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The Great Garbage Post

Perhaps for blogging, I should not do this. My editors at RealMoney told me that they liked my “Notes and Comments” posts in the Columnist Conversation, but they wished that I could give it a greater title. Titles are meant to give a common theme. Often with my “Miscellaneous Notes” posts, there is no common theme. Unlike other writers at RealMoney, I cover a lot more ground. I like to think of myself as a generalist in investing. I know at least a little about most topics.

Now, I have to be careful not to overestimate what I know, but the advantage that I have in being a generalist is that I can sometimes see interlinkages among the markets that generalists miss. Anyway, onto my unrelated comments…

1) So many arguments over at RealMoney over what market capitalization is better, small or large? Personally, I like midcaps, but market capitalization is largely a fallout of my processes. If one group of capitalizations looks cheap, I’ll will predominantly be buying them, subject to my rule #4, “Purchase companies appropriately sized to serve their market niches.” Analyze the competitive position. Sometimes scale matters, and sometimes it doesn’t.

2) My oscillator says to me that the market is now overbought. We can rise further from here, but the market needs to digest its gains. We should not see a rapid rise from here over the next two weeks, and we might see a pullback.

3) My, but the dollar has been weak. Good thing I have enough international bonds to support my balanced mandates. I am long the Yen, Swissie, and Loony.

4) Sold a little Tsakos today, just to rebalance after the nice run. Cleared out of Fresh Del Monte. Cash flow looks weak. Suggestions for a replacement candidate are solicited.
5) Roger Nusbaum is an underrated columnist at RealMoney in my opinion. Today, he had a great article dealing with understanding strategy. He asked the following two questions:

  • If you had to pick one overriding philosophy for your investment management, what would it be?
  • If you had to pick four of your strategies or tactics to accomplish this philosophy, what would they be?

Good questions that will focus anyone’s investment efforts.

6) In the “Good News is Bad News” department, there is an article from the WSJ describing how the SEC may eliminate the FASB by allowing US companies to ditch GAAP, and optionally use international accounting standards [IFRS]. If it happens, this is just the first move. Eventually all companies will follow an international standard, that is, if Congress in its infinite wisdom can restrain itself from meddling in the management of accounting. The private sector does well enough, thank you. Please limit your scope to tax accounting (or not).

7) Also from the WSJ, an article on how employers are grabbing back control of 401(k) plans. Good idea, since most people don’t know how to save or invest. But why not go all the way, and set up a defined benefit plan or a trustee-directed defined contribution plan? The latter idea is cheap to do; we have one at my current employer. Expenses are close to nil, because I mange the money in-house. Even with an external manager, it would be cheap.Would there be people who complain, saying they want more freedom? Of course, but they are the exception, not the rule, and of those who complain, maybe one in five can do better than an index fund over the long haul. I am for paternalism here; most ordinary people can’t save and invest wisely. Someone must do it for them.

8) Finally, the “hooey alert.” The concept of using custom indexes to analyze outperformance smacks of the inanity of “returns-based style analysis.” I wrote extensively on this topic in the mid-90s. Anytime one uses constrained optimization to calculate a benchmark using a bunch of equity indexes, the result is often spurious, because the indexes are highly correlated. Most differentiation between them is typically the overinterpretation of a random difference between the indexes. Typically, these calculations predict well in the past, but predict the future badly.

That’s all for now.

Full Disclosure: long TNP FXY FXF FXC

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2 Responses to The Great Garbage Post

  1. Ben Williams says:

    I’ve come to appreciate your Notes and Comments style. I read few blogs because many are wordy — the idea density is pretty small. Concision is a writer’s virtue.


  2. Thanks, Ben. The notes and comments style was created for the Columnist Conversation over at RealMoney, because I often had a lot to say, and did not want to make the CC a “David Merkel blog” through a zillion little posts.


David Merkel is an investment professional, and like every investment professional, he makes mistakes. David encourages you to do your own independent "due diligence" on any idea that he talks about, because he could be wrong. Nothing written here, at RealMoney, Wall Street All-Stars, or anywhere else David may write is an invitation to buy or sell any particular security; at most, David is handing out educated guesses as to what the markets may do. David is fond of saying, "The markets always find a new way to make a fool out of you," and so he encourages caution in investing. Risk control wins the game in the long run, not bold moves. Even the best strategies of the past fail, sometimes spectacularly, when you least expect it. David is not immune to that, so please understand that any past success of his will be probably be followed by failures.

Also, though David runs Aleph Investments, LLC, this blog is not a part of that business. This blog exists to educate investors, and give something back. It is not intended as advertisement for Aleph Investments; David is not soliciting business through it. When David, or a client of David's has an interest in a security mentioned, full disclosure will be given, as has been past practice for all that David does on the web. Disclosure is the breakfast of champions.

Additionally, David may occasionally write about accounting, actuarial, insurance, and tax topics, but nothing written here, at RealMoney, or anywhere else is meant to be formal "advice" in those areas. Consult a reputable professional in those areas to get personal, tailored advice that meets the specialized needs that David can have no knowledge of.

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