“Even Castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually.”
Dubai World is an investment company that manages and supervises a portfolio of businesses and projects for the Dubai Government across a wide range of industry segments. Dubai World was established under a decree ratified on 2 March 2006 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He is the majority shareholder in Dubai World and we are about to find out if the Sheikh has any friends.
The Sheikh has learned the valuable lesson that leverage is BAD. There is not much you can do to manage risk around this level of arrogance but here we are. On Wednesday, we went to 67% cash, zero exposure to international equities, and made an intraday call to sell ½ our gold position.
Is this an isolated incident? The lesson from the financial crisis of 2008 suggests that Dubai World is probably not the only entity that binged on debt to buy overpriced, rapidly depreciating assets. The doom and gloom scenario that we are waking up to is the reality that the global central bank coordinated rescue program is just another sand castle that will be washed away in the sea.
So what happens next? What if creditors reject proposals to postpone near-term debt obligations until May 2010? Default or the Dubai government could be forced to hold a fire sale of its international real estate and a series of global financial institutions will experience massive losses again.
Not surprisingly, we are also waking up to the U.S. Dollar Index up as much as 1% - now up for two straight days. While there were a number of factors that I thought would contribute to the Bombed Out Buck theme, systematic risk was not one of them. The implication for everything priced in dollars is obvious.
The other fact we are waking up to today is that the Federal Reserve’s free money punch bowl needs to be removed from the party. How many other Dubai Worlds are binging at the trough of free money?
I for one did not know about the scale of Dubai's debt problems. So will Dubai's debt problems plunge global equity markets to new lows? I don’t think so, but uncertainty will prevail for some time. A potential scenario we could see develop over the next few days is one that includes Dubai’s neighbor, Abu Dhabi, which could easily bail out Dubai. Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund has $600 billion in assets and can easily support Dubai's debt problems.
Today is definitely not a typical Black Friday; nor was it easy to get the Early Look written today. What is happening to Dubai World really does not change much for the typical American. It’s a reminder that leverage is bad, the BUCK is bottoming and that the FED needs to raises interest rates sooner rather than later.
Howard W. Penney
VXX – iPath S&P500 Volatility — With the market hitting its YTD high on 11/23 we bought volatility.
XLK – SPDR Technology — We bought back our position in Tech on 11/20. Rebecca Runkle has an innovation story in Mobility and Team Macro has an M&A story in our Q4 Theme, the “Banker Bonanza”. We’re bullish on XLK on TREND (3 Months or more).
XLU – SPDR Utilities — We bought low beta Utilities on discount on 10/20.
GLD – SPDR Gold — We bought back our long standing bullish position on gold on a down day on 9/14 with the threat of US centric stagflation heightening.
CYB – WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan — The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.
TIP – iShares TIPS — The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield. We believe that future inflation expectations are currently mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis, especially in the context of our re-flation thesis.
EWJ – iShares Japan — While a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party of Japan has ended over 50 years of rule by the LDP bringing some hope to voters; the new leadership appears, if anything, to have a less developed recovery plan than their predecessors. We view Japan as something of a Ponzi Economy -with a population maintaining very high savings rate whose nest eggs allow the government to borrow at ultra low interest levels in order to execute stimulus programs designed to encourage people to save less. This cycle of internal public debt accumulation (now hovering at close to 200% of GDP) is anchored to a vicious demographic curve that leaves the Japanese economy in the long-term position of a man treading water with a bowling ball in his hands.
EWY – iShares South Korea — South Korea has joined Japan in the ominous position of broken TREND and TRADE. This is not China or Taiwan. This is an early cycle economy that we want to be short against China/Taiwan.
XLI – SPDR Industrials — We shorted Industrials again on 11/9 on the up move as the US market made a lower-high. This is the best way for us to be short the hope of a V-shaped recovery.
EWU – iShares UK — Despite areas of improvement, broader fundamentals remain shaky in the UK: government debt continues to expand, leadership in critical positions lacks, and the country’s leverage to the banking sector remains glaringly negative. Q3 saw its GDP contract by -0.4%. Further bank stimulus and the BOE’s increase in its bond purchasing program suggest that this will not end well.
XLY – SPDR Consumer Discretionary — We shorted Howard Penney’s view on Consumer Discretionary stocks on 10/30.
SHY – iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds — If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yields are going to continue to make higher-highs and higher lows until consensus gets realistic.