Thursday 31 March 2022

Month of March 2022

Updated finance page.
I took my Pfizer booster shot at the start of the month. The side effects (or lack of) were much better than earlier rounds, just a couple of days feeling tired and a sore arm. But if given a choice, I wouldn't have wanted this. My reasoning is, having been fully vaccinated, the consequence would be rather mild if I fall sick. That also helps in building natural immunity. Also, there were already many close contacts who had succumbed and recovered. When the drug companies announced findings to support a fourth booster shot or perhaps even regular annual shots, I could see the dollar signs in the eyes and nothing else.

For this post's recommended drink, it came from a new japanese restaurant that my wife and I visited. It's called Goku Omakase and located at Robertson Quay. For the price point and quality of food served, it's value for money and we were so full at the end of dinner. Nothing too fancy was served but it shouldn't take long before we are back again.

Perhaps the best uplifting news of the month was the government's announcements of relaxation of Covid measures. They came earlier and were better than I expected. While the travel lane is open towards Malaysia, I'm not so sure as to how the implementation will be like. Thus, it should be much later that any consideration for travel is revived.

Tip: Harukasumi Green Label Junmai Ginjyo, rich and flavorful, slightly sweet

Thursday 24 March 2022

Putin A Dangerous Precedent

And just like that, one month has passed. It's commonly heard that life is unpredictable and you only live once. With the "special military operation" still ongoing in Ukraine, this line must have taken an even greater meaning to the people caught in the situation.

As things stand, the fallout has only just begun which I fear will only get worse. In this modern day, conflict between two countries is no longer just a matter for them but also those around them. It's in extreme times like this that you can see the thinking and intentions across many people. Tough times call for tough decisions, country leaders can tarnish or burnish their reputations by a single call. The Ukrainian President certainly enhanced his stature as he stayed behind to lead the resistance, made pleas to the other nations, encourage his people on social media and expose untruths. 

I contrast this to China's response so far. As a collective, its leaders have demonstrated their unwillingness to call for an outright block to the conflict, abstained from UN vote, making weak appeals to encourage dialogue and suppress internet chatter when things go off track (Peng Shuai's case in point). While I believe China genuinely wishes for peace, there's just that feeling within me saying any push for action is conditional on benefits that could be gained from this conflict.

India is another notably silent one. Its already fragile development means it cannot be too outspoken against a big trading brother in Russia. Ironically, India's military needs are sourced mainly from Russia. I await to see where the line will be broken as the conflict intensifies. A cornered Putin is a danger and there's certainly more crazy things he's willing to do.

Even after this is over, the resulting new world balance would have fundamentally shifted or I should say, polarized. Every country will have to manage its people as well as international opinion. Well, for the sake of survival or benefits, as aptly shown by some leaders so far, being shrewd and calculative at that time is after all, a subjective matter. The nature of big fish eat small fish is just beginning to play out. I hope the South China Sea issue does not become the next contentious one.

Tip: Joel Gott Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, deep red cherry with a good finish

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Finance Investment Movement 19

The financial market is in a turmoil. Just watching the price of commodities rise in a straight line makes me dizzy. I may not have caught the gravy train to riches but the time is not for weak holders to go on a shopping spree. It is by choice that I'm staying on the side and observe the great volatility generated by yet another black swan event, this time caused by Mr Putin.

Crypto probably tell the best story whereby itself is already a big unknown. I saw my portfolio go up at the beginning of the month, then decline rapidly to go below last month's ending. Its correlation with the stock market is incredible except that the individual tokens can fluctuate wilder than the average stock. On this basis, I rather look for more stable instruments yet they must have inflation beating capability. At the moment, the best and safest thing I can think of is CPF. Based on calculation, I stand a good chance to become a CPF millionaire by retirement provided contributions continue at current pace.

An interesting conversation occurred when my children told me about their fascination with crypto after hearing from their online friends and videos. So I created a live crypto trading account with $100 and allowed them flexibility to trade whatever they want. Hopefully, this will form a good starting point to aid in their financial planning journey.

Tip: Canyon Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, very grapey, juicy and big mouth feel

Wednesday 2 March 2022

What Is Putin Thinking?

It's exactly a week since Ukraine got into this needless conflict with Russia. It's remarkable to have even lasted so many days given the sheer size of the Russian army that could have easily outmuscled the Ukrainians through air, sea and land bombardment. Therein lies the worrisome part. If Putin so decides, the full firepower may be unleased to force a surrender. I think what's impeded the Russian advance was a gross miscalculation of the space they had to cover, unfamiliarity with directions, ground resistance and internal reluctance within the ranks. These can be overcome with time, therefore dragging out the fight.

But I can see why Putin is trying so hard to ensure success. On the pretext of border assurance and historical claim, he is obviously not stupid to know these are just lame reasons. Even with multiple sanctions to target the Russian economy, Putin will stand firm. Why? My feel is, he wants to leave a legacy. It doesn't matter that his name will be tarnished in the historical books because age is already catching up, even if this ends and the UN puts him on trial and finds him guilty. So what? He can't be jailed or hanged since he won't attend this at a neutral court venue. At most, he becomes an international outcast who's confined to his homeland for the rest of his life. And that's probably fine with him since he would have ensured the second largest piece of European land that Ukraine is, have come under his control in his lifetime. The rest of the world have shown they are not willing to go into direct military confrontation, so by extension, they would stay the same even when Russia has successfully taken over.

The clean up phase after this will bring the toughest time. Restarting the Ukraine economy is of course difficult but once the world has reconciled with this fact, aid will start coming in to alleviate the plight of the innocent civilians. My guess is, it will become a special administrative region with its elected candidates, under the watching Russian eye. This ties in with Putin's rhetoric that he's not out to occupy the country but to cleanse it. 

What about the Russian economy? It will definitely be worse and Putin must be hoping the internal resources can prop them up in the short term. With China's expected support once the invasion is over and a sizable foreign reserve, I suspect all they need is to tide over two years of pain, then things will start to normalize. During this period, the world will put in restrictions and lift them gradually. It's a tacit acknowledgement that Russia's energy export remain crucial, precious minerals are highly sought after and its military cannot be agitated. This last mentioned point is important. Further support will come from countries such as Estonia to Moldova and perhaps the "Stan" countries (Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgy etc). They know they would be next in line due to proximity and Putin has shown he needs no invitation to unleash his fury with a mighty armed forces that only US can match but too far to reach the theatre of operations. A nuclear armed Russia is also an enough deterrent.

According to World Bank's statistics, the average Russian life expectancy is 73 years. It should be just nice for Putin (who is 70) to reflect over his achievements while the argument continues. We can only hope that longevity is not in his DNA. Now, the above tactical dissection is a blueprint that Taiwan should be thinking about. A certain fellow must be watching with interest.

Tip: The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2020, pear, grass and herb, easygoing