More good news: humans committed to cleaning up the oceans

Many people are aware we need to clean up the oceans.  Some are moving ahead with doing so.   See: A billionaire is giving away his fortune to clean up the oceans.

And also: A 22 year old raised 30 million for ocean clean up project.

The Ocean Cleanup uses a boom to capture plastic and keep it in areas where a boat can come and periodically pick it up. The pipe moves with the waves and uses floating anchors. Critics are skeptical of the system’s compatibility with the extreme forces of the ocean and its potential impact on ocean life.

The system should be fully deployed in 2018. $30 million has been raised for the cleanup.  Here is a direct video link.

As soon as we acknowledge that billions are needed to clean up the mess, it focuses thinking on who should be bearing the costs for doing so.  The answer is those who make the profits producing and filling the packaging. This will realign all business models to account for the waste they produce and encourage smarter, cost-effective solutions.  As in the old days, if we use packaging to sell our products, we have to responsible for collecting, reusing and recycling it.  You produce it, you own it.  This will also naturally encourage biodegradable and minimal packaging solutions.  All smarter than the current approach.

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Net zero buildings: here now

Who doesn’t want utility bills of zero?  Wasting less will help families, businesses and governments dig out of debt.

By 2020, the California Energy Commission plans to require every new residential building to meet a code called “zero net energy.” Under ZNE, over the course of a year a new house should consume no more energy than it generates from sources such as rooftop solar panels.

The state is still writing the rules that will define exactly how builders are supposed to meet the goal, and some warn the plan is so ambitious that regulators will be forced to roll back deadlines. But the Energy Commission insists it is sticking to its timetable. By 2030, the mandate is set to expand to all new commercial buildings as well. See:  The quest for utility bills of zero.    Here is a direct video link.

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Millennial Home Buyer

We all lose when debt bubbles drive shelter costs to unsustainable levels. Productivity and other investment falls as finite funds are disproportionately funneled into this one expense item. Price mean-reversion is needed to reconnect cost with incomes once more. History assures us that it will happen and that will help future buyers, but not before first hurting today’s many over-leveraged owners and lenders.

A young millennial’s attempt to buy his first home. Here is a direct video link.

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The plain truth about investment fees

As trillions in quantitative easing flowed into financial markets the past 7 years, volatility has fallen back to historic lows and valuations to historic highs.  In the process, as shown in this chart, many people have increasingly moved savings into passive ETFs and indices as well as robo-advisor platforms, that offer limited human involvement.

After all, if most ‘active’ money managers and investment funds are long-always, buy and hold allocators, who never reduce risk exposure, or hold cash beyond 3 or 4%, then what diversification, what alpha, what value-added?  Sounds like a bad trade for the person supplying the capital.  If our money is going to rise and fall in lock step with the market cycle, then paying management fees will only reduce our net gains and increase net loses.  No thanks.

This discussion however, misses the most important determinant of net capital progress in our life time.  It’s not stock picking, or index increases that define investment returns over full market cycles, but rather what net losses we experience in the process.  This is Harry Markowitz 101.  In his seminal 1952 paper entitled “Portfolio Selection” (widely misinterpreted since), Markowitz reminds that it’s not holding lots of different securities that defines portfolio performance, but rather avoiding assets that rise and fall at the same time:

“Similarly in trying to make variance small it is not enough to invest in many securities.  It is necessary to avoid investing in securities with high covariances among themselves.”

This is much easier said than done today.  It is precisely the herd of international banks, ‘long always’ funds, indices and managers, that have made global markets highly correlated–where returns are defined little by which country or sector, or which stocks or corporate bonds one holds–but rather to what extent these assets fall in value during our holding period.

Markowitz defined risk as the likelihood that our actual returns will fall short of our expected returns over time.  This causes us to under-save, over-spend, and mismatch assets with our liabilities during our working years.  The trillions in capital deficits that have compounded in pension, trust and foundation funds all over the world, through big market ups, and downs, the last 17 years, confirms this thesis.

As I have noted many times, business and market cycles are driven by the ebb and flow of credit and human behavior.  Hence cash flows–both business and employment–are always inherently cyclical, while debt payments and life expenses are constant.  Central banks, politicians, managers and individuals try to deny or ignore this iron-clad law with repeatedly disastrous results each time.

Investment allocations with the least capital risk and best reward prospects are always made near cycle lows, when the masses are liquidating in panic and necessity.  In a financial world of highly correlated assets, achieving meaningful risk management requires that we do the opposite of the masses:  pay down debt and build up cash during the mid-to-late expansion cycle, so that we have buying power when others are dumping assets in the downturn and liquidity crunch that follows.

It takes discipline, patience and the strength to move counter to the herd, but the alternative is devastating.

Anyone can be an indiscriminate buyer, all on their own.  Investment products, funds, stock pickers, managers or robo-advisors–that charge us to constantly expose our capital to market risk are a bad bargain. Their fee will only decrease our gains and increase our losses–while we carry all the risk.

The only thing that can add value over a full market cycle is a manager or rule set that helps us to buy low, sell higher, and wait on the sidelines for the next reset–however long that takes.  Ironically, even though this is the only way to make and retain net returns over time, few attempt to do so, because it requires historical insight, emotional intelligence and personal discipline– not just in the managers, but the clients too.

Here is a low risk forecast:  the preference for passive investment products, platforms and long-always managers since 2009, with end in the usual panicked selling and tears during the next bear market.  Then, only those who are out favor and ‘hedged’ against market risk now, will be proven worth their fee and back in demand once more.

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Ex-Goldman Mnuchin: our support for Glass-Steagall did not mean “Glass-Steagall”

The trouble with people like ex-banker-turned-Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, is that intellectual dishonesty is their main operating system.  Lying and tricking (and worse?) have been the backbone of their career, and they have been promoted and grotesquely enriched by it.  Mnuchin amassed a $300 million net worth this way, why would he change now?

Mnuchin says that he (and Trumpco) were not aware that the bi-partisan 21st Glass-Steagall Act proposed in 2013 separates commercial from investment banking? Laughable and an insult to intelligent people everywhere.  People are gullible and easily manipulated by those without conscience, Mnuchin’s success is living proof.

Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about his reversal of support for the Glass-Steagall Act in the May 18, 2017 Senate Banking Committee hearing.  Here is a direct video link.

Sociopath: An Antisocial Personality Disorder characterized by a disregard for the feelings of others, a lack of remorse or shame, manipulative behavior, unchecked egocentricity, and the ability to lie in order to achieve one’s goals.

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Danielle’s weekly market update

Danielle was guest today with Jim Goddard on Talk Digital Network talking about recent developments in the world economy and markets. You can listen to an audio clip of the segment here.

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