Saturday, April 30, 2022

Portfolio Summary for April 2022

As of 30 April 2022


Security# sharesPrice S$%
OCBC Bank70012.393.84
ST Engineering4,1004.107.44
Powermatic Data5,0002.886.37
Sheng Siong13,0001.538.80
Genting Singapore11,7000.814.19
HC Surgical35,5000.477.39
China Sunsine41,8000.4658.60
Silverlake Axis60,8000.3258.75
Portfolio Market Value = $225,921

Trade Actions
- Sold 6,100 shares of Singtel.


Security# sharesPrice S$%
OCBC Bank90012.3912.10
ST Engineering3,0004.1014.44
Sheng Siong8,7001.5314.42
HC Surgical19,5000.479.94
China Sunsine10,8000.4655.45
TalkMed Group3,7000.391.57
Silverlake Axis21,3000.3257.51
Portfolio Market Value = $92,195

Trade Actions
- Sold 2,000 shares of Singtel.

It was a flattish April before market activity picked up near month end. I did not trade much. I am of the stance that inflationary headwinds have not been factored in the SG market, so I refrained from adding new positions at this price level. My cash has gone up to 45 percent of total value, which is a bit high. I will monitor for pockets of opportunity.

I sold all of my shares in Singtel after the stock rallied in the last week. I squared off the position because I wanted to focus on higher conviction bets. The telco conglomerate and Grab just won the digital bank license in Malaysia. [news] Together with the digital bank license in Singapore, a hefty capital outlay will be required, with an expected long runway to break even.

I have accepted the Equal Access Offer for Silverlake Axis in my CDP account. I will tender 17,600 shares at 33 cents each. I take it as an opportunity to rebalance my portfolio. I did not inform my SRS custodial bank on time, so I will just keep the shares unchanged in my SRS account.

I am quite happy with Sheng Siong 1Q FY2022 result. Revenue grew 6% YoY. Net profit grew 13.9% YoY. The company was able to improve both its gross profit margin and net profit margin. Sheng Siong demonstrates the kind of management I would like to see in companies - with a track record for focus, practicality and discipline. Not to grow for growth's sake, but able to generate consistent and sustainable returns.

China Sunsine Chemicals also reported a good set of 1Q FY2022 result. Sales volume declined, but revenue and net profit increased 11% YoY and 24% YoY respectively due to a higher ASP. Gross profit margin improved to 34%. I like such companies flying under the radar, but operating with decent margins and earnings. The stock is trading around its 52-week low, which highlights the point in my previous blog post [here] that stock prices do not reflect the health of companies. You got to do your own research and identify the hidden gems.

Micro-Mechanics Holdings submitted an improved 3Q FY2022 result too. Revenue up 11.2% YoY. Net profit up 5.8% YoY. What interested me was Section F4 of the filing [here]. Management discussed the impact of China's COVID-19 restrictions and electricity rationing on their Suzhou plant. Management also highlighted the impact of manpower shortages and supply chain disruptions to their U.S. plant (MMUS). It resulted in MMUS reporting a loss of S$320k for 9M22 (first 9 months of FY2022). It is a boon that localized risks did not impact the company from turning in a profit.

On a side note, I am checking out iFast, the fintech company too. The recent price decline has gotten me interested. The iFast consortium did not win a digital bank license in Malaysia. [filing] Will monitor till the stock reaches my ideal valuation level before I make a purchase.

Turning to life in general, I cannot help but feel a sense of optimism around me, even though the pandemic is still ongoing and inflation is soaring. Some retailers like Daiso have gone ahead to raise their prices, sparking long queues before the hike kicks in on May 1. [news] In its half-yearly macroeconomic review, the MAS warned that core necessities are likely to get more expensive in the coming months. [news]

In the meantime, no one seems too worried. I know my friends are renewing passports and booking overseas trips. With the removal of group size restriction, there will likely be more mass gatherings over lunch and dinner. People are eager to spend and get together. After all, it has been two long years of limited social contact and traveling.

It has been a hectic week for me. Looking forward to chillax over the long weekend. Until next time, stay safe!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

iFast shows how fast brokers can flip on a stock

I came across an article on The Edge Singapore titled, "DBS downgrades iFAST to 'hold' with lack of near-term catalysts; Citi keeps 'sell' call with lower TP of $4.20" [news].

I remembered iFast, the fintech company because it was touted by a members only website as an example of their excellent stock picks. I also remembered some months ago how brokers were fawning over the company, EXCEPT Citi.

Citi Research analysts were the only ones who dared to stand against the crowd and recommended a "SELL". I was quite impressed with their guts.

How fast (no pun intended) the company's fortune has turned.

DBS has changed their recommendation to "HOLD" and slashed their Target Price (TP) from $8.75 to $5.42. That is an abrupt 38 percent drop.

At time of writing, Jefferies also cut their TP from $6.30 to $4.60, a 27 percent downward adjustment.

And I suspect more broker analysts will be pushing out changes to their recommendation, as soon as they are approved for release.

It is a timely reminder NOT to take brokers' TP lock, stock and barrel. As the stock climbs or falls, it is a known fact that broker analysts will adjust their TP accordingly, and you will see different sorts of reason to justify the change.

No analyst really wants to be seen standing alone. There is comfort in consensus. The lone ranger will be seen as crazily out of touch with reality, or branded as a psychic with incredible foresight.

I was not comfortable investing in iFast because I find that the company has grown too fast, too furious. Thus, it is completely normal to experience a reversion to lower numbers. I don't think iFast's operating environment and prospects have changed drastically.

However, it is evident how bullish the market was on the stock to the point of euphoria. iFast's stock price was pushed to a lifetime high of $10.10 before it started its fall from grace.

Price of iFast Corporation Ltd over past two years (Source: Yahoo)

The sharp rise and fall tells me spectulators were punting on the stock, hoping to earn a quick buck from the upward momentum. Sadly, the party is over and many headed for the door. The genuine investors in the company had to endure the roller coaster ride.

There may be more pain (i.e. upfront costs) as iFast tries to assimilate the acquired UK-based BFC Bank, now renamed "iFast Global Bank". A bank is a tightly regulated entity with many compliance rules to adhere. It is a stretch to expect a fintech company to transit successfully to managing a bank overnight.

But we shall see.

iFast management will need to manage investors' expectations carefully. Otherwise, even the genuine investors will also head for the door.

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Sunday, April 24, 2022

Don't Beat Yourself Up, It's Only Investing

Investing is like riding a cart on a road full of potholes. Many unexpected things can cause you to trip up, giving you a rough time.

Just ask billionaire investor Bill Ackman, whose hedge fund Pershing Square Capital lost US$400 million betting in Netflix after the company reported a decrease in subscribers for the first time in a decade [news].

Or the investors who sued Elon Musk for failing to disclose his intention to buyout Twitter promptly, after they had sold the shares [news].

Or closer to home, holders of the Lion-OCBC Securities Hang Seng TECH ETF, who had lost more than 50 percent over the past year due to fear of regulatory crackdown on Chinese tech firms.

Percentage chart of Lion-OCBC Securities Hang Seng TECH ETF (Source: Yahoo)

Those were just some of the bigger, headline-grabbing events. Been in the pit long enough and you will know there is never such a thing as a dull day in the world of equities. Something is always happening that is attributed for the meteoric rise of Stock X, or the sharp drop in Index Y.

To an outsider, the stock market and its mood swings may seem so bizarrely chaotic, it makes the person think twice about investing in stocks altogether.

The truth is, none of these market movements is really within anyone's control. And may I add, none of these is really about investing either.

The public stock exchange exists mainly for the purpose of price discovery. Beyond the initial capital raising for the company, it gives people a yardstick to gauge how much one can trade stock certificates for cash daily.

Newswires publish commentaries (to explain why a stock price or an index changed from previous day) because readers crave stories to make sense of the fluctuations and it helps to capture eyeballs for advertisement revenue.

But I argue that is NOT investing. Following the news and tracking prices closely do not make us savvy investors. In fact, the information overload can distract us from doing what is most required.

The real task of an investor is to identify the enterprises with the highest probability of earning predictable positive returns over the long run.

While the share purchase price can make a difference to the mark-to-market PnL, picking the correct company can have a bigger impact. This is because the right company should earn a profit consistently, thereby increasing its cash and its net asset value. Even when the stock price does not move a cent, the fact is you are the fractional owner of an enterprise that is now more valuable than the time when you bought the shares.

When I first started investing, I did not understand the above truism. Stock price movements influenced my psyche. I found myself equating a stock price drop to an erroneous judgement on my part. Did I forget something? Are others seeing something that I'm not? Or am I simply lousy at this analytical stuff?

No doubt the ego gets hurt, especially if I cannot find any explanation to justify the price drop. The fear of having made a fatal mistake always lingers.

Fortunately, after years of sticking through the trials and tribulations of the stock market, I am a little wiser. Most companies that I had invested in turned out fine. When the fundamentals are intact, the stock price usually rebounds.

Now, I confess I still get queasy when I buy into a stock and the price drops further. But I no longer question my own evaluation of the company. Likewise, I have learnt to be chill after I sold a stock and the price keeps rocketing. (Seller's remorse, I'm invincible against you. Muahahaha!)

So to the rookie investor out there fretting over his or her unrealized loss, here is my advice - don't beat yourself up. It's only part and parcel of investing. If you have done your homework (i.e. studied the fundamentals carefully) and you are confident in the future prospects of the company#, have trust in your own judgement. The stock price will eventually recover, sooner or later.

# People hate bad news, but let's be honest here: If you have NOT done your homework and you are NOT confident in the future prospects of the company, you need to admit it was a wrong decision and take your loss. Learn the lesson and be a better investor.

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Saturday, April 23, 2022

Three Maxims to Share With My Children

Having spent half of my lifespan, I have gathered some precious lessons which I hope to ultimately pass on to my children. Some were gained from bitter experiences; others were illuminated in a moment of inspiration.

Here are three maxims that I want my children to remember:

If it is to be, it is up to me. William Johnsen

Singaporeans are notorious for their incessant complaints. You hear it all the time - the bus is so slow; the food is so expensive; the service is so lousy. It brings to mind the slang NATO (No Action, Talk Only).

This is an incredibly poisonous attitude, especially in the corporate world. While whining may provide temporary relief and seeming camaraderie among complainers, it drains a person of the willpower to act on the problem and change the situation.

Everytime I hear my kids make such a remark, I will remind them that complaining is useless. They should proactively find a solution. If it is beyond their control, they should look for someone who can make the improvement.

The above is a simple but powerful maxim by English Professor William Johnsen. It gels nicely with another Buddhism-inspired maxim that getting angry at an issue is useless, as fury will only hurt yourself, seldom others.

Life is unfair. That is why I have the opportunity to succeed where others failed.

Let's face it - life is inherently unfair. If life was fair, there wouldn't be a rich-poor divide today. Being born in Singapore is a stroke of good luck; being born in Ethiopia is not.

Yet it is precisely because Life does not grant the same favour to everyone, there is a fighting chance for you to be the winner. It may not be what you envisioned, but there will always be a niche where you can outshine others. And more often than not, being a grand master at a specific subject matter entitles you to greater renumeration compared to the average layperson.

My kids sometimes complain how the teacher picked their classmate for a role they had wanted. I would gently nudge them to think about their own strengths, and areas where they have an edge over their peers. Along the same vein, I would drill into them another life lesson - if they are not willing to put in their best effort, they should not start on the task at all, be it learning a new skill or a new subject. If my kids have decided to embark on the quest to mastery, then they must be disciplined to work their way to the top of the field. No half-heartedness here.

The difference between rich and poor is the number of choices in life. A poor man is limited by his options.

This maxim is deeply personal, as it is the basis that drives me to seek wealth. Being rich is not just about having lots of dough. It is about having a wide variety of options at one's disposal. From as simple as cleaning the toilet to as complex as fighting climate change, money can shape the outcome. There is the oft-quoted adage that money is not a panacea for everything. However, while money cannot solve every problem, it is extremely effective in the ways that it can.

Here is a simple example: An average income family may choose to eat mostly at home or at hawker centres due to a tight budget. On the other hand, a well off family can choose to eat either at home, at hawker centres or in posh restaurants without much impact to their finance. The availability of more choices can make life a tad more enjoyable, even though more choices don't necessarily guarantee greater happiness.

My kids are aware that their material choices are influenced by money. Each of them has a POSB Smart Buddy watch that limits the amount they can spend daily. This forces them to plan their consumption in advance. My kids play the Monopoly game frequently, where they learn getting bankrupt (out of money) loses the game. They also learn cashflow, in which money is needed to pay for green houses and red hotels, but eventually they regain it through rent. They had come across the concept of stocks and bonds in another game (Wongamania), but the topic is over their heads for now.

I hope the above maxims will serve my children well as they grow up and lead their lives as desired. Do you have any life lesson you would like to share with your children? Let me know in the comments below.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Building an Impossible Portfolio - A Stoic Lesson from Seneca

I was inspired recently by a few Youtubers' interpretation of Dao De Ching, the quintessial text of Taoism. As a result, I headed to the community library, hoping to find enlightenment among the Religion section.

I picked up a book titled, "The Stoic Art of Living - Inner Resilience and Outer Results" written by Philosophy Professor Tom Morris.

Stoicism is a philosophy centered around living an ethical life and the practice of virtue. It appealed to me because I am a staunch believer of self effort. What happens within, shows its result without.

There was a particular segment in the book which described knowing oneself and one's capabilities. It cited the words of Stoic philosopher Seneca, that we should have a crystal clear knowledge of our abilities:

Above all, it's necessary for anyone to judge himself accurately. We often think we can do more than we are able.
Seneca, Moral Essays II (translated by J.W. Basore), 235

The Roman statesman also warned against biting off more than we can chew:

Next, we should weigh carefully what we are undertaking, and compare our strength with the things we are about to attempt. The doer should always be stronger than what he intends to do. Burdens too heavy for their bearer will certainly crush him.
Seneca, Moral Essays II (translated by J.W. Basore), 235

In short, we should set realistic targets and practical goals, as the one-time imperial advisor elaborates:

Our next concern should be never to work either for useless goals, or impossible ones. First, we shouldn't even desire what we're completely unable to accomplish. And we ought not to seek anything that, if attained, will show us too late and after much shame the emptiness of our desires. In other words, our efforts should never be hopeless, and we shouldn't set goals unworthy of our work. Sadness will often follow a failure, and also the shame of an empty success.
Seneca, Moral Essays II (translated by J.W. Basore), 263

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Now, what has all these got to do with portfolio building?

In my quest for financial freedom, I had laid down an audacious goal of generating a passive income of $10,000 per month. Using a conservative estimate of 4 percent dividend yield, this works out to a minimum portfolio value of $3 million.

Given my limited income and a desire for early retirement, this portfolio value is so far-fetched and impossible to attain, it is laughable to even think about it.

If I slash the target by half to $5,000 per month, that still works out to a portfolio value of $1.5 million. And I'm not close to one-third of that at the present moment.

In other words, I am setting myself up for failure and sadness. Seneca would have rolled in his grave if he knew of my foolish financial ambition.

But a tiny part in me refuses to give up so easily. Maybe, just maybe, there is the sliver of a chance I may hit this target?

To accomplish this, I need to inject at least $100,000 of new funds into my portfolio every year. I also need an active approach to recycle portfolio capital (i.e. buy low, sell high instead of just buy-and-hold). Lastly, I need to catch the correct tailwind of the market momentum to ride my way up.

A flicker of hope appears. However, this still entails immense effort, careful timing and a miracle for good effect. I might have better probability winning the Toto Draw.

At the end of the day (or my life in general), I hope I would have found meaning and enjoyment while working towards this goal, however futile it may seem.

"Shoot for the moon," they say. "At least you will land among the stars." Perhaps then, this would not have been a wasted endeavour after all.

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Sunday, April 17, 2022

Do you remember the lowest point in your (financial) life?

Before I started my current job, I was a property agent.

I was recruited by a good friend, lured by the possibility of high commission, and thence a comfortable life.

Embarrassing to say, I wasn't a good salesperson. I was lousy at promoting my service. I didn't like pandering to the seller's whim. I had trouble coaxing buyers to sign on the dotted line. I was spouting words that I didn't like to hear myself.

As a result, I had challenges getting deals, let alone closing them. While I secured the occasional rental agreement, the paltry commission only lasted for a while. The dream of a fabulous income did not materialise. Soon, I was literally eating and surviving on my dwindling savings.

I knew the money would not last. But it never occurred to me that I would hit rock bottom with a bang.

Until that day, when I did.

I will always remember that day. It was noon time. I was heading home onboard a feeder bus. In my mind, I was contemplating what I could have for lunch on a meagre $2.50 budget.

As the bus was making a right turn, that was the moment it struck me. I realised I had fallen to such a pathetic state, having to think so hard about my next meal. With less than $50 in my account, I had to stretch my every dollar. Tears welled up in my eyes.

I hadn't dared to speak to my parents about my dire situation, for fear of causing them worry. Pride also stopped me from asking my friends for a loan. I have hardly anything valuable to pawn. And I know getting credit from a moneylender will pull me deeper into the abyss with its exorbitant interest rate.

That marked the lowest point in my finance, my dignity and my life.

I made a fateful decision that day. Enough is enough. I vowed NOT to allow myself experience this horrible feeling again. I severed my last lingering hope of striking it big in property. I refreshed my outdated resume and began blasting it to multiple companies as well as recruiters. Humiliated as I was, it was time to call it quits and start finding a salaried job.

A headhunter phoned and informed me of an opportunity at a global MNC. The private firm was recruiting candidates en masse to provide real-time analytical support to their growing clientele. I applied for the role. After three rounds of elimination interview, I got in, together with a bunch of university graduates much younger than me.

I had newfound determination to succeed at this job. I worked harder and smarter than my peers. I made it a point that my contributions were visible to the higher ups. If the clients had a good word for me, I made sure my boss heard about it. If there was blame, I apologised quickly and let the matter fade as soon as possible. I did my best not to burn bridges, nor step on other people's toes. I polished my listening and presentation skills. And I carefully honed subject matter expertise that was in short supply within the company, so that I could remain invaluable.

My team leader once told me that originally, my manager did not want to hire me. But the management decided to take a chance on me.

A chance that changed my entire life.

Even though my starting salary was unremarkable (as it was just after the Global Financial Crisis), my income grew exponentially year after year. From the misery of having to fret about my next meal, I managed to reach a comfortable level where I am today.

I attribute my success to that single lowest turning point in my life. I'm sure many folks have their own sob stories. I hope each person will be able to find the motivation and sheer drive needed to climb out of their personal sinkhole, and attain a level of financial stability previously unimaginable. Your pot of gold could just be at the end of another rainbow.

Do you still remember the lowest point in your (financial) life?

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Sunday, April 10, 2022

How many stocks do you have on your watchlist?

During pre-COVID19 times, I would travel overseas for work. After a long day, I typically return to my hotel room, switch on the television, tune in to CNBC and catch up on business news. One particular programme that I enjoy is "Mad Money" hosted by former hedge fund manager Jim Cramer.

If you have never heard of Jim Cramer and his rags-to-riches story, you can read it [here]. So I was surfing the CNBC website the other day, and I found a video of Cramer going through his Lightning Round.

Lightning Round is the segment where the audience calls in and asks for Cramer's view on a certain stock. The quick pace at which Cramer exhorts a company he likes - and slams a company he doesn't - makes for an entertaining watch.

I often wonder though - how does Jim Cramer stay on top of the latest developments for so many U.S. listed companies?

The way I see it, the host of Mad Money doesn't need to know every company in depth. Instead, he only needs to remember tiny bits of details, so that he can provide a witty 10-second opinion of each stock.

After all, Jim Cramer is an entertainer, who happens to have some financial background and a flair for presentation.

But is that the correct attitude a serious investor should adopt?

The fundamental analyst will vehemently disagree. One should study financial reports carefully, so as to understand the profitability and future earnings potential of each company.

Likewise, the market technician will shake a fist in objection too. One should examine price charts and scrutinise the indicators, so as to spot the right time to buy and sell.

On this topic, both camps should find common ground, that it is more important to KNOW A LOT ON A LITTLE (range of subject matter) than to know a little on a lot.

So my friends, let me pose you this question:

How many stocks do you have on your watchlist, and how well do you know each company?

I'd be honest to admit - I only track certain metrics for each company on my list. If I were to sit for a Buffett-esque style of FA examination, I will surely fail with a Capital "F".

Similarly, while I know how a candlestick looks like, the chartist will flinch in horror at my lack of knowledge in price formations and TA indicators. (To me, MACD sounds more like fast food than something to trade on.)

But you know what? After years of investing in the stock market, I realised NOT knowing price patterns, and paying attention to ONLY a few key fundamental data points suits me just fine.

Call me a 80-20 investor. I put in the most needed 20 percent effort, so as to achieve the most crucial 80 percent impact on my portfolio.

And I do my best to trim my list to a maximum of 20 companies, although lately, I have breached this personal rule in favour of TalkMed Group.

I have seen financial bloggers with 30 companies and more in their portfolios, not unlike a mini version of Fidelity's Magellan Fund, which was said to own close to 1,400 stocks at one point in time.

And I have seen other financial bloggers hold as few as 5 stocks in their portfolios, not unlike some activist hedge funds.

The truth is, there is no single holy grail in investing. There is no one-size-fits-all formula too. You have to decide for yourself how much time and effort to devote on tracking the companies in your portfolio.

The important thing is that you must do your own homework. Do NOT follow others blindly into a stock (like the GameStop saga on Reddit). Or buy on the words of a stock show host. You might just be the last person holding the hot potato before it crashes.

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Saturday, April 9, 2022

No one knows where the economy is heading

I was browsing the Bloomberg website when I chanced upon an article titled, "Too Much Information From Markets Is Jamming Up Real-Time Trading Models" [link].

It was interesting to note no one truly has a handle on where the economy is heading. Not even the pros who manage money for a living. To divine the next big downturn from the market is turning out to be a futile affair.

I had often heard of the adage that the stock market moves ahead of the economy by six months to a year. But according to Goldman Sachs researchers, this is simply not true. (For recessions, at least.)

While there is no clear trend, there is no lack of market action either. On the local bourse, I found unexplainable movement in certain stocks. Like CapitaLand Investments (CLI). The stock had moved from a low of $3.69 to a high of $4.11 over the past month alone. And last Thursday, SembCorp Industries (SCI) saw its stock price jumped 7 percent in a day. It was so dramatic that it sparked an inquiry from the regulator, which SCI management claimed being unaware of the reason [announcement].

Big institutional funds taking on a position? Front runners with inside information grabbing a lead? Your guess is as good as mine.

Despite the gyrations, retail investors like you and me shouldn't need to worry. You probably already have a sensible investment strategy thought out. (Value oriented? Sector rotation? TA?) What is left to do is to be DISCIPLINED enough to follow through the plan all the way, regardless of how the market swings.

A sensible investment strategy is one that has a logical basis to win more often than lose. Alas, the map is not the territory. Often, we ourselves are the reason for the lack of consistent success.

Loss aversion, confirmation bias, endowment effect and sellers' remorse are well-known ailments that afflict even the most seasoned investors. We just need to make sure our emotions are left by the door and cool heads prevail when it is time to buy or sell.

After all, the stock market is merely a numbers game. Each time, we are trying to be wiser than the counterparty. And we will not be right all of the time. But as long as one wrong move does not wipe out our capital, we should be in good shape. Utter defeat only comes when your expectations are beyond what is realistically possible.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

A U.S. Recession in 2023?

I raised an eyebrow as I came across an article on The Edge Singapore titled, "Deutsche Bank predicts US recession in 2023 as Fed boosts rates" [link].

Deutsche Bank economists are certainly bold to stake their reputation on the line in calling for a 2023 recession in the United States. So far, none of the other Tier-1 banks have made this prediction.

Their view is that the extra U.S. Fed tightening by late 2023 and early 2024 will cause the U.S. economy to suffer a major blow.

In short, Deutsche Bank feels that the Fed will slam the brakes too hard in a bid to counter inflation.

What does this mean for a small-time Singaporean investor like me?

Well, the U.S. is Singapore's third largest trading partner, according to SingStat [link]. Any downturn in the U.S. economy and reduced consumer demand is likely to make a dent in the export-oriented industries on our shores.

However, our BIGGEST trading partner is Mainland China. If the Chinese economy continues to grow at a decent clip - as hoped by the Chinese government - then the negative impact may be limited.

All in all, uncertainty and volatility will be a key theme over the next two years. Might be good to stash some cash aside, in case buying opportunities appear in the market.

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