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Latest Valuentum Commentary
Apr 8, 2021
The Best Years Are Ahead
The wind is at our backs. The Federal Reserve, Treasury, and regulatory bodies of the U.S. may have no choice but to keep U.S. markets moving higher. The likelihood of the S&P 500 reaching 2,000 ever again seems remote, and I would not be surprised to see 5,000 on the S&P 500 before we see 2,500-3,000, if the latter may be in the cards. The S&P 500 is trading at ~4,100 at the time of this writing. The high end of our fair value range on the S&P 500 remains just shy of 4,000, but I foresee a massive shift in long-term capital out of traditional bonds into equities this decade (and markets to remain overpriced for some time). Bond yields are paltry and will likely stay that way for some time, requiring advisors to rethink their asset mixes. The stock market looks to be the place to be long term, as it has always been. With all the tools at the disposal of government officials, economic collapse (as in the Great Depression) may no longer be even a minor probability in the decades to come--unlike in the past with the capitalistic mindset that governed the Federal Reserve before the “Lehman collapse."
Apr 6, 2021
Our Equity Component Is Hard to Pass Up
The average monthly returns and standard deviation of returns for the simulated Best Ideas Newsletter portfolio relative to its declared benchmark, the S&P 500 (SPY), on an apples-to-apples basis, from inception, May 11, 2011, through December 15, 2017, with dividends collected but not reinvested for both the newsletter portfolio and the SPY. Returns are hypothetical. Past performance is not an indication of future performance. The hypothetical returns do not represent returns that any investor actually attained and do not include management or trading fees. Valuentum is a financial publisher.
Mar 19, 2021
In the News: Facebook Optimistic, Visa Resilient, Dollar General’s Outlook Not Bad and More
The equity markets, as measured by the S&P 500, are trading above/near the high end of our fair value estimate range, but we remain focused on the long run, and there are many individual ideas that present tremendous long-term capital appreciation potential. By far, Facebook is the most undervalued stock on the market, in our view, and recent news has painted its relationship with Apple in a more positive light. The Justice Department is investigating Visa for anti-competitive behavior, but we don’t think its dominant position and lucrative business model will be challenged. Successful vaccines for coronavirus (“COVID-19”) have breathed life into shares of airline equities, but we still don’t view them as long-term investments. Dollar General will see its yearly streak of consecutive same-store sales growth come to an end in fiscal 2021 (ends January 28, 2022), but we’re still positive on the name. Some of our best ideas continue to be in the Best Ideas Newsletter portfolio and Dividend Growth Newsletter portfolio. For investors seeking higher-yielding ideas, please consider the High Yield Dividend Newsletter publication.
Feb 13, 2021
The Role of Luck in Investing and How To Think About It
Image: EpicTop10.com. For every Amazon that made it, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, from the dot-com era that didn't. Very few remember Pets.com or etoys.com, both of which went belly up during the dot-com meltdown. For every Tesla, there is a DeLorean Motor Co. We might have completely forgotten about DeLorean were it not for the blockbuster movie, Back To The Future, that immortalized its futuristic sports car. For every streaming enterprise like Netflix, there is a Napster that failed. Most of us probably don't even remember the original Napster, which encountered legal troubles before closing shop shortly after the dot-com bust. For every Alphabet, there's an AltaVista or Netscape. For every Apple, there is a Palm or Blackberry. Who remembers how popular the Palm Pilot and Blackberry were? How about the Motorola Razr? For every Facebook, there is a Myspace or Friendster. As investors, we underestimate the role of luck in a company's long-term success. In February 2000, a month before the dot-com market crash, a fledgling Amazon raised $672 million in convertible notes to European investors. If the company hadn't done so, there'd likely be no Amazon today, and one of the wealthiest men in the world, Jeff Bezos, might have just been a mere footnote in stock market history. Amazon would have been insolvent in 2001-2002 just like many of its other dot-com peers.
Feb 13, 2021
The Skill Paradox Is a Myth in Investing
Image: The game of baseball has changed during the past 100 years. While many point to a declining standard deviation and coefficient of variation in batting averages for evidence of a paradox of skill in baseball, it's more likely the game has changed. Players are hitting more homeruns, sacrificing batting average as a result. Source: Baseball Almanac. Michael Mauboussin, while highlighting in his own words in The Success Equation how stock portfolios have conformed over time due to a reduction of active share brought about by myriad influences in how active managers are "playing the game," completely misses using this explanation as the correct conclusion for the observation of declining standard deviations of excess returns. There is no paradox of skill in investing. Investors are conforming to the same playbook due to conflicting incentives (perhaps even driving active management skill levels collectively lower), and this is resulting in what we're seeing today. Unlike his work in evaluating baseball and basketball, Mauboussin seems to completely miss that active mutual funds and ETFs are also only 15% of the market. In the case of investing, analyzing the standard deviation of returns of 15% of the stock market, as in active funds and ETFs, tells us little about luck or skill. Warning about the use of small sample sizes early in the book, the combination of this errant conclusion has only padded the indexing propaganda making The Success Equation an absolute tragedy of a text, and I must say it hurts me a lot to say it (I know how much work goes into writing a book, and I generally enjoy Mauboussin's work).
Feb 8, 2021
Stock Market Outlook for 2021
2020 was one from the history books and a year that will live on in infamy. That said, we are excited for the future as global health authorities are steadily putting an end to the public health crisis created by COVID-19, aided by the quick discovery of safe and viable vaccines. Tech, fintech, and payment processing firms were all big winners in 2020, and we expect that to continue being the case in 2021. Digital advertising, cloud-computing, and e-commerce activities are set to continue dominating their respective fields. Cybersecurity demand is moving higher and the constant threats posed by both governments (usually nations that are hostile to Western interests) and non-state actors highlights how crucial these services are. Retailers with omni-channel selling capabilities are well-positioned to ride the global economic recovery upwards. Green energy firms will continue to grow at a brisk pace in 2021, though the oil & gas industry appears ready for a comeback. The adoption of 5G wireless technologies and smartphones will create immense growth opportunities for smartphone makers, semiconductor players and telecommunications giants. Video streaming services have become ubiquitous over the past decade with room to continue growing as households “cut the cord” and instead opt for several video streaming packages. We’re not too big of fans of old industrial names given their capital-intensive nature relative to capital-light technology or fintech, but there are select names that have appeal. Cryptocurrencies have taken the market by storm as we turn the calendar into 2021, but the traditional banking system remains healthy enough to withstand another shock should it be on the horizon. Our fair value estimate of the S&P 500 remains $3,530-$3,920, but we may still be on a roller coaster ride for the year. Here’s to a great 2021!
Jan 29, 2021
Repub from March 5, 2018: The Tragedy of Quantitative Finance
-- Okay – it’s not 2038, but just imagine if this could happen…
Jan 28, 2021
Apple, Facebook, and Tesla Report Earnings
Image Shown: Facebook Inc continues to steadily grow its active user base, primarily by leveraging and expanding its international presence. Image Source: Facebook Inc – Fourth Quarter of 2020 Earnings IR Presentation. We continue to witness unusual trading activity in the markets driven in large part by investors that are apparently communicating with each other over online forums such as Reddit. This trading activity is then being exacerbated by quantitative trend and momentum funds, generating levels of volatility in some names never before seen. On January 27, we sent out an alert to members noting that we shifted our newsletter portfolios to a 10%-20% cash weighting. Should numerous hedge funds start to fail due to short squeezes, that would put a tremendous amount of pressure on financial markets, at large, as investor confidence would start to erode. This, in turn, may beget more selling, creating an avalanche effect much like that of Long-Term Capital Management in the 1990s. Keeping this in mind, we continue to be big fans of top tier-tech giants, several of which have recently reported earnings that we will cover in this note. Companies with large (net) cash piles, resilient business models, promising long-term growth outlooks underpinned by secular tailwinds and strong cash flow profiles continue to be the best way to ride out the storm caused by the coronavirus (‘COVID-19’)--and more recently, very strange (if not downright manic) trading activity. Though the levels of volatility witnessed in dozens of companies may be unexpected by many, we had outlined the hazards of the volatility driven by price-agnostic trading (implicitly inclusive of Reddit and Robinhood trading) in the conclusion ("A Call to Action") of our book, Value Trap.
Jan 27, 2021
ALERT: Raising Cash in the Newsletter Portfolios
Our research has been absolutely fantastic for a long time, but 2020 may have been our best year yet. With the S&P 500 trading within our fair value estimate range of 3,530-3,920 (and the markets rolling over while showing signs of abnormal behavior), we're raising the cash position in the Best Ideas Newsletter portfolio and Dividend Growth Newsletter portfolio to 10%-20%. For more conservative investors, the high end of this range may even be larger, especially considering the vast "gains" from the March 2020 bottom and the increased systemic risks arising from price-agnostic trading (read Value Trap). The individual holdings will be reduced in proportion to arrive at the new targeted cash weighting in the respective simulated newsletter portfolios. The High Yield Dividend Newsletter and Dividend Growth Newsletter are scheduled for release February 1. We'll have more to say soon.
Dec 31, 2020
2020 Won’t Soon Be Forgotten
2020 won’t soon be forgotten. The tumultuous year brought with it the greatest shock to the U.S. economy in modern history, ushering in the largest-ever decline in U.S. real annualized gross domestic product of 31.4% in the second quarter of the year (surpassing the prior record of a 28.6% collapse in the second quarter of 1921). Strict lockdowns to help contain the outbreak of COVID-19 created the biggest global health emergency in a century, driving a self-inflicted economic collapse worse than the Great Recession, the Great Depression, and any other recession before it (the Depression of 1873-1879, the Panic of 1893, etc.). Millions were put out of work. During the month of April alone, the economy lost a record 20.8 million jobs, with some estimating that the “real” unemployment rate during the depths of the COVID-19 crisis reached nearly 23%. The official 14.7% unemployment rate in April would obliterate prior post-World War II era records, and while it fell short of the peak Great Depression unemployment rate estimated at 24.9%, the pain of many families and households was no less severe as they battled both a financial and health crisis that materialized in a matter of weeks, with little lead time to prepare for what was to come. Pantry stuffing and panic buying of consumer goods became a sign of the times, and a great debate about the efficacy of wearing masks raged across mediums.
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The High Yield Dividend Newsletter, Best Ideas Newsletter, Dividend Growth Newsletter, Nelson Exclusive publication, and any reports, articles and content found on this website are for information purposes only and should not be considered a solicitation to buy or sell any security. The sources of the data used on this website are believed by Valuentum to be reliable, but the data’s accuracy, completeness or interpretation cannot be guaranteed. Valuentum is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for results obtained from the use of its newsletters, reports, commentary, or publications and accepts no liability for how readers may choose to utilize the content. Valuentum is not a money manager, is not a registered investment advisor and does not offer brokerage or investment banking services. Valuentum, its employees, and affiliates may have long, short or derivative positions in the stock or stocks mentioned on this site.