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...

Shorting The Least Green Companies

Newsweek recently released its 2009 Green Rankings for America's 500 largest corporations.  Investors would do well to examine the bottom of the list, as well as the top. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA I'm getting more and more company in worrying about a market peak.  If you, like me, are  Interested in green investing, and hedging your exposure to a market decline, you should probably also be interested in turning Newsweek's Green Rankings upside-down,  and use some decidedly un-green companies as a hedge against the market risk of your greener portfolio.   If you believe that...

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,...

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...

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...

Clean Energy Stocks Shopping List: FAQ

Stocks may be expensive now, and the temptation is to buy before they get even more expensive.  Why patience makes the brokerage account golden. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA On Friday, I started a series on stocks I'd like to buy when they are cheaper.  The first was on clean or efficient transport stocks which will benefit from both Climate Change regulation and high oil prices due to Peak Oil. Before I continue on with my Clean Energy Shopping List series, I think it's worth talking about the underlying strategy, since it can be counter-intuitive, and I expect that many...

Market Call: We’re Near the Peak

Tom Konrad, Ph.D. The current rally from the March 5 bottom has been breathtaking, especially in Clean Energy, with my Clean Energy Tracking Portfolio up 70.5% since it was assembled at the end of February (as of May 1), 11% higher than it was at the three month update last week, and the S&P 500 is up 41% from its March low.  Even in a better economic climate, gains of this magnitude would have me running for cover.  In the current economic climate, with a gigantic mountain of debt keeping consumers out of the stores, makes me feel this...

Do You Need To Invest In Oil To Benefit From Expensive Oil?

Two months ago, Tom told us how he'd dipped a toe into the black stuff (i.e. bought the OIL etf) on grounds that current supply destruction related to the depressed price of crude oil would eventually lead to the same kind of supply-demand crunch that led oil to spike during the 2004 to mid-2008 period. If you need evidence that the current price of crude is wreaking havoc in the world of oil & gas exploration, look no further than Alberta and its oil sands. The oil sands contain the second largest oil reserves in the world after...

A Quick Clean Energy Tracking Portfolio

Yesterday, I outlined a strategy to approximately replicate the performance of a Clean Energy mutual fund at much lower cost, with only a couple hours of effort.  I gave a cost example based on $5000 invested in 5 stocks, with another $1000 worth of a single stock added in each subsequent year.   This is the procedure I would use to select the initial five stocks. Collect all the top five or ten holdings of the available Clean Energy mutual funds.  This data is available from Morningstar, and on fund sponsor's home pages. A few of these holdings may...

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...

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...

What I’m Selling (and will be Buying) in the Market Turmoil

The market is in turmoil, and it seems like everyone I talk to wants my take on what's happening this week.  So here's my take: I really don't know if the various bailouts and decisions not to bail out made by Paulson et al will turn out to be good decisions or not.  I do know that the mess we're in is due to hard decisions which have been put off for years at the highest levels, and I do know that the American taxpayer is going to be feeling the pain for a generation, if not...

Cleantech Investing For EcoGeeks

by Tom Konrad.  This story is cross-posted on EcoGeek.org As lovers of green gadgets, EcoGeeks probably know as much about what's new in clean technology (a.k.a Cleantech) as anyone on the web.  So if you're an EcoGeek thinking about investing in companies which make the technology you know and love, you will probably take comfort in the old adage that you should invest in what you know.  An EcoGeek investing in clean technology companies will have an advantage understanding how a company makes money, and what is a needed innovation with a large  market,  and what is simply a...

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...

When to Sell: Five Rules of Thumb

A common complaint about investment writers is that we are always willing to tell you the next stock to buy, but we don't always get around to telling you when to sell.  I'm as guilty of this as most: generally, I write about the stocks I'm interested in... which are the ones I'm buying, not selling.  And, although I write the occasional negative article (Petrosun Drilling most recently, but also US Sustainable Energy and Global Resource Corporation), these were more stocks to avoid, rather than stocks which had seen their run. This is unlikely to change.  For a start,...

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...