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September 25 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 23 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fed Officials Warn of Economic Risks in New Plea for Fiscal Help

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

Federal Reserve policy makers on Wednesday highlighted the importance of fiscal stimulus for an economic recovery that recently has outperformed forecasts. Chairman Jerome Powell continued to wave the fiscal flag carefully at a congressional hearing -- amid a political stalemate over a new package -- saying that more support was likely to be necessary. Others were more full-throated, with Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester saying it was very much needed given the “deep hole” the economy is climbing out of.

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans expressed concern the stimulus he penciled in won’t be forthcoming, while Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren suggested it’ll take another wave of infections to prompt action, and likely not until next year.

Declines in the stock market, until recently attributed to a reversal of excessive tech-share gains, have increasingly been attributed in part to worries about the recovery and the need for more stimulus. The S&P 500 Index was down 1.7% as of 2:22 p.m. in New York, the fifth drop in six days.

“The most difficult part of the recovery is still ahead of us,” Rosengren said in remarks Wednesday, saying he was more pessimistic than his colleagues over how many Americans will return to work over the next 15 months.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The impending bitter dispute between the Democrats and Republicans about the latter’s determination to approve a new supreme court justice before the election has pretty much shelved any hope of additional stimulus before the election. Add to that the real potential that an election result may not be immediately available and the timeline for when an additional fiscal stimulus will be agreed gets pushed further out.



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September 23 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla unveils battery puzzle pieces of smart material science, design, and manufacturing innovation

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

“Over the last few years, Tesla has been making a lot of moves related to batteries.

We are talking about buying companies like Maxwell and Hibar, and applying for patents on new technology, like a tabless battery cell and a cell to pack design.

While all these moves were mostly evaluated on their own merits, it wasn’t clear how all those things would fit together.

That’s exactly what Tesla demonstrated at its Battery Day.

Tesla explained how they have made major improvements in five key aspects of batteries:

Cell design, specifically form factor.
Battery cell factory design with manufacturing innovations
New anode materials
New cathode materials
New battery pack design

And then, by combining all these things together, Tesla achieves a battery cost breakthrough with a 56% reduction in cost per kWh:

What is most impressive is how all those innovations work together. Each result in an incremental improvement to battery technology, but if you combine them together, you get breakthrough-level performance and cost:

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tesla has the ambition to become a truly globally significant car company. The much-hyped battery day supplied a long list of potential solutions to achieve that goal. The challenge is what is being suggested is complicated to begin with and that is before the manufacturing headaches have been fully appreciated. Above all else building out cell manufacturing capacity to the scale suggested is going to be expensive.



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September 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Australia Unemployment Drops as Half of Jobs Lost Recovered

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

The data’s strength was surprising because the period spanned Melbourne’s shift to Stage 4 restrictions and a curfew to contain a rapidly spreading outbreak, as well as nervousness in neighboring New South Wales that it was headed down the same path. The labor market’s ability to absorb this weakness and maintain its recovery is testament to the government’s signature JobKeeper employment subsidy -- that will extend into 2021 -- and central bank stimulus.

Self-employed workers drove the monthly jobs increase. As part-time jobs returned at twice the pace of full-time, the ubiquitous food delivery services, with its riders pedaling the streets of Australia’s cities, are expected to be responsible for much of this rise.

“The upshot is that the unemployment rate is now unlikely to climb to 8.5% over the coming months as we had anticipated, let alone the 10% predicted by the RBA and the Treasury,” said Marcel Thieliant, senior economist for Australia at Capital Economics. “Indeed, with restrictions in Victoria set to be loosened toward year-end, employment should continue to rise.”

The Reserve Bank of Australia, which has kept its benchmark interest rate near zero since March, when it began buying government bonds to ensure the yield on three-year remained around 0.25%, had predicted the jobless rate would climb to around 10% later this year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Australia has successfully contained the coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne but the whole economy benefits from the monetary and fiscal stimulus to aid Victoria. With the RBA’s cash target rate at 0.25% Australia’s higher growth sectors that can benefit from access to abundant liquidity should continue to prosper.



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September 16 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

12 frightful slides before Halloween: Stocks boil and bubble, investors toil and trouble

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Stifel which contains a number of insightful charts and may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

The long-term charts contained in this report are helpful from the perspective of an investor either looking to monitor the potential for a bubble to evolve in the tech sector or the potential for cycles to rebound from depressed levels as a global recovery takes hold.



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September 15 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Industrials Conference: Strategy Sector Views + Analyst Stock Picks

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

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Media commentary continues to focus on the number of new cases of COVID-19 but that is an irrelevant figure. The numbers of hospitalisations and deaths and the fear that healthcare systems would be overrun was the reason for locking down economies. The reality today is even in countries where the number of cases is increasing, the hospitalization rate has not increased because most newly infected people are younger. Obviously, there are risks that younger people will infect older people but that is a manageable risk compared to the financial stress of total cessation of economic activity.



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September 15 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gilead and Merck's Billion Dollar Bets Face Tests as Ink Dries

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

The European Society for Medical Oncology meeting, which begins this week, will be headlined by results from Immunomedics Inc. -- which Gilead is buying for about $21 billion; and Seattle Genetics Inc., which drew more than $1 billion dollars in an investment and partnership from Merck.

The meeting will offer investors a peek into the blockbuster hopes for Immunomedics’ lead cancer drug and provide Merck holders added details on the effectiveness of a cancer drug the company has signed on to help bring it to patients.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Innovation in the healthcare sector has long been outsourced to biotechnology companies. Experimentation tends to be resource hungry and it is difficult to predict what will eventually become a commercial product. The answer has been to allow early stage investors take the start-up risk with the promise of the best solutions being eventually bought out at a substantial premium. That model ensures a robust pace of M&A activity work.



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September 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ARM: UK-based chip designer sold to US firm Nvidia

This article by Leo Kelion for the BBC may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:  

But experts say one risk Nvidia faces is that the takeover could encourage ARM's wider client list to shift focus to a rival type of chip technology, which lags behind in terms of adoption but has the benefit of not being controlled by one company.

"ARM is facing growing competition from RISC-V, an open-source architecture," wrote CCS Insight's Geoff Blaber in a recent research note.

"If its partners believed that ARM's integrity and independence was compromised, it would accelerate the growth of RISC-V and in the process devalue ARM."

Mr Blaber also suggested regulators might block the deal.

"This process will take months if not years with a high chance of failure," he told the BBC.

Mr Huang has said that he expects it to take more than a year to "educate" regulators and answer all their questions, but said he had "every confidence" they would ultimately approve the investment.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The big question is just how much trouble is the Vision Fund in? ARM Holdings was deemed to be central to Softbank’s ambitions of carving out of a dominant position in future technological innovation. The sale of this key asset signals trouble.



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September 11 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A Legion of Day Traders Is Taking Over Korea's Stock Market

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

Known for their love of risk, individual investors appear to be changing the contours of South Korea’s broader market. They are the force behind the benchmark Kospi index’s 64% rebound from its March low -- the strongest performance in Asia in that period -- having bought a net 25.6 trillion won ($21.6
billion) worth of stocks since then even as foreign funds and institutional investors sold. In the U.S., the Robinhood craze means that retail investors now account for roughly 20% of equity trading, up from 15% historically, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analysis.

“Retail investors appear to be seeking short-term profits after hearing their next-door neighbors earned lots of money from stocks after the March selloff,” said You Seung-Min, chief strategist at Samsung Securities Co.

The activity of Korean short-term traders in September hasn’t been limited to typical darlings like preferred stocks or shares of healthcare firms. They have also dominated trading in blue-chip companies like Samsung Electronic Co., about 81% of value traded this month through Sept. 8, and SK Hynix Inc.,
almost 76%.

“Unlike previously, they are trading large-cap stocks as well because they believe some large-size firms may be able to make a huge profit amid the spread of the Covid-19,” You said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The South Korea and Taiwanese markets are heavily oriented towards technology companies which has made them a natural destination for traders playing the stay-at-home momentum trade. South Korean retail traders were also highly active in the cryptocurrency markets in 2017. That experience may have emboldened them to be more aggressive in pursuing gains during this momentum move.



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September 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Traders Are Getting Smarter About the Vaccine Race

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

It's not clear how big a deal this particular pause is. Trial halts aren’t uncommon or a sure sign of a significant problem. Health care news publication Stat reported Wednesday that the participant received the vaccine and not a placebo, but it's possible that the volunteer’s illness — reported to be a spine condition called transverse myelitis — is unrelated to the shot. They may have already had the condition, or this could simply prove to be a singular outlier. The range of possible outcomes includes everything from a quick restart to a longer delay that could create concern about vaccines that use similar technology, including an effort from Johnson & Johnson and Russia's already approved shot. With just one event, the former seems more likely than the latter, especially given the latest news from the FT on the trial’s possible quick resumption.

The pause may slow enrollment in AstraZeneca's trial if it restarts, and may affect other efforts. It may also incline companies and regulators to wait for a bit more safety data before approval. That's not such a bad thing if it builds confidence in the eventual result. Still, halting to track down an answer is the responsible move for volunteers, the company, and the vaccine race.

It’s clear that the world must proceed carefully in developing shots intended for millions. While approved vaccines are very safe and companies working on Covid-19 candidates have reported few red flags in small early tests, the human immune system is complicated and unusual reactions do occur. Only large-scale trials on a diverse population can determine whether a particular shot is safe for general use and differentiate outliers from deal-breakers. Big tests are especially crucial in a pandemic scenario with less time for early research.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There are over 150 candidates for COVID-19 vaccines and we only need one to work. This is a massive proof of concept exercise for genetic solutions. The reason it usually takes years to come up with a vaccine is because of the process of using dead virus or growing weakened samples.



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September 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on investment trusts investing in private equity

I don't know if it would help your subscriber who asked about private equity, but I wondered if he was aware that some investment trusts in the UK offer some exposure. For example, Scottish Mortgage has about 20% of its assets in unlisted companies. 

There are probably others. Consult the Investment Trust handbook.

(I should say I own shares in Scottish Mortgage)

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this suggestion which I’m sure will be appreciated by other subscribers. I have also reached out to Jonathan Davis, one of the authors of the Investment Trust Handbook, and I will revert with whatever response he provides.



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September 08 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on private equity growth opportunities

Recently Mr. Treacy mentioned that most of the growth and yield opportunities are currently in the Private Equity. I would appreciate Mr Treacy's view on UK tax efficient Venture Capital Trusts. I am considering them as they provide exposure to early stage companies and provide tax efficient investment. Does Mr. Treacy deem this a good vehicle or would he suggest any other investment instruments?

Eoin Treacy's view -

- Thank you for this email which may be of interest to subscribers. There are plenty of growth opportunities in the regular stock market. The success of the recent IPO market is a testament to that phenomenon.

However, there is a clear trend among institutional investors towards stuffing portfolios with “alternatives”. It’s an incredibly broad sector including everything from seed capital for new companies to timberland, real estate and gold.



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September 04 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tenth Annual Energy Paper

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

We expect some of the “base” decline from existing shale wells to be replaced by new wells; the harder question is by how much. Operating and development costs have declined, well productivity has improved and there are large sunk costs in Appalachia (i.e., lease agreement options) that may compel many producers to keep drilling irrespective of lifecycle economics. Furthermore, if the onshore shale boom fades, we might see a revival of US offshore oil & gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. US oil production is also very sensitive to price: $55-$65 oil prices could add 1-3 mm bpd to US production when compared with JP Morgan’s $40 base case WTI price forecast. Even so, the US may now be close to peak oil and natural gas production and peak energy independence given financial pressures on the shale industry, and environmental pressures discussed next.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

This report is laden with interesting graphics and statistics which highlight the challenges of developing renewable as well conventional and unconventional energy solutions. The correlation between renewable stocks and oil prices broke down late last year. That was a meaningful event and suggested the market has moved on from thinking of renewables solely in terms of cost competition with oil. That implies an alternative set of metrics is now be used to value the sector.



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September 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Stupid 'Rich' Skew in Apple, Greed Breaks Things

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

Jan $180 Strike Calls costs $4
Jan $80 Strike Puts costs $1

*Both options are $50 out of the money, approx data, BUT it is nearly 3x more expensive to buy upside risk in AAPL equity. Downside protection normally costs more than upside risk participation, NOT today. What does this mean? One large buyer has made a colossal splash in the market and the scent of greed has drawn thousands of other market participants into the dangerous game. Several clients in our institutional chat on Bloomberg have cited SoftBank as the original size buyer. We have NO IDEA if this is true, just that highly credible clients have made this reference several times over the last week. It’s a high-stakes game of musical chairs, the ultimate greater fool theory moment. The colossal call buyer has thrown meat in the water and drawn in the sharks, but unfortunately thousands of Robinhood minnows at the same time. When the large players’ exit, the little guy and gal will be left holding the bag.

Apple closed near $130, while the cost of speculative upside calls is weighted heavily against the buyer. Someone must have reached out to Buffett today because he can make a fortune in selling $AAPL upside calls.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Options volume has spiked higher over the last few months to hit multi-year highs. Options offer significant leverage to both the upside the downside and are among the primary vehicles for traders to take on outsized positions relative to their capital. The significant rebound in stay-at-home shares has resulted in an impressive momentum move which is not taking at least a breather. 



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September 01 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Rolls-Royce Disposal Raises Questions Over Balance Sheet

This note from Dow Jones may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Rolls-Royce's GBP2 billion disposal announcement is materially more than what the market had in mind, and may imply a lower need for fresh equity to repair its balance sheet, Credit Suisse says. This raises questions as to whether the company was waiting for things to improve before a rights issue or taking the risk of seeing things get worse, the Swiss bank says. The lack of visibility on the balance sheet rebuild, persistent volatility in forecasts and the unattractiveness of the underlying investment case mean the stock remains unappealing for many investors, CS says. The bank has an underperform rating on the stock, and lowers the target price to 200 pence, from 210 pence. Shares are down 9% at 219.40 pence.   

Eoin Treacy's view -

As a major plane engine supplier Rolls Royce has been significantly negatively impacted by the Boeing 737 Max debacle. As if that were not enough the collapse in air traffic and cancellation of orders for new planes has been a double blow. The share is down more than 80% since early 2019 and made a new low today.



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August 28 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Wind Turbine Behemoth Plans for Future by Getting Into Hydrogen

This article by William Mathis and Laura Millan Lombrana for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

It could be a compelling model. Danish utility Orsted A/S is already exploring a number of hydrogen projects for its wind farms and Royal Dutch Shell Plc plans to produce the gas from a park it’s going to build off the Dutch coast. Making and selling hydrogen could provide a new source of revenue for wind projects that would offset the risk in the sometimes volatile electricity market.

No one before has used wind power alone, without a grid connection, to produce hydrogen, Nauen said. It’s a project that will provide insight that could be crucial to scaling up the technology to much larger turbines and wind farms both on land and at sea.

Earlier this year, Siemens Gamesa announced plans to build a 14-megawatt offshore turbine with a rotor diameter of 222 meters (728 feet), a few meters larger than the previous record.

The company expects to conduct testing at the hydrogen pilot from October to December and then start hydrogen production in January. A Danish hydrogen fuel company called Everfuel will distribute the gas for vehicles including taxis and buses to use in Copenhagen.

European governments aim to spend billions of dollars to help nurture domestic industries to produce hydrogen. The funding could help scale production and bring down costs.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Europe and Japan’s legacy automotive sector has been developing hydrogen fuel cells for decades with little to show for the investment. There was never a catalyst to spur the change from reliable internal combustion engines. The clean diesel scandal and competition from battery-driven alternatives has forced these companies to do something; anything. They don’t have experience with battery innovation but they have been developing hydrogen for a long time.



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August 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Facebook Hits Record as Analysts See Opportunity From Shop

This article by Ryan Vlastelica for Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

Facebook analysts were positive after the social-media company added a new shopping section, called Facebook Shop, to its main app, seeing strong e-commerce growth potential.

JMP Securities (market outperform, PT $305)

There are “multiple catalysts” for Facebook, and e-commerce “can be a significant opportunity”
There is “a clear line of sight to monetizing Shop”
While advertising should remain Facebook’s focus, the growth in e-commerce means Facebook “can generate greater product discovery” for small and mid-sized businesses relative to other channels

Stifel (buy, PT $290)

The accelerated roll-out of the service “suggests the benefits to growth could be evident as early as 2021,” and Facebook waiving selling fees in 2020 “could accelerate the adoption of these tools”
Over the long term, Facebook’s e-commerce opportunity “should come more from increased adoption of digital ads” by small and mid-sized businesses than transaction fees

Shares up as much as 2.86%, the stock has nearly doubled off a March low, and it is trading at a record

Eoin Treacy's view -

Companies like Alibaba and Tencent were quick to introduce payment platforms into their social media and ecommerce products. The impending IPO of Ant Financial represents the consumer finance crown jewel of Jack Ma’s empire. It is a revenue engine that was successful because it afforded Chinese consumer the opportunity to earn daily interest at rates which were significantly higher than from banks. That’s the kind of regulatory two-step Silicon Valley start-ups have been performing for years and, so far, the Chinese government has been willing to look the other way.



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August 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on electric vehicles.

I really love your audio comments every day and I think they are very useful. Commenting on the EV mania that is on lately...I don't understand why people are so crazy about tesla enc... at the moment the batteries don't last for a long time and when an EV car catches fire, this fire is unstoppable, a safety problem where nobody ever talks about. On top of that, the power grid of older city centers are not equipped to charge an EV... so where is the point in buying one?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email and I am delighted you are enjoying the audios. The charging question is a big one in cities. I called around yesterday to get quotes to install a charging station. They ranged from $700 to $985 before labour. The majority of US houses run on 110 volts and an EV needs 220V to charge in a timely manner. That requires an additional breaker at the fuse box and running cables to where you wish to charge the vehicle. Besides the cost, that is not an option for people who live in apartments. It would require a big expensive communal decision to install chargers in an apartment building.



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August 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on a layman's description of nuclear batteries.

I suddenly seem to be bombarding you with communications, after years in the wilderness.    Don't worry, this will only be a brief interlude, I am sure.

   I just wanted to comment on the extract on "nano-diamond self-charging batteries" that you publish today.

I read Loz Blain's whole article, and it seems a very important development indeed.   But in keeping with all articles on technology for the "layman", the story doesn't start at the beginning, but begins a bit down the down the road, and soon focusses on the applications alone.    This applies even more to your extract.

I feel that this patronises the reader unnecessarily.    The average reader should be able to understand a brief well-structured explanation that starts from the beginning.   (This objection applies even more to articles on Covid-19 -- but that is another story.   In that case, I don't believe any politicians, or even some of their scientific advisers, have any real grasp of the subject.)

Re. the batteries, we have to start from the energy source.   There are only 3 (or maybe 4) energy sources:-    Radiation (sunlight), Chemical energy (in fossil fuels, wood etc.) and Nuclear energy (stored in the nuclei of all atoms, and released from the unstable ones).    The 4th source would be Gravitational (hydro-electric power, tidal, possibly wave).
 

The source in nano-diamond is nuclear, but the products (nitrogen gas) are harmless, and the beta radiation is contained (or so they claim).    The beta radiation (carrying the nuclear energy as kinetic energy) then transfers its energy to electrons, and creates the voltage.

The prefix nano is jargon which could be avoided - it simply means "using minute quantities of material", or possibly "operating with minute quantities of material at a time (i.e. on a very small scale), within a larger structure".    (This is what is happening in living things, and thus in the cells of our bodies, 24/7.     Man has only just caught up with this technology, in a rudimentary manner.)
 

"Self-charging" is superfluous and confusing.     I suppose it means that electricity is being continually formed from the nuclear energy store.    But this is equally true of a conventional battery;  the energy in that case is chemical, and there is far less than in the carbon-14 nuclei in nano-diamond batteries.

The carbon-14 is nuclear waste - from the used graphite (graphite is a form of carbon) "moderator" blocks from the cores of nuclear power stations, of which there is a huge store apparently.

Well it seems to me that if just 10 or so lines from what I have given above were used, that would be understandable to the average reader, and give them a good working knowledge.     (You may be interested to know, or probably already suspected, that I tutor A level physics and chemistry.   My great passion is communicating these matters clearly.   Granted, it is a great help if the reader has some facility in handling spatial ideas, but that applies to so many technical areas.)

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this informative explanation which I’m sure will be of interest to the Collective. I’m sure your students benefit greatly from the clarity your provide.



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August 25 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Nano-diamond self-charging batteries could disrupt energy as we know it

This article by Loz Blain for NewAtlast.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

And it can scale up to electric vehicle sizes and beyond, offering superb power density in a battery pack that is projected to last as long as 90 years in that application – something that could be pulled out of your old car and put into a new one. If part of a cell fails, the active nano diamond part can be recycled into another cell, and once they reach the end of their lifespan – which could be up to 28,000 years for a low-powered sensor that might, for example, be used on a satellite – they leave nothing but "harmless by-products."

In the words of Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, UNESCO Chair and University College London Professor: “NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure
projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations. Their technology’s ability to deliver energy over very long periods of time without the need for recharging, refueling, or servicing puts them in an ideal position to tackle the world’s energy requirements through a distributed solution with close to zero environmental impact and energy transportation costs.”

Indeed, the NDB battery offers an outstanding 24-hour energy proposition for off-grid living, and the NDB team is adamant that it wishes to devote a percentage of its time to providing it to needy remote communities as a charity service with the support of some of the company's business customers.

Should the company chew right through the world's full supply of carbon-14 nuclear waste – a prospect that would take some extremely serious volume – NDB says it can create its own carbon-14 raw material simply and cost-effectively.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I don’t know if the promises being made by this start-up are realisable in the two-year timeframe they anticipate. However, we do need to pay attention to these kind of technological advances because of the productivity enhancement potential they represent. Secular bull markets are driven by productivity growth. Therefore, anything that has the potential to allow us to do more with less has to be given due consideration because of the growth opportunities they offer.



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August 24 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla resale values

This graphic from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers:


It’s early, but there are signs Tesla Inc.’s Model 3 could be as exceptional in the used market as it has been in the new-car world. The sedan has sold at volumes no other electric vehicle has come close to reaching, turning Tesla into the most valuable auto company in the world. Car-shopping websites still have small sample sizes to work with, yet so far, the Model 3s are retaining much more of their value than their small luxury-vehicle peers and they’re selling quickly once owners list them for sale -- on average just 29.3 days from March through June -- according to iSeeCars.com.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I took a test drive of a Model 3 and a Model Y on Saturday. It’s a pleasant experience. The acceleration, as reported, leaves every petrol driven car in the dust. For that reason, Tesla makes a big point of differentiating it product offering based on 0-60 times. I can’t fathom how anyone can really tell the difference between 3 and 4 seconds to 60 miles an hour in a city like Los Angeles where speeds of 30 miles an hour are the norm outside of the lockdowns.



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August 21 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on risk appetites and the value of a subscription.

I am a pre-subscriber (financial constraints, exacerbated since Covid-19, make it impossible for me to become a full subscriber, I'm afraid, so I may not qualify for a reply. But David did reply to me on more than one occasion;  he was always so kind, and is greatly missed).

I remember your being on the panel at a money show in the conference centre in Westminster Square (I forget the name - possible Westminster Conference Centre) - it must have been about 2009 because I remember asking a question as to whether there were any "good" banks left that might be worth investing in.
  
Anyhow, in response to a question from another attendee about companies drilling for water in Australia, (or possibly into wind power or solar or even lithium miners (if it wasn't too early) - I forget exactly which), I remember you replying that you never favoured chasing these early-stage stories, and in general you have been proved right since.   

I still tend to class hydrogen fuel and battery power for vehicles in the same category, but perhaps you feel that times have changed sufficiently now?    Since I am only a pre-subscriber, and not able to read the full article, I appreciate that you may have said more on this there, or in previous Comments of the Day.
    
It seems to me that since hydrogen when mixed with oxygen is a very explosive mix (although this could also be said to a lesser extent of petrol vapour, I suppose), it would only take one careless mistake or faulty construction to cause a serious explosion.   But perhaps the design features are so tight that this would be impossible.   

At least I would trust an electric vehicle more than a self-driving one! In fact, I am a bit nervous by nature. I would never trust a Toyota now, after that stuck accelerator pedal caused a fatality. What the last minutes of those poor occupants were like I cannot face thinking about.

Whether it is possible to reply to this or not, many thanks Eoin for the comments that I am able to read daily. They give a very sane and reassuring perspective, especially in these difficult times.

Eoin Treacy's view -

David always saw value in conducting a public discourse with subscribers because it helped to educate us as much as the Collective. It also ensures we are covering topics of interest. I agree and one of the things I enjoy most is attempting to provide satisfactory answers to subscriber’ queries. However, as someone who has been familiar with the Service for at least 11 years, might I suggest you at least take a trial subscription?

If that is too much of a financial constraint it may be time to reassess your investment/trading ambitions. Investing involves a degree of risk. If you are uncomfortable with driving a Prius because of a fault corrected more than a decade ago, it might be time to conclude investing is not for you.

The response to this email continues in the Subscriber's Area. 



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August 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fed Blog Says Debt Buying Aided Market Without Moral-Hazard Risk

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

The unprecedented speed and scale of the Federal Reserve’s buying of Treasuries and mortgage debt to aid a severely impaired bond market has accomplished that without raising the specter of moral hazard, Federal Reserve Bank of New York researchers wrote in a note.

Pandemic-sparked volatility in March caused liquidity in the world’s biggest bond market to plunge to its worst since the 2008 financial crisis. The Fed responded with purchases of Treasuries and mortgage securities that peaked at more than $100 billion a day combined.
It’s still soaking up about $80 billion of Treasuries and at least $40 billion of mortgage securities a month, and some bond veterans warn that the central bank’s involvement in the market could potentially be encouraging risky behavior, such as excessive borrowing. But a post Thursday in the New York Fed’s Liberty Street blog argued against that.

“The magnitude of the Desk’s purchase program in 2020 ‘to support the smooth functioning’ of the Treasury and agency MBS markets marked those purchases as highly unusual,” wrote Kenneth Garbade, a senior vice president in the New York Fed’s Research and Statistics Group, and Frank Keane, a senior policy advisor.

But they also say that the tool has been used before and “the infrequency of Federal Reserve intervention suggests that relying on the Fed on those rare occasions when markets are in extremis has not materially exacerbated moral hazard.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Reading over the Fed minutes feels like an episode of the Twilight Zone. This quote in particular is relevant. “many participants judged that yield caps and targets were not warranted in the current environment but should remain an option.”. It doesn’t have to engage in yield curve control because the market is already behaving like it is a fact.



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August 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ballard Power Gets Stock Upgrade as Hydrogen Vehicles Gain Steam

This article by Divya Baljifor Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Ballard Power, one of Canada’s best-performing stocks this year, just got an analyst upgrade as
governments and vehicle manufacturers around the world push for the development of battery and hydrogen vehicles. BLDP fell as much as 9.5% intraday Thursday in Toronto.

* Stock raised to outperform from sector perform, PT increased to C$20 from C$18 by National Bank of Canada analyst Rupert Merer

* Ballard is in discussions with potential partners in Europe and could form a joint venture with a top-tier supplier; China could have a detailed hydrogen plan come soon, targeting one million hydrogen vehicles by 2030

* Merer sees a number of positive catalysts this year and the stock is still well priced compared with its peers

* Ballard is up more than 110% this year, making it the fourth best performing Canadian stock, vs the S&P/TSX Composite Index’s 2.7% decline

* NOTE: July 29, Fuel-Cell Firm Stages Comeback 20 Years Later With Help of China

Eoin Treacy's view -

I’ve created a reasonably complete list of companies from all over the world focusing on the hydrogen/fuel cell sector in the Chart Library.

Weichai Power has been extremely active in buying up rights to use and commercialise fuel cell technology developed in Europe and North America over the last few decades. The sector has never gotten off the ground because it was not economically feasible and there was not real incentive to try it out. That is now changing.

Some of the factors combining to support the trend include:  



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August 19 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on investing in 5G

good morning Eoin I enjoy every morning your briefing - thanks! could you guide me to an ETF which invests in the most promising companies benefitting from 5 G technology development? thanks, and greetings from Switzerland.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which may be of interest to subscribers. With an infrastructure build on the scale of what is necessary to get up and running with 5G the first moves were the infrastructure companies. South Korea was first to launch a nationwide network and China followed last year. Europe and the USA are lagging significantly. Latin America and Africa are even farther behind.



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August 18 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Accelerating AI Adoption in Bio-Pharma through Collaboration

This whitepaper from Insead may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In these trying times, we have seen many examples of digital technology and innovation flling in the gap. Among these, telemedicine and chatbots have been very helpful for frst-line triage and early-stage diagnosis. China’s AliHealth and JD Health both expanded their telemedicine services for distant consultation and preliminary diagnostics with physicians to prevent the spread of the virus. They also launched diferent versions of their chatbots (a basic form of AI) to disseminate COVID-19 related medical information, health recommendations as well as Q&As.

In the US, the CDC used Microsoft’s healthcare chatbot service to create a coronavirus symptom checker and Whatsapp (owned by Facebook) launched the WHO Health Alert to share critical information to millions of users worldwide. In India, Facebook also used its helpdesk bot to share news and answer user questions relating to the pandemic.

Closer to home, it was encouraging to see smaller European startups launch similar initiatives, such as the French startup Clevy which is among Early Metrics’ highly rated companies and has created Covid-bot.fr.

These speedy developments in response to the pandemic were a testament to the real value brought by these technologies and to the reactivity of young innovative companies. We hope they will inspire future considerations for public healthcare systems to welcome innovation from both tech giants and emerging innovators.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Crises force changes in behaviour. I know our family had never used telemedicine before the crisis. However, it was certainly helpful on a least two occasions over the seven months when we had questions that would normally have required a doctor’s visit. The fact the service is included in the price of our health insurance was also a bonus.



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August 18 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

GM Shares Soar on Electric-Vehicle Spin-Off Speculation

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

GM does plan to sell more than 20 EV models around 2023. That business could be spun off for $20 billion and eventually be worth as much as $100 billion, Deutsche Bank’s Rosner said. GM’s core business selling gasoline-powered sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks is generating cash but viewed as being in long-term decline and is less exciting to investors than the company’s electric-car plans, he wrote.

Despite the share gains this week, the Detroit-based automaker’s stock is down about 17% so far this year while all-electric rival Tesla Inc.’s value is eight times that of GM. By spinning off its EV business, GM could get the kind of momentum enjoyed by Tesla and a handful of startups that have lured capital despite their having no vehicles on the market.

Battery-powered cars have caught the imagination of investors in recent weeks, sending shares of Tesla to successive record levels and boosting the value of electric startups such as Nikola Inc., Fisker Inc. and Lordstown Motors Corp., all of which took a fast track chasing public listings after being acquired by special purpose acquisition companies.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The entire automotive supply chain has concluded there is no future in internal combustion engines. Not only are battery costs coming down and efficiency improving but the regulatory environment continues to squeeze traditional manufacturers.



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August 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Black silicon photodetector hits record-breaking 132% efficiency

This article by Michael Irving for NewAtlas may be of interest to subscribers.

Together, these advances made for a device with 130-percent external quantum efficiency. The team even had these results independently verified by the German National Metrology Institute, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB).

The researchers say that this record efficiency could improve the performance of basically any photodetector, including solar cells and other light sensors, and that the new detectors are already being manufactured for commercial use.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The efficiency of solar cells has been improving steadily for the last forty years. The capital poured into the renewables sector following the collapse in interest rates a decade ago, has been the catalyst to greatly enhance the speed with which efficiency gains are being delivered.



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August 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

BioMarin Transformative Gene Therapy Turns Goldman More Bullish

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

A deeper dive into the cost-effectiveness of BioMarin’s Roctavian, which is on track to become the first
approved gene therapy for Hemophilia A, and physician awareness left Goldman’s Salveen Richter more bullish on the prospects for the “transformative” therapy. * #

Boosts already Street-high PT to $218 from $172, as research suggests a two- to three-times larger prevalence pool than previously estimated

** Sees average gross price of $2m-$3m as cost-effective compared to prophylactic factor therapy or Roche’s Hemlibra

* “Majority of physicians plan to prescribe the drug upon approval to ~30% of their eligible patients and see utility across all severity levels”

* Expects rapid adoption with an industry specialist highlighting that recent announcements by various payors for coverage of gene therapies bodes well for Roctavian

* A decision from FDA is due Aug. 21 * BMRN shares are up 63% in the past year compared to a 30% gain for the Nasdaq Biotech Index

* NOTE: Aug. 4, BioMarin Second Quarter Loss Per Share Wider Than Estimates
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The big difference between genetic solutions and pharmaceuticals is they provide solutions rather than treatments. Healthcare cashflows have been utility-like because of the predictable progression of a disease and the requirement for long-term chronic treatment. That ensured that every new patient represented a reasonably predictable set of cashflows with a well-defined time horizon.



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August 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Platinum Quarterly Presentation Q1 2020

This report carries a great deal of relevant information for the platinum market. Here is a section:

Automotive demand down only 17% (-132 koz) YoY despite a 24% fall in Q1 light global vehicle sales

Tightening global emissions standards, driving higher pgm loadings, partially counters lower auto sales/production

W. Europe diesel share decline slowed on increased diesel sales

Diesel vehicles still key for automakers to avoid or reduce heavy CO2 fines

German diesel car market share continued to recover (Q1’20 average 35%, up 1.3% over 2019 average)

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

It’s easy to think that diesel is a dead fuel but sales still continue. The damage to consumer confidence may, however, be impossible to overcome. That is creating a new market for transportation alternatives. 



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August 12 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on returning customers

Dear Eoin and team, I would like to thank you very much for the big difference you have made to my confidence in advising my clients, since I re-joined the service. If only I could find a way of explaining the benefit to my professional contacts! All the very best

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and welcome back. The one thing I would highlight for prospective subscribers is that in the evolving global tapestry of events, some big picture perspective is likely to be beneficial.



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August 11 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Moderna Wants to Transform the Body Into a Vaccine-Making Machine

This article by Robert Langreth and Naomi Kresge for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The excitement around mRNA goes beyond the pandemic. Proponents hope it can become a wide-ranging platform that will lead to vaccines for other difficult-to-treat infections, as well as customized cancer shots and even heart disease treatments. “It’s a big moment for mRNA therapeutics in general, because now it’s a household word and everybody knows about it,” says Derrick Rossi, a stem cell biologist who was a co-founder of Moderna in 2010 but is no longer affiliated with the company. “For Moderna, it’s the first time on the global stage.”

Interest in using genetic material to turn the body’s cells into vaccine factories dates to a series of experiments in the early 1990s. In 1993 researchers at Merck & Co. injected lab mice with loops of DNA that contained instructions for influenza proteins. To the surprise of the scientists, the mice generated an immune response that protected against the flu. The concept, so elegant it seemed almost too simple to be true, produced a surge of excitement among vaccine experts.

But though DNA vaccines worked in animals, they weren’t successful in initial human trials. It was difficult to get sufficient amounts of DNA into human cells, and when scientists overcame that, the vaccines turned out to be less potent than needed. (They were tried on the most challenging diseases, including HIV.) Over the years research into DNA vaccines has continued, but none has made it to market for humans. Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., a dark horse in the Covid-19 vaccine race, is testing a DNA-based approach. It uses a hand-held device to zap the skin with electric pulses after an injection, opening up holes in cell membranes to allow in more DNA.

A few lonely scientists pursued mRNA therapies for years. In 2005, University of Pennsylvania researchers Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman found that a slight modification to the mRNA molecule could reduce the immune reaction, making it much more amenable for use in drugs or vaccines. (Since then, scientists have found ways to reduce mRNA’s other vulnerability inside the body, protecting it from enzymes by encapsulating it in lipid nanoparticles.)

Eoin Treacy's view -

The world is betting big on new technology providing solutions to an intractable problem in record time. So far, results are positive and there is reason to be hopeful a treatment effective enough to improve consumer confidence will be available in the near-term.



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August 10 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Time for Thinking

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

The first is that many investors have underestimated the impact of low rates on valuations.  In short, what should the stock market yield?  Not its dividend yield, but its earnings yield: the ratio of earnings to price (that is, p/e inverted).  Simplistically, when Treasurys yield less than 1% and you add in the traditional equity premium, perhaps the earnings yield should be 4%.  That yield of 4/100 suggests a p/e ratio (the inverse) of 100/4, or 25.  Thus the S&P 500 shouldn’t trade at its traditional 16 times earnings, but roughly 50% higher.

Even that, it’s said, understates the case, because it ignores the fact that companies’ earnings grow, while bond interest doesn’t.  Thus the demanded return on stocks shouldn’t be (bond yield + equity premium) as suggested above, but rather (bond yield + equity premium - growth).  If the earnings on the S&P 500 will grow to eternity at 2% per year, for example, the right earnings yield isn’t 4%, but 2% (for a p/e ratio of 50).  And, mathematically, for a company whose growth rate exceeds the sum of the bond yield and the equity premium, the right p/e ratio is infinity.  On that basis, stocks may have a long way to go.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The removal of the discount rate, as a basis for valuing cashflows has an outsized effect on all income producing assets. That implies the persistent threat of deflation which allowed long-bond yields to compress to historically low levels globally will persist indefinitely.



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August 10 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Navy's solar power satellite hardware to be tested in orbit

This article by Sandra Erwin for Spacenews.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The 12-inch square tile module will test whether power can be harvested from its solar panel and transform the energy to a radio frequency microwave. The experiment has been in the works for more than a decade.

The module converts sunlight for microwave power transmission. Depuma said engineers decided to not use optical power transmission because a lot of energy would be lost through clouds and atmosphere.

The Naval Research Laboratory said the results of the experiment could drive the design of a dedicated spacecraft to test the transmission of energy back to Earth. The Pentagon is interested in this technology to provide energy to remote installations like forward operating bases and disaster response areas.

Researchers believe that a space solar system traveling above the atmosphere would catch far more energy than it would be possible on the ground due to the abundant and unimpeded sunlight in space.

One of the concerns is the thermal performance of the hardware. “It’s kind of a tricky problem to have something that’s in direct sunlight all the time and maintain the temperature of the electronics,” said Jaffe.

Solar power satellites could provide energy anywhere in the world, he said. “So a really important component of these kind of satellites would be a device that can convert the sunlight into microwaves or some other form of electromagnetic energy that’s suitable for sending to Earth. Now is the time to test it in space and see how it performs.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Development of SpaceX’s BFR is progressing much quicker than most people gave the company credit for. The delivery of the vehicle to active commercial service will greatly reduce the cost of lifting major payloads to space.



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August 07 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Biogen Soars After Alzheimer's Drug Gets Priority FDA Review

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

Aducanumab, a so-called monoclonal antibody designed to target amyloid plaque in the brain, has been one of the most closely watched drugs in development for years. Biogen at one point halted research on it after getting disappointing results, only to revive the drug in a reversal that surprised scientists and investors and raised the hopes of patients and families.

The drug and the stop-start study process have been viewed skeptically by some. Data presented in December at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease conference in San Diego showed conflicting findings, with one trial suggesting the drug could be the first-ever to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. But a second, essentially identical trial showed no effect on the disease at all.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that most commonly arises in people over age 60. It robs patients of their memories and their minds, causing impaired speech and thought. More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 14 million are expected to suffer from it by 2060.

With no medications currently available to slow the progression of the disease, demand for a therapy like aducanumab would be substantial. The next focus for investors will be a meeting of outside
advisers to review the results generated by Biogen. Stifel analyst Paul Matteis said the briefing documents released prior to the panel are expected to be “a bigger determinant than usual
in dictating how panelists eventually vote” and called the panel the highlight of 2020 and 2021 for health-care investors.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Completely unmet medical need represents growth potential that does not turn up all that often. Alzheimer’s is only going to become a more pressing burden on healthcare systems as the baby boomer generation continues to age and live longer than any generation that has come before. The first product to market will have access to virgin growth potential which is why there is such clear focus on the efficacy of Biogen/Eisai’s potential treatment.



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August 05 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lightweight-banking via messaging services are getting Gen Z buzz

This article by Mike Butcher for techcrunch.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

They are not alone. Other players in the “banking services via a messaging” space include Kotak Mahindra Bank in India (on WhatsApp) and ICICI in WhatsApp (India). However, neither of these can do actual provisioning of the card and addition to Apple Pay and Google Pay in the messengers, which is what Zelf can do.

With Zelf, users get an account and a virtual card via their Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram accounts. For offline and online purchases Zelf supports Apple Pay and Google Pay. This lightweight onboarding means card issuance takes less than 30 seconds via a Passport or national ID. Users then get a virtual Mastercard debit card available in their favorite messenger app. Operating inside the EU’s “Single Euro Payments Area” means it’s pretty easy for the startup to scale its offering to other countries.

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the biggest advantages emerging markets have is they are afforded the opportunity to skip whole stages of development. This is because technology is immediately available to them without having to develop it themselves. China has been able to progress meaningfully because of its adoption of technological knowhow and the introduction of India’s 4G network offers India the same opportunity to evolve the entertainment, communication, banking and ecommerce sectors.



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August 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Baupost Group Letter

Thanks to a subscriber for this letter by Seth Klarman and team. Here is a section focusing on appetite for risk:

Fed policy has been magnificently successful in achieving its objectives not only of lifting securities prices but also of altering investor behavior. The Fed wanted to influence buyers of securities to be bolder in their pursuit of return. The head of a major pension fund recently authored a piece describing how the fund had responded to lofty markets and low yields on safe debt instruments. Their reaction was not to lower the fund’s currently aggressive 7% risk-adjusted return objective to a more realistic threshold, but instead to direct more assets into “lower volatility” private investments while leveraging the portfolio. Private investments, of course, have the same underlying risk and inherent volatility as public investments – though because they are not publicly traded, their intermittent and privately determined appraisals may make them appear to be less volatile. And as for the choice to leverage up, we can only note that leverage is a double-edged sword that enhances returns in good times while sinking them in down markets. If markets falter, this fund will have not solved its problems but rather have multiplied them.  

Eoin Treacy's view -

Pension funds, life insurance companies and other firms with predictable future outlays are in a difficult position. If they do not take on additional risk, they will certainly not be able to meet their obligations. Alternatively, if they do take on additional risks, they might be able to reach their goals. However, that chance at success comes with the implied understanding that the alternative is financial oblivion.



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August 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

NZ to trial world-first commercial long range, wireless power transmission

This article by Loz Blain for newatlas.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Emrod currently has a working prototype of its device, but will build another for Powerco, with plans to deliver by October, then spend several months in lab testing before moving to a field trial. The prototype device will be capable of delivering "only a few kilowatts" of power, but can easily be scaled up. "We can use the exact same technology to transmit 100 times more power over much longer distances," said Emrod founder and serial entrepreneur Greg Kushnir. "Wireless systems using Emrod technology can transmit any amount of power current wired solutions transmit."

The system uses a transmitting antenna, a series of relays and a receiving rectenna (a rectifying antenna capable of converting microwave energy into electricity). Each of these components appear in these images to simply look like big ol' squares on poles. Its beams use the non-ionizing Industrial, Scientific and Medical band of the radio spectrum, including frequencies commonly used in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Unlike Tesla's globally-accessible free power dream, the power here is beamed directly between specific points, with no radiation around the beam, and a "low power laser safety curtain" immediately shuts down power transmission before any object, like a bird, drone, power thief or helicopter, can touch the main beam. There will be no difficulties this time working out where to place the meter.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The potential for wireless power transmission is a significant potential gamechanger for the energy sector because it represents an elegant solution to the question of how to connect very remote generating locations to points of consumption. While still in its infancy this is exactly the kind of technology that would benefit from venture funding and could succeed in boosting productivity.



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July 31 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

'An absolute necessity' Why this expert says China desperately needs a digital currency

This article by Veta Chan for Fortune.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

How will data be used by central banks and how will the central bank reassure people about the privacy of their data?

The data you are going to collect, there are two sides to it. On one side, the data that they're going to collect, given they are going to be able to engage the complete economic activity of a country in realtime, that data will be recorded on a blockchain-type network, distributed ledger, we don't know exactly. So the government will have access to all of that. On the [other] hand, it will enable the central bank to do their job more effectively. Because rather than having a lag in economic data, they're monitoring all the spending, the transactions, money supply, inflation implications, all in realtime... Tracking where people go in the world, because CBDC will be available to Chinese as they do business in other countries. It's almost a sort of a way to track an individual. So there are big alarming questions that need to be properly considered when it comes to privacy and anonymity.

The technology is there to enforce anonymity, but it's a question of are they going to implement it? Is that something that they're going to build into their currency? Time will only tell if different central banks come up with their versions of digital currency, as they say there is no one-size-fits-all, they're all going to be different and likely to reflect the values and culture of their citizens. Are we just going to accept that all governments get to have this data like we've kind of accepted with tech giants like Facebook? No one has really done anything about it.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A classic blockchain is a public ledger. There is a clear record of all transactions, but not who participated in them.

It would be comparatively easy for a state to create a digital currency that attaches identity to the ledger.

That will allow governments to track every transaction in even greater detail than they do already.



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July 30 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Confessions of a California Covid Nurse

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

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the tests were done at the big new Optum site, or inside local hospitals, and processed by Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp. Five months into the pandemic, the two giant private testing companies were taking more than a week to send back results. “If I look at Optum I always ask, ‘What am I going to do with this, because the result is eight to 10 days old?’” said Erica. “Your ability to contain is over.” By the time she got a hold of people to inform them that they had Covid-19, they no longer had Covid-19. There was no point in isolating them.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I think the rest of the world must be bemused at the resistance many Americans have to cooperating with public health officials, wearing masks and social distancing. As far as I can see there are a couple of reasons that simply are not getting discussed.

When I was tested in early May it took 11 days to get the results. That’s frankly ridiculous and timelines have not improved. I was feeling flu symptoms for about 24 hours and I quarantined myself away from my family for two days but it was a 24-hour bug so maintaining distance when you feel fine is difficult. In the end my results were negative. However, if I was positive, I would probably have passed it one to multiple people before I got my results. That pretty much means that testing is futile and everyone who has been tested knows it.



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July 29 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Zuckerberg Goes Off-Script; Blasts Apple and Google in Testimony

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

During today’s testimony before a Congressional antitrust panel, Mark Zuckerberg went off-script a little bit -- at least the script we expected -- pointing out how Facebook Inc. lags behind a number of competitors, including Alphabet Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc.

Zuckerberg isn’t hesitating to use some sharp elbows, pointing out that Amazon is the fastest-growing advertising platform and Google is the biggest.

“In many areas, we are behind our competitors,” Zuckerberg said. “The most popular messaging service in the U.S. is iMessage. The fastest growing app is TikTok. The most popular app for video is YouTube. The fastest growing ads platform is Amazon. The largest ads platform is Google. And for every dollar spent on advertising in the U.S., less than ten cents is spent with us.”

This is why the executives likely preferred to appear at once -- it allows them to spread the burden. The antitrust case against Google and Facebook is far stronger than the one against Apple, for instance.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The five largest tech companies in the USA have dominant positions in the social/ecommerce/cloud computing sectors. They may compete with one another but the barriers to entry are so large that it is largely beyond the scope for smaller companies to compete. In fact the only way for established businesses to reach consumers in any other these sectors is to use the products and services provided by the big five.



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July 28 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Once-Unpopular Carbon Credits Emerge as One of the World's Best Investments

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

“It’s attracting hedge-fund speculators,” said Norbert Rücker, head of economics at Swiss private bank Julius Baer. “With this move, carbon has really come back to life this year and it’s attracted a lot of interest—we have clients reaching out to us asking about it.”

The resurgence in carbon-credit prices began in mid-2017 when EU policy makers agreed to sharply reduce the number of available credits. That has pushed up prices and allowed the carbon market to help fulfill its purpose of punishing excess polluters. With the market set up to constrict credit supply, prices should rise further still, analysts say.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The success of Tesla, in gaming the carbon credit system to its advantage, has woken the rest of the globe up to the possibilities government sponsored markets hold.



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July 27 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Everything You Need to Know About Ethereum 2.0

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

The culmination of over five years of research and development, Ethereum 2.0 is a highly ambitious upgrade.

Never before has the cryptocurrency industry seen a blockchain of the same size and value as Ethereum attempt to transition all users, as well as assets, to an entirely new decentralized network while keeping all operations on the old network active and running. 

It will likely take many years for the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade – in all its complexity – to be complete. However, developer commentary featured in this report suggests the biggest hurdle (and perhaps most important milestone) in the Ethereum 2.0 roadmap is its initial launch.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The breakout to new recovery highs by Ethereum last week and bitcoin this week suggest a return to demand dominance following a multi-month hiatus. The coincident surge in precious metals suggests this is more about the demand for a hedge against the debasement of fiat currencies than the range of impending innovations in the cryptocurrency sector.



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July 24 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on cryptocurrencies

Please refresh my memory about your stance on Bitcoin & Crypto Currencies. Regarding Bitcoin, one of the best hedge fund managers, Mark Yusko loves it an suggests it likely reaches $100K within the next 12-18 months, and much higher going forward. AVI GILBURT, the Elliott Waver says if you want to be safe, wait until it breaks out above 10,000. Warm Regards

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which may be of interest to subscribers. Bitcoin’s halvening, when the reward for mining a new coin halves about once every four years, passed off without a hitch in May. In the past, these events have resulted in investors refocusing on the limited supply argument and prices have rallied meaningfully both ahead and after the halvening.



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July 23 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tech's Perfect Profit Record Fails to Impress Spoiled Bulls

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

For a view of just how high the bar is set for technology stocks, consider this: Every single one of their earnings reports this season has topped forecasts. Yet the sector has recently gone from being 2020’s best performer to one of its biggest laggards.

Not that beloved tech companies have crumbled. Since the reporting season began July 14, the S&P 500 technology sector is up 0.7% while the Nasdaq 100 is virtually unchanged. But both have trailed the broader S&P 500 over the period, and tech’s performance is the second-worst of S&P’s 11 main sector groups.

That’s a change from earlier in 2020 -- a year in which megacaps and tech firms have been viewed as coronavirus havens because of their strong balance sheets, healthy profit pictures and the fact that some have actually benefited from the stay-at-home economy. Still, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 up 22% this year, investors want proof that those stocks are worth the high prices they’re fetching.

“On the positive side, there are so many reasons why tech should be okay,” said Gene Goldman, chief investment officer at Cetera Financial Group. “But on the negative side, it’s just valuations and earnings. It’s a high bar that companies are going to have to beat.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Stay-At-Home stocks have been the clear winners from the lockdowns. The concentrated number of winners coupled with a surge in liquidity and punters eager to participate resulted massive outperformance over the last few months. 



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July 23 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla's $200 Billion Question Remains Unanswered

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

And yet the earnings call — where Musk has in the past ranted about “fascist” virus lockdowns and attacked analysts for asking “boring, bonehead” questions — was a bit of a snooze. It even featured a long discussion about insurance and Musk’s appreciation for the actuarial profession.

In the current economic environment, such steadiness is an achievement. Most car companies will probably suffer huge losses because of the recent closures of factories and showrooms, even if things won’t be quite as bad as feared initially. By contrast, Tesla reported $104 million of net income in the April to June period, bringing its total profit over the past four quarters to $368 million.

Still, these are modest amounts for a company that’s valued at an inexplicable 800 times trailing earnings, giving it a $295 billion market capitalization. 

The profits are also more than accounted for by $1 billion of regulatory credits that Tesla sold to other carmakers during the 12 months to June, including $428 million in the latest quarter. It’s only able to earn this income because rivals haven’t gotten their act together yet on building enough electric vehicles and have to buy credits from Musk’s company to satisfy emissions regulators. Tesla acknowledges this good fortune won’t last forever.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Without clear support from green regulations the company would be incapable of generating a profit. That effectively means Tesla’s competitors are being forced to fund its expansion. It’s an odd situation which runs contrary to the basic conditions of capitalism, but it is the reality provided by the market. It’s part of Elon Musk’s genius that he realised that fact before everyone else.



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July 22 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Big Cycle of the United States and the Dollar, Part 2

This latest chapter of Ray Dalio’s book includes a number of interesting titbits to chew over. Here is a section:

The US dollar accounts for over 50% of reserves held and has unwaveringly remained the primary reserve currency since 1945, especially after it replaced gold as the most-held reserve asset after there was a move to a fiat monetary system.  European currencies have remained steady at 20-25% since the late 1970s, the yen and sterling are around 5%, and the Chinese RMB is only 2%, which is far below its share of world trade and world economic size, for reasons we will delve into in the Chinese section of this book.  As has been the case with the Dutch guilder and the British pound, the status of the US dollar has significantly lagged and is significantly greater than other measures of its power.

That means that if the US dollar were to lose its reserve status and significantly depreciate in value it would have a devastating effect on the finances of those countries holding those reserves as well as private-sector holders of dollar-debt assets.  Who would be the winners?  Those with dollar-debt liabilities and those with non-dollar assets would be the big winners.  In the concluding chapter, “The Future,” we will explore what such a shift might look like. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The massive increase in the supply of currency since the end of the quantitative tightening regime last year is a headwind for the US Dollar. The fact the monetary and fiscal assistance programs deployed by the USA are much larger than in other countries is certainly a near-term headwind for the Dollar but the big question is whether this is a secular change?



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July 21 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Hong Kong Bourse Soars on Ant's Dual Listing With Shanghai

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

Ant Group is seeking a valuation of more than $200 billion as it goes public, and could raise more than Saudi Aramco’s record $29 billion if market conditions are favorable, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Hong Kong portion could raise about $10 billion, according to people familiar with the matter, which would make it the sixth-largest initial public offering in the city.

The listing is a boost to exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai, while dealing a blow to U.S. bourses as more Chinese firms look to raise money closer to home amid rising U.S.-China tensions. Hong Kong-listed Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. raised $7.5 billion from a Shanghai share sale in July, while Chinese internet firms JD.com Inc. and NetEase Inc. added secondary listings in Hong Kong this year.

Ant’s IPO is also a major lift for the city of Hong Kong, which is facing mounting challenges from a sharp recession, political turmoil from year-long protests and a new national security law that has prompted concerns about an exodus from the financial hub.

“Ant Group’s listing in Hong Kong will be a vote of confidence in the city,” according to Bruce Pang, head of macro research at China Renaissance Securities Hong Kong.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Western media has been filled with coverage of the negative ramifications of the Hong Kong security law and with good reason. The reality on the ground is that personal freedoms are being curtailed and that represents a significant decision point for many companies. If China’s approach to gaining tighter control of Hong Kong might be considered in terms of carrot and stick leverage, then the security law is the stick and listing of some of the country’s most prized companies on the domestic Hong Kong market is the carrot.



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July 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Out to pasture!

This is potentially Edward Ballsdon’s final post for his Grey Fire Horse blog and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Recently there has been discussion about yield curve control (YCC), and whether the FED will introduce a new policy on managing interest rates. Do not be fooled - this is a rather large red herring, as the debt is now too large in the US (as it is in most major economies) to raise rates without the increased interest cost having a debilitating effect on annual government budget figures.

There is no longer $ 1trn of outstanding US federal Bills - in June the outstanding amount surpassed $ 5trn. If rates rise from 0.2% to 2%, the ANNUAL interest cost just on that segment of the outstanding $19trn debt would rise from ~$ 8.5bn to ~$ 102bn. Naturally you would also need to also factor in the impact of higher interest rate costs on leveraged households and corporates.

This is the red herring - the size of the debt will force monetary policy. To think that the central bank can raise rates means ignoring the consequence from the debt stock. And this is the root of my lower for longer view, which is obviously influenced from years of studying Japan, and which is now almost completely priced in to rates markets. Remember that the YCC in Japan led to a severe reduction of the BOJ buying of JGBs - it just did not have to.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Japanification of the developed world represents a massive challenge for investors in search of yield. 90% of all sovereign bonds have yields below 1% and the total of bonds with negative yields is back at $14 trillion and climbing.



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July 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chapter 4: The Big Cycle of the United States and the Dollar, Part 1

This is the most recent instalment of Ray Dalio’s book on big cycles. Here is a section:

Like Germany, Japan was also hit exceptionally hard by the depression and became more autocratic in response to it.  Japan was especially vulnerable to the depression because, as an island nation without adequate natural resources, it relied on exports for income to import necessities.  When its exports fell by around 50% between 1929 and 1931, it was economically devastated.  In 1931, the depression in Japan was so severe that the country went broke—i.e., it was forced to draw down its gold reserves, abandon the gold standard, and float its currency, which depreciated it so greatly that Japan ran out of buying power.  These terrible conditions and large wealth gaps led to fighting between the left and the right.  In 1932 that led to a massive upsurge in right-wing nationalism and militarism to forcefully restore order and bring back economic stability.  To that end, Japan’s military took control and pursued military options to get Japan the resources it needed by taking them away from other countries.  Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and later expanded through China and Asia to obtain natural resources (e.g., oil, iron, coal, and rubber) and human resources (i.e., slave labor).  As in the German case, it could be argued that this path of military aggression to get needed resources was the best path for the Japanese because relying on classic trading and economic practices wouldn’t have gotten them what they needed.   

Shifting to more autocratic, populist, and nationalist leaders and policies during times of extreme economic stress is typical, as people want strong leadership to bring order to the chaos and to deal strongly with the outside enemy.  In 1934, there was severe famine in parts of Japan, causing even more political turbulence and reinforcing the right-wing, militaristic, nationalistic, and expansionistic movement.  

In the years that followed, this movement in Japan, like that in Germany, became increasingly strong with its top-down fascist command economy, building a military-industrial complex with the military mobilized to protect its existing bases in East Asia and northern China and its expansion into other territories.  As was also the case in Germany, during this time, while most Japanese companies remained outside government ownership, their production was controlled by the government.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It makes sense that no one would enter a war under the assumption they are going to lose more than they gain. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude the increasing competition between China and the USA will not result in a war until one side clearly believes they can win. Nuclear weapons obviously complicate the calculus.



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July 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Asymptomatic Spread Has Become Oddly Controversial

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

“What we found,” she says, “was actually similar to what WHO said.” Asymptomatic people can transmit the disease to others — the risk is not zero. The so-called attack rate, which measures the fraction of contacts infected was, in high-risk settings, less than 1% for asymptomatic cases versus 75% for those showing symptoms. Among members of the same household, the attack rate was 15% for symptomatic cases and 2% for asymptomatic ones. She and colleagues published their conclusions as a response to the Annals of Internal Medicine article.

“As a clinician, this really bothers me because we really have to get this right,” she says.  That means getting a better handle on the range of symptoms — including the inability to smell, which happens in as many as 60% of mild cases. It means making sure people recognize these symptoms, stay home, and ideally, allow contact tracers to stop chains of transmission.

A paper published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conclude that isolating sick people isn’t enough, and that’s true. But tracing their contacts and isolating them seems a better option than giving up in defeat.

Many countries from Japan to Ethiopia have been successfully stopping chains of transmission this way. Ultimately, science can’t tell people what to do. There should be a political side to deciding how to balance risk of death and quality of life, health hardship and economic hardship. Those are value judgements. But politicizing the science ensures the public will suffer the worst of both.

Eoin Treacy's view -

How COVID-19 is contracted and containing the spread are two separate but related topics. I go to the post office every day. I wear a mask and wash my hands with sanitiser as soon as I get back to the car. The people working in the post office wear masks and gloves and none of them have gotten sick. We are also not seeing large numbers of grocer store workers collapsing from infections. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that even for people who are in high risk professions, who are indoors all day and constantly deal with the public, the spread has been contained.



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July 16 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.K. Says Russians Seek to Steal Virus Vaccine Research

This article by Kitty Donaldson, Ryan Gallagher and Chris Strohm for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In a dramatic statement on Thursday, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said vaccine and therapeutic sectors in multiple countries have been targeted by a group known as APT29, which it said is “almost certainly” part of Russian state intelligence. Security agencies in the U.S. and Canada later issued their own statements backing up the findings.

“It is completely unacceptable that the Russian intelligence services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. “While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behavior, the U.K. and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.”

The intelligence bombshell came at a delicate time in geopolitics with a combative U.S. election looming in November and the pandemic plunging the world economy into recession. Coronavirus has launched a global race for a vaccine, in which researchers in the U.K. have made progress recently.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The geopolitical dividend of being the country that develops a viable solution for the coronavirus first is obvious. That is regardless of the fact that most countries and companies have clearly stated they are willing to do everything possible to made a vaccine widely available.



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July 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Global Macro Outlook: Virus curve flattening, markets stabilizing, slow recovery

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Deutsch Bank by Torsten Slok. It is loaded with thought provoking charts which may be of interest.

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

I found the chart comparing the Swedish and US COVID-19 infection rate to be particularly interesting. It suggests that anything less than total adherence to social distancing, effective testing and contact tracing is ineffectual. That’s a challenge because while some Asian countries have been able to implement these types of protocols swiftly, not least because of their prior experience with SARS, it seems beyond the ability of most countries to do. With cases in Hong Kong and Australia rising it is looking increasingly likely this is going to be a long hard slog until a vaccine is widely available.



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July 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ten Thousand Day Traders an Hour Are Buying Tesla Shares

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

The frenzy in interest means that as of the end of Monday’s trading session, there are now roughly 457,000 users on the Robinhood app that hold shares of the company in some form. That makes it the 10th-most popular stock on the platform, ahead of even Amazon.com Inc., which is held by 358,000 users.

It isn’t at all clear that day traders are the main driver for the nosebleed rally in Tesla shares over the past few weeks. Indeed, there are myriad other possibilities, from the potential reveal of a new battery technology, to short covering, to conjecture over the possibility for the stock’s addition to the S&P 500 Index.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The rise of the day trader is another late cycle signal that we are now in the speculative excess phase of the bull market. When regular people make more money from trading than from their regular jobs it is an anomaly that does not last indefinitely.



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July 13 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Party Like It's 2020, Not 1999

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Mike Wilson at Morgan Stanley. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Rather than compare the pace of the current advance with what we saw in 1999, I think it is more appropriate to highlight the COVID-19 fear mongering to what went on ahead of Y2K. Back in 1999 there was palpable fear all computers, everywhere, would stop working on January 1st 2000. That catalysed spending decisions in corporations globally to frontload technology upgrade decisions into 1999. Y2K effectively pulled forward sales from 2000. 2001 and 2002 and tech sales looked like they would go on forever.



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July 13 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Thucydides Trap and the Rise and Fall of Great Powers

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Geopolitical Futures by Jacak Partosiak which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Political scientist Joseph Nye believes that the key trigger in the Thucydides trap is an excessive reaction to the fear of losing one’s power status and prospects for future development. In the case of Washington and Beijing, the relative decline of America’s power and the rapid rise of China’s power destabilizes their relationship and makes it difficult to manage. Gen. Martin Dempsey, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, even admitted in May 2012 that his primary task was to ensure that the United States did not fall into the Thucydides trap.

As a result of the slow but noticeable erosion of the U.S. position in the Western Pacific, it is highly conceivable that a scenario could emerge in which the current hegemon is tempted to conduct a strategic counteroffensive in response to an incident, even a trivial one, in the South China Sea or East China Sea, believing falsely that it has the edge over its inferior rival. This would trigger a modern Thucydides trap.

An in-depth reading of Thucydides’ work reveals a second trap, even more complex and dangerous than the first. Thucydides clearly warned that neither Sparta nor Athens wanted war. But their allies and vassal states managed to convince them that war was inevitable anyway, which meant that both city-states would need to gain a decisive advantage at an early stage of the escalating confrontation. Thus, they decided to enter the war after being urged to do so by their vassal states.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The discussions of the Great Game between China and the USA and many interlinkages across the global economy has been fodder for analysts for much of the last five years. I believe a much greater intensification of the competition between the USA and China is likely. Arguably it is already underway. However, for outright war to take place a number of additional conditions would need to be met.



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July 10 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Skai revises targets for its liquid-hydrogen, long-range eVTOL

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

One challenge for anyone who wants to work with liquid hydrogen is that you need to keep it extremely cold to keep it in its liquid state. At atmospheric pressure levels, we're talking just 20.28 kelvins above absolute zero (−252.87 °C, or −423.17 °F).

That temperature can rise a little if you're willing to pressurize as well as cool (using a cryogenic system running between 250 and 700 bar of pressure), but Gunter says that's not part of Skai's plans, as "even a moderately pressurized system has significant weight penalties."

So, super-cooling it'll be, and while that entails extra energy losses in the liquefaction stage, the cooling equipment, the conversion back into gas for use in the fuel cell and in boil-off in the tank itself, the net result will still be a much longer range aircraft than anyone dealing with gaseous hydrogen – or certainly lithium batteries – will be able to deliver.

It'll be interesting to see how Skai gets the job done, as really you've got to look to NASA and other space programs to find liquid hydrogen being used in serious volumes.

"The good thing in all of this," says Gunter, "is the notable developments that occur in this space on an increasing basis. The efficiencies we’ve seen in fuel cells and the same the industry is seeing regarding H2 production all point to increasing effectiveness of any form of H2 as a future focused solution."

"There's a number of naysayers about what we're doing with hydrogen," says Hanvey, "but we believe we've gone from the question to the possible, and it's now the probable. We know we can fly with hydrogen, and the question is just how quickly we can get it to the market. And based on our experience, we think we can get there a lot quicker than perhaps the market will give us credit for."

Eoin Treacy's view -

Hydrogen’s energy density is orders of magnitude greater than any other fuel currently used in the global economy. The only reason we don’t already use it is because of the technological difficulty of containing what is a highly combustible material. The whole world knows about the Hindenburg accident 83 year ago, which put an end to transatlantic zeppelin travel. It did to the hydrogen industry what the Fukushima accident did to nuclear.



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July 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on China's ascendency:

Your excellent piece today focusing on the China question arrived at the same time as an interesting counter-narrative to the "China-supreme argument". From the Telegraph. If correct, China's is not going to have it all its own way. Here is a section:

"The Huawei saga has exposed just much the country still lags, a surprise to some who have bought into the media narrative of Chinese hi-tech ascendancy. China is not yet capable of making the advanced semiconductor chips used for telecommunications or for FGPA circuits that can be programmed.

Nor has it mastered the electronic design automation needed for circuit design. It lacks the critical raw material needed to sustain its ambitions for global dominance of G5 mobile and the coming “internet of things”.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies estimates that China has yet to crack the materials science that goes into the latest microscopic chips, despite hurling money at the challenge in successive programmes, the latest one commanding more than $20bn. Its high-end chip industry is ten years behind, but in ten years the infrastructure of global cyber dominance will already be in place.  

In short, the US controls the world’s semiconductor ecosystem, working tightly with Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. All Washington had to do in late May was to flick its fingers and Taiwan’s TCMS instantly cut off chip supplies to Huawei, dooming the company’s G5 global quest at a stroke."

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and this article which I’m sure will be of interest to the Collective. The significant investment China is making in its domestic semiconductor industry will need to be long-term and ongoing in nature to achieve the level of sophistication currently available to other countries. By some accounts they have sunk $20 billion into the project so far and it may take recurring investments of at least that much to develop the tools required to achieve technological superiority over coming decades.



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July 08 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Has Already Declared Cold War on the U.S

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

Yet the book that has done the most to educate me about how China views America and the world today is, as I said, not a political text, but a work of science fiction. "The Dark Forest" was Liu Cixin’s 2008 sequel to the hugely successful "Three-Body Problem." It would be hard to overstate Liu’s influence in contemporary China: He is revered by the Shenzhen and Hangzhou tech companies, and was officially endorsed as one of the faces of 21st-century Chinese creativity by none other than … Wang Huning.

"The Dark Forest," which continues the story of the invasion of Earth by the ruthless and technologically superior Trisolarans, introduces Liu’s three axioms of “cosmic sociology.”

First, “Survival is the primary need of civilization.” Second, “Civilization continuously grows and expands, but the total matter in the universe remains constant.” Third, “chains of suspicion” and the risk of a “technological explosion” in another civilization mean that in space there can only be the law of the jungle. In the words of the book’s hero, Luo Ji: The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost … trying to tread without sound … The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life — another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod — there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them.

In this forest, hell is other people … any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. Kissinger is often thought of (in my view, wrongly) as the supreme American exponent of Realpolitik. But this is something much harsher than realism. This is intergalactic Darwinism.

Of course, you may say, it’s just sci-fi. Yes, but "The Dark Forest" gives us an insight into something we think too little about: how Xi’s China thinks. It’s not up to us whether or not we have a Cold War with China, if China has already declared Cold War on us. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Three Body Problem is an excellent read and The Dark Forest follows on well from where it left off. The third book in the series, Death’s End, was too meandering for me and I did not finish reading it. For a non-Chinese reader, the names can be a bit of an obstacle but the story is compelling.



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July 08 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Data-mining Firm Palantir Files for Stealth Public Offering

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

The Silicon Valley data-mining firm Palantir Technologies confidentially filed to go public, setting up what could be the biggest stock offering from a technology company since Uber’s debut last year.

Founded in 2004 by investors including Peter Thiel, the company works with governments, law enforcement agencies and the defense establishment to organize and analyze huge volumes of data. The technology can be used to disrupt terrorist networks or battle human trafficking. Most recently, it was used by the White House to track coronavirus infections. Last year, Palantir won army contracts potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Palantir’s clients include major banks and the U.N.’s World Food Program.

The company has stirred controversy for upgrading Immigration and Customs Enforcement software that has been used in the Trump administration’s deportation crackdown, which led to on-campus campaigns to discourage recruitment and the picketing of CEO Alex Karp’s home.

The Palo Alto company has attracted venture capital from investors including In-Q-Tel, the Central Intelligence Agency’s investment arm. It has been weighing going public for years, with reluctance coming from the added scrutiny to the secretive nature of much of its business.

In a prepared release late Monday, Palantir said it had submitted its filing to the Security and Exchange Commission for confidential review and that a public stock listing is expected afterward “subject to market and other conditions.”

With the U.S. stock market rallying in recent weeks, a number of tech companies have gone public including Vroom, which sells used vehicles online, and Lemonade, an insurance start up.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Going public is not for everyone. If a company’s margins and market niche would attract attention and competition there is a clear incentive to stay private. Therefore, when a group of companies that have long eschewed the opportunity to list decide to do so, it is often a signal of the wider market environment not least because it affords early investors an opportunity to exit the business.



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July 07 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

White House Wants Stimulus by August Recess With $1 Trillion Cap

This article by Jordan Fabian and Kevin Cirilli for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

President Donald Trump and senior White House officials have said a payroll tax cut, liability reform, tax incentives for businesses to adapt to the pandemic and a potential back-to-work bonus are priorities for the administration.

Short said the White House views liability protections as “essential” for companies to bring workers back and fully re-open the economy.

The administration wants to be sure it’s “striking the right balance between income replacement on the one hand, and ensuring that we don’t have excessively high implicit tax rates on the return to work, on the other hand,” Tyler Goodspeed, acting chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in a separate interview with Bloomberg Radio.

Implicit tax rates can’t exceed 100%, he said, meaning it can’t be more lucrative for workers to stay at home. But any plan will require “not allowing a big blow to household income,” which is core to the economy, Goodspeed added.

Ohio Republican Brad Wenstrup, a member of the House’s tax-writing committee, said the package should address the ability of working parents to find childcare and helping schools to reopen.

“We have a shortage of day care providers,” he said in another Bloomberg Radio interview. “I am going to look for incentives for those type of programs.”

Congress in March passed a $2.2 trillion pandemic relief program, with carve-outs for small businesses and the airline industry as well as multiple lending programs for corporations and Main Street businesses through the Federal Reserve. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent out nearly $1 trillion in the first month after that bill became law, through checks directly to American families, forgivable loans to companies and unemployment insurance.

Still, much of that money remains unused. The Treasury Department has yet to disburse any loans from a $25 billion pool for airlines, and most of a $17 billion carve-out for firms deemed critical to national security remains untapped.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The idiosyncrasy of how data sets are reported means the rebound in economic activity probably looks better than it is. If an historic decline occurs it will necessarily result in a deep decline. If the rebound from that low is in the order of 10% it will come through as an historic percentage advance and yet the absolute level of activity may still be well below the peak.



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July 06 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on psychological perception stages of a new bull market

Your comment on psychological perception stages. I find it most interesting that in the financial press in the UK at this point in time, the "g" word is very rarely mentioned by any of the financial journalists I follow, let alone recommending any gold mining companies. I wonder if this could be a sign that we are still in the latter stages of the "disbelief" phase regarding gold as an investment despite all the signs that a bull market is now underway.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question. There is a ‘stealth’ bull market underway in gold and a number of miners have posted impressive returns over the last 18 months. That is being overshadowed, right now, by the continued outperformance of large cap technology companies which are now accelerating higher.



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July 06 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Prospering in the pandemic: the market winners

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Tom Braithwaite for the Financial Times. Here is a section:

We also ranked them. It would have been nice to use profits or sales as the gauge of success. But the lag in reporting and different calendars made that impractical, even for public companies. So we stuck with a market measure, accepting that — in the saying attributed to value investing doyen Benjamin Graham — the market is only a “voting machine” in the short run, rather than a “weighing machine”.

But which market measure? For the main rankings of the top 100, we opted for equity value added. That list included some of the clear “winners” from the pandemic, such as Netflix and Zoom Video. But it has one obvious flaw: it favoured those that were already large. Companies including Nestle, L’Oréal and Alibaba made the cut despite single-digit percentage gains in value.

If we had used percentage gains, the list would have had the opposite problem, favouring smaller companies, penny stocks that can swing wildly on trades of modest value. However, we still wanted to assemble an alternative ranking to highlight some less known but still significant winners. To do this, we used percentage gains but with a $10bn floor for market cap.

This brings into the top 100 companies that escaped the original list such as Ocado, the UK online supermarket that has reinvented itself as a global tech supplier to other grocers, and Peloton, whose stationary bikes equipped with video screens for online classes have surged in popularity as gyms closed. But otherwise the top 100 has a lot of the original big names such as Tesla, Pinduoduo and PayPal.

If the floor is $1bn, there is a lot more shuffling around. On this measure, Novavax comes top, with a 1,900 per cent rise in value. There is little mystery behind this: Novavax has a vaccine candidate for Covid-19 and is racing to expand its manufacturing capacity. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is no doubt that for some companies the COVID-19 crisis has been a gift. It accelerated customer acquisition efforts while also lower lowering borrowing costs and boosting liquidity. High growth companies that reside online, instead on Main Street, were already gaining market share from brick and mortar. That process has not gone into overdrive as the number of retail bankruptcies surges.



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July 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Psychological Perception Stages of Major Bull Markets

Eoin Treacy's view -

At The Chart Seminar we discuss the progression of investor psychology through disbelief, acceptance and into mania as bull markets develop, evolve and eventually end.  John Templeton’s quote “Bull markets are born on pessimism, grown on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die on euphoria.” Is relevant to that discussion.



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July 02 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on a stay at home index

“Are you able to create a Work From Home/Stay at Home index for you/us to track on a regular basis. Today has been another big day for many of these stocks with Shopify for example up another 7% in here today, clearing the $1,000 level, Netflix up 5%, Amazon 4%, Peloton up 4, DocuSign up 4, and Wayfair 11%! Regretfully I’m not involved in any of these as I can’t get my head around valuations. When will this madness stop?”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this email which highlights the dilemma of many people on the side-lines of the broad market rebound. There is always a crisis of confidence for anyone who has missed a rebound and is presented with the choice of buying a breakout or waiting for a pullback. That is amplified during accelerations where the fear of missing out is weighed against the fear of sitting through a reversal.



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July 02 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on hydrogen

I loved your article but why don't you mention the rise of hydrogen and the use of green hydrogen as being a valuable alternative as an energy storage tool for the future (we are talking about 2040!)? It's also more logical as energy source for trucks as batteries alone are far too heavy...

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and this email which raises some important points. I have been of the opinion for years that the low price of natural gas would seed a hydrogen economy. That now appears to be coming to fruition. Ultimately, the production of hydrogen will be replaced with less reliance on fossil fuels, but we are reliant on gas for at least the next decade to deliver supply.



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July 01 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The FDA Wants a Covid-19 Vaccine That Really Works

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

The path the FDA outlines is a long one. It’s going to take a while to recruit and enroll 30,000 people in a trial and give half of them two shots in the arm — as Moderna Therapeutics Inc. intends to do to test its candidate. And until a sufficient number of subjects in the placebo arm of such a trial contract Covid-19, there won’t be any firm results. Any number of variables could cause further delays: bad luck, a poor vaccine performance, or slowing case growth.

The FDA is by no means ignoring the urgency of the moment. Its guidance includes a variety of concessions on safety data and other issues that are meant to speed the process. But the world can be grateful the agency is willing to bend only so far.
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Setting a high standard for a vaccine that will be administered to hundreds of millions of people is imperative. It is the minimum requirement to instill faith in the population that it is worth accepting. I have every expectation that the advances in genetic sequencing and editing will deliver a positive result this year and that a true second wave will be avoided.

The impatience many people feel is perhaps the biggest obstacle to containing the spread before a vaccine has been delivered. I even find myself being less vigilant now than I was a few months ago. That is despite the massive swell of community spread and the greater likelihood of contracting it as a result. That’s a good example of how even the most extreme situation can assume an air of normalcy after a relatively short period of time. That’s one of humanity’s greatest survival instincts, although it is not especially helpful in the short term.



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July 01 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tesla China Plant Might Have Come to the Rescue Last Quarter

This article by Dana Hull for Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

“The lesson learned by now is that TSLA shares tend to ‘work’ when something new has launched,” Jeffrey Osborne, a Cowen Inc. analyst with the equivalent of a sell rating on the stock, said in a report Tuesday. “At this point both the Model Y and China built cars are ramping up.”

Musk, 49, suggested to Tesla employees early this week that the company could manage to avoid a quarterly loss.

“Breaking even is looking super tight,” the CEO wrote to staff in an email seen by Bloomberg. “Really makes a difference for every car you build and deliver. Please go all out to ensure victory!”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tesla has done an admirable job of keeping production on line globally even as sporadic shutdowns at home impaired manufacturing. The decision by California to mandate emission free trucking by 2040 is an additional tailwind for the battery producer. 



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June 30 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

IOTA Takes Step Towards Decentralized Network

This article by Sead Fadilpašić for cryptonews.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

IOTA is continuing its path towards the so-called 'Coordicide' - the death (that is, the removal) of the Coordinator, which is a node run by the IOTA Foundation for network protection and transaction confirmation. The goal of this act is to make the network decentralized.

In order to "solve blockchain’s biggest issues with scalability and decentralization," as the Foundation said in their announcement, they are launching the first testnet of the decentralized network. It is a new protocol called Pollen.

Pollen's goal is to enable the community, researchers and developers to "test and validate the concepts of IOTA 2.0, which will serve as IOTA’s Coordinator-free network," the press release said. People can now test and work independently on the components such as rate-limiting, Mana (reputation-based system), and Fast Probabilistic Consensus (new consensus algorithm that doesn't need the centralized Coordinator).

"IOTA has spent the last year researching a solution that will ultimately replace its current network in the first half of 2021," they said.

Whether the Coordinator will indeed be killed in the first months of 2021 is "always hard to say," Dan Simerman, Head of Financial Relations at the IOTA Foundation, told Cryptonews.com. "Right now IOTA's actually ahead of schedule, so it’s very well possible it could be sooner. But, IOTA always like to be safe and ensure things are at their best."

Eoin Treacy's view -

The holy grail for cryptocurrency acolytes is to have a fully automatic network, without relying on any one group that might theoretically exert control, while also being quick enough to compete with payment networks like Visa and Mastercard.



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June 29 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Growth of Working-Age Adults Hasn't Kept Up With Graying America

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

The aging population is pushing up the insolvency dates of the major trust funds that many seniors reply on. The CRFB now sees the Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund going bust by 2023, and the combined Social Security trust funds depleted by 2031.

Almost 13 million Americans are older than 80, and the number of centenarians almost doubled from 2010 to more than 100,000 last year, according to the data.

The aging of America and low births mean that the U.S. dependency ratio has increased. The ratio looks at the size of the population younger than 15 (60,570,846 in 2019) and the 65-and-older population (54,058,263) and how their combined size compares to the population age 15 to 64 (213,610,414).

In 2019, the dependency ratio showed that for every 100 people of working age, there were almost 54 other Americans potentially needing support.
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The age group most at risk from the coronavirus is well reported to be the over 60s. This group staying at work beyond the traditional retirement age was one of the primary reasons the US economy was able to contain inflation despite peak employment and a rising participation rate. If many of these people fail to return to work, they go from being contributors to beneficiaries of state supports.



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June 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day - on island reversals

Looking at the daily charts of the Dow Jones and S&P there appears to be potential "island reversals". Do these "islands" carry much weight in charting terms?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which I believe will be of interest to the Collective. In order for an island reversal to form we need to first see a breakaway gap form which is generally consistent with a burst of enthusiasm. That has to be followed shortly afterwards by a breakdown gap which is consistent with a sudden bout of fear which nullifies the initial surge.



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June 23 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The 'Fed story' will win out over second wave and election fears, UBS says. It's time for investors to get off the sidelines

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Callum Keown for MarketWatch. Here is a section:

The analysts, led by chief investment officer Mark Haefele, said three narratives were currently driving markets; the ‘Fed story’ — ongoing central bank stimulus — the second-wave story, and the U.S. election story. Fears of a second coronavirus wave have come to the fore in recent days, with spikes in Beijing, Germany and a number of U.S. states. The UBS team said that U.S.-China tensions fed into the election narrative, which would come into focus over the next four months.

“Overall we see the second-wave and U.S. election stories as contributing to market volatility as headlines feed investors’ hopes and fears about the speed and strength of the economic recovery. But it is the Fed story that will endure over the medium term,” they said in a note on Monday. They said they were positive on the outlook for both equities and credit, preferring USD high yield, Asian high yield and USD-denominated emerging market sovereign bonds as well as stocks in sectors that have so far lagged behind the market.

“Against this backdrop, we think the most important thing an investor can do is to be invested, rather than sitting on the sidelines. As earnings are likely to recover in the second half of the year and excess liquidity continues to support risk assets, we see further upside potential in global equities, in particular among sectors that have lagged the rally so far,” they added.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Monetary policy beats most other factors most of the time” was one of David’s favourite sayings and it has certainly helped to inflate asset prices over the last 12 years. The process began another upward cycle when the Fed reversed its quantitative tightening program last year in response to the illiquidity in the repo market. It went into overdrive when following the imposition of the lockdowns.



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June 23 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The New Weapon in the Covid-19 War

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

Back in 2003, when the original SARS virus started killing people in Hong Kong at a frightening rate, DeRisi sequenced its genome. But the process was too slow and expensive to be of practical use. “It’s 50,000-fold cheaper now than it was for SARS,” he told me. “What cost me $10,000 to do in 2001 now costs a penny.” And so we might now test for the virus in a way that gives us a picture that you can’t get from more conventional random sampling. Explore how the virus works in one neighborhood and you can apply what you learn to others. “Our state government should be doing this,” said DeRisi. “It should be asking: What are our social relationships and which ones lead to the transmission of disease? That’s what you would do in a rational society.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The world was caught flatfooted with COVID-19 and many countries are still struggling to get a handle on how best to deal with a wholly new pathogen that seemed to spring out of nowhere. The big difference on this occasion is all historical comparisons are likely to be inaccurate because of the leaps in technological innovation that have taken place since the sequencing of the human genome almost twenty years ago.



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June 19 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Anatomy of a Rally

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

Questions like these can’t tell us for a fact whether an advance has been reasonable and current asset prices are justified. Buy they can assist in that assessment. They lead me to conclude that the powerful rally we’ve seen has been built on optimism; has incorporated positive expectation and overlooked potential negative; and has bene driven largely by the Fed’s injections of liquidity and the Treasury’s stimulus payments, which investors assume will bridge to a fundamental recovery and be free from highly negative second-order consequences.

A bounce from the depressed levels of late March was warranted at some point, but it came surprisingly early and quickly went incredibly far. The S&P500 closed last night at 3,133, down only 8% from an all-time high struck in troubled-free times. As such, it seems to me that the potential for further gains from things turning out better than expected or valuations continuing to expand doesn’t fully compensate for the risk of decline from events disappointing or multiples contracting.

In other words, the fundamental outlook may be positive on balance, but with listed security process where that are, the odds aren’t in investors’ favor.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The rise of earnings-agnostic investing has been a trend which has defined the bull market since 2008. Every major bull market thrives on a financial innovation. It would be tempting to think that in this case it was cryptocurrencies, but the answer is probably more mundane. ETFs have enabled factor investing and promoted the acceptance of Modern Monetary Theory. They have allowed companies like Blackrock and Vanguard to become titans of Wall Street on the back of value-agnostic investing.  



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June 18 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Daily Observations

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from Bridgewater which includes a number of interesting discussion points on the outlook for stock market returns over coming months. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

There is a solid argument that the coronavirus lockdown is this generation’s Y2K. Back in the late 1990s there was a real fear electronics would stop working when the date ticked over into 01.01.2000. It prompted substantial investment in additional tech infrastructure and accelerated the rollout of the internet.



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June 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

More early data revealed from landmark CRISPR gene editing human trial

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

The very first patient treated with CTX001 is now at a 15-month follow-up point, and the data suggests the therapy is still efficacious with no long-term complications detected. Nine months on from treatment the first sickle cell disease patient is also displaying promising results, free of any sickle cell-related adverse events.

“In my 25 years of caring for children and young adults facing both sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia, I have seen how these diseases can adversely affect patients’ lives in very significant ways,” says Haydar Frangoul, from the Sarah Cannon Research Institute. “I am encouraged by the preliminary results, which demonstrate, in essence, a functional cure for patients with beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Genetic diseases shorten lives and represent significant drains of finances for many families. The promise of a cure has long been too much to hope for but we are likely to see sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy eradicated in our lifetimes.



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June 16 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Consolidation happens fast

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

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

There is no question that the pace of market action has picked up. We had the quickest drop from an all-time high in history and one of the swiftest rebounds in history. On top of that, the Federal Reserve has morphed from being reactive to proactive. In so doing its actions are pre-empting weak economic figures which has helped to support asset prices.



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June 16 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon Faces a Sharp Challenge from Walmart and Shopify

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

The announcement adds another major player to Shopify’s growing alliance against Amazon.com Inc.’s e-commerce dominance. Last month, I wrote how Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke has often said his company’s goal was to “arm the rebels” against the Amazon empire. The Walmart deal comes just weeks after Shopify signed a partnership with Facebook Inc. that allows Shopify’s merchants to sell on the social-media giant’s platforms under the newly launched Facebook Shops initiative. Before these moves, the aggregated online sales of Shopify’s U.S. customer base already ranked as the second-largest in the country after Amazon, according to the company. And now with Walmart on board and the expanded deal with Facebook, they mark significant steps to expand Shopify’s eco-system, making its platform a more viable and an attractive alternative to sellers.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Amazon is a facilitator of commerce by being a destination in its own right. When people shop, they go to Amazon in much the way we go to Google for information. Anyone who completes a transaction via Shopify’s network is ignorant of the company’s existence because it facilitates trade in the background. The big challenge in competing against Amazon is in easing the route to customer acquisition for Shopify sellers.



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June 11 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mnuchin Says U.S. Can't Shut Economy Even If Virus Resurges

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

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. shouldn’t shut down the economy again even if there is another surge in coronavirus cases.

“You create more damage, not just economic damage -- medical problems that get put on hold,” Mnuchin said Thursday on CNBC. “We can’t shut down the economy again.”

Mnuchin added that he believed President Donald Trump made the right decision to urge states to ease social distancing rules that have crippled the U.S. economy. He said that in the event of a resurgence, it will not be necessary to impose restrictions again because Covid testing and contract tracing are improving and they understand more about how to contain outbreaks.

As restrictions are lifted across the country, signs of a second wave of coronavirus cases in the U.S. have been raising alarms. More than 2 million people in the U.S. have been infected so far.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The majority of coronavirus cases in the USA emerged on the coasts. The middle of the country was comparatively unaffected initially and was afforded the luxury of lax containment measures as a result. The uptick in locations which had large protests a week ago, like Los Angeles, and the rising infection rates in places that did not have a significant issue in March, suggest the first wave of infections is still rolling through communities.



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June 10 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fed Sees Zero Rates Through 2022, Commits to Keep Buying Bonds

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

“We’re not even thinking about thinking about raising rates,” he told a video press conference Wednesday. “We are strongly committed to using our tools to do whatever we can for as long as it takes.”

The Federal Open Market Committee earlier said it would increase its holdings of Treasury securities and agency residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities “at least at the current pace” to sustain smooth market functioning.

A related statement from the New York Fed specified that the pace of the increase would be about $80 billion a month for purchases of Treasuries and about $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities.

“Acting on mortgage-backed securities and Treasuries underscores their belief that more support is needed,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist with Grant Thornton in Chicago. “The Fed does not see a victory in the employment bounce-back. The risk of deflation is still high and the economy needs more support to heal more fully.”
 

Eoin Treacy's view -

$120 billion a month for the next two years will add nearly $3 trillion to the size of the Fed’s balance sheet. It sounds like a lot but the Fed added nearly $500 billion to its balance sheet in May, so $120 billion is a significant deceleration of support.



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June 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Speculative Fervor in U.S. Stocks Surges to 'Stunning' Levels

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

At the heart of the speculative activity are smaller investors, according to Sundial. Small trader call buying made up more than 50% of total volume last week, the highest since 2000, it said.

Past instances when bullish small trader positions made up 45% or more of volume preceded a median loss for U.S. stocks of about 3% in two months time and 15% in a year, according to the note.

“Small traders are pushing their luck in a major way,” said Goepfert. “It seems increasingly risky to try to chase this rally along with traders who have traditionally been extremely reliable contrary indicators.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Regardless of any mitigating argument, chasing the rally has been the right decision. The major Wall Street indices blazed through potential areas of resistance in short order. The Nasdaq Composite is now at a new all-time high and the worst performing, most at risk of bankruptcy companies, have staged spectacular rallies. The determination of retail investors to ride the coattails of the Fed while institutional investors stepped aside is a clear example of speculative fervour.



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June 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Shell's CEO Worries About a Disorderly Energy Transition: Q&A

This interview of Shell CEO Ben van Beurden for Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

Assuming you don’t get government support to advance research in hydrogen production and carbon capture and storage, what will you have to do to make those viable?

Stay with the program a little bit longer. That’s exactly what we’re doing. You could take a negative view and say we knew that hydrogen was a good thing and we knew that CCS [carbon capture and storage] was needed, but it hasn’t happened. I’m not signing up for that approach. We need a lot of hydrogen in the mix. We need significant CCS. My prediction is that in the next few years you will see CCS projects come off the ground. You will see very large-scale hydrogen projects come off the ground as well. And I hope we will be associated and involved in each and every one of them.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Hydrogen is where traditional oil companies see their future. It does not produce emissions. That ticks a lot of boxes for companies long associated with being among the world’s biggest polluters in their own right while also facilitating emissions growth wherever there are internal combustion engines.



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June 09 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

1968 Was a Horrendous Year But 2020 May Be Worse

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

As a white, middle-aged, upper-middle-class immigrant, I’m hardly the person to speak to the politics of race in America.  So I turned to an African-American friend, the economist Roland Fryer, whom I’ve known since we were colleagues at Harvard.

In 2016, he published a brilliant but controversial paper which argued that the police did not disproportionately use lethal violence against black people, though they were more likely to use non-lethal force against them. (A paper published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences lent strong support to Fryer’s thesis.) He has a new, unpublished paper that looks at a perverse effect of investigations into police shootings. I asked Fryer to walk me through the argument.

“If you have a police shooting that goes viral online but isn’t investigated,” he explained, “then nothing changes — levels of police activity and crime are about the same. But if you have a viral shooting that is investigated, then police activity plummets, and crime goes up dramatically.” In just five cities – Baltimore; Chicago; Cincinnati; Ferguson, Missouri; and Riverside, California -- this led to excess homicides of almost 900 people in the subsequent 24 months, 80% them black, with an average age of 28. It's a dangerous Catch-22: You're damned if you don't investigate “viral” incidents, and in even worse shape if you do.

How does Fryer interpret the current protests? “People are fed up,” he told me. “They are frustrated by the disparities they see in educational outcomes. Frustrated by the disparities they see in criminal justice. Frustrated by racial disparities in life expectancy. We are all to blame — this happened on our watch.” And when you add to that the fact that Covid-19 disproportionately affected the black community: “Folks have had enough. People are very much on edge.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Policing and the outcomes from tough to loose methods is endlessly debatable and not least because of the credit politicians claim for successes that may or may not be attributable to their policies.

That was one of the primary topics of discussion in the book Freakonomics where the coincidence of abortion legislation and the implied reduction in the number of unwanted children implied reduced crime figures twenty years later. A similar argument is made about the impact of removing lead from gasoline and how that improved mental health outcomes and, by extension, crime rates.



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June 08 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A Million-Mile Battery From China Could Power Your Electric Car

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

CATL struck a two-year contract in February to supply batteries to Tesla, a major boon for the Chinese company as the U.S. electric-car leader has thus far mainly worked with Japan’s Panasonic Corp. and South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd. The deal followed months of negotiations, with Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk traveling to Shanghai to meet with Zeng.

The CATL batteries are set to go into Model 3 sedans produced at Tesla’s massive new factory near Shanghai, which started deliveries around the beginning of this year. Batteries are the costliest part of an EV, meaning suppliers of those components have a chance to reap a lion’s share of the industry’s profits.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A battery which does not lose its charging capacity for over one million miles is a significant technological advance for the electric car industry. One of the biggest inhibiting factors, apart from cost, which deterred consumers from buying electric cars was their low resale value. The degradation of the battery over only a couple of years basically made cars worthless. The introduction of the million-mile battery completely changes that calculus. The next obstacles are the recharging network and range on a single charge.



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June 05 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on caution at potential areas of resistance

“You have been calling for some ‘consolidation’ for equity markets for a number of weeks now (which I expected too), but this just hasn’t come to pass. Instead we have seen a relentless charge higher in virtually every market. You’ve stated that it’s liquidity driven which until recently at least, little participation from the professional money managers. Short term yields no longer can be relied upon as a risk indicator with the Fed deliberately compressing yields at the front end. To what extent, if any, has this recent episode viewed the way you look at markets through a charting lense. A despondent sceptic of this rally here, it seems the only winning strategy is just to ride the liquidity train, and rotate one’s positions towards riskier assets (travel, emerging etc) as the new safe havens (tech) reach maturity.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which may be of interest to other subscribers. In a response to a similar email on May 12th. I led with this observation. “The best time to buy is following a significant pullback. The next best opportunity is following the first reaction from an important low. The next will be when a breakout to new highs occurs.



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June 04 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Living on the Edge, Part 5: Enabling & Empowering Locally

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

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

Each new rollout of mobile technology has led to a new round of innovation in the global economy which has created new investment sectors. The rollout of 4G enabled social media, streaming on phones, a growth opportunity for mobile payments, financial services and online retail.



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June 03 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Latest Satoshi Nakamoto Candidate Buying Bitcoin No Matter What

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

One reason is, Back believes Bitcoin will go to $300,000 from the current approximate price of $10,000 within five years -- without any additional adoption by institutional investors. Retail investors, who’ve carried the torch for the last 10-plus years, since Bitcoin’s debut, will continue to show support as institutions remain cautious, he said.

“It might not require additional institutional adoption because the current environment is causing more individuals to think about hedging,” Back said. “And retaining value when there’s a lot of money printing in the world.”

With more people working from home amid the Covid-19 epidemic, real-estate investments are more risky, he said. Bonds may be overvalued. And so some investors may be turning to Bitcoin, even though it too could see some headwinds as more people lose jobs, he said.

“It is causing people to think about the value of money and looking for ways to preserve money,” Back said. “It’s a difficult environment to get any yield.”

One reassuring sign of demand is that Grayscale Investments alone has bought more Bitcoin in the past few weeks than the amount of new coins that has been mined, Back said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The rationale for owning bitcoin is it is a resource with limited supply. Much of that supply is held outside the market and the mining of new supply has just become twice as difficult. The price has increased substantially following previous having of the mining reward but on this occasion that has yet to happen.



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May 27 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the potential for a second wave of infections

Dear Eoin, thank you for the excellent insights into market dynamics. There is one thing which you state from time to time - viz that you do not believe there will be a second wave of the virus in the Autumn. What leads you to believe that - we don't seem to know that much about the virus. So how can you know that there will not be a second wave in the Autumn? Although I definitely agree with you that authorities will do everything in their power to avoid more lock-downs. Many thanks, A

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which may also be of interest to other subscribers. Coincidence does not imply causation even though as humans we are hardwired to recognize patterns. In fact, we are so desperate to make sense of inscrutable situations that our minds will latch onto anything that provides a sense of security. However, the coronavirus is the not the 1917/18 influenza.



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May 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy Says 96% of Virus Fatalities Suffered From Other Illnesses

This article by Tommaso Ebhardt and Marco Bertacche for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The coronavirus outbreak in Italy has struck overwhelmingly among the nation’s older population and those with preexisting medical conditions, according to the national health authority.

Almost 96% of the country’s virus fatalities had previous medical conditions, data from Italy’s ISS health institute show. The ISS, which publishes a range of studies on the outbreak including a detailed weekly report, confirms a trend seen since the beginning of the emergency, with the average age of Italians who’ve died from the virus at around 80.

“The latest numbers show that new cases and fatalities have a common profile: mostly elderly people with previous illnesses,” ISS chief Silvio Brusaferro said at a news conference Friday.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The coronavirus pandemic forces us to engage in some grizzly calculus to try and figure out how markets are likely to respond to unfolding events. The reality of aging is we develop chronic conditions, one of which is likely to eventually kill us. Whether that is high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer or diabetes, aging contributes to the ill effects of all these ailments.



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May 26 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Elon Musk's SpaceX Readies First Astronaut Launch by Private Firm

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

SpaceX’s efforts to launch astronauts into orbit have suffered various delays, totaling about four years, including two catastrophic explosions of its Falcon 9 rocket and nagging safety concerns about the Dragon capsule riding on top.

Having a reliable American system would mean NASA astronauts no longer need to piggyback on Russian rockets and spacecraft, as they have since the aging U.S. space-shuttle fleet was retired nine years ago. Looking ahead, NASA and White House officials envision emphasizing deep-space exploration as part of a commitment to relying on similar corporate-government teams. Those would include company-led endeavors, with relatively limited federal oversight, taking astronauts to the moon as soon as 2024 and later to Mars or beyond.

Along those lines, Mr. Musk’s team has proposed a mammoth rocket carrying a companion deep-space craft—partly stainless steel and reaching some 40 stories together—intended to eventually transport large numbers of passengers. So far, NASA has committed $135 million to help develop the portion that could serve as a lunar lander.

Some longtime NASA watchers see the current mission as a crucial steppingstone, perhaps as significant in some ways as the Gemini missions of the mid-1960s that paved the way for the Apollo moon landings. But this time, making the government “a customer rather than operator is as astonishing as it is bold for NASA,” said Mark Albrecht, a former White House space adviser and retired senior industry executive. “NASA will take the blame for failure and allow SpaceX to receive most of the glory of success.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Elon Musk will probably be remembered as the father of electric vehicles and simultaneously the father of interplanetary travel. However, while he is an engineering genius, his expertise in getting other people to pay for his aspirational dreams is truly worthy of praise. Tesla might be a battery company, but it would not exist without carbon credits where its competitors fund its expansion.



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May 21 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Got a New Plan to Overtake the U.S. in Tech

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

In the masterplan backed by President Xi Jinping himself, China will invest an estimated $1.4 trillion over six years to 2025, calling on urban governments and private tech giants like Huawei Technologies Co. to lay fifth generation wireless networks, install cameras and sensors, and develop AI software that will underpin autonomous driving to automated factories and mass surveillance.

The new infrastructure initiative is expected to drive mainly local giants from Alibaba and Huawei
to SenseTime Group Ltd. at the expense of U.S. companies. As tech nationalism mounts, the investment drive will reduce China’s dependence on foreign technology, echoing objectives set forth previously in the Made in China 2025 program. Such initiatives have already drawn fierce criticism from the Trump administration, resulting in moves to block the rise of Chinese tech companies such as Huawei.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China is deadly serious about becoming the global hegemon. The rest of the world has been happy to play along to get along for the last twenty years because forced technology transfer was deemed an acceptable price for the promise of benefitting from the world’s largest consumer market. The freezing out of technology companies from the Chinese market more than a decade ago should have raised red flags. Fortunately, the world is finally waking up to the fact it is dealing with a dictatorial regime intent on turning us into a series of vassal states.



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May 20 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch May 2020

Thanks to subscriber for this report by Allen Brooks for PPHB which may be of interest. Here is a section on battery metals supply:

The potential for a change in battery chemistry from lithium-ion to lithium-sulfur could help.  A massive switch does not appear to be underway.  The big change in EV battery technology – a move to solid state lithium batteries – appears to have been pushed out to 2030 or beyond, versus the prior expectation that it would arrive in the early 2020s.  Now, battery research firms are focusing on how EV manufacturers may need to become involved in the procurement of battery raw materials, as well as completely revamping their supply chains to lower their cost.  

 The real challenge will be in the battery raw material procurement.  A chart from Benchmark’s webinar shows what the limitation is for EVs.  It is raw materials.  In the firm’s forecast for 34 million EVs in 2030, it is expected that there will be sufficient lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity to produce 43 million EVs.  The challenge is that lithium supply will only meet the needs of 19 million EVs, while cobalt will only be able to supply 17.9 million EVs.  Those limitations equate to roughly a 45% supply shortage.  

One can certainly ask many questions about how investors will perceive EV manufacturers getting involved in mining operations to ensure adequate availability of raw materials for batteries.  Or, will the EV manufacturers figure they will just leave this endeavor to battery suppliers?  Who has the capital available for such new ventures?  What are the geopolitical risks, depending on where new supply sources are found?  Will the new supplies improve, or complicate the existing raw materials supply chains?  Will we be held hostage to foreign suppliers?  What are the ESG issues associated with mining rare earth minerals?  There is the possibility of another potential supply source, that being recycling old EV batteries, although such efforts are currently uneconomic.  

Eoin Treacy's view -

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

A number of the newest battery chemistries do not use cobalt. That is particularly true of the batteries Tesla is producing for its Chinese manufactured cars. The bubble in cobalt prices which peaked in 2018 alerted all manufacturers to the risk represented by supply inelasticity. The technological edge they have since developed means the metal will no longer be required to manufacture batteries or the use case will be substantially reduced. It’s a great example of the adage from the commodity markets that “the cure for high prices is high prices”.



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May 19 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chips and Geopolitics

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

First, while we learned in 2016 that technology was inseparable from domestic politics, the lesson in 2020 should be that technology is inseparable from geopolitics. It is chips that gave Silicon Valley its name, and everything about this chip decision is about geopolitics, not economics.

Second, at some point every tech company is going to have to make a choice between the U.S. and China. It is tempting to blame the tension between the two countries on Trump, but the truth is that China, particularly under Xi Jinping, has been significantly hardening its rhetoric and actions since before Trump was elected, and has been committed to not just catching but surpassing the U.S. in technology for years. There is a fundamental clash of values between the West and China, and it is clear that China is interested in exporting theirs. At some point everyone will be stuck in the middle, like TSMC, and Switzerland won’t be an option.

Third, Intel, much like Compaq, is an allegory for where the U.S. seems to have lost its way. Locked in an endless pursuit of efficiency and shareholder value, the U.S. gave up its flexibility and resiliency in favor of top-end performance. Intel is one of the most advanced chip makers in the world, but it turns out that capability is far too constrained to its own needs to be of general applicability. Worse, to the extent Intel was willing to become a contract manufacturer, it wanted the federal government to pay for it, the better to satisfy shareholders. The government, rightly, in my mind, chose an operator that was actually used to operating in the world as it is, not once was.

At the same time, TSMC’s justifiable carefulness in building a U.S. fab gives Intel an opportunity. Back in 2013, in one of the first Stratechery articles, I urged the company to embrace manufacturing and give up its integration, margins be damned. Intel specifically, and the U.S. generally, would be in far better shape had they acted then. As the saying goes, though, the second best time to start is now — and that applies not only to Intel, which should spend the money to get into contract manufacturing on its own, but also to the U.S. The world has changed, and it’s time to act accordingly.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Resiliency is likely to be the buzz word of the 2020s. Rising geopolitical tensions have been a factor for a few years already but did not have a great deal of urgency attached to them. The lockdowns and collapse of global supply chains highlighted the fragility of the global trade network, Meanwhile, the increasingly ambivalent tone of US/China relations are unlikely to get better any time soon.



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May 19 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Considers More Economic Pain for Australia on Virus Spat

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

The office of Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham declined to comment. When asked about the list, China’s foreign ministry didn’t address the specifics but said the government “has always sought to find common ground while putting differences aside, cooperate to achieve win-win results and will not harm others to benefit oneself.”

“We hope the Australian and Chinese side can meet in the middle, take more measures to improve bilateral relations and deepen mutual trust, and provide favorable conditions and atmosphere for practical cooperation in various areas,” the ministry said.

Australia’s China Addiction Leaves It Vulnerable to Trade Spat

Speaking earlier at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China would back a resolution at the World Health Assembly later Tuesday that calls for a “comprehensive assessment” of the pandemic that differs from “Australia’s earlier proposal of a so-called independent global review.”

“We suggest the Australia side to go through the text carefully,” Zhao said. “If Australia is willing to change its course and give up the political manipulation of the pandemic, we will welcome that.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Asking for an independent review of the origins of a virus which has ravaged the global economy is reasonable. That’s particularly true when it comes to trying to figure out where the next pathogen is likely to arise from and acting to prevent it. China has already razed and sanitised the wet market in Wuhan. That was completed in February so they have no intention of allowing an investigation.



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May 18 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Doordash and Pizza Arbitrage

This article by Ranjan Roy for themargins is a wonderful story of life imitating art. Here is a section:

But he brought up another problem - the prices were off. He was frustrated that customers were seeing incorrectly low prices. A pizza that he charged $24 for was listed as $16 by Doordash.

My first thought: I wondered if Doordash is artificially lowering prices for customer acquisition purposes.

My second thought: I knew Doordash scraped restaurant websites. After we discussed it more, it was clear that the way his menu was set up on his website, Doordash had mistakenly taken the price for a plain cheese pizza and applied it to a 'specialty' pizza with a bunch of toppings.

My third thought: Cue the Wall Street trader in me…..ARBITRAGE!!!!

If someone could pay Doordash $16 a pizza, and Doordash would pay his restaurant $24 a pizza, then he should clearly just order pizzas himself via Doordash, all day long. You'd net a clean $8 profit per pizza [insert nerdy economics joke about there is such a thing as a free lunch].

He thought this was a stupid idea. "A business as successful a Doordash and worth billions of dollars would clearly not just give away money like this." But I pushed back that, given their recent obscene fundraise, they would weirdly enough be happy to lose that money. Some regional director would be able to show top-line revenue growth while some accounting line-item, somewhere, would not match up, but the company was already losing hundreds of millions of dollars. I imagined their systems might even be built to discourage catching these mistakes because it would detract, or at a minimum distract, from top-line revenue.

So we put in the first order for 10 pizzas.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I had to smile when I read this article because it is almost the exact plot line from an episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley Mrs. Treacy and I watched over the weekend but from two years ago. Start-ups lighting money on fire is about as clear a sign of bubbly activity one might wish for.



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May 18 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Justice Department, State Attorneys General Likely to Bring Antitrust Lawsuits Against Google

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

Both the Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general are likely to file antitrust lawsuits against Alphabet Inc.’s Google—and are well into planning for litigation, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department is moving toward bringing a case as soon as this summer, some of the people said. At least some state attorneys general—led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican—are likely to file a case, probably in the fall, people familiar with the matter said.

Much of the states’ investigation has focused on Google’s online advertising business. The company owns the dominant tool at every link in the complex chain between online publishers and advertisers. The Justice Department likewise is making Google’s ad technology one of its points of emphasis. But it is also focusing more broadly on concerns that Google uses its dominant search business to stifle competition, people familiar with the matter said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The issue of Google abusing its power to give preferential treatment to some advertisers over others has been brewing for some time. The additional charge that the company actively censures free speech and anyone who does not agree with their view of the world is an additional challenge which will be tackled eventually.



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May 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on inconsistency in medium-term trends.

Eoin - appreciate your use of both the P&F and weekly chart against the moving average in your discussion of Microsoft.  When evaluating the consistency pattern of stocks (Microsoft and others), how do you "adjust" for circumstances such as COVID 19?  Clearly, Microsoft was negatively impacted like many other equities in the COVID induced meltdown, but has also rebounded more smartly than others.  Thanks, as always, for your insight and willingness to share same.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which gets to the heart of a question I think most people are thinking at present. There are three important considerations when looking at market reaction. These are: where are we in the secular trend? Is liquidity expanding or contracting? What does the chart tell us about sentiment?



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May 14 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on working from home

I can only agree with you having worked from home since the early 2000s (maybe you remember my office at home when you were with Bloomberg in Luxembourg). It fits well with businesses like ours where financial data et al. are immaterial or small ones focused on selling on internet. It is more difficult for activities where in situ interpersonal relationship is more important (journalism for example).

However, the time spent in endless and useless meetings where their organization or required presence has more to do with politics than business. Undoubtedly, working from home will increase productivity and reduce cost due to less space required at offices. As for retail, this should affect office prices.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve always thought of commuting as the greatest waste of human productive capacity imaginable. Spending half an hour in the morning with my head in someone’s else armpit was never my idea of fun. If remote working becomes more acceptable, it will result in a significant loss of income for cities from corporate taxes and ancillary business income declining. That is an obvious risk in cities where property prices are at historic peaks.



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May 13 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Yelp's Link to Brick & Mortar Ad Base Keeps JMP on Sidelines

This note by Jeremy R. Cooke for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Yelp shares are down as much as 15%, the most since late March, on a risk-off day for the market; JMP (market perform) in a note Wednesday highlights worries that the local search site will continue to suffer from social distancing and stay-at-home mandates affecting its advertising base.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is another example of a company that has a reliance on brick and mortar businesses which is at severe risk of implosion. The experience of Tencent with outperformance in the Chinese gaming segment being counterbalanced by weakness in consumer finance is another example. Here is a segment from their quarterly report.



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May 13 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Twitter Says Employees Can Work From Home After Virus Recedes

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

“If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen,” Twitter said in the post. “If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”

The company has more than 35 offices worldwide, including in Paris, New York and Toronto.

“We’ve been very thoughtful in how we’ve approached this from the time we were one of the first companies to move to a work-from-home model,” Twitter said in a statement. “We’ll continue to be, and we’ll continue to put the safety of our people and communities first.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

I’ve been working from home for 13 years. In fact, as soon we got the internet at home when I was 19 years old I decided I was going to find a job I could do from anywhere. Here are my two cents. 

If you someone is a self-starter in the office that will not change when they work from home. If a worker is a lay about in the office or relies on virtue signalling to the higher ups in the office. that is a lot more difficult to maintain when working from home.

Most workers will also quickly realise it is a lot easier to do two things at once on a video conference than it is in a conventional meeting. That runs the risk of tuning out in the event someone starts waffling. Generally, people are more willing to tolerate long rambling meetings in person than when at home.

For workers it is important to realise that you are not working from home. You now live at work. It is inevitable you will put in longer hours when working from home because there is always the temptation to “just check something”. Having a dedicated space or office for work is essential in my view. You need to be able to close the door on the inside world.

If more companies adopt work from home policies, as seems likely, demand for larger dwelling seems inevitable. My home has been fine for our needs for the last five years but now everyone is working from home. Just about every room in the house has been repurposed as an office, schoolroom, gym or studio. We are actively looking for a bigger home. That’s also something that will likely spur a migration from inner city smaller dwellings to larger suburban ones. That also will have a knock-on negative effect for central city office values.

Something everyone has had to deal with in lockdowns is we see a lot more of our children and spouses. That’s a good thing, the most precious thing in the world to me is the close relationship I have with my daughters. I have been priveleged to be with them for almost every day of their lives. However, many relationships survive on spouses only seeing each other for a few waking hours a day and on weekends. Prolonged interaction definitely raises the risk of partners getting on each other’s nerves and lockdowns certainly throw focus onto who does what around the house. I can say from experience that talking about these kinds of challenges is time well spent. Simultaneously accepting that one’s work life and home life are now the same is another major transition because both will be significantly affected.

Personally, I can’t see myself ever working in an office again. I am much more productive at home and I hate wasting time in meetings. The lockdowns will allow everyone to find out which they are best suited to and also whether their family life can support their preference.



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