The coronavirus outbreak centered in China continues to worsen. Over 7,800 cases have been reported — already exceeding the 2002-03 SARS outbreak — and over 170 people have died.
Fallout for crude-tanker shipping and public equities took center stage on the quarterly conference call of tanker major Euronav (NYSE: EURN). While the comments on the call were about crude tankers, almost all of them could apply to all modes of shipping.
“This is bad news,” said Euronav CEO Hugo De Stoop. “Let’s not pretend it’s anything but bad news. The impact is definitely uncertain, but in the short term, it’s negative. In the long term, everybody is convinced it will be contained, so you want measures to be as strong as possible now so the virus is contained as quickly as possible,” he said.
As previously reported by FreightWaves, the sweeping shutdown of land and air transportation within China and to and from the country will weigh heavily on near-term oil demand given the outsize role China has in global consumption.
Another negative for tanker demand: OPEC is expected to extend production cuts in response to the coronavirus-induced plunge in oil prices.
According to De Stoop, “If we look at other terrible viruses that have spread in the past, what we know for sure is that once they are contained and things go back to normal, they don’t go back to normal. There’s huge stimulus, usually by China but also by other economies, to try to get back a bit of what has been lost during the [epidemic] period.
“So, if you predict that it may take a few months [before the virus is contained], what you will have is a fantastic first quarter — no matter what happens for the rest of the quarter, it will be a great first quarter — then you have summer, which is never the period we count on, and then the chances are we will be back in winter with a super-strong market, so it should be a great year,” he said.
When reporting fourth-quarter results on Thursday, Jan. 30, Euronav disclosed that it had booked 60% of available days for the first quarter for its very large crude carriers (VLCCs, tankers that carry 2 million barrels of crude oil) at an extremely high rate of $89,200 per day, and 51% of available days for its Suezmaxes (tankers that carry 1 million barrels) at $57,500 per day.
In the crude-tanker business, almost all bookings for a particular quarter are done in the prior quarter or the early part of the current quarter. Tanker rates were extremely high in the fourth quarter and first few weeks of 2020.
What De Stoop is saying is that full-year 2020 results should be strong based on exceptional first and fourth quarters (the fourth assuming the virus is contained), even if the coronavirus and seasonality hit the second and third.
The coronavirus is hitting shipping stocks, including tanker stocks, even more severely than the broader market. Strong fundamentals, exceptional quarterly returns, incremental volumes driven by the new marine-fuel rules — all of those positives are now being erased in the stock market by coronavirus fears.
Euronav is a prime example. It reported net income $160.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2019, up from just $279,000 in the same period the year before. Earnings per share of $0.70 easily topped the consensus forecast for $0.63 per share. Its VLCCs averaged $61,700 per day in the spot market in the most recent quarter, and its Suezmaxes $35,700 per day. These rates, which De Stoop dubbed “remarkable,” were the highest since 2008, before the financial crisis.
And yet, Euronav’s share price was down 4% in the double the average trading volume on the day its results were announced (in mid-day trading, it was down 7%).
“In the first 10 days of January, we were finally getting our share price above NAV [net asset value], which is always our objective,” De Stoop said. “Obviously, we are not happy at all with our share price at the moment.” Investment bank Jefferies estimated that Euronav’s stock is now trading at a 24% discount to NAV.
De Stoop argued that the share decline creates “a fantastic entry point in tanker shipping companies. With Euronav, you have a guarantee to be paid with the dividends, and if that upside [following virus containment] doesn’t come as quickly as I just expressed, you are in a company with a super-strong balance sheet that can weather any storm. So yes, this [virus] is terrible news. It’s completely unexpected. But quite frankly, if I was an investor and I was attracted by this sector, I know where I would put my money.”
Asked whether the balance could shift toward more time charters as opposed to spot voyage contracts, De Stoop again brought up the coronavirus.
“The volume of time charters in the market is very thin. There have been even fewer opportunities in the last three to four months simply because the market has been extremely volatile. It was quickly going to $100,000 a day and then suddenly there was a massive drop [to around $45,000 a day]. So, everybody is looking each other in the eyes, and thinking on one side [a proposed time-charter rate] is too high and the other side saying it’s too low.
“We need to see a little bit more stability. And I think that because of the events affecting the market at this moment — and we spoke about the virus— it’s just too unpredictable for people to start signing long-term contracts,” he said.
Discussing potential “positives” of the outbreak, De Stoop pointed to the extremely high secondhand VLCC prices recorded in early January.
He noted that secondhand VLCCs have been sold for $107 million, versus a newbuilding contract price of $90 million. “I think those prices were probably exacerbated by the excitement around the rates and quite frankly we don’t think they were justified,” he said.
He noted that $90 million newbuilding price is unlikely to appreciate further because of the low orders at the yards. Owners are unusually reluctant to order newbuilds due to ongoing uncertainty over future emissions standards. De Stoop said the newbuild price should “anchor” the secondhand values, which are at premium to newbuilding pricing in a strong market (because second-hand purchases can earn immediately; a newbuild takes 14 months to deliver).
The implication is that the newbuilding price anchor combined with weaker sentiment due to lower spot rates and the coronavirus fears should serve to either maintain or reduce secondhand values.
Euronav bought back $30 million of its own stock last year. It has targeted a return of 80% of quarterly net income to shareholders through dividends and/or buybacks. But the buyback aspect of the equation faces new uncertainty due to the coronavirus.
“The philosophy of this company has always been the same,” said the CEO. “We don’t rush to buy back our shares. If there is weakness in the share price, we want to see if it’s a temporary weakness or whether it’s more permanent. If it’s more permanent, then obviously we’d think very seriously about it [share buybacks].
“We’re disappointed about what’s going on at the moment, but we understand there are exceptional circumstances around that. Before deploying capital for share repurchases, we need to see how long and how deep it will go. Because if you buy back today, maybe tomorrow it will be weaker. If [share-price weakness] is deeper tomorrow, you’d better wait before deploying your capital.”
He continued, “Let’s see how capital markets react to this virus and the continuous flow of news we’re going to receive. Let’s see what happens to tanker markets and tanker values and where we are [in the share price] compared to NAV.”
Takeaways For Tanker Stocks
The comments on the Euronav call were negative in general for tanker stocks, which are falling across the board.
Shipping stocks are valued in relation to NAV, and the most important variable of NAV is the market value of the ships in the fleet. If the coronavirus and other factors either cap or decrease tanker asset values, it’s bad for stock prices.
Secured revenue streams via time charters at attractive rates are a positive for tanker companies. If coronavirus uncertainty reduces the ability to sign such contracts, it’s another negative.
There are also conflicts between De Stoop’s statement that the crisis creates “a fantastic entry point” and some of his other comments on the call. First, if tanker rates aren’t likely to recover until next winter, assuming virus containment, why buy shares now?
Second, if Euronav itself is openly hesitant to buy its own shares specifically because states on the record that “you’d better wait” to see how the coronavirus situation develops, why shouldn’t individual investors wait as well?
Biden Plan Could Mean 60% Tax Rates, But Here’s Who Will Get Stuck With Higher Taxes
New York and California may start losing high-income residents by the droves next year if Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the election in a few weeks.
That’s because the two left-leaning states would have a combined federal and state rate over 60% under Biden tax plan.
Even New York resident and rapper 50 Cent tweeted earlier this week that despite his apparent dislike for President Trump, he said “Vote Trump” and “62% are you out of ya (expletive) mind,” when he learned about Biden’s tax plan.
According to calculations from Jared Walczak of the Tax Foundation, California residents earning more than $400,000 per year could face a combined tax rate as high as 62.6% under the Biden plan. New Jersey residents could see taxes reach 58.2% and New York would top out at just over 62%.
But somehow, it could get even worse.
Tax Rates Can Still Go Higher Under Biden
Walczak points out that if you include the contributions to the tax hikes by employers, which are often passed along to employees, the combined rates would jump to over 65% in California, 62.9% in New Jersey and 64.7% in New York City. They could still go even higher if California and New York raise taxes on high earners. This is something some legislators have proposed to try and close multibillion-dollar budget gaps.
“These rates would be the highest in about three and a half decades,” said Walzcak, “and imposed on a broader tax base than was in place previously.”
The Middle Class Will Suffer?
But Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone believes the wealthy won’t pay higher taxes at all – the middle class will.
“The middle class will not be exempt. Tragically, it will punish them. It isn’t going to punish us,” said Langone.
Appearing on Fox Business yesterday, Langone said due to Biden’s tax hikes, “the middle class will be in peril.”
He said that despite Biden saying the wealthy should pay more in taxes, the middle class will feel the effects of Biden’s tax plan. Langone said he is in favor of a tax code that is more progressive and equitable. This includes eliminating loopholes that favor the rich and large corporations.
“I don’t know if there’s any of us that have done well that will have a problem with paying more taxes, but it’s a ruse to think that hitting us and us alone is going to get the job done,” Langone said, adding ““It won’t and the middle class will be in peril and when you take money out of the hands of the middle class, you do a dramatic impact negatively on the economy.”
He said that increasing taxes on the middle class will lead to a recession.
“The problem is, when you go after the middle class, you begin to attack the backbone of the economy and we will have a bad recession. We will have a very bad recession,” Langone said.
“These are very precarious times and not the time to be screwing around,” he added.
Market Volatility Rises As Election Polls Show Tightening Race
The relatively calm markets earlier this month are giving way to more volatility as we approach the election. This is according to a team of strategists at JPMorgan.
“While it is perhaps true that during the first two weeks of October risk markets were supported by a widening of US presidential odds, which by itself implied a lower probability of a close or contested US election result, over the past week or so these odds have started narrowing again,” said a team of strategists at JPMorgan Chase, led by Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou.
According to recent polls by RealClearPolitics, in key battleground states, Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads President Trump by 3.9 percentage points, 49.1 vs. 45.2. That lead has shrunk from a 5 percentage point advantage for Biden about a week ago.
A general election nationwide poll by RCP shows a wider 8.6 percentage-point lead for Biden. However, there are many who feel those polls are not correcting for sampling bias.
MarketWatch recently interviewed Phil Orlando, the chief equities strategist at Federated Hermes. There, he said he doesn’t believe the polls accurately reflect how close the race is. In relation to this, he pointed to the surprise win by Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“Our base case is that the polls are wrong, there’s an oversampling biased error that a lot of polls aren’t correcting for,” Orlando said.
With a tightening race for the White House, volatility has returned to the market. It will also likely increase in the final two weeks leading up to the election.
A report put out yesterday by SentimenTrader showed that the CBOE Volatility Index or VIX, jumped to levels last seen during the Great Financial Crisis, and tends to rise as stocks fall as it is typically used as a hedge against market downturns.
Market analysts use the ratio to measure how speculative traders are getting. A rise in the put/call ratio means that investors are expecting plenty of volatility between now and November 3.
The VIX, which measures investor bullish or bearishness on the S&P 500 for the next 30 days, is currently near 29, well above its historical average between 19 and 20. This week alone the VIX jumped 6.3%.
Source of Volatility
Jeffrey Mills, the chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust, said some of the volatility likely comes from investors trying to position their portfolios based on who they perceive will win the election. “There could be some front-loaded selling but I do feel like that’s a near-term phenomenon,” he said. But he says no matter who wins, there’s really only one place to invest, and that’s the stock market.
“There is going to be this continued pull toward equity markets — where else are you going to go when you need to earn a certain percentage to fund retirement, fund education?”
If investors are moving money today based on who they think will win the election, Daniel Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas Securities said each candidate will likely benefit different sectors.
A Biden victory will be good for stocks in the infrastructure, renewable energy and technology sectors, said Clifton.
If President Donald Trump is reelected, Clifton said there’s “huge upside” in some sectors. These include defense, financials and even the for-profits like prisons, education and student loan lenders.
Tesla Keeps Streak Intact, Posts Profitable 3rd Quarter
The winning streak continues Tesla posts a profitable 3rd quarter, it’s fifth consecutive. The EV company posted a net profit of $331 million for the three-month period ended Sept. 30. Tesla also confirmed its goal of delivering 500,000 vehicles within the year. CEO Elon Musk calls the latest quarter as Tesla’s “best quarter in history.” The company posted a record of $8.77 billion in revenue against estimates of $8.28 billion. This is an increase of 39% from a year ago. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected sales of $8.28 billion. Shares went up over 3% at about $438 in after-hours trading. Since January, Tesla shares have grown 500%.
500,000 Deliveries on Target
Despite the pandemic, the company will proceed with its original goal of 500,000 cars in 2020. In a statement, Tesla affirmed its goal. “While achieving this goal has become more difficult, delivering half a million vehicles in 2020 remains our target,” it said. This entails building more cars at its Shanghai factory, and improvements in logistics and delivery.
Earlier in October, Tesla reported 139,593 vehicle deliveries in the quarter. This places the 500,000 targets is within reach. Model 3 and Model Y took up the bulk of deliveries and growth during the period. The more expensive Models S and X dropped by 12% compared to 2019. As such, Tesla started slashing prices for its higher-end models to increase demand. The Model S reduced its prices twice to $69,420.
China Remains the Crucial Market
China remains the key market for Tesla’s profitable 3rd quarter. Tesla’s auto sales in China climbed nearly 13% in September, their sixth straight monthly gain. The company’s Shanghai Gigafactory raised production due to demand. Demand for the Model 3, especially in China, led to a retooling. From 150,000 units per year, it now handles 250,000.
China’s “Golden September, Silver October” is the country’s high point in car purchases. Sales reached 2.57 million vehicles last month. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said that sales were still down. For 2020, 17.12 million vehicles got sold, which is 6.9% below last year.
Electric vehicles enjoyed brisk sales during the period. Sales increased by 67.7% to 138,000, which is the third straight month of gain. Tesla reduced its Model 3 prices by 8%, down to 249,900 yuan ($36,805).
Based on September sales, the momentum looks to carry over to October. Haitong International analyst Shi Ji expects even better numbers this month. He said: “Based on our dealer channel checks, the growth in momentum extended into the October Golden Week, as retail sales exceeded dealers’ expectations”
A Decrease in Credit Sales
While revenue rose, regulatory credits fell down from $428 million to $397 million. Ben Kallo of RW Baird observed that “Regulatory credits are a big part of the EPS beat. But that’s part of the game: Tesla’s competitors are paying them, and Tesla is reinvesting that into their factories in Berlin and Texas.”
Tesla generates extra income by selling credits. Manufacturers buy these credits to comply with carbon-emissions standards. They come from all over California, Europe, and other areas. Investors prefer seeing profits from the core business of selling cars. A Bloomberg analyst thinks that the S&P snub might be due to credit sales. Analyst Michael Dean noted “question marks about the sustainability of regulatory emission-credit sales, which are currently underpinning earnings.”
For 2021, Tesla aimed for even more increases in production. This includes its all-electric semitrailer truck and its pickup truck. The company hopes to get more cars out of its China factory. It also expects its newest plants in Berlin and Texas to start churning cars. Musk estimates the 2021 production could reach 840,000 to 1 million vehicles.
The company also laid out plans during its recent “Battery Day” event. Musk announced that the company will start making its own “tabless” batteries. These batteries improve the cars’ range and power. The improvements will help bring down the cost to produce a car. Soon, Tesla hopes to launch a vehicle priced under $25,000.
Watch this as Yahoo! Finance reports on Tesla earnings: Tesla posts a profitable 3rd quarter, it’s fifth consecutive and EPS estimates:
Are you thinking of buying an electric vehicle? If so, will you get a Tesla? Or do you see yourself holding out for more choices in the near future? Let us know what you think about EVs, and if you’re planning on getting one soon? Drop a line on the comments section below.
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