4th Quarter Investment Thoughts Thursday, Oct 1 2009 

I would like to start by making a comment on my last article. Globally, there are values in financial stocks in countries not hit as hard as the US and Europe. My bearish stance is US based, not global.

If one takes the time to look they can find good values, especially in Asia and Canada where banks are lending and making solid profits.

Recent home sales numbers were positive. Inventories are being cleared from the system; which given the new wave of resets is a very good sign. There is a question of what will happen in 2010 when the tax credits expire. I have a pretty good idea on how this plays out in the coming year but would like to see more data before my thesis gets solidified. In the meantime, if sales and inventories continue to fall, properties in the grey market will likely come online. The faster this glut of grey market properties work their way through the system the quicker we can return to normal.

The scenario is similar to how tech companies had to wait for equipment purchased by dot.coms who went bust to work their way through the system in 2001 and 2002 before they started to see any growth.

The recent pullback in gold and silver is a pause that refreshes. Gold seems to be tracking the dollar which is headed for a retest of the lows made in 2008 which retested lows made in the 1980’s. The key is what happens next year during the period of time when we retest. Do we dare look back to what happened more than 25 years ago? I have a pretty good idea how this scenario plays out through 2010 but once again need to see more data before my thesis become solidified.

Neutral to bearish in hard commodities. There are some seasonal factors at play here and the technical charts do not look strong at all. An upside breakout would turn me into a bull but I believe each metal, with the exception of gold and silver, needs to take a break and reassess its fundamentals vis-a-vis stockpiles and supply-demand fundamentals.

Agriculture stocks continue to provided fantastic value and returns if you are willing to do your homework.

Sugar should underperform relative to other soft commodities.

The broader market is likely headed higher after a correction but there are better returns elsewhere outside the major indexes. The next group has yet to emerge and assume leadership in the market so what we are seeing is not the beginning of a bull market but rather a correction in a long-term (decadinal) sideways movement.

The Fed statement spoke about extending the mortgage securities purchase program into the first quarter of next year. This is an admission that they will not be able to wind down this program as fast as programs like TALF.

Rates will end up staying low in the Unites States much longer than people expect. I believe that those looking for a rate hike in 2010 will be disappointed.

The real question going forward in monetary policy is ‘Who globally will lead the charge to raise rates?’

Disclaimer
Communications are intended solely for informational purposes. Statements made should not be construed as an endorsement, either expressed or implied. This article and the author is not responsible for typographic errors or other inaccuracies in the content. This article may not be reproduced without credit or permission from the author. We believe the information contained herein to be accurate and reliable. However, errors may occasionally occur. Therefore, all information and materials are provided “AS IS” without any warranty of any kind. Past results are not indicative of future results.
PAST RESULTS ARE NOT INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. THERE IS RISK OF LOSS AS WELL AS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GAIN WHEN INVESTING IN THE STOCK, BOND, AND DERIVATIVE MARKETS. WHEN CONSIDERING ANY TYPE OF INVESTMENT, INCLUDING HEDGE FUNDS, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER VARIOUS RISKS INCLUDING THE FACT THAT SOME PRODUCTS: OFTEN ENGAGE IN LEVERAGING AND OTHER SPECULATIVE INVESTMENT PRACTICES THAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF INVESTMENT LOSS, CAN BE ILLIQUID, ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE PERIODIC PRICING OR VALUATION INFORMATION TO INVESTORS, MAY INVOLVE COMPLEX TAX STRUCTURES AND DELAYS IN DISTRIBUTING IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION, ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE SAME REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS AS MUTUAL FUNDS, OFTEN CHARGE HIGH FEES, AND IN MANY CASES THE UNDERLYING INVESTMENTS ARE NOT TRANSPARENT AND ARE KNOWN ONLY TO THE INVESTMENT MANAGER.
Before making any type of investment, one should consult with an investment professional to consider whether the investment is appropriate for the individuals risk profile. This is not intended to be investment advice or a solicitation to purchase any of the securities listed here. I will not be held liable or responsible for any losses or damages, monetary or otherwise that result from the content of this article.

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Investment Thoughts (August 3rd, 2009): Monday, Aug 3 2009 

Not going to chase the market for a number of reasons, but most of all we should see a retest of the March lows sometime in the distant future, maybe a year or so. The US banking sector is still not healthy and has been propped up by regulatory rule changes.

So while financial stocks may be doing well at the present time they will not be the leaders in the new cycle for a variety of reasons. Among them are the mark-to-market rules, increasing non-performing loans, and difficulty in earning a solid NIM in a 0% cost of funds environment.

In order for a new bull market to begin, a new sector must take up the leadership mantle. The leaders from the previous cycle do not lead in the new cycle.

Technology is unlikely to provide leadership as R&D budgets continue to get cut. Businesses are unlikely to commit to major capital spending programs, despite a 0% interest rate environment, amidst falling revenues and uncertain consumer demand. Consumer uncertainty about the future will translate to a cautious business environment going forward.

It may sound strange to say this but with top line revenue growth falling and earnings estimates being met by cutting employees and R&D budgets, this is not a healthy sign for the future.

Without top line revenue growth earnings momentum will be difficult to maintain. You can only cut so much staff and R&D. At some point revenues need to grow and that will only come through increased consumer confidence.

When you combine an US unemployment rate that has gone from 5% to 9% and 70% of US GDP being made up of personal consumption, it is no surprise that consumer demand is weak and consumers are tightening their budgets. We will need to see strong hiring in order to get consumers feeling better about the future and opening their pocketbooks.

I am not a proponent of massive budget deficits but right now government spending is propping the US economy from falling off a cliff. This happens in every recession so there should be no surprise here.

Government spending is adding a couple of percent to GDP at the current time. A significant portion of the stimulus money is targeted to be spent in the coming years which should help the recovery. The question is how much will it affect hiring which should translate into higher tax collection as well and possibly allowing the government to meet their optimistic projections for the 2011-2012 time frame, although it is not the authors opinion that the overly optimistic projections will not be met.

The biggest question concerning the recovery should come from the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve. It is Mr. Bernanke’s intention to begin shrinking the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve in the coming years bringing it back down to a reasonable level.

The largest problem is how much will the shrinking balance sheet constrain the economic recovery. In order for the Federal Reserve to sell the securities it now holds there needs to be a buyer on the other side of the transaction. It is unlikely that the capital will come from drastically higher leverage levels at hedge funds and banks. This means the capital needs to come from either foreign governments or the private sector. Capital coming from the private sector will mean less capital for investment purposes. Capital coming from foreign governments means competition for Treasury sales.

Any recovery will be slow and grinding which is not what the bull camp wants to hear.

So what am I doing right now? Sitting on the agriculture purchases I have made over the last six months. Farmland, fruit, vegetable, and sugar production has provided a nice hedge and decent returns. There is tremendous value in the sector with some stocks already surpassing pre-crash highs.

Gold and silver should begin moving to the upside in the next few months but I am content to wait for a washout correction. This should occur about the time we get either a peak in the US Dollar, the US equity market, or both. We have yet to see a 50% retracement from last years lows which is giving me pause, although there are some interesting trades in the large cap sector.

Disclaimer
Communications are intended solely for informational purposes. Statements made should not be construed as an endorsement, either expressed or implied. This article and the author is not responsible for typographic errors or other inaccuracies in the content. This article may not be reproduced without credit or permission from the author. We believe the information contained herein to be accurate and reliable. However, errors may occasionally occur. Therefore, all information and materials are provided “AS IS” without any warranty of any kind. Past results are not indicative of future results.
PAST RESULTS ARE NOT INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. THERE IS RISK OF LOSS AS WELL AS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GAIN WHEN INVESTING IN THE STOCK, BOND, AND DERIVATIVE MARKETS. WHEN CONSIDERING ANY TYPE OF INVESTMENT, INCLUDING HEDGE FUNDS, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER VARIOUS RISKS INCLUDING THE FACT THAT SOME PRODUCTS: OFTEN ENGAGE IN LEVERAGING AND OTHER SPECULATIVE INVESTMENT PRACTICES THAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF INVESTMENT LOSS, CAN BE ILLIQUID, ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE PERIODIC PRICING OR VALUATION INFORMATION TO INVESTORS, MAY INVOLVE COMPLEX TAX STRUCTURES AND DELAYS IN DISTRIBUTING IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION, ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE SAME REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS AS MUTUAL FUNDS, OFTEN CHARGE HIGH FEES, AND IN MANY CASES THE UNDERLYING INVESTMENTS ARE NOT TRANSPARENT AND ARE KNOWN ONLY TO THE INVESTMENT MANAGER.
Before making any type of investment, one should consult with an investment professional to consider whether the investment is appropriate for the individuals risk profile. This is not intended to be investment advice or a solicitation to purchase any of the securities listed here. I will not be held liable or responsible for any losses or damages, monetary or otherwise that result from the content of this article.