American Jobs Plan: Remaking America pt.20

This article from Fitch Solutions titled “The Biden Infrastructure Plan: Key Implications For The US Infrastructure And Building Sectors” details the gargantuan scope of this initiative. When you follow the link, you will find a registration wall but do not be deterred, Fitch’s just wants you to be registered to read it. There is no subscription fee.

The article contains at least half-dozen pie charts and another half-dozen bar graphs illustrating the massive changes to American industrial sectors under the $2.3T American Jobs Plan (AJP). The extent of this is illustrated in such as the plan to electrify 20% of American school buses. It will replace 50,000 diesel-powered Federal vehicles. It incentivizes with $213B to “to ‘produce, preserve and retrofit’ over 2.0mn affordable homes”. Public housing infrastructure improvements would benefit from $40B of investment. Commercial building would also see investment. $100B is dedicated to upgrade and build new public schools; $10B would upgrade Federal buildings; Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics would benefit from $18B investment. “Additionally, a portion of USD300bn in funding allocated to programs supporting domestic manufacturing as well as part of USD180bn in funding to go to research and development would likely involve facility improvements, further boosting the non-residential segment,” Fitch reports.

This stimulates my thoughts about indirect economic impact. All this building and the funds for it mean sales for domestic producers of such as structural steel. Currently the American Steel and Iron Institute reports that capacity utilization was more than 82% when it supplied 1,839,000 metric tons the week of June 19. Year-to-date (YTD), they produced 43,219,000 metric tons, utilizing 79% of capacity; up 14% Year-over-year (YOY) when capacity utilization was just 67.8%. These numbers speak to the increasing economic activity of our “grand reopening” of the USA. The high capacity utilization is supplying current demand that probably includes back logged projects due to the COVID-19 suppressed economy of 2020.

Continuing our focus on steel; only one component of construction materials; imagine the greatly-expanded demand created by the Biden plans. It is likely that the demand will push capacity utilization over 100%. This means that the US steel industry would need to increase capacity to meet demand. Steel is also going to be demanded for increased passenger rail service both inter and intra-city-wise. $80B is dedicated to this part of the massive transportation infrastructure plan. Arizonans may finally get the passenger rail service between Tucson and Phoenix we have been dreaming of for decades. Ten thousand bridges are slated for rebuilding. These are chiefly if not entirely composed of structural steel.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero recently spoke about the resources available from the AJP to the City of Tucson for addressing the water contamination that forced the closure of southside wells due to PFAS contamination. Romero spoke more generally about the benefits to the city in this opinion piece from the Arizona Daily Star:

“The AJP would be transformative for Tucson and communities across the country, rebuilding our nation’s transportation networks, creating millions of good-paying, union and green jobs, prioritizing historically under-invested communities, and re-defining “infrastructure” to encompass basic necessities such as high-speed internet and affordable housing.” -excerpt “Tucson Mayor Romero: American Jobs Plan would be game-changer for us

It is also noteworthy that the AJP will seek materials for the projects from domestic manufacturers and suppliers before foreign ones are tapped. This will entail the use of our huge surplus labor force. According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, the US workforce participation rate (LFP) is about 61.7%. This metric is a broader, longer term one than the unemployment rate we usually consider. This is due to the fact that the unemployment statistic measures only those workers who are registered with state bureaus. If they become discouraged and stop reporting, they fall off the rolls and become non-statistical. The LFP indicates that tens of millions of American workers are not utilized or grossly under-utilized. Many of these do not work due to support by a partner and may be providing uncompensated social value through care of children or elderly parents. The American Family Plan will address this by compensating millions of these people. Many of these who are providing childcare out of necessity due to the unaffordability of commercial childcare will be unburdened of this when tens of thousands of new childcare facilities are constructed under the AJP’s dedication of $25B for this need.

That brings me to my conclusion and a focus upon another indirect economic benefit of the AJP. Adding tens of millions of workers to our workforce and retraining and educating tens of millions more through the free community colleges and workforce development funding of $100B will greatly expand production. The US Gross Domestic Product will swell from the former meager 2.5% we have been accepting. The Federal Reserve estimates GDP growth this year to be 7% only to slide back to less than 3% in 2022. The Fed, it seems does not anticipate passage of the American Jobs Plan. The Jobs Plan creates wealth on a massive and very broad scale. It keeps on giving through efficiencies realized with enhanced transportation of good and people; enhanced communication and information access; and a larger and more productive workforce. The tens of millions of new and well-paid American workers will bring hundreds of billions of dollars of consumer demand into the economy growing it in all corners. It is truly transformational and should be carried out.

Transforming America: The American Jobs Plan: Part 1

The American Jobs Plan will ambitiously “reimagine and rebuild a new economy”. Jim Hannley LLC is presenting a series of posts to highlight some parts of this plan as presented in this White House link. It will bring tens of millions of workers who are under employed or long term unemployed into the workforce by attracting them to jobs with high pay and benefits. Many of these workers have been discouraged from applying for jobs because they have not been employed in a very long time and/or believe that their skillsets and education make their prospects for employment very dim. Some of these are working but are not being paid. Part 1:


One very great objection Republicans have to the plan is the budgeted $400B to compensate American care givers “…toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.” This link to the Caregiver Action Network shows that “…The value of the services family caregivers provide for “free,” when caring for older adults, is estimated to be $375 billion a year.” Some of the other statistics show that millions of children care for elderly in their homes; women make up the vast majority of care givers; that most care givers are employed outside the home and that (their) employers estimate that some $34B in productivity is lost annually due to this obligation of their employees.

Caregiver Action Network points out that the $375B value of this work is more than twice ($158B) what is currently spent on nursing home and homecare services. Not only are the estimated 65 million care givers providing an uncompensated service to society through their labor but in 2007 they also spent, out of pocket $5,531 (10% of their household income). Without the compassionate care America’s elderly and disabled people receive, typically in their own home, from family members, they would be dying sooner or living lives of lonely desperation. It is easy to imagine the added burden without this care that our hospitals and medical clinics would be bearing to address the resultant acute medical conditions of these people; likely at a cost to society of tens of billions of dollars.

Women care givers are more than 2.5 times as likely to live in poverty and five times as likely to be receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Households that have at least one disabled member have 15% lower incomes than those without this burden. Logic dictates that this poverty is closely related if not a result of this burden. So, the billions of dollars of compensation that these care givers and those who will be employed in more formal care settings will significantly ramp up consumer demand; creating a snowball effect for secondary employment. Next: Part II, Roads and Bridges

Emerging Markets Equities Done Right

Frontier markets are in the pale blue shade; emerging markets in the royal blue shade

I attended a CFA Society Tucson-sponsored investor call March 18th presented by Kevin T. Carter, Founder and Chief Operations Officer of EMQQ. To call it and emerging markets equity exchange traded fund would not do it justice. Kevin gave a great presentation and here are my takeaways.

Not all emerging markets equity funds are alike. He urged us to consider the presence of State Owned Enterprises in the fund. These, he asserted can have severe management shortcomings that can serve to diminish the efficiency of the company and might even make such a company vulnerable to corrupt raids by government officials. One very striking example of such an intrusion he gave was of President Lula de Silva of Brazil. He and his successor, Pres. Dilma Rousseff were charged in a corruption case involving the state-run oil company Petrobras. The business model of Petrobras presents a vulnerability to investors whereas a chief executive can intrude on operations and cause problems.

Kevin described business models that have more efficient management not dependent upon the favors of government officials. These typically rely upon private or institutional investors instead. He cited two of these: Berkshire Hathaway and the Yale Trust fund. Such as these will have to exert much due diligence before committing their investors’ funds to an enterprise. Due diligence includes an investigation of the corporate executives and the the finance of the company.

EMQQ ETF has 96 companies in their investment portfolio with a large concentration in China. Kevin told us that these have dissimilar investment weightings and these change as prices shift. The ETF is rebalanced semi-annually and the weightings will change as a result. I was pleased to see that the profile of a company considered for inclusion includes those with investment capital as little as $300M. This is in the Microcap asset class. In a previous post, I described this asset class and why I think it is a useful one to include in an investment portfolio. Those in this portfolio will be in non-US countries so they will carry even greater risk than US domestic ones.

Kevin showed us a performance chart that compared the EMQQ fund with the Morgan Stanley emerging markets index (MSCIEM). there was a surprising contrast. He said that this was due to EMQQ’s concentration on consumer products and service providers in the space. Further refining the company profile, these are internet and e-commerce companies.

The talk was about a “confluence” of three important socio-economic forces: first; demographics, especially population growth. The populations of countries considered “emerging” or “frontier” are growing at a much faster rate than that of the developed world. More people means larger and larger workforces producing more and more value. Faster growing populations that are hungry for the consumer goods enjoyed by the developed world means high consumer demand. Consumer demand signals sales of product and services. Those sales translate into corporate earnings; an important fundamental for share price. Production and sales are measured in economic growth statistics. China is forecast to have 7.6% growth in 2021; the USA, in a banner year and coming off 2020 with a growth LOSS of about 3.5% is forecast to have about 6.4% a net/net of about 3.5%. The second force of confluence is the smartphone. Kevin had a bar graph that showed nations and their per capita share of smartphones. The developed world, of course is very high while the developing one has a large but slowly declining gap. The smartphone leapfrogs over the personal computer by bringing access to the third force of confluence; the internet.

Internet connectedness brings a host of advancements to a population. The first is a very streamlined medium of exchange for goods and services. He showed a photo of a produce truck in China that had two QR code cards on a table. This shows that even for such informal retailing, consumers are buying without exchanging hard currency; by debiting the consumer’s online banking account and crediting the seller’s. E-finance commerce is multiples more efficient than currency commerce.

Not stated so clearly but in a comment I made, the proliferation of smartphones and the information people have at their fingertips make it harder for despots to ascend to power and restrain economic growth as they typically do; creating systems of cronyism. Internet access also provides access to the various social media platforms. Social media streamlines personal communication. This can be a huge advantage for business formation. Internet access generally increases access to information; to knowledge. The intangible benefit of this to a population cannot even be easily measured.

The confluence of factors influencing the developing world is a very exciting prospect for global socio-economic growth that can greatly enrich the savvy investor. Keep your eyes on EMQQ.

Microcap Stock Investing

Microcap companies are plentiful but frequently obscure

Publicly traded companies are categorized according to the amount of investment capital they hold. This is determined by the number of shares they have issued and the price per share. There are “Giant caps” “Large caps” “Mid and Small caps” and “Micro caps”. Microcaps generally have investment capital of less than $500M. By comparison, Small caps have between $500M and $1B market capitalization. Some define Microcaps as having between $200 million and $350 million of market capitalization. 

A microcap company is usually a newer company of an age between just issued and ten years old. Some brand new companies are issued and immediately appeal to investors and start out as small or even midcaps. The microcaps I am interested in are newer and relatively unknown. Because they are so new, the products or services they are marketing are almost all innovative. Their products or services are unusual and may take some time to find wide public acceptance and applications to the economy. The following are some examples.

Medicines and medical appliances are innovative. They are developing cures or preventive measures for disease. Research and development can be very expensive and trials of these may take a long time. However, if they prove to be effective, they can find very large consumer demand and be very expensive. The new company can become very profitable in a very short time. On the other hand, many new pharmaceutical companies fail to produce viable medicines or they may fail to be approved by regulators. Investors lose their money.

Some companies develop new materials that have the potential to be used in a wide variety of products. Think of polyester and other petroleum-based plastics. The development of these materials may have taken years and been very expensive yet these have found very wide application in thousands of products. Companies such as DuPont became wildly profitable. Once, they were new, and small. 

Globally there has been much discussion about the climate. Many people, and many scientists are convinced that the climate is changing due to human activity; principally by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. There is wide agreement that this is happening because of the use of fossil fuels to create the energy to power machinery such as cars and trucks. So there is a very strong movement to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and find alternative sources of energy. This is a disruption to social and economic life. Disruption is the gateway for innovation. Electric vehicles are widely viewed as superior to gas engine cars and will replace them in the near future. This has made Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, the richest man in the world. Tesla is viewed as the most likely producer of vehicles of the future. Tesla has disrupted the automotive industry. 

Due to their small size, newness, and innovative products and/or services, microcaps are risky. They have great potential for gain or loss. For this reason, it is prudent to limit exposure to this asset class. It should be part of a total allocation to equities. It is important to carefully assess your risk temperament to ensure you have the proper allocation. The risk of loss can be mitigated by investing in more than one company and companies of a variety of industrial classes. Since these are typically volatile, it is important to keep a close eye on them and rebalance them as their prices change.

Keep investigating microcap companies. Learn their stories. Check out their management. When you are satisfied this is a company you want to see succeed, invest in it. Your investment returns will follow.