Category Archives: Investments

Apple – The Staple of Luxury

Hello! Here’s a piece by our new analyst Pēteris Celms. Many more to come!

Apple’s Business Model

Apple has every right to the outsized profits it makes on the iPhone. Consumers could buy cheaper Android devices, but they don’t. Why? Because they value Apple’s hardware, or iOS software, or most likely, the ubiquity of the brand and the status that it has come to represent.

If you want the Apple experience, you buy Apple hardware, and in turn, use Apple software. And in order to access the digital content market install any other applications, you also have to go through Apple’s App Store. Apple does nothing to increase the value of Netflix or Spotify subscriptions, among many other digital services from app providers purchased through the App Store, but they charge a percentage for every one of these transactions (e.g. 30% in the first year, 15% every year after that for recurring subscription payments) just because they can, and will continue to be able to do so while ~45% of U.S. consumers, the world’s largest market, carry Apple devices.

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OUR NOVEMBER RESULTS

Our weighted average return in November was -0.96%. Since 2015, we have generated a net return of +38.73%.

In terms of investment strategy performance, our weighted average net returns for November were (a) +0.15% for conservative strategies, (b) -0.09% for balanced strategies, and (c) -2.11% for aggressive strategies.

Markets continued to be extremely volatile in November. The S&P 500 index traded all over the place, giving up -3.83% in the third week of the month, before jumping +4.71% the very next week. By month end, the S&P 500 had gained +2%. Emerging market stocks (+5.07%) finally managed to rally on the back of lower US bond yields, and US investment grade bonds ended the month +0.64%.

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OUR OCTOBER RESULTS

Our weighted average return in October was -3.88%. Since 2015, we have generated a net return of +40.48%.

In terms of investment strategy performance, our weighted average net returns for September were (a) -1.36% for conservative strategies, (b) -6% for balanced strategies, and (c) -2.97% for aggressive strategies.

October was a brutal month. In all of 2017, the S&P 500 index had 12 trading days where the daily change in price exceeded 1%. October had 10 such trading days. The monthly performance for key equity index ETFs were as follows: S&P 500 index -6.91% (SPY US), Euro Stoxx 50 index -8.18% (FEZ US), and MSCI Emerging Markets index -8.76% (EEM). Bonds outperformed equities, but there was nowhere to hide in the fixed income space as well. The Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF was -0.86% (BND US), the iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond index (HYG US) was -1.98% and the JPMorgan Emerging Market Bond index (EMB US) was -2.42%. Ugly numbers. The only safe haven was the US dollar, which increased 2.59% versus the euro.

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OUR AUGUST RESULTS

Our weighted average return in August was +2.67%. Since 2015, we have generated a net return of +39.53%.

In terms of investment strategy performance, our weighted average net returns for August were (a) -0.33% for conservative strategies, (b) -0.71% for balanced strategies, and (c) +7.18% for aggressive strategies.

August was a difficult month for almost all asset classes other than US stocks, as it remains quite clear that international trade tensions have done little to dim US business confidence.

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OUR MARCH RESULTS

OUR MARCH RESULTS

Our weighted average return in March was -1.94%. Since 2015, we have generated a net return of +33.05%.

In terms of investment strategy performance, our weighted average net returns for March were (a) -0.61% for conservative strategies, (b) -1.60% for balanced strategies, and (c)-3.37% for aggressive strategies.

Financial markets continued to experience significant volatility in March and no sector was spared.

The prospect of global trade war, coupled with heightened tensions in Syria meant waking up every morning to new headlines that sent markets into tailspin or euphoria. By the end of the month, ‘tailspin’ had gotten the upper hand.

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OUR FEBRUARY RESULTS

Our weighted average return in February was -3.18%. Since 2015, we have generated a net return of +35.68% with a Sharpe ratio of 1.24.

In terms of investment strategy performance, our weighted average net returns for February were (a) -0.36% for conservative strategies, (b) -3.25% for balanced strategies, and (c)-4.37% for aggressive strategies.

February was a difficult month. January’s euphoria gave way to massive selling across all asset classes and served as a reminder that investing in capital markets is not easy.

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OUR JANUARY RESULTS

We are pleased to announce that our weighted average return in January was +2.07%. Since 2015, we have generated a net return of 40.14% with a Sharpe ratio of 1.56.

In terms of investment strategy performance, our weighted average net returns for January were (a) -0.41% for conservative strategies, (b) +0.64% for balanced strategies, and (c) +4.59% for aggressive strategies.

January was dominated by three major themes: (1) excellent returns in global equity markets, (2) US dollar weakness, and (3) a selloff in US treasuries.

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Crypto -vs- Actual Miners

We have been following the progress of mining sector securities for quite some time now (Because You Know I’m All About That Base, ‘Bout That Base, Base Metals).

The arguments supporting this trade are:
a) reduced capex and lack of investment in new mines
b) long lead times to new supply (it takes around nine years to build a new copper mine)
c) simultaneous global growth and a resulting increase in demand
d) management commitment to returning cash to shareholders

Given the hysteria around crypto currencies and the resulting incentive to ‘mine’ them, we decided to compare the market capitalizations of the largest publically traded mining companies in the world to the largest crypto currencies. The results were quite interesting: the top five crypto currencies were worth around the same amount as the seven largest publically traded miners on earth.

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OUR DECEMBER RESULTS

We are pleased to announce that our weighted average return in December was +2.72%, resulting in total net return of +18.39% in 2017. Since 2015, we have generated a net return of 37.30% with a Sharpe ratio of 1.48.

In terms of investment strategy performance, our weighted average net returns were (a) +4.34% for conservative strategies, (b) +15.34% for balanced strategies, and (c) +28.40% for aggressive strategies.

In our November commentary, we mentioned that many of our favoured sectors had performed poorly. In December, they stormed back with a vengeance. Our largest individual equity holding – Canadian mining company Teck Resources Ltd. – rallied 15%. Our largest equity fund holding – the Polar Biotechnology fund – increased by 4.75%. Both have continued to trade up strongly in the New Year.

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OUR NOVEMBER RESULTS

Our weighted average return in November was -0.36%, bringing our year-to-date return to +15.26%.

Many of our favoured sectors performed poorly in November – emerging market bonds sold off, biotech was weak and base metals miners underperformed. Thankfully, our asset allocations and security selection allowed us to preserve capital in our portfolios.

Earlier in the month, I attended an investment conference in Berlin and was taken aback by the amount of construction going on in the city. My perceptions of the German economic zeitgeist were confirmed later on in the month when I heard of an actual case of a commercial lease in Berlin being renewed at a 40% increase from its previous level. Unsurprisingly, Germany reported impressive GDP growth of 2.8% versus an estimate of 2.3%. Clearly low rates in Europe are having the desired effect in its largest economy. Moreover, the Eurozone manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) hit a new record high of 60.1, which is consistent with a growth rate of more than 3%. Not so long ago Europe was petrified of deflation and interest rates were below 0%. Now the stage has been set for what could be considerable inflation. It remains to be seen how the ECB will navigate this new environment, but we will be avoiding investment grade, long duration European bonds for the foreseeable future.

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