2016 Fearless Gold Sector Forecast : Stay The Hell Away

Build Your Gold Watch List – but keep your portfolio in other sectors :

This past year was one of the worst ever for large mining companies, which suffered because of falling commodity prices and high leverage. They needed cash badly, and the streaming companies were more than happy to provide it. Mining giants such as Barrick Gold Corp., Glencore Plc, Teck Resources Ltd. and Vale SA all sold streams in 2015.

For junior or producing gold companies and their investors, the range of forecasts and continued volatility suggest it’s wiser to ignore the crystal balls for now and instead focus on what companies can control, like ensuring a sound business plan, keeping their balance sheets strong, monitoring costs, and building value for their shareholders.

Trends are against gold:

1) no inflation can be detected

2) rising interest rates offer a money making alternative while we watch and wait

3) global unrest in the middle East, Africa and Ukraine continue unabated but don’t move the panic button to ” buy”

4) Peter Schiff continues to see gold at $5,000  ( our best contrarian indicator )

This is the time of year when analysts roll out their economic forecasts for the New Year. For those who keep a close eye on gold prices, this can be a painful process.

It’s been another tough 12 months for the yellow metal, with prices falling for the third consecutive year — down about 10 per cent in 2015 alone. Prices touched a high in the neighbourhood of $1,300 and, as the year drew to close, they neared six-year lows around $1050.

That’s a big dive from the heady days of 2011, when gold hit over $1,900 an ounce.

What made things even more difficult for the sector in 2015 was the price volatility. Just when it appeared prices might be on a firm trajectory upward, they would then fall, creating more uncertainty among everyone from investors to gold companies.

That volatility is making it harder for prognosticators to estimate 2016 prices with any certainty. It’s the proverbial attempt to nail Jell-O to a wall.

That doesn’t prevent them from trying. But the resounding lack of consensus suggests it is a fraught exercise. Some are breathlessly proclaiming we’re on the brink of a new gold bull market. On the flip side, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan predict it will fall to the psychologically important $1,000 US-per-ounce level — or lower — in 2016. Bank of America Merrill Lynch believes it will average $950 an ounce in early 2016 before recovering. Slightly more optimistic forecasters, like HSBC, predict gold will average $1,205 next year.

Gold is different from other metals in that its prices are not driven largely by typical supply and demand. While the prices of other metals, like copper or silver, tend to rise and fall as economies grow and shrink, a lot of different forces affect gold’s price. It’s used as a store of wealth, unlike most other metals (you don’t store copper to get rich), and it’s considered a “safe haven” — used as a hedge against political and economic uncertainty.

Inflation and the U.S. dollar are two major forces behind gold’s prices. In 2015, they didn’t work in gold’s favour. The collapse of the price of oil has kept inflation in check, which is bad for gold because of its role as a hedge against rising prices. The U.S. dollar has been strong — another blow for gold, which performs contrary to the greenback. Some say one of the reasons for the strong dollar was ongoing speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve would raise rates for the first time in almost a decade. The Fed did that on Dec. 16, but there was minimal impact on gold due to the central bank’s dovish approach of a gradual tightening of future rates.

 

The dark side of metal streaming deals: Strapped mining companies trade future value for cash ( Financial Post )

 

In September, Robert Quartermain did something highly unusual for a mining executive — he signed a streaming deal with an early exit strategy.

Precious metal streaming companies looking to team up to tackle bigger deals

Valerian Mazataud/Bloomberg

Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of opportunities available in volatile commodity markets, precious-metal “streaming” companies are looking to team up to take on large acquisitions that they might not be able to readily afford on their own.

Continue reading.
Quartermain, the CEO of Vancouver-based Pretium Resources Inc., was alarmed at how much value miners are giving away in gold and silver stream sales, in which future output is sold at below-market prices in exchange for an instant cash infusion.

So when he sold a US$150-million stream on Pretium’s Brucejack project in British Columbia, he insisted that the deal include buyback options for Pretium in 2018 and 2019, and that it cap the number of gold and silver ounces that can be sold.

“When you start putting in higher levels of streaming, and the stream lasts forever, then the potential upside starts going to streaming holders and (away from) your existing shareholders,” Quartermain said in an interview.

This will go down as the biggest year ever for metal streaming deals, and it’s not even close. Miners have raised US$4.2 billion from 11 stream sales in 2015, according to Financial Post data. That is nearly double the US$2.2 billion raised in 2013, which is the second biggest year on record.

For the most part, mining analysts and investors have cheered these deals. But their sheer number has caused alarm for some observers, who worry that miners are giving away vast amounts of future upside once metal prices improve.

The metal streaming business was created back in 2004. In these transactions, a streaming company like Silver Wheaton Corp. gives a mining company an upfront cash payment. In return, it gets the right to buy a fixed amount of precious metals production from the miner at a fixed price that is far below the market price. The streamer can then sell the metal for a profit. The biggest players in this business are Silver Wheaton, Franco-Nevada Corp. and Royal Gold Inc.

This past year was one of the worst ever for large mining companies, which suffered because of falling commodity prices and high leverage. They needed cash badly, and the streaming companies were more than happy to provide it. Mining giants such as Barrick Gold Corp., Glencore Plc, Teck Resources Ltd. and Vale SA all sold streams in 2015.
On the surface, these deals made a lot of sense for mining companies. Their stock prices are so depressed that they do not want to even think about issuing equity. And the last thing this sector needs is to take on more debt. So they sold future metal production instead.

“When companies are between a rock and a hard place, they often sell what’s good because they can’t sell what’s bad,” said John Tumazos, an independent analyst.

The problem is that streams destroy much of the future “option value” for mining companies. Since the streaming metal is typically sold at fixed prices far below the market price, the streamers get all the benefit when market prices go up.

To take an extreme example, Silver Wheaton was buying silver from some mining companies at less than US$4 a pound in 2011, when silver prices rose to almost US$50. It was a massive transfer of wealth from mining companies to a streaming company.

Another concern is that streams can eliminate the exploration upside from a mine. If a miner has agreed to sell a fixed percentage of gold or silver production from a mine to a streamer, it will have to sell more metal if it makes a new discovery on the property and boosts production.

When companies are between a rock and a hard place, they often sell what’s good because they can’t sell what’s bad
John Ing, president and gold analyst at Maison Placements Canada, said streaming is reminiscent of hedging, in which metal is sold in fixed-price contracts. Hedging was all the rage in the gold industry in the 1990s, when prices were low. But it became a massive liability once prices rose far above the value in the contracts. Barrick had to spend more than $5 billion to unwind its hedge book in 2009.

Eventually, hedging became a toxic word in the industry. It is almost nonexistent today.

“It wasn’t until the price of gold went up that everybody realized what Barrick was leaving on the table,” Ing said.

“The same thing is going to happen (to streaming) when the price of gold goes up again. Not until then will people focus on the dark side of the streams.”

For investors that don’t like streaming, the good news is that miners are starting to preserve more upside for themselves in these transactions.

For example, Barrick struck a US$610-million stream sale with Royal Gold last August that guarantees higher sale prices down the road. For the first 550,000 gold ounces and 23.1 million silver ounces that Barrick delivers to Royal Gold, it receives 30 per cent of the prevailing spot prices. For every ounce after that, it receives 60 per cent of the spot prices. So if silver prices go up, Barrick stands to benefit.
Pretium Resources Inc.

Pretium’s Brucejack project in British Columbia.
Pretium went even further by negotiating optional buybacks of its stream and capping the total amount of gold and silver to be sold. If Pretium discovers more metal at the Brucejack project, it won’t go into the stream.

Traditional streaming companies like Silver Wheaton and Royal Gold are looking to buy streams that will last for decades, so Pretium’s deal is not for them. Instead, Pretium sold the stream to two private equity firms, Orion Resource Partners and Blackstone Group.

These companies are just looking for a good return and are not bothered by the idea of having their stream re-purchased in a few years. That is a relatively new concept in streaming, and it could be a game-changer if more private equity firms and other players decide to compete with traditional streamers.

Quartermain said his deal is proof that miners have alternatives to conventional streaming. He hopes other companies will follow Pretium’s lead and try to maintain some upside in these deals.

“We’ve shown you can, even in challenging markets, finance good projects and achieve that upside for shareholders,” he said.

 

 

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Kinder Morgan ( KMI) / Shipping Sector/ Natural Gas – Why Chase Stocks Down ? – plenty of reasons to watch and wait

There was a recent video / interview of Jim Cramer saying his industry sector guru called $ 20.00 as the bottom but Cramer saw the stock in free fall and just did not know.

 

Kinder Morgan, Inc. (KMI)

Analysts have been split on whether Kinder Morgan’s dividends are sustainable as the pipeline industry’s ability to tap equity and debt markets to finance growth dimmed. The company’s stock has slumped 27 percent this week to $17.47 as of 12:34 p.m. in New York. Moody’s Investors Service warned on Tuesday that Kinder Morgan’s bonds were on the verge of tipping into junk.

“Dividend growth is unrealistic,” Vivek Pal, a managing director at Jefferies LLC in New York, said in a note to clients before the announcement. The company needs a 50 percent dividend cut to avoid being downgraded to junk, he said.

Prior to today’s announcement, Kinder Morgan had been expected to lift its 2016 dividend to $2.14, according to Bloomberg Dividend Forecasts. Companies across the oil and gas industry have been slashing or freezing dividends to conserve cash as plunging energy prices choked off money needed to drill wells, pay debts and purchase drilling rights.

Transocean Ltd., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Linn Energy LLC are among those whose investors have seen payouts halted amid the crunch that began 18 months ago. Kinder Morgan’s $40 billion-plus debt burden exceeds the economic output of entire nations, including Bolivia and Bahrain.

We have no oil / gas stocks in the managed accounts.Braggin ‘ Rights – out of Chesapeake at $22

Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK)

We have no shipping stocks – Summary from Seeking Alpha

Dry bulk shipping unlikely to recover before 2017, consultant says
Dec 3 2015, 19:15 ET | By: Carl Surran, SA News Editor Contact this editor with comments or a news tip
Dry bulk shipping faces at least another year of pain, according to a new report from Drewry Shipping Consultants, which says companies in the industry will not return to profitability until at least 2017.Drewry says its dry bulk freight rate index fell 14.5% in September from August, and rates have fallen another 13.8% between September and November, although numbers for the full Q4 will not be available until early next year.”Demand has almost dried up,” Drewry’s lead analyst says. “China’s iron ore imports have stagnated, China’s coal imports have come down massively and India’s coal import growth has also slowed down.”Drewry forecasts demand for iron ore growing at 3%-4% over the next few years, but says demand for coal, especially in China, will not rebound any time soon.Related tickers: DRYS, SBLK, SALT, DSX, PRGN, EGLE, NM, NMM, SB, SINO, SHIP, FREE

Safe Bulkers Inc. (SB) – NYSE
$1.04-0.17(-13.64%)12:26 PM, 12/04 

Safe Bulkers Inc. stock chart
Today5d1m3m1y5y10y
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The key is to give yourself options. They may not love any of the scenarios, but providing choices usually leads clients to eventually embrace one.

Despite solid advice, some clients just spend too much. Others, like the married couple we’ll call Matthew and Elizabeth, diligently save but still run into retirement-planning problems.

Matthew and Elizabeth became clients of Jack A. Bass Managed Accounts a few years back, looking to manage their portfolio and put a retirement game plan in place. At 66, Matthew was considering retiring. Elizabeth could finally travel now that she was no longer the primary caregiver of her mother, who had passed the year prior. Together, we looked at their joint financial picture and analyzed the situation.

Then came some bad news: They wouldn’t be able to confidently cover living expenses if Matthew stopped working. They were shocked, because they’d done so much correctly—worked hard, lived within their means and consistently saved for retirement, putting away $2.3 million between retirement and non-qualified investments. Matthew even ran some preliminary retirement numbers online over the years to make sure they were on track.

Part of the problem was that Matthew’s planning assumptions were too rosy. He didn’t assume he’d have any variability on his portfolio returns, he didn’t assume he’d have health-care costs once Medicare kicked in, and he didn’t assume that retirement could last more than 20 years.

We projected that if Matthew retired at 66, the couple would only have about a 70 percent chance of being able to cover lifestyle expenses without having to make adjustments to spending over time; if either of them experienced a modest long-term care event that ate into their resources, they would achieve only a 65 percent success rate.

Their miscalculations aside, the other part of Matthew’s and Elizabeth’s retirement problem was that they, like many other people, put others’ needs before their own, in traditional “sandwich generation” style.

When their kids asked for help with down payments on houses, they obliged. When Elizabeth’s mom needed in-home help for a few years prior to her moving in with them, they covered it. Consequently, these unforeseen events ultimately put their retirement in jeopardy.

Working toward a solution

Matthew and Elizabeth weren’t happy to hear they weren’t on track to retire, but they appreciated having a framework from which to choose their solution.

Ultimately, Matthew chose to work 30 hours per week so that his company could continue to pick up their health-care costs (saving them about $1,000 a month in Medicare-related costs). The part-time work allowed him to take off every Friday, and that gave him the added benefit of “test driving” retirement.

He and Elizabeth also decided to downsize their home and buy long-term care coverage. The LTC insurance assured that their children wouldn’t be faced with the possibility of someday having to assist them financially.

As with all best-laid plans and good intentions, sometimes things go awry with retirement planning. However, by exploring alternative saving tactics, you can still achieve your goal.

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China Calm Shattered: Probe Sparks Selloff in Stocks

  • Citic Securities leads losses after revealing investigation
  • Industrial profits drop 4.6% in October as slowdown deepens

 

  • China’s stocks tumbled the most since the depths of a $5 trillion plunge in August as some of the nation’s largest brokerages disclosed regulatory probes, industrial profits fell and two more companies said they’re struggling to repay bonds.

    The Shanghai Composite Index sank 5.5 percent, with a gauge of volatility surging from the lowest level since March. Citic Securities Co. and Guosen Securities Co. plunged by the daily limit in Shanghai after saying they were under investigation for alleged rule violations. Haitong Securities Co., whose shares were suspended from trading, is also being probed. Industrial profits slid 4.6 percent last month, data showed Friday, compared with a 0.1 percent drop in September.

The probe into the finance industry comes as the government widens an anti-corruption campaign and seeks to assign blame for the selloff earlier this year. Authorities are testing the strength of a nascent bull market by lifting a freeze on initial public offerings and scrapping a rule requiring brokerages to hold net-long positions, just as the earliest indicators for November signal a deterioration in economic growth. A Chinese fertilizer maker and a pig iron producer became the latest companies to flag debt troubles after at least six defaults this year.

Brokerages Plunge

“The sharp decline will raise questions whether the authorities’ confidence that we are seeing stability in the Chinese markets may be a tad premature,” said Bernard Aw, a strategist at IG Asia Pte. in Singapore. “The rally since the August collapse was not fundamentally supported. The removal of restrictions for large brokers to sell and the IPO resumptions may not have been announced at an opportune time.”

Friday’s losses pared the Shanghai Composite’s gain since its Aug. 26 low to 17 percent. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index slid 2.5 percent in Hong Kong. The Hang Seng Index retreated 1.9 percent.

A gauge of financial shares on the CSI 300 slumped 5 percent. Citic Securities and Guosen Securities both dropped 10 percent. Haitong International Securities Group Ltd. slid 7.5 percent for the biggest decline since Aug. 24 in Hong Kong.

The finance crackdown has intensified in recent weeks and ensnared a prominent hedge-fund manager and a CSRC vice chairman. Citic Securities President Cheng Boming is among seven of the company’s executives named by Xinhua News Agency as being under investigation. Brokerage Guotai Junan International Holdings Ltd. said Monday it had lost contact with its chairman, spurring a 12 percent slump in the firm’s shares.

An industrial explosives maker will become the first IPO to be priced since the regulator lifted a five-month freeze on new share sales imposed during the height of the rout. Ten companies will market new shares next week. The final 28 IPOs under the existing online lottery system will probably tie up 3.4 trillion yuan ($532 billion), according to the median of six analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

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The Bear Market Has Just Begun

 

Today the narrow-minded canyons of Wall Street are littered almost entirely of trend-following bulls and cheerleaders who don’t realize how little there is to actually cheer about. Stock values are far less attractive than they were on that day back in 2009 and this selloff has a lot longer to run. There are hordes of perma-bulls calling for a V-shaped recovery in stocks, even after multiple years of nary a downtick.

Here are six reasons why I believe the bear market in the major averages has only just begun:

1) Stocks are overvalued by almost every metric.One of my favorite metrics is the price-to-sales ratio, which shows stock prices in relation to the company’s revenue per share and omits the financial engineering associated with borrowing money to buy back shares for the purpose of boosting EPS growth. For the S&P 500 (INDEX: .SPX), this ratio is currently 1.7, which is far above the mean value of 1.4. The benchmark index is also near record high valuations when measured as a percentage of GDP and in relation to the replacement costs of its companies.

 

2) There is currently a lack of revenue and earnings growth for S&P 500 companies. Second-quarter earnings shrank 0.7 percent, while revenues declined by 3.4 percent from a year earlier, according to FactSet. The Q2 revenue contraction marks the first time the benchmark index’s revenue shrank two quarters in a row since 2009.

S&P 500
SNP3:13PM EST
  • Virtually the entire global economy is either in, or teetering on, a recession. In 2009, China stepped further into a huge stimulus cycle that would eventually lead to the largest misallocation of capital in the history of the modern world. Empty cities don’t build themselves: They require enormous spurious demand of natural resources, which, in turn, leads to excess capacity from resource-producing countries such as Brazil, Australia, Russia, Canada, et al. Now those economies are in recession because China has become debt disabled and is painfully working down that misallocation of capital. And now Japan and the entire European Union appear poised to follow the same fate.

This is causing the rate of inflation to fall according to the Core PCE index. And the CRB Index, which is at the panic lows of early 2009, is corroborating the decreasing rate of inflation.

 

But the bulls on Wall Street would have you believe the cratering price of oil is a good thing because the “gas tax cut” will drive consumer spending – never mind the fact that energy prices are crashing due to crumbling global demand. Nevertheless, there will be no such boost to consumer spending from lower oil prices because consumers are being hurt by a lack of real income growth, huge health-care spending increases and soaring shelter costs.

4) U.S. manufacturing and GDP is headed south. The Dallas Fed’s manufacturing report showed its general activity index fell to -15.8 in August, from an already weak -4.6 reading in July. The oil-fracking industry had been one of the sole bright spots for the US economy since the Great Recession and has been the lead impetus of job creation. However, many Wall Street charlatans contend the United States is immune from deflation and a global slowdown and remain blindly optimistic about a strong second half.

Unfortunately, we are already two-thirds of the way into the third quarter and the Atlanta Fed is predicting GDP will grow at an unimpressive rate of 1.3 percent. Furthermore, the August ISM manufacturing index fell to 51.1, from 52.7, its weakest read in over two years. And while gross domestic product in the second quarter came in at a 3.7 percent annual rate, due in large part to a huge inventory build, gross domestic income increased at an annual rate of only 0.6 percent.

GDP tracks all expenditures on final goods and services produced in the United States and GDI tracks all income received by those who produced that output. These two metrics should be equal because every dollar spent on a good or service flows as income to a household, a firm, or the government. The two numbers will, at times, differ in practice due to measurement errors. However this is a fairly large measurement error and it leads one to wonder if that 0.6 percent GDI number should get a bit more attention.

5) Global trade is currently in freefall. Reuters reported that exports from South Korea dropped nearly 15 percent in August from a year earlier, with shipments to China, the United States and Europe all weaker. U.S. exports of goods and general merchandise are at the lowest level since September of 2011. The latest measurement of $370 billion is down from $408 billion, or -9.46 percent from Q4 2014. And CNBC reported this week that the volume of exports from the Port of Long Beach to China dropped by 10 percent YOY. The metastasizing global slowdown will only continue to exacerbate the plummeting value of U.S. trade.

 

6) The Fed is promising to no longer support the stock market. Back in 2009, our central bank was willing to provide all the wind for the market’s sail. And despite a lackluster 2 percent average annual GDP print since 2010, the stock market doubled in value on the back of zero interest rates and the Federal Reserve ‘s $3.7 trillion money-printing spree. Thus, for the past several years, there has been a huge disparity building between economic fundamentals and the value of stocks.

But now, the end of all monetary accommodations may soon occur, while markets have become massively over-leveraged and overvalued. The end of quantitative easing and a zero interest-rate policy will also coincide with slowing U.S. and global GDP, falling inflation and negative earnings growth. And the Fed will be raising rates and putting more upward pressure on the U.S. dollar while the manufacturing and export sectors are already rolling over.

I am glad Ms. Yellen and Co. appear to have finally assented to removing the safety net from underneath the stock market. Nevertheless, Wall Street may soon learn the baneful lesson that the artificial supports of QE and ZIRP were the only things preventing the unfolding of the greatest bear market in history.

Michael Pento produces the weekly podcast “The Mid-week Reality Check,” is the president and founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies and author of the book “The Coming Bond Market Collapse.”

 

Braggin’ Rights In Oil Sector Avoid Call : A Race To The Bottom

 

We received the most angry email at info@jackbassteam.com with our articles to sell the sector and in particular Chesapeake ( then at $22), Linn Energy and Chevron-now here are today’s’ results:

Brent oil dropped below $50 a barrel for the first time since January as Iran vowed to boost production immediately after sanctions are lifted and manufacturing in China slowed.

Futures in London fell as much as 5.2 percent, extending July’s 18 percent drop. Irancan raise output by 500,000 barrels a day within a week of sanctions ending, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. A Chinese private factory gauge released on Monday slipped to a two-year low in July, while an official index on Saturday dropped to a five-month low.

Crude slid into a bear market last month, joining a broader slide in commodities amid expanding supplies and signs of slower Chinese growth. Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers fueled speculation about when and by how much it will lift output. Sanctions against the nation should be lifted by late November, the Iranian Oil Ministry’s Shana news agency said.

“The quick recovery of the market is becoming more of a mirage,” Helima Croft, chief commodities strategist at RBC Capital in New York, said by phone. “Right now we’re in a race to the bottom. Oil producers are pumping what they can in the hopes that someone else will cut first.”

Brent for September settlement dropped $2.23 to $49.98 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, at 12:48 p.m. in New York. The contract touched $49.52, the lowest level since Jan. 30. Prices are more than 20 percent below this year’s high on May 6, meeting a common definition of a bear market.

Bottom-Seeking

West Texas Intermediate for September delivery fell $1.72, or 3.7 percent, to $45.40 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It reached $45.11, the lowest intraday price since March 20. The U.S. benchmark crude traded at a $4.58 discount to Brent.

“We’re in a commodity downdraft and it’s spreading to other asset classes,” Mike Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA in New York, said by phone. “China, Iran and Greece were the triggers for the move down. We’re not paying much attention to Greece anymore but China and Iran are still in the forefront.”

Iran plans to double exports, IRNA reported, citing Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh in an interview with state TV. The Islamic Republic produced an average of 2.85 million barrels a day last month, compared with 3.6 million at the end of 2011, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Iranian Payoff

BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc are among the energy companies that have expressed interest in developing Iran’s reserves, the world’s fourth-biggest, once sanctions are removed. Iran had the second-biggest output in OPEC before U.S.- led sanctions banned the purchase, transport, finance and insuring of its crude began July 2012.

“The biggest winner in OPEC over the past year is Iran,” Croft said. “‘They are getting a financial payoff as a result of the deal.’’

A China factory index for July released Monday by Caixin Media and Markit Economics came in at 47.8, a decline from 49.4 in June, indicating the effects of easier monetary policy have yet to kick in. The country’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index was 50 in July, down from 50.2 in the previous month. Numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

‘‘The Chinese data continues to look grim, which with the Iran headlines makes for a one-two punch for the oil market,” John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund, said by phone.

Hedge funds reduced bullish bets on WTI to the lowest level in five years. The net-long position in WTI contracted 7 percent in the week ended July 28, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Money managers cut their bullish stance on Brent during the same period by 37,527 contracts, the most in a year, according to data on Monday from ICE.

Portfolio Management : Engagement Process for Jack A. Bass Managed Accounts

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3 Stocks That Big Investors Like /Are Buying

When investment pros such as Warren Buffett, George Soros and Leon Coopermanput their money behind a company, it’s worth noting — especially when they do it together.

Of course, Wall Street’s best and brightest aren’t always in agreement, and when they’re not, things can get pretty heated. Take, for example, Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn‘s epic showdown overHerbalife (HLF) or Dan Loeb’s sharp criticism of Warren Buffett.

Warren Buffett picked up a stake in 21st Century Fox (FOXA) in late 2014, and in 2015, he has continued to increase his position and now owns over 6.2 million shares.

During the first quarter of the year, Leon Cooperman joined the Oracle of Omaha in betting on FOXA with the purchase of 2.6 million shares, and Chase Coleman’s Tiger Global maintained its position of 16.8 million shares.

On June 11, news broke that Rupert Murdoch is preparing to step down as CEO of 21st Century Fox and hand over the reins to his sons, James and Lachlan. The company confirmed Tuesday that James will succeed his father as chief executive.

One interesting fact about how Murdoch’s exit will affect Buffett: Once Murdoch steps down, Buffett will increase his lead as the oldest CEO in the S&P 500

Adreas Halvorsen’s biggest new buy of the first quarter of 2015 was AIG (AIG – Get Report), of which he picked up 8.4 million shares valued at upwards of $460 million. Fellow hedge funder John Paulson picked up an even bigger stake in the insurance company, purchasing 14.6 million shares. Larry Robbins increased his position to 6.5 million shares, and Dan Loeb left his holdings untouched at 3.5 million shares.

In other words, AIG is pretty popular among Wall Street pros.
AIG made headlines Monday when a federal judge ruled that the U.S. acted beyond the bounds of its authority in its 2008 bailout of the company; however, the judge did not award any damages to former AIG chief executive, Hank Greenberg, who sought to win at least $25 billion for shareholders.

Through market close Wednesday, AIG’s stock has climbed more than 10% year-to-date.

The cheaper Chesapeake Energy (CHKGet Report) becomes, the more Carl Icahn buys — or that’s at least how it seems. The vociferous billionaire investor raised eyebrows in March when a regulatory filing revealed he had increased his stake in the energy company. He owns more than 73 million CHK shares, giving him an 11% stake.

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates also upped the ante in Chesapeake Energy this year. In the first quarter, the fund nearly doubled its position. It owns about 450,000 of the company’s shares.

Chesapeake, a producer of natural gas, oil and natural gas liquids, has been hit hard by falling oil prices. Through market close Wednesday, its stock has declined 60% over the past year, including about 38% in 2015 alone.

Analysts at Oppenheimer downgraded the stock to perform from outperform on June 11. “Based on the future strip benchmark oil and gas prices, we expect CHK to report losses of $544M this year and $833M next year, or $0.58 per share and $0.84 per share, respectively,” the firm said in an analyst note.

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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