Maybe I’m Amazed
My friend and mentor Ray DeVoe use to say that going over old reports can be an exercise in humility, as you cringe while reading some errant forecast of another time. “How could I have been so stupid?” is the unsaid reaction. On the other hand it can be an ego trip, as you proudly go over some forecasts that were right on target.
If You Can Keep Your Head When All About You Are Losing Theirs
We really like Rudyard Kipling’s line, “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too;” and clearly “men” doubted us when on October 2 our short-term proprietary model flashed a sell signal and we subsequently advised selling trading positions.
John Maynard Keynes, the British economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of economics, once said, “When the facts change, I change my mind - what do you do, sir?” So on a short-term trading basis, we came into last week believing the S&P 500 (SPX/2885.57) was going to grind higher into our envisioned mid-November’s “energy peak.”
Stock Market Timing?
We have heard the statement, “Nobody can consistently time the stock market’s ups and downs;” and, for the most part we agree with that. However, if one listens to the message of the market, one can certainly decide if one should be “playing hard,” or not playing so hard.
You Did It!
Well, “you did it,” as the senior index followed most of the other indices to new all-time highs. We have repeatedly written that this was going to happen given the Advance-Decline Line’s continuing new highs, as well as the stock market’s strong breadth.
Rich Man, Poor Man
After nearly 48 years in this business, we have seen a number of cycles and developed a long-term perspective. We have often spoken about the difference between a “secular bull market” and what many consider to be a bull market because it is up 20%+. The reciprocal is that a 20%+ decline represents a bear market.
Being wrong and admitting it, what a novel idea, yet as Bernstein states, “It helps to know that being wrong is inevitable and normal, not some terrible tragedy, not some awful failing in reasoning, not even bad luck in most instances. Being wrong comes with the franchise of an activity whose outcome depends on an unknown future.” Indeed, the real trick is to be wrong quickly for a de minimis loss of capital.
The Endless Summer
The Endless Summer (1966) is the crown jewel to ten years of Bruce Brown surfing documentaries. Brown follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave, and ends up finding quite a few in addition to some colorful local characters (Endless Summer).
So, as most of you know we were on a road trip last week. We flew into Albany, New York on Sunday only to be greeted with hotter temperatures than what we left in Florida. The mountain drive to Manchester, Vermont was spectacular, but hereto the temperatures were hotter than Florida.
Fascinating but Deadly
“Do you have the mental fortitude to accept huge gains?” is a line from The Elliott Wave Theorist’s Robert Prechter in an era gone by. But it is as true today as it was when first penned in the 1970s. And to do that, one has to ignore the ticker and hold stocks through a long market swing.
Master Limited Partnerships
Readers of these missives know that we have been favorable on the midstream Master Limited Partnership (MLP) space for a number of months. The reasons for that strategy have often been mentioned in these letters. First, the midstream MLPs sold off when the upstream MLPs blew up with most of them going bankrupt.
James Howard Kunstler?!
It was back in November 2010 when James Howard Kunstler first wrote the aforementioned quote. We recalled that quote while spending last week in Nashville seeing institutional accounts and speaking at events for our financial advisors and their clients where the question du jour was, “What’s going on with the potential trade war?”
I Should Have
We have used this quip from the book Why You Win or Lose: The Psychology of Speculation by Fred C. Kelly many times in our missives over the past nearly five decades because the wisdom of its message is timeless. We recalled it last week in many of our meetings in New York City when we heard certain individual investors, as well as portfolio managers (PMs), say “I should have!”
I’ll Go Along With the Rest of the Boys!
You might think institutions with their large staffs of highly-paid and experienced investment professionals would be a force for stability and reason in financial markets. They are not; stocks heavily owned, and constantly monitored by institutions, have often been among the most inappropriately valued.
I can’t quite remember how I met Craig Drill, captain of Drill Capital Management, but meet him I did over a decade ago and we have become kindred spirts. Maybe it’s because we both have been in the business a long time, or maybe it is because of our connection to First Boston in a life gone by.
The Beverly Hillbillies?!
Readers of these missives should know our fundamental energy analysts have been bullish on oil for quite some time, as have we. In fact, we have been bullish on commodities in general, often noting they are the cheapest relative to equities as they have been since the 1960s. Yet last week crude oil’s decline spooked energy investors, raising the question, “Is the crude oil rally over?”
Just One Thing
We have always liked the movie “City Slickers” and particularly one scene. It’s the scene where Curly (Jack Palance) turns to Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) and says, “Do you know the secret of life?” The punchline is, “It’s just one thing” (one thing). For investors we agree, all you need to know is just one thing.
Today, we revisit the military preparedness question following President Trump’s nearly $700 billion military budget to attempt to make our military readiness better. We think the recent weakness in the defense sector stocks provides an interesting entry spot for investors.
In Search of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
So we headed to NYC early Thursday morning in search of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” After touching down at LaGuardia we climbed into a yellow taxi held together by duct tape, rode over potholed streets with our cell phone cutting in and out (gosh I love New York City), and arrived at Grand Central Terminal around 11:00 a.m.
Wheat, First Securities
“A long time ago in a galaxy far far away” I was running three separate departments at then Richmond-based Wheat, First Securities. Subsequently, Tom Dorsey and Watson Wright decided to leave Wheat, First and form the now legendary firm of Dorsey Wright. When they left, that department fell under my management.
Two of the Most Important Investing Paragraphs We Have Ever Read
These are two of the most important paragraphs we have encountered in more than 47 years of studying markets. DO NOT read them just once. Go off to a quiet spot that invites contemplation and READ THEM SEVERAL TIMES. Then reflect on all of the mistakes you have made in trading and investing.
Down the Rabbit Hole
When we were kids, we used to love having our parents read to us, especially from books written by Lewis Carroll. Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland were our two favorites. One of the quotes that has always stuck with us is, “Down the rabbit hole,” which is a metaphor for an entry into the unknown, the disorienting, or the mentally deranging, from its use in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Unfortunately, the same can be said about the stock market recently.
Monty Hall and Door Number 1, 2, or 3
The Three Prisoners problem appeared in Martin Gardner’s “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American in 1959. It is mathematically equivalent to the “Monty Hall problem” with the car and goat replaced with freedom and execution, respectively, and equivalent to, and presumably based on, Bertrand’s box paradox.
Secular Bull Markets
It has been said that an investor will experience three secular bull markets in their life time. In the first one you will not have enough money to take advantage of it. In the third one you will be too old to take the amount of risk to really take advantage of it.
“Smoot-Hawley Tariff was an act implementing protectionist trade policies sponsored by Senator Reed Smoot and Representative Willis C. Hawley and was signed into law on June 17, 1930. The act raised U.S. tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods.”. . . Wikipedia
Do You Have the Mental Fortitude to Accept Huge Gains?
What a great question! I recently reread the above quote from Bob Prechter. It’s an excellent quip and virtually everybody can identify with it. On the surface the question seems laughable; who can’t accept huge gains? But in order to set yourself up for such gains you have to possess the courage to take an oversize position and maybe even leverage it.
Pullbacks, Indicators, Barometers, and Fear
So most know we took one of our South Florida speaking tours last week. Such tours consist of meeting with portfolio managers, presentations to clients of Raymond James, branch visits with our financial advisors, doing the media thing, well you get the idea.
Investment Strategy: “The 7% Solution”
We have long been big fans of the books about Sherlock Holmes ever since our misbegotten youth. Strangely enough, being a strategist/analyst is much like being a detective. One has to gather the evidence, pour through it, decipher it, eliminate the “noise,” and come to a conclusion that tips the odds of making money in our favor.
You’ve Got Mail
“You’ve Got Mail” is a 1998 romantic comedy-drama starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. The film is about two people involved in an online romance who are unaware that they are also business rivals. In this morning missive, however, we are not referring to the movie, but rather some recent emails we have received.
Investment Strategy: A History Lesson
In 1981, The Leuthold Group was founded by the sagacious Steve Leuthold. It is an independent stock/economic research firm that produces disciplined, quantitative financial and contrarian financial research for investors. The research team is led by CIO Doug Ramsey, who is one of Wall Street’s best and brightest.
We have used the aforementioned quip from our departed friend Jerry Goodman (aka Adam Smith) a number of times over the past 47 years because of the wisdom it imparts. We dredged it up this morning after reading an article in Barron’s over the weekend titled, “Man and Machine,” which was an interview with Omar Selim, the CEO of Arabesque Asset Management, a quantitative and sustainable investment management firm.
Fully Invested Bear
So, we are now in the ebullient month of December and as often stated, “It is tough to put stocks away to the downside in December. It can happen, but it’s pretty rare.” In fact, there were only two years that saw negative returns for the S&P 500 (SPX/2642.22) in December.
A Wall Street Walk Through Time
Robert Penn Warren (April 1905 – September 1989) was an American poet, novelist, and literary critic who once said, “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.”
Charles Merrill issued the aforementioned memo to clients on March 31, 1928. At the end of the first quarter in 1928 the D-J Industrial Average was around 240. It subsequently rose to a September 3, 1929 peak of 381.17, which was the price peak for the Industrials that would not be surpassed until 1954, not that we are predicting anything like that here.
A Point of Parliamentary Procedure
We have always liked the clip from the movie Animal House where in the “Deltas on Trial” scene the smooth talking Eric “Otter” Stratton get up and says, “Point of parliamentary procedure.” From there Otter goes on a diatribe ending with the comment, “Isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society?
Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay
So I am sittin’ on a dock of the bay here in Boca Raton Florida watchin’ the tide roll away as I wait to speak at a conference of insurance CEOs and CFOs. I have spoken at this annual event for the past 10 years, and it is always a “gas” because the attendees are terrific people.
Anticipating the Anticipations of Others
We have used the aforementioned quote many times over our nearly 50 years in this business, but surprisingly, it is just as relevant now as it was when first written. Bet it surprised you that the quote is dated 1935! Read it a few times away from the maddening crowd and reflect on it, because certain phrases will grab you with their wisdom.
No Money, No Life!!
Money is a vital life enhancer. If you have it, you can enjoy life incomparably more than if you don’t. The great storehouses of travel, leisure, rest, refinement, appearance, health, above all, peace of mind – all of these are open to you if you have money.
Better, Faster, Cheaper
I first became aware of Frederick “Shad” Rowe, captain of Dallas-based Greenbrier Partners, by reading his brilliant comments in Forbes magazine decades ago. While Shade no longer writes for Forbes, his stock market insights are available via his monthly letter to the clients in his investment partnership.