Edgepoint Edgepoint2

Inside Edge is dedicated to providing a collection of investment-related charts, articles and musings that have hit our desks or inboxes. Once in a while we will post materials we’ve created and glimpses of EdgePointers’ lives.

September 14, 2019

Earlier in the summer, we presented our Investment team's top literary picks for the season. We hope you enjoyed them! Now, in the spirit of sharing interests, we'd love to hear which books and podcasts have caught your attention lately. Share your recommendations HERE and we may feature them in an upcoming edition of Inside Edge! 

The worst day for momentum since 2009

Earlier this week many growth stocks (generally companies that are seeing rapid profit increases) took a dramatic turn downward as measured by Bloomberg's Pure Growth Portfolio. In essence, many of 2019's hottest stocks took a large hit, while the year's most unloved stocks have enjoyed a rally.

This sudden reversal is what drove US momentum to have its worst single-day decline since 2009.

Can you stomach the next big market swing?

The quiz that your financial adviser may have given you isn't really a good way of understanding your tolerance for risk.

If I ask you in a questionnaire whether you are afraid of snakes, you might say no. If I throw a live snake in your lap and then ask if you're afraid of snakes, you'll probably say yes-if you ever talk to me again.

Investing is like that: on a bland, hypothetical quiz, it's easy to say you'd buy more stocks if the market fell 10%, 20% or more. In a real market crash, it's a lot harder to step up and buy when every stock price is turning blood-red and your family is begging you not to throw more money into the flames.

This is why financial advisors use risk tolerance questionnaires to help determine how much risk their clients should be exposed to. Unfortunately, imagining your future behavior or accessing that behavior from a risk questionnaire isn't as easy. New research shows financial advisers create drastically different portfolios even when clients appear to have the same tolerance for taking the risk.

Professionals in many fields are vulnerable to what the Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls "noise," or variation in judgment driven by such irrelevant factors as emotion, time of day or the weather.

To do better, think about how your past experiences might shape your future expectations. Did you buy your first stock at the beginning of a bull market? That could skew you toward taking more risk. Did you start a business during a recession? That could make you more gung-ho if it thrived or gun-shy if it failed.

One researcher suggests that the best guide to whether you will dump stocks in the next financial crisis is whether you did in the last one.

Your perceptions of risk are only part of the puzzle. At least as important is your risk capacity. Think of your spending habits, your non-financial assets and how easily you could sell them in a pinch. Also vital are your goals. You can't know how much risk to take until you estimate when and how much you'll need to spend in the future.

Ultimately any good adviser should devote more time to your risk capacity and your goals than to your risk tolerance.

A behavioral prescription

There have been 17 separate 5% pullbacks since stocks bottomed in 2009. Each one of them felt like the top. The chart below shows some of the headlines and quotes you might have read during these market declines. 

It's hard to see headlines like this and not act on them. We know now that our worst fears did not come to pass, but there was no way to know at the time that each and every one of these pullbacks would resolve themselves to the upside.

One of the worst things that investors can do is overreact to market volatility. It's perfectly normal to feel something, but adopting an all in or all out mentality when the market goes up and down is destined to fail.

How the invention of spreadsheet software unleashed Wall Street on the world

At one point or another many of us have had to use spreadsheets for school, work, or personal use. This article points to some interesting correlations between Wall Street and the rise of the spreadsheet.

In 2010, a pair of researchers published a controversial economics paper. It was cited by UK politicians to justify austerity measures that sparked economic and employment crises, and anti-austerity protests-measures that the UN later called "punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous" inflicting "great misery." In 2013, however, this widely influential paper was found to have been substantially off in its estimates, thanks in part to a simple spreadsheet error: specifically, "a few rows left out of an equation to average the values in a column," the Guardian wrote at the time.

This famous foul-up is just one of many instances when digital predictions have let us down, creating a sharp contrast between the reality of things and what the numbers foretold.

Rock-bottom bond yields spread from Japan to the rest of the world

When the Bank of Japan's board meets on September 19th, it is not expected to reduce its main interest rate, currently at -0.1%. But any increase in interest rates seems a long way off. And as long as rates are at rock-bottom in Japan, it is hard for them to be raised in other places. Bond-buying by desperate Japanese banks and insurance companies is a big part of what keeps a lid on yields elsewhere.

Japan is already the world's biggest creditor with its net foreign assets (Japans assets minus what they owe to foreigners) at around $3 trillion, or 60% of its annual GDP. This chart shows how since 2012 both sides of its national balance-sheet have grown rapidly as Japanese investors borrowed abroad to buy more and more assets.

Globally, Japan's impact is felt most keenly in corporate-credit markets in America and Europe. Japan's pension and insurance firms are in a pinch to make regular payments to retirees so they look abroad for yield. Some see Japan as a template: its path of ever-lower interest rates is one that other rich, debt-ridden economies have been destined to follow and will now struggle to escape.

September 6, 2019

EDGE-ucation camp
Since 2013, EdgePoint has been organizing EDGE-ucation camps for the children of our partners. These one-day events are aimed at kids ages 13 to 18 and cover the foundations and importance of investing and building long-term wealth. 

The camp has grown every year. As more kids attend these events, we've been adding more camps in more cities. 

Over the last 2 years, EdgePoint partners have visited 13 cities across Canada to share their knowledge and experience about things that can hurt savings and what people can do to reach their financial goals. Our hope is that with this program we can teach future generations about investing and other concepts that will help foster good future decision-making, financial independence, and self-confidence.

We sent out a survey to see how these lessons have impacted the attendees of the camp. Here are the results.

We were excited to see two campers select "Other" because it means they took the lessons to heart and looked for new ways to apply them. The answers were:
  • Opened a savings builder account with a higher interest rate
  • Want to buy a stock

Is Your Stock Portfolio A Museum or A Warehouse?

You don't make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That's a warehouse. What makes a museum great is the stuff that's not on the walls. Many items don't make it to the walls so there is an editing process. There's a lot more stuff off the walls than on the walls. The stuff on the walls is the best sub-subset of all the possibilities.

When you apply this crucial lesson to building your stock portfolio, it means that you are likely to succeed as an investor not just by the stocks you own, but also by the ones you don't.

People buy stocks for all kind of reasons - they like them, their neighbours like them, their friends are making money on them, someone on Twitter is shouting about them, their prices have risen sharply in past few months, someone recommended them on TV, someone wrote about them on online forums, someone is boasting about them on WhatsApp groups, etc.

Often, we end up building warehouses of our portfolios, not curated museums. Some people even maintain multiple portfolios, and each looks like a zoo of mismanaged, rowdy animals. You will do yourself a world of good by saying no to most things and not adding a lot of unwanted stocks to your portfolios. In other words, be a curator of stocks, not a warehouse manager.

Skin in the game matters, especially for riskier, leveraged investment approaches

In Norway, tax returns are publicly available making it possible to collect data on asset managers' taxable wealth.

Three researchers conducted a study on 120 private equity professionals in Norway. The main objective was to test whether or not co-investment had a meaningful impact on manager choices. The researchers found that managers with more skin in the game tend to select investments with less risky cashflows and took on more debt to finance purchases as their purchases were generally of lower risk. The research suggests that outside investors in private equity funds could incentivize their managers to take less risk by requiring them to invest their own capital.

Over $1 trillion in negative yielding corporates outstanding

Maybe everyone is buying negative yielding bonds because some of them are up 35% YTD...

August 30, 2019

Wisdom from the Oracle

Warren Buffett is famous for his wit, and will likely go down in history as one of the most quotable and influential investors of all time. This week marks his 89th birthday. This infographic highlights some of the smartest and most insightful quotes from Buffett on investing, business, and life, accumulated through his lengthy and prestigious career.

"Never invest in a business you cannot understand."

"The most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect. You need a temperament that neither derives great pleasure from being with the crowd or against the crowd." 

"It's only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked."

"Price is what you pay; value is what you get."

"Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." 

"Failing conventionally is the route to go; as a group, lemmings may have a rotten image, but no individual lemming has ever received bad press."

"The most important investment you can make is in yourself."

John Neff started managing Wellington Management's Windsor mutual fund in 1964. Over the three decades, he was among the most successful fund managers of his era.

Mr. Neff, who died June 4 at age 87, shunned fads, such as the "go-go" stocks of the 1960s or the "nifty fifty" of the 1970s. Instead, he looked for stocks that were "overlooked, misunderstood, forgotten, out of favor," as he put it. He favored steady performers and aimed to pay a low multiple of annual earnings.

Among his pithier tips: "When you feel like bragging about a stock, it's probably time to sell."

Some demographic experts predicted that young adults' fascination with urban living would fade as they settled down, got married, and had children, at which point they, too, would follow their parents and grandparents to the suburbs.

A new study finds that not only have young people been a driving force in the urban resurgence of the past two decades, but they favor living in central urban neighborhoods significantly more than previous generations did at the same stages in life.

The locational preferences of young adults hold large consequences. Millennials make up America's largest generation, bigger even than the Baby Boomers. Where they choose to live will have a lasting impact on which places grow, which stagnate, and which decline. This can be seen in the skyrocketing housing prices and affordability crises of a growing number of American cities.

Some retail investors may need a reality check

A survey of 9,100 retail investors in 25 countries finds that many are in need of a reality check. It shows that retail investors feel confident in their return expectations, with long-term return expectations in Canada at 10.1%, while financial professionals surveyed believe a return of 5.7% is more realistic for clients.

Our 10-year Partner Program

To show our appreciation for our partners who have had the conviction and unwavering long-term view by staying invested with us for 10 or more years, the 10-year Partner Program offers lower management fees. 

We believe that one of the keys to pleasing investment returns is taking a long-term view and holding good, undervalued businesses until the market fully recognizes their potential. While you can be lucky over short periods of time, it takes considerable skill to achieve long-term outperformance. The same notion applies to our investors. To succeed in getting to your Point B (whatever your financial goals may be), it takes conviction, a good financial advisor, the fortitude to embrace volatility and, above all, an unwavering long-term view.

August 23, 2019

An important read: Why profits matter (and value investing is not dead)

We have currently reached the point in this cycle where many investors/commentators have started to question whether profits no longer matter, and also whether value investing is dead. As is often the case, the arguments put forward in the affirmative derive mostly from recent market experience/outcomes, rather than reasoning from first principles. Hyper-growth (and generally loss-making) tech companies have seen outsized share price gains, with many recent IPO vintages also seeing triple-digit gains, despite the absence of any profits either in the past or foreseeable future, in echos of the dot.com bubble. Meanwhile, many profitable and cash-generative companies with low growth, and especially with falling earnings/revenues, have been absolutely massacred.

Profits are vitally important, not only because that is the only means by which stocks ultimately generate returns for, but also because profits (and losses) are absolutely vital to the healthy functioning of a capitalist economy, and indeed are the ultimate test of whether a company is doing anything worthwhile at all.

Over the past decade, the need for profitability has broken down in many areas of the economy, as loss-making companies have not only been allowed to survive but are also rapidly growing. In many cases, they have only grown because an extraordinary amount of capital has flown into venture capital and other tech-based funds.

Many investors today are currently impressed with rapid rates of revenue growth, regardless of the state of the bottom line. Much as with the dot.com bubble and its subsequent unraveling, where many 'old world' value businesses were left for dead, only to stage dramatic recoveries in the following decade, a likely consequence of the coming tech wreck will be a significant resurgence in the performance of many 'value' stocks, as their sales, market share, and profitability recover as 'disruptive' competitors go broke, and their multiples dramatically recover.

When will the reckoning occur? It is impossible to say, but it will occur when the funding bubble bursts and companies are forced to once again fund themselves from operating cash flow.

Could it be when the pace of cumulative losses across the upstart tech ecosystem starts to exceed the pace of new fundraisings? Softbank has been a major contributor to startup fundraising with its outrageously-sized US$100bn Vision Fund. Softbank has already blown through the majority of this funding in only two years. But the pace of operating losses continues to mushroom, and Softbank is now running out of money. As a result, Softbank is currently trying to hastily prepare a second US$100bn Vision Fund to keep the house of cards intact. Time will tell whether they succeed.

On the Other Hand - implications of the Fed's interest-rate management

Is it the Fed's job to sustain expansions and keep market dislocations at bay ad infinitum?
Many people take Fed actions at face value.  When the Fed cuts interest rates investors take that as a "buy" signal.  Their thought process is simple: weak economy ? rate cuts ? economic stimulus ? stronger GDP ? higher corporate profits ? higher stock prices.  
Are low-Interest Rates a Good Thing?

The Fed's decision early this year to depart from its announced program of rate increases to the S&P 500's gain of roughly 20% so far this year. But how, exactly, do low rates contribute to wealth creation?

Low rates reduce the discount factor used in calculating the net present value of future cash flows.

By reducing the interest expense on companies' floating-rate debt, low rates enhance companies' profits; make it easier for them to service their debt; and leave them more cash for capital expenditures, and dividends and stock buy-backs.

What about the downside? 
Low rates stimulate the economy, and most economists and businesspeople believe there's such a thing as the economy becoming too hot.  The principal worry is excessive inflation.  While some inflation is a good thing, too much isn't.  

When low rates penalize savers by reducing the returns available on instruments like cash, money market funds, savings accounts.

Should we be happy to see the Fed trying to prolong the economic expansion and the bull market when they're already the longest in history?  Should it try to produce perpetual prosperity and permanently ward off a correction?  Are there risks in its trying to do so?  It all depends on which hand is doing the weighing.

Three Mindsets of Great Investing Teams

Culture reflects the mindset of a firm. The mindset is the set of attitudes that the firm holds. So what sorts of mindsets correlate with investment success and better decisions?

Great investment teams are more interested in getting the facts on the table and searching for the truth than they are in winning the argument or looking good. The best among them learn to recognize when they have become defensive so they can shift back to that curious mindset.

The ego wants to win, but the good team member wants to encourage open and honest communication. Success means that we have encouraged others to remain curious. Failure is when the discussion turns defensive and unproductive.

All criticism and no appreciation creates a fearful environment. When we're in such a space, we wonder if any of our work is valued, if we're doing anything right. And we become more risk-averse and myopic: If our normal work generates negative feedback, why take a chance and stretch beyond our already constricted comfort zones?

Less size and more insight

The age of asset gatherers has peaked and the asset management industry is re-entering the age of the boutique, where it began. What will matter is less size and more insight, which will support the outcomes sought by asset owners. Delivering that added value will require closer economic alignment between asset managers and asset owners.

August 17, 2019

U.S. mortgage debt hits a new record
U.S. mortgage debt reached a new record in the second quarter, exceeding its 2008 peak. The steep drop in mortgage rates boosted borrowers' incentive to take out a mortgage or refinance. Alongside higher home prices, a factor behind rising mortgage debt balances is homeowners tapping into home equity for cash when they refinance. Still, the household debt picture is different in 2019. Despite the higher debt levels, Americans appear to be keeping up with their payments.

EdgePoint bond desk: Four more rate cuts might be excessive
Core prices rose 2.2% versus a year earlier in July, the largest increase since December. Even this increase counts as tame and suggests that the Fed's preferred measure of core prices may remain below the 2% inflation target. Still, after the two largest back-to-back monthly increases in core prices since 2006, when the Fed was on the inflation-fighting warpath, it is harder to get worked up about "too low" inflation. Especially with the unemployment rate at 3.7%. 

It's never been cheaper to borrow in Denmark
Banks in Denmark are now effectively paying qualified homebuyers who take out a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage. Jyske Bank, the third-largest bank in Denmark, will now lend to prospective homebuyers at an interest rate of -0.5%.

Risk in investing
Risk is the four-letter word of investing, but it is poorly understood. Consider, for example, the two different investments in the accompanying table: Investment A and Investment B.

Which investment would you prefer? A or B?

Everyone would prefer investment A. After all, you end up with more money after three years. But, which investment is riskier? According to investment orthodoxy, Investment A is riskier! Why? Because it has a higher standard deviation (or volatility of returns) at 23.6% than Investment B at 0%. Doesn't that strike you as odd? In investing, if you don't want volatility, then you have to accept that you won't have much upside potential.

We asked Sandro, the most passionate movie buff at EdgePoint, for his top 10 movie picks of all time. After agonizing for days over this list, this was his response:

Films have had a profound influence on shaping the man I am. In fact, great films have the power not only to entertain but more importantly to transform the way we see the world. Truly great films, like a great vintage wine, get better with age. Each subsequent viewing reveals new pleasures and they become more socially and culturally relevant.

Ok. That's enough with my ramblings. Keep in mind that if you asked me next week, it might be a completely different list. I didn't even include a foreign film. I love foreign films!

Sandro's Top 10 of All Time… more specifically on August 13, 2019

Citizen Kane (1941) - Welles
Casablanca (1942)  - Curtiz
Vertigo (1958) - Hitchcock
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (1966) - Leone 
The Godfather (1972) - Coppola
Annie Hall (1977) - Allen
Goodfellas (1990) - Scorsese
Pulp Fiction (1994) - Tarantino
Boogie Nights (1997) - Anderson
The Social Network (2010) - Fincher

August 10, 2019

Half the world's bonds have yields that can't match inflation
About $30.2 trillion of bonds offer yields below zero after accounting for inflation. The amount has surged from $25 trillion less than a month ago. The figures are based on the bonds in the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index, which has a market value of $55.6 trillion.

10-year yields
There are now 12 countries whose government debt sports negative 10-year yields. Switzerland leads with a 10-year yield of -0.92% followed by Germany, with a 10-year yield of -0.53%, down to Slovenia in 12th position with a 10-year yield barely in the negative of -0.04%.

The US, with its 10-year yields of 1.73% is in 30th position of the 51 countries. This puts the US two places behind Italy, in 28th place, with a 10-year yield of 1.51%. The list has only 51 places, and the US already has a low 10-year yield of 1.73% is all the way down in 30th position! Greece, which defaulted on its debts in 2012 and imposed big haircuts on holders of Greek government bonds, is in 33rd place with a 10-year yield of 2.02%. 

10 years of US stock market prices
Below is a visualization of the US stock market in the past 10 years returns. Every day for the past 10 years is captured in the graph. The worst day of the market in the past decade was August 8, 2011, which was a response to the credit rating downgrade of the US sovereign debt. The S&P 500 Index dropped nearly 7% that day.

One of the best days was on December 26, 2018, where the S&P 500 rose to 4.9%. This was the first trading day after the dramatic Christmas Eve sell-off.

The Psychology of Prediction
Here are some notable flaws, errors, and misadventures that occur in people's heads when predictions are made.

The distinction between "wrong" vs. "early" has less to do with analytics than the social ability to prevent listeners from giving up on you. Say it's 2003 and you predict the economy is going to collapse under the weight of a housing bubble. In hindsight, you got that right. But it's 2003. So those who listened to your predictions have to wait four years for that prediction to come true. 

Credibility is not impartial: Your willingness to believe a prediction is influenced by how much you need that prediction to be true.
History is the study of surprising events. Prediction is using historical data to forecast what events will happen next.

Predictions are easiest to make when patterns are strong and have been around for a long time - which is often when those patterns are about to expire.

Predicting the behavior of other people relies on understanding their motivations, incentives, social norms and how all those things change. That can be difficult if you are not a member of that group and have a different set of life experiences.

If you refuse to make predictions because you know how hard they are you may become suspect of everyone else's predictions even if they have insight and skills you don't.

The effort put into a prediction may increase confidence more than accuracy. There are stories of Tiger Woods hitting 1,000 balls at the range without a break. And of Jason Williams practicing dribbling for hours on end without ever shooting a ball. That's how you become an expert.

This week we all combined for a midsummer potluck! 

August 3, 2019 

Oxymoron Alert: some high yield bonds go negative

In the latest sign of financial markets going into uncharted territory, more than a dozen junk bonds, which usually carry high yields, now trade in Europe with a negative yield.

China accounting scandal threatens corporate fundraising

An accounting scandal rocking corporate China is drawing comparisons with the collapse of the US firm Arthur Andersen, as dozens of Chinese companies are forced to halt public listing work.

China is trying to clean up its stock market and they are finding big problems with the way that auditing is being done. A string of auditing scandals this year has shaken investor confidence in Chinese equities at a time when global investors are increasing their allocation to the Chinese market through the MSCI emerging markets index.

MSCI recently increased the weighting for Chinese stocks in its EM index, a move that is expected to lead to an inflow of more than $100bn as investors are obliged to allocate more to China. But critics have said the increase has also increased investors' exposure to many of the accounting irregularities on the Chinese stock market.

When to Ignore a Fund Manager

The active asset management industry is overpopulated and hugely competitive, and as with any sales activity, delivering the 'appropriate' message to prospective and clients is hugely important.  These messages often feel as if they are intended to cultivate a certain image or manage client concerns, rather than present a realistic assessment of crucial issues. 

The types of statements listed below should be considered with a liberal dose of skepticism:

"ESG factors have always been at the heart of our investment process".
"Markets are not rewarding fundamental analysis"
"I think that interest rates are going to…" 
"I spend 95% of my time at my desk on pure investment work"
"I don't think we suffer from any biases in our recruitment policy, it just so happens that the best candidates all went to the same universities and look the same".
"The merger/acquisition/ restructure has not been a distraction".

If all firms and teams present themselves with a similar sheen, then there is a significant cost to being an outlier that is frank about problems, challenges, and limitations. 

The overplayed world of artificial intelligence

Today's buzzword is AI. It's difficult to find a manager that doesn't claim to be using artificial intelligence to improve its investment process.

The generally poor performance of the active management community and the existential threat from "the machines" have managers grasping for a quick fix. Many seem to think that AI offers that solution. 

But many are more likely than not to find their experiments with AI to be expensive distractions. For this reason, don't discount managers who are avoiding the hype. A manager that honestly admits that it doesn't see an application for AI in its process may be a realist rather than a Luddite. 

Friday funnies: an EdgePoint partner submission

A major divergence has opened up in my proprietary quant model. Historic correlations are breaking down, presenting a unique opportunity for investors brave enough to take advantage of the temporary dislocation. Yes, it is time to sell avocados to buy Bitcoin!

G(LOW)bal bond yields:

July 27, 2019

The balance sheet isn't what it used to be 
Today, the relative importance of tangible assets compared to intangibles has completely flip-flopped from what it was 40 years ago. Intangibles now account for over 80% of the average company's market value. Intangibles like brand names, customer lists, R&D spending, and patents have become increasingly more important to how we value companies.

For companies in the S&P 500 today, the correlation between stock price and tangible book value has become quite small, just 14%. This is a very big change from 25 years ago when that correlation was 71%.

The expensive getting more expensive

Only once before have the most expensive stocks been relatively more expensive and that was during the internet bubble.
Source: Exane BNP Paribas estimates

Small-cap balance sheets looking riskier than large-cap

With four generations of retail investors now involved in financial markets, attitudes and approaches to investing are beginning to diverge. How did different generations of investors react to recent bouts of volatility in the market?

China scrambles to stem manufacturing exodus 
Many companies, alarmed by the prospect of a prolonged trade conflict, are hedging their bets. While looking for alternative production sites for U.S.-bound goods, many will keep factories operating in China for the domestic Chinese market. Thus, many manufacturers will be forced to set up dual supply chains: one for China and one for other markets, raising their costs and denting profits.

The trade dispute is beginning to show up in flows of goods and capital. In the first five months of the year, exports from China to the U.S. fell 12% on the year in value terms, while those from India, Vietnam and Taiwan logged double-digit gains.

Much of the shift is to Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, which is becoming home to many manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment.

July 20, 2019

How can you shop and save your clients some money?

Check out our EdgePoint store! Purchase some great EdgePoint/Cymbria swag and help lower investors' fees. All profits from this initiative will go towards lowering Cymbria's operating costs and the Funds' MERs.

How the investment landscape has changed 
From Jeffries Equities White Paper, 2019 "When the Market Moves the Market"

The ever-changing landscape in the investment industry is news to no one. Here are some charts and tables reviewing some of the major shifts.

Over the last decade, the proportion of equity trading conducted by different types of market participants has changed considerably. Bank principal trading (in which a bank acts on its own account, taking risk), has cratered by 80% - from more than 12% of trading to about 2.5%.  Different hedge fund strategies have traded places, with quant activity nearly doubling to more than 25% of activity.

Over the last 20 years, the number of public companies in the United States has dropped by nearly 50%. This has happened at exactly the same time as a new form of equity-linked security has exploded: the ETF. So, while single name stocks have cratered, the number of ways to express broader investment views has increased.

Fidelity notes that ETFs now account for more than 18% of US equity trading volume. 43 ETF trading can exceed 2 billion shares per day. 

The decline in the number of individual publicly traded companies and the explosive growth and use of passive products have resulted in investors' ability to make broader, cheaper, more thematic bets, but have decreased the potential universe of single names in their portfolios. With nearly 400 sector and other narrowly based ETFs, active managers have more tools at their disposal for expressing their views, and for expressing them more cheaply than ever before.

The Price of Admission

Would you miss out on some of the upsides if it means you can avoid the downturn? Here is an experiment. 

Imagine that there is a market "genie" who approaches you every December 31st and only tells you what the maximum intra-year decline will be for the upcoming year. This genie doesn't tell you what next year's return will be or anything else. 

How much would the market have to decline at its worst point in the next year for you to forgo investing in stocks (S&P 500) to invest in bonds (5-Year U.S. Treasuries)?

Would it be a decline of 5%, 10% or maybe 20%? Since 1950, the average maximum intra-year drawdown for the S&P 500 has been 13.5%.

Let's say you tell the Genie that you will avoid stocks in any year when there was a drawdown of 5% or more. Here is how you did since 1950 vs a Buy & Hold investor. 

By 2018 you would have 90% less money than Buy & Hold investor. This is simply because you would be out of the market to often - this strategy would be invested in Treasuries in all but 6 years since 1950 or 91% of the time.  

The 'Avoid Drawdowns' strategy doesn't start to outperform until you can avoid drawdowns greater than 10%. Avoiding any year with 10% declines or more will mean you are invested only 46% of the years.

Nobody has a magic genie that will tell them when to avoid declines in the stock market. You have to experience some downside to earn your upside. This is the price of admission. As Charlie Munger once said, "If you're not willing to react with equanimity to a market price decline of 50% two or three times a century, you're not fit to be a common shareholder and you deserve the mediocre result you're going to get"

EdgePoint at a TFC game. It was a great night and our team won 3 -1!

July 13, 2019

Stranded Nation - A documentary that every Canadian should watch

A 68-minute documentary explaining just how much oil and gas resources are integrated into Canadian society. The creator of this documentary, Heidi McKillop, went from growing up in New Brunswick, studying social work and opposing hydraulic fracturing, to making her way west and eventually working for an oil firm in Calgary.

McKillop's goal is to inform people across Canada, particularly young people, of the importance of the Canadian oil and gas sector and the benefits it provides to all Canadians.

Banks' cash return yield

Hard to believe the payout yield is 11% for the group a decade after the financial crisis.

A database that details the history of nearly every major North American company

Investment biases

Our investment bias shows up in many different forms but often where we live can influence the way we allocate our assets. For example, investors in the southeastern US on average allocate 14% more of their portfolios to energy-related companies than the national average. This isn't a surprise as states like Texas and Louisiana are 2 of the 3 largest oil and gas producers in the US. It's important for investors to be aware of these biases and employ a disciplined investment plan that can help minimize them.

Follow by email


Search Inside Edge


Book recommendations

  • Fixed income picks from Derek
  • Andrew's favourite biographies

Food for thought

The life of an EdgePointer

  • Photo competition
  • Our favourite albums, books and movies
  • Our little Halloween monsters
  • Santa Claus stops by
  • Our holiday wish list


  • 2019
    • April 2019
    • March 2019
    • February 2019
    • January 2019
  • 2018
    • December 2018
    • November 2018
    • October 2018