Volatility is the academic's choice for defining and measuring risk; but Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks warns Bloomberg TV's Stephanie Ruhle that "while volatility is quantifiable and machinable... it falls far short as 'the' definition of investment risk." In fact, he berates, "I don't think most investors fear volatility. In fact, I've never heard anyone say, 'The prospective return isn't high enough to warrant bearing all that volatility.' What they fear is the possibility of permanent loss." With $91 billion under management, perhaps it's worth listening to (and reading) his perspective: "In brief, if riskier investments could be counted on to produce higher returns, they wouldn’t be riskier. Misplaced reliance on the benefits of risk bearing has led investors to some very unpleasant surprises."
This past week has seen the market repeatedly attempt new "all-time" highs only to be found wanting. There has been plenty of headline data for the "bulls" to feast on from the ECB announcing a program to buy bonds, surging ISM data and improvement in productivity. However, the underlying data has kept the "bears" in the game with new orders and employment showing weakness, unit labor costs shrinking and the realization that the ECB's plans are likely be ineffectual.
Just three months ago, everyone was a believer: bonds traded well above par, Europe's recovery was on track, and Portugal's banking system was a shining example of how Europe's bailout program worked (and Goldman was pitching SPVs full of this crap to any and all greater fools). Today - the ugly truth is exposed as Bloomberg reports, Espirito Santo International debt attracted potential buyers at just 2% of face value. Of course, the words "contained" are trotted out to explain how this is a one-off and not at all representative of the rest of the European banking system. But... Howard Marks' Oaktree Capital seems to disagree - "We continue to think Europe will provide a substantial quantum of attractive investment opportunities for all of our strategies and in particular distressed debt," as a record amount of bad loans are being offloaded by European banks ahead of the stress tests.
The smart money had a goal, which it now reached via the “multiplier effect.”
- Fed’s Fisher Says Economy Strengthening as Payrolls Rise (BBG)
- Russia Knows Europe Sanctions Ineffective With Tax Havens (BBG)
- EU Cuts Euro-Area Growth Outlook as Inflation Seen Slower (BBG)
- U.S. Firms With Irish Addresses Get Tax Breaks Derided as ‘Blarney’ (BBG)
- Portugal exits bailout without safety net of credit line (Euronews)
- Puzzled Malaysian Air Searchers Ponder What to Try Now (BBG)
- Barclays, Credit Suisse Battle Banker Exodus, Legal Woes (BBG)
- Germany says euro level not an issue for politicians (Reuters)
- Alibaba-Sized Hole Blown in Nasdaq 100 Amid New Stock (BBG)
- Obamacare to save large corporations hundreds of billions (The Hill)
Echoing Charlie Munger, Oaktree's Howard Marks warns today's institutional and retail investors that "everything that’s important in investing is counterintuitive, and everything that’s obvious is wrong." These words seem critically important at a time when the world and his pet rabbit is a self-proclaimed stock-picking export. Be "uncomfortably idiosyncratic," Marks advises, noting thaty most great investments begin in discomfort as "non-conformists don’t enjoy the warmth that comes with being at the center of the herd." Dare to be different is his message, "dare to be wrong," or as Charlie Munger told him, "it’s not supposed to be easy. Anyone who finds it easy is stupid." While Marks philosophically adds that "being too far ahead of your time is indistinguishable from being wrong," he warns the lulled masses that "you can’t take the same actions as everyone else and expect to outperform."
Hot Air Hisses Out Of Housing Bubble 2.0: Even Two Middle-Class Incomes Aren’t Enough Anymore To Buy A Median HomeSubmitted by testosteronepit on 04/07/2014 12:35 -0400
“There was a moment when it made sense,” said Blackstone Group, largest home buyer in the US. But not anymore.
We’ve chronicled the saga of “buy-to-rent” for well over a year now. From some of its most exuberant phases to its now epic retreat (investment firm property purchases are now down 70% year-to-date). It seems as if the pullback of private equity and hedge funds from this asset class is even more brutal in certain regions, with Blackstone now reporting its purchases in California down a staggering 90% this year. Not to worry, we're quite certain unemployed and deeply indebted recent college graduates will soon pick up the slack due to the anticipated resurgence of subprime lending.
As Bill Clinton once famously stated; "What is....is" and while the current market "IS" within a bullish trend currently, it doesn't mean that this will always be the case. This is why, as investors, we must modify Clinton's line to: "What is...is...until it isn't." That thought is the foundation of this weekend's "Things To Ponder." In order to recognize when market dynamics have changed for the worse, we must be aware of the risks that are currently mounting.
- High Stakes Limit Bid to Cow Putin (WSJ)
- Russia says can't control Crimea troops ahead of U.S. talks (Reuters)
- Crimea Crisis Haunted by Ghosts of Bungled World War I Diplomacy (BBG)
- Putin’s Ukraine Gambit Hurts Economy as Allies Lose Billions (BBG)
- Germany Says It Provided Equipment and Training to Ukraine's Riot Police (WSJ)
- China signals focus on reforms and leaner, cleaner growth (Reuters)
- China Shares in Hong Kong Decline Amid Default Concern (BBG)
- Beijing Signals New Worry on Growth (WSJ)
"If I ask you what’s the risk in investing, you would answer the risk of losing money. But there actually are two risks in investing: One is to lose money and the other is to miss opportunity. You can eliminate either one, but you can’t eliminate both at the same time. So the question is how you’re going to position yourself versus these two risks: straight down the middle, more aggressive or more defensive. I think of it like a comedy movie where a guy is considering some activity. On his right shoulder is sitting an angel in a white robe. He says: «No, don’t do it! It’s not prudent, it’s not a good idea, it’s not proper and you’ll get in trouble». On the other shoulder is the devil in a red robe with his pitchfork. He whispers: «Do it, you’ll get rich». In the end, the devil usually wins. Caution, maturity and doing the right thing are old-fashioned ideas. And when they do battle against the desire to get rich, other than in panic times the desire to get rich usually wins. That’s why bubbles are created and frauds like Bernie Madoff get money." - Howard Marks
- Here is why AAPL bounced off $500: Apple Repurchases $14 Billion of Own Shares in Two Weeks (WSJ)
- German Court Refers OMT Decision to Europe's Top Court (WSJ)
- Inflation Fuels Crises in Two Latin Nations (WSJ)
- U.S. job growth seen snapping back from winter chill (Reuters)
- Google to own $750 million Lenovo stake after Motorola deal closes: HK exchange (Reuters)
- Frigid Winter Spells Trouble for U.S. Economy (BBG)
- Winter Games to open, Putin keen to prove doubters wrong (Reuters)
- Regulators Ready to Proceed on Bank Leverage Limit (WSJ)
- Abe Eyes Window for Biggest Military-Rule Change Since WWII (BBG)
- Obama warns divided Congress that he will act alone (Reuters)
- Fed Decision Day Guide From Emerging Markets to FOMC Voter Shift (BBG)
- Fed poised for $10 billion taper as Bernanke bids adieu (Reuters)
- Bernanke’s Unprecedented Rescue Unlikely to Be Repeated (BBG)
- Argentina Spends $115 Million to Steady Peso (WSJ)
- Billionaires Fuming Over Market Selloff That Sinks Magnit (BBG)
- SAC’s Counsel Testifies at Insider Trading Trial in Unexpected Move by the Defense (NYT)
- Automakers Fuel Japan’s Longest Profit Growth Streak Since 2007 (BBG)
- Turkey Crisis Puts Jailed Millionaire at Heart of Gold Trail (BBG)
- Ukraine expects $2 billion tranche of Russian aid soon (Reuters)
With the market more bullishly positioned, more euphoric, and more levered than almost any time in history, it is perhaps worth "pondering" what some of the risks to this optimism could be...
People often ask me about the inefficient markets of tomorrow. Think about it: that’s an oxymoron. It’s like asking, “What is there that hasn’t been discovered yet?” The markets are greatly changed from 25, 35 or 45 years ago. The bottom line today is that there’s little that people don’t know about, understand and embrace. How, then, do I expect to find inefficiency? My answer is that while few markets demonstrate great structural inefficiency today, many exhibit a great deal of cyclical inefficiency from time to time. Just five years ago, there were lots of things people wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, and as a result they offered absurdly high returns. Most of those opportunities are gone today, but I’m sure they’ll be back the next time investors turn tail and run. Markets will be permanently efficient when investors are permanently objective and unemotional. In other words, never. Unless that unlikely day comes, skill and luck will both continue to play very important roles.