Last Post Before I Leave Again

What did I do last week while the market was being whacked? I bought some Reinsurance Group of America, Shoe Carnival, YRC Worldwide, SABESP, and Universal American. I reduced cash in the portfolio from 11% to 8%. It may have hurt me in the short run, but should be good in the long run.

I have modest concerns about the current profitability of Smithfield Foods, but no concern about their long-term profitability. They have an intelligent management team. I may buy some more soon.

Now, as to my comments yesterday regarding quantitative risk measures: yes, I am highly skeptical. Economics is not Physics. The relationships are not stable enough for the quantitative statistics to be valuable. I go back to what Buffett said, “I’d rather have a noisy 15% than a stable 12%.” If you have a long time horizon, why do you care about standard deviation or beta? If you have a short time horizon, why are you investing in risk assets?

Risk is not short-term variation, unless your time horizon is short. Consider my article on longevity risk.  All good risk management considers when the money will be needed. Risk is unique for each person, and can’t be summarized through a “one size fits all” statistic. What are the odds of not meeting the goals of the investor? How severe will the shortfall be? That is risk.

Personally, I am annoyed at the consultant community. They employ statistics that have little relation to future performance in an effort to earn fees. They get away with it because clients don’t get investing. They buy the concept of randomness, and ignore the managers with good processes that have been hit by bad short-run performance.

Eventually value investing wins. Do value investors calculate the Modern Portfolio Theory [MPT] statistics before investing? Of course not. They know that their job is to find undervalued businesses. They don’t care about market trends.

As you consider investments, ignore MPT. It is better (if you have a long horizon) to focus on overall investment processes, with a review of the names in the portfolio over time, to get a feel for the methods of the manager.

Full disclosure: Long SBS SCVL RGA YRCW UAM SFD