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Nathan Kowalski
BUSINESS COLUMNIST
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Nathan Kowalski is the chief financial officer of Bermuda-based investment firm Anchor Investment Management Ltd. He holds Chartered Accountant, Chartered Financial Analyst and Chartered Investment Manager designations. He is currently the president of the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of Bermuda board. Mr Kowalski started his career with KPMG, where he provided assurance, tax and financial advisory services for some of the largest corporations in Canada. He then worked for Deloitte & Touche Corporate Finance Inc, where he specialised in providing advice on mergers and acquisitions, valuations for corporate clients and private-equity firms, entrepreneurs and governments.

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  • Election reflections – a Republican House and Senate, what that means
    Nov 8, 2014 8:00 am

    Election reflections – a Republican House and Senate, what that means

    The sound and the fury are over. The Republicans have trounced the Democrats in last week’s election. To put the latest shift in a historical perspective, the US President has now lost more house seats since he took office than any White House occupant since Harry Truman. So what does this mean for markets and financial assets? How does the current political landscape affect your investment pocket book and the near-term outlook? Here are some...

  • Scary stuff that isn’t really scary
    Nov 3, 2014 8:00 am

    Scary stuff that isn’t really scary

    Watching the kids bob along in their costumes awkwardly strolling from house to house in search of sugar nirvana amid a sea of other little hunters made me reflect on recent market volatility. October’s roller coaster ride in the market definitely offered up a dose of panic and fear for many who unfortunately check prices daily. Ironically, like little kids in costumes, it wasn’t really that scary. Here are some comments on some spooky themes...

  • The myth about currency
    Oct 6, 2014 8:00 am

    The myth about currency

    Recently the US dollar has surged. Its gain versus a basket of major currencies since the beginning of July as measured by the US Dollar Index ‘DXY’ is almost nine per cent as of this writing. Most of this appreciation has come at the expense of the New Zealand Kiwi, the Australian dollar and the euro. Many people like to point out that the recent weakness in the euro should be a boon to European exporters and large dominant European...

  • Alibaba IPO — and a corporate governance lesson
    Sep 30, 2014 8:00 am

    Alibaba IPO — and a corporate governance lesson

    Two weeks ago Alibaba (‘BABA’), China’s biggest e-commerce company, marked the biggest IPO (initial public offering of shares to the public) in history. The company raised some $25 billion (Visa was second at $19.7 billion in March 2008). This huge IPO also offers a couple large corporate governance lessons.

    Economic Risk Doesn’t Equal Voting Control

    One of the major reasons why Alibaba went public in New York and not in Hong...

  • Braveheart economics
    Sep 15, 2014 8:00 am

    Braveheart economics

    “Well, I have a message for the Scots: Be afraid, be very afraid. The risks of going it alone are huge. You may think that Scotland can become another Canada, but it’s all too likely that it would end up becoming Spain without the sunshine.” - Paul Krugman

    This week Scotland goes to the polls. Recent opinion polls indicate it is very close — maybe too close to call. A “Yes” vote would create considerable economic and...

  • Historic yields — or what’s left of them
    Sep 2, 2014 8:00 am

    Historic yields — or what’s left of them

    A couple of weeks ago we had the central bank “rock-star concert” in Jackson Hole. There we heard Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen start yelling about the labour market following the Great Recession and provided a few breadcrumbs as to how this narrative may unfold. The president of the European Central Bank (ECB) Mario Draghi meanwhile offered a call for action to halt deflation, even suggesting a European version of quantitative...

  • Don’t focus on nonsense
    Aug 11, 2014 8:00 am

    Don’t focus on nonsense

    “It will fluctuate.” - JP Morgan, when asked what the stock market will do.

    Last week the market took a beating. It shouldn’t, however, change anything you are doing as a true investor. In fact, a great deal of noise in the short-term often obfuscates investors from true long-term fundamental analysis. This is a major reason why investing is so difficult. Sometimes I read the news and just have to laugh. Everyone is trying...

  • Demographics are destiny: Why we need more working-age people in Bermuda
    Jul 22, 2014 8:00 am

    Demographics are destiny: Why we need more working-age people in Bermuda

    It is said that ‘demographics are destiny’ and this is certainly a theme that figures into our economic assessment of Bermuda and one that we have discussed many times in the past. By now no one on this Island should be surprised that Bermuda is facing an unprecedented wave of ageing, or a “grey tsunami”, as the baby boom generation — defined as those people born between 1946 and 1964 — move to the end of their productive careers. The...

  • The credit cycle and Bermuda’s economy
    Jul 14, 2014 8:00 am

    The credit cycle and Bermuda’s economy

    All nations’ economic progress through time can be decomposed into four fundamental components:

    1) Population growth — We have discussed this many times in different forms. Basically if you have more workers producing more goods the economy expands. The very nature of having more working bodies in a country like Bermuda, for example, magnifies the local economic benefit. This is to say, more workers earning money locally will have...

  • Sharing is caring — and makes economic sense
    Jul 7, 2014 8:00 am

    Sharing is caring — and makes economic sense

    Do you remember when you were young and your parents and teachers taught you the importance of sharing? If you have your own kids now, you are probably teaching them to share as well. Sharing does make you a better person as it helps you to interact with others and develop trust with other people.

    All these great aspects of the ‘sharing economy’ should be embraced by everyone.

    Finally, all those years practicing to share your toys...

  • Chaos in Iraq could bode well for North American oil producers
    Jun 30, 2014 8:00 am

    Chaos in Iraq could bode well for North American oil producers

    A few random ramblings on the markets and the macro investing situation to start the week:

    Iraq

    The turmoil and chaos in Iraq is putting a bid under the energy markets. This of course is helping to escalate the price of crude oil and energy cost worldwide. I have a couple takes on this, outside of the fact that increasing unrest in the Middle East and its possible contagion will escalate the “fear premium” in crude.

    1.

  • Jun 9, 2014 8:00 am

    Why interest rates are likely to remain low for longer than most expect

    Lower for Longer?

    “The stock market is never obvious. It is designed to fool most of the people most of the time.”

    -- Jesse Livermore

    Remember when everyone called for higher rates? Recall when it was “only a matter of time” before the ten-year yield in the US approached its longer term “fair value” of near 4.5 percent (two percent inflation plus 2.5 percent real growth)? I can remember. I can also understand why we...

  • Bermuda is bottoming — but we now face key risks to recovery
    May 30, 2014 8:00 am

    Bermuda is bottoming — but we now face key risks to recovery

    When you are in a hole the first thing you need to do to get out is stop digging. Ladies and gentleman, it looks like we have finally stopped digging (furiously, at least). While the economy has contracted for five straight years (2009-2013) we are approaching what I’d refer to as a “statistical bottom”. Although we are near this bottom and should hopefully carve one out this year, we have little to cheer regarding the resumption of robust...

  • May 12, 2014 8:00 am

    Cost of investing as low as free

    The high level of computerisation and the liquidity-induced reduction of bid/ask spreads has slashed the cost of investing to an extremely low level. There isn’t a venue in the world, in my opinion that offers a greater chance for investors to compound wealth if done so in a prudent and judicious manner. One of the most efficient ways to invest these days is through Exchange Traded Funds (“ETFs”). Some funds actually let you invest in small...

  • What is high-frequency trading?
    Apr 29, 2014 8:00 am

    What is high-frequency trading?

    For many people the stock market was already viewed as a casino and a giant gamble; its systems and processes opaque and nonsensical. The latest firestorm on High Frequency Trading (HFT) has not helped dispute this view. Lately the market has been buzzing with discussion involving Michael Lewis’s latest book Flash Boys which is all about HFT. The book goes so far as suggesting that the market is “rigged” and that individual investors are...

  • Apr 3, 2014 8:00 am

    The wisdom of Warren Buffett

    “Investment is most intelligent when it’s most businesslike.”

    - ‘The Intelligent Investor’ by Benjamin Graham

    The Berkshire Hathaway 2013 Annual Shareholders Letter came out on Saturday, March 1. As many readers will know, I am a huge fan of Mr Buffett and his straightforward and practical approach to investing. In a world awash with reams of information that gets fed to the consumer through a fire hose, it’s refreshing to...

  • The end of Bermuda’s debt super-cycle
    Mar 11, 2014 8:00 am

    The end of Bermuda’s debt super-cycle

    Leverage is a wonderful thing when it works in your favour. It enables development, amplifies returns and at times offers illusory periods of above-trend growth. Eventually, however, the effects of additional debt begin to fade and, on the margin, offer less and less benefit. Once a nation, company or individual gets to a point where potential incremental growth does not justify higher levels of indebtedness, repayments begin, and the...

  • In defence of capitalism
    Mar 3, 2014 8:00 am

    In defence of capitalism

    “In a market economy such as ours, economic activity or growth is not dictated by Government but rather determined by entrepreneurs and their employees working in their own self-interest. The Government’s job is to create a favourable and fair environment for job makers to thrive, just as a farmer’s job is to provide fertiliser and water for his crops to grow. The farmer knows he can’t make his plants grow — nature has to take its course —...

  • Labour pains in the job market
    Feb 10, 2014 8:00 am

    Labour pains in the job market

    “ ... there is the dream and the will to found a private kingdom ... there is the will to conquer: the impulse to fight, to prove oneself superior to others, to succeed for the sake, not of the fruits of success, but of success itself ... Finally there is the joy of creating, of getting things done, or simply of exercising one’s energy and ingenuity.

    — Joseph Schumpeter, on the nature and essential character of the...

  • Investing resolutions for 2014
    Jan 20, 2014 8:00 am

    Investing resolutions for 2014

    According to the Book of Odds, a collection of statistics about everyday life, of the 317 million adults in the US, only one in 2.2 make a New Year’s resolution. Of these, one in 8, or 17.8 million will actually keep it for the year. If you do manage to keep the resolutions, however, you are ten times more likely to change your life. So the odds may be stacked against you but the rewards are high. Here is a shortlist of five investing New...

  • 12 surprises for 2014
    Jan 14, 2014 8:00 am

    12 surprises for 2014

    “While doctors might be able to advise patients about their general health, they could not determine whether a healthy patient would be struck by a brick upon leaving the hospital.” — in “Fortune Tellers” by Walter Friedman

    “As I think back over the years, I have been guided by four principles for decision making. First, the only certainty is that there is no certainty. Second, every decision, as a consequence, is a matter of...

  • Not a bad hit rate for my surprises of 2013
    Jan 6, 2014 8:00 am

    Not a bad hit rate for my surprises of 2013

    In January of last year I laid out 13 unexpected events or surprise situations that were currently outside of the conventional consensus opinion that I felt had a reasonable chance of occurring (http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20130114/COLUMN05/701149987). Let’s go back and take a look at how these ‘surprises’ panned out:

    1. Despite a floundering economy, the BSX Index climbs again. Specifically I stated that the BSX would tack on a...

  • Retirement myths and misconceptions
    Dec 23, 2013 8:00 am

    Retirement myths and misconceptions

    This is the final instalment of the three-part series on retirement planning and investing.

    “Retirement at 65 is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.” - George Burns

    Retirement planning lore is littered with conventional wisdom, heuristics and rules of thumb. Unfortunately, many of these are dead wrong or far too simplistic. For example, maybe you believe you can put off planning for retirement or...

  • The market risks of retirement
    Dec 16, 2013 8:00 am

    The market risks of retirement

    This is the second part of a three-part series on retirement planning.

    “Fragility is the quality of things that are vulnerable to volatility.”

    — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    Life in retirement should be fun and stress free; the “golden years”. However, many people spend 20 to 30 years in retirement and funding these years may present a significant challenge. Here we will concentrate simply on the market risks of a...

  • Dec 9, 2013 8:00 am

    Non-market retirement risks

    This is part one of a three-part series on retirement planning and investing for retirement that will be delivered over the next couple of weeks.

    “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.”

    - Winston Churchill

    As we run around shopping for Christmas and planning for the festive season I’m pretty sure no one is really spending time considering their financial future.

  • Is this a bubble?
    Nov 25, 2013 8:00 am

    Is this a bubble?

    The S&P 500 is having its best year since 2003 with gains of over 26 percent year to date. Small cap stocks are soaring even further — up some 30 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been hitting record highs — up over 20 percent as well. All these widespread gains have sparked a raft of bubble talk and scepticism. Barron’s even had a picture of a bubble on its front cover last weekend. Ironically this is nothing new, some of...

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