Friday, November 6

Third Quarter Review

Portfolio Update  
- Currencies: Our Man added to S Euro position during the month.

- China Thesis: Given the signs of weakness in China during late Q3 and the likelihood that the next move in Australia was going to be easing (vs. a potential rate hike in the US) Our Man added to the S Australian Dollar position

- Equity: With the sharp pull back in Chinese equities, OM added to his position in VIPS and added a new position in JD.  Both are Internet based retailers which would benefit from the continued increased consumption in China, even as the broader economic growth (especially industrial) is slowing.  In VIPS’ case the company is already profitable, and the pullback meant it was on a reasonable valuation without even considering its growth.

Performance and Review  
Our Man’s portfolio suffered heavily with the markets during the Third Quarter, falling by 8.4% with the majority of the losses coming in August (-5.7%).  This leaves the book at -8.5% for the year, comfortably behind the market.  The markets were roiled by numerous concerns, with the slow down in China being the foremost in investors minds.

The portfolio lost money everywhere through the quarter, with the exception of the China thesis (+73bps) which benefited from the continued slide in the Australian Dollar.

The Technical book (-220bps) fell with the market over the quarter.  It was an interesting quarter for the book, with a trim signal and a sell signal generated in consecutive days.  Unfortunately, for Our Man, they were the close of trading on the 20th/21st…some weeks after the market peaked, but a day before it fell heavily.  With OM unable to secure the approvals to trade (which would have been moot anyways, given the sharp gap down open on the 24th) the Technical book bore the entirety of the sharp fall to the market lows.  The upside of this, was that the decline was so fast and steep, that the market hit OM’s technical range for a pull back on that first day, so OM never traded.  This at least saved the double whammy of the Technical book capturing all of the downside, then the positions being closed as the market rallied and OM having to wait the required period (almost till October) before being able to re-enter them. 

The Equity book (-282bps)  was the largest negative contributor, and it was no surprise that given the concerns over China that it was the two Chinese Internet names represented substantially all of the loss though neither VIPS nor JD reported anything of significance during the market decline.  TTM (Tata Motors) suffered as fears over China impacted the auto-sector and the company had a plant shutdown (exacerbating it's main problem of not being able to make enough Land Rovers/Jaguars to meet demand)though its losses were offset by gains in RDY (Dr. Reddy Pharma).

The International/Country Book (-241bps) suffered during the month, with the concerns regarding China leading to increased risk aversion which saw Peripheral Europe and Argentina both suffer.  While OM retained both sets of positions, their medium-term outlook is somewhat different.  The Argentinean positions retain the catalyst of the October/November elections, and all signals point that irrespective of which of the major candidates wins change will be coming.   Unfortunately, the same is not true of the European names where the technical damage to the charts in EWP (Spain) and especially GREK (Greece), in addition to the continued weak Earnings in those countries (making the valuations less attractive) and political problems (Grexit, Catalan votes on independence), means that OM is holding those positions (especially Greece) for the short-term bounce as he looks to potentially exit them during Q4.  The position in EWI (Italy) is currently on the bubble with the attractive valuation, not yet having been overwhelmed by the terrible technical factors.

The Currencies book (-30bps) was a small negative contributor, with both the Euro and Yen positions going against Our Man.  The future of these positions is also likely diverging, with potential additional QE and the continued fragility in Europe likely to mean there’s at least one more leg down for the Euro.  In Japan, after their aggressive QE, OM suspects that renewed commitment to yet more QE we might see a retracement of some of the fall in the Yen.  The Precious Metals book (-135bps) continued to be a disappointment, which Q3’s moves largely confirming that while OM may be right, he’s certainly early – given the fall in the equity markets, it’s no surprise that GDX (which is also the most levered to precious metals movements) represented 2/3 of the loss.

Portfolio (as at 9/30 - all delta and leverage adjusted, as appropriate) 
34.1% - International/Country (EWI/EWP/GREK in Europe, GVAL, and Argentinian names)
31.4% - Technical Book (DDM, QLD and SSO)
22.2% - Equities (JD, RDY, TTM, and VIPS) 
9.8% - Precious Metals (GDX, GLD and SLV)

-13.0% - China-Related Thesis (CROC – Short Australian Dollar) 
-22.9% - Currencies (EUO – Short Euro, YCS – Short Japanese Yen)

0.2% - 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, August 22

Portfolio Update - Summer 2015

It’s been a while since OM gave a portfolio update, but after much promising, here it finally is…

International/Country – 34.6% 
The International/Country book is made up of 2 main exposures; Europe and Argentina.
- Europe (~19%): About 3/4 of Our Man’s European exposure is split between Spain and Italy, with the balance in Greece.  This reflects the long-term cheapness of Spain and Italy (on a CAPE-basis) coupled with the stronger technicals and higher probability that these countries are through the worst of their problems.  Greece appears exceptionally cheap, though this may prove superficial given the scale of the economic depression that the country has been through since the Financial Crisis.

- Argentina (~12.5% spread across 5 names):
The catalyst for the Argentinean positions is the upcoming Presidential election in Q4, and the positive news is that both of the primary candidates appear to understand the need for change, to improve the economy and to settle with the bond holdouts (giving Argentina access to global bond markets).  The big questions surround the timing and the ability of the candidates to execute.
The worries about Scioli center on whether he is too close to the existing regime, something that his VP choice (an ally of the President) only fueled.  However, he has the broad support of the Peronists and thus is likely to be able to push changes through, though this will be in a more gradual manner as he builds consensus.  As such, there remains the risk of an economic issue/crisis before change is implemented and can have an effect.
Macri is the bolder ‘change’ choice, as he is likely to attempt to try to do things much more quickly.  The questions surrounding him are whether, after the initial honeymoon period, he’ll be able to push things through (given his status as an outsider) or will he be bogged down fighting the opposition.

- GVAL: Is a very long-term holding; given this OM wanted to wait a full cycle before making any decisions on it, thus if was sized very small.  So far the performance has been disappointing, though the performance was (and still is) expected to be characterized by periods of large under/over performance.

Technical book – 34.1% 
As mentioned when it was implemented, the Technical book has a longer-term bias and changes are not expected to be made to it on a regular basis.  Thus unsurprisingly this year has shown no changes, especially with the market being in a ‘dead zone’ between 2040 and 2135 for the the last few months.  It’s broadly OM’s expectation that this is a long consolidation that’s likely to break the upper limit and start a strong move lasting into 2016.  So far that hasn’t happened, but despite some internal weakness in the market (advances/declines, and ever decreasing breadth, coupled with the reaction to companies missing/making numbers), it would likely take a move comfortably sub-2000 for the Technical book’s sell signals to be triggered.  (Editor’s Note:  And this is why you don’t leave a semi-written blog post waiting to be finished for a month or two.  The market closed on Friday at 1971, right around the level where the Technical book’s initial sell signals are triggered)

Equity Book – 22.5%
At this point there are 4 names in the book:

- RDY and TTM are both Indian stocks though there is no great theme to these investments.  There has also been no great change to either story; the generics business continues to grow strongly (RDY) and Land Rover/Jaguar have started to roll out new models and the rationalization of the manufacturing underway (TTM).

- VIPS and JD are both Chinese Internet retail/consumer plays.  China’s development has come at an interesting time, coinciding with the technological jumps that come with the Internet, meaning that that the country’s retail model could be very different to those of the already developed world as it moves more directly/aggressively to the internet (and mobile) rather than brick-and-mortar stores.  This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a developing country skipping a step as it modernizes; most obviously with India moving straight to mobile telephony rather than putting fixed telephone lines down across the country.
As with (seemingly) all Chinese companies, there is speculation as to whether these companies are ‘real’ and though OM has never been to China, he has sources who’ve met both companies, seen their sites, etc and is thus confident that both companies exist and have real businesses.   
VIPS is comfortably the larger of the two positions, owing to the fact that (despite being an ‘Internet’ company) it’s profitable & generates cash – while some are disappointed by its recent growth, OM sees not competing aggressively for bad business to increase revenues (at the expense of margins, profits, etc) as a sign of good long-term management.

- Currencies (21.9%) & China Thesis (11%) 
Our Man has stated a number of times on this blog that he’s a dollar bull.  It’s his highest conviction belief that we’re in a dollar bull market, a true secular bull market in the dollar, which is something we’ve not seen for decades.  While it’s not ignored OM doesn’t really think it’s fully realized that the Federal Reserve hasn’t raised rates in over a decade, and the US Dollar hasn’t been in a true secular bull market for almost 20 years.  While the dollar’s recent rally has been noted by the markets, it barely compares to historical secular bull markets such as the 90% rally in the 1980s and the 50% rise in the 1990s!  Furthermore, with a more globalized world now, the impact of the rising dollar is likely to be larger than people expect – instead of Poles with loans in Swiss Frances, it’s going to be global corporates that have borrowed in US Dollars (especially in those countries, *ahem* China, where a pegged currency has led to the rapidly crumbling illusion of no currency risk).  As for China, the slowdown has clearly impacted commodity prices (a number of which are at, or threatening, their 2008/2009 lows) and it’s spilled over into the currencies of the commodity countries.  The China book’s Short Australian Dollar position has been great and OM expects it to be volatile but very profitable for a while.

- Precious Metals – 9.3% 
While OM’s medium-term thesis here - that Precious Metals are going to have a strong bounce (the kind that would have the would-be gold bugs believing again) - may prove to be correct he took the position too early, much too early.  OM would have been better off waiting for that final leg down, rather than getting into the positions.

Friday, July 17

May & June 2015 Review

A slight change to our regularly scheduled programming here (and going forwards).  Due to the busy-ness of life, rather than give you monthly updates Our Man is going to move to Quarterly updates and will hopefully say something a little more useful in them.  If there are any intraquarter changes of note in OM's outlook/the portfolio then expect a special update, and hopefully the imminent and regular return of "Things from my Newsblur"!

Portfolio Update 
All of the below will be covered in an upcoming larger update on the portfolio and outlook.
- Precous Metals: Our Man added positions in Gold (GLD) and Silver (SLV) during May/June, believing that both are poised to bounce strongly in the near future.
- International/Country – In late June, as the fears of a Grexit reached their peak Our Man added to his positions in Italy (EWI) and Spain (EWP) believing that much of the risk had been priced into these names.  OM additionally added slightly to the Argentinean group of names, as these had suffered from the global risk aversion coupled with the market's (over)reaction to some of the political news out of Argentina.
- Equity: OM fully exited his Twitter (TWTR) position, something he should probably have done much sooner after the company lost its way as little in H2-2014.  OM also reduced the position in Tata Motors (TTM).

Performance Review 
May (-1.1%) and especially June (-5.3%) proved to be exceptionally difficult months for the portfolio as very little worked, leaving the YTD performance around flat (-0.2%).

The Equities book (-229bps) saw its losses driven by the position in Tata Motors and Vipshop Holdings, which each cost over 100bps.  While the long-term outlook for Tata Motors is strong, it suffered some temporary setbacks including a rights issue (at a 11-14% discount), front-loading commission costs in its new Chinese JV with Cherry, discouting on the Land Rover Freelander and Discovery (to help make way for new models) and the costs of the Jaguar XE hitting during Q2 prior to the sales.  Vipshop has suffered since its peak in April (though it remains well into positive territory) after disappointing on earnings and getting targeted by some short-sellers before being caught up in the spectacular tumble in Chinese shares late in the quarter.  OM is more sanguine on the position - while they disappointed on the quarter, it was largely as a result of prudent long-term decisions that have short-term costs (i.e. not to discount and chase low quality revenues/business) and the recent downdraft represents an opportunity to add to an Internet commerce company that is both profitable and growing!  (SPOILER ALERT -- yes, this means OM added to it in July).

The International book cost just over 300bps.  The largest culprit was the direct exposure to Greece, which cost about 1/3 of the total, and given the headlines this shouldn't come as a shock.  Greece is exceptionally cheap on just about any historical measure, but the economy is pretty much exceptionally screwed up by just about any historical comparison or precedent (think US depression of the 30s, as a fair comparison).  OM's bet is that while it will be exceptionally volatile, Greece's economy will go from abysmal to really bad, before it's companies (at least those in the index/ETF) go out of business and that the upside is commensurate to the risk of being wrong (i.e. if OM is right, the returns has to be multiples).  The positions in Spain and Italy also suffered (costing ~60bps) from the Greece fallout.  Finally, the Argentinean names cost ~100bps, after Scioli named Carlos Zannini (an ally of exiting President Kirchner) as his VP candidate and subsequently led in a number of polls, leading to investors (especially foreign) holding back.  OM understands this but suspects as primary season ends, Scioli will become less feared as he sets out his plans for the general election and investors look at his track record as Governor of BA Province.
The Precious Metals book cost ~100bps, pretty evenly split between the gold miners and the metals themselves; currently, OM believes he's early rather than wrong something that's solidified by a couple of recent surveys that suggest sentiment on the sector is at multi-decade lows!  Elsewhere, there was much ado about nothing the Technical book cost 27bps as the major US indices bounced around, while the Currencies book (+17bps) and the China Thesis (+12bps) both profited as the dollar strengthened.

Portfolio (as at 6/30 - all delta and leverage adjusted, as appropriate)
33.9% - International/Country (EWI/EWP/GREK in Europe, GVAL, and Argentinian names)
33.2% - Technical Book (DDM, QLD and SSO)
16.5% - Equities (RDY, TTM, TWTR & VIPS) 
10.3% - Precious Metals (GDX, GLD and SLV)
0.0% - Energy Efficiency (AXPW, and XIDE)

-6.1% - China-Related Thesis (CROC – Short Australian Dollar) 
-17.2% - Currencies (EUO – Short Euro, YCS – Short Japanese Yen)

11.1% - 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.

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.