Crude Observations

Complaint Department

Looking back through my blog history gives a really interesting perspective on the strange ways the brain works. Well, mine at least. I know I spend a lot of time and effort working on the Fearless ForecastTM that I hope no one ever takes investment advice from… because. Then at specific points during the year, I self-assess thus proving my point about not taking that forecast as investment advice.


All these things take time and an emotional investment into the process. This of course leads to the inevitable letdown the following week where I just run out of things to write about. This dilemma seems particularly acute at the end of Q1. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the combination of NCAA basketball ending, the Flames flaming out of the playoffs yet again (Ritchie? Are you serious Sutter?) and the realization that summer is still three whole months away. Or maybe it’s just pure unadulterated writer’s block. This seems more likely to be honest.


It doesn’t matter what it is, the first blog after the first report card always tends to be a weird one. I checked. Last year, I actually used someone else’s article (with permission – relax) and a number of years ago I was able to do almost all of April about the provincial election, which I assume is what we can expect in May.


But more than anything else, it appears that I enter the month of April in a pretty surly mood. My forecasts are bad, the portfolio is generally on life support, everything is dirty because the snow has melted and it won’t rain and it’s a bit of a sports wasteland. In fact, the only uplifting part is the knowledge that the Maple Leafs will soon be eliminated from the playoffs. Although even that is less satisfying to me, as I really do think we need a Canadian team to win and let’s face it – they are as good a bet as the Oilers and if they didn’t have Auston Matthews they would even be likable.


All this to say that mid April, I tend to come out of my cave and rage at the world in what can best be described as an:








Watch out. Maybe.




And here’s the thing about complaining. It’s therapeutic. It’s a relief valve and the best part is, if I get stuff off my chest now, before the weekend, I will have a much better few days.


So below, for your reading pleasure are ten randomly selected things I want to complain about. And trust me, it was hard to keep it to ten.


  1. Why are the Liberals so bad on the economy?


Seriously. This is a thing. I know, I know. Record low unemployment. Potential soft landing. G7 leading forecast GDP growth of… wait for it, 1.5%. Great. But does anyone really attribute this success to the LPC? Are they instigators or bystanders? I guess if you flush enough money into the system you can fake it for a while. A tire with a slow leak will still roll for a while when you pump it full of air. A broken clock… I think you get the picture.


Why so negative you may ask? Because there are warning signs everywhere for the Canadian economy. Productivity growth, which has lagged the United States for years, continues to underperform. Unproductive/passive real estate and asset values remain persistently high with no signs of relief in sight. Investment flows are not going in the direction we want. Notwithstanding the recent pop from OPEC production cut backs, the dollar continues to be a drag. Infrastructure projects are an afterthought. Government spending continues to grow and with the prospect of a civil service strike staring us in the face, that spending is set to increase further. The resource side of the economy continues to be ignored. No new major oil and gas projects. Mine approvals hung up. A forestry sector in secular decline (ahem, tariffs anyone?).


Meanwhile, the Green Joe Biden administration approves oil exploration permit after (no business case) LNG project after pipeline project with nary a care in the world.


All the while the LPC and the JT government play environmental saviour to the UN and seem to turn a blind eye to the fundamental issues facing our economy. Do they not care or are they not capable? At this point it doesn’t matter.


  1. Donald Trump.


Seriously. Go away already. Is anyone else sick and tired of the Donald Trump show? I know I am. It’s a circus. A massive distraction. A waste of everyone’s time. Look, I know he has his cohort of devotees and fanatical supporters. I don’t care. His unhinged “Truth Social” tirades, which are all grievance posts about stolen elections, communist left-wing plots and references to beautiful phone calls all bend together into one loud toddler-like tantrum.


Look, I know he’s the presumptive nominee. But does he have to be? Are we all done with quality in politics? Joe Biden’s no better? Maybe. But he won. He won the mid terms. Donald Trump has lost three election cycles. It’s time to move on. He’s old and tired. Yesterday’s news. So, for that matter, is Joe Biden.


You know why Joe Biden is running again? To beat Trump. And he will. So there is four more years of Biden. But. But… If Trump drops out of the race, I bet Biden does too. Then they are both gone. Wahoo!


I don’t want to sound ageist – but isn’t it time for some flesh blood.


  1. Elon musk. I hate that guy


That’s it. That’s the complaint. Okay fine. He makes nifty electric vehicles. They’re kinda ugly but I guess they’ll do. And he bought Twitter for $44 billion and is in the process of losing his shirt on that, which is really fun to watch. But he’s also a hypocrite and a bit of a grifter and charlatan. Given a choice, he would be Donald Trump if he could. At any rate, he is destroying Twitter, which may have been his plan all along. He has slashed prices by more than the government subsidies in a bid to retain market share against an onslaught of better and cheaper electric vehicles. He’s a child with a check mark whose design for a truck is only moderately less childish than deleting the W in Twitter’s building sign in San Francisco or stating that blue checkmarks will disappear on 4/20. Oh, pot joke? How clever. I never thought of that. Ha ha. Maybe his next role should be as a Fox News host. I know, he’s super rich, he can do what he wants. I don’t care. Maybe shup up about it.


  1. Crypto currency


Is anyone else tired of crypto-currency hype yet? I sure am. The level of over-exposure and pandemonium in this market is crazy. It seems you can’t turn a corner without being exposed to some new crypto-scam, new coin, new crypto company crash. It’s tulip like in its mania. Actually, it’s worse. It’s like the Permian was in the run-up to 2015 and again to 2019. No, it’s worse than that. It’s the dot-com bubble but monetized.


It’s all production and no value-added. The only people making money are the promoters. Do you know anyone who is making out like a bandit with crypto? I don’t. Billionaires come and go with the wind. People like SBF become over-night sensations and the next day, they are being bailed out of jail. A sudden rise in interest rates sends prices cratering but then the price of bitcoin rallies 70%. For no discernible reason.


How out of control is the hype? I’m a big sports nerd. I follow a lot of analysts and podcast producers on Twitter. Every single one of them has some kind of crypto-currency side-hustle. It’s an infestation. It’s dead rats in the walls of 24 Sussex Drive.

While I appreciate the concept of crypto and the elegance of having a borderless store of value, I for one am looking forward to the day that crypto gets regulated. That might be the final nail in the coffin.


  1. Oil Price Forecasts


Come on. Are we really doing this nonsense again? In the past few weeks I have seen oil price forecasts ranging from $120 to $800 to $40 a barrel covering periods ranging from 2024 to 2050. All predicated on how close we get to net zero and how fast. This is all great. I can make the same forecast. Here goes. If demand drops to somewhere close to zero, the price will too. See how easy that was? Now pay me for that forecast. What? Look, we acknowledge the energy transition. We know it is happening and is likely going to be faster than many imagine, but coming out with pie in the sky forecasts AT THIS STAGE adds absolutely zero value to anyone.


What I want to know is – what is the price of oil projected to be next week, next month, next quarter, next year. Why? Because that is how decisions get made. Directionally over the next ten years? Good luck with that. Probably down because demand will be dropping. But if demand drops, supply growth will dry up so prices will probably go up. Or demand won’t go down and pricing will be similar. Or, I am not likely to be doing this job in 10 years and have no accountability, so here’s this dart and I’m throwing it.


See what I mean?


  1. Natural Gas Prices.


Sigh. That’s it. That’s the complaint.


  1. Interest rates. Central Banks. The Stock Market.


Inflation, which has demonstrated itself to be anything but transitory, remains a problem. Interest rates have been raised in an unprecedentedly rapid manner to address inflation and try and bring it back into target ranges without collapsing the economy. Central banks, especially the US Federal Reserve, are laser focused on employment and those parts of the CPI measure that are still increasing at a significant rate. Some of this is backward looking and of limited utility, some not. All setting the stage for an over-reaction in the opposite way. I read so many people who are relatively sanguine about the general direction of the economy and they all point to the stock market, which spikes up every time Jerome Powell forgets to say something hawkish or seems to believe that it is only a matter of months before we start seeing cuts and get to drink the sweet elixir of free money yet again and ride a growth market to the moon and back.


Then I look at the real world. PC sales slumping dramatically. US retail sales, declining on a real basis for the first time in what seems like a century. Thousands upon thousands of layoffs in the once frothy tech world. Persistently elevated real estate prices and rental price increases. A completely unaffordable energy transition. Manufacturing PMI’s flashing red all over the place. A deglobalization movement that can only send prices in one direction.


  1. What’d we do to deserve these political leaders?


I know what you’re thinking. I’m about to come down hard on poor Danielle Smith, the deservedly embattled leader of the Alberta UCP. And I likely will in some future blog. But she ain’t alone. I saw a recent interview with Pierre Poilievre where he ranted about the Trudeau-Singh extreme woke agenda as it relates to public safety and how they are singlehandedly responsible for mayhem on the streets of Canada. It was like watching a Trump parody. Who is he appealing to with this? It was excruciating. And lest you think I am only focusing on the right side of the equation, I am equally fed up with Jagmeet Singh and his man of the people shtick on grocery stores and CEO compensation. I don’t even need to tell you how much antipathy I have toward Justin Trudeau and his scandal of the month club.


I’ve already mentioned Trump and Biden. But what about the rest of the clown show. On both the left and right. In positions of power in state, provincial and municipal governments everywhere.


Is this the best we’ve got? Did I miss something somewhere that said everyone needs to be an incompetent clown?


  1. My streetlight.


I have a streetlight in front of my house. It lights up the area where I park my car. Recently, we have had a lot of car break-ins in our neighbourhood. But thanks to the streetlight, no one comes near our cars. That streetlight burnt out 2 months ago, so we promptly logged the outage with the city’s online streetlight reporting system. The streetlight is still out. Every night it is pitch black in front of our house because there is little ambient light from the other street lights on the block, some of which are also burned out. Yet the city is nowhere to be found.


So I took matters into my own hands. I ordered a solar powered LED flood light from Amazon for $29.95 and when it arrives, I am going to strap it to the street light pole and have my own damn light. I’m sure I will get a ticket. But at least I get to be neighbourhood hero for a few days.


  1. Hotel Prices.


Figured I would end with this one.


I recently had occasion to book a hotel for a trip to Vancouver. It is for a weekend in April. Nice room, views, good location. $210 a night. Pretty reasonable right? I agree.


But then I was looking to book the same quality of hotel for a few days in late August.


Same hotel? $400 a night. Downtown Vancouver? Up to $800 a night for regular room. Premium locations more than $1,000.


Look, I know Vancouver in the summer is prime destination, but who in their right mind can afford to pay these prices? I have talked to business colleagues and they are CANCELLING TRIPS because the costs are so egregious.


Then I checked a few other places – Toronto, Calgary, Montreal. Insanity!


We are planning our summer vacation, so I have started mapping out hotels where we are planning on going. The prices are so high I am considering camping.


I know the hotel industry had it rough during COVID. I sympathize. I took advantage of it to get some smoking deals as well, so I guess some turnabout is fair. But these rates are going to drive occupancy rates into the ground as interest rates, inflation and creeping recession start to impact travel plans.


Not to mention it does very little to address the competition from Air BnB’s.


Hotels in general – DROP YOUR RATES. Vancouver in particular – maybe the Sheraton Wall Centre or the Sutton Place – cut me a deal won’t you? Two rooms. Two nights. End of August. You know how to reach me. We will keep it between us. 😊

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