Those who know me well know that I am in incurable optimist. I think the world is going to be better in ten years than it is today. I thought that 20 years ago and 10 years ago and expect to think that 10 years from now. Part of that reasoning comes from the accelerating pace of change in the technology world. The next 10 years will see more change than the last 20-30 years combined!
And that means opportunity. Yes, with ups and downs and twists, but opportunity nonetheless.
This week’s Outside the Box is a short essay from my friend Alex Daley who writes the letter Casey’s Extraordinary Technology. I have had the pleasure of spending time and corresponding with Alex, and he is one of the smartest guys I have ever met. Alex had a VERY senior position at Microsoft and has a serious range of experience. In his varied career, he has worked as a senior research executive, a software developer, project manager, senior IT executive, and technology marketer. Aside from his technological prowess, Alex has been involved in numerous startups as an advisor to venture capital companies and a successful angel investor in his own right, with a long history of spectacular investment successes. Every month, he analyzes and recommends the best tech stocks to get in now – from biotech firms to cyber-security providers with innovative solutions.
You can get a free trial subscription to his letter, which I find very valuable in keeping me up to date on what is going on as well as providing some direction (his portfolio has done well!). Click on the link if you are interested. Read more here.
Your paying attention to tech analyst,
It has been some time since we have looked at stock market valuations and expected future returns. I made a large point in Bull's Eye Investing that long term returns are closely correlated with the valuation of the stock market upon entry. In fact, I argue that secular bull and bear markets should be viewed in terms of valuation and not prices. The market clearly goes from high valuations to low and back to high again over very long periods of time. The average length of a secular bull or bear cycle is 17 years.
Based on valuations, we are still in a secular bear market. But clearly we are in a bull phase, which within long term secular bear cycles are quite normal. They make for good trading opportunities. But should you invest now with a view to holding for 10-20 years?
This week's Outside the Box from my friend Prieur du Plessis of Plexus Asset Managment looks at what long term return expectations might be from today's stock market valuations. He offers us a range of expectations which I think should help you in your investment decision making process.
Dr Prieur du Plessis is chairman of Cape Town-based Plexus Asset Management and author of the Investment Postcards from Cape Town blog: http://www.investmentpostcards.com (Subscribe to e-mail updates of new articles by clicking on "Subscribe to Updates" in the top right-hand corner of the blog site and providing an e-mail address.)
I am on my way back to Dallas from a quick trip to Washington DC. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, even if the weather is gray.
"The current state of volatility is an indicator of a potentially sharp stock market decline based upon (i) the currently low level of volatility, (ii) the tendency for upward spikes to follow extreme low volatility, (iii) the relationship of market direction to volatility trends, and (iv) the propensity for downside volatility during secular bear markets. Volatility could decline further and could remain low for some time longer; however, based upon history, it has not stayed low without subsequently spiking and, as it goes lower, the likelihood of a spike increases significantly.
When volatility does start to rise and the stock market likely declines, the bulls will call it a "pullback" or a "correction" in advance of the next major upward move in the market. Because we are currently in a secular bear market (at the least, a bear-in-hibernation), the market can be expected to act as it has during the past secular bear markets. Keep in mind: over the course of secular cycles, the market is driven by recognized principles of economics and finance. The current market conditions are not positioned to provide another secular bull market at this time--it is not a sleeping bull. The current conditions reflect a secular bear or a bear-in-hibernation because the price/earnings ratio ("P/E") is above its historical average. Without a rising P/E, future returns will be below average and investors are likely to experience an extended, choppy, and often volatile period.
There are strategies to employ to capitalize on volatility and to protect downside risk. Recognition is empowering. It is incumbent upon investors to understand the environment and to seek profit-oriented investments rather than hope that the market will again provide the passive rewards that occurred during the secular bull market of the 1980s and 1990s."
This week we will turn our attention to a topic of intrigue, volatility, one of which I think is becoming increasingly important. Ed Easterling, a good friend and fellow hedge fund colleague of mine, has performed an in-depth study on volatility trends and their effects on the capital markets. I have been harping on a similar theme in my e-letter, Thoughts from the Frontline, which I recommend you read in conjunction with this if you have not already.
Ed Easterling is the author of Unexpected Returns: Understanding Secular Stock Market Cycles, President of an investment management and research firm, and a member of the adjunct faculty at SMU's Cox School of Business where he teaches the course on alternative investments and hedge funds for MBA students. Mr. Easterling publishes provocative research on the financial markets at www.CrestmontResearch.com.
"The Calm Before the Storm" uncovers the current and historical levels of volatility in the marketplace and explores their impact on both secular bull and bear market cycles. Moreover, Ed goes on to discuss what those trends mean for investors' expectations and returns in the not too distant future. I trust that you will indeed benefit from Mr. Easterling's fundamental research and his "outside of the box" insights.
This week's letter is from John P. Hussman, Ph.D., President of Hussman Investment Trust. His firm is one of the few that has employed hedging techniques, similar to the hedge fund world, in a mutual fund structure. John is also one of the really, really, really smart guys in the running money business. John manages the Hussman Strategic Total Return Fund - HSTRX and the Hussman Strategic Growth Fund - HSGFX.
Hussman's Weekly Market Commentary on August 22, 2005 takes a look at the relationship between stock market valuations, interest rates and inflation. He takes a look at what has happened to this relationship in the past and fills in the "omitted variables" other market cheerleaders seem to leave out.
This is a very short piece, but it is an important analysis of market valuations and why some people (including the Fed) might not be seeing statistical relationships the right way.
This week's letter is by Myles Zyblock, who is Chief Institutional Strategist & Director of Capital Markets Research at the Royal Bank of Canada. I have been reading Myles for a number of years, when he was first at another firm whose quality of work has dropped since he left.
Myles takes a look at what the next ten years might hold for investors in the equity markets. Using both PEs and an accounting based approach he concludes that investors will be very disappointed if they expect returns over the next ten years to be anywhere close to those of the late 1990's.
This is another example of research that supports my belief that we are in a secular bear market for the next 5-10 years and why I picked it for this week's Outside the Box.