Topley’s Top Ten – May 18, 2020

1.Huge Spread Between Gold Performance and Commodity Indexes.

YTD—GLD +15% vs. Commodity Index (DBC) -30%

2.The Best Returns Have Followed Worst Jobs Reports.

Second, while there is no comparable history to the current crisis, historically it has been common during recessions to see stocks rebound in advance of the trough in economic activity. In fact, the best forward one-year stock market returns historically have come after the worst decile of U.S. nonfarm payroll reports.

Source: Charles Schwab, Bloomberg, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2/28/1939 to 4/30/2020. Past performance is no guarantee of future results

Schwab Market Perspective: Riding the Liquidity Waveby Liz Ann Sonders Jeffrey Kleintop Kathy Jones of Charles Schwab

3.Momentum and Quality Factors Lead.

SPDR FUNDS -Factor Returns


4.In-Story vs. Online Retail Sales in America.

The Wealth Advisor

5.Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway sells majority of stake in Goldman Sachs

By Jazmin Goodwin, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business)Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) sold off 84% of its stake in Goldman Sachs (GS) during the first quarter, according to a regulatory filing.

The conglomerate slashed its holdings in the investment bank to 1.9 million shares from 12 million shares, according to SEC filings released Friday. Goldman Sachs’s share price plunged by almost a third during the first quarter as the novel coronavirus swept the nation.

Berkshire Hathaway initially invested in $5 billion of preferred stock in the Wall Street firm in 2008, as a vote of confidence in Goldman Sachs at the height of the 2008 financial crisis. It redeemed those shares in 2011, with Berkshire making a profit of $3.7 billion.

A representative of Berkshire Hathaway didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company remains a majority shareholder in other financial firms, including American Express (AXP), Bank of America (BAC), PNC Financial (PNC) and Wells Fargo (WFC).

At the company’s annual meeting on May 2, Buffett said that “I think overall the banking system is not going to be the problem” during the pandemic, although he added that if economic difficulties become severe enough “even strong banks can be under a lot of stress, and we’ll be very glad we’ve got the Federal Reserve system, standing behind them.”

This is not the only major change that Berkshire has made to its portfolio recently.

Buffett disclosed at the annual meeting that the firm had sold its entire stake in airline carriers American (AAL), United (UAMA), Delta (DAL) and Southwest Airlines (LUV), which account for more than 80% of US air travel. Berkshire was among the three largest shareholders in the four airline carriers.

“It turned out I was wrong about that business, because of something that was not in any way the fault of four excellent CEOs,” Buffett said.

In its first quarter results, Berkshire also disclosed that the conglomerate had a record $137.3 billion in cash on its balance sheet at the end of the March quarter.

GS hit $250 in January

6.IJR Small Cap 600  -12% Since April 29th


Small Cap Flat for 5 Years.

7.Share of Mortgages in Forebearance…8%

Advisor Perspectives

8.Just the Facts: Four Key Housing Market Takeaways for This Week…Inventory -24%


  • Home-buying demand has come roaring back, now 5.5% higher than it was pre-pandemic
  • New listings have increased every week for the past four weeks, but can’t keep up with demand; inventory is down 24%. Hazel Shakur, a Redfin agent in Maryland said, “The sellers who are venturing back into the market now either need to sell…or they’re worried prices might fall in the future and want to get out while the getting is good.”
  • Median listing prices are up 5% and bidding-war battle royales are back. David Hokenson, a Redfin agent in Seattle said, “My client was in a 24-offer bidding war for a 1960s home that grandma had never updated. It was listed for $360k, we bid $400k and didn’t even come close.” 
  • This past week, more than one in four Redfin buyers took their first home tour via video chat. Shellie Silva, a Redfin agent in Grand Rapids, says buyers from Chicago seeking lower prices skip the 3-hour drive around Lake Michigan and just stream the home showings from their sofas.

Home-buying demand eclipses pre-coronavirus levels

In the last five weeks, home-buying demand has come roaring back. For the seven days ended May 10, demand was 5.5% higher than it was before the pandemic, on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

The v-shaped recovery in home-buying demand is powered by record-low mortgage rates and the loosening of stay-at-home orders in some states. After two months of waiting for the other shoe to drop, buyers who are still employed may also be a little more confident about their job security.

9.An easier coronavirus test is within spitting distance

By Steven Mufson 

May 13, 2020 at 5:21 p.m. EDT

Andrew Brooks, a Rutgers University molecular neuroscientist, remembers clearly having a long nasopharyngeal swab stuck up his nose in search of evidence of a virus. “It was terrible,” he recalls. “It felt like someone was poking the front of my brain.”

Now Brooks, who is also the chief operating officer and director of technology development at a firm called RUCDR Infinite Biologics, has come up with a coronavirus test that relies on nothing more than spitting into a cup.

His firm has won emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for saliva tests that people can perform at home. It’s a breakthrough in a nation that has struggled to expand coronavirus testing to the degree experts say is needed to safely return the country to some degree of normalcy.

Unlike tests conducted with nasal swabs, the saliva test does not require travel to a testing center. There are no perilous face-to-face encounters with technicians wearing masks that have been hard to come by. And there’s no need for the swabs that have also been in short supply. It’s just spit and mail to the Rutgers clinical genomics laboratory, with results within 48 hours.


“Rutgers blazed the path for home collection . . . Saliva is a big leap forward relative to swabs, and it is likely to play a major role in getting America back to work,” said Bob Terbrueggen, chief executive of DxTerity, a firm focused on tests for workplaces.

Even as state and local governments continue to buy traditional coronavirus testing kits that rely on nasopharyngeal swabs, major research universities and their private-sector partners are trying to leapfrog ahead to the next generation of tests.

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder have launched a firm called Darwin Biosciences and are developing the “SickStick,” a device to measure the presence of the virus in saliva. Oklahoma State University, while awaiting FDA approval, is using saliva to test thousands of nursing home patients. And in Connecticut, scientists are working on a test strip that could be taken at home for immediate results, without having to ship it to a lab — akin to a home pregnancy test.

“This is exciting,” said Bob Kocher, a physician, venture capitalist and member of California’s testing task force. “The world is plagued by scarcity of swabs, so having an alternative is a great thing. Also, no patient likes the feeling of having a swab pushed nearly into your brain to collect covid-19 samples. It is much easier to spit into a tube.”

The Rutgers test is already up and running. The university and RUCDR Infinite Biologics are producing 20,000 tests a day and expect to ramp up to 50,000 a day, largely for use in New Jersey with a doctor’s prescription. Results are analyzed at the university’s clinical genomics laboratory. It’s a small number, but other labs, hospitals, agencies and universities can buy testing kits from a Utah firm called Spectrum Solutions that has partnered with Rutgers. They can also use Rutgers data to get their own emergency use authorizations.

The Rutgers researchers saw obvious drawbacks to the virus tests built around nasopharyngeal swabs, Brooks said. Scraping genetic materials from the nether reaches of the sinus passage is painful, making it less likely that people would submit and undermining the broad testing programs needed to reopen the economy. And those swabs pose a danger to health-care workers who have to administer them, since the procedure frequently causes patients to sneeze or cough on those workers, many of whom lack proper protective gear.


Home testing with saliva could appeal to people who might be too old, too sick or too scared to venture out for a test. Even children at school or summer camp could spit into a device and get tested, Brooks said.

“We created a scenario to bring the test to the patient,” Brooks said. “That’s the most groundbreaking part of this.”

To test for accuracy and win over the FDA, Rutgers compared the saliva test against the state-of-the-art nasopharyngeal swab in 60 patients in an effort to find early infection. Each patient was tested twice, once with each approach. The results were identical, Brooks said.

The Yale School of Public Health conducted its own study of 44 inpatients and 98 health-care workers and found that saliva samples taken from just inside the mouth provided greater detection and consistency than the nasal swab approach. The study also concluded there was less variability in results with the self-sample collection of saliva.


Two of the health-care workers had traces of the virus in the saliva test that did not show up in the test based on nasopharyngeal swabs. They were quarantined to avoid infecting others at the hospital. Yale is still awaiting an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

In another advantage, saliva tests bypass the need for one part of the supply chain that has caused so many bottlenecks during the pandemic. The Rutgers patients spit into a 2 milliliter cup that has already been manufactured. A chemical solution in the cup preserves the genetic material of the virus so it can be shipped to a laboratory for analysis.

“We scoured what was already commercially available so as not to create more problems,” Brooks said.

The drawback of saliva testing is that it depends on the untrained patient to administer, but Brooks said the challenges were no greater than in other testing devices.


Other entities working on saliva testing lag behind Rutgers, whose tests, like others, are reimbursed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at $100 each. Darwin Biosciences, the start-up firm founded by professors from the University of Colorado at Boulder, has said it needs months to finish work and approvals for what they call the “SickStick.”

“Our device acts at the earliest stage of infection. It knows you’re sick before you do,” said Nicholas Meyerson, a scientist in the department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and chief executive of Darwin Biosciences. But Meyerson told the university online publication CU Boulder Today that the group needs more time; its device might be helpful if a second wave of infections hits.

In Connecticut, another group called Homodeus has also been working on a saliva test that could be done as easily as a home pregnancy test. Jonathan Rothberg, one of the lead researchers, said the test could be made for a dollar or less and scaled into the millions. The goal would be to have results in half an hour, and an iPhone app would enable patients to analyze the data themselves, and then share that data widely and quickly in the event of a breakout.

“So you can spit into a tube. And get results. No lab. No technician. No expensive machines. No wait. The designer enzymes do all the work,” Rothberg said in an email last month. In a tweet this week, he said the company was still “preparing for validation studies for regulatory agencies.”

Rothberg remained optimistic, though. He recently tweeted that for less than going to the moon, America could go to work. And for less than they spend on 80 billion sodas, Americans could do universal testing.

“We’re looking for geniuses to come up with good solutions,” said Harlan Krumholz, a cardiology professor and public health expert at Yale medical school. “They all need to be tested rigorously, but quickly. That’s the balance.”

10. Jim Kwik’s 5 Tips for Optimizing Your Brain

It’s not just you: It’s hard to focus right now. Brain coach Jim Kwik wants to help. 


Jim Kwik, a self-described brain coach, knows it’s hard to maintain focus right now. Concentrating can be impossible if you’re adjusting to a new work-from-home routine or monitoring frequent updates on the pandemic. 

 “When you’re in fight or flight [mode], you’re not going to be able to make the best decisions or lead,” Kwik said during an installment of Inc.‘s Real Talk: Business Reboot on April 30 with Inc. editor-at-large Burt Helm. Kwik, who has worked with notable clients like Google and Nike, offered business owners some suggestions for increasing productivity and improving focus during this difficult time. 

Kwik’s comments come straight from his latest book, Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life, which was released on April 28. The best-selling author is also the founder of two companies: Superhero You, a global community of students, and Kwik Learning, a memory improvement and speed-reading training program. 

Here are Kwik’s “five Cs” for optimizing your headspace during the pandemic, which can be vital for prepping your business for a reboot once it’s over:

1. Clarity 

If your business is facing downtime right now, Kwik suggests using this pause to check in with your business and yourself. Use this time to gain clarity on what’s most important to you. Then make sure your actions are fulfilling those goals.

If your actions don’t correlate with your priorities, it’s time to adjust one or the other, Kwik says. 

2. Care

You can decide if these difficult times “diminish, define, or develop you,” Kwik says. In order to further advance yourself, focus on taking care of your mind. 

Don’t start the day by staring at your phone, Kwik suggests. That’s going to rewire your brain to be reactive to notifications and therefore easily distracted. Focus instead on activities and routines that will jump-start your mind and boost creativity. Kwik adds that showers and a good diet–which includes “brain foods” such as avocados, blueberries, and salmon–can help beat mental fatigue. 

3. Contribution

Chances are your brain isn’t performing well if you’re stressed or scared, Kwik says. He suggests combating that fear by contributing something to the world. 

Find unique ways to give back right now, whether that’s through your time or your talent, he adds. For example, Kwik’s online learning programs are now free for students who are out of school. Determine what you can give and make a contribution to ease the stress of the pandemic. 

4. Creativity

Use this time to have a “personal renaissance,” Kwik advises. For example, it’s believed that William Shakespeare wrote King LearMacbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra when the plague closed down London theaters in 1606 and he couldn’t act in plays. 

Take this time to achieve the creative goals that you’ve set yourself. Or find new ways to bring imagination into your professional and personal life. 

5. Capability 

Lastly, set yourself up to learn, Kwik says. He believes people aren’t doing enough of the things that excite them. Establish what skills you want to learn and find ways to accomplish those goals.

One of the ways you can do this is by making a to-do list and a not-to-do list, he adds. For example, what you need to accomplish for work could go under the to-do list. Avoiding your phone for 30 minutes after you wake up would go on the not-to-do list.