March Madness: Final Four Investing Bracket 2015

basketball on cashWelcome to the fifth year of our March Madness Investing Bracket! This series of articles is always one of the most popular investing articles on the internet! We’re proud to admit that we were one of the first investing nerds to combine our love for the markets with the passion that college basketball brings!

It’s common knowledge that people love excitement and surprises. It’s also human nature to root for the underdog and many times those two themes can certainly play out on the basketball court as well as on the stock market floor. Much like two college basketball teams that never play each other our imaginations are swept up in wondering who will “win” between a relatively unknown investment or a popular stock that has the media in a frenzy.

You may be asking what does a basketball tournament have to do with managing your portfolio or the investment world in general? At first glance there might not be much but we thought we would have a little fun and couple it with some asset allocation parallels. After all, there are many folks who have simply thrown their hands in the air at one time or simply succumbed to the notion that investing is like educated gambling. There could be some truth to that depending on your approach…

For those of you that are not familiar with the NCAA and its annual basketball tournament there are 68 teams selected and each is seeded according to their results throughout the regular season and their relative rankings. Every March the NCAA holds a single elimination tournament to crown an undisputed champion. Part of the appeal of such a tournament is that theoretically any team that makes the “big dance” has a shot at winning it all. Each and every year there is a proverbial “Cinderella” team that surprises everyone including all the ‘so-called’ experts. Prior to the tournament there is always plenty of banter and opinion on who wasn’t invited or further arguments around the seeding of the teams that did make it. That’s where we see a parallel of sorts to investing and having to make decisions among the multitudes of investment choices. With so many investment choices available, there are also as many differing opinions.

In the “real” March Madness tournament this year there appears to be a hands down favorite with the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Hardly any office pool or basketball analyst is betting against such a heavily favored team. If they win it all it will be the first time in over 30 years that a team stays unbeaten the whole season. Our own version of this (using investment themes and choices) shares the premise that we have four very decent #1 seeds but there is no slam-dunk pick that everyone agrees on. For this reason, our 2015 bracket is perhaps as important as ever to understand that a dark horse could win it all…

Before we begin digging into each “region” of our bracket, let’s revisit something everyone claims they know but so very few actually follow with consistent discipline. (Asset Allocation)

If you have ever looked at a chart of all the different asset classes and how they perform year to year…there is rarely a pattern or consistent way to determine next years “winner”.

For the purposes our annual investing bracket we have “seeded” or ranked four major asset classes (like the regions) and chosen several individual picks within each. There is some basic science applied to this process. We consider how the “pick” did over the past 12 months and also how it has trended over the past three months. In some cases we gave a lower performing investment a higher seed if it was trending well with recent strength or was more consistent over a longer period of time.

Each asset class (Large Cap, Small Cap & Mid Cap, Bonds/Alternatives, and International) was ranked and seeded, then corresponding seeds were assigned to “picks” that we are either adding to the portfolio or establishing new positions in. Note that we’re not highlighting 68 new investments and will only discuss some investments that we are either actively involved in or looking to add to most portfolios.

OK…Let’s dig into some of the key match-ups and explain why our Final Four going into Q2 2015 looks the way it does (CLICK HERE to view our 2015 Bracket):

Large Cap

This is typically viewed as the ‘efficient’ asset class. Continue reading

The Black Thursday you likely never heard about…

black swan 1Dear Mr. Market:

In all of our “letters” to you a recent market event perhaps best sums up how nasty and volatile you can be. This time you really pulled one-off and caught the entire financial world flat-footed. If such a world were painted as a lake we have been enjoying a fairly pleasant view with relatively calm and peaceful waters. Now, without any warning, you have sent not one, but rather two black swans to land on the lake and alter the serene setting…

First off, what is a “black swan”? InvestorWords defines it as:

Definition

“Colloquial term for any extremely rare event. The term was popularized by a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, entitled “The Black Swan”, and was based on a previous belief (now a misconception) that all swans were white and that black swans did not exist. The term is frequently used in the finance and investing sectors to denote an event that is unexpected, and impossible to accurately predict.”

INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS ‘BLACK SWAN’

“Black swan events are typically random and unexpected. For example, the previously successful hedge fund Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) was driven into the ground as a result of the ripple effect caused by the Russian government’s debt default. The Russian government’s default represents a black swan event because none of LTCM’s computer models could have predicted this event and its subsequent effects.” Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: October 2014 Performance Update


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Dear Mr. Market:

When it comes to flipping over a new page of your calendar we know you could care less what month it is! You, (the market) have no idea (or interest) whether it’s November or March. Unfortunately, we are all inclined to pay attention to the calendar because those that run our 24 hour media/news cycle get paid to make such an imprint on our brains.

October is a bad month for the stock market, right?

Wrong!

Again, we’re trained to think so. Sure, October has had some dates to remember… The month is famous for some market crashes like the “The Panic of 1907”, “Black Tuesday” (which kicked off the 1929 crash), and “Black Monday”, October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones dropped 22% in just one day.

Ironically enough, most bad Octobers have been due to issues that came from September. Two of the three above listed crashes were delayed reactions from catalysts that kicked off in September; which historically actually brings more down markets than does October.

All that being said, we had a wild October with some long lost volatility! After the S&P 500 peaked on September 18th, it was all downhill from there until October 15th. The last two weeks of the month were the strongest since July of 2009. For those with short-term memories, that was right after the sky had fallen and nobody trusted any “bear market rallies”.

This time “it’s different” in that we haven’t seen a meaningful correction in years. The S&P 500 bounced back 7% in two weeks and in case you’re wondering…we’re once again bumping up against “overbought” conditions. This is the type of market that can absolutely make you insane. (more on this thought later…

Here’s the current summary of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 portfolio mix, which is updated as of this writing (November 3, 2014).

Click here to compare our portfolio against the benchmark.

What adjustments did we make? Continue reading

Dividend Investing … are you chasing yields?

Chasing DividendsDear Mr. Market:

With interest rates at rock bottom levels many investors have gravitated to dividend yielding stocks over the last several years. Money markets, certificates of deposit and bonds simply are not delivering the rates that investors are looking for or have come to expect. It has left investors looking for other options to generate the income that they are counting on but what are the long-term ramifications? Are investors chasing yields with the risk of digging themselves into a deeper hole? What should investors look for and how can they manage their portfolios effectively?

It doesn’t take much effort to find a laundry list of stocks with very attractive yields. In fact if you simply run a screener on Google it will return a list of nearly 100 stocks that offer a yield of 10% or more! With the stock market continuing its upward trend investors have been moving to these stocks chasing the yields with little attention being paid to the underlying stock and the associated risks.

Before we jump into specific companies and industries let’s make sure we are all on the same page and understand what dividends are. Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: August 2014 Performance Update

 

MW-BB798_sm6040_20130422180557_MDDear Mr. Market:

As always it’s important for both our new readers and in some cases…our existing ones to revisit what we are doing here with this series of articles:

Click here to revisit the first edition of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 Portfolio.

Here’s the current summary of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 portfolio mix, which is updated as of this writing (September 2, 2014).

Click here to compare our portfolio against the benchmark.

The expression of “the writing is on the wall” could not be more appropriate as we inch closer to wrapping up 2014. We work and interact with countless people in the financial services industry ranging from those who manage billions in the most sophisticated manners available, all the way to a retired blue collar worker who wants straight forward investor education and service on how to invest.

What each of these two parties have in common is that they don’t trust tomorrow and all of the warnings about a frothy and dangerous investing environment are as documented as they’ve perhaps ever been. Continue reading

Alibaba – The next hot stock?

Alibaba with chineseDear Mr. Market:

Every investor is looking for the next opportunity that looks like a ‘sure thing’. Throughout 2014 we’ve seen a plethora of IPO’s hit the market with the majority of them being well received. Currently there is a giant lurking out there and the markets have been licking their chops waiting to get a piece of it.   The stock is a behemoth based in China…Alibaba (anticipated to be listed as BABA).

Wall Street is expecting the IPO to hit the market sometime after the Labor Day holiday and this could certainly be an early Christmas present for the markets if it lives up to the anticipation. We have not seen hype like this surrounding a potential IPO since the dot-com era of the late 1990’s. Before you rush out in an attempt to participate in the IPO or buy through the open market, lets take a look at Alibaba to see if it warrants a position in your portfolio….

Summary:

It is challenging for the average U.S. investor to understand how large and diversified Alibaba is. Essentially Alibaba is: Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Cloud Services and much more wrapped up in one company. It has the fastest growing online commerce market in the world, last year it had transactions that totaled just under $250 billion! That is more than eBay (EBAY) and Amazon (AMZN) combined. To truly put the size of Alibaba in perspective let’s break down its largest components: Continue reading

Top 3 Economic Sectors to Invest in Now

Dear Mr. Market:

It’s clear that nobody has a crystal ball but there are a few simple tools and “rules of the road” which can help manage your unpredictable and volatile behavior. For those of us who are visual learners this simple graphic is quite helpful in knowing where you may want to allocate your stock positions relative to where we are in the economic cycle.

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There are two curves laid over each other on this graph. Simply explained, the red curve shows you where the stock market is and the green curve shows you what stage we’re at in the current economic/business cycle. Aside from some possible ability to optimally allocate stocks within the most opportune sectors in the economy, the real impact this visual shows you is that the stock market is essentially a leading indicator. In general, the stock market is a forward-looking gauge of what investor expectations are of the economy and interest rates. Continue reading