Archives Page

Markets Going Forward
Friday, February 8, 2008

For months now we have been stating that the mortgage market can go lower and lower as many people thought that the problem could be over in a matter of months. It is a situation we find very interesting as well as quite frightening at the same time. Recently we could not help but to chuckle at the predicament some of the smartest men in the world find themselves stuck in. Not only have they had to bail themselves out by selling large chunks of new equity in their companies to foreigners, face mounting lawsuits, but to top it off they now must bailout the leading bond insurers! It seems that everyone involved in the mortgage securities business has fallen out of favor, and rightfully so, with investors.

When you look at the cycle of how these securities came to life, you get a picture which follows these steps:

  1. The banks originate or buy thousands and thousands of mortgages, most which are really subprime.
  2. Banks begin to securitize the mortgages and sell off “risk” in packages to investors. The investors get a percentage of the deal at a “discount” price and they assume a certain percentage of the first defaults up to a specified level.
  3. The credit agencies then issued ratings for these packages before they were sold to the public, institutional investors and other financial institutions.
  4. Many of these securitization deals were insured by the bond insurers to guarantee them in the future.
  5. The securities were then finally sold into the market to unassuming entities.

At this point, everyone seems to be upset (to put it kindly) with the banks, and we now see a flow where the banks are having to go backwards through this web and support the securitization market for themselves as well as their partners in crime. If supporting the market here by stepping in and giving money to the bond insurers keeps their credit ratings at AAA level or equivalent, then that will solve one of their problems, but many more loom on the horizon. What will be very interesting going forward will be our first chance to look into the books of these companies and see how they are accounting for their securities. More important will be how the accountants view the assets on their books. The accountants should state the truth, which is that these securities are not worth very much, but most likely they will not and will be but another party sucked into the subprime mortgage debacle.

This is something that we will be looking at more in-depth at later on, but shall be very important for the market going forward. Many of the financials are up over at least 20% since the Federal Reserve cuts at the end of January, but we see more storms over the horizon.

Getting back to mining, we are beginning to do our forensic research on many uranium companies to see where the real value is. We have found a few companies which are quite intriguing, however we are taking note that should the market continue to fall rather than bounce then putting new capital in at this time might be out of the question (We are not a Wall Street bank mind you!).

We also like the potash companies at this time with Potash of Saskatchewan Corp. being our favorite, as it has been for years. What is of interest to us is that should BHP Billiton be unsuccessful in its bid for Rio Tinto, then it very well could make a go at POT. This would give it a controlling stake in the world potash production market and give it control of much of the world’s available reserves for development.

The Mosaic Company is another potash producer we like, although it does have exposure to other fertilizer components and less exposure to potash than POT. One thing we would caution investors about is that as Agriculture ETFs rise, MOS rises quickly with a standard deviation greater than others in the space such as POT, AGU and the like. The downside to this is as the ETFs sell off, MOS falls harder than its siblings and thus the losses can be far greater than the industry. This is simply a case of the tail wagging the dog, because as the ETF money rolls in and out it creates an imbalance in buyers and sellers in the market for MOS shares.

Compared against the Market Vectors Global Agribusiness ETF (MOO), MOS shareholders feel more pain in good times and more gain in good times. Something to keep in mind when trading in today's volatile markets.

Agrium Corporation is a company which should be owned if you want to be involved in the entire fertilizer cycle. The company mines, refines, creates, markets, and then sells at its retail locations fertilizer to farmers. The company has been aggressively expanding its retail locations through acquisitions which should help in bad times as they have a relationship built up with the end-user, the farmer.

Agrium is a much less volatile stock than MOS due to its retail unit, which has lower margins than the mining part of their business, but may be key in the future when fertilizer prices may not be as high and personal relationships with the end user become ever more important.

Food demand is rising, and agriculture is in a bull market which appears as though it will last through at least the next five years. The fertilizers which allow the high yields of crops are in short supply and thus should stay in a bull market longer than the next five years as it takes 10 years to open new potash mines and currently the next capacity additions probably will not be online for two years. Like uranium, supply needs to catch up to demand and even after the demand market levels off, supply will remain in a bull market until it reaches equilibrium with demand.

Finally, regarding markets, the Nasdaq actually closed below a yearly low and to make matters worse it was a close below previous intraday lows for over a year!  It seems to have bounced off of that low and is struggling to stay in the positive as any rally appears to experience strong selling into it. The Dow Industrials and S&P 500 have both been able to stay above their lows, but should one of them fall below theirs and have a close below those lows, that would spell some serious trouble for markets moving forward. Personally we think that markets need to go lower to solve some of our long-term problems and shake out the weak hands holding shares, but with all of the bailouts looming in the months ahead and the possibility of further Fed rate cuts, we very well could be up big in the months ahead.

The real question is whether the recent rally which started intraday during trading Thursday was a dead cat bounce or the bottom of a correction which had taken the Nasdaq market down 20%. Time will tell.

However, always keep in mind the fact that many more of these mortgages are going to go bad regardless of rates because housing prices have collapsed and you cannot refinance something that has fallen in value without covering your loss first. Quite honestly this is not an option for many Americans who totally depleted their buying power buying the huge house and are now faced with the option of foreclosure or bankruptcy.

We continue to nibble here, but certainly not using any margin, and are keeping in mind that we may experience losses before any gains going forward. As always good luck (its better to be lucky than good) and happy trading.

©, LLC - read disclaimer