Tag Archives: 2019

Dec 2, 2019

Stock Pickers: Hope Springs Eternal

The Wall Street Journal recently quoted several active managers who claim that “conditions for stock picking are improving”. Their rationale is that declining correlations among stocks in the S&P 500 have made it easier for active managers to select stocks based on fundamental analysis. We have heard this argument before, most notably in 2014 when,…

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Nov 15, 2019

Winning by Losing Less

Except for a couple of hiccups, the U.S. stock market has more or less hummed along in an upward trajectory for 2019. Through October, the S&P 500 is up 23%. What is surprising is that the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index® outperformed the benchmark by almost 3%, gaining 26% over the same period. This is…

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Nov 11, 2019

A Way of Seeing

A wise man told me years ago that sometimes the things we see are less important than our way of seeing.  As more formerly-active investors begin to use passive vehicles, it’s useful to consider if there’s a distinctly index-centric way of seeing, and what its elements might be.  I think that there are at least…

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Oct 24, 2019

The Road Less Traveled

It is a truth universally acknowledged that liquidity is critical to market health; typically when liquidity falls, volatility rises.  The Financial Times recently cited claims that the increased use of passive investment vehicles had caused trading volumes in individual S&P 500 constituents to decline.  Should we be alarmed? In reality, the notion that single-stock traders…

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Oct 15, 2019

The Gift of a Benevolent Providence

Suppose that I buy a popular exchange traded fund (ETF) tracking the S&P 500® today, leave it in my brokerage account for 20 years, and then sell it.  What return should I expect?  The answer, obviously, is that my return should reflect the movements in the S&P 500 (net of fees) over my 20-year holding…

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Oct 14, 2019

Unicorns: Only in Fairy Tales

“A company for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is” -Description of company marketed during the South Sea Bubble (1720) Private companies, particularly those hailing from Silicon Valley and combining just the right mix of buzzwords, have captured both headlines and investor attention.  The media report breathlessly on…

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Sep 24, 2019

Happy Birthday to the Communication Services Sector

The Communication Services sector turns one year old on Sept. 24, 2019. A year ago, the Global Industry Classification Standard® (GICS®) replaced the old Telecommunication Services sector with a new Communication Services sector, which combined telecom with some companies that had formerly been classified in the Information Technology and Consumer Discretionary sectors. As a result,…

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Sep 12, 2019

Illustrating the Value of Liquidity

Let’s suppose for a moment that you are given a choice between two hypothetical exchange traded funds (ETFs) tracking the same index.  Fund A has an annual management fee of 0.4% while Fund B has an annual management fee of 0.1%.  At first glance, Fund B seems like the better option: it offers similar performance…

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Aug 16, 2019

The Calm That Was

Through the end of July, equities had netted a nice gain for 2019 (though the picture looks a lot different so far in August). Unusually, the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index® outperformed in an environment when it has typically lagged its benchmark. (The S&P 500 gained 20.2%, while the low volatility index was up 20.8%,…

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Jul 29, 2019

Concentration Concerns

Readers of this morning’s Wall Street Journal learned (on the front page, no less) that many of the largest investors in the U.S. equity market hold similar portfolios.  “The overlap in the top 50 stockholdings between mutual funds and hedge funds…now stands at near-record levels, a study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch found.”  An…

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