The Blumenthal Viewpoint: March 8, 2013
March 8, 2013
By Steve Blumenthal
What a market – up over 8% in 2013 in just 9 weeks! “Switch my investments – get me in,” says the client. It is the annual dance; rebalancing out of underperforming assets and into outperforming assets. Disciplined removed, memory gone as emotion rules reason.
While ill-advised, the temptation is too strong and the average investor sets his plate for his next disappointment. This behavior two-step is detailed in the following Dalbar 20-year Performance Study. The results are sub-par.
It was tech in 1999, housing and financials in 2007 and the crowding in bonds today. Once again, placing our trust in the great and powerful Fed, we move forward and choose to close our eyes.
However, let’s move in a different direction today and take a pass on discussing France’s problems, the EU distress that remains, the global debt and entitlement mess, Japan’s new era, the brewing currency wars and talk in detail about building two kinds of portfolios. One concentrated on big bets (“get rich quick”) and the other a balanced broad-based investment approach favored by endowments and seasoned investors that is an approach aligned with the principles of Modern Portfolio Theory.
Let’s first swing for the fences and talk about several ideas that could be home runs, “concentrated get rich bets” and then let’s take a look at how you might weave some of the ideas into a well thought-out and broadly diversified portfolio structure I call the 33/33/34 Enhanced Modern Portfolio Theory approach.
A quick aside: I talk about investments as “risks”. Each producing a different risk stream. Some risk streams are highly correlated (meaning they go up and down together) and some are not. It is also important to note that risk exists in every investment (your bank CD, your money market, your insurance company, the cash under your mattress, your brokerage account, in everything). You simply need to take risks. There is no other way. Concentrated risks may produce great wealth or may take away your wealth. It is for this reason that diversification is important.
This is why I favor 33/33/34 that combines a diverse set of non-correlating risks as I believe compounding money over time is a far better investment approach than swinging for the fences; however, hitting home runs is fun so let’s swing hard at what I believe are the fattest and most probable pitches to hit and then talk about how to weave them into a well thought-out portfolio. Important: this is not a recommendation for you and offered for discussion purposes only. I encourage you to discuss with your advisor.
Concentrated Get Rich Bets
- Long Gold (inflation and currency protection)
- Short Yen (inflation and currency destruction – the bet is yen gets hurt most against the major developed world currencies)
- Short 30-year U.S. Government Bonds (just not quite yet – trade likely late 2013)*
- Long Japanese stocks (big inflation play but couple the trade with short yen to preserve currency loss)
- Long Agriculture (food inflation and demand vs. supply imbalance)
- Long Emerging Markets (they are in better financial shape than the developed world and their currencies should benefit relative to the U.S. dollar)
- Others to consider: Long Natural Gas, Long Coal, Long Water
If I were to be a home run hitting type of guy, I’d go with the following:
25% Gold ETF
25% Short Yen (short yen recommended in the 11-30-12 Viewpoint)
25% Long Japan Index
25% Long Agribusiness ETF
*I really like the short government bond trade but still think it is just a bit too early. I’ll be looking at investing in an inverse government bond ETF later in the year. See next chart on supply and demand for 2013. There is nearly twice the demand vs. supply, providing support to the bond market… for now. Note that the very large buyer is the Fed. Carefully read all fund prospectuses.
The fat pitch here is that the global central banks have planted the seed for significant inflation. The total market capitalization of the global equity markets is $55 trillion, up 10% or so in the last few months. The total amount of new currency units the global central banks have created is $15 trillion, the majority of which has been printed in the last five years. That’s a super “wow” number. Can you say, “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood children?” Maybe – until inflation steals the show. This is unprecedented and, unfortunately, history has taught us that such manipulation ends badly.
The Fed and the balance of the developed world are printing massive amounts of money. They are forcing people into the markets. This kind of rigging and manipulation has its consequences. One of the biggest that we see on a daily basis is a huge miss on asset allocation.
A more sensible approach is to weave some of the big bets into a broader portfolio game plan. If I am correct in my forward view, those risk bets should help your overall return. If I’m incorrect, they are sized in such a way as to not hurt too much. Forget 60/40 and move to 33/33/34. It is risk focused and highly diversified and I believe can put you in position to take advantage of the great buying opportunity that will present itself at the next crisis low.
Until then I like the following endowment-like approach:
33/33/34 – Enhanced Modern Portfolio Theory
Endowments and experienced investment managers favor Modern Portfolio Theory, which is defined as “a mathematical formulation of the concept of diversification in investing, with the aim of seeking a collection of investment assets that has collectively lower risk than any individual asset.”
- 6% Vanguard Total Stock Fund (hedged periodically with covered calls and put options – see Trade Signals for ideas around hedging)
- 6% Vanguard International Stock Market Fund (hedged as above)
- 6% CMG Tactical Rotation Strategy (a tactical risk management focused strategy)
- 15% CMG Opportunistic All Asset Strategy (a tactical risk management focused strategy)
33% Fixed Income:
- 33% CMG Managed High Yield Bond Program (a tactical risk management focused strategy. Note that I am biased here as I have managed this strategy for more than 20 years. You may want other flexible bond funds in your mix. Simply, traditional fixed income at historic lows yields is far too risky relative to the potential return. Think tactically on fixed income until rates reset higher.)
34% Trading Strategies – Alternatives
- 7% Gold (a hedge against inflation, currency play and a directional risk bet)
- 4% Agriculture (both a hedge against inflation and a directional risk bet)
- 4% Vanguard REIT (both a hedge against inflation and a directional risk bet)
- 5% PE Investments Currency Trading Strategy (tactically long or short G10 currencies)
- 4% Short Yen ETF (both a hedge against inflation and a directional risk bet)
- 5% CMG Scotia Growth S&P Plus Program (tactical long or short S&P 500 Index exposure)
- 5% CMG SR Treasury Bond Program (tactical long or short government bonds)
*Please carefully read all prospectuses before investing.
Over time, this portfolio averaged 11.09% per year vs. 2.14% per year for the S&P 500 Index and 6.20% for the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index. More importantly, the max drawdown was just -11.88% vs. -50.95% for the S&P 500 Index. Its standard deviation was 7.87 vs. 15.91 for the S&P 500 Index and produced a sharp ratio of 1. The blue line below represents the portfolio and the goal we are trying to achieve.
To be crystal clear, the performance is hypothetical as the data set combines various investments into one portfolio at the above referenced percentage weightings. See important disclosure information at the bottom of this email.
The idea I’d like to leave you with is how you might weave together a diversified set of risks to create a portfolio aligned with the principles of modern portfolio theory. In order to put it all together, I believe it is important to look at how two risks correlate with each other.
In the portfolio creation process, ideally we are looking to combine risks that do not correlate with the stock market and/or the bond market and we are looking for risks that have the ability to profit in both up and down markets. Once we have identified the various risks, we are additionally looking for risks that don’t correlate to each other, thus, furthering diversification. I’m not saying don’t own the Vanguard fund, I’m saying own it together with something that is uniquely diversified and together they are better than either is alone.
When I look to include a new asset or investment strategy into a portfolio, I first look at its correlation to the S&P 500 Index. As you look at the correlation chart that follows, take a look at how each asset correlated with each other (specifically look at 2 through 15). As you look at each compared to each other you are looking for numbers between -0.5 and +0.5 to represent non-correlation. In this way, we are looking to combine a set of risks that do not rise and fall together at the same time. 1.00 is fully correlated while -1.00 is completely un-correlated. We want -0.5 to +0.5.
Please give me and my team a call if you have any questions. It is a lot of data to take in and I understand it might look like a foreign language to you. We are happy to help.
I would also like to offer you a sincere apology. I received a number of emails after last week’s On My Radar from some justifiably upset friends. I shared a Bloomberg article/video link that featured Stan Druckenmiller (famed hedge fund manager and former chief strategist for George Soros) titled “Druckenmiller Sees Storm Worse Than ’08 as Retirees Steal”.
Stan talked about our seniors stealing from our young people and went on to share some of the math behind the demographic crisis that lies ahead. While the crisis is real, I don’t believe that throwing the seniors, who have paid into the system for years, under the bus was the right approach. Frankly, I’m not sure if he intended to strike out at seniors or if in a short interview just focused on quick sound bites. Either way, it came across that way.
I believe his intent was to wake us up to the crisis ahead; however, I’m sorry that by extension, if in any way, I offended you. That certainly is not my way. As I read the Bloomberg piece, I gave little attention to his comment and focused on the bigger issue ahead. To which end I agree. My baby boom generation is aging and last I remember, we represent two-thirds of the U.S. population. There is not enough money, nor will there be enough workers paying into the system, to cover the entitlement promises given to us. The math simply will not work. The imbalances are too great – one way or another something will give.
On a better note, I just returned from Bend, Oregon where I and my senior team spent four days in strategic planning with my personal business coach, Jim Ruff. Jim is happily retired from Oppenheimer Funds and has grown to be a great friend. We skied, huddled for hours in a closed board room, ate well and had some terrific beers. The micro brewery business is alive and well in Bend.
As I set business and personal goals and think about them often, Jim frequently comes to mind as a wonderful example of how to continually create great things and, most importantly, how to celebrate life to its fullest. Jim, I’m raising my Crux IPA to simply say how grateful I am.
Bend, Oregon is spectacular – look it up and go for a visit.
Video Links, articles and charts:
Here is a link to an important 9:11 minute video clip from CNBC this past week. Well worth the review. Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot; Stanley Druckenmiller, former chairman & CEO of Duquesne Capital Management; Kevin Warsh, Hoover Institution and Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone CEO, share their strategies on investing for the future.
Note: I have posted a number of articles and video links on this subject up on our web site as well as the above demographic chart and a powerful chart showing 10-year forward expected 60/40 returns. Here is the link: http://www.cmgwealth.com/research-insight/ click on the News link.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or simply reply to this email. Wishing you the very best.
With kind regards,
Stephen B. Blumenthal
Founder & CEO
CMG Capital Management Group, Inc.
1000 Continental Drive, Suite 570
King of Prussia, PA 19406
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