Posts tagged ‘gold’

Paulson Funds: From Ruth’s Chris’s to Denny’s

Investing in hedge funds is similar to eating at a high-priced establishment like Ruth’s Chris’s (RUTH) – not everyone can eat there and the prices are high. In dining terms, John Paulson, President of Paulson & Co. (approximately $34 billion in assets under management), may be considered the managing chef of the upper-crust restaurant. But rather than opening the doors of his funds to an elite few, Paulson is now making his select strategies available to the masses through a much more affordable structure. Or in other words, Paulson is opening an investing version of Denny’s (DENN), in addition to his Ruth’s Chris, so a broader set of investors can buy into his funds at a reasonable price.

Hedge funds typically are reserved for pension funds, endowments, wealthy individuals, or so-called “accredited investors” – individuals earning $200,000 annually, couples earning $300,000, or people with a net worth greater than $1,000,000. By using alternate structures, Paulson will be able to bypass the accredited investor regulatory requirements and reach a more expansive audience.

UCITS Added as a New Item on the Menu

How exactly is Paulson opening his hedge fund strategies to the broader public on a Denny’s menu? He is assembling what is called a “Ucits” structure (Undertakings for Collective Investments in Transferable Securities). These investment vehicles, adopted in 1985, resemble mutual funds and are domiciled in Europe. Although Ucits have been used by relatively few hedge fund managers, Paulson is not the first to institute them (York Capital, Highbridge Capital Management, BlueCrest Capital, and AHL are among the others who have already taken the plunge). According to the Financial Times, Paulson’s Ucits funds will launch later this year. Part of the reason this structure was chosen over others is because the regulations associated with these structures are expected to be less stringent than other onerous regulations currently being discussed by the European Union.

Will the Investing Mouths be Fed?

Should this move by Paulson be surprising? Perhaps Andy Warhol’s quote about everyone being famous for 15 minutes is apropos. Paulson’s $15 billion subprime housing profits in 2007 (read The Greatest Trade Ever)  were a handsome reward and now he is attempting to further his wealth position based on this notoriety. Do I blame him? No, not at all, but time will tell if he will be viewed as a one-hit wonder, or whether his subprime bet was only an opening act. More recently, Paulson has been vocal about his seemingly peculiar combination of bullish wagers on gold and California real estate, which he sees rising in price by +20% in 2010 (see Paulson on California home rally).  With his optimistic outlook on the U.S. markets and economy, his gold play apparently is riding on the expectation of a future inflation flare up, not another financial meltdown, which was the catalyst that catapulted gold prices higher in late 2008 and throughout 2009.

I’m not sure how many domestic investors will participate in these Ucits investments, however I am eager to see the prospectuses associated with the funds. Like most hedge funds, caution should be used when investing in these types of vehicles, and should only be used as a part of a broadly diversified investment portfolio. For most investors, my guess is the Paulson funds will have an attractive price of entry (i.e., availability), much like a Denny’s restaurant, but the quality and fee structure may be as desirable as a $5.99 greasy steak and pile of gravy-covered mash potatoes.

Read the Entire Financial Times Article on Paulson’s Ucits Launch

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®  

Plan. Invest. Prosper.  

www.Sidoxia.com 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in RUTH, DENN, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

July 25, 2010 at 11:25 pm Leave a comment

Seesawing Through Organized Chaos

Still fresh in the minds of investors are the open wounds created by the incredible volatility that peaked just a little over a year ago, when the price of insurance sky-rocketed as measured by the Volatility Index (VIX).  Even though equity markets troughed in March of 2009, earlier the VIX reached a climax over 80 in November 2008. With financial institutions falling like flies and toxic assets clogging up the lending pipelines, virtually all asset classes moved downwards in unison during the frefall of 2008 and early 2009. The traditional teeter-totter phenomenon of some asset classes rising simultaneously while others were falling did not hold.  With the recent turmoil in Greece coupled with the “Flash Crash” (read making $$$ trading article) and spooky headline du jour, the markets have temporarily reverted back to organized chaos. What I mean by that is even though the market recently dove about +8% in 8 days, we saw the teeter-totter benefits of diversification kick in over the last month.

Seesaw Success

While the S&P fell about -4.5% over the studied period below, the alternate highlighted asset classes managed to grind out positive returns.

 

While traditional volatility has returned after a meteoric bounce in 2009, there should be more investment opportunities to invest around. With the VIX hovering in the mid-30s after a brief stay above 40 a few weeks ago, I would not be surprised to see a reversion to a more normalized fear gauge in the 20s – although my game plan is not dependent on this occurring.

VIX Chart Source: Yahoo! Finance

Regardless of the direction of volatility, I’m encouraged that even during periods of mini-panics, there are hopeful signs that investors are able to seesaw through periods of organized chaos with the assistance of good old diversification.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds (including AGG, BND, VNQ, IJR and TIP), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in VXX, GLD,  or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

May 19, 2010 at 12:28 am 3 comments

Stewart Makes Skewered Beck-Kebabs

Since Fox news-host, Glenn Beck, has been peddling death and destruction, John Stewart, host of the The Daily Show, decided to dish out some devastation of his own to Mr. Beck by skewering him on several issues. Specifically, Stewart questions whether Beck’s Armageddon view on the economy may be influenced by an economic conflict of interest in gold (not just a political axe to grind)?

Beck on Gold

View The Daily Show Clip on Glenn Beck

As the third party mentions, “If you are worried about worrying, you go out and you buy gold.”

Is Glenn Beck a worried, gold lover? (see other IC articles: Gold #1 & Gold #2) Well, judging by the seven responses of Beck specifically spouting out “gold”, along with his panic-filled quotes, I would say “yes”:

  • “America is burning down to the ground!”
  • “Here are the three scenarios that we could be facing: recession, depression, or collapse.”
  • “Here’s our second scenario: global civil unrest.”
  • “You are the protector of liberty. You are the guardian of freedom.”

If these feelings were not enough, Beck also goes on to compare the country’s situation to Nazi Germany.

Do any of these issues worry you? Well if they do, then good for gold prices and good also for Glenn Beck, because he is a paid spokesman for Goldline.com, a site that sells gold.

This is how John Stewart boils down the incestuous relationship between Fox, Goldline.com, and Beck:

“This is a kinda nice feedback loop.  Glenn Beck is paid by Goldline to drum up interest in gold, which increases in value during times of fear, an emotion reinforced nightly on Fox by Glenn Beck. Alright, I’m almost sold. Fox is vouching for Beck, and Beck is vouching for Goldmine.”

 

Gold Pricing & Demand

With gold prices setting new all-time highs earlier this month, one might expect gold demand to be sky-rocketing…actually not. Just last month, the World Gold Council said gold demand totaled 800.3 tons in Q3, down -34% year-over-year. What’s more, the supply of gold inventories is at record highs (Comex) and mining production rose +6% over the same time period. Generally speaking, economics would say the combination of these factors would be a bad formula for prices.

Beck and the CEO of Goldmine.com use inflation adjusted prices based on the last $850/oz. peak in 1980 to rationalize $2,000/oz+ targets for gold. If that’s the case then I guess NASDAQ targets of 10,000 (2x of the 5,000 year 2000 peak) shouldn’t be out of the question either (the index currently trades around  2,190)? In the meantime, I’ll let the speculative gold dust settle and comfortably watch from the sidelines.

Source: InvestmentTools.com

Hemorrhoid Hypocrisy on Healthcare

In an earlier The Daily Show episode, Stewart questions the consistency of Beck’s changing views on healthcare. So which one is it? Is it the best healthcare program in the world, or the one that doesn’t care for Glenn Beck and the “schlubs that are just average working stiffs?”

In creating a feeling of alarm regarding healthcare reform, here’s what Beck had to say in the middle of the healthcare reform debate:

  • “You’re about to lose the best healthcare system in the world.”
  • “America already has the best healthcare in the world. We do take care of our sick.”

Rewind 16 months earlier upon completion of Beck’s hemorrhoid surgery:

  • “Getting well in this country, can almost kill you.”
  • “No matter how much the health care system would try to keep me down, I’m back.”

See Daily Show Clip on Healthcare and Glenn Beck

All this bickering can upset your stomach, but after John Stewart’s skewering of Glenn Beck, I have this sudden urge for shish kebabs. Bon appétit until next time…

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds (VFH) and RTP in client and personal portfolios at the time of publishing. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

December 15, 2009 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Clashing Views with Dr. Roubini

Sword-Fight

The say keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer. Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics and international business at the NYU Stern School of Business, is not an enemy, but I think his fluctuating views (see previous story) and Armageddon expectations are off base. Perma-bears like Roubini and Peter Schiff (view article) have gloated and danced in the media limelight due to their early but eventually right calls. Over the last seven months or so, their forecasts on the U.S. economy and markets have been off the mark. With that said, even those with competing views at times can find common ground. For Nouriel and I, we currently share similar beliefs on gold (see my article on gold).

Here’s what Professor Roubini has to say:

I don’t believe in gold. Gold can go up for only two reasons. [One is] inflation, and we are in a world where there are massive amounts of deflation because of a glut of capacity, and demand is weak, and there’s slack in the labor markets with unemployment peeking above 10 percent in all the advanced economies. So there’s no inflation, and there’s not going to be for the time being.
The only other case in which gold can go higher with deflation is if you have Armageddon, if you have another depression. But we’ve avoided that tail risk as well. So all the gold bugs who say gold is going to go to $1,500, $2,000, they’re just speaking nonsense. Without inflation, or without a depression, there’s nowhere for gold to go. Yeah, it can go above $1,000, but it can’t move up 20-30 percent unless we end up in a world of inflation or another depression. I don’t see either of those being likely for the time being. Maybe three or four years from now, yes. But not anytime soon.”

 

My thoughts on oil are less bearish, but nonetheless more cautious given the massive price bounce to around $80 per barrel. Could I see prices coming down to $50 like Roubini feels is appropriate? Certainly. With the $100+ per barrel swing we saw last year, I cannot discount completely the possibility of that scenario. However, unlike gold, oil has a much stronger utility value, and based on the slow adoption of more expensive alternative energies, this commodity will be in strong demand for many years to come. The pace of global economic recovery, especially in countries like China, India, and Brazil provide an underlying demand for the petroleum product. In order to understand the underlying bid for this economic lubricant, all one has to do is look at the appetite of emerging economies like China when it comes to this black gold (see my article on China).

And where does Roubini think markets go from here?

“If the recovery of the economy is going to be anemic, sub-par, below-trend and U-shaped, there is going to be a correction. And therefore my view is to stay away from risky assets. Stay in liquid assets. I don’t know when the correction is going to occur, it could be a while longer, but eventually it will be a pretty ugly correction, across many different asset classes.”

 

Perhaps Roubini’s “double dip” fears will eventually come true – and he leaves himself plenty of room with vague loose language – however, I follow the philosophy of Peter Lynch: ‘‘If you spend more than 14 minutes a year worrying about the market, you’ve wasted 12 minutes.” Great companies don’t disappear in challenging markets – they become cheaper – and new innovative companies emerge to replace the old guard.

As much as I would like to be right all the time, that’s not the case. In order to learn from past mistakes and continually improve my process, it’s important to get the views of others…even from those with clashing perspectives.

Read IndexUniverse.com Interview  with Nouriel Roubini Here

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management and client accounts do not have direct long or short positions in gold positions, however accounts do have long exposure to certain energy stocks and ETFs. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

October 29, 2009 at 2:00 am 6 comments

Shiny Metal Shopping with Schiff, Rogers, and Faber

Shopping-Gold

There I am, strolling through Costco (COST) with a pallet full of toilet paper, Diet Coke, and a garbage bag-sized bag of tortilla chips on my flat orange cart. As I roll into the cash register, I feel a cold panic grab me, only to realize I forgot my 25 pound gold brick in my car trunk as a method of payment for my necessities. Sound far-fetched? Probably not, if you are a part of the hyper-inflationary “Three Musketeers”: Peter Schiff, Jimmy Rogers, and Marc Faber.

Here is what some of the “world-is-ending” crowd is saying:

Peter Schiff (President of Euro Pacific Capital – Connecticut Senator Candidate):  He sees the market potentially going much higher, but “it doesn’t matter how much money we have because we’re not going to be able to buy anything with it.”

Marc Faber (a.k.a.,“Dr Doom”, creator of  the Gloom Boom & Doom Report): When asked by faux frog boiler and Fox News reporter Glenn Beck if he believes “it is 100% guaranteed that we are going to have hyper-inflation like Zimbabwe,” Faber’s short and to-the-point response was simply, “Yes, that’s correct.”

Jimmy Rogers (Chairman of Rogers Holdings): “I’m afraid they’re printing so much money that stocks could go to 20,000 or 30,000,” Rogers said. “Of course it would be in worthless money, but it could happen and you could lose a lot of money being short,” he adds. Mr. Rogers likes gold too: “I own gold, I’m not selling it.”

PRICING IN GOLD

One consistent theme heard from these three economic bears is that the Dow and other market indexes should be measured on a gold adjusted basis. Since Peter Schiff’s Dow 10,000 to 3,000 forecast never came to fruition (See Schiff’s other questionable predictions), he rationalizes it this way, “So if you price the 2002 Dow in gold, the Dow is at 3,000 now.” Marc Faber makes a similar argument by saying the Dow could double from today, but with gold tripling your worth will be down. That’s funny, because if I price the Dow based on 2002 lumber prices (rather than gold), the Dow would actually be up to about 20,000 (more than 2x its value today)! If prices should truly be measured in gold, then why doesn’t Goldman Sachs’ (GS) and others provide inflation adjusted price targets on their research reports? If gold is the true measure of value, then why can’t I pay off my American Express (AXP) bill by mailing in my gold necklace?

GOLD FEVER

With the effective quadrupling of gold prices in the last seven years (~$250/oz to ~$1,000/oz), gold bugs are more confidently pounding their chests and throwing out multi-thousand, frothy price targets. For example, Peter Schiff predicted $2,000 per ounce by 2009 (who knows, maybe he’ll be right and gold will be up another 100% in the ne next 90 days…cough, cough). Not only are you hearing the strategists and investors bang their drums more loudly, but gold advertisements are plastered all over the radio, television, and internet. Here are a few excerpts*:

  • “Watch your gold investments be “on the money” every 9 out of 10 times.”
  • “Gold prices could reach $2,300 an ounce or more before it’s over. Buyers of gold bullion at $900 an ounce could earn a return of +155%. That’s very good. But there’s an even BETTER WAY!”
  • “Discover Our Little Known “Gold Price Predictor” That Has Been Spot On Every Single Time… Since 1901..!”
  • “Turn EVERY $1 Of GOLD Into $10…Or MORE!”

Sources: streetauthority.com and soverignsociety.com

ALTERNATIVE SCENARIO

Another scenario to consider is a complete collapse in gold prices (and surge in the dollar) like we saw in the early 1980s We experienced about a -65% drop in gold prices (~$800/oz. to $300/oz.) from 1980-1982 and saw ZERO price appreciation for about a 25 year period. When did this abysmal period for gold begin? Right about the same time that Paul Volcker raised interest rates to fight inflation.  Hmmm, I wonder what next direction of interest rates will be, especially with the Federal Funds rate currently at effectively 0%? Could we see a repeat of the early ‘80s? Seems like a possibility to me. Certainly if you fall into the Marshal Law, civil unrest, soup kitchen, and bread line camp, like the “Three Musketeers,” then burying tons of gold in your homemade bunker may indeed be an appropriate strategy.

Another head scratcher is all the talk revolving around an inflation driven market rebound. If inflation is truly the worry, then shouldn’t the “Three Musketeers” be massively short and be concerned about declining PE (Price/Earnings) multiples, like the single digit PE levels we saw in the late-1970s and early-1980s (when we were experiencing double-digit inflation)?

As I have chronicled, there can be some mixed interpretations regarding the direction of future gold prices. If you think a repeat of Volcker driven gold price collapse of the early ‘80s is possible, then establishing a heavy short position may be the ticket for you. If on the other hand, you are in the gold $4,000 camp, then it might be best to carry a few extra gold bars in the trunk for your next Costco trip.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management and client accounts do not have direct long or short positions in COST, GS, AXP or gold positions. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

September 30, 2009 at 2:00 am 5 comments

Gold Market Lunacy Kicking Into Gear

Funny Face

So wait a second, let me get this right. A company pays billions of dollars to buy insurance, and then decides to sell $3.5 billion in dilutive ownership rights (current stockholders losing more than 10% of their ownership) so that they can pay somebody else another $5.6 billion to take that same insurance they previously loved away. In my book, I call that lunacy. This madness is exactly what Barrick Gold (ABX) just decided to do. The world’s largest gold miner issued approximately 95 million common shares at $37 per share to remove gold price hedges (used to lock in gold prices at a certain level), so if gold prices spike Barrick will now be able to participate fully without the drag of the hedges.

Effectively, management has decided to turn the mining company into a Vegas casino, where shareholders can now freely speculate in the price of gold without the volatility reducing hedges in place. Does this outlandish behavior signal a top in gold prices (now hovering around $1,000 per ounce)? I’m not stupid enough to call the end of frothing, speculative behavior – just witness Alan Greenspan’s “irrational exuberance” speech in 1996 when the NASDAQ traded at 1,300 (then went on to peak above 5,000). But what I am bold enough to do is call a spade a spade and to point out how ridiculous this reverse hedging activity is.

Other signs of speculation beyond the 4x price increase over the last 8 years or so, is the fact that gold prices have risen in the face of incredibly weak gold jewelry demand, -22% year-over-year globally in Q2 according to the Gold Demand Trends. This leaves the remaining demand coming largely from speculators and global central banks. If you need more evidence for the gold speculation, just turn on your local AM radio station and listen for the endless number of get-rich-quick on gold advertisements – some stations need to fill the gaping hole once held by those advertisers hawking mortgages.

From a gold investors’ perspective, I would say I fall more into Warren Buffett camp of thinking. Unlike other commodities (some of which I believe will be driven upwards by my emerging market demand and other forces) , gold is something dug up from the dirt in South Africa, melted, transported to another hole, buried in the ground (central bank), and then storage costs are incurred to guard the shiny metal. Sure, jewelry and small commercial applications are drivers for real demand, but the majority of demand is derived from intangible desires. Other commodities, for example oil, copper, uranium, and natural gas offer a lot more utility.

So what’s next when it comes to the price of gold? Peter Schiff an uber-gold bull broker at Euro Pacific Capital believes Armageddon is coming for the U.S. economy and hyper-inflation will drive gold upwards to the $4,000 per ounce price range (See How Peter Schiff’s Other Forecasts Have Performed). Another possibility to consider is a complete collapse in gold prices (and surge in the dollar) like we saw in the early 1980s after Paul Volcker raised interest rates and gold prices did not appreciate for a 25 year period. Hmmm, I wonder what direction interest rates are going next with the Federal Funds rate currently at effectively 0%? Could we see a repeat of the early ‘80s? Seems like a possibility to me. Certainly if you fall into the civil unrest, soup kitchen, and bread line camp, like Schiff and other U.S. bears, then piling into the diluted Barrick Gold shares may not be a bad strategy.

Inflation

Given the massive stimulus, debt loads, money supply growth and legislative agendas currently in place, inflation is a major medium and long-term concern. My remedy is government guaranteed Treasury Inflated Protection Securities (TIPS) that not only compensates investors with interest payments (unlike gold), but will also see principal values increase in tandem with principal if inflation indeed rears its ugly head. For those conspiracy theorists that believe the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is rigged, there are alternative international flavors of TIPs that reset according to other inflation benchmarks. As a kicker, some of these particular securities offer a hedge against a sliding U.S. dollar, which may or may not continue.

So as I lie in my recliner with my popcorn and TIPs, I’ll watch Barrick and other speculators continue the gold buying frenzy, wondering when and how ugly the gold finale will be?

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management and client accounts do not have direct long or short positions in ABX or gold related securities or BRKA/B at the time the article was published. Sidoxia Capital Management and its clients do have long exposure to TIP shares. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

September 14, 2009 at 4:00 am 1 comment

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