Why We’re Changing Our Performance Benchmarks

As a longtime observer of portfolio manager performance, I have noticed a few common warning signs that there might be trouble brewing with a money manager. They are, in no real order of importance:

1. When there is a major change in the management team of a fund

2. When a specific time frame of historical portfolio performance is no longer reported by the firm

3. When a firm changes the benchmark for its performance reporting

The Markets and the ‘Triple Witch’

Today you’ll hear the term ‘triple witching’ a lot in the media — it refers to four Fridays a year when stock index futures, stock index options, and stock options all expire on the same day. The expiration can lead to unusual volatility in markets as traders scramble to offset positions. This could make things quite bumpy, but I think there may be a more important triple witch – one that has provided the catalyst for a deep correction in U.S. markets.

Oil Prices and the Symmetrical Triangle

In the world of technical analysis, the symmetrical triangle represents a battle between bulls and bears. Neither side gains ground while the market forms this pattern, and the result over time is lower highs and higher lows. However, the direction of the next major move can be determined following a valid breakout of the pattern.

How to Choose a Financial Advisor

We recently received a question at our website from a troubled consumer of financial advice who wondered how he might compare Pinnacle’s wealth management process to that used by his current advisor. That’s an excellent question. After all, there is no Consumer Reports for financial advisors where firms are evaluated by objective and independent experts. The best we can do is recommend a process of evaluation that will give an educated consumer confidence in choosing the right financial advisor.

The Market Sends a Warning

Over the past few weeks our proprietary quantitative model has experienced a significant decline, falling from an almost unequivocally bullish reading of 7.45/10 to a lower neutral reading of 4.33/10. The deterioration in the overall score was caused by a broad-based decline in several important variables including, among others, the relative momentum in early cyclical, late cyclical, and defensive sectors, the steepening of the yield curve, the growth-sensitive Australian dollar to Canadian dollar exchange rate, and implied volatility.

The Market Correction is Upon Us

The overdue market correction analysts and pundits have been waiting for may have arrived with the breakdown of the S&P. It has been a two stage process, with Japan breaking first and the U.S. and the rest of the world following suit. One of the interesting aspects of this correction is that bond yields are moving higher as stock prices have been moving lower. In Japan the focus has been on a bond yield rising in a nation with very high debt levels. In the U.S. yields have been going up too, and the buzz has been that the Federal Reserve may start “tapering” down their $85 billion bond buying spree (known as QE Infinity).

Be Careful with Alternative Investments

I have been on the road quite a bit recently, appearing at several professional conferences around the country. One fellow speaker at a conference in San Diego was Dr. Christopher Geczy, a finance professor at the Wharton School and the new academic director of the Wharton Wealth Management Initiative. His impressive resume features a B.A. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in finance and econometrics from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago. Professor Geczy’s talk was both much anticipated and well received.

The Global Roller Coaster Ride Continues

So far in 2013, U.S. investors have enjoyed a steady climb in stocks, with the major market averages surging into record-high territory. There’s been a near absence of any sort of market volatility, with the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) sliding to multi-year lows. Whatever the reasons behind the rally, it’s been gradually bringing back positive vibes on the part of market participants. In other parts of the world, however, the story is different: There’s been a greater degree of volatility in many international markets, and in general, international stocks have lagged behind the U.S.

Value Investors vs. Momentum Investors

There is an entire school of investing that would have you screening for stocks that are making new lows in price on the assumption that the best values can be found in that group. I recently wrote about the strange psychological wiring of value investors who believe that they can outsmart Mr. Market and find investment ideas that are mispriced by the crowd. They are supported in their belief by the study of momentum and crowd psychology which shows that investors often over react to bad news and sell securities at prices well below their intrinsic value. With steely nerves and an ability to see value that the rest of the market doesn’t see, value investors are the heroes of the professional investment universe (foremost among them, of course, is Warren Buffett).