Investment Themes - Global Middle Class

Search all article by their themes/tags in the search area
below for example “Energy” or “Technology”.

Search Results

Found 374 results in Global Middle Class
August 20 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Stock Bulls Often Return When Emerging Markets Get This Cheap

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

When emerging-market stocks trade this cheap relative to U.S. equities, a rebound is normally in order.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index has traded at a discount to the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index since 2006, but for the past five years its relative valuation has held within a range, with its price-earnings ratio fluctuating between 25 percent below the U.S. gauge at the best of times and 33 percent during the worst.

The index, the benchmark gauge of developing-nation equities, typically bounces back in a matter of weeks once it reaches the floor. That was certainly the case on three previous occasions: at the height of the Russian currency crisis in 2014; in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s December 2015 decision to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade; and at the end of the technology sell-off last year.

The index closed at a valuation ratio of 66.37 percent on Friday, or a discount of 33.63 percent to U.S. stocks based on price-to-estimated earnings. On Monday, it rallied 1 percent, the best one-day gain in six weeks.

Still, past rebounds are no guarantee of future performance and the environment remains fragile for emerging markets.

Investors can’t know how ugly the U.S. trade war might get, how deeply Fed interest-rate increases will affect developing-nation currencies or where the next political shock will come from.

But for those convinced of the investment case for emerging markets and willing to wait for the right valuation to resume buying, this could be the moment. Stocks are as cheap now as at any time in the past five years.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Relative comparisons are always tempting to look at because of historic comparisons but ratios can self-correct in a number of different ways. To say emerging markets are at close to record lows against Wall Street today say as much about how high Wall Street is as it does about the rout in emerging markets.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 20 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review August 15th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

Let me first set up the background; I believe we are in a secular bull market that will not peak for at least another decade and potentially twice that. However, it also worth considering that secular bull markets are occasionally punctuated by recessions and medium-term corrections which generally represent buying opportunities. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 10 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Erdogan Is Refusing to Accept Economic Reality

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

Policy makers left Turkey's key interest rate unchanged at 17.75 percent when they met last month, compared with economists' forecasts for an increase to 18.75 percent.

With inflation running at 15.85 percent, that leaves the real interest rate below 2 percent -- an inadequate response to consumer prices accelerating at three times the central bank's target rate.

The stakes are high. Turkey's domestic institutions have more than $40 billion of dollar- and euro-denominated bonds and loans maturing by 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. Every lurch lower in the lira makes servicing those debts more expensive.

Meantime, foreign banks have exposure to Turkey worth about $224 billion, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements. If the U.S. imposes economic sanctions in retaliation for Turkey's refusal to free American pastor Andrew Brunson, arrested almost two years ago and accused of supporting terrorism, they may be forced to cut those exposures.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Turkey had, at least until recently a GDP of $850 billion, but its total of external debts has been trending higher for years and now sits at $467 billion. That’s an external debt to GDP ratio of 55% which is before domestic debts are considered.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 10 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China, Russia prepare for strategic security talks in Moscow as pressure from United States grows

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

After Chinese President Xi Jinping consolidated his leadership position with the removal of a two-term limit on the presidency and Putin won re-election in March, “the basic building blocks for future cooperation on security issues are somewhat more solid”, said Elina Sinkkonen, a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

“Such language, together with the US sanctions on Russia and trade issues with China certainly influence top level calculations in Moscow and Beijing,” she said.

Alex Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said the two neighbours had also seen their interests becoming increasingly overlapped in areas ranging from security in Central Asia to the future of Afghanistan, Africa and North Korea.

“Both countries want to keep each other in the loop, explain their intentions and cooperate when possible”, he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The enemy of my enemy is my friend is about as old an adage in geopolitics as I can think of.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 01 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China trip report July 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

This was another highly enjoyable and educative trip to China for the Treacy family. One of the reasons we love visiting Guangzhou is because it is close to the factories Mrs. Treacy deals with but is also the gastronomic capital of China. The city is replete with wonderful dining options and the quality of food on offer is of a high standard. I’ll write a separate review of restaurants on another occasion.

This poster is in just about every public space from railway stations to the tube, to the barriers around building sites in Guangzhou. The first question I asked myself is why it needs to be in English as well as Chinese. Internet searches using English language terms do not return results even if one is using Baidu or other Chinese search engines and the vast majority of the domestic population does not read English. Therefore, the message is meant for a wider audience or the use of English is intended as a form of legitimisation of the ideals expressed.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 17 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review July 17th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 16 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Global Strategy Q3 2018

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Erste Group which may be of interest. Here is a section on the Eurozone:

We expect GDP growth in the euro zone to stabilize in the second half in range of around +0.4% to +0.5% q/q. The recent weakness in the euro should support export growth, even though the trade dispute is certain to weigh on foreign trade. A sustained steady uptrend in credit growth in the household and corporate sectors should support growth in domestic demand and investment spending in H2. We are forecasting GDP growth of +2.3% for the euro zone in 2018. 

We expect consumer price inflation in rise moderately in 2018 to an average of +1.6%. Considerable uncertainty remains regarding the extent to which the ongoing recovery will be reflected in higher core inflation rates. The trend in core inflation was at times below expectations, inter alia due to the regional fragmentation of the labor market.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

It is arguable whether the European Union is ready for the end of quantitative easing but the ECB is ending its quantitative easing program anyway. It has legitimate concerns about the distorting influence of negative yields on both the economy and the bond market. However, it is quite likely that the end of purchases will have deleterious effect on the economy and most particularly for the peripheral economies.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 16 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review June 22nd 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

I realise this summary at 4600 words is getting rather lengthy which is why I decided to right another book to more fully explore the issues represented by the rise of populism and what that means for markets and the global economic order. I’ve agreed an August/September deadline so hopefully it will be available this year.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 12 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

MercadoLibre Shrugs Off Amazon With Brick and Mortar Focus

This article by Carolina Millan and Ed Hammond for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

"Our way of competing successfully is to look at all the players, see what they have that we think is great, and if we can incorporate that into our model, we will, but mostly play our game," Galperin said while speaking from Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley conference, and musing about this year’s global soccer championship. "As you know, we’re looking at the World Cup -- we try to play our game and use our advantages and our strengths. We have a great network of sellers, a great brand, we’re investing very heavily, we already have scale."

Shares of MercadoLibre gained as much as 2.2 percent in New York, the most intraday in almost a week.

It’s also betting on brick and mortar investments to improve service. Earlier this year, MercadoLibre announced a partnership for a 38,000-square meter distribution center in the greater Buenos Aires area. In addition, the company, which is providing loans to merchants and payment processing platforms, is working on a digital wallet that offers returns on whatever money is left, Galperin said. Infrastructure -- notoriously poor in Latin America -- is also a priority.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Many commentators have made the point that social media companies require broadband by either mobile or fixed line access to generate income from a market and therefore have an interest in promoting internet access. However, that is equally true of online retail. Wherever ubiquitous internet access is available online retail flourishes, along with its disruptive influence on the conventional retail sector. These maps of the internet’s pervasiveness may be of interest. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 12 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Netflix Crowned New King of TV, Toppling HBO in Emmy Nominations

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

Netflix’s accolades follow a rapid ascent in the television world. After its start two decades ago as a DVD-by-mail operation, the company has become a Hollywood powerhouse, signing popular producers, comedians and actors for original content. The company spends about $8 billion a year on new shows and films, far exceeding HBO and other competitors.

“Netflix has proven to be a welcoming home to A-list talent,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Paul Sweeney. “And they have the checkbook to back it up.”

Other streaming services are getting more Emmy recognition, includingAmazon.com Inc. and Hulu. “The Handmaid’s Tale” contributed to 27 nominations for Hulu, while “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” helped Amazon collect 22.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Netflix is another company that has gone for scale ahead of profitability in the hope that it will be able to garner critical mass and market share before its competitors in the legacy sector of cable and theatres sector have time to catch up. So far, the strategy has worked and many people, myself included, have traded their cable/satellite TV for the convenience of Netflix.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 11 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Goldman Says Market Melancholy Is Recipe for Big Earnings Season

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

Relax, says Goldman Sachs -- enough has changed that a replay is unlikely. Bulls should take heart, says David Kostin, the firm’s chief U.S. equity strategist, because whatever euphoria infected markets in the first part of the year has long ago dissipated. Hedge fund clients who were aggressively positioned heading into April are more conservative now, with exposures sitting near the bottom of their 12-month range.

“Going into Q1 earnings season, it was peak optimism,” Jeff Schulze, an investment strategist at ClearBridge Investments in New York, said by phone. “Now you have exactly the opposite situation where that optimism has been converted to pessimism.

As long as companies can hit those estimates, I think the market will reward those, rather than punishing them.”

Fundamentally, the second quarter will look a lot like the first as far as results go. S&P 500 companies are forecast to report 20 percent growth from a year ago and sales are likely to rise 8 percent, mirroring the previous period, which was the best since 2011.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The media’s number one story today has been the tariffs and the prospect of an all-out trade war between China and the USA. At the same time the USA is entering into this situation while engaged in fiscal stimulus while China is tightening to close out speculation in the shadow banking system. That has contributed to very different performance in their respective stock markets.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 06 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Art accelerates past wine to take the chequered investment flag

Thanks to a subscriber for this report by Frank Knight which may be of interest and includes a number of interesting graphics. Here is a section:

This time last year art was almost at the back of the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index (KFLII), but 12 months later it has moved through the field to overtake wine and claim first place with growth of 21% to Q1 2018. Salvator Mundi, a work by the Old Master Leonardo da Vinci, turbo charged the headlines when it was sold for a staggering $450m last year, but paintings by less well-known artists have also been notching up multi-million dollar results, says Sebastian Duthy, of Art Market Research. “Prices for works by Impressionists and post-war artists have dominated auction sales for the past two decades. But this picture has been changing, with works by some contemporary artists appreciating rapidly in the last few years. “In March, artist Mark Bradford hit the headlines when his painting ‘Helter Skelter I’ was sold by ex-tennis star John McEnroe for a record $10.4m at Phillips in London. In May, rapper Sean Combs, aka P Diddy, paid $21.1m at Sotheby’s for a painting by artist Kerry James Marshall. The figure represents an 800-fold increase on the $25,000 paid for the same work in 1997.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Asset price inflation has been the singular success story generated by quantitative easing. The upward trend in the price of collectibles is a function both of growing economies but also of the quantity of money chasing a limited number of items. Since inflation has not been a major factor over the course of the last decade then money supply growth and the rise of a new wealthy class, not least in China, has fueled this market. With central bank balance sheets now contracting, it is a big question whether this growth will consider next year.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 06 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Imperial Takes on Juul as Big Tobacco Faces Upstart Rival

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

The rise of a new entrant in the U.S. and last year’s 18 percent decline in the cigarette market in Japan, where heated-tobacco devices have become popular, have investors worried that an industry known for steady profit growth faces an increasingly uncertain future. Imperial’s shares have fallen 17 percent in the past year.

Cooper told investors this week that Japan was the only market where she expects rapid disruption for the tobacco industry and that the popularity of e-cigarettes in the U.K. and the U.S. means overall nicotine consumption is growing there.

Juul gives vapers a hit comparable to that of a cigarette because it contains benzoic acid, which makes it easier to deliver nicotine at a lower temperature without being harsh to the throat. After its success in the U.S., the startup vape brand is expanding internationally. To fund that effort, the company is said to be raising $1.2 billion in a financing round that would value it at $15 billion. Juul’s slim device, which looks like a flash memory drive, has captured the imagination of young consumers as word spreads via social media.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Defensive sectors tend to do well at the end of cyclical bull markets because the reliability of their dividends suddenly become attractive when growth stocks eventually lose their lustre. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 04 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Replaced His Acura's Windshield. Then the Self-Driving Feature Tugged Him Into Oncoming Traffic

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

“I thought [the repair} was a pretty standard procedure,” Ash told CBC News. But after the repair was completed, when he went to drive the car, “It was actually pulling me into oncoming traffic. … it was a startling feeling to have the steering wheel actually pulling you into traffic.” Ash said he was able to control the car and get it back into lane.

According to Ash, a technician at the glass shop pointed at the camera, but Ash doesn’t recall hearing that person suggesting having the camera re-calibrated, which would most likely be at the dealership. Ash told CBC there was fine print in the invoice that talked about having the camera re-calibrated — fine print being the thing almost no one ever reads until there’s a problem. And the manual, which many people do read, says nothing about this.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It is to be hoped that assassinating the driver for using an independent vendor is a bug rather than a feature of self-driving cars. On a more serious note the obvious path to profitability for car companies is to make money on maintenance and repairs if they are constrained by the profitability of the vehicles. That is particularly relevant for electric cars where companies are losing money on every vehicle.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
July 02 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mexico's young democracy is facing its sternest test yet

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

The most troubling and tragic threat to Mexico’s democracy is violence. Since campaigning began in September 2017, 132 politicians (jpg), including 48 official and aspiring candidates, have been killed, according to Ellekt, a consulting firm.

The most recent murder happened on June 25 in the southern state of Oaxaca. Emigdio López Avendaño, a candidate for local representative from AMLO’s party, MORENA, was gunned down along with four of his supporters.

The level of violence represents a huge spike from the run-up to last presidential election, in 2012, when less than a dozen politicians were killed, according to Ellekt. The firm’s director, Rubén Salazar, attributes the increase to state governors’ waning control over municipalities. Thanks to free elections, voters have been kicking out incumbents from governor’s offices around the country—a step forward for democracy. But at the municipal level, it’s had the perverse result of clearing the way for local strongmen to hijack the election process, sometimes at gunpoint.

“These changes have happened faster than the transformation of the political and democratic culture at the local level ,” he said in an interview in Artistegui Noticias (link in Spanish).

Eoin Treacy's view -

The three primary tenets of improving governance that we look for in an investment destination are that it have respect for minority shareholder interests, an independent judiciary and a free press. Those attributes increase the potential that economic growth will flow through to the stock market and that you will be able to get your money out when it comes time to sell.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 29 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Amazon's impact on pharmacies

Thank you for your superb service. Can you please advise your views on how vulnerable do you think the pharmacy shares are in the US after Amazon's entry to the field? Thank you in advance.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There are obvious fears that the introduction of Amazon’s business model to the pharmacy sector will have the same effect it had on the big retailers. However, I suspect the most profound effect will be felt among the smaller independent pharmacies that command about half the total US market. Here is a section from an article by bizjournals.com that may be of interest:

There are currently about 22,500 independent pharmacies in the United States, and these pharmacies dispense nearly half of the nation's retail prescription medicines, Norton says.

All told, independent pharmacies are an $81.4 billion marketplace annually. They fill 1.38 billion prescriptions a year — about 201 a day, per pharmacy — and employ 314,000 people on a full- or part-time basis.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 26 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How to read Turkey's election results

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

This weekend’s vote was, in short, a surprise. Contrary to predictions, Erdoğan won decisively, and his new presidential system has received a seal of approval from the electorate. However, the AKP’s failure to secure an absolute majority in parliament is an important message for Erdoğan. It remains to be seen whether Erdoğan will take this as an opportunity to address the long list of challenges facing Turkey and reconstruct its democracy and economy, and regain the respect that he once enjoyed internationally. The March 2019 municipal elections will be the next test of his performance.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The strength of a nation’s public institutions is what separates failed states from those that can evolve and weather a period of economic peril. Erdogan is an aspiring despot who wants to rule for life. The fact that Turks approved of his presidency but did not give his party an absolute majority suggests they favour limitations on presidential power which is in keeping with any democratic country’s constitution.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 25 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China, Europe Warn Trade War Could Trigger Global Recession

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

Later this week, the U.S. Treasury Department is expected to release fresh rules on Chinese investment in technology companies, Bloomberg reported on Monday, putting additional pressure on China -- which hit back against the plans. Chinese investment has provided jobs and tax income for the U.S., and it should view commercial activities “objectively,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing on Monday.

The U.S. is due to impose tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports from July 6, and Trump has threatened to impose levies on another $200 billion of Chinese goods. If that threat is realized, it could cut as much as half a percentage point off China’s economic growth, and also hit the American economy, economists have said.

Anxiety over the economic fallout is cutting deep in financial markets, with China’s yuan sliding to a six-month low Monday. The S&P 500 Index fell to the lowest since May and the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank for the ninth time in 10 sessions.

As if to reinforce concerns about the economic outlook, the Dutch Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis on Monday published its latest trade monitor, showing world trade momentum dropped in April to the lowest since 2015. The measure has fallen sharply since hitting a seven-year high at the start of 2018.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The EU’s export-oriented economies along with China have been some of the greatest beneficiaries of globalisation and therefore are also likely to be the primary defenders of the “multilateral trading” regime. Nevertheless, the rise of populism which I describe as a revolt against the status quo represents a challenge to that system which is currently being led by the Trump administration but represents a significant theme in an increasingly large number of countries.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 25 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Supreme Court Rules States Can Collect Sales Tax on Web Purchases

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

“Many states will pick up on those details and incorporate them into their own regulatory regimes,” said Eric Citron, an attorney who represented South Dakota. He said he expected nearly every state with a sales tax to move legislation or regulations to enforce collections. “Complete compliance will become the norm within the next year or two,” he said.

Amazon originally set up its business model to avoid state sales taxes, limiting its physical presence to a handful of warehouses. But it changed strategy to build more warehouses closer to consumers as it has relied more on its Prime two-day shipping offer—and started charging sales tax on items it sells directly.

Amazon hasn’t collected the taxes for most independent merchants who sell on its platform. About $200 billion in sales originated with independent merchants selling on Amazon world-wide last year, according to Factset analyst estimates, compared with about $116 billion in direct sales by Amazon. The company declined to comment on the ruling.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The cost of compliance is rising in just about every sector. Since the credit crisis the burden of regulatory compliance has been a significant headwind for the banking sector and it has changed the nature of how they do business. The UK’s Retail Distribution Initiative resulted in the cost of doing business rising for financial advisors. The EU’s drive to introduce GDPR has seen some company email lists drop from hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. Asking online retailers to monitor how much and how often they sell into each state will increase compliance costs regardless of whether tax is then due.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Spotlight on Australia as Banks Fuel Rally to Highest in Decade

This article by Matthew Burgess and Abhishek Vishnoi for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Rude Health
“There’s been a few shots on the trade side, but nothing has fully broken out,” said Dermot Ryan, a fund co-manager at AMP Capital in Sydney. “Ultimately, the stock market looks at the valuation and health of the sectors. The resources sector is in rude health at the moment.”

Not as Sensitive
“Australia sometimes acts as an EM by proxy, but with one key difference: it’s not as sensitive to the potential negative impact from increasing tariffs on Chinese and U.S. goods,” said Kerry Craig, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management in Melbourne. “We’re not as crucial in the supply chain as many north Asian economies. While there would be some impact on the materials sector if Chinese growth was expected to take a hit and metals demand fell, it’s more than likely that China would respond by increased infrastructure spend to keep the ship steady.”

Pretty Cheap
“The banks look pretty cheap,” for a longer-term investor, said Don Hamson, managing director at Plato Investment Management in Sydney. “It’s been a bad 18 months, but maybe we’re coming toward the end of it.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Australian financial sector has been under a cloud because of the Royal Commission's focus on overcharging in the small to medium sized enterprises sector. However, the hearings are about to refocus on relations between financial firms and people living in remote areas such as Aboriginal peoples. While that is likely to represent some political risk, it is less likely to have a large impact on the stock market.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review May 16th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

Here is a summary of my view at present:



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 20 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Germany's Largest Auto Makers Back Abolition of EU-U.S. Car Import Tariffs

This article by William Boston and Bojan Pancevski for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

That would mean scrapping the EU’s 10% tax on auto imports from the U.S. and other countries and the 2.5% duty on auto imports in the U.S. As a prerequisite, the Europeans want Mr. Trump’s threat of imposing a 25% border tax on European auto imports off the table.

Over the past few weeks, Mr. Grenell has held closed-door meetings with the chiefs of all major German automotive companies, including bilateral meetings with the CEOs of Daimler AG , BMW AG and Volkswagen AG , which operate plants in the U.S. Overall, Germany’s auto makers and suppliers provide 116,500 jobs in the U.S., according to the Association of German Automotive Manufacturers.

During these talks, which the ambassador initiated, the managers said they would back the scrapping of all import tariffs on trans-Atlantic trade in automotive products as the keystone of a broader deal covering industrial goods. The German government is on board and Mr. Grenell promised to support the idea, according to U.S. and German officials.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Trade tensions are ebbing and flowing on almost a daily basis. Efforts led by the German auto manufacturers to defray risks to their US business obviously highlight how seriously companies are taking the threat of trade friction and what it could mean for their businesses. That is particularly true in the aftermath of the diesel cheating scandal which continue to make headlines.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 20 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Starbucks Delivers the Wrong Kind of Jolt

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

So I'm paying more attention to the weak comparable sales guidance the company offered for the third quarter, and the factors it says have been weighing on sales of late.

Executives said Tuesday that in the U.S. market, Starbucks struggled to draw customers in the afternoons. This has been an ongoing problem for Starbucks, and executives haven’t demonstrated they have a clear solution. They've recently put up some TV advertising emphasizing Starbucks as an afternoon destination, and perhaps we'll soon see payoff from that.

But it'd have an easier time luring people for more than just their morning caffeine fix if it could establish itself as more of a go-to for food, not just beverages. And speaking of its menu, the chain has work to do on its signature drink offerings, too. Look at what has happened to Frappuccino sales:

Perhaps this shouldn't come as a shock, given that Frappuccinos pack a lot of calories and customers are increasingly looking for healthy choices. But Starbucks needs some new hits to give people a reason to come back through its doors, especially with so many insurgent and boutique coffeehouses chasing the same customers.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Starbucks generates approximately 70% of its revenue from North America while 15% comes from China. The company’s mix of coffee, sweet and/or fatty treats and free Wi-Fi was a winning strategy before the evolution of 4G and ubiquitous web access. It used to be that you would go to Starbucks to sit down, look cool and show off your new gadget while accessing the Wi-Fi. That’s just not enough to inspire users any more.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 19 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Xi Can Make Life Difficult for U.S. Companies After Trump Threat

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

Pressuring companies through bureaucratic means “is a practice that the Chinese have used for a long time and our companies are on guard,” William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China, said on Bloomberg Television. “This is definitely a concern.”

South Korean and Japanese companies have all felt this effect, with their businesses in China hurt as part of a dispute between states.

In 2017, following the Seoul government’s decision to deploy an anti-missile system that China opposed, China forced South Korean retailer Lotte Shopping Co. to suspend operations at many of its hypermarkets in the country for alleged violations of fire-safety rules. The company eventually decided to pull out of China, but still can’t sell all its units and continues to rack up losses. In total due to the dispute, Lotte Group lost an estimated 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion) in the year from March 2017, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The backlash also led to boycotts, with consumers shunning cars from Hyundai Motor Co. and cosmetics from Amorepacific Group. Chinese tourists cancelled Korean vacations, forcing airlines to scrap flights and hotels to slash rates. The Bank of Korea estimated that 0.4 percentage point was cut from 2017’s gross domestic product.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China has such a wide trade surplus with the USA that it is going to be hard to meet the increased level of tariffs the USA is proposing, without greatly increasing the levels on the goods it does import. However, there are additional measures the country can take to express its dissatisfaction.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 18 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Emerging Asia Hit by Biggest Foreign Investor Exodus Since 2008

This article by Yumi Teso for Garfield Clinton Reynolds, and Adam Haigh for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“It’s not a great set-up for emerging markets,” James Sullivan, head of Asia ex-Japan equities research at JPMorgan Chase & Co., told Bloomberg TV from Singapore.

“We’ve still only priced in about two thirds of the U.S. rate increases we expect to see over the next 12 months. So, the Fed is continuing to get more hawkish, but the market still hasn’t caught up.”

While many emerging-market investors and analysts have praised Asian economic fundamentals, pointing to world-leading growth rates and political stability, some are starting to raise red flags as global liquidity starts to shrink. The Bloomberg JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index sank to a 2018 low on Monday, extending two weeks of declines after the Fed and European Central Bank both took steps toward policy normalization.

Yet some still remain optimistic. Bank of America Merrill Lynch expects some of the regional currencies including the baht and the Philippine peso to appreciate slightly by the end of the year, a research note sent Monday showed. Six of 10 best- performing emerging currencies so far this year are in Asia, led by the ringgit’s 1.2 percent advance and the Chinese yuan’s 1.1 percent gain.

Eoin Treacy's view -

By tightening monetary policy after leading the world in easing, the USA is effectively exporting its monetary policy to the rest of the world. More than few of the more troubled emerging markets have had to move aggressively to support their currencies but continued selling pressure suggests they probably have more work to do to shore up investor confidence.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 12 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Truckers Protest High Gas Prices in Spotty Strikes Across China

This article by Te-Ping Chen for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

While trucker protests in China have occurred in the past amid complaints of road tolls, fuel prices and excessive fees, Geoff Crothall, spokesman for the labor monitoring group, said he couldn’t recall trucker protests of a similar scale. He estimated thousands of truckers participated.

As they have the world over, gas prices have risen in China this year, by 8.6%, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce. Taxes and other fees generally make gas more expensive in China than the U.S., and on top of that the government sets the prices, lagging changes in international oil markets by 10 days or more.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which sets those prices, announced Friday that it would cut the retail price of gasoline and diesel by 130 yuan ($20.29) per ton for gasoline and 125 yuan per ton for diesel. The new prices, effective this past Saturday, reflect a recent retreat in global oil prices. In the central province of Anhui, a transportation hub where protests occurred, gasoline now costs $3.99 a gallon, and diesel $4.04 a gallon.

Rising fuel costs have elsewhere prompted worker frustrations to spill over, most notably in Brazil, where protesters blocked highways and halted shipments of food, fuel and medicine before the government called in the military to help end the strike. Other trucker protests have also recently broken out in Iran.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Trucking has been all over the news recently with strikes in China and Brazil over high fuel prices and low pay while the USA is in dire need of 50,000 drivers.  These trends point to the fact the USA is close to full employment so attracting workers is becoming an issue while all three countries share upward pressure on wages. Higher shipping rates are inflationary because it will put pressure on companies to cover the increasing costs by raising prices for the end customer.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 07 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Brazil Joins Turkey With Stepped-Up Currency Defenses Amid Rout

This article by Tugce Ozsoy, Julia Leite and Ben Bartenstein for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Turkey and Brazil intensified efforts to protect their currencies from speculative attacks by investors as emerging markets face their biggest test since the 2013 taper tantrum.

Turkey surprised analysts by tightening monetary policy Thursday for the third time in less than two months, while Brazil’s central bank sold extra foreign-exchange swap contracts for the second time this week, boosting investors’ protection again further declines in the currency. The lira surged and the real briefly pared losses after the actions.

Thursday’s actions are the latest in a series of efforts to shore up defenses in developing nations as policy makers from Argentina to India try to cope with higher U.S. interest rates, growing budget deficits, accelerating inflation and political instability. Emerging markets haven’t been in this precarious a position since five years ago, when concern the developed world was pulling back on monetary stimulus sparked a rout in stocks and currencies.

"The failure to act preemptively to address macro imbalances has forced those central banks to take desperate measures to stem the pressure on their currencies," said Delphine Arrighi, a money manager at Old Mutual in London. "The risk is a tightening of financial conditions in EM that could ultimately impact growth negatively."

Turkey raised its one-week repo rate by 1.25 percentage point to 17.75 percent, a bigger increase than any analyst surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted. The move signaled policy makers trying to clamp down on double-digit inflation are willing to stand up against political pressure to keep borrowing costs low.

“Is this the start of a new era of Turkish central bank policy -- actually moving ahead of the market? Let’s hope so,”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Generally speaking when a central bank intervenes to support its currency it has to persist in that policy until it achieves success, lest it be accused of wasting money. So far, Turkey’s efforts to stave off an additional near-term Lira decline have been successful and the currency has stabilized below TRY5 to the US Dollar.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 07 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Requiem for a construction bubble

This article by Pete Wargent appeared in Livewire and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Apartment construction to fall sharply
We have significant evidence to show that new apartment projects are struggling to get finance approved, and therefore total residential construction is expected to slow in H2 2018. Dwellings approved but not yet commenced have already increased to the highest level on record, driven by apartment project approvals

Apartment default rising
Liaison with industry contracts indicates that settlement defaults for some of the major developers have increased, particularly in relation to offshore buyers. The resale market is considered healthy enough at this juncture for most developers not to be materially impacted, however there is a strong likelihood that residential construction activity will now fall

Employment growth to fall
Construction now directly employs just under 1.2 million persons in Australia, recently capturing a record high in absolute terms and, at 9.6 per cent of employment, the construction sector is at its most bloated in approximately a century4.

About ¾ of construction jobs are accounted for by the residential sector5. There is significant potential for employment growth to slow sharply over the next 12 months

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Royal Commission has been a major source of uncertainty for the banking sector in Australia over the last year as rampant overcharging across a broad swathe of their businesses has ben brought to light.

The S&P/ASX 300 Banks Index hit all-time peak in 2015 and following a rebound has been trending lower since last year. It is now approaching the 2016 lows and while oversold in the short term a break in the progression of lower rally highs will be required to question supply dominance.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
June 01 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Dollar Tantrums, Original Sin

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

The Original Sin index ranges from zero (“sinless”) to one (“sin-full” or fully dependent on foreign currency debt). We focus on sovereign and corporate bond issuance in ASEAN and India, and track how the index behaved during the Quantitative Easing periods and after the taper tantrums. 

We detect increases in “original sin” in Indonesia and the Philippines in recent years, but find no visible increase in Thailand, Malaysia or India (see Figures 4 to 9). 

Indonesia’s original sin index has been steadily rising, with a peak of 0.41 as of May 2018 (see Fig 5). This suggests that Indonesia corporations and the sovereign are borrowing more in foreign currencies in recent years, as the Fed normalizes policy rates. For Philippines, the original sin index rebounded in 2018 to 2009 levels after declining for the past two years (see Fig 7). This suggests that the financial stress is a more recent phenomenon, as investors are more worried about the peso risks (on higher inflation and widening current account deficit). 

On the other hand, Malaysia and India have seen a decline in their original sin index, suggesting a gradual reduction in their foreign currency exposure in recent years (see Figures 6 & 9). Thailand’s index has been very low since the early 2000s, barely reaching 0.1, reflecting its low interest rates and abundant domestic liquidity, given the massive current account surplus (see Fig 8).

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The ASEAN sector has been under pressure of late but not nearly to the same extent as Turkey, Argentina and Brazil. The rising US Dollar has pressured many emerging markets because as interest rates appreciate and Wall Street remains in a reasonably stable bull market environment, the relative attraction of US assets improves. That has resulted in repatriation of carry trades.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 24 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Petrobras Punished by Wall Street for Caving on Fuel Prices

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

The reaction was swift and severe. Petrobras Chief Executive Officer Pedro Parente woke up this morning to a wave of downgrades from the same Wall Street analysts who had been praising him since he took the helm of the state-controlled oil producer two years ago.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group AG all cut their recommendations after Parente announced a 10 percent cut in wholesale diesel prices late Wednesday to help the government negotiate an end to a nationwide truckers strike that has wrought havoc on Latin America’s largest economy.

“The just announced diesel price reduction in response to truckers’ protest is likely to materially damage Petrobras’ perceived independence in a way that may be difficult to recover,” Frank McGann, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, wrote in a report where he cut his recommendation on the company’s American depositary receipts to neutral and his price objective to $17.

“We think that the investment case for Petrobras has been seriously damaged, and the risk profile has risen.”

While Parente said Petrobras isn’t bowing to pressure and that the temporary measure doesn’t mean a change in its pricing policy, shares extended losses in after hours trading to as low as $13.40 in late New York trading.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Petrobras is a major constituent in global high yield benchmarks so its decision to cut price against a rising oil price environment is not especially good news. Along with Turkey and Argentina, the risk in the high yield sector has increased this year.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 23 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Turkey Central Bank Raises Interest Rates to Halt Lira's Slump

This article by Onur Ant and Benjamin Harvey for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Turkey’s central bank raised interest rates to halt a slide in the lira that’s seen the currency post a series of record lows.

The central bank raised its late liquidity window rate by 300 basis points to 16.5 percent, after an extraordinary meeting of its monetary policy committee on Wednesday to “discuss recent developments.” It kept other rates unchanged, describing the move as a “powerful monetary tightening” and saying it’s ready to continue using all instruments.

The lira reversed Wednesday’s losses after the bank’s move. It was trading 0.7 percent stronger at 4.6367 per dollar as of 7:32 p.m. in Istanbul. The currency earlier fell as much as 5.5 percent.

The central bank acted after three weeks of turmoil on Turkey’s currency markets. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who’s seeking re-election next month, has publicly opposed any moves to raise interest rates, while investors and economists argued that was the only way to halt the rout.

Erdogan told Bloomberg in an interview this month that he’ll seek more control over monetary policy if he wins the vote.

The central bank’s rate-setting committee hadn’t been scheduled to meet until June 7. After news broke of its emergency session on Wednesday, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Twitter that it’s time to restore the credibility of Turkey’s monetary policy.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Lira has been accelerating lower and dropped to test TRY5 to the US Dollar this morning, before the central bank finally intervened by raising the interest rate. 16.5% represents a substantial premium over anything available in Europe and is aimed squarely at stemming foreign capital flight.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 23 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tiffany Catapults to All-Time High as Sales Blow Away Estimates

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

The shares jumped as much as 17 percent to $119.60 in New York trading, an all-time intraday high and the biggest one-day leap in almost a decade.

The overhaul started by Chief Executive Officer Alessandro Bogliolo consolidated a rebound under way when he took over last year, with revenue growth last quarter at the highest since 2012. The former Diesel executive aims to woo a younger clientele with refreshed jewelry lines and generate hype for the 181-year-old brand. The revitalization attempt includes redesigned stores and back-end improvements in procurement and technology operations.

“We are particularly encouraged by the breadth of sales growth across most regions and all product categories,” Bogliolo said in a statement.

Global same-store sales climbed 7 percent, in the quarter ended April 30 when holding currency constant, compared with the 2.6 percent growth projected by analysts, according to Consensus Metrix.

On that basis, sales rose 9 percent in North America, Asia- Pacific and Japan, all beating analysts’ predictions. Asia was particularly strong in China and Korea. The weak spot was Europe, which saw a 9 percent decline due to reduced spending by overseas tourists, the New York-based company said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There has been a high degree of commonality in the luxury goods sector this year as the Trump tax cuts unleashed some pent-up consumer demand. Front loading purchases of goods likely to rise in value in anticipation of inflation has also been a factor in the outperformance of the sector. Additionally, luxury goods manufacturers have been at pains to try and appeal to a younger demographic.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 22 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Campbell Soup May Be Downgraded by Moody's Amid CEO Departure

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

Moody’s Investors Service said it may cut Campbell Soup Co.’s credit rating after the company posted a steep drop in profitability and its chief executive officer suddenly stepped down.

All of the company’s ratings are under review, including its Baa2 senior unsecured rating, Moody’s said in a report Monday. That’s only two steps above speculative-grade. Moody’s did not say how many levels the downgrade could amount to.

Campbell Soup has short- and long-term debt of $9.84 billion and its leverage as measured by debt-to-Ebitda -- earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization -- was about five times at the March closing of the Snyder’s-Lance Inc. acquisition. Moody’s says it’s now doubting that the company can meet its expectations to reduce that metric to below four times within two years via cash flow and cost savings.

“The sharp and unexpected decline in profitability in the third quarter casts serious doubt that Campbell will be able to meet its deleveraging plans following the Snyder’s-Lance acquisition,” Moody’s analyst Brian Weddington said in the report. “Additionally, the departure of the CEO adds further uncertainty about whether the company will respond successfully to its operating challenges in the near term.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Campbell Foods is not a dividend aristocrat because there have been occasions in the last 30 years when it cut the dividend. On each of those occasions it stopped raising the payout before the decision to cut. That is at least part of the reason that the share has been falling over the last year but does not explain the fall from the peak in 2016.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 22 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy's President in Spotlight as Government Quest Turns Chaotic

This article by John Follain for Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

Italian President Sergio Mattarella takes center-stage as he weighs whether to give law professor Giuseppe Conte a chance to lead a populist government following a last- minute wobble over the candidate’s suitability for the post.

Mattarella is due to announce his decision as early as Wednesday after Conte, 53, was put forward by Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant League. A flurry of reports in Italian media cast doubt on Conte’s premiership before it even began, prompting Five Star and the League to reaffirm Conte’s candidacy on Tuesday evening.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The marriage of two populist parties which are essentially from the two opposing extremes of the populist field i.e. cut taxes versus boost benefits, is proving more fraught with difficulty than might initially have been apparent. They are still likely to try and install a compromise candidate but there is no doubting that strong personalities are to the fore.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on valuations, Dow/Gold and anti-trust:

Thanks for your comments which are very interesting, especially your focus on technology and its potential to alter radically the investment landscape.

I have 2 points of my own to make. Using gold as the standard of value for stocks is interesting but I would think valuation metrics are more useful. As you know the Shiller PE, derived by comparing the S&P to the 10-year moving average of real corporate earnings- GAAP (not adjusted)- is at the highest level since the TMT bubble popped in 2000. The ratio of market value (the Wilshire 5000+) to GDP was at all-time highs in January. We have lived through a decade of extraordinary monetary policy (almost zero interest rates and QE), which is now being reversed. I think S&P market value to S&P sales may also be at all-time highs, but I may be wrong about that.

So the starting point is pretty rich. The PE is at 25 times 4 quarter GAAP earnings, implying a 4% earnings yield. The Moody's Baa 20-year bond yield is around 4.6% so the equity premium has been negative the last 5-6 years for the first time since 1961 when the Bloomberg series started. On average equity holders over this period have earned a premium of 1.62% to reward them for investing in the riskier part of the capital structure, but now they must pay for the privilege.

However, this does not address your major point about the enormous earning potential of companies involved in future technology. Now a standard criticism of your point is that competition between businesses will reduce the excess profits to "normal profits". What economists call "consumer surplus" consists of the extra value that is transferred from businesses to consumers for free due to the operation of the competitive market which eliminates excess profits.

This flows from the ideal world of independent competitive enterprises. Anti-trust laws in the USA have been around since 1890 (Sherman Anti-Trust Act) and were designed to cause real world behaviour to better approximate the theoretical. 

What I have found interesting is that Anti-Trust is no longer as big a deal as it was when I was a student. In fact, when Mark Zuckerberg testified he named 5 or 6 tech companies that are competitors of Facebook's. In this list he mentioned WhatsApp and another company (Telegram?) that he has already bought and perhaps one or two others. He also mentioned Skype, which Microsoft has bought. The big tech companies have the where with all to buy smaller rapidly growing companies and maintain tight oligopolies and thus earn outsize profits. I doubt whether many of these purchases would have passed muster from the Department of Justice's Anti-Trust division one or two generations ago.

So the key may be to watch politics and see whether the populists at some point turn their attention to Anti-Trust.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this detailed email which has given me much food for thought. As you point out there is a tendency among the producers of widgets to encounter competition which reduces the price to often unprofitable levels. At that point some of the weaker producers go out of business and a process of consolidation unfolds. The competitive Amazon marketplaces is a good example of this where producers of widgets compete on price to gain market share only for many to disappear after a relatively short time to be replaced by lower cost producers.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Beyond the Dollar Everything's Just Noise for Emerging Markets

This article by Netty Ismail, Ben Bartenstein, Lilian Karunungan and Alex Nicholson for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The combination of higher debt levels and share of debt denominated in foreign currency means many emerging markets are now more exposed to dollar appreciation than in 2009, amid signs the robust growth in developing economies may be slowing, the Institute of International Finance said in a May 17 note.

While the U.S. Treasury will sell some of its largest offerings since 2010 this week, a slew of Fed speakers may reiterate plans for gradual rate increases.

The selloff in developing nation currencies is hurting other assets.

Emerging-market local-currency government bonds declined for a sixth week, the worst run since 2016. Developing-nation stocks retreated 2.3 percent last week.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The last time there was angst expressed at the impact a resurgent Dollar would have on emerging markets was in 2015. The same arguments are being made today and it appears that the figures for US Dollar denominated debt are even higher.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 15 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

"Random Gleanings on a Trip to Traverse City"

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from Jeffrey Saut at Raymond James. Here is a section:

The rude crude rally has not gone unnoticed by the gasoline market where there is the potential for gasoline prices to spike this summer with prices at a four-year high amid record demand (prices).  So far such price increases have not bled into the inflation figures, but the truckers are seeing the pinch.  To wit (as reprised by David Lutz): Trucking companies increased leverage is applying added pressure to cargo costs as accelerating economic growth bolsters transportation demand and exacerbates driver scarcity.  With first-quarter trucking spot rates up 27 percent from a year earlier, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, freight expenses are crimping profits at companies.

To us, the creeping inflation, and marginally higher interest rates, suggests the economy is going to strengthen in the back half of 2018.  Certainly that is what the stock market is telegraphing as earnings continue to ramp-up.  As we write, the D-J Industrial Average has made it eight consecutive winning sessions, leaving the equity market very overbought in the short term.  Also worth consideration is that the Industrials rarely make it more than nine straight sessions in any one direction.  Consequently, there could be a pause in the upward onslaught or even an attempt to pull stocks back.  However, we think the S&P 500 (SPX/2730.13) should be well supported at the 2670-2685 level and that should contain any decline barring unexpected news.  Also waxing bullishly is the TD Ameritrade Investors Movement Index, which is back down to its 2015-2016 levels.  That means investors are not very optimistic currently and, therefore, not buying stocks.  Further, there was over $8 billion of money flows into prime money market funds last week.  These are not the kind of metrics one sees at stock market tops.  However, it’s May option expiration week, which has been bearish for the last nine years, and with stocks stretched for the aforementioned reason, look for some kind of pause/pullback that does not get very far.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

As I spoke about in last night’s video/audio there is a risk of some consolidation following the impressive rally over the last couple of weeks.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 15 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch May 15th 2018

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

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

If the USA’s increasingly powerful position as a swing producer of oil and gas is reducing the need for it to play the part of the global police force then what can we conclude from China launching its first domestically produced aircraft carrier this week?



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 15 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review April 10th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

Here is a summary of my view at present:



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 14 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Federal Sports-Wagering Ban Overturned by U.S. Supreme Court

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

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law that bars gambling on individual sporting events in most of the country, in a ruling likely to unleash a race among the states to attract billions of dollars in legal wagers.

Ruling in a New Jersey case, the court said the 1992 law unconstitutionally forced states to maintain laws that outlaw gambling. Nevada is the only state where single-game wagering is now legal.

Sports gambling could begin in a matter of weeks in casinos and racetracks in New Jersey, which instigated the legal fight by repealing its gambling prohibition. Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and West Virginia could follow soon, and the number of states might reach double digits by the end of the year.

The vote was 6-3 to strike down the entirety of the federal prohibition. Americans place $150 billion a year in illegal sports bets, according to the casino-backed American Gaming Association. The research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming puts the number at $50 billion to $60 billion, not counting bets among friends.

The ruling starts a new era for the largest sports leagues, which fought New Jersey in court even while moving toward embracing legalized sports wagering. In January, a National Basketball Association executive told New York lawmakers the leagues should get 1 percent of all bets. The NBA says it would prefer a new federal law to set nationwide standards.

Eoin Treacy's view -

However one feels about investing in vice, there is no doubt that people like to gamble and the removal of the Federal prohibition will be a major benefit to casino. Since there was never a prohibition on online gambling this news is unlikely to be of particular interest to that segment while the biggest losers are likely to be Indian casinos which have been able to skirt the law for the last few decades.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 14 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How the World's Biggest Companies Are Fine-Tuning the Robot Revolution

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

The big question surrounding automation has long been whether robots would compete with workers or help them. Initially, workers feared robots would destroy jobs across the economy. Scholarly research and real-life experience has eased that concern, although some types of workers and industries are ending up on the losing side.

Today, the question is more precise: In which industries does automation help both employer and employee?

The companies that may have cracked the code are those that can assign repetitive, precise tasks to robots, freeing human workers to undertake creative, problem-solving duties that machines aren’t very good at. That’s particularly relevant for manufacturing, the food sector and service sectors such as billing, where timetable spreadsheets can be automated, freeing up workers to do higher-value tasks.

With demand for Bosch-built steering controls high, the company has used automation to increase its output, leading it to hire more people to perform the type of checks Mr. Rösch conducts.

“We looked for 20,000 new hires last year,” a mix of new positions and replacement staff, said Stefan Assmann, one of the company’s chief engineers, to join Bosch’s total 400,000 employees. Bosch factories world-wide now make use of 140 robotic arms, up from zero in 2011. “We can’t see robots having a negative impact on our workforce,” Mr. Assmann said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

If robotics and automation are helping to improve productivity and leading to expanded employment then there must be another reason why factories have been closing and people losing their jobs. The answer is pretty simple when we hear of workers having to train their replacements from overseas before they are fired.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 10 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Stunning victory for Mahathir's party in Malaysian election

This article from Bloomberg appeared in the Edge of Singapore and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

What comes next is unclear. Mahathir helms an unwieldy four-party coalition that includes Malaysia’s largest ethnic Chinese party, and he plans to step aside once de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim gets out of jail on a sodomy charge. Mahathir said he would seek a pardon for Anwar.

“I have to manage four presidents of four different parties,” Mahathir said. “It’s going to be a headache.”

Mahathir has pledged to set term limits for prime minister and reduce its power, while promising to scrap the GST within 100 days in power.

It’s uncertain whether the outcome will fundamentally reshape race relations in Malaysia. Najib’s party had long staked its legitimacy on providing preferential treatment for the bumiputera, or “sons of the soil,” which include ethnic Malays and indigenous groups.

Mak Hon Hoe, a 46-year-old ethnic Chinese voter, on Wednesday deplored the fact that Malaysians were separated in different racial categories.

“I want to see a fairer system,” he said while casting his ballot. “Race is still an issue. We want a Malaysian identity.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The 1MDB scandal has finally brought down Nijab Razak’s government but it is unlikely that the figurehead of 92-year old Mahathir is going to be enough to hold together a disparate coalition of four smaller parties. The new administration is going to have to move swiftly and definitively to stamp its intent to improve governance if it is to have any hope of seeing out its term.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 09 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the long-term video and Economic Surprise Index

Coffee and your long-term video. my start on Saturday morning...really enjoying and appreciating it. I am confused. There is a chart which is making me feel slightly nervous. It is the Citigroup Eurozone Economic Surprise Index. When comparing the Economic Surprise Index with the Dax on the 20-year overlay chart I see lower lows and a 20 year low on the Surprise Index and a nicely higher trending Dax. The European PMI indices show economic growth. It looks like Europe is slowly recovering. What causes the Economic Surprise Index to be so low? should we sound the alarm? Kind regards.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this interesting question and I am delighted the Long-Term video is a valuable part of your weekend routine. To the best of my knowledge economic surprise indices are calculated on a cumulative basis so if economic figures surprise on the downside on a persistent basis then you get a downtrend. Eurozone GDP has been increasing but not at the pace expected by economists and that is probably why the index is so weak.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
May 08 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy Set for New Government -- Then a Snap

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

5. Who would likely win?
Opinion polls show the League -- the rebranded, formerly secession Northern League, once known for deriding residents of the country’s south as beggars, thieves and good-for-nothing rednecks -- has gained the most from two months of bargaining. Its support rose to 24.4 percent from 17.4 percent in the March vote, according to an SWG opinion poll carried out May 3-6. Five Star is still the biggest single party, slipping half a percentage point to 32.2 percent. (A center-right alliance including the League and the Forza Italia party of Silvio Berlusconi, the four-time former prime minister, rose to 38.5 percent from 37.1 percent.) If Salvini’s League strengthens in the next election, he could decide to break with Berlusconi and finally form a coalition with Di Maio. This time around, Di Maio’s insistence on excluding Berlusconi was a primary obstacle to a populist coalition government.

6. Why does this matter?
Italy is facing political decisions and economic problems that affect other nations too. At more than 130 percent of gross domestic product, Italy’s debt is second-highest in the euro area, after Greece. The European Commission called the debt “a major source of vulnerability” for Italy and has been overseeing the country’s efforts to reduce spending. Underlying problems remain in Italy’s banks, including cronyism with many lenders too entwined with politicians, unions and foundations of all shapes. Mattarella has warned that the timing of the next elections could jeopardize the 2019 budget, which has to be approved by the end of the year, and unsettle financial markets. And nobody’s fully forgotten Five Star’s past talk of a referendum on leaving the euro.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Small political parties seem to have learned that the only way they will ever succeed in ousting the status quo is to refuse to be co-opted. If we look at the history of coalitions, the insurgent party does well until they give up on their ideals for a chance to hold power. They then get lumped in with the status quo for any egregious activity that occurs during government and subsequently get annihilated at the next election because their support base feels betrayed. The Five Star Movement’s refusal to enter government with Silvio Berlusconi is an example that they have learned this lesson.
 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
April 30 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Not Everybody's Buying the Saudi Story, Even as Money Gushes In

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

The Arab world’s biggest stock market will probably face difficulty in retaining foreign money unless companies become more transparent, according to some investors. Executives aren’t used to the level of scrutiny demanded by global funds as retail buyers, who typically focus on charts rather than financial analysis, account for about 75 percent of daily trading, according to Gary Dugan, chief investment officer at Dubai-based family office Namara Wealth Advisors Ltd.

Gary Greenberg, an investing veteran, isn’t joining the Saudi party. The London-based head of global emerging markets at Hermes Investment Management Ltd. wants more evidence of economic and political change as well as confidence in the rule of law as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to modernize the kingdom and wean it off its reliance on oil. Other investors including J O Hambro Capital Management are wary of adding to their emerging-market holdings as concern over the pace of U.S. policy tightening sent equities retreating from a multi-year high.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Admittance to the MSCI Emerging Markets basket is a big event for any market because it opens up one of the world’s largest cohorts of index tracking funds as potential investors.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
April 27 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Two Koreas Agree to End War This Year, Pursue Denuclearization

This article by Kanga Kong and Andy Sharpfor Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Kim and Moon embraced after signing the deal during a historic meeting on their militarized border, the first time a North Korean leader set foot on the southern side. They announced plans to replace the 1953 armistice that ended hostilities with a peace treaty by year’s end.

Their statement on a “common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” stopped short of the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearnization” long sought by the U.S. and its allies. The statement didn’t elaborate on what the term meant and Kim didn’t personally utter the word during remarks Friday.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The International community is understandably skeptical regarding North Korea’s overtures with skepticism considering how duplicitous the country has been over it’s post war history. Some appear willing to think sanctions have played a role, others that China is more active in pressuring the regime but there is another reason why North Korea is suddenly willing to sit down to talk.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
April 26 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Draghi Insists Outlook Is Solid as ECB Skirts QE Debate Again

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

The central bank’s quest to restore sustainable inflation of just under 2 percent has been complicated by data suggesting that the euro area’s strongest growth in a decade may be faltering. As well as waning industrial output and deteriorating business confidence, the threat of a global trade war is hanging over Europe’s export-oriented economy.

“Incoming information since our meeting in early March points towards some moderation, while remaining consistent with a solid and broad-based expansion of the euro-area economy,” Draghi said. “The underlying strength of the euro area economy continues to support our confidence that inflation will converge towards our inflation aim of below, but close to, 2 percent over the medium term.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Mario Draghi’s statement “An ample degree of stimulus remains necessary.” Is what the market was expecting. The ECB and Bank of Japan remain the primary providers of liquidity to the global economy so when they eventually begin a process of quantitative tightening is likely to be an important catalyst for liquidity fueled uptrends.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
April 24 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The mother of all elections

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from HSBC focusing on the upcoming Malaysia election which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Following the dissolution of parliament last week, 9 May has been set as the date for the 14th General Election (GE14). Malaysians will vote for the 222-member Dewan Rakyat (lower house) on the federal level along with 12 assemblies on the state level. The main challenge to incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition will come from the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition led by Malaysia's former and longest-serving Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has defected to the opposition.

Pakatan Harapan is similar to the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition that won the popular vote in GE13, but without the Islamic party PAS, which split from PR in 2015. Thanks to a split opposition contesting many of the same seats, surveys, admittedly somewhat dated given Malaysia's fluid politics, suggest BN should retain control (The Malaysian Insight, 7 January). However, given the unreliable nature of surveys and the unprecedented nature of this election (Mahathir may have an impact on states such as Kedah, his home, plus UMNO may face competition in Malay constituencies where it faces candidates from both PH and PAS), we consider what an unlikely opposition victory might mean for the economy.

We analyse the coalition manifestos, in particular proposals relating to economic and fiscal policy. As always, the focus will be on whether or not the status quo is maintained. We note that key opposition proposals such as the abolition of GST and the reintroduction of some fuel subsidies suggest higher budget deficits in the absence of off-setting revenues. PH also pledges to review key mega-projects (mostly Chinese-financed).

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

It’s a big question whether the Malaysian electorate will demand their pound of flesh from the ruling party in retribution for the embarrassing spectacle of Najib Razak and the 1MDB scandal which has been dragged through the international press for years already. That represents a challenge for the Ringgit considering the populist tone of the emerging opposition. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
April 06 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Japan Trip Report

Eoin Treacy's view -

My daughters love visiting Japan. They adore anime and manga, and no they are nor the same thing, I’ve been reminded more than once. They love the cutsie culture coupled with the storytelling and fact that a lot of the topics covered are more mature in nature than they would be conventionally exposed to at home.

In my 10-year old’s class there are two things that every child, regardless of background, intelligence or wit loves; slime and squishes. Slime has turned every girl in the nation into a chemist and our house is full of the products my daughter has concocted from mixing varying quantities of Elmer’s glue and borax and lotion. I’m really hoping that one is a phase, the stuff is gross to my eyes. The other thing they love are Squishies. These are what many of us might think of as stress balls. The most popular are Japanese because they are of higher quality and return to their shape slowly. If you can bare it simply plug Squishies into YouTube.

Squishies, anime and manga, robotics and a range of other genres highlight the fact that Japan is still capable of capturing the imagination of popular culture. Against that insight more than a few people told me that the country is managed for old people. It is a common sight to see nonagenarians being wheeled around by their sexagenarian offspring. Massage and pain treatment for backs, necks and knees are some of the most common store fronts. Something politicians and the general public are only beginning to get grips with in Europe and North America is that older people are reliable voters and are jealous of their pensions and senior perks.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
April 05 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Laying Down the Groundwork for a Knowledge-Led Society: Policy and Practice

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

Africa is increasingly becoming a generator of knowledge, innovation, creativity and technology, rather than being solely an adapter of trends produced elsewhere in the world - like it was mostly the case in the past. There is no doubt that this trend must not only be encouraged by African Governments, but it must also be accelerated with the implementation of specific proposed public policies. Why? Because the knowledge and creativity-based development model renders obsolete all other models of development as it has a unique feature that none of the other models does: its entire bedrock rests on bringing self-sufficiency, independence and self-generating mechanisms of well-being gains enshrined in each domestic economy, and that is for the entire African continent. The knowledge-based development model can charter new territory for Africa – a territory where it has never succeeded in going before - a territory where an extremely knowledgeable, creative, skilled and educated young and dynamic African population combined with the implementation of science/evidence-based public policies by African leaders, finally brings societal well-being, that is well-being to every single citizen, on the continent. The knowledge-based development model can do so in two specific ways: 1) it can ensure the continent’s self-sufficiency, independence and self-generating mechanisms of well-being gains for all segments of its population rather than depending on outside help, and 2) it can, once and for all, lift all African countries out of the natural resources curse2 or the Dutch disease or the paradox of the plenty by ushering them into an era where endowment in two new kinds of natural resources – namely knowledge and creativity -- is more closely correlated with societal well-being compared to endowment in oil and other natural resources.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Africa is often considered as a whole but is a continent replete with different languages, cultures and traditions that are as valuable and varied as anywhere else. There are obviously countries that are more successful than others and the record of improving standards of governance is patchy at best. I look forward to a time when any mention of the Africa does not require a preamble.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
March 29 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Anti-Corruption Crusader Is Eyeing Brazil Presidential Bid, Sources Say

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

Barbosa, a 63 year-old black man raised in poverty, became a household name in Brazil during the Supreme Court’s handling of the so-called "mensalao" corruption scandal in the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Of all the potential candidates for October’s presidential elections, Barbosa has one of the lowest rejection ratings, at just 14 percent, according to Datafolha polling company. That compares with 60 percent for President Michel Temer and 40 percent for Lula.

The former judge is a presidential candidate "with potentially the best profile in the field," according to a note published by Eurasia Group on March 29, adding that he has a good mix of experience, anti-corruption credentials, and credibility on social issues.

"It’s a huge movement on the electoral chess board," said Richard Back, a political analyst at XP Investimentos.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Brazilian iBovespa Index has been the best performing major market globally over the first quarter. It has been assisted by improving perceptions that the crusade against institutional and political corruption is gaining traction and the relative stability of the Real over the same period.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
March 26 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

As Trump Takes On China, Another Trade Challenge Looms in Asia

This article by Connor Cislo and Jiyeun Lee for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

But at the same time, there’s been a spike in sales to China of precision metal working machines and equipment for making chips from firms like Japan’s Yaskawa Electric Corp. With a Chinese state-backed fund gearing up to pour as much as $31.5 billion into homegrown semiconductor manufacturing, there’s potential for trade flows to start to shift.

China’s ambitions, set out in its sweeping Made in China 2025 plan, go much further than semiconductors and would see its technical prowess advance in a host of areas, ranging from bio- medicine and artificial intelligence to new-energy vehicles and aircraft. The challenge to Japan, Korea and Taiwan also applies to European exporters like Germany, and comes on top of the risks to global trade from the Trump administration’s embrace of tariffs.

"The bits of the global supply chain that are currently the preserve of Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the U.S., and Germany, are the bits of the supply chain that China has a decade-long industrial strategy to move into," said Tom Orlik, Bloomberg’s chief Asia economist. He said it’s only a matter of time before many components for electronic products are made domestically and the country is on track to become a car exporter. Eventually, it will be selling airplanes, said Orlik.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China is moving up the value chain in just about all industries. It’s policies in achieving that goal are openly mercantilist. It has unabashedly supported domestic industry by whatever means necessary, closed off the mainland market to global competitors, engaged in industrial espionage on a grand scale and none of these actions are without precedent.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
March 22 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Protectionism Risks? What's Next?

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

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report and section from it are posted in the Subscriber's Area.

This is a very measured report which I think is underplaying the short-term volatility tariffs are likely to provoke. Bilateral trade between the USA and China is substantial and US companies have invested considerable resources in developing customer bases in China. They are far from immune from Chinese retaliatory measures which over the course of the medium-term will likely be ironed out but probably not before there is some pain felt on both sides.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
March 22 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review March 7th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

Here is a brief summary of my view at present.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
March 15 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pimco Sells Australia Banks, Property Bonds as Risks Climb

This article by Ruth Carson and Andreea Papuc for Bloomberg market be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Risk assets are vulnerable to a correction as valuations approach fair value, Thakur and John Dwyer, vice president and credit research analyst, wrote in a report.

“This risk becomes more important as we transition to a period of gradual tightening of monetary policy by global central banks,” according to the report. Asset prices offer little buffer to the risk of possible shocks resulting from negative growth surprises or higher-than-expected inflation, they said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Australian government yields share a high degree of commonality with those of other developed market nations. The 10-year has been ranging below 3% since 2015 and over the course of the last month has pulled back to test the region of the trend mean. With inflationary pressures being more of a fear than a reality at present there is scope for some further steadying in the market.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
March 13 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Persimmon chief's 75m pound bonus 'almost unfathomable'

This article by Rob Davies for The Guardian may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In an evidence session held by the housing committee on Monday, the Labour MP Helen Hayes asked Raab if he was comfortable with the “positive effect” that help to buy had had on housebuilders’ profits and executive bonuses. “It’s almost unfathomable,” said Raab. “No I’m not comfortable with it.

“That’s why the government has introduced measures on corporate governance and is encouraging shareholders to take a greater grip on it. We want to see shareholders take a stronger grip on it and we’re starting to see more shareholder activism.”

Hayes asked if the government was monitoring the effect that help to buy was having on corporate profits. “I’m not sure how we would measure a hydraulic relationship between those three points,” Raab said. He added that “other parts of government” were looking at corporate pay.

Help to buy is designed to spur the construction of new homes by giving aspiring homeowners an interest-free government loan worth up to 20% of a property’s value – if the buyer opts for new build. According to several reports, housebuilders have simply increased the price of homes in response, driving up prices and boosting their own profits.

Eoin Treacy's view -

UK homebuilders initially collapsed following the Brexit vote but were among the first to rally as the full ramifications of the collapse of the Pound filtered through into nominal asset prices. Help-to-buy programs also represented significant tailwinds for the sector, however increases to stamp duty have had negative effects and not least in London where prices are now falling against a background where the Pound has strengthened considerably from its 2016 lows.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
March 09 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How a Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un Summit Scrambles the Calculus for Key Players

This article by Jonathan Cheng in Seoul and Alastair Gale for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

President Donald Trump’s decision to accept a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un caught the world off guard.

In agreeing to sit down with North Korea’s third-generation leader, Mr. Trump has boosted the stature of Mr. Kim—a man he has ridiculed as “Little Rocket Man” and threatened with “fire and fury”—with a surprise diplomatic opening that left some allies wrong-footed.

For Mr. Kim, who is half the age of Mr. Trump, just getting a summit meeting with the U.S. president is a big win. Neither his father nor his grandfather succeeded in getting a face-to-face meeting with a sitting U.S. president.

Mr. Trump’s move represents a victory for South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, who has pleaded with the U.S. to tone down its rhetoric and worked assiduously to get negotiations off the ground, and others who have pushed for engagement and diplomacy.

Other U.S. allies and some veteran negotiators, however, expressed concern that while a summit meeting could lead to a breakthrough in what has been a protracted standoff, it is a risky move that could lead to ill-considered concessions to Pyongyang.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Agreeing to a meeting with Kim is a big risk because of the polarity of the potential outcomes. These kinds of win/lose scenarios are not attractive from the perspective of any diplomatic corp but are not at all unusual in business where the first lesson is you have to be willing to walk away with nothing if you do not get the price you want.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
February 28 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

February 22 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Brazil Seen as More Corrupt Than Argentina in Global Ranking

This article by David Biller and Charlie Devereux for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Brazil is now seen as more corrupt than Argentina for the first time in over two decades after suffering last year one of the biggest plunges among the nations tracked by a global transparency ranking.

Latin America’s largest economy fell 17 positions in the2017 index released by graft watchdog Transparency International on Thursday. It now ranks 96th among 180 nations, tied in the region with Colombia and Peru. Only two other countries in the whole index -- Bahrain and Liberia -- slid more than Brazil last year. Argentina meantime rose 10 spots, to 85th place and now ranks better than Brazil for the first time since 1996.

A series of corruption scandals have rocked Brazil over the past few years as the so-called Carwash probe uncovered a massive kickback scheme involving the country’s political and business elite. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was convicted for graft last year while allegations against President Michel Temer are still being investigated. In Argentina, meanwhile, President Mauricio Macri has worked to make public tenders more transparent and successfully pushed for a law allowing plea bargain testimonies to resolve corruption cases.

Among key Latin American countries, the least transparent are still Venezuela (169th position) and Mexico (135th spot).

Transparency International’s ranking is based on surveys and assessments from 12 institutions and has become a benchmark gauge of corruption perception used by analysts and investors.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is no Brazilian politician that has not been embroiled in the carwash probe. That’s bad news. However, the fact the scandal has broken, is being addressed by the judiciary and is making headlines both domestically and internationally speaks to the fact that Brazil does have institutions that can tackle corruption if the will to do is present. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
February 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the potential for downtrends

Your recent assessments of the markets appear to be that a period of ranging is likely to be followed by markets going up again. Of course, whilst no one knows what the future will be, I wonder why you don't see the greater likelihood of markets turning down after some consolidation. With the amount of US debt increasing, interest rates increasing, and stock market levels already high by historical standards, are you not more concerned that markets, being forwards looking, might be more likely to head down than up? Esp. since markets struggle when interest rates go above 3%? I appreciate your talk of share rotation, but a rising tide lifts all boats and surely the opposite is true when markets tank?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for these questions which I think everyone asks from time to time. For someone in our position of attempting to forecast the outlook for markets the most important thing we have to remember is that markets rise for longer than they fall but when they fall they often do so quite quickly. However, they do not fall without first exhibiting topping characteristics. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
February 19 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How Low Will Retail Go? Look at the Railroad

This article by Stephen Mihm for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers

And that is the likely fate of conventional retail. Like the railroad, there’s an extraordinarily surfeit of retail space built with little consideration of what the market will actually sustain; recent declines in the retail revenue per square foot in brick-and-mortar stores suggests that things are getting worse, fast. And like the railroad, there’s a new way of doing business on the block, except that instead of changing how we move people and goods, online retailing promises a new way of delivering them to the end consumer. 

If the per capita retail footprint declined as much as the railroads did, it would fall all the way down to 2.82 square feet per capita. That’s a lot of empty malls and defunct big box stores, but retail won’t disappear any more than the railroads have gone extinct.

In fact, in 2014, the inflation-adjusted revenue that railroads earn per mile of track is 2.7 times what it was a century ago. More startling still, the so-called “ton miles” of freight carried on the nation’s railroads (a ton mile is one ton of freight carried one mile) has tripled since 1960, even as the total size of the operational railroad system has declined dramatically.

That points to the likely future of conventional retail: a drastic reduction in the per capita footprint, with the remaining stores capable of earning far more money per square foot. It’s not the brightest of futures. But it’s also not the end of the world.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Near where I live in Los Angeles, a large mall is close to shutting since it’s primary tenants, Macys and Nordstrom, have decamped to the newly refurbished Westfield mall in Century City near Beverly Hills. The two malls are about a mile apart but until a couple of years ago Macys seems to have been comfortable with the idea of having two large stores within close proximity of one another. In between the two malls the only businesses that have survived are universally service oriented. So, what is going to be done with all the empty commercial space sitting on valuable pieces of real estate?



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
February 19 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Reckitt Benckiser Sees Pricing Squeeze After Worst Year Ever

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

 

In an effort to sharpen Reckitt Benckiser’s focus on brands such as Strepsils and Mucinex cold remedies, Kapoor has moved to separate the company’s home-care and health businesses. Reckitt also became a leader in infant nutrition with the acquisition of Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. last year.

On Monday, it increased its forecast for synergies from the deal to about $300 million from $250 million. This year’s savings will only “slightly exceed” additional infrastructure expenses associated with the new health and home-and-hygiene business units, the company said.


Morgan Stanley analysts led by Richard Taylor described the company’s outlook as conservative.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A question someone asked of Charlie Munger at last week’s Daily Journal AGM stuck with me over the weekend. It was how he thought the established brands would fare with increased competition from the likes of Costco and Amazon who are pioneering their own products often in direct competition. His answer was that white- labelling and own-brand selling would have an effect, but if one were to take a long-term view the established brands would still have value. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
February 15 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Biggest Headaches for South Africa's Incoming President

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

Investigations by the nation’s graft ombudsman and Auditor- General found that graft is endemic in the state, with tens of billions of rand stolen or squandered each year. Zuma appointees head almost all the law-enforcement agencies, which have been slow or loathe to act against some of his closest allies who’ve been implicated in the free-for-all. The new president will need to replace several key officials, reassert confidence in the independence and integrity of the criminal prosecution system and show that the government is intent on ensuring all those found guilty of corruption are held accountable.

2. State-owned companies in chaos
The looting spree largely targeted state companies, especially power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which is at risk of running out of cash. While Ramaphosa has already overseen the appointment of a new board at Eskom, it still needs to appoint a permanent chief executive officer, fill several other top management posts and urgently raise new funding. South African Airways and oil and gas company PetroSA Ltd. are among the other entities that have been hobbled by a lack of leadership and oversight.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Governance is Everything has been a mantra at this service for decades. Zuma did everything he could while in power to line the pockets of everyone loyal to him and that system of rent seeking and bribery is going to take a long time to unwind. It could well be that the water crisis in Capetown and the near bankruptcy of Eskom were the final catalysts for Zuma’s ouster. Right now, the market is willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Ramaphosa that some of these issues can be addressed. Capetown’s situation is urgent so Ramaphosa is unlikely to have much of a honeymoon period.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
February 08 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

South Korea's Economy Shudders After Growth Spurt

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

South Korea’s surprisingly weak economic performance in the last three months of 2017 isn’t cause for concern but does support the case for a cautious stance on central bank policy, according to economists and bank officials.

The economy ended its streak of outperforming expectations in the last quarter by recording its first quarter-on-quarter contraction since the global financial crisis.

That resulted in growth for the year—at 3.1%—coming in just below the government’s 3.2% target, but above 2016’s expansion of 2.8%. Markets on Thursday brushed aside the result, with the Kospi jumping 1% to reach record highs.

Still, the result will temper recent optimism about the economic outlook, while likely dispelling any idea at the Bank of Korea about raising rates until much later in the year. In November, the central bank raised rates for the first time in more than six years.

Eoin Treacy's view -

South Korea is the world’s 11th largest economy and it did not grow in the last quarter of 2017. This was explained by the surge in investment in the early part of year that eased back in the latter part of year but the failure to growth was an anomaly amid strong numbers for the rest of the global economy. Domestic consumption is expected to pick up this year and the Olympics may add some tourist revenue so a recession may be avoided but it bears monitoring nonetheless 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
February 06 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Interesting charts February 6th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

S&P500 Consumer Staples has lost momentum over the last couple of years with larger pull backs that dip into the underlying range and somewhat less impressive rallies subsequently. Last week’s downside weekly key reversal with follow through this week represents another in a series of failed upside breaks. It is back testing the region of the 200-day MA and will need to continue to hold the 550 area if top formation completion is to be avoided. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
January 26 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Latest thinking

Thanks to a subscriber for Howard Marks’ latest memo for Oaktree which may be of interest. Here is a section:

A section from this memo is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Veteran subscribers will be familiar with my refrain from the Big Picture Long-Term videos, since at least September, that we are in the 3rd Psychological Perception Stage of this impressive almost decade-long cyclical bull market. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
January 25 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Asia Outlook Rising Momentum, inflation emerging

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

A section from this report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The USA led the world into recession in 2008 and out of it onto an historically lengthy expansion in 2009. The Federal Reserve started out on the road to normalizing policy last year and fiscal stimulus will be picking up some of the slack in monetary accommodation this year. The above statistics suggests at least some Asian countries are now following a similar trajectory. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
January 12 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

2018 Navigating Vietnam

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

A section from this report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Vietnam benefits from its close proximity to China, low labour costs, large young population, trade friendly administration and a desire to progress from being a frontier market to a more conventional investment destination. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
January 11 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Russia Kicks Off Currency Buying Spree With $4.5 Billion Program

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

Russia’s Finance Ministry will buy about $4.5 billion in foreign currency over the next three weeks, increasing purchases after changes aimed at further limiting the economy’s dependence on oil.

The amount of additional budget revenue earned in January from oil and gas is expected at 257.1 billion rubles ($4.5 billion) as a result of higher crude prices, the Finance Ministry said on Wednesday. Under a so-called budget rule, the entire windfall will be spent on buying foreign currency in the domestic market, with daily purchases at 15.1 billion rubles from Jan. 15 to Feb. 1, it said in a statement.

The operations will help insulate the economy from the ups and downs in crude and shield the ruble’s exchange rate from volatility. The government is absorbing all revenue earned when Russia’s Urals export blend is above $40 a barrel, channeling the excess income into its sovereign wealth fund.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Ruble accelerated to an important low in early 2015 which prompted the central bank to intervene and to push interest rates up to 17%. The collapse in oil prices into the 2016 low saw the currency hit a nadir but the interest rate and oil’s recovery resulted in a major short covering rally. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
December 28 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Billionaire Ambani Bails Out Brother by Buying Wireless Assets

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

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. agreed to acquire spectrum, mobile-phone towers and fiber assets of his brother Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications Ltd. helping the younger sibling cut debt at the embattled wireless carrier, the two companies said in separate exchange filings.

Reliance Jio emerged the highest bidder for assets and the sale is expected to be closed in a phased manner between January and March 2018, according to a statement from RCom on Thursday.

The companies didn’t disclose a value for the transaction. The deal will include a cash payment and transfer of deferred spectrum installment payable to India’s Department of Telecommunication.

Mumbai-based RCom is seeking to cut total borrowings by $6 billion by March. RCom posted its first annual loss last March after Jio stormed into the market by offering free calls and data. That escalated a price war that has forced consolidation in the sector. RCom this week said it expects to get about 250 billion rupees ($3.9 billion) from the sale of its spectrum across four frequencies, its optical fiber network, and its more than 40,000 telecom towers. Entire proceeds will be used for repayment of RCom’s debt.

Reliance Jio is only paying for good quality assets that will enhance its depth of network, especially in rural areas, and raise data usage capacity, Shobhit Khare, a co-founder at Inertia Wealth Creators LLP, said via phone.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Reliance Industries spent a great deal of time developing a 4G network (Jio) and is now reaping the benefits. Reliance Communications, by selling its mobile assets, is essentially exiting the mobile telecommunications business. This article from livemint.com details where management see the company focusing next:

RCom will essentially be transformed from a business-to-consumer (B2C) into a business-to-business (B2B) entity, which will provide submarine cable systems that will deliver the latest sub-sea cable technology to meet growing cloud infrastructure and data capacity demand from global enterprises and over-the-top, or OTT, service providers.

Ambani said the new RCom will be valued at Rs15,000 crore. The business, he said in a presentation, will be based on a capex-light model and will generate sustainable cash flows, with 50% of revenue and 60% of operating profit coming from outside of India.



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
December 14 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Crucial Pension Overhaul Stalls in Brazil as Vote Postponed

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

President Michel Temer’s efforts to overhaul Brazil’s unsustainable pension system has dominated political debate in Latin America’s largest economy throughout the year. With pressure mounting to pass the unpopular measure before lawmakers start concentrating on 2018 elections, negotiations between the presidential palace and congress reached fever pitch in recent days. The government’s plans started falling apart this week as several policy makers contradicted themselves on the potential vote date while Temer was hospitalized for a surgery.

"We don’t have all the votes now and we’ll have to keep on working," Maia told reporters after a meeting with government allies in Brasilia. "I’m sure we’ll have the votes in February."

Maia added that he’s confident the government will obtain 320-330 votes in favor of the bill, which is more than the 308 needed to secure its approval in the lower house. The legislation would also require Senate backing.

Many observers are skeptical it will pass in 2018. "It’s very hard, if they weren’t able to do it this year, the chances fall significantly," said Juliano Griebeler, a political analyst at Barral M. Jorge consultancy. "Leaving it until next year creates a bad situation for the government as it will have to push back other important issues, like tax reform."

Eoin Treacy's view -

Governance is Everything. Brazil has been laboring under the constant flood of corruption allegations against just about all politicians and that represents a headwind to getting meaningful legislation passed. It is almost too much to hope that a new reform minded administration which also takes a tough stance on graft is going to be elected so Brazil has challenges. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 28 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

November 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Shares Resume Decline as Year's Top Performers Take a Hit

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

The CSI 300 Index of large-cap stocks closed down 1.3 percent, with ZTE Corp. and BYD Co. both falling the 10 percent limit in Shenzhen, while BOE Technology Group Co. slid 9.7 percent. Shanghai-listed liquor giant Kweichow Moutai Co. couldn’t maintain its brief foray into positive territory and closed down 1.4 percent, its seventh straight loss since state media warned it was climbing too fast. The stock has slumped 14 percent since Nov. 16.

“Institutional investors are choosing to cash in toward year-end as valuations are near historic highs and market sentiment deteriorated after official media targeted Moutai,” said Shen Zhengyang, Shanghai-based analyst at Northeast Securities Co. He said the market “lacks steam” for further gains.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The pace of the CSI300’s advance has picked up over the last six months and has outperformed the bank-heavy Shanghai A-Share Index. The institutional memory of the bubbly activity which contributed to the surge and collapse of the market in 2015 is still relatively fresh and the government does not want to see a repeat. That suggests some pressure may be coming to bear on the highest-flying shares, to instil some discipline among investors. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

After Sudden Rout, China Stock Traders Question Beijing Put

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

For Sun Jianbo, president of China Vision Capital Management Co. in Beijing, valuations among large-cap shares are too expensive for state-backed funds to intervene.

The CSI 300 traded at its highest level relative to the broader Shanghai Composite Index in at least 12 years at the start of this week as investors flocked to large caps such as Moutai and Ping An Insurance (Group) Co.

"There’s no need to prop up the market yet," Sun said. "A lot of big caps are still expensive and it would do more harm than good to state-backed funds if they buy now."

The divergence between large-cap shares and the rest of the market may be one reason why the government took aim at Moutai. Before Xinhua warned last week that gains in the liquor maker were excessive, the stock had more than doubled this year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Following the botched introduction of options trading in 2015 the Chinese administration introduced new rules on disclosures and selling by company principles. It also banned short selling for a time. Through steady purchases by various state-owned vehicles, they manufactured the slow and steady pace of the stock market’s advance since the low in early 2016. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Here's what we learned from ordering 213 curries at Wetherspoons

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

The UK on-trade looks not dissimilar to the UK grocery sector, which too has a few dominant operators that take share from a weak underbelly of independents and supplier-tied franchises. The big grocers resemble the big pub chains inasmuch as they are all about buying power, efficient logistics, wage capping, centralised cost savings and economies of scale. It might also be noted that Wetherspoon’s 4m square feet of productive floor space is about equal to the whole Tesco Express estate. And while Wetherspoon’s revenue of £450 per square foot or thereabouts is half the level expected from a big-four grocer, its 7.7 per cent operating margin compares pretty well to Tesco’s 1.8 per cent at group level last year.

It’s a comparison endorsed by Tim Martin, Wetherspoon’s founder and chairman, who is often found astride his hobby horse that supermarkets and pubs should be taxed equally. Mr Martin has been less vocal on whether pubs and supermarkets should be regulated equally.

Because here’s the thing with supermarkets: they can’t engage in local price wars. Every single UK branch of Tesco Express has to charge the same. That’s because since 2002, the supermarkets have been bound by a code of practice drawn up in response to a Competition Commission review a couple of years before. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

If the performance of Wetherspoons compared to Tesco is any guide the difference in competitive pricing laws has a considerable effect on performance. Meanwhile there is also a clear difference between what are the higher overall margins on discretionary spending and staple spending at supermarkets where competition is increasingly aggressive.  



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

One in three Chinese children faces an education apocalypse. An ambitious experiment hopes to save them

This article by Dennis Normile for Sciencemag.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

One in three Chinese children faces an education apocalypse. An ambitious experiment hopes to save them – This article by Dennis Normile for Sciencemag.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The result is a widening gap between urban and rural educational achievement in China, Rozelle says. Many urbanites fit the stereotype of "tiger" parents, pushing kids to excel in school. After hours, their schedules are packed with music and English lessons and sessions at cram schools, which prepare them for notoriously competitive university entrance exams. More than 90% of urban students finish high school.

But only one-quarter of China's children grow up in the relatively prosperous cities. Rural moms have high hopes for their children; Rozelle's surveys have found that 75% say they want their newborns to go to college, and 17% hope their child gets a Ph.D. The statistics belie those hopes: Just 24% of China's working population completes high school.

Rozelle believes such numbers bode ill for China's hopes of joining the ranks of high-income countries. Over the past 70 years, he explains, only 15 countries have managed to climb from middle- to high-income status, among them South Korea and Taiwan. In all those success stories, three-quarters or more of the working population had completed high school while the country was still in the middle-income bracket. These workforces "had the skills to support a high-income economy," Rozelle says. In contrast, in the 79 current middle-income countries, only a third or less of the workforce has finished high school. And China is at the bottom of the pack. School dropouts don't have the skills needed to thrive in a high-income economy, Rozelle says. And, worryingly, the factory jobs that now provide a decent living for those with minimal training are moving from China to lower-wage countries.

Rozelle thinks a lack of opportunity isn't the only factor holding back China's rural children. Physically and mentally, they are also at an increasing disadvantage, hampering their performance in school and their prospects in life.

Eoin Treacy's view -

You might remember last year the OECD’s Pisa rankings of schools was released and China featured particularly highly. That is because the data only looked at Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Jiangsu where the best of the country’s education resources are concentrated. As the above article highlights the real story is of a country that still has a long way to go in equipping its population with the tools necessary to succeed in the 21st century. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ASEAN: The infrastructure push

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

Infrastructure plays a crucial role in the region’s economic, social and environmental development, including boosting regional connectivity. Greater connectivity of the transport infrastructure enhances logistical efficiency and supports the growth of investment, trade and commerce while reducing business costs. While countries have invested in infrastructure to varying extents over the years, development has been gaining momentum, with more than US$275bn key pipeline projects across ASEAN, as we detail in this report.

Singapore: To fulfil Singapore’s 6.9mn population target (+25% from the current size) by 2030, the government is steering infrastructure development towards greater public network connectivity, usage of personal mobility devices, as well as usage of digitalisation to transform the city state into a Smart Nation. These infra developments, amounting to US$44bn will help Singapore cope with population increase and prevent traffic congestion.

Malaysia: In the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015), the government highlighted its commitment to infrastructure development. One focus is on building railways (MRT 2, MRT 3, LRT 3) to alleviate traffic congestion. Another focus is on connecting rural areas to urban clusters to ensure equitable development through the Pan Borneo Highway. Infrastructure growth is driven by China, having committed US$34bn (RM144bn) to infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Link, Kuantan Industrial Park and Melaka Gateway. 

Indonesia: In the post-Suharto era, infrastructure development stalled and has not been able to keep up with economic growth amid the commodities boom. The inefficient transport network has resulted in acute distribution bottlenecks, driving up logistics cost. When President Jokowi took office, he diverted a portion of the energy subsidies to infrastructure development. Through priority infrastructure projects totalling US$41bn, the government seeks to boost connectivity in the archipelago to increase business competitiveness.   

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

In a period of synchronised economic expansion it is natural for emerging markets to engage in infrastructure development since credit is generally still accommodative and the need remains compelling. That will also help to lay the foundation for future growth as the region evolves economically amid a trend of generally improving standards of governance. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Merkel Says She Prefers New Elections Over Minority Government

This article by Birgit Jennen and Rainer Buergin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would prefer to go ahead with new federal elections rather than try to form a minority government, as Europe’s most powerful leader weighs her options after the collapse of four-party coalition talks late Sunday.

Seeking her fourth term, Merkel is “skeptical” about a minority government as it may not bring about necessary stability and is open to another so-called grand coalition with the Social Democratic party, she said in an interview with ARD television. In the absence of an agreement to secure a majority in Germany’s Bundestag, “I’m certain that new elections are the better way,” she said.

Disputes among parties over migration and other issues led the Free Democrats to walk out of the talks. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the country’s political parties to return to the negotiating table, saying “those who seek political responsibility in elections must not be allowed to shy away from it when they hold it in their hands.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Small parties face difficult choices when they enter government. If they are to ever have a chance of achieving the change they seek, they have no choice but to enter a coalition. However, they seldom get everything they wanted and are often seen by their voters as sellouts when they fail to achieve lofty goals. Therefore, the fate of small parties is often to taste power but to have their support evaporate at the following election. That is as true of the Liberal Democrats in the UK as it is of many small parities in the Eurozone. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Surprising Airbnb Adoption Slowdown in US/EU, and What It Means for Hotels and OTAs

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

Two Reasons Adoption Is Slowing... First, the benefits of growing awareness among online consumers in the US/Europe are slowing/topping out, as Airbnb awareness among our survey respondents increased by only 800bps to 80% in '17 (vs. a 2,000bps increase in '16). We see awareness as a smaller driver going forward. Second privacy/safety are material and growing barriers to adoption, as the percent of non Airbnb users citing these factors to not use it increased by ~700bps/400bps, and the absolute number of people concerned about these issues increased by 10%/25% Y/Y. This, in our view, could speak to two potential truths: 1) How Airbnb/sharing lodging could be more niche than previously expected, and 2) How the lobbyists/opponents of Airbnb may be gaining traction.

...Causing Us to Lower Our Airbnb Forecast...This slowing adoption causes us to reduce our forward user/room night forecast for the US/Europe, now expecting ~12% '16-'20 room night growth, vs 29% previously. We now model Airbnb to grow to 6% of lodging demand across US/Europe by '20, vs. 9% previously.

...Making Us Incrementally More Bullish on the Lodging Space... While surveyed hotel cannibalization inched up slightly to 51% from 49% (and expected to be 54% in '18), a slowing user adoption curve suggests Airbnb is less of a threat to hotels. We estimate that Airbnb had a 50bps impact to '17 RevPAR growth across US/Europe, down from our prior estimate of 90bps. We now forecast it will have another 50bps impact on '18 RevPAR growth, down from our prior 80bps impact. As such, we expect US RevPAR to be relatively stable at +2.3% and +1.6% growth in '18 and '19, respectively.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The travel sector is likely to get a boost from the expansion in the number of airlines, signalled by impressive sales at the Dubai Air Show. That should be positive for hotels and particularly so if AirBnb’s penetration is peaking. Personally my experience with AirBnb has been mixed and I suspect many people have had similar experiences. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ubisoft's Microtransaction Revenue Just Beat Digital Sales for the First Time

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

Microtransactions have been hotly debated since they began debuting in mobile games almost ten years ago. While they’d been used sporadically in various games for years, the rise of mobile games and their extremely low-to-free pricing made them a functional necessity for developers working in Android or iOS. The AAA PC gaming industry quickly took notice of this, and began offering games with microtransaction options. There’s been a great deal of pushback from the community at various points (Dead Space 3 got hosed for it, as did Bethesda and its horse armor), but microtransactions are clearly here to say. Ubisoft just reported that it took in more money in microtransaction sales than it did in game sales for the first time ever.

Over the past few years, Ubisoft has seen a notable shift in its earnings for various titles, SeekingAlpha reports. Game sales were buoyed this year by South Park: The Fractured But Whole and Assassin’s Creed: Origins, but microtransactions shot up even further, growing 1.83x in 12 months compared to 1.57x for game sales. Ubisoft also got a boost from the Switch, but even with Nintendo’s new platform, microtransactions brought home the bacon.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Once upon a time you bought a computer game and it included everything you would ever need to play that game. I started playing Diablo 2 as a teenager and the game is still available online with access to the Battlenet server, so players can join and play with or against others. It’s still free after more than 20 years. The updated version of the game, Diablo 3, has downloadable content (DLC as my daughters refer to it), and additional characters you can pay for. Overwatch, Activision Blizzard’s newest hit game releases animated shorts to build interest in characters, has built in loot boxes for extra gear and additional outfits for your favourite characters all of which represent additional revenue streams. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

America's "Retail Apocalypse" Is Really Just Beginning

This article by Matt Townsend, Jenny Surane, Emma Orr and Christopher Cannon for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Until this year, struggling retailers have largely been able to avoid bankruptcy by refinancing to buy more time. But the market has shifted, with the negative view on retail pushing investors to reconsider lending to them. Toys “R” Us Inc. served as an early sign of what might lie ahead. It surprised investors in September by filing for bankruptcy—the third-largest retail bankruptcy in U.S. history—after struggling to refinance just $400 million of its $5 billion in debt. And its results were mostly stable, with profitability increasing amid a small drop in sales.

Making matters more difficult is the explosive amount of risky debt owed by retail coming due over the next five years. Several companies are like teen-jewelry chain Claire’s Stores Inc., a 2007 leveraged buyout owned by private-equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, which has $2 billion in borrowings starting to mature in 2019 and still has 1,600 stores in North America.

Just $100 million of high-yield retail borrowings were set to mature this year, but that will increase to $1.9 billion in 2018, according to Fitch Ratings Inc. And from 2019 to 2025, it will balloon to an annual average of almost $5 billion. The amount of retail debt considered risky is also rising. Over the past year, high-yield bonds outstanding gained 20 percent, to $35 billion, and the industry’s leveraged loans are up 15 percent, to $152 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

Even worse, this will hit as a record $1 trillion in high-yield debt for all industries comes due over the next five years, according to Moody’s. The surge in demand for refinancing is also likely to come just as credit markets tighten and become much less accommodating to distressed borrowers.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of Warren Buffett’s most colourful adages is “you don’t know who has been swimming naked till the tide goes out” A great many companies have survived with high debt loads because liquidity was abundant, interest rates were at rock bottom levels and access to credit was easy. Until recently, refinancing has been easy which allowed companies to pile on additional debt. An obvious point is that highly leveraged companies are heavily exposed to refinancing issues as interest rates rise. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on feudalism in the modern era

I was thinking back to our dinner at the club in LA, and remembering that you stated that the Princes of the Sauds owed allegiance to their King, comparing them to the Barons of Europe in the middle ages. You said that sooner or later, the finances of the Kingdom would have to be enhanced, and that the Princes would be called upon to do so, just as the Barons of long ago were required to collect taxes and give treasure to the Crown. The parallels between today in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and those days so long ago are amazing!

We have now seen the first round of the tax collection begin, and those who were arrested were quite likely opposing the new "taxes", if not plotting actual rebellion (in which case they will almost certainly be executed). There is a clear message here for the rest of the Princes...

Now this is the stuff that historians truly love. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Saudi Arabia has been held together by a series of transfers and concessions to families and tribes that agreed to set aside their enmity in return for a share in the nation’s oil wealth. That worked well as long as the population was small and oil revenues trended higher amid a century of oil’s dominance of the global economy. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How To Diversify Your Portfolio and Transfer Wealth Across Generations Without Financial Advisory

Thanks to Bernard Tan for this note which offers an interesting perspective on why truly global companies, that dominate their respective niches, with long track records, tend to outperform over time. Here is a section:

I’m going to use 3M to illustrate the following points. 

1. Equities as an asset class is often perceived as riskier than others but there is one sector within equities that I will argue is safer than everything else including fixed income and real estate. 

2. If you invest in a world class, global scale company that is from this sector, you are already fully diversified, hedged and all the macro economic issues and challenges taken care of. 

3. This sector is resilient in the face of even a global financial crisis because frequently, these companies do not have high financial leverage. (Caveat: In recent years, it has become less true in the US and Europe) 

What is 3M really? It is a deep physics, chemistry and material science company. Everything they do is about manipulating the atoms and molecules of nature to create functional materials that we can use in our daily lives.  

With each passing year, 3M piles on more patents, a bigger library of chemicals and processes, more knowhow. All this knowledge is cumulative. The company is now 115 years old. All that accumulated intellectual property is practically unassailable. There will never be another company like 3M anywhere else in the world. Certain segments of their business can be separately attacked but there will never be another company that can challenge 3M on most fronts simultaneously.  

This is the nature of science and intellectual property. The strength is cumulative over time. In contrast, for real estate companies and banks, big or small has no bearing on vulnerability to debt crisis storms, as we all learnt in 2008. The underlying strength is not cumulative over time, not the way it is for a science and intellectual property company.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

When I click through the constituents of the Autonomies section of the Chart Library 3M always comes out first because they are listed in alphabetical order. However, the reason the company is included in the list of Autonomies is because it fulfils every qualification for membership. It is a truly global company with operations everywhere and generates 60% of revenue from outside its home market. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Constructive on structural and cyclical growth outlook

Thanks to a subscriber for this report for Deutsche Bank highlighting some of the achievements India has made in improving governance. Here is a section:

 

While the long term structural macro outlook remains unambiguously positive, we think India is also poised for a cyclical upturn in growth, and that the worst of the growth-slowdown, caused by temporary disruption and technical factors related to external trade, is behind us. The economy has already started to stabilize post GST and high frequency indicators are showing a rebound, which should eventually reflect a recovery in July-Sep’17 GDP growth (DB estimate 6.4%). While we expect growth to average around 6.6% during FY18, we are more optimistic about the outlook for FY19 and beyond.

We also note that growth momentum generally improves in the year prior to the elections (India’s next general elections are to be held in May 2019 or earlier), which is likely to play out in this cycle as well. We think given the various reforms that are operational at this stage and that have been implemented by this government so far, it is reasonable to expect growth to return close to 8.0% by FY20, absent any external shock that could jeopardize this baseline outlook.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

At a talk I gave for the CFA in San Francisco in 2013 I made the point that rather than comparing India to China it was probably more appropriate to compare India’s development to the UK’s and China’s to the USA. The reason for this was because the USA built its infrastructure and cities on a grid system with clear delineation between public and private responsibilities which to one extent or another China has followed. 

 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
November 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Alibaba Caps $250 Billion Rally With Accelerating Sales Growth

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

Alibaba Caps $250 Billion Rally With Accelerating Sales Growth – Alibaba’s “new retail” plan carries a simple premise -- to combine its online merchants with a vast swathe of physical stores now divorced from the internet, stripping out layers of profit-sipping middlemen and boosting Alibaba’s e-commerce in the process. Those outlets double as storage and delivery centers.

But the execution involves a battery of expensive and time-consuming investments: buying into department stores such as Intime, setting up “smart” grocery stores like Hema, investing $15 billion into expanding its delivery network into remote regions, and enlisting some half-a-million mom-and-pop stores that now serve the countryside.

Alibaba is trying to transform the way retailers large and small manage their inventory based on real-time demand. And drawing more physical customers into its network boosts its own online orders and provides abundant data to target future consumers.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Guangzhou’s old town is a picture of the commercial reality represented by the marriage of social media and physical stores. There are coupons available for almost every purchase on WeChat, JD.com or Alibaba that can only be redeemed in store. This has delivered almost overnight a realization that customer service is what drives customer flow. Coupled with on demand manufacturing China is rapidly advancing a modern shopping experience that retailers in the rest of world need to pay attention to. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
October 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Deep Dive into Digital Era of Gaming

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

Gaming data points available today point to an industry facing challenges: The number of physical games sold in the US has declined every year for the better part of the last decade, the install base of consoles is well below the prior cycle peak, and the physical attach rate of software is below where it was in the last two console cycles. However, this is the old way of analyzing this business and in the new “Digital Era” of video games, the business has shifted from one that is hit-driven and reliant on physical retail to an industry that is largely online (over 60% digital and could arguably shift completely online longer term), more recurring and predictable, more monetize-able, and significantly more profitable. 

When we consider that the number of games sold as digital copies continues to grow at 20- 30% each year, notably the market for console software is actually growing – albeit at a single-digit rate. Add to that, the install base of hardware continues to progress towards 100mn+ HD units and, while the physical attach rate of software is below where it was in the last two console cycles, the focus on deeper engagement and higher player monetization through digital content appears to be largely offsetting the impact of fewer game sales. We remain optimistic that newer hardware including Nintendo’s Switch and Microsoft’s Xbox One X can re-invigorate the market for games and are encouraged by some early trends. US retail sales are tracking up mid-single digits year over year in 2017 and, adjusting for sales of digital games, it appears that the number of games sold each year in the US is stable y/y. 

In the Digital Era, gaming content will always be available and players will have access to games in more ways than ever. The industry will become far more global and fragmented across devices than before, which will increase the potential audience for gaming content substantially. We are cautiously optimistic on the potential for traditional video game publishers to further penetrate the rapidly-growing markets in China and on Mobile, however, and we remain on the sidelines regarding the emerging interest in eSports and VR. Nonetheless, we still believe the value proposition of games remains very high relative to other forms of media and we are encouraged that the new revenue TAM in the Digital Era is dictated only by the amount of time players have to engage with games, rather than by the number of consoles in their hands.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Gaming is evolving into a much larger industry than movies. Audiences at theatres continue to decline, not least because of the lackluster “cookie-cutter” nature of many movies but also because audiences have more to do and have both online games and content available 24/7. That represents a significant migration within the media sector which is easily observable in the performance of respective shares. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
October 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on investing in Africa

Thank you for a very informative big picture on Friday. Do you know of any fund managers that are investing in Africa with good track records for us to consider investing with?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which I’m sure will be of interest to subscribers. Investing in Africa is not a simple matter. The entire continent has 1649 listed companies with major markets like South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt representing significant weightings.  



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
October 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese EV market nearing 2% penetration

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

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

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

Eoin Treacy's view -

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



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
October 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

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

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

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

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

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



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
September 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Catalan Independence Drive to Haunt Madrid Whatever Happens Next

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

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

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

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

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
September 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

2017 at the Three Quarter Pole

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

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

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



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
September 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Philippine Central Bank Chief Brushes Off Credit Growth Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

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



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
September 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Campbell Drops After Bleak Outlook Follows Blow From Buffet

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

Over the past three years, the 10 largest packaged-food companies have seen about $16 billion in revenue evaporate as consumers change how they eat and shop. Shoppers are seeking out more natural and organic food, shifting away from the staples that have dominated supermarket shelves for decades.

Whole Foods Deal
Amazon.com Inc.’s deal to buy Whole Foods also has fueled pessimism about packaged-food giants, with analysts predicting that the e-commerce titan will favor private-label products and squeeze the profit margins of its suppliers. In June, when that deal was announced, the 10 largest U.S. food companies lost almost $8 billion in market value combined.

In a bid to add more natural products, Campbell agreed to buy Pacific Foods of Oregon, a maker of organic soup and broth, for $700 million in June. Campbell also acquired Bolthouse -- a producer of carrots, juices and salad dressings -- for $1.55 billion in 2012. That business, now part of the Campbell Fresh unit, has struggled with poor harvests and a drink recall.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Leaner and fitter isn’t just a maxim for personal health but is increasingly being foisted upon consumer goods companies as the supermarket sector comes under pressures from low cost new entrants willing to compete on razor thin margins. Amazon’s focus on Whole Foods’ own brands coupled with Aldi and Lidl’s low cost own- brand focus represent challenges for other supermarket chains which are inevitably going to be passed on to their suppliers. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
September 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Kenya presidential election cancelled by Supreme Court

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

Justice Maraga said the election commission had failed "to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution".

He said the commission had committed irregularities "in the transmission of results", adding that the court would provide details in a full judgment within 21 days.

Dissenting judges said that the Nasa opposition alliance - which had petitioned the Supreme Court - failed to prove claims that the polls had been rigged.

The election sparked days of sporadic protests, in which at least 28 people were killed. The vote had raised fears of major political violence - as was the case after a disputed poll in 2007.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Governance is Everything. The annulment of Kenya’s election is a landmark event but the true measure of a democratic society is whether the opposing parties can agree to another election and accept the result without resorting to what could be cause for a civil war. 

 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 31 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gordhan Expects Charges as South African Succession Battle Rages

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

The National Prosecuting Authority has been probing the unit in an investigation that Gordhan, opposion parties and civil-society groups say is politically motivated. The former finance minister described the latest moves as an attempt to discredit politicians who oppose Zuma and are fighting against the plunder of state resources in Africa’s most-industrialized economy.

Scandals have shadowed Zuma, 75, during his eight-year presidency, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he broke his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer funds spent on his private home.

‘State Capture’

The nation’s graft ombudsman accused him of allowing members of the Gupta family, who are in business with his son, to influence cabinet appointments and the award of state contracts, referred to as “state capture.” Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

On Aug. 8 more than two dozen of the ruling African National Congress’s lawmakers backed an opposition motion of no confidence in Zuma in a secret ballot in parliament. While he survived, the party fired Makhosi Khoza as chairwoman of a portfolio committee and wrote to Derek Hanekom, the head of its disciplinary committee, rebuking him for his Twitter postings calling for the president’s removal.

Zuma is due to step down as the ANC’s leader in December, with his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa seen as the leading contenders to replace him.

“It’s a massive tussle -- it’s about the future of the ANC as we’ve known it,” Gordhan said. “Either you follow the capture of the ANC,” or change the party’s character and “recapture the state, which has now gotten into the wrong hands. People like ourselves are backing Mr. Ramaphosa, because we believe he has the integrity, to put it bluntly. And secondly, he has the modernity to innovate, to allow new ideas to emerge, understands the economy. ”

Eoin Treacy's view -

In much the same way Winnie Mandela took a dominant position in the ANC, Zuma’ ex-wife is likely to be a formidable opponent not least because of the support she will receive from Jakob Zuma’s tenure.  However, despite the continued deterioration of standards of governance under Zuma the existence of opposition both within and outside the ANC is positive as is the freedom of south Africa’s judiciary. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon to Cut Prices at Whole Foods as Acquisition Closes

This article by Mark Gurman and Matt Townsend for Bloomberg highlights the continued polarisation in the retail sector between those with a technological/low cost advantage and conventional stores. Here is a section:

The company said it will begin slashing prices on a broad cross section of Whole Foods groceries Monday -- the same day the $13.7 billion deal is set to close. That will start with items such as chicken, eggs, some vegetables, and some types of organic fish. Amazon reeled off a long list of other plans to combine its leading e-commerce and delivery assets with the physical locations of Whole Foods stores.

"This is a pretty impressive array of bold moves on the first day of an acquisition -- unprecedented, we would say," said Carol Levenson, an analyst at Gimme Credit.

The moves by Amazon inflame an already raging price war in U.S. groceries -- a sector known for razor-thin profit margins.

German discount grocers like Lidl and Aldi are expanding in the U.S. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been investing in more discounts too. Low prices are familiar terrain for Amazon, which has operated with little profitability for more than a decade. Shares of grocery-store chains fell on the announcements.

Kroger Co. declined as much as 2.4 percent while Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. sank 2.5 percent. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sells the most groceries in the U.S., also dropped 0.8 percent.

Amazon will also begin selling Whole Foods branded products, including those that are part of the 365 brand, via its website, and through fast delivery services like AmazonFresh, PrimeNow, and Prime Pantry, the company said.

Beyond price cuts and increased distribution, Amazon Prime will become Whole Foods’ customer rewards program, allowing shoppers to rack up Amazon rewards when they purchase pasture-raised eggs, organic milk and kombucha.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Amazon Prime is no longer the cheapest venue for goods but is among the most convenient. That turn to mild profitability has allowed the share to perform admirably over the last 18 months. The decision to embark on a price war following its acquisition of Whole Foods, which has historically been among the most expensive vendors, is a threat to established stores that have never had to compete on price with a company possessing Whole Foods’ cache. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Robot Revolution May Affect the Global Economy

This article from Bloomberg caught my attention. Here is a section:

“By turbocharging supply and depressing demand, automation risks exacerbating China’s reliance on export-driven growth – threatening hopes for a more balanced domestic and global economy,” BI economists Tom Orlik and Fielding Chen wrote.
Pay gains are intact. Domestic manufacturing workers with a high-school education saw wages rise 53 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to China Household Finance Survey data cited by BI. 

“Increasing use of robots should be bad news for medium-skilled workers, especially those in sectors where routine work means scope for automation,” Orlik and Chen said. “Yet wage growth in China remains rapid, and if anything, medium-skilled workers conducting routine work are doing better than average.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Technological innovation has led to the pace of development speeding up. It will not have escaped the attention of investors that the original Tiger economies were able to evolve economically much faster than the Europe or North America during the Industrial Revolution. More recently China has come from relative obscurity to be the world’s second largest economy. What used to take generations now takes decades and the pace of development is speeding up so that we may witness multiple iterations in our lifetimes. As much youngest daughter delights in telling me, she was born the same year as the iPhone. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Japan: Ignore Autos and Electronics to Profit

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Emma Wall for Morningstar may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

With a shrinking working population, Japan has record low levels of unemployment and the economy is poised to receive a boost once this lack of supply filters down to wage growth. But there are equities which can profit from the tight labour market according to Weindling; he invests in recruitment firms that provide permanent and temporary workers.

Suppliers Immune from Domestic Threats
While the population is ageing, Weindling points out that a Japanese company does not need a Japanese customer base to thrive.

“There is no reason why Japan should not continue to make things. Factory automation and robotics are not a threat to Japanese industrials in the way that they are to US companies – they are the solution to a dwindling workforce,” he says. “More automation is a good thing, and the larger industrials will continue to take market share. It is a multi-year, structural shift.”

That does not mean he backs the exporters of old, however. The international names which have long been synonymous with Japan are electronics firms and auto-makers; Toyota, Canon, Mitsubishi and even Sony are no-go areas for Weindling.

“No one buys cameras anymore, so why would I buy Canon,” he says. “We don’t own any of those household names. Their prospects are considerably lessened. Japan’s export market is no longer about cars and electronics, it is about condoms, baby milk, skin cream, medicine. Japan is known across Asia for high-quality products, reliability and high safety standards. These are the companies you want to be invested in.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Japan is an increasingly popular tourist destination for Asian, particularly Chinese, tourists who come with well-defined shopping lists from WeChat personalities that tell them exactly what and what not to purchase. On my family’s visit to Japan in April there were a number of consumer items Mrs. Treacy was very eager to try based on reviews she had seen in Chinese social media. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 15 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese automakers covet FCA

This article by Larry Vellquette for Automotive News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Why, after two years on the block, is FCA apparently drawing interest from at least one potential Chinese buyer now?
The answer: FCA's global network and product — specifically Jeep and Ram — fit the requirements the Chinese government has set for attractive acquisitions.

Quality gap
Chinese automakers have openly dreamed of cracking lucrative North America for a decade, spending millions to display their vehicles at high-profile U.S. auto shows. Early efforts showed that Chinese automakers had a long way to go before they were ready to compete here.

But in more recent years — through knowledge and expertise gained via joint ventures with the world's largest and most successful automakers — Chinese companies have closed the quality gap.

And the automakers feel like they finally have closed that gap enough to start selling their products in the U.S., said Michael Dunne, president of Dunne Automotive, a Hong Kong investment advisory company and an expert on the Chinese auto industry.

They also are under pressure from the government to expand beyond China, Dunne said. A government directive dubbed China Outbound pushes Chinese businesses to acquire international assets from their industries and operate them "to make their mark," much as Geely has done since acquiring Volvo in 2010. Bloomberg reported last week that Chinese companies plan to spend $1.5 trillion acquiring overseas companies over the next decade — a 70 percent increase from current levels.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Germanys auto sector has been garnering all the wrong sorts of attention lately with increasingly evidence that the major manufacturers may have colluded in hoodwinking the globe into believing diesel engines are clean. On the other hand, China’s auto manufacturers have been among the best performers this year as they have increasingly focused on partnerships with international brands. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top
August 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ten-years from global financial crisis: a decade in charts

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

Ten years ago on Wednesday marked the start for many observers of the global financial crisis - a series of rolling credit shocks and bank crashes that led to the deepest world recession for a generation and a decade of slow growth and painful repair.

On Aug. 9, 2007, the European Central Bank flooded its money markets with billions of euros of emergency cash to prevent a seizure in the European banking system after France's BNP Paribas became the latest to shut down investment funds hobbled by a collapse of U.S. mortgage and asset-backed bond markets.

Serial bank collapses in Britain, the United States, Germany and elsewhere were to follow over the following 18 months. These culminated in U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers being allowed to go bankrupt in September 2008, triggering a world financial panic, deep recession and eventual rescue package by the U.S. government, Federal Reserve and the rest of the G20 economic powers.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The number of articles pointing out this historical milestone has proliferated over the last week. It’s not particularly positive for sentiment because it reminds investors that everything comes to an end and often in a manner deleterious to one’s financial health. 



This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top