Monday, January 31, 2022

Copper Prices at 5-Week Lows. Is this a Bad Sign for the Global Economy?

Aluminum and copper prices are a study in contrast. Aluminum is trading near all-time highs (See Exhibit 1: Aluminum Trading Near All-time High Price) while copper's rally is beginning to fade. Copper is trading at 5-week lows.  

Exhibit 1: Aluminum Trading Near All-time High Price

According to Trading Economics, low inventory levels, the power crisis in Europe, and Ukraine-Russia tensions are all to blame for this incredible rally in aluminum.

Meanwhile, copper prices are at five-week lows due to the strong dollar and increased production. Trading Economics reports that Chilean authorities are projecting that copper production will increase by 4.1% during 2022, returning to pre-pandemic levels. Even at its current price of $4.32/lb, copper is trading at all-time highs (See Exhibit 2: Copper Prices at 5-Week Lows). I am watching copper see if it falls below $4/lb. Falling below that price level may be a bearing sign not only for copper but for the world economy.

Exhibit 2: Copper Prices are at 5-Week Lows

If copper continues to fall, the stock prices for miners, such as Rio Tinto (RIO), might fall with it. The share price of Rio Tinto has tumbled about 9% from its peak of approximately $78.48 achieved in mid-January (See Exhibit 3: Rio Tinto's Share Price Takes a Hit in January).

Exhibit 3: Rio Tinto's Share Price Takes a Hit in January

(Source: Seeking Alpha)

Friday, January 28, 2022

Invest in an Equal-Weight ETF in these Turbulent Times.

The S&P 500 index is market-capitalization-weighted. The weighting by market cap means the companies with the largest market capitalization (Market capitalization = Number of shares outstanding x Share Price) get the highest weight. Last year, this method for calculating the index made the five largest companies by market cap account for 23% of the index. That is just 5 out of the 500 companies accounting for about a quarter of the market capitalization. These five companies were: Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, and Facebook (Meta). When the share price of these companies starts underperforming, the market takes a huge tumble. We can see that happening now. The S&P 500 index (VOO) is down about 9.72% (pre-market on January 28), while the S&P 500 equal-weighted ETF (RSP) is down 7.48% (See Exhibit 1: Invesco Equal-Weight ETF Beats Vanguard S&P 500 Market-Cap Weighted ETF). That is a difference in the performance of 224 basis points. In essence, the equal-weight ETF outperformed the market-cap ETF. The dividend yield is about the same for both ETFs. The Invesco Equal-Weight ETF charges a higher expense ratio than the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF. Invesco charges 20 basis points (bps) or 0.2%, while the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) charges three bps or 0.03%. Invesco charges 7x more than the Vanguard ETF. Even after deducting the extra expense of investing in the Invesco ETF, it comes ahead in performance by over 200 bps.  

The era of big-tech is coming to an end due to more regulation and their size inhibiting growth. At least for now, Apple seems to be bucking the trend after reporting blockbuster results yesterday. Interest rates are also rising, putting pressure on valuation because future earnings will be discounted at a higher interest rate. It may be good to have a position in the Invesco Equal-Weight ETF (RSP) during these times. 

     Exhibit 1: Invesco Equal-Weight ETF Beats Vanguard S&P 500 Market-Cap Weighted ETF
(Source: Seeking Alpha)
Also, there may be other equal-weight ETFs in the market. I am aware of Invesco's ETF, so I have invested in it. I am not endorsing the Invesco ETF. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Few Things to Know About Our Current Energy Transition from Fossil Fuels to Renewables.

In a discussion hosted by Bridgewater Associates (the world's largest hedge fund), Daniel Yergin discussed the current energy transition, geopolitics, and government. Daniel Yergin emphasizes a few things about our energy transition:

  • Energy transition to oil from coal took nearly a hundred years. 
  • Instead of trying to control oil supplies, now we are trying to control materials used in batteries and solar panels. Increasing lithium and cobalt prices pose a challenge for electric vehicles. 
  • Electric vehicles may need subsidies to make them affordable. 

Governments can offer subsidies, but the loss of revenue due to the subsidies need to be compensated by higher taxes, lower social benefits, or higher deficits. The world is grappling with excessive debt levels and does not have the flexibility to take on more deficit spending. Take the example of Japan, where the outstanding government bonds have crossed one thousand trillion yen for the first time.    

You can watch the Daniel Yergin discussion on YouTube.  

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Energy Transition will be Messy and Expensive. Hold on to Your Barrel of Oil for Now.

Many people anticipate that electric vehicles will win the transportation race and replace the internal combustion engine. Many journalists and energy experts have been warning for a while that the transition from fossil fuels to renewables will be messy. Daniel Yergin says that we are in an energy-mix era

Lithium - one of the critical materials used in batteries - is in short supply, and its prices have increased by 5x. Electric vehicle battery costs are set to increase for the first time in a decade. 

Meanwhile, European Union is beginning to realize that they cannot simply abandon nuclear power and still keep the lights on. They plan to classify nuclear power and natural gas as "green" power sources. In my opinion, there is no such thing as fully green energy. For example, lithium mining and mining for other materials in producing an electric vehicle are damaging to the economy. The world needs good recycling technology to create a circular economy and minimize emissions and environmental damage.       

General Motors Ultium Battery and Global Vehicle Platform for Electric Vehicles.
(Source: General Motors)

The surge in oil prices in the past year, coupled with the reluctance of oil companies to invest in new oil discoveries, could lead to higher energy prices and even an energy shock. This lack of investment in new oil supplies could increase inflation.   

Covered Call on J. M. Smucker, Public Service Employee Pay in China, Indonesia's Foreign Relations Dilemma

I recently wrote about my investment thesis for J. M. Smucker (NYSE: SJM) on Seeking Alpha. I have also written in the comments section about how selling a covered call on $SJM at current prices can boost overall investment returns.  

J. M. Smucker's Has Timeless Brands, but the stock has run up a lot. 
(Source: J. M. Smucker)

Nikkei Asia has published a fascinating article on how China cut public employees' paychecks. Many Chinese citizens are probably amazed and shocked to learn that some public employees make 200,000 yuan a year. Their paychecks are getting cut by about 25%. Cities in China were collecting revenue from land sales, but there are not many land sales with the indebted real estate market anymore. 

Indonesia is grappling with more meddling from China in the South China Sea. China is trying to assert itself in Asia.  

Note: Please pay for good journalism. When you support good journalism, you are keeping your freedom. Also, each day you will go to bed brighter. I read a lot of articles on Seeking Alpha every day. I subscribe to The Economist, The Financial Times, Barron's, Nikkei Asia, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and The Wall Street Journal. I have a subscription to Seeking Alpha because I am a contributor on that site. 

Fun Fact: Nikkei - a Japanese company - owns The Financial Times.      

Paccar: Peak Demand For Trucks

 Paccar ( PCAR ) produced 185,900 trucks in 2022 and is on track for another record year in 2023. The company has experienced good revenue ...