Posts tagged ‘history’

U.S. – Best House in Bad Global Neighborhood

Article below represents a portion of free December 1, 2011 Sidoxia monthly newsletter (Subscribe on right-side of page)

There is no shortage of issues to worry about in our troubled global neighborhood, but then again, anybody older than 25 years old knows the world is always an uncertain place. Whether we are talking about wars (Vietnam, Cold War, Iraq); presidential calamities (Kennedy assassination, Nixon resignation/impeachment proceedings); international turmoil (dissolution of Soviet Union, 9/11 attacks, Arab Spring); investment bubbles (technology, real estate); or financial crises (S&L crisis, Long Term Capital, Lehman Brothers bankruptcy), investors always have a large menu of concerns from which they can order.

Despite the doom and gloom dominating the media airwaves, and the lackluster performance of equities experienced over the last decade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index are both up more than 20-fold since the 1970s (those gains also exclude the positive impact of dividends).

Times Have Changed

Just a few decades ago, nobody would have talked or cared about small economies like Iceland, Dubai, and Greece. Today, technology has accelerated the forces of globalization, resulting in information travelling thousands of miles at the click of a mouse, often creating scary financial mountains out of meaningless molehills. As a result of these trends, news of Italian bond auctions, which normally would be glossed over on the evening news, instantaneously clogs our smart phones, computers, radios, and televisions. The implications of all these developments mean investing has become much more difficult, just as its importance has never been more crucial. 

How has investing become more critical? For starters, interest rates are near 60-year lows and Treasury bond prices are at record highs, while inflation (food, energy, healthcare, leisure, etc.) is shrinking the value of people’s savings. Next, entitlement and pension reliability are decreasing by the minute – fiscal imbalances and unrealistic promises have contributed to a less certain retirement outlook. Layer on hyper-manic volatility of daily, multi-hundred point swings in the Dow Jones Industrial index and a less experienced investor quickly realizes investing can become an overwhelming game. Case in point is the VIX volatility index (a.k.a., the “Fear Gauge”), which has registered a whopping +57% increase in 2011.

December to Remember?

After an explosive +23% return in the S&P 500 index for 2009 (excluding dividends) and another +13% return in 2010, equity investors have taken a breather thus far in 2011 – the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up modestly (+4%) and the S&P 500 index is down fractionally (-1%). We still have the month of December to log, but in the short-run the European tail has definitely been wagging the rest of the global dog.

Although the United States knows a thing or two about lack of political leadership and coordination, herding the 17 eurozone countries to resolve the European debt financial crisis has proved even more challenging.  As you can see below in the performance figures of the major global equity markets, the U.S. remains the best house in a bad neighborhood:

Our fiscal house undeniably needs some work (i.e., unsustainable deficits and bloated debt), but record corporate profits, record levels of cash, voracious consumer spending, improving employment data, and attractive valuations are all contributing to a domestic house that makes opportunities in our backyard look a lot more appealing to investors than prospects elsewhere in the global neighborhood.

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 and VGK, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position 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.

December 3, 2011 at 9:39 am 1 comment

Boo! Will History Offer a Bearish Trick or BullishTreat?

October is not only a scary month for trick-or-treaters during Halloween, but October is also a scary month for investors.

Boo! Scared yet? Well if not, need I remind you of the market crashes of 1929 and 1987 also occurred during this ghoulish month? With a wall of worry and concerns galore overwhelming myopic traders, it’s no surprise nervous memories become shortened in anxious times like these.

The financial crisis of 2008-2009 is seared into the minds of investors and every Greek debt negotiation creates fresh new Armageddon fears. But perhaps history will repeat itself in a shorter-term more positive way? Just last year, I wrote about the excessive pessimism (It’s All Greek to Me) in July 2010, when “de-risking” was the buzz word of the day and hedge funds were bailing in droves – right before the +30%+ QE2 (quantitative easing) melt-up. Despite a massive expansion in earnings growth over the last few years,  the S&P 500 just touched 1074 a few weeks ago – putting the index at similar trading levels as in Fall 2009 (see chart below).

Source: Yahoo! Finance

Will Europe crater the U.S. into an abyss, or will Bernanke need to pull a QE3 rabbit out of his hat? I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I do know it’s better to follow the wisdom of Warren Buffett who says to “buy fear and sell greed.” If a 2% 10-Year Treasury, elevated VIX, and trillions in swollen cash reserves do not represent fear, then I may just need to pack my backs and head out to the Greek island of Santorini – that way I can at least enjoy my fear on a sunny beach.

Regardless of the Q4 outcome, I thought my friend Mark Twain could provide some insight about history’s role in financial markets. Here is an Investing Caffeine flashback from the fall of 2009 (History Never Repeats Itself, but it Often Rhymes) which also questioned the extremely negative sentiment at the time (S&P 500: 1069):

As Mark Twain said, “History never repeats itself, but it often rhymes.” There are many bear markets with which to compare the current financial crisis we are working through. By studying the past we can understand the repeated mistakes of others (caused by fear and greed), and avoid making similar emotional errors.

Do you want an example? Here you go:

Today there are thoughtful, experienced, respected economists, bankers, investors and businessmen who can give you well-reasoned, logical, documented arguments why this bear market is different; why this time the economic problems are different; why this time things are going to get worse — and hence, why this is not a good time to invest in common stocks, even though they may appear low.”
– Jim Fullerton, former chairman of the Capital Group of the American Funds (written  November 7, 1974)

 

Although the quote above seems appropriate for 2009, it actually is reflective of the bearish mood felt in most bear markets. We have been through wars, assassinations, banking crises, currency crises, terrorist attacks, mad-cow disease, swine flu, and yes, even recessions. And through it all, most have managed to survive in decent shape. Let’s take a deeper look.

1973-1974 Case Study:

For those of you familiar with this period, recall the prevailing circumstances:

  • Exiting Vietnam War
  • Undergoing a recession
  • 9% unemployment
  • Arab Oil Embargo
  • Watergate: Presidential resignation
  • Collapse of the Nifty Fifty stocks
  • Rising inflation

Not too rosy a scenario, yet here’s what happened:

S&P 500 Price (12/1974): 69

S&P 500 Price (8/2009): 1,021

That is a whopping +1,380% increase, excluding dividends.

What Investors Should Do:

  1. Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions to Media Reports: Whether it’s radio, television, newspapers, or now blogs, the headlines should not emotionally control your investment decisions. Historically, media venues are lousy at identifying changes in price direction. Reporters are excellent at telling you what is happening or what just happened – not what is going to happen.
  2. Save and Invest: Regardless of the market direction, entitlements like Medicare and social security are under stress, and life expectancies are increasing (despite the sad state of our healthcare system), therefore investing is even more important today than ever.
  3. Create a Systematic, Disciplined Investment Plan: I recommend a plan that takes advantage of passive, low-cost, tax-efficient investment strategies (e.g. exchange-traded and index funds) across a diversified portfolio. Rather than capitulating in response to market volatility, have a systematic process that can rebalance periodically to take advantage of these circumstances.

For DIY-ers (Do-It-Yourselfers), I suggest opening a low-cost discount brokerage account and research firms like Vanguard Group, iShares, or Select Sector SPDRs. If you choose to outsource to a professional advisor, I recommend interviewing several fee-only* advisers – focusing on experience, investment philosophy, and potential compensation conflicts of interest.

If you believe, like some economists, CEOs, and investors, we have suffered through the worst of the current “Great Recession” and you are sitting on the sidelines, then it might make sense to heed the following advice: “Some people say they want to wait for a clearer view of the future. But when the future is again clear, the present bargains will have vanished.” Dean Witter made those comments 77 years ago – a few weeks before the end of worst bear market in history. The market has bounced quite a bit since March of this year, but if history is on our side, there might be more room to go.

Portions of this article were originally published on September 16, 2009.

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, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position 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.

*For disclosure purposes: Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP is President & Founder of Sidoxia Capital Management, LLC, a fee-only investment adviser based in Newport Beach, California.

October 23, 2011 at 9:55 pm Leave a comment

Playing Whack-A-Mole with the Pros

Source: Flickr

Deciphering the ups and the downs of the financial markets is a lot like playing a game of Whack-A-Mole. First the market is up 300 points, then down 300 points. Next Greece and Europe are going down the drain, and then Germany and the ECB (European Central Bank) are here to save the day. The daily data points are a rapid moving target, and if history continues to serve as a guide (see History Often Rhymes with the Future), the bobbing consensus views of pundits will continue to get hammered by investors’ mallets.

Let’s take a look at recent history to see who has been the “whack-er” and whom has been the “whack-ee.” Whether it was the gloom and doom consensus view in the early 1980s (reference BusinessWeek’s 1979 front page “The Death of Equities) or the euphoric championing of tech stocks in the 1990s (see Money magazine’s March 2000 cover, “The Hottest Market Ever), the consensus view was wrong then, and is likely wrong again today.

Here are some of the fresher consensus views that have popped up and then gotten beaten down:

End of QE2The Consensus: If you rewind the clock back to June 2011 when the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion QE2 (Quantitative Easing Part II) monetary stimulus program was coming to an end, a majority of pundits expected bond prices to tank in the absence of the Fed’s Ben Bernanke’s checkbook support. Before the end of QE2, Reuters financial service surveyed 64 professionals, and a substantial majority predicted bond prices would tank and interest rates would catapult upwards.   Actual Result: The pundits were wrong and rates did not go up, they in fact went down.  As a result, bond prices screamed higher – bond values increased significantly as 10-year Treasury yields fell from 3.16% to a low of 1.72% last week.

Debt Ceiling DebateThe Consensus: Just one month later, Democrats and Republicans were playing a game of political “chicken” in the process of raising the debt ceiling to over $16 trillion. Bill Gross, bond guru and CEO of fixed income giant PIMCO, was one of the many pros who earlier this year sold Treasuries in droves because fears of bond vigilantes shredding prices of U.S. Treasury bonds .

Here was the prevalent thought process at the time:  Profligate spending by irresponsible bureaucrats in Washington if not curtailed dramatically would cascade into a disaster, which would lead to higher default risk, cancerous inflation, and exploding interest rates ala Greece. Actual Result: Once again, the pundits were proved wrong in the deciphering of their cloudy crystal balls. Interest rates did not rise, they actually fell.  As a result, bond prices screamed higher and 10-year Treasury yields dived from 2.74% to the recent low of 1.72%.

S&P Credit DowngradeThe Consensus: The S&P credit rating agency warned Washington that a failure to come to meaningful consensus on deficit and debt reduction would result in bitter consequences. Despite a $2 trillion error made by S&P, the agency kept its word and downgraded the U.S.’s long-term debt rating to AA+ from AAA. Research from JP Morgan (JPM) cautioned investors of the imminent punishment to be placed on $4 trillion in Treasury collateral, which could lead to a seizing in credit markets.  Actual Result: Rather than becoming the ugly stepchild, U.S. Treasuries became a global safe-haven for investors around the world to pile into. Not only did bond prices steadily climb (and yields decline), but the value of our currency as measured by the Dollar Index (DXY) has risen significantly since then.

Dollar Index (DXY) Source: Bloomberg

What is next? Nobody knows for certain. In the meantime, grab some cotton candy, popcorn, and a rubber mallet. There is never a shortage of confident mole-like experts popping up on TV, newspapers, blogs, and radio. So when the deafening noise about the inevitable collapse of Europe and the global economy comes roaring in, make sure you are the one holding the mallet and not the mole getting whacked on the head.

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, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in JPM, MHP, 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 to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

October 1, 2011 at 5:53 am Leave a comment

Why it’s NOT Different This Time

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

–          Edmund Burke – British Statesman and Philosopher (1729-1797) 

I wasn’t a history major in college, but I’ve learned two things by studying history books: 1) The unchanging psyche of human nature leads history consistently to repeats itself; and 2) There is never a shortage of goofballs willing to make zany predictions.

Robert Zuccaro is no exception to lesson number two, as evidenced by his 2001 book, Why it’s Different this Time…Dow 30,000 by 2008!   Sticking one’s neck out is never too difficult when you have a multi-decade trend behind your back – I guess Dow “14,000” just didn’t sound sexy enough back then. Unfortunately the herd reacting to these bold, extreme predictions eventually realize (usually post-mortem) that they are quickly approaching a tail-end of a cycle. The cab driver, hair dresser, and mechanic realized the dangers of following the “New Economy” cheerleaders in 1999 when everyone was piling into dot-com stocks (see Bubblicious technology table ).

Dow 1,000 Here We Come!

Source: Yahoo! Finance

Today, the Zuccaros of the world have been washed to the curb, and new “Armageddon” extremists have sprouted up to the surface, like perma-bear Peter Schiff and his call for Dow 2,000  or his $5,000 per ounce gold estimate. More recently, Robert Prechter has one-upped Schiff by forecasting Dow 1,000 with the assistance of the not-so ironclad Elliott Wave Theory philosophy (see Technical Analysis: Astrology or Lob Wedge). If you’re in the Prechter camp, either crawl back into your bunker or start digging that dream cave you always wanted.

Source: Elliott Wave International

“Hey, Look Here at My Crazy Forecast!”

Publicity doesn’t necessarily rain praise on those parroting the consensus view (although the warmth of job security is appreciated), but rather the extreme outliers love to bask in the glow of media attention. The extremists consistently repeat “why it’s  different this time.” What is different is the set of circumstances, but what history shows us over and over again is the emotions of fear and greed feeding the bubbles of excess are exactly the same. Whether you’re talking about the Tulip-Mania of the 1630s, the Nifty Fifty stocks of 1973-1974, the technology Four Horsemen of the mid-1990s, or the Icelandic Banks of 2008, what we learn from the lessons of history is that human nature will never change and fear and greed will continue creating and bursting future bubbles.

People playing the game long enough understand, “It’s NOT different this time.” Not only have we endured repeated wars, recessions, banking crises, currency crises, but we have also survived every exotic animal disease known to man, including Mad Cow, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, West Nile, etc.

Robert Zuccaro and Robert Prechter may get an “A” for their attention grabbing forecasts, but thus far the grade earned on accuracy is closer to an “F.” More specifically, Zuccaro’s prediction never came close to 30,000 by the end of 2008 (only off by about 21,000 points), and guess what, Bob Prechter has a long way to go before reaching his Dow 1,000 target. So here is my proposition: Why don’t we just split the difference between Zuccaro’s 2008 and Prechter’s 2016 forecasts and take the average? If it turns out they are equally bad forecasters, then Dow 15,500 by 2012 should be no problem ([30,000 + 1,000] ÷ 2)!

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this market (double-dip or sustained recovery), what I do know is there will continue to be wacky outlandish forecasters rationalizing why a trend will go on for infinity and why “this time is different.” In reality these attention mongers will always be around ensuring this time (or next time) will never be different…just the same fear and greed as always.

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, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position 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.

September 29, 2010 at 12:09 am 2 comments

History Never Repeats Itself, But It Often Rhymes

Mark Twain

As Mark Twain said, “History never repeats itself, but it often rhymes.” There are many bear markets with which to compare the current financial crisis we are working through. By studying the past we can understand the repeated mistakes of others (caused by fear and greed), and avoid making similar emotional errors.

 Do you want an example? Here you go:

“Today there are thoughtful, experienced, respected economists, bankers, investors and businessmen who can give you well-reasoned, logical, documented arguments why this bear market is different; why this time the economic problems are different; why this time things are going to get worse — and hence, why this is not a good time to invest in common stocks, even though they may appear low.”
– Jim Fullerton, former chairman of the Capital Group of the American Funds (written  November 7, 1974)

 

Although the quote above seems appropriate for 2009, it actually is reflective of the bearish mood felt in most bear markets. We have been through wars, assassinations, banking crises, currency crises, terrorist attacks, mad-cow disease, swine flu, and yes, even recessions. And through it all, most have managed to survive in decent shape. Let’s take a deeper look.

1973-1974 Case Study:

For those of you familiar with this period, recall the prevailing circumstances:

  • Exiting Vietnam War
  • Undergoing a recession
  • 9% unemployment
  • Arab Oil Embargo
  • Watergate: Presidential resignation
  • Collapse of the Nifty Fifty stocks
  • Rising inflation

Not too rosy a scenario, yet here’s what happened:

S&P 500 Price (12/1974): 69

S&P 500 Price (8/2009): 1,021

That is a whopping +1,380% increase, excluding dividends.

What Investors Should Do:

  1. Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions to Media Reports: Whether it’s radio, television, newspapers, or now blogs, the headlines should not emotionally control your investment decisions. Historically, media venues are lousy at identifying changes in price direction. Reporters are excellent at telling you what is happening or what just happened – not what is going to happen.
  2. Save and Invest: Regardless of the market direction, entitlements like Medicare and social security are under stress, and life expectancies are increasing (despite the sad state of our healthcare system), therefore investing is even more important today than ever.
  3. Create a Systematic, Disciplined Investment Plan: I recommend a plan that takes advantage of passive, low-cost, tax-efficient investment strategies (e.g. exchange-traded and index funds) across a diversified portfolio. Rather than capitulating in response to market volatility, have a systematic process that can rebalance periodically to take advantage of these circumstances.

For DIY-ers (Do-It-Yourselfers), I suggest opening a low-cost discount brokerage account and research firms like Vanguard Group, iShares, or Select Sector SPDRs. If you choose to outsource to a professional advisor, I recommend interviewing several fee-only* advisers – focusing on experience, investment philosophy, and potential compensation conflicts of interest.

If you believe, like some economists, CEOs, and investors, we have suffered through the worst of the current “Great Recession” and you are sitting on the sidelines, then it might make sense to heed the following advice: “Some people say they want to wait for a clearer view of the future. But when the future is again clear, the present bargains will have vanished.” Dean Witter made those comments 77 years ago – a few weeks before the end of worst bear market in history. The market has bounced quite a bit since March of this year, but if history is on our side, there might be more room to go.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

*For disclosure purposes: Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP is President & Founder of Sidoxia Capital Management, LLC, a fee-only investment adviser based in Newport Beach, California.

September 16, 2009 at 4:00 am 10 comments


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