My #1 Rule of Investing

Tom Konrad CFA Rules of Investing Warren Buffett says "The first rule of Investing is don't lose money; the second rule is don't forget rule #1." Jim Hansen at Ravenna Capital Management and publisher of the Master Resource Report about oil and other energy news has a "prime directive" (a la Star Trek) about oil prognostication which is "never predict prices." These rules have to be taken metaphorically, not literally.  Buffett's rule is too general to be useful.  I take his message to mean that care to avoid losses is more effective than...

A Year Later: Market Up, Clean Energy Down

Tom Konrad, CFA When I called the peak a year ago, it was too soon for the broad market, but not for clean energy stocks.  I think both have room to fall, but clean energy may bottom first.  Almost a year ago at the start of June, I wrote saying "we're near the peak" of the stock market.  I was too early, and admitted it in August.  But I also said that it was a bad time to be in the market: the risks of a decline far outweighed the potential gains of remaining in an...

Green Energy Investing For Beginners: How Many Stocks Should You Own?

Tom Konrad, CFA In stock portfolios, deciding how many stocks to own involves weighing a trade off.   A smaller portfolio can be built (and sold) with fewer commissions, and also requires less time to research.  On the other hand, a portfolio with fewer stocks will gain fewer benefits of diversification, and likely be both more volatile and harder to sell in a crisis.  These trade offs are also affected by the size of the portfolio, and the market capitalization and liquidity of the companies in the portfolio. Diversification is widely accepted as a nearly costless way to reduce...

Down and Out in 2011: Headlines from Possible Futures

Tom Konrad, CFA If you don't know what could go wrong in 2010, it could still hurt your portfolio. In Nassim Taleb's Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, he describes an exercise at one of his early jobs.  In order to become aware of risks they otherwise might have overlooked, they were to assume that they would lose all the money under their management in the coming year, and they work backwards to figure out how that might have happened. This struck me as an excellent idea, which investors...

Green Energy Investing for Experts, Index and Wrap-Up

Tom Konrad, CFA My Green Energy Investing for Experts series looked at ways shorting could both protect your portfolio against market decline, and make it greener by shorting decidedly non-green companies.  This is an index of the entries, plus one more industry for you to consider. Green Energy Investing for Experts, Part I made the case that shorting stocks that are particularly vulnerable to peak oil or climate change is a good way to hedge a portfolio of green stocks against a market decline while making the whole portfolio greener. Green Energy Investing for Experts, Part II looked at...

The Short Side of Clean Energy

Green Energy Investing For Experts, Part I Tom Konrad, CFA You don't have to be long Renewable Energy stocks to have a green portfolio.  Shorting, selling calls, or buying puts on companies and industries which are heavily dependent on dirty and finite fossil fuels not only makes a portfolio greener, it can protect against the effects of a permanent global decline caused by peak oil. Nate Hagens presented this slide at the 2009 International Peak Oil Conference:   It shows his conception of the different schools of thought among those of us who understand peak oil.  Those represented in...

Green Energy Investing for Beginners: A Small Investor’s Perspective

This is a guest post by Brad Wright, who felt that my "Beginners" series was a too high level to really live up to the name.  He's probably right about that, so here is his effort to bring it down to basics for the small Canadian investor.  The links and section headers are mine.   Tom Konrad. Motivation The goal of this article is to assist with your future investments by explaining investment options, how they work and potential alternatives that may be of interest to you. The take away I’m looking for is with a little research you can...

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 III: Before You Invest

Tom Konrad, CFA Before you consider green stock market investments, invest in yourself. A reader of my article on asset allocation for green energy investors brought up an important point: we may have green opportunities in our own lives, such as improving the energy efficiency of our homes, which will return much safer and higher returns than green stocks, especially when the market as a whole is as overvalued as I currently believe it is. Homeowners typically have a large number of high-return energy efficiency investments they can make.  Since energy efficiency reduces energy use, it both produces returns...

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...

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...

Why Do Green Energy Experts Buy Solar Stocks? 

Tom Konrad CFA Green energy experts accept that solar panels are one of the least cost effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint.  Nevertheless, many buy solar stocks.  They should rethink their investment strategies. I recently spoke on "Stock Selection in the Era of Peak Oil and Climate Change" at the ASPO 2009 International Peak Oil Conference.  Whenever green energy enthusiasts find out that I analyze green energy stocks professionally, they react in one of two ways.  Many want to know my top stock pick in general (New Flyer Industries NFI-UN.TO/NFYIF.PK) or in their favorite sector (see below.)   ...

Asking the Right Questions: Why Invest in Clean Energy?

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Often, knowing more about a company is less useful than knowing just a few of the right things.  Knowing the right questions to ask can help investors wade through a sea of mostly irrelevant information. Take a moment to answer the following poll: Suppose you want to know if fictional solar Company MySolar will outperform other solar stocks. Which fact would be most useful in your decision?(poll) The key to this question was the stated goal of "outperforming other solar stocks."  An investor who is only hoping to achieve returns equal...

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,...
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