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Why "Tobins Q" Ratio Should Have You Concerned

After writing “Here’s The Perfect Metaphor For Recent Fed Policy,” I had to pick up a copy of The Dao of Capital. Mark Spitznagel just has a unique way of looking at the markets that really resonates with me.

One thing that really jumped out at me while reading it was Spitznagel’s research regarding Tobin’s Q, (though he calls it, “The Misesian Stationarity Index”). It struck me for two reasons. First, I haven’t seen much research like this elsewhere and second, the opinions I have seen regarding it are all of a dismissive nature.

Just Google “Tobin’s Q” and you’ll find all sorts of pieces proclaiming, ‘Don’t worry about Tobin’s Q,’ and,…

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Bankruptcy Mayhem In The Oil Patch

And the second half of the year is touted to be even worse. What stress is this placing on banks which hold their debt???. Oye!

Most investors are aware that there is significant carnage in the oil patch. Low energy prices caught overleveraged companies off guard, and it’s forced many of these companies to seek protection from their creditors through bankruptcy.

However, the pace of new bankruptcies is accelerating fast, and now bigger companies are being affected. This week’s chart shows that the 11 new bankruptcies in April 2016 carry a substantial debt load of nearly $15 billion – most of which is unsecured.

A quick look at the data, which we pulled from…

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Admin

Investors, advertisers, and business leaders around the world are still trying to understand millennials, the generational group that will shape commerce for the foreseeable future. In the past, that’s why we’ve looked at millennial investing and banking preferences, their favorite brands, and even what real estate professionals need to understand about the generation.

Today’s infographic from Adweek is of particular interest, because it focuses on a very particular subset of millennials. The data in the graphic is from a survey of nearly 500 nominees for the…

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Admin

Is Your Start Up Idea Already Taken?

There’s an ongoing joke in the startup world about how aspiring founders pitch their new ventures. Every startup idea is reduced to an “Uber for _____” or a “Tinder for _______”, where some niche untapped market is inserted in the blank space.

Much to the chagrin of many venture capitalists, this formulaic phraseology is so pervasive that it actually may hinder the creation of any actual original ideas. That’s because entrepreneurs are expected to be able to communicate their brilliant startup idea in just a few words, and it’s easier to go this route than to try and explain something complex and unique.

That said, if you do want to venture down this path, there are a few semi-successful companies on the following list. You may have even heard of some of them, such as Dollar Beard Club, TaskRabbit, or The League.

There’s also a few available slots, if you don’t mind running with an idea like the “Tinder for Boats” or the “Airbnb for Pizza”.…

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Admin

The Global Economy: April 2016

The global economy has regained some composure, according to asset management firm Schroders. In their view, markets have regained a risk appetite following action by central banks, the normalization of commodity prices, and a lack of materialization for tail risks such as a U.S. recession or a Chinese hard-landing:

While volatility is indeed near its YTD low with the benchmark VIX down 32% since the start of the year, we would point out that this is potentially some calm before the storm.

Here are some upcoming waves, and we’ll see how they break:

Earnings and Buybacks: The blended earnings decline for the S&P 500 so far in 2016 Q1 is -8.9%, according to Factset.…

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Admin

Understanding Market Structure

While there's been so much 'worrying' over the slowdown in China, the Fed possibly raising rates and energy defaults with the weight on banks, it's still a good idea to remember a stock markets structure; or the steps it takes before a bear market takes place.  The basic strategy is to pay close attention during the accumulation and distribution phases as the market shifts from buyers to sellers, or vice versa. Then, by recognizing the markup and decline phases, an investor can be appropriately long or short to make solid returns.  Click image to enlarge.

Courtesy of the good folks at…

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Admin

The Bloomberg US Financial Conditions Index and the S&P 500 tend to move in pretty close unison. In March, however, they started to move apart in a manner similar to late last year, before the market took a nosedive. Once again, either financial conditions improve or the stock market corrects.

bloomberg financial conditions spx
Source: Bloomberg

Shown below we see a similar wide divergence when looking at credit spreads (inverted in red) compared to the S&P 500 (in black). When financial conditions are healthy, credit spreads narrow since investors require less compensation for the risk of holding non-government securities. As financial conditions deteriorate and default risks increase, credit spreads widen. The credit markets were confirming the message of the stock market up…

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Admin

Another one that says what could cause a collapse; of course they never say "when" it will happen.  Another reason to remain cautious and take winners where you can.

According to CNBC, the S&P 500 is close to its record high as earnings season heats up, but one of the major drivers of the market's advance - stock buybacks - looks to be sagging.

U.S. companies announced about $182 billion in buybacks in the first quarter, according to Birinyi Associates research, putting buybacks on pace for their weakest year since 2012. Strategists link this, in part, to falling cash flow, a trend that is expected…

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Admin

Buybacks As Spreads Narrow. The Greatest Fools Of All

Of course, no where does it say how long this can continue but it's important to be aware. No, it can't go on forever.

We are now entering earnings season once again. Pre-announcements have been the second-worst seen over the past decade.

This has analysts lowering estimates. In fact, they’ve been lowered so far quarterly earnings now look to fall all the way back to 2009 levels.

For the trailing…

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Admin

On a Letter from an Expatriate

A friend I haven’t heard from in many years since he left the USA wrote me. He closed the letter in an unusual way, saying:

PS — USA has gone completely bonkers these days? or what the heck is going on over there? would love to pick your mind over a glass of wine. someday!

I’m not intending on writing on politics as a regular habit at Aleph Blog, and most of what I am going to say is economics-related, so please bear with me.  Hopefully this will get it out of my system.

To my friend,

There are a lot of frustrated people in the US.  Though you’ve been gone a long time, you used to know me pretty well; after all, I trained you on economic matters.

Let me give a list of reasons why I think people are frustrated, then explain how that affects their political…

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Upgrading Your Kitchen on a Budget

When updating your home, you should always start in the kitchen.  The kitchen is arguably where most of a homeowner’s time is spent, and therefore should be able to cater to all the needs of the homeowner, while keeping up with the latest décor styles.  Perhaps the most difficult part of updating a kitchen is the cost behind most necessary kitchen upgrades.  The expense is definitely enough to cause homeowners to give up on the project, but before throwing in the towel, there are several ways you can upgrade your kitchen without the hefty cost.  All it takes is a little time and effort.  Here are a few affordable kitchen upgrades that you should consider.  

Counters and appliances

Countertops and appliances are the most expensive upgrades to make in a kitchen, but they are a worthwhile investment.  If you can afford stainless steel appliances, or granite countertops, these upgrades with substantially increase the value of your home as well as keep your…

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Admin

Debt Doesn't Go On Forever

NYSE margin debt fell again during the month of February. After the selloff in stocks that kicked off 2016, this should come as no surprise. Investors are usually forced to reduce leveraged bets during these sorts of episodes in the stock market. In fact, this forced selling can actually exacerbate the volatility. And because margin debt is only now beginning to come down from record highs, surpassing those seen at the 2000 and 2007 peak, this should be of concern to most equity investors.

To fully appreciate this risk, I prefer to look at margin debt relative to overall economic activity. When leveraged financial speculation becomes large relative to the economy, it’s usually a sign investors have become far too greedy. As Warren Buffett would say, this is usually a good time to become more…

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Admin

The chart above tracks the broad stock market against the spread of lowest-rated investment-grade corporate bond yields. They normally track each other very closely as they both reflect broad investor risk appetites.

When investors are hungry for risk stock prices move higher and corporate spreads get narrower. When risk aversion takes over, however, stock prices fall and spreads widen.

Another reason they closely track each other is corporations’ ability to access credit is very closely tied to the overall demand for equities. When it’s very cheap for companies to borrow, it’s very easy for them to fund stock buybacks and acquisitions of other companies.

Certainly, these two factors have been very important to the bull market of the past six years or so. Ray Dalio recently said he estimates that…

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Admin

Weekend Reading

In addition to charts I uploaded (which there are many more but I'm short on time, it being a holiday) here are a few of my weekend email reads I found interesting. Enjoy - and Happy Easter.

  1. Variant sees commercial and industrial lending to continue to fall.  No, not a good thing.
  2. The top 20 reasons start ups fail.  Visual Capitalist
  3. Think renewables will gain usage over coal and crude oil?  You may be surprised.  McKinsey
  4. Domo origato mr roboto Visual Capitalist
  5. Here we go again…

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Admin

Twitter Turns 10

"Just setting up my twttr" – those were the words that Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter, tweeted on this day ten years ago to begin yet another social media success story. Twitter, with its simplicity and unique 140-character limit, hit a nerve and quickly gained a following among the tech- and media-savvy. In 2011, Twitter passed the 100-million user milestone and in late 2013 the company went public with huge fanfare.

Everything was well in the Twitter universe, but soon after the company’s successful IPO, the sentiment turned sour. Twitter’s user growth was tapering off quickly and the company continued to lose money. In 2015, Twitter’s share price began to tumble and has been on a downward trajectory ever since. It is…

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Admin

The Top 10 Millenial Brands

The market for U.S. millennials is expected to blossom to $1.4 trillion by 2020, according to international consulting firm Accenture. While this generation of digital natives is already a primary marketing target today, in the upcoming years millennials will make up a hefty 30% of all retail spending in the country.

However, millennials are complex and notoriously difficult to read, even for professional marketers. With values that seem to contradict one another, it’s a challenge for companies to successfully gain market share with this audience.

As millennials mature, researchers are gaining ground on the needs and wants of this generation. This week’s Chart of the Week shares data from a comprehensive survey of 3,500 millennials that were asked, without any prompt, about their favorite brands over the past three years. The…

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Admin

Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, warns us of a insidious and pervasive new form of mind control: search results.

That’s right, search results. And not just any search results: Google search results. Since 2013 Epstein and colleagues have conducted a number of experiments in the US and India to determine whether search results can impact people’s political opinions.

Epstein points out that about 50 percent of our clicks go to the top two items on the first page of results, and more than 90 percent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed. And of course Google, which dominates the search business, decides which of the billions of web…

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Admin

Why Most People Fail At Trading

One item I completely agree with is the pundits and "know it alls" on entertainment news television.  They're there to entertain you; not make you rich.  I get my economic releases on them and *off* they go the rest of the day.  I trust my charts; charts don't lie.  People do.

Courtesy of Martinkronicle

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