From time to time I like to go back and look at what I wrote for this space in the past and see how the advice offered would have fared over time. This article first appeared in late January of 2006. Iâ€™ll update the performance of the ideas offered on the long side as well as those holdings that I panned then at the end of the article as they appear.
For those of you who are struggling to achieve acceptable investment returns in your self-managed accounts, this is a good time to question the underlying themes used to build and manage your portfolios. Based on what I have seen, investors seem to be living in the past, hoping for a return to glory for yesteryearâ€™s winners. But successful investing has much more to do with finding tomorrowâ€™s winners rather than holding on to fallen pace setters from the past decade — and the bull market that ended in early 2000.
The next time you review your portfolio, consider why you hold each of the current positions. Next, ask yourself if you would buy these holdings today, with any new money going into your accounts. Of course, both answers should depend on the investing theme or strategy you have adopted, based on your expectations for the future. After all, any other way would be just guessing, wouldnâ€™t it?
If you are a regular reader of this column, you know, by now, that my investing theme has everything to do with how the world is changing in a secular, or long-term, meaningful way. My philosophy of viewing those changes in the ways they affect various economies forms the basis for why I wonâ€™t invest one dollar of new money in domestic stocks. Of course, there are always some winners among the stocks available in domestic markets, but the general tide that lifted all boats during the 1990s has become the ebb tide of the 2000s. And that tide is about ready to resume taking those boats further out to sea, and that means your hard-earned money goes with them.
But bull markets always exist somewhere and in some things, right? All you have to do is figure out where they are and what will propel them higher. In other words, what catalyst will compel investors to plow more and more money into them? The way I and many other bearish investors see it, the crushing of the value of the dollar is a great place to start.
The flooding of the U.S. economy with amazing amounts of new money, with printing authorized by the Fedâ€™s Alan Greenspan, has helped asset prices rise across the board, most notably in real estate and basic commodities. Normally, these would be signs of a robust economy. But in this case, however, it is more a sign of desperation. In attempting to avoid a deflationary environment, such as the one credited with causing the Japanese economyâ€™s long-running recession and the Nikkeiâ€™s 15-year bear market, the Fed has been running the printing presses non-stop — for years.
And all that money has been looking for places to invest with higher returns. So by now, almost every asset class available sells at a premium price, and that makes profitable domestic investing exceptionally difficult. Bargains are truly rare — and hard to find — with so much money on the hunt for opportunities for the past few years. But as the supply of dollars continues to increase at an alarming rate, we must realize that its value will fall in relation to — something, right? And that something, in this case, would have to be tangible assets. But how much higher can real estate prices go?
In recent remarks, Richard Russell, editor-in-chief of the â€œDow Theory Letter,â€ predicts yet again that the current economic situation offers tremendous opportunity for investors in an asset class that few seem comfortable accepting. Russell says:
â€˜â€™I find it simply fascinating how little is currently being written about the big bull market in gold. Where anything is written, itâ€™s almost a warning that â€œgold is volatile,â€ that â€œspeculators are driving gold up,â€ or that â€œthe gold shorts are simply being squeezed.â€ Never a word about the Fed creating new inflationary oceans of liquidity, never a word about the dollar losing its purchasing power, never a word about real money rising against all other asset classes. Silence reigns regarding what could be the most significant bull markets in recent history.
I lived through the gold bull market of the 1970s, but I believe this is a much bigger, more important gold bull market. First of all, the 1970s bull market was pretty much about US inflation. This bull market is about a world view of the dollar, that view being that the dollar is headed for major trouble — due to massive US debts. Furthermore, that 1970s gold bull market ended with interest rates â€œthrough the roofâ€ and with long T-bond near 15%. This gold bull market is progressing with LOW interest rates, and low interest rates donâ€™t bolster the dollar.
Finally, this gold bull market includes â€œan extraâ€ one third of the world — China, India, Russia and most of Asia. While the European central banks have foolishly been selling gold, I believe the â€œsecondaryâ€ central banks have been buying gold. Gold is moving out of Europe and into Asia. Follow gold and youâ€™re tracking the direction of economic power.â€™â€™
And returning to my thoughts now, I must point out that Russellâ€™s last sentence summarizes my current, overall investing theme. Following the gold, the job creation, the balance of trade and true economic growth shows the way toward the powerful trends â€“ the places where the real economic power is heading. That power is finding its way to places with better value in stock markets like Brazil (+65%), Taiwan (+35%) and Eastern Europe (Poland +59%), among others. And it is leaving our home markets, which are now in a secular decline. (S&P 500 +18%, Dow up 26% since January 25, 2006)
Find your own investing theme based on how you see the future and where the power is going. Or you may be comfortable with using mine. Then take a fresh look at your current portfolio to determine if the leftovers from the 1990s — those shares in Lucent, Cisco (+75%) and JDS Uniphase (-40%) — really belong there. Money tied up in yesterdayâ€™s winners, now todayâ€™s losers, is money not efficiently invested in todayâ€™s winners. There is plenty of opportunity out there to take advantage of. Follow the gold (46%,gold stock index +33%), and see where itâ€™s going now. That may well prove to be the most glaring clue as to the best places to invest today.
Have a great week.
Bob Wood ChFC, CLU Yusuf Kadiwala. Registered Investment Advisors, KMA, Inc., email@example.com.