Archive for August, 2009

Hedged In on SDS, FXI & FXP as bears wake up early

kodiak-bear1Normally at this time of year, bears are getting their stores in & looking at hibernation, but the recent market has turned that around, with bears dozing most of the summer & now waking up & looking hungry.

Followers of our Twitter account, will know that we have been taking a good look at China over the past 10 trading days & have a very bearish outlook on China going into the 3rd Quarter & by default on the S&P 500. Signals have been coming for a while with the BDI declining at an alarming rate from it’s June highs, flagging up the possibility that China’s economy & associated infrastructure drive are starting to run out of steam.

The Shanghai Composite has been steadily declining. losing in the region of 21% of its value in the last month, today the benchmark index slumped an eye boggling 6.75% at its close. This has prompted me to look at a trade that I have been thinking about for a few weeks, that is neatly hedged & could also be a home run as bearish sentiment hits the markets again.

Shanghai_composite

Having looked at three well traded ETFs , we are placing a trade that is mixing it up a little with SDS :Ultra Short S&P 500, FXI :iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index & FXP ProShares UltraSh FTSE/Xinhua China 25. The following chart shows the last 5 trading days of SPY, FXI & FXP. As can be seen, there was a clear signal on Tuesday last, that there was a divergence in FXI / FXP, with the S&P 500 mainly trading sideways.

china_v_spy

Now using the Morgan Stanley A Fund CAF as a sentiment monitor for the Shanghai market over the same period against SPY (NYSE: SPY), it would seem that there has been some pretty good correlation over the last 6 months of trading. For me CAF is one of the best tickers to use for real sentiment, as it trades in China A Shares, whilst FXI (NYSE: FXI) is predicated on 25 stocks traded on the Hong Kong market (mostly ADRs). From looking at the charts, it would appear that CAF (NYSE: CAF) actually front runs FXI by a two to three day period & this has helped me immensely in trading Chinese ADRs this summer. At the same time, SPY has followed the FXI trend reasonably faithfully for the last 3 months, until August 17th, when FXI began to dip.

SPY_FXI_CAF

So our feeling is that with China declining at such a rapid rate, Long FXP  (NYSE: FXP) short FXI is a no brainer & we are looking to make some good returns over the next few weeks, we are also adding in a soupcon of SDS for interest & to confirm our bearish sentiment on the S&P 500. With a ratio of 2:1:1 we feel that this is a well hedged play, with a good upside potential.

We are looking to hold this trade for a minimum 10 day period & I have set this trade up on kaChing.com in our test account in order to track it. The idea being that we can give a visual on the performance of the trade & also  a good term of reference when we close out the positions & reblog.

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MyStockVoice.com is now alive & kicking

logo_login

It’s taken a while & it’s been an interesting experience, but am pleased to say that we released MyStockVoice.com into public beta. For me personally, there have been a few challenges, “assisted” along the way by re-locating with my family from Switzerland to Slovakia.

The team at Connection Services who have designed & support the MSV platform have been excellent, especially when responding to an ever changing set of requirements. MyStockVoice started as this WordPress blog, where I could muse on my views on Emerging Markets & BRIC economies. A conversation with a friend who works in the City (London) encouraged me to look at doing something a little more. The original format, was a forum, then a newswire service & now it’s a fully fledged blog publication platform. So you can imagine how happy my colleagues at CSL were, when I tripped back every few months & said “right, this is what we are doing now”

Our aim at MSV is to provide an ever widening audience with value insights into what is rapidly becoming a major topic for hedge funds, investment managers & retail investors alike : BRIC & Emerging Markets. International stocks traded on US exchanges are becoming ever more popular, especially via Depositary Receipts (ADR,ADS,ADN) , for the more cautious or long minded, a number of ETF (Exchange Traded Funds) have sprung up to service the appetite to take part in these growing economies.

Covering all the major regions, MSV provides focussed channels into a variety of sectors & also specific categories for Macro Econmics, ADR & ETF investing. We are pleased to be working with some well established names from the investment community, along with faculties such as Knowledge at Wharton, the Economics Faculty at Beijing University, Skolkovo Business School in Moscow & Cranfiedl University in the UK.

Our strapline is “your community … your voice”  & to reflect this, we will be bringing our readers plenty of new unique content. Much of my time in the last two to three months has been spent contacting individual bloggers & also online media services that are based in the regions covered. In this way, we can present a “blend of thought”, that will allow our subscribers to formulate informed opinions on their own particular areas of interest.

So, enough jawing from me, but to close, Alex, Chris & myself would like to thank the team at CS & all the people that have had input into the project. We sincerely hope that you enjoy the MSV experience & are always open to new ideas, partnership opportunities & most of all feedback.

Many thanks

Paul

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More pressure on copper as commodities start to fade

FCXFollowing on from my post last week “What goes up  must come down” , where I looked at the two largest producers of copper, Chile‘s Codelco & also the American firm Freeport McMoRan, I have spent some time over the weekend researching the copper market & looking to see if I could find anymore signals that would show market direction.

Re-capping on the trade, FCX so some very significant selling volumes from the open on Friday &  the trade triggered as FCX fell through the 65 mark, where I commited to 50% of my planned exposure, the remaning 50% was then entered at 64.25 & I rode this down to 63.06.  I am looking to repeat this trade as a swing this week & here are some of the reasons why.

As previously stated on Freeport McMoRan, the company has scaled back copper production & has increased gold production to an all time high. Freeport is making some serious cutbacks & cost management is a major theme, as with many other major stocks, so I am still bearish on FCX as a whole from a fundamental standpoint.

Whats more interesting, is looking at some other factors that help bear out (nice pun) my thesis that we are looking at short term oversupply of copper. First let’s have a look at the copper Exchange Traded Fund : JJC, it has seen a strong uptrend  since early this year, returning a tad over 100% year to date, however looking at this technical chart, it would seem to be overbought & is signalling this.

JJC

Turning to a shorter term chart & looking at volumes on JJC, we can see that it hit & refused it’s upper Bollinger on Thursday 13th & saw some very aggressive selling in high volumes on Friday. If we then look closer at the history of the ticker, it has a habit of withdrawing back to it’s 20 Day Moving Average, which would give a reasonable bottom at 36.90 on any significant breakdown. So, I am looking to take another short position in JJC (if I can, it’s pretty illiquid) & see if I can’t double up on my FCX trade.

JJC 3 month

Another indicator that all may not be well is the performance of the Base Metals ETF : DBB, which holds an equal 33.33% in copper, aluminium & zinc. DBB has also had quite a years so far, with a return rate of 53%, on Friday this started to look fragile & there was fairly spikey activity in the ticker all through the day, finally closing 3.8% down, so not a bright day for metals at all. Again looking at a 3 month chart, we can see that DBB has been hitting it’s head against the upper Bollinger since mid July & at the latter end of last week also refused. Needless to say that Friday saw some volumes selling off, although not as heavily as FCX & JJC. The reasoning behind this is that DBB is held by select financial institutions & they are unable to un-reel their positions very quickly.

DBB

So to summarise, FCX still looks weak, JJC in my opinion is looking to implode & the major ETF in this sector is on the retreat. Again, I’ll be looking at shorting Freeport down, as per the tactics from my last post & if I can get in on JJC, I’ll be tapping into a short there too, looking for an exit at around 38.50. If the sell off continues, next stop for me is the 34.20 mark, so I’ll look to drop the short at 34.50. Add to all this the negative sentiment on China  & commodities right now, I think these swings could be real earners for this week.

Author has no current holdings in any stock mentioned

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What goes up must come down, is copper running out of steam ?

gravityCopper prices are at an all time high, coming off of deep lows in December 2008 of $1.25 lb, 3 month delivery is currently trading in Shanghai at $2.90 lb / $7,431 per tonne, extending the metals five week winning run. Shanghai copper looks to end the week almost 8.5% up, its strongest 5 day performance in more than two months. But are there stormy times ahead? Chilean mining giant Codelco, which is the worlds largest producer of the red metal, has just announced results for H1 2009.

Copper production including output from its 49% stake in El Abra, rose 16% to 822,000 tonnes in the first half of 2009, from 715 000 tons in same period in 2008. However, it seems all is not as sunny as the production figures would lead us to believe.  Codelco has seen its profits sink by 82% in the first half from $4.11 Bn to $722 Mn, due to lower copper prices. A worldwide slump in molybdenum prices from $72 to $20 year on year, has also not helped things along either. Although copper has had a good run, the question is, has it run out of steam, with Chinese buyers supposedly easing away from contracts, having fuelled the boom by stockpiling since November last year.

Not the case according to Codelco Chief Executive Jose Pablo Arellano. He is bullish & feels that copper demand is likely to continue due to ongoing requirements from China and stimulus programs in the world’s leading economies.

“The key factor in the rise in prices is China, in the next few quarters, we should see the stimulus programs in the United States, Europe and Japan start to have an effect, something we haven’t seen yet.”

But what of US based Freeport McMoRan (NYSE:FCX), Codelcos main rival & erstwhile partner ? Last month, Freeport beat analysts expectation by a long margin, but again the upbeat news needs to be examined a little more closely. Net earnings for the quarter were $588 million, or $1.38 per share, compared with $947 million, or $2.25 per share in the same quarter of 2008, with revenues dropping to $3.68 billion from  $5.44 billion, or 38%. Revenues were bolstered by gold sales, as the company ramped up production from 265,000 ounces in Q2 2008 to 837,000 ounces this year, but is debatable if this pace can be sustained, never mind improved upon. In In June, Chief Executive Richard Adkerson told Reuters there was no sign of recovery in the developed world that would lead to a restart of its idled U.S. copper operations, despite a pick-up in Chinese buying.

FCX has been riding high of late & I am kicking myself having looked for an entry at the $45 mark back in early June, only to be beaten by the market surge that has occurred. Bears should not be too dismayed however, as it looks as though play is going to start running the other way. Inventories on the London Metal Exchange have been on the decline since March, mainly due to companies like Freeport scaling down operations, whilst feeding the Chinese appetite. March is also when we started this huge bull run, which in my opinion is starting to look a little fatigued & toppy. One of the major indicators that I have been looking at on a weekly basis is the price of copper versus declared inventory on the LME. As you can see, inventory declinbe petered out in early July & we are now seeing that inventory starting to climb.

LME Copper

Now looking at FCX from a technical standpoint, its pretty obvious that it has been performing well in it’s channel (hat tip to anyone that has been long since March ), but it has also significantly not managed to break through the upper Bollinger band. It’s headed there right now, with a closing price yesterday of $66.07, the upper Bollinger is marking time at $66.87 & my expectation is that FCX is going to fail & pull back relatively sharply, with first major support at the $60 mark. If it falls through that level, I can see it triggering off a steady fall to the $52-$54 range, any “bad” news from China or any of the developed economies, will put on added pressure. According to Short Squeeze, short interest in FCX has increased by 8% in the last month, which is always an indicator that something is on the horizon, especially in a stock that is 80% held by institutions.

FCX

So to summarise, China is not buying in the volumes it was, US / Europe / Japan recovery is a long way off, Codelco made huge losses whilst bolstering production & Freeport has only made positive steps due to cost cutting & stepping up gold production, not withstanding its problems at it’s flagship Grasberg mine in Indonesia. That gold production doesn’t have a lot of headroom either. I’ll be keeping a very close eye on this & if significant volumes start selling through to $65, I’ll be riding down the ladder as far as I can.

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HSBC banking on BRIC & Emerging Markets

HSBCHSBC has reacted strongly to retail customer demand in New Zealand by launching four new funds, entirely focused on Emerging Markets. The four NZ$ denominated funds in which customers can invest are the China Fund, India Fund, BRIC Fund & the Asia ex Japan Fund. New Zealand investors have been looking for opportunities to take advantage of the phenomenal growth in emerging markets where we have seen EEM, EWZ, FXI & IFN realising returns between 41% – 70% year to date. These markets are widely acknowledged to be the fastest growing in the world.

“We are delighted to make this further investment in our business in New Zealand.” said New Zealand CEO, David Griffiths “This expansion of our offering also helps to further deepen our position within New Zealand.”

Last year, HSBC relaunched their Premier Banking service in order to offer Global Unit Trust products to retail investors in a number of territories. The strategy would seem to be paying off, as it allows customers to indulge in investing into new & emerging markets via the existing HSBC global network of 86 countries.

“We are excited to be a part of bringing the funds to New Zealand investors” said HSBC’s CEO Asia-Pacific Rudolf Apenbrink “providing them with the opportunity to invest in emerging markets that may typically be difficult to enter.”

The “broader reach” of HSBC would seem to be paying dividends for the bank when compared to its peers. Barclays Capital H1 2009 profits almost doubled to $1.35bn whilst HSBC Global Banking & Markets reported record H1 profits of $6.2bn against $2.7bn last year, an, encouraging seven fold increase on H2 2008. Asia contributed about 90 % of the group’s profit in the first half.

Meanwhile, HSBC is looking to be the first non-Chinese bank to gain a listing on the Shanghia stock exchange & has started the process for an IPO, timing is still unclear according to Vincent Cheng, Executive Director & Chairman for Asia-Pacific.

“Emerging markets’ contribution will account for about 60 % of the total after the U.S. market returns to profit. This is our target and, of course, we would not mind if the portion from emerging markets is bigger.”

As HSBC has a long history with & is inimically tied to Hong Kong, I can see it being able to achieve it’s aim, the choice of partner will remain open for some time. Amy successful IPO combined with the potential of Chinese retail investors to access HSBC’s global network, would have a massive impact on revenues & profitability. A big ask at the moment, but I for one will be placing a reasonable bet if & when the IPO gets clearance.

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Ukranian power plays could benefit Turkcell

ukrtelecomUkraine‘s telecommunications sector is, potentially at least, in line for a major shake up, with plans to privatise a controlling stake in state-owned landline operator Ukrtelecom. Proposals to sell off Ukrtelecom have been around since the 1990s, with different formulas and percentages being floated at various times, along with varying assessments of the company’s net worth.

In the latest version of the plan to privatise Ukrtelecom, an open joint-stock company that holds a 70% market share of local landline operations, the government has proposed selling off it’s block stake of 67.79% of Ukrtelecom’s shares. Currently, the state has a 92.79% stake in the company, with the company’s employees holding a further 7.14%.

The government’s plan, announced in February by the State Property Fund (SPF), initially foresaw the privatisation process beginning in March, though this did not take place, casting some doubt on the timeframe for the sale.

Although it did not meet its own deadline to start the process, the government has recently put Ukrtelecom back on the agenda. During a visit to South Korea in mid-July, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko called South Korean firms to place a bid for Ukrtelecom,as she pushes to attract Asian investment into the Ukrainian economy. This is part of a wider drive by Timoshenko to privatise a number of state owned assets, including 5 regional energy companies.

However, the government may have missed the boat if it is hoping for a substantial cash windfall from the sale of Ukrtelecom, with the company’s overall value having slipped badly in the past year. The stake in the company that is to be sold off was estimated to be worth around $3bn in 2008; current pricing puts it at around $940m, mainly due to the sharp fall in the local currency.

Its attractiveness as an asset has not been helped by Ukrtelecom recording a $194m loss last year, compounded by a further $32m worth of red ink in the ledger for the first quarter of 2009, a turn around from a net profit of $33m at current rates in 2007.

More likely to give potential suitors pause than the telco’s financial statements is the political cloud that hangs over the proposed privatisation, with President Viktor Yushchenko staunchly opposed to the sale. In February, after the plan to privatise Ukrtelecom was unveiled, a senior official of the president’s office said Yushchenko would do everything possible to block the sale.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, formerly close allies, are at loggerheads over numerous issues, including management of the faltering economy, combating corruption & ties with Russia. Having repeatedly blamed the Tymoshenko-led government of failing to protect the economy and the Ukrainian people from the fall out of the global financial crisis, it is no surprise that the president has opposed the sale of Ukrtelecom.

According to the SPF, there are at least 10 companies interested in bidding for the Ukrtelecom stake, though this assessment was made in March, and could be optimistic given the present variable political and economic climate. “Climate change” notwithstanding, one interested party is Turkey’s largest mobile phone operator, Turkcell (NYSE:TKC) which already has a presence in the Ukrainian telecoms sector, owning a controlling interest in Astelit, the country’s third-largest mobile services provider, which services 20% of the mobile market.

In mid-February, as discussions over the privatisation of Ukrtelecom again gained momentum, Turkcell’s chief executive officer, Sureyya Ciliv, said his firm was considering making a bid for the landline operator.

“It is an interesting situation but we need to understand the terms of the deal, and our teams are studying that. Based on the study, we will make a decision if we are a serious interested party who is willing to bid.”

What could be of more interest for Turkcell & the Ukrainian goovernment, is TeliaSonera looking at gaining a greater stake in Turkcell. The Swedish multi-national is eager to penetrate new markets in Eurasia & already has a growing fibre network building out in Ukraine. My view is that this has a greater chance of success than courting Asian investors to come into the Ukranian market, time will tell.

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Nitel – can government turn it around ?

Telecoms_MarketCiting mismanagement and underinvestment, the Nigerian government recently revoked the sale of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (Nitel) and its mobile subsidiary, M-Tel. Despite this setback, the country’s telecommunications sector is booming and is primed to overtake South Africa as the continent’s fastest-growing market. Given the rising potential, it’s likely that the former telecoms monopoly will be re-privatised soon.

Indeed, although a new tender for the 51% stake in Nitel has yet to be scheduled, there is already interest in the ailing operator. Globalcom Limited’s CEO, Jameel Mohammed, told local press that Nitel’s infrastructure makes it an attractive company, and that Globalcom is eager to revive the network.

The revocation of the sale came on June 1, when state officials announced that Transcorp, the local company that paid $500m for its controlling stake in Nitel in 2006, had breached its contract and that the government would re-assume control of the operator. The government cited a number of concerns, including the failure to invest sufficient capital and to retain a technical partner, a drop in market share, and a decline in fixed-line and mobile subscribers.

According to the government, Transcorp had not been able to pay staff salaries in recent months, causing M-Tel workers to strike. The workers only called off their seven-month strike in early June, after the government stepped in. The non-payment may have been a result of Transcorp’s alleged underinvestment in the operator. The government claims that Transcorp failed to invest NG8.9bn ($57.4m) in the first 100 days of the takeover and that it has accrued debts of NG17bn ($110m). British Telecom (BT), Transcorp’s original technical partner, also cited a lack of funding as its primary reason for withdrawing from the operator in 2007.

In addition to the financial difficulties, Nitel/M-Tel’s market share has dropped from 15% to 0.03% over the past year. Fixed lines are losing subscribers worldwide as mobile telephony has taken off, but the drop from 500,000 to 100,000 in three years is unusual, despite the broader trend. Even more worrisome is the decline in mobile subscribers, down from 1.3m to a few thousand. Considering that Nigeria‘s mobile phone market is growing rapidly, up 23% in 2008, according to analyst estimates, M-Tel’s inability to retain customers makes it an outlier.

Increased competition accounts for some of the decline, with MTN Nigeria, Zain’s Celtel Nigeria Limited and Globalcom jockeying for the majority of subscribers, but estimates suggest that there is a significant number of potential new subscribers. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) reported that the total customer base reached 62.99m at the end of 2008, but with a population of over 140m, according to the government’s most recent census in 2006, there is room for growth. Telkom, a South African company seeking to expand its operations in Nigeria, calculated that Nigeria’s penetration rate is just 30%, compared with 76% in South Africa. This figure may be on the low end, but even taking possible discrepancies into consideration, there is potential to attract further subscribers.

One of the biggest hurdles to deepening penetration, however, is Nigeria’s lack of infrastructure. To address this problem, the government will redesign its current telecommunications policy, according to Dora Akunyili, the minister of information and communications. The new policy will focus on rural infrastructure development and connectivity. At present, there are not enough base stations to support the number of users, leading to network congestion problems. Ernest Ndukwe, the executive vice-chairman of the NCC, has suggested that operators share the existing stations, of which he estimates there are 14,000 for GSM operators and 2400 for CDMA operators, while approximately 40,000 more are rolled out across the country. He expects the new stations to be rolled out in 2010.

While these small-scale developments will certainly boost connectivity, the biggest improvements will likely be seen in 2010 and 2011, when two new undersea cables begin operations. The Nigeria-based MainOne Cable Company began construction on its 14,000-km, 1.92 terabits per second (Tbps) cable in early 2008 and plans to connect West Africa to Europe, North America and Asia. The submarine cable project will reduce the cost of telecoms services in Nigeria by between 10 and 20%, according to Funke Opeke, the chief executive of MainOne. The first phase, which will cost NG250m ($1.6m), is set to open in 2010. A year later, the 14,000-km West Africa Cable System is projected to launch operations. The $600m, 3.84 Tbps, undersea cable will land in Lagos en route to connecting Cape Town and London, and will also significantly increase telecommunications capacity while easing prices.

In line with these advancements, Nigeria’s telecoms revenues should increase from the $8.4bn earned in 2008. As the country works to diversify its economy from its dependence on oil and gas, which have been particularly hard hit during the global financial crisis, and the benefits of infrastructure improvements start to materialise, telecoms, and the Nigerian economy, will reap the rewards

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