CYCLE POSITIONING – 14 – MASTERING THE MARKET CYCLE

It is always important to be defensive and aggressive over a different period of time. We cannot be defensive for every time or aggressive all the time. The most important is when we should become defensive and when we should become aggressive, it matters a lot. If we become defensive at the bottom of the cycle and aggressive at the top of the cycle then it will be dangerous for our wealth.

We require aggressiveness, timing and skills for achieving success. Aggressiveness at the right time creates a fortune.

For getting success, we have to focus on key elements mentioned by Mr Marks.

  • Risk in our portfolio in the cycle, which assets we are holding in the portfolio and among those which are overweight or underweight.
  • Aggressiveness such as holding second-grade assets, leverage, macro dependent investment, putting more capital at risk. Defensive investment such as holding cash than securities, safer assets, avoid leverage. Selection from above both depends on where we stand at the cycle and what can be a future market development.
  • The skill requires to make a balanced decision. Luck required when randomness has more effects on the events. Skills help us to make a decision in the portfolio but luck can fail our right decision or proven to succeed in our wrong decision in the short run. Skills win the battle in the long run.

When we found that we are positioned in the cycle where pessimism at lowest, the economy has better development, etc. and we have become aggressive towards portfolio positioning then it will reward us with greater profits while the market does well as per our assumption. And also incur losses if the market does not work as per our assumption.

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Being right is not into the control of anyone due to the involvement of randomness and luck factors.

When we found that the economy started being optimistic, the psychology of investors started optimistic, good news started flowing then we need to cut position in our portfolio which we feel overpriced. This effort helps us to reduce risk when slowdown or recession occurs. But this decision requires a skill set otherwise we will underperform the market at whole.

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We always have to keep in mind that when the market is low in the cycle then the probability of losses is low and the probability of making profits is higher. Reversely, when the market is high in the cycle then the probability of incurring losses is higher and the probability of making profits is lower. We cannot predict the outcome but we can take advantage of the cycle by making an assumption of it.

After identifying the market cycle, we need to make a selection of the assets. If the price of the asset is lower compared to its intrinsic value then it will do better than other assets. And if the price of the assets is higher compared to its intrinsic value then it will not do much better than other assets. We also should focus that whether the intrinsic value of the assets has scope for further growth or not.

Theoretically, it quoted that the market is efficient and all the information is available with everyone so that no one can make profits from it. But reality shows something different. It shows that few people can think differently from the crowd and get above average than all. This is called second-level thinking where we need to think wise and differently from the crowd. Those who use second-level thinking they can do above average than consensus. This is key to assets selection.

Winners have a tendency to fall less than the market and during the rising market, they meet the market. And those who do not have a skill, they fall more than the market and does not have a higher return when market raises.

Aggressive investors with superior insights, fall slightly more than market in falling time but raise more than market in good time. Whereas defensive investors with superior insights, outperform in the worst time and underperformed the market in good time. We need to keep a balance between both. The person who can make a balance between both aggressive and defensive with superior insights, that investors outperform the market at the worst time as well as in the good time also.

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Disclosure – Companies mentioned in the article are just for an example & educational purpose. It is not a buy/sell/ hold recommendation. 

Read for more detail: Mastering The Market Cycle: Getting the odds on your side by Mr.Howard Marks

Investment versus Speculation: Results to Be Expected by the Intelligent Investor

From today, I am going to start a series on Book The Intelligent Investor under the Bibliophile category. Mr.Buffett has always mentioned that he keeps on reading this book every year. This book helps us with the developing an investment philosophy and also, help us to recognize ourselves as an investor or a speculator. I am grateful to the readers by which I am getting motivated to keep writing more and sharing more pearls of wisdom.

Mr.Graham has started the book with the definition of an investor which is very essential for us to understand to becoming a wise investor.

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Many of the people call themselves as an investor but they are not meeting criterion mentioned by Mr. Graham. If a person does not meet any of the criterion mentioned above then we need to consider him as a speculator rather consider as an investor. We have to check to introspect and need to check whether we are meeting above criterion or not. If not then we are doing speculation though we called ourselves as an investor. I have seen many of the people focuses on the adequate return but not meet up other two criteria, or they meet safety and return but not meet up with thorough analysis so that we need to consider those as a speculator, not an investor. People get more involves speculation because they get excitement into it and investing is a boring & lonely game. But over a longer period of time, excitement does not reward us. The stock market is not a place for getting excitement or thrill but it is a place where we need to stay calm, cool with a balance of emotion and balance of activities with hyper activities. When we do speculation, we get an immediate result but not happens the same with the investment. We can earn through making an investment in the long term only if we play this game with the rules.

People call themselves as an investor though they are just buying and selling shares at the stock exchange. They do meet the criteria of being an investor or not. Investor word commands a good reputation among the people so we feel the pride to call ourselves as an investor but rather to just get feeling, we need to work on logic and accept the reality. Though we perform a thorough analysis of investment opportunities or not, we consider ourselves as an investor but we need to understand that it is easy to call ourselves as an investor but it is difficult to act as an investor.

  • A thorough analysis of companies means we need to analyze the soundness of the company, long term survival of the business, pricing power with the company, etc.
  • Our major focus should be on capital protection. When we work on capital protection, we have already won half of the battle. I always emphasis on my philosophy which is “Return of Capital” is more important rather than “Return on Capital”.
  • We need to focus on adequate return rather than earning an extraordinary return. We run behind getting rich within a short period of time so that we desire to earn an extraordinary return.

People can do speculation also but many a time, speculation becomes dangerous –

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If we cannot stop ourselves from doing speculation then put some fund aside for making speculation and we never put the fund into the same account for making speculation and for making an investment. Also, we should not increase a fund to the speculation account just because the market has gone up or we have a good profit into it, but we should bring out the fund from it and transfer it to the investment account. 10% limit of our overall wealth is permissible for the speculative bets and we should not violate this rule. When our speculative account goes above 10% then those amounts need to shift to the investment account and if it goes below 10% then we should not transfer fund from investment account to speculative account.

Mr.Graham has advised to the defensive investors to keep their portfolio into the high-grade bond and into the common stocks. We should have a range of bond should be into the 25-75%, not less than 25%, and not more than 75%. Similar to the common stock also.

We need to make a selection of stocks and bond on the basis of inflation, interest rate, the future expected return from stocks, etc. Which can help us to earn above inflation return. As a defensive investor, we should make an investment to the company which has a good business with a strong track record of financial. We should avoid buying hot stocks which can be harmful to our wealth during the long term. Mr.Graham also has mentioned the concept of Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) for the defensive investors.

Mr.Graham has explained methods for aggressive investors such as 1) buying a security which is doing better than market average, and those not doing better which are candidate for short selling a security 2) Buying a companies which are expected to post a good earning or other favorable development expected 3) Buying a companies which have given a good earnings growth in the past and expected to deliver similar to the future or companies does not have a good past earning but expected to post a good earning to the future.

Here, uncertainty associated with the investment is human error and wrongly estimation of future or estimated future is already into the current market price. When we buy stocks on the basis of current year good result with the similar will happens to the next year then it is highly possible that other participants also think in the same manner.

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If we buy popular stocks on the street then we end up with the result what everyone else is expecting. We are not able to get above average return. We have other ways to make a return without taking a huge risk is a special situation such as a merger, demerger, buyback, liquidation, delisting, etc.

One of the bargains is given by Mr.Graham was Net of Current Asset (I.e. Working Capital) after adjusting all the liabilities. That means the stock price is well below working capital – all the liabilities. Here, we are not taking a plant and other fixed assets into consideration. Such issues consider as a bargain to its value.

One of the Indian air cooler company was available below the net of current asset

Company has a current asset of Rs.74.24 crore and total borrowing was Rs.29 crore so that the net of the current asset was Rs.46 crore, whereas Market Capitalization of the company was Rs.35 crore at the end of FY2009.

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Many of the investors do not take rest when odds are not in our favors. They keep on doing something though things are not into their favor. Such hyperactivity is also dangerous to the long term return of investors.

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We have seen that many strategies and stories for the stock is getting popularized over a period of time and also erased as time get passes. We always need to focus that stocks only will perform well or poorly in the long run when business behind that stocks will do well or poorly. So that we need to focus on the performance of the business rather than focus on the different kind of strategy to becoming wealthy in the long run.

Disclosure – Companies mentioned in the article is just for an example purpose. It is not a buy/sell/ hold recommendation.

Read for more detail: The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, Jason Zweig

BIBLIOPHILE: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING BY HOWARD MARKS “ADDING VALUE”

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If our target is to achieve returns similar to the market returns with the similar risk & reward scenario then it’s not a difficult task. We just need to buy an index fund. But if we want to add a value to our targeted returns, different risk & reward scenario then we require a superior investment skill, superior insights which we have seen in second level thinking.

For the understanding, what actually mean for skillful investors to add value, we need to understand Beta – portfolio’s relative sensitivity to market movements. And Alpha – ability to generate performance unrelated to the movement of the market (I.e. personal skills).

While we are active investors then we have a number of options available to us.

1) We can decide that whether to build aggressive or defensive portfolio compared to the index, such characteristics of the portfolio is for temporary situations or for permanent. If we build an aggressive portfolio then it will increase a systematic risk of the portfolio that is beta.

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2) We can make a decision to get deviate from the index. We may buy few index stocks and exclude others or add stocks which are not the part of the index. As such portfolio gets diverted from the index so that return of portfolio also get deviate from the index. But in a long-term, the return of investors with superior insights will cover index return and can able to add value in terms of risk-reward scenario.

If we are managing our portfolio actively then we require having a second level thinking skill. If we do not have such superior insights then it is advisable to go with a passive investment. We need to shift a portfolio from aggressive or defensive as per the surrounding situation and need to avoid a frequent trades with the belief of generating a higher returns.

Different active investors hold different portfolios, some of those portfolios perform better than others portfolio, and some of the portfolios perform well during some particular time period. In a longer-term, active investors with superior insights can able to generate an above average risk-adjusted return. Combination of all different active portfolio reflects market behavior but in fact, all of those portfolios having different features.

Aggressive investor’s portfolio can able to generate a higher returns compared index in a good time and lose more compared to the market in a bad time. This volatility is measured by beta.

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If the Investors who generate higher returns with risky portfolio compared to other investors who generate average returns with low-risk portfolio then always we need to put more emphasis on the risk-adjusted return. But we cannot quantify each and every risk involves the portfolio. So that we need to accept that investment skills having an existence though everyone does not possess it.

If we don’t have any investment skill then we can able to achieve index return by making an investment in the index fund. Some of the investor’s portfolio fluctuates more compared to benchmark and few of the investor’s portfolio moves near to benchmark returns and few others can able to control risk and fall less. We get a different result at the different market scenario but our core focus should be on controlling risk and able to generate a risk-adjusted return.

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In bad years, defensive investor’s lossless and in good years, aggressive investors make more money. So can we say that they are adding value? We cannot able to say anything about the value added by just seeing to the one-year performance of any investor. We can able to see the value added in a long term only.

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Mr.Buffett, Mr.Howard Marks have mentioned that they like to increase average in good years and fall less in bad years. This provides them an advantage to adding value over a longer period of time. Protecting ourselves against the worst period is essential compared to the beat into the good period.

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Read for more detail: The Most Important Thing Illuminated by Howard Marks