value investing

The Art of The Deal

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Good Morning,
 

Stocks closed little changed on Friday as solid quarterly results from some of the largest U.S. companies, including Microsoft, Capital One and Honeywell, counterbalanced threats made by President Donald Trump stating that he is willing to up the ante in the trade war with Beijing and could slap tariffs on every Chinese good imported to the U.S. "I'm ready to go to 500," he told CNBC, referencing the $505.5B of American imports from China in 2017, compared to the $129.9B the U.S. exported to the country last year. (an interesting blow by blow look at global trade here)

 

In other news, President Trump sat down with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Crimea, Syria and election meddling were likely on the summit's agenda, but no aide or official from the U.S. delegation were present during the meeting's initial stages. A controversial press conference ensued (in which Trump seemed to prefer Putin’s story suggesting Russia’s non-involvement in the US election rather than the opinion of U.S. intelligence), coming on the tails of a tense NATO summit during which Trump lambasted allies for not meeting their defense spending commitments.

 

The 10-year yield ended the week at 2.90% and the two-year yield finished up at 2.60%. Some analysts saw the increased 2-10 spread as a sign that investors believe President Trump's criticism of the Fed could slow down the pace of rate hikes.

 

Finally, Amazon reached a $900B market value for the first time, nipping at Apple's) heels as Wall Street's most valuable. The news comes after the company announced it sold more than $100M in products during its annual Prime Day sale. Shares are up over 57% so far this year, bringing Amazon's increase to over 123,000% since it listed on the Nasdaq in 1997.


Our Take
 

As perplexing as Trump’s actions can be, instead of spilling more ink on his diversions from “accepted” presidential behavior, it may be best to try and understand his approach by attempting to apply a different mental model. The seeds of Trump’s mental model can be found in his book “The Art of the Deal”. (His approval ratings also hold other clues)

 

Jim Rickards points out that the book is a window on Trump’s approach to every challenge he confronts, including economic and geopolitical challenges as president.

 

What is Trump’s process as described in the book?

 

  1. Identify a big goal (tax cuts, balanced trade, the wall, etc.).

  2. Identify your leverage points versus anyone who stands in your way (elections, tariffs, jobs, etc.).

  3. Announce some extreme threat against your opponent that uses your leverage.

  4. If the opponent backs down, mitigate the threat, declare victory and go home with a win.

  5. If the opponent fires back, double down. If Trump declares tariffs on $50 billion of good from China,and China shoots back with tariffs on $50 billion of goods from the U.S., Trump doubles down with tariffs on $100 billion of goods or perhaps even $505.5 billion etc. Trump may keep escalating until he wins. (or loses)

  6. Eventually, the escalation process can lead to negotiations with at least the perception of a victory for Trump (North Korea) — even if the victory is more visual than real.

 

This approach is abnormal from a historical perspective but to the astute observer this far into his Presidency should be looking more predictable.

 

What should we expect moving forward in light of this mental model? Likely more dramatic policy shifts and extreme threats. The key is not to overreact and hope that all escalations lead to fruitful negotiations in step 6….

 


Chart(s) of the Month
 

The S&P 500 PE ratio is right in line with historical norms.

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J.P. Morgan: “High yields spreads and defaults are low and not rising. Mr. Bond is not yet sniffing a potential economic problem.”
 

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The Big 5 tech companies together are worth more than the bottom 282 companies in the S&P 500 yet this level of concentration is not unprecedented. In 1965 AT&T and GM represented 14.5% of the S&P 500. What is wild is that these 5 companies are all in the same industry.

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Courtesy of Michael Batnick.
 

Musings



This month we released our 2nd quarter letter to our investors. Included is a discussion of portfolio changes as well as a more detailed description of a new position we’ve initiated in Industrial Alliance and Financial Services (TSX: IAG). Please contact us if you would like to see a copy of this letter.


 

Logos LP May 2018 Performance

 

June 2018 Return: 4.29%

 

2018 YTD (June) Return: 0.34%

 

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +11.86%

 

CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +18.77%


 

Thought of the Month


 

"Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?– Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching




Articles and Ideas of Interest

 

  • These 10 stocks account for all the S&P 500’s first half gains.David Kostin, chief U.S. equity strategist at Goldman Sachs, highlighted that more than 100 percent of the S&P 500’s total return of nearly 3 percent in the first half is attributable to just 10 equities. Amazon.com Inc. alone accounts for roughly two-fifths of the benchmark gauge’s advance. Find out which they are here.

           

  • The average age of a successful startup founder is 45. HBR explores why and also why vc investors often bet on young founders.

 

  • YOLO. A Boston College study has found that half of companies raising through ICOs die within four months after finalizing token sales. Is Blockchain even a revolution?

 

  • Longer lives mean a single marriage may not be enough. More couples are wondering if the relationship they had in their first phase of adulthood is worth continuing.

 

 

  • Can the cult of Berkshire Hathaway outlive Warren Buffett? Centuries from now, historians piecing together the narrative of this stretch of America’s existence will have to explain the curious four-decade (and counting) run in which an arena in an otherwise modest midwestern US city filled to capacity once a year for two aging billionaires talking about the stock market, life, and whatever else tickled their fancy. The annual meeting of the Omaha, Nebraska-based holding company Berkshire Hathaway has no analog in US business or culture. Buffett is 87. Munger is 94. And Berkshire Hathaway’s returns over the S&P 500 are slowing, as Buffett has warned for decades they would. Interesting article in Quartz exploring his legacy as well as his adage that America will always remain a safe bet...

 

  • Google is building a city of the future in Toronto. Would anyone want to live there? It could be the coolest new neighborhood on the planet—or a peek into the Orwellian metropolis that knows everything you did last night. Politico magazine explores the tradeoffs and debates involved.

 

  • In praise of being washed. Has a life of ambition and striving gotten the best of you? Do you sometimes wish you could give up a little—stop chasing so many pointless goals you probably won’t hit anyway? It’s time you got washed. A refreshing summer read in GQ.

 

  • Scientists at a company part-owned by Bill Gates have found a cheap way to convert CO2 into gasoline. A team of scientists has discovered a cheap, new way to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — which could arm humanity with a new tool in the fight against climate change.

 

  • The friend effect: why the secret of health and happiness is surprisingly simple. Our face-to-face relationships are, quite literally, a matter of life or death. “One of the biggest predictors of physical and mental health problems is loneliness,” says Dr Nick Lake, joint director for psychology and psychological therapy at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. “That makes sense to people when they think of mental health. But the evidence is also clear that if you are someone who is lonely and isolated, your chance of suffering a major long-term condition such as coronary heart disease or cancer is also significantly increased, to the extent that it is almost as big a risk factor as smoking.”

Our best wishes for a fulfilling month, 

Logos LP

 

Mistakes Happen

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Good Morning,
 

Stocks fell on the final day of a busy week that included the U.S.-North Korea summit, major central bank meetings and escalating trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
 

The S&P 500 Index declined in heavy trading on a quadruple-witching last Friday, a quarterly event when futures and options contracts on indexes and individual stocks expire. The U.S. and China spent the day exchanging tariff threats, which drove down tech and industrial stocks, while a drop in the price of oil hit energy shares. Consumer staples and telecoms advanced, offsetting some of the drop, and the index finished with a weekly gain, if only barely.


Our Take
 

Value strategies continue to underperform while momentum strategies lead the market. In fact, while broad benchmarks sit relatively still, speculative shares are soaring, among them companies that recently went public, stocks favored by short sellers, and firms with weaker balance sheets. A seven-week rally was preserved in the Russell 2000, which was joined in record territory by an index of microcaps.

 

Gains in the third category, companies with shakier finances, breathed new life into a trade that had prevailed for most of the bull market before deterioratingas investors sought safety. Known as the low-quality rally, its revival may signal indiscriminate buying pressure is building again for equities.

 

Fundamentals look to be less important right now as high flying IPO’s have been surging. Technology companies that went public recently soared. Dropbox Inc., which began trading on March 23, climbed 32 percent. Cloud-based software company Zuora Inc. surged 18 percent, topping off gains of more than 50 percent since the start of the month. An exchange-traded fund that tracks newly public companies, the Renaissance IPO ETF, posted its second-best weekly gain this year. Avalara Inc., a Seattle-based company that provides sales tax-management solutions, started trading on the NYSE Friday and nearly doubled. There have been 22 technology companies to go public so far this year in the U.S., and they’ve gained an average of 70 percent, weighted by offer size, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

 

Investors are no doubt chasing returns and to juice performance but this recent “risk-on” trend may also evidence investor belief that the future looks bright. A recent comment sums up the climate: “Why would you invest in a company where the balance sheet is stressed? You would do it if you felt that either the company or because of the economic situation that they’re going to grow into a more satisfactory fundamental balance sheet.”

 

Chart of the Month


An inverted yield curve as measured by the 10-year yield less than the two-year yield has occurred ahead of every recession in the past 40 years. The time interval between inversion and recession averages 10 months.

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The chart above, courtesy of Urban Carmel, suggests we aren’t there yet.



Musings

 

Great article by Barry Ritholtz exploring the topic of failure and why we all as investors should learn to fail better. We should all cultivate the ability to be self-critical and implement a “standardized review process” when things go wrong.

 

As Ritholtz reminds us in contrast to equity investors: “Silicon Valley, technology and the venture-capital business model do a better job. Entrepreneurs and venture funders alike wear their failures like a badge of honor. Many venture capitalists even post their biggest misses on their websites. They recognize their model is to make a lot of losing bets in pursuit of finding the next big winner. Equity investors don’t have quite the same model, but they would benefit from a similar approach to recognizing their own limitations.”

 

The stigma that surrounds failure in asset management needs to be revisited as even juggernauts such a Buffett and Druckenmiller make big mistakes. As always, the way to avoid future failure is to embrace and learn from past failures. This piece hit home as during the month of May we exited our position in Luxoft and realized we had made a mistake. We were reminded of a few things: 1) turnarounds can take much longer than anticipated no matter how bullish one can be about the business’s prospects 2) more time means a larger opportunity cost 3) sometimes being too early is the equivalent to being wrong.

 

What investment mistakes have you made lately?

 

Logos LP May 2018 Performance
 


May 2018 Return: 0%

 

2018 YTD (May) Return: -3.79%

 

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +4.38%

 

CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +17.99%


 

Thought of the Month


 

"You know what Kipling said? Treat those two impostors just the same — success and failure. Of course, there’s going to be some failure in making the correct decisions. Nobody bats a thousand. I think it’s important to review your past stupidities so you are less likely to repeat them, but I’m not gnashing my teeth over it or suffering or enduring it. I regard it as perfectly normal to fail and make bad decisions. I think the tragedy in life is to be so timid that you don’t play hard enough so you have some reverses.” -Charlie Munger
 



Articles and Ideas of Interest

 

  • World Cup players to watch (not named Messi or Ronaldo). The diminutive Argentine and the preening Portuguese are the most recognizable players in the global tournament now under way in Russia. Oliver Staley details why eight other all-stars also deserve your attention over the next month. Apparently machine learning has come to a conclusion about which team will win. Place your bets. Mine is one France.

           

  • We are worrying about the wrong kind of AI. There’s a bigger AI threat than computers achieving consciousness. Rapid progress in lab-grown “mini brains” from human cells brings up huge ethical challenges. Consider that biologists have been learning to grow functioning “mini brains” or “brain organoids” from real human cells, and progress has been so fast that researchers are actually worrying about what to do if a piece of tissue in a lab dish suddenly shows signs of having conscious states or reasoning abilities. While we are busy focusing on computer intelligence, AI may arrive in living form first, and bring with it a host of unprecedented ethical challenges.

 

  • Tudor Jones says his social impact ETF has potential to rival the S&P 500. Paul Tudor Jones said Tuesday that a new exchange-traded fund about investing based on social impact could one day rival the benchmark U.S. stock index. Social impact investing is making a real impact in private markets. Look for it to grow in popularity in public markets.

 

  • Why China 'holds all the aces' in a full-blown US-China trade war. U.S. tariffs on $50 billion of China goods were imposed Friday to protect U.S. intellectual property and technology. It prompted China to retaliate. But before evaluating the policy prescriptions for this problem, we must first consider the starting point, which is flawed. The current $370 billion deficit estimate does not account for value-added. When looking at the value-added content of Chinese exports, the U.S. deficit with China is actually only half of what it seems. And if we then add back the U.S. surplus in "invisibles" and how much money the United States brings back from investments in China, the U.S.–China deficit shrinks from 2 percent of U.S. GDP to 0.8 percent, a report from Oxford Economics revealed. Furthermore, the reality is that many of the Trump administration's articulated demands are things that China is already doing, albeit at a somewhat slower pace. The United States wants China to buy more American goods and services — and so does China. Trump wants to impose stiff tariffs to prevent China from flooding the American market with increasingly less expensive technological products, like smartphones, computers and related accessories, which collectively comprise China's biggest exports to the United States. And China agrees — they want to export higher value-added goods, especially those with a high innovation content. Interests are much more aligned than either country wants to admit.

   

  • You should be sleeping more than eight hours a night. Here’s whyTo set the record straight about being horizontal, Quartz spoke to one of the world’s most-talked-about sleep scientists. Daniel Gartenberg is currently working on research funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Aging and is also a TED resident. (Watch his talk on deep sleep here.) He’s also an entrepreneur who has launched several cognitive-behavioral-therapy apps, including the Sonic Sleep Coach alarm clock. All that with 8.5 hours’ of sleep a night. Some topics covered: why 8.5 hours of sleep is the new eight hours, the genes that dictate if you’re a morning person or a night owl, why you should take a nap instead of meditating, how sleep deprivation can be a tool to fight depression, why sleep should be the new worker’s rights and tips on how to get a better night’s rest (hint: it’s not your Fitbit).  

 

  • Here’s Mary Meeker’s essential 2018 Internet Trends report. A few highlightsEcommerce vs Brick & Mortar: Ecommerce growth quickens as now 13% of all retail purchases happen online and parcel shipments are rising swiftly, signaling big opportunities for new shopping apps.Amazon: More people start product searches on Amazon than search engines now, but Jeff Bezos still relies on other surfaces like Facebook and YouTube to inspire people to want things. Subscription services: They’re seeing massive adoption, with Netflix up 25%, The New York Times up 43%, and Spotify up 48% year-over-year in 2017. A free tier accelerates conversion rates. Privacy: China has a big opportunity as users there are much more willing to trade their personal data for product benefits than U.S. users, and China is claiming more spots on the top 20 internet company list while making big investments in AI.

Our best wishes for a fulfilling month, 

Logos LP

Everything Has Been Done Before

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Good Morning,
 

U.S. stocks rocketed higher on Friday, seeing the Nasdaq composite hit a new record, after February jobs growth far exceeded expectations.

 

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 440.53 points to close at 25,335.74, with Goldman Sachs among the biggest contributors of gains to the index. The 30-stock index also closed above its 50-day moving average, a key technical level.

 

The S&P 500 gained 1.7 percent to end at 2,786.57, with financials as the best-performing sector. It also closed above its 50-day moving average.

 

The jobs report which came out Friday was nothing short of extraordinary. The U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists polled by Reuters expected a gain of 200,000.

 

Wages, meanwhile, grew less than expected, rising 2.6 percent on an annualized basis. Stronger-than-expected wage growth helped spark a market correction in the previous month.


 

Our Take
 

The jobs report was impressive. For all that can be said about Trump’s unconventional decision making (his big deficits may actually make sense by spurring productivity and his “tariffs” may in fact be good for free trade) this report confirmed the underlying strength of the economy, and also diminished some of those inflationary concerns and the potential that there could be more than three rate hikes this year.

 

Many question how you can create this many jobs and not have wages go up more but we maintain that this phenomenon is due to a unique interplay of several factors: demographics, labour force participation and technology.

 

The basic formula is as follows: as labor becomes more scarce based on demographics, it constrains supply, triggering inflation. But labor scarcity, in turn, should speed the adoption of automation and trigger an investment boom. Automation investments are likely to generate supply growth just as demographics and investment both spur demand growth, creating a reasonable balance (despite rising inequality). Once the investment boom ends, however, the negative effects of automation will become more visible—namely, high levels of unemployment, wage suppression and slowing demand.
 

We may have progressed further along this matrix than some may think. Regardless, we are a long ways from the sort of wage inflation of the 1990s . . .

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Musings


I shared an interesting chart in the Economist with some friends this week which sparked a spirited discussion:

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The debate focused on whether or not such historical data offers the investor anything of value. Certain friends suggested that the world in 1900 was vastly different than the world today and thus such data was of limited use.

 

What struck me most about the discussion wasn’t the comparison between what the world looks like today vs. what it looked like over 100 years ago, it was the ease with which we are able to overlook history in an effort to justify the perceived novelty and uniqueness of whatever appears to be relevant in the moment.

 

Think cannabis, blockchain, bitcoin, AI, cryptocurrency and whatever else is hot right now. This isn’t to say that these “new” things aren’t relevant.

 

But it is to say that broadly speaking everything has been done before as human nature hasn’t changed all that much. As Morgan Housel reminds us: The scenes change but the behaviours and outcomes don’t.

 

"Historian Niall Ferguson’s plug for his profession is that “The dead outnumber the living 14 to 1, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril.”

 

The biggest lesson from the 100 billion people who are no longer alive is that they tried everything we’re trying today. The details were different, but they tried to outwit entrenched competition. They swung from optimism to pessimism at the worst times. They battled unsuccessfully against reversion to the mean.

 

They learned that popular things seem safe because so many people are involved, but they’re most dangerous because they’re most competitive.

 

Same stuff that guides today, and will guide tomorrow. History is abused when specific events are used as a guide to the future. It’s way more useful as a benchmark for how people react to risk and incentives, which is pretty stable over time.”


 

Logos LP February 2018 Performance



February 2018 Return: -3.75%

2018 YTD (February) Return: -2.24%

Trailing Twelve Month Return: +21.02%

CAGR since inception March 26, 2014: +19.72%


 

Thought of the Month


 

"The way to outperform over the long haul typically isn’t done by being the top performer in your category every single year. That’s an unrealistic goal. A better approach is to simply avoid making any huge errors and trying to be more consistent. The top performers garner the headlines in the short-term but those headlines work both ways. The top performers over the long-term understand that’s not how you stay in the game over the long haul.” -Ben Carlson




Articles and Ideas of Interest
 

  • When value goes global. Interesting piece in Research Affiliates magazine suggesting that the value premium that is traditionally associated with stock selection and market timing works just as well when applied globally across major asset classes. The alternative value portfolios studied are typically uncorrelated with their underlying asset classes, traditional value approaches, and each other, thereby offering meaningful diversification benefits alongside attractive excess return potential. The success of global value portfolios hinges on their design, which allows investors to gain better exposure to desired risk premia not easily available when investing in a single market.

           

  • Rational Irrational Exuberance. We tend to be uncomfortable with the notion that an economy’s fundamentals do not determine its asset prices, so we look for causal links between the two. But needing or wanting those links does not make them valid or true.

 

  • If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? Turns out it’s just chance. The most successful people are not the most talented, just the luckiest, a new computer model of wealth creation confirms. Taking that into account can maximize return on many kinds of investment.

 

  • Why doesn’t more money make us happy? Dan Gilbert, social psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness showed that people who recently became paraplegics are just as happy one year later as people who won the lottery. Relative to where we thought our happiness would be after winning the lottery, we adjust downward, and relative to where we thought our happiness would be after losing our legs, we adjust upward….Interesting piece from Michael Batnick that suggests that this concept makes sense in theory, but not in practice. Like many things in life, it’s an idea that is hard to truly believe until we experience it for ourselves.

 

  • The town that has found a potent cure for illness- community. What a new study appears to show is that when isolated people who have health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers, the number of emergency admissions to hospital falls spectacularly. While across the whole of Somerset emergency hospital admissions rose by 29% during the three years of the study, in Frome they fell by 17%. Julian Abel, a consultant physician in palliative care and lead author of the draft paper, remarks: “No other interventions on record have reduced emergency admissions across a population.” No wonder what causes depression most of all is a lack of what we need to be happy, including the need to belong in a group, the need to be valued by other people, the need to feel like we’re good at something, and the need to feel like our future is secure.

 

  • Could capitalism without growth build a more stable economy?New research that suggests – that a post-growth economy could actually be more stable and even bring higher wages. It begins with an acceptance that capitalism is unstable and prone to crisis even during a period of strong and stable growth – as the great financial crash of 2007-08 demonstrated.

 

  • Is it time to say it? That retirement is dead? What will take its place? The numbers are startling: Thirty-four percent of workers have no savings whatsoever; another 35 percent have less than $1,000; of the remaining 31 percent, less than half have more than $10,000. Among older workers between 50 and 55, the median savings is $8,000. And this is total savings, including retirement accounts. Contrast that with the fact that experts say you should have eight times your preretirement annual salary saved in order to retire by 65 and continue a reasonable quality of life, commensurate with what you have become accustomed to.  

 

  • Blockchain is meaningless. People keep saying that word but does it really mean?

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling month, 

Logos LP

Our Inner Scorecard

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Good Morning,
 

The S&P 500 closed at a record Friday, helped by gains in technology stocks on the last trading day of the quarter. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite rose more than half a percent to post its 50th record close for this year. The Dow transports and small-cap Russell 2000 also hit record highs.

 

The Dow posted quarterly gains of 4.9 percent its eighth straight quarter of gains for the first time since 1997. The S&P 500 rose nearly 4 percent in the quarter, also its eighth straight quarter of gains. The Nasdaq composite gained almost 5.8 percent for the quarter, its fifth straight positive quarter since 2015.

Our Take
 

Strength begets strength. Virtually every asset class is moving up. New record highs are being made in virtually every corner of the market. We suggest remaining cautious as positive sentiment is building.

Of note this week this week was the announcement surrounding Trump’s tax reform. As expected it was thin on details and appeared to favor the rich. On a first read it is likely to
increase the U.S. budget deficit but beyond that, its impact is still unclear. Excellent piece in the Washington Post from Bruce Bartlett who was a domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan (Mr. Tax cut) questioning whether tax cuts stimulate growth. Tax cuts are still the GOP’s go-to solution for nearly every economic problem and extravagant claims are made for any proposed tax cut. Bruce looks into whether they hold water.


Musings
 

Over the last few weeks I’ve been busy setting up a new venture yet I finally found some time to get to a staple in the value investor’s library: The Education of A Value Investor by Guy Spier. What a breath of fresh air in my increasingly busy world.

 

What was so refreshing about the book was that it wasn’t what I’d been expecting. As the esteemed manager of Aquamarine Fund I figured Guy would spend a considerable amount of time on his stock selection approach yet the book offers something much more valuable.

 

This is a book about life. About Guy’s life. Guy’s education. Guy’s path and Guy’s alone. This point teases out its key piece of wisdom. We spend so much time trying to compete with others. Looking for their acceptance and adoration failing to realize that true success in life, true fulfillment can only occur through the acceptance of self.

 

Once we shift from orienting ourselves towards an outer scorecard towards an inner scorecard we can become aligned with ourselves. Authenticity is a powerful force. Guy’s story is the story of this shift. It is the story of the magical success one can have when one becomes aware of one’s own values and perspectives.

 

This message really spoke to me at this particular point in time as I’m starting to realize that the outer journey we start at birth; going to school, learning how to build friendships, learning how to navigate relationships, deciding what to take in school, getting our first jobs, navigating heart aches and let downs is only the starting point. The real growth occurs when we are able to drive ourselves toward the inner journey of spiritual development and self-awareness.

 

In our early years we are often driven by the outer scorecard - that need for public approval and recognition, which can easily lead us in the wrong direction. Come to think of it, many of the mistakes (perhaps all of them) I’ve made in my life have occurred because of my pursuit of this outer scorecard.

 

What I’ve realized and what Guy so eloquently posits is that the inner journey is not only more fulfilling but is also a key to becoming a better investor. If we don’t understand our inner landscapes - including our fears, insecurities, desires, biases, and attitude to money- we’re likely to get run over by reality. As such it is important to look within:

 

Are we the same people on the outside as we are on the inside? Are we pretending to be something we aren’t? Are we building a rock-solid understanding of who we are and how we want to live? Are we building environments in which we can operate rationally and calmly? Do our friends support and stimulate the authentic version of ourselves? Why are we building wealth?

 

The outer journey may bring us to money, professional advancement or social cachet yet the inner journey, the one we also start at birth is the one that puts us on a path toward something less tangible yet more valuable. The inner journey is the path to becoming the best version of ourselves that we can be, and this appears to me to be the only true path in life. It leads us closer to finding the answers to the real questions that matter: What is my wealth for? What gives my life meaning? And how can I use my gifts to help others?

 

Logos LP in the Media

 

Forbes has done a special feature on Canadian Investment Opportunities and we offer one of our ideas.


Thought of the Week

 

"This became my own goal: not to be Warren Buffett, but to become a more authentic version of myself. As he had taught me, the path to true success is through authenticity.”-Guy Spier



Articles and Ideas of Interest

 

  • Successful investing isn’t easy. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in investing it is worth so much more. Check out this great collection of extreme charts as a helpful reminder that there is no such thing as "can't", "won't," or "has to" in markets. The market doesn't have to do anything, and certainly not what you think it "should" do. The market doesn't abide by any hard and fast rules; it does what it wants to do and when it wants to do it. That's what makes it so hard and at the same time so interesting.

          

  • The plastic fantasy that’s propping up the oil markets. Kenya's mountains of plastic bags might not seem central to oil's grand narrative, but they are. Last week, the East African country banned almost everything about them: making them, importing them, selling them, using them, with penalties of up to four years in jail or fines up to $38,000. This type of prohibition carries a warning for an oil business that's depending on petrochemicals -- and the plastics made from them -- to pick up the slack when we all switch from gas guzzlers to electric cars. Petrochemicals are seen as the strongest source of global oil demand growth in 2015-2040. On the current track, by 2050 our oceans could contain more plastics than fish (by weight), according to a 2016 report by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. But, as Kenya shows, the days of single-use plastic packaging may already be numbered. And with this stuff making up about a quarter of all the plastic used, that will have a profound impact on the petrochemicals industry. Let’s not forget that there is now a Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is estimated to be about the size of Texas while a new report (dug into by National Geographic) has shown that extreme weather, made worse by climate change, along with the health impacts of burning fossil fuels, has cost the U.S. economy at least $240 billion a year over the past ten years...Can the oil industry really avoid disruption?

 

  • Brace yourself: the most disruptive phase of globalization is just beginning. Great piece in Quartz covering Richard Baldwin’s new book The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization. Baldwin argues that globalization takes shape in three distinct stages: the ability to move goods, then ideas, and finally people. Since the early 19th century, the cost of the first two has fallen dramatically, spurring the surge in international trade that is now a feature of the modern global economy. A better understanding of globalization is more urgent than ever, Baldwin says, because the third and most disruptive phrase is still to come. Technology will bring globalization to the people-centric service sector, upending far more jobs in rich countries than the decline in manufacturing has in recent decades. Baldwin argues that we shouldn’t try and protect jobs; we should protect workers. It’s really a fool’s errand to struggle with “protecting jobs” because after a year or two those jobs will still go. Governments should instead focus on comprehensive retraining, help with housing, help with relocation.

 

  • Some market myths hurt investors. Nice piece by Ben Carlson looking over some of the rules of thumb and aphorisms that investors accept without investigating their merits based on the historical evidence: Low volume rallies spell trouble for stocks, There is tons of cash on the sidelines, Margin debt at all-time highs mean euphoria in the markets, Something’s gotta give between stocks and bonds, Bonds always lose money when interest rates rise.

 

  • Do tax cuts really equal growth? Excellent piece in the Washington Post from Bruce Bartlett who was a domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan (Mr. Tax cut). Tax are still the GOP’s go-to solution for nearly every economic problem. Extravagant claims are made for any proposed tax cut. Do they hold water?

 

  • The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science. Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker on why sleep deprivation is increasing our risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimer’s and what you can do about it. We are in the midst of a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic”, the consequences of which are far graver than any of us could imagine. More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. To take just one example, adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven or eight hours a night (part of the reason for this has to do with blood pressure: even just one night of modest sleep reduction will speed the rate of a person’s heart, hour upon hour, and significantly increase their blood pressure).

 

  • Education isn’t the key to a good income. The Atlantic presents a growing body of research which debunks the idea that school quality is the main determinant of economic mobility.

 

  • The secret to Germany’s happiness and success: Its values are the opposite of Silicon Valley’s. To Germans, caution and frugality are signifiers of great moral character. Moreover, for Germans, a good work-life balance does not involve unlimited massages and free meals on the corporate campus to encourage 90-hour weeks. Germans not only work 35 hours a week on average—they’re the kind of people who might decide to commute by swimming, simply because it brings them joy.

 

  • Take some time to enjoy the scenery. Check out The Atlantic’s coverage of the 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest.

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling week, 

Logos LP

Be Boring Not Bored

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Good Morning,
 

U.S. stocks closed higher on Friday as Wall Street assessed the likelihood of tighter monetary policy following a weaker-than-expected jobs report.


The Dow Jones industrial average rose 39.46 points, to close at 21,987.56. The index also rose above 22,000 earlier in the session for the first time since mid-August.

                                               

The S&P 500 gained 0.17 percent to end at 2,475.77, with energy leading seven sectors higher. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.1 percent to 6,435.33, a record close.   

 

The U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists polled by Reuters expected 180,000 jobs to have been added last month.


The BLS also said, however, that wages grew at an annualized rate of 2.5 percent, less than expected.

 

On the Canadian side, the economy unexpectedly accelerated at a 4.5 percent pace in the second quarter -- tops among Group of Seven countries -- led by the biggest binge in household spending since before the 2008-2009 global recession.

 

Annualized growth was the fastest in six years and topped the 3.7 percent average forecast from economists. This isn't just a win for Canada. This print is further evidence of a strong global recovery.



Our Take
 

August's nonfarm data in the US was disappointing but should be viewed the context of solid U.S. and global economic growth, strong earnings, low inflation and still-ample global liquidity which will likely allow the US rally to continue.

 

The disconnect between modest economic growth and low inflation continues to support equities here. Not to hot. Not to cold. Perhaps central banks search for inflation has turned Sisyphean and should be abandoned...

 

A good way to think about the present equity market is as follows:

 

  1. Valuation compared to alternatives – positive

  2. Valuation compared to inflation – positive

  3. Risk of recession – extremely low

  4. Financial stress – extremely low

  5. Market skepticism – high



Musings

 

This week, throughout my conversations and observations about the market I couldn’t help but notice a common theme: boredom. The last 2 weeks have been relatively quiet in the markets as investors return from vacation while others gear up for the long weekend.

 

Nevertheless, the punditry and financial media have soldiered on doing their best to whip up stories suggesting that danger is lurking around every corner: The Fed, North Korea, Trump, China’s CDS market etc.

 

What these times of “boredom” acutely remind me of is a principle eloquently presented by Christoper Mayer: “Boredom can explain a lot. It can explain all kinds financial behavior. And there is definitely a “boredom arbitrage” to take advantage of in the markets.

 

People get bored. Most of life for most people is “boring”. Most jobs require just enough concentration to prevent one from drifting off into a dream but not enough to really occupy the mind. As a result, we have boredom on a massive scale. As such, people will do all kinds of strange things to alleviate that boredom.

 

They will act like fools. Dress like idiots and make all kinds of decisions to sabotage their lives. Anything to kill the boredom.

 

The financial markets are still primarily composed of the results of people’s decision making and thus are influenced by boredom. People get bored and just want to make something happen.

 

In the financial markets, people wind up sabotaging their own portfolios out of sheer boredom.

 

Why else throw money at fly by night unregulated Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)? Or put money in “pre-revenue” tech startups with unproven founders? Or chase hyped up tech companies that trade at absurd levels with questionable prospects? Or go to cash or gold because Donald Trump is in the White House or “the market” looks overvalued?

 

They are bored!

 

It seems exciting to churn your money in this way. People buy and sell stocks so frequently because they are bored. They feel they have to do something.

 

This is the fundamental lesson to remind oneself of during these “boring” times. When asked in an interview this week why he hasn’t spoken out about Donald Trump, Warren Buffett reminded us that:

 

"Forty-five presidents of the United States and I lived under a third of them," he said. "I bought stocks under 14 of the 15. The first one was [President Herbert] Hoover. I was only 2 when he left so I hadn't gotten active at that point. But [ Franklin Delano] Roosevelt was next. And I bought stocks under him, even though my dad thought it was the end of the world when he got elected."

 

My goodness how boring. Yet how profitable. Furthermore, at a time when most investors are bored with anything that isn’t tech, artificial intelligence, blockchain or Alibaba, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has invested more money in financial stocks. Berkshire Hathaway reported a 17.5 million share stake in Synchrony Financial, in its June quarter 13F filing as well as converting warrants into 700 million shares of Bank of America (BAC) common stock.

 

This is a prime example of “boredom arbitrage”. Often what is out of favor is priced as such and thus offers the best prospects for outsized returns over the long-term.

 

Furthermore, people get bored of holding the same stock for long periods of time. They want action. But consider the classic 100 bagger Monster Beverage.

 

This company became a 100 bagger in 10 years and yet during that period there were over 10 occasions that the stock fell more than 25%. In three separate months, it lost more than 40% of its value. Yet if you focused on the business and not the stock price, putting $10,000 in, you would have ended up with $1 million at the end of ten years.

 

Be a reluctant seller. Hold for the long-term. Be boring not bored.

 

Hundredfold returns are unlikely to induce boredom...

 


Thought of the Week
 

"All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” -Pascal



Articles and Ideas of Interest

 

  • The free economy comes at a cost. Facebook, whose users visit for an average of 50 minutes a day, promises members: “It’s free and always will be.” It certainly sounds like a steal. But it is only one of the bargains that apparently litter the internet: YouTube watchers devour 1bn hours of videos every day, for instance. These free lunches do come at a cost; the problem is calculating how much it is. Because consumers do not pay for many digital services in cash, beyond the cost of an internet connection, economists cannot treat these exchanges like normal transactions. The economics of free are different.

 

  • Too much power lies in tech companies’ hands. A libertarian case for caution after the Daily Stormer is booted off the public internet. Libertarians tend to worry about concentrations of power in the hands of the state. There is no consensus about the danger of concentrations of power in private hands. But when the private hands in question control access to the principal media of communication in the world, one has to hesitate when they decide that not everyone should be granted entree. For the power they are exercising is almost state-like. 

 

  • Silicon Valley isn’t special. Tech has plenty of reasons to believe that it is an industry of upstarts but the facade is crumbling.

 

  • Contrarian view of Amazon. Moody’s contrarian view is especially notable because it makes the intriguing argument that Amazon, while it may be an online juggernaut, is actually the weakest of the large U.S. retailers. Although the Seattle-based company does capture about half of all online retail sales, that’s a tiny share of all retail sales; about 90 percent of all sales are made offline.

 

  • How the next quant fund crisis will unfold and why quant strategies are underperforming. Almost everyone knows that this month marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There was another significant event back then that gets overlooked but was still very significant. I’m referring to the quant equity crash of August 2007. Institutional quant hedge funds have addressed the risk issues that caused 2007 losses, but the newer retail products cannot. Another interesting piece looking at the recent underperformance of quant funds. The space is getting crowded.

 

  • Finding the root cause of recessions. Two things bear most of the blame: external shocks and economic volatility.

 

  • Robots will not take your job. Wired magazine paints a compelling picture as to why the fear and hype is overblown.

 

  • Millennial Americans are moving to the ‘burbs, buying big SUVs. Wait I thought it was the gig economy and consumption was dead? Millennials are finally starting their own baby boom and heading for the suburbs in big sport utility vehicles, much like their parents did. Americans aged about 18 to 34 have become the largest group of homebuyers, and almost half live in the suburbs, according to Zillow Group data. As they shop for bigger homes to accommodate growing families, they’re upsizing their vehicles to match. U.S. industry sales of large SUVs have jumped 11 percent in the first half of the year, Ford Motor Co. estimates, compared with increases of 9 percent for midsize and 4 percent for small SUVs. Guess they just want to be like their parents after all.

 

  • To come up with a good idea. First try and come up with the worst idea possible. There are many creative tools a designer uses to think differently, but none is more counter-intuitive than “wrong thinking,” also called reverse thinking. Wrong thinking is when you intentionally think of the worst idea possible — the exact opposite of the accepted or logical solution, ideas that can get you laughed at or even fired — and work back from those to find new ways of solving old problems. Nice piece in HBR looking at innovation and discovery.

 

  • The cryptocurrency phenomenon is gaining further traction. The world’s biggest banks aren’t immune from cryptocurrency euphoria, with a range of projects underway to explore how traditional financial firms can benefit from the innovation. Swiss banking giant UBS and 10 other companies say that they plan to use the technical idea behind bitcoin—a distributed ledger called a blockchain—for their own digital currency (paywall). This could show the way for the world’s biggest central banks to do the same.

 

Our best wishes for a fulfilling week, 
 

Logos LP