Short-hacking?

In recent weeks, Matt Levine has written about two potential ways of driving a stock price down. The first via literally hacking into computers:

Joshua Mitts and Eric Talley of Columbia — discussing a different approach, which is that you could just trade on the fact that you could hack into the computers. Then you can disclose the hack and hope that the company’s stock will go down. Cybersecurity breaches tend to be bad news. This approach is … look, I have my doubts about how lucrative it is; cybersecurity breaches tend not to be such bad news … but it has the advantage of not being blatantly illegal. Of being legal? I mean, that is not legal advice, but her

In the second case, it’s not so much true hacking, rather it’s akin to growth hacking.

Shares of the Snapchat parent company sank 6.1 percent on Thursday, wiping out $1.3 billion in market value, on the heels of a tweet on Wednesday from Kylie Jenner, who said she doesn’t open the app anymore

So I am inclined to allow it, though I am of course neither your nor Kylie Jenner’s lawyer. But as a way to profit from celebrity, shorting a company’s stock and then being mean about its products on social media seems pretty easy, and the markets would be more amusing if someone tried it. Social media companies profit because their users provide content for free; I like the idea of the users profiting by deciding to stop.

 

If the ICO craze is over, what’s next?

Is the ICO craze over? From a recent Token Economy newsletter:

However we are coming across more and more projects avoiding public sales all together, opting instead for phased out private-only rounds structured as traditional equity rounds or SAFTs/private pre-sales, or a combination of both in sequence. Data provided by our friends from Tokendata show that, in January, $180 million worth of capital was raised by projects that had initially planned a public sale, but eventually cancelled it and raised privately. These include Olympus Labs, Nucleus Vision, Coinfi, Shipchain and a bunch of others (not going to lie, we had not heard of most of them). Of the balance, anecdotally 50–75% was possibly raised via private pre-sales.

They speculate it’s due to regulatory fear, influx of institutional money, huge capital due to increase in value of $ETH, and a handful of other factors, including “more sanity” among founders (ha!).

What this means is unknown, though have some well-reasoned predictions including alternative distribution models where real usage is the goal, increased transparency from quality projects, and a boom in the fully compliant tokens.

Fully-compliant is one thing; proving worthy of the funds raised will be a big task this year. Many projects will not survive and that trend will begin to hurt wavering projects, where token holders decide to sell before value goes to zero.

Looking for secondary signs of weakness

Brett Steenbarger warned about the weakening in the market back on Sunday, Feb 4, a day before $SPY dropped >6%.

The psychological takeaway is that we need to drill down and look beneath the market surface and approach each fresh set of data with an open mind. On the day we made a peak in SPY, we had 599 stocks make fresh three month highs and 199 register new monthly lows. Two weeks before that, we had almost 900 new three month highs against 135 lows (data from Barchart.com). The open mind respects price action and market strength, but also is alert to cracks beneath the surface

via Lessons in Trading and Psychology – 1: Regime Changes at TraderFeed

Automation may not replace jobs as quickly as predicted

Automation is touted to be ready to take over many jobs, including truckers. Here’s a rebuttal, specifically related to truck drivers, from a comment at Marginal Revolution. A few highlights:

One of the big failings of high-level analyses of future trends is that in general they either ignore or seriously underestimate the complexity of the job at a detailed level. Lots of jobs look simple or rote from a think tank or government office, but turn out to be quite complex when you dive into the details.

I’ve been working in automation for 20 years. When you see how hard it is to simply digitize a paper process inside a single plant (often a multi-year project), you start to roll your eyes at ivory tower claims of entire industries being totally transformed by automation in a few years.

A lot of pundits have a sense that automation is accelerating in replacing jobs. In fact, I predict it will slow down, because we have been picking the low hanging fruit first. That has given us an unrealistic idea of how hard it is to fully automate a job.

Based on my own experience with setting up routine tasks for online-oriented jobs, the role of a human to adapt to changes is very underestimated.  It seems more likely that automation will be used as a tool by humans. It requires a different set of skills, but it’s far from robots working without human interaction.

Some of these tech giants will fail

With so many companies routinely setting all-time highs, it’s good to remember it won’t always be like this. As Howard Lindzon said a few weeks ago, in a post recalling Yahoo’s dominance (all subsequent fall):

There are so many giant technology companies crushing it right now that it is easy to forget how hard it is to stay relevant.

The average lifespan of a company in the S&P has plummeted over the last fifty years.

I’m not predicting any particular tech-giant will go the way of Yahoo. It has happened many times before and it’s hard to believe it will be any different now.

The futility of timing buys and sells

A good reminder of the futility of trying to time markets from a Howard Lindzon post a few weeks ago:

Eddy also has a great reminder on why timing the markets when it comes to owning the best companies is rather silly.

Etch this Amazon chart and their numbers into your head: If you bought Amazon at its exact high 18 years ago, and held on, you’re beating the S&P 500 1,284% to 180%.

via Blockchain Lindzon and Competition for Stocks at Howard Lindzon

What might the next bear market look like for investors?

Great piece from Ben Carlson where he poses & answer 6 questions about the next bear market. He begins by putting things in perspective, then looks at how various areas may react in the next bear market.

 

How bad will things get?

In fact, the median drop was 26 percent. A crash is always possible, but your baseline for a bear market shouldn’t be a huge meltdown

Will emerging markets outperform the U.S.?

Grantham’s view is that the relatively undervalued emerging markets should hold up better in a downturn than the relatively overvalued U.S. shares. This is a development most investors likely aren’t positioned for if they’re basing allocations on historical risk-reward characteristics.

Will managed futures provide positive performance in a down market again? …Managed futures were one of the few strategies that held up well in 2008 when everything else got hammered by providing positive returns during a market crisis. According to the BarclayHedge CTA Index, these funds were up more than 14 percent even as stocks around the globe fell 40 percent or worse for the year.

Will commodities provide diversification benefits?
Like most risk assets, commodities fell off a cliff during the financial crisis. But unlike these other assets, commodities are still languishing far below their highs from the previous peak.

How will cryptocurrencies react? ..The rise in cryptocurrencies has corresponded with a bull market in stocks. And while cryptocurrencies have experienced a number of bear markets and crashes over the past few years on their way to remarkable gains, we have yet to see how they will handle a bear market in stocks.

 

Bitcoin NVT, NVT Signal trending upwards

$BTC NVT is trending upwards after bottoming Feb 6. See chart from @coinmetrics. NVT Signal chart from @Woonomic shows similar pattern. #bitcoin

Bitcoin’s NVT (network value/transaction) has been moving in a general upward trend since bottoming on Feb 6th. Here’s a chart using the great charting tools at coinmetrics.io:

bitcoin nvt moving up

Likewise, Willy Woo’s NVT Signal chart shows a similar pattern:

 

ETH & QTUM to rise in 2018?

Earlier this year, Store of Value published a few predictions on the cryptocurrencies to rise in 2018. They start off with a bold one:

Ethereum will overtake Bitcoin by the end of 2018 and QTUM will be a top 5 cryptocurrency. There are some incredible things brewing for both and I don’t believe the market has fully realized nor appreciated what’s going on. Ethereum has the largest user and developer base in the West. QTUM has gained a strong foothold in the East.

These predictions aren’t made off the cuff; each is backed by an reasonable argument. For example, QTUM can benefit from both BTH and ETH “winning”:

Ethereum ecosystem wins = QTUM ecosystem wins
Because QTUM uses the EVM, any projects building on Ethereum can be easily ported to QTUM. A corollary to this is that any successful dApp or protocol on Ethereum can easily become a successful dApp or protocol on QTUM. QTUM doesn’t need to compete with Ethereum for its developer ecosystem, it shares Etheruem’s developer ecosystem. There are many amazing up-and-coming projects for Ethereum such as 0x and Augur and I can envision a world where QTUM has its own 0x’s and Augurs.

Bitcoin ecosystem wins = QTUM ecosystem wins
Because QTUM uses a Bitcoin-based UTXO blockchain as its settlement layer, QTUM can take advantage of any upgrades to Bitcoin. Here’s a few examples: QTUM is already using SegWit and is primed to deploy its own version of Lightning. Once deployed, QTUM is essentially Ethereum with Lightning. How cool is that? It’d be even better for QTUM if Lightning turns out to be a massive success.

Read the full post at Why 2018 Will Be The Year Of Ethereum And QTUM at Store of Value.

 

Is the artisan trend a precursor to a Big Tech backlash?

In the Economist’s 1843 magazine, Ryan Avent writes about the resurgence of the “artisan” culture in Crafting a life:

Before the Industrial Revolution, the craft economy was simply the economy. Clothing, processed food, furniture, wood and iron tools were all made by hand, using simple equipment, one unique batch at a time. Artisans learned their trade through years of observing experts, within the family or in a structured apprenticeship. The quality of both the instruction and the finished products was highly variable. There was virtually no opportunity for mass education in trades, nor a chance for better producers to capture increased market share by scaling up production.

The Atlantic ran a similar piece recently Craft Beer Is the Strangest, Happiest Economic Story in America.

At the same time, the number of public companies has decreased and the “Big 4” tech companies make up 24% of the market cap of $SPY. Some amazing numbers, per Scott Galloway in Esquire:

Over the past decade, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—or, as I call them, “the Four”—have aggregated more economic value and influence than nearly any other commercial entity in history. Together, they have a market capitalization of $2.8 trillion (the GDP of France), a staggering 24 percent share of the S&P 500 Top 50, close to the value of every stock traded on the Nasdaq in 2001.

How big are they? Consider that Amazon, with a market cap of $591 billion, is worth more to the stock market than Walmart, Costco, T. J. Maxx, Target, Ross, Best Buy, Ulta, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Saks/Lord & Taylor, Dillard’s, JCPenney, and Sears combined.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Google (now known as Alphabet) are together worth $1.3 trillion. You could merge the world’s top five advertising agencies (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, IPG, and Dentsu) with five major media companies (Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, CBS, and Viacom) and still need to add five major communications companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, and Dish) to get only 90 percent of what Google and Facebook are worth together.

And what of Apple? With a market cap of nearly $900 billion, Apple is the most valuable public company. Even more remarkable is that the company registers profit margins of 32 percent, closer to luxury brands Hermès (35 percent) and Ferrari (29 percent) than peers in electronics. In 2016, Apple brought in $46 billion in profits, a haul larger than that of any other American company, including JPMorgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, and Wells Fargo. What’s more, Apple’s profits were greater than the revenues of either Coca- Cola or Facebook. This quarter, it will clock nearly twice the profits that Amazon has produced in its history.

Will the trend of the big getting bigger continue? Or is there enough of a Big Tech backlash to make things start regressing to more normalized levels?

We’re certainly not making a call and will continue to look for further evidence.