Why a Bearish Cash Supervisor Likes Playing Shares and Is Able to Dump Apple



Dan Niles thinks the inventory market is headed decrease. Possibly quite a bit decrease.

A Stanford College–educated electrical engineer who as soon as labored on the previous minicomputer big Digital Tools, Niles has centered on tech shares for greater than 30 years, initially as a sell-side analyst at Robertson Stephens and Lehman Brothers. He moved to the purchase aspect in 2004, and now runs the Satori Fund, a tech-focused hedge fund. It’s within the black for the 12 months, regardless of the

Nasdaq Composite’s

23% loss, as a consequence of nimble buying and selling and a few good quick gross sales.

Niles got here into the 12 months bearish, and his worries have solely deepened. He thinks we’re headed for a recession, and sees the

S&P 500

index bottoming round 3,000—down 25% from right here—or possibly decrease. He particulars his grim view—and shares a number of inventory picks—within the edited interview beneath.

Barron’s: Dan, when we talked in late December in regards to the outlook for 2022, you instructed me that your high decide was money. “It will likely be a tricky 12 months for something in tech,” you stated. That was spot-on, however after the selloff we’ve seen, why are you continue to bearish?

Dan Niles: Coming into the 12 months, we have been centered on two issues. The primary was, we didn’t wish to battle the Fed. And the second was, we didn’t wish to battle the basics. Coming into this 12 months, our expectation was that the market could be down at the least 20%. In Might, we revised that forecast to down 30% to 50%, peak to trough, by someday in 2023.

We thought inflation would decide up, and that, in consequence, the Fed could be extra aggressive than others have been anticipating. Structurally, three issues have been in place to make inflation run hotter. The labor market had tightened, with the variety of job openings, relative to the variety of unemployed, at a report stage. The second piece was commodity inflation. After the 2008-09 recession, individuals didn’t put money into capability for commodities comparable to coal, oil, and copper. Our view was that if demand was going to be stronger than anticipated, commodity costs would rise. The ultimate piece was that we thought the housing market, with record-low rates of interest, could be very robust.

How does your inflation outlook inform your worries about company fundamentals and inventory valuations?

What does increased inflation do? It drives down company earnings—and inventory multiples.

From mid-June by means of mid-August, the Nasdaq Composite surged 20%. After which Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell popped the bubble. Have been individuals simply deluded?

Earlier this 12 months, I checked out all of the bear markets since 1920. Each time, you get sharp rallies. You misplaced 49% of your cash, peak to trough, within the tech bubble in 2001, and 57% within the recession of 2008-09. In each circumstances, you had 5 rallies within the S&P 500 of 18% to 21% on the way in which to the underside. Within the Nice Melancholy, you had 5 rallies of greater than 25% between the crash in September 1929 and the underside in June 1932, in your approach to shedding 86% of your cash. So, the summer season actually was nothing particular. Folks thought, “Earnings estimates have come down sufficient; issues must be effective.” However they’re not.

Among the media commentary after Powell’s speech centered on the drop in oil and different commodity costs, retailers’ extra inventories, and softening housing costs. Critics asserted that the Fed is being too hawkish.

That’s why Powell stated in his speech that the Fed will doubtless have to depart charges increased for longer than most individuals have anticipated. Within the Seventies, the Fed not as soon as, however twice, began reducing charges too early, simply as inflation confirmed the primary indicators of coming down. That’s why Powell stated, we’ve made this error earlier than, and we’re not going to do it once more, and pressured that we’re going to undergo some ache. He has seen this image earlier than.

What in regards to the bulls’ assertion that inflation is already easing?

About 70% of the U.S. economic system is tied to companies. Labor is two-thirds of prices for the typical company. Solely 10% is tied to the availability chain, and 10% is power prices. The one approach to cope with inflation is to drive unemployment increased.

Since November, we’ve had an enormous downdraft in tech shares. What would make them engaging once more?

The S&P 500 trades for about 20 instances trailing earnings. If you happen to look again at 70 years of historical past, when the patron worth index has been above 3%, the trailing worth/earnings ratio, on common, has been 15 instances. That’s a reasonably large drop from the place we’re right now. And when the CPI has been above 5%, the typical P/E has been 12 instances. The final CPI report was 8.5%, and we’re buying and selling at 20 instances. This appears unsustainable.

However some shares are already down 70% or 80%.

I at all times wish to ask traders: When a inventory is down 90%, how a lot draw back stays?

And, in fact, the reply is 100%. Not 10%.

Proper. It could at all times go to zero. I learn lately that about 5,000 web corporations, each private and non-private, went bankrupt within the 2001 and 2002 downturn. We haven’t seen that but. However with charges going up, the economic system slowing down, and steadiness sheets for a few of these corporations the place they’re, you’re going to see bankruptcies decide up in 2023.

Let’s speak about particular shares. Two of your picks are large-cap retail bets, which some individuals would possibly discover stunning.

We’re bullish on


[ticker: WMT] and


[AMZN]. Look again on the final recession. Walmart shares rallied 18% in 2008 in a 12 months through which the S&P 500 declined 38%. The corporate gained market share. If you happen to take heed to Walmart’s earnings calls, administration talks about the truth that customers are buying and selling down. You’ve acquired extra high-end customers buying in Walmart. And the corporate appears to be getting its stock points underneath management.

Our plan is to promote [Apple] and go quick after the iPhone 14 launch on Sept. 7.

— Dan Niles

Amazon’s valuation isn’t almost as little as Walmart’s, and also you’ve seen development gradual from 44% within the March 2021 quarter to 7% within the June 2022 quarter. However, like Walmart, they’re going to acquire market share throughout a recession. Remember that I don’t personal these shares in a vacuum—I’ve them paired in opposition to a basket of shorts of on-line and offline retailers. However the backside line is that Walmart and Amazon are going to take retail market share from all people else.

Alternatively, you’re nervous in regards to the promoting market. What considerations you?

If you happen to return to the 2008-09 interval, advert revenues dropped greater than 20% in two years. At that time, the web was 12% of the general advert market. Now, digital is two-thirds of all advert spending. In an promoting recession, which we’re more likely to have subsequent 12 months, corporations reliant on digital promoting can’t escape; they’re simply too massive.

Additionally, TikTok is taking market share from different social-media corporations, like

Meta Platforms

(META) and


(SNAP). And


[NFLX] is launching an ad-supported tier. These are {dollars} that might have gone to others.


[AAPL], as a lot because it talks about privateness, is seeing its advert enterprise take off. You possibly can quick these ad-supported corporations in opposition to an Amazon lengthy.

What’s your pondering on Apple?

We’re lengthy proper now. Over the previous decade, the inventory outperformed 60% of the time within the weeks main as much as product launches. However our plan is to promote and go quick after the iPhone 14 launch on Sept. 7. That displays the place we predict the economic system goes, what’s going to doubtless be excessive worth factors for the brand new telephones, and the truth that you’re beginning to see high-end shopper spending weaken. I’ve a tough time believing Apple’s income development will speed up from the two% they reported within the June quarter to the 5% vary, which some analysts predict for subsequent 12 months.

Dan, you’ve stayed bullish on the playing sector. Why?

We personal

Penn Entertainment

[PENN] and


[DKNG]. Within the final recession, income from the Las Vegas strip fell 20%. However Penn Leisure, which owns regional casinos and race tracks, was down solely 5% in that interval. I count on them to hold in quite a bit higher. We personal DraftKings due to on-line sports activities betting. About 20 states have legalized on-line betting, and we predict California will observe. Each corporations are down about 75% from their highs. Draft-Kings ought to develop income this 12 months by 60%, and compound at 40% over the following three years. It is likely one of the final markets to go digital.

You’ve been dabbling in



That’s true, though I’ve my place hedged in opposition to different chip shorts. Intel, at one level, was thought-about unassailable. They did every thing they might to shoot themselves within the head, falling behind on manufacturing, lacking product launch dates again and again, and shedding market share to

Advanced Micro Devices

[AMD]. They will lose extra market share subsequent 12 months to AMD. Folks have them returning to double-digit earnings-per-share development subsequent 12 months; they’ll be fortunate if earnings are flat. However with new CEO Pat Gelsinger, they’ve an engineer again in cost. They’ve an important CFO in Dave Zinsner, who simply got here aboard from

Micron Technology

[MU]. And the inventory trades at 13 instances earnings.

The important thing for Intel is getting their contract chip-making enterprise going. However gained’t that take plenty of money and time?

Sure. However they only signed on a significant foundry buyer in


[2454.Taiwan], a big Taiwanese chip firm. If they will discover one other massive buyer, the inventory may very well be a greater performer.

The wild card is China’s testy relationship with Taiwan.

One of many dangers we noticed coming into this 12 months was Russia invading Ukraine, which is what occurred. One other we cited was China’s reunification with Taiwan, which we nonetheless suppose will occur within the subsequent 5 years. The day you hear that China is shifting on Taiwan, you’re going to see Intel rally 10% or 20%. It is a geopolitical hedge.

You can see at the least one different main firm decide to Intel’s fabs earlier than 12 months finish. And sooner or later, you possibly can see Apple, which is so reliant on

Taiwan Semiconductor

[TSM], strike a relationship with Intel. Intel might be probably the most hated large-cap semiconductor firm, however at this a number of, it’s an fascinating thought.

Thanks, Dan.

Write to Eric J. Savitz at eric.savitz@barrons.com

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