If we take anything away from this week’s headlines surrounding Biogen, it should be this: The biotech space is volatile in nature. It’s common for multibillion-dollar titans in the space to move 30% or more in either direction. In today’s educational segment, I break down a simple strategy for finding ideas in biotech… and ensuring the reward is worth the risk [39:11].
But first… Brent Johnson, CEO of Santiago Capital, tells us why he believes both the dollar and gold will move higher. And he offers a bold prediction on the direction of U.S. stocks over the coming months [13:32].
- Rant: Reckless doctors [00:30]
- Guest: Brent Johnson of Santiago Capital [13:32]
- Educational segment: A simple strategy for finding great ideas in biotech [39:11]
Wall Street Unplugged | 692
A blueprint for investing in biotech
Announcer: Wall Street Unplugged looks beyond the regular headlines heard on Mainstream Financial Media to bring you unscripted interviews and breaking commentary direct from Wall Street right to you, on Mainstreet.
Frank Curzio: Let’s go out there, it’s October 23rd. I’m Frank Curzio, host of The Wall Street Unplugged podcast where I break down the headlines and tell you what’s really moving these markets. Hey guys, I want to start off by saying thank you for all the emails you sent regarding the health of my mom.
Frank Curzio: It’s hard to get back to all of you, which is really cool. So I’m trying to. But I really appreciate reaching out, she’s doing better. But unfortunately, she may need another surgery as they found a small rip in her colon. It’s very frustrating actually, since she’s been in ICU for over two weeks and the hospital’s in Jacksonville, so it’s about 45 minutes away from my house. I’ve been going there every day. But now they say she could be in the hospital for another month, which is kind of insane.
Frank Curzio: I mentioned last week my mom’s 76 years old, has COPD, diabetes, but she’s in really good shape, very energetic and had to get surgery on two hernias and the doctor who specializes in minimally invasive surgery decide to open her up. They have to open her up, found a couple different things that he wanted to fix and opened her up for seven hours. To put that in perspective, open heart surgery probably takes around three and a half to four hours. They open my mom, 76-year-old, for seven hours.
Frank Curzio: He said that he didn’t like the way one of the surgeries looked because it was two surgeries, and he actually made it three because they went to her colon because he said he didn’t like the way that looked. But he said, “Hey, once I sewed her up, I didn’t like the way it looked.” He did it over again and also said while he was there he operated on her colon, which required him to remove a small piece and then sew the two ends together.
Frank Curzio: Now that he did this surgery, he obviously botched it and there’s still a tear in the colon, which is leaking blood. Now, they plugged it in hopes that it was going to heal itself because my mom now her vitals are fine, she’s awake and talking, starting to eat solid food for the first time few days ago, which is really good news, right?
Frank Curzio: She was able to get out of bed a little bit with some help and sit in the chair. I mean, it was pretty bad there to be honest with you. Her body went into shock after surgery, the kidney stopped working, she had to be in a dialysis machine. But she’s doing much, much better so I appreciate those emails.
Frank Curzio: But that’s also the reason why they want to try to avoid the surgery. They want to monitor her for few weeks with the hopes that this is going to heal itself but if not, then she’s probably going to be there for another three weeks and then have another surgery and probably be in the hospital for another three weeks after that which doesn’t include the rehab since she needs to go to a special facility and stay there overnight in rehab so there’s someone watching her.
Frank Curzio: She’s not going to be home for a pretty long time so this whole situation has been frustrating. Look, I just think another surgeon would have probably done a much better job. I hate to play Monday morning quarterback so many people do but it’s been a disaster this far to the point where her body failed, her kidneys failed, and we almost lost her.
Frank Curzio: They actually said, “You know what? You guys should prepare, get your things in order.” This is after day two, day three. I have to tell you something guys, now that I got a close look because I spend a ton of time in the ICU every single day, so this is day 17 now. I’ve been there every day and night pretty much from 7:00 to 12:00, 1:00 in the morning. It’s a complete shit show. I mean, the doctors first of all, there’s three of them on this case and everyone has contradicted each other.
Frank Curzio: One says that she had an infection. We were like, “Wait a minute, she has an infection after surgery?” The other said, “We couldn’t find anything but something’s still wrong because she was bloated and one of her drains was leaking blood.” The other actually said, “You know what? It might be due to a tear.” Now, she’s been sitting there for nearly two weeks when we got this news. Three CAT scans they performed on her and they couldn’t find this until the third one, till like day 12 or 13.
Frank Curzio: I’m like, “You know something’s wrong, wouldn’t you be focusing on it every single day but we’re getting just so many different viewpoints, no transparency.” Then the nurses, most of them are really nice, but there’s literally a different nurse and it’s four nurses, right? There’s two on a 12-hour shift and then the other two take over the other 12-hour shift. So, four every day but they’re new every single day.
Frank Curzio: My mom has a lot going on, she’s diabetes, she’s got insulin shots, she was on dialysis for a few days after her kidneys, then on a temporary dialysis machine where she got better. She takes different medications for all this stuff. They started giving her food through her IV. If you’re not getting any food for the first six days, that was a big deal.
Frank Curzio: Then on day eight, they just magically took it away. Her doctor came in and said, “Well, where’s the food?” We’re like, “Well, the nurse said she’s not going to give it to her.” He’s like, “What are you talking about? She’s supposed to get food.” They gave her a sleep aid most nights and some nurses refused to give it to her and said, “No, no, no we can’t give it to her because we’re pumping things out of her stomach,” and things like that.
Frank Curzio: Then the physical therapist starting getting her up out of bed after day nine and day 10 and then the next few days decided not to come, which really pissed me off because… Look, that’s a big deal because no matter what surgery you get, the three most important things the body needs is what? Food, sleep, exercise, right? She was getting no food for six days, no exercise. They didn’t get her out of bed and they were literally waking her up every single hour for the first week to take her blood, to put new lines in that’s closer to her heart so they jumpstart blood pressure well quickly, they’re pricking her every hour for diabetes, giving her blood, she needed blood, injected her with antibiotics because they weren’t sure if it was an infection, they’re taking her temperature every couple of hours, monitoring her white blood cell count, which could determine if she had an infection in her stomach.
Frank Curzio: I mean, constantly waking her up, she didn’t sleep at all. Being subject to that and being in that I mean it’s a complete shit show. I’m not saying it’s like that everywhere. I’m just saying, where she is now, which is a big hospital. I won’t name it, it’s very big in Jacksonville. But we got the bill a few days ago, she covered for all of it. But as of day 11, we’re on day 17 right now, it’s $300,00 so far. Now, she’s going to be in the hospital for at least another three weeks because the doctors botched the surgery and she may need another surgery now, again because the doctor messed up.
Frank Curzio: She messed up twice, messed up the first time and said, “Oh, I messed it up. I sewed it up wrong,” and then went back in there that’s why they kept her for seven hours. Then obviously something happened where you didn’t sew up the colon right. You’re going to charge us for that? Of course, they are. Of course, they’re going to charge us for that, right? What I look to health care everything is gone, and it’s just crazy. For me when I look at it, they should keep the same nurses on the same patients especially in ICU for a few days.
Frank Curzio: I mean I get it you want to give them exposure to numerous patients, numerous cases. They’re going to get that experience. They can still get it, but maybe have them work three days with, say, the same five patients in ICU because in the case of my mom where so much is going on, each nurse is basically starting from scratch. I have no idea of her progress over the past few days other than looking at the computer, the charts, statistics but that doesn’t include important information like how much energy she has now compared to a few days ago. What makes her comfortable in terms of pain medication?
Frank Curzio: Or they put certain pillows underneath her. She’s laying down all day. What makes her comfortable? What doesn’t? The physical therapist got her up the previous day. Some of the nurses didn’t know that. Or how is she post-surgery? How much has she progressed over the past few days? This is important. This is really important information knowing your patient.
Frank Curzio: I mean, my mom hates pain meds. She avoids them at all costs and refuses pain meds pretty much 75% of the time she’s been there but she has the right to ask for them and they give them to her crazy because she in ICU. One day she was in a lot of pain and requested pain meds and they didn’t give it to her right away. I’m like, “Know your patient.” I mean, this is someone who’s not in there and a lot of patients are in there and say, “I just want…” They’re in so much and I need it all day they could give it every half an hour, every hour depending on the patient, depending on the pain. She never asked for it. If someone like that asks for it, take it more serious. She’s in pain, she’s like, “the pain’s a 10. I really need it.” They were like, “Okay,” and an hour went by and she’s in excruciating pain, which, she doesn’t need to be in if they gave her medicine.
Frank Curzio: But man, it’s just a real shit show especially given that they didn’t even tell us what was wrong with my mom post-surgery for 12 days. Now, they finally found that tear, right? She’s been there probably two weeks in ICU and now they find a tear after the 3rd CAT scan, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah there’s a tear there.” Anyway, didn’t mean to go that much into it. I just want to update you since so many emailed me and I really appreciate it.
Frank Curzio: Again, guys, I’m not telling you this story for you to feel sorry for me or the problems be really tough times but I’m sharing this story hoping that, not hoping, hopefully none of you go through this experience but if you do you could be prepared a little bit because I wasn’t prepared at all for this. I didn’t see this coming. I thought this was a typical surgery pretty straight forward. She had two hernias, he said might go in there, might find a couple of things. He wanted to do an additional surgery, open up for seven hours. All this nonsense is going on but hopefully from listening to this experience you could be prepared, maybe know what questions you could ask the doctors and nurses before and after surgery and again, hopefully avoid a situation like this. Because again, when you see it upfront and you’re there every day and everything that’s going on, not saying every single hospital is like this, but these are facts I’m giving you. This is really what happened.
Frank Curzio: Imagine if a loved one and they botched a surgery, then for two weeks they’re in ICU and they can’t tell you what’s wrong with her. If you don’t know what’s wrong with her you should be doing tests every single day not every third or fourth day. But very, very frustrating experience but she is doing better, her vitals are good, she’s all there. It’s great, hopefully she doesn’t need another surgery if not, then she’ll probably be home within a month but we’ll see.
Frank Curzio: I mean, fingers are crossed cause after this experience, I’m a little nervous if she’s going to have to go under again and it might not be good. Again, I appreciate all of your thoughts on that. So, let’s move on. I have an awesome guest this week. It’s a first time he’s been on the podcast. A person I shared the stage with at several conferences. I love his opinion on so many macro issues where macro could be boring sometimes but this guy’s entertaining, super smart. Also, has a pretty big following on Twitter because he’s very funny and witty, so I know you’re going to love this guest and love this interview, his name is Brent Johnson.
Frank Curzio: Brent has had 20 years’ experience in the financial industry, he’s CEO of Santiago Capital where he manages money for high net worth individuals and families. He also has his own gold fund through Santiago Capital but he’s been managing money for a long time in places like DOJ, which was a big name back in the day, for few millennials who probably never heard of them. Spent nine years at Current Suisse, was vice president of that private client group. Just fantastic stuff coming. In this interview he’s going to be talking about gold, where he thinks it’s heading, he’s not a gold bug. This is going to be a good conversation and it’s going to be even better when you hear his prediction for the dollar, which makes no sense at first, but he’s going to explain why because his prediction for the dollar kind of contradicts his prediction on gold.
Frank Curzio: It’s going to be really interesting. He’s going to break down the Fed and tell you how long, the latest round of QE will last. But wait, wait we’re not allowed to call it QE, it’s not QE, it’s never QE. You can’t call it QE! Well, we’re going to break down the Fed and see what’s going on there and how long they think and how low it’ll actually come and of course like always, like all my guests he’s going to share some of his favorite ideas with you so really great interview coming up guys. You’re going to be really excited for this first-time guest and Brent’s awesome.
Frank Curzio: Then on my educational segment, we’re going to break down some of my favorite investment strategies. One that I covered several times with you over the years and it has to do with one my favorite sectors, which is Biotech. Now, why am I bringing this up? Because of user strategy you would abort Biogen but it crashed in March after reporting weak test results for a signature Alzheimer’s drug.
Frank Curzio: If you haven’t been paying attention, it’s been the biggest story this week on Tuesday. Biogen sold 30%, the company reported positive results on the same drug, which means there’s a good chance it’s going to get FDA approval by early next year. This is a big deal because there’s zero treatments for Alzheimer. This is a multi-billion-dollar industry basically wide open. It’s a huge break through where I think the stock is still cheap after this move maybe worth buying but I’m going to break down my strategy how it worked to a T with Biogen.
Frank Curzio: The stock sold tremendously on Tuesday and also, I’m going to share another Biotech name with you that actually has a much better drug in its pipeline than Biogens to treat Alzheimer’s, to two phase three studies and has enormous potential. The stock actually went up 8% on the Biogen news because it’s targeting the same factors that Biogen is targeting with this drug except it has better safety, better ways of taking this medication, it’s going to break that down, break down this whole segment, break down the strategy on my educational segment. Definitely, one you don’t want to miss.
Frank Curzio: Before we get to that, let’s bring in Brent Johnson. First time guest, brilliant analyst and here’s that interview right now. Brent Johnson, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.
Brent Johnson: Happy to be here, been looking forward to it.
Frank Curzio: Well, I’m going to jump right in here and I want to get your outlook for gold because you’re bullish on gold but you’re also super bullish on the dollar and usually gold and the dollar move in different directions at least pretty much since the credit crisis. But you’re bullish on both, which definitely separates you from a lot of the gold bulls out there. Explain that thesis.
Brent Johnson: Yeah, so thanks because I think this is something that’s crucial to understand and I’m going to take a minute to kind of set my answer up because back in 2016, I put out a presentation, which I called “Step Into Liquid” and it kind of went around the world and explained… that’s where I kind of started to lay out my bullish dollar thesis and why I thought certain things would happen which would make the dollar rise.
Brent Johnson: I think that was surprising to a lot of people because I have been such a big proponent of gold for the last call it 8 to 10 years. The typical argument for gold is that the dollar is going to get inflated away and therefore you want to own the one real asset that that can’t happen to, right? But I just see a number of fundamental reasons the dollar is about to get a lot stronger but what I think a lot of people forget is that the monetary system is designed such that the dollar gets weaker.
Brent Johnson: As the dollar gets stronger, it will literally cause chaos, a global currency chaos event and it will wreck the monetary system, the design of the monetary system. I see nothing more bullish for gold than the destruction of the current monetary system. Like I said, I started this two or three years ago and I said at some point, we’ll get into a period where the dollar and gold will rise together.
Brent Johnson: Now, I also made the argument that the dollar would break out prior to gold. Now, we’ve seen this year gold appears to have broken out prior to the dollar. I can’t claim to get every part of this right. Even then the last couple weeks, you saw gold has pulled back over the last month and the dollar has pulled back over the last month. It’s interesting to see this positive correlation between the dollar and gold and I think it’s because they are both, for lack of a better word, a safe haven trade.
Brent Johnson: Now, I know a lot of people who think that the dollar is an absolutely horrible currency and I agree with them except for every other fiat currency. I mean, fiat currency itself is doomed to fail. I mean, anybody who’s done even a cursory glance at history knows that fiat currencies fail. I don’t personally don’t find a lot of value in saying fiat currencies go to zero.
Brent Johnson: What I do find a lot of value is if you can figure out which currencies will perform better versus another fiat currency. Getting back to whether I’m bullish dollar or bullish gold right here I am of the belief that short term, let’s call it over the next six to 12 months, that gold is going to pull back and it will at least retest the break out zone of $1,375 to $1,400.
Brent Johnson: Now, I should make it clear I own gold. I think everybody should own gold. If your sitting there without gold, I don’t think you should just sit around and wait for that to happen. I view it as insurance. I think it’s a necessary part of a portfolio, but if you’re asking me what I think is going to happen, I think in the near term gold will pull back and it will at least will retest that break out zone. Part of the reason is, I think, the positioning has kind of gotten off sides in the cot. I think the dollar is going to make a move sometime. When that happens, I think that’ll be a head wind for gold.
Brent Johnson: Eventually, we’ll get into a period where I think they will both rise together dramatically and eventually I think gold will be the best beneficiary and the dollar will eventually get revalued lower and gold will be the last man standing. I hope that wasn’t too much of a rambling answer but that’s kind of my theory.
Frank Curzio: That was great and the reason why I love having you on this podcast is because you know as well as I do some people are over the edge when it comes to gold, right? They’re going to say, “You got to buy it no matter what.” Every single day it should be the biggest part. There’s just gold bulls out there that are nuts, I just like to talk to people who are reasonable because times change and sometimes it’s a great time to buy certain investments and sometimes it’s not, which brings us to my question because you have a pretty cool Twitter following. I follow you, I love you, it’s entertaining.
Frank Curzio: If you say one negative comment on gold but even talk about the dollar going higher, there’s people that actually come after you. Now, why do the die hards who own gold… I’m trying to figure… I mean, why are they so emotionally attached? Because from my experience in researching stocks and probably I’ve been on this for 25 years. When people get emotional about their investments, where we’re seeing the Tesla bears, the Gold power bugs, and the Fed haters it usually means that they’re wrong.
Brent Johnson: Yeah, and listen, I have a lot of friends in the gold roll and I think that they are amongst the most well intentioned, hardest working, honest people I’ve ever met in my life. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re all that way but I’m just saying a lot of the people that I know in the industry are in there because they see the problems with the central banks and the fiat currencies. They know it’s going to end badly and I think they actually are really trying to help people.
Brent Johnson: But I do think that they suffer from some of the same biases that they accuse traditional Wall Street of suffering from. My point with gold is yes, listen gold is going to go to $5,000. I don’t think it’s going to happen in the next month or two months but I could be wrong, so I own it. But it’s not enough to say that gold’s going to go to $5,000. I need to say it’s going to go to $50,000 I need to say it’s going to happen tomorrow, and I needed to say that the Fed is going to end up in a heap of burning ashes.
Brent Johnson: I do get frustrated at that part of it because I think gold is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. I think it will do exactly what it’s supposed to do when the time comes and I think that’s enough. I don’t think you need to say that it’s the only asset everybody should own. The point that I try to make with people is this, okay, yes, let’s own gold and let’s say that you have 20% of your portfolio allocated to gold.
Brent Johnson: Now, for most people, that is a huge amount. Now, for a lot of gold bugs that’s not enough but that’s one of my other things it’s never enough, right? If I said I owned 50%, well, what do you do with the other 50%? But let’s just say you had 20% of your portfolio on gold. My point is even if gold goes up versus the dollar, I believe the dollar is going to go up versus all the other fiat currencies.
Brent Johnson: The way that markets are priced right now, they are not expecting that to be the case. The opportunity to profit if the dollar does go up versus all these other currencies in the way that I think it’s going to the asymmetry of some of the trades that we can put on almost demand that you do the trade. In other words, if I’m wrong, I’ll lose a little bit of money, that’s fine.
Brent Johnson: But if I’m right, I’ll make a killing and those are the types of trades that I’m happy to take. I think everybody should own gold but I think that once you buy your gold, there’s not much else to do, right? You’ve got your gold. Now, look around for some opportunities with the rest of your portfolio.
Frank Curzio: Well, let’s talk about those opportunities because you mentioned the Fed earlier and we know that Fed’s easing. A lot of people think, “Well, it depends on where inflation is, if you really look at where interest rates in trading and corporate bonds or if you look where you have the negative yields around the world and corporate bonds and even where treasuries are.”
Frank Curzio: They have to ease right now to be more competitive. I think where it’s priced in it’s going to go down probably 1%. I guess two questions here: one, is that like automatically? Because we saw what happened last time they eased where all assets increased tremendously in value. Is that basically the green light to say, “Hey, you have to own equities or you have to own assets.” This is the second part of the question, is, why do we need to have such a big debate on whether this is QE or not? Or how it’s defined? I mean, it is QE but it’s like, if you say it’s QE, it’s not QE the Fed comes out, but it is QE. What’s the difference, right? Every central government is easing around the world but I guess, what’s your thought on the Fed and even the dollar going higher? What are some of the investments outside of gold that you’re looking at?
Brent Johnson: Yeah, okay. Again, I’m going to take a step back and I’m going to set up my overall premise a little bit because it’ll help me address this question in better detail. Now, I don’t have time to go into my full presentation. But long story short, I have made the argument that part of the reason that the dollar would get stronger was that our rates relative to the rest of the world are higher.
Brent Johnson: I thought, and I still believe that as we move forward in time, and as the global economy slows, which I think it is globally not just in the US, not just in China, not just in Japan, but everywhere I think the global economy is slowing. I said that our relative strength of our rates and the fact that the world still operates on dollars, like it or not, the world does still operate on dollars, that that would push global capital flows to the United States. That would provide us the ability to weather the storm better than the rest of the world.
Brent Johnson: As part of that thesis, I was not convinced that we would have to cut rates as aggressively as we have and go back to QE. Now, we have had to cut rates and we have actually, I believe what they’re doing now is a form of QE. Now, I am not going to sit here and say it’s not QE. It’s QE. But I am also aware of the fact that it is not the same as prior QEs and it’s not. I think if you say it’s not QE, you’re not being intellectually honest, and if you also argue it’s the same as prior, then you’re not being intellectually honest. They are increasing the balance sheet. It is QE but they’re targeting the front end now and it’s really a short term liquidity thing, whereas QE was targeting more of the long end of the curve and was actually changing the balance sheet of the companies that they were doing QE with.
Brent Johnson: Let me give you an example. Right now, if they do QE with JP Morgan or HSBC or Deutsche Bank or Credit Suisse or Bank of America, whoever it is, they’re just doing a very short term two to three-day, five-day liquidity transaction in the repo market. In QE, they were going out and buying long term bonds that were sitting on those companies’ balance sheets, removing those bad bonds or those bonds from the balance sheets. They were improving the overall capital structure of those balance sheets of those individual companies. They’re not doing that now.
Brent Johnson: Yes, they are definitely providing them short term liquidity but it’s not an effort to increase in order to pull the long end of the curve down and it’s not an effort to improve the balance sheet of the company. It is a little different, but I still think even if they have to continue doing this on a relative basis, our markets and our treasuries pay a hell of a lot more than anywhere else in the world. On a relative basis, I still think that that is a destination for global capital flows. I think as we get into this decelerating environment, I think we will get more of those capital flows and I think that will keep us… We may have to do QE and we may have to continue to do these types of programs but I don’t think we will have to do it to the same extent as the rest of the world.
Brent Johnson: That’s another thing, that I’ll make a real quick point here, is that everybody’s piling on that the Fed has gone back to doing QE. But these repo, QE repo transactions that they’ve started doing them last month, China’s been doing them all year. They’ve been doing them for two years. Europe’s been doing them forever and Japan hasn’t raised interest rates in 25 years. Again, yes we are having to do these things to combat the slow down. But on a relative basis, we’re not doing it as much as everybody else and we’re not doing it to the same extent and we have nine rate hikes behind us from which we can do these without getting down to zero rate.
Brent Johnson: I just feel like on a relative basis, the US is going to be a relative safe haven as we move forward into what I think is going to be a currency crisis.
Frank Curzio: A lot of interesting things you said there. One of the things is you point out the slower growth in Europe, you look at Asia, most developing emerging markets, you see slower growth. When I look at US stocks are trading close to all time high. Yes, this is the safe haven. I mean, can this rally or should I say rally? Because it’s basically a bull market outside of last year where we had a 20% correction for the first time since the credit crisis. But we bounced right back and every time it comes down it’s a buying opportunity. But could the US stocks continue on this pace? Yes, we all know that Trump is pro-market. His gage that he looks at is the S&P 500, we know that the Fed’s easing.
Frank Curzio: But I would think it’s going to get more and more difficult because we’re not getting any help from developed and emerging markets right now. It looks like that trend is slowing down along with ours. We’re slowing a little bit more so I guess my question is, with the US being the safe haven, is it going to be treasuries? Is it going to be dividend paying stocks? Or is it going to be, “Hey, everyone just going all in on the market. That’s why it’s hitting all-time highs.”
Brent Johnson: I believe that treasuries will still be well bid. That’s another thing. You look at the, I think it was a five year auction that they did today and like 60 to 65 maybe 70% of it was taken down by foreign investors, right? The idea that the rest of the world is no longer going to fund our budget, I think is just wrong. Now, I hear that a lot and I hear everybody saying we’re going to dedollarize, they hate the treasury, the only reason that the Fed is doing this repo is because they’re monetizing the debt. I understand those arguments I just don’t buy it.
Brent Johnson: Now, we may eventually get there, but I think the rest of the world is still more than happy to buy our debt versus European debt, or versus Japanese debt, or versus Chinese debt. Now, it doesn’t mean that our debt is great, I just mean it’s better than everybody else’s. I think that they will continue to do that. But I also think that as we move forward in time that yields around the world, while they may fall lower in the short term I think sometime in the next couple of years yields outside the United States are going to start rising on credit party concerns, or counter party concerns. When people realize that Greece is never actually going to pay them back for this negative debt that they just issued, I think the yields will rise as a result.
Brent Johnson: I think the yields for Italy will rise as a result. I think the yields for China will rise. I think the yields for Australia and Canada will rise not because things are getting better and there’s inflation expectations but because things are getting worse from a credit perspective. When that happens, I think that will also contribute to money coming to the United States and I think it will start to go into not just our treasuries but into our equities.
Brent Johnson: To your point, I think large, blue chip dividend paying stocks will look very attractive. I’ve used this example before is, imagine you are a pinch and fund manager in Europe and you’re looking around for places to allocate capital and you can buy an Italian bank or you can buy JP Morgan, right? Or you can buy an Italian corporate or a Portuguese corporate or you can buy Phillip Morris, that is based in the US and has a 4 to 5% dividend and has had a big pull back here, right?
Brent Johnson: If they do that, let’s say they allocate, they get the 4% dividend the dollar appreciates 4 to 5% versus the Euro and maybe you get a little capital appreciation. All of a sudden you’ve got a 12% return rather than holding a Portuguese corporate. I think that type of stuff will continue to happen. Again, what I think a lot of people, when they look at the market they think, “You know what? This is crazy the valuations are bad. I’m just going to go sit on the sidelines.”
Brent Johnson: As individuals, as retail, you can do that but the big institutions, the big capital allocators cannot put 50% or 60% of their money in cash. Even if they could, they wouldn’t do it because they’re so afraid of losing their job if their peers outperform them, right? The money is going to go somewhere. I think as they look around, the US is going to become increasingly attractive. We just saw last month, I think it was in August the pension fund of Norway, the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, made a recommendation to the Norwegian government that they decrease exposure to Europe and allocate that decreased exposure to the United States, including United States equities.
Brent Johnson: I think that’s a trend that’s going to pick up. As a result, I think that the DOW and the S&P… I think we’re going to have a spectacular blow off top over the next couple of years. Now, I know a lot of people think that it’s already happened, that the last couple of years have been the spectacular blow off top and that it’s going to roll over. But I happen to believe that it’s still to come.
Brent Johnson: Now, I should say, and I know I’m rambling again but I just-
Frank Curzio: No, no, you’re good.
Brent Johnson: I think this is all very important. I’m not going to claim credit for this work because I didn’t do it but a friend of mine very, very smart guy, very well known in the industry. I’m not going to say his name, but he’s done a lot of work on this. He has done a lot work in the relationship between passive investing, which is basically the world’s simplest algorithm, which says if there’s cash in the account you buy, it has nothing do with valuation, it has nothing to do with earnings potential. It has nothing to do whether the company has a good balance sheet or not.
Brent Johnson: Literally, if the cash is in the account they just go buy, right? As cash comes in, that can also lead to flows or to equity prices rising. Now, the second part of work that he has done on the same thing is also, as part of the rise of passive investment, this is indexing, this is ETF, this is basically not a manager making a decision but just paying the S&P 500 of the Dow or whatever it is, is a lot of IRAs and 401(k)s have invested in these types of assets.
Brent Johnson: Well, it also happens that there’s a demographic cliff in the United States where a lot of the baby boomers, which are accounting for the biggest portion of wealth in the country are retiring and not only are they retiring but they are hitting age 70. In the United States when you hit age 70 and you have a big 401(k) or IRA, you are mandated to take 4 or 5% out every year. It’s called a required minimum distribution.
Brent Johnson: Well, last year in the fourth quarter what happened was, you had this big cliff where all of this biggest section of the market turned 70 and they had to take 4 or 5% of their money out of their 401(k)s and IRAs and guess what correlated that in? They did that in Q4, right? When the market was already trending down a little bit, it was like a couple of hundred billion dollars had to be sold in order to emit these required minimum distributions.
Brent Johnson: The interesting thing is that happens again this year, and not only that, but it looks like it’s an even bigger number this year than there was last year. Again, this is just demographics and it goes into the fact that these passive investments in the same way when it says if there is cash buy, it’s also if there’s a redemption request just sell. It doesn’t matter what the position is doing, it doesn’t matter if you love the positions, it’s just sell.
Brent Johnson: What we believe happened last fall, was that you had this wave of selling that had to take place combined with the simple algorithm that if you get a redemption request, you sell. It accelerated in Q4 but once those required minimum distributions were gone, you were back to the other side of that very simple algorithm, which said, “If cash, then buy.” As people started to contribute into their IRAs and 401(k)s again in January you saw it ramp up the other way.
Brent Johnson: We think it’s possible. Now, this is not a prediction, but we think it’s possible that same dynamic plays out again in the fourth quarter here. We are prepared, we have some hedges. I should say that we have exposure to equities. We believe equities are going much higher over the next couple of years but in the short term, we do have some hedges going into the fourth quarter because we think it’s possible that we get a similar play as last year. If that happens we will be aggressively buying into that weakness.
Frank Curzio: Yeah, I love it, love that thesis. I got five minutes left so I want to try and squeeze in two more questions. You’re a macro guy but I love it. Actually I know my audience loves it, as well and my guests offer some ideas to invest in. Not sure if you have individual names you like, if not, is there a sector ETF you like, maybe a good short over the next say, six to 12 months. You kind of mentioned that over the next three months. It’s not a prediction but we could see the market fall. But if that happens, you’re going to be aggressive buyers but do you have anything to play that or something else that you’re looking at? If you’re not it’s perfectly fine but I always ask that of all my guests.
Brent Johnson: Well, unfortunately, I don’t necessarily have anything in the ETF form that’s easy to play. In the fund that we manage we do some more exotic and some option based stuff. I’ll tell you one of the things that we do think is going to happen in one of our biggest positions right now is we are betting that the bank of Canada is going to have to change to hawkish stance and reverse course and start cutting rates aggressively over the next call it nine to 15 months.
Brent Johnson: Our biggest play right now has been buying options on something called Canadian bankers’ acceptance notes, which is really just a bet on whether or not they’re going to have to cut rates. It’s great because the market is pricing in about a 5% chance that they’re cut once and we think that there is a very high degree probability that they’re going to have to cut multiple times. The pricing on these things is just astronomical. We can get them for very cheap and if we’re right we don’t make a little bit, we make a ton.
Brent Johnson: The way that you can potentially play something like that as an individual would be to look to ways to play the Canadian economy turning down. Whether that’s buying Canadian treasuries because they’re going to cut rates. That’s something you might consider.
Brent Johnson: It kind of depends if you’re a US dollar investor or a Canadian dollar investor or where you’re based but that’s something that we’re really excited about and that we’re looking at. Maybe you can find some knock on effects of that happening.
Frank Curzio: Canadian bankers’ acceptance notes, just when I thought I heard all of the impossible in that sentence. That’s great stuff, I love it. I love it. Last question, this is by far the most important thing that we’ve talked about so far. I read some place that you played JV basketball at the University of Kansas, which is my favorite… not just favorite team, but probably my favorite team in all of sports.
Brent Johnson: Man, I [inaudible 00:35:50] Jayhawk.
Frank Curzio: Die-hard fan, my entire life since I first started playing basketball, nine years old and I still try to play even though it gets harder as I’m in my late 40s. The most important question, does Kansas have a shot at making it to the Final Four this year?
Brent Johnson: Boy, that’s a good question. That’s a good question. They always got a shot. They’ve got so much talent there and they always get a great recruiting class and I think Bill Self is about as good a coach as they get. I never bet against Kansas. That’s one thing. I will be for other teams from time to time but I never, ever bet against Kansas.
Brent Johnson: When I was a sophomore in high school they won a National Championship and 20 years later, in 2008, my son was not born yet and he was still in my wife’s stomach and they won another championship. That was 11 years ago. I hope I don’t have to wait another nine for them to win another one. But I’ll definitely be pulling for them this year.
Frank Curzio: Yeah, that last one was kind of crazy too, which almost [crosstalk 00:36:43].
Brent Johnson: I got to tell you there is nothing like playing basketball in Ahearn Field House.
Frank Curzio: I mean, I’ve been there. It’s incredible. I’ve seen a game there. It really is but I am such a die hard. Hopefully, everything is cool with Bill Self and everything, the allegations and things like that what’s going on. But, yeah, we’ll see what happens. Again, if the guy in Arizona got off, when they got him on tape.
Brent Johnson: It’s all a big game, isn’t it?
Frank Curzio: It is, it really is. Listen Brent, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. You did come on short notice. I love first time guests, love your opinion even when I shared the stage with you, I was really impressed with… We have a lot of guys out there that just tell you, “Hey, buy gold no matter what.” You’re a gold fan, I like gold. I have 10% of my portfolio but just like you said and it’s different from what everybody else believes in this industry, right?
Frank Curzio: Because if you post on your Twitter account right now that, “Hey, the market’s going to go a lot higher in a couple of years.” You’re going to get shit for it.
Brent Johnson: Yeah, that’s-
Frank Curzio: But it’s just amazing and you know that when you get shit for it, that also means you’re often more right they’re wrong.
Brent Johnson: Right.
Frank Curzio: Listen, thanks so much for coming on. Hopefully, I’ll see you again soon and yeah, thanks buddy.
Brent Johnson: Absolutely, I’ll come in anytime. Just let me know, thanks a lot.
Frank Curzio: All right, guys great stuff from Brent. I shared the stage with him several times. One of the most recent times I think was a year ago at Cambridge Conference San Francisco where I was on stage with him, with Doug Casey, I think Marin Katusa was moderating and Rick Rule, and Grant Williams. I think Marin wanted to do a certain format where we were all in the back and then one comes out for 10 minutes at a time.
Frank Curzio: I don’t know what Marin was thinking at the time. But it was cool because we were all hanging out back there and I got a good chance to talk to him, meet him, and just a great guy, as you can see. Very, very smart, very sharp and I like his take. I like his take on the market where we really want to know about gold but we don’t want to know from gold bugs who are going to tell you, “No matter what the situation is, we’re buying gold. No matter what, you got to buy it. No matter what.” Which is the worst advice possible for the last seven years. That’s why I like him because he’ll change with the facts. He’ll look at the facts and yes he’s an investor on gold but he’s not just this huge cheerleader and he follows the situations well.
Frank Curzio: For me, I have a lot of respect for him. I think he’s a great guy and after meeting him and following him for a little bit. I follow him on Twitter as well, he’s got a pretty big following. He’s always impressed me he always has this great research. Anyway, that’s my opinion of him, right? I always say that this podcast is about you not about me. Let me hear what you thought at frankcurzioresearch.com, that’s frankcurzioresearch.com.
Frank Curzio: Now, let’s have some fun and get to my educational segment. It’s about Biogen simple BIIB whose stock soared as high as 40% on Tuesday after its drug to treat Alzheimer’s, saw very positive results. Now, Biogen is filing for approval with the FDA, which would probably bring this drug to market early next year if it gets approved, if it’s approved yet. Now, in March, clinical studies of the same drug they did not achieve what they call the language in Biotech, its primary endpoint. That means the results are bad and the stock crashed. It crashed $100, crashed from 325 to 225, 30% decline.
Frank Curzio: Guys, Biogen is a big company. Close to 60 billion market cap that was in March before this Alzheimer’s drug failed to meet its objectives. You’re looking at pretty much $18 billion in market cap that was wiped out in one day after they released these results in March. Now, brought this drug back to the market and reported positive phase three results. This wasn’t the same study this was one that in a longer term study. I’m going to break down details in a minute. Results are positive, stocks went right back up again, captured most of their losses, more than half of their losses.
Frank Curzio: A few things here, when it comes to Alzheimer’s, there’s zero drugs on the market to treat this terrible disease. You’re looking at all the major players, Merck, Roche, keep going, dozens of companies tried to bring drugs to market. All of them failed and it’s tough because they failed in the late stages, which means what? Which means these companies spend a shit load of money, right? If it fails early clinical trials phase one fine, you spent a little bit of money. Go two, three those are bigger trials. Those are more detailed, right? It cost a lot of money. It cost like a billion dollars to bring a drug to market sometimes. Some of these major players by the time you start to… I think it’s like eight years, and that eight years it’s under patent even though you can’t sell it, and it doesn’t have the FDA approval, so you really have sometimes 12 years, 10 years, eight years, depending how long you brought it to market before they can go generic and you can lose those patents.
Frank Curzio: Now, with Biogen they said that with this study, patients who received the drug according to them experienced significant benefits on measures of condition and function, such as memory, orientation, and language. This is an incredible achievement, of course, for Alzheimer’s patients. I mean, God, I just hope none of you have been touched by a disease to the point where a family member… it’s crazy. It’s not fun. It’s not a good situation.
Frank Curzio: When we’re looking at the numbers in the industry… I mean, Alzheimer’s is such a monster market because there’s no drugs on it and not just in the US but abroad where this disease affects tons of millions of people. This number is going to continue to rise because we have an aging population. The US, Asia, I mean, look at Japan’s demographics, huge Asian population. Yeah, it’s a huge win for Biogen right now but again, it’s not 100% approved, right? The FDA is going to take a look at it, but it looks good.
Frank Curzio: But another reason why I’m talking about this in my educational segment is because I covered in detail that one of my strategies for picking Biotech stocks has resulted in a ton of winners in this crazy volatile sector for me and subscribers over the past two decades. It’s just one of a few I use with Biotech, is used for buying particular Biotech names and buying the ones that report terrible results or bad results or failed to meet their primary endpoint on one of their signature drugs. Because when this happens, what do you think happens to the stocks?
Frank Curzio: Biogen fell tremendously large cap 30%, in one day in March. Look at its small caps, guys, holy cow, they just have a few drugs in their pipeline. You’ll see some of these names fall 50, 60, 70% one day on this news. It’s crazy. Now, when you see this happen to a Biotech company… and by the way it happens often they’re always running studies, phase one, phase two, phase three. If you look at Finviz, a free site, almost every day you’ll see a Biotech on their front page since they list the top winners and losers every day, including small micro caps. But you’ll see a Biotech name on that list down more than 40% every day, you’ll probably also see one that’s up like 60, 70, 100, 200% every day and it’s a Biotech name.
Frank Curzio: But when you see one that’s down because of poor results, dig into the news. Because the FDA is not satisfied with the study, it didn’t pass their primary endpoint. It doesn’t always mean the drugs going to get pulled from the market. A lot of the times, the FDA is looking for better data in regards to safety, efficacy. You’re looking at slightly higher percentage when it comes to the success rate in patients. They know exactly after talking to the FDA that, “Hey, this is what we want to see.” If they think they can achieve that by tweaking a dew things, maybe increasing a dosage, whatever it is. They perform a new study, it’ll probably take six months, nine months to bring it back to market.
Frank Curzio: If they report positive results you’re going to see what happened, same thing with Biogen. All right. Stock crashed as part of the results on this drug and now the stock came all the way back. Now, specifically the case for Biogen, in March it said after the test results, that they’re going to discontinue the drug. These results based on a futility analysis, which is conducted by an independent data monitoring company, right?
Frank Curzio: A futility analysis is simply a pre study. It’s an early look to see if a drugs likely to succeed and worth continuing because like I mentioned earlier it costs a lot of money and this independent party said, “You know what? No.” Most investors believe the drug was gone, it was off the table. You’ll never see any news about this Alzheimer’s drug from Biogen again. If that’s the case, ignore my thesis, right? Because I don’t want you buying the stock that just fell 40, 50, 60% negative news because they had bad results on a signature drug and then that company say, “Hey, we’re discontinuing all trials. All bets are off.”
Frank Curzio: With Biogen, the trial they halted was one that only ran through December 2018. Now, they had another trial where patients received higher doses of this drug, which by the way targets amyloid, which is a protein that accumulates in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, so widely believed to be the primary cause of the disease. They continued this long trial after consulting with the FDA because this specific trial had included a much larger data set, so more patients were tested. This data became available after the Independent Monitoring Committee advised Biogen to halt studies on their other test, right?
Frank Curzio: You had to do a little research on it because it looked like it halted everything but they didn’t. That’s what pissed off the analysts. The analysts are pissed off that all of a sudden this drug came back to market and it reported positive results they thought it was completely off the table. If you did a little bit of homework it’s different. Investors are happy, the sell side analysts most of them are pissed off. They’re like, “Well, you should’ve been more transparent about it.” But you could’ve read up on it, done your homework.
Frank Curzio: Now, again, this drug still needs the FDA approval, which is no guarantee. But if the drug does get approved, the estimates that I’m seeing from analysts in the industry over the next 10 years, again just for this one drug, has the potential to generate more than 10 billion in sales. That’s how big this market is. It’s a monster market with no one in there.
Frank Curzio: Now, let’s get back to the premise of this educational segment. First, if you look at the media… I’m not going to say the media got this wrong, they were right. Biogen said they’re going to hold studies in March. But again, that was a huge headline causing the stocks to lose 18 billion dollars of its mark cap one day. But a few months later, there was no coverage saying that, “Hey there’s another trial, a long term trial that is still open for the drug.”
Frank Curzio: Now, say instead of buy Biogen on the pull back in March and let’s say this long trial that was positive… They just announced it was positive on Tuesday. Let’s say that trial fails as well and you bought the stock. You bought the stock whenever, after this news that kind of stayed like a 225 until it broke. It’s like 280 now and it went higher on Tuesday. But say, you decided to buy Biogen after March in the pull back and that trial failed. The stock already got crushed, so the risk is already priced in.
Frank Curzio: In other words, your risk is probably limited where large cap leader like Biogen since already is down 30% with zero expectations that this Alzheimer’s drug could come in to market. But now let’s say the reverse happens and this drug does see positive trial results and which it did, it was announced on Tuesday. It’s a monster score with the stocks surging 30% in one day.
Frank Curzio: Now, let’s look at this from a small cap point of view because on negative news these names are going to fall 60% plus seen it happen all the time. When they do, everybody runs to the exits. They destroy it. it should be down maybe 35, 40%. It’ll go down 60, 65% nobody cares especially what algorithms say too. Just pour it on. Sometimes they’ll fall below the level of net cash to have on their balance sheet. A lot of these companies have other drugs in their pipelines so if you decide to buy it when it’s down below, it’s net cash value. Again, you got to look at their cash burn rate and things like that. See, they can have 200 billion in cash and mark cap could be 150 but if their burning 300 billion a year, that’s a problem anyway.
Frank Curzio: But, you’re buying stock you’re basically getting their pipeline for free and the stock trading below cash. , the game here is when it comes to Biotechs, you want to buy stocks that have tremendous upside if their signature drug gets approved, right? You want that. That’s what we all love. It’s a game changer. But you also want to limit your risk, in case the drug fails to meet primary objectives, which happens more often than not as most drugs do not get approved by the FDA.
Frank Curzio: Because when I look at some strategies out there and I know some analysts in the industry, the news are rising, they like to buy Biotech stocks after they get phase two approval on a drug. Phase two is the most difficult to pass. One is kind of easy, two is really difficult. Most don’t make it past two. When they do, of course, some percentages increase that they’ll go to phase three.
Frank Curzio: When they get phase two approval what do you think happens? The stock runs up tremendously. If they get phase three approval eventually bring the drug up to market and the stock will definitely run higher. But if they fail and they do not pass phase three trial, the stock gets murdered. These are the ones that you see go down 60, 70, 80% because there’s such high expectations in them. That’s something that we saw with Biogen as a large cap went down 30% one day because there was high expectations for this drug.
Frank Curzio: When it comes to Biotechs and investing in general, it’s okay to take on risks. In fact, I’d argue that every investor should have some speculate positions in their portfolio no matter what your age. Obviously if you’re older, a very small percentage. But the biggest mistake I see investors make when they buy a speculate investment, the reward is not great enough for the risk that they’re taking.
Frank Curzio: In other words, say if you have $5,000 and that’s play money to you. Just say, maybe it’s 500, maybe it’s 100. You want to make sure if your downside risk the potential loss is the full amount of money that your upside should be at least 3X or greater, right? I mean, investing 5K in a drug, after it receives phase three approval, which some people do, the upside is likely to be more than 1X maybe 1 1/2X, again since upside is already priced in. I’m hoping not to lose you here. Trying to make this as simple as possible.
Frank Curzio: Because when it comes to Biotech, I like buying names after they get dinged on bad trial results. They get nailed. Why? Because buying them is going to lower your risk considerably a lot of these things trade out close to cash. Of course, you have to look at the report and see why the drug failed. Because if the company says, “This is a disaster and we discontinue the studies.” Then, move on.
Frank Curzio: But a lot of times, they just need to improve safety, get a percentage of patients that has success taking the drug a little bit higher. Tweak a few things, maybe give them a higher dosage, whatever, to get the results a little better than the FDA. If the new trial is positive, the stock is going to rip higher, capture all those gains it lost and it’s going to happen quickly, sometimes 36% in a day.
Frank Curzio: I’ve seen some small caps in the Biotech sector surged 200% on positive phase two trials. It’s just about risk rewarding. Guys, this strategy that worked for me numerous times over my career, just strategy I learned from some of the best Biotech investors out there. I’m not telling you this in an arrogant way, where “Hey, my methodology is picking Biotech stocks is the best in the world.” It may be pretty close. The reason why it’s good is because I made a lot of the mistakes that you made. Investing in this sector early on in my career, I mean, I learned from these mistakes on positive that I see want to do is buy Biotech on positive news. It’s a disaster. It’s a disaster just after that news, and that study that company is probably not going to put any news for another three, four or five months and it just sits there and [inaudible] lower and some people buy them after they receive FDA approval. That’s the one worst time to buy them because now instead of being scientists in studies, your real company… Well, I need facilities, distribution facilities, you need sales teams.
Frank Curzio: You need representative for healthcare, you got to try to get insurance. I mean, it’s a total… Either you have to hire a whole new set of people. The estimates these analysts put saying, “Oh, FDA approval, it’s going to generate 10 million in first year, 300 million in second year and one billion in third year, and they won’t generate any sales until like year two because it’s hard to get everything ramped up and these stocks get crushed a lot.”
Frank Curzio: I look at this strategy, it’s worked for me, it worked with Biogen as well my track record which of course is that 100%. I stopped that newest Biotech some losses over the years, but it’s allowed me to really nail some monster winners, including 500%, gain some of the more than 1,000% gains using this strategy, which is what? Essentially a way to invest in this volatile sector and take on less risk, but you’re maintaining that massive upside potential that will attract you, right? That’s why we love investing in the Biotech sector.
Frank Curzio: Before I go, I’m going to tell you something. I’m going to mention on my frankly speaking podcast, you guys know by now this podcast only goes out to my paid subscribers. That includes subscription to any of our paid newsletters Dollar Stock Club is $39 a year because they’re research advisory. We used to sell it for $200 a year. Anyone described the higher end services, they get my friend be speaking podcast where get to ask me questions, and I answer them.
Frank Curzio: On Fridays, frankly speaking, I do something different. I’m going to give away a pic because there’s another company with an Alzheimer’s drug and that drugs into phase three trials that’s also targeting amyloid, which I mentioned earlier, the protein that accumulates in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. But this company’s drug based on early test has a much better safety profile. It’s also administered in a much easier and better way for patients and Biogen drug. I want to give too much away. If I had a guest 99% of you never heard of, it’s definitely off the map never mentioned the media, no way. It’s not a small cap that she has close to a $5 billion valuation, great pipeline, numerous partnerships with Big Pharma. But when Biogen reported its positive results for its Alzheimer’s drug, that pushed its stock up 60 points a day, which amounted to over $20 billion in market cap. That’s how important this drug was.
Frank Curzio: Again, it’s not even a guarantee it’s going to improve. This company has less than a $5 billion market cap as a similar drug in to phase three trials with some added benefits, I remember the FDA is dying to push through anything that’s decent doesn’t have to be great in this space because there’s nothing out there. There’s no treatments for the market. This company’s drug gets approved and maybe you saw what happened at Biogen and a 20 billion market cap. This is less than a $5 billion market cap. I mean, you can say this thing search 2X, 3X in a day and it’s not a BS stories, not little tiny mark cap. This is a real legit company that has several drugs in the market. They generate revenue, billion dollar valuation to real company just it’s mostly a foreign company that most of you probably never hear of.
Frank Curzio: Yes, this is a tease but one that’s worth it if you’re a subscriber since I’m going to mention this name the stock on Fridays frankly speaking podcast that’s only available to paid subscribers Curzio Research. Guys, I want to thank you for the emails. Really, really appreciate all your support. Love doing this podcast for you guys. Keep those emails coming in frankcurzioresearch.com. I’ll see you guys in seven days Take care.
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