Sunday, January 19, 2020

What can be said about this stock market?

Simple, it keeps rising.  What goes up must at least take a breather, or a thoughtful plateau, or risk becoming overbought.  Action here is primarily just staying with the existing portfolio choices, adding to some occasionally and trimming others, but also making some new bets on names that look interesting.  Sucker bets or astute analysis, a bit of both probably but generally net positive outcomes with entertainment value.

For example the Chinese coffee chain Luckin(LK) was bought in mid December and sold with more than a 25% gain last week.  If held until yesterday it would have been up more that 40%.  No regrets on having a gain, but can't help but look at the recent price without a tinge of regret.  One of the biggest losers here in 2019 was NIO, a nascent Chinese electric SUV manufacturer that was bailed out of with a material loss.  Dived in again two weeks ago with a larger bet and up 20% now.  Smile Direct Club, SDC, was bought two weeks ago and is now up 25%, it works, I'm smiling.  DVA, a dialysis center network, probably not a club but with the same characteristics, is up more than 20% in two months.  Meanwhile the market in general rises.

In the past, biotech has never been a strength of my investing "skill", over the years mixed results.  A few painful losses, one large gain, but probably net negative.  Those clinical trials make or break many stocks that by nature are not well diversified.  Now with more than my toe in the water, investments over the last six months that have been made in companies, using ticker symbols, like ALXN, VRTX, ABBV, JAZZ, and NXPI, have been moving up, soaring was a thought, while new entries in the last week like BIIB, back again, and SAGE up slightly and NBIX is down 3% since purchase.  A small investment was made a few days ago in HAPP, a Chinese start-up that is a maker of herbal health products, such as edible fungi powder.  HAPP is Happiness Biotech.  Is this legal, does it work?  Is this a sign of overreaching?  Will I be happy, or smile?

How about FTCH, a luxury clothing and accessory brand seller, trying again with that one too, with their biggest focus on the Middle East and Africa, or PDD, focused on household products and garments in a little market called China, both Amazon wannabes, PDD a more realistic bet probably.  Don't forget YNDX, an innovator in self driving cars in Russia, vodka dispensed from the dashboard.  Then there is SE, Sea Limited, a digital financial services and gaming platform in Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.  It loses money every year, every quarter, and has negative shareholder equity, something beyond my comprehension.  Yet it has a list of well known niche U.S. hedge funds as top investors, and the stock keeps rising.  Yes, own that one too.

Could this possibly be a bubble?  Of course it is and I don't want to miss it.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Remembering recent events, following current ones...

---Two articles this week raised the issue of memory in folks getting older.  The "getting older" category clearly now includes me, something that would have been disputed not too many years ago.  In the New Yorker, 1/13 issue, John McPhee's piece is "Tabla Rasa, Fragments of Memory", as he looks back at set ups for books and essays that he did not write but had considered.  His view is that his memory is fully intact, but that it now works in a retrospective way that is different from younger days(my words, not his).  His "fragments" are entertaining.  Yesterday's New York Times Op-Ed page has an article by a neuroscientist who writes "Memory Need Not Fail Us", suggesting that for most people memory remains intact, but concerns about not recalling events, people, and places quickly or in detail leads to unnecessary doubt.  His thought, your organic computer now has much more to sort through than it did at age 40 or 50.  Yet one wonders.  Is it simply short term OCD that builds as one ages and can't stand not knowing where everything is instantly.  So what, you can't remember what you had for dinner last night but do remember exactly what you had at Sparks on East 43rd with clients in 1985 or at breakfast at the Park Hotel in Siena in 2001.  Of course, dinner last night was not memorable, those were.  Where is this going?

---Speaking of the New Yorker magazine, two articles of note in December need to be mentioned.  In the December 2nd issue,  Dexter Filkins' "Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi's India" is an alarming description of a developing ultra nationalist Hindu regime, fascist comes to mind, in that once multi-cultural country.  The December 9th edition has Jianyang Fan's "The Hong Kong Protest Movement and the Fight for the City's Soul" details the conflict there, and the mainland communist encroachment on that city's values and heritage.  Fascism, Communism, ism's very similar.

---Watching the series "Killing Eve" here via Netflix.  The televised series had been hard to follow week to week in the past, but seeing it sequentially does not make it that much clearer.  It is a complex story, as spy stories can tend to be.  Russian assassins, M-15 intelligence officers, rogue cadres, double agents, it's an effort worth making.  From the many interesting locations, the reliably cool soundtrack, and an underlying comic attitude, this is exceptional viewing, my opinion.

---Also in the current issue of  the New Yorker Evan Osnos writes about China, and his considerable expertise and background is unquestioned here.  "The Future of America's Contest With China" is a lengthy article, but at times Osnos has developed a tendency to become a preachy windbag.  His story telling of the past is much better than his current editorialized style.  It is worthwhile and at times entertaining reading about a serious subject, but no lectures please.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Current observations...

---In looking at the candidacies of Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer for the Democratic nomination, with their extensive television advertising, their rationales for running as clear long shots are worth a look.  The first thought that comes to mind is that if Trump could win the Republican nomination in 2016 and then the Presidency, anything is possible. Well, why not?  The second thought, as always in these situations, is that the purpose is to gain national recognition and exposure as an opportunity to be appointed to a cabinet post of consequence in the event that the eventual nominated Democrat defeats Trump.  The third thought is simple and, especially in Bloomberg's case, that this is the best opportunity to influence the national debate.  Bloomberg's advertisements directly attack Trump, with clips of Trump's overt lies when speaking to his adoration rallies.  Bloomberg's proposals, as depicted, could make sense to moderates, liberals, and libertarians, but certainly not to today's core Republicans. If the country can elect a narrow minded billionaire from New York with no knowledge of history to be President(I did not say racist), why not a smart Jewish one?  Bloomberg and Trump know each other well, not as friends but as successful New York City businessmen who have interacted with each other by necessity.  Bloomberg has no illusions about Trump, and has no interest in a balanced approach.  His unequivocal rationale for running is that he views Trump as dangerous.

---Speaking of dangerous, the current Middle East situation is tenuous at best. Trump somehow managed to get through the period of betraying the Kurds in Syria. That led to the destruction of border cities by the Turks and the loss of life has not clearly been determined, 40,000, 100,000, no worry they were not American and some of them were "bad people", Trump quoted.  Now the situation with Iran is heating up, getting hotter, and one can wonder who is advising Trump.  Even John Bolton, supreme Iran hawk now gone, is concerned when interviewed.  Soleimani was a dangerous person, but killing an Iranian general in Iraq may bring Iran and Iraq closer together, not the objective one could hope.  Is Putin pulling the strings?  Ha, but this far from a laughing matter.

---The impeachment process moves along.  It is minimally important.  McConnell can deliver the votes in the Senate.  As an aside, Adam Schiff is not exactly a likeable spokesperson for the Democrats.  He always takes his comments a step too far, giving Trump an edge to use with his base and with the limited amount of those on the fence in this country.

---Can the NFL playoffs be mentioned?   Go Titans, goodbye Patriots for once.