If you’ve ever dabbled in graphic design, you’re familiar with the concept of white space. When viewing an illustration, we typically pay the most attention to the visible ink on the page, such as a paragraph of text, a bar chart or an entertaining illustration. White space is the essential empty areas in between that are hidden in plain sight. We barely notice them … until they’re not there:
When making investment decisions, most people likewise assume that the most eye-catching ink matters the most: an alarming economic forecast, an exciting Initial Public Offering, hot trading tips. But there’s a catch. This evident assumption does not hold up under evidence-based scrutiny. In reality, you have little or no control over how the most obvious news impacts your investments. The most exciting action has already been priced into any trade you might make well before you decide to make it.
Stop fixating on headlines
Instead of fixating on the headline news, consider that liberating financial white space. There, hidden in plain sight, you’ll find a number of powerful investment strategies that are freely available and far more within our control. In this series, we’ll introduce three of our favorite “plain sight” investment strategies:
I often hear the phrase protect your downside. It’s the sales pitch that a large part of the investment management industry thrives on, and it plays to the myopic loss aversion that most investors exhibit.
Myopic loss aversion is the tendency of investors to evaluate their portfolios frequently with greater sensitivity to losses than gains, causing them to act as if their time horizon is much shorter than it actually is.
Let’s look at the example of John, who wants to invest for his retirement 30 years from now. After happily watching his portfolio increase with steady returns for a few years, he panics when the market trends down slightly for a week. He knows he doesn’t plan to touch the money for a long time, but the thought of a decline, even over a relatively short period of time, makes him feel sick. He may even pull his money out of the market until things feel safe again.
Myopic loss aversion
An obvious path to safety would seem to be hiring a person or a company that knows how to protectyour downside, and the investment industry has answered this calling. Continue Reading…
Panicky stock markets in China are spreading to Asia and the rest of the world today. Over the weekend my Twitter feed provided links to various stories arguing the case against panic but clearly there’s extreme anxiety in the air and investors are going to do what they’re going to do.
On page 152, the book specifically mentions how to deal with a stock market correction through a relaxation technique. “Once you feel calmer and more stable, you’ll be be better able to listen and make good decisions, ones that aren’t based on panic and fear.”
Of course, the more you watch the carnage through the media and web, the harder this is going to be. You might want to reread Steve Lowrie’s Hub post: Stop reacting to market noise.
Recently, while reading an article relating to the risks of boredom in retirement, I was reminded of a TV show that I had seen more than 40 years ago. I’m always amazed at how something can trigger a memory and we can recall it with such clarity as if we just viewed it yesterday.
The show was a Twilight Zone segment entitled “A Nice Place to Visit.” In it, the main character is Rocky Valentine, a small time thief who is shot during a robbery and passes out. He wakes up and at some point he realizes that he’s in fact dead, but by some mistake he’s in heaven and has been assigned a guardian angel by the name of Mr Pip.
Life for Rocky is great for a while as all his wishes are catered to: there are beautiful women, an expensive penthouse, fancy clothes and all the money he desires. In fact every time he goes to the casino, no matter what game he plays he wins: he can’t lose. But eventually Rocky gets bored of the predictability of his life, the excitement is gone and with that all of the fun.
Finally Rocky pleads with Mr Pip to send him to the other place where he belongs and that he doesn’t deserve to be in heaven. At this point Mr Pip’s says “Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven? This is the other place!”
I love the punch line and the lesson here is that Rocky goes crazy because there are no challenges in his life, there is no effort required and there’s nothing to hope for because it all exists as soon as he wants it.
Two of three conditions for a “sell” signal were already in place before this week’s meltdown: the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Dow Jones Transportation Average both must experience a significant correction from their joint new highs; then in any significant rally attempt following that correction, one or both Dow averages must fail to rise above their pre-correction highs. As Hulbert notes, the first two conditions were met earlier this year: after sharp declines in January, the Dow Transports were not able to join the Dow Industrials in rising to new highs.
The third condition is that both averages must then drop below their respective correction lows. Hulbert says the “third and final hurdle of a Dow Theory ‘sell’ signal was generated at Thursday’s close when it broke under the low identified in step 1, which was 17,164.95.”
However, Hulbert says not all followers of the Dow Theory are throwing in the towel just yet, at least until the action in the broader S&P500 index confirms the negative action of the far narrower Dow indexes. Hulbert says Jack Schannep, editor of TheDowTheory.com, “acknowledges the original version of the Dow Theory has indeed emitted a ‘sell’ signal” but Schanne’s modified theory that focuses on the S&P500 as well as the Dow averages won’t generate a “Sell” signal until the S&P 500 closes below its January closing level of 1992.67. Even after Thursday’s carnage, the S&P500 was still 2.2% above its January low. Something to watch in Friday’s action: if that occurs, you can expect some pretty gruesome reading in this weekend’s financial pages.
It’s probably a good time to talk to your financial advisor but before taking drastic action of any nature, you might want to go back and read Steve Lowrie’s Hub posts that began each of the last three weeks, such as Stop reacting to Market Noise or Stop feeding on Junk Media.
The commodities sell-off
About the only thing that wasn’t headed south this week is gold, which has been in the doldrums for ages, along with oil and most other commodities. This week’s The Economist has a good summary of the dire situation of the commodities market: The Sell-off in Commodities: Goodbye to all that. It warns “the latest leg down in crude prices may not yet have run its course.”