The Euro Has No Good Options

The challenges facing the Euro zone including most recently Italy seem so enormous and intractable that it’s easy to contemplate previously unimaginable outcomes. Der Spiegel reports that the German government is preparing for a possible Greek exit from the Euro. The currency was designed without an exit – it’s unclear how Greece could extricate itself. A weekend nationalization of banks with all deposits converted to drachma? The new currency would immediately collapse from its initial level as unwilling holders of drachma sold, and in any case the days and weeks leading up to such an event would no doubt see a sharp run on deposits from Greek banks. As it is there’s a tax on money leaving the country. And we read every day that supporting Italy will require the IMF and a reinforced EFSF. What will happen if Italy can’t refinance its debt, €250BN of which rolls over in 2012?

But you don’t need to bet on disasters to see downside for the Euro. Just muddling through and avoiding any of the crisis scenarios is going to involve slower growth. The Austerity Solution so favored by the EU and IMF is assuredly lowering GDP growth in the region as well as consumer confidence. The growth differential between the U.S. and the Euro-zone continues to widen. JPMorgan now forecasts +1.7% 2012 GDP growth in the U.S. versus -0.6% in the Euro-zone. Solutions and non-solutions seem to lead to the same place. The next 10% move in the exchange rate looks far more likely to be lower.

The Financial Times notes that Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) tanker ships are experiencing increased demand, one of the very few areas of shipping for which that is true. The rest of the shipping industry has shot itself in both feet as every operator positioned for a 10% increase in market share, which has crushed shipping rates through overcapacity and made the sector even less friendly than U.S. residential construction (if that’s possible). But the virtual shutdown of the Japanese nuclear energy industry following the earthquake has increased Japanese demand for LNG imports and is raising prices. Regrettably, producers of domestic natural gas in the U.S. are not direct beneficiaries because the U.S. currently has no facilities at which natural gas can be compressed for export, but greater global demand is a positive over the long term (i.e. 3-5 years).

Still on the subject of shipping, we continue to be invested in Aegean Marine Petroleum (ANW). They provide bunker fuel to the shipping industry and so operate a very different business model than their customers. Their stock price has been beaten down with their peers, although they continue to generate operating profits and just reported a third quarter of solid margins. If you can believe their book value (assets are ships and fuel inventory) the stock trades at a 40% discount. On their earnings call last week management asserted that market value for their ships was no lower than carrying value – much of the fleet is recently purchased so that ought to be true, although they did take a loss versus book value on the sale of one vessel in the third quarter. Even after rallying on last week’s earnings it still trades at less than 7 X ’12 estimated earings. We continue to hold a modest position in ANW.

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) remains one of our biggest holdings, for reasons articulated the other day. Warren Buffett’s appearance on CNBC this morning was never boring, and he revealed an investment in IBM which is not a stock we would have bought ourselves. Many large cap U.S. stocks appear attractively priced, and the dividend yield on the S&P500 (SPY) remains more attractive than long-term government or high-grade bonds. The equity risk premium is not as wide as it was but remains nonetheless attractive in favoring equities over fixed income.

Disclosure: Author in Long EUO, BRK, ANW, SPY

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Important Disclosures

The information provided is for informational purposes only and investors should determine for themselves whether a particular service, security or product is suitable for their investment needs. The information contained herein is not complete, may not be current, is subject to change, and is subject to, and qualified in its entirety by, the more complete disclosures, risk factors and other terms that are contained in the disclosure, prospectus, and offering. Certain information herein has been obtained from third party sources and, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified and its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed. No representation is made with respect to the accuracy,  completeness or timeliness of this information. Nothing provided on this site constitutes tax advice. Individuals should seek the advice of their own tax advisor for specific information regarding tax consequences of investments.  Investments in securities entail risk and are not suitable for all investors. This site is not a recommendation nor an offer to sell (or solicitation of an offer to buy) securities in the United States or in any other jurisdiction.

References to indexes and benchmarks are hypothetical illustrations of aggregate returns and do not reflect the performance of any actual investment. Investors cannot invest in an index and do not reflect the deduction of the advisor’s fees or other trading expenses. There can be no assurance that current investments will be profitable. Actual realized returns will depend on, among other factors, the value of assets and market conditions at the time of disposition, any related transaction costs, and the timing of the purchase. Indexes and benchmarks may not directly correlate or only partially relate to portfolios managed by SL Advisors as they have different underlying investments and may use different strategies or have different objectives than portfolios managed by SL Advisors (e.g. The Alerian index is a group MLP securities in the oil and gas industries. Portfolios may not include the same investments that are included in the Alerian Index. The S & P Index does not directly relate to investment strategies managed by SL Advisers.)

This site may contain forward-looking statements relating to the objectives, opportunities, and the future performance of the U.S. market generally. Forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of such words as; “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “should,” “planned,” “estimated,” “potential” and other similar terms. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, estimates with respect to financial condition, results of operations, and success or lack of success of any particular investment strategy. All are subject to various factors, including, but not limited to general and local economic conditions, changing levels of competition within certain industries and markets, changes in interest rates, changes in legislation or regulation, and other economic, competitive, governmental, regulatory and technological factors affecting a portfolio’s operations that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results. Such statements are forward-looking in nature and involves a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, and accordingly, actual results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements or examples. None of SL Advisors LLC or any of its affiliates or principals nor any other individual or entity assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, subsequent events or any other circumstances. All statements made herein speak only as of the date that they were made. r

Certain hyperlinks or referenced websites on the Site, if any, are for your convenience and forward you to third parties’ websites, which generally are recognized by their top level domain name. Any descriptions of, references to, or links to other products, publications or services does not constitute an endorsement, authorization, sponsorship by or affiliation with SL Advisors LLC with respect to any linked site or its sponsor, unless expressly stated by SL Advisors LLC. Any such information, products or sites have not necessarily been reviewed by SL Advisors LLC and are provided or maintained by third parties over whom SL Advisors LLC exercise no control. SL Advisors LLC expressly disclaim any responsibility for the content, the accuracy of the information, and/or quality of products or services provided by or advertised on these third-party sites.

All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment will be suitable or profitable for a client’s investment portfolio.

Past performance of the American Energy Independence Index is not indicative of future returns.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.