The recent upturn in house prices from April to July (3.6%) is the sharpest change in direction professor Robert Shiller has ever seen.
It could signal a v-shaped recovery in house prices. Or it could be the "mother of all head fakes," as investor Whitney Tilson has described it.
Robert Shiller’s recent survey of attitudes about house prices suggests it’s probably the latter. The survey also suggests that Americans are still delusional about the long-term trajectory for house prices.
In the survey, Shiller and his partner Karl Case ask Americans what they think home prices will do over the short and long term.
The expectation for long-term price changes hasn’t changed much since before the bubble (it’s now down to 11% a year appreciation). This outlook is more reasonable now than it was at the peak of the bubble, but it’s still extraordinarily optimistic. This suggests that Americans still regard the last couple of years as a freak anomaly--even though house prices are just now hitting the range of "normal" on key price ratios like price-to-rent and price-to-income (see charts below).
The outlook for short-term changes (one year), meanwhile, has changed a lot in the past year. Specifically, it has gone from negative a year ago to 2% this summer. Thus, Americans are expecting a near-term housing recovery--in part, perhaps, because of the recovery from April to July.
Shiller thinks this change suggests that buyers are now trying to time the housing market by getting in at the bottom. This could be contributing to the surge in prices we’ve seen over the last few months.
It’s always possible that Americans are right, that we’ve passed the bottom and are on the way up. If so, however, this would mean remarkable foresight on the part of the average buyer.
Around major changes in market direction (the peak of the housing bubble, for example), there is widespread agreement about what future prices will do--and this consensus is usually 100% wrong. If the consensus is right this time that we’ve just passed the bottom, therefore, it will be because the average American has suddenly gotten a lot smarter that usual about what the future holds.
Go long Gannett at your own peril (although the short squeeze has a little more to play out so you are probably cool for a few more days). According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in a memo submitted to staff on Friday, “USA Today publisher David Hunke said the average circulation at the Gannett Co.-owned newspaper was 1.88 million from April through September. That marks a loss of 398,000 copies, or 17 percent, from the same period the year before at the newspaper, which is printed on weekdays only.” The reason for this unprecedented drop, which will put the paper in second position behind a growing Wall Street Journal, is the “growth of online news and the slump in travel pummel the newspaper.”
The reason for the Gannett empire’s continuing asset value destruction is the “while most large dailies are struggling to hold on to print subscribers and newsstand sales, USA Today is being hurt by a drop in traffic at airports and hotels, the newspaper’s mainstay. It also increased the price of single copies to $1 from 75 cents last December.”
Adding insult to injury, the WSJ, whose most recent daily circulation was 2.08, has confirmed GCI’s fall from grace.
Dow Jones, the Journal’s parent company, declined to give out the newspaper’s circulation figures for the period, but spokesman Robert Christie said, “The Journal is now the largest newspaper by circulation.”
And so the continued shift from old to new media continues, with information increasingly becoming a commodity courtesy of millions of bloggers who mercilessly suck on the Google crawler’s tentacles, grasping and reaching every single relevant bit of data about any and every topic discussed, usually seconds after its “accession” (the time frame of capture is the only reason why Twitter has any value currently; as Google closes in on this last valuation loophole, expect the founders of Twitter to promptly find solace in whatever final valuation round they can get their hands on). Yet this brings up the question: while it may be too late for Gannett, how will the remaining titans of the old media empire respond vis-a-vis this encroaching commoditization of information, and when will the Google bot finally be no longer welcome at the “News Corp., Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg, Time Warner, etc.” media complex. Ironically: the shift…
First Steve Jobs and now Bruce Wasserstein? The head of Apple has had his share of disclosure issues regarding his health, which recently culminated with an (accelerated) liver transplant. It appears the CEO of Lazard could be next up on the health rumor pole. According to Bloomberg, Wasserstein “is in a “serious” condition after being hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat.” The investment bank has added that it would “not be providing additional updates at this time.”
“His condition is serious, but he is stable and recovering,” Lazard said in the statement distributed through Business Wire. Lazard spokeswoman Judi Mackey declined to comment.
This is not the first time Bruce’s health has been an issue of public debate. Several years ago, Peter Cohan wondered out loud if there is something more than meets the eye regarding the 60 year old’s health status:
According to my source, a few weeks after the tragic death of his beloved sister Wendy, from lymphoma, and just after delivering his infamous report on Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), Bruce went into hiding for some eight weeks. He has lost 50 pounds and is said to look like a wobbly, 75-year-old. Bruce is 58 and has always been portly. He is apparently now back at work at Lazard and is to give a speech today.
Subsequently Cohan followed up his investigation with the following:
Claims that Wasserstein’s health is “fine” are at odds with reports I’ve received since July 27. For instance, on August 11, a person who has seen Wasserstein recently said, “He has a prior heart condition and this may have been a recurrence. He looks like he lost 75 pounds and his voice sounds different.”
Another person mentioned that Wasserstein had received quadruple bypass surgery prior to joining Lazard. On August 9th, without prompting, a former Wasserstein Perella & Co. banker said, “I saw Bruce Wasserstein two weeks ago and decided he must be sick because he looks like s--t.” One who met with him around the same time said that Wasserstein, who did not look well, commented “it’s just the pneumonia” — the same ailment from which he suffered in December 2005 as
Hello everybody. Quite the party we’re having here on Wall Street. My friends will tell you that I’m the polar opposite of someone who wants to bring any party to a crashing halt. Especially one as mind-blowing as this (did I see the dollar AND stocks up on Friday? At the same time? Waa-hoo!).
Anyway, I feel compelled to share a few data points from the ongoing real estate apocalypse, and in this post, I won’t even mention anything commercial real estate-related. This one’s strictly about the ‘hood:
Every 13 seconds, there’s another new foreclosure filing somewhere in America. Not a typo – every thirteen seconds.
There are now more than 6600 foreclosure filings a day. Yep – sixty six hundred a day.
There have been roughly 2 million foreclosures so far during the crisis and an assistant secretary from Treasury, Michael Barr, said that another 6 million families could face foreclosure over the next three years.
These aren’t my numbers, they were released last week by the Center for Responsible Lending, a non-partisan. So how did you, the sober and rigorous market participants I rub elbows with each day, take these latest little nuggets of tragedy?
You rallied the friggin’ luxury retailers, that’s what you did!
5 day chart of Coach, JW Nordstrom and Tiffanys
Listen up party people…yes, you there, the sell-side analyst with the lampshade on his head…and you, yes you, the investment advisor swinging from the chandelier…September retail sales were up .6%.
Yes, just .6% year-over-year versus last September (the crisis month) when Lehman and Merrill became memories in the market’s scrapbook and AIG imploded. Anyone else extremely impressed? Didn’t think so.
I don’t make market calls or buy and sell recs here on TRB, but I will say that I find it very difficult to be excited about a retail recovery with this type of foreclosure data continuing to haunt us.
You can tell me “it’s already in these stocks” and my response will be “fine, they’re all yours.”
The most leveraged bank by far is the-investment-bank-which-must-not-be-named. It is followed by J.P. Morgan on a percentage basis, but JPM is far larger nominally than these charts indicate because of its much larger capital base. Its in the nature of the difference between a cardshark (GS) and a pawnshop (JPM). Or perhaps just the capital requirements of the short versus the long con.
Luckily for the US financial system the big banks are incapable of making errors in risk management, and always seem to get by with a little helpful information from their friends, and a lot of money from the public.
We would ask Timmy for an explanation on how this could happen so soon after a crisis in which the Treasury had to ask Congress to stop financial armageddon overnight because of the perils of excessive leverage on dodgy capital, but he is taking dictation from Lloyd on line 1, and Jamie is on hold on line 2.
Like him or hate him, the author of The Black Swan does provide a unique and interesting perspective. Here is his entire presentation to the Long Now foundation (via Fora TV) from early 2008, a few short months before everything starting collapsing, and, in many ways some would say, proving him right. Of particular note: Taleb’s personal disdain for “experts” of all sorts, is second only to that of Buffett and Munger.
The price to book ratio (P/B) is not a good valuation metric for individual stocks, because the price discounts future earnings and growth. A P/B ratio less than 1 for stock X with low earnings and no earnings growth does mean that stock X is undervalued. If stock Y, with P/B=2 has healthy and growing earnings, it may actually be undervalued and a much better buy than A.
However, P/B does have value when assessing the relative valuation of indexes over time. To that extent, I found the following chart from David Rosenberg, Chief Economist at Gluskin Sheff, which I have modified as indicated.
Rosenberg suggests that the normal range for P/B ratios is between 1.5 and 2.4. The lower number is what is expected coming out of an economic trough and 2.4 is approximately the long-term average. By his analysis we have not had a P/B ratio consistent with economic reality since 1996. We came close on March 9 but quickly left that place.
Note: My reference lines are slightly above 1.5, 2.0 and 2.5 and are minimally above Rosenberg’s reference numbers.
Rosenberg also discusses other valuation measurements at length, including price to earnings ratios (P/E). Read his entire post here.
A graph such as this reinforces the opinion that some have regarding when equities in the U.S. really topped. Looking at this graph, one would say the market topped in 2000. The same conclusion is drawn when the market indices are priced in inflation adjusted dollars or gold. (See here.)
The inference from the Rosenberg graph is that one of the following conditions must pertain:
We are well into recovery and should entering a maturing growth phase of the business cycle within a couple of years; or
We are still declining from the 2000 market high and the current rally will have to give back substantial portions of the gains before long-term market growth can be maintained; or
We are still declining from the 2000 market high and have not yet reached the bottom.
I give a greater than 50% probability to #2. The other two get much smaller probabilities: #1 Less than 10% and #3 less than 30%. (You can put the missing 10% into rounding errors. After all, guesses should have large rounding errors.)…
As part of their program of ‘quantitative easing’ which is another name for currency devaluation through extraordinary expansion of the monetary base, the Fed has very obviously created an inflationary bubble in the US equity market.
Why has this happened? Because with a monetary expansion intended to help cure an credit bubble crisis that is not accompanied by significant financial market reform, systemic rebalancing, and government programs to cure and correct past abuses of the productive economy through financial engineering, the hot money given by the Fed and Treasury to the banking system will NOT flow into the real economy, but instead will seek high beta returns in financial assets.
Why lend to the real economy when one can achieve guaranteed returns from the Fed, and much greater returns in the speculative markets if one has the right ‘connections?’
The monetary stimulus of the Fed and the Treasury to help the economy is similar to relief aid sent to a suffering Third World country. It is intercepted and seized by a despotic regime and allocated to its local warlords, with very little going to help the people.
By far this presents the most compelling case for a deflationary episode. As the money that is created flows into financial assets, it is ‘taxed’ by Wall Street which takes a disproportionately large share in the form of fees and bonuses, and what are likely to be extra-legal trading profits.
If the monetary stimulus is subsequently dissipated as the asset bubble collapses, except that which remains in the hands of the few, it leaves the real economy in a relatively poorer condition to produce real savings and wealth than it had been before. This is because the outsized financial sector continues to sap the vitality from the productive economy, to drag it down, to drain it of needed attention and policy focus.
At the heart of it, quantitative easing that is not part of an overall program to reform, regulate, and renew the system to change and correct the elements that caused the crisis in the first place, is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. The optimal time to reform the system was with the collapse of…
The cremation of the dollar is spreading as other Central Banks realize what a nifty trick currency devaluation is. The BBC notes that tomorrow the CEBR (Centre for Economics and Business Research) will present a new forecast which calls for the BOE rate to remain at 0.5% until 2011, and to hit 2% in 2014 at the earliest. Furthermore, the pound will be the next carry currency, as it is now expected to drop to $1.40, and below €1. The culprit is the same as in the US: out of control budgets, which will be “moderated” by tax rises (precisely the thing Goldman was warning against earlier) and spending cuts. And, lastly, the CEBR sees the UK’s QE program increasing by nearly 50% from £175 billion to £250.
“We are likely to see an exciting policy mix, with the fiscal policy lever pulled right back while the monetary lever is fast forward,” said Douglas McWilliams, CEBR chief executive and one of the report’s authors.
“Our analysis says that this ought to work. If it does so, we are likely to see a major rerating of equities and property which in turn should stimulate economic growth after a lag.”
Last week the Bank of England held interest rates at a record low of 0.5% for the seventh consecutive month.
The CEBR added that the Bank programme to increase the amount of money in the economy – so-called quantitative easing – would increase by £75bn from the £175bn so far announced.
And it predicted that the UK economy would grow by 1.3% in 2010 – having shrunk by 4.3% this year.
A few points: how is it that all countries whose CBs have taken a week currency approach are expected to grow purely on that basis? Do prognosticators assume that rising stock markets alone (as a function of relative debt reduction due to domestic currency debt denomination) will be sufficient to compensate for the rolling drop off in international trade? Or is China now expected to somehow awaken every single economy in the world, while in the process not blowing up its own (contrary to Andy Xie’s warnings)? Curiouser is that even as the US and now the UK seem to have written off their currencies, Germany is somehow expected…
The results of a new study examining the use of options in a collar strategy (both active and passive implementations) on the PowerShares QQQ™ exchange-traded fund (ETF) show it provides superior returns to the traditional buy and hold strategy while reducing risk by almost 65%.
The Options Industry Council (OIC) is pleased to note the study reaffirms the risk management potential of equity options, finding that during the entire 10-year study period, including the sub-periods around the tech bubble and credit crisis, collars significantly outperformed the QQQ, providing much needed capital protection.
“Loosening Your Collar: Alternative Implementations of QQQ Collars,” by Edward Szado and Thomas Schneeweis, looked at data from March 1999 to May 2009. It concluded that over the entire 122 month period the passive collar returned almost 150%, while the QQQ lost one-third of its value. The active collar outperformed both strategies and returned more than 200%.
Additionally, the study simulated a collar on a small-cap mutual fund. The return of the active mutual fund collar was four times the return of the fund, while the standard deviation was about one-third lower. The study was conducted by the Isenberg School of Management’s Center for International Securities and Derivatives Markets (CISDM) at the University of Massachusetts.
Typically, you want to employ a collar to protect a dividend-paying stock from losing value. We employed this strategy successfully in our last $100K Virtual Portfolio with KMP, who pay a healthy 7.6% dividend but had fallen 35% in 6 months in March. As we were re-entering the position back at $40 (with a 10% dividend), we were happy to be in it just for the premiums.
The study makes for a very interesting read. We do not employ full collars very often but they are a very useful strategy to know as you can "lock down" your positions when the markets get rough and it’s also a great way to vacation-proof your virtual portfolio without having to alter your existing positions. Also, as noted in the study, an active management approach – like the one we employ in our buy/writes (rolling the short positions along) leads to the greatest benefits over time. As the OIC says about the strategy:
This strategy offers the stock protection of a put. However, in return for accepting a limited upside profit potential on his underlying shares (to the call’s strike price), the investor…
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Celldex Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: CLDX) today announced that it is offering 6.5 million shares of its common stock in a proposed underwritten public offering. The offering is subject to market conditions and there can be no assurance as to whether or when the offering may be completed, or as to the actual size or terms of the offering. The shares will be issued pursuant to a prospectus supplement to be filed as part of a shelf registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Form S-3.
Jefferies LLC and Leerink Swann LLC are acting as the joint book-running managers and underwriters for the proposed offering.
A shelf registration statement relating to the shares was filed with the SEC and is effective. A preliminary prospectus suppleme...
As fear and nationalism rise in Japan (and Abe's grip on the people founders amid falling approval ratings and underperforming economic indicators such as GDP tonight), so another party has joined the debacle in the East China Sea. As NHK World reports, South Korea has officially announced that it will expand its air defense identification zone, making it partially overlap those of Japan and China. The game of chicken over small islands (and submerged rocks!) in the middle of nowhere continues...
According to a top secret 2010 report the Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter is better then the US-made Chinook helicopter built by Boeing in Pennsylvania. Army Secretary John McHugh wrote in a 2011 memo "that the Mi-17 stands apart" when compared with other helicopters.
Another study shows the Chinook built was found to be "the most cost-effective single platform type fleet for the Afghan Air Force over a twenty year" period.
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The Downside Hedge Twitter sentiment indicator for the S&P 500 Index (SPX) is chasing price in a fairly violent way even though price has been in a tight 2% range for nearly three weeks. Over that time period the daily indicator has printed several reading in the +20 range then dropping quickly toward or below zero on the slightest price weakness. Traders on Twitter have the jitters. This sets up a situation where the market could fall quickly if any important support level is broken.
Smoothed sentiment is maintaining a fairly steep uptrend and making higher highs, but is currently painting a small divergence with price. The divergence is only one week long so it's too early to be anything more than something to k...
BIG – Big Lots, Inc. – Shares in the largest U.S. broadline closeout retailer are down big today, with the stock dropping nearly 14% to $32.00, the lowest level since August 23rd., after Big Lots posted a wider than expected third-quarter loss of $0.18 a share on revenue that came in below the average analyst estimate for the metric.
December expiry options changing hands on Big Lots in the early going today indicate some traders are positioning for the price of the underlying to sell down further during the next couple of weeks. Traders appear to have purc...
As the charts last week indicated might happen, the S&P 500 has fallen four straight days and failed to hold its breakout above 1800 while the Dow Jones Industrials lost 16,000. Only the NASDAQ is still holding on to its breakout above 4000. Although the Basic Materials sector was the leader on Wednesday, the Technology sector was strong, as well, and in fact Tech stocks have been the strongest over the past week and the past month.
As markets finally show a willingness to pullback somewhat from their torrid pace, the bears are trotting out every naysayer they can lay their hands on to scare investors away, including smart folks like Carl Icahn, who is “very cautious,” and Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller and his stock market “bubble” assertions. Sure, valuations are high on a historic...
These rallies are becoming familiar. In early July we saw a streak of 12 of 13 sessions in a row up, early September 11 of 12, and mid October 11 of 13 (current streak). It is a bit uncanny the similarities and how the escalator goes straight up in vertical ascent as we see indexes come out of mini corrections during QE. So we are about at the same stage where the last two began to tire, so it will be interesting if this is similar or if the current consensus of the market that there is nothing to worry about until next year as the Fed and D.C. are both off the table and this 3% annual growth rate in earnings we are now seeing in the S...
Welcome to the fouth update of the IRA Virtual Portfolio. First I am going to summarize the current state of the Portfolio then I will get into all the activity we had during September expiration.
Profit and Loss – Net of closed positions the portfolio is up a total of $769
Market Commentary – Last expiration I said, "I would like to put a total of $20,000 to work by the end of SEP expiration. If the VIX pops up to around 20 I plan to put about $50,000 total to work." The market didn't quite reach the goal but I did manage to deploy $15,000 of buying power. I still feel the market is too high and expect a correction during October. If the vix pops up to around 20 I still plan to put about $50,000 to work. If a correction doesn't happen I still plan to have a total of $25,000 in buying power put to work by October expiration. Now on to the act...
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Come and get it! Read all about it! Biotechs, biotechs and more biotechs to buy buy buy for your portfolio! To date, almost 30 biotech companies have hit the market. Most of the time, there are fewer than 10-12!
For the last five years, biotechs have had issues obtaining offer prices above expectations. In 2013, that trend looks to be broken. According to BiotechNow, the offer prices are 4% above expectations! In addition, biotechs are going public with little more than a wing and a prayer (pre-clinical or Phase 1 data only). Really? What this means is that the drug or technology looks good in mice, rats, or dogs, etc, but there is no smidgen of evidence that it will work in humans. That's what is called an appitite for RISK!
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