Blowing the Perfect Investment Game

June 4, 2010 at 1:15 am 3 comments

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Armando Galarraga, pitcher from the Detroit Tigers baseball team, became a victim of a blown call by umpire Jim Joyce, resulting in a lifetime opportunity being ripped from his clutches. Not only did the error in judgment cost Galarraga a perfect game – a feat only achieved by 20 pitchers over the last 130 years – but the blunder also cost him a no-hitter. Perfect games are difficult to come by in the investment world too, but for those ambitious investors reaching for the finance Hall of Fame, I strongly believe a healthy dosage of international and emerging markets is required to achieve perfection (or significant outperformance).

The Fab Five

The oft quoted view that the U.S. was the dominant economic powerhouse in the 20th century (after Britain controlled the 19th century) led me to analyze five emerging growth markets outside of the U.S. There are some clear leaders in pursuit of 21st century economic supremacy, however nothing in the global pecking order is guaranteed. What I do know is that me and my clients will be relying on the financial tailwinds of growth coming from these international markets to provide excess return potential to my portfolios (albeit at the cost of shorter-term volatility). Even retired individuals, or those with shorter time horizons, should consider small bite sizes of these emerging markets in their portfolios, if merely for some of the diversification benefits (see diversification article).

Pundits and media types endlessly write and talk about the “lost decade,” the demise of “buy and hold,” and/or the “death of equities.” Well, as you can see, the lost decade through the first half of 2010 turned out to be a significantly lucrative period for investors with the stomach and courage to invest outside the familiar comfort zone of the United States (see chart below).

Specifically, here is the international outperformance achieved in the sample of international markets as compared to the United States (S&P 500 Index):

  • Brazil +266.22% (EWZ tracking Bovespa Index)
  • India +266.16% (Bombay Stock Exchange – BSE)
  • Australia +68.16% (ASX 200 Index)
  • China +68.06% (Shanghai Index)
  • Hong Kong +39.74% (Hang Seng Index)
  • United States -128.19% Average Underperformance versus five other geographic indexes.

An added kicker for investment consideration is valuation. According to The Financial Times market data section, all these international markets, with the exception of India, trade at a discount to the S&P 500 on a Price/Earnings ratio basis (P/E).

Victim of Our Own Success

Graph source: The New York Times

In many respects, our country has continued to thrive in spite of some of our political and economic shortcomings. As you can see from the chart below (NY Times article) our country’s market share of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been steadily been declining since World War II (and we’ve still done OK). With U.S. GDP exceeding $14 trillion, our sheer size makes it much more difficult to grow relative to our smaller, more nimble international brethren. Given our top economic position in the world, Warren Buffett succinctly identified the force working against size when he said, “Gravity always wins.” I would expect gravitational influences to continue to weigh us down in the future, but our declining share should not be considered a detrimental trend. Globalization needs to be embraced by policymakers so we can take advantage of these faster growing countries as opportunistic export markets. We Americans can improve our standard of living while riding the coattails of our speedy neighbors. Do yourself a favor and include a healthy chunk of higher growth markets into your portfolio – it’s important you do not blow your own investment game.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®  

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds (including BKF, FXI, EWZ), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

Entry filed under: Asset Allocation, International. Tags: , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. trad  |  June 4, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Lets not forget Buffett just made a huge play on America with his railroad play! Great article though for the long term equity investor

  • […] Even for those downbeat on the domestic equity markets – rightfully so with no price gains achieved over the last decade – younger investors should not lose sight of the tremendous equity opportunities available internationally (see the Blowing the Perfect Investment Game). […]


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