Logos LP commentary for the month of May 2020, discussing online sports betting operators GameAccount Network (LON:GAN) and Draftkings Inc (NASDAQ:DKNG).
Q1 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more
Stocks rose on Friday even after the ugliest monthly jobs report EVER as investors bet the worst of the coronavirus and its impact on the economy has passed.
The Labor Department said a record 20.5 million jobs were lost last month, adding that the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7% from 4.4% levels unseen since the Great Depression. Both the spike in job losses and the unemployment-rate surge are post-World War II records.
To be sure, neither print was as bad as feared. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a loss of 21.5 million jobs and an unemployment rate of 16%.
This week also saw bankruptcies continue to pile up with Neiman Marcus filing days after J. Crew threw in the towel, and J.C. Penny is likely to follow suit next week.
On the other hand, stock indexes have rallied aggressively off their March lows as investors bet on an eventual reopening of the economy and that many tech companies would see solid revenue even through the shutdowns.
The S&P 500 has bounced more than 30% from its virus low and is just 13.6% away from its record high. The Nasdaq Composite is more than 35% off its lows and is now up 1.6% for 2020. Gains from Facebook, Amazon Alphabet and Apple helped lift the index back into positive territory for 2020. At one point, the Nasdaq was down more than 25% year to date.
Why are the major indexes rising in the face of historic job losses?
Many investors (and the public at large) continue to doubt this rally and believe that the stock market has become decoupled from reality. They claim that everything is “fake” and that a great reckoning is coming. With every tick higher on the indexes, they retort that “it is still early”.
From 2009 on this has been and continues to be “The most hated bull market of all time.” In our view, the bearishness going on right now is nothing new.
AAII's weekly investor sentiment survey this week showed only 23.6% of respondents reporting as bullish. That marks the lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic began and the lowest reading since October of last year (20.31%).
Meanwhile, for the fifth time in the past nine weeks, the bearish sentiment came in above 50%. Bearish sentiment this week rose to 52.6% from 44%. That marks the highest level for bearish sentiment of not only 2020, but that is the highest level since April of 2013 and in the 98th percentile of all readings since the beginning of the survey in 1987.
The survey's historical bullish average is 38% and bearish average is 30.5%.
As for the majority of the world’s wealthiest investors, they are waiting for stocks to drop further before buying again, on concerns about the pandemic’s impact on the global economy, according to a poll by UBS Global Wealth Management.
Among the surveyed investors and business owners with at least US$1 million in investable assets or in annual revenue, 61 per cent want to see equities fall another five per cent to 20 per cent before buying, while 23 per cent say it’s already a good time to do so. Some 16 per cent say that now is not the time to load up on stocks as it’s a bear market.
Sir John Templeton has said, “Bull markets are born on pessimism, grown on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die on euphoria.” We have spent most of the past 10 years dealing with investor pessimism or, at best, skepticism.
Today is no different. The market is not nearly as optimistic as the bears would have us believe and in fact appears to reflect the prevailing pessimism outlined above. As such, the recent rally appears quite logical.
Ensemble capital has smartly pointed out that:
"The most important thing to keep in mind is that S&P 500 is often referred to as “the market,” but of course the S&P 500 is essentially the 500 largest companies in the US, which, especially during this crisis, are not indicative of the economy as a whole.
And the largest 25 companies make up nearly 40% of the S&P 500. Here is a list of those companies: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Berkshire Hathaway, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, Intel, Verizon, JP Morgan, Amazon, United Health, Pfizer, Bristol Myers, Merck, AbbVie, Bank of America, Proctor & Gamble, Cisco, Comcast, Visa, Home Depot, IBM, CVS, Amgen.
Now whatever you think about those companies, most all investors would agree that they are far, far more likely to survive this crisis than the average company. And, in fact, with so many smaller companies struggling it seems very likely that many of these large companies will thrive in a post-Coronavirus world in which their competition has been dealt a huge setback.
So looked at this way, the fact that the S&P 500 is only down 16% from its highs does not suggest that the market thinks the economy will be OK, but rather that the largest companies in the world will see their way though, and as demand returns they will face much less competition.”
Josh Brown has also remarked an important principle about markets:
"The major stock market averages don’t necessarily have to resemble the conditions on the ground where you live. They don’t have to be representative of Main Street in Anytown, USA. And they don’t have to match up in a linear fashion with any of the data you and I are seeing from one day to the next.”
When you hear the negative headlines about the shutdowns of department stores, leisure, home furnishings, casinos, auto manufacturers, hotels, and homebuilders, remember that they make up about 1% of the S&P 500. So while these represent a big part of our daily lives, they are a tiny portion of the S&P 500. Perception is not reality.
Instead, if you look at what has been leading the market higher it is most certainly not those industries and businesses outlined above most hit by the pandemic induced shut down. Economically sensitive stocks continue to languish, in addition to firms with weaker balance sheets as well as smaller companies composing the Russell 2000 which is still down around 20% YTD.
If investors were “foolishly optimistic” there is a high probability that these stocks would have participated more in the rally.
Instead, the Nasdaq is positive for the year though roughly 75% of the stocks in the index are down in 2020. But the Nasdaq, like the S&P 500, is weighted by market capitalization, and larger companies count for more.
These days, the top 10 stocks, which include tech behemoths Apple (AAPL), Amazon.com (AMZN), and Microsoft (MSFT), account for about 44% of all the value in the 2,700-stock index.
But this is no dot-com Nasdaq. The group of tech giants that dominate the index are quite different from those of the past. For starters, many companies in the tech sector today are money printing machines growing top line revenue at double digits with remarkable consistency.
Big tech and select smaller enterprise B2B tech (subscriptions, e-commerce, business infrastructure) also looks less economically sensitive than energy and industrial firms that were market giants long ago. A rising tide has not lifted all boats.
Is the rally so illogical in light of the above? We think not. The market is simply showing us how the economy has changed and what a post-pandemic economy may look like.
Nevertheless, we believe that March was the time to buy in drag as these post-pandemic economy “winners” are becoming a crowded “flight to safety” trade. If the assumptions about the path of Covid-19 and the trajectory of the economy’s rebound prove to be wrong, chasing these winners today could prove costly in the short to medium term.
Finally, it is important to be aware of historical precedent. Recessions typically follow bear markets making the disconnect between markets and the real economy quite common. Scott Clemons notes that in the last recession in the USA "the labor market didn't start to show signs of improvement until the end of 2009, at which point the market was already up 44%."
Stock prices encompass the news of today with sentiment about the future and thus the worst may be over for the major indexes (for now) while the pain in the real economy may last a while longer.
Stock Ideas: Online Sports Betting Stocks
We rarely buy IPOs but any IPO listing during a depression/recession should be considered as the decision to list suggests significant buyer demand and thus potentially attractive business models. Two such opportunities of interest have presented themselves of late.
Gan PLC (GAN): Gan provides a SaaS solution to US casinos and online sports betting operations, which is currently a greenfield space as the US is only starting to open up to online sports betting and iGaming nationally. Their end-to-end solution is focused on everything from account management to payment processing to setting up betting lines. The company is growing at a pretty rapid clip (+145% YoY revenue growth in 2019) and has a high single digit take rate on every dollar won by casino operators. Gross margins are around 64% and we expect this to shoot up as revenue starts to materially increase into 2025. It is really one of the only providers in software and development services, and also has a US patent for their US casino management platform.
Draftkings (DKNGW): One of the largest US operators in online sports betting and owner of SBTech which is a B2B online betting platform is still in early days with a huge TAM (over $20bn for online sports book in the US alone). Disney recently bought a 6% stake in the company (presumably to position iGaming with ESPN in some capacity). Company is trading at around 3.4x EV/Estimated 2021 revenues which is less than internet consumer companies with less growth and smaller TAMs. Interestingly, SBTech and Gan have already made a strategic partnership once US states start legalizing online sports betting en masse. We expect 30%+ revenue growth and roughly 30% contribution margin at least into 2025 as it continues to lead in market share in the US (currently owns 35% market share of online sports bookmaking in New Jersey).
Was putting together a list of “Market Crash” Investing Rules inspired by March’s turbulent markets and came across a timeless list from 1990 Marty Zweig:
- The trend is your friend, don’t fight the tape.
- Let profits run, take losses quickly.
- If you buy for a reason, and that reason if discounted or is no longer valid, then sell.
- If the values don’t make sense, then don’t participate.
- The cheap get cheaper, the dear get dearer.
- Don’t fight the FED (less valid than #1)
- Every indicator eventually bites the dust.
- Adapt to change.
- Don’t let your opinions of what should happen, bias your trading strategy.
- And don’t blame your mistakes on the market.
- Don’t play all the time.
- The market is not efficient, but is still tough to beat.
- You’ll never know all the answers.
- If you can’t sleep at night, reduce your positions or get out.
- Don’t put too much faith in “experts”.
- Don’t focus too much energy on short-term information flows.
- Beware of “New Era” thinking ie. it’s different this time because…
We couldn’t have put it better. Those wild evenings and mornings when futures were limit up / limit down seem to be a distant memory now, yet having emerged on what we hope to be the other side, we stress the importance of having a clear long term investment strategy. This will provide a framework to stick to as you adapt to what Mr. Market offers during turbulent times Decisive action becomes easier and the probability of making a mistake is reduced.
Charts of the Month
Where is the pain?
Consumer borrowing plummeting
How is Covid-19 consumer spending impacting industries?
A history of Black Swan events.
Thought of the Month
"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” -Winston Churchill
Articles and Ideas of Interest
Is Warren Buffett a bear? The legendary Buffett has been eerily silent during the selloff. No acquisitions, liquidating his holdings in the four major airlines and no additions to any positions. A net seller. In short, there was no greed while others were fearful. What to make of this? Some suggest that Buffett has been spending too much time with Bill Gates, others like Josh Brown suggest that the world has changed and the Oracle may no longer be the same. Either way, Buffett may end up having the last laugh yet investors should be cautious when attempting to look to Buffett for guidance on their portfolios. Buffett sits at the head of a massive conglomerate composed mainly of old economy businesses which have their own issues and problems. Using commentary from him and extrapolating that into an investment strategy or some sort of a “warning” is perilous.
Social Security and Medicare funds at risk even before virus. The financial condition of the government’s two biggest benefit programs remains shaky, with Medicare expected to become insolvent in just six years, while Social Security will be unable to pay full benefits starting in 2035, the government said Wednesday. And that’s before factoring what officials acknowledge will be a substantial hit to both programs from the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down large parts of the U.S. economy and put millions of people out of work.
Why Sweden has already won the debate on COVID 'Lockdown' policy. As Europe and North America continue suffering their steady economic and social decline as a direct result of imposing ‘lockdown’ on their populations, other countries have taken a different approach to dealing with the coronavirus threat. You wouldn’t know it by listening to western politicians or mainstream media stenographers, there are also non-lockdown countries. They are led by Sweden, Iceland, Belarus, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Surprisingly to some, their results have been as good or better than the lockdown countries, but without having to endure the socio-economic chaos we are now witnessing across the world. Patrick Henningsen suggests that for this reason alone, Sweden and others like them, have already won the policy debate, as well as the scientific one too.
What the coronavirus crisis reveals about American medicine. Medicine is a system for delivering care and support; it’s also a system of information, quality control, and lab science. All need fixing. Given the resolve and the resources the New Yorker suggests that, much is within the U.S.A’s grasp: a supply chain with adequate, accordioning capacity; a C.D.C. that can launch pandemic surveillance within days, not months; research priorities that don’t erase recent history; an F.D.A. that serves as a checkpoint but not as a roadblock; a digital system of medical records that provides an aperture to real-time, practice-guiding information.
How much should it cost to contain a pandemic? Interesting piece in the Financial Times suggesting that assigning an economic value to a life is taboo - but we must confront the trade-offs to properly face the challenge. What if pandemics occur more frequently? Will a full out economic shut down be feasible each time? Are rolling shut downs possible?
From pipe dream to prospect: the pandemic is making a case for a universal basic income. Before the pandemic hit, the idea of a universal basic income was fringe policy in much of the developed world. But now that the economy is on life support and both Americans and Canadians are being paid to stay away from work, the idea is looking more like common sense to many.
The lockdowns were the black swan. Great article in the WSJ considering how and why we went from ‘flatten the curve’ to choosing between our economy and the virus.
The harsh future of American cities. How will the pandemic alter our urban centers, now and maybe forever?
Why are some people better at working from home than others? In a world of telework, some people just take better to working from home. Does this productivity come naturally, or can you learn it? The BBC digs in.
Experts knew a pandemic was coming. Here’s what they’re worried about next. You might feel blindsided by the coronavirus, but warnings about a looming pandemic have been there for decades. Government briefings, science journals and even popular fiction projected the spread of a novel virus and the economic impacts it would bring, complete often with details about the specific challenges the U.S. is now facing. It makes you wonder: What else are we missing? What other catastrophes are coming that we aren’t planning for, but that could disrupt our lives, homes, jobs or our broader society in the next few years or decades? Politico outlines nine that may be coming for us.
Long after “stay-at-home” measures are gone, we probably won’t stray too far from our backyards. This summer’s vacation plans, if they happens, will be mostly local. But a huge boom in domestic travel won’t affect every country evenly. A report from Bernstein analyst Richard Clarke, which he cautions is a “thought exercise” more than a forecast, looks at which nations stand to benefit, or suffer, “if international travel demand was redirected domestically.”
State of the cloud 2020. Bessemer Venture Partners rounds up cloud macro trends, growth strategies for founders, 2020 predictions, and they we believe the future is forged in the cloud. We agree, and after two decades of growth it’s only just the beginning...
All the best for a month filled with joy and gratitude,
Interdisciplinary Value Investing.
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