#amazon

Who knew? Gone with the Wind now #1 selling DVD on Amazon

No sooner had HBO removed ‘Gone with the Wind‘ from its streaming service, it became Amazon’s #1 selling movie title.

Who knew people hated having others decide what they are allowed to consume?

Political expediency will trump Coronavirus market rout. Await market manipulation

MARKETS YTD

Share markets have been decimated in recent weeks across the globe. This year to date (YTD) chart above shows the extent. It shouldn’t really have taken Coronavirus or plunging oil prices to lead to this. We’ve been living high on the sauce for two decades and even though GFC in 2008 was a rude hangover, our authorities thought doubling down on all those free money excesses would work again.

Let’s not get too carried away. On a 5-yr basis, shares haven’t exactly blitzed with the exception of the S&P500. The ASX has put on just under 7% in 5 years. Germany, Japan and Italy have gone down. So if one is 45% higher than 5-yrs ago with an S&P fund, is that a mass hysteria moment?

INDEX 5YR

Automotive stocks have been dud investments over the last 5 years. It didn’t take Coronavirus to expose the underlying trends. BMW is don 52% on 5 yrs ago. Ford down 60%. Volkswagen -40%.

Car stocks

Industrial bellwethers like Caterpillar and GE have also not escaped stagnation. YTD, all of these stocks have bloody noses. Boeing has held up surprisingly well despite the MAX problems.

Industrials

Yet if we look at the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix & Google), we can see that over 5 years, investors have made a bundle.

FAANGAs these 5 stocks make up 15% of the S&P500 Index by weight, if they fall the impact is greater. With the exception of Netflix, these monsters are down 15~20%.

FAANG 1M

Worried?

Fear not, our heavily indebted incompetent political class and complicit central bankers will concoct a new potion of even lower rates, more QE and further fiscal spending on wind farms, solar panels and roads to nowhere to keep the ship afloat. It may be a hapless task in the long run but just watch the printing presses move to full speed. The ride is about to get interesting.

We’ve been bearish for years based on the underlying tenet that financial market manipulation by authorities has merely distorted the most efficient clearing mechanism -free markets. The invisible hand will eventually win. Just not quite yet.

Italian Senator and former Deputy PM Matteo Salvini has called for a ban on short selling. Why? All he’ll do is exacerbate the sell-off by diverting capital from Milan to London. The politicians just don’t get it. That is why Milan FTSE All-Share index fell by 10.75% overnight. That market is down 23% YTD.

When the pandemic hit the economy, we should have known from last month that it would spread and impact global travel, trade and oil prices. Why did it take so long?

We wrote last week that the explosion in market chasing (especially levered) ETFs would exacerbate distortions on the downside. The main reason being is that options markets that hedge levered products see heavy delta bleed (pricing blowing out) during routs. The reason is in bull markets human nature is more comfortable taking risk. In bear markets, people panic hence needing larger insurance premiums to protect against the madness of crowds.

Essentially what that means is that when ETFs were a far smaller chunk of the market, today’s 7.8% drubbing may only have been -4% in equivalent terms. That is because the ETFs chase, not lead markets because their product design is to replicate the immediate past. Yet our first instincts are to compare these apples with oranges and equate them to 2008. Wrong. Furthermore, a larger part of the market is dominated by a smaller

So the question is, do we liquidate all of our shares into the falling knife or take the view that some wonderful opportunities will present themselves to get exposure to what we hopefully viewed as sensible long term investments.

We take the latter view. We need to separate Coronavirus (the disease) and the hysteria (eg hand sanitizer and toilet paper panic buying).

While the disease is problematic and will hit the economy hard in the coming quarters, the question is market hope pinned to government response will come back. The measures should continue to grow and grow until they have cauterized the wound. After all, we live in a market where financial TV programs are summoning the opinions of NY Mets baseball pitchers for their ideas on stocks.

Of course, it will be all academic, but confidence is the only thing that matters from here. As soon as we get on top of Coronavirus, markets will swing back into action and many will simply fall for the same tricks like Pavlov’s dog and the short squeeze will send stocks powering back.

Governments now have a legitimate excuse to blow out deficits and borrow to save us. In that sense, this pandemic is a blessing in disguise. That isn’t to trivialize Coronavirus but to note that politicians will do almost anything to stay in power, even if the long term consequences will linger long after they’re out of office.

Where will they spend? The automotive sector has been in the doldrums for ages. Expect to see EV related subsidies which will be a boon for the EV battery plays – we’ve bought Jervois Mining (JRV.AX) which is about to start a cobalt mine in Idaho.

Think of support to the aviation industry when the crisis is under control. Boeing and Airbus. Don’t forget that American Airlines renewed 900 aircraft soon after it announced Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in 2011.

Think construction – cement companies and construction machinery companies tend to benefit from public works programs. We continue to hold gold (have done since 2001) as the ultimate insurance policy when the whole system can no longer heal with band-aids.

So get ready to buy some bargain-basement names with cash flow survivability, especially if you have a self-managed super fund.

Yes the underlying economic backdrop is dreadful but there will be one last hurrah!

Bernie Sanders should be a Republican if he studied the facts

Bernie Sanders posted the following to his social media platform today:

Today, the 3 wealthiest Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of our people, and income and wealth inequality is worse now than at any time since the 1920s. This is a moral outrage and bad economics. Unacceptable.

Despite Bernie Sanders’ net worth of $2.5mn, there is an irony for him to act like hr speaks for the poor and oppressed.

The funny thing is that many Americans aspire to be as successful as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. Undoubtedly the Bottom 50% use/have used Windows, have ordered something on Amazon or used products that sit in the portfolio of Berkshire Hathaway. Bezos, Gates and Buffett all came from relatively humble beginnings. So it isn’t a system that has gifted their success.

What Sanders is forgetting is that the net worth of the Bottom 50% has improved substantially since Trump took office. What is often overlooked by politicians is the simple fact of “lived experience.” Sanders can cry about the”gap” all he wants but if a growing number of people feel less under a rock, they’ll gladly overlook the bluster of Trump and his loose Twitter fingers if he keeps delivering for them. It works the other way too. Telling voters how great they have it when they don’t has the opposite effect.

Since the series began, the St Louis Fed shows the Bottom 50%’s aggregate wealth peaked in 2Q 1991 at $4.3 trillion. In Q1 2009, that net wealth plummetted 61% to $1.7 trillion. It sunk to a rock bottom of $300 billion in 2Q 2011, 93% down.

Under Obama, net worth for the Bottom 50% declined from $1.7 trillion in 1Q 2009 to $1.1 trillion, down 35% over his two terms. This might do some explaining as to why the “forgotten” wanted large scale change.

Under Trump, the latest net worth is back to $1.6 trillion. Still well off the highs of 3-decades ago, but one imagines if things keep improving out to November, then these people won’t want to risk their fortunes reversing again.

Of course, many will ponder the unfair wealth gap of the Top 1% at $34.5 trillion in the latest figures.

Sanders should be outraged that the ultra-wealthy have done much better under Obama with a 100% gain in net worth under his term vs the paltry 15.3% so far under Trump.

Best he become a Republican instead!

Amazon’s Auschwitz?

D3CA4624-5358-4FB0-8985-4857E0FEDE24.jpeg

The Japanese Communist Party’s “Red Flag” newspaper wrote an article about the deaths of three Amazon Odawara warehouse workers. The article has been pulled down from the party homepage. The reality is that families of the dead never sued Amazon as the cause of death were deemed private matters. The Labor Safety Inspection Office never ordered remedial action to be taken after the deaths.

However the blogs about the warehouse are calling it “Auschwitz” because of low wages and long hours causing fatigue. In any event it seems that the Communist Party took it down on the basis that “Auschwitz” was deemed an inappropriate comparison to the plight of the factory workers at Amazon’s warehouse operations in Odawara.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has been going to great lengths to improve work-life balance (e.g. Premium Friday) and limiting overtime to 100hrs a month and 720 hours per year.

Perhaps the MHLW could move to enforcing a minimum 10 working days holiday for staff. It is not hard to find holiday packages to Europe or America for  4 nights only. Hardly the ideal way to wind down.

Yet we mustn’t forget that Japan is not capitalism with warts but communism with beauty spots. Often change has to be driven at a government level because businesses are too afraid to make even boldly common sense moves by themselves for fear of losing face. Take former PM Koizumi’s “Cool biz” programme that encouraged companies to allow workers to abandon neckties and jackets in summer to combat the heat combined with power restrictions. Corporations were too afraid to think outside the “box”. The state needed to rubber stamp it as a norm.