When Market Calls are Wrong

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA. My recent market call now looks premature.  What lessons can we learn? When we make market predictions, we will inevitably be wrong some of the time.  I stuck my neck out at the start of June, saying "We're near the peak."  I later gave some numbers to allow readers to objectively judge if that call was right or wrong.  I said that we should consider it an accurate call if the S&P 500 fell 20% (to 756) before it rose 5% (to 992.)  The S&P 500 has not yet come near 756, but it closed...

Will Climate Advocacy Pay for Shareholders?

On Monday, we learned about big coal companies pushing back against the major US corporations of the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP,) which advocates for mandatory regulation of greenhouse gas with their own lobbyists.   Since I have advocated buying companies that take a proactive stance on climate change, I thought it might be instructive to compare the returns of the original ten members of US-CAP with the returns of the big coal coal companies (more companies have since joined,) over the six months since the Climate Action Partnership issued their Call for Action on Climate Change.   The Payoff ...

Five Hedging Strategies for Stock Pickers

Investors who feel the market is overvalued have two options: move into other asset classes (cash, bonds), or hedge their market exposure.  Hedging your exposure does not have to be rocket science, but it does require diligent attention to the market and your portfolio.  I recently discussed how it makes sense to be out of the market if you expect that there is a good chance of a large decline, even if that means there is as much of a chance of missing a large upswing as there is a large decline. In my estimation, this is one of...

Green Energy Investing For Beginners, Part I: Stocks, Mutual Funds, or ETFs

Tom Konrad CFA Investing in green energy can be good for both the climate and your wallet.  How good depends on choosing the right investment vehicles (mutual funds, ETFs, or stocks) and sectors to invest in. This will get you started. More and more investors are investing in green energy.  According to the Cleantech Group, the Cleantech sector is now the largest sector for venture capital investment.   Green Energy is not just for venture capitalists.  Small investors have done well in 2009.  Since the market bottomed at the start of March, the average green energy mutual fund topped...
Permaculture flower - finance

Free Talk: A Permaculture Portfolio

For readers in the Hudson Valley, I will be giving a free talk next Monday night.  I will speak about applying permaculture design principles to your investment strategy.  While I developed my own strategy over the last two decades without any reference to these design principles, now that I'm familiar with them, I realize that I have been thinking along these lines for a long time.  The design principles are remarkably robust and intuitive. I used to think Permaculture was just about redesigning our food systems, but it's much much more than that. The talk is sponsored by the Rondout Valley...

Why I Sold My Utility Stocks

In times like these of financial uncertainty, regulated utilities have traditionally been considered a safe haven.  But that is changing.  The Dow Jones Utilities Average was down 30% in 2008, vs. a 34% drop in the Dow Industrials.  Not much of a safe haven. In a recent interview, utilities analyst Daniel Scotto noted, that the utility industry offers "a lot less security" than it used to.  His reasoning is based mainly on the fact that the regulated portion of utility company's business is smaller than it has been in previous recessions, making them vulnerable to lower growth (or even...

Green Energy Investing For Beginners, Part IV: Model Portfolio

Tom Konrad, CFA My target sector allocation for Green Energy Sectors: How much to put in Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Biomass, Biofuels, Energy Efficiency, Alternative Transport, and enabling technologies such as Smart Grid and Transmission. In Part I of this series on green energy investing (see also Part II and Part III), I suggested readers "structure your portfolio to reflect the technologies which are actually going to make a difference."  This is not the same as investing in a market portfolio, because the market tends to overemphasize the most exciting or familiar (as opposed to the most useful) technologies.  This...

Green Energy Investing For Beginners, Part II: How Much To Invest

Tom Konrad, CFA In Green Energy Investing for Beginners, Part I, gave information to guide the choice of green investment vehicles (mutual funds, ETFs, or stocks.) This article is intended to help investors decide how much of their money to put into those vehicles. An informed decision of how much to invest in green energy is at least as important as how you make the investment.  The choice between green Exhange Traded Funds (ETFs) and green Mutual funds rests on a difference of about one percent per year, caused by differences in fees.  Yet in the first three quarters...
Weather Risk Managment: Solar Put

How Weather Risk Transfer Can Help Wind & Solar Development

by Daryl Roberts The Need To Accelerate Renewables Adoption Renewables are growing rapidly as a percentage of new electric generation, but are still being assimilated too slowly and still constitute too small of a fraction of total generation, to be able to transition quickly enough to scale into a low carbon economy in time to mitigate climate change. The issue of providing public support, with subsidies and other reallocation methods, is a politically charged subject. High carbon advocates, for example American Petroleum Institute, argues that support for renewables distorts the market. On the other hand, it has been argued, for example by...
climate change in plain sight

Opportunity Hiding in Plain Sight

Information asymmetry, climate investing and the active management edge. By Garvin Jabusch The theory of efficient markets says all stock prices are perpetually accurate, because investors always have complete and up-to-date information about their holdings. But as any casual observer knows, information and topical awareness are not evenly distributed, even among professional analysts. Reality is always far more complicated than equity markets can quickly assimilate, meaning information asymmetry is a constant. While usually considered a type of market failure, information asymmetry is frequently used as a “source of competitive advantage.” The person with the most information is best equipped to make the best...

Preparing for Catastrophe: Is your global warming portfolio ready for rising sea levels?

A Worse-Case Scenario I believe that a large part of global warming denial is fear: fear that if we acknowledge that global warming is happening, we will be morally obligated to do something about it, and that the problem is too large for us to do anything effective.  I also believe that denying the problem is certain to render us all ineffective in dealing with it. But getting over our global warming denial is not the only obstacle in our way to dealing with it.  Global warming is already happening, and  future temperature rises are already inevitable given the...

An Elephant Hunter Explains Inflection Point Investing

John Petersen In "An Elephant Hunter Explains Market Dynamics" I discussed the two basic types of public companies; earnings-driven companies that are “bought” in top-tier weighing machine markets and event-driven companies that are “sold” in lower-tier voting machine markets. Today I'll get a bit more granular and show how "sold" companies usually fall into one of two discrete sub-classes that have a major impact on their stock market valuations. As a starting point, I'll ignore the China-based companies that are listed in the US because their quirky metrics would only confuse the analysis. Then I'll break...

The Black Swan and My Hedging Strategy

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable changed the way I trade; I can't give a book higher praise.  This isn't a book review; since the book is over two years old, and I did not get around to reading it until this Spring, I direct readers to this Foolish Book Review, which agrees with my viewpoint quite well, and to the New York Times for a detailed critique.  The latter seemed overly nit-picky to me, but then I'm a fan. Human Biases Recently,...

Stocks We Love to Hate

Investing in clean energy is both an economic and a moral decision.  From an economic perspective, I believe that constrained supplies of fossil fuels (not just Peak Oil, but also Peak Coal and Natural Gas) are leading to a permanent rise in the value of all forms of energy.  From a moral perspective, I know that we and the vast majority of our children are limited to this one planet for generations to come, so we should abuse it as little as possible, so, of all the possible forms of energy to invest in, clean energy (Renewable and...

Should I Sell My Mutual Fund To Go Solar?

by Tom Konrad Ph.D., CFA An enthusiastic solar volunteer recently asked me: “What can I invest in to prepare for the next financial crisis?” The situation made the question deeply ironic. The woman asking me was trying to help people invest in solar systems through Solarize, a nonprofit, community-sponsored group buying and discount program. Our town of Marbletown, New York and the neighboring towns of Rochester and Olive have just launched Solarize Rondout Valley, a campaign open to residential and commercial building owners in Ulster County. Solarize campaigns are designed to make it easier and cheaper...

UltraPromises Fall Short

When I first came across ProShares' UltraShort ETFs, I thought they were a brilliant idea.  They seem to promise a multitude of advantages for investors: The ability to hedge market or sector exposure without having to go short.  (Going short requires a margin account, and US law prohibits the use of margin in most retirement accounts.) They should have a better risk profile than shorting.  With an UltraShort, you can't lose more than your initial investment.  With true shorting, the potential losses are unlimited.  As the underlying index rises, each percentage gain creates a smaller dollar fall, while...