of $70,000 per annum would receive a payment of $5,600 or 8% of income. 



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March 05 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Secular Bull Market Investment Candidates Review March 2021

Eoin Treacy's view -

On November 24th I began a series of reviews of longer-term themes which will be updated on the first Friday of every month going forward. The last was on January 8th. These reviews can be found via the search bar using the term “Secular Themes Review”.

The rollout of vaccines to COVID-19 continues to accelerate and that will continue through the balance of the year and 2022. There is encouraging news about the number of different vaccines which have been approved and their success against variants. By the end of the year, the world will be inundated with doses which will provide at least some protection from the virus for anyone who wants it. That’s all the rationale any government needs for reopening the economy.

On Valentine’s Day 2020 Mrs Treacy and I went out for dinner with another couple. We talked about the news of a virus threat from China and how it could potentially cause ructions further afield. We told them we had stocked up on rice, meat, protein bars and batteries just in case. They thought we were crazy crackpots jumping at shadows.

It was hard to imagine then just how disruptive the decision to lockdown was going to be. A similar condition exists today. After a year of being confined to our immediate vicinity it is tempting to think this is how it will always be. The reality, however, is we are going to see a surge back to normalcy much quicker than most believe possible.

Humans are social animals and we yearn for social contact. We’ve been starved of that basic need for a year and we’ll overdose on it when we are able. That suggests we are looking at a boom in consumer activity over the coming couple of years.



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March 02 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Hiding From The Madness: An Alts Perspective On The Search For Capital Shortage

I attended this zoom call this morning given by Dylan Grice and there were a number of interesting comments I thought subscribers might be interested in.

March 02 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Banks in Germany Tell Customers to Take Deposits Elsewhere

This article from the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Interest rates have been negative in Europe for years. But it took the flood of savings unleashed in the pandemic for banks finally to charge depositors in earnest.

Germany’s biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank AG, have told new customers since last year to pay a 0.5% annual rate to keep large sums of money with them. The banks say they can no longer absorb the negative interest rates the European Central Bank charges them. The more customer deposits banks have, the more they have to park with the central bank.

That is creating an unusual incentive, where banks that usually want deposits as an inexpensive form of financing, are essentially telling customers to go away. Banks are even providing new online tools to help customers take their deposits elsewhere.

Banks in Europe resisted passing negative rates on to customers when the ECB first introduced them in 2014, fearing backlash. Some did it only with corporate depositors, who were less likely to complain to local politicians. The banks resorted to other ways to pass on the costs of negative rates, charging higher fees, for instance.

The pandemic has changed the equation. Savings rates skyrocketed with consumers at home. And huge relief programs from the ECB have flooded banks with excess deposits. Banks also have used the economic dislocation of the pandemic to make operational changes they have long resisted.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There are two big questions that arise from charging depositors to hold funds in their bank accounts. The first is the benefit banks receive from now being able to pass on costs to customers. The second is the quandary savers are put in.



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March 02 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Twitter announces paid Super Follows to let you charge for tweets

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

 

Twitter announced a pair of big upcoming features today: the ability for users to charge their followers for access to additional content, and the ability to create and join groups based around specific interests. They’re two of the more substantial changes to Twitter in a while, but they also fit snugly into models that have been popular and successful on other social platforms.

The payment feature, called Super Follows, will allow Twitter users to charge followers and give them access to extra content. That could be bonus tweets, access to a community group, subscription to a newsletter, or a badge indicating your support. In a mockup screenshot, Twitter showed an example where a user charges $4.99 per month to receive a series of perks. Twitter sees it as a way to let creators and publishers get paid directly by their fans.

Direct payment tools have become increasingly important for creators in particular in recent years. Patreon has been hugely successful, and other platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and even GitHub have all launched direct creator payment features. Twitter will presumably take a cut — the company has been hinting at subscriptions features that would offer it a new source of revenue — though it doesn’t appear to have said yet what that fee will be.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This announcement suggests Twitter is serious about starting to make money. The creation of a sales funnel so members with substantial followings can monetise that interest is a business model that has grown in popularity during the pandemic.  



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March 01 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Housing Booms in Australia as Prices Surge Most in 17 Year

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

We are seeing a significant increase in demand across all price points and all suburbs,” said real estate agent Ben Collier, who handled the Paddington sale. Usually “you see different markets moving at different speeds, whereas it seems to be somewhat more uniformed right now.”

In New Zealand, where home prices soared 13% in January from a year earlier, the problem is so acute the government will now require the central bank to consider the impact on housing prices when setting interest rates, a change the bank opposed. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is also reimposing lending restrictions on property investors in an attempt to cool the market.

Fears that Australia’s housing market would be flooded by distressed sales as people were thrown out of work by the pandemic have faded as the economy recovers faster than expected, and people resume paying their mortgages after being offered six-month loan holidays last year.

Instead, a shortage of supply is helping fuel the price boom. The number of houses advertised for sale in the first three weeks of February was down 26% from a year earlier, CoreLogic said.

“Housing inventory is around record lows for this time of the year and buyer demand is well above average,” Lawless said. “These conditions favor sellers. Buyers are likely confronting a sense of FOMO, which limits their ability to negotiate.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is a familiar story from all over the world. There is low supply because many people are worried about moving during a pandemic. At the same time there is increased demand because other people feel they have more cash and need to move because of personal circumstances. The combination is leading to rising prices across the board. Record low interest rates are fuelled the advance.



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February 23 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Johnson Says Pandemic End in Sight as He Plans U.K. Recovery

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

“This road map should be cautious but also irreversible,” the prime minister told members of Parliament in London. “The end really is in sight and a wretched year will give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today.”

While U.K. leisure and travel stocks jumped as Johnson revealed his timeline, he is already facing pressure to move faster after the economy endured its deepest recession in more than 300 years. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce more support for pandemic-hit businesses in his budget next week.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Psychologically, we tend to remember the totality of an experience based upon how well it ended. That’s why bubbles are always remembered so negatively. People forget the euphoria of the advance and focus instead on the trauma of the subsequent decline. 

As we exit lockdowns, worrying about mask protocols, handwashing and social distancing, will we now remember the pleasure of that first meal out, meeting up with friends, going to that first football game or concert more than the year of watching and waiting? In a couple of years, we might be yearning to spend more time with our families and a less hectic schedule.



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February 23 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on interest rate sensitivity and overbought conditions

At Greatest Risk from Higher Bond Yields? Eoin, we have seen some sizable sell offs in recent weeks from the hottest sectors such as Green Power, and the various Innovation Funds/ETFs as well as Electric Vehicle sector. As you'd pointed out, they are benefit from super low rates as growth is essentially free. What risk for EM though, which otherwise has been on cruise control of late? Today has seen a sizeable sell off, but is this just the first shot across the bow? Which of the EMs would you be most guarded against? What else might be at greatest risk given the run ups we have had in markets over the last 12 months?

Eoin Treacy's view -

The ARK Innovation ETF has pulled back by about 20% over the last six sessions. That’s a sizable pullback but the fund was up 383% since March 2020 so it was due some consolidation. This reaction has broken the 12-month sequence of higher reaction lows so the trend is no longer as consistent as it was on the way up.



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February 22 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Yield Appeal Catapults Yuan to Global FX Big League

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

There have been many false dawns in China’s quest for the yuan to challenge other major currencies. But underpinning the explosion this time lies a torrent of capital flowing into China’s markets, fueled by a frantic search for returns with over $14 trillion of debt globally paying less than 0%.

That appetite for some of the highest-yielding government bonds in the Group-of-20 countries has elevated interest in China to fever pitch and is generating demand for liquidity from investors looking to finance and hedge their investments. It’s also spurring volatility and attracting speculators who overlooked the market for years.

“It’s certainly a top currency in terms of the flow that we’re seeing,” said Kevin Kimmel, New York-based global head of electronic FX at Citadel Securities, one of the world’s biggest market makers. “Trading activity in the yuan has increased significantly.”

The shift comes as China continues to relinquish control -- albeit slowly -- of its tightly-managed currency, a linchpin of Beijing’s long-term plan to encourage its greater global use. China is considering easing restrictions on citizens investing in securities outside its mainland, a move that would facilitate two-way capital flows.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Capital is both global and mobile and it will always flow to the most attractive assets. There are no developed markets where one can pick up a yield above 1% in an appreciating currency. Investors have no other choice than to look elsewhere.

In doing so, they have to weigh how likely it is that tensions with China are likely to escalate. With a new US administration, the potential for surprises is lower and therefore the risk from investing in the renminbi is reduced but not eliminated. This trend of Renminbi strength has been very persistent since March and some consolidation will occur eventually.



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February 19 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

February 12 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Cyborg 2.0

Thanks to Bilal Khan for sending through his fund’s report focusing on Pakistan. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Pakistan is a frontier market. That means it is heavily influenced by investor flows. Any market is priced by the actions of the margin buyer. When international investors are repatriating capital it weighs heavily on the fortunes of frontier markets but the opposite is also true. Prolonged periods of inflows can boost frontier markets to significant positions of outperformance.

Valuations can be attractive for prolonged periods but it is when the currency moves in the favour of international investors that activity really starts to pick up. At that point perceptions of whether governance is improving and whether that is sustainable will influence how durable a recovery is.

 



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February 10 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the Chart Library Performance Filter

In response to the new subscriber who voiced frustration, I offer these comments.

As a long-term subscriber (and investor for several decades) I have found Eoin's 'big picture' view very helpful and accurate over the years.

From my own study and experience, I have learned that one needs to have 2 factors in mind all the time:

1. What are the likely drivers of money flow into particular asset classes

2. Is that expectation actually being reflected in sector performance

The gains in our investments are determined much more by the sectors we choose than the individual shares. Some people say '90% performance depends on sector choice'. There's a lot of truth in that, and Eoin constantly points to the interesting sectors. So, I rank sectors each month. That is my primary focus. The chart library offers a great way to do that via the tab 'filter' / 'performance filter'. It's super-fast once we have set up a list of sector indices in our Favourites. I know no better way to do it and I can only be grateful to Eoin for the way he redesigned the chart library some years ago (and lot of effort and cost).

I then find the best performing shares in the top ranked sectors of interest and record their performance at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months. If the numbers are increasing steadily across those time periods it identifies a strong trend. If the 1 month and 3-month performance is higher than 6 months and 12 months it identifies a possible breakout. I then check the steadiness of the chart patterns and the rate of gain (>30% annualised) before finally deciding whether to be interested.

Then I spread my investments across at least 4 of the best performing sectors, preferably as uncorrelated as possible,

That way I have beaten 99% of funds and most indices most years.

As Eoin states, private investors have a huge advantage over fund managers. We can increase cash - even to 100% at times - and avoid big falls in our portfolio value.

We have to be very analytical and unemotional. It feels hard to buy shares at the time that it's best to buy. I find that having a rule-based system has served me well. We all have to develop our own rules though, for three reasons.

First, we are all different, and someone else's investment style will not work for us.

Second, we will never have sufficient confidence in someone else's rules. Third, we will only learn and improve based on our mistakes if we develop our own methods.

I hope this helps new investors and new subscribers to Eoin's wonderful service.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks for this generous exposition of your method which will be of interest to the Collective. I created the Performance filter so it would easy to rank asset classes. For the much of the last few years investors have not been under pressure to actively manage their exposures. The strength of the Dollar and the technology sector have blown just about everything else away in terms of their performance. As the Dollar’s trend reverses, finding the best asset classes to be in, on an international basis will return to importance for investors.

Here is a video of how to create sections in your Favourites and how to use the Performance Filter.

In the video I created a list of asset classes which I believe is reasonably reflective of the global investment picture. If subscribers would like me to add additional asset classes that should not be a problem, provided we have them in the Chart Library.



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February 09 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on investable ideas

Firstly, thanks for the terrific service, it’s been so helpful in these turbulent times.  I was interested to read the subscriber feedback in today's comment. 

I agree with the comment that sometimes it’s quite hard to find investable ideas in some of the themes that you so accurately pick up on. 

For example, soft commodities/agricultural products, some direction as to likely beneficiaries would be really helpful.  I’m a UK based investor, so in general like to stick to our market or Europe and it has not been easy.  Perhaps Bayer?  ABF but the Primark exposure is confusing.  In the Eoin’s Favourite’s section of the chart library some of the categories do help, but there’s doesn’t seem to be one directly related to rising soft commodity prices other than farm machinery or fertilisers?

Lithium is another one where I am struggling to find the right investment, even though I looked at your collection of related companies.  As the price seems to have broken out of a long-term downtrend some suggestions as to likely beneficiaries would be really helpful, although understand that one must also do one’s own research.

With Bitcoin, which I’m not that keen to buy, but you highlighted the Greyscale Bitcoin Trust which although I’ve not invested in it was really helpful to have an idea related to the concept you were right about. 

Hope this feedback helps and thanks again.

And

I found the criticism yesterday, a bit harsh.  There are few sites that provide the breadth and depth that we get from FTM.  Here, in West Aust, I wake each morning to your market summary of the principal events.  I find it cost effective for that point alone.

The suggestion above regarding missed opportunities is one worth pursuing, not so much regarding the chartbook but for highlighting early chart indications of emerging opportunities.  I feel that perhaps FTM may report facts that are available elsewhere but the site is not fully exploiting your chart analysis skills that are not available elsewhere.  You should exploit your strengths and don't reproduce stuff that is, or soon will be, in the media. We all want to know where Eoin Treacy sees emerging or imminent changes. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you both for this feedback and your kind words. I am a firm believer in giving the people what they want. Afterall, why else would one subscribe. Let me address the challenges in the order they are outlined in the above emails.



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February 05 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Secular Bull Market Investment Candidates Review February 2021

Eoin Treacy's view -

On November 24th I began a series of reviews of longer-term themes which will be updated on the first Friday of every month going forward. The last was on January 8th. These reviews can be found via the search bar using the term “secular themes review”. 

Highlighting secular themes has been a hallmark of this service for as long as I have been a part of it. I first met David Fuller in Amsterdam in 2003. He was giving a talk to Bloomberg’s clients and we went out for dinner that evening. His way of looking at markets, with a focus on suspending ego to see what the market tapestry is telling us, answered all of the questions I had about how to interpret
markets. I felt honoured when he asked me to come work with him a few months later.

The easy way to find secular themes to is to look at long-term ranges. Prices can so sideways for a long time, sometimes decades, and the whole asset class can be forgotten by investors. These kinds of markets need a catalyst to reignite demand. Once that new theme gathers enough pace, prices break on the upside because the supply side is not capable to responding in a timely manner to the new phenomenon. Sometimes that’s because they don’t believe in the new trend, or it may be because they simply do not have the financial wherewithal to expand. As the power of the new catalyst gathers, it takes time for supply to respond and the market will proceed higher until there is a robust supply response. That can take a long time because demand continues to grow as the new theme increases its dominance of investor attention.



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February 04 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Reddit's Power to Push Stocks Down Is the Next Worry for Traders

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

“Put buying en masse would add to dealers’ short put positioning and could create much more severe structural leverage imbalance to the downside,” said Cem Karsan, founder of Aegea Capital Management LLC and a former options market maker.

Karsan, who has 24,000 Twitter followers, floated the scenario on The Derivative podcast last week.

The Squeeze
Once an obscure dynamic in the market plumbing, gamma squeezes are the talk of both Wall Street and the amateur crowd following the GameStop drama.

It goes like this. When an investor buys a call, the dealer who sold the contract will typically hedge by purchasing the underlying stock. The more the latter rises toward the option’s strike price, the more shares the market maker will theoretically have to buy. That can supercharge stock prices as shares rise and dealers buy more.

And the dynamic works in reverse, too.

Dealers who have sold puts will hedge themselves by selling the underlying shares. As the price drops toward the option’s strike, they will sell more and more.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Mobs are emotional, extremely aggressive, thrive on contradiction but they are also fickle. They can look like the strongest army in the world until they lose cohesion. Then they fall apart and turn into the weakest. Mobs thrive as long as they are growing and the reason for that growth is still compelling. As soon as it ends, they dissolve quickly. As GameStop’s mob dissolves it might be some time for a crowd to coalesce around a new idea. There are plenty of candidates from biotech to silver to micro-caps and cryptocurrencies.



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February 01 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

DoubleLine Round Table 2021

Section 1 Global Macroeconomy: State of Play and Outlook Part 1 and Part 2

Section 2: Financial Markets Part 1 and Part 2

Section 3: Best Ideas

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

I enjoyed this series of roundtables last year and this year did not disappoint. The points made are all relevant to the market environment as we see it today. Ther participants expressed a great deal of fear that we are dangerously close to a bubble peak. There is a lot of worry about valuations, social unrest and the effects on the credit worthiness of the corporate bond market, when the Fed is backstopping it.



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February 01 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Israeli vaccinations

I live in Israel and so can share with you what I am seeing on the ground. Israel's results would have been even better if we did not have two internal communities whose behaviour is the main cause of the high contamination rates. The ultra-orthodox Jewish minority (about 15% of the population) refuses to obey the rules of social distancing. The members of this community insist on gathering together to pray and to study the religious texts. They make up about 40% of the positive cases and deaths from Covid. The Arab citizens of Israel also resists the social distancing rules and they are the other cluster of positive cases and deaths. Many of them fear that the vaccine is an Israeli plot to weaken them. The rest of the Israeli population is obeying the rules and that is why the situation is very good. At the same time as the mass vaccination there is very strict lockdown. This will probably continue for some time until so many people have been vaccinated that there is a mass immunity. The Palestinians in the West Bank have, unfortunately once again chosen an unsuccessful strategy. Under the Oslo Agreements, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for health. The PLA decided at the start of this crisis not to cooperate with Israel, but to rely on the UN for its vaccine. This is why the Arab population of the West bank is lagging behind on being vaccinated.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this insight. There is a significant population of people in most countries who for varying reasons will not take a vaccine. In Israel it might be the Orthodox or Arab populations, but in the USA, there is a significant and highly vocal anti-vax community which conservatively reaches about 15% of the population.

Additionally, the black community has the been the subject of botched medical experiments in the past. Many people are leery of taking vaccines. That’s before we even begin to think about the online conspiracy theories that have been circulating over the last 12 months and have certainly affected sentiment. This article from NBC news highlights the fact that 70% of nursing home staff are refusing to get the shot. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/nursing-homes-make-big-push-change-minds-workers-who-refused-n1254509

I think it is safe to say there will be a significant minority that refuse vaccination in most countries. As we process into the year, there will be more vaccines permissioned and production will ramp up. By December there will be a surfeit of doses. By June, anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one I suspect. The big question at this stage is whether the conscientious objectors to taking a vaccine will be allowed to travel, work or study without one.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 is deadlier than the flu. An uncomfortably high percentage of people who develop severe symptoms, which require hospitalisation, experience a lengthy recovery. Aches and weakness are among the most common issues reported. However, risk remains concentrated in the ranks of the elderly and those who are already ill with chronic conditions.

It was obvious as early as August that a massive public information campaign would be required to ensure a successful inoculation program. That didn’t happen so there is a clear risk of difficulty in reaching the herd immunity threshold. Forcing vaccination is a serious infringement of civil liberties but it is actively being considered.

My own view is anyone who habitually gets the flu vaccine, will have little issue with getting the COVID vaccine. Meanwhile, the trial of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 in the UK might prove to be the bridge between the anti-vaccination movement and the desire to reach herd immunity as quickly as possible.



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January 27 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on positioning and evidence of a mania:

I wanted to provide some input to the question you asked subscribers today on how we are invested and cash levels.

I am close to 70 years old and just retired. My investment portfolio is my pension which comprises stocks and property. For me, within my own fairly conservative criteria I am close to fully invested in the stock component of my pension. In the final 4 months of last year I invested additional cash in FTM themes such as  emerging markets, metals and mining and renewables. A large portion went to South East Asia where I have built some knowledge over the years and saw real value, often with good dividend yields. The remainder of my portfolio is in a portfolio of US stocks which I have managed for some years but the contents of which I rotate as trends change. A small percentage is in continental Europe plus UK Investment Trusts the latter following FTM themes. I have additional cash available which I might invest in stocks if the market declines providing a buying opportunity or I may invest in property if a suitable opportunity arises. But the cash will be invested either in stocks or property  within the coming year.

 

I also maintain a cash or cash equivalent position amounting to several years living and recreation costs which will never be invested in stocks. Maybe overly conservative but I’ve been investing from the mid 1980’s, when I first subscribed to FM, and this way I can sleep at night knowing I wont need to sell assets to fund living costs.  

And

I am usually about 20-25% in cash. Now about 50% and I almost feel like I should be 75-80% in cash.  Just don't see why the world is so much better now vs 1 year ago today pre-covid-other than low cost of money.  Seems like a lot of pent-up demand and fear not to get in has made the market frothy...kinda like the run on toilet paper......

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks to a number of subscribers for responding. The responses so far tell me that while there is evidence of froth in the market, we are not at a point where there is a risk of an imminent end to the reflation. Many investors went 100% to cash in the summer and are still only beginning to get back into the market.



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January 25 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Signaling No Change in China's Course, Xi Warns Against Cold War

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

“To build small circles and start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimate others, to willfully impose decoupling, supply disruptions, or sanctions, or to create isolation or estrangement, will only push the world into division and even confrontation,” he said.

Xi’s speech had been widely anticipated for the tone it would set for relations between the world’s biggest economies over the next four years. Though Xi did not name Biden by name, many of his comments were clearly targeted at the new U.S. administration.

Xi repeated many of the same talking points about multilateralism and “win-win” outcomes that he deployed in his last address to Davos four years ago, days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, but he also signaled that he does not intend to change course in the face of U.S. pressure.

“Each country is unique with its own history, culture and social system, and none is superior to the other,” Xi said, warning against imposing a “hierarchy on human civilization” or forcing one’s own systems onto others.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This all sounds very reasonable and is a perfect example of China’s efforts to exude a façade of reasonableness. Perhaps it would be better to measure China’s actions in the four years since Xi’s last speech to Davos where much the same call to embrace appeasement was made.



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January 22 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Don't Bank On the Glut of Savings Being Spent

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

From a broader perspective, inflation results from demand exceeding supply, but since globalization commenced three decades ago, it’s been an excess supply world. Asian countries are big producers of exports they send to the West, but they’re weak consumers. China’s consumer spending is just 43% of GDP, compared with 68% for the U.S. So the resulting Asian saving glut generates price-depressing excess supply. Barring a tariff wall that seals off imports from Asia, any revival of U.S. consumer spending wouldn’t be big enough to eliminate global excess supply. And President Joe Biden is less zealous on the trade war with China than former President Donald Trump.

Finally, note that some investors aren’t anticipating surging inflation and interest rates. Technology-related and other growth stocks have low earnings yields, the inverse of price-to-earnings ratios, which are justified by low interest rates. The theory is that their present stock values equal the discounted value of future earnings, so the lower that discounting interest rate, the more their equities are worth
today.

Earnings of $10 in 10 years hence is worth $9.05 today with a 1% discounting rate, but only $5.58 at 6%. So if investors expected a leap in inflation and interest rates, they’d probably be dumping growth stocks now.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Is it different this time? That’s the big question for anyone who has been monitoring the markets for the last few decades. Every time we see a recovery from a major decline, there is evidence of inflationary pressures beginning to rise. In 40 years, they have not proved to have staying power.



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January 19 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Weekly Warm-up: More Stimulus May Mean Less for Markets

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

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The US government expects to issue about $1 trillion more bonds than the Fed currently expects to buy in 2021. Without a clear move to boost the amounts committed to the bond buying program yields will inevitably rise. It’s a simple supply and demand argument. Of course, no one really believes the Fed will fail in its commitment to provide assistance while unemployment is well above trend.



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January 18 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on the early stages of a secular bull market.

Until the beginning of last year you often spoke on the theme of the early stages of a secular bull market. David had begun speaking about it as long as 4 years ago. But with the onset of the pandemic, you have been largely silent about it. Has it stalled or, in your view, already peaked?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this important question. In October 2008, I remember sitting at my desk and looking at the calculation that the S&P500 was sitting on the widest overextension relative to the 200-day ever. Acceleration is always a trend ending and the crash signalled the beginning of the bottoming process. By the time Wall Street reached its nadir in March 2009 many instruments were well off their lows and by the end of the year the leaders were making new highs.

Gold, commodities, ASEAN and technology took off. Of these, technology is the only one which had uninterrupted staying power all the way through the bull market to date.  

I started writing Crowd Money in 2011. At the time a host of big international companies, with global franchises, that dominate their niches were breaking out of long-term ranges. It was a clear signal that a new secular bull market was underway. By the time the book was published in 2013, it was still a minority view that a new bull market was underway.



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January 15 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Carry Trades

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is nothing in the financial markets that can’t be made better with leverage. That’s the foundation most trading operations are based on. One of the most common trade patterns is to source cheap funding in a currency which is depreciating in value. That way when it comes to paying back the loan, you get to keep the profit on the currency trade as well as any gain from the assets you invested in.

Japan’s zero interest rates made it an ideal candidate for carry trades but the propensity for the Yen to strengthen meant that short yen carry trades tended to be rather volatile. It was common in the decade up to the introduction of Abenomics in early 2012 for unwinding of carry trades to contribute to profit taking across global markets.

As interest rates have trended towards zero across the world the opportunity to access cheap funding in a wide array of currencies has never been greater. The challenge today is to find the currency most likely to decline versus assets with high growth and yield potential.



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January 14 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on financial repression:

Thanks so much for the terrifically informative analysis that you continue to provide. The quality of your work is simply jaw dropping at times. But I wonder if you could please clarify one thing. Would you mind defining more clearly what you mean by the term “financial repression”? I can certainly search this, but I’d like to know what it means to you.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and I’m delighted you enjoy the service. The term “financial repression” is emotionally charged because of its historic significance. After World War II the US government paid back its war debt by inflating it away. That was a deliberate policy where interest rates were held at a low level for a prolonged period, taxes were raised and inflation eroded the debt over decades. From an investors perspective it was akin to the government reaching into your pocket and taking your money.



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January 14 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Russia May Raise Wheat-Export Tax, Stoking Grain Supply Worries

This article by Megan Durisin and Yuliya Fedorinova for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Russia may almost double a planned levy on wheat exports and impose new restrictions on barley and corn in an effort to curb food prices, heightening supply risks for global grain markets.

Officials in the world’s top wheat shipper will meet Friday to review grain-export duties and may increase a planned tax on shipments to 45 euros ($55) per ton from March 15, a spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry said. That compares with a 25-euro levy approved last month for sales from mid-February through June, as well as a quota on grain shipments.

The moves come after President Vladimir Putin’s call to cool food-price inflation because of sharp increases for staples like bread and sunflower oil last month. The threat of heightened restrictions from a major exporter helped stoke wheat futures in Chicago and Paris, and adds to concerns of crop
protectionism as grain prices rise.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Export restrictions might curb domestic food price inflation but will exacerbate it everywhere else. We are on the front end of significant commodity price inflation. The three most important food commodities are wheat, soybeans and rice. All have completed base formations. No one single factor creates more social unrest than a surge in basic food commodities. The high cost of bread in Tunisia was once of the causal factors in the origin of Arab Spring. Considering the extend of social unrest seen in the last 12 months it is quite likely we are going to see significant unrest in 2021 if food prices continue to rise.



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January 12 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Why Israel Was the Perfect Test Case for Vaccines

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

All Israelis are insured by one of four national health maintenance organizations (HMOs), whose clinics and hospitals are spread throughout the country. They are competitive, but the price of membership, co-payments and treatments are regulated and uniform. So is the subsidized “basket” of medication, procedures and treatments. These are decided by a national board of experts. Medication is bought by the government and centrally distributed via a single company. All medical records are online, available to hospitals, doctors and the Ministry of Health.

This makes Israel especially attractive to Pfizer and other vaccine producers. HMOs know who has been vaccinated and in what order of priority. They know who has returned for a booster shot and who has opted out. Israel knows the ages, medical conditions and other demographic information of a heterogeneous population. And all this data is held by the Ministry of Health. It is a treasure for testing efficacy of the vaccine among various groups and the relative amount of vaccine needed for efficacy. Israel will be likely to be the first country to know the level of coverage needed to achieve herd immunity.

Distribution has been a model of efficiency. Vaccinations happen seven days a week in most places and even late at night. While it is a civilian operation, the army is vaccinating its own soldiers and helping with tracking and tracing infection and some logistics. 

Israel’s government has left people guessing about the number of vaccines it has received, what it has paid for them or what supply is coming. We know that 2 million people have received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine and will receive their second dose starting this week. According to Netanyahu, an unspecified “millions more” are in the pipeline. Last week, Moderna, whose chief medical officer is an Israeli, sent an initial shipment of 100,000 doses. Israel is also working on a homemade vaccine that could be ready by the summer.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Israel, with a small population and abundant supplies of vaccines, is reaping the benefits of being a first mover. Its economy will be among the first to recover from the pandemic. That puts it in the company of a relatively small number of Asian countries which have come through the pandemic with little in the way of economic hardship.



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January 11 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Governance

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is no way the storming of the Capitol can be justified. Overwhelming an unsuspecting police cordon and disrespecting the nation’s seat of power is an affront no government is going to tolerate. That’s on top of what impact it has had on the vast majority of people who live their lives by a code of common decency.

By the same token, riots where private businesses are destroyed, police stations set light and people afraid for the integrity of their homes should also be condemned.

The problem with the polarization of political discourse in the USA is neither side is willing to sharply criticize the actions of their adherents. To do so would be political or busines suicide.

We are currently being treated to commentary fomenting fear that there will be a great deal of unrest at the upcoming Presidential inauguration. It’s a significant risk but it is far from the only form of intimidation.

My doorbell rang on Saturday night while we were sitting down to dinner. I thought it was an Amazon delivery so I went out to see what it was. Two BLM activists were waiting and informed me they were collecting donations. I told them we were in the middle of dinner and closed the door. They left chanting Black Lives Matter.

One way of looking at this encounter is that it was innocuous. Another is that they were indeed innocently collecting donations for their cause. Another is that they were canvasing the leafy suburb to identify who supports them and who doesn’t. For Mrs. Treacy’s part, she saw correlations with the Cultural Revolution.

The challenge is that the rioters during the summer threatened they would come into the neighborhoods. It never happened, but when fund raisers come knocking on the door it feels like they are after protection money. I think our days in Los Angeles are numbered. This is not the city we moved to seven years ago.

President-elect Biden says he wants to heal the country. That’s a tall order but regardless of its success it will mean throwing money at the problem. There is clear potential the USA is now moving towards formal adoption of MMT.



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January 11 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

As Polar Vortex Stirs, Deep Freeze Threatens U.S. and Europe

This article by Brian K. Sullivan for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Technically, the polar vortex refers to a band of winds that encircle the Arctic and keep the cold locked far to the North. But with that temperature spike, known as sudden stratospheric warming, the band can buckle, allowing frigid air to head south. Gas traders used to call it the “polar pig.”

That could mean chills anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, though this year it’s likely to end up in the U.S. according to Ryan Truchelut, president of Weather Tiger LCC. A wave of deep cold could give the Great Lakes and East Coast their first real blast of frigid winter weather, along with a storm pattern that delivers snow storms as well.

It will be a big shift for the U.S., where winter has been a bit lackluster so far. In New York, January readings have been 5.1 degrees above normal through Thursday, and Chicago has been 7.2 degrees warmer for the month.

Still, there’s no guarantee it will happen. While a sudden stratospheric warming usually leads to a burst of frigid weather, sometimes the clockwork of gears in the atmosphere doesn’t deliver.

“Many times in the past, the forecast for a cold weather event across the country resulted in a false alarm,” said Jim Rouiller, lead meteorologist with the Energy Weather Group LLC.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Weather is indeed fickle so no one can be sure that the expected wintry weather will in fact arrive. However, it is worth considering that the global economy is attempting to recover and delivery drivers are more a part of the fabric of the economy than ever before.



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January 07 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Fever Has Broken, Stability is Coming

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Greg Valliere for AGF which may be of interest. Here is a section:

AN INEPT INSURRECTION FAILED, and there will be an orderly transition of power on Jan. 20; even Trump pledged as much early this morning. He probably won’t be ousted but his legacy will be forever stained, and his sycophants — Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, etc. — will never recover.

THE TEMPERATURE WILL LOWER SOON: For the next few days, there will be speculation about removing Trump, largely out of fear over what he may do — especially geopolitically — in his final two weeks. And there will be questions about why the Capitol Hill police were so pathetically caught off guard yesterday. But a change is coming . . .

Eoin Treacy's view -

Stoking the mob is always tempting for populists on both sides of the spectrum.

That was abundantly clear in the mass protests, looting and destruction of public property over the summer. Those protests have since abated because the organisers achieved their goal of overthrowing the Trump administration.

The big question now is whether the mob seeking to overthrow the new Democrat controlled government will be chastened by yesterday’s events. My intuition tells me they represent a significant demographic and will form a significant portion of the new opposition, regardless of whether Donald Trump is banned on Twitter/Facebook.



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January 06 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Banks, Small Caps Power Stock Rally as Tech Drops

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

Investors poured into financial assets that benefit from a stronger economy after Democrats looked set to take control of Congress, potentially unleashing a torrent of federal spending to revive growth.

Banks and energy producers led gains in the S&P 500 as the Russell 2000 Index of smaller companies climbed 3%. The Nasdaq 100 fell as traders sold out of high-flying stocks such as the Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. The Dow Jones Industrial Average outperformed.

Democrats claimed one of the two Senate seats contested in Georgia and led in the other tight race. Two wins would give President-elect Joe Biden’s party control of Congress and smooth the path for some of his spending policies. That’s fueled bets that increased stimulus will boost the economy and spark inflation. The 10-year Treasury yield powered past 1% for the first time since March, and the dollar fluctuated after earlier weakening toward a six-year low.

“The growth-into-value rotation may be reinforced after the results of the Georgia Senate election amid the prospect of a higher fiscal stimulus bill and steeper yield curve, which would benefit banks and other non-tech companies,” David Bahnsen, chief investment officer of the Bahnsen Group in Newport Beach, California, wrote in a note to clients.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Control of the Senate will give the Democrats greater power to remake policy. It won’t all be plain sailing since such a slim majority will require total unanimity but it certainly means they will have an easier time passing spending measures. If debt financing and Modern Monetary Theory were likely before, they are doubly so today.



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January 06 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Wealth Taxes Are Going Global, From California to Germany

This article by Ben Steverman and Benjamin Stupples for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Driving the idea’s revival is the need for revenue. The pandemic has devastated government finances around the world, boosting spending by trillions of dollars, from India to Canada, while slashing tax collections.

The situation in the U.K. — which now faces its widest fiscal deficit since World War II — has brought the idea of taxing wealth back into the discussion. An independent commission last month called for a one-off levy to raise about 260 billion pounds ($354 billion) — more than a third of the U.K.’s tax receipts in the latest financial year. Raising that much money would require taxing individual wealth above 500,000 pounds at 1% annually for five years, affecting 8 million people.

“There’s been quite a lot of murmurings about reforming existing taxes on wealth, but everyone’s just effectively treated a wealth tax as being off the ‘serious’ agenda,” said
London School of Economics assistant law professor Andy Summers, one of the report’s authors. “Partly, that’s because barely anyone in the U.K. has studied it since the 1970s.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Wealthy individuals represent a ripe target for taxation. So do wealthy companies with hundreds of billions sitting in cash. The time to look at trusts, real assets like gold or property, gifting to children, deferring income, options programs, internationally diversifying where wealth is held and potentially looking at alternative accommodations was yesterday.



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January 05 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China-EU investment deal: who's the real winner after seven years of negotiations?

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

Some said the deal was premature and could come at the cost of a reboot of the transatlantic alliance Biden has set as a priority in his multilateral approach to countering China.

George Magnus, a research associate at Oxford University’s China Centre, said the EU appeared to have conceded leverage for seemingly very little in return.

The agreement was unlikely to become a platform for the deepening of EU-China relations or even pave the way to a free-trade agreement, but it was a good move for China “without having to make major concessions commercially or any on labour standards and rights, which the EU is normally very robust about”, he said.

According to Gal Luft, co-director of Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a think tank in Washington, the EU’s move was a deliberate attempt to take advantage of the power vacuum in the US.

“Concluding it in the interregnum period ensures that the outgoing administration will have no time to penalise Brussels while the new one will have no chance to weigh in,” he said.

“This shows that the EU, despite its misgivings about China’s behaviour and policies, wants to remain an independent player and is unwilling to be dragged into the US-China power struggle.” 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The last couple of months of 2020 ushered in three significant trade deals. That gives those of us who think globalisation is under threat something to contemplate. If we consider exactly what these agreements mean, it supports rather than negates the view we are entering a multipolar world.



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January 04 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Byron Wien and Joe Zidle Announce the Ten Surprises of 2021

This press release may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

5. The economy develops momentum on its own because of pent-up demand, and depressed hospitality and airline stocks become strong performers. Fiscal and monetary policy remain historically accommodative. Nominal economic growth for the full year exceeds 6% and the unemployment rate falls to 5%. We begin the longest economic cycle in history, surpassing the cycle that lasted from 2010 to 2020.

6. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury openly embrace Modern Monetary Theory as their accommodative policies continue. As long as growth exceeds the rate of inflation, deficits don’t seem to matter. Because inflation increases modestly, gold rallies and cryptocurrencies gain more respect during the year.

7. Even as energy company executives cut estimates for long-term growth, near-term opportunities are increasing. The return to “normal” increases both industrial activity and mobility, and the price of West Texas Intermediate oil rises to $65/bbl. Rig counts increase and energy high yield bonds rally soundly. Energy stocks are among the best performers in 2021.

8. The equity market broadens out. Stocks beyond health care and technology participate in the rise in prices. “Risk on” is not without risk and the market corrects almost 20% in the first half, but the S&P 500 trades at 4,500 later in the year. Cyclicals lead defensives, small caps beat large caps and the “K” shaped equity market recovery unwinds. Big cap tech is the source of liquidity, and the stocks are laggards for the year.

9. The surge in economic growth causes the 10-year Treasury yield to rise to 2%. The yield curve steepens, but a concomitant increase in inflation keeps real rates near zero. The Fed wants the strength in housing and autos to continue. As a result, it extends the duration of bond purchases in order to prevent higher rates at the long end of the curve from choking off credit to consumers and businesses.

Eoin Treacy's view -

If we contrast this list of potential surprises, I get the feeling they are less ambitious than in years past. I have heard the rumour from many quarters that President Trump is planning to set up his own TV station and there is plenty of speculation that the entire effort to overturn the election is to create a sound footing for a re-run at the title in 2024.



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January 04 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Rolls-Royce to Shelf Next-Generation Propulsion Engine After Testing Ends in 2022

This note from the Financial Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC will shelf its next-generation UltraFan engine program and halt investment until a new aircraft is launched as the industry grapples with low demand for new airplanes, the Financial Times reports.

--The British engineering giant will finish testing the new engine in 2022 but will then put the program "on ice," including postponing the search for an industrial partner for the new propulsion system, according to the FT.

--Rolls-Royce Chief Executive Warren East said he expects a significant delay until the new aircraft appear as the industry reels from the acute shock of the coronavirus pandemic, the FT reports.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The challenge for many industrial companies is that their growth prospects are dependent on economic growth and the ability of their customers to boost capital expenditure. At present the enthusiasm which greeted vaccine approvals is being tested by the evolution of new strains of the COVID-19 virus. That suggests capex decisions will likely be delayed until customers have visibility on what their post pandemic businesses will look like.



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December 30 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on rising inflationary pressures and Ethereum

I hope you are enjoying the holidays and looking forward to a better year next year.

Here’s another one of Charles Gave's excellent articles-the oil price is on the move thus starting to bear out his fear of a 1970s-type repeat.

Secondly, regarding Ethereum, have you been able to quantify any price target and if so, what technical data/events have you chosen to use?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this interesting report which repeats Gave’s earlier call for an inflationary boom with which I agree. However, I’m not sure we are in the same kind of bull market in oil that we had in the first decade of this century. The history of secular bull markets in oil points to rising prices lasting as long as it takes new sources of supply to reach market. That is followed by decades of ranging.



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December 22 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lidar Makers Jump After Report on Apple's Autonomous Car Plans

This article by Divya Balji and Crystal Kim for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Some lidar suppliers gained Tuesday after Reuters reported that Apple Inc. plans to build a self-driving car for consumers and is tapping outside partners for elements of the system as it develops its own battery technology.

Apple is approaching companies for some parts, including lidar sensors that provide autonomous cars with a real-time, 3-D view of the world, the report said, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

Lidar supplier Luminar Technologies Inc. rose as much as 12% on Tuesday, while Velodyne Lidar Inc. surged 16%. Blank-check firms that are bringing more lidar players to the market also advanced: InterPrivate Acquisition Corp. climbed 17%, while Collective Growth Corp. jumped as much as 24%.

Apple has been working on driverless car technology since 2014, but pared back its ambitions from a full-fledged vehicle in 2017, Bloomberg News has reported. Since then, Apple has been working on the underlying autonomous system. The company has been deciding whether to attach this system to its own car, or existing vehicles, or to partner with an established carmaker, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Apple enjoys an almost 40% gross margin on its iPhones and tablets. Porsche has about a 47% gross margin on the 911 and Ferrari has a more than 50% gross margin on its cars. Tesla’s is 16.5%. Toyota’s is 18% and Volkswagen’s is 19.5%. No mass market producer has been able to achieve margins on the scale technology companies are accustomed to.



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December 22 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How Chinese Chip Giant SMIC Can Evade Trump's Newest Crackdown

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

Within the company, engineers are scrambling to assess the fallout and figure out workarounds to secure the equipment it needs, much like Huawei did two years prior, another person familiar with the matter said. At issue is the administration’s focus on drawing a line at 10-nanometer technology, banning the sale of equipment intended for use in more advanced processes. SMIC could conceivably repurpose 80% of older-generation gear to crank out more advanced chips, but that tactic won’t sustain production for the longer term and much depends on how far President-elect Joe Biden decides to take the rules, a third person close to the situation said, asking not to be identified discussing sensitive matters.

“The company has already got critical equipment and materials needed to continue production,” said Xiang Ligang, Beijing-based director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance. “In the past, China wasn’t too sensitive about the technological bottlenecks it has. But now, Beijing is fully aware of the potential damage and is determined to solve these issues.”

Chinese government-backed SMIC, a manufacturer of chips for global names from Qualcomm Inc. to Broadcom Inc., relies on U.S. gear for its longer-term technology road map. While its engineers may be able to sustain research and output in the short run, the latest sanctions basically freeze its capabilities while the industry advances. If a Biden White House takes it to the max, SMIC could be blocked from 7nm or more advanced technology while overseas rivals like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. dominate the market. The heightened scrutiny may also discourage clients leery of dealing with the uncertainty.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Self sufficiency in semi-conductors is a central policy objective for China. It is the basis on which the country seeks to compete with the USA in future. China may be able to do without Australian coal or wine but it has no hope of competing effectively on the geopolitical front without securing the supply line for technology’s basic ingredients.



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December 21 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.K. Faces Food Crisis Threat as Virus Surge Blocks Trade

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

The U.K. confronted threats of food insecurity and panicked shopping days before Christmas as European nations restricted trade and travel to guard against a resurgent coronavirus, offering Britain a preview of the border chaos to come in the absence of a Brexit deal.

Fearing a fast-spreading new strain of the virus that forced a strict lockdown across England, France on Sunday suspended travel from the U.K. for 48 hours and wants a stricter testing regime before lifting the blockade. Germany and Italy halted arriving flights from Britain with Spain and Portugal following suit. The crisis gave renewed urgency to negotiations for a trade deal with the European Union that remained at a critical stage after weekend talks.

Late Sunday, the Port of Dover stopped freight moved by truck into France while allowing unaccompanied cargo to keep moving. Traffic into the U.K. is unaffected, though truckers often run supplies in both directions and the latest outbreak in the heart of England may discourage them from entering the island.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The announcement over the weekend that one of the evolved versions of the original COVID--19 virus has travelled from South Africa to the UK has caused a panicky response from European governments. The new variant appears to be more infectious but no more lethal than the last. That suggests it will quickly become the dominant form of the virus circulating the global before long. Since the newer version is now already in Italy, closing borders with the UK is unlikely to have any effect on its ability to spread inside the EU.



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December 15 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on third party perspectives on the US/China competition

Very interesting interview for those interested in our regional and international affairs Just ignore the first 3 minutes of the intro in the Malay language if you don't understand Bahasa.

Worth 93 minutes of you time. Download & watch at your leisure.

Kishore Mahbuhani, a Singaporean diplomat, Mahbuhani is brilliant.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this video which I agree highlighted a number of interesting themes. The challenge for governments in Asian countries is how to balance the demands for loyalty coming from the world’s superpowers. That’s a particular challenge for those that have historically depended on US support for markets and military protection. They now see their primary growth engine in China while China’s Belt and Road program is the primary source of FDI for many potential projects. 



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December 15 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ECB Lifts Ban on Bank Dividend With 15% Payout Cap on Profit -

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

Andrea Enria, head of the ECB’s supervisory arm, said in a Bloomberg Television interview that there’s limited visibility on asset quality and that the bank will revisit its decision in September. He also called for moderation on banks’ variable pay.

The cap makes the ECB one of the more hawkish banking watchdogs in Europe. The Bank of England said last week that it will allow lenders to make payouts that don’t exceed 0.2% their risk-weighted assets, or 25% of cumulative quarterly profits over 2019 and 2020 after deducting shareholder distributions.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Europe’s banks are hamstrung by negative interest rates but they still charge fees for just about everything and don’t pay an interest rate. The most significant factor in their favour is the bad debts issue is slowly being eroded. That particularly true on the periphery. 



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December 15 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Biden Plots Cuba Reset in Rebuke of Trump's Sanctions

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

That strategy includes reducing restrictions on travel, investment and remittances for the island nation that are perceived to disproportionately hurt Americans and ordinary Cubans, said the people, who requested anonymity because the new administration is still coming together. Other measures that target Cuba for human rights abuses would remain in place, the people said.

The prospect of a détente between Washington and Havana rekindles memories of the thaw that Biden helped champion during the Obama administration, when the two nations restored diplomatic ties that had been broken for decades following Fidel Castro’s rise to power.

But the president-elect is returning to an even messier scene: the Cuban economy is suffering its worst crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union amid fallout from Covid-19 and U.S. sanctions. At the same time, Cuban intelligence officers have helped prop up Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, allowing his regime to consolidate its grip on power in defiance of demands for free and fair elections.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It looks increasingly likely that outside of the China question, the USA is likely to migrate back to many of the foreign policies championed during the Obama administration. There may also be a quid pro quo in the offing. Perhaps some assistance on the Venezuela question will be provided in return for easing sanctions.



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