Panic at Orlando airport spoiled my golfing trip

Golf season in Canada can be very short because of bad weather. One of my guilty pleasures is heading south for an annual golf trip with the boys every November. We started this tradition sixteen years ago and I would have to be very ill to miss it.

As a volunteer driver, I experienced first-hand the panic at the Orlando airport while dropping off a friend after our last round of golf. We decided to go early so we could have   dinner together at the airport. Walking in, we faced a stampede of frighten travelers running and screaming to the exits.

Some travelers thought they heard gun fire while others thought that they heard an explosion. Standing outside watching the Orlando Police conduct their investigation with weapons drawn was very alarming.

It turns out that a camera battery exploded in a bag which cause people to panic and the airport to be evacuated. Thousands of travelers faced hours of waiting at security checkpoints.

Phil Brown, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, said a full ground-stop was issued at 5:30 p.m. and lasted until 9 p.m. At a press conference Friday night, Brown said 24 flights were canceled and 27 others were diverted. He acknowledged that some passengers will have to book new flights, and others might struggle to find hotel rooms for the night.

He added that some airport staff and TSA agents instructed the crowd to take cover, when the initial explosion created confusion among staff and passengers.

At first glance, it may seem that the Orlando Aviation Authority may have over reacted to a faulty camera battery. However, it happened on the same day that Americans celebrate veteran’s day.  Plus no one wants to read about children getting hurt after visiting Disney World.

I felt bad for my friend who ended up sleeping at the airport as his flight was cancelled and rescheduled for 2:30 p.m. the next day. I was lucky that my early morning flight was cancelled and I got some extra sleep. It made delays in my rescheduled flight a little more bearable.

Will this unfortunate incidence stop me from going south golfing? Not a chance, however I may decide to spend a few extra days driving instead of flying.

The moral of this story is managing risk extends beyond the financial markets. Panic and over reaction can easily cause a major sell off in stock markets. You can’t predict what will cause a stampede to the exits.

 

 

 

 

 

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My 200th post: Investing in the Second Machine Age

As a retired senior, I am having difficulty adjusting to ” the Second Machine Age”. The advances in technology are mind blowing. I would never have guessed that self-driving cars in science fiction movies like “Minority Report”  or “I Robot” could become available in my life time.  How about Elon Musk’s vision of offering a rocket ride of only 30 minutes to get to London from L.A., is that just science fiction or a potential reality?

China, the world’s biggest vehicle market, is considering a ban on the production and sale of fossil fuel vehicles in order to reduce pollution and boost the production of electric vehicles. The move would follow a similar ban by France and Britain but they have included a 2040 timeline. However, China has introduced draft regulation to compel vehicle manufacturers to produce more electric vehicles by 2020 through a complex quota system.

Some possible investments to consider

  1. Millions of dollars are pouring into the Global X lithium & Battery ETF (LIT). It has had a massive gain in value of 58% so far this year. It has also attracted short sellers who are betting on a pullback in price.
  2. For stock pickers, the top ten holdings of LIT include five U.S. listed companies, ticker symbols Tsla, FMC, SQM, ENS and ALB. A word of caution, some of these stocks have very high valuations and can be very volatile.

There is little doubt in my mind that advances in digital automation, robotics and artificial intelligence will change your living standards over the next decade. Just think how companies like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Apple have already influence our lives during the past decade.

A 2013 study by Oxford University’s Carl Frey and Michael Osborne estimates that 47 percent of U.S. jobs will potentially be replaced by robots and automated technology in the next 10 to 20 years. Those individuals working in transportation, logistics, office management and production are likely to be the first to lose their jobs to robots, according to the report.

Some possible investments to consider to capitalize on this trend

  1. Robotics and Automation ETF (ROBO) which contains three U.S. listed companies in their top ten holdings. Ticker symbols, AVAV, HOLI and CGNX
  2. Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF (BOTZ) which contains three U.S. listed companies in their top ten holdings. Ticker symbols: NVDA, ISRG and TRMB
  3.  Semiconductor ETFs like SOXX or SMH which include companies that provide key components for self-driving vehicles, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence. The top ten holdings of these ETFs are places to look for individual names that could outperform the overall market.

There is also an interesting book that I am thinking about buying.

Synopsis: According to the authors, the book has three sections.

  • Chapters 1 through 6 describe “the fundamental characteristics of the second machine age,” based on many examples of modern use of technology.
  • Chapters 7 through 11 describe economic impacts of technology in terms of two concepts the authors call “bounty” and “spread.” What the authors call “bounty” is their attempt to measure the benefits of new technology in ways reaching beyond such measures as GDP, which they say is inadequate. They use “spread” as a shorthand way to describe the increasing inequality that is also resulting from widespread new technology.
  • Chapters 12 through 15, the authors prescribe some policy interventions that could enhance the benefits and reduce the harm of new technologies.

You can also search you-tube “The second machine age” to listen to the authors speak. 

 

Disclaimer: Do your own research, these investment ideas can be very volatile. 

Is Basic Income the answer to a new AI world?

I am so glad that I am a retired senior. I don’t have to worry about a robot taking my job. Since I have lots of time on my hands to think, I wonder what a new AI world would look like. For example; will my 2 year old granddaughter even need to get a driver’s licence? Will the Uber or cab that she orders even come with a driver?

Now I have always been a big fan of science fiction movies. There is a scene in the movie “Logan” where Wolverine has to dodge driver-less trucks to cross the highway to help some people. Installing AI in 16 wheeler trucks could replace the need for a lot of truckers.

Fast food restaurants have been the training ground for teenagers and young adults.  I used to tell my kids that they better get a good education or you will end up using the phrase “would you like fries with that” while working at MacDonald’s. However, even MacDonald’s are installing new self-serve kiosks. Now you can even order your Starbucks coffee using your phone. Where will young people get work experience?

Everywhere I look, jobs are slowing disappearing, the new AI technology seems to have very few limits.

“For example, Australian company Fastbrick Robotics has developed a robot, the Hadrian X, that can lay 1,000 standard bricks in one hour – a task that would take two human bricklayers the better part of a day or longer to complete.”

Japan has the highest percentage of people over the age of 60 and their population is shrinking. As a nation, there is a shortage of workers and they have embraced the use of robots in the work place. This trend could be coming to North America sooner than you think.

As a baby boomer, I worry about the future cost of health care. The world population is aging and health care costs are raising. I hope that science fiction turns into reality and my caregiver looks something like this.

   or this 

Why universal basic income may be necessary

A 2013 study by Oxford University’s Carl Frey and Michael Osborne estimates that 47 percent of U.S. jobs will potentially be replaced by robots and automated technology in the next 10 to 20 years. Those individuals working in transportation, logistics, office management and production are likely to be the first to lose their jobs to robots, according to the report.

For many, basic income sounds like a free ride or welfare. Economist believe that masses of people will not just sit at home but will make a contribution by continuing to work. The basic income would allow recipients to explore other options not available to them if they are struggling just to survive,  such as retraining or to find new job opportunities.

In theory, new opportunities would spring up to replace jobs done by machines. However, there are some practical problems, like where will government get the money if less people are working to pay for a basic income program? The North American education system would require a major overhaul to put more job training skills into the curriculum.

Some additional information to consider

The government of Ontario just announced a three year basic income pilot project to help low income earners in three cities. A single person can apply to receive $16,889 a year and couples will receive $24,027. Recipients who are employed will keep what they made from their jobs but their basic income would be reduced by half their earnings. For example, a single person earning $10,000 per year from a part-time job would receive $11,989 in basic income ($16,989 less 50 per cent of their earned income), for a total income of $21,989.

Is basic income just a pipe dream or a future reality?

 

 

 

 

 

Bull Call Spread: An Alternative to the Covered Call

call-spread

Most new option traders start with a covered call strategy. You buy 100 shares of company xyz and you sell one option that has a near month expiry date. One objective of this strategy is to earn extra income from the option premiums which hopefully expires worthless. Short term options decline in value very quickly if the stock price remains fairly flat or falls a little in value.

The covered call strategy is limited by the amount of capital you have to invest. Many popular stocks are trading over $100 like Apple ($114.90), Netflix ($123.75) and Facebook ($119.40) so buying 100 shares of these three companies would require about $35,805 of your capital.

An alternative to writing covered calls, one can enter a bull call spread for a similar profit potential but with significantly less capital requirement. Instead of buying the underlying stock in the covered call strategy, the bull call spread strategy requires the investor to buy deep-in-the-money call options instead.

To illustrate the difference, I am going to select 3 bull call spreads for the above three popular stocks. Disclaimer: These trades are for educational purposes only and are not recommendations.

Quotes as of 10:00 a.m. on Dec 13, 2016

Example #1

Buy 100 shares of Apple at $114.90 sell one call option Jan 20 at $115.00 for $2.60

Call spread: Buy 1 Jan 20 $105 call for $10.45 – sell one call Jan 20 at 115.00 for 2.60

Example #2

Buy 100 shares of Netflix for 123.75 – sell Jan 20 call at $130 for $4.50

Call spread: Buy one Jan $120 for $9.15 – sell Jan 20 call at $130 for $4.50

Example #3

Buy 100 shares of Facebook for$119.40 – sell Jan 20 call at $120 for $3.10

Call spread: Buy one Jan 20 $110 for $10.45 – sell Jan 20 call at $120 for $3.10

Now, the capital required to purchase 100 shares of each of these three stocks is $35,805 minus $1020.00 from selling the covered call options equals $34, 785. The bull call spreads requires a total outlay of $3,005 minus $1020.00 from selling the exact same covered calls equals $ $1985.00

Only time will time if these bull call spreads are good, bad or ugly. Stay tune for a follow-up post in the new year.

Could President Trump cause another Great Recession?

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shakes hands with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton following the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Being Canadian, I am not trying to influence any of my American readers on who they should vote for next Tuesday. However, my investment portfolio is heavily invested in the U.S. stock markets, I shudder at the thought of what could happen under President Trump. Naturally enough, investors and analysts hate uncertainty. Hillary Clinton largely represents the status quo. Mr. Trump is more like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates “You never know what you’re going to get.”

What exactly happens the day after? To markets? To the economy?

The conventional wisdom is that a Trump victory would lead to a swift, knee-jerk sell-off. Many investors will choose to sell stocks and ask questions later. The Mexican peso would most likely fall on fears of a trade fight along with ETFs that contain Mexican stocks. Some insurance companies could tumble on the uncertainty of what would happen if Obamacare was repealed.

A worst case scenario is Mr. Trump’s anti-trade policies would send shock waves around the world. Add a stock market crash and it would plunge the world into recession. Europe’s economy is very fragile and it wouldn’t take much to tip Europe back into a full blown recession. This would lead to a serous banking crisis that could spiral into emerging markets.

The biggest test for the stock markets might be pegged to the future leadership of the Federal Reserve. There is much more uncertainty regarding who Trump might nominate, though he has made it clear he would not re-nominate Chair Yellen.

Now, a handful of economists have suggested that despite all of the promises made by both candidates, odds are high that whoever the next president is, they will preside over a recession. They argue that we are in the second-longest bull market of all time and the eighth year of this economic expansion. It is hard to believe that we will go through the next four years without a hiccup. If merger activity is a gauge of the market’s cycle, the recent spate of deals suggests we’re closer to the ninth inning than the first.

In reality, it’s impossible to predict how the markets would settle after an initial sell off. It will take time for investors to truly make sense and “math out” how his policies would affect the economy. Now, Trump’s bark will be a lot worse than its bite in terms of actual implementation of his anti-globalization position. Hopefully, a split in the congress and the senate will stop Trump from carrying out any outrageous election promises.

Am I worry about the U.S. election? Not really because I am an option trader. I have sold covered calls to protect most of my U.S. stocks. I have sold only a few cash secured puts on stocks that I am comfortable holding long – term. Plus, I have some extra cash just in case of a market sell-off. I am very comfortable switching from selling cash secured puts to buying puts if there is a bear market.

Where am I going to be next week? On vacation from the markets in Orlando, playing golf with my golf cronies. Hoping that they don’t ask for any financial advice and looking for another hole in one.

hole-in-one

 

Dollar-cost averaging using an option strategy

options

Most investors are familiar with dollar–cost averaging as a wealth building strategy. It involves investing a fixed amount of money at regular intervals over a long period of time. This type of systematic investment program is commonly used in company sponsored pension plans.

I use a similar approach by selling call & put options to build a stock portfolio. At first glance it sounds really complicated, but the math is simple as long as you can subtract and divide.

The two types of options: calls and puts (Investopedia)

A call gives the holder the right to buy an asset at a certain price within a specific period of time. Calls are similar to having a long position on a stock. Buyers of calls hope that the stock will increase substantially before the option expires.

A put gives the holder the right to sell an asset at a certain price within a specific period of time. Puts are very similar to having a short position on a stock. Buyers of puts hope that the price of the stock will fall before the option expires.

My strategy involves selling options and collecting a premium which will hopefully reduce the cost of buying a stock. For example: I recently wanted to add 200 shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) to my stock portfolio.

Here is the math: I bought 100 shares at $72.22 on Oct 11th

Sold 1 call option Nov $72.50 for $3.40

Sold 1 put option Nov $72.50 for $3.65

Now both these options expire on Nov 18th, so the buyer of the call option can force me to sell my 100 shares for $72.50 and the buyer of the put option can force me to buy 100 more shares at $72.50 depending upon the share price on Nov 18th.

Scenario (1): What happens if the shares of Royal Caribbean are trading below $72.50 on Nov 18th?

The call option expires worthless and I will buy 100 shares that will cost me $72.50 – $3.40 (the call premium) – $3.65 (the put premium) for a total share cost of $64.45. If you add the cost of the 100 shares that I bought for $72.22 to the 100 shares for $64.65 and divide be 2, my dollar cost average per share is $68.84

Scenario (2): What happens if the shares of Royal Caribbean are trading above $72.50 on Nov 18th?

The put option expires worthless and I have to sell my 100 shares for $72.50 but the cost of my 100 shares that I bought for 72.22 have been reduce to $65.17 ( $72.22 – $3.40 call premium – $3.65 put premium), my net profit on the trade would $7.33 divide by $65.17 or 11.2 % in just  38 days. (Excluding trading commissions)

In order to use this strategy, you need to have a margin account with a discount broker and be approved for cash secured put option trading. The added bonus of this strategy is you can use it to buy most index funds and some EFTs, you don’t have to buy individual stocks. However, the option premiums on index funds & ETFs will be much lower because they are less volatile than individual stocks.

I like this strategy because it removes some of the emotion out of investing. In the past, I would take half a position in a stock but I found it hard to commit to buying the other half when the share price fell. Plus I would kick myself for not taking a full position when the share priced increased in value. I found averaging down or up was very difficult. In reality the decision of buying or selling is sold to the purchasers of the options for a fee. An additional benefit, option premiums are taxed as capital gains, as long as you are not making a living as a day trader.

Stay tune; I will post the results of this trade next month plus an additional trade based on which scenario unfolds.

Disclaimer: This post is for educational proposes and not an investment recommendation.