Market Meltdown: Correction or Destruction

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Good Morning,
 

Oh how fast things can change. After a big January, U.S. equities ended their worst week in two years as rate-hike fears pushed markets into a correction.

 

The recent turmoil in equities began last Friday, when the Dow fell 666 points after a better-than-expected jobs report ignited inflation fears. That fall was exacerbated Monday after the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note hit a 4-year high, sending the Dow tumbling another 1,175 points as investors grew more nervous about an overheating economy.

 

Trouble with securities called exchange-traded notes that decline in value when volatility increases likely helped create more turmoil in the markets this week. The Cboe Volatility index (VIX) — the market's best fear gauge — shot above 40 again Friday after jumping as high as 50 earlier in the week. At the end of January, the VIX was below 14.

 

Traders are now focusing on next week’s U.S. consumer-price data after a week in which the 10-year yield pushed as high as 2.88 percent. Equity investors took the signal to mean interest rates will rise as inflation gathers pace, denting earnings and consumers’ spending power.

 

In only a week the S&P 500 has tumbled 5.2 percent, its steepest slide since January 2016. At one point yesterday before a furious rally, stocks had fallen as low as 12 percent from their latest highs. The volatility Friday was impressive: the Dow jumped 349 points in morning trading, fell 500 points later in the session, before closing 330 points higher.

 

Still, the selloff has wiped out gains for the year and signs have mounted which suggest that  jitters have spread to other assets, with measures of market unrest pushing higher in junk bonds, emerging-market equities and Treasuries.
 

Our Take
 

Hindsight being 20/20 it was easy to see this coming: record high valuations, record high returns (the S&P’s risk adjusted return was close to the world’s best in 2017), a strengthening economy, synchronized global growth, signs that inflation is picking up, risk-on behaviour gaining ground, massive equity inflows, monetary policy normalization, the shift from a monetary driven economy to a fiscal driven economy...the list goes on.

 

U.S. stocks have enjoyed a nearly uninterrupted bull market since late 2009. Two factors have helped create a Goldilocks scenario driving this surge. First, the shock administered by the 2008-2009 financial crisis left stocks significantly undervalued, creating plenty of room for equity prices to recover. Second, U.S. inflation has consistently held below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target, leaving the central bank with little reason to tighten monetary policy.

 

Finally conditions are now changing.

 

Stocks are richly valued and at the same time, inflation looks set to overshoot the Fed's target in the medium term. The overshoot won't be large, but it could ultimately trigger faster rate hikes than presently are being priced by the market. That could cause the bond market's yield curve to invert, as short-term rates rise above those for longer-term maturities. Fiscal stimulation is hitting the gas, which is driving the economy forward into the capacity constraints, which is triggering interest rate increases that are hitting the brakes, first in the markets and later in the economy.

 

This confluence of circumstances will make it difficult for the Fed to get monetary policy exactly right. As Ray Dalio has pointed out, this is classic late-cycle behavior (when it’s difficult to get monetary policy exactly right, which leads to recessions), though it is more exaggerated because the durations of assets are uniquely long, which means that when interest rates are low, prices of assets are more sensitive to changes in interest rates than when interest rates are high.

 

A yield curve inversion is normally a clear signal the economy is heading for a recession. We're not there yet, but the risks are rising.

 

Caution is warranted and longer term return expectations should be lower. Nevertheless, what so far looks like a purge of sorts, will likely be long-term positive; flushing out the excess and re-calibrating investor psychology. For now we see this pullback a potential opportunity to dollar cost down in existing positions as well as to initiate new positions at more attractive multiples. Nevertheless, a watchful eye should be set on volatility as measured by the VIX. For if the VIX continues to rise sustainably as the stock market rallies and retests its lows, more meaningful trouble may lie ahead.

 

Some things to consider:

 

The S&P 500 would have to fall an additional 52 percent to reach its long-term average valuation. Bulls have nothing to panic about yet, and bears have not been vindicated.

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The return of major volatility is unpleasant for many, but does give some much-needed negotiating power to investors in IPOs and stock sales. As stock volatility jumps -- as in recent days -- so the risk of loss rises and discounts should widen. The problem is that US startups don’t want to go public anymore and that's bad news for investors.

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The current market rout -- which is occurring smack dab in the middle of a nice earnings season -- may put a damper on the recent trend towards record-high takeover valuation.

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Musings


After a year of abnormally low volatility, this past week has been particularly gut wrenching. But these types of selloffs should be expected in the stock market from time to time. Let's remember that although the raging bull of the 1980s and 1990s which is likely the greatest of all time in U.S. stocks, investors were forced to deal with the 1987 crash, when stocks fell more than 33 percent in the span of a week. In addition, most investors forget there was an emerging-markets crisis in 1997 and 1998 that caused the S&P 500 to fall just shy of 20 percent. Stocks still charged afterward, reaching highs in 1999 and early 2000 before crashing after the tech bubble popped.

 

The stock market should not be mistaken for the economy. Fundamentals are still solid and while double-digit losses should be expected when investing in equities, investors must also realize that human beings tend to panic more often when money evaporates before their eyes. In the short-term, emotion rules. In the long-term, fundamentals prevail.

 

Bull markets end when economies go into recession, not because of high valuations or old-age. At present, there appears to be little on the horizon to suggest the economy is on anything but stable ground as the best-known recession triggers -- asset bubbles, oil-price spikes and interest-rate hikes -- all look reasonably unlikely.

 

Continue to buy and hold quality at a discount, shut off the screens, get some air and be grateful.


 

Logos LP January 2018 Performance



January 2018 Return: 1.57%

2018 YTD (January) Return: +1.57%

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +39.19%

CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +21.33%

 

Thought of the Month


 

"Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth.” -Genesis 7:17-20




Articles and Ideas of Interest

 

  • Investors may want to calm down since history shows rising rates have been good for stocks. Using Kensho, a hedge fund analytics tool, CNBC looked at what happens during major periods of rising interest rates. The findings show there were six periods with major rises in interest rates in the last three decades. The market rose big during five of those instances and only fell slightly during the one lagging period.

          

  • 35 steps to a market bottom by Michael Batnick. Where are we and where are you?

    -1% Mock the permabears

    -2% Meh

    -3% Yawn

    -4% Off the highs

    -5% Pullback

    -6% Healthy correction

    -7% Buying opportunity

    -8% Stay the course

    -9% This too shall pass

    -10% Correction territory

    -11% I’m a long-term investor

    -12% Stocks always come back

    -13% Don’t panic

    -14% Draw lines on a chart

    -15% Look for attractive valuations

    -16% I knew this was coming

    -17% Blame Cramer

    -18% This sucks

    -19% I should buy some downside protection

    -20% Bear market

    -21% I should have listened to my gut

    -22% Buy when there’s blood in the streets

    -23% I was early

    -24% Is this the bottom?

    -25% This sucks

    -26% Uggggh

    -27% I can’t take this much longer

    -28% I sold my stocks

    -29% I’m never buying stocks again

    -30% Good thing I sold

    -31% I should buy gold

    -32% And silver

    -33% I don’t even care anymore

    -34% Glad I stopped looking

    -35% Bottom


     
  • President Trump’s first year in 14 metrics. A year ago, we chose benchmarks for his administration's progress. The results are in.

 

  • Gene editing - and what it really means to rewrite the code of life. We now have a precise way to correct, replace or even delete faulty DNA. Ian Sample explains the science, the risks and what the future may hold.

 

  • Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs. Work has ruled our lives for centuries, and it does so today more than ever. But a new generation of thinkers insists there is an alternative.

 

  • It’s the (democracy-poisoning) golden age of free speech. Here’s how this golden age of speech actually works: In the 21st century, the capacity to spread ideas and reach an audience is no longer limited by access to expensive, centralized broadcasting infrastructure. It’s limited instead by one’s ability to garner and distribute attention. And right now, the flow of the world’s attention is structured, to a vast and overwhelming degree, by just a few digital platforms: Facebook, Google (which owns YouTube), and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. Yes, mass discourse has become far easier for everyone to participate in—but it has simultaneously become a set of private conversations happening behind your back. Behind everyone’s backs. Not to put too fine a point on it, but all of this invalidates much of what we think about free speech—conceptually, legally, and ethically. The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. No wonder our political future is hackable.

 

  • Most unhappy people are unhappy for the exact same reason. In other words, every activity that didn’t involve a screen was linked to more happiness, and every activity that involved a screen was linked to less happiness. Perhaps the formula for phone addiction might double as a cure. Happiness is a skill you can build with consistent practice.

 

  • The driverless revolution isn’t coming anytime soon. Self-driving cars have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. We’ve all heard the story at some point in the past few years. The tech and auto industries are on the cusp of rolling out vehicles that can drive themselves and will forever transform the way we move. We’ll be able to summon driverless pods that will whisk us to our destinations, making personal vehicles unnecessary and freeing up all the space wasted on parking to be used for parks and public gathering spaces — or so they tell us.

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling month, 

Logos LP

2017 Performance and 2018 Outlook

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Good Morning,
 

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018! We hope that you all had a nice Holiday and were able to make some time to relax and refocus.
 

This week U.S. stocks rose to records as retail sales sparked optimism in the economy and JPMorgan Chase & Co. signaled tax cuts will bolster profits. The S&P 500 is enjoying its best 10-day start to a year since 2003. In that time period, it has rallied 4.2 percent. In the first 10 days of 2003 it gained 5.9 percent.
 

So far stocks have carried over the momentum from 2017  as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have closed lower only once this year, while the Dow has fallen just twice. Heading into the end of the week treasuries pared losses that sent the two-year yield over 2 percent for the first time since 2008 as investors assessed an unexpected acceleration in core inflation that likely boosts the Federal Reserve’s case for higher rates.
  

The underlying pace of U.S. inflation unexpectedly accelerated in December amid increased housing costs, reinforcing the outlook for the Fed to raise interest rates several times in 2018.

 

Our Take
 

The markets are off to a blistering start in 2018 and we can’t say we are surprised. Pessimism has been high for years now and the clouds have begun to lift. Furthermore, in the year since President Donald Trump has been in office, the economy has done something it has been unable to do since 2005 — maintain 3 percent growth for three quarters in a row.
 

While the final numbers aren't in, economists Friday were ratcheting up growth projections to 3 percent or better for the fourth quarter, after December's strong retail sales and revisions to prior months. Perhaps a suggestion we made back in January 2017 with regards to Trump’s Braggadocio is in fact playing out: “Perhaps if businesses and consumers truly believe that Trump will “make America great again” the rhetoric will become reality as wallets open and corporate war chests are put to work. Sentiment is powerful and often precedes outcome.” 
 

An excerpt from our 2017 annual letter to our investors:        
                           

“Taken together, absent a black swan event (flashpoints include the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea, disputes between China and its neighbors, a slowdown or crash in China, strife in the Middle East and the politics of populism threatening the EU) we view 2018 to play out similarly to 2017. With the recent enactment of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, even more money will flow into circulation and inflation will likely not tick up in any meaningful way as excess liquidity will likely continue to stream into financial markets (think buybacks and dividends) rather than be used to expand plants or buy equipment or other goods or services. As such, it is likely that staying long high quality stocks in 2018 will remain the best game in town.

                   

The good times are rolling and as we enter the new year we do so cautiously as it is during these periods that investors are most susceptible to folley. The classic law of nature bears re- iteration: If nothing bad is happening now, wait a bit and it will.

 

*To view our entire 2017 annual letter to our investors please click here.

 

Musings
 

One housekeeping issue: we will no longer be publishing this newsletter bi-weekly. It will now be published only once a month. Why?
 

Over the last few years we’ve learned that the frequency of writing is not always synonymous with its thoughtfulness. Most mutual funds, newsletters, and hedge funds discuss their ideas and holdings at length with their investors and followers with relative frequency whereas value investors such as Buffett, Pabrai and Spier write rarely let alone disclose their public equity portfolio positions. We have decided to follow suit, as we agree with Warren Buffett’s conclusion that investing is not a spectator sport as too frequent public discussion of current or potential investments may compromise independence of thought.
 

“Despite our policy of candor, we will discuss our activities in marketable securities only to the extent legally required. Good investment ideas are rare, valuable and subject to competitive appropriation just as good product or business acquisition ideas are.” -Warren Buffett
 

Having said that, we invite you to have a read of our 2017 annual letter to our investors linked above. We will also review our past 2017 MoneyShow investment ideas below. As well as those for 2018.

 

2017 MoneyShow Investment Ideas Reviewed
 

Peter Mantas

 

Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE:HII) : 2017 return: +29.13

-This remains a position in Logos LP.

 

Cemex SAB de CV (ADR) (NYSE:CX) : 2017 return: -6.6

-This was a short term peripheral opportunity we exited in 2017.

 

Matthew Castel

 

Syntel, Inc. (NASDAQ:SYNT) : 2017 return: +16.17

-This was a short term peripheral opportunity we exited in 2017.

 

AAON, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAON) : 2017 return: +11.75

-This remains a position in Logos LP.



2018 MoneyShow Investment Ideas

 

To download full report and analysis click here.

 

Peter Mantas

 

Luxoft Holding Inc. (NYSE:LXFT)

-This remains a position in Logos LP.

 

Del Taco Restaurants Inc. (NASDAQ:TACO)

-This is a new position in Logos LP.

 

Matthew Castel

 

Morguard Corporation (TSE:MRC)

-This is a new position in Logos LP.

 

Grupo Aeroportuario dl Srst SAB CV (ADR) (NYSE:ASR)

-This remains a position in Logos LP.



Logos LP December 2017 Performance


 

December 2017 Return: +3.89%

 

2017 YTD (December) Return: +33.84%

 

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +33.84%

 

CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +21.36%

 

Thought of the Month

 

"The problem is to distinguish between being contrary to a misguided consensus and merely being stubborn.” - Robert Arnott and Robert Lovell Jr.



Articles and Ideas of Interest
 

  • Stock investors will benefit most from corporate tax overhaulOne of the worries about the large tax cuts for corporations is that stock-market investors will benefit more than working-class wages. There is a growing concern that much of the savings will be used for dividends or share repurchases, which would potentially boost the returns for those invested in the stock market. This is likely to accelerate U.S. inequalitybecause the wealthy are now by far the largest owners of equities. Almost half of all American households own some stock through direct purchases, mutual funds, ETFs or pensions, but the top decile controls the bulk of those assets. According to research from the New York University economist Edward Wolffthe top 10 percent of American households now own 84 percent of all stocks. That’s up from 77 percent ownership in 2001. Sadly the rest of US households may rue their binge of 2017. The latest data on the saving rate, which broke under 3 percent to 2.9 percent in November, the lowest since 2007, suggest that an encore to the ebullient buying over the holidays will not happen in the new year.

          

  • The end of globalisation as we know it? The period of hyperglobalisation that began in the early 1990s may be drawing to a close. Should deglobalisation come to pass, it could have far-reaching consequences for countries, corporations, and investors. Barclays puts together a nice overview of the issues in this report.

 

  • The next financial crisis is probably around the corner-we just don’t know from whereFinancial crises are happening more frequently, becoming almost a fixture of modern life, according to research by Deutsche Bank. While meltdowns remain difficult to see in advance, the next panic is almost certainly brewing, and it may well be provoked by the world’s major central banks. Deutsche Bank argues that crises have been increasingly frequent since the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, which, after World War II, fixed exchange-rates and essentially linked them to the price of gold. That coordination ended in the 1970s when the US broke the dollar’s peg to the yellow metal. The link to a finite commodity helped limit the amount of debt that could be created. As strategists at the Frankfurt-based lender see it, the resulting fiat money system has encouraged rising budget deficits, higher debts, global imbalances, and more unstable markets. At the same time, banking regulations have been loosened. In the US, the industry may soon have fewer restrictions and less oversight, a mere 10 years since the last worldwide crisis.

 

  • Technology is destroying the most important asset in your life. Most of us come to realize at some point that money is a means, not an end. It affords opportunities, but as research has shown, there are diminishing returns to what it can do for you. In fact, the strongest link between money and well-being comes from its ability to buy you time through conveniences. Our time is limited, and the prevailing wisdom is that the more we have of it, the more opportunities there are for us to experience joy and fulfillment. But is that the whole story? Is time really what adds more to life? Quartz argues convincingly otherwise. The most important asset in your life isn’t time, but attention. The quality of the experiences in your life doesn’t depend on how many hours there are in the day, but in how the hours you have are used. You can spend 80 years of a life with as much free time as you want and still not get out of it as much as someone who only lived for 40 years but managed to appropriately direct attention to the things that mattered to them.
     

  • 2018: The year of the cryptocurrency craze. Every successful new technology undergoes a Cambrian Era-style explosion of growth in which we try to use it for everything. Email, search, social networking—each passed through its “this will solve all our problems!” phasebefore we figured out what its best applications and limitations were. With the Bitcoin bubble testing astronomical prices every day, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that drives them are now taking their turn in this one-tech-fits-all role. What's next? Wired magazine puts together a sober overview of past present and future. For the fascinating and contrarian case that in 10 years nobody has come up with a real use for blockchain see here.

 

  • AI does not have enough experience to handle the next market crash. Artificial intelligence is increasingly used to make decisions in financial markets. Fund managers empower AI to make trading decisions, frequently by identifying patterns in financial data. The more data that AI has, the more it learns. And with the financial world producing data at an ever-increasing rate, AI should be getting better. But what happens if the data the AI encounters isn’t normal or represents an anomaly? Quartz investigates.

 

  • 30 years after Prozac arrived, we still buy that chemical imbalances cause depression. Some 2,000 years ago, the Ancient Greek scholar Hippocrates argued that all ailments, including mental illnesses such as melancholia, could be explained by imbalances in the four bodily fluids, or “humors.” Today, most of us like to think we know better: Depression—our term for melancholia—is caused by an imbalance, sure, but a chemical imbalance, in the brain.This explanation, widely cited as empirical truth, is false. It was once a tentatively-posed hypothesis in the sciences, but no evidence for it has been found, and so it has been discarded by physicians and researchers. Depression is now a global health epidemic, affecting one in four people worldwide. Great piece in Quartz suggesting that treating it as an individual medical disorder, primarily with drugs, and failing to consider the environmental factors that underlie the epidemic—such as isolation and povertybereavement, job loss,long-term unemployment, and sexual abuse—is comparable to asking citizens to live in a smog-ridden city and using medication to treat the diseases that result instead of regulating pollution.

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling month,  
 

Logos LP

What Is The Purpose Of Tax Reform?

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Good Morning,
 

U.S. stocks climbed to records as the latest jobs report boosted optimism in the world’s largest economy, continuing equity rallies that took hold in Asia and Europe. The dollar posted its best week this year.

 

The S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at all-time highs in light volume after data showed hiring increased by more than forecast in November and the unemployment rate held at a 17-year low of 4.1%. The dollar briefly edged lower as investors assessed tepid wage growth that missed estimates, then resumed its fifth consecutive gain. Average hourly earnings — a closely watched component of the report — rose 0.2 percent for November and 2.5 percent for the year. Economists expected a monthly increase of 0.3 percent or 2.7 percent for the year. Ten-year Treasury yields inched higher.

 

The jobs data added to a run of recent news that has been contributing to investor confidence after the U.S. government averted a shutdown and tax reform negotiations made progress.



Our Take
 

This melt-up may have legs as forecasts for U.S. growth have been too pessimistic. Nevertheless, despite a mostly solid run of job growth, 2017 ends pretty much where it began — with wage growth stuck and inflation subdued.

                                               

This nonfarm payrolls report brought with it news all too familiar to the post-crisis economy. The 228,000 jobs created formed a solid foundation, but the pedestrian 2.5 percent average hourly earnings growth left many scratching their heads wondering how a 4.1 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in 17 years, still wasn't producing fatter paychecks.

 

The lack of wage growth at the aggregate level despite the declines in the unemployment rate and strong job gains remain a mystery.

 

Central bankers can control short-term interest rates but as has become glaringly obvious in the post recessionary world, long-term ones are out of their purview.  

 

Ms. Yellen’s Fed has raised rates twice this year and will likely raise a third time this month. In October the Fed began reversing quantitative easing (QE), purchases of financial assets with newly created money. Despite all this monetary tightening, yields on ten year Treasury bonds have fallen from around 2.5% at the start of 2017 to about 2.3% today. As a result the “yield curve” is flattening. The difference between ten year and two year interest rates is at its lowest since November 2007.

 

The yield curve matters as it has inverted- ie. long-term rates have dipped below short term ones-just before each of the past seven American recessions.

 

The yield curve reflects where markets expect Fed Policy to go and what we are seeing is an expectation that rates are not likely to increase.

 

Why? Falling inflation risk may explain the falling yield curve but as the Economist suggests, what is most likely is that markets are losing confidence in the Fed’s ability to raise rates without inflation sagging. This nonfarm payrolls report will only accelerate this loss of confidence.  

 


Musings
 

So what of Trump’s new tax reform package? Despite Trump’s approval ratings hitting a new low, the market appears to be applauding it. From our perspective, although this tax package will likely stimulative in the short term, in the long term a fiscal stimulus through generalized tax cuts is unnecessary, and destabilizing, in an economy running substantially above its 1.5 percent potential (and non-inflationary) growth on the steam of exceptionally loose monetary policy.

 

Furthermore, deep corporate tax-cuts (which have been tried before by Ronald Reagan) don’t seem to work.

 

The Trump team’s argument goes something like this: Cutting taxes on businesses will free up profits they will invest in new factories, research and development, and new equipment. The resulting investment boom will spur growth, as firms hire and as workers harness new ideas and equipment to produce more than they used to.

 

If we look at the Reagan years, investment fell—that was the weakest period of investment in the postwar period.

 

The same is likely to occur today. Firms aren’t cashed constrained. They aren’t asking for more money then and they certainly aren’t asking for more now. In fact, companies don’t even know what to do with their money. Companies today are sitting on record cash piles (roughly $1.84 trillion).

 

When asking the question of what companies will do with a windfall of after tax-profits,  Quartz points out that the odds that it will flow back into the real economy (investment) aren’t looking good. Many major companies are planning to hand that money to their investors through dividends and share buybacks. In fact, when Gary Cohn, Trump’s economic guru, asked a gathering of corporate leaders who was planning to reinvest their tax cuts, few raised their hands, Bloomberg recently reported. What these cuts will likely do is inflate asset prices even further as the bill directs the largest tax cuts as a share of income to the top 5 percent of taxpayers and by 2027, taxes on the lowest earners would go up.

 

This at a time when we find ourselves in what could be argued is an “everything bubble”. At a time when a cool $1 million which has long been considered the gold standard of retirement savings, has become only a fraction of what you will really need.A time when 44 percent of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country, compared with 42 percent who want to live under capitalism. A time when 41 million Americans officially live in poverty. A time when  bitcoin is the most popular search on Google as well as the most popular news story on virtually every news outlet….

 

What goes up must come down….In this environment, where the balance of risk is likely to the downside, buying EXTRA thoughtfully is warranted.



Logos LP November Performance


 

November 2017 Return: +7.33%

 

2017 YTD (November) Return: +28.83%

 

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +35.67%


CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +20.65%


 

Thought of the Week 

 

"Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” -Saint Augustine



Articles and Ideas of Interest
 

  • Collective intelligence can change the world. Combining the minds of humans and machines to avoid confirmation bias. A group with a more autonomous intelligence will fare better than one with less autonomy. It will fall victim less often to the vices of confirmation bias or functional fixedness. It is more likely to see facts for what they are, interpret accurately, create usefully or remember sharply. Knowledge will always be skewed by power and status as well as our pre-existing beliefs. We seek confirmation. But these are matters of degree. We can all try to struggle with our own nature and cultivate this autonomy along with the humility to respond to intelligence. Or we can spend our lives seeking confirmation. Over the Holidays -- give yourself the freedom to explore, think and imagine without constraint.

          

  • There’s an implosion of early-stage VC funding, and no one’s talking about it. Amid record amounts of capital raised by VCs worldwide, and a sharp rise in the number of private “unicorns” valued at $1 billion-plus, therehas been a quiet, barely noticed implosion in early-stage VC activity worldwide. This is now a three-year trend, so cannot be “blamed” on macro or short-term factors. More worryingly, it comes at a time of unprecedented stock market valuations worldwide. Whether the early-stage VC implosion is healthy or disastrous for the tech ecosystem remains to be seen. This is likely healthy over the long run in order to break Silicon Valley’s never-ending startup cycle: Startup employees get rich quick and quit to become venture capitalists.

 

  • Mysterious object confirmed to be from another solar system.Astronomers have named interstellar object ’Oumuamua and its red colour suggests it carries organic molecules that are building blocks of life. Interestingly, NASA has also found another 20 promising planets for humans to colonize.

 

  • Net neutrality: catastrophe or a non-event?  Some suggest that the internet is dying and that repealing net neutrality hastens that deathOthers suggestthat concerns over net neutrality are overblown as public blowback in past cases of service providers blocking sites that are competitive has been fierce, scaring other providers from following suit. Second, blocking competitors to protect your own services is anticompetitive conduct that might well be stopped by antitrust laws without any need for network neutrality regulations.

     

  • Will BlackRock and Vanguard own everything by 2028? Imagine a world in which two asset managers call the shots, in which their wealth exceedscurrent U.S. GDP and where almost every hedge fund, government and retiree is a customer. It’s closer than you think. BlackRock Inc. and Vanguard Group  — already the world’s largest money managers — are less than a decade from managing a total of $20 trillion, according to Bloomberg News calculations. Amassing that sum will likely upend the asset management industry, intensify their ownership of the largest U.S. companies and test the twin pillars of market efficiency and corporate governance.

 

  • Robots aren’t killing jobs fast enough-and we should be worried.Interesting perspective on this. In fact, data show that the US labor market is the calmest it has been in more than 160 years. The problem is there is not enough disruption. If anything, we need more jobs destroyed. That argument, made by Robert Atkinson and John Wu of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank promoting policies that spur innovation, is a novel one. Their belief that we are in an age of stagnation, not disruption, is based on a decade-by-decade analysis of how quickly occupations have been appearing and disappearing since 1850. No wonder Google, Amazon have found that not everyone is ready for AI.

 

  • How high will bitcoin go? Should you buy in? What is next for cryptocurrencies? Well ladies and gents even the most staunch haters arethrowing in the towel with Jamie Dimon recently suggesting a reversal of his position stating that “I'm open-minded to uses of cryptocurrencies if properly controlled and regulated." Make no mistake this is a frenzy much like the dot-com bubble in 1995. Perhaps even larger as bitcoins appear to be at least 4 times as expensive as dot-com stocks were at their height. Interestingly, few are talking about its energy use implications: By July 2019, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses. By February 2020, it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today. Is this sustainable? The cryptocurrency’s price is completely unreal. Then again so is money...The problem is that it is clear that this is not a currency. Most are buying and holding in hopes of future gains. This is an asset class and as seen many times before, when lots of investors buy an illiquid asset, the price can rise exponentially yet at some point the urge to turn all those digital zeros into cars and iPhones will prove too great. Getting out of an illiquid asset can be much harder than getting in. When that rush inevitably happens, people are going to get hurt. Rule number 1: don’t lose money. Rule number 2: don’t forget rule number 1.

 

  • Me, myself and iPhoneFascinating research presented in the Economistsuggesting what we already know (subconsciously): the many hours young people spend staring at their phones is having serious effects. Adolescents who spent more time on new media-using Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram on a smartphone were more likely to agree with remarks such as: “The future often seems hopeless” or “I feel like I can’t do anything right.” Those who used screens less, spending time playing sport, doing homework, or socialising with friends in person, were less likely to report mental troubles.

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling week,  
 

Logos LP

When To Sell?

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Good Morning,
 

Last week U.S. stocks  posted their first 2-week losing streak as the Treasury yield curve flattened further, raising concerns about economic growth while worries about tax reform percolated. The dollar dropped as the yen and gold gained.

 

The spread between two- and 10-year Treasury yields hit the tightest level in a decade. The greenback remained linked to political developments in Washington, where the Senate girded for negotiations on its version of tax reform.

 

Elsewhere, bitcoin hovered under $8000, emerging market shares headed for the highest close in six years and Tesla’s shares jumped after the company unveiled two new vehicles, including Semi truck. Trucking company J.B. Hunt said it has reserved "multiple" Semis.

 

The odds American firms will get a tax break improved Thursday after the House approved its version of the legislation. The Senate is still debating its own plan, trying to reduce the 10-year debt impact below $1.5 trillion. Adding to the discussion, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Robert Kaplan said Friday the government’s debt-to-GDP is possibly at unsustainable levels.


Our Take
 

From most vantage points over the last year you've had an almost perfect backdrop for equities with an acceleration in nominal growth, earnings between 10%-15% globally and whatever you look at is pretty much in double digits. Nevertheless, last week investors in a choppy trade appeared to be trying to figure out whether benchmarks will continue to march to all-time highs on strong earnings and faster growth spurred by corporate tax cuts or if they will be pulled down amid lofty valuations, the flattest yield curve in a decade (which often signals an impending recession) and a selloff in junk bonds.

 

In our view the curve is likely reflecting the fact that the Fed will be raising interest rates at the same time that there is virtually no inflation. The short end has risen on Fed rate hike prospects, the long end is not reflecting the potential for growth. Key word “potential”.

 

On the other hand, in addition to a flattening of the yield curve and a selloff in junk bonds we’ve noticed a few other interesting data points:

 

-Restaurant sales growth has been slowing at a pace usually seen in a much weaker or even recessionary economy.

-Amid marijuana boom, costs leave analysts dazed and confused. Producer margins could start to shrink as provinces start to purchase pot wholesale. What the price drop will do to margins is nebulous because there isn’t an industry standard for reporting production costs.

-Appetite for risk has increased among money managers to a new high, according to the latest fund manager survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML)

-America’s ‘retail apocalypse” is really just beginning. And this comes when there’s sky-high consumer confidence, unemployment is historically low and the U.S. economy keeps growing. Those are normally all ingredients for a retail boom, yet more chains are filing for bankruptcy and rated distressed than during the financial crisis. That’s caused an increase in the number of delinquent loan payments by malls and shopping centers.The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. The ripple effect could also be a direct hit to the industry that is the largest employer of Americans at the low end of the income scale. The most recent government statistics show that salespeople and cashiers in the industry total 8 million.

-Millionaire bankers feel sorry for struggling millennials. Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report says those who came of age after the turn of the century have had a “run of bad luck,” and that low wealth tend to be disproportionately found among the younger age groups.

-Firms that burn $1B a year are sexy but statistically doomed. Five outliers — Chesapeake Energy, Netflix, Nextera Energy, Tesla and Uber — have collectively lost $100B in the past decade. Firms that burn piles of cash are often lionised in an era when growth is sluggish and few companies reinvest all their profits. But losing a billion dollars or more a year is a wildly risky affair and the odds are that such businesses will fall flat.

-Artemis Capital Management is comparing the current market state to the Ouroboros – the ancient symbol of a snake consuming its own body.


Musings
 

Last week, given the significant move higher in one of our holdings (Luxoft Holding Inc: LXFT) which many had left for dead after its last earnings report, I reflected on the ever so difficult question of when to sell. This year at Logos LP we’ve faced this question on both the upside and the downside as certain holdings have skyrocketed while others have slipped.

 

Overall, the question of when to sell is typically conceptualized as a complicated one. Do you use a simple trigger? Or like Warren Buffett do you only buy certain high quality businesses at such attractive prices that you never have to sell?

 

As markets continue to edge higher this question becomes all the more relevant as high valuations reduce our margin for error.

 

For us, the best approach to selling is buying well enough that you don’t really have to follow the stock.

 

After all, following the stock market too closely is bad for your returns. Most underestimate just how bad it is. Equity investing is mostly characterized by a great irony: if you knew nothing about the stock market and followed little to no financial news, you would probably make a very handsome return on your investment, but if you tried to be a little bit smarter and overloaded on commentary from experienced managers and analysts you probably would perform poorly.

 

That fact is apparent in the stats, where the average investor earns a return that is less than 1/3 of what they would have earned if they knew nothing and blindly invested in the stock market.

 

I’ve quoted these stats in other letters but I will do it again: The fact that the stock market rises in 76% of all years, that it gains an average of 7.5% per year and that annual falls greater than 20% occur less than 5% of the time, are ignored in decision making. Since 1980 the S&P has suffered an annual loss of less than 3% an overwhelming 84% of the time. The mind interprets every 10% correction as the beginning of something much worse, even though a 10% fall is a typical, annual occurrence during bull markets.

 

In a recent blog post on The Fat Pitch, we are reminded that the human mind has a tendency to assess risk based on prominent events that are easily remembered. The 1987 crash, the tech bubble, the financial crisis and the flash crash in 2010 are all events that are easily recalled. The mind automatically assigns a high probability to prominent (but rare) events. It ignores the more important "base rate" probability that better informs decisions.

 

Thus, when deciding when to sell, keep in mind the “base rate”: although 10% market falls are a typical annual event, the stock market finishes better than that an overwhelming 87% of the time.

 

Thus, assuming you have bought well or even “relatively well” absent material and significant changes to your evaluation of the business, the decision to sell should typically be obvious. The long-term holder of an asset reaps the advantages lower tax costs, transaction costs, and the significant long-term compounding benefits offered to those who understand the principle of “base rate” probabilities.



Logos LP October Performance



October 2017 Return: +3.86%

 

2017 YTD (October) Return: +20.03%

 

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +24.77%


CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +18.83%

 


Thought of the Week

 
 

"The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it." -James Baldwin



Articles and Ideas of Interest

 

  • The Future of Online Dating Is Unsexy and Brutally Effective. Dating apps promise to connect us with people we’re supposed to be with—momentarily, or more—allegedly better than we know ourselves. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But as machine learning algorithms become more accurate and accessible than ever, dating companies will be able to learn more precisely who we are and who we “should” go on dates with. How we date online is about to change. The future is brutal and we’re halfway there.

          

  • Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens. The Chinese government plans to launch its Social Credit System in 2020. The aim? To judge the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of its 1.3 billion residents. I wonder if North Americans would be into this?

 

  • Are we on the verge of a new Golden Age? History doesn’t exactly repeat itself, but it does run in cycles. One of the most robust theories of such cycles was articulated by economic historian Carlota Perez, in her influential book Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages (Edward Elgar, 2002). It suggests that humanity can get through the current period of upheaval and economic malaise and enter a new “golden age” of broad economic growth, if the world’s key decision makers act in concert to help foster one. This may seem far-fetched, but it’s happened four times before. We are in the midst of the fifth great surge (as Perez calls them) of technological and economic change since the Industrial Revolution.

 

  • The upside of being ruled by the five tech giants. The tech giants are too big. But what if that’s not so bad? For a year and a half — and more urgently for much of the last month — there have been warnings about the growing economic, social and political power held by the five largest American tech companies: Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft. But another argument suggests the opposite — that it’s better to be ruled by a handful of responsive companies capable of bowing to political and legal pressure. The NYT suggests the 3 best arguments on the bright side: 1) They can be governed 2) They hate each other’s guts 3) They are American grown.

     

  • Wall Street’s invasion of the legal weed market. Fascinating account of the race to become the Goldman Sachs of ganja and the Blackstone of bongs.

 

  • FAANG SCHMAANG: Don’t Blame the Over-valuation of the S&P Solely on Information Technology. A small group of technology stocks have recently delivered stellar returns. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Alphabet (Google), the so-called “FAANG” stocks, are up 36% on average year to date through September. This superlative performance, in such a narrow group of large cap names, has led many to raise questions about the current valuation of the S&P 500, its sector composition, and comparisons to other markets. Interesting report from GMO suggesting that the higher weight in the relatively expensive IT sector is driving some of the expensiveness of the S&P 500, but this does not fully explain the bulk of its high absolute and relative valuation level.

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling week, 
 

Logos LP

Solitude Is A Competitive Advantage

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Good Morning,
 

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite rose to a record high last Friday as Wall Street cheered the blowout quarterly reports from three of the world's biggest tech companies.            

 

The index rose 2.2 percent to 6,701.26 and notched its biggest one-day gain since November 2016.                        

                                                                

The PowerShares QQQ Trust exchange-traded fund, which tracks the Nasdaq 100, rose 2.9 percent.         

                                                                          

Leading the ETF higher were shares of Amazon, Microsoft and Google-parentAlphabet; their stocks rose 13.2 percent, 6.4 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.

 

The S&P 500 Index also hit a new high, after the U.S. saw its strongest consecutive quarters of growth in gross domestic product in three years.

 

The first reading on third-quarter GDP showed the U.S. economy grew by 3 percent, above an estimate of 2.5 percent indicating resilient demand from consumers and businesses even with the hit from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Commerce Department data showed Friday. In addition, U.S. consumer sentiment rose to its highest level since 2004.



Our Take
 

These tech giants reported excellent numbers.  Amazon's third-quarter earnings stole the show with accelerating revenues, a growing customer base, 42 percent sales growth in Amazon Web Services and a busy Prime Day.

 

Alphabet's earnings report impressed thanks to its 70 percent growth in YouTube, which now delivers 100 million hours of content per day to its users.

 

Microsoft blew away Wall Street's earnings estimates by delivering 42 percent growth in subscription revenue from its Office 365 offering and 90 percent revenue growth from Azure, its cloud platform.

 

This tech strength is closely tied to the growing importance of data. More specifically, the explosion of data via the cloud. Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft are the big three of web services, the backbone of the cloud. Expect the strength to continue as these giants continue to shore up their dominant positions in the space.

 

For Q3 2017, with 55% of the companies in the S&P 500 reporting actual results for the quarter, 76% of S&P 500 companies have reported positive EPS surprises and 67% have reported positive sales surprises.

 

For Q3 2017, the blended earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 is 4.7%. Six sectors are reporting earnings growth for the quarter, led by the Energy sector. On Sept. 30, the estimated earnings growth rate for Q3 2017 was 3%. 

 

These are excellent numbers supporting the suggestion that this is a rally based on earnings growth.

 

A very strong bull market indeed, also supported by a global economy that continues to surprise to the upside. 

 

Even Caterpillar earnings which showed increased profits and and improved outlook which tends to evidence that global growth is picking up in a synchronized fashion.

 

Valuations continue to look frothy but fundamentals are keeping pace.

 

As we have previously stated, caution is warranted in this environment yet caution should also be exercised when faced with arguments that both the economic cycle and the stock market has run its course and it is time to lighten up, raise cash and wait for an imminent crash.

 

The veracity of these types of arguments now seems obvious. The danger is believing that what seems obvious, must take place. This is simply untrue. Instead, such beliefs evidence the primacy of emotion over reason. A lazy reliance on heuristic shortcuts rather than thoughtful analysis.

 

The skeptics have and continue to beat their drums yet the place to be remains equities. The brightest opportunity for returns over the long-term remains the ownership of high quality businesses.

 


Musings
 

Thought-provoking piece in HBR I came across this week which suggests that in a distracted world, solitude is now a competitive advantage. “Always remember: Your focus determines your reality.” Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn shares this advice with Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars, but in our hyper-distracted work world, it’s advice that we all need to hear. 

 

Research by the University of London reveals that our IQ drops by five to 15 points when we are multitasking. In his book, Your Brain at Work, David Rock explains that performance can decrease by up to 50% when a person focuses on two mental tasks at once.

 

Our world is becoming increasingly complex which is having a major impact on our lives especially when it comes to problem solving. Pushed and pulled by X,Y and Z stimulus at any given time it is unclear how we can solve the challenges of our age. The answer may lie in cultivating solitude.

 

Having the discipline to step back from the noise of the world is essential to staying focused and thus to staying effective.

 

How can we cultivate solitude? How can we build this skill?

 

Build periods of solitude into your schedule

Analyze where your time is best spent

Starve your distractions

Don’t be too busy to learn how to be less busy

Create a “stop doing” list

 

Logos LP September Performance

 

September 2017 Return: 2.03%

 

2017 YTD (September) Return: +15.57%

 

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +18.71%


CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +18.06%
 


Thought of the Week

 

"I’m a “dumb shit” who doesn’t know much relative to what I need to know. Whatever success I’ve had in life has had more to do with my knowing how to deal with my not knowing than anything I know.” - Ray Dalio



Articles and Ideas of Interest
 

  • These are the businesses still immune to Amazon. In order of least likely:1) Dollar Stores 2) Auto parts 3) Home improvement 4) Home Furnishing

          

  • Our biggest economic, social and political issue The Two Economies: The Top 40% and the Bottom 60%. Very interesting piece from Ray Dalio suggesting that Average statistics camouflage what is happening in the US economy, which could lead to dangerous miscalculations, most importantly by policy makers. For example, looking at average statistics could lead the Federal Reserve to judge the economy for the average man to be healthier than it really is and to misgauge the most important things that are going on with the economy, labor markets, inflation, capital formation, and productivity, rather than if the Fed were to use more granular statistics.

 

  • Tim O’Reilly: ‘Generosity is the thing that is at the beginning of prosperity’. Tech pioneer and CEO Tim O’Reilly suggests that his industry will fail unless the web giants start putting consumers ahead of shareholders. When questioned about the notion that technology is going to eliminate jobs, Tim counters by suggesting that this will happen only if that’s what we tell it to do. And it is what we’re telling it to do. But on the other hand Marc Bain suggests that now corporations kneel down to us. We’re in the midst of a profound shift in consumer culture, he writes. Corporations were once king, but “influencers” and viral videos—like the one of the United Airlines passenger-dragging incident that shaved $1 billion off the company’s valuation—have shifted the balance of power. A new report examines how US buying behavior will change as a result. Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz writes that America has a huge monopoly problem.

 

  • Robots are eating money managers’ lunch. Rishi Ganti on why obscure assets may be the human investor’s last refuge. Like what? Like scooping up receivables and other claims owed to those in need of immediate cash—a refugee facility waiting for payment on a contract from a charity, for example. Luckily robots still have a lot to learn about being a human trader. 

     

  • How social media endangers knowledge. The very idea of knowledge itself is in danger. The idea behind Wikipedia—like all encyclopedias before it—has been to collect the entirety of human knowledge. It’s a goal that extends back to the Islamic Golden Age, when numerous scholars—inspired by Muhammad's famous verdict of ‘Seek knowledge, even from China’—set themselves to collecting and documenting all existing information on a wide variety of topics, including translations from Greek, Persian, Syrian, and Indian into Arabic. Social networks, though, have since colonized the web for television’s values. From Facebook to Instagram, the medium refocuses our attention on videos and images, rewarding emotional appeals—‘like’ buttons—over rational ones. Instead of a quest for knowledge, it engages us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing.

 

  • Why is everyone so busy? Time poverty is a problem of perception and partly of distribution. The Economist looks into the fact that everybody, everywhere seems to be busy. In the corporate world, a “perennial time-scarcity problem” afflicts executives all over the globe, and the matter has only grown more acute in recent years, say analysts at McKinsey, a consultancy firm. These feelings are especially profound among working parents. As for all those time-saving gizmos, many people grumble that these bits of wizardry chew up far too much of their days, whether they are mouldering in traffic, navigating robotic voice-messaging systems or scything away at e-mail—sometimes all at once.

 

  • Will Canadians survive higher rates? A new poll from Canada’s largest insolvency firm, MNP LTD, shows that 1 in 3 Canadians say that they already feeling the effects of increasing interest rates. Don’t think this is surprising considering well known debt issues. But that 63% of Canadians are either worried about bankruptcy or already feeling the effects of 50bps (to 1%)…feels like something that should be concerning.

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling week,  

Logos LP