One of the biggest mistakes that investors make is falling prey to cognitive biases that obfuscate rising investment risks. Here are 5 counter-points to the main memes in the market currently...
Day in, day out, we hear it... It's "the most unloved rally"; Stocks are in "the Rodney Dangerfield rally"; there's still all the "money on the sidelines." Well, it seems, judging by Investors Intelligence surveys of those "not bullish" (bearish or expecting a correction), that investors have never (ever) been more lovingly, respectfully, all-in with this rally... (but that's just the facts speaking - not the asset-gathering, always stay long, commission-snatching soundbites).
Despite the constant clamor of money-on-the-sidelines (which Cliff Asness has summarily dismissed as being idiotic) and strength in US equity markets being 'the most unloved rally of all time', the following two charts suggest people are anything but unimpressed by it. Citi's Panic/Euphoria sentiment model has hovered in the clearly "euphoric" levels for a month and now the AAII Bull/Bear split is back near exuberant highs. Of course, as we noted yesterday, the real strength behind stocks is the incessant non-economic irrational and indiscriminate mystery buyer - corporate buybacks - that are creating their own mal-investment signaling exuberance in the always efficient stock 'markets'.
While the defenders of HFT continue spouting their usual platitudes (with the latest piece of "anti-hyperbolic" fluff coming from "Mr. Quant" (but don't call him an HFTer) Cliff Asness himself who said overnight that "markets are "rigged" in favor of, not against, retail investors"... so - rigged?) the reality is that while one can debate the ethics of HFT frontrunning orderflow until one is blue in the face (or until Goldman tells the DOJ to slam the hammer on the high freaks once and for all), the biggest adverse impact from HFT continues to be the inherent instability that algo trading creates in the market. For empirical evidence of just this, we once again go to the usual source which everyone ignores until months after the fact is seen as having been right about everything, Nanex, which looks at one particular aspect of market instability, namely Limit Up, Limit Down circuit breakers and finds something very disturbing.
"Stock-Picker's Market" is the term we hear again and again, but, as Cliff Asness blasted "I think they mean, "We will have to pick stocks now because the market isn’t making us money the easy way." As the following chart shows, the picture for most people's portfolios is a very different one from the index all-time highs that are tritted out day after day as indicative of the wealth that the Fed has created. As Asness concluded, perhaps talking-heads should more honestly explain, “Our market-timing forecasts are mostly useless most of the time, but right now, they are completely useless,” as the average member of the S&P 500 is 6.5% off its highs (as the index pushes ahead).
Five years ago, we were the first to bring the world's attention to the staggering profitability of several firms that engaged in 'high frequency' trading that presented themselves as 'liquidity providers' and suggested (in our ever so humble way) that mark liquidity was in fact shrinking and this could lead to a 'black swan of black swans' long before the flash crash was even dreamed of. Fast forwarding to today, after hundreds of articles, not only is the mainstream "getting it" but such behemoths as Cliff Asness - who happens to run one of the world's biggest quant funds - are forced to pen a WSJ op-ed to explain it's all a fallacy and blame a lowly blogger (or digital dickweed) for starting all this naysaying five years ago.
The market correction that begin in January appears to be subsiding, at least for the moment, as Yellen's recent testimony gave markets the promise of the continuation of Bernanke's legacy. With the markets back into rally mode, for the moment, this week's "Things To Ponder" focuses on some of the bigger issues concerning the effectiveness of QE, investing and "77 reasons you suck at managing money."
With your local friendly asset-gatherer constantly promoting the cheapness of stocks of the TINA (there is no alternative) to BTFATH, TV talking-heads jabbering over 'stock-pickers' markets (infuriating Cliff Asness), and CEOs trotted out day after day to espouse how bright the future looks (even if outlooks in the immediate future are down-down-down-graded); it is hardly surprising that sentiment among the sheeple is so extremely bullish. So, when we saw the chart below... we could only ask - what do the insiders know that the average-joe-investor doesn't?
This morning we showed several charts that "Market Bulls Should Consider", as the mainstream media, analysts and economists continue to become more ebullient as we enter the new year. This weekend's "Things To Ponder" follows along with this contrarian thought process particularly as it appears that virtually all "bears" have now been forced into hibernation.
Cliff Asness would politely request people stop saying "It's a stock picker's market." While pairwise correlations have dropped to post-crisis lows, they remain elevated to 'normal' levels but, as Asness rages, perhaps asset managers who rely on this 'weak' phrase should more honestly note "I think they mean, "We will have to pick stocks now because the market isn’t making us money the easy way."
We wondered previously what happens when there are no more greater fools to sell to? But, US investors have turned the euphoria dial to 11 this week as the percent bullish is the highest since the peak in Fall 2007 and bears are at their lowest percentage since Spring 1987. Thus, the Bull-bear spread (based on AAII's survey) has never been wider (and don't forget, even Cliff Asness knows the unbridled idiocy of the 'money-on-the-sidelines'-meme).
Among Cliff Asness' top peeves are commonly held and oft-repeated beliefs that are wrong or misleading and can potentially hurt investors. The asset manager politely requests people stop saying - "There is a lot of cash on the sidelines." Everyone should pay attention...
Cliff Asness: "Nobody, Left Or Right, Really Thinks The Math Works, No Matter What They Say In Public"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/07/2013 15:47 -0400
The only way to finance a big European-style state is to have it paid for by massive taxation of everyone, mostly the middle class. Right now, we are avoiding honest debate on this fact. The central issue of our time is the debate over the size and scope of government. Two unpleasant but undeniable mathematical truths limit the feasible policy choices. The first truth is that the current tax rates cannot support the promises made to middle-class Americans. The second truth is that you cannot pay for the Life of Julia, or any vision of a cradle-to-grave welfare state, without massive and increasingly regressive middle-class taxes. Not only that, it's easy to tax middle-class assets and transactions but soaking the rich means taxing investments, and problematically, investments are the lifeblood of economic growth. The choice the country faces is simple. What we cannot have is the Life of Julia at no additional burden to 99 out of 100 of us. The way to boil the frog of freedom is slowly.
Cliff Asness, head of the quant hedge fund AQR, has been known to be a vocal opponent of various failed governmental policies in the past few years. Today, he has shared his "dictionary" (of "humorous" persuasion as he himself notes, with definitions "written sarcastically as a faux left-winger, some just conservative/libertarian interpretations of what the left really means.") of the key terms dominant in Progressive America right now. In a world in which other people's money has pretty much run out, and ahead of a rather historic Supreme Court ruling tomorrow, we believe some of these are quite relevant.
An Ever Controversial Cliff Asness Explains Why, He Believes, The Tax Deal Is A Gift To The Middle ClassSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/15/2010 13:36 -0400
AQR's head quant Cliff Asness, who as usual enjoys taking on what he believes is flawed conventional wisdom, takes on the topic of the Bush tax cut extension, and in typical fashion, presentd the upper class' view on things. What results is a piece that will likely not do much to bring the increasingly more polarized social and class extremes of America closer by even one bit.