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Do Newly Built Skyscrapers Signal The Top of the Stock Market?

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Have you heard of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai?

It’s the tallest skyscraper in the world at 828m (2,717 ft), and it was completed in 2009. The price tag was a whopping $1.5 billion, making it one of the most expensive buildings of all time.

For these bold projects to get the go ahead, global financial conditions have to be just right. Record-breaking skyscrapers can take multiple years to build, and things can change drastically from start to finish.

In this case, construction of the Burj Khalifa started in 2004. By the time it was completed, however, the financial markets were in ruins. Lehman had collapsed, and rescue efforts such as TARP and QE were in full force to try and stop the bleeding. Between October 2007 and March 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 55% of value.

The crisis didn’t only bankrupt financial markets – it also took its toll on competing projects that aimed to unseat the Burj Khalifa as the world’s height record-holder. For example, One Dubai Tower A was supposed to be a whopping 1,008m (3,307 ft) tall – but it was shelved in March 2009 once it was clear that global financial conditions would not be improving any time soon.

Do Newly Built Skyscrapers Signal The Top of the Stock Market?

Could record-setting skyscrapers signal economic over-expansion and a misallocation of capital?

EWM Interactive, a subscription service focused on technical analysis, thinks so. The following infographic follows the “Skyscraper Curse” through six different market tops and subsequent crashes over the past century.

It is gigantic in size, so please click here or the below image to access the legible version:

The Skyscraper Curse

EWM Interactive sums up the infographic with these words:

In the market, extreme optimism results in price bubbles. One of the real-life manifestations of extremely positive social mood is the construction of enormous buildings. Market tops and skyscrapers often seem to emerge simultaneously, because both phenomena are the result of the illusion of infinite prosperity. But extreme psychological conditions do not last very long. That is the reason why record-breaking buildings, whose construction starts during a market bubble, are often completed after the bubble’s collapse.

That said, there are counter-examples that show the “skyscraper theory” is not perfect.

The recession after World War I, the recession of 1937, and the recession in the early 1980s were not correlated with any record-breaking skyscraper projects. An empirical test in 2015 that looked at the theory found that record-setting skyscrapers did not correspond directly with the business cycle.

Let’s hope that they are right, since the Jeddah Tower – a 1,008m (3,307 ft) monster in Saudi Arabia – is expected to unseat the Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building by the year 2019.

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Cannabis

The Dramatic Rise and Fall of Cannabis Company Stocks

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The Dramatic Rise and Fall of Cannabis Company Stocks

The unprecedented expansion of cannabis across North America took the investment world by storm, as investors raced to cash in on the “green rush”.

Yet, even as changing regulations unlock new opportunities, it seems as though the cannabis stock bubble has already burst — at least temporarily.

Today’s visualization dives into the roller coaster of cannabis company stock valuations over the past few years, and which companies remain standing in this hazy market.

A Wild Ride for Cannabis Stocks

The North American Marijuana Index tracks the equally-weighted stocks of leading companies operating in the legal cannabis industry in U.S. and Canada. Companies listed on the index must have at least 50% of their business strategy focused on the legal industry, including ancillary operations that support companies and consumers.

At the tail-end of 2017, the promise of upcoming legalization in two immense markets—California state and Canada—had investors all fired up. The index’s low (105.31 on June 27th, 2017) shot up almost three times to 358.93 by January 8th, 2018.

Things took a sharp turn in the second quarter of 2019, as the expectations for cannabis company stocks encountered a harsh reality post-legalization.

IndexNorth America🇺🇸 U.S.🇨🇦 Canada
52-week High319.73137.07727.25
52-week Low110.1751.40195.73

Note: 52-week period data captures Dec 9th 2018-Dec 9th 2019.

What are the reasons behind such a nosedive? Could the cannabis industry still make a comeback in 2020? We look at some opposing perspectives to answer these questions.

So Much For the Green Rush

The cannabis industry is experiencing significant challenges. In the U.S., legal cannabis faces high taxes—come the new year, consumers in California will see an 80% mark-up on their cannabis at checkout, up from 60%.

North of the border, federal legalization led to immense consumer demand for Canadian cannabis—but supply can’t keep up. To make matters worse, retail stores are slow to roll out, which means Canada is feeling the crunch.

Steep prices, and difficulty purchasing products post-legalization, allow the black market to thrive. It’s clear many cannabis companies have taken a big hit as a result.

According to the Marijuana Index, here are the 10 biggest companies in the space now:

CompanySymbolMarket Cap (US$)Country
Canopy Growth Corp.NYSE: CGC$5.6B🇨🇦 Canada
Curaleaf HoldingsCNSX: CURA$3.67B🇺🇸 United States
GW Pharmaceuticals PLCNASDAQ: GWPH$2.98B🇬🇧 United Kingdom
Aurora Cannabis Inc.TSE: ACB$2.85B🇨🇦 Canada
Green Thumb Industries Inc.CNSX: GTII$2.42B🇺🇸 United States
Cronos Group inc.TSE: CRON$1.83B🇨🇦 Canada
Trulieve Cannabis CorpCNSX: TRUL$1.91B🇺🇸 United States
Tilray Inc. NASDAQ: TLRY$1.46B🇨🇦 Canada
Aphria Inc.TSE: APHA$0.96B🇨🇦 Canada
Harvest Health & Recreation Inc.CNSX: HARV$0.94B🇺🇸 United States

Note: Companies listed on a Canadian index have had their market cap converted from CAD$ to US$. Top 10 companies are based on those listed on the North American Marijuana Index. All values as of Dec 9th, 2019.

Only one company outside of North America—and even the cannabis sector—lands on this list. The UK-based Big Pharma company GW Pharmaceuticals is steadily growing its industry presence, as it currently holds 41 cannabis patents in the U.S. and Canada combined.

Still, even these big players have seen their valuations drop since the industry was at its peak. Unless the aforementioned issues are ironed out, investors may continue to pull their dollars from the cannabis industry.

A psychological shift has taken place from everyone wanting to own (cannabis) to everyone involved now feeling burned. I think many investors are now over it.

Chris Kerlow, portfolio manager at Richardson GMP

On the flip side, some investors aren’t calling it quits quite yet.

Long-Term Prospects Are High

While cannabis seems plagued with issues, some argue that these are simply short-term growing pains and will be solved as the industry matures.

Particularly in the U.S., experts predict that cannabis sales could reach immense heights in the next decade:

  1. $30 billion by 2025 (New Frontier Data)
  2. $50 billion by 2029 (Jefferies Group LLC)
  3. $75 billion by 2030 (Cowen Inc.)
  4. $100 billion by 2029 (Stifel Financial Corp)

Compared to a benchmark of $13.6 billion today, these numbers may seem ambitious—but they’re backed by major industry trends. 2020 could well be the year the market stabilizes, as consumers explore an array of retail options and vote with their wallets.

What’s more, key players in consumer industries—from alcohol and tobacco to beauty and fitness—are making big bets in cannabis and CBD-infused products. A higher number of partnerships could spark the next uptick for the industry’s potential.

The marijuana business is not for the faint of heart. But this is a big long-term game.

——Mark Zekulin, CEO of Canopy Growth Corp.

An Eye on What’s to Come

It’s clear there are differing viewpoints on the future of cannabis companies and their respective investors. As this snapshot of cannabis stocks unfolds and transforms in 2020 and beyond, could companies potentially buck the current trend and bounce back? Or will stocks continue to go up in smoke?

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Banks

The Making of a Mammoth Merger: Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade

A look at the histories of Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade, what comes next after the merger, and the potential impacts on the financial services industry.

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Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade: A Mammoth Merger

In this era of fierce competition in the discount brokerage space, scale might be the best recipe for success.

Charles Schwab has once again sent shockwaves through the financial services industry, announcing its intent to acquire TD Ameritrade. The all-stock deal — valued at approximately $26 billion — will see the two biggest publicly-traded discount brokers combine into a giant entity with over $5 trillion in client assets.

Today we dive into the history of these two companies, and what effect recent events may have on the financial services industry.

The Evolution of Charles Schwab

1975 – U.S. Congress deregulated the stock brokerage industry by stripping the NYSE of the power to determine the commission rates charged by its members. Discount brokers, which focused primarily on buying and selling securities, seized the opportunity to court more seasoned investors who might not require the advice or research offered by established brokers. It was during this transitional period that Charles Schwab opened a small brokerage in San Francisco and bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

1980s – The company experienced rapid growth thanks to a healthy marketing budget and innovations, such as the industry’s first 24-hour quotation service.

This fast success proved to be a double-edged sword. Charles Schwab became the largest discount broker in the U.S. by 1980, but profits were erratic, and the company was forced to rescind an initial public offering. Eventually, the company sold to BankAmerica Corporation for $55 million in stock. A mere four years later, Charles Schwab would purchase his namesake company back for $280 million.

1987 – By the time the company went public, Charles Schwab had five times as many customers as its nearest competitor, and profit margin twice as high as the industry average.

1990s – In the late ’90s, Charles Schwab moved into the top five among all U.S. brokerages, after a decade of steady growth.

2000s – The company made a number of acquisitions, including U.S. Trust, which was one of the nation’s leading wealth management firms, and most recently, the USAA’s brokerage and wealth management business.

The Race to $0

For Charles Schwab, the elimination of fees is the culmination of its founder’s vision of making investing “accessible to all”.

charles schwab falling trade fees

The company’s fees were slowly declining for decades. In late 2019, it finally took the plunge and introduced free online trading for U.S. stocks, exchange-traded funds, and options. The response was immediate and enthusiastic, with clients opening 142,000 new trading accounts in the first month alone.

Although Charles Schwab sent rivals scrambling to match its no-commission trade offer, fintech upstarts like Robinhood have offered free trading for years now. The “race to zero” reflects a broader generational shift, as millennials are simply more likely than earlier generations to expect services to be free.

The Evolution of TD Ameritrade

1975 – The origin of TD Ameritrade can be traced back to First Omaha Securities, a discount broker founded by Joe Ricketts. The company changed its name to TransTerra in 1987.

1988 – TransTerra’s subsidiary, Accutrade, was the first company to introduce touch-tone telephone trading, a major innovation at the time and one of the first early forays into automation.

Early 1990s – Ricketts’s willingness to integrate emerging technologies into the trading business helped his companies achieve impressive growth. In 1997 the company acquired K. Aufhauser & Co., the first company to run a trading website.

The Internet wasn’t a puzzle. We were crystal clear from the beginning that customers would migrate to this.

– Joe Ricketts (2000)

Late 1990s – The Ameritrade brand was solidified after the company changed its name from TransTerra to Ameritrade Holding Corporation in 1996. The newly named company completed an IPO the following year, and established its new brand Ameritrade, Inc., which amalgamated K. Aufhauser, eBroker, and other businesses into a unified entity.

2000s – Ameritrade entered the new millennium as the fifth largest online investment broker in the United States, fueled in part by marketing deals with AOL and MSN.

The modern incarnation of TD Ameritrade took shape in 2006, when TD Bank sold its TD Waterhouse USA brokerage unit to the Ameritrade Holding Corporation in a stock-and-cash deal valued at about $3.3 billion. At the time of the deal the new company ranked first in the U.S. by the number of daily trades.

2016 – TD Ameritrade acquired the discount brokerage Scottrade for about $4 billion. The deal brought 3 million client accounts and $170 billion in assets under management into the company, and quadrupled the size of its branch network.

What Comes Next?

Naturally, the announcement that these massive discount brokers plan to merge has generated a lot of speculation as to what this means for the two companies, and the broader brokerage industry as a whole.

Here are some of the consensus key predictions we’ve seen on the deal, from both media and industry publications:

  • After the deal is approved, the integration process will take 12 to 18 months. The combined company’s headquarters will relocate to a new office park in Westlake, Texas.
  • Charles Schwab’s average revenue per trade has dropped nearly 30% since Q1 2017, so the company will likely use scale to its advantage and monetize other products.
  • The merged company will continue to adopt features from fintech upstarts, such as the option to trade in fractional shares.
  • E*Trade, which was widely considered to be an acquisition target of Schwab or TD Ameritrade, may now face pressure to hunt for a deal elsewhere.

Even though these longtime rivals are now linking up, stiff competition in the financial services market is bound to keep everyone on their toes.

I think Joe Ricketts and I agree that our fierce competitiveness nearly 30 years ago is proof that market competition can be a source of miraculous innovation.

– Charles Schwab

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