Dear Mr. Market:
Dear Mr. Market:
What’s more exciting to watch: Duke versus North Carolina or Apple versus Amazon? If you’re reading this you know by now that it’s not a trick question but rather our annual opportunity to have some fun spinning the NCAA college basketball tournament into a platform to share our favorite investment themes.
My Portfolio Guide was the first investment firm to publish a March Madness investing tournament where we share our picks and match them up against each other. We break down and assign each of the four “regions” with an asset class and then pick teams (companies) that we think have the best chance at doing well relative to others.
This is the eighth year we’ve done this and it’s become one of the most popular articles on the entire internet!
Click the following link to see the entire bracket for 2018:
Many people now have the rearview mirror or armchair quarterback mentality right now. If you’re to be honest with yourself there are very few folks we met at this point last year that said without question that the stock market would soar to record highs. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite. Think back to the start of 2017 as most of us were still digesting the fact that Trump won the election. Most pundits felt that the “Trump bump” would be short lived and that the one thing the stock market doesn’t like is uncertainty …and we had plenty of it!
All that being said, we couldn’t have been more clear that if you kept your politics out of it you could have had a nice year! The easy trade was betting on America and the Large Cap asset class turned in a fine year. Guess what? We still think there is room to run here and the recent correction we experienced is exactly what the doctor ordered.
#2 US Steel (X) vs. #3 Reliance Steel (RS)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard that President Trump wants to reset the playing field on trade imbalances. Continue reading
Dear Mr. Market:
What do you think about the “largest point decline in history” ?!?
Last Monday certainly wasn’t fun for anyone watching their portfolio but if you put things into perspective what you end up with was the 138th largest percentage drop for the S&P 500. The financial media predictably goes bonkers when reporting numbers and this fuels the fire for the average investor. Our beef with them isn’t even the “sky is falling” antics which happen on any big volume or down day but the fact that they skew reality.
We’re not trying to minimize the strong move or the fact that we’re finally seeing volatility back in the markets but keep your common sense hat on when digesting the results. First and foremost, when an index like the Dow Jones is almost at 27,000 points, simple math shows that a -5% drop will equate to about -1,350 points. A five percent pullback is not only par for the course but as we mentioned in our most recent article…very much needed and of course long overdue. With a total of just over -10% we finally have (by definition) reached a correction.
Who knows what Mr. Market has in store for us tomorrow but one thing we can almost guarantee you is that the financial media will be far more excited about it than anyone needs to be. Hysterics and click bait sells more than a rational report explaining stock market action that is actually not unusual nor completely out of historic proportion. Speaking of reports…we invite you to read this special update on our Columbus Strategy.
What matters most in times like this is to level set things and to have a disciplined strategy firmly in place. Our signature approach for accounts over $100k is the Columbus Strategy and aside from its long-term track record what gives many clients some peace of mind is knowing that it ultimately looks to mitigate large and extended stock market drawdowns. We’re not so much focused on one month but over the course of a full market cycle you will be hard pressed to find a strategy that does better.
Nobody can consistently time the market but there are certain tactical adjustments that can be made to at least avoid longer stretches of market chaos. If we were to be visibly headed for a recession our stance on this recent correction would be much different than it is now. For the time being we’re approaching this correction exactly like we should be since it’s not our first rodeo; we’re nibbling at positions that we’ve wanted to add to and rebalancing any allocations that are not in line with a portfolio’s respective strategy.
Other than that the absolute worst thing you can do right now is act human! While that sounds crass we’re simply reminding you that people tend to have short memories and get way too emotional. If you want more information on our Columbus Strategy please contact us. Beyond that we will leave you with a quote and saying that we came up with many stock market corrections ago….
“Stay disciplined to stay positive”.
-My Portfolio Guide
Dear Mr. Market:
Have you seen the movie “Groundhog Day”? If you haven’t it’s comedy-fantasy from 1993 starring Bill Murray. In this movie he portrayed a Pittsburgh weatherman who was on assignment to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Murray’s character ends up being stuck in a time loop where no matter what he does he ends up repeating the same day again and again.
Until just the past couple of days it feels like the stock market was also trapped in some sort of Groundhog Day paradigm. We have not experienced a correction in over 15 months and no matter what the headline the results on the markets where the same as the day prior; green, positive tickers, and smooth sailing. We just saw the best January in 20 years after a year where the S&P 500 recorded a positive return every single month for the first time ever. All these records transpired with the lowest market volatility ever. So what just happened?
Did the groundhog pop his head out and cast a different shadow than anyone was expecting? No…not really. Everyone we know (layman or expert) has been saying eventually it would end. Nothing keeps going up forever. While we disagree with lightweight analysis that stocks are overvalued, the bull market eventually has to take a breather in order to make a final push higher. There is no recession in sight so what we’re finally seeing is a long overdue correction.
What is a stock market correction?
It’s been so long that it might be helpful to refresh your memory! First and foremost, you must recall that prior to Groundhog Day (sorry…couldn’t resist!), stock market corrections happened all the time! On average they occur once every 357 days, or at least once a year. They’re part of the economic and stock market cycle and for a healthy market to advance you actually should want to see them pull back every so often. We have strong fundamentals right now and things are trending in the right direction otherwise we wouldn’t be minimizing this recent market action.
By definition a correction is -10%. (a pullback being in the -5% range) A full on bear market is where we would see -20% or more from peak to through. With the average correction, not only can it not be predicted, but by the time people figure it out it’s too late and the market is back to moving higher. Continue reading
Dear Mr. Market:
You’ve had some wild days but perhaps none were as volatile or memorable as October 19, 1987! 30 years ago today you plunged -508 points for a record -22% decline in just one day! By today’s standards the 508 point decline wouldn’t be something to celebrate but wouldn’t really move the needle too much; only about a -2.2% decline. Believe it or not we’ve now endured drops like this 17 times since then!
Speaking of today, however, what would it look like if we had another stock market crash? If the stock market lost -22% in one day we would see the Dow Jones drop about -5,094 points as of today’s close.
We have two questions for you with regard to this not so pleasant walk down stock market memory lane: Continue reading
Dear Mr. Market:
Guess what? You win. Yes…Mr. Market, you win! It won’t take another bear market or adding further gains to recent stock market highs for you to prove to us that no matter what the environment is you are going to make fools out of many brilliant people.
The beauty of your victory (at least for you) is that there will always be a market and a debate to engage in. The age old argument of “Active versus Passive” will rage on indefinitely.
Active Money Management (hands on approach with the goal of beating markets and taking advantage of short-term price fluctuations)
In one corner we have the ‘crystal ball crowd’ that thinks they can outsmart you and time the stock market. “Buy low and sell high”, right? If only it were that simple and if only someone could get it done successfully more than once. Mr. Market has us human beings in the palm of his hand because he knows we all have one thing in common; we’re emotional creatures! Some of you will read or hear news and act on it. Worse yet…you’ll rely on your gut instincts or a “hunch” because after all you were right once before. You are Mr. Market’s perfect candidate…Take another sip of false confidence and brace yourself for his eventual knockout punch which you won’t even see coming.
Passive Money Management (hands off approach with a goal of matching markets by using index funds/ETFs and not reacting to every market move)
On the other side of the room is the buy and hold crowd (or sometimes the ‘buy and forget’ group as we like to call them). Sure…on one hand a true investor should indeed be patient and allow an investment to pan out over time. Some clever sayings come to mind such as “It’s about ‘time in the market’ not ‘timing’ the market.” While we lean towards this overall investment philosophy there are times when it can go drastically wrong. If you have a lump sum or healthy chunk of cash right now and we’re at all-time stock market highs, do you just dump it all in right now?
So this leaves us to ask what the ultimate answer is to the question: Which is best…Active or Passive money management?
The foundation for any well performing portfolio is its asset allocation. We’ve written extensively about this before but over 90% of a portfolio’s performance is determined by how it’s allocated. Another way of looking at this is that you could pick poor individual investments (stocks or funds) but be in the right areas (asset classes) and do just fine. Like all things in life there needs to be a balance between discipline and the ability to adapt to changing environments in order to truly be successful. We believe we have found this with an Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy.
Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy
Over the past year My Portfolio Guide has been working with Dimensional Research and its development of the Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy. We are proud to announce a formal engagement with them and in doing so will be exclusively offering the Columbus strategy to our clients as part of our investment platform.
The Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy is a quantitative methodology that is designed to adapt to the markets as they constantly change. While it’s suited for clients seeking equity like returns, one of the primary goals of this strategy is to minimize drawdowns during rough markets. It’s ideally positioned for portfolios over $100,000.
What’s under the hood of the Columbus Strategy?
First and foremost, as big fans of ETFs we wanted a strategy that would be able to use widely recognized ETFs that were liquid and also in most cases commission free under our Institutional arrangement with TD Ameritrade. The strategy consists of a universe of 15 ETFs representing major asset classes. It rebalances once per month and can invest in up to eight ETFs depending on what the algorithm is positioning the strategy for relative to the market environment. Click this link Columbus Strategy Overview to learn about which specific ETFs it uses as well as some unique aspects to how we have set maximum exposure limits on each asset class.
It is possible for the entire portfolio to take an extremely defensive posture and only be in one asset class (cash). The strategy dynamically adjusts and rates each ETF on volatility, momentum, and the overall correlation of returns to the portfolio. We’ve long said that it’s easy to buy investments but very few people are adept at selling them. The proprietary algorithm in this strategy is primarily designed to reduce the risk of huge drawdowns while still trying to capture market upside when appropriate. The main goal is to achieve the most optimal risk-adjusted return.
Behind the Numbers: (Performance and most recent Monthly Rebalance)
Speaking of returns…just how well has the Columbus Strategy performed? Not only is performance where the “rubber meets the road” but the summary below gives you a concise snapshot of how we’re positioned in September. (click link below to view)
We plan to report performance each month but in order to be fair to our loyal clients in the strategy…regular readers will see the rebalance on a one month delay. (we can’t give away the “secret sauce”!) If you’re interested in receiving the reports when they’re first published or want us to manage one of your portfolios using the Columbus Strategy contact us via phone at (888) 474-8433 or email your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Obviously the Columbus Strategy boasts some impressive returns. Back testing the strategy to May of 1998 you’ll note it returned +10.51% annualized returns versus the S&P 500 at +9.37%. Comparing it to a more diversified benchmark we have chosen to track it relative to the GMO Global Asset Allocation Fund (GMWAX) which over this same time period returned +3.92%. The main reason this strategy has grabbed our attention is not just for beating the markets long-term…but rather on how well it played defense during turbulent times. The Columbus Strategy had drawdowns under -10% relative to the Global benchmark at -31.87% and the S&P 500 at -51.49%!
What about during REALLY bad markets?! (Dot-Com Crash and the Financial Crisis)
Side stepping one or two rough stock market patches usually is at the core of hot marketing strategies. A real strategy is one that can exhibit repeatable characteristics in all sorts of different crises and especially so during ones that were brutal. Perhaps there are no two better examples than the Dot-Com Crash and the Great Recession/Financial Crisis of 2008. Columbus_Historical_Events_Analysis on how the Columbus Strategy did during those historical events. It’s remarkable how the portfolio shifted to less volatile asset classes such as cash/money markets and Fixed Income (bonds/treasuries etc). For a more detailed look and an overlay versus the S&P 500, specifically look at pages 3 and 4 in the above link. Lastly, we’ve also had this strategy back-tested* for other unique events such as the stock market crash of 1987. Contact us for details if you’re curious about a specific time period or market event.
*Keep in mind that for some older back tests the strategy had to use proxies for the ETFs since many did not exist at that time. For your reference click this link to see a list of those proxy funds Columbus Proxy Mutual Funds Universe .
In summation, we’re extremely proud and excited to offer this dynamic investment strategy! Our next report on the Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy will be an update at the end of the month. You’ll see a report tracking how a $1 million portfolio is performing using this exact strategy. Again, seeing actual trades and real-time rebalancing will be reserved for our clients but feel free to inquire for more details or get set up to have your account managed professionally. Obviously not every investor is a match for this type of portfolio management but we would bet that it likely beats what you or your current financial advisor are offering you now!
Have a great remainder of the month and see you next time!
Dear Mr. Market:
What’s your plan for when the stock market goes down? Is this plan the same for when bonds go down? Over the last several years of this bull market we have gradually prepared for this inevitable event by establishing a strategy in advance as opposed to one that is reactionary or emotional.
After reading this article we ask that you do something different the next time the sky is falling. Tell yourself that before the next market crash you won’t have fear, panic, or emotions guide your strategy but rather follow an intelligent plan.
One way to hedge your portfolio against serious drawdowns is by using alternative investments such as Managed Futures. The following five questions are from an interview by US News with Cliff Stanton, CFA and Co-Chief Investment Officer at 361 Capital:
What are the potential benefits of investing in futures?
The primary benefits that managed futures strategies offer are: Continue reading