I thought I’d share this interesting little hedge that I’d considered a few weeks ago but never made (unfortunately). A trader friend of mine mentioned in December that I take a look at the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) if I wanted to hedge my portfolio. He was right. Here’s how it played out.
The western world is finally ‘recovering’ from the greatest recession since the 1930s. Many parallels have been drawn with the 1929 crash over the last few years, including politicians citing ‘lessons learnt’ from how lawmakers reacted in the 1930s and why this time, it’s different. We are now 6 years since the bottom of the stock market crash in 2009, and an unprecedented amount of money has been added to the economy, with little overall impact on inflation. I usually don’t focus too much on the macro when it comes to investing, but I find a brief look back to 1937 tells an interesting tale and may give us a clue as to what the future holds.
I’m sure by now most have heard that Buffett’s latest letter to shareholders has been released. If you haven’t read it, you have probably already read articles on it. So I wanted to post here some quotes from which I drew some subtle implications that others may not have picked up on when reading.
As “investors”, we like to think we have some inherent advantage over most people in the market, which is made up of traders and short term thinkers. We think of ourselves as the rational ones who keep a level head and objective approach even in the midst of fear and crisis. Books like the Intelligent Investor by Ben Graham, and gurus such as Warren Buffett make out like the market as a whole is irrational, disregards company fundamentals and can be taken advantage of. But there is an important point which is easy to miss among this self congratulatory rhetoric, and that is that Mr Market, far from being incompetent, is usually right. It is only on occasion that he is irrational and will offer you the proverbial $1 for 50 cents. In this article I’m going to explore what the ‘short interest’ in a stock tells you from the perspective of going long (i.e. it’s not about shorting stocks).
There was once a time when a moat was one of the best defenses of a castle. It slowed down attacking troops or bottle-necked them into a narrow route of attack. However times change, and nowadays with the advent of both artillery and aircraft a moat has little use. Such is the way with competitive “moats” in business; what was once insurmountable suddenly becomes insignificant. I was reminded at the weekend of one of my favorite shops growing up – Argos ($HOME.L), a UK catalogue retailer, and began thinking about its once great moat. Unlike most catalogue retailers, Argos had physical stores where you would buy their products, rather than ordering over the phone. You would also pick up a catalogue to take home and browse through at your leisure when looking for gift ideas or something you needed. Most houses contained an Argos catalogue and back in the day, if you suddenly realized you needed something, whether it was while cooking, seeing an advert on TV etc, you would usually go first to the catalogue and check out how much it was. But that moat didn’t last forever and here are two big things in the future that I think will destroy lots of company moats in a similar way.
Mathematics is often thought of as a difficult subject, and as a graduate of Mathematics I can certainly testify to its complexity at a high level and at times mind-boggling abstractness. Investing requires mastery of very few Mathematical concepts, and those are mainly simple ones such as percentages and annualized growth rates. But the danger in Mathematics is not from a persons inability to use more advanced techniques, it is from a failure to comprehend the true implications of deceptively simple concepts. Here are some interesting examples of how simple Math can yield unexpected results.
The readership of this blog is quite varied both in geographical terms, but also I think in investment experience. Many people that manage their own money don’t actually have any formal qualifications in finance. So I’m sure many readers will respond the same way I did some time ago when I asked a friend what was he doing his Masters dissertation on and he replied ‘Dark pools’ – by pulling a confused grimace. I think it’s worth introducing these dark pools to those of you that know little or nothing about them.
This week is all about independence in the UK. Scotland votes on Thursday over whether it wants to become an independent country or not. Both sides of the campaign have been releasing “information” [read: propaganda] about what independence means for Scotland and also the UK. Leaving aside my personal views on the politics, I believe that independence will be incredibly damaging economically to Scotland in the short term and that will have knock on effects for the UK and hence my portfolio. I believe that the ‘Yes’ campaign is deceiving a lot of people, blinding them to the harsh reality that independence will bring. I have no objection to independence, I just think people should know what they are voting for. Here are my random thoughts on the consequences and how to profit from any market turmoil via options.
One of Warren Buffett’s favorite bits of advice to the average person is for them to invest a dollar amount each month into a passive index tracker fund. The wisdom behind it is simple – the average mutual fund manager under-performs the index and the average person can’t separate the great managers from the poor. The advice seems to have finally sunk in, the proportion of assets in passive funds has almost doubled in the last 10 years and now stands at 21% in the USA. That is projected to keep rocketing over the next 10 years.
But it is becoming obvious to me, that this liberation of the people from the oppression of greedy fund managers is coming at a cost – to shareholder power and activism.
An update on my portfolio: I have bought a new position in a GDR listed in London, as well as anticipating an exit in a couple of positions, share prices permitting. I’ve also been reflecting on some of my investment decisions and where I am getting into bad habits.