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Shipping: A Real-World Asset-Class… But Complex!

Shipping: A Real-World Asset-Class… But Complex!

Authored by Bill Blain via,

“I am leaving the sea. I shall walk…



Shipping: A Real-World Asset-Class... But Complex!

Authored by Bill Blain via,

“I am leaving the sea. I shall walk inland with an oar on my shoulder. When someone asks what it is – there I shall bide.”

The ongoing pain in crashing financial asset markets demonstrates the need to diversify portfolios and decorrelated returns. Shipping is one such asset; returns have been boosted by scarcity as a result of the pandemic – the question is: can these returns be maintained?

Yesterday I promised I would look more closely at diversified non-financial assets. This morning I’ve going to start with Shipping… but let me caveat it’s a complex and expert-led market. While Shipping has massive investment potential – recent results from shipping funds have been stellar – I am not a shipping expert. Talk to shipping professionals before you risk anything in the sector.

Writing about subjects I don’t fully comprehend raises a credibility risk – but it’s worth highlighting Shipping and some other areas for the opportunities they present in terms of uncorrelated returns. One way to skip the looming crisis in financial assets will be to differentiate portfolios away from listed stocks and shares – and look to buy the real world; what we call alternative assets.

And, after yesterday’s miserable day in markets, these uncertain times means it’s absolutely necessary for investors to look outside their conventional comfort zones to generate returns. Wearing my day-job hat, I am Head of Alternative Assets at Shard Capital, so feel free to contact me on email ( to ask questions – and who knows, I may have just the deal for you! (Sorry – qualified professional investors only!)

I remain convinced global stocks and shares are massively overpriced relative to the prospects for the global economy. That’s not just because of the deepening new Covid lockdown crisis in China (which threatens a catastrophic repeat of 2020-21 supply chain breakdowns), energy & food inflation, the Ukraine war, but also unravelling the consequences of 12 years of Monetary experimentation and cheap liquidity distorting markets.

Judging from the talk of capitulation trades I’m hearing, or more miserable tech results to come (Peloton this week), I’m not the only person thinking the crash, bang, wallop “moment” approaches.

For instance, there was a fantastic quote in Grants Interest Rate Observer last night about how DoorDash posted a 35% jump in revenues to $1.46 bln, but still didn’t make a profit – it now carries a $1.7 bln cumulative net loss. Grants’ quoted the former head of Dominos pizza: “In 60 years, we’ve never made a dollar delivering a pizza. We make money on the product, but we don’t make any money on the delivery. So, we’re just not sure how others do it.”

Which is why you should stay away from modern companies who don’t understand why successful companies never did it that way… DoorDash, and many others, will be remembered for inventing the Square Wheel…

Back to Shipping…

Shipping is an enormously complex sector. You need to understand what all the different classes of boats do, how their demand patterns work, to understand how the supply of new and old ships will affect prices, while overlaying everything with an understanding of global trade to work out likely returns. And even then, you will be swimming in an investment pool of players who will know far more than you…

Yet, the numbers are enticing. The returns from owning ships have gone skywards – charter rates have risen dramatically, ship values have trebled in some cases, and even the older ships are commanding high resale values. Funds set up to manage vessels have done exceptionally well.

Be warned: shipping can get very messy. In the past it’s been an easy way to lose money quickly – and always there will be some very clever Greeks just waiting to scoop up the bargains. Typically, it’s a boom/bust industry – every time the global economy booms there is a shipping shortage, new vessels are ordered leading a glut of capacity just as the next downturn starts.

But, shipping is absolutely critical to making the global economy function. Take a look at the crisis in supply chains…

Two of most interesting leading indicators of how the global economy is really performing are the Shanghai Export Container Freight Index and the Baltic Dry Index. The first measures the all-important freight rate and volume of Containers being sent from China around the globe, while the Baltic Dry measures the flow and price of transporting raw materials. I’ve been watching the Baltic since I was a tiny wee banker back in the 1980s.

Since May 2000 – when global trade began to anticipate Covid recovery – the Shanghai leapt from a low of 836 to peak in January this year at 5094. Now the container index has fallen to 4163 – suggesting, perhaps, that global container costs are beginning to moderate. The Baltic Dry spiked from a May 2020 Covid low of 350 to over 5500 in Oct 2021 as the global economy re-opened – it fell below 1500 earlier this year but has recovered to 2831 reflecting slowdown in China.

Both indexes correlate to inflation – which is hardly surprising as they are leading indicators of global trade. The fact both are weaker than their peaks might suggest moderating inflation and increasing recessionary conditions. Both are probably better indications of the real economy than stocks. I find it fascinating how the Baltic Dry basically flatlined through the last decade of excessively low interest rates and a raging bull equity market, reflecting the utter detachment of the financial asset universe from the reality of a very slow stuttering real economy.

When I try to understand why shipping values have risen so much since 2020… it’s complex. It’s all been about blockages as the economy reopened. The price of shipping basically depends on the availability of ships. I am told the global fleet of handy-size freighters is over 5000 vessels, but there only 5-6 actually available for charter at present!

I came across an interesting example of cost “friction” while looking at shipping. When freight costs are so high, it infers demand must be high, therefore it’s an inflationary signal – people willing to pay more to get goods.

However, the current energy/oil shock means the price of bunker fuel is pretty much at an all time high. As a result, ships are slowing down. Slow steaming requires considerably less fuel – it’s called the “cube-rule”: slow a boat by half, and it will use 1/8th the fuel it would at full speed.  In the past there has been a pretty close correlation between the speed of boats and the cost of freight. When its high, ships slow.

But… things are never that simple. Slowing a boat down means it takes longer to sail from A-B. That means it costs more to hire a ship as the rental is a daily charge – and charter rates have risen between 20-35%. This is where friction comes in; shipping costs have become a compromise between rising demand, the higher cost of fuel and crew, plus the rising costs of hiring ships.

That is great news for ship owners. First it means they get paid more because their boats earn a higher rental on longer voyages. Second, its reckoned for every 1 knot (a knot is the speed of boats, its not quite the same as miles per hour) global shipping slows, about 6% of the global fleet is taken out as not available – meaning slower ships mean fewer ships for hire, further pushing up charter rates. Shipping earns more, but goods reach markets slower, thus generating inflation!

The next problem is global ports. From Shanghai, Long Beach and Harwich global ports were swamped by the post-Covid reopening. This was exacerbated by shortage of lorry drivers, stevedores, and now renewed lockdowns in China. While Western Ports are full of empty containers, there are practically no empty TEUs (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) anywhere in Asia. The result is massive delays unloading vessels. About 20% of the Global Shipping container fleet is currently queued waiting for entry to the big ports – again creating scarcity and pushing up charter prices.

All of which is great news for the owners of smaller Handysize vessels – we’re even seeing smaller bulk carriers carrying containers to smaller ports (many have their own cranes on board). It’s not particularly efficient, but it solves the immediate transport crisis.

There are other problems – about 3% of the global merchant marine is Russian flagged, but Russian sailors make up 10% of the 2 million odd global merchant sailors. Following the pandemic its clear many sailors have retired or have given up – many were effectively trapped on board for the duration of the crisis. There is a massive shortage of crew and officers building – by 2025 we could be short over 90,000 officers, particularly in engineering – a long term problem for the whole global economy.

The question for investors is this: will the current global supply chain problems which have driven up shipping prices ease, and mean prices, and therefore returns, continue to drive results? Perhaps, but the problems will be solved in the medium term. Its not necessarily bad for shipping – in many shipping classes the ships are getting older and less efficient, and new fuel and environmental regulations mean they need replaced.

The numbers are all out there.. but this is where you need the expert advice on which shipping types are likely to prove most valuable. I’ll be very happy to assist. For instance, I am reliably informed not to buy container ships, but handysize bulkers… and maybe some tankers…

Tyler Durden Thu, 05/12/2022 - 03:30

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OraSure Technologies’ CFO Makes Bold Insider Purchase, Reigniting Investor Confidence

Executive Kenneth McGrath’s $500,000 buy read as promising signal about future for diagnostic test developer OraSure Technologies (NASDAQ:OSUR) saw…




Executive Kenneth McGrath’s $500,000 buy read as promising signal about future for diagnostic test developer

OraSure Technologies (NASDAQ:OSUR) saw a stock price re-rate on Thursday, climbing 11% after investors became aware of its CFO Kenneth McGrath buying shares in the diagnostic test developer.  This latest rally in OSUR stock, gives traders and investors hope that the strong momentum from the beginning of 2023 might return.

OSUR shares had mounted an impressive 54% rally for 2023 through to May 10, when the first-quarter results update spooked investors. 

The CFO’s trade was initially spotted on Fintel’s Insider Trading Tracker following the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Big Holdings Boost

In the Form 4 filing, McGrath, who assumed CFO duties in August 2022, disclosed buying 100,000 shares on May 30 in the approved trading window that was open post results.

McGrath on average paid $4.93 per share, giving the total transaction a value just shy of $500,000 and boosted his total share count ownership to 285,512 shares.

The chart below from the insider trading and analysis report for OSUR shows the share price performance and profit made from company officers in previous transactions:

OraSure Technologies

Prior to joining OraSure, McGrath had an impressive eight-year tenure at Quest Diagnostics (NYSE:DGX), where he rose to the position of VP of Finance before departing. This is the first time that the CFO has bought stock in the company since August 2022. It is also worth noting that the purchase followed strong Q1 financial results, which exceeded Street forecasts.

Revenue Doubles

In its recently published Q1 update, OraSure Technologies told investors that it generated a whopping 129% increase in revenue to $155 million, surpassing analyst expectations of around $123 million. 

Notably, the revenue growth was driven primarily by the success of OraSure’s COVID-19 products, which accounted for $118.4 million in revenue for the quarter and grew 282% over the previous year.

The surge in revenue for this product was largely driven by the federal government’s school testing program, which led to record test volumes. However, it is important to note that demand for InteliSwab is expected to decline in Q2 2023, prompting OraSure to scale down its COVID-19 production operations. As part of its broader strategy to consolidate manufacturing, the company plans to close an overseas production facility.

While the COVID-19 products division has been instrumental in OraSure’s recent success, its core business delivered stable flat sales of $36.6 million during the quarter. 

In terms of net income, OraSure achieved an impressive result of $27.2 million, or $0.37 per share, in Q1, marking a significant improvement compared to the loss of $19.9 million, or a loss of $0.28 per share, in the same period last year. This result exceeded consensus forecasts of $0.16 per share. As of the end of the quarter, the company held $112.4 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Looking ahead to Q2, OraSure has provided revenue guidance in the range of $62 to $67 million, reflecting the lower order activity from the US government with $25 to $30 million expected sales for InteliSwab. The declining Covid related sales have been a core driver of the share price weakness in recent weeks.

While sales are likely to fall in the coming quarters, one positive for the company is its low debt balance during this period of rising cash rates. The chart below from Fintels financial metrics and ratios page for OSUR shows the cash flow performance of the business over the last five years.

OraSure Technologies

Analyst Opinions

Stephen’s analyst Jacob Johnson thinks that outside of Covid, OSUR continues to execute on several cost and partnership initiatives which he believes appears to be bearing fruit. Johnson pointed out that three partnerships were signed during the quarter.

The analyst thinks that the ex-Covid growth story will be the new focus for investors from now on. The brokerage maintained its ‘equal-weight’ recommendation and $6.50 target price on the stock, matching Fintel’s consensus target price, suggesting OSUR stock could rise a further 29% in the next 12 months. 

The post OraSure Technologies’ CFO Makes Bold Insider Purchase, Reigniting Investor Confidence appeared first on Fintel.

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UC Davis C-STEM trains Redlands teachers on bringing computer science into math

Twenty-five teachers from Redlands Unified School District in southern California recently completed training in integrating computer science into math…



Twenty-five teachers from Redlands Unified School District in southern California recently completed training in integrating computer science into math education through a joint program offered by the University of California, Davis, and UC Riverside Extension. The Joint Computer Science Supplementary Teaching Credential Authorization Program has helped Redlands address gaps in student opportunity and achievement, and teachers’ skills.

Credit: Redlands Unified School District

Twenty-five teachers from Redlands Unified School District in southern California recently completed training in integrating computer science into math education through a joint program offered by the University of California, Davis, and UC Riverside Extension. The Joint Computer Science Supplementary Teaching Credential Authorization Program has helped Redlands address gaps in student opportunity and achievement, and teachers’ skills.

“Improving math instruction for student success is the most challenging task in education. Redlands partnered with UC Davis to make math instruction with computer science a reality for many of our students who have historically disconnected from learning math,” said Ken Wagner, assistant superintendent of Redlands Unified School District. “More students are demonstrating resilience and persistence in their math progression than ever before, which to us, is an immeasurable outcome.”

Redlands is the first school district in the nation that has 25 teachers who have gone through four college-level courses needed to earn their credential. This innovative practice is transforming public K-12 math and computer science education.

“C-STEM training and use of the robotics and programming skills that are taught has been the best professional development training of my 28-year career,” said teacher Roland Hosch. “I am very grateful to be a part of it and my classroom is a more efficient and more effective place to learn because of it.”

Transforming math education

The UC Davis Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education, or C-STEM, program aims to transform K-12 math, computer science and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education through integrated learning. Students learn to solve math and algebra problems through coding and by programming small, modular robots. The C-STEM Math-ICT curriculumprovides up to 13 years of integrated math and computer science teaching from kindergarten through high school. C-STEM courses have UC A-G status, satisfying admissions requirements for the University of California and California State Universities.  

Redlands USD implemented the C-STEM program in 2018 to narrow the achievement gap in math and address the opportunity gap in computing. The district has expanded from two middle school teachers initially to 35 teachers, including all the district’s middle and high schools as well as six elementary schools, in 2022-23. 

Redlands has seen results with the program. From the 2018-19 school year to 2021-22, average scores on the mathematics diagnostic testing project (MDTP) rose by more than 13% in C-STEM classes compared to peers in traditional math classes in the same schools. (Redlands students can choose either a C-STEM math track, plus a computer science class, or a traditional math class.) 

“C-STEM brings joy into the classroom,” said Deepika Srivastava, STEAM coordinator for the Redlands school district. If you give a student a worksheet of math problems and they get 20 or 30% right, it tells the student “You’re bad at this,” she said. 

“But if they are trying to solve a problem by writing a program, they can get it 20 or 30% right, get some feedback, and improve. When you’re solving a math problem by coding, it’s an iterative process, there’s constant feedback,” she said. “It encourages students to keep trying and develops skills in critical thinking, problem solving and perseverance.” 

Further, she said that the C-STEM math classes have become more diverse, with more representation of girls, Black and Latinx students, and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Perhaps most significantly, surveys of students entering and completing the program show a big swing from “I hate math” to “I enjoy math.” 

Addressing the opportunity gap

“Redlands is a good example of a school district working with C-STEM to address the ‘opportunity gap’ in math education,” said Harry Cheng, director of the C-STEM center and professor in the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “Schools are working to get students back on track after the pandemic. The students are doing better, closing the achievement gap and teachers are learning new skills, closing the skills gap.”

Srivastava, who visits all the district classrooms using the C-STEM program, said that the program also has positive effects on student behavior. 

“When a kid fails at math, they get the message that they’re not good at math and then they don’t give 100%. But when they’re building a robot, their entire attitude changes. I truly believe this is where the future is.” 

The UC Davis Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education is a comprehensive program that includes the annual RoboPlay competition in which students compete with other schools to solve challenges with coding and robotics. In addition to K-12 curricula and professional development for teachers, the center also supports schools and districts to organize their afterschool and summer programs, including robotics camps, robotics-math camps, the Girls In Robotics Leadership (GIRL/GIRL+) camps, and Ujima GIRL Project for African American middle and high school girls. 

“Ever since the pandemic, we have been challenged to find new ways to engage our students,” said teacher Noah Rosen. “The investment that Redlands Unified has made in my continued training in C-STEM has provided me with a whole new treasure chest of tools that I can use to elevate the effectiveness of my classroom instruction through computer science.”

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COVID-19 Testing Resumes In Beijing, Shandong, As Reinfection Cases Surge

COVID-19 Testing Resumes In Beijing, Shandong, As Reinfection Cases Surge

Authored by Alex Wu via The Epoch Times,

China has resumed COVID-19…



COVID-19 Testing Resumes In Beijing, Shandong, As Reinfection Cases Surge

Authored by Alex Wu via The Epoch Times,

China has resumed COVID-19 PCR testing in Beijing and Shandong Province amid rising re-infections, while the regime’s top health advisers have warned of a new wave of mass infections.

Since May 29, mainland netizens have posted on Chinese social media platforms that PCR test kiosks in Beijing are quietly back in business.

Mainland media “City Interactive,” a subsidiary of Zhejiang “City Express,” reported on May 30 that one of the PCR testing booths that netizens posted about was in Beijing’s Xicheng District, where the central government and the Beijing municipal government are located.

The staff of that testing kiosk said that the PCR test there has never stopped, reported “City Interactive”, without being clear how long it had been open.

“We have been doing nucleic acid testing in Xicheng District, but I’m not sure about other districts in Beijing,” a staff member said.

The staff member said the laboratory she works for is mainly responsible for nucleic acid testing within Xicheng District. Currently, there are more than ten testing points outdoors, and one person is on duty for each booth from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Residents get swabbed during mass COVID-19 testing in the Chaoyang District in Beijing on June 14, 2022. (Andy Wong/AP Photo)

A testing kiosk in Chaoyang District, Beijing’s central business district, has been operating since March, reported “City Interactive.” The testing booth staff said it is in the health center near Jinsong Middle Street.

Ms. Wang, a Beijing resident, told The Epoch Times on May 28 that some people have taken the PRC test while others have chosen not to.

She said many people around her, including her child, have already re-infected twice.

“This time, the symptoms seem to include a high fever and then sore throat, very painful,” she said.

“Most people are just resting at home now. Seeing a doctor is very expensive, and now many medicines are paid for by ourselves.”

Gao Yu, a former senior media person in Beijing, confirmed what Wang said. She told The Epoch Times that the relatives around her have been re-infected two or three times, and most are just resting it off at home.

Shandong Resumes Testing

PCR testing booths in Qingdao City, Shandong Province, have also reopened.

A “Peninsula Metropolis Daily” report included a screenshot of an online notice posted by the Laoshan District Health Bureau in Qingdao, which announced that from May 29, the district will conduct COVID-19 PCR testing for “all people who are willing.”

It also listed the working hours of the testing sites, from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, seven days a week.

Another mainland Chinese media, “Xinmin Evening News,” reported on May 31 that the staff in the district bureau confirmed that the testing has resumed and is for free.

Next Wave

Zhong Nanshan, China’s top respiratory disease specialist, predicted on May 22 that a new wave of COVID-19 infections in China will likely peak in late June when weekly cases could reach 65 million. Then, one Omicron-infected patient will be able to infect more than 30 people,  Zhong said, adding that the infection is difficult to prevent.

A security personnel in a protective suit keeps watch as medical workers attend to patients at the fever department of Tongji Hospital, a major facility for COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, Jan. 1, 2023. (Staff/Reuters)

Chinese citizens across the country have said on social media that infections have been swelling since March.

Zhong also said there had been a small peak in infections at the end of April and early May.

Most COVID-19 infections in mainland China are currently caused by the XBB series mutant strains of Omicron. Among the locally transmitted cases, the percentage of XBB series variants increased to 83.6 percent in early May from 0.2 percent in February.

Zhang Wenhong, China’s top virologist and director of China’s National Center for Infectious Diseases, also warned in late April at a conference that COVID-19 infections would reoccur after six months when immunity gained from prior infections has worn out.

Tyler Durden Fri, 06/02/2023 - 11:20

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