Fasten your seatbelts!


The “Fasten your seatbelts” edition (March 6, 2018) of the High-Tech Strategist by Fred Hickey is best read with antidepressants or a stiff drink. To be honest I hadn’t seen a copy of this research for at least 5 years. Today I’ve read it three times hoping I haven’t missed or misread anything. It is well reasoned and well argued. I would even admit to there being confirmation bias on my side but it is compelling. Usually confirmation bias is a worrying sign although prevailing sentiment or group think, it isn’t!

Perhaps the scariest claim in his report is a survey that showed 75% of asset managers have not experienced the tech bubble collapse in 2000. So their only reference point is one where central banks manipulated the outcome in 2007/8. S&P fell around 56% peak to trough. I often like to say that an optimist is a pessimist with experience. A lot of experienced punters have quit the industry post Lehman’s collapse, hollowing out a lot of talent. That is not to disparage many of the modern day punters but it does experience is a hard teacher because one gets the test first and the lesson afterwards.

Hickey cites an interview with Paul Tudor Jones who said that the new Fed Chairman Powell has a situation not unlike “General George Custer before the battle of the Little Bighorn” (aka Custer’s Last Stand). He spoke of $1.5 trillion in US Treasuries requiring refinancing this year. CM wrote that $8.4 trillion required refinancing in 4 years. In any event, with the Fed tapering (i.e. selling their bonds) couple with China and Japan feeling less willing to step up to the plate he conservatively sees 10yr rates hit 3.75% (now 2.8%) and 30 years rise above 4.5%. Now if we tally the $65 trillion public, private and corporate (worst average credit ratings in a decade) debt load in America and overlay that with a rising interest rate market things will get nasty. Not to mention the $9 trillion shortfall in public pensions.

Perhaps the best statistic was the surge in the number of articles which contained ‘buy-the-dip’ to an all time record. Such lexicon is often used to explain away bad news. It is almost as useless as saying there were more sellers than buyers to explain away a market sell off. In any event closing one’s eyes is a strategy.

Hickey runs through the steps leading up to and during the bear market that followed the tech bubble collapse. It was utter carnage. Bell wether blue chips like Cisco fell 88% from the peak. Oracle -83%. Intel -82%. Sun Microsystems fell 96%.

To cut a long story short, assets (bonds, equities and property) are overvalued. The Bitcoin bubble and consequent collapse have stark warnings that he saw in 2000. He recommends Gold, Gold stocks (which he claims are selling at deeper discounts than the bear market bottom) Silver, index and stock put options (Apple, Tesla, NVidia & Amazon) and cash. Can’t say CM’s portfolio is too dissimilar.

As Hickey says, “fasten your seatbelts

Two of the worst possible combinations one can think of


From LivingOffset – “Global concern about climate change is growing rapidly. Five out of every 10 people now consider climate change to be a serious problem. In Chile and Peru the number is over 75%. Interestingly, 69% of Americans are concerned about global warming [if you believe HuffPost], despite their government’s position. There is no doubt demand for our offering is there, and like Airbnb, we can provide the means and the mechanism for easy participation. In just a few minutes ordinary people can start to make a real and meaningful difference.

In January 2017, IPSOS held a global poll asking what each country’s major problem was and climate change didn’t feature a mention.

As Europe and the US brave record snowfalls one couldn’t think of two more terrible combinations – a crypto-currency and a climate abatement cause. Apart from the fact that the prospectus cites Wikipedia to support its stats, it ignores the growing number of scientists admitting that climate change is little more than a multi trillion dollar rent seeking industry. As we’ve seen in recent years, many scientists and government bodies have been caught red handed with their hand in the till. Data has been manipulated to get a result. NOAA was subpoenaed by US Congress for fiddling the data ahead of the Paris Climate Accord. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has also been caught misrepresenting temperature records. The IPCC has made more climb downs from unchecked positions than one can count. It is the epitome of double standards given 50,000 pilgrims fly half way around the world to kneel at the altar of the COP climate change summits, belching so much of that dangerous CO2 we are warned about.

Even the language has changed – from global warming to climate change to climate disruption. All bases covered.

The one question that the alarmists can never answer – if the science is so settled, why do scientists feel so compelled to lie and corrupt data? Surely the data speaks for itself because it is so compelling on a stand alone basis. No need to brazenly commit data fraud. While many alarmists are happy to see evil banksters get hauled off to jail, have we seen any scientists face prison time for misleading the allocation of billions in taxpayer funds? Imagine if that was introduced? How quickly climate disruption would go away.

Apart from the completely bogus stats on ‘69% of Americans being concerned by global warming, SUV sales remain a solid staple in the US. In fact the most popular car in America is the Ford F-150 pick-up truck where customers rank ‘fuel economy’ #28 in terms of reasons they buy it. When Trump quit the Paris Accord, Rasmussen showed that most polled were for his move because sticking to teh deal just increased their cost burden. Wallets matter more than virtue signalling.

Let’s check reality of the climate game. 75% of the evil gas that helps plants grow are caused by 4 countries – America, China, India and Russia. Let’s tackle them one by one.

America. Well the commitment to the Accord was so flimsy to begin with, It was laced with out clauses such as being exempt from being sued for any environmental damage caused in the past or future. Obama decided to tick the box himself after lawyers breathed on the fine print – remember the US was the last to commit.

China. China, China, China. The commitment is so robust they don’t have any intention to get serious until 2030 (likely peak emissions). China has explicitly said it will raise the coal share of power to 15% by 2020 from 12% and this will keep climbing. China’s pollution problems have stuff all to do with global warming but public health however it can virtue signal under the banner of climate change mitigation and win brownie points.

India. The construction of 65 gigawatts worth of coal-burning generation is under way with an additional 178 gigawatts in the planning stages in India will mean they’ll not achieve Paris targets.

Russia’s commitment at Paris would have been more serious if drafted on a hotel napkin such was its lack of substance. 4 pages of nothing.

LivingOffset makes some grandiose claims of 128% returns by 2022 but put in its disclaimer,

There can be no assurance that LivingOffset’s investment objective will be achieved and investment results may vary substantially over time. Investment in LivingOffset is not intended to be a complete investment program for any investor. Prospective participants should carefully consider whether an investment is suitable for them in light of their circumstances and nancial resources.

Carbon offsets are a joke. In Australia, people can elect to have their electricity sourced from renewables only (by paying a premium) yet less than 3% choose to do so. Qantas offered carbon offsets when flying but the take up has been insignificant. Carbon offset calculators are so woefully inaccurate that the price paid to virtue signal can be drastically affected by load factors, aircraft type, head/tailwinds and delays to land.

In any event there are 190 odd currencies in the world and over 1,000 crypto currencies. Apart from the unregulated nature of these electronic coins, we’ve already seen how vulnerable ‘blockchain technology’ is and how easy it is to be hacked. Crypto is backed by greed. Recently a person was emptied of all their crypto at phone point. Once the transaction has been completed the ‘money’ is gone. So no need to break into a bank. Just rob you from your smartphone.

While the crypto currency trend continues, await harder nosed regulations, taxation and  restrictions that take the lustre off these coins. LivingOffset looks a very risky investment.  To some up LivingOffset – it is like asking someone else to quit smoking on your behalf. How do you benefit health wise?

Then again actions always speak louder than words. Aircraft travel is set double by 2035 according to IATA. Last time I looked, aircraft run on fossil fuels. Once again, peoples’s consumption habits are the best indicator of commitment to climate abatement.

Plunging credit quality more troubling than market rout


The Dow plunged 1175 points (-4.6%) overnight. 4.6% is a lot and yes 4-digit drops optically look worse but off the higher base we get higher (record) point drops. One thing to contemplate in a rising bond yield market is corporate credit quality. Since 2006 the average credit ratings for US corporates issued by the big agencies have seen the number of top rated (to the left) fall while those with deteriorating grades (to the right) soar. That’s right, the 4 categories before “junk” have risen sharply. After many years of virtually free money many corporations have let the waistline grow. When refinancing comes around just how will credit ratings influence the new spreads of corporates who’ve shifted to the right?

The IMF highlighted in 2017  that US companies have added $7.8t in debt & other liabilities since 2010. The ability to cover interest payments is now at the weakest level since 2008 crisis.

This despite near full employment, record level equity markets and every other word of encouragement from our politicians.

However if this is the state of the corporate sector at arguably the sweet spot of the economic cycle CM shudders to think the state of potential bankruptcies that will come when the cycle truly takes a turn for the worse. This is a very bad sign.

Coincheck wreck


Perhaps that was Coincheck’s greatest problem. Bragging rights to being the leading crypto exchange in Asia only made it (pardon the pun) a richer target. 58 billion yen ($560mn) was stolen. While bitcoin trading wasn’t halted many other cryptos were, exposing their fatal weakness. CM has been writing constantly that “hacking” was the biggest threat. Regulators will have to step in at some stage and the global trading element of crypto creates all the nasties of global policing against tax evasion and money laundering.

Coincheck claims it will compensate users of the exchange but at the same time is asking for financial support. The question is how the reactive forces within the Financial Services Agency will cope with protecting investors? Seems like cart before the horse.

Why should investors that willingly traded on an unregulated site be compensated?

You can never be too connected


For all those that say men can’t multitask, this HK taxi driver can field 8 mobile devices and drive…what next a smart watch? Presume he is trading multiple markets. Either that or he’s sick of the stereotype that taxi drivers are usually the last to know!

Bitcoin now on prime time Japanese variety TV


The picture above is of Tetsuro Degawa, a Japanese comedian who does his best to show himself to have little intelligence. On prime time TV tonite he was talking about Bitcoin. The sign to the right partially says “can you understand Bitcoin in 5 minutes?” 

Japanese TV audiences generally gasp at new information so Bitcoin was a subject of great interest. Still one wonders if Degawa is presenting on the crypto currency that we’re one stage away from the taxi driver giving tips.

Today, Bitcoin is trading over $15,000 up another 13% today alone. Apparently Warren Buffett has disclosed Berkshire Hathaway has bought some too.

In 20 years in financial markets I cannot work out how something backed by nothing other than greed in a market that is not regulated and highly vulnerable to cyber terrorism continues to sucker more people in.

Tulip mania may be removed as the bubble yardstick before long. As one of my experienced private wealth managers likes to say, “I have difficulty fathoming the “no euphoria this time” view.”

“Bitcoin Bubble” the #1 searched item on Contrarian Marketplace – the Taxi Driver’s blog


The only thing more dangerous than “Bitcoin Bubble” being the most searched item on this Contrarian Marketplace (CM) blog this month is whether I am tempted to buy it on the basis that in doing so I will call the top. Indeed Bit-coiners should be paying me (in gold please) I never make such a move.

Note in ZeroHedge today one Chinese official, Pan Gongsheng, a deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China predicts “that bitcoin will die of a grand theft, a hack into the blockchain technology behind the cryptocurrency or a collective ban by global governments.” This is consistent to what CM has been saying.