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Do Bull Markets Die Of Old Age?

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Good Morning,
 

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite closed lower on Friday as tensions between the U.S. and China weighed on investor sentiment while both countries continued negotiations on trade.

 

On Thursday, the two largest economies in the world began the second round of trade talks. But President Donald Trump told reporters he doubted the negotiations would be successful.

 

Later, reports emerged saying China would offer the U.S. a $200 billion trade surplus cut. Those reports, however, were quickly denied by a Chinese ministry spokesman on Friday.


Investors are closely watching progress on the latest China-U.S. trade talks for signs of a breakthrough that could reignite a recent rally in global equities, while factoring in oil prices at a four-year high and a 10-year Treasury yield now firmly above 3 percent. Politics in peripheral Europe are also back in the spotlight after Italy’s populist leaders sealed a coalition agreement and a plan for reforms seen as a challenge to the European Union establishment.
 


Our Take

 

In a bull market pushing through its 10th year, market timing has again become a preoccupation. One week stocks are climbing to reflect fundamentals ie. stellar earnings growth. The next they’re dropping as yields jump, trade talks with China stall and an executive suggests “peak earnings” on a call. The cost is less to the wallet than the psyche, given that we are coming off two years of relatively straight line low volatility gains.


Furthermore, both stock market bulls and bears can marshal data in their favor. Considering the S&P 500’s current forward P/E which runs above its 5 and 10 year averages, as well as its elevated CAPE ratio, the market looks rich. On the other hand, looking at the market’s PEG ratio or a P/E that accounts for earnings growth, stocks appear to be trading at their cheapest level since 2012...


Best to focus on particular businesses rather than on market prices. How could the business create value in the years ahead? As Thomas Phelps reminds us: “When experienced investors frown on gambling with price fluctuations in the stock market, it is not because they don’t like money, but because both experience and history have convinced them that enduring fortunes are not built that way.”


Chart of the Month

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Source: More Than Never. Less Than Always


Musings
 

This month, the current U.S. expansion reaches the 107-month mark, making it the second longest business cycle expansion in the post-war period. It’s looking increasingly likely that this expansion will continue for more than a year and will become the longest since World War II. Most economists will tell you that expansions don’t die of old age, but the odds of fatal mistakes and excesses increase the older they get.

 

The age of this bull market is the elephant in the room for investors who each year get less enthusiastic about increasing long exposure. How worried should we be? What should we make of comments suggesting that things have “peaked”?

 

What should be remembered is that output growth during this expansion has severely lagged other expansions. There has been no robust recovery. The slow start in this expansion in the wake of the Great Recession was counterintuitive to the thinking of most analysts, who expected a robust recovery following the worst recession in a generation. However, there is evidence indicating that recessions caused by financial crises tend to be deeper and have longer recovery times than normal recessions.

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In addition, this expansion has seen comparatively low rates of personal consumption. Personal consumption which comprises nearly 70% of GDP, has been a major contributor to the overall slow economic performance in the current expansion. Real consumption has grown by 23% since the summer of 2009, compared to growth rates of 41% and 50% at the same point in the expansions of 1991-2001 and 1961-1969, respectively.
 

Consumers are not the only group that has shown uncharacteristic restraint during this expansion; investment by the private (non-government) sector has also lagged since the last recession. Real private fixed investment has grown by 50% in this expansion, compared to growth rates of 89% and 76% at comparable points in the 1991-2001 and 1961-1969 expansions, respectively.

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Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this U.S. expansion is its global ubiquity. The subpar economic growth seen in the U.S. following the global financial crisis has been simultaneously experienced by many other countries. Whatever the causes of mediocre economic growth in the U.S., the same factors have been at work around the world due to the increasing level of global economic interdependence.


So what?


All we can say at this point is that the mediocre growth of the U.S. economy since the Great Recession is likely a contributing factor in this expansion’s length. As such, although there appears to be pockets of excess across the market (see below), there doesn’t seem to be the kind of widespread excess and economic robustness which is typically characteristic of an expansion’s “final inning”. This time may be “different”, yet the faster and higher you climb, the further and faster you fall. Have we climbed high? Have we climbed fast?


Long-term investors should be wary of remaining “underinvested” on the sidelines waiting for the cycle to turn, as the wait may be longer than planned.


 

Logos LP April 2018 Performance



April 2018 Return: -3.84%


2018 YTD (April) Return: -3.79%


Trailing Twelve Month Return: +8.22%


CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +18.39%


 

Thought of the Month


 

Over all, 76 percent of the companies that went public last year were unprofitable on a per-share basis in the year leading up to their initial offerings, according to data compiled by Jay Ritter, a professor at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business. That was the largest number since the peak of the dot-com boom in 2000, when 81 percent of newly public companies were unprofitable. Of the 15 technology companies that have gone public so far in 2018, only three had positive earnings per share in the preceding year, according to Mr. Ritter.” -Kevin Roose




Articles and Ideas of Interest

 

  • Hooray for unprofitable companies!  Interesting article in the NYT that discusses an omnipresent characteristic of this cycle: the proliferation of unprofitable companies. The start-up pitch is basically this: “It’s called the 75 Cent Dollar Store. We’re going to sell dollar bills for 75 cents — no service charges, no hidden fees, just crisp $1 bills for the price of three quarters. It’ll be huge. You’re probably thinking: Wait, won’t your store go out of business? Nope. I’ve got that part figured out, too. The plan is to get tons of people addicted to buying 75-cent dollars so that, in a year or two, we can jack up the price to $1.50 or $2 without losing any customers. Or maybe we’ll get so big that the Treasury Department will start selling us dollar bills at a discount. We could also collect data about our customers and sell it to the highest bidder. Honestly, we’ve got plenty of options. If you’re still skeptical, I don’t blame you. It used to be that in order to survive, businesses had to sell goods or services above cost. But that model is so 20th century. The new way to make it in business is to spend big, grow fast and use Kilimanjaro-size piles of investor cash to subsidize your losses, with a plan to become profitable somewhere down the road.” Instead of pointing the finger at Musk and his unprofitable counterparts the author makes an interesting suggestion: For consumers who are willing to do their research, though, this can be a golden age of deals. May you reap the benefits of artificially cheap goods and services while investors soak up the losses. What could go wrong?

           

  • Who’s winning the self-driving car race? A scorecard breaking down everyone from Alphabet’s Waymo to Zoox. Spoiler alert: Tesla isn’t even top contender.

 

  • Could Argentina’s woes be the tip of the iceberg of an even bigger crisis for the world economy? Tightening U.S. monetary policy could threaten a broad range of emerging markets. Tighter monetary policy will drain liquidity and lift borrowing costs for much of the world economy. Debtors beware.

 

  • You’re not just imagining it. Your job is absolute BS. Anthropologist David Graeber’s new book accuses the global economy of churning out meaningless jobs that are killing the human spirit. There is no doubt that many jobs could be erased from the Earth and no one would be worse off, but this is a tough argument to make as personal fulfillment is relative. Furthermore, in his comfortable seat as a professor at an esteemed institution, musing amusedly about the mind-numbing hours most working people have to put in and put up with—even at jobs that have lively, meaningful moments—appears to fit neatly in his own category of a BS job…

 

  • Bitcoin fans troll Warren Buffett with ‘Rat Posion Squared’ clothing line. Oh it's on! A 10 year wager perhaps between the CCI30(A Crypto Currencies Index) against the SPY (a low cost S&P 500 ETF)? Any takers?  

 

  • Why winners keep winning and why accepting luck as a primary determinant in your life is a freeing worldview. Cumulative advantage goes a long way to explain a moat.  The Matthew effect, and explains how those who start with an advantage relative to others can retain that advantage over long periods of time. This effect has also been shown to describe how music gets popular, but applies to any domain that can result in fame or social status.  As for luck, when you realize the magnitude of happenstance and serendipity in your life, you can stop judging yourself on your outcomes and start focusing on your efforts. It’s the only thing you can control. 

 

  • The epic mistake about manufacturing that’s cost Americans millions of jobs. Quartz suggests that it turns out that Trump’s story of US manufacturing decline was much closer to being right than the story of technological progress being spun in Washington, New York, and Cambridge. Thanks to a painstaking analysis by a handful of economists, it’s become clear that the data that underpin the dominant narrative—or more precisely, the way most economists interpreted the data—were way off-base. Foreign competition, not automation, was behind the stunning loss in factory jobs. And that means America’s manufacturing sector is in far worse shape than the media, politicians, and even most academics realize.

 

  • The burbs are back. Americans are once more fleeing the cities to the suburbsAccording to the National Association of Realtors, a trade association for estate agents, more than half of Americans under the age of 37—the majority of home-buyers—are settling in suburban places. In 2017, the Census Bureau released data suggesting that 25- to 29-year-olds are a quarter more likely to move from the city to the suburbs than to go in the opposite direction; older millennials are more than twice as likely. Economic recovery and easier mortgages have helped them on their way. Watch this trend continue as interest rates rise and large mortgages become even more difficult to obtain.

 

  • Biology will be the next great computing platform. Just as the exponential miniaturization of silicon wafers propelled the computing industry forward, so too will the massive parallelization of gene editing push the boundaries of biology into the future.

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

Temperament Determines Outcomes

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Good Morning,
 

This week U.S. stocks climbed to record highs and Treasuries rallied after a core inflation reading slowed, adding to evidence that economic growth continues apace without stoking price increases. The dollar pared losses.

 

The three major indexes posted slight weekly gains. The S&P 500 and the Dow recorded their fifth consecutive weekly gains, while the Nasdaq has completed three.

 

Bonds in Europe gained after a report that the European Central Bank may continue asset purchases for at least nine months after it starts tapering in January. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index climbed, led by steelmakers and miners as most industrial metals gained and crude oil rose back above $51 a barrel.

 

Excluding food and energy, so-called core prices rose 0.5 percent in September, below an estimate of 0.6 percent. At the same time, a Commerce Department report also released Friday showed U.S. retail sales rose in September by the most in more than two years, as Americans replaced storm-damaged cars and paid higher prices at the gasoline pump. Excluding autos and gas, sales still increased at the second-fastest pace since January.


The inflation data bolstered the view that U.S. inflation below the Federal Reserve’s target may be structural rather than transitory, prompting traders to slightly reduce the odds of another rate increase in December. Could the Fed be ignoring actual inflation data?



Our Take
 

As we’ve suggested in the past, inflation is simply not cooperating but the fundamentals continue to look good. The never-ending crazy going on in Washington simply hasn’t stopped the economic expansion.

 

The International Monetary Fund, echoing increasingly gloomy sentiment in Washington, has concluded that the Donald Trump administration and Congress probably won't succeed in enacting tax reform or even significant tax cuts. The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee calls the White House "an adult day care center" and says he fears that the president's reckless bluster may lead us into World War III. The president, meanwhile, says he wants to compare IQ test scores with his secretary of state.

 

No worries. Investors do not appear to be concerned about any of these things. Earnings season has also gotten off to a good start, with 87 percent of the companies that have reported topping bottom-line expectations. The number of companies currently beating estimates, and the margin by which they are doing so, is running at a clip well above what these same 31 companies have recorded, on average, over the past three years.

 

Even Buffett thinks that stock valuations make sense with interest rates where they are. You measure laying out money for an asset in relation for what you are going to get back. You get 2.30% on the ten year. Seems fair to say that stocks will do better over the long term. In case you missed it Warren Buffett’s full interview on CNBC.

 

But what of the concept of Ben Graham's “margin of safety” in this "bull market in everything" environment? The idea that the price paid for an asset (stock, bond, real estate etc.) should allow for human error, bad luck or, indeed, many things going wrong at once.

 

In a problematic world of trade tariffs, nuclear braggadocio, nationalism and inequality such a concept is more prescient than ever. Rarely have so many asset classes -from stocks, to bonds, to gold, to real estate to bitcoins, to wine, to classic cars- exhibited such a sense of invulnerability. And all at the same time to boot! Listen to the temperature of this market. Listen for the all too familiar refrains of “this time it’s different” as they roll in. Timing markets is a fool’s game, but remaining alert to the concept of “margin of safety” is not. It may ensure survival.  

 


Musings
 

Many great investors suggest that generating above average investment results necessitates above average temperament.

 

As warren Buffett has stated: “Success in investing doesn’t correlate with I.Q. once you’re above the level of 25. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.”

 

Over the last few weeks in particular I’ve observed this on numerous occasions. Individuals with seemingly above average intelligence making poor decision after poor decision, blinded by ego and jealousy. Weakened by insecurity and contempt. Burdened by an inability to move forward after failure. Influenced by “opinions” when they reach “decisions”. Led astray by their own faulty temperaments.

 

This week I came across an interesting piece in the Economist that made me think deeply about temperament. Management gurus have poured over a related topic endlessly: is a knack for entrepreneurship something that you are born with, or something that can be taught? In a break with those gurus’ traditions, a group of economists and researchers from the World Bank, the National University of Singapore and Leuphana University in Germany decided that rather than simply concoct a theory, they would conduct a controlled experiment.

 

Moreover, instead of choosing subjects from the boardrooms of powerful corporations or among the latest crop of young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, Francisco Campos and his fellow researchers chose to monitor 1,500 people running small businesses in Togo in West Africa.

 

As they reported in Science, the researchers split the businesses into three groups of 500. One group served as the control. Another received a conventional business training in subjects such as accounting and financial management, marketing and human resources. They were also given tips on how to formalise a business. The syllabus came from a course called Business Edge, developed by the International Finance Corporation.

 

The final group was given a course inspired by psychological research, designed to teach personal initiative—things like setting goals, dealing with feedback and persistence in the face of setbacks, all of which are thought to be useful traits in a business owner. The researchers then followed their subjects’ fortunes for the next two-and-a-half years (the experiment began in 2014).

 

An earlier, smaller trial in Uganda had suggested that the psychological training was likely to work well. It did: monthly sales rose by 17% compared with the control group, while profits were up by 30%. It also boosted innovation: recipients came up with more new products than the control group. That suggests that entrepreneurship, or at least some mental habits useful for it, can indeed be taught. More surprising was how poorly the conventional training performed: as far as the researchers could tell, it had no effect at all. Temperament was the determinate factor. Superior mental habits lead to outperformance.

 

Focusing on the theme of temperament for our own decision making at Logos LP we’ve made a conscious effort to record instances in which poor temperament has lead to poor outcomes. A record of instances when either we or those around us have let poor temperament wreak havoc upon output. The journal gets re-visited on a monthly basis in order to develop an awareness of trends or patterns. Action items are them developed to alter behaviour.

 

For the next six months try and keep track of all of your major decisions and thoughts in a journal. This will help to build an awareness of the way your decisions are made and their associated outcomes. What you may find is that you develop more control over yourself and your decision making. Education comes from within; you get it by personal struggle, effort and thought. Live in the process…

 


Thought of the Week

 
 

"If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.” - Napoleon Hill



Articles and Ideas of Interest

  • There’s nothing old about this bull market. Claims that it’s the second-longest ever don’t hold up. Barry Ritholtz makes a convincing case that the current bull market is only four and a half years years old. The best starting date of a new bull market is when the prior bull-market highs are eclipsed. That is how we get a date like 1982 as the start of the last secular long-term bull market. And it is also how we get to March 2013 as the start date of this bull market, when the S&P 500 topped the earlier high of 1,565 set in October 2007. Could we just be approaching the middle of the run?

          

  • Debt keeps rising and nothing bad happens. Economists are stumped. As the Republicans prepare for their big tax reform push, the issue of deficits and debt is once more coming to the fore. Many economists realize that tax cuts, especially income tax cuts, tend to increase deficits, which over time lead to increases in the national debt. The GOP plan, if adopted, probably would pump up both deficits and debt. So the question is: Is more debt good, bad or does it even matter? But if it’s bad, how serious a problem is it?

 

  • Ideas aren’t running out, but they are getting more expensive to find. The rate of productivity growth in advanced economies has been falling. Optimists hope for a fourth industrial revolution, while pessimists lament that most potential productivity growth has already occurred. This must read piece argues that data on the research effort across all industries shows the costs of extracting ideas have increased sharply over time. This suggests that unless research inputs are continuously raised, economic growth will continue to slow in advanced nations.

 

  • Bitcoin resumed its climb. After tearing past $5,000 on Thursday, the cryptocurrency soared above $5,800 on Friday. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who told investors last month that bitcoin was a bubble “worse than tulip bulbs,” said Thursday he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.  But on Friday, Dimon responded to a question about bitcoin by saying if people are "stupid enough to buy it," they will pay the price for it in the future. The craze rolls on with hedge funds flipping ICOs and receiving preferential discounts and terms. Here’s the deal with an ICO: You can buy entry in a computer ledger issued by a start-up company on the basis on an unregulated prospectus. It is called an ICO (“Initial Coin Offering”) but though the ledger entry is called a coin, you cannot spend it at any shop. And whereas the use of the term ICO makes it sound like an IPO (initial public offering), the process whereby a firm lists on the stockmarket, coin ownership does not necessarily get you equity in the company concerned. The Economist points out that this is the kind of bargain that would only appeal to people who reply to emails from Nigerian princes offering to transfer millions to their accounts. There is a serious side to the craze as there was with the dotcom boom. The technology that underpins digital currencies- the blockchain- is an important development. The problem is that it is not easy to draw a line between financial innovation and reckless speculation.


     
  • Dating apps are reshaping society. There’s been a big uptick in interracial and same-sex partners who find each other online. Interesting research presented in the MIT Tech Review which tends to support that there is some evidence that married couples who meet online have lower rates of marital breakup than those who meet traditionally. That has the potential to significantly benefit society. And it’s exactly what new data models predicts. Perhaps online dating isn’t all bad. Important to think about as Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett recently stated that making money means nothing without having another person, such as a spouse, to share the wealth with. Who you marry, which is the ultimate partnership, is enormously important in determining the happiness in your life and your success. A study published by Carnegie Mellon University found that people with supportive spouses are "more likely to give themselves the chance to succeed."

 

  • The loneliness epidemic. This may not surprise you. Chances are, you or someone you know has been struggling with loneliness. And that can be a serious problem. Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity. But we haven’t focused nearly as much effort on strengthening connections between people as we have on curbing tobacco use or obesity. Loneliness is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety. At work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making. For our health and our work, it is imperative that we address the loneliness epidemic quickly.

Our best wishes for a fulfilling week, 
 

Logos LP

Our Institutions Are Breaking

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Good Morning,
 

Last week the S&P 500 Index pushed past 2,500 for the first time, notching its third round-number milestone of the year as the bull market in U.S. equities rages on. With a gain of 10.4% through the end of August, this year ranks as the fourth best start to a year in the last ten years, behind 2013 (+14.5%), 2009 (+13.0%) and 2012 (+11.8%).

 

The benchmark gained 0.2 percent to 2,500.23 last Friday, capping its biggest weekly advance since January, as technology shares rebounded and banks climbed with Treasury yields. Up 12 percent since January, the S&P 500 is on course for its best annual gain in four years.

 

Equities broke out of a month long trading range after the worst-case scenarios from Hurricane Irma and North Korea failed to materialize. As geopolitical fears subsided, investors shifted focus back to fundamentals, where economic growth remains stable and corporate earnings are expected to increase every year through at least 2019.

 

Another piece of good news last week: America's middle class had its highest earning year ever in 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday. Median household income in America was $59,039 last year, surpassing the previous high of $58,655 set in 1999, the Census Bureau said.



Our Take
 

Strength is appearing to beget strength. In each of those three years above (2013, 2009, 2012) where the S&P was up significantly in the first eight months of the year, the remainder of the year saw further upside with a median gain of 9.3%.

 

In addition to those three years, the last four months of each calendar year has been strong throughout the entire bull market. The S&P 500 has been up every time for a median gain of 3.4%.

 

On a total return basis, the the index was up an impressive 16.2% over last year through the end of August. The historical average is 11.7% going back to 1928. Can things continue?

 

The trend may be up but either way we subscribe to a more reserved view well described in a note entitled “Yet Again?” released last week by Howard Marks. In this memo, which served as a follow up to his other recent memo entitled “There They Go Again” released on July 26, Marks suggests that investors are no longer being offered value in the market at cheap prices and thus should pull back and be less aggressive. Marks suggested that the market is not currently a “nonsensical bubble” but rather is simply high and therefore risky.

 

Risk may have increased as prices have risen yet the interesting question then is: “So what should we do?” At our 2017 high this year our fund was up roughly 25%. We have since come off this high and are in the process of re-calibrating our expectations in what we believe to be a more “low-return” environment. What does this mean?

 

As Marks reminds us in his memo the options are limited:

 

  1. Invest as you always have and expect your historic returns.

  2. Invest as you always have and settle for today’s low returns.

  3. Reduce risk to prepare for a correction and accept still-lower returns.

  4. Go to cash at a near-zero return and wait for a better environment.

  5. Increase risk in pursuit of higher returns.

  6. Put more into special niches and special investment managers.

 

#1 would make no sense.

#2 is difficult.

#3 makes sense if you think a correction is coming but could cost you.

#4 is tough as zero-returns are rarely ever acceptable.

#5 is deceptive as high risk does not assure higher returns. It means accepting greater uncertainty with the goal of higher returns and the possibility of substantially lower (or negative) returns.

#6 is good as they can offer higher returns without proportionally more risk. That is if they can be identified.  

 

Like Marks, we believe that none of these options is perfect but that there are no others. Thus, as we re-set expectations in an environment promising lower returns we will do the things we have always done remaining largely fully invested and accept that returns will be lower than they traditionally have been (#2). While we do what we have always done we will employ more caution than usual especially with regards to price (#3) and we will work diligently to find special opportunities that lie “off the beaten track” (#6).

 


Musings
 

I attended a conference this week in Toronto called Elevate TO. The purpose of the conference was to showcase the City as a growing hotbed of innovation. The presenters ranged from local politicians, to start-up founders to Canadian technology luminaries. One talk by Salim Ismail the technology entrepreneur and best-selling author of Exponential Organizations really stood out. (for a youtube video see here)

 

The crux of his talk is that society needs to shift from linear thinking to exponential thinking in order to adapt to a world which is changing faster than our institutions and minds can keep pace with.

 

But what is linear bias? We’ve seen consumers and companies fall victim to linear bias in numerous real-world scenarios. Although there are many such examples, a nice one relates to intangibles like consumer attitudes.

 

In a recent HBR article the author suggests looks at consumers and sustainability. We frequently hear executives complain that while people say they care about the environment, they are not willing to pay extra for ecofriendly products. Quantitative analyses bear this out. A survey by the National Geographic Society and GlobeScan finds that, across 18 countries, concerns about environmental problems have increased markedly over time, but consumer behavior has changed much more slowly. While nearly all consumers surveyed agree that food production and consumption should be more sustainable, few of them alter their habits to support that goal.

 

What’s going on? It turns out that the relationship between what consumers say they care about and their actions is often highly nonlinear. But managers often believe that classic quantitative tools, like surveys using 1-to-5 scales of importance, will predict behavior in a linear fashion. In reality, research shows little or no behavioral difference between consumers who, on a five-point scale, give their environmental concern the lowest rating, 1, and consumers who rate it a 4. But the difference between 4s and 5s is huge. Behavior maps to attitudes on a curve, not a straight line.

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Companies typically fail to account for this pattern—in part because they focus on averages. Averages mask nonlinearity and lead to prediction errors. For example, suppose a firm did a sustainability survey among two of its target segments. All consumers in one segment rate their concern about the environment a 4, while 50% of consumers in the other segment rate it a 3 and 50% rate it a 5. The average level of concern is the same for the two segments, but people in the second segment are overall much more likely to buy green products. That’s because a customer scoring 5 is much more likely to make environmental choices than a customer scoring 4, whereas a customer scoring 4 is not more likely to than a customer scoring 3.

 

This illustration does a great job to outline the problem. The current climate of rapid technological development and change is rooted in exponential thinking. If you look at the biggest problems in the word such as the climate change, economic growth, pandemics and sociopolitical upheaval etc. they are rooted in exponential accelerators and factors. The problem is that many of us (including our leaders) don’t understand this phenomenon and this is the fundamental cognitive gap that we are facing. This gap is causing immense stress as evidenced by the increasing failure of our institutions (Occupy Wallstreet, the Arab Spring, the election of Donald Trump, the surge in nationalism, racism and authoritarianism) which were created in a fundamentally linear world.

 

When you have an information based environment it goes into an exponential growth path and it starts doubling in price performance every 1 to 2 years. Now we have whole industries and livelihoods like music, newspapers, retail, manufacturing etc. caught up in this vortex of exponential creative destruction as our world is not set up for this.

 

When you think about all the mechanisms we use to run the world: our social structure, our civics, our politics, our legal systems, our patent systems, our monetary policy systems, our financial systems, our healthcare systems, our education systems they are all geared for the linear world of 100 or 200 years ago when information was scarce. Lets remember that marriage was invented about 15 000 years ago when lifespans were about 25. You grew up, had kids and you died. Was it really designed to last 50-60 years? What happens when lifespans hit 120-150 years?

 

These mechanisms are all breaking or are already broken. We simply aren’t set up for the exponential world of today and certainly not for the world of tomorrow.

 

Most of the changes that set this exponential world in motion happened about 25 years ago with the advent of the internet yet now we have moved into the world of 3D printing, AR/VR, synthetic biology, blockchain technologies, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence.

 

We have a forcing problem with technology. Moore’s law has been doubling computing power for over 60 years and now we have over 12 technologies operating at that same pace: neuroscience, drones, biotech, and even solar cells are doubling in their price performance every 22 months and have been for over 40 years. At this pace we will hit 100% world energy supply that can be delivered by solar in less than 2 decades...Energy that has been scarce for most of human history is about to become abundant...

 

These exponential and thus highly disruptive technologies will only increase the stress that currently characterizes our world absent the ability of our leaders and I would argue ourselves to learn how to navigate these technologies and update the mechanisms which run our world grounding them in exponential thinking.

 

The problem is that if you attempt disruptive innovation in any organization or perhaps mind, its immune system will attack you. All of our organizations and mechanisms we use to run the world are built to resist change and withstand risk. Try and change education: teachers unions attack, try to update transportation:  taxi drivers attack, try and marry/date someone outside of your accepted circle: your parents or friends attack, try and actually reform the French economy: the unions attack and your approval ratings tank etc.

 

We’ve got to solve our immune system problem and the future will belong to those people, those leaders, those businesses and those countries that can do so. Can we scale as fast as technology?

 
 

Logos LP August Performance

 

August 2017 Return: -4.55%

2017 YTD (July) Return: +13.27%

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +13.01%

CAGR since inception: +17.84%

 

Logos LP in the Media

 

ValueWalk has done a special feature on us and some of our best ideas that will be released this month. For a teaser please click here.

 


Thought of the Week

 
 

"I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” -Jimmy Dean



Articles and Ideas of Interest

  • Robots and AI may not take our jobs after all. Liz Ann Sonders posted the graphic below showing how e commerce has created more jobs that it has taken away.
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  • Furthermore, automation commonly creates more, and better-paying, jobs than it destroys. Greg Ip for the WSJ explains. Stop pretending you really know what AI is and read this instead.

 

  • What goes up must come down for cryptocurrencies. The summer of bitcoin looks to be ending badly. The biggest cryptocurrency dropped as much as 40 percent since reaching a record high of $4,921 on Sept. 1, cutting about $20 billion in market value. The collapse extended to as much as 30 percent this week since China began sending stronger signals of a clampdown on Sept. 8, making this the biggest five-day decline since January 2015, when it traded at around $200. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon took a shot at bitcoin, saying the cryptocurrency "is a fraud" but can you really blame him given Bitcoin’s status as “the most crowded investment in the world”? Don’t believe the hype about the tremendous returns on “initial coin offerings”. Great piece on ICOs and the promise and perils of global capital markets for everyone. Canada also poured cold water on ICOs in a notice last week, in which regulators there warned that the "coins" in "Initial Coin Offerings"—a popular new way for companies to raise money using cryptocurrency—are likely to be securities. What’s interesting is that with the changing of the tides it hasn’t just been bitcoin tanking. Virtually all cryptocurrencies have taken a beating. Nevertheless, the coins already appear to be recovering...

 

 

  • Making money during the apocalypse. Bryan Menegus reports for Gizmodo from a conference whose attendees envisage a future where capitalism is under siege. “The machinery of freedom” apparently will include floating sea colonies, special economic zones, and stateless cryptocurrencies. And it’s up to these elite techno-libertarian attendees to ensure that future happens—whether it benefits the rest of the world or not.

 

  • How Warren Buffett broke American Capitalism. Provocative piece in the FT time suggesting that the investment style of Warren Buffett may have had disastrous effects on the economy. Are “high moats” not simply “monopolies”? Can an investment philosophy have negative effects on an economy?

 

  • Mind control isn’t sci-fi anymore. 2017 has been a coming-out year for the Brain-Machine Interface (BMI), a technology that attempts to channel the mysterious contents of the two-and-a-half-pound glop inside our skulls to the machines that are increasingly central to our existence. The idea has been popped out of science fiction and into venture capital circles faster than the speed of a signal moving through a neuron. Facebook, Elon Musk, and other richly funded contenders, such as former Braintree founder Bryan Johnson, have talked seriously about silicon implants that would not only merge us with our computers, but also supercharge our intelligence.

 

  • The healing power of nature. The idea that immersing yourself in forests and nature has a healing effect is far more than just folk wisdom. Blood tests revealed a host of protective physiological factors released at a higher level after forest, but not urban, walks. Among those hormones and molecules, a research team at Japan’s Nippon Medical School ticks off dehydroepiandrosterone which helps to protect against heart disease, obesity and diabetes, as well as adiponectin, which helps to guard against atherosclerosis. In other research, the team found elevated levels of the immune system’s natural killer cells, known to have anti-cancer and anti-viral effects. Meanwhile, research from China found that those walking in nature had reduced blood levels of inflammatory cytokines, a risk factor for immune illness, and research from Japan’s Hokkaido University School of Medicine found that shinrin-yoku lowered blood glucose levels associated with obesity and diabetes. GET OUT THERE.

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling week, 
 

Logos LP

Stealth Bear Markets

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Good Morning,
 

U.S. equities managed to stage a comeback from their session lows on Friday after Steve Bannon, one of President Donald Trump's top advisors, left the administration. Traders at the New York Stock Exchange literally cheered the news that Bannon was out of the administration.

                                               

The Dow and the S&P fell 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent for the week, respectively, marking their first two-week losing streak since May. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, posted a four-week losing streak, its longest of the year.

 

In Europe, stocks extended their declines after a horrific terrorist attack in Barcelona added to unease about U.S. policy paralysis and lingering tensions over North Korea.

                                               

Tension between Bannon and other top advisors to Trump, including Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, had been intensifying inside the White House. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that disagreement between Bannon and McMaster is destabilizing Trump's team.

 

As volatility picked up this week with the VIX rallying roughly 44% from its lows only a month ago, investors grew worried that Trump's economic agenda, which includes tax reform and fiscal stimulus, will not get through Congress. These concerns only grew as backlash multiplied from Trump's remarks following the violent protests in Charlottesville, VA.

                                           

This led to Trump dissolving two CEO advisory forums, one of which included JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon. Rumors also started circulating Thursday that Cohn, Trump's top economic advisor, could resign amid the fallout.

 

Investors pulled $1.3 billion from equity funds in the week ending Aug. 16 as tensions over the Korean peninsula escalated, according to EPFR Global data. Outflows from U.S. stock funds were triple that, suggesting a growing risk off attitude.

 



Our Take
 

Largely lost in the debate over how much credit President Donald Trump should or should not get for the performance of U.S. stocks this year is that perhaps the biggest reason for the rally is strong earnings. With more than 90 percent of the S&P 500 members having reported second-quarter results, earnings growth is tracking at a 12.2 percent pace year-over-year, much better than the 8.4 percent expected, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

 

All sectors of the benchmark are on pace to beat projections, except energy, where less than 40 percent of companies topped earnings forecasts. Technology and healthcare continue to lead upside surprises, with more than 85 percent of tech companies and 75 percent of health companies posting better-than-expected earnings per share.

 

This is all great news yet markets are forward looking, so it stands to reason that what happens next in earnings should have a big influence on the direction of stocks.

 

That’s where things may be looking a bit less tremendous. Despite the positive earnings surprises in second-quarter results, S&P 500 profit estimates for the next four quarters continue to edge lower. Earnings per share forecasts for the index through mid-2018 have been reduced by 0.7 percent since the end of June, with the fourth-quarter bearing the brunt of downward revisions, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. But should this worry the prudent long-term investor?

 

FactSet this week presented a nice overview of the charts/data that tell the story of 2017 so far. A few interesting trends which we believe are likely to continue through Q3 and Q4 were:

 

1) Consumer spending is not keeping up with consumer sentiment (not a good thing)

2) Consumer price inflation is slowing even as the Fed is planning to tighten (also not good)

3) Companies in the S&P 500 with more global revenue exposure are projected to report higher earnings and revenue growth in 2017 relative to companies in the index with less global revenue exposure. (perhaps a source of opportunity)
 

At the sector level, the Information Technology sector is expected to be the largest contributor to earnings and revenue growth in 2017. No wonder the Russel 2000 is up a measly 0.05% YTD while the Dow is up 9.67% and the S&P 500 is up 8.33%.

 

Absent any significant changes in foreign exchange rates and global GDP growth in the second half of 2017 which could alter these expected earnings and revenue growth rates for the full year, it is unlikely that David Tepper’s bold call that technology stocks "look cheaper than any other part of the market even though they moved” will prove foolish.  

 

So what are the opportunities? Well, we have spotted one such opportunity that recently took a dive after an earnings miss: Priceline Group Inc. (NASDAQ: PCLN).

 

This online travel reservation business has been growing pre-tax earnings over the last decade at a compound annual rate of 42% per year. That is faster than Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Alphabet and Expedia (Expedia has been growing EBITDA over the last decade at around 7%).

 

Average ROE is about 28.4% and long-term prospects also look favorable. Last year travel accounted for roughly 10% of global GDP or $7.6 trillion and only about ⅓ of it is booked online. This share is expected to grow by a few percentage points per year and thus although rivals such as AirBnB, Tripadvisor, Expedia, Ctrip and perhaps Google are circling, the future looks bright indeed.

 

Sitting roughly 12% off its 52 week high Priceline is getting attractive. A move under 1600 or another 12% down from current levels and we would look to initiate a position.

 

Musings

 

Came across a pretty interesting chart this week from Michael Batnick which painted a nice picture of how the market has scaled the “wall of worry” in defiance of a plethora of doomsday predictions of an imminent selloff.

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As the graph shows, since stocks bottomed in March 2009, the S&P 500 index has soared 271% to multiple records, meandering higher through the European debt crisis, Brexit, and the U.S. presidential election.

 

Political upheaval certainly does not necessarily translate to market volatility. But more importantly, the chart got me thinking about a common refrain these days: “things can’t keep going up like this”. Is that true? Are “things” bound to collapse? What may be more relevant to consider is what we mean by “things”?

 

Looking at this current market as a "market of stocks" rather than as a "stock market" it is clear that “things” most certainly cannot keep going up and in fact “things” most certainly are not continuously going up: The average Russell 2000 stock is already in a bear market, falling 22.42% from its 52-week high. The median Russell 2000 stock is 17.38% from its 52-week high. Likewise, the average and median S&P 500 stock are 8.04% and 11.77% from their 52-week highs.

 

What of this record bull market then? Well it may be that we have experienced several “stealth” bear markets within the current long-term uptrend.

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It should be remembered that market crashes of over 30% are incredibly rare events. Could the bear market that so many people are predicting these days have already happened?

 

I think this an argument worth considering given the fact that research has shown that in 189 years of stock returns only 3 times since 1825 did the market finish a calendar year down 30% or worse. That’s about once every 63 years...recency bias is a hell of a drug...
 


Logos LP July Performance

 

July 2017 Return: -1.16%

2017 YTD (July) Return: +18.67%

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +21.59%

3-Year Annualized Return: +22.55%

 


Thought of the Week

 
 

"After seeing a movie that dramatizes nuclear war, they worried more about nuclear war; indeed, they felt that it was more likely to happen. The sheer volatility of people's judgement of the odds--their sense of the odds could be changed by two hours in a movie theater--told you something about the reliability of the mechanism that judged those odds.” -Michael Lewis



Articles and Ideas of Interest

 

  • Ten years ago from August 9, people weren’t that worried about impending financial doom. Ten years ago August 9, all was not well with the global financial system. On Aug. 9, 2007 BNP Paribas froze more than $2 billion in funds, barring investors from withdrawing their money due to a “complete evaporation of liquidity in certain market segments.” This marked the beginning of a dangerous new phase in what eventually developed into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. What did we learn? Reuters puts together a decade in charts. Financial Times suggests that there were clear warnings that Wall Street ignored.

 

  • Time to focus on return of capital strategies? Is there anybody left recommending risk assets? It sure seems like if there are, they are few and far between. The number of influential pundits warning about the risk of investing in assets such as corporate bonds and equities is growing exponentially. Recently it was Oaktree Capital Group co-Chairman Howard Marks and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Last week, it was the likes of DoubleLine Capital Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Gundlach, HSBC Holdings’ head of fixed-income research Steven Major and Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson. Have we reached the point in the investment cycle where you’ve got to start thinking the return on capital is rather less important than the return of capital…Luckily for doomsday preppers, the end of the world is good for business.

 

  • Is passive investing “devouring capitalism”? Billionaire Paul Singer is warning of a growing and menacing threat: passive investing.“Passive investing is in danger of devouring capitalism,” Singer wrote in his firm’s second-quarter letter dated July 27. “What may have been a clever idea in its infancy has grown into a blob which is destructive to the growth-creating and consensus-building prospects of free market capitalism.” Almost $500 billion flowed from active to passive funds in the first half of 2017. The founder of Elliott Management Corp. contends that passive strategies, which buy a variety of securities to match the overall performance of an index, aren’t truly "investing" and that index fund providers don’t have incentive to push companies to change for the better and create shareholder value. Cranky underperforming manager (Singer’s Elliott Associates fund rose 0.4 percent in the second quarter, bringing gains for the first half to 3.5 percent) or luminary? The Atlantic explores the growing chorus of experts that argue that index funds are strangling the economy. I would agree. Diversification has brought undeniable benefits to large numbers of Americans. If recent scholarship is right, it has brought hidden costs to many more. For the opposing view see Gadfly.

 

  • Forget robots — “super-workers” may be coming for your job. According to a report from PwC, one outcome of technology and automation could be the rise of the medically-enhanced “super-worker” by 2030. These workers will combine man, machine, and medical enhancements (like pharmaceuticals to boost cognition) to secure employment and guarantee performance in an increasingly competitive labor market. 70% of those surveyed by PwC said they’d undergo treatments to improve their bodies and minds if it would help their job chances. On a small scale, some of this is already happening: A Wisconsin firm recently made headlines for microchipping employees.

 

  • Lego-Like brain balls could build a living replica of your brain. The human brain is routinely described as the most complex object in the known universe. It might therefore seem unlikely that pea-size blobs of brain cells growing in laboratory dishes could be more than fleetingly useful to neuroscientists. Nevertheless, many investigators are now excitedly cultivating these curious biological systems, formally called cerebral organoids and less formally known as mini-brains. With organoids, researchers can run experiments on how living human brains develop—experiments that would be impossible (or unthinkable) with the real thing.

 

  • Digging for digital gold in Inner Mongolia. The crypto currency mania shows no sign of abating. Consider the case for $5000 bitcoin (why not $10000?). Yet also consider that at the heart of bitcoin are miners running massive computing operations to earn the $7 million up for grabs each day for solving complex mathematical equations. Zheping Huang and Joon Ian Wong got access to one of the world’s largest bitcoin mines, Bitmain, and offer a rare look at the lives of its workers, as does a photo essay for Quartz by Aurelien Foucault. I see bitcoin as here to stay. Perhaps grandpa had a pension and this generation has cryptocurrency. Great piece in the New York Times suggesting that “as traditional paths to upper-middle-class stability are being blocked by debt, exorbitant housing costs and a shaky job market, these investors view cryptocurrency not only as a hedge against another Dow Jones crash, but also as the most rational — and even utopian — means of investing their money."

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling week, 
 

Logos LP