Author Archive

Open Letter to Those Who Would Write For Us

We get countless solicitations from hungry young pups who want to write for us. In the past we have replied one off, but the volume has grown so huge of late that we are posting this open letter to all those who would write for us in a post we have creatively titled “Open Letter to Those Who Would Write For Us.”

Dear Sir(s)/Madame(s)/Cephalopod,

Thanks for your correspondence. We started this site when we were young and only had 20-50 years of investment experience each. We were all at that stage in one’s career when one isn’t too jaded and still has a sense of humor. That stage when one makes a humble eight figures and hasn’t grown too full of oneself — when one can still laugh at oneself while detesting everyone richer and poorer than one. More importantly, we were at that stage when one can still generate abstract financial investments ideas that produce strong inflation-adjusted (key in this era of Quantitative Easy) fake returns.

The entire LoS staff barrels towards that dreaded 50 years of investment experience mark as we type this up. It’s only a matter of time before we read Rick Reilly unironically — we shudder at the thought. As is we still manage to write at a breakneck “almost yearly” tempo. That kind of posting cadence won’t always be possible for us, so your timing in emailing us is…timely. And your taste in sites for which to write is impeccable. Let’s take a sentence here and celebrate you. But we don’t know how funnily you can write. There are 2 ways to prove yourself:

  1. Pay us money. Nothing is funnier than money and everyone knows we have a great sense of humor. An expensively acquired sense of humor if you know what I mean. I think you do. Think of a sum. Then triple it. Then pay us that sum. If this option seems right for you, let us know and we will provide you the appropriate Dogecoin instructions. For advanced bribers, remit the appropriate sums to our Dogecoin address: DPCxKFnmJ86jCciLbnrCBmrgnsWdqcE1qe.
  2. Pass our elite examination. This costs only your soul. What we typically do is have an exercise where we give the writer (that’s you!) 3 things that they have to turn into an abstract financial recommendation. Representative example drawn from past exercise: Syrian chemical weapons, the SEC, and Comic-Con. Good luck. Don’t break 600 words! We then evaluate your submission. If it’s good enough, we refer you back to 1) because we are capitalists and desperately want more money and now that you’re hooked on this whole “getting in” exercise, we likely can soak you for a few more shekels.

If you succeed with either 1) or 2), we can celebrate with a drink. A drink you buy for all of us.

Cheers,
Mr. Juggles
longorshortcapital.com

p.s.

How tall are you? And what’s your vertical leap? We have an intraoffice volleyball league; captains of the various teams will want to know your stats for scouting purposes.


Quotes Entirely Relevant to Investing 04/29/2012: May Day

My own country is hopeless. It was almost better under the czars. At least the czar didn’t have to strain his empty head over a lot of theory. Lenin took whatever he could understand of Marx’s theory and used it to his own advantage, and Stalin took whatever he could understand of Lenin’s theory (which wasn’t much) and used it to his own advantage. The narrower a man’s intellectual grasp, the more power he is able to grab in this country.
-Boris from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Past Quotes Entirely Relevant to Investing


Short Structural, Long Cyclical

Time is tough. People struggle to understand it. We can make sense of what’s happening now, can kind of remember what happened in the recent past, and can’t fathom the long-term. All of this is probably because of Twitter or because people no longer write each other long, boring letters like they did during the Civil War or ancient Greece or whenever. For whatever reasons, our attention spans are not only short, but also narrow, able to understand history only as if looking at it through a roll of paper towels.

It is increasingly apparent that everyone — investors, politicians, businessmen, consumers, etc. — have mistaken cyclical trends to be structural in many different areas. We are now at a crescendo as the long arc of history turns and heads back down in the other direction. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of people for whom the short term (the last 1 year, the last 3 years, the last 10 years, the last 30 years, depending on context) is the only relevant term. This is most everyone. It’s a rather large opportunity.

Some facts:

  • Global interest rates are not in secular decline. They have been in a 30yr cyclical decline and the 30yr reversal is now in process.
  • China is not locked in a structural vendor financing agreement with the US & EU. They are ending a long, cyclical run with an under-priced currency.
  • Europe’s imbalances are not the result of a structurally strong, responsible Germany and spendthrift periphery. They are the result of a cyclical trade imbalance due to domestic policies that increased German exports and savings rates while the inverse was true in Span, Greece, etc. The swing is coming back the other way now.
  • Keynesian intervention was not a structural improvement in the operation of the modern fiscal and monetary apparatus. It was a cyclical increase in leverage, starting from a time of low leverage and great demographics. Prepare for the payback.

To quote myself from The Model Business Model: “What is that expression? How does it go? Shit’s way different at this point in history, dude?” Maybe, just maybe, it’s not so different. Maybe we’re just lacking the benefit of the full context.

Recommendation: Short the so-called structural trends. Get long the true, underlying cycle.


The Model Business Model

Notwithstanding its conservative investment portfolio, the central bank remains highly profitable because of its unique business model. Rather than paying for funding, it simply creates the money that it needs at no cost. The return on its investments, as a result, almost all flows directly to the bottom line.
-NY Times

So simple and so beautiful. What kind of genius entrepreneur would invent such a perfect business model? “Economist” John Law of the 17th and 18th centuries. Not only did he invent the perfect business model, but he also made significant advances in the business of Bubbles. How did his business model innovation turn out? Like most incredibly brilliant men who come up with bold ideas too early, John Law “ultimately fled the country disguised as a woman for his own safety.” 10 years later, Law “contracted pneumonia and died a poor man.” This is all according to Wikipedia, which, according to Wikipedia, is the source for the unvarnished and unbiased truth.

In the twenty-teens, our central bankers are much more advanced, more ethical, and more American. Importantly, they also look way less good in drag and wouldn’t “pass”. There should be no way this ends as badly as all the other times this has been done. What is that expression? How does it go? Shit’s way different at this point in history, dude.

Recommendation: Long the best business model, short all inferior business models, as the former will compete away the latter.

HT to the Paleofish


A Rebuke, Literally in Public

From Georgetown’s own, “Elizabeth,” in the comment thread for Pomegranate Capital Thinks Women Can Run Money Better, Is Wrong:

This is quite literally the most ridiculous article and comment thread I have ever read. Are you men really so afraid of a little competition that you have to kill it before it becomes a serious threat? I suggest that you spend less time bashing women and more time getting an education and getting out of your tiny elitist and anti-female bubbles. I am so embarrassed for your gender reading these comments…

My reply:

You are LITERALLY the most ridiculous poster in that entire thread, Eliza. Literally! As successful men, we are always “killing it.” So your implied suggestion — let’s call it what it is, Beth, a rebuke — that we NOT “kill it” is offensive. Literally offensive. But the embarrassment you, Lizzie, feel for our gender (I usually fill out all Government forms that ask for my “Sex” as “Yes,” just to make it harder for the Government to know what my gender is. But I digress, I LITERALLY digress) is nothing compared to the embarrassment that we feel for not only your gender, but for your Common App safety school, and for your parents, and for that time you read A Modest Proposal and thought “Gee this Dr. Swift guy is practically the antichrist, how does he think can solve poverty and the ills of the underclass by eating their babies, I am so embarrassed for his gender, profession, language, countrymen, yadda yadda, et alia and cetera.”

LITERALLY,
Mr. Juggles

PS Chin up, the world needs coffee-makers, too. Human ones. With skirts.

PPS But it wouldn’t hurt to learn to type.


Never Trust A Mullet

Recommendation: Do not own stock of, or hold prime brokerage balances at, companies run by mullet-toting executives.


Things Are Too F**king Complicated

Sept 29th’s FT contains two alarming articles. Martin Wolf calls for the EU to get the printing presses running because everything else has failed. We respect Mr. Wolf as one of the only three journalists in the world today who thinks for himself and does not have his head wedged up his ass. We respect his idea as well. He may be wrong but his idea is simple, to the point, and he admits it’s desperation (he calls it “the unthinkable”).

In the second article, George Soros explains how to prevent a “Second Great Depression.” Mr. Soros is an investing genius and a very smart man. Perhaps too smart. Because I have no f**king idea what he is talking about.

“This is how it would work. Since a eurozone treaty establishing a common treasury would take a long time to conclude, in the interim the member states have to appeal to the ECB to fill the vacuum….

It would require a newly created intergovernmental agency to enable the EFSF to cooperate with Europe’s central bank. This would have to be authorised by Germany’s Bundestag and perhaps by the legislatures of other states as well….

The EFSF would be used primarily to guarantee and recapitalise banks. The systemically important banks would have to sign an undertaking with the EFSF that they would abide by the instructions of the ECB as long as the guarantees were in force. Banks that refused to sign would not be guaranteed. Europe’s central bank would then instruct the banks to maintain their credit lines and loan portfolios while closely monitoring the risks they run for their own account…

To relieve the pressure on the government bonds of countries such as Italy, the ECB would lower its discount rate. It would then encourage the countries concerned to finance themselves entirely by issuing treasury bills and encourage the banks to buy the bills. The banks could rediscount the bills with the ECB but they would not do so as long as they earned more on the bills than on the cash.”

Ok, so I skipped a bunch of parts but WTF George? What are you talking about? I read this article excited to learn the solution to our woes but now I just need a stiff drink. I have literally no idea what he is talking about.

Neither do the regulators. Unfortunately, that will not stop them from implementing some inferior version of his plan. After all, they love complicated stop-gap measures that buy them a few more days/weeks/months and pass the buck to the next unlucky legislator.

As a society, we have outsmarted ourselves. Things are too complicated. No one — not George Soros, not The Bernank, not The Maestro — can understand how all the pieces fit together and where all the unintended consequences will pop up. And yet we add more towers to our castle built on sand.

Recommendation: Initiate a complication index spread trade. Get long short-term complication and confusion while shorting the out-year complication basket. Things are going to simplify, one way or the other.


Translating Corporate Speak: Wynn [Unforeseen Upside Edition #5]

Steve Wynn used to discuss business trends on his quarterly conference calls. No longer necessary now that the Macau business generates almost a billion dollars of revenue and over $300mm of EBITDA per quarter. Instead, he is free to opine on the macro and political situation. It’s still the most entertaining call of the quarter even though it is sad when he no longer feels the need to mock investors and competitors. But at least he’s calling Jeff Immelt a Judas. Someone had to.

Wynn on Obama:

Well, here’s our problem. There are a host of opportunities for expansion in Las Vegas, a host of opportunities to create tens of thousands of jobs in Las Vegas. I know that I could do 10,000 more myself, and according to the Chamber of Commerce and the visitors and convention bureau, if we hired 10,000 employees, it would create another 20,000 additional jobs for a grand total of 30,000.
I believe in Las Vegas, I think its best days are ahead of it, but I’m afraid to do anything in the current political environment in the United States. You watch television and see what’s going on on this this debt ceiling issue, and what I consider to be a total lack of leadership from the President, and nothing is going to get fixed until the President himself steps up and wrangles both parties in Congress.

But everybody is so political, so focused on holding their job for the next year that the discussion in Washington is nauseating. And I’m saying it bluntly that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business and progress and job creation in my lifetime. (our emphasis) And I can prove it and I could spend the next three hours giving you examples of all of us in this marketplace that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our health care costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right, a President that seems, you know – that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they’re frightened of this administration.

And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America. You bet. And until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it’s not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it, are going to sit in fear of the President. And you know, a lot of people don’t want to say that. They say “oh, God, don’t be attacking Obama.” Well, this is Obama’s deal. And it’s Obama that’s responsible for this fear in America. The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution, and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don’t invest, they’re holding too much money.

You know, we haven’t heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists. Everybody is afraid of the government. And there’s no need – there’s no need, you know, soft pedaling it. It’s the truth. It is the truth. And that’s true of Democratic businessmen and Republican businessmen, and I am a Democratic businessman and a – I support Harry Reid, I support Democrats and Republicans, and I’m telling you that the business community in this country is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he’s gone, everybody is going to be sitting on their thumbs.

Wynn on taxation on capital abroad:

If the government – if the administration in Washington isn’t frightening the dickens out of those of us who create jobs and build buildings and make lives for their employees, they’re attacking China where in the case of my company, the vitality of capital to improve Las Vegas has come from.

You know, it’s the double whammy. American companies that have ventured abroad to broaden their markets are bringing money – have reinvested much of that in America. And so the rhetoric about offshore capital, there would be a lot more of it brought back here if the government did intelligent and encouraging things to bring capital back. But this is a very business, job creating unfriendly administration and that’s the plain truth of it. And so you know, you want to build condominiums? Why? You want to protect yourself in this environment. Everybody is in a defensive crouch, except for Jeff Immelt, who is sort of a Judas goat. (emphasis ours)

Wynn on TSA:

Coming to the United States is tougher than going almost anywhere else in the world. Homeland Security has, you know, we seem to have been safe more or less but so much of it is excessive and irrational, you know, like patting down babies and old ladies and stuff like that. But it is very difficult – it’s more difficult today to get to the United States for people who have been coming here for years, for decades.

Our customers that are big businessmen that have been coming to America for 10, 15, 20 years, are asking us for help to relieve the bureaucratic congestion of government overregulation in this area. We’ve talked to Homeland Security. They’re aware of the problem. So is Customs and Immigration and the State Department. And you know, when we talk to any given individual in those organizations, in those bureaucracies, they’re very sympathetic. And they know the truth of the complaint.

And they know the truth of the fact that these things are very often excessive and unnecessary. But yet there seems to be a tremendous amount of inertia to move government in America, whether it’s the deficit management and coming to some kind of logical conclusion before August 2 or whatever it is, or whether it’s getting visas. Everybody has a clear understanding of the problem, but when it comes to our government it seems to be getting more and more sclerotic, more and more inflexible. By its own device, it keeps growing and growing and getting more and more onerous, more and more sluggish in its responses to real problems, and sluggish in its ability to take advantage of real opportunity. And it’s frustrating for me because I got a front row seat.

Update: While Wynn failed to mock investors or competitors, we were remiss not to include his mocking of some (past) customers.

We did not lower our rates like some of our competitors did. We’ve come to the conclusion here, incidentally, I’d like to add this parenthetically, having tried this before and failed, we don’t want to make the mistake again. This place is not set for price cutting. We lower the price, we can fill the rooms in an instant because they’re such fancy rooms. But we get people that carry their beer in from 7-Eleven, move their own bags, and don’t eat in our fine dining. We can’t use them. This is not a place for folks that have that kind of economy mentality. (our emphasis) This is a place for people who expect superior service, higher quality food, beverage and everything else.


You Cannot Escape Doom

One of the other two writer/PMs signed up Mister Juggles’ email for something called “Roubini Global Economics” (ed note: we will not be linking any of the mentioned material for reasons that will be made clear, bear with us). “They” made a huge mistake. At the time it seemed innocuous enough – “hey this guy sometimes has some insights, just like sometimes that dead clock over there tells me what time it is.” Roubini Global Economics is an attempt to parlay the Dr. Doom schtick into serious global economic monitoring with a Doom bias. Fine, knock yourself out buddy. Nouriel Roubini’s role in the project is as “Chairman,” and all of Latveria rejoices in his genius. Sample headlines include: “Meltdown, Anyone?” (Mar’08), “Are Commodity Prices Getting Ahead of Fundamentals?” and “Green Shoots or Yellow Weeds” (May’09). But there were too many emails, too much self-promotion, and too much repetition. I can only take so much information and so much email before I just tune it all out. I unsubscribed two years ago. Simple enough, really.

Except that I didn’t stop getting various RGE emails. No, no, no, into my inbox, Roubini still snuck. Email types received include: “The RGE MONITOR,” “The RGE Content Weekly Roundup,” “Welcome to the New EconoMonitor,” “New and Improved RGE Newsletters,” “From Nouriel’s Blackberry,” and “From the Desk of Nouriel Roubini.” I unsubscribed over and over and over and Nouriel did not go away. And he was a goddamned sneak about it, too. Like, for a couple weeks, I’d be in the clear and think: “Finally, this unsubscription took! I’m a-OK and Roubini free!” Then boom I’d get an email like: “From Nouriel’s Blackberry: Greek Contagion Risks – Much Ado About Relatively Little”; Roubini’s way of saying: “I’m not done with you yet, I’m economic hepatitis.”

And like in my lifetime fight against hepatitis, I roared and I raged. The whole thing gave me pause. What does it mean that since 2008 I have been unable to unsubscribe from Nouriel Roubini’s bearish soothsaying? Maybe it’s not the RGE that is unsubscribeable at all. Maybe, just maybe, what is really unsubscribeable is doom. You, one, me, we, WE cannot unsubscribe from doom.

Recommendation: You cannot escape doom.


Quotes Entirely Relevant to Investing 6-26-2011

Any approach to scientific inference which seeks to legitimise an answer in response to complex uncertainty is, for me, a totalitarian parody of a would-be rational learning process.
-Sir Adrian Frederick Melhuish Smith

Past Quotes Entirely Relevant to Investing


Announcing the CPI-F (flat)

The WSJ’s Heard on the Street column is generally pretty good. So the title of a recent entry, “Housing Bubble Continues to Haunt Fed“, made me interested to hear adults talk about the current stagnancy in real estate and how the hangover from the bubble still lingers. But I didn’t hear any of that malarkey. Instead, I learned that people are debating whether housing plays too big a role in the CPI; specifically, the “problem” is that the housing portion of the CPI is exerting upward pressure on the overall number. Y’know because consumers typically live somewhere and pay for that privilege.

“OER [editor's note: "owners' equivalent rent"] is expected to jump to 1.2% year-on-year in December from 0.6% in February, despite a sluggish housing market.”

1.2%!! This is getting serious.

So what should we do?

“Some suggest alternative inflation measures.”

Oh ok. Well, what are “some” proposing?

“A ‘supercore’ alternative excludes not just food and energy but shelter, too, to gauge underlying trends.

There is great opportunity for the Govt to reduce CPI by excluding more items. In fact, this looks eerily reminiscent of another highly successful endeavor in metrics improvement: LoS’s change from GAAP to SAAP (Seldom Accepted Accounting Principles). By changing our standard, we could change our metrics, and by changing our metrics from EBITDA to EBE (Earnings before Everything aka “supercore earnings”), we greatly improved our profitability.

As visionaries in the SAAP space and masters in specious metrics, LoS would like to be included in the “some” who are suggesting alternatives ways to measure CPI. Considering that the evolved goal of the CPI is to show a slight and consistent level of inflation, we propose that the CPI no longer include any components that are increasing in price level more than 1.5%. These items will be increasing as a percentage of the index, thus throwing off its accuracy. Similarly, items that are increasing in price level less than 1.5% or even decreasing should also be excluded since a) we are not interested in deflation and b) the accuracy of the model depends on items maintaining a consistent (rather than falling) proportion of the total index. It’s important to note that any price changes greater or less than 1.5% could skew the whole thing we are trying to measure and render the CPI not just unreliable, but practically useless.

This new CPI, CPI-F (flat), will provide data on all changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services whose prices demonstrated a slight and consistent level of inflation. We expect it to have the most consistent and consistently low inflation readings of all the CPI measures. Its current reading is 1.5%. In the future, the monthly CPI-F level will be reported on the 5th of the following month, unless there is no change to the index, in which case you can continue to use the prior month’s reading. Here is a pro forma chart that demonstrates what inflation would look like as measured by CPI-F since 1900.


This Week in Tweets for 2010-05-15


This Week in Tweets for 2010-04-10

  • It's disappointing that 20% of americans are unemployed and Joe Morgan is not one of them. #

Translating Corporate Speak: Wynn [Unforeseen Upside Edition #4]

Steve Wynn continues to host the most interesting quarterly conference call in corporate America. Suffice it to say, he has an opinion that he’s willing to share. [The bold is all our emphasis.]

Steve on Wynn’s geographic mix:

Listen, we’re more of a Chinese company than American company today as we’re having this call. I love it. Thank God for being outside the United States today. There isn’t an executive in the world that isn’t thrilled about being outside the United States today. What are we supposed to do, draw great hope and satisfaction from the behavior of the senate and the house of representatives? If that isn’t enough to give you heartburn, I don’t know what it is.

Steve on the political process:

I don’t think anybody in America is arguing. There’s a furious-ness in the country about the irresponsibility. $100 million a month we’re supposed to borrow? $100 billion a month we’re supposed to borrow for the next five or six years? Why, it’s totally unsustainable. It’s lunacy. I remember the nexus to Tocqueville, I think it was around 1909, the great political philosopher from France wrote, “The American system of democracy will thrive until that moment when the politicians discover they can bribe the electorate with their own money”. And those (expletive) fools have done it.

Steve on the administration’s impact on Las Vegas and the hospitality industry:

If you’re talking about strictly convention bookings, you can say that 2010 is better than ’09. And you can say you see trend of increased bookings. It is totally irresponsible and naive to say based upon this life trend, we project this infinitely into the future and give you some rosy baloney story about what’s going to happen in 20’11. I am warning my investors that may be on the call, to the extent that you hear any of that from our competitors, beware. There are more questions afoot in this market, in America, that will impact 2011 that I have hair on my head, I’m happy to say, and I still have a full head of hair. No, you will not get any of that us. I don’t see it. I have more questions that answers, I have more pessimism that I had before, and it’s based upon the political environment in which we are living today. And it definitely is impacting Las Vegas.

The President of the United States hasn’t missed one single opportunity to squelch Las Vegas. In our particular case, it’s cost us millions of dollars from companies affected by the President’s remarks that have no connection whatsoever to federal bailouts. But we get phone calls, and I’m not going to mention the names of the companies, from chairman who say we don’t want to appear to be profligate because Barack Obama said this or that about Las Vegas. But it’s had an effect on us. The hospitality industry in the United States of America as a whole has suffered disproportionately during this recession. Maybe automobile workers got a break.

But all of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people that work in hotels, restaurants and bars in the United States of America have been totally and completely overlooked in this aborted rescue attempt that has squandered billions of dollars in the United States.

Steve on the state of taxation and the US dollar:

It is preposterous that businesses are under attack in the United States of America. Anybody that makes over $250,000 in the form of a personal income tax return is now, by Washington definition, a rich person, when everybody who has got a college degree knows that the personal income tax rate in the United States of America is the business tax of America. Every sub-chapter S, every individual proprietorship and every partnership in the United States of America files tax returns as individuals. And when they do, and they show that they made $2 million or $3 million or God forbid $4 million, they pay the income tax rate, they deduct their working expenses, their living expenses, and then they invest in a new store, a new shop, and most of the time, 25% of their “profits” are tied up in accounts receivable or inventory.

But all of a sudden, all of those people who make over $250,000 are rich folks to be fleeced. And if that’s job formation stimulation in America, I’m Mary Poppins. And if I sound angry about it and disgusted, I am disgusted and angry at the apparent ignorance of the administration and the congress to recognize the fact that the individual tax rate in the United States of America is, in fact, the business tax of America. And if you keep banging on that, you will you destroy the incentive for job formation in the United States of America. And that’s simple truth. Simple truth. And whether politicians like it or don’t like it means nothing to me.

And that’s why I’m pessimistic about Las Vegas, because those are our customers! Those people out there hustling their businesses and God forbid, showing they made a million dollars as partnership or as an individual, yes, they’re the enemy now, they’re the rich folks. Well, until we get over this, America is in for hard times. Because what’s going to happen is, the people that are going to suffer from what’s going on are the working class of America. My 15 to 20,000 employees, they’re the ones that are in trouble. The reason they’re in trouble is this demolition of the dollar is going to reduce the buying power of the working class of America assure as (expletive) as if we gave them a salary cut of 25%.

Steve honestly assessing a bad decision to build the Encore casino in Las Vegas:

Good question. No, it’s not what I thought it would be. I thought that it would add at least $200 million or $250 million of EBITDA to our bottom line, and nothing remotely like that has happened. Of course, it was conceived in a market that was entirely different today, as you’ve just pointed out. It is a beautiful thing that cost $2.3 billion…Or would we just be better off because we would have had $2.3 billion in cash more than we do now?
…So would I build Encore if I had to do it today? No, I’d keep my money. Fortunately we had enough money that we don’t sweat it…


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