Media Worth Consuming – April 2022

Jonathan Rochford

Narrow Road Capital

My top five articles across the month are:

Some studies are finding that ESG funds deliver lower financial performance and little in the way of ESG improvement.

The Chinese government is censoring its national anthem after citizens used key lines to advocate for freedom from lockdowns.

The argument that Americans were better educated before compulsory, government funded schooling.

Sri Lanka tried MMT and a wholesale switch to organic farming and blew up its economy.

Sweden recycles around half its waste, with almost all of the rest sent to incinerators to generate power and heat.

Here’s the long list of the most interesting and under the radar articles I came across this month.

Finance

Morgan Stanley’s block trading business is facing allegations it tipped off clients about impending sales. Chinese insiders have a strong record of selling their US listed stocks before bad news. An index of SPAC stocks has massively underperformed the S&P 500. Financially healthy American corporates are using bankruptcy loopholes to settle lawsuits in bulk. A profile of hedge fund legend Chris Hohn and the Children’s Investment Fund.

Emerging market sovereign debt has become a game of extend and pretend. Sri Lanka has skipped interest payments on its US Dollar bonds. Argentina’s sovereign bonds are pricing in a high chance of default in 2024. The Hong Kong dollar’s peg has become untenable. More than a year since it went bankrupt, less than half of Greensill’s receivable backed notes have been repaid. April is going to be the worst month for global fixed rate bonds in over 30 years.

Politics & Culture

The head of the Biden Administration’s “Disinformation Governance Board” is a supporter of debunked Democrat conspiracy theories. Big tech companies have censored or deleted hundreds of posts that discussed Joe Biden’s strange behaviour and allegations of corruption involving Hunter Biden. Just like the Clintons and Bidens, Jared Kushner is cashing in on his access to power.

The Mayor of New York criticised Black Lives Matter for not caring about black victims of black perpetrators. The history of slavery is far more complicated than blacks versus whites. A Californian committee tasked with determining which black Americans should receive reparations is gridlocked over whether all black Americans or just direct descendants of slaves deserve payments. A US college is $31 million out of pocket after it wrongly accused a local bakery of racism for several years.

Google is now making woke language suggestions when users try to use “non-inclusive” language. At a time when Elon Musk is threatening to buy Twitter and force it to be pro-free speech, Twitter showed its bias in a flagrant way. LinkedIn locked out a user for posting against forgiving student loans. Facebook is censoring news stories about BLM leaders buying a $6 million house using donated funds. CNN will shutdown its streaming service a month after it launched after failing to attract a meaningful number of subscribers.

Swedish defamation laws that punish victims have killed the country’s me-too movement. A Feminist’s surprising take on the good and bad of the Men’s Rights Movement. Fatherlessness is a major factor in many of America’s problems. Criminals in the US may soon be executed by firing squad as it is less prone to error than lethal injection. Two prisoners at a women only prison in New Jersey have fallen pregnant from relationships with other inmates.

If governments can seize yachts linked to Russian billionaires without due process, there’s no reason to think they won’t steal from their own citizens in the future. Ukraine is offering bounties for stolen or surrendered Russian military equipment. What runs out first – the Javelins or Russian tanks? Russia has a long history of causing death and suffering in Ukraine. With all the focus on Ukraine, few have noticed that the war in Yemen has killed over 400,000 in 7 years.

New York City fired an employee for asking the Mayor why he had reneged on a promise to allow toddlers to be free of masks. A New Hampshire city council cut the school budget in half after the skyrocketing costs were found to be more than double what local independent schools were charging.

Economics & Work

Mississippi saw the number of people working soar and state unemployment benefits paid out fall 97% after it switched off the excessively generous federal unemployment benefits. Without government handouts for cattle producers, American hamburgers would cost more than twice the current price. The stimulus cheques provided one year ago are a key reason for today’s US inflation. 7 of the 29 EU nations have inflation over 10%.

France’s President has proposed linking the retirement age to life expectancy, a move that would increase the current retirement age from 62 to 65. With so many expats leaving Hong Kong, those who stay are getting substantial promotions and pay increases. Hungary offered its citizens huge financial bonuses for having more kids but it didn’t make much of a difference. Some politicians and journalists have forgotten that income belongs to the people who earn it and governments should take as little of it as is absolutely necessary.

Miscellaneous

We need a lot more and better batteries if we want to electrify all vehicles, here’s where the technology is up to. Texas has seen a spike in small earthquakes due to fracking. British farmers have pruned their plantings of vegetables because the cost of natural gas used to heat greenhouses has spiked. Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of cooking oils and has temporarily banned exports of the products.

America is having a narcissism epidemic. A crypto guru explains how to make money out of nothing but hype. An American cryptocurrency expert has been sentenced to five years jail for giving a presentation in North Korea. An Indian software engineer tracked down another passenger who had taken his bag by pressing F12 on the airline’s website and getting their phone number. Sales of dumbphones are up as more people realise the damage caused by smartphones. An American man spent nearly 3 months in quarantine in China after a series of Covid contacts.

American punters are using promotions from gambling websites to hedge their bets and generate a second income. More people are choosing to live on cruise ships long term as alternative retirement or work from home options. One plane crashed and another landed safely after the pilots tried a mid-air swap

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This article has been prepared for educational purposes and is in no way meant to be a substitute for professional and tailored financial advice. It contains information derived and sourced from a broad list of third parties and has been prepared on the basis that this third party information is accurate. This article expresses the views of the author at a point in time, and such views may change in the future with no obligation on Narrow Road Capital or the author to publicly update these views. Narrow Road Capital advises on and invests in a wide range of securities, including securities linked to the performance of various companies and financial institutions.

Jonathan Rochford
Portfolio Manager
Narrow Road Capital

Narrow Road Capital is a credit manager with a track record of higher returns and lower fees on Australian credit investments. Clients include institutions, not for profits and family offices.

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