Friday, September 27, 2019

Signs of market downturn, other thoughts...

---Watching various payments related stocks under pressure makes me wonder.  Do they foretell an economic slowdown?  Paypal, Salesforce, Adobe, Master Card, Square, and Visa seem to be under pressure.  Most have been strong performers over the last year, and have business models that do not lead to any significant credit or trading market risk.  They represent activity.  If  flow slows, their tax on the economy does as well.  As stocks, five remain attractive.  Square is a mystery, at this point either a huge opportunity or an ongoing bust.  As barometers of the economy at the moment, these names are worth watching.

---Ken Burns series "Country Music" has been entertaining to watch.  Trying to cover a subject like this is going to get multiple positive and negative reviews.  Music fans can be highly opinionated, an understatement.  Episodes three and four were exceptional, from this perspective, and the later ones had to cover the merger of country and pop, not easy to deal with some of the easy listening for many observers.  My knowledge is worse than spotty.  In 2003 I spent six weeks in Texas after breaking out of the bank.  In talking about music with a new friend there, she said that her favorite singer was George Strait. When I asked who that was, she was astonished, absolutely beside herself.  Living in New York was my excuse, but she did not accept that or think it could possibly be true.  I found it hard to believe that she grew up on her family owned 400,000 acre ranch even though she dressed and cursed like a cowhand.  Hard to imagine, but found out that was true as well.

---The so-called Trump fiasco regarding Ukraine and the Biden's is dominating the news cycle.  Impeachment proceedings are beginning.  Somehow this does not interest me.  Let's simply focus on getting a bipartisan infrastructure bill through Congress as soon as possible.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Oh my, the UN speech and more...

--- President Trump's speech at the U.N. today was similar to a campaign trail speech in content, but with the curious flourishes that writer Stephen Miller adds for eloquence and historical significance.  While commenting on that is not necessary as readers have their own opinions, at times Trump's words veered seriously into advice for other leaders in a way that could be seen as borderline offensive.  It seems that there are no borderlines that can't be crossed for Trump, except the one with Mexico.

---Until today, the stock market remained without real trends, stable but fully valued some say.  The comments on trade today roiled the markets a bit, the hostile remarks about fellow major member China were almost without precedent at a U.N. presentation(although commentators tried to excuse that because he said a nice word about Xi), and getting specific about an individual stock, Micron Technology, was highly unusual in this setting and must have made the managers of that company cringe.  The market was broadly negative.

---Undeterred, a new speculative position was added today.  ALKS is a U.K. based drug developer with some interesting patents.  It has not performed well recently and is near a 52 week low.  Still, among their top 10 mutual fund holders there are only two index funds, the remainder are discretionary funds that choose to own it, some reputable firms.  Among analysts, ISS-EVA, one that is followed here, has an outperform rating, one other firm has buy rating that's a year old and there is a sell from stodgy Credit Suisse.  An intriguing story seen today is that the firm holds the patent to Naltrexone, an old drug that has been used with modest success for addiction therapy.  Now some say it has significant pain relief attributes, while not being an opiate. The company is balking at further development while some in medical circles are eager to use it.  The current stock price clearly has little or no value ascribed to this patent.  Speculative position, but as usual I find a "reason" for my actions.  Or should that be "rationale", since this type of informed betting is an enjoyed activity, and of course not an addiction!

---More talk among Democrats in the House about impeachment proceedings.  Trump would actually enjoy that.  More ways to rile up the base against the elites.  No matter what they find, few Republicans will peel away from Trump unless there are credible reports of incest or bestiality.  That will not happen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

More random thoughts...

--- The New York Jets are in trouble again.  With their supposed star quarterback Sam Darnold out with mono for the forseeable future, in yesterday's game an incompetent beanpole named Siemian came in and sprained his ankle, and then came the unheard of  Luke Falk who managed to stay in the game, seemingly an accomplishment.  Darnold has never been the heralded team leader that the media talked up, just an average player with a "whatever happens" attitude.  They need a quarterback.  Is this possibly the time that a team, meaning the Jets, would have the guts to pull Colin Kapernick out from his informal ban from the game as arranged by Roger Goodall and most team owners?  Other athletes say he stays in shape and is ready.  Nike would like that, as well as many players.

---Here I have been digging through three old photo albums salvaged from my parent's house more than a decade ago.  When there are finds that might be interesting to others as well as me, they are headed to Facebook, as some readers have seen.  There were many more photos lost when a bag was stolen at LaGuardia baggage claim at that time.  I saw the culprit, but was not close enough and she was fast. The ones that are being posted now get some attention.

---Steven Schwarzman of Blackrock was on CNBC and on Bloomberg Markets for interviews this morning.  His comments are interesting from a business perspective but, like Ray Dalio recently, he points out that 40% of Americans are just getting by, not poor but living paycheck to paycheck lives, and that's long term problem that eventually will seep into financial markets.  No answers but at least he didn't say that Trump was on the right track as he did a year ago.  Not long on humility, he remains focused on business results and most of his comments were poignant, a few self serving.  In another life, I was in a group meeting with him at JPM.  In that kind of private setting he was a first rate comedian.  Not kidding!

---Today's equity market held in for modest gains, but the broad market no longer reflects general investment performance among discretionary mutual funds as the results vary widely.  One can assume that's the same for individual investors.  Staying active here, some days just looking, others trading a bit.  The bet here on Macy's came crashing down today, still a gain now but barely.  Added a few more shares, but could bail completely if today's turn is indicative of something that I can't see.  Added a bit to farfetched FTCH.  It's working so far.  Chipotle ramped again today with its announcement of adding carne asada to the menu.  That's real sliced steak, sirloin, ribeye, and more.  Added incrementally to Ebay and Goldman Sachs, but sold full positions in Yum yesterday and in Bausch Healthcare today.  Yum promptly rose 2% today while Bausch fell 1%.  Short term perspectives like that are not useful but after a trade it's impossible not to notice.  Yum seemed fully valued and with a long term capital gain to protect, that decision was made.  Bausch was recently added after United Heathcare was sold.  The decision to quickly sell Bausch was based on the realization that I am a lousy investor in healthcare, other than a few lucky biotech successes, and should stick to ETF's for that sector.  Had enough of this market jabber?  Me too.  One more note.  The five largest holdings across portfolios here are Apple, Google, Costco, Berkshire Hathaway, and Amazon, in order of size.  They are closely watched.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


John Bolton, the Where's Waldo man of every White House photo during his tenure, is gone.  He's fired, I resigned, who cares, the hard core militarist is no longer there. Now if  Peter Navarroist would just disappear along with his widely discredited views on trade among most economists.  Someone else could possibly explain to Trump that his tariffs penalize American companies and workers. Then Will-Bur Ross could leave as well, taking his ass with him, after telling the authority under his purview to endorse Trump's moronic forecast that the hurricane would hit Alabama.

Trump is unpredictable, crude, and uneducated, but eliminating these folks may be beneficial to him, and perhaps the country.  Melania has now taken a stand against vaping.  Be Best.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

And now a word from your...

Recently there have been pronounced declines in payments related stocks such as Paypal, Square, Salesforce, Master Card, Visa, and American Express.  That said, they have all been decent performers year to date, some stronger than others.  Does this foreshadow a decline in economic activity?  Or is it just that the stocks are backing down from momentum driven valuations?  Something to ponder.  Chipotle and Shake Shack are getting crushed today.  McDonalds solidly down too, and Yum Brands(KFC, Taco Bell, etc.)is sliding as well.  Are consumers expected to go back to cooking?  Edgy times despite the gains this year.  The market seems to be looking for an overdue correction.  Are these the signs in stocks owned here?

A radically oversized investment in Macy's here based on the value of their real estate has finally turned around in a major way, at least for now.  Even a bet on PYX, once again, is looking much better, and maybe soon will lead to securities lending interest as it did last year.  Bet on FTCH is positive now, no matter how farfetched, as a comparison is made here to AVP, Avon Products, which is simply a global distribution network reaching into emerging markets and that was leftover from the former "calling" company.  AVP has done well, up 29% since March purchase, stock not lipstick.

Will betting on a GE turnaround be a losing proposition once again here, or will this time be different.  Bet made and doubled down, finally turning for real?  MU up more than 100% since June bet, and GLD down today which is a positive turn for the moment.  Still can't believe that I gave up on ROKU $110 ago.