The Big Question Then: How To Play EU QE?

1,260 views

The Swiss bank just announced that the ceiling they have been maintaining against the euro is to be dropped. That would make sense, since the euro is now trading below 1.17, down from almost 1.40 just earlier. In terms of the exchange rate, that had to be getting very expensive.

But the timing here should be viewed as a sign that the ECB is really about to start QE. This should be the stance because if they don’t, the impact would be minimal, but if they do you can’t be on the wrong side of the trade.

In terms of what this QE will look like…well, that is the question. What is the ECB going to buy? Not public debt, surely. How much more financing can these governments stomach with yields already negative in many countries. Even the worst countries, like Greece, are borrowing at rates that an average citizen would envy.

My guess here is two fold: (1) they buy up private financial assets similar to the mortgage program the Fed had in place, but that it will center on short term bonds, while also working with banks to create a long term financing window (EU companies and banks in particular have notoriously short term financing arrangements) and (2) they take the opportunity to absorb whatever mechanisms exactly they have been using, before now, to hide the massive debt loads that should have been coming due over the past three years.

If you forgot, Europe ended up pulling some master BS, using a combination of trade accounts to gobble up the garbage so that the markets wouldn’t have to see it default. I’m hazy on the exact specifics, but I would gamble that those imbalanced accounts are still outstanding; and my guess is they’re about to get totally monetized.

So the big question now is, where do you park money? I think that it would be very stupid to try and be short right now with central banks making big noise and seemingly readying the cannons.

If this is like past central bank action, then any longs will do – equity, commodities, debt, whatever you like. Oil could get a huge boost since it’s been so ravaged. ECB action will give the Fed room to play, especially if deflation keeps up. Yellen is no Bernanke…yet, but she also hasn’t been tried either. If the Fed coordinates, all boats get lifted.

But the safest low key play is probably just to hug U.S. dollars until things are a little more clear.

I am ~78% cash, with positions in CCJ, BAS and VOC, down roughly 3% in the first two weeks of the year.

nOPEC

791 views

Oil just got beat again when it became public that OPEC is a dysfunctional organization. Who could have imagined that disparate oil producing nations with deep, cultural differences (read racism) might have trouble working through competition?

I never would have guessed it would crop up this quickly. But the demise of OPEC is hardly unforeseen. I myself penned an article this July discussing the possibility of the oil markets being upended.

But it is funny, reading through those thoughts going on just five months old, and seeing how violently they have diverged from what I expected.

I expected the development of US oil and gas reserves would create trouble for the old guards. I did not expect that oil would collapse 30% in two months. While you could say that those price swings were to be expected – just simple economics – I had expected the US might actually do more legislatively to erect a wall between us and the oil nations altogether. Obviously this happened much too quickly for any of that.

I had also guessed that when things started to get tough, OPEC would at least try to band together first. They’ve been successful at this in the past, so failing to construct even symbolic production cuts this round is certainly worse off along than I would have ventured.

The fallout in oil and energy names, following August, is not something I truthfully believed in. This may sound strange, but I was actually betting against myself when I made those sales of my oil and gas positions. And I never would have believed we’d fall so far. BAS is off 60% peak to trough, for crying out loud. Even when I knew we were experiencing a correction, I didn’t think it would be this extreme.

Now let’s put some context into all of this. Some of these energy names are trading at prices as bad as or worse than they were in 2010-2011 (when oil prices were pretty much where they are now); and lots of these energy companies were losing money back then, whereas they are making money today. I’m talking about BAS explicitly as an example.

So what happens now?

Well, I think that the prices of oil & gas plays are pretty compelling here. Yes oil is a bummer and there is big talk about $30 oil being right around the corner. And it’s no coincidence that I think this talk is stupid and that those responsible should be viciously ridiculed. I think the price drop is temporary, unremarkable and indistinct from any other major selloff that has gripped the price of oil in the past five years.

I think competition will continue to do real damage to the major oil nations in the world bringing about the greatest power shift of our lifetimes. But as apart from my peers, who seem to believe that a Venezuela or Russia has the ability to ramp up production into this price drop, leading to a deflationary spiral that ushers in 1990’s prices for all Western nations, I tend to feel this is silly.

You can’t call for the death of the Bakkens and simultaneously think that oil stays this low. Actually I have a hypothesis that the events that would have to converge to keep oil this low are few and far between. The big question here is timing as to when oil goes higher.

So my guess – and this is definitely just that – is that the US shale boom lives. And here’s what will enable that to happen.

These oil exporting countries have all made brazen moves with their budgets. Places like Russia, Saudi Arabia, or Iran are barely holding it together. Places like Venezuela can’t even muster that; oil prices for Venezuela are kind of like mattresses or trampolines to a guy already falling off a roof – a point of hope.

But if oil prices keep falling, you’re going to see one of these places – and Venezuela is definitely near the top of my list – buckle. Venezuela is probably the easiest case to get back to $100 oil, because one Venezuela is good enough to offset new US production. But it could just as easily be a combination of other smaller oil exporters. A half dozen of the smaller to mid size guys, or even a combination of Syria and Iraq plunging back into darkness. IS is obviously a possible trigger here; a bunch of pissed off twenty year olds, armed with rocket propelled grenades, trying to operate oil machinery? Sounds like a nice, safe combo.

What we’ve seen, repeatedly, is that when a place like, oh, Syria or Libya plunges into anarchy, it’s not just a small setback. Rather, the entire oil infrastructure gets taken offline for years at a time.

Another civil war or resurgent fighting could easily get us back to lower oil production in these places. Some US legislative work (now freed from the concerns about access to supply thanks to the US domestic advances) could help keep our own oil expertise from setting those places back up again after they tumble.

Why would we want to do this? Rome is sick of Carthage.

Just think about the sheer number of problems that these countries have dealt us over the past fifty years. We already know that the US can withstand $100 oil. We’ve been doing it for a few years now. And $100 oil benefits the US economy directly, whereas $80 oil is the worst of all worlds; too cheap or expensive to care about.

With the GOP in Congress and looking to juice the US a little, and with Obama increasingly looking for a major win, sticking a stake in the middle east is probably the lowest hanging fruit around. Kill IS by letting them destroy their own oil infrastructure, then restrict the companies that have usually bailed that region back out (Shell, Exxon, etcetera) from doing that. Lower Russia back into 1993 conditions, then tell Blankfein to keep out this time.

That’s how I see things playing out. Sure we could watch the US shale revolution just go to waste completely. But I think at this junction the US has a pretty vested interest in not letting that happen. It’s a new dawn, after all.

Going Higher

193 views

I don’t know if this is just a bounce or a new leg to the rally. But we’re going up, folks.

The EURUSD is back near 1.275, after bleeding below 1.27 earlier. The collapse of the euro has been the driving force of the move in oil and the correction in the markets. That’s it; the big mystery. The oil glut, the game of “guess demand whack-o-mole”, the sudden fear – nothing next to the euro.

The other excuses being provided are just not that relevant. The data is fine. Demand is shifting around and notoriously sluggish but altogether fine also. Jobs creation is slow, but fine. There’s no real data even reflecting the fears of observers on display yet.

But the euro is an undertow and its move from above 1.4 to below 1.27 did damage. It strengthened the dollar considerably and sent trade out of balance.

With the euro firming up a bit, it’s going to help take some of the edge off. For as long as the EURUSD is lifting I am constructive on stocks and commodities.

Made Purchases of BAS, HCLP and VOC

179 views

I deployed 2.5% of my account to buy BAS at $12.61.

I put another 2% of my account into HCLP for $47.18.

I put another 3% of my account into VOC for $9.83.

Small margin balance. I am not just commenting when I say I am betting on oil. What we are experience in the oil market is not at all unusual. What is unusual is the sheer lengths that people have taken to sell oil stocks, with almost no evidence, other than a little correction in oil prices, that they are right.

The Entirety Of The Saudi Arabia Rumor Is Complete Hogwash

228 views

There is a tale floating around that Saudi Arabia is somehow single handedly collapsing the price of oil to destroy Western reserve development. And it is total nonsense.

Reports last month show Saudi Arabia is actually cutting production to maintain pricing.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries finally appears to be responding to the lower demand outlook.

According to the IEA, Saudi Arabia cut its oil output by 330,000 barrels a day last month, apparently in response to lower demand from its customers and a shift in the oil producer’s focus toward Asian markets. The Kingdom’s oil exports are likely to have run below 7 million barrels a day for the last four months, their lowest level since September 2011, as domestic consumption ratcheted up over the summer and supply to the U.S. fell, the IEA said.

I would have called bull on this sooner, but I was a little out of the loop and figured the oil selloff was just a correction anyway.

As for demand concerns, IEA reports have demand for oil growing every year for the foreseeable future. They cut the steepness of this growth and now there’s a jockeying move in markets to price out certain projects. But correcting the plunge in oil is going to be as easy as some field development getting publicly mothballed.

There is absolutely no credibility to this tall tale. Saudi Arabia is not going to be able to single handedly destroy the Bakken’s. They probably wouldn’t want to anyway. The US fields need expensive oil to justify development. Expensive oil plays directly into Saudi Arabia’s hand, since they have very low cost extraction.

If Saudi Arabia insists on meeting the demand that the US fields otherwise would have provided, they’re going to do so at a price per barrel closer to $60. Up until recently, they were getting $100 just by leaving some room on the field. That means Saudi Arabia was getting the same revenue for almost half the production levels, geniuses.

What do you think that does for Saudi Arabia’s oil field life expectancy?

The Saudi’s need the fracking oil because it justifies high prices. High prices buy Saudi Arabia vastly more time. Saudi Arabia would be stupid to try and beat down newer methods of extraction because they would exhaust themselves quicker and ultimately those sources would just come back on line anyway down the line.

Hmmm…step aside for newer extraction methods, get the same revenue for half the effort (weighs the one hand)…try and physically drive these methods out of business, exert double the effort with nothing extra to show for it (weighs the other).

Quit trying to be so cute with these conspiracy theories. Jimmy can go fuck himself.

Bought Back More HCLP for $59.39

176 views

Over the past week or so, I raised cash to 25%. This was good fortune, as HCLP, my mantelpiece position, has dropped 8% since I let up.

Today, I repurchased half of those shares, which I sold at $64.19 each, for $59.39.

It seems like good enough of a bet to me. HCLP is growing so fast… it’s trading at just over 17x Q3 2014 earnings estimates. I have no good way to guess what HCLP’s earning’s potential is over time; but 17x doesn’t seem unreasonable, particularly with a steady announcement of 5 year supply agreements being announced and 200% revenue growth last year. When you’ve managed to get in on the ground floor of such a high flying position, it just makes sense to hold long a core stake, and ride the waves.

This 8% drop is just another opportunity to make extra money, until such time as that logic is challenged. For the moment, HCLP just managed to touch its 20 day moving average for the first time since early June.

Next earnings announcement is in August. So tell me, who wants to stand in the way of this thing?

The Big Question Then: How To Play EU QE?

1,260 views

The Swiss bank just announced that the ceiling they have been maintaining against the euro is to be dropped. That would make sense, since the euro is now trading below 1.17, down from almost 1.40 just earlier. In terms of the exchange rate, that had to be getting very expensive.

But the timing here should be viewed as a sign that the ECB is really about to start QE. This should be the stance because if they don’t, the impact would be minimal, but if they do you can’t be on the wrong side of the trade.

In terms of what this QE will look like…well, that is the question. What is the ECB going to buy? Not public debt, surely. How much more financing can these governments stomach with yields already negative in many countries. Even the worst countries, like Greece, are borrowing at rates that an average citizen would envy.

My guess here is two fold: (1) they buy up private financial assets similar to the mortgage program the Fed had in place, but that it will center on short term bonds, while also working with banks to create a long term financing window (EU companies and banks in particular have notoriously short term financing arrangements) and (2) they take the opportunity to absorb whatever mechanisms exactly they have been using, before now, to hide the massive debt loads that should have been coming due over the past three years.

If you forgot, Europe ended up pulling some master BS, using a combination of trade accounts to gobble up the garbage so that the markets wouldn’t have to see it default. I’m hazy on the exact specifics, but I would gamble that those imbalanced accounts are still outstanding; and my guess is they’re about to get totally monetized.

So the big question now is, where do you park money? I think that it would be very stupid to try and be short right now with central banks making big noise and seemingly readying the cannons.

If this is like past central bank action, then any longs will do – equity, commodities, debt, whatever you like. Oil could get a huge boost since it’s been so ravaged. ECB action will give the Fed room to play, especially if deflation keeps up. Yellen is no Bernanke…yet, but she also hasn’t been tried either. If the Fed coordinates, all boats get lifted.

But the safest low key play is probably just to hug U.S. dollars until things are a little more clear.

I am ~78% cash, with positions in CCJ, BAS and VOC, down roughly 3% in the first two weeks of the year.

nOPEC

791 views

Oil just got beat again when it became public that OPEC is a dysfunctional organization. Who could have imagined that disparate oil producing nations with deep, cultural differences (read racism) might have trouble working through competition?

I never would have guessed it would crop up this quickly. But the demise of OPEC is hardly unforeseen. I myself penned an article this July discussing the possibility of the oil markets being upended.

But it is funny, reading through those thoughts going on just five months old, and seeing how violently they have diverged from what I expected.

I expected the development of US oil and gas reserves would create trouble for the old guards. I did not expect that oil would collapse 30% in two months. While you could say that those price swings were to be expected – just simple economics – I had expected the US might actually do more legislatively to erect a wall between us and the oil nations altogether. Obviously this happened much too quickly for any of that.

I had also guessed that when things started to get tough, OPEC would at least try to band together first. They’ve been successful at this in the past, so failing to construct even symbolic production cuts this round is certainly worse off along than I would have ventured.

The fallout in oil and energy names, following August, is not something I truthfully believed in. This may sound strange, but I was actually betting against myself when I made those sales of my oil and gas positions. And I never would have believed we’d fall so far. BAS is off 60% peak to trough, for crying out loud. Even when I knew we were experiencing a correction, I didn’t think it would be this extreme.

Now let’s put some context into all of this. Some of these energy names are trading at prices as bad as or worse than they were in 2010-2011 (when oil prices were pretty much where they are now); and lots of these energy companies were losing money back then, whereas they are making money today. I’m talking about BAS explicitly as an example.

So what happens now?

Well, I think that the prices of oil & gas plays are pretty compelling here. Yes oil is a bummer and there is big talk about $30 oil being right around the corner. And it’s no coincidence that I think this talk is stupid and that those responsible should be viciously ridiculed. I think the price drop is temporary, unremarkable and indistinct from any other major selloff that has gripped the price of oil in the past five years.

I think competition will continue to do real damage to the major oil nations in the world bringing about the greatest power shift of our lifetimes. But as apart from my peers, who seem to believe that a Venezuela or Russia has the ability to ramp up production into this price drop, leading to a deflationary spiral that ushers in 1990’s prices for all Western nations, I tend to feel this is silly.

You can’t call for the death of the Bakkens and simultaneously think that oil stays this low. Actually I have a hypothesis that the events that would have to converge to keep oil this low are few and far between. The big question here is timing as to when oil goes higher.

So my guess – and this is definitely just that – is that the US shale boom lives. And here’s what will enable that to happen.

These oil exporting countries have all made brazen moves with their budgets. Places like Russia, Saudi Arabia, or Iran are barely holding it together. Places like Venezuela can’t even muster that; oil prices for Venezuela are kind of like mattresses or trampolines to a guy already falling off a roof – a point of hope.

But if oil prices keep falling, you’re going to see one of these places – and Venezuela is definitely near the top of my list – buckle. Venezuela is probably the easiest case to get back to $100 oil, because one Venezuela is good enough to offset new US production. But it could just as easily be a combination of other smaller oil exporters. A half dozen of the smaller to mid size guys, or even a combination of Syria and Iraq plunging back into darkness. IS is obviously a possible trigger here; a bunch of pissed off twenty year olds, armed with rocket propelled grenades, trying to operate oil machinery? Sounds like a nice, safe combo.

What we’ve seen, repeatedly, is that when a place like, oh, Syria or Libya plunges into anarchy, it’s not just a small setback. Rather, the entire oil infrastructure gets taken offline for years at a time.

Another civil war or resurgent fighting could easily get us back to lower oil production in these places. Some US legislative work (now freed from the concerns about access to supply thanks to the US domestic advances) could help keep our own oil expertise from setting those places back up again after they tumble.

Why would we want to do this? Rome is sick of Carthage.

Just think about the sheer number of problems that these countries have dealt us over the past fifty years. We already know that the US can withstand $100 oil. We’ve been doing it for a few years now. And $100 oil benefits the US economy directly, whereas $80 oil is the worst of all worlds; too cheap or expensive to care about.

With the GOP in Congress and looking to juice the US a little, and with Obama increasingly looking for a major win, sticking a stake in the middle east is probably the lowest hanging fruit around. Kill IS by letting them destroy their own oil infrastructure, then restrict the companies that have usually bailed that region back out (Shell, Exxon, etcetera) from doing that. Lower Russia back into 1993 conditions, then tell Blankfein to keep out this time.

That’s how I see things playing out. Sure we could watch the US shale revolution just go to waste completely. But I think at this junction the US has a pretty vested interest in not letting that happen. It’s a new dawn, after all.

Going Higher

193 views

I don’t know if this is just a bounce or a new leg to the rally. But we’re going up, folks.

The EURUSD is back near 1.275, after bleeding below 1.27 earlier. The collapse of the euro has been the driving force of the move in oil and the correction in the markets. That’s it; the big mystery. The oil glut, the game of “guess demand whack-o-mole”, the sudden fear – nothing next to the euro.

The other excuses being provided are just not that relevant. The data is fine. Demand is shifting around and notoriously sluggish but altogether fine also. Jobs creation is slow, but fine. There’s no real data even reflecting the fears of observers on display yet.

But the euro is an undertow and its move from above 1.4 to below 1.27 did damage. It strengthened the dollar considerably and sent trade out of balance.

With the euro firming up a bit, it’s going to help take some of the edge off. For as long as the EURUSD is lifting I am constructive on stocks and commodities.

Made Purchases of BAS, HCLP and VOC

179 views

I deployed 2.5% of my account to buy BAS at $12.61.

I put another 2% of my account into HCLP for $47.18.

I put another 3% of my account into VOC for $9.83.

Small margin balance. I am not just commenting when I say I am betting on oil. What we are experience in the oil market is not at all unusual. What is unusual is the sheer lengths that people have taken to sell oil stocks, with almost no evidence, other than a little correction in oil prices, that they are right.

The Entirety Of The Saudi Arabia Rumor Is Complete Hogwash

228 views

There is a tale floating around that Saudi Arabia is somehow single handedly collapsing the price of oil to destroy Western reserve development. And it is total nonsense.

Reports last month show Saudi Arabia is actually cutting production to maintain pricing.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries finally appears to be responding to the lower demand outlook.

According to the IEA, Saudi Arabia cut its oil output by 330,000 barrels a day last month, apparently in response to lower demand from its customers and a shift in the oil producer’s focus toward Asian markets. The Kingdom’s oil exports are likely to have run below 7 million barrels a day for the last four months, their lowest level since September 2011, as domestic consumption ratcheted up over the summer and supply to the U.S. fell, the IEA said.

I would have called bull on this sooner, but I was a little out of the loop and figured the oil selloff was just a correction anyway.

As for demand concerns, IEA reports have demand for oil growing every year for the foreseeable future. They cut the steepness of this growth and now there’s a jockeying move in markets to price out certain projects. But correcting the plunge in oil is going to be as easy as some field development getting publicly mothballed.

There is absolutely no credibility to this tall tale. Saudi Arabia is not going to be able to single handedly destroy the Bakken’s. They probably wouldn’t want to anyway. The US fields need expensive oil to justify development. Expensive oil plays directly into Saudi Arabia’s hand, since they have very low cost extraction.

If Saudi Arabia insists on meeting the demand that the US fields otherwise would have provided, they’re going to do so at a price per barrel closer to $60. Up until recently, they were getting $100 just by leaving some room on the field. That means Saudi Arabia was getting the same revenue for almost half the production levels, geniuses.

What do you think that does for Saudi Arabia’s oil field life expectancy?

The Saudi’s need the fracking oil because it justifies high prices. High prices buy Saudi Arabia vastly more time. Saudi Arabia would be stupid to try and beat down newer methods of extraction because they would exhaust themselves quicker and ultimately those sources would just come back on line anyway down the line.

Hmmm…step aside for newer extraction methods, get the same revenue for half the effort (weighs the one hand)…try and physically drive these methods out of business, exert double the effort with nothing extra to show for it (weighs the other).

Quit trying to be so cute with these conspiracy theories. Jimmy can go fuck himself.

Bought Back More HCLP for $59.39

176 views

Over the past week or so, I raised cash to 25%. This was good fortune, as HCLP, my mantelpiece position, has dropped 8% since I let up.

Today, I repurchased half of those shares, which I sold at $64.19 each, for $59.39.

It seems like good enough of a bet to me. HCLP is growing so fast… it’s trading at just over 17x Q3 2014 earnings estimates. I have no good way to guess what HCLP’s earning’s potential is over time; but 17x doesn’t seem unreasonable, particularly with a steady announcement of 5 year supply agreements being announced and 200% revenue growth last year. When you’ve managed to get in on the ground floor of such a high flying position, it just makes sense to hold long a core stake, and ride the waves.

This 8% drop is just another opportunity to make extra money, until such time as that logic is challenged. For the moment, HCLP just managed to touch its 20 day moving average for the first time since early June.

Next earnings announcement is in August. So tell me, who wants to stand in the way of this thing?

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