Bitcoin – There’s No There There

Bitcoin – There’s No There There

The Big Guys Move In

On September 13, 2022, the biggest of the big guys on Wall Street came out with a rather earth-shaking announcement. None other than Fidelity, Citadel Securities, and Charles Schwab have launched a new cryptocurrency exchange. In the words of the press release:

“A consortium of leading broker-dealers, global market makers and venture capital firms today announced the launch of EDX Markets (EDXM), a first-of-its-kind exchange that will address latent demand for digital asset trading by enabling safe and compliant trading of digital assets through trusted intermediaries. The new exchange will combine proven technology provided by MEMX with best practices from traditional financial markets and tighter spreads enabled by greater liquidity, to support secure, fast and efficient cryptocurrency trading for U.S. retail and institutional investors.”[i]

Jamil Nazarali, the new CEO of EDX Markets and former global head of business development at Citadel Securities, had this to say (and I’m fairly certain he meant virtual and not virtuous, although it might have been Freudian slip):

“We look forward to welcoming additional participants to the exchange, which will drive ongoing trading in this important asset class while creating a virtuous cycle of continually enhanced liquidity and efficiency supported by MEMX’s cutting-edge technology.”[ii]

The Upshot of All This?

A massive amount of sideline money is about to be invited into the world of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency.

In my view, the results will be catastrophic, for according to many respected voices in the world of finance, there just isn’t any there there.

Just What the Heck Is Bitcoin Anyway?

It’s really an ingenious system. In 2009, an anonymous person or persons named Satoshi Nakamoto wrote a White Paper explaining a new, complex form of digital currency. In the White Paper, you’ll find some relaxing reading that looks like this;

“∑ k=0 ∞  k e − k! ⋅{ q/ p z−k  if k≤z 1 if kz} Rearranging to avoid summing the infinite tail of the distribution… 1−∑ k=0 z  k e − k! 1−q/ p z−k”

Read the entire White Paper here.  It’s only 9 pages.

Now this complex system would have to be supported on powerful computers. They cost money. Why would anyone donate computer power to this system? Because Nakamoto created a computer network that would produce “coins” that owners of the computers would automatically receive if they added “blocks” to the blockchain that is Bitcoin. Yes, Bitcoin is one large and growing blockchain that generates coins with each additional block created.

What’s a “block”? Well, it’s a unit of data. In the Bitcoin blockchain, a block can contain only 1 MB of data, which is enough to store 2,000 transactions.[iii] Actually, after an upgrade to the Bitcoin protocol called “Segregated Witness” the size of the blocks is larger, for they are now measured in block weight and not block size.

These blocks “are linked using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the consensus of the network.”[iv]

And what’s a “cryptographic hash”? Way above my paygrade, but I can show you one. Try this on for size:

38FC4D3E1531D7661A4E32F4B6AE9EF9238DA753F485F17401140B2504A6012B

So when a miner crunches millions of calculations involving transaction hashes and Lord know what else to prove that the data in a block is verified and can’t be changed, the blockchain grows by one block, the miner gets 6 or so Bitcoins, and the process continues―in feverish computers across the globe.

Nakamoto knew that for computer owners to agree to offer their computer power to hold up this potentially enormous computer network, they’d have to be paid. And the coins they would receive for “mining” had to have value. How would they be valuable? If masses of people would buy the coins by moving real money into the pockets of those who would sell them Bitcoins, then the coins would have value.

And that’s what happened. In a very big way. In the early years, you could buy Bitcoin for pennies. In fact, on May 22, 2010, “Laszlo Hanyecz made the first recorded purchase of a physical good using Bitcoin. He spent 10,000 Bitcoin to purchase two Papa John’s pizzas …. Since Papa John’s didn’t accept Bitcoin as payment, he posted a 10,000 Bitcoin offer on Bitcointalk.org and Jeremy Sturdivant, a 19-year old then, took the offer, … bought the two pizzas, and delivered.”[v]

The pizzas cost Jeremy $41. So $41 divided by 10,000 yields an 2010 price of Bitcoin at $.0041 or four tenths of one penny. And how on earth would Laszlo Hanyecz “send” 10,000 Bitcoins to Jeremy? They aren’t, after all, physical coins. They are nothing more than computer code.

Today, if you want to send someone some Bitcoin, you just ask them for their “receive” address. Do you have to send an entire Bitcoin, which is worth around $19,000? No, Bitcoin can be divided into 8 decimal places. In fact, the smallest Bitcoin unit is .00000001 and it’s call “one Satoshi,” named after the anonymous founder.

To receive Bitcoin today, you’d just provide your Bitcoin “address.” Here’s one. It’s real and the owner would love for you to send Bitcoin to it:

3P2awwGe7kpEQgyAiw6vupHJ9vKvtJRJqb

So today, there are hundreds of thousands of computers holding up this vast computer network. They “mine” Bitcoin, which they either keep (hoping for a higher price) or sell (to cover their expenses). Who buys these Bitcoins? Millions of people around the world.

How Many People Own Bitcoin?

People buy cryptocurrency by setting up an account with an exchange―like the new exchange coming from Fidelity, Citadel, and Schwab. As of July 2022, more than 83 million people had created accounts on Blockchain.com. Coinbase, one of the most popular exchanges, has 98 million users. Crypto.com has 50 million customers. The Binance exchange has over 25 million customers. Those are the major exchanges with 256 million customers.

Now, all those people don’t own Bitcoin. They own other cryptocurrencies. Which ones? Who knows. Motley Fool estimates the total at 12,000:

“There are now more than 12,000 cryptocurrencies, and what’s truly astonishing is the growth rate. The number of cryptocurrencies more than doubled from 2021 to 2022. At the end of 2021, the market was adding about 1,000 new cryptocurrencies every month.

“This isn’t entirely good news. Many new cryptocurrencies have little purpose other than making money for their developers, which means investors need to be selective. Only a small portion of cryptocurrencies are worth learning about and potentially buying.”[vi]

With all these computers holding up thousands of crypto coins, they share one thing in common. Their lifeblood is electricity.

Strike One Against Bitcoin: Electricity Consumption

In Bitcoin’s early years, miners used general-purpose graphics processing units (GPUs) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). But in 2012, the first application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) came on the scene. In the words of Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index:

“ASICs are specialised hardware specifically optimised for Bitcoin mining that are orders of magnitude more efficient than previous devices used for mining. As a result, it did not take long for ASICs to dominate and eventually displace GPU and FPGA mining.”[vii]

Today, mining Bitcoins eats up an incredible amount of electricity. According to the New York Times:

“The process of creating Bitcoin to spend or trade consumes around 91 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, more than is used by Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million.”[viii]

According to recent studies, the increased energy consumption attributable to Bitcoin mining threatens “the ability of governments across the globe to reduce our dependence on climate-warming fossil fuels. If we do not take action to limit this growing industry now, we will not meet the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to limit warning to 2°C.”[ix]

Earthjustice and the Sierra Club wrote a new guidebook that “comprehensively document[s] the explosive growth of cryptocurrency mining in the United States and examine[s] how this industry is impacting utilities, energy systems, emissions, communities and ratepayers.”[x]

Bitcoin Goes BOOM!

The Guidebook is entitled;  The Energy Bomb: How Proof-of-Work Cryptocurrency Mining Worsens the Climate Crisis and Harms Communities Now. In the Guide, you’ll find vast amounts of information, not just about Bitcoin and air pollution but also about … noise pollution. Consider these local concerns:

“Neighbors have reported [various horror stories].

“At a mining facility in Limestone, Tennessee, residents have described the noise as ‘like a jet engine idling on a nearby tarmac.’ A commissioner who voted to approve the operation told a reporter that he has ‘never regretted a vote like this one. I sure wish I could take it back.’

“In Cherokee County, North Carolina, residents offer that the noise is ‘like living on top of Niagara Falls’ and ‘like sitting on the tarmac with a jet engine in front of you. But the jet never leaves. The jet never takes off…. It’s just constant annoyance.’”[xi]

Strike Two: Computers Are Thrown Away

As new computers become faster and more efficient, Bitcoin miners must buy new equipment. Their ASICs are primarily designed for Bitcoin mining, so when better equipment becomes available, they just junk existing systems. There’s a name for that: e-waste. And the amount of waste is significant. Again, the Times:

“Bitcoin mining means more than just emissions. Hardware piles up, too. Everyone wants the newest, fastest machinery, which causes high turnover and a new e‑waste  problem. Alex de Vries, a Paris-based economist, estimates that every year and a half or so, the computational power of mining hardware doubles, making older machines obsolete. According to his calculations, at the start of 2021, Bitcoin alone was generating more e-waste than many midsize countries.

“‘Bitcoin miners are completely ignoring this issue, because they don’t have a solution,’ said Mr. de Vries, who runs Digiconomist, a site that tracks the sustainability of cryptocurrencies. ‘These machines are just dumped.’”[xii]

Strike Three: Just What Exactly Do You Own?

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP MorganChase, has his opinion of Bitcoin. He doesn’t hold back.

“Jamie Dimon didn’t mince words when a US lawmaker mentioned the executive’s history of criticizing cryptocurrencies.

‘‘I’m a major skeptic on crypto tokens, which you call currency, like Bitcoin,’ the JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief executive officer said in congressional testimony Wednesday. ‘They are decentralized Ponzi schemes.’”[xiii]

If you own a share of stock, you own part of a company. That company earns money. That company might own real estate. It might have valuable patents and trademarks. It might have a boatload of cash in its coffers. You own part of that.

Now you don’t have to own 1 Bitcoin to own cryptocurrency. You can buy $100 or even $1.00 worth of Bitcoin (the coin is divisible to 8 decimals).

So if you own $100 of Bitcoin, you own …. What? You own the ability to sell it or to send it to someone else. If you sell it, you hope the price has risen. So why is it worth anything?

“‘The reason why it’s worth money is simply that we, as people, decided it has value—same as gold,’ says Anton Mozgovoy, co-founder & CEO of digital financial service company Holyheld.”[xiv]

But it differs from gold. You can hold gold in your hand. But you can only “hold” Bitcoin in a crypto wallet or in a crypto exchange account … like the ones that Fidelity, Schwab, and Citadel are about to loose on the world.

When that exchange goes live, it will make the purchase of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies a great deal easier. And that will attract potentially millions of new people betting their hard-earned savings on what the esteemed Mr. Dimon calls a “Ponzi Scheme.”

The volatility of Bitcoin is notorious. It reached its all-time high (ATH) of $69,045 on Nov. 10, 2021. It’s price on Sept. 24, 2022, was $19,091. Those who buy today hope it reaches the ATH once again. Those who bought 1 Bitcoin at the ATH are nursing a $49,954 loss. That’s a 72% loss, leaving you with just 28% of what you started with. To recover all you lost, it will need to increase 257% to get back to its ATH. Not an easy task.

So Mr. Dimon has his opinion.

I have mine.

Bitcoin and all its relatives are going to end up as the world’s largest financial fraud.  I am disappointed that Schwab has agreed to be part of this scheme. The reasons for the massive popularity of Bitcoin are several:

Ignorant Investors

Ill-informed speculators, especially those under 45, are rolling the dice, and don’t have a clue what it really is. It’s worse than betting at the Las Vegas Blackjack Tables.

Criminal Use

There is no doubt that Bitcoin has been used by criminals around the world to move money. There’s also no doubt that hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen through various cryptocurrency frauds. Even though governments are having some success in tracking down crypto criminals,[xv] the fact remains; you can move millions of dollars anonymously with Bitcoin.

Market Manipulation

Watch out for the Whales.

The what?

The Whales.

In the world of Bitcoin, a Whale is a person, group of people, or organization that owns more than 1,000 Bitcoins (around $19 million at today’s prices). Whales have a huge amount of power over the crypto market. On April 2, 2019, for example, a single order for 20,000 Bitcoins was executed on three exchanges. The price jumped from $4,200 to $5,000 in just two hours. This single purchase triggered a change in sentiment. Bitcoin’s price increased 240% by the end of June.[xvi]

An even more telling Whale activity occurred in the spring of 2021. The chart below, from glassnode,[xvii] shows what happened. The red line shows the number of addresses holding 1,000 or more Bitcoins (Whales). The green line shows the number of addresses holding 0.01 or more Bitcoins (retail traders, that is, Krill). The gold line shows Bitcoin’s price. As you can see, in the middle of February Whales began selling their Bitcoins to those with small accounts as the price continued to rise. Then, the bottom fell out. Whales made millions. The little guys lost.

Bitcoin has been languishing throughout the summer of 2022. It’s stuck in a bear market. But since Bitcoin hit the investment scene, it’s toggled between bull markets and bear markets. When the next bull market hits, the Whale will once again feast off the Krill―the little buys. See real whales feast here.

YouTube Influencers

Fortunes can be made by creating a successful YouTube Channel. In crypto, scads of influencers make hundreds of videos―many viewed by hundreds of thousands of eager crypto investors. Here’s a sampling, one taunting “insane potential” of “six coins set to explode”:

Meet Carl “The Moon” Runefelt

This young man from Sweden went from store clerk to Bitcoin billionaire. He posted his first YouTube video in December 2017 and now has 550,000 subscribers and over 70 million views.[i] He currently lives in a penthouse condo in Dubai.[ii]

Most crypto YouTubers have arrangements with various exchanges. Carl The Moon, for example, urges viewers to use bybit.com and to click a link right there on his YouTube page.[iii] Of course, when ByBit receives new accounts through the clicking of this link, Carl gets a commission. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. But he also often urges viewers to take on leveraged positions, sometimes 10 times leverage.

And that can spell disaster for retail investors.

Leveraged Trading Can Lead to Disaster

You can learn a lot about leveraged trading in this Coin Bureau video (you just have to ignore the silly introductions these videos often have). CoinBureau has more than 2 million subscribers, and it does produce reasoned, no-hype analysis.

On this video, you’ll learn that Futures contracts in the crypto world are provided by off-shore operations and they are totally unregulated. These contracts can offer up to 100x leverage. The danger is quite evident. In this video, CoinBureau analyzes the danger that leveraged trading poses for the crypto markets (and for retail investors). In the video, CoinBureau cites a Carnegie-Mellon study of Futures offered on the BitMex exchange.[iv] You’ll find the video fascinating and the Carnegie-Mellon study compelling.

The Need for Regulation

I’m not sure if coming regulation will save the day for the crypto market. I still maintain that there’s no there there. Crypto has value, just as the tulip buyers in the 1600s thought that tulip bulbs had value. “At the market’s peak, the rarest tulip bulbs traded for as much as six times the average person’s annual salary.”[v]

The White House recently released a “Framework for Responsible Development of Digital Assets.” Its Fact Sheet emphasize the risks that investors face when they play around with these “decentralized Ponzi schemes,” to borrow Jamie Dimon’s words:

“Digital assets pose meaningful risks for consumers, investors, and businesses. Prices of these assets can be highly volatile: the current global market capitalization of cryptocurrencies is approximately one-third of its November 2021 peak. Still sellers commonly mislead consumers about digital assets’ features and expected returns, and non-compliance with applicable laws and regulations remains widespread. One study found that almost a quarter of digital coin offerings had disclosure or transparency problems—like plagiarized documents or false promises of guaranteed returns. Outright fraud, scams, and theft in digital asset markets are on the rise: according to FBI statistics, reported monetary losses from digital asset scams were nearly 600 percent higher in 2021 than the year before.”

Conclusion

You and everyone in the securities industry knows that Schwab has a terrific trading platform. It’s obvious the public―maybe even you―wants access to crypto and thus Schwab, Fidelity, and Citadel are jointly offering this easier trading platform to attract millions of small investors (Krill). In my opinion, they’re also attracting Whales.   

Do you disagree with the statement, “The larger the school of Krill, the more the Whales can feast”?

The Whales are salivating.

Just waiting for this new, huge school of Krill to swim their way.

 You’d be wise to be very careful of the waters in which you and your young adults swim.

[1] https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220913005367/en/

[1] https://bitcoinmagazine.com/business/fidelity-citadel-securities-charles-schwab-launch-crypto-exchange

[1] https://www.bitstamp.net/learn/crypto-101/what-is-block-size/

[1] https://www.synopsys.com/glossary/what-is-blockchain.html#:~:text=A%20blockchain%20is%20%E2%80%9Ca%20distributed,a%20timestamp%2C%20and%20transaction%20data.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rufaskamau/2022/05/09/what-is-bitcoin-pizza-day-and-why-does-the-community-celebrate-on-may-22/?sh=1963c34fd685

[1] https://www.fool.com/investing/stock-market/market-sectors/financials/cryptocurrency-stocks/how-many-cryptocurrencies-are-there/#:~:text=There%20are%20now%20more%20than,1%2C000%20new%20cryptocurrencies%20every%20month.

[1] https://ccaf.io/cbeci/index/methodology

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/09/03/climate/bitcoin-carbon-footprint-electricity.html

[1] https://earthjustice.org/features/cryptocurrency-mining-environmental-impacts

[1] https://earthjustice.org/features/cryptocurrency-mining-environmental-impacts

[1] https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/2570_bitcoin_white_paper_04_nt.pdf

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/09/03/climate/bitcoin-carbon-footprint-electricity.html

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-21/dimon-calls-out-cryptocurrency-as-decentralized-ponzi-schemes?leadSource=uverify%20wall (emphasis added)

[1] https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/cryptocurrency/what-is-bitcoin/

[1] https://www.science.org/content/article/why-criminals-cant-hide-behind-bitcoin

[1] https://www.okx.com/academy/en/crypto-whale-transaction-analysis-ways-to-monitor

[1] https://www.okx.com/academy/en/crypto-whale-transaction-analysis-ways-to-monitor

[1] https://techiegamers.com/themooncarl-net-worth/

[1] https://techiegamers.com/themooncarl-net-worth/

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnKJ0rnx7e4

[1] https://www.cylab.cmu.edu/_files/documents/towards-understanding-cryptocurrency.pdf

[1] https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/dutch_tulip_bulb_market_bubble.asp

Thoughts On The Market

Thoughts On The Market

The market’s having a trying month. Fortunately, we are attuned to the economic reports that are coming out daily and will safeguard your portfolios by adjusting to the news.

Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, repeatedly has confirmed the intention to continue to raise interest rates in order to stem rampant inflation now running at close to 8%. The Fed seeks to achieve a target 2% inflation rate. Economist Steve Hanke, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and longtime professor at Johns Hopkins University, warned this week that we should expect a “whopper of a recession” in 2023. He bases his prediction on “unprecedented growth” in the money supply since the Pandemic.[1]

The Dow Jones, Standard & Poors 500, and NASDAQ indices all are down 3.5 – 4.5% this month, affecting all market sectors except energy, which has risen at the same time that prices at the pump have been on a steady decline.

On the other side of the coin is the news that the money supply has, in fact, leveled off since February. Volatility in the market has begun to trend downward, non-farm unemployment is just 3.5%,[2] and corporate profits have been fairly solid in the U.S. as well as in Europe. Although the market has been negative all week, the downward movement appears to be moderating today.

So what does this mean to you, the investor? Today there are many market sectors that appear to be attractively priced. As we believe that the risk of missing the upside recovery may be greater than the risk of missing the bottom of the market, we will continue to look for opportunities to place your funds where you can derive the greatest benefit. The bottom line is we have a plan and will continue to monitor and adjust your portfolios to navigate the difficult market we are now experiencing.

Motley Fool wrapped up Foolfest, its annual investment conference, yesterday, emphasizing optimistic views on a number of individual stocks. We also see some room for guarded optimism and continue to advocate that one should engage primarily in index and ETF investing. We will track the trends and invest your funds accordingly – on both the long and short sides of the Market. But we will continue to let the experts pick the individual securities that populate these funds.

As I write this at 3:00 p.m., the RFS Growth Model is ahead of the S&P 500 Index by greater than 7% for August.  Our triple short ETF positions comprise 45% of the Model and have significantly enhanced our performance. This is why you rely upon RFS. We thank you for your continued confidence and support.

[1] CNBC Interview, August 29, 2022
[2] United States Bureau of Labor Statistics news release August 5, 2022

Uh Oh! Signs of Danger Ahead

Uh Oh! Signs of Danger Ahead

It Was the Best of Times ….

On Friday the 26th, we locked in a big win.

Nine days earlier, on Wednesday the 17th, as a protective shield, we purchased a large position in SQQQ, a triple short.  

We sold that position on Friday, earning an 11% profit on a 40% size (we invested 40% of each account in SQQQ).

Our AG model, aggressive growth, for the month of August, is beating the S&P 500 by an outstanding +300 basis points. The S&P is down 1.59%.  That is an RFS win of +4.59% (one basis point is 0.01 %).

It Was the Worst of Times ….

I have no idea what the Fed and the White House are doing.

All I can tell you is investors and institutions don’t like it.  I believe more pain lies ahead, and the current bear market could rival the period from October 2007 to March 2009―a nightmarish bear market of -57% on the S&P 500. I am far from alone in having that opinion, and lots of bad news out there supports that view.

Much of the bad news I’ve covered in recent emails. Unfortunately, there’s more.

 Water Water Nowhere and Not a Drop ….

Bloomberg reported on a world-wide fresh water shortage with over 20 pics of rivers and lakes bone dry. The pics are staggering!  (You can get an intro subscription to Bloomberg for $1.99/month here.)  In one case, the Rhine and the Danube, where they try to connect to the Main going over Switzerland, the rivers no longer connect. Water levels are so low that all boats, barges, and cruise ships cannot pass.  I have been there, and have seen it.  It briefly happened in July, 2015.  This is much worse. This is crippling transportation of oil, food, grains, etc., and causing the cancellation of thousands of cruise ship reservations.

The “leisure” sector stock market index, which includes all the publicly traded cruise lines, is -31% YTD.  Europe is in an economic free fall.  Bloomberg also went on to say that thousands will suffer from hunger this winter, mostly eastern Europe, and millions in the UK are facing heating energy price increases of over 300%.[1]

Here in the U.S., we are having the same problem with the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers, creating massive shortages of fresh water delivery to Los Angeles  and all of southern California and east to Arizona and beyond.

Impact on People

The saddest news of all is that domestic violence, drug abuse, and suicides are all on the rise in the U.S.  Along with abortions, this portends a huge, long-term demographic problem for the U.S.―fewer babies, fewer employees, fewer tax payers, fewer consumers.

Lastly, Bloomberg included numerous reports of higher delinquency levels of mortgages and auto/truck loans. They sit at their highest marks since the March 2009 Great Recession. 

All of this comes from Bloomberg, so you might want to consider a subscription for $1.99/month (here).

Maybe someone can explain the game plan of the Fed and the White House. 

I cannot.

I do know that everything can get a lot worse before it gets better.

Prepare to see another position in SQQQ soon.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please call us at 301-294-7500. We are always happy to answer any questions you have.

Uh Oh! Signs of Danger Ahead

EVs―The Next Big Thing

EVs―The Next Big Thing

An Interesting Email

We recently received an interesting email from a reader of our RFS website. Katie Griffin is a Senior Communications Specialist at EcoWatch.org, a group devoted to disseminating information on the environment to help reduce carbon emissions and their deleterious effects on the atmosphere. Turns out that Ms. Griffin read our article about Lithium,[i] which we sent to clients and friends in August of 2021.

In her email, Ms. Griffin wrote:

I wanted to reach out because I saw that you have some great information about electric cars on your page. It’s projected that there will be 18 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2030. As EV’s grow in popularity, it’s important that people are aware of the different types, their impact on the environment and the pros and cons of purchasing one. 

EcoWatch.org, which has a Twitter following of 238,000, recognized the growing popularity of electrical vehicles and as a result created a guide called “Electric Vehicles 101: Everything You Need to Know.” It’s a must-read for anyone wanting to buy, or just interested in, an EV. You may find the guide here

Yes, Everything

The EcoWatch guide kid you not: It does indeed have everything you need to know about EVs.

  • History: Did you know that in 1900 one-third of all vehicles on the road were electrical vehicles?
  • Types of Electrical Vehicles: HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs, … the alphabet’s heyday.
  • Are EVs Better for the Environment: yes, says the Guide. Some interesting facts here.
  • How Long Does It Take to Charge an EV’s Battery: In the Guide, you’ll find not only “how long” but “where”; you’ll discover ‘Plugshare, a free website and phone app that bills itself as ‘the most accurate and complete public charging map worldwide, with stations from every major network in North America and Europe.’”
  • Cost of Charging an EV: About half the cost of a combustion-engine car, says the Guide (assuming gas at $3.00 per gallon―so these days less than half).
  • Uncle Sam Wants You (to buy an EV): The Guide covers the federal tax credits you can enjoy when you buy an EV …but …

Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Changed All That

The recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act made significant changes to the federal tax credits available to EV buyers. According to CBS News:

President Biden’s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act is changing the landscape for Americans interested in buying an electric vehicle. The law replaces a previous tax break for EVs with a new set of credits, although that depends on where a car is assembled.

The manufacturing requirements are effective as of August 16, 2022, the day the bill became law. Other restrictions, including strict limits on where batteries can be mined and assembled, kick in starting in 2023 and ramp up in future years.[ii]

The IRA requires assembly of EVs in North America before federal tax credits are available. It also restricts battery mining and assembly to certain locations. To make certain your prospective EV qualifies, you can check it against this list provided by the Department of Energy.

CBS News provides the following list of eligible cars:[iii]

2022 models that likely qualify for a tax credit under the Inflation Reduction Act

  • BMW 330e and X5
  • Chrysler Pacifica PHEV
  • Ford F Series
  • Ford Escape PHEV and Mustang MACH E 
  • Ford Transit Van
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV and Jeep Wrangler PHEV
  • Lincoln Aviator PHEV and Corsair Plug-in
  • Lucid Air
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Rivian EDV, R1S and R1T
  • Volvo S60

2023 models that likely qualify:

  • BMW 330e 
  • Mercedes EQS SUV
  • Nissan Leaf

You might notice that the list omits the most popular EVs sold in America; Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV; GMC Hummer Pickup and SUV; and Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y vehicles. Even though these cars are assembled in America, their manufacturers have exceeded a sales cap under a previous law. This cap will be lifted in 2023, so if you’re shopping for an EV, you should include the popular models on your shopping list.

We’re On It

Only in the past four years have investors had the opportunity to invest in ETFs “specifically dedicated to driverless cars, electrical vehicles. and other innovations in the automobile industry.”[iv] For our Aggressive Growth Model, we selected DRIV.[v] The managers of this ETF―Global X―describe their overall philosophy in creating more than 60 ETFs:

A lineup that spans disruptive tech, equity income, hard-to-access emerging markets, and more. Or simply put, we strive to offer investors something beyond ordinary.[vi]

About the DRIV ETF, the managers have this to say:

EVs produce zero direct emissions, meaning broader adoption could result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved urban air quality. Further advances in autonomous driving could also enhance roadway safety.

No One Knows

Who knows how far and how fast EVs will advance in the marketplace. With groups like EcoWatch (and, no doubt, hundreds more) supporting the transformational change to electrical vehicles and with the federal government eager to pay American citizens to buy them, it seems rational to conclude that investments like DRIV will do well in this decade.

But who knows where the overall stock market is heading. We’ve positioned our Aggressive Growth Model in a decidedly short position with the large 3x short position in SQQQ we bought on August 17, 2022. Counterbalancing this position are TQQQ and UPRO 3x long positions. When the market reveals its hand, we’ll sell either the short position (if the market is heading up) or the long position (if the market is heading down) and just ride in the direction our analysis takes us.

Call Us

As always, please call us at 301-294-7500. We are happy to answer any questions you have.

And please forward this email to family, friends, and colleagues―they, too, might be in the market for an electrical vehicle and would appreciate having access to EcoWatch’s EV Guide.

Pinching Pennies, Pensions, and 401k’s

Pinching Pennies, Pensions, and 401k’s

Tough Times

When times get rough, the natural human urge becomes one of extreme frugality. Certainly those who survived the Great Depression developed various habits prompting others to view them as “penny pinchers.”

Well, today, those sitting atop the financial infrastructure―companies, governments, and other organizations that sponsor ginormous pension funds and 401k plans―have begun to feel the pinch―perhaps not the pinch of pennies but certainly the pinch of nerves.

40% Are “Nervous”?

Pension and 401k plans are underperforming. When massive amounts of money are set aside to fund the retirement of employees, the sponsors of those plans set their sights on a certain rate of return. The planners know how many years the average pension recipients have before they slip off the raft and can thus figure out how much the average plan participant needs to live a decent life. A certain rate of return―together with Social Security and personal investments―will produce that level of income.

But what happens when the rate of return fails to materialize? The S&P 500 Index was created in 1957. For 64 years―until Dec. 31, 2021―the S&P returned an average of 10.67%.[1] But so far this year, the S&P is down -2.82% in price. When .77% in dividends are added in, the net return this year is negative -12.05%.[2]

To find out how plan sponsors were coping, Cogent Syndicated, a division of Escalent, “conducted an online survey of a representative cross section of 1,267 401(k) plan sponsors from February 11 to March 8, 2022. Survey participants were required to have shared or sole responsibility for plan design, administration or selection and evaluation of plan providers, or for evaluating and/or selecting investment managers/investment options for 401(k) plans.”[3]

40%? Yes, Almost

The war in Ukraine and market volatility have frightened nearly 40% of those surveyed. According to the survey, “nearly four in ten (37%) plan sponsors expect domestic marketplace conditions to worsen, up from 20% in 2021.”[4] 

Nearly 60% Fear Underperformance

The fear factor increases when plan sponsors were asked about the ability of their 401k’s or pensions to meet performance targets. “Concern about underperformance of plan investment options continues to grow with 57% of plan sponsors concerned in 2022, increasing by 6% since 2021.”[5]

What to Do?

Perhaps the 401k or pension just cannot meet initial targets. After all, the plan cannot create returns out of thin air. It becomes perfectly plain that plan recipients will have to reduce their expectations and take affirmative steps to make ends meet. Recipients just might have to learn those money-saving steps that served our forbears so well in the 1930s. Even pinching pennies comes to mind.

An Escalent executive describes the problem and some steps plan sponsors might take:

“Creating a retirement plan that is attractive to employees is even more difficult in the current volatile economic and talent environment,” said Sonia Davis, senior product director at Escalent. “In order to combat participant fears, our research supports that plan sponsors need to encourage employees to keep a long game strategy, avoid drastic withdrawals that will hinder future retirement readiness and think beyond saving by seeking help with their decumulation phase.”[6]

Though we’re not precisely certain, we imagine that “thinking beyond saving by seeking help with the decumulation phase” means “retired participants can’t spend money that’s not there so they must learn how not to spend or how to spend less than they planned or hoped for in their golden years.”

Educating Recipients

Many participants in 401k’s and pension plans have never experienced a downturn like the one currently hitting investors. One observer stresses the importance of education:

“Employee education that emphasizes the importance of long-term investment strategy and dollar cost averaging is more crucial as many new employees in the workforce have never experienced a prolonged market downturn,” said Rikin Patel of Kingswood U.S. Enterprise.[7]

Younger plan participants can view downturns as terrific buying opportunities and with dollar cost averaging can obtain lower average costs of certain investments. But older participants surely view a severe downturn as a direct threat to their security, and, as a result, must adopt more defensive strategies to preserve capital.

Please Call Us

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please call us at 301-294-7500. We are always happy to answer any questions you have. 

6Lc_psgUAAAAAA9c7MediJBuq3wAxIyxDSt73c9j