Copper, The True Barometer Of Global Growth

When evaluating the macro economy there are a few key indicators to look at. Lately I discussed the Baltic Dry Index and it’s lagging growth, now I want to touch on a even more telling indicator, Copper. Copper tells us about global growth and should be used as a telltale sign of where the financial markets should be and where they are headed. Below is a graph that tracks the price of copper through a ETN. Look and be amazed.

The above image tells us a few things. First off, the rally of late may not have solid footing at all. We have seen some growth in copper, but not what is to be expected with the markets acting like they are. For the financial markets to be on track for new highs, as many experts are claiming; Wouldn’t you expect a a little more out of copper? Secondly, it is time to take a close look at the BRIC countries. The BRIC’s have given us substantial growth over the past ten years, and their current global growth may not be what we expect. As copper is telling us, the global growth picture is obviously slowing, which in turn will have an impact on global U.S. companies. This is something to keep an eye on as we go into the next round of earning, as we know there are also sustained economic problems in Europe.

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Why Warren May Be Wrong On Housing

After CNBC’s morning with Warren Buffett last week one could feel very bullish on the economic recovery. My issues do not reside with Warren directly, but rather the public interpretation of his investment calls. To begin with one must understand that Warren deals on a long term basis. He looks at something over a ten year period while most investors are merely searching for returns over a much shorter term.  That being said his brilliant investment tactics may not apply to you.

Let’s take a look at Buffett’s Bank of America call last year. After a nice long year Warren’s call has finally come back. Those who followed Warren into the trade may now have broken even after this long, hard, and uncomfortable year. We have no idea where Bank of America will go in the coming months, that’s a concern for another article. But for those investors at home though followed Warren into the BAC trade, your capital could have had a great return elsewhere. Had you bought Apple, Gold, or many other entities, you could have made an easy profit. Instead you looked at an investment that was down almost 50%. From a normal investor standpoint one would rather get returns now and not in the future. Warren is usually right, but often he is right far ahead of the trend, which could cost the normal investor not only his shirt, but his sanity.

Looking at another one of Warren’s big calls, one that many investors have had big questions about, is his lack of investment in gold. Warren, a brilliant man, takes investments back to basics. He is a firm believer in buying a company (or a part of it) and having his initial capital give him a return in growth or a dividend.  Those who trade commodities know that this is obviously not how commodities work. Warren fails to realize that commodities prices are based on the limited availability of something, like gold or silver, and the desire of that commodity by the public (or investors).  Gold is a simple supply and demand game. Supply is fairly limited and the demand has increased over the past few years. Warren’s failure to look at gold through different lenses; Of gold being in limited quantity and desire increasing for it, have cost him a huge potential return.

Now that you understand how Warren’s ideologies differ from the mast majority of investors, we can evaluate his most recent call. First off, as we learned through his Bank of America purchase, he sometimes is early, very early. This can cost the small or even large investors lots of money (lost potential returns elsewhere). We have all heard the saying “don’t try to catch a falling knife.” Second Warren fails to realize differing trends, being that he is so set in his ways (he refused to buy gold and missed a great return). With that being said we can now evaluate his most recent call to buy single family homes. There are two fallacies in his argument. First off he may be very wrong in his timing. Warren has been calling a bottom for over a year now. At the beginning of last year many investors thought the bottom was in and played the stock market accordingly. This cost them. In the past Warren has also called things far ahead of time, though he has been right, my money can’t afford to wait, and I am sure yours cant either. The second point of contention may be a little new to many but is worth hearing out. With the recent housing market and financial crash many average Americans may be changing their habits. I see more and more families and young people renting or living in apartments. Americas may be moving into a time where home buying is not what it once was. The desire may be there, but the fear instilled by the last few years as many people saw those around them lose their homes, or lose equity in their homes has change the masses behavior. As I pointed out earlier, Warren often misses profitable trends and he may have missed this new trend away from single family homes. Evaluate these concerns as you run in blind after Warren’s trades.

“Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never Forget rule No. 1.” – Warren Buffett

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And They Say Tech Isn’t A Bubble

At this point the markets are just comical.  All the experts are suggesting that tech is not a bubble, that this time things are different.  I hate to point out that the only difference is the names that are leading the bubble.  As of this morning Yelp IPOed at $15 and does not make any money.  Let me repeat, this company makes $0.  That didn’t stop investors, they bought it right up.

When tech comes up Apple has to be at the forefront.  We all know Apple is one hell of a company and may be undervalued.  Apple actually makes something and turns a profit, this does not pertain to them.  But don’t think that if technology falls it won’t take Apple with it.
What should have investors concerned is the P/E rations of these companies.  They are growth companies, I will not doubt that argument.  Does that mean Linkedin deserves a P/E over 700, Fusion almost 200, Nuance almost 200, and Amazon almost 130?  These are P/E ratios that are similar to that of the tech bubble of yesteryear.  Many of these companies make minimal to no profits.  That my friend is a bubble.
All of technology may not be wrapped up in the mess of overvaluation.  That would be nice if the markets did not trade emotionally.  As we learned last year the markets can be very emotional and can trade down as hard and as fast as they traded up.  With all those technology buffs telling you that the technology bubble is not here, they just want you to keep pumping up their stocks.  Watch your money, because those talking heads sure aren’t.
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Why 2012 Isn’t 2011… It’s Worse

Tonight while watching my favorite show,  Jim Cramer’s I Will Lose Your Money,  he was suggesting this year is nothing like the last.  His analysis as always is nothing less than comical.  Before I bring up the strong supporting evidence for my argument, merely refer to Another Greeceful Weekend to understand my disdain for Jim Cramer.

Now to the meat of the presentation.  Below are two images and you are tasked to decipher which is 2011 and which is 2012.

So things are different they say?  In fact they may be so,  but not in the good way.  What is shown above should not excite you, but rather scare you half to death.  This time around the market has come farther and at a much faster pace.  The market has also chosen not to pull back and the S&P has gotten allergic to down days.  Analyst are suggesting we are headed to 1700 on the S&P, oh my…..  If only the stock markets went up forever,  I hate to burst the bubble, but stock markets do go down.  And as we saw last year they go far down.
Below are some real hard facts and they don’t look all rosy.

Yes real GDP is better; In comparison to what?  To make the argument that things are better when the comparisons are based on the great recession is ridiculous.  Things are better, yes.  Are things perfect?  No they are not, in fact they are not even decent.  The durable good number speaks for itself, this cold hard number suggests thinks aren’t perfect.  For the market to keep headed higher at these rates in spite of gas, in spite of horrible home prices, and  in spite of the European recession is just comical at this point.  The markets have come up hard and fast.  When the market stops brushing off the bad news because it’s so bad it has to sink in, we will go back the other way as quick as we did last year.  For those reading this suggesting that I haven’t brought up jobless claims, housing, or so on.  You are correct, the average readers time span has elapsed and my point has been clearly made and does not need any further support.

“Don’t be afraid to see what you see.” – Ronald Reagan

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Microsoft, An Xbox Company

With all the chatter of Microsoft breaking above $30 and investors comparing the stock to Apple, they have forgotten a key element.  Windows has the Xbox platform and as of late it has been a big portion of the company.  Last quarter in the over $20 billion of Microsoft revenue, more then $4 billion was from Xbox.  Apple may be winning when it comes to desktops, but they haven’t even entered the console arena.  In the future years the console area may be what propels Microsoft stock.

For those that don’t believe in the power and future success of Windows 8,  those skeptics can be squashed by merely mentioning Xbox.  The future of Microsoft may lay in the next generation of the video console.  With Xbox growing as a portion of revenue and continually creating revenue through the Xbox live platform, its profit potential is huge.  The recent 15% y/y growth was merely from updating the product.  What will happen when they revolutionize it?  The days of consumers fighting over the gaming products at the store are far from being may in the past.  As the next round of consoles looks to enter the market in the next few years, Microsoft may once again be propelled to the forefront.  Consumers will once again do anything to get an Xbox.

Many fail to realize the potential of Microsoft.  With the intelligence and money on hand Microsoft can do just about anything.  Who’s to say that the next version of the Xbox will not have Skype integrated in it?  Microsoft has revolutionized products in the past and brought one of the most successful gaming consoles to market.  In the future they may revolutionize the Xbox and make it a household phenomenon, even more so then it is.  Microsoft has the ability to revolutionize our home entertainment system through the means of a little black box.

The Windows platform is merely one leg Microsoft stands on.  In the coming years the Xbox portion of Microsoft will grow and may be the main leg Microsoft stands on.

“Whether it’s Google or Apple or free software, we’ve got some fantastic competitors and it keeps us on our toes.” – Bill Gates

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