Taxation of transactions in India began with the equity market in 2004. Prior to 2008, the securities transaction tax (STT) was allowed as a rebate against tax liability against Section 88E of the Income Tax Act. This treatment was withdrawn by the 2008 Budget announcement. After that, STT became a substantial influence on the equity market. In understanding the consequences of the STT, there is an absolute perspective and there is a relative perspective.
In absolute terms, suppose you embark on a spot-futures arbitrage and do an early unwind. In this, you buy shares (pay 10), sell futures (1.7) and then reverse yourself (10). Your tax burden is 21.7 basis points. This is a lot of money when compared with the typical bid-offer spread of the Nifty futures which is around 0.5 basis points. The dominant cost faced in doing spot-futures arbitrage is taxation.
In relative terms, there are two issues. The first is an intra-India comparison between equities and commodities. When activity on the equity market was taxed, eyeballs and capital moved to commodities trading. Commodity futures trading has grown by 3.5 times after 2008, while equities activity has stagnated. Most policy makers think this was an undesirable effect, particularly given the fact that India can free ride on global price discovery for non-agricultural commodities but must foster liquid markets in its own equities.
And then, there is an international dimension. When the activities of non-residents in India are taxed in any fashion, they favour taking their custom to places like Singapore, which practice `residence-based taxation’ where the tax base comprises the activities of residents only. We got a sharp shift in equities activity towards locations outside India.
Putting these absolute and relative perspectives together, from 2008 onwards, equity market liquidity has fared badly. This yields an elevated cost of equity capital.
The budget speech has done two things. First, it has dropped the STT rate on futures on equity underlyings from 1.7 basis points to 1 basis points. This is helpful for certain kinds of trading strategies but not for others (e.g. the spot-futures arbitrage described above will gain little). HF strategies that do not involve the spot market will particularly benefit – e.g. imagine an options market maker who does delta neutral hedging on the futures market. Second, it has introduced taxation for non-agricultural commodity futures on an identical basis to the equity futures (i.e. at 1 basis points).
This will have the following interesting implications:
- Capital and labour in securities firms will be less inclined to be in non-agricultural commodity futures. It will tend to move towards agricultural commodity futures, currency futures and equity futures.
- The comparison between offshore venues and the onshore market will move in favour of the onshore market for certain kinds of trading strategies.
- The bias in favour of equity options will reduce; some business will move to equity futures.
- The pricing efficiency of futures will go up.
In this environment, there seems to be a fair arrangement between the equity futures and commodity futures. Conditions seem to be unfair with the equity spot (too high), equity options (too low) and currency derivatives (too low). The next moves on this may appear in July 2014 when the new government unveils its next budget.
One more announcement of the budget speech concerns currency futures: it was stated that FII activity on currency futures will commence. This will also give more activity on currency futures; we now have two reasons for expecting more activity on currency futures (the taxation of commodity futures and the entry of FII order flow). However, the shifting of FII order flow will be a slow process, and a lot of time will be lost on their due diligence of the exchange, safety of the clearinghouse, and so on. While, in the long run, removing capital controls against FII order flow in India is a good thing, it is not an effect that will kick in quickly. Apart from this, most of the action will take place fairly quickly, in early April.
Future finance ministers will need to navigate the difficult landscape of gradually scaling down taxation of transactions while retaining low taxation of capital gains (which has unfortunately come to be seen as a linked issue in the Indian discourse). Along this path, the first priority should be to remove distortions. Our first priority should be to achieve a low rate, a wide base, and the minimal distortions. Reduced rates will always yield welfare gains. The Budget 2013 announcement makes progress on two things (reduction from 1.7 to 1, and reduced distortions between equities and non-agricultural commodities). There is much more waiting to be done: integrating currencies and fixed income, bringing sense to options, and getting away from the very high rates on the equity spot market.
Join the forum discussion on this post - (1) Posts
Intercontinental Exchange has announced cash-settled futures on the Indian Rupee and the Brazilian Real [press release] [Saabira Chaudhuri in the Wall Street Journal]. With this, ICE is the first serious global exchange to start trading in the rupee.
Vimal Balasubramaniam and I have pointed out that the global market for the Indian rupee is adding up to some fairly big numbers. I recently noticed that in 2010, even though China is a much bigger economy than India, rupee trading was 0.9 per cent of global currency trading while RMB trading was at 0.7 per cent. Similarly, it appears that the INR NDF is bigger than the RMB NDF, even though China is a much bigger economy. Something is going right in the growth of the rupee as a big currency by world standards. Rupee trading at ICE would strengthen that process.
The ICE announcement also connects to the issues of global competition for Indian underlyings. The two biggest financial markets in India are Nifty and the rupee. So far, NSE faced serious competition with Nifty futures trading at SGX and CME, but there was no significant rival with the rupee. With the arrival of ICE, the competitive dynamics for the rupee changes, which is a welcome development. NSE now faces genuinely difficult competition from three first-tier rivals: CME, ICE, SGX. At the same time, the outlook for rupee trading in India is hobbled by an array of constraints:
- ICE can pitch for business from non-residents, while NSE cannot, since foreign participation in currency futures is banned. We seem to think that OTC trading of currency forwards requires encouragement from industrial policy operated by RBI.
- ICE is able to start contracts any time it likes on (say) the Brazilian Real while NSE is forbidden from starting any new contracts.
- India has mistakes on tax treatment, lacking residence based taxation, while the world has all this well sorted out.
- India has an array of other policy and regulatory mistakes that hobble local players. The ICE transaction charge is zero. I wonder if litigation will now start at CCI to try to block this.
Join the forum discussion on this post - (1) Posts
A process is afoot, at present, through which the Indian financial system is being hollowed out. If this process runs unchecked, RBI and SEBI will be left lording over nothing
. There is a need to reverse this policy framework of reverse protectionism.
Business as usual, in India, is taking us to a destination where RBI & SEBI & company will preside over a minor and inconsequential financial system. The bulk of India-linked finance will take place overseas, and the overseas market will dominate price formation for India-related financial products.
Why might this happen?
Finance is the business of bits and bytes. Orders being sent to India can be easily switched to other venues. An array of other venues are now springing up:
- Nifty futures trade in Singapore on the SGX
- An array of sophisticated derivatives on Nifty trade on the OTC market offshore (also termed `the PN market’).
- Derivatives on the rupee trade overseas on the OTC market (linear contracts are termed `the NDF market’).
- Trading in individual stocks is taking place on the ADR and the GDR market.
Let’s focus on Nifty – the most important financial product in India. (The arguments pretty much identically apply to everything else).
The success and survival of the onshore securities markets is fundamentally about NSE. NSE faces an array of problems rooted in domestic policy (example
, etc). The overseas market faces no such problems. The CEO of SGX wakes up in the morning and thinks about competing with NSE. The CEO of NSE wakes up in the morning and thinks of an array of weird things.
And then, there is taxation. The fundamental principle worth using in this field is residence based taxation. We, as India, should not tax the activities of non-residents
. For a global investor, sending orders to the Nifty futures on SGX is tax-efficient as Singapore follows a residence-based taxation system. Sending orders to India is inefficient today (owing to the STT and the stamp duty) and could get worse tomorrow (if GAAR is used to abrogate the Mauritius treaty).
We think we are comfortable, because India has capital controls, and residents don’t have much of a choice on taking their custom elsewhere. Things aren’t that simple. First, non-residents can pioneer sending order flow to overseas venues, and make them liquid. The next stage will be about Indian MNCs, who run global treasuries, who can easily patronise the overseas venues. The third stage will be HNI residents, who can take $200,000 per year per person outside India. In addition, the richest 1% of India would systematically shift money out of the country through various means fair and foul [example
As on date, the SGX Nifty OI is 27 per cent higher than that for Nifty futures on the National Stock Exchange (NSE). The figures are more alarming if one considers the OI in a single month in May as the built-up positions on the SGX are 70 per cent higher than on the NSE. In May, the SGX Nifty OI was worth over Rs 16,200 crore while that on the NSE stood at over Rs 9,250 crore. As far as three-month contracts go, the Nifty futures OI on the NSE is over Rs 12,750 crore.
In 2008, before these troubles had come together, SGX open interest was 59.78% of NSE. By 2012, where all these problems have come together, SGX open interest has come to 101.77% of NSE’s. It is astonishing to see that for the biggest Indian product – Nifty – an overseas exchange has got superior open interest.
In the baseline scenario, Indian policy-making will meander on clueless and unconcerned. NSE will continue to lose ground. Why do we care? Is this mere protectionism – what is wrong if the entire India-linked equity index derivatives business takes place overseas?
- A rich and complex ecosystem of finance has developed surrounding the Nifty contracts. Hundreds of thousands of high skill workers are in this industry. A decisive loss of market share for India would endanger their livelihood.
- The tax revenues associated with all these activities, at present, come to the Indian authorities. The Indian tax man earns income tax (on wages and on corporate profit) and VAT (on an array of activities of the firms). All this will go away if the business shifts to Singapore.
- A sophisticated Indian financial system is required if monetary policy is to be effective. The demise of the onshore financial system will damage the onshore monetary policy transmission. It will further take us back towards a world where government is unable to play a role in business cycle stabilisation.
- Prospects of Bombay emerging as an international financial centre will subside. If we can’t even hang on to market share for Nifty or the rupee, where is the question of competing against overseas financial firms or markets on things that aren’t India-linked?
- Access to finance for firms will tend to split into a two-tier world: the big firms will go abroad to get their corporate finance done. The small firms will face greater constraints since they will not easily access finance abroad (there is a greater information distance between the typical Singapore investor and the typical Rs.1000 crore or Rs.100 crore Indian company), and the local financial system would be weak.
When India started trying to build a mature market economy in 1991, at first, it felt like a sophisticated financial system would emerge, which would both serve India and start competing for the global market. From 1993 to 2001, India achieved a remarkable revolution in the equity market. This increased optimism in the ability of India to understand problems, to achieve change, and to maintain high ethical standards.
It now seems that those hopes were premature. The more likely scenario is one where India-linked finance will happen offshore, while RBI/SEBI/CBDT/CCI/FMC/IRDA squabble over a minor and inconsequential onshore financial system that is riddled with ethics problems. In the short term, onshore Indian finance will suffer from one setback after another.
We are likely to go back to the conflicted arrangements that gave us the Harshad Mehta scandals of the early 1990s and the Ketan Parekh scandals one decade later. I used to think we were finished with those problems. But we are about to restart on that entire story; there is little institutional memory about how those things came about and how dangerous our present path is. Each future scandal, of this nature, will be greeted with joy by overseas financial providers, who will scoop up market share every time India falls into turmoil.
Many years from now, we may one day get to fundamentally superior governance arrangements in finance, and achieve high ethical standards in public life and securities infrastructure. If this happens, we would be able to come back to these questions. As an example, Japan lost the Nikkei 225 contract to Singapore in the mid-1980s and got back into this to a significant extent 15 years later. In the years or decades that will go by until domestic financial governance structures are corrected, a great deal of organisational capital in the onshore financial system will have been lost.
The revolution in the stock market used to be one of the best success stories of economic reforms in India [link
]. It may well fall apart in coming months and years.
All models are wrong, some models are useful. A model reduces complications that are true in return for tractability and insight. In finance, all too often, one complication which has been wished away is transactions costs. A great deal of what we see in the world around us is caused by the costs of transacting. Some of the most important finance is about analyzing the causes and consequences of the costs of transacting.
The bid offer spread as a measure of transactions costs
The first flush of the literature draws on markets with market makers, and treats the bid-offer spread as the measure of the cost of transacting. On the NYSE, the specialist posts a bid price and an offer price. If you do two transactions in quick succession — buy 100 shares and then sell them back — you will be poorer by the bid-offer spread. The spread is like a tax on a speculator doing a round-trip for a small transaction.
There is no doubt that in that environment, the spread measures something important about transacting. Large databases about the spread are available. A whole literature arose which is rooted in the spread as the measure of the cost of transacting.
Limit order book markets are a whole new world in observability of liquidity
The world changed. Across countries and across asset classes, exchanges have been morphing into anonymous open limit order books. The market maker is not as important. On the open limit order book market, the full set of limit orders are observable, using which we can simulate a market order of any size, and calculate the exact cost that is paid. Suddenly, instead of just seeing a bid-offer spread, we see a whole new world which displays the full `liquidity supply schedule’ (LSS) that has the impact cost (in per cent) associated with a single market order of all possible sizes.
|An example of the `Liquidity Supply Schedule’: The impact cost associated with all possible transaction sizes
When the bid/offer stands at 98/102, and the midpoint quote is 100, if a single market order to buy 1000 shares gets executed at an average price of 105, the buy impact cost for 1000 shares is 5%. This calculation, repeated for all possible transaction sizes, paints the full Liquidity Supply Schedule (the LSS).
Once the LSS is visible, and we start thinking about the world in new ways, and the spread feels like a highly unsatisfactory measure of the cost of transacting. At the NYSE, the market lot is 100 shares for all firms. A share price of $5 means the spread refers to the cost of a transaction size of $500. If the share price is $200 instead, the spread pertains to a transaction of $20,000. Hence, the spread is itself not comparable across securities. In contrast, the LSS can be a standardised calculation that is comparable across all firms, with standardised units on the x axis either in rupees or basis points or market capitalisation.
For us in India who grew up with limit order book markets (NSE from 11/1994 onwards; BSE from 5/1995 onwards), the mainstream Western literature seems a little quaint, given their emphasis of the spread as the measure of transactions costs. We are seeing much more of the liquidity elephant through the LSS, while so many researchers are only seeing it’s tail through the spread. In India, the construction of Nifty required the capture of multiple snapshots of the entire limit order book per day, and has generated information about the LSS going back to the mid 1990s.
Since exchanges worldwide have shifted over to an open electronic limit order book, the new focus of measuring liquidity in finance lies in understanding the LSS. What explains cross-sectional and time-series variation of the LSS? What are the consequences of various features of the LSS? These questions have only begun to be addressed in the literature. Rosu has a fascinating recent paper in the Review of Financial Studies, 2009, titled A Dynamic Model of the Limit Order Book that presents one of the first models which predicts the shape of the LSS in an open ELOB market.
Does the impact cost in buying differ from that faced when selling?
One interesting dimension which the LSS makes possible is to think afresh about buying versus selling. The bid-offer spread tells us the round-trip transactions cost. It does not differentiate between buying and selling. When you see that the bid and offer are 100/102, there is no sense in which the transactions cost in buying differs from the transactions cost in selling.
But with the full LSS, we see the impact cost of buying at all transaction sizes separately from the impact cost of selling at all transaction sizes. A first question to ask is: Is there symmetry in liquidity? In the example of the LSS graphed above, it’s quite obvious that the impact cost when buying is superior (i.e. lower) than that faced when selling. But this is just one anecdote.
In a recent paper Measuring and explaining the asymmetry of liquidity, Rajat Tayal and Susan Thomas explore this question. With equity spot trading on the NSE, they find strong evidence in favour of asymmetry: impact cost is higher for large sell market order compared to large buy market orders.
Why might asymmetry arise?
What features about traders in the market generate differences between buying and selling? There is one candidate: how traders perceive sell market orders, particularly large sell orders that come despite constraints on borrowing shares, and restrictions on short-selling.
The speculator who makes a forecast that a share price will go down seldom owns the shares; selling requires borrowed shares. Particularly, in India, where formal mechanisms for borrowing shares are as yet quite small, a speculator who wants to sell physical shares has to mobilise borrowed shares on his own.
This may shape the thinking of the people placing limit orders. When I place limit buy orders (which will get hit by a speculative seller), the adverse selection runs against me. If the speculator was not confident about his forecast, he would not bother to borrow shares and sell short. Only when the speculator is really sure would he take the trouble of borrowing shares and doing a sell order. Hence, the person placing limit orders to buy would demand a bigger price of liquidity (i.e. the impact cost), since he runs a greater chance of losing money when giving liquidity to sellers.
The paper highlights a fascinating identification opportunity : at NSE, alongside the trading of the equity spot market, we also have trading in single stock futures. Everything about the two markets is identical: the same securities, the same trading system, the same participants, the same hours of day, etc. There are only two differences: stock futures trading is leveraged, and stock futures trading has cash settlement — which removes the short-sales constraints. Cash settlement induces full symmetry between buying and selling.
If short sales were the reasons asymmetry in liquidity on the equity spot market, then the stock futures market should have no asymmetry between buy and sell orders. The paper uses the same measurement procedures and statistical tests to compare the asymmetry of liquidity on the spot market as well as for the stock futures market. They find that there is no asymmetry of liquidity on the stock futures market.
If their story is correct, it has many implications. In other market settings observed worldwide, cash settled derivatives should have symmetric liquidity. Physical settled derivatives should have asymmetry – which might get more accentuated as you come closer to expiry. Many natural experiments have taken place worldwide, where futures contracts have shifted from physical to cash settlement: these are all nice natural experiments where changes in asymmetry should become visible. On spot markets, asymmetry should vary with the ease of borrowing. Future research projects could explore these questions.
Financial economics benefits from the best datasets in all economics, and we are able to get sharp and clean papers which pretty decisively answer questions. In India, it has started becoming possible to do innovative work by drawing on data from the open ELOB equity exchanges, CMIE, etc.
Today’s retail investors have more options than ever before, but there is a shortage of practical information on how to manipulate different investment products, be they ETFs, options or equities. Enter Roger Wiegand, editor of Trader Tracks. In this exclusive interview with The Energy Report, Wiegand discusses his methods for energy investment and how to set tailor-made time and price windows to realize solid gains.
The Energy Report: Roger, we are still in the early stages of 2012 and gas prices are near all-time lows, with a barrel of oil bobbing in the US$100 range. What approach are you employing to make money on oil without getting burned by gas, given that many names out there have substantial assets in both commodities?
Roger Wiegand: We have three trades on right now. Our futures trade is an oil spread where we buy a window of opportunity on price, which allows investors to fix their positions according to their own price constraints and risk comfort levels. We are looking for an oil futures price to high of $120 a barrel (bbl) for May to June of this year. Oil is around $100.60/bbl and there is very good support for oil right now. Over the years, we have found that oil will move in a trading range of $4 increments. We are in the middle of those increments now. I call it $98.50–102.50/bbl. As the cycle and the calendar move forward, we are looking for a high of $115–120/bbl for the first half of 2012.
For share traders, we have two positions in stocks, both exchange-traded funds (ETFs). One is ProShares Ultra DJ-UBS Crude Oil ETF (UCO:NYSE.A), and the other is Horizons BetaPro NYMEX Crude Oil Bull Plus ETF (HOU:TSX). The UBS Crude Oil ETF is a double-long position ETF on oil, meaning that if oil went up $1, investors would earn $2 on this particular trade. The Horizons BetaPro NYMEX, a bull-long ETF, is much the same. Normally, when we recommend a share in our letter, either an ETF or a company, our objective is to make +25% in 90 days. We can’t always do it, but we do quite well.
TER: You trade all manner of ETFs: gold ETFs, oil ETFs and even a Canadian dollar ETF. Why do you find these instruments so appealing and what did you do before ETFs existed?
RW: Before ETFs, we would trade companies, using options and/or spreads on currencies and futures. It is very handy for a shareholder to buy an ETF because investors are basically buying an index or a bundle. Some of these holdings offer very attractive leverage; I like the ones that are x2 or x3.
One warning I would give is that there are so many ETFs on the market now that they are becoming diluted. We used to trade SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD:NYSE) for gold and iShares Silver Trust (ETF) (SLV:NYSE), but we do not recommend them any longer because they do not move as they did before. Other kinds of trades can give us a better position. SPDR Gold Shares and iShares Silver Trust have become elephants and it takes a lot of buying to create movement.
But, we are happy with our oil ETFs, and we like the Canadian dollar ETF because it is a way to park money in Canada, which we feel is a much better place than the U.S. dollar. Canada is a commodities-driven country and the Canadian dollar is strong with good underpinnings. We featured it a year or two ago in our newsletter and the traders that opted into it are now up over +20%. We also see the Canadian dollar going to 108.00 on the index. It is at about 100.48 right now.
TER: There is quite a media buzz about ETFs, but many retail investors do not have a thorough understanding of how best to trade them. Could you outline some must-have information for retail investors looking to play?
RW:Take the oil ETF, USB Crude Oil, for example. It is a double-long on oil. Normally what will happen with oil in the first half of any year is that it will start out slowly, go to a peak, then correct. There will be a correction when the refineries change over from heating oil to gasoline for the summer. If you can find two good long positions during the year—normally January to May, and September to November/December—and if you have a modest goal of making 25% within 90 days, each of those segments work quite well. You can do the same thing with gold. We have grain and corn ETFs too. The objective is to match up the ETF’s price, buy it at the low and try to make 25%. Keep in mind those trades must fit the calendar cycles.
TER: What is the downside risk to ETFs?
RW: We do not look at gold and silver ETFs, but in our opinion—and I cannot prove it—the gold ETF does not have 100% of gold behind it for every share. If things got really dicey in the gold market, and they could as it is very volatile, there might be some difficulty in getting out quickly enough on an exit. There are probably better trades that you can work with to do that. The NYSE AMEX (NYSE.A) exchange lists the ETFs—you’d be amazed at the number available. People like them because they do not have to pick a company; you can just buy a market index sector, but some of these sectors will sit and not move. Sometimes an ETF or an index will only move modestly when the overall sector is moving a lot. You have to be careful.
As far as determining a good entry point for futures or stocks, you can take the high and low, add them together and divide by two. That will give you the mean and the point where you can match price with the calendar and decide where it could go from there. We get spots on the calendar during the year when we are too high on a lot of gold and silver stocks and, while we like the companies, you must consider the amount of potential movement to make money. If we can see only a movement of 5% or 10%, we will not take it. If somebody wants to buy it, we will say okay, but hold it and understand that there could be a couple of pullbacks before it goes up to the next price.
TER: Do you expect oil to outperform gold in 2012 in terms of percentage?
RW: It is hard to tell because the gold price is getting quite large. But consider that gold pretty much gave us 15+% for a whole decade from about 2000 to 2010. In the last couple of years, the return has been more like 17–18%. If you use leverage and spreads the way we do, and if you are a good stock picker, you can do better than that. We have had some stocks that we have been in and out of four or five times that have made 50, 60 and 100% every time. That is why in our letter you will see a lot of stocks that are negative right now being recommended at previous highs, but people need to understand that those who have been reading the letter for a long time have purchased those companies maybe two, three or four times and made some excellent gains.
TER: Natural gas prices are in the doldrums. How long do you expect it will be before gas prices begin to stabilize above $4 per trillion cubic feet? (tcf)
RW: It will be a while because of oversupply. About two years ago, two major natural gas wells were discovered in Louisiana. One thing that will push gas up in the summer is air conditioning demand. Air conditioning demand will cause power companies running power plants on natural gas to burn quite a bit more. What will happen then is the gas price will go up. We have been lingering at around $2.35–$2.50/tcf. It probably should go up maybe $0.25–0.30/tcf for the summer, but I cannot really see gas going back to $4–5/tcf for quite some time.
TER: That is unfortunate. What are some other ways that you have exposure to oil in terms of equities?
RW: One of the other things you can do is buy options on big oil companies. With some of the biggest ones, if you understand the calendar and the way their stock price moves within a window, you can buy an option for $1.50–2.50 and within 90 days, it will usually return 100%. They seem to work pretty well.
TER: How do you know when to get in and out?
RW: Again, that is the calendar. For example, say that you have Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM:NYSE) stock. It has about $45 million (M) in cash in the bank. It is at a point where they are not spending a lot on exploration right now. They take cash and buy entire exploration companies, or entire major, proven energy fields, which is easier. Suppose we think that within a calendar window of about 120 days, a company has the chance to bypass performance and go up +$20. What we would try to do is look at our call option that would be close to being in the money, and buy one at the money or slightly above it for $1.50–2. Then, when the stock price rises up, the option goes up in value. Those have worked out pretty well. We had many of them, not only in energy, but also in gold and silver and precious metals companies like Goldcorp Inc. (G:TSX; GG:NYSE) and others in 2006 and 2007. The volatility and changing markets will go in and out as far as your ability to do this. We have been away from that opportunity for a while, but it is starting to come back again. Trading and investing strategies are in constant change.
TER: How do you respond to someone who says, “I don’t trust newsletter writers because they often get shares in exchange for promotion?”
RW: I have heard that before. The answer for my newsletter is that I do NOT trade any of the shares, which is purely deliberate on my part. For ethical reasons, I do not want to be recommending shares or ETFs or anything related to shares and then buying them myself. Now, newsletter writers can do that legitimately. The good ones I do know, who do it legitimately, will make a recommendation and buy it themselves 10 days later. And, when they put out an order to sell it, they wait 10 days and then sell their position. Obviously, there is going to be some influence. All of us in this business know the miners, the companies and the officers. What I look at, being a technician, is if the stock does not move, I do not want it. Periodically, we will get one that is a good company but, for whatever reason, it just sits still.
TER: Can we discuss equities? What are some of your positions in the energy side?
RW: It is not in the letter right now, but we do like to trade Exxon because it is easy to trade. Some of the refinery companies such as Valero Energy Corp. (VLO:NYSE) and a couple of other ones have not done that well right now because the refining business is very competitive.
I would suggest that if readers are looking to buy shares in an oil company right now, one thing they can do is go toward the explorers. We have one good explorer in New Zealand Energy Corp. (NZ:TSX.V; NZERF:OTCQX). New Zealand Energy hit a big well. Its activities are confined primarily to the country of New Zealand, and it has done a tremendous job. This well is producing 550 barrels a day. It has a second well being drilled right now and their stock just took off like a rocket when the well came in. If you can find the right one, it is a wonderful thing to be an investor.
TER: How did you learn about that particular company?
RW: I was referred to it by a radio friend of mine who bought it. I looked at the chart and the website and studied it, and it looked like a super opportunity.
TER: What is the chart telling you now?
RW: The chart paused because it had a big ride in the value of the shares with that well coming in. There was a little bit of a pullback, but we are seeing what I call a continuation triangle in the chart right now. The chances of the next well coming in appear to be pretty good. We like the company and the management. We think that when that second well comes in, it will go up quite a bit more.
TER: On its website, the company says it has the stated goal of being the largest independent oil producer in New Zealand. As you have said to me in the past, you set a goal of making 100% every year. Do you like the fact that this is a lofty goal?
RW: Absolutely. It is hard to make 100% on a stock. The stocks where we have done so have usually been gold and silver. But this particular oil stock has been absolutely great from the standpoint of those who got in on the ground floor. There was some profit taking because it made so much money in a short period of time regarding the news on that first well. But the second well is starting up and I am fairly positive it will do well. You can buy the shares and hold the stock, although with some of these juniors, you are probably better off if you do not. It does have risk. It is a junior exploring company and its future is based on oil discovery, but now it is in a position where it has five more wells on the schedule. It is generating cash flow and preparing to drill another one. And, it has five major permits right now with multiple wells planned for 2012. I would say the chances are fairly good for another well to come in and then the stock would go higher.
A good junior oil explorer is hard to find because they are quite risky. We had one about six years ago with good managers and a lot of cash—a well in Wyoming, I believe. It was straddling a land position between two big wells that were operating—one with Exxon and one with Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO: NYSE). They were operating 50 miles apart and this one was right in the middle. It looked good and the stock was about $2.50 when we recommended a buy. The promotion was heavy on it and even though it had not really hit a well, the stock went almost to $7. My concern was if it came up dry, the stock would make a big reverse. So I walked people up using risk exit points and we got all the way to $6 and change. Then an announcement came that they were going to delay drilling. I told people to sell it. For some reason, they never drilled the well and the price went all the way back. But, my people were in from $2.50 to more than $6 based on a strategy that I devised to protect their position. I told everybody, “If the well comes in, you can buy it again at about $7.50 on the charts.” But we elected to get out at $6.50.
TER: Any parting thoughts in the energy space as far as what retail investors should expect for this year?
RW: Natural gas is going to be flat. I would leave that one alone. The most opportunity for junior stocks is in the explorers. We can trade call options based on inflation and share prices rising in some of the seniors. That would really pretty much cover the yard as far as opportunity this year. Also, there is this Iranian question that is wide open. I do not think the Straits of Hormuz will be blocked, but the threats do so create a premium of $5–10 in the oil price. I think that premium pretty much went away as things calmed down, but it still could be as high as $5 and move up to $10. That premium is above the fundamental value of the shares themselves. I think inflation in the U.S. right now is running at 11.5%. They claim it is almost nonexistent, but that is not true. If you want to see good inflation numbers, look in the little box where they report in the Wall Street Journal commodities over a one year span and today’s prices. The differences are very dramatic.
For more of Roger Wiegand’s ideas about investing, read his interview in The Gold Report.
Roger Wiegand is the editor of Trader Tracks, a newsletter based in Maspeth, N.Y. that provides investors with short-term buy-and-sell recommendations and commentary on political and economic factors that are driving the market. He can be reached at www.tradertracks.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Linda Gorman at Resource Consultants for information on Roger Wiegand’s Technical & Fundamental Trading Class in Tempe, Arizona on April 26, 2012. Wiegand is also speaking at the annual Wealth Conference at the same location April 27–28 along with five other nationally known speakers. Call Linda Gorman at 800-494-4149 or 480-820-5877 for information and registration.
: A furphy, also commonly spelled furfie, is Australian slang for a rumour, or an erroneous or improbable story.
In Gold Stocks: Ready, Set, by Eric Sprott and David Baker say that “While the futures market is comfortably forecasting a continuation of today’s levels, the majority of sell-side analysts refuse to update their gold price estimates to reflect its recent strength.”
It is futures 101 that futures prices are not a forecast by the market, they are just a mathematical derivation from the spot price, interest rates, freight and storage costs, with gold interest rates and dollar interest rates being key components. Backwardation is when gold interest rates are higher than cash rates. Contango is the reverse. Either way, the futures price isn’t forecasting anything. See this blog post for more on backwardation.
In that same article, Sprott raised the “excessive turnover” meme which Eric seems to be running recently – he must think he is on a winner with this. I dealt with it in this post and to that I’d like to add another counterpoint. First, the quote:
“In the LBMA market, for example, market participants traded an average 19.6 million ounces of gold PER DAY in July 2011. Keep in mind that the total gold mine production in 2010, globally, was approximately 86.5 million ounces. … so the LBMA is essentially trading a year’s worth of production in less than a week”
I think it is misleading to relate turnover only to new mine production. This assumes that there is no sales by any of the investors who hold above ground gold. Eric should at least be including privately held gold stocks of 30,000t, or 965 million ounces. Adding that to the 86.5moz then the 19.6 moz represents the “LBMA” turning over the stock once every 54 days, or 7 times a year. Not as dramatic, is it. If we included the 30,000t or so of central bank holdings then it is even less so. But don’t fear Eric, help is at hand.
The funny thing about the “large turnover is bad” idea is that in most markets this is seen as a good thing, as it indicates the particular market is liquid. On this line of thought, note that the recent Loco London Liquidity Survey was undertaken by the LBMA at the request of the World Gold Council “in order to strengthen its argument that the gold market is sufficiently deep and liquid to justify gold’s characterisation as both high quality and liquid.” with the objective of getting gold included in the Basel liquidity buffers for banks.
What did their survey show? “The average daily trading volume in the London market in this period was 173,713,000 ounces or $240.8 billion.” I can see Eric getting his calculator out now and dividing 86.5 by 173.7 and getting really excited. When you hear that the “paper” markets turn over annual mine production every 12 hours, remember you heard it here first.
The other thing I find interesting is the different way Sprott pitches this meme. For the gold/silver bugs we get:
“… I think all the paper markets are a joke. As you are probably aware, we trade a billion ounces of silver a day. A billion ounces. The world produces 900 million a year.” (link)
But in the Markets at a Glance article with Sprott branding on it for a more wider market it is less breathless and a bit more sophisticated:
“When price discovery is dictated by levered paper contracts with no physical backing, it’s extremely easy and relatively inexpensive to jostle the spot price around.”
Interestingly, the LBMA survey revealed that 90% of trading was spot, not forwards (sort of the over the counter markets version of futures), which equals 156moz. COMEX average daily trading during August was 278,000 contracts, or 27.8moz. 156 versus 27.8 – who do you thinks jostles who?
Continuing on with futures, we get this from Patrick A. Heller: “Increases in margin requirements make sense as prices are rising, as that helps keep the market in order, but it does not make sense when prices are falling.”
Now this is a very common misunderstanding. Margin increases (or decreases) are to do with volatility of the price, not the direction of the price. Dan Norcini explains it well:
When you get a market like silver that drops 15% in ONE DAY, you are going to get margin hikes. The reason – the very integrity of the Clearinghouse comes into play.
Silver closed down $6.48 today. In a single session, one long contract in this market cost the buyer a paper loss of $32,400! That is enormous. If you consider the fact that the previous old margin was $21,600, that was wiped out and then some.
During the clearing or settlement process, the winners get paid (have their accounts credited) by debiting the loser’s accounts. If the losers do not have sufficient funds in their accounts, the whole process breaks down.
Zero Hedge has really went downhill in the past few years and this post by them I found very funny and symptomatic of the sort of readers they are now attracting:
We are only putting this up because we have been flooded with emails about an event which for some reason readers believe is relevant. The event in question is that according to its website, the London Gold Exchange (”LGE” or the “Joke”) has closed. The one thing we would like to say about this is that the LGE is nether an exchange, nor does it trade gold.
You have only yourself to blame Tyler. While he didn’t meant he post to be ironic, I read it that way. Yes, Tyler, your readers can’t tell between real gold news and rubbish, but guess what, neither can you, IMHO.
To close, I’ll quote myself from Ed Steer’s Gold & Silver Daily on the recent sell off in precious metals:
Here’s an interesting comment that I got from my friend Bron Suchecki over at The Perth Mint yesterday. I’d sent him an e-mail on the weekend asking him how sales were both on Friday…and their Monday, which started Sunday night here in North America. This was the reply that I got…
“The Perth Mint has been very busy this Monday morning with a lot of buying [but also some selling], however buying is outweighing selling by a fair margin [pun intended]…and the decrease in the AUD/USD has taken some sting out of the drop for Aussie investors.
I see this sell-off driven by leveraged “weak hand” money. In contrast, average investors [the real smart money] are looking at this as an opportunity to buy in or top up at cheaper prices. These buyers are “strong hands” and have been the ones who have been driving the trend all these years.”
A nice story about UIDAI, by Lydia Polgreen, in the New York Times.
A new insight into India’s north-east states: they are part of a region provisionally named Zomia. An interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Ruth Hammond. The book.
On 21 April 1956, Jawaharlal Nehru did the first convocation address at IIT, Kharagpur. It’s a good read, and it’s surprising how much of it makes sense in 2011. E.g.: in the larger context of history, and looking at it in this way it seems to me that at the present moment there is no more exciting place to live in than India. Mind you, I use the word exciting. I did not use the word comfortable or any other soothing word, because India is going to be a hard place to live in. Let there be no mistake about it; there is no room for soft living in India, not much room for leisure, although leisure, occasional leisure is good. But there is any amount of room in India for living the hard, exciting, creative adventure of life. In case you have not yet seen the Steve Jobs commencement speech, it is worth watching.
How civilised: Literature festivals in India, by Abhilasha Ojha in Mint.
A fascinating story from rural India about the differences between boys and girls on mathematics, by Maia Szalavitz in Time magazine.
Who’s to blame for India’s inflation and India’s Inflation Is a Lesson for Fast-Growing Economies by Alex Frangos in the Wall Street Journal.
When do stock futures dominate price discovery? by Nidhi Aggarwal and Susan Thomas, IGIDR working paper, has some surprising results.
Anupama Chandrasekaran and Vidya Padmanabhan, in Mint, on Indian ventures into farming in Ethiopia.
Raghu Dayal in the Business Standard on the huge opportunities in better India-Bangladesh relations.
Mobis Philipose in Mint, on recent developments in SEBI and on currency derivatives trading.
We need a Hazare in the financial sector by Tamal Bandyopadhyay in Mint. N. Sundaresha Subramanian in the Business Standard. Ex-SEBI member to PM: ID leaked, family at grave risk by P. Vaidyanathan Iyer in the Indian Express. CVC to Fin Min: Probe both sides’ complaints by Ritu Sarin in the Financial Express. And, reportage in India Today. Spat between Abraham, SEBI, finance ministry gets murkier by Appu Esthose Suresh in Mint. Supreme Court wants petition on SEBI refiled by Nikhil Kanekal and Appu Esthose Suresh in Mint. A first and then a second article on these issues, by R. Jagannathan, on FirstPost. An editorial in the Business Standard. Subhomoy Bhattacharjee in the Financial Express.
R. Jagannathan on post offices as banks (on firstpost). And, you might like this related document.
China’s A. Q. Khan problem: an article by Michael Wines in the New York Times.
A great story by Anthony Shadid in the New York Times about being on the run in Syria.
A great article by Paul Berman, in the New Republic, about Islamism.
Why is it so hard to find a suicide bomber these days by Charles Kurzman, in Foreign Policy.
Love and war, by Janine di Giovanni, in the New York Times.
What’s next for the dollar? by Martin Feldstein.
Sussane Craig has a great profile, in the New York Times, of how Howard W. Lutnick brought Cantor Fitzgerald back to life after the
firm was savaged in the 9/11 attacks.
Gata and ZeroHedge have picked up on this Wall Street Journal article
on bankster owned warehouses restricting deliveries out to the minimum amount allowed by the LME. The scam is summarised by the Financial Times
: buyers “must keep on paying rent on the metal even after you have asked for it to be delivered, giving warehouse companies a guaranteed income stream”
But with no restrictions on how quickly metal can come in (and the bankster warehouses have been bidding for metal to be delivered into their warehouses from producers) it “has had the effect of driving the cost of metal in the physical market in the US to the highest level in more than a decade relative to LME prices”. The FT notes however that this creates the risk that “the LME contract risks becoming entirely detached from the physical market.”
Apart from the storage fee scam, an increasing price is good for the banksters because it makes it easier to sell commodities as an alternative investment class to institutional investors (see FT on Goldman Sachs).
Problem is, with lots of metal coming in but restrictions on it going out and you end up with increasing stockpiles. That doesn’t help the story that commodity prices will rise. Solution: take the metal “off warrant” which, as FT Alphaville points out, just transfers it into a “non-LME storage facilities or simply being classified private non-LME registered stock in the very same warehouses. Kept out of sight, so to speak.”
The scam here is that (FT Alphaville again) “the industry still reads canceled warrants as an indicator of physical demand” which is positive for prices, however “many of the ‘canceled’ warrants are … not transforming into real deliveries, they’re just being stacked elsewhere in the same warehouse. In which case the demand they insinuate is potentially not real at all.”
Precious metals are not subject to the warehouse outward restrictions scam and the spot market is much bigger than futures anyway, from a physical point of view. However, the “off warrant” scam can be played, particularly on fools like ZeroHedge who get all excited about COMEX eligible and registered trends while ignoring (ignorant of?) the “stock” sitting in ETFs and, more importantly, the dark pool that is bullion bank vaults. And don’t fall for the “its fractional” false flag. Yeah unallocated is fractional, but what is missed is that if the amount of fractional is giga-enormous, then even at 10:1 or even AIGish 40:1, the amount of physical metal being held in the system is still enormous.
Which is why I am very interested in this ETF bar list project and am doing what I can to help, as this I believe holds the potential to reveal just how big that dark pool of stock really is.
I saw this interesting article about the mind-share of Nifty as opposed to the BSE Sensex. It is by Samie Modak and Muthukumar K. in
the Financial Express.
The NSE data for June 2010 shows that Nifty futures have peaked at Rs.0.36 trillion of notional turnover in a day (27 Jan 2010) and
Nifty options have peaked at Rs.0.89 trillion of notional turnover in a day (24 June 2010). Nifty has shaped up as one of the big
contracts by world standards. It is interesting to go back and read the original paper. Those were interesting times. Looking back, it
seems obvious that Nifty would dominate the derivatives market, but at the time, the outcome was far from clear.
This made me look at data on risk and reward of the alternative indexes. I start from the first data for Nifty Junior, which takes me back to 21 February 1997, thus giving data for 13.7 years.
Nifty and the BSE Sensex are a lot like each other.
The real surprise is Nifty Junior: Merely moving down from rank 1-50 to ranks 51-100 has given an enormous juice in the return and in the reward-to-risk ratio. But the volatility of Nifty Junior is also higher.
The CMIE Cospi index has roughly 2800 stocks today, and represents the broad market. It includes the Nifty Junior stocks and a host of other smaller stocks. But unfortunately, these numbers are not comprabale with the other three in that it includes dividends while the other three do not. With this combination of high diversification (giving a low volatility), small-cap stocks (which helps returns) and inclusion of dividends (which helps returns), it is not surprising that it scores the best reward-to-risk ratio.
In my mind, most of the claims of out-performance by active managers in India are purely about being invested in the non-Nifty
space. Nifty Junior ETFs are easily accessible and I get surprised that more people aren’t putting this into their investment strategy.