Tag - #Personal Finance

#Truth about investing 102-Efficiency and behavior

This is taken from a presentation by Howard Marks Co-Founder of Oaktree Capital. This is the second in the series of articles. Mr Marks makes concise and incisive comments about the art of investing that can help amateur and professional investors alike.                                                      

Most investors behave pro-cyclically, to their own detriment.

In a rising market, even fundamentally weak companies look great technically. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) kicks in, making people more optimistic and causing them to purchase at market highs. When the inverse is true, their pessimism grows, encouraging them to sell at cyclical lows. As a result, the retail investor is left with equities with high purchase prices but poor fundamentals.

Cyclical ups and downs don’t go on forever. But at the extremes, most investors act as if they will.

At market extremes, emotions- fear and greed are at their highest levels. People buy at market highs and sell at market lows. When people start believing in trends rather than market cycles, that’s when behavioral mistakes occur. It is usually best to ignore the current market and stick to the fundamentals at sky high emotions.

It’s important to practice “contrarian” behavior and do the opposite of what others do at the extremes.

Market does not trade at extreme ends for a long time. When there is a widespread notion that there is no risk, investors believe it is safe to engage in dangerous behaviour. Acting contrary to the market during phases of soaring emotions might provide us with optimum entry and exit points. As a result, we must sell when others are greedy and purchase when they are fearful.

While not all markets are efficient – and none are 100% efficient – the concept of market efficiency must not be ignored. In the search for market inefficiencies, it helps to get to a market early, before it becomes understood, popular and respectable.

Humans are predisposed to identify patterns and exploit them; however, these patterns and trends are already priced in by the markets. Higher the efficiency of the market the faster are the patterns and trends priced in. In established markets, however, efficiency diminishes the frequency and scale of opportunities to overcome the consensus and identify mispricing or inefficiencies. The sooner you invest in an inefficient market, the easier it is to profit as markets become more efficient. If the other investors are few, inexperienced, or prejudiced, you will have the first mover advantage; as Warren Buffet correctly stated, “First comes the inventor, then the imitator, and last the fool.”

Source: Howard Marks- Truth About investing.

Disclaimer: “The views expressed are for information purposes only. The information provided herein should not be considered as investment advice or research recommendation. The users should rely on their own research and analysis and should consult their own investment advisors to determine the merit, risks, and suitability of the information provided.”

Luck Vs. Skill in Investing

Jeremy Chia reminds us that investing is a game of probabilities. In any game where probability is a factor, luck undoubtedly plays a role. This leads to the age-old question of how much of our investment performance is impacted by luck?

Is an investor who has outperformed the market a good investor? Similarly, is an investor who has underperformed the market a lousy investor? The answer is surprisingly complex.

Long term stock prices tend to gravitate toward the present value of the company’s expected future cash flow. However, that future cash flow is influenced by so many factors that result in a range of different possible cash flow possibilities. Not to mention that on rare occasions, the market may grossly misprice certain securities. As such, luck invariably plays a role.

Skill is one aspect of investing that is hard to quantify. However, there are a few things Chia looks at. First, we need to analyse a sufficiently long track record. If an investor can outperform his peers for decades rather than just a few years, then the odds of skill playing a factor become significantly higher. Although Warren Buffett may have been lucky in certain investments, no one can deny that his long-term track record is due to being a skilful investor.

Next, focus on the process. Analysing an investment manager’s process is a better way to judge the strategy. One way to see if the manager’s investing insights were correct is to compare his original investment thesis with the eventual outcome of the company. If they matched up, then, the manager may be highly skilled in predicting possibilities and outcomes.

Third, find a larger data set. If your investment strategy is based largely on investing in just a few names, it is difficult to distinguish luck and skill simply because you have only invested in such a few stocks. The sample is too small. But if you build a diversified portfolio and were right on a wide range of different investments, then skill was more likely involved.

Mauboussin wrote: “One of the main reasons we are poor at untangling skill and luck is that we have a natural tendency to assume that success and failure are caused by skill on the one hand and a lack of skill on the other. But in activities where luck plays a role, such thinking is deeply misguided and leads to faulty conclusions.”

Chia concludes that it is important that we understand some of these psychological biases and gravitate toward concrete processes that help us differentiate between luck and skill. That’s the key to understanding our own skills and limitations and forming the right conclusions about our investing ability.

Learn to love momentum

Joachim Clement writes on his blog that the global bull market in equities is seemingly never going to end and investors wonder about what they should do who have missed the boat and only partially invested in the current bull market.

The usual fear is that if they invest now, they might be investing at the top of the market. Another argument is that every asset class seems overvalued. Given extremely low-interest rates, bonds don’t seem a viable option, stocks aren’t cheap either and many alternative asset classes like infrastructure or REITs have become expensive as well. There comes a point when avoiding an asset class on valuation grounds or for fear of an imminent bear market becomes counterproductive. By standing on the sidelines for too long the opportunity costs in terms of foregone returns can become so big that it may take you years and even decades to make up for them.

Value investors and long-term investors, in general, tend to look down on traders, but there are a few things that long-term investors can and should learn from them. First of all, they should learn that time in the market is more important than timing the market. One can only make money if one is invested. But being invested comes with the inevitable risk of drawdowns, which can be short-term in nature like in the US at the end of 2018, or a massive global bear market like in 2008. To deal with these risks of decline in share prices it is important to learn from short-term investors to respect and even love momentum. If price momentum goes against your position for too long, you should sell the position and buy it back at a later point in time when price momentum is more favourable again.

The maximum declines between 1998 and 2019 have also been massively reduced, showing that these momentum-driven strategies can help you avoid severe losses. If you are worried today about high valuations or the possible end of the current bull market, then the most important thing for you is to get into the market with a sensible plan to get out when momentum turns. But this is fine-tuning. The most important thing for investors today is not to be afraid of the bull market.