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Thursday 26 August 2021

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week. If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate it.

1. 95% of traffic accidents are predictable
Traffic accidents are a misnomer. In fact, over 95% of what happens on roadways is perfectly predictable. 

According to Stefan Heck, PhD, CEO of Nauto, a leader in AI-powered advanced driver assistance systems. With the belief that fully autonomous driving is still years away, Heck's answer to the mounting number of collisions and fatalities in 2020 is to help drivers, not replace them. To that end, Nauto's technology underpins sophisticated safety systems for hundreds of the world's top large-scale fleets, and customers are achieving up to an 80% reduction in a collision loss. The company estimates that has translated into over $300 million in savings.

By far, the biggest cause of collisions in commercial fleets (or, in fact, any vehicle) are distractions. We see about 70% of all collisions happen to drivers that are frequently distracted. Fleets with long distances or hours also see large numbers of collisions due to fatigue and drowsiness, often at the end of a long gruelling day of physical labour -- e.g. installations, package delivery. Speeding gets a lot of attention but is actually mostly an amplifier of damage, not the primary cause of collisions.

In 10 years, we will begin to see significant adoption of both EVs (electric vehicles) and AVs (semi-autonomous or what is known as level 2/3 or fully autonomous known as level 4/5) will become much more common. But AV adoption will not be evenly spread. First, they will remain expensive, so they remain a luxury item.

2. Federer's legacy - as a businessman
Federer  was on his way to becoming one of the few athletes in history to earn $1 billion during his playing career, a milestone he reportedly surpassed this year, joining Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather, LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Federer’s two decades of on-court achievements only begin to account for that stunning total: About $130 million of Federer’s earnings has come from official prize money, a figure that puts him second on the all-time list in tennis to Djokovic’s $152 million. The rest has come through sponsorships, endorsements, appearance fees at tournaments and lucrative exhibition events around the world. Federer’s performance in this domain has been every bit as impressive as his performance on court — perhaps even more so when you consider the disadvantage he started with. Sponsorships and endorsements tend to be easier to acquire if a tennis player comes from a major market like the United States, Britain or France. 

Beyond Federer’s lucrative individual pursuits, the Laver Cup has been the primary focus of Team8, the boutique management firm that Federer and Godsick left IMG to form back in 2013. It is an event that, if it prospers, could serve as both a legacy for Federer and a vehicle for him to remain involved in the game as a team captain or organizer. 

3. The Art of Reading
Consuming information is not the same as acquiring knowledge. No idea could be further from the truth.

Learning means being able to use new information. The basic process of learning consists of reflection and feedback. We learn facts and concepts through reflecting on experience—our own or others’. If you read something and you don’t make time to think about what you’ve read, you won’t be able to use any of the wisdom you’ve been exposed to.

Active reading is thoughtfully engaging with a book at all steps in the reading process. From deciding to read right through to reflection afterwards, you have a plan for how you are going to ingest and learn what’s in the book.

Books don’t enter our lives against a blank slate. Each time we pick up a book, the content has to compete with what we already think we know. Making room for the book, and the potential wisdom it contains, requires you to question and reflect as you read.

4. The Paradigm for Success
Today’s CEO isn’t just a name and a face; they’re a brand. And they’re encouraging others to be brands too. We’re becoming a society known for what our brand is, not what our character is. And that’s often where hubris — confidence that has morphed into arrogance — begins.

One success after another builds greater self-confidence. But in the same way, increased achievement can skew healthy self-confidence into hubris. Hubristic people can easily become hooked on their own egos, so confident in their own self-importance that they assume they can do no wrong. Naturally, the more wins an individual with the Midas touch accumulates, the less open they are to critical feedback: Why would a winner need feedback when they already have the code to success?

Additionally, as fans and minions (descriptors some celebrity CEOs use to define other people) continue to cheer them on, hubristic individuals typically seek to feed their self-glorifying adulation tendencies. They become intensely focused on repeating their successes, seeking to make the next one ever bigger and better. Finally, the individual ascends (in their own mind) to godlike status, above any rule or order.

Whatever you choose as a marker of success, remember Rory Vaden’s Rent Axiom: Success is never owned; it is merely rented, and the rent is due every day. What price are you willing to pay for success?

5. Happiness and a sense of humour
Researchers have theorized that a sense of humor is made up of six basic variables: the cognitive ability to create or understand jokes, an appreciation and enjoyment of jokes, behavior patterns of joking and laughing, cheerful or humorous temperament, a bemused attitude about life, and a strategy of using humor in the face of adversity. A sense of humor, then, can mean either being funny or enjoying funny things.

Consuming humor brings joy and relieves suffering. However, the type of humor you consume and share matters. Humor can be positive, when it’s not intended to belittle or harm others, or when one laughs at one’s own circumstances. It can also be negative, when it attacks others or when one belittles oneself. Positive humor is associated with self-esteem, optimism, and life satisfaction, and with decreases in depression, anxiety, and stress. Negative humor follows the exact opposite pattern: While it can feel good in the moment, it exacerbates unhappiness.

Laughter itself is what brings a lot of humor’s benefits, not necessarily making other people laugh. Laughter also acts as a social lubricant, making interactions easier even when there is no humor involved. 

Sunday 22 August 2021

Hit Speak - Time to be Prepared, Not Worried

The markets have continued to follow the same trend of large-cap outperformance versus small and midcaps underperformance that we have seen for quite a few weeks now.  We alluded to that in our last blog post on 10 August 2021.   The frothy rally in the small and midcaps seen still remains something in the past. Broader markets have yet to find consistent strength. 

The question of how to position ourselves keeps vexing a lot of investors.  Our view remains the same as before.  And that is to be in sectors that have shown strength/resilience in the past few weeks in terms of price action. And in companies with strong earnings visibility over the next few quarters. 

Overall our sense is that the small and midcaps space is taking a much-needed breather after the strong and often frothy rallies seen in the past.  All this while the large caps are doing their bit to carry Nifty higher.

Some of the pockets that have shown good strength in the last few weeks have been the index heavyweight large caps. Besides these, FMCG and consumer staples also seem to be showing good strength. I will be discussing some interesting charts to drive home our assumptions.

The FMCG index seems to be showing good signs of a strong breakout. Stocks from this sector have been relative underperformers over the past few weeks and months. But now most of them seem to be breaking out/on the verge of breakouts.

Nestle chart has broken out above all time highs. 

I would like to have a look at the medium term chart of Reliance Inds. I have put up a GMMA (guppy multiple moving averages chart)  weekly chart of RIL.  As shown in the chart,  we can see a breakout from a flag like consolidation on this chart.  If the pattern plays out, RIL can be a big leader going forward and can lead Nifty to much higher levels.   Blue lines indicate longer-term moving averages and usually indicate an investor mindset.  It offers support during short term market corrections.  Red lines indicate shorter-term moving averages and indicate trader mindset.  Best setups are those where longer term moving averages are consistently moving up and shorter-term moving averages are coming out of compressions and breaking out on the upside. Something similar is being seen in RIL.

Another good company to look at is Schaeffler India. The company has shown very good growth and strong management commentary post the June quarter results. Its stock price shows a good breakout past all time highs of around 6000 and now consolidation above that level.

HDFC Ltd has broken out above its 6 month highs of 2690 and is managing to stay above that level since past few trading sessions.

To conclude,  I feel that if we are invested in small and midcaps it makes sense to be careful and follow strict stop losses or be very choosy to be in fundamentally good companies.    There does not seem to be any panic bells yet, but it always helps to be prepared and have a plan ready in case things go awry. 

Dr Hitesh Patel

Thursday 19 August 2021

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week. If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate it.

1. The Nvidia CEO you saw presenting was a deepfake!!
Earlier this year, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang stood in his kitchen and delivered a press conference for the company's latest technology. But although one particular part of the keynote looked identical to the rest, it was very different: The kitchen, the CEO and even his leather jacket were entirely computer generated.

Like many companies, Nvidia has switched to online "virtual" press conferences during the coronavirus pandemic. Huang has broadcast several announcements from his kitchen, which meant no one saw anything different in April's GTC keynote presentation discussing the Nvidia Omniverse system. 

Known for its graphics cards, the company used the keynote event to show off its Omniverse tools for creating 3D virtual worlds. Engineers did a full face and body scan of the CEO to create a 3D model of Huang, then programmed it to mimic his gestures and expressions. This CG clone delivered part of the keynote speech, seamlessly transitioning from the real thing.

2. The Metaverse is coming
The word "metaverse" is a portmanteau of the prefix "meta" (meaning beyond) and "universe"; the term is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe. Currently, you can only experience the internet when you go to it, but with new connectivity, devices and technologies, we’ll be able to experience it all around every single day. 

Today, the metaverse is a shared virtual space where people are represented by digital avatars. The virtual world constantly grows and evolves based on the decisions and actions of the society within it. Eventually, people will be able to enter the metaverse, completely virtually (i.e. with virtual reality) or interact with parts of it in their physical space with the help of augmented and mixed reality.

Companies will need to transition their marketing strategies from online ad buys to existing in a shared, virtual economy. Companies will need to do market research on their new customers in the metaverse. How people act and what their preferences are in the metaverse could be totally different than how they behave and what they shop for in real life. Add to that the layer of business to robot to consumer, where virtual assistants and robots own the relationship with the consumer and it all starts to make sense. 

3. Dental cavities are a transmissible, infectious disease!!!
Mouth bacteria are connected to cavities because of the tiny creatures’ digestive process. Cavity bugs feed on bits of sugar and carbs stuck to your teeth. The bacteria ferment those things, creating natural acids that start to dissolve the tooth enamel, similar to how water combines with carbon dioxide to dissolve limestone in a cave.

“You can take an animal that naturally develops cavities and feed it a high-sugar diet, and it will get cavities. And if you house it with animals that seem to be naturally resistant to cavities, they will then develop cavities,” he said. Cavities, in other words, are a transmissible, infectious disease.

Scientists know a handful of surefire ways to make your oral microbiome healthier. You have to brush twice a day, floss, use mouthwash and eat a diet low in sugars and refined carbohydrates. Those activities change the pH levels in your mouth making an environment that is less acidic and more friendly to the kinds of bacteria that aren’t associated with cavity formation. Decreasing the acidity also helps promote remineralization — basically the process of your teeth fixing themselves. The opposite of this advice — eating a lot of sugar and not reliably cleaning your teeth — creates an environment that is more friendly to streptococcus mutans and its buddies. 

4. Saving and spending less may be easier than trying to earn more
Investment returns have a lot of potential to make you rich and achieve your goals. But whether a strategy will work, and how long it will work for, and whether markets will cooperate, is always a question.

Personal savings and frugality – finance’s conservation and efficiency – are parts of the money equation that are largely in your control and have a 100% chance at being as effective in the future as they are today.

If we have the same assets and I can earn an 8% annual returns, and you can earn 12% annual returns, but I need half as much money to be happy while your lifestyle compounds as fast as your assets, I’m better off than you are. I’m getting more benefit from my investments despite lower returns.

The hard part is becoming satisfied with spending less. It’s not easy. It’s a behavioural trait, not analytical skill, and investing attracts more of the latter. 

5. Try on clothes on your digital avatar
AR clothing try-on, both more complicated and more lucrative than its counterparts in cosmetics and accessories, has been elusive. After years of development, that’s now changing, and fast. For fashion brands, this could unlock digital clothing sales, increase conversions and decrease e-commerce returns. 

AR clothing try-on generally refers to the ability for three-dimensional digital clothing to automatically appear on a person as they move in real time, usually either via their phones but also via laptop or other devices. Unlike a static image that is retroactively fitted in a digital garment, it behaves the same way as Snapchat face filters: when your body moves, the item reacts in sync, responding to the wearer’s movements, measurements and environment in a way that appears to be realistic.

Recent examples offer a glimpse of just how far this has come on the design side. This month, during Paris Couture Fashion Week, designer Clara Daguin “wore” a digital version of her Jacquard by Google-imbedded designs on Instagram, created through a partnership with digital clothing marketplace DressX. 

Wednesday 18 August 2021

The Four Pillars of Future Business ~ Megatrends in the Making

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable” said John Kenneth Galbraith. And he was right. One of the reasons economic forecasting, as well as financial market forecasting, is fraught with such a high degree of risk is because it operates in a complex adaptive system. One small change in one small component somewhere and there could be a large impact in a completely different system in an entirely different place and time.

However, looking at the future does require some amount of understanding of the present, trend-following characteristics and understanding of potential disruptions. With this in mind, I have tried to analyse the major pillars of future business change. Below are the four pillars of my mental framework for the future of businesses:

1. China + 1
2. Climate Change
3. Digital & Tech
4. Health & Wellness

A) China + 1:
With the battle lines drawn between China and the Western world, there is a definite possibility of a Cold War 2.0 ensuing in the next few years. Some experts say it is already underway. Global corporations will be forced to de-risk their sourcing and move away from their dependence on China as their sole supplier. Global supply chains may have to reorganise to reduce and remove the domination of a single point of failure.

However, China + 1 is not just reducing dependence on China. It is a complete overhaul of the decades of policy of super-efficient supply chain systems. The just-in-time delivery model is also likely to take a back seat as companies build inventory and build in some slack in their supply lines to take care of unforeseen events.

With increasing automation and the use of technology, manufacturing is also shifting back to developed economies as labour costs start mattering less and less in the overall scheme of things. In addition, we also see a rise of nationalistic fervour across the world and politicians will be more likely to promote companies that create jobs in their countries even at the cost of maximum efficiency.

B) Climate Change:
The 2030 Paris agreement and other such agreements will force countries to regulate agents of climate change and take corrective actions. We have already seen China act on this by banning chemical factories and other highly polluting plants. This is likely to become more of a trend. As more and more developed and slowly developing nations understand the true cost of climate change (increased weather disruptions and natural disasters), they will be forced to take action.

Governments and corporations will have to focus on better sanitation, clean water and clean air. We are already seeing the beginning of this. Increasingly difficult emission norms for automobiles and their resultant switch to cleaner fuel and EVs; large water treatment and desalination plants; efforts towards rainwater harvesting; solar and wind energy adoption and many more such initiatives are picking up across the world.

We are also seeing a thrust towards biodegradable products, banning of plastic use, recycling of products including the right to repair (something new for the developed world which we have been doing forever!!) .

C) Digital & Tech:
What can I say about this that has not been talked about already by everyone? Technology has become ubiquitous in our lives. Online classes for students, mobile games, the rise of esports, 101 apps for every conceivable activity are now a part of our lives.

Next is the Metaverse. You may be able to travel to Alaska without ever leaving your sofa, or do your online shopping by walking through the virtual store and pick products, just with a VR set.

Companies will increasingly be dependent on tech to not only move ahead of their competition but just to survive! The better a company is at using tech, the more competitive it will be.

D) Health & Wellness:
Sitting indoors due to a pandemic, people across the world seemed to have realised the value of health and wellness. People and governments across the world have fallen short in managing the pandemic and the scars of this will take a very long period to heal. So, there is likely to be increased focus on healthcare spending across the board - governments, corporates and households.

The entire spectrum of health and wellness - diagnostics, online consultations, e-pharmacies, online health records, medical insurance, preventive health care will fall in this ambit. Mental health has emerged as a subject that people have openly started discussing and it is likely that a lot more focus will be in this area as well. Companies in these areas would definitely have a tailwind for the next few decades.

Companies will get both positively and negatively impacted by one or more of the four pillars. Business strategy will require thought and investments in these four pillars. As investors, we need to evaluate how one or more of these four pillars affect the business that we own and how they are addressing these issues as corporates.

This article first appeared in The Economic Times.

Thursday 12 August 2021

Weekend Reading



1. Focus only for four hours a day

You almost certainly can't consistently do the kind of work that demands serious mental focus for more than about three or four hours a day.

The real lesson – or one of them – is that it pays to use whatever freedom you do have over your schedule not to "maximise your time" or "optimise your day", in some vague way, but specifically to ring-fence three or four hours of undisturbed focus (ideally when your energy levels are highest). Stop assuming that the way to make progress on your most important projects is to work for longer. And drop the perfectionistic notion that emails, meetings, digital distractions and other interruptions ought ideally to be whittled away to practically nothing. Just focus on protecting four hours – and don't worry if the rest of the day is characterised by the usual scattered chaos.


2. The extraordinary story of Michael Dell

Nine years ago, Silicon Valley and Wall Street alike had written off Dell, the person and the company, both tethered to the then-cratering personal computer market, as en route to the same technological irrelevance as Palm or BlackBerry. He enlisted private equity firm Silver Lake and its billionaire co-head Egon Durban to sidestep the public cynicism, taking his company private for $24.9 billion in 2013. 

The results have been remarkable. Automobiles, telecommunications, energy grids, hospitals and logistics networks have all become digital businesses, producing ever-increasing reams of data that need to be managed and stored. Dell now sits at the helm of the world’s largest infrastructure provider for this activity. In turn, Dell Technologies, at $75 billion, is worth more than four times what it was before it went private.

Soon Dell will sit at the helm of two separate public companies: Dell Technologies, his personal computer and IT infrastructure giant, and its spinoff, VMware, a mainstay in cloud-computing infrastructure. Both will hold manageable debt levels and a valuable currency for growth and acquisitions. 

“Everybody’s eyes are on Amazon, Microsoft and Google,” says billionaire Marc Benioff, the cofounder of Salesforce and a friend of Dell’s. “They don’t realize that Dell has quietly amassed the market share in enterprise technology.” 


3. Climate change is here, and unless drastic action is taken, it will only get worse

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations’ climate science research group, concluded in a major report that it is “unequivocal” that humans have warmed the skies, waters, and lands, and that “widespread and rapid changes” have already occurred in every inhabited region across the globe. Many of these changes are irreversible within our lifetimes.

This is the first report of its kind in eight years, and a lot has changed. Scientists have backed away from many of the best-case scenarios. They’re more confident than ever that human-caused climate change is already worsening deadly weather events, from flooding to heat waves. And they’re investigating culprits of climate change that warm the planet even more than carbon dioxide.

The report warns that the world is likely to overshoot 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming compared to pre-industrial temperatures — one of the goalposts of the Paris climate agreement — within the next 20 or 30 years, even under scenarios where greenhouse gas emissions fall significantly.

Those effects of climate change continue to ripple across the planet, amplifying disasters like the massive wildfires in California, deadly flooding in China and Europe, and record heat in Siberia. Climate change is here, and unless drastic action is taken, it will only get worse.


4. You have to earn your trust

Your truth and the truth are not always the same thing. The truth is a fact. Your truth is just an opinion. Nobody values somebody who is honest about their opinions if their opinions always suck. Knowing when to offer your truth and keep your mouth shut is a rare quality. The line between thoughtful dialogue and disrespectful disagreement is razor-thin.

If you cross the line, you lose somebody’s confidence. There are countless ways to do this, and once you do, it’s hard to go back. My parents taught me that all you have is your word. Lose this, and you’ve lost everything.

Trust is the most valuable currency on the planet. And it’s something you can’t buy. You have to earn it.

It takes time to earn somebody’s trust. You can’t force it. You can’t even be deliberate about it. It just has to show with every action you take. Eventually, your bank will fill, and you’ll have something that most people don’t.


5. Getting better with deliberate practice

While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance. The greatest challenge of deliberate practice is to remain focused. In the beginning, showing up and putting in your reps is the most important thing. But after a while we begin to carelessly overlook small errors and miss daily opportunities for improvement.

This is because the natural tendency of the human brain is to transform repeated behaviors into automatic habits.

Mindless activity is the enemy of deliberate practice. The danger of practicing the same thing again and again is that progress becomes assumed. Too often, we assume we are getting better simply because we are gaining experience. In reality, we are merely reinforcing our current habits—not improving them.


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Tuesday 10 August 2021

Hitesh's Blog : How do we position ourselves in the current market?

The small and midcaps index has been under pressure since the past few days especially after the nifty crossed the strong resistance of 16000 mark.  There is a clear paradox at play here. Nifty made multiple attempts to clear the 16k mark and failed multiple times. 

Every time it went down and came up, there were different sectors which attained market fancy and rallied hard. Sectors like  real estate, textiles, tea/coffee,  paper, metals and mining  etc, just to name a few kept popping up off and on. All this while, some sectors which seemed to be in a sectoral longer term uptrend  like chemicals and speciality chemicals,  API/bulk drugs,  etc  continued to remain in a steady uptrend.  

Ever since nifty crossed the much coveted 16k mark, it seems broader markets were jinxed. To begin with there was a loss of momentum in most of the fast running stocks and sectors and after a few trading sessions, there have been sharp cuts in the small and midcaps space in the past couple of days. This has been masked by a healthy looking index chart. But that takes nothing away from the fact that a lot of portfolios skewed towards momentum and small and midcaps have suffered damages. 

Today seemed to be a day of panic selling where there were widespread cuts of 5 to 10% or more across many stocks in broader markets. This may be partially over or might extend a little more but usually after such a drubbing there is a bottom in place to be followed by a strong rally. We need to observe the next few days to see how things play out.


Personally I think even if  there were to be a rally the strong frothy trend seems to have been  broken and we might have a more sedate looking uptrend if and when it materialises. 

So how do we position ourselves in such a market?   

The idea should be to get out of stocks and sectors which have broken their trends and follow strict stop losses.  And get out of stocks with questionable quality if one is holding them. The good thing about most corrections is that post they are over there are always winners to be picked up. These may be stocks which already were in an uptrend but just took a pause or some stocks which enter into fresh uptrends. We will continue to search for stocks with such characteristics. 

We have received some queries about how to go about following stop losses. We usually follow end-of-day stop loss wherein if our given stop loss is violated on a closing basis , we send a mail in the evening or night to exit the stock on the following day. However if someone wants to be aggressive they can exit on the same day when the stop loss is violated in the last hour of trading. Since we have a system we follow,  we tend to follow it  as in the past.  If and when we feel there is a need to change it, we will revert back to you.

The other query is on the allocation part. We do take care to pick companies with good fundamentals ready for a technical breakout or which have already broken out so that even if someone misses out on executing stop loss for whatever reason, the return of capital is not jeopardized to a large extent. Within Hitpicks, we would advise to allocate around 5% of the portfolio to an individual stock at the time of recommendation and watch things for a few days. If the trade begins to play out, one can increase allocation slightly to take it up to 7 to 10% of the total capital allocated to Hitpicks in your portfolio. 

Wishing you all the best of health and wealth, 



ET NOW: Key themes for the long term

Will write a more detailed blog on this shortly.

Thursday 5 August 2021

Weekend Reading



1. Ray Dalio on Chinese state capitalism

To understand what’s going on you need to understand that China is a state capitalist system which means that the state runs capitalism to serve the interests of most people and that policy makers won’t let the sensitivities of those in the capital markets and rich capitalists stand in the way of doing what they believe is best for the most people of the country. Rather, those in the capital markets and capitalists have to understand their subordinate places in the system or they will suffer the consequences of their mistakes. For example, they need to not mistake their having riches for having power for determining how things will go.

Also, you need to understand that the global geopolitical environment changing leads to some changes. You can see that reflected in the U.S. governments’ policy shifts such as a) changing its policies about Chinese companies’ listings in the United States and b) threats to prohibit American pension funds from investing in China.

Assume such things will happen in the future and invest accordingly. But don’t misinterpret these wiggles as changes in trends, and don’t expect this Chinese state-run capitalism to be exactly like Western capitalism.


2. Are high valuations here to stay?

For about 120 years from the 1870s to the 1980s, the U.S. stock market reliably reverted to its long-term average valuation, and just as important, it spent roughly equal time above and below that average. Investors could therefore expect an expensive market to become cheaper and a cheap market to become more expensive, a useful assumption when estimating future stock returns. Change in valuation is one of three key components of returns, along with dividends and earnings growth.

Since 1990, however, the market has rarely dipped below its long-term average valuation, the notable exception being the period around the 2008 financial crisis. Neither the dot-com bust in the early 2000s nor the Covid-induced sell-off last spring managed to subdue it.

The difference between the two periods is striking. From 1871 to 1989, the market traded below its long-term average valuation 47% of the time, as measured by price-to-earnings ratio using 12-month trailing earnings and counted monthly. Since 1990, that percentage has dropped to 10%.

As the years go by and the market maintains its elevated valuations, it becomes easier to suspect that something has indeed changed for good. And of course, many things have. Financial markets are accessible to more people than ever before, and it’s much easier and cheaper to buy stocks today than it was three decades ago. Investors are allocating more of their savings to stocks, much of it in index funds that track the broad market, and they appear to be getting better at hanging on to them. Retirement plans also steer billions of dollars to the market every year. It’s not hard to imagine that an increased demand for stocks and a decline in the number of panicky investors has lifted the market’s average valuation.  

That doesn’t mean the market won’t crater occasionally, as it did during the financial crisis. But there’s a growing chance that the past 30 years haven’t been an anomaly and that forecasting models need to lift their valuation targets.



3. Rainfall in the desert - geoengineering to the fore

Cloud seeding has traditionally been done by releasing compounds like silver iodide into clouds. The chemicals function as a sort of scaffold that water molecules latch onto, becoming heavy enough to drop to the ground as rain. Despite its lack of naturally-occurring rain, the UAE does have plenty of clouds, which are generated by moisture and evaporation from the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Arabian Sea.

Amid concern that pumping silver iodide and other chemicals into clouds could cause invisible but harmful pollution on the ground, scientists started to look for new ways to catalyze rainfall. The UAE funded research at the University of Reading in the UK, where meteorologists developed a cloud seeding technology based on electricity. They discovered that when cloud droplets have a positive or negative electrical charge, the smaller droplets will combine and form raindrops.

Custom-built drones with a six-foot wingspan fly at low altitudes, with sensors measuring temperature, charge, and humidity. Charge emitters on the drones deliver electric charges to the molecules in clouds. Videos from the last few weeks show it not only raining in Dubai and surrounding areas, but raining so much that some streets started to flood, a rare if not unheard of occurrence there.



4. Battling the obesity epidemic through the gut

The global obesity epidemic is striking for its prevalence and persistence. Despite mounting attention from the media and governments, obesity rates have risen in every region of the world in recent years. Deeply entrenched attributes of contemporary lifestyles, from the worldwide availability of unhealthy processed food to the sedentary nature of urbanised lives, are often thought responsible. That helps explain why reducing obesity has proved so difficult.

The linkages between the food we consume and the ways in which we make decisions go beyond how much we eat. An evolving body of research explores how bacteria composition and hormonal activity in the gut communicate with the brain and vice versa, possibly helping to determine our overall health and well-being.

Viewed through the gut-brain framework, food choice is less an independent calculation than the outcome of a feedback loop in which what we eat today implants, at a biological level, the seeds of future meals. On one level, this carries the discouraging implication that existing obesity sufferers – barring serious surgery – will have to battle their own biology to better their metabolic state.

In another sense, though, the gut-brain connection is rife with positive possibilities. It points to numerous areas of intervention beyond appeals to willpower. This includes synbiotics to target the gut microbiota composition or supplements that raise serotonin levels, tracking of metabolic base rates and stress levels etc. Further research and experimentation may refine these methods such that they become viable alternatives to invasive weight loss interventions such as surgery for some.



5. The business tycoons who fell foul with the law (read the linked article)

The post-global financial crisis growth in Indian economy and the rush of corporate expansion activity burned many. Companies. Promoters. Chief Executives. Bankers.

For the first time in India’s post-liberalisation economic history, many who once led storied enterprises have gone to jail for alleged improprieties.

From Avantha Group’s Gautam Thapar to the Singh brothers of Ranbaxy, Fortis and Religare fame. From Yes Bank Ltd.’s Rana Kapoor to the Wadhawans of Dewan Housing Finance Corp. and Ravi Parthasarthy of IL&FS. Each was influential. Each connected in the corridors of power. Each built business at scale but fell afoul of rules. Each now incarcerated.


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