The market was in a panic today. The coronavirus is becoming a bigger concern with cities in Asia going on lockdown, travel is restricted, and the virus spreading to other countries. The market is becoming too expensive and calls for a good defense. Earnings season commenced this week and 70% of the companies that reported beat expectations, but there is still fear in a slowdown in corporate earnings. Phase 1 deal with China was a success, the USMCA deal is in the works to be passed, and the Central Bank is using all of their resources to keep the market afloat at an all-time high. In the short-term, the market is obsessed with the Fed’s monetary interventions. The market is at full-bullish. The put/call ratio is hitting historic lows and with new-highs at every market close, investors are getting a sense of FOMO where they feel they need to catch the ride up. Investors are starting to question the current economic expansion and are starting to ask the question of when it is going to end.
Capitalism. The age-old debate of economic structure, the battle between socialism and capitalism, has become more prevalent than ever. These two structures, in their simplest form, can be differentiated between capitalism representing less government intervention, more company choice, with socialism being the counter. Although capitalism has its downfalls, such as corporations taking advantage of the populous, it has worked for us for the past few hundred years. Capitalism is definitely not the end all be all, our financial system is so young, that we don’t know exactly what completely works yet. What we do know, however, is what has led countries to turmoil through incentive issues, lack of property rights, and generally poor quality of life, and that seems to be pure communism. Although socialism weighs on the left, such as communism, it is far closer to the middle, being much closer to capitalism than many think. What lies in store for the future, in regards to how powerful the government will become, or possibly the counter with corporations, time will only tell.
Boeing. It seems like Boeing just can't keep out of the news nowadays and is once again making the rounds as a result of negative news. Boeing released news on the return of the notorious 737 Max, which has been the spark of all the negativity regarding Boeing, stating that the plane most likely will not return to flying until Fall 2020 at the earliest. This is not great news for the company, but at the end of the day, it will help to ensure safety for people across the globe, which is most important. Boeing, which has halted the production of this troubled aircraft, does not get paid until they deliver the planes, which can't be done until they get recertified by the FAA. Recertification is likely to happen sometime in mid-2020. This has increased the expected costs for Boeing, which are now at around by $10 billion. Some analysts expect costs to reach $20 billion by the time planes get recertified in mid-2020. The halt of production has ramifications up and down the supply chain, as well as costing customers like Southwest in lost profits. Boeing is seeking a $10 billion loan at a similar price point of its previous loans. The full details of their costs, expectations, and loan will likely be revealed during their earnings call at the end of January. Analysts are expecting low revenue, low earnings, and increased liabilities. This has led to the stock being down right around the 52 week low recently. The Dow, which is a price-weighted index, has been dragged down by Boeing's $300+ share price. Many people see the rock-bottom price of Boeing stock and think it could be a good deal, however it is very plausible that the stock is still overvalued.
Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Defined by the World Health Organization as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease; and to potentially require a coordinated international response”. This definition implies a situation that: is serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border, and may require immediate international action.” Initiating a PHEIC is not something the WHO does lightly, as it signals the broader need for international cooperation and access to emergency funding and protocols. The last major PHEIC was the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that lasted from 2014-2016.
Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. A new treatment-resistant virus has infected over 800 people and has spread to eight major cities in the country, as well as seven other countries, including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, and the United States. New cases have exploded since the outbreak was first noticed last week. A coronavirus is a particularly volatile form of viral infection, in that it has the potential to mutate easily and jump from other mammalian species to human hosts. Chinese officials hypothesized that this is what happened in this particular case, as there is a large market near the Wuhan train station, where the disease is thought to have originated. While this virus is not nearly as deadly as past coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, the transmission of this virus has shown itself to be particularly active, worrying officials and markets. The Chinese public is especially vulnerable due to the widespread Lunar New Year’s celebrations that are taking place this week, leading to the migration of millions across the country for festivities and family visitation. The government has mobilized the military and quarantined infected cities while shutting down previously planned celebrations, but its lack of transparency with the international medical community has significantly hampered the ability of the WHO to assist with the outbreak, and as of now still has not declared a PHEIC due to the lack of information.
The Alchanati Campbell and Associates Team
Living true to yourself. "I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth - and truth rewarded me." If there is one thing I can ever promise you, it is this: you will reach the tip of Maslow’s pyramid and you will be in unconditional happiness if you stay true to yourself. There’s nothing more important in life than what you feel and think in your inner being. Ambition is our attempt to go beyond ourselves, and true ambition is beyond insecurity. . It’s not about being better than this person or that person, or accumulating this thing or that thing, but it’s about experiencing the full spectrum of what a human body can be and do. What you can be and do.
Truth that is pure is the most beautiful, and the simpler it’s expression the deeper is the impression it makes. Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others.
We’re self-conscious for the same reason that we’re self-confident: a healthy ego. We tacitly assume that other people think about us and judge us just as much as we think about and judge ourselves. The liberating truth, of course, is that everybody else is too worried about themselves to really care what you do.
Pursuing what you must pursue for yourself, you need to realize that only you can do that. Then when you progress and experience and accomplish bits and pieces, you’re able to share it with another and create a greater whole: love; an unworldly feeling. To really love another, you need to love yourself. And to love yourself, you need to know yourself. And to know yourself, you have to stay true to yourself.
Dear Reader,The Market.
Tobacco and Other Sin. Sin stocks have been the highest returning sector since the 1900s; tobacco in the US and alcohol in the UK. Philip Morris has a market cap of $137 billion, a one-year performance of 28%, and for the past 9 years, their return on investment, free cash flow per share, and operating cash flow per share have all been increasing. In 2009, their profit margin was 11% and now it is 26% which means 26% of their sales turn into profit. The prices of tobacco and smoking products have increased by 6% in 2019 and the tobacco industry has a high barrier of entry. With ESG on the rise, many funds are liquidating their holdings from sin which may result in lower stock prices, but the innovation into new products like e-cigs and vape may prove to be even more profitable for the big tobacco companies. (Note: Sin stocks usually perform better during slowdowns/downturns).
Macro themes to look at going into 2020. Leaving 2019, going into 2020, we saw a wide array of global macro theories and events playing out. At the forefront was the global trade deal between China and the US, Brexit, people predicting a global slowdown, tensions arising in Venezuela between presidential incumbent Maduro and opposing party leader Guaido. Going into 2020, we are seeing some new geopolitical activity, which could result in some much-needed volatility in the global market. This activity is taking the form of a new surge in the global economy, dispelling fears of what people thought was an impending slowdown. Aside from future outlooks, we are currently seeing relatively low fed rates; demonstrating soft central bank policy, joined with relatively low inflation in the developed market, leading markets to reward those in risky assets. Although 2019 was a year of fear and reward in the double digits for the markets, I see 2020 taking a relatively calmer outlook, still bringing potential for single-digit gains in our markets. Party of Fiscal Responsibility. This week, for the first time since 2012, the federal deficit topped $1 trillion, a 17% jump from the previous year. Fortunately for Donald Trump, he was relatively successful in pressuring the Federal Reserve into cutting interest rates. The cut in interest rates lowered the cost of government borrowing, which of course lowered the deficit to a still astronomical figure. After the crisis in 2008, the deficit spiked as the government rightly injected money into the economy to spur spending and help get us out. Since then, President Obama worked with the Republican congress to lower spending. Back in 2016, candidate Donald Trump promised to reduce spending, claiming his presidency could eliminate the entire deficit in eight years. Moreover, he promised that his tax-cuts would pay for themselves in the form of economic growth they would foster. Thus far, he has been widely wrong. While Federal receipts (revenue) has grown at 2.6% average annually (less than Obama's average 3.9%), Federal spending has grown at 5.7% each year (more than double Obama's). All in all, this has led to the deficit growing 20% each year. As a result, it is clear Trump's aspirations for deficit elimination have not panned out. It also adds an interesting connotation to the economy under Trump. As we all know, basically everyone has been saying the economy has been running on fumes and has been due for a crash. We have "been in a bull market for too long", and China trade-war, the investigation into Donald Trump, BREXIT, and war with Iran would send us into the stone age. Clearly, none of that panned out. However, this data on government spending shows us that the economy may be unnaturally propped up by the increase in fiscal injection by the government as well as the Federal Reserve rate cuts.
Space. It’s been half a century since humans left footprints on the moon and during that time, the focus of space exploration has shifted from human space exploration largely centered on manned low-Earth orbit missions and unmanned scientific exploration to private funding and commercial launches. The global space economy consists of non-government launch providers like the ULA and SpaceX that launch equipment for both government and non-government clients. These clients often require satellites launched in the Earth’s orbit that provide consumer TV, broadband, radio, mobile phone, and earth observation services. Morgan Stanley estimated that the global space economy in 2019 generated roughly $350 billion, but due to an unprecedented number of emerging launch providers and technological progress they estimate that the space industry will bring in over $1 trillion in revenues by 2040. Most conversations around private space exploration are centered around space tourism and while that is great, the true potential of a developed space economy is unlimited. Cheap and easy access to space would allow researchers to conduct real-time experiments in microgravity. In microgravity, researchers would be able to better study diseases; as cells and proteins act differently from how they do on earth, giving scientists more insight. What little work on the topic that has already begun on the ISS has yielded impressive results and given science hopes that they may be able to cure diseases once thought incurable. The same is true for material research, many researchers believe that microgravity is the key to developing advanced next germination materials. Even though many of these breakthroughs may be more than a decade away, there is no doubt that 2020 will be a huge year for the global space industry as Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Boeing, and Rocketlab are all expected to reach milestones this year. Coming up first is SpaceX's crew abort system test that is scheduled to take place on Saturday at 8 a.m EST, they are expected to blow up a rocket so I wouldn’t suggest missing this one.
Authoritarian Government. A government type that, in contrast to democracy, concentrates sovereign and national power in a single individual. These governments have typically been the most common regime type in human history, often taking the forms of military dictatorships and monarchies. The proliferation of global democracy after World War II spawned a new kind of regime: an authoritarian democracy. Since citizens of modern nations generally demand a say in how they are governed, these governments maintain the auspices of a functional democracy, including an elected parliament and president, and a publicly accessible judicial system. However, electoral competition is largely controlled by a single party, which is headed by an extremely influential individual. These governments are inherently unstable, as their “democratic” institutions can be seen as illegitimate over time, leading to uprisings and possible revolution.
Reshuffle of Russian Government. On January 15th, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced he would resign his post, as soon as a new government is formed by the Russian parliament. Medvedev is largely seen as a puppet of President Vladimir Putin, who has swapped jobs with Medvedev numerous times as his term limit in the Prime Minister position expired in 2011. Mr. Medvedev’s resignation has widely been seen as a move by President Putin to consolidate power in his regime as Mr. Putin ages, as he has been in power for over 20 years. Additionally, American sanctions and endemic corruption have crippled the Russian economy, and its continued involvement in foreign wars in Syria and Ukraine has become more and more unpopular. Large protests against regime policies have taken place in the past few years, and Mr. Medvedev’s popularity had plummeted to 39%. President Putin has announced the next Prime Minister will likely be Mikhail Mishustin, a relatively unknown technocrat who has successfully implemented better tax collection practices, meaning the Russian government expects to continue to reform economically as it braces for continued sanctions from the West. The current term of President Putin’s regime expires in 2024 when he will likely appoint a successor that will keep Putin’s vision of Russia long into the future as he continues to govern from the shadows.
The Alchanati Campbell and Associates Team
2020 and Beyond. A few economists have started to raise the possibility of our next industrial revolution occurring in the next decade. This would mark the 4th industrial revolution we have seen as mankind. WeWork released a bold statement in early 2016 stating, “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before”, this comment was almost instantly disregarded as marketing towards the shared economy. Four years later, in early 2020, I believe WeWork was correct, and we are standing at the brink of our next great industrial revolution, one that will disrupt almost every industry. We have the onset of quantum computing, which will change how and industry based on complex physical systems operates; biochem, Pharma, physics. We are very close to seeing industrial implementations of augmented reality and autonomous vehicles (cars, drones). We saw the rise of the sharing economy and gig economy with the introduction of WeWork, Uber, GrubHub, and this industry is only getting bigger. We are heading towards an age where 3D printers are becoming cost affordable where a mechanic can purchase a blueprint and instantaneously start printing the part. We have started to see the rise of permissioned blockchain (corporate chains), this is basically blockchain V2. We will start seeing central governments testing to see if this technology is viable to launch their next central currency on. IBM just recently revised the Buckminster Fuller knowledge doubling curve, to give a short summary of this, Buckminster, a futurist of his time in the 1900s, released the idea that knowledge doubles every 100 years. This was then changed in 1950 to doubling every 25 years, in 2015 it was updated to doubling every 12-18 months, and just recently IBM revised this to doubling every 12 hours. I believe we are heading into a new age, which will be marked with rapid growth in both human capital and technology.
Gold. Gold is a precious metal, something to make rings and jewelry out of, and it’s a beautiful accessory and is a hallmark of wealth. However, it is exponentially more important as an investing asset. There a few ways to invest in gold. You can buy Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) that track gold, you can invest in companies that mine gold, and you can also buy physical gold (rings, chains, bars). Why invest in gold? Because it’s a safe hedge against inflation and deflation, it can combat currency volatility, and it has an intrinsic value.
One of the purposes of money is that it acts as a store of value. In times of inflation and deflation, regular fiat money such as dollar bills lose their value. This causes people to flock to commodity money, such as gold. In these cases, unlike dollar bills, gold can effectively hold its own value. Why? Because gold is a natural resource; it's impossible to make more of it. This means it is immune to the inflation risks that face traditional currencies. While the government can just "print" more dollars, which would increase the amount of money in circulation while also decreasing each dollar's relative value, they can't produce much gold. As such, this has led gold prices to soar when inflation rises. There is a similar effect with regard to foreign exchange rates. If the USD is losing value compared to, say, the Euro, people will buy gold as it can hold its value while the dollar falls. Why would the dollar fall? For the same reasons listed above. If the government introduces too much money into circulation, this will lead to inflation and the Foreign exchange rates of the dollar to fall. Finally, gold has an intrinsic value because humans have attached one to it. Warren Buffet has said, in paraphrased words, that idea of attaching a value to gold, something we dig out of the ground, is odd. Nevertheless, gold has value. This value leads to gold being an accepted currency everywhere. If the entire United States economy collapsed and the dollar was rendered absolutely useless, gold would be the most valuable currency. This is why Central Banks across the globe buy gold. If things go bad, gold is the place to start again. It backs the Central Bank's balance sheet and provides a measure of security to the country. While the prices fluctuate based on the economy, gold itself is not exactly a byproduct of the economy or any government body.
Liquidity and QE. At the end of 2019, the U.S Federal Reserve fought to keep the repo market running smoothly by injecting half a trillion dollars. Repo or repurchase agreements make up a crucial part of our financial system and that plays a key role in the Fed’s open market operations. That is why the Fed was quick to add as much as $99 billion a day, in reaction to the amount of cash in the market dropping as demand to borrow jumped leading to a spike in interest rates. New York Fed officials have indicated that these cash infusions may continue through April, but the Fed Chairman and several heads of major banks insist that this is not another round of QE. In October, Fed Chairman Powell stated that these actions are not designed to lower longer-term interest rates or ease financial conditions as was the intent of QE, but rather to ensure there is enough cash in the market to avoid another unintended spike in interest rates and avoid turmoil in short term lending markets. The distinction on whether or not this move can be considered as QE is significant because another round of QE would single a shift in monetary policy and while it's unclear the effects this would have on the market it may lead to risky assets climbing even higher or other unintended consequences as was the case when 10-year US Treasury yields initially dropped 2 basis points following the Fed’s cash injection. This topic remains a point of debate among financial analysts as some argue that the Fed is adding to the balance sheet and reducing rates which are telltale signs of QE, while others like Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co argue that this is simply open market operations and far from a return to QE. The repo market is not the only major liquidity issue present in the market today. Mr. Powell has been working closely with the U.S Treasury Secretary to mitigate intraday liquidity. Intraday liquidity occurs when large banks have a gap between payments and settlements during the course of a business day and run what is known as a “daylight overdraft” to cover the gap. This practice could result in major unindented consequences for the market, or even act as a catalyst for a recession which is why the Fed and U.S Treasury and acting to address this liquidity issue.
Act of War. An act of violence directed from one country to another in order to provoke a hostile response, often giving cause to initiate a war between the countries. Acts of War in the past have included Pearl Harbor in World War II, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in World War I, and, in modern times, the 9/11 attacks.
The United States Assassinates Iranian General. On January 3rd of this year, President Trump ordered a missile strike on a convoy containing Iranian Major General Qassem Sulemani, leading to his death at the hands of US military personnel. The strike was ordered in retaliation for the General’s part in the killing of an American military contractor in late December, as well as his part in organizing the violent demonstration in front of the American embassy in Baghdad, where the perimeter of the facility was breached. General Sulemani, through both his direct orders and his support for terrorist and extremist militias throughout the middle east, is directly responsible for the death of hundreds of American soldiers and has played a major part in sustaining and prolonging the terrorist group Hezbollah, as well as the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and the continuing the Yemen civil war. However, while Sulemani’s death might very well have been justified, the manner of his death breaks with traditional American foreign policy and puts immense pressure on the Iranian government to respond against the United States in a hostile manner, possibly drawing the region into another war. The Iranian government is largely unpopular among its people, with numerous public protests leading to the deaths of thousands of Iranians in the last months of 2019. Its support largely comes from religious hardliners within the country, and those hardliners will demand an aggressive response from the Iranian regime, lest the government risk losing its support and collapsing. If President Trump’s strategy was to cause the collapse of the Iranian regime, and he was willing to risk a war to do it, then this strike makes perfect sense. However, President Trump has made it clear he does not wish another Middle Eastern War, confusing many experts and allies with this action. In response to the assassination of General Sulemani, Iran has ordered a counterstrike against a joint Iraqi-American military base, though it resulted in no casualties. Many experts have concluded that this singular strike is just the first in many future hostile actions, with more strikes, including possible terrorist actions, to come.
The Alchanati Campbell and Associates Team
The end of a year signals the start to a new beginning. Where anything and everything is possible; where achievement awaits only the ambitious and hard working. With 2019 ending, we like to look back on our failures and mistakes. Just because we’ve lost our way doesn’t mean that we are lost forever. In the end, it’s not the failures that define us so much as how we respond to them. We grow by making our own mistakes and taking them in stride. And from mistakes come reflections.
I read these reflections frequently; sometimes on a daily basis. They remind me of my past mistakes, weaknesses, and things I need to improve on so I can try to never commit them again and ultimately grow from them. These are the rules I try to live by, but I always keep adding and my beliefs are continuously changing.
Observers trying to decide what a man is like look closely at his actions. But you all have the pleasure in looking at his thoughts too.
The Alchanati Campbell and Associates Team
Questions we have going into 2020:
Commodities: The drivers of the global economy. Commodities are basic goods that are used in commerce, often as inputs that are turned into a good or service. For most of human history, commodities have fueled trade, war, and progress. Many commodities are extremely valuable and can command a high price on the market, especially since production can be impacted by countless factors. Vanilla is not necessarily what comes to mind when you think of costly commodities, you may think of gold, silver, or oil, but none the less, in the 1990s, Madagascar was responsible for approximately 30% of the world's supply of vanilla and in 2000 when a cyclone hit, vanilla production fell and prices rose to $600 for a kilo! After the industry regained its capacity, vanilla prices fell back to $20 a kilo, but since then, Madagascar vanilla production has grown to 80% of the global supply, which means that global vanilla prices are extremely susceptible to the condition of the vanilla industry in Madagascar. Over the last few years, there have been disputes between the vanilla industry in Madagascar and some of the largest firms that purchase vanilla, leading the price to jump back to $600 a kilo in 2018. As you can see, the price of a commodity can be extremely volatile, more so when the majority of production takes place in a single country, but this is just vanilla, and vanilla has no significance outside of the kitchen. What happens with commodities that are so strategically significant that they can decide the technological superiority of an entire nation? China alone is responsible for 85% of the world’s capacity to process rare earth materials and supplied 80% of the rare earth materials imported to the U.S from 2014-2017. These rare earth materials are critical for the production of everything from DVD players and wind turbines to electric cars, jet engines, and missile defense systems. The United States only has one operating rare earth facility and even that is not capable of processing the materials and instead sends them to China to be processed where they face a 25% tariff as a result of the current trade war. Due to the technological and strategic importance of these materials, they are extremely valuable gaining them a high price and political importance. As a result, China is able to use its stores of these commodities as leverage at the negotiating table and in response, nations like the U.S and South Korea are attempting to stockpile billions of dollars’ worth to avoid a potential cutoff by China. While the nuances of vanilla production in Madagascar and the tensions between the U.S and China remain uncertain, it is clear that commodities will continue to play a vital role in the global economy.
Permissioned blockchain + hyper ledger. Although the cryptocurrency craze seems to be nearly over, and most of the tech never left the small industry, one new sub-sect is quickly emerging. Permissioned blockchain, brought on by Hyperledger, a multi-project open source collaborative effort being brought on by the likes of the Linux Foundation, IBM, Intel, and SAP, seems to be quickly dominating the institutional space. This technology allows for a governance aspect on current blockchain systems, without the use of a coin, making it suitable for large corporations. This technology should be able to support inter-country transactions, supply chain improvements, and other non-fungible aspects. Although the technology as a whole would require too much information to efficiently explain in one section of this newsletter, it’s worth looking further into, be-it if only for the fact that billion-dollar companies, such as Cisco, IBM, Intel, BNY Mellon, JPM, Wells Fargo, and many more have already started to integrate this technology into their current ecosystems. In short, the technology allows for a completely governed and permissioned decentralized database, which admin users can effectively manage and track changes too.
Dark Money. A source of political funding that is typically anonymized and unlimited, allowing groups to influence elections without the transparency requirements of typical political fundraising and advertising. In the United States, Dark Money has been particularly influential in the funding of “Super PAC’s” or large Political Action Committees that independently fund advertising and voter mobilization efforts; effectively becoming a political campaign without a specific political figure at its head. These Super PACs have become increasingly frequent in modern American politics, with specifically targeted ads issuing calls to action over abortion, illegal immigration, and other hot-button political issues. Dark Money allows corporations, large net worth individuals, and other groups to fund initiatives anonymously, therefore not tainting their individual name while also not delegitimizing causes they support by being funded by specific corporations or billionaires.
Democratic Dark Money. The Republican party dominated the “dark money” market for much of the past decade, outspending liberal dark money funded organizations 4 to 1 in the 2016 presidential election. This is due to the organizational complexity and hardline supporters that conservative causes often engender, and absolutely played a key role in mobilizing supporters for Donald Trump among people who may not have agreed with him personally but saw him as a defender of their views on specific issues. However, for the first time, the 2018 midterm elections saw liberal dark money organizations outspend conservative ones by almost 2 to 1, leading to speculation that the conservative dominance of such donations and organizations is coming to an end. Additionally, several prominent conservative organizations, such as Koch Industries, have been alienated by President Trump’s divisive policies. As a result, many have signaled that they are either spending less or even considering funding of Democratic candidates in 2020. While many Democratic candidates have sworn off corporate donations to their campaigns, dark money-funded Super PAC’s will continue to operate on their behalf regardless of candidate support, drawing a sharp contrast between candidates’ rhetoric and the source of liberal campaign funding.
The Alchanati Campbell and Associates Team
WHAT'S UP FRIDAY? is a weekly newsletter that will give you a summary of "What's up?" on Wall Street, in the US and around the World written by The Alchanati Campbell and Associates Team. What makes us unique is we focus on long-term knowledge; knowledge that will still be useful to you 10 years from now.