More on Related Themes
2014-04-17 Equity Outlook by Team of Osterweis Capital Management
Short term, we would not be surprised if the market took a breather after its strong gains last year. Additionally we may see volatility related to news coming out of the Middle East and Russia. But longer term, we remain very optimistic on the outlook for U.S. equities. In addition to the reasons we discussed above we believe U.S. equities are very attractive relative to the alternatives. The great bull market in bonds appears to be over. The great decades of emerging market growth appear to be behind us.
2014-04-16 Every Portfolio Has Faith by William Smead of Smead Capital Management
At Smead Capital Management, we believe that everyone who invests has faith in someone or something. We also believe that who and what you put your faith into is greatly influenced by the time period involved. As we look out into the rest of 2014 and beyond, we would like to consider the kind of faith required by the largest pools of investment dollars in the US. This includes looking at who they are trusting, what they are trusting in, and what time frames they are operating under.
2014-04-16 Weekly Commentary & Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
Stocks fell last week upset by the growth sectors of biotechnology and social media stocks. Energy issues and related infrastructure were largely unaffected. It is clear that hedge funds and others have become forced sellers as their macro bets on being long growth areas, but being short the bond market have blown up in their faces. Until this settles down the overall market is likely to continue its correction.
2014-04-15 Credit Availability Underpins Recovery in Commercial Real Estate Prices, But Also Poses Risks to CMB by Bryan Tsu of PIMCO
Credit availability, low interest rates, limited new construction and improving economic conditions have contributed to the recovery in commercial real estate (CRE) prices. We expect a strong 2014 in the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market, which has been a primary source of CRE credit expansion. Increasingly aggressive loan underwriting is a concern. CMBS investors need to speak with their wallets and push back on either valuations or underwriting standards if recent trends continue.
2014-04-14 US Stock Markets Surprisingly Steady - First Quarter Review by David Edwards of Heron Financial
Surprisingly steady! How can we say that? Because compared to the price swings of the last six years, the recent 3.9% decline in US Stocks (from a record set April 2) barely registers relative to the powerful uptrend since mid 2011.
2014-04-12 Every Central Bank for Itself by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Whether the FOMC can actually turn the taper into a true exit strategy ultimately depends on how much longer households and businesses must deleverage and how sharply our old-age dependency ratio rises, but markets seem to believe this is the beginning of the end. For now, that’s what matters most. Under Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s leadership, the Fed continues to send a clear message to the rest of the world: Now it really is every central bank for itself.
2014-04-09 How High-Frequency Trading Benefits Most Investors by Gary Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
A controversial new book came out in late March that lambastes so-called “high-frequency trading” on the major stock exchanges and claims that such computerized trading robs retail investors of good executions and profits on their stock orders. The book, “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt,” was written by former bond salesman turned author, Michael Lewis, who appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes on March 30. Since then, his book has stirred up quite the controversy among stock market investors.
2014-04-01 Investing is Hard by David Wismer of Flexible Plan Investments
Or better put, successful investing is hard. So says author, speaker, and CIO Robert Seawright of Madison Avenue Securities in a recent series of “Investment Belief” columns on his award-winning blog, Above the Market.
2014-03-28 Hotchkis & Wiley: Frequently Asked Questions by Team of Hotchkis & Wiley
In Hotchkis & Wiley's 2014 1Q Newsletter, Ray Kennedy, Mark Hudoff, and the rest of Hotchkis & Wiley's high yield team examines the high yield market and attempt to answer the questions it they get asked most frequently, or ones they believe to be particularly relevant in the current market environment.
2014-03-18 What's So Great About Private Equity? by Robert Kleinschmidt of Tocqueville Asset Management
In his latest piece, Robert Kleinschmidt, CEO and CIO of Tocqueville Asset Management, looks at how private equity has gained cachet among investors over the last few decades. He discusses the tendency of the investing public to view it as a "new" asset class, but notes many of its limitations can be seen as reasons the public equity markets were created.
2014-03-18 Market Update by Team of Castleton Partners
With military tensions rising over the Ukraine saga and geopolitical posturing dominating the headlines, Treasury rates rallied across the yield curve last week, with 10 year yields falling 13 basis points to 2.66%. Though Cold War-era rhetoric remains high, there are indications that the threat of military action is becoming less likely. As such, we suspect markets will become more comfortable with the situation and expect it to become less of a focus. Nonetheless, we concede that headline risk remains and the primary influence on the Treasury market this week may well be external.
2014-03-15 Like Houdini, the Markets Escape Again and Again by Stephen C. Sexauer of Allianz Global Investors
Like the great escape artist Harry Houdini, the markets have repeatedly escaped a series of potential catastrophes. Central banks around the world have coordinated policy making these escapes possible, but the end result is another trap from which we need to escape - seemingly permanent low interest rates for savers ("financial repression"), slow growth, and high asset prices. Financial repression is better than an outright debt deflation, but it causes its own problems. The outlook is for low returns.
2014-03-12 The Importance of Beta Management by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Morningstar recently released “Mind the Gap-2014” which demonstrated that investors are generally very poor beta managers. The Morningstar data showed that investors’ performance lagged that of their funds by about 250 basis points per year for the past ten years because of poor beta management, i.e., investors tend to be very poor allocators of capital.
2014-03-10 Tech Bubble 2.0? by Chris Maxey, Ryan Davis of Fortigent
The $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook in late February put an exclamation point on several high profile takeovers in the technology space in recent months. Sizeable deals such as Google’s $3 billion acquisition of Nest and Facebook’s $3 billion offer for SnapChat have fueled the idea that an indiscriminate buying spree in the technology space a la 1999 could set up financial markets for another valuation bubble.
2014-03-06 The Dollar's Long Term Decline by Axel Merk of Merk Investments
The cleanest of the dirty shirts doesn’t necessarily preserve your purchasing power. Sure, the U.S. dollar has beaten the Russian Ruble and some others of late, but when it comes to real competition, the U.S. dollar has taken a back seat. The U.S. dollar’s long-term decline may be firmly in place and investors may want to buckle up to get ready for the ride.
2014-03-05 The Renminbi's New Normal by Teresa Kong of Matthews Asia
The gyrations in Chinese money markets in the last few weeks have caused much alarm in the financial press. The moves in these markets are not only inline, but healthy for an economy looking to increase the role of the market in allocating resources. Those who believe these moves indicate financial stress, or draw parallels between the recent volatility and that which preceded the subprime crisis in the U.S., might be looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
2014-03-05 The Renminbi's New Normal by Teresa Kong of Matthews Asia
The gyrations in Chinese money markets in the last few weeks have caused much alarm in the financial press. The moves in these markets are not only inline, but healthy for an economy looking to increase the role of the market in allocating resources. Those who believe these moves indicate financial stress, or draw parallels between the recent volatility and that which preceded the subprime crisis in the U.S., might be looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
2014-03-01 Black Swans and Endogenous Uncertainty by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
John is in Florida and feeling a bit under the weather, so this week we’re bringing back one of his most popular letters, from December 2007. In the letter he discusses the work of Professor Graciela Chichilnisky of Columbia University, one of whose key insights is that the greater the number of connections within an economic network, the more the system is at risk. Given the current macroeconomic environment, it is important to remind ourselves of how complacent we were back in 2007 and how it all fell apart so quickly, just as John outlined in this rather prescient piece.
2014-02-28 Weekly Economic Commentary by Carl Tannenbaum of Northern Trust
The sensitivity of emerging markets complicates the Fed’s exit plans; Raising the minimum wage is not the only way to aid low-income workers; Brazil’s economy is faltering as the World Cup approaches.
2014-02-25 Weekly Market Update by of Castleton Partners
Interest rates were relatively range-bound last week, despite a string of disappointing economic releases. With severe weather across the country having an outsized impact on the economy of late, market participants have been treating the weak data with a high degree of skepticism. We suspect there is further room for data to disappoint relative to expectations, believing a clear reading on the state of the economy cannot be determined until the spring.
2014-02-14 What Harvard Can Teach Us About Portfolio Management by Roger Nusbaum of AdvisorShares
The takeaway for advisors is the need to make sure clients truly understand their time horizons and that their portfolios are being navigated toward their time horizon versus responding to short term events like a Green Mountain Coffee (NASDAQ:GMCR) popping 30% on a deal with Coca Cola (NYSE:KO) or a stretch of poor returns for emerging markets.
2014-02-12 Grey Owl Capital’s Third Quarter Letter by of Grey Owl Capital Management
2013 was a banner year for the US stock market. Despite equities’ meager fourteen-year record of accomplishment, investors, broadly speaking, are limited to short-term memory. Last year’s performance was enough to generate significant enthusiasm for stocks. We continue to believe, the current environment warrants a more balanced approach.
2014-02-07 What\'s the Game Changer for Gold? by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
What will break gold of its losing streak? Will inflation, which is a lagging indicator, be stronger than expected? In one of my most popular posts last year, I said that based on the jobs market, the limited housing recovery and regulations slowing down the flow of money, the Fed would have no choice but to start tapering and raising rates very gradually to keep stimulating the economy.
2014-02-05 Emerald Economic Commentary by Team of Emerald Allocation Strategies
As Yogi Berra once said, "You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there." As we look back on 2013 and look ahead to 2014,we want to share our thoughts on the road traveled and more importantly, the possible road ahead.
2014-02-04 Challenging the Consensus by Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners
Investors are overwhelmingly bearish on bonds going into 2014. In this month’s Absolute Return Letter we challenge that view and look at various reasons why the bond market may surprise most people and deliver a positive return this year.
2014-01-31 A Surprising Gift for Chinese New Year by Sherwood Zhang of Matthews Asia
Beijing-based China Credit Trust Company, a firm that operates as a non-banking financial institution in China, announced this week it reached an agreement to restructure a risky high-yield product that had earlier ignited worries over the health of China’s trust industry. Just in time for the Lunar New Year, investors in the troubled trust may receive a big (metaphorical) red envelope-a monetary gift traditionally given during Chinese New Year or other special occasions-or at least avoid a financial hit.
2014-01-31 Do Portfolio Diversifiers Belong in Client Portfolios? by Roger Nusbaum of AdvisorShares
The big idea is that the stock market goes up more often than not but when it does go down it scares the hell out of clients. During these large declines some advisors will use tools like gold, hedge fund replicators, absolute return, market neutral, funds that sell short or any other products that tend to not look like the stock market to try to spare clients from the full effect of the decline.
2014-01-30 Getting Comfortable With Volatility by Mark Mobius of Franklin Templeton
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen significant volatility in the markets, which has spooked some investors, but is also something we have become accustomed to. Markets generally (not only emerging markets) have become much more volatile during the last 20 years as a result of massive flows of money from not only institutional investors and long-only mutual funds but also hedge funds and high-frequency trading. We see such selloffs as potential opportunities to pick up bargains in select stocks if, in fact, the prices move low enough to draw our interest.
2014-01-28 An Active Management Turning Point? by Chris Maxey, Ryan Davis of Fortigent
Active managers faced a difficult road in recent years, leading to many questions about the efficacy of active versus passive investment management. There are signs that the tide is once again changing in favor of active managers and the road ahead could offer happier times.
2014-01-28 Weekly Commentary & Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
My caution last week unfolded into a market sell off related to both disappointing earnings and concern over emerging markets affecting the foreign exchange markets.
2014-01-23 Can Equities Continue Their Rise? Equity Investment Outlook: January 2014 by Matt Berler, John Osterweis of Osterweis Capital Management
2013 marked the fifth year of recovery following the near-death experience of the 2008 global financial system meltdown. From a low of 677 in 2009, the S&P 500 Index (S&P 500) finished 2013 at 1,848, delivering a stunning 203% total return from the low. Over the same period, the total return for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 188%. The tech-heavy and arguably more speculative NASDAQ logged a 249% total return. These very large equity returns reflect both a strong recovery in corporate profits and a dramatic clean-up of our financial system.
2014-01-22 Commodities Remain a Source of Frustration by Chris Maxey, Ryan Davis of Fortigent
The environment following the global financial crisis has been a challenging one for asset allocators, as long held relationships shifted and traditional idioms were turned on their head. As we detailed last week in "The Diversification Obituary," investors have seen little work in their portfolios other than US stocks, while supposed diversifiers have offered little more than muted beta and unusually high correlations.
2014-01-22 The Virtualization of Everything by Francois Sicart of Tocqueville Asset Management
In his latest piece, Francois Sicart, Founder and Chairman of Tocqueville Asset Management, looks at the motivations of participants in capital markets, and how with the advent of synthetic investments and complicated derivatives products, he is concerned that "the stock market has lost its close link to the "real" economy and has become more of a gigantic casino."
2014-01-17 Getting Lucky by Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital
Sometimes these memos are inspired by a single event or just one thing I read. This one - like my first memo 24 years ago - grew out of the juxtaposition of two observations. I’ll introduce one here and the other later on. Contrary to my wife Nancy’s observation that my memos are "all the same," the subject here is one I’ve rarely touched on.
2014-01-10 High Yield and Bank Loan Outlook- January 2014 by Team of Guggenheim Partners
Improving U.S. macroeconomic conditions should spur additional investor demand for high-yield bonds and bank loans, particularly with defaults exceptionally low. Still, investors should monitor trends pointing to an erosion of safety in leveraged credit.
2014-01-07 Turn the Page: Outlook for Economy/Stocks in 2014 by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
In this comprehensive (read: long...sorry!) 2014 outlook report, we assess the likelihood a correction is in the offing given the strong gains since 2009.
2014-01-06 2013: A Review of the Past, the Present and the Future by Ron Surz of PPCA Inc
This commentary is divided into three sections. I begin with a review of current U.S. and foreign stock markets, examining the year 2013 and the past six years, including the crash of 2008. This perspective serves as a launch point into the future, specifically 2014 and the remainder of this decade. I conclude with a review of the past 88 years of U.S. stock and bond markets.
2013-12-26 Newsletter by Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz
I admit it, I do occasionally pick on Money Magazine and other consumer financial publications, but as I’ve written in the past, for the most part, Money does a great job of educating consumers. Its story on Lessons from the Crash "Lehman Brothers’ collapse in September 2008 sent stocks on a terrifying ride. A year-by-year look back reveals five key takeaways you need to heed today" is an excellent example. Here are Money’s "Lessons."
2013-12-21 What Has QE Wrought? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Now that we have begun tapering, we will soon see lots of analysis about whether QE has been effective. What will the stock market do? The US economy seems to be moving in the right direction, but the Fed has forecast Nirvana (seriously) - do we dare hope they can finally get a forecast right? Or have they jinxed us?
2013-12-20 Let\'s Get Physical: Gold Bullion and Bitcoin by John Hathaway of Tocqueville Asset Management
John Hathaway, manager of the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX), discusses in his latest insights piece the disparity in price direction between gold bullion and Bitcoin, in spite of the strikingly similar rationale for holding the two. He notes that the "Bitcoin-Gold incongruity is explained by the fact that financial engineers have not yet discovered a way to collateralize bitcoins for leveraged trades."
2013-12-17 The Monster That Is Europe by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week, Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN) of France held a press conference in The Hague to announce that they will be cooperating in the elections for the European Parliament next spring and hope to form a new eurosceptic bloc.
2013-12-10 Christmas by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James
Well it is official, Christmas has begun. For me it began with the private wine and dinner party at Morrell, arguably the finest wine store I have ever seen, and anyone that knows me knows I have seen a lot of wine stores! Morrell is located at 1 Rockefeller Center between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue overlooking the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. I had done a gig on Bloomberg radio at Morrell last Tuesday with my friends Carol Massar and Pimm Fox and got invited to the party the next evening to watch the lighting of the Christmas tree.
2013-12-09 Fed Creating More Financial Market Uncertainty by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
Although the U.S. stock market continues to hit new nominal highs on a nearly daily basis, the U.S. economy bumps along at a lackluster pace. This disconnect has been achieved by a massive Fed experiment in monetary stimulation.
2013-12-07 Interview with Steve Forbes by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
For whatever reason, Steve Forbes seems to bring out the passion in me. When I think about what central bank policies are doing to savers and investors, how we are screwing around with the pension system, circumventing rational market expectations because of an untested economic theory held by a relatively small number of academics, I get a little exercised. And Steve gives me the freedom to do it.
2013-12-06 Like a Shakespearean Script by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Shakespearean plays follow a pattern. The underlying plots and storylines change from play to play, but the five-act construction is a common overlap. Market cycles tend to follow a similar pattern cycle after cycle. Like the different plots in various Shakespearean plays, the catalysts that begin and end each cycle, and the events during the cycle are always different. However, market cycles seem to follow a script and, so far, this cycle seems to be following the script almost perfectly.
2013-12-05 No Silver Bullets in Investing by James Montier of GMO
In a new white paper today, James Montier of GMO’s asset allocation team reviews recent "innovation in our industry." He argues, "one of the myths perpetuated by our industry is that there are lots of ways to generate good long-run real returns, but we believe there is really only one: buying cheap assets."
2013-12-03 Turning Over Rocks by Herbert Abramson, Randall Abramson of Trapeze Asset Management
The S&P 500 is at a record high and we believe the markets generally are fully valued. Corporate revenue growth is anemic, profit margins are stretched, and the prospect of earnings rising meaningfully is not high. And, the outlook for the U.S. and global economy is still uncertain. Market psychology is at a level suggesting the market is overbought. Margin debt is at record levels and the current popularity of stocks by retail investors at market highs is in itself a red flag.
2013-12-03 On the Wings of an Eagle by William Gross of PIMCO
I’ve always liked Jack Bogle, although I’ve never met him. He’s got heart, but as he’s probably joked a thousand times by now, it’s someone else’s; a 1996 transplant being the LOL explanation. He’s also got a lot of investment common sense, recognizing decades ago that investment managers in composite couldn’t outperform the market; in fact, their alpha would be negative after fees and transaction costs were factored in.
2013-11-19 Asset Class Allocation and Portfolios: Critique and Complication by Adam Jared Apt (Article)
In Part 1 of this essay, I explained that for asset class allocation to become an investment practice, it required a foundation of theory. And Modern Portfolio Theory was that foundation. But today, most financial journalists and investment advisors who proffer advice centered on asset class allocation are—if I may judge from their writings—oblivious of this. And why shouldn’t they be? Theory is abstract and difficult to apprehend.
2013-11-19 Levitate: Dismiss Bubble Talk for Now by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
It’s premature to be calling this market a bubble. Rolling 10 year returns haven’t even reached a long-term mean. Valuation still well below prior bull market peaks.
2013-11-13 Twenty Five by Doug MacKay, Bill Hoover, Mike Czekaj of Broadleaf Partners
I am not a particularly good salesman. From the time I first meet a prospect to when they become a full-fledged client, it can often take two years even when they initiate the first meeting. Fortunately, growing the firm isn’t one of my primary roles, a responsibility that does fall to Bill Hoover, my business partner. The beauty of our relationship is that while Bill devotes his time to our firm’s “outside” efforts, I am able to spend almost all of my attention tending to the portfolios of those who have already hired us. (View a printable version of this Economic
2013-11-08 Big Ideas in the Big Easy by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
This is likely a contrarian view to the folks in the White House, but I think investors benefit from being contrarian and thinking differently. In preparation for my presentations in New Orleans as well as for the Metals & Minerals Investment Conference in San Francisco and the Mines and Money in London in a few weeks, I’ve been pulling together this kind of research that we can all put to use now.
2013-10-24 Trying to Stop a Bull Market Has Risks by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
U.S. stocks have been on a tear. The S&P 500 Index has climbed a surprising 20 percent so far this year, as a global synchronized recovery takes shape and funds flow back to equities. As I often say, investors take risks when they try to stop a bull run, and plenty of data suggest you might regret taking that action this year.
2013-10-24 Putting Tax-Deferred Accounts to Best Use by Kathleen Fisher, Tara Thompson Popernik of AllianceBernstein
The common wisdom about retirement planning is to fund tax-deferred vehicles such as 401(k) plans and IRAs to the maxand we agree. But how to put these accounts to best use is more complicated.
2013-10-24 Glory Days: Could They Come Back for US Equities? by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
A "great rotation" may not be underway by individual investors; even amid record-breaking outflows from bond funds this summer. But fund flow data do show some shift in preferences and highlight the sensitivity of investors to any rise in longer-term interest rates. A more interesting place to look is at the fiduciary community; that has decidedly shifted its attention away from traditional equities (and fixed income) over the past decade.
2013-10-22 How Many Monkeys Does it Take to Find a Successful Strategy? by Michael Edesess and Kwok L. Tsui (Article)
Give a monkey enough darts and she will eventually hit the bulls-eye on a dartboard. We wouldn’t dare consider that monkey an expert dart thrower, but investment professionals have been using essentially that same logic to assert that their strategies – often called “smart betas” – will outperform the market. New research exposes the faulty mathematics upon which such claims are based.
2013-10-18 Trying To Beat The Market Is A Fool's Errand by Chuck Carnevale of F.A.S.T. Graphs
Proponents of indexing as the best investment strategy seemed to take great delight in reporting how the vast majority of professionally managed portfolios (mutual funds, separately managed accounts, hedge funds, ETFs, etc.) fail to outperform the S&P 500. Therefore, they argue, it is best not to even try. Investors should simply invest in index funds and forget about it.
2013-10-18 Trying to Stop a Bull Market Has Risks by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
U.S. stocks have been on a tear. The S&P 500 Index has climbed a surprising 20 percent so far this year, as a global synchronized recovery takes shape and funds flow back to equities. As I often say, investors take risks when they try to stop a bull run, and plenty of data suggest you might regret taking that action this year.
2013-10-17 Investing in Retirement: Bonds Aren't Enough by Kathleen Fisher, Tara Thompson Popernik of AllianceBernstein
What should you invest in after the spigot of earned income is turned off? It’s a vexing question, especially since we expect lower stock and bond returns going forward.
2013-10-17 Huey Lewis and the News! by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James
Thirty years ago Huey Lewis and the News released their smash hit album titled Sports. It was an instant hit with every song on the album a winner. And last week Huey was playing on the Street of Dreams as participants danced to his hit tune “This Is It.” Of course, the “It” in question is a potential deal between the House of Representatives and the President on the debt ceiling and the government shutdown.
2013-10-15 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
Readers respond to Robert Huebscher’s article, The Futility of the Endowment Model, which appeared last week.
2013-10-08 The Futility of the Endowment Model by Robert Huebscher (Article)
In the past two decades, the so-called endowment model has been adopted by hundreds of endowments, foundations and advisors – particularly those serving ultra-high-net-worth clients. By aggressively allocating to illiquid alternative asset classes, those investors hoped to duplicate the results of Yale and other top-tier institutions. New research exposes the futility of those efforts.
2013-10-05 Pinch Yourself. U.S. Stock Markets Have Grown 145% in Four-Plus Years by Ron Surz of PPCA
Thankfully, 2008 has become a distant memory. We’ve made back its 37% loss and a lot more. Things are good, but are they going to stay that way? We still face anemic economic growth, burgeoning debt, global social unrest and more. The S&P 500 has returned 145% in the past 55 months (4.5 years).
2013-10-02 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Effective October 1st, the health exchanges are open for business and enrollment can occur over the next 90 days. It will be interesting to see just how many people feel compelled to sign up under the individual mandate. While the premiums are not inexpensive for most of the eligible people, many will receive tax credits to help offset the cost. Nonetheless, others will find it a significant burden to the budget, and there is great debate over just how this will affect the economy long-term.
2013-09-30 The Global Sea Change Continues by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Most investors will readily admit the global credit bubble is deflating, yet continue to favor credit-based asset classes within their portfolios. Whereas many investors still believe that the emerging markets are a growth story, the data tell us that U.S. investors can find growth in their own backyard.
2013-09-21 The Best, Brightest, and Least Productive? by Robert Shiller of Project Syndicate
In the US, 7.4% of total compensation of employees in 2012 went to people working in the finance and insurance industries. Whether or not that percentage is too high, the real issue is that the share is even higher among the most educated and accomplished people, whose activities may be economically useless, if not harmful.
2013-09-14 Nothing But Bad Choices by John Mauldin of Mauldin Economics
Crises in government funding don’t simply arrive on the doorstep unannounced. Their progress toward the eventual Bang! moment is there for all the world to see. The root cause is almost always the same: debt. And whether that debt is actually borrowed or is merely promised to the populace, when the market becomes worried that the ability of the government to fund its promises is suspect, then the end is near. Last week we began a series on what I think is an impending crisis in the unfunded pension liabilities of state and local governments in the United States.
2013-09-13 What's Happening to Bonds and Why? by Mohamed El-Erian of PIMCO
To say that bonds are under pressure would be an understatement. Over the last few months, sentiment about fixed income has flipped dramatically: from a favored investment destination that is deemed to benefit from exceptional support from central banks, to an asset class experiencing large outflows, negative returns and reduced standing as an anchor of a well-diversified asset allocation.
2013-09-11 Underwriters Lose No Time Pumping Out New Shares after Labor Day by Minyi Chen of AdvisorShares
The monthly flows of Mutual Fund and ETF volatility continued as a roller coaster trend was apparent in the last three months. Read this investor insight by Minyi Chen, CFA, Chief Operating Officer of TrimTabs Investment Research and Portfolio Manager of AdvisorShares TrimTabs Float Shrink ETF (NYSE Arca: TTFS) to learn about the variable trend flows.
2013-09-06 Float Research: Fund Flows Swing Wildly for Third Consecutive Month by Minyi Chen of AdvisorShares
The monthly flows of Mutual Fund and ETF volatility continued as a roller coaster trend was apparent in the last three months. Read this investor insight by Minyi Chen, CFA, Chief Operating Officer of TrimTabs Investment Research and Portfolio Manager of AdvisorShares TrimTabs Float Shrink ETF (NYSE Arca: TTFS) to learn about the variable trend flows.
2013-08-28 ING Fixed Income Perspectives August 2013 by Christine Hurtsellers, Matt Toms, Mike Mata of ING Investment Management
While it’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, some pictures are just not that complicated. Take the current U.S. yield curve, for example, our interpretation of which can be boiled down to just a handful of syllables: “zero interest rate policy” and “taper”.
2013-08-27 Choose Your Door Wisely.. by Blaine Rollins of 361 Capital
If I was being forced to choose a side for year end 2013 performance, I would have to agree with Mr. Plant. While September is historically a difficult month for the markets, we also know that the Q4 tends to reward the equity markets.
2013-08-23 Float Research: Fund Outflows Surge Amid Bond Market Anxieties by Minyi Chen of AdvisorShares
Stock and bond funds have given up a net $32.4 billion in August thanks to strong outflows from ETFs and mutual finds alike. Read this investor insight by Minyi Chen, CFA, Chief Operating Officer of TrimTabs Investment Research and Portfolio Manager of AdvisorShares TrimTabs Float Shrink ETF (NYSE Arca: TTFS) to learn about the recent fund flow trends.
2013-08-22 Summer Whale Watching by David Wismer of Flexible Plan Investments
One of our family’s most memorable and pleasant vacations took place years ago when we visited Cape Cod, Massachusetts for the first time. I thought of this trip in pondering some of the market news this week, where Wall Street was practicing its very own version of “whale watching.”
2013-08-15 Correlation and Portfolio Construction by Dean Curnutt of Macro Risk Advisors
We review recent periods of financial market stress, which bring about elevated levels of asset volatility and during which investors are vulnerable to incurring substantial loss of capital. We illustrate that risk is determined both by the volatility of individual investments in a portfolio and the degree to which they are correlated. Often overlooked, correlation is a critical factor. Because assets become more correlated at the same time they become more volatile, we argue that the benefits of diversification often are difficult to achieve when they are most needed.
2013-08-13 Envisioning the Planning Firm of the Future by Bob Veres (Article)
Virtually all advisors operate with a value proposition built on bettering their clients’ financial future through management of their assets. But trends in the workforce and capital markets will force advisors to rethink those assumptions and, if Richie Lee is right, the planning firm of the future will adapt a four-factor service model that places much greater emphasis on helping clients maximize their human capital.
2013-08-09 A Surprising Way to Play a Europe Rally by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
After a lengthy period of stagnant growth and lackluster results, the gradual crescendo of improving economic data that’s been coming out of Europe lately certainly commands attention.
2013-08-08 Absolute Strategies Fund Portfolio Commentary by Jay Compson of Absolute Investment Advisers
In our last quarter commentary we posed a simple question: "Why does the economy need so much stimulus and quantitative easing for so little growth?" Over the last two years or so, we feel that we have identified and explained the structural issues and risks very clearly. But in the second quarter, the equity and credit markets may have done a better job offering investors a true glimpse of the realities facing global markets.
2013-08-08 What is Risk? by Chris Engelman of Cedar Hill Associates
There are no rewards from investing without some measure of risk. Risk management, a process for recognizing, assessing and prioritizing a variety of risks, is an essential part of managing a portfolio successfully. Cedar Hill takes a holistic approach to risk management by identifying each client’s objectives, preferences and constraints, then creating specific asset allocation and implementation strategies to minimize the effects of negative events.
2013-08-07 Adapt or Die... by Blaine Rollins of 361 Capital
Bond king Bill Grosss $261.7 billion Total Return Fund at Pacific Investment Management Co. suffered a $7.5 billion net outflow last month, according to data from fund tracker Morningstar Inc. on Friday. It is the third straight monthly outflow for the Fund, on the heels of nearly $10 billion in redemptions in June. Clients have yanked $15.6 billion from Gross’s Fund in 2013 through July. Jeffrey Gundlach’s $37.9 billion DoubleLine Total Return Bond Fund suffered $580 million net outflow in July, according to Morningstar.
2013-08-07 Thoughts on the Long/Short Space by Kurt Voldeng of AdvisorShares
This insight from Kurt Voldeng highlights performance in the long/short fund universe.
2013-08-06 What Doesn\'t Kill Gold Makes it Stronger by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Precious Metals
I’ve been emphasizing for months that the current correction in the gold price is a result of speculative money fleeing the market and not any reflection of gold’s long-term fundamentals. Unfortunately, there is so much money to be made (and lost) by day trading that my cautions have once again fallen on deaf ears.
2013-08-01 Alternatives for Today's and Tomorrow's Market Challenges by Jennifer Bridwell, Sabrina Callin of PIMCO
Investors should consider alternative investment strategies, which could enhance diversification and the potential for alpha, or risk-adjusted returns, because returns from traditional asset classes in coming years may be lower and more volatile than those realized historically.
2013-07-30 Economic & Capital Market Summary by Gregory Hahn of Winthrop Capital Management
We are approaching the five year anniversary of the beginning of the Financial Crisis. By this time in 2008 we had already experienced the complete seizure of the Auction Rate Preferred securities market and the takeover of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan Chase. In August of 2008, we would see the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the government takeover of AIG. We stand here today, shoulders slumped, and heads bowed mourning the lack of real progress in addressing the structural problems that are impeding sustained economic growth and private credit expansion.
2013-07-23 Risk Communicates Signals that Something Important is at Stake by Robert Mark of Castle Investment Management
The equity markets hit new all-time highs again this past quarter. However, we believe this rally is largely due to Ben Bernanke’s policy of Quantitative Easing (QE) which presently equates to the purchase of $85 billion in U.S. government debt every month. Through the Federal Reserve’s policies our government has effectively printed trillions of dollars since the financial crisis began, arguably inflating a host of asset prices including the stock market.
2013-07-17 Canadian Secular View: Into Darkness? by Ed Devlin of PIMCO
Many investors are buying Canadian federal government bonds, shorting Canadian bank stocks and selling Canadian dollars in anticipation of a prolonged downturn. While significant risks are clearly facing the Canadian economy, our baseline forecast does not justify positioning our portfolios for a prolonged Canadian downturn.
2013-07-16 Hedge Funds Can Advertise...But Should They? by Chris Maxey, Ryan Davis of Fortigent
In April 2012, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was signed into law. The legislation eased a number of regulatory burdens on small businesses and private industry in a bid to boost job growth. The bill made additional headlines for lifting an 80-year ban on solicitation for private placements, the restriction that prevented hedge funds from advertising their wares to the general public.
2013-07-16 The Great Rotation Continues Forward... by Blaine Rollins of 361 Capital
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke grabbed the mic on Wednesday and gave a performance that garnered a standing ovation from Stock, Bond, and Commodity investors. Only U.S. Dollar longs went home dragging their programs and spilling their popcorn. As a result, U.S. equity markets ended the week at all-time highs as stocks remained the darlings of the asset classes.
2013-07-12 Making Sense of the Bond Market by Phelps McIlvaine of Saturna Capital
The great challenge for investors and advisers today is to forecast where interest rates and bond prices will be once the influence of radical central bank intervention dissipates. Measures of inflation expectations are declining, and deflation remains the dominant influence on interest rates. In assessing whether to trim bond allocations, it is important to revisit the reasons for selecting a particular asset allocation before modifying or abandoning it.
2013-07-10 What is Happening to Gold? by John Hathaway of Tocqueville Asset Management
John Hathaway, manager of the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX), examines in his latest Tocqueville Gold Strategy Investor Letter the dramatic developments in the gold market over the last six months. The letter goes on to discuss the impact the Fed continues to have, and suggests that today’s valuations represent a “compelling entry point.”
2013-07-09 The Five Best New Investment Ideas: New Age Paradigms for the Post-MPT World by Bob Veres (Article)
Over the past four years, I’ve been collecting the most tangible, concrete post-Modern Portfolio Theory insights offered by professional investors.
2013-07-02 The Practical Application of Behavioral Finance by Mitchell D. Eichen and John M. Longo (Article)
From the Dot-Com bubble onward, traditional investment models have repeatedly disappointed those who relied on them. When compared to mathematically based models, behavioral finance provides a superior foundation. Here is an alternative investment paradigm, grounded in behavioral finance, that is practical and effective over time periods that are relevant for a significant portion of investors.
2013-06-27 Welcome Back, Mr. Bond by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James
“We’ve been expecting you Mr. Bond.” The phrase is itself a variant and joins the phrase “Play it again Sam” as a phrase attributed to a film or TV series. I have used said quip over the past few years, having been wrong-footedly expecting a backup in interest rates. While I did finally target the yield low of last July, the ensuing rate rise has been far slower than I would have thought, that is until the past few weeks.
2013-06-21 Austerity is a Four-Letter French Word by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The France that I see as I look out from the bullet train today is far different from the France I see when I survey the economic data. Going from Marseilles to Paris, the countryside is magnificent. The farms are laid out as if by a landscape artist this is not the hurly-burly no-nonsense look of the Texas landscape. The mountains and forests that we glide through are glorious. It is a weekend of special music all over France, and last night in Marseilles the stages were alive and the crowds out in force.
2013-06-19 Efficient Pension Investing by Jared Gross of PIMCO
Adapting the Sharpe ratio to pension portfolios can help plan sponsors choose among a multitude of investment options designed to achieve the same goal. In our experience, the most significant efficiency gains have come from shifting from intermediate bonds to long-term bonds and introducing lower-volatility substitutes to equities.
2013-06-18 Newsletter June 2013 by Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz
Do you remember hiding under the sheets listening to radio when your parents thought you were asleep? If so, I have an unbelievable collection of all the old-time radio shows we listened to when we were kids, if you have about six months’ spare time. Find your favorite, click on it, and it lists literally hundreds of episodes you can re-live.
2013-06-18 Fed Zombification by Cliff Draughn of Excelsia Investment Advisors
The enthusiasm of our culture for Zombies is estimated to contribute a tidy $5 billion dollar a year to GDP, and that doesn’t even include the too-big-to-die zombie banks. In my opinion, the acute interest in zombies and horror (and escapism in general) says something about our country’s mental health.
2013-06-14 The Evolution of Emerging Market Corporate Bonds for U.S. High-Grade Fixed-Income Investors by Todd Kurisu, Thomas Brennan of William Blair
Emerging market (EM) investment-grade corporate bonds are an important and growing segment of the core ﬁxed-income universe. These bonds have evolved to be more like U.S. investment-grade corporate bonds than high-yield or traditional emerging market debt (EMD) securities. This sector has demonstrated favorable risk, return, and diversiﬁcation beneﬁts in the context of a broad market ﬁxed-income portfolio. Today’s ﬁxed-income investors must have a framework for evaluating new opportunities subject to prudent risk management
2013-06-12 Bond Realities: The Changing Landscape for Fixed Income and the Death of the Agg' by Andrew Johnson of Neuberger Berman
Earlier this year Andrew A. Johnson, Neuberger Berman’s Chief Investment Officer for Investment Grade Fixed Income, led a series of discussions with institutional clients about the state of the fixed income market and key ideas in approaching opportunistic fixed income investing in the current environment. Here, Mr. Johnson has adapted, and elaborated on, the concepts described at those meetings.
2013-06-11 And Like Clockwork... by Blaine Rollins of 361 Capital
And like clockwork, stocks bounced both from their very short term oversold point and off the 50 day moving average on Wednesday...
2013-06-01 Central Bankers Gone Wild by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
For the last two weeks we have focused on the problems facing Japan, and such is the importance of Japan to the world economy that this week we will once again turn to the Land of the Rising Sun. I will try to summarize the situation facing the Japanese. This is critical to understand, because they are determined to share their problems with the world, and we will have no choice but to deal with them. Japan is going to affect your economy and your investments, no matter where you live; Japan is that important.
2013-05-31 The Great Reflation by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
This week economists, investors and politicians were treated to some of the "best" home price data since the frothy days of 2006 when home loans were given out like cotton candy and condo flipping was a national pastime. The Case-Shiller 20 City Composite Home price index was up a startling 10.9% for the 12 month period ending in March. Prices in all 20 cities were up, with some (Las Vegas, Phoenix, and San Francisco) notching gains of more than 20%. Meanwhile the National Association of Realtors announced that April pending home sales volume reached the highest level in nearly three years.
2013-05-31 What\'s the Answer to Unprecedented Policies and Ultralow Rates? by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
So what’s the answer to unprecedented central bank policies that have been driving stocks higher and ultralow rates? I believe investors need to stick to a strategy that includes dividend-paying stocks that offer the opportunity for both income and growth.
2013-05-30 Understanding Gold Market Dynamics by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
To an extent that reveals a thorough misunderstanding of the market forces, the financial media has failed to consider the different motivations and beliefs that drive the different types of investors who are active in the gold market. By treating the gold market as if it were comprised of just one type of investor, analysts have drawn false conclusions about the recent volatility.
2013-05-28 Solving the Public Pension Plan Funding Crisis by John T. Hausladen (Article)
Current proposals to address public pension underfunding will not provide any significant relief because of the continued assumption of investment and longevity risk by plan sponsors. I propose a combination of liability-driven investing and a risk-transfer mechanism to gradually eliminate plan liabilities.
2013-05-23 Investing in Gold: Does It Stack Up? by Team of Knowledge@Wharton
Gold has a timeless allure -- especially if you worry about stock market volatility, inflation, a decay of ordinary currency or the collapse of civilization. Yet not everyone agrees that gold offers the safe haven its promoters describe. How reliable can demand be for a commodity that very few people actually need? What is the proper role for gold in an investment portfolio? Why has its price been falling?
2013-05-22 If You Didn\'t Buy That Powerball Ticket... by Blaine Rollins of 361 Capital
So onward and upward. What signals should Bulls be on the lookout for? Change in breadth (Up v. Down Volumes, Advancers v. Decliners), Signs of distribution (Sharp down days accompanied by large % increases in trading volumes), Change in leadership away from RISKON sectors (don’t want SmallCaps, Financials, Industrials, Transports or Housing to lag)...
2013-05-22 The Benefits of Diversifying the Funding of a Gold Position by Team of AdvisorShares
The recent sell off in gold has sharpened the focus of even the most committed gold bugs, and has highlighted one of the key risks that many investors face when they access the gold market. Do you purchase Gold in dollar terms or something else? How do you look at Gold, as a currency or something else? For the purposes of this analysis, Treesdale Partners took a look at a gold transaction in foreign exchange terms.
2013-05-18 All Japan, All the Time by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week we again focus on Japan. Their stock market has been on a tear, and their economy grew 3.5% last quarter. Is Abenomics really the answer to all their problems? Is it just a matter of turning the monetary dial a little higher and voila, there is growth? Why doesn’t everyone try that? And what would happen if they did?
2013-05-17 Opportunistic Investing: Making the Most of Your Cash in Today's Market by Chris Engelman of Cedar Hill Associates
With the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index rising more than 20% since last June, some people are reluctant to invest now, fearful that stocks are poised to tumble again. By focusing on their long-term investment objectives rather than short-term market fluctuations, however, investors can plan for a sound financial future. Here, Cedar Hill Managing Director Chris Engelman offers strategies for building a portfolio that helps to limit market risks and increases the likelihood of achieving your long-term goals.
2013-05-17 Finding Opportunity Far and Near by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Would it surprise you to learn that a vast majority of equity valuation models state that stocks should head much higher over the next five years?
2013-05-14 It\'s Not That Bad Out There by Brian Wesbury, Bob Stein of First Trust Advisors
Certain things, like the sun rising, or the tides shifting, can be counted on. It’s also true that when government shrinks as a share of GDP, things start to pick up.
2013-05-10 Weekly Research Briefing by Blaine Rollins of 361 Capital
This week’s focus was squarely on central bank policy decisions and the U.S. April payrolls data. Mid-week the FOMC reinforced the "Bernanke put" by stating explicitly that quantitative easing can be increased if conditions worsen.
2013-05-07 Niall Ferguson: Four Reasons Why the U.S. is Failing by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Niall Ferguson is the champion of anti-Keynesian economists. Last week, he explained why America’s pursuit of Keynesian policies is leading to disastrous consequences.
2013-04-30 Stockman to America: Sinners, Repent! by Laurence B. Siegel (Article)
In a massive volume that melds economic history and social criticism, the former Reagan administration budget director David Stockman has documented countless ways in which America went astray over the last century. Most notably, he decried the corruption of free-market capitalism by those seeking effortless profits at the public’s expense. This is the source of his book’s title, The Great Deformation.
2013-04-30 Beware of the New Systemic Risk by Ashwin Alankar, Michael DePalma of AllianceBernstein
It felt like there was nowhere to hide from the market declines last Monday, April 15, when stocks, bonds and commodities fell in unison across the world, well before the Boston bombings that day. We believe that this failure of diversification was instigated by increasingly powerful multi-asset funds, many of which use leverage, which may have become a new source of systemic risk for investors.
2013-04-22 The Endgame is Forced Liquidation by John Hussman of Hussman Funds
Rule o’ Thumb: When the cover of a major financial magazine features a cartoon of a bull leaping through the air on a pogo stick, it’s probably about time to cash in the chips.
2013-04-18 The Lure of Hedge Funds by John West of Research Affiliates
Investors often buy what they think is exciting, sophisticated, and complex with the embedded assumption that all of these attributes will lead to greater returns. We see this today where we witness the continued explosive growth of hedge funds. But, a careful examination of the data reveals that these fancy lures fail to hook as much in excess, after-fee returns as more time tested strategies.
2013-04-17 The Interest Rate Environment: Comparing High Yield Bonds and Bank Loans by Team of Hotchkis & Wiley
In its first quarter 2013 newsletter, "The Interest Rate Environment: Comparing High Yield Bonds and Bank Loans," Hotchkis & Wiley’s high yield team analyzes the behavior of the high yield market and the bank loan market in different interest rate environments to determine whether they can make sensible assumptions about the future.
2013-04-16 Using Behavioral Data to Earn Superior Returns by C. Thomas Howard, PhD (Article)
Emotional crowds dominate pricing; that was the first basic principle, which I demonstrated last week. This would seem to indicate that BDIs earn superior returns by taking positions opposite the crowds. But this is not necessarily the case.
2013-04-15 The Counter-Inflation Playbook Part 1 by Jeffrey Jones of Cornice Capital
One of the most important lessons I learned during my days at UCLA came from my freshman philosophy professor. He told us that should you find yourself engaged in a debate, the surest way to defeat your opponent is to attack his base principles. If those base principles aren’t fundamentally sound, any case built on top of it, no matter how convincing, is at risk of crumbling all at once.
2013-04-08 The Theology of Inflation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We begin this week with a simple pop quiz. Is inflation good or bad? Answer quickly. I’m sorry your answer is wrong. Or rather, we can’t know if your answer is right or wrong because we are not sure what is meant by the question. We may think we know and we may be right but we can’t be sure, because the word inflation has different meanings for different people in different places and different times. In fact, even the same people in the same place and time can’t agree on a precise definition.
2013-04-02 Choosing an Actively Managed Fund: What Works and What Doesn’t by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
Few topics have been studied as closely as selecting actively managed funds that will outperform the market. Advisors who use such funds need to be confident in their choices – and justify their methodology to clients. Here’s what the latest academic research says on this highly contentious issue.
2013-04-01 U.S. Stock Market: Too Good to Be True? by Dawn Bennett of Bennett Funds
There is nothing worse than buying at the top of the market. Think back to the last two economic cycles. If you bought the US stock market or real estate in late 2007, you are way under on those purchases and that is after sweating it out for the last 5 years. Even with the 2009-2012 rebound, we have not seen real estate values or the Dow Index back to even. You have to ask yourself, how can this be?
2013-03-26 Adapting the Yale Model for Clients by C. Thomas Howard, PhD and Lambert Bunker (Article)
The Yale University endowment fund is one of the most successful in the country, with a 10-year return besting the endowment universe average return by 300 basis points and the Wilshire 5000 return by 400 basis points. David Swensen is the architect of this program, and his guiding principles are widely used to manage large endowments. They are equally useful for client portfolios.
2013-03-22 In Gold We Trust by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Poorly thought out government policies hurt the formation of capital and destroy people’s trust in paper money. Leaders may have good intentions, but some of their actions show disrespect for private property and individualism. This only reemphasizes gold as an important asset class.
2013-03-20 Investors Need to Pivot by William Benz of PIMCO
Fixed income investors need to think differently in the current environment. Investors may want to consider pivoting to strategies that are less focused on traditional benchmarks and more oriented to generating income and providing greater flexibility to hedge against rising rates, widening credit spreads or higher inflation.
2013-03-15 Reducing the Risk from Adding Stock Exposure by Seth Masters of AllianceBernstein
Adding other sources of diversification could significantly reduce the risk from increasing stock exposure, our research suggests.
2013-03-14 Newsletter by Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz
In the latest edition of his client newsletter, Harold Evensky highlights a number of interesting bits of news, including a must-see destination for your friends, your kids and your grandkids, some advice from Warren Buffett, a tip from Albert Einstein and the latest data on hedge fund performance.
2013-03-13 What's Your Advantage? by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
In the March 9, 2013 issue of Barron’s, writer Jonathon Laing wrote an excellent piece about Howard Marks. This article provides the base from which we can discuss the main components of investment portfolio composition. These components are information, analysis of information, and decisions made from information and analysis. In doing so, we will bring to light why we believe today’s best opportunity is in long-duration common stock investing.
2013-03-12 We Made It. Now What? by Christian Thwaites of Sentinel Investments
What looks like a fairly settled policy in Europe is fast becoming a very dangerous situation, according to Christian Thwaites in his latest "Thought of the Week" -- "We Made It. Now What?" -- adding that the outlook for the world's second largest economic bloc is pretty week.
2013-03-06 Smooth Returns by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
Harry Markopolos was working for a hedge fund of funds and attempting to put a portfolio together that would "smooth" long-term returns. In the process of marketing what his company was doing, he ran into a client who already had a money manager doing that for him. The money manager the client used was Bernie Madoff. When Markopolous looked at the long-term track record of Madoff's client, he instantly knew that it was mathematically impossible to have a return that high with as little year-to-year variance in the return. We at Smead Capital Management would like to ask a few questions.
2013-03-05 You’re The Cream of the Crop: Key Findings from the 2012 Advisor Perspectives Reader Survey by Jeff Briskin (Article)
Experienced. Results oriented. Focused on serving the needs of individuals and families. Confident in your abilities. Eager to expand your knowledge. If this sounds like you, you're not alone. These are the traits that stand out among Advisor Perspectives readers, based on the findings of our 2012 Reader Survey.
2013-03-05 Is Now the Time to Diversify? by Chris Maxey, Ryan Davis of Fortigent
The use of global diversification in constructing client portfolios has come under fire in recent years due to the underperformance of many risk assets. Traditionalists who stuck to their familiar S&P 500 and BarCap Aggregate Bond index blends generally outperformed their diversified peers in 2011 and 2012, as historic risk premiums failed to materialize and various alternative investment strategies faced headwinds.
2013-03-05 Absolute Return Letter: Expect the Unexpected by Niels Jensen, Nick Rees,Tricia Ward of Absolute Return Partners
With real interest rates being negative in many countries we expect low returns on both equities and bonds going forward. Many investors have responded to that by allocating more and more of their assets to passive strategies such as ETFs. We believe it is the wrong approach for this type of environment.
2013-02-27 The Great Migration by Herbert Abramson, Randall Abramson of Trapeze Asset Management
We are value investors dedicated to creating portfolios for clients, whether growth (equities), income or a balanced blend of both, of undervalued securities with meaningful upside potential and a margin of safety to guard against permanent loss. For us, the bottom-up factors are the most compelling, but we are also mindful that we need to take account of the top-down macro factors. We know how the Crash of ꞌ08 and the accompanying recession created havoc for investors, including us, no matter how undervalued stocks were.
2013-02-26 Five Ways to Improve Your Investing Decision Making by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Successful investing requires a contrarian mindset; anything else is, at best, a recipe for mediocrity. This is especially true for an investment committee, the core of an advisory firm's decision-making process. Five prominent advisors – Harold Evensky, John Hill, Steve Cassaday, Steve Kaye and Berk Nowak – are embracing unconventional approaches to ensure that their investment committees operate in the most effective ways possible.
2013-02-19 Asset Class Allocation and Portfolios by Adam Jared Apt (Article)
Asset class allocation has been so thoroughly absorbed into the culture of investing that today, most investment guidance is built around it, and you may even have heard that it is the foundation of an investment plan. And like nearly all respectable investment ideas, it is misunderstood and abused. One misconception is that asset class allocation and portfolio management are the same thing. I'll explain why they aren't later, but let's start by considering another misconception.
2013-02-19 Jesse Livermore by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James
"There were times when my plans went wrong and my stocks did not run true to form, but did the opposite of what they should have done if they had kept regard for precedent." So said Jesse Livermore, as chronicled in the brilliant book Reminiscence of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefever; and, stock market historians will recall that Jesse Livermore is still considered one of the most colorful market speculators of all time.
2013-02-16 When It Comes to Gold, Stick to the Facts by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
During short-term gold corrections, its much more important to focus on the facts, including the fact that gold is increasingly viewed as a currency. Rather than buying real estate, lumber or diamonds, central banks around the world are buying gold. According to the World Gold Council (WGC), over 2012, central bank demand totaled 534 tons, a level we have not seen in nearly 50 years.
2013-02-14 Understanding Derivative Overlays, in All Their Forms by Markus Aakko, Rene Martel of PIMCO
Passively managed overlays are typically based on a simple formula, while active approaches involve more complex algorithms or decision-making. Overlay examples include portable alpha, LDI, currency, completion, rebalancing, and tactical asset allocation overlays -- as well as tail-risk hedging and hedge fund replication. Potential benefits include the ability to effectively manage cash, reduce costs and risk exposure, simplify manager transitions and express tactical views.
2013-02-07 Investing in a Low-Growth World by Jeremy Grantham of GMO
This quarter I will review any new data that has come out on the topic of likely lower GDP growth. Then I will consider any investment implications that might come with lower GDP growth: counter intuitively, we find that investment returns are likely to be more or less unchanged a little lower only if lower growth brings with it less instability, hence less risk. Finally I will take a look at the reaction to last quarter's letter, specifically about my outlook for lower GDP growth.
2013-02-07 We Have Met the Enemy, and He Is Us by Ben Inker of GMO
If modern portfolio management has a single defining urge, it is almost certainly diversification. We look for diversifying assets, strategies, and managers. A thoughtful investor can argue against almost any asset class stocks, bonds, hedge funds, private equity, commodities, you name it but arguing against diversification is like arguing against indoor plumbing. I dont want to sound like I'm calling for a return to chamber pots and outhouses, so I'm not actually going to argue against diversification.
2013-02-06 Too Active, Too Passive: Too Little Understanding by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
The wealth management and institutional consulting communities have allowed indexing to be called "passive" investing and stock-picking disciplines to be called active management. This implies a mindless approach to indexing and a great deal of busyness to stock picking. We at Smead Capital Management believe these labels are at the heart of a great deal of confusion about what works and what doesn't work in both equity mutual funds and separately managed accounts.
2013-02-01 Fiscal Cliff: Making Decisions in Crisis Part III by Brian Singer of William Blair
The December 31 fiscal cliff was averted, but by the narrowest of conceivable margins. The resolution is consistent with our November analysis, but the narrowness leaves much to be resolved and prolongs uncertainty through March.
2013-01-31 Fiscal Cliff: Making Decisions in Crisis Part II by Brian Singer of William Blair
Having set a framework using strategic decision theory to interpret the choices of US politicians in response to their incentives around the "ﬁscal cliff," we now similarly turn our attention to the incentives (or disincentives) around the choices facing investors. While the general rise of uncertainty around changes to the rules of a game slow down the decision making process of investors, we consider the implications of a shifting tax burden on longer run equity valuations.
2013-01-31 Elliott's Paul Singer On How Money Is Created ... And How It Dies by Team of TimeCapital
When we launched our series into the US Shadow Banking system in the summer of 2010 we had one simple objective: to demonstrate just how little the process of modern (and by modern we mean circa 2004 not 1981) money creation was understood.
2013-01-30 Fiscal Cliff: Making Decisions in Crisis Part I by Brian Singer of William Blair
Having lost touch with mainstream America, neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party enjoys much governing ability. Second, politicians struggle to function as leaders, regardless of competence, as a result of party disengagement. Third, left to their own devices, politicians will respond to their individual incentives. Bringing these observations together, neither party platform nor leadership vision will provide as much guiding force as the incentives of each politician, sometimes individually and other times in coalition.
2013-01-28 A Few Things to Consider. Plus a Look at Maine and Illinois by Gregg L. Bienstock of Lumesis
This week's commentary is a slight departure from our standard format. It's been a few weeks since we mentioned the fiscal cliff, sequestration and the like. This is due to our collective saturation and the perspective of so many that the problem was solved. Well, we want to provide a reminder or two and throw a few thoughts at you to kick around. We conclude with a quick look at Maine and Illinois.
2013-01-25 Truth vs. IgnoranceThe Impactful Investment Manager of Tomorrow by Katy Sherrerd of Research Affiliates
Ignorance in investing can have devastating consequences for individual portfolios and personal wealth. Too often, capital market participants have little knowledge of how markets work, how to make investment decisions, or how to manage their portfolios. This month's Fundamentals explains how investment managers can add value for their clients through insight and education combined with the quest for alpha.
2013-01-25 Prisoner of the Bureaucracy by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
I wrote some time ago that Greece had a choice between Disaster A: staying in the euro; and Disaster B: leaving the euro. I have recently come back from four days in Greece, meeting with lots of people at all levels of society, and will share with you in this letter my analysis of their choices and the results. I'll also have a few things to say about what the developments in Greece might mean for the rest of Europe and the developed world.
2013-01-23 Dissipating Gloom by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Investor confidence seems to be returning, as the economic outlook improves and policy concerns are addressed. The tone of media coverage and strategy commentaries has improved considerably. Nonetheless, investors are not positioned for a more optimistic view. Hedge funds and other professional money managers remain underexposed to equities and retail investors are dreadfully light in equities and badly overweight bonds. Stocks will enjoy a very nice tailwind as these portfolios are rebalanced to reflect the more positive view.
2013-01-22 Keep Your Eye On The Ball - 2012 Year End Letter by Team of Sloan Wealth Management
The members of the Portfolio Management Team at Sloan Wealth Management (SWM) coach two baseball teams, two soccer teams, one T-ball team and one basketball team for our collective young children. Thus, we find ourselves stressing the basics. Learning the fundamentals of how to catch a pop-up will eliminate some of the fear of getting hit in the face. In 2012, we found many parallels to the capital markets as our portfolios posted high double digit returns in the face of fear.
2013-01-15 Forecast 2013: Unsustainability and Transition by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
As we begin a new year, we again indulge ourselves in the annual rite of forecasting the year ahead. This year I want to look out a little further than just one year in order to think about the changes that are soon going to be forced on the developed world. We are all going to have to make a very agile adaptation to a new economic environment (and it is one that I will welcome). The transition will offer both crisis and loss for those mired in the current system, which must evolve or perish, and opportunity for those who can see the necessity for change and take advantage of the evolution.
2013-01-15 It's Not What Happens That Matters by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
Late in 2008 and in early 2009, a group of what we like to call "brilliant pessimists" hit the airwaves with their economic theories. The prognosticators' vision of the future was and is predicated on the history of similar situations and the mathematical realities of the huge debt overhang from the prior ten years of profligate economic behavior. They put very effective names on their visions like "new normal" and "seven lean years". They marketed their visions incredibly well to the point of shaming anyone who might disagree with their theories.
2013-01-11 Invest In Equities: Your Future Self May Thank You by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Investors have had an illusion about the stock market since the financial crisis. With the barrage of negative headlines and abhorrence toward risk, investors seemed to feel that equities would not improve going forward. This turned out to be a mistaken belief.
2013-01-10 Market Perspectives Q4 2012: Politics vs. Economics by Richard Michaud of New Frontier Advisors
The major news of the quarter was that a fiscal cliff deal passed in the final hours of the 112th Congress and was signed by President Obama. The deal averts tax increases on most Americans and prevents large indiscriminate cuts in spending in many government programs. It also averted, by nearly universal consensus among macroeconomists, tipping the American economy into recession with attendant global implications.
2013-01-08 Another Lost Year for Active Management by Chris Maxey, Ryan Davis of Fortigent
There is no doubt that 2012 will be remembered by many investors, for reasons both good and otherwise. One group less likely to remember the good of 2012 is active managers. Across the universe of hedge funds and mutual funds, relatively few were able to outperform their comparative benchmarks. This continues a long running trend of active managers lagging their less active counterparts and raises many questions about the efficacy of active management.
2013-01-02 Somewhere Over the Rainbow by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We are 13 years into a secular bear market in the United States. The Nasdaq is still down 40% from its high, and the Dow and S&P 500 are essentially flat. European and Japanese equities have generally fared worse. The average secular bear market in the US has been about 11 years, with the shortest to date being four years and the longest 20. Are we at the beginning of a new bull market or another seven years of famine? What sorts of returns should we expect over the coming years from US equities?
2013-01-02 How Much Hedge Fund Exposure Makes Sense? by Daniel Eagan of AllianceBernstein
Our research suggests that a well-diversified allocation to hedge funds might improve portfolio returns, but their greatest benefit is the risk reduction that comes from their low correlation to stocks. Here's why.
2012-12-28 Readers' Golden Nuggets Focused on Gold, Resources and Overcoming Negativity by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
The past few days Ive been counting down the most popular commentaries over the past year. China, commodities and bond fund popularity were big hits; so were the Surprises in Gasoline, Oil and Resources Stock Prices. Here are the top four.
2012-12-27 The Ten Most-Read Articles in 2012 by Robert Huebscher (Article)
As is our custom, we conclude the year by reflecting on the 10 most-read articles over the past 12 months. In decreasing order, based on the number of unique readers, those are…
2012-12-21 Light at the End of the Tunnel for Gold by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Intuition was telling me something was going on these past few days in the gold market. Our investment team was watching gold and gold stocks take a tumble for no obvious reason. It wasnt only us who felt this way: many analysts were caught off-guard. One comment from Barclays Research indicated that the week was unusually brutal with quite a few confused participants with some seemingly positive aspects of the market not having an impact.
2012-12-20 Hedge Funds: Identifying Alpha and Mitigating Risk by Daniel Eagan of AllianceBernstein
Hedge funds have historically generated higher returns than stocks with less volatility, but they also pose several significant risks that volatility alone doesn't capture, our research suggests. That makes careful due diligence and diversification of managers crucial.
2012-12-18 The Fed's Giant Stride by Christian Thwaites of Sentinel Investments
FOMC: The news from this meeting was widely telegraphed (see Yellen, Evans, etc. last month) but produced some real and welcome developments. Here's the quick summary.
2012-12-15 Rooting Out Biases in Hedge-Fund Data by Daniel Eagan of AllianceBernstein
In a recent article, I discussed the conclusions about hedge funds historical returns and risk we reached after rooting out biases in the data available. Heres how we sought to eliminate those biases.
2012-12-13 Hedge Funds: Separating Fact from Hype by Daniel Eagan of AllianceBernstein
It's easy to understand the allure of hedge funds and the fear they inspire. After conducting rigorous research aimed at separating fact from hype, we have concluded that hedge funds historically have had an attractive risk/return profile.
2012-12-11 Fine Wine - Why it's for More than Just Drinking by Mark E. Ricardo, JD, LLM, AAMS (Article)
For many investors, an ideal asset class would combine superior long-term absolute and risk-adjusted returns with a hedge against inflation and stock market volatility. There's a way to get all of that, in an asset class you might never have thought of until now: fine wine. Investment-grade wine deserves careful consideration, particularly now that - unlike other collectibles, such as art and rare books - it can be traded on a regulated exchange.
2012-12-11 Weekly Commentary & Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
The stock market continues to have one eye on Washington DC and the other on the various global concerns of slowing growth and European disintegration. The net result was another quiet and slow week of trading.
2012-12-10 13 for '13 by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Each December we publish a list of investment themes that we feel are critical to the coming year. We continue to believe that US equities are in the midst of a major bull market that could ultimately rival 1982's bull market. It is hard to be bearish when one considers the following.
2012-12-08 How Gold Miners Can Leverage the Price of Gold by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Gazing into their crystal balls this week, Wall Street firms interpreted differing futures for gold next year. Morgan Stanley awarded gold the best commodity for 2013 while Goldman Sachs called the end of the metals hot streak. After seeing 11 consecutive years of positive performance from gold, one needs to be wary of research analysts price forecasts, as they have consistently underestimated the shifting dynamics driving the precious metal higher.
2012-12-05 Argentinas Trials & Trubulations by Chris Maxey and Ryan Davis of Fortigent
Equity markets climbed higher for a second straight week, extending a rally that began November 16. For the week, the S&P 500 rose 0.6% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2%. In the post-mortem on Q3 earnings season, much has been made of the first quarter of negative earnings growth in three years. However, analysis by Morgan Stanley reveals an even more disturbing picture of corporate America: just 10 companies in the S&P 500 delivered 88% of the indexs earnings growth. Of those 10, four accounted for more than half and Apple alone made up nearly one-fifth of the indexs growth.
2012-12-04 Surprising Choices in the Search for Safety Near-Certain Loss of Purchasing Power versus Short-Term by Jason Petitte, CFA (Article)
Risk, in its many guises, is unavoidable, and investors today are taking on significant amounts of credit risk, duration, and leverage to obtain high yields from many presumably safe bonds. But certain types of risk are often mispriced. By overweighting one's portfolio to those sectors that currently offer attractive risk-adjusted returns, investors will be better positioned to meet their long-term goals.
2012-12-04 In Search of the Holy Grail by Niels Clemen Jensen of Absolute Return Partners
This month's letter focuses on the short to medium term factors that drive our asset allocation and portfolio construction. All research suggests that financial markets are not driven by economic fundamentals in the short to medium term, so why should the investment process be?
2012-11-20 Mad Max Rides Again by Mariko Gordon (Article)
It's been a sometimes gruesome, often fierce ride here in the New York area since Sandy hit last month. There's a parallel between the changes brought by the hurricane and those in today's investment environment.
2012-11-19 Q3 2012 Market Commentary by Jon Sundt of Altegris
Decisive actions by central bankers altered the course of global markets in the third quarter of 2012 at least temporarily.
2012-11-17 Election Dividends by Sean Bonner of Carne Capital
As the market continues to sell off, these are names to keep an eye on. The performance of high dividend paying stocks can be expected to remain volatile for the near future, both to the upside and downside. The selling may continue to feed on itself, but if a deal on dividend tax rates can be reached these names may at least revert to the mean and outperform the broad market.
2012-11-13 David Rosenberg on Obama's Victory by David Rosenberg (Article)
The election is behind us. The Fed has spent its last bullet. We are at an inflection point of the earnings and sales cycle. The fiscal cliff, the Chinese political transition and the spread of the euro zone recession to the north lie ahead.
2012-11-13 Voyages by Michael Lewitt (Article)
Anything short of drastic entitlement reform, serious cutbacks in defense spending, and serious tax reform that alters incentives away from speculation in favor of production will leave this country stuck on the dangerous path it is on today.
2012-11-13 Bank Loans: Looking Beyond Interest Rate Expectations by John Bell and Kevin Perry (Article)
Portfolio managers of Bank Loan Strategies, John Bell and Kevin Perry, outline the major advantages and risks of bank loan investing and the roles that a bank loan allocation can play in a fixed income portfolio.
2012-11-13 Europe: Opportunity of a Generation by David Marcus of Evermore Global Advisors
A difficult political and economic backdrop is masking exceptional opportunities in European markets for discerning, long-term oriented investors. Evermore believes that there is a generational opportunity to build significant wealth by selectively investing in catalyst-driven, deep value European securities, trading at depressed valuations.
2012-11-06 Asset Location: Nine Tips to Create “Tax Alpha” by Glenn Frank (Article)
With campaign season finally over, taxes are going to dominate the debate in Washington in the months ahead – however things shake out at the polls today. It's going to be confusing; it's going to be uncertain. But many of the most critical questions advisors will ask can be answered with an analytical approach to deciding where to 'house' assets – in taxable or tax-sheltered accounts.
2012-11-05 Three Men Make a Tiger by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
In a few hours we will know the outcome of the US elections (hopefully without a repeat of 2000!). So, given that eventuality, why should we bother to explore the rather significant disparity in the models being used to create the polls to predict the outcome of the elections? Because doing so will help us understand why the models we use to predict the effects on our investments of market behavior and macroeconomics so often fail us, and why we should approach the use of such models with a full measure of wariness and skepticism.
2012-10-31 The Role of Risk in Asset Allocation by Jason Hsu of Research Affiliates
A traditional asset allocation framework allocates to various asset classes with the goal of matching important risk exposures. In reality, many asset classes share exposures to common risk factors and thus are highly correlated, particularly with equities. This article explains how investors can achieve more intuitive and perhaps more sensible portfolios with an approach based on risk factors.
2012-10-29 The Quest for Certainty by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The last two weeks we have been looking at the problems with models. First we touched on what I called the Economic Singularity. In physics a singularity is where the mathematical models no longer work. For example, models based on the physics of relativity no longer work if one gets too close to a black hole. If we think of too much debt as a black hole of sorts, we may understand why economic models no longer work. Last week, in "The Perils of Fiscal Cliff," we looked at the use of fiscal multipliers by economists in order to argue for or against governmental economic policies.
2012-10-25 October 2012 Newsletter by Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz Wealth Management
Oh the joys of driving to a baseball game; sitting in endless traffic four miles from the stadium, inching past full lot after full lot, or not finding your car when it's time to go home (was it D-4 or 404 Green?). Now you can streamline your parking experience with ParkWhiz, a Chicago-based company that's recently gone national. This and other missives from Harold Evensky.
2012-10-24 Voluntary Exile by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
We at Smead Capital Management (SCM) believe that institutional and individual investors have moved their asset allocation away from large cap US stocks. Institutions are in exile in private equity, hedge funds and all things commodity and BRIC-trade related.
2012-10-15 Seven Varieties of Deflation by A. Gary Shilling of Gary Shilling & Associates
Inflation in the U.S. has historically been a wartime phenomenon, including not only shooting wars but also the Cold War and the War on Poverty. That's when the federal government vastly overspends its income on top of a robust private economyobviously not the case today when government stimulus isn't even offsetting private sector weakness. Deflation reigns in peacetime, and I think it is again, with the end of the Iraq engagement and as the unwinding of Afghanistan expenditures further reduce military spending.
2012-10-15 Economic Singularity by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
There is considerable disagreement throughout the world on what policies to pursue in the face of rising deficits and economies that are barely growing or at stall speed. Both sides look at the same set of realities and yet draw drastically different conclusions. Both sides marshal arguments based on rigorous mathematical models "proving" the correctness of their favorite solution, and both sides can point to counterfactuals that show the other side to be insincere or just plain wrong.
2012-10-12 Long/Short Investing: Bon Apptit by Geoffrey Johnson of PIMCO
Long/short equity is a distinct investment approach that seeks to reduce downside risk while still capturing much of the equity markets upside potential. By removing the long-only constraint, long/short managers have an expanded opportunity set with the potential to generate returns and mitigate risk from both long and short investment ideas. Long/short equity strategies have a lower long-term volatility and risk profile than the market as a whole and have captured a good percentage of price movement in up markets and a smaller percentage in down markets.
2012-10-08 The Unemployment Surprise by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The unemployment number surprisingly dropped to 7.8% last Friday, and the shoot-from-the-hip crowd came out in force. To say that the jobs report was met with skepticism would be a serious understatement. The response that got the most immediate airplay was ex-GE CEO Jack Welch (who knows a few things about making a number say what you want it to say) tweeting, "Unbelievable job numbers ... these Chicago guys will do anything ... can't debate so change numbers."
2012-10-04 When Career Risk Reigns by Neils Jensen of Absolute Return Partners
In this month's Absolute Return Letter we pick up the baton from last month. How does the current crisis actually affect financial markets? How do you overcome the low returns? What can you do to protect the downside risk in a high correlation environment? We argue that career concerns often lead to irrational decisions by professional money managers and that this provides opportunities for those who can afford to deviate from the norm.
2012-10-03 Circle the Wagons on GLD by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
We spoke to two small groups in Spokane on September 21st, 2012. For better or worse, when I think of Spokane I think of my cousin Gary. It was 1981 and yours truly was a young stockbroker at Drexel Burnham Lambert. Gold had been in a wonderful bull market ride in the prior five to ten years. Gary was interested in participating in gold through a gold-mining stock traded on the Spokane Stock Exchange. Spokanes proximity to the Northern Idaho mining towns and closeness to the Canadian border made it a natural place for commodity traders and mining enthusiasts to gather to transact business.
2012-10-02 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
Two readers respond to Rob Arnott's commentary, The Glidepath Illusion, which was published on September 25. A reader responds to Adam Apt's article, How to Build a Portfolio, which appeared last week.
2012-10-02 The Risk in Safety by Greg Nejmeh of HS Management Partners
The "risk on/risk off" sound bite is routinely applied by financial commentators when attempting to explain inexplicable market fluctuations. As the pendulum oscillates between greed (risk on) and fear (risk off), the fulcrum the pivot point where the scale rests in perfect balance can best be characterized as safety. It is from that state of equilibrium that the market begins each trading day...
2012-09-29 Uncertainty and Risk in the Suicide Pool by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
Investors in the stock market, especially professionals, are obsessed with risk, your humble analyst included. We try to measure risk in any number of ways, looking for an edge to improve our returns. Not only do we try to determine probable outcomes, we also look for the 'fat tail' events, those things that can happen which are low in probability but will have a large impact on our returns.
2012-09-28 The Housing Market: For Real or Fakeout? by Jeffrey Dow Jones of Jones & Company
Most of you guys know that I bought a new house last summer. I spent two years looking at properties with the lovely (and patient!) Mrs. Concord, and eventually we found one that had what we each were looking for. My #1 criteria was value. Not price, but value.
2012-09-28 Alternative Thoughts: Macro Investing - What is macro investing and investing in a macro strategy? by Lawrence Epstein, Josh Rowe of Orinda Asset Management
Macro investing has long been the focus of investors in search of non-correlated investment strategies. Orinda Asset Management believes that macro strategies have the potential to produce positive absolute returns across market cycles. In addition, the strategy has historically exhibited low correlation to traditional equity and fixed income indices, and has provided effective diversification benefits when incorporated as part of a long-term investment plan.
2012-09-25 How to Build a Portfolio by Adams Jared Apt (Article)
This is the first of a set of three articles intended for the educated layman, in which I will combine the core ideas presented in my preceding articles into a comprehensive description of how to put together a portfolio. In this one, I'll explain what is often called Modern Portfolio Theory.
2012-09-22 QE Infinity: Unintended Consequences by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
Last Monday an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, penned by five PhDs in economics, among them a former Secretary of the Treasury and an almost-guaranteed Nobel laureate (and most of them former members of the President's Council of Economic Advisors) minced no words in excoriating the current QE policy. We will look at that op-ed in detail below. The point is that there are grave reservations about the current policy among some very serious policy makers.
2012-09-15 The Direction of the Compromise by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
I think this election has the potential to be one of those rare times, at least in terms of economic outcomes. In Thoughts from the Frontline we cover economics and investments, money and finance. We only rarely stray into the political world, and then only glancingly. Today, we cross that gray line, but at a somewhat different angle, as we look at the economic consequences of the political decision that will come with the choices we make in November in the US.
2012-09-14 All In by Doug MacKay and Bill Hoover of Broadleaf Partners
Dissatisfied with progress on the jobs front, the Fed went "all in" yesterday in its much anticipated, most recent policy announcement. Unlike QE1, QE2 and Operation Twist, the latest addition to the monetary smorgasbord is open-ended, meaning that it has no pre-established termination date. Policy will remain stimulative for as long as it takes to see a substantial improvement in employment. Rather than keeping rates low well into 2014, it could now be well into 2015 before they tick back up.
2012-09-14 You're an Idiot. Statistically. by Bill Mann of Motley Fool
Statistically, the SEC found that American investors - regardless of age, race, or gender - lack basic financial literacy, and that they generally do not understand even the most elementary financial concepts such as compound interest and inflation.
2012-09-11 Can Our Retirement System be Fixed? by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Google 'Teresa Ghilarducci' and you'll find countless references to her as the most dangerous woman in America. That dubious distinction stems from her 2008 book, When I'm Sixty-Four, in which she advocated replacing voluntary 401(k) plans with government-mandated savings accounts. Ghilarducci was attempting to address a problem that thus far has eluded solution, so it's important to consider her arguments, which have drawn praise from some quarters, too.
2012-09-11 Hedged Equity Value Goes Beyond Performance by Emmett Maguire III, CFA (Article)
Advisors often overlook the value a hedged equity manager can inject into a portfolio, as recent outperformance of long only indices (S&P 500) has overridden other considerations. The case for hedged strategies, however, goes beyond relative returns.
2012-09-10 Late-Stage, High-Risk by John Hussman of Hussman Funds
The market conditions we observe at present are very familiar from the standpoint of historical data, matching those that have appeared prior to the most violent market declines on record (e.g. 1973-74, 1987, 2000-2002, 2007-2009).
2012-09-08 Debt Be Not Proud by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
The unemployment numbers came out yesterday, and the drums for more quantitative easing are beating ever louder. The numbers were not all that good, but certainly not disastrous. But any reason will do, if what you want is more stimulus to boost the markets ever higher. Today we will look first at the employment numbers, because deeper within the data is a real story. Then we look at how effective any monetary stimulus is likely to be.
2012-09-05 The Lending Lindy by Bill Gross of PIMCO
Our entire finance-based monetary system led by banks but typified by insurance companies, investment management firms and hedge funds as well is based on an acceptable level of carry and the expectation of earning it. In a New Normal economy where lenders dance to the Blue Danube instead of the Lindy, how should we move our own feet? Carefully, I suppose, and with recognition that historic returns are just that historic.
2012-08-28 Who’s Fooling Whom? by Michael Lewitt (Article)
Equity markets are exhibiting a remarkable degree of complacency. The VIX is currently at extremely low levels and it can maintain those levels for a long period of time. The worse things get in terms of the economic data, the higher the market goes on hopes of central bank stimulus. At this rate, the Dow will peak just as the world is coming to an end!
2012-08-28 Tomatoes and the Low Vol Effect by Ryan Larson of Research Affiliates
For the past 40 years, investors have focused on how much their returns varied from both a benchmark and their peers. Given the volatility of recent years, some investors are thinking about returning to a different approach to riskthe risk of losing money. This shift in thinking requires a very different approach to equity investing.
2012-08-25 Boomers are Breaking the Deal by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
We look at the trends in employment as well as take note of a signpost we passed on the way to finding out that we cant pay for all the future entitlements we have been promised.
2012-08-22 Dividends Provide A Return Bonus by Team of F.A.S.T. Graphs
With all things being equal, dividend paying common stocks provide their shareholders a return bonus, or what some might like to call a kicker, over an equivalent common stock that pays no dividend. Many investors do not see it this way, as they tend to think of the dividend providing them their return. However, the stock market capitalizes earnings whether a company pays a dividend or not.
2012-08-22 5 Counterintuitive Reasons Why the Investment Vehicle of the the Decade is ... Stocks by Rob Isbitts of Sungarden Investment Research
These days there are more varieties and combinations of investments than selections on a Starbucks menu -- but that's not necessarily a good thing. Now, you can invest in emerging markets, dividend-paying stocks, bonds from Africa and commodities that only farmers and professional speculators used to traffic in. Heck, clients can even tell an advisor they would like a double-long, midcap equity ETF.
2012-08-21 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
A reader responds to the commentary, Maybe This Time is Different, by Andrew Redleaf of Whitebox Advisors, which was published on August 14, and a reader responds to Michael Edesess' article, Why Hedge Funds Destroy Investor Wealth, which was published last week.
2012-08-17 Disconnected Markets Confound Investors by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
The current environment for investors is perhaps one of the most confusing that many have ever encountered. Unpredictable markets now appear to take no clue whatsoever from underlying economic data, and maxims long cherished by traditional money managers are being abandoned in favor of seemingly illogical choices. While such an environment is enough to encourage many to cash out completely, we believe that investors should remain focused on the fundamentals.
2012-08-17 Love Trade Cools as Central Banks Gold Demand Heats Up by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Although the Love Trade (purchasing gold for coins or jewelry) is on ice for now, a relatively new gold buyer has been warming up to gold. Central bank purchases hit a record high since the official sector became gold buyers three years ago. If this trend continues over the remainder of 2012, central banks will be entering a new territory of gold buying that has not been seen since the early 1960s and since the end of the Bretton Woods System in 1971.
2012-08-17 How Change Happens by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
This is an encore appearance of the letter that is clearly the most popular one I have ever written, updated with a few thoughts from recent times (it was also part of a chapter in Endgame). Numerous reviewers have stated that this one letter should be read every year. As you read, or reread, Ill be enjoying a week off.
2012-08-13 Invest with the Best?! by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James
I have been a "fan" of the astute Claude Rosenberg ever since hearing him speak. Some will remember him as the author of Investing with the Best, which deals with the daunting task of selecting an investment manager. Given the plethora of investment managers, picking a manager is difficult. That's why many individuals' selection process consists of nothing more than looking at a portfolio manager's track record for the past few years. We think such a simplistic approach is a mistake.
2012-08-11 And Then There Is Disaster C by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
I have contended for some time that Europe is faced with two choices: Disaster A, which is the break-up of the eurozone, or Disaster B, which is the creation of a fiscal union, which keeps the euro more or less intact. Over the last few months I have come to realize that there is indeed a third option, which now looks increasingly possible. European leaders might do nothing more than deal with the problem immediately in front of them, moving from crisis to crisis in a slow-motion drift toward fiscal union.
2012-08-07 Why Hedge Funds Destroy Investor Wealth by Michael Edesess (Article)
If all the money that's ever been invested in hedge funds had been put in Treasury bills instead, the results would have been twice as good. So claims Simon Lack - a former JPMorgan executive whose job was once to help steer billions into hedge funds - in his recent book, The Hedge Fund Mirage: The Illusion of Big Money and Why It's Too Good to Be True. You'd think hedge fund advocates would immediately pounce on this and refute it; but it's irrefutable.
2012-08-03 Hedging Against (and Profiting From) A Prospective Decline In The U.S. Dollar by Team of Emerald Asset Advisors
The U.S. dollar has remained the world's reserve currency due to several factors: 1. Its large circulation (roughly $1.1 trillion); 2. The denomination of many transactions (especially commodities such as oil and other natural resources) being in USD; 3. The stability of its political system; and 4. The lack of any other viable options. However, that may not always be the case.
2012-08-03 The Race for Resources by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
The world watched in awe as American swimmer Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time. It's inspiring to see the incredible results of his tremendous sacrifice and commitment. Investing in global markets requires the same sort of stamina, especially at times like this week, when the month's reading on the manufacturing industry was not encouraging. The J.P. Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI of 48.4 for July was the lowest since June 2009.
2012-07-28 Gambling in the House? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
The problem that gave rise to the LIBOR scandal is the lack of transparency. Why would banks want to reveal how much profit they are making? The last thing banks want is transparency. This week I offer a different take on LIBOR, one which may annoy a few readers, but which I hope provokes some thinking about how we should organize our financial world.
2012-07-24 High Yield and Low Risk: Finding the Best Closed-End Funds by Geoff Considine (Article)
Yield-starved investors have ventured into exotic - and often risky - assets, including hedge funds, non-traded REITs and private placements. But an asset class that has been around since 1893 offers a compelling combination of low risk and high income. A carefully selected portfolio of closed-end funds (CEFs) will yield 8% with less volatility than the S&P 500.
2012-07-21 The Lion in the Grass by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
Today we'll explore a few things we can see and then try to foresee a few things that are not so obvious. This is a condensation of a speech I gave earlier this afternoon in Singapore for OCBC Bank, called "The Lion in the Grass." The simple premise is that it is not the lions we can see that are the problem; but rather, in trying to avoid them, it is often the lions hidden in the grass that we stumble upon that become the unwelcome surprise.
2012-07-18 Taking Short Cuts to Higher Returns with AQRs Capital Antti Ilmanen by Kendall Anderson of Anderson Griggs
On November 2-3 of 2011 the CFA Institute and CFA France sponsored the Fourth Annual European Investment Conference in Paris, France. Antti Ilmanen, Ph.D. was one of the presenters. The title of his Presentation was Understanding Expected Returns. This months letter is based on this presentation as it appeared in the June 2012 publication CFA Institute Conference Proceedings Quarterly.
2012-07-14 The Beginning of the Endgame by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
For the last year I have been writing that it is not clear that Europe (with the probable exception of Greece) will in fact break up. The forces that would see a strong fiscal union are quite powerful. In today's letter, I will try to bring you up to date on some insights I have had in the 18 months since Jonathan Tepper and I did the final edits on our book, The Endgame.
2012-07-12 Math, History and Psychology - Part 3 by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
Over the years, we have heard Charlie Munger state that Psychology is the most underrated and underutilized of the major academic disciplines in business and investing. Andy Grove backed this up in a Fortune magazine interview by telling about the best business advice he had ever received. His City College of New York professor told him, When everybody knows that something is so, it means nobody knows nothin.
2012-07-10 Benchmarking Your Retirement Portfolio With a Risk-Free Strategy by Laurence B. Siegel (Article)
Making the savings from 35 or 40 years of work pay for a retirement of the same length is a real challenge. At a zero real rate of return, you would have to save half of your income to enjoy a retirement that long without taking a cut in your living standard. There is, of course, a better way - judicious use of TIPS and annuities. A riskless strategy using those asset classes can safeguard one's retirement assets and can serve as a benchmark against which riskier portfolios can be measured.
2012-07-07 Into the Matrix by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
What does the current environment of earnings and valuations tell us about the prospects for the US stock markets in general over the next 3-5-7-10 years? This week we have part two of "Bull's Eye Investing Ten Years Later," which we started last week. These two letters have been co-authored with Ed Easterling of Crestmont Research. We take a look at research we did almost ten years ago as part of my book Bull's Eye Investing, updating the data and asking,"Are we there yet? When will we get to the end of the secular bear market?"
2012-07-03 Jump: Market Rallies Sharply on EU Summit News by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
Friday's sharp rally on better European news is followed by weaker economic news this week, keeping debate alive about what the market's priced in. When markets expect nothing and get something it can be a recipe for a rally. Investors of every ilk have de-risked, unleashing a scramble last Friday. The US economy is at stall speed, but still looks better than much of the world.
2012-07-02 Nightmare on Wall Street: This Secular Bear Has Only Just Begun by Ed Easterling of Crestmont Research
Secular bull markets are great parties. Investors arrive from secular bears really wanting to take the edge off. As the bull proceeds, above-average returns become intoxicating. By the time it is over, the past decade or two has delivered bountiful returns. In contrast, secular bears seem like hangovers. They are awakenings that strip away the intoxication, leaving a sobering need for an understanding of what has happened.
2012-06-30 Bull's Eye Investing (Almost) Ten Years Later by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The current valuation of the stock market is relatively high, but it is not overvalued, considering today's conditions. Low inflation-rate conditions should be accompanied by relatively high P/Es. But if deflation or high inflation (or both) are likely upcoming, the market is very expensive. On the other hand, if the inflation rate happens to remain near price stability, then this secular bear could remain active a while longer but how likely is that?
2012-06-27 Q3 2012 Outlook by Asset Allocation Committee of Neuberger Berman
The second quarter experienced a return to volatility as heightened concerns over the European sovereign debt crisis and an aura of pessimism around the pace of global economic growth have reverberated through financial markets. The year began on a positive note, with all major equity indices posting strong double-digit gains.
2012-06-23 Daddy's Home by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week we will look at the recent action of the Fed and use that as a springboard to think about how effective Fed policy can be in an age of deleveraging. And we simply must look at Europe.
2012-06-21 Selling Hope by Jason Hsu of Research Affiliates
Many of us in the investment management business are fond of telling our clients that "hope is not a strategy." Ironically, selling hope has worked out to be a fantastic strategy for investment managers. In our new newsletter, "Simply Stated," I suggest that investors may want to think twice about how much they are willing to pay for hope.
2012-06-16 The Bang! Moment is Here by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We know that money is simply flying out of Greek banks. A number of them are clearly insolvent, yet they are meeting demands for withdrawals. Where is the cash coming from? The answer is in the form of yet another acronym from Europe, called the ELA.
2012-06-12 The Problems with Trying to Benchmark Unconstrained Portfolios by Ken Solow (Article)
Benchmarking unconstrained, 'go-anywhere' managers is difficult. Common methods to determine an appropriate benchmark - such as an ex-post regression of how the fund was invested - can obscure the actions of the manager. Is the only solution to simply select an arbitrary benchmark and proceed accordingly?
2012-06-09 A Dysfunctional Nation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
European leaders launched the euro project in the last century as an experiment to see whether political hope could become economic reality. What they have done is create one of the most dysfunctional economic systems in history. And the distortions inherent in that system are now playing out in an increasingly dysfunctional social order. Today we look at some rather disturbing recent events and wonder about the actual costs of that experiment. What type of "therapy" will be needed to treat the dysfunctional family that Europe has become?
2012-06-07 May Rout Leads to June Rally by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
We got three exogenous events in May: Greek credit crisis resumed, with Greece likely to exit the Eurozone this summer. JP Morgan Chase lost $3 billion on Credit Default Swap trading. The FaceBook FacePlant. And on June 1st, the Labor department reported a minimal gain in jobs, which has economists worried anew about the United States returning to recession.
2012-06-04 Alternative Mutual Funds See Continued Growth by Chris Maxey and Ryan Davis of Fortigent
During an especially difficult week, global equity markets were deep in the red, as the S&P 500 Index lost 3.2% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3.3%. There was no shortage of disappointing data during the course of the past week, ranging from weakness in the ISM manufacturing survey to an underwhelming May labor market report. It was such a bad week, in fact, that Bespoke Investment Group found that 18 of the 21 economic indicators released in the U.S. fell short of expectations.
2012-05-29 The Bargains in Europe's Great Oversell by Bob Veres (Article)
When was the last time we saw negative headlines drive valuations as low as they have in Europe? Evermore's David Marcus, who succeeded Michael Price as manager of the Mutual European Fund, says this period of obsession with Greek debt, bank restructuring and single-digit P/Es may be known as The Great Oversell.
2012-05-26 Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We need to tear our gaze away from Europe and look around at what is happening in the rest of the world. There is about to be an eerily near-simultaneous ending to the quantitative easing by the four major central banks while global growth is slowing down. And so, while the future of Europe is up for grabs, the true danger to global markets and growth may be elsewhere.
2012-05-19 Dr. Frankensteins Europe by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We explore the options that the eurozone faces in order to stay together, and what it all means for some of the countries involved. While I have written for a very long time about the probability of Greece exiting the eurozone, the actuality is fraught with risk, not just for Europe but for the world economy. What happens in the next few months will impact us all for a very long time. Indeed, this is one of those years, as Lenin noted, when decades happen.
2012-05-16 Quarterly Review: 1st Quarter 2012 by Robert L. Worthington of Hatteras Funds
Overall economic conditions are slowly improving in certain developed markets like the U.S. This could result in decent and probably better than expected earnings results for Q1 2012, which of course are announced throughout the early-mid part of the coming quarter. Risks are still prevalent and meaningful in regards to the European debt crisis and may continue to mute economic activity for this part of the world. Finally, while evidence suggests that the major developing economies of China, India and Brazil are slowing, risk of hard landings in these countries is small.
2012-05-16 Core Alternatives Fund Quarterly Review by Josh Parrott of Hatteras Funds
A balanced position seems prudent given liquidity is slowing, credit spreads have tightened considerably and equity valuations have jumped. The destabilizing market force of deleveraging still exists and many economist have predicted that the coming months might produce some drawbacks in the markets like last summer, but also new entry points for growth areas such as Emerging Markets, Technology, Mortgage Backed Securities and possibly European distressed debt.
2012-05-12 Waving the White Flag by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Europe has embarked on a program that will require multiple trillions of euros of freshly minted money in order to maintain the eurozone. But the alternative, European leaders agree, is even worse. Today we will look at the recent German shift in policy, why it was so predictable, and what it means. This is a Ponzi scheme that makes Madoff look like a small-time street hustler.
2012-05-10 Benchmarking Tail Risk Management by Vineer Bhansali of PIMCO
While tail risk hedging is a critically important area of modern portfolio management practice, the relative newness of the area means standard frameworks for benchmarking such portfolios have not developed. In fact, weve found that once the framework for proper tail hedge construction is defined based on key guidelines (including exposures, attachment, cost, and basis risk), the task of creating a proper index becomes relatively straightforward. To compensate for insufficient real-time performance measurement, tail hedges need to be evaluated on the basis of scenario analysis.
2012-05-08 Richard Bernstein: US Assets will Outperform over the Next Decade by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Prior to founding the firm that now bears his name, Richard Bernstein was the chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch & Co. In this interview, he discusses why he expects US assets - both equities and fixed income - to be the outperformers among global markets over the next decade.
2012-05-05 A Graphic Presentation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The job market is still in a deep hole. At April's rate of job gains, it would take well over three years to return to December 2007's employment level, without adjusting for population growth; at the average rate of the last six months, it would take about two years. Earnings are weak, and the strongest sectors aren't those of which economic miracles are spun. QE3 looks like more of a possibility than it did a few days ago.
2012-05-02 Investments vs. Outvestments by Andrew J. Redleaf of Whitebox Advisors
This is a great time to invest. But you have to make sure you really are investing and not accidentally outvesting. The market is currently sorting credit into about four big categories. Three of those categories are priced roughly in reference to Treasuries (outvestments). Those are the categories in which we are not interested. The first category, obviously, is Treasuries themselves. Next, short-term paper of super-blue-chip firms. Third, bonds that are just on the border of being investments. Finally, all domestic bonds whose prices are detached from Treasuries.
2012-05-01 Wind Shear Avoidance: Why There Is Value in Momentum by Vineer Bhansali of PIMCO
Explicit tail hedges that look expensive in a normal world may indeed turn out to be cheap if the unimodal morphs into the bimodal. When faced with bimodal outcomes, momentum as a risk factor becomes potent, and cost-efficient exposure to momentum becomes critical to proper portfolio construction. In this world of low, pegged interest rates, an investor who is going to take risk needs other means to make the portfolio more inured to unforeseen shocks and market storms. Investors should look at effective alternative beta strategies, such as momentum, that can be implemented efficiently.
2012-05-01 Tuesday Never Comes by Bill Gross of PIMCO
The current acceleration of credit via central bank policies will likely produce a positive rate of real economic growth this year for most developed countries, but the structural distortions brought about by zero bound interest rates will limit that growth and induce serious risks in future years. Gradually higher rates of inflation should be the result of QE policies and zero bound yields. Focus on securities with shorter durations bonds with maturities in the 5-year range and stocks paying dividends that offer 3%4% yields. Real assets/commodities should occupy an increasing percentage.
2012-04-28 A Gold Standard? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Here is a speech by Jim Grant to the New York Federal Reserve. The always erudite Grant takes us back in time to the very beginnings of the Federal Reserve, to show us how far we have strayed from the original intent. Grant argued for a return to the gold standard in the very halls of fiat money! It seems the New York Fed is asking some of its critics to come and speak.
2012-04-27 Managed Futures and Macro: Q1 2012 Market Commentary by Jon Sundt of Altegris Investments
With Eurozone concerns receding and the macroeconomic picture showing strength, the market outlook at the end of Q1 is notably brighter than at the end of last year. Reduced correlations, lower volatility and the prospect of less government intervention have led some players to hope for a return to a new old period in which fundamentals drive the markets. If that theme does indeed prove to be sustainable, we expect that: a) more managed futures managers, would profit from stronger trends; and b) more circumspect global macro managers may take advantage of increasingly bullish positioning.
2012-04-27 TIPS for Value Investors: Whos Afraid of Negative Yields? by Jeremie Banet and Mihir Worah of PIMCO
Why wasnt the recent TIPS auction a blockbuster among Main Street investors? We believe they were frightened away by the -1.08% real yield. We would argue that the negative real yields that are explicit in TIPS also represent the implicit discount rate for ALL financial assets in the U.S. Moving away from TIPS into nominal yield is a bet on inflation being less than 2% for the next five years and less than 2.25% for the next 10 years a pretty bold bet!
2012-04-27 Bond Market Reflections Spring 2012 by Bruce A. Weininger of Kovitz Investment Group
Faced with the prospect of loaning money out for eight years knowing that our best case return over that time was 2%, we decided that, for a while anyway, wed rather hold onto to cash in hopes that pricing will become more rational over the coming weeks or months.
2012-04-26 The Newlyweds Dilemma by John West of Research Affiliates
Before marriage, men and women enjoy a lot more free time. Married life represents a huge shift in their habits and schedules. Similarly, a new world of lower expected returns signals a major break from mainstream investment approaches. This months Fundamentals examines how investors can position their portfolios for the future.
2012-04-26 The Global Fiscal & Monetary Policy Shift Moves Markets by George Bijak of GB Capital
The powerful macro forces that drive global economy and move stock markets have changed direction post the peak of the Global Financial Crisis. Governments are tightening their Fiscal Policies and Central Banks are expending their Balance Sheets (also known as quantitative easing or money printing) as part of globally synchronized deleveraging process. The two opposing forces pull the global economy in different directions. The fiscal cuts are slowing economic growth but are counter-balanced by a stimulative nature of the Central Banks easing.
2012-04-24 Is 2012 the Year for Hedge Funds? by Chris Maxey of Fortigent
Prior to the financial crisis, hedge funds were largely viewed as alpha generating, high return seeking, portfolio diversifiers. In 2008, that model came under attack from multiple angles fraud, illiquidity, and poor returns being the primary culprit. Ever since that time, the value proposition of hedge funds and alternative investments remains in question, causing some to wonder if this is a make or break year for the space. There is reason to think the environment for hedge funds and active managers is improving.
2012-04-24 Real Career Risk by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
Real career risk is too many people doing what you do for a living. Granthams problem is that every day three million brilliant people get up and spend most of their waking hours trying to practice wide asset allocation. Most of those three million brilliant people have strong backgrounds in economics and lean on their ability to make macroeconomic predictions. Too many people are doing the same thing at the same time for a living. Therefore, they need to either move to another town or wait patiently for most of the other bright people to take up another profession.
2012-04-24 And Thats The Week That Was by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
Dr. Bernanke and friends get together again to set monetary policy and will discuss oil and gas prices and the effect on inflation as well the newfound labor slowdown. Still, no one expects any additional stimulus moves at this time and the policymakers should reiterate their intent to keep the funds rate at near-zero percent well into 2014. The future of Europe remains atop the headlines as France holds crucial national elections and the IMF convenes for its semi-annual soiree.
2012-04-21 A Little Bull's Eye Investing by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Bull's Eye Investing was the book that really helped establish this letter. It dealt with a host of investing ideas, secular market cycles, value investing, alternative investing, and more. I have taken that material, updated it, and written a new book, part of the Little Book series done by Wiley, called The Little Book of Bull's Eye Investing Finding Value, Generating Absolute Returns, and Controlling Risk in Turbulent Markets. I have waited to announce this one until it is off the presses and being shipped. Here is the introduction and part of the first chapter of the book.
2012-04-14 The War for Spain by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The inflection point that I thought the ECB had pushed down the road for at least a year with their recent 1 trillion LTRO is now rushing toward us much faster than Draghi had in mind when he launched his massive funding operation. So, we must pay attention to what Spain has done this week which, to my surprise, seems to have escaped the attention of the major media. It may be considered a tipping point when the crisis is analyzed by some future historian. And then we'll get back to some additional details on the US employment situation, starting with a few rather shocking data points.
2012-04-10 HBS Research: The Role of Business in Society by Michael Edesess (Article)
Many people believe that society needs to change for market capitalism to be sustainable - and it turns out a surprising number of business leaders are among them. That's the finding of a recent series of forums, organized by three Harvard Business School professors. Based on these discussions, the HBS professors advance a bold proposal - that business itself - not government, or even public-spirited nonprofits - should lead the charge to make the necessary changes to our capitalist system.
2012-04-07 It's All About Jobs by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Friday's employment numbers were decidedly soft, but the unemployment rate went down anyway, and that is about the best you can say. And this being a holiday weekend, it provides us an opportunity to look deep into the employment numbers, while we put off thinking about Spain for at least a week. And who knew that being an unmarried Asian-American in the US was a risk for unemployment? Plus a few other interesting items will make for an interesting letter.
2012-04-05 NewsLetter - April 2012 by Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz
Although we continue to believe in the tenets of Modern Portfolio Theory, the concept is Buy-and-Manage not Buy-and-Forget. As a consequence, we made numerous adjustments to our strategic allocations over the years. And, consistent with our buy-and-manage philosophy, for the last few years weve been studying investment markets and have come to believe that long-term future returns are likely to be even lower then we estimated in 2002, market risk will be higher and the benefits from diversification less (i.e., correlations will be higher).
2012-04-05 You Cant Handle the Truth by Niels C. Jensen of Absolute Return Partners
The UK may not be facing the same set of challenges as many other European countries but that does not mean that the next few years will be plain sailing for the British. Households are overextended, banks are highly leveraged and the pension model is deeply flawed. Meanwhile, the British government, obsessed with keeping the coveted AAA rating, is pursuing a fiscal policy which is well intended but entirely inappropriate.
2012-04-05 Markets Wake Up to Central Banks' Complicated Tradeoffs by Mohamed A. El-Erian of PIMCO
This week's market action serves as a vivid reminder of how dependent valuations are on central bank policies, and especially the aggressive provision of liquidity by the Fed and the ECB. The question for markets thus boils down to whether central banks will do more; and the issues these institutions face are extremely and increasingly complex. The global sell-off started on Tuesday with the release of the minutes of the most recent FOMC meeting. They were read by many as signaling less eagerness on the part of the Fed to embark on yet another round of liquidity injections.
2012-04-03 Beyond Bonds: The Role of Risk Assets in Liability-Driven Investing by Sebastien Page of PIMCO
In liability-driven investing, unless the plan is fully immunized or significant leverage is employed, the bond portfolio only hedges part of the liabilities. Overall, when diversifying across risk assets, there are choices that may be more attractive to pension plans than they are to liability-agnostic investors, such as risk assets with exposure to duration. Plan sponsors who choose to maintain a short duration stance on a total portfolio basis should consider alternative sources of diversification beyond equities.
2012-04-03 The Value of Sentiment Polls by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
In our opinion, those who are very bearish about the US stock market need a substantial price increase to trigger historically extreme newsletter writer sentiment. Those who are optimistic should prefer a temporary correction or sideways movement to reinforce fear on the part of the crowd. This would cause the bullish and bearish readings to gravitate to toward each other and remove the risk of having some temporary hell to pay for those of us who seek to practice long-duration common stock investing.
2012-03-31 All Spain All the Time by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The events of the last 24 hours compel me to once again look "across the pond" at the problems that not only plague Europe but will be a drag on world growth as well, as Europe goes through its continued painful adjustment as a consequence of trying to adopt a single currency. Since Spain is going to be on the front page for some time, it will be useful to look at some of the problems it is facing, to put it all into context. And what I heard while in Europe in private meetings is troubling.
2012-03-29 Asset Allocation Committee Outlook by Team of Neuberger Berman
The resurgence of risk appetite witnessed in late 2011 has continued, with most major equity indices up in double digits for the year-to-date. In contrast, fixed income indices have posted very modest and, in some cases, negative returns in the first quarter. Much has been accomplished in the U.S. and globally that has contributed to the now six-month-old equity rally. However, concerns remain. Given this picture, the Asset Allocation Committee's core view remains steadyunderweight bonds, overweight equities.
2012-03-27 Caviar for the General by Jeffrey Bronchick of Cove Street Capital
The stock market as measured by the S&P 500 is up almost 30% over the last 6 months, and has doubled from the March 2009 lows and yet most investors remain underinvested. Despite this temporary risk aversion, we remain convinced that stocks remain a unique species: the higher the price and less compelling the value, the more they seem to be desired by investors. In addition to the number of reasonably valued assets that can be found in financial markets, this represents an anecdotally strong underpinning for a reasonable intermediate future in our opinion.
2012-03-23 A Random Walk Through the Data Minefields by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We are once again to a point in Europe where there are no good choices, only very bad ones. But this time it is with a country that actually makes a difference. (No slight intended to Greece, but you are just small.) Spain has no good way to cut its deficit without things getting worse. But Europe must be willing to then fund Spanish debt, even if "only" through more LTRO actions by the ECB.
2012-03-21 Why Convertible Bonds Should Be Part of Your Asset Allocation by Gary D. Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
Im going to let you hear from Greg Miller about convertible bonds. Not only will Greg tell you how they work, but also why they can be an important diversification technique in your portfolio even now when other types of bonds are falling out of favor. I believe that many of you will want to have convertible bonds in your portfolio before long. The interest rate increases weve seen over the last couple of weeks may be a sign that the long bull market in traditional bonds is rolling over to the downside. Convertible bonds offer opportunity even during periods of rising interest rates!
2012-03-17 Where Will the Jobs Come From? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We will look at why employment is so critical. How are jobs created and what policies can be adopted to help foster more jobs? Should the US try and keep jobs that are going overseas, or develop whole new industries? Who exactly is the competition globally for jobs?
2012-03-13 The Gutenberg Economy by Michael Lewitt (Article)
As commentators near and far speculate on what 2012 will bring to the global economy and markets, there is little question that one factor will be decisive: the central banks' printing presses. Both the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank (ECB) will keep printing dollars and euros around the clock until their presses run out of ink.
2012-03-09 Long-Short Funds Lead Greenwich Indices in February by Clint Binkley of Greenwich Alternative Investments
Hedge funds turned in another month of gains across all major strategies, notes Clint Binkley, Senior Vice President. Results from Long-Short Equity funds show that managers are increasing net exposures as they become more confident about economic conditions. Although some managers continue to expect a market correction, most believe it will be mild as institutional investors are still waiting for opportunities to add to their positions.
2012-03-07 The Labors of Hercules Were Never This Tough by Neil Dwane of Allianz Global Investors
Theres no shortage of insight on the ever-expanding debt drama in Europe. Despite the deluge of information, there are still a few key points to consider. Banks and hedge funds could file lawsuits against Greeces government. Protection against the ISDA declaring a default on Greeces debt could prove to be inadequate. This could mean that things may be worse than we imagine. Markets have rallied this year on positive sentiment that Greeces default has been contained. Are we being too complacent? Still, with solutions being drafted, now might be a good time to buy European equities.
2012-03-05 Is Popularity Ruining Indexing? by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
Scarcity creates value in economics. In our view, what is scarce today is an equity manager doing long-term/long duration equity analysis and institutions/individual investors willing to employ them. Since 33% of the stock market is indexed and most of the other 67% works in very short analytic time frames, we believe the market must be as inefficient as it has ever been. Time is the ally of the long-duration common stock investor and we believe more so now, because indexing is getting too popular and investing in short durations is at epidemic levels.
2012-03-03 Unintended Consequence by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week we wonder about the consequences of the European Central Bank (ECB) issuing over 1 trillion in short-term loans to try and postpone a banking credit crisis and lower sovereign debt costs for certain peripheral countries in Europe. What if, instead of holding the European Monetary Union (EMU or Eurozone) together, that actually makes a breakup more likely? That would certainly fall under the rubric of unintended consequences, and be worth our time to contemplate in this week's letter.
2012-03-02 Positioning Your Portfolio When You Dont Have All the Answers by Josh Thimons of PIMCO
Faced with difficult questions like the European debt crisis, portfolio managers have two possible courses of action: feign omniscience and seek to position portfolios for one outcome, or admit to not knowing the answer and seek to position portfolios to prosper in the most likely scenarios and hold ground in the least. We believe the latter is the better course because two extreme outcomes appear increasingly likely for almost all asset classes, which increases the risk involved in choosing the wrong answer.
2012-02-29 Life During War Time by Rick Lear of Sloan Wealth Management
This week, with European financial crisis almost in our rear view mirror, it is the price of oil that is leading the economic worry race. This worry race has seen more lead changes than the Republican Primary. Worrying about the economy is our new Cold War. We believe, that like the Cold War, this too shall pass.
2012-02-28 Credit Counts: The New Municipal Bond Market by Joe Deane, Julie Callahan & David McMahon of PIMCO
Today, the primary emphasis in security selection must be placed upon creditworthiness and the relative value of credit spreads. When the spread on a bond more than compensates an investor for its underlying risks, the bond becomes an attractive candidate, PIMCO believes. Investors with the resources and process in place to conduct proprietary credit research may have a strong competitive advantage.
2012-02-25 Tax That Other Guy by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Last week's letter on taxes drew more response than any letter I have written in years. Questions that were raised simply beg for an answer, and some of the replies were very thoughtful, well-written suggestions for alternatives. This week I am going to do something I can't ever remember doing, and that is to use the entire letter to involve and respond to my readers.
2012-02-23 Uncertainty and Change Dominate Markets by Daniel C. Chung of Fred Alger & Company
US companies are doing an admirable job in difficult times. Uncertainty is not an acceptable management strategy, so businesses are continuing to move for-ward and seek opportunities to grow, even as Washington dithers. Despite our many concerns about the state of US policy-making, we remain confident in the fundamental strength of our economic system and the vitality and creativity of corporate American its people and in its structure
2012-02-23 9 Key Themes To Impact Returns in 2012 by Scott Migliori of Allianz Global Investors
A breakdown of the key drivers of market performance in 2012 including corporate profits, pricing/inflation, interest rates, economic activity, international performance, the dollar, valuations, technical/sentiment and fiscal policy. The U.S. economy is likely to grow 5%
2012-02-18 The Cancer of Debt and Deficits by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We will explore some options to actually resolve the deficit and debt crisis. Cutting spending or raising taxes have consequences, but not all cuts and not all taxes are the same. For those who have been wanting more specific solutions from me, I am going to address the issues surrounding taxation and offer my thoughts as to what we should do.
2012-02-17 Assessing Performance Records A Case Study by Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital
What are the non-negotiable requirements for accurately assessing investment performance? Id say: a record spanning a significant number of years, a period that includes both good years, and a benchmark or peer universe that makes for a relevant comparison. The other day, at an event for alumni and other constituents of the University of Pennsylvania, president Amy Gutmann reviewed the performance of the university during the financial crisis. Thinking about it afterward, I realized that I should share with you the story of Penns endowment and its lessons.
2012-02-16 Weekly Market Update: Introduction to Alternative Investments by Team of American Century Investments
Alternative investments (or alts as they are commonly known) have exploded in popularity in recent years. What began as specialty investment strategies utilized by only the most sophisticated institutional investorssuch as pension plans and university endowmentsare now readily available to retail investors through a number of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. Here we try to explain alts appeal in broad terms, discussing how these strategies are used and what role alts may play in an individual investors portfolio.
2012-02-15 February 2012 Newsletter by Jim Tillar, Steve Wenstrup and Tim Roesch of Tillar-Wenstrup Advisors
So far in 2012 the stock market rally that began in the gloom last October continues to power ahead producing one of the best starts to a year in over a decade. The primary reason for the rekindling of animal spirits is the efforts of the ECB and our Fed. While we applaud these move that reduced the chance of another financial crisis in the short term, we question the speculative response by the stock market because long-term solvency issues still need to be addressed.
2012-02-11 The Answer We Dont Want to Know by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This election is ultimately about dealing (or not dealing) with the deficit, and putting the country on a path to a sustainable budget deficit, one that is less than the growth rate of the country. As I have argued elsewhere, and will argue in future letters, that is the paramount issue. Not dealing with the deficit runs the very real risk of the bond market treating us just as it is treating Italy and any other country that gets to the point where its debt is unsustainable.
2012-02-10 Indices Show Hedge Funds Off to Strong Start in January by Clint Binkley of Greenwich Alternative Investments
"US equities rallied significantly to begin 2012 and Long-Short managers are the best performers thus far. Hedge funds focused on Market Neutral strategies were also surprisingly strong as both Arbitrage and Event-Driven managers posted their best results in months. Despite investors being drawn into risk-on sectors of the market, most funds remain cautious with the economic situation in Europe still unresolved, notes Clint Binkley, Senior Vice President.
2012-02-09 Private Equity: Fact, Fiction and What Lies in Between by Team of Knowledge @ Wharton
What good is private equity, anyway? Critics say these investment pools make money the wrong way -- buying "target companies," slashing jobs, piling on debt and selling the remnants, which by then are doomed to fail. Defenders say PE is a strong creator of jobs and value, and a vital source of outsized returns for pension funds, university endowments and other investment pools that serve ordinary people. Who's right?
2012-02-07 Jeremy Siegel, Rob Arnott and Other Experts Forecast Equity Returns by Laurence B. Siegel (Article)
A forecast of the equity risk premium (ERP) tells you how much to save, how to allocate assets between equities and fixed income, and how much you can consume. Given its great importance, the CFA Institute recently convened a group of top-level academics and practitioners to forecast future ERPs - and to reflect on similar predictions they had made a decade ago.
2012-02-06 Capturing the ECB by Joseph E. Stiglitz of Project Syndicate
There are several explanations for the ECBs insistence on a "voluntary" restructuring of Greece's sovereign debt, none of which speaks well for the institution. Indeed, as we have seen elsewhere, institutions that are not democratically accountable tend to be captured by special interests.
2012-02-04 Who Took My Easy Button? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
There is no way enough money can be found to fund our entitlement programs, given the current system, even under the best of assumptions. Things must change. Either we will make the difficult choices or those changes will be forced by the market. The longer we put off the difficult choices, the more painful the consequences. This week we begin a series on the choices facing the US. We need to understand the consequences of the choices we make. Cut spending, say some. Tax the rich, say others. Cut out waste and corruption is always a popular choice. Do all of the above, intone others.
2012-02-02 2011: The US Year by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
The market generally proves the consensus wrong, and 2011 certainly adhered to that historical precedent because the consensus "must owns" at the beginning of 2011 generally underperformed during the year. What is somewhat startling to us, however, is that conviction has yet to be shaken. The consensus continues to favor commodities, emerging markets, and "any-bond-but-treasuries".
2012-02-01 Will I be able to retire ever? Answers to our clients #1 question! by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
Our clients are divided between those who are at least 65 and already retired (30%) and those clients aged 35-65 for whom retirement seems like an ever receding mirage. In this commentary, we will concentrate on the mechanism that we use to implement a clients retirement income strategy, review how this strategy has performed since January 2000, and review the lessons learned.
2012-01-31 Q4 2011 Market Commentary by John G. Prichard of Knightsbridge Asset Management
The proposed restructuring for private creditors of Greece has been called voluntary. Who voluntarily takes 30 cents on the dollar? The government authorities involved have insisted that any deal be deemed voluntary to avoid triggering credit default swaps (CDS) written on Greek debt. These CDS could accurately be called insurance contracts that are supposed to pay out if the Greek government defaults or changes the terms of its debt. The ISDA, the entity who decides these things, has more or less already said they wont consider the default a default.
2012-01-28 The Transparency Trap by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We look at the shift in Fed policy, and at the balance sheets of central banks, US GDP, Portugal and the ECB, the LTRO policy, and yes, theres even a tidbit on Greece. Unemployment will be higher than we are comfortable with; it is just a product of the current environment and simple math. The US economy is in a Muddle Through range of around 2%. If not for a potential shock coming from a serious European crisis and real recession, the US should not slip into outright recession this year.
2012-01-26 2011 A Difficult Year for Active Investors by Owen Murray of Horizon Advisors
Actively managed mutual funds greatly underperformed their respective benchmarks in 2011. This was primarily due to extreme market conditions triggered by the European debt crisis. Investment managers were not rewarded for good fundamental decision making as fear dominated trading activity in the global markets. Active manager underperformance / outperformance trends tend to be cyclical, but over time, good active managers add value. We expect actively managed funds to outperform once market volatility subsides and fundamental factors reemerge as a key consideration for investors.
2012-01-25 Bull Riding is Risky by Fred Copper of Columbia Management
One of the most important actions taken by the ECB is the creation of a new liquidity facility for banks known as the Long Term Refinancing Operation which offers 3-year loans against a wide range of collateral. In the first auction, approximately 489 billion euros were borrowed by multiple banks. The second 3-year LTRO auction scheduled for February 29 could have substantially higher interest.This will represent a major de-risking of the banking sector. However, there are two reasons why any continued run-up to that auction may be a good time to take risk off the table.
2012-01-24 Contrarian Concern Too Much Bullishness? by John Buckingham of AFAM
While we expect volatility to remain elevated this year, and we have to concede that the markets have come a long way quickly, we see no reason to alter our 1400 year-end S&P 500 price target. Of course, that level actually might be a little low, considering where we stand today, but we focus our attention on the companies in which we are invested. After all, we own businesses like International Business Machines (IBM - $188.52), Intel (INTC - $26.38) and Microsoft (MSFT - $29.71), all of which posted impressive Q4 results last week, and not index funds.
2012-01-21 Staring into the Abyss by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Europe's leaders are committed to keeping both the euro and the eurozone as it is. But for it to do so, everything must change, as the wonderful quote from the 1958 Italian novel suggests. This is no easy task, as no one wants a change that will impact them negatively; and there is no change that will allow things to stay the same that does not impact all severely, as we will see. In the third part of a continuing series, we look at the actual options that are available on the menu of choices, or as one group called it, the menu of pain.
2012-01-20 A 5-Step Strategy for Investing in Natural Gas by Jeffrey Dow Jones of Jones & Company
Understand the parameters -this is a long term trade. It's not about guessing where the price bottom is. It's about relating where we are today to where we'll be a year or so from now. There's a lot of negativity in the natural gas space right now, and understandably so. But when you conduct a broad, multi-dimensional analysis, the probabilities about the long term outcome become a little clearer.
2012-01-18 Rock Bottom: Housing May Have Already Hit It by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
A comprehensive (read: long) and chart-filled update on housing suggests the bottom may largely be in. Pricing may have more downside and real mortgage rates need to decline further, but most other metrics are flashing green. New themes: housing becoming "local" again, and for now, renting is trumping buying.
2012-01-14 The End of Europe? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The peripheral countries have no choices that allow them to grow and prosper without first suffering (for perhaps a long time) some very real economic pain. Leaving the eurozone has severe consequences; but the economic pain of leaving would go away sooner and allow for quicker adjustments, than if they stayed. However, the initial pain would be worse than the slow pain they'd suffer by staying in the euro. Their choice is, simply, which pain do they want or maybe, which pain do they think they want? Because whatever they choose, they are not going to like it.
2012-01-13 Euro Fears by Richard Michaud of New Frontier Advisors
Global investing is likely to be very challenging in the year ahead. While the euro has so far been resilient, many eurozone countries face substantive debt refinancing in the coming year. Given the current political, structural, and economic reality there is no simple cure to the euro crisis. The ECBs evolving pursuit of liquidity policies and potential interest rate cuts may be helpful, but major political changes may be necessary. Beyond Europe, the remainder of the global economy may be very dependent on a continuing expansion of the American economy and improving consumer demand.
2012-01-11 Greenwich Global Hedge Fund Index Slips 15 Points in December by Clint Binkley of Greenwich Alternative Investments
US equities ended 2011 essentially unchanged but endured significant volatility throughout the year. Hedge funds focused on market neutral strategies were above average performers for the month and the year as they were able to withstand the market uncertainty. Looking forward, we expect Directional and Long-Short strategies to have better performance as the global economy continues to stabilize
2012-01-07 2012: A Year of Choices by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
2012 will the year that the consequences of the choices made by the developed world will begin to manifest themselves in the economic realm. We are in the closing chapters of the current Debt Supercycle, with different countries strewn out along the path, and all headed for a destination that will force major decisions if politically painful actions are not taken. Some countries (e.g., Greece) have a choice between the dire and the disastrous. The option for merely difficult choices was long ago, and there is no going back to where you started without a different but equally painful outcome.
2012-01-06 Euro Fears by Richard Michaud of New Frontier Advisors
The euro crisis has dominated financial headlines and threatened global economic growth for the last two years. The European Union (EU) has repeatedly failed to articulate an effective plan to address Europes debt problems and deteriorating finances. German demands for austerity and economic rectitude by eurozone members, while politically popular in Germany, ignore basic principles of orthodox Keynes-Samuelson macroeconomics for dealing with a financial slump. There is no historical example of austerity leading to growth.
2012-01-06 And Thats The Year/Quarter That Was... by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
Global geopolitical events continue to impact all investments markets. Just when Europe seemed to be taking positive steps to move passed crisis mode, along come Spain, Italy, and Hungary to remind investors that the road to recovery will be paved with many bumps along the way. A nuclear Iran presents huge concerns and additional sanctions could cause new crude supply challenges that may prompt inflation to resurface. The recent favorable labor releases woke the consumer from hibernation in time for the holidays, but will the enthusiasm last once the season ends?
2012-01-05 True Reflections on 2011 and 2012 by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) managed a gain for the year in 2011, but very few investors were cheering. With inflation settling down, the upward boost to real gross domestic product (GDP) is likely being underestimated. Although the eurozone crisis may keep volatility elevated short-term, 2012 is looking like a better year.
2012-01-03 And Thats The Week That Was by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
As January goes, so goes the market for the year. While most investors look beyond such hype, many surely will be pulling for a strong start to the new year. Despite summit after summit, emergency call after emergency call, bailout after bailout, stimulus after stimulus, the European debacle appears no closer to resolution (and is maybe getting worst). Italy is hurting; Hungary could be next; Germany and France are calling the shots. Iran presents a new threat to the oil markets as a blockage at the Strait of Hormuz threatens real damage to the energy supply/demand picture.
2011-12-31 Collateral Damage by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The economic travails of much of the West are reaching a decisive stage as the year ends. In 2008, we predicted sluggish recovery and a long period of low growth for the West in a two-speed world. This picture does not now properly reflect the downside risks. The policy of "kicking the can down the road" is failing, as the intensifying crisis in the euro zone and the failure of the G20 summit in late October clearly demonstrate. As to December's European summit, we describe its impact later in this paper.
2011-12-24 Your Three Investing Opponents by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Recently I have been having a running conversation with Barry Ritholtz on the psychology of investing (something we both enjoy discussing and writing about). Since I am busily researching my annual forecast issue (and taking the day off), I asked Barry to share a few of his thoughts on why we do the things we do. He gives us even more, exploring the three main opponents we face when we enter the arena of investing.
2011-12-21 Seeking Absolute Return: Finding Opportunity in Overly Hyped Alternatives by Team of Litman Gregory
This commentary references and updates views originally shared in our 2003 whitepaper on hedge-fund strategies. Today, we have similar concerns about a low-return environment for stocks in the years ahead. As we concluded eight years ago, hedge-fund strategies do have the potential to add value to a portfolio. However, finding funds that are skillfully managed and offered at a reasonable cost remains a difficult challenge.
2011-12-20 Dennis Gartman Explains His Call on Gold by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Dennis Gartman has been publishing his daily commentary, The Gartman Letter, since 1987. He's been in the news lately because of a call he made last week on the price of gold. In this interview, he discusses the reasons behind that forecast.
2011-12-19 The Volcker RuleAn Exercise in Confusion by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
This past October, a group of four regulatory bodies jointly released draft proposals of the so-called Volcker Rule. Part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation set to go into effect this coming July 2012, this rule would forbid banks any substantial interest in either hedge funds or private equity firms and also prohibit banks from doing any proprietary trading on their own account in securities of any kind. Apart from the legitimate concerns and arguments on both sides, the most threatening and dangerous aspect is the debilitating lack of clarity.
2011-12-16 Making Sense Of The European Chaos by Monty Guild and Tony Danaher of Guild Investment Management
Developments in Europe have dominated the worlds economic headlines in recent days and have obscured some good news from China. In this weeks newsletter, we will cover the background of these important events and their meaning to global investors. We are recommending using the gold market decline to add to gold positions, we continue to hold other long term positions.
2011-12-16 Striking Portfolio Balance with Gold Stocks by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Back on August 22, I wrote that gold was due for a correction and that it would be a non-event to see a 10 percent drop in gold. I wrote, This would actually be a healthy development for markets by shaking out the short-term speculators. This mornings gold price of $1,590 is about 15 percent from the high, which is a little greater than predicted, but a non-event just the same. I believe the long-term story remains on solid ground.
2011-12-13 Letter to the Editor by Various (Article)
A reader responds to Michael Edesess' article, The Unspoken Truth about Hedge Funds, which appeared last week.
2011-12-13 Self Sustaining by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James Equity Research
Last week the ECBs interest rate cut took center stage, but that cut should be viewed within the context of the 40 world wide interest rate cuts that preceded it. Clearly, there is a global easing cycle underway; and, we think you will see more such news this week when the FOMC announces it policy statement Tuesday. Stocks will continue to grind irregularly higher driven by portfolio managers trying to play catch-up, the upside seasonal bias, low valuations, still depressed sentiment readings, and the knowledge that we have now entered the best performing six months of the year for stocks.
2011-12-10 A Player to Be Named Later by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
There are two main points to be taken away from this week's European summit. First, the Germans really took control. This has been coming for a long time, and it's not like we haven't discussed it in these letters. Second, Britain either opted out or was shown the door, depending on your point of view. That is the real game-changer, long-term, for more than the obvious reasons.
2011-12-09 Markets Rolling Look For More Of The Same by Monty Guild and Tony Danaher of Guild Investment Management
During the last two weeks, global markets have moved their way to higher ground and indications point to a healthier finish than expected to an otherwise sickly 2011. We see several developments supporting a continued equity market rally. They have to do with measures taken in China, Europe, and by central bankers around the globe. The Canadian and Singapore dollars are well-managed currencies in countries with conservative banking systems. They are good candidates for continued long- term appreciation versus the Euro and U.S. dollar.
2011-12-09 2012: Politics Versus Fundamentals by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Assessing the prospects for a coming twelve-month period is always a challenge. We rely on our broad arsenal of fundamental barometers for profits, sentiment, momentum, and our cyclical indicators to help us identify whether markets are correctly aligned relative to their economic and profits cycles.
2011-12-09 Emerging Markets Bonds and Currencies in an Uncertain World by Ignacio Sosa of PIMCO
Even if global risk deteriorates significantly, emerging markets may continue to offer compelling risk-adjusted return characteristics. Emerging markets external sovereign debt, along with receiving interest rates in higher-quality EM countries, could be the best relative performers. EM currencies would likely sell off sharply in risk-off periods but would also tend to rebound robustly when risk appetite returns. Several Asian currencies are likely to be the best relative performers. Emerging markets assets remain a risk asset class and will not be immune to waves of global jitters.
2011-12-09 Greenwich Hedge Fund Indices Post Modest Losses in November by Clint Binkley of Greenwich Alternative Investments
Hedge funds as measured by the Greenwich Global Hedge Fund Index posted losses in November, losing ground during the latter half of the month on weak fundamentals in European markets. The GGHFI shed 1.05% compared to global equity returns in the S&P 500 Total Return (-0.22%), MSCI World Equity (-2.69%), and FTSE 100 (-0.70%) equity indices. European headlines continue to dictate the mood of global markets and cause increased volatility in equities. Hedge fund managers have decreased leverage and exposure to mitigate market risk but are still exposed to broader moves
2011-12-06 Why Shiller and Soros May Be Wrong about Farmland Investing by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Earlier this year, Yale's Robert Shiller identified farmland as an asset class in the early stage of bubble formation. George Soros, Jim Grant and Jim Rogers have espoused similarly bullish views. But advisors - even those managing the assets of very wealthy clients - shouldn't bet the farm on these expert forecasts just yet.
2011-12-06 The Unspoken Truth about Hedge Funds by Michael Edesess (Article)
The popularity of the endowment model among advisors has been driven by the belief that hedge funds have produced positive risk-adjusted returns. But the basis for that notion has been statistics gleaned from hedge fund databases, and new research shows returns from those databases are even more upwardly biased than previously thought; the supposed alpha never really existed.
2011-12-06 Sauta Clause by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James Equity Research
December has been the best performing month of the year over the past 100 years with positive returns 73% of the time. And while last weeks 7.39% romp will likely not be duplicated quickly, the path of least resistance remains up according to our work. That said, while the DJIA bettered its 200-day moving average last week, the SPX and D-J Transportation Index did not. Consequently, a divergence currently exists that could lead to some sort of pause and/or pullback. Therefore, look for opening strength this morning followed by attempts to sell stocks back down.
2011-12-06 Weekly Commentary & Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
The past few weeks have seen a rollercoaster ride for stocks. Despair over the European sovereign debt crisis has been replaced, for now, with optimism that the authorities there have finally decided to act. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the NASDAQ Composite had stellar weeks. Both indices gained more than 7 percent for the week. Of course, this just reclaimed the losses from the previous couple of weeks, but the averages are once again positive for the year and given the level of pessimism and uncertainty supports our notion of just how undervalued this stock market is.
2011-12-05 The Facts They Dont Want You to Know by Niels C. Jensen of Absolute Return Partners
Our industry needs a good old fashioned kick up its backside. Far too much mediocrity is rewarded for nothing other than destroying value.
2011-12-03 Time to Bring Out the Howitzers by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
It is now common to use the term bazooka when referring the actions of governments and central banks as they try to avert a credit crisis. And this week we saw a coordinated effort by central banks to use their bazookas to head off another 2008-style credit disaster. The market reacted as if the crisis is now over and we can get on to the next bull run. Yet, we will see that it wasn't enough. Something more along the lines of a howitzer is needed (keeping with our WW2-era military arsenal theme). And of course I need to briefly comment on today's employment numbers.
2011-11-29 Do You Really Understand Rates of Return? Using them to look backward - and forward by Michael Edesess (Article)
The basic quantitative building block for professional judgments about investment performance is the rate of return. How well do we really understand it? And how can we use past rates to assess the prospects for future performance? You may be surprised to learn that 'expected return' may not be what you think.
2011-11-25 Changing the Rules in the Middle of the Game by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Angela Merkel is leading the call for a rule change, a rewiring of the basic treaty that binds the EU. But is it both too much and too late? The market action suggests that time is indeed running out, and so well look at the likely consequences. Then I glance over the other way and take notice of news out of China that may be of import.
2011-11-22 Investment Trends in the Financial Advisory Profession by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Advisors are optimistic about the returns Treasury bonds will provide over the next decade, but they are less sanguine about the projected performance of US equities. Their inflation expectations are consistent with the historical data. These findings and many others arise from our study, Investment Trends in the Financial Advisory Space: Key Implications for the Investment Management Industry, a research report now available from Advisor Perspectives.
2011-11-22 A Bond-Based Financial Planning Framework by Stan and Hildy Richelson (Article)
Plain vanilla bonds have proven themselves to be the best investments available, and we wholeheartedly agree with Andrew Mellon's prescient late-1920s observation that 'gentlemen prefer bonds.' We believe that ladies should, too.
2011-11-19 Print or Perish by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
I do not think the euro will survive with the current mix of countries, nor do I think that Germany thinks so either. Greece is likely to go, as is Portugal. Can Spain really get its deficit under control in time? Do we see a two-euro world, one in the northern states and one in the southern? And to which one does France go? Looking at the politics, one might think the answer is obvious, but if you just look at the numbers, it is clearly not. France is in many respects a Mediterranean country. So many choices and none of them good.
2011-11-18 What the Beta Puzzle Tells Us about Investing by David Cowan and Sam Wilderman of GMO
One anomaly that has generated considerable discussion recently in both academic and practitioner circles is what one might call the 'beta puzzle': portfolios of low beta stocks have historically matched or beaten broader equity market returns, and have done so with significantly lower volatility. At the same time, high beta stocks have significantly underperformed, exhibiting lower returns while appearing to take much more risk.
2011-11-17 Not a Level Playing Field: How Big Investors Benefit from Selective Access to Top Management by Team of Knowledge @ Wharton
The title of a research paper by Wharton accounting professor Brian J. Bushee and two colleagues is in the form of a question: "Do Investors Benefit from Selective Access to Management?" The answer, the paper strongly suggests, is yes. Bushee and co-authors Michael J. Jung and Gregory S. Miller define selective access as the opportunity to meet privately with management at invitation-only investor conferences. That access, the researchers say, can result in profitable trading opportunities for big investors.
2011-11-16 As Alternative Investments Move into the Mainstream, Advisors and Investors Need to Choose Wisely by Team of Emerald Asset Advisors
We believe that having a piece of an overall portfolio that is committed to liquid alternatives is a critical component to long-term portfolio stability, capital preservation and growth. No one wants a repeat of 2008, or anything close to it. There are an abundance of liquid alternative choices available, some of which have proven themselves through various market cycles and environments. They have gone from Wall Street to Main Street for good reason. Embrace the opportunity, and you and your clients may just sleep a bit better at night during these volatile times.
2011-11-15 Every Picture Tells a Story: Market Charts Looking Good by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
With so much focus on the macro, I thought an update on the micro would be welcome. Several measures of sentiment, valuation and technical conditions show the market to be in pretty good shape. Macro headwinds persist, but the expectations bar has arguably been set low enough to be easily hurdled.
2011-11-12 Where is the ECB Printing Press? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
There is too much debt in many southern countries; France is not far from having its own crisis if they do not get back into balance. And if they lose their AAA rating, then any EFSF solution is just so much bad paper. The path of least resistance, and I use that term guardedly, is for the ECB to find its printing press. Perhaps they can borrow one from Bernanke.
2011-11-09 Greenwich Global Index Hedge Funds Bounce Back in October by Clint Binkley of Greenwich Alternative Investments
Hedge funds as measured by the GGHFI posted strong results in October, benefitting from a rebound in equity prices during the month. The GGHFI gained 2.27% compared to global equity returns in the S&P 500 Total Return +10.93%, MSCI World Equity +10.26%, and FTSE 100 +8.10% equity indices. 67% of constituent funds in the GGHFI ended the month with gains. Concerns over Europe began to lift in October and hedge funds were able to benefit from the rise in equity prices. Long-Short managers performed well given their cautious stance entering the month.
2011-11-05 Where Will the Jobs Come From? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
What is the role of government in creating jobs? To answer that, let's look at the data that shows us where jobs come from. And we find that net new jobs for the last 15 years came from new business start-ups. Big business is a net drag on job creation, and small businesses are a wash. Governments have seen job growth, but where does the money come to pay government employees?
2011-11-01 Regulatory Armageddon by Bob Veres (Article)
Suppose you were somehow able to convince 40 advisors, who are all well-known thought leaders in the profession, to gather in the same room for a six-hour brainstorming session. The goal: to identify the single most important thing that the financial planning profession should be thinking about now. What do you think they'd come up with? Fasten your seat belts, because this may be the most important report you'll read all year.
2011-11-01 Why Invest? by Adam Jared Apt (Article)
Investing has its rational justifications, but like any human activity, it's contingent upon history. American society has come to regard investing in stocks and bonds as a matter of personal responsibility and even an obligation, which in part explains why we invest.
2011-10-29 European Summit: A Plan with No Details by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The market reacted like yesterdays announcement was the Second Coming of the Solution to End All Solutions. But if you look deeply there is more to the market "melt-up" than simple euphoria and relief. What you find is a very disturbing unintended consequence that will come back to haunt us. The finger points to derivatives and credit default swaps. This week, we look at gamma and delta and other odd entities that may be behind the real reason for the market response, as we march inexorably toward the final chapters of the Endgame.
2011-10-25 The Questions You Should Ask about PIMCO’s Total Return Fund by Martin Weil (Article)
When a manager's performance slips, the inevitable question is why. Was this a simple misjudgment on the direction of the markets or an incorrect selection of securities in the portfolio? On the other hand, is the slip indicative of a more serious process failure? When the manager in question is Bill Gross, the answers to these questions become crucial to money managers and investors across the country.
2011-10-21 Do Bullish Investors Have an Ace in the Hole? by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
You may not be able to count cards at the blackjack table, but counting historical trends of the stock market and discovering inflection points are not only legal strategies, they are essential to successful investing. One card worth counting is the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which measures the manufacturing strength of any given country. A rising PMI indicates a growing economy and is considered a leading indicator.
2011-10-20 Absolute Strategies Fund Q311 Portfolio Commentary by Jay Compson of Absolute Investment Advisors
Looking out over the next several weeks and months, we have no idea what to expect or where the markets will go. We feel fairly certain that there will be continued attempts to bailout XYZ country, to recapitalize the European banks, or to engage in money-printing. There will be many that will hold up the "all clear" sign and this may prompt the crowd to speculate short term, resulting in powerful market rallies. In the end, there is no money. Only the true action needed to solve the crises will result in a sustainable recovery: broad debt and asset write-downs. We remain skeptical.
2011-10-18 Wrong by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James Equity Research
Near-term overbought is our short-term call, yet we think the lows are in for the year. Regrettably, we also believe there has been so much technical damage that the May 2nd intraday high of 1370.58 marks the high for the year. Nevertheless, we are buyers of favored stocks on weakness given our sense that there will be no recession and that earnings will continue to surprise on the upside.
2011-10-15 Can 'It' Happen Here? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The beginning of the end of the Weimar Republic was some 89 years ago this week. There is a stream of opinion that the US is headed for the same type of end. How else can it be, given that we owe some $75-80 trillion dollars in the coming years, over 5 times current GDP and growing every year? Remember the good old days of about 5-6 years ago (if memory serves me correctly) when it was only $50 trillion? With a nod to Bernankes helicopter speech, where he detailed how the Fed could prevent deflation, I ask the opposite question, Can it (hyperinflation) really happen here?
2011-10-14 Case Study: Buyouts Crystallize Value in the Market by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Theres value in the market. Thats the message the market is sending through the recent strategic acquisitions in the energy and gold mining spaces. This week it was announced that Sinopec, a large Chinese oil and gas company, is purchasing Canadian energy company Daylight Energy for $2.1 billion in cash. The deal was struck at a whopping 120 percent premium to Daylights share price prior to the announcement and a 43.6 percent premium over the 60-day weighted average price, according to Reuters.
2011-10-12 Visualize Your Personal Balance Sheet by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
We conclude that stocks are at the cheapest valuations in 50 years. We thought US stocks would close out 2011 with a gain of at least 8%. On a valuation basis stocks should be 15-25% higher. However, investors dont care until the situation in Greece is resolved, and that wont be until the New Year at the earliest. So rather than obsess we need to stay focused on the final destination. Of course we can deliver a 50 page financial plan, but sometime a simple picture is worth a 1000 words. Thus we present a basic tool for visualizing your assets via a pie chart.
2011-10-08 An Irish Haircut by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
But here is the issue for Europe. The amount of money needed for Ireland is going to be a lot more than they now think, or at least are willing to admit. When Eurozone politicians worry about 'contagion,' or one country wanting the debt relief that another country gets, it is a very real worry. And rightfully so, as voters in Portugal or Spain or (gasp) Italy who are burdened by debt that is seemingly intractable will also want relief. It is not just an Irish condition, it is a human trait.
2011-10-07 Can Markets Find the Road Back to Positive Territory? by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Can markets find the road back to positive territory? This week, wed like to point out three reasons investors should consider remaining in equities or reassessing whether to sit on the sidelines: 1. Investor sentiment is signaling the market is overextended to the downside. 2. Stocks are trading well below historical valuation trends. 3. S&P 500 dividend yields are higher than the 10-year Treasury yield.
2011-10-01 Tough Choices, Big Opportunities by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
There is a pattern, and the United States is no different than Greece or Ireland or Italy or Japan or any other country in history. Highly indebted governments, banks, or corporations can seem to be merrily rolling along for an extended period, when bang! confidence collapses, lenders disappear, and a crisis hits. There's a limit to how much the bond market is going to let us borrow. As we approach that limit and we're not there yet, we have time, thank God we can make choices about how we want to deal with the problem. But the problem is too much debt and too high a deficit.
2011-09-30 Don't Panic on Metal Tumble by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
Given the swift rise of gold and silver during the first half of 2011, precious metals were due for a correction especially following the parabolic increases that we saw in August. Markets never go up in a straight line, and often the biggest downward movements occur in bull markets. These sharp movements are common in gold, especially during short periods of financial panic. For instance, gold fell more than 25% in the second half of 2008, and almost 15% from February to April 2009. Yet after the dust settled in those earlier corrections, gold resumed its upward march with even more gusto.
2011-09-26 Reflections and Outrage by Bob Rodriguez of First Pacific Advisors
Here is address given at the 2009 Morningstar conference which has just as much relevance now as it did then. Last years performance was a terrible one for the market averages as well as for mutual fund active portfolio managers. It did not matter the style, asset class or geographic region. We managers did not deliver the goods and we must explain why. In letters to shareholder will this failure be chalked up to bad luck, an inability to identify a changing governmental environment or to some other excuse? We owe them more than simple platitudes, if we expect to regain their confidence.
2011-09-24 Catastrophic Success by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Rick Perry touched the third rail of Social Security and called it a Ponzi scheme, which of course immediately made him the leading candidate in the shoot the messenger category. Behind the rhetoric, I look at some actual numbers. Not the unfunded liabilities, thats too easy. Lets look at what a heartless, uncompassionate man President Roosevelt was when he started Social Security. And of course, we must start off with the results of the FOMC meeting, which has me feeling not at all amused. What are they thinking? Apparently, they are seeing the results from another, alternative universe.
2011-09-23 Germany and the Euro Bailout Fund by Monty Guild and Tony Danaher of Guild Investment Management
Last week, five important central banks offered one-time funding lines to large commercial banks. Why? Access to capital from money markets was drying up and liquid first aid was needed. The commercial banks were having a hard time borrowing dollars needed to repay loans in U.S. currency made by U.S. money market funds that decided not to renew the loans. U.S. money market funds had been huge lenders to large European banks. Now, bad news about Europes sovereign debt situation is scaring U.S. money market institutions away. The greater fear is trumping higher returns.
2011-09-22 Talking Our Way to Recession! by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
The Europeans do not yet have a political structure for engineering a rescue, and that will be the over-hang in Europe. They will figure it out - eventually. The risk remains whether Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland will require equivalent rescues. The largest unknown risk is: of all the banks and hedge funds that sold Credit Default Swaps on Greek bonds, do any have enough capital to pay off their exposure. Remember that the US Treasury directed $62 billion to AIG to cover CDS exposure at that firm in 2009. We doubt that the European central banks are prepared to do the same.
2011-09-21 Muni Veterans Discuss Economy, Downgrades and Silver Lining by Joseph Deane and Julie Callahan of PIMCO
Many municipal balance sheets are in reasonably good shape and default rates remain a small fraction of the overall market. The downgrade of Americas AAA rating to AA+ had a knock on effect on municipal bonds. However, we believe of greater consequence to bond issuers, and to the market, is the outcome of federal budget negotiations. We feel essential service revenue bonds tend to have more consistent revenue streams and lower (or no) pension and medical liabilities than general obligation issues.
2011-09-20 The Irrational Optimist by Michael Lewitt (Article)
'Most past bursts of human prosperity have come to naught because they allocated too little money to innovation and too much to asset price inflation or to war, corruption, luxury and theft,' writes Matt Ridley. These words hit the proverbial nail on the head. The misallocation of capital in today's economy is a severe threat to future prosperity and perhaps survival itself.
2011-09-17 Twist and Shout? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
What in the wide, wild world of monetary policy is the Fed doing, giving essentially unlimited funds to European banks? What are they seeing that we do not? And is this a precursor to even more monetary easing at this next weeks extraordinary FOMC meeting, expanded to a two-day session by Bernanke? Can we say 'Operation Twist?' Or maybe 'Twist and Shout?'
2011-09-13 The Handicap of Experienced Investors by J.J. Abodeely, CFA, CAIA (Article)
In the investment business, assets under management are concentrated with the largest and most established firms. Understandably, investors tend to allocate capital to managers after they've established a good track record. Unfortunately, for many, the analysis stops there. By failing to separate good results from identification of what makes a great investment manager, investors are primed for disappointment.
2011-09-13 An Uncritical Glorification of Hedge Funds by Michael Edesess (Article)
Sebastian Mallaby's book, More Money than God, sheds some light on interesting events in hedge fund history and is strewn with a few valuable insights. Mostly, though, it is a work of serial hagiography. It seems designed to attract worshipers like those who drive by celebrity homes in Beverly Hills.
2011-09-13 The Risks of Exchange-Traded Products by Dennis Gibb (Article)
Every major financial crisis has been foretold by timely but ultimately ignored warnings. At the end of mania, the rush to secure more fees, investment performance and status trumps common sense. In the last few months, the drumbeats of warnings from financial journals and regulators about exchange-traded funds have been sounding. Few seem to be listening.
2011-09-10 Preparing for a Credit Crisis by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week we turn our eyes first to Europe and then the US, and ask about the possibility of a yet another credit crisis along the lines of late 2008. I then outline a few steps you might want to consider now rather than waiting until the middle of a crisis. It is possible we can avoid one but whether we do depends on the political leaders of the developed world making the difficult choices and doing what is necessary. And in either case, there are some areas of investing you clearly want to avoid. Finally, I turn to the weather and offer you a window into the coming seasons.
2011-09-09 Hedge Funds Minimize Losses in August by Team of Greenwich Alternative Investments
Hedge funds turned in an excellent month of relative performance when compared to equity market benchmarks, notes Clint Binkley, Senior Vice President. Macro, Futures and Short Biased managers produced positive returns in spite of severe market declines. We continue to expect hedge funds to outperform long only strategies in this volatile market environment. Hedge Fund Strategy Highlights: Directional Trading funds are the best performing group of funds in August, gaining 0.3%. Market Neutral funds provide protection from market swings, declining only 2.9% on average for the month.
2011-09-04 Its All About the Jobs and Gold by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
If somehow a Republican appeared in the White House tomorrow, there is no magic he (or she!) could bring with him/her to fix the unemployment problem. There are just some things the private sector will have to do for itself, and the sooner the government stops getting in the way, the sooner will get things fixed. But it will take a long time, no mater what. For the record, I think you should own about 5% of your net worth in gold, as insurance, not as an investment.
2011-09-01 Q&A with Litman Gregory Research by Team of Litman Gregory
We regularly use a Q&A format to address questions from readers about our investment views and current strategy. This format permits us to address a range of different topics and allows readers to focus on areas that are of interest to them. This Q&A piece was worked on jointly by members of our research team and tackles questions received during the past several weeks. We have grouped the questions into broad categories for convenience. The main topics include the Fairholme Fund, Investment-Grade Bonds, Floating Rate Loans, Municipal Bonds, International Bonds, China and Commodity Futures.
2011-08-27 The End of the World, Part 1 by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
It is only a matter of time until Europe has a true crisis, which will happen faster BANG! than any of us can now imagine. Think Lehman on steroids. The US gave Europe our subprime woes. Europe gets to repay the favor with an even more severe banking crisis that, given that the US is at best at stall speed, will tip us into a long and serious recession. Stay tuned.
2011-08-20 The Recession of 2011? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
If we are headed into recession, and I think we are, then the stock market has a long way to go to reach its next bottom, as do many risk assets. Income is going to be king, as well as cash. Well know several things. Recessions are by definition deflationary. Yields on bonds will go down, much further than the market thinks today. And while the Fed may decide to invoke QE3 to fight a deflation scare, the problem is not one of liquidity; it is a debt problem.
2011-08-17 Weekly Commentary & Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
The volatility in share prices was quite extraordinary last week on a daily basis. However, when the week was over and as the charts below indicate the Dow Jones Industrial Average had declined by just 1.5% while the NASDAQ actually fell by less than one percent. Given this mornings strong opening (Europe is quiet due to a religious holiday), all of last weeks losses have now been reversed, which is hard to believe.
2011-08-17 Weekly Commentary & Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
The volatility in share prices was quite extraordinary last week on a daily basis. However, when the week was over and as the charts below indicate the Dow Jones Industrial Average had declined by just 1.5% while the NASDAQ actually fell by less than one percent. Given this mornings strong opening (Europe is quiet due to a religious holiday), all of last weeks losses have now been reversed, which is hard to believe.
2011-08-13 The Beginning of the Endgame by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
In short, there are no easy solutions. We have just about used up all our rabbits in the hat as far as fiscal and monetary policy are concerned. We now need to focus on what we can do to get out of the way of the private sector, so it can find ways to create new businesses and jobs. And that means figuring out how to get money to new businesses, because that is where net new jobs come from. But that takes time...
2011-08-11 The Return of Fear by Mark Oelschlager of Oak Associates
Politicians may have achieved the necessary short-term cuts, but they have yet to address the core problems that are driving the growth in expenditures: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. On a certain level it is understandable that they have avoided structurally reforming these programs-they believe it is political suicide. This is the crux of the problem. More hopeless is the situation in Europe, where some members are running massive deficits or carrying ballooning debt balances but lack some of the options that a sovereign nation normally would to correct the problem.
2011-08-11 Ron Muhlenkamps Market Commentary by Ron Muhlenkamp of Muhlenkamp & Co.
Sovereign debt problems and the possibility of a European-led banking crisis are the focus of the markets, because effective action isnt being taken. You see this in the velocity of money, which has fallen dramatically, and the move into U.S. Treasury bills, bidding their prices up and creating the negative yield mentioned earlier. Banks are having difficulty making money on depositors funds so they are passing those costs along to their depositors. Yesterdays decline was accelerated by some margin calls on leveraged hedge funds, but the market is primarily concerned about Europe.
2011-08-09 New Insights on the Role of Alternative Investments in High-Net-Worth Portfolios by Scott Welch, CIMA (Article)
Trends and developments over the past five years allow greater access to alternative strategies and dictate a different conversation with investors about the purpose and trade-offs of such strategies, as well as appropriate ways to incorporate them into well-diversified portfolios.
2011-08-09 Implications of the Debt Downgrade by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
As we had suggested in recent weeks, a U.S. downgrade was going to likely be more negative for the equity market than Treasuries, and that is exactly how the week is starting off. The reason is that history shows that downgrades light a fire under policymakers and the belt-tightening budget cuts ensue, taking a big chunk out of demand growth and hence profits. It is not just the United States the problem of excessive debt is global, from China to Brazil to many parts of Europe. And lets not forget the Canadian consumer.
2011-08-06 The Case for Going Global Is Stronger Than Ever by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
If we have learned anything from the current financial mess, its that building wealth is dependent on rational analysis, careful decision making, and risk management. Thats why sticking close to home at a time when our markets are more uncertain than ever is a recipe for disaster and absolutely the wrong thing to do. Not only will you miss out on the worlds fastest-growing markets, but the odds are exceptionally high that you will miss as much as 50% or more in potential returns over the next decade.
2011-08-03 The Trouble with Quants by Chris Brightman of Research Affiliates
Quant managers often over-engineer their products. When these products collapse, they leave investors confused and upset. On this fourth anniversary of the August 2007 Quant Meltdown, we look at what lessons can be learned from the past and how they may apply to some current investment strategies.
2011-08-03 Converging On The Horizon by Ed Easterling of Crestmont Research of Advisor Perspectives (dshort.com)
By the end of this year, the earnings cycle is likely to be well above its typical thresholds of duration and magnitude. Although earnings could again rise in 2012, the magnitude of excess margins portends a fairly significant decline when the earnings cycle reverts. In addition, the profile of cyclical cycles in the stock market may have also run its course. The market may sustain or extend its gains for 2011 by year-end, but another up-year in 2012 would make history. Not only is duration stretched, but also the magnitude of cumulative gains has now matched the historical average.
2011-08-02 Crestmont Market Valuation Update by Doug Short of Advisor Perspectives (dshort.com)
The recent article P/E: Future On The Horizon by Advisor Perspectives contributor Ed Easterling provided an overview of Ed's method for determining where the market is headed. His analysis is quite compelling. Accordingly I have added the Crestmont data to my monthly market valuation updates. The first chart is the Crestmont equivalent of the Cyclical P/E10 ratio chart I've been sharing on a monthly basis for the past few years.
2011-07-30 An Economy at Stall Speed by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The economy is at stall speed, it is quite possible well see further downward revisions to the already anemic growth numbers, and Congress and the President are dithering over the debt ceiling. It will not take much to push us into an outright recession. We can go a few days, I think, with the latter problem, but not too long or the markets will throw up.
2011-07-26 Income Opportunities in Municipal Bonds and Stocks by Robert Huebscher (Article)
In this interview, Brian McMahon and Chris Ryon of Thornburg Investment Management assess the opportunities for income-oriented investors, particularly in the municipal bond market. They answer questions such as when a separate account is better than a fund, and why a barbell is inferior to a laddered portfolio.
2011-07-23 Kicking the Can Down the Road One More Time by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
I hope Europe pulls it off. I really do. They have done the US a huge favor by adopting this latest plan, as it keeps their banking system from imploding; because their banks are essentially insolvent with all the sovereign debt on their books. Such a banking crisis, which would be worse than 2008, in my opinion, would no doubt plunge a world already slowing down back into recession and pull our own slow-growth economy down into recession with them. How long can they kick the can down the road? My guess is that it will be longer than we suspect.
2011-07-22 Today's Europe Debt Solution Not a Panacea by Komal Sri-Kumar of TCW Asset Management
News from Brussels suggests that European Union leaders have reached yet another agreement to bail out Greece. For the first time since the birth of the Eurozone in 1999, the proposed plan contemplates a default on bonds issued by a Eurozone country, in this instance, Greece. Remember, as recently as last Friday, the European bank test results made no assumption of a default by a Eurozone member. Greece, Ireland and Portugal will also enjoy reduced interest rates on their bailout programs as part of the new solution.
2011-07-20 Secular Outlook: Implications for Investors by Bill Benz of PIMCO
As the economy undergoes important realignments, investors will need to rethink their traditional approaches to managing their portfolios. As the lines between interest rate and credit risk become blurred, finding sources of safe spread becomes even more critical. More, not less, discretion is warranted when navigating volatile global markets, avoid sectors affected by financial repression and hedge against inflation and/or adverse tail events. We believe investors need to look at risk factors rather than traditional asset classes when making asset allocation decisions.
2011-07-19 Are There Any Rungs Left on the Housing Ladder? by Rod S. Dubitsky of PIMCO
Headwinds to housing demand, and thus the overall market, could last for years. It appears that limited mortgage availability and vulnerable consumer health are restraining demand. Also weighing on the market is regulatory uncertainty over the future structure of mortgage finance and the resolution of foreclosure overhang. We believe the housing market, considered to be a key driver of the economic recovery, will generally remain weak for the foreseeable future.
2011-07-19 A Palinized Nation - No Direction, No Leadership, No Clue by Cliff W. Draughn of Excelsia Investment Advisors
America is being palinized by total lack of leadership and responsibility from both political parties on Capitol Hill. The discussion of whether the US should default on our government debt if Congress is unable to pass a budget compromise and raise the debt ceiling by August 2nd, 2011 is absurd. The result of the impasse is a gradual erosion of trust by individuals, corporations, and foreign debt holders. How did we arrive at this point of lunacy, where our leaders are actually talking about the USA defaulting on our debts? Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
2011-07-12 Widespread Tail Risk Concerns Seem Bullish by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Tail risk, as the name implies, is the risk of a highly unusual event occurring. A tail risk is often defined as an event occurring that provides a negative return at least three standard deviations below the average return. We doubt that the peak in the current stock market cycle is likely to occur when hedging tail risks is so common. After all, no one discussed tail risks at the market peaks in 2000 or 2007. Just like in previous cycles, the ultimate stock market peak will likely be accompanied by levered investments, rather than by hedged investments.
2011-07-11 Hedge Funds Outperform Equity Benchmarks in Turbulent Markets by Clint Binkley of Greenwich Alternative Investments
Hedge funds navigated volatile markets to finish the month with a slight loss. “Market Neutral and Long-Short Equity funds both outperformed broad equity market indices for the month,” notes Clint Binkley, Senior Vice President. “Managers were fully occupied in negotiating the risk trade as investor sentiment changed dramatically over the course of the month. We continue to believe that in volatile markets actively managed hedge fund portfolios will provide superior results to index investing.”
2011-07-11 Perspective on the 2nd Quarter by Sean Hanlon of Hanlon Investment Management
At the start of the second quarter Hanlon Investment Management portfolios were positioned somewhat conservatively as our research anticipated that there was some volatility ahead. Our expectation was right-on as volatility and whipsawing markets were on display during this past quarter. We further increased our cautious stance and in June raised additional cash in client accounts as the risks warranted. The upcoming "summertime" third quarter is typically a sluggish trading quarter and we remain prepared for the prospect of continued volatility.
2011-07-09 What Happened to the Jobs? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The economy will be slowing down. A recession in 2012 is a real possibility if there is any type of shock coming from Europe. Most European leaders are basing their thinking more on hope than on reality. When Greece defaults there will be a domino effect. And you could actually see a banking crisis before we get actual sovereign defaults. The market does not get it. Neither in Europe nor in the US. When someone says the market has already priced in a default, go back and ask them how well the market priced in a crisis in the spring of 2008. The market doesn’t know jack.
2011-07-01 Crestmont Market Valuation Update by Doug Short of Doug Short
The recent article P/E: Future On The Horizon by Advisor Perspectives contributor Ed Easterling provided an overview of Eds method for determining where the market is headed. His analysis is quite compelling. Accordingly I have added the Crestmont data to my monthly market valuation updates. The first chart is the Crestmont equivalent of the Cyclical P/E10 ratio chart Ive been sharing on a monthly basis for the past few years. The Crestmont P/E of 19.3 is 41% above its average of 13.7. This valuation level is almost identical what we saw in my latest S&P Composite regression to trend update.
2011-06-29 Attractive Yield Opportunities Remain in Floating Rate Loan Markets by Elizabeth MacLean of PIMCO
We believe the general trend toward more diversified capital structures may be positive for investors in the loan market. Recent changes in loan market investor mix have had and will likely continue to have a positive impact on loan spreads. In addition to price, leverage and other quality measures in new issues also generally remain attractive.
2011-06-28 Reducing Risk through Value-Oriented Tactical Strategies by Mark E. Ricardo, JD, LLM, AAMS (Article)
Conventional wisdom was that the best way to reduce portfolio risk is to adopt a diversified long-term strategic asset allocation. That paradigm was challenged - deservedly so - following the 2008 financial crisis. Fortunately, an improved paradigm has emerged: Investors should combine long-term strategic allocations with a value-oriented tactical rebalancing strategy.
2011-06-21 The “Great Recalibration” by Team of Columbia Management
Investors who have participated in the municipal market over the last several years are keenly aware of the volatility that the market has experienced. Increased market volatility has resulted from the reaction to subprime exposure; downgrades and eventual disappearance of monoline insurers; the exit of hedge funds and arbitragers from the municipal market; fiscal strains on state governments; and changes in demand dynamics with the intro and eventual elimination of Build America Bonds. As each of these issues came to bear, they were often the subject of sensational headlines.
2011-06-21 The World Held Hostage by Credit Default Swaps? Alford on the FOMC: Watch what they say by Team of Institutional Risk Analyst
In this issue of The Institutional Risk Analyst, we feature a comment from Richard Alford on the state of thinking inside the Federal Open Market Committee regarding monetary policy -- at least based on what folks at the Fed say in public. We also comment on the latest financial bailout, in this case the apparent salvation of the European and US banks in the CDS market from taking a hit in the restructuring of Greece.
2011-06-15 GOLDRelic or Real Money? by J Michael Martin of Financial Advantage
In the past 10 years, the price of one ounce of pure gold has risen from less than $300 to $1,500, far outpacing the return on stocks and bonds. And yet, in most gatherings of professional investors it is not respected. Why is that? What drives the price of gold, anyway? And is gold really an appropriate investment in the 21st century? We set out to better understand this unique metal. Well explore the reasons that some consider gold an important asset class with unique and valuable investment characteristics, while many professionals regard it as a sort of investment sideshow.
2011-06-14 Bruce Berkowitz - Ignoring the Crowd on Financials by Sam Parl (Article)
Bruce Berkowitz has said that his deep value and contrarian investing style will not guarantee short-term results, but he promises his shareholders will be rewarded for their patience over the long term. Last week, he explained why some of his positions - especially those in the financial services sector - are among the best opportunities in the market.
2011-06-14 The Consequences of Policy Failure by Michael Lewitt (Article)
Investment performance for the rest of the year will be determined by the macro-economic views of investment managers. While microeconomic factors are always extremely important in charting investment strategies, they are particularly important today as the U.S. and global economies continue to fight their way through the detritus of the global debt crisis. A compelling case can be made for weaker 2Q112 growth based on a combination of factors.
2011-06-10 Why Bill Gross Doesn’t Like Stocks (or Treasury Bonds) by Sam Parl (Article)
Stocks have come to the end of a “wonderful journey,” according to PIMCO's Bill Gross, and are now on their own, like “a baby bird just released from the nest.” The journey Gross spoke of is the multi-decade decline in real interest rates, which have fueled bull markets across “risk assets,” especially in equities and bonds.
2011-06-07 New Challenges for the Endowment Model by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The multi-billion dollar endowments of elite institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are supposed to never be strapped for cash, but that's not how things played out during the financial crisis, when all those schools and many others were forced to raise liquidity under adverse market conditions. The endowment model, despite those failures, is still basically sound, according to Luis Viceira, but it needs several key improvements before institutions and individuals can rely on it.
2011-06-03 Economic Whiplash by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The political winds in Europe are shifting. The crowd that runs the various member countries today will not long survive the changes. There will be new politicians with different mandates as it becomes clear that the costs of the bailout are going to fall on the backs of the solvent countries and that austerity is going to mean hellishly bad deflation, high and rising employment, and depression in the indebted countries. And with the US economy slowing down, it might not take much to push us over the edge.
2011-06-01 Crestmont Market Valuation Update by Doug Short of Doug Short
The recent series of articles by guest contributor Ed Easterling triggered a great deal of interest in the Crestmont P/E ratio. Accordingly I have added the Crestmont data to my monthly market valuation posts. The first chart is the Crestmont equivalent of the Cyclical P/E10 ratio chart I've been updating monthly for the past few years. The Crestmont P/E of 20.2 is 47% above its average of 13.7. This valuation level is almost identical what we saw in my latest S&P Composite regression to trend update and somewhat higher than the 40% above mean for the Cyclical P/E10.
2011-05-28 A Random Walk Through the Minefield by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
In the last 48 hours, so much news has come out of Europe that has me frankly shaking my head. It is a strange game of brinksmanship they are playing, and it is one we should be paying attention to (as if the brinkmanship played by US politicians over the debt ceiling is not enough). This week we look at what seems to be European leaders taking random walks through the minefield at the very heart of the European Experiment. As Paul Simon wrote, “A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.”
2011-05-26 How Quickly They Forget by Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital
Asset prices fluctuate much more than fundamentals. Rather than applying moderation and balancing greed against fear, euphoria against depression, and risk tolerance against risk aversion, investors tend to oscillate wildly between the extremes. They apply optimism when things are going well in the world (elevating prices beyond reason) and pessimism when things are going poorly (depressing prices unreasonably). If investors remembered past bubbles and busts and their causes, and learned from them, the swings would moderate. But, in short, they don’t. And they may be forgetting again.
2011-05-18 Floating rate: Hedging the interest rate risk in your fixed-income portfolio by Team of Columbia Management
Following the Great Recession of 2008, many investors aggressively moved to cash and fixed-income securities in a classic flight to safety. In early 2009, we could point to a historic opportunity to capture significant total return. Much of that correction has already occurred and valuations across the fixed-income market have largely recovered. At this juncture in the business cycle, credit risk has declined dramatically, as evidenced by defaults that are running below long-term averages, robust new issuance and demand for bonds, and healthy corporate balance sheets and earnings.
2011-05-17 Pippa Malmgren on Inflation and its Geopolitical Impact by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The Cold War may have been over for a quarter century, but the inflation-driven challenges that characterized that historical era are heating back up. Today, global volatility is back, according to Pippa Malmgren, who says that commodity-driven inflation will lead to political instability in emerging markets.
2011-05-17 Breakdown: Commodities Tumble … For Good? by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
'When in doubt, get out' has become the mantra for commodities traders the past couple of weeks. Sentiment had become too one-sided (and may need to ease even further). Is risk-on, risk-off trading finally coming to an end, and can fundamental analysis prevail? We've written a lot about the 'risk-on, risk-off' trading environment prevalent over the past several years. Risk on is basically when investors have been feeling better about the global economy and about the markets, so they buy and embrace more risky assets. Then, when fears rise investors essentially avoid all risk—risk off.
2011-05-17 What 'Secular Cycle' Means by Ed Easterling of Doug Short
There is a skeptical gremlin perched on the left shoulder for many investors. He often sneers at notions of "cycles" and other presumably predictable periods. When the word "secular" accompanies the word "cycle," that gremlin becomes even more scornful. Why do we use the term "secular cycle" with the stock market and what does it mean? Figure 1 presents a view of the stock market over the past century. You will note periods of above-average returns (i.e., the green bar periods) and periods of below-average returns (i.e., the red bar periods).
2011-05-16 Weekly Market Commentary by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
Overall the stock market was quiescent last week but underneath the surface a dramatic sector rotation was taking place. As the charts above illustrate, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average as well as the NASDAQ Composite barely moved from their previous weeks closing level. This apparent peaceful trading though came as the defensive sectors benefited as money raced out of financials or any commodity related including the economically sensitive sectors.
2011-05-14 Kicking the Can to the End of the Road by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
A crisis is brewing in the US and one is coming to a slow boil in Europe. We visit Greece and Ireland and ponder how this will end. It is all well and good to kick the can down the road, but what happens when you come to the end of the road? The European answer seems to be to haul in the heavy equipment and extend the road. In short, we are watching the biggest bubble of all time, the bubble of government debt, try to keep from popping. My bet is that it can’t. And while the ride will be bumpy, the world our kids get will be better off at the end of the process.
2011-05-10 What is the greatest investment risk? The risk that money won’t be there when you need it! by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
Stocks rallied in April, closing at the high for the year and the highest level in three years. With stocks up 9.1% through April 30th versus our 2011 forecast of 8%, we see stocks as fully to slightly overvalued. In fact, given the lack of substantial “new” news to push stocks one way or the other, we expect a 10% trading range that could last through the summer and into the fall. On February 28th, David Edwards commented on Bloomberg Radio that “the S&P 500 could fall 10% in the next six months,” but that he wouldn’t change his strategy because he expected a 20% rally on the other side.
2011-05-10 Hedge Funds Led by Managed Futures Funds in April by Clint Binkley of Greenwich Alternative Investments
Hedge funds, as measured by the Greenwich Global Hedge Fund Index (“GGHFI”), gained across all major strategies in April. The GGHFI gained 1.69% compared to global equity returns in the S&P 500 Total Return +2.96%, MSCI World Equity +4.02%, and FTSE 100 +2.73% equity indices. 78% of constituent funds in the GGHFI ended the month with gains. “Hedge funds continued to move higher in April driven by strength in equities and commodities,” notes Clint Binkley “Nearly all hedge fund strategies are at new highs for the year and continue to be successful in a market dominated by headline risk.”
2011-05-07 Muddle Through, or Crisis? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week I finish the two-part letter on the Endgame and give you my thoughts on the economy over the next five years. This is the second part of a speech I gave last week at the Strategic Investment Conference in La Jolla. It is a rather bold forecast, and fraught with peril and likely errors, but that is my job here. I must offer one large caveat! If the facts change so will my forecast, but this is the view into my very cloudy crystal ball as I see it today. As always, remember that those of us in the forecasting world are often wrong but seldom in doubt. Read accordingly.
2011-05-07 Don’t Turn Out the Lights on Commodities Just Yet by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
The prices for many commodities suffered the worst week in recent memory this week. Oil prices dipped below $100 per barrel, gold fell below $1,500 an ounce and silver gave back much of the past month’s gains by falling to the $35 an ounce level. The prices for other commodities such as sugar, tin, nickel, aluminum, lead and copper also pulled back. Immediately, headlines on websites such as Marketwatch, Bloomberg and SmartMoney read “Has the Commodity Bubble Popped?” and “Imploding Commodities Complex.” In our opinion, not likely.
2011-05-03 P/E: Future on the Horizon by Ed Easterling (Article)
Most people expect P/E to measure current valuation and to show historical patterns. But more features are available from some versions of P/E. The methodology behind the Crestmont P/E enables investors to anticipate the future. It may not precisely predict the market ten years away, but it frames within a relatively tight range the likely outcome. One component from determining the Crestmont P/E is a means to assess the future trend line for EPS using estimates of future economic growth (GDP).
2011-04-29 The Endgame Headwinds by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
By Endgame I mean the period of time in which many of the developed economies of the world will either willingly deleverage or be forced to do so. This age of deleveraging will produce a fundamentally different economic environment lasting anywhere from 4-6 years. Now, whether this deleveraging is orderly, as now appears to be the case in Britain, or more resembles what I have long predicted will be a violent default in Greece, it will create a profoundly different economic world from the one we have lived in for 60 years.
2011-04-28 Weekly Market Update by Team of American Century Investments
Total returns began looking better for municipal bonds (munis) after mid-January this year as issuance eased and a wave of non-traditional (not tax-exempt income-seeking) buyers entered the market in pursuit of relative value and return opportunities provided by falling muni prices and rising yields compared with those of Treasuries. But the rewards from that influx of demand have not been uniform across the muni market, the non-traditional “crossover” buyers have targeted some segments much more than others, creating a divided market that has rewarded some investors at the expense of others.
2011-04-26 When is a Fiduciary not a Fiduciary? by Jeffrey Briskin (Article)
You would think every investment professional who claims to be acting in a fiduciary capacity for his or her clients understands exactly what that entails. But the results of a recent survey of brokers and RIAs indicates that many apply their own personal 'fiduciary litmus test' when determining where these responsibilities start and end.
2011-04-26 Rude Crude by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James Equity Research
Oil that is, black gold, Texas Tea; yet, rude crude still feels a bit stretched in the short-term given that West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is ~30% above its 200-day moving average (DMA). Indeed, over the past few weeks oil has become almost as extended above its 200-DMA as it was in July 2008, and we all know how that ended. Not that I am predicting a similar collapse in the price of Texas Tea, but rather that a consolidation/pullback period is likely, which could provide the backdrop for another leg up in stocks (even the energy stocks).
2011-04-25 The Calm Within the Chaos by Liam Molloy and Bethany Carlson of Galway Investment Strategy
Last summer we began discussing how the structure of the market should stabilize, and we highlighted this opinion in our December newsletter. Before the ink was dry on that letter, markets were confronted with a continental flood in Australia. Since then, Middle East uprisings and the removal of multidecade entrenched dictators, the ongoing soap opera known as the European Union debt crisis, surging oil prices, and the devastation of the thirdlargest global economy by a tsunami and continuing radioactive meltdown. Other than those events, and a new US military front, it’s been a quiet year.
2011-04-23 The 'Miracle' of Compound Inflation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Investors will face the “zero bound” in interest rates for a while longer. They can sit on their cash and earn nothing. They can fret and wring their hands about a ramp-up in inflation, but the evidence so far does not support it. They can stay in the US dollar, in which case they can watch their dollars weaken relative to the rest of the world. Travelling in Sicily or Rome validates how strong the euro is relative to the dollar. All you have to do is buy a dinner or hotel room.
2011-04-22 Don’t Fear a Pullback in Prices by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
The S&P credit agency sent shockwaves through the global financial system on Monday. This sent markets lower and the prices of commodities such as oil rocketing back above $110 per barrel and both gold and silver to new highs. It should be clear the S&P announcement was just a warning, the rating was affirmed at AAA. The fears quickly subsided and U.S. markets hit fresh three-year highs. Essentially there’s only a one-third chance of a downgrade and anyone who’s ever listened to the weather man knows that a 33 percent chance of rain means you probably don’t need your umbrella.
2011-04-19 Gangs of New York by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James Equity Research
I love New York City! Still, as I walked from the airplane into the terminal last Monday, I got the feeling I was traveling back in time, La Guardia is in need of a refresh. All in all, I felt like I was in a third-world country, not the greatest city in the world. Nonetheless, my trip started with a couple of hedge funds. At noon a segment on Breakout." From there, it was off to see some PMs before the next media hit at Fox Business with, Brian Sullivan. While I am kindred spirits with these media anchors, by far the highlight of last Monday was dinner with President Bill Clinton.
2011-04-16 The Cure for High Prices by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Today we once again think about the inflation/deflation debate, turn our eyes to Europe and the very interesting election happening there this Sunday, and speculate a little about what could derail the US economy. The old line is that the cure for high prices is high prices. When prices rise, businesses tend to respond by producing more. If the price of something gets too high, then people buy less, which then leads to too much supply, which lowers prices. Rinse and repeat. Last week I wrote about what I think is the potential for inflation in the US to rise to uncomfortable levels (4-5%)
2011-04-12 No Help by Van R. Hoisington and Lacy H. Hunt of Hoisington Investment Management
If the objectives of QE2 were to: a) raise interest rates; b) slow economic growth; c) encourage speculation, and d) eviscerate the standard of living of the average American family, then it has been enormously successful. Clearly, with the benefit of hindsight these results represent the Fed’s impact on the U.S. economy, regardless of their claims to the contrary. Why the Fed would believe the economy could benefit from the addition of $600 billion in reserves to a banking system that already had over $1.1 trillion in unused, but potentially inflationary reserves on hand defies understanding
2011-04-09 Risk 3.0 Investment Solutions for the New Market Realities by Mitchell Eichen and John Longo of The MDE Group
In spite of the stock market rebound from its March 2009 lows, the 2007-2009 bear market still looms large. Investors have lost faith in the conventional methods of portfolio management. Investor confidence was not merely shaken, but shattered. Risk was either improperly measured, or considered a distant second to return. In this paper, we introduce a new approach to portfolio management that builds upon prior work. The main contribution is that specific kinds of risk are explicitly considered. The portfolio is then optimized, using human judgment, for the current market outlook.
2011-04-09 The Curve in the Road by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We have chosen deliberately to take the inflation road. We have not traveled that road for some time. The Fed may think they know what is around the curve and what to do if inflation comes back, but no two crises are the same. I worry about these things. If the Fed and the US government wanted a weaker dollar, the return of inflation, and the potential for yet another boom-bust, they could not have designed better policies than the ones they’re pursuing.
2011-04-08 Hedge Funds Show Mixed Results Among Strategies in March by Clint Binkley of Greenwich Alternative Investments
Most hedge funds advanced in March, but losses in Directional funds dragged down the group. The Greenwich Global Hedge Fund Index shed 10 basis points compared to global returns in the S&P 500 Total Return +0.04%, MSCI World Equity -1.24%, and Barclays Aggregate Bond +0.06% indices. 58% of constituent funds in the GGHFI ended the month with gains. “The whipsaw action in the market during March led many trend following funds to suffer losses latter in the month,” notes the Sr VP “The outlook for managers is positive as increased volatility tends to work in favor of most hedge fund strategies.”
2011-04-04 Confessions of an Investor by Niels C. Jensen of Absolute Return Partners
Woody Brock is advocating a regime change. Throw away the generally accepted approach of two generations of investment ‘experts’ and start again, is Woody’s recommendation. As a practitioner, I certainly recognise the limitations of MPT and I agree that, in the wrong hands, it can be a dangerous tool, but there is also a discipline embedded in MPT which carries a great deal of value. And, in fairness to Woody, he does in fact agree that you can take the best from MPT and mix it with a good dose of ‘common sense’ and actually end up with a pretty robust investment methodology.
2011-03-22 Consensus: Groundhog Decade for Stocks by Ed Easterling (Article)
Just as Bill Murray woke up to the same thing day after day in the movie 'Groundhog Day,' it's likely that your outlook foretells a groundhog decade for the stock market that will repeat its near-breakeven returns from the past decade.
2011-03-22 There are Still So Many Unknowns by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
There are still many unknowns with regard to the global macro picture, but what we do know are the following 10 things: 1. There are more upside than downside risks to the oil price. 2. Japan was already the number-one importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and this status will be accentuated as replacements for a damaged nuclear grid is sought. 3. Nuclear energy development takes a near-term hit here by the politics of the Japanese crisis but not a permanent hit. 4. The aftershock in Japan will be related to contaminated food supply so we can expect to see more inflation on this score too.
2011-03-21 Equity Market Bounce-Back -- Don't get Too Excited by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
Between the put-to-call ratio and the 40% share of stocks trading below their 50-day moving average, the U.S. stock market became hugely oversold. Plus we had the skew from the quadruple-witching session. And the cease-fire announced in Libya and the FX intervention to reverse the yen’s strength provided some fodder for the shorts to cover. But trend lines have been broken, portfolio managers have little cash to work, and according to a ML-BAC survey, we had a net 67% of global portfolio managers overweight equities against their position. Plus, the world is still a very uncertain place.
2011-03-19 The End of QE2? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The Fed committed to buying $600 billion of Treasuries between the beginning of QE2 in November and the end of June. June is 3 months away. What will happen when that buying goes away? The hope when QE2 kicked off was that it would be enough to get the economy rolling, so that further stimulus would not be deemed necessary. We’ll survey how that is working out, with a quick look at some recent data, and then we go back and see what happened the last time the Fed stopped quantitative easing.
2011-03-17 Madoff Was Right About One Thing by Bill Mann of Motley Fool
This past week, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel ordered broker Morgan Keegan to repay $250,000 to a client whose entire investment account had been invested in Madoff's fund. That's nice. I expect there will be several more judgments and restitutions paid in the future, none of which will actually cause a change in behavior on Wall Street. Regulators failed to catch Madoff even when the evidence was dangled in front of them, and they've since failed to enact meaningful reform for how Wall Street operates.
2011-03-12 Inflation and Hyperinflation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Companies and households typically deal with excessive debt by defaulting; countries overwhelmingly usually deal with excessive debt by inflating it away. While debt is fixed, prices and wages can go up, making the total debt burden smaller. People can’t increase prices and wages through inflation, but governments can create inflation, and they’ve been pretty good at it over the years. Inflation, debt monetization, and currency debasement are not new. They have been used for the past few thousand years as means to get rid of debt. In fact, they work pretty well.
2011-03-08 Consumer Confidence Turns Back Down by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
According to an RBC consumer outlook poll, one in three U.S. households is already “significantly” cutting back on spending because of rising gasoline prices. And this was a survey taken at a time when the national average price at the pumps was around $3.20 per gallon ― wait and see what happens when it costs four bucks to fill up the tank ― that is the pain threshold for 41% of the consumer sector as per this poll.
2011-03-07 Toryism, Socialism and Housing Reform: Real and Imagined by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
This commentary is background for the presentation entitled "GSEs: The Future Role of Government Sponsored Enterprises in the US," at the Global Association of Risk Professionals event on Tuesday, March 8, 2011, in New York. The Obama Administration recently advanced some proposals to reform several government agencies that control the market for housing. Treasury/HUD plan is really a menu of possible options, eliminating what would not work and making it clear that change will happen slowly, if at all.
2011-03-05 Are Booming Economies Good for the Markets? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The important question is whether booming growth is always good for equity markets. On that, the data is mixed. While strong growth usually leads to higher earnings, it typically leads to tighter liquidity. The most dangerous periods for equity markets are typically strong economic activity combined with rapidly rising oil prices. In 34% of the years since 1950 with economic growth have experienced declining EPS growth. A doubling in the oil price is not good for markets. If we begin to work on the deficit with cuts and tax increases, it will be a headwind for economic growth and earnings.
2011-03-04 On Regulation by Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital
You can tell businesspeople precisely what to do, but you can’t make the economy or companies comply with policies and social aims. Regulations are limited in their scope and effect, and like a balloon, when you push in one place, self-interested behavior pops out in another. Those who enact regulation are rarely able to anticipate and control the response of those being regulated or the second-order consequences of the rules. Bubbles will lead to crashes, and the willingness to dispense with regulation and rely on free markets will never be complete, regardless of regulation’s limitations.
2011-02-25 What Really Drives the Market by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
Well, we used to say there were four key drivers: 1. Fundamentals; 2. Fund flows; 3. Technicals; 4. Valuation; Then we introduced another one last week: 5. The Fed’s balance sheet; Now that is not going to be included in any of the Graham & Dodd textbooks, that is for sure. But since Dr. Bernanke embarked on his non-traditional monetary maneuvers two years ago, there has been an 86% correlation between the S&P 500 and the movement in the Fed’s balance sheet. And now there is a sixth: 6. Corporate earnings surprises Yes, this works with a 90% historical accuracy rate.
2011-02-22 Bruce Berkowitz on the Exceptional Value in the Financial Sector by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Fairholme's Bruce Berkowtiz, US stock-fund manager of the decade, discusses his large position in the financial sector and why he believes the big bets he is making do not amount to Russian roulette. He also comments on his recent nomination of former Florida Governor Charlie Crist to the board of St. Joes.
2011-02-22 Stop Wasting Time and Money on Client Communication by Dan Richards (Article)
The world has changed in all kinds of ways. What worked in terms of client communication as recently as five years ago doesn't work nearly as well today. As a result, you need to fundamentally change how you communicate with clients.
2011-02-22 The Clock Has No Hands? by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James Equity Research
Recently, if you threw a brick out of a Wall Street window, it would go up! This stampede has not given up since it began on September 1. Indeed, the DJIA has not experienced anything more than the perfunctory 1 – 3 session correction since this stampede began, not giving anyone an easy entry point. I was pretty constructive on stocks until the beginning of this year when I wrong footedly, like my gray-haired lunch friends, turned too cautious. Still, in this business you have to play the odds; and currently I just don’t think the odds are favorable enough to be aggressively bullish.
2011-02-14 Fiscal Drag Coming and No More QEs by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
In an otherwise uneventful weekend, what did come out is that fiscal stimulus is about to turn towards restraint in a significant fashion. Even the White House recognizes the need for fiscal discipline and is on the precipice of unveiling a much more austere budget. And this will coincide with massive tax hikes and spending cuts at the lower levels of government too. The surgery is much more preferable now than becoming a banana republic down the road.The future of QE2 is looking more certain ― it will live to see June of this year but the chances of a QE3 are remote.
2011-02-12 The Future of Public Debt by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin looks at an important paper from the Bank of International Settlements on “The Future of Public Debt.” While the debt supercycle is still growing on the back of increasing government debt, there is an end to that process, and we are fast approaching it. Drastic measures are necessary to check the rapid growth of current and future liabilities of governments and reduce their adverse consequences for long-term growth and monetary stability. This leads the BIS to conclude that the question is when markets will start putting pressure on governments, not if.
2011-02-11 Reiterating Our Investment Thesis for 2011 by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
For 2011, not only do I still favor credit, especially the spread compression left in the high-yield space, but relative value portfolios, hybrids with a decent running yield and exposure to Canadian dollars. The resource sector is also attractive, especially oil, with a long-term view towards buying these companies on dips and not just for the commodity price uptrend. Corporate bonds, especially BB-rated product. Hedge funds, with low correlations with the direction of the market or the economy. And precious metals as a hedge against periodic bouts of currency and monetary instability.
2011-02-10 FPA Crescent Fund Q4 2010 by Steven Romick of First Pacific Advisors
We do not have a strong view as to what will transpire over the intermediate-term with respect to the economy or securities markets, nor do we have a great love for the opportunities the markets have to offer. In general, we require more upside than the market currently permits, because the downside (for reasons discussed) is not inconsequential. Taking a look at the S&P 400 Midcap Index gives some idea as to why that may be the case. Midcap stocks have increased 129% since the 2009 trough. That kind of move generally sucks the oxygen out of the room as far as good risk/reward investments go.
2011-02-09 How to Play in 2011 by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
At the start of every year I remind myself that each individual year has its own story. For example, 2007 taught us that it never hurts to take profits after the market doubles and that if something is too good to be true (housing and credit bubble) it probably is. The 2008 lesson focused on capital preservation strategies and the urgency of managing downside risks. 2009 it was vital not to overstay a bearish stance in the face of massive fiscal and monetary stimulus. Last year’s lesson was how to handle the many post-stimulus market swings that are inherent in a post-bubble credit collapse.
2011-02-04 Portfolio Commentary : Fourth Quarter, 2010 by Jay Compson of Absolute Investment Advisors
For our 4Q commentary we have decided to alter our approach and provide direct insight into our managers’ thoughts by providing portions of their commentaries in a series of independent “short stories.” Collectively they represent many of the thoughts that we have utilized for writing our quarterly commentaries, but we feel the current environment offers a unique time to hear things “directly from the horse’s mouth.”
2011-02-04 An Excerpt from Endgame by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Growth does not look that great, and people don’t feel the recovery. This is unlikely to change. The U.S. and most developed economies are currently facing many major headwinds that will mean that going forward, we’ll have slower economic growth, more recessions, and higher unemployment. Three large structural changes have happened slowly over time that we expect to continue going forward. The U.S. economy will have higher volatility,lower trend growth, and higher structural levels of unemployment (The United States here is a proxy for many developed countries with similar problems.)
2011-01-29 A Bubble in Complacency by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The just released Q4 GDP of 3.2% may be overstated by 0.5% to 1.0% as a result of statistical adjustments. Consumer spending advanced, but that must be tempered by the support from fiscal and monetary policies. The growth in the deficit poses imminent danger of another recession, and the political landscape makes it unlikely a solution will emerge. Mauldin would like to see 'thought leadership' in the upcoming presidential election cycle, in order to build support for viable policies to revive the economy.
2011-01-25 A Reality Check by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
We will probably end up with a few years of stable to moderately deflating consumer prices once the effects of the latest commodity surge starts to fade. It appears that we are in the process of seeing another down-leg in national home prices. Equities are wildly overbought and may suffer the same fate before long, with all deference to the recent leg-up in valuations. The U.S. unemployment rate is unlikely to come down much, if at all, if real GDP growth does not accelerate beyond 3%. If it couldn’t do it in 2010, then we have no idea why it would be the case in 2011.
2011-01-24 Weapons of Mass Poverty by Mark Elliott of Elliott Asset Management
Modern financial management dogmas may be fundamentally, terminally, and irreparably flawed – and may be key ingredients in modern asset bubbles. I believe what could be the most serious catastrophe to face retirees and other investors since The Great Depression may be currently underway and, as in past recent financial catastrophes, most investors and financial “professionals” will fail to act – despite what appears to be clear writing on the wall.
2011-01-22 The Unsustainable Meets the Irresistible by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
States are the largest component of US GDP, and states' revenues have declined 10% from their peak. On top of that, federal stimulus support for states is running out. Congress should allow states to declare bankruptcy and force unions to come to the bargaining table. The US is on an unsustainable path. Absent very serious fiscal remedies, long before we get to 2019 the bond markets will have taken away our ability to finance our debt at low rates.
2011-01-18 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
A number of readers respond to Nancy Opiela's article, Tactical Asset Allocation and Market Timing: What's the Difference?, and one reader responds to Michael Lewitt's article, The Wages of Growth. Both articles appeared last week.
2011-01-15 Thinking the Unthinkable by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin criticizes Bernanke's comment that a benefit of QE2 has been rising equity prices, arguing that this would amount to a third mandate for the Fed. He commends Richard Fisher of the Dallas Fed for his comments that monetary policy is not a tool to solve the country's fiscal problems. Mauldin then says that a big treat to his growth forecast is continued sovereign debt problems in Europe. Lastly, he questions whether China can engineer a soft landing for its economy, given rising inflation.
2011-01-11 The Two Elephants Facing the US Economy by Michael Lewitt (Article)
The consensus has reached the conclusion that financial markets will enjoy a strong start to 2011. This is reason enough to approach the markets with caution as the year begins. When everybody is leaning to one side of the boat, the vessel is far more likely to tip over, particularly if it hits an unexpected wave.
2011-01-10 Weekly Market Commentary by Scotty George of du Pasquier Asset Management
As if to signal the arrival of a new yardstick, the year’s first trading day was strong, while the balance of the week was digestion of the same old lack of enthusiasm and trust. Might we expect to see a new metric in place after the rough-and-tumble in Congress is settled? Don’t count on it. Whichever way the debate shapes up, there is still a credit crisis, an insurance crisis, and a confidence crisis. All the avoidable blunders Wall Street might make will still occur because the brazen on Wall Street are not being held accountable for their greed.
2011-01-08 Forecast 2011: Better than Muddle Through by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin reviews his prior-year forecast. He was right on currencies and gold, but missed the bull market in equities. For 2011, he likes gold relative to the euro, pound and yen, but is less bearish on the pound than he was a year ago. He fears the Kamchatka volcanoes (in Russia) will trigger a spate of bad wealth which will lead to scarce resources and inflation. He is optimistic about the job market and employment, and forecasts that the US economy will grow 2.5-3% in 2011. He fears, however ,that structural problems in the work force will leave many untrained for employment.
2010-12-23 Some Thoughts on Market Timing by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
I have real doubts that there will be “hundreds of billions” of losses in the municipal bond market. It would take a default by almost every major municipal issuer, and a lot of small ones, to create a hundred billion in defaults, something not likely to happen. States will be forced to make spending cuts. Mauldin also cites three sources who he "highly respects" who advise to hedge US equity portfolios going into 2011.
2010-12-17 Kicking the Can Down the Road by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
A collapse of a major European bank could trigger counterparty mayhem in the US banking system, at least among our major investment banks. The ECB is now earnestly continuing to kick the can down the road, buying ever more debt off the books of banks, buying time for the banks to acquire enough capital. If the ECB were to keep this up, even in a deflationary, deleveraging world it would eventually bring about inflation and the lowering of the value of the euro against other currencies. One country after another in Europe is coming under pressure. This week the debt of Belgium was downgraded.
2010-12-11 Unintended Consequences by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The recent rise in interest rates is due to the reallocation of globally indexed funds away from sovereign debt and into something else. The may be a prelude to a sovereign default or a more rapid rise in rates, which could unfold very quickly. Global deleveraging is not over. QE2 and the nervousness of investors around the world are pushing up interest rates.
2010-12-08 Second Take on The Latest Financial Stimulus Announcement by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
There wasn’t really that much “new” information in the Obama announcement, except for the fact that the President ended up repealing everything he said he stood for during the election campaign, like reducing the extreme income bifurcation that was exacerbated during the Bush era. Then again, who is going to risk a renewed contraction in the economy and then take the blame? How can anyone take the U.S. seriously when the country fails to get enough votes over the weekend to bring the deficit reduction package recommended by the White House debt-reduction panel to the House and Senate floor.
2010-12-04 Short Skirts and Second Shoes by Herbert Abramson and Randall Abramson of Trapeze Asset Management
We are in an honest-to-goodness bull market. There is much more upside ahead. Possibly for years. Tops are made in euphoria, as when the Fed decides to tighten money and raise interest rates. With the evident despondency today the Fed continues to bring on the punchmore liquidity, accommodative easing, to keep interest rates low and make credit readily availablefor consumer spending, for housing and autos and apparel and necessaries, for government borrowings. And for stocks. Well be swimming in punch.
2010-12-04 Reframing A Case For High Yield Bonds by Tom Fahey of Loomis Sayles
Our contention is that high yield bonds are likely to continue to be a respectable store of value. We base this on their valuation profile and fixed income characteristics, which tend to stand out in the midst of a protracted economic recovery and ongoing deleveraging process that could have significant implications for economic growth and yield potential.
2010-12-03 Texas, Ireland and Ten Little Indians by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin contrasts the plights of Iceland and Ireland in dealing with excessive leverage. Iceland devalued its currency, while Ireland must accept a bailout package. Iceland's economy is recovering; Ireland's may take years. Mauldin compares the situation in Spain and Portugal to those two countries. The stronger EU countries must rescue the weak, just as Texas is being asked to rescue fiscally troubled states like California.
2010-11-30 Why Bubbles Inflate and How to Avoid Them by Robert Huebscher (Article)
In this interview, Meir Statman discusses the psychological underpinnings behind the creation of bubbles in the financial markets, why some bubbles are good and others are not, and how investors should frame their decisions when facing a potential bubble.
2010-11-29 A Time to Invest in Africa by Nile Capital Management of Nile Capital Management
In this report, I will summarize my answer to the often-asked question: “Why is this a good time for investors to focus on Africa?” I also will explain why the best way to participate in African markets and manage their risks is through an actively managed fund that offers “feet-on-the-ground” expertise in Africa.
2010-11-29 Not Fade Away: European Debt Crisis Hits Markets by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
Optimism is waning as global concerns are taking center stage, notably in the euro-zone. Investors shouldn't be complacent, but should heed the more-positive message coming from the US economy.
2010-11-28 Recessions are on the Margin by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We had a slate of good news over the past few weeks, including data on business confidence, housing, and unemployment. GDP growth is slowing, but it is still north of 2%. The economy may be able to handle only taking away the tax cuts for those with over $250,000 in income. It will slow things down, but probably not enough to cause a recession. Given that government spending is going to go down (at least I hope so), unemployment is going to take time to get under control; and with the whole developed world in a mess, it is hard to see an environment where we can average 3.5% for this decade.
2010-11-28 And That's the Week That Was... by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
Korea, Ireland, insider trading, earnings season conclusion, QE2, retail activity. Plenty of news…but is anyone really paying attention? After all, its Thanksgiving. Take a break, give thanks, enjoy the family (and the bird), and worry about the world’s issues next week. Happy holiday…
2010-11-24 US Q3 GDP and Profits Analyzed by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
The Q3 real GDP is better, but momentum has clearly waned. Based on the hits that the household sector will likely face in the early part of 2011, Q1 growth is likely to be disappointing. On a sequential basis, corporate profits are still clearly rising, but at a more moderate rate than before. Not only did housing starts get clobbered in October, but existing home sales fell unexpectedly as well. Retailers are anticipating a solid holiday shopping season, and yet, they are aggressively marking down their prices well in advance.
2010-11-23 Five Words that Get Emails Opened by Dan Richards (Article)
The escalating volume of email means that fewer and fewer emails are being opened. A key challenge is creating a sense of urgency around opening your emails - something that can be achieved with five key words in the subject line.
2010-11-23 Why Diversify? by Adam Jared Apt (Article)
Although diversification is commonly regarded as a good thing, there are nonetheless those who regard it as a guarantee of mediocrity. It isn't, but there are right ways and wrong ways to go about diversifying a portfolio. Let's explore how diversification works.
2010-11-23 7 Things to Watch for as 2010 Ends by Isbitts of Emerald Asset Advisors
The cyclical (1-4 year) picture is getting better for U.S. stocks, and even better in the Emerging and Frontier markets. Put us in the camp of people who believe the Fed is too focused on fighting deflation, and at some point in the next half a decade, we will pay for it dearly. Perhaps the most remarkable trend will be the rise of the "Emerging Nations," particularly those in Asia.
2010-11-23 The Glad Game by Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates
In a world of low-single digit yields, a conventional 60/40 asset mix will get pension funds just over halfway toward an expected 8% return. But investors should not wring their hands: there are ways of achieving their return expectations.
2010-11-22 Investment Lessons from the 1983 Diana Ross Concert Riot by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
We’ve been trying to understand what makes the market psychology schizophrenic, and we remember, of all things, the Diana Ross concert in Central Park in July 1983. Over 500,000 people gathered on the Great Lawn for an annual free concert (Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, the B-52’s were acts in other years.) About 15 minutes into the performance, a terrible thunderstorm blew in, the sky turned black, lightning split the sky and over 2 ½’ of rain fell in the next 30 minutes, which quickly turned the meadow into a swamp.
2010-11-20 O Deflation, Where is Thy Sting? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The economy growing between one and two percent. That is better than recession but not good enough to really bite into the unemployment rate, which means trouble. Mauldin examines the construction of the BLI's CPI index and specifically the role of housing: inflation, when you take out housing costs, is a jaunty 1.9%. Right in the Fed target range of 1.5-2%. The Fed's QE program may create inflation where we can least afford it - in energy and food.
2010-11-13 First, Let's Lower the Bar by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin responds to criticisms of a recent email he sent regarding healthcare reform. Next, he notes that for the last 18 months the trade-weighted yuan has dropped well over 10%, which he calls extraordinary. On the recently announced unemployment results, he says government "fiddling" with seasonal adjustments distorted the numbers. Last, he comments on the Irish sovereign debt issue.
2010-11-11 Rising Oil Prices; Still Like Gold, But... by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
Oil is now challenging the $90/bbl threshold and this is more a reflection of the Fed’s quest to weaken the dollar than any incipient global economic boom. As in the case of most other commodities, the Fed has unleashed the floodgates of investor speculation on the commodity complex. How can this possibly be constructive for the 90% of the U.S. earnings outlook that is not hooked to the basic commodity sector? We don’t see where this is addressed anywhere in “Street” research. The economy is much more vulnerable to an energy shock now than it was in 2007.
2010-11-09 New Strategies in Alternative Investments by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Alternative investments, broadly speaking, and hedge funds, more specifically, have performed as intended over the last 20 years, modestly increasing returns and significantly reducing risk when added to a traditional stock-bond portfolio. Selecting the appropriate vehicle is the challenge, and that task has been made easier by the introduction of new exchange-traded strategies.
2010-11-09 How Modern Is Your Portfolio Theory? by Direxion Funds (Article)
After 58 Years, is there Another Way to Conquer the Efficient Frontier? In the past, active or "tactical" investment management referred to jumping in and out of stocks and bonds - market timing. With the introduction of sophisticated funds that help the masses harness the power of institutional managers and alternative asset classes and strategies, today, tactical management may help to renovate your portfolios - and help you retain and attract assets.
2010-11-05 Thoughts on Liquidity Traps by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Lacy Hunt writes that the Oct employment situation was dramatically weaker than the headline 159k increase in employment measures. The most distressing aspect is the loss of another 124K full-time jobs, bringing the 5-month loss to 1.1 million. John Hussman discusses liquidity traps, where investors prefer cash to debt (because of low interest rates) and the central bank loses control. Fiscal policy, not monetary policy, impacts economic growth and inflation - and the proper fiscal measures, such as infrastructure spending, may be the best hope for growth.
2010-11-02 The SEC’s 12b-1 Proposal is Based on Misguided History, Flawed Economics by John H. Robinson (Article)
The SEC's stated aims of its proposed Rule 12b-1 reform are laudable: increasing transparency, reducing investor fees, and increasing competition among mutual funds. However, John Robinson's review of its 278-page proposal found major flaws, including a misinformed historical pretext and naïve economic analysis.
2010-11-01 The Servicer of the First Part; Dick Alford on the Fiscal Illusion by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
This week the Institutional Risk Analyst features a comment by the FRBNY's Richard Alford. Alford provides a very revealing look into the brave new world of macroeconomics and how the members of the priesthood of imprecision see the 'multiplier' associated with fiscal spending. When you realize just how poor the methodology is behind these economic debates, both in terms of the mathematical assumptions and the understanding of human action, the fact that these distinctions underpin fiscal policy is truly frightening.
2010-11-01 Big Week Ahead in the U.S. by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
After Tuesday's elections, there is little question that the GOP will take the House with a 1994-type landslide. Once in control, the GOP will not support more fiscal initiatives. We are therefore likely about to see a pronounced slowdown in the pace of economic activity; outside of government intervention and inventory accumulation, catalysts for growth are few and far between. Unlike during the soft patches of the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, the economy today is just a shock away from slipping back into contraction mode.
2010-10-29 Asset Allocation in an Uncertain Economy by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Advisors should not bet on whether the recession will be L-, V-, or W-shaped. Instead, Ron Albahary said they should use strategic asset allocation and overweight or underweight those asset classes that have historically done well at certain points in the economic cycle. Albahary is the CIO of Convergent Wealth Advisors, a Washington, DC-based wealth manager.
2010-10-29 Be Careful What You Wish For by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Q3 GDP numbers were unimpressive, and it would not surprise Mauldin to see GDP growth be closer to 1% in the 4th quarter, unless we start to see evidence of more inventory building. That is not good for jobs, personal income, tax collections needed to cover deficits at all levels, or consumer confidence. A further threat is posed by large numbers of people whose 99 weeks of unemployment will soon expire. Republicans face big challenges once they gain power, and Mauldin says a VAT is the only way to reduce budget deficits.
2010-10-26 What Drives High-Yield Bonds (and Why You Should Listen to the Ratings Agencies) by Robert Huebscher (Article)
High-yield bonds are attractively priced - or they aren't - depending on how likely you think a double-dip recession is and how severe you think it might be. What drives the high-yield market was the subject of a talk last week by Martin Fridson, a global credit strategist with BNP Paribas Asset Management who is a highly regarded expert on distressed debt.
2010-10-26 Hope is Not a Strategy by John West of Research Affiliates
Most pension funds and 401(k) calculators assume total returns in the 7-8 percent range. Is this assumption realistic, however, with a mature economy saddled with unprecedented debt levels and an aging workforce? This commentary examines retirement plan assumptions and calculates that we can reach this return level only if we assume top quartile results for stocks, bonds, and alternatives over the next 10 years. That's like expecting a decade of sunshine in the markets.
2010-10-24 The Subprime Debacle: Act 2, Part 2 by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Buyers of mortgage-backed securities may be able to join together and force issuers to buy back those securities, if the loans they contain are defective. This is further complicated by the fact that some of those buyers were non-US entities. Bank of America is badly exposed through its acquisition of Countrywide, as are "dozens" of other banks.
2010-10-14 Who's Doing the Buying? by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
So who's buying equities right now? Good question. We know it's not the retail investor and private clients - they have been selling into this entire bear market rally and rebalancing their asset mix in favor of income. It's not the mutual funds, because institutional private managers already have cycle-low cash ratios. There would seem to be three principal buyers right now: pension funds struggling to reach their 8 percent assumed annual returns, hedge funds, and the proprietary trading desks at big commercial banks.
2010-10-12 How Not To Get Screwed by the Bond Bubble by Isbitts of Emerald Asset Advisors
Bond funds, particularly those that invest in U.S. Treasury securities and other types of bonds at the low end of the risk spectrum, have seen piles of new cash in 2010. Whether it is through long-short funds, arbitrage, multi-strategy or 'equity surrogates' like convertibles and REITs, however, it is possible to create a portfolio with a low standard deviation without having to be trapped by a low fixed rate and the threat of rising bond prices.
2010-10-09 The Ride of the Keynesian Cowboys by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin reviews the just-released employment statistics, concluding that the "job picture is terrible." Add to that forecast weak GDP growth, lack of consumer spending, and feeble credit demand, and the Fed is left with one more "bullet" - QE2 - which is advocated by "Keynesian Cowboys" at the Fed. Others at the Fed, though, have warned about the unintended consequences of a possible QE2, and Mauldin doubts it will "work."
2010-10-08 Narratives vs. Facts: Why U.S. Stocks are Surging Despite Anemic Economic News by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
Investors chasing yields have bid up the prices of corporate bonds and preferred stock, while Treasury bonds, near post-war lows, barely yield more than inflation. Emerging markets stocks and bonds are doing well, but the high returns of 2008 are unlikely to happen again. Indeed, after a decade of pariah status, perhaps the only asset class that offers a reasonable risk-adjusted return is U.S. stocks. Even so, expect no more than 8 percents returns including dividends until the debt deflation process is complete in another 5-10 years.
2010-10-07 Risk On, Risk Off by Cliff W. Draughn of Excelsia Investment Advisors
The huge drop in bond yields is the driving force in the equity markets and the decline of the dollar. The old adage 'don't fight the Fed' still applies, and Excelsia's allocations will be shifted more towards equities and alternatives as interest rates get driven lower and lower. Emerging market debt, commodity and natural resource companies, gold, and large-cap stocks all offer favorable prospects.
2010-10-05 'Churn! Churn! Churn!' by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James Equity Research
Equity markets are churning slightly above their topside 'breakout' levels, having pierced previous reaction highs. That begs the question, 'is this an upside breakout or an upside fake out?' It is indeed an upside breakout, and there should be more upside to come. In fact, if we get through the next few weeks without some kind of major pullback, you are going to start hearing about the strong upside seasonality of November and December.
2010-10-04 Stocks Get No Respect by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The ink is hardly dry on September and discussions are already turning to the poor historical performance of October. As billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper notes, however, forces are strongly aligned to move stock prices higher. Valuations remain low, policy remains focused on ensuring a solid recovery, corporate balance sheets have been repaired and are now flush with cash that continues to expand at a rapid pace, and key sectors are still operating below replacement rates.
2010-10-02 The Morality of Chinese Growth by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin provides highlights from a recent conference. John Hofmeister is the former president of Shell Oil. He paints a very stark (even bleak) picture of the future of energy production in the US unless we change our current policies. David Rosenberg argues that GDP growth has been helped largely by inventory rebuilding, which is not sustainable. The analysts at GaveKal discuss the tension between Chinese policies toward economic growth and the social welfare it provides for its citizens.
2010-09-28 The Future of Oil by Robert Huebscher (Article)
No commodity impacts the global economy more than oil. When geopolitical threats loom, two questions often dominate discussion: Will the price of oil rise? And what will be the economic consequences? We review the key drivers of recent, current, and forecast oil prices, including a template for the necessary eventual alignment of supply and demand.
2010-09-28 Reality Check on the Macro Outlook by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
More than 80 percent of the economic growth we saw from the lows of 2009 in real GDP was due to the massive amounts of federal government stimulus and the huge inventory swing. The underlying trend in organic real final sales is barely above 0.5 percent. One therefore has to therefore wonder, with an estimated 1.7 percentage point drag from fiscal withdrawal in the coming year and the evident signs of a peaking-out in the inventory contribution to growth, how can the economy not contract heading into 2011?
2010-09-27 What Happened on Friday? by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
On Friday, a very successful hedge fund manager came on CNBC and told viewers that the equity market now was a one-way ticket up. If the economy sputtered, he said, the Fed would step in and engage in more quantitative easing, and that would propel the equity market higher. And if the economy chugs along, then there will be no need for more Fed balance sheet expansion but the stock market will enjoy the fruits of stronger earnings growth. The third scenario he did not mention is that the economy will weaken to such an extent that the Fed will indeed re-engage in QE, but that it will not work.
2010-09-27 Hemlines and Investment Styles by Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital
High quality, large cap stocks have good potential over a range of possible scenarios, and are more attractive than bonds, which will do well in periods of economic weakness or deflation but poorly during periods of market strength or inflation. Treasury bonds and other high grade bonds currently have all environmental factors in their favor, but are priced rich. For them to do well from here, with yields so low, everything has to work out the way the bond bulls hope. Given current yield spreads, high yield bonds should outperform high grade bonds in most foreseeable long-term environments.
2010-09-25 Pushing on a String by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The Fed will move forward with aggressive quantitative easing (QE), unless economic growth reaches 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent. The Fed's QE efforts thus far have been ineffective, because funds remain on banks' balance sheets. Future efforts would likely lower interest rates or possibly devalue the dollar, but it is unlikely it will stimulate growth.
2010-09-22 The Rule of 72 by Jeffrey Bronchick of Reed, Conner & Birdwell
The 'rule of 72' allows the lay investor to determine how long it will take for him to double the value of his investment. It is calculated by dividing the number 72 by the annual yield of an investment. For example, if one divides 72 by the current 10-year Treasury bond rate of 2.7 percent, the formula generates an output of 26.6 years to double one's money. Under almost any definition of an intelligent investment plan, that seems like a very long time. If you cannot earn a rate of return above the 3 percent after-tax cost of debt for 10 years, then you should quit.
2010-09-18 The Chances of a Double-Dip by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This commentary features a letter from Gary Shilling on the chances of a double-dip recession. Shilling notes that investors early this year believed that rapid job creation and the restoration of consumer confidence would spur retail spending. A funny thing happened, however, on the way to super-charged growth. In April, investors began to realize that the euro zone financial crisis, which had been heralded at the beginning of the year by the decline in the euro, was a serious threat to global growth. Stocks retreated, commodities fell, Treasury bonds rallied and the dollar rose.
2010-09-14 The Centre Cannot Hold by Michael Lewitt (Article)
"A refusal to shed discredited monetary and fiscal policies and embrace creative and politically bold solutions is keeping our economy mired in high levels of structural unemployment and below-trend growth," writes Michael Lewitt in the latest edition of the HCM Market Letter. He also believes that "misguided faith in Keynesian solutions to debt crises, a near-religious belief that mild deflation must be avoided... and uninformed media hype about the alleged benefits of mergers and acquisitions" should be added to the list of bad ideas that lead economic policy and markets astray.
2010-09-14 Sometimes We Get Lucky by Monty Guild and Tony Danaher of Guild Investment Management
Monty Guild and Tony Danaher strongly recommend that investors sell long- and intermediate-term U.S. bonds, including U.S. Treasury bonds, U.S. government agency securities, municipal bonds and corporate bonds. It would be very unwise to bet that interest rates will stay down. Guild and Danaher also comment on the rising risk of inflation, the drug war in Mexico, the rise of the Japanese currency and bullish prospects for gold.
2010-09-11 The Last Half by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin provides another excerpt from his forthcoming book. He argues that growth in government spending comes at the expense of private sector growth. Fiscal stimulus will not work in the current environment, because we are now at the end of an unprecedented debt cycle. The preferred solution is for a country to grow its way out of debt, but that requires running a trade surplus, which cannot be accomplished by all countries simultaneously.
2010-09-07 Basel III Gets the Headlines, but EU Article 122a is the Story by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
This issue features a comment by Richard Field of TYI LLC about a new European Union rule for the asset-backed and structured securities markets in the European Union called Article 122a. This rule is a direct challenge to the U.S. regulatory community. Implementation will very quickly divide those financial institutions which are compliant and those which are not. Banks which are not in compliance with the EU rule will be obliged to offer investors significantly higher yields on debt than those banks which are compliant.
2010-09-07 Financial Markets Commentary by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
With federal tax credits for housing done, housing sales plummeted 26 percent in August. To soak up excess capacity in construction, the Obama administration just proposed a $50 billion infrastructure spending plan. Whether such a stimulus can be approved by a recalcitrant Congress two months before midterm elections is of course a big question. There already should be another round of excellent earnings in October, however, as well as an 8 percent year-end return in the S&P 500.
2010-09-04 The Last Chapter by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin presents content from his forthcoming book. He reviews some fundamental precepts of economics, focusing on the Keynesian approach the US is taking to revive the economy. He presents data from Woody Brock showing that the US debt may rise by as much as $1.5 trillion per year. Ultimately, he says, the bond market will revolt and interest rates will rise and the results will be very unpleasant. Using taxes or savings to handle a large fiscal deficit reduces the amount of money available to private investment.
2010-08-28 The Dark Side of Deficits by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
At the start of each bull cycle, the markets had single-digit P/E ratios, with no exception. No secular bull market ever began with high P/E ratios, even though significant rallies often started from high P/E ratios. The lesson of history is that all periods of high valuations come to an unhappy end. The most significant driver of stock market returns is the valuation embedded in the P/E ratio. We are still in a secular bear market. Valuations, while lower, are still not at what could be called historical cyclical bottoms. Patience is the order of the day. We will get there.
2010-08-27 Increasing Risks by Tony and Rob Boeckh of Boeckh Investment Letter
Capital preservation is of critical importance in this volatile, highly uncertain world. Within that conservative context, Boeckh has been relatively bullish on risk assets. The time has come to add another layer of caution to portfolios. The S&P 500 may well remain in an extended trading range, but we may be much closer to the upper boundary than the lower. Seasonally, we are heading into a period when markets tend to be weak, and some important declines have occurred.
2010-08-24 What Investors Really Want by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Using a mean-variance optimizer to construct a retirement portfolio that sits on the efficient frontier is tantamount to dining on a well-prepared meal that was pureed in a blender, believes Meir Statman, a professor of finance at Santa Clara University. Statman's research focuses on behavioral finance, and how advisors can help investors make smarter decisions.
2010-08-21 How We Get Through This Mess by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Don't expect a v-shaped recovery, but GDP may still grow in Q3. Unemployment and deficits will remain high. It is going to be a tough environment for the next 6-8 years. Growth opportunities will be in entrepreneurial ventures that can adapt to this environment and to future unforeseen hurdles.
2010-08-18 Ten Ways to Improve The Returns on Your Portfolios by Kendall J. Anderson of Anderson Griggs
On May 25, 2010, Dr. Paul Woolley, former head of the International Monetary Fund's investment and borrowing activities and founder of the UK arm of Grantham, Mayo, van Otterloo, laid out 10 policies that if adopted, could increase annual returns after inflation by 25 percent and long-term returns by at least 50 percent. He addressed his comments to the world's biggest public pension and charitable funds. His 10-point manifesto, however, will work just as well for individuals, offering the same, if not greater, potential return benefits to their portfolios.
2010-08-17 Cerulli Survey Results: New Themes in Advisors’ Portfolio Strategies by Bing Waldert (Article)
New ideas, such as tactical asset allocation and the use of alternatives, have seen some uptake even before the market crisis, particularly within large institutions, but they are receiving increased attention as solutions for risk-averse clients. This article examines some of the evolutions, using data from a Cerulli Associates survey of Advisor Perspectives readers conducted in June and July of 2010.
2010-08-17 Not the Time For a Jubilee by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
We are in the early stages of a secular credit collapse following the biggest credit bubble in human history. The housing bubble was the result of a universal, irrational and linear belief in real estate asset appreciation that developed in the 1990s and reached its glorious peak in 2007. Now we are rolling back into pronounced economic weakness, with contraction in GDP likely to soon follow the stagnant economic conditions of the current quarter.
2010-08-17 'Promised Land?' by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James Equity Research
Last week investors gave up on stocks, worried that Wednesday's 90 percent downside day marked the end of the summer rally, and fearing that another big decline was in the offing as we enter the dreaded months of September and October. While statistically those months tend to be the worst of the year, that wasn't the way it played last year, and it is doubtful that it will play out again that way this year. While the equity markets may pull back, none of the characteristics that mark a major 'top' are currently in place.
2010-08-16 Double-Dip or Single Scoop? by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
It is only a commentary on the human condition and the innate need to be optimistic that the vast majority of economists, analysts, strategists and market commentators still seem to be acting like ostriches with their heads in the sand, even in the face of fairly substantial evidence that GDP growth was cut at least in half in Q2 and that there is negative momentum in real retail sales being 'built' into the current quarter. If we are realistic, however, we can actually deploy strategies that will generate profitable results - certainly better than zero percent yields on cash.
2010-08-14 The Gulf Oil Spill Disaster by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The ecological destruction from the oil spill that was first feared is not going to be as bad as once thought, for a variety of reasons. It is not good, but it is not the unmitigated disaster it could have been. The government should have allowed certain ships to assist in the cleanup. The ban on offshore drilling should be lifted.
2010-08-13 Medicine for a New Normal by Doug MacKay and Bill Hoover of Broadleaf Partners
We could be on the cusp of a major sea change in the markets, one in which cash-rich companies - which are in far better shape than governments - begin to compete for investors through the dynamics of dividend yield. Investors who can start to capitalize on these changes now are likely to benefit as the groundswell for all things bonds begins to find a suitable and potentially even safer path towards stocks with rising dividends.
2010-08-12 Asset Allocation: Volatility, Correlations and Returns in the New Environment by Tom and Rob Boeckh of Boeckh Investment Letter
Slow growth, high unemployment and weak inflation will keep interest rates very low in the short term. Rising government debt levels and heavy reliance on monetary ease from the Federal Reserve, however, suggest rising risks of price inflation later on, possibly much later. The current period of low long-term interest rates should thus be thought of as an extended base-building period for higher rates down the line. Investors should maintain a diversified portfolio, shifting equity exposure to defensive, non-cyclical sectors, and build positions in cash and safe sovereign debt.
2010-08-10 When Active Management Matters by Kenneth R. Solow, CFP and Michael E. Kitces, MSFS, MTAX, CFP (Article)
Financial planners have eagerly awaited any research that could finally, definitively prove - or disprove - the pesky notion that active management is effective. Though no one has yet risen to that challenge, past academic studies have been improperly interpreted to show that portfolio policy, or asset allocation affects portfolio returns far more than active management. As Ken Solow and Michael Kitces write in this guest contribution, the most recent study to tackle the active management debate, by Yale professor Roger Ibbotson, shares two weaknesses with previous research.
2010-08-10 Is the Market Efficient? by Adam Jared Apt (Article)
After Marxism, no economic theory today may be as derided and despised as the hypothesis of market efficiency. The idea is often misunderstood, sometimes willfully. So what does "market efficiency" mean? In the latest installment of his series for the educated layman, Adam Jared Apt provides some answers.
2010-08-09 Systemic Regulator Risk: Does the Fed of New York Need a Haircut? by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
Given its second lease on regulatory life, one might expect that the Fed's bank supervision function would be gearing-up to take a fresh, smart, and tough line with respect to financial company oversight. However, the appointment of Sarah Dahlgren as head of supervision by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicates this may not be the case. Ms. Dahlgren has been at the center of many of the Federal Reserve's most embarrassing failures in the area of bank supervision, including the fiasco surrounding American International Group.
2010-08-07 The Problem With Pensions by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
A report just out from the Center for Policy Analysis indicates that state and local pension funds are drastically underfunded. By the authors' calculations, state and local pensions are underfunded by $3 trillion. Pension funding in some states will be required by law to consume 25-30 percent or more of tax revenues. That is going to mean much higher taxes or reduced services. John Mauldin also discusses a possible surprise from President Obama concerning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and provides an economic update on China.
2010-08-03 Woody Brock: How to Achieve Growth without 'Bad' Deficits by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Of all the challenges facing our nation, none is as daunting as trying to achieve economic growth and reduce unemployment without adding layers of debt to our already bloated deficit. Legislators and economists have debated the merits of stimulus measures, changes in tax rates, and monetary policies, but they are no closer to a consensus than they were at the onset of the financial crisis. H. 'Woody' Brock, however, says a genuine solution is possible.
2010-07-31 Are We There Yet? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The reported Q2 GDP growth was unimpressive. If we take away housing and project slower inventory growth and less government spending, we could see the GDP number for this quarter fall to the 1% range and stay there for the rest of the year. Deflation is a real fear, analogous to driving our economy "without a spare."
2010-07-30 Inflation in 2010 and Beyond? Practical Considerations for Institutional Asset Allocation by Michael Katz and Christopher Palazzolo of AQR Capital Management
Traditional institutional portfolios with risk characteristics similar to a 60/40 stocks/bonds allocation are not well-positioned for unexpected inflation. Stocks are not effective inflation hedges, particularly in the short and medium term. Meanwhile, traditional institutional allocations resemble a 'bet' on low inflation. A risk-based approach to strategic asset allocation, however, may generate more balanced performance across both inflationary and deflationary periods.
2010-07-30 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
The two most important aspects of the financial reform bill: (1) Congress told the SEC to come up with rules for a common version for a standard of care when providing personalized investment advice to individuals; making everyone (financial planners, stockbrokers, insurance agents, etc.) who provide these types of services do so with a fiduciary standard of care; (2) a mandate from Congress to the GAO to do a six month study about the regulation of financial planning as a distinct business. Recent data on retirement readiness is summarized and several other topics are covered.
2010-07-24 Some Thoughts on Deflation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We face the deflation of the Depression era, and central bankers of the world are united in opposition. This is due to excess capacity, high unemployment and massive wealth destruction. Deflationary pressures are the norm in the developed world (except for Britain, where inflation is the issue). The US has mild (1 percent) inflation now, but if it trends to deflation, the Fed will react by monetizing the debt.
2010-07-20 Martin Leibowitz’ Failed Defense of the Endowment Model by Michael Edesess (Article)
The latest book from Martin Leibowitz, one of the most respected thinkers in the investment industry, attempts to justify the endowment model of investing. As Michael Edesess writes in this review, Leibowitz's defense is highly problematic, and that should concern any advisor utilizing a Yale-like strategy.
2010-07-17 The Debt Supercycle by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The Debt Supercycle, as posited by the Bank Credit Analyst, is the decades-long growth of debt from small and easily-dealt-with levels, to a point where bond markets rebel and the debt has to be restructured or reduced or a program of austerity must be undertaken to bring the debt back to manageable proportions. The consequences for each country will be different, and the U.S. is a long way off from "the end." A key point will be the 2014 elections, when critical budget decisions must be made.
2010-07-13 Country Risk: Building a New American Political Economy by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
In a column in yesterday's New York Times, economist Paul Krugman took Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to task for not doing more to combat deflation. And what should the Fed do according to Krugman? Print more money. More quantitative easing via purchases of private debt is the urgent recommendation of this leading American economist. While Krugman criticizes Ben Bernanke for being a Republican, however, it is worth noting that Krugman himself is not quite the socialist that he pretends to be. In fact, Krugman was once considered to be in the same political party as President Ronald Reagan.
2010-07-12 Recession Odds Still on the Rise by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
The Economic Cycle Research Institute's weekly leading index fell again last week despite the equity market bounce. The spot index fell 0.6 percent for the second week in a row, and the growth index slipped to -8.3 percent from -7.6 percent at the end of June. While this is the only indicator so far suggesting that recession odds are rising, once you get to -8.3 percent, looking at the historical record, downturns occur more often than not.
2010-07-10 It's More Than Just Birth-Death by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin examines the methodology used by the BLS when it calculates unemployment. He reviews claims by Jeff Miller of New Arc (which we published on Thursday) that distortions caused by unreported data are greater than those of the birth/death model. Mauldin also discusses a conversation he had with Mohammed El-Erian, who said that unemployment may now be a leading (instead of lagging) indicator of economic growth.
2010-07-09 In the Shadow of the Dragon by John Downs of Euro Pacific Capital
For investors, the Chinese push into frontier markets may offer promising returns in the medium-term. For example, emerging market bonds have rallied every quarter since the end of 2008, and posted record inflows this year. Unfortunately, accessing frontier markets has historically been difficult for small investors. Poor accounting practices, corruption, lack of local knowledge, and illiquidity are risks to be considered. For the right investor, though, there are increasing opportunities to invest in these markets via enterprising Chinese firms.
2010-07-03 The Dismal Science Really Is by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Yesterday's unemployment numbers were very bad, and Mauldin explains how they were calculated and the implications of adjustments, such as the birth/death model. Personal income was also down, which is a very rare occurrence. Other indicators, including the money supply, are not indicative of economic growth. The Fed will act aggressively to thwart deflation.
2010-06-30 Asset Allocation Thoughts by Tony and Rob Boeckh of Boeckh Investment Letter
This commentary provides an asset allocation framework for investor’s portfolios that reflects our macro view, concerns about the general riskiness of the financial world and a variety of issues that go into the asset allocation process. In general, we continue to be positive on risks assets in the context of our continuing focus on wealth preservation and diversification. Probabilities favor a recovery in stock and commodity prices rather than an extended bear market.
2010-06-28 Not Much Out of G20 by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
David A. Rosenberg summarizes the current conditions and calls for restraint. Fiscal restraint was the overarching message of the G20, which established a goal 'to shave fiscal deficits in half by 2013.' Debates continue as to whether current trends predict 'the third depression' and as to what measures might be taken to prevent that outcome. Rosenberg cites this weekend’s outpouring of articles on deficits, crises, and deflation. There seems to be no 'bottoming out' for the housing market.
2010-06-28 Feds Spin Wheels on Financial Regulation by Brian S. Wesbury of First Trust Advisors
'Later this week, President Obama will sign an overhaul of the financial industry, the biggest change required by law since the Great Depression. For all the legal change it brings, it won’t prevent the next crisis but also won’t do much harm. This bill will force existing firms to restructure their operations in order to comply, which may hit profits.' Wesbury and Stein point out the many shortcomings of this bill to fully address certain issues which include monetary policy, Fannie or Freddie, and 'too big to fail.'
2010-06-28 On The Merits of Hedged Equity by Chris Maxey of Fortigent
Despite positive predictions for the housing market, existing home sales fell in May. This may be due to a number of first time buyers who snapped up distressed properties, requiring a longer wait between contract acceptance and closing date. At the same time, new home sales plummeted and median home sale price fell. A glimmer of hope exists in this market as home prices are in the positive over a year-over-year basis.
2010-06-26 And That's the Week That Was... by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
Get used to this volatility and market uncertainty - it could last a while. This week, the naysayers won out again as concerns about the upcoming earnings season emerged and talk of a possible double-dip in Europe made its way into the Fed’s policy meeting. Financial reform appears to be headed to the Prez’s desk. The week found personal conflicts on the military front, a potential loss of the Budget Director, and the realization that a federal judge may have more power over issues of deepwater drilling. Is it time for the July 4th vacation yet? (Will we be able to afford the gasoline?)
2010-06-26 The Risk of Recession by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The risk of recession is 50/50, but several things could make it less likely: if the expiration of the Bush tax cuts are not as harmful as expected, if those tax cuts are extended, or if there is a pickup in bank lending. The ECRI leading indicators and the M3 money supply numbers are indicating a recession is likely. If there is a recession, it will be deflationary and the Fed will react with another dose of quantitative easing.
2010-06-18 Be Careful What You Wish For by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Governments can fight deficits by cutting spending, but that has the effect of reducing growth, which reduces taxes and income, essentially forcing a recession. This is the situation facing the US. The probability for a recession in the US in 2011 is 50%.
2010-06-17 Getting a Grip on Reality by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
Double-dip risks in the U.S. have risen substantially in the past two months. While the economy's 'back end' of industrial production is still performing well, this lags the cycle. The 'front end' of consumer sales and housing leads the cycle. We have already endured two soft retail sales reports in a row and now the weekly chain-store data for June is pointing to subpar activity. The housing sector is going back into the tank - there is no question about it. The recovery in consumer sentiment leaves it at levels that in the past were consistent with outright recessions.
2010-06-15 Asset Allocation Matters, But Not as Much as You Think by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The market downturn has caused a rethinking of many core principles underpinning investment advice, chief among them the role of asset allocation. We talk with Yale's Roger Ibbotson about the impact of market returns and active management in explaining return variance and the role of asset allocation going forward.
2010-06-15 Bank Profile: Capital One Financial by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
This commentary features a profile of a profile of Capital One Financial, a multibank holding company that specializes in subprime credit cards and consumer banking. COF has a stress score for loan defaults that is more than two times the industry average. The bottom line for COF is that while it has a large and sophisticated treasury operation that includes hedges of its own assets and liabilities and has no Wall Street trading operation. In that sense, COF is more like a regional bank than a money center.
2010-06-11 The Frog in the Frying Pan by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Jonathan Tepper of Variant Perception, a research firm in London, writes this column as a guest contribution. He says that Mauldin's Muddle Through Economy is the product of several major structural breaks in the economy, which have important implications for growth, jobs, and the timing of a future recession: lower GDP growth will lead to more frequent recessions and higher economic volatility; high unemployment rates will be the norm, especially for less educated workers.
2010-06-08 Why Wall Street Won't be Reformed by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Michael Lewitt, author of the highly respected HCM Market Letter, has just released a new book, The Death of Capital. In this interview, he identifies the challenges facing those who seek to regulate Wall Street, and why most of the proposed reforms are likely to fail.
2010-06-08 The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Quants by Michael Lewitt (Article)
In the latest issue of the HCM Market Letter, Michael Lewitt draws the parallels between the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and financial reform - both, he says, demonstrate our inability to learn from our mistakes. Lewitt also comments on quantitative trading strategies, economic recovery and the capital markets.
2010-06-05 There's a Slow Train Coming by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The question before the jury is a simple one, but the answer is complex. Is the US in a "V"-shaped recovery? Are we returning to the old normal? Mauldin concludes that the fundamentals are too weak to support robust growth, as typically follows a recession. He cites data from the Consumer Metrics Institute Growth Index, which suggests there will be a 2% GDP contraction in the third quarter, which he doubts will happen, but says the consensus 3% seems quite possible. He warns that if we go back into recession, the market on average drops 40%.
2010-06-04 The Parable of the Lifeboat by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
Many investors are hesitant to add to their stock allocations due to negative returns over the past decade. The problem is that alternative investments have performed just as badly, if not worse. Ten thousand appears to be a hard floor for the Dow, despite investors' fears. Markets are thinner and more easily manipulated during the summer time, but July earnings reports should paint a rosy picture. NASDAQ is implementing expanded 'circuit breakers' to sideline stocks with unusually large moves - anything to reduce volatility and get investors interested in stocks again.
2010-06-01 Municipal Bond Market Insights by Northern Trust Investments (Article)
Not surprisingly, the most profitable investment trends tend to be those with the most staying power. That could be particularly good news for investors in municipal bonds, since structural forces are in place that may make tax-free bonds - and the income they generate - even more valuable in the years to come. Northern Trust provides their secular outlook for municipals, and we thank them for their sponsorship.
2010-05-28 Six Impossible Things by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
You can run a trade deficit, reduce government debt and reduce private debt but not all three at the same time. Choose two. Choose carefully. The UK will likely allow the pound to devalue to reduce its deficit, but will face higher costs of imported goods. Greece, in contrast, has no good options, and ultimately will default on its debt.
2010-05-28 Senate Passes Major Financial Reform Bill by Michael T. Townsend of Charles Schwab
The US Senate approved legislation overhauling the regulatory structure of the financial industry—the most sweeping reform of the sector since the Depression. House and Senate negotiators must now reconcile differences between the newly passed Senate bill and the one that passed the House late last year, but lawmakers are shooting to send a final bill to President Obama for his signature by July 4. Key features of the bill are outlined, from a new consumer financial protection agency to significant reform of the credit-rating agencies.
2010-05-24 Market Musings: Manic-Depressive Mondays by Doug Short of Doug Short
On Friday CNBC ran a piece observing that Mondays have strongly outperformed the other days of the week in 2010. Doug Short provides two pairs of tables that allow us to compare the behavior of weekdays during two nasty bear markets and the rallies that followed. Monday has indeed behaved strangely over the past decade. The key factor is whether we're in a bull or a bear market. Now that CNBC has publicized the 'buy on Friday, sell on Monday concept,' however, Short wouldn't put much 'stock' in this strategy going forward.
2010-05-24 Weekly Commentary & Update by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
Financial markets are reacting to the concern that Europe simply cannot put its house in order. Bonds have rallied and produced the lowest mortgage rates anyone can remember. Oil has fallen, which will lead to a decline in gasoline prices in time for the summer driving season. And the dollar has rallied strongly, once again proving conclusively that it remains the global reserve currency of choice. On the other hand, the loss of confidence in the Euro and subsequent attempt to rein in government spending has called future prospects for global growth into question.
2010-05-22 The Case for a Fed Rate Hike by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Everywhere there are arguments that we are in a "V"-shaped recovery. And there are signs that in fact that is the case. Today we will look at some of those, and then take up the topic of when the Fed will raise rates. We open the case and look at the evidence. Is there enough to come to a real conviction? Mauldin thinks there is, but concludes that the Fed is "on hold" until 2011.
2010-05-21 Warning Flags by Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital
The fact that we don't know where trouble will come from shouldn't allow us to feel comfortable in times when prices are high. The higher prices are relative to intrinsic value, the more we should prepare for the unknown. Anecdotal evidence of rising risk tolerance does not mean entire markets have returned to dangerous levels. The door is open to transactions that wouldn't be possible if risk aversion were higher. The clear inference is that fear of loss has declined and fear of missed opportunity has come back to life.
2010-05-21 Financial Regulation - The New Landscape by Asha Bangalore of Northern Trust
The Senate passed a new financial reform bill on May 20, while the House passed its own version in December. The next step is a reconciliation of the two bills, which should be ready for the president's signature by July 4th. The bills contain elements that will affect consumer protection, systemic risk, ‘too big to fail,’ derivatives, bank regulation, the Federal Reserve, credit rating agencies and securitization, and represent the biggest overhaul of financial regulation since the 1930s.
2010-05-18 Jeremy Grantham Guarantees Gold will Crash by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Jeremy Grantham, the investor celebrated for his ability to spot and exploit bubbles in asset classes, guaranteed yesterday that the current bull market in gold will end. His proof? He bought some - for his own account - at the end of last week. That comment was tongue-in-cheek, but he went on to identify two asset classes likely to go into bubble territory.
2010-05-15 Europe Throws a Hail Mary Pass by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week's $1 trillion EU bailout is analogous to the US TARP program, and represents a "Hail Mary" last-ditch attempt to save the eurozone. The problems in the EU run deeper than government debt; when private debt is included, overindebtedness is even more striking. Mauldin says the prospects for growth in the EU are dim, the euro will go to parity with the dollar, and the EU will dissolve in the next 5-7 years.
2010-05-11 God Is Dead: The Implications of the Goldman Sachs Case by Michael Lewitt (Article)
Michael Lewitt provides us with the most recent issue of the HCM Market Letter, where his discusses the implications of the Goldman Sachs case. Lewitt says Goldman faces a terrible dilemma, and should heed the lessons of the downfall of Drexel Burnham two decades ago. Lewitt also comments on the private equity industry, public pension funds, and bank capital requirements and the ratings agencies.
2010-05-11 Inspire Client Trust by Delivering Clear, Insightful Investment Communications by Ani Yessaillian (Article)
One of the best ways to build trust with your clients is to consistently deliver clear, insightful investment communications. In this guest contribution, consultant Ani Yessaillian tells you how to make the most of your quarterly performance report and your off-cycle investment communications.
2010-05-11 Why Some Hedge Funds Made Money in 2008 by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Steven Drobny is the co-founder of Drobny Global, an international macroeconomic research and advisory firm that counts many of the leading global hedge funds and money managers as clients. He is also author of a recently released book that identifies why some hedge funds made money in the 2008 crisis, while the majority did not. In this interview, he discusses the common themes among successful strategies.
2010-05-10 Brushwood is to Forest Fires as Leverage is to Financial Crises by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
Leverage ratios are way down since the financial crisis. The issuance of leveraged securities such as collateralized debt obligations, collateralized loan obligations and commercial mortgage-backed securities is nearly completely halted, and so the 'brushwood' necessary to stoke the next financial crisis is almost entirely absent. Heron also comments on the significance of Greece, Thursday's 'flash-crash,' the weakness of financial regulation, technicals vs. fundamentals, and investment strategy.
2010-05-08 The Center Cannot Hold by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Citing a paper from the Bank for International Settlements, Mauldin says increasing sovereign debt has two consequences - higher interest rates for that debt and lower growth rates for the underlying economies. Growth in sovereign debt at its current rate is unsustainable and poses systemic risks for the global economy. Fiscal austerity is the only solution, and that seems unlikely, particularly in the case of Greece.
2010-05-07 Thoughts on Unemployment and the Market by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
The U.S. employment report was strong on the headline but masked underlying deflationary trends beneath the surface. While the primary focus in the media and Wall Street research reports will likely be on the obvious - nonfarm payrolls surging 290,000 and an even stronger 550,000 gain in the household survey - what was most notable was the buildup of excess capacity in the labor market last month and further evidence of wage deflation coming to the fore. Gluskin also comments on yesterday's market dip.
2010-05-01 The Future of Public Debt by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin defends Goldman Sachs, arguing that buyers of the synthetic CDO it created should have been aware of the risks. He then comments on a paper by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) which analyzes the level of sovereign debt across a number of countries. The BIS says the overall debt levels for these countries, which include many of the G20, are unsustainable, and the US is among those with the worst long-term outlook.
2010-04-20 Lessons from Yale’s Endowment Model and the Financial Crisis by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)
The Yale endowment's performance during the financial crisis was worse than what would be mathematically expected, but not significantly enough to question the endowment model's tenets. Moreover, Yale's performance and philosophy suggest two very important lessons for advisors and investors- to diversify beyond equities and fixed income, and that some illiquid asset classes can be an important source of alpha.
2010-04-19 Goldman SEC Litigation: The End of OTC?; Alan Boyce on the Duration of Fed Open Market Operations by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
This piece features a comment from Alan Boyce, chief executive officer of Absalon, on the impending end of the Fed Purchasing Program. Boyce says that as FPP ends, there is the real potential for unintended consequences in domestic and foreign markets. If markets were to become unglued, the Fed may purchase more mortgages and Treasury debt. Foreign central bankers will likely snap and become sellers, however, if the Fed decides to monetize more debt. Markets would likely take it as a sign that the Fed is politically unable to exit the mortgage market, or quantitative easing.
2010-04-17 First, Let’s Kill the Angels by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Provisions in the Dodd financial reform bill will impede angel investing in new ventures. Those provisions are the 120-day waiting period following SEC filing and the increase in minimum wealth requirements for accredited investors. Separately, the problems that Goldman now faces are "the tip of the iceberg," and at least eight other banks will face similar problems.
2010-04-13 Are Public Employees Bankrupting the Nation? by Charlie Curnow (Article)
While markets may be recovering, public debts are still mounting. Charlie Curnow reviews Plunder, the new book by Steven Greenhut, which blames public sector unions for a large portion of these debts. To Greenhut, we the taxpayers are helpless villagers, while corrupt public employee unions are barbarians at the gate, raiding government treasuries and leaving us with nothing but unfunded liabilities.
2010-04-13 Shameless by Michael Lewitt (Article)
The fiscal train wreck in the United States has not been set back on the tracks, and the global imbalances that led to the financial crisis have not gone away. Quite to the contrary, writes Michael Lewittin Shameless, the latest edition of his HCM newsletter. In fact, if progress isn't made with respect to these issues, and if intelligent financial reform is not enacted, future instability is guaranteed.
2010-04-12 Richard Field on Covered Bonds and the Need for Better ABS Disclosure by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
This commentary features a piece by Richard Field of TYI, LLC, a consulting and technology firm focused on filling information gaps created by financial innovation, on the need to level the disclosure playing field in the asset-backed security markets. Field says that giving investors anything less than daily data on loan portfolio performance is unfair. Meanwhile, the basic tools of machine-to-machine data transfer make daily reporting possible today, as evidenced by the XML-enabled Report of Condition and Income submission system at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
2010-04-09 Reform We Can Believe In by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Appointments to positions of power in the Federal Reserve system should be independent of the political process and party politics. Credit default swaps should be regulated by requiring that they be traded on an exchange. Commercial and investment banking should be separated, so that commercial banks cannot engage in speculative activity such as running hedge funds. Leverage use by large banks should be restricted. "Fix the big things. Credit default swaps. Too big to fail. Leverage. Then worry about the details. And leave the Fed alone."
2010-04-07 The Municipal Market by Rick Bookstaber of Rick Bookstaber
The municipal bond market displays many of the problems that plagued the mortgage market leading up to the recent financial crisis. Just as homeowners took their income and locked it up via secondary loans, much of the tax base for municipalities is already mortgaged through the sale of tax-related revenue streams such as tolls and parking fees. And once a few municipalities default, there is risk of a widespread cascade in defaults because the taboo against bankruptcy will diminish, especially if there is a taxpayer revolt.
2010-04-07 When the Facts Change by Niels C. Jensen of Absolute Return Partners
An echo bubble is upon us. Echo bubbles are the children of primary asset bubbles, and emerge when monetary authorities respond to the bursting of a primary asset bubble by slashing policy rates. Extraordinarily low interest rates are currently encouraging another bout of excessive risk taking. If policymakers raised rates now, however, they would almost certainly kill the fledgling recovery. The pressure is therefore on monetary authorities to keep rates low and feed the new bubble. Investors should steer toward assets that benefit from high volatility.
2010-04-03 Is This a Recovery? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
"We will likely see a reduction in government spending (from all levels) over the next few years, a really nasty set of tax increases, which will hit small businessmen the hardest, and continued high unemployment, and all of it coming in a weakening economy by the end of the year," says John Mauldin. "I put the odds of a double-dip recession in 2011 at better than 50-50." Mauldin also offers asset allocation advice over a 10-year time frame.
2010-03-27 What Does Greece Mean to You? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The potential consequences of the Greece debt crisis can be explained by chaos theory, where a small perturbation in one place (the Greek economy) can cause bigger ripples in the global economy. Greek debt is held by European banks, and a Greek default would weaken the European economy. The real crisis, though, is the impending end of a "60-year debt supercycle," which implies many years of deleveraging and a weak global economy.
2010-03-22 The AIG Rescue: What Did We Bail Out and Why? by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
This article features a comment by Richard Alford, a former economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's foreign department. Alford notes that AIG is back in the news again for successfully negotiating the sale of two significant operating units. The Fed will receive partial payment for the sales in stock of the acquirer. This shows that both the Fed and U.S. taxpayers are still providing capital and taking risk to support the business activities of insurance subsidiaries of financially sound parenting companies operating abroad, a year and a half after the crisis hit.
2010-03-20 The Threat to Muddle Through by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin criticizes Krugman's call for a 25% tariff on Chinese imports, and instead predicts that China will allow its currency to appreciate 5-7% per year for the next several years. Protectionism, he says, is the biggest threat to global recovery. In defense of his argument, Mauldin says similar tariffs could be imposed if the euro, Yen and the Canadian dollar continue their current trends. The larger problem is the growing US deficit, which must be dealt with in the medium term, or there will be no long term.
2010-03-19 The Folly of Peer Group Analysis by Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates
The global financial crisis has led to a significant remake of the active manager opportunity set, but don’t let the ever-shifting sands of survivorship and backfill biased peer group returns fool you. Indexing is a smart bet. Importantly, if you want to be a “survivor,” remember the biases of peer groups because what may look like a smart active manager “alliance” could turn out to be a vote off the island of investment success…caveat emptor!
2010-03-18 Dollar: Beleaguered No More? by Komal Sri-Kumar of TCW Asset Management
After weakening for most of the past decade, the dollar has appreciated significantly against the euro and the pound sterling, the two major European currencies, over the past three months. This is due more to the weakness of European currencies than to the strength of the dollar. Fears of stagnation in Europe, uncertainties over upcoming U.K. elections, and concerns that Portuguese and Spanish debt sovereign may come under attack by hedge funds have all dragged on European currencies. Compared to this turbulence, the U.S. economy seems like a safe haven.
2010-03-16 The Trifecta - Okun's Law and Unemployment - Is the Law of Supply & Demand Obsolete? by Kendall J. Anderson of Anderson Griggs
Okun's law explains the relationship between unemployment and real output, and calculates the gap between real GDP and potential GDP. Based on current GDP growth forecasts, the law predicts a one-half percentage point decline in unemployment this year and a full-point decline in 2011. Despite very positive returns, however, investors continue to allocate to bonds instead of stocks. The laws of supply and demand tell us that this is unwise.
2010-03-16 Greeks Bearing Gifts by Michael Lewitt (Article)
We are again privileged to publish the most recent edition of Michael Lewitt's HCM Market Letter, Greeks Bearing Gifts. Lewitt comments on Goldman Sachs' derivative transactions that helped Greece hide its debt and its larger implications for the financial system, for the European periphery and for Spain in particular. Lewitt also addresses the state of decline of the US economy and other topics.
2010-03-15 On OTC Derivaties: Interview with Bill King by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
The Institutional Risk Analyst interviews Bill King, founder of Chicago-based derivatives firm M. Ramsey King Securities. Their conversation centers on a new report by the bankruptcy court examiner in the Lehman Brothers liquidation that provides another piece of evidence linking over-the-counter derivative structures and accounting fraud in the style of Enron and WorldCom. The IRA also examines the FDIC's recent bank securitization reform efforts, as well as the recent rally of CitiGroup, Barclay's and other large-cap financials.
2010-03-13 The Implications of Velocity by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin examines the relationship between the velocity of money, economic growth and inflation. After reviewing the economic theory, he shows that the velocity of money in the US has decreased since the onset of the financial crisis, and attributes this to deleveraging and the pullback from the financial innovations that accelerated the velocity of money, particularly in the 1990s. The Fed has compensated for the slowdown in velocity by increasing the money supply, and Mauldin questions whether the Fed can effectively reduce the money supply once velocity increases.
2010-03-11 going active by Tom Brakke of the research puzzle
A study by Martijn Cremers and Antii Petajitso makes a persuasive case for using active share as a benchmark for determining how active a fund manager is. It concludes that the most active managers, as measured by active share, deliver the best performance. In a way, this comes as no surprise. The popularity of hedge funds derives from their tendency to hold positions regardless of their presence in an index, and a less scientific view of mutual funds holds that good performance over time tends to come from managers who stand apart from what the rest of the market is doing.
2010-03-09 Modeling the Active versus Passive Debate by William Rafter (Article)
If you knew the returns for every stock one month in the future, you could construct a very impressive portfolio from the top performers. What's less obvious, as William Rafter shows in this guest contribution, is that you can improve on your results by holding those securities for less than a month. Rafter examines the implications of his finding for the active versus passive debate.
2010-03-06 Welcome to the Future by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin reflects on an executive program held by the Singularity University that he recently attended. He discusses the potential for new advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, water purification, biotechnology, and several other areas.
2010-02-26 The Multiplication of Money by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin begins with a review of the situation in Greece, highlighting recent social unrest, and concluding that the most likely resolution will be relief from the IMF. Next, he rejects recent reports that hedge funds will short the euro and cause it to decline relative to the dollar. He then argues that the reported expansion of M0, M1 and M2 money supply is inconsequential (for inflation), because it is more than offset by a decrease in the velocity of money.
2010-02-20 The Pain in Spain by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin examine the Greek crisis the the potential direction of the euro. Spain, he says, is a more threatening crisis because its debt is much greater than Greece's. "Pay attention to Greece and Spain and especially Japan over the next few years," he says. "Unless the US gets its fiscal house in order, we will be next."
2010-02-16 Boom and Bust by Michael Lewitt (Article)
The US and global economies are "trapped in a cycle of boom and bust as a result of fiscal and monetary policies from which there is no easy escape," says Michael Lewitt of Harch Capital Management. Lewitt believes the S&P will rally to 1,200-1,250, but says the long-term prognosis is "somewhere between grave and terminal." We are privileged to provide this excerpt from Lewitt's monthly newsletter and encourage our readers to subscribe to it directly.
2010-02-13 Between Dire and Disastrous by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin discusses the Greek debt crisis and the options for resolving it. A Greek default "would bankrupt the bulk of the European banking system," but that is unlikely, he says. He cites Niall Ferguson's recent article in the FT and argues that the Greek crisis is a precursor to other countries facing similar sovereign debt problems.
2010-02-09 Trust, Illusion, Values and the Death of 'Common Sense' by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
Heron Financial Group president David Edwards says the 6.9 percent decline in the S&P 500 since January 19 was a normal market correction, and he expects positive returns in the S&P by the end of the year. He proposes several regulatory reforms to discourage "negative sum" products and restore investor trust.
2010-02-08 Tweedy Browne: Cautious in the Short Term, Optimistic in the Long Term by Team of Tweedy Browne
Robert Huebscher recaps a recent webinar by investment firm Tweedy Browne. The company's four managing partners explained their focus on downside risk, expressed a preference for high-quality dividend-payer stocks and noted their emphasis on developed markets rather than emerging markets. The partners said they were optimistic about recovery in the long term, but cautious about the short term.
2010-02-08 The Regulatory Muddle Continues by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
Just when investors thought they knew what to expect in terms of financial regulation, the Obama administration proposes something new. In his latest article, “The Regulatory Muddle Continues,” Milton Ezrati, Lord Abbett Partner, Senior Economist and Market Strategist, compares and contrasts the House legislation with recent proposals from the White House and examines the impact on banks and lending.
2010-02-06 A Bubble in Search of a Pin by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin covers three topics. He digs into the employment numbers and concludes that it is a "mixed bag" - the numbers of unemployed rose but the unemployment rate declined. Looking at the Reinhart-Rogoff book, he argues that Fed policy makers were at fault for failing to recognize the housing bubble. Last, he discusses Greece's fiscal problems in a historical context.
2010-02-03 Obama's Recent Regulatory and Fiscal Proposals by Nouriel Roubini of RGE Monitor
Roubini supports the Obama administration’s regulatory policies (e.g, the Volcker Rule) and says the proposed budget will lead to a “sluggish and jobless” recovery. “Obama simply lacks the political support to implement aggressive fiscal reforms,” he says, adding that Obama’s political capital is likely to deteriorate after the 2010 elections.
2010-02-02 Change – The Only Constant by Christina Ho (Article)
The Institute for Private Investors serves families with over $50 million in assets. Their data show wealthy investors have increased their use of tactical asset allocation and are positioning their portfolios to defend against liquidity, concentration and inflation risk.
2010-01-30 This Time is Different by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin begins with an analysis of the reported Q4 GDP numbers, saying that it is not indicative of underlying growth in the economy. He then comments on the Reinhart-Rogoff book "This Time is Different," focusing on the point that governments can survive debt-fueled growth until confidence in them evaporates. He is discusses Greece's fiscal problems.
2010-01-28 Making Sense of Obama's Bank Reform Plans by Acharya & Richardson of VoxEU
Obama's sweeping proposal for financial regulation took the world by surprise. Here two of the world's leading professors of finance explain why it is step in the right direction from the standpoint
2010-01-26 Using Alternative Investments to Build a Stronger Portfolio by Robert M. Hussey (Article)
Traditional asset classes may no longer provide sufficient portfolio diversification, but there's a new wave of mutual funds that offer alternatives strategies previously available only to large institutions. Robert Hussey of Natixis Global Associates describes how alternative strategies can be used in a mutual fund package. We thank them for their sponsorship.
2010-01-25 The Volcker Rule & AIG: Hedge Funds and Prop Desks Are Not the Problem by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
“Neither prop trading nor the size of the largest banks are the causes of the financial crisis. Instead, opaque over-the-counter (OTC) markets, deliberately deceptive structured financial instruments
2010-01-25 A Blueprint for Financial Reform by John P. Hussman of Hussman Funds
Hussman’s commentary falls into four sections: (1) an 8-step “blueprint” for financial reform, in response to Obama’s proposed bank regulations; (2) a tongue-in-cheek plan for how to spend $1.5 trilli
2010-01-22 Policy Incompetence by Charles Lieberman (Article)
While the objective [of President Obama's proposed bank regulatory policy] is laudable and the financial system is in need of new regulations to protect it more effectively, the proposed approach i
2010-01-22 Thoughts on the End Game by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
"As for financial markets, we have come full circle to the concept of financial fragility in economies with massive indebtedness. All too often, periods of heavy borrowing can take place in a bubbl
2010-01-21 Breakfast with Dave: Market Musings and Data Deciphering by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
In my view, three years after the detonation in residential real estate, it is still all about housing. And it will be interesting to see how the markets handle (i) a near-term renewed decline in the
2010-01-16 When the Fed Stops the Music by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Some time in the coming few years the bond markets of the world will be tested. Normally a deleveraging cycle would be deflationary and lower interest rates would be the outcome. But in the face of su
2010-01-12 Regulatory Refinement by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
Now at the start of a new year, Congress is debating regulatory legislation that will shape the financial landscape for years to come. In his latest article, “Regulatory Refinement,” Milton Ezrati, L
2010-01-09 2010 Forecast: The Year of Uncertainty by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
"This will be my tenth annual forecast issue. Time has flown by, and I enter a new decade of writing Thoughts from the Frontline. And even as I write about the high level of uncertainty of the curr
2010-01-08 4th Quarter Commentary - Investing Proactively Without Predictions by Team of Partnervest Advisory Services
\"\'If you’re going to predict,\' an anonymous economist famously quipped, \'predict often.\' 2009 by all accounts was a good year. The S&P500 gained 23.4%. Emerging ma
2010-01-06 Psychology of why investors 'Buy High/Sell Low,' and how to avoid that trap! by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
2009-12-19 The Age of Deleveraging by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
2009-11-24 Interview: Brian McMahon of Thornburg Investments by Robert Huebscher (Article)
We speak with Brian McMahon, CEO and CIO of Thornburg Investment Management about the Thornburg Income Builder Fund (TIBAX) and the challenges of finding income-producing securities in today's markets.
2009-11-10 Roubini: Fed Policies are Destabilizing the Financial System by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Nouriel Roubini, the once-obscure economist who gained celebrity and the title "Dr. Doom" after correctly forecasting the financial crisis, believes that current Fed policies are destabilizing the markets and pushing the economy toward another collapse.
2009-11-10 Not by Return Alone: Judging Investment Performance by Adam Jared Apt (Article)
In the latest installment of his articles intended for an educated layman, Adam Apt addresses the relationship between risk and return, and shows that the connection between them is neither rigid nor obvious, and that we can be cheated of our money by disregarding risk and fixating only on return.
2009-11-03 Absolutely … Maybe by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Since Putnam introduced its absolute return funds earlier this year, over 4,200 advisors and $650 million in assets have flocked to the new financial products. Putnam's four funds seek to beat inflation by 100, 300, 500 and 700 basis points, and their performance over their first nine months (3.1%, 6.4%, 8.4% and 12.2%, respectively) was encouraging for their investors. Impressive as those results may be, the question is whether they are sustainable.
2009-10-27 Letters to the Editor – Fama-French and the Active-Passive Debate Redux by Various (Article)
Last week, two active management proponents responded to our article, Luck vs. Skill in Mutual Fund Alpha Estimates, on the latest research from Ken French and Gene Fama. This week, a reader takes on one of those responses and Michael Edesess, author of our article, says the debate between active and passive management is really a sidelight to the real issue - which is excessive fees.
2009-10-20 Letters to the Editor - Fama-French and the Active-Passive Debate by Various (Article)
Last week's article, Luck vs. Skill in Mutual Fund Alpha Estimates, on the latest research from Ken French and Gene Fama drew plenty of responses. We publish two of them, both in support of active management.
2009-09-22 The Financial Market Solution to Carbon Emissions by Robert Huebscher (Article)
While health care remains the hot topic on Capitol Hill, another piece of legislation is poised to gain similar attention. Regulating carbon emissions to address the threat of global warning is a top priority of the Obama administration, and its favored approach is to create a "cap-and-trade" market. John Parsons, an expert in the field, explains how this financial market solution might work.
2009-09-15 The 'Cash For Clunkers' Economy by Michael Lewitt (Article)
We are once again privileged to offer the latest edition of the HCM Market Letter, edited by Michael Lewitt, titled The 'Cash for Clunkers' Economy. Lewitt examines the drivers behind the current market rally, the health of the banking system and the housing industry, the the future for derivatives regulation. If you enjoy this newsletter, we encourage you to subscribe directly though the link provided with our article.
2009-09-01 Politics and Fund Managers by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Those readers who would like to know whether to invest with Democrat or Republican fund managers finally have some guidance, thanks to a new academic study. We report the results, along with a host of reasons why you shouldn't read too much into this data. We also provide the names of the top fund manager donors to each party over the period from 1992 to 2006.
2009-08-18 Actively Managed TIPS? by Robert Huebscher (Article)
When PIMCO talks, the market listens. But we mustn't forget that the bulk of PIMCO's revenue comes from actively managing bond portfolios so, when they claim that alpha can be earned by actively managing TIPS, a healthy dose of scrutiny is warranted. Our article shows why that scrutiny is justified.
2009-08-18 A Crash Course in Investing Six Lessons from the Market Meltdown by Dougal Williams, CFA (Article)
The market decline from October 2007 to early March 2009 was the worst since the late 1930's. Stocks dropped 60%, investor uncertainty skyrocketed, and trust and confidence were shattered. The age-old rules for personal investing are now being questioned: Is Buy-and-Hold dead? Has Asset Allocation outlived its usefulness? Does Diversification still work? In this guest contribution, Dougal Williams provides answers to these questions that can serve as a guide for long-term investment success.
2009-08-18 Turbulence Can Improve Portfolio Diversification by Susan B. Weiner, CFA (Article)
Classic diversification has failed, Mark Kritzman says, because traditional, independent measures of volatility and correlation don't provide enough information to indicate which portfolios will deliver the lower risk or higher returns that, at least theoretically, should come with investing in imperfectly correlated asset classes. Kritzman offers the concept of turbulence as an alternative way to approach diversification, and provides his latest research on the subject.
2009-08-11 At the Risk of Repeating Ourselves by Michael Lewitt (Article)
We have said before that Michael Lewitt's newsletter is a must-read, and this edition is no exception. Lewitt questions whether we are witnessing a summer calm before the storm, comments on the secured and unsecured debt asset classes, and opines on the abuses of unregulated dark pools of capital. We encourage you to subscribe to this valuable publication through the link we provide.
2009-08-04 Uncovering the Mayhem in 2008 in the TIPS Market by Robert Huebscher (Article)
In an interview two weeks ago, Yale Endowment manager David Swensen singled out TIPS as the best way to protect against inflationary and deflationary scenarios. We review a comprehensive study of the history of the inflation-indexed bond market, including an explanation for the extreme volatility in TIPS last year.
2009-07-28 Flaws in the Case Shiller Methodology by Robert Huebscher (Article)
To forecast economic growth, it's essential to understand the trajectory of the housing market. Most observers rely on widely publicized data like the Case Shiller index, but those metrics can be very misleading if you don't understand how they are calculated. If you don't understand that there are factors beyond Case and Shiller's control that impact the data, according to John Burns, the founder and CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting, a 20-person firm based in Irvine, California.
2009-07-14 Behavioral Finance – A Three-Part Model for Client Relationships by Susan B. Weiner, CFA (Article)
Behavioral finance can improve your client relationships during market turmoil, if you recognize your clients' emotional right-brained reactions before you offer insights based on your analytical left-brained analysis. By applying a three-pronged process of Recognize-Reflect-Respond, you can adapt to new information in a thoughtful and effective framework.
2009-05-19 David Swensen's Ascent by Mebane Faber (Article)
Mebane Faber provides an excerpt from his new book, The Ivy Portfolio, on the ascent of David Swensen and the development of the tools employed to manage Yale's endowment. Faber shows the data Swensen used to determine Yale's aggressive allocation to alternative asset classes.