All posts by Brian

Financial Analysis of the Japan Earthquake

In replying to a friend’s question, I thought I’d write a brief, “back of the envelope” analysis of the Japanese Quake and the Nikkei. I ended up getting a little carried away, though I still did this from my head and in my pyjamas; it’s not often that such an investment opportunity presents itself and hence I’ve really been doing my research. 🙂 Please enjoy, and I hope you’ll find this useful!

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While, as for Japan’s calamity, there are many ways to trade it – via the Nikkei, Japanese Government Bonds, the Yen, Natural Gas, and all other assets highly correlated to what’s happening in Japan, like the USD, Gold, Oil, Dow, etc.

A good parallel would be the 1995 Kobe earthquake. In terms of economic impact, these 2 disasters are very much alike – the damage done are both approximately 3% of Japanese GDP. If you’re asking about the Nikkei, so far the sell-off has been, in my opinion, a little too brutal. As of now though, being 15% down since before the quake, it seems pretty fairly valued. Just as a recap, it fell 25% in the 2 days after the quake before rising 10%. 25% was the same fall the Nikkei had over the 6 months after the 1995 Kobe earthquake (it was just down 5% or so a week after the Kobe quake) and actually I would say that 25% so quickly is quite overdone – hence I actually went long June Nikkei 225 futures at an average of approximately 20% down.

I see the Nikkei having further potential downside of 10-15%, especially if the Dow completes its much-needed and due correction of a further 5%, but in the long-term – approximately a year – I am of the opinion that it would be higher than what it is today. Among others, here are the primary reasons why:

1. The number one headwind for equities and economic growth in Japan would be the Yen’s strength. Back in 1995, we saw a 20% appreciation of the Yen in the months after Kobe due to repatriation flows and insurance payouts in Yen. I do not expect Yen appreciation to be as severe as it was in 1995 as institutions are holding too much larger cash reserves of Yen this time. Also, the Yen is already “strong enough”. Even before this, the BOJ had a tough stance against Yen strength, and more than ever, they will be prepared to take bold action now. Exporters mentioned to the BOJ that they require a USD/JPY rate of 84 to be profitable. Today, this stands at 79, and this time, it is highly likely that the BOJ and G7 will take very bold action to intervene and ensure that the USD/JPY rate stays above 80. This is even though the real, trade weighted value of the yen is nowhere near its Kobe high – yen volatility, the lack of “currency wars” going on like how it was with the Chinese Yuan a few months back and the general consensus among the G7 that the Yen is “too strong” will make it likely that there will be intervention to hold the nominal Dollar/Yen exchange rate up.

2. Some might say that the crisis is likely to have a very large and negative wealth effect on the Japanese people and hence hurt asset values. The estimated cost of rebuilding is $200b while the insurable assets only add up to $35b. Also, Japan is in a horrible fiscal position – its national debt is 200% of GDP, double that of the USA. These, however, should not have a big impact on GDP growth or equity prices in the 1 year term. The small amount of insurance payouts may in fact limit appreciation of the Yen (at the benefit of exporters) and the BOJ has no qualms about extending large amounts of loans, asset repurchase agreements and in printing more money – they, after all, are facing a problem with deflation rather than inflation. Furthermore, reconstruction has been shown to actually be a boost to GDP, and along with monetary expansion, could very well be the spark for long-term rates to finally move higher.

3. One reason why the Nikkei fell so much the days after the quake was because of the large foreign institutional and retail investor portfolio capital inflows during the past 3 months. It was the best performer of all G8 markets for 2011 up till the quake! The crisis doesn’t change the long-term fundamental picture significantly. Japanese equities still have strong fundamentals and reasonable valuations, and this crisis, though having a large human impact, actually only puts a small dent in the Japanese economy – not even a half a percentage point of GDP. Furthermore, speaking of valuations, the Kobe quake occurred at a time where valuations where trailing P/Es were 40+! Today, they are just about 15.

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Here’s my Japan-Quake-positions based on the above analysis:-

Nikkei: Short for the short-term, Overweight Long for the long-term
JGBs: Short for the long-term
Yen: Long for the short-term, Short for the mid and long-term

N.B. By short-term I mean a week to a month and long-term 6 months to a year

Tiny Wings

I have been playing the much-raved iPhone game Tiny Wings, but it isn’t really interesting. One of the much-touted features is procedural graphics, which mean the terrain is generated on-the-fly (although it does not seem to be the case for me)

Gameplay is absolutely boring. Trust me. Basically, when one of the objectives call for 200 stars, you try to go slow and collect as many stars as possible before dusk sets in, never mind the schizophrenic pace.

Also, the replay value needs working on too. You will not relish having to ‘restart’ from Island One. Simply put, there is no ‘pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’, no incentive for people to continue playing.

I wouldn’t say 99 cents isn’t worth it; Tiny Wings is just the game you will be playing for 2 nights, then promptly relegate it to a folder.

Tiny Wing for iPhone = Boring

Army Daze

I am suddenly reminded amidst the frenzy of forex trading, of the looming A level results day, by the various Facebook wall posts. And 1 day after that, BMT!

It’s kinda funny how all the guys at DSO all tell me various ways to down PES, so that I can lead a carefree 2 years in some air-conditioned 9 to 5 workplace. One suggested me to declare that I have depression. You will get a record forever, but it’s worth it, he enthuses. Another suggests that girl to break my leg, a painful albeit direct route to OOT or Out-of-Training. And the most common of all, get a specialist appointment to coincide with 2 or 3 weeks after BMT, and ostensibly, the MOs will be so scared to diagnose you that they will temporarily down PES you. That same person who mooted that idea boasted that he was supposed to stay as a clerk for a few weeks, but due to admin oversights common at Mindef, he got to spend most of his time there. And when it was time for him to recourse, 2 months was left.

Which is a joke. Really.

And I’m still twiddling my thumbs in anticipation of A level results, never mind which COY I am destined to spend my BMT in.

Saudi King to buy Facebook to end revolt


In what is being termed as pure Wall Street Gordon Gecko tactics, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has decided to make an offer of $150 billion to buy out Facebook.

Inside sources within the kingdom suggest that the King is very upset with Mark Zuckerberg for allowing the revolt to get out of control, Ahlul Bayt News Agency reported.

In a personal meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and King Abdullah on Jan 25, 2011, Zuckerberg had promised that he would not allow any revolt pages to be formed on Facebook even while he allowed Egypt and Libya revolt pages to be formed.

Left with no option, Abdullah advised by Goldman Sachs has decided to buy out Facebook and “clean out the weeds”. The offer on the table is $150 billion, in line with an investment banking mandate from Goldman Sachs. The deal will be fully paid for in cash.

Most analysts believe that Zuckerberg will not take the offer and will wait for King Abdullah to up the offer to at least $300 billion.

In another development, minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Prince Mansour bin Miteb said the government is striving to make affordable housing plots available for citizens.

“The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has allocated 130 plots for the General Housing Authority,” said Prince Mansour, adding that the task of making land cheaper needs the efforts of many government departments.

The prince said the housing authority, which has many plots of land left over from older allocations, will strive to provide houses to as many citizens as possible in all provinces. He added that a few housing projects were implemented in an unscientific manner and had to be redesigned.

Are You Considering iPage/Fatcow/EIG?

Wow.

After a hiatus of 1 month, my blog is finally back up. My previous webhost was really a fuckass (I remember a certain Josh B. from iPage) and deleted several folders containing my blog, my blog BACKUPS and my search engine. What the hell.

I was stranded without any backups on hand cos 1) the hosting services at iPage, FatCow, and all the Endurance International Group (EIG) hosts suck like hell. You won’t be able to send automated backups using php_mail as they limit the size to 1 MB. Heck, even my database is 10MB.  2) their php_timeout is 30 seconds. How am I supposed to zip up everything in 30 seconds.

Of course, here are more complaints about my experiences at iPage, FatCow and EIG. 3) You have to use their rudimentary Archive Gateway. Heck, even everything about their control panel is primitive. 4) Their servers are severely oversold. Right now, I am hosted on budget servers from 3ix and MinMax Group. $1 a month. Right. I paid $4 a month for that iPage plan. Since that switch, my server response times according to Pingdom has dropped from 5000ms+++ (that’s 5 seconds if you are grappling with the milli- terminology) to 500 ms. Freaking. Awesome. 5) Their MySQL servers are awfully slow and unreliable. They are down a few times a day, just so you know.

The sole redemption is their laissez-flair policy when it comes to server resources like CPU clock cycles. If you want to pound their servers, chalk up 120MB of RAM (my WordPress did it once), you’re welcome to do so.

Other than that, stay away from iPage and its ilk. Save yourself the trouble. Looks cheap but damn shit.

And I’m Back!

My blog went down in early February due to my host being such a prick and deleting all my files. And before you dare tell me if I had backups, I don’t. xD

Okay, I have my database backup file. But all the uploads I have made for the past few years are gone. Yuck. I’m have uploaded my previous blog over here, but with the lack of pictures, I think it’s such a bore. And no music when you go to the Jukebox section. 🙁

Aye, this incident reminds me of the importance of having backups. But lol who cares when money is not involved?

Anyway, NS is coming up soon so people who want the goodies to be uploaded have to wait hohoho. I still have backups. And I still have an innate disliking when I see the words Seng City Trading.