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Calibrating The Craziness

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#1
Calibrating The Craziness
David Robertson




After a record drawdown in the first quarter and a record rebound in the second quarter, no one is disputing that the first half of 2020 has been memorable. What is open for question is whether the first or the second quarter is a better portent for the foreseeable future.


There is no doubt that public policy is part of the equation. While overwhelming policy responses to the Covid-19 related lockdowns certainly affected the markets, the Fed didn’t force anybody to do anything either. The key to managing through this is understanding what has happened and why.


A pattern to which investors have become all too accustomed, the Fed pounced into action soon after stocks fell precipitously in March. And pounce it did. In a set of measures that were mind boggling both in terms of magnitude and breadth, the Fed sent a strong signal of its commitment to support markets. In addition, it kept rolling out new policies throughout the second quarter in order to quell any remaining doubt as to its intent.


Not only did stocks rebound, but they seemed to be completely reinvigorated. As markets continued bounding despite evidence of a relatively weak economic recovery, commentators have tried to capture the growing disconnect. Michael Every from Rabobank proclaimed, “Markets are, across the board, totally divorced from reality. Facts no longer matter”.Jeffrey Gundlach chimed in saying, “There’s no price-discovery mechanism”.


A Permanent Distortion Of Markets


Nomi Prins exclaimed, “I call this a ‘Permanent Distortion.’ I have not used this term in prior books, but I am using it because . . . the disconnect between financial assets, equity markets and the real economy . . . has become massive…” Upon leaving ValueAct Capital, the hedge fund he founded, Jeff Ubben declared, “Finance is, like, done. Everybody’s bought everybody else with low-cost debt”.


Other phenomena have corroborated these observations. Retail trading picked up significantly and focused much more on “story” stocks than fundamentals. On the other side of the spectrum, high profile hedge funds continued to close down, further highlighting how troublesome the environment has become.


Criticisms abound and revolve around the same points. The economy is weaker than people believe. Asset prices are disconnected from economic reality. The markets are manipulated. Many blame the Fed. The idea is that stocks have become untethered from reality because central banks have hijacked the capital markets.


Investor Realizaton


What should investors make of this? What does it imply for investment strategy?


These questions can be distilled down into more specific ones. What we seem to be observing is speculative fervor run amok. What we want to know is when it will end. Recent research by Mike Green of Logica Funds provides some extremely useful insights into these issues. A key element in looking for the cause of the problem is to consider sources other than the Fed. He sums it all up in his piece, Talking Your Book About Value, Part 3, by saying, “it’s all about flows”.


“As we have repeatedly discussed, the widespread transition to index products (both futures and passive mutual funds/ETFs) has changed the behavior of markets. Transactions focused on buying or selling all stocks and profitability derived from index arbitrage (again, both futures and the creation/redemption process of ETFs) rather than security selection have irrevocably changed the incentive structure on Wall Street.”

In other words, the widespread adoption of passive funds at the expense of actively managed ones has significantly changed the way the market works. It used to be that Wall Street would make money by executing trades and providing research on stocks. Now, Wall Street makes money by lending securities and arbitraging indexes.


The Inevitable Conclusion


The combination of the inexorable flows of money from active to passive and the new incentive system on Wall Street means that there is a declining cohort of investors willing to make investment decisions based on fundamentals. Just as soon as this intrepid fundamental investor makes a nonconsensus trade, that trade is overwhelmed by the wall of money coming in from passive funds. The investor underperforms by failing to keep up with stocks enjoying stronger flows and, adding insult to injury, loses assets.


“We have reached the inevitable conclusion that no one is standing in the way of insanity. We are seeing this in our social lives where Cancel Culture has raised the stakes for anyone willing to stand in the way of the shaming mob, and we are seeing it in our public (and private) markets where any attempt to express rationality is met with underperformance and redemptions.”

A key element in understanding the craziness of the market, then, is realizing that the key suspect is not the Fed but rather passive investing. Green elaborated on these mechanics in a separate presentation, a podcast hosted by Grant Williams and Bill Fleckenstein.


Passive Issues


An important starting point is identifying the marginal investor because that is who establishes prices. Part of Green’s insight is recognizing the owner of a passive target date fund as that marginal investor. This is useful because these investors have unique characteristics. The funds are “balanced” in the sense that there is some allocation to stocks and some to bonds. The bond portion diversifies the risk of the stocks which has allowed for the aggregate portfolio to appreciate fairly reliably.


As such, target date fund owners do not experience volatility in the same way that equity-only investors do. Being insulated from the vicissitudes of the stock market, they don’t really care about Fed announcements. The owners certainly don’t experience volatility in any kind of deep, visceral way. They just keep directing a portion of their paycheck into the fund and the flows are pretty much on autopilot. They do not care about stock prices.


Change Of Affairs


As a result of this behavior, however, they become an important enabler of market craziness. But it is not because of what they do. It is because of what they do NOT do. They do not police prices, nor do they make any effort to “stand in the way of insanity.” They do not sell because stock prices seem too high.


What could change this state of affairs? “The minute 10-year bonds in the United States offer a negative yield or are at zero … I think that’s the endgame,” is Green’s ready response. The reason is at that threshold, bonds no longer offset the volatility of stocks. When that happens, a number of investment strategies stop working altogether. Volatility targeting funds shut down. Risk parity is forced to liquidate.


Further, the target date portfolio takes on completely different characteristics. All of a sudden, that retirement nest egg starts bouncing around all over the place. It can even drop by a lot. Absent the protective diversification of bonds, these passive investors suddenly become fully exposed to volatility. It’s like someone turned a light on and now all the ugly volatility is visible.


It’s Worse


It’s actually worse than this though. Once passive investors decide to start selling, who will be the buyer? The remaining active investors aren’t touching stocks at anywhere close to current valuations. Newly unprotected passive investors just want out. As Green describes, liquidity becomes the thing to watch out for: “When the scale [of selling] that hits the market is incapable of being absorbed by the market … that’s where chaos occurs”.


While there is a lot to unpack from this analysis, there are a couple of general lessons that stand out. First, inordinate focus on the Fed creates an unhelpful distraction. Yes, it is certainly true that the Fed massively expanded monetary policy. Yes, it is also true that some of these expansions are effectively fiscal policy. And yes, all these things affect expectations and make it easier to speculate. But only in the context of a market structure that has no mechanism to stand in the way of insanity can craziness proliferate the way it has.


Second, the environment for much of traditional active management is brutal. As long as money keeps flowing into passive vehicles, there is little point in selecting securities. As Green makes clear, “The opportunity for traditional active management to outperform … is radically reduced in this environment as security selection becomes largely irrelevant.” The message for stock pickers is, “this market is just not that into you”.


Active Management Lives


Importantly, however, this does not mean that there is nothing for active managers to do. In fact, quite the opposite is true. As Green sees it, “Regulators have encouraged a process of consolidation in the name of ‘efficiency’ that has left us with nearly unimaginable levels of systemic risk.” Arguably then, the single biggest investment priority is to manage that systemic risk.


Although Green’s answer for dealing with current market dynamics is fascinating and intellectually stimulating, it is also designed for ultra high net worth investors. Nonetheless, there are important takeaways for everyone.


One is that exposure to the market is much more of a Faustian bargain than a reliable route to retirement riches. Exposure to risk assets may very well provide attractive incremental gains for some period of time, but that exposure is also likely to lead to substantial losses at some point.


This is especially important to remember since there are several compelling arguments that favor exposure to stocks. For example, the increasing liquidity from central banks does provide a tailwind for stocks. Stocks can also help reduce vulnerability to rising inflation since companies can increase prices. Further, bonds are so stretched at this point that stocks offer relative value. Finally, US stocks can be attractive assets for foreign investors at least partly because they are denominated in dollars. These arguments do have at least some merit, so don’t forget that stocks also come with “nearly unimaginable levels of systemic risk”.


The Silver Lining


Another takeaway is that this new market structure puts a fresh perspective on value investing. A key tenet of value investing is reversion to the mean which essentially means when things get out of hand, they will eventually normalize. This key tenet is undermined by passive investing, though. In the current market structure, the mechanism by which adjustments have been made in the past is disabled. There is “no one is standing in the way of insanity”. Until the market structure changes, the success of value investing is likely to be episodic at best.


In addition, investors should keep an eye on 10-year yields. If they remain comfortably positive, there is no reason to believe that things should change much. If those yields close in on zero, however, that could set up for a huge change in market action.


Finally, for those of us who have invested a great deal to develop skill and expertise in security selection and value investing, we need to recognize the limited usefulness of these tools in this environment. That doesn’t mean these things won’t be incredibly valuable at some point in the future; I believe they will be. I also believe risk management matters like it never has before. However, it is also important to respect the distinct possibility that there is no necessary reason for environment to change soon.


Conclusion


In conclusion, this market has been far more resilient than I, and many other value-oriented investors, ever thought possible. Passive flows go a long way in explaining this phenomenon. They also suggest whatever craziness we have experienced can continue for some time. Fundamentals really don’t matter much in this environment and as result, stock prices have little information content.


While this establishes a less than satisfying prospect for investors, there is a silver lining: We won’t have to keep wracking our brains trying to understand how in the world prices can become so crazy. So, at least we have that going for us.







David Robertson CFA is the CEO of Areté Asset Management and founded Areté with the mission of helping people to get the most out of their investing activities. Most of his career has focused on researching stocks and markets, valuing securities, and managing portfolios for mutual funds, institutional accounts, and individuals. He has a BA in math from Grinnell College and a Masters of Management from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Follow Dave on LinkedIn and Twitter.​






http://www.silverbearcafe.com/private/07.20/craziness.html
 

Uglytruth

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https://markets.businessinsider.com...nds-equities-goldman-sachs-2020-7-1029398167#




Stocks will beat bonds and deliver annualized returns of 6% over the next decade, Goldman says

  • Over the next decade, expects stocks to outperform bonds and deliver average annualized returns of 6%, according to a long-term forecast published by Goldman Sachs on Monday.
  • Goldman said its analysis implies a 90% probability that stocks will outperform bonds over the next 10 years, thanks in part to historically low interest rates.
  • Goldman acknowledged that forecasting potential equity returns a decade into the future is hard, and noted that its last long-term forecast in 2012 missed the mark: 8% estimated annual returns versus the S&P 500's average annual return of 13.6%.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.


Investors should continue to favor stocks over bonds from now until at least 2030, according to Goldman Sachs.


In a note published Monday, Goldman gave its long-term forecast for what stocks will do over the next decade. The firm estimated that the S&P 500 index will deliver an average annualized total return of 6%, and estimated that stocks have a 90% probability of outperforming bonds due in part to record-low interest rates.


Goldman acknowledged that it's difficult to forecast stock returns 10 years into the future, pointing to its last long-term forecast from July 2012. In that forecast, Goldman suggested that stocks would deliver an average annualized return of 8%. But eight years later, the S&P 500 delivered an average annual return of 13.6%.








Read more: Paul Andreola has a long track record of finding tiny stocks that deliver 10-times returns. He lays out the 4 criteria he looks for when seeking the next explosive pick.




Goldman Sachs


The firm said that 25% of its 2030 stock return forecast will be generated by dividends, while the other 75% will come from price gains. Goldman added that a more bullish scenario could result in average annualized gains of 11%, while a more bearish scenario could see stocks return just 2%.


Read more: BANK OF AMERICA: Buy these 14 stocks that are likely winners in the pandemic - and will benefit from the biggest trends that will define the future


Goldman used and averaged five different approaches to estimate the 6% return for stocks into the next decade.








1. Starting absolute valuation - 2.7%


"The cyclically-adjusted P/E multiple currently equals 26.5x, implying the S&P 500 will post an average annualized return of 2.7% during the next 10 years."


2. Starting relative valuation - 8.7%


"While equity valuation is high on an absolute basis, it is more reasonable in the context of the low interest rate environment ... Given the 10-year US Treasury yield currently equals 0.7%, the starting relative valuation implies the S&P 500 will post an 8.7% annualized equity return through 2030."


3. Equity allocations - 6.5%








"The major ownership categories of US stocks collectively account for 83% of the market. We estimate these entities in aggregate had a 44% portfolio allocation to US equities ... Since 1952, when equity allocations have been between 40% and 45%, the subsequent 10-year annualized return for the S&P 500 has averaged 6.5%."


4. Dividend yield and growth - 4.7%


"Our analysis implies annualized S&P 500 total return during the coming decade will equal 4.7% if the dividend yield in 2030 remains roughly unchanged from the current level of approximately 2.0%."


5. Economic modeling - 7.2%


"S&P 500 returns during the next decade will depend on the pace of GDP growth and how much time the US economy spends in contraction ... Our Monte Carlo simulation of potential equity returns during the next decade incorporates various economic growth scenarios. "








Read more: BANK OF AMERICA: Buy these 7 pharma stocks now as they race to develop COVID-19 treatments and vaccines


Despite the bullish long-term outlook, Goldman named five key risks that could derail its forecast: the rise of de-globalization, higher taxes, higher labor costs, an aging US population, and turnover in the S&P 500 index.


Goldman noted that since its long term forecast in 2012, 170 new companies were added to the S&P 500, which now make up 17% of the index.


It's hard to make a long-term forecast for stock returns when some of the companies that will likely be driving returns 10 years from now haven't even been founded.





Matthew Fox
Jul. 15, 2020, 05:36 PM
 

<SLV>

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Trump holds Powell by the short and curlies. Trump WILL get constantly rising stock prices. Those who short equities in this market are defying the largest player the market has ever seen (the Fed); the ultimate "greater fool."

Good luck with that.

FYI... I walked out of the casino in December and went into Cash/Gold, 40/60. Any semblance of free market price discovery has since vanished with no indication of returning. Equities are no longer an "investment."

Frankly, Rolex watches have more basis in capitalistic price discovery, and are therefore a better long term investment than stocks. At least there are actual "fundamentals" that can be used to analyze the investment potential of a specific watch. In reality they are art with intrinsic value (the materials themselves have value, but the greater intrinsic value is the level of craftsmanship and proprietary technology required to produce them - especially when compared to other contemporary "art").

Where else can you put your money? Even real estate is set to implode when the $600 extra unemployment payments run out this month.
 

the_shootist

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Trump holds Powell by the short and curlies. Trump WILL get constantly rising stock prices. Those who short equities in this market are defying the largest player the market has ever seen (the Fed); the ultimate "greater fool."

Good luck with that.

FYI... I walked out of the casino in December and went into Cash/Gold, 40/60. Any semblance of free market price discovery has since vanished with no indication of returning. Equities are no longer an "investment."

Frankly, Rolex watches have more basis in capitalistic price discovery, and are therefore a better long term investment than stocks. At least there are actual "fundamentals" that can be used to analyze the investment potential of a specific watch. In reality they are art with intrinsic value (the materials themselves have value, but the greater intrinsic value is the level of craftsmanship and proprietary technology required to produce them - especially when compared to other contemporary "art").

Where else can you put your money? Even real estate is set to implode when the $600 extra unemployment payments run out this month.
I feel the same way. I still have significant investments in the markets in the form of 401Ks and IRAs. I'm hanging tight until Trump manages to implement the tax cuts/removals/holidays that seem to be in our future so I can withdraw that cash with a minimal tax burden. Like you, there's only two things that are represent dependable stores of wealth compared to the markets, cash and gold/silver...and I consider cash to be only temporary but still in play right now.

I'm also thinking of throwing a few shekels at an American classic muscle car. Not the greatest of investments but hey, I can't take it with me and I may as well have some fun before I leave!!
 
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Casey Jones

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#5
What you don't understand, you shouldn't invest in.

Which is, partly, why I never put any money into pot stocks.

Now I will put no money into any stocks. Or bonds.

Because these markets are moving on the mania of the mobs - the madness of crowds, with many investors thinking, each one, that he's smarter than the rest and can time the exit.

Perhaps they can. Perhaps the markets never go down - when a bankrupt company's (worthless) stock (Hertz) can rise and trade, there is no real price-discovery and no real market. It's just a pyramid scheme.

The plan appears to prop it up with printed fiat. So, the Robbin' Hood investor sees his investment grow in nominal terms, right up to the end - the collapse of the dollar.

That's not a game I want to play. I'm out - you gotta know when to hold 'em, an' know when to fold 'em....
 

keef

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I'll be honest with ya. Some of you guys remind me of the traders in the twin towers who never left tower two because they wanted to short United Airlines. It cracks me up and reminds me why I still come here. some funny shit. Like having ur teen daughter wear her maga hat at the m of a. hahahahaha. Lord have mercy
 

Treasure Searcher

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My current employer provides a retirement plan, that I contribute. Employer provides a partial match. Anyway, there are different funds that are offered, with a mix of stocks, gov't securities and the like. I changed the fund that I was contributing in, to a fund that has less government securities.
At this time, I prefer stocks over bonds, etc. because the interest rate returns are low. I do not see a return on investments paying interest.

Stocks are not perfect, but low interest rates will definitely not provide a return either.
 
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gringott

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I'll be honest with ya. Some of you guys remind me of the traders in the twin towers who never left tower two because they wanted to short United Airlines. It cracks me up and reminds me why I still come here. some funny shit. Like having ur teen daughter wear her maga hat at the m of a. hahahahaha. Lord have mercy
You made me laugh good and hard keef, the mental vision of the tower with a guy looking over his shoulder out the window while frantically typing in his trade. Should be a cartoon.

I know nothing about the financial markets beyond the basics, but I know this- all the fundamentals have gone out the window completely since 2007 and anybody who can figure out the mess and make a killing is either one of a few geniuses OR one lucky SOB.

For millions and millions of American workers who have their retirements in 401ks etc, this has to be extremely interesting times. Like 1928. I don't have a "fortune" in these schemes, but I am pretty close to withdrawing it all and taking whatever tax hit. Better something than nothing. But what to buy? I'm down to acreage south of me in white man's land in the country between mammouth caves and bowling green. Just land, land land. Maybe I'll grow a carrot or two.
 

edsl48

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#9
I read this over at ZeroHedge and it shows the continuing craziness


"I Told My Wife I'm Gonna Be A Millionaire": Millions Of Unemployed Americans Are Flooding Into The Stock Market

t was just a couple of days ago that we published our report showing three charts that showed "The Shift From Prospering Online Brokerages To Retail Daytrader Mayhem".
In that article, we pointed out what is becoming seismic shift in the trading world, where thanks to the seductive cocktail of both the Robinhood app being overtly easy to use and Dave Portnoy livestreaming himself daytrading on a daily basis, every Tom, Dick and Harry with a couple hundred bucks is jumping into the market and having a go at trying to make themselves rich - regardless of whether or not they have any clue what they are doing.
Following up on that piece, last week the WSJ wrote an article sharing the same sentiment. "Everyone's a Day Trader Now," they wrote. In their article they note that e-Trade investors opened 260,500 retail accounts just in March alone. Robinhood logged 3 million new accounts over the same timeframe. They compared the influx into the market to the dot com boom of the late 1990s.


As we said last week, Robinhood is making trading feel like a video game for people that have never done it before. 38 year old Sharmila Viswasam told the WSJ: “I feel like Sonic the Hedgehog, collecting my coins.”
She started trading after her unemployment checks from her real estate job weren't enough to support her.
To get started, she read “Trading for Dummies” and watched YouTube videos. She calls her trading style "risky" and justified it by telling the WSJ: “Scared money makes no money.”
She started with $25,000 and has parlayed it to $65,000 through July - all using her phone.
Viswasam / Photo:
WSJ
Granit Selimaj opened an account on Robinhood as soon as he turned 18 years old in December 2018. He says he was approved to trade options "moments" after filling out the application on the platform. He says he has avoided them so far, because he doesn't really understand how they work. He sticks mostly to trading stocks.

“I’m a Level 2, and I don’t know much about that,” he said.
26-year-old rental car-company employee Trae Williams said he started using Robinhood about 2 years ago, but really started paying attention to it during the pandemic. He told the WSJ: “There’s not much to spend money on, but also I can pay attention to it more. I have more time to do it.”
“...in the wintertime, when it gets to be 20 degrees Fahrenheit here or it’s snowing and raining, [daytrading] is going to be a perfect hobby for grandpa,” said another Robinhood user, 66 year old Matt Miller. He says he has abandoned his buy and hold strategy to trading more actively since the pandemic began.
Miller / Photo:
WSJ
The number of individual investors in the market has more than doubled the usual level of activity this year, the article notes. This increased demand has had a self-fulfilling prophecy effect, sending shares of some companies soaring. But the addition of Robinhood traders to a stock isn't exactly a bellwether of good things to come. In fact, it's just the opposite.
"Barclays examined trades by Robinhood customers between March and early June and concluded that the more they bought a specific stock, the worse that stock performed," the Journal wrote.
One great example is the stock of Ideanomics, which was promoted on Twitter and in videos by retired police officer and new daytrader Stanley Barsch. He has over 70,000 Twitter followers and had been touting Ideanomics as the next big thing. He even interviewed the company's CEO on a livestream for his followers.
Barsch / Photo:
Facebook
Hours after the interview, well known short seller Hindenburg Research released allegations that the company was engaged in an "egregious and obvious fraud", including photoshopping pictures of its operations in China that it was including in its press releases.
Shares plunged 21% that day and 40% the next day. Stan, who goes by the name "Stan the Trading Man" on Twitter, says he lost $27,000 on the trade.
"Some people took to social media, accusing Mr. Barsch of engaging in pump and dump," the Journal wrote. Stan sees things differently. "I told my wife earlier this year that I’m going to be a millionaire," he said. Sure you are, Stan.
Recall, this shift in the industry was captured beautifully in a series of Tweets from Bloomberg's Morgan Barna, CFA a couple of weeks ago. She showed how trading volume had spiked significantly in Q1 and Q2 of 2020.

Next, she showed how Schwab has seen its revenue per trade collapse over the last 5 years, as the brokerage has tried to keep pace (or in some cases lead the charge) for lower commissions to help bring in new clients.
For all intents and purposes, commissions no longer seem to exist for stock trades and have been almost totally priced out of the industry/////////////////////////////
l
l

Finally, she showed that interest in creating accounts continues to rise. Among the surprises we've seen during the Covid lockdown has been the fact that Americans are actually saving money and paying off credit cards, instead of spending it, with the economy melting down and the government wiring them free checks.
They are also putting this money into brokerage accounts, as you can see below:

This lunacy in general is, of course, enabled by the Fed, behind the scenes, doing everything it can to make sure that the NASDAQ continues to hit new highs despite what has been an unprecedented economic collapse in the country.
When the average American logs on to Twitter and sees the President (or worse, Larry Kudlow) bragging about the market despite tens of millions of people unemployed, we don't blame them from meandering toward the honeypot that our country's public markets have become.
Unfortunately, what comes up must come down - and the new retail traders being lured into the market with promises of neverending all time highs and commission free trades - will likely be the first blood shed when the Fed's ponzi scheme is inevitably exposed for what it truly is and comes crumbling down.
 

keef

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You made me laugh good and hard keef, the mental vision of the tower with a guy looking over his shoulder out the window while frantically typing in his trade. Should be a cartoon.

I know nothing about the financial markets beyond the basics, but I know this- all the fundamentals have gone out the window completely since 2007 and anybody who can figure out the mess and make a killing is either one of a few geniuses OR one lucky SOB.

For millions and millions of American workers who have their retirements in 401ks etc, this has to be extremely interesting times. Like 1928. I don't have a "fortune" in these schemes, but I am pretty close to withdrawing it all and taking whatever tax hit. Better something than nothing. But what to buy? I'm down to acreage south of me in white man's land in the country between mammouth caves and bowling green. Just land, land land. Maybe I'll grow a carrot or two.
Nice country. Not too cold in winter not too hot in summer. Invest in whatever you can haul on ur person before armed militants feel free to loot ur cabin at will. I invest in remaining mobile in a society which is pretty much lawless now

I left tower two years ago and now just watching the guys who refuse to leave. maybe if they do options they have a chance of turning one great trade before total collapse? its like watching evel kneivel at this point. but its gonna suck when they find out that second ramp is gone. about election time