Extreme Volatility: What’s An Investor To Do?

This market reminds me of an old friend who had the unfortunate tendency to obsess over details. Hyper-focused on the Fed’s every word, investors are driving this market batty, parsing and splitting each piece of economic data, each Fed governor’s statement into smaller and ostensibly more consumable bits only to spew them out the following day. Up one session. Down the next. Manic, euphoric and very hard to live with.

So what is an investor to do?

Some are pulling money out of stock funds — to the tune of $16.2 billion last week alone and, according to Merrill Lynch, $46 billion over the last month. Sentiment, measured by various organizations, indicates investors are more bearish than bullish for the first time since the fall of 2011.

The experts are divided, too.  According to Barron’s, about half of the 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted the Fed will lift rates, although traders in Fed-funds futures are much less certain, with about 28 percent expecting an increase. If the experts can’t agree, the rest of us have no chance.

Let’s consider a few facts.   Click here for more:  The Arizona Republic

Stock Liquidity: A Two-Edged Sword

The great 20th-century playwright Tennessee Williams once remarked, “If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.” For those not keen on literary bromides, the translation in 21st-century vernacular might be: The good news is also the bad news. Either sums up the double-edged sword of stock liquidity. The good news is that investors can obtain an instantaneous stock quote and sell their shares with the click of a mouse. That is also the bad news.

Ben Graham was the first to write about the antithetical characteristics of liquidity in his classic “The Intelligent Investor.” He compared the benefits of owning non-liquid investments to those of liquid securities during the worst of the 1931-33 depression. Graham observed that there was a kind of “psychological advantage in owning business interests which had no quoted market.” He argued that those with illiquid investments could convince themselves that their investments had kept their full value — since there were no daily market quotations to prove otherwise. On the other hand, owners of stocks and bonds subject to daily quotations obtained a sense that they were “growing distinctly poorer” each day. For those of us who still feel the sting of the 2008 decline, Graham’s words resonate.

Warren Buffett, a student of Graham’s and his eventual collaborator on the fourth edition of “The Intelligent Investor,” is the modern-day personification of the intelligent investor. In his 2013 annual letter to shareholders, Buffett provides an example of two very successful illiquid investments he made in real estate. “Those people who can sit quietly for decades when they own a farm or apartment house … often become frenetic” when exposed to daily stock quotes and commentary. He concludes, “For these investors, liquidity is transformed from the unqualified benefit it should be to a curse.”  Click here for more:

The Arizona Republic

Independent thinkers earn enviable investment returns

Urban legend suggests lemmings are so committed to their herd they will stick together even if they march right off a cliff to their inevitable death.

It is easy to understand why many find the adorable lemming’s behavior analogous to investor behavior at market tops.

Those of us who have run a race understand just how important it is to pace ourselves, removed from the pack, running our race — not the race of the person to the right or the left. In investing, we refer to this as a goals-based approach: a strategy that focuses more on personal, long-term goals than beating an arbitrary benchmark or owning the latest and greatest growth stocks. It is an approach that, by definition, removes investors from the lemming crowd.

Jeremy Siegel, author of “Stocks for the Long Run,” has conducted comprehensive research on stock performance over the past 100-plus years; as a result, he is a diehard proponent of value investing. The primary reason is the power of dividend reinvestment.

Siegel’s classic and most-cited example of why value stocks outperform growth stock analyzes an investment of $1,000 in (then) growth stock IBM compared with value stock Exxon (XOM) from 1950-2012.  For the rest of the article, click here:  The Arizona Republic

Friendly insights on commodity prices, undervalued stocks

My friend Kenny Polcari, a floor broker on the NYSE, he writes a daily market commentary. It is lively and direct and always insightful. At the end of each piece, he provides a recipe du jour. The guy is not only investment savvy — he can cook (his Fava Bean Risotto is a masterpiece). Last week Kenny provided a unique and erudite explanation of the decline in commodity prices: “Hey look! Commodities and the dollar have an inverse relationship…when one goes up, the other goes down.”

Because commodities are priced in dollars, investors in other currencies have to purchase the dollars to purchase the commodity, which becomes more expensive when the dollar rises. Got it? Higher prices reduce demand. And when demand declines, so does the price of the underlying commodity. Economics 101: supply and demand.

RELATED: Checking back on our 2014 stocks to watch

Why does this matter?  Read on:  The Arizona Republic

Investors need confidence in company’s managers

You may have heard the old adage: If you don’t like company management, vote with your feet and sell the stock.

Benjamin Graham, author of the 1949 classic The Intelligent Investor, calls that attitude “fatuous and harmful,” for it does nothing to improve bad management and merely shifts the problem to someone else. Graham was a believer that “investors make money not out of each other but out of … businesses.”

In the daily hype surrounding the stock market, the purpose of owning stocks is often lost on the average investor. The prevailing sense that investing is gambling or sport (words such as “bet” or “play” when referring to investing make me cringe) is unfortunate. Investing is neither. When we buy shares in a company, we are buying the company’s management team as well as a portion of the company’s future earnings. This is our management team, and we are counting on them to execute a sound business strategy and robust earnings growth.

Because the nature of stock ownership is a little less tangible than say, real estate, it is even more imperative we have confidence in the management team. This past weekend, Barron‘s published its annual listing of the “World’s Most Respected Companies.”

lick here for the rest:  The Arizona Republic  And comment or share if helpful to you.

Play your own game–invest, don’t trade.

Trading and investing are not the same thing. When we use the two words interchangeably we muddle the message. We confuse the issue.

The word trade comes from the 14th century Old English: tredan. The original meaning referred to a way or course — a manner of life. But by the early 1500s the meaning had evolved to include buying and selling as a means of exchanging commodities.

A trade, therefore, is a short-term activity with a very specific purpose — an acquisition or disposition.

Investing, on the other hand, is an activity with a longer-term intention. The word’s source, investire, is from the 14th century Latin meaning to clothe. By the 16th century, this word, too, had evolved into an activity that gives capital a new form. For our purposes: a greater, larger, plumper form.

RELATED: Checking back on our 2014 stocks to watch

MORE: Temper speculation with common sense

The differentiation between trading and investing matters because too many of us freely interchange the use of and meaning of these words. They are antithetical. They are mutually exclusive. Traders intend to produce a quick, short-term gain (though the statistics would show more frequently a loss) and investors seek to increase their wealth through the long-term ownership of sound businesses.

Our friend, Benjamin Graham, author of “The Intelligent Investor,” said it like this: “But everybody knows that most people who trade in the market lose money at it in the end…they are not investors.”

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Following up on our 2014 stocks to watch.

Last July we examined two industry leaders in two very different cyclical industries: Oracle Corporation —a stock I own — and International Paper.

ORCL is a leader in enterprise software and IP is a leader in paper and packaging (think: corrugated boxes and paper cups). At that time the two companies traded at comparable valuations of approximately 13 times estimated earnings. Both stocks paid a dividend. ORCL yielded 1.2 percent, while IP yielded a more substantial 2.9 percent. Both stocks were cheap as measured by their respective p/e’s, and, in particular, when compared withtheir peer group companies and the S&P 500.

RELATED: Tengler: Long-term strategy key to investing success

MORE: Human nature key in stock decisions

Despite their similar valuations in July 2014 both stocks had very different earnings histories. ORCL’s five-year earnings registered in the mid-double digits, and was expected to slow to the low double digits in the subsequent five year period. IP’s five-year earnings growth, on the other hand, was flat due largely to a restructuring; five-year estimated earnings growth was expected to grow in the mid-single digits.

Read more here:  The Arizona Republic

Temper speculation with common sense

For Benjamin Graham, the greatest risk facing an investor is not the market, but short-term, emotional reactions to stocks. Nancy Tengler discusses the importance of emotional discipline.

 

Successful investors are students of history. Just as philosopher George Satayana famously declared: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” so it is also true: Investors who do not study the historical performance of stocks are doomed to make costly mistakes.

No one understood that point as clearly as Benjamin Graham, author of “The Intelligent Investor.” And no one has articulated it so well. According to Graham, intelligent investing requires an informed (though not necessarily exhaustive) understanding of the companies we are buying. He does not argue that individuals must be endowed with superior intelligence; rather, they must possess the discipline to exercise “firmness in the application of relatively simple principles of sound procedure.”

For Graham, the greatest risk facing the individual investor is not the market but our short-term reaction (often emotional) to stocks. We sometimes find ourselves “beset with confusions and temptation… frequently unconscious toward speculation, toward making money quickly and excitedly, toward participating in the moods … of the crowd.” In other words, Graham warns us to be wary of our natural proclivity to desire instant success. Gambling, lotteries and speculative trading appeal to the eternal hope etched on our imagination; the hope we just might win, we just might get rich quick.

Read the rest of this column by clicking here:  The Arizona Republic

Why Rising Interest Rates Won’t Necessarily Be Bad for Stocks

When Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” he may have been anticipating the low to zero interest rates savers and investors have been contending with for years.

Now it seems that rates have finally begun to rise, and contrary to conventional wisdom, that won’t necessarily be bad news for stocks.

Since the end of January, the S&P 500 has returned a positive 7.1 percent, while the price of bonds has declined and the 10-year Treasury yield has risen 0.6 percent. Investors have been busy selling bonds in anticipation of the inevitable (and much-anticipated) hike by the Federal Reserve Board while economists and pundits handicap the date of the upcoming rate increase. June? September? 2016?

Click here for the rest of the column: The Arizona Republic

When Market Levels Seem High Focus on the Best Companies with the Cheapest Valuations

The age-old maxim —”sell in May and go away,” is often quoted by traders as a sure-fire strategy. And, for seemingly good reason.

According to Yardeni Research, since 1928, the S&P 500 has risen an average of 1.9 percent from May to October but an impressive 5.2 percent from November to April. Yet since the beginning of this bull run the old adage has not held true. If you had sold in May during this cycle you would have underperformed the overall market by a cumulative 70 percent. Since 1926, the stock market has generated positive annual returns more than 70 percent of the time, so it turns out that despite market tradition, being out of stocks is often riskier than remaining invested.

So what strategy should an investor follow—if exiting is either too risky, or at the very least, undesirable—when convinced that the market is becoming fully, or overvalued? One of my tried-and-true investment rules? Buy stocks like you buy toilet paper — focus on price and yield.

For the remainder of the column, click here: The Arizona Republic