Wry & Dry

Assad's front lawn. Telstra's price crash. Not a genius.

Easter is a time for reflection.  And so Wry & Dry is reflectively truncated this week, and there are no investment insights from Investment Matters (but W&D has transferred the market charts to just below).  To allow Readers time to reflect on their blessings, please enjoy a series of snippets.

President Assad's front lawn

Three minutes after W&D was published last Friday, Tsar Trump made W&D's front page redundant by parking a few Tomahawk missiles on Syrian President Gasser Assad's front lawn.  And then going off to play golf with Emperor Xi Jinping.

Cartoon trump golf

Tsar Vlad made the predictable aggrieved responses.  Not about Tsar Trump's golf game, but with ally Gasser Assad's Friday being upset.  And the media emblazoned their electronic front pages with warnings of the world 'on the brink of war'.

Err, no.   Let W&D give Readers the whisper.  It is more convenient for the overlording states (Russia and China) not to interfere in the affairs of their lunatic-led vassal states (Syria and North Korea).  Far better to allow the US to do the dirty work.  And harvest the opprobrium of some parts of the world than to do it themselves.  China and Russia will always do whatever to irritate the West a little more.

Russia and China couldn't give a fig about the North Koreans or Syrians.  It's all about geopolitics.

Speaking of lawns...

Upstart telco provider TPG Telecom has parked a tank on Telstra's front lawn.  TPG's winning (and massive) bid for more 4G spectrum is serious a threat to Telstra's mobile phone business.  And the share-market reacted accordingly, yesterday belting Telstra's share price by 7.5%.  Ouch.

Telstra's problem (okay, it has more than one) is that its mobile division comprises 40% of its overall revenue.  And TPG is out to each its lunch.  Add to that the fact that the NBN is eroding the fixed line business rapidly, and Telstra's got a problem.

Be careful for what you wish for

There is more hot air arising from Canberra about affordable housing than from Tsar Trump's hairdryer.  Negative gearing [1] puts prices up.  No, hang-on, it puts prices down.  No, hang-on, it doesn't affect prices.

W&D doesn't know, except that it's a daft measure than leaks billions in tax revenue.

And William Shorten's policy to wind back negative gearing may not be electorally sensible.  The ATO has revealed that seven of the top ten postcodes ranked by rental losses are in blue collar Labor seats [2].  Not that Labor would do anything to buy votes in blue collar Labor seats.  It's Labor seats vulnerable to Green influence that will cause the faux-Green policies to buy the faux-Green votes.

Budget flagpole

Meanwhile, the broken Budget Flagpole, of which W&D has recently written, has been rebuilt.  And Treasurer Morrison continues to run up it his budget ideas, in a hitherto vain attempt to get people to salute.  Let W&D give Jimmy Morrison the whisper, "People are not listening, pal."

Example: 'Cradle-to-grave housing affordability'.  Good grief!  Sounds like the election jargon of a 1960's African tin-pot dictator: "A chicken in every pot".

So far, Morrison beginning to do what most people thought was impossible: making Joe Hockey look competent.

'Genius' is reserved for...not you

Randy Work, a former private equity manager, has had his net worth diminished by some A$120m.  In a widely publicised divorce case, the UK Court of Appeal gave half of his net worth to his ex-wife.  He had argued that his 'genius' merited more than a 50/50 split of the net assets in their divorce case.  A lower court's judge said that word “genius” was “over-used” and “is properly reserved for Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Einstein and others like them.”  And this view was upheld.

Hard to say about what Randy was more upset: losing the $120m, or having a judge say he was not really a genius. Tough call.

Still, legal fees of over A$5m.

Nice work, if you can get it.

Capital idea

The Australian banks had their own Tomahawk missiles landing on their well manicured front lawns last week.  In what must have been an orchestrated attach, the big wigs at the Reserve Bank, APRA and ASIC each came out and made rude noises about the housing price bubble/ household debt/ bank's high concentration of residential housing assets, etc.  Which led to the inevitable calls for the banks to hold more capital.

"There is no need for banks to hold more capital," responded the Chairman of Westpac, Lindsay Maxsted.

Well, he would say that, wouldn't he. [3]

What a fizzer

W&D did his best to drum up enthusiasm for the Tsar Trump/ Emperor Xi Jinping summit.  What a fizzer!  The Emperor's visit became a mere appendix to Trump upsetting Syrian President Assad's Friday.  

And so nothing significant was said or done.  The Emperor's face remained inscrutable.  But W&D bets his mind was racing: if Trump was going to do that to Syria, what might he do to North Korea?   

Image result for cartoon trump north korea

Investment Matters' charts

ASX fiscal year to date

36 ASX FYTDS&P500 fiscal year to date

36 SP500 FYTD

Elsewhere

Miscellany to soothe your troubled mind.    

And, no matter what child of Abraham you are, W&D wishes you a blessed Easter.

[1] Negative gearing is not a device to make a bicycle go backwards.  It is an individual taxpayer offsetting net investment (usually residential property) income (usually negative) against personal income and hoping that the eventual gain on sale, subject to a 50% CGT discount, would more than offset the annual income losses. We-the-taxpayer lose twice: (a) the lowering of tax receipts on personal income because of the negative gearing deductions and (b) the halving of CGT on the eventual property sale.   

[2] The Labor seats are Gorton, Lalor (Vic), Burt, Cowan, Fremantle (WA), Fenner (ACT) and Greenway (NSW).  The coalition seats are Dawson, Flynn (Qld) and Durack (WA).

[3] Originally said by Mandy Rice-Davies, a British, err, model, best known for her association with Christine Keeler and her role in the Profumo affair, which discredited the Conservative government of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1963.  While giving evidence at the trial of Stephen Ward, charged with living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and Rice-Davies, the latter made the famous riposte. When James Burge, the defence counsel, pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her, she replied, "Well (giggle), he would say that, wouldn't he?".