Posts tagged ‘baseball’

Take Me Out to the Stock Game

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complementary newsletter (October 1, 2013). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text. 

The Major League Baseball playoffs are just about to start, and the struggling U.S. economy is also trying to score some more wins to make the postseason as well. In 2008 and early 2009, the stock market looked more like The Bad News Bears with the S&P 500 index losing -58% of its value from the peak to the trough. The overleveraged (debt-laden) financial system, banged by a speculative housing bubble, swung the global economy into recession and put a large part of the economic team onto the disabled list.

Since the lows of 2009, S&P 500 stocks have skyrocketed +152%, including an +18% gain in 2013, and a +3% jump in September alone. With that incredible track record, one might expect a euphoric wave of investors pouring into the stock market stadium, ready to open their wallets at the financial market concession stand. Au contraire. Despite the dramatic winning streak, investors remain complacent skeptics, analyzing and critiquing every political, economic, and financial market movement and gyration.

Unfortunately, as stock prices have scored massive gains, many market followers have been too busy eating peanuts and drinking beer, rather than focusing on the positive economic statistics in the scorebook, such as these:

15/16 Quarters of Positive GDP Growth: 

Source: Crossing Wall Street

 

Precipitous Drop in Unemployment Claims: The lowest level since 2007 (7.5 million private sector jobs added since employment trough).

Source: Bespoke

 

All-Time Record Corporate Profits:

Source: Ed Yardeni

 

Financially Healthier Consumer – Lower Debt & Higher Net Worth: 

Source: Scott Grannis

 

Improving Housing Market:

Source: Scott Grannis

 

While you can see a lot of financial momentum is propelling Team USA, there are plenty of observers concerned more about potential slumps and injuries emanating from a lineup of uncertainties. Currently, the fair-weather fans who are sitting in the bleachers are more interested in the uncertainty surrounding a government shutdown, debt ceiling negotiations, Syrian unrest, Iranian nuclear discussions, Obamacare defunding, and an imminent tapering of the Federal Reserve’s QE bond purchasing program (see Perception vs. Reality). The fearful skepticism of the fans has manifested itself in the form of a mountain of cash ($7 trillion), which is rapidly eroding to inflation and damaging millions of retirees’ long-term goals (see chart below). The fans sitting in the bleachers are less likely to buy long-term season tickets until some of these issues are settled.

Source: Scott Grannis – $3 trillion added since crisis.

 

The aforementioned list of worries are but a few of the concerns that have investors biting their nails. While there certainly is a possibility the market could be thrown a curve ball by one of these issues, veteran all-star investors understand there are ALWAYS uncertainties, and when the current list of concerns eventually gets resolved or forgotten, you can bet there will be plenty of new knuckle-balls and screw-balls (i.e., new list of worries) to fret over in the coming weeks, months, and years (see Back to the Future III,III). Ultimately, the vast majority of concerns fade away.

Yoooouuuuuu’rrrreee Out!

The politicians in Washington are a lot like umpires, but what our country really needs are umpires who can change and improve the rules, especially the silly, antiquated ones (see also Strangest Baseball Rules). The problem is that bad rules (not good ones) often get put in place so the umpires/politicians can keep their jobs at the expense of the country’s best interest.

When umpires (politicians) cannot agree on how to improve the rules, gridlock actually is the next best outcome (see Who Said Gridlock is Bad?). The fact of the matter is that deficits and debt/GDP ratios have declined dramatically in recent years due in part to bitter political feuds (see chart below). When responsible spending is put into action, good things happen and a stronger economic foundation can be established to cushion future crises.

Source: Scott Grannis

 

There is plenty of room for improvement, but the statistics speak for themselves, which help explain why patient fans/investors have been handsomely rewarded with a homerun over the last four years. October historically has been a volatile month for the stock market, and the looming government shutdown and $16.7 trillion debt ceiling negotiations may contribute to some short-term strike-outs. However, if history proves to be a guide, stocks on average rise +4.26% during the last three months of the year (source: Bespoke), meaning the game may just not be over yet. With plenty of innings remaining for stocks to continue their upward trajectory, I still have ample time to grab my hot dog and malt during the 7th inning stretch.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing, SCM had no direct position in TSLA, PBI, or 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 the information to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

October 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm 1 comment

Blowing the Perfect Investment Game

Photo source: Boston.com

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.  

www.Sidoxia.com 

*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.

June 4, 2010 at 1:15 am 3 comments

Chasing Profits – Can Fund Managers Beat the Game?

Achieving Long-Term Excess Returns is a Tough Race

Achieving Long-Term Excess Returns is a Tough Race

How someone invests their money should fundamentally be based on their view of what’s the best way of playing the investment game. Before playing, the investor should answer the following key question: “Is the market efficient?” Efficient market followers believe active managers – professionals that periodically buy and sell with a profit motive – CANNOT consistently earn excess returns over longer periods of time, in part because market prices reflect all available information. If you fall into the efficiency camp, then you should dial 1-800-VANGUARD to simply buy some index funds. However, if you believe the market is inefficient, then invest in an exploitable strategy or hire an active investment manager you believe can outperform the market after fees and taxes.

For me personally, I fall somewhere in between both camps. I opportunistically invest my hedge fund in areas where I see superior return potential. However, in other areas of my investment practice (outside my main circle of expertise), I choose to side with the overwhelming body of evidence from academics that show passive/indexing slaughters about 75% of professionals.

Richard Roll, renowned economist and thought leader on the efficient market hypothesis, said this:

“I have personally tried to invest money, my client’s and my own, in every single anomaly and predictive result that academics have dreamed up. And I have yet to make a nickel on any of these supposed market inefficiencies. An inefficiency ought to be an exploitable opportunity. If there’s nothing investors can exploit in a systematic way, time in and time out, then it’s very hard to say that information is not being properly incorporated into stock prices. Real money investment strategies don’t produce the results that academic papers say they should.”
—(Wall Street Journal, 12/28/00)

 

The market gurus du jour blanket the media airwaves, but don’t hurt your back by hastily bowing. Having worked in the investment industry for a long time, you learn very quickly that many of the celebrated talking-heads on the TV today rotate quickly from the penthouse to the outhouse. Certainly, there are the well regarded professional money managers that survive the walk across the burning-coals and have performed great feats with their clients’ money over long periods of time. But even the legendary ones take their lumps and suffer droughts when their style or strategy falls out of favor.

The professional investing dynamics are no different than professional baseball. There are a relatively few hitters in the Major Leagues who can consistently achieve above a .300 batting average. In 2007, AssociatedContent.com did a study that showed there were only 12 active career .300 hitters in Major League Baseball. The same principle applies to investing – there is a narrow slice of managers that can consistently beat the market over longer periods of time.

There Are Only So Many .300 Hitters

There Are Only So Many .300 Hitters

Some statisticians point to the “law of large numbers” when describing long term investor success (a.k.a. “luck”) or ascribe the anomaly to statistical noise. Peter Lynch might have something to say about that. Peter Lynch managed the Fidelity Magellan Fund from 1977 – 1990, while he visited 200 companies per year and read about 700 company reports annually. Over that period Lynch averaged a 29% annual return for his investors vs. a 15% return for the S&P 500 index. Luck? How about Bill Miller from Legg Mason who outperformed the major industry benchmark for 15 consecutive years (1991-2005). Perhaps that too was good fortune? Or how about investor extraordinaire Warren Buffet who saw his stock price go from $33 per share in 1967 to $14,972 in 2007 – maybe that was just an accident too? An average schmuck off the street achieving Warren’s Buffett performance over a multi-decade period is equivalent to me batting .357 against Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson…pure fantasy.

Academics also have difficulty with their efficiency arguments when it comes to explaining events like the “1987 Crash,” the technology bubble bursting in 2000, or the recent subprime derivative security meltdown. If all available information was already reflected in the market prices, then it would be unlikely the markets would experience such rapid and dramatic collapses.

What these bubbles show me is no matter how much academic research is conducted, the behavioral aspects of greed and fear will always create periods of inefficiency in the marketplace. These periods of inefficiency generate windows of profit opportunity that can be exploited by a subset of skillful managers. In the short-run, luck plays a great role; in the long-run sklill level determines ultimate performance. Benjamin Graham, summed it up best when he said, “In the short-term, the stock market is a voting machine; in the long-term a weighing machine.”

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management and client accounts do not have direct positions in LM or BRKA/B at the time the article was published.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.

June 8, 2009 at 5:30 am 1 comment


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