“Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”
– Author Unknown
The words above were etched on a wooden plaque that hung in my family’s kitchen. Mom was sending us a message and she’d point us to those words anytime we were quick to push aside an old friend for a new one. As I listened to a number of the presentations at last month’s Strategic Investment Conference, silver and gold kept coming up. As did the industrial metal, copper. Make new friends but keep the old… today’s On My Radar continues the sharing of my high level conference notes with you. I walked away with some actionable ideas. Gold and silver were high on the list. The new friend is copper.
But before we dive in, the Fed raised rates this week and bond yields sank lower. Many expected the opposite reaction. If you missed last summer’s mortgage refi opportunity, I believe you are going to get another chance. Interest rates appear to be heading back down towards their July 2016 lows.
And what are the implications of Fed policy on the U.S. stock market? Ned Davis Research’s Ed Clissold pointed out in a tweet late yesterday, “Today’s #FOMC decision is a reminder that even slow tightening cycles eventually impact the stock market. #fed @NDR_Research.”
The chart Ed shared in his tweet follows. Here is how to read it:
- NDR compares market gains during slow tightening cycles (black line in chart) vs. fast tightening cycles (red line in chart) vs. non tightening cycles (green line in chart), and more.
- It looks at what happened historically to the stock market in periods when the Fed was quickly raising rates vs. slowly raising rates – like the current cycle.
- The purple line is the current Fed tightening cycle that began in December 2015.
- Note how NDR breaks out % Gain During 1st Year and % Gain During 2nd Year. We now find ourselves in year 2. Purple line (right-hand side of chart).
- Year 1 gains averaged 10.8%
- Year 2 gains averaged -1.8%
- The green line shows non-cycles… markets do better when the Fed is lowering (easing), not raising (tightening), interest rates. “Don’t fight the Fed” as they say.
Over the last several weeks, I shared with you my notes from John Mauldin’s outstanding Strategic Investment Conference. We’ve reviewed Dr. Lacy Hunt’s presentation, as well as Mark Yusko’s presentation. Sobering.
When looking at the U.S. only, both believe (as do I) that the current economic cycle is aged, the market remains extremely overvalued and forward return opportunity is low.
- Lacy said, “Your starting point conditions matter.” They are ultra-low interest rates, a $4.5 billion Fed balance sheet and 372% debt-to-GDP. “It means that a small degree of monetary restraint (Fed raising interest rates and exiting Quantitative Easing (QE)) has a very quick impact on economic activity.” We have now seen four “small” rate increases by the Fed.
- He said, “Without exception, every single recession since 1945 was preceded by a monetary tightening cycle before the recession.”
- Mark Yusko said, “Seven times a new president has come in after an eight-year term and seven times we’ve had a recession. This eighth time is not going to be the first.” He also shared the following chart, among many others, pointing out that:
- When tax revenues are negative, it means people are doing less well.
- When people are doing less well, you can’t just paper over it.
- Tax revenues are turning negative. It means we have a problem.
Depressing… right? Yes, if you are solely focused on U.S. stocks. But don’t get depressed. There is much opportunity.
Shortly after the conference, I met with a Philadelphia business owner. An avid reader of Mauldin’s popular Thoughts from the Frontline and an attendee of the recent and many past SICs. I asked him what he got out of the conference. He said he once again walked away with a number of actionable investment ideas and added, “What I gain in returns has far surpassed the price of admission.” Mauldin should hire him as a spokesperson.
This week, I share with you once again my notes from the conference. I took so many notes, so I’m trying my best to spread the delivery to you out over a number of weeks. Today, let’s take a look at the Energy panel. I particularly liked what Ross Beaty had to say. The silver company he created and on whose board he still sits, Pan American Silver, is worth $2.8 billion. The value of Beaty’s mining holdings: $450 million (Forbes, 2010). Beaty gave up the mining game and turned to geothermal power. Google him.
You’ll also find select notes from Louis-Vincent Gave’s excellent presentation. Gold, silver and copper were high on Ross Beaty’s list. He’s making new friends with green energy and keeping the old. To which, I find myself in agreement.
So dig in, but as you do be mindful that past performance cannot guarantee or indicate future results and investing involves risk. Further, what I share is by no means a recommendation for you to buy or sell any security. Talk with your advisor regarding suitability, needs, goals, time horizon and proper portfolio sizing, etc. And please feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions.
Grab that coffee and find that favorite chair. Click on the orange link below. And have a great weekend!
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Included in this week’s On My Radar:
- Investment Ideas – Energy, Metals, Government Bonds and EM
- Concluding Thoughts on Investing
- Trade Signals — NDR CMG U.S. Large Cap Long/Flat Index Signals Reduction in Exposure from 100% to 80% Exposure
- Personal Note
Energy Panel – Ross Beaty and Marin Katusa, Moderated by Grant Williams
Ross is Chairman of Pan American Silver Corp. He is a geologist and resource entrepreneur and an internationally recognized leader in both non-renewable and renewable resource development.
Marin is Founder, CEO of Katusa Research. He is an author and renowned investment strategist in the resource sector. Previously, he was the chief energy investment strategist at Casey Research.
My notes presented in bullet point format:
- We are living in as profound an energy revolution as the switch from wood to coal and coal to oil…
- Solar is here, it is cost competitive, it is one-tenth of the cost it was 10 years ago.
- We’ve had a revolution in the transmission of energy and in things like better refrigerators, better light bulbs.
- Coal and uranium (think nuclear fuel) driven power are dinosaur products. Uranium, it is extremely expensive to produce and there is lots of it around. The main use is in producing electricity. Solar will take over. Bearish on uranium.
- Bullish on copper. It is an electricity metal. Copper is used in new renewable energy, pumps, cars, etc. It is a winning metal. It is going to go up.
- Silver is a winning metal… its biggest use was in photography. That’s gone. The biggest use today is in digital products, every computer, cell phone, and new use in photo-plutonic energy storage cells.
- He sees no investment advantage in most commodities… bearish on iron ore and coal.
- Need a game changer to get excited about metals. New uses. In most metals, deflation is a reality but there are spots. Spots are where people are using it in their everyday lives…copper and silver.
- Renewable energy – Solar will take over. It is so much cheaper.
- Bearish on uranium
- Believes all commodities, in general, are going to get cheaper.
- Grant Williams asked Marin: Are there any commodities you think are right? Marin answered, “We are in a good spot with green energy.”
- Fracking is real. The science is incredible. You can do 10 times more in the shale sector for less cost. 10 years ago people thought it would be science fiction. We are doing four times that now today. Saudi Arabia is starting, China is starting…
- Re-fracking is happening now… pinpoint fracturing with immediate data feedback.
- Drill bits are getting 1,500 meters vs. 200. Time to frack is now much faster.
- It is only just getting started.
SB here – I know that fracking is a controversial subject. But it is with us. I have personal concerns as to the geological impact on the planet (to which I am not an expert) but I am focused on what this means to the price of oil. What are the geopolitical impacts to Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and the oil-dependent countries?
- This will affect the price for a very long time. Because of the amazing advancements in solar, in wind turbines…
SB again – I thought this next point made by Marin was spot on.
- People think you need government incentives for alternative energy to survive. Maybe true 10 years ago but it is not true today.
Marin was asked – where do you make money in this?
- Where do you go for multi-generation assets… it’s with the big energy companies. (He didn’t give names.)
Thoughts on the lithium market – bearish on price but bullish on use in battery and energy storage:
- Ross: Lithium is an extremely good metal and it is very plentiful – it exists in all countries in the world… it is becoming the energy storage for batteries.
- It is the Holy Grail in energy storage.
- There is a lithium boom… Ross hasn’t got into the game because there is so much new supply to the market.
- What’s really going on with lithium is the large storage potential. (SB here – think solar roof shingles that power and charge your house during the day, store the excess and carry your home through the night.)
- While Ross sees a very big demand, there is just an unlimited amount of supply. So he is not invested in lithium as a metal.
Comments on nuclear energy and uranium:
- Ross: There are a huge number of uranium-fueled nuclear plants coming on line that will need the metal. The big growth in reactors is in China. They are building more wind farms there than everywhere else in the world… Building more reactors in more places than anywhere else in the world.
- But counter to this is that many reactors in the world are coming off line. Doesn’t see bullish case for net aggregate demand for uranium.
- Marin thinks at $40 per barrel oil you can make a lot of money.
- Ross immediately said, “The problem is you have demand destruction and over supply (fracking revolution). This is a totally new dynamic.”
- Ross: Most of the world gets the reality that the burning of fossil fuels has caused a serious problem to our atmosphere. Some disagree but most people agree that it does. There is global desire to reduce CO2 in our atmosphere.
- Ross: Less coal use, less oil use will affect the price. Oil is going lower.
Gold, Silver and Copper
- Ross is very bullish on gold. As is Marin.
- Ross: I’m a geologist in the business since the early 70s. I’ve watched as cycles have come and go and gold is for real and it is my largest holding.
- Ross: I own a silver company. If you like global growth, you have to like silver because it is an industrial metal.
- Ross: I like copper ($2.50 per ounce today)… it’s an industrial use…
- Ross is not super bullish on most metals but likes the above…
More on Gold (Ross)
- Ross likes the supply side of gold. Demand side is 100% driven by the investment side. People want to buy it – see it like money. Like a currency.
- Central banks are printing everywhere… $180 billion is invested in gold vs. $200 trillion of total invested assets… a little movement of a tiny amount of capital to invest in gold will have a major impact on its price.
- After five years of a down cycle, you usually get four to five years of an up cycle. We are in the third inning of the new up cycle. Sees gold above $1,800 in next few years and if it does, it will move above $2,000.
- Marin: We have to crack the code on storage. The electricity conductivity in colder climates is not as efficient as it is in warmer climates… so the transmission to storage is more challenging in cooler climates.
- Ross: On the current state of storage: There is no solution yet in creating a really large utility scale product. There are tens of thousands of engineers working on this problem. To make it main stream use, you have to have a means to store the intermittent power.
- Ross is not sure of the technology that will bundle the storage but pretty sure the metal used for the storage will be lithium.
- Marin – on water energy. Tough to get over all the regulations. Governments will intervene. If it is tough for mines in remote areas to get permits, going to be extremely difficult for water energy companies to get permits to make water a viable energy. (SB here – it is in the movement of water (tides, currents) that can power energy.)
- Ross: Elon Musk on gigafactories. He has so much respect for Elon. Such a visionary… I just think he’s an amazing person and what he is doing is totally revolutionary. It probably will take longer and require more money; but he is going to get there. We’ll have energy shingles on our roofs. They’ll store to batteries when we are not using energy and pull from it when we need to use it.
- Marin: Elon made Tesla cool. Guys like Bill Gates are doing work on this storage. Elon is part of the solution but not the entire solution.
Grant asked the question: What are we talking about and when? Referencing green energy-based power.
- Ross: Best guess is 15 years. Who knows? I would never have imagined solar was 10 times cheaper today than 10 years ago. It’s going to happen but I’m not sure when – I can’t predict that future.
- Ross: The winners are going to be the ones who invest in the winning technologies. He thinks thermal coal is a lousy business. Winners: maybe lithium metals. He’d avoid most oil companies. He believes the Europeans (energy companies) are on the right side of this thinking. S. oil companies are stuck in the old oil mindset.
- Ross mentioned Russia has real structure problems because its economy is dependent on oil. They are not using their petro dollars on modernizing; however, Saudi Arabia is modernizing.
That concludes the Energy notes. Gold, silver, copper and green energy are On My Radar.
I’m personally excited for where we are going with solar and battery storage. I mentioned to my wife, Susan, this morning that I believe within five years we’ll have solar roof tiles and a battery storage box outside of the house. Paris Climate Accord or not, we are moving towards a low carbon world. That’s great news in my book!
Louis-Vincent Gave, Co-Founder, CEO, Gavekal Research
Structure a Globally Diversified Portfolio
- His father would say that during his career, you only had to get a few things right and you would outperform for many years to come.
- In the early 1980s, that was to underweight oil
- In the early 1990s, it was to underweight Japan
- In the early 2000s, it was to underweight tech
- Except as you’ll see in this next chart, investors were of a different mindset
Louis noted how popular magazines have a good track record of calling market tops or bottoms. In March 1999, there was a glut of oil. The price of oil was $10 per barrel. At bottom, however, the magazine cover suggested there was just too much supply… meaning prices will move lower. The opposite happened.
Further to his point, the right side of the above says the world’s most valuable resource is “Google.” Is this a top?
I’m going to try to give you the speed version of his presentation. He hit on a number of themes. GMO survey asset class forecast chart says expect negative returns in the U.S. and favors Emerging Markets, as does he.
- If you break out the world, do you want to go where the market is a more expensive market and the Fed is tightening or where the market is the less expensive and the central banks are lowering rates and providing more liquidity?
On the dollar:
- You keep seeing lower highs on the U.S. dollar and lower lows – it is range trading while the Fed raises rates. If you think the U.S. dollar has peaked, then deploying capital abroad is smart as you also gain the tailwind of rising currencies vs. a declining dollar.
- Underperformance of energy and commodities in general is still not done. Bearish on oil and most commodities. (SB – that is in line with Ross’s thinking shared above.)
- Saudi Arabia: between a rock and a hard place. They are a large welfare state and currently funding three wars: Yemen, Syria and Iraq. They also fund some “client states” such as Egypt and the lifestyles of more than 3,000 princes.
- The only way for Saudi Arabia to get to break even is if oil gets back to $100 per barrel.
- To fund this all, they are trying to sell the crown jewel, namely, Saudi Aramco, at a punchy valuation of U.S. $2 trillion.
- They are trying to do all they can to keep the price of oil around $50. WTI Crude Oil is at $44.46 per barrel today.
- If you are on the other side of this, Russia and Iran, the last thing you want to see happen is Saudi Arabia’s IPO. If you are Russia and Iran you want to see oil go down… expect them to increase supply. Trying to drive down the price of oil to further squeeze Saudi Arabia.
Here is a current chart on oil:
His conclusion on oil:
- Another downturn in the price of oil is likely.
- He believes most U.S. oil producers are in relatively ok shape but, at $30 oil, they are not… leading to an underperformance of the energy stocks and the U.S. equity market in general.
- He sees oil stuck in the $30 to $50 range. And heading to the lower end of that range near term since Saudi Arabia is “on the ropes.”
- Normally you would think this would impact EMs, but Louis feels EMs have mostly have a solid foreign currency reserve buffer. And their markets are dirt cheap.
- He said they have adjusted their dependence on foreign supplies.
- He likes EM: Following their currency adjustments lower, following their dependence on imports… after six years of underperformance, he believes Emerging Markets are set up for a structural upturn.
- The big macro development story is the rise of EMs.
- The EM rebound reflects not only the weaker U.S. dollar but an EPS growth reality.
- He believes a big upside Earnings Per Share surprise is coming from EM.
Energy funded debt:
- A lot of capital was invested in energy between 2005 and 2015; whether in the form of debt, private equity, bank loans, etc.
- So much so that, when oil was plummeting in early 2016, the correlation between bank share performance and the oil price moved to 1:1.
- The fears of energy company bankruptcies in turn triggered fears of banks’ derivative exposure.
SB here – I’ve been a High Yield guy most of my life. The next recession is going to create an outstanding opportunity for the HY market… after the wave of defaults. I’ll be communicating this to you frequently over the next year. Stay tuned… I’ve seen three outstanding buying opportunities in my 25 years of trend trading HY. Another is coming. Remain patient.
- A year ago everyone told you China would be imploding. The big surprise of 2016, is that China is experiencing a massive reacceleration in growth.
- The service sector remained stable. Growth will not implode as the “acceleration phenomenon” kicks in.
- Online shopping is a big growth driver. The boom in online shopping is the most significant new growth story to emerge. By 3Q16, nearly one-third of the growth in total retail sales came from online. E-commerce in China now has both enormous scale and still quite fast growth rates.
- China is in the early stages of a consumer debt leveraging up cycle… this as average income rises 25%. That’s very bullish.
- India has the same kind of amazing numbers (as China but absent the debt)… the underlying reform makes the place increasingly exciting.
- Modi, first part of reform was forcing Indians into the banking system. Think about what this will mean to lending.
- 250 million people are joining the banking system… cash was 85% of the capital in the system.
- When you do something so disruptive to your economy. Market declines… but three months later the Indian markets are higher. That says something.
- Banks now have 12 months to sell bad loans off books.
- India has started a structural bull market… buy India (and he likes the banking sector too).
- The BoJ will most likely be the very last central bank in the world to tighten. Instead, the BoJ is more likely to be the easiest central bank around for quite some time. At the same time, Prime Minister Abe seems little inclined to reduce government spending. Far from it! Instead, Abe is trying to change the constitution to dramatically increase defense spending.
- With this in mind, the path of least resistance is likely lower for the yen from here on out.
- As it turns out, the correlation between the yen (lower) and Japanese equities (higher) has been strong in recent years. And as long as this correlation holds, it is hard to be too bearish on Japanese equities.
- Beyond defense stocks, it obviously makes sense to buy yen sensitive assets in the sectors where Japan has a clear comparative advantage: robotics, aerospace, inbound tourism (a growing destination for Chinese tourists), machinery and other industrials.
- Japan has a clear edge in robotics
- It’s been a dead zone for capital for the last decade or two.
- However, recent economic tailwinds continue to favor Europe over the U.S.
- Last year the Eurozone grew faster than the U.S.
- Construction has been a big boost to the economy.
- Like any economy, if your real estate is expanding, it helps many things. Creates jobs, strengthens banks books… helps many things.
- He is bullish on Europe and said, after 10 years of massive underperformance, and a triple bottom (a bottoming technical pattern on their stock market).
- He’d be buying Europe on any pull back.
He believes this has legs: Politically the German-French axis is strengthened.
- Sees this relationship on a more even keel.
- Most people investing in Germany over peripherals.
- You want to be invested in Spain, France, and perhaps even Italy if you are very courageous, etc.
- These are the countries where most of the growth will come from.
- However, Germany is a case of tails you lose and heads you don’t do very well.
If the dollar overall is no longer in a bull market, as he believes, you want to focus on EM and European domestic consumption (utilities, financials)
SB here – Louis’s presentation was titled “Structuring a Global Portfolio.” He concluded with a few others ideas and suggested that, “There ways to make money in the market.”
- Run a momentum trade, run a mean reversion trade and yield plays.
Those are areas near and dear to my business. I liked seeing that mentioned.
Finally, Louis’s presentation was followed by a Q&A lead by John Mauldin. One of the things I like most about the conference structure is the stress testing that happens when smart people challenge other smart people.
- John asked about China: Louis said, “600-700 million people in China have been pulled out of outright poverty. A generation ago, you had people starving in China. Now more of an obesity problem. It is very hard to define China as anything other than the biggest success story of the last 20 years.”
- John asked about Brazil. Louis answered, “Brazil is hard to get excited about due to my negative view on commodities. Valuations are not cheap enough to get paid on to overcome political uncertainty and commodities issues.”
- Chances of recession in Europe? Louis said, “slim chance.”
- Chances of recession in US? Louis said, “The weakest link at this point is the U.S. More store closures in last 12 months than 2008-09 crisis. This goes beyond Amazon effect. It’s the jumping in the Obamacare cost increases, demographics, increases in credit card delinquencies, increase in auto loan delinquencies… the consumer is stretched.”
- Louis added that he is more worried about the U.S. than China.
- John asked, “If there is a U.S. recession, does everyone else catch a cold?” Answer: “Depends on the depth of U.S. recession… if mild, perhaps the rest of the world can be ok.”
- On diversification – Louis noted that, “In 2002, the Korean market was up 15%, the Indian market up 12%.” The point he was making is that there is opportunity. Look globally.
That concludes the conference notes I wanted to share with you this week. Next week we’ll look at the Grant Williams and Raoul Pal presentations and share their best ideas. That session concluded with another Q&A moderated by John Mauldin. John asked Raoul for his best ideas. Idea number one was to go long U.S. Government Treasury bonds. Number two was to “short oil.”
That Treasury bond trade has had a great week. The Fed raised short-term rates and the long end of the curve says rates decline. A flatting yield curve is concerning as it is one of the best recession indicators we have. Stay tuned.
By the way, you can access the slide decks and the audio files for all the presentations, for a cost, by clicking here. Please know I don’t get compensated in any way.
Trade Signals — NDR CMG U.S. Large Cap Long/Flat Index Signals Reduction in Exposure from 100% to 80% Exposure
S&P 500 Index — 2,435 (6-14-2017)
Notable this week: Most notable this week is the partial sell signal in the NDR CMG U.S. Large Cap Long/Flat Index. It moved from 100% S&P 500 Index exposure to 80% S&P 500 Index exposure (with the 20% balance in T-Bills) on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.
80% exposure is bullish yet there is reason to take note. The Index is signaling weakening market momentum (trend) and market breadth. As for bonds, the Zweig Bond Model remains in a buy signal, our High Yield trend model is bullish and our Tactical Fixed Income Strategy remains invested in EM and muni bonds.
The short-term gold trend indicator remains in a buy signal, suggesting some portfolio exposure to gold. Investor sentiment is Extremely Optimistic, which is S/T bearish for equities but, while that suggests caution, the major cyclical trend for equities remains bullish. Inflationary pressures are neither high nor low.
Click here for the charts and explanations.
Concluding Thoughts on Investing
I hope you found today’s OMR helpful as you think about ways to profit in the period ahead. Find ways to both participate and protect (mindful of the importance of risk management). As Louis-Vincent Gave shared, broadly diversify and seek some exposure to opportunities globally. We all tend to have a home country bias.
There are some moves you can make in your portfolio that may enable you to better navigate the period ahead. Mauldin’s “Great Reset.” I wouldn’t dismiss the magnitude of the risk but there is no need to be anything less than optimistic.
I favor disciplined rules-based processes and broad diversification. Diversify to strategies and diversify within asset categories. In that direction, I share a number of ideas in Trade Signals.
I’ll often receive emails saying I’m too bearish. Frankly, I just don’t see myself that way. I try to point out what I believe “is” reality and simply overweight to specific areas of opportunity. I’ll try to do a better job avoiding the fear trigger and focusing on how to navigate “resets” and finding important opportunities.
Honestly, the hard part about this business is that to be successful, you have to do the opposite of what the majority are doing. Like buying tech stocks in 2002 or buying into the stock market in 2009. I wrote, “It’s So Bad It’s Good!” in late 2008. Then, I was perceived too bullish. So, in some sense, in investing, “popular” is not a goal we should seek to achieve. My caddie told me I should be buying Facebook. Really! He’s smart but really! I walked away saying, he just dinged the bell… time for me to buy out-of-the-money puts on Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google.
Now, if you can buy-and-hold and never sell, that will work over many years. My 34 years in the business tells me most people can’t do that. And the timing of that next correction may just destroy one’s ability to retire. When you retire and when the next -40% happens really does matter. Emotion tends to rule reason at such points. Just as it did in 2009.
I believe there is a better, more disciplined way.
It’s been a really rough week. Susan had knee replacement surgery on Monday. The goal this week is pain management. Rehab for her begins on Monday. She played semi-pro soccer in Europe in the 1990s and a bad knee injury from a college game came back to bite. Post-surgery, the doctor said the knee was worse than he thought… zero cartilage and bone spurs everywhere. Her attitude is great. She’s one tough jock. Hopeful and thankful for the knee technology.
Father’s Day is Sunday and I’m hoping to get some golf in. The weather, however, looks suspect and I really should stay close to home. If you are a dad, please know I’m wishing you the very best. I sure love being a dad and I’m looking forward to celebrating with my awesome children. Grab a beer… for me a cold IPA (try “Head Hunter IPA” – my new favorite)… and hold that beer high and toast your old man. Send him love and if he has graduated from this life, like my father, hold your beer high and send him love.
Travel remains subdued for the next several weeks. Sticking close to home.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend! Happy Father’s Day!
I hope you find On My Radar helpful for you and your work with your clients. And please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.
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