Friday, January 31, 2014

What are Business Development Companies?

By Andrey Dashkov

Business Development Companies (BDCs) are publicly traded private debt and equity funds. I know that description isn’t terribly sexy, but keep reading and you’ll find there’s a lot to be excited about.


BDCs provide financing to firms too small to seek traditional bank financing or to do an IPO, but at the same time are too advanced to interest the earliest-stage venture capitalist. These companies are often near or at profitability and just need extra cash to reach the next milestone. Filling this void, BDCs provide funds to target companies in exchange for interest payments and/or an equity stake.

BDCs earn their living by lending at interest rates higher than those at which they borrow. Conceptually, they act like banks or bond funds, but with access to yields unlike any you’ll see from a traditional bond fund. The interest rate spread—meaning the difference between their capital costs and interest they charge their clients—is a major component of their business.

Oftentimes, a BDC will increase its dividend when market interest rates have not changed. Like a bank, the more loans it has in force, the more it profits. Increasing its dividend payout will generally have a very positive effect on its share price.

Unlike banks or many other traditional financial institutions, however, BDCs are structured to pay out more than 90% of their net profits to the shareholders. In return, BDCs don’t pay any income tax. In essence, their profits flow through to the owners. Many investors like to own BDCs in an IRA to create tax deferred or tax free income. The opportunity to use them for tax planning purposes, access to diversified early stage financing, and the impressive dividend yields they deliver make them a perfect fit for the Bulletproof Income strategy we employ at Miller's Money Forever.

The Clients

 

As a business model, BDCs emerged in response to a particular need: early-stage companies needed funding but couldn’t do it publicly due to their small size. At the same time, these companies didn’t match the investment criteria of so-called angel investors or venture capital providers. Enter the Business Development Company.

BDC teams, through expertise and connections, select the most promising companies in their fields and provide funds in return for a debt or equity stake, expecting gains from a potential acquisition scenario and a flow of interest payments in the meantime. The ability to selectively lend money to the right startup companies is paramount. It makes little difference how much interest they charge if the client defaults on the loan.

With limited financing options, BDCs’ clients may incur strict terms regarding their debt arrangements. The debt often comes with a high interest rate, has senior level status, and is often accompanied by deal sweeteners like warrants which add to the upside potential for those with a stake in the borrowing company.

In return for these stringent terms, the borrower can use the funds to:

•  Increase its cash reserve for added security;

•  Accelerate product development;

•  Hire staff and purchase licenses necessary to advance R&D, etc.

•  Invest in property, plant, and equipment to produce its product and bring it to market.

Turning to a BDC for funds allows a company to finance its development and minimize dilution of equity investors while reaching key value adding milestones in the process.

What’s in It for Investors?

 

In addition to the unique opportunity to access early-stage financing, we like BDCs for their dividend policy and high yield. The Investment Act of 1940 requires vehicles such as BDCs to pay out a minimum of 90% of their earnings. In practice, they tend to pay out more than that, plus their short term capital gains.

This often results in a high yield. Yields of 7-12% are common, which makes this vehicle unique in today’s low yield environment. The risk is minimized by diversification—like a good bond fund, they spread their assets over many sectors. This rational approach and the resulting income make the right BDC(s) a great addition to our Bulletproof Income strategy.

BDCs and the Bulletproof Income Strategy

 

In short, BDCs serve our strategy by:
  • Providing inflation protection in the form of high yields and dividend growth;
  • Limiting our exposure to interest rate risk, thereby adding a level of security (some BDCs borrow funds at variable rates, but not the ones we like);
  • Maintaining low leverage, which BDCs are legally required to do;
  • Distributing the vast majority of their income to shareholders, thereby creating an immediate link between the company’s operating success and the shareholders’ wellbeing… in other words, to keep their shareholders happy, BDCs have to perform well.

How Should You Pick a BDC?

 

Not every BDC out there qualifies as a sound investment. Here’s a list of qualities that make a BDC attractive.
  • Dividend distributions come from earnings. This may sound like common sense, but it’s worth reiterating. A successful BDC should generate enough quarterly income to pay off its dividend obligations. If it doesn’t, it will have to go to the market for funds and either issue equity or borrow, or deplete cash reserves it would otherwise use to fund future investments. An equity issuance would result in share dilution; debt would increase leverage with no imminent potential to generate gains; and a lower cash reserve is no good either. We prefer stocks that balance their commitments to the shareholders with a long term growth strategy.
  • The dividends are growing. This is another characteristic of a solid income pick, BDC or otherwise. Ideally, the dividend growth would outpace inflation, in addition to the yield itself being higher than the official CPI numbers. This growth can come from increasing the interest rate spread and also having more loans on the books.
  • Yields should be realistic. We’d be cautious about a BDC that pays more than 12% of its income in dividends. Remember, gains come from the interest it receives from the borrowers. Higher interest indicates higher risk debt on a BDC’s balance sheet, which should be monitored regularly.
  • Fixed-rate liabilities are preferred. We need our BDC to be able to cover its obligations if interest rates rise. Fixed rates are more predictable than floating rates; we like the more conservative approach.
  • Their betas should be (way) below 1. We don’t want our investment to move together with the broad market or be too interest-rate sensitive. Keeping our betas as low as possible provides additional opportunities to reduce risk, which is a critical part of our strategy.
  • They are diversified across many sectors. A BDC that has 100 tech companies in its portfolio is not as well diversified as a one with 50 firms scattered across a dozen sectors, including aerospace, defense, packaging, pharmaceuticals, and others. Review a company’s SEC filings to see how many baskets its eggs are in.

Wrap up......

 

Right now, BDCs look very interesting to income-seeking investors. They provide excellent yields, diversification opportunities, and access to early-stage companies that previously only institutions enjoyed. They also fit in with Miller Money Forever's Bulletproof Income strategy, the purpose of which is to provide seniors and savers with real returns, while offering maximum safety and diversification.

Catching a peek our Bulletproof portfolio is risk-free if you try today. Access it now by subscribing to Miller's Money Forever, with a 90-day money-back guarantee. If you don't like it, simply return the subscription within those first three months and we'll refund your payment, no questions asked. And the knowledge you gain in those months will be yours to keep forever.


Posted courtesy of our trading partners at Casey Research


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gold Stocks Are About to Create a Whole New Class of Millionaires

By Jeff Clark, Senior Precious Metals Analyst

Bear markets always end. Has this one?


Evidence is mounting that the bottom for gold may be in. While there's still risk, there's a new air of bullishness in the industry, something we haven't seen in over two years.

An ever growing number of industry insiders and investment analysts believe the downturn has come to a close. If that's true, it has immediate and critical implications for investors.

Doug Casey told me last week: "In my lifetime, the best time to have bought gold was 1971, at $35; it ran to over $800 by 1980. In 2001, gold was $250: in real terms even cheaper than in 1971. It ran to over $1,900 in 2011.

"It's now at $1,250. Not as cheap, in real terms, as in 1971 or 2001, but the world's financial and economic state is far more shaky.

"Gold is, once again, not just a prudent holding, but an excellent, high-potential, low-risk speculation. And gold stocks are about to create a whole new class of millionaires."

Just a couple of months ago, you would have had a hard time finding even one analyst saying something positive about gold and gold stocks—even some of the most bullish investment pros had gone silent.

But that's changing. Case in point: When Chief Metals & Mining Strategist Louis James and I attended last week's Resource Investment Conference in Vancouver, we witnessed quite a few very optimistic speakers.

Take Frank Giustra, for example, a self-made billionaire and philanthropist who made his fortune both in the mining sector and the entertainment industry. He's the founder of Lionsgate Entertainment, which is responsible for blockbuster movies like The Hunger Games, but he was just as heavily involved with mining blockbusters such as Iamgold, Wheaton River Minerals, Silver Wheaton, and others.

More Upturn Advocates

Here's a quick scan of the growing number of voices that think the decline is over, some of which are outright bullish:
"The worst is over with gold. It's time to call your broker." —Frank Holmes, US Global Investors
"Sentiment is as black as night on gold, so I’m actually long on some gold miners."
—Jeffrey Gundlach, bond guru and DoubleLine Capital founder
"We'll see a gradual recovering throughout the year, because all the negative factors are already in the price." —Eugen Weinberg, head of commodities research at Commerzbank
"Looking ahead, the downside risks seem to be diminishing, and overall we feel that the big shocks we've seen over the last two or three years are done..." —Marc Elliott, Investec
"The mainstream narrative on gold is changing, indicating a possible bottom." —Bron Suchecki, Perth Mint
"Orthodox investments are working on a cyclical peak, as precious metals are working on a cyclical bottom. The big pattern could be fully reversed by February-March, with gold becoming one of the best-performing sectors through the rest of 2014. The advice is to seriously reduce exposure in stocks and bonds and get fully invested in the precious metals sector. This should be completed in the first quarter." —Bob Hoye, Institutional Advisors

"I'm telling you, you've seen the bottom of the gold market," he told the rapt audience at the conference, offering a bet to the Goldman Sachs analyst who claimed gold is going to $1,000.

The stakes: Whoever loses has to stand on a popular street in downtown Vancouver dressed in women's underwear.

Tom McClellan, editor of the McClellan Market Report, stated in a recent interview on CNBC: "The commercial traders are at their most bullish stance since the 2001 low, and they usually get proven right. It's a hugely bullish condition for gold, and I'm expecting a really large rebound.

"The moment we see a major gold producer announce that it's curtailing production or it's going out of business," McClellan continued, "that'll be the moment we mark the low in gold. I expect to have one of those announcements any minute. We're getting down to the production price of gold right now, and they won't continue producing gold at that level for very long."

Are they just guessing? To answer that, first consider the historical context of this bear market—it's getting very long in the tooth:
  • The current correction in gold stocks is the fourth longest since 1879. The decline of 66% ranks in the top 10 of recorded history.
  • In silver, only two corrections have lasted longer—the ones that ended in 1936 and 1983.
Some technical analysts have pointed to positive chart formations, most notably the powerful "double bottom" that can portend a strong upward move. Based on intraday prices…
  • Gold formed a double bottom last year, hitting $1,180.64 on June 28 and $1,182.60 on December 31, a convincing six-month span.
  • Silver formed a higher low: $18.20 on June 28 vs. $18.72 on December 31, a bullish development.
  • Gold stocks (XAU) formed a slightly lower low: $82.29 on June 26 vs. $79.73 December 19, 2103, a difference of 3.2%. However, as our friend Dominick Graziano, who successfully helped us earn doubles on three GLD puts last year, recently pointed out…
  • The TSX Venture Index, where most junior mining stocks trade, has stayed above its June low. In fact, it recently soared above both the 50 day and 40 week moving averages for the first time since 2011.
Meanwhile, Goldcorp (GG) sent a huge bullish signal to the market earlier this month. It decided to pounce on the opportunities available right now, launching a takeover bid of Osisko Mining for $2.6 billion. The company wouldn't be buying now if it thought gold was headed to $1,000.

As Dennis Gartman, editor and publisher of The Gartman Letter, says, "It's time to be quietly bullish."

The smart money, like resource billionaire Rick Rule, is not just quietly bullish, though—they are actively buying top-quality junior mining stocks at bargain-basement prices to make a killing when prices rise.
To make sure that you can invest right alongside them, we decided to host a sequel to our 2013 Downturn Millionaires event, titled Upturn Millionaires—How to Play the Turning Tides in the Precious Metals Market.

Back then, we made a strong case for this once-in-a-generation opportunity—but it was still undetermined when the bottom would be in. It looks like that time is now very near, and we believe it's time to act.

On Wednesday, February 5, at 2 p.m. EST, resource legends Frank Giustra, Doug Casey, Rick Rule, and Ross Beaty, investment gurus John Mauldin and Porter Stansberry, and Casey Research resource experts Louis James and Marin Katusa will present the evidence and discuss the possibilities for life changing gains for investors with the cash and courage to grab this bull by the horns.

How do we know the absolute bottom is in? I'll answer that with a quote from a recent Mineweb interview with mining giant Rob McEwen, former chairman and CEO of Goldcorp:

"I'd say we're either at or extremely close to the bottom, and as an investor I'm not prepared to wait to see if the bottom's there because it's very hard to pick it. Because … if you're not taking advantage of it right now, you're going to miss a big part of the move. And when you look at the distance these stocks have to travel to get to their old highs, there's some wonderful numbers in terms of performance that I think we're going to see."

Granted, these voices are still in the minority—but that's what makes this opportunity wonderfully contrarian.

After all, once "Buy gold stocks" is investor consensus, we'll be approaching the time to sell.
Our Upturn Millionaires experts believe that our patience is about to be rewarded. And when that happens, gold stocks will be easy doubles—and the best juniors potential ten baggers.

Don't miss the free Upturn Millionaires video event—register here to save your seat. 

Even if you don't have time to watch the premiere, register anyway to receive a video recording of the event.)




Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is it Buy Time for Halliburton? Wait for it.....wait for it....

Today we are going to be analyzing the stock of Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL). On January 27th, a new red monthly Trade Triangle appeared, the first in 12 months for the stock. This indicates a significant technical development and changes the outlook and direction of Halliburton.

Today's in depth analysis is not to say the stock is going to collapse and go out of business, but rather we are noting a confluence of certain technical indicators that do not paint a positive picture for this stock.

There is an old adage in trading and it says "they slide faster than they glide." Translated that means stocks go down a lot faster than they go up.

What Does This Company Do?

Halliburton Company provides a range of services and products for the exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas to oil and gas companies worldwide.



Chart Legend & Technical Picture (Black Numbers)

1. Classic long term trend line
2. Neckline of a Head and Shoulders Top
3. Head and Shoulders Top
4. Break below the 14 month trend line and Head and Shoulders Neckline
5. Fibonacci retracement levels
6. RSI divergence with price action below 50.

All of the Trade Triangles are red and negative.

To summarize, I expect the current downtrend in Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) to continue unless I see otherwise with the Trade Triangle technology.

If we are correct in our analysis, we could potentially see Halliburton move down to the following Fibonacci retracement levels:

38.2% @ $46.13
50% @ $43.00
61.8% @ $39.86

The 61.8% Fibonacci level of $39.86 nicely matches the Head and Shoulders target zone of $40.00. These two measurements confirm one another and make a strong case for this stock trading down to the $40 level in the next few months.


Click here to sample our "Trade Triangle Technology"


Gold and Silver Ready To Rumble Higher?

Let's check in with our trading partner David A Banister, does he think gold and silver is ready to rumble higher?

We have been writing about the bottoming process of the Gold Bear Cycle (Elliott Wave Theory) since December 4th 2013, and our most recent article on December 26th reiterated that the best time to accumulate the Gold/Silver stocks was in the December and January window. Specifically this is what we wrote:

“These types of indicators are coming to a pivot point where Gold is testing the summer 1181 lows…at the same time, we see bottoming 5th wave patterns combining with public sentiment, bullish percent indexes, and 5 year lows in Gold stocks. This is how bottom in Bear cycles form and you are witnessing the makings of a huge bottom between now and early February 2014 if we are right.

The time to buy Gold and Gold stocks is now during the next 4-5 weeks just as we were recommending stocks in late February 2009 with public articles that nobody paid attention to. This is the time to start accumulating quality gold miner and also the precious metals themselves as the bear cycle winds down and the spring comes back to Gold and Silver in 2014.”

Since that article a few of our favorite stocks rallied 40-50% in just 3 weeks or so from the December timeframe of our article. A recent pullback is pretty normal as we set up for Gold to take out the 1271 spot pricing area and run to the mid 1300’s over the next several weeks. By that time, you will be kicking yourself for not being long either the metals themselves or the higher beta stock plays.

A few suggestions that we have already written about we will reiterate here again. Aggressive investors can look at UGLD ETF, which is a 3x long Gold product that will give you upside leverage as Gold moves into elliott wave 3 up. Other more aggressive plays we already recommend a lot lower include GLDX, JNUG, NUGT and others. Picking individual stocks can be even better and we have recommended a few to our subscribers that are already doing very well.

What will trigger this next rally up is sentiment shifts to favor Gold and Silver over currency alternatives. The precious metals move on sentiment, much more so than interest rates or GDP reports or anything else in our opinion. Sentiment remains neutral to bearish as evidenced by the larger brokerage houses running around in January telling everyone to sell Gold, so we see that as a buy signal on top of our other indicators.



We expect the mid 1500’s by sometime this summer, but by then your opportunity will be long in the rear view mirror. Just click here to join us for frequent updates at from David Banister.


Monday, January 27, 2014

New video.....Doc's Favorite Trading Strategy

Our trading partner Doc Severson of Trading Concepts has put together a new free video that does a great job of explaining his favorite trading strategy.

The Iron Condor Trading strategy.  

Watch the video to learn a trading strategy that…

  *    is easy to learn and to execute,

  *    works in any market condition: up, down or sideways,

  *    has a high probability of profit (often more than 80%),

  *    is a perfect “starter strategy” for beginners,

  *   works as a great “add on strategy” for advanced traders,

       and much more.

Click here to watch the FREE Iron Condor Strategy video right now!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Get Positioned Now for the Next Great Natural Gas Switch

The Energy Report: Ron, welcome. You are making a presentation at the Money Show conference in Orlando in late January. What is the gist of your presentation?

Ron Muhlenkamp: The gist of my presentation is that natural gas has become an energy game changer in the U.S. We are cutting the cost of energy in half. This has already happened for homeowners like me who heat their homes with natural gas. We think the next up to benefit is probably the transportation sector.

TER: What is behind this game change?
"Natural gas has become an energy game changer in the U.S."
RM: The combination of horizontal drilling and fracking has made an awful lot of gas available cheaply. There's a whole lot of gas that's now available at $5/thousand cubic feet ($5/Mcf) or less. I live in Western Pennsylvania, and 30 years ago, Ray Mansfield was in the oil and gas drilling business, having retired from the Steelers. He said, Ron, we know where all the gas is in Pennsylvania; it's just a matter of price. If the price runs up, we will drill more. If the price runs down, we will drill less. Any way you slice it, we are just sitting on an awful lot of it.

Two years ago, we had a warm winter, and the price of gas actually got down to $2/Mcf. You saw an awful lot of electric utilities switch from coal to gas. Literally in a year, what had been 50% of electricity produced by coal went to 35%. The difference was made up with natural gas.

In transportation, the infrastructure to make the switch to natural gas has not been in place. We didn't have the filling stations or the trucks. Now, the trucks are just becoming available. You can buy pickup trucks from Ford Motor Co. (F:NYSE) and General Motors Co. (GM:NYSE) that run on natural gas. Furthermore, Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CLNE:NASDAQ) has established natural gas filling stations coast to coast, every 250 miles on five different interstate highways.

Westport Innovations Inc. (WPRT:NASDAQ) has been producing 9 liter (9L) natural gas engines. Waste Management (WM:NYSE) uses 9L engines on garbage trucks and expects 8590% of its new trucks to be natural gas fueled. Westport has just come out with 12L engines, which are used for over-the-road trucks. I don't expect those engines to get adopted as fast as the utility industry made the switch to natural gas, but there has been a fairly rapid adoption in the waste management industry. I think we're on the cusp of a major trend.

TER: That fuel switching in the power industry has been going on since 2008. Is it still progressing at the same rate or is it picking up?
"The big switch is over in utilities. But we've barely begun the transition with transportation fuel."
RM: It's pretty much leveled off. In fact, there's probably a little bit less gas used than when gas was below $3/Mcf. The latest numbers I've seen show that we're running about 37% coal and about 3334% gas. Going forward, I think coal use will continue to decline, and natural gas use will continue to rise. The big switch is over in utilities, and it will be gradual from here. But we've barely begun the transition with transportation fuel.

TER: So the game has changed for the power industry, and the transportation industry is next. What other changes do you foresee in the future?

RM: We will continue to use more natural gas and less crude. Right now, for equal amounts of power, crude oil is priced at about three times the natural gas price in the U.S. That is too wide a spread to ignore, economically.

The Natural Gas - Crude Oil Spread
natural gas crude oil spread
source: Bloomberg

Incidentally, in Europe, natural gas is still at $12/Mcf. It's on a par with crude. Most European chemical plants use a crude oil base to make chemicals. U.S. plants use a natural gas base. Natural gas becomes ethane, then ethylene, then polyethylene and then plastic. So producers of plastics or the feedstocks for plastic in the U.S. now have an advantage they didn't have before.
"The natural gas price advantage will be with us in North America for quite a long time. It's huge."
In Japan, the natural gas price jumped from $12 to $16/Mcf just after the tsunami wiped out the Fukushima nuclear power plant. To ship gas from the U.S. to Japan, the cost of compression, liquefying and decompression is about $6/Mcf. Executives at U.S.-based companies like Dow Chemical Co.

(DOW:NYSE) are saying they don't want the U.S. to export gas because that would drive the price up. But domestic gas consumers already have that $6/Mcf advantage. Meanwhile, in Williston, N.D., the natural gas price is effectively zero. Producers still flare it because they don't have the pipelines to take it out of the area. So this price advantage will be with us in North America for quite a long time. It's huge. That's why we call it a game changer.

price of energy

TER: So how can investors take advantage of these changes?

RM: Well, any number of ways. We hold some fracking services companies, like Halliburton Co. (HAL:NYSE). We own a couple of drillers, including Rex Energy Corp. (REXX:NASDAQ). And we invest in the people who build natural gas export facilities, such as Fluor Corp. (FLR:NYSE), KBR Inc. (KBR:NYSE) and Chicago Bridge Iron Co. N.V. (CBI:NYSE).

I already mentioned companies building natural gas-fired engines, including Westport, which makes a kit to modify a common diesel engine. And because natural gas will require new, larger fuel tanks, investing in companies that build natural gas tanks is another way to play it. One of the disadvantages of natural gas versus gasoline or diesel is compressed natural gas takes about three to four times the volume to get the same range. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) takes about two times the volume.

Of course, compressed natural gas is stored in pressure tanks, so it takes a pressure tank of larger size. Fuel tank conversions have been almost as expensive as the engine conversions. 3M Co. (MMM:NYSE) has gotten in that business, as has General Electric Co. (GE:NYSE). There's another outfit called Chart Industries Inc. (GTLS:NGS; GTLS:BSX), which has already run a good bit.
"We want a foot in each of these camps because we're not quite sure who the ultimate winners will turn out to be, but we know what the product lines will have to be."
We want a foot in each of these camps because we're not quite sure who the ultimate winners will turn out to be, but we know what the product lines will have to be. Don't forget about the companies that own the LNG export facilitiesCheniere Energy Inc.'s (LNG:NYSE.MKT) facility should be up and running in probably 2015, but, again, that stock has run up a good bit, too.

Pipelines will benefit from the switch. One of the biggest pipelines in the country is Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P.'s (KMP:NYSE) Rockies Express Pipeline, which stretches from Northern Colorado to Eastern Ohio and ships gas east. Kinder Morgan recently filed to reverse the flow on part of the line. Right now, in Western Pennsylvania, we have a glut of gas. A few months ago, they reversed the flow of the pipeline from the Gulf Coast that used to come up to Western Pennsylvania. There's a whole lot going on.

TER: After some serious oil train derailments in recent months, pressure is building now to increase pipeline capacity, but there is also pressure on producers to reduce flaring, which is happening on a huge scale in the Bakken Shale. How will the economics and the operations of Bakken producers be affected if they can't flare and pipeline capacity is not increased?

RM: The Bakken is primarily an oilfield; the gas is a byproduct. We hear a lot about the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is meant to carry oil from the Bakken south. I can't speak specifically, but if you're going to lay an oil pipeline from the Bakken, you should lay a gas pipeline alongside it. You can ship oil by rail, but it's not economic to ship gas by rail. One way or another, the oil will be shipped.

TER: Bill Powers, the independent analyst and author of "Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth," says gas prices are going to rise steadily to as much as $6/million British thermal units ($6/MMBtu) because U.S. gas production has peaked and now is now flat or declining. Do you agree with that?

RM: Our production of gas has not peaked and is not declining. We are using fewer rigs drilling for gas, but each well, particularly if you drill horizontally instead of just vertically, is producing so much more gas. Production is not declining and isn't likely to for at least a decade. At current rates, we can drill in Pennsylvania for another 50 years. Yes, you drill the best wells first but also, over time, you get a little bit better at timing this stuff. I'd be very surprised if the price in the next decade gets over $5/Mcf for any extended period of time because there's an awful lot of gas that's very profitable at that price. I'm willing to make that bet with Bill Powers. But even $6/Mcf gas would equate to $55/bbl crude, which is still a huge spread and wouldn't negate my general argument.

TER: What's your forecast for gas prices in 2014?

RM: My forecast is $4/Mcf, give or take $1. We just had a big cold snap on the East Coast. What used to happen is any time you had a cold winter, the price of gas jumped. For instance, in 2005, when crude was selling about $50/barrel ($50/bbl), gas began the year at about $7/Mcf, which was on par with crude, but in the wintertime, it doubled and ran up to $14/Mcf. The recent cold snap took gas all the way up to ~$4.20/Mcf. Gas is going to be in that range for a long time.

TER: Your advice to investors in natural gas is to get exposure to exploration and production companies, service companies and even LNG plant constructors. What about the LNG plant owners, the pipelines and the railroads?

RM: The pipelines will do well. They've already been bid up. The railroads will benefit from oil and gas, but they're getting hurt because coal tonnage is way down, CSX Corp. (CSX:NYSE) just reported. So for the railroads, it's going to be a wash. They'll haul less coal and more oil. The railroads won't haul gas. How much oil they haul is an open question. We're about to tighten restrictions on how tank cars are built.

TER: What did well in the Muhlenkamp Fund last year?

RM: The fund was up 34.4%. We did very well in biotech stocks. We did very well in financial stocks. We also did well in some energy stocks. Airlines did well for us. Incidentally, airlines benefit big time from cheaper energy, as you know. So it's fairly diverse.

TER: How are you adjusting your portfolio this year?

RM: Not too much has changed. We're no longer finding many good companies that are cheap. So we're monitoring and adjusting a little bit around the edges. We do think banks have further to go. We think the economy will grow somewhere between 2.53% this year. We've owned no bonds for the past couple of years, but with the Treasuries now, the interest rates on the longer end are high enough so that savers can get a little bit of return.

TER: I was surprised to see a really sharp drop in November for Fuel Systems Solutions Inc. (FSYS:NYSE). Why did that happen?

RM: Fuel Systems makes conversion kits for cars to burn compressed natural gas. In places like Pakistan, 40% of the cars run on natural gas; this is not new technology. A number of its customers decided to make these kits in-house. Fuel Systems is a small position of ours, but, yes, it got hit in Q4/13 when it announced that a number of its customers decided to produce their own kits. One of the nice things about this is there's no new technology involved. We've been using natural gas as a power source for generations. What has changed is the amount that's available reliably at a cheap price.

TER: There was another sharp drop in Clean Energy Fuels in October. What happened there?
RM: Clean Energy, so far, doesn't make a profit because it has been shelling out all the money to build all these filling stations. It's just taking a little longer than people expected. The stock is compelling at these levels. A number of these companies ran. Westport doubled, and we took some profits. It's now back down, and we should do a Buy rerating. There is volatility in this stuff, but the economics are undeniable. We still managed a 34.4% gain this year, which isn't bad.
"Royal Dutch Shell Plc is building natural gas fueling stations in concert with another truck stop operator."
Clean Energy has signed a joint venture with Pilot Flying J to build natural gas fueling stations at Flying J truck stops coast to coast. Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDS.A:NYSE; RDS.B:NYSE) is doing a similar thing in concert with another truck stop operator. For instance, the Port of Long Beach, Calif., passed a rule several years ago that the trucks on the port need to burn natural gas. The Port of Hamburg, Germany, has contracted to put a natural gas-fired power unit on a barge so that when cruise ships come into the harbor, instead of running their own power off their diesel engines and generators, they'll use this barge to supply power to the cruise ship because natural gas exhaust is cleaner than diesel exhaust.

TER: A couple of other companies had surprising drops Rex Energy and Westport Innovations. Rex rose all year until October or November, when it suddenly dropped. Westport also dropped suddenly. You had a wild ride in your portfolio, didn't you?

RM: We bought Rex at $13/share, and it went to $22 or $23, and it's now $19. I can live with that. The dips give you a chance to load up again. That volatility is why we have a diversified portfolio. That's why you don't just bet on three stocks.

As an investor, most of the time what you're looking for is to find a difference between perception and reality. Today, we have two realities: One is the price of crude oil, and the other is the price of natural gas. So it's literally an arbitrage if you can buy energy either at the equivalent of $100/bbl or at a third of that.

Four dollar gas is equivalent in energy content to about $35/bbl crude. So I can buy my energy either at $100/bbl or $35/bbl. Economics says that spread is too wide. It won't necessarily close, but it sure as heck will narrow a good bit. For instance, I own no conventional oil companies. I think the price of oil will be coming down.

TER: So what companies in your portfolio look most promising?

RM: If you really want to get me excited, we can talk about natural gas, which we've been talking about. We could talk about biotechnology, which is exciting but I don't understand it as well. We can talk about U.S. manufacturing, but that's basically based on cheaper energy. I just bought more Rex. At these prices, I'm buying Westport. I just bought Chicago Bridge. I just bought KBR.

TER: What is your main motivation in buying these companies? Is it just the stock price or is there something about the management of the company or the technology?
"I want to buy Pontiacs and Buicks when they go on sale. I don't want a Yugo at any price. I would like to buy Cadillacs, but they don't go on sale very often."
RM: We're in the investment business. What we rely on is good companies, and we look to buy them when they're selling cheaply. Our first measure of how well a company is run is we start with return on shareholder equity. So we like companies that are at least above average in return on shareholder equity. I cannot yet say that about Clean Energy, but we do think Clean Energy is at the forefront of something that's needed for this transition. We're always looking for good companies. Then the question is whether you can buy them at a decent price.

My phrase is: I want to buy Pontiacs and Buicks when they go on sale. I don't want a Yugo at any price. I would like to buy Cadillacs, but they don't go on sale very often. But if I can get Buicks when they're on sale, I'll make good money for my clientele. We think that the companies we have are at least Buicks. If we can get them at Chevy prices, that's when we buy them. I will not pay an unlimited amount for any company.

I've never seen a company that was so good it didn't matter what you paid for the stock. To us, value is a good company at a cheap price. Some people bottom fish. They look to see when they can steal companies, and there are times when you can make money that way. But at that point it's not often a very good business, and there aren't too many well run companies at bargain basement prices. So it's very unusual for us to buy a weak company or a weak industry.

TER: Ron, this has been a good conversation. I appreciate your time, and good luck with your Money Show presentation.

RM: Thanks; it'll be fun.

Ron Muhlenkamp is the founder and portfolio manager of Muhlenkamp Co. Inc., 


Posted coutesy of our trading partners at INO.com



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Two Gold Stocks You’ll Wish You Owned in 2013… and Should Still Buy Now

By Laurynas Vegys, Research Analyst

Looking back on 2013, we have to conclude that it was one of the worst years for precious metals stocks in recent memory—despite all the reasons why it should have been a great one.


Here's a sober look at the performance of the most widely followed indices in the precious metals (PM) sector.



It's obvious that 2013 was an extremely painful year for precious metals investors.
Why? Here's a shortlist of some of the most notable reasons.
  • We didn't see significant levels of price inflation in the US—the very thing that gold is a good hedge for—so there was no major flow into precious metals in America.
  • Precious metals ETFs, like GLD, flooded the market with a massive amount of gold liquidations.
  • The European sovereign debt crisis eased up (unless, of course, you live in the PIIGS countries, Cyprus, or pretty much anywhere else in the Eurozone).
  • Rumors of the Fed tapering QE continued throughout the year, depressing the gold market and causing extreme volatility. (Oddly enough, the actual taper in December did much less harm than the rumors that preceded it, suggesting it was already priced in when it arrived.)
You can probably think of other reasons, but these no doubt contributed to the industry's precipitous decline.
In such a depressed environment, it's not surprising that almost all gold stocks were down, though our International Speculator portfolio outperformed the market indices. And in fact, two of our portfolio companies—both 2013 recommendations—saw their share prices rise substantially.

Here's how these two stocks performed last year relative to gold and the indices:



The good news is both of these stocks are still "Buys" today, and we're convinced there's much more joy to come…

2014 Winner #1: Profit at Just About Any Price

Never mind simply beating the indices; this company gained a whopping 47.9% last year, due to its unique business model of processing third party gold ore at its plant in South America.

We'd previously been skeptical of this model because ore suppliers are typically small scale and operate with no mine plan. This often causes irregularities in the quantity and quality of the ore received by the mill, which can lead to output and earnings seesawing wildly.

A very compelling angle to this story emerged, however, when the jurisdiction where the company operates decided to crack down on illegal and environmentally unsound ore processing practices. This instantly created a bottleneck, allowing the company to pick and choose its potential suppliers and accept only the highest grade deals.

Our 2014 Winner #1 has been steadily increasing output while keeping tight control over its ore grade and gross margin. One of the most attractive characteristics of its model: The company has been able to lock in a margin that remains stable even when the gold price fluctuates.

On the exploration side, our pick recently delivered high grade drill results at its South American gold project, including some bonanza grade hits. A large, high-grade discovery here could easily drive this stock to become a 10 bagger (i.e., produce gains of 1,000% or more).

However, successful exploration is not required for the shares to continue rising in the coming years, as the company will continue to profit from its gold processing operation.

This gold processor is still one of our favorite International Speculator picks. It will continue to earn record profits this year, even if the gold price goes nowhere—in other words, this stock still has plenty of upside with almost no downside risk.

2014 Winner #2: High-Grade Metal with Proven People

 

Our second favorite pick in 2013 was a new high-grade copper-gold producer in Colombia.
We had been following the story for a while, primarily because we know and trust management (and if you've read Doug Casey for any length of time, you know that "People" is the first and foremost of his Eight Ps of Resource Stock Evaluation).

We didn't recommend the stock the first time we were on site, as metals prices were falling and the company had a big property payment coming due. Flash forward to today: The company raised the money it needed, the resources in the ground have been expanding and at excellent grade, mine upgrades are under way, and the keys to the plant have just been handed over.

The dual copper-gold production is a real boon in our current, low-price environment: Even if gold were to stay down for the rest of the year, the cash flow from the copper (a base metal and, therefore, subject to different economic factors than the precious metals) should keep the company's profits humming along.
We have yet to see financial results from the operation, but we have a great deal of confidence in this mine-building team, one that has delivered for us repeatedly in the past.

Cash flow, and soon thereafter net profits, are an imminent push in this story—though the real jackpot potential comes from the large land package surrounding the company's mine, which holds multiple outcrops of high-grade mineralization that have never been drilled.

Currently, the company is busy expanding its mine, so that exploration work probably won't happen until later this year. But we do think there's a good possibility of some very big news in the second half of 2014—so you'll want to position yourself now, while prices remain relatively low.

Why You Should Own These Stocks This Year

 

Both of the companies—and their share prices—are poised to benefit greatly from increased cash flow, a ramp-up in production, and high-grade drill results.

In addition, 2014 Winner #1, with its ingenious long  term growth model and its ability to profit at just about any gold price, offers minimal downside risk. This company found a creative and profitable way to not only survive last year's downturn but to thrive in the midst of it—and with an effective model in place, it will continue to prosper this year. The tide doesn't need to turn in the precious metals sector for this stock to continue to do well.

Out of fairness to paying subscribers, we can't give you the names of these two companies. But you can find out all about them—plus how to invest and what to expect this year—without any risk to you whatsoever.
Here's what I suggest: Take us up on our 100% satisfaction guarantee and try Casey International Speculator for 3 months. If it's not everything you expected and more, simply cancel for a prompt, courteous refund of every penny you paid.

Even if you decide to cancel ANY TIME after the 3 months are up, you'll still get a prorated refund on the remainder of your subscription. That's our iron clad guarantee, so what do you have to lose? Just click here to get started.


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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Energy Outlook: What’s Hot in 2014

By Marin Katusa, Chief Energy Investment Strategist

Investors who want to know how the energy sector will be doing in the coming year are, in my opinion, asking the wrong question. There really is no such thing as "the energy sector," because the performance of the different resources—from oil and gas, to uranium, to coal, to renewables—can vary dramatically.


Case in point: while unconventional oil exploration and production have seen a huge upswing in recent years, thanks to the vast success of the Bakken and other oil rich shale formations, at the same time natural gas has taken a nosedive, due to a supply glut that still hasn't found its balancing point.

To find out which investments will deliver the greatest profits for well positioned investors in 2014, my team and I have identified three trends that are hot… and may become even hotter in the course of this year.

HOT: Service Companies in North America

The oil and gas production in the United States is mature. Rather than looking for new basins, companies are looking to "rediscover" the past by applying new technology to increase economic production from known oil and gas fields.

This new technology comes in a variety of shapes and sizes: better software, bigger rigs, more efficient drilling processes. And it's being applied everywhere, onshore and offshore, conventional and unconventional alike.

Just as an example, today we're seeing operators drill more than 50 horizontal wells from a single well pad, a far cry from just a decade ago.

Exploration and production companies know that the focus moving forward is not just the amount of oil they can pump out of the ground, but the profit they can extract from every barrel (what we call the "netback"). This is even more true in the mature unconventional basins such as the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and the Marcellus shale plays, where the margins are tight and require an oil price of more than US$70 per barrel in order to be economic.

This means E&P companies have to use the best ways to increase production from every well—while at the same time reducing their drilling costs. Failure to do so would be to guarantee a firm's demise.

The dilemma for E&P companies is having to prioritize what their shareholders want in the short term—growing production and dividends—over whatever may be best for the company in the long term. At the same time, they have to fight the natural decline of oil coming out of their wells.

All the while, service companies continue to extract fees for their tools and services. Drillers, pumpers, frackers, and other oilfield-service guys make money regardless of whether E&P companies find oil or produce it at economic rates.

We've said it before: Many E&P companies are running on a treadmill, and the incline is going higher and higher, which means higher costs to produce the same amount of oil.

Of course, not all service companies will rake in the dough. The ones that will do the best are the ones that can consistently stay at the forefront of technology and keep signing contracts with the supermajors like Exxon, Chevron, and Shell.

HOT: European Energy Renaissance

Russia's grip on European energy continues to tighten, and there's a push to produce oil and gas within their own borders all around Europe.

2014 looks to be an exciting year for companies like one of our Casey Energy Report stocks, a TSX-V-listed oil and gas explorer and producer with a 2 million acre concession in Germany. We call the deposit it's sitting on the "Next Bakken" because we believe that its potential to deliver exceptional output could rival that of the famed North American formation.

This development is still in its early stages, but investors who position themselves now could see outsized gains for years to come. It's not really a question of "if" the oil is there—previous oil production in the very same location yielded more than 90 million barrels—but of "how much" oil can be extracted with the modern methods not available the last time companies worked on this field.

The company has completed its first well and will continue to drill additional wells (both vertical and horizontal) next year. While the initial well cost more than anticipated, it's a good start that indicates economic oil can be produced in Germany. We're also confident this company's experienced management team is applying the lessons of its first foray to reduce drill costs on future wells.

As our Energy Report pick proves up any of its projects in 2014 and early 2015, we can expect another of our holdings, which has just entered the German oil and gas scene, to either farm into the company or even buy it out.

We predict that by the end of 2015, our "Next Bakken" play, and others like it, will have attracted a lot of attention, not just from individual speculators, but from institutional investors as well—and investors who have gotten in early will be very happy indeed.

Another of our portfolio holdings is just beginning to drill on its Romania projects after a series of delays due to politics and bureaucracy. We have reason to be optimistic because its JV partner, a Gazprom subsidiary, has drilled successful wells on the same basin on the other side of the border in Serbia. If our pick has anything close to that level of success, the markets will surely take notice and its shares will go much higher.
As the "Putinization" of the global energy markets continues and Russia's dominance grows, European countries become increasingly more desperate to escape from under Putin's heavy thumb and to start developing their own energy resources.

The European Energy Renaissance is real, and we continue to monitor companies that are funded and have the permits and ability to drill game-changer wells in Europe in 2014.

HOT: Uranium

During a recent trip to London, I spoke with Lady Barbara Judge, chairman emeritus of the UK Atomic Agency and an advisor to TEPCO on the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. I asked her point blank whether Japan was willing to bring any nuclear reactors back online in 2014.

Her answer was an unequivocal "Yes." The Japanese have no choice, really, because the alternative—importing liquefied natural gas (LNG)—is far too expensive.

Japan is the world's largest importer of LNG and has had to double its imports since the Fukushima incident. For that privilege, the country pays some of the highest rates on the planet, almost four times more than what we pay for natural gas in North America.

South Korea also shut down its nuclear plants post-Fukushima to do inspections and maintenance upgrades, and it, too, has had to import a lot of LNG. Both countries are looking to restart their nuclear reactors so they can stop paying a fortune to foreign energy suppliers. When these countries restart their reactors, they'll also restart the uranium market, so we expect uranium prices to begin to shake loose of the doldrums this year.

Another driver will be throwing the switch at ConverDyn, the U.S. uranium facility that is slated to start converting natural U3O8 to reactor-ready fuel in late 2014 or early 2015.

We currently hold two solid uranium companies in the portfolio—one is a U.S. based small cap producer (one of the very few in America), the other is the lowest risk way to play the uranium market that I know of. Both, we believe, will take off in 2014 on the renewed interest in uranium and the associated stocks.

If you want to know more about our thoroughly vetted energy stocks and their potential for amazing gains in 2014 and beyond, give the Casey Energy Report a try. You'll find all my "What's Hot" predictions and the full names of the stocks I've mentioned above in our January forecast issue… plus the energy sectors you should avoid like the plague this year… as well as a feature article on elephant oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico and a new stock pick ready to profit from them.

Giving the Casey Energy Report a try is risk-free because it comes with a 3 month, full money back guarantee. If the Energy Report is not all you expected it to be, just cancel within those 3 months and get a prompt, full refund. Or cancel any time AFTER the 3 months are up for a prorated refund. Getting started is easy.......Just Click Here.


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Friday, January 17, 2014

A Glimpse into the Coming Collapse

By Jeff Thomas, International Man

Beginning in 1999, we predicted a systemic economic collapse that would take place in the First World and would impact all other economies. We began to list some of the "dominoes" that would fall as the collapse evolved and described that the "Great Unravelling," as we termed it, would take roughly ten years. At that time, we guesstimated that the first two of the dominoes, a real estate crash and subsequent stock market crash in the US, would begin in about 2005.


We were premature in this prediction, as the first of the crashes did not occur until 2007. And, truth be told, we have frequently been incorrect in the timing of the other dominoes. Whilst the actual events have been predicted correctly, our timing has often been incorrect. In every such case, the prediction has been premature.

Sadly, however, the prediction of the events of the collapse have been almost entirely correct.

We also predicted that, just as a ball of string speeds up its rotation as it rolls along unravelling, so, too, the events of the Great Unravelling would occur more quickly as the situation worsened. Additionally, the severity of the events would increase concurrently with the increase in velocity.

However, none of the above was the result of gypsy fortune telling, nor did it require the brightest of minds to work out. It is mostly based on the simple assumption that history repeats itself—that the world's leaders make the same mistakes in every era, because human nature never changes. Anyone who is willing to expend the effort to study history diligently and to be prepared to think in contrarian terms, may develop a meaningful insight into the events of the future.

Back in 1999, of course, the very idea that the world was headed for serious economic calamity was considered ridiculous by most. The unfortunate fact is, most people do truly deal in the present, rarely questioning the future beyond what they consider to be the very next event. The truth of this statement is borne out by the fact that the great majority of people, who have already seen the first half of the Great Unravelling come to pass, still somehow cannot imagine the second half—the more disastrous half—as being in any way possible. Surely, somehow, the governments of the world will fix things.

However, the number of people whose eyes have been opened seems to be growing, and many of them are asking what the collapse will look like as it unfolds. What will the symptoms be?

Well, the primary events are fairly predictable: they would include major collapses in the bond and stock markets and possible sudden deflation (primarily of assets), followed by dramatic inflation, if not hyperinflation (primarily of commodities), followed by a crash of several major currencies, particularly the euro and the US dollar.

The secondary events will be less certain, but likely: increased unemployment, currency controls, protective tariffs, severe depression, etc.

But, along the way, there will be numerous surprises—actions taken by governments that may be as unprecedented as they would be unlawful. Why? Because, again, such actions are the norm when a government finds itself losing its grip over the people it perceives as its minions. Here are a few:
  • Travel Restrictions. This will begin with restrictions on foreign travel, including suspension/removal of passports. (This has begun in a small way in both the EU and US.) Later, travel restrictions will be extended within the boundaries of countries (highway checkpoints, etc.)
  • Confiscation of wealth. The EU has instituted the confiscation of bank accounts, which can be expected to become an international form of governmental theft. This does not automatically mean that other assets, such as precious metals and real estate will also be confiscated, but it does mean that the barrier for confiscation has been eliminated. There is therefore no reason to assume that any asset is safe from any government that approves theft through bail-ins.
  • Food Shortages. The food industry operates on very small profit margins and survives only as a result of quick payment of invoices. With dramatic inflation, marginal businesses (suppliers, wholesalers, and retailers) will fall by the wayside. The percentage of failing businesses will be dependent upon the duration and severity of the inflationary trend.
  • Squatters Rebellions. A dramatic increase in the number of home and business foreclosures will result in homelessness for anyone whose debt exceeds his ability to pay—even those who presently appear to be well-off. As numbers rise significantly, a new homeless class will be created amongst the former middle class. As they become more numerous, large scale ownership of property may give way to large scale "possession" of property.
  • Riots. These will likely happen spontaneously due to the above conditions, but if not, governments will create them to justify their desire for greater control of the masses.
  • Martial Law. The US has already prepared for this, with the passing of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which many interpret as declaring the US to be a "battlefield." The NDAA allows the suspension of habeas corpus, indefinite detention, and the assumption that any resident may be considered an enemy combatant. Similar legislation may be expected in other countries that perceive martial law as a solution to civil unrest.
The above list is purposely brief—a sampling of eventualities that, should they occur, will almost definitely come unannounced. As the decline unfolds, they will surely happen with greater frequency.

But the value in projecting what the collapsing governments may do to their citizens is not merely an exercise in speculation. By anticipating the likelihood of any of the above, the individual may find that it would be prudent to turn off the game on television tonight and spend his time musing on the possibility of what he would do if any of the above events were to take place. (And, again, these projections are not mere fancy; they are actions typically taken by governments as their declines play out.)

Most importantly, if the reader concludes that there is a significant percentage of likelihood that any of the above are coming his way, he would be well-advised to assess whether they are developments that he feels he could live with. If not, he might wish to assess how much time he has before these events become a reality and what he may do to sidestep their impact on him.

Whilst, throughout the First World, the comment, "The whole world is going to Hell," is becoming common, in fact, this is not the case. Although some countries are in decline, others are on the rise. It is left to the reader to decide whether he will fall victim to coming events, or will use them as an opportunity to internationalise himself.

Editor’s Note: You can find Casey Research’s A-Z guide on internationalization here.


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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mid Week Market Summary - Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Gold, Wheat and Coffee

Crude oil closed sharply higher on Wednesday and above the 10 day moving average crossing at 93.53 signaling that a low might be in or is near. Today's high range close sets the stage for a steady to higher opening when Thursday's night session begins. Stochastics and the RSI are oversold but are turning neutral to bullish hinting that a short term low might be in or is near. Closes above the 20 day moving average crossing at 96.25 are needed to confirm that a short term low has been posted. If March resumes the decline off December's high, the June 2013 low crossing at 89.48 is the next downside target. First resistance is today's high crossing at 94.82. Second resistance is the 20 day moving average crossing at 96.25. First support is last Thursday's low crossing at 91.47. Second support is the June 2013 low crossing at 89.48.

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Natural gas closed lower on Wednesday as it consolidates some of the rally off last week's low. The low range close sets the stage for a steady to lower opening on Thursday. Stochastics and the RSI are bullish signaling that sideways to higher prices are possible near-term. If March extends the aforementioned rally, the reaction high crossing at 4.403 is the next upside target. Closes below the 10 day moving average crossing at 4.213 would confirm that a short term top has been posted. First resistance is the reaction high crossing at 4.403. Second resistance is December's high crossing at 4.550. First support is the 10 day moving average crossing at 4.213. Second support is last Friday's low crossing at 3.936.

Gold closed lower due to profit taking on Wednesday as it consolidated some of the rally off December's low. The high range close sets the stage for a steady to higher opening when Thursday's night session begins trading. Stochastics and the RSI are overbought but remain neutral to bullish signaling that sideways to higher prices are possible near term. If April extends the rally off December's low, December's high crossing at 1266.70 is the next upside target. Closes below the 20 day moving average crossing at 1223.90 would confirm that a short term top has been posted. If April renews the decline off August's high, weekly support crossing at 1179.40 is the next downside target. First resistance is Tuesday's high crossing at 1255.20. Second resistance is December's high crossing at 1266.70. First support is the 20 day moving average crossing at 1223.90. Second support is December's low crossing at 1182.30.

Coffee closed lower on Wednesday and the mid range close set the stage for a steady opening on Thursday. Stochastics and the RSI are diverging and are turning neutral to bearish signaling that sideways to lower prices are possible near term. Closes below the 20 day moving average crossing at 11.65 would confirm that a short term top has been posted. If March extends the rally off November's low, September's high crossing at 12.40 is the next upside target.

Wheat closed lower on Wednesday ending a two day short covering bounce off last Friday's low. Today's low range close sets the stage for a steady to lower opening when Thursday's night session begins trading. Stochastics and the RSI are diverging but are turning neutral to bullish signaling that sideways to higher prices are possible near term. Closes above the 20 day moving average crossing at 5.98 1/4 would confirm that a short term low has been posted. If March extends the decline off October's high, weekly support crossing at 5.54 3/4 is the next downside target. First resistance is the 20 day moving average crossing at 5.98 1/4. Second resistance is the reaction high crossing at 6.12 3/4. First support is last Friday's low crossing at 5.60 1/2. Second support is weekly support crossing at 5.54 3/4.

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Using 3X ETF's....Maybe this is now Doable

For years we have resisted using the 3X ETF's for our near term and day trading. These can potentially cut your head off over night. The main reason we have not been willing to use these tickers is that our traditional research including the resistance, support and pivot numbers just don't work.

But our friend and trading partner Chris Vermeulen is trying to convince us that he has it figured out. He has been telling us this for years but now he has created a program that....well, in all honesty looks like he was right.

Check out Chris new AlgoTrades Program

Here is his most recent trade using the ES Mini futures contract.....

On Jan 13th 2014 our algorithmic trading system took a long position in the SP500 futures trading contact. In less than 24 hours our algorithm system was able to identify resistance in the market the following session. This invisible overbought market condition which only our algorithmic trading system identified automatically sold 1/3rd of our long position for a quick $1100 profit and adjusted the protective stop to breakeven on the balance of the position.

Quick note: While this trade was executed on the ES mini futures contract using our futures trading system, we do have a 3x automated trading system for ETFs. We know the most of our followers and the general public prefer ETF trading because they understand them more and have less risk. So we built this 3x automated trading system using the 3 times leveraged exchange traded funds.

As of today (Jan 15th) we are sitting with a risk free trade, $1100 in realized gains, and another $2400 in gains on the remainder of our position. This type of trade setup has happened twice in the past 10 days. The first trade took $500 in profit and was stopped out the next day and now this trade.

Click here to read Chris' entire article and check out his chart work on this trade.



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Monday, January 13, 2014

Forecast 2014: The Killer D’s

By John Mauldin


It seems I'm in a constant dialogue about the markets and the economy everywhere I go. Comes with the territory. Everyone wants to have some idea of what the future holds and how they can shape their own personal version of the future within the Big Picture. This weekly letter is a large part of that dialogue, and it's one that I get to share directly with you. Last week we started a conversation looking at what I think is the most positive and dynamic aspect of our collective future: The Human Transformation Revolution. By that term I mean the age of accelerating change in all manner of technologies and services that is unfolding before us. It is truly exhilarating to contemplate. Combine that revolution with the growing demand for a middle class lifestyle in the emerging world, and you get a powerful engine for growth. In a simpler world we could just focus on those positives and ignore the fumbling of governments and central banks. Alas, the world is too complex for that.

We'll continue our three part 2014 forecast series this week by looking at the significant economic macrotrends that have to be understood, as always, as the context for any short term forecast. These are the forces that are going to inexorably shift and shape our portfolios and businesses. Each of the nine macrotrends I'll mention deserves its own book (and I've written books about two of them and numerous letters on most of them), but we'll pause to gaze briefly at each as we scan the horizon.

The Killer D's
The first five of our nine macro-forces can be called the Killer D's: Demographics, Deficit, Debt, Deleveraging, and Deflation. And while I will talk about them separately, I am really talking threads that are part of a tapestry. At times it will be difficult to say where one thread ends and the others begin.

Demographics – An Upside Down World
One of the most basic human drives is the desire to live longer. And there is a school of economics that points out that increased human lifespans is one of the most basic and positive outcomes of economic growth. I occasionally get into an intense conversation in which someone decries the costs of the older generation refusing to shuffle off this mortal coil. Typically, this discussion ensues after I have commented that we are all going to live much longer lives than we once expected due to the biotechnological revolution. Their protests sometimes make me smile and suggest that if they are really worried about the situation, they can volunteer to die early. So far I haven't had any takers.

Most people would agree that growth of the economy is good. It is the driver of our financial returns. But older people spend less money and produce far less than younger, more active generations do. Until recently this dynamic has not been a problem, because there were far more young people in the world than there were old. But the balance has been shifting for the last few decades, especially in Japan and Europe.

An aging population is almost by definition deflationary. We can see the results in Japan. An aging, conservative population spends less. An interesting story in the European Wall Street Journal this week discusses the significant amount of cash that aging Japanese horde. In Japan there is almost three times as much cash in circulation, per person, as there is in the US. Though Japan is a country where you can buy a soft drink by swiping your cell phone over a vending machine data pad, the amount of cash in circulation is rising every year, and there are actually proposals to tax cash so as to force it back into circulation.

A skeptic might note that 38% of Japanese transactions are in cash and as such might be difficult to tax. But I'm sure that Japanese businesses report all of their cash income and pay their full share of taxes, unlike their American and European counterparts.

Sidebar: It is sometimes difficult for those of us in the West to understand Japanese culture. This was made glaringly obvious to me recently when I watched the movie 47 Ronin. In the West we may think of Sparta or the Alamo when we think of legends involving heroic sacrifice. The Japanese think of the 47 Ronin. From Wikipedia:

The revenge of the Forty-seven Ronin (Shi-jū-shichi-shi, forty-seven samurai) took place in Japan at the start of the 18th century. One noted Japanese scholar described the tale, the most famous example of the samurai code of honor, bushidō, as the country's "national legend."
The story tells of a group of samurai who were left leaderless (becoming ronin) after their daimyo (feudal lord) Asano Naganori was compelled to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a court official named Kira Yoshinaka, whose title was Kōzuke no suke. The ronin avenged their master's honor by killing Kira, after waiting and planning for almost two years. In turn, the ronin were themselves obliged to commit seppuku for committing the crime of murder. With much embellishment, this true story was popularized in Japanese culture as emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor that people should preserve in their daily lives. The popularity of the tale grew during the Meiji era of Japanese history, in which Japan underwent rapid modernization, and the legend became subsumed within discourses of national heritage and identity.

The point of my sidebar (aside from talking about cool guys with swords) is that, while Japan may be tottering, the strong social fabric of the country, woven from qualities like loyalty, sacrifice, and diligence, should keep us from being too quick to write Japan off.

"Old Europe" is not far behind Japan when it comes to demographic challenges, and the United States sees its population growing only because of immigration. Russia's population figures do not bode well for a country that wants to view itself as a superpower. Even Iran is no longer producing children at replacement rates. At 1.2 children per woman, Korea's birth rates are even lower than Japan's. Indeed, they are the lowest in the World Bank database.

A basic equation says that growth of GDP is equal to the rate of productivity growth times the rate of population growth. When you break it down, it is really the working-age population that matters. If one part of the equation, the size of the working-age population, is flat or falling, productivity must rise even faster to offset it. Frankly, developed nations are simply not seeing the rise in productivity that is needed.
As a practical matter, when you are evaluating a business as a potential investment, you need to understand whether its success is tied to the growth rate of the economy and the population it serves.

In our book Endgame Jonathan Tepper and I went to great lengths to describe the coming crisis in sovereign debt, especially in Europe, which shortly began to play itself out. In the most simple terms, there can come a point when a sovereign government runs up against its ability to borrow money at reasonable rates. That point is different for every country. When a country reaches the Bang! moment, the market simply starts demanding higher rates, which sooner or later become unsustainable. Right up until the fateful moment, everyone says there is no problem and that the government in question will be able to control the situation.

If you or I have a debt issue, the solution is very simple: balance our family budget. But it is manifestly more difficult, politically and otherwise, for a major developed country to balance its budget than it is for your average household to do so. There are no easy answers. Cutting spending is a short-term drag on the economy and is unpopular with those who lose their government funding. Raising taxes is both a short term and a long-term drag on the economy.

The best way to get out of debt is to simply hold spending nominally flat and eventually grow your way out of the deficit, as the United States did in the 1990s. Who knew that 15 years later we would be nostalgic for Clinton and Gingrich? But governments almost never take that course, and eventually there is a crisis. As we will see in a moment, Japan elected to deal with its deficit and debt issues by monetizing the debt.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the ECB had to step in to save Italy and Spain; Greece, Ireland, and Portugal were forced into serious austerities; and Cyprus was just plain kicked over the side of the boat.



There is currently a lull in the level of concern about government debt, but given that most developed countries have not yet gotten their houses in order, this is a temporary condition. Debt will rear its ugly head again in the not too distant future. This year? Next year? 2016? Always we pray the prayer of St. Augustine: "Lord, make me chaste, but not today."

Deleveraging and Deflation – They Are Just No Fun
At some point, when you have accumulated too much debt, you just have to deal with it. My associate Worth Wray forwarded the following chart to me today. There is no better explanation as to why the current recovery is the weakest in recent history. Deleveraging is a b*tch. It is absolutely no fun. Looking at this chart, I find it rather remarkable and somewhat encouraging that the US has done as well as it has the past few years.



As I've outlined at length in other letters and in Code Red, central banks can print far more money than any of us can imagine during periods of deleveraging and deflation. For the record, I said the same thing back in 2010 when certain hysterical types were predicting hyperinflation and the end of the dollar due to the quantitative easing of the Federal Reserve. I remain actively opposed to the current level of quantitative easing, not because I'm worried about hyperinflation but for other reasons I have discussed in past letters. As long as the velocity of money keeps falling, central banks will be able to print more money than we would have thought possible in the '70s or '80s. And seemingly they can get away with it – in the short term. Of course, payback is a b*tch. When the velocity of money begins to rise again for whatever unknown reason, central banks had better have their ducks in a row!

Deflationary conditions make debt worse. If you borrow money at a fixed rate, a little inflation – or even a lot of inflation – helps a great deal. To think that even conservative Republican leaders don't get that is naïve. Certainly it is understood in Japan, which is why the success of Abenomics is dependent upon producing inflation. More on that below.

For governments, there is more than one way to deleverage. You can default on your payments, like Greece. We're going to see a lot more of that in the next five years – count on it. Or you can get your central bank to monetize the debt, as Japan is doing. Or get the central bank to convert your debt into 40-year bonds, as Ireland did. (Brilliant move, by the way, for tiny Ireland – you have to stand back and applaud the audacity. I wonder how much good Irish whiskey it took to get the ECB to agree to that deal?)

Inflation is falling almost everywhere today, even as central banks are as accommodative as they have ever been. Deflation is the default condition in a deleveraging world. It can even create an economic singularity.
Singularity was originally just a mathematical term for a point at which an equation has no solution. Then, in astrophysics, it was proven that a large enough collapsing star would become a black hole so dense that its own gravity would cause a singularity in the fabric of space time, a point where many standard physics equations suddenly have no solution.

Beyond the "event horizon" of the black hole, the physics models no longer work. In terms of general relativity, an event horizon is a boundary in space time beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In a black hole it is "the point of no return," i.e., the point at which the gravitational force becomes so large that nothing can escape.

Deflation and collapsing debt can create their own sort of black hole, an economic singularity. At that point, the economic models that we have grown comfortable with no longer work. As we approach a potential event horizon in a deflationary/deleveraging world, it can be a meaningless (and extremely frustrating) exercise to try to picture a future that is a simple extension of past economic reality. Any short term forecast (less than one or two years) has to bear that fact in mind.

We Are in a Code Red World
We need to understand that there has been a complete bureaucratic and academic capture of central banks. They are all run by neo-Keynesians. (Yes, I know there are some central bankers who disavow the prevailing paradigm, but they don't have the votes.) The default response of any present day central banker faced with a crisis will be massive liquidity injections. We can argue with the tide, but we need to recognize that it is coming in.

When there is a recession and interest rates are at or close to the zero bound, there will be massive quantitative easing and other, even more creative injections of liquidity into the system. That is a reality we have learned to count on and to factor into our projections of future economic possibilities. But as to what set of econometric equations we should employ in coming up with accurate, dependable projections, no one, least of all central bankers, has a clue. We are in unknown territory, on an economic Star Trek, with Captain Bernanke about to turn the helm over to Captain Yellen, going where no reserve currency printing central bank has gone before. This is not Argentina or Zimbabwe we are talking about. The Federal Reserve is setting its course based on economic theories created by people whose models are demonstrably terrible.

Will we have an outright recession in the US this year? I currently think that is unlikely unless there is some kind of external shock. But short term interest rates will stay artificially low due to financial repression by the Fed, and there will be an increased risk of further monetary creativity from a Yellen led Fed going forward. Stay tuned.
 
To continue reading this article from Thoughts from the Frontline – a free weekly publication by John Mauldin, renowned financial expert, best-selling author, and Chairman of Mauldin Economics – please click here.
© 2013 Mauldin Economics. All Rights Reserved.


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Saturday, January 11, 2014

23 Reasons to Be Bullish on Gold

By Laurynas Vegys, Research Analyst

It's been one of the worst years for gold in a generation. A flood of outflows from gold ETFs, endless tax increases on gold imports in India, and the mirage (albeit a convincing one in the eyes of many) of a supposedly improving economy in the US have all contributed to the constant hammering gold took in 2013.

Perhaps worse has been the onslaught of negative press our favorite metal has suffered. It's felt overwhelming at times and has pushed even some die-hard goldbugs to question their beliefs… not a bad thing, by the way.

To me, a lot of it felt like piling on, especially as the negative rhetoric ratcheted up. Last year's winner was probably Goldman Sachs, calling gold a "slam dunk sale" for 2014 (this, of course, after it's already fallen by nearly a third over a period of more than two and a half years, how daring they are).

This is why it's important to balance the one sided message typically heard in the mainstream media with other views. Here are some of those contrarian voices, all of which have put their money where their mouth is…..
  • Marc Faber is quick to stand up to the gold bears. "We have a lot of bearish sentiment, [and] a lot of bearish commentaries about gold, but the fact is that some countries are actually accumulating gold, notably China. They will buy this year at a rate of something like 2,600 tons, which is more than the annual production of gold. So I think that prices are probably in the process of bottoming out here, and that we will see again higher prices in the future."
  • Brent Johnson, CEO of Santiago Capital, told CNBC viewers to "buy gold if they believe in math… Longer term, I think gold goes to $5,000 over a number of years. If they continue to print money at the current rate, I think it could be multiples of that. I see a slow steady rise punctuated with some sharp upward moves."
  • Jim Rogers, billionaire and cofounder of the Soros Quantum Fund, publicly stated in November that he has never sold any gold and can't imagine ever selling gold in his life because he sees it as an insurance policy. "With all this staggering amount of currency debasement, gold has got to be a good place to be down the road once we get through this correction."
  • George Soros seems to be getting back into the gold miners: he recently acquired a substantial stake in the large cap Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) and kept his calls on Barrick Gold (ABX).
  • Don Coxe, a highly respected global commodities strategist, says we can expect gold to rise with an improving economy, the opposite of what many in the mainstream expect. "You need gold for insurance, but this time the payoff will come when the economy improves. In the past when everything was falling all around you, commodity prices were soaring out of sight. We had three recessions in the 1970s and gold went from $35 an ounce to $850. But this time, gold is going to appreciate when we start getting 3% GDP growth."
  • Jeffrey Gundlach, bond guru and not historically known for being a big fan of gold, came out with a candid endorsement of the yellow metal: "Now, I kind of like gold. It's definitely very non correlated to other assets you may have in your portfolio, and it does seem sort of cheap. I also like the GDX."
  • Steve Forbes, publishing magnate and chief executive officer of Forbes magazine, publicly predicted an impending return to the gold standard in a speech in Las Vegas. "A new gold standard is crucial. The disasters that the Federal Reserve and other central banks are inflicting on us with their funny-money policies are enormous and underappreciated."
  • Rob McEwen, CEO of McEwen Mining and founder of Goldcorp, reiterated his bullish call for gold to someday top $5,000. "We now have governments willing to seize their citizens' assets. We now have currency controls on the table, which we haven't seen since the late 1960s/early '70s. We have continued debasement of currencies. And the economies of the Western world remain stagnant despite enormous monetary stimulation. All these facts to me are bullish for gold and make me believe the price will bounce back relatively soon."
  • Doug Casey says that while gold is not the giveaway it was at $250 back in 2001, it is nonetheless a bargain at current prices. "I've been buying gold for years and I continue to buy it because it is the way you save. I'm very happy to be able to buy gold at this price. All the so called quantitative easing, money printing, by governments around the world has created a glut of freshly printed money. This glut has yet to work its way through the global economic system. As it does, it will create a bubble in gold and a super bubble in gold stocks."
And then there's the people who should know most about how sound the world's various types of paper money are: central banks. As a group, they have added tonnes of bullion to their reserves last year….
  • Turkey added 13 tonnes (417,959 troy ounces) of gold in November 2013. Overall, it has added 143.6 tonnes (4,616,847 troy ounces) so far this year, up 22.5% from a year ago, in part thanks to the adoption of a new policy to accept gold in its reserve requirements from commercial banks.
  • Russia bought 19.1 tonnes (614,079 troy ounces) in July and August alone. With the year to date addition of 57.37 tonnes [second only to Turkey] Russia's gold reserves now total 1,015 tonnes. It now holds the eighth-largest national stash in the world.
  • South Korea added a whopping 20 tonnes (643,014 troy ounces) of gold in February, and now carries 23.7% more gold on its balance sheet than at the end of 2012."Gold is a real safe asset that can help (us) respond to tail risks from global financial situations effectively and boosts the reliability of our foreign reserves holdings," said central bank officials.
  • Kazakhstan has been buying gold every month, at an average of 2.4 tonnes (77,161 troy ounces) through October. As a result, the country's reserves have seen a 21% increase to 139.5 tonnes from a year ago.
  • Azerbaijan has taken advantage of a slump in gold prices and has gone from having virtually no gold to 16 tonnes (514,411 ounces).
  • Sri Lanka and Ukraine added 5.5 (176,829 troy ounces) and 6.22 tonnes (199,977 troy ounces) respectively over the past year.
  • China, of course, is the 800 pound gorilla that mainstream analysts seem determined to ignore. Though nothing official has been announced by China's central bank, the chart below provides some perspective into the country's consumer buying habits.
China ended 2013 officially as the largest gold consumer in the world. Chinese sentiment towards gold is well echoed in a statement made by Liu Zhongbo of the Agricultural Bank of China: "Because gold has capabilities to absorb external economic shocks, growth of its use in the international monetary system will be imminent."

And those commercial banks that have been verbally slamming gold, it turns out many are not as negative as it might seem…
  • Goldman Sachs proved itself to be one of the biggest hypocrites: while advising clients to sell gold and buy Treasuries in Q2 2013, it bought a stunning (and record) 3.7 million shares of GLD. And when Venezuela decided to raise cash by pawning its gold, guess who jumped in to handle the transaction? Yes, they claim the price will fall this year, but with such a slippery track record, it's important to watch what they do and not what they say.
  • Société Générale Strategist Albert Edwards says gold will top $10,000 per ounce (with the S&P 500 Index tumbling to 450 and Treasuries yielding less than 1%).
  • JPMorgan Chase went on record in August recommending clients "position for a short term bounce in gold." Gold's price resistance to Paulson & Co. cutting its gold exposure, along with growing physical gold demand in Asia, were cited among the main reasons.
  • ScotiaMocatta's Sunil Kashyap said that despite the selloff, there's still significant physical demand for gold, especially from India and China, which "supports prices."
  • Commerzbank calls for the gold price to enter a boom period this year. Based on investment demand from Asian countries, China and India in particular, the bank predicted the yellow metal will rise to $1,400 by the end of 2014.
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch, in spite of lower price forecasts for gold this year, reiterated they remain "longer-term bulls."
  • Citibank's top technical analyst Tom Fitzpatrick stated gold could head to $3,500. "We believe we are back into that track where gold is the hard currency of choice, and we expect for this trend to accelerate going forward."
None of these parties thinks the gold bull market is over. What they care about is safety in this uncertain environment, as well as what they see as enormous potential upside.

In the end, the much ridiculed goldbugs will have had the last laugh.

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