The Investment Scientist

Archive for the ‘Economics & Markets’ Category

Image2013 has been a stellar year for stocks. As of today, the S&P 500 is up more than 25%. There are about ten trading days left and barring unforeseen circumstance, the index will end the year in the 20+% range.

A few of my clients are concerned; with the market doing so well this year, what does that bode for 2014? Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, so all I can do is to look at historical data to make an imperfect reference.

To answer the question, I asked my intern Nahae Kim to do a study of the relationship of immediately subsequent year returns. Specifically, can one year return predict the next year?

Firm | Youtube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Newsletter

Read the rest of this entry »

ImageThat was a message I got from a new client of mine. I must admit, it really bites. Yes, I sold his Apple stock. And yes, since then the price has gone up 15%. So of course, I can understand he’s upset and beginning to question whether I know what I am doing.

Having studied improvisational comedy, I’m aware that regardless of how I feel, it is wise to always validate others’ feelings. So I replied, “Yes, I should have asked you before I sold it.”

Afterward, I sent him some data to mull over.

Nasdaq just crawled its way back to 4000 a few days ago, and this time Apple is the biggest and hottest stock in the Nasdaq 100.

Last time when Nasdaq passed 4000, the top ten tech stocks (try saying that ten times fast) were, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Qualcom, Oracle, JDSU, Nextel, Sun Micro, Veritas and MCI Worldcom.

Since the last time Nasdaq passed 4000, Microsoft has gone down 34%, Cisco 59%, Intel 53%, Qualcomm, the only up stock in the group, has gone up 25%, Oracal has gone down 67%, JDSU 98% and the remaining four are no longer in business; they were either merged out of existence or end ignominiously.

Firm | Youtube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Newsletter

Read the rest of this entry »

images-42It is exceedingly difficult for mutual funds to beat market indexes. For the past decade, Standard and Poor’s has methodologically documented returns by mutual funds and what they found is something those fund managers do not want you to know: the majority of mutual funds under-performed their respective indexes literally every single time.

Here is an infographic published by MoneySense, a Canadian financial magazine, that shows 90% of Canadian money managers under-performed the market index in 2012; I can assure you that US money managers are doing no better.

                                      FundManagers

JingToday I went to listen to Professor Jing of Renmin University speaking about US – China relations. The last time I went to listen to the same subject, it was Professor Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago speaking. His theory predicts that the US and China will come into conflict inevitably. I was curious to hear a Chinese perspective.

When I told Professor Jing about Dr. Mearsheimer’s theory and prediction, I was surprised to learn that the two professors are friends. In fact, Dr. Mearsheimer teaches at Dr. Jing’s Renmin University as a visiting scholar.

Dr. Jing does not agree with Professor Mearsheimer’s theory and prediction.

He does however agree that the rivalry between China and the US will intensify in coming years. In his words, “This is structural.” No matter how hard the leaders of the two nations try, the most powerful nation on earth and the second most powerful will always be suspicious of each other.

However, Professor Jing believes this rivalry need not result in open conflict. “Both the US and China are nuclear states. Should war break out between us, only cockroaches will survive.”

Firm | Youtube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Newsletter

Read the rest of this entry »

Image

One very very sharp reader of my blog sent an email to me, and here is what it said:

Aren’t these 2 philosophies opposites of each other? If the market prices correctly based on all available information, how can the stock price be different from the expected dividend? Aren’t these 2 prize winning economists speaking in opposites?

Firm | Youtube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Newsletter

Read the rest of this entry »

ImageAs far as investment philosophy is concerned, I am solidly in the camp of Nobel Prize winner Eugene Fama and Vanguard founder Jack Bogle. They both believe that the market is by and large efficient, and there is no point in picking stocks.

Most of my money is in broad-based passively managed asset class funds, but I do set aside 5% just to have some fun with and right now I only have three stocks in my fun account.

Safeway

I bought SWY last November after going to the Chicago Booth Entrepreneur Advisory Meeting. From the meeting, I learned that big retailers routinely write off their inventory at a huge loss. The reason being that they can not control demands as they have little information about the needs of the individual consumer, though they can usually make a rough guess on aggregate needs.

I noticed my wife had been shopping at Safeway more and more. After a little digging, I found out Safeway had set up a technology system to track each individual’s needs and price sensitivities. Then it can make targeted offers to shoppers like my wife that unfailingly brought her back over and over. I recalled my earlier meeting and realized they would save tons of money just from better inventory management.

Firm | Youtube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Newsletter

Read the rest of this entry »

ImageIt really caught me by surprise when Eugene Fama, the newly minted Nobel laureate in Economics said: “It doesn’t matter that much.” when speaking about investing outside of the US.

OK sure, I can understand his point. Why invest outside of the US when the US markets already account of 40% of world capitalization? “The U.S. market is so well-diversified already that combining it with global markets doesn’t really matter,” so said Fama.

However, I think it actually does matter ….

Proportionally, the US market is getting smaller. Right after the second world war, the US market accounted for 70% of world capitalization, now it only accounts for 40%. For a country that boasts only 5% of of the world’s population, this is still exceptionally high.

For the foreseeable future, there are better than even odds that the combined markets outside of the US will grow faster than the US market will do alone. Why forego those opportunities?

The diversification benefit you’d get is certainly not negligible either. During the so-called ‘lost decade’ of 2000 to 2009, the US market, as measured by the S&P 500, had a net loss of 9.1%, while international developed markets went up by an anemic 12.4%, but emerging markets went up by a whopping 154.3%.

It would have made a bog difference if you have a piece of emerging markets in your portfolio.

Firm | Youtube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Newsletter

Request White Paper | Request Discovery Meeting


Author

Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.

Twitter: @mzhuang

Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.

Archives

%d bloggers like this: