Why Bitcoin is the Trade of a Lifetime #Podcast

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency and blockchain in general present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience explosive wealth generation within an asset class that is set to not only disrupt the banking but also the legal sector.

Although investing in established asset classes are safer (e.g. stocks, bonds, and property) safer assets also have less potential for growth. It is unlikely you will make significant money in safe investments. Great wealth made quickly is normally achieved by ramping up risk significantly, e.g. through leverage or by shifting funds into risky areas, e.g. emerging and frontier countries as well as emerging and frontier technologies.

Blockchain is a frontier technology, a nascent market unburdened by excessive regulation or rent-seeking monopolistic entities. It will not be like this forever. We have already seen web, social media, and smartphone technologies becoming dominated by large companies that have laid in place the infrastructure upon which commerce in these areas operate, e.g. Google in web; Facebook in social media; and Google, Samsung, and Apple in smartphones. These three tech sectors of web, social media, and smartphones make up the bulk of the Nasdaq 100, an index that is now quite saturated.

Investing Under a Trump Presidency [Podcast]

I am certainly not a Trump fan. I actually find the man quite disgusting, and I watched in horror as he was elected President of the USA. That being said, the stock market boom following his election has increased my net worth considerably, and I expect more gains in 2017. However, there are significant risks involved in investing in American equities at this time, so while you should be exposed to the market to capture all the gains from this bull market, you must be prepared to exit the market quickly once it is clear the boom is over.

Other topics discussed in this podcast include Wall Street’s complete takeover of the White House as well as reasons why residential real estate is a bad investment.

 

The Benefits of Market Timing

I am mostly a dividend investor who invests in ETFs that pay high dividends. However, lately I have been setting aside a portion of money to try time the market. I see the main benefit of market timing to be capital protection. If the markets go down, you want to deleverage and derisk your portfolio as fast as possible.

Basically I can detect a lot of euphoria in the market right now, and it looks like there is a bubble (in my opinion). All this reminds me of a quote from the great George Soros:

“When I see a bubble forming, I rush in to buy, adding fuel to the fire.” ~ George Soros

When a bubble forms, it is best to stay invested because this is when demand is strong, and if you are invested and highly leveraged, you will make a lot of money. The key is to monitor the markets carefully so you sell just before the market crashes. In my opinion, this is why direct property is the worst investment.

If the 2009 property crash happens again, it may takes months to sell a property, which is too late when the market is dropping. Liquidity is very important. The benefit of using shares and ETFs is that they can be sold instantly with your smartphone. You can get out quickly and cleanly.

For me market timing is about downside protection. When there is a bull market, it is best to be able to capture all the gains, so being leveraged is best. However, markets go up and down, and given all the money printing and stimulus, I feel we are highly likely to hit a massive market crash soon. I have been looking at the PE ratio of the S&P 500 throughout history and how it goes in cycles. We are reaching a stage now when the PE ratio for the S&P 500 is at historic highs.

However, you don’t know when a bubble will pop, if ever, so it’s best to be long and leveraged to capture all the profit while everyone is exuberant, but when the market goes down significantly, you need to get out before others who are leveraged start to get their margin calls, and then the losses will be transferred to the buy and holders and permabulls. It may be the case that, rather than a crash, there is massive money printing, which will lead to inflation, which may prop up the bubble but hurt the average man through higher cost of living. Because of this, it is a good idea to be invested in stocks, including gold mining and commodity stocks.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with market timing. Even if you make less money because you are not fully invested when the market rallies, I see market timing as an insurance policy against a massive crash that could wipe out everything. Imagine working your whole life to amass a massive portfolio of stocks and property and then when you’re old and about to retire suddenly the stock and property markets crash and you lose 70% of your wealth. Simply monitoring the markets and selling when things start to go down can prevent all that. The markets may rally right after you sell, but the opportunity cost of that, I think, is nothing compared to what you could have lost.

My Thoughts on “The Big Short”

Yesterday I was watching a movie called The Big Short and it’s an awesome movie about the GFC. The movie makes me wonder about whether we are in for another financial crash. Stock and property markets went down about 50% in America and most countries around the world, but since then central bank injections of cash seem to have restored everything.

This movie blames the property crash on subprime loans, but at the end of the day subprime lending popped the entire American housing bubble. The bubble was there in the first place, and the bubble was in property, not just subprime property but also prime property, which is why property prices in the US fell across the board.

This movie also really exposed how corrupt and fraudulent the financial system is. The biggest injustice of all, in my opinion, is that investment banks created these toxic assets (CDOs, etc) and then when they were worthless they simply did a deal with the government to unload it onto the government in return for printed money (or bailout money). This pretty much means the banks can do whatever they want knowing that if things go wrong they can simply get the government to bail them out. If you or I started a cafe and the business failed, the government will not bail us out. However, this does not apply to bankers, the holders of capital. Capitalism, therefore, does not apply to capitalists. Bankers can create bubbles, create bad assets, and then sell these assets, and if everything goes wrong they can just tell the government to take it off their hands. There should be no bailout, and those who held CDOs should have been left to learn the errors of their ways. By bailing them out, you only reward bad behavior.

Looking at it this way, the banking industry is simply an arm of the government. Banks are simply government business enterprises.

The original view was that if the government prints money to buy these toxic assets off bankers, this would cause inflation, but these toxic assets are usually highly leveraged, and more debt actually increases the amount of the money in circulation, which is inflationary. As debt prices go down (e.g. there is a debt bubble that pops) then this means the expectation is that loans will not get paid, and the amount of money in circulation goes down, which is deflationary. The government printing money simply restores the money supply back to original levels. 

How to invest

My investing strategy is pretty simple. I’ve been focusing mainly on dividends and looking at funds that provide low volatility. The perfect ETF on the ASX, in my opinion, is Betashares’s HVST, which has a double-digit yield and pays monthly. It also uses derivatives to lower volatility by selling futures when volatility is high. If the market crashes, I’m sure this fund will go down, but it won’t go down that much, and while everything is rosy, this fund will produce great dividends, which is awesome.

If there is a GFC 2, I expect to take a hit. My net worth will go down, but I have been loading my portfolio up with funds that are designed to be low volatility (such as HVST) as well as other defensive investments like gold mining ETFs (ASX: GDX) as well as bond funds, and so if my net worth goes down, it won’t go down much, and when the market bottoms, I will definitely be plowing as much money as possible into leveraged ETFs expecting the government to print money to restore the economy. While the market is likely in bubble territory now, it’s also a good idea to keep debt levels low because a major risk when there is a market crash is that a margin call will be triggered. Keeping debt low reduces the risk of this happening. Furthermore, as the market bottoms, if your debt levels are low, you have more ability to take on more debt to invest when the market bottoms, which means you can leverage into leveraged ETFs and achieve “double leverage” to magnify your returns once central bankers start firing up the printing presses.

Bottom line is that at this stage you should load up your portfolio with defensive assets, e.g. cash, bonds, gold, as well as “smart beta” low-volatility ETFs, but don’t go all into these defensive assets because it’s almost impossible to determine when a bubble will pop. As they say, a market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent, so often when a bubble is formed, it’s often best to simply ride the bubble and make money, but always have a plan to protect yourself if the bubble bursts. There must be a plan B.

 

How to Invest Post-Brexit

The ASX200 went down about 5% after Brexit. A few days earlier, I purchased about $19k worth of gold mining ETFs (ASX: GDX). GDX went up 10% on Friday, so much that it made up for the losses from my other investments in my margin loan account. However, if you add up money in other areas, such as my super fund, my Vanguard funds, and so forth, I’m sure I made a net loss immediately after Brexit. I believe that there is a huge bubble right now in the economy caused by money printing. The economy is fragile because this bubble could pop any moment now, but it’s difficult to know when the bubble will pop. It may take decades before the bubble pops, so you need to have a strategy that allows you to profit when the bubble continues to inflate while also protecting you if the bubble pops.

What I am doing is focusing on dividend income but hedging this portfolio by buying gold mining stocks, gold ETFs, and maybe some government bond ETFs. I am less bullish on bonds because I think that they are artificially being pumped up with printed money. Gold is better as a safe haven asset compared to bonds as bonds are being artificially inflated by central bankers.

In my opinion, we are entering a period of stagnation similar to what we see in Japan where the stock market goes sideways and there is no more growth. We have reached the limits of growth, in fact. Investing in dividends allows you to capture income as the market goes sideways, and if the bubble bursts, gold will protect you. You are covered either way.

soap-bubble-824558_1920
What will burst the bubble?

How Money Printing Can Fail

The world economy came crashing in 2009 but was rescued through money printing. Standard economic theory would say that money printing would increase inflation, but we haven’t seen that.

If anything, the threat has been deflation (prices falling), and central banks lower interest rates or print money to cause inflation and fight deflation.

Lower interest rates encourage more people to borrow, and borrowing increases the money supply, so the effect is similar to money printing in that there is more money in the economy.

When people are confident, they tend to borrow money so that they can e.g. expand their business or buy more shares or real estate so that they can make even more money. However, when people are bearish, they don’t borrow because they may not be able to make enough money to pay off the loan, and so they tend to focus on paying off the debt. If going into debt increases money supply, paying off debt does the opposite, which is reduce the money supply. Paying off debt destroys money, which leads to deflation.

The game central banks seem to be playing is to wait for a dip in the market or a time when there is falling confidence and hence there is deflation. Then they lower interest rates or print money. People then expect the higher money supply will push up the prices of the property, shares, businesses, etc that they hold due to higher money supply increasing inflation, and then they borrow or leverage more, which pushes the market back up.

In theory, this can go on forever. As deflation occurs, just stimulate more.

There is one problem with this, which is what happens when money is printed but the recipients of printed money don’t do anything with it because they are concerned and want to “wait and see.” If interest rates are lowered, the expectation is that people will borrow more, but what if they don’t? Even if interest rates are zero, if returns on investments are negative, it’s not worth borrowing to invest. Likewise, if the recipients of printed money feel that all investments are poor and that the best use of money is to just leave it as cash, then this reduces the so-called velocity of money in the economy, which is deflationary.

In the past, assets produced great income. However, as money is bring printed in record quantities and interest rates are lowered, people are grabbing that easy money and investing it. If, say, a house in South America produced a rental yield of 10 percent, then as investors borrow money and buy the house, the prices go up, which lowers the rental yield. As the yield goes down, investors search for other assets. This is the so-called global hunt for yield.

As the global hunt for yield continues, investors need to search far and wide to find returns. Two ETFs have been released for the ASX that satisfy investor appetite for yield. There is an ETF that invests in junk bonds, i.e. lending money to bad companies (iShares Global High Yield Bond (AUD Hedged) ETF). There is also an ETF that lends money to emerging market governments (iShares J.P. Morgan USD Emerging Markets Bond (AUD Hedged) ETF).

As interest rates and money printing intensify, investors may reach the point where the global hunt for yield ends because all avenues will be exhausted. Investors then either don’t borrow at all or if money is printed and thrown at them, they do nothing with it. This bubble in yield pops.

This is when stimulus fails, and it looks like we are getting close to that day.

The Dismal Future of the Australian Economy

gold price vs asx200 27 august 2015
GOLD vs the ASX200 (Commsec)

The recent volatility in stock markets has gotten me worried. Everyone keeps telling me to relax because “economic fundamentals are sound,” but when I ask them to explain how this is true, it’s revealed that they don’t really know what they’re talking about. It seems that most people just hope for the best and rationalize away bad news.

The Chinese stock market is certainly wobbly. Some say the Chinese economy is very healthy. After all, they have low debt and a massive foreign exchange reserve. They are the biggest lender nation in the world with the USA the biggest creditor nation. However, we don’t really know much about the true size of China’s debt because there is significant activity in the underground economy that is not transparent, and I’m not too confident in official figures provided by the Chinese government. Of course, China has been manufacturing products from t-shirts to smartphones, but the government has in recent years been intervening in the economy to prop up the stock and property markets. It’s uncertain whether these distortions can be held together by the government or whether the market will eventually strike back.

America has resorted to printing money, which has resulted in surges in the stock and bond markets. However, unemployment is still high and wage growth is low. Printing money doesn’t seem to have done anything other than make the holders of stocks and bonds wealthy (these are mostly wealthy people anyway).

In Australia, our economy used to be dominated by two sectors: the banks and the miners. The miners dug resources from the ground and shipped them to China. China makes goods and ships them to US consumer who buys these goods.

But the American consumer (or consumers from any other developed country) is not buying as much as they did before the GFC. This means China is slowing down, the price of resources is dropping, and the mining sector in Australia is getting crushed. We only have the banks left, and how do they make money? The balance sheets of Australian banks is mostly in loans to consumers who buy real estate. Real estate prices have been going up thanks to profits from mining. In other words, banks do well because house prices have been sustained by profits from the resources sector. Now that mining is dead, what will sustain us? Where are our strong fundamentals? House prices only go up with people buy houses, but to buy houses you need to make money in the first place. You can’t make money from houses without putting money into it in the first place.

Many who have bought stocks have made great wealth from quantitative easing, but now that tears are emerging in a bubbling world economy held together by printed money, it’s time to look at investing in gold.

Gold tends to shoot up significantly when stocks tumble, and when stocks go down, gold tends to go sideways or go up anyway, so there doesn’t seem to be any downside to investing in gold.

Personally, I will be buying this shiny metal from now on.