Monday, August 25, 2014

So Europe is on track

Over the weekend, Draghi spoke at the Jackson Hole economic symposium.
He addressed the absolute disaster that unemployment in the Eurozone has been, but also made the case that the ECB has been somewhat limited in its ability to address the economic situation in the bloc because of austerity measures taken by European governments.  Ok so first off, Draghi has no control over fiscal policy (he can have a word, but nothing else) .  Moreover, when European government put the breaks to spending (largely at the urging if the ECB -- with an objective to cut deficits) the impact was, surprise, surprise, economic contraction.
Amazingly, the ECB is now saying "it's not us, we didn't tell Portugal, Spain, and their friends to cut spending". Guess what then, European countries put pressure on their economy to stem the flow of capital out -- so that the pain would be mitigated, the ECB was surprise of this outcome -- "Sovereign pressures also interrupted the homogenous transmission of monetary policy across the euro area,".  
The shocking part is that there is no shame here, that telling government that they had to curtail expenditure to meet some predetermined budget deficit targets, that the ECB would not think that governments would yes try to raise revenues, but also cut revenues.
Europe is a mess, the market noticed this incongruous statement and it's illogical conclusion.  But then the ECB just saw its objectives, and didn't account for unexpected consequences! 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Markets are going down -- what should I do?

Twice last week I got that question, don't know why!  I keep on telling all my friends that I must be the world's worst stock picker -- if I choose it, it will go down.  Anyway, the markets have decided that the news is suddenly bad, don't know what is different suddenly (not wars, not economics).  It used to be that in thin summer trading "trolls" could play their games but with the advent of high frequency trading this is no longer realistic -- for those who don't know HFT accounts for 40-50% of all trading activities on most North American markets.

So since computers don't take holidays summer doldrums cannot be it, maybe the markets have over-reached over the past few months.  I always commented that the markets were rich over the past few months -- corporate profitability has never been higher (NEVER) as a percentage of GDP, earnings multiple while not insane are "rich" insofar as there's not much increase in multiple (again the logic here is that markets revert to the mean -- always) so when the multiples are high there's is less room for the upside.

Short interest has been rising over the past few months -- since hedge funds don't take kindly to inactivity there is a rush to look at negative outcomes - moreover, with volatility down the crapper (at a level not seen -- ever) sustained low vol has a huge impact on the price of options -- its true!  Cheaper option means; more room to play -- on the other hand less vol means that the stock movements have been minimal (they go up slowly...)

Back to my point, first don't sell in a panic, think of your average price and then look at what is important.  Those who were able to perfectly time the market (all liars by the way since perfect market timing is impossible as a trading strategy) made a bundle in 2007/2010.  think about it you sell Citi at $500 and buy it back at $10.00 and then today Citi is trading at $48!  The reality is that you cannot achieve that: you sold at $50 and you bought back at $36!

My advice is don't buy individual stocks -- because as a retail investors you cannot follow individual stocks (you may be able to follow a sector?).  If you pick stocks then understand them, buy bell-weather stocks (e.g. GE, Bell etc) and make sure that you have target returns -- Have some bonds and stocks (depending on your age more bonds or stocks), and that's it.  There is no magic formula!  Personally I like ETF, because they are cheap as hell to trade and hold -- they are very liquid and at the end what is important for investors is to reduce transaction costs, and there is a wide variety, so you can be sector specific and you can invest cheaply  offshore, if that rocks your boat .

Anyway that's just me!

P.S.  No position in Citi, GE or Bell