Key insights from mooncake festival at house of Jerry and Liza

Technology trends

  • Companies are increasing shifting their service from one-off on premise licensing deployment monetization to cloud based SaaS recurring subscription models
    • revenue hit in the short run
    • increased customer LTV in the long run
    • affected publicly traded companies will experience short term discounts to their shares
  • Artificial intelligence versus Augmented intelligence
    • companies are increasingly shifting away from automatic insight generation to systems that help decision makers simulate and model potential outcomes when specific policies are executed
    • demand is shifting from insight generation to data cleaning services
  • Corporate adoption of artificial intelligence
    • CEOs are increasingly considering how to leverage AI as a tool for their trade
    • primary use case is figuring out how to increase their sales volume
    • experiencing challenge on how to apply AI on in-house data to achieve monetization goals
  • Rise of deep vertical data networks
    • EverString – provides sales lead refresh for all client companies ends up becoming a large database for decision-making executives information, approximately 6 million records
    • StreetSine.sg – cleans up real estate data to help agents better price houses for sale by utilizing in-house agency ends up becoming a large database of high quality real estate data
  • Crypto-currency
    • Bit coin is still the main poster child
    • general population still skeptical about libra
    • main argument is still to remove central bank controls
    • main adoption hurdles
      • writing throughput volume
      • a stable store of wealth
      • starting to be using as a means to facilitate transaction in China
      • Inability to increase or decrease currency supply in times of need is going to be hard as a means to provide much needed stimulation during economic recessions and inflations

US/China trade war

  • sources of conflict
    • technology theft
    • forced technology transfer
    • unfair trade practices like subsidized state owned Chinese companies operating in the export markets
  •  economy
    • China is experiencing inflationary deleveraging
      • local farmers are not growing critical food sources
      • critical food supplies are imported
      • price of imported goods are denominated in US reserve currency
      • shifting of supply chain out of China to
        • Vietnam
        • India
        • Taiwan
      • capital flight
        • Li Ka Shing moved funds out from Hong Kong in 2013 to Europe
        • raising funds for US Venture capital from China was easy prior to Chinese and US government shut down
    • US is experiencing deflationary deleveraging
      • businesses are concerned about macro environment and are reducing fixed investments
      • manufacturing is slowing due to decreased demand both locally and overseas
      • consumer spending and confidence is still strong
  • Chinese domestic concerns
    • Potential US meddling in Chinese domestic affairs – Hong Kong’s demonstration and demands
      • Revoking of National Education
      • Revoking of extradition bill
      • Resignations of HK Chief executive
      • universal suffrage: freedom to elect their own leaders
    • destabilized situation presents a challenge for Xi JinPing’s party to retain control of power over former Jian Zemin’s faction
  • value system
    • US is a highly rule based system
    • China’s system of control is highly subjective to the individual in power.  Direct government intervention in the distribution of wealth is a major source of concern

US/Mexico and world issues

  • NAFTA agreement was too one side and failed to take into account large  imbalance between the two economies
  • US’s arrangement of allowing Mexican tax payers the right to claim dependents ultimately resulted into tax claims and refunds for entire extended families in Mexico. This has the effect of subsidizing Mexican’s at the expense of Americans living along the rust belts
  • Its observed income inequality is becoming prevalent across the entire world not just within US and China.

Related readings

Key insights from weekend with Jerry, Liza, Ada and Dan

On US/China trade war

  • 25% tariff basically wiped out whatever profit margin importing from China could bring
  • China’s labor cost have been increasing over the past few years that it is no longer a competitive advantage
  • China’s main advantage is the expertise they built up over the years. A company can easily spin up 25 manufacturing lines in China very quickly
  • US companies are all rapidly shifting their manufacturing activities out of China
  • New locations are Taiwan, India and Vietnam
  • Chinese staff that were retained by Google are now flying to new manufacturing facilities spun up in these countries to oversee the spin up process

On alternate data

  • Real estate
    • the rise  of platforms like AirBnB has lead investors to seek out alternate data that can help predict short term rental yield as opposed to long term rental yield in a neighborhood
    • government agencies are seeking such data to detect neighborhoods where they should focus their efforts to crack down illegal subletting on AirBnB
  • Sports
    • being able to predict strategy coaches of football teams will employ in real time will help support strategies
    • being able to predict starting line in close to real time and the corresponding outcomes will be valuable for coaches in making play decisions

On HongKong/China protest

  • Public opinion is the agenda for the ongoing protest is now getting really murky
  • Airport has stopped operations, it’s hard to even get in and out of the country
  • Foreign Chinese nationals are supportive of protest in HongKong
  • Topics pertaining to Taiwan, Tibet and TianAnMen massacre are sensitive topics amongst mainland Chinese
  • Funds of funds from Hong Kong are still very liquid

Escalating tension in Asia Pacific and how history tends to repeat itself

US is a divided country holding two conflicting points of view which are both very valid given existing set of evidences. This is the inherent drawback of democratic systems when faced with foreign threats. The dysfunction of the Roman military during periods of the Punic Wars is a fine example.

It is noteworthy to observe how populism and militarism tends to rise in times of extended economic hardships and during periods immediately prior to major outbreak of wars. Trump is the modern day equivalent of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill who were both considered populists during their times.

Related references

A democratic nation divided

The technology arms race

The economic warfare

The escalating military tension

Other related readings

Macro economic extension to loss aversion reversion to mean trading methodology – Government versus Government scenario

Trading Heuristics

Chain of events and decision making

The decision making processes from June 2019 after the federal reserve signal likelihood of cutting interest rate leading up to the 2019 August downward mean reversion of the SnP.

19th June 2019, Federal Reserve signals for first time likely decrease of interest rates

Federal Chairman expresses concerns about potential cross winds caused by US trade policies and its impact on their dual mandate.

10th July 2019, news paper reports SnP reaches all time high

SnP on the cusp of crossing 3000 threshold for the first time to an all time high. Market is euphoric. Trade issue between US/China yet resolved but discussions are underway.

Short positions SQQQ and SRTY were utilized as hedges against downward macro environment reversion risk when the SnP extended beyond 3000 to reach an all time high

1st August 2019, US announcement of 10% tariffs on US300 billion imports from China starting September 2019

on 1st August, 24 hours after actual interest rates cut, Trump signaled 10% tariffs on USD300 billion Chinese import. SnP dropped.

Exited SQQQ and SRTY for 10% capital gain after reaching 30SMA and 50SMA range. Net combined loss to portfolio was 0.5%.  Left remaining long positions open.

4th August 2019, Chinese response

On 4th Aug 2019, China’s exchange rate dropped for the first time below 7RMB/1USD.

5th Aug 2019 trading day

On 5th Aug 2019, China announced they will halt all imports of agricultural goods from US.

Portfolio continued declining an additional 2% on the trading day of 5th August 2019.

Closed all long positions with the exception of REITs

Decline overview

  • SnP
  • REITs
  • Value shares
  • Growth shares

6th Aug 2019 trading day

On the evening of 6th Aug 2019, China announced decision to control fluctuation of RMB exchange rates to USD

Bought into TQQQ and URTY at below 30SMA and 50SMA

7th Aug 2019 trading day

TQQQ and URTY automatically exited at the mid point between the two following highs and lows:

  • highest point  before Trump’s tariff announcement came into effect
  • lowest point after China’s halt on US agricultural imports and RMB/USD breaking 7 came into effect

Related readings

Donald Trump’s August 1st 2019 tweet on additional tariffs

Highlights

  • The effect of a negative shock is 3X worst that the effect of a disappointment
  • The effect of a negative shock is longer lasting than the effect of a disappointment
  • The market does retain memory of prior states
  • Seems like each negative political macro event has approximately negative 3% impact on the SnP

Series of events

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 2pm, US Federal Reserve’s disappointment

  • Federal Reserve announced an interest rate cut of 0.25% from 2.5% to 2.25%
    • no hints of further cuts
    • before announcement SPY price 300.04
    • after announcement SPY price 296.98
    • net effect on SPY -1.02%

Thursday, 1st Aug 2019, 10.26am, US President’s negative shock

  • President Donald Trump announced additional 10% tariffs on remaining 300 billion imports from China on Twitter.
    • before announcement SPY price 300.45
    • after announcement SPY price 291.02
    • net effect on SPY -3.14%
    • SPY price still above the 7th June 2019 price of 288.97 when the effect of Fed’s hint to adjust interest rate cuts has been priced in.

Sunday, 4th Aug 2019, 6.20pm PST, China exchange rate sinks below 7CNY/1USD for the first time

Monday, 5th Aug 2019, 9.58am PST, China suspends purchases of US farm products

  • US Market takes a sharp dip on Monday
    • SPY price 281.90 at lowest point
    • net effect on SPY -3.13%

Monday, 5th Aug 2019, 5.27pm PST, China announces fix to prevent further RMB depreciations against the USD

  • US market rebounds
    • SPY price 293.55 at highest point
    • net effect on SPY 4.13%

13th Aug 2019 Trump announces delay of tariff

  • US market rebounds
    • SPY price 292.32 at highest point
    • net effect on SPY 1.91%

14th Aug 2019 UK and US 2 years / 10years yield curve inverts. Germany reports GDP shrinkage for 2019Q2

  • US Market takes a sharp dip
    • SPY price 284.20 at lowest point
    • net effect on SPY -2.77%

Related artifacts

Trump’s tweet on additional 10% tariffs at 1st Aug 2019, 10.26am PST
Chinese RMB crosses 7RMB/1USD for the first time on 4th Aug 2019, 640pm PST

Related readings

Federal Chairman Jerome Powell on 0.25% interest rate cuts

Overview

  • Outlook for the US economy is favorable but
    • core inflation is only at 1.6% instead of 2%
    • cutting interest rate by 0.25% from 2.5% to 2.25%
  • insurance against downside risk
    • global growth is slowing
    • trade policy tension is a new stimulus to the equation and it is a concern
  • key objectives
    • strong job economy
    • 2% inflation rate
  • adopt an iterative approach by observing how economy reacts to policy changes

Key areas of concern

global growth slow down

  • US core inflation rate is at 1.6% – excludes food and energy inflation which are cyclical
    • US GDP sustained
  • US manufacturing declined in 2019Q1 and 2019Q2
  • US business fixed investment slowed in 2019Q1 and fell in 2019Q2
    • companies uncertain about investment spending
    • not seeing additional demand for products
  • June US job growth slowed in 2019Q2
  • disinflation rates observed in other countries
    • manufacturing in rural China and the EU are slowing

highly leverage business sector within the US

  • Business borrowings are excessive
  • loans have moved off balance sheet of banks to market based vehicles

Positive signals of sustained US economy

  • rising household income drives confidence
  • no booming sectors observed hence no concerns for busts

Federal Reserves framework for monitoring risks

  • Excessive leverage in the Financial sector
  • Excessive asset valuations
  • Excessive debt loads in households and business
  • Funding risks that could result in sudden shortfall of liquidity

Structure of the US economy

  • US capital requirements within banks are at 2X of what is required to tide through tough times
  • Allocations
    • 70% consumer
    • 30% investments and manufacturing
      • not growing
      • remains healthy

Related references

Summary of readings and conversations for the week

Trends observed

  • Worsening income inequality
    • driven by increased globalization and automation with failure in re-education as the primary cause
    • Continued low worldwide interest rates as central banks the world over struggles to prop up inflation rate at 2%
  • Rise in protectionism around the world in response to income inequality
    • Slowing trade volumes around the world
  • Demand saturation at the upper income segments
    • Slowing demand for housing in South Bay
    • Too much money chasing after too little deals

Related sources

Book summary AI super-powers, China, silicon valley and the new world order by Kai Fu Lee

The difference waves of AI

  • Internet AI – Facebook, Netflix, Google search
  • Business AI – Palantir
  • Perception AI – Tesla cars
  • Autonomous AI – Tesla self driving, Google self driving

Key locations

  • Silicon Valley
  • Zhong Guan Cun – Beijing

State of the Union

  • We are in the stage of implementation/application as opposed to RnD
    • having access to more data is more important than have expertise to do more RnD
    • having solid AI engineers is more important than AI researchers
  • We are still far from general AI
  • Key ingredients
    • data
    • computing
    • maybe work of strong AI algorithms engineers

Key differences between eco-systems

  • Silicon Valley businesses are mission and core values driven while Chinese businesses are pragmatically focused on profitability.
  • Silicon Valley businesses stay in bits and binaries offloading the brick and mortar to external vendors vendors while Chinese businesses extend their business model into the brick and mortar (online to offline)
  • Silicon valley prefers one size fit all strategy, Chinese businesses utilized localized solutions often investing/acquiring in local startups
  • Americans treat search engines like Yellow Pages (come and leave fast) while Chinese treat search engines like shopping mall (come to linger around long)
  • Silicon Valley is adversed to copying preferring to be unique Chinese business copy the heck out of each other

Chinese Advantage

  • Abundant data – quality and quantity aided by their online to offline initiatives
  • hungry entrepreneurs
  • AI scientist
  • AI friendly policy environment – strong emphasis by Chinese government
  • Hardware manufacturing know how – Shen Zhen
    • unparalleled supply chain flexibility – XiaoMi

Silicon Valley Advantage

  • Microchip manufacturing know-how

Trends within the Chinese eco-system

  • Darwinian eco-system has lead to extreme levels of competition
  • Chinese companies have already moved past the stage of clone Silicon Valley business models
  • Businesses innovate to build a defensive moat around themselves. Local businesses have advantage, with no timezone differences to deal with, decision making is relatively faster.
  • Online to offline
    • an essential ingredient to building strategic moats
    • caused the decline of cash use
  • Chinese government information systems will be able to leap frog US government information systems

Policy approaches

  • Google – impeccable safety
  • Tesla / China – trial by fire
  • key to winning the Autonomous AI race
    • is the bottleneck technology (Silicon Valley) or policy (China)?

Key concerns

  • having cheap labor is no longer going to be a source of advantage in a world heavily powered by automaton.  Developing countries hoping to employ this well tested strategy to progress will not be able to do so anymore
  • Estimated 60% potential job loss worldwide barring policy interventions
  • Job loss probability assessment
    • physical labor
      • environment – unstructured versus structure
      • tasks nature – level of dexterity versus high dexterity
    • cognitive labor
      • social – high versus low
      • cognitive – optimization based versus creativity/strategy based
  • AI replacement approach
    • single tasks approach
    • ground up rethink re-imagination
  • A population of irrelevant (no longer employable) as opposed to unemployed

Tackling Key concerns

  • Silicon valley – reduce, retrain and redistribute
  • Kai Fu Lee – stipends for care, service, education

New promise

  • Humans freed up from repetitive tasks can now focus on becoming more human oriented

Related readings

  • Disruptor, Zhou
  • www.Arvix.org – an online repository of scientific papers
  • Folding Beijing – Hao JingFang

Reflections on the subject of economics

Man as an automaton

The average man eats, sleeps, shits and reproduce.

When presented with environment stimulus that signals more of the above, his brain emits dopamine which elicits are warm fuzzy sensation in his body which he interprets as pleasant.

When presented with environment stimulus that signals less of the above, his brain emits adrenaline which elicits muscular tension and heat in various parts of his body which he interprets as unpleasant.

Physics as the upper bound constrain for economic activities

Economic activity is what man as a collective organism engages in as it goes about fulfilling its above stated needs.

A quantum leap in economic activity is only possible when there is significant break through in the field of physics.

A large increase in numeric valuation of such economic activities without corresponding increase in actual physical throughput volume will result in either an inflation or a subsequent correction.

Characterization of economic activities

Aerobic economic activity is when the environment remains at equilibrium during energy extraction for the above stated needs.

Anaerobic economic activity is when the environment equilibrium is disturbed during energy extraction for the above stated needs.

Framing as a high level principle

He who controls the frame determines what goes within it.

The jug shapes the water.

The player controlling the outer edges of the Othello board generally wins the game

The country which controls the currency for all international commerce control the direction and level of cross border commercial activities.

US controls the global USD supply which majority of foreign economic activities and debts are denominated in. US controls the future economic outputs creditors will receive in the future.

Major creditors for US debts like China and Russia are moving towards Gold as the denominator.

Effects of Trump administration and Federal Reserve fiscal policy on the S&P index

2018 Oct / Dec SPY decline

During the period of Dec 2019, the SPY index ranged between

  • 3rd Oct 2019 – USD 291.72
  • 24th Dec 2019 – USD 234.34

The steep decline in share price can be attributed to the ongoing trade war wage by the Trump administration and the expected Federal Reserve rate hike. The decline attributions are as follows:

  • Trump administration
    • USD 291.72 – USD265.37
    • 3rd Oct 2019 – 13th Dec 2019
    • decline of 9.03% off of USD291.72
  • Federal reserve rate hike
    • USD265.37 – USD234.34
    • 13th Dec 2019 – 24th Dec 2019
    • decline of 10.63% off of USD291.72

2019 May / June SPY decline

During the period of May and June 2019, the SPY index ranged between

  • 3rd May 2019 – USD 294.03
  • 3rd June 2019 – USD 274.57

The steep decline in share price can be attributed to the two front trade war wage by the Trump administration which caused a 6.61% price decline

Of the recovery that occurred after 3rd June 2019, the following parties could be attributed

  • Federal reserve
    • USD274.57 – USD 287.65
    • June 3  2019 – June 7 2019
    • 4.76% recovery off of USD274.57
  • Trump administration
    • USD 287.65 – USD 292.32
    • June 10th 2019 – June 18th 2019
    • 1.70% recovery off of USD274.57

Conclusion

While both the Government administration and the Federal reserve have observed impact on the SnP index, it is observed the Federal reserve has a slightly higher level of impact.

  • Oct/Dec 2019: 10.63% versus 9.0%
  • May/June 2019: 4.76% versus 1.70%