If You Knew What Would Happen Next…

As I have mentioned a time or two in the past, I think one of the biggest lessons investors (professional or otherwise) need to learn is to put the T.V. on mute, to avoid reading everything on the internet, to stop listening to “tips” and “trades,” and to forget about the “fast money” altogether. Instead, serious investors need to focus on developing their own “inner circle” of folks they trust and listen to – and then ignore everyone else!

For me personally, I prefer to keep the list of professionals I read/listen to pretty darned small. I don’t do this because I think I know more than the next guy. I probably don’t, as there is an abundance of highly educated guys/gals on Wall Street that are a lot smarter than I am. However, I have learned over the years that I need to think for myself and, perhaps more importantly, to implement an investing style that suits my personality.

For example, a black-box quant system can be a great way to invest. So too is a completely subjective, discretionary trading style. And employing option-based hedging strategies to a long-oriented equity portfolio is a strong approach. And then there are there any number of purely technical trading strategies, to say nothing of the long-only, buy and hope approach, etc., etc.

The bottom line though is I can’t use any of the above. None of these approaches “work” for me in my head. You see, I have tried a LOT of strategies over my 30 years (most of them in my younger days) of professional investing – and I have learned that I can’t simply give up all control and let a black box run my money. Nor can I trust myself to run a completely flexible, go-anywhere trading style for any length of time. I can’t do it. And I know this.

So, the first point on this fine Tuesday morning is to first learn to “know” and then “trust” yourself.

This was also a rather convoluted, long-winded way of saying that I read something from one of “my guys” yesterday that was so good, I want to share it – in its entirety.

Below is a great piece on investing from Brian Wesbury, who is the chief economist over at First Trust. I’ve been reading Brian’s work on economics and investing for years and I always enjoy his straightforward approach.

This week, Brian reflects on the last 10 years of investing. In his piece, Mr. Wesbury beats us between the eyeballs with the concept that it is all too easy to be “too smart by half” (my words, not Brian’s) and to mess up a really good thing in the process. So, without further ado, please enjoy Brian Wesbury’s piece entitled “Stocks Won.”

Stocks Won
By Brian Wesbury

Next Monday (October 9th) will be exactly ten years from the stock market peak before the Financial Panic of 2008.

Imagine that Doctor Doom, the perceived “best analyst in the business,” told you on that night, when markets peaked, that financial authorities would allow mark-to-market accounting rules to burn the banking system to the ground, with many well-known financial firms failing or being taken over by the government. You knew the unemployment rate was going to soar to 10% and the economy would experience the deepest recession since the 1930s. You also knew the US would soon elect a president that would socialize much more of the health care system, raise top income tax rates, and push the Medicare tax for high income earners up by an additional 3.8%. Finally, you knew that ten years later all of those new taxes and expanded health care policies would still be in place.

Then imagine you knew the federal debt would be more than 100% of GDP, with massive annual deficits predicted as far as the eye could see.

Then, imagine you were allowed one investment choice, a choice you had to stick to for the next ten years, through thick and thin, no reallocation allowed. Put all your investable assets in the S&P 500, a 10-year Treasury Note, gold, oil, housing, or cash. Pick just one of these assets and let your investment ride.

Which asset would you have picked? Be honest! In that environment, with that kind of foresight, right at a stock market peak, it would have been awfully tough to pick stocks.

And yet, on the basis of total return, over the last ten years, that’s the asset that did the best. Assuming no major shift in the next week, the S&P 500 has generated a total return (capital gains plus reinvested dividends) of 7.2% per year, essentially doubling in value in ten years.

Gold did well, but lagged stocks, increasing 5.7% per year. A 10-year Treasury Note purchased that night (now coming due), would have generated a yield of 4.7%. Oil was a laggard, down 4.3% per year. Home prices increased about 1% per year, on average, and “cash” averaged 0.4%, both trailing the 1.6% average gain in the consumer price index.

You might have slept better by investing in 4.7% Treasury Notes. Certainly the volatility of stocks, and the cascade of financial news headlines predicting doom and gloom over the past ten years, wouldn’t have bothered you as much. But you’d have fewer total assets today than if you would have kept the faith and stayed long stocks. And if you wanted to reinvest, now, for the next ten years, your rate would be roughly 2.3%.

If you knew exactly when to buy and sell each of these investments over the years, you could have done better, but no one did that and no one knew how to do that.

So, what’s our point? You would have been better off by ignoring all those pessimists who became famous in 2008-09. Investing in companies, and allowing world class business managers to use your money to build wealth, was once again the best investment strategy. Ten years on, we still think that’s true.

This information contains forward-looking statements about various economic trends and strategies. You are cautioned that such forward-looking statements are subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and actual results could be materially different. There are no guarantees associated with any forecast and the opinions stated here are subject to change at any time and are the opinion of the individual strategist. Data comes from the following sources: Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Federal Reserve Board, and Haver Analytics. Data is taken from sources generally believed to be reliable but no guarantee is given to its accuracy.

Interesting, eh? My takeaway is that even if you were fortunate enough to predict the future with perfect accuracy, you probably wouldn’t be able to know how the markets will react in advance. So, in my humble opinion, the best we can hope to do is to stay in line with the primary market trend/cycle and attempt to “get it mostly right, most of the time.”

Publishing Note: I am taking a few days of R&R the rest of this week (well, to be honest, I am sneaking in a couple meetings here and there) and will not publish morning reports. So, I will see you back here Monday – same bat time, same bat channel. Have a great week!

Thought For The Day:

Worry often gives a small thing a great shadow. -Swedish Proverb

Current Market Drivers

We strive to identify the driving forces behind the market action on a daily basis. The thinking is that if we can understand why stocks are doing what they are doing on a short-term basis; we are not likely to be surprised/blind-sided by a big move. Listed below are what we believe to be the driving forces of the current market (Listed in order of importance).

      1. The State of Tax Reform

      2. The State of the Economic/Earnings Growth (Fast enough to justify valuations?)

      3. The State of Geopolitics

      4. The State of Fed Policy

Wishing you green screens and all the best for a great day,

David D. Moenning
Chief Investment Officer
Sowell Management Services

Disclosure: At the time of publication, Mr. Moenning and/or Sowell Management Services held long positions in the following securities mentioned: none. Note that positions may change at any time.


Disclosures

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are those of Mr. David Moenning and may not actually come to pass. Mr. Moenning’s opinions and viewpoints regarding the future of the markets should not be construed as recommendations. The analysis and information in this report is for informational purposes only. No part of the material presented in this report is intended as an investment recommendation or investment advice. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation to purchase or sell securities or any investment program.

Any investment decisions must in all cases be made by the reader or by his or her investment adviser. Do NOT ever purchase any security without doing sufficient research. There is no guarantee that the investment objectives outlined will actually come to pass. All opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. Neither the editor, employees, nor any of their affiliates shall have any liability for any loss sustained by anyone who has relied on the information provided.

The analysis provided is based on both technical and fundamental research and is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Although the information contained is derived from sources which are believed to be reliable, they cannot be guaranteed.

David D. Moenning is an investment adviser representative of Sowell Management Services, a registered investment advisor. For a complete description of investment risks, fees and services, review the firm brochure (ADV Part 2) which is available by contacting Sowell. Sowell is not registered as a broker-dealer.

Employees and affiliates of Sowell may at times have positions in the securities referred to and may make purchases or sales of these securities while publications are in circulation. Positions may change at any time.

Investments in equities carry an inherent element of risk including the potential for significant loss of principal. Past performance is not an indication of future results.

Advisory services are offered through Sowell Management Services.