HENYANG, China, Oct 20, 2008 /Xinhua-PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- A-Power Energy Generation Systems, Ltd. (APWR) would like to provide, as a follow up to the management conference call on Wednesday, October 15, a summary of the most common questions received from investors since that call and management's responses to those questions.
Monday, October 20, 2008
HENYANG, China, Oct 20, 2008 /Xinhua-PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- A-Power Energy Generation Systems, Ltd. (APWR) would like to provide, as a follow up to the management conference call on Wednesday, October 15, a summary of the most common questions received from investors since that call and management's responses to those questions.
- Research In Motion (RIMM) shares dropped as much as 10 percent on Monday after a brokerage report said that retail sales trends for BlackBerry smartphones in North America and Western Europe have been "slightly disappointing". It also said risks to November-quarter results are building as the company is becoming more reliant on "aggressive and successful" launches of its BlackBerry Storm and BlackBerry Bold models in the United States. The Storm and Bold are not yet available in the United States, Faucette added.
- Faucette said sales of the BlackBerry Flip, the first clamshell model from RIM, have been particularly disappointing, with only one or two sold per store after having been on sale for a few days.
- The RIM's forecast for the current quarter now requires "stellar" sales of the Bold and the first touch-screen model, the Storm, in the U.S. in November, Faucette wrote. Neither model is yet on sale in the U.S.
- Morgan Keegan analyst Tavis McCourt lowered earnings forecast for the third quarter to 87 cents per share from 95 cents, and trimmed more long-range figures as well, based on the slowing global economy. Sales of Bold, he believes, will bear the brunt of lower corporate spending, but he is impressed with the technical specifications of the Storm, and raised his estimates for that model.
- "People are ratcheting back their expectations for earnings," said Peter Misek, analyst at Canaccord Adams. "It's a pretty direct relationship when you see consensus estimates come down."
- As well, early sales of the BlackBerry Pearl Flip have been tepid at best and sales execution problems in Canada and Britain are plaguing Curve and Bold sales, said Pacific Crest Securities.
- However, Paradigm analyst Barry Richards said it's too early to make any assessment of what will happen to RIM's results. "With the Bold, the Flip and the Storm all set to ramp in the back half of October and through November it is too early to make any assessment of the potential for Q3 or Q4 results," Richards wrote in a midday note.
- In a research note, Morgan Keegan said it now expects RIM's revenue to grow 84% in 2009 and 56% in 2010. Previously, the firm had expected RIM to grow 92% in 2009 and 70% in 2010. (oh the horror of 84% growth rates - down from 92%) ;)
This once again speaks to the absolute domination of short term results on Wall Street. If any 90 day period is not up to snuff, the entire forest is set on fire. I still like the Apple franchise better but RIMM appears to be an excellent value at these prices; however uncertainty will remain a problem until all these launches go through and investors see the full effect on margins. The stock seems to be bottoming out near $50 on the heavy down days so we're near that level again after today's 8%+ down move.
Long Research in Motion, Apple in fund; no personal position
I put some of this money into peer Potash (POT) which has been lagging and has a similar chart. Potash is up to a 5.3% stake. Recall earnings are October 23rd here... expectations should be very low considering how impaired the stock has been. I still find the commodity/global growth space with the best potential for short term gains as long as hedge funds don't have inventory the margin clerks demand. Hence I want to maintain exposure for at least a bit more. Remember, commodities in fall 08 are like banks in spring 08 - hated, disliked, disgusting - but oversold bounces will create massive gains in a short amount of time. Before they are thrown to the garbage bin again in a few weeks ;)
I'll maintain the bullishness I noted this weekend until S&P 1030s/1040 or so where our first tests begin. Still running with little hedges on the short side since the market is grossly oversold, although less so then when we entered the day. A ton of earnings tomorrow and our friends from Cupertino, CA will probably determine our fate here in the next few days.
Long Mosaic, Potash in fund; long Mosaic in personal account
- We started Portfolio Recovery Associates (PRAA) a few weeks ago as it was one of the few names still holding in a good technical position; the stock was trading above all key moving averages. In this market, nothing lasts long and within days the stock fell off a cliff; and has since sold off to fall below all these support lines. I still like the thesis here but a reader who has owned this stock himself made a good point; this is a better stock to own near the tail end of a recession not in the beginning. If so, sometime in mid to latter 2009 this might be a more attractive entry point. We'll see. I'm selling this with a $1700 loss; so no major damage done for this position we began on Oct 1st. Now in a normal market this would be an easy sell because the chart broke down, but in this market it could simply be a stock hammered by an awful market, and nothing specific to the company. It is impossible to tell right now.
- MFA Mortgage Investments (MFA) continues to be a non performer for us - this is the second time we've lost money on this name - with an interest rate cut since we've owned it, and the potential for ANOTHER round of cuts I'd of expected this name to act much better than it has since the cost side of their business is becoming cheaper and cheaper. But the stocks in this sector are just not reacting well. This is not stock specific as every stock in this group has a similar chart. Frankly I'm scratching my head on the sector performance but obviously I am missing something that the market is seeing. So it is hard to have conviction here. I'm going to sell with a $5000 loss as the stock is up 6% today; this position was restarted in early September. Very similarly we bought this stock when it was (in a normal market) looking good, above key technical support and poised to breakout. But like 95% of stocks nowadays a potential breakout just turned into nothing more than a money losing operation.
Looked like an outperformer ready to run in early September - not so much
Looked like an outperformer in early October escaping the wrath of the market - not so much
I prefer EZCORP (EZPW) over Cash America (CSH) due to the heavier exposure of the latter to the cash advance business, but both have extensive pawn shop networks. I was trying to figure out why EZCORP was up so much today when I saw this Cramer blurb.
Cash-strapped consumers don’t have the same options struggling banks do. The Fed discount window doesn’t open for Joe Six-Pack. So when times get tough and credit is non-existent, a lot of Americans turn to a different window, at their local pawnshop, to raise money.
Sure, this one’s bulletproof and you have to scream at the clerk through tiny air holes to get his attention, but pawnshops do trade greenbacks for jewelry. And as morbid as it may sound, more and more people might be exchanging their favorite gold bracelet for cash as the U.S. economy continues its downward spiral.
That’s why Cramer likes Cash America [CSH 36.46 0.37 (+1.03%) ]. He’s not a big fan of what they do – pawn and payday lending as well as check cashing – but he has been recommending these trade-down plays in anticipation of a recession (think discount retailers like Wal-Mart [WMT 52.80 -0.97 (-1.8%) ]). As consumers pull their belts tighter, these are the companies that do well.
Cash America is the largest pawnbroker in the country, with 480 shops in 22 states. It’s a business with high barriers to entry, thanks to heavy regulation, so competition shouldn’t threaten the company. And a recent purchase worth 80% of a Mexican pawn operator should boost earnings as soon as the deal closes in December.
There’s even a stealth play on gold here. At the end of the second quarter, 71% of Cash American’s inventory was jewelry. The company sells the jewelry of customers who can’t payback their loans, so Cash America should fetch some decent prices with gold up 25% from 2007 levels.
One note about the regulation, though, before we give you the play on CSH. Cash America is losing some revenue because new rules about payday lending are cutting into the company’s profits – as much 70% to 80% in Ohio alone. Luckily, Cash America got an extension to do business there past the Sept. 1 deadline, so that should help earnings. Plus, the company’s finding ways around the rules by offering alternative lending products and online cash-advance services.
[Sep 8: EZCORP Acquires 11 Pawn Shops in Nevada]
[Aug 11: EZCORP Down 8% on Termination of Value Financial Deal]
[Jul 24: Cash America (CSH) and EZCORP (EZPW) Both Report Today - Starting Small Stake in EZCORP]
Long EZCORP in fund; no personal position
It looks like our prediction is gaining steam. Now that we simply are making a mockery of any budget or our national debt, we can ask for anything and get it.
- A second economic stimulus package gained sudden momentum after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke urged Congress to consider a new plan and the White House said President Bush was "open" to the idea.
- Bernanke's remarks before the House Budget Committee marked his first endorsement of another round of energizing stimulus, something that Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pushing. The idea got a further push when the Bush administration, which has been cool to the notion, offered to consider fresh proposals.
- "With the economy likely to be weak for several quarters, and with some risk of a protracted slowdown, consideration of a fiscal package by the Congress at this juncture seems appropriate," Bernanke testified. Repeatedly pressed for how large the stimulus package should be, Bernanke demurred, saying that was up to Congress—along with the exact components. However, he said the size should be "significant." A trio of hard blows from the housing, credit and financial crises has badly pounded the economy.
- Bernanke suggested that Congress design the stimulus package so that it will be timely, well targeted and would limit the longer-term affects on the government's budget deficit, which hit a record high in the recently ended budget year. (Mr. Bernanke - are you kidding me. Look at the audience you are talking to)
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said an economic recovery bill could be as large as $150 billion. Economists have told leading Democrats the plan should be twice the size. (just make it $3 trillion - I mean it's all just numbers on a spreadsheet and our debt load can be any number now and no one cares - nah, just make it $13 trillion - that's equal to our entire GDP)
- Soleil's Gulley & Associates is out with a noteworthy call on Mosaic (NYSE:MOS) noting that Cargill's four-year standstill re Mosaic expires this Wednesday. The expiration sets up the possibility that Cargill could accept the gift that "Mr. Market" is presenting: accretively increasing its ownership stake in Mosaic.
- How accretive? Buyout of the 35% minority stake could boost Cargill earnings by more than 20%, given the fact that Mosaic is currently trading at just 2.7x consensus calendar 2009E EPS of $12.25.
- Knowledgeable buyer. Given Cargill's extensive knowledge of the global grain markets, any action it takes with respect to its Mosaic ownership position will be closely watched. Cargill is a leading global grain processor and one of the largest private companies in the U.S., with F2008 sales of $120 billion and net income of $4 billion.
- Mosaic shares are down 80% from the mid-June peak of $163, during which time the S&P 500 is down 30%. With Mosaic's equity market cap of just $15 billion, down from the peak of $72 billion, the 35% owned by the public is currently worth just $5 billion, down from the peak of $25 billion.
- Mosaic currently accounts for roughly half of Cargill earnings:
- Cargill reported 1QF09 net profit of $1.5 billion
- Mosaic reported 1QF09 net earnings of $1.2 billion; 65% of which is $0.8 billion, approximately half of Cargill's $1.5 billion.
- Quoting from Mosaic's F2008 10-K filing filed July 29, 2008:
"Standstill provisions in our Investor Rights Agreement with Cargill restrict Cargill from acquiring additional shares of our common stock from our public stockholders and taking other specified actions as a stockholder of Mosaic. These restrictions will expire on October 22, 2008. Following the expiration of the standstill period, Cargill will be free to increase its ownership interest in our common stock."
- With Mosaic currently trading at a P/E of just 2.7x, Cargill's buyout of the minority interest it doesn't own should be highly accretive to its net earnings. Firm ran twocases, at $50 and $82.5 per Mosaic share.
- Maintains Buy and $127 tgt on MOS. (almost laughable how far off the targets are versus the real stock price - again, if Mosaic's earnings which are modeled to increase next year - go worst case and fall in HALF in 2009 as a meteor strikes Earth, than it's trading at 6x 2009 estimates)
Sunday, October 19, 2008
- “Wow, what a terrible market.” So terrible that Jim Cramer, the happy warrior who cheered the Dow on his cable show surrounded by his menagerie of stuffed animals, sound effects and bobble-heads has traded the pom-poms for a votive candle, praying that the market finds a way to right itself — and maybe restore some of the luster to his chosen profession.
- After years of selling the stock market as a reliable path to riches, Mr. Cramer came in for some brutal criticism recently from viewers and competitors. In March, he said Bear Stearns “is not in trouble.” After Bear Stearns tipped over, he wrote in his New York magazine column that the bottom had finally come. “I feel the bear has been tamed, and the worst of the clawing is over,” he said.
- And on Sept. 15, he hosted his friend Robert Steel, chief executive of Wachovia, and suggested that its $10.71 share price was a bargain. Two weeks later, it was at $1.84. (they forgot to mention his call that the July 15th lows would hold as well)
- On Oct. 6, he went on the “Today” show on NBC (which, like CNBC, is owned by NBC Universal) and said, “Whatever money you may need for the next five years, please take it out of the stock market. Right now. This week,” he told a surprised Ann Curry. “I do not believe that you should risk those assets in the stock markets.”
- The Dow dropped 18 percent in the week that followed. In a follow-up visit to “Today,” one of the viewers wrote in to accuse him of shouting fire in a crowded building. (His reply: “But what happens if there is a fire in the building?”) When the Dow zoomed up 936 points on the following Monday, he was accused of leaving his loyal viewers standing on the sidelines.
- He says he has tried to make amends for Bear Stearns and Wachovia. “I apologized to my viewers,” he said. “I apologized on the ‘Today’ show. It is a completely humbling market.”
- Even with all the finger-pointing and funeral crepe, however, Jim Cramer still loves running his show and his mouth about the market, even if the market is not loving him back. But the game plan has changed along with the context.
- Now a show that promises to “make you some money” spends time talking about defensive investing, capital preservation and — this really hurts — trying to find value in dividends, normally the refuge of conservative investors minding their purse strings.
- He concedes that “when you don’t have a lot of things going right, the show becomes a different exercise.” So “Mad Money,” a loud, dirty pleasure for some of us during the run-up, has become like watching ESPN’s “SportsCenter” with every team stuck on a losing streak.
- The brutal gyrations of the market have been good for ratings. Since Sept. 15, when Lehman Brothers tanked, Merrill Lynch was sold for parts and A.I.G. teetered, “Mad Money” has averaged 427,000 viewers, nearly double its average of 222,000 for the prior four weeks.
- On “Mad Money” he now makes fewer recommendations and is hitting the button marked “House of Pain” a lot more often than the one marked “House of Pleasure,” but tearing the horns off a bull does not make it any more relevant to an economy rendered in fragile china. He is a blue sky kind of guy, a creature of a fast-fading era. “We are still going to try and find things, but it’s harder to have a good batting average. It is harder to get it right than any time I have seen in my career,” he said. “It’s just a bear trying to do a show in this environment,” he said.
- Fox Business Network, sensing an opportunity to tweak CNBC, has developed print and broadcast ads that take ripe aim at Mr. Cramer, saying, “The last thing you need is bad advice. The last thing you need is Jim Cramer.” To add insult to injury, Fox bought local time on CNBC — beating up Mr. Cramer on his own network.
On tap Monday....
American Express (AXP), Eaton (ETN), Halliburton (HAL)
Tuesday brings us....
3M (MMM), AKSteel (AKS), fund holding Apple (AAPL), former fund holding (and acting strange) Blackrock (BLK), Caterpillar (CAT), Coach (COH), pawn shop/cash advance First Cash Financial (FCFS), Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX), fund holding ICON (ICLR), former fund holding Illumina (ILMN), staffing company Manpower (MAN), former fund holding Millicom International Cellular (MICC), Panera Bread (PNRA), fund holding Regions Financial (RF), airline UAL (UAUA), former tech darling VMWare (VMW), and "why didn't we sell out when we had a chance at $33?" Yahoo (YHOO) ... among many others.
Fund positions of 1.0% or greater can be found each week in the right margin of the blog, under the label cloud and recent comments areas; I highlight weekly the larger position changes.
Being a long only fund, via Marketocracy rules, the only hedges to the downside I have are cash or buying short ETFs. I cannot short individual equities.
To see historic weekly fund changes click here OR the label at the bottom of this entry entitled 'fund positions'.
Cash (1 position [SHV] + cash): 32.8% (vs 19.1% last week)
31 long bias: 65.8% (vs 76.9% last week)
7 short bias: 1.4% (vs 4.0% last week)
39 positions (vs 41 last week)
Removals: Foster Wheeler (FWLT), CF Industries (CF)
Top 10 positions = 39.7% of fund (vs 43.2% last week)
23 of the 39 positions are at least 1% of the fund's overall holdings (59%)
Major changes and weekly thoughts
There was not much to say about this week - I did a bit of a change in strategy - relying more on a long ETF, Ultra Russell 2000 (UWM) instead of individual names. With the market so volatile - 7-8-9-10% swings each and every session this week, there is simply no need to buy individual names since there is no "investing" right now - it is just massive moves in the indexes that people are jumping in and out of. Until the day comes when individual company good news is rewarded (Trina Solar raises guidance, Peabody Energy blows out earnings) on a consistent basis we do not have a market - just a casino. There is really not much more to say here - some day companies will go up and down on their individual merits. This has not been the case in a long time and every company is a hostage to the greater market. So while we continue to maintain interest in how companies are doing - the market is more about the flavor of the hour, and we're awaiting a return to an investing environment from this complete and utter mess.
For the fund, I temporarily do not have a high short exposure so we are quite unhedged. We are so very overdue for a rally of some meaning, but until we see some confidence return to the market we continue to keep much of our capital in benign hiding places and just use 60-70% of our portfolio to try to make gains. If we dissolve and continue back down into an abyss I'll get back some short exposure but one would think at some point the market would actually go up again for more than 5 hours at a time.
I do expect a steady string of bad news over the coming weeks, months, and quarters as the economy weakens - but this does not mean the market has to be down all that time. In fact some of the strongest rallies are in bear markets, and many times the best time to invest is in the 2nd half of a recession. I personally do not think we are anywhere near the 2nd half of a recession considering most talking heads are still trying to deny we are in one at all (or grudgingly accepting it, but mind you - it will short and sweet!) - but it doesn't matter what I think. If the market thinks we're in the 2nd half and the turnaround is "not too far off" we can rally. That happened multiple times during 2008. But as my words above, and over the past few months have constantly pointed to - we are in a sentiment driven market and sentiment is 100x harder to judge than individual company metrics. Hence it's a guessing game based on "mood" and since that is random we're not going to commit major amounts of capital to what amounts to a craps table.
The larger weekly changes (chronologically) to the fund below:
- Monday, on the one of the biggest up days in history, I took profits across the board in names I had bought Friday when we stared into the abyss - many had made 20-30% moves from Friday. I said I'd take another layer off if we opened up strongly Friday since the last hour or so Friday, the full day Monday, and any upward movement Tuesday AM would constitute enough of a movement akin to a few quarters some years.
- I got the chance Tuesday to take another layer off in many names - and I closed out two of our remaining 5 global growth/commodities names - Foster Wheeler (FWLT) and CF Industries (CF). As I've been saying for months until individual companies begin to separate and it's not just a huge sector bet each time names move, there is no reason to hold a lot of individual names - they all move in one big bunch - we saw this in global engineering names Monday as I outlined: each stock up 15-18% without regard for individual company fundamentals. To offset this we are putting larger weights in our remaining names.
- Late Tuesday the market faltered and we had another huge swing down Wednesday; I began rebuying some exposure as "student body left" and "student body right" continued.
- I didn't break out the individual trades this week since they came relatively fast and furious but as the week wore on we added to a bunch of solar stocks which now trade at 3-5x 2008 estimates. Which means if 2009 estimates not only show no growth (they are currently still guiding for 40-75% growth), and in fact 2009 estimates showed a 50% haircut from 2008 estimates (i.e. the business fell off in half) we'd be buying at 6-10x earnings. That's how outrageous the valuations are.
- Again most of my setting of positions was with the ETFs, both long and short because the action is random and without sense in individual names.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
- Andrew Lahde, the hedge-fund manager who quit after posting an 870 percent gain last year, said farewell to clients in a letter that thanks stupid traders for making him rich and ends with a plea to legalize marijuana.
- Lahde, head of Santa Monica, California-based Lahde Capital Management LLC, told investors last month he was returning their cash because the risk of using credit derivatives -- his means of betting on the falling value of bonds and loans, including subprime mortgages -- was too risky given the weakness of the banks he was trading with.
- ``I was in this game for money,'' Lahde, 37, wrote in a two-page letter today in which he said he had come to hate the hedge-fund business. ``The low-hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. (where can I stand and clap? But Mr. Lahde, they must be paid 350x the median worker because only these 500 individuals could run a company into the ground - get with the program fella!)
- ``All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other sides of my trades. God Bless America.''
- Lahde, who managed about $80 million, told clients he'll be content to invest his own money, rather than taking cash from wealthy individuals and institutions and trying to amass a fortune worth hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. ``I do not understand the legacy thing,'' he wrote. ``Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.''
- He said he'd spend his time repairing his health ``as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces at universities, and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not.'' (more clapping from the peanut gallery i.e. me)
- He also suggested that billionaire George Soros sponsor a forum in which ``great minds'' would come together to create a new system of government, as the current system ``is clearly broken.'' (more clapping - it would probably take someone from outside the country to honestly assess the mess that has been created by leadership here - but bring in Buffet, Volcker, Bloomberg, whomever - please just start over)
We've been tracking the growing litany of failures and I expect far more in the future.
- [Apr 11: This Day in Bankruptcies - Another Airline and our First Major Retailer]
- [Jul 10: Another Retailer (Canary in Coal Mine Down -Steve & Barry's]
- [Jul 21: Add Mervyn's to our Growing List of Retailers Headed to the Great Sunset]
- [Jul 30: Bennigan's, Stake & Ale Close - File for Bankruptcy Protection]
CNNMoney.com is out with a story this week - the mainstream media is finally catching up to the curve. The difference is these stories still talk of cyclical closings; I believe many of these are structural - until we add population and real wealth (not fake wealth via increases in debt) we'll be at a lower level of "consumerism" for a long while.
- With thousands of stores closing in the economic downturn, the increase in empty space at the nation's shopping malls is leaving a hole in the hearts of once-vibrant communities. In some cases, one-quarter or more of shopping centers are now empty, and the decline - or even the demise - of a mall can have a devastating economic and social impact.
- When a mall closes, you have a significant loss of jobs, even though these are typically low-paying jobs," said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody's Economy.com.
- Malls also provide significant tax revenue to communities through property tax (yet another nail in the coffin of states and cities tax revenue next year) Kotval said small towns are dependent upon this money to balance budget deficits, and to fund local services and infrastructure development.
- In tough economic times, shortfalls arise - a scenario playing out in the village of North Randall in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The Randall Park Mall has been a main source of revenue for North Randall, a suburb of Cleveland that has a population of about 1,000.
- But a challenging economic and competitive climate has crippled business - and the 32-year-old shopping center, once the largest enclosed mall in the greater Cleveland area, is closing.
- Besides jobs, he said the village's residents also depended on revenue from the mall to fund basic services such as security and free snow plowing for senior citizens. (now the money will come from? has to be higher taxes on residents at a time they can least afford it)
- Now, the demise of the mall and sluggish patronage at the racetrack have almost put the village of North Randall on "deathwatch," Jones said. The situation is so bad that the village can no longer provide its own security for its residents. "The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office is patrolling North Randall," Jones said. (very similar stories in metro Detroit)
- Unless the village figures out how to revitalize the 1.5 million square feet of mall space, Jones fears that North Randall "could become the first municipal fatality in North Ohio." "It could simply cease to exist as a city," he said.
- Store vacancies at regional malls such as Randall Park are up 6.6%, which is the largest increase since early 2002, according to real estate research firm Reis. (and we haven't even officially started a recession, eh?) In some malls, store occupancy rates are falling below 75%, said Ivan Friedman, president & CEO of RCS Retail Real Estate Advisors.
- One big obstacle to any type of large scale redevelopment in North Randall or anywhere else is the ongoing credit market lockdown. Industry experts said this could make it very hard for commercial real estate developers to borrow money for financing construction work.
- RCS' Friedman said the credit freeze is also forcing regional mall operators who can't meet their debt obligations to put underperforming locations into receivership, which puts control of the property in the hands of its creditors. "Usually we see three or four (malls in receivership)," Friedman said. "I've already noticed eight or nine (malls) this year and I think it's the beginning of a trend."
- PPR's Mulvee said malls are being hit hard from all angles. "More than 6,000 (locations of) national chains this year have announced closings, and 50% of those are in malls," she said.
- "Second, there's no financing available for mall operators," she said. Several of the leading mall operators have significant debt that's coming up for renewal at the end of 2008 and early 2009.
- General Growth Properties (GGP), the second-largest operator of malls, announced last month that it might sell some assets to raise capital for servicing its debt.
- "If [mall] occupancy rates go down even further then it could get very frightening out there," Friedman said (it will be... it will be - watch 2009)
Friday, October 17, 2008
Comments: Yet another crazy week in a series of crazy weeks. The volatility this week was simply numbing. I guess it was an upgrade from the past few weeks when the only direction was down. I was shocked to see a stat scroll on the bottom of the CNBC screen on Oct 14th - the Dow and S&P 500 were only up 1 day (this Monday) for the month of October as of that point. That is staggering. Well we made it two days this week. But 2 days of upside every month is not really going to cut it for the longs....
I broke out the intraday volatility this week - it is sickening. Keep in mind there was a period for about 1.5 years in 2005-2006 that the S&P 500 never fell or gained more than 2%. Now that was also abnormal but whatever "this" is, is just wrong. Until some sort of calmness returns to the market is is hard to believe we'll attract any real investors. This monster has just become a home for traders whose time frames is measured in minutes or hours. Today was the "calmest" day at only a 7.2% intraday swing....
Monday Low 913, High 1007: 10.3% swing
Tuesday Low 972, High 1044: 7.4% swing
Wednesday Low 904, High 995: 10.0% swing
Thursday Low 866, High 948: 9.5% swing
Friday Low 918, High 985: 7.2% swing
Sometimes a picture (video) speaks better than words. Below is a video akin to my reaction everytime I spent more than 3 minutes staring at the market this week.
Don't laugh - I, and many others, have been sleeping like this baby the past few weeks. You know - waking up every 3 hours and crying. ;) If I never have to see another CNBC Asia anchor again, it will be too soon.
Not much to say fundamentally, or technically - all these historical constructs we've used for years are out the window at this point. It is like flying blind. A bull might construe yesterday's low as a double bottom formation. A bear might say "hedge fund redemptions begin anew next week!" I can't argue with either, and they might not be mutually exclusive. We are oversold by any historical standard by multiple deviations but have been so for a while now. But we've never gone through a systematic delevering like this either - so there is only so much you can learn from the past. Since individual stocks are fluctuating so rapidly and by purchasing something at the wrong time, you can be down 20% within a few hours I've been mostly hanging out in the indexes. Since we are SO oversold, I do not want to press bets on the short side so I cut back - so a lot of our week end cash position is "future short" exposure that I don't want to put back on unless we begin to break down again or rally significantly. So it is temporarily in cash. At *some point* we have a bear market rally that lasts more than 1 day, or 5 hours. But until fundamentals of individual companies matter again, it's hard to really devote too much to any 1 position or take an "investment stake" over a "trading stake".
After the worst week in history, the S&P 500 & Russell 1000 really only made back 25% of last week's losses; the former was up 4.6% and the latter up 4.4%. Rising Tide Growth was able to gain 4.3% despite having 20-35% cash most of the week, along with some short exposure along the way. So we were able to keep up with the market to the upside despite protecting a large chunk of our capital and reducing volatility versus the indexes each day. Mostly this was due to some well timed trades - we still long for the day when we can invest and not look at the market for a few hours. Someday.
*** Year 1 Results here: +10.1% vs -14.0% S&P (+24.1%)
Year 2 Metrics
Price of Rising Tide Growth: $8.788
Year 2 Performance to date (vs Aug 1, 2008): -20.19%
Comparable S&P 500: 940.6 (-25.37%)
Comparable Russell 1000: 507.8 (-26.44%)
Fund return vs S&P 500: +5.2%
Fund return vs Russell 1000: +6.2%
Last week's results here.
Since the market cap of the median stock in the Rising Tide Growth fund (median $7.1 Billion as of April 08) is significantly below the SP500 index (median $13.1 Billion as of September 07) but higher than the median market cap in the Russell 1000 (median market cap $5.8 Billion as of September 07), I am measuring the fund against both indexes. Click here to see all fund's holdings as of July 2008.
Basis for indexes for year 2 is closing price August 1st, 2008.
SP500 : 1,260.3
Russell 1000 : 690.3
Please click here: fund performance for previous updates
- Hedge funds may cut as many as 10,000 jobs this year as they struggle with their biggest losses in almost two decades, according to estimates by executive search firm Options Group. The industry has already eliminated 3,000 to 5,000 jobs, out of an estimated 150,000 worldwide; layoffs may double by year end.
``It's bad out there,'' said Karp, whose firm has tracked hedge-fund hiring since 1995. ``Generating returns is not easy at the moment and as funds look to cut costs, the best way is to let go of people.'' ``This is the worst year for headcount reduction for hedge funds that I have seen,'' said Frank Carr, managing partner at Centennial Advisory Group LLC, a Stamford, Connecticut-based executive-search firm, which has placed candidates in hedge funds since 1997. ``I expect the job losses to drag out longer than in 1998 given what's happening in the markets at the moment.'' ``Five percent of firms will be hiring, 20 percent will be gone and the rest will be sitting on their hands waiting for the storm to pass,'' he said.
Hedge fund Ramius LLC this week laid off about 40 of its 200 workers, while Perry Capital LLC cut more than 20 jobs, or less than 20 percent of the total, according to people familiar with the New York-based firms. Ramius, founded by former Shearson Lehman Brothers Chairman Peter Cohen, dismissed some of its staff after its offshore multistrategy fund lost as much as 11 percent this year through September. Kara Findlay, a Ramius spokeswoman, declined to comment. Perry, whose flagship fund has fallen 8.5 percent this year through September, has fired portfolio managers, analysts and traders in its equity unit as the firm reduces investments in global equity markets. Perry, which manages $11 billion, hasn't had an annual loss. ``The traditional long/short equity model is undergoing rethinking,'' Perry said in an e-mailed statement. Long/short firms bet on rising and falling stock prices. (HAL9000 is destroying everything)
Investors withdrew a record $43 billion from hedge funds last month, according to TrimTabs Investment Research, the most since the Sausalito, California-based firm started tracking the industry in 2000.
If you are into this type of thing and want some very interesting reading there is a damning Bloomberg article on how the former CEO of Goldman Sachs (GS) "saved AIG" and the first batch of money went in large part directly to Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS). It will get the blood boiling if this is your type of thing - so essentially your tax dollars went from your pocket to Goldman and Morgan via a quick pit stop at AIG.
- Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- As much as $37 billion from federal bailout loans to American International Group Inc. has gone to investment banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the firm Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson used to run.
- ``It was the biggest crisis ever -- if you're an investment bank,'' said Joshua Rosner, a managing director at investment research firm Graham Fisher & Co. in New York. ``We didn't just save AIG. We saved the counterparties, the banks. It's true that it would have been a disaster, but it would have been a disaster for them.''
- Paulson's successor at Goldman, Lloyd Blankfein, was the only chief executive at a meeting Sept. 15 at the New York Federal Reserve Bank at which the troubles at AIG were discussed, although representatives of other firms were present, a Fed spokesman said.
- The payments show how bailouts engineered by Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are beginning to shift money to Wall Street firms involved in subprime mortgage trading.
Again, this insurance was in theory supposed to be for people who actually HOLD debt - BUT Lehman (just one example of many that this game was played against) ONLY had $158B worth of bonds, but there was more than DOUBLE the amount of "insurance" against the debt. Meaning each bond was "insured" (cough) twice. No different than naked short selling really when for each share in existence, there are multiple shares "created" and bet against it so the supply / demand equation is completely out of kilter. That (naked short selling) was ok too, as long as the investment banks and their customers were profiting from it - only when the naked short selling turned on them, did they run to Capital Hill and the White House to get it changed. What a crock.
SEC Chairman Cox's past history? He's a former Congressman. Just what was needed...not.
Hedge funds, which have been selling stock endlessly to meet client redemptions, must be frothing at the mouth for next Tuesday, Oct. 21. That’s payday for everyone who took out insurance against Lehman Brothers' bonds. And bear-raiding hedge funds took out a heck of a lot of insurance against that investment bank.
In fact, while Lehman Brothers [LEHMQ 0.067 -0.013 (-16.25%) ] sold only $158 billion worth of bonds, the SEC allowed hedge funds to take out $365 billion in insurance.
This was all part of the short-sellers grand – and legal – plan to bring down Lehman, Cramer said. Hedge funds bought the insurance knowing they could push the stock down virtually unrestricted, spurring the ratings agencies to downgrade Lehman, further inciting fear, and on and on until the company collapsed. The fact that the U.S. government said it was done saving investment banks only aided the hedge funds’ cause. To them, that insurance was money in the bank.Guess which company probably did the most underwriting of said insurance. Yep, AIG [AIG 2.27 -0.16 (-6.58%) ]. That means the U.S government, which now owns most of AIG, will most likely spend next Tuesday cutting checks to the hedge funds involved. Cramer thinks this payout will erase whatever value might be left in AIG’s common stock. So the company’s going in the Sell Block.
And this doesn’t even take into account the myriad other issues at AIG. Watch the video for Cramer’s take on last December’s analyst meeting, executive bonuses and company junkets and other legally challenging activities at the insurer.
I found this "positive" story in Fortune.... (not entirely positive because you wish it was American companies and American political leadership building a constructive cocoon around the next era of jobs, but at least it is job creation in the US)
- A solar cell factory has sprouted in Oregon’s Silicon Forest amid the region’s old-growth semiconductor plants. And who is providing these well-paid, high-tech green jobs, investing in America rather than fleeing to Asia to set up shop? The Germans.
- Bonn-based SolarWorld AG on Friday officially flips the switch on the United States’ largest solar cell plant. The company, the world’s fifth largest solar cell manufacturer, has recycled a former Komatsu factory built to produce silicon wafers for the chip industry
- Last week, SolarWorld America president Boris Klebensberger gave Green Wombat a sneak peak at the new Hillsboro plant ... “I know a lot of people will say, ‘You idiot, Boris. You can’t manufacture in the U.S.,’ ” says Klebensberger, 39, who sports a hoop earring and has a penchant for saying what’s on his mind.
- That has been the conventional wisdom. While thin-film solar companies like First Solar (FSLR), Solyndra and Energy Conversion Devices (ENER) have built factories in the U.S., conventional silicon-based module makers such as SunPower (SPWRA) have outsourced production overseas.
- But SolarWorld is counting on its expertise in manufacturing in high-cost Germany and its new American branding to give it a competitive advantage. “Made in America is a very big selling point,” says SolarWorld marketing director Anne Schneider. “Customers like that.”
- Like other solar cell makers, SolarWorld is trying to build a brand around an increasingly commoditized product. (that will be very tough to do - generally a commodity is simply chosen on quality/price) “Even in a commodity business this is a brand,” says Klebensberger. “If you have to choose between two products that are technologically the same, you’ll probably choose the one made in the U.S.”
- The company was founded in 1998 by, as Klebensberger puts it, “five crazy guys who people thought were on drugs” when they said they were going into the solar business. But Germany’s lucrative incentives for renewable energy quickly turned the nation into a solar powerhouse and SolarWorld went public in 1999. Revenues - $931 million last year - have been growing around 30%-40% annually and the company has a market cap of $3.1 billion. (much like Toyota had to INVEST and LOSE money to get a lead in hybrid cars, so have other 1st world countries on alternative energy)
- SolarWorld saw a potentially huge opportunity in the U.S. but the Shell plant was relatively small - producing 80 megawatts of solar cells annually - so Klebensberger went shopping for a new factory. He ruled out California - too expensive - before settling on Hillsboro, 20 miles west of Portland.
- The cost of living was reasonable - at least compared to California - and Oregon is on the forefront of promoting sustainability and the green economy. And importantly, Intel (INTC) and other chip companies had opened semiconductor factories, or fabs, in the area in the 1980s and ’90s. “A lot of our workforce came from established chip companies or those that closed their fabs,” says Klebensberger, sipping tea from a coffee cup emblazoned with “Got Silicon?”
- “The manufacturing and product is different but the raw starting material is the same and there’s a lot of similarity in the equipment,” adds Gordon Bisner, vice president of operations and a chip industry veteran. “There’s a lot of the same skill sets from a maintenance and engineering standpoint and understanding the basic manufacturing principles and what it takes to manufacture a product successfully in the United States.”
- When fully built out in a couple of years, the plant will produce 500 megawatts’ worth of solar cells annually and employ 1,400 workers. In the meantime, the target is 100 megawatts by the end of 2007, and 250 megawatts in 2009.
- In one corner of the building, a room of steel vats cook up polysilicon, producing eight-foot-long silicon ingots in the shape of giant silver pencils. Those ingots are taken to another room where wiresaw machines slice them into wafers. The wafers then travel down a conveyor belt where robots wash them and scan for imperfections. “What’s critical here is the equipment,” says Bisner over the hum of the machines. “Our competitive advantage is how we use the equipment, how can we get every little bit of photovoltaic cell out of the end of the line. It takes equipment, it takes technology and it takes people too.” In an adjoining room, the wafers are imprinted with contacts and transformed into photovoltaic cells.
- SolarWorld isn’t the only solar company wanting a made-in-America label. Sanyo this week announced it will build a solar cell factory in Salem, south of Portland. And Chinese solar giant Suntech (STP) earlier this month acquired a California-based solar installer and announced a joint venture with San Francisco-based MMA Renewable Ventures (MMA) to build solar power plants.
- Says Klebensberger, “We provide green jobs. We’re not just talking about it, we’re doing it.” (thankfully, someone is)
Best Of FMMF
- 1: Warren Buffet Piles on Europe
- 2: [Video] Jim Chanos Returns from Europe, Even More Bearish on China
- 3: A Chart to Open Our Eyes - Staggering Changes by Multinationals in Employment Behavior 00s vs 90s
- 4: Futures Blasted on Dexia Woes... and Poor Preliminary China Data
- 5: Market Working to Worst Thanksgiving Since 1932
- 6: Et Tu, German Bonds? Poor Auction Raises Eyebrows