Friday, June 30, 2006
The number this quarter for the portfolio is somehow too good so in addition to giving results of that portfolio I will also give numbers (percent not dollars) of two client accounts, one that tilts more conservative and one the other slightly more aggressive. There may be clients that have done better or worse than any of the numbers.
I'm not sure if I made a mistake with the generic portfolio or not. The goal here is to provide some accurate numbers of how all the things I write about play out. If you even care about such things, feel free to take the under.
For the quarter the S&P 500 Index was down 1.90% (closed on 3/31 at 1294.87 and today at 1270.19). If you add the dividend in, I believe 1.7%, that would add 42.5 beeps and so the S&P 500 total return was down 1.475%.
The more aggressive client was down 0.0006% (less than $200). The more conservative client was down 0.8%(this clients has more in fixed income). The generic portfolio on Yahoo Finance
was up 0.44%. While I think the difference is not huge the small decline is more representative. From those numbers fees would need to be subtracted. Quarterly fees range from 25 beeps to 37.5 beeps (I do not know the fees of every account I manage as I do not negotiate fees with many clients).
So the quarter was a shades of gray beating of the S&P 500.
Like every investor there are things I could have done better and things I could have done worse but those are the numbers.
Two Year Treasury 5.17%
Ten Year Treasury 5.17%
30 Year Treasury 5.22%
OK, too much time with this curve could be a problem. An inverted curve is something I have been concerned with and writing about for a while. We have had minor inversions a couple of times and the consequence is not yet known (maybe there is no consequence coming) but an inverted curve that represents a deeper inversion for a longer period of time is a threat. This is something to stay in touch with. The history of this is not good. Nothing is certain but no matter how bullish you may be you need to always assess potential problems.
Every so often someone will come on the tube and talk about having 50% in cash or some bigger number. That is a tough place to be for anyone. Something I have noted in the past ( but was far from the first to observe this) is that markets bounce off the bottom fast and hard. This repeats over and over. Lagging a huge move is one thing but missing it is something else.
I do not know if a bottom is in, I don't think so but I don't know. Fortunately I don't have to be correct and depending on what you have done in your own portfolio neither do you. A method of consistency and moderation is the path of least resistance.
There are articles here and there about people scrambling to get long yesterday. That is a tough position to be in, feeling like you have to buy right this minute.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Please let us know your long term view on the Market. Do you think this rally is a fake, or does it have legs? It is hard to believe that FED is done. But looks like the market things that it is the end.
My thought process here may be difficult to feel good about. My original thought for 2006 was down a little. I still think that. Part of the assumption included the Fed stopping, whether I guessed correctly as to when or not, the Fed was going to stop this year. Perhaps today was it or not. Either argument is easy to build but the last 25 beeps isn't thing, I would focus on a few hundred beeps in between the first one and the last one as doing most of the fill in the blank.
My reasons for expecting down a little include length of the current economic cycle, length of the current stock market cycle, slowing earnings, rising rates, the likelihood the Fed goes too far, a weak dollar (which has its own long list of causes), year two of the presidential cycle and there may be one or two more. These are valid concerns. The bullish case is also valid.
All of these things, bullish and bearish, are all in the realm of normal market action. No matter what I think I have to manage to what is going on and not make too large a bet to my clients' detriment on any on outcome.
It is not clear to me that anything is truly new. Who didn't know the Fed would stop this year? All of the things that make you bullish or bearish are probably the same now as they were three hours ago.
I have no reason to change my expectations for the year. Those expectations could be wrong but I don't do my job with my head in the sand. As I have been writing I have raised a little bit of cash, not a lot, and I am capturing most of the effect which I am pleased with for now.
A couple of weeks ago Bill McLaren laid out a crash scenario that included a rally to a lower high. There are a lot of moving parts in Bill's process so something could have changed with this but I have not forgotten about the comment.
By and large Fed comments under Ben have not been taken gently by the markets. I'm not sure why today would be different (this as a nagging concern not a prediction).
It looks like we could be on the verge of coming up to an important point for the market as a couple of things looks set to converge all at once. Also it looks like the 50 day will soon cross below the 200 day, unless something really big happens right away.
Something spectacular this afternoon could be the charm if it goes above these resistance points and can stay there for a few days.
I do not expect this to be the case but assessing the other side of your trade goes with the territory. In the rally (or whatever is the best way to describe it) that started yesterday afternoon I have lagged by a hair but have caught most of it.
In a time where demand for equities is in question (at a minimum this much is true) a small lag with extra cash built up is OK.
We've got issues. Despite the Dr. Feelgood you can get from the Kudlow show there are some signs of inflation out there which says the Fed needs to raise. On the flip side there are signs of an economic slowdown which says the Fed has already gone too far. Remember that today's hike could be a year away from having an impact.
This creates visibility for things to get worse before they get better. Even so I seriously doubt worse means the S&P 500 cuts in half from peak (1325 in early May) to trough like it did from the 2000 high.
Even Barry Ritholtz' target is no where near 662 (1325 divided by 2). 50% declines just do not come along very often. In trying to manage toward probabilities I think we are safe from that type of move.
While granting that nothing is impossible the likely worse case scenario is a normal bear market but even then that is not so bad. Bear markets are a normal part of the stock market cycle and we have lived through them before.
The best thing to do if a bear market is coming is to have more cash than normal and then be patient. People make this more complicated than it needs to be. If a normal allocation is 70% stocks, 25% bonds and 5% cash and cash is increased to 30%, a lot of the bear gets missed. Not all, which isn't vital, but a big chunk, which is helpful.
If you read a site like this one (not a mainstream site) you are probably active enough in managing your own portfolio that you could do a tad better in a bear.
A key for me is not making too big a bet on any one probability.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I took a tad off the table at the close today in a higher beta name that not everyone owns. I plan to add in a European pharma name (as health could be a good place to hide out) that a couple of people own but not everyone.
I am still more than 75% invested. A next defensive action after this might be a large position in a double short fund, either an OEF or the ProShares ETF if that one lists soon. This might also be a good place to hide out for a couple of months, imperfections notwithstanding.
If I think it is necessary, and I am not there yet, 10% in a double short fund could take another 20% of net exposure off the table but still allow dividends to flow in. While not perfect this idea has some merit. A 75% cash position is likely to result in missing too much of a huge whoosh up whenever it comes and is a bigger bet that I am likely to make.
As a side note, once ProShares gets the double short ETFs trading the next step needs to be short and double short foreign ETFs to hedge EFA and EEM.
You can click here to get a list of all their ETFs and then click on each one listed on that page to get more detail.
Today NZD/USD is below $0.60 and the stock is at $19.15. Both prices are lower than a week ago. I was clear that I was not a buyer that day and that I was not considering putting client money into the name.
Now there is some chatter that the company might split up. This is clearly getting more confusing before doing anything else. My intention in buying, when/if I ever do, is to make an investment not to try to bottom tick a falling stock.
This is good stuff. Part of stock selection is watching specific names and deciding "no" or "not yet." There are times where stocks that interest you should not be bought. Despite my general fondness, staying away for now is still the better call for me.
It might be worthwhile to explore the down side, if there really is one, for the broad based products. First, how much of a portfolio is the core? I don't really construct portfolios this way but I think the amount that is core is very subjective so I'll just pick 50%. If this makes no sense, sorry but the number is not really the focus of this post.
Maybe the core could be three funds as follows;
iShares Russell 1000 (IWB) 15%
iShares S&P 600 Small Cap Value (IJS) 15%
PowerShares Intl Div (PID) 20% this is the first foreign DVY
OK, now what?
Well given my belief in gold as a diversifier I would want some GLD as a permanent fixture as well, how much though? I have in the neighborhood of 3% in gold I have read other opinion that says 5-10%. How about 5% for easier math?
So now 55% of the portfolio is allocated.
I am a firm believer in emerging markets as an asset class that should always have some weight in a portfolio. For me, 7% is equal weight but let's just go with 5% for now.
At this point we are up to 60% of the portfolio allocated.
A reasonable idea might be to select a couple of sectors that should do well in the current environment. Today that could mean staples, health and utilities? So perhaps 5% in an ETF for each? Or should it be 10% in each? This, for me, is where problems start to occur. The various sector weightings can get out of whack in a hurry. The decision made right here will result in being very overweight some sectors and very underweight others.
Utilities make up 3.4% of the S%P 500. The 15% allocation to IWB gives you 1.1% overall in utilities, IJS gives another 1.2% overall to utilities, PID gives another 1.8% overall. At this point you are already overweight an interest rate sensitive sector at a time that the middle of the curve could start to go up and hurt prices in the sector. Adding even 5% to a utilities ETF becomes a big bet and I haven't even looked at the emerging market ETF to check for utilities.
Would you add a single country ETF? Many of them are heavy in financials. It is likely you will end up very overweight that sector. The number of portfolios I look at that are unknowingly 30% weighted to financials is very high.
I find it much easier to think of the 10 sectors that make up the market and then to build each sector with the best proxies for those sectors that I can find. Sticking with ETFs (though not my preference for portfolios) and the financial sector it seems easier to start with a sector ETF for a big chunk of the exposure. If you want 15% in financials (this is an underweight) you could put 8% of your portfolio in something like the Financial Sector SPDR (XLF). Perhaps 2% of the portfolio could go into one of the capital markets ETFs and the rest of the sector can come from specialized ETFs. EWA (personal holding) has 47% in financials, iShares Canada has 33% in financials and EEM has 19% in financials.
To me this seems like an easier way to build a portfolio. This can also be an easier way to build in style, yield and beta and average cap size can be managed at the margin with a mega cap ETF like Rydex' XLG or a micro cap ETF like the iShares fund, IWC.
Let the debate begin.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
First, he wants to know where the weightings come from. Yes, my starting point is the sector make up of the S&P 500. I then try to overweight and underweight each sector based on what tends to do well in similar periods as we have now, combined with an attempt to assess current events. I hope that studying both leads to a reasonable forward-looking analysis.
He goes on to ask what would make me change weightings. I recently cut back on energy because it grew to too large of a weight in the portfolio. I still target a slight over weight, vs. the S&P 500. My target did not change but the accounts did so I scaled back.
Toward the start of June I reduced the targeted allocation to tech as I have become less and less optimistic about the sector. I am sure I will miss the bottom in that group but with a little exposure I will capture some of a move up, if it comes.
He asks how passive or active the portfolio is. I have written before that I would love to have a portfolio be exactly right for the rest of time but that is not going to be the case. In the way I think an account should be managed, I am ready to make any type of change at any time.
One example of this might be the water theme. I own the PowerShares water ETF personally and for clients. The theme seems clear and obvious to me. I would sell the ETF at anytime if something convinced me I was wrong about water demand or I would swap it for a better mousetrap at anytime.
Lastly, the reader questions the value of using the S&P 500 as a benchmark. Any criticism is valid and the reader does note that other benchmarks have their flaws too.
Some of the candidates for better benchmark can be difficult to track. Keep in mind, like other PMs I have clients that have some level of interest in knowing how they are doing. One thing I stress here is that the market will get you to where you need to be if you have saved properly. Most people that hire someone like me have saved enough and so a manager just needs to not get in the way too badly.
Someone that has to have better returns will probably not have an account that looks like a broad based index regardless of what they benchmark.
No portfolio, strategy, benchmark or investor (professional or otherwise) can be perfect. The 30,000 foot concept of the portfolio laid out is fine, even if at the ground level it is wildly flawed.
The point with all of this is that a lot can be recreated using ETFs but not everything (yet?) so don't limit yourself to one product.
I was amused during the Paulson hearings this morning when Montana Senator Max Baucus expressed concerns about the coming trouble with entitlements and that the solution must involve true bipartisanship with everything on the table.
Everything except privatized social security, which can't work.
According to Morningstar I came very close on the sector weighting. That is not surprise given way that ETFs are structured, you know what you are getting.
The portfolio misfired on almost every other aspect of trying to mimic my model portfolio.
The most disappointing was the dividends. The portfolio only yields 0.9% which is way below the S&P 500. The cap size of the portfolio missed as well coming in at only $18 billion vs. closer to $35 billion but I might be able tweak that with a broad based market cap ETF.
Foreign was only 21% of the portfolio. With a little bit more tweaking I could work in more foreign, but that might upset the sector applecart.
The performance of the allocation clearly beat the market over the last 12 months which is encouraging but it would have been better with a decent yield.
All of that said, the portfolio is listed below with the weightings. Perhaps this can be a collaborative effort to make the improvements that are so desperately needed. To be 100% clear this is not a portfolio I would implement for anyone, it is too flawed. This was nothing but an academic exercise.
StateStreet Bank (KBE) 8%
iShares Australia (EWA) 3%
iShares UK (EWU) 3%
StateStreet Capital Market (KCE) 2%
iShares Global Tech (IXN) 8%
PowerShares Semiconductor (PSI) 2%
iShares Taiwan (EWT) 2%
iShares Global Health (IXJ) 10%
iShares Medical Device (IHI) 2%
StateStreet Biotech (XBI) 2%
iShares Consumer (IYK) 8%
PowerShares Food (PBJ) 5%
PowerShares Leisure (PEJ) 5%
Industrial Sector SPDR (XLI) 5%
PowerShares Water (PHO) 2%
iShares Defense (ITA) 3%
iShares Transportation (IYT) 1%
iShares Global Energy (IXC) 5%
PowerShares Alt Energy (PBW) 1%
PowerShares E&P (PXE) 2%
PowerShares China (PGJ) 2%
Gold (GLD) 3%
iShares Brazil EWZ (2%)
StateStreet Miners (XME) 2%
Vanguard Utilities (VPU) 4%
Vanguard Telecom (VOX) 3%
Emerging Market Telecom (ETF) 2% this is a closed end fund
StateStreet REIT (RWR) 3%
Monday, June 26, 2006
At this point I believe I am most favorably inclined to Sweden (FXS). It has a current account surplus, GDP growth has been getting better, the Riksbank has recently started a tightening cycle and Sweden is not overly dependent on the US the way that Canada and Mexico are.
The Swiss franc (FXF) has some of the same appeal but I perceive Sweden's economy to be more vibrant. I am very fond of Australia but they have a big current account deficit. I think the British pound holds some appeal but their MPC does not seem like it will raise rates, certainly not with the same visibility as Sweden.
If the product line proves successful, my hunch would be that they roll out trusts for the Yen and the Singapore dollar.
The effect of this hedge is not to speculate on a market decline (the Fund does not take net short positions), but is simply to remove the impact of broad market fluctuations from the portfolio, while at the same time earning implied interest of about 5% (equity derivatives are generally priced to reflect an implied interest rate somewhere between the 3-month Treasury bill yield and the broker call rate).
Read the whole thing. Despite the peculiar exchange of comments I had with a reader last week who seemed to think I was saying otherwise, Hussman is a must read. I only wish he wrote more often.
Minyanville has a blog. I think I saw this over on Adam's site but they sent an email letting me know about it. From the stand point of I would never join a club that would have me as a member, I tried a couple of times to write for them and got no where (insert smile). Their blog will be a must read as well.
I received a free copy of this book with the hope that I would review it. It is a very thick book so I did not read the whole thing but this is a very well written book. Outstanding.
It offers very in-depth profiles of 16 very successful traders but is written in such a way that it flows right along. I got the feeling I should know who the author is but I do not. Point being I came in to reading with no expectations and was very impressed. I was not compensated in any way for this other than the book itself.
This obviously has a lot of moving parts to it. A slowdown here should threaten industrial stocks and also threaten foreign countries that sell a lot of stuff to the US. Here I am thinking Japan and most of the southeast Asian countries.
There are some themes that could be compromised but, I believe, not ended. The first one that comes to mind is energy. Regardless of the velocity, demand for oil is growing at a faster rate than supply. An economic slow down could hit the price of crude by some amount and also hit energy stocks. I think the prevailing theme will be demand in China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam (perhaps we should include Turkey). All of the countries will have booms and busts but we are a long way from demand peaking.
I also believe that some foreign markets are living in their own worlds (a phrase I have used before) and so are much less susceptible to the US, here Turkey (not that it does have plenty of issues) and Vietnam come to mind.
My thoughts about other sectors are not very revolutionary. Things like staples, health, utilities and telecom usually do well and I don't think this time will be different but I have exposure to every sector so I don't have much riding on being wrong.
On CNBC Asia they devoted a lot of air time to water, as in there is not enough clean water. This is a theme I have been interested in (and writing about) for a while. Economic cycles won't alter demand for water, it could of course hurt the stocks somewhat.
The reader expressed a belief that iShares Material is a good bet in here. Materials, as it ties in with my thoughts on energy, makes sense and I agree with what I think the reader is saying. I would offer some caution about IYM though (and XLB while we're at it). The materials ETFs are heavy in DuPont and Dow Chemical (client holding) and are more of a bet on chemicals than anything else. If one of these ETFs is your only materials sector exposure you may not get the results you are looking for. Exposure to commodities is very thin and the ETFs, I think, miss out on the copper/nickel/zinc/iron ore mania that is going on.
I continue to favor (in no particular order) Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Vietnam and probably a couple of other that don't come to mind just now. These are all countries I have favored for a while. Turkey I think has a chance of being a much more important country, economically, than it is today. There are several big obstacles in the way of this so don't get too excited just yet.
It will also make sense (this should be obvious but bears mentioning anyway) to have more allocated to cash than normal. Five percent for short term money is not bad and also the currency ETFs (for me anyway) also make sense with the prospect of having more cash than normal. The way markets usually work, most of the growth comes from a couple of great years in a decade. I don't bet too much on my ability to guess when a great year will but lagging by 3-4% when the market is up 30% because you had a little too much cash is far from a death blow.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Making everyone happy is not possible and that is that.
So it is with Ben Bernanke and fun bunch as they convene this week to raise rates to 5.25% and follow up with vague statements about their next step.
Hmmm, they are not raising fast enough, they are going too fast, "you know if they did it this way...." and so on.
The Fed is going to do whatever they do this week and chances are you will not be 100% happy. There is even a greater likelihood that things will be no clearer after the statement. If they were data dependent before, wouldn't they have to be data dependent for the rest of the summer if not longer?
There are some differences with life under Ben than Alan. I have heard some say that it makes no sense to blame the Fed for this selloff we have had and while that is probably true, volatility has increased and I do believe that the differing comments (think Yellen compared to Moskowitz) has played a role as Fed comments have caused big moves (if only for a couple of hours) in both directions.
Ben wants to be more direct (or blunt if you please) than Greenspan was. Apparently this has not made a good first impression but we will have to live with it for a while.
Friday, June 23, 2006
In general terms, finding tech companies to own has not been that easy. I have been underweight tech for several years, severely underweight now. I have no plans to buy any of the old-tech mega caps anytime soon. If some of the (for lack of a better description) good second tier names get bought out it leaves even slimmer pickings.
Someone is going to make a great name for himself timing the tech turnaround perfectly and publicly but it won't be me. The industry has a lot of serious issues and timing the turn around will be very difficult because the stocks will turn long before the fundamentals do.
To disclose, I own Yahoo for some clients.
Well if you are Tobias Levkovich the answer is no. He has been bullish for a while, too early to say if he is wrong or right, and does a fair bit in the media. The latest one I found was an interview for TheStreet.com which you can watch here. His answer, when asked, is that he does not have disclosures. I don't know what that means but I do not believe this is a true obstacle. He could get the disclosures (don't know what that means either) before doing the interview.
I can think of two things going on here but there may be more. Either someone has decided they will not share any names and they are not saying that or it means he will be less wrong, when he is wrong, by not sticking his neck out as far as someone that will name names. I am very open to any other explanations for this as well.
No one ever calls him on this. Maybe the various bookers he deals with can tell him to get his disclosures before coming on the air.
We are faced with a lousy tape, terror threat at home, nuclear issues in other countries, spectacular corporate corruption, I just heard on bubblevision the bulls equaling bears (like the recent survey) last happened in 2002 and I don't remember if there was a big merger or not like with the gas deal today.
I don't know if there is a comparison to be made or not but from mid May 2002 to mid July 2002 the S&P 500 fell from 1100 down to 800 which works out to 27%.
I do not expect this down move to be anywhere near that big but for the moment I think it lends visibility to a little more selling before a bottom is found.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
The market below its 200 DMA signals a problem with demand. The short answer is it is time to buy when the market goes above its 200 DMA. Too bad it is not that simple.
I added some Walgreen in the middle of this decline at $42.24-ish. It is up now but traded with a $40 handle about ten minutes (hyperbole) after I bought it. I have mentioned my intention to add a high yielding food name as well.
Those are the types of things that will work well in this type of environment. Plus as other things were going up (energy and emerging markets) my staples weight declined due to those sectors lagging. I think it is a decent time to add a name or two from these areas.
In addition to caring about the 200 DMA I use a little bit of gut instinct too. Since we have had a couple of false positives with the 200 DMA in the last couple of years and also because I could be wrong about any of this I don't feel the need to move very fast. The history of bear markets is they start slowly and regardless of anyone's opinion we don't yet know if this is a bear market.
At some point this will end, whatever it is, and the market will go back above its 200 DMA and I will add slowly as that happens. Again it could go above for a week and then goes back below so there is no hurry.
I can say there is no hurry because I will never have zero equity exposure. Bounces off the bottom tend to be big and fast. I don't mind lagging but missing entirely is a bad mistake.
StateStreet is rolling out the following
Sector SPDR Mining (XME)
Sector SPDR Retail (XRT)
Sector SPDR Pharma (XPH)
Sector SPDR Oil & Gas Equipment and Services (XES)
Sector SPDR Oil & Gas Exploration and Drilling (XOP)
Sector SPDR Regional Banking (KRE)
The mining ETF is interesting as I believe there is only one of those so far but I think there are already, ahem, 172 ETFs that slice up the energy sector.
PSQ Shorts the Nasdaq 100
DOG Shorts the Dow 30
SH Shorts the S&P 500
MYY Shorts the S&P Mid cap
Thanks to Barry Ritholtz and long time reader Riccardo for the info.
Thanks to long time reader Londoner for the correction.
Most people will use them to make short term bets. They will also come in handy to help hedge for longer periods of time even if they struggle to meet their exact objectives.
The double short funds are more appealing to me. If you are interested in hedging with these, you can protect more of your portfolio with fewer dollars or taken another way you don't have to sell as much stock to make room for the double short ETF of your choice.
Another thing to keep in mind, perhaps this is obvious, is if you own one of these and the market starts to go up the one you own will become less and less of a drag on the portfolio. An initial position that hedges 20%, so putting 10% of your portfolio into a double short fund, would drop in value when the market goes up. At the same time the other 90% of your portfolio would be going up. So the more the market goes up the less you are hedged.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I think the article is not specific enough to draw the conclusion made about a top. ETFs create access. To know whether ETFs, broadly speaking, are sign of a top we would need data that shows a faster growth rate than normal of new market participants and that those newbies were in fact buying ETFs. I don't know where you would find data like that but anecdotally, I run into a lot of people that have no idea what ETFs are.
Part of the article reads as though narrower sector funds are the bigger issue. In theory, and also historically, too much supply of product for a sector can mean trouble coming.
Are we at that point now with sector ETFs? Lets look at semiconductor ETFs. There have been two newish ones that I am aware of, one from PowerShares (PSI) and the other from StateStreet (XSD). PSI has $60 million in assets and XSD has $50 million. These numbers are quite small. The point here is that new product will not necessarily mean there is demand for those products. It is not like the Internet products where everyone rushed in. PSI and XSD are just one example to show there is no stampede in.
The point here is that people are not rushing into all of these new products. If ETFs are not causing a mania to buy, any mania to sell will come from elsewhere.
He notes that there are too many bears "given the earnings profile of the market." I don't know what that means but he expects very good earnings starting with Yahoo (client holding) but also acknowledges the boost coming today from Morgan Stanley and FedEx. Another anecdote that contributes to his bullishness is the great numbers from Red Lobster.
That I do not agree with him does not matter, he could be 100% right. If you have too much cash you are lagging today but I would caution against jumping in on such a volatile day. An environment where 1% moves come every other day is tricky. I view that type of movement to be evident of a market trying to figure things out, not a market that knows what direction it wants go.
The resolution to this could go as Jim says or not but the take away for me is that nothing is resolved. I have roughly 20% in cash for clients and feel no need to make changes right now. More of a lift might be better to sell but I don't think we are there yet.
My sale in February was a good one in that that stock is now at $20.65 but it was a bad one in that it topped out, before I sold, above $39.
At the time I sold I had some macro concerns about New Zealand's deficits, economic cycle and currency.
In addition to those concerns panning out to some degree, NZT was hit with having to compete for customers in a way it has never had to do in the time I have known the stock.
The chart tells the story. The kiwi is down about 10%, the ordinary shares are down close to 30% and the ADRs have done worse due to the kiwi's weakness. Lastly, the benchmark NZ 50 Index is down 6.9% from its April 7th closing high.
Concerns about NZ current account deficit have not gone away but what has happened is that concerns about current account deficits for other countries have ramped up, in terms of investor awareness. Hungary, Turkey and Iceland come to mind as other countries that investors know much more about today than they did at the start of the year, meaning New Zealand is no longer perceived as the lone redheaded step child on this issue.
I have no doubt that there is some demand for high yielding currencies excluding the US dollar (which obviously also has deficit issues) and while the Aussie stands to benefit from a lot of that demand a currency like the kiwi stands to draw some of this flow, if, as I believe, it does in fact exist.
As for the stock, a lot more bad news has worked its way into the price, with the competition issue being the most important to me. The net result from this news is not yet known, the big shoe to drop was competition not the result, in my opinion.
For now it is on the front burner, I don't know exactly when I will buy it (but I will post here if/when I do buy it) but don't forget I am not committing client money to the idea in the near future, which should tell you something.
I do not doubt all of them know much more than I do, so I attribute the coming failure to some whiz in the marketing department.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
It is kind of tough to label, what is now, a single digit correction as a bear market. There was a point last week where the S&P 500 was down double digits but that was just for a couple of hours. While the idea of 10% equals correction and 20% equals bear market seems too simplistic, I would not be surprised to see the market go lower, which has been my thought for this year all along.
In the last six weeks, picking stocks has been very difficult. During periods like this, when nothing is working (BTW the way there is nothing unprecedented here) picking a good company to buy is like swimming upstream. While I haven't tried to find one, I can't imagine that there are too many emerging market stocks up since May 10.
I have been writing about my fondness for Chile as an investment destination for more than a year. There are two catalysts, global demand for copper and systematic public pension contributions going into the stock market every pay day which means constant demand for stocks.
Neither of those catalysts have changed but the stock I own for Chile, Santander Chile (SAN) has gone down 19.5% since May 9 (I chose May 9 instead of the 10th as above because it closed higher on the 9th than the 10th). Assume for a second that I am right about the fundamentals about Chile, that has not mattered. What has mattered is that emerging markets have been sold down and Chile went along for the ride.
To me, this is a big pitfall for relying solely on bottom up stock picking.
What got me started to think along these lines is that a couple of weeks ago I wrote a profile about the PowerShares Food and Beverage ETF (PBJ). PBJ, get it? Like the sandwich, food, nothing? OK. I have mentioned my interest in seeking out a food stock to with a high yield to add to client portfolios as food stocks have a good shot of holding up reasonably well in a bad market. PBJ could fit the bill except it does not have much of a yield.
Some of the Wisdom Tree ETFs also lead me to think there has been some serious evolution lately. I have not written much about these ETFs yet because finding info with out having to read the SEC paperwork has been difficult. Their website, shockingly, has nothing on it. But the names of some of the funds look interesting. There is a small cap dividend fund (DLS), a couple of different smaller cap ETFs that invest in foreign stocks, again with the focus being on dividends. With no real info yet it is clear that these funds access markets not previously accessed and offer some yield to boot.
Let's be clear though. These are investment products and like all investment products there will be flaws. Part of selecting a particular ETF, or anything else, is to know the strengths and weaknesses, weigh them out and decide if the product you are studying is the best way to access the thing you are trying to capture.
And still there are plenty of parts of the market that are not accessible through ETFs and so hopefully you do not limit yourself to only one type of product.
One example of this is Ireland. I first wrote about Ireland as an investment destination in late 2004. For now there is no Irish ETF easily accessed by American investors. The general idea is Ireland has business-friendly, pro-growth government. The benchmark ISEQ index has held up relatively well down less than 10% in the selloff. The one Irish stock I own, Allied Irish Bank (AIB), is only down 6.1% from its 52 week high. There is also a CEF for Ireland (IRL) but I prefer AIB.
If you have a diversified portfolio you should have some holdings that have done better than the market in the selloff, like Ireland (EFA is down 12.7% from its May high while SPY is down 6.3% from its May high) and some things that have done worse.
Monday, June 19, 2006
I have been called clueless and disingenuous and that's just today. If you read the top of this page you will see I claim no expertise. This site shares process with anyone who wants to read it. Like every investment manager on the planet I get some things right and some things wrong and you can read about all of it on this site.
You, as an investor, will naturally gravitate to certain styles you like better. The one you like is not the single greatest method for every market condition, neither is mine, and that is OK.
The writing helps to allow me to continue to learn, which is very important for everyone, to keep learning. Anyone reading this content, leaving a nasty comment and implying they are smarter than me, well, being smarter than me is no great accomplishment.
I attribute the nastiness to the market being down and uncomfortable for some people. Still, name calling is absurd and you immediately discount the value of whatever point you are trying to make. If a down market has altered your personality you need to find another approach.
So says Bob Froehlich.
Careful with this one. More often than not big turns in the market don't occur because of earnings. Big turns happen for many reasons besides earnings.
The internet bubble was not about earnings as those companies had no earnings. The short, but painful, selloffs of 1997 and 1998 were caused by external shocks. The tech crash, it could be argued, was not about earnings because again net stocks really had no earnings. The nasty decline in summer 2002 was about things like tension between India and Pakistan (do you even remember that one?), worry about CEOs certifying earnings and more tech bubble fallout. The run up in 2003 was probably more about things like tax cuts than earnings. We may still be trying to figure out what the current decline that started six weeks ago is about but earnings is far down on the list.
The big one, the crash of 1987 was more about rising rates than earnings.
This repeats over and over. I'm sure a good historian can find a time when earnings was the thing but that is more the exception than the rule.
This is not to say earnings are worthless, far from it in my opinion, but in circling back to this morning's post there is not much predictive value for assessing the stock market in earnings or PE ratios.
He wrote a book called The Long Emergency about the potential shortage of oil and the havoc it could bring to world. While he did not come across as that dour, I wonder how he manages to pull himself out of bed in the morning.
I am also amused by the timing of the interview as the market works ever lower today.
As a matter of personal philosophy I don't really buy into very dark outcomes. Painful disruptions yes, Armageddon no.
The article was more about naked call writing but I will tweak my comments toward covered call selling as that strategy is probably more applicable to readers of this page.
We may start to see more articles coming that highlight the virtues of selling covered calls. They reduce volatility and protect on the downside these articles are likely to say. I suppose this could be true but the magnitude of the protection offered is quite low. If your favorite stock is down 12% from its high, which is not an unreasonable move over the last six weeks, how much solace would you take from bringing in 1.5%-2% on a covered call?
Selling calls does have utility and can add value but it is important to have realistic expectations about what calls can do for you. If you sell calls against your entire portfolio today and bring in 2% of your portfolio's value for three months and then the market drops 20% four weeks later it is likely that you will not even, emotionally speaking, derive any benefit from the calls sold.
I don't do much in the way of call selling. There is one mind set toward call selling that I favor and that I have written about before which is to enhance dividends.
For an investor who is typically a 500 share buyer, that person could sell one or two call options every couple of months. Over the course of the year this could add another 100 basis points of yield to the portfolio over the course of the year. This offers no downside protection to speak of and if your stocks go up a lot you are not cutting off your upside in a damaging way.
If your portfolio yields 2.5%, a move up to 3.5% will be significant a good percentage of the time, but not all the time.
I would encourage you to read this. Here is one little nugget ....investors should not rule out an S&P 500 trading in the 700-800 range in the years ahead as a reasonable (not catastrophic) probability.
While I think 800 is unlikely I think it would be viewed as catastrophic. As a function of how markets usually work, a 33% drop so soon after a 50% drop is a stretch for me. There is nothing that says the market has to ever value the way he says but a more likely scenario, IMO, would be a long stretch where markets make no real progress but earnings increase. This has been the case with Walmart.
While I am not a buyer of WMT, bulls note that the stock has gone nowhere in the last five years while earnings have about doubled (anyone feel free to put WMT's actual earnings growth in the comments, I am going by memory).
Although he did not cite his source he said that there is $50 trillion in stocks and bonds around the world and only $200 billion invested in commodities. Along the same lines there are 35,000 stock and bond mutual funds in the world and only 500 commodity funds.
These numbers, he believes, support his long term thesis that financial assets are doomed and that commodities will be the asset class of choice for the foreseeable future. He did say that the dollar and US market are both oversold right now and short term could be in for a bounce.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
I have pouring over Jay Walkers June 14th posting about how poorly individual investors time the market. Ouch! I resemble those remarks! The first step in correcting a problem is recognizing it. It almost seems as if we (John Q Public) should be buying the opposite of what the market is doing. I guess the problem is knowing when the market (other investors) are acting in a reasonable manner. What do you use to judge if a buying spree is overdone?
Wheesh, a lot of meat on the bone here in Jay's post and the question.
One part of this debate (I hope you did read Jay's post) has to be the understanding that you will be wrong some portion of the time. This is an absolute certainty. It is just as certain that you will get some right.
Jay cites some work that yields excellent results by being contrarian and using mutual fund flow as the indicator. Before you change your style based on this method, haven't we all seen studies cited that show just about every single approach beats the market? Be contrarian? The trend is your friend. Both are valid and can work. Going with the trend worked for the first four months of the year. Being a contrarian started to work best on May 10th.
This starts to get into the realm of data mining and will confuse the issue for many do-it-yourselfers.
With the caveat that you can't stop studying stocks you own and you have to be willing to sell any thing that you own, stocks of good companies tend to go up. Markets tend to go up; in fact the US market has an up year 72% of the time. Earlier this week I mentioned that in the last ten years the S&P 500 is up 84%. From June 1986 to June 1996 the market was up 170%.
The point of that last paragraph is to give some 30,000 foot perspective about how stock markets work. The context here is that people too often succumb to emotion. There is comfort in selling a lot of stock after the market has declined and getting back in when things are better.
I have tried to convey what I think is my systematic approach for reducing exposure. Despite some critical comments left, I neither look to sell into strength nor weakness, that is more about shorter term trading. In critiquing the sales I made, some were into strength and a couple were into weakness. It might be a while before I know the extent to which the sales were smart or dumb.
For long-term portfolio management I want to stay as fully invested as is prudent. Trying to out-nimble a small drop is difficult and has a good chance of leading to whipsaw. Despite whatever emotion you might be feeling,the market is only down a little, my cash level is in the high teens to low 20's (percentage-wise) depending on the client. This is far from an everyone in the bunker mindset. I'll reduce more exposure if I think the market is likely to get worse.
The strategy I use is the one I outlined in the first few posts on this site in 2004. I am simply sticking to my plan. I write time and again about picking a plan of action for your portfolio (hopefully at a time when you are not very emotional) and then just sticking to it. My goal is to miss big chunks of down a lot and be in there the rest of the time.
If your approach involves more trading, fine, but hopefully you have some basis to expect some success. You may not be able to control how often you are right versus wrong but you can control the extent to which you stay disciplined to your plan. Obviously you need to make some changes if you are never right.
I'm not sure I have answered the question very well but trying to grope around for a better mousetrap during a panic of some magnitude is probably the wrong thing to do.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Thanks for the heads up Aaron.
It looks like the filed for India ETF has a couple of big warts that you can read about at the above link.
This new fund could have some impact on IIF (reduced client holding) and IFN. Both CEFs trade at large premiums to NAV. The ETF will compete for some of the assets that might otherwise access India through the CEFs. If the ETF proves to be a better investment then the CEFs could be dramatically impacted.
The point is that there is visibility for the premiums to narrow as the ETF attracts capital.
This is generally something I have written about before. The mega caps will eventually rotate back into favor. In the late 90's small caps were given up on and now they are on one of their longest winning streaks ever (maybe ending though?).
In trying to take a long term view of your portfolio, perhaps you have had success beating the SPX as well. If so, that is probably attributable to being diversified and owning asset classes that have done better than the mega caps. Don't let this fool you into thinking you are smarter than you really are, this includes professionals.
I write all the time that you only need to stay relatively close to the market to get your portfolio to where you need it to be. Over time there will be years that you lag the market, which is OK. Focus on staying close. The next time the SPX is up 30% in a year (and there will be a next time) it is OK if you are only up 24% or 25%, you are still capturing most of the effect and that is the important thing.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I am uneasy that this rally will keep going. I have said that if I am wrong and we have a big whoosh up that I would expect to lag given the cash raised over the last six weeks but for now most of the foreign I hold is up more that the domestic so I am reasonably keeping pace. As of twenty minutes ago, I was, generically speaking and clients accounts could be better or worse, ahead by about 18 beeps. Hopefully this foreign stock outperformance can continue as they were hit harder on the way down.
Regardless of what stocks do I think the dollar will get back on its down trend in short order which will continue to help foreign stocks.
I am not in a hurry to seriously redeploy the cash raised. I may add a food stock with a high dividend but that is the only type of stock for now. This move up seems like a textbook fakeout that will start eroding in a day or two. If I am wrong I'll ride it up with too much cash. As I think risk is higher than normal right now I am fully prepared to lag but hoping I don't.
A theme with my writing in the last few weeks has been to raise the possibility that this is the wrong time to own stocks. The market below its 200 DMA signals a problem with demand for equities.
During the run down, how many stocks are down and how many are down? While I don't have the numbers it is a safe bet that very few names have rallied into this. There are obviously some great bottoms up stock pickers out there but success at that task becomes more difficult in an environment like we have had over the last month.
I think success in this down turn has relied more on knowing what sectors to sell or reduce. Obviously I do not have all the answers and I don't believe in extreme bets either but swimming against the current is very difficult.
Perhaps the selling has abated for the time being? Lower highs become a concern now. While the market could make a new high, effectively shrugging off the last month's decline, it feels like that would be a very big mountain to climb.
The TIC data was $46 billion, way short of what is needed to cover the trade deficit and down from the March reading of $70 billion. This should be dollar negative and interest rates moved up right away.
I have been generally concerned about less demand for dollars and treasuries for a long time now and while this report supports that concern, the number was so low that I wonder if it doesn't get revised up next month.
If not, yikes that's a bad number.
A lot of people say the selloff in gold means there is no inflation problem. This could be true but the selling in all asset classes, I think, has been more about widespread confusion and dislocation. Further, gold ran up a lot, too much, and so this move down perhaps is also too much and maybe it works higher to the mid or low $600s and then settles down some?
This seems reasonable even if it turns out to be wrong. Even at today's level gold is up a lot in the last couple of years. Could that move up be an expression of inflation worries and that last move up to its high was maybe just a final blowoff panic that has now corrected?
If this seems plausible then the gold move has been inflationary. The other day Art Laffer said there was no inflation and cited computers and TVs as evidence. How often does the average person buy a TV? How often does the average person pay a health insurance premium?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Roger, I am not to sure what a sell signal is or what a buy signal is. Since I am pleased with my portfolio, mostly blue chip and income producing. I see no reason to sell. Since I am in the stock market for the very long term (even being 62)I see no reason to generate buying or selling costs.
Fair enough and he has a point. This all ties in to what I posted earlier and with the importance of asset allocation. The market will work for you if you let it. It averages 10% or whatever by being up and down varying amounts over long periods of time. As I hear from readers and clients, I can tell that the biggest obstacle to success is people's own hang ups and emotions. I observe a concern with the wrong thing. People want to be right this summer. Bernie seems to have figured out how far down on the priority list that should be.
To take the other side of Bernie's comment there is some value in sparing yourself from some of the next 30% decline. If you go down 20% when the market goes down 30%, that spread means your money will not have to work as hard as it otherwise might have to in the future. Twenty percent sounds awful, and for some multi month period it is but I think that is the wrong worry.
What is your time horizon? If it is long enough that you should own equities in a meaningful way, you will get that average 10%. Maybe only 9% but that is still enough if you have saved properly. A fun fact I like to toss out on this site every now and then is where the S&P 500 was ten years ago. On June 14, 1996 the S&P 500 closed at 665.85. That is an 84% gain, a little below normal but enough for people that have saved properly. Over the next ten years it will probably do something similar. Even if you think it can only do half that you can get close to the 10%-ish annual average gain with some foreign investing.
I try to add value to client accounts, and hopefully I do, but I am always cognizant of trying to add "too much" value by over-trading. Over time changes do need to be made but probably fewer changes than most people think.
It is a good bet that there are plenty of people who have taken no defensive action. Either they are that passive or their advisor doesn't do that for some reason or perhaps something else. Will there be grave consequences five years from now if a diversified portfolio has not taken any defensive action today? Anything is possible but the I think the answer is probably not.
If you have high expectations for China in the coming years, have those expectations changed at all during this selloff? This has not changed my expectations for China. Most clients have exposure to an oil sands name. I have yet to find any analysis that says the entire increasing demand for oil theme is now over because stock prices are down. This correction/bear market/whatever has not impacted the electricity needs for customers of my favorite utility. I own a few foreign bank stocks for clients. Assuming no fraud, the big banks from insert your favorite foreign country are not going out of business. Perhaps we are all spending $8 less per week at Walmart (not a name I own) but we are still going. If you run out of toothpaste are you going to hold off buying more until Colgate (not a name I own) goes up a couple of points? What about the people waiting in line at Starbucks (a name I do own) for their half-caf no-foam skinny latte?
Let's be clear none of the above means much for determining stock prices for the rest of the summer. The moves I have made have been an effort to add value in case the market goes down a lot. If you do miss a big chunk of one down a lot period in your lifetime your average annual return numbers will likely go up a fair bit but if not you'll be pretty close to that average 10% in your lifetime. If you save enough money, market-equaling returns will do the job.
This is tough to grab onto but you don't really need to worry about being down today, you need to make sure you have enough when you need it in the future. Any value you an add beyond that is gravy but the key is saving properly.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Is that the right thing to do? Is the horse already out of the barn? Do we have another 30% down from here? I don't have the answer to any of these questions. If today is the bottom then yes, the horse is already out. If it drops 30% from here, selling today looks brilliant.
I have detailed the timing of every trade done in the last six weeks on this site. I feel as though I have acted rationally but there is no way to know what comes next week or next month or next quarter. One comment said my sale this morning was amateur. It may turn out to be that but there is no way to know. The name I sold is lower since I executed it at the open but the first five hours makes the trade neither right nor wrong.
The important thing is if you devise an exit strategy you stick to it. My general plan was devised long before this down turn. I believe I have been faithful to it without being emotional. To the extent you read this site to look over my shoulder, know that I have as much uncertainty as anyone but I am sticking to what I said I would do and the trades made over the last six weeks have been decided with logic (even if it is flawed as some of you believe) and not emotion.
A reader asked whether I am a buyer in here anytime soon. The short answer is I might buy a couple of income oriented things but right now I am not looking to replace what I sold down just yet.
It seems like more and more people think the market will crash. While I might heed Bill's warning if his scenario plays out I won't worry about calling a crash but instead will revisit a couple of ideas about crashes.
The history of crashes is such that they come at closer to bottoms than tops. The crashes I have lived through first hand have been better to buy and so if we drop 20% in one day I will be a buyer for clients. I confess I am not sure what I will buy, I don't think I have to solve that now but this could be an instance where a couple of ETFs make the most sense. If we drop 10% in a day, that would be a tougher call. I might buy something the next morning.
I would file this under this is how the market works. I will not advise anyone reading this to do what I do, but keep in mind the market has crashed before. It will crash again. I kind of doubt there will be one this year but I don't know. What I do know is that crashes are not new and that in time markets recover.
If you know they have happened before and you know it will happen again it should rationally remove some of the emotion from the event. It will happen again, it will not harm you physically, the market will not go to zero and at some point it will recover. This happens over and over. In this context, being overly emotional is unnecessary.
I am coming out of one name this morning. I sold a little in the premarket and will finish during the day.
The market has had a couple of false positives with the 200 DMA in the last two years and this may turn out to be another one. I am not worried about the portfolio being down a little, actually it is still up for the year coming into the day.
If this is a bear market, it will start slowly. I am not concerned about the decline from the high to this point if the SPX is on the way to being down 25%-30%.
This feels like it is a bear market starting but since I can't be sure I am in no hurry. Further I reduced some foreign already. Those sales with what I am selling today could look very wrong in six months. I don't care about looking wrong but I do not want to make a swift, extreme, all at once repositioning either.
Monday, June 12, 2006
The basic idea is that you can use the site as a portal to many sources of free content. The drop down that I have in the shot lists many of the major finance sites. You can also bring up quite a few blogs, news sources, message boards and a long list of other things in from the left side menu.
I'm not sure what I think about this but the idea is interesting and potentially time saving. I may have missed it but it does not seem like the page is customizable except for making stock lists.
This site has not officially launched but I was given access to a beta test page. It should launch in July. You should be able to get more information from the site.
I have not been compensated for this in any way (I think the beta signon expires when the site goes live).
Actually a one day breach does not have to be a death blow. I think most technicians would say it was not violated if it closed above the figure tomorrow and did not breach it again.
I have low expectations, though, that we take it back tomorrow or the next day.
The biggest drag has been the foreign exposure. Those markets have been hit harder than the US market. Given my long-term expectations for foreign markets I find some solace in my conviction that there is likely to be some snap back in both developed and developing markets. Also there are a couple of large dividends from some of the foreign names that will hit accounts in the next couple of weeks that will help.
I have a couple of other sell candidates in mind but I am hoping to not have to pull that trigger. A lot of people assign technical significance to 1245 on the S&P 500 so hopefully that holds. We are at 1248 as I write this.
Since last year we have heard commentary from strategists and analysts warning that this year's hurricane season could also be disruptive in a similar manner. Regardless of how bad the hurricane season might be for cities and people it is very unlikely to have as big or long lasting an impact on the energy markets. All of the chatter about the bad season coming has allowed the market to price in what may come.
Last year, coming into the hurricane season there was virtually no concern expressed about hurricane season's impact on the energy markets.
This is the sort of thing that repeats over and over in the markets. People talk and talk and worry and worry about something so much that when it comes it is a non event. August 2002 when CEOs would have to start signing off on earnings is another example of this. Changes in accounting for option grants could be another example but might be the exception that proves the rule. I don't think there have been any single stock blowups caused by options accounting but the tech sector has been lagging badly. While I don't think the lag is from options accounting, who can say for sure?
Sunday, June 11, 2006
This article is from Bloomberg and covers a lot of ground for anyone interested.
The general tone is pessimistic but it still does not deter my interest in maintaining exposure. Most clients have about 3% exposure through one of the big banks.
I have no plans to make changes with that position.
While it is tough to attribute market action concretely to something like that it does raise some questions for the coming few weeks. Will a slowdown in Europe mean less volume here? If so, how much less?
This is could lead to one of several scenarios for US markets. Given the way the market has sold off in the last month I would think there would need to be a surge in demand to retrace what was lost. An event that distracts potential buyers could mean there is not much of a bounce for a while.
This does not have to mean more selling. A positive scenario for the next month might be less volatility for the next month, the market builds a base and after the World Cup we see European participants come back and reestablish positions. The first flaw to this I can think of is that Europe "shuts down" for the summer, but for now the above seems reasonable.
Another thought I had, and perhaps this ties in, conceptually if nothing else, with what Barry posted from Jeff Saut, is that some of the big selloffs of the last ten years have lasted about six weeks. The S&P 500 peaked on May 8.
One way or another, this mini-whoosh needs to correct. This either means a bounce up or time spent close to SPX 1250. Either one would be corrective.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Earlier this morning I gave another guess as to what I thought the market might do today and like yesterday it turned out to be correct. Yesterday I tried to hit upon how useless the exercise is in terms of managing a long-term portfolio.
I said this so that people would not think I was condoning this type of trade. To clarify there are people that are very good at trading these types of moves but the average do-it-yourselfer should probably stay away from the trade.
Despite the above beliefs I think there is value in assessing the market over very short time periods. The idea here is the potential to have a feel for how the market is dealing with current events. The benefit to this could be that you avoid rash emotional decisions in your portfolio. This is not to say you won’t still get things wrong and no one can always know what the market will do either.
To the extent that you can be right about the mood of the market every now and then it can make you a better investor. Also the gyration going on today will probably repeat again in your investing lifetime. A phrase I use occasionally to describe something in the market is to say I have seen this movie before. We are all currently watching a movie. Maybe you have seen it before or maybe not but you will see it again in the future.
Two years ago I wrote an article for Motley Fool about a stock called Pozen (POZN) which is a biotech stock working on a drug for migraine headaches. While I am not sure if Pozen is a one drug company or not the market perceives that it is.
The catalyst for that article was bad FDA news that took the name down 40%. That 40% hit was not the first time that the stock had been crushed in a similar manner and the stock is getting cut in half today on bad FDA news.
Regardless of anything else having to do with this stock, the actual company or its drug, it is very capable of being crushed on bad news, more so than a lot of other stocks. That it happens to this one stock every couple of years makes me question the merits of owning it but I do not know enough to say for sure.
I do know enough about its trading to stay away.
Today as I was reading about a surprise rate hike in South Africa up to 7.5% I had a thought about the next 15 years for equity investing. This is really a 60,000 foot question (to quote Stephen Roach).
What is the better bet for the next 15 years, that the US can maintain its place as top economic banana or that emerging market countries make real progress on every front and close the gap between themselves and the US?
This kind of seems like a no brainer. This is not a call to go 50% in emerging markets nor does it have anything to do with what might happen in the next two months with stock prices. It seems logical that emerging markets, as an asset class, can do some catching up economically and socially.
If this holds any water I would not expect every single emerging country to participate. Also this would not have to be ruinous to the US. I am not one for apocalyptic scenarios but that the dollar could be 20% weaker and mortgages might cost 9% at some point in the future does not seem radical or calamitous.
Something to think about.
Oil in that range would be a very positive development for US markets if it could go there an stay there for a few months or longer. Of course it could trade there but I don't think it could stay there.
With oil at $62 it would still be great times for oil stocks but it would also, I believe, give a boost to sentiment for the consumer. Maybe with oil at that level, gas might drop to $2.50 (it is $2.92 at the Prescott Costco)? I think that could ease concerns considerably.
Oil stocks might initially re-price on a move down to $62 but earnings would be fantastic with that kind of average price for crude.
My reply was "we'll know how interesting tomorrow," meaning Friday. Foreign markets have all rebounded today. A lot of them have done worse than the US in this sell down but I think their fall has been an over reaction vs. their respective fundamentals.
I think the fundamentals in the US are shakier than abroad but I do not think things are catastrophic here. Obviously weakness in the US has the potential to affect other countries.
The US market looks to open a tad higher. Given the hope I think is being expressed on CNBC I think this is the type of start that could fade during the day. I would love to be wrong and see the market have a calm slow move up that is just enough to put some distance between the 200 DMA.
I'm not sure a manic panic up today is the best thing that could happen for the longer term health of the market (but it would be nice for the weekend).
Did Doreen just say that the market is reacting to future events instead of current news? Isn't market always discounting possible future outcomes?
Thursday, June 08, 2006
The question is does this turn around mean something? Despite the turn around I cut back on my tech exposure about an hour before the close. I have been very underweight tech and that group seems to be sicker than any other sector. If I have more selling to do, the market action will help me with this decision.
I don't feel encouraged, maybe today was a capitulation but I doubt it. I have said before that I will be unlikely to bottom tick this decline and given how things have gone I would not be upset to lag a big woosh up if it comes.
The S&P 500 is below its 200 DMA, sentiment stinks and money seems to be rotating out of every asset class. I'm sure this will turn out to be wrong but I think the market will turn around today and finish higher for the day.
If this is wrong I plan to sell down some tech into the close consistent with my get defensive strategy.
To reiterate something I write a lot is that downward action is normal, not fun, but normal. Obviously I believe in trying to take active steps to reduce the impact of moves like this but I am not making huge changes in client accounts. When the market does go up again, regardless of when, the move will probably be big and very fast. This is why I don't want too much cash. The money I manage is long term money. Despite any worry my clients might be feeling, being right for a couple of months is the wrong priority.
What is the long-term priority for your portfolio? Do you want to retire a couple of years early? Live better in retirement? Or is your long-term goal being right about the second quarter of 2006?
On May 23 I wrote a post about having sold half of my exposure (for clients) in an unnamed industrial stock. The stock in question was Caterpillar (CAT). This is a name I have owned for clients since 2003. I own the stock because as an industrial stock the cap size is not huge, it is selling a lot equipment to anyplace in the world that is modernizing its infrastructure, the valuations are good and I have felt that it could outperform its sector.
In the time I have been involved with the name none of the above attributes have changed much nor are they likely to change much in the near future. I executed the sale after hours on the 23rd at an average price of $73.70. Cat had an intraday high of $82.03 on May 10 and yesterday it closed at $66.74.
A big contributing factor to my decision to cut back was that at $73 and change the stock was up 28% for the year, another concern was that I think the economic cycle is much closer to the end than the beginning and even if Caterpillar can do well in a recession, fundamentally, I would expect the industrial sector, price-wise, to languish before a recession (top down thinking).
So the next question might be why keep any and there are two important reasons why. The first is that I could be wrong, Kudlow might have it right and the next recession might be nowhere in sight and a big industrial stock like this one might double in the next six months. Also I believe in maintaining a diversified portfolio. I would never want zero exposure to a sector of the market (although most clients own several other industrial names).
This general process stands up over time (for me anyway) and I think can be applied in the future. I think this strategy is consistent with what I have been writing about since the site started.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Did you see this little ditty yesterday? Standard & Poors (S&P) SAYS
THE UNITED STATES' 'AAA' CREDIT RATING COULD BE HURT BY PRESSURE ON
BUDGET FROM AGING POPULATION. S&P WENT FURTHER TO SAY....ABSENT FISCAL
REFORMS, THE UNITED STATES' CREDIT RATING WOULD FALL TO 'A' AFTER 2015,
and 'BBB' BY 2020.
Previously this index was only accessible as a futures product but now is also an ETF. The question becomes will it be available in the US? It just started trading so it may take a little while but if you have an account at Schwab or any other discount firm I would encourage you to ask if it will be available.
Please note I am not encouraging you to buy it but it provides an alternative to the lone (for now) commodity index ETF, DBC.
The Rogers index has 44% in energy, 35% in agriculture and 21% in metals with 35 different commodities in all. This compares to 55% in energy, 22.5% in agriculture and 22.5% in metals but only a total of six commodities for DBC.
In the short time for both, DBC has outperformed due, I believe, to DBC's heavier weight to oil. If there is a rotation into so called soft commodities I would expect the Rogers fund to out perform.
To be clear I am not trying to make a call about the immediate direction of commodities. This is an asset class that I believe in being exposed to for its diversification attributes. The possibility exists that this is the best way to capture the asset class, this is for you to decide for your own account but at a minimum it is worth exploring.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Please no comments.
I am concerned that the market might be headed lower on this go around and that I might need to do more selling pursuant to my exit strategy. With these issues is the underlying understanding that markets go up and they go down, this does not change over time.
I understand that people get emotional but I write this type of post every so often to point out that ups and downs will always be the case. Being overly shaken up over something (that cannot literally kill me) that I know will happen over and over again is not something I want to do.
Think about the last ten years of wild swings, crashes, crises and bubbles. On June 6 1996 the S&P 500 closed at 673.03, it is up 87%. That is a little less than the historical norm but it is better than a threefold increase over the inflation rate (as measured by the postage stamp) in the same time period. For diligent savers, with no exit strategy during the bubble, it has been a fine last ten years.
Obviously there are going to be more moving parts for just about each individual but how much more do you know now than you did ten years ago?
To repeat from past posts, just stick to your investment strategy and leave emotion out of it.