Investing in the New-Energy Economy
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Investing in the New-Energy Economy

By KAREN HUBE
Tue, Apr 4, 2023 8:43amGrey Clock 2 min

The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy—a core theme in values-based portfolios for almost two decades—has been catapulted from a niche investment theme to the mainstream thanks to the passage of the most significant climate action legislation on record.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed in August, is a profound inflection point in the evolution of climate policy that puts U.S. muscle behind the global push toward carbon-reduction goals. The bill, which dedicates $369 billion to climate provisions, is likely to elevate investor confidence in the clean-energy theme and open the door to new investment opportunities.

“The IRA will provide a huge boost to companies and projects, both proven and emerging, that enable decarbonisation at scale,” says Justina Lai, chief impact officer at Wetherby Asset Management in San Francisco. “It provides much more policy certainty to companies and funds already investing in the energy transition and incentivises laggards to catch up.”

The new legislation requires all emissions-producing sectors, such as transportation, agriculture, construction, and utilities, to reduce greenhouse gases, and provides a host of tax incentives to companies and individuals to make environmentally friendly choices, such as buying an electric vehicle and installing solar panels.

Lai expects more innovation in renewable energy, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and batteries, along with nascent technologies in areas such as green hydrogen, direct air capture, carbon capture and storage, energy storage, and sustainable fuels.

A goal to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050—an agreed-upon target by many nations and the global scientific community—isn’t just a technology investment story. The carbon-reduction theme is intersecting with agriculture, construction, transportation, finance, and other industries.

In Kent, England, InspiraFarms creates modular cold rooms and packing-houses for agricultural use to reduce reliance on diesel generators and reduce food waste. Berlin-based Betteries upcycles electric-vehicle batteries and incorporates them in clean-power systems. In Lexington, Ky., Rubicon has developed software to help waste-management companies, businesses, and municipalities reduce carbon emissions.

“This is about investing across the entire value chain of this transition,” says Ian Schaeffer, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

While a major area of innovation is in slowing climate change, another is in addressing the needs of communities already struggling with the impact of rising global temperatures.

Source Global, a Scottsdale, Ariz., start-up, creates new solar-powered technology that extracts water vapour out of the air to make drinking water, eliminating the need for fossil-fuel-dependent methods for delivering drinking water to communities whose water supply is drying up due to climate changes.

“The beauty of the Inflation Reduction Act is that it opens the door to climate adaptation in underserved communities. That creates massive opportunity,” says Cody Friesen, Source’s founder and CEO.

J.P. Morgan’s Schaeffer says investors should be looking toward the primary enablers of the transition to clean energy, and points to two important themes: green buildings and semiconductors.

“Buildings account for a staggering amount of carbon emissions,” he says. “We think there’s opportunity in sustainable construction materials, efficient air systems, incorporating smart systems, and digital infrastructure.”

Semiconductors are essential to modern technology and will play a big role in the transition of the automotive industry from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, Schaeffer says. “This will require more powerful and efficient semiconductors. The demand for these will skyrocket in coming years.”

Opportunities are global in scope, and suited for long-term investors, he says. “This transition will be a long and bumpy but ultimately inevitable process likely to take us through the middle half of this century.”



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Is the Stock Market Near Its Top?

Don’t let the hum of the bull tune out signs warning that a bear may be lurking.

By ANDY KESSLER
Mon, Jul 15, 2024 3 min

The third season of the terrific show “The Bear” blends family dysfunction with the ups and downs of high-end restaurants. With markets chasing new highs—get out those Dow 40000 hats—this column is about a different kind of dysfunctional beast. Is the market bear dead, or is it about to sneak up on us?

A U.S. equity strategist told me the story of a Japanese portfolio manager who sat in his office in July 1987 asking for stock ideas. The strategist’s model was based on a proprietary survey of investor sentiment, though it never really worked. Nonetheless, he read off a list of dozens of stocks. The portfolio manager then asked if he would kindly put in an order for 20,000 shares of each. The Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked at 2722 in late August and crashed 22.6% on Oct. 19.

A friend was a portfolio manager of a massive growth-stock fund in 1999. He told me he bought shares of Yahoo, Cisco, F5 Networks, Infosys and others every day because money flowed into his fund every day. The tech-heavy Nasdaq index peaked on March 10, 2000. As money began to flow out, he had to sell every day. By year’s end, Nasdaq had fallen by more than half.

I met Cathie Wood as she was filing papers for her “disruptive innovation” funds—to “change the way the world works.” Her ARK Innovation exchange-traded fund, ARKK, launched in October 2014 and charges 0.75% management fees. In 2020 it was up 153% as stimulus money flew in, driving more buying. ARKK peaked in February 2021 with $28 billion in assets. Since then, its net asset value is down 70%, even amid a roaring bull market, especially in tech. Morningstar recently calculated that Ms. Wood’s Ark Invest funds have destroyed more than $14 billion in wealth. One of my favorite Wall Street sayings is, “Don’t mistake a bull market for brains.”

In almost every bull run, stock momentum lures in investors at the worst moment, I call them momos, ensuring they get burned when the buying stops. Since 2009, excepting a few brief sell-offs, cash has been trash. That made some sense during the era of zero interest rates. But now with higher inflation and short rates above 5%? Confusing. Maybe investors are already anticipating another Donald Trump antiregulation pro-growth presidency, forgetting that he is married to a growth-killing pro-tariff agenda. Is the bear dead, or does it have a long fuse?

Predicting stock markets is a fool’s errand. My Series 7 test for General Securities Representative Qualification lapsed long ago, so you won’t get investment advice from me. But there are warning signs.

Have we run out of buyers? Sometimes there are triggers that scare them away: oil shocks, viruses, bank failures. But sometimes they simply collapse from exhaustion. More than 40% of households reportedly own stocks—a higher percentage than in 2000. It was 20% in 2010. Some market indicators also point to asset managers being fully invested. Who’s left to buy?

Market breadth is concerning. The 1973 market peak was driven by stretched valuations of the Nifty Fifty, which included IBM , Coca-Cola and GE but also Polaroid and Xerox . Fifty? Now it’s the Magnificent Seven: Alphabet , Amazon , Apple , Meta , Microsoft , Nvidia and Tesla . Seven? Artificial-intelligence hype, way ahead of even the rosiest of realities, drove Nvidia to make up almost a third of the S&P 500’s first half gains. Another quarter came from Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and Eli Lilly . Maybe fat bulls need Mounjaro.

Stock values feel divorced from reality. The so-called Warren Buffett indicator—the ratio between total stock-market value and gross domestic product—was 138% in March 2000. It’s now 196%. Certainly not a buy signal. And Bitcoin, my go-to bubblicious bat signal, is down about 20% since March. A dead canary?

“Don’t worry, be happy,” the bulls sing. Inflation is slain, and the Fed will cut rates. But investors won’t like the reason for those cuts. We’re already seeing earnings disasters—Nike, Walgreens , Lululemon , Delta and Wells Fargo . If the economy slows, earnings glitches and stock implosions become contagious. Plus, banks’ exposure to commercial real estate is scary, with buildings being dumped at huge haircuts almost weekly. This is now infecting rental buildings, and there are signs of a private housing glut. Inventory in Denver is up nearly 37%. Sure, markets climb a “wall of worry,” and bull markets tend to last longer than people expect, but sometimes the nightmares are real. Recessions are like honey to bears.

Even writing about the bear is bullish. Bull runs end when everyone is a believer. Still, another favorite saying of mine is, “No one’s ever lost money taking a profit.” Someday, cash will be king again. I prefer to buy stocks when everyone hates them.

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