8 Jun 2014

Labor Market Picks Up

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the economy added 217,000 jobs to the payrolls in May, which actually brings the number of jobs to levels not seen since before the recession in 2007. The chart below shows just how long it took it took to get back all of the jobs that were lost – a staggering six and a half years. The chart demonstrates that the… Read More

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3 Jun 2014

Cliff Asness Says: Fire Your Mechanic

One of my favorite people in our industry is Cliff Asness, founder and current mouthpiece for AQR, one of the mutual fund companies that we use. His academic background is very strong, he got his PhD in finance from the University of Chicago, the intellectual home of efficient markets, but wrote his dissertation on momentum, the most significant critique of the efficient market hypothesis.  His advisor was none other than… Read More

3 Jun 2014

Do Hedge Funds Hedge?

Bloomberg News reported yesterday that the private equity giant KKR was closing down a hedge fund that they formed three years ago.  KKR is one of the largest and most successful private equity firms in the world, but they have struggled to find their way in other areas of the asset management business. The hedge fund, known as KKR Equity Strategies, wasn’t successful attracting assets with only 20 clients investing… Read More

29 May 2014

GDP Turns Negative

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released their second estimate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yesterday for the first quarter of this year. Initially, the BEA reported the economy grew by an annualized rate of 0.10 percent, which was a fairly bad print.  The cold winter shouldered a lot of the blame, but it also seemed like the economy would have slowed down anyway even if the winter had been… Read More

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27 May 2014

Black Swans

One of the justified criticisms of modern finance is that it relies too heavily on the normal distribution curve – also known as the ‘bell curve.’ In fact, there’s a classic joke (that I think I’ve told here before) about the finance professional that has his head in the oven and feet in the freezer, but on average, feels fine. Critics argue that the normal distribution doesn’t capture the true… Read More

22 May 2014

Bank Loan Risks

Interest rates are low and many investors are worried about rising rates, which can hurt bond prices.  As always, Wall Street has rushed to the aid of investors by creating products to meet this need, just as they did with internet funds in the late 1990s and real estate funds during the bubble. One of the ‘solutions’ that Wall Street has created to meet investor demand is something called a… Read More

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20 May 2014

Investors Keep Chasing Performance

One of the ways that investors hurt themselves is by chasing performance.  Unfortunately, many financial services organizations enable this practice by focusing on short-term performance. Recently, I saw some data that showed flows into mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) based on their Morningstar star rating. The chart is self-explanatory except for the columns labeled NR, which means ‘Not Rated.’  To earn a Morningstar star rating, you need at… Read More

19 May 2014

The State of Housing

A few weeks ago when Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified before Congress, she said that ‘readings on housing activity, a sector that has been recovering since 2011, have remained disappointing so far this year and will bear watching.’ Since the World War II, residential housing activity has been about 4.75 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).  During the bubble that hare increased to about 6.4 percent, cratered to two… Read More

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14 May 2014

Treasury Bonds Mystery

Yesterday, someone asked me what’s going on in the markets.  I said that stocks are flopping around zero – plus two percent or minus two percent depending on what you look at, nothing really.  I said that the interesting story, in my opinion, was that the yield on bonds has been dropping all year, much to everyone’s surprise. When I hung up the phone, I looked up the yield and… Read More

14 May 2014

Dogs of the Dow

The first investment strategy that I can remember hearing about is the Dogs of the Dow strategy. One of my parent’s friends, who knew I was interested in stocks back in high school, told me one of the ‘secrets’ to beating the market. The strategy is fairly simply: start with the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and sort them by their dividend yield.  Buy the 10… Read More