Money Managers Brace for Bond-Market Collapse

TheNewBondMarket

 

 

TCW Group Inc. is taking the possibility of a bond-market selloff seriously.

So seriously that the Los Angeles-based money manager, which oversees almost $140 billion of U.S. debt, has been accumulating more and more cash in its credit funds, with the proportion rising to the highest since the 2008 crisis.

“We never realize what the tipping point is until after it happens,” said Jack A. Bass,  head of trading for Jack A. Bass and Associates. “We’re as defensive as we’ve been since pre-crisis.”

Bass isn’t alone: Bond funds are holding about 8 percent of their assets as cash-like securities, the highest proportion since at least 1999, according to FTN Financial, citing Investment Company Institute data.

Cudzil’s reasoning is that the Federal Reserve is moving toward its first interest-rate increase since 2006, and the end of record monetary stimulus will rattle the herds of investors who poured cash into risky debt to try and get some yield.

The shift in policy comes amid a global backdrop that’s not exactly rosy. The Chinese economy is slowing, the outlook for developing nations has grown cloudy, and the tone of Greece’s bailout talks changes daily.

Distorted Markets

Of course, U.S. central bankers are aiming to gently wean markets and companies off zero interest-rate policies. In their ideal scenario, borrowing costs would rise slowly and steadily, debt investors would calmly absorb losses and corporate America would easily adjust to debt that’s a little less cheap amid an improving economy.

That outcome seems less and less likely to Cudzil, as volatility in the bond market climbs.

“If you distort markets for long periods of time and then you remove those distortions, you’re subject to unanticipated volatility,” said Cudzil, who traded high-yield bonds at Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank AG . He declined to specify the exact amount of cash he’s holding in the funds he runs.

Price swings will also likely be magnified by investors’ inability to quickly trade bonds, he said. New regulations have made it less profitable for banks to grease the wheels of markets that are traded over the counter and, as a result, they’re devoting fewer traders and money to the operations.

To boot, record-low yields have prompted investors to pile into the same types of risky investors — so it may be even more painful to get out with few potential buyers able to absorb mass selling.

“We think the market’s telling you to upgrade your portfolio,” Bass said. “Whether it happens tomorrow or in six months, do you want look silly before the market sells off or after?”

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Stock Market Top ? : The Q Ratio Indicator Says Watch Out Below

 

If you sold every share of every company in the U.S. and used the money to buy up all the factories, machines and inventory, you’d have some cash left over. That, in a nutshell, is the math behind a bear case on equities that says prices have outrun reality.

The concept is embodied in a measure known as the Q ratio developed by James Tobin, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Yale University who died in 2002. According to Tobin’s Q, equities in the U.S. are valued about 10 percent above the cost of replacing their underlying assets — higher than any time other than the Internet bubble and the 1929 peak.

Valuation tools are being dusted off around Wall Street as investors assess the staying power of the bull market that is now the second longest in 60 years. To Andrew Smithers, the 77-year-old former head of SG Warburg’s investment arm, the Q ratio is an indicator whose time has come because it illuminates distortions caused by quantitative easing.

“QE is a very dangerous policy, in my view, because it has pushed asset prices up and high asset prices, we know from history, are very dangerous,” Smithers, founder of Smithers & Co. in London, said in a phone interview. “It is very strongly indicated by reliable measures that we’re looking at a stock market which is something like 80 percent over-priced.”

Dissenting Views

Acceptance of Tobin’s theory is at best uneven, with investors such as Laszlo Birinyi saying the ratio is useless as a signal because it would have kept you out of a bull market that has added $17 trillion to share values. Others see its meaning debased in an economy whose reliance on manufacturing is nothing like it used to be.

Futures on the S&P 500 expiring next month slipped 0.1 percent at 9:36 a.m. in London.

To Smithers, the ratio’s doubling since 2009 to 1.10 is a symptom of companies diverting money from their businesses to the stock market, choosing buybacks over capital spending. Six years of zero-percent interest rates have similarly driven investors into riskier things like equities, elevating the paper value of assets over their tangible worth, he said.

Standard & Poor’s 500 Index members last year spent about 95 percent of their profits on buybacks and dividends, with stock repurchases exceeding $2 trillion since 2009, data compiled by S&P Dow Jones Indices show.

In the first four months of this year, almost $400 billion of buybacks were announced, with February, March and April ranking as three of the four busiest months ever, according to data compiled by Birinyi Associates Inc.

Slow Spending

Spending by companies on plants and equipment is lagging behind. While capital investment also rose to a record in 2014, its growth was 11 percent over the last two years, versus 45 percent in buybacks, data compiled by Barclays Plc show.

With equity prices surging and investment growth failing to keep pace, the Q ratio has risen to 58 percent above its average of 0.70 since 1900, according to data compiled by Birinyi and the Federal Reserve on market and asset values for non-financial companies. Readings above 1 are considered by some to be too high and the ratio has exceeded that threshold only 12 percent of the time, mostly between 1995 to 2001.

That’s nothing to be alarmed about because the American economy has become more oriented around services than manufacturing, according to George Pearkes, an analyst at Harrison, New York-based Bespoke Investment Group LLC. Nowadays, companies like Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. dominate growth, while decades ago, it was railroads and steelmakers, which rely heavily on capital.

Mean Reversion

“Does that necessarily mean that the Q ratio should be as high as it is right now? I don’t know,” Pearkes said by phone. “With those sorts of long-term indicators, they can sometimes mean that the market is overvalued. But the reversion to the mean on them is usually going to take a lot longer than most people’s time frame.”

Any investors who based their investment decisions on the Q ratio would have missed most of the rally since 2009, according to Jeffrey Yale Rubin, director of research at Birinyi’s firm. The measure rose above its historic mean three months into this bull market and since then, the S&P 500 has climbed 131 percent.

“The issue we have with Tobin Q is that it does a very poor job at timing the market,” Rubin said from Westport, Connecticut. “The followers of Tobin Q never told us to buy in 2009, yet now we are warned that we should sell. Our response is sell what? We were never told to buy.”

Bond Yields

Everyone from Janet Yellen to Warren Buffett has spoken cautiously on stock valuations in the past month. Both the Fed chair and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said prices are at risk of getting stretched should bond yields increase. The rate on 10-year Treasuries slipped last week to 2.14 percent while the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent.

“It’s probably a sensible configuration for the stock market to be overvalued because competing investments are so poor,” Robert Brusca, president of Fact & Opinion Economics in New York, said by phone. “As an investor, you’re not just looking at the value of the firm, but the value of the firm relative to other things you can do with your money.”

At 2,260 days, the bull market that began in March 2009 this month exceeded the 1974-1980 rally as the second longest since 1956. While measures such as price-to-earnings ratios are holding just above historical averages, the bull market’s duration is sowing anxiety among professionals who watched the previous two end in catastrophe.

“We’re still close enough to that prior experience and that hold-over effect is still there,” Chris Bouffard, chief investment officer who oversees more than $10 billion at Mutual Fund Store in Overland Park, Kansas, said by phone. “When you start to see prior cycle peaks on the chart like Tobin Q and any other valuation metrics that people are putting up there, it looks dramatic, stark and scary.”

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Oil Hits Two-Week High on Dollar-Fueled Rally – Yemen:Shipping Chokepoint

Oil storage in tanks on the edge of town in Cushing, Okla.

 

Trader cites added impact of Middle Eastern conflicts on pricing
Updated March 25, 2015 4:06 p.m. ET

Oil prices surged to their longest winning-streak in more than a month as the weakening dollar continues to fire up a rally despite a historic glut of oil.

U.S. oil pushed to the verge of $50 a barrel for the first time since March 9. Four straight sessions of gains matched a winning streak from late January and early February. The market hasn’t had a five-session winning streak since June, when Islamic State militants were threatening the Iraqi capital.

Middle Eastern conflicts could have played a role Wednesday as news spread of Saudi Arabia building up forces near Yemen, said trader Tariq Zahir. But the dollar was likely the main factor behind the rally, Mr. Zahir and others said.

Oil has been rallying for most of the past week, since the Federal Reserve ratcheted back expectations for a rate increase. That news started the dollar’s retreat from a historic high, which has since fueled an inverse price move in oil.

Oil prices moved in tandem with the dollar, especially in the past four months, analysts said. Dollar-priced commodities like oil become more affordable for holders of other currencies as the dollar depreciates.

Some traders have been buying on expectation of the tandem move. Others have been buying oil simply because they are looking for other trades now that the dollar’s long rally may be over, traders and brokers said.

“It’s the hope of U.S. dollar going down and production going down in the U.S.—without [the traders] fully thinking about it,” said Mr. Zahir, who is bearish on oil prices.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled up $1.70, or 3.6%, to $49.21 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That is its highest settlement since March 9.

Brent, the global benchmark, gained $1.37, or 2.5%, to $56.48 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, its highest settlement since March 12.

It could be a panic move and a mistake, said Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA Inc., comparing the rise to the last winning streak when traders bought into oil as rig counts started to fall precipitously. With rigs out of work, hopes grew that production would soon decline. Instead, production has kept growing.

“They think they have this newfound gem of an information point, and then they realize” the fundamentals rule, Mr. Yawger said.

 

I
The market briefly lost ground on news that U.S. producers added to a historic glut, but rebounded within about 90 minutes and kept rallying for the rest of the afternoon.

U.S. oil inventories rose by 8.2 million barrels in the week ended March 20 to 466.7 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said, outdoing a 5.6-million-barrel increase expected in a Wall Street Journal survey of traders and analysts.

Stockpiles are at a high in weekly data going back to 1982. In monthly data, which don’t exactly line up with weekly data, inventories haven’t been this high since 1930.

Stockpiles in Cushing, Okla., a key storage hub and the delivery point for the Nymex contract, rose by 1.9 million barrels to 56.3 million barrels, adding to its highest level on record in data going back to April 2004. The EIA said in September that Cushing’s working storage capacity was 70.8 million barrels.
Domestic crude production also slightly edged out the weekly record it set last week of 9.4 million barrels.

“Bottom line, we’re filling up those stockpiles and as long as refinery operations are subdued, we’re going to see these” additions, said Mark Waggoner, president of brokerage Excel Futures. “This is about the time we ought to sell.”

Gasoline stockpiles fell by 2 million barrels, more than the 1.7 million-barrel drop expected by analysts surveyed by the Journal.

Front-month gasoline futures settled up 2% at $1.8365 a gallon.

Distillate stocks, including heating oil and diesel fuel, fell by 34,000 barrels, less than the 500,000-barrel drop that analysts had expected.

Diesel futures settled up 1.3% at $1.7283 a gallon.

Bloomberg) — While Yemen contributes less than 0.2 percent of global oil output, its location puts it near the center of world energy trade.

The nation shares a border with Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, and sits on one side of a shipping chokepoint used by crude tankers heading West from the Persian Gulf. Global oil prices jumped more than 5 percent on Thursday after regional powers began bombing rebel targets in the country that produced less than Denmark in 2013.

Yemen’s government has collapsed in the face of an offensive by rebels known as Houthis, prompting airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The Gulf’s main Sunni Muslim power says the Houthis are tools of its Shiite rival Iran, another OPEC member, and has vowed to do what’s necessary to halt them.

“While thousands of barrels of oil from Yemen will not be noticed, millions from Saudi Arabia will matter,” said John Vautrain, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the energy industry and is the head of Vautrain & Co., a consultant in Singapore. “Saudi Arabia has been concerned about unrest spreading from Yemen.”

Yemen produced about 133,000 barrels a day of oil in 2013, making it the 39th biggest producer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Output peaked at more than 440,000 barrels a day in 2001, the Energy Department’s statistical arm said on its website.

Shipping Chokepoint

Brent, the benchmark grade for more than half the world’s crude, gained as much as $3.23, or 5.7 percent, to $59.71 a barrel in electronic trading on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange on Thursday. West Texas Intermediate futures, the U.S. marker, jumped 5.6 percent to $51.98 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“Yemen is not an oil producer of great significance but it is located geographically and politically in a very important part of the Middle East,” said Ric Spooner, a chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

 

The U.S. Has Too Much Oil and Nowhere to Put It = another drop in prices

 

The bottom line: A record 449 million barrels of oil are being stored in the U.S. Shrinking storage capacity will lead to another drop in prices.

Seven months ago the giant tanks in Cushing, Okla., the largest crude oil storage hub in North America, were three-quarters empty. After spending the last few years brimming with light, sweet crude unlocked by the shale drilling revolution, the tanks held just less than 18 million barrels by late July, down from a high of 52 million in early 2013. New pipelines to refineries along the Gulf Coast had drained Cushing of more than 30 million barrels in less than a year.
As quickly as it emptied out, Cushing has filled back up again. Since October, the amount of oil stored there has almost tripled, to more than 51 million barrels. As oil prices have crashed, from more than $100 a barrel last summer to below $50 now, big trading companies are storing their crude in hopes of selling it for higher prices down the road. With U.S. production continuing to expand, that’s led to the fastest increase in U.S. oil inventories on record. For most of this year, the U.S. has added almost 1 million barrels a day to its stash of crude supplies. As of March 11, nationwide stocks were at 449 million barrels, by far the most ever.
Not only are the tanks at Cushing filling up, so are those across much of the U.S. Facilities in the Midwest are about 70 percent full, while the East Coast is at about 85 percent capacity. This has some analysts beginning to wonder if the U.S. has enough room to store all its oil. Ed Morse, the global head of commodities research at Citigroup, raised that concern on Feb. 23 at an oil symposium hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “The fact of the matter is, we’re running out of storage capacity in the U.S.,” he said.

If oil supplies do overwhelm the ability to store them, the U.S. will likely cut back on imports and finally slow down the pace of its own production, since there won’t be anywhere to put excess supply. Prices could also fall, perhaps by a lot. Morse and his team of analysts at Citigroup have predicted that sometime this spring, as tanks reach their limits, oil prices will again nosedive, potentially all the way to $20 a barrel. With no place to store crude, producers and trading companies would likely have to sell their oil to refineries at discounted prices, which could finally persuade producers to stop pumping.
Oil investors appear to be coming around to the notion that a lack of storage capacity could lead to another price crash. In the futures market, hedge funds have spent the past few weeks cutting their bets that oil prices will rise. Instead, they’ve built up a record short position, increasing their wagers that prices will fall. During a March 11 interview on CNBC, Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn said he’s concerned the U.S. is running out of storage, particularly as refineries enter their seasonal maintenance period, to prepare for the summer driving season. Around this time they usually cut the amount of crude they buy. Cohn said prices could go as low as $30 a barrel.
Oil Inventories at Highest Levels We’ve Seen
The math on this can be a bit tricky. The U.S. Department of Energy measures oil storage capacity twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. As of September 2014, the U.S. had 521 million barrels of working capacity, up from 500 million in 2013. That includes the space inside tank farms and on-site at refineries. It doesn’t, however, include the amount of oil that can be stored in pipelines or storage tanks near oil wells; nor does it include the amount of capacity in tankers off the coast, in transit from Alaska, or on trains. Of the 449 million barrels of total crude stocks, about 327 million are stored in tank farms or on-site at refineries.
According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. is using about 63 percent of its storage capacity, up from 48 percent a year ago. “We have more space than some people tend to believe,” says Andy Lipow, an energy consultant in Houston. The most recent estimate of storage capacity also doesn’t include tanks built since September in North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas, he says.
Still, the amount of space available in the tanks at Cushing is getting tight. The storage hub will run out of room by Memorial Day, says Stephen Schork, who runs energy consulting company Schork Group. As long as oil stays cheap, he says, traders have an incentive to store it. Cushing has room for roughly 71 million barrels of oil, up from about 50 million in 2010. One of the biggest owners of tanks there is Canadian energy distributor Enbridge. “We don’t have much room left, but we’re still answering the phones,” says Mike Moeller, who manages the company’s Cushing tank farm. “Not everybody who calls is going to get space.” He says monthly lease rates in the spot market have gone from dimes per barrel to more than a dollar in some cases.
“These producers have kept chugging away when they should have been shutting down”
Even with prices less than half what they were last summer and storage capacity growing scarcer, U.S. oil output has continued to rise. Through February, U.S. daily crude production reached 9.3 million barrels, about 1 million barrels more than a year ago. The massive storage buildup has provided oil companies with a phantom demand for their crude. Many hedged production before prices got too low, taking out futures contracts that guarantee a certain price. That’s allowed them to sell oil for a price higher than the going rate of $49 a barrel, keeping many profitable despite lower prices.
Running out of room inside the nation’s storage tanks might be the only way to keep companies from pumping more oil. “These producers have kept chugging away when they should have been shutting down,” says Dominick Chirichella, co-president of the Energy Management Institute, a New York-based advisory group. “At some point, the fact that supply is outstripping demand has to have its moment of truth.”

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Tankers – The Bright Sector in Oil and Shipping Sector Collapse

Oil Traders Seen Storing Millions of Barrels at Sea on Slump

Oil companies are seeking supertankers to store 20 million barrels of crude as a collapse in the price of the commodity creates a trading opportunity last seen during the 2008-09 recession, a Greek shipping company said.

Companies inquired about booking 10 very large crude carriers for storage in the past several days, Odysseus Valatsas, the chartering manager for Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd. near Athens, said by e-mail today. A “handful” have already been hired for the trade, he said, citing discussions with shipbrokers and others working in the shipping market. Dynacom’s fleet can carry about 65 million barrels of oil.

Oil collapsed 48 percent in 2014 and prices for later this year are now so far above current costs that traders can make money from buying cargoes and storing them on ships, according to JBC Energy GmbH. As many as 60 million barrels could be held offshore within the next several months, the Vienna-based consultant predicted on Jan. 6. Traders stored 100 million barrels at sea in 2009, Frontline Ltd., a tanker owner, said at the time.

“It looks more and more likely that you’ll see more floating storage and it’s going to be good” for ship owners, Eirik Haavaldsen, a shipping analyst at Pareto Securities SA in Oslo, said by phone. “The re-emergence of floating storage is what could move the crude tanker market this year from being rather good to possibly very very good.”

Frontline Surge

Shares of Frontline rose as much as 14 percent in Oslo today to the highest in almost a year. They closed up 9.5 percent at 28.70 krone ($3.74).

Shipping costs gained today, with day rates for supertanker shipments to Japan from Saudi Arabiaclimbing 1 percent to $82,216 a day, the most for the time of year since at least 2009, according to data from the Baltic Exchange in London.

Brent crude for August traded at $55.87 a barrel as of 4:20 p.m. in London, a premium of $6.75 compared with February. That gap needs to be about $6.50 to cover hiring a ship and other costs associated with storing crude, according to E.A. Gibson Shipbrokers Ltd. in London.

JBC estimates that 30 million to 60 million barrels will be stored offshore in the next several months. The higher end of that forecast is about the same as Denmark’s annual consumption.

Oil Companies and Investors In Denial : Portfolio Profits At Risk

My rant – the  curse of Cassandra :

Cassandra, daughter of the king and queen, in the temple of Apollo, exhausted from practising, is said to have fallen asleep – when Apollo wished to embrace her, she did not afford the opportunity of her body. On account of which thing :

when she prophesied true things, she was not believed.

I have written :

Managed Accounts Year End Review and Forecast

Shipping Sector / Bulk ShippersYou can review our stock market letter athttp://www.amp2012.com to follow our profits in the shipping sector before our retreat as overcapacity has yet to effect continued overbuiding. In 2008-9 rates-  illustrated by the Baltic Dry Index – were at their peak. The BDI hit over 10,000. Today it is roughly 10 % of that benchmark and the sector slide continues. We have an impressive watchlist of former ” darlings” – but we are content to watch and wait.
Oil/ Energy I am very happy for the call in natural gas prices – out at $12 and into oil. When oil was above $100 we lessened positions and that is our saving grace in the past two weeks. We are not bottom feeders and will wait for a turn in the market before reentering drillers or producers.On Friday November 27th, crude oil prices dropped to below $72 and the slide has continued into the weekend, with Brent crude oil at $70.15 as I write this post. Shares of major oil companies traded down on Friday. Our former energy sector holdings are down another between 4% and 11%, including SDRL, which dropped another 8% following Wednesday’s 23% plunge…

Have you avoided these sectors  ?– you  ( your portfolio) would have been better off today

and now you have to decide for 2015.

No one – and I am not being humble here – can project the future with great accuracy but our clients continue to do very well and we offer that experience to you.

Two examples drawn from a recent sector review on Seeking Alpha – note that company management and you as an investor are not able to face present prices, trends and the facts of supply and demand . What are the these people thinking – why would you invest here ?

Cabot Oil and Gas (NYSE: COG)

Standing behind its production growth expectations of 20-30% in 2015, Cabot is budgeting $1.53-1.6 billion of capital expenditure for 2015, of which drilling and well completion capital will consist roughly 80%. However, the company is budgeting for $88/bbl oil, which at this point seems rather optimistic. Note that this is an increase from 2013’s $1.19 billion capital expenditure program.

Concho Resources (NYSE: CXO)

Concho is one rare company that is seeking to execute large increases in production in 2015, budgeting $3 billion for capex in 2015 as of their 3Q results release. To this end they have hedged roughly 42,000 barrels per day for 2015 at an average price of $87.22 per their derivatives information column on this page, or about a quarter of their target output.

Encana Energy (NYSE: ECA)

Encana is banking on higher realized oil prices in 2015 as their projected budget has actually increased this year to $2.7-2.9 billion, up from a previously announced $2.5-2.6 billion. Aftersuccessfully acquiring Athlon Energy (the transaction closing in November), Encana is making a bullish push to grow business in spite of ominous sector-wide headwinds.

The impending writedowns represent the latest blow to an industry rocked by a combination of faltering demand growth and booming supplies from North American shale fields. The downturn threatens to wipe out more than $1.6 trillion in earnings for producing companies and nations this year. Oil explorers already are canceling drilling plans and laying off crews to conserve cash needed to cover dividend checks to investors and pay back debts.

The mid-cap and small-cap operators are going to be hardest hit because this is all driven by their cost to produce,” said Gianna Bern, founder of Brookshire Advisory and Research Inc., who also teaches international finance at the University of Notre Dame.

An index of 43 U.S. oil and gas companies lost about one-fourth of its value since crude began its descent from last year’s intraday high of $107.73 a barrel on June 20.

Have you avoided these sectors  ?– you would have been better off  and now you have to decide for 2015.

No one – and I am not being humble here – can project the future with great accuracy but our clients continue to do very well and we offer that experience to you.

Jack A. Bass Managed Accounts

Fees : 1 % annual set up and a performance bonus of 20 % – only if we perform.

You can withdraw your funds at the rate of 1 % monthly if you require an income stream.

OR

Looking for Income ?  – Alternate Guaranteed Income Payments

Private client funds Minimum $10,000 Maximum Loan $500,000

Our client is seeking funds to expand their tanker fleet .

Interest 12 % compounded – paid 1% per month

Floating charge of the full $500,000 against the fleet – valued at  more than $ 1 M

 

Contact information:

To learn more about portfolio management , tax reduction,asset protection, trusts ,offshore company formation and structure for your business interests (at no cost or obligation)

Email

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10:00 – 4:00 Monday to Friday Pacific Time ( same time zone as Los Angeles).

Similar to wise buying decisions, exiting certain underperformers at the right time helps maximize portfolio returns. Selling off losers can be difficult, but if both the share price and estimates are falling, it could be time to get rid of the security before more losses hit your portfolio.

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Miners Sector 2015 Forecast :Dumping Assets At Fire-sale Prices

Senior mining companies are still holding many unnecessary and troubled assets on their books. So it would not be a surprise to see a few more dirt-cheap deals in 2015.

Scott Douglas/Riversdale Mining Ltd.Senior mining companies are still holding many unnecessary and troubled assets .

The junior mining sector is in such brutal shape right now that most companies are unwilling to even pay for booths at conferences that are geared to them.

 

Mr. Dethlefsen’s firm, Corsa Coal Corp., was approached this year about buying coal assets in Pennsylvania from Russian steel giant OAO Severstal, which was bailing out of the United States.

Severstal had bought these operations for $900 million in 2008, when steelmaking coal prices were hitting all-time highs. Mr. Dethlefsen would not pay anything close to that in today’s awful coal market, but he didn’t have to. Corsa bought the operations for a grand total of US$60 million, or less than 8% of what Severstal paid.

“It’s a tough market. We have our work cut out for us with this business and it’s not going to be easy,” said Mr. Dethlefsen, Corsa’s chief executive.

“But we’d rather start by paying US$60 million than US$500 million.”

Indeed. It used to be that when mining companies put assets up for auction, they wouldn’t actually sell them unless they got a very full price. That could be because their commodity price assumptions were too optimistic, or they were just too attached to them and convinced they could extract more value. Dozens of interesting projects were put up for auction in recent years and never changed hands because sellers demanded too much money.

We have our work cut out for us with this business and it’s not going to be easy

That changed in 2014, especially at the low end. This will go down as the year when miners were happy to dump their troubled assets. They just wanted to get them off the books and make them someone else’s problem.

The Corsa-Severstal deal was one such example. Rio Tinto Ltd., another, sold coal assets in Mozambique for US$50 million, just three years after paying US$3.7 billion for them. Kinross Gold Corp. dumped Fruta del Norte, possibly the world’s richest undeveloped gold project, for US$240 million, or less than a quarter of what it paid six years ago.

A Billion Dollar Loss – and more of these stories to be written in 2015

And then there was the unfortunate tale of Alberta coal miner Grande Cache Coal Corp. A pair of Asian commodity traders (Marubeni Corp. and Winsway Enterprises Holdings) paid $1 billion for the company in 2011. But coal prices turned dramatically against them. So in October, they agreed to sell their Grand Cache stakes for a buck. Each.

These fire-sale prices generated some laughs across the industry. Yet the deals have an undeniable logic in the current volatile market conditions.

Handout/Grande Cache Coal

Handout/Grande Cache CoalA pair of Asian commodity traders (Marubeni Corp. and Winsway Enterprises Holdings) paid $1 billion for Grande Cache Coal in 2011. But coal prices turned dramatically against them. So in October, they agreed to sell their Grand Cache stakes for a buck. Each.

During the mining bull market (roughly 2002 to 2011), the industry was undergoing massive consolidation as miners rode the wave of rising metal prices. Senior mining companies like Rio Tinto and Vale SA snapped up almost everything in sight, piling up a lot of debt and unnecessary assets in the process. As long as commodity prices were high, who cared? They were just happy to get bigger.

It took a steep drop in prices — and an embarrassing wave of writedowns — to force them to reconsider their strategy. They realized too much management time was being wasted on non-core assets that deliver minimal or no return. They also recognized that low commodity prices may last for a while and that they needed to shed these assets to get as lean as possible.

It has helped that almost every major mining company replaced its CEO over the last couple of years. These guys have no emotional attachment to the assets their predecessors overpaid for, and are happy to do whatever it takes to get value out of them.

“Everyone is looking at rationalizing their portfolios to their best core assets,” said Melanie Shishler, a partner and mining specialist at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP. “In furtherance of that, I think people are being quite unrelenting in what they’re prepared to do to reach that goal.”

And there was nothing CEOs wanted to divest more than their problem assets. These assets were unloaded for bargain-basement prices after they backfired in spectacular ways.

For Severstal, it was a combination of a deteriorating coal market and Vladimir Putin. When Severstal bought the U.S. assets in 2008, coking coal prices were soaring above US$300 a tonne. Supply was so tight that steelmakers were terrified they would not be able to source product, so they started snapping up coal mining operations.

Today, that strategy seems absurd. Benchmark prices have plunged to US$117 a tonne, due to soaring supply and uncertain Chinese demand. Steelmakers no longer see any need to be vertically integrated.

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Kinross – Poster Child For Mining Sector Errors

For Toronto-based Kinross, the central issue was also politics. The problem with the Fruta del Norte (FDN) project is that it is in Ecuador, a country with no history of large-scale gold mining. Kinross paid $1.2 billion for FDN in 2008 even though Ecuador did not have a firm mining law at the time. It was a reckless gamble, and it backfired after the government demanded outrageous windfall profits taxes. (Kinross owns equity in FDN’s new owner, so it could still benefit if the mine is built.)

Rio Tinto fell victim to a lack of good due diligence. It paid billions for the Mozambique coal assets without having a firm transportation plan in place. The transportation constraints were far bigger than anticipated, making the coal assets almost worthless in Rio’s eyes.

Handout/Kinross

Handout/KinrossKinross paid $1.2 billion for the Fruta del Norte mine in 2008 even though Ecuador did not have a firm mining law at the time. It was a reckless gamble, and it backfired after the government demanded outrageous windfall profits taxes.

 

In the two-dollar Grande Cache deal, the Asian sellers decided the assets definitely worthless to them at these prices. Experts said the sellers were facing potential cash outflows in the short term, something they clearly wanted to avoid.

Senior mining companies are still holding many unnecessary and troubled assets on their books. So it would not be a surprise to see a few more dirt-cheap deals in 2015.

One notable thing about these transactions is they usually involved a large company selling to a very small one. Sometimes it takes a small company to give a problem asset the attention it needs to create value. If they can’t get the assets turned around, then these deals are not such a great bargain.

“I’ve always said one company’s non-core asset is the cornerstone asset of another one,” said Jack A. Bass, managing partner at Jack A. Bass and Associates.

That is certainly the case with Corsa, which transformed into a serious player overnight with the Severstal deal. But now that the excitement has worn off, the company has to prove it can generate actual value out of these operations in a miserable coal market. If Corsa pulls that off and prices rebound, it could turn out to be one of the best mining deals in decades.

“We took the opportunity to come in and buy at what we think is the trough,” Mr. Dethlefsen said.

“To do that, you’ve got to have a pretty strong stomach. Over the next 12 months, it’s going to be a knife fight.”

You Have Options:

What To Do ?

Here is our recent letter:

Managed Accounts Year End Review and Forecast

November 2014 – 40 % cash position
Gold and Precious MetalsThe largest gains for our clients came from the exit from the gold producers at $18oo an ounce and continuing until we hold no gold and no gold miners . This from the author of The Gold Investors Handbook.2015 – We continue to be on the sidelines for this sector – regardless of the gnomes of Switzerland . As a safe haven gold simply wasnot there for investors despite turmoil in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine.How much more frightening can the prospect for peace be than to have wars in multiple locations? Secondly the spectre of inflation – on which I have given numerous talks – simply failed to materialize. In fact economists and portfolio managers such as myself are now more concerned about deflation – and the spectre is a Japanese style decades long slide in the world economy.
Shipping Sector / Bulk ShippersYou can review our stock market letter athttp://www.amp2012.com to follow our profits in the shipping sector before our retreat as overcapacity has yet to effect continued overbuiding. In 2008-9 rates-  illustrated by the Baltic Dry Index – were at their peak. The BDI hit over 10,000. Today it is roughly 10 % of that benchmark and the sector slide continues. We have an impressive watchlist of former ” darlings” – but we are content to watch and wait.
Oil/ Energy I am very happy for the call in natural gas prices – out at $12 and into oil. When oil was above $100 we lessened positions and that is our saving grace in the past two weeks. We are not bottom feeders and will wait for a turn in the market before reentering drillers or producers.On Friday November 27th, crude oil prices dropped to below $72 and the slide has continued into the weekend, with Brent crude oil at $70.15 as I write this post. Shares of major oil companies traded down on Friday. Our former energy sector holdings are down another between 4% and 11%, including SDRL, which dropped another 8% following Wednesday’s 23% plunge…

Have you avoided these sectors – you would have been better off to follow our advice in 2014 and now you have to decide for 2015.
No one – and I am not being humble here – can project the future with great accuracy but our clients continue to do very well and we offer that experience to you.

Fees : 1 % annual set up and a performance bonus of 20 % – only if we perform.

You can withdraw your funds monthly if you require an income stream.

Alternate Guaranteed Income Payments

Private client funds Minimum $10,000 Maximum Loan $500,000

Our client is seeking funds to expand their tanker fleet .

Interest 12 % compounded – paid 1% per month

Floating charge of the full $500,000 against the fleet – valued at  more than $ 1 M

 

Contact information:

To learn more about portfolio management ,asset protection, trusts ,offshore company formation and structure for your business interests (at no cost or obligation)

Email

jackabass@gmail.com OR

info@jackbassteam.com  OR

Call Jack direct at 604-858-3202

10:00 – 4:00 Monday to Friday Pacific Time ( same time zone as Los Angeles).

Similar to wise buying decisions, exiting certain underperformers at the right time helps maximize portfolio returns. Selling off losers can be difficult, but if both the share price and estimates are falling, it could be time to get rid of the security before more losses hit your portfolio.

Tax website  Http://www.youroffshoremoney.com

Energy Forecast 2015 : Oil Prices Won’t Be Bouncing Back

The surge in production comes as growth in global demand hit a five-year low in 2014, due to "a sharp slowdown in Chinese oil demand growth and steep contractions in Europe and Japan," the IEA said in its December report.

The surge in production comes as growth in global demand hit a five-year low in 2014, due to “a sharp slowdown in Chinese oil demand growth and steep contractions in Europe and Japan,” the IEA said in its December report.
  • ANALYSIS

The world’s major producers continue to pump oil at record levels, dimming hopes of a price rebound in the near future.


Jack A. Bass tax planning and investing guru says the prolonged stretch of low oil prices to come will bring on economic and geopolitical changes that not so long ago were unthinkable

U.S. crude has lost half its value since the summer, as eight of the world’s Top 10 producers cranked up production at or near record levels, with no one willing to rein in output.

On Tuesday, the global benchmark Brent settled up 2¢ at US$57.90. U.S. crude settled up 51¢ at US$54.12 a barrel. Both measures hit 5-1/2-year lows Monday before rebounding slightly.

International Energy Agency data shows U.S. oil production has risen by 4.7 million barrels per day during the past five years, while Canada’s production is up one million bpd and Saudi Arabia has climbed by 1.7 million bpd.

The surge in production comes as growth in global demand hit a five-year low in 2014, due to “a sharp slowdown in Chinese oil demand growth and steep contractions in Europe and Japan,” the IEA said in its December report.

The global oil market appears heavily oversupplied during the first-half of 2015

At the same time, Saudi, Canadian, American, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Russian and UAE production were at or near their highest-ever levels.

“The global oil market appears heavily oversupplied during the first-half of 2015, with global stock builds becoming more manageable during the second-half of next year,” said RBC Capital Markets in a Dec. 18 report. “On an annual basis, we estimate the global oil market is approximately 1 million bpd oversupplied in 2015, but should tighten in 2016 as non-OPEC supply growth decelerate.”

There are few upside risks for oil at the moment. Markets barely registered news of a rocket attack last week on an oil terminal in Libya that saw up to 1.8 million bpd of oil wiped out from the market.

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CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Indeed, a deal between Iraq’s central government and the autonomous region of Kurdistan could see up to 300,000-bpd of oil entering the market by the first quarter. On Tuesday, the U.S. administration released more details on what kind of petroleum is allowed to be shipped under the 40-year ban on crude exports, that could further encourage production.

“I think we are in an era of low oil prices for some time to come,” said Phil Flynn, a Chicago-based analyst at The Price Futures Group Inc. “We ended the year in the U.S. with record inventories, we have OPEC basically on track to produce two million barrels per day more than the demand for their oil; and then we have other non-OPEC countries not showing any signs of cutting back in production — the glut is going to go on.”

Oil companies have started to take some action with rig counts at an eighth-month low in the U.S., but it will take a while for the process to filter through the supply chain.

In a sign of the lag, RBC expects non-OPEC supply growth to rise by 1.8 million bpd (compared to its previous estimate of 1.7 million bpd) in 2014, 1.1 million bpd (versus 1.3 million bpd) in 2015, and finally taper to 300,000  to 400,000  bpd in 2016 (compared to its previous estimate of 900,000 bpd).

While smaller, leveraged companies are expected to bear the brunt of the oil price plunge, the bigger, well-capitalized players will likely benefit from the purge of marginal barrels.

“The well-integrated oil companies are loving this,” Mr. Flynn says. “They are going to be able to ride it out and pounce on opportunities when others are going to be tight for cash.”

Few analysts expect an oil price recovery within the next few months, but some  believe markets are underestimating supply threats hovering over the horizon.

“We believe oil prices will rebound for three reasons,” said Leslie Palti-Guzman
, senior analyst, global energy and natural resources at Eurasia Group.

“Markets are underestimating the Libyan crisis, the U.S. Congress will impose more sanctions on Iran, curtailing its production, and Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies will take some action.

 

You Have Options:

What To Do ?

Here is our recent letter:

Managed Accounts Year End Review and Forecast

November 2014 – 40 % cash position

Oil/ Energy I am very happy for the call in natural gas prices – out at $12 and into oil. When oil was above $100 we lessened positions and that is our saving grace in the past two weeks. We are not bottom feeders and will wait for a turn in the market before reentering drillers or producers.On Friday November 27th, crude oil prices dropped to below $72 and the slide has continued into the weekend, with Brent crude oil at $70.15 as I write this post. Shares of major oil companies traded down on Friday. Our former energy sector holdings are down another between 4% and 11%, including SDRL, which dropped another 8% following Wednesday’s 23% plunge…

Have you avoided these sectors – you would have been better off to follow our advice in 2014 and now you have to decide for 2015.
No one – and I am not being humble here – can project the future with great accuracy but our clients continue to do very well and we offer that experience to you.

Fees : 1 % annual set up and a performance bonus of 20 % – only if we perform.

You can withdraw your funds monthly if you require an income stream.

Alternate Guaranteed Income Payments

Private client funds Minimum $10,000 Maximum Loan $500,000

Our client is seeking funds to expand their tanker fleet .

Interest 12 % compounded – paid 1% per month

Floating charge of the full $500,000 against the fleet – valued at  more than $ 1 M

 

Contact information:

To learn more about portfolio management ,asset protection, trusts ,offshore company formation and structure for your business interests (at no cost or obligation)

Email

jackabass@gmail.com OR

info@jackbassteam.com  OR

Call Jack direct at 604-858-3202

10:00 – 4:00 Monday to Friday Pacific Time ( same time zone as Los Angeles).

Similar to wise buying decisions, exiting certain underperformers at the right time helps maximize portfolio returns. Selling off losers can be difficult, but if both the share price and estimates are falling, it could be time to get rid of the security before more losses hit your portfolio.

Tax website  Http://www.youroffs