Monday, January 17, 2011

The Seven Sins of Fund Management

“This collection of notes aims to explore some of the more obvious behavioral weaknesses inherent in the ‘average’ investment process. Seven sins (common mistakes) were identified:

1. The first was placing forecasting at the very heart of the investment process. An enormous amount of evidence suggests that investors are generally hopeless at forecasting. So using forecasts as an integral part of the investment process is like tying one hand behind your back before you start.

2. Secondly, investors seem to be obsessed with information. Instead of focusing on a few important factors (such as valuations and earnings quality), many investors spend countless hours trying to become experts about almost everything. The evidence suggests that in general more information just makes us increasingly over-confident rather than better at making decisions.

3. Thirdly, the insistence of spending hours meeting company managements strikes us as bizarre from a psychological standpoint. We aren’t good at looking for information that will prove us to be wrong. So most of the time, these meetings are likely to be mutual love-ins. Our ability to spot deception is also very poor, so we won’t even spot who is lying.

4. Fourthly, many investors spend their time trying to ‘beat the gun’ as Keynes put it. Effectively, everyone thinks they can get in at the bottom and out at the top. However, this seems to be remarkably hubristic.

5. Fifthly, many investors seem to end up trying to perform on very short time horizons and overtrade as a consequence. The average holding period for a stock on the NYSE is 11 months [in 2005, nowadays is less, according to the same author]! This has nothing to do with investment; it is speculation, pure and simple.

6. Penultimately, we all appear to be hardwired to accept stories. However, stories can be very misleading. Investors would be better served by looking at the facts, rather than getting sucked into a great (but often hollow) tale.

7. And finally, many of the decisions taken by investors are the result of group interaction. Unfortunately groups are far more a behavioral panacea. In general, they amplify rather than alleviate the problems of decision making.

Each of these sins seems to be a largely self imposed handicap when it comes to trying to outperform. Identifying the psychological flaws in the ‘average’ investment process is an important first step in trying to design a superior version that might just be more robust to behavioral biases.”


James Montier – Seven Sins of Fund Management

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why we love predictions

"Behavioral scientists have discovered that at the core of the dislike human beings have for randomness, is an overwhelming desire to believe we are in control. "Knowing" that the S&P 500 will close at 1,450 next year gives investors that feeling of control, even though it gets us into the stock market after it has doubled."

Below you have some healthy advice about the "The Folly of Forecasting":

"Whenever you find yourself reading (or watching) someone who tells you where a stock or the markets are going, consider these factors:

- No one truly knows what tomorrow will bring. Nobody. Any and all forecasts are, at best, educated guesses.

- All prognostications are instantly stale, subject to further revision. Conditions change, new data are released, events unfold. Yesterday's prediction can be undone by tomorrow's press release.

- In order to "become right," some investors will stand by their predictions despite a stock or the market going the opposite way, hoping to be proven correct. Ned Davis called this the curse of "being right rather than making money."


Allan Roth - 5 Financial Predictions for 2011

Barry Ritholtz - The Folly of Forecasting

Monday, January 03, 2011

Arthur Huprich's List of Investment Rules

P. Arthur Huprich published a terrific list of rules at year’s end. Other than commandment #1, they are in no particular order:

• Commandment #1: “Thou Shall Not Trade Against the Trend.”

• Portfolios heavy with underperforming stocks rarely outperform the stock market!

• There is nothing new on Wall Street. There can’t be because speculation is as old as the hills. Whatever happens in the stock market today has happened before and will happen again, mostly due to human nature.

• Sell when you can, not when you have to.

• Bulls make money, bears make money, and “pigs” get slaughtered.

• We can’t control the stock market. The very best we can do is to try to understand what the stock market is trying to tell us.

• Understanding mass psychology is just as important as understanding fundamentals and economics.

• Learn to take losses quickly, don’t expect to be right all the time, and learn from your mistakes.

• Don’t think you can consistently buy at the bottom or sell at the top. This can rarely be consistently done.

• When trading, remain objective. Don’t have a preconceived idea or prejudice. Said another way, “the great names in Trading all have the same trait: An ability to shift on a dime when the shifting time comes.”

• Any dead fish can go with the flow. Yet, it takes a strong fish to swim against the flow. In other words, what seems “hard” at the time is usually, over time, right.

• Even the best looking chart can fall apart for no apparent reason. Thus, never fall in love with a position but instead remain vigilant in managing risk and expectations. Use volume as a confirming guidepost.

• When trading, if a stock doesn’t perform as expected within a short time period, either close it out or tighten your stop-loss point.

• As long as a stock is acting right and the market is “in-gear,” don’t be in a hurry to take a profit on the whole positions. Scale out instead.

• Never let a profitable trade turn into a loss, and never let an initial trading position turn into a long-term one because it is at a loss.

• Don’t buy a stock simply because it has had a big decline from its high and is now a “better value;” wait for the market to recognize “value” first.

• Don’t average trading losses, meaning don’t put “good” money after “bad.” Adding to a losing position will lead to ruin. Ask the Nobel Laureates of Long-Term Capital Management.

• Human emotion is a big enemy of the average investor and trader. Be patient and unemotional. There are periods where traders don’t need to trade.

• Wishful thinking can be detrimental to your financial wealth.

• Don’t make investment or trading decisions based on tips. Tips are something you leave for good service.

• Where there is smoke, there is fire, or there is never just one cockroach: In other words, bad news is usually not a one-time event, more usually follows.

• Realize that a loss in the stock market is part of the investment process. The key is not letting it turn into a big one as this could devastate a portfolio.

• Said another way, “It’s not the ones that you sell that keep going up that matter. It’s the one that you don’t sell that keeps going down that does.”

• Your odds of success improve when you buy stocks when the technical pattern confirms the fundamental opinion.

• As many participants have come to realize from 1999 to 2010, during which the S&P 500 has made no upside progress, you can lose money even in the “best companies” if your timing is wrong. Yet, if the technical pattern dictates, you can make money on a short-term basis even in stocks that have a “mixed” fundamental opinion.

• To the best of your ability, try to keep your priorities in line. Don’t let the “greed factor” that Wall Street can generate outweigh other just as important areas of your life. Balance the physical, mental, spiritual, relational, and financial needs of life.

• Technical analysis is a windsock, not a crystal ball. It is a skill that improves with experience and study. Always be a student, there is always someone smarter than you!

Source: Art Huprich’s Market Truisms and Axioms