Neutralizing Your Peak Oil Risk

by Tom Konrad Lifestyle Risks from Peak Oil In the US, we all have a large exposure to the risk of rising energy prices.  In addition to the cost of gasoline, the whole US economy runs on oil, so a rise in the oil price is likely to affect our jobs, and the prices of all our assets, including our homes.  If other people have less money to spend and invest because of high oil prices, there will be a fall in demand for anything they were buying or investing in. House prices in exurbs and suburbs where the...
6 month BDI/SALT chart

SALT: Buying the Balitc Dry Dips

by Tom Konrad, Ph.D. CFA The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is a shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange. It measures changes in the cost of transporting various raw materials, such as coal and steel. Since the BDI is a measure of the income which firms that own dry bulk cargo ships can earn, changes in the BDI tend to drive changes in the stock prices of such companies. Stock Price Correlation Until recently, one such company was Scorpio Bulkers (SALT), one of my Ten Clean Energy Stocks for 2021 picks. The chart below shows the last 5 years, with...

What Good Is Shareholder Advocacy?

By Marc Gunther.  Last week, ExxonMobil added Susan Avery, a physicist, atmospheric scientist and former president of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutions, to its board of directors. Shareholder advocates, led by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which has been organizing shareholder campaigns at ExxonMobil for nearly two decades yes, two decades welcomed the appointment. Tim Smith, the director of environmental, social and governance (ESG) shareowner engagement at Walden Asset Management, said in a news release: “This action by the board is encouraging for shareowners and we want to commend Exxon for this prudent and...
DSI vs AVCI top holdings

Are ESG Funds All That Different?

by Jan Schalkwijk, CFA ESG investing is all the rage these days. That is, investing that includes the non-traditional  environmental, social, and governance factors in the investment process.  Its appeal to the broader investment industry is twofold: 1) The writing is on the wall: as wealth is passed down to younger generations who in the aggregate care more about values alignment, the asset management industry does not want to lose the assets and the fees they generate. 2) Thematic investing is popular and ESG is one of the hottest themes. Wall Street is not going to miss out. Much like crypto...
moneybags

How Free Commissions Change The Game For Small Investors

Why Free Commissions are a Game-Changer For Small Investors by Tom Konrad, Ph.D. CFA Last month, Charles Schwab (SCHW), E-Trade (ETFC), and Ameritrade (AMTD) all dropped their commissions for online stock trades to $0. They also dropped commissions on options contract to $0.65 per contract. The change opens up cost-effective individual stock investing to even the smallest investor, and also allows many more investors to use option strategies.  For those wondering if there is a catch, and how these brokers will make money with $0 commissions, see here.  The short version is that they make money on your cash deposits, and from...
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...

This Isn’t What Green Money Management Looks Like

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA I don’t spend much time reading investment company ESG reports, but a friend asked me to take a look at a copy of the TIAA’s 2021 Climate Report.  I was deeply unimpressed.  Here are a few things in the report that triggered my greenwashing radar: TIAA wants to work with companies to improve their behavior.  They call this company engagement.  “e do not expect to account for the majority of our emissions reduction — we are primarily focused on company engagements” page 9. Much of TIAA’s emphasis is on reducing emissions from their own operations,...
Weasel

Climate-Risk Adjusted Returns and the Weasel Coefficient

By Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA An 80% Weasel Coefficient Some activists, including a friend of mine, recently had a conversation with representatives of TIAA to try to persuade them to divest from fossil fuels.  The conversation was mostly cordial, but predictably did not get anywhere. One of the activists summed up the response from TIAA as “a non-response with a weasel coefficient of at least 80%.”  Regarding the weasel coefficient, he also asked, Can anyone explain to me what "our overarching strategy which targets climate-risk adjusted returns over the long-term” means in plain English?  Well, yes.  Yes I can. Climate Risk Adjusted Returns When an investment...

Correction, or Bear Market?

by Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA On February 21st, I was helping an investment advisor I consult with pick stocks for a new client's portfolio.  He lamented that there were not enough stocks at good valuations. This is one of the hardest parts of being an investment advisor: a client expects the advisor to build a portfolio of stocks which should do well, but sometimes, especially in late stage bull markets, most stocks are overvalued.  I reminded him, "The Constitution does not guarantee anyone the right to good stock picks."  He agreed, but he still had to tell his client that...

Pop Goes the Clean Energy Stock Bubble

by Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA 2020 ended with a massive spike in clean energy stock prices.  From the end of October, election euphoria drove Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy ETF (PBW) from $63.32 to $136 at the close on February 9th, a 114% gain in 100 days.   Joe Biden is as strong a supporter of clean energy as Donald Trump was a supporter of big fossil fuel companies, but even with control of the presidency and both chambers of congress, there is a limit to what a president can do in a short time.  This is especially true when their top priority...

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...
10 clean energy stocks for 2020- total return through March.

Ten Clean Energy Stocks for 2020: Trades

by Tom Konrad Ph.D., CFA Four weeks ago, I predicted that the 12% market correction we had seen would turn into a true bear market.  Bear markets are often defined as a decline of more than 20% for the major market indexes, but I find it more useful to focus on long term changes in investor sentiment. What I did not predict was just how severe the effect of the coronovirus shutdown would be on the economy.  I thought we would need the combined of the effect of the shutdown and investors re-assessing their risk tolerance to bring us into full...

Step By Step Fossil Fuel Divesting With Mutual Funds

by Tom Konrad Ph.D., CFA A large and growing number of individual investors are showing an interest in divesting from fossil fuels.  Where in the past I have been asked to give a talk on divestment once every year or two, I’ve spoken on the subject three times so far in 2020.  (Here is a recording of a presentation I did for my college alumni association.) The response to these talks has been overwhelmingly positive, but I’m left with the impression that a lot of the less financially sophisticated attendees are still not sure where to start.  For most of these...

Better, or Beta?

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA My Quick Clean Energy Tracking Portfolio has produced unexpected out-performance.  Is it because of high beta (β) in a rising market? I recently asked why two portfolios which I had designed to track green energy mutual funds ended up out-performing them by a wide margin.   This is the first of a short series of articles looking into possible causes.  Could the portfolios be outperforming because the stocks they contain rise more when the market rises (and fall more when the market falls) than do the mutual funds they were designed to track?  In...

How to Beat the Market: Less Money and More Judgement

Last week, I looked at how a small investor could gain an advantage in the market by understanding the other players.  The most important other players are institutional investors such as hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds, and investment banks who have considerably more resources and valuation skills than the individual investor, and so trying to take them on directly to beat them at their own is likely to be an expensive exercise in futility. Two Exploitable Weaknesses On the other hand, I argued that institutional investors have certain handicaps and biases which do allow small investors to enter...

Your Portfolio is Hooked on Fossil Fuels

Garvin Jabusch Oil addiction photo via BigStock You are drilling for oil and natural gas, and you probably don’t even know it.  What, you say you’ve never been near a drilling rig, and aren’t even sure what one looks like?  You’re still drilling, because companies you own are drilling. Many financial advisors and asset managers routinely assume that broadly diversified stock portfolios will have holdings in fossil fuels companies.  Even most stock mutual funds that identify themselves as ‘green’ funds contain natural gas and even oil holdings. This...
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