Category Archives: History

I’LL BE BACK; Meanwhile Keep Learning

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John Chew asked me to post while he goes through his stem cell transplant.  He says, “I’ll be back.” He thanks the many readers for their kind words of encouragement. 

His hospital roommate. John may opt for a radical new therapy.

Unfortunately, John challenged the status quo so he may have to be hospitalized longer.  Sign up to Farnam Street Blog

Novagold Annual Report 2015 This annual report’s shareholder letter including the links provides an excellent example of how several investors view the capital cycle for an asset.  History does provides a guide.

http://latticework.com/featured/ Worth a look

Sign up: http://investorvantage.com/ to receive reading links like:

10 THINGS WE’RE READING & WATCHING:
    1.   Overcoming Their Fears 
    3.   3 Critical Things An Investor Needs – Capital Exploits
    5.   Unique Behind The Scenes Look Into Buffett’s Process – Vintage Value (must read)
    6.   Andy Groove And The Iphone SE – Ben Thompson
    7.   How Maritime Insurance Built Ancient Rome – Priceonomics
    9.   How Buffett And Munger Differ In The Way They Think – Outlook Business
    10. Podcasts: Conversation with Bethany McLean A fantastic interview for aspiring analysts. Her book on Fannie and Freddie seems like a must read!
Ackman: PSH-Annual-Report-12.31.151 See the section on Valeant.
A short summary of the tug of war over Valeant. Setting aside the noise about fraud, greed, and accounting issues, The Valeant Casino, this is a company that financed fast asset growth with cheap debt (at the time) while taking advantage of the flawed quasi-socialized medical system in the US.   Valuation depends on a normalization of true long-term cash flows–VRX_Update_StillOverpriced_2016-03-15 and EV_EBITDA_Misses_the_Point (View video on valuation and ROIC below for more context). The beneficiary of medical care does not DIRECTLY pay ALL of the costs. Who would be willing to accept a $1,000 tube of anti-fungal cream for their itchy feet if a third-party didn’t pay? See Dying with dignity.
Seconal

Meanwhile……be wise not smart and stay-thirsty-my-friends-3

GO SEE THE BIG SHORT!

So you’re Michael Burry who gets his hair cut at Supercuts and doesn’t wear shoes and you know more than Alan Greenspan?

Michael Burry: Yes.

I Saw the Crisis Coming (Michael Burry vs. Alan Greenspan)

A Review:

A lesson on the MBS crisis

Peter Schiff howling about the coming housing bust: https://youtu.be/Z0YTY5TWtmU

and see the results: aerial-photos

Lake Las Vegas/Macdonald Ranch 05.2012

The movie provides a case study in belief in authority and incentive-based bias.   See how many more biases you can pick out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

The movie can’t cover all the reasons behind the housing/debt crisis, but you will get a sense of what great investors have to go through when they take a massively contrarian position.  Note that Michael Burry started becoming worried about housing in 2003. Why?   He asked himself the simple question: How come real estate prices are RISING or NOT going down in Silicon Valley during the biggest tech bust in history during 2001/2002?

More on Burry

BURRY_2000 Annual Letter

BURRY_Scion_2006_4Q_RMBS_CDS_Primer_and_FAQ

BURRY_Scion1Q2001

BURRY_Scion2Q2001

Burry_Writeups

BURRY_The_Crisis_By_Alan_Greenspan-3-9-10

Mike Burry Lettersw

BURRY_Scion3Q2001

I remember being in the president’s office at Merrill Lynch in 1999 to see about selling www.art.com and the president pointed out through the glass partition to his trading floor and said see my risk team?   They are the best in the business! 

Update: http://thefelderreport.com/2016/01/15/the-big-short-is-only-half-the-story/

Capitulation IV; Analysts Like to Herd; Agony and Euphoria

Miner Sentiment

Bloomberg hating on gold. “Looks like a short”, “Nothing uglier”, “Not even an asset”…AFTER miners drop 90%.

What's uglier than gold

“The Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bear 3X Shares, or DUST, is up a whopping 99 percent in July.” via @

Grant on gold July 22 2015 Zweig   The same analyst who suggested buying miners within 1% of the all-time top in Sept. 17, 2011 now says gold is a “doorstop” in July 17, 2015.  NOW, he tells me!  Journalists chase price and sentiment.

Zweig

Goldman sees gold to $1,000 (July 2015) and Goldman sees gold at 1840 by end 2012  Note a pattern?

gold_10_year_o_b_usd

Media piles on late in trend:

Perhaps today the absurdity has reached the apex of its crescendo with this utterly ridiculous “letter to gold bug” published by Marketwatch:   It’s time to surrender and let the yellow metal fall to its bear market low

Better analysis: Gold Warns Again and Heavy wears the crown

yen and gold

Amazon Beats

AMZN

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How analysts react after Amazon reports–follow the herd recommendations regardless of price. Analysis?

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-24/wall-street-cranks-up-its-outlook-for-amazon-after-it-delivers-monster-earnings-report

The headlines reported that AMZN’s sales were up 20% year over year for Q2 and that net income had swung from a loss of $123mm to a profit of $92 million yr/yr for Q2.  While those numbers are what they are, sales growth from Q1 to Q2 was a mere 2.9% – pretty much in-line with the rate of inflation.

The media propagandists attributed AMZN’s highly “surprising” quarter to big gains in its AWS business segment, which is its cloud-computing business.  However, if we drill down into the numbers made available in its 8-K, we find that the AWS segment represents just 7.7% of AMZN’s revenue stream vs. 6.6% of revenues in Q1.   Sure seems like a lot of manic hype over well less than 10% of AMZN’s business model.

As it turns out, AMZN’s AWS business model, like everything else it does, is seeded in low quality sources of revenue that will ultimately prove to be unsustainable.  Why?  See this comment sent to me by someone who read my Amazon research report and who used to specialize in high tech accounting for Silicon Valley start-ups:

I audited many of the high fliers that crashed and burned, took companies public & was at the printers the day the bubble really burst which ultimately tabled that IPO…Amazon Web Services is growing by leaps and bounds and a significant amount of those $’s are coming from venture backed start-ups. Almost the entire Silicon Valley and other startups outside the Valley use AWS. Venture backed startups have exploded just as AWS revenues have exploded…That segment of their business will get walloped which right now seems to be a main source of their operating income.  

Read more: Dot con

Notice the difference between mining stocks and Amazon–Deja-Vu of the late 1999’s/2000.  Remember the music Sugar Ray

amzn fomo

bezos_laughing

Money for Nothing (Inside the Federal Reserve)

Producer discusses the above movie–a good discussion about the U.S. Dollar https://youtu.be/6Ad9jtn2kOc

How do you like the Fed’s ability to stabilize the dollar (stable money) and the economy?
Dow_Gold_050615

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markhendrickson/2013/12/20/100-years-later-the-federal-reserve-has-failed-at-everything-its-tried/

Worth the time to study the above.  Pop Quiz: What Exactly Backs the dollar?

Hint: 1. 8,000 tonnes of gold (hopefully!) and…………?

Buffett on Valuation

Aesop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Graham told a story 40 years ago that illustrates why investment professionals behave as they do: An oil prospector, moving to his heavenly reward, was met by St. Peter with bad news. “You’re qualified for residence”, said St. Peter, “but, as you can see, the compound reserved for oil men is packed.

There’s no way to squeeze you in.” After thinking a moment, the prospector asked if he might say just four words to the present occupants. That seemed harmless to St. Peter, so the prospector cupped his hands and yelled, “Oil discovered in hell.” Immediately the gate to the compound opened and all of the oil men marched out to head for the nether regions. Impressed, St. Peter invited the prospector to move in and make himself comfortable. The prospector paused. “No,” he said, “I think I’ll go along with the rest of the boys. There might be some truth to that rumor after all.”

Buffett-on-Valuation   Worth a review.

Speculation vs. Investment (2000, Berkshire Hathaway Letter)

The line separating investment and speculation, which is never bright and clear, becomes blurred still further when most market participants have recently enjoyed triumphs. Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money. After a heady experience of that kind, normally sensible people drift into behavior akin to that of Cinderella at the ball. They know that overstaying the festivities ¾ that is, continuing to speculate in companies that have gigantic valuations relative to the cash they are likely to generate in the future ¾ will eventually bring on pumpkins and mice. But they nevertheless hate to miss a single minute of what is one helluva party. Therefore, the giddy participants all plan to leave just seconds before midnight. There’s a problem, though: They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands.

Last year (1999), we commented on the exuberance ¾ and, yes, it was irrational ¾ that prevailed, noting that investor expectations had grown to be several multiples of probable returns. One piece of evidence came from a Paine Webber-Gallup survey of investors conducted in December 1999, in which the participants were asked their opinion about the annual returns investors could expect to realize over the decade ahead. Their answers averaged 19%. That, for sure, was an irrational expectation: For American business as a whole, there couldn’t possibly be enough birds in the 2009 bush to deliver such a return.

Far more irrational still were the huge valuations that market participants were then putting on businesses almost certain to end up being of modest or no value. Yet investors, mesmerized by soaring stock prices and ignoring all else, piled into these enterprises. It was as if some virus, racing wildly among investment professionals as well as amateurs, induced hallucinations in which the values of stocks in certain sectors became decoupled from the values of the businesses that underlay them.

Burning Up the Dotcons

http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/New_Home_Page/darkside/articles/cashburn.htm

DEEP VALUE Videos on Net/Nets and Investing

Closing Arg

How is it possible that an issue with the splendid records of Tonopah Mining should sell at less than the company’s cash assets alone? Three explanations of this strange situation may be given. The company’s rich mines at Tonopah are known to be virtually exhausted. At the same time the strenuous efforts of the Exploration Department to develop new properties have met with but indifferent success. Finally, the drop in the price of silver last year has provided another bearish argument. It is this combination of unfavorable factors which has carried the price down from $7  1/8 in 1917 to its present low of $1  3/8 in 1923.

Granting that the operating outlook is uncertain, one must still marvel at the triumph of pessimism which refused to value the issue at even the amount of its cash and marketable investments; particularly since there is every reason to believe that the company’s holdings in the Tonopah and Goldfield railroad, are themselves intrinsically worth the present selling price. (Ben Graham on Investing)

VIDEOS

Marty Whitman criticizes Graham and Net Nets (3 minutes Must see!)

Marty Whitman: They Just Don’t Get it.  (23 minutes) Marty says many analysts on Wall Street do not understand credit analysis.   We will explore later in this course whether the quality of credit provides a better assessment of the true cost of capital for a firm rather than “beta.”

One investor’s experience investing in Net/Nets (3 minutes)

Net/nets as value traps (5 minutes)

Good advice on behavioral investing (3.5 minutes)

Prof. Greenwald on UGLY and Cheap or Graham’s Search Strategy (8 minutes)

Greenwald on the Balance Sheet (risk of financials) (10 minutes)

How Cheap It Was: The 1920-21 Stock Market

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Chapter 19: America on the Bargain Counter (The Forgotten Depression, 2014) (pages: 197 to 200)

On August 24, 1921, the low point of the Dow, many stock prices translated into multiples on 1923 earnings of less than five times. That held true of the steel companies but also of the kind of consumer-products companies that had enjoyed a relatively prosperous depression. Thus, Coca-Cola, at $19 a share—500,000 shares were outstanding, providing a stock market capitalization of all of $9.5 million—was valued at what would prove 1.7 times 1922 earnings and 2.5 times 1923 earnings; the shares provided a dividend yield of 5.26%. Gillette Safety Razor Company, which was selling as many razors and blades in 1921 as it had in 1920, was quoted at a little more than five times forward earnings and yielded 9.23 percent. Radio Corporation of America, not yet revealed as one of the great growth stocks of the 1920s, could be purchased in the market for about as much as the company earned in 1923: $1.50 a share.

djia19201940s

As a matter of course on Wall Street, bargains hold no appeal at the bottom of the market. In August 1921, stock prices had been sliding for almost two years. At such junctures, the memory of losing money is usually more vivid than the imagined prospect of making it.

It didn’t take much imagination to recognize the value of F.W. Woolworth Company, the five-and-dime chain merchandiser that was finishing its tenth year as a fused corporate unit. Frank W. Woolworth himself, founder and builder of the gothic corporate headquarters tower at 233 Broadway in lower Manhattan, had died in 1919, but his successors had distinguished themselves in the depression. They had stopped buying any but essential merchandise after the break in whole sale price in June 1920, while customers, happily, had kept right on buying. Now 1921 sales were on track to surpass the total for 1920. While other chain stores had raised prices, Woolworth hewed to the letter of its five-and dime appellation (15; cents was the top ticket west of the Mississippi). And how was this exemplar of deflation-era merchandising—about to close its year without bank debt and with no mis-priced inventory—valued in the stock market on August 24, 1921?  At a price of $105 a share, or 3.7 times imminent 1922 earnings and 3.3 times what would turn out to be 1923 earnings.  The stock yielded 7.62 percent.

James Grant Explains The Forgotten Depression

Reading the Financial News; Microdocumentary on Boom/Bust

As Gold Rises; Gold Miners Fall Down By Johanna Bennett

The price of gold may be rising, but gold mining stocks are getting hammered today. And do you know why?

They are still stocks.  (What does THAT mean?)

On the heels of yesterday’s late-day price surge, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX), of fell more than 4.5% amid a broader market selloff that sent the Dow dropping more than 300 points and the S&P 500 declining almost 2%.

The dovish minutes from the Federal Reserve’s September policy meeting have gold bugs buzzing. The precious metal touched a two-week high today, amid easing concerns that the Fed is near to raising interest rates, reviving gold as an inflation hedge.

Gold prices rallied to $1,234 a troy ounce, their highest level since Sept. 23, a day after minutes from the Fed’s September policy meeting revealed officials were worried weaker growth in Asia and Europe could curtail U.S. exports. The central bank also highlighted a stronger dollar as a barrier to U.S. inflation climbing toward the Fed’s 2% target, stoking hopes for a sustained period of low interest rates.

The most actively traded contract, for December delivery, was ended the day at $1,225.10 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $19.10, or 1.59% after earlier today climbing as high as $1,380.

ETFs linked to the commodity prices saw little improvement today. The SPDR Gold Trust(GLD) rose 0.25% to $117.76, while the iShares Gold Trust (IAU) inched up 0.21%.

But while worries regarding a weak economy can lift gold prices they can squeeze gold mining companies. GDX has plunged more than 60% over the past two years with the likes of Barrick Gold (ABX) falling more than 65% during that same time span and Newmont Mining (NEM) falling 59%.

The above is an article from an “elite” financial publication (Barrons) where the theme is that miners are being hurt/squeezed because they are stocks.  I ask my readers how are miners hurt LONG-TERM (the next decade) if the REAL price of gold is rising?  Sure miners may have been sold today due to leveraged investors selling to go into cash, but how does that “squeeze” the mining business if gold is risng RELATIVE to input costs like crude oil and commodities? Mining is a spread business. You make money on the spread between input costs and output revenues.  Never take what you read on face value.

gold oil

Gold commodities

 

gdxj gold

Miners realtive to gold in the chart above.

Four Boom and Bust Cycles and the Implications for today’s Cycle (Microdocumentary)

This microdocumentary video examines in detail 4 major booms in the last 100 years and explains how monetary policy and interest rate manipulation has led to the inevitable bust:

  1. The great depression of the 30ies
  2. The recession of the 90ies
  3. The dot com bubble
  4. The housing bubble

http://www.safehaven.com/article/35401/microdocumentary-the-truth-about-boom-and-bust-cycles   A bit simplistic, but a good introduction to the dangers of excess credit growth.

Rap Video on the Boom Bust Cycle or Hayek vs. Keynes

The Problem with Bubbles

1-babson

housing bubbles

Debt Based Fiathouse distortion

It’s the timing.   Babson was two years early, so by the time the bubble peaked, no one cared.   Sort of like today with six years of easy money/credit and rising prices in the US stock markets.

Note the housing bubble.   Home prices were far above owner’s equivalent rent (the cash flow/income to support home prices) in 2002/2003 but then two to three years later the apex was reached.   Soros in his theory of Reflexivity would propose to ride the bubble knowing you were in a bubble and then reversing course once it burst (the most marginal buyer has bought).  Not easy in the hurly-burly world of investing.

Victor Sperandeo on the Inevitability of U.S. Hyperinflation

Why we are doomed

debt-GDP

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjuly14/interest-debt7-14.html

Update on Hyperinflation Talk Presented 2010 by Victor Sperandeo,

EAM Partners L.P.                                                                May 13, 2013

On February 16, 2010, I first gave a speech titled “Hyperinflation: A Statistical Inevitability” at a charity event in Dallas, Texas. In essence, the talk was a “warning” that unless the growth of the nominal debt versus nominal GDP changed to a more normal balance, the US would “eventually” suffer from hyperinflation.

Hyperinflation is a debt problem whose root cause is when a country’s level of debt rises to a level that when its economy goes into a deep recession (or depression) the country cannot borrow money or raise enough taxes to cover its expenditures, and therefore it is forced to print money to cover a greater percentage of its expenditures than the markets and investors think is sustainable. This concludes in the country’s inability to pay the interest on its debt, which progressively consumes its overall budget, causing the country to continue to print money to pay its ever increasing debts and interest thereon, which ultimately leads to a loss in confidence in its currency, ending with hyperinflation as the result.

Editor: Note the difference between inflation and hyperinflation (hyperinflation is NOT just an ultra-high rate of inflation) See links below.

Where the U.S. Stands Today

My original speech was based on the 2010 Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook Fiscal Years 2010-2020. At the time, total US debt was growing at an unsustainable rate of 11.90% compounded from 2006 -2010 (fiscal years) while gross GDP was growing at a nominal rate of 2.75%. Debt was increasing at 4.3 x’s higher than growth. Clearly, this was an unsustainable situation.

Further, the reason that I state hyperinflation will occur “within” the next 10 years has a logical basis. If one takes the position that the net debt will grow at 5% a year, total U.S. debt will be $27.324 trillion in 10 years (not including current off-balance sheet items or unfunded liabilities). As the CBO does not project total U.S. debt, only public debt, the $27.324 trillion figure is based on my projection.

Now, what will interest rates be in 10 years? The CBO says an average yield is 4.6% (CBO 2/13 Report page 5), but let’s assume it reverts to the mean for bills and bonds of the last 52 years, or from 1961, which was 6.01%. Assuming that spending increases 5.08% a year from 2014-2023 (CBO 2/13 Report page 3), they say annual spending will be $5.082 trillion in 2023 net of annual interest.

However, annual interest in 2023 on my projected $27.324 trillion total U.S. debt (using the historic average interest rate of 6.01%) will be $1.642 trillion, or 32% of projected 2023 annual spending without interest and 24% of projected 2023 annual spending with interest. Today, interest is 6% of the budget. Therefore, one has to ask the question, where does the approximately 20% difference come from? I believe U.S. bond holders will sell what they own, the U.S. dollar will decline, and the Fed will print money at a rate that will make today’s Fed look like they are Shaolin Monks.

See full article here:Hyperinflation by Victor Sperandeo

A history of hyperinflation in pre-revolutionary France: Fiat_Inflation_in_France_by_White

Wheel

Children fiatburn fiatth

An Austrian economist, Joseph Salerno discusses in nineteen minutes the theory of hyperinflation (High School Lecture) http://youtu.be/xVDZVhdT2gY

I am interested to hear from readers how the U.S. will AVOID hyperinflation assuming our current trends continue. What will politicians try to avoid default.  What do YOU think?

Two short, six minute videos discussing Market Wizard, Victor Sperandeo: http://youtu.be/OBkb69tvVqs and http://youtu.be/8XfSz3MT3Xg

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Yamana valuation to be posted Friday.