Wednesday, 16 December 2020

The converging global economy or "Fusion Economy"

U.S. dollar as the world's main reserve currency

Almost a third of foreign central banks hold the U.S. dollar as their main reserve currency.  

  • The U.S. enviable position as the owner of the world's most sought-after currency, has provided many advantages over the years, not the least of which is having the ability to easily borrow abroad to finance wars and deficit spending at home.  
  • The disadvantage is that countries with reserve currencies tend to run trade account deficits, mainly because the higher value of their currencies makes their products more expensive to export.  

These persistent trade deficits, led the U.S. president in 2018 to begin a series of trade wars, hoping to keep the benefits of holding the world's reserve currency while using the threat of global trade wars to eliminate the deficits, come what may..

An isolated event in one part of the world can have an immediate effect on markets worldwide.

Global investors who are losing money in one sector often tend to sell investments in another sector, or another part of the world, to cover their losses.  

  • When stocks fall sharply in New York or London, emerging market funds from Brazil to India can decline sharply as investors rush to sell their shares abroad in order to raise needed cash to pay their debts at home.  
  • For no fault of their own, markets - especially those in developing countries - can be punished for something over which they have no control.

It works in the opposite way for countries that have currencies that are considered safe havens in time of economic turmoil.  

  • The Japanese yen, the Swiss franc, and the U.S. dollars, for example, tend to benefit enormously when markets crash.  
  • Even though it was the U.S. economic meltdown that caused the worldwide crash leading to the Great Recession in 2007, the first reaction of most global investors was to buy American dollars.

Demystifying world and local economy.

Today's news is peppered with economic terms, but rarely is any attempt made to help us cut through the complex jargon we are being bombarded with.

Essentially, the world economy is no more complicated than the domestic economy that we navigate daily.  Sound economic judgement is one of the most needed skills in the world today.   We need to have the tools to be able to make sense of future economic events - good or bad.

Many of us are bewildered by a fast changing global economy that seems too big and too complicated for us to understand.  So we let the politicians make our decisions for us.  Unfortunately, the politicians are not always going to do what is best for us.  They are going to do what is best for them and their re-election chances.

Politicians care about what voters think, especially voters in blocks, and not a shred about what economists think.  Talking to politicians about economics is therefore a waste of time.  The only way to make governments behave as if they were economically literate is to confront them with electorates that are.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Invest with discipline. Superior returns in the long run.

 Value investing rests on three key characteristics of financial markets:

1.  The prices of financial securities are subject to significant and capricious movements.

2.  Despite these gyrations in the market prices of financial assets, many of these assets do have underlying or fundamental economic values that are relatively stable and that can be measured with reasonable accuracy by a diligent and disciplined investor.

3.  A strategy of buying securities only when their market prices are significantly below the calculated intrinsic value will produce superior returns in the long run.

Think of this formula as the master recipe of Graham and Dodd value investing:

  1. Selecting securities for valuation;
  2. Estimating their fundamental values;
  3. Calculating the appropriate margin of safety required for each security;
  4. Deciding how much of each security to buy, which encompasses the construction of a portfolio and includes a choice about the amount of diversification the investors desires;
  5. Deciding when to sell securities.

These are not trivial decisions.  To search for securities selling below their intrinsic value is one thing, to find them quite another.

Friday, 11 December 2020

Successful Nations Invest Heavily and Wisely

Investment is the critical spending driver of growth and a high and rising level of investment is normally a good sign.

For a country, investment running 

  • below 20% of GDP foretells of shortages and gridlock; 
  • above 40% is excessive and often presages a serious slowdown.

The sustainable sweet spot for investment is between 25% to 35% of GDP, and it can last for many years, particularly if the investment is going to projects that generate growth in the future.

Link between weak investment and weak growth is clear and it is so common.

If investments is too low as a share of GDP, around 20% or less for emerging countries, and stays low for a long period, it likely to leave the economy full of holes that make rapid growth unlikely.

Weak investment tends to degrade both the supply network and respect for the government.  

If a nation's supply chain is built on inadequate road, rail and sewer lines, supply cannot keep up with demand, which drives up prices.  

In this way, weak investment is a critical source of inflation - a cancer that has often killed growth in emerging nations.

Best and worst investments

The most productive investment binges are in 

  • manufacturing, 
  • technology, and 
  • infrastructure, including roads, power grids and water systems.  
The worst are in 

  • real estate, which often rings up crippling debts and 
  • commodities, which often have a corrupting influence on the economy and society.

Although a case can be made that services will come to rival manufacturing as a catalyst for sustained growth, that day has yet to arrive.  

For now, the best investment binges are still focused on manufacturing and technology.

Additional Notes:

In Malaysia, investment peaked in 1995 at 43% of GDP, the second-highest level ever recorded in a large economy, behind China today.

Guided by an autocratic prime minister, the country poured money into some projects that proved useful, like a new international airport and many that did not.

The prime minister's grand vision included a new government district called Putrajaya, which today is home to just a quarter of the 320,000 people it was designed to house.  This is another classic case of a bad binge that left behind little of value.

Inequality. Successful Nations Produce "Good" Billionaires

For much of the last decade, wealth has been rising all over the world, from the United States and Britain to China and India, mainly because of massive gains for the very rich.

The rich are gaining faster than the poor and the middle classes.  Rising wealth inequality is an increasing threat to social stability and economic growth.  It is worth tracking seriously.

As the number of billionaires rises, the data are becoming more significant as a statistical sample and as a tool for identifying countries where the balance of wealth is skewing too sharply to the super-rich.

Quality:  The Good versus ad Billionaires

Looking at the scale of billionaire fortunes is not enough to reveal the extent of their political vulnerabilities.  

"Bad" Billionaires

New names on the billionaire list can be a favourable sign, but only if they are good billionaires, emerging outside "rent-seeing industries" such as construction, real estate, gambling, mining, steel, aluminum, oil, gas, and other commodity sectors that mainly involve digging resources out of the ground.  

In these businesses, major players often spend their time extracting maximum rents from limited national resources by bribing politicians if necessary, not growing national wealth in innovative ways.

Compare the total wealth of tycoons in these corruption-prone businesses to that of all billionaires in the country.  This comparison yields the share of the wealth generated by "bad billionaires."  This label no doubt miscasts many honest mining and oil tycoons, but even in nations where these industries are relatively uncorrupt, they tend to make weak contributions to productivity, and to tie the economy to the volatile swings of commodity prices.

"Good" Billionaires

"Good billionaire" label is reserved for tycoons in industries that are known to make the largest contributions to growth in productivity, or that make popular consumer products like smartphones or cars.  These "good" industries are the ones least likely to generate backlashes against wealth creation they include technology, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and telecoms, as well as retail, e-commerce, and entertainment.

Real-time evidence how nations are generating wealth

Anecdotally, billionaire analysis generates real-time evidence of how nations are generating wealth.  Among the largest developed economies, as of 2019, bad billionaires controlled the smallest share of billionaire wealth in Italy (7%) and France (8%) - a good sign for both countries


Tracking billionaire wealth can provide insight into whether an economy is creating the kind of wealth that will help it grow - or trigger revolt - in the near future.  

Tracking it by scale, share of inherited wealth and share of bad billionaires ensures that none of these potential sources of political resentment will be missed.

It is a bad sign if the billionaire class controls too fat a share of national wealth, becomes an entrenched and inbred elite, and builds fortunes mainly from politically connected industries.  

A healthy economy needs an evolving cast of productive industrialists, not a fixed cast of corrupt tycoons.  Creative destruction drives growth in a capitalist society and because bad billionaires have everything to gain from the status quo, they are enemies of wider prosperity and lightning rods for populist revolts pushing to redistribute rather than grow the economic pie.

Emerging countries: Watch for balanced growth and focus on manageable set of dynamic indicators

Emerging countries often grow in torrid streaks, only to fall into major crises that wipe out all their gains.

That is why among the nearly 200 economies currently tracked by IMF, only 40 have reached the "developed class".  

  • The last to make it was South Korea, two decades ago.
  • The rest are emerging, and most have been emerging forever.  

Economic trends are impermanent; churn and crisis are the norm.

All the rules aim, one way or another, to capture the delicate balances of debt, investment, inflation, currency values and other key factors required to keep an economy growing steadily faster than its peers

These are the basic principles.  Remember that economic trends are impermanent; churn and crisis are the norm.  

Recognize that any economy, no matter how successful or how broken, is more likely to return to the long-term average growth rate for its income class than to remain abnormally hot or cold indefinitely.

Watch for balanced growth and focus on a manageable set of dynamic indicators that make it possible to anticipate turns in the economic cycle.  

Modern Economies Follow a Cycle of Crisis, Reform, Boom (Revive) and Decay (Dying)

Modern economies follow a cycle - exploding in crisis, only to reform and revive before dying out once again.

The likely timing and direction of change depends in part on where a country stands on the cycle of crisis, reform, boom and decay.

In general, the fortunes of a nation are 

  • most likely to turn for the better when a new leader rises in the wake of a crisis, and 
  • most likely to decline when a stale leader is in power.

This cycle explain why so few booms last long enough to vault developing economies into the developed ranks and why those that make the leap are called "miracles":  they have defied the natural complacency and decay that kills most long booms.

Deflecting popular revolt by creating the welfare state

The fact that crisis and revolt can force elites to reform has been clear at least since the early critiques of Marx, who thought capitalism would collapse in a series of increasingly violent attempts to defend the upper classes.  

Instead, leaders proved capable of reforming capitalism, deflecting popular revolt by creating the welfare state, starting in Germany and Britain.

Political complacency means economic "miracle" cases are rare.

The link between boom times and political complacency is well documented.  

  • Modern Japan and Europe are often described as too comfortably rich to push tough reform.  
  • What is less well recognized is that even in normal periods, the cycle turns, constantly reshaping economies for better or worse.

The cycle of crisis, reform, boom and decay, turns erratically, even in democracies where elections are regularly scheduled.  

Nations may wallow in complacency for years, which helps explain why the "lost decades" in Africa and Latin America lasted longer than a decade.  

On the other hand, strong-willed leaders have been known to keep pushing reform for decades - but only in the rare "miracle" cases, including Korea, Taiwan and Japan before it fell off the miracle path in the 1990.

Jobs: human, automation and robots

Workplaces evolve to incorporate machines, and people find a way to fit in.

Over the past quarter century, about a third of the new jobs created in the United States were types that did not exist, or barely existed, twenty-five years ago.

In the next transformation, humans are likely to replace jobs lost to automation with new jobs we cannot yet imagine.  

And economists may start counting growth in the robot population as a positive sign for economic growth, the same way that today they analyze growth in the human population.

To assess whether population trends are pushing a nation to rise or to fall, look 

  • first at growth in the working-age population, which sets a baseline for how fast the economy can grow.  
  • Then track what countries are doing to bring more workers into the talent pool, quickly.  Are they opening doors to the elderly, to women, to foreigners, even to robots?   
In a world facing the challenge of growing labour shortages, it is all hands - human or automated - on deck

Thursday, 10 December 2020

To anticipate a currency crisis or recovery, follow the locals

The feel of the currency is the simplest real-time measure of how effectively a country can compete for international trade and investment.

"The currency feels too expensive"

If a currency feels too expensive, a large and sustained increase in the current account deficit can result, and money will start to flow out of the country.  

The longer and faster a current account deficit expands, the more risk there is of an economic slowdown and a financial crisis.  

Traditionally, that warning light flashed when the current account deficit had been growing at an average rate of 5% of GDP for five years.  

But the recent deglobalization of banking has made it more difficult to finance current account deficits, so the new red line may be around 3%.

Beginning or the end of currency trouble, follow the locals

To spot the beginning or the end of currency trouble, follow the locals.  They are the first to know when a nation is in crisis or recovery, and they will be the first to move If the local millionaires are fleeing, so should you.

Once a crisis begins, watch for the current account to bounce back to surplus, which usually means that a cheap currency is drawing money back into the country.  It helps if the financial environment is stable, underpinned by low expectations of inflation, which further encourages investors to return.

Meddling by the government to artificially cheapen the currency

If the government tries to artificially cheapen the currency, markets are likely to punish this meddling, particularly if the country has substantial foreign debt or does not manufacture exports that can benefit from a devaluation.  

Cheap is good only if the market, not the government, determines the feel of a currency.

You Can't Devalue Your Way to Prosperity

A cheap currency is an advantage in global competition.  It might seem smart for national leaders just to devalue the currency.  But this is a form of state meddling that has proved increasingly ineffective.

Since the crisis of 2008, many nations have tried to improve their competitive position by devaluing currencies, but none have managed to gain an advantage.

The central banks of the United States, Japan, Britain and the Eurozone have pursued policies that effectively amount to printing money, in part as a way to devalue their currencies.  But each has achieved at best a brief gain in export share, because rivals quickly match each other's policies.

The rise in 2016 of Donald Trump, who keeps a hawkish watch on the moves of foreign central banks, made it increasingly difficult for any nation to devalue its currency without being called to account for it.

By 2019, many emerging countries had seen sharp currency depreciation, but with little boost to growth.  

  • One reason was foreign debt; since 1996, in the emerging world, the debt owed by private companies to foreign lenders had more than doubled as a share of GDP, reaching 20% or more in Taiwan, Peru, South Africa, Russia, Brazil and Turkey.   For these countries, devaluation made it more expensive for private companies to service foreign debt, and forced them to spend less on hiring workers or investing in new equipment.

  • Another factor that can derail devaluations is heavy dependence on imported food and energy.  In this case, a cheaper currency will make it more expensive to import these staples, driving up inflation, further undermining the currency and encouraging capital flight.  This is a recurring syndrome in nations like Turkey, which imports all its oil, but the problem is spreading.

  • These days, even manufacturing powers are mere cogs in a global supply chain, relying heavily on imported parts and materials.  They thus find it harder to capitalize on a cheap currency because devaluation raises the prices they pay for those parts and materials.

A rare occasion when devaluation worked

China, in 1993, was one of the rare devaluations that worked.  

China had little foreign debt, it did not rely too heavily on imported goods, and its already strong manufacturing sector grew faster after Beijing devalued the renminbi.  

But this was an exception that proves the rule in general you cannot devalue your way to prosperity.

Devaluation is increasingly less likely to work

Moreover, devaluation is increasingly less likely to work, even in China, which has grown to command 13% of global exports, the largest share any economy has reached in recent decades.  It is just simply too big to expand much further and if it does devalue, others retaliate.  

In late 2015, China devalued the renminbi by 3%, and many emerging nations responded immediately, erasing any competitive gain that Beijing hoped to achieve.

China is also making increasingly advanced exports, which are less price sensitive and gain less from a cheap currency.  

In Korea, Taiwan, and China, technology and capital goods make up a rising share of exports.  

The more advanced the economy, the less of a boost it gets from devaluations.

To spot whether the government is meddling more or less.

Is the government meddling more or less?

To spot whether the state is meddling more, or less

1.  Look first at trends in government spending as a share of GDP.

2.  Then check whether the spending is going to productive investment or to give-aways.

3.  Finally, look at whether the government is using state companies and banks as tools

  • to pump up growth and contain inflation, and 
  • whether it is choking or encouraging private businesses.

In certain environment, less meddling is best

In recent years, many countries have been 

  • raising the government share of the economy, 
  • steering bank loans to big state companies, 
  • subsidising cheap gas for the privilege classes and 
  • enforcing insensible rules in an unpredictable way.

Even low income countries like India are rolling out full-service welfare systems, a luxury that the Asian miracle economies began to adopt only much later in their development.  At that point, countries like South Korea and Taiwan had already invested heavily in factories and transport networks, and they could well afford inclusive pension and health programs.

In contrast, many states are now managing the economy in ways that effectively retard growth, thereby 

  • fueling disrespect for establishment politicians, and 
  • the rise of radical populists.  
In an environment like this, especially, less meddling is best.

When Government Spending Becomes a Problem

Government Spending

 As a country grows wealthier, spending by the government tends to increase.

Is the government spending much higher (or lower) as a share of the economy than in other nations at the same income level? 

The worst case is a fat state getting fatter, compared to its peers.  

Developed economies

Among the top twenty developed economies, the king of this class has long been France.  

The French government spends an annual sum equal to 56% of GDP, more than any other country, barring the possible exception of Communist like North Korea.  

  • France's spending level is 18% above the 39% average for developed nations - the biggest gap in the world.  
  • Over the last decade, the tax burden required to support this state was driving businesspeople out of the country in droves.  
  • France's own president, Georges Clemenceau, in the early 20th century described it as "a very fertile country: you plant bureaucrats and taxes grow."

Many European states have been under pressure to cut back since the crisis of 2008, particularly where their spending amounts to more than half of GDP.  Led by France, that list includes Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and until recently, Greece.   Greece has been moving in a positive direction - with state spending falling from 51$ to 47% of GDP - in part because its creditors forced Athens to make painful cuts in civil service jobs and salaries.

Prior crises had already started to erode the welfare state in Europe in the late 1990s.  Scarred by the crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, other European nations will remain under pressure to keep the size of the state in check.

The lighter spenders in the developed world include the United States, Austria and Australia, with government spending amounting to between 35 and 40% of the GDP Switzerland was even lower, at 33%.

Emerging Nations

Emerging Big Spenders

Among the twenty largest emerging nations the outlier for many years was Brazil, where official government spending amounted to more than 40% of GDP, a level more typical of a rich European welfare state than a middle-class nation.  

  • In recent years, under a controversial right-wing government, that figure has come down to 38%, still well above the 32% average for nations with a per capita income of around $12,000.   
  • Brazil had by 2019 fallen behind Poland (42%) and Argentina (39%) for the title of the emerging world's biggest, most bloated spender.
  • Brazil's recent turn reflects the growing realization that it could not keep spending like a rich European welfare state, as well as growing frustration with the dysfunctional system.

Emerging Small Governments

The large emerging countries with the smallest governments include Indonesia, Nigeria, South Korea and Taiwan.  

The East Asean (South Korea and Taiwan) success stories were built on a model that, until very recently, delayed the development of welfare programs, kept government spending around 20% of GDP or less and focused that spending on investment in infrastructure and manufacturing.  

Even today, only 30% of Asia's population is covered by a pension plan, compared to more than 90% in Europe.    

Taiwan's public healthcare system did not exist in 1995 but now covers nearly 100% of the population and costs just 7% of GDP; that compares well to spotty coverage costing 18% in the United States.

Governments in the Andean countries of Columbia, Peru and Chile all look relatively undersized, as does Mexico, with government spending equal to 25% of GDP, 7% below the average for its income class.  It is mainly on the Atlantic coast - in Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina - that governments suffer from bloat.

The health of the credit system is crucial

Periods of healthy credit growth bear no psychological resemblance to the extreme exuberance of manias or the extreme caution or fear of debts (debtophobia).

The health of the credit system in 2008

When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, countries like the United States were vulnerable because they had been running up debt too fast.

In Southeast Asia, however, the opposite story was unfolding.  Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines had manageable debt burdens and strong banks ready to lend, with total loans less than 89% of deposits.

Over the next 5 years, post 2008, the health of the credit system would prove crucial:

  • nations such as Spain and Greece, which had seen the sharpest increase in debt before 2008, would post the slowest growth after the crisis;
  • nations such as the Philippines and Thailand, which had seen the smallest increase in debt during the boom, would fare the best.

How the credit cycle works in brief

Rising debt can be a sign of health growth, unless debt is growing much faster than the economy for too long.

The size of the debt matters, but the pace of increase is the most important sign of change for the better or the worse.

The first signs of trouble often appear in the private sector, where credit manias tend to originate.

The psychology of a debt binge encourages lending mistakes and borrowing excesses that will retard growth and possibly lead to a financial crisis.

The crisis can inspire a healthy new caution, or a paralyzing fear of debt (debtophobia).

Either way, the period of retrenchment usually lasts only a few years (usually 4 to 5 years). #  

The country emerges with lower debts, bankers ready to lend, and an economy poised to grow rapidly.

Additional notes:

# On average, credit and economic growth remained weak for about four to five years.

In Asia, credit fell in the five years after 1997 by at least 40 percentage points as a share of the GDP in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.  But within about four years, the gloom had started to lift as debts fell, government deficits declined, and global prices for the region's commodity exports rose.  Credit growth picked up, and the average GDP growth rate in these three Southeast Asian economies rose from around 4% between 1999 and 2002 to nearly 6% between 2003 and 2006.

The 4 basic signs of a stock bubble

 There are four basic signs of a stock bubble:

1.  high levels of borrowing for stock purchases;

2.  prices rising at a pace that can't be justified by the underlying rate of economic growth;

3.  overtrading by retail investors; and

4.  exorbitant valuation.

In 2015, the Shanghai market had reached the extreme end of all four bubble metrics which is rare.  

The amount that Chinese investors borrowed to buy stock had set a world record, equal to 9% of the total value of tradable stocks.

Stock prices were up 70% in just 6 months, despite slowing growth in the economy.

On some days, more stock was changing hands in China than in all other stock markets combined.

In April 2015, the state-run People's Daily crowed that the good times were "just beginning."

In June 2015 the Shanghai market started to crash, and it continued to crash despite government orders to investors not to sell.

The Real Inflation Threats

Inflation generally refers to the pace of increase in consumer prices.

1.  Historical inflation data


Consumer prices were rising at a double-digit pace and wreaking economic havoc all over the world.  

In early 1980s, they began to recede under pressure from rising global competition and a concerted attack by central banks.  

Raising interest rates to painful heights, central banks choked off money flows and won the war on inflation just about everywhere.

1981 to 1991

The average rate of inflation in developed nations fell from 12% to just 2%, where it remains today.

Meanwhile, in emerging nations, the average rate of inflation peaked at a staggering 87% in 1994 and reached the hyperinflationary triple digits in major countries like Brazil and Russia.  Then, over the subsequent decades, it receded to its current, much calmer rate of just 4%.

2.  Average inflation rates today

Any emerging nation with a rate of inflation much above 4% or any developed nation with a rate much above 2%, has cause for concern.  

In a world where double- and triple-digit consumer price inflation is a rare threat, the outliers are worth watching closely because they are out of balance and seriously at risk.

3.  Traditional thinking focuses on consumer price inflation only

High consumer price inflation is a growth-killing cancer

In the short term

  • rapidly rising prices compel central banks to raise interest rates
  • making it more expensive for businesses and consumers to borrow.  
  • High inflation also tends to be volatile, and its swings make it impossible for businesses to plan and invest for the future.

Over the longer term

  • inflation erodes the value of money sitting in the bank or in bonds, thus discouraging saving and 
  • shrinking the pool of money available to invest in future growth.

4.  Post crisis of 2008 slow-growth environment fears outright deflation

The central banks are now fighting a very different war.  

Central banks often worry that inflation may be too low, not too high in the slow-growth environment that took hold after the crisis of 2008.  

In developed countries, instead of raising rates to make sure inflation doesn't increase too far above a target of 2%, they now cut interest rates when inflation is falling too far below 2%.  

Their big fear is that low inflation will lead to outright deflation - the dreaded but overblown "Japan scenario."

5.  Low inflation and deflation can be bad (depressed demand) and can be good (driven by new innovation and expanding supply)

History, shows that neither low inflation nor deflation are necessarily bad for economic growth.

"Bad deflation"  

Japan suffered a rare bout of "bad deflation" after the collapse of its stock and housing bubbles in 1990.  

  • Consumer demand dried up, prices started to fall and shoppers began delaying purchases in the expectation that prices would fall further.  
  • The downward spiral depressed growth for two decades.  

"Good deflation"

However, deflation can also follow a new tech or financial innovation that 

  • lowers production costs and 
  • boosts economic growth.

High inflation is always bad for growth, deflation maybe neither bad nor good

If inflation is too high, it is almost always a threat to growth but the same cannot be said of low inflation.  

Even if low inflation threatens to devolve into deflation, it could be good for growth if the falling prices are driven by new innovations and expanding supply, rather than by depressed demand.

6.  Post 2008 low interest rates environment

After central banks won the war on high consumer price inflation, they cut interest rates to levels that have fueled a massive run-up in prices for 

  • financial assets, including stocks, bonds and 
  • houses.  
In recent decades, stock market and housing bubbles have been increasingly common precursors to financial crises and recessions.

7.  The Real Inflation Threats

Economists have been very slow to recognize this new inflation threat, and central banks have been very slow to think outside their official mandates, which focus on stabilizing the economy by controlling inflation in consumer prices, only.  

But successful nations will control both kinds of inflation, 

  • in consumer markets and 
  • in financial markets.


The general rule is that strong growth is most likely to continue 
  • if consumer prices are rising slowly or 
  • even if they are falling as the result of good deflation, driven by a strengthening supply network.

In today's globalised economy, cross-border competition tends to 
  • suppress prices for consumer goods but 
  • drive them up for financial assets (stocks, bonds and houses).  
Thus watching consumer prices is not enough.

Increasingly, recessions follow instability in the financial markets.  

To understand how inflation is likely to impact economic growth, you have to keep an eye on stock and house prices too.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Bitcoins and Cryptocurrencies

Are cryptocurrencies real money?

Blockchain technology and Bitcoin

With modern computers, the twenty-first century solution to securing private information is to encrypt it in a chain of code that can never be altered without permission from all the users.  This blockchain encryption technology works because the entire user world will be alerted if anyone tries to change the information.

The first use of blockchain was to encrypt and secure holdings of a currency called bitcoin, the world's first decentralized digital currency that didn't need a central bank or central monetary authority to control its use.  Bitcoin was invented by an anonymous computer pioneer with the name of Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009.

The open-source software was structured to allow anyone, at any time, to see who owns what in the bitcoin world.  The system allows for anonymity because the owners of bitcoin can use pseudonyms, keeping their real identities secure in encrypted form.

Purpose of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

The purpose of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies was to have a user-to-user payment system that avoided the cost and control of a central authority.

When the owner of a bitcoin decides to purchase something, the system is updated to reflect the transfer from buyer to seller.  The transaction takes place via the buyer's and seller's bitcoin wallets, but the ownership change is embedded in the blockchain for everyone to see and verify.  Once the transaction is verified, it cannot be retracted.

Like transactions in cash and gold, one of the major appeals of cryptocurrency payments is that they can be made in total anonymity, without any central bank or monetary authority getting involved.  This is why many countries have moved to ban cryptocurrencies, fearing that they can easily be used to pay for illegal goods, such as drugs or stolen guns.

A possible solution would be to create a cryptocurrency that requires users to be transparent about their identity.  This could be an ideal defense against money laundering, tax evasion and other illicit activities because every transactions would be seen and verified by users.

Many people have been reluctant to start using cryptocurrencies, saying that they would never hold a currency that has no intrinsic value.  Their values are now nothing more than what people are willing to pay for them.

How are cryptocurrencies created?  

Bitcoins, like may other cryptocurrencies, are put into the circulation by miners, who are required to undertake complex computer calculations in order to receive the new bitcoins.  The costs of maintaining the bitcoin protocol system would become increasingly large as bitcoin becomes more and more accepted as a means of payment.  It was therefore, decided to give the new bitcoins to those willing to do the work necessary to keep the system up and running.

Anyone can become a bitcoin miner.  The first bitcoins were mined mainly by individuals, but by the late 2010s, the amount of computing power required to perform the calculations had become so large that only big consortiums and companies were mining new bitcoins.  The energy used by the massive server farms completing the calculations has been estimated to be equivalent to the entire energy consumption of Ireland.  And as the computers doing the mining become more efficient, the calculations are purposefully being made more complicated to control the supply of new bitcoins.

Major security risks

There are major security risks inherent in holding a large amount of wealth in cryptocurrencies that can be transferred in a moment to an anonymous user.   

  • Several cryptocurrency millionaires were kidnapped in the late 20010s with the express purpose of getting the victim to transfer large amounts of their assets.  These crimes ended with millions of dollars' worth of ransom being paid directly into the kidnappers' encrypted accounts, never to be traced.
  • In 2019, $40 million of cryptocurrency was stolen from a trading platform called Binance when several of the platform's users' "keys" were hacked, similar to the way credit card users' date is hacked from retail stores' databases.

Transactions becoming expensive and taking too long to be processed

Another hurdle to wide acceptance of bitcoin is that transactions are becoming more and more expensive and taking a longer time to be processed.   With average costs for small transfers approaching the 2-3 percent sellers have to pay for most credit card transactions, bitcoin is becoming less of a viable alternative.

High volatility of cryptocurrencies.

The final issue is the high volatility of cryptocurrencies.   Unless a cryptocurrency holder is a risk-friendly investor, it may be better - for the moment at least - to stick to traditional investments like stocks, bonds and real estate.  During some periods of the 2010s, bitcoin had price swings several times greater than those of gold, the S&P 500 or the U.S. dollar.  One of the biggest hurdles to wide acceptance of many cryptocurrencies has been their high volatility.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

When to sell? You will always not be happy with yourself. The philosophical approach.

Philosophically!!! This is the question that you have to come to self realization. 

You will always not be happy when you sell!

You will always be wrong when you sell: this is your thinking. 

  • You sell with a profit but price go higher so you think you are wrong. 
  • You sell at a loss but the price bounce back so you think you are wrong. 
  • You sell at a profit when price drop you still think you are wrong because you should sell at the very top.
The whole idea is you are not happy with yourself no matter what. 

Set your goal for a time period

So it would make more sense to set a goal for a time period and when you reach the goal celebrate and set the next goal.

Don’t bother if you are right or wrong, as long as the 2 steps back are less than 1 big step forward to reach your goal. This is just a game.

Hardest part of investing for me is knowing when to sell


Some reflections:


Sell when you no longer believe in a company


When the fundamentals change, sell it.


Honestly, when I would have sold the stocks in my portfolio which were 40% down instead of up, I would have made far better returns.

Ask yourself a question: "would I buy at this price?"


When your position doubles, sell half and let the house's money ride.


Depends on your investment horizon. 

Great business will continue to grow as will their price in the long term. Short-term volatility will always be there. If you’re invested in great businesses don’t worry about short term price fluctuations.


If you’re looking for short term gains then you can consider using options to supercharge your returns. But first learn how to trade options.

For the short term, the power of technical analysis will give you indicators of when to sell.


Depends what you are in it for. 

I have long term holdings and trading cash. 

Long term is just that, as long as the story doesn’t change I hold. 

Trading cash is completely different and gets a bit wild. Can be in and out in a day if the return is good enough.


For Deep value stocks, or stocks that you buy simply due to cheap valuation, some investors simply buy and exit when the stock is close to 90% of his calculated intrinsic value. 

But if the business deteriorate to the point whereby the intrinsic value keeps eroding, you might want to sell it once you find a better opportunity.

For growth investing or superior business, if you managed to find a good price to enter, try to never sell it unless the fundamentals / thesis changes.


I very rarely sell. I try to find companies I believe in long term. I only sell if something changes so I no longer believe that companies can give me good returns. Like if a see a shift in technology or how people use products.


If you are not willing to buy again then it's time to sell


I use allocation of portfolio. for example, I allocate 20% portfolio to AMD. when it rises, I will be gradually trimming it over time and transferring the funds to other stocks I find of value. When it start to crash, I will buy gradually as it goes down. This will inevitably mean I wont sell at highest or lowest. But valuation will also help me decide the %allocation so when AMD is overvalued based on the metrics, I chose to drop it to 15% of portfolio so I sell 25% of my holding. I use this as a guideline to discipline my buying and selling.


I control my greed by setting the selling price BEFORE I buy the stock.


Actually if it is an uptrend stock, don’t sell, ride the trend ... set a trailing stop like if it falls back more than 10% from new high, get out, else just ride the trend .... this is not greed 🙂


As long as the fundamental doesn’t change and the management continue to commit and grow the company... never sell


Always have a sell mark before buying the stock unless you are planning to hold long term. And that is if it is positive or negative. You may lose some profit but I'd rather take a little profit than lose it all.


I like a trailing stop loss. The stock can still go up, but if it starts to fall I don't lose my gains.

How often is the stock stop loss triggered? Has the stock price ever gapped below your stop loss?


Be greedy. Don't sell your winners just because they're up. Only sell when your original thesis no longer holds. Don't practice portfolio socialism lol


Do whatever consistently works for you. Doesn’t matter what I say or anyone else.


You shouldn’t sell. Unless the number is ridiculous, I’ve learned to avoid selling. If I never sold any of my positions I would easily have over 100 more money today.


I sell when is overvalued 15-20%~.


I set up trailing stop sell orders when a stock reaches 7 percent gain.


Have a plan when you buy it, then stick to the plan, whatever it may be, sure you can re-evaluate but by and large stick to the plan.


It's a loaded question. It depends on your plan/goals. Part of your plan is whether your stocks are in taxable vs qualified accounts. I tend to rebalance once or twice per year in my qualified accounts. I'm a net buyer of stocks in each year in the taxable account that I intend to hold very long term for compound growth and at that time sell very little for income.

In my IRA, my goal is to build equity/net worth and consider converting some stocks for income/dividend. The end of each year, if the fundamentals change for a company, I highly consider selling.


That’s another great question.

Buffett actually covered a piece of this in his most recent annual meeting...

Quoting back something that Sir John Maynard Keynes (an old, and very famous economist) was famous for saying:

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?"

In other words, one of the biggest reasons, and probably the most difficult is to actually change our minds when our original thesis for the investment has fundamentally changed.

Trust me when I say that this is not easy.

I like to say you should hold onto our opinion the way we have to hold onto a bar of wet soap. If you hold on just a little bit too tightly, it's likely to get away from you when you need it...

The second biggest reason is when our investment thesis actually comes true.

I think it was Guy Spier who talked about how much more difficult it is to sell something we own, than it is to buy into it.

We get attached to it. Especially if it's making us money!

I literally ran into this recently.

I bought a company that I determined to have an intrinsic value of roughly $23. I bought in at $10. in less than a year it quickly went up from $17 to $23 and guess what I did...


The story in my thesis hadn’t changed and it would have still been a great investment (prior to COVID) but even though I knew it was at fair value, I didn’t act.

I’m still trying to analyze that and figure out if I made the right or wrong choice.

Obviously if I knew a pandemic was going to hit it would have been the right choice to sell, but it’s not true when people say hindsight is 20-20.

There are always factors at play that we can’t see.

Honestly right now I think it was greed that made me hold on.

The speed at which it was rising was too exciting and I probably allowed my “what if” emotions to kick in.

Everyone who's not a robot struggles with this (bleep bleep blorp for you robots out there...)

The simple answer is to know what something is worth and only ever sell when it’s roughly 20% above that fair value.

Normally my rule is to sell at 120% fair value, so it wasn’t quite there, but I could have just sold and been happy with the return I would have got.

I think it goes back to that 80/20 principle. Except we can flip that in it’s head.

If we are waiting for 80% of the time to receive our last 20% is that time we’ll spent?

John Templeton, one of my favorite investors, would have had a sell order already set after he bought the stock.

He was amazing at doing anything he could to eliminate his emotions while he was still rationally analyzing the business.

I think I should start this as well.

One of the beautiful aspects of investing is that’s its continuous learning.

I think we can all learn a lesson from this. And as you can see.

As you can clearly see... I’m still learning.

Hope that helps!


Sell as much % as you are up, quarterly. Buy as much % as you are down.


Never. I usually buy with the intent of keeping the cash flow Forever. I sell if the company seems to be collapsing, or I have made such a huge growth that I want to invest in something else. This is just my way of investing, and my tip - it’s in no way the only or «correct» way to invest. 😊


Put a trail limit and let it run.


Check the volume versus the 10 day average volume to be able to see a good exit strategy....not really a value investing type of thing....but has helped me understand why stocks go up and down throughout the day!


Make a habit of rebalancing chances are if a particular stock is overvalued it will be a larger portion of your portfolio so you can sell some of it and use that money to buy another stock you deem undervalued.


Don’t sell for years. Quit trying to time the market. Buffet holds for decades.


As soon as you think about "should i sell?"...sell some. Better to be a fool and lose out on more gains than a fool who rode his gains back down to break even or worse...a loss.


For people with a "PURE" value investing strategy, a P/E of 40 or a minimum of 50% profit is a good time to sell in the short-term (Walter Schloss strategy). Personally, I prefer to seek great companies and never sell if the fundamentals don't change. ✌️



I sell when I find something better




If it's a great business purchased below intrinsic value and now overvalued, I'd keep it anyway. You may not a get another chance to purchase it below intrinsic value. If you're feeling like you're becoming too concentrated in one position, go ahead and trim it, but great businesses are seldom undervalued.




Philosophically!!! This is the question that you have to come to self realization. you will always wrong when you sell is your thinking. You sell with a profit but price go higher so you think you are wrong. You sell at a loss but the price bounce back so you think you are wrong. You sell at a profit then price drop you still think you are wrong because you should sell at the very top. the whole idea is you are not happy with yourself no matter what. So it would make more sense to set a goal for a time period and when you reach the goal celebrate and set the next goal. Don’t bother if you are right or wrong. 2 steps back < than 1 big step forward to reach your goal. This is just a game.