Sunday, March 15, 2020

Investing During A Crisis - Are you ready for this ride?

By now, most of us should have experienced both excitement and fear in one way or another. Fear due to the virus and the economic recession, excitement due to having the opportunity to invest at low prices but at the same time still having the fear that stock prices can go lower. This is what I have been preparing for all these years but still when this hits, its hard to stomach the situation at one go.

To be honest, since I started investing about 10 years ago, I've not seen such a wild ride in the stock market before. This is worse than the European debt crisis when many European countries faced the possibility of bankruptcy which I've experienced in 2015. There were -100 points drop back then but it didn't occur so many times in a week as what we experienced just recently.

Is this worse than the last Global Financial Crisis in 2008?

During the last global financial crisis back in 2008 which is known to us as GFC, I was still in army and didn't have the money to invest. In a way, I was sheltered from what was going on and the only news source which I had was from the Straits Times newspaper which was delivered to the army camp everyday. Back then, smart phones were not so common and were not allowed in army camps also. However, I later on learned about the GFC from my university economics course and know that it was essentially a collapse of the financial system due to high leverage debt of corporations and individuals and most importantly junk debt. Many banks such as Bank of America and Citibank and even insurance company AIC almost collapsed. Eventually, one famous bank, Lehman Brothers did collapsed and the rest is history.

Now, the crisis we are facing now was started due to the COVID-19 virus. This is different from what we experienced before such as SARS which was not so infectious. This time, the virus caused many cities to go into lock down such as China's Hubei province, some cities in South Korea and even Italy lock down their whole country. Singapore also restricted access for foreigners coming from China, South Korea, Iran and many other European countries. This affected tourism quite a lot at an unprecedented scale. Then, Russia and Saudi Arabia didn't manage to agreed on oil prices and this sent the oil price nose diving rapidly. Oil prices is important to countries whose economy depend on its export and many countries will go into recession because of this also. Singapore too will not be spared. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee also mentioned that this crisis may affect Singapore worse than the GFC in 2008. This was reported in Bloomberg news here.

Are you ready for this ride?

Those who have been preparing for this crisis and saving up money for investment will benefit from it. I have started buying some stocks last week as valuations reached attractive levels. Many of the REITS also fell sharply which presents an opportunity to buy some of them such as CDL Htrust, Suntec and also bank stocks such as OCBC. These stocks are all trading below book value now with dividend yield of more than 5-6%.

Do I think the stocks will drop more? Honestly nobody will know the answer and if we're just waiting to catch the lowest price, then we might just miss out when stocks begin to recover. Over the many years of investing, I learnt that it is never easy to catch the lowest and when price starts to go up, we will be hoping or thinking that it might go down again then we do not dare to invest at all until the bull market begins again. This is psychology at play which is quite common for all investors.

Keep calm and invest in companies with attractive valuations and strong balance sheet

I am now 60% invested with 40% war chest left to accumulate slowly. There are just too many stocks to buy with attractive valuations of trading below book value and low PE ratio but now its also about the companies having a strong balance sheet to ride out this crisis. We do not want to invest in a company with weak balance sheet and they end up collapsing. It can happen and it will happen.

Diversification is also important which I always believe in. Sometimes no matter how good we are in reading financial statements, things can still turn drastically bad for a company in a short time which we won't even have time to react. When a company we invested in collapses, we should still be doing well because we have diversified our portfolio into different stocks. Then again, its about managing risks so we can invest more into stable companies and allocate less to more risky companies in our portfolio.

STI has dropped almost to a 5 year low at 2634 now. This is near to the 2015-2016 prices which I bought some stocks during the European debt crisis at attractive valuations. This is part of the reason why I've started accumulating some stocks again.

If we extend the chart to 2002, we can see the drop during the GFC in 2008 was about 50% from the high. STI drop now is about 25% from the high. Will we see another 50% drop this time? Its anybody's guess now. The question we should ask ourselves is if it drops another 25%, are we still prepared for it?

My own thoughts is the drop may not be the end for now. If it drops more, I'll be happy to accumulate again. Psychologically, we all need to be prepared for more drops and stocks prices may stay depressed for a few months and maybe even more than a year. Nevertheless, if we have invested in good companies at great valuations, we will mostly be assured to ride this out and have good returns from the stock market. Are you ready for this ride?

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

COVID-19 and the opportunity to invest

It has been almost 2 months since I wrote something on my blog. Due to the COVID-19, I was so busy with work that I forgot about time totally. Regular readers would remember that I joined the healthcare industry in end 2018 and now due to this disease outbreak, I had to work extra hours with lots of extra work too. The business as usual work mostly had to be put down to cater time for this outbreak.

Honestly, this is the first time as an adult I've encountered such crisis before. During SARS back in 2003, I was still in secondary school then so I wouldn't know what is happening in the economy. This time, this COVID-19 has caused fears in people where we have seen people rushing to buy stuff at supermarket, face masks and hand sanitisers being sold out in most retail shops etc. The greater impact which I see is on the broader economy due to the travel ban where tourism will be severely impacted. We have seen companies such as Temasek, Capitaland, SMRT, SIA and SATS announcing pay cuts, pay freeze and reduced bonuses etc. Some of the companies even ask their workers to go on voluntary no pay leave. I believe retrenchment will come later as companies struggle with their bottom line so there is genuine concern on everyone's rice bowl here.

Singapore just announced more travel ban for visitors from South Korea, northern Italy and Iran. This is on top of the travel ban for visitors from Mainland China. With every crisis, there is always opportunities especially in the stock market. Stocks should go down further if situation continues to get worse. The impact will be greater as each day passes with the travel ban and lesser tourists in Singapore and around the world.

Stocks which I'm monitoring to buy and have bought some includes CDL Htrust, SATS, Far East Htrust, Dairy Farm and Comfort Delgro. These are the companies which are impacted by the COVID-19 in one way or another. I'm also looking to accumulate more REITS such as Suntec, Capitaland Mall trust and Ascott Residence Trust if it goes lower. I've been researching and monitoring some of these stocks for years and do have some stake in some of the companies. This is the opportunity to accumulate as the stocks drop. I believe by the end of the year, the virus situation should be a non event already and stocks would have already recovered.

Investing during crisis is not that easy at all. It involves seeing losses in your portfolio and still believing in your conviction that the stocks you invest in are correct. It may take months for us to see our portfolio back to profits again. Those who buy the right companies and hold on throughout will be the winners at the end.

On a side note, being in the healthcare industry lets me see the good in people in times of crisis. There are many individuals and companies who have reached out to donate stuff to support healthcare workers fighting this virus at the front line. It is heartwarming to see such acts of kindness. To be honest, all these kind gestures do help to put a smile in the healthcare workers faces and keep them going as I've seen it myself. Some of them have to work long hours and even on weekends and sacrifice family time. Thanks to all who have supported!

I'll keep this post short and back to my busy life again. Stay safe everyone!

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

6D5N Cruise on Royal Caribbean Quantum of the seas - Part 2

As promised, this post will talk about the rest of my cruise from 3rd day onwards with Royal Caribbean's new ship home ported in Singapore, Quantum of the seas. Read part 1 here.

Day 3 - Penang

On the 3rd day morning, I woke up to some views on the balcony. The ship is approaching Penang early in the morning at 8am.

Ship approaching Penang

At Penang swettenham pier

View of Penang from my room balcony
The ship arrived early at Penang while I was still preparing to go for breakfast. There is no fixed time which you need to go down the ship as its really just free and easy. I went down comfortably around 9am plus after breakfast.

Going down the ship was fuss free. There was no queue at all and within minutes, we're stepping on Penang's land already. This is the first time I've been to Penang so its quite a new experience for me.

Penang pier. Quantum of the seas ship on the left. 
If you did not know, Penang has this free CAT bus which is provided by their local government. The bus covers quite a lot of areas along Penang and is completely free. I took this bus for all the places I went. The frequency of the bus is quite good most of the time around 5-10 mins.

View of the ship from the pier
The view of the ship from the pier was extraordinary big. The siza of the ship is bigger than the pier itself! The free CAT bus has stops just outside the pier. Its only around 5 mins walk. The first place we wanted to go is Chew Jetty which I read online is one of the must visit places in Penang. Its just 3 bus stops away from the pier by CAT bus.

Chew jetty has this kampong like feel which is interesting to see the history of Penang back then.

After visiting Chew jetty, we went in search for the famous Penang cendol at Penang road. Before having the cendol, we also bought some local delicacies such as Tamban biscuits and snacks from Ban Heang. The tamban biscuits were not bad. This shop was near to the cendol place so its quite convenient.

We found the cendol shop in one of the alleys at Penang road and ordered 1 each plus some fried kway teow to share. We were still quite full from the breakfast on the ship.

They put duck egg on the fried kway teow which is quite unique. However, taste wise, I have tasted much better ones in Singapore though.

The rest of the morning was just roaming around Penang and some short foot massage before we headed back to the ship at around 2pm. Going back to the ship was easy also but there was security checks which went very fast. I'm not sure if there's any prohibited foods which cannot be brought onboard but all the snacks I bought passed through security without any problems. I did see a person who was holding a cup of fresh fruit and the security didn't allow that.

After days of eating, its time to shed some of those calories. I went to the gym and it was so empty. The gym is huge with many equipment to use. Lots of treadmill for running also. I think I counted about 20 treadmills available.

After gym, it was time for a late lunch as we were getting hungry. We only had Cendol and shared 2 plates of Char kway teow for 4 person.

There's food always available on the cruise. We went to cafe@Two70 where they had gourmet sandwiches available. We also went to Sorrentos pizza for some fresh slices of pizzas.

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing around and taking some short nap. This is cruise life, so relaxing. Soon, it was dinner time again at Silk restaurant.

The dinner had some Asian options with Thai curry and rice so it was good for my parents who were not so used to western cuisines. Its funny how their Asian choices actually tasted better than the western options. We ordered Coq Au Vin and the chicken was totally hard and dry. My steak was overdone also when I asked for medium. This was feedback to the restaurant staff and they were kind enough to offer their apology and send a fruit basket to each of our rooms. This I feel was a good gesture and thoughtfulness. When we went back to the restaurant again, they remembered us and asked if we received the fruit basket.

Fish with rice - Quite good

Thai fish curry - Not bad 

Coq Au Vin - Chicken Dish, meat was too hard and dry

Steak Diane - Steak was overcooked and totally dry

Some berries dessert. Very nice

Creme Brulee - My favourite

Tiramisu - Very strong liquor taste, extremely soft and nice

Fruit basket from the restaurant to apologise for the food quality
Day 4 - Phuket

On day 4, we arrived in Phuket early in the morning at around 7am. It a little more tricky at Phuket because the ship is tendered in the middle of the sea and we have to take a smaller ferry to the land itself.

They made an announcement that those who wish to get down the ship to Phuket island may do so before 8am to take advantage of the early tendering process. After 8am, we will need tender tickets to get down the ship.

For me, I didn't get down the ship before 8am. We still went for our breakfast as usual at the Windjammer and it was still very crowded. Guess everyone is not really in a rush to get down the ship also.

At 8am, they started to ask people to go and collect tender tickets. I went to collect tickets at around 8:30am and there was no queue at all. I took the ticket no 9 and in just 15 mins, we were called to proceed to the gangway to take the ferry to the main island. Process was very fast we were on the ferry in 5 mins and reach Phuket island in 15 minutes.

View of Phuket from my room balcony

View of the ship from the tender boat to Phuket

The pier which the tender boat stopped at

Reached Phuket Patong beach
First activity in the morning is to go for massage. I found a good massage place called Healthland massage but I underestimated the distance to go to that place. We took around 30 mins to walk all the way from Patong beach to the massage place.

After massage, we went to find lunch and proceeded to walk from the massage place towards jungceylon shopping centre. On the way, we saw a seafood restaurant which looks promising. They had some live seafood on display and price was reasonable too. We proceeded to have lunch there.

In the end, we ordered their set meal which consist of the following dishes: Lobster, prawns, shellfish, crab, pineapple rice and tom yum soap was included. The cost came up exactly at $100. The seafood is fresh as its all live so I think the price is really reasonable. Don't think we can get this kind of price back in Singapore.

After lunch, we walked all the way to jungceylon shopping centre as we were already nearby. Inside the shopping mall, there's nothing much to shop so we only bought some local snacks back. From the shopping mall, the walk back to the pier to take the ferry back to the ship was still quite far and the sun was really hot. We decided to take a taxi which cost $8 for a 5 mins ride. Their taxi is surprisingly expensive there.

We were back on the ship around 3:30pm. Many people were also heading back by this time even though the last time to take the ferry back is 7pm. For the rest of the afternoon, I went for a swim at Solarium as well as the indoor pool. Its always great to have a swim on the ship and its relaxing to soak in the hot tubs which is aplenty on this ship.

For dinner, I was allocated to Americon Icon grill restaurant this time as my reservation was much later at 8pm. The environment here is much brighter and noisier which I prefer the silk restaurant environment which is more calm and relaxing. I feel the service at the silk restaurant was much better also as the waiters were more friendly there. However, Americon Icon grill food was much better in my opinion. I'm not sure if it was because of the food on that day or they really have a different kitchen staff which was better.

Tomato soup - Not bad

Coconut shrimp - very nice

Almond crusted cod fish - This was the best dish I had on this cruise

Wild mushrooms risotto - Rich and creamy

Braised beef

Three Cheese Ravioli - A must try

Some banana caramel dessert - Super delicious

At the end of everyday, the housekeeping will fold some animals using a towel. On this particular day, they decided to fold a monkey hanging on a clothe hanger, quite funny actually.

Day 5 - Sea Day

The ship left Phuket around 8pm on day 4 and started sailing back to Singapore. The whole of day 5 is sea day which means everyone is on the ship and has nowhere to go. The ship is also the most crowded on this day.

True enough, breakfast at windjammer is really crowded but I still could find seats after awhile. The next activity is laser tag which is quite fun actually. I reserved my time slot at 10am and was able to get in within 10 mins. It was so fun I queued for it to play another round but had to wait close to an hour this time.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, going to the pool and solarium again and just enjoying the facilities the cruise had to offer. As this was the last night, they had a good theater performance called Sonic Odyssey. In my opinion, this was the best show for the cruise. They used all kinds of instruments in this musical including an Earth harp which is amazing.

After the Sonic Odyssey show, there was a vistarama fireworks party at Two70 lounge. Its a virtual fireworks party and they manage to make everyone so high and happy.

After this party, it was already 11pm. The next morning, we woke up early for breakfast before 7am and the ship is already at Marina Bay Cruise Centre. Getting off the ship was orderly as they already told us where to go according to our stateroom numbers the night before.

That's all for my 6D5N cruise on Royal Caribbean Quantum of the seas. To add on, I also had the surf and stream WIFI and it was good most of the time except for a few occasions when the WIFI disconnected. I guess this is normal while out at sea and I realised when it disconnects, its always during stormy weather. Other than that, the internet was fast and I was able to use whatsapp, surf the net and use Facbook without any problems though the internet doesn't come cheap at about $20 per day.

Will I go on the cruise again? Probably not unless I get bored of travelling and just want to relax again. There are many other countries I still want to explore so I might as well spend my money on more exotic travels in the future.

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