Perhaps more than any other time in the last six decades, the fate of markets is inextricably intertwined with the ebb and flow of geopolitics. From the ECB's attempts to use the central bank's balance sheet to influence political outcomes across the eurozone to Saudi Arabia's efforts to transform the kingdom's influence over crude prices into an instrument of foreign policy, it's become increasingly clear that one simply cannot fully comprehend market movements without a thorough understanding of concurrent political outcomes. Drawing on extensive experience in both politics and finance, Heisenberg will help demystify a world in which investors can no longer hope to conceptualize markets as existing in anything that even approximates a vacuum. "I am the one who knocks."
I spent my professional life – more than 45 years – working for and with large well-known investment management and investment banking firms. I’ve served at various times as an analyst, portfolio manager, senior investment executive, senior business executive and corporate director. On the buy side, the firms I worked for managed and sold mutual funds to retail investors and separate account investment management in a broad array of investment disciplines to large pension, endowment, public employee and other institutional investors. On the sell side, I’ve been associated with a substantial investment bank offering corporate finance, M&A and institutional research to corporate clients.
I spent many years as Chairman of the Investment Committee of a large non-profit. Our portfolio was invested globally and my Committee’s responsibilities included hiring (and, occasionally, firing) consulting and portfolio performance measurement firms and, more importantly, hiring (and, more than occasionally, firing) institutional investment managers who managed portions of our overall portfolio. We used both active and passive managers.
My personal approach to investing is based on my professional experiences. A few of a very large list of guiding principles are:
• There is only one relevant measure of investment performance. It is the risk-adjusted performance of an overall portfolio compared to its pre-established benchmark over a reasonable period of time. Most plan sponsors will not hire a manager with a performance record shorter than 5 years. After hiring a manager, they look at performance on much shorter time frames. Portfolios that generate profits – but less than their benchmarks – are failures.
• Generating Alpha is the sine qua non of professional active investment managers and their clients. It is incredibly difficult to achieve, especially after transaction and management fees are included.
• Passive (i.e. index) portfolios don’t care about Alpha. Typically they care about “Tracking Error”. Passive funds have tiny costs (“friction”) so they can get very close to zero tracking error. But, as long as they trade at all or charge any fees at all or run the portfolio by sampling or need to rebalance because of cash flows in or out the tracking error will never actually reach zero.
• For most people and institutions – including me – the path to investment success is to focus hard on asset allocation, then buy low cost/low tracking error index funds for each of the categories you choose. On the other hand, everyone knows, especially people who read Seeking Alpha, researching and buying/shorting individual stocks or -- at the institutional level -- hiring or firing active managers is much more fun!
• Personally, I drink my own Kool-Aid. About 90% of my portfolio is invested using low cost index funds to execute on a carefully considered asset allocation focused on multiple broad sectors of worldwide markets. I rebalance about annually. But, I spend a wildly disproportionate amount of time researching and investing (long or short) in typically less than a handful of stocks I find interesting, and I do each one with enough money that I really care about how it works out.
• John Bogle was right. Years ago he created Vanguard on the principle that expense ratios matter. In aggregate, all investors' activities add up to average, by definition. And, it is unbelievably difficult to be above average.
• Relatedly... • In today’s usage, a “Hedge Fund” is generally a misnomer. When they were originally created, hedge funds had specific investment objectives and styles. Today, the closest style to a real "hedge fund" would be describes as "long/short equity". In today’s usage, “Hedge Fund” refers to a pricing structure. It is applied to any fund with any objective invested in any assets that is organized as a limited partnership and charges clients both a management fee and a carried interest in realized profits. These days, the management fee is ausually 1-1/2 to 2%, plus a carried interest for the manager, typically about 20%. The shorthand for the pricing structure is “2 and 20” or "1-1/2 and 20". In earlier days 1/15 was more common. This explanation is this profile because it is my view that it is unbelievably difficult, as a client, to earn an above average return when paying such enormous fees. But, plan sponsors continue to do it – so maybe I’m wrong.
• I have never met (or even heard of) a short-term trader who has had more than momentary success. Individuals engaged in short-term trading (vs investing) who claim long-term success have selective memories – eagerly talking about their winners and forgetting about their losers – and have never subjected their long term investment record to mathematical analysis. Institutional firms can't get away with that as they need to publish all their performance numbers.
• Similarly, I have never met (or even heard of) a professional or individual investor who has had long-term success by market-timing.
• Investing is fundamentally a batting average game. Long term, the best – not the average, but the best – professional institutional investors are successful on their individual stock picks around 55% of the time. Of course, that means they are unsuccessful about 45% of the time.
• I drink that Kool-Aid too. When I buy or short individual stocks, I do careful research first. Once I've made an investment, I spend almost all my time focusing on factors that could prove I’m wrong!
• When it comes to investments, I am a classic “on the other hand” thinker, and, therefore, please understand that everything I write on SA is caveated with the ending quote from any of Dennis Miller’s famous rants: "...of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong."
• Enormous self-confidence – almost arrogance – and, at the same time, enormous humility are required to be successful as an active investor! You have to have serious conviction about an investment to put up your money. But, deep down you have to remember that, by definition, investing and the future are uncertain.
• Money moves markets. Bull markets are most often driven by loose monetary and fiscal policies. Bear markets are most often driven by tight monetary and fiscal policies.
• Too much leverage stretching for extra return has caused every major financial crisis I’ve ever lived through or studied.
• Flexibility is a hallmark of great investors.
• It really IS true that Past Performance Does Not Guarantee Future Results.
• There are innumerable investment-oriented aphorisms and maxims that I believe have just enough truth in them that I repeat them when appropriate. Here is a very tiny sample:
o Don’t confuse wisdom with a bull market.
o Don’t fight the tape.
o Don’t fight the Fed.
o Most of the time, the market -- especially in big stocks -- is right.
o It's good to be right for the right reasons, but it's more important to be right.
o The first rule of making money is: don't to lose it! After a loss (realized or not) the mathematics of breaking even are daunting. If you lose 50% on an investment, you have to make a 100% gain on that or something else just to break even. If you lose just 33% on something, that, or something else, has to go up by 50% to break even.
o More money has been lost in the search for high yield (or return) than in all the financial scandals in history.
o Sometimes, the return OF principal is much more important than the return ON principal.
o Bulls make money and Bears make money, but Pigs get slaughtered.
There are lots and lots more of these!
All of the opinions and perspectives I express on Seeking Alpha are my own and in no way reflect the opinions or perspectives of any business with which I am currently associated.
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I started writing for Seeking Alpha in early 2012. With an interest in both fundamental and technical analysis, and a strong belief that both should be used when investing, I try to incorporate both in the bulk of my articles.
My goal is to bring a fresh viewpoint to the table on the equities I cover. I'm always "learning." Never stop! I encourage readers to do the same! I believe you can learn a lot from the 30 year veterans, but even the veterans must keep an open mind to the new guy. Each remains closed minded at their own peril.
I am a Portuguese independent trader, analyst and algorithmic trading expert, having worked for both sell side (brokerage) and buy side (fund management) institutions.
I've been trading professionally for about 20 years and also launched www.thinkfn.com in 2004. Thinkfn (Think Finance) carries thousands of educational articles on finance and the markets.
I trade futures, stocks from the long and short side, forex and options. I trade both discretionary and fully automated systems (Metatrader, Quantshare and others).
I can be reached at paulo.santosATthinkfn.com or followed on Twitter at twitter.com/ThinkFinance999
Daniel Moore is the creator of FinancialRelativity.com, a web portal created for the purpose of tracking the status of financial markets and providing investment analysis and portfolio management insights to investors. Based on the systematic investment research, he writes about the market and publishes his views through internet market publications. He has over 25 years of management experience in corporate finance in a variety of high technology start-ups and public companies. A graduate of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 1988, he has spent the last 10 years managing investment portfolios seeking high risk reward returns for fixed income investors.
I have been an independent investor and trader in the Forex, Stock Market, and Commodity markets for 10 years. I also serve as the managing director of a charitable fund.
Follow me on Twitter @spollack10
Whitney Tilson is the founder and Managing Partner of Kase Capital Management, which manages three value-oriented hedge funds. Mr. Tilson is also the co-founder of Value Investor Insight, an investment newsletter.
Mr. Tilson has co-authored two books, The Art of Value Investing: How the World's Best Investors Beat the Market (2013) and More Mortgage Meltdown: 6 Ways to Profit in These Bad Times (2009), was one of the authors of Poor Charlie’s Almanack, the definitive book on Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, and has written for Forbes, the Financial Times, Kiplinger’s, the Motley Fool and TheStreet.com. He was featured in two 60 Minutes segments in December 2008 about the housing crisis (which won an Emmy) and in March 2015 about Lumber Liquidators. He served for two years on the Board of Directors of Cutter & Buck, which designs and markets upscale sportswear, until the company was sold in early 2007.
Mr. Tilson received an MBA with High Distinction from the Harvard Business School, where he was elected a Baker Scholar (top 5% of class), and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, with a bachelor’s degree in Government.
Mr. Tilson spent much of his childhood in Tanzania and Nicaragua (his parents are both educators, were among the first couples to meet and marry in the Peace Corps, and have retired in Kenya). Consequently, Mr. Tilson is involved with a number of charities focused on education reform and Africa. For his philanthropic work, he received the 2008 John C. Whitehead Social Enterprise Award from the Harvard Business School Club of Greater New York. He is a member and past Chairman of the Manhattan chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Mr. Tilson lives in Manhattan with his wife and three teenage daughters.
Chris DeMuth Jr. is the founder of Rangeley Capital LLC. Rangeley is an investment firm that focuses on event driven, value-oriented investment opportunities. Rangeley Capital and his value investing forum, Sifting the World (StW), search the world for misplaced bets. Rangeley exploits them for its investors and then Mr. DeMuth writes about them on StW.
The Parsimony community is made up of thousands of do-it-yourself dividend and income investors working toward one common goal...generating consistent income!
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Our research (which includes dividend stock rankings, single stock Buy Zone reports, stock screens, and model portfolios) will give you all the tools you need to build and monitor your own DIY Dividend Portfolio and super charge that portfolio with conservative option strategies (cover calls and cash-secured puts).
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I am an activist investor in US and Chinese stocks. I was previously an investment banker in New York Hong Kong and London for 9 years, focused on Equity Capital Markets. I look at both long ideas and short ideas and typically focus on a small number on names where I can spend the time to conduct very deep research. I spend my time living between Los Angeles and Beijing, China.
Jake Huneycutt is a former Portfolio Manager. Jake holds an MBA degree with a concentration in finance from Emory University. He earned a Master of Accounting degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his B.A. in History from East Tennessee State University. Jake is originally from Johnson City, TN and currently resides in Atlanta, GA.
I am the founder and director of three companies: Euro Pacific Capital (www.europac.net), a full service, registered broker-dealer and RIA which specializes in foreign securities; Euro Pacific Precious Metals (www.europacmetals.com), a gold & silver coin and bullion dealer; and Euro Pacific Asset Management (www.europacificfunds.com), a fund management company that is building a family of mutual funds based on my economic philosophy.
I am most well-known for accurately and publicly predicting the collapse of the housing and credit markets, the subprime crisis, and the increasing price of gold relative to the US dollar, resulting in the viral YouTube video "Peter Schiff Was Right."
I fly around the country and the world speaking to diverse groups, from academic conferences to Tea Party rallies. I have also appeared regularly on cable news stations since the mid-2000s trying to warn people of the impending economic collapse brought on by destructive fiscal and economic policy in Washington.
To that end, I published my first book, "Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse," in early 2007, predicting the 2008 economic crisis while the mainstream commentators were saying it was impossible. Then, at the height of the crisis, I released "The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets," in which I showed readers how to help protect their finances in turbulent times. I've written updated versions of both Crash Proof and The Little Book since then, talking about how my predictions fared and why the worst of the crash is still ahead of us. I also wrote a book with my brother based on a popular comic book my dad wrote in the '70s. "How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes" is an illustrated fable that starts with three guys on an island and uses allegory to explain exactly how we got into our current mess.
In the 2010 election season, I ran for the US Senate seat of retiring Senator Chris Dodd in my home state of Connecticut in order to bring attention to the mounting problems in this country. While I did not win the seat, my message of fiscal and monetary sanity was brought to a new audience of voters and political leaders.
I've had a regular video blog on YouTube since 2009, called The Schiff Report (www.youtube.com/user/SchiffReport) and, after giving up my long-running Wall Street Unspun podcast, I am now the host of a nightly radio show called The Peter Schiff Show (www.schiffradio.com).
David Fry writes a subscription newsletter focused on technical analysis of exchange-traded funds, called ETF Digest (www.etfdigest.com). Dave founded the ETF Digest in 2001 and was among the very first to see the need for a publication that provided individual investors with information and actionable advice on global ETF investing.
We particularly like the overview of financial markets that his work provides. Even if you're not a fan of chart analysis, Dave provides insight and commentary into which global markets are "working" and why.
Specializing as a market strategist and tactician, Fry focuses on evaluating, creating and implementing a variety of ETF portfolios for individual investors and financial professionals. His philosophy and approach incorporates fundamental with technical analysis in pursuit of risk management and capital preservation especially during uncertain and volatile times.
His new eBook, The Best ETFs: U.S. Equities,is now available on Amazon Kindle. Written as a cheat sheet to only the best ETFs for you or your client’s portfolios. For those that don't have a Kindle, you can purchase the pdf here: The Best ETFs: US Equities [https://gumroad.com/l/The%20Best%20ETFs]