This week we briefly look at yesterday morning’s dismal unemployment report, then drop back and survey some other very eye-opening data on employment. Some groups are (surprise) doing better than others. What would it take to get us back to “normal,” whatever that is? I give you a link to some webinars I will be involved in and finish with the answer to the question I am asked most often, “What do you think about gold?” I tell all. There are lots of topics to cover, so let’s get started with no “but firsts.” (Note: this e-letter may print out rather long, as there are LOTS of charts and tables.)
5 posts tagged with “Rob Arnott”.
This week we are going to revisit some themes concerning the problems of the debt and the deficit. I am getting a number of questions, so while long-time readers may have read most of this in one letter or another, it is clearly time for a review, especially given the deficit/debt-ceiling debate. I will probably offend some cherished beliefs of most readers, but that is the nature of the times we live in. It is the time of the Endgame, where things are not as black and white as they have been in the past.
The Efficient Market Hypothesis, according to Shiller, is one of the most remarkable errors in the history of economic thought. EMH should be consigned to the dustbin of history. We need to stop teaching it, and brainwashing the innocent. Rob Arnott tells a lovely story of a speech he was giving to some 200 finance professors. He asked how many of them taught EMH - pretty much everyone's hand was up. Then he asked how many of them believed it. Only two hands stayed up!
And we wonder why funds and banks, full of the best and brightest, have made such a mess of things. Part of the reason is that we have taught economic nonsense to two generations of students. They have come to rely upon models based on assumptions that are absurd on their face. And then they are shocked when the markets deliver them a "hundred-year flood" every 4 years. The models say this should not happen. But do they abandon their models? No, they use them to convince regulators that things should not be changed all that much. And who can argue with a model that was the basis for a Nobel Prize?
I am again out of town this week, but I have been saving a speech done by my friend James Montier of Societe Generale in London on the problems with the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EFM). While parts of it are wonkish, there are also parts that are quite funny (at least to an economist).
Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas usually have bad consequences. The current maelstrom from which we are emerging (finally, if in fits and starts) has many culprits. A lot of bad ideas and poor management that came together to create the perfect storm. Today, we look at some of the ideas that are part of the problem but are too often glossed over because they are "academic" and not of the real world. However, gentle reader, academic ideas that are taught and accepted as gospel by 99% of the professors have real-world consequences. Where does your money manager stand on these topics? It does make a difference. And now, let's jump into James's speech.
This week we look at index funds, and specifically at the problems that the certain types of capitalization weighted index funds have. It is intuitively obvious that capitalization weighted indexes have a larger proportion of their assets in the larger stocks. But is this what a rational investor should actually want? I think the information we look at today will surprise many.
My good friend Rob Arnott has challenged the conventional thinking with an explosive new study just published in the Financial Analyst Journal. He also summarized it in a speech at my Accredited Investor Strategic Investment Conference last month. We're going to look at a part of that speech today.
I wrote about a study last year that suggested corporate earnings in the US could not grow by more than the growth of GDP.
"Our median estimate of the growth rate of operating performance corresponds closely to the growth rate of gross domestic product over the sample period ....the growth in real income before extraordinary items is roughly 3.5% per year" (after inflation and dividends. Before them it is about 10%.) "This is consistent with the historical growth rate in real gross domestic product, which has averaged about 3.4 percent per year over 1950-98. It is difficult to see how over the long term profitability of the business sector can grow much faster than overall gross domestic product. " (From a National Bureau of Economic Research Report by three economics professors: Chan, Karceski and Lakonishok).