Friday, July 25, 2014

The Haiku of Finance for 07/25/14

Amazon net loss
Can't "optimize for profit"
More losses ahead

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Haiku of Finance for 07/24/14

Mexico opens
Privatizing energy
End Pemex control

Lynden Energy Caught My Eye and Confused Me

Lynden Energy (LVL.V, LVLEF) is a Canadian company drilling for oil and gas in Texas.  It is very uncommon for a low-priced stock to have a positive P/E ratio.  I wonder what's going on with this company.  The management page does not list detailed bios at this time, so it's hard for me to judge their skill.

The company's projects page mentions two projects.  The Mitchell Ranch 50% working interest has little detail describing the project's status.  I find their Wolfberry project to be similarly confusing.  I honestly cannot tell what these land holdings are doing at this stage from reading these few paragraphs.

I had to check out their financial statements.  Their unaudited statements from March 31, 2014 show US$12.8M in cash on hand and positive net income, although their income is much lower than what they earned one year prior.  This continued profitability enables them to work down their accumulated retained earnings deficit, which is always good in any company.  They do admit in that document that access to capital impacts their future as a going concern and that they once took an impairment charge from writing off a bad investment in natural gas transmission operations.  I find it odd that they noted a disposal sale of some Wolfberry wells and leases for a one-time gain, in the same area they tout in their website's project listings.

The numbers look alright but I can't figure out from their publicly available material just how they're making this work.  Lynden should publish their properties' 51-101 reports on their website if they have competed versions.  They also need continued access to capital and to stay away from non-core operations like gas transmission.  I just don't know enough about their operations to figure out their chances for success, and that's why I can't expose my portfolio to this company.

Full disclosure:  No position in Lynden Energy at this time.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Haiku of Finance for 07/23/14

Debt-laden purchase
Paying a huge long-term price
Someone else paid cash

Alfidi Capital in Direct Capital's Point Blank and YoPro Wealth

The genius of Alfidi Capital is reaching into new corners of social media.  Two digital media sites have picked up my exclusive commentary on common-sense financial solutions this week.  Check it out.

Direct Capital's Point Blank blog published my brief discussion of a business loan.  I do track the banking sector and it's obvious to me that a bank is not going to risk a loan on someone whose income does not meet their internal criteria.  I disagree with some of the other commenters who claimed that a business owner should rely upon their business plan and financial forecasts to secure a loan.  That might be fine for a borrower with an established credit history and personal assets that can secure the bank loan.  I'm pretty sure a brand new college graduate with no income, assets, or credit history will have a tough time getting a conventional bank loan with nothing but their startup's fundraising pitch deck, unless of course a parent co-signs the loan.

YoPro Wealth shared my insights on the basics of investing.  I lived within my means for many years until I had enough capital to say goodbye to bad employers.  Living frugally is the kind of habit that turns an ordinary working stiff into The Millionaire Next Door.  It takes a while but starting sooner and saving more accelerates the date of financial emancipation.  I am not a millionaire yet but there are probably a few in my neighborhood.  There are certainly more than a few of them in San Francisco.

I do not give personal financial advice and I would prefer that social media publishers refrain from describing my wisdom as "advice," but I don't control their editorial habits.  The lessons I share are hard-won from my own life.  I don't need a securities license to showcase common sense.  My musings used to be common sense for many people but those days are long gone.  It falls to me to relight the world's lantern.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Haiku of Finance for 07/22/14

Amateur stock pick
Merely technical focus
Ignoring earnings

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Haiku of Finance for 07/21/14

Create startup pitch
Comply with all JOBS Act rules
Standard disclaimer

Alpha-D Portfolio Update for 07/21/14

Okay, it's just after an options expiration weekend and that means I had to reexamine my portfolio choices once again.  All of my covered options from last month expired unexercised.  I renewed my covered calls on GDX and FXF.  I sold a very small cash-covered put position under GDX, because i wouldn't mind picking up some at such a low valuation.

I am still long FXA and FXC, but I simply could not write any options around them this month.  The option chains for those ETFs just aren't very lucrative right now.  Only the stability of FXF, thanks to Swiss monetary policy, makes writing call options attractive.

I still own my long put position against FXE.  I continue to marvel at how the ECB and IMF keep the jerry-rigged euro together.  Spain isn't looking very healthy these days and Greece is still in debt up to its eyeballs.

My longtime readers know that I own these ETFs on gold miners and select foreign currencies as hedges against a potential hyperinflation in the US.  My basic thesis has not changed in a long time.  I believe positions in Swiss, Canadian, and Australian currencies will hedge my portfolio against the potential devaluation of the US dollar.  Owning a gold mining ETF like GDX is one more hard asset hedge among many possibilities.  I await the opportunity to own long positions in a timber REIT, public storage REIT, and other securities that will strengthen my portfolio against hyperinflation.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Limerick of Finance for 07/20/14

Wealthy Chinese sour on real estate
Local home prices tend to deflate
Middle class won't think twice
Paying inflated price
Eating losses is something they'll hate

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Alfidi Capital Examines Intersolar North America / SEMICON West 2014

I made my annual presence known last week at the joint meeting of Intersolar North America and SEMICON West in San Francisco for 2014.  I absolutely cannot miss the latest and greatest developments in solar power and semiconductors.  Go search Google if you want to see what I discovered in previous conferences.  You've already read my impressions of the Intersolar opening ceremony this year.  The rest of the joint conference was even more fun.  Those of you who are pressed for time can focus on my trenchant original observations in bold text.  I make being a genius so easy.

The opening keynote from Micron set the right tone.  Once I got past the corporate rah-rah about new tech converging with smartphones, I heard the news about evolving computing models requiring more power and reliability to knit logic and storage together.  I can't wait to see who emerges on top of the next wave of semiconductor sector consolidation.  I also can't wait for the quantum computing revolution.  SEMICON speakers on my agenda didn't mention quantum computing, but they should if Micron's estimate of the end of lithography walls means ordinary tech can't scale up power and speed anymore.  Micron has also caught the innovation bug I keep seeing in the startup sector, if they're serious about chip fabricators seeking partnerships in other verticals like packaging and assembly.

The DOE SunShot Initiative presenter reiterated their awesome multifaceted program.  DOE's EERE is funding the reduction of solar's cost per kWh and they even incubate startups.  I think EERE's Funding Opportunity Exchange might be a decent source of non-dilutive funding for startups if they can pivot to government's needs.  Here's a hint for aspiring solar entrepreneurs . . . basic color properties matter.  Black solar cells absorb more sunlight than other colors like blue.  That's so simple that everyone in solar should know it.  I was particularly impressed with the presentation from Bandgap Engineering, one of SunShot's incubated startups.

I kept busy in between presentations by browsing the expo floor.  Booth babes made rare appearances compared with 2013.  Shoals Technologies Group had the best babes by far at their Intersolar display.

I must have been distracted by something at their coffee bar.  Perhaps it was the soft pretzels they were giving away.  I should have grabbed a pretzel before they ran out.  I never turn down free food if I can help it.

You can see that I have my hands full with these babes.  They were just as soft as the pretzels and probably just as tasty.  Feast your eyes on the incontrovertible proof that gorgeous women cannot resist yours truly, Anthony J. Alfidi, CEO of Alfidi Capital.  

SEMICON's Silicon Innovation Forum featured Dr. Robert Metcalfe as keynote speaker.  This brilliant guy has created enormous value in multiple verticals and I was privileged to hear his insights.  I will add his mention of the Doriot Ecology and Christensen Disruption to my latticework of mental models (nod to Charles Munger here).  I learned a new acronym from Dr. Metcalfe:  FOCACA = Freedom of Choice Among Competing Alternatives, i.e. the state of affairs in a free market when consumers don't have to live with tech monopolies.  His formula for a successful startup in a Doriot Ecology combines an academic professor and talented students working with laboratory tech, a scaling entrepreneur who provides adult supervision, and venture capital.  I note with interest his preference for tech developed in university labs with government agency sponsorship, rather than tech from government-run labs.  Dr. Metcalfe thinks universities that compete with each other are more productive than federal labs, which show poor research output per dollar spent.  That throws cold water on my hopes for commercializing the federal government's science.  IMHO the missing ingredient from the government's commercialization efforts is competition that will sharpen the federal labs' abilities.  Analysts tracking tech innovation need more laws in their mental latticeworks . . . Shockley, Grosch, Moore, Rock, CooperMetcalfe, and maybe others I heard for the first time from Dr. Metcalfe.  He plugged NSF's US Ignite project to seek killer apps for the Gigabit Internet.  Hey entrepreneurs, there's your big hint about what's coming next after the social / mobile / Big Data convergence, and venture funding will follow a hot trend.  Dr. Metcalfe closed with some cautionary observations for would-be entrepreneurs.  He said Solyndra was a classic scaling mistake where a political commitment to job creation drove failure, and their tech had everything but silicon (uh, yeah, that would be pretty crucial to have in solar).

The Silicon Innovation Forum continued with a venture investing panel.  They were refreshingly candid, unlike some of the self-serving blather I tend to hear from VC panels.  They see very few good opportunities now but are looking for IoT to impact sensors and MEMS.  I believe any startup that can push back the limits of Moore's Law and Dr. Metcalfe's other laws above would be compelling.  I was pleased to hear these VCs say they look at a startup's supply chain when scaling it up to see where bottlenecks will appear.  I hope they apply that perspective to the IoT applications they claim to like in precision agriculture, because a farmer's subscribed sensor arrays assessing moisture and temperature all need power sources of some sort.  I wonder if a farm drone could power the sensors with wireless transmission of electricity at the same time it makes a recon overflight . . . hmmm.  They would all tie in together to optimize pesticide spraying and hydrology.  "Sustainable differentiation" was a common buzz phrase from this panel.  I don't think they mean that in the cleantech sense of sustainability, but in a scaling sense.

The game-changing startup success stories from Silicon Innovation Forum were mostly products of NSF SBIR funding.  Such early non-dilutive funding proves something to future funders by underwriting early research.  Competitive manufacturing costs and capital efficiency matter.

I missed the Center for Sustainable Energy talk on their Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP).  Solar entrepreneurs should give it a serious look.  It helps a solar sales pitch as long as it's fully funded.  CPUC is on board with SGIP.

Intersolar allowed me to attend their press breakfast on the second day because they recognize the value I bring as a sector analyst.  My reputation must be seriously growing if this very important conference series has let me into the tent.  I got some insights into the segmentation of the grid-connected storage market and the very versatile modularity of battery tech.  DOE's Global Energy Storage Database links regulatory policies to notable projects.  The National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries (NATTBatt) noted that batteries allow the solar sector to sell more product of higher quality by bundling storage solutions with solar production, and I wish I had attended their separate talk on strategies to reduce storage costs.  The California Energy Storage AllianceCalifornia ISO Energy Storage Roadmap, and EPRI advocate public policies that will make the storage sector even more complementary to solar.  They need to address costs, especially since the economic losses of short-term outages make storage a compelling mitigation tool.  Storage factors of response range and speed enable storage solutions to be scaled and customized for local markets.  The battery sector can make its case effectively by linking storage costs to the range of battery materials that deliver different gravimetric and volumetric energy densities.

The next SEMICON keynote from Microsoft was the expected commingling of value chains and supply chains in connected networks.  I thought ERP was supposed to have solved that already.  Does any big strategic investor like Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, and others still believe that the mobile / social / cloud / Big Data fusion will drive value?!  That train left the station in 2013.  There's little room left for disruption in retail users' verticals.  Let's move on to IoT and M2M already.  I still hear too many business intelligence solutions sales pitches disguised as these multi-sector fusion case studies.  Microsoft does recognize the importance of enterprise security but I'm not sure where it resides in Azure or their other offerings.

One other product pitch mentioned NREL's calculations of site survey costs for solar installations.  I couldn't find the data on NREL's Open PV Project but a Google search reveals tons of data from NREL and others on soft costs.  Geographically precise data helps with lead generation and prospect qualification, especially when an integrated solar installer shows cost advantages from policy, taxes, storage integration, and soft cost savings.

The highlight of my Intersolar experience is always the Joint Forces for Solar series of presentations.  CALSEIA was first up discussing the West Coast market.  The California Solar Initiative (CSI) will end soon and it would be a shame to lose access to the valuable California Solar Statistics it generated.  A statistical void makes the market less transparent and homeowners will be inhibited from comparing pricing.  I liked the "duck curve" chart showing the daily production ramp that utilities want to moderate with storage.  I asked the presenter about the typical salvage value and recycling cost of a solar system at the end of its useful life, but I should probably look that up on my own.

I was all over the Joint Forces for Solar section on solar PV financing opportunities.  Chadbourne and Parke's Project Finance Newswire covers plenty of good info on financial innovation.  Securitization has come a long way since solar investors first started weighing the tax equity of a project.  The yield co model does for solar what MLPs do for hydrocarbon and pipeline projects.  Yield cos remind me of REITs but the difference is their securitization of cash flows from solar leases, not the physical system assets themselves.  Watch the Alfidi Capital blog for a whole separate article on how yield cos compare to other instruments, and how they can theoretically commingle with tax equity via inverted lease structures.  Property owners in special tax districts can still use property assessed clean energy (PACE) payments for solar upgrades.  I was delighted to hear that NREL data on solar performance can validate the credit default risk of solar securities.  I want to consider whether NREL's RReDC data can evaluate credit risk for yield cos in any renewable sector besides solar, and whether NREL's Solar APIs can adapt to publishing that data in formats usable to the finance sector.  I am intrigued by NREL's backing of Sunspec Alliance's Open Solar Performance and Reliability Clearinghouse (oSPARC), which may fill the immediate market need for solar performance data.  Anyway, the presenter for this session did mention that state-chartered green banks are emerging, along with green bonds and holding company loans as additional vehicles.  I searched around the Web for insights on those subjects.  The Coalition for Green Capital is pushing for more green banks.  The World Bank knows something about green bonds.  I haven't addressed these topics in a while but rest assured they are fodder for my future blog articles.  If NREL's Renewable Energy Project Finance site doesn't cover it, just watch for it from Alfidi Capital.

I left Joint Forces for Solar early to catch the SEMICON Bulls and Bears session.  Splitting my time between two sessions oriented to the finance sector is how I optimize Alfidi Capital coverage of major developments.  Anyway, the bull and bear analysts from major investment banks presented their thinking on cost and competition in the semiconductor sector.  Slowing demand all around was a major theme.  I can easily summarize everything they said.  Leverage points in a production process determine where semiconductor manufacturers have a competitive advantage.  Simple, low-cost supply chains matter.  The ability to continually make incremental improvements in a production process matters.  The Alfidi Capital official definition of the one thing that matters most is a durable competitive advantage (a la Warren Buffett) that generates the surplus earnings funding a constant search for the things that matter!  I suspect that such an advantage comes down to a mix of advanced material science and the ability to match chips to form factor changes.  I don't follow semiconductors as closely as I follow renewable energy, so I'll just have to wonder.  I also wonder why so many people attending the SEMICON Bulls and Bears session looked like total douchebags.  Maybe they were all Wall Street investment bankers looking for someone else's work to pass off as their own.  That happens in the bulge bracket all the time.

I sat in on a sponsor's breakfast forum on the final day of SEMICON West.  All I needed to know is that material science places the same limits on chip and circuit capacity as it does for energy storage capacity in batteries.  The cost factors of chips and their dies seem to multiply each other, especially as die area scales.  Mobile computing makes chip design complex because mobile sensors (like modems) are always turned on and processors for graphics and video have high workloads.

I switched back to the Intersolar track to hear a very attractive German woman present on the German storage market.  It should not surprise anyone that solar PV systems with a storage component offer a higher NPV for investment that stand-alone PV systems, regardless of feed-in tariffs.  Obviously, storage allows energy use in non-peak hours without any additional demand on the grid.  It also seems like installer scale matters if big players offer more added NPV.  More installers making proactive offers to add storage with their PV installation should expect more market penetration and more profitability.  That IMHO is the key for those solar installers who want to survive industry consolidation.  This technique should work in the US as well as Germany.  The big problem is that battery life is still too short for many household needs.

I went back to SEMICON for their expo floor panel on the 3D printing revolution.  You know something, I had mentioned 3D printing in passing to several exhibitors last year and they really didn't see it coming.  Now it has arrived.  Adapt or die.  If 3D printing is at the same maturity stage now as PCs were in the 1970s, then the sector needs a consumer product as elegantly simple to use as Apple's Macintosh.  The inevitable game-change is obvious . . Apple should launch a 3D printer!  The best part of this 3D maker panel was the presence of 3D engineering goddess Sandra Madrigal.  Oh wow, she was one hot babe.  She showed an image of a 3D printed version of her head she made as an experiment.  I'd like to see more 3D printed versions of her, if you know what I mean.  I say the 3D printing sector could jump start its growth by encouraging 3D printed molds of unclad female figure studies.  This gal really got me thinking.  I could have studied the LLNL material selection chart on the stiffness versus density tradeoff, but after watching Sandra Madrigal I was developing a mental tradeoff of my own.  Okay, let's get serious here.  I think alloying in 3D is solvable with some elegant nanotech.  It probably means using airstreams to bring metal particles down into a melt pool, or using electrolysis plates to to attract them into a honeycombed grid where they can be heated and set.  The first desktop device that does that will own the home market for cheap customization.  I suspect very few financial analysts follow the 3D printing sector.  That's why Alfidi Capital stands out.

I circled back to Intersolar for one last presentation.  NABCEP discussed licenses and certifications for solar system installers.  I recalled much of the material from past years at this show.  The key takeaways for the financial sector are clear.  Financial incentive programs for renewables support accredited contractors.  NREL's Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) standards make that clear.

I did make the rounds of the entire expo floors of both conferences as is my annual habit.  Nothing can stop me from cramming as much discovery into my schedule as possible.  John Perlin's book Let It Shine got special mention at Intersolar's opening ceremony and he sold copies on the expo floor.  TeamCalifornia supported the presence of California Go-Biz, SFCED, the East Bay EDA, and other regional advocacy groups at Intersolar.  My round trip of all the exhibitors scored me tons of market insights and plenty of free candy.  I informally surveyed some exhibitors on their most significant pain points.  The unscientific results of my exploration will be the subject of another future blog post.  Like I said above, you need to watch this space.

Intersolar and SEMICON West are always worth my time.  I don't attend merely for free candy and photos with booth babes, although those are certainly nice perks.  Entrepreneurs and venture investors need analysis of meta trends at the intersection of renewable energy and component manufacturing.  I may not be the only person on the planet who sees these connections but I'm definitely having the most fun doing it.  I'll see you all in 2015 for the next round of these combined trade shows.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Haiku of Finance for 07/18/14

Track research spending
Connect to valuation
Count innovation

How US R&D Stacks Up With Other Data

Analysts should not have to guess about a business's R&D spending.  It's always in the financial statements for publicly held companies.  Finding the numbers requires some effort because FASB's SFAS 2 requires R&D to be expensed as it is incurred, meaning R&D costs are usually considered to be operating costs rather than capex.  Assembling a comparable number for the entire US is a different project because the data is scattered in several locations.  Government data offers a starting point for the R&D component of spending.

The National Science Foundation has a couple of interesting data sets.  Check out NSF's National Patterns of R&D Resources for a rundown of public R&D spending by source and sector.  The National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators report includes a chapter comparing the US R&D commitment to international competitors.  The NCSES InfoBrief for December 2013 has further breakdowns on multiyear R&D spending.  The general conclusions of these three data sources all comport with each other.  Their bottom line is that the US is losing its global lead in R&D spending.  It is worth noting that business R&D spending far outpaces both federal and university spending.

I am intrigued by the US's R&D data because this spending helps determine the nation's future innovation capacity and thus its prosperity.  I would like to explore whether a relationship exists between strong R&D spending and a normal US economy.  I will have to define my terms carefully before I proceed.  I do not yet have a firm definition of what constitutes either variable.  "Strong" R&D spending may be what drives normal GDP growth, and a "normal" economy may be one in which Tobin's Q has a value of 1.0 at its equilibrium.  The St. Louis Fed's FRED historial chart of Tobin's Q shows a big spike in the 1990s when IT spending for Internet connectivity took off.  I would be very intrigued to discover whether a similar spike in national R&D spending contributed to that spike.  It may of course be merely a reflection of the insane NASDAQ valuations for tech companies in that era.  Perhaps a normal economy displays a "Warren Buffett Indicator" close to its historical average.

Be patient as I work through this research idea.  I have other demands on my time.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Haiku of Finance for 07/17/14

Headlines driving gold
No room for conspiracy
Investors know fear

Gold Price Responds to Disaster News

Gold is a really old metal.  It's been around longer than any of us and it has a mind of its own in the markets.  Forget for a moment the recent news about bankers fixing the daily spot price of gold.  Daily spots can't suppress market pressures forever.  Headline news is still a demand factor when something happens to spook traders.

Today's shoot-down of a Malaysian airliner over the Russia-Ukraine conflict zone was bad news.  Some idiots with too much firepower and not enough brainpower have just escalated a local conflict into a global incident.  Forbes noted that the airliner incident drove up the spot price of gold.  In a similar vein, CNN notes that Israel's ground attack in Gaza made the VIX volatility indicator move up.  Escalating conflicts in more than one global hot-spot drive investors away from risky equities and towards hard assets, at least for the short term.  

Real-world drivers of sharp moves in commodity prices make me discount other commentators' claims of ongoing gold price conspiracies.  Paul Craig Roberts wrote yesterday about how big banks supposedly collude to drive down the gold price with COMEX futures contracts.  I'd like to see how he explains today's rising gold price in light of his conspiracy theory.  GATA also has some explaining to do.  

A real conspiracy would be able to smack down the gold price immediately.  The contract volume on COMEX would have to rise appreciably to indicate this counteraction was in the works.  Come on, gold bugs, there's more to price action than paper claims on COMEX traders' bullion repositories.  Surprises in the real world count for much more than hedging.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Disappointment of US Savings Bonds

I recently got a nice surprise from the US government.  It all started way back in 1995 when I entered active duty as a US Army officer.  I designated a payroll allotment to run for a few months that would automatically purchase some US Savings Bonds directly from the US Treasury.  I figured this would be a smart move.  It was actually one of the dumbest moves I've ever made.

In the years after I left active duty I allowed the bonds to remain in the custody of DOD's accounting system.  My only concern was getting them back in the event of hyperinflation so I could convert them to cash before they became worthless.  Uncle Sam took care of that problem this year by deciding he would no longer hold service members' allotted Savings Bonds in trust.  The Defense Department sent me my Series EE Savings Bonds and I finally got to hold them in my hands.  They looked magnificent.  I then dug up some other EE Savings Bonds I had received as compensation for participating in a few online studies.  I had not previously considered any of these bonds to be part of my portfolio, but that was an oversight I shall never make again.  I did not want to hang on to any of these bonds for very long now that they were finally in my custody.  I had sold my more liquid fixed income holdings long ago in anticipation of hyperinflation.  I took my EE bonds down to the bank branch where I have a checking account and asked the bankers to redeem my bonds and deposit the proceeds.  They were only too happy to oblige.

The redemption was straightforward.  I provided personal identification and signed each bond on the back before handing them to the bank teller.  She tallied them up with accrued interest, transferred the total to my checking account, and printed my receipt.  I compared the receipt to the calculations I had performed at Treasury Direct's Savings Bond Calculator before I went to the bank.  The amounts were correct but still disappointingly low.  I received the full face value of the $1000 face value EE bonds I bought in the 1990s plus miniscule interest.  The $100 EE bonds I had received more recently as online compensation were only partially redeemed, as I had not held them long enough to receive the full accruals.

The tiny gains my EE bonds eeked out ignore the opportunity cost of not investing in the stock market during the 1990s.  The flip side is that the '90s tech-driven boom and crash destroyed plenty of wealth.  It is thus difficult to determine whether I would have been better off just not making those allotments from my Army pay and keeping the cash in ordinary savings accounts.  Interest on savings used to be pretty decent until the Bernanke Fed started blowing bubbles.

Feel free to peruse TreasuryDirect at your leisure.  It is full of programs for the low-information investor that look like decent savings deals until you compare them to the whole wide world of investing.  Americans can open a myRA account in TreasuryDirect.  Read my blog article about how myRA is little more than a practice tool for beginning investors.  Americans can also buy I-bonds on that Treasury site.  I'm pretty sure the government's efforts to reset that inflation-protected bond's value will break down quickly during hyperinflation.  I won't revisit TreasuryDirect's cute ideas until after hyperinflation ends in the US.  Lame bond returns just aren't for me.