DC is Fluid – How About Buy & Hold?

December
24

Written by: Jon McGraw

The situation in Washington is fluid.

As politicians scramble and we inch closer to the fiscal cliff day of reckoning, it’s important to keep one thing in mind—the big picture. While the cliff situation dominates the headlines, the underlying economy is quietly marching ahead. Consider this recent data.

  • Orders for long-lasting goods jumped in November. The data suggested a surprisingly strong and broad increase in corporate spending.
  • Sales of existing homes climbed in November to the highest rate in three years.
  • Consumer spending climbed in November “as Americans pushed aside the threat of higher taxes next year, buying gifts for the holidays and making up for shopping lost to superstorm Sandy,” according to Bloomberg.
  • Car and light truck sales rose in November to the highest annual rate since 2008.
  • Economic growth, as measured by gross domestic product, was revised up to 3.1 percent in the third quarter from the originally reported 2.7 percent, according to Reuters. That’s more than double the growth rate from the second quarter.
  • Corporate profits hit a record high in the third quarter and, “Clearly, corporate America is on a roll,” according to Forbes.

Sources: MarketWatch, Bloomberg, Reuters, Forbes

The above paints the bull case for the economy. Yet, it’s not all rosy. The U.S. still faces tough budget deficit issues, tax issues, and an overhang of malaise that could pose stiff headwinds. And overseas, Europe is still problematic.

Returning to the big picture, let’s remember that economic cycles and political wrangling have been and always will be with us (just watch Steven Spielberg’s new movie Lincoln). The players may change and the nature of the issues may vary, but as Led Zeppelin sang, The Song Remains the Same.

The good news…we survived the end of the world last Friday as the Mayan prophecy, asteroid and loss / flip of gravitational poles was a non-event!  And we suspect we’ll survive whatever happens in Washington, too.


Data as of 12/21/12

1-Week

Y-T-D

1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)

1.2%

13.7%

15.0%

8.7%

-0.7%

4.8%

DJ Global ex US (Foreign Stocks)

0.9

13.3

15.0

2.3

-4.9

7.6

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

1.8

N/A

2.0

3.7

4.2

4.0

Gold (per ounce)

-2.6

4.9

2.7

14.3

15.3

17.0

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

-0.9

-1.0

-0.8

1.1

-5.3

2.1

DJ Equity All REIT TR Index

2.4

19.0

20.8

18.1

5.3

11.8

 

IS BUILDING A BUY-AND-FORGET PORTFOLIO that tries to capture long-term trends a good idea? Well, FORTUNE Magazine thought it was, so back on August 14, 2000, they published a list of 10 stocks and said, “If you’re a long-term investor, these 10 should put your retirement account in good stead.”

To begin, FORTUNE identified the following long-term trends that they felt had the potential to transform the economy.

  1. The lightning-fast changes in communications networking.
  2. The brave new world of entertainment.
  3. The “boomerization” of financial services.
  4. The coming of age in biotech.

From there, the magazine came up with a list of 10 stocks to capitalize on these trends.

So, let’s see how their 10 stock picks performed over the next 12 years and 4 months between August 14, 2000 and December 19, 2012 as reported by Ritholtz.com.

  • 2 of the 10 stocks went bankrupt.
  • 1 received a government bailout.
  • 2 were bought out at prices lower than their August 14, 2000 price.
  • 0 stocks rose in price by the end of the 12-year period.
  • The cumulative portfolio, excluding dividends, declined by more than 50 percent during the period. By comparison, the S&P 500 index rose more than 20 percent during the period.

Source: Rithotz.com

As you can see, the magazine’s results were not pretty. Here are four conclusions from this buy-and-forget experiment.

  • Don’t get your stock picks from magazines! You have to do serious research.
  • Long-term trends are powerful, but the winners at the beginning of the trend may not be the winners at the end of the trend.
  • Since “winners rotate,” it’s important to have a “sell discipline” to help you avoid hanging on to stocks long past their prime.
  •  To paraphrase an old saying, if you follow a static crystal ball, you may end up eating a lot of broken glass.

While nobody can predict the future, trends can last a long time and may offer profitable investment opportunities. However, as this example shows, you still have to diligently manage your portfolio so you don’t get caught on the wrong side if a shift happens.

Weekly Fun – Think About It…

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

It came without packages, boxes, or bags!

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!

–Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!