January 24, 2018

Perspective

A Wealth of Common Sense: 180 Years of Stock Market Drawdowns – Ben Carlson 1/22

  • “A reader sent me a link to a video of a presentation given by former hedge fund manager and quant Robert Frey (whose firm was actually bought out by legendary hedge fund manager Jim Simons in the 90s) called 180 Years of Market Drawdowns.”
  • “Frey discusses the many changes that have taken place in the stock market over the years — the creation of the Fed, monetary policy, fiscal policy, the end of the gold standard, tax rates, valuations, the industry make-up of the markets and a number of other things.”
  • “But there has been one constant going back all the way to the early 1800s — risk. More specifically, drawdowns or losses. Frey presented a couple of different charts on the market to make his point. First, here’s the long-term growth of the stock market with losses shaded in red:”
  • “Now here are those losses visualized in another way without the benefit of a log scale chart:”
  • “Obviously, the crash during the Great Depression stands out here, but look at how consistent losses have been over each and every decade or economic environment. Losses are really the one constant across all cycles.”
  • “Frey says in his talk that in stocks, ‘You’re usually in a drawdown state’.”
  • “Stocks don’t make new highs every single day, so most of the time you’re going to be underwater from your portfolio’s high water mark. This means there are plenty of chances to be in a state of regret when investing in stocks.”
  • “This makes sense when you consider that stocks are positive just a little over half the time when looking at returns on a daily basis, but it can be difficult to wrap your head around this fact.”
  • “I used monthly total returns on stocks for these numbers and found that an investor would have been down from a prior peak over 70% of the time. The majority of your time invested in stocks could be spent thinking about how you coulda, shoulda, woulda sold at that previous high price (which of course gets taken out to the upside eventually).”
  • “Over the last 90 years or so the market have been in a bear market almost one-quarter of the time. Half the time you’re down 5% or worse. It’s difficult to appreciate this fact when looking at a long-term log scale stock chart that seems to only go up and to the right.”
  • “This is why stocks are constantly playing mind games with us. They generally go up but not every day, week, month or year.”
  • “No one can predict what the future returns will be in the market. No one knows what the future holds for economic growth. And we certainly can’t predict how investors will decide to price corporate cash flows at any given point in time out into the future.”
  • “But predicting future risk is fairly easy — markets will continue to fluctuate and experience losses on a regular basis. As an investor in stocks you will spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself because your portfolio has fallen in value from a previously seen higher level.”
  • “Market losses are the one constant that don’t change over time — get used to it.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Teachable Moment – A Goon Squad of Charlatans, False Prophets and Mercenaries – Anthony Isola 1/23

NYT – What if a Healthier Facebook Is Just … Instagram? – Kevin Rose 1/22

Markets / Economy

FT – No stealth taper from Bank of Japan – Robin Harding 1/23

  • “BoJ governor says bank has not started thinking about exit from monetary easing.”

FT – High-spirits as Bacardi swallows Patron tequila for $5.1bn – Jude Webber 1/22

Energy

FT – Trump’s 30% tariffs on solar imports anger global sector – Ed Crooks 1/23

  • “The Solar Energy Industries Association said it expected the tariffs to cost about 23,000 jobs, based on modeling by IHS Markit, the research group. That is about 9% of the estimated US solar workforce of about 260,000.”

FT – Trump raises temperature with new tariffs in China trade battle – Shawn Donnan and Ed Crooks 1/23

  • Beijing and Seoul are not happy.

Finance

FT – Private equity: flood of cash triggers buyout bubble fears – Javier Espinoza 1/22

  • “The buyout sector is on a tear as investors hunt for higher returns. But as competition and valuations increase, some fear a dangerous new cycle.”

Cryptocurrency

Bloomberg Businessweek – Startups Are Raising Billions Using Initial Coin Offerings – Yuji Nakamura 1/22

FT – The $3bn ICO question – Don Weinland 1/23

  • “Where has the $3bn raised in ‘initial coin offerings’ over the last year and a half actually gone?”
  • “A group of academics led by experts from the University of Luxembourg and the European Banking Institute, have been pondering that very question for months. And what they found out could alarm investors who have been buying into companies using an instant digital ledger (aka blockchain) and cryptocurrencies instead of investing on the stock markets with hard cash.”
  • “On the crucial question of who is ‘behind’ an ICO, the researchers found that 21% of the 300 ICO deals in their database ‘failed to convey any information at all about the issuing entity’. About 52% of the issuers did not provide valid postal addresses.” 
  • “The authors stress that they have only looked at 300 ICOs, and therefore their findings should not be taken as ‘any more than very broadly indicative, given that the total universe of ICOs’ is more than 1,000.”
  • “Regulators around the world have found ICOs’ rise troubling, especially since the rewards promised by ICO issuers are often obtuse and can range from use of their product (in exchange for the tokens investors buy) to a share in profits. In some cases, investors hold on to the tokens hoping for a Bitcoinesque rise in value.” 
  • “Despite the high level of regulatory uncertainty, most issuers have so far done little to make things clearer for buyers.”
  • “Nearly 83% of the ICOs give no regulatory status for the offerings, the report says. That means the buyer does not know under what laws the ICO is regulated, or what their legal rights are after making a purchase. The researchers could not determine in what jurisdiction 93 of the ICOs, were based.”

WSJ – The Programmer at the Center of a $100 Billion Crypto Storm – Paul Vigna and Jim Oberman 1/23

  • “How a top source of bitcoin data contributed to a sudden plunge in digital currencies.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 1/22

Tech

FT – WeChat launches alternative to Apple App Store – Yuan Yang 1/9

  • “WeChat, China’s most frequently used mobile app, today started offering ‘miniprograms’ within the app from third-party developers. Users can now book a shared ride with Didi, order a gift from JD.com, or rent a bicycle from Mobike — and use over 100 other ‘apps within the app’ — without leaving the WeChat platform.”
  • Note that WeChat now has over 580,000 apps within its universe – up from 100 when it started.
  • “The new miniprogram function makes WeChat, or Weixin in Chinese, the first big platform to provide an alternative to the App Store from Apple, which has tightly controlled what programs can be installed on an iOS device.”
  • “The miniprograms can be used almost instantly and provide stripped-down functions compared to the original full apps.”
  • “Rather than the 30% cut that Apple takes from App Store purchases, developers have not been asked to give any cut to WeChat, according to Matthew Brennan of the tech consultancy ChinaChannel.”
  • “In addition, miniprograms are ‘device-neutral’, meaning they will run in exactly the same way on Android and iOS.”
  • “WeChat’s captive audience makes it a more plausible candidate to crack open in-app app distribution. The platform accounts for 35% of all time spent on mobiles in China, according to QuestMobile, the tech research lab. More than 750m people log into WeChat daily, and half of them use it for more than an hour and a half each day.”
  • “’Tencent is winning the mobile war. Miniprograms will come to have a material impact on Apple’s App Store revenues; around 15% of China’s mobile market are iOS users. Tencent is Apple’s number one source of income from the App Store globally,’ said Mr Brennan.”

Health / Medicine

WSJ – Why Our Mental Health Takes a Village – Elizabeth Bernstein 1/22

  • “Different people can help us manage different moods. Psychologists explain how to build a portfolio of supportive allies.”

China

NYT – China’s Housing Market Is Like a Casino. Can a Property Tax Tame It? – Keith Bradsher 1/22

  • “Now the Chinese government is considering adopting something that, while familiar to homeowners in the United States and elsewhere, could dramatically reshape the world’s second-largest economy: a property tax.”
  • “Living in a place without property taxes may sound appealing, but a growing number of experts and policymakers in China say the absence of one has helped destabilize a vast and crucial part of the Chinese economy.”
  • “Many investors snap up homes — in China, they are mostly apartments — hoping to ride a price surge. In the biggest cities, property prices on average have at least doubled over the past eight years. But vast numbers of apartments in many cities lie empty, either because the buyers have no intention of moving in or renting out, or because speculators built homes that nobody wants.”
  • “A property tax could have a profound impact on a crucial part of the nation’s economy. Real estate makes up nearly three-quarters of the assets of Chinese households, according to the Survey and Research Center for China Household Finance, an academic institute in Chengdu, in southwestern China. That compares with a bit more than one-third for United States households. Roughly a fifth to a quarter of China’s annual economic output comes from property and related industries, like furniture making.”
  • “But housing is also the source of some of the country’s biggest booms and busts. Local investors — many of whom do not trust the country’s stock markets and are forbidden by Beijing to move most of their wealth abroad — simply throw money at housing. Real estate broker fees, often as low as 1%, are a small fraction of the typical 6% in the United States. Mortgage lending has leapt over the past two years, adding to the potential for financial turbulence.”
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