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Alcoa is “reinventing the wheel” – potential to be a big multi-year investment theme

April 11, 2014
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Alcoa is “reinventing the wheel” – potential to be a big multi-year investment theme

Back-to-back posts on Alcoa (AA) to follow up on a powerful investment theme with the potential for outsized returns over several years. There is a time and a place for each individual stock investment, and the proper synchronicity is all the more important for out-of-favor / out-of-consensus investment themes like Alcoa. The classic elements for contrarian investors are aligning with AA, and big returns will ensue for investors who stick around until a healthier pricing environments for overall metals end-markets. In the meantime, CJF continues to focus on AA’s ability to evolve the business model to execute well during tough times which is driving the stock price higher despite a poor operating/pricing environment today. AA is growing EBITDA in today’s environment of  8% aluminum price declines; visualize the P&L...

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Alcoa (AA); well positioned and stock worth revisiting

April 7, 2014
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Alcoa (AA); well positioned and stock worth revisiting

Alcoa (AA) just hasn’t received respect over the past several years. This is in the process of changing today, and AA has the potential to continue its rally to the low $20s from $12-$13. AA morphed into a classic out-of –favor stock since the financial crisis but lackluster stock performance created value amidst horrible sentiment. The stock moved sharply over the past 6-months, rising from $8 (where it traded give or take for 5-years) to $12. Alcoa reached $40 pre-financial crisis and the shares were never permanently impaired by a meaningful amount of distressed equity issuance – one crude measure to demonstrate upside. Pre-crisis, times were different, with a more consistent appetite for commodity exposures in an environment of rising commodity prices. Contrast to recent developments: Commodity exposures have...

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Earnings preview for a bull market; what to expect for 1Q14

April 4, 2014
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Earnings preview for a bull market; what to expect for 1Q14

1Q14 earnings will begin in earnest by mid-April with the market flirting with new highs over the past several sessions. Geopolitical concerns, and Fed taper fears, are gradually fading into the background, and investors are in for a period of individual earnings results driving stocks, and ultimately, market performance. The setup for 1Q is unique; the weather was abysmal this quarter, depressing spring seasonal business activity. The issue of poor weather is well known, particularly for those living in the northern half of the US, so expect the market to look through depressed results. In a sweeping bull market (a good characterization of today’s market) investors tend to provide the benefit of the doubt, looking for excuses to stick with, and build positions. The focus turns towards “what could...

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Time to go global with hydraulic fracturing investments

April 1, 2014
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Time to go global with hydraulic fracturing investments

Ukraine is dependent on Russian energy sources; an unsustainable co-dependence, which is now set to change. In fact, Europe, more focused on green initiatives, is woefully behind the US with respect to energy independence.  Putting aside the environmental arguments, geopolitical events have a way of focusing policy actions, and just this past week, there has been gentle prodding of European leaders to do more from, take a guess….President Obama. Let’s give this a wow.  No, a double-wow! Russia’s aggressive posturing in, and around, Ukraine’s borders, highlight the need for Europe to come up with a plan to extract and benefit from its own 470 million cubic feet of potentially recoverable shale resources. Three countries have the majority of recoverable shale gas deposits with the potential for meaningful recovery of...

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Crimea Annexation; the implications for global capital allocation

March 27, 2014
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Crimea Annexation; the implications for global capital allocation

  Around geopolitical events, political posturing is generally the short-term focus for all parties involved, and markets, but the longer-term implications are often unrelated to what is obvious in the short-term. The despotic approach of Vladimir Putin, and his “damn the torpedoes” approach to dealing with market/economic consequences exacerbates this effect. A fascinating take on the longer-term consequences of Putin’s bravado is detailed in the Journal of Foreign Affairs.  Recent actions are presented as a negative for Russia and a positive for the Ukraine. While this will take several years to validate/invalidate, the article is provocative and provides at least a partial justification for financial markets (outside Russia/Ukraine) to come to terms with the annexation issue, and largely ignore it. Perhaps Ukraine/Russia geopolitical issues become 2014′s version of last...

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Snap, Crackle and Pop; Uninterrupted 18-month Bull Market!

March 25, 2014
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Snap, Crackle and Pop; Uninterrupted 18-month Bull Market!

Over the past 18-months, the S&P 500 surged 43%, without more than a 6% drawdown. That dear reader is a Bull market. This post is somewhat backward looking based on the writing hiatus at CF.  The forward plan is for content at regular interviews from here. Where we stood: Entering June 2012, the market stood at approximately 1,300 (S&P 500). Concerns: Europe redux EM collapse Fed policy “the boat was already missed” Since June 2012, the market powered ahead, in retrospect, making all of the above concerns appear overblown relative to the investment opportunities at this time.  At a minimum, the above concerns were dramatically ill-timed. CF’s outlook for 2012 was bullish but not enough so.  In the 2012 themes post: Crackerjack 2012 predictions: No recession <check> Valuation matters and...

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How Heavily Shorted is Facebook?

May 30, 2012
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How Heavily Shorted is Facebook?

It is well known how the Facebook (FB) IPO is setting up to be the flop of the decade. Stunning that one of the profound technological/media companies of a generation is now such a historically awful IPO. There are plenty of negatives stemming from the debacle including: Continued disillusion from retail investors who heavily participated in the deal Additional mistrust of Wall Street as issues regarding conflict of interest and fiduciary duty get scrutinized Another instance of poor judgment at a Wall Street brokerage, Morgan Stanley, right on the heels of JP Morgan’s risk management, which was, well, “flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed, and poorly monitored.” A few items to think about for longer-term investors who are looking to a position in the shares: 1)  Facebook shares have...

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Heinz – An Emerging Market Food Leader

May 29, 2012
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Heinz – An Emerging Market Food Leader

Heinz (HNZ) had an Analyst Day on Thursday last week with about four hours of management presentations and Q&A posted on the investor relations section of the Heinz website. This presentation is a wonderful way to understand the Heinz business model and appreciate the strategic vision of the company. Heinz stock had a relatively strong run hitting new all-time highs around $55. Post-results the shares have pulled back based on fears relating to the extent of reinvestment into restructuring projects, weakness in the frozen entrée category, exposure to Europe, and a near-term reduction in sales expectations as the company is being hit by foreign exchange and focusing on some low hanging fruit margin opportunities. Despite the concerns, Heinz is very well positioned strategically with a number of positives within...

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Europe’s Prisoner’s Dilemma – LTRO Needs to Continue for Years

May 22, 2012
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Europe’s Prisoner’s Dilemma – LTRO Needs to Continue for Years

European leaders have inadvertently created one of the financial world’s largest negative feedback mechanisms. By issuing long-term refinancing operations (LTRO) with cheap ECB funding for terms up to three years and encouraging European banks to take the funding and purchase assets such as sovereign debt, the ECB effectively has encouraged the European financial system to purchase and hold “money good” European sovereign debt. With cheap funding available and the ECB encouraging banks to take the money and invest/lend a situation was created where the natural buyers of sovereign debt were propped up and supported. With many of the bonds in Spain and Italy having maturities in the vicinity of 5-10 years, there is a good chance that the LTRO will need to continue for a number of years until...

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Deja Déjà Vu – A Third Summer of European Crisis

May 18, 2012
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Deja Déjà Vu – A Third Summer of European Crisis

Over the past week, it has become clear that a third annual conflagration throughout Europe is upon us. The crisis has morphed yet again, and like The Hydra, it has come back in a more menacing form. The issue this summer is more profound than the “sovereign debt crisis” which struck last summer. Last summer’s issues were always containable with simple resolve from the ECB. The market forced the issue in sudden manner and eventually a fix came in the form of 3-year long-term refinancing operations (LTRO).  Astute observers will notice that today, sovereign debt rates, while higher, have not flared up to the levels they reached last year. European interest rates should not approach summer levels because there is a set playbook that works to contain sovereign rates...

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Like QE, the ECB’s Long-Term Refinancing Operations Will Continue for Years

April 23, 2012
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Like QE, the ECB’s Long-Term Refinancing Operations Will Continue for Years

I came across an article in The Telegraph by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard which does a good job of highlighting the circularity of the ECB’s LTRO and associated bond buying. As banks throughout Europe took advantage of ECB stimulus, which they were de facto encouraged to do by Mario Draghi and the ECB, it is clear that both the stimulus itself as well as ECB sovereign debt purchases will be needed until there is a solid economic recovery throughout the periphery of Europe. With austerity implementation to reduce deficits, economic recovery for many counties in Europe could be years away. With the automatic stabilization mechanisms in peripheral Europe broken as weaker economic growth leads to higher interest rates it will become necessary for Europe to continue to cap interest rates to...

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Bernanke’s Labor Market Speech – The Case for Continued Accommodative Policy

March 30, 2012
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Bernanke’s Labor Market Speech – The Case for Continued Accommodative Policy

Ben Bernanke made a highly referenced speech earlier this week, which was credited with fueling a sharp rally in the stock market. The speech was colorfully titled: “Recent Developments in the Labor Market” and is a worthwhile read for investors and those interested in the US economy. The speech highlights a growing controversy in the labor market regarding the constraints on hiring. The traditional school of economic thought focuses on the cyclical factors which have depressed hiring and constrained labor market improvements. In Fed speak this is described as insufficient “aggregate demand”. A new school of thought is emerging focusing on the bottlenecks in the job market stemming from; the aging of the workforce, globalization, and technological change. Obstacles based on these reasons are described as “structural impediments”. Ben...

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Welcome to the World, North Korea – Investment Opportunities Will Eventually Sprout

March 13, 2012
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Welcome to the World, North Korea – Investment Opportunities Will Eventually Sprout

North Korea has been isolated since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. Significant amounts of communist aid ceased, and the fall of communism across Eastern Europe ultimately had a profound impact on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the next two decades. North Korea was figuratively and literally off the grid as the country experienced severe shortages of electricity, energy, and food for many years. Society was more advanced around the time of Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 compared to today and the economy was much more productive. North Korea has been one of the few industrialized civilizations to experience famine during peacetime over the past 50 years. The state controlled media ranks second to last in terms of the World Press Freedom Index (if you’re...

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First the Japanese Yen and then Gold – There is No Safe Haven Currency Panacea

March 1, 2012
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First the Japanese Yen and then Gold – There is No Safe Haven Currency Panacea

Beware of the one-way, one-speed runaway train! Usually in the normal chain of events the train stops, lets the passengers off, turns around, and starts going the other way. In a rare circumstance, all hell breaks loose and the train can’t be turned around and runs off the track and over the cliff. In the investment world it is rare to find this type of “accelerating in your favor (or against you)” investment theme. Two recent moves highlight how the risks can be largest in the most comfortable havens. In less than a month, the seemingly invincible Yen has sold off from 76 to 81 (the USD dollar now buys 5 more) which is a 6.6% move, and a very large one-month move for the currency market. Not to...

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The Economic Process of Deleveraging Part Two – Why the US is Well Positioned

February 22, 2012
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The Economic Process of Deleveraging Part Two – Why the US is Well Positioned

The differences between the US situation post-financial crisis and Japan in 1990 are stark. The previous post outlined how extreme things got in Japan and how ahead of itself the Japanese stock market, real estate market and economy got. While Japan was exposed to “extreme extremes” the US economy experienced imbalances that could be worked off much more quickly. Real Estate Excess Has Been Wrung Out Over 5-years The US experienced multiple years’ worth of double digit real estate gains. The gains were spectacular and fueled by credit standards which continued to loosen until the point where the housing market evolved into the concept of “renting with the option to own”. When mortgage financing was willing to underwrite this type of one-way asymmetric risk the party was bound to...

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The Economic Process of Deleveraging Part One – What Happened in Japan?

February 9, 2012
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The Economic Process of Deleveraging Part One – What Happened in Japan?

The process of deleveraging has been in place since the onset of global recession and financial crisis in 2008. Many investors and economists have highlighted how long the process can take once it gets going. It’s striking how the theme of deleveraging, broadly speaking, is universally assumed to play out over a very long time. Japan is the oft cited example of how a deleveraging processes can take 20 years or more! It is all very alarming given that the western world’s recent crisis is only 2-3 years in. At risk of sounding Pollyannaish, there are dramatic differences between the economic situation in Japan in the late 1980’s and the US in 2008. For a number of reasons, I believe that a decade-long deleveraging process in the United States...

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When Greek Debt Servicing Resolves – Spain is the Key to the Eurozone Compact

February 2, 2012
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When Greek Debt Servicing Resolves – Spain is the Key to the Eurozone Compact

The Spanish Empire reached the height of its powers in the 1500’s. Naval supremacy, decades of rapidly rising wealth, discovery of gold, and influence over the Catholic papacy led to Spain becoming a dominant world power. It wasn’t until Philip II and The Great Armada’s defeat against the English in the Anglo-Spanish War that Spain’s global power and sphere of influence crested. Fast forwarding 400 years, all of Europe and Spain are in a new crisis which is economic as opposed to military. As attention inevitably shifts from Greece to the next country at risk of contagion, the dynamics in Spain are likely to determine the EU-17’s future path. Spain has been through the wringer and if the country can emerge from recessionary dynamics, then all of Europe can....

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