Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Buy and Hold vs. Market Timing: Some personal observations

Short term traders do not hold their stocks for too long.  They often take their profit.  They then plough them back into another new trade when they perceive the upside is better than the downside.  They are not the buy and hold types.  To them, rightly so, buy and hold is a very dangerous strategy, especially so too if they are not picking carefully the stocks they trade in.   Short term trends are totally unpredictable.  They react to graphs depicting volumes and prices; searching for and attributing meanings to these.

When the market is on the uptrend, everyone benefits.  Postings were similarly optimistic.  "Why I like stock XXX?"  "Why I like stock XYZ, very much?"... Blah. Blah. Blah.   Now that the market has shown some volatilites and uncertainties, the postings turned pessimistic.  "Beware the black swan..."  Blah. Blah. Blah.  Such thinking is typical of a market timer. 

Yet, the reality is:  No one can predict the market with any certainty.  If he can, he will own the world.  But one should invest with some knowledge of the probabilities of likely outcomes. Even more importantly, is knowing the consequences arising from these probabilities, however unlikely these maybe.  Nassim Taleb is right to point these "fatal downsides" of unintelligent or emotional investing in his two classic books.

Let me share with you a "well known' secret.  Do you know that the richest persons  in the world are all mostly "buy and hold" type investors?  Look at the KLSE bourse.  Who owns the major wealth in the KLSE?  Lee family of KLK, Lim family of Genting, Yeoh family of YTL, Teh family of PBB, Lim family of TopGlove, Lee family of IOI, .......  They are the major shareholders of the good quality successful companies.  Do they buy and sell their shares in their companies regularly?  Do they make more of their money from trading their shares or from holding onto their shares over a very very long period?

Buy and hold is safe.  It is very safe for those with a long term investing horizon.  However, there is one provision:  You need to be in the right stock.  You will need to be a stock-picker.  Pick the good quality successful companies and you will have few reasons to sell them. 

Buy and hold is certainly very safe for selected stocks.  Do not react emotionally to price volatilities.  Price volatility is your friend to be taken advantage of:  giving you the opportunity to buy these companies at a bargain and to sell them if they are overpriced.  Often, the price is correct and fair, and you need not do anything.   For the super-rich whose wealth are locked in a "buy and hold" mode for umpteen years in their good quality successful companies, this strategy has benefitted them immensely.  If they can grow rich, so can you.  After all, you can be a co-owner in their companies.  Think about this and you may wish to follow them too, buying into their companies at fair or bargain prices.  For this, you will need to be rewired appropriately.

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