Thursday 26 November 2020

The Passing Of An Icon

My favorite sport is soccer and it influenced a huge part of my life. So it was a shock to learn that one of the most famous names in the game passed away at the age of 60. It's none other than Diego Maradona.

There's always the endless debate in any sport on who is the greatest of all time. Diego certainly ranked high in the list of soccer greats. I remember watching soccer in the late 80s and what a glorious era that was, even better than what's available now. The soccer pitches were typically cut up during a game, muddy balls bounced with awkward twists and metal studded boots meant a potential major injury any moment. Yet, the fans remained fanatical and acted as the 12th man on the pitch. That was the time when yellow card seldom appeared, much less the red one. Shirt tugging, incorrect referee decisions and cynical fouls were quite liberal with most not caught on camera due to the lack of video technology coverage. Despite these imperfections, there was always going to be a few stars who shined against the odds. The ones that made the most impression on me was Diego and some others.

I had the good fortune to watch Diego put on magical displays, dribbling with trickery and leaving many defenders behind. You get the sense of excitement when the ball is with him, I can't think of anyone close enough, perhaps Ronaldo (the original one) but even he's a shade behind. Diego's life story is an inspiration and I could relate to him due to our similar physical statures. I also started playing as a midfielder and had quite a good engine to run all over the pitch. That's where the comparison ends as he was obviously so much more gifted. But I learnt one thing from him. His fearlessness rubbed off on me whenever I stepped onto the pitch, going against bigger sized opponents and always up for an aerial or sliding challenge. Thankfully, I only suffered a few broken toe nails, sprains and minor stitches. The last time I saw Diego on TV was the World Cup game versus Greece where he scored a good goal (only good because he had so many superlative goals). It was held in the USA and I watched it live in the morning. Too bad the children of this generation never got to witness the more thrilling times of the 80s and 90s.

Even when he retired, there was always much news surrounding Diego wherever he goes. In a way, he never left the glittering lights that his career brought. He may have left the room but shall never be forgotten. He was just human, as imperfect as the game he played, and to me, the Greatest of All Time. Ciao Diego!

Tip: Any Malbec to toast the life of this soccer superstar

Monday 16 November 2020

CPF Top Up Nov 2020

It's a great feeling to achieve a goal, particularly if one spends months on it. Although a small goal, at least this hurdle has been crossed with my final CPF top up this year by $2000 and qualified for maximum personal CPF tax relief.

With the low interest rate environment, there are not many alternative investments that can provide guaranteed yield of 4%. Bonds, bank deposits and money market products are close to 1% while equities and commodities have topped my expectations at more than 20%. That depends much on level of risk taking, timing and selection. My portfolio still shows several red lines despite such euphoria which I continue to believe as irrational. The most outlier would be cryptocurrencies where the jury is still out on their viability in real world mechanisms.

Nevertheless, the CPF is a comfort cushion and I feel rather gutted not to realize this earlier in my work life. It was Covid that gave me time to read other inspirational journeys and plan for my own. A little late to the game and lots to catch up.

Tip: Horlicks, an old favorite in my primary years

Monday 9 November 2020

US Post Election

Barring any legal drama, Joe Biden will be the next US President. What a roller coaster event as the results trickled in over 3 days. That went against my prediction but it's ok. After all, it was more guesswork and some hearsay. I think it's good to restore sanity and reasonableness to a chaotic 4 years of Trump behavior. He wasn't helped by a terrible response to an unfortunate pandemic situation. However, going by the margin of loss and total votes gained, one can conclude Trump didn't actually perform that badly at the polls. It just means US citizens had became more vocal and polarized in their opinions, embodying the divisions of ideals and suffering.  Internationally, there were not too many forthcoming congratulations to Biden, most notably from China. To think I heard a Chinese professor proclaim last week that President Xi would be one of the, if not the first to send his warm regards if Biden wins. While the incoming President is a familiar face to Chinese leaders, I think they are as clueless on what to expect. Will there be a total unwind of trade policies or change in tone on security matters?

Hopefully, the immediate priority for both countries would be to restore communication and set a clear direction for all to follow. Certainly, there would continue to have contentious issues such as territorial disputes, cybersecurity, human rights etc. Any form of improvements are welcomed and be a boost to economic mood in such sombre times. I guess it's unlikely either country would want to be seen to concede by making the first visit, perhaps Singapore can showcase its usefulness once again by hosting a global event and inviting both leaders to attend, facilitating a side talk. This will be a long road towards any decent recovery and the 4 years Biden has may not be enough, by then he should be happily retired, wish him all the best.

Tip: Hanagaki Junmai Ginjo

Tuesday 3 November 2020

A Conversation On Trump

The US election will be huge for its impact on global recovery over the next few years. Being the world's only legitimate superpower and still no. 1 economy, many eyes are casting worried glances over who the new president would be. In my limited anecdotal exchanges, I gather Donald Trump (DT) has the backing to win it.

In one particular event, I heard the merits of DT and reasons for support. He is as loud mouthed as one could get, wearing his heart on sleeve through repeated proclamations of his determination to "Make America Great Again". By being openly hostile to China, he's actually forewarning the Chinese on his expected actions and leaving no room for negotiation due to the US superiority. In DT's mind, democracy is the only way forward for a conservative and communist China. If this happens, China goes into disarray and gets set back by a few decades. Hence, everyone except Xi looks forward to the direct clash that DT brings. But China is also secretly glad because DT reveals so much and fights internally, this allows defensive plans to be put in place as counter jabs. Another disadvantage China has is its aging population. Unlike the US who is an immigrant nation and still attractive to many potential migrants, China does not court foreign talent heavily. Over time, the economic realities would catch up if current trends remain. The US therefore needs to bide its time and in DT, it can exert a few years of pressure to create chaos for China. Domestically, while the Covid situation is not handled well, it's also a fact that mortality rates are not alarming and people seem to accept that by continuing life as normal. The greater issue is to get back on jobs and spurring economic growth which DT is seen as a stronger proponent.

So if DT really gets re-elected, expect fireworks and more roller coaster moments. I'll be looking for signs of flight from China eg funds outflow, increased emigration, business relocation. If that happens, DT would have considered his job well done. Nevertheless, even if Joe Biden wins, let's see how much of the above scenarios turn out.

Tip: Masumi Four Color Flagship Sake

Sunday 1 November 2020

Month of October 2020

This month was about testing and catching up. Looking for different ways to trade, I activated the demo account in IG and played around with different positions and products, just so to see the interest fees that's required in order to hold overnight consecutively. Whether long or short, a fee was payable and position rolled over. It's rather prohibitive for long term traders and does not suit my needs. Being a leveraged account, one has to be attentive and set clear targets, otherwise it's too risky. Financially, I chose to wait for more clarity leading up to the US election. The only notable transaction was a transfer to CPF Special Account. My Syfe account risk tolerance was tweaked to 22% from 17% previously as it seemed to be going nowhere since inception. It does not look like I will be adding funds to it anytime soon.

Business dinners had gradually resumed and I'm glad they were well controlled by restaurants having to cease service by 2230H. I also caught up with a friend whom I had not seen since Covid started. From a quick meeting, it eventually became a 4 hours chat as we reminisced about school days and latest status of friends long unseen. Another aspect that I'm pleased about was the increased frequency of sport activities thanks to a cousin organizing badminton sessions fortnightly. The body aches after each session highlighted the lack of exercise that I wished to address. We could gather because of free time afforded by business slowdown in our respective companies. Hopefully this can become a regular feature even when business sentiments improve.

Tip: Lamin De Sommos Calatayud 2015