Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A good video to share on Value Investing (Richard H Lawrence)

The speaker has shared a lot of his experience and knowledge, and has been very generous in answering many questions in this video.


1.  Invest in superior company.
2.  Good management.
3.  Buy when stocks are down.  Be a contrarian.
4.  Invest for long term capital gains.


Surround yourself with the right people who share your philosophy.  (The DNA of the firm).

Discipline, procedure and process.   Set up the tools.  (e.g. monitor the 52 week low levels.  Pricing power.  Score risk.  What would you do when you meet a big bear market?)


Deliver the results to the investors.

Time weighted returns (NAV return in the fund).  Capital weighted returns (Investor's return).

Must learn to manage your partnership in the bear market.  The best opportunity in bear market gives you excess return over the next 7 years.  Control the level of your asset under management to ensure his stocks have the muscle to get through a severe bear market.

Control greed.  Don't allow greed to get into your way.


6 Tenets of his model:

1.   Pricing power:  

How do you calculate this?  Able to price your profit to ensure no erosion of margin irrespective of input cost rising or falling despite facing a lot of competition.   .

Look at Margins -  Gross profit margin.  Cash gross profit margin (EBITDA margin).  Low variability of cash gross profit margin.

2.   Cash flow:

Cash flow from operation:  Net Income + D&A + other non cash items.

Free cash flow = CFO - maintenance Capex  (business in steady state)

Cash flow of the corporate structure.  (e.g. Apple has all its cash in overseas countries and has to borrow in US to pay off dividends and buy backs.domestically)

Working capital cash flow:  Negative working capital cash flows.

Company must know how to manage the FCF.   Give dividends.  Reinvest for growth.

3.   Invest in High profitability company.  

600 out of 1000 companies are probably mediocre profitability companies.  Eliminate them.

Focus on the ones with the highest profitability in the 400s.

Stay with the best of the best, and you should be able to outperform.

(I don't believe in the WACC.  DCF can be difficult to use and garbage in and garbage out.)

What is an acceptable level of profitability?

Above industry average (NOT THE BEST ANSWER).

Better to look at this through the DUPONT MODEL.   Asset turnover.  Net profit margin. Financial leverage.   Can check the reasons why these factors are not high.  Very good model.

Margin gone up.  Asset turnover gone up.  Financial leverage gone down.  VERY GOOD.
Those where ROE is high due to high finanical leverage.  NOT SO GOOD.

EBIT / NET OPERATING ASSET transfer into high ROE,  allows you to look at the quality of the management.

4.   Need to be prepared for a bear market.

Don't like cyclical companies.  Volatility of margins.  Sales slow, interest cost goes up and profit margin drops.  A whole waste of time and pain to get into these stocks.

Better stay with companies with stable earnings that can get through bear markets.  Even when you invested on a wrong day, you will still be alright.

5.  Sustainability of EPS growth.  Don't invest for change of PE.  INVEST FOR EARNINGS GROWTH.


Companies with EPS growth -  look for low cyclicality of business, ability to increase market share, good companies usually grow market share during a bear market or recession, low cost, large number of customers and suppliers.  All these are low risks to your investing.

6.   Valuation (Benchmarking)

His Formula:

(ROE + normalised Earnings growth over next 3 to 4 years) /4 = target PE
e.g. (30 + 14 /4) = target PE of 11. 

Comparing a group of 15 companies and score them 1 to 15, ranking them.

John Neff: (Earnings growth + Dividend yield) / PE.  Discards the stocks with the worse number.

De-emotionalise the process which is incredibly emotional.

These are powerful instruments for rebalancing your portfolio.

Track the key numbers in your portfolio.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Major Changes Seen in Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway Stocks

Major Changes Seen in Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway Stocks: Apple, Walmart, Phillips 66, Deere & More

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) has released its public equity holdings as of June 30, 2016. What makes this so interesting for Warren Buffett fans, outside of Buffett being one of the richest men alive, is that there have been many key changes in the Buffett stocks over the last few quarters. The Berkshire Hathaway earnings report in recent weeks showed that the total equity securities listed on the balance sheet was $102.563 billion, while the 13F filing with the SEC showed the balance as of June 30 as being $129.7 billion.
24/7 Wall St. and its founders have followed the portfolio changes from Buffett’s top stock holdings for about two decades now. We track the changes made each quarter, and ultimately these end up being quite different through time. Buffett’s addition of two more portfolio managers in recent years only makes the changes look even more extreme over time.
Investors need to keep in mind that approximately 61% of the aggregate fair value of the common equity securities is concentrated in four companies: 
  1. Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) at $23.7 billion; 
  2. International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) at $12.3 billion; 
  3. The Coca-Cola Company at $18.1 billion; and 
  4. American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) at $9.2 billion.

Again, big changes have been made. Warren Buffett also has large stakes in food-giant Kraft Heinz Co. (NYSE: KHC) and refining giant Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX); and the March quarter showed a new $1 billion stake in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). Berkshire Hathaway also ended the June-2016 quarter with almost $72.7 billion in cash and cash equivalents. That figure is from a total of insurance and other, railroad utilities and energy, and finance and financial products.
Here is how the new list of Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway’s public share holding looks as of June 30, 2016.
American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) was the same 151.6+ million shares, a position which remains perpetually static whether shares rise or fall. Buffett has owned AmEx for so long it may be cheaper for him to just hold rather than pay gains.
The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) was the exact same stake of 400 million shares, a position which has also remained static for years. Buffett has defended his stake here for years.
International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) was listed as the same 81.232 million shares in June as it was in March. Still, this Big Blue stake has been raised and raised. It was 81.03 million shares as of December 31, about 79.5 million shares as of the end of last June, and the end of 2014 position was 76.971 million IBM shares.
Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) is a position that Warren Buffett might add to for infinity. The June 30 stake was listed as the same 479.704 million shares listed in March. This was 470.29 million shares last September, and again it just keeps being raised. As a reminder, it was documented that Buffett has filed to be allowed to increase his stake north of the 10% threshold with the SEC. With Wells Fargo being a serial acquirer of its own stock Buffett might end up owning more than 10% of the stock even without trying.
Kraft Heinz Co. (NYSE: KHC) was listed as 325,634,818 shares, the same stake it was on March 31 and at the end of 2015. This stake is from the 3G Capital deal and is actually more important than it seems. Buffett had been suggesting that his exposure would be coming down due to his preferred shares being redeemed. The earnings report in recent weeks confirmed that. The value here as of June 30 was $28.8 billion.
Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) was an INCREASED STAKE to 78.782 million shares as of June 30. As of March 31, it was a 75.55 million share stake and this has risen steadily. This stake previously had been classified as an elimination in 2015 and then was shown after Buffett got the stake classified with the SEC as confidential.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was an INCREASED STAKE to 15.227 million shares as of June 30, worth some $1.455 billion. The stake in Apple was a new position back in the March quarter, listed as 9,811,747 shares worth some $1.069 billion at that time.
Axalta Coating Systems Ltd. (NYSE: AXTA) was the same stake of 23.324 million shares, after having been listed as a new position of 20 million shares.
Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (NYSE: BK) was a larger stake at 20.827 million shares, up from a prior 20.112 million. That was versus 24.6 million shares in the past.
Charter Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR) was a slightly lower stake at 9.337 million shares. This was 10.326 million shares in March but was up then from 10.281 million at the end of 2015.
Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) was the same stake at 4,333,363 shares.
DaVita Inc. (NYSE: DVA) was the same 38.565 million shares, but this had been raised in prior quarters prior to Buffett entering into a standstill agreement not to buy more than 25% of the company.
Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) was a smaller stake at 21.959 million shares. That is down from 23.28 million shares, but that had been 22.884 million shares at the end of 2015 after some 5.83 million shares had been added at the end of last year.
General Electric Corp. (NYSE: GE) was the same stake of 10.585 million shares. This stake was raised in 2014 and had been telegraphed before because of the warrants.
General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) was a the same stake of exactly 50 million shares, but this previously had been raised from 41 million shares last year.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) was the same stake of 10.959 million shares, but this had been as high as 12.631 million shares prior to the end of 2015.
Graham Holdings Co. (NYSE: GHC) remains the same tiny stake of 107,575 shares in what is just the remains of Washington Post breakup.
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) was the same tiny stake of only 327,100 shares, but Buffett watchers know this is a leftover bit from a much larger stake in years past.
Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) was listed as 26.533 million shares as of June 30. This was the same stake as in March and was selected by one of Buffett’s portfolio managers rather than on his own.
Lee Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: LEE) was the same tiny stake of only 88,863 shares.
Liberty Media Corp. (NASDAQ: LMCA) and Liberty Global PLC (NASDAQ: LBTYA) are both again listed as Buffett and Berkshire Holdings. These are counted as Class A and Class C shares, so we will leave this stakes simplified just like that.
M&T Bank Corp. (NYSE: MTB) was the same position at 5.382 million shares — same as always.
MasterCard Inc. (NYSE: MA) was the same 4.934 million shares as in March, but this was 5,229,756 shares at the end of 2015.
Media General Inc. (NYSE: MEG) was the same-sized stake at 3.471 million shares.
Mondelez International Inc. (NASDAQ: MDLZ) is the same position again at 578,000 shares, remaining handily lower than in the past and dating back to the Kraft breakup.
Moody’s Corp. (NYSE: MCO) was the same position of 24.669 million shares yet again, but this stake is still lower than in years past.
NOW Inc. (NYSE: DNOW) was the same stake of 1.825 million shares.
Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) is still a much lower stake of just 315,400 shares, same as in March. This had previously been listed as almost 52.8 million shares in the prior formal 13F report before the Duracell swap. P&G had once peaked at 96.3 million shares in the Buffett stocks.
Restaurant Brands International Inc. (NYSE: QSR) was the same stake at 8.438 million shares. The reality is that this is much larger if you consider the $3 billion in perpetual preferred shares pointed out previously.
Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) was the same position at 3.905 million shares.
Suncor Energy Inc. (NYSE: SU) was a lower stake at 22.275 million shares. This had been up to 30 million shares previously, but this used to be a smaller stake at 22.35 million last June.
Torchmark Corp. (NYSE: TMK) the same stake at 6.353 million shares.
Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (NASDAQ: FOXA) was the same stake of 8.951 million shares at the end of 2015. This stake was raised from 6.228 million shares in prior reports, versus 4.747 million shares at the end of 2014.
U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB) was the same position of 85.06 million shares at the end of June but that stake had been raised slightly before the prior quarters (was 80.09 million shares at the end of 2014).
USG Corp. (NYSE: USG) was the same stake at just over 39.002 million shares, but this had been raised prior to the end of 2014.
United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) was the same position of just 59,400 shares, way down from 2012.
VeriSign Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSN) was slightly smaller at 12.952 million shares, after having had been a tad larger at 13.044 million shares in March. This one had previously grown in 2014.
Verisk Analytics Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSK) was the same position at 1,563,434 shares, but that is lower than in prior quarters.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) was the same stake at 15 million shares in June versus the end of March, but that had been raised a year earlier.
Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) was the same stake of 10.239 million shares at the end June, but this is up from 9.885 million shares in 2015. The Visa stake had been raised throughout 2014.
WABCO Holdings Inc. (NYSE: WBC) was the same 3.237 million shares, but this had been coming down through time. At one point the stake was over 4 million shares.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) was a stake was taken down by more than 15 million shares to 40.226 million by the end of June. That was decreased by 949,430 in March to some 55,235,863 shares. That stake was 56.185 million shares at the end of 2015 and was down from 60.385 million shares at the end of June and after having been raised prior to 2015.

Petronas Dagangan - A Solid 2Q16

Maintain OUTPERFORM. We keep our FY16-FY18 earnings estimates unchanged for now. Price target is also maintained at RM25.40/share which is based on an unchanged valuation basis of -0.5 SD 3-year average PER of 27x. Thus, the stock is maintained at OUTPERFORM. Risks to our call include drop in business volume and a sudden plunge in MOPS within a brief period of time.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Berkshire Hathaway: Growth at Reasonable Price (GARP)

Stock Data:
Recent Stock Performance:

1 Week 1.7%
4 Weeks 4.5%
13 Weeks 1.3%
52 Weeks 3.6%

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Key Data:

Current Price (8/12/2016): 221,750
(Figures in U.S. Dollars)

Ticker: BRK.A
Country: United States

Exchanges: NYSE FRA
Major Industry: Diversified Financials

Sub Industry: Fire, Marine, & Casualty Insurance
2015 Sales 210,821,000,000
(Year Ending Jan 2016).
Employees: 331,000

Currency: U.S. Dollars
Market Cap: 364,525,068,000

Fiscal Yr Ends: December
Shares Outstanding: 1,643,856

Share Type: Class A
Closely Held Shares: 438,078

Spreadsheet of financials of Berkshire Hathaway:


1. Revenue grew about 50% over the last 5 years.
2. Pretax profit and Net Income more than doubled over the last 5 years.
3. Earnings generate lots of funds from operations and net cash from operations. These suggest high quality earnings.
4. Capital expenditure is about 50% of net cash from operations.
5. Accordingly about 50% of the net cash from operations are the owners money (free cash flow).
6. Current ratio is about 3. About 80% of the current asset is cash & short term investments.
7. Total Debt of Berkshire is 75 billion and cash is 71 billion, therefore, it is net cash negative. (surprise!)
8. Equity is 259 billion and total liabilities 302 billion (75 billion debts and 227 billion other liabilities).
9. Financial leverage is about 2x. (Total Asset/Total Equity)
10.. Asset Turnover was 0.38, net Profit Margin was 11.4%, Return on Average Asset was 4.4% and Return on Average Equity was 9.6% in 2015.
11. Revenues, Pretax income, net income, profit margins, net operating cash flows, capital expenditures, total assets and total equity have grown consistently over the last 5 years.
12. At price of US 221,750 per share, its present market cap is 365 billion and is 1.4x its book value of 259 billion.
13. Free Cash Flow to Sales was 7.3% in 2015 (a cash cow).
14. Free Cash Flow yield based on the market cap price was 4.2%.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Part Four 4: A Practical Guide for RANDOM WALKers and other Investors

Chapter 15. Three Giant steps down Wall street

I. The no-brainer step: investing in index funds:
1. The S&P 500 index beat approximately two-thirds of professional managed portfolios in the 1980s and 1990s. Index funds have regularly produced rates of return exceeding those of active managers by close to 2%.

Two reasons:
a. Much lower management fees: public index funds typically charge a fee of 0.2%, while actively managed public mutual funds charge annual management and market expenses that on average are 1.5%.
b. Less trading costs: index funds trade only when necessary, whereas active funds typically have a turnover rate close to 100%, and often even more. Such turnover probably costs the fund at least another 0.5-1% of performance a year.

2. Index funds are also relatively predictable. When you buy an actively managed fund, you can never be sure how it will do relative to its peers. When you buy an index fund, you can be reasonably certain that it will track its index and that it is likely to beat the average manager handily.

3. The index fund has another attraction for small investors. It enables you to obtain very broad diversification with only a small investment. It also allows you to reduce brokerage charges.

4. Many people incorrectly equate indexing with a strategy of simply buying the S&P 500 index. The S&P 500 omits the thousands of small companies that are among the most dynamic in the economy. Thus, I now believe that if an investor is to buy only one U.S. index fund, the best general U.S. index to emulate is the broader Wilshire 5,000 – Stock Index – not the S&P 500.

5. Moreover, investors can reduce risk by diversifying internationally. E.g. Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) index of European, Australian, and Far Eastern (EAFE) securities, and the MSCI emerging markets index.

6. There are index funds holding REITs and bonds.

7. Keep in mind: I am assuming here that you hold most if not all of your securities in tax-advantaged retirement plans. Certainly all of your bonds should be held in such accounts. Furthermore, you may want to alter the percentages somewhat depending on your personal capacity for and attitude toward risk.

II. The do-it-yourself step: potentially useful stock-picking rules

1. Indexing is the strategy I most highly recommend for individuals and institutions. For those who insist on playing the game themselves, I proposed four rules for successful stock selection.

2. Rule 1: Confine stock purchases to companies that appear able to sustain above-average earnings growth for at least five years. Consistent growth not only increases the earnings and dividends of the company but may also increase the multiples that the market is willing to pay for those earnings.

3. Rule 2: Never pay more for a stock than can reasonably be justified by  firm foundation of value. Although I am convinced that you can never judge the exact intrinsic value of a stock. I do feel that you can roughly gauge when a stock seems to be reasonably prices. The market price-earnings multiple is a good place to start: you should buy stocks selling at multiples in line with, or not very much above, this ratio. My strategy, then, is to look for growth situations that the market has not already recognized by bidding the stock’s multiple to a large premium. Some people call this a GARP (growth at a reasonable price) strategy. Buy stocks whose P/E’s are low relative to their growth prospects.

4. Rule 3: it helps to buy stocks with the kinds of stories of anticipated growth on which investors can build castles in the air. People are emotional – driven by greed, gambling instinct, hope, and fear in their stockmarket decisions. This is why successful investing demands both intellectual and psychological acuteness. Stocks are like people – some have more attractive personalities than others. The key to success is being where other investors will be, several months before they get there.

5. Rule 4: Trade as little as possible. My own philosophy leads me to minimize trading as much as possible. I am merciless with the losers, however. With few exceptions, I sell before the end of each calendar year any stocks on which I have a loss. The reason for this timing is that losses are deductible for tax purposes, or can offset gains you may already have taken.

III.The substitute-player step: hiring a professional Wall street walker 
Instead of trying to pick the individual winners (stocks), pick the best coaches (investment managers). But be very careful:

1. Many fund advertisements are quite misleading. The number one ranking is typically for a self-selected specific time period and compared with a particular (usually small) group of common stock funds.

2. It is simply impossible for investors to guarantee themselves above-average returns by purchasing those funds with the best recent records because there is no consistent long-run relationship between performance in one period and investment results in the next.

3. If you have to pick a fund, use the Morningstar mutual-fund information service, which is one of the most comprehensive sources of mutual-fund information an investor can find. The reports indicate whether the fund has nay sales charges (load fees) and shows the annual expense ratios for the fund and the percentage of the fund’s asset value represented by unrealized appreciation. If you buy actively managed funds you should look for no-load, low-expense funds with little unrealized appreciated to minimize future tax liability.

4. A Primer on Mutual-fund costs. There are two broad categories of costs: “load” fee charged when you buy or sell shares and “expense charges” that are taken out of your investment returns each year.

Loading Fees:
a. Front-end load: a commission charge that is paid when you purchase fund shares. Front-end loads are often as high as 5.75%. So-called low-load funds charge only a 1 to 3% sales charge. Best of all are no-load funds, which have no front-end sales charges at all.
b. Back-end loads and exchange fee. Back-end loads are charges incurred when you redeem fund shares. The charge could be as much as 6% of the value of your redeemed shares if you sell out in the first year, with a declining percentage charge in subsequent years.

Expense charges: 
a. Operating and investment management expenses. A fund’s expense ratio expresses the total operating and investment advisory fees incurred by the fund as a percentage of the fund’s average net assets. These expense ratios range from less than 0.2% to 2%. Beware the loss leader come-on. Some new funds temporarily waive all fees to enhance the advertised current yield. Investors should be alert to the fact that they will be socked for full expenses as soon as the introductory “come-on” period ends. 
b. 12b-1 charges: these are fund-distribution expenses charged not as a front-end load but rather as a continuing annual charge against fund assets. The “12b-1” refers to an SEC rule that permits these charges. More than half of the publicly offered mutual funds have 12b-1 fees. 

IV.The Malkiel step

1. Sometimes, close-end funds have attractive discounts. During the late 1970s, the discounts ran as high as 40%. My own explanation for the discounts ran in terms of unexploited market inefficiency and I urged investors to take full advantage of the opportunity for as long as it lasted.

2. Discounts have narrowed significantly on U.S. closed-end funds. I think the fundamental reason for the narrowing is that our capital markets are reasonably efficient. The market may mis-value assets from time to time, creating temporary inefficiencies. But the financial laws of gravity will eventually take hold and true value will out.

3. If discounts of 20% or more exist, it is time to buy closed-end funds. 

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - The Get Rich Slowly but Surely Book Burton G. Malkiel

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Part Four 3: A Practical Guide for RANDOM WALKers and other Investors

Chapter 14. A life-Cycle Guide to Investing

The most important investment decision you will probably ever make concerns the balancing of asset categories (stocks, bonds, real estate, money-market securities, etc.) at different stage of your life.

I.Four Asset – allocation principles

1. History shows that risk and return are positively related.
2. The risk of investing in common stocks and bonds depends on the length of time the investments are held. The longer an investor’s holding period, the lower the risk.
a. Thus, your stage in the life cycle is a critical element in determining the allocation of your assets.
b. A substantial amount (but not all) of the risk of common stock investment can be eliminated by adopting a program of long-term ownership and sticking to it through thick and think (the buy-and hold strategy).
c. The longer an individual’s investment horizon, the more likely it is that stocks will outperform bonds. Over any single-year period, there is a one-out-of-three chance that bonds or money-market funds will outperform stocks. But if one looks instead at different twenty or twenty-five-year holding periods, stocks are the performance winners every time. These data support the advice that younger people should have a larger proportion of their assets in stocks than older people.

Total Annual Returns for Basic Asset Classes, 1926-2001
Average Annual Return      Risk Index (year-to-year volatility of Returns)
Small company common stocks
12.1%     35.3%
Large company common stocks
10.4        20.8
Long-term corporate bonds
5.4          8.6
U.S. Treasury bills
3.7          3.4

3. Dollar-cost averaging can be a useful, though controversial, technique to reduce the risk of stock and bond investment.
a. It means investing the same fixed amount of money in, for example, the shares of some mutual funds at regular intervals, say, every month, over a long period of time. It works because you bought more shares when they were cheap and fewer when they were dear.
b. A critical feature of the plan is that you have both the cash and the courage to continue to invest during bear markets as regularly as you do in better periods.
c. One potential drawback to dollar-cost average is that brokerage commissions are relatively high on small purchases. Thus, it is usually advisable to buy larger blocks of securities over longer time intervals. For example, it is cheaper to buy $150 worth of stock each quarter, or $300 semi-annually, than to invest $50 each month. If you pick a no-load mutual fund, this problem disappears. You can invest as little as $50 per month in most no-load funds, with no brokerage charges at all.
4. You must distinguish between your attitude toward and your capacity for risk.
a. A is a recently widowed 65 year old. B is a single 26 year old, just out of MBA program of Harvard.
b. A cannot work any more because of severe arthritis. Apart from monthly Social Security payments, all A has to live on are the earnings on a $250,000 group insurance policy of which she is the beneficiary and a $50,000 portfolio of small-growth stocks. A’s capacity to bear risk is severely constrained by her financial situation. She has neither the life expectancy nor the physical ability to earn income outside her portfolio. A portfolio of safe investments that can generate substantial income is what is appropriate for A. Bonds and high-dividend-paying stocks as from an index funds of real estate investment trusts are the kinds of investments that are suitable.
c. B has both the life expectancy and the earning power to maintain her standard of living in the face of any financial loss. Therefore, A’s portfolio of small-growth stocks would be far more appropriate for B
than for A.

II. Three guidelines to tailoring a life-cycle investment plan
1. A specific need must be funded with specific assets dedicated to that need: if you expect to need a $30,000 down payment to buy a house in one year. That $30,000 to meet a specific need should be invested in a safe security, maturing when the money is required, such as a one-year certificate of deposit.
2. Recognize your tolerance for risk (P346).
3. Persistent saving in regular amounts, no matter how small, pays off: you need to pick no-load mutual funds to accumulate your nest egg because direct investments of small sums of money would be prohibitively expensive. Also, mutual funds permit automatic reinvestment of interest, or dividends and capital gains.

III. The life-cycle investment guide
Please refer to the chart!

a. For those in their twenties, a very aggressive investment portfolio is recommended. The portfolio is not only heavy in common stocks but also contains a substantial proportion of international stocks including the higher risk emerging markets.
b. As investors age, they should start cutting back on riskier investments and start increasing the proportion of the portfolio committed to bonds and stocks that pay generous dividends such as REITs. By the age of 55, investors should start thinking about the transition to retirement and moving the portfolio toward income production. The proportion of bonds increases and the stock portfolio becomes more conservative and income-producing and less growth-oriented. In retirement, a portfolio heavily weighted in a variety of bonds is recommended. Nevertheless, even in one’s late sixties, 25% of the portfolio is committed to regular stocks and 15% to real estate equities (REITs) to give some income growth to cope with inflation.
c. For most people, I recommend broad-based total stock-market index funds rather than individual stocks for portfolio formation. Do make sure that any mutual funds you buy are truly “no-load” and pick safer, income-producing funds later in life.
d. Everyone should attempt to own his or her own home. I believe everyone should have substantial real estate holdings and, therefore, some part of one’s equity holdings should be in REIT index mutual

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - The Get Rich Slowly but Surely Book Burton G. Malkiel

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Part Four 2: A Practical Guide for RANDOM WALKers and other Investors

Chapter 13. Handicapping the Financial Race: A Primer in Understanding and Projecting Returns form Stocks and Bonds.

1. Very long-run returns from common stocks are driven by two critical factors: the dividend yield at the time of purchase, and the future growth rate of earnings and dividends.

2. The long-run total return for either an individual stock or the market:
Long-run equity return = Initial dividend yield + Growth rate

3. Over shorter periods, say, several years, a third factor is critical in determining returns. It is the change in valuation relationship – specifically, the change in the price-dividend or price-earnings multiple.

4. The multiples vary widely from year to year. They are affected by interest rate and mass psychology among many things.

5. Estimating bond returns becomes murky when bonds are not held until maturity. Bond investors who don’t hold to maturity will have their return increased or decreased depending on what happens to interest rates in the interim.

6. Inflation is the dark horse in any handicapping of financial returns. In principle, common stocks should be an inflation hedge and stocks are not supposed to suffer with an increase in the inflation rate. In theory at least, if the inflation rate rises by 1%, all prices should rise by 1%, including the values of factories, equipment, and inventories. Consequently, the growth rate of earnings and dividends should rise with the rate of inflation, so will the required return on common stocks. However, very high inflation rates are very bad for economy. When price rise by 10%, all prices do not rise by the same amount. Rather, relative prices are far more variable at higher levels of inflation. Furthermore, the higher the rate of inflation, the more variable and unpredictable inflation becomes. Thus, more volatile levels of real output and higher inflation rates, as well as the accompanying greater volatility of interest rates, increased uncertainty throughout the economy.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - The Get Rich Slowly but Surely Book Burton G. Malkiel

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Part Four 1: A Practical Guide for RANDOM WALKers and other Investors

Chapter 12. A Fitness manual for RANDOM WALKers

I. Exercise 1: cover Thyself with Protection

1. Disraeli once wrote that “patience is a necessary ingredient of genius.” It’s also a key element in investing; you can’t afford to pull your money out at the wrong time. You need staying power to increase your odds of earning attractive long-run returns. Therefore, you have to have non-investment resources, such as medical and life insurance, to draw on should any emergency strike you or your family.

2. Two categories of life insurance:
a. High-premium policies that combine an insurance scheme with a type of savings plan. They do have some advantages. Earnings on the part of the insurance premiums that go into the savings plan accumulate tax-free. But they entail high sales charges.
b. Low premium term insurance that provides death benefits only, with no buildup of cash value. Malkiel’s advice: buy term insurance for protection – invest the difference yourself. To buy renewable term insurance. You can keep renewing your policy without the need for a physical examination. So-called decreasing term insurance, renewable for progressively lower amounts, should suit many families best, because as time passes, the need for protection usually diminishes. However, term-insurance premiums escalate sharply when you reach the age of sixty or seventy.

3. Take the time to shop around for the best deal. You do not buy insurance from any company with an A.M. Best rating of less than A.

4. In addition, you should keep some reserves in safe and liquid investments. Every family should have a reserve of several months of living expenses to provide a cushion during an emergent/hard time.

II. Exercise 2: Know your investment Objectives

You must decide at the outset what degree of risk you are willing to assume and what kinds of investments are most suitable to your tax bracket.

1. J.P. Morgan once had a friend who was so worried about his stock holdings that he could not sleep at night. The friend asked, “What should I do about my stocks?” Morgan replied, “Sell down to the sleeping point.” Every investor must decide the trade-off he is willing to make between eating well and sleeping well. High investment rewards can be achieved only at the cost of substantial risk-taking.

2. Step One: find your risk-tolerant level. a sleeping scale on investment risk and expected rate of return (P282-3): bank account Æ money market deposit accounts Æ Money-market funds Æ special six-month certificates Æ Treasury inflation-protection securities (TIPS) Æ high-quality corporate bonds (prime-quality public utilities) Æ Diversified portfolios of blue-chip US or developed foreign country common stocks Æ Real estate Æ Diversified portfolios of relative risky stocks of smaller growth companies Æ Diversified portfolios of emerging market stocks.

3. It is critical that you understand yourself before choosing specific securities for investment. Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is how you felt during a period of sharply declining stock markets. If you became physically ill and even sold out all your stocks rather than staying the course with a diversified investment program, then a heavy exposure of common is not for you.

4. Step Two: identify your tax bracket and income needs. You have to check how much tax you have to pay for your investment returns. For those in a high marginal tax bracket there is a substantial tax advantage from tax-exempt (e.g. municipal) bonds and stocks that have low dividend yields but promise favorably taxed long-term capital gains. If you are in a low tax bracket and need a high current income, you will be better off with taxable bonds and high-dividend-paying common stocks, so that you don’t have to incur the heavy transactions charges involved in selling off shares periodically to meet current income needs.

III. Exercise 3: dodge uncle Same whenever you can

One of the best ways to obtain extra investment funds is to avoid taxes legally. You pay no income taxes on the earnings from money invested in a retirement plan until you actually retire and use the money.

1. Pension plans and IRAs: check to see if your employer has a pension or profit-sharing plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b)7 savings plan. If so, you are home free. If not so, you can contribute up to $3000 a year to an Individual Retirement Account if your are single. Contribution limits are scheduled to rise in subsequent years. Although the contribution to your IRA is not tax deductible if your income is high, the IRA account is still a good deal because the interest earnings on your contributions compound free of tax.

2. Keogh plans: For self-employed people, they can contribute as much as 20% of their income, up to $30000 annually. The money paid to Keogh is deductible from taxable income. My advice is to save as much as you can through these tax-sheltered means. You can’t touch IRA or Keogh funds before turning fifty-nine and a half or becoming disabled. If you do, the amount withdrawn is taxed, and you must pay an additional 10% penalty on it.  But even with this catch, I believe IRAs and Keoghs are a good deal.

3. What can Keogh and IRA funds be invested in? Your choice should depend on your risk preferences as well as the composition of your other investment holdings. My own preference would be stock and bond funds.

4. Roth IRAs- for those whose income is below certain levels. The traditional IRA offers “jam today” in the form of an immediate tax deduction. Once in the account, the money and its earnings are only taxed when taken out at retirement. The Roth IRA offers “jam tomorrow” – you don’t get an upfront tax deduction, but your withdrawals are tax-free. In addition, you can Roth and roll. You can roll your regular IRA into a Roth IRA if you are within the certain income limits. You will need to pay tax on all the funds converted, but
then neither future investment income nor withdrawals at retirement will be taxed. Which IRA is best for you is dependent on: whether you are likely to be in a higher or lower tax bracket at retirement, whether you have sufficient funds outside your IRA to pay conversion taxes, your age and life expectancy.

A rule of thumb: if you are close to retirement and your tax bracket is likely to be lower in retirement, you probably shouldn’t convert, especially if conversion will push you into a higher bracket now. But if you are young and are in a lower tax bracket now, you are very likely to come out well ahead with a Roth IRA.

5. Tax-deferred annuities: it is useful if you have exceeded the limitations involved in other tax-advantaged savings programs. It is a contract between you and an insurance company, purchase with one or more payments; the funds deposited accumulate tax-deferred interest, and the money is used to provide regular income payments at some later time. The insurance company guarantees return of your original deposit at any time. But do check the fee tables. In general, annuities are more expensive than IRAs and Keogh invested in mutual funds. Therefore, you should invest in an annuity only after you have placed the maximum amount in a regular retirement plan, such as a 410(k), 403(b)7, Keogh, or IRA.

IV. Exercise 4: Let the Yield on your cash reserve keep pace with inflation

Four short-term investment instruments that can at least help you stand up to inflation.

1. Money-market mutual funds: in my judgment, they provide the best instrument for many investors’ needs. They combine safety, high yields, and the right to withdraw money with no penalty attached. Most funds allow you to write large checks against your fund balance, generally in amounts of at least $250.

2. Money-market deposit accounts: provided by banks. Money funds’ yields tend to higher than the bank accounts. In addition, the money funds allow an unlimited number of checks to be written against balances.

3. Bank Certificates: you need at least $10,000 before you can buy. And you can’t write checks against the certificates. There is a substantial penalty for premature withdrawal. Finally, the yield on bank certificates is subject to state and local taxes.

4. Tax-exempt money-market funds: they are useful for investors in high tax brackets.

V. Exercise 5: Investigate a Promenade through bond county

There are four kinds of bond purchases you may want to consider.
1. Zero-coupon bonds: the purchaser is faced with no reinvestment risk. The main disadvantage is that IRS required that taxable investors declare annually as income a pro rata share of the dollar difference between the purchase price and the par value of the bond.
2. No-load bond funds: because bond markets tend to be at least as efficient as stock markets. I recommend low-expense bond index funds, which generally outperform actively managed bond funds. In no event should you even buy a load fund. For investors who are very risk averse, I favor GNMA funds. These funds invest exclusively in GNMA (Ginnie Mae) mortgage pass-through securities. Mortgage bonds have one disadvantage in that when interest rates fall, many homeowners refinance their high-rate mortgages and some high-yielding mortgage bonds get repaid early. It is that potential disadvantage that makes the yield on government-guaranteed mortgage bonds so high.
3. Tax-exempt bonds are useful for high-bracket investors. If you buy bonds directly (rather than indirectly through mutual funds), I suggest that you buy new issues rather than already outstanding securities. New-issue yields are usually a bit sweeter than the yields of seasoned outstanding bonds and you avoid paying transactions charges on new issues. And you should keep your risk within reasonable bounds by sticking with issues rated at least A.
To protect yourself, make sure your bonds have a ten-year call-protection provision that prevents the issuer from calling your bonds to issue new ones at lower rates. If you have substantial funds to invest in tax-exempts ($25000 or more), you should buy tax-exempt bonds directly. If you only have several thousand, buy through a fund.
4. Inflation-indexed bonds: TIPS (Treasury inflation protection securities).
Although stocks have bestowed generous long-run returns, they usually suffer during inflationary periods. TIPS will offer higher nominal returns, whereas stock and bond prices are likely to fall. But TIPS are taxable. They are not ideal for taxable investors and are best used only in tax-advantaged retirement plans.

VI. Exercise 6: Renting leads to flabby investment muscles

1. A good house on good land keeps its value no matter what happens to money.  The long-run returns on residential real estate have been quite generous.
2. Interest payments on your mortgage and property taxes – are fully deductible;
3. Realized gains in the value of your house up to substantial amounts are tax exempt. Own your own home if you can possibly afford it.

VII. Exercise 7: Beef up with real estate investment trusts (REITs)

1. Ownership of real estate has produced comparable rates of return to common stocks over the past 30 years.
2. Real estate is an excellent vehicle to provide the benefits of diversification.  Because real estate returns have relatively little correlation with other assets, putting some share of your portfolio into real estate can reduce the overall risk of your investment program.
3. Real estate is probably a more dependable hedge against inflation than come stocks in general.
4. Most REITs have generous dividends and in some cases the dividends are partially tax exempt.
5. I believe all investors should have a portion of their portfolios invested in REITs.

VIII. Exercise 8: Tiptoe through the fields of gold, collectibles, and other investments.

1. The problem is these things often don’t yield a stream of benefits, such as dividend returns. I am slightly more positive about gold as an investment, but far from enthusiastic. Small gold holdings can easily be obtained now by purchasing shares in one of the specialized mutual funds concentrating on gold.
2. My advice for buying collectibles: buy those things only because you love them, not because you expect them to appreciate in value.

IX. Exercise 9: Commission Costs Are not random; some are cheaper than others

1. Many brokers today will execute your stock orders at discounts of as much as 90% off the standard commission rates charged by the leading brokerage houses. The discount broker usually provides a plain-pipe-rack service. If you want opinions on individual stocks and general portfolio advice and investment suggestions, the discount broker may not be for you.
2. If you know exactly what you want to buy, the discount broker can get it for you at much lower commission rates than the stand full-service house. Some discounters do the transactions off the exchange and the net price you end up paying is actually higher than that charged by a full-service broker. Purely for the execution of stock-market orders, you can use an honest discounter.

In sum, I believe common stocks should form the cornerstone of most portfolios. High returns can be achieved only through higher risk-taking.  The amount of risk you can tolerate is partly determined by your sleeping point. Risk is also significantly influenced by your age and by the sources and dependability of your noninvestment income.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - The Get Rich Slowly but Surely Book Burton G. Malkiel

Friday, 5 August 2016

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Part Three 3: The New Investment Technology

Chapter 11. Potshots at the Efficient-Market Theory and Why they Miss

Robert Shiller concluded from a longer history of stock market fluctuations that stock prices show far “too much variability” to be explained by an efficient-market theory of pricing and that one must look to behavioral considerations and to crowd psychology to explain the actual process of price determination in the stock market.

The author reviewed all the recent research proclaiming the demise of the efficient-market theory and purporting to show that market prices are, in fact, predictable. His conclusion is that such obituaries are greatly exaggerated and that the extent to which the stock market is usefully predictable has been vastly overstated. He shows that following the tenets of the efficient-market theory – that is, buying and holding a broad-based market index fund – is still the only game in town. Although market may not always be rational in the short run, it always is over the long haul.

I. What do we mean by saying markets are efficient?

1. Markets can be efficient even if they sometimes make egregious errors in valuation. Markets can be efficient even if stock prices exhibit greater volatility than can apparently be explained by fundamentals such as earnings and dividends.

2. Economists view markets as amazingly successful devices for reflecting new info rapidly and, for the most part, accurately. Above all, we believe that financial markets are efficient because they don’t allow investors to earn above average returns without accepting above-average risks.

3. No one can consistently predict either the direction of the stock market or the relative attractiveness of individual stocks and thus no one can consistently obtain better overall returns than the market. And while there are undoubtedly profitable trading opportunities that occasionally appear, there are quickly wiped out once they become known. No one person or institution has yet to produce a long-term, consistent record of finding money-making, risk-adjusted individual stock-trading opportunities, particularly if they pay taxes and incur transactions costs.

II. Potshots that completely miss the target

1. Dogs of the Dow: out-of-favor stocks eventually tend to reverse direction. The strategy entailed buying each year the ten stocks in the DJ that had the highest dividend yields. The idea was that these ten stocks were the most out of favor, so they typically had low price-earnings multiples and low price-to-book-value
ratios as well. This strategy consistently underperformed the overall market during the last half of the 1990s. “The strategy became too popular” and ultimately self-destructed.

2. January Effect: stock-market returns have tended to be especially high during the first two weeks of January. The effect appears to be particularly strong for smaller firms. One possible explanation for it is that tax effects are at work. Some investors may sell securities at the end of the calendar year to establish
short-term capital losses for income tax purposes. Although this effect could be applicable for all stocks. It would be larger for small firms because stocks of small companies are more volatile and less likely to be in the portfolios of taxexempt institutional investors and pension funds. However, the transaction costs of trading in the stocks of small companies are substantially higher than for larger companies (because of the higher bid-asked spreads) and there appears to be no way a commission-paying ordinary investor could exploit this anomaly.

3. Hot news response: some academics believe that stock prices underreact to news events and, therefore, purchasing (selling) stocks where good (bad) news comes out will produce abnormal returns. Fama found that apparent underreaction to info is about as common as overreaction, and post-event continuation of abnormal returns is as frequent as post-event reversal.

4. It is obvious that any truly repetitive and exploitable pattern that can be discovered in the stock market and can be arbitraged away will self-destruct. Indeed, the January effect became undependable after it received considerable publicity.

III. Potshots that get close but still miss the target

1. Short-term momentum: Lo and Mackinlay found that for two decades broad portfolio stock returns for weekly and monthly holding periods showed positive serial correlation. Moreover, Lo and others have suggested that some of the stock-price pattern used by so-called technical analysis may actually have some
modest predictive power. Behavioral economists find such short-run momentum to be consistent with psychological feedback mechanisms. Individuals see a stock price rising and are drawn into the market in a kind of “bandwagon effect.”
However, two factors prevent us from believing markets are inefficient:
a. It is important to distinguish statistical significance from economic significance. The statistical dependencies giving rise to momentum, in fact, are extremely small and are not likely to permit investors to realize excess returns.
b. We should ask whether such patterns of serial correlation are consistent over time.

2. The dividend jackpot approach: Depending on the forecast horizon involved, as much as 40% of the variability in future market returns can be predicted on the basis of the initial dividend yield of the market as a whole. Investors have earned higher total rates of return from the stock market when the initial dividend yield of the market portfolio was relatively high. These findings are not necessarily inconsistent with efficiency. Dividend yields of stocks tend to be high (low) when interest rates are high (low). Consequently, the ability of initial yields to predict returns may simply reflect the adjustment of the stock market to general economic conditions. Moreover, the dividend behavior of US corporations may have changed over time. Companies in 21st century may be more likely to institute a share repurchase program rather than increase their dividends. Thus dividend yield may not be as meaningful as in the past. Finally, this phenomenon does not work consistently with individual stocks. Investors who simply purchase a portfolio of individual stocks with the highest dividend yields in the market will not earn a particularly high rate of return.

3. The Initial P/E predictor: Campbell and Shiller report that over 40% of the variability in long-horizon returns can be predicted on the basis of the initial market P/E.

4. Long-run return reversals: buying stocks that performed poorly during the past three years or so is likely to give you above-average returns over the next three years. However, return reversals over different time periods are often rooted in solid economic facts rather than psychological swings. The volatility of interest rates constitutes a prime economic influence on share prices. Because bonds – the front-line reflectors of interest-rate direction – compete with stocks for the investor’s dollars, one should logically expect systematic relationships between interest rates and stock prices. When interest rates go up, share prices should fall, other things being the same, so as to provide larger expected stock returns in the future. Only if this happens will stocks be competitive with higher yielding bonds. Similarly, when interest rates fall, stocks should tend to rise because they can promise a lower total return and still be competitive with lower yielding bonds.

5. The small firm effect: since 1926, small firms have produced returns over 1.5% points larger than the returns from large stocks. But, small stocks may be riskier than larger stocks and deserve to give investors a higher rate of return. Thus, even if this effect was to persist in the future, it’s not at all clear that such a finding would violate market efficiency. Moreover, this effect may due to “survivorship bias”. And in most world markets it was the larger cap stocks that produced larger rates of return.

IV. Why even close shots miss

1. Regarding to internet bubble, when we know ex post that major errors were made, there were certainly no clear ex ante arbitrage opportunities available to rational investors. And even when clear mispricing arbitrage opportunities seem to have existed, there was no way to exploit them.

2. To me, the most direct and most convincing tests of market efficiency are direct tests of the ability of professional fund managers to outperform the market as a whole. But the fact is that professional investment managers are not able to outperform index funds that simply buy and hold the broad stock-market portfolio. During the past 30 years, about two-thirds of the funds proved inferior to the market as a whole. The same result also holds for professional pension fund managers. There are some funds which beat index. But the problem for investors is that at the beginning of any period they can’t be sure which funds will be successful and survive.

V. A Summing Up

1. Market valuation rest on both logical and psychological factors.

2. Stock prices display a remarkable degree of efficiency. Info contained in past prices or any publicly available fundamental info is rapidly assimilated into market prices. Prices adjust so well to reflect all-important info that a randomly selected and passively managed portfolio of stocks performs as well as or better than the portfolios selected by the experts.

3. With respect to the evidence indicating that future returns are, in fact, somewhat predictable, there are several points to make.
a. There are considerable questions regarding the long-run dependability of these effects. Many could be the result of “data snooping”.
b. Even if there is a dependable predictable relationship, it may not be exploitable by investors (e.g. high transaction costs).

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - The Get Rich Slowly but Surely Book Burton G. Malkiel

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Part Three 2: The New Investment Technology

Chapter 10. Reaping Reward by Increasing Risk

Diversification cannot eliminate all risk. Sharpe-Lintner-Black tried to determine what part of a security’s risk can be eliminated by diversification and what part cannot. The result is known as the Capital asset pricing model (CAPM). The basic logic is that there is no premium for bearing risks that can be diversified away. Thus, to get a higher average long-run rate of return in a portfolio, you need to increase the risk level of the portfolio that cannot be diversified away.

I. Beta and Systematic risk

1. Two kinds of risks: systematic risk and unsystematic risk. Systematic risk cannot be eliminated by diversification. It is because all stocks move more or less in tandem that even diversified stock portfolios are risky. Unsystematic risk is the variability in stock prices that results from factors peculiar to an individual company. The risk associated with such variability is precisely the kind that diversification can reduce.
2. The whole point of portfolio theory is that, to the extend that stocks don’t move in tandem all the time, variations in the returns from any one security tend to be washed away or smoothed out by complementary variation in the returns from other securities.
3. The beta calculation is essentially a comparison between the movements of an individual stock (or portfolio) and the movements of the market as a whole.  Professionals call high-beta stocks aggressive investments and label low-beta stocks as defensive.
4. Risk-averse investors wouldn’t buy securities with extra risk without the expectation of extra reward. But not all of the risk of individual securities is relevant in determining the premium for bearing risk. The unsystematic part of the total risk is easily eliminated by adequate diversification. The only part of the total risk that investors will get paid for bearing is the systematic risk, the risk that diversification cannot help.

1. Before the advent of CAPM, it was believed that the return on each security was related to the total risk inherent in that security.
2. The theory says that the total risk of each individual security is irrelevant. It is only the systematic component that counts as far as extra rewards go. The beta is the measure of the systematic risk.
3. As the systematic risk (beta) of an individual stock (or portfolio) increases, so does the return an investor can expect.
4. If the realized return is larger than that predicted by the overall portfolio beta, the manager is said to have produced a positive alpha.

III. Look at the record
1. Fama and French found that the relationship between beta and return is essentially flat.
2. The author believes that “the unearthing of serious cracks in the CAPM will not lead to an abandonment of mathematical tools in financial analysis and a return to traditional security analysis. There are many reasons to avoid a rush to judgment of the death of beta:
a. The beta measure of relative volatility does capture at least some aspects of what we normally think of as risk.
b. It is very difficult to measure beta with any degree of precision. The S&P 500 Index is not “the market”. The total market contains many additional stocks in the US and thousands more in foreign countries. Moreover, the total market includes bonds, real estate, precious metals, and also human capital.
c. Investors should be aware that even if the long-run relationship between beta and return is flat, beta can still be a useful investment management tool.

IV. Arbitrage Pricing Theory

1. It is fair to conclude that risk is unlikely to be captured adequately by a single beta statistic. It appears that several other systematic risk measures affect the valuation of securities.
2. In addition, there is some evidence that security returns are related to size, and also to P/E multiples and price-book value ratios.
3. If one wanted for simplicity to select the one risk measure most closely related to expected returns, the best single risk proxy turned out to be the extent of disagreement among security analysts’ forecast for each individual company. Companies for which there is a broad consensus with respect to the growth of future earnings in dividends seem to be considered less risky than companies for which there is little agreement among security analysts.

To sum up, the stock market appears to be an efficient mechanism that adjusts quite quickly to new info. Neither technical analysis, nor fundamental analysis seems to yield consistent benefits. It appears that the only way to obtain higher long-run investment returns is to accept greater risks.

Unfortunately, a perfect risk measure does not exist. The actual relationship between beta and rate of return has not corresponded to the relationship predicted by the theory during long periods of the twentieth century. Moreover, betas for individual stocks are not stable over time, and they are very sensitive to the market proxy against which they are measured.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - The Get Rich Slowly but Surely Book Burton G. Malkiel

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Part Three 1: The New Investment Technology

Chapter 9. A New Walking Shoe: Modern Portfolio Theory

Many academics agree: the method of beating the market is to assume greater risk. Risk and risk alone determines the degree to which returns will be above or below average, and thus decides the valuation of any stock relative to the market.

I. Defining Risk:

1. Financial risk has generally been defined as the variance or standard deviation of returns.
2. It is quite true that only the possibility of downward disappointments constitutes risk. Nevertheless, as a practical matter, as long as the distribution of returns is symmetric – that is, as long as the chances of extraordinary gain are roughly the same as the probabilities for disappointing returns and losses – a dispersion or variance measure will suffice as a risk measure.
3. Although the pattern of historical returns from individual securities has not usually been symmetric, the returns from well-diversified portfolios of stocks do seem to be distributed approximately symmetrically.

II. Documenting Risk: A long-run Study – stylized facts
1. On average, investors have received higher rates of return for bearing greater risk.
2. Stocks have tended to provide positive “real” rates of return, that is, returns after washing out the effects of inflation.

III. Reducing Risk: Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT)
1. Portfolio theory begins with the premise that all investors are risk-averse.
2. Harry Markowitz discovered that portfolios of risky stocks might be put together in such a way that the portfolio as a whole could be less risky than the individual stocks in it.
3. As long as there is some lack of parallelism in the fortunes of the individual companies in the economy, diversification will always reduce risk.

IV. Diversification in Practice
1. A portfolio of 50 equal-sized and well-diversified US stocks can reduce total risk by over 60%. As further increases in the number of holdings do not produce much additional risk reduction.
2. About 50 is also the golden number for global-minded investors. The international diversified portfolio tends to be less risky than the one of the corresponding size drawn purely from US stocks.
3. Investors may do even better by including stocks from emerging markets in their overall mix. Correlations between broad indexes of emerging market stocks and the US stock market are generally lower than those of the US stock market with developed foreign markets.
4. There are also compelling reasons to diversify a portfolio with other asset classes. Real estate investment trusts (REITs), enable investors to buy portfolios of commercial real estate properties. Real estate returns don’t move in tandem with other assets. For example, during periods of accelerating inflation, properties tend to do much better than other common stocks. Thus, adding real estate to a portfolio tends to reduce its overall volatility. Treasury inflation-protection securities do not mirror those of other assets and tend to provide relatively stable returns when held to maturity.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - The Get Rich Slowly but Surely Book Burton G. Malkiel

Thursday, 4 August 2016

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Part Two 3: How the Pros Play the Biggest Game in Town

Chapter 8. How good is Fundamental analysis?

Two opposing views about the efficacy of fundamental analysis. Wall streeters feel that fundamental analysis is becoming more powerful and skillful at the time. People in the academic community have argued that fund managers and their fundamental analysts can do no better at picking stocks than a rank amateur.

1. Analysts can’t predict consistent long-run growth because it does not exist.

2. The careful estimates of security analysts do little better than those that would be obtained by simple extrapolation of past trends, which we have already seen are no help at all. Indeed, when compared with actual earnings growth rates, the five-year estimates of security analysts were actually worse than the predictions from several naïve forecasting models.

3. Of course, in each year some analysts did much better than average, but no consistency in their pattern of performance was found. Analysts who did better than average one year were no more likely than the others to make superior forecasts in the next year.

4. Five factors that help explain why security analysts have such difficulty in predicting the future:

a. The influence of random events.
b. The production of dubiously reported earnings through “creative” accounting procedures by companies.
c. The basic incompetence of many of the analysts themselves.
d. The loss of the best analysts to the sales desk or to portfolio managements
e. The conflicts of interest facing securities analysts at firms with large investment banking operations: to be sure, when an analyst says “buy” he may mean “hold”, and when he says “hold” he probably means this as a euphemism for “dump this piece of crap as soon as possible.”

Researchers found that stock recommendations of Wall Street firms without investment banking relationships did much better than the recommendations of brokerage firms that were involved in profitable investment banking relationships with the companies they covered.

5. Many at the funds are the best analysts and portfolio managers in the business. However, investors have done no better with the average mutual fund than they could have done by purchasing and holding an unmanaged broad stock index.

6. There are many funds beating the averages – some by significant amounts. The problem is that there is no consistency to performances. Many of the top funds of the 1970s ranked close to the bottom over the next decade.  The ability of mutual fund managers to time the market has been egregiously poor. Fundamental analysis is no better than technical analysis in enabling investors to capture above-average returns.

8. The board (semi-strong and strong) forms of the efficient-market theory: The “narrow” (weak) form of the theory says that technical analysis looking at past stock prices is useless. The “board” forms state that fundamental analysis is not helpful either. Fundamental analysis cannot produce investment recommendations that will enable an investor consistently to outperform a strategy of buying and holding an index fund. The efficient-market theory does not state that stock prices move aimlessly and erratically and are insensitive to changes in fundamental info. On the contrary, the reason prices move in a random walk is just the opposite: the market is so efficient – prices move so quickly when new info does arise – that no one can consistently buy or sell quickly enough to benefit. And real news develops randomly, that is, unpredictably.

9. The author’s view is between the pure academic view (pros cannot outperform randomly selected portfolios of stocks with equivalent risk characteristics) and the view of investment managers (professionals certainly outperform all amateur and casual investors in managing money). I believe that investors might reconsider their faith in professional advisers, but I am not ready to damn the entire field.

10. I worry about accepting all the tenets of the efficient-market theory, in part because the theory rests on several fragile assumptions. The first is that perfect pricing exists. We have seen ample evidence that stocks sometimes do not sell on the basis of anyone’s estimate of value – that purchasers are often swept up in waves of frenzy. Another fragile assumption is that news travels instantaneously. Finally, there is the enormous difficulty of translating known info about a stock into an estimate of true value.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - The Get Rich Slowly but Surely Book Burton G. Malkiel

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Part Two 2: How the Pros Play the Biggest Game in Town

Chapter 7. Technical analysis and the Random walk theory

1. I personally have never known a successful technician. Technical analysis is anathema to the academic world.

2. Chartists believe momentum exists in the market. The “technical rules” have been tested exhaustively. The results reveal that past movements in stock prices cannot be used reliably to foretell future movements. The stock market has little, if any, memory. While the market does exhibit some momentum from time to time, it does not occur dependably and there is not enough persistence in stock prices to overwhelm the substantial transactions costs involved in undertaking trend-following strategies.

3. For example, technical lore has it that if the price of a stock rose yesterday it is more likely to rise today. It turns out that the correlation of past price movements with present and future price movements is slightly positive but very close to zero.

4. Yes, history does tend to repeat itself in the stock market, but in an infinitely surprising variety of ways that confound any attempts to profit from a knowledge of past price patterns.

5. The market is not a perfect random walk. But any systematic relationships that exist are so small that they are not useful for an investor.

6. Not one has consistently outperformed the placebo of a buy-and-hold strategy. Technical methods cannot be used to make useful investment strategies. This is the fundamental conclusion of the random walk theory.

7. Chartists recommend trades – almost every technical system involves some degree of in-and-out trading. Trading generates commissions, and commissions are the lifeblood of the brokerage business. The technicians do not help produce yachts for the customers, but they do help generate the trading that provides yachts for the brokers.

8. Even if markets were dominated during certain periods by irrational crowd behavior, the stock market might still well be approximated by a random walk.

9. All that can be said is that the small amount of info contained in stock market pricing patterns has not been shown to be sufficient to overcome the transactions costs involved in acting on that info.

10. No technical scheme whatever could work for any length of time. Any regularity in the stock market that can be discovered and acted upon profitably is bound to destroy itself. This is the fundamental reason why I am convinced that no one will be successful in using technical methods to get above-average returns in the stock market.

11. Using technical analysis for market timing is especially dangerously. Because there is a long-term uptrend in the stock market, it can be very risky to be in cash. A study by Seybun found that 95% of the significant market gains over the 30 year period from the mid-1960s through the mid-1990s came on 90 of the roughly 7500 trading days. If you happened to miss those 90 days, just over 1 percent of the total, the generous long-run stock market returns of the period would have been wiped out. The point is that market timers risk missing the infrequent large sprints that are the big contributors to performance.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - The Get Rich Slowly but Surely Book Burton G. Malkiel