Record demand for silver in 2015

According to The Silver Institute, the silver market posted record demand in 2015, driven by new highs from demand of jewelry, coins and bars. Last year also saw the third consecutive annual silver market deficit of 129.8 million ounces, reflecting the continued strength in silver demand.

The data from The Silver Institute reveals a couple important trends that wealth builders should take note. Firstly, unlike gold, silver has very wide industrial applications. Thus, the majority of silver demand come from industrial fabrications for electronic devices, photography, solar and brazing alloys. In 2015, due to the weak global demand, the overall industrial demand declined from 611.2 million ounces in 2014 to 588.7 million ounces last year.

Interestingly, the data on investment demand for silver bars and coins reflected a contrasting picture in 2015. Silver coin and bar investment surged 24% to reach a feverish high of 292.3 million ounces as investors took the opportunity to buy silver on the cheap in the midst of market correction. This was the highest demand on record and overtook the previous high in 2013. The explosive demand from investors was a result of lower average annual silver price of USD15.68 per ounce. The low price of silver in 2015 was due to the slowdown of China and strengthening of US dollars.

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Falling from the peak

Borrowing a phrase from the Taiwanese, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew described those Singaporeans born from the eighties onward as “The Strawberry Generation” because of the perceived lack of resilience. Indeed, compare to him, many Singaporeans don’t have the experience of living in the World War II period and thus do not understand what hardship really means. Due to this, we often lose the fighting spirit of our fore-fathers in overcoming life obstacles. This is especially so when we start falling from the peak of our lives.

Contrary to what most people thought, the difficult part of mountain climbing is not the ascending phase. It is actually the descending that is more treacherous because after reaching the top of the mountain, the climber would have expended all his energy and fatigue began to set in. He would not have put much thinking on the journey downward and because of this, he become complacent, which led to his downfall literally. In fact, statistics have shown that most climbers die on their way down the mountain, rather than on the way up.

Similar to our education system, you need years of training to build up your body stamina and fitness in order to scale the highest mountain.

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Falling knife for EZRA investors?

One of the victims of the global oil crisis, EZRA Holdings announced a set of terrible 2nd quarter financial results on 14 April 2016. Losses after tax came in at USD282.6 million for 2nd quarter and USD336.4 million for the first half of the financial year. This is a massive financial loss and there are not many companies in Singapore which can withstand this sort of impact. If EZRA investors are thinking of dollar-cost averaging and buying EZRA shares on the cheap, they need to be careful of catching a falling knife.

The company is actually biting the bullet for 2QFY2016 and realized the impairment losses from all front – loss-making joint ventures, losses on fixed assets and bad-debts. Given the depressing market conditions for the oil and gas industry, it is still unknown whether there is any more impairment to be made for EZRA Holdings further down the road.

Many investors thought that dollar-cost averaging is a good strategy to buy more shares at a lower price. But many of them don’t understand the difference between price and value. This technique, if applied wrongly, can cause massive wealth destruction to an investor’s portfolio, especially if the business fundamentals of the company are shaky.

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Record Negative Inflation for Singapore

On 23 May 2016, Singapore smashed the record for the longest streak of negative inflation, recording a stunning 18 consecutive months of declining Consumer Price Index CPI (all items). On a year-on-year basis, CPI (all items) for February 2016 was -0.8%. Is this a good development for Singapore and should wealth builders pop the champagne because things are going to be cheaper? This is certainly not the case because the data is disturbing and reveals dark sides of the economy that every Singaporean should take note.

The statistics on consumer price development track three data, namely CPI (all items), CPI-OOA which excludes rental from owner-occupied accommodation and MAS Core Inflation, which excludes the cost of accommodation and private transport costs. The top reasons for the negative CPI (all items) are due to declining housing prices, weaker Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums and slump in global oil prices. Together, these three factors drove CPI (all items) to 18 months of downward trend. The negative trend is expected to continue as Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) forecasted that CPI (all items) is projected to average -1.0 to 0.0% for the whole year.

On the other hand, MAS Core Inflation rose to 0.5% in February due to higher food inflation.

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The Terrace Executive Condominium

Prior to our purchase, one of the questions that my wife and I had been thinking over and over again is whether it is worth buying The Terrace Executive Condominium (EC). We are certainly not buying for investment purposes but then again, as a wealth builder, you would want a home with potential to appreciate in value significantly over the long run. In Punggol and Sengkang residential areas, we shortlisted three ECs for consideration and they are The Vales, Bellewaters and The Terrace EC, which is known famously as “Venice of Punggol”.

In terms of location, The Vales is considered the best among the three because it is located within walking distance to the SengKang MRT. However, as an upgrader, we need to pay the resale levy for The Vales, hence this project is not an option for us. Then again, we also noted that virtually most of the good-facing units have been sold. Those remaining unsold are either road-facing or facing the nearby SengKang Hospital. To make things worse, the recently launched EC, Treasure Crest is located just beside The Vales. Thus, the residents of The Vales will have to put up with the incessant noise and dust pollutions for at least 3 years after moving into their new homes.

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SGX-listed stocks lack quality?

Almost a year ago, the Straits Times Index tanked from almost 3500 points to the current 2760 points. The fall in the Singapore stock market benchmark index reflects the challenging economic conditions and those who invested in SGX-listed stocks would have suffered from a certain level of wealth destruction. Incidentally, the market correction started since the previous SGX CEO, Magnus Bocker, was replaced by the current Loh Boon Chye. But the rot probably started during Bocker’s time and it would not be fair to blame the current CEO for this mess.

One thing for sure is that Bocker was highly unpopular during his helm as SGX’s chief because of his slew of projects that did not yield much improvements to Singapore market. The biggest flop definitely had to be the introduction of a new $250 million trading engine that promised to propel Singapore into Asia’s top trading centre. Instead, a massive technical fault in 2014 caused SGX to stop trading for at least 3 hours and left SGX red-faced. To make things worse, this embarrassing incident came after SGX tried to restore confidence following the penny stock crashes involving Blumont, LionGold and Asiasons.

stock market

The penny stock crashes in 2013 probably summed up the lack of quality in SGX-listed stocks.

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Buy Gold, Now or Never?

When it comes to investing in gold, there is a need to understand the fundamentals and study the long term trend of the gold spot price movements. According to BullionStar, the global daily amount of gold mined is only 9 tonnes, yet the daily trading volume in London amounts to 5,500 tonnes. Why is this so and how does this affect the price of gold? Should wealth builders buy gold, now or never?

London is the heart of all the gold trading activities and is regarded as the world’s largest gold market. The market in London set the price for spot gold for the rest of the world to follow and London is also the home of London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), a renowned trade association known for setting the refining standards, trading documents and trading practices. Henceforth, the data concerning gold trading activities in London will provide insights on the value of gold moving forward.

Generally speaking, the supply and demand rule is not strictly applicable to physical gold. In fact, the total amount of gold mined will have limited effect on the price movements of gold because 95% of the gold traded in London is actually unallocated. This means that the trading instruments for gold in the London market are mostly not backed by physical gold.

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Build wealth with property

There are a lot of online debates on how to build wealth with property. In my humble view, there is no absolute right or wrong answer for this topic because whether property is a wealth enhancer or value trap really depends on how you play the game. If you play your cards right, there is no doubt that property investment is one of your best tickets to financial freedom. However, if you don’t have a clear strategy on playing the property game, it can be your greatest financial nightmare.

One thing that readers must be clear is that property investment may not be suitable for everyone because every wealth builder’s financial needs, goals and profiles are different. As such, when it comes to building wealth from property, it is not possible for Singaporeans to adopt a blanket approach. The conventional wisdom is to wait for a financial crisis and expect housing prices to drop and then you go in for the kill as a bargain hunter. However, in today’s context, things are not so straightforward anymore.

To illustrate my point, I shall use my family’s real estate strategy and compare it with a working couple. Let’s assume that both my family and the working couple are presently living in a 3-room HDB flat and planning to purchase the next property.

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The Terrace Executive Condominium (EC)

In one of my previous posts, I updated that I have recently purchased an Executive Condominium (EC), which is actually The Terrace at Edgedale Plains, Punggol Drive. In this article, I will touch on the motivating factors for my family’s purchase and also share with readers the buyer referral scheme offered by the developer of The Terrace Executive Condominium (EC).

HDB Resale Levy

In 2013, HDB announced that second-timers must pay a resale levy for new ECs launched on or after 9 December 2013. However, for land sale before 9 December 2013, applicants need not pay the resale levy. There is a list of ECs that HDB upgraders need not pay resale levy and it is found here. One of the motivating factors of my purchase of The Terrace EC is that this project is exempted from resale levy, which in my case, amounted to $45,000. If you have previously bought a new Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) or received a CPF Housing Grant, then you need to pay a resale levy when you purchase your next home.

Due to the fact that my family’s first subsidised flat was a 5-room flat, so we need to pay $45,000 for projects that come with resale levy.

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Gold demand ignites price rally

According to World Gold Council, global demand for gold grew 21% to 1289.8 tonnes, the strongest Q1 on record. As gold demand ignites price rally, many investors are caught by surprise at the yellow metal best performance in 30 years.

The sudden change in the global economic and financial landscape has certainly caused investors to flee for security. Significant uncertainties stem from the sluggish economic growth and the Negative Interest Rate Policies (NIRP) implemented by Japan and European countries. Against this backdrop, many analysts anticipate that the pace of US interest rate increases is expected to slow down significantly. These factors combined to send gold price to rally by 17%, making gold one of the best performing assets in Q12016.

Among the key engine of growth is the astonishing come-back of gold-backed Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), which saw an increase of 300% this quarter. This is indeed a revelation as it comes about after three years of straight outflow. While this type of scale is unlikely to be sustained for gold ETFs going forward, this trend reflects an improved outlook for gold.

Interestingly, the trend of gold bar and coins followed closely to that of the ETF market in Q1. Demand for bullion shot up by 55% year-on-year from 11.8 tonnes to 18.3 tonnes, representing 11% increase over 5 year average.

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Dying for retirement savings

In facing death, is retirement savings still important? During the recent Parliament sitting held on 9 May 2016, the Worker’s Party raised the possibility of increasing the $5000 cap on CPF Medical Grounds Scheme due to rising cost of living in Singapore. The Minister of Manpower Lim Swee Say rejected the proposal and claimed that he was “hesitant about introducing such a move”. I was truly disappointed with his response and felt that he totally missed the point.

Withdrawal of CPF based on Medical Grounds

You can apply to withdraw your CPF savings on medical grounds if you

  1. are suffering from an illness which renders you permanently unfit from ever continuing in any employment; or
  2. have a severely reduced lifespan; or
  3. lack capacity within the meaning of Section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) and the lack of capacity is likely to be permanent; or
  4. are terminally ill.

You will be able to withdraw from your Ordinary, Special and Retirement Accounts, the higher of $5000 or savings after setting aside a reduced Retirement Sum in your Retirement Account. Minister Lim clarified in Parliament that the reduced retirement sum has been set at $40,300, which is half of the current basic retirement sum.

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Right time to buy private properties now?

I just bought my first Executive Condominium (EC) last month. On looking back, it was truly an enlightening experience because I have learned a lot on the housing regulations and CPF-related ruling. Prior to this, my wife and I had visited many projects for the past 2 years and we were fairly clear on what we are getting. But what we didn’t expect was the whole slew of housing regulations that not many Singaporeans are aware of. In the next few articles, I will touch on regulatory matters relating to private properties. In this article, I will instead share my views on whether it is the right time to buy private property now.

According to data from URA, for the whole of 2015, prices for private residential properties fell by 3.7%, compared with 4.0% decline in 2014. Credit to the Singapore government, the Property Price Index witnessed a soft landing since 2013. Despite various cooling measures firmly entrenched, the property market did not crash but nonetheless, prices have declined from the stratospheric levels seen in the last few years.


Source: URA

One important trend to note for 2015 was the record vacancy rate of 8.0% since 2011. This trend is expected to continue given the huge supply glut of private residential properties for the next three years.

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Sheng Siong’ share price is rock solid

Sheng Siong Group announced its 1Q2016 results on 27 April 2016. Revenue increased 5.1% year-on-year to $208.5 million while net profit increased 16.8% year-on year to $16.4 million. Given that many SGX stocks had been heavily sold down since the start of the year, Sheng Siong’ share price remains rock solid in the face of poor market sentiments.

Under the current challenging business climate and government’s restriction on foreign labor employment, Sheng Siong’s latest results are impressive as they reflect management’s ability to control cost and improve margins.

I continue to like Sheng Siong for its debt free status and strong cash position. The group currently has cash pile of $113.9 million and operating cash flow remains healthy at positive $5.23 million, which is significantly lower than previous year of $12.8 million. This is because of the acquisition of property, plant and machinery.

stock market

In terms of growth expansion, the group is opening 4 new stores in 2Q2016. In addition, Sheng Siong had exercised the option to purchase premises at Block 209 New Upper Changi Road, for consideration of $53 million. I am pretty excited about this project because the traffic at Bedok interchange is very high, thus this store is very likely to increase revenue substantially for Sheng Siong.

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Epic fall of LionGold shares from $1.70 to $0.003

If you are one of those retail investors who had bought LionGold shares at the dizzying height of $1.70 per share and still holding on to them, you might as well write off the investments. After all, the shares are worth nothing and is now trading at $0.003. The epic fall of LionGold shares from $1.70 to $0.003 represented one of the most dramatic penny stock crashes in Singapore stock market.

LionGold, together with Asiasons and Blumont, were penny stocks but rose spectacularly to new highs from 2012 to 2013. The trio of stocks then went into a free fall at the same time, causing many retail investors to lose huge amount of monies. The huge swings of these stocks had led to speculations of foul plays. SGX, which takes on the role of both regulator and operator, was also blasted for late intervention and lax enforcement.

LionGold is a gold mining company with primary concessions in Australia and Ghana. Investors need to understand that investing in gold mining stocks is different to buying physical gold because the risks involved are inherently very different. Investors who bought LionGold shares and subsequently lost a fortune must have learnt this lesson a painful way.

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My dream for fellow Singaporeans

As SG Wealth Builder, my dream is for fellow Singaporeans to have an equal opportunity to build wealth. That is why I chose this name for my blog. Even though I don’t work in the financial sector, through my articles, I hope that readers can gain valuable insights and learn from my investment mistakes.

Building wealth is a journey and requires a person to have a correct mindset. There are finance bloggers out there who wrote that more money cannot buy you happiness. I certainly don’t dispute this wisdom but then again, being poor in Singapore will certainly make you unhappy and miserable. If you belonged to the lower income bracket, it is understandable that you feel stressed out and insecure just trying to make a reasonable standard of living here. I have being through that phase in life and can certainly relate to this sort of feeling.

gold and silver

One thing that I must qualify is that I have not achieved financial freedom, nor am I trying to preach to readers on how to live a life. In fact, I am still a struggling middle-class income earner. But I feel that if Singaporeans can step out and share our investment or financial mistakes, collectively, we can become a better wealth builders.

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Blockbuster dividend from K1 Ventures

While parent company Keppel Corp suffered from another week of attacks by short-sellers, its subsidiary K1 Ventures announced yet another blockbuster dividend of $0.09 per share to be paid out on 18 May 2016. In total, K1 Ventures has given out $0.30 per share dividends this year.

K1 Ventures is one of my favorite SGX stocks which I have been tracking for more than 10 years. It is the investment arm of Keppel Corp and its business objective is to invest in US companies with potential and hidden values. Over the years, it had made many notable exits like Helm Holding, MMR and China Auto Grand. From these divestment, K1 Ventures had rewarded shareholders with hundred of millions of dividend payouts. In fact, based on its dividend track records, K1 Ventures should be the best dividend stock in SGX.

K1 Ventures

I had made thousands of profits from investing in K1 Ventures but had recently sold off all my shares to purchase my new matrimonial home. Nonetheless, I hope readers can benefit from reading my blog and thus, is sharing my analysis on K1 Ventures (again).

Following an unsuccessful management buy-out in 2013, K1 Ventures has committed to managing its existing investments for eventual exits and returning the excess cash back to shareholders.

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