18 Mar 2019

Risk & Volatility

Using the words ‘risk’ and ‘volatility’ interchangeably is one of the bad habits of many financial professionals, myself included.  When pressed, we know better, but we make this mistake all of the time nonetheless. Merriam-Webster has four definitions of risk as a noun, two of which are applicable here: ‘the possibility of loss or injury,’ and ‘the chance that an investment (such as a stock or commodity) will lose value.’ Volatility, according to Merriam-Webster,… Read More

25 Feb 2019

When Warren Buffett Speaks, I Listen

Every year, the investors and the financial media eagerly await Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders, and this year was no exception. I didn’t start reading them until four or five years ago, although I once read book that reorganized his letters by topic rather than chronology.  Each year, I like to think that I’ll go back and read his letters, which can be found here, on Berkshire’s hilariously antiquated website – but I… Read More

11 Feb 2019

Why Bother with International Stocks?

According to data from Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA), the value of the US stock market at year-end was worth $28.1 trillion – about 55 percent of the market value for all of the world’s stocks, which totals $51.2 trillion. Developed international stocks are worth $17.4 trillion in aggregate (34.0 percent), and emerging markets stocks are worth $5.7 trillion (11.0 percent). In theory, passive investors should allocate their portfolio accordingly. In… Read More

12 Mar 2018

Busting Another Wall Street Myth

Over the last few months, I’ve read multiple articles making the claim that the correlation between stocks and bonds is shifting and that the new relationship will negatively impact portfolios. One recent Bloomberg article, titled ‘Easy Allocation Models ‘Doomed’ as Diversification Breaks Down’ really set me off and caused me to take a closer look at some of these claims. The thrust of the claim is that the recent negative… Read More

11 Dec 2017

Efficient Markets Fact and Fiction

For almost 50 years, one of the most controversial ideas in finance is that markets are efficient, as presented by Gene Fama’s Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) in 1966. Let’s start with a simple definition of EMH: Current market prices incorporate all available information and expectations and are the best approximation of intrinsic value. In some ways, it’s such a simple statement that it’s a little surprising that it’s so controversial…. Read More

9 Jan 2017

How Long is the Long Term?

One of the tried and true tenets of successful investing is taking a long-term perspective. Warren Buffet says that his favorite holding period is forever.  He doesn’t always hang on that long, but still recommends that you should ‘only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10-years.’ Regarded academic Jeremy Siegel wrote the buy and hold bible, titled ‘Stock for the long run,’… Read More

23 Aug 2016

Allocating to Risky Assets

What’s the right allocation to a risky asset class like emerging markets stocks? Since the launch of the MSCI EAFE EM index that tracks emerging markets in 1988, the returns have outpaced the S&P 500 by 0.33 percent per year: 10.56 percent versus 10.23 percent.  (All data from Jan 1988 through Jun 2016). As you might expect, the extra return has come with extra risk: the emerging markets index has… Read More

20 Jul 2016

A Silly but True Market Anomaly

I heard a funny exchange between Gene Fama and Dick Thaler, two University of Chicago professors that sit on opposite sides of the debate about whether markets are efficient.  If you’ve got 45 minutes, I recommend watching the whole discussion by clicking here. As an example of market inefficiency, Thaler told a funny story about a closed-end mutual fund with the ticker symbol: CUBA.  The Herzfeld Caribbean Basin fund doesn’t invest… Read More

11 Mar 2016

Active Funds Still Struggle

Every six months, Standard & Poor’s does an analysis of how active funds compare to S&P indexes and it’s been a while since I’ve reported on the results.  Unfortunately for the actively managed funds community, things haven’t gotten any better since my last update. The report offers many details and if you want to look at the entire report, click here.  I think that if you aren’t going to look at… Read More

19 Jan 2016

Does the Stock Market Selloff Make Sense?

Years ago, I read a book by highly regarded hedge fund manager Joel Greenblatt, where he explains why he thinks that markets aren’t efficient. As I recall it, he asks his students to pick out a handful of their favorite stocks and then tells them to look up the 52-week high and low for the stocks and record those prices.  Then, in class, they report those numbers to each other. For… Read More