Following on from my previous blog, in the discussion with my fellow golfing member I told him that the great majority of investors in Australia are NOT active in the share market at the moment. Retail investor activity in the stock market is at multi-decade lows and retail investor sentiment towards shares is at the levels last seen in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s (Westpac/Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Survey). This is despite the All Ordinaries being up around 70% since March 2009 and around 30% since June 2012. This is a classic contrarian situation.
Once an investor forms a view that they have to do SOMETHING, the first challenge is that of overcoming what’s freezing them into inaction right now. Invariably, when it comes to the stock market it is the fear of losing, although this may be guised by excuses such as “I’m too busy.”
He asked me how this is done, explaining that his biggest fear is that of losing a significant amount of his capital close to the end of his investing career if a large bear market was to occur.
I explained that this is simpler than most think and that I have found, through trading experience and research, that defining the criteria in advance under which you will completely exit a given investment strategy is the best way to overcome this fear. The exit should be temporary until conditions improve again for that strategy but the exit criteria should always be monitored while the strategy is in play.
“My view,” I told him is that “taking the step of defining these criteria is immensely liberating. It liberates the investor to consider what may be possible on the upside.”
Without taking this step the investor’s mind is filled with “Henny Penny… the sky is going to fall on my head,“ which blocks out the potential reward of what could occur if markets did the opposite and rose strongly. Doomsday commentators have exactly the same effect on investors’ sentiment.
The dangerous problem with hanging on to the fear of losing for too long is that at some stage, should the bull market in equities continue, the fear of losing will slowly be overridden by the fear of missing out. This will typically lead to a knee jerk reaction of getting into the market at far higher prices and at far higher risk of losing. Today’s inaction will certainly realize today’s fear – that of losing – at some stage in the future. Paradox? Yes.
In such a scenario, the investor’s inaction will have proved that the fear was justified, as what was feared, losing, becomes a reality! But not because of the market, which will get blamed, but rather by the inaction caused by fear. Rather than getting to work on overcoming the fear of losing, the investor will merely repeat the same mistake next time creating an eternal loop of losing, because of the fear of losing.
What’s on offer for putting in this effort?
The next step thereafter is to determine what strategy to use to capture a decent chunk of the upside. You may consider a long term buy and hold in large cap stocks with a wide trailing stop and get returns similar to the ASX20 Accumulation Index, or using products from Share Wealth Systems which can way outperform such a strategy.
Well how far could the Dow Jones go in the longer term if we are indeed at the beginning of a secular bull market? Consider this 116 year chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and this 84 year chart of the S&P500.
If the Dow Jones and S&P500 get close to repeating what they did when the last two secular bear markets transitioned to secular bull markets, then the following mindboggling levels could be reached in each of the indices nine to ten years from now: DJIA 42,300, S&P500 4,745, NASDAQ Composite 9,792.
This would represent around 12.8% CAGR over this period compared to 11% CAGR and 13.8% CAGR in previous secular bull markets.
The All Ordinaries didn’t perform as well as the USA equity indices during the same market phase but even so, a similar growth to what the All Ordinaries managed during the last secular bull market would see it reach around 13,120 in nine or so years’ time! I know that seems eons away but one needs to step back and gain possible big picture perspective without being blinded by gloom and doom!
Difficult to comprehend? But so was the Dow reaching 983, sixteen years after it was at 202, or reaching 2,480, nine years after it was 850. Or the S&P500 reaching 1,527, twenty years after it was 111! All achieved during secular bull markets.
What’s even more scary is that should this secular bull market be confirmed and continue for a similar period as the previous one and at a similar growth rate for the respective indices then a DJIA at 192,558 could be reached around 2033!! And an S&P500 at 21,520!! And an All Ordinaries at 28,100!!
“Now that’s scary!” said my fellow golfing member. Possible? Certainly, it’s happened twice before in the last century at times when investors couldn’t perceive it being possible. “However,” I said, “the downside must be protected and the fear of the downside not be a showstopper that freezes one into inaction.”
The best thing for my brain to accept the buy and sell signals was to shadow the US market since its release last January. Naturally shadowing is always better than the real, but my shadow portfolio is up 43% and the automatic nature of working the criteria has definately spilled over to my Australian trading. I still think about doing a trade, but a lot less, and having a loss does not really hurt, just don’t think about it. In fact now I tend to ignore what the buy price was, just look for the signals and do the trade, but don’t wait to long or it will definately cost.
Secular? SECULAR? Any good (i.e. non-US) dictionary will tell you that the word means -not religious, spiritual or ecclesiastical or bound by monastic rules – perhaps worldly. Or, in another sense, it can mean observed just once in a lifetime or an age. If it has some special jargonistic meaning to the inner circle of some clique of gurus, how do we tell when it becomes (or ceases to be) “secular” and becomes lay or worldly? And wouldn’t it be dangerous to invest in a trend only seen once in a lifetime? – could end suddenly?
Response to Comment by Trevor:
Secular also means “lasting a long time”.
Secular in a financial markets sense is better defined here: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/secularmarket.asp
Secular markets are the longest. ‘Primary’ (bull & bear) markets are a subset of ‘secular’ markets and then ‘secondary’ (bull & bear) markets are a subset of ‘primary’.
Charts are great to study Gary, bringing a long time past to a few minutes now. Percentage rises are impressive, but at extremities, not get in and get out signals, or sectors most influencing them.
The smart operators may have been in horses and carts until the ‘30’s, followed by automobiles, trains, planes and anything that serviced them, leading then to a mining and technological boom. By the early 2000’s, we were looking quite sharp, but greed and fraud led by those who were expected to have some expertise and integrity brought over-borrowing then a painful and spectacular halt.
Share Wealth Systems looks to take out much of the human frailty but is there enough built in to take advantage of the right sector and relevant companies, or should individual investors be striving to have a very evenly spaced wagon wheel across a number of sectors? This is a safer way but misses a lot of cream when areas clearly out perform and provide much of those plus percents spoken about.
[The Moderator added the paragraph spacing.]
Response to Comment by James:
I certainly have tried to provide perspective in this blog and in so doing, by looking at the very big picture, it can look like ‘extremities’.
These ‘extremities’, however, are on the overall market indices, the market averages, not sectors of the market which could indeed do better or worse than the market averages.
We trade SPA3 in our publicly traded portfolios and have researched SPA3 simulating 100’s of 1000’s of historical equity curves by selecting trades randomly from the whole market at any given time provided that there is sufficient liquidity for any particular trade to support the required position size. Sufficient means liquidity is >= 5x, 8x or 10x the required position size.
This Friday, in a weekly webinar that I do with our customers, I will be presenting on the effect that differing sector performance can have on market and hence SPA3 (and other) portfolio performance.
For example, a focus on selecting trades from non resource sectors over the last 2.5 years would definitely have led to far better portfolio performance than selecting trades from the entire market, liquidity permitting, that also allowed resource stocks into a portfolio, especially small and mid cap resource stocks.
The problem with this is that it is almost impossible to make these tactical adjustments in real time to take advantage of them.
You have hit the nail on the head about diversification across the breadth of the market, it averages out returns and misses plenty of cream, especially when the bull is raging. And it does NOT solve the big bear market problem either as the best diversified portfolios wear most, and even more, of the big bear market fall.
The solution is to reduce portfolio exposure during bear markets to $0 or close to it and to expose all investing capital, or most of it, to the market during bull markets. This requires a market timing regime of some sort.