Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Some readers have commented in the past that they think highly of Ron and that he is smart. It's tough to know how much of the things he passed on to viewers he actually knew or was just that, passing on but, to the extent that he had editorial influence, he did go out of his way to educate viewers more so than the other anchors and for that I commend him.
In transitioning over to Maria for Closing Bell she gave him about the coldest "thanks, Ron" you can imagine, priceless!
I have never understood the very high volatility of the education stocks, like Apollo Group (APOL). It seems like once or twice a year they all take a turn leading the group lower with day-ruining drops that take down the entire group.
A part of the problem, I think, is what they are selling, which is not necessarily tangible.
I have never owned one of these stocks because of the volatility. The idea of what they do is very appealing. A theory I subscribe to is the need for the American workforce to become more self sufficient and entrepreneurial in order to succeed. The type of education offered at these for-profit schools play right into this, but somewhere there is a disconnect.
Speaking of disconnect, Google!!
I have written several times since my too early sale that I no longer have a feel for what the stock can do so I am staying away. Today's news and subsequent drop doesn't really help!
Does this mean JP Morgan does not have enough demand?
The last time discount brokers signed to get deals, the results weren't so hot.
The first time I ever heard about the boomer's impact on capital markets was in 1989 when I was at Lehman Brother's.
There are many reasons to be skeptical about the conclusion of lower rates despite the visibility for more demand. First is that many boomers will be influenced, one way or another, by the notion that bonds do not protect against inflation. Inflation has been trending lower for 20 years. It makes sense to think that inflation cold generally heat up some for some multi year period.
The average life expectancy in the US, I believe, is the mid to late 70's. However the number goes up dramatically once you make it to 65 (anyone that has the actual data, please jump in). Then factor in medical breakthroughs that will prolong life, what if Michael Milken is correct and cancer ceases to be a cause of death by 2015? What would that do to the number?
Portfolios will need to create growth for 30 years. Bonds won't do that job.
Perhaps most importantly is that, in my opinion, this effect is the type of thing that the market prices in ahead of time in such a way that the impact comes far short of what is expected.
Monday, February 27, 2006
The article listed the holdings as follows; iShares S&P Latin America 40 (ILF), iShares MSCI Brazil (EWZ), iShares MSCI Mexico (EWW), iShares MSCI South Korea (EWY), iShares MSCI Canada, iShares MSCI South Africa (EZA), iShares S&P/Topix 150 (ITF), iShares MSCI Japan, Shares MSCI Emerging Markets (EEM), and Vanguard Pacific (VPL). Those ETFs made up 80% of the portfolio and the other 20% was in an unnamed fixed income fund, perhaps more than one, the article did not specify.
This is one of several portfolios offered by Mr. Donoghue. The article did not offer an opinion as to how muchof an investor's assets should be invested in foreign, be it this specific portfolio or something else. The reader wanted to know my thoughts on the portfolio.
First thing, as I always say in these types of posts, all portfolios like this will have flaws including anything I might assemble along these lines.
This chart isolates the first two quirks that I noticed. The portfolio owns both EWJ and ITF. You almost can't see EWJ on the chart because the returns have been as close to identical as I think is possible. I'm not sure what the value is in buying both. I think you're just paying an extra commission.
The other two ETFs in the chart both cover Latin America. The performance has not been quite as identical as the two Japan ETFs. You can decide for yourself if there is enough of a difference between the two to own both. If you were curious, ILF has just over 50% in Brazil.
I did not want to make the chart too difficult to read but if you add VPL to the chart you see it also very closely correlates to the two Japan ETFs, although it did start to diverge a little bit starting last October. I think there is enough of a difference in iShares Mexico to keep that one, for anyone bullish on that country.
The portfolio as presented has ten ETFs. I think it could easily be cut down to seven ETFs and not materially change the how the portfolio performs.
To the reader's question I did not take the article to imply 80% of anyone's holdings should be in foreign. I took it more to be whatever your foreign weight will be this is what he would suggest. He gives a little insight into how much should be in foreign early in the article when derides only 10-20% for being cliche'.
For what its worth I have about 35% of most client equity portfolios in foreign equities.
One of the guests was Verne Hayden. Mr. Hayden has been making the rounds on TV for years. I know from past interviews he puts people in actively managed OEFs. I felt like his comments on Wealth Track gave more insight into what he does than what I have seen from him before. I don't know what the reality is but I do know how I interpret what he said.
He made comments about his not being good at knowing when to favor growth over value, he wants to hire managers that are good at that and other matters of portfolio construction and management. He has a lot of faith in the fund managers he "hires." He related an anecdote about his clients complaining about the returns of one of the FPA funds run by Bob Rodriguez. His comment was long the lines of you'll be glad you own it when the market goes down. This is perfectly valid logic for staying with a portfolio holding.
I'm not sure, however, what value Mr. Hayden adds. It is reasonable to wonder whether someone with a basic entry level understanding could, over a long weekend assemble a truly diversified portfolio of mutual funds using funds with great long term track records.
I have no idea what Mr. Hayden, or other planners doing the same type investment plan, charges for this type of service but someone in Mr. Hayden's position probably has several hundred million in client assets. Assuming they don't work for free but do not charge the full 1%-1.5%, perhaps 30 basis points is right? On $300 million that would be $900,000 in revenue for a couple of fund swaps per year and some just be patient phone calls.
A client with a $500,000 portfolio that pays 30 basis points for 15 years is paying out $22,500 (simplified math, it would be more if the portfolio grows). You can decide for yourself whether its worth the money or not.
I may have this wrong but I would want a little more effort if I needed help managing my portfolio.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
I don't see the same for many emerging markets - some, like Russia, Brazil and Korea are all expected to have earnings growth exceeding 12% or so this year, and all have a pe ratio (for their national stock market) below 12.
In my view, that's good growth, that can be acquired cheaply. A winning combination, I think. Better than investing in the S&P500 at 18pe with expected earnings growth maybe - maybe - getting to 10% this year.
I think the right type of investor just HAS to look at some of the better emerging markets.
A couple of things I would note; first most emerging markets are always much cheaper than the US. A market that always trades at ten times earnings is not that cheap, however, at when it is trading at ten times. It is cheaper, which is not a bad thing, but not necessarily cheap. A lot of emerging markets have traded in the single digits versus their earnings. In the last couple of years a lot of emerging markets have become more expensive, relative to the last 15 years. If you are a value investor, you may want to study this a bit more.
I would also add that P/E ratios are not great predictors of future moves. P/E ratios do offer more room for cushioning the blow from a mistake or other downturn.
Also important would be country selection. Jay mentions Russia, Brazil and Korea. The three are all much different from each other.
Russia is obviously resource-rich. It has a type of political risk that is unique (IMO) to other countries, they have surprised the world before and probably will again.
Korea is more thought of as manufacturing stuff for electronics. I would classify their exports along these lines of what the world wants. Who doesn't want a new TV or digital camera and so on?
Although it does not get talked about much, Korea has some issues with consumer indebtedness that may or may not create a problem for the country. If you have an interest in owning Korea, I would suggest studying this more.
Brazil is more known for producing what the world needs. After the white-hot run for most emerging markets I think countries like Brazil will be relatively less risky. Growing demand for natural resources creates a strong, investment tailwind.
On Cavuto On Business, Dani Hughes said she was taking a page from John Rutledge's playbook and going with an emerging market ETF, the Morgan Stanley Emerging Market Fund (MSF). You can decide for yourself how important it is that she may not know the difference between an ETF and a CEF, which is what her selection is.
MSF has done well at capturing the asset class. Over the last three years it performance has been very similar to the iShares Emerging Market Fund (EEM). The biggest disadvantage of MSF is probably some of the larger taxable distributions it has paid over the last few years. Watch out if you buy it in taxable account.
I can't recall Ms. Hughes having mentioned emerging markets before (anyone feel free to jump in to correct me). If we see a lot of people that have not been talking about emerging markets start to get excited about them, watch out. We are already seeing some additional TV coverage and otherwise giddy talk about them. One thing we can bet on is that main-stream-media will never see a major top coming.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
The pack weighed me down but I was able to do what I needed to do.
As I was hiking, I wondered if there might be an analogy with the inverted yield curve weighing down the stock market. For now, stocks are doing what they need to do, the S+P 500 is up 3.3% year-to-date.
At some point, with the 45lbs. on, I would not be able to go any further. At some point, with the curve inverted, domestic stocks will not be able to go any further.
I do not know how far I could go wearing the pack. I do not know how long the market can keep chugging along with the curve inverted. Historically an inverted curve causes trouble six to twelve months out.
For now though, the curve, although inverted, is not inverted by that much based on historical standards. The inversion seems to be slowly getting steeper but I'm not sure if the consequence is that a slow down/recession will take longer to happen.
Inversion or not, it has been a long time since the last recession and if you still believe in economic cycles, then you have to believe a recession is somewhere on the horizon.
Recessions, from a market perspective, are not something to be feared because they are normal. Regardless of the timing, you already know that stocks will go down by some amount a little before GDP actually contracts (this is how it usually works), and then at some point before the recession ends stock will start to work higher by some amount.
If you have a good idea of what it will look like, you can perhaps more successfully separate emotion from the mechanics of a recession's impact on the market and by extension, your portfolio.
Have some sort of trigger point in place to reduce equity exposure for when the next downturn comes. I would suggest making a plan now while the market is boring. I realize this is mostly repeated from past posts but it is reasonable human nature to be emotionally tied up in your portfolio.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Cracks in Emerging Markets
Our Comment is by Eric Roseman, Investment Director of the Sovereign Society and editor of Global Mutual Fund Investor.
Dear A-Letter Reader:
"This time it's different." Those are the most dangerous four words in the investment business and always manage to surface towards the end of a secular bull market. Most recently, it was "supposed to be different" for technology stocks in the late 1990s, circumventing reality as prices soared to record levels each year from 1995 to 2000. And now, we have those wonderful emerging markets - only ten years ago coined "submerging markets."
From its low in October 2002, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index has skyrocketed 205% as every bourse from Brazil to Korea heads to the moon. Driven mostly by low interest rates, a boom in commodities and a series of credit upgrades for several high profile countries, the emerging markets are back. The bad news, however, is that we're probably closer to the cliff at this point as record mutual fund inflows suggest the end is near. Coupled with manic speculation in many markets, namely Moscow and Mumbai, everyone is jumping aboard the money train.
Cracks in the bull market have started to appear. On Feb. 22, Iceland's currency and debt markets suffered a first-class pounding following a credit downgrade by Fitch Ratings. The rating agency downgraded Iceland's local AAA-rated bonds to "negative" from "stable." Iceland's stock market managed to escape the sell off, but should investors continue to dump her currency, stocks in Reykjavik will most surely follow the currency to the basement.
Iceland, a classic example of a high-yield emerging market, has drawn much global fanfare over the last four years as investors chase higher income rates. Iceland's benchmark bonds pay a fat 10.75% or a hefty 6.2% premium compared to ten-year US Treasury debt. But in Iceland, a small economy highly dependent on fishing, the nature of the beast is now volatility.
A rising current account deficit triggered this week's sell-off of the Icelandic krona. Though many nations can run a negative trade balance for years - the United States is a prime example; some smaller countries have paid a dear price for not correcting their trade imbalances. This was the case in Asia in 1997 and 1998, Latin America in the 1970s and early 1980s, and Russia in 1994 and 1998.
This time, it's different. When everyone is buying the same market, speculating in the same trend and throwing record amounts of capital into an asset class, watch-out. Iceland is just the beginning as other weaker credits eventually come to surface.
ERIC N. ROSEMAN, Montreal, Quebec
Investment Director, The Sovereign Society Ltd.
Thanks for the email. I am not familiar with Mr. Roseman but he has some facts incorrect. Iceland's benchmark bonds do not yield 10.75%, far from it, the overnight rate is 10.75%. Fitch did not downgrade any debt, they changed the outlook from stable to negative, the outlook. The currency may have "suffered a first class pounding" but it has retraced about 40% of what was lost. USDISK was at 63 or so, went to 69 and is now in the mid 66's. The current account deficit did not trigger the selloff, it was Fitch lowering the outlook. A day or two after it lowered the outlook, it reaffirmed ratings for the four largest Icelandic banks.
All that being said, Iceland could have a rough go for a while but inflation has only been running in the 4's and the last report showed a slowdown from that level. GDP is likely to slow in 2007. I'm not too worried about catastrophic overheating. Some sort of correction may come to take the currency and stock market down and keep them down for a while but for now I am not dissuaded from the theme, as my holdings are small and I sold New Zealand which has a lot of similarities.
In addition to my emailed response I would repeat what I have written before which is that Iceland makes up a small portion of my holdings. If I am dead wrong here and the krona collapses and the stock market collapses, I will be disappointed. I will not have to delay retirement. Even if Iceland as an investment destination has no interest to you, the management of the risk taken should.
Some of the commentary floating out there talks about this being the end of the emerging market theme. That is not so obvious to me, but it could add more volatility than what is normal. I think the commodity based emerging markets would be less vulnerable because there is a real demand story behind those countries' growth. This contrasts with some of the emerging markets that are hot just because of growth expectations. Here I am thinking of places like eastern Europe (ex-Russia) and a lot of the technology dependent economies in Asia.
He is certainly not wrong and in hindsight my handling of the name is open to second guessing.
His use of the word grief makes me wonder how much he has in the name. In a diversified portfolio some stocks will go down. It might be reasonable to question whether this person has too much in the name.
This is constructive for anyone managing their own portfolio. If a 30% drop in one component would cause too much damage (this is subjective) to the overall portfolio, you have too much. Throughout the history of this blog I have been clear that 3% is the most I put into an individual stock. A 30% drop in one name with a 3% weight is a 1% drag on the portfolio. This does not cause me any grief or other emotion.
Perhaps you can tolerate 5% in one name or perhaps 1%, either way getting in touch with this is very important if you plan to manage your portfolio.
After all the beef this week about Dubai, it would be amusing if the Saudi news took the spotlight off of why the port issue is controversial and highlighted the way Dubai has helped us militarily, as is being touched on right now on CNBC. The conspiracy guys must be loving this.
The stock market reaction is far from knee-jerk but gold is up about 1% and oil is up almost 3%.
Could Blackberry get shut off? It seems crazy to me that a judge would do this because of the harm done to consumers. A few months ago there was talk about, in the face of a shutdown, an exemption for federal employees that use Blackberry. I had a lucky trade on the stock a few months ago but have no position now.
Lastly, I got a great tip from a reader in my post about Microsoft's
Thursday, February 23, 2006
The new name is not so important but the sale might be. Anyone who wants to be critical of me for not selling it a couple of weeks ago would be justified. There are some issues with New Zealand that have created problems of late for the currency and the stock market. New Zealand has a large current account deficit which is not new. The rate hikes are slowing down which is also not new. The yield advantage NZ enjoys may narrow quite soon. There has been less issuance of kiwi denominated bonds.
None of these are new so I would have thought that they would all be priced into the market but that appears to not be the case. There is visibility for the kiwi to go down to $0.60 or even $0.58. I have kept NZT for the last four-cent drop in the kiwi but don't want to hold it for the next six cents if that is what happens.
This move is a tactical move that will either be right or wrong but I fully expect to be back into NZT at some point before the year ends. I have not lost faith in New Zealand's role in a portfolio but if I can miss a big chunk of a big decline, I will make that trade.
I tend to think that successfully arguing the bear case requires having been correctly bullish at least once. I cannot find a time where he has been correctly bullish (anyone feel free to comment if I have missed this).
I wouldn't think his TV persona would be the best thing for marketing the fund. The fund is meant to go the opposite way of the market. I specifically have not looked at its returns for this post. Regardless of anyone's outlook for stocks or the economy, there is value in having something that will go up if the market goes down. Maybe even enough value for you to own his fund or not, that is a subjective decision.
If he were bullish, it would not change the role that the fund would play in a diversified portfolio. Since he has always been bearish no matter what, there is no way to know when he will be right the next time.
He was obviously right in 2000 but since the S+P bottomed at 775 on October 9, 2002 it has rallied 64%. I don't believe he caught any of that in his commentaries (again, correct me if I am wrong).
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
This is Microsoft's new browser. If you use Firefox you may notice some similarities like tabbed browsing and the search function in the upper right hand corner that allows surfers to search with various engines right from the browser's tool bar.
Most of the functionality appears to be copied from Firefox right down to control+T to open a new tab. Microsoft wasn't even the second to market with this. AOL has a tabbed browser that comes with my AOL IM (BTW if anyone knows how to disable that browser with out affecting IM please let me know).
Perhaps there is yet another browser with the tab feature.
Are there other things that Microsoft is not first to market with? Probably. This anecdote makes it reasonable to question the company's ability to innovate. This is one of many reasons why I don't have any interest in owning the stock beyond its weight in any tech ETF.
The Icelandic kroner has come back off of its low which is not a big surprise. I have no idea what direction the next 5% will be for the currency or the stock market (which has bounced off its low too).
If the currency stays in the mid 60's as opposed to the low 60's vs. the dollar, I wonder if tourism will get an extra lift this summer which might work off some of the problems Fitch cited.
My wife and I are in the early planning stages to take a trip there this summer, probably after the fire season ends.
I kind of feel like President Bush is going out of his way to find the path of most resistance with this whole port issue. It makes intuitive sense to me that nothing bad would happen but I have to think there would be an easier path for him to take than selecting Dubai based DP World to manage some of our ports.
Bush has threatened to veto a bill that would delay or prevent DP World from signing on and starting work. Wow, a veto? Really? You feel that strongly about this? Why?
Who knows if this will matter to the markets or not but this is a fascinating story.
I think the chart tells it better than I can. At different times the miners will lead or lag based on logical reasons like earnings leverage and sometimes a lead or lag will just be about emotion.
Sometimes there may visibility to this or not. I had favored the miner because I felt there was still a lot of positive emotion that might allow it to outperform the metal. After a good run of outperformance, I think the miners ( the big miners that is) might lag the metal for the time being.
As the chart shows, to the reader's question, there is a big difference between the metal and the miners. I have no idea if the tweak I did will still look right a couple of months from now but I do that gold's volatility added a lot to my return in the fourth quarter so taking a little of that volatility out (which is all this is really) feels like the correct trade.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Although the chart is tough to read, it compares Anglo Gold (AU) to the Gold ETF (GLD) through last Friday.
On February 10th I blogged that I swapped AU for GLD share for share to reduce volatility and to reduce exposure. I sold AU at an average price of $58.40 and bought GLD at an average price of $54.80.
I did not expect that the two would diverge in this manner so quickly.
In that first post about this trade I noted that after a big run I wanted to just lighten up a little. I certainly was not early in calling a short term top. The focus of this should be that AU (and all the miners) had a good run and rightly or wrongly I thought cutting back might make sense.
The trade was a tweak not a big bet. Longtime readers know I don't trade a lot but actively managing your portfolio means you may need to make changes every now and then.
Long-term foreign debt and local currency debt are still rated AA- and AAA respectively. The downgrade appears to be primarily driven by the current account deficit and Fitch expresses concerns about economic overheating leading to a hard landing.
I am very fond of Iceland as an investment destination and have written about it several times. My exposure to Iceland is quite minimal as I outlined previously. Of the money I have sent directly to Iceland, half is in cash. The other half is in the ICEX-15 ETF. After the fall today it is at ISK 1999, I bought in at ISK1912.
I bought the Stockholm listed Kaupthing shares (KAUP.ST) at SEK 88. I had a lucky sale of 1/3 of the position at around SEK 122. With the move in the Swedish krona factored in I was up close to 40% in two months so selling a little made sense.
Nothing has changed with regard to my long-term faith in Iceland. That I started being right and perhaps now I am wrong is not so important. What is important is how risk was managed. I think the most I had in Iceland was 4% of my investible assets. If you can buy into the idea that Iceland, the country, will never go to zero, how much was I risking? Maybe 2% (that seems like too much but maybe?) of my investible assets. At this point I may not even be down on my original investment, I haven't counted nor am I likely to.
The decline today in my Icelandic holdings are mostly (if not completely) offset by the lift in energy and Australia. There is nothing all that clever here just basic textbook diversification.
Remember that following his reports is not easy, but it seems like he believes the likely setup for the S+P 500 is for it to go higher but there is a scenario building in for a crash, a scenario that he assigns a low probability to for now.
He looks at a lot of time cycles and one important time frame to his work is 45 days. There is a 45-day cycle ending on February 25 (this is Saturday so look for either Friday or Monday). "If the index goes up into this date and is still below the high it could be setting up a crash scenario." I take the high to which he refers to be from early January. The six-month cycle may be setting up for this but he says there is no evidence of this now, which is not exactly clear to me given the last sentence.
In keeping with his forecast he says the more likely scenario is after three runs up to resistance this next run will break above the current resistance.
I don't write a lot about technical analysis but I do think it is important to be in touch with chart patterns of markets and individual stocks. While the predictive value can ebb and flow, important support and resistance levels do indicate sentiment and emotion, both of which do factor into short term pricing.
Monday, February 20, 2006
As if right on cue, the Nikkei obliged with a 1.75% hit on Monday. Some headlines blamed foreign selling and some blamed fundamental news out of some of the bigger Japanese companies.
What ever the reason, the volatility stands up. All I'm saying is watch out.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
He has trepidations about buying stocks right here, at least for the challenge. I have mixed feelings about this as far as being a message for investors about how to manage their own portfolios.
To get one point out of the way, he may turn out to be 100% right being in cash.
The negative aspect of what he is doing is that 100% of anything is an extreme position. I am not a big fan of all or nothing strategies. The market could rally 6% over the next two weeks and then stay in a 1% range the rest of the year. That is not a prediction, but one of a zillion possible outcomes. In this one particular outcome 100% cash during this hypothetical 6% move would make it very difficult to stay close for the year. And keeping close is all most investors need to do.
He made one point in defense of his position that is very constructive. He said he doesn't feel like he has to buy something. This is important, buying just to buy is not a good idea at all. They way I think this incorporates with my first point without being too two-faced is by not automatically buying something when you sell a stock.
If there is a stock you want to buy, fine, but the point is you do not have to immediately buy one stock to replace another.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
As some readers may know I missed the run up and I have no plans to add Japan to client accounts. While I can't defend being wrong about Japan (recurring theme: every manager gets things wrong) I can repeat something I have written before which is that this market is capable of a lot of volatility, more so than most developed markets.
If you look at, for example, the ISEQ Overall Index (Irish benchmark), one percent days are far and few between, there have been three one percent days all year.
I am a big believer in using differ sectors or countries and so on to manage volatility. Even if you don't buy into that, I think it is very important to know what kind of moves a stock might bring. This applies to long term investors as well as traders.
"We're going to have to look for what I call the ugly ducklings of the world -- the companies where there are either misperceptions, temporary problems or some negative psychology surrounding an industry -- to grind out 9% or 10% returns" says Olstein. "They're going to be the stars going forward, the 9% or 10% managers."
Bob is a deep value manager, he has a well honed process and he is very good at what he does. I take the above quote to mean that he sees a chance that his style may lag for a while as (the article points this out) it did in 2005.
I am not really a believer in sticking to one investing discipline for all time. Long time readers may have developed an opinion about my style that may not be right. The things I have chosen to overweight are things I think will lead. The next time tech and growth lead I will rotate to overweight those areas. I may or may not time it well but knowing that tech will one day lead means that one day I will overweight it.
If you manage your own portfolio, hire a manger or do some sort of combo of both you need to recognize that a value-only manager will lag at times, a foreign-only manager will lag some times and so on.
The other interesting article was the cover story about separate accounts. I was struck by something as I read through. A lot of separate accounts really aren't all that separate. This does not have to be bad but a firm with 1000 accounts might have a tough time with real customization.
Here is a practical example of what I mean. Some clients own Armor Holdings (AH). I first started buying it in late 2004. It is an industrial stock in the defense sector with a small market cap. The name adds volatility to client portfolios. That volatility is not ideal for everyone so not everyone owns it.
It is easy to weed out the clients that should not own the stock. A big firm will have a tougher time, due to more personnel layers, making this distinction. This gets magnified if you have a managed account through a brokerage firm.
If you have money invested in this way you may want to study your holdings and look for whether your portfolio adequately covers what you need your investments to cover. You may need to fill some gaps that a manager managing 10,000 accounts can't cover.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Barry Ritholtz linked to this article about the blogosphere from New York Magazine. It was very interesting.
The numbers represent inbound links I'm not sure at what number the A-list or B-list starts, nor is the chart labeled but Technorati says I have 78 links, C lister. Fascinating.
Barry Ritholtz has 1005 links and Trader Mike has 214 links.
On a separate note I finally got higher speed Internet service. I say higher as opposed to high because it is not lightning.
One little quirk is that Fire Fox runs slower than it did on my MSN dial up. I don't know what the problem is but with Internet Explorer it works very well. The service is satellite Internet and it will make my job much easier. Before anyone gets on me about waiting so long, hi speed was not available here on the mountain. A few people got the satellite a couple of months ago and we waited to see how it went for them.
The point here is not to question the quality of anyone's calls on anything. It is important to realize the context of anyone that you read. Jim's calls on stocks tend to be short term. A two week call on XYZ Corp is probably not something that everyone needs act on.
It is crucial for your portfolio that you understand what type of investor you are and what type of investor you are reading.
My typical client does not need to game the Broadcom quarter, for example.
The questions I was asked allowed me to develop more thoughts about both SIRI and XMSR.
To own either stock is to believe that the managements have long term plans that they are in the early stages of executing. If this is correct then spending money and taking dilutive action will just go with the territory.
The interviewer asked why I don't own either one if I think the future is good (which I do). To own these names now would be adding beta to the portfolio. Media, as a group, is not a great area these days. I don't want to add beta in a group that is struggling. I would rather add beta in a group that has a little more wind at its back.
I have written about this paper before. GM lists a lot of debt on the NYSE with a $25 par value. They look like preferred stocks but they do trade with accrued interest.
I found this table in a SmartMoney.com reprint of a Barron's article. The list only covers a few of the bonds, there are many other issues out there. The few I looked at on Yahoo Finance had no yields quoted.
It is kind of interesting to see these yields persist for what has been months now. GPM has been between $16 and $18 since early November.
I was in the middle of my very brief stint at Morgan Stanley when GPM was priced. Morgan participated in the deal and there was plenty available.
GPM is a convert and we had a guy there who used to trade converts for years and really knew the product. If I recall correctly (and I may be wrong) the selling concession was $0.65 on a $25 par value.
So naturally I questioned, won't the value drop right to $24.35 in a couple of weeks? The convert trader got very ticked at me. The bond did drop right away and stayed down for a few weeks before following the stock much higher. It actually got as high as $33.51 on January 8, 2004. That is a pretty wild ride.
Converts in general can be wild. I have written before about using funds for this part of the market. The brief history of GPM is a good example for why funds might be a good idea.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
If you don't know the term, a collar refers to buying a stock, selling a call option and using the premium taken in from the call to buy a put. Depending on the stock and the option premiums, you might be able to have no out of pocket cost for the option combo part of the trade.
The article has a table with several different examples. I'll look at the first one which is Dell Computer (DELL). I'll just repeat the stale prices in the article, this is just for examples' sake after all.
Buy 100 Shares DELL $29.42
Sell 1 Call Jan 2007 struck at $35 for $1.30
Buy 1 Put Jan 2007 struck at $27.50 for $1.70
There is a net debit of $0.40 plus commissions. For that $0.40 you will have a maximum gain of 17.4%, a maximum loss of 7.8% or anything in between.
The article is based on work by a money manager named Thomas Schwab (no relation). The article delves into Schwab's philosophy and makes the trade sound compelling.
Like all strategies, there is a downside which you probably know is you give up potential upside above the strike price of the call. I think it goes deeper than that though to really understand what that means.
The article opens with anecdotes about the recent slide in Google and the GM bankruptcy scare as reasons to consider using collars. I felt like the tone of the article was to look at this in the context of every stock you own being a stand-alone investment.
I think this is a bad way to think your portfolio. If you had only ten stocks and collectively the ten were up 20% vs. the market up 12%, would you care if one stock was down 15%? Perhaps you got 20% by having one stock double, one stock go up 50%, seven of them flat and the one loser ( I don't know if the math is right, it's just an example).
If you sold a call 17% out of the money on the one that ended up doubling, that 20% portfolio gain looks a lot different.
One way to think about using this trade, if you can't resist, might be to collar a portion of the position. If you are a 300-share buyer, maybe just collar 100 shares? This not really my type of trade and collaring a portion might not appeal but if you collar the one stock that doubles you will likely regret the trade.
I could also use a basketball analogy as I believe he played hoops at the University of Kentucky.
Bunning wanted a better understanding of Ben's inversion comments from yesterday.
Bunning cited recent implications of an inverted curve and wanted to know why, other than market interest rates being lower, Ben feels a slowdown is not being signaled.
Ben cited low unemployment, strong retail sales and increased industrial production. The expansion is still on a solid track, Ben said.
Hopefully, behind closed doors, they are more in touch with why the curve is inverted than they are letting on in public.
As I recall, things in the economy looked very strong in late 2000 when the curve last inverted. I feel more and more conviction that this time will not be different but, as I often say, I will be happy to be wrong.
His firm has done all sorts of work that has influenced my process of portfolio construction and management.
He done all sorts of this is how the market works research. A lot of my emotional detachment from the daily ups and downs is built off the foundation of Ibbotson's data. You have probably seen his chart that shows returns of large cap, small cap, treasuries and cash for the last 80 years somewhere along the way.
As you can see these are his asset allocation recommendations.
The stock has priced in a lot of bad news. One positive floating out there that could matter, although I am not sure how much, is XMSR's exclusive Major League Baseball deal. I got Sirius for my car a little over a year ago. If I had known about the baseball, I would have gotten XM instead.
The primary reason I have satellite at all is for CNBC when I have to drive to our office Phoenix (about two hours from my house). It would be nice to take in a couple of innings here and there of my hometown Red Sox and a couple of other teams every so often.
I think with stronger marketing, the baseball could draw in more subscribers. More than I think they will get for half an hour of Oprah once a week.
I have been writing about Australia as an investment destination since the very start of this website. The country is commodity based economy. Their dollar is highly correlated to gold and copper. I believe that the country has a chance to have a more prominent role in the world economic order.
To use an analogy, I would describe my content about Australia as telling you what time it is.
ETFInvestor has an article posted by Gary Dorsch from Global Money Trends that tells you how to build a clock factory and the history of time (I am not taking a shot, the article was great).
The article gives some great context from the last 25 years that is worth knowing. One little nugget I did not see (but that comes up on CNBC Asia at least once a month) was that Australia has not had an economic recession in about 15 years.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Neither answer is very good. I started expressing concern about a yield curve inversion months ago. The fact is that this time could be different and that would be fine.
What is troubling is the easy dismissal of the historical significance of an inverted curve. If the Fed does not factor this in to its analysis (not really what I expect) we may have some trouble.
The KSE is Karachi and the chart that says Bloomberg is the Vietnam Index.
Last night on Asian Squawk Box Spencer White from Merrill Lynch was on to talk about both markets and how to access Vietnam.
Here are some factual nuggets about both stock markets. Vietnam's market first opened in July 2000. There are only 34 stocks listed, but more are on the way. Vietnam's economy has been growing at better than 7% since 2002. Wages are less than in China. They manufacture things like textiles, lower end electronics and White said they are a large exporter of oil and gas.
White also said they will join the WTO in the next year or two. Only a couple million dollars worth of shares trades per day for the entire market, so far there is very little foreign flow into Vietnam but he expects there will be more soon.
The market capitalization at US$1.2 billion is only 4% of GDP and the government is targeting 15% of GDP. White has weighted Vietnam at 3% of Merrill's regional model portfolio.
As for Pakistan, he said there has been US$ 350 million worth of buying by foreign investors in the last six months which is about twice the annual numbers for the last three years. He feels valuations are attractive at 10 times earnings, he said that regulatory risk there is relatively low because of the big benefits from foreign capital so far. In the last two years they have privatized US$4 billion worth of equity. There are no restrictions on foreign ownership which is unusual for that part of the world.
At no point was there any discussion about how to access Pakistan. He said that, although it takes a couple of weeks, you can open an account directly in Vietnam with a local broker. He also mentioned that there are closed end funds that trade in London and Dublin.
I went to TrustNet.com and typed Vietnam in the search box. The results offered several funds with just a little exposure to Vietnam. I found another fund called the Vietnam Opportunity Fund. It trades in London but is accessible through Schwab (it would be very expensive to trade however) under ticker VTOPF. I found one fund traded in Dublin called the Vietnam Growth Fund but there was very little information. You can read a little about the fund here in this Businessweek article from last spring. The article also mentions VTOPF.
The risks, social dilemmas and liquidity issues are big obstacles. Markets this small can have white-hot growth for the next several years and still be very attractive in the future.
The point here is not to run out and invest in these countries. I think there is tremendous value in being aware of different investment products out there and the evolution of these tiny markets. I think this can create a better this is how markets work type of knowledge.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Like anyone who sticks his neck out with predictions, both make good calls and bad calls. One obvious flaw I think I see in both pieces is that they look at gold as stand-alone. Middleton does touch on the portfolio role of gold at one point. He is convinced that the gold as a hedge against paper assets-low correlation theme is broken.
He believes part of the distortion has come from the streetTracks Gold Trust (GLD), which is a client holding. He quotes an OEF manager as saying ETF demand does matter and says ETFs account for 13%-14% of what gets mined every year. I went to a presentation put on by the World Gold Council, their numbers say they account for closer to 10% of what gets mined every year. You can decide for yourself how important this is.
I am hard pressed to think that gold no longer fills the bill it once did based on a couple of months worth of trading. In fact, I think it could be argued that equities and gold still have a low correlation. Over the three months, GLD is up 15% and the S+P 500 is up about 3%.
If you are trying to time gold aggressively, you have chosen a difficult path. If you want have gold as part of your counter strategy you will have periods like the last few months where gold gives a surprising run and an asset class that will likely go up the next time something bad happens in this country.
Back on December 17th I wrote that I thought Telecom, as a sector, would provide leadership to the market. While it is way too early to think I am right, it might be worth revisiting the logic now that a couple of months have passed and I was not immediately wrong.
Over the last two months Telecom has outperformed the other big S+P sectors except for technology which looks like a tie (eyeballing a chart), although Telecom has been in a slow steady and stronger uptrend than all the sectors since bottoming at year end.
The faith in Telecom has several simple, top down facets to it as a starting point. First, it was partially a contrarian call. Telecom has not been a well liked group for a long time and eventually everything will come back into favor.
Very few people had anything positive to say, actually I don't remember hearing anything positive before I wrote about it, but my being first makes no sense at all.
Why is the sector doing well? I think it's the same thing it almost always is when a down and out sector rotates back into favor. The thing is nothing. There is no reason why they are going up. They just are.
This speaks to a couple of important concepts. If you thought Telecom would continue to do poorly (which is reasonable) and you probably had a tough time keeping up with the market for the last couple of months. Completely giving up on an area of the market is a bad idea (this is something I repeat often) and this little move in telecom is a great example.
The other point to make here is a little tougher to process. No S+P sector has as big of a theme behind it as energy does (in my opinion). This means that a sector that did well last year might not do well this year. If Telecom does follow through for the whole year, I might not expect it to repeat in 2007. For the time being these sectors are moving more on money flow and sector rotation than fundamentals.
If the economy does head into a recession, two sectors that would probably rotate into favor would be healthcare and consumer staples, something to think about.
Monday, February 13, 2006
The article in question on ETFInvestor isolates some potential problems with sub-sector ETF. The article starts with a couple of positives, which I don't think are all that compelling, before getting to the negatives.
The first negative cited is that the funds "may also tempt more investors to become active traders, in the belief that they can earn higher risk adjusted returns than those on a broad-based index fund."
Is this a flaw of the product or the people that trade the product? I'd say this is a flaw of human nature to over trade an account.
The next negative point is about risk adjusted returns of some of the sub-sector ETFs. I think the point of this part of the article is that if you take twice as much risk to get an additional 10%, it probably is not worth doing. That is a fair point.
The way I read the article I felt it was talking about the sub-sector ETFs as stand alone investments. This is not how I would advise anyone to look at sub-sector ETFs or any other holding you would consider for your portfolio.
A diversified portfolio should blend together different volatilities, sectors, countries, cap sizes and a few other things. The various stocks, ETFs, CEFs and even OEFs out there can allow anyone to manage how much volatility they take on.
If you want your portfolio to have a beta of 0.75 (compared to the market's beta of 1.00) you can select weightings in different products to create that effect. That does not mean that a few of the components can't be very volatile.
For example a volatility-adverse investor might, after doing some research, be favorably disposed to Sandisk. Sandisk is a hot potato of a stock that makes flash memory. This is the type of stock that could double in a year or cut in half. This volatility-adverse investor can control the impact on his account with how much he buys. A 4% weight would increase volatility of the portfolio a whole lot more than a 1% weight.
If the stock doubles, it would add 1% to the overall portfolio. A savvy investor that can find two stocks a year that can double is achieving a lot of his eventual return with just two stocks and 2% of his portfolio. If this investor is not so savvy and he picks two hot potatoes that cut in half, he would lose 1% overall. That would be too bad but does not create reckless volatility for a portfolio.
Sandisk is just an example, focus more on the concept not the example. Certain sub-sector ETFs can be used the same way. A networking stock ETF is unlikely to double in a year but 30%-40% is not impossible.
I wanted to avoid what was has been happening to the stock over the last few weeks. In general terms, stocks that go up a lot in faddish way run the risk of dropping hard. It is possible the drop from $450 is an over reaction but if that is so, then you have to be open to the idea that the move up to $450 was too much as well.
The article does some valuation work in which they create an "unscientific" price model of $188 per share. They try to address click fraud. I am not expert enough in the issue to know how big a problem it is or how much the problem is priced into existing ad rates. I think the nature of this problem is not really known yet, nor is the magnitude of the potential consequence. I would, however, ahem, invite you to click liberally on any and all ads on this site.
The article further delves into options expensing. I find this issue to be minimally important. As a matter of my interpretation of precedent, options expensing is the type of thing that the market can price in without much dislocation most of the time.
I would encourage anyone to read the article. It is free after all.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
I don't know the math behind the AOL/Weblogs deal that inspired the applet but it looks like Barry can buy a condo on Kauai, nice.
I view blogging as important (obviously, given the time spent) but I also think it is still in its early stages as far as the role it will play in do-it-yourself portfolio management. I always refer to do-it-yourselfers but, and I doubt this is unique, I get a lot of traffic and emails from other people in the business, media and academic circles.
I remain hopeful that the blogosphere will draw more people in to share what they know and what they do. I believe the social benefit would be enormous but that is just theory.
I can recall an email exchange I had with another blogger when I first started this site and that person told me how difficult it is to maintain a blog, needless to say he does not post anymore.
The blogosphere will continue to evolve and hopefully become more useful to more people.
This post didn't have too much to do with the market but after the last few days it makes sense to take a few minutes to think about other things.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Friday, February 10, 2006
Like to know your reasoning for even staying with GLD if you think gold is topping out?
I will always maintain exposure to gold because it serves as a counter strategy to stocks. Its low correlation to equities reduces overall portfolio volatility. If something truly bad happens in the world, gold will likely go up so I want some exposure. I have merely altered that exposure.
Some clients owned Anglogold Ashanti (AU), some own the gold ETF (GLD). I started buying AU several years ago for gold exposure. As it moved higher, I bought it only for more aggressive clients. Over the last six months it has dramatically outperformed GLD. It feels like gold may have topped out, for now or forever, you can take your pick. If gold falls back to $480 I am afraid that I would give back all of the advantage I picked up with AU. After the great run gold has had, I think this is a good time to remove beta and reduce exposure.
I sold AU around $58.40 and bought the exact same share amount of GLD around $54.80. The net reduction in dollars exposed was about 6%. It is a little tougher to dig up exact volatility numbers right now but the dip at the far right side of the chart shows what I mean.
I don't think this stands up. Mark and Erin called Biderman on why this matters now and some other things. I think the theory relies on the fact that this cash was in the market before and is earmarked to go back into stocks. I've never read anything that makes the connection.
There are a lot of retired people where I live and while truly wealthy may not describe my neighbors the word comfortable does and very few of them have stocks on their radar. Whether they should or not is another matter the fact is they don't.
An analysis that relies on cash pouring in from the sidelines is destined to work like a broken clock.
When the trade deficit will matter is tough to game but the curve inversion is starting to matter a lot more in its current state that it did a couple of months ago when the two year and five year inverted by 2 basis points for ten minutes.
2 year 4.64%
5 year 4.53%
10 year 4.51%
30 year 4.47%
Unless this reverses quickly, I have to think that a recession by the end of the year is a real possibility. Keep in mind that nothing is certain but a truly inverted curve results in a recession 83% of the time and the usual lag is in the neighborhood of nine months.
I'd be thrilled if this go around was an exception.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
That being said, there is visibility for the economy to slow down and for the currency to get weaker over the next few months or even longer.
Last night before my interview on CNBC Asia I asked show host Lisa Oake and reporter Mark Laudi if CNBC Asia is available in New Zealand. Mark had the details on the situation. They used to carry it but the audience for it was too small so they cut it from the channel lineup.
I think this speaks to the investing class being very small (while this is far from surprising it is a little bit of evidence to support the idea) which I take to mean that there is potential for the investor class to grow as a percentage of the population.
This builds in a possible future source of demand for shares. This may or may not pan out but the potential exists. A lot of the foreign markets I write about are quite small. The extent to which residents participate can matter. The automatic public pension funds purchases are a big part of why I view Austria and Chile so fondly.
This is worth paying attention to.
Clearly as stand alone products, the 30 year does not look so attractive. I don't think too many managed pools look at them as stand alone. I think the framing of the question lacks some understanding of how bond portfolios are managed. The 30 year gives managers another tool to manage duration, convexity and other things managers care about for the entire portfolio.
Adding 30 year treasuries might be a way change some of the characteristics of the entire portfolio. Don't think of the demand for these bonds as anyone wanting an average maturity of 30 years.
As for market impact, I have been saying for a while that one of the reasons that yields went so low was the distortions caused by no new long bond supply. Now that the 30 year is back, those distortions will be unwound. Tough to say how long it will take and there is no way to know how much of this last small push up is because of the 30 year and how much is because of the Fed but this does matter.
This ties in with all of my recent investment products posts and a topic I have been preaching about for the last year and a half.
The specifics of this deal have not been announced yet but this theme of accessing different types of products seems to be picking up steam. This is a positive for everyone.
Long time readers might remember my interest in the technical analysis work by Nicole Elliott from Mizuho in the UK.
She was on European Closing Bell in her usual slot and had some interesting calls on some of the Nordic currencies vs. the euro.
Nicole likes the Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic kronas all vs. the euro. She spelled out technical arguments for all three. I'm not so interested in the details of the call but am more interested in the awareness of these currencies, especially Iceland. Her favorite of the three trades is Iceland but she warned that it is a small country and currency and that at some point the big boys will pile into it and cause some distortion. The krona is in the mid 70's now and she sees it going to 68.
As I look at the chart for Sweden and Norway, the two appear to have a negative correlation so I am not sure how both of them will do well vs. the euro. To be clear her call for Sweden is just a return to an old range of price and as I understand her comments on Norway, that cross is more about a strong trading move. I will email her and see if she responds.
I think awareness of Iceland is going to continue to grow, more and more people will be talking and writing about it. I think this means the currency and the stock market will lift just from the capital inflow.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
I am scheduled to appear in my usual slot tonight at around 8:10 pm. Here is a list of what might come up.
- I think the way the market sold off Tuesday and then came back speaks to a market with a fragile psyche. I think this reveals that more volatile trading is in the cards. 2005 was remarkably tame and 2006 is unlikely to be a repeat.
- Based on some of the pessimistic chatter about commodities and energy after those two groups lead the selloff I feel like those two themes are very well in tact. A pervasive fear about those areas being bubbles leads me to believe there is in fact no bubble. Corrections will certainly come and go but not bubbles.
- Going into the Fed meeting the inverted yield curve temporarily corrected itself. That steepening unwound itself and we are back to inverted and the market seems like it wants stay that way. I do not buy into the slope of the curve does not matter argument, meaning this time is not different.
- The Cisco (CSCO) earnings report was obviously a positive and I admit to being surprised by it. I am skeptical of technology but a healthier tech sector would go a long way to creating a positive environment for equities.
This is from the Uraniumletter International that a reader forwarded to me.
I cannot vouch for the numbers but they are obviously the byproduct and conclusion of someone's work.
This is not new, you know it as core and explore and the article says this but it might be worth thinking about here.
Mr. Clements does not believe that people can beat the market so they should not try. I view this differently. I don't think in terms of can you or can't you beat the market but more along the lines of do you need to beat the market?
Diligent savers, as a function of numbers not ego, may not need to beat the market. To that end, being close (either way) on a consistent basis is enough. If averaging 8% per year, with your current savings rate, gets you to where you need to be, why take the risks associated with trying to get 20% per year?
This line of thought is not right for everyone. I do believe in trying to add value with active management (that is my job after all).Adding value can be done in a couple of ways. For most of my clients this means staying relatively close to the market's return but having less exposure to the market and less risk than the market.
For example an investor that made 5% last year (vs. the S+P 500 4.8% total return) with only 70% in stocks and the beta of that 70% below 1.00, took less risk than the market. This is not a bad way to go. I fully acknowledge that a lot of people want to try for 15%-20% per year, but there are many ways to skin a cat.
Many of the products I have been writing about tie into creating many different themes in a portfolio without taking excess risk. The types of investment listed in the graphic above are becoming more mainstream with new products. They allow do-it-yourselfers to have much more sophisticated and balanced portfolios.
After digging up some return numbers, he offers this; One notes that the managers recent commentaries suggest they are no more than "cautiously optimistic" and highlight the unreasonable expectations they believe are held some individual investors (who, they say, are the prime drivers of the Egyptian market). Could this be yesterday's story?
Obviously, there is no way to know which direction the next 50% will be. That statement could probably apply to a lot of emerging markets in the middle east and eastern Europe. I tend to think the risk of a 50% drop in places like Brazil and China has less probability.
If your portfolio is large enough that a small slice of your emerging market exposure could cover it, great. However, even a $500,000 portfolio might not have room for Egypt as a stand-alone holding for now anyway. I have noted that most client accounts are in the neighborhood of 6%-7% in emerging markets (BTW I don't perceive any of the emerging markets I invest in to be as volatile as Egypt).
For example sake, let's say the $500,000 portfolio above wants 10% in emerging markets. So that works out to $50,000. Would you put 10% of your emerging market exposure into Egypt? Another thing to consider is that commission for these types for foreign stocks is very high. A $5000 trade into the Egypt Trust that I mentioned the other day might be $100 on each side of the trade.
The things I write about along these lines are more to create awareness. I think awareness can create demand for more accessible products that in turn could create supply of products.
Egypt is up a lot and I have no plans to pursue the Egypt Trust, personally or for clients but now more people know about it, mission accomplished.
That being said, if I managed an emerging markets fund I would probably have Orascom in it. The company was the subject of a Bloomberg Markets story a few months ago. It is a fascinating company doing a lot of interesting things.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
01/17/2006Iceland, by Yishen Kuik
Just returned from a long weekend spent in Iceland. A few spec-related travel notes:
Iceland is extraordinarily tiny. The population crossed 300,000 just a few days ago. Everyone knows everyone and consequently crime is almost zero.
Like Saudi Arabia, Iceland has plenty of cheaply extractable energy under the earth. Unfortunately it can't load it on a VLCC. As the hydrocarbon-geothermal spread increases, it seems likely that more energy hungry manufacturing processes like aluminium might migrate to Iceland.
Iceland has very high tariffs (30%) on agriculture. I don't know whether this was meant to protect local farmers or reduce corporate/income taxes, but the result is that a bowl of soup at a highway gas station will cost $10 (600 ISK) and a chicken entree at a regular restaurant in Reykjavik will cost $50 (3200 ISK). However, basic math tells me a $50 chicken cutlet isn't fully explained by a 30% tarrif.
You can pay with plastic anywhere in Iceland - even the hot dog guy will accept plastic.
Fishing is still the major export business and it is a protected industry. Some quick work at Statistics Iceland tells me about 1,000 people were responsible for $1bn worth of fish in 2004, or about $100,000 per person. Anecdotally, my guide told me that the best jobs were in fishing.
Iceland has extraordinary population records. Statistics Iceland's database starts at 1703.
The Icelandic stock market made a new all time high today at 6253.4. The ICEX 15 index was 1000 in 12/31/1997 (presumably the calibration date) and 371.1 on 12/31/1992 (earliest time series data). This gives us an IRR of 21.9% over the first 5 years, 25.6% over the next 8.05 years and 24.2% over the entire 13 year period, excluding dividends. If Iceland were a hedge
Oh yes, it's a beautiful country. ======= End of Post ===============
I have had a few emails and comments telling me to get back in but as I said I have lost touch with the stock and have no feel for what it can do.
The stock is down more than 4% today and has come off aggressively since its weird earnings report.
If you get it, great, but if you don't, it is OK to leave it for someone else. The point of this post is to have enough introspection about your own knowledge and ability to know when to stay away.
I have devoted a lot of time to training myself to never get too worked up by this type of day, it serves no purpose. I attribute my ability to shrug this off to my yoga practice. Hopefully you can shrug bad days off too.
On a different note did you see that Ed Keon reduced his equity weight from 100% down to 55%?
I can't recall Mr. Keon being correct very often. I do not know if this call he is making represents a change in his very bullish outlook for 2006. I did not know his model portfolio was at 100% in equities. 100% might be right a given individual but I seriously doubt it is the proper allocation for the client base of a major brokerage firm.
Going from 100% down to 55% all at once is a drastic move for several reasons. First trying to time a top, which I view this type of reduction as an attempt to do, is probably not what a 50 year old looking to retire a couple of years early needs to do. Another point is that executing big changes is problematic for the client on several levels.
Lastly, there is no practical way that a successful broker at the firm could take Mr. Keon's advice, assuming he wanted to, because there are too many clients to get in touch with and execute the trades suggested in a timely manner. Further, since most brokers have client money placed with managers, there is yet another layer of work needed to comply with the recommendation.
I have been baffled my Mr. Keon's opinions and process on more than one occasion so this is nothing new.
I'm not sure I'm the guy to ask.
I have been underweight the sector for a long time. That was right in 2004, a push in 2005, started out being wrong this year but is now a push.
The bullish case for tech is based on expected increases in cap-ex. Either you see that or you don't. I'm afraid I don't see it as happening right here right now. If stocks are leading indicators the tech group should have already started to do well based on how long tech bulls have been hyping the cap-ex effect.
I have been bearish on the old guard tech names for a long time as well, which is why I own IYW for clients. I don't think any of the big names can beat the sector so I just own the sector. I also have some semiconductor exposure and Yahoo. I expect I will remain underweight for a while and I doubt I will nail the moment that tech rotates back into a leadership position.
That I expect to miss the bottom is why I have any position at all despite not seeing anything positive in the group.
There is a closed end fund that trades on the London Stock Exchange called the Egypt Trust and its LSE symbol is EGP. A while back I wrote somewhere that the US markets are not really leading the way as far as new products that access different parts of the world and different asset classes.
The Egypt Fund is a neat idea, not so much because it should or should not be bought but because a lot of the perceived obstacles to investing in a place like Egypt seem to have been overcome with this product. It is possible that the Egypt fund could be traded at Schwab. I was given a firm maybe on that one.
Before I started working on this, the only Egyptian stock I had ever heard of was Orascom Telecom. I was surprised to see that Orascom is only the sixth largest holding in the fund. So it is an actively managed fund. Getting good information was not easy. The Cairo Alexandria Stock Exchange looks like it is up 80% in the last year (I got this from Yahoo Finance and don't have much confidence in that number). In the same time period I got conflicting info on how well EGP has done.
This chart of EGP from the LSE shows EGP has tripled in the same time period but TrustNet.com has it up 109% in the last year.
Neither the drop in the dollar nor the British pound vs. the Egyptian pound would account for the discrepancy.
One fly in the ointment here is the lack of reliable information but innovative products are starting to roll out. There is no reason you need to be the first one to own any of them but there is also no reason why you can't be the first one to know about them.
Monday, February 06, 2006
He drew a parallel between commodity stock excitement today and Internet stock excitement six years ago. I did not take his meaning to be that they are identical manias but he sees similarities. I think the magnitude is much less than six years ago but he made an excellent point that stands up right now.
He talked about secondary and tertiary names making moves higher on speculation. The idea here is that investors are buying lower quality names to chase returns. In that sense it is like the tech boom. Too much invested in these types of stocks could have a very bad ending.
I hadn't thought about it before, but a friend of mine is doing just that, chasing returns. He tells me all the time about all these Canadian stocks he is trading. I'm sure he is making money but I don't know if he learned anything from the tech wreck in which he got torched.
A 1 percent weight in a couple of very speculative commodity stocks will not crush a portfolio but there will be, if there aren't already, a lot of investors with way too much in these low quality names.
For anecdotal evidence, watch the Nasdaq/Amex ticker on CNBC and you will see all sorts Amex listed mining stocks going by. The number of trades in these things is very high. Watch out.
It had been a while since I updated my personal portfolio on Morningstar. I do this periodically to make sure sectors and other things have not strayed too far from what I want it to look like.
If you read the two paragraphs, you will see a touch of contradiction. The paragraph on the left (under the pie chart) starts out telling me that my portfolio is aggressive and can be volatile. The paragraph on the right tells me that my portfolio is biased toward conservatively priced value stocks. One very confusing point is that it says large cap value is not where I have most of my exposure. But isn't that what I am biased toward?
Further down on that page (not shown) it tells me that my median cap size is $15 billion, yet the table above looks like I have 75% in large cap. While this is subjective, $15 billion is not even that big by mid cap standards.
I trust the sector breakdown, ROE, PE and so on. The interpretive stuff is sketchy so watch out.
Frequent readers may notice that my account is put together differently than what I do for clients. I wrote about this a year ago. My portfolio is assembled in such a way to really minimize volatility and correlation to the US stock market. The are two reasons for this, one is that my income is clearly dependent on the fortunes of the US stock market. What is good for the market is good for my income and what is bad for the market....
The other important idea behind this is that my portfolio takes very little work. It does my clients no good to spend time actively trading my own account. Moreover as a matter of philosophy I believe in capital markets and I want to just let them do their thing.