Cardiff Oncology: Targeting KRAS the Right Way

“A Single Death Is a Tragedy; A Million Deaths Is a Statistic” ~ Joseph Stalin

“In the US, the death rates for all kinds of cancer dropped by only 5 per cent in the period 1950-2005, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Even if you strip out confounding variables such as age (more people are living long enough to get cancer) and better diagnosis, the blunt fact is that, with most kinds of cancer, your chances in 2014 are not much better than they were in 1974. In many cases, your treatment will be pretty much the same.” ~

Chadwick Boseman, a healthy and wealthy middle aged man, died of cancer this week. While his life was a triumph of the human spirit, his death is most certainly a tragedy. And yet, the best society seems capable of doing is shouting “Fuck Cancer” while begging people to throw more money at a disease that has had hundreds of billions thrown at it already. Such meaningless gestures underly the fact that 50 years have passed since the US government declared war on cancer, and yet mainstream science doesn’t have (pardon my French) a fucking clue what cancer actually is. Not a fucking clue.

Despite the mounting evidence that scientific progress has stalled, no one seems to understand why. As I argued in my previous blog post, this lack of progress stems from the simple fact that modern science is built atop a foundation of sand, the pillars are rotten to their core, and the architects are as blind as new born pups.

Alas, it’s one thing to tear down a poorly constructed house but quite another to build an everlasting structure, one that will stand the test of time let alone the inspection of a college dropout suffering from a dozen autoimmune disorders. In our report, we build such a structure, albeit a condensed one that is fine tuned for the purposes of explaining why PLK1 inhibition is an interesting therapeutic approach for KRAS mutated cancer.

As was the case in our report on Replimune, our report on Cardiff Oncology will be more focused on underlying science of cancer than the therapy itself. It’s not until page 32 that we even begin to discuss what Cardiff Oncology’s Onvansertib’s PLK1 inhibition could mean for cancer and more specifically KRAS mutated cancer.

Please read our disclosures before clicking on the link to our report- CRDF

DISCLOSUREWe are long Cardiff Oncology (CRDF) as of this blog post. What our position in the company is the next day or the day after that is up in the air. But as of this publishing, we are shareholders in CRDF. This report is not a recommendation to buy or sell securities. We are under no obligation to update the information in this report or blog post. We are not looking to solicit investments or profit from selling this research. We have no affiliation with CRDF and have received no compensation for this blog post. We are merely publishing our research for educational and informational purposes. 

It’s Time To Re-Think

It’s Time To Re-Think

“What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” ~ Morpheus

“What is clear is that, to date, computer technology has served to strengthen Technopoly’s hold, to make people believe that technological innovation is synonymous with human progress.” ~ Neil Postman

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for awhile. I didn’t know how to start. I didn’t know where to begin. But then as happens with any crisis, an opportunity presented itself.

A virus is rampaging through the world, crippling the global economy while killing hundreds of thousands of people.

The fact that this sentence could just have easily described the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic is precisely the point. It’s been a century since the Spanish Flu killed an estimated fifty million people and it seems that nothing has changed. Despite all our technological progress we are little better at combating a pandemic than we were over a hundred years ago. The virus, like The Joker in The Dark Knight is taunting us.


But you’ll say, “we’ve got ventilators now!”

Yes, which are incredibly costly and only offer a survival rate of approximately 20%.

“But the medicine we have is surely better then it was back then?”

The leading therapy in our fight against COVID-19, Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), was invented in the 1950s. HCQ is derivative of a drug, methylene blue (MB), which was first synthesized in the 1876, over 40 years BEFORE the outbreak of the Spanish Flu.

Without any new medicines to combat the virus in vivo, we’ve been forced to take the battle to the streets, spraying toxic and harmful chemicals.

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 8.38.40 AM.png

“But at least we have better technology to track and control the spread of the virus,” you argue.

How did that work out for the Chinese Communist Party which runs the most technologically advanced surveillance state in history?

The people who praised Singapore’s authoritarian led response to the virus have been silenced as the cases have continued to rise.

Even South Korea, the relative success story, admits that resistance, until a vaccine is developed is futile.

In the end, as Sweden has shown, none of these measures were needed to begin with. The country got through the first wave without heavy lockdowns or mask usage, all while being attacked and humiliated on the global stage by our supposed “experts”. And while many argued that we need to get back to build at all costs mentality, Sweden shown that all we need to do is to think, and think clearly.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world has refused to take notice and we continue to allow ourselves to be held captive by the irrational fears of a virus, waiting for a vaccine to arrive from on high, hoping that it arrives before our economy and our society are irreparably harmed. And herein lies the crux of our “problem” which society and our tech elites completely miss, we are COMPLETELY and TOTALLY reliant on technology to save us from our own ignorance.

streetlight effect The Ethical Skeptic


“A whole generation adopted false principles, and went to their graves in the belief they were enriching the country they were impoverishing.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now we shouldn’t be surprised that a billionaires, who have made their money money off technology’s growing encroachment into our lives (Software is eating the world), would suggest that the solution to our problem is more technology. The answer from these people always seems to be more, more, more. We need to do more. We need more money. We need more time. We need more technology. We need more people working to solve the problems…

Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 8.09.21 AM.png

There are more scientists alive today with access to more funding than the rest of history combined and these incredibly well funded scientists have access to godlike technology.

Technology that the likes of Max Planck, Otto Warburg, Nikola Tesla and Marie Curie, Albert Einstein would have never imagined possible.

evolution-of-computing-power-costs | Cielotech Online

Despite this abundance of technology, and the abundance of scientists to wield it, we are as powerless to stop a simple virus from ravaging our society, grinding our economies to a halt, and killing hundreds of thousands of people as we were 100 years ago. And this is precisely why I have chosen now to write this blog post. It is this moment which so clearly illuminates the complete and total failure of modern science to build upon the prior discoveries of the early 20th century that demands not only our attention but our immediate action.

“We were promised flying cars, but instead we got 140 characters.” ~ Peter Thiel

Despite his position in the tech elite, Peter Thiel has long argued and highlighted the stagnation of the sciences and its deleterious impacts on economic growth and human progress. He has openly and correctly called out academia for being as corrupt as the Catholic Church.

Peter senses that something is off with modern science. He knows it has stagnated, and like a good philosopher he’s been searching for WHY that this is the case. And when searching for the “Why” it helps to look into the past, to figure out where and when science went down the wrong path.

“One of the best things that characterizes any good scientists is that you have to be a good skeptic. And you have to reexamine all the time what has become scientific dogma. A lot of what I’ve done over the years is actually going back and trying to prove that some of those things are incorrect and get us back on track to the correct path where we’re gonna solve the problem.” ~Dr. John Wallace

While Peter has tried his best to pinpoint the source of the problem, I argue he has come up short. Peter lacks a deeper scientific background and is obviously busy running companies and making investments. My brother, @biotechbrainbug, is not burdened with these tasks. Instead he’s burdened with a half dozen autoimmune disorders, one of which is so serious that it was the focus of an episode of House. In order to treat himself, and his diseases he was forced to learn and re-discover long forgotten truths. In his search he found a 1925 book, Science and the Modern World, written by Alfred North Whitehead.

“The progress of science has reached a turning point. The stable foundations of physics have broken up… The old foundations of scientific thought are becoming unintelligible. Time, space, matter, material, ether, electricity, mechanism, organism, configuration, structure, pattern, function, all require reinterpretation. What is the sense of talking about a mechanical explanation when you do know what you mean by mechanics? …[Science] must become philosophical.” ~ Alfred North Whitehead

Once again, the 1920’s calls forth to our current time. Is it a coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. To be sure, the 1920s was a monumental turning point in the history of the sciences, chief among them physics. Einstein messed up time itself in 1921. Quantum Mechanics stumbled in 1927 with the “triumph” of the Copenhagen Interpretation. Even the origins of modern science’s creation myth, The Big Bang, can be found in Alexander Friedmann’s 1922 equations.

Today, physics has been so completely hollowed out that its practitioners are mostly confined to either large and expensive experiments that offer zero relevant information or purely theoretical work that borders on mathematical masturbation.

Now I’m well aware of the magnitude of the claims I have just leveled at the foundation of modern physics and its current practitioners. I’m also well aware that the current practitioners are far smarter than I, but I will remind these smarter more intelligent people that it’s not being about being smarter; it’s about working smarter. After all, even a child can lift car with car jack. The leading physicists today are like musclebound weightlifters trying to lift a tank by their brute strength alone.

What I do know is that physics is not alone in its failures. Biology is no different. Unlike physics though, the world in which we live reminds us every day how flawed our current models for biology truly are. The current models are so wrong that they can’t explain something as simple as the sodium-potassium gradient of an individual cell.

NA-K pump.png

The current theory is that we have little pumps on the surfaces of our cells that maintain a charge gradient. The simplicity of this theory suggests that it should be easy to verify or falsify. And it is. In fact, this theory was proven false over 5 decades ago by Dr. Gilbert Ling. And he found not one but three flaws with this model.

“The membrane-pump theory in general and the sodium pump theory in particular have been disproved because (i) the cells do not have enough energy to run the pumps; (ii) a healthy membrane sac (without cell content or cytoplasm) does not extrude sodium ion as the theory predicts; (iii) a cell assembly without functional cell membrane (and postulated sodium pump) maintains a steady low sodium-ion concentration like its normal intact counterpart.” ~ Dr. Gilbert Ling

So think about that for a second. Modern biology cannot properly explain how the cell, the basic unit of the organism, functions. Not only that, but it has ignored this fact for decades. And not only has it ignored this fact, it has also ignored the people who have discovered these contradictions for decades, leading our scientific luminaries to be largely ignored for their entire careers. Dr. Gilbert Ling died in 2019.

Furthermore, the way in which this sodium-potassium gradient is actually formed is due to water’s ability to form a 4th phase (shown below). This 4th phase of water exists between the solid (ice) and the liquid that was discovered by Dr. Gilbert Ling and later expanded upon by Dr. Gerrald Pollack.

Unfortunately, you probably haven’t even heard of this 4th phase of water. You don’t know how it works, how it forms, or why it is absolutely essential to the functioning of all life and unfortunately neither does modern biology. And now you can begin to understand why a virus can threaten the stability of our 21st century society.

The key to our future is not mindlessly building things that are based on a fundamentally flawed paradigm. The key is to design and discover a new paradigm that will drive the next hundred years of human innovation and growth. We have to re-think and to re-examine everything we were told was true. We have to learn for ourselves from the bottom up.

The answers are out there, buried in the shallow graves of the past. All we have to do is dig them up with the tools and technology our ancestors never dreamed of.  I challenge you to do better.

I challenge you to re-think.

Is the Tech Selloff Bullish?

Is the Tech Selloff Bullish?

“Is the tech selloff bullish?” Am I seriously asking such a question? How dumb must I be? I don’t know. I guess you’ll just have to read to find out!

It’s been a month since my last blog post, and I thought with that ugly price action on the Nasdaq we saw this week, that it might be worth updating my thoughts. This price action is especially precarious given the environment in which we are operating aka the plandemic which just so happens to coincide with the most divisive election of our lifetimes (yes boomers included). With that said, I’m actually quite optimistic for certain parts of the equity market over the next few weeks. But before I can get to my bull case, I feel the need to address the bear case.

Starting with price action. Yes, as a bull I saw the price action in the Nasdaq this week, same as you. It’s not great. If I was bearish, I’d be pretty pumped with that n of 1.

This price action is especially concerning when you consider just how consensus “long tech” has become. According to BoA it was a record in terms of “consensus”. The consensus has never been so consensed (nautical term)!

I’m not gonna stand here and tell you to buy SHOP at 70x sales or any of the FANG stocks with w/e their current multiples are. I couldn’t care less to be quite honest. Everyone keeps pointing to the year 2000 when the tech bubble burst and took the real economy down with it, I don’t see that being the case at all. To me, it seems, that once again, the bears are just fishing for an excuse to be bearish. That’s not to say once again that there aren’t real problems in the ECONOMY.

We got real problems in the US economy, which are all compounded by the lack of clarity surrounding the virus and most importantly our response to it. And I think the bears may be guilty of conflating the two. For some reason, they still focus on case counts versus deaths.

But if you actually look at the deaths, the US isn’t worse than any other western nation, and this is including the disastrous job done by Cuomo in NY. Who would known that all you had to do to slow deaths was to stop deliberately infecting the elderly!


Remember the disaster that was supposed to be Sweden? Deaths in Sweden have now fallen below the 5 year average. The horror!



I’m not a virologist, these are just simple statistics. The virus appears to run through a concentrated population in a matter of weeks IRREGARDLESS of the lock-downs. Sweden’s cases peaked after just 5 weeks, which roughly matches NY’s 6 weeks.


New York did NOT crush COVID-19. The lock downs were completely ineffective, but the virus went away after a couple of months, which suggests that the rising cases we’re seeing in places like Texas and Arizona and Florida are going to peak in the next weeks if they haven’t already.

Furthermore, it’s important to note the role Mexico has had in the rising case loads in border states. It’s likely that the border states and Mexico have been feeding each other’s outbreaks.

Now I understand how highly controversial this all is. And yes I’m not a virologist or a social modeler or w/e fancy term people apply to their professions. I’m just a millennial who dropped out grad school because he is a lazy piece of shit. This is all to say, feel free to ignore my opinion.

And if the virus has peaked in these states, then you might expect the work from home stocks to begin to under-perform the market.

Notice Zoom peaked on Monday and Netflix missed earnings today. It’s kind of hilarious how excited the bears are over the fact that not as many people are spending their days indoors streaming tv and movies as the market expected.

I don’t think this is a coincidence, nor do I think it is outright bearish. I think the market is telling us something about the economy. I think the virus cases have peaked and we’re about to see a rotation from these high flying growth stocks to small caps and value stocks. Whether or not this rotation is durable or lasts longer than a couple of weeks or months is beyond my forecasting capabilities (I’m only human). It’s certainly an interesting coincidence that the Russell 2000 has outperformed since Trump donned a mask in public for the first time this week.


Which brings me to my next point. Masks. Finally the US is adopting a nationwide mask policy, if only piece wise. Corporations like Walmart are now requiring customers to wear masks.

States are adopting strict mask policies as well.

Whether or not you think masks work, they give people confidence to return to their normal lives. When you combine a confidence inspiring mask policy with falling cases in the troublesome states you would expect to see a return of optimism to these unloved small cap and value stocks. Furthermore, rates could rise on the back of this optimism which could further dent these high flying tech stocks and drive a rotation into small caps.

Lastly, let’s not forget the role of the Fed, which as an institution has never been more dovish. The US government has also been incredibly supportive and will continue to be so. The potential energy in this system if unleashed is absolutely enormous. Any signs of optimism with regards to the virus and the economy will be rewarded.

In summary, the virus is peaking in the most troublesome US states, the Fed is super dovish, the confidence inspiring mask policy is here, all of which should translate into small caps outperforming the high flying growth stocks.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is the diary of a thirty something millennial who has never stepped foot inside a wall street bank. He has not taken an economic or business course since high school (which he is immensely proud of) and has been long gold since 2012 (which he is not so proud of). In short his opinions and experiences make him uniquely unqualified to give advice. This blog post is NOT advice to buy or sell securities. He may have positions in the aforementioned trades/securities. He may change his opinion the instant the post is published. In short, this blog post is pure fiction based loosely on the reality of the ever shifting narrative of the markets. These posts are meant for enjoyment and self reflection and nothing else. So ENJOY and REFLECT!


No Market for Old Men

No Market for Old Men

I gotta be honest, I think “Forget it Johnny, It’s Teslatown” is a more fitting title for this post, and you’ll soon see why, but alas, as a citizen of the Federation, I am a slave to the people.

“Contrary to what a lot of the financial press has stated, looking at the great bull markets of this century, the best environment for stocks is a very dull, slow economy that the Federal Reserve is trying to get going” ~ Druckenmiller

“Don’t fight the Fed.” ~ Anon Genius Savant

Read those two quotes. Read them again and again and again. Read them one more time for good measure. Are they seared into your memory yet? Good. Now explain to me why in God’s holy f*ck are you bearish this market?

What’s your excuse? Is it because the market is overvalued?

Or is it because there are retail traders participating in the rally? So what? As I argued in late March, the market had turned into a Tesla market.


Fast forward a couple of months and the market has rallied at a historic pace against the backdrop of a “fundamental” bear case that is arguably stronger than ever. In fact, more Americans are unemployed now than when I wrote that blog post in late March. But wait, there’s more, because just like in the case of Tesla, we have an inordinate amount of “dumb money” led by young retail traders leading the charge into stocks.

But how is that bearish? Is the Fed threatening to pull the punch bowl away? No, they’re actually discussing new tools that they can bring to bear.

And somewhat hilariously predictably, the equity market bears, who have been beaten so badly, have doubled down on the most obvious factor in markets, virus case counts. The bears are now so focused on rising virus counts in the US that somehow they think that they alone can see that the virus has spread across the US at an increasing rate. If this is a Tesla market, which I think it is, then the virus count is almost entirely irrelevant. China shut down Beijing the other day. Have you checked what their stock market did?

You may have other reasons why you are short or not buying the market here or whatever, but they’re probably too logical or too emotional. I’m sure many of you are overwhelmed by your political biases or the fact that you live in a city which means not only were you more impacted by the Wuhan Flu, but the riots (and the fine people who were protesting peacefully) and social disorder in which the lockdowns caused. The fact of the matter is that the market, like Anton Chigurh, does not care about your feelings. What does it care about, more than anything in our increasingly finacialized economy is liquidity.

The Fed has expanded its balance sheet at an unprecedented pace. The Fed is buying individual corporate bonds. I’m told they even own a few HTZ bonds. This seems to have an effect similar to what Draghi’s “whatever it takes” speech had on European Periphery bonds.

The result is falling bond yields despite terrible fundamentals.

And with the economy in such bad shape, the Fed is in no hurry despite the growing bubbles in financial assets to tighten monetary conditions! In fact, they are coming up with even more tools to manipulate financial assets, I mean, support the economy.

Meanwhile, the US government is expanding its borrowing at a record pace as well. I hear we’re gonna get at least another $1T stimulus package. Every major government is doing the same thing. China is set to increase its debt by a new record $2.8T this year. Even Germany is spending some money.

And the best part, for equities that is, there’s no inflation… So these central planners can do whatever the f*ck they want. It doesn’t matter how irresponsible they are. The bill will come eventually. 3 months maybe, 6 months definitely. But until it does, the market will not price in an end to these extravagant and wasteful government policies. So don’t fight them or at least, to paraphrase William Prescott, “don’t short till you see the whites of inflation’s eyes”.

The best part is that you will probably find a reason to discard everything I’ve said. After all I’m young and foolish, and the market is overvalued, and the p/c ratio is super low and these are all true. I’m not denying that. I am however noting that liquidity and sentiment will trump these facts. So many months from now if the market does in fact hit all time highs I want you to ask yourself a simple question…


“If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?” ~ Anton Chigurh

DISCLAIMER: This blog is the diary of a thirty something millennial who has never stepped foot inside a wall street bank. He has not taken an economic or business course since high school (which he is immensely proud of) and has been long gold since 2012 (which he is not so proud of). In short his opinions and experiences make him uniquely unqualified to give advice. This blog post is NOT advice to buy or sell securities. He may have positions in the aforementioned trades/securities. He may change his opinion the instant the post is published. In short, this blog post is pure fiction based loosely on the reality of the ever shifting narrative of the markets. These posts are meant for enjoyment and self reflection and nothing else. So ENJOY and REFLECT!

Replimune: The Lost Art of Immunotherapy

Today I will be publishing a biotech report on the company Replimune. As always please read the disclosures at the bottom of the post.

Replimune is a biotech company that designs viruses to assist in the body’s fight against cancer. This form of immunotherapy dates back to the 2600 BC when the Egyptians would purposefully cause infections to treat cancer. Over the course of history, the knowledge that the immune system could be harnessed to fight cancer has been lost and gained several times, culminating today in the immunotherapy revolution.

This latest revolution has not been without its flaws and misunderstandings. While the data continues to show that overstimulating various aspects of the adaptive immune system or chasing genetic mutations is a narrow minded approach, the mainstream still charges forward.

In our report, we dare to offer an alternative solution. A solution that does not involve blind brute force but a holistic and well orchestrated coordination of the immune system. In order to do this, we have to redefine what the immune system is, which will require us to call into question many of the standard theories that biologists hold today. We will use the data Replimune has generated to further strengthen our case and in the end provide a new lens to view cancer and the role of the immune system in the body.

Lastly, it is our hope with this new understanding that cancer therapies will become more effective and less toxic benefiting a much wider population of patients. Just kidding! We know science is filled with dogmatic fanatics who care little for understanding the universe. Still we think this should be a fun exercise. We are very excited about the opportunity Replimune presents and welcome all discussion.

Link to our report- Replimune: The Lost Art of Immunotherapy

DISLCOSUREWe are long Replimune as of this blog post. What our position in the company is the next day or the day after that is up in the air. But as of this publishing, we are shareholders in Replimune. This report is not a recommendation to buy or sell securities. We are not looking to solicit investments or profit from selling this research. We have no affiliation with Replimune and have received no compensation for this blog post. We are merely publishing our research for educational and informational purposes. 

Antibe Therapeutics: A Breakthrough in NSAIDs

Antibe Therapeutics: A Breakthrough in NSAIDs

I normally don’t talk about individual companies (outside of that car company), let alone biotech companies. But this post is a bit different. Normally I wouldn’t post a biotech report to my blog but unfortunately, I’m not very good at the ‘internets’. And I was having trouble uploading our biotech report to various open source websites like SCRIBD or DocuHub and then I recalled, that a few years ago I was able to publish some of my late Grandfather’s work to this blog. If you haven’t read that blog post or my Grandfather’s writings, I highly recommend that you do. He was great man and I don’t know how to say this but he was kind of a big deal (he’s the guy in the Speedo)…

Lenny and Simons

Anyways here we are. You were expecting a new and prescient macro thesis (JK, I know I’m your best contra), and instead you get a report on biotech company you’ve never heard of. If you are not interested in the incredibly risky area of biotech that’s fine. This report is not for you. I expect it won’t be for most. The main goal of this post, is to publicize our views on a specific, small cap Canadian biotech company called Antibe Therapeutics.

DISLCOSURE: We are long Antibe Therapeutics as of this blog post. What our position in the company is the next day or the day after that is up in the air. But as of this publishing, we are shareholders in Antibe Therapeutics. This report is not a recommendation to buy or sell securities. We are not looking to solicit investments or profit from selling this research. We have no affiliation with Antibe Therapeutics and have received no compensation for this blog post. We are merely publishing our research for educational and informational purposes. 

The link to the report can be found below the Executive Summary:

“Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world. Despite their popularity, these drugs come with a number of serious side effects. Every year in the US, approximately 100,000 people are hospitalized and more than 16,000 die due to the gastrointestinal (GI) side effects of NSAIDs alone. In the elderly, the cost associated with GI related toxicity associated from NSAIDs exceeds $4B annually. We believe Antibe Therapeutics (ATBPF, ATE.V) has found a solution to this problem. By attaching a Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) releasing moiety to Naproxen, Antibe was able to create an NSAID, ATB-346, that not only possesses a drastically reduced GI toxicity profile, but is also more effective at relieving pain and inflammation than other NSAIDs. While the potency of ATB-346 has yet to be proved, it will be soon. Antibe has just completed dosing its phase 2b efficacy study for patients with osteoarthritis. Data from this important study is due by the end of April. This report consists of two parts: the data Antibe has generated thus far which support our claim that the company has developed a safe and effective NSAID and our scientific research that supports the company’s data.”

Report Link: Antibe Therapeutics: The Next Generation of NSAIDs

DISCLAIMER: This blog is the diary of a thirty something millennial who has never stepped foot inside a wall street bank. He has not taken an economic or business course since high school (which he is immensely proud of) and has been long gold since 2012 (which he is not so proud of). In short his opinions and experiences make him uniquely unqualified to give advice. This blog post is NOT advice to buy or sell securities. He may have positions in the aforementioned trades/securities. He may change his opinion the instant the post is published. In short, this blog post is pure fiction based loosely on the reality of the ever shifting narrative of the markets. These posts are meant for enjoyment and self reflection and nothing else. So ENJOY and REFLECT!

Logic in the Time of Corona

“I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. They were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic, you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.” ~ V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

People are dying. Hospitals in the hardest hit areas are reporting an overflow of patients. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by the virus.

No one is questioning that people aren’t dying. That hospitals in certain parts of the country aren’t being overwhelmed by a temporary increase in sick patients. That doctors aren’t putting their lives on the line by working themselves to the bone to deal with the increase in pressure. No one is denying any of this… Well almost no one…

Elon Musk being a horrible human aside, my argument is simple, we’re in a terrible situation, but it’s not as bad as the market believes. And yes, I’m using the word “believe” for a reason. Rational thought and logic are being tossed aside in favor of emotion and anecdotes. We can all see that young person on twitter who has shared their horrifying story of being sick with the virus. Or the unfortunate doctor who died after having been worked to the bone while being infected by a number of different strains of the virus. These are sad stories. If you want to dwell on them, and scream that the system should be burnt to the ground, that’s fine. You have that right, but I doubt you’ll be successful at generating good returns in the market going forward.

The truth is that when we drill down into the data we find that the virus is not as bad as people believe. While many believe the virus has a mortality rate far exceeding 1% the data suggests otherwise.

The cruise ship known as the Diamond Princess data set is also worth noting:

The one situation where an entire, closed population was tested was the Diamond Princess cruise ship and its quarantine passengers. The case fatality rate there was 1.0%, but this was a largely elderly population, in which the death rate from Covid-19 is much higher.

The countries that do the most rigorous testing find that less than 1% of infected actually die. Iceland has done a great job testing everyone whether symptomatic or not, only to find that young people are far more likely to carry the virus. The mortality rate in Iceland is currently below 0.3%.

Even the data from Italy is somewhat encouraging. The median age of the infected who died was 80.5 and the majority of those people were suffering from at least one other disease.

The crazy thing is I know that it doesn’t matter what data I share with most of you. You’ve already made up your mind. You don’t care what I data I put in front of you. And so I’ll just stop there. From here on out, I’m going to work off the assumption that the virus is not as bad as you or the market believes.

I also be the first to admit that this view actually has been unable to generate any alpha. In fact anyone who realized from the beginning that the virus wasn’t nearly as deadly as the market thought, was promptly run over by the ensuing panic from market participants and policy makers. As Keynes once said, “policy markers can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.”

Fortunately, I was not of the view that the virus had a mortality rate of sub 1%. I saw the videos in China and the actions the CCP took to control the spread. It scared the bejeezus out of me. I’ve only come around to the view of the virus having a sub 1% mortality rate recently as more and more data came out. Fortunately, the market has been kind enough to not punish me for my sloth like reaction.

To be clear, the damage done from the shutdowns is catastrophic. The increasing fragility of the economy has once more been exposed. And not just the economy, the markets themselves. The market impacted economy and the economy impacted market both of which have impacted policy response. These dynamics were detailed in a recent paper by Michael Greene and Wayne Himelsein. If you want have any idea of what’s going on, I highly highly recommend you read their work.

Basically, the passive inflows into the market are price insensitive. The monetary flow is the same whether the market is up or down. Doesn’t matter. When active participants panicked, they overwhelmed the passive bid leading to a sharp crash in the market which was exacerbated by systemic short vol strategies a number of which have “blown up”. (This a dramatic oversimplification, please read the Logica paper.)

Unsurprisingly, after the quickest and sharpest bear market in history, sentiment has finally shifted bearish. I’m not going to name any names, but all you have to do is look on twitter to see a number of people pushing their 1929 analog charts. And of course there’s this…


But like the bears and doomsayers, we have to get above the anecdotes and emotion, and focus on the data. And the data is quite clear that everyone is bearish. In fact, people are so bearish that despite a 15% rally in the US stock market last week, the percentage of bulls actually fell.

What this suggests is that people are so down on the fundamental story of the global economy and the virus that they aren’t even responding to price. They are so set in their bearishness that nothing will change their mind. Does this remind you of anything? As a $TSLA bear, I know this psychology well. To be clear Mark Gutman was the first person to notice this dynamic.

While the current fundamental story for the global economy is terrible as it has been for Tesla for many years, it does not mean the Dow is going to zero. (In fact, tesla is one of the few large cap stocks that is up for the year.)

What it does suggest is that making money on the short side, even if the market goes lower will be very very difficult. To be sure, the market can still go lower, but those puts you are rushing to buy are unlikely make money let alone hedge your portfolio.

With the VIX having been at 60 for weeks, I think it’s been difficult to formulate a solid path forward until now. While the virus’s relatively low mortality rate has been relatively clear for a few weeks, it hasn’t been till this past week that the bulls have finally capitulated and the bears have pressed their hands. This suggests that at least a temporary bottom has been put in place.

Going forward the most important data points will come out of NYC. As this city is the the hot bed of the entire US, it will be important to see how fast the virus runs through the city and at what cost. Even if cases in NYC peak in short order, the rest of the country should experience a dramatic rise in infections.

These two conflicting sources of data flow will provide evidence for both the bears and the bulls. The bears will point to the need for the shuttering of various parts of the country, while the bulls note that the night is darkest for the dawn, and the dawn eventually comes. Fears of a multi-month shutdown across various sections of the world’s largest economy could force the market to new lows. Dollar funding cracks could continue to bulge across the globe if the US consumer is not unleashed once more.

This is why it will be critical for the bull case that NYC cases peak in the next few weeks. NYC will serve as the model for the coronavirus in the US. From how many people actually die of the virus, to how long of a shutdown is necessary (if at all) these data points will provide much needed clarity to this highly volatile market. While for now, it looks like the situation is improving it can always change.

And while many will point to the effectiveness of the shutdowns, Iceland’s data clearly shows that there are many infected persons who do not know they are or have been infected. NYC might already have a large herd of people who have been infected by the virus reducing further waves of infected rushing to the hospitals.

If NYC improves, perhaps the market will see this crisis for what it was. An artificial surge in demand that ate up the local supply and caused a panic. Not unlike what has transpired in the physical gold market this past month.

To the bears I say best of luck, though I doubt you’ll make much money from here. As a bottoms up investor in small cap biotech stocks I see plenty of value and will continue to add to my positions if the markets trend lower over the next few months.


DISCLAIMER: This blog is the diary of a thirty something millennial who has never stepped foot inside a wall street bank. He has not taken an economic or business course since high school (which he is immensely proud of) and has been long gold since 2012 (which he is not so proud of). In short his opinions and experiences make him uniquely unqualified to give advice. This blog post is NOT advice to buy or sell securities. He may have positions in the aforementioned trades/securities. He may change his opinion the instant the post is published. In short, this blog post is pure fiction based loosely on the reality of the ever shifting narrative of the markets. These posts are meant for enjoyment and self reflection and nothing else. So ENJOY and REFLECT!

Tesla: Dude Where’s My Comeuppance?

Tesla: Dude Where’s My Comeuppance?

“Hubris is one of the great renewable resources. ~ P.J. O’Rourke”

A wise observer (@inner_scorecard) of the markets remarked to me last year, that only the bears seem to suffer when their hubris gets the better of them. And I’m not just talking about Tesla, but the broader equity markets as well. Bulls can act like total buffoons and the market will never punish them. Bears on the other hand get spanked. Please note the date of the following tweet.

Among other things, @Inner_scorecard has coined the term TBAW or Tesla Bearish Always Wrong to mark a person who was bearish on the car company no matter the share price. While a TBAW may get the fundamental story correct he or she will miss the obvious things like the absurdly tight share structure, cult like following, unethical CEO willing to do w/e it takes to burn them, and regulators who have turned a blind eye (#FundingSecured).

To be clear, I’m not denigrating the TBAWs. Some of them have done an incredible job uncovering the extent of Tesla’s and Elon’s fraud. But it is important to recognize how terrible they are at trading this particular stock. I was and still consider myself one of these people. I was short the car company all the way into the 2019 Q3 earnings call and was summarily blown out of my position once and for all… at least until I saw the price continue to rise to its historic heights last week.

On that historic day, $TSLA became the highest valued US auto OEM of all time. The company’s market cap soared beyond that of GM and F combined, all while selling less than 1/20th the cars and losing over $600mm over the past 12 months. Now, as anyone will tell you, valuation is not a catalyst for shorting. And I agree. This post is not about valuation, it is about sentiment.

This post is about cataloging and documenting a potential peak in euphoria for the car company. It is about me wondering if maybe, just maybe hubris is going to finally cut both ways.

Within a few hours, Elon was back to tweeting about his car company’s share price. Note Tesla is trading almost $60 higher since these tweets.

Elon’s hubris aside (still trying to block out that China dance), what do the other shareholders think?

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 12.43.28 PM.png

Now in and of itself this kind of celebration from the tesla bulls is meaningless. The Tesla bulls worship the ground on which Elon walks, and will cheer anything and everything he does.

To me, the signs that are much more significant are people who were once skeptics, doubters and shorts who have either given up or turned outright bullish on Elon Musk and Tesla. Perhaps no one exemplifies this better than Jim Cramer. Here’s a chart from FusionPointCapital:


Whitney Tilson was quite bearish on Tesla earlier in the year, and for a time he looked prescient. Note the timing of this report:

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 12.54.57 PM.png

In December, Mr. Tilson put out a new note:

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 12.56.32 PM.png

Perhaps an even stronger contra can be found in former Vice Chairman of GM, Bob Lutz, who has long been critical of both Elon Musk and Tesla. Once again, note the date.

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 1.05.16 PM.png

And on January 8th this is what Mr. Lutz had to say about Elon and Tesla:

“The encouraging thing to me about tesla is from Elon there’s les talk, less bluster, less here’s how I’m going to do in six months and it seems like he has done what any other CEO and founder would do he is focusing on the business and focusing on the product and focusing on cost control so Tesla is finally being run like a normal business.”

More signs of sentiment can be seen in a recent CNBC guest.

News agencies have been quick to point out that Tesla only has 14% further to go before Elon receives the first milestone in his unique pay package.

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 4.34.00 PM.png

I mean, 14%, that’s like nothing to Tesla and the god-king Elon Musk. It’s a fait accompli at this point. Obviously it’s going to happen… Right? Right?! The shorts certainly seem to think so. Like any good bear, they have gone into hibernation for the winter.

In the end, when this is all said and done, it will be interesting to look back on this brief slice of time. Perhaps this was the moment, perhaps not. At the very least, we’ll have some interesting stories and lessons learned.

cc @bagholderquotes

Disclosure: I am short $TSLA via put options.

The Next Narrative Shift: Why I’m Bullish

The Next Narrative Shift: Why I’m Bullish

Nine months into the year it’s hard to imagine how the markets could be further removed from 2018’s initial lofty expectations of global synchronized growth. Per usual the same goes for the narrative surrounding President Trump. As recent as the spring, investors believed the USD was uninvestable because of President Trump’s policies. Tillerson had just been fired and investors were panic selling the USD. From CNBC:

“Trump just removed another voice of reason,” said Keith Underwood, former trader and head of Underwood FX consulting. “Short-term traders took advantage of people’s fears over the tariffs and pushed the dollar lower.”

Yet now we find the consensus narratives to be polar opposites of what they once were just months prior. Investors have to buy the USD because of Trump and his trade policies, and because the USD is going up it’s hurting China, Emerging Markets and global growth. European growth is nowhere to be found. And because we are “late cycle” and private tech valuations are out of control investors are quick to scare. And if that wasn’t enough, the upcoming US midterm elections are weighing on investors belief that Trump will still be President in 2019.

There’s a lot of uncertainty, worry, and fear out there when there wasn’t much just a few months ago. The dramatic shift in the narrative has caught many investors off guard. And yet we must remember that these are still narratives. The future’s not set in stone and if the narrative can shift this quickly in one direction it can just as easily shift in the opposite direction.

In this case, there’s a lot of uncertainty out there and it’s keeping a lid on risk assets, but by the end of the year I expect a lot of these fears to abate.

The odds of a meltdown in China or a devaluation of its currency are much lower than the market has priced in. The same goes for the “EM crises”. With numerous trade deals coming down the pipe, Trump’s trade wars are not going to crush global growth and drive the USD higher, and if all this is true Trump’s odds of holding onto his power are much higher than the market expects as well.

What I believe most investors are missing is the political solution to these many problems. At every turn investors have underestimated and misjudged Trump and continue to do so.

And because investors continue to underestimate Trump’s ability, they have mispriced the timing of a US China trade deal. The consensus view is that China is going to wait out Trump till after midterms where he could be considerably weakened. Which on some level makes sense. Except Trump has all the leverage, and China has a lot to gain by coming to the table.

China and the US can be fierce enemies but they can also be fierce friends and with pragmatic leaders at the helm of both powers I expect the latter to be the more likely case.

Progress on North Korea, a proxy for US China relations, continues to improve.

Furthermore, it’s important to realize who has the leverage in the negotiations. Since Trump started turning the screws on China in March, the equity markets have diverged. (QQQ / US tech in red, CQQQ / China tech in black)

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 5.31.46 AM.png

By the way if we think about the timing of Trump’s actions we will once again find him wiser than the market gives him credit.

Then again the S&P 500 despite all the fear mongering recently broke to all time highs. Perhaps the market isn’t so dumb…

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 5.36.53 AM.png

Stock market intelligence aside, just a few months after Trump started turning the screws on China Bannon came out and said that essentially the US has all the leverage:

“We are winning. They talk about the Chinese government coming back at us but for the first time they don’t know what to do… We can take the whole thing down.

And Bannon said that before the US and Mexico agreed to a new trade deal that would shift US supply chains out of China and into Mexico.

Furthermore the trade deal with Mexico provides evidence that Trump is willing to negotiate fair deals with other nations.

Once again we find that Trump’s twitter feed has to be read with a certain lens.

But to sum up, the US has won this round of the trade wars. A deal between the US and China is coming sooner than the market expects. And this deal will have profound implications for the USD.

Following the US Mexico trade deal Mnuchin said the following (my emphasis added):

One of the top issues we discussed was the currency. As part of any deal, we would want to make sure that they support their currency. We’re not going to have a situation where we pick up gains in trade to only lose them in currency devaluation. And as part of the NAFTA deal, for the first time we have a very strong currency chapter that talks about currency transparency, so this is something we’re very much focused on in all of our trading relationships.

And then speaking on China’s Yuan.

As Worth Wray has been saying for many months (if not years), Trump is aiming for a Plaza Accord type agreement that will lead to a global rebalancing.

Thus if there is a coordinated action to weaken or at least halt the rise of the USD, emerging markets may not be as bad as consensus thinks.

According to the article there is simply no shortage of reasons to be afraid out there.

“Blame it on a stronger dollar, escalating tensions since President Donald Trump came to power, worries over a full-fledged trade war with China or rising interest rates in the U.S., this time around the crisis seems to have entered a new phase.”

As I have already suggested, many of these fears appear to be overblown. And what if Emerging markets and China are actually more stable than investors realize?

EM high yield credit spreads are also telling a different story or for the more pessimistic investor how much further this crisis has to go IF things get out of hand.

Korea’s exports to China have actually begun to rebound in August.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 2.31.32 PM.png

Even the perennial country of the future Brazil is holding up.

Furthermore, Brazil’s leading Presidential candidate was stabbed and seriously injured on Thursday. And yet USDBRL has since fallen. And Brazilian equity markets were actually up on the day. Brazilian ETF (EWZ) is on support with a positive RSI divergence to boot.

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 8.24.18 AM.png

Lastly, the most binary and unpredictable event in markets is the midterms which have turned into the re-election of Donald Trump.

If the Dems win, there will be an impeachment and Trump’s legislative agenda will grind to a halt. This is undoubtedly weighing on markets. Where it stands right now, Trump’s chances of weathering the storm appear murky at best. But given all the geopolitical and economic fears out there investors once again may be missing the bigger picture.

It’s the economy stupid.

Now imagine how much the US economy could rip once the trade deals form into place and businesses have a clearer picture of the geopolitical environment. From the LA Times:

“Several big manufacturers and consumer goods companies have cited growing trade tensions as factors for their lower-than-expected financial results in the just-ended second quarter.”

Which makes the ISM manufacturing index 14 year high even more remarkable.

Trump is also riding a growing wave of support from black voters.

From the 2017 book Bannon: Always the Rebel:

“I keep telling people. Once we get 25 or 30 percent of the black working class, once we get 25 or 30 percent of the hispanic working class, we’re gonna govern for 100 years.”

Trump is converting the Republican party into a worker’s party. By halting illegal immigration he is boosting wages for the poorest Americans. By cutting taxes, and deregulating the economy and attacking unfair trade deals he’s made the US a more attractive place to invest. Jobs are coming back and wages are starting to rise.

By aligning himself directly with the working class, Trump has forced the Democrats into a near impossible position. They either work with him which would help him, or they have to attack him and by proxy the working class citizens as well.

It’s clear which route the Democrats have taken, but the stronger the economy gets the harder it will be for the Dems to fight back. Their political attacks increasingly resonate as hollow and before long I expect Trump to disarm them of their precious Mueller investigation.

In the end, Trump’s chances of holding onto his power are much higher than the market anticipates and it could become clear to the market before the election ever takes place. And as the final cherry on top of this bearish to bullish narrative shift, we could see the market go from pricing in a complete halt of Trump’s legislative agenda to tax cuts 2.0 and a massive infrastructure spending bill.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is the diary of a twenty something millennial who has never stepped foot inside a wall street bank. He has not taken an economic or business course since high school (which he is immensely proud of) and has been long gold since 2012 (which he is not so proud of). In short his opinions and experiences make him uniquely unqualified to give advice. This blog post is NOT advice to buy or sell securities. He may have positions in the aforementioned trades/securities. He may change his opinion the instant the post is published. In short, this blog post is pure fiction based loosely on the reality of the ever shifting narrative of the markets. These posts are meant for enjoyment and self reflection and nothing else. So ENJOY and REFLECT!

Donald Trump: Political Alpha Incarnate

Donald Trump: Political Alpha Incarnate

Trigger Warnings: This post contains references to video games, foul language and a positive view on Donald Trump.

As most of you know, I’m a millennial. I don’t have a finance background, but what I do have is a very special set of skills, honed over decades of playing video games of all kinds. I was never all that great at first person shooter games like Halo or Call of Duty. My hand eye coordination was never good enough to compete at an incredibly high level, so instead I relied heavily on strategy.

But with enough strategy you can compete in games that do require some hand eye coordination and fast reaction times because in the end it all comes down to anticipating your opponents next move. If you can do that well enough you don’t need to be fast, you just need to be ready to pounce [inserts clip of shadow word: deathing a blind].

This article was originally supposed to be about Donald Trump, and it is, but it’s also about games, and understanding that in markets we are in the end playing a game with rules.

“I’ve seen an agent punch through a concrete wall. Men have emptied entire clips at them and hit nothing but air, yet their strength and their speed are still based in a world that is built on rules. Because of that, they will never be as strong or as fast as you can be.”

These rules do change, and when they change boat loads of money can be made (and the machines defeated), but what I find most interesting right now is that while investors are so preoccupied with looking for the rules to change that maybe JUST MAYBE they’ve missed the fact that the rules have already changed, and after nine long years a lot of investors still refuse to play by the “new” rules.

Because global markets as “the bears” like to complain are heavily manipulated which destroys capitalism and all that other good stuff, and they are 100% correct, but until they do change we must continue to play by these rules. Full stop.

[Video game life lesson incoming which actually turns out to be self serving attempt to relive author’s glory days]

Fortunately, I learned this lesson while playing World of Warcraft where the game developers would constantly shit on the mechanics and meta of the current competitive PvP scene to suit the masses. Time after time I would get my shit pushed in by an assortment of randos and noobs who despite having no skill were able to absolutely destroy whatever I was doing simply because the new rules suited them much more than my character and team composition (sound familiar?).

This was an unbelievably frustrating but inevitably enlightening experience, because one day I got tired of fighting the rules and I joined the crowd, and started to use the rules to my favor.

So I got a few friends and we built a counter comp (Paladin Hunter Death knight or PHD) to the most popular comp (at the time this was Rogue Mage Priest or RMP) and would run it every time we saw those guys queuing. We ended up reaching the 2nd highest rating on the toughest battle group outside of South Korea. My hunter character also became the highest ranked hunter in the world at the time, despite having rarely played it and being equipped with outdated and inferior gear.

If we look at the bull market post GFC it has been one marked by dumb money absolutely truck sticking (technical term) the “smart” money. That’s because we live in a highly managed economy and the supposed smart money is still playing by the old rules. Whether it be the recent Shanghai Accord, on going trade negotiations or the fact that Central banks have literally PINNED interest rates across the curve, instead of accepting managed markets as a fact of life, investors continue to fight the manipulated markets to their dying breath and last ounce of AUM. Which brings me to the thrust of this blog post…

I think understanding Donald Trump is one of the greatest sources of alpha in today’s highly managed political economy…

As President of the most powerful country on Earth, Trump is seeking to use the tools at his disposal in ways we haven’t seen a US president do since Reagan. Now I’m not saying the rules have changed, but one of the most important players has, and the consensus narrative from day 1 on around this player has been exactly wrong. A huge source of the misconception is that consensus sees the world as it used to be two decades ago, but Donald sees it much closer to how it is and more importantly where it is headed. So does his ex-chief strategist, Steve Bannon.


You can belittle them, call them racists, idiots whatever you want but what you absolutely shouldn’t do when it comes to an investment strategy is Fight The Donald.

The article Jawad Mian of Stray Reflections ReTweeted was written in April 2017. It’s title:

Trump is heading for a do-nothing presidency

Whether it’s North Korea, NAFTA and other trade related negotiations, Tax Reform, the overhaul of the Justice system, after just 18 months in office it’s hard to remember a president in living memory who has done more in their entire tenure. This is especially incredible when one considers the majority of the mainstream media apparatus has thrown its full weight against him.

And this is my point. The consensus viewpoint on “The Donald” is so completely and utterly wrong it defies belief. As Scott Adams constantly likes to say “half the country is watching a completely different movie”.

And this is where the true alpha lies, because whether it be political analysts (IYIs)…

Or celebrities…

Or the consensus opinion of macro analysts and investors, there seems to be a complete dearth of intellectual and independent thought coming from a large swath of people. Collectively they’ve lost the ability to objectively reason and analyze political events.

Time and time again, it is important to remember that markets, life, and all things change on the margin. Because the previous US administrations have been complete and utter disasters, whether it be Obama or Bush, for 16 years American presidents have done nothing but attempt to maintain an increasingly fragile status quo.

Both presidents were marked with a catastrophic foreign policy. Bush pushed the US into one massive quagmire in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and then Obama threw accelerant on the fire spreading this disaster across the region which sparked the migrant crisis that continues to tear the European Project apart.

Now that Donald Trump is forging peace with North Korea, a trade deal with China, bringing about the end of ISIS and Iran in both Syria and Iraq, while forging stronger ties with a new (and improved) Saudi Regime, every IYI and geopolitical analyst seems to think the world is getting worse?

I almost wish I were joking, but this the quality of geopolitical analysis going on in today’s world. And at the heart of it is this emotional hatred and fear of Donald Trump and the unknown variables he brings to the table.

Now these are just a few examples, you can look at what’s going on with the US and China or most recently AMLO and Mexico or Trump’s domestic policies (big pharma reform is coming) but the point is the same – the consensus in most cases could not be more wrong if it tried. So stop following the consensus, turn on your brain and think for yourself. Or better yet, don’t, I’m happy to enjoy this edge for as long as possible. Because not only are investors refusing to play by the rules of the game, they’ve refused to understand how the biggest player impacts the game.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is the diary of a twenty something millennial who has never stepped foot inside a wall street bank. He has not taken an economic or business course since high school (which he is immensely proud of) and has been long gold since 2012 (which he is not so proud of). In short his opinions and experiences make him uniquely unqualified to give advice. This blog post is NOT advice to buy or sell securities. He may have positions in the aforementioned trades/securities. He may change his opinion the instant the post is published. In short, this blog post is pure fiction based loosely on the reality of the ever shifting narrative of the markets. These posts are meant for enjoyment and self reflection and nothing else. So ENJOY and REFLECT!