Investment Biker, Jim Rogers

Key take aways

  • Central investment thesis:
    • Always bet against the central banks and with the real world
    • truly down trodden people do not rise, but hell hath no fury like suppressed peoples whose expectations have been aroused
    • people don’t change their ways until their are forced to
    • while it is easy to figure out an investment is cheap, the real work is figuring out if a change is about to occur in the near future. It is important to study markets and their history
    • when seeing a big change coming (the opening of the trans Siberian railway), consider the economic, political and social shift
  • modus operandi
    • Why buy a new sofa when it could be put to work in the markets
    • Only invest in what I can sell quickly
    • do nothing until you can see the money to be picked up around the corner
  • key areas of study
    • geography
    • politics
    • economics
    • history
  • Company assessment criteria
    • Price to book value
    • sound balance sheet
    • pay dividend
    • Price to earnings ratios
    • Viable industries
    • start with largest soundest enterprises
      • banks
      • mines
      • news papers
  • On assessing countries
    • Watch out for statism – governments getting in the way of an organic market
      • democracy does not equal prosperity
      • US government piling more and more regulations
      • SnL crisis of the 1980s
      • Artificially suppressed prices
        • 1970s gold in America
        • 2019 prices of pork in China
      • Foreign aids (IMF, UN and Peace Corps) just props up a system that does not work and delays the actual rebuilding process. Have faith in the locals to rebuild themselves in a configuration that works for them as opposed to a system suited to foreigners liking (hubris)
    • On ethnic strife and separatism
      • Some geographical boundaries don’t make sense.
      • no borders remain stable for long
      • economic hardship will bring to surface these fault lines as they get used as a vehicles to get more
      • Wait till wars are fought and border issues sorted out. It might then become a great investment opportunity to enter at the bottom
      • examples
        • Rise of Islam and Christianity in Siberia prior to Soviet collapse
        • Hong Kong riots
        • Barcelona declaration of independence
        • XinJiang, Tibet
    • black markets as signals: difference between black markets rates and official exchange rates provide an indicator of how much the central bank has propped up the exchange rate. Minimal to no differences are signs of a strong economy
    • major red flags:
      • currency controls, import taxes, export restrictions. Makes it hard to pull funds out
      • is country trying to devalue its way out of its internal problems instead of doing a proper fix?
      • frantic purchase of gold in local jewelry store
    • Positive signal:
      • Is the country trying to get foreign hard currency by making things other people want to buy – quality goods
      • Is the country learning to compete and out innovate its competition
      • an educated population
  • On centrally planned economies
    • the market feedback mechanism is missing
    • resources get ruined due to misuse
    • it would have thrive if it was a sound economic theory
  • On China
    • while Russia abused their resources, China having nowhere to go were more deliberate and took better care of their resources
    • success had a lot to do with economic and political organization
    • example
      • took bees to blooming flowers to work them 5-7 times harder than their foreign counterparts
    • Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shanghai being captured by the capitalist spirit generally ignores capital’s policies
  • Note worthy collations
    • China (labor) / Siberia (natural resources)
    • Australia (natural resources) / Japan (capital)
    • US (capital) / Canada (natural resources) / Mexico (labor)
  • On commodities
    • most local markets will eventually get assimilated into the global market
    • diamonds have artificially propped up prices that will be hard to maintain in the long run. DeBeers will eventually run out of cash buying up supplies from the black market and it will lead to sudden price collapse. Opt for gem and rubies instead
    • when gold gets too cheap companies will figure out ways to use it thereby depleting its supply driving up price. Same could be said of oil
    • underlying structural issues within a country can stay hidden for long during times of a commodity boom
  • The key to success
    • out of every 1000 people who wants to be rich only 6 can master the discipline to do so
    • stay focus on a single goal for five, ten, twenty years

Related readings

Federal Reserve interest rate cut decision 20191030

Outcome

Core inflation at 1.8% continues to run below target 2%.

Federal reserve decides upon another 0.25% cut in interest rates, targeting range of 1.5% to 1.75%.

Action is taken to provide meaningful support to the economy in response to global economic slowdown and the increasing disinflationary pressure felt from around the world. The special characteristics of this particular slow down is a lack of any large imbalances in the economy.

Dual mandate of the federal reserve

2% symmetrical inflation target

  • Stable prices
  • Low unemployment rates

economic indicators

  • Consumer confidence remains strong
  • Unemployment rate is at historic low
  • Business fixed investments has slowed
  • Global exports has slowed
  • Manufacturing compared to a year ago is down

macro environment risk

  • protracted US/China trade risk is down
  • No deal Brexit risk is down

economic health monitor

  • Leverage in financial system: low
  • Funding risk in banks and non-banks: low
  • Asset prices: no major bubble, high in some
  • Leverage in non-financial sector
    • households:  gone down
    • businesses + corporate debts: historic high

Liquidity concerns

  • Concerns in Overnight Repo markets persist.
  • Banks have liquidity in excess of required reserves level but choose not to participate in the markets.
  • Federal reserve will seek to inject short term liquidity into the system
    • build up short term treasury reserves
    • buying into short term treasury bills thereby boosting treasury reserves
    • opposed to the standard QE mechanism which entails buying up of assets and securities with longer maturity periods

Related readings

PCG misexecution from blackouts and Kincade fire

Characteristics of mis-execution

Technical aspects

  • GAP down occurred of more than 5%
  • MACD was still negative trending
  • negative trend is yet broken.

Fundamental aspects

  • Failed to account for seasonality:
    • Fire occurrence during summer and autumn is rampant.
    • strong wind
    • global warming
  • Doubled down when negative trend has yet been broken

Long term reversion to mean patterns

A list of long term reversion to mean patterns observed. General characteristics are:

  • steady negative trend line broken
  • Seeing higher lows
  • MACD signal line turns positive and trends upwards
Zillow does a pivot in both its product and pricing models.
Square sells off its food delivery business unit for USD500 million cash and double down on its consumer and enterprise business
Splunk changes its pricing model from licensing to SaaS base monthly subscriptions
DOMO gets disrupted by entrance established competitors Google (Looker) and Sales Force (Tableau)
Stamps attempts to pivot its product configuration and gets disrupted by USPS

 

Mother Nature versus City – public utilities

View of wind speeds in the area during the public utilities shutdown
The sizzling power lines
Large dips in PCG attributed to scheduled blackouts and negative ruling by judge.

 

Climate change reduces land mass under occupation.

Overview

Wind speeds across inland California has a negative correlation with public utility company share prices.

Our infrastructure is constructed above ground to avoid disruption from earthquakes when they occur. This makes them susceptible to producing sparks when strong winds blow. Combine that with increasingly dry weather conditions caused by climate change and we have the perfect recipe for power disruptions either by fire hazards or controlled shut downs. 

Utilities are natural monopolies in their region of operations giving them very inelastic demand curves. 

They also happen to be public companies which incentivized them to optimize performance for the short term thereby on a quarterly basis. This thus leaves them disincentivized to invest for the long run (aka infrastructure upgrade) without active government intervention. 

The government does actively intervene when circumstances go awry. They need these companies to continue operating least the whole population plunges back to the Stone Age. The previous instance was when the same utilities went bankrupt during the 2003 oil crisis when prices shot into the stratosphere. They ended up on the receiving end of a government bail out.

In a nutshell, the residents are basically setup to bear the brunt of this shit show. 

The last time I walked under one of those power lines on a windy day, the sound of those sizzling brought a chill down my spine

Proposed models

  • Wildfire (fire)
    • Wind speed
    • Temperature
    • Humidity levels
    • Vegetation density
  • Tornados (air)
  • Earthquakes (earth)
  • Floods (water)
  • Hurricanes (water/air)
  • Tsunami (water/earth)

Related references

 

 

NYMT rotation from agency RMBS to CMBS

NYMT has been observed to shift much of its portfolio to CMBS from agency RBMS over the year.

This is to guard against the likelihood of prepayment risk and reinvestment risk associated with the lowering interest rate environment we are seeing right now as the US/China trade war forces lower interest rates and a flatter yield curve. The downside to this strategy is that most of the loans will be maturing within 10 years as opposed to 30 years.

Performance across various interest rate environments

In a stable interest rate environment a rotation to RMBS can help guard against reinvestment risk and prepayment risk since loans mature over a period of 30 years and borrowers are unlikely to increase their rates of prepayment.

And since these are agency RMBS, the government become  the ultimate underwriter in the event of defaults.

In an environment where interest rate increase and spread widens, increase in short term interest rates pinches into profit margins thus lowers net interest income for all both types of MBS. Also likelihood of default increases.

Overview of CMBS versus RMBS

CMBS typically matures over a 10 year period. It pays interest during the entire period with a final lump sum principal payment at the end.

Borrowers will usually extend another loan to pay off lump sum as the current loan matures. The new loans is usually at then prevailing interest rates.

CMBS are usually backed by 10 to 300 commercial properties.

RMBS matures over a period of 30 years. It pays both interest and principal steadily over the entire course with increasing amounts of interest paid to the end.

RMBS is usually backed by thousands of homes.

Types of risks:

  • default risk – property does not generate rent to cover interest
  • maturity risk – borrower can not repay final lump sum at maturity
  • prepayment risk – more is paid down rapidly so less overall interest income generated from loan
  • reinvestment risk – associated with prepayment risk. If mortgage is paid down fairly quickly due to low interest rate environments, owner of lender will be forced to lend out loans in prevailing lower interest rate environments
  • extension risk – less principal is paid down by borrower per period because interest rate has increased

Of the above CMBS is usually only subjected to default risk and maturity risk.

Arrangements are within contract to guard against prepayment risk and extension risk in CMBS.

Default risks for CMBS are low unless tenants are no longer able to pay for rental of commercial space. Senior CMBS were not much affected even during 2008 / 2009

Other issues for consideration

Subordination are important points for consideration. Senior loans with 30% subordination means it will only start experiencing default when 30% of tranche beneath it has defaulted.

CMBS annual default rate peaked at 4.07% in 2010 while cumulative default rate peaked at 13.52% in 2013.

Related references

https://www.lordabbett.com/en/perspectives/fixedincomeinsights/investment-brief-commercial-mortgage-backed-securities.html

https://www.sec.gov/ix?doc=/Archives/edgar/data/1273685/000127368519000074/nymt-06302019x10q.htm#s4E8231C084AE58E780F8E58D6BD4C381

Bloomberg is a laggard for trend reporting

It’s been observed there is an average time lag of around one to three months before obvious trends observed to insider becomes apparent to mainstream media.

Examples

New Blow to Hedge Funds as Software Darlings Start to Crumble
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-19/fresh-blow-to-hedge-funds-as-software-darlings-start-to-crumble

 

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2019-08-07/home-prices-decline-in-some-of-the-costliest-markets-in-the-u-s

 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-24/san-francisco-s-sky-high-office-rents-to-slip-as-building-peaks

 

 

 

 

An unchanging constant as the source of trust

Trust is the ultimate source of wealth in any society. The level of manifested physical wealth correlates positively with the level of perceived trust members of society have for an entity.

When an entity, be it a phenomena or a behavior, is observed to be consistent across time without much falter, it soon becomes accepted as the norm. Overtime this norm gets deeply embedded within a society and becomes an integral part of its culture. It thus becomes trusted and a source of credibility.

Societal commerce is built on trust. Trust accumulated through consistency overtime can be converted to other forms of tangible currency. These currencies can then be used to direct resources within the society towards the achievement of very material goals.

When comparing between two entities that are embedded within the cultural fabric of society, the one that exhibits a higher level of consistency inevitably gains more trust. This explains why while fiat currencies comes and goes, the value of gold remains consistent across time.

While it might be tempting to equate trust with value, there is a subtle difference. While trust elicits value, value need not necessarily elicit trust.

Expressing the entire civilization’s undertaking at any point in time as an linear equation, any essential variable that happens to be the most restrictive in supply at that point inevitably becomes the most valued. However wide fluctuations in value does not elicit trust in the long run.

Sources of trust

  • the rotation of seasons and our subsequent practice of agriculture
  • the constant speed of light and it’s use in Einstein’s theory of relativity
  • gold with its scarcity and it’s persist use as a store of wealth
  • well run institutions with well defined constitutions
  • fiat currencies with under sound government regimes
  • individuals who exhibit consistent behavior overtime

Qualities of viable currencies

  • Ability to be divisible
  • Ability to be moved
  • Ability as a store of wealth overtime
    • consistent levels of supply
    • scarcity

Functions of currencies

  • a means to facilitate transactions
  • a store of wealth

Examples of trust erosion

Example 1: Michigan Pulls $600 Million From Ken Fisher an individual After Lewd Remarks

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-12/michigan-pulls-600-million-from-ken-fisher-after-lewd-remarks

Example 2: 1918 Germany as an institution, towards the tail end of WWI.

When it became evident that the country will loss the war, it experienced increased inability to raise debt to in domestic currency denomination to continue financing its war efforts. It’s currency soon lost it’s reserve currency status and it was increasingly forced to denominate debt in foreign reserve currencies.

Post WWI debts denominated in domestic currency where inflated away through printing of cash by the  German government to pay of debts denominated in foreign currencies.

Example 3: Africa use of glass beads as a failed form of currency

Europe was able to cheaply produce this in abundance . Europeans for a period were able to exploit this asymmetry by exchanging cheap glass beads for valuable natural resources. When value within the African society became depleted,  Europeans were eventually able to subjugate the entire African population and exploit them through the slave trade.

Example 4: Wall Street crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Bankers increasingly became concern of easy credit driving share prices to stratospheric valuations. An eventual tightening of credit lead to rapid deleveraging within the system. The lack of trust within the system prevented the circulation of money and credit. The central bank ultimately had to step in to restore trust.

It did so by first preventing the flight to value. This was achieved through the banning of conversion of USD dollar to gold.

Example 5: An ongoing slow erosion of fiat money

With the deliberate pursuit of constant 2% yearly inflation by central banks around the world current fiat money are failed stores of wealth .

The currency of the Roman Empire is a perfect example of where we will be headed. Overtime less gold per coin is used. Their currency was ultimately replaced by paper which allowed rampant printing by the government during times of war. The effects of inflation eroded the Roman empires currency as a long term store of wealth.

Examples of persistent sources of trust

  • The institution of the Catholic Church
  • The consistent adherence to a set of sound principles by Berkshire Hathaway’s reinsurance business over multiple decades. 
  • Federal reserves consistent adherence to the dual mandate of 2% inflation and low unemployment rates

Conclusion

To build trust is to build wealth. The key to doing so is to adhere and operate on a consistent set of sound principles over across time and in all environments. Being slow and steady is a pre-requisite of this process.

Related readings

Observed unwinding of credit in the market

Priori

  • Federal reserve starts reducing debt bought and brought onto their balance sheet during 2008
  • Federal reserve went on a series of interest rate hike from the period of 2016 to 2018
  • Trump starts Trade war in 2017 resulting in reduced global demand for American exports

Liquidity concerns experienced in sections of the markets around the world

Riots and unrest

Related readings

 

Thoughts of various asset class type and their usage

Investment environment parameters

  • Economic cycle
    • boom
    • recession
  • Inflation rates
    • High
    • Low
  • Currency type
    • Reserved currency
    • Non reserved currency
  • Exchange rates regime for non reserved currency owners
    • Fixed exchanges rate
    • Floating exchange rates
  • Recession type
    • (hyper) inflationary
    • deflationary
  • Federal reserve monetary policy
    • restrictive
    • expansive

Asset class types

Government bonds

  • good position to hold when government is unlikely to default and threat of inflationary recession looms
    • interest rates are inflation adjusted
  • high opportunity cost to hold position when economy is booming

Cash

  • good position to hold when hyper deleveraging is occurring within the system and Federal reserve has not responded with expansionary monetary policy
  • high opportunity cost to hold position when economy is booming

Mortgage REIT

  • good position to hold when threat of deflationary recession looms and the Federal reserve have started loosening monetary policy.
  • a tenuous position to hold during periods of hyper inflation because the interest gets offset by the inflation
  • a tenuous position when the Federal reserve starts tightening monetary policy
  • a tenuous position to hold when over leveraging is rampant within the system
  • high opportunity cost to hold position when the economy is booming

Equity REIT

  • good position to hold when the Federal reserve starts tightening monetary policy.
    • Credit becomes less available and thus more expensive
    • number of construction project drops
    • less supply driving up demand for existing inventory
  • high opportunity cost to hold position when the economy is booming

Gold

  • Use as a protection against hyper inflations
  • a tenuous position when the economy is in the early stage growth
    • demand for gold will drop as more funds gets allocated to risk assets
  • a tenuous position when the economic is heading into deflation
    • there is less money/credit within the system as compared to the amount of gold

Oil

  • Useful for hedging against outbreak of war
  • a tenuous position when recession and economic activity worldwide slows

Growth companies

  • Useful for riding an economy boom
  • a tenuous position to hold during the late stage of a credit cycle when too much leverage has been built up within the system and valuation is excessive

Value companies

  • Useful for riding a deflationary recession when credit becomes more expensive
  • High opportunity cost when economy is booming.

Related references