September 5, 5:00 pm EST
Yesterday we talked about the case for breaking up Amazon, on the day it crossed the trillion-dollar valuation threshold. Today the stock was down 2%.
Also today, Facebook and Twitter executives visited Capitol Hill for a Congressional grilling.
If you listened to Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony in April, and today’s grilling of Jack Dorsey (Twitter) and Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), it’s clear that they have created monsters that they can’t manage. These tech giants have gotten too big, too powerful, and too dangerous to the economy (and society).
All have emerged and dominated, thanks in large part to regulatory advantage – operating under the guise of an “internet business.” And it all went unchecked for too long. These are monopolies in the making. But, as we know, Trump is on it.
As we discussed yesterday, Amazon has to, and will be, broken up. As for Facebook, Google, Twitter, Uber: the regulatory screws are tightening. Those businesses won’t look the same when it’s over. But it’s complicated. The higher the cost of compliance, the smaller the chances that there will ever be another Facebook or challenger. That goes for many of the tech giants.
With that in mind, regulation actually strengthens the moat for these companies.
That would argue that they may ultimately go the way of public utilities (in the case of Facebook, Google and Twitter).
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September 4, 5:00 pm EST
Today, Amazon became the second company (following Apple) to cross the one trillion-dollar valuation threshold.
This stock is up 72% year-to-date. It has doubled in the past year and has nearly tripled since Trump’s election. That’s what happens when you have a pour gasoline (economic growth) on a fire (a monopoly). No one should love Trump more than Jeff Bezos.
But at 161 times earnings, the market seems to be betting on the Amazon monopoly being left to corner all of the world’s industries. That’s a bad bet.
Much like China undercut the competition on price and cornered the world’s export market, Amazon has undercut the retail industry on price, and cornered the world’s retail business. That tipping point (on retail) has well passed. And as sales growth accelerates for Amazon, so does the speed at which competition is being destroyed. But Amazon is now moving aggressively into almost every industry. This company has to be/will be broken up.
The question is, how will the market value an ecommerce business that would no longer be subsidized by the high margin Amazon cloud business (AWS)? A separation of the businesses would put Amazon’s ecommerce margins under the Wall Street microscope (as every other retailer is subjected to) and materially impact a key sales growth driver for Amazon, which is investment in innovation (R&D).
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Nasdaq:AMZN, Nasdaq:AAPL, Nasdaq:FB, Nasdaq:GOOG
February 1, 7:00 pm EST
Rates continue to run higher. As we’ve discussed, the move higher in rates is likely to stifle the runup in stocks, until we start seeing the fiscal stimulus benefits reflected in the data. That will be a couple of months away.
Globally, there are already some technical signals indicating a lower path for stocks (NYSE:SPY).
Here’s a look at China …
Chinese stocks (NYSE:FXI) ran up over 8% and have already given back 4% in just four days (marked by an outside day at the top).
Japanese stocks (NYSE:DJX) have soared 25% just in the past four months. And this big trend broke down just a few days ago.
German stocks are 4.5% off of record highs just over the past nine days.
And stocks in the UK were the first to top out in the middle of January, now off almost 4% from the record highs. Canadian stocks are down 3.3% in the past week, from record highs. Both the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada are already on the move on normalizing interest rates.
This all continues to look like a world that is pricing in the end of QE, as we’ve discussed. And it’s happening because fiscal stimulus in the U.S. is expected to lift all boats, leading ultimately to major central banks and governments following the path of the U.S. — exiting emergency monetary policy, and stoking the recovery by adding fiscal stimulus.
Ultimately, that gives the global economy the best chance to sustainably recover from the economic slog of the past decade. But again, expect the “prove it to me period” to be coming (if not underway) for stocks, waiting to see the better growth justify the “end of QE” theme.
With this in mind, we had some spotty earnings from the stock market giants after the bell: Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). The FAANG trade is up 15% this year alone, and up huge since the election (about 75%). But remember, the administration’s regulatory outlook isn’t so favorable to the tech giants. We may some cracks in the armor starting to show.
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September 18, 2017, 4:30 pm EST Invest Alongside Billionaires For $297/Qtr
As I said on Friday, people continue to look for what could bust the economy from here, and are missing out on what looks like the early stages of a boom.
We constantly hear about how the fundamentals don’t support the move in stocks. Yet, we’ve looked at plenty of fundamental reasons to believe that view (the gloom view) just doesn’t match the facts.
Remember, the two primary sources that carry the megahorn to feed the public’s appetite for market information both live in economic depression, relative to the pre-crisis days. That’s 1) traditional media, and 2) Wall Street.
As we know, the traditional media business, has been made more and more obsolete. And both the media, and Wall Street, continue to suffer from what I call “bubble bias.” Not the bubble of excess, but the bubble surrounding them that prevents them from understanding the real world and the real economy.
As I’ve said before, the Wall Street bubble for a very long time was a fat and happy one. But the for the past ten years, they came to the realization that Wall Street cash cow wasn’t going to return to the glory days. And their buddies weren’t getting their jobs back. And they’ve had market and economic crash goggles on ever since. Every data point they look at, every news item they see, every chart they study, seems to be viewed through the lens of “crash goggles.” Their bubble has been and continues to be dark.
Also, when we hear all of the messaging, we have to remember that many of the “veterans” on the trading and the news desks have no career or real-world experience prior to the great recession. Those in the low to mid 30s only know the horrors of the financial crisis and the global central bank sponsored economic world that we continue to live in today. What is viewed as a black swan event for the average person, is viewed as a high probability event for them. And why shouldn’t it? They’ve seen the near collapse of the global economy and all of the calamity that has followed. Everything else looks quite possible!
Still, as I’ve said, if you awoke today from a decade-long slumber, and I told you that unemployment was under 5%, inflation was ultra-low, gas was $2.60, mortgage rates were under 4%, you could finance a new car for 2% and the stock market was at record highs, you would probably say, 1) that makes sense (for stocks), and 2) things must be going really well! Add to that, what we discussed on Friday: household net worth is at record highs, credit growth is at record highs and credit worthiness is at record highs.
We had nearly all of the same conditions a year ago. And I wrote precisely the same thing in one of my August Pro Perspective pieces. Stocks are up 17% since.
And now we can add to this mix: We have fiscal stimulus, which I think (for the reasons we’ve discussed over past weeks) is coming closer to fruition.
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It’s a busy week for following the moves of the world’s richest and most influential investors. We have the Robin Hood Investors Conference in New York, which normally produces some investing nuggets from billionaire investors. And the deadline for their quarterly public disclosures to the SEC on their stock holdings is today (13f filings).
Remember, in the second quarter, the world was in the cross hairs of the calamity in Europe, surrounding the threat of a Greek default and exit from the euro. As Greece brought the world to the edge of disaster, the world’s biggest investors showed some fear, as they began shuffling their portfolios. While the turnover was much more subdued in the third quarter, there are a number of interesting buys and sells from the world’s top investors.
1) Billionaire hedge fund manager, David Tepper, who probably has the best 20 year track record of any investor alive, made quite a few interesting moves last quarter. Tepper slashed his holdings in large cap tech: Apple (AAPL) Google, (GOOG) and sold all of his Alibaba (BABA) stake. Tepper initiated new positions in Nike (NKE), Allstate (ALL) and Southwest Airlines (LUV).
2) Billionaire value investor Seth Klarman initiated a new 52 million share position in Alcoa, making him the second largest shareholder in this beaten down S&P 500 stock. Alcoa sells for just $8 a share but has a book value of almost $10. Alcoa is down almost 50% YTD, so Klarman is trying to pick a bottom in this aluminum stock.
3) Warren Buffett initiated a new positon in AT&T (T) and Kraft Heinz (KFC). Buffett now owns an incredible $22 billion of Kraft Heinz making his second largest position or 18% of his portfolio. Buffett also purchased more IBM (IBM) and trimmed his stakes in Goldman Sachs (GS) and Wal-Mart (WMT).
4) Billionaire hedge fund manager Dan Loeb of Third Point also took a new position in Kraft Heinz as well, almost $600 million. Loeb also took new stakes in Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Avago Technologies (AVGO). Loeb sold all of his SunEdison (SUNE) and Perrigo (PRGO) positions.
5) At the Robin Hood investment conference this morning, billionaire hedge fund manager, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital said his “Best Idea” was Consol Energy (CNX), a coal and natural gas stock. The fund owns almost 23 million shares of Consol making it one its largest holdings. Einhorn first purchased the stock at $37.58 in late 2014, today it sells for $7.76. If Consol goes back to Einhorn’s purchase price it would mean a 350% return.
6) In an interview at the Robin Hood Investors Conference, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan, gave a rare glimpse into his billion dollar portfolio. Dimon said that he owns 3 stocks: Yum Brands (YUM), Boeing (BA) and Union Pacific (UNP).
7) Billionaire Leon Cooperman initiated a new almost $100 million stake in Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) at prices between $155 and $260. Cooperman also initiated new stakes in Pfizer and Amazon. That reiterates our view that billionaire investors hedge funds continue to buy more healthcare and biotech stocks, even as the rest of the world is running from the sector.
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The Carl Icahn Effect & How It Can Work For You
If we look back at some of the great investors of our time, for many of them you can attribute timing to their success. For example, if Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn started their careers in a different era, they would not have likely achieved the same level of success they have in investing. Warren Buffett has said it himself.
Of course, given the right time and the right place, you still have to act, have skill, take smart risk and be good at what you do.
Though rare, we have these “right times and right places” throughout history. And I think we are standing right in the middle of one, right now.
First, if we think about the long term performance, opportunities and risks of the U.S. Stock market, first we should acknowledge that the U.S. stock market is unmatched. It represents the largest, most sophisticated capital markets in the world, in the largest and leading economy in the world, one with advanced corporate governance, investor protections and fueled by a relationship with the economy that is self-reinforcing.
Now, let’s consider that stocks over the past 15 years have produced just 3.8% annualized returns for investors, an extreme weak level compared to historical rolling 15-year periods (see chart below). That’s an even weaker 15-year period than that of the bear market that ended in 1974. With that, the next 15-years are likely well above average returns for stocks. You can see in this chart from Barron’s below, the rolling 15-year periods that followed that ’74 bear market were in the mid to high teens, roughly doubling the long-term average return of the S&P 500. This argues for very good times for stocks in the years ahead.
Additionally, there are a slew of fundamental reasons that support this scenario. To name a few, U.S. stocks have global capital flows working in their favor. The Fed is on a path to remove emergency policies (rates higher), the ECB and BOJ continue to be well entrenched in aggressive QE programs (rates lower). That creates weaker currencies in QE countries, which creates capital exit, and the best home for that capital is the U.S. — an economy performing better on a relative basis, and with prospects for rising rates (a primary driver of currency appreciation and capital flows). Add to that, given the record low base rates will be moving from, there is no incentive to put capital into bond markets — the bond market alternative is stocks (winner stocks).
From a historical perspective, the record cash levels sitting in the coffers of institutional money managers argue for much higher stocks to come, as that cash gets put to work. The go-to valuation metric for Wall Street, P/E, is very low on next year’s earnings, especially when you consider what valuation tends to look like in historically low interest rate environments. In those cases, it tends to trade north of 20. Of course, we are in the mother of all low interest rates environment (ZERO). The P/E on next year’s earnings is now 15.1. That’s on earnings estimates of $127.62. If we multiply next year’s earnings estimate of $127.62 by 20 (where stocks tend to be valued in low rate environments), we get 2,552 for the S&P 500 by next year – almost 30% higher than current levels. We did this analysis last year and early this year, when P/E was closer to 17 and sure enough, given low rates, and given weak alternatives, stock valuations gravitated toward and above 20x on trailing 12 month earnings.
Add to this that we are at 15-year lows in market sentiment (a contrarian indicator). So we digest all of this within the framework of an environment where the central banks continue to promote growth, and respond to any shocks that can knock the global economic recovery off path.
With that, remember back in the middle of 2012, when Europe was on the brink of collapse and global markets were quaking because of the potential of European debt defaults and a break-up of the euro. The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, stepped in, and in a prepared speech said that they will do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro. That comment turned the sentiment tide, not only for Europe, but for global markets that day. If you bought German stocks on that comment, you never saw a day in the red – the DAX rose 20% by the end of the year and has risen at a 45 degree angle ever since, nearly doubling those “pre-comment” levels earlier this year.
Same can be said for U.S. Stocks. If you woke up and bought stocks on the back of the Draghi comment, you never saw a down day and enjoyed as much as a 60% run since.
Throughout the entire global economic crisis, there has been no better example of the impact of sentiment on markets and the global economic outlook, and no better example of how that sentiment can successfully be managed.
With this in mind, there was a very symbolic stand made last week by the very important figure heads of the developed world, all standing in front of podiums and speaking. We’ve seen Yellen attempting to temper the uncertainty about the Fed rate path and their view on the economy. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe (the orchestrator of Japan’s big stimulus policies) spoke in NY on Tuesday of last week and said some very magic words … he vowed that he and the BOJ would do “whatever it takes” to return Japan to robust sustainable growth. And this past Thursday night, the head of the ECB, Mario Draghi, also spoke in the U.S. He emphasized the importance of the return to health of the European economy, saying “it’s in our interest, in your interest, and that of everybody, everywhere.” And he said “we will not rest until our monetary union is complete.” So we have the two major central banks/administrations that have taken the QE torch from the Fed, standing up and telling us that they will continue to do what it takes to fuel growth and promote stability. To top it off, Bernanke, the ex-Fed Chairman and architect of the global economic recovery, did a one hour interview this morning to kick off the new week on CNBC, has done an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal and is scheduled to do Bloomberg tomorrow. Under the guise of a book promotion, he has spoken very candidly about current monetary policy, something ex-Fed heads don’t typically do, as it can draw attention away from the current Fed and potentially muddy and already muddied picture. Clearly, global policymakers are stepping up communications, which is key in curbing fear and uncertainty — and the ex-Fed Chair seems to be part of it.
Looking back, we could see this simple coordinated PR campaign to be enough to turn the tide of sentiment. And from there, the fundamentals take over.
When we consider this “rare opportunity” where we are in the right place at the right time, what comes to mind is the meteoric rise of billionaire Bill Ackman, and how he took advantage of the financial crisis to kick off one of the best 10-year runs of any investor in the world.
Back in late 2008, at the depths of the global economic crisis, Bill Ackman, one of the great billionaire investors we follow, stepped in and bought 25% of one of the largest real estate companies in the country. It was General Growth Properties (GGP). The stock was trading between 25 and 50 cents. And it was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
So why was the company nearing bankruptcy, and why would Ackman step in and buy it?
Well, as with many companies at that time, in a literal credit freeze, the company was in need of money. Their access to liquidity had been cut off. This was a risk that companies as large as Wal-Mart were facing at the time. From an investor’s standpoint, one that has cash and access to cash, this represented an opportunity. The company had more assets than liabilities. The company was well run. The core business was solid. They needed liquidity. If they don’t get money, they go bankrupt and fire sale assets. Stockholders get wiped out. Debt holders get pennies on the dollar from the fire sale. If they do get capital, not only do they have a very good chance of surviving, but they have the opportunity to dominate coming out of the economic crisis, as their competition (those not as well run and those that can’t access capital) get decimated. That means, a bigger market opportunity. With that, Ackman rode the stock through bankruptcy, helped convince debt holders of the opportunity and helped negotiate a debt restructuring and helped fund and raise the needed liquidity. Not only did shareholders remain in tact, out of bankruptcy, but all stakeholders made a killing.
Ackman sold General Growth Properties in late 2013, early 2014, turning his initial $60 million investment into $1.6 billion. That’s an eye-popping return, but when you look through the history of the portfolios of the billionaires we follow, it’s common to see the presence of huge winners. Take Icahn and Netflix: As we know, there is no better investor in the world than Icahn, but his performance of the past few years has been highly attributed to one huge winner: Netflix. He turned roughly $300 million into nearly $2 billion in three years.
This demonstrates the importance of taking good, calculated risks, spread across enough opportunities, and in situations that can be influenced by a big investor.
With energy and commodity stocks selling at 20-year lows, many at all-time lows, I think we will see another General Growth Properties in this environment – one of those right place/right time opportunities to make 10X, 20X or 50X on your money. The great thing is, we know how to spot these huge winners like GGP by following the best billionaire investors and activists into deeply distressed stocks, where they can influence the fundamentals, and where the potential upside is unlimited and the downside is limited. A number of billionaires have been bottom picking energy stocks in recent months, including legendary investors Carl Icahn, George Soros and Stanley Druckenmiller.
We currently hold a stock in our Billionaire’s Portfolio that represents one of these “right place/right time” opportunities. And it has all of the trappings to be the next billionaire-maker. Consider this: There is a pioneer activist investor that has 100% of his fund in this stock, he controls 100% of the board, he has his hand-picked CEO running the company, and he has a price target on the stock that is 1800% higher than current prices. Join our Billionaire’s Portfolio service now and we will send you all of the details on this high potential activist-owned stock immediately.
Despite the powerful recovery in stocks, the rally has had few believers. All along the way, skeptics have pointed to threats in Europe, domestic debt issues, political stalemates, perceived asset bubbles — you name it. As it relates to stocks, they’ve all been dead wrong.
The S&P 500 is now more than 200% higher than it was at its crisis-induced 2009 lows, and 34% higher than its all-time highs. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq 100 is still shy of its March 2000 high of 4816. That creates a scenario for an explosive rise still to come for the Nasdaq.
For those that have been cautious about the level of stocks, many have argued that the economy is fragile. The bond market disagrees. The yield curve may be THE best predictor of recessions historically. Yield curve inversions (where short rates move above longer-term rates) have preceded each of the last seven recessions. Based on this yield curve analysis, the Cleveland Fed puts the current recession risk at just 5.97% — a level more consistent with economic boom times.
With this economic backdrop in mind, our research at BillionairesPortoflio.com shows that stocks will continue to march higher, likely a lot higher.
Consider this: If we applied the long-run annualized return for stocks (8%) to the pre-crisis highs of 1,576 on the S&P 500, we get 2,917 by the end of this year, when the Fed is expected to start a slow process toward normalizing rates. That’s 38% higher than current levels. Below you can see the table of the S&P 500, projecting this “normal” growth rate to stocks.
In addition to the above, consider this: The P/E on next year’s S&P 500 earnings estimate is just 17.1, in line with the long-term average (16). But we are not just in a low-interest-rate environment, we are in the mother of all low-interest-rate environments (ZERO). With that, when the 10-year yield runs on the low side, historically, the P/E on the S&P 500 runs closer to 20, if not north of it. A P/E at 20 on next year’s earnings consensus estimate from Wall Street would put the S&P 500 at 2,454, or 16% higher than current levels for stocks.
What about the impending end to zero interest rates in the United States? Well, guess what? Asset prices are driven by capital flows. Barron’s reports a $1.63 trillion spread between bond-fund inflows and equity-fund outflows from January 2007 to January 2013, said to be the widest spread ever. Over that period, $1.23 trillion flowed into bond funds and $409 billion exited equity funds. This means, an official end to zero interest rates should mean a flood of capital leaving bond markets and entering equity markets.
Now, how might all of this bode for the Nasdaq? In March 2000 when the Nasdaq traded at its all-time highs, the index traded at well over 100 times earnings. And the ten year yield was 6.66%. As an investor, you could exit a market with record high valuations and get a risk free, nearly 7% return on your money in Treasuries. Today, the Nasdaq has a price/earnings multiple of just 21. And the ten year yield is a paltry 2%. This dynamic continues to underpin demand and capital flows favoring stocks.
With that said, here are the top four constituents in the Nasdaq 100, their current valuation and the equivalent investment option in the year 2000, when the Nasdaq last peaked.
1) Apple (AAPL) – Apple trades at just 15 times next year’s earnings estimates. Back in 2000, Microsoft (MSFT), the biggest constituent company of the Nasdaq traded 57 times forward earnings.
2) Google (GOOG) – Google trades at 19 times next year’s earnings estimates. Back in 2000, Cisco (CSCO), the second biggest constituent company of the Nasdaq traded 127 times forward earnings.
3) Microsoft (MSFT) – Microsoft trades at just 16 times next year’s earnings estimates. Back in 2000, Intel (INTC), the third biggest constituent company of the Nasdaq traded 43 times forward earnings.
4) Facebook (FB) – Facebook trades at 39 times next year’s earnings estimates. Back in 2000, Oracle (ORCL), the fourth biggest constituent company of the Nasdaq traded 103 times forward earnings.
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