Friday, October 18, 2019

This week's interesting finds

October 19, 2019

What's your vintage year?

When did you become an EdgePoint partner? Let's take a walk down memory lane as we recall the major events and fun facts from your vintage year.

Focusing on best ideas

CFA Institute recently released a blog post looking at active managers’ returns by position sizing relative to benchmark. Looks like there’s a relation between best ideas and performance. Another reason it makes sense to run concentrated portfolios of high conviction ideas. 
Negative interest rates are nothing short of a mystery

Negative interest rates are likely to throw off whatever we knew about the financial world and how things worked in the past. Howard Marks discusses why negative rates have become prevalent, what implications they might have, whether they will reach the U.S., and what investors can do as they navigate these uncharted waters.

Why would anyone want to buy a negative-yield bond?
Fear about the future that causes investors to engage in a flight to safety in which they elect to lock in a sure but limited loss
A belief that interest rates will go even more negative providing a profit on bonds when they do (as bonds appreciate in price as they would with any decline in rates)
An expectation of deflation causing the purchasing power of the repaid principal to rise
Speculation that the currency underlying the bond will appreciate by more than the interest rate

What is there to do?
The most reliable solution lies in buying things with durable and hopefully growing cash flows. Investments with the likelihood of producing steady earnings or distributions that reflect a substantial yield on cost seem like reasonable responses in times of negative yields. The challenge lies in accurately predicting the durability and growth of cash flows and making sure the price you pay allows for a good return. In today’s environment, assets with predictability are often priced too high and investors are unusually willing to extrapolate growth far into the future. While simple in concept, investing is far from easy, especially today.

Leveraged Loans

Barely noticed in a corner of the financial markets, leveraged loans originally worth about $40 billion are staging their own private meltdown.

Loans tied to more than 50 companies have lost at least 10% of face value in just three months. Some have dropped a lot more, with lenders lucky to get back just two-thirds of their investment if they tried to sell.

Morgan Housel on behavioral biases and pitfalls

In January this year Morgan Housel- Partner, Collaborative Fund- gave a presentation on behavioural biases and pitfalls faced by ordinary investors at the India Investment Conference. Through five stories and various examples, he conveys that investing is not just about what you know but also about how you behave and that stocks become less risky the longer one holds them.

“The goal of investing is not to minimize boredom, it is to maximize returns! If you want clients to stick around, then do things simply.”

Friday, October 11, 2019

This week's interesting finds

October 12, 2019

Our Q3 commentaries are available now

This quarter, portfolio manager Geoff MacDonald explains why it's important to invest like a rational business owner, while fixed-income analyst Derek Skomorowski discusses why relying on others to do your credit work doesn't pay off.

America’s middle class can’t afford its cars

Car loans that are increasingly stretched out are a pronounced sign that some American middle-class buyers can’t afford a middle-class lifestyle. For many, the availability of loans with longer terms has created an illusion of affordability. It has helped fuel car purchases that would have been out of reach with three-, five- or even six-year loans. Low rates in effect served as a bailout for the auto industry over the last decade. 

A growing share of car buyers won’t pay off the debt before they trade in their cars for new ones, either because the car is in need of repairs or because they want a newer model. A third of new-car buyers who trade in their cars roll debt from old vehicles into their new loans. 

    Americans have been borrowing to buy their cars for decades, but auto debt has swelled since the financial crisis. U.S. consumers held a record $1.3 trillion of debt tied to their cars at the end of June.

    So far this year, dealerships made an average of $982 per new vehicle on finance and insurance versus $381 on the actual sale. 

    Momentum. After one year of outperformance, the next 9 are usually bad
    Momentum strategies show a tendency towards long-term reversal. Starting from around the one year point onward, they underperform. The green column shows the initial one-year annual excess returns of Winner portfolios over Loser portfolios. The blue column shows the excess returns of those same portfolios from the end of the 1st year to the end of the 10th year. 

    Free cash flow as a % of GDP is at a record high in the U.S.

    There have NOT been big investments by either households or businesses that create misallocations of capital.  Misallocations usually precede/cause a recession.

    Source: Empirical Research Partners

    Paying for stability

    Stable stocks have been more expensive only 4% of the time since 1976. Bank stocks have been less expensive only 5% of the time since 1976.

    Source: Empirical Research Partners


    Artist Profit Sharing

    Don't go chasing waterfalls...

    …unless you can take a photo of it like this spectacular shot. Our Q3 Photo Contest winner is Ted Chisholm.

    Friday, October 4, 2019

    This week's interesting finds

    October 5, 2019

    Warren Buffett's first television interview

    Invaluable lessons about investing that haven’t changed to this day. 

    Paying for stability

    The valuation gap between stocks with stable growth and volatile growth is larger today than at any time in at least the last 35 years. The 20% of S&P 500 stocks with the most stable EBITDA growth during the past 40 quarters currently trade at a median forward P/E of 21x. This represents a 23% premium to the median S&P 500 stock's multiple of 17x. Since 1985, this premium was only exceeded in early 2000 at the peak of the Tech Bubble. The 25% discount carried by the stocks with the most volatile earnings growth (13x vs. 17x) has been deepening for a decade and is now the largest on record.

    While the valuations of stable growth and volatile growth companies look extreme relative to history, valuations have generally not been a useful signal for predicting the forward returns of these stocks in the past. Exhibit 14 below shows the weak historical relationship between the valuations of stable growth stocks and their forward 12-month returns relative to volatile growth stocks. In the past, large valuation spreads have not indicated above-average risk of a reversal in valuations and performance. In fact, the times in the past when stable growers carried the largest valuation premia relative to volatile growth stocks were often been followed by further stable growth stock outperformance. 

    Ever seen a 0.00% R squared before?*
    *R-squared is a statistical measure that explains to what extent the variance of one variable (valuation premium in this case) explains the variance of the second variable (forward 12-month excess returns in this case).  

    Bond and dividend yields since 2005

    Tech IPOs aren't working for the masses
    Many of the seemingly hot debuts this year have been much less so for most ordinary investors. Most big new tech issues from this year are trading below their opening prices from their first day of trading. For most new tech issues, the biggest gains come upfront. Relatively few investors get access to new shares at the listing price. But for the majority of investors who have to wait for trades to open, the returns aren’t so glamorous. 

    Shale boom is slowing

    Friday, September 27, 2019

    This week's interesting finds

    September 28, 2019

    EdgePoint Partners' back to school reading list
    Over the past few weeks, we have been collecting some of the reads that have caught your attention lately. The results are in! Here are some of the books that come highly recommended by EdgePoint partners: 

    S&P 500 Return: Earnings Growth vs. Multiple Expansion

    During the dot-com bubble, investors flocked to bet on the purported next big thing. A similar theme can be spotted in today’s IPO market, with some companies asking buyers to bet on unproven technology and untested revenue models. Many winners have emerged, but this deluge of disruptors has also laid down a minefield.

    Historical market returns vs. ISM manufacturing index
    The left chart shows the correlation between ISM manufacturing index and 10-year Treasury yields since 2010.  A PMI index above 50% indicates that the manufacturing economy is expanding, and a PMI index below 50% indicates that the manufacturing economy is declining.  The right chart shows the correlation between S&P 500 returns and ISM readings over or under 50.

    Mixed signals from bond yields 
    According to government bond yields, we are making a bee-line for Armageddon. According to credit spreads, clear skies on the horizon.
    Stock market returns are inconsistent.
    Maybe the best and worst part about the markets is the fact that two investors can look at the same exact data and come to completely different conclusions. Looking at the two stats below many might say that “buy & hold doesn’t work” or “this is why I time the market”.

    $10k invested in the S&P 500 in Jan 2000 would be worth $29,181 by the end of Aug 2019

    $10k invested in the S&P 500 in Jan 2010 would be worth $32,100 by the end of Aug 2019

    The first situation invested at the height of the dot-com bubble which might have been the worst entry point in U.S. stock market history. The dot-com bubble soon burst leading the S&P 500  to fall by 45%; 10 years later the financial crisis hit and the S&P 500 fell again, but this time by 51%. Despite this, the investors still managed to triple their money and earn 5.9% annually as of August 2019. How many investors would sign up for 5.9% annual returns today for the next 20 years?

    Stock market returns are inconsistent. Sometimes returns are front-loaded, sometimes they’re back-loaded and sometimes they’re not great, even over longer time frames. One period of inconsistent or poor returns isn’t a reason to give up on the stock market. That’s how it works.

    Friday, September 20, 2019

    This week's interesting finds

    September 21, 2019

    Earlier in the summer, we presented our Investment team’s top literary picks for the season. We hope you enjoyed them! Now, in the spirit of sharing interests, we’d love to hear which books and podcasts have caught your attention lately. Share your recommendations HERE and we may feature them in an upcoming edition of Inside Edge! 

    Video: An investor's journey with EdgePoint

    We’re proud of how we’ve been able to help our partners and end clients by building their wealth during the first 10 years of our existence. To help build for EdgePoint’s second decade, we’ve made a video to remind people that the first one wasn’t always a smooth ride but that it paid to be patient during the tough times. Volatility is a constant in the market, how our clients react to it however will determine if they can get to their Point B. 

    More on negative-yielding bonds

    According to Jeff Gundlach: “79% of all negative-yielding bonds are held by central banks.”

    With $14 trillion in negative-yielding debt globally, that means that $3 trillion was bought by actual investors.

    Saudi oil reserves

    Members of the International Energy Agency are required to hold emergency stocks of oil that could cover 90 days’ worth of lost imports. They can deploy these reserves in unison to avoid an oil shock, as in June 2011, when the U.S. and 27 other countries acted to release 60 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves to drive down prices during the disruption caused by the civil war in Libya. The U.S. holds around 600 million barrels of oil in reserve and other governments have a further 1.2 billion.

    Saudi Arabia’s own oil reserves have fallen in recent years, but remain sufficient to ensure the kingdom’s customers don’t experience shortages. The only stipulation is that the disruption must be short-lived. The nation holds enough to cover the country’s exports for around 35 days.

    A look at what countries are dependent on Saudi oil.

    The chart on the left shows total crude exports from Saudi Arabia by destination country with Japan, China, US, South Korea & India making up the bulk of their exports. The chart on the right shows Saudi Arabia’s share of each nation’s crude petroleum imports with Japan and South Korea being the most dependent.

    How Buffett's Brain Works

    Here are some key factors Warren Buffett considers when looking at potential opportunities:

    Simplicity - Is the business easy to understand?
    Operating History  - Has the business been around for a long time, with a consistent operating history?
    Long-Term Prospects - Is there reason to believe that the business will be able to sustain success in the long-term?
    Rational Decisions - Is management wise when it comes to reinvesting earnings or returning profits to shareholders as dividends?
    Candidness - Does the management team admit mistakes? Are they honest with shareholders?
    Margin of Safety - What’s the chance you’ll lose money on the stock, in the long run, if you buy it at today’s price?

    Friday, September 13, 2019

    This week's interesting finds

    September 14, 2019

    Earlier in the summer, we presented our Investment team’s top literary picks for the season. We hope you enjoyed them! Now, in the spirit of sharing interests, we’d love to hear which books and podcasts have caught your attention lately. Share your recommendations HERE and we may feature them in an upcoming edition of Inside Edge! 

    The worst day for momentum since 2009

    Earlier this week many growth stocks (generally companies that are seeing rapid profit increases) took a dramatic turn downward as measured by Bloomberg’s Pure Growth Portfolio. In essence, many of 2019’s hottest stocks took a large hit, while the year’s most unloved stocks have enjoyed a rally.

    This sudden reversal is what drove US momentum to have its worst single-day decline since 2009.

    Can you stomach the next big market swing?

    The quiz that your financial adviser may have given you isn’t really a good way of understanding your tolerance for risk.

    If I ask you in a questionnaire whether you are afraid of snakes, you might say no. If I throw a live snake in your lap and then ask if you’re afraid of snakes, you’ll probably say yes—if you ever talk to me again.

    Investing is like that: on a bland, hypothetical quiz, it’s easy to say you’d buy more stocks if the market fell 10%, 20% or more. In a real market crash, it’s a lot harder to step up and buy when every stock price is turning blood-red and your family is begging you not to throw more money into the flames.

    This is why financial advisors use risk tolerance questionnaires to help determine how much risk their clients should be exposed to. Unfortunately, imagining your future behavior or accessing that behavior from a risk questionnaire isn’t as easy. New research shows financial advisers create drastically different portfolios even when clients appear to have the same tolerance for taking the risk.

    Professionals in many fields are vulnerable to what the Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls “noise,” or variation in judgment driven by such irrelevant factors as emotion, time of day or the weather.

    To do better, think about how your past experiences might shape your future expectations. Did you buy your first stock at the beginning of a bull market? That could skew you toward taking more risk. Did you start a business during a recession? That could make you more gung-ho if it thrived or gun-shy if it failed.

    One researcher suggests that the best guide to whether you will dump stocks in the next financial crisis is whether you did in the last one.

    Your perceptions of risk are only part of the puzzle. At least as important is your risk capacity. Think of your spending habits, your non-financial assets and how easily you could sell them in a pinch. Also vital are your goals. You can’t know how much risk to take until you estimate when and how much you’ll need to spend in the future.

    Ultimately any good adviser should devote more time to your risk capacity and your goals than to your risk tolerance.

    A behavioral prescription

    There have been 17 separate 5% pullbacks since stocks bottomed in 2009. Each one of them felt like the top. The chart below shows some of the headlines and quotes you might have read during these market declines. 

    It’s hard to see headlines like this and not act on them. We know now that our worst fears did not come to pass, but there was no way to know at the time that each and every one of these pullbacks would resolve themselves to the upside.

    One of the worst things that investors can do is overreact to market volatility. It’s perfectly normal to feel something, but adopting an all in or all out mentality when the market goes up and down is destined to fail.

    How the invention of spreadsheet software unleashed Wall Street on the world

    At one point or another many of us have had to use spreadsheets for school, work, or personal use. This article points to some interesting correlations between Wall Street and the rise of the spreadsheet.

    In 2010, a pair of researchers published a controversial economics paper. It was cited by UK politicians to justify austerity measures that sparked economic and employment crises, and anti-austerity protests—measures that the UN later called “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” inflicting “great misery.” In 2013, however, this widely influential paper was found to have been substantially off in its estimates, thanks in part to a simple spreadsheet error: specifically, “a few rows left out of an equation to average the values in a column,” the Guardian wrote at the time.

    This famous foul-up is just one of many instances when digital predictions have let us down, creating a sharp contrast between the reality of things and what the numbers foretold.

    Rock-bottom bond yields spread from Japan to the rest of the world

    When the Bank of Japan’s board meets on September 19th, it is not expected to reduce its main interest rate, currently at -0.1%. But any increase in interest rates seems a long way off. And as long as rates are at rock-bottom in Japan, it is hard for them to be raised in other places. Bond-buying by desperate Japanese banks and insurance companies is a big part of what keeps a lid on yields elsewhere.

    Japan is already the world’s biggest creditor with its net foreign assets (Japans assets minus what they owe to foreigners) at around $3 trillion, or 60% of its annual GDP. This chart shows how since 2012 both sides of its national balance-sheet have grown rapidly as Japanese investors borrowed abroad to buy more and more assets.

    Globally, Japan’s impact is felt most keenly in corporate-credit markets in America and Europe. Japan’s pension and insurance firms are in a pinch to make regular payments to retirees so they look abroad for yield. Some see Japan as a template: its path of ever-lower interest rates is one that other rich, debt-ridden economies have been destined to follow and will now struggle to escape.

    Friday, September 6, 2019

    This week's interesting finds

    September 6, 2019

    EDGE-ucation camp
    Since 2013, EdgePoint has been organizing EDGE-ucation camps for the children of our partners. These one-day events are aimed at kids ages 13 to 18 and cover the foundations and importance of investing and building long-term wealth. 

    The camp has grown every year. As more kids attend these events, we’ve been adding more camps in more cities. 

    Over the last 2 years, EdgePoint partners have visited 13 cities across Canada to share their knowledge and experience about things that can hurt savings and what people can do to reach their financial goals. Our hope is that with this program we can teach future generations about investing and other concepts that will help foster good future decision-making, financial independence, and self-confidence.

    We sent out a survey to see how these lessons have impacted the attendees of the camp. Here are the results.

    We were excited to see two campers select “Other” because it means they took the lessons to heart and looked for new ways to apply them. The answers were:
    • Opened a savings builder account with a higher interest rate
    • Want to buy a stock

    Is Your Stock Portfolio A Museum or A Warehouse?

    You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse. What makes a museum great is the stuff that’s not on the walls. Many items don’t make it to the walls so there is an editing process. There’s a lot more stuff off the walls than on the walls. The stuff on the walls is the best sub-subset of all the possibilities.

    When you apply this crucial lesson to building your stock portfolio, it means that you are likely to succeed as an investor not just by the stocks you own, but also by the ones you don’t.

    People buy stocks for all kind of reasons – they like them, their neighbours like them, their friends are making money on them, someone on Twitter is shouting about them, their prices have risen sharply in past few months, someone recommended them on TV, someone wrote about them on online forums, someone is boasting about them on WhatsApp groups, etc.

    Often, we end up building warehouses of our portfolios, not curated museums. Some people even maintain multiple portfolios, and each looks like a zoo of mismanaged, rowdy animals. You will do yourself a world of good by saying no to most things and not adding a lot of unwanted stocks to your portfolios. In other words, be a curator of stocks, not a warehouse manager.

    Skin in the game matters, especially for riskier, leveraged investment approaches

    In Norway, tax returns are publicly available making it possible to collect data on asset managers’ taxable wealth.

    Three researchers conducted a study on 120 private equity professionals in Norway. The main objective was to test whether or not co-investment had a meaningful impact on manager choices. The researchers found that managers with more skin in the game tend to select investments with less risky cashflows and took on more debt to finance purchases as their purchases were generally of lower risk. The research suggests that outside investors in private equity funds could incentivize their managers to take less risk by requiring them to invest their own capital.

    Over $1 trillion in negative yielding corporates outstanding

    Maybe everyone is buying negative yielding bonds because some of them are up 35% YTD...

    Friday, August 30, 2019

    This week's interesting finds

    August 30, 2019

    Wisdom from the Oracle

    Warren Buffett is famous for his wit, and will likely go down in history as one of the most quotable and influential investors of all time. This week marks his 89th birthday. This infographic highlights some of the smartest and most insightful quotes from Buffett on investing, business, and life, accumulated through his lengthy and prestigious career.

    Never invest in a business you cannot understand.”

    "The most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect. You need a temperament that neither derives great pleasure from being with the crowd or against the crowd." 

    “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked.”

    "Price is what you pay; value is what you get."

    "Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."

    “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." 

    “Failing conventionally is the route to go; as a group, lemmings may have a rotten image, but no individual lemming has ever received bad press.”

    “The most important investment you can make is in yourself.”

    John Neff started managing Wellington Management’s Windsor mutual fund in 1964. Over the three decades, he was among the most successful fund managers of his era.

    Mr. Neff, who died June 4 at age 87, shunned fads, such as the “go-go” stocks of the 1960s or the “nifty fifty” of the 1970s. Instead, he looked for stocks that were “overlooked, misunderstood, forgotten, out of favor,” as he put it. He favored steady performers and aimed to pay a low multiple of annual earnings.

    Among his pithier tips: “When you feel like bragging about a stock, it’s probably time to sell.”

    Some demographic experts predicted that young adults’ fascination with urban living would fade as they settled down, got married, and had children, at which point they, too, would follow their parents and grandparents to the suburbs.

    A new study finds that not only have young people been a driving force in the urban resurgence of the past two decades, but they favor living in central urban neighborhoods significantly more than previous generations did at the same stages in life.

    The locational preferences of young adults hold large consequences. Millennials make up America’s largest generation, bigger even than the Baby Boomers. Where they choose to live will have a lasting impact on which places grow, which stagnate, and which decline. This can be seen in the skyrocketing housing prices and affordability crises of a growing number of American cities.

    Some retail investors may need a reality check

    A survey of 9,100 retail investors in 25 countries finds that many are in need of a reality check. It shows that retail investors feel confident in their return expectations, with long-term return expectations in Canada at 10.1%, while financial professionals surveyed believe a return of 5.7% is more realistic for clients.

    Our 10-year Partner Program

    To show our appreciation for our partners who have had the conviction and unwavering long-term view by staying invested with us for 10 or more years, the 10-year Partner Program offers lower management fees. 

    We believe that one of the keys to pleasing investment returns is taking a long-term view and holding good, undervalued businesses until the market fully recognizes their potential. While you can be lucky over short periods of time, it takes considerable skill to achieve long-term outperformance. The same notion applies to our investors. To succeed in getting to your Point B (whatever your financial goals may be), it takes conviction, a good financial advisor, the fortitude to embrace volatility and, above all, an unwavering long-term view.

    Friday, August 23, 2019

    This week's interesting finds

    August 23, 2019

    An important read: Why profits matter (and value investing is not dead)

    We have currently reached the point in this cycle where many investors/commentators have started to question whether profits no longer matter, and also whether value investing is dead. As is often the case, the arguments put forward in the affirmative derive mostly from recent market experience/outcomes, rather than reasoning from first principles. Hyper-growth (and generally loss-making) tech companies have seen outsized share price gains, with many recent IPO vintages also seeing triple-digit gains, despite the absence of any profits either in the past or foreseeable future, in echos of the bubble. Meanwhile, many profitable and cash-generative companies with low growth, and especially with falling earnings/revenues, have been absolutely massacred.

    Profits are vitally important, not only because that is the only means by which stocks ultimately generate returns for, but also because profits (and losses) are absolutely vital to the healthy functioning of a capitalist economy, and indeed are the ultimate test of whether a company is doing anything worthwhile at all.

    Over the past decade, the need for profitability has broken down in many areas of the economy, as loss-making companies have not only been allowed to survive but are also rapidly growing. In many cases, they have only grown because an extraordinary amount of capital has flown into venture capital and other tech-based funds.

    Many investors today are currently impressed with rapid rates of revenue growth, regardless of the state of the bottom line. Much as with the bubble and its subsequent unraveling, where many 'old world' value businesses were left for dead, only to stage dramatic recoveries in the following decade, a likely consequence of the coming tech wreck will be a significant resurgence in the performance of many 'value' stocks, as their sales, market share, and profitability recover as 'disruptive' competitors go broke, and their multiples dramatically recover.

    When will the reckoning occur? It is impossible to say, but it will occur when the funding bubble bursts and companies are forced to once again fund themselves from operating cash flow.

    Could it be when the pace of cumulative losses across the upstart tech ecosystem starts to exceed the pace of new fundraisings? Softbank has been a major contributor to startup fundraising with its outrageously-sized US$100bn Vision Fund. Softbank has already blown through the majority of this funding in only two years. But the pace of operating losses continues to mushroom, and Softbank is now running out of money. As a result, Softbank is currently trying to hastily prepare a second US$100bn Vision Fund to keep the house of cards intact. Time will tell whether they succeed.

    On the Other Hand - implications of the Fed’s interest-rate management

    Is it the Fed’s job to sustain expansions and keep market dislocations at bay ad infinitum?
    Many people take Fed actions at face value.  When the Fed cuts interest rates investors take that as a “buy” signal.  Their thought process is simple: weak economy → rate cuts → economic stimulus → stronger GDP → higher corporate profits → higher stock prices.  
    Are low-Interest Rates a Good Thing?

    The Fed’s decision early this year to depart from its announced program of rate increases to the S&P 500’s gain of roughly 20% so far this year. But how, exactly, do low rates contribute to wealth creation?

    Low rates reduce the discount factor used in calculating the net present value of future cash flows.

    By reducing the interest expense on companies’ floating-rate debt, low rates enhance companies’ profits; make it easier for them to service their debt; and leave them more cash for capital expenditures, and dividends and stock buy-backs.

    What about the downside? 
    Low rates stimulate the economy, and most economists and businesspeople believe there’s such a thing as the economy becoming too hot.  The principal worry is excessive inflation.  While some inflation is a good thing, too much isn’t.  

    When low rates penalize savers by reducing the returns available on instruments like cash, money market funds, savings accounts.

    Should we be happy to see the Fed trying to prolong the economic expansion and the bull market when they’re already the longest in history?  Should it try to produce perpetual prosperity and permanently ward off a correction?  Are there risks in its trying to do so?  It all depends on which hand is doing the weighing.

    Three Mindsets of Great Investing Teams

    Culture reflects the mindset of a firm. The mindset is the set of attitudes that the firm holds. So what sorts of mindsets correlate with investment success and better decisions?

    Great investment teams are more interested in getting the facts on the table and searching for the truth than they are in winning the argument or looking good. The best among them learn to recognize when they have become defensive so they can shift back to that curious mindset.

    The ego wants to win, but the good team member wants to encourage open and honest communication. Success means that we have encouraged others to remain curious. Failure is when the discussion turns defensive and unproductive.

    All criticism and no appreciation creates a fearful environment. When we’re in such a space, we wonder if any of our work is valued, if we’re doing anything right. And we become more risk-averse and myopic: If our normal work generates negative feedback, why take a chance and stretch beyond our already constricted comfort zones?

    Less size and more insight

    The age of asset gatherers has peaked and the asset management industry is re-entering the age of the boutique, where it began. What will matter is less size and more insight, which will support the outcomes sought by asset owners. Delivering that added value will require closer economic alignment between asset managers and asset owners.

    Friday, August 16, 2019

    This week's interesting finds

    August 17, 2019

    U.S. mortgage debt hits a new record
    U.S. mortgage debt reached a new record in the second quarter, exceeding its 2008 peak. The steep drop in mortgage rates boosted borrowers’ incentive to take out a mortgage or refinance. Alongside higher home prices, a factor behind rising mortgage debt balances is homeowners tapping into home equity for cash when they refinance. Still, the household debt picture is different in 2019. Despite the higher debt levels, Americans appear to be keeping up with their payments.

    EdgePoint bond desk: Four more rate cuts might be excessive
    Core prices rose 2.2% versus a year earlier in July, the largest increase since December. Even this increase counts as tame and suggests that the Fed's preferred measure of core prices may remain below the 2% inflation target. Still, after the two largest back-to-back monthly increases in core prices since 2006, when the Fed was on the inflation-fighting warpath, it is harder to get worked up about “too low” inflation. Especially with the unemployment rate at 3.7%. 

    It's never been cheaper to borrow in Denmark
    Banks in Denmark are now effectively paying qualified homebuyers who take out a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage. Jyske Bank, the third-largest bank in Denmark, will now lend to prospective homebuyers at an interest rate of -0.5%.

    Risk in investing
    Risk is the four-letter word of investing, but it is poorly understood. Consider, for example, the two different investments in the accompanying table: Investment A and Investment B.

    Which investment would you prefer? A or B?

    Everyone would prefer investment A. After all, you end up with more money after three years. But, which investment is riskier? According to investment orthodoxy, Investment A is riskier! Why? Because it has a higher standard deviation (or volatility of returns) at 23.6% than Investment B at 0%. Doesn’t that strike you as odd? In investing, if you don’t want volatility, then you have to accept that you won’t have much upside potential.

    We asked Sandro, the most passionate movie buff at EdgePoint, for his top 10 movie picks of all time. After agonizing for days over this list, this was his response:

    Films have had a profound influence on shaping the man I am. In fact, great films have the power not only to entertain but more importantly to transform the way we see the world. Truly great films, like a great vintage wine, get better with age. Each subsequent viewing reveals new pleasures and they become more socially and culturally relevant.

    Ok. That’s enough with my ramblings. Keep in mind that if you asked me next week, it might be a completely different list. I didn’t even include a foreign film. I love foreign films!

    Sandro’s Top 10 of All Time… more specifically on August 13, 2019

    Citizen Kane (1941) - Welles
    Casablanca (1942)  - Curtiz
    Vertigo (1958) – Hitchcock
    The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (1966) - Leone 
    The Godfather (1972) – Coppola
    Annie Hall (1977) - Allen
    Goodfellas (1990) – Scorsese
    Pulp Fiction (1994) – Tarantino
    Boogie Nights (1997) – Anderson
    The Social Network (2010) - Fincher

    Friday, August 9, 2019

    This week's interesting finds

    August 10, 2019

    Half the world’s bonds have yields that can’t match inflation

    About $30.2 trillion of bonds offer yields below zero after accounting for inflation. The amount has surged from $25 trillion less than a month ago. The figures are based on the bonds in the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index, which has a market value of $55.6 trillion.

    10-year yields
    There are now 12 countries whose government debt sports negative 10-year yields. Switzerland leads with a 10-year yield of -0.92% followed by Germany, with a 10-year yield of -0.53%, down to Slovenia in 12th position with a 10-year yield barely in the negative of -0.04%.

    The US, with its 10-year yields of 1.73% is in 30th position of the 51 countries. This puts the US two places behind Italy, in 28th place, with a 10-year yield of 1.51%. The list has only 51 places, and the US already has a low 10-year yield of 1.73% is all the way down in 30th position! Greece, which defaulted on its debts in 2012 and imposed big haircuts on holders of Greek government bonds, is in 33rd place with a 10-year yield of 2.02%. 

    10 years of US stock market prices
    Below is a visualization of the US stock market in the past 10 years returns. Every day for the past 10 years is captured in the graph. The worst day of the market in the past decade was August 8, 2011, which was a response to the credit rating downgrade of the US sovereign debt. The S&P 500 Index dropped nearly 7% that day.

    One of the best days was on December 26, 2018, where the S&P 500 rose to 4.9%. This was the first trading day after the dramatic Christmas Eve sell-off.

    The Psychology of Prediction
    Here are some notable flaws, errors, and misadventures that occur in people’s heads when predictions are made.

    The distinction between “wrong” vs. “early” has less to do with analytics than the social ability to prevent listeners from giving up on you. Say it’s 2003 and you predict the economy is going to collapse under the weight of a housing bubble. In hindsight, you got that right. But it’s 2003. So those who listened to your predictions have to wait four years for that prediction to come true. 

    Credibility is not impartial: Your willingness to believe a prediction is influenced by how much you need that prediction to be true.
    History is the study of surprising events. Prediction is using historical data to forecast what events will happen next.

    Predictions are easiest to make when patterns are strong and have been around for a long time – which is often when those patterns are about to expire.

    Predicting the behavior of other people relies on understanding their motivations, incentives, social norms and how all those things change. That can be difficult if you are not a member of that group and have a different set of life experiences.

    If you refuse to make predictions because you know how hard they are you may become suspect of everyone else’s predictions even if they have insight and skills you don’t.

    The effort put into a prediction may increase confidence more than accuracy. There are stories of Tiger Woods hitting 1,000 balls at the range without a break. And of Jason Williams practicing dribbling for hours on end without ever shooting a ball. That’s how you become an expert.

    This week we all combined for a midsummer potluck!