31 декабря 2017, 17:33

NEW YEAR’S EVE EDITION -- TRUMP to lunch with RICK SCOTT -- NYT: How Russia inquiry began -- PETER BAKER on Trump’s reinventing of the presidency -- ADAM CONNER engaged -- B’DAY: Don Trump Jr.

WELCOME TO THE DOORSTEP OF 2018 -- @realDonaldTrump at 8:36 a.m.: “Why would smart voters want to put Democrats in Congress in 2018 Election when their policies will totally kill the great wealth created during the months since the Election. People are much better off now not to mention ISIS, VA, Judges, Strong Border, 2nd A, Tax Cuts & more?”-- FRONT PAGE OF THE L.A. TIMES (and other Tronc-owned papers like the Hartford Courant): “GOP faces Democratic wave in ‘18: For all their successes, Republicans end 2017 confronting bad signs for keeping control after midterm vote” http://bit.ly/2C0O213 Happy New Year’s Eve! SPOTTED LAST NIGHT, at Wilbur Ross’s birthday party in Palm Beach: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Tom Quinn and Lynly Boor, David Koch, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and wife Mila, Christopher Ruddy and Talbott Maxey, Dr. Mehmet Oz and wife Lisa Lemole, Bret and Amy Baier, David Rubenstein, U.S. Ambassador to Morocco David Fischer, Ken and Jackie Duberstein and Nelson Peltz.THE PRESIDENT will eat lunch today with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and they will “discuss ongoing hurricane recovery efforts, the need to improve the nation’s aging infrastructure and other matters important to Floridians,” per the White House, via WSJ’s Mike Bender.THE STORY EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT … NYT’S SHARON LAFRANIERE, MARK MAZZETTI and MATT APUZZO: “How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt”: “During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign. Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. “But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role. ... The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election? It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.” http://nyti.ms/2CgehEW-- @tomgara: “Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat at the center of this new Papadopoulos story, is from my home city, and here’s the best photo of him in his lesser political years (he went on to become Australian foreign minister)” http://bit.ly/2lppSqM THE INVESTIGATIONS … WAPO’S KAROUN DEMIRJIAN: “Devin Nunes, targeting Mueller and the FBI, alarms Democrats and some Republicans with his tactics”: “‘I’m interested in getting access to the information and not the drama,’ Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said earlier this month, when Nunes began threatening contempt citations for FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein in the wake of revelations former Mueller team members had exchanged anti-Trump texts.“More recently, Gowdy said that his ‘heart would be broken’ if Nunes follows through on reported plans to issue a corruption exposé about the FBI, citing concerns that issuing such a report outside the context of a comprehensive investigation of the Justice Department could prove damaging to law enforcement.” http://wapo.st/2CqajJa --POLITICAL FALLOUT -- “Republican Attacks on Mueller and F.B.I. Open New Rift in G.O.P.,” by NYT’s Nick Fandos: “A growing campaign by President Trump’s most ardent supporters to discredit the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the law enforcement agencies assisting his investigation is opening new fissures in the Republican Party, with some lawmakers questioning the damage being done to federal law enforcement and to a political party that has long championed law and order. ... [S]ome Republican lawmakers are speaking out, worried that Trump loyalists, hoping for short-term gain, could wind up staining the party, dampening morale at the F.B.I. and Justice Department, and potentially recasting Democrats as the true friends of law enforcement for years to come.” http://nyti.ms/2CroevP BULLETIN FROM AP IN TEHRAN at 7:55 a.m.: “Iran state TV says authorities temporarily block Instagram, messaging app Telegram to ‘maintain peace’ amid protests.”-- THE LATEST: “2 protesters in Iran killed as social media apps blocked,” by AP’s Amir Vahdat in Tehran and Jon Gambrell in Dubai: “Iran on Sunday blocked access to Instagram and a popular messaging app used by activists to organize and publicize the protests now roiling the Islamic Republic, as authorities said two demonstrators had been killed overnight in the first deaths attributed to the rallies. The demonstrations, which began Thursday over the economic woes plaguing Iran and continued Sunday, appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since the protests that followed the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election. “They were fanned in part by messages sent on the Telegram messaging app, which authorities blocked Sunday along with the photo-sharing app Instagram, which is owned by tech giant Facebook. Many in Iran are learning about the protests and sharing images of them through Telegram, a mobile phone messaging app popular among the country’s 80 million people. On Saturday, Telegram shut down one channel on the service over Iranian allegations it encouraged violence, something its moderator denied.” http://bit.ly/2CgHCPB-- REUTERS/LONDON: “Iran warned of a crackdown on Sunday against demonstrators who pose one of the biggest challenges to both the government and clerical leadership in power since the 1979 revolution. Tens of thousands of Iranians have protested across the country since Thursday against the Islamic Republic’s unelected clerical elite and Iranian foreign policy in the region. … “Videos posted on social media showed people chanting: ‘Mullahs, have some shame, leave the country alone.’ ... ‘Those who damage public property, violate law and order and create unrest are responsible for their actions and should pay the price,” state media quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying.’” http://reut.rs/2CuiMsc -- @realDonaldTrump at 8:03 a.m.: “Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”ON THE UPHEAVAL IN IRAN -- @AlirezaNader: “As opposed to 2009, Iranians have this time lost trust in reformists as well. This is also directed at Rouhani. #iranprotests have lost hope in the entire system because conditions in Iran are so terrible and life is so difficult.” … … @farnazfassihi: “A first in #IranianProtests #Rasht crowds chant: ‘Death to Revolutionary Guards.’ #Iran #IRGC”. 1-min. video http://bit.ly/2DCFUnE ... “#Tehran Azadi street today: ‘Death to Khamenei.’ #Iranianprotests #Iran”. 30-second video http://bit.ly/2Crw1MA … @ragipsoylu: “BBC video from a small town Abhar, Iran shows protestors taking down Iran Supreme Leader’s banner”. 41-second video http://bit.ly/2lsoIe1 …… @ColinKahl: “Clearly the Iran Deal didn’t legitimize the ayatollahs, nor was it a sufficient windfall to save the economy from corruption. It didn’t empower reform either. What it DID do was open up Iran more to the world & take away the regime’s ability to blame problems on sanctions.” …… @BillKristol: “Here’s a crazy idea: The foreign policy/Middle East/Iran experts who are taking shots at each other for alleged past Iran policy mistakes might spend just a little of their time helping figure out what the U.S.--the administration, Congress, others--could usefully do now.”IN PUERTO RICO -- “‘We have a big problem’: Puerto Rico seeks aid for tens of thousands of squatters,” by Lorraine Woellert in San Juan, Puerto Rico: “When Hurricane Maria ripped across Puerto Rico, it revealed the damage wrought by years of government neglect. It also exposed an open secret generations in the making: Tens of thousands of island residents are in fact squatters, living illegally on abandoned or government land.“For years, squatters were ignored or used as political pawns as the bankrupt central government swung from crisis to crisis. That changed with Maria, which tore through these low-lying barrios with particular ferocity. Now, with no legal claim to their homes or the land they’re built on, squatters find themselves unmoored from federal aid -- and high on the government’s list of priorities.“Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who took office in January, wants to fix his squatter problem by embracing it. He’s proposed giving 48,000 illegal settlers legal title to their land, a plan that could cost up to $30 million. He needs federal disaster aid to make the project work. ‘Before the emergency, it was something we needed to do; now it’s a more ambitious project,’ said Puerto Rico Housing Secretary Fernando Gil. ‘It would be helping out 48,000 people who thought that they couldn’t get any help.’” http://politi.co/2lyYFB8HIDDEN WINNERS IN TAX BILL -- “Tax cut on booze triggers fears of more abuse and drunken driving,” by Brian Faler: “People hoisting a beer mug or tipping a champagne glass to ring in the New Year have an extra reason to celebrate: Congress just slashed taxes on alcohol for the first time in decades. But public-health advocates fear the effects of the Republican tax law will be dire -- more drunken driving, underage drinking and other alcohol-related programs. ...“Though the issue drew hardly any debate during the dash to pass the once-in-a-generation tax-code overhaul, the alcohol industry is one of the biggest winners of the Republican plan President Donald Trump signed into law Dec. 22. It cuts taxes on wine, beer, whiskey, vodka, tequila and other forms of alcohol. That translates to $1.6 billion in savings next year for MillerCoors; Diageo, the maker of such brands as Captain Morgan rum and Ketel One Vodka; and smaller beer and spirits operators that had pushed for the cut.” http://politi.co/2Chq6dIBIG READ -- NYT’S PETER BAKER, “For Trump, A Year of Reinventing the Presidency” as part of the paper’s “Trump’s Way” series: “When President Trump meets with aides to discuss policy or prepare for a speech, he may ask about the pros and cons of a new proposal. He may inquire about its possible effect. He may explore the best way to frame his case. But there is one thing he almost never does. ‘He very seldom asks how other presidents did this,’ said John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff. ... “Under Mr. Trump, it has become a blunt instrument to advance personal, policy and political goals. He has revolutionized the way presidents deal with the world beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, dispensing with the carefully modulated messaging of past chief executives in favor of no-holds-barred, crystal-breaking, us-against-them, damn-the-consequences blasts borne out of gut and grievance.“He has kept a business on the side; attacked the F.B.I., C.I.A. and other institutions he oversees; threatened to use his power against rivals; and waged war against members of his own party and even his own Cabinet. He fired the man investigating his campaign and has not ruled out firing the one who took over. He has appealed to base instincts on race, religion and gender as no president has in generations. And he has rattled the nuclear saber more bombastically than it has been since the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.“The presidency has served as a vehicle for Mr. Trump to construct and promote his own narrative, one with crackling verve but riddled with inaccuracies, distortions and outright lies, according to fact checkers. Rather than a force for unity or a calming voice in turbulent times, the presidency now is another weapon in a permanent campaign of divisiveness. Democrats and many establishment Republicans worry that Mr. Trump has squandered the moral authority of the office.” With cameos by Michael Beschloss, Bill Daley, Andy Surabian, Ron Klain, Jon Meacham, Robert Dallek, David Axelrod, Chris Ruddy, Pat Caddell, Stuart Spencer, Eliot Cohen, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Martha Joynt Kumar http://nyti.ms/2q55LCH -- CHANGING D.C.: “How the Trump era is changing the federal bureaucracy,” by WaPo’s Lisa Rein and Andrew Ba Tran: “Nearly a year into his takeover of Washington, President Trump has made a significant down payment on his campaign pledge to shrink the federal bureaucracy, a shift long sought by conservatives that could eventually bring the workforce down to levels not seen in decades. “By the end of September, all Cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January -- with most shedding many hundreds of employees, according to an analysis of federal personnel data by The Washington Post. ...“The White House is now warning agencies to brace for even deeper cuts in the 2019 budget it will announce early next year, part of an effort to lower the federal deficit to pay for the new tax law, according to officials briefed on the budgets for their agencies. One possible casualty: a pay raise that federal employees historically have received when the economy is humming. ... By the end of September, the federal government had 1.94 million permanent workers, down nearly 16,000 overall since the beginning of the year, according to the most recent OPM data. ...“During the first six months of the administration, 71,285 career employees quit or retired. That’s up from 50,000 who left during the same period in 2009 ... The Presidential Management Fellows program, a prestigious internship for top graduate students, has been unable to place many recruits because of a lingering hiring freeze at many agencies, according to a half-dozen current fellows.” http://wapo.st/2lwGyf3 FROM PALM BEACH -- “Who is using the Trump corporate chopper at Mar-a-Lago?,” by the Palm Beach Post’s Sarah Elsesser and Christine Stapleton: “For over a week, a private helicopter bearing the Trump logo and name has sat on the helipad at Mar-a-Lago -- a helipad that is supposed to be used only for presidential business.“Until Donald Trump became president, aircraft were forbidden from landing in the exclusive island town. But the town agreed to allow a helipad to be built and helicopters to land at Mar-a-Lago with certain conditions: The helipad must be removed when the president leaves office. Until then, the helipad can only be used for official presidential business.“The helicopter currently sitting on the pad is co-owned by DT Connect II and DT Connect II Member Corp. The president’s sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., are executives at those companies, according to state corporate records.“The Secret Service referred those questions to the White House. White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Saturday that neither the White House nor the Marines requested the helipad or were involved in building it or paying for it. Local officials said they don’t know who is using the helipad. ‘I wish I could answer that,’ said Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio about who was using the helicopter and why. ‘If that’s the case and it’s being used for official business, so be it.’” http://pbpo.st/2DBGCBJ --SPOTTED in the lobby at the Breakers yesterday (separately): David Rubenstein and Bret Baier2018 WATCH -- “The top 10 governor’s races of 2018,” by Daniel Strauss: http://politi.co/2q68A6G-- “Former Obama Administration Officials Vie to Unseat House Republicans,” by WSJ’s Natalie Andrews: “At least a dozen former aides and policy staff who worked for President Barack Obama have entered the midterm races, running for office for the first time. The Obama administration alumni are part of a Democratic Party effort to take back control of the House of Representatives and create a counter to President Donald Trump’s efforts to rollback Obama-era policies. In many cases, these new candidates are opposing GOP incumbents who have been identified by House Democrats as potentially vulnerable to a challenge.” http://on.wsj.com/2lz4gXVWAHOO! – Quartz has named Susan Glasser’s “The Global Politico” podcast as the best politics podcast of the year. “The former editor of Foreign Policy and longtime Washington Post foreign correspondent probes an impressive selection of top politicians, diplomats, bureaucrats, think-tankers, and journalists with a subtle, revelatory questioning style.” http://bit.ly/2lx97cj PENCE’S VACATION -- “VP Mike Pence gets message from Aspen neighbors: Make America Gay Again,” by Aspen Times’ Jason Auslander: “‘Make America Gay Again,’ the rainbow banner reads. Neighbors of the home near Aspen where Pence and his wife, Karen Sue, are staying posted the message Wednesday or Thursday on a stone pillar that sits at the end of driveways to both homes, Pitkin County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Buglione said Friday. ... The Secret Service agents were not at all perturbed about the banner, Buglione said. Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said one of his deputies was present when the man who lives in the home came out and first draped the banner over the stone pillar.” With a pic of the sign http://bit.ly/2Cgmwk5 CHANGING TIMES IN OREGON -- COVER OF THE PORTLAND OREGONIAN: “Emboldened white nationalists? Look no further than this liberal Oregon college town,” by Noelle Crombie and Shane Dixon Kavanaugh http://bit.ly/2C1caRa SUCH A FUN STORY -- “Biggest Winner of Famed Buffett Bet? Girls Charity: Charity will be beneficiary of a decade-old wager that an index would top hedge funds,” by WSJ’s Nicole Friedman: “Mr. Buffett bet $1 million in 2007 that an index fund would outperform a basket of hedge funds over a decade. The proceeds would go to charity, and Mr. Buffett designated his local Girls Inc. affiliate as the recipient if he won. When the closing bell rang at the New York Stock Exchange Friday, the famed investor locked in his victory.“Mr. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has said throughout this year that he is confident he would win. From the start of the bet through the end of 2016, Mr. Buffett’s S&P 500 index fund returned 7.1% compounded annually. The competing basket of funds of hedge funds selected by asset manager Protégé Partners returned an average of 2.2%.” http://on.wsj.com/2CgVnO4 CLICKER – “2017: A very Wuerker year: A look back at 2017’s political cartoons from the desk of Matt Wuerker.” 29 keepers http://politi.co/2C4dWAZ BONUS GREAT HOLIDAY WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman, filing from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico:-- “Revealed: The Secret KGB Manual for Recruiting Spies,” by Michael Weiss in the Daily Beast: “The document is from the Cold War. But the material it teaches is still being used today by Vladimir Putin’s clandestine cadres.” http://thebea.st/2DzYfld -- “‘What Are We Going to Do About Tyler?’” by Sarah Smith in ProPublica – per Longreads.com’s description: “A devastating indictment of America’s failure to treat mental illness. ProPublica reporter Sarah Smith tells the story of Tyler Haire, who was sent to jail at age 16 for a violent crime and then spent years locked away while waiting for a psychological evaluation. Tyler struggled since early childhood, but state services are underfunded and only designed to help when a crisis occurs. His family, frustrated and exhausted, was unable to find a way for him to get the help he needed — until it was too late.” http://bit.ly/2CkwbVX -- “Dr. Phil says he rescues people from addiction. Others say his show puts guests’ health at risk,” by STAT’s David Armstrong and Evan Allen of the Boston Globe: “In its pursuit of ratings, the ‘Dr. Phil’ show has put at risk the health of some of those guests it purports to help, according to people who have been on the show and addiction experts. Guests have been left without medical help as they face withdrawal from drugs, a STAT/Boston Globe investigation has found, and one person said she was directed by a show staff member to an open-air drug market to find heroin for her detoxing niece.” http://bit.ly/2BUiERK -- “The Grand Tour to Florence. Italy Timelapse & Hyperlapse,” by Kirill Neiezhmakov on Vimeo – 3-min. video http://bit.ly/2CnK9Xh -- “Inside China’s Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking,” by Mara Hvistendahl in Wired: “In 2014, the State Council, China’s governing cabinet, publicly called for the establishment of a nationwide tracking system to rate the reputations of individuals, businesses, and even government officials. The aim is for every Chinese citizen to be trailed by a file compiling data from public and private sources by 2020 ... For the Chinese Communist Party, social credit is an attempt at a softer, more invisible authoritarianism.” http://bit.ly/2pVqkl5 -- “Charles Dickens Had Serious Beef with America and its Bad Manners,” by Samantha Silva in LitHub: “He found Americans vulgar and insensitive, braggarts, hypocrites, and acquisitive beyond all imagining.” http://bit.ly/2CkrDPv -- “How Facebook’s Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda,” by Bloomberg’s Lauren Etter, Vernon Silver, and Sarah Frier: “Some of [the] unit’s clients stifle opposition, stoke extremism.” https://bloom.bg/2DyTl7Y -- “Longform Podcast: Maggie Haberman, New York Times White House Correspondent”: “If I start thinking about it, then I’m not going to be able to just keep doing my job. I'm being as honest as I can — I try not to think about it. If you’re flying a plane and you think about the fact that if the plane blows up in midair you’re gonna die, do you feel like you can really focus as well? So, I’m not thinking about [the stakes]. This is just my job. This is what we do. Ask me another question.” http://bit.ly/2zNel8O -- “Does Beto O’Rourke Stand a Chance Against Ted Cruz?” by Eric Benson in the Jan. issue of Texas Monthly with the print headline “What Makes Beto Run?”: “The El Paso congressman is waging a long-shot campaign to prove a Democrat can win in Texas.” http://bit.ly/2ljN5ug (h/t Longform.org)-- “Prodigies’ Progress: Parents and superkids, then and now,” by Ann Hulbert in the Jan.-Feb. issue of Harvard Magazine: “In her new book [‘Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies’], Ann Hulbert ’77 explores the fascination with child genius over the past century in America. She probes the stories of 16 exceptionally gifted young people, including two precocious students who arrived at Harvard in 1909.” http://bit.ly/2pXnNqA ... $27.08 on Amazon http://amzn.to/2zRc1h7 -- “Sex and intellect,” by Naomi Wolf in the Times Literary Supplement – per ALDaily.com’s description: “Sexual liberation in fiction. Edith Wharton’s writing on sex was informed by Whitman, Nietzsche, and Wilde, and an affair with a journalist.” http://bit.ly/2C9Unep-- “He killed his parents in Omaha at age 16 and escaped from prison nearly a decade later. Then he simply vanished,” by Henry Cordes of the Omaha World-Herald: “What inside the head of a boy could drive him to lash out so violently after his mom had refused to let him take his girl to the drive-in? And how could [William Leslie] Arnold proceed to take her to the movie that night after all? And then to go on living his life the next two weeks as if nothing had happened — going to school, attending church, even showing up to open his dad’s business — until his web of lies finally unraveled?” http://bit.ly/2pU3p9T -- “Kenji Dreams of Sausage,” by Jonah Weiner in Grub Street – per Longreads.com’s description: “A profile of beloved food writer J. Kenji López-Alt, who uses science to perfect cooking methods and is opening a beer hall in Silicon Valley.” http://grb.st/2DyW0hZ -- “The Good Samaritan: how politics transformed the meaning of a biblical story,” by Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, in the New Statesman, in a review of “The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable,” by Nick Spencer.” per TheBrowser.com’s description: “The parable of the Good Samaritan lends an aura of retrospective goodness to Samaritans in general. But relations between Jews and Samaritans were ‘poisonous’ in biblical times. Any story with a Samaritan as a positive character would have been offensive.” http://bit.ly/2CbphDt ... $12.23 on Amazon http://amzn.to/2CkwVdU -- “Murder at the Vatican,” by Catherine Fletcher in History Today: “Cardinal Alfonso Petrucci was strangled in his cell in the Castel Sant’Angelo on 4 July 1517. He was 26. He had been a prisoner in the papal fortress for six weeks, one of five cardinals accused of plotting to poison Pope Leo X. His execution was judicially sanctioned, but in the most dubious of circumstances. Was there really a plot? Or were Petrucci and his colleagues framed by Leo in the interests of his family, the Medici?” http://bit.ly/2CpQrTX -- “‘The World’s Biggest Terrorist Has a Pikachu Bedspread,’” by Kerry Howley in NYMag: “This is perhaps the most surprising thing about the story of Airman Reality Winner, linguist, intelligence specialist, who spent years of her life dropping in on conversations among people this country considers potential enemies: It did not occur to her, in a moment of crisis, that someone might be listening.” http://nym.ag/2BWdUeeENGAGED – Adam Conner, who was most recently Slack’s first employee in D.C. and started Facebook’s D.C. office in 2007, proposed to Lauren Smith, policy counsel who runs the Connected Cars Project at the Future of Privacy Forum and is a former policy adviser in the Obama WH Office of Science and Technology. The couple “spent the week of Christmas on a sailboat with friends exploring the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. On Boxing Day [the couple] were exploring a beautiful place called Urupukapuka Island and hiked to the top of a vista overlooking the bay. Adam got down on one knee, and with the ring he had smuggled into the country, asked Lauren to marry him. She gave an emphatic yes!” Pic http://bit.ly/2Cv1wmN … Instapic http://bit.ly/2Cu5wUk WELCOME TO THE WORLD -- @senjohnthune posts on Instagram: “Scott and Larissa with our newest grandchild, Hewitt Thune Hargens, born [Friday]. He joins big sister Henley. We are very grateful for healthy kids and grandkids. #blessed #grandkidsrock”. Instapic http://bit.ly/2CmZLKC WEEKEND WEDDINGS – “Erica Andersen, Jonathan Donenberg” – N.Y. Times: “The bride, 34, who specializes in patent litigation, is a partner at the Washington law firm Covington & Burling. She graduated from Princeton, magna cum laude, and received a law degree with highest distinction from the University of Iowa. … The groom, 35, is chief counsel and legislative director to Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Illinois and received a master’s degree in technology policy from the University of Cambridge as a Fulbright scholar; he also received a law degree from Yale.” With pic http://nyti.ms/2lwWLAM --“Marisa Franklin, Raphael Graybill” -- N.Y. Times: “The bride, 28 is the mathematics instructional coordinator at the Montana Office of Public Instruction in Helena, Mont. ... She graduated from Barnard College and received a master’s degree in education from Boston University. ... The groom, also 28, is chief legal counsel to Governor Steve Bullock, Democrat of Montana. He graduated, summa cum laude, from Columbia and received a master’s degree in philosophy from Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He also received a law degree from Yale.” With pic http://nyti.ms/2EpOIyj ANNIVERSARY: Happy 20th anniversary to Politico senior editor David Cohen and Rabbi Deborah Bodin Cohen. BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Josh Rogin, WaPo columnist and CNN political analyst, celebrating in Punta Cana with Ali. A fun fact about Josh: “In 2009 I was hit by a D.C. taxicab near my apartment and then given a ticket for ‘reckless walking.’ I broke my arm, after which I got bipartisan filibuster proof majority of 60 U.S. senators to sign my cast, part of a public awareness campaign for pedestrian safety. In a signing ceremony in his office, Mitch McConnell said, ‘I always wanted to be the 60th vote on something.’” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2lrzgKh BIRTHDAYS: Donald Trump Jr. is 4-0 ... David Wilezol, State Department chief speechwriter ... Pete Souza, former chief official WH photographer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, with a new book, “Obama: An Intimate Portrait: The Historic Presidency in Photographs,” is 63 ... Sir Alexander Ferguson, CBE, whose beloved Manchester United sit second in the Premier League at the moment (and is the favorite team of Katie Lillie), is 76 (h/ts Ben Chang) … Brian Danza, CTO of Daily Caller, is 37 (h/ts Blain Rethmeier and Tim Burger) ... WaPo’s Joel Achenbach is 57 ... Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is 55 ... Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) is 8-0 ... former Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) is 46 ... WSJ’s Naftali Bendavid ... Dick Short … Karina Cabrera Bell ... Peter G. Miller ... Wayne Pines, president of APCO’s health care practice ... Nathan Martin is 31 ... Jim Long is 53 … fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg is 71 ... Mark Ein, new owner of Washington City Paper along with Capitol Acquisition IV, Venturehouse Group, and World Team Tennis, is 53 (h/t Jayne Sandman) ...... Betsy Barrett is 4-0, and celebrating in Valparaiso, Chile with Adrienne Elrod and Erin McPike … John Davis is 41 ... Henry Hunter, sports law adjunct at Georgetown University (h/ts Jon Haber) … Simon Kennedy, executive editor of Bloomberg Economics in London … Ronnie Cho, Emmy winning former MTV exec and Obama campaign and WH alum, is 35 ... Travis Wolfe ... Nati Nieuwstraten ... Martin J. Kady, WaPo alumnus and father of Politico’s Marty Kady, is 72 ... Wade Atkinson ... Axios’ Shannon Vavra ... Shelby Hodgkins ... Danny Shea, head of global expansion at Thrive Global and a HuffPost alum ... Reuben Johnson ... Meeghan Prunty, a managing director at Blue Meridian Partners ... former Obama WH photographer Lawrence Jackson ... Becca Brukman ... Bill Bagley ... Jeff Milstein ... Jackson Fauvre … Marni Karlin … Darren Reisberg, VP and Deputy Provost at UChicago … Andy Sere … Bob Dietz ... Lisa Lindo ... John Francis Kucera is 58 ... Moody’s Danielle Reed ... Jeff White is 56 ... Patrick Holtz is 42 ... William Morales ... Meg Boland ... Chris Donesa is 51 … Becca Ferguson (h/t Teresa Vilmain)

29 декабря 2017, 22:27

Insurers to Endure a Hitch Before Tax Reform Gains

Players in the insurance industry would suffer in the short term before reaping the benefits of the tax rate cut.

29 декабря 2017, 17:27

Aflac (AFL) to Invest $250 Million Post Tax Bill Enactment

Aflac (AFL) commits to invest $25 million for growth led by favorable impact of the new tax regime.

29 декабря 2017, 12:03

15 возможных неприятных сюрпризов в 2018 году

В 2018 г. мы можем стать свидетелями многочисленных событий: резкое падение биткоина (до $2 тыс.), более высокие цены на нефть, замедление темпов экономического роста на фоне реформы налогового законодательства, разочаровывающие показатели S&P.

29 декабря 2017, 12:03

15 возможных неприятных сюрпризов в 2018 году

В 2018 г. мы можем стать свидетелями многочисленных событий: резкое падение биткоина (до $2 тыс.), более высокие цены на нефть, замедление темпов экономического роста на фоне реформы налогового законодательства, разочаровывающие показатели S&P.

Выбор редакции
28 декабря 2017, 14:00

Berkshire Hathaway's Book Value Will Soar in the Fourth Quarter

Corporate tax cuts are very good news for Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

27 декабря 2017, 17:48

10 ETF Volume Leaders of 2017

The 10 most actively traded ETFs of 2017.

27 декабря 2017, 16:12

The 1 Important Money Rule Chip & Joanna Gaines Say They’ll Never Break

Some celebrity millionaires are more careful about spending money than others. Here are valuable money lessons from Chip and Joanna Gaines, Tom Hanks, and others.

27 декабря 2017, 09:22

Истекает срок одного из самых известных финансовых пари в мире: Уоррен Баффет против инвесторов-профессионалов.

    Не видел в ленте Смарт-Лаба такую интересную новость:        В конце 2017 года подойдет к завершению пари, которое десять лет назад заключили один из самых богатых людей мира Уоррен         Баффетс инвесторами из компании Protégé Partners. Суть спора такова: Баффет утверждал, что самая выгодная инвестиция в Америке — это   просто вкладываться в фондовый индекс широкого рынка S&P 500, а его оппоненты — что они придумают такие хедж-фонды (туда акции     отбираются вручную), которые обойдут S&P 500 на дистанции в десять лет. Баффет выиграл.  «В годовом отчете Berkshire 2005 года я утверждал, что активное управление инвестициями профессионалами за определенный период     времени окажется менее прибыльным, чем любителями, которые ничего не делали. Я объяснил, что солидные выплаты разнообразным     „помощникам“ оставят их клиентов — опять же, в совокупности — в худшем положении, чем любителей, которые просто вложили деньги     в низкозатратный индексный фонд, которым не управляют», — писалБаффет в письме акционерам компании Berkshire Hathaway Inc. в 2016   году.   Десять лет назад Баффет предложил кому-нибудь из инвесторов, работающих с хедж-фондами, пари на эту тему. На него откликнулся   руководитель Protégé Partners Тед Сайдес Seides. В итоге они оба вложили по 330 тысяч долларов — Баффет в индексный фонд Vanguard 500,   основанный на индексе S&P 500, а Protégé Partners — в пять фондов, инвестировавших в общей сложности в сто хедж-фондов, управляемых   профессионалами. Проигравший должен отдать миллион долларов на благотворительность.  В 2016 году Уоррен Баффет писал, что по итогам девяти лет он явно выигрывает — за прошедшее время доходность в индексном фонде     превысила 85 процентов, в то время как средняя доходность пяти «фондов фондов» составила около 22 процентов.  «Я уверен, что в большинстве случаев менеджеры на обоих уровнях [хедж-фондов и вышестоящих фондов] — честные и умные люди. Но для   их инвесторов результаты оказались печальными — по-настоящему печальными», — писал Баффет. Он отметил, что менеджеры хедж-фондов   могут получать значительную прибыль даже в случае неудачных инвестиций. По его оценкам, за девять лет спора менеджерам досталось   около 60% всей прибыли, полученной этими пятью фондами.  Тед Сайдес в мае 2017 года признал поражение. При этом он отметил, что выигрыш Баффета связан не только с большими гонорарами       менеджеров. Он указал, в частности, на то, что выбранный Баффетом индекс S&P 500 ориентирован на крупные американские компании,   которые показывали рост в последние годы; хедж-фонды же больше ориентированы на международные компании — и индексы, в которые   включены схожие компании, показали рост, похожий на рост хедж-фондов. Он также заметил, что на снижающемся рынке прибыль   инвесторов хедж-фондов обычно больше, чем у инвесторов индексных фондов.  Другой менеджер Protégé Partners Джефф Таррант добавил, что в каком-то смысле считает себя победителем, поскольку из-за пари смог     на протяжении десяти лет обедать с Баффетом.  Официальных результатов спора пока нет — у Protégé Partners есть еще неделя. Cкорее всего, выигрыш Баффета будет еще более     впечатляющим, чем по итогам 9 лет: S&P 500 вырос за 2017 год почти на 20% и обновил исторический максимум. Президентство Дональда   Трампа сильно оживило фондовый рынок — он, в частности, запустил налоговую реформу, которая, как ожидает, улучшит финансовое   состояние крупных компаний. За 10 лет S&P 500 вырос на 80%.  На фоне завершения спора с Сайдесом Баффет сделал еще один смелый прогноз — правда, узнать, оправдался он или нет, 87-летний   миллиардер вряд ли сможет. По его словам, индекс Dow Jones в течение следующих ста лет достигнет миллиона пунктов, то есть вырастет       в 40  раз. Как отмечает CNN, сто лет назад индекс был примерно в 300 раз меньше (81 пункт).  Текст  взят из статьи, опубликованной 24.12 в meduza.io

27 декабря 2017, 00:16

What Lies Ahead for Financials ETFs?

Financial sector ETFs have been gathering steam owing to the tax reform and strong economic fundamentals.

26 декабря 2017, 17:13

RenaissanceRe to Write-Down DTAs Due to U.S. Tax Reform

RenaissanceRe (RNR) to write-down deferred tax assets due to the recent U.S. tax reform before reaping benefit of low tax rates.

Выбор редакции
26 декабря 2017, 16:30

Уоррен Баффет выиграл десятилетний спор на $1 млн

В конце 2017 года подойдет к завершению пари, которое десять лет назад заключили один из самых богатых людей мира.

26 декабря 2017, 10:13

Fifth Positive Week for Dow, S&P

Fifth Positive Week for Dow, S&P

25 декабря 2017, 09:00

Как действовать осторожным инвесторам в 2018 году: советы

В последние кварталы на рынках сохранялось несколько островков стабильности. Но что с ними будет дальше? Прогноз от основателя и президента группы компаний GL Financial Group Германа Лиллевяли.

Выбор редакции
24 декабря 2017, 17:46

How Much Apple Stock Does Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Own?

Buffett is betting big on Apple stock.

23 декабря 2017, 19:57

Dave Collum's 2017 Year In Review: "The Bubble In Everything Grew"

Authored by Dave Collum via PeakProsperity.com, A downloadable pdf of the full article is available here, for those who prefer to do their power-reading offline. Introduction “He is funnier than you are.” ~David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital, on Dave Barry’s Year in Review Every December, I write a survey trying to capture the year’s prevailing themes. I appear to have stiff competition - the likes of Dave Barry on one extreme and on the other, Pornhub’s marvelous annual climax that probes deeply personal preferences in the world’s favorite pastime. (I know when I’m licked.) My efforts began as a few paragraphs discussing the markets on Doug Noland’s bear chat board and monotonically expanded to a tome covering the orb we call Earth. It posts at Peak Prosperity, reposts at ZeroHedge, and then fans out from there. Bearishness and right-leaning libertarianism shine through as I spelunk the Internet for human folly to couch in snarky prose while trying to avoid the “expensive laugh” (too much setup). I rely on quotes to let others do the intellectual heavy lifting. “Consider adding more of your own thinking and judgment to the mix . . . most folks are familiar with general facts but are unable to process them into a coherent and actionable framework.” ~Tony Deden, founder of Edelweiss Holdings, on his second read through my 2016 Year in Review “Just the facts, ma’am.” ~Joe Friday By October, I have usually accrued 500 single-spaced pages of notes, quotes, and anecdotes. Fresh ideas occasionally emerge, but most of my distillation is an intellectual recycling program relying heavily on fair use laws.4 I often suffer from pareidolia—random images or sounds perceived as significant. Regarding the extent that self-serving men and women of wealth do sneaky crap, I am an out-of-the-closet conspiracy theorist. If you think conspiracies do not exist, then you are a card-carrying idiot. Currently, locating the increasingly fuzzy fact–fiction interfaces is nearly impossible thanks to the post-election bewitching of 50 percent of the populace. “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” ~David Ogilvy, marketing expert You might be asking, “What’s with the title, Dave? My 401K is doing great, and I own a few Bitcoin!” Yes, indeed: your 401K fiddled its way to new highs day after day, but this too shall pass—it always does—and not without some turbulence. This year was indeed a tough one to survey. As many peer through beer goggles at intoxicatingly rising markets, I kept seeing dead people (Figure 1). “We seem to be living in the riskiest moment of our lives, and yet the stock market seems to be napping: I admit to not understanding it.” ~Richard Thaler, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics Figure 1. An original by CNBC's Jeff Macke, chartist and artist extraordinaire. A poem for Dave's Year In Review The bubble in everything grew This nut from Cornell Say's we're heading for hell As I look at the data…#MeToo [email protected] Some will notice that in decidedly political sections, the term “progressives” is used pejoratively. Their behavior has become nearly incomprehensible to me. My almost complete neglect of the right wing loonies may reflect some bias, but politically, they have taken a knee. They have become irrelevant. Free speech is a recurring theme, introducing interesting paradoxes for employee–employer relationships. Some say I have no filter. They obviously have no clue what I want to say. In case my hints are too subtle, I offer the following: Sources I sit in front of a computer 16 hours a day, at least three of which are dedicated to non-chemistry pursuits. I’m a huge fan of Adam Taggart and Chris Martenson (Peak Prosperity), Tony Greer (TG Macro), Doug Noland (Credit Bubble Bulletin), Grant Williams (Real Vision and TTMYGH), Raoul Pal (Real Vision), Bill Fleckenstein (Fleckenstein Capital), James Grant (Grant’s Interest Rate Observer), and Campus Reform—but there are so many more. ZeroHedge is by far my preferred consolidator of news. Twitter is a window to the world if managed correctly. Good luck with that. And don’t forget it’s public! Everything needs an open mind, discerning eye, and a coarse-frit filter. “You are given a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you are given a front row seat, and some of us get to sit there with notebooks.” ~George Carlin, comedian Contents Footnotes appear as superscripts with hyperlinks in the “Links” section. The whole beast can be downloaded as a single PDF xxhere or viewed in parts—the sections are reasonably self-contained—via the linked contents as follows: Part 1 Introduction Sources Contents My Personal Year in Review Investing Economy Broken Markets Market Valuations Market Sentiment Volatility Stock Buybacks Indexing and Exchange-Traded Funds Miscellaneous Market Absurdities Long-Term Real Returns and Risk Premia Gold Bitcoin Housing and Real Estate Pensions Inflation versus Deflation Bonds Banks Corporate Scandals The Fed Europe Venezuela North Korea China Middle East Links in Part 1  Part 2 Natural Disasters Price Gouging The Biosphere and Price Gouging Sports Civil Liberties Antifa Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood Political Correctness–Adult Division Political Correctness–Youth Division Campus Politics Unionization: Collum versus the American Federation of Teachers Political Scandals Clintons Russiagate Media Trump Las Vegas Conclusion Books Acknowledgements Links in Part 2 My Personal Year in Review Who cares what an academic organic chemist thinks? I’m still groping for that narrative. In the meantime, let me offer a few personal milestones that serve as a résumé while feeding my inner narcissist. I remain linked into the podcast circuit, having had chats with Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert (Russia Today aka RT),5 Chris Martenson,6 Jim Kunstler (The KunstlerCast),7 Lior Gantz (Wealth Research Group),8 Anthony Crudele (Futures Radio Show),9 Susan Lustick (News-Talk 870 WHCU),10 Jason Burack (Wall St. for Main St.),11 Dale Pinkert (FXStreet),12 Lance Roberts (Lance Roberts Show),13 and Jason Hartman (Hartman Media Company).14 I also spoke at Lance Roberts’s Economic and Investment Summit discussing campus politics15 and the Stansberry Conference (Figure 2) arguing the merits of price gouging.16 I got into a big spat with the American Federation of Teachers and some local social justice warriors that made it to the national press (see “Unions”) and dropped 30 pounds unaided by disease. “And, before anyone should doubt what a chemistry professor would know about unions and what effect they would have, it should be noted that Collum has amassed a following for his annual 100-page papers on the state of business and politics. Turns out, he knows a thing or two about economics and politics as well.” ~Joe Cunningham, RedState Figure 2. The lovely Grant Williams, brainy Danielle DiMartino Booth, and one of the Paddock brothers in Las Vegas. On the professional side, I had a great year: I finished my stint as department chair; started a sabbatical leave; broke my single-year total publication record; and broke my single-year record for papers in the elite Journal of the American Chemical Society. I attempted to extend a contiguous string of 20 federal grants without a rejection by submitting two NIH grants and subsequently got totally blown out of the water. (OK. I’m still walking that one off. I think the panel finally noticed that I am deranged.) I was accepted into an organization called the Heterodoxy Academy, whose membership includes hundreds of tenured professors standing up for free speech on college campuses.17 “My job is to write the exact same thing between 50 and 100 times a year in such a way that neither my editors nor my readers will ever think I am repeating myself.” ~Jason Zweig, Wall Street Journal columnist Investing “I dig your indefatigable bearishness, my friend.” ~Paul Kedrosky, one of the earliest bloggers I’m sensing a tinge of Paul's sarcasm. My net worth from January 1, 2000, has compounded at a ballpark annualized rate of 7 percent. That’s not so bad, but the path has been rather screwy. From mid ’99 through early ’03, I carried cash, gold, silver, and a small short position. I kept buying gold through about 2005 (up to $700 an ounce), resumed in 2015, and bought several multiples of my annual salary’s worth in 2016. I’m done now. Gold is up 8 percent, and silver is down –2 percent in 2017 thanks to a minor end-of-year sell off. The spanking from ’11 to ’15 seems to have subsided. Precious metals, etc.: 29% Energy: 0% Cash equivalent (short term): 62% Standard equities: 9% “Most people invest and then sit around worrying what the next blowup will be. I do the opposite. I wait for the blowup, then invest.” ~Richard Rainwater I was totally blindsided by the downturn in gold starting in ’11 and energy in ’13. (Energy peaked in ’08 but was on the mend until ’13.) I bought energy steadily starting in ’01 with broadly based energy funds and a special emphasis on natural gas. The timing of entry was impeccable and all was going swimmingly—I was a genius!—until the Saudi oil minister attempted to talk oil down from $110 to $80 per barrel18 in '13. He thought he could blow the frackers out of the game fast, but it was a hold-my-beer moment for our credit system. The frackers kept fracking, the oil price overshot the Sheik's target by $50 per barrel, and I got whacked for 30–45% losses over four years starting in '14.19 It is impossible to know when you’re being a highly disciplined buy-and-hold investor—a Microsoft and Apple gazillionaire refusing to sell—or just an idiot. I sensed that the rotten debt had been purged and we were through the worst of the energy downturn. I worried that a recession could do a number on me, but it took years to get to my position through incremental buying. I’m holding on, goddammit! We seem to be running out of downside. Unbeknownst to me until October, however, my employer had liquidated my energy funds—every last one of them—and put me in a life-cycle fund in April. Sell ’em after they plummet? Thanks guys. A rational investor, if committed to hold them, would undo the general equity fund restrictions—I did—and buy the energy funds right back—I didn’t. Friends in high places all said to wait. About a week later, the Middle East erupted in what looked like a sand-to-glass phase transition (see “Middle East”), and energy started to move in sympathy. Peachy. Fidelity actually saved me a little money, but I am still white-knuckling the cash, growing a long wishlist, waiting for a generalized sell-off/recession to offer some serious sub-historical-mean bargains (see “Broken Markets”). The correction in ’09 at the very bottom brought us to the historical mean, but not through it. For this reason, I have largely skipped this equity cycle. The current expansion is long in the tooth and founded on poor fundamentals. I hope that the wait won’t be too long. Until then . . . “Remember, when Mr. Market shows up at your door, you don’t have to answer.” ~Meb Faber, co-founder and CIO of Cambria Investment Management Economy “A decade after the biggest crisis since the Depression, a broad synchronized recovery is under way.” ~The Economist, March 2016 Whoa! Fantastic! Goldilocks survived another bear. There is just one hitch: that was a total load of crap in 2016, and it’s a colossal load now. Let’s take a peek at a few gray rhinos—“large and visible problems in the economy that are ignored until they start moving fast.” GDP growth rates from 1930–39 and 2007–16 were as follows:20 GDP growth in the 1930’s 1930: –8.5%     1935: 8.9%1931: –6.4%     1936: 12.9%1932: –12.9%   1937: 5.1%1933: –1.3%     1938: –3.3%1934: 10.8%     1939: 8.0% GDP growth in the new millennium 2007: 1.8%       2012: 2.2%2008: –0.3%     2013: 1.7%2009: –2.8%     2014: 2.4%2010: 2.5%       2015: 2.6%2011: 1.6%       2016: 1.6% Whether you use the arithmetic or geometric mean, both gave us 1.3 percent annualized growth. Let’s spell this out: during the recent era in which markets soared, the economy tracked the Great Depression. It is instructive to look at the economy with a little more granularity than the writers at The Economist-Lite. According to John Mauldin, total domestic corporate profits have grown at an annualized rate of just 0.1 percent over the last five years.21,22 Goldman’s Abby Joseph Cohen says R&D spending is down to 2.5 percent of GDP from 4.5 percent and is a drag on the economy.23 Economic bellwether General Electric saw revenue drop 12 percent and earnings fall 50 percent year-over-year,24 and these numbers are aided by the company’s legendary creative accounting schemes.25 Meanwhile, corporate America witnessed a 71 percent rise in business debt since 2008. According to economist Lacy Hunt, “It’s the investment, the real investment, which grows the economy,” prompting the legendary market maven @RudyHavenstein to state dryly, “I like Hunt.” Where are they spending all that borrowed money? Hold that thought. Long-term demographic problems—“quantitative aging” (Figure 3)—exacerbated by dropping sperm counts26 suggests the economy will continue to shoot blanks. Figure 3. Demographics looking sketchy. Putative job gains affiliated with this low growth are fragile if not dubious as hell and are being boosted by the “Dusenberry effect”—consumers’ reluctance to stop spending even after their income drops—which will cause the next recession to be a real Dusey. (Sorry.) Eventually, common sense prevails as companies run out of credit and savings-deficient consumers reassume the fetal position. According to extensive work by Ned Davis Research, cash levels among households are near their lowest levels of all time; consumer resiliency is always temporary. “When it is all said and done, there are approximately 94 million full-time workers in private industry paying taxes to support 102 million non-workers and 21 million government workers. In what world does this represent a strong job market?” ~Jim Quinn, The Burning Platform blog The Bureau of Labor Statistics has turned to Common Core math. How can we have 100 million working-age adults—40 percent of the working-age population—not working, 4 percent unemployment, and employers claiming the labor market is tight? Are 90 percent of those without jobs professional couch potatoes? Let’s first look at employment in some detail and then address that whole “tight” part. Googles of pixels have been dedicated to the obligatory labor force participation rate (Figure 4), a critical component of any economic debunking. Of those employed, 26 million people are in low-wage, part-time jobs (Figure 5), 8 million hold multiple jobs, and 10 million are “self-employed.”27 Another 21 million work for the government, which means they are a tax on the free market. In 2016, 40 percent of new jobs were fabricated through the specious “birth and death model.”28 2017 will presumably post similar numbers. Occasional reports of large job growth are deceptive. July, for example, witnessed 393,000 benefit-free, part-time, low-skill jobs offset by a drop of 54,000 full-time workers. Payroll numbers keep coming in lower than expected, which economists invariably blame on some big, yet unseen effect they are paid to notice. Nine out of 10 millennials living on their parents’ couches a year ago are still clutching TV remotes.29 There are now 45–50 million Americans on food stamps, up from 14 million in December 2007,30 when the last recession was already underway. Figure 4. Labor force participation. I am going to let Jeff Snyder take a crack at explaining the tight labor market:31 “The economy is tight, not favourably tight as in no slack in the labour market, but more so tight in that there is little margin for addition. . . . The reality in the markets is this: executives are reluctant to pay wages at a market-clearing rate.” ~Jeff Snyder, Alhambra Investments Figure 5. Low-paying service jobs versus manufacturing jobs. Poor economic numbers are pervasive. Auto sales are canaries in the coal mine and getting crushed despite aggressive incentives.32 Ford is already suffering and predicting a multi-year slowdown.33 A car industry crunch analogous to that in ’09 may appear in ’18 as expiring leases leave consumers underwater owing to dropping used car prices, and decreasing profits in the auto industry may “then turn from secular to structural problems.”34 Morgan Stanley predicts a 50 percent drop in used car prices over the next 4–5 years,35 which will gut the new car business. The auto downturn has already begun. Wells Fargo is reporting large drops in auto loans after a long stretch during which subprime car loans flourished yet again.36 That should put a fork in the new car market. Yield-starved investors are chasing cash- and income-starved car buyers. Subprime auto-asset-backed securities will take yet another beating. Chrysler is teaming up with Santander Consumer USA to push out “unverified income” subprime auto loans using “automated decision making.” Santander seems to have nine lives, and they’ll need all of them. The hyperdeveloped loan market for used cars, however, is already faltering (Figure 6); delinquency rates are rising. Goldman expects “challenging consumer affordability” and has downgraded General Motors to “sell.”37 Those cars y’all bought on cheap credit yesterday will not be bought tomorrow. Claims that the hurricanes cleared out auto inventory38 are grotesquely underestimating the magnitude of the overhang and will be paid for by reduced consumption in other sectors. Any consumption pulled forward with debt has a deferred cost. Figure 6. Some key auto industry stats (a) loans and leases, (b) loan delinquencies. We’ll take a crack at the housing market in its own section and simply note here that the cost of renting or buying normalized to income has never been higher. Approximately half of tenants spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, doubling from a decade ago.39 A survey of 20 cities showed that housing costs are growing at a 6 percent annualized pace. Our paychecks are not. Housing is a bubblette and likely to offer fire-sale bargains again. What many fail to grasp is that the reduced cost of borrowing owing to low rates is offset by higher prices. When interest rates were 15 percent, houses were cheap. Austrian business cycle theory says easy money policies generate overdevelopment and other malinvestment. The day of reckoning appears to be here. (I say that every year…channeling Gail Dudek.) Familiar brands like Toys “R” Us (my keyboard has no backwards R), JCPenny, Abercrombie & Fitch, Sears, Bon-Ton, and Nordstrom are gasping their last gasps before drowning in debt with no customers to save them. Total retail revenues and sales (including online) are up only 28 percent from the 2007 high.40 The management of Ascena Retail referred to an “unprecedented secular change.”41 More than 100,000 retail jobs have vaporized since October 2016.42 Credit Suisse estimates that more than 8,000 retail outlets closed this year.43 Consumer goods companies have held up better because consumers generally put off starving or freezing to death until all options are exhausted. Restaurants are extending the longest stretch of year-over-year declines for 16 consecutive months (last I looked).44 Business Insider blames millennials because they are “more attracted than their elders to cooking at home” (particularly when it’s their parents’ home.) Manhattan retail bankruptcies are called “horrifying.”45 Chapter 11s and company reorganizations in foreign courts increased sevenfold.46 Mall owners are using jingle mail—a term from the ’08–’09 crisis referring to leaving keys to creditors. Commercial retail will be coming into its own refinancing wave in 2018. Bears are sniffing around commercial-mortgage-backed securities as malls around the country begin to die.47 The next downturn will finish many of them off. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are positioning to short the brick-and-mortar retail. (Quick: somebody grab the ticker symbol “MAUL.”) Some suggest the Rout in Retail is merely a secular shift to online. Sounds logical except online sales represent only 8.5 percent of total retail sales.48 This argument might be masking a huge downturn in retail corresponding to the bursting of yet another Fed-sponsored bubble. As Amazon encroaches on every nook and cranny of retail sales, what began as a murmur has turned into a chorus: “This isn’t fair; somebody must do something!” Walmart knows this plotline. Market dominance does not connote “monopoly,” but Amazon has an image problem. Amazon gets a $1.46 subsidy (discount) per box from the USPS, well below its cost.49 Seems cheesy. Congress is showing concern out of self-interest. A monopoly is when a company uses its power to blow its competitors out of the water garishly. Who decides what is garish and when enough is enough? A judge under political pressure. A detailed summary of the breadth of Amazon’s market share and its anti-competitive pricing suggests that we are getting close.50 There’s nothing like a protracted anti-trust suit to mute the growth of a large conglomerate. Just ask the Microsoft high command. If our problems are not Amazon, what are they? Austrian business cycle theory says that our debt-driven, consumer-based economy endorsed by sell-side economists and analysts worldwide is unsustainable. Wealth is made, mined, grown, or coded, only then do you get to consume it. Wealth is extinguished by consumption, depreciation, and destruction. Central bankers seem to believe you can will wealth into existence by generating animal spirits. The next recession will start unnoticeably. Economists seem to miss every single one, often declaring telltale indicators irrelevant. Then you will hear phrases like “technical recession,” “growth recession,” or “earnings recession,” all eventually giving way to somebody opening the Lost Arc. If the next recession flushes the waste products (malinvestment) left behind by the central-bank-truncated ’08-’09 recession, it will reveal the central bankers to be charlatans. Even a typical recession witnesses near 40 percent losses in equity portfolios, which will leave already immunocompromised consumers vegetative. Banks will constrict lending to preserve capital, further slowing the economy. Weak businesses living off easy credit will become pink mist. An accelerating vicious cycle downward will take with it formerly viable businesses that could have survived a less arrogant monetary policy. This collateral damage was avoidable at least in its magnitude, but it can’t be avoided now. Are we on the cusp of the next recession? Citigroup “clients” say not even close (Figure 7). I think we are staring into the abyss. Figure 7. June 2017 Citigroup client survey of recession odds. Will this expansion continue because it has been pathetic or die because it is old? I cast my vote for the latter. The Fed and its central bank brethren, whether to retrieve residual credibility—they have precious little—or out of the deep-seated, albeit misguided belief that they are in charge of the economy, have decided it is time to “normalize rates” and undo quantitative easing. (We are now forced to accept the equally silly term “quantitative tightening.”) You can blame the ensuing problems on the tightening if you wish, but the huge mistakes were made long before this tightening cycle commenced. Every postwar recession until now was been preceded by a tightening cycle (although not all tightening cycles lead to recessions). Why not simply refuse to tighten? It won’t work, but the Fed governors are probably entertaining this possibility. “The central banks did their job. Unfortunately, almost nobody else has done theirs.” ~Martin Wolf, Financial Times “As has come to be commonplace, almost everything Mr. Wolf suggests is incorrect.” ~Tim F. Price, Cerberus Capital and author of Investing Through the Looking Glass (see “Books”) I’ll close this discussion with a brief mention of “creative destruction,” the process by which the new (and improved) ushers out the decrepit and out-of-date. It is a central tenet of capitalism—survival of the fittest—but has a disruptive dark side. McDonald’s (and every other service industry) is turning to kiosks to replace more costly human labor. Driverless cars will be awesome but also force car-based workers—potentially millions of them—to find new work. The financialization of the economy by central bankers has tipped the capital–labor balance profoundly toward capital. We will produce goods better and more efficiently, but the Darwinian adjustments will rock the system. Accelerated product cycles facilitated by excess capital can also be highly inefficient. The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 and faced its own black swan—railroads—that same year. Blockbuster was offed by Netflix as fast as it appeared. Can creative destruction happen too fast? Have product cycles become too short? Bulldoze your house every five years to build a better one and tell me how that works. Loose credit accelerates creative destruction, but not without a price. “A high initial saving rate has been associated with subsequently stronger economic growth, while a low saving rate produces a lower growth pattern.” ~Lacy Hunt, economist, noting soaring consumer debt Broken Markets “I think we have fake markets. . . . Everything is so tight, it is hard to pick a winner from a group that is fake.” ~Bill Gross, Janus "One word characterizes why the bull market can go on for years…'Goldilocks'" ~Sam Ro, Yahoo Finance “I’m not worried about the economy so much; what I’m concerned about is valuation.” ~David Swensen, Yale University’s longtime CIO "I think the bull market could continue forever." ~Jim Paulsen, Wells Fargo Regression to the mean is a force of nature. It is also a mathematical truism that markets reside below the mean for half of their price-weighted existence. The failure to go through the mean in ’09 is an anomaly caused by global central bankers that remains as an IOU on investors’ balance sheets and foreshadows trouble to come. Our system is constantly being overtly displaced from equilibrium by central bankers who view displacement as their mandate. Physical scientists know that any system displaced from equilibrium tends to return to equilibrium. The French physicist Carnot, often called the father of modern thermodynamics, showed that the round trip necessarily comes at a cost no matter how efficient the process: it’s a law of physics. Any chemist will tell you that a system massively displaced often returns with a considerable cost: you blow up your laboratory. Geologists? Volcanoes and earthquakes. Ski bums? Avalanches. How far are asset markets from equilibrium? The pros have some opinions: “Asset valuations historically aren’t way out of line, but elevated I would say, relative to historical averages.” ~Lael Brainard, Federal Reserve governor “Measured against interest rates, stocks actually are on the cheap side compared to historic valuations.” ~Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway, channeling the Fed model “Compared to the Dutch Tulip Mania of 1637, stocks still look undervalued.” ~Rudy Havenstein (@RudyHavenstein), Funniest Tweeter of the Millennium Case closed. Let’s get a six-pack and watch football. The problem is that Brainard is a Fed governor, Havenstein is nuts, and Buffett is known for spewing some serious bullshit. Buffett’s favorite indicator—market cap to GDP—is double the historical mean (vide infra)—what market analyst John Hussman calls “historically offensive valuations.” Buffett also wrote an article in 1999 stating without qualification that returns are not about the economy at all.51 Secular bull markets are powered by falling interest rates and secular bear markets by rising rates. With interest rates at multi-century lows, it seems likely the old codger knows that his implicit reliance on the Fed’s valuation model is lunacy. As an aside, Berkshire has the largest cash hoard in its history—$100 billion—and it’s not being used to buy stocks that are “on the cheap side.” Others, only partially impeded by cognitive dissonance and the task of selling assets at any cost, seem to have neurons firing spasmotically (sense something): “We think the market still has the potential to move higher as investors capitulate into equities.” ~Merrill Lynch “Folks, I have been in this business for over 46 years, and observing markets with my father for 54 years, and I have never experienced anything like what is currently happening. . . . There are years left to run in this one.” ~Jeff Saut, Raymond James “It seems like uncertainty is the new norm, so you just learn to live with it.” ~Ethan Harris, global economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch The fear of missing out (FOMO) is driving the markets way out over their skis. Markets could get much crazier, of course, but as any serious blackjack card counter will tell you, when the deck is stacked against you, size your bets accordingly. "If you pay well above the historical mean for assets, you will get returns well below the historical mean." ~Paraphrased John Hussman This Hussman quote is a recycle from last year but well worth repeating to make sure you understand it. He goes on to channel Ben Graham by noting that the devastating losses come from purchasing low-quality securities when times are good. The Hussman quote also pairs well with ideas about valuation I cobbled together from a well-known maxim about savings: “Overvaluation is appreciation pulled forward.” “Undervaluation is deferred appreciation.” ~David Collum This one passed the Google test for originality. I don’t know about you, but I want my appreciation in the future, or as James Grant (channeling Joe Robillard) likes to say, “I want everybody to agree with me . . . only later.” Valuations are meaningless as long as market participants are determined to buy stocks, but that mood will change at some point. Once markets are overvalued, however, you will give back those and any further gains during the next irrepressible regression to the mean, more so as you linger below the mean. I hasten to add that slight overvaluation is not a problem: the regression will be embedded within the noise. If, however, markets are way overvalued, an unknowable but inevitable combination of price drop and time—a retrenchment that could last decades—will usher invested boomers to the Gates of Hell. What do current valuations tell us about future returns assuming the laws of thermodynamics have not been repealed? Market Valuations “The median stock in the S&P has never been valued higher than it is today.” ~Jesse Felder, The Felder Report “There’s just no other way to say it: the market is insanely overvalued right now. It’s the longest recovery in history. It’s also the weakest. But you’d never know it from the stock market.” ~ David Stockman, former Reagan economic advisor and former Blackstone group partner “We are observing an episode that will make future investors wince. Just like the two closest analogs, the 1929 high and the tech bubble, I expect that future investors will shake their heads in wonder at the stark raving madness of it all, and ask what Wall Street could possibly have been thinking.” ~John Hussman, Hussman Funds “The gap between the S&P 500 and economic fundamentals can now be measured in light years.” ~Eric Pomboy, president of Meridian Macro Research "I believe fragilities today are much more systemic on a global basis than back in 2007. Where’s the Bubble? Virtually everywhere… The scope of today’s global Bubble goes so far beyond 2007." ~Doug Noland, McAlvaney Wealth Management It took a few years to blow up yet another equity bubble—referred to fondly by Jesse Felder and others as the “everything bubble”—but determined central bankers are not in short supply. A host of metrics point to a very mean regression cited below. As I rattle off a few stats, bear in mind the serious yet unknowable losses possible if regression rips through the mean. “Russell 2000 with a 75 p/e is just astronomical.” ~Jesse Felder Starting simple: McDonald’s saw zero revenue growth between 2008 and 2016 but had a 154 percent growth in debt. Its share price is up more than 200 percent. This is not an outlier. Additional examples assembled by Mike Lebowitz of 720Global are shown in Figure 8. I know it’s a table, but look at the contrasting revenue growth versus share price gains! Figure 8. Revenue growth versus price change. “And please don’t claim corporate profits are soaring, so the valuations are justified. . . . Corporate profits are unchanged since 2014—no growth at all.” ~Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds blog The S&P 500 resides 70 percent above its ’07 high even though nominal GDP and total sales rose 10 percent during the same period. Price-to-revenue ratios are sharing the nosebleed seats with 1929 and 2000 (Figure 9).52 Buffett’s market cap–to-GDP indicator is no better, prompting Felder to guesstimate prospective 10-year returns—returns going to somebody else, apparently—at -2.6% annualized.53 In case you suck at math, you will be 10 years older, 33 percent poorer, and in need of a 50 percent gain to stumble your way back to even. Ever the optimist, John Hussman and his relatively complex valuation model, which shows high correlations when back-tested, predicts 60–70 percent losses over the next 10 years.54 To help the value-driven bottom-feeders, Hussman broke down the markets by valuation “deciles” and found that even the deep-value guys are looking at a >50 percent haircut—“haircut” sounds better than “castration” or “blood eagle”—at the end of the current market cycle.55 “Given the performance of certain stocks, we wonder if the market has adopted an alternative paradigm for calculating equity value. . . . What if equity value has nothing to do with current or future profits and instead is derived from a company’s ability to be disruptive, to provide social change, or to advance new beneficial technologies, even when doing so results in current and future economic loss? . . . After years of running into the wind, we are left with no sense stronger than, ‘it will turn when it turns.’ . . . Just because AMZN can disrupt somebody else’s profit stream, it doesn’t mean that AMZN earns that profit stream. For the moment, the market doesn’t agree. Perhaps, simply being disruptive is enough.” ~David Einhorn with tongue in cheek The legendary Howard Marks, using non-GAAP earnings (with a 25 percent fictional fudge factor)56 to calculate trailing P/E ratios, sees a 40 percent regression to the mean. The Case-Shiller weighted P/E ratio—far superior to the non-GAAP alternatives—is in the top 3 percent of historical readings,57 prompting Bob Shiller to dryly note that the markets are “at unusual highs.” (By the way, it was Shiller who slipped Greenspan the phrase “irrational exuberance.”) Dividend yields have flopped around over the centuries. A 56 percent equity decline is required to attain the 150-year historical average of 4.4 percent—assuming reduced cash flows owing to the price collapse don’t lead to dividend cuts.58 Tobin’s Q—essentially price-to-book value ratio and the favorite of Mark Spitznagle—is at all-time highs. The Economist sounds dismissive by suggesting that “a high Tobin’s Q signals that an industry is earning a lot from its assets,"59 which suggests that The Economist is underutilizing its intellectual assets. Figure 9. Valuation metrics from Grant Williams’s World of Pure Imagination.60 Consistency aside, how can these predictions possibly be correct? The reported P/Es are not that bad. The high-growth QQQ index, for instance, is sporting a P/E of only 22, and the Russell 2000—the small-cap engine of economic growth—is in the same neighborhood. Alas, Steve Bregman of Horizon Kinetics notes that the P/E of the QQQ is calculated by rounding all P/Es above 40 down to 40 and assigning a P/E of 40 to all negative P/Es—companies losing money, aka Money Pits.61 For some of the largest companies in the QQQ—think Amazon—with almost no GAAP earnings, these little fudge factors are not just rounding errors. In the scientific community, we call such adjustments “fraud.” Bregman pools the market caps and earnings to give a more honest analysis, which gently nudges the QQQ P/E to 87. In short, Wall Street is “making shit up.” Mark Hulbert, noting that more than 30 percent of the Russell 2000 companies are losing money, concurs with Bregman and suggests that the rascals at the parent company would get a P/E of 80 if they weren’t fibbing like teenagers.62 Market Sentiment Which FANG Stock Will Be The First To Break Out? ~Headline, Investor’s Business Daily (September) I couldn’t care less about market sentiment except to understand how we got to such lofty valuations and how investors have become drooling idiots babbling incoherently about their riches. Nothing scares these markets. Previous bubbles always had a great story, something that investors could legitimately hang their enthusiasm on. The 1929 and 2000 bubbles were floated by dreams of truly fabulous technological revolutions. The current bubble is based on a combination of religious faith in central bankers and, as always, investors’ deluded confidence in their own omnipotence as market timers. Oh gag me with a spoon, really? Unfortunately, some group of prospective toe-tagged investors with silver dollars on their eyes are going to own these investments to the bottom. For now, though, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Veni vidi vici. “This is not an earnings-driven market; it is a momentum, liquidity, and multiple-driven market, pure and simple.” ~David “Rosie” Rosenberg, economist at Gluskin Sheff The FOMO model is not restricted to Joe and Jane Six-pack. Norway’s parliament ordered the $970 billion sovereign wealth fund to crank up its stock holdings from 60 percent to 70 percent.63 Queuing off an analysis I did last year, a collective (market-wide) allocation shift of such magnitude would cause a 55 percent gain in equities.64 The percentage of U.S. household wealth in equities is in its 94th percentile and above the 2007 numbers.65 A survey of wealthy folks shows they expect an annualized 8.5 percent return after inflation.66 Good luck with that if you wish to stay wealthy. At current bond yields, a 60:40 portfolio would need more than 12 percent each year on the equities. Venture capitalists think they can get 20 percent returns (despite data showing this to be nuts.)67 Maybe they can set up an ETF to track the 29-year-old high school dropout and avid video gamer who professed to love volatility and got himself a 295 percent gain in one year trading some crazy asset (probably Tesla or “vol”).68 He actually ordered a Tesla and proclaimed, “I will soon get my license!” Better get that Tesla ordered soon, young Jedi Knight, given the company’s annualized $2+ billion burn rate and stumbling production numbers. Meanwhile, the legendary Paul Tudor Jones' fund saw 50 percent redemptions.69 (Boomers: Insert Tudor Turtle joke here.) Prudence disappoints investors in the final stages of a market cycle. Unsurprisingly, the complacency index is at an all-time high.70 The oft-cited Fear and Greed Index (explained here71) is pegging the needle on extreme greed (Figure 10). A survey by the National Association of Active Investment Managers found investment managers to be more than 90 percent long the market.72 An American Association of Individual Investors survey showed that retail portfolios were at their lowest cash levels in almost two decades.71 High “delta,” which supposedly reflects investors’ willingness to use levered calls to catch this rally,72 suggests that investors perceive that risk has been eradicated in these central-bank-supervised markets. The few investors retaining a modicum of circumspection are “suffering extreme mental exhaustion” (PTSD) watching the consequences of the “deadweight of [the] US$400 trillion ‘cloud’ of financial instruments . . . supported by ongoing financialization” levitate anything with a price tag on it.73 Booyah Skidaddy. Let’s not forget, however, that traders make tops and investors make bottoms. In the next bloodletting, we may see bonds and stocks compete in synchronized diving. While traders run with the Pamplona bulls, investors sit in the shadows waiting for their day in the sun. Figure 10. Fear and Greed Index. Volatility Market pundits hurl around several definitions of volatility, and both have gotten huge press this year. A narrow dispersion of prices has arisen from the collusion of sentiment, $3 trillion of quantitative easing this year alone,74 trading algos, and programmed contributions to index investments that have created markets that seem very tame (not volatile). Headlines reported all sorts of records such as days without a 1 percent drop,75 consecutive S&P 500 closes within 0.5 percent of previous closing price,76 longest streak of green closes on the S&P, consecutive months without a loss,77 index advances accompanied by new 52-week lows,78 and days without a 3 percent draw down.79 Often the records were kept intact thanks to late-day panic-buying by the FOMO crowd. For the short sellers, it has been the Bataan Death March, particularly in February, when a leveraged fund was forced to liquidate billions of dollars of short positions.80 Even the treasury market shows an “implied volatility” at its lowest level in more than 30 years,81 which highlights historic investor complacency. Some say it is a new era; others see a calm before the storm. A second definition of volatility is explained in Investopedia:82 Volatility: A variable in option pricing formulas showing the extent to which the return of the underlying asset will fluctuate between now and the option’s expiration. Volatility, as expressed as a percentage coefficient within option-pricing formulas, arises from daily trading activities. How volatility is measured will affect the value of the coefficient used. Glad to have cleared that up. It’s no surprise the market players found a way to turn an arcane market indicator into a trading device: you can buy and sell vol through various indices such as the “VIX,” XIV, and “SVXY.” What’s more, the buying and selling of vol influences the markets (10× leveraged according to Peter Tchir). As the vol indices go down, the markets go up, and if I have this right, there is causality in both directions. Vol has been plumbing record lows. Indeed, those shorting vol (driving it down) are making fortunes—a one-decision trade—at least until buying vol becomes the new-and-improved one-decision trade. Billions have flooded into vol short funds each week.83 It is estimated to be a $2 trillion market. Barron’s called shorting the VIX “the nearest thing to free money.”84 References to exceptionally high “risk-adjusted returns” leave me wondering: How do you adjust for risk on the vol trade? Maybe we should consult the logistics manager at a Target store who made a cool $12 million in five years by shorting the VIX.85 He reminds me of those Icelandic fishermen-turned-bankers. They did quite well for a while, but they returned to fishing the hard way. In an incisive analysis of the risks of the vol trade,86 Eric Peters notes that “to sell implied volatility at current levels, investors must imagine tomorrow will be virtually identical to today.” Seems like a reach given that such an assumption has no precedent in the recorded history of anything. The fact that 97 percent of VIX shares are sold short also seems a wee bit lopsided (Figure 11).87 The VIX even had a flash crash88: how ironic is that? JPM’s Marko Kolanovic—reputed to be one of the best technical traders in the known universe—says that a regression of the VIX to the historical norm could cause “catastrophic losses” because of all the shorts.89 Given that volatility begets volatility, forcing an epic short squeeze on $2 trillion of vol shorts at some point, one wonders what comes after “catastrophic”? Figure 11. Volatility (VIX) short positions. Stock Buybacks “Companies might have to start rotating out of the debt that they incurred to buy back their stock and start issuing stock.” ~Chris Whalen, The Institutional Risk Analyst In 2016, I referred to Whalen’s vision of stock buybacks as “buying high–selling low.”90 Peter Lynch’s original enthusiasm for buybacks was that clever management sneakily buys back undervalued shares, not overvalued shares. This buyback ploy began to turn into a scam in 1982, when buybacks were excluded from rules prohibiting price manipulation.91 Buybacks are so large now that they correlate with and quite likely cause large market moves (Figure 12). Since 2009, U.S. companies have bought back 18 percent of the market cap, often using debt—lots of debt.92 The 30 Dow companies have 12.7 billion fewer shares today than in ’08: “the biggest debt-funded buyback spree in history.” An estimated 70 percent of the per-share earnings—24 percent versus only a 7 percent earnings gain since 2012—is traced to a share count reduction from buybacks.93 Pumping the share prices at the cost of rotting the balance sheet (which gullible investors ignore) achieves two imperatives: it prolongs executive employment and optimizes executive compensation. Contrast this with paying dividends to enrich shareholders to the detriment of option holders. The rank-and-file employees might be comforted if companies plugged the yawning pension gaps instead (vide infra), but such contributions would have to be expensed, lowering earnings and, stay with me here, reducing executive compensation. Figure 12. (a) S&P real returns versus margin debt. (b) S&P nominal returns versus share buybacks, and (c) buybacks versus corporate debt. In one hilarious case, Restoration Hardware, a loser by any standard except maybe Wall Street’s, used all available cash and even accumulated debt to buy back 50 percent of its outstanding shares to trigger a greater than 40 percent squeezing of the short sellers who, mysteriously, think the company is poorly run.94 In the “eating the seed corn” meme, the 18 biggest pharmaceutical companies’ buybacks and dividends exceed their R&D budgets.95 Market narrowing—the scenario in which a decreasing number of stocks are lifting the indices—is acute and ominous to those paying attention.96 The so-called FAANGs + M (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Microsoft) have witnessed a 50 percent spike in their P/E ratios in less than 3 years.97 The FAANGs compose 42 percent of the Nasdaq and 13 percent of the S&P. An astonishing 0.2 percent of the companies in the Nasdaq have accounted for 45 percent of the gains.98 This is a wilding. The average stock, by contrast, is still more than 20 percent off its all-time high. What is going on? Indexing and Exchange-Traded Funds “When a measure becomes an outcome, it ceases to be a good measure.” ~Goodhart’s Law Charles Goodhart focused on measuring money supply,99 but his law loosely applies to any cute idea that becomes widely adopted (such as share buybacks). This is total blasphemy, but market indexing may be a colossal illustration of Goodhart’s Law. John Bogle was the first to articulate the merits of indexing in his undergraduate thesis at Princeton.100 Columbia University professor Burt Malkiel provided a theoretical framework for the notion that you cannot beat the market, which was translated into the best-selling book A Random Walk Down Wall Street. Even Warren Buffett endorses the merits of indexing, although once again, his words belie his actions. Bogle’s seminal S&P tracking fund now contains 10% of the market cap of the S&P 500 after quadrupling its share since ’08. (Behaviorist Peter Atwater attributes the recent enthusiasm to investors who are PO’d at active managers.)101 “When the world decides that there is no need for fundamental research and investors can just blindly purchase index funds and ETFs without any regard to valuation, we say the time to be fearful is now.” ~FPA Capital Then there are the massively popular ETFs that allow you to index while picking your favorite basket of stocks (have your cake and eat it too). Is there anybody who disagrees with the merits of indexing? Didn’t think so. Do ya see the problem here? Goodhart might. Maybe I was oblivious, but acute concerns about indexing seem to have emerged only in the last year or so. Let’s ponder some of them, but only after a brief digression. “There is no such thing as price discovery in index investing.” ~Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management In his must-read book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki posits that a large sample size of non-experts, when asked to wager a guess about something—the number of jelly beans in a jar, for example—will generate a distribution centered on the correct answer. Compared with experts, a crowd of clueless people offers more wisdom. I submit that this collective wisdom extends to democracies and markets alike. A critical requirement, however, is that the voting must be uncorrelated. Each player must vote or guess independently. As correlation appears, the wisdom is lost, and the outcome is ruled by a single-minded mob. Thus, when everybody is buying baskets of stocks using the same, wholly thoughtless protocol (indexing), the correlation is quite high. Investors are no longer even taking their own best guesses. The influence of correlation is amplified by a flow of money (votes) putting natural bids under any stock in an index, even such treasures as Restoration Hardware. What percentage of your life’s savings should you invest without a clue? Cluelessness has been paying handsome rewards. A big problem is that index funds and ETFs allocate resources weighted according to market cap and are float-adjusted, reflecting the market cap only of available shares not held by insiders. You certainly want more money in Intel and Apple than in Blue Apron, but indexing imposes a non-linearity that drives the most overpriced stocks to become even more overpriced. That is precisely why the lofty valuations on the FAANGs just keep getting loftier. The virtuous cycle is the antithesis of value investing. The float adjustment drives money away from shares with high insider ownership. Curiously, an emerging strategy that is not yet broadly based (recall Goodhart’s Law) is to find investments that are not represented in popular indices or ETFs on the notion that they have not been bid up by indexers. “With $160-odd trillion global equity market capitalization, we have much more opportunities for ETFs to grow, not just on equities, but in fixed income. And I believe this is just the beginning.” ~Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, the largest provider of ETFs The indexed subset of the investing world could be at the heart of the next liquidity crisis. In managed accounts, redemptions can be met with a stash of cash at least for the first portion of a sell-off. This is why air pockets (big drops) often don’t appear early in the downdraft. By contrast, ETFs trade shares robotically—quite literally by formulas and algos (the robots)—with zero cash buffer. The first hint of trouble causes cash inflows to dry up and buying to stop. Redemptions by nervous investors cause instantaneous selling. Passive buying will give way to active selling. The unwind should also be the mirror image of the ramp: FAANGs will lead the way down owing to their high market caps. Once again, selling begets selling, and the virtuous cycle quickly turns vicious. Investors will get ETF’d right up the...well, you get the idea. “You’re better off knowing which ETFs hold this stock than what this company even does. . . . That’s scary to me. . . . The market needs to have a major crash.” ~Danny Moses, co-worker of Steve Eisman “Throw them out the window.” ~Jeff Gundlach, CIO of DoubleLine Capital, on index funds I would be remiss if I failed to note that there are also some really wretched ETFs. What are the odds, eh? I’m not sure I even believe this, but it has been claimed that a 3×-levered long gold mining ETF lost –86 percent while a 3×-levered short gold mining ETF lost –98 percent, both over the same time frame that the GDX returned zero percent. You wouldn’t want to pair-trade those bad boys. It is also rumored that the SEC has approved 4×-levered equity ETFs. Investors are going to be seeing the inside of a wood chipper at some point. A 3×-levered Brazilian ETF (BRZU) lost 50 percent in a single day. Apparently none of these investors ever saw The Deer Hunter. We might as well set up ETFs in which investors choose the leverage multiple. One quick click, and it's gone. “ETFs are the new Investment Trusts (similar vehicles in 1920’s) that led to the Great Crash and will lead to the next crash.” ~Mark Yusko, CEO and CIO of Morgan Creek Capital Management “Passive investing is in danger of devouring capitalism. . . . What may have been a clever idea in its infancy has grown into a blob which is destructive to the growth-creating and consensus-building prospects of free market capitalism.” ~Paul Singer, founder and president of Elliott Management Corporation Miscellaneous Market Absurdities “Last time this mood took over, it ended very badly. Look at your investments with 2009 eyes. Did you tail hedge then? Should you risk up now?” ~Jeff Gundlach Recent initial public offerings (IPOs) get routinely flogged. SNAP’s 33 percent drop has become onomatopoetic. What would you expect for a company whose customer demographic is 12- to 18-year-olds with no income? GoPro (GPRO) has lost 95 percent in two years. A few more show precipitous drops from post-IPO highs: FIT, TWLO, FUEL, TWTR, ZNGA, and LC. Blue Apron (APRN) dropped 45 percent from its highs in the 36 days after its IPO. The company also cut 1,200 of a total of 5,000 jobs, prompting one veteran to ponder: “Seriously, how is that not illegal?” This is a new era, dude. The froth creeps into the screwiest places. The hard asset purchase of the year was the da Vinci painting of Salvatore Mundi that sold for $450 million. It was the only known da Vinci in private hands. A Modigliani nude sold for $170 million. A Basquiat painting purchased in 1984 for $19,000 moved across the auction block at a snot-bubble-blowing $111 million (23% compounded annualized return). The fabulously creative modern artwork, The Unmade Bed (Figure 13), sold for a cool $4 million.102 (I have one of those in my bedroom that I got for a lot less.) According to CBS News, a Harambe-shaped Cheeto sold for almost $100K on eBay.103 An obscure Danish penny stock company (Victoria Properties) surged nearly 1,000 percent in a few days, prompting management to remind investors that “there has been no change in Victoria Properties’ economic conditions. . . . The company’s equity is therefore still equal to about zero kroner.”104 Ford is valued at around $7,000 per car produced. Tesla is valued at $800,000 per car produced—they are literally making one model by hand on a Potemkin assembly line.105 A company called Switch has a “chief awesomeness officer.106 Ding! Ding! Ding! Figure 13. A $4 million masterpiece of modern art. Long-Term Real Returns and Risk Premia “Maybe it’s time to quietly exit. Take the cash, hide it in the mattress, and wait for the next/coming storm to pass.” ~Bill Blain, Mint Partners “People have just gotten so immune to any pain and anguish in any of these markets that when it happens it is going be very psychologically painful.” ~Marilyn Cohen, Envision Capital Management If the next correction is only 20–30 percent, I was simply wrong. Mete out a 50 percent or larger thwacking, and I am declaring victory (in a twisted sort of way). When the pain finally arrives, the precious few positioned to take advantage of the closeout sales will include idiots sitting in cash through the current equity binge buying (me). In theory, the short sellers would be in great shape too, but they all reside in shallow graves behind the Eccles Building. Some wise folks, like Paul Singer, have had the capacity and foresight to be raising billions of dollars for the day when monkey-chucking darts can find a target.107 "We think that there has never been a larger (and more undeserved) spirit of financial market complacency in our experience.” ~Paul Singer after raising $5 billion to buy distressed assets in the future There will be few victory laps, however, because boomers will be living on Kibbles ’n Bits. How painful will it be? Figure 14 from James Stack shows the fractions of the last 100 years’ bull markets that were given back.108 On only one occasion were investors lucky enough to hang onto three-fourths of their bull market gains. One-third of the bulls were given back entirely. Two-thirds of the bulls gave half back. The results are oddly quantized. How much will the next bear take back? It depends on how much the reasoning above is out of whack. Do ya feel lucky? Figure 14. Fraction of the bull taken by the bear.108 “The vanquished cry, but the victor doesn’t laugh.” ~Roman proverb Ethereal gains bring up an interesting point, more so than I first thought. In a brief exchange with Barry Ritholtz, I asserted that the “risk premia” on equities—the higher returns because of underlying risk—will be arbitraged away in the long run because occasionally risk turns into reality, and you get your ass kicked. I’m not talking inefficient high-frequency noise but rather the long term—call it a century if you will. With his characteristically delicate touch, Barry noted that I was full of hooey. Refusing to take any of his guff, I dug in. Certainly a free market would price equities much the way junk bonds are priced relative to treasuries to account for mishaps. Look back at Figure 14 in case it didn’t sink in. There is also the problem with interpreting index gains owing to survivor bias. Economist David Rosenberg claims that if the eight companies who left the Dow in April 2004 had remained, the Dow would still be below 13,000.109 Of course, presumably investors swapped them out as well if they were indexing (although somebody ate those losses). “I will get back to you next week with the answer to your singular investment question. Should you have further easy questions such as: is there a God and what gender he/she may be, that will necessarily be part of a separate email chain.” ~Brian Murdoch, former CEO of TD Asset Management on bonds versus stocks Start with the inflation-adjusted principle gains on the Dow (Figure 15), which returns less than 2 percent annualized. Think that’s too low? Take a look at my all-time favorite chart—the Dow in the first half of the 20th century, when inflation corrections weren’t needed (Figure 16). Now throw in some dividends (4 percent on average) and some wild-ass guesses on fees and taxes (including those on the inflated part of the gains). I get a real return on the Dow in the 20th century—a pretty credible century to boot—of only 4–5 percent annualized. Let’s adjust recent returns using the Big Mac inflation metric.110 Big Macs have appreciated sixfold since 1972 (4–5 percent compounded) with little change in quality. Over the same period, the capital gains on the Dow rose twentyfold. Adjusted for Big Mac–measured inflation, the Dow averaged less than 3 percent compounded (ex-dividends). An eightfold rise in the price of extra-large pizzas since 1970 (cited in my now-extinct blog for Elizabeth Warren) paints an even bleaker picture of inflation-adjusted S&P returns. Figure 15. Inflation-adjusted DOW. Figure 16. Non-inflation-adjusted Dow: 1900–1940. Those 4–5 percent inflation-adjusted equity gains do not account for the fourfold increase in the U.S. population, which should be included because the wealth of the nation was shared by four times as many carbon-based life-forms. The returns are also not in the same zip code as the 7–8 percent assumed by many pensioners. Back to the debate, the 4–5 percent inflation-adjusted equity gains contrast with 30-year treasuries returning about 4–5 percent nominally. Hmm...Seems like equities still won, and that Ritholtz appears to have been right. I consulted both digital and human sources (Brian Murdoch, Benn Steil, and Mark Gilbert), and everybody agreed: that punk Ritholtz was right. Even more disturbing, is it possible that Jeremy Siegel is not being a total meathead by asserting that you should buy equities at all times (BTFD)? The explanations for why markets fail to arbitrage the risk premia are said to be rather “mysterious.” According to Brian Murdoch, “academics have been remarkably unsuccessful in modeling it. . . . Despite three decades of attempts, the puzzle remains essentially intact.” Benn Steil concurred. Academic studies (warning!) claim that bonds do not keep up with stocks even over profoundly long periods, and no amount of fudging (fees, taxes, disasters, or survivor bias) accounts for the failure to arbitrage the marginal advantage of stocks to zero. Schlomo Benartzi and Richard Thaler suggest that short-term losses obscuring long-term gains—“myopic loss aversion”—is the culprit.111 (Ironically, I read this paper a week before the Nobel committee told me to read this paper.) Elroy Dimson et al. dismiss all the possible errors that could be root causes and put the sustainable risk premium on stocks at 3–5 percent.112 Let’s flip the argument: Why would you ever own a bond? There are rational answers. To the extent that you do not buy and hold equities for 100 years (unless you are Jack Bogle), you also pay a premium for the liquidity—the ability to liquidate without a huge loss because you were forced to sell into a swoon. You also forfeit the ability to sell into a rally, however, and certainly wouldn't want to sell into a bond bear market either. Of course, the role of financial repression—sovereign states’ ability to force bond yields well below prices set by free markets—could explain it all. Governments like cheap money and have the wherewithal to demand it. Maybe the message is to never lend to governments. I remain in an enlightened state of confusion. Gold “Gold is no more of an investment than Beanie Babies.” ~Gary Smith, economist “If you don’t have 5–10% of your assets in gold as a hedge, we’d suggest you relook at this. . . . [I]f you do have an excellent analysis of why you shouldn’t have such an allocation to gold, we’d appreciate you [sic] sharing it with us. ~Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates Ray is rumored to have ramped Bridgewater’s gold position fivefold this fall. He cites geopolitical risk as a reason to own the barbecued relic. “If we actually see missiles in the air, gold could go higher.” ~CNBC trader on thermonuclear war Since the early 1970s, gold has had an annual return of 8 percent (nominal). Gold bears are quick to point out it doesn’t pay interest. Nor does my bank, and by the way, what part of 8 percent don’t they understand? By that standard, the 8 percent gain in 2017 was good but not statistically unusual. Coin sales are down,113 which suggests that either retail buyers are not in the game or the bug-out plans of hedge fund managers—I’m told they all have them—are complete. Sprott Asset Management made a hostile move on the Central Fund of Canada, a gold–silver holding company, in a move that might portend promising future returns.114 “Significant increases in inflation will ultimately increase the price of gold. . . . [I]nvestment in gold now is insurance. It’s not for short-term gain, but for long-term protection. . . . We would never have reached this position of extreme indebtedness were we on the gold standard. . . . It wasn’t the gold standard that failed; it was politics. . . . Today, going back on to the gold standard would be perceived as an act of desperation.” ~Alan Greenspan, 2017, still babbling On the global geopolitical front, Deutsche Bundesbank completed repatriation of 700 tons of gold earlier than originally planned.115 The urgency may be bullish, but a possible source of demand is now gone. Chinese gold companies have been actively searching for domestic deposits and international acquisitions as they push to quadruple their reserves to 14,000 tons by 2020.116 (The U.S. sovereign stash is less than 9,000 tons.) The gold acquisitions of China (Figure 17) show a curious abrupt and sustained increase in activity in 2011. When did gold begin its major correction? Right: 2011. Makes you wonder if geopolitics somehow preempted the supply–demand curve. Because gold can leave Shanghai but not China, it’s a one-way trip. The Shanghai Gold Exchange must get its bullion from other sources. Russia continues to push its reserves up too. Rumors swirl that China and Russia are colluding for something grand, possibly a new global reserve currency based on the petro-yuan and gold. This would change the global landscape way beyond generic goldbuggery. Figure 17. Abrupt changes in Chinese gold acquisitions through Hong Kong in 2011. “Bringing back the gold standard would be very hard to do, but boy would it be wonderful. We’d have a standard on which to base our money.” ~Donald Trump, 2016 The gold market continues to be dominated by gold futures rather than physical gold. The bugs think this will end. I can only hope. In this paper market, gaming is the norm. On a seemingly monthly basis, gold takes swan dives as somebody decides to sell several billion-dollar equivalents (20,000–30,000 futures contracts) when the market is least liquid (thinly traded). Stories of fat-fingered trades abound, but I suspect these are just traders molesting the market for fun and profit, unconcerned that a regulator would ever call them on it. The silver market looked even creepier for 17 days in a row (Figure 18). I never trust that kind of linearity. Figure 18. Silver acting odd over 5 minutes and 17 days. Price changes often appear proximate to geopolitical events, but everything is proximate to a geopolitical event somewhere. India’s success at destroying its cash economy—the only economy it had—via the fiat removal of high-denomination bills117 was akin to announcing that only electric cars are legal starting next week. Some suggested that the move was also an attempt to flush gold out of households and into the banking system.118 Gold inched toward currency status at a more local level as Idaho, Arizona, and Louisiana voted to remove state capital gains taxes on gold—baby steps toward an emergent gold standard.119 The Brits are going the other way by banning salary payments in gold.120 Finishing with some fun anecdotes, a massive gold coin worth millions was stolen from a German museum.121 Some guy restoring a World War II tank found $2.5 million in gold bullion tucked in a fake fuel tank.122 A piano repairman discovered 13 pounds of gold in an old piano.123 According to British law, the repairman gets half, and the folks who donated the piano get squat. Beyond that, the gold market has been quiet for almost five years (Figure 19). Some wonder whether Bitcoin is sucking oxygen away from gold. Which way is gold gonna break if Bitcoin or the dollar tanks? Inquiring minds want to know. Figure 19. Five years of gold price discovery. Bitcoin “Worse than tulip bulbs. It won't end. Someone is going to get killed. . . . [A]ny [JPM] trader trading Bitcoin will be fired for being stupid. . . . [T]he currency isn’t going to work. You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air and think the people buying it are really smart. It’s worse than tulip bulbs." ~Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPM Unbeknownst to Dimon, his daughter was trading Bitcoin: “It went up and she thinks she is a genius.” More to the point, traders at JPM were already firing up crypto exchanges (while Goldman and the CFTC seemed to be positioning to enter the game). Dimon decided it was a prudent time to STFU (shut up) by declaring, “I'm not going to talk about Bitcoin anymore.” The joke was on us, however; nobody seemed to notice that Dimon slipped in an earnings warning the same day his Bitcoin quotes hit the media.124 Well played, Jamie. “Bitcoin owners should appeal to the IRS for tax-exempt status as a faith-based organization.” ~Andy Kessler, former hedge fund manager I wish I had a Bitcoin for every time somebody asked me about it. Cryptos and goldbugs share a common interest in escaping the gaze of the authorities. My ignorance of blockchain technology is profound, but I suspect that is true for many who talk the talk. I wonder if somehow blockchain might play a role in bypassing the SWIFT check-clearing system used by Western powers to shake down opposition (Russia).125 I also wonder, however, if the miracles of blockchain should not be confused with those of Bitcoin. Any mention of price or gains below should be followed with an implicit "last time I checked" or even “as of two minutes ago.” My failure to jump on Bitcoin leaves no remorse: (a) I never take a position that risks a you-knew-better moment, and (b) I would have been flushed out, and then I really would have kicked myself. Recall the legendary founding shares in Apple that were sold for $800 and are now estimated to be worth maybe $100 billion?126 There’s rumor of a guy who lost his Bitcoin “codes” that are now estimated at more than $100 million. That’s real pain. I offer my current view of cryptos from a position of total technical ignorance guided by an only slightly more refined understanding of history and markets. Please forgive me, crypto friends. I know you are tired of hearing the counter arguments and the cat calling. I am restrained by the words of a famous philosopher: “Only God is an expert. We’re just guys paid to give our opinion.” ~Charles Barkley, former NBA star What would have flushed me out of a Bitcoin long position? Let’s take it to the hoop: The price action. Exponential gains, even wildly bent on a semi-log plot, have few analogs in history, all of which led to legendary busts (Figure 20). The South Sea bubble, Tulipmania, Beanie Baby, and Mentos-in-a-Coke analogies are legion. They all had a story that convinced many. Figure 20. One-year price chart of Bitcoin (as of 2 minutes ago). The participants. I have a friend—a very smart former Wall Street guy—who swears by it and is up 100,000 percent. You do not need to size your position correctly with that kind of gain. But then there is the clutch of camp followers emblematic of all manias. We have grad students speculating in Bitcoin. A 12-year-old bought his first Bitcoin in May 2011 with a gift from his grandmother.126a At more than $17,000 per coin, his stash is more than $5 million. On MarketWatch, he declared he had a price target of $1 million. “I’m obviously very bullish, but I expect to make a couple million dollars off very little money. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Finance is getting its Internet.” ~Bitcoin investor Competitors. A Bitcoin competitor issued by Stratis soared to more than 100,000 percent since its initial coin offering (ICO) this past summer. As of December 1, there were 1,326 cryptocurrencies with a total market cap of >$400 billion.127 Paris Hilton has a cryptocurrency.128 The market is saturated more than the dot-com market ever was. It is a certainty that more than 99 percent will die much like most of the 270 auto companies in the ’20s and dot-coms in the ’90s. A site called Deadcoins shows that some already have.129 The debate is whether 100 percent is the final number. Volatility. Massive corrections followed by ferocious rallies akin to a teenager on driving on black ice would have convinced me it was too crazy for my style. Corrections last seconds to hours, with wildly enthusiastic buyers poised to BTFD. Isaac Newton got into the South Sea bubble, was smart enough to get out, and then reentered in time to go bankrupt. I am decidedly dumber than Isaac. Figure 21. Bitcoin photo bomber (acquiring $15K of Bitcoin via crowdsourcing). For Bitcoin to become a currency in its current form, out of reach of sovereigns, seems to require a society-upheaving revolution, which is a rare event that usually gives way to new, equally ham-fisted regimes. The chances seem slim to none for several reasons. “No government will ever support a virtual currency that goes around borders and doesn’t have the same controls. It’s not going to happen.” ~Jamie Dimon (again) The competition. I am doubtless that central banks and sovereign states will never endorse Bitcoin in its current form. They have their own digital currencies and a monopoly on the power to create more, and they commandeer our assets through taxation. Existential risk will bring on the power of the State. When sovereigns decide to do battle, the cryptos will be brought to heel or forced underground. Instabilities. Digital currencies are showing digital instabilities that could just be growing pains or evidence of more systemic problems. How software buffs who know that software is duct tape and bailing wire could think that a software-dependent currency is invincible is beyond me. Ethereum dropped 20 percent in a heartbeat when a hacker theft was reported.130 It dropped 96 percent after the Status ICO clogged the network.131 One user put a stop-loss on Ethereum at $316 on GDAX, which executed at $0.10 during a flash crash.132 So-called “wallets” have been freezing up, although there is some debate as to whether the owners lost the Bitcoins.133 This stuff happens with all risk assets now but not with usable currencies. Volatility. Nobody will use a currency to pay for groceries if prices move 10 percent a day or even 5 percent as you move from the frozen food to the vegetable aisle. This, by the way, is the same explanation for why I don’t consider gold “money” or a “currency.” As long as there exists a Bitcoin–dollar conversion, a sovereign wishing to keep Bitcoin in the realm of a speculative plaything could use its unlimited liquidity to trigger price swings with a little day trading. Legality. If up against the wall, sovereigns will use arguments about fighting crime, stemming ransomware, or controlling monetary policy and declare a War on Cryptos akin to the potential War on Cash. China has already blown shots across the Bitcoin bow by shutting down exchanges as well as ICOs as they struggle with excessive sovereign debt and capital outflows.134 Britain has also done some sabre rattling.135 The IRS has declared gains taxable (akin to gold) and is paying companies to locate digital wallets.136 The fans of BTC declare invincibility—freedom! The average blokes may smoke pot and drive too fast, but they seem less likely to risk a spat with the State on this stuff. “Right now the trust is good—with Bitcoin people are buying and selling it, they think it’s a reasonable market—but there will come a day when government crackdowns come in and you begin to see the currency come down.” ~Mark Mobius, executive director at Franklin Templeton Investments Others have unshakeable faith even in the more obscure cryptocurrencies. I’m unsure what I’m hoping for on this bet (Figure 22): Figure 22. John McAfee, technology pioneer, chief of cybersecurity, visionary of MGT Capital Investments, going all in on cryptocurrencies. Housing and Real Estate “We bailed out the financial system so that financiers with access to cheap credit can buy up all of America’s real estate so that they can then rent it back to you later.” ~Mike Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg blog Greenspan claimed those who predicted the housing bubble were “statistical illusions” (as were those who saw Greenspan as a charlatan). There are, once again, housing bubbles littered across the globe at various stages of expansion and contraction owing to central banks providing in excess of $3 trillion dollars of QE this year. Credit is fungible, so the flood of capital can come from anywhere and migrate to anywhere it finds an inflating asset. Hong Kong’s spiking prices are rising by dozens of basis points per day. Attempts by authorities to cool the market only fanned the flames, resulting in “a sea of madness.”137 Australian authorities tried to cap the dreaded interest-only loans at 30% of the total pool, prompting one hedge fund to return money to investors and declare that “Mortgage fraud is endemic; it’s systemic; it’s just terrible what’s going on. When you’ve got 30-year-olds, who have never seen a property downturn before, borrowing up to 80% to buy three and four apartments, it’s a bubble.”138 Prices in London are now collapsing.139 Why would anything collapse with so much global credit? Simple: top-heavy structures tend to collapse from even small shocks. I will focus, however, on only two countries—the U.S. because it is my home turf and Canada because it is the most interesting of the markets. The U.S. appears to be in a bubblette, an overvalued market that does not approach the insanity of 2007 (detected by statistical illusions as early as 2002).140 Twenty percent down payments have become passé again. A survey of 20 cities reveals 5.9 percent annualized price rises.141 The median sale price of an existing home has set an all-time high and is up 40 percent since the start of 2014141 despite what seems to be muted demand (Figure 23). Thus, home ownership has dropped by 8 percent since ’09 because soaring prices have rendered them unaffordable. More than 40 percent of 25-34 year olds, a group historically en route to home ownership, have nothing set aside for a down payment.141 Those who scream about the need for affordable housing don’t notice that we have plenty of low-quality houses. We lack low-cost houses. And the Fed says inflation is good. Figure 23. Median new home sales price in the U.S. versus number sold and versus home ownership rate. In 1960, California had a median home price of $15,000—three times the salary of an elementary school teacher.142 The median home price in San Francisco is now $1.5 million,143 which is unlikely to be three times a teacher’s salary. A couple earning $138,000 will soon qualify for subsidized housing in San Francisco. California housing seems to be interminably overvalued, possibly owing to the draw of droughts, mudslides, crowds, and, fires. Despite modest 6 percent population growth since 2010, housing units have shown an only 2.9 percent increase. There could be a supply–demand problem, especially when the fires subside. Florida is rumored to have eager post-hurricane sellers—those with something left to sell, that is.144 Condo flippers drove prices skyward in Miami, but they are heading earthward with a glut of units scheduled to come online in 2018. It’s not just the sand states starting to see softness. In New York City, rising rates seem to be nudging commercial and residential real estate down and foreclosures up to levels not seen since the 2009 crisis (79 percent year-over-year in Q3).145 Sam Zell is, once again, a seller and claims "it is getting hard."146 Recall that Zell nailed the real estate top by selling $38 billion in real estate in ’07.147 “The condo market at the high-end [in Manhattan] . . . is a catastrophe and will get worse.” ~Barry Sternlicht, Starwood Property Trust Those who already own houses can once again “extract equity” from their homes using home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).148 They then wake up with more debt on the same house. Pundits claim consumers’ willingness to mortgage their future is “a healthy confidence in the economy.” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have also entered phase II of the catch-and-release program. Their regulators have authorized them to once again engage in unchecked, reckless lending, prompting some to begin estimating the cost of the next bailout.149 What happened to all that inventory from the colossal boom leading to the Great Recession? Some fell into the foundations, but a lot found its way into private equity firms. Mind you, single-family rentals are a low- or no-profit-margin business under normal circumstances. As long as rates stay low—Where have I heard that one before?—inherently thin profits can be amplified to a significant transitory revenue stream through leverage. A proposed merger of Invitation Homes (owned by Blackstone Group) and Starwood Waypoint Homes (owned by Starwood Capital) would spawn the largest owner of single-family homes in the United States with a portfolio worth over $20 billion.150 Of course, rates will rise again, and these sliced-and-diced tranches of mortgage-backed securities must be offloaded to greater fools. Private equity guys are already frantically boxing and shipping.151 To avoid costly and time-consuming appraisals, market players are using “broker price opinions,” which can be had by simply driving by the house and taking a guess (or just taking a guess). In ’09, the legendary “Linda Green” signed off on thousands using dozens of different signatures.152 U.S. securities regulators are investigating whether bonds backed by single-family rental homes and sold by Wall Street’s biggest residential landlords used overvalued property assessments.153 Let me help you guys out: yes. “The main risk on the domestic side is a sharp correction in the housing market that impairs bank balance sheets, triggers negative feedback loops in the economy, and increases contingent claims on the government.” ~IMF, on the Canadian housing market Heading north, we find that Canada’s real estate market never collapsed in ’09 (Figure 24), an outcome often ascribed to the virtues of the country’s banking system. An estimated 7 percent of Canadians work in housing construction,154 and Canadians are using HELOCs like crazy.155 After Vancouver tried to burst a huge bubble in 2016 with a 15 percent buyers’ tax,156 Chinese buyers chased Toronto houses instead. Annualized gains of 33 percent with average prices of $1.5 million are pushing even the one-percentile crowd to remote ’burbs.157 Toronto authorities have now imposed the Vancouver-like 15 percent foreign buyers tax,158 causing a single-month 26 percent drop in sales and ultimately chasing the hot money to Montreal,159 Guelph, and even Barrie.160 “Make no mistake, the Toronto real estate market is in a bubble of historic proportions.” ~David Rosenberg   Figure 24. Canadian versus U.S. median home prices and what they buy ($700,000 for that little gem). The most interesting plotline and a smoking gun in Canada’s bursting bubble was failing subprime lender Home Capital Group (HCG). Marc Cahodes, referred to as a “free-range short seller” and “the scourge of Wall Street,” spotted criminality and shorted HCG for a handsome profit.161 HCG was so bad it was vilified by its auditor, KPMG.162 Imagine that. HCG dropped 60 percent in one day when news hit of an emergency $2 billion credit line at 22.5 percent interest by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan.163 (The CEO of the pension plan sits on Home Capital’s board and is also a shareholder.) Cahodes was printing money and ranting about jail sentences when, without warning, the legendary stockjobber Warren Buffett took a highly visible 20 percent stake in HCG at “mob rates” (38 percent discount).164 The short squeeze was vicious, and Cahodes was PO’d. As Paul Harvey would say, “now for the rest of the story.” HCG is, by all reckoning, the piece of crap Cahodes claims it is. Buffett couldn’t care less about HCG’s assets—Berkshire can swallow the losses for eternity. Warren may have bought this loser as a legal entry to the Canadian banking system, which is loaded with hundreds of billions of “self-securitized” mortgages. The plot thickened as a story leaked that Buffett met with Justin Trudeau (on a tarmac).165 When the Canadian real estate bust begins in earnest, Buffett will have the machinery of HCG and the political capital to feed on the carcasses of the big-five Canadian banks. Pensions “This massive financial bubble is a ticking time bomb, and when it finally goes off, it is going to wipe out virtually every pension fund in the United States.” ~Michael Snyder, DollarCollapse.com blog The impending pension crisis is global and monumental with no obvious way out. The World Economic Forum estimates the pension gap—unfunded pension liabilities—at $70 trillion and headed for $250 trillion by 2050.166 Conservative but still conventional assumptions about prospective investment returns and spending patterns in old age suggest that retiring into the American dream in your mid 60s requires you bank 20–25 multiples of your annual salary (or a defined benefit plan that is the functional equivalent) to avoid the risk of running out of money. A friend—a corporate executive no less—retired with 10 multiples; he could be broke within a decade (much sooner if markets regress to historical means). Of course, you can defiantly declare you will work ’till you drop, but then there are those unexpected aneurysms, bypass surgeries, layoffs, and ailing spouses needing care. I’ve seen claims that more than 50 percent of retirees do not fully control their retirement age. “Companies are doing everything they can to get rid of pension plans, and they will succeed.” ~Ben Stein, political commentator The problem began as worker compensation became reliant on future promises—IOUs planted in pension plans—often assuming the future was far, far away. However, a small cadre of demographers in the ’70s smelled the risk of the boomer retirements and began swapping defined-benefit plans for defined-contribution plans.167 (A hybrid of the two traces back to 18th century Scottish clergy.168) The process was enabled by the corporate-friendly Tax Reform Act of ’86.169 Employees were unknowingly handed all the risk and became their own human resource specialists. Retirement risk depends on the source of your retirement funds. Federal employees are backstopped by the printing press, although defaults cannot be ruled out if you read the fine print.170 States and municipalities could get bailed out, but there are no guarantees. Defined-benefit corporate plans can be topped off by digging into cash flows provided that the cash flows and even the corporation exist. The depletion of corporate earnings to top off the deficits, however, will erode equity performance, which will wash back on all pension funds. The multitude of defined-contribution plans such as 401(k)s and IRAs managed by individuals are totally on their own and suffer from a profound lack of savings. Corporate and municipal defined-benefit plans assumed added risks by falling behind in pension contributions motivated by efforts to balance the books and, in the corporate world, create the illusion of profits. The moment organizations began reducing the requisite payments by applying flawed assumptions about prospective returns, pensions shifted to Ponzi finance. My uncanny ability to oversimplify anything is illustrated by the imitation semi-log plot in Figure 25. The red line reflects the assumed average compounded balance sheet from both contributions and market gains. The blue squiggle reflects the vicissitudes of the market wobbling above and below the projection. If the projections are too optimistic—the commonly reported 7–8 percent market returns certainly are—the slope is too high, and the plan will fall short. If the projected returns are reasonable but management stops contributing during good times—embezzling the returns above the norm to boost profits—the plan will fall below projection again. Of course, once the plan falls behind, nobody wants to dump precious capital into making up the difference when you can simply goose projected returns with new and improved assumptions. In a rational world, pensions would be overfunded during booms and underfunded during busts. Assuming we can agree that we are deep into both equity and bond bull markets and possibly near their ends, pensions should be bloated with excess reserves (near a maximum on the blue curve), and bean counters should keep their dirty little paws off those assets and keep contributing because we won’t stay there. Figure 25. Childish construct of pension assets. That’s a good segue to drill down into the contemporaneous details. Public pensions are more than 30 percent underfunded ($2 trillion).171 A buzzkiller at the Hoover Institution says that the government disclosures are wrong and puts the deficit at $3.8 trillion.172 Bloomberg says that “if honest math was being used . . . the real number would actually be closer to 6 trillion dollars.”173 What is honest math? Using prevailing treasury yields for starters. Bill Gross—the former Bond King—says that if we get only 4.0 percent total nominal return rather than the presumed 7.5 percent, pensions are $5 trillion underfunded.174 Assuming 100 million taxpayers, that’s $50,000 we all have to pony up. California’s CalPERS fund dropped its assumption to a 6.2 percent return—still seriously optimistic in my opinion—leaving a $170 billion shortfall.175 The Illinois retirement system is towing a liability of $208 billion with $78 billion in assets ($130 billion unfunded).176 Connecticut is heading for a “Greece-style debt crisis” with $6,500 in debt per capita (every man, woman, and child?).177 The capital, Hartford, is heading for bankruptcy.178 South Carolina’s government pension plan is $24 billion in the hole. Kentucky’s attempt to fill a gigantic hole in its pension fund (31 percent funded) was felled by politics.179 A detailed survey of municipal pension obligations shows funding ranging from 23 percent (Chicago) to 98 percent (Suffolk).180 My eyeball average says about 70 percent overall. Notice that despite being at the peak of an investment cycle, none are overfunded (Figure 26.) Large and quite unpopular 30 percent hikes in employee contributions are suggested. The alternative of taking on more municipal debt to top off pension funds is a common stop-gap measure of little merit long term; somebody still has to pay. Figure 26. State pension deficits. The 100 largest U.S. corporate defined-benefit plans have dropped to 85 percent funded from almost 110 percent in 2007. During the recent market cycle that burned bright on just fumes, the companies gained only 6 percent above the 80 percent funding at the end of 2008. Of the top 200 corporate pensions in the S&P, 186 are underfunded to the tune of $382 billion (Figure 27). General Electric, for example, is $31 billion in the hole while using $45 billion for share buybacks. Figure 27. Underfunding of 20 S&P pension funds. When are serious problems supposed to start, and what will they look like? Jim Bianco says “slowly and then suddenly.” Some would argue “now.” The Dallas Police and Firemen Pension Fund is experiencing a run on the bank.181 They are suing a real estate fund who slimed them out of more than $300 million182 and are said to be looking at $1 billion in “clawbacks” from those who got out early trying to avoid the pain.183 The Teamsters Central States and the United Mineworkers of America plans are failing.184 The New York Teamsters have spent their last penny of pension reserves.185 The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation has paid out nearly $6 billion in benefits to participants of failed pension plans (albeit at less than 50 cents on the dollar), increasing its deficit to $76 billion. CalPERS intends to cut payouts owing to low returns and inadequate contributions (during a boom, I remind you). “The middle 40% [of 50- to 64-year olds] earn $97,000 and have saved $121,000, while the top 10% make $251,000 and have $450,000 socked away.” ~Wall Street Journal Looks like those self-directed IRAs aren’t working out so well either. Two-thirds of Americans don’t contribute anything to retirement. Only 4 percent of those earning below $50,000 a year maxes out their 401(k)s at the current limits.186 They are so screwed, but I get it: they are struggling to pay their bills. However, only 32 percent of the $100,000+ crowd maxes out the contribution. When the top 10 percent of the younger boomers have two multiples of their annual salary stashed away, you’ve got a problem.186 If they retired today, how long would their money last? That’s not a trick question: two years according to my math. Half the boomers have no money set aside for retirement. A survey shows that a significant majority of boomers are finding their adult children to be a financial hardship.187 Indeed, the young punks aren’t doing well in all financial categories; retirement planning is no exception. Almost half of Gen Xers agreed with this statement: “I prefer not to think about or concern myself with retirement investing until I get closer to my retirement date.” Moody’s actuarial math concluded that a modest draw down would cause pension fund liabilities to soar owing to a depletion of reserves.188 There is a bill going through Congress to allow public pensions to borrow from the treasury; they are bracing for something.189 This is a tacit bailout being structured. The Fed cowers at the thought of a recession with good reason: Can the system endure 50% equity and bond corrections—regressions to the historical mean valuation? What happens when monumental claims to wealth—$200 trillion in unfunded liabilities—far exceed our wealth? Laurence Kotlikoff warned us; we are about to find out.190 Beware of any thinly veiled claim that the redivision of an existing pie will create more pie. My sense is that we are on the cusp of a phase change. Stresses are too large to ignore and are beginning to cause failures and welched promises. Runs on pension funds akin to runs on banks would be deadly: people would quit working to get their pensions. At this late stage in the cycle, you simply cannot make it up with higher returns. Enormous appreciation has been pulled forward; somebody is going to get hosed. It’s only fourth grade math. Bankruptcy laws exist to bring order to the division of limited assets. We got into this mess one flawed assumption at a time. On a final note, there is a move afoot to massively reduce contributions to sheltered retirement accounts. This seems precisely wrong. (I have routinely sheltered 25–30 percent of my gross income as a point of reference.) Congress is also pondering new contributions be forced into Roth-like accounts rather than regular IRAs. I have put a bat to the Roth IRA both in print191 and in a half-hour talk.192 Here is the bumper sticker version: Roth IRAs pull revenue forward, leaving future generations to fend for themselves; Fourth grade math shows that Roth and regular IRAs, if compounded at the same rate and taxed at the same rate, provide the same cash for retirement. Roth IRAs are taxed at the highest tax bracket—the marginal rate—whereas regular IRAs are taxed integrated over all brackets—the effective tax rate. If you read a comparison of Roth versus regular IRAs without reference to the “effective” versus “marginal” rate, the author is either ignorant or trying to scam you. Phrases like “it depends on your personal circumstances” are double-talk. This synopsis of a Harvard study has two fundamental errors: Can you find them? “If a worker saves $5,000 a year in a 401(k) for 40 years and earns 5% return a year, the final balance will be more than $600,000. If the 401(k) is a Roth, the full balance is available for retirement spending. If the 401(k) is a traditional one, taxes are due on the balance. Let’s say the person’s tax rate is 20% in retirement. That makes for a difference of $120,000 in spending power, which a life annuity will translate into about $700 a month in extra spending.” ~John Beshears, lead author of a Harvard study Inflation versus Deflation “Deflation does not destroy these resources physically. It merely diminishes their monetary value, which is why their present owners go bankrupt. Thus, deflation by and large boils down to a redistribution of productive assets from old owners to new owners. The net impact on production is likely to be zero.” ~Guido Hülsmann. Mises Institute “My own view is that we should be cautious about tightening policy further until we are confident inflation is on track to achieve our target.” ~Lael Brainard “Inflation is a tax and those least able to afford it generally suffer the most.” ~Esther George, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City “Barring major swings in value of the dollar, inflation is likely to move up to 2 percent over the next couple of years.” ~Janet Yellen, Federal Open Market Committee chair Barring major swings in the value of the dollar? What kind of circular reasoning is that? The Fed tells us inflation is too low relative to their arbitrary 2 percent target. I say they are lying—through their teeth—and I have company. John Williams of ShadowStats has been ringing the alarm for decades, currently putting inflation at 6 percent compared with official numbers of less than 2 percent (Figure 28).193 A study by the Devonshire Group concurs with Williams.194 The most notable support for the official consumer price index (CPI) inflation numbers comes from MIT’s Billion Prices Project (BPP).

23 декабря 2017, 01:19

TESCO, всё?

Основана в 1924 году По компании сильно «ударил» 2013 — 2014 год после которого она не смогла оправится: Подразделение Tesco в США подало заявку на банкротство А после этого старина Баффет забил гвоздь в крышку гроба: Berkshire Hathaway сократила долю в Tesco на $487 млн И произнёс траурную речь: «Я ошибся с Tesco. Это была моя большая ошибка», — сказал он CNBC. В 2014 Moody's downgrades Tesco's ratings to Baa2 В 2015 Moody's downgrades Tesco's ratings to Ba1 Акции компании с того момента упали практически в 7-мь раз, на квартальном графике идёт достижение НР МР (модели расширения) с пробитием ЛЦ (линии целей) НР : На месяцах идём к 3-й цели МР: По сценариям и протоформам Эксперта ТА есть ещё цели внизу: Ждём новостей о поглощении или инвестора и можно будет покупать. При подготовке топика использовались данные с сайта protoforma.pro

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21 декабря 2017, 01:36

A Year In Berkshire Hathaway's Financial Stocks

An eventful year in Buffett's favorite sector

19 декабря 2017, 23:45

Doug Kass' 15 Surprises For 2018: FANG Crackdown, Gold All-Time-Highs, Stocks Slump

Authored Doug Kass of Seabreeze Partners Management, "The missing step in the standard Keynesian theory [is] the explicit consideration of capitalist finance within a cyclical and speculative context . . . finance sets the pace for the economy. As recovery approaches full employment . . . soothsayers will proclaim that the business cycle has been banished [and] debts can be taken on . . . But in truth neither the boom, nor the debt deflation... and certainly not a recovery can go on forever. Each state nurtures forces that lead to its own destruction. "   --Hyman Minsky, John Maynard Keynes Contrary to the expectations of many (including myself), the uncertainty following the surprising Trump presidential election victory, which produced a number of possible outcomes (some of them adverse), was enthusiastically embraced by investors in 2017. After a year of historically low volatility and ever-rising stock prices, the bullish consensus was "in" and the contrary was "out" in 2017. But after the Trump election win in late 2016, a market on steroids was not a conclusion or forecast by any main stream Wall Street forecaster. There was no sell side strategist on Wall Street who expected equities would rise anywhere near the 20%-plus gains in the major indices recorded thus far in 2017, nor do I know any who predicted that the senior average would make 70 individual highs during the year. The biggest surprise in 2018 may be that extrapolation of the market uptrend doesn't work after many years of working, and that we will witness the emergence of multiple non-consensus developments, including a dramatic drop in the price of bitcoin (to under $2,000) and a devastating decline in many bitcoin collateral plays, a much higher oil price, a slowing (not expanding) rate of economic domestic growth as the tax bill "trickles up," not down, disappointing 2018 S&P earnings relative to consensus, a mean reversion higher in volatility and the bursting of the global short volatility bubble, which serves up a 20% drop in equities (aided by both weaker earnings results and lower valuations). And, of course, there are many more surprises in the fertile political arena with the incalculable Orange Swan at the helm in Washington, D.C., and in his role as the "Supreme Tweeter." As we enter the new year, the scent of "Group Stink" is thicker than ever as the uncertainties that nearly everyone saw as we entered 2017 have been replaced with acceptance and assuagement now. Indeed, it can be observed (or argued) that we end 2017 with a full-out Bull Market in Complacency in which the leading strategists, fooled last year, are extrapolating past investment market strength in the anticipation of another 7% or so advance in 2018. Warren Buffett once observed that a bull market "is like sex. It feels best just before it ends.'" While some of us in the ursine crowd debate whether the investment orgasm has already passed, in the extreme it finally may be Minsky's Moment and year after eight years of recovery and prosperity following The Great Recession. Here are my 15 Surprises for 2018, I hope you enjoy the read: Surprise #1: President Trump's Behavior Finally Does Matter A Trump relative is indicted and the president pushes the system to the limits and pardons him. The tax reform bill becomes the sole landmark piece of legislation of his presidency. Attempts by the administration to reform entitlement programs in 2018 fail miserably and prove to be the last meaningful presidential initiative over the next three years. The president's private lawyers, led by John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, meet with the Special Counsel in late December. Though they and the president expect to get the news that the investigation is coming to an end after a series of interviews with White House personnel has been completed, they are disappointed. The president angrily tweets for several days and soon thereafter fires Robert Mueller, setting off a constitutional crisis. National Economic Council Chairman Gary Cohn, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announce they will leave the administration by Jan. 31, 2018. Later in the year, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin resigns. In unprecedented fashion, the president decides not to replace the Secretary of State, saying that he, the president, already makes all the Cabinet official's decisions and sets policy/strategy.  With domestic economic growth slowing by mid-year, Trump retaliates against China in a major trade war, serving to exacerbate the economy's slowing rate of growth. Amid heightened tension between the U.S. and North Korea, the Winter Olympics are canceled because few want to go to South Korea after North Korea threatens to attack it during the games. Trump bombs North Korea, North Korea responds and does serious damage to South Korea, damaging the global supply chain and crippling global trade. The Pee Pee Tape is released. Trump turns on Russia and Russia turns on Trump. A major health issue sidelines the president for weeks during 2018. Vice President Mike Pence picks up much of Trump's responsibilities. President Trump disagrees with some of Pence's decision in a series of tweets that serves to be further disruptive to the administration and leads to more resignations of senior officials. President Trump becomes disengaged from Washington, D.C., and becomes the first part - time president in history spending the majority of his time in New York City, Bedminster, New Jersey, and Palm Beach, Florida. Trump is named Man of the Year by Time Magazine in late 2018, though he refuses to be interviewed and photographed for the periodical's cover story! Surprise #2: Politics is Upended in 2018. As the U.S. Electorate Pushes Left in Mid-Term Elections The tax cut for the rich is election manna for the Democrats. The U.S. economy falters next year, more due to monetary tightening, but everyone blames Trump and the ineffective tax reform initiatives put in place in late 2017 that do little to encourage capital expenditures and feather the bed of corporate executives. With a malfunctioning and disorganized administration, almost nothing gets done in Washington, D.C. The House falls to the Democrats in the November mid-term election, but the Senate remains barely (by one seat) in control of the Republicans. Establishment Republicans -- seeing an intermediate and longer-term threat because of large losses in voters who are minorities, females and those under age 35 -- panic and begin to reconstitute the party's leadership toward a more youthful profile and try to expand the party's tent in order to survive the reduced support seen for the Trump administration. House Speaker Paul Ryan, recognizing the need for party change, resigns. Surprise #3: The Tax Bill Fails to Buoy S&P Earnings Anywhere Near Expectations of 7% to 10% Incremental Growth Slowing global economic growth, rising inflation and interest rates (business debt now totals more than $13.5 trillion) and wage pressures (labor costs are $7 trillion) compromise corporate profit margins, offsetting nearly three-fourths of the benefit from a reduction in the corporate tax rate. For the first time in more than five years, valuations, as seen in price-earnings (P/E) multiples, also contract. Repatriation is a bust because many of the largest companies already have borrowed domestically against non-U.S. cash positions and, with manufacturing slack, there is little reason to expand physical plant and raise capital spending. Most of the benefit of the reduction in corporate tax rates falls into the pockets of company executives, causing a further backlash and move of voters to the left (see Surprise #2). Surprise #4: The Cryptocurrency Bubble Pops and Gold Makes New All-Time Highs By means of background and as discussed previously in my Diary, bitcoin is a cryptocurrency released as open source in 2009. Bitcoin is a bearer instrument that provides a peer-to-peer exchange, allowing users to exchange bitcoin anonymously based on a trusted blockchain public ledger that does not rely on a trusted third party.I have recently written several columns about bitcoin: Woodstock or Bitcoin? Boca Biff Does Bitcoin Why Bitcoin Is En Fuego and Where It Might Go From Here My Surprise is that though bitcoin becomes ever-more popular over the near term and rises to more than $21,000, the price plummets to under $2,000 during 2018. The publication of this surprise -- that bitcoin will collapse in price in 2018 -- results in growing public criticism on Twitter and elsewhere from bitcoin devotees over the next few weeks toward me. I am called a "no coiner," a term given to bitcoin disbelievers such as myself. "No coiners" are defined as people who missed out on the rise in the price of bitcoin and have become skeptical and bitter, and who state that it's only a matter of time before the price collapses because it's a collective delusion. In early 2018 the popularity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin crests. Bitcoin ATMs even become commonplace in Boca Raton, Florida, reminding us of the historic relationship between that town and past frauds and schemes. (Boca Raton has been the home of so many fraudulent schemes -- currency trading schemes, rare coin scams and the sale of timeshares for fictitious vacation homes. Former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Richard Breeden famously said that Boca Raton is "the only coastal town in Florida where there are more sharks on land than in the water.") My surprise is that bitcoin trades above my target of $21,119 by early January but crashes in 2018 to under $2,000 and falls toward and eventually below the cost of mining the cryptocurrency, which today is about $1,000 to $1,500. The initial pause and sizable break lower in bitcoin's price is when market participants begin to realize more fully that the supply of cryptocurrencies, in the aggregate, is unlimited with low entry barriers. The threat and realization of this risk is prompted by Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) , which introduce their own easy-to-use and faster cryptocurrency blockchains. (Note: Amazon already has received a patent for its own blockchain technology -- 8,719,131 -- see here and here.) JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) causes a stir after CEO Jamie Dimon's previously negative comments on bitcoin by introducing "JPMorgan E-cash," its own cryptocurrency. Soon thereafter, other banks follow suit. As well, several governments (including the U.S.) introduce their own government-based cryptocurrencies based on their desire to continue to control policy levers such as money supply and fiscal policy. The eventual demise for bitcoin commences in earnest when it is revealed in a New York Times expose that less than 10 entities, mostly residing in China and Japan, are found to have manipulated the price of bitcoins higher in Ponzi-scheme fashion over the last two years. The cryptocurrency bubble finally collapses in dramatic fashion and falls in value by 90% as a result of direct government intervention and a successful hacking where thieves penetrate the blockchain code and steal a large amount of coins. Several large, well-known hedge funds desperate for "alpha" are caught with their pants and portfolios down and with a large weighting in bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies; they lose more than 30% of their funds' assets and value and are forced to liquidate their cryptocurrency holdings and close their funds. Bitcoin will ultimately assume a permanent place in the Speculative Hall of Fame, along with tulips (1636-37), the dot.com bust (1999-2000), the housing bubble (2005-07) and the South Sea Bubble (1711-20), as traders and investors learn the lesson, once again, that an asset class founded on the notion that there is a greater fool who will be willing to buy that asset for more than the previous fool paid, almost always ends in disaster. The year 2018 will be one in which investors come to understand that blockchain technology -- a distributed database of records of transactions that are executed and shared among participating parties and are validated by a network of users, called "miners," who contribute computing power in exchange for the chance to garner coins using a shared database and distributed processing -- is real (each transaction is encrypted and can't be replicated or altered), but that bitcoin is a mirage and becomes, like many past schemes, a byword forPonzi-like nostalgia. Interest in gold, which has been sidelined for months amid the cryptocurrency frenzy, regains popularity, reverses direction from the lower left to the upper right and moves higher in price. In an abrupt and swift flight to alternative safety, gold makes new all-time highs and becomes the single best-performing asset class in 2018. Surprise #5: The S&P Index Roars Into the 2017 Close and Makes a 2018 High on Jan. 2, 2018 Optimism about the U.S. economy and 2018 S&P earnings result in an all-time high in the MSCI World Stock Index by the close of 2017. For the first time ever the index posts a total return in every single month in 2017, hitting a remarkable sequence of 14 months of positive returns. However, at the same time, the European markets mid-September stall continues and Europe begins to perform poorly both in an absolute and relative sense late in December, 2017. This geographic divergence initially is ignored but proves to be an important signpost of a January market top in the U.S. Despite reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, the benefit from the new tax bill is not anywhere near expected because actual corporate tax rates are significantly below the 35% statutory rate and already under 25%. Because median stock valuations rarely have been higher both on a GAAP basis and on a forward P/E and enterprise value to EBITDA (EV/EBITDA) basis, it turns out the late 2017 stock surge overshoots and more than discounts the benefit of the tax bill. Equities steadily decline in 2018. Dip buying is not rewarded, but shorting the rips is rewarded next year. Surprise #6: A Congressional Subcommittee Meeting Called by Sen. Dianne Feinstein Leads to a Regulatory Attack on Google and Facebook That Slows Their Expansion Plans and Market Share Gains U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein announces that her staff has been researching the possible adverse ramifications (real estate, employment, etc.) of Amazon's (AMZN) disruptive business strategy and Alphabet's (GOOGL) (aka Google's) dominance in search for nearly one year. After publishing her findings that the lower product prices delivered by Amazon to the consumer are materially offset by the disruptions along many industries and that Google's search pre-eminence is anti-competitive, she calls for a Senate investigation. For the first time since the 2016 election, the Democrats and Republicans finally agree on something -- the dominance of Amazon and Google must be reined in! The president's antipathy towards Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon and The Washington Post, intensifies in a series of tweets after hostile stories in The Washington Post follow Trump's pardon of a family member and Robert Mueller's firing. Amazon's share price halves as its ability to expand into different industries is halted by regulatory bodies and Alphabet' shares fall 30% as this existential threat intensifies. Surprise #7: Stagflation Emerges in the Last Half of 2018 and the Fed Tightens Four Times Though economic growth slows, wage growth begins to spike. When unemployment falls to 3.5% a labor shortage develops and unit labor costs rise by 4% by the end of 2018. Oil spikes to $80 a barrel as underinvestment meets geopolitics meets some kind of nature-driven problem in the oil supply chain. The Fed sees itself behind the curve and tightens four times. The 2s/10s curve inverts and the vision of a stagflation-driven recession becomes clearer. Meanwhile the Fed no longer is a liquidity provider. Netting out just Fed and European Central Bank (ECB) liquidity, January will see a net addition of $15 billion compared to $50 billion this past September thru December. By the second quarter it's just $5 billion per month and by the third quarter it goes negative. Investors fail to appreciate how chaotic this central bank unwind will be at the same time we have historic valuations. With everyone on the same side of the boat as retail and institutional investors become fully invested and the levered risk parity funds take on maximum risk in response to ever-lower volatility, the above yields a sudden market correction of more than 15% in a single week as a major levered player implodes. Said players call the unexpected spike in volatility a once in 10,000-year event (see Surprise #9)> Japan and Europe begin seeing the inflation that the Bank of Japan (BOJ) and ECB desperately want. Surprise #8: The 2020 Presidential Front Runners Are Mike Pence and Howard Schultz, but Many Shadows Remain With the tax bill again failing to "trickle down," the wealth and income gap widens and the electorate moves to the left. Starbucks (SBUX) founder Howard Schultz announces a Democratic presidential exploratory committee. Facebook's (FB) Marc Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban become Schultz's largest and most vocal supporters. Disney's (DIS) Bob Iger resigns after the Disney/Fox merger is rejected by the regulatory authorities. He, too, considers throwing his hat in the 2020 presidential contest but decides instead to run for a statewide office in California. Hillary Clinton leaves open the possibility of running for president in 2020. So does Bernie Sanders. Mitt Romney resurfaces as a force in the Republican Party and appears to begin preparation for another presidential run. Surprise #9: Volatility Spikes, Causing a Major Flash Crash "We seem to be living in the riskiest moment of our lives, and yet the stock market seems to be napping. I admit to not understanding it.' --Dr. Richard Thaler, Nobel Prize winner In 2018, the global volatility bubble bursts in a spectacular fashion, with stocks falling by 15% in one session. In an interview with Bloomberg a few weeks ago, University of Chicago economics professor Richard Thaler went on to say in response to the market's low volatility and continued investor optimism, "It's certainly puzzling... and it's puzzles that attract my attention." He added that he is nervous, and when investors get nervous "they are prone to being spooked." A World Without Risk? These observations and, specifically, the above quote are much like what I have been saying in my Diary -- namely, that never in history have there been so many potentially adverse political, geopolitical, economic and market outcomes. I am not alone in this view, as Macquarie's Viktor Shvetz recently wrote: "Investors are probably suffering extreme mental exhaustion. Historically low volatilities and risks, coinciding with high valuations, would make anyone nervous." According to the brokerage, the reason for this underlying dysphoria is that "investors understand that there is nothing normal in the current environment of unprecedented financialization and economic disruption. The deadweight of US$400 trillion 'cloud' of financial instruments (backing into assets that are either worthless or are declining in value) must be supported by ongoing financialization." In a world seemingly without risk and with spreads at all-time tights, Bank of America's David Woo writes in a similar vein that the market is more complacent than it was in the summer of 2007: "This implies that liquidity must continue to grow, volatilities must be controlled and neither demand nor supply can yield higher cost of capital. Thus, risks facing investors are that either CBs and/or China misjudge extent to which reflation is dependent on inflating asset values and China's fixed investment. If the market is underpricing the uncertainty with respect to the outlook of US monetary policy, we are even more concerned that it seems totally impervious to the risk of two potentially disruptive, if not dangerous, Games of Chicken likely to unfold in the summer and the beginning of the fall.... "We find it difficult to reconcile the record low volatility in financial markets at the moment with growing political risk in Washington and geopolitical risk in Asia. There are many reasons why we are living in a different world than the one we used to know and we would caution against relying too much on history for forecasting the likely outcome of these risks." I recently observed the volatility records being made recently: "Month to date, the annualized realized volatility of the S&P Index is 5.2% -- that's the lowest vol in an October in over 90 years. By means of perspective, the average October volatility since it has been recorded is 17.0%. It is interesting that the four other low volatility Octobers all occurred in the 1960s -- a period that preceded a sharp acceleration in inflation and rise in interest rates over the next decade." So, with volatility at record lows, the S&P 500 climbing to new heights and such consistency of dip buying and advances, why do I think the risks associated with a "flash crash" are multiplying? It is market positioning -- something I and others rarely consider in our market analysis. Today, speculators have breathtakingly large short positions in volatility futures, so that a relatively small spike lower in the averages, for any reason, of 3% or so could drive volatility much higher and demand (covering) of VIX futures. (The largest S&P selloff when the VIX was under 12 was 3.5% in February 2007). Let me explain how a short volatility unwind might develop and what its implications are. If Markets Spike Lower and the VIX Goes Bananas It is tautological that as volatility moves lower and stock prices move higher, risks rise. Several buy- and sell-side analysts have done a great deal of work as to what current positioning in the market may have if an exogenous event (from any Black or "Orange" Swan) produces a quick woosh lower in the averages and a spike in volatility. From Morgan Stanley's Chris Metli: "It's easy to become numb to the low volatility environment and the risks it presents. While trying to pick a trough in vol has been a fool's errand, focusing on the risks resulting from vol being so low is not. Low volatility has produced a regime where the risks are asymmetric and negatively convex, so being prepared for an unwind is critical. This is not a call that vol is almost to spike, but you need a plan if it does." The pain of an unwind in VIX futures could be exacerbated in the days following a woosh lower by the dominance of passive investors (quant strategies and ETFs). The deleveraging of highly leveraged risk-parity funds, in particular, represents a risk that may not be easily repaired or reversed after the initial market drop. Here is a further explanation from Morgan Stanley by way of Zero Hedge of the positioning risks that were in place in July. Since then, as volatility has declined and the S&P index continued to climb, the risks have grown greater with an even larger base of short volatility futures Francesco Filia of Fasanara Capital writes about the potential damage delivered by the possible covering of short volatility futures: "Market fragility must surely be a concern in the current investing environment. Yet, the psychological damage on investors and their behavioral reaction function to a sudden risk-off environment can never be as certain and direct as a wipe-out risk to a whole cluster of them. That is the nature of the risk that short-vol vehicles are facing today." And consider this important update on positioning from Morgan Stanley's Metli -- specifically, that more than 400,000 VIX futures would likely needed to be bought if the S&P Index falls by 5% in one day, nearly double what it was in July! Bottom Line Though large daily drops in the markets are rare, the factors that could contribute to a quick drop have increased. Investors have been concerned about the VIX for years, but the positioning has now moved to an extreme. Such positioning could accelerate a market drop as the chances of a flash crash have escalated. Hyman Minsky has warned about the risks of becoming numb to the risks associated with a period of stability amid rising asset prices; it is not only inevitably followed by instability, it inevitably creates it. In a world in which the chances of an external market shock are rising and at a time when volatility is cratering and stock prices never decline, the risks of a flash crash caused by the one-sided market positioning in VIX futures is increasing and are at a higher probability of occurring than at any time in history. Surprise #10: The Athens Stock Market Is the Best International Performer in 2018 Alexis Tsipras loses a snap election to Konstantinos Mitsotakis and the Athens stock market is the best performer in 2018. Surprise #11: Company Share Buybacks Drop Dramatically Contrary to the consensus, slowing domestic economic growth, rising interest rates, contracting corporate profit margins, disappointing S&P profit growth and political uncertainty weigh on buybacks, which plummet to a three-year low despite the tax bill's cash repatriation provision and a sharp drop in the corporate tax rate. Surprise #12: European Bonds Sour The European Central Bank (ECB) announces late in 2018 that Germany's Jens Weidmann will head the ECB in 2019 when Mario Draghi steps down as president. The European bond market gets hammered because that spells the end of NIRP (no interest rate policy) soon after the 2018 end to quantitative easing (QE). The global markets, both stocks and bonds, re-rate lower as an unprecedented loss in EU fixed income spins the markets lower. Surprise #13: Twitter Is Acquired Twitter (TWTR) becomes a more accessible access point to news, sports and video content in 2018. Twitter is acquired at $30 a share in a bidding war with two different technology companies and a media company. Surprise #14: Berkshire Hathaway Makes a $75 Billion Acquisition in Early 2018 Shortly after announcing the deal -- the eighth-largest in the last decade -- health concerns cause Warren Buffett to announce his replacement in 2018 and preclude him from attending Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.B) annual meeting in early May in Omaha, Nebraska. After a four-year hiatus, Warren Buffett invites me to grill Charlie Munger at the 2018 annual meeting. Surprise #15: Tesla Stalls Out Tesla (TSLA) isn't able to successfully manufacture the Model 3 at scale. The company loses access to the capital markets and becomes the next Valeant (VRX) . Elon Musk retires and leaves the planet, headed toward Mars with a harem of supermodels. FANG stocks fall in sympathy. And that, as they say, is that.  

19 декабря 2017, 15:23

The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Berkshire Hathaway, American Equity Investment Life Holding, Jones Lang LaSalle, Lazard and Evercore

The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Berkshire Hathaway, American Equity Investment Life Holding, Jones Lang LaSalle, Lazard and Evercore

30 сентября 2016, 17:09

Топ-10 самых инновационных университетов мира

Считается, что американская университетская система – это двигатель инноваций и прогресса, и это подтверждает рейтинг инновационных университетов мира от Reuters.

10 августа 2015, 11:37

Уоррен Баффетт наметил рекордную высоту // Berkshire Hathaway готовит крупнейшую сделку в аэрокосмической отрасли

Berkshire Hathaway близок к подписанию соглашения о покупке американской металлургической корпорации Precision Castparts, главными клиентами которой являются Airbus и Boeing. Сумма сделки оценивается в $30 млрд, что будет крупнейшим поглощением не только для холдинга Уоррена Баффетта, но и для всей аэрокосмической отрасли.

02 сентября 2014, 04:21

10 компаний контролирующих мировую пищевую индустрию

В сельском хозяйстве и пищевой промышленности занято более одного миллиарда человек в мире или треть всей рабочей силы.

05 марта 2014, 15:10

23 лучшие цитаты Уоррена Баффетта об инвестировании

Американский предприниматель Уоррен Баффетт один из наиболее известных инвесторов в мире. Согласно ежегодному рейтингу миллиардеров журнала Forbes личное состояние главы компании Berkshire Hathaway в 2013 г. составило $58,2 млрд

05 марта 2014, 15:10

23 лучшие цитаты Уоррена Баффетта об инвестировании

  Американский предприниматель Уоррен Баффетт – один из наиболее известных инвесторов в мире. Согласно ежегодному рейтингу миллиардеров журнала Forbes личное состояние главы компании Berkshire Hathaway в 2013 г. составило $58,2 млрд, что делает его четвертым богатейшим человеком на планете.  О том, как добиться успеха на финансовом рынке, Баффетт регулярно рассказывает в своих интервью, книгах и регулярных письмах акционерам Berkshire Hathaway.  Покупка акций – это не просто вопрос цены "Намного лучше купить отличную компанию за неплохую цену, чем неплохую компанию за отличную цену".   Вам не нужно быть гением, чтобы успешно инвестировать "Вы не должны быть ученым ракет. Инвестирование не игра, где человек с высоким уровнем коэффициента интеллектуальности побеждает того, у кого он ниже".   Хорошо знайте азы "Для успешного инвестирования не надо понимать, что такое эффективный рынок, современная портфельная теория, опционная цена или развивающиеся рынки. Возможно, будет лучше, если вы об этом ничего не знаете. С нашей точки зрения, те, кто хочет понимать инвестирование, должны хорошо изучить следующие вопросы: как оценивать бизнес и что такое рыночный курс".   Не покупайте акцию только потому, что ее все ненавидят "Совсем не следует покупать бизнес или акцию только потому, что акция или бизнес сегодня не популярны; стратегия игры против толпы также глупа, как и стратегия следования за толпой. Необходим аналитический подход. К сожалению, общее наблюдение Бертрана Рассела можно отнести и к финансам: "Большинство людей скорее умрут, чем начнут думать".   Плохие вещи не очень заметны в хорошие времена "Вы узнаете, кто плавает голым, лишь после отлива".   Всегда имейте деньги "Я поклялся – вам, рейтинговым агентствам и себе – всегда управлять Berkshire не просто с достаточной суммой наличных денег. Мы не хотим рассчитывать на доброту незнакомых людей, для того чтобы выполнять свои обязательства. Если выбирать, то я никогда не обменяю спокойный сон на возможность получить дополнительную прибыль".   Лучшее время для покупки компании тогда, когда она переживает трудные времена "Самое лучшее для нас случается тогда, когда отличная компания испытывает временные трудности. Мы хотим купить их, когда они на "хирургическом столе".   Акции всегда выходят из кризиса "В долгосрочной перспективе новости с фондового рынка рано или поздно будут положительными. В XX веке США пережили две мировых войны и другие ужасные и дорогие военные конфликты, депрессию, дюжину рецессий и финансовых паник, нефтяной шок, эпидемию гриппа и отставку опозоренного президента. Но Dow вырос с 66 до 11 497 пунктов".   Не поддавайтесь эйфории от неожиданно большой прибыли "Грань между инвестированием и спекуляцией очень трудно различить. Особенно она размыта, когда участники рынка получают большую прибыль. Ничто так не убивает бдительность, как большая сумма легких денег. Как правило, в этот период чувствительный человек начинает вести себя, как Золушка на королевском балу. Он знает, что праздник давно закончился, но продолжает спекулировать с компанией, которая, скорее всего, не принесет прибыль, и в итоге он теряет все".   Оценивайте с долгосрочной перспективой "Ваша цель как инвестора проста – покупать по разумной цене акции компании, которую легко понять и бизнес которой будет сохраниться через пять, десять или двадцать лет. Через какое-то время вы поймете, что таких компаний не так много. Так что когда вы встречаете подобную компанию, то покупайте их акции. Если вы не хотите владеть акцией ближайшие десять лет, то даже не покупаете ее".   Всегда – хороший период времени для владения акцией "Когда мы имеем часть отличного бизнеса с отличным менеджментом, всегда - наш любимый период для владения акцией".   Покупайте бизнес, которым может управлять даже идиот "Я стараюсь покупать акции бизнеса, который так хорош, что им может управлять идиот. Потому что рано или поздно так и происходит".   Вам не следует использовать каждую возможность "Фондовый рынок – это не игра, где необходимо отвечать на каждую подачу. Вы можете пропустить мяч и подождать подходящего момента для удара".   Игнорируйте политику и макроэкономику при выборе акций "Мы продолжим игнорировать политический и экономический прогнозы, которые отвлекают внимание инвесторов и бизнесменов. Тридцать лет назад никто не мог предсказать длительность Вьетнамской войны, ограничение зарплат и цен, два нефтяных потрясения, развал Советского Союза и однодневный обвал Dow на 508 пунктов. Но все эти события не изменили инвестиционные принципы Бенджамина Грэма".   Чем больше вы торгуете, тем ниже ваш результат "Исаак Ньютон открыл три закона динамики. Но существует четвертый закон, для инвесторов: прибыль снижается, по мере того как увеличивается движение".   Цена и стоимость не одно и то же "Очень давно Бенджамин Грэм научил меня, что "цена – это то, что ты платишь; стоимость – это то, что ты получаешь". Говорим ли мы о носках или акциях, я люблю покупать качественный товар, цены на который упали".   Слишком сложные инвестиции не проносят прибыли "По-настоящему стоящая инвестиционная идея может быть объяснена в одном предложении".   Из хорошего бизнесмена получается хороший инвестор "Я лучше как инвестор, потому что я бизнесмен, и лучше как бизнесмен, потому что я не инвестор".   Высокие налоги не являются помехой для сделки "Представьте, что инвестор, которому вы доверяете, предлагает вам присоединиться к отличной инвестиционной идее. Скажете ли вы ему, что ваше решение будет зависеть от размера налогов? Если вы боитесь налогов, то тогда лучше положить деньги на сберегательный счет под 1% годовых". Компании, которые не меняются, лучше всего подходят для инвестиций "Наш подход заключается в том, что мы получаем прибыль от отсутствия изменений. Так, например, мне очень нравится, что жевательная резинка Wrigley не меняется. Такой бизнес мне нравится".   Время покажет "Время – друг отличного бизнеса, но враг посредственности".   Это самая главная вещь "Правило №1: никогда не упускайте деньги. Правило №2: не забывайте правило №1".

05 марта 2014, 15:10

23 лучшие цитаты Уоррена Баффетта об инвестировании

  Американский предприниматель Уоррен Баффетт – один из наиболее известных инвесторов в мире. Согласно ежегодному рейтингу миллиардеров журнала Forbes личное состояние главы компании Berkshire Hathaway в 2013 г. составило $58,2 млрд, что делает его четвертым богатейшим человеком на планете.  О том, как добиться успеха на финансовом рынке, Баффетт регулярно рассказывает в своих интервью, книгах и регулярных письмах акционерам Berkshire Hathaway.  Покупка акций – это не просто вопрос цены "Намного лучше купить отличную компанию за неплохую цену, чем неплохую компанию за отличную цену".   Вам не нужно быть гением, чтобы успешно инвестировать "Вы не должны быть ученым ракет. Инвестирование не игра, где человек с высоким уровнем коэффициента интеллектуальности побеждает того, у кого он ниже".   Хорошо знайте азы "Для успешного инвестирования не надо понимать, что такое эффективный рынок, современная портфельная теория, опционная цена или развивающиеся рынки. Возможно, будет лучше, если вы об этом ничего не знаете. С нашей точки зрения, те, кто хочет понимать инвестирование, должны хорошо изучить следующие вопросы: как оценивать бизнес и что такое рыночный курс".   Не покупайте акцию только потому, что ее все ненавидят "Совсем не следует покупать бизнес или акцию только потому, что акция или бизнес сегодня не популярны; стратегия игры против толпы также глупа, как и стратегия следования за толпой. Необходим аналитический подход. К сожалению, общее наблюдение Бертрана Рассела можно отнести и к финансам: "Большинство людей скорее умрут, чем начнут думать".   Плохие вещи не очень заметны в хорошие времена "Вы узнаете, кто плавает голым, лишь после отлива".   Всегда имейте деньги "Я поклялся – вам, рейтинговым агентствам и себе – всегда управлять Berkshire не просто с достаточной суммой наличных денег. Мы не хотим рассчитывать на доброту незнакомых людей, для того чтобы выполнять свои обязательства. Если выбирать, то я никогда не обменяю спокойный сон на возможность получить дополнительную прибыль".   Лучшее время для покупки компании тогда, когда она переживает трудные времена "Самое лучшее для нас случается тогда, когда отличная компания испытывает временные трудности. Мы хотим купить их, когда они на "хирургическом столе".   Акции всегда выходят из кризиса "В долгосрочной перспективе новости с фондового рынка рано или поздно будут положительными. В XX веке США пережили две мировых войны и другие ужасные и дорогие военные конфликты, депрессию, дюжину рецессий и финансовых паник, нефтяной шок, эпидемию гриппа и отставку опозоренного президента. Но Dow вырос с 66 до 11 497 пунктов".   Не поддавайтесь эйфории от неожиданно большой прибыли "Грань между инвестированием и спекуляцией очень трудно различить. Особенно она размыта, когда участники рынка получают большую прибыль. Ничто так не убивает бдительность, как большая сумма легких денег. Как правило, в этот период чувствительный человек начинает вести себя, как Золушка на королевском балу. Он знает, что праздник давно закончился, но продолжает спекулировать с компанией, которая, скорее всего, не принесет прибыль, и в итоге он теряет все".   Оценивайте с долгосрочной перспективой "Ваша цель как инвестора проста – покупать по разумной цене акции компании, которую легко понять и бизнес которой будет сохраниться через пять, десять или двадцать лет. Через какое-то время вы поймете, что таких компаний не так много. Так что когда вы встречаете подобную компанию, то покупайте их акции. Если вы не хотите владеть акцией ближайшие десять лет, то даже не покупаете ее".   Всегда – хороший период времени для владения акцией "Когда мы имеем часть отличного бизнеса с отличным менеджментом, всегда - наш любимый период для владения акцией".   Покупайте бизнес, которым может управлять даже идиот "Я стараюсь покупать акции бизнеса, который так хорош, что им может управлять идиот. Потому что рано или поздно так и происходит".   Вам не следует использовать каждую возможность "Фондовый рынок – это не игра, где необходимо отвечать на каждую подачу. Вы можете пропустить мяч и подождать подходящего момента для удара".   Игнорируйте политику и макроэкономику при выборе акций "Мы продолжим игнорировать политический и экономический прогнозы, которые отвлекают внимание инвесторов и бизнесменов. Тридцать лет назад никто не мог предсказать длительность Вьетнамской войны, ограничение зарплат и цен, два нефтяных потрясения, развал Советского Союза и однодневный обвал Dow на 508 пунктов. Но все эти события не изменили инвестиционные принципы Бенджамина Грэма".   Чем больше вы торгуете, тем ниже ваш результат "Исаак Ньютон открыл три закона динамики. Но существует четвертый закон, для инвесторов: прибыль снижается, по мере того как увеличивается движение".   Цена и стоимость не одно и то же "Очень давно Бенджамин Грэм научил меня, что "цена – это то, что ты платишь; стоимость – это то, что ты получаешь". Говорим ли мы о носках или акциях, я люблю покупать качественный товар, цены на который упали".   Слишком сложные инвестиции не проносят прибыли "По-настоящему стоящая инвестиционная идея может быть объяснена в одном предложении".   Из хорошего бизнесмена получается хороший инвестор "Я лучше как инвестор, потому что я бизнесмен, и лучше как бизнесмен, потому что я не инвестор".   Высокие налоги не являются помехой для сделки "Представьте, что инвестор, которому вы доверяете, предлагает вам присоединиться к отличной инвестиционной идее. Скажете ли вы ему, что ваше решение будет зависеть от размера налогов? Если вы боитесь налогов, то тогда лучше положить деньги на сберегательный счет под 1% годовых". Компании, которые не меняются, лучше всего подходят для инвестиций "Наш подход заключается в том, что мы получаем прибыль от отсутствия изменений. Так, например, мне очень нравится, что жевательная резинка Wrigley не меняется. Такой бизнес мне нравится".   Время покажет "Время – друг отличного бизнеса, но враг посредственности".   Это самая главная вещь "Правило №1: никогда не упускайте деньги. Правило №2: не забывайте правило №1".

Выбор редакции
15 ноября 2013, 14:28

США: компания Berkshire Hathaway приобрела 40,1 млн акций Exxon Mobil

Согласно данным регулятивных органов США на 30 сентября текущего года, американская инвестиционная компания Berkshire Hathaway приобрела 40,1 млн акций Exxon Mobil на общую сумму $3,7 млрд. Стоит отметить, что компания Уоррена Баффета также сократила долю в ConocoPhillips на 44% до 13,5 млн акций.

04 сентября 2012, 15:38

Уоррен Баффет: лучшие цитаты Оракула из Омахи

Уоррена Баффета по праву называют одним из величайших инвесторов современности, и в свои 82 года он продолжает активно работать, не теряя ни минуты в поисках новых путей вложения средств. Баффета часто называют Оракулом из Омахи - настолько точными оказываются его экономические прогнозы. Что касается состояния главы инвестиционного гиганта Berkshire Hathaway, то Баффет остается одним из богатейших людей планеты. Каждый раз, когда Баффет начинает говорить на какую-либо тему, его выступления разбиваются на цитаты, которыми уже в следующий час пестрят заголовки СМИ. Правда, больше всего в этом смысле везет акционерам Berkshire Hathaway: каждый из них регулярно получает отчеты от Баффета, которые содержат в себе массу полезных советов и высказываний. Самые известные цитаты Уоррена Баффета: "Правило первое: никогда не теряй деньги. Правило второе: не забывай правило первое". "Я лучший инвестор, потому что я бизнесмен, и я лучший бизнесмен, потому что я инвестор". "Инвесторам нужно помнить, что возбуждение и расходы - их главные враги. И если они будут прилагать усердие к работе с ценными бумагами, то следует быть настороже, пока другими движет жадность, а также быть жадным, пока остальные стоят настороже". "Есть граница, отделяющая инвестирование от спекуляции. Эта линия никогда не была яркой и четкой, а теперь и вовсе становится расплывчатой, когда большая часть участников рынка ощутили свои триумфы. Ничто так не притупляет рациональность, как огромное количество легких денег". "Куда лучше купить замечательную компанию по честной цене, чем честную компанию по замечательной цене". "На рынке акций вам не нужно вкладываться во все подряд. Нужно дожидаться подачи именно вам. Проблема заключается в том, что ваши фанаты все время кричат: "Бей!" "Уолл-стрит - это единственное место, где люди разъезжают на Rolls-Royce в надежде выбить советы от тех, кто ездит на метро". "Давным-давно Бенджамин Грэхем научил меня, что цена - это то, что мы платим, а стоимость - это то, что получаем. Не имеет значения, о чем идет речь - акциях или не акциях. Люблю покупать активы, когда они недооценены". "Совсем необязательно быть мегаученым. Инвестирование - это не та игра, где ребята с IQ на уровне 160 побеждают тех, у кого он 130". "Давным-давно Исаак Ньютон подарил нам три закона движения, ставшие творением гения. Однако дары сэра Исаака не распространяются на инвестиции, ведь, хотя и можно рассчитать движение звезд, человеческое безумие измерить не удастся. В общем, чем большее движение наблюдается на рынке, тем меньше оказываются возвраты на инвестиции". "В конце концов, когда волна отступает, становится видно, кто плавает голым". "Когда у нас в руках оказывается доля особенного бизнеса с особенным руководством, то самый привлекательный срок хранения актива - это вечность". "Наш подход к ведению бизнеса больше обеспечивает доходы за счет нехватки перемен, чем за счет самих перемен. Лично мне, например, нравится жевательная резинка Wrigley. Не думаю, что бизнес Wrigley может как-то пострадать от того же интернета". "Время - это друг отличного бизнеса и враг для посредственного". "Для нас лучше всего, когда великая компания сталкивается с временными трудностями. Тогда мы стремимся купить такой бизнес". "Я стремлюсь покупать акции в таком бизнесе, который настолько прекрасен, что им мог бы управлять даже идиот. Потому что рано или поздно, оно так и будет". "В долгосрочном периоде фондовый рынок будет расти. Ведь в XX веке Соединенные Штаты прошли через две мировые войны, множество других затратных военных конфликтов, Великую депрессию, десяток кризисов и финансовой паники, шоки нефтяного рынка, эпидемию гриппа и отставку опального президента. А ведь индекс Dow Jones вырос с 66 п. 11,497 п.".