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December 13, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 24

Exit, a humble giant

Paul A. Volcker, born in 1927, opened his eyes to the world of the gold dollar, fixed exchange rates and a balanced federal budget. He died in an age of the fiat dollar, floating (or manipulated) exchange rates and a trillion-dollar boomtime deficit. Monetary history, seen in a certain way, makes a long, coherent arc.

Year-end review

An annotated list of our 2019 investment ideas, bonds and stocks, currencies, metals, longs and shorts, profitable and otherwise.

Fatal 15-mph crash

The M.O. of your garden variety unicorn is simple.

Old Ma Dividend

Looming large over Main Street and Wall street alike, the old milch cow is riskier than she looks.

Bond math recalculated

Figures quoted from a Bloomberg report in the Nov. 29 issue of Grant’s greatly understate prospective gains.

Inside the yield factory

At worst, they are the devil’s own contraptions. At best, they’re lucrative income machines. Anticipating a brighter 2020 for the rare fixed-income asset that can hurt when interest rates go up or when they go down.

Still not 'cheep'

Grant’s remains bearish on the brick-and-mortar-only discount retailer trading at nearly 33 times trailing earnings.

Disabled vehicles

In the incongruous setting of record-low unemployment, auto finance is cracking.

November 29, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 23

‘Safety’ in numbers

It’s not the prices, yields, CUSIPs, call dates, ratings, etc. that are in dispute. What fluctuates is the fiscal and monetary narrative around the facts.

Dividends at risk

In the past half-decade, the estimated value of the “most valuable” retail building in the world has plunged by 57%. If it can happen to the Manhattan Taj Mahal of Saks Fifth Avenue, it can happen to other top-flight retail assets including the investments held by a pair of Grant’s picks-not-to-click.

Seaborne leverage

We remain bullish on a pair of known Grant’s favorites and sing the praises of a second pair of companies which, in the ESG world, are only slightly more reputable than cigarette makers and arms dealers.

Going our seperate ways

A downshift in the synchronization of world business activity may hold an unpleasant surprise for the mass of bond bulls.

Credit Creation • Cause & Effect

November 15, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 22

Monetary New Year's party

“The Fed did not just stabilize the repo market,” a wise woman writes. “Now, it is the repo market.” Potentially very bullish in the short run, potentially very bearish in the long run.

Take my well, please

To many an investor, oil and gas has come to resemble the cigarette business, only without the pricing power. But a particular segment of the energy market looks like nothing so much as value Disneyland

Bank of the Cycle

Grant’s casts a skeptical eye on the superlative record of the institution that stands athwart the with-it world of high-tech venture capital.

Just a stumble

We acknowledge our hapless timing and reiterate our bullish judgment on a hard-pressed pick-to-click.

CLO shutdown?

Are CLOs signaling trouble or are junk bonds flagging opportunity?

Sucker punch

Market sentiment turned on a dime when the Fed committed to buying $60 billion of Treasury bills every month.

November 1, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 21

Interest rates on wheels

Its business model depended on everything we’ve learned about transportation economics being totally wrong.

Recession, ahoy!

What we’re seeing is something very unusual taking place in the context of what is supposed to be an expanding global economy,” observed David Rosenberg, leadoff speaker at the Fall 2019 Grant’s conference, “and where do you think bond yields are going to go if the stock market crashes?

Progress of the age

Cascading digital progress just may cause inflation "to be structurally lower (and earnings growth and valuations structurally higher) than history may predict."

‘Your biggest mistake’

The greatest correlated belief of institutional and intelligent investors probably in the past 25 years is in the most wonderful asset class ever invented.

Bums’ rush

Low cost is actually a very costly decision, and that passive thing is acting quite aggressively.

Fall and redemption

The strange thing about technology is it is a badge of honor to get completely wiped out as long as you come back.

Progress in reverse

We’re going to inflate – that’s what the history of major economies is.

The great debate

While it can’t be said that the 10th president of the New York Fed and your editor agreed on everything, they did concur that money is not humanity’s best subject.

Large, unbeatable numbers

The cycle’s signature big-spending, go-for-growth business model is a co-product of the cycle’s signature low interest rates, but there are non-monetary limits to profitless revenue expansion.

Community activists

Profitable, sound and well-capitalized are a quartet of Grant’s picks to click, though you wouldn’t know it from the “limited engagement” of the buy side, or what might otherwise be characterized as nobody much caring.

Promiscuity runs rampant

It isn’t every day a CEO pens a 10-page, 4,989-word letter to explain disappointing quarterly results.

October 18, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 20

Adam Smith in airplane mode

Confusion is the time for the classics, and how much more confused could we be?

By any other name

The Fed’s new “bazooka” comes with a Fed-appended nomenclatural asterisk.

Rx for income

Assuming the removal of existential corporate threats – and there can be no guarantees, of course – the bonds of a certain banged-up drug manufacturer offer the potential for double-digit returns.

Cars in stock

Bearish on the optically cheap shares of a pair of American industrial bellwethers.

Just one catch

Value’s big caveat.

Fighting the tape

The Fed shudders at the prospect of lower grocery prices.

October 4, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 19

The yield verdict is in

Interest rates did not just fall, the journalistic evidence suggests, the central banks pushed them. Applying heavy leverage to negative-yielding sovereign debt.

Better than bills?

An excellent security in which to bide one’s time and conserve one’s principal.

Wages of sin

Bullish on a pair of pariahs that change hands near eight year lows with dividend yields at record spreads to Treasurys and earnings multiples in the single digits.

Burn notice

Twenty IPOs with a combined market cap of $164.5 billion that fail to generate free cash flow. Counting the fiscal quarters till extinction.

‘Bizzle’ watch

There’s a word for the prosperity of the barnacles that cling to the bottoms of stately venture-capital promotions.

Just in case

On the sources and uses of volatility, a sampling of ideas and value propositions intended to engage amateur and professional alike.

Whipsaw Tuesday

Have you heard this before? The long bull market in bonds just might be nearing its end.

September 20, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 18

The surprise factor

Conditioned to believe that someone’s in charge, we factored out the unexpected. On the physics of Coors Field.

Fiscal-crisis preview

Too many securities, not enough liquidity.

Renaissance of value?

“Safe and cheap” equities, so long in the shade, may be ready to shine.


When she is right, she’s right.

Margins to go

In the dining-out business, a kind of profitless prosperity.

‘Epitome of the cycle’

We remain bearish on the first-ever experiment in late-stage venture capital combined with private equity combined with a transaction tempo resembling that of a fast-paced hedge fund.

Whole lot of nothing

Did the European Central Bank actually cut rates?

September 6, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 17

Monetary paradigm shift

Insiders shockingly demand top-to-bottom reform. An outsider has a plan.

Different ratings agency

The catalyst is on the table, but tell that to Mr. Market.

Gilt by association

A quartet of stocks of the smallish, illiquid and hairy type. Value is returning to Britai

‘Buy,’ we said

We write to acknowledge an error of judgment, gather appropriate lessons and glare into the future.

Laurels for the long bond

Stocks for the long run? Stocks and bonds has been closer to the mark.

August 9, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 16

Bonfire of the yields

Yen for yen and euro for euro, no balance sheets make more mischief than the ones deployed by the sponsors of today’s negative nominal yields. What’s safe about a guaranteed loss?

‘Big passion project’

A high-risk, still early-stage arbitrage play between the divergent prices of crude oil and natural gas.

Uneconomic animals

A small bet against the Hong Kong dollar still seems entirely rational.

Incumbency advantage

In the contest between, on the one hand, the merits of free cash flow and, on the other, the prospective fruits of business disruption, the innovators are pledging to build a new industry on the ashes of the old one.

No cheese whiz

A known Grant’s pick-to-not-click previews the problems in relisting pricey leveraged buyouts.

The story of 24 hours

With everything that is going on, the most noteworthy item is what China is not doing.

July 26, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 15

The best economist on the lowest rates

Harnessing a formidable body of work to solve the mystery of today’s topsy-turvy bond market and to answer the question “have bond prices reached a permanently high plateau?”

Monetary jumping bean

This former Grant’s pick-to-click had 36% sawed off its share price. Seven lean years later, we reaffirm our bullishness.

Raising the roof

“Existing” home sales for May fell by 1%, the 15th consecutive monthly decline, while June housing permits dropped by 7%. Even so, a hopeful look at the housing situation and a bullish analysis of a certain homebuilder.

Savers’ consolation prize

There is one corner of the money market where rates are still levitating.

July 12, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 14

Mr. Market’s fiscal escape route

Unbalanced operating budgets, seemingly hopeless deficits in pension funding, relentless out-migration, fearsome property taxes, irksome gasoline taxes, the threat of soak-the-rich income taxes – you wonder where it will lead, and when.

Model trains

Few have made money by approaching the ill-managed cyclicals of yesteryear from the vantage point of reversion-to-the-mean – or with the attitude that the shelf life of any management cult is finite. Maybe it’s time.

Art of the exit

You’d be excused for assuming that anybody and her sister-in-law could close a private-equity deal, but exiting is another story. Is the public market ready to receive a zombie mouse?

Scooping the CPI

Monday’s Wall Street Journal birthday supplement marking the 120th anniversary of the first edition of Charles Dow and Edward Jones rather buried the lead.

‘IOER’ made easy

The Federal Reserve cut rates on May 1, not that you would know that from perusing the president’s tweets. Herewith an exploration of an important, if recondite, corner of U.S. monetary policy.

Dots unconnected

A bull market in cognitive dissonance roars on.

June 28, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 13

Trillions seek stable home

A speculation on the end game of this extraordinary chapter in monetary affairs.

172 years young

The apple of Grant’s eye can ride out a recession or to continue to prosper in the absence of one.

Mega-style drift

It must mean something when low-cost Vanguard eyes the high-fee private-equity business.

Mud Bowl

The wettest summer in modern American record-keeping is good for something.

Bids wanted

Liquidity transformation needs liquidity.

June 14, 2019, Vol. 38, No. 12

All in favor

In monetary matters, Mike Pence agrees with Donald Trump. And because Larry Summers agrees with Pence, it follows that the former president of Harvard University is on the same page as the sitting commander-in-chief. A hardened consensus of financial opinion ought not to be comforting.

Long-shot nation

A gamble on the long-running inflation-devaluation-corruption-default-recession-statism champion of the Western Hemisphere.

Its own planet

No valuation like it, not on this planet.

Future shop

Opportunities for self-insuring against the unexpected.

Curve ball

What the historical record suggests for an investment strategy in the 12 months following an inversion of the 10-year/3-month yield curve.

May 31, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 11

Fresh faces for America’s currency

An action plan to advance the cause of monetary diversity in America.

In which we erred

In the issue of Grant’s dated May 3, we had bullish things to say about a trio of baby bonds that yielded more than 6%. We wrote before we truly understood what we were talking about.

New misery index

Presenting the New Grant’s Misery Index. For a financialized America in which the S&P 500 has taken over the national mood.

Small big bet

China’s “special administrative region” isn’t your father’s Hong Kong and confidence is the most important kind of capital.

Headline news

Investors seek risk in muni-land.

Total addressable hope

The levitating share prices of a pair of hot stocks may point to the certain and final automation of the bond market – or to nothing more newsworthy than the familiar fact that EZ money is good for the stock market.

Dots need connecting

When do deficits matter?

May 17, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 10

Just call it the ‘bizzle’

History may remember these times as a golden age of invention and entrepreneurship, but those flattering descriptors should come with an asterisk. Introducing the bezzle’s first cousin.

For steeper and choppier

A fund for anyone who expects, or dreads, a reversal of the steady states of being in fixed income today.

Free interest rates!

On May 7, the editor of Grant’s addressed the Bradley Foundation Prize event in Washington, D.C. What’s to be done about Jack Daniel’s-grade financial disinhibitors?

Fear factor

A case of soaring revenues failing to deliver where it counts.

Cash wanted

An update on a certain global avatar of growth-at-any cost.

On your honor

Across the Atlantic, a controversial fund and its founder presage trouble for America’s illiquid-securities business.

On strike

The bet on a more dovish Fed is not predicated on a slowdown in inflation but in the S&P 500. What’s the strike price of Chair Powell’s put?

May 3, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 09

Buried alive in ‘Businessweek’

Things have come to such a sorry pass for the ancient scourge of paper money that Bloomberg BusinessWeek has written its obituary. Inflation dead declaims the April 22 cover story. “Dormant” is the word, we demonstrate.

Update on GE

On the inadvisability of having a taxable address in the City of New York.

Energy super-bulls

“When this is all over, every publicly traded Permian Basin name will be taken over.” Herewith the meaning of the word “this,” along with an assortment of bullish investment ideas related to that suggestive pronoun.

Corporate debt pre-mortem

A must-read anticipatory analysis of what will go wrong in the next, yet unscheduled, financial train wreck.

Risk and reward

Wary of both the income famine and the private-equity boom that prompt the outpouring of middle-market corporate debt, we nonetheless find bullish words for a pair of business development companies and a triplet of BDC baby bonds.

Charge it – off

It’s not just the flat yield curve that worries America’s bank chieftains.

Let’s emulate China

Doubtful advice from the senior, non-voting kibitzer of American monetary policy.

April 19, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 08

In the words of Paul Krugman

Propounded by the economist Abba Lerner, modern monetary theory is an old thing made new. A close and lucid reasoner was Lerner, but his disciples? Not a model, rather an “attitude.”

Lifting the veil

Half of the moon is dark, but 85% of the leveraged-loan market is shrouded. Shedding a new bright light on the credit profile of that $1.1 trillion accident-waiting-to-happen.

‘It is not a cycle’

“China will elect to float the renminbi,” speculated Russell Napier, leadoff speaker at the Spring 2019 Grant’s Conference, “and a jarring deflationary shock will quickly give way to rip-roaring global inflation.”

The power of ideas

“If you pay a price expecting an incremental reinvestment of 14% and it’s on its way to 7%, it can be an expensive lesson.”

Outside the lines

“I’m looking forward to having my Warhol Campbell’s Soup painting arrive at my doorstep in an Amazon van.”

FOMO headed here

“You will get new highs on all of the averages,” observed Wall Street’s best stock-market technician.

Muse to central bankers

On money and banking and the duty of a central bank to clean up after a boom: Thoughts from the Greatest Victorian prove especially timely.

In the Age of Trump

“I like the market here, but I don’t like the direction we’re going.”

Deflation on the brain

“You don’t need much of an increase in inflation to change the market tone of TIPS, because expectations right now are a deflationary kind of thing.”

A retiring country

“In Mexico, people retire when they are 72 years old, in Brazil at 59, so this is an impossible system.”

Interest-rate overview

Seated with your editor onstage at the Plaza, the financial market historian Richard Sylla came prepared with a multi-millennia view.

‘It just ain’t so’

“You can have no certainty that stocks will beat bonds over multi-decade intervals,” our speaker informed the Grant’s audience, “and I would not assume that you can get 6.6% real in stocks.”

Melting to the upside

Volatility takes a cat nap.

April 5, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 07

To the gnomes of Zurich

On April 4, the editor of Grant’s addressed the wealth-management forum of the Swiss publication Finanz und Wirtschaft. Opportunities abound from central bank manipulation.

Class of 1929

You have money to invest, but stocks are trading near all-time highs and investment-grade bonds, half of which are rated a single notch away from junk, yield a measly 3.7%. A trio of closed-end funds, trading at deep discounts to NAV, offer the value-minded, bubble-phobic investor a fighting chance.

Standing on a box

A little-known fact about unicorns is that they feed on interest rates. They like low, little rates – the tinier, the better. What do unicorns, the humans of private equity and the bulls of Wall Street all have in common?

Cost of low rates

In the post-2008 bull markets, think of the “everything bubble” as the moon overhead. We see but one side, the assets. It’s the obverse, the liabilities, that cry out for attention.

Snowflakes of leverage

Is a 3% interest rate an economy-killer?

March 22, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 06

Larry Summers sings the blues

“Secular stagnation” is upon us – watch out, or we’ll become Japan.

What everyone needs

A trio of ideas for the income-famished investor.

Monetary pain points

A speculation on the investment consequences of the central bankers’ big ideas.

Don't look down

All about a business strategically situated at the intersection of ingenuity, credit, price control and bull-market psychology.

Lights out

The not so little statistical white lies of the People’s Republic start to add up.

March 8, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 05

The ‘Post’ rates New York

“Strong budgetary management” is not what you think of first when you gaze upon City Hall.

Can’t stand 1%

Corporate rivets begin to pop when the real rate of interest approaches even 100 humble basis points.

Not so ‘cheep’

On perhaps the greatest retail stock of the 21st century, we make bold to be bearish.

Eyes unblinkered

If the pulse on which Grant’s has its finger is indeed the pulse of investor sentiment, credulity is a short sale. A speculation on a turn in the Wall Street zeitgeist

Dollars take flight

Russia’s central bank goes to cash.

February 22, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 04

The great non sequitur

The trouble with investing in the 21st century is that you become blasé about the quirks of the age. Before you know it, you start to think, well, negative-yielding debt isn’t so bad. Someone’s buying it.

All ahead full

You can have low prices and bad news or high prices and good news, but you can’t have low prices and good news. A survey of the opportunities in ocean-going shipping.

Dim the lights

Safety is inherent in no investment. And not in the securities of many a putatively safe and secure American electric utility. A demonstration of how little utilities in general, and one utility in particular, answer the description of port in a storm.

Dueling prices

We continue to identify Masayoshi Son’s corporate creation as one of the top contenders for the unwanted cyclical crown of Least Likely to Succeed.

How to stop a bear market

January was one for the record books with RMB 4.6 trillion ($687 billion) in new credit issued to Chinese borrowers. What ever happened to Xi Jinping’s deleveraging drive?

February 8, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 03

An open letter to Bill Dudley

What I was writing to tell you is that the Fed is technically insolvent.

Political risk in America

Even if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez winds up losing the 2020 presidential election, one tax-related shock looms unavoidable. A survey of deeply discounted opportunities in a bond market not exactly overflowing with bargains.

Fast food take out

You could almost say – we’ll say it – that the tribulations of the American restaurant industry are a mirror to the 2019 state of the Union. A parable of ultra-low interest rates and put-upon franchisees.

Out with the old

If all goes according to plan, the post-Libor transition will be the money market’s own version of the anticlimactic, year-2000 computer-clock changeover, Y2K.

Growth? Not much

After opening up the taps to businesses in December, bankers are having second thoughts.

January 25, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 02

A 500-year bull market shows its age

It’s nobody’s idea of breaking news that interest rates have tended to rise and fall in generation-length intervals. More striking is a young scholar’s contention that these decades-long undulations are only the wavelets of a half-millennium decline, a trend that will carry to still lower lows in the next recession.

RIP, John C. Bogle

Jack insisted he has enough money. His fans may doubt he received enough thanks.

Peak superhero

Creative destruction costs money, as the holders of low-yielding debt in heavily encumbered businesses may presently be reminded.

Waldo's the name

A new/old method of regulatory arbitrage.

Hospitalized biotech stocks

Illiquid, unfollowed, undesired and battered, micro-cap biotech stocks tick nearly every contrarian’s boxes.

They ask so little

This may be a problem for newly invigorated bond buyers.

January 11, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 01

On returning to life as the stock market

The man who could topple the Commander-in-Chief is himself constrained by a greater power.

No waiting required

Netflix, Inc. was the best-performing stock in 2018, with a total return of 39%. It is also the only FAANG to generate negative free cash flow. Herewith a connection between these facts and a collection of stocks that just might excel in 2019.

Lottery Tickets, Inc.

The rolling-up of the red carpet of liquidity makes for winners and losers alike. Within this varied grouping, a trio of investment candidates, of which the reader will confront the daunting vocabulary that redirected many a would-be doctor to

Sacrificial securities

Suspense remains the order of the day for the Old Continent’s banks and their black-and-blue shareholders.

Dancing in the dark

This poses a conundrum for the Federal Reserve: Our money mandarins are “data dependent,” or so they tell us, but on what data can they rely?

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