Tuesday, May 19

April 2015 Review

Portfolio Update  
- Our Man had to reduce the size of the portfolio at month-end (pesky kids…) and given that all positions were going to be impacted, he used the opportunity to reshape the portfolio slightly based on his current conviction levels.  These changes, and some subsequent ones, will be the subject of a separate blog post.

Performance Review  
The portfolio was down 1.79% for the month of April, which put the year-to-date performance of +6.6%.

The portfolio’s exposure to the US Dollar proved the largest negative contributor for the month with the China Thesis (-77bps) and the Currencies book (-114bps) hurt by the fall in the US Dollar against the Australian Dollar and Euro respectively.  Both of these books were substantially reduced in size during the month, though Our Man expects that this will likely be reversed at some point within the next 12 months as his expectations and targets for the Australian Dollar and Euro are substantially lower than their current rates against he US Dollar.  The Dollar’s weakness, saw the hint of some strength in Gold, which Our Man benefited from through his exposure to Gold Miners in the Precious Metals (+27bps) book.

The overall exposure to equities was a slightly negative contributor for the month.  The Equities book (-98bps) fell with TTM, RDY and TWTR (which had disappointing numbers/guidance) being the primary contributors.  The  Energy Efficiency book (-3bps) had a small impact.  The strong performance of the European markets helped the International/Country book (+58bps) have a strong month, though uncertainty remains regarding Greece’s place within the Euro.  Finally the Technical book (+28bps) benefited from the rise in the US markets.

Portfolio (as at 5/1 - all delta and leverage adjusted, as appropriate) 
32.0% - Technical Book (DDM, QLD and SSO)
29.4% - International/Country (EWI/EWP/GREK in Europe, GVAL, and Argentinian names)
22.3% - Equities (RDY, TTM, TWTR & VIPS) 
4.6% - Precious Metals (GDX)
0.0% - Energy Efficiency (AXPW, and XIDE) 

-5.5% - China-Related Thesis (CROC – Short Australian Dollar) 
-15.7% - Currencies (EUO – Short Euro, YCS – Short Japanese Yen)

17.1% - Cash 

Disclaimer:  For added clarity, Our Man is invested in all of the securities mentioned.  He also holds some cash and a few other securities (of negligible value).  You should not buy any of these securities because Our Man has mentioned them, but should do your own work and decide what’s best for you.

Sunday, April 12

March 2015 Review

Portfolio Update 
- International/Country:  OM reduced the size of the Argentina position after exiting the position in Banco Macro (BMA), which has performed exceptionally strongly all year but has priced in a lot of the potential changes while (due to being a bank) retaining more risk of political intervention than most of the other Argentina names.  Broadly speaking, the Argentina thesis is playing out well, with foreign investors starting to look more in-depth at the country given the likely change of government later in 2015.
- NCAV Book: While this had no impact on the portfolio, as there are no existing positions in the NCAV book, OM decided to close it down permanently.  This was not the result of performance as the book has been profitable in 4 of the 5 years (contributing ~65bps to performance) and it’s also out-performed the S&P 500 TR on a ROIC basis by a significant margin over that period.  However, it’s a book that uses a very small amount of capital but that takes up some time both in running the screens, and in the various processes that OM has to go through in order to trade the names.

Performance Review 
March saw the portfolio rise 36bps, resulting in a +8.6% YTD performance during the first quarter.

Once more the key driver of performance was the portfolio’s bias towards being Long US Dollar.  This resulted in the Currencies book (+97bps) and the China Thesis book (+36bps) producing exceptionally strong gains, driven by the US Dollar’s strength versus the Euro and the Australian dollar.   However, it should be noted, that Our Man’s decision to exit the Chinese A-Shares (CAF) last month has resulted in much missed opportunity cost.  While there are certainly bubble-like elements to the sharp rise in Chinese A-shares, OM could (and perhaps should) certainly be participating in their continued rise especially given his original thesis (that China was slowing down, and that being L A-shares was a great hedge to the S Australia dollar position, as it would benefit significantly from any QE or stealth QE in China) is largely proving out.  On the negative side, the position in Precious Metals (-46bps) held through the Gold Miners has continued to cost money; Our Man was unquestionably early here, though it’s not clear that he’s wrong (yet).

The International/Country book (+30bps) was a continuation of much of what we’ve seen over recent months.  The European positions continue to be choppy (-70bps, though this includes currency losses from the Euro's weakening), whereas Argentina continues to be exceptionally strong (+108bps).

The Equities (-29bps) and Technical (-51bps) books were both negative contributors as markets fell again in March.  The Technical book, despite it’s negative performance, so no signs of any sell signals and one is unlikely unless the damage is somewhat deeper and/or more sustained.   The equities book saw weak performance from the Theravance companies (THRX/TBPH which cost a combined 78bps) after they received only partial FDA approvals for product extensions.  These losses were offset by the continued rise of VIPS, where management continue to execute and the company continues to grow both exceptionally quickly AND profitably!  The Energy Efficiency book (-1bps) had no material impact.

Portfolio (as at 3/31 - all delta and leverage adjusted, as appropriate)
22.4% - Technical Book (DDM, QLD and SSO)
21.7% - Equities (EOX, GPOR, RDY, TBPH, THRX, TTM, TWTR & VIPS) 
15.9% - International/Country (EWI/EWP/GREK in Europe, GVAL, and Argentinian names)
2.7% - Precious Metals (GDX)
0.0% - Energy Efficiency (AXPW, and XIDE)

-20.6% - China-Related Thesis (CROC – Short Australian Dollar) 
-44.6% - Currencies (EUO – Short Euro, YCS – Short Japanese Yen)

15.8% - Cash 

Disclaimer:  For added clarity, Our Man is invested in all of the securities mentioned.  He also holds some cash and a few other securities (of negligible value).  You should not buy any of these securities because Our Man has mentioned them, but should do your own work and decide what’s best for you.

Thursday, March 5

February 2015 Review

Portfolio Update  
- International/Country:  As the Greece negotiations reached their conclusion, OM re-entered the positions in Italy (EWI) and Spain (EWP) at lower prices than those he exited at during the second half of last year.  Both markets remain ‘cheap’ on a long-term (CAPE) view, and should benefit from European QE and some reduction in the fears surrounding Greece/Europe.
- China Thesis:  Following the exceptionally strong run-up in Chinese A-shares, which has seen CAF rise ~30%+ since the start of 2014, OM exited his position there.

Performance Review
The portfolio performed exceptionally strongly during February, rising 7.51%, following the positive January, leaving it in a healthy state for 2015 (+8.2%).

February was one of those exceptionally rare months where everything in the portfolio worked well in unison.   Stocks markets globally were up strongly, as the (at least temporary) resolving of the situation between Greece and its European partners, combined with widespread Central Bank easing across the globe, helped whet risk appetites and drive stocks higher.  This broad spread increase helped all of the equity books, especially the Technical book (+144bps). 

The biggest driver of performance was the Equity book (+368bps).  Over half the gains from the Theravance positions (THRX and TBPH) after GSK’s (its partner on its main drug) and then Theravance’s own quarterly results helped solidify the confidence in sales and provide a more detailed outlook going forwards (and with regards to the dividend).   The Energy names (GPOR and EOX) both rallied with the stabilization/bounce in crude and the Internet names (TWTR and VIPS) contributed well after both reported positive quarters.

The International/Country book (+199bps) was aided by the agreement in Greece which contributed just under half the returns, as well as Argentina (also just under ½ the returns) where there are elections later this year.  Last month OM told you he was not too disheartened by January’s performance and this month, he’s not overly excited by the strong contribution.  Both Greece and Argentina are hopefully going to be major contributors to the portfolio over the next couple of years, but it will come with volatility.

The Currencies book (+55bps) was again a good contributor, as the global CB easing continues and with the discussion in the US remaining on when (not if) the Fed might raise rates, the US Dollar continues to benefit rising against both the Euro and Yen during the month.

There were limited contributions from the Energy Efficiency (-4bps), Precious Metals (-16bps) and China Thesis (+6bps) books.

Portfolio (as at 2/28 - all delta and leverage adjusted, as appropriate) 
23.5% - Technical Book (DDM, QLD and SSO)
22.1% - Equities (EOX, GPOR, RDY, TBPH, THRX, TTM, TWTR & VIPS) 
17.1% - International/Country (EWI/EWP/GREK in Europe, GVAL, and Argentinian names)
3.2% - Precious Metals (GDX)
0.0% - Energy Efficiency (AXPW, and XIDE)   

-20.0% - China-Related Thesis (CROC – Short Australian Dollar) 
-42.9% - Currencies (EUO – Short Euro, YCS – Short Japanese Yen)

14.4% - Cash 

Disclaimer:  For added clarity, Our Man is invested in all of the securities mentioned.  He also holds some cash and a few other securities (of negligible value).  You should not buy any of these securities because Our Man has mentioned them, but should do your own work and decide what’s best for you.

Sunday, February 8

January 2015 Review

Portfolio Update  
- Currencies:  After their strong recent performance, OM trimmed back his positions Short the Euro (EUO) and Short the Yen (YCS) by about 1/3 each.  These trims were prior to the ECB’s decision on QE (which was deliberate, as OM wanted to reduce some of the event risk in case they did not impress the market with their plans) and also prior to the Swiss National Bank abandoning their peg to the Euro (which OM, like most folks, didn’t see coming).
- Absolute Return:  Our Man exited his position in DLTNX, a Total Return Bond Fund; with the Fed now thinking about raising rates, much of the easy money available since 2009 has been made in fixed income.
- Equity:  OM added a position in Gulfort Energy (GPOR), an Energy company.  While OM isn’t convinced that we’re going to see Oil prices rocket back to the $100 in the near-term, he does think there are opportunities in some Energy names that have done sensible things (re. production, costs, etc) and have been discarded along with the broad sector.
- Precious Metals: For the first time in an age, Our Man has taken a position in the Precious Metals book.  While OM remains skeptical on the long-term price of Precious Metals, with the number of Central Banks around the world either cutting interest rates or attempting some form of QE, OM does think there’s the chance of a strong (likely counter-trend) rally in the Precious Metals during 2015 (and perhaps even into 2016).  He’s chosen to play this with a position in the Gold Miners (GDX), which have been heavily beaten-up during Gold’s difficulties.
- International:  Finally, Our Man rounded out his basket of Argentina names, with a position in AGRO.

Performance Review  
January was a volatile month, both for the markets (with the S&P ending up down 3.0%) and for Our Man’s portfolio which saw 13 days of moves greater than 70bps+ in one direction or the other, but ended the month +0.48%.

The performance was driven by the strength of the US Dollar, with the Currencies book (+132bps) and the China Thesis book (+75bps) being strong contributors.  The decision by the ECB to start their version of a QE programme, helped continue the Euro’s weakening trend which was a strong beneficiary for the Currencies book (EUO position added 190bps).  During the month, it became widely-expected that the Royal Bank of Australia would join those countries easing monetary policy (it cut rates at the start of February), and this helped the Australian Dollar weaken during January (OM’s position in CROC, S Australian Dollars, helped add 90bps to the China Thesis book).

The fall in the Equity markets was directly reflected in the Technical Book (-70bps), though less so in the Equities book (+31bps).  The Equities book saw numerous cross currents that eventually lead to that small positive performance, with the Energy names (-18bps) and the position in THeravance (-73bps, after concerns on the speed of the ramp of its products by GSK).  Against these, there was a strong perofrmance from Tata Motors (TTM +67bps) as the sales at Land Rover and Jaguar continue to do well, and from the Internet names (+46bps) though this largely reflected VIPS recovering its December decline.

The largest detractor was the International book (-125bps), which was substantially all from the position in Greece (GREK) that declined as it became clear (and then reality) that the opposition (and anti-austerity) Syriza party were on course for victory in the election, which has led to further discussion/debate/speculation about Greece’s place in the Euro and the various ECB/IMF loans and promgrammes.  .   In many ways the Argentina and Greece positions bear great similarity; they’re sized about the same (4-5% of capital, each), are inherently volatile and moved by sentiment/politics in the short-term (and thus in any given month are likely to be noticable positve or negative contributors).  They also both reflect a combination of (i) extreme undervaluation (when looking at long-term measures, such as CAPE), (ii) time arbitrage (things are not as dark as they seem today, and the further we progress the clearer this will become…especially after point 3) and (iii) a catalytic event.  For Argentina, the event is the election of a new President later this year and the changes that are likely to follow thereafter, and for Greece the events were (i) the original bailout back in 2010 and (ii) the recent election, which will more substantially determine Greece’s debtloads, austerity, and position within the Euro.  As such, don’t expect Our Man to be overly swayed by large short-term moves in either direction from these positions – they’re sized such that the portfolio can withstand these moves, with the hope of returning multiples on the employed capital on a 3-4year view.

Elsewhere there were small impacts from the Absolute/Bond Funds (+5bps), Puts/Hedges (-3bps), Precious Metals (+4bps) and Energy Efficiency (+1bp) books.

Portfolio (as at 1/31 - all delta and leverage adjusted, as appropriate) 
22.4% - Technical Book (DDM, QLD and SSO)
20.1% - Equities (EOX, GPOR, RDY, TBPH, THRX, TTM, TWTR & VIPS) 
9.9% - International/Country (GREK, GVAL, and Argentinian names)
3.6% - Precious Metals (GDX)
0.1% - Energy Efficiency (AXPW, and XIDE) 

-17.8% - China-Related Thesis (CROC – Short Australian Dollar, partially offset by CAF – Long Chinese A-Shares) 

-45.0% - Currencies (EUO – Short Euro, YCS – Short Japanese Yen)

17.7% - Cash 

Disclaimer:  For added clarity, Our Man is invested in all of the securities mentioned.  He also holds some cash and a few other securities (of negligible value).  You should not buy any of these securities because Our Man has mentioned them, but should do your own work and decide what’s best for you.

Sunday, January 11

December 2014 Review

Portfolio Update  
- Technical:  Our Man bit the bullet and re-entered the Technical positions (in DDM, QLD and SSO) during the month.  The false sell signal ended up meaning that with the exit and re-entry, Our Man missed out on part of the gains available in the technical book though on the positive side, he’s not expecting another sell signal for a bit even if there’s higher volatility in the markets.
- International: As mentioned in his recent post, Our Man added a position in Argentina given his expected/anticipated changes there.  Unfortunately, the ETF (ARGT) doesn’t really offer the exposure that OM is after, so he’s chosen to create it through some individual stocks (PAM, PZE and BMA).

Performance Review
The portfolio ended the month -1.09%, which left it at +4.9% YTD, both of which proved disappointing.

The main negative drivers were the Equities (-208bps) and International (-110bps) books.  The International book’s loss was driven by the position in Greece, where political uncertainty continued to ramp up leading to renewed fears of an exit (Grexit) from the Euro.  The losses in the Equity book were more broadly spread, driven by the positions in India (-85bps combined, RDY and TTM), EOX (-29bps, as Energy continued to suffer) and the Internet names (-69bps, as VIPS saw profit-taking and TWTR fell during the month).  There were small losses in the Absolute/Bond Funds (-1bp), Puts/Hedges (-2bps), Technical (-12bps) and Energy Efficiency (-4bps) books.

These losses offset some strong performances from elsewhere in the book, with the US Dollar being a key driver of both the Currencies book (+102bps) and the China Thesis (+125bps).  The strength of the dollar against the Yen and especially the Euro drove the currencies book, and its strength against the Australian Dollar coupled with the continued strong performance fo the Chinese A-Share market drove the China thesis book.  Our Man’s belief that we’re in a substantially different tone to the US Dollar than we’ve seen in many years, was largely rewarded last year (the Currencies book and the China Thesis book contributed well over 100% of the portfolio’s return) and the tasks for 2016 will be better ensuring that the rest of the book is more constructive and managing the inevitable pullbaks in the US Dollar.

Portfolio (as at 12/31 - all delta and leverage adjusted, as appropriate) 
24.0% - Technical Book (DDM, QLD and SSO)
16.8% - Equities (EOX, RDY, TBPH, THRX, TTM, TWTR & VIPS) 
10.2% - International/Country (GREK, GVAL, and Argentinian names)
4.2% - Bond/Absolute Return Funds (DLTNX
0.1% - Energy Efficiency (AXPW, and XIDE) 

-0.0% - Hedges/Put Options (premium of under 2bps premium in EWJ and EWZ puts)
-14.5% - China-Related Thesis (CROC – Short Australian Dollar, partially offset by CAF – Long Chinese A-Shares) 

-58.2% - Currencies (EUO – Short Euro, YCS – Short Japanese Yen)

12.4% - Cash  

Disclaimer:  For added clarity, Our Man is invested in all of the securities mentioned.  He also holds some cash and a few other securities (of negligible value).  You should not buy any of these securities because Our Man has mentioned them, but should do your own work and decide what’s best for you.

Saturday, December 20

Portfolio Update: Some 2014 & 2015 Thoughts…

2014 has largely been a year of missed opportunities for OM, some unfortunate (e.g. what eventually turned out to be a false sell signal in the Technical book) but most self-inflicted; predominantly mistakes of omission than mistakes of commission.   This is broadly represented in a consistent theme that you’ve seen since Our Man started running the book; a significant level of underinvestment, too often caused by OM waiting for the perfect price to enter (or add to) a name rather than starting to build a position at a good price (i.e. with a sufficient margin of safety) and seek to build it should it decline further.  Thus, the big aim for 2015 and 2016, is to get better at this…

Some things that are interesting OM for 2015, and beyond… 
- International Book - Argentina:  This is one of those positions that falls into the mistakes of omission, since OM has been waiting to put on a position since Argentina defaulted on its debt over the summer.  On the surface there’s very little good to say about Argentina; the country is in an acrimonious fight with some bond hold-outs from its last default resulting in another default, the economy is terrible with high inflation, a weakening currency (which trades at both official vs. unofficial prices) and high interest rates.    Given that, why Our Man’s interest?  Well, everyone knows all of the above and despite the huge rally in stocks, they’re still cheap by any definition.  However, this is with good reason; high and volatile interest rates, mean banks only lend short term, which means businesses on focus on the short-term and eschew investments where the future return may be substantial.  Ditto for investors, who rightly value short-term cashflow or earnings far more heavily than any future earnings, due to the high discount rate.  The opportunity lies in that during 2015, there are ‘events’ that could change this paradigm; (i) it becomes a lot easier to negotiate with the bond holdouts as the calendar turns to 2015 (due to the expiration of a clause in the restructured bonds), and more importantly (ii) the current President cannot seek a third term, with all 3 major candidates promising a break from the Kirchner's (Cristina Kirchner has been President since 2007, and her husband was President for the 4 years prior) style and policies.  Therein lies the upside potential – the hope of a sensibly governed Argentina (perhaps even with an independent Central Bank), with its limited fiscal deficit and debt, and having ability to return to international capital markets would lead to a falling in the risk premium and corporations focusing on maximizing return (including future growth) rather than just surviving.  The downside, is yet more of what we’ve already seen, which is largely priced into the markets.  Given the lack of a good ETF, OM began investing in a small basket of positions in Argentina to get exposure during December.

- Equity - Oil/Gas related:  The decimation in the Energy markets has been amazing to watch, with the Russell 2000 Energy losing around half its value in the last 6 months and many individual names suffering far more heavily than that!  The sharp fall in oil has also reopened many of the debates about fracking and how the US Shale boom has been funded.  From a historical analog, there are certain similarities to what happened in 1985/86, when an influx of new production from the North Sea increased supply and saw the Saudis choose to maintain market share in a period of weakish demand, leading to a 60%+ decline in WTI within a 6month period despite ongoing Middle Eastern tensions; for 2014, substitute in US Shale (where production increased 1mn barrels per day in 2013, and likely 1.7mn bpd in 2014) for North Sea.  In short, Our Man thinks there are going to be things to do to in Energy during 2015, but we’ve yet to see the numerous corporate casualties (other than in their stock prices) that indicate it will be a better time to look for those that might be winners.  As such, OM’s exposure will continue to remain of the toe-dipping variety, but don’t be surprised if you start to see some Energy names in the Equity book next year.

- Equity – Internet:  OM loves the Internet and at this point, who doesn’t?  Be it shopping, catching up on the highlights from the big game, keeping in touch with family and friends or just doing one’s work, the Internet is pervasive*.  OM doubts it’s even an argument whether the Internet is this generation’s defining contribution and theme**, and like many of the prior themes it’s not only reshaping our world but is a key force of the deflationary pressure that we’re seeing globally.  The Tech Bubble of the late 90’s was clearly the very early innings, but it’s hard to say how far into the game we are currently.  While OM loves the Internet, he struggles to buy positions in a world where valuation is based on Total Addressable Markets (TAMs, or how big a company’s market “could” be) that can be almost anything and where low rates mean the value of future growth is vastly more important than the value of any profitability in the near-term (i.e. $100 at the end of 5years is worth ~$62 today at a 10% discount rate vs. ~$90-$91 today at a 2% discount rate).  Thus OM has only really been a buyer of Internet stocks at times when they’ve been sold aggressively (e.g. early last year); expect this to continue into 2015.  But like this year's Internet exposure, OM hopes that each time he invests in these sell-offs there will be a name or two that becomes longer-term holdings for the portfolio (like VIPS and TWTR in 2014).

* Furthermore people have now largely accepted the Faustian bargain of the Internet; that it is “free” to use and “cheap” to buy things on, BUT in exchange for all your personal data, whose protection & safety is currently not a priority for anybody be it individuals or corporations.
 **OM will leave it historians to argue how it compares to the Railroad, the industrialization of manufacturing driven by oil/gas, the Automobile, etc.