The Stingy News Quarterly (Q1/2012)
New @ StingyInvestor
9 Stingy Stocks for 2012
"I started the method in 2001 in an effort to beat the S&P500 by picking value stocks within the S&P500 itself. Thus far the Stingy Stocks have gained 14.3% annually whereas the S&P500 (as represented by the SPY exchange traded fund) advanced only 2.3% a year over the same period."
8 Graham Stocks for 2012
"Graham's time-tested strategy for defensive investors gained ground this year and beat the market once again. It also marks the ninth year of the last eleven in which the method has outperformed, which is a mighty fine showing."
Top 200 Canadian Stocks for 2012
"Walking downstairs on Christmas day was a ceremonial affair when I was young. It started by lining up with my brother to descend to the living room in order from eldest to youngest. Aside from heightening the anticipation of good things to come, it allowed my parents to see our reactions to the Christmas tree, fire, presents, and perhaps most delightfully, the stockings stuffed to the brim with treats. The felling of delight I had when pawing through my treat-laden stocking is now, alas, a thing of the past. But these days I get the same sort of excitement when I look through the largest stocks in Canada for this year's MoneySense's Top 200 All-Stars. This year marks the eighth in a row for the Top 200 tradition which, I'm pleased to say, has been very fruitful."
Top 500 U.S. Stocks for 2012
"There are a few skills that every Canadian should pick up in childhood and skating is one of them. But no one tells you that it all slips away after spending years reading books and sipping hot chocolate by the fire. That's something I discovered the hard way when I recently squeezed my feet into a pair of skates and tottered out onto the cold hard ice of my local rink. The prospect of falling seemed far less painful when I was younger, slimmer, and closer to the ground. As a result, my first hobble around the rink was more a triumph of will than of good sense. Just as with learning how to skate, the first leap into the world of stocks can be an uncertain one. That's why - in an effort to help you gain your footing - we search high and low for the best stocks in the U.S. to put in the annual MoneySense Top 500."
Retirement 100: Fall 2011
"I'm a big fan of the British TV series Jeeves & Wooster, based on the comedic scribblings of P.G. Wodehouse. In the series a young Hugh Laurie (now better known as the acerbic Dr. House) plays the aristocratic and lovably foppish Bertie Wooster who must be regularly rescued by his clever servant Jeeves, played by an impish Stephen Fry. The show revolves around the bother caused by Bertie's newt-addled friends and unusually meddlesome aunts, who constantly interrupt his life of fun and leisure. But Bertie's carefree lifestyle is the product of inherited wealth and he would be in deep trouble without it. Such is the good fortune of the lucky sperm club. Alas, if you're like me, you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth and you have to worry about money. But fear not, there is hope for us common folk. A good dollop of thrift and hard work is all that's required to build up an income portfolio that can generate enough cash to support a comfortable retirement or life of leisure."
Where to invest $10,000
"Can you imagine anything better than studying calculus in the summer? I bet you can. But I found myself doing exactly that, late in my high school days, in a nerdy effort to graduate six months early. Aside from picking up an infinitesimal amount of calculus, I met a fellow keener in class who had the investing bug. He rattled on and on about odd things called mutual funds and how you could make a pot load of money from them. Naturally enough, I promptly forgot about funds for about a decade while exploring calculus a bit more. But I rediscovered them after I had amassed just over $10,000 by playing the part of Beaker to a series of loveable Dr. Honeydews in a variety of laboratories. At the time, I felt that $10,000 was a tidy sum for a young fellow. Not a fortune to be sure. But, just like today, more than a little walking around money. It was also enough to think about alternates to the old bank account and, after some pondering, I moved my grubstake into mutual funds. If only I knew then what I know now. But you can profit from my experience. Here's what I'd tell a younger me about investing, if I had the chance."
Where to invest $100,000
"Standing in front of a giant glassed in freezer at the sweet shop in Tobermory, Ont., I was faced with a plethora of choices. Which sinful ice cream should I indulge in on a fine summer day? The selection of flavours, toppings, and cones was daunting. Thankfully, I had time to consider the fattening possibilities because the wee nippers in front of me were similarly perplexed. And, as important a choice as it may be, it was only ice cream. But when it comes to investing, the possibilities are vast once your portfolio grows beyond $100,000. Problem is, much like Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (a devilish Harry Potter confection) the investing flavour you choose might wind up tasting like earwax. Alas!"
Asset Mixer Update
We've updated our Asset Mixer to include data for 2011.
Periodic Table Update
We've updated our periodic table of annual returns for Canadians to include data for 2011.
3 villains can steal your retirement dreams
"Building a strong financial castle to fund your retirement is hard. If you're not careful, you may discover a hole in your vault and three villains sneaking off with the family jewels."
Be careful when delving too deep
"Value investors should be careful when delving too deep for outsized returns. It turns out that the cheapest stocks by one widely used measure are not always the best. This will come as a surprise to investors who like to rely upon price to book value as a key yardstick when making decisions."
The case for being a copycat investor
"Is purloining good ideas distasteful? U.S. fund manager Mohnish Pabrai doesn't think so. He says it's a great way to make money and urges people to copy notable investors more often. You might want to take a page out of his book and improve your portfolio."
"The New Year brings with it soon-to-be-forgotten resolutions, but here's one resolution that investors should strive to keep: Take analyst rankings with a large dose of caution."
"The global economy made it through 2011 despite Europe's debt problems, high unemployment in the United States and growing worries about China's red-hot housing market. But will 2012 be as forgiving?"
"The financial life of a prudent index investor is purposefully dull. You know the routine. Pick a balanced portfolio of basic low-fee funds and ETFs, rebalance occasionally, and hope to wake up comfortably rich one day. Where's the spark in that? Where's the pizzazz? Where are the piles of doubloons? To become stinking rich, you have to strap on the six shooters and shoot for higher targets."
Investing theory collides with new facts
"It makes one wonder just how long the long-term should be when studying stocks. Even the 5 decades from 1951 to 2003 weren't sufficient to suss out the weakness in the lowest decile of P/B stocks. Might more trouble might be revealed if the numbers are tracked back another 25 years - or followed forward for another 25?"
A crystal ball for stocks?
"At a very deep level, we're all suckers for patterns. The problem is, it's easy to stumble on erroneous patterns in large mounds of data. You can see the result on TV almost every night in the form of new medical breakthroughs. You know, titillating things like the discovery that eating yellow foods decreases the risk of having a heart attack. But after loading up on squash and turning a strange shade of pale, another study might come along that refutes the first and instead points to the cancer causing properties of yellow food. It's a wonder health-conscious people eat anything all. (Rest assured yellow foodies, these examples are fictitious.) The problem being, just because you've spotted a pattern doesn't mean that it's predictive or, in math speak, correlation does not prove causation. All too often what the researcher actually uncovered occurred simply by chance. That doesn't keep our love of predictable patterns from infiltrating the markets in all sorts of unexpected ways."
The fine art of cashing in on class differences
"Dual-class stocks can provide some interesting profit possibilities. If you keep an eye on the spread between the two classes of shares, and swap at the right time, you can be handsomely rewarded."
The scourge of inflation
"Inflation is the silent killer of retirement dreams. It sneaks in over the years and nibbles away at nest eggs, leaving people poorer than they once thought. How does it do the dastardly deed? By reducing the purchasing power of money over time."
The Best of Stingy Links
Stingy Links: Accounting
Apple not as cheap as it looks?
"Thanks to an accounting- rule change for which it lobbied, Apple gets to book revenue from sales of bundled products such as iPhones -- which include hardware, software, services and upgrade rights -- more quickly than it used to. In short, one reason Apple's earnings have been so high is accounting inflation, and the market realizes this."
Stingy Links: Behaviour
Behavioral Biases of Mutual Fund Investors
"We examine the effect of behavioral biases on the mutual fund choices of a large sample of U.S. discount brokerage investors using new measures of attention to news, tax awareness, and fund-level familiarity bias, in addition to behavioral and demographic characteristics of earlier studies. Behaviorally-biased investors typically make poor decisions about fund style and expenses, trading frequency, and timing, resulting in poor performance. Furthermore, trend-chasing appears related to behavioral biases, rather than to rationally inferring managerial skill from past performance. Factor analysis suggests that biased investors often conform to stereotypes that can be characterized as 'gambler', 'smart', 'overconfident', 'narrow-framer', and 'mature'."
The rise of the new groupthink
"Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in. But there's a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted"
Stingy Links: Bonds
What zero bound?
"Negative interest rates are a big puzzle. Easy stories miss the point: 'flight to quality,' 'need for collateral,' etc. Those stories don't explain why bonds are worth more than money."
The rally that wouldn't die
"Last year's surge came in the 30th year of a historic rally. Since 1981, long-term Treasury bonds have returned 11.03% annually, 0.05 percentage point better than the Standard and Poor's 500-stock index."
The constancy of safe asset demand
"The findings are preliminary, but the authors calculate that the safe asset share - the percentage of safe assets to total assets in the US economy - has been roughly the same since 1952, at about 33 per cent."
Stingy Links: Brokers
A guide to private placement due diligence
"Because I'm in the business of helping people, I thought I'd offer up my own 3-step guide for stockbrokers when conducting due diligence on private placements: Step 1: Make sure you have a copy of the Private Placement Memorandum (also referred to as the PPM). You're going to want to light this PPM on fire and drop it into a Hazmat dumpster at least five miles from your office. Step 2: Tell the banker/firm owner/branch manager or whoever brought it to you to go f' himself. Step 3: Head over to Dunkin Donuts, get yourself a Coffee Coolatta. Yes, I know they've got hundreds of calories - but you're worth it. You've done some good this day."
Stingy Links: Buffett
The Warren Buffett of...
"Our article on Paul Desmarais called him 'The Warren Buffett of Canada,' which made us start wondering how many 'Warren Buffett ofs' there are. We decided to do a deep Google search to try and put together a comprehensive list ..."
Warren Buffett's $50 Billion decision
"The thing is, when I got out of college, I had $9,800, but by the end of 1955, I was up to $127,000. I thought, I'll go back to Omaha, take some college classes, and read a lot - I was going to retire! I figured we could live on $12,000 a year, and off my $127,000 asset base, I could easily make that. I told my wife, 'Compound interest guarantees I'm going to get rich.'"
Warren Buffett's Bizarre Non-Sequitur
"In other words, the entire Republican point is 'We don't want to pay any more in taxes, if you think you aren't taxed enough, then you are free to pay more in taxes.' Thus, calling out Mitch McConnell like this, while sure to grab headlines, and result in high fives and 'Oh no you di'ints' amongst liberals, makes no sense"
Why stocks beat gold and bonds
"Investing is often described as the process of laying out money now in the expectation of receiving more money in the future. At Berkshire Hathaway we take a more demanding approach, defining investing as the transfer to others of purchasing power now with the reasoned expectation of receiving more purchasing power -- after taxes have been paid on nominal gains -- in the future. More succinctly, investing is forgoing consumption now in order to have the ability to consume more at a later date."
Warren Buffett Interview
"Ted Williams described in his book, 'The Science of Hitting,' that the most important thing -- for a hitter -- is to wait for the right pitch. And that's -- exactly the philosophy I have about investing...Wait for the right pitch, yeah, and... wait for the right deal. And it will come... It's the key to investing."
Warren Buffett Interview
"If anybody is thinking about buying a home. five years ago they couldn't buy them fast enough because they thought they were going to go up, and now they don't buy them because they think they're going to go down. And interest are far lower. It's a way, in effect, to short the dollar because you can. you can take a 30-year mortgage and if it turns out your interest rate's too high, next week you refinance lower. And if it turns out it's too low, the other guy's stuck with it for 30 years. So it's a very attractive asset class now."
Berkshire Hathaway 2011
"At our limit price of 110% of book value, repurchases clearly increase Berkshire's per-share intrinsic value. And the more and the cheaper we buy, the greater the gain for continuing shareholders. Therefore, if given the opportunity, we will likely repurchase stock aggressively at our price limit or lower. You should know, however, that we have no interest in supporting the stock and that our bids will fade in particularly weak markets. Nor will we buy shares if our cash-equivalent holdings are below $20 billion. At Berkshire, financial strength that is unquestionable takes precedence over all else."
Stingy Links: Crime
Concrete Equities fraud
"Viewers of the early seasons of CBC's Dragons' Den will remember the oft-repeated ad wherein an improbably young, somewhat swarthy company president touted the safe, superior returns of an investment company called Concrete Equities. Between static promo shots of office buildings, Vincenzo De Palma extolled the security of investing in income-producing real assets in lazy diction, as if an up-and-comer like him lacked the time to pronounce every consonant. But Concrete Equities was the entrepreneurial reality show's lead sponsor, and that lent it a sheen of respectability. Had the producers at the CBC put the company's management in front of the Dragons, they likely would have discovered De Palma and Co. were neither licensed nor qualified to market and manage a portfolio of real estate investments. Following a two-year investigation, he and three other principals in Calgary-based Concrete Equities were disciplined in January by the Alberta Securities Commission - including the largest fine ever imposed on an individual in the province - for having sold investments without being registered, and lying to investors. But their comeuppance didn't occur before they had raised $118 million from 3,700 people and come close to losing it all."
Stingy Links: Debt
Meredith Whitney was right
"The more general point that Meredith Whitney was trying to make about public debt -- that municipal finances in this country were a mess that was only going to get messier -- was dead on."
Stingy Links: Economics
Why the clean tech boom went bust
"In 2005, VC investment in clean tech measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The following year, it ballooned to $1.75 billion, according to the National Venture Capital Association. By 2008, the year after Doerr's speech, it had leaped to $4.1 billion. And the federal government followed. Through a mix of loans, subsidies, and tax breaks, it directed roughly $44.5 billion into the sector between late 2009 and late 2011. Avarice, altruism, and policy had aligned to fuel a spectacular boom. Anyone who has heard the name Solyndra knows how this all panned out. Due to a confluence of factors - including fluctuating silicon prices, newly cheap natural gas, the 2008 financial crisis, China's ascendant solar industry, and certain technological realities - the clean-tech bubble has burst, leaving us with a traditional energy infrastructure still overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels. The fallout has hit almost every niche in the clean-tech sector -wind, biofuels, electric cars, and fuel cells - but none more dramatically than solar."
The economist zone
"Screen shifts to a sharp man with a cigarette. He begins to speak. 'Picture a world, where people only eat apples. A man consults alleged experts on government deficits, and is taken on a journey that ultimately shatters his mind - a journey that ends, in the Economist Zone.'"
This relatively inegalitarian isle
"Of course, it's important to put charts like this in perspective, which is why we should also consult Miles Corak, the University of Ottawa professor whose work has been used here by Krueger (and Krugman). Here's Corak's unabridged Great Gatsby Curve. ... A rather different picture, innit?"
Negative stimulus, 1946
"It's fun to go back and see how really smart people understood things at the time. Maybe it should give us some humility -- so much policy debate seems based on the idea that we know everything so well. If we understood things as well as we now see Klein understood things, would we still want to spend trillions on our best guesses?"
Stingy Links: Economy
Have wages stagnated?
"Prof. Don Boudreaux responds to 'The Truth About the Economy', a recent video featuring former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. In the video, one of Reich's key points is that most people's wages have barely increased since 1980. However, when Reich's numbers are examined in greater detail, his claim does not hold up."
Stingy Links: Fun
Open letter to Apple shareholders
"You see, one day a competitor will come along and cut our core product line out from underneath us. We will need all the cash we can muster to fend them off. When that cash is done, we will mortgage the company. The first several times we may be successful. However, as is always the case, eventually time will get the best of us and we will be unable to meet our creditors demands. We will go bankrupt. Our creditors will seize the equity and the shareholders will be left with nothing and having made zero return on their investment. To our original investors, who are truly dear to us, we can only hope that you have long since sold out to some greater fool. If not, please do so at your earliest convenience."
Stingy Links: Funds
Another look at the performance of active funds
"In this study we evaluate the performance of actively managed equity mutual funds against a set of passively managed index funds. We find that the return spread between the best performing actively managed funds and a factor-mimicking portfolio of passive funds is positive and as large as 3 to 5 percent per annum. Our findings are inconsistent with the view that active funds have little or no incremental economic value over low-cost index funds."
Mutual funds vs ETFs
"The market share lost by mutual funds is not surprisingly shifting to ETFs. ETF fees tend to be lower, yet they provide better liquidity and the ability to time the market, including intraday trading. That makes ETFs appealing not just to retail investors, but to institutions as well."
Stingy Links: Government
"Complexity costs money. Sarbanes-Oxley, a law aimed at preventing Enron-style frauds, has made it so difficult to list shares on an American stockmarket that firms increasingly look elsewhere or stay private. America's share of initial public offerings fell from 67% in 2002 (when Sarbox passed) to 16% last year, despite some benign tweaks to the law. A study for the Small Business Administration, a government body, found that regulations in general add $10,585 in costs per employee. It's a wonder the jobless rate isn't even higher than it is."
How sneaky governments steal your money
"Many nations in the developed world are in deep do-do with their debt levels. On one hand they need growth to earn their way out of their problems, while on the other they're being forced into anti-growth austerity measures by markets, concerned about their spiralling interest obligations. It's a grim position for those of us brought up to expect an unrelentingly rosy economic outlook. This isn't a new situation, though. We've been here many, many times before and governments have, by design and evolutionary accident, developed many, many ways of dealing with these problems. The cunning thing is that many of these involve stealthily thieving from their own citizens, but done so surreptitiously that, if we're not careful, we won't even notice it."
"If Statscan is successful in reducing overestimation of consumer price inflation, then annual increases in public or private wages and pensions indexed to the CPI will end up smaller than they would have been. This could mean companies have to pay out less in annual wage increases, but it will also offer some cost savings for Ottawa"
Why we must end too big to fail
"TBTF institutions were at the center of the financial crisis and the sluggish recovery that followed. If allowed to remain unchecked, these entities will continue posing a clear and present danger to the U.S. economy. As a nation, we face a distinct choice. We can perpetuate TBTF, with its inequities and dangers, or we can end it. Eliminating TBTF won't be easy, but the vitality of our capitalist system and the long-term prosperity it produces hang in the balance."
"As they have before in the aftermath of financial crises or wars, governments and central banks are increasingly resorting to a form of 'taxation' that helps liquidate the huge overhang of public and private debt and eases the burden of servicing that debt. Such policies, known as financial repression, usually involve a strong connection between the government, the central bank and the financial sector. In the U.S., as in Europe, at present, this means consistent negative real interest rates (yielding less than the rate of inflation) that are equivalent to a tax on bondholders and, more generally, savers."
Why you can't find heritage poultry
"But here's what hasn't been said about supply management: It is the enemy of deliciousness."
Stingy Links: Graham
What would Graham say about Goldman?
"We were reminded, since the Greg Smith/Goldman Sachs brouhaha has still not died down, that Benjamin Graham had quite a bit to say about conflicts of interest in Chapter 21 of the 1940 edition of his great book Security Analysis."
Stingy Links: Hallett
4 things to remember with today's low rates
"For those seeking a safe and dependable income source, today's painfully low interest rates pose a real challenge. Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney regularly reminds us that persistent low rates can be dangerous because they incent excessive borrowing. But low rates also pose some risk to the asset side of investors. balance sheets. It looks like low rates will be here for a while so here are a few things to keep in mind when structuring investment portfolios."
Active or passive? Process should drive choice
"Too many view passive and active investment as mutually-exclusive strategies decided upon via some quasi-political debate. On the contrary, I view active and passive as two strategies on the same continuum. Indeed, the ETF industry - once synonymous with passive investing - has created a blurring of the lines between active and passive strategies. The likes of Fundamental Indexing, equal-weighted indexes and other quant-driven indexes are pushing so-called 'passive' approaches closer to the active management side of the spectrum. That notwithstanding, as highlighted in my most recent Investment Executive article I am indifferent between passive and active investing - a view shared by my HighView partners and, accordingly, written into our firm's investment philosophy."
Should you hold bonds in taxable accounts?
"Investors fortunate enough to have money to save and invest over and above their RRSP and TFSA contributions need both asset allocation and asset location strategies. The standard advice is to stuff all of the bonds in RRSP, TFSA and similar accounts to defer or shelter tax on interest income (otherwise 100% taxable). Similarly, stocks usually dominate non-registered accounts because they generate more lightly-taxed capital gains and (in the case of Canadian stocks) dividends. But with bond yields having fallen (i.e. bond prices having risen) in the face of weak stock prices, this traditional asset location advice may not hold for everyone."
Look past emerging markets debt sales pitch
"The sales pitch for emerging markets debt - like this one from RBC - might have us think that debt levels alone can be used to assess sovereign default risk. But judging by the 'spreads' of emerging markets bond yields above developed world sovereign debt, the global bond market is saying that other important factors determine default risk. Otherwise, emerging markets bonds would yield less than developed country debt. In This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff examined - among other things - a history of default among developing countries. While high debt levels were universally linked to default episodes, the authors found that emerging markets defaults have generally occurred at debt levels that are generally considered 'safe' for more mature economies. They found that nearly half of the three-dozen emerging country defaults between 1970 and 2008 occurred at debt-to-GNP ratios below 35 percent."
Stingy Links: History
United States then, Europe now
"Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government of the United States had limited power to tax. Therefore, large debts accumulated during the U.S. War of Independence traded at deep discounts. That situation framed a U.S. fiscal crisis in the 1780s. A political revolution - for that was what scuttling the Articles of Confederation in favor of the Constitution of the United States of America was - solved the fiscal crisis by transferring authority to levy tariffs from the states to the federal government. The Constitution and Acts of the First Congress of the United States in August 1790 gave Congress authority to raise enough revenues to service a big government debt. In 1790, the Congress carried out a comprehensive bailout of state governments. debts, part of a grand bargain that made creditors of the states become advocates of ample federal taxes. That bailout created expectations about future federal bailouts that a costly episode in the early 1840s proved to be unwarranted."
Stingy Links: Indexing
Hubble, bubble, index trouble
"There's one final hypothesis we can derive from the index bubble effect. If this theory is correct it would mean that active fund managers have been faced with an almost impossible task over the past twenty years, because they've been battling the wall of money cascading into index trackers. In such an environment it would mean that the average quality of active managers has declined because it's impossible to discern who's good and who's not and would also suggest that all of the careful and clever studies designed to show how active management is hopeless are so much wastepaper. How ironic would that be: genuinely good active fund managers driven to the margins by index trackers, researchers wasting their time proving a general theory of active management failure undermined by an environment biased by flow of funds to index trackers while passive funds themselves are the subject of a behaviorally induced bubble, caused by investors seeking to escape the underperformance of said active managers. It's reflexivity writ large. Hubble bubble: modern finance is a witches' brew indeed."
Stingy Links: Law
Keep it simple
"Unlike many in the banking industry, Petrou is not ideologically opposed to regulation. For instance, she was a critic of the lack of regulation that allowed so many sleazy subprime mortgage originators to emerge from the precrisis ooze. Yet, now, she's worried about something different: that the hundreds of new mandates required by the Dodd-Frank law are creating a new kind of risk. She calls it 'complexity risk.' As she put it in a speech she delivered last week in New York: 'If we don't understand the cross-cutting effects and inherent contradictions in all of the stringent standards now being written into final form, we risk doing real damage to the sound, stable and - yes - profitable financial industry regulators say they support and the economies sorely need.'"
"Many of the webs most important and integral websites are protesting seriously flawed legislation called SOPA. It would greatly damage the linking structure of the internet, allowing companies to close down websites on flimsiest of premises. It would criminalize even pointing to any site that itself points to a site where there is a Copyright violation. Over the years, the copyright cartel - this includes Disney and other major content companies - have bought themselves a Congress. They prevented works that were scheduled to enter the public domain, as envisioned in the US Constitution, from doing so. SOPA is the latest attempt to censor the public's access to independent information and manipulate copyright laws. The new law works to their own benefit and the public's detriment."
Stingy Links: Markets
Natural gas bear market
"U.S. natural gas prices fell to their lowest point in more than two years, underscoring how the nation's booming energy business is becoming a victim of its own success."
Credit Suisse 2012 Yearbook
"112 years of market data for 19 countries."
Cycle bodes ill for the markets
"In June 1964, the real return over the previous 15 years averaged 15.6 percent a year, the highest that figure had ever been. The stock market did not begin to fall then, but it could no longer maintain the torrid pace, and the 15-year return figures began to decline. On a real total return basis, stock prices hit their highs for the era in late 1968, and by the mid-1970s were in free fall as high inflation combined with a bear market. By 1979, an investor who bought stocks in 1964, when the market seemed to be a sure moneymaker, had lost money after adjusting for inflation, even after including dividend income."
Is 'derisking' even riskier?
"When you 'derisk,' be sure you understand whether you are eradicating risk - or just replacing old risks with new ones."
Lower prices via new tech
"Due to the record levels of natural gas production and the unseasonably warm weather this winter, prices keep falling. The price for U.S. natural gas futures contracts dropped to a ten-year low of $2.47 per million BTUs in trading on the NYMEX yesterday"
Stingy Links: Montier
What goes up must come down
"Today I find myself once again digging through this toolkit, searching for a way to understand the development of profit margins. Currently, U.S. profit margins are at record highs according to the NIPA data. More freakish still is that these record high profit margins are coming during the weakest economic recovery in post-war history."
Stingy Links: Pensions
Pension forecasts are way too sunny
"Consider a corporate plan projecting a long-term average annual rate of return of 8% and holding 50% stocks and 50% bonds. With the Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate bond index yielding around 2.2%, a 50% allocation to bonds contributes 1.1% annually to the portfolio's overall return. Stocks have to make up the remaining 6.9% for the entire portfolio to hit the 8% target. If stocks gain 10% annually, a 50% allocation to them will provide 5% of return, not the 6.9% needed. For this hypothetical portfolio to return 8%, stocks need to gain an average of 13.8%. That would be nice - and unlikely. Over the past 10 and 20 years, respectively, the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index has returned 3.9% and 8% annually."
Raiding the coffers
"The New York Times has an excellent piece today on how state pension plans are borrowing from their pension plans to fund their own pension contributions. This Alice-in-wonderland approach is a salutary reminder of the dangers of funded pension plans they create a pot of money that politicians are tempted to use for their own devices."
QE is eating your pension
"Gilt yields are often used as a proxy for both investors. future earnings and inflation, exacerbating shortfall estimates. Ms Segars argued that, as a result, companies whose pension schemes already had large shortfalls could be forced to make even bigger contributions. 'That diverts money away from jobs and investment and will lead to further closures of final salary pensions in the private sector,' she said."
Stingy Links: Pricing
A monopoly a day
"As Apple prepared to introduce its first iPad, the late Steve Jobs, then its chief executive, suggested moving to an 'agency model,' under which the publishers would set the price of the book and Apple would take a 30% cut. Apple also stipulated that publishers couldn't let rival retailers sell the same book at a lower price."
Newspapers, Paywalls, and Core Users
"This may be the year where newspapers finally drop the idea of treating all news as a product, and all readers as customers."
Stingy Links: Real Estate
Toronto condo bubble
"A record 27,504 condo units in the City of Toronto were under construction at the end of last year, according to Canadian Mortgage and Housing annual data, adding to the city's total of 199,000 units. 'If builders stopped building today, there's five years worth of supply that is about to be delivered, relative to what normal population growth is,' Bank of America's King said."
China housing set for hard landing
"The numbers are grim: China's property bubble is heading for a spectacular burst, and its effect on the country's economy will be widespread."
Time to panic
"More worrisome is where consumers have been getting their spending money. As wages stagnate and credit card use levels off, Canadian consumers have increasingly turned to their homes as a source of cash. As of last year, Canadians had pulled roughly $220 billion from their houses in revolving home equity lines of credit, a per capita amount three times larger than the U.S. at its peak."
Look out below
"When the United States saw a vast housing bubble inflate and burst during the 2000s, many Canadians felt smug about the purported prudence of their financial and property markets. During the crash, Canadian house prices fell by just 8%, compared with more than 30% in America. They hit new record highs by 2010. 'Canada was not a part of the problem,' Stephen Harper, the prime minister, boasted in 2010. Today the consensus is growing on Bay Street, Toronto's answer to Wall Street, that Mr Harper may have to eat his words."
Pity about your retirement
"Buying a house can wreck your retirement. Did your real estate agent or bank not tell you that? Of course not. All they worry about is whether you're making enough money to carry your debts. The question of whether there's enough money left over to save for retirement is of zero interest to them."
Stingy Links: Science
"As regulators and environmentalists study whether hydraulic fracturing can damage the environment, industry scientists are studying ways to create longer, deeper cracks in the earth to release more oil and natural gas."
Stingy Links: Thrift
For savers in Canada, a sinking feeling
"Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, among other central bankers, has kept interest rates near historic lows since the onset of the global economic crisis in an attempt to stimulate the flagging economy, and there's no sign of a rate hike any time soon. But some critics say the playing field is now tipped too far in favour of borrowers rather than savers. Canadians in droves have piled on debt to buy new homes and make other purchases, prompting warnings from Mr. Carney of the dangers of carrying too much debt - even as his policies encourage borrowing and provide little ability for savers to generate substantial low-risk income. 'It's one thing for Carney to say this is a problem and warn people,' says William Robson, president of the C.D. Howe Institute in Toronto. But 'actions speak a lot louder than words.' Inflation, while low at an annual rate of 2.3 per cent, compares with one-year guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) paying roughly 1 per cent a year. Simply put: A dollar saved today will be worth less a year from now."
Negative real rates of return
"If it's just you on a desert island and you have to bury food in the ground for safe keeping chances are you will dig up less food than you bury. In general investing only makes sense when there is seasonality, which is why tropical animals don't do it. And, animals that do invest always take a loss even if they invest in the form of fat stores. However, because the marginal product of labor is vastly different between the spring and the winter it is worth it in utility terms even if the material return is negative. That humans don't always take a loss is why the world we live in is so vastly different. Our world changes over time because we can use our brains to think of ways to get more out than we put in. However, this is a special case and should not be taken as some basic property of the world. Its just not."
Stingy Links: Value Investing
Is the Value Effect Seasonal?
"This paper extends the research on value premium by examining patterns of seasonality exhibited in the book-to-market effect in major global equity markets. The results provide evidence supporting the January effect in the value premium phenomenon. Using stock market indices for Asia Pacific Europe, Australasia, and Far East (EAFE) and Europe, with and without the U.K., Scandinavian countries, the U.K., U.S., and Japan form 1975 through 2007, the paper provides out-of-sample evidence from twenty-one countries that comprise different index portfolios. As a robustness measures, we use regression analysis, paired means tests, and non-parametric tests to examine whether the persistence of the anomalous January value premium is real and significant. The annualized excess January value premium ranges from 42.96 percent for Scandinavian countries to 9.24 percent for EAFE markets with 20.28 percent for U.S. Even though such a predictable pattern exists, our analysis suggests that large standard deviations would not allow a viable investment strategy."
Scouring the market's bargain bin
"As a long time value investor, one of my favourite research tools is the famous Ben Graham 'net-net working capital' screen. This analysis begins with current assets - typically dominated by cash, accounts receivable and inventories - and then deducts all liabilities, not just current liabilities, to arrive at a net working capital per share value. No value is given to fixed assets such as plant, machinery and real estate, nor to intangibles such as goodwill, patents, licenses or other intellectual property."
Invest like a legend: David Dreman
"How I'd invest $100,000 right now: I'd put it in good-quality stocks in a portfolio large enough to diversify, or, for the average investor, an index fund. Stocks have traditionally gone up if we see inflation coming. We're not seeing much inflation yet, but we've been printing an awful lot of money in the United States, they've printed $7 trillion since 2008. I've never seen the two not meet."
"Here is a funny story of a French tourist visiting Canada. Pierre, an expensively attired middle-aged French tourist on his first trip to Toronto strolls into the bar of his 5-star hotel. The elegant hostess smiles, leads him to a table and beckons her prettiest server to take care of him. They talk, flirt a little and she giggles a bit. When he draws her closer and whispers in her ear, she gasps and ..."
Mohnish Pabrai lecture
"Mohnish Pabrai, Managing Partner, Pabrai Investment Funds talks to Ivey students"
Stocks are a little pricey: Schiller
"'Technology has a fascination...it's part of our sense of the future,' he says. 'We've got an exciting thing going. All the new gadgets are just so breathtaking, there's going to be huge fortunes made. That kind of excitement I do feel in the air.' Having said that, Shiller is not predicting another tech bubble, far from it. He says predicting bubbles is impossible: 'It's like predicting an epidemic. It depends on the contagion of emotions and of ideas.' Furthermore, the author of Irrational Exuberance, which presaged the bursting of the tech bubble, and Animal Spirits believes there's a lot to be worried about."
RIP: Walter Schloss
"Walter Schloss, the money manager who earned accolades from Warren Buffett for the steady returns he achieved by applying lessons learned directly from the father of value investing, Benjamin Graham, has died. He was 95."
Stingy Links: Watsa
Watsa no stranger to value
"For someone who built an empire while dodging the media's spotlight, Prem Watsa is taking an unusually public role by positioning himself at the heart of Research In Motion's attempted revival."
Stingy Links: World
"Germany once prided itself on being the 'photovoltaic world champion', doling out generous subsidies - totaling more than $130 billion, according to research from Germany's Ruhr University - to citizens to invest in solar energy. But now the German government is vowing to cut the subsidies sooner than planned and to phase out support over the next five years. What went wrong?"
Greece: same old high yields
"Yields on the Greek government's brand new bonds are already trading at distressed debt levels - suggesting that despite February's bailout package investors still see a strong chance that Greece will not be able to sustain even its much-reduced debt burden. As the first week of trading closed, yields on the benchmark 10-years were at 18.24 percent - down from Tuesday's closing high, but still the highest in the euro zone."
The end of Asia's demographic dividend
"Demographics is not destiny, though it does set the parameters of possibility. Asia has grown used to a demographic tail wind. For many of its economies, that wind is about to start blowing the other way."
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