“Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee….
“There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.”
"The exact contrary of what is generally believed is often the truth."
– Jean De La Bruyère
“Cry ‘Havoc!’ And let slip the dogs of war!”
– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I
– Roberto Duran to the referee at the end of his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, 1980
If you want evidence that central bankers play by their own rules, regardless of what they say or what conventional wisdom tells us, last week’s action by the Swiss National Bank should pretty much fill the bill. My friend Anatole Kaletsky, in a CNBC interview not long after the announcement, quipped (with a completely straight face) that just as James Bond has a license to kill, central bankers have a license to lie.
Swiss National Bank Chairman Thomas Jordan had assured us just the week before that the Swiss would continue to “hold the peg” whereby the SNB kept the value of the Swiss franc from rising higher than €1.22. “The cap is absolutely central,” he said. And SNB Vice Chairman Jean-Pierre Danthine said publicly only last Monday that the peg would remain a cornerstone of Swiss banking policy.
Early Thursday morning the Swiss abandoned that policy. Much of the press coverage in the (largish) wake of their surprise move has focused on the costs to banks and hedge funds around the world, but you have to realize that serious pain is being felt in Switzerland itself. Every bank and business that held non-Swiss-franc debt or investments took an immediate 15–20%+ haircut on its…
The headlines this morning talk about the US dollar hitting an 11-year high. I have been saying for years that the dollar is going to go higher than anyone can imagine. This trade is just in the early innings. And the repercussions will be dramatic, not only for emerging markets that have financed projects in dollars, but also for commodities and energy, gold, and a variety of other investments. The world is at the doorstep of a new era of volatility and currency wars.
In this week’s letter, my associate Worth Wray explores what a rising dollar means for emerging markets and what central banks are likely to do in response. Can they smooth the ride, or will it be the world’s scariest roller coaster? This letter will print long because of the number of fabulous charts Worth provides. I might make a brief comment or two at the end. Here’s Worth.
On the Verge of a Disaster… or a Miracle
By Worth Wray
Twenty years after the first divergence-induced currency crisis of the 1990s, commodity prices are tumbling, the US dollar is rallying, and externally fragile emerging markets are reliving the horrors of their not-so-distant past. Except, this time, major economies like the United States, the United Kingdom, the Eurozone, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China may not be able to side-step the ensuing contagion.
With 2014 now behind us, I want to focus this week's letter on what may prove to be the most important global macro pressure points in the coming year(s):
The growing divergence among the world’s most important central banks
The ongoing collapse in oil and other commodity prices as a function of excess supply and/or weakening global demand
The rise of the US dollar, driven by divergence and risk aversion… and the squeeze it’s putting on the multi-trillion-dollar carry trade into emerging markets
The vicious slide in emerging-market currencies
The rising risk of 1990s-style contagion and financial shocks
And what, if anything, can avert the next global financial crisis
I can’t prove it scientifically, but I’m pretty sure the years are flying by faster now than ever before. [Actually I think it is scientifically proven that time goes faster as we get older... Sorry.] Is everyone just so busy that the passage of time is occurring while we stare at our phones? Or are the events that shape each year simply playing out faster, from start to finish, because of the increased pace of modern life?
More importantly, will 2015 move even faster? [Yes.]
I don’t know the answers, but you’ve already heard enough from me this year anyway (I’ve heard enough from me too!). So for today’s look back on the lessons of 2014, I got a little help from my friends!
Happy New Year and thanks for reading! See you on the other side. – Josh
In 2014 I Learned That…
Aron Pinson (Microfundy): rates don’t necessarily rise in a rising rate environment.
Justin Paterno (StockTwits): if the US economy were a football team it would have the personnel of the Patriots with the fans of the Jets.
Justin Frankel (RiverPark Funds): beating your benchmark isn’t the key to happiness or success, but it’s a fine place to start!
Morgan Housel (Motley Fool): Unsustainable things can last years, even decades, longer than people think.
Tom Brakke (Research Puzzle): A heavily-analyzed, globally-traded commodity can go down fifty percent in response to relatively modest changes in fundamentals. Therefore, you might want to take the predictions you hear and the models you rely upon with a grain truckload of salt.
Stephen Weiss (Short Hills Capital): terrorists don’t respect copyright or trademark laws as Isis Pharmaceuticals found out. [Ha ha - is ISIS going to change its name?]
Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.
PSW Members – well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys…it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, including JUNO Therapeutics (JUNO), Bellicum Pharmaceuticals (BLCM), Kite (KITE), Immune Design (IMDZ) in 2014. On the other side, fibrosis can be a side effect of cancer as well as involved in a host of other diseases (IPF, NASH). Fibrosis is less understood, and therefore can be harder to treat, and yet a number of high flying companies have been bought due to their drugs (GILD buying Arresto, Roche buying Intermune), and therefore fibrosis remains a very hot area. One company in this space that just IPO'd is Fibrogen (FGEN).
Cancer Company to Consider
JUNO Therapeutics (JUNO): Juno was founded on the backs of cancer researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Seattle Children’s Research Institute. With more than $300M in funding, the stock IPO'd at 45% above its original midpoint, making it the year's second highest premium behind Castlight Health. The company raised $265 million, giving it a >$2 billion valuation. This made it the largest biotech IPO in at least 15 years both by deal size and market cap. What Dendreon could have done had it picked the right cancer to use its techology!
JUNO's technology is chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR-t for short. CAR-t technology is where the persons own T-cells (a white blood cell) are harvested and modified to fight cancer cells. The technology has tested positive early…
Must See: Phil visits with Money Talk's Kim Parlee on Business News Network. In this great interview, Phil talks about his target price range for oil and presents an options trade idea that he is calling the "Trade of 2015."
Last week we started a series of letters on the topics I think we need to research in depth as we try to peer into the future and think about how 2015 will unfold. In forecasting US growth, I wrote that we really need to understand the relationships between the boom in energy production on the one hand and employment and overall growth in the US on the other. The old saw that falling oil prices are like a tax cut and are thus a net benefit to the US economy and consumers is not altogether clear to me. I certainly hope the net effect will be positive, but hope is not a realistic basis for a forecast. Let’s go back to two paragraphs I wrote last week:
Texas has been home to 40% of all new jobs created since June 2009. In 2013, the city of Houston had more housing starts than all of California. Much, though not all, of that growth is due directly to oil. Estimates are that 35–40% of total capital expenditure growth is related to energy. But it’s no secret that not only will energy-related capital expenditures not grow next year, they are likely to drop significantly. The news is full of stories about companies slashing their production budgets. This means lower employment, with all of the knock-on effects.
Lacy Hunt and I were talking yesterday about Texas and the oil industry. We have both lived through five periods of boom and bust, although I can only really remember three. This is a movie we’ve seen before, and we know how it ends. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has remarkable timing, slipping out the door to let new governor Greg Abbott to take over just in time to oversee rising unemployment in Texas. The good news for the rest of the country is that in prior Texas recessions the rest of the country has not been dragged down. But energy is not just a Texas and Louisiana story anymore. I will be looking for research as to how much energy development has contributed to growth and employment in the US.
Bitcoin is a topic of discussion almost everywhere I go. My introduction to Bitcoin came when I was speaking at a gold conference in Palm Springs and three bright-eyed, bushy-tailed college students approached me with a video camera and asked for my thoughts on Bitcoin. Noting my confusion, they began to evangelistically espouse the virtues of Bitcoin and tell me how it would save us from the evils of the Federal Reserve. I kept from rolling my eyes (you do want to encourage passion in the young) and mentioned a meeting that I had to go to – at that very moment as it turned out.
Since that time Worth Wray and I and our entire team at Mauldin Economics have done a great deal of research on Bitcoin. We will soon release a video documentary that is one of the best productions I’ve ever been involved with and that does a good job of explaining both the controversy around Bitcoin and its considerable promise. We talked with skeptics, enthusiasts, and people willing to put up tens of millions of dollars betting on the future of Bitcoin.
Worth Wray has written this week’s letter as a summary of what we know about Bitcoin. Delving into its history and bringing us up to date, he also offers a glimpse of the future. At the end of the letter I offer a few of my own thoughts on the relationships among gold, fiat money, Bitcoin, and financial transactions.
If nothing else, Bitcoin offers a provocative way to think of the future of money. Now let me turn it over to Worth.
Is Bitcoin the Future?
By Worth Wray
“Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.”
– Gail Sheehy
“When people write the history of this thing, of bitcoin, they are not going to write the story of 6 million to a billion. What is truly remarkable is the story of zero to 6 million. It has already happened! And we’re…
Newsletter writers are available to chat with Members regarding topics presented in SWW, comments are found below each post.
Here's the latest Stock World Weekly. We discuss oil prices, OPEC, and more, and Phil provides several trade ideas. One trade idea is a simple bull call spread with USO to take advantage of last week's selloff in oil stocks. Read the newsletter here.
Back in 2014, Goldman's Jan Hatzius was proud to announce he anticipated the US economy growing solidly in 2015, at a so-called "above consensus" pace, somewhere in the 3%-3.5% range. Then, a few months ago, the same Goldman strategist unabashedly declared that the US economy would grow by 3% in Q1.
Then... it snowed, leading to the worst economic contraction for the US economy since, well, last winter. It snowed then too, but nobody could possibly anticipate it snowing two years in a row.
And, earlier today, after the BEA's latest report that US consumer failed to spend as much as expected for yet another month (meaning spending contracted d...
Former Federal Agents Charged With Bitcoin Money Laundering and Wire Fraud
Agents Were Part of Baltimore’s Silk Road Task Force
Two former federal agents have been charged with wire fraud, money laundering and related offenses for stealing digital currency during their investigation of the Silk Road, an underground black market that al...
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This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).
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Kim Parlee interviews Phil on Money Talk. Be sure to watch the replays if you missed the show live on Wednesday night (it was recorded on Monday). As usual, Phil provides an excellent program packed with macro analysis, important lessons and trading ideas. ~ Ilene
The replay is now available on BNN's website. For the three part series, click on the links below.
Part 1 is here (discussing the macro outlook for the markets)
Part 2 is here. (discussing our main trading strategies)
Part 3 is here. (reviewing our pick of th...
Well, it didn’t take long for the bulls to jump on their buying opportunity, with a little help from the bulls’ friend in the Fed. In fact, despite huge daily swings in the market averages driven by daily news regarding timing of interest rate hikes, the strength in the dollar, and oil prices, trading actually has been quite rational, honoring technical formations and support levels and dutifully selling overbought conditions and buying when oversold. Yes, the tried and true investing clichés continue to work -- “Don’t fight the Fed,” and “The trend is your friend.”
In this weekly update, I give my view of the cur...
Bullish trades abound in Cypress Semiconductor options today, most notably a massive bull call spread initiated in the July expiry contracts. One strategist appears to have purchased 30,000 of the Jul 16.0 strike calls at a premium of $0.89 each and sold the same number of Jul 19.0 strike calls at a premium of $0.22 apiece. Net premium paid to put on the spread amounts to $0.67 per contract, thus establishing a breakeven share price of $16.67 on the trade. Cypress shares reached a 52-week high of $16.25 back on Friday, March 13th, and would need to rally 4.6% over the current level to exceed the breakeven point of $16.25. The spread generates maximum potential profits of $2.33 per contract in the event that CY shares surge more than 20% in the next four months to reach $19.00 by July expiration. Shar...
Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.
PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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