Short-Term Performance is Everything

Short-Term Performance is Everything

Two years ago value investing was dead, now it is the obvious approach to adopt in the current environment. What has changed? Short-term performance. There are more captivating rationales but underlying it all is shifting performance patterns. These random and unpredictable movements in financial markets drive investors’ behavior and are the lifeblood of the asset management industry; but they are also a poison for investors, destroying long-term returns.

Narratives + extrapolation

Short-term performance in financial markets is chaotic and meaningless (insofar as investors can profitably trade based on it), but they don’t see this; instead, they construct stories of cause and effect.  Furthermore, because the stories are so compelling, investors are certain that they will go on forever. This is why when performance is strong absolutely anything goes. Extreme valuations, unsustainably high returns, and made-up currencies cannot be questioned – haven’t you seen the performance, surely that’s telling you something? Of course, what it is telling is not particularly useful. It is just that investors struggle to accept or acknowledge it. There must always be a justification.

Performance is not a process

Financial markets do not provide short-term rewards for efforts and hard work. Nor can any investment approach consistently outperform the market except by chance (unless someone can predict the near future). Many investors seem to accept this. If performance is good a fund manager can say almost anything and it will be accepted as credible. If performance is bad then everything said will be disregarded. The problem with lauding short-term performance as evidence of skill poses the question of what happens when conditions change. If the process leads to consistently good short-term outcomes, what does one say when short-term outcomes are consistently bad? When performance is strong it is because of ‘process’, when it’s weak it is because of ‘markets’.

Sustaining the industry

Not only do the uncertainties of markets give investors something to talk about, but they also give them something to sell. The sheer number of funds and indices available to investors is a direct result of the randomness of short-term performance. There will always be a new story or trend to exploit tomorrow. Judgments made based on short-term performance will make everyone look skillful some of the time.

Misaligned incentives

The obsession with short-term performance is a vicious circle. Everyone must care about it because everyone cares about it. This creates a harmful misalignment problem where professional investors aren’t incentivized to make prudent long-term decisions; they are incentivized to survive a succession of short-time periods. Irrespective of whether this leads to good long-term results.

Source: ‘Short-Term Performance is Everything’, by Joe Wiggins published on

Asset Multiplier Comments:

  • If investors are concentrated on short-term success, long-term returns may be unsatisfactory.
  • Investors can avoid the chances of capital erosion and damaging outcomes by choosing to stay focused on their long-term investing approaches.
  • They should refrain from trying to make sense of short-term market fluctuations because doing so can be mentally taxing and lead to poor choices.
  • Long-term investing decisions can make one look foolish in the short term, but they are sustainable ways of achieving capital gains over the long run.

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.”

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