Wednesday, April 30, 2008

News Alert: Brazil Government Debt Upgraded

According to news sources (which have not hit the major newswires as of the time of this posting which is 3:06 PM), Brazil's government debt has been upgraded. This had been expected in the second half of this year. So, this announcement caught investors off guard and pleasantly surprised.

By raising the rating to investment grade, Brazil's cost of capital will almost certainly decline. Additionally, the upgrade opens the door for more capital that is restricted to investment grade only.

Recently, news re the large oil fields off the Sao Paulo coast of Brazil had stimulated much investor excitement. This excitement was tempered with comments re questions as to the size of the fields (as high as 40 billion barrels - Tupi and Sugarloaf/Carioca fields combined) and the complexity extracting the oil (up to six miles deep, among other factors).

Investment Strategy Implications

One of the investment positions in the Model Growth Portfolio* is ILF - Latin America 40, which is comprised predominantly of Brazilian issues, some Mexican issues (mostly energy), and a smattering of other Latin American companies.

More on this story as details become better known.

*see performance chart to your left.
Note: Accounts managed by Blue Marble Research hold positions in ILF and EWZ (Brazil ETF). Neither Vinny Catalano nor any member of his family hold positions ILF or EWZ.

Beyond the Sound Bite: An Interview Vahan Janjigian, CFA, Ph.D.

In my conversation with the Chief Investment Strategist for Forbes, Inc. and author of "Even Buffett Isn't Perfect" we discussed his bearish economic outlook, a cautious equity markets view, why Financials while beginning to look attractive have more work to do before becoming a buy, his bottom-up/value approach to investing, and his upcoming book on the greatest value investor of all-time, Warren Buffett.

All Beyond the Sound Bite postings can be found at
To listen to this week's podcast interview, click here

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Defining the Credit Crisis

Since the credit crisis began, investors have been bombarded with acronyms and phrases that most had very little direct experience with. Since the credit crisis is far from over and has both real and financial economy affects (that will result in a transformation of the US economy in the years ahead as the credit creation machine retools), it might be advisable for investors to get acquainted with some of the more germane acronyms and phrases as they will likely be with us for longer than many suspect.

Therefore, as a public service, I have listed below several key acronyms and phrases catalogued by area:


Credit derivative: A financial contract under which an agent buys or sells risk protection against the credit risk associated with a specific reference entity (or specific entities). For a periodic fee, the protection seller agrees to make a contingent payment to the buyer on the occurrence of a credit event (default in the case of a credit default swap).

Collateralized debt obligation (CDO): A structured credit security backed by a pool of securities, loans, or credit default swaps, where securitized interests in the security are divided into tranches with differing repayment and interest earning streams. The pool can be either managed within preset parameters or static. If the CDO is backed by other structured credit securities, it is called a structured finance CDO, and if it is backed solely by other CDOs, it is called a CDO-squared.

Collateralized loan obligation (CLO): A collateralized debt obligation backed by whole commercial loans, revolving credit facilities, or letters of credit.

Credit default swap (CDS): A default-triggered credit derivative. Most CDS default settlements are “physical,” whereby the protection seller buys a defaulted reference asset from the protection buyer at its face value. “Cash” settlement involves a net payment to the protection buyer equal to the difference between the reference asset face value and the price of the defaulted asset.

Credit-linked note (CLN): A security that is bundled with an embedded credit default swap and is intended to transfer a specific credit risk to investors. The CLN issuance proceeds are usually invested in liquid and highly rated securities to cover the principal repayment at maturity plus any interim conditional payments associated with the underlying credit default swap.


Securitization: The creation of securities from a pool of pre-existing assets and receivables that are placed under the legal control of investors through a special intermediary created for this purpose (a “special purpose vehicle” [SPV] or “special purpose entity” [SPE]). In the case of “synthetic” securitizations, the securities are created from a portfolio of derivative instruments.

Structured credit product: An instrument that pools and tranches credit risk exposure, including mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

Structured investment vehicle (SIV): A legal entity, whose assets consist of asset-backed securities and various types of loans and receivables. An SIV’s funding liabilities are usually tranched and include short- and medium-term debt; the solvency of the SIV is put at risk if the value of the assets of the SIV falls below the value of the maturing liabilities.

Conduit: A legal entity whose assets consist of various types of loans, receivables, and structured credit products. A conduit’s liabilities are short-term commercial paper and are supported by a liquidity facility with 100 percent coverage.

Source: IMF “Global Financial Stability Report” April 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

If Not Now, When?

excerpts from this week's report:

"While most investors are rightfully focused on economic and domestic political matters, it would behoove all not to lose sight of the increasingly probable event of a military strike on Iran before George Bush leaves office. An attack on Iran stands an even higher probability this year if “bomb, bomb, Iran” McCain does not win this fall..."

Investment Strategy Implications

"Exogenous events, such as terrorist attacks, might be hard for some investors to prepare for but not hard for seasoned investors to incorporate into the equity valuation equation..."

" is difficult to understand why the risk appetite for investors has recently increased (as the reduction in the VIX has recently shown) when so much remains so uncertain. For this reason (and for several others, including the far from resolved credit crisis), I have not adjusted the risk parameters in the Expected Return Valuation Model (see report*).

By not adjusting the risk parameters the market has eliminated its undervalued level of the past months and now sits just a touch over fair value**. Not enough to warrant a reduction in the fully invested position of the Model Growth Portfolio (see page 5 of the report*). At least, not yet..."

also in this week's report:

* Expected Return Valuation Model
* Moving Averages Scorecard
* Model Growth Portfolio
* Sectors and Styles Market Monitor
* Key US Economic Indicators

*To gain access to this week's report (and all reports), click on the newsletter subscription information link to your left.
**click on image to enlarge.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Quotable Quotes: Wishful Thinking

Despite the events of recent days, Hillary Clinton and investors in the Financial and Consumer Discretionary sectors may have something in common – wishful thinking.

“Nothing is so common-place as to wish to be remarkable.”
William Shakespeare

“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they'd make up their minds.”
Winston Churchill

“My uncle's dying wish - he wanted me on his lap. He was in the electric chair.”
Rodney Dangerfield

“I wish I had an answer to that, because I'm tired of answering that question”
Yogi Berra

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

VIX and the Premature Return to Complacency

It could be argued that the recent rise in the medium and longer term US Treasury rates have something to do with concerns re inflation. It also could just as easily be argued that a major part of the rise is due to a lessening of the fear factor related to the credit crisis and an associated narrowing of credit spreads. This latter point is debatable, however, as spreads have narrowed very modestly by most measures (see left chart for one example).

The same two part argument cannot, however, be attributed to the recent decline in the VIX. The drop from the high 20s to right around 20 implies a return to some degree of complacency by investors. This modest move to comfort seems to be premature as the future remains highly uncertain on a whole host of levels, not the least of which involves deleveraging, the changed business models of the credit creation machine, and the consequences therefrom.

Investment Strategy Implications

The importance of the VIX and credit spreads rests in their role as two key components in the risk adjustments made to valuation models. In my own Expected Return Valuation Model, the recent rise in the 10-year Treasury (along with the increase in equities) has had a large impact on the model, so much so that the US equity market now stands right around fair value.

The importance of getting the risk adjustment factor correct rests in its impact on the model and the fair value ranges produced. Therefore, gauging investor sentiment via risk appetite tools such as the VIX and credit spreads is vital to a more accurate valuation model. Accordingly, a conclusion re these risk appetite tools is necessary using other aspects of the equity valuation process and judgment. The conclusion reached here is one of skepticism re a return to complacency.

*To learn about the Expected Return Valuation Model requires a subscription. click here for more information.
**click images to enlarge

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Beyond the Sound Bite: An Interview with Tim Hayes, CMT

My interview with the Chief Investment Strategist for Ned Davis Research includes a maximum equity underweight call, concern re key indicators in the recent market rally, and a sector, styles, and global strategy view.

All Beyond the Sound Bite postings can be found at
To listen to this week's podcast interview, click here

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Economic Guessing Game Has Begun

In the past weeks, several clear signs have emerged signaling that investors are shifting their focus away from the credit crisis and toward the real economy and traditional investment analysis. The first and most obvious sign is the earnings reports. The next two are less obvious, but are no less important – the rise in the 10 year US Treasury rate and the increasing number of comments in the media and from economists re the direction of the US economy.

The 40 basis point rise in the 10 year US Treasury rate (from 3.31% on March 17 to 3.71% yesterday*) suggests a degree of relaxation in the flight to quality panic due to the credit crisis. This modest return to normalcy apparently implies that more than a few investors buy the credit crisis end is in sight story.

The other sign that investor focus has shifted is the increasing number of real economy related stories in the media. For example, the April 12th cover story in the Economist magazine, “The Great American Slowdown”, and yesterday’s FT commentary, “Road to ruin? America ponders the depth of its downturn”, explore the depth and duration of the US slowdown/recession. All this brings us to the emerging debate of the shape of US economy slowdown/recession – V, U, L, or W?

The more bullish sentiment is a V shaped decline and subsequent sharp economic recovery. Painful, yet short. The U shape crowd, on the other hand, believes the current difficulties will linger into next year when the end of 2009 comparisons show a sharp enough recovery and return to prosperity.

The L shaped advocates foresee an extended period of economic weakness a la Japan. Then there are the W shape believers, which is the camp I occupy. Things get better for a while (thanks to the stimulus package and the sustained strength of the global growth story – yes, Virginia, decoupling has worked to a meaningful degree) only to be followed by an economic decline into 2009 for a whole host of reasons, including a withdrawal from the US stimulus and a decline in US consumer spending and concurrent rise in US consumer savings (more on this in the near future).

Investment Strategy Implications

The US economy is undergoing a transformation on multiple levels that will produce major disruptions in the financial and valuation models for equities. These more thematic issues – credit crisis and its consequences, for example – will likely alter the economic landscape for years to come thereby producing substantial opportunities and risks. One outcome will almost certainly be a redistribution of economic growth in the US away from a US consumer dominated economy and toward a more export driven model.

That said, it is advisable to cover the traditional bases. Therefore, whatever shape your US economic doughnut might be (despite the fact that the credit crisis is likely to be far from over), the time has arrived for investors to form their view on the future direction of the US economy.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"We are in uncharted territory."

excerpts from this week's report:
Gary Crittenden
Chief Financial Officer, Citigroup

"For those who may be inclined to go along with the recent optimistic comments from the heads of several major investment banks (see last Thursday’s blog posting, “News Flash: Credit Crisis End in Sight”) and for those who might construe that last week’s impressive counter rally in the equity markets signals an end to the credit crisis and a resumption of the bull, the quote by Mr. Crittenden should put some real world perspective on the current situation. For the credit crisis and economy are intertwined a far greater degree than many investors may appreciate."

Investment Strategy Implications

"An undervalued market rally is one matter (see Expected Return Value Model in the report for more commentary on this point). But when it is accompanied by a return to complacency in the form of a lower VIX**, it behooves investors to take note, particularly when so much remains unclear.

Mr. Crittenden is right. And his comments are not exclusively related to Citigroup. The transformation of the credit creation machine at the core of the financial system (commercial and investment banks), within the “shadow” banking system (nonbank financial institutions, such as insurance companies, hedge funds and private equity), and the originate-to-distribute business model (not to mention the degree to which other securitized instruments..."

also in this week's report:

* Expected Return Valuation Model
* Moving Averages Scorecard
* Model Growth Portfolio
* Sectors and Styles Market Monitor
* Key US Economic Indicators

*To gain access to this week's report (and all reports), click on the newsletter subscription information link to your left.
**click on image to enlarge.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Quotable Quotes: Alabama, PA

Feeling bitter? Clinging to guns and religion?

“Oh, what a bitter thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes.”
William Shakespeare

“It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
Anne Frank

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”

“Never go to clubs with metal detectors. Sure it feels safe inside. But what about all those niggas waiting outside with guns? They know you ain't got one.”
Chris Rock

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

News Flash: Credit Crisis End in Sight!

Bloomberg reports today that major money manager, Mark Mobius, has joined four financial titans (Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase; Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs; John Mack, Morgan Stanley; and Richard Fuld, Lehman Bros.) in proclaiming that the end of the credit crisis is in sight. Such statements are astonishing in that the root cause of the problem – structured products, securitization, and leverage – is in the midst of a deleveraging process the consequences of which remain largely unknown.

Perhaps there is information that the above gentlemen possess that gives them confidence to make such bold pronouncements. Or perhaps it is the desire to instill a degree of counterparty and investor confidence, which will thereby help in a thawing of the credit freeze.

Needless to say, however, their optimism flies in the face of other views, notably the recently released report by the IMF, “Global Financial Stability Report” (with its estimated $945 billion of losses - see above chart*), as well as comments and views from other experts more directly tied to the credit markets (for example, listen to my interview posted yesterday with CreditSight’s CEO).

If I had the ear of the five gentlemen, I would ask their views on how the recently increased estimated $62 trillion of credit default swaps will unwind with little effect? I would also like to gain their insight on how the deleveraging process, the changed business models of financial institutions, and the likely political backlash (Bear Stearns bailout) will not have an effect on the bottom line of financial institutions? Lastly, and most importantly, I would seek to gain the benefit of their wisdom as to how the US economy escapes the consequences of all of the above next year, the first year of a new presidency and one that will lack the tailwinds of the current stimulus package?

Investment Strategy Implications

It has been argued on this blog and in my reports that stocks are undervalued and have several reasons to stage a decent comeback. That appears to be well underway. It has also been argued here that the consequences of deleveraging have not been fully appreciated by investors.

Therefore, the key point that equity investors should take under advisement is that the credit crisis not just about subprime mortgages, it is about a business model (originate and distribute) that has functioned at the core of the credit creation system for more than a decade that is likely to undergo a major transformation (on several levels) the consequences of which no one knows with any degree of certainty.

That said, the spring equity respite should be enjoyed for what it is – an undervaluation rally. Beyond that, a more clearly understood new financial order will be necessary for investors to more accurately predict what is shaping up to be a very risky 2009.

*click on image to enlarge

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Beyond the Sound Bite: An Interview with Glenn Reynolds, CFA

"In my interview with the CEO of CreditSights we explored a wide range of factors related to the credit markets including rising corporate default risks, the difference between today's environment (economic and financial) versus 1990/1, confidence levels in the financial system, and an estimation of the credit crisis (we are in the 3rd inning).

All Beyond the Sound Bite postings can be found at
To listen to this week's podcast interview, click here

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Widen the Lens

As earnings season swings into high gear, last week’s “shocking” results from GE provide a useful lesson for investors that goes beyond the narrow value of current earnings analysis.

For the GE numbers and resulting stock market reaction go to the heart of investment strategy and investment decision-making and why, for well-diversified portfolios, grasping the big picture matters at all times, but in particular when fundamental change is underway it is vital to investment performance.

The problem is that by taking a traditional analytical approach to company analysis, far too many bottom up analysts (and investors) tend to miss the forest for the trees as the analytical tools used are not calibrated for the thematic and trend impacts emanating from macro forces such as the credit crisis. Therefore, when macro thematic and trend factors outside the traditional silo approach to company analysis, the element of surprise comes into the after-the-fact equation. I believe it is this failure to understand and therefore incorporate macro thematic issues like the credit crisis into the industry and company specific research work of most industry and company specific analysts that has led to the outrageously optimistic earnings projections for 2008 by most bottom up analysts. Which is another way of saying, there will likely be many more earnings “surprises” in the quarters ahead.

Investment Strategy Implications

Many years ago I learned that for well-diversified portfolios, just as the asset allocation decision trumps when and what an investor buys, sells, or holds, so, too, does the axiom that the macro environment trumps the micro environment – a point made all the more important when the macro environment is in transition as it is today. Therefore, a failure to widen the lens to incorporate thematic macro mega trends such as the credit crisis (which is far more significant than merely a subprime problem) guarantees a constant state of shock for investors relying on traditional bottom up analysis alone.

Widen the lens. There are more earnings surprises ahead.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Earnings Surprises? Shocking!

excerpts from this week's report:
"Last week’s equity markets produced a wake-up call for the overly optimistic bottom up analysts. But a wake-up call in an undervalued market will not necessarily produce a near term sustainable down market. Therefore, the perfect conditions appear to exist for a befuddled pundit crowd seeking to explain how stocks could possibly rise in the coming weeks as earnings continue to surprise the asleep at the switch bottom-up analyst..."

"The primary support for the near term optimism rests on three key points:

• Valuation
• Investor Psychology
• Seasonal Factors

Allow me to address each in order as follows...":

also in this week's report:

* Expected Return Valuation Model
* Moving Averages Scorecard
* Model Growth Portfolio
* Sectors and Styles Market Monitor
* Key US Economic Indicators

*To gain access to this week's report (and all reports), click on the subscription information link to your left.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Quotable Quotes: Stuck

For all those weary travelers stuck in an airport, here are a few words to pass the time.

“I have met a lot of hardboiled eggs in my time, but you're twenty minutes.”
Oscar Wilde

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”
Jack Handey

"First you forget names, then you forget faces. Next you forget to pull your zipper up and finally, you forget to pull it down."
George Burns

“May those who love us love us,
and those who do not love us,
may God turn their hearts,
and if He cannot turn their hearts
may He turn their ankles
that we may know them by their limping.”
Irish Prayer

“Maybe this world is another planet's hell.”
Aldous Huxley

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Moment of Clarity

“…it is now clear that the current turmoil is more than simply a liquidity event, reflecting the deep-seated balance sheet fragilities and weak capital bases, which means its effects are likely to be broader, deeper, and more protracted.”

IMF Global Financial Stability Report
April 2008

This has been a truly remarkable week, one that alcoholics refer to as a “moment of clarity”.

On the foreign policy front, US Senators and other congressional members awoke this week from their multi-year stupor and managed to pin the clarity tail on the Iraq donkey when they finally and pointedly asked the right question – what constitutes success? Combined with the now clear evidence, courtesy of the testimony of Gen. Patraeus and Ambassador Crocker, that in 2006 the Bush Administration, just prior to the midterm elections, “misled” (“misspoke’?, pick your euphemism for lying) the US public with statements regarding the state of affairs in Iraq, perhaps a more clear-headed discussion re Iraq can now ensue.

As vital as this matter is, it is the clarity that emerged on the financial and economic front that I wish to focus on.

This week witnessed the publication of a must read document for every investor – the IMF’s “Global Financial Stability Report”. Having just picked up my printed copy of the 208 page tome, I have begun to wade into the report and can see from the very first pages that this report will pin the clarity tail on the credit crisis donkey in a way that no other report or commentary has done thus far. Here is a sample of what I have read thus far:

• The report provides a clear recognition of not just the scale ($945 billion loss estimate) but the scope of the credit crisis, specifically it’s not just a subprime problem.
• The report identifies perhaps the most critical aspect of the crisis, namely deleveraging.
“Macroeconomic feedback effects” are a high concern, specifically the likely consequences that deleveraging and the reduced credit lending capabilities of financial institutions will have on further economic activity. (This point has been noted on this blog and in recent reports published by my firm.)
“Private sector incentives and compensation structures” will need to be addressed. This is a clear reference to the agent/principal problem that animal spirits unleash. Normally, a market problem only but not when bailouts and politics come into the mix.

Investment Strategy Implications

Any investor thinking that the credit crisis has passed is operating in a state of denial.

The ramifications of a new financial order cannot be over emphasized. The feedback effects on the real economy and its likely self-reinforcing aspects portend a double dip in the US economy in 2009. The respite equity investors are experiencing this spring might run even into the summer. However, Joe Battipaglia may be right (Beyond the Sound Bite interview last week) when he predicts that S&P 500 operating earnings will fall to and through the top down 2008 number of $80. When combined with the risk of rising inflation, the valuation target for equities could match the longer-term predictions of many technical analysts for a much lower market next year and into 2010, suggesting that what has been experienced thus far is a dress rehearsal.

All investors must and will come to their own moment of clarity on this issue. It’s just a matter of time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Beyond the Sound Bite: An Interview with Michael Mauboussin

"My interview with the Chief Investment Strategist for Legg Mason Capital Management includes a constructive view on the equity markets, value traps, expectational investing, behavioral finance, and his new book: "More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places."

All Beyond the Sound Bite postings can be found at
To listen to this week's podcast interview, click here

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fair Value Target for S&P 500: 1420

As 1Q08 gets into full swing and reality begins the process of bringing bottom-up analyst forecasts toward some semblance of reality, investors should not lose faith in the spring equity respite. For example, according to the very reliable proprietary Expected Return Valuation Model (ERVM), 1420 for the S&P 500 combined with a 3.70% level for the 10 US Treasury would put US stocks in the lower end of the fair value zone*.

Accordingly, at 1420, the expected return (next 12 months) for stocks falls into the 11 to 15% range, which wraps very nicely around the historical rate of return for large cap stocks of 12%. (Moreover, should the credit crisis diminish with credit spreads narrowing, the potential for overshoot exists as the ERVM risk adjusted range might slide from from its current 120 - 140 basis points over the 10 year Treasury to a more normal 100 to 120 basis points range thereby moving the fair value target to 1470.)

Interestingly, 1420 for the S&P 500 is also right around its 200 day exponential moving average**, which will likely generate some banter among pundits.

Investment Strategy Implications

Sell-offs due to downside earnings surprises (to bottom-up analysts) this earnings season should produce a fair number of good near term buying opportunities.

*at $80 operating earnings
**click on image to enlarge

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Fever Has Broken

excerpts from this week's report:

“…liquidity conditions in markets are still substantially impaired and the process of de-leveraging remains underway. And this will amplify the headwinds facing the US and global economy.”

NY Fed President, Timothy Geithner, in his written testimony to Congress last week.

“David Bowers of Absolute Strategy Research points out that firms outside the finance industry were also helped by the credit bubble, which boosted demand for their products and allowed them to enhance earnings per share by issuing debt to buy back stock. Investors may be disappointed once they find out companies cannot return as much cash to shareholders as they did during the boom.”

"Hung, drawn, and first-quartered"
Buttonwood, Economist magazine, April 3, 2008

"The process of awareness of the risks that de-leveraging poses to the real economy is ever so slowing creeping into the consciousness of investors. As the panic of the possible..."

"This effort is a work in progress, an iterative process that will yield what will follow the Minsky Moment and his five stages of the credit cycle:.."

Investment Strategy Implications

"The fever has broken and that is good news. And the very near term offers a respite from the pain that has occurred and the one that will almost certainly emerge as the morphine of stimulus wears off. Accordingly, the appropriate investment strategy appears to be fourfold:..."

also in this week's report:

* Expected Return Valuation Model
* Moving Averages Scorecard
* Model Growth Portfolio
* Sectors and Styles Market Monitor
* Key US Economic Indicators

*To gain access to this week's report (and all reports), click on the subscription information link to your left.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Quotable Quotes: Memory

“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

Hmmm. How about a few words on memory?

“Memory itself is an internal rumor.”
George Santayana

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

“He reminds me of the man who murdered both his parents, and then when sentence was about to be pronounced pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan”
Abraham Lincoln

“Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened.”
T.S. Eliot

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
Slick Willie (a/k/a Bill Clinton)

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Financials in the Larger Context

To elaborate on my Tuesday BNN TV interview and to provide a technical analysis perspective as to why the Financials are a value trap for investors, here are a few thoughts.

As stated in the interview, from a fundamental perspective any sector that is about to undergo regulatory change is by itself sufficient reason for longer-term investment pause. And in a highly charged election year, this risk becomes of greater concern. However, it is longer-term consequences of a changed business model that is the greatest risk to investing in the sector. For example, the specific risks to the Financials sector pales in comparison to the likely impact that a changed business model will have on the US and global economies - and then in turn back to the sector.

There is a larger economic consequence to the changed business model, one that few seem to be focusing on – the effect that a deleveraged, changed business model will have on credit creation. If the global economy was aided and abetted in the recent years by financial innovation, it is logical to assume that a dramatic (radical?) shift away from that business model of easy credit and financial innovation (securitization, for example) will result in a lessened degree of capital for consumers and businesses. Therefore, economic activity, particularly domestic activity in the US, will ratchet downward, influenced also by the need for US consumers to rebuild their depleted personal balance sheets.

As this relates specifically to financial institutions, the risk of competition (financial institutions in other regions of the world less burdened by regulatory constraints) due to a changed US regulatory environment for US financial institutions will also almost certainly create growth and profitability difficulties in the years ahead.

While all this real economy stuff gets absorbed by fundamentally-oriented investors, the technicals of the market may paint a different picture. It does not, as the two charts** above show.

The first chart provides a longer-term picture of the sector, which plainly shows a sector that is solidly in a negative mega trend, based on my Moving Averages Principle*. The second short-term chart provides a few reasons why the near term trend is modestly positive. Specifically, momentum and MACD are both positive. And the slow stochastic is not in high overbought territory (above 80 for both trend lines). Moreover, both MACD and the slow stochastic lines have not crossed, which would indicate the end of the near term uptrend.

Investment Strategy Implications

As stated on Tuesday, Financials should participate in the current spring rally. However, beyond this point in time, it is hard to conceive of the longer-term investment case for a sector undergoing a change to the core of its business model. As noted above, the technicals also reflect this longer term concern.

*See prior blog entries and reports for definitions and examples
**click images to enlarge

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beyond the Sound Bite: An Interview with Joe Battipaglia

In my conversation with the Market Strategist/Private Client Group for Stifel Nicholas we covered equity market valuation issues, a recession call, the likelihood that S&P 500 operating earnings will decline to and through $80, and the limited prospects in emerging markets.

All Beyond the Sound Bite postings can be found at
To listen to this week's podcast interview, click here

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Financials: The Classic Value Trap

This morning’s BNN TV interview afforded me the opportunity to describe the value trap that investors are likely to fall into re Financials. This is not to say that Financials will not get their fair share of the April showers bringing investment flowers (see prior blog postings re Sam Stovall’s work on expected monthly performance). What should not forgotten is, however, the changed financial and economic world that banks, brokers, and other financial institutions will face in the years ahead.

Investment Strategy Implications

For more thoughts on the value trap in Financials, the secular argument for Industrials, and the attractiveness of Brazil, click on the following link:

All Beyond the Sound Bite postings can be found at
To listen to this morning's BNN TV interview, click here