China continues to be front and center on my list of concerns, even moreso than the latest Federal Reserve press release or fluctuation in the Dow (although you should pay attention). I believe China is the single biggest risk to world economic equilibrium, even larger than Japan or Europe. This week my young associate Worth Wray provides us with a keenly insightful essay on what is currently happening in China. I will admit to not having written about China very much in the past five years, primarily because, prior to Worth’s coming to work with me I really had no secure understanding of what was happening there. I know some readers may be surprised, but I really don’t like to write about things I have no understanding of. Worth has helped me focus. (It helps that he studied Mandarin and lived in China for a while, and is obsessed with China.)
Worth has been working directly with me for over one year now. I have had the privilege of working with a number of impressive (lately mostly younger) people over the years, but Worth brings something extra to the table. He is one of the best young macroeconomic minds I have been with in years. He constantly challenges me to step up my game. And so without further ado, let me give you Worth’s thinking regarding our latest discussions on China.
Transformation or Bust, China Version
The People’s Republic of China is running up against its debt capacity; and its consumption-repressing, credit-fueled, investment-heavy growth model is nearly exhausted. History suggests that China’s “miracle” could dissipate into a long period of painfully slow growth or terminate abruptly with a banking crisis and sudden collapse. That said, China’s modern economic transformation has defied historical precedents for decades. However unlikely, China could surprise us again. Miracles will happen in the Age of Transformation.
What happens next depends largely on the economic wisdom and political resolve of China’s reformers, who must find a way to gradually deleverage overextended regional governments and investment-intensive sectors while simultaneously rebalancing the national economy toward a more sustainable consumption-driven, service-intensive model. The
A common reaction to pointing out to investors (or indeed, anyone) that they're as biased as a Fox reporter at a convention of transgender liberal pacifists is for them to respond, not unreasonably, by asking what they should do about it (that's the investors, not the reporters). It turns out that it's a lot easier to say what's wrong than to actually do anything about it.
The A to Z of Behavioral Bias is an attempt to address that issue, but it does rather show that there's no such thing as a common source of biases; bad behavior comes from many sources and requires many solutions. Or does it?
Toxic Arms Races
To generalize, perhaps beyond the point of reason, there are two sorts of bad behavior amongst investors. The first kind occurs because the modern investing industry is designed to be toxic for creatures like ourselves who evolved methods to deal with risk and uncertainty and duplicity in a completely different world. The same argument can be made more generally about the world outside investing, of course.
In addition, the creation of our consumerist society has led to a psychological arms race, as corporations vie with themselves to create redundancy in their products by magicking up a demand that isn't predicated on a genuine shortage of supply. In investing, as in other areas where services or goods have to be sold, techniques have been evolved, by trial and error, that persuade us into parting with our money by exploiting our biases.
To Choose or Not To Choose
For many of us our problem is not the one that's afflicted humanity for most of its history: it's not that we have too little choice, but that we have too much. Choice overload, as it's known (see Jam Today, Tyranny Tomorrow), has been exploited by the securities industry, amongst others, to keep prices high and reduce competition. History suggests this hasn't been a deliberate attempt to manipulate us, but has developed by trial and error as corporations seek to maximize profits.
[E]conomists are at this moment called upon to say how to extricate the free world from the serious threat of accelerating inflation which, it must be admitted, has been brought about by policies which the majority of economists recommended and even urged governments to pursue. We have indeed at the moment little cause for pride: as a profession we have made a mess of things.
It seems to me that this failure of the economists to guide policy more successfully is closely connected with their propensity to imitate as closely as possible the procedures of the brilliantly successful physical sciences – an attempt which in our field may lead to outright error. It is an approach which has come to be described as the “scientistic” attitude – an attitude which, as I defined it some thirty years ago, “is decidedly unscientific in the true sense of the word, since it involves a mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought to fields different from those in which they have been formed.
– Friedrich Hayek, from the introduction to his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1974
Last week we took a deep dive into how the concept of GDP (gross domestic product) came about. We looked at some of the controversies surrounding GDP statistics that we use to measure the growth of the economy, and we noted that the GDP tool seems designed to reflect and serve an economic theory (Keynesianism) that prefers to focus on the demand side of economic activity. If your measurement of the growth of the economy is entirely defined by final consumption (that is, consumer spending) and government spending, then if you want to try to improve growth you are left with just two policy dials to adjust:
How do we increase consumption?
How much government spending should there be to stimulate growth when the economy is in a recession?
But what if there are other ways to measure the economy? Might those other measurement tools suggest a different set of policies and methods to
Men (and arguably women to a lesser extent) enjoy the process of hunting for a mate. Chasing the seemingly unattainable event aligns with man’s innate competitive nature. But the quest for the inaccessible is not solely limited to dating. When it comes to other aspirational categories, humans also want what they cannot have because they revel in a challenge. Whether it’s a desirable job, car, romantic partner, or even an investment, people bask in the pursuit.
For many investment daters and trading speculators, 2008-2009 was a period of massive rejection. Rather than embracing the losses as a new opportunity, many wallowed in cash, CDs, bonds, and/or gold. This strategy felt OK until the massive 5-year bull market went on a persistent, upward tear beginning in 2009. Now, as the relentless bull market has continued to set new all-time record highs, the negative sentiment cycle has slowly shifted in the other direction. Back in 2009, many investors regretted owning stocks and as a result locked in losses by selling at depressed prices. Now, the regret of owning stocks has shifted to remorse for not owning stocks. Missing a +23% annual return for five years, while getting stuck with a paltry 0.25% return in a savings account or 3-4% annual return achieved in bonds, can harm the psyche and make savers bitter.
Greed hasn’t fully set in like we witnessed in the late period of the 1990s tech boom, but nevertheless, some of the previous overly cautious “sideliners” feel compelled to now get into the stock game (see Get Out of Stocks!*) or increase their equity allocation. Like a desperate, testosterone-amped teen chasing a prom date, some speculators are chasing stocks, regardless of the price paid. As I’ve noted before, the overall valuation of the stock market seems quite reasonable (see PE ratio chart in Risk Aversion Declining - S. Grannis), despite selective pockets of froth popping up in areas like biotech stocks, internet companies, and junk bonds.
Even if chasing is a bad general investment practice, in the short-run, chasing stocks (or increasing equity allocations) may work because overall prices of stocks remain about half the price they were at the 2000 bubble peak (see Siegel Bubblicious article). How can stocks be -50% off…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
The other day I posted what I consider to be an elemental chart about income growth (or lack thereof) since the recovery began. Neil Irwin explained that the only people who’ve seen a recovery in wage growth were those who were already doing well anyway.
This has had a huge impact on the rich-poor divide that everyone’s been talking about these past few years. Here is another possible root cause behind the new dynamic, via Richard Kirshenbaum at the New York Observer:
In the past month, a group of radical Islamic extremists based in the Middle East beheaded at least 23 people and enforced a ban on Christianity by arresting a group of people for practicing the faith in a private home.
No, I’m not talking about ISIS. The real culprit is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the America&rsqu...
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Price Deflation Hits Italy First Time in 55 Years
The Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) reports that consumer price inflation declined by 0.1% from August 2013 to August 2014.
Italian consumer prices fell 0.1 percent year-on-year in August of 2014, matching preliminary estimates. The country’s annual inflation rate touched the negative territory for the first time in nearly 55 years due to a drop in energy prices.
Year-on-year, prices of energy fell 3.6 percent in August, mainly driven by a 1.2 percent drop in cost of non-regulated energy products. Additional downward pressures came from food ...
If GOOGLE, the NSA, and Bill Gates all got together in a room with the task of building the most accurate trading algorithm… it wouldn’t just be any ordinary system… it’d be the greatest trading algorithm in the world.
Well, I hate to break it to you… they never got around to building it, but my colleagues at Market Tamer did.
Although the stock market displayed weakness last week as I suggested it would, bulls aren’t going down easily. In fact, they’re going down swinging, absorbing most of the blows delivered by hesitant bears. Despite holding up admirably when weakness was both expected and warranted, and although I still see higher highs ahead, I am still not convinced that we have seen the ultimate lows for this pullback. A number of signs point to more weakness ahead.
In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart, review our weekly fundamentals-based SectorCast rankings of the ten U.S. business sectors, and then offer up some actionable trading ideas, including a sector rotation strategy using ETFs and an enhanced version using top-r...
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In a report published Monday, Compass Point analyst Michael Tarkan reiterated a Buy rating and $21.00 price target on Navient Corp (NASDAQ: NAVI).
In the report, Compass Point noted, “We reiterate our Buy rating on NAVI shares after analyzing updated credit data within the company's private student loan trusts, which indicate continued YOY improvement in delinquency and default rates. The data captures statistics for trusts originated from 2002 through 2014 for the three months ended August 31, 2014, providing a good leading indicator for 3Q14 credit trends. The ongoing improvement should give management flexibility to continue to lower provision expenses to drive earnings higher.”
The CBOE Vix Index is in positive territory on Friday morning as shares in the S&P 500 Index move slightly lower. Currently the VIX is up roughly 2.75% on the session at 13.16 as of 11:35 am ET. Earlier in the session big prints in October expiry call options caught our attention as one large options market participants appears to have purchased roughly 106,000 of the Oct 22.0 strike calls for a premium of around $0.45 each. The VIX has not topped 22.0 since the end of 2012, but it would not take such a dramatic move in the spot index in order to lift premium on the contracts. The far out-of-the-money calls would likely increase in value in the event that S&P500 Index stocks slip in the near term. The VIX traded up to a 52-week high of 21.48 back in February. Next week’s release of the FOMC meeting minutes f...
Despite the various opinions on Bitcoin, there is no question as to its ultimate value: its ability to bypass government restrictions, including economic embargoes and capital controls, to transmit quasi-anonymous money to anyone anywhere.
Opinions differ as to what constitutes "money."
The English word "money" derives from the Latin word "moneta," which means to "mint." Historically, "money" was minted in the form of precious metals, most notably gold and silver. Minted metal was considered "money" because it possessed luster, was scarce, and had perceive...
Author Helen Davis Chaitman is a nationally recognized litigator with a diverse trial practice in the areas of lender liability, bankruptcy, bank fraud, RICO, professional malpractice, trusts and estates, and white collar defense. In 1995, Ms. Chaitman was named one of the nation's top ten litigators by the National Law Journal for a jury verdict she obtained in an accountants' malpractice case. Ms. Chaitman is the author of The Law of Lender Liability (Warren, Gorham & Lamont 1990)... Since early 2009, Ms. Chaitman has been an outspoken advocate for investors in Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (more here).
Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.
Well PSW Subscribers....I am still here, barely. From my last post a few months ago to now, nothing has changed much, but there are a few bargins out there that as investors, should be put on the watch list (again) and if so desired....buy a small amount.
First, the media is on a tear against biotechs/pharma, ripping companies for their drug prices. Gilead's HepC drug, Sovaldi, is priced at $84K for the 12-week treatment. Pundits were screaming bloody murder that it was a total rip off, but when one investigates the other drugs out there, and the consequences of not taking Sovaldi vs. another drug combinations, then things become clearer. For instance, Olysio (JNJ) is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients AND...
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