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U.S. Energy Independence and $247 Oil by 2030

IN THIS ISSUE: Canada’s Big Six Banks Reflect Solid, Unspectacular Economy by David Dittman
Tough Reviews for the Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP) IPO by Chad Fraser
U.S. Energy Independence and $247 Oil by 2030 by Jim Fink
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U.S. Energy Independence and $247 Oil by 2030
by Jim Fink

The S&P 500 is up 8.8% since the beginning of the year, its strongest start in more than 20 years (1991). Yet, as I predicted in Crude Oil is a Better Bet Than Stocks, investors could have made even more money in oil than they have made in stocks. For example, gasoline and crude oil are up 17.6% and 15.5%, respectively, so far this year:

Source: Bloomberg

Lest you think you can make money throwing darts at any energy commodity, take note that both coal and natural gas have plunged in 2012, so oil is just about the only game in town to go long. Higher oil prices are great for commodity investors, but detrimental to the U.S economy as a whole, as well as to anyone who heats their home with oil or drives a gasoline-powered car. Consequently, the spike in oil prices have become a political issue and President Obama discussed the problem in a March 1st speech on American energy policy.

Obama’s solution is two-pronged: (1) encourage “safe and responsible” domestic oil production; and (2) promote energy efficiency (e.g., 55 miles per gallon fuel economy standards by the middle of the next decade) and alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and biofuels (interestingly, Obama failed to mention nuclear power). According to Obama, “we’ve got to do both” and can’t rely solely on increased oil production:

Anybody who tells you that we can just drill our way out of this problem does not know what they’re talking about or they’re not telling you the truth. The United States consumes more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but we only have 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves — 20 percent we use; we only produce 2 percent.  And no matter what we do, it’s not going to get much above 3 percent.  So we’re still going to have this huge shortfall. We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.

That’s why if we really want energy security and energy independence, we’ve got to start looking at how we use less oil, and use other energy sources that we can renew and that we can control, so we are not subject to the whims of what’s happening in other countries. 

Obama admits that the U.S. has become less dependent on foreign sources of oil, stating:

Six years ago, 60 percent of the oil we used was imported. Since I took office, America’s dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year. In fact, in 2010, it was under 50 percent for the first time in 13 years.

When it comes to oil production, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years and we have a near-record number of oil rigs operating right now — more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined

Obama should have added that the United States is now a net exporter of refined petroleum products for the first time in more than 60 years (i.e., since 1949). This U.S. resurgence in oil production is an amazing phenomenon that is due almost entirely to oil shale discoveries in Montana/North Dakota’s Bakken and Texas’ Eagle Ford regions. The horizontal drilling and fracking revolution that has created a 100-year supply of natural gas is now being utilized to unlock “tight” oil supplies trapped within rock. The Bakken region is estimated to hold 3.65 billion barrels of technically-recoverable oil and by 2015 North Dakota will be the second largest oil-producing state behind Texas (surpassing Alaska and California).

The last time the U.S. achieved energy independence was in 1952. According to a February 15th report from Citigroup’s oil analysts, oil shale development will make the U.S. once again energy independent by 2020:

U.S. crude and product imports are now about 11 million barrels a day, with about 3 million barrels a day of product exports. This leaves import reliance at 8 million barrels a day. If shale oil grows by 2 million barrels a day, which we think is conservative, and California adds its 1 million barrels a day to the Gulf of Mexico’s 2 million barrels a day, we reduce import reliance to 3 million barrels a day.

Canadian production is expected to rise by 1.6 million barrels a day by 2020, and much of this will effectively be stranded in North America, and there is the potential to cut demand both through conservation and a shift in transportation demand to natural gas by at least 1 million barrels a day and by some calculations by 2 million barrels a day.

BP (NYSE: BP) reaches a similar but slightly less optimistic conclusion to Citigroup, stating in its Energy Outlook 2030 (pp. 5, 78-79) that U.S. oil import dependency will be halved by 2030, but 32% of its oil demand will still need to be imported. The good news is that U.S. import demand will be fully satisfied by friendly countries in the Western Hemisphere: Canada, Mexico, and Brazil:

The growth of unconventional supply, including U.S. shale oil and gas, Canadian oil sands and Brazilian deep-waters, against a background of a gradual decline in oil demand, will see the western hemisphere become almost totally energy self-sufficient by 2030.

In other words U.S. dependence on Arab oil will be history: bye, bye oil sheiks of the Middle East! The Americas – not the Middle East – will soon be the world capital of energy and the U.S. will overtake Russia as the world’s largest energy producer within eight years.

According to MIT economics professor Richard Schmalensee, energy independence does not mean that U.S. consumers will be immune from global oil price shocks. After all, the demand for oil will continue to explode in emerging markets like China and India and U.S. oil producers will sell to the highest bidder. The good news is that some of the money being paid for high-price oil will go to North Dakota rather than Saudi Arabia and that is a very good thing for U.S. national security and world peace.

The energy future looks very bright for the United States and looks very bleak for China, India, and the European Union. Just look at the degree of oil-import dependency faced by these countries by 2030 in the BP presentation (page 78):

  • European Union: 94% 
  • India: 91%
  • China: 80%

See you; I wouldn’t want to be you.

According to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), a 28-member group of oil-importing countries organized in the face of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, oil prices will skyrocket to $247 by 2035.  Based on an average 2011 price of $101.54 (page 6), this would amount to a 143% price increase! Sounds like a lot, but that projected price increase is over a 24-year period so the annualized gain is only 3.8%. An interesting question is how much of
this 3.77 projected annual price increase is due to increasing real demand and how much is due to inflation? The answer can be derived by the Fisher equation:

(1+inflation) * (1+real) = (1+nominal)

The IEA World Outlook 2011 (page 62) projects oil prices in constant 2010 dollars (i.e. real) to rise to $140 per barrel by 2035. Divide the $140 real projected price in 2035 by the $101.54 average price in 2011 yields a real increase of 37.9% or 1.35% annualized.

To find the inflation component, divide (1+ the total nominal annualized price increase of 3.77%) by (1+ the 1.35% annualized real price increase) and the result is an annualized inflation increase of 2.39%. In other words, most (63%) of the projected increase in the oil price to 2035 is due to inflation and only 37% is due to increased real demand. The long-term average inflation rate is 3.24%, so the IEA’s 2.39% annualized inflation projection over the next 24 years is below average inflation which makes sense given the “new normal” of below-average economic
due to the global debt crisis.

Bottom line: President Obama’s insistence on pursuing uneconomic renewable energy sources is not needed for the U.S. to achieve energy independence. U.S. energy independence is going to happen soon thanks to fracking technology which is already here and doesn’t need any government subsidies. As the Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) 2012 report entitled The Outlook for Energy: a View to 2040 points out (page 1):

Oil, gas and coal continue to be the most widely used fuels, and have the scale needed to meet global demand, making up about 80 percent of total energy consumption in 2040.

Renewable energy sources may be “cute,” but simply aren’t game changers for the foreseeable future and taxpayer money should certainly not be wasted on developing these tangential energy sources. Just look at the chart on page 19 of this paper prepared by the International Energy Forum (IEF) which shows the relative share of world energy demand different energy sources commanded  as of 2009 and as projected by the IEA in 2035:

Energy Source

2009 Market Share

2035 Market Share







Natural Gas












Other Renewables (e.g., solar, wind)



The share of the “big three” fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) remains virtually the same (80% vs. 81%) over the next 24 years with the share commanded by renewable energy sources increasing by only 1%.

Among the fossil fuels, the Exxon report (pp. 8, 29) projects that coal is the long-term loser: coal usage will peak in 2025 and then “begin a long-term decline for the first time in modern history.” Coal stocks certainly have performed horribly so far in 2012, but I don’t think that the stock market is anticipating coal’s post-2025 demise just yet. Rather, coal is suffering from increased environmental regulations limiting toxic air emissions and the shift of electric utilities to extremely-cheap natural gas.

In conclusion, President Obama’s March 1st speech arguing that more government subsidies for renewable energy sources is necessary to achieve U.S. energy independence is just plain wrong. The U.S.government should stop interfering with energy markets and let the United States achieve energy independence the old fashioned way – through the free market.


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Canada’s Big Six Banks Reflect Solid, Unspectacular Economy
by David Dittman

Four of Canada’s Big Six banks reported fiscal 2012 first-quarter earnings last week.

Two of them, Royal Bank of Canada (TSX: RY, NYSE: RY) and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TSX: TD, NYSE: TD), raised their dividends as they revealed results for the three months ended Jan. 31, 2012. Strong performance from traditional banking operations at home provided the foundation for both payout moves.

National Bank of Canada (TSX: NA, OTC: NTIOF) beat expectations but held the line on its dividend after boosting its quarterly payout three times a total of 21 percent since August 2010. Canada’s sixth-largest bank, which operates primarily in Quebec, now pays CAD0.75 per share per quarter.

Bank of Montreal (TSX: BMO, NYSE: BMO) also beat expectations, as its July 2011 acquisition of Chicago-based Marshall & Ilsley drove a 34 percent increase in reported net income. The quality of BMO’s beat is questionable, built as it was on a conspicuously large reduction in provisions for credit losses (PCL), both sequentially and year over year.

Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX: BNS, NYSE: BNS) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (TSX: CM, NYSE: CM) will report Wednesday and Friday, respectively; we’ll have an update in the March Canadian Edge, which will be published Mar. 9.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), No. 1 among the Big Six in terms of assets, announced a 5.5 percent dividend increase to CAD0.57 per share per quarter along with its fiscal first-quarter numbers. That’s the second increase in less than a year for RBC.

RBC reported net income of CAD1.855 billion, while net income from continuing operations was CAD1.876 billion, up CAD267 million, or 17 percent sequentially. Net income from continuing operations was down CAD120 million, or 6 percent, on a year-over-year basis, though just 4 percent adjusted for items.

Canadian Banking net income grew 5 percent sequentially, or CAD46 million, to a record CAD994 million. Solid growth in home equity loans, personal and business deposits and business loans drove the quarterly gain. Year-over-year growth for the backbone of the bank was 7 percent, as strong volume trends across the business and better credit quality were offset by less favorable interest-rate spread and higher costs.

On a sequential basis PCL were down CAD9 million, or 3 percent, to CAD267 million on improvements in RBC’s Caribbean wholesale and retail portfolios. Compared to last year set-asides were basically flat; lower credit card provisions and Canadian Banking business-lending writeoffs were offset by higher PCL in Capital Markets.

Wealth Management net income was basically flat at CAD188 million on a sequential basis but down 25 percent, or 12 percent, on a year-over-year basis, because of lower transaction volume and higher costs.

Insurance net income was down CAD10 million, or 5 percent, to CAD190 million on higher claims costs and a “lower earnings impact” from a new UK annuity reinsurance contract. Net income was up 40 percent, or CAD54 million, compared to the three months ended Jan. 31, 2011, due primarily to net investment gains versus net losses a year ago, the new annuity contract and lower claims costs.

International Banking net income was CAD24 million, up CAD14 million from the prior quarter, primarily due to lower PCLs for its Caribbean banking unit partially offset by lower average client assets at RBC Dexia due to capital depreciation. On a year-over-year basis net income was off CAD44 million because of shrinking net interest margins and rising staffing costs.

Always volatile but critical Capital Markets net income was CAD448 million, up CAD294 million sequentially, on “significantly higher” fixed-income trading results in the US and Europe and solid growth for its loan origination and syndication businesses. Though the quarter-over-quarter comparison is helped by a CAD77 million loss related to a since wound-up “special purpose entity,” operating conditions improved as the quarter progressed.

Net income from this unit was down 30 percent compared to the three months ended Jan. 31, 2011, from what were record earnings that quarter that also included a one-time gain of CAD102 million.

As of Jan. 31, 2012, RBC’s Tier 1 capital ratio was 12.2 percent, down 100 basis points from a year ago because of the change in the regulatory capital treatment of insurance investments and the impact of Basel 2.5.

RBC basically exited the US retail banking market last year, orienting its growth strategy around global capital markets and weal management operations. But the 5.5 percent dividend increase is a reflection of strong bread-and-butter banking in Canada.

Toronto-Dominion (TD) management announced a dividend increase of CAD0.04 per share, or 5.9 percent, to CAD0.72 per quarter. It’s the third time since March 2011 TD has boosted its dividend, increases that total 18 percent.

Reported net income for the quarter was CAD1.478 billion, down CAD84 million, or 5 percent, from the three months ended Jan. 31, 2011. Adjusted net was CAD1.762 billion, up CAD145 million, or 9 percent, on higher earnings in all retail segments and a higher contribution from TD’s Corporate segment; these positives were partially offset by lower earnings in Wholesale Banking.

Reported PCL for the quarter were down 4 percent, or CAD17 million, to CAD404 million. Adjusted PCL for the quarter were CAD445 million, an increase of CAD24 million, or 6 percent, compared with the first quarter of fiscal 2011. Adjusted PCL include acquired portfolios from MBNA Canada and Chrysler Financial; increases were partially offset by lower organic PCL in Canadian Personal and Commercial Banking and US Personal and Commercial Banking.

Reported PCL increased CAD64 million, or 19 percent, on a sequential basis, while adjusted PCL were up CAD105 million, or 31 percent due to the acquisition of MBNA Canada acquisition and higher provisions on acquired credit-impaired loans in US Personal and Commercial Banking.

Canadian Personal and Commercial Banking posted unit-record net income of CAD826 million. Adjusted net CAD850 million, up 11 period from a year ago.

Net income for Wealth and Insurance was up 14 percent year over year to CAD294 million. Asset growth for the Wealth component boosted fee-based revenue, while organic growth and better claims management droved Insurance results. Lower trading revenue and “a severe weather-related event” offset those positives. TD Ameritrade posted CAD55 million, up 15 percent from a year ago.

TD’s US Personal and Commercial Banking unit was a highlight of the quarter, posting reported net income of USD165 million and adjusted net of USD345 million, 6 percent better than last year on both counts because of strong organic growth. Growth in loan volumes as well as deposits helped mitigate the impact of an increasingly complex regulatory framework south of the border.

Low interest rates in the US, likely to continue for at least the next two years in light of recent US Federal Reserve statements about monetary policy, also present challenges to TD and other Canadian banks with operations in America. But TD, like its counterparts, reports that credit quality for its US unit continues to improve, and it plans to open 35 new branches in calendar 2012.

TD’s Wholesale Banking unit generated earnings of CAD194 million, down 17 percent compared to the three months ended Jan. 31, 2011, because of weaker results from the investment portfolio. Management expressed confidence about the operation, which includes new equity and debt underwriting as well as mergers & acquisitions advisory services and is therefore highly sensitive to market activity, and its ability to weather any Europe-driven volatility.

As of Jan. 31, 2012, TD’s Tier 1 capital ratio was 11.6 percent.

TD’s growth plan is focused on the US, its strategy almost the direct opposite of RBC’s. But, like its bigger rival, TD’s ability to sustain and grow a dividend is rooted in Canadian banking.

National Bank of Canada, the smallest of the Big Six, reported record net income for its fiscal 2012 first quarter of CAD332 million, up 3 percent from CAD322 million a year ago. Like RBC and TD National Bank benefited from strong loan and deposit volume in its home market.

Net income for the Personal and Commercial segment, which is concentrated in Quebec, rose 9 percent to total CAD170 million for the quarter, driven by higher loan volumes. Like its bigger peers, National is experiencing tight net interest margins.

Wealth Management earnings were CAD33 million, down 31 percent from CAD48 million a year ago, impacted primarily by rising costs associated with acquisitions. National’s Financial Markets segment contributed net income of CAD129 million, up CAD15 million, or 13.2 percent, the first quarter of fiscal 2011. Higher fixed-income trading activity drove higher revenues during the period, while financial-market fee and banking-service income were flat.

At CAD45 million in the first quarter of 2012 the bank’s provisions for credit losses were CAD10 million lower on a sequential basis due to improvements in its credit card portfolio and business loans.

As of Jan. 31, 2012, National Bank had a Tier 1 capital ratio of 12.7 percent.

National was the first of the Big Six to boost its payout in the early aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis. In fact it’s grown its dividend by 21 percent since August 2010 and now pays an annualized rate of CAD3 per share.

Bank of Montreal (BMO) reported net income of CAD1.109 billion, though much of its headline-impressive 44 percent sequential and 34 percent year-over-year growth was based on the contribution from the July 2011 bolt-on of Chicago-based Marshall & Ilsley to its Midwest-focused US operations as well as the aforementioned and glaring decline in PCL.

BMO reduced provisions by 56 percent from CAD323 million in the year-ago quarter to CAD141 million, which contributed directly to the bottom line. Profit from US-based BMO Harris Bank, meanwhile, surged to CAD137 million from CAD54 million with Marshall & Ilsley’s contribution.

Whereas RBC, TD and National Bank reported solid domestic results, BMO’s Canadian Personal & Commercial profit fell 6.7 percent to CAD446 million, as volume growth was offset by declining margins. The decline was 1.2 percent on an adjusted basis that omits the impact of a securities transaction during the year-ago quarter. US P&C net income grew USD81 million to USD135 million year over year, while adjusted net was USD152 million, up USD93 million with a USD89 million contribution from Marshall & Ilsley. Adjusted net was off 19 percent sequentially due to lower net interest income, lower revenue and higher PCL.

Private Client Group net income was down CAD39 million, or 28 percent, to CAD105 million from a year ago, as the insurance aspect of the unit was adversely affected by interest rate movements. Results for the unit excluding insurance grew 27 percent, as higher revenues from acquisitions and higher fees were only partially offset by lower brokerage revenue.

Capital Markets net income shrank by CAD62 million, or 24 percent, to CAD198 million on a year-over-year basis, though earnings for the unit surged 39 percent sequentially. The first quarter of fiscal 2011 was a strong one for new equity issues and deal-making.

BMO’s overall net interest margin on average assets was 2.8 percent, down from 2.91 percent in the first quarter of fiscal 2011.

BMO’s outlook calls for gross domestic product (GDP) growth to slow to 2 percent from 2.3 percent in Canada but for the United States to lead a recovery for North America. Its presence in the relatively healthy US Midwest positions it well to benefit from this recovery, though the relatively weak performance of its Canadian operations stands in stark contrast to the other three Big Six banks to report so far.

RBC, at 14 percent, TD, at 18 percent, and National Bank, at 21 percent, lead the Big Six in post-GFC dividend growth. Bank of Nova Scotia has boosted its payout once since the normalization began, from CAD0.49 per share per quarter to CAD0.52 a year ago, when it announced fiscal 2011 first-quarter results. Canadian Imperial boosted its dividend for the first time post-GFC last summer, by 3.4 percent. We’ll know later this week whether BNS and CIBC will follow RBC, TD and National Bank.

Bank of Montreal, meanwhile, is the only one of Canada’s Big Six not to boost its distribution at least once in the last year and a half.

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Tough Reviews for the Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP) IPO
by Chad Fraser

Four months ago, when Groupon (NasdaqGS: GRPN) went public, Investing Daily editor Jim Fink wrote that even though the company’s revenues were soaring:

“Operating costs are also growing fast, and the company’s total costs are greater than its total revenues. The more Groupon grows, the more money it loses. It reminds me of the old joke: ‘what I lose on each sale I will make up in volume!’”

Fink’s words resonated again on Friday, when Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP), a website that helps users seek out and review restaurants and other businesses, made its stock market debut. Like Groupon, Yelp Inc. shares popped on their first day of trading, shooting up 64%, from the IPO price of $15 to $24.58. (They have since pulled back to around $21.)

Cheerleader Analysts Applaud the Yelp Inc. IPO—but Where Are the Profits?

“It fits into a lot of trends,” said Renaissance Capital analyst Nick Einhorn of Yelp’s big jump. “It’s the type of social web and local business advertising that investors are interested in.”

Of course, trends are important in investing. But so are profits. And, like Groupon, Yelp Inc. has yet to turn any. In fact, its losses have been widening in the past few years.

Einhorn attributes that to the high cost of expanding overseas, pointing out that the company’s U.S. operations are profitable, but in 2011 “there were $7 million in costs related to international expansion without any accompanying revenue.”

The numbers, however, seem to point to more fundamental reasons for the ongoing losses at Yelp Inc. In an article entitled “Investors May Cry for Yelp After IPO,” Charles Ciaccia of provided the bleak figures in an assessment that read much like Fink’s analysis of Groupon four months ago:

“According to its S-1 filing, Yelp’s losses increased faster than revenue grew. Yelp lost $2.34 million in 2009, but it lost $16.9 million in 2011. The company has not turned a profit in the eight years since it was founded, which can be troublesome to investors in an uncertain market.”

Yelp Inc. May Need to Rethink Its Entire Business Model

Ciaccia also raised concerns about Yelp’s heavy reliance on Google (NasdaqGS: GOOG) for its website traffic, a situation that could change if the Internet search giant decides to favour its own restaurant-review service,, over Yelp.’s John C. Dvorak added other issues, including some problems within Yelp’s website, that could be holding back its profits. He writes:

“There are few ads, and the model is to get restaurants and shops to pay for higher placement within the reviews themselves—in other words, push the five-star reviews to the top. This is not an effective business model. It seems to irk users, for starters, and subverts the site’s power.”

Dvorak is not entirely pessimistic, however, writing that Yelp Inc. “can become a money machine. But not with the current narrow thinking.”

Yelp Inc. Looks Set to Follow the Familiar Social Media IPO Pattern

Another bit of history that’s getting lost in the social media hype is the poor performance that many of these stocks have turned in following their IPOs.

LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD), for example is down nearly 30% from the stratospheric height of $122.70 it hit during its first day of trading, and Groupon has sunk over 41%.

Investors who fail to pay attention to that track record stand a good chance of finding themselves in the same situation with Yelp.

The Energy Boom No One is Talking About…Yet

In the world’s relentless search for energy, oil gets all the headlines. But while the world’s eyes are on oil, the first signs of revolution are showing elsewhere in the energy industry. Oil giants are already quietly staking their claims…

Discover the industry that will take the place of Big Oil.

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