Posts tagged ‘Nouriel Roubini’

Historical Trampoline Cycles of Fear & Greed

What goes up, eventually comes down, and what goes down, eventually comes up. Like an adolescent jumping on a trampoline, emotions in the financial markets jump sky high before crashing down to earth…and then the process repeats itself. The underlying reasons behind every market gyration are different, but the emotions of fear and greed are similar. Since 1919, there have been 29 recessions, and 29 recoveries (pretty good recovery batting average). Over that 92 year period we have also witnessed the Dow Jones Industrial Average go from around 100 in 1919 to over 12,300 today – not too shabby.

The blood curdling panic experienced in 2008 and early 2009 has turned to ordinary fear among retail investors – although the doubling of the equity markets from two years ago has instilled a good dosage of animal spirits into professional traders and speculators. When trillions of low yielding cash and Treasuries ultimately come barreling into equity markets, thereby extending equity valuations, then I will become extra nervous. Until then, plenty of opportunities still exist – there just is not nearly as much low-hanging fruit as two years ago.

More of the Same

To make the point that “the more things change, the more things stay the same,” you can go all the way back to 1932 and read the words of Dean Witter – I also wrote about the history of panic in the 1970s (see Rhyming History).

Even some 80 years ago, Witter was keenly aware of the doomsday bears:

“People are deterred from buying good stocks and bonds now only because of an unwarranted terror…All sorts of bugaboos are paraded to destroy the last vestige of confidence. Stories of disaster which are incredible and untrue are told to foolish and credulous listeners, who appear willing to believe the worst.”

 

The bugaboo purveyors I called out in 2009 included Peter Schiff, Nouriel Roubini, Meredith Whitney, and Jimmy Rogers. I’m not sure who the next genius du jour(s) will be, but I am confident they will be prominently paraded over the media airwaves.

Cherry Price for Consensus

As firmer signs of an economic recovery finally take hold, investors slowly regain confidence about investing in risky assets. The only problem is that prices have skyrocketed!  Witter captures this dynamic beautifully back in 1932:

“Some people say that they wish to await a clearer view of the future. When the future is again clear the present bargains will no longer be available. Does anyone think that present prices will continue when confidence has been fully restored? Such bargains exist only because of terror and distress.”

 

Herd Gets Slaughtered

History proves over and over again…the general investing public suffers the consequences of following the herd of fear and greed. Or as Witter states:

“It is easy to run with the crowd. The path of least resistance is to join in the wailings that are now so popular. The constructive policy, however, is to maintain your courage and your optimism, to have faith in the ultimate future of your country and to proclaim your faith and to recommend the purchase of good bonds and good stocks, which are inordinately depreciated.”

 

In the short-run, markets move up and down in an unpredictable fashion, like an irresponsible teenager jumping on a trampoline. In the long-run, investors can do themselves a favor by ignoring the masses, and sticking to a disciplined, systematic investment approach that includes controlled valuation metrics and contrarian sentiment factors. That way, you won’t fall off the investment trampoline and permanently break your portfolio.

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.

February 18, 2011 at 1:36 am Leave a comment

Extrapolation: Dangers of Mixing Cyclical & Secular

One of the toughest jobs in making investment decisions is determining whether changes in profit growth rates are due to cyclical trends or secular trends. The growth of technology and the advent of the internet have not only accelerated the pace of information exchange, but these advancements have also led to the explosion of information (read more).

Drowning in too much information can make the most basic decisions confusing. One of the dreaded by-products of “information overload” is extrapolation. When faced with making a difficult or time consuming decision, many investors choose the path of least resistance, which is to fall back on our good friend…extrapolation.

Rather than taking the time of gathering the appropriate data, exploring both sides of an argument, and having objective information guide educated decisions, many investors open their drawers and grab their trusty ruler. The magic ruler is a wonderful straight-edged tool that can coherently connect any two data points. The beauty of the wooden instrument is the never-ending ability to bolt on a simple convenient story on why a short-term trend will persist forever (upwards or downwards).

We saw it firsthand as the world got sucked down the drain of the global financial crisis. Throughout 2008 bearish pundits like Nouriel Roubini, Peter Schiff, Meredith Whitney, and Jimmy Rogers came out of the woodwork (read more about Pessimism Porn) comparing the environment to the Great Depression and calling for economic collapse. Needless to say, equity markets rebounded significantly in 2009. The vicious rally was not strong enough, nor has the economic data turned adequately rosy for the bears to pack up their bags and hibernate. To be fair, the panicked moods have subsided for “Happy Abby” (Abby Joseph Cohen – Goldman Sachs strategist) to make a few short cameos on CNBC (read more), but we are far from the euphoric heights of the late ‘90s.

I think recent comments by John Authers, columnist at The Financial Times, captures the essence of the current sour mood despite the economic and equity market rebounds:

“Last year’s rebound was, most likely, a bear market bounce. The central hypothesis remains intact. On balance of probabilities, the rally since March has been a (very big) rally within a bear market, and the downward move is a (not so big) correction to that rally. There is no new reason to fear we will revisit the lows of 2009, but every reason to believe that stocks are still fundamentally mired in a bear market.”

 

Just as overly pessimistic bearishness can cloud judgment, so too can rose colored glasses. Chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, David Lereah, is an example of how biased bullishness can cloud reasoning too. Among the many comments that made Lereah a lightning rod, in July 2006 he noted the real estate “market is stabilizing” and followed up six months later by claiming, “It appears we have established a bottom.”

Extrapolation is a fun, easy tool, but at some point the simple laws of economics must kick into gear. Supply and demand generally do not rise and fall in a linear fashion in perpetuity. As the saying goes, “The herd is often led to the slaughterhouse.” Rather, I argue mean- reversion is a much more powerful tool than extrapolation for investors (read more).  

The country faces many critical problems that cannot be ignored and politicians need to show leadership in addressing them. I encourage and remind people that we have survived through multiple  wars, assassinations, currency crises, banking crises, SARS, mad cow, swine flu, widening deficits, recessions, and even political gridlock. So next time someone tells you the world is coming to the end, or a stock is going to the moon, do yourself a favor by putting away the ruler and aggregating the relevant data on both sides of an argument before jumping to hasty conclusions.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at time of publishing had no direct positions in LM, or GS. 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.

February 5, 2010 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

Back to the Future: Mag Covers (Part III)

Diploma

Congratulations to those who have graduated through my first two articles (Part I and Part II) regarding the use of media magazine covers as contrarian investment indicator tools. We’ve reviewed magazine’s horrendous ability of predicting market shifts during the 1970s and Tech Bubble of 2000, and now we will take a peek at the “Great Recession” of 2008 and 2009. If you have the stamina to complete this final article, your diploma and selfless glory will be waiting for you at the end.

This magazine cover series was not designed to be utilized as an exploitable investment strategy, but rather to increase awareness and raise skepticism surrounding investment content. Just because something is written or said by journalist or blogger does not mean it is a fact (although I fancy facts). In the field of investing, along with other behavioral disciplines, there are significant gray areas left open to interpretation. A more educated, critical eye exercised by the general public will perhaps release us from the repetitive boom-bust cycles we’ve become accustomed to. Perhaps my goal is naïve and idealistic, nonetheless I dare to dream.

The wounds from a year ago are still fresh, and we have not fully escaped from the problems that originally got us into this mess, but it is amazing what a 60%+ market move since March can do to the number of “Great Depression” references. Let’s walk down calamity memory lane over the last year:

Great Depression Redux?

Great Depression 2008

Months ago we were in the midst of a severe recession, and the media was not shy about jumping on the “pessimism porn” bandwagon for the sake of ratings. Like a Friday the 13th sequel (nice tie in!), CNBC just weeks ago was plugging the crisis anniversary of the Lehman Brothers failure. Time magazine’s portrayal of the financial crisis as the next Great Depression, including the soup kitchen lines, mass unemployment, and collapse of thousands of banks, was used like chum to feed the frenzy of shocked investing onlookers. Unemployment rates are still creeping up, albeit at a slower rate, but we are nowhere near the 25% levels seen in the Great Depression.

American Disintegration

U.S. Evaporation

One of my favorite articles (read here) of the global crisis was written by The Wall Street Journal late last year about a Russian Professor, Igor Panarin (also a former KGB analyst). I find it absurdly amusing that the WSJ would even give credence to this story, but perhaps now I can look forward to an Op-Ed in their newspaper from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or North Korean Leader Kim Jong Ill. Not only did Professor Panarin pronounce the complete evaporation of the United States, but he also provided a specific timeframe. In late June or early July 2010, he expects the U.S. to fall into civil war and subsequently get carved up into six pieces by particular foreign regions, including China, Mexico, E.U., Japan, Canada, and Russia (which will control Alaska of course). I guess Sarah Palin will not be a happy camper?

Other Crisis Souvenirs

Soros Headline

Hey Georgy, let me know when you turn bullish…so I can sell!

Market Mayhem

New Yorker Cover 10-08
Who’s that on the cover? Nancy Pelosi?!

 

Lessons Learned

Contrarianism for the sake of contrarianism is not necessarily a good thing. Trend can be your friend too. Bubbles take much longer to inflate than they burst, so it may be in your best interest to ride the wave of ecstasy for longer than the early alarm ringers. Take for example Alan Greenspan’s infamous irrational exuberance speech in 1996, when the NASDAQ index was trading around 1300. As we all know, the NASDAQ went on to pierce the 5000 mark, four years later. Sorry Al…right idea, but a tad early. Although he may have been correct directionally, his timing and degree were way off.  Pundits like Nouriel Roubini and Peter Schiff are other examples of prognosticators who identified the financial crisis many years before the catastrophe actually hit. As I noted previously, trading based on magazine covers was not conceived as a legitimate investable strategy, but as I’ve shown they can be indicators of sentiment. And these sentiment indicators can be used as a valuable apparatus in your toolbox to prevent harmful decisions at the worst possible times.

 Thanks for coming Back to the Future on this historical tour of cover stories. Now that you have graduated with honors, next time you are in line at the grocery store, feel free to flash your diploma to receive a discount on a magazine purchase.

Class dismissed.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.  

DISCLOSURE: 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.

November 13, 2009 at 2:39 am 3 comments

Clashing Views with Dr. Roubini

Sword-Fight

The say keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer. Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics and international business at the NYU Stern School of Business, is not an enemy, but I think his fluctuating views (see previous story) and Armageddon expectations are off base. Perma-bears like Roubini and Peter Schiff (view article) have gloated and danced in the media limelight due to their early but eventually right calls. Over the last seven months or so, their forecasts on the U.S. economy and markets have been off the mark. With that said, even those with competing views at times can find common ground. For Nouriel and I, we currently share similar beliefs on gold (see my article on gold).

Here’s what Professor Roubini has to say:

I don’t believe in gold. Gold can go up for only two reasons. [One is] inflation, and we are in a world where there are massive amounts of deflation because of a glut of capacity, and demand is weak, and there’s slack in the labor markets with unemployment peeking above 10 percent in all the advanced economies. So there’s no inflation, and there’s not going to be for the time being.
The only other case in which gold can go higher with deflation is if you have Armageddon, if you have another depression. But we’ve avoided that tail risk as well. So all the gold bugs who say gold is going to go to $1,500, $2,000, they’re just speaking nonsense. Without inflation, or without a depression, there’s nowhere for gold to go. Yeah, it can go above $1,000, but it can’t move up 20-30 percent unless we end up in a world of inflation or another depression. I don’t see either of those being likely for the time being. Maybe three or four years from now, yes. But not anytime soon.”

 

My thoughts on oil are less bearish, but nonetheless more cautious given the massive price bounce to around $80 per barrel. Could I see prices coming down to $50 like Roubini feels is appropriate? Certainly. With the $100+ per barrel swing we saw last year, I cannot discount completely the possibility of that scenario. However, unlike gold, oil has a much stronger utility value, and based on the slow adoption of more expensive alternative energies, this commodity will be in strong demand for many years to come. The pace of global economic recovery, especially in countries like China, India, and Brazil provide an underlying demand for the petroleum product. In order to understand the underlying bid for this economic lubricant, all one has to do is look at the appetite of emerging economies like China when it comes to this black gold (see my article on China).

And where does Roubini think markets go from here?

“If the recovery of the economy is going to be anemic, sub-par, below-trend and U-shaped, there is going to be a correction. And therefore my view is to stay away from risky assets. Stay in liquid assets. I don’t know when the correction is going to occur, it could be a while longer, but eventually it will be a pretty ugly correction, across many different asset classes.”

 

Perhaps Roubini’s “double dip” fears will eventually come true – and he leaves himself plenty of room with vague loose language – however, I follow the philosophy of Peter Lynch: ‘‘If you spend more than 14 minutes a year worrying about the market, you’ve wasted 12 minutes.” Great companies don’t disappear in challenging markets – they become cheaper – and new innovative companies emerge to replace the old guard.

As much as I would like to be right all the time, that’s not the case. In order to learn from past mistakes and continually improve my process, it’s important to get the views of others…even from those with clashing perspectives.

Read IndexUniverse.com Interview  with Nouriel Roubini Here

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management and client accounts do not have direct long or short positions in gold positions, however accounts do have long exposure to certain energy stocks and ETFs. 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 29, 2009 at 2:00 am 6 comments

Economic Indicators Like Kissing Your Sister

i kiss my sister

The economy is on the mend, but we are obviously not out of the woods. Leverage and asset inflation through the housing bubble were major causes of the financial crisis of 2008-09. Now some of the major indicators are turning upwards with GDP expected to rise around +3% in Q3 this year and we are seeing housing units up, housing prices up, and housing inventories down (charts below). Although some of these numbers may create some warm and fuzzy sensations, abnormally high unemployment rates, massive budget deficits, and stuttering consumer confidence make this rebound feel more like kissing your sister.

There are, however, other signs of economic strength. For example, credit appears to be healing as well. Moodys predicts global speculative debt default rates will peak in Q4 this year at 12.5% – lower than the 18% Moodys predicted earlier this year in January. The CEO Confidence Board index, which typically leads profit growth by two quarters, jumped to a five year high in the 3rd quarter. The recovery is not limited to our domestic economy either – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently raised its global growth forecasts in 2010 from +2.5% to +3.1%.

Housing Data 9-09

Housing Sales Up, Inventories Down (Source: National Association of Realtors)

How sustainable is the recovery? Bears like Nouriel Roubini still think we are likely heading into a double-dip recession, perhaps by mid-2010, once the temporary home purchase credits expire and the stimulus funds run out. A collapse in the dollar due to exploding debt and rising deficits is feared to cause a spiraling in debt costs – another factor that could cause a relapse into recession. Unemployment remains at an abnormally 26 year high at 9.8% (September) and any self-maintaining recovery will require an improvement from this deteriorating trend. Before consumers freely open their wallets and purses, consumer confidence could use a boost in light of the recent -10% month-to-month drop in October.

Unemployment Rate 9-09

Source: Associated Press (AP)

Fewer people are debating the existence of “green shoots,” however now the discussion is turning to sustainability. Time will tell whether those feelings of harmless sibling cheek pecks will lead to the discovery of a new long-lasting romantic relationship with a non-family member.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: 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 28, 2009 at 2:00 am 4 comments

“Bye Bye Roubini, Hello Abby”

Perma-Bull with Perma-Grin

Perma-Bull with Perma-Grin

Bye-bye” Dr. Doom” and hello “Happy Abby.”  Abby Joseph Cohen is back in the spotlight with the recent market resurgence and is calling for a sustained bull market rally. The death-like sentiment spread by NYU professor Nouriel Roubini has now swung – it’s time for CNBC to call in the bulls, much like a baseball coach calls in a fresh reliever after a starter has exhausted his strength.

Watch CNBC Interview of Cohen

Over the last year, we’ve gone from full-fledged panic, into a healthy level of fear – the decline in the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) supports this claim. But with cash still piled to the ceiling and broad indices still  are about -35% below 2007 peaks, I wouldn’t say sentiment is wildly ebullient quite yet. The low-hanging fruit has been picked and now we need to tread lightly and delay the victory lap for a little longer. Market timing has never been my gig, so gag me any time I attempt a market prediction. Having said that, sentiment comprises the softer art aspects of investing, and therefore it can swing the markets wildly in the short-run. Ultimately in the long-run, profits and cash flows are what drive stock prices higher, and that’s what I pay attention to. Profits and cash flows are currently depressed and unemployment remains high by historical standards, but there are signs of recovery. Cohen highlights easy profit comparisons in the second half of 2009 (versus 2008), coupled with inventory replenishment, as significant factors that can lead to larger than anticipated surges in early economic cycle recoveries.  Whether the pending economic advance is sustainable is a question that Cohen would not address.

Investors are emotional creatures, and CNBC realizes this fact. Before investing in that 30-1 leveraged, long-only hedge fund, prudence should reign supreme as we start to see some of the previously bullish strategists begin crawling out of their caves – including perma-bull Abby Joseph Cohen.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

August 12, 2009 at 4:00 am 1 comment

Pinning Down Roubini Requires a Lasso

Lasso II

Pinning down a Nouriel Roubini forecast is like lassoing a frenzied cow. They say a broken clock is right twice a day, and maybe the same principle applies to renowned economist, Professor Roubini (NYU)? Sure, credit should be given where credit is due. He nailed the forecast relating to the housing led financial bubble and subsequent financial collapse – even if the prediction was years early.

Here’s where I have a beef. Now that Roubini has become a celebrated rock star with frequent television interviews and speaking engagements, his touring views are becoming more fluid and slippery as time progresses. Sure it’s more comfortable to ride the fence and lean in whatever direction the weekly economic winds are blowing. I suppose if you throw out enough changing viewpoints, which adjust to evolving moods, you can never be wrong.

Let’s examine some of his views:

  • Out of Context: Just last week, Mr. Roubini said the “worst is behind us,” but in order to retain his “Dr. Doom” celebrity status he felt compelled to issue a press release clarifying his statements. He noted his “views were taken out of context,” and added, “I have said on numerous occasions that the recession would last roughly 24 months.” That’s funny, because he just stated last year it would be 12-18 months (Click Here for Video).
  • Sweating Out Rebound: Maybe the 41% bounce in the S&P 500 or the 49% jump in the NASDAQ from March 9th lows compelled Roubini to make the “worst is behind us” comments, but why then at the beginning of this year did he say, “We are still only in the early stages of this crisis. My predictions for the coming year, unfortunately, are even more dire: The bubbles, and there were many, have only begun to burst.” Hmmm…excuse me while I scratch my head.
  • Alphabet Soup Recovery: Also frustrating are the John Kerry-esque waffling comments relating to whether this economic recovery will be a U, W, or L-shaped economic recovery. Last April he was in the U-camp: “My view is closer to a U-shaped recession as I expect that the economic contraction will last at least 12 months and possibly as long as 18 months through the middle of 2009.” Now, as early as last month Roubini is warning of a double dip or “W-shaped” recovery with the rising possibility of a “perfect storm” in 2010 (Click Here for Video). He sees the expiration of tax cuts, rising oil prices, inflating debt and interest rates leading to another downturn. So is it U or W, or will we hear more about an “L” shaped recovery?  Maybe the worst is not behind us? I’m confused.
  • Doomsday Earnings Yet to Arrive: Still early in the quarterly earnings reporting season but Roubini’s call for a downside in corporate earnings has yet to materialize. As a matter of fact, Zacks Investment Research reported last week that early second quarter upside surprises are beating downside surprises by a ratio of 7 to 1. So far not too “Doom-full.”

I’m no economist or recovery expert, but what I do know is that I’m having difficulty pinning down Professor Roubini’s ever-changing views. I suppose I will just mail CNBC, Bloomberg, or the bevy of other Roubini media groupies a lasso in hopes they will pin Mr. Roubini down.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

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.

July 20, 2009 at 4:00 am 5 comments

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