Posts Tagged ‘Groupthink’
Sunday, July 29th, 2012
Challenging the Paradigms of Investing
By Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer, U.S. Global Investors
It’s been an exciting and educational time this week. I’ve been in Vancouver at the Agora Financial Investment Symposium speaking to hundreds of investors who are eager to learn how to grow and protect their wealth. This year’s theme, “Innovate or Die,” fit well with my presentation, as the conference challenged attendees to adapt their investment strategies just as empires and enterprises adjust to changing circumstances.
When I wasn’t behind the podium, I was sitting with the audience, soaking up new ideas from speakers, including Gloom Boom & Doom Editor Marc Faber, historian Niall Ferguson and Editor of Outstanding Investments Byron King, who surprised me and challenged my current way of thinking.
Back at the office, our analysts and portfolio managers continue their daily meetings as always to discuss and digest the mountains of research that cross our desks each day. We question what we read, analyze statistics and hypothesize on what we see happening across the global economy. As much as emotions and biases take a role in investing, our goal is to make decisions not based on groupthink that discourages creativity, but founded on a collective wisdom that encourages critical evaluation of the economy and markets.
Global investors constantly need to be watchful of individual biases, impaired thinking and emotional reactions that can have an adverse effect on a portfolio. That’s why we created this weekly Investor Alert which thousands of readers have come to rely on. One of our values at U.S. Global Investors is to always be curious to learn and improve, and the Investor Alert was borne from a belief that shareholders want to understand the very subtle nuances of biases and misconceptions.
My presentation attempted to address a few cognitive dissonances I see in the markets these days and I was pleased to have several attendees approach me afterward, remarking how they thought differently after seeing the slides.
As much as I’d love to share all of the visuals here, in the interest of space, I selected only a few that I believe challenge the paradigms of investing.
1. For all the hype over recent tech initial public offerings, did you know that investors have lost more money in Groupon and Facebook than the entire assets in all of the gold funds? With the endless coverage leading up to Groupon and Facebook’s IPO, the stocks appeared to be positioned to the public as a mainstream investment. However, I believe people were unaware of the risks involved when they purchased shares.
As you can see below, since its price peak on November 4 through July 26, Groupon has lost $15 billion in market capitalization. Facebook has lost even more in dollar value in a shorter amount of time: From its intraday high on May 18 through July 26, the market cap of the company has dropped $34 billion. These losses pale in comparison to all the money invested in gold funds in the U.S. combined.
2. Did you know that the overall market has historically been more volatile than gold? Take a look at the rolling 1-, 3- and 12-month volatility for the S&P 500 Index, Bank of America stock, gold bullion and gold equities. As with any investment, price action over the short term can rise and fall, but what surprises many investors is that gold has had less rolling volatility than the overall market, gold stocks and a big bank stock like Bank of America (BAC). In fact, looking over the past five years, BAC has seen more volatility than gold, the overall market and gold stocks!
3. While Warren Buffett bashed gold, did you know that Berkshire Hathaway has underperformed the metal over the last 10 years? Gold has been on an incredible bull run over the past decade, and while Berkshire Hathaway kept pace for the first six years, it has struggled to maintain gold’s rise since 2006. In his last shareholder letter, Buffett dismissed gold, comparing the rise of the yellow metal to the tulip mania in the 1600s and claiming that gold only “enjoys maximum popularity at peaks of fear.”
As long as I’ve been in this business, there have been naysayers who question the inclusion of gold in portfolios. However, because the precious metal typically is not highly correlated with other financial assets, holding a small allocation—5 to 10 percent—in a traditional portfolio of stocks and bonds has historically added diversification and reduced volatility.
4. In today’s low yield environment, did you know that inflation causes investors of Treasuries to lose money? Treasuries are seen as a “safe haven” investment, but as of the middle of July, the 10-Year Treasury had fallen to less than 1.5 percent. Yet inflation burns off at a rate of 1.7 percent. This leaves investors with a loss of about 0.2 percent. I believe better opportunities exist.
As I’ve discussed recently, there are plenty of dividend-paying resources stocks with yields much higher than the 10-year Treasury, as well as municipal bond funds that have a higher 30-day SEC yield on a tax-equivalent basis than long-term Treasuries.
Always Be Surprised
Among the millions of people around the world who will watch London’s Olympics, many will stay glued to their flat screens to see firsthand the element of surprise. We want to see the rising star who was considered the underdog, the athlete who takes a record number of gold medals or the team that pulls off an unexpected win. These are memorable moments in the making, like track and field star Jesse Owens, who changed history when he overcame adversity and infuriated the Nazis when he won four gold medals during the 1936 Games. Just like the Olympics, I encourage investors to always stay curious and watchful because you never know where the market’s opportunities will be.
Tags: Adverse Effect, Biases, Chief Investment Officer, Collective Wisdom, Critical Evaluation, Doom Editor, Educational Time, Emotional Reactions, Financial Investment, Frank Holmes, Global Economy, Groupthink, Investment Strategies, Investment Symposium, Investor Alert, Marc Faber, Outstanding Investments, Portfolio Managers, Subtle Nuances, U S Global Investors
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Monday, April 23rd, 2012
It appears that when it comes to mocking consensus groupthink emanating from lazy career ‘financiers’ who seek protection from their lack of imagination and original thought, ‘creation’ of negative alpha and general underperformance (not to mention reliance on rating agencies, only to jump at the first opportunity to demonize the clueless raters), in the sheer herds of other D-grade asset “managers” (for much more read Jeremy Grantham explaining this and much more here), David Rosenberg enjoys even more linguistic flexibility than even us. Case in point, his just released trashing of the latest Barron’s permabull groupthink effort titled “Outlook: Mostly Sunny.” And just as it so often happens, no sooner did those words hit the cover of that particular rag, that it started raining, generously providing material for the latest “Roasting with Rosie.”
From Gluskin Sheff:
Consensus Creates A Contrary Call
When the experts and forecasts agree, something else is going to happen.”
~ Bob Farrell’s investment rule #9.
Did the folks at Barron’s intentionally lob a ball right into my wheelhouse? The front cover says it all — Outlook: Mostly Sunny. Check it out. Any perma-bull out there right now should be trembling by the front cover effect. This is no different than the fabled Death of Equities in the 1979 Businessweek, the Economist front cover calling for oil prices to basically head towards zero circa 1998, and the front cover of Barron’s a decade ago saying That’s All, Folks when it came to interest rates supposedly bottoming out. Come to think of it, Barron’s ran with Dow 15,000 on its front cover back on February 13, 2012, and last we saw, at the nearby peak in early April, the blue-chip index closed 1,700 points below that threshold (and has been roughly flat since the date of that article).
What Barron’s is referring to here is the latest Big Money poll that it conducts semi-annually. The actual title of the article (on page 25) is Reason to Cheer. Reason to cheer? About what? Margins being squeezed? Profit growth practically evaporating? Earnings downgrades still significantly outpacing upgrades? The recovery so excruciatingly slow that senior members of the Fed are contemplating QE3? Insolvency of Spanish banks? Hard landing risks in China? The 2013 fiscal cliff? The fact that over 60% of the data in the past two months have surprised to the downside?
The results of the Big Money Poll were startling:
- 55% of the portfolio managers are either bullish or very bullish. Only 14% are bearish or very bearish.
- Financials and technology are the favourites, with 31% citing both as being the top performers in the next six to 12 months.
- Favourite stock … Apple (surprised?).
- Utilities are seen as the worst performer — by 30% of those polled.
- With respect to Treasuries, 81% are bears, just 2% are bulls. How can yields rise in such a lopsided environment? I mean, who is there left to sell? This is a classic bullish contrary signpost.
- Bonds of all types are detested — 33% bearish on corporates while 14% are bullish; 35% are bearish on munis while only 12% are bullish.
- But … 41% are bulls on real estate; only 10% bears are left.
- For gold, 39% bears and 30% are bulls. That is great— the one asset class that has been in a secular bear market for 12 years is adored (equities), and the two that have actually made you money over this time span (the bond- bullion barbell) is to be avoided. Go figure!
The latest market positioning by non-commercial accounts (proxy for what the hedge funds are doing) from the weekly Commitment of Traders report is also rather instructive (futures and options contracts combined):
- 10-year T-note: Net speculative short position of 130,045 contracts on the CBOT. As I said above, who is left to sell?
- DJIA index: Net long 13,285 contracts on the CBOT.
- EAFE stocks: Net short 440 contracts on the CME but this number has been coming down.
- EM stocks: Net short 4,787 contracts on the CME, also coming down of late as the shorts cover.
- Nikkei index: Net short 4,894 contracts and also on the descent.
- Copper: Net long 1,229 contracts.
- Energy: Net short 124,941 natural gas contracts on the NYMEX: net long 288,393 WTI oil contracts. Patient investors know what to do.
- Gold: Net long position has been cut in half since last summer to 146,833 contracts. The latest corrective action has been healthy as the earlier froth is gone.
- Silver: Ditto — the net speculative long position has been sliced 40% to 21,309 contracts.
- Euro: Net short 117,062 contracts on the CME (likely why the currency won’t go down … the bears are already all in that trade!).
- Sterling: Net short 13,456 contracts (and is enjoying a humdinger of a short- covering rally of late).
- Yen: Net short 57,984 contracts (if the Japanese government is telling you they want the currency to depreciate, we should probably take heed).
- Canadian dollar: Still has a net speculative long position of 37,873 contracts on the CME, which could hold back the gains.
It is viewed as a global darling. But the Aussie dollar still commands a net speculative long position of 48,902 contracts and the Reserve Bank of Australia is about to cut rates while the Bank of Canada seems itchy to raise them as they did in 2010 — so there could be an opportunity on the ‘cross rate’ here.
Tags: Asset Managers, Barron, Blue Chip Index, Bob Farrell, Businessweek, Case In Point, Consensus, David Rosenberg, Dow, Economist, Financiers, Gluskin Sheff, Groupthink, Herds, Money Poll, Oil Prices, Raters, Roasts, Rosie, Threshold, Wheelhouse
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Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Gold continued to make headlines last week, reaching nearly $1,900 an ounce on Friday before resting around the $1,850 level. Gold’s 15 percent rise to new nominal highs over the past month has rekindled “gold bubble” talk from many pundits. Long-term gold bulls have been forced to listen to these naysayers since gold reached $500 an ounce. If you would have joined their groupthink then, you would’ve missed gold’s roughly 270 percent rise since.
That said, gold is due for a correction. It would be a non-event to see a 10 percent drop in gold. This would actually be a healthy development for markets by shaking out the short-term speculators while the long-term story remains on solid ground.
Forty years ago this week, President Richard Nixon “closed the gold window,” ending the gold-backed global monetary system established at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 and kicking off a decade of stagflation for the U.S. economy.
At the time, $1 would buy 1/35th an ounce of gold. Today, $1 will net you about 1/1,178th an ounce of gold. Put differently, “One U.S. dollar now buys only 2 cents worth of the gold it could buy in 1971,” says Gold Stock Analyst. This means that consumers have lost roughly 98 percent of their purchasing power compared to gold over the past 40 years.
The U.S. dollar isn’t the only asset gold has outperformed during recent decades. The yellow metal has also seen periods of relative strength against the S&P 500. This chart from Gold Stock Analyst pits the performance of gold bullion against the S&P 500 since 1971—you can see that gold immediately rallied following Nixon’s announcement before peaking at $850 an ounce in 1980. At that price, one ounce of gold was 7.6 times greater than the S&P 500, according to Gold Stock Analyst. Gold’s relative performance then declined for the next 20 years, with the S&P 500 taking the lead in 1992 and peaking at 5.3 times the value of gold in 1999. Currently, gold’s value is roughly 1.6 times greater than the S&P 500.
What drove gold’s relative underperformance from 1980 to 1999? It was a shift in government policies, which have historically been precursors to change—a key tenet of our investment process here at U.S. Global Investors.
Gold Stock Analyst points out that Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker began steering the U.S. economy toward positive real interest rates in 1980 and Volcker’s goal was met in 1992—the same year the S&P 500 overtook gold.
In order for gold’s relative value to return to 1979-1980 peak levels of 7.6 times the S&P 500, Gold Stock Analyst’s John Doody says gold prices would have to hit the $10,000 mark. Obviously that scenario is unlikely, but it does put all this “gold bubble” nonsense into perspective.
One point to pop the “gold bubble” talk is that negative real interest rates are poised to stick around for a while. We’ve previously discussed that negative real interest rates—one of the main drivers of the Fear Trade—have historically been a miracle elixir for higher gold prices. The magic number for real interest rates is 2 percent. That’s when you can earn more than 2 percent on a U.S. Treasury bill after discounting for inflation. Our research has shown that commodities tend to perform well when rates fall below 2 percent.
Take gold and silver, for example, which have historically appreciated when the real interest rate dips below 2 percent. Additionally, the lower real interest rates drop, the stronger the returns tend to be for gold. On the other hand, once real interest rates rise above the 2 percent mark, you start to see negative year-over-year returns for both gold and silver.
Tags: Bretton Woods Conference, Commodities, Global Monetary System, Gold, Gold Bullion, Gold Bulls, Gold Stock Analyst, Groupthink, India, Level Gold, Naysayers, Neverending Story, Ounce Of Gold, President Richard Nixon, Pundits, Purchasing Power, Relative Performance, Relative Strength, Richard Nixon, Speculators, stagflation, Taking The Lead, Value Of Gold
Posted in Commodities, Gold, India, Markets | Comments Off
Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Jim Grant, one of the most respected voices in the financial industry, joins Zero Hedge and others, who see that the only choice the Federal Reserve has now that the temporary and shallow reprieve from the clutches of the deflationary depression is over, is to print more money in the form of another iteration of QE. Whether this will be another $2.5 trillion, like last time, which was the price of an 18 month delay of the inevitable, or a $5 trillion concerted global effort, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard believes, is irrelevant: the only option the central printers, pardon, bankers, have left is to flood the market with yet more worthless paper (keep an eye out on the doubling in the price of gold the second QE2 is publicly announced, which will also double as the obituary for all fiat paper). In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Grant says that the first order of business tomorrow when the Fed’s new additions officially join their new groupthink perpetuating employer will be “to try once more to print enough dollars to make something happen in the U.S. economy.” The ever-sarcastic Grant manages to completely skewer Janet Yellen, Steve Diamond and Sarah Bloom Raskin, to ridicule the Fed’s 100% track record of not only focusing on the wrong thing time after time, but getting the response consistently wrong with 100% precision, and also manages to makes fun of the Fed’s credentialed WSJ lackeys, who courtesy of the Fed’s “editorial” control over the reporting process, get a direct line into leakable Fed strategy.
Grant’s thoughts on new Fed additions:
“I think the first order of business will be to try once more to print enough dollars to make something happen in the U.S. economy.”
On San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen:
“Janet Yellen has had 36 opportunities to vote on monetary policy at the Federal Open Market Committee and she has voted ‘Aye, yes’ 36 times. 36 for 36 times. Now, has the Fed been right 36 consecutive times? No. I think that Janet Yellen is a well credentialed, consensus-hugging economist straight out of the Fed HR department. She is ideal from the point of view of the Fed bureaucracy. She will make not one ripple.”
On MIT economist Steve Diamond and Maryland state banking regulator Sarah Bloom Raskin:
“I’ve never met them but I suppose they are charming. They certainly are well credentialed. They may well have an avocation in monetary theory, but that is not their vocation. Their vocation, in the case of Professor Diamond, is fiscal policy, pensions, social security, he is an authority. He’s mentor of Ben Bernanke so he’s a formidable academic.”
“Sarah Bloom Raskin is a formidable regulator. But neither is a formidable thinker about the nature of money or about the history of money or about how the Fed might paradoxically make things worse by doing what it does trying to make things better, which I think is the great question. These are people who, I think, are unlikely to oppose novel solutions to our fundamental monetary dilemma which is that the U.S. dollar is a faith-based currency of no intrinsic value that is manipulated by the Fed and the consequences of the manipulation are often quite different from what was intended. That’s the problem.”
On Fed monetary policy:
“Deflation is a funny thing. It’s a word that is much in the news, much in the markets, but is all too infrequently to find. So the Fed says that deflation is broadly declining prices. But could not also be progress? In other words, if the world produces more at lower prices, is that so bad? Americans spend half of their weekends, it seems, looking for bargains.”
“So the Fed is telling us that bargains galore is something that the Fed must resist with radical volumes of credit creation… I guess what I would ask the Fed is would it please stop and help us understand why this is bad? So in 2002 and 2003, Alan Greenspan, then chairman, and Ben Bernanke, then a newly fledged governor, were out giving speeches saying that deflation is a clear and present danger, and we must – they said at the Fed – must cut rates dramatically, which they did to 1 percent.”
“But the price indices today are much weaker than they were in 2003. So where is the Fed? Why not broach the topic of deflation again?”
“So what I blame the Fed for, among other things, is a lack of intellectual rigor and forthrightness.”
On Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke:
“I think this is not being forthcoming with us, the people, about the nature of his concerns.”
“In 2003, he was all deflation all the time. Well now the Cleveland Fed’s median CPI was like 1.7 percent year-over-year, now it’s 0.5 percent year-over-year. So where is the concern?”
“I think the concern will surface. We’ll see more on Friday when the CPI comes out. But I think something ahead of the markets is a likelihood of the Fed stepping on the gas once more, so called quantitative easing – I think that’s likely to happen…The Fed is already clearing its throat. You can see this in the newspaper leaks.”
Tags: Business Tomorrow, Central Printers, Concerted Global Effort, Consecutive Times, Deflationary Depression, Editorial Control, Fed President, Federal Open Market Committee, Gold, Groupthink, Janet Yellen, Jim Grant, Lackeys, New Additions, Open Market Committee, Order Of Business, Price Of Gold, Qe 2, Qe2, Steve Diamond, Wsj
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Monday, February 8th, 2010
This article is a guest post from Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge.com.
Hugh Hendry, always beautifully opinionated, nails it at the Russia 2010 forum with the following oneliner: “Who cares about anyone’s opinion. You pay money for what they do with that opinion.” We are in complete agreement as this conforms precisely with what one of our former legendary, multi-billionaire, corpulent superiors once said “nobody gives a f*&k about your opinion.” On the other hand presenting amusing observations coupled with engrossing narrative, that nobody seems to have an issue with.
The following clip from the Russia Forum pits one against another Marc Faber, Hugh Hendry, Nassim Taleb, PIMCO’s Michael Gomez, Investec’s Michael Power, resulting in a memorable debate. A few blogs caught this clip and posted it yet few actually watched it, as the biggest news from the panel was not Taleb’s admonition that “every single human being should be short treasuries”, an opinion which Hugh Hendry squashes through the groupthink meatgrinder, but Hugh Hendry’s cryptic disclosure that he has uncovered the ABX trade for the next decade, which has “1.5% downside and 75% upside.” Hendry teases, but until the end refuses to disclose what the specific trade is. And while we realize the futility of recreating others’ opinions, here is the money quote from the Scottish contrarian:
“The problem with the bailout of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, is that it did nothing to eliminate the debt. The debt is just unprecedented in the western world… We’ve had a tripling in leverage for the last 30 years. That tripling in leverage has produced unprecedented gains. The British stock market up 43 times in nominal terms, the S&P up 25 times. This has left many people still hungry for risk. I have a portfolio today… In the UK we have interest rates which are at a 300 year low, since the bank of England was conceived in 1692. I get paid money every day underwriting the risk that the BOE will cut rates further. I use that to cheapen an option which say “I don’t think the Bank of England, and ECB, is going to raise rates in the next 4 months.” And if nothing happens i make 5 times my money. If they raise rates, I lose my premium. My premium is not a lot. I’ll survive that. On the other side of my book, I have discovered something which is close to the Paulson trade in CDOs in US mortgages in 2005 and 2006. Can you believe that a trade with that kind of dynamic exists today. Can you believe if nothing happens and I am just wrong than again I will lose 1.5% but if I am right I will make 75%. That trade exists today and maybe later on I will tell you about it.”
And continuing with opinions, here is the former GSAM and Odey executive on Treasuries:
“I am hugely intellectually bullish on Treasuries. I am long. I fear the end of QE, the money funds are making on the [curve], I am aware of the issuance, I am aware that the States is going to have to sell $2.5 trillion of this stuff. But that’s the marketplace – the marketplace disseminates the bad stuff. I think there is a lesson in Japan. You think they are going to succeed – Mark [Faber] thinks they are going to create inflation. The precedent of Japan suggest that if you allow leverage in your society to breach a certain level, let’s call it 200 or 230% of GDP, then what happens is monetary policy doesn’t work, fiscal policy doesn’t work. They’ve had helicopters, they have distributed free money to their citizens, they have built bridges to nowhere and prices are falling and look set to fall further. My fear just now is that the community of risk is very short treasuries, and is very long risk: risk assets are the hedge against inflation. Now if something untoward happens, the gamma on that trade bankrupts you.”
Elsewhere, you will hear Taleb’s proposed portfolio composition (if you have read Fooled by Randomness or The Black Swan you won’t be surprised), as well as his escalating and very much justified disdain for economists: “if the number of economists from US universities in a country is high, the country risk is high, if the number is low, the risk is low.”
And a whole lot of debate over China, with Hugh Hendry dismantling Jim O’Neill and the other China bulls. “I love Jim O’Neill. I love that Goldman Sachs guy. He says you either get it, or you don’t. I don’t get it. In the future there will be a Confucius saying: the wise man not invest in overcapacity. The flaw of the business model, at the center of it is a craving for power as opposed to profit.” (Kinda funny, coming from a former Goldmanite.) Please watch Hendry’s view on China beginning 55 minutes into the clip.
For those P&L detectives here is Hugh’s most recent missive. Good luck with extracting what the next ABX trade is.
The full hour + debate can be found here. We think far too highly of our readers’ intellectual ability than to point out that the English audio stream would require hitting the Eng button. (Its at the bottom, on the right hand side, and shaded, just to the left of the “Pyc” switch.)
Click on the icon for a link to source.
Tags: Admonition, Amusing Observations, Bailout, Bank Of England, Bill Gross, Billionaire, British Stock, China, Emerging Markets, Engrossing Narrative, Gold, Groupthink, Hugh Hendry, Investec, Marc Faber, Meatgrinder, Michael Gomez, Nassim Taleb, Oneliner, PIMCO, Russia, Russia Forum, Squashes, Treasuries, Tyler Durden
Posted in Canadian Market, China, Markets, Outlook | Comments Off
Thursday, August 13th, 2009
I published “Bob Farrell’s rules for investing” and “More on Bob Farrell’s rule #8” a few days ago, and these posts attracted a large number of readers, obviously in search of some guidance at this juncture in the markets.
Today, I consider rule #9, “When all the experts and forecasts agree, something else is going to happen”, in the context of the current situation.
Firstly, David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist of Gluskin Sheff & Associates, quoted a CNBC poll of Tuesday showing that 90% of Wall Street economists believed the recession had ended. “It is highly unlikely that 90% of the economics community can be right on the same thing at the same time,” he said. Also, a Bloomberg survey showed that the consensus sees real US GDP expanding at annual rate of at least 2% for the next four quarters, leading Rosenberg to warn that a lot of good news was already ‘out there’.
Secondly, the latest survey among investment advisors by Investors Intelligence shows that the proportion of bulls has just moved up to 49.4% – the highest level since December 2007. The bears dropped to 21.3% – the fewest negative advisors since October 2007. The spread of +28.1% is regarded as a negative from a contrarian point of view.
“It does appear that we have some groupthink to consider – at this stage virtually everyone is bullish on the market. This could mean that we are not going to get a lot more buying power to propel this equity rally over the near-term as it means we have a lot of good news priced into the market,” concluded Rosenberg.
Be careful out there.
Tags: Bob Farrell, Bulls, Chief Economist, Cnbc, Consensus, Current Situation, David Rosenberg, Economics Community, GDP, Gluskin Sheff, Groupthink, Investment Advisors, Investors Intelligence, Juncture, Point Of View, Proportion, Recession, Strategist, Survey Showed That, Wall Street Economists
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