Odds-On Investing

By | 2018-04-18T06:27:32+00:00 April 18th, 2018|Global Market Update|

“Don’t tell me the odds.” Photo: Michael Parzchowski. Source: Unsplash That’s how a lot of people approach gambling. For them, it’s entertainment. The risk associated with placing a bet and waiting for the outcome creates a certain exhilaration, independent of the outcome. It’s why slot machines and horse tracks are so popular, even people know that the odds are against them. People don’t want to know the odds because that information detract from the excitement. It’s fun to dream of making that big score, [...]

Risk, Uncertainty, and Balance

By | 2018-03-02T07:31:03+00:00 March 2nd, 2018|Global Market Update|

The Era of Low Volatility is Over. Photo: NOAA. Source: Wikimedia That’s what I thought when I looked at last month’s returns. Equity markets around the world were down around 5% last month, led by economic stalwarts like Johnson & Johnson and Samsung Electronics. Growth-oriented companies, like Amazon and Microsoft, still keep chugging along. But the market’s unbroken string of monthly advances – with barely a pause to admire the scenery – ended in February. A series of scary stories has spooked market participants. [...]

Markets, Matter, and Risk

By | 2018-02-06T07:39:25+00:00 February 6th, 2018|Global Market Update|

Risk is conserved. S&P 500 member returns, 2-6-18. Source: Finviz That’s what I thought as I looked at the recent sell-off. Ever since the recovery of the oil patch in March of 2016, the markets have seemed like a one-way, upward bet. Normal volatility has been suppressed. For decades, the market returns averaged 8%, with 15% variance. That is, most returns were spread between 22% and negative 7%. While the average was pretty reliable, any particular year could happen to fall between really positive [...]

Gold, Lead, and Collateral

By | 2017-12-12T06:19:55+00:00 December 12th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Collateral dominates structure. Page from Alchemy treatise, c. 1300. Source: Wikipedia That’s an investor’s way of saying that you can’t turn lead into gold. It’s been an investment theme of mine for as long as I’ve been managing money. I started my investment career trading bonds in the mid-‘80s. Mortgage-Backed Securities were a new thing. Investors were starting to learn about prepayment risk, as interest rates fell and borrowers refinanced their double-digit mortgages. All those full-faith-and-credit Ginnie Maes were paying off early, and investors [...]

Looking for Risk in All the Wrong Places

By | 2017-11-15T07:11:22+00:00 November 15th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Can Artificial Intelligence really manage risk? Source: Wikipedia There’s a new application for Artificial Intelligence. It’s called regulatory technology, or “regtech.” It takes the rulebook of a supervisory agency, like the FDIC, and translates it into a computerized logic engine. The regulators evaluate the logical consistency of their rules, and the banks structure and label their data to be queried. This allows the regulator to look for broad patterns in the data that might not be immediately apparent. AI can identify deep, dynamic structures [...]

Risk, Reward, and Valuations

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:18+00:00 May 22nd, 2017|Global Market Update|

Risks, Rewards, and Valuation Is the stock market risky? Photo Rhett Sutphin. Source: Wikipedia Of course it is. Anyone who went through the Financial Crisis or dot-com crash or Long Term Capital crisis or ’87 crash has experienced the gut-wrenching feeling of having significanlty less in savings than they had just a few months before. Nobody likes that feeling. And the longer you hold onto stocks, the more likely you are to experience a bear market. These can be caused by wars, recessions, panics, [...]

Make Banks Safe Again

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:22+00:00 April 12th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Are the big banks finally safe? Picture: New York Fed The Financial Crisis put bank safety and soundness fully in view. The serial bailouts or failures of Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie and Freddie, Lehman, Merrill, and Washington Mutual put the global economy at risk. The problem was systemic: all the big banks were affected, because investors weren’t certain where their money would be safe. Bank stocks fell about 70%, and yields on their bonds rose about 4%. When this happens, banks cut back on [...]

French Lessons

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:28+00:00 March 1st, 2017|Global Market Update|

And people thought our Presidential election was wild. Source: Marine 2017 Election season in France has generated one surprise after another. The first round in their Presidential race occurs April 23rd. Currently, there are 10 contenders. Marine Le Pen – the French Nationalist candidate – is leading in the polls with 27% of the vote. If no candidate wins a majority in the first round, as seems likely, there will be a run-off vote between the two leading vote-getters on May 7th. Parliamentary elections [...]

Investments, Risk, and Return

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:42+00:00 September 27th, 2016|Global Market Update|

What is risk? Base jumpers. Photo: Christophe Michot. Souce: Wikipedia In 1952 Harry Markowitz changed the world. By combining different assets he proved that a diversified portfolio would have a lower variance. His mathematical formula used the variance of asset prices around an average as a proxy for risk. It made sense at the time: the more asset prices jump around, the more nervous people get. Markowitz’s work was ground-breaking. Never before had risk been so clearly linked to return, nor had its reduction [...]

Risk, Return, and Investment Fads

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:46+00:00 August 22nd, 2016|Global Market Update|

Do low-risk stocks have higher returns? Photo: Chamomile. Source: Morguefile That’s what a lot of people are thinking. It’s kind of counter-intuitive. After all, it’s always been taught that in order to get returns, you have to take some risk. Bonds are more risky than bank deposits, but they pay more. Long-term bonds are more risky than short-term bonds. Stocks are more risky than bonds—their prices are more volatile, and if a company goes bust, stock investors usually don’t get anything back. For example, [...]