My portfolio manager, Andy Kramer, Kramer Capital Management, is a cut above the rest. His insightful and erudite analysis of the stock market, investing, and the like is a refreshing departure from the likes of the other Cramer whose more an entertainer than a big brain on investing. I'll take my Kramer over your Cramer any day of the week. 

I'm delighted to be allowed to post his monthly newsletter on my blog and I will look forward to sharing his insights with you each month. 

If interested in contacting Kramer Capital Management directly, send me and email to: mick@pagetaft.com and will make the introduction. 

Here's Andy's last newsletter: 

Dear clients, friends, family and, I hope, a few prospects:

Will the stock market high registered in the second quarter of 2010 (April 26, with the S&P 500 at 1220) be the high for the year, and possibly years to come?  As longtime readers might guess, we believe that is quite possible and will detail some of our reasons in the forthcoming paragraphs.  Our 4/1/10 letter forecasted increased volatility and more bi-directional markets.  Little did we expect volatility to increase by 40% during the quarter and the S&P 500 to decline, at its nadir, over 12%.  The fact that our accounts were positive for the quarter, and year-to-date, corroborates our 4/1/10 message that only those managers willing to short, hedge, and sell will have the tools necessary to achieve positive performance going forward.  While we, of course, are pleased with our results we remain vigilant and humble as we fully expect markets to become even more volatile and challenging in the months and years to come.

Over the years we have used these letters to detail our concerns as unbridled monetary and fiscal policy begat wanton speculation.  During the crisis and its aftermath we have focused on the potential unintended consequences of the haphazard, ill conceived, and politically motivated responses.  One of our favorite strategists, Kiril Sokoloff of 13D Research, titles his missives, "Thoughts on the end game"; we feel this is an appropriate turn of phrase because what we will witness over coming years will be the destruction of the present system and the eventual emergence of its successor.  There are many potential paths and outcomes and we will not pretend to be able to forecast how this crisis will (continue to) unfold, but we intend to stay focused, alert, with both hands on the wheel. And we plan to have the physical, mental, and capital resources to invest in the next growth cycle when it comes, because another cycle always does.

It is true our outlook has become more apocalyptic, if that is possible, as we survey the present landscape.  Simply put, there is no way to grow our way out of our present condition.  More likely will be wholesale debt repudiation and/or massive monetary inflation or perhaps a combination of both.  We have discussed in detail, over many letters, the myriad economic imbalances that exist in today’s world. Nonetheless, there are so many gargantuan examples of the untenability of the current situation that we will discuss it again.

According to a recent report written by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), "roughly 93 cents of every dollar of federal revenue will be spent on the major entitlement programs and net interest costs by 2020."  What this government issued report tells us is that in only ten years time, .93 cents of every $1.00 of government revenue will be used to fund Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest costs, leaving .07 to fund defense, homeland security, welfare, unemployment benefits, education etc. etc.  We know this is not possible but we don’t know how the problem will be resolved.

What about the precarious state of American states?  A recent report from the U.S. Center of Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that in fiscal 2010 the U.S. states collectively posted a near $200 billion budget shortfall, equivalent to 30% of all state budgets, and that is with $135 billion federal emergency bailout assistance.  The situation of the states is even more precarious than that of the federal government because they cannot print their own currency, and because they have a large number of fixed costs which continue to expand.

As dire as the current projections are, the possibility of their being understated is real, as the demographic tide of aging baby boomers compounds the current problems.  As our largest generation moves into its retirement years we should see tax revenues weaken and social safety-net obligations increase.  As Graham Fisher’s Josh Rosner wrote in a recent report,

These boomers are now moving to become the largest tax on the social safety net.  The largest generation in U.S. history will retire with less equity in what has historically been the largest retirement and intergenerational wealth transfer asset for most families—their homes.  In many cases, these people will have no new personal savings when they reach the end of their working lives and will essentially become wards of the state.  This increased burden on the U.S. Treasury, in a decade, is the largest unconsidered impact of the current crisis.

When will our credit markets begin to unravel is just a guess, but one should look to the recent credit market turmoil in Greece as an indication of what we should expect over time.  Much is written to the effect that these problems will stay localized in the PIGS (Portugal, Iceland, Greece and Spain) and potentially Britain as well, but that we in the U.S. are safe because the dollar is the world’s reserve currency, we are the most powerful military force, etc.  To that we simply say "balderdash."  As we have said before and will say again, when a credit bubble blows there is no escaping the eventual pain and suffering that ensues.  It might not be evident in today’s market but it is short-sighted and financially ignorant to be unprepared for the eventual credit debacle that will unfold sometime in the future.

Unfortunately the list of problems does not stop there.  The perilous fiscal situation in Europe, rising social unrest in China, the percolating ethnic and religious tensions in 

Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Kyrgyzstan is now suddenly dwarfed by the potential devastation occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.  We will not delve into the potential nightmare scenarios we believe can unfold as this catastrophe grows.  Suffice it to say that we are already a weakened power and this crisis can only exacerbate our decline.

How to manage a portfolio in this environment?  There are always options and possibilities, which is what makes our job so endlessly fascinating and challenging. Whether it is a special situation, undiscovered by the market, or a tactical move contrary to prevailing trends (our most recent example of this was our quick strike this quarter in the volatility index—VXX), we are always searching, studying, and learning to position our portfolios correctly.  The one area that has been and will be our preferred overweight, perhaps for years to come, continues to be the gold mining sector.  We see gold trading at all-time highs but we believe that is not yet reflected in the gold mining sector.  Appendix A is a chart comparing the gold miners to the price of gold.  The chart shows that for the first 6 years of the current gold bull market the miners fluctuated between overvalued (red line) and undervalued (green line) in a well defined band.  The global credit crisis has disturbed this relationship.  Even a move back towards the lower undervalued band, which we believe is quite probable, will greatly enhance the value of our portfolios.  We continue to believe that when the current financial architecture fails, the rush to own gold will remind us of the internet frenzy at its height.  Anecdotally, we remain quite comfortable with our overweight positions as we have yet to find anyone we talk with who shares our position.  The more we get laughed at or dismissed, the better we like it. 

Please note the change in our logo and stationery, courtesy of my sister Rebecca, web-site designer.  In addition, please update your records to reflect our new contact information.  Rebecca is also working with us to build a web-site which will archive our letters from 2006 to the present.  We plan to be updating the site regularly to include commentary, charts and quotes and to build it out as the year progresses, so please bookmark it on your browser and check in with us periodically throughout the quarter.  Thank you for your continued support.


 Andrew Kramer Shu Wu

Portfolio Manager Associate

 

 

Appendix A