“The market hates uncertainty” has been a common enough saying in recent years, but how logical is it? There are many different aspects to uncertainty, some that can be measured and some that cannot. Uncertainty is an unchangeable condition of existence. As individuals, we can feel more or less uncertain, but that is a distinctly human phenomenon.
Rather than ebbing and flowing with investor sentiment, uncertainty is an inherent and ever-present part of investing in markets. Any investment that has an expected return above the prevailing “risk-free rate” (think T-Bills for US investors) involves trading off certainty for a potentially increased return.
Consider this concept through the lens of stock vs. bond investments. Stocks have higher expected returns than bonds largely because there is more uncertainty about the future state of the world for equity investors than bond investors. Bonds, for the most part, have fixed coupon payments and a maturity date at which principal is expected to be repaid. Stocks have neither. Bonds also sit higher in a company’s capital structure. In the event a firm goes bust,
bondholders get paid before stockholders. So, do investors avoid stocks in favor of bonds as a result of this increased uncertainty? Quite the contrary, many investors end up allocating capital to stocks due to their higher expected
return. In the end, many investors are often willing to make the tradeoff of bearing some increased uncertainty for potentially higher returns.
If like me you’re fed up with TV coverage of the election and a hung parliament, then there is some good news. Stock Markets did not fall off a cliff edge and although the UK is experiencing some political turmoil, the rest of the world seems to be getting on with business as usual.
The current challenges facing the UK cannot be underestimated, but consider some of the issues we’ve faced over the last forty or fifty years. If you’re investing for the long term, markets tend to be efficient and take into account all the information available. Long term investors are rewarded for the additional risk they are taking by investing into Stocks and Bonds.
However, there are some things investors can do to help ensure if there is a fall in Stock Markets. They can help limit the downside impact of temporary falls in the value of their investments.
Market indexes. You read about them all the time, such as when the FTSE 100 broke above its 2000 highs in 2015, and again in 2016, when it broke 7000. In our last piece, we explored what those points actually measure (not much in reality), which isn’t always what you might guess. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the mechanics of indexing, to gain a better understanding of why they do, what they do.
The Birth of Indexing
When you hear the term “stock index,” you’re in good company if the first thing that comes to mind is the FTSE 100 Index. We’ll talk more about index investing in our next piece, but we’ll note here that, despite its familiarity, the FTSE 100 is a babe in the woods compared to the world’s first index. (It only began in 1984); that honor goes to the Dow.
The Grand Old Dow
As described in “Capital Ideas” by Peter Bernstein:
“The first Dow Jones Average appeared in the Afternoon News Letter on July 3, 1884. It consisted of the closing prices of eleven companies: nine railroads and two industrials. [Charles] Dow’s idea was to provide an overall measure of the performance of active companies, at a time when an average day’s activity on the New York Stock Exchange was about 250,000 shares.”
Eleven companies, nine of them railroads, wouldn’t make for much of a market proxy these days! And yet the Dow still only tracks 30 stocks, as it has since 1928. Plus, it still uses mostly the same methods for tracking them. As expressed by James Mackintosh, a senior market columnist for The Wall Street Journal (the effective birthplace of the Dow): “It’s time to ditch the Dow. After 120 years, the venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average is an embarrassing anachronism, abandoned by professionals and beloved only by a media that mostly knows no better. It needs to be updated or, better, replaced.”
And yet, despite its flaws, the Dow persists. Markets are made of people, and people can be sentimental about their past. More pragmatically, the Dow serves as a time capsule of sorts, offering historical perspective no other index can match. It’s also just plain familiar. As its parent company the S&P Dow Jones Indices says, “It is understandable to most people.”
How Do Indexes Get Built?
What about all those other indexes? New ones come along whenever an indexer devises a supposedly better mousetrap for tracking market performance. If enough participants accept the new method, an index is born.
That’s our free markets at work, and it sounds simple enough. But if we take a closer look at the various ways indexers track their slices of the market, what may seem clear at a glance is often seething with complexities just under the surface. Here are some (not all!) of the ways various indexes are sliced and diced.
How much weight should an index give to each of its holdings? For example, in the FTSE 100, should the returns delivered by Royal Mail (0.23% weight) hold the same significance as those from HSBC (7.3%)?
· The Dow is price-weighted , giving each company a varying weight based on its higher or lower share price. As Mackintosh explained, “share prices are arbitrary, as they depend on how many shares are issued; some companies have very high prices, which give them more influence on the Dow, even though they may be less valuable overall.”
· Market-cap weighting is the most common weighting used by the most familiar indexes around the globe, such as the FTSE All Share. It factors in outstanding shares as well as current share price to give more weight to the bigger players and less to the smaller fry.
· Some indexes are equal-weighted, giving each holding, large or small, equal importance in the final tally. For example, there’s an equally weighted version of the FTSE 100, in which each company is weighted at 1% of the index total, rebalanced quarterly.
There are many other variations on these themes. The point is, indexes using different weightings can reach significantly different conclusions about the performance of the same market slice.
Widely Inclusive or Highly Representative?
How many individual securities does an index need to track to correctly reflect its target market?
· As mentioned, the FTSE 100 nominally represents thousands of publicly traded U.K. stocks. A throw-back to simpler times, it’s unlikely you’ll see other popular indexes built on such modest samples. In its defense, the FTSE favors stocks that are heavily and frequently traded, so prices are timely and real … at least for the 100 stocks it’s tracking.
· At the other end of the scale, the FTSE All Share tracks 627 stocks, and some track shares numbering in the thousands.
· The S&P 500 falls somewhere in between, tracking around (not always precisely) 500 publicly traded U.S. securities.
Tracking a Narrow Slice or a Mixed Bag?
What makes up “a market,” anyway? Consider these possibilities:
· If an index is tracking any asset market, should that include real estate companies too?
· If its make-up tends to include a heavier allocation to, say, value versus growth stocks, or commodity compared to Industrial stocks how does that influence its relative results … and is it a deliberate or accidental tilt?
· Is an index broadly covering diverse sectors (such as representative industries or regions) or is its focus intentionally concentrated?
· If it’s tracking bonds, are they corporate and municipal bonds, or just one or the other?
The Use and Abuse of Indexing
How well do you really know what your index is up to? Remember, in Part I of this series, we described how every index is a model – imperfect by definition. How might each index’s inevitable idiosyncrasies be influencing the accuracy of its outcomes?
We’ve just touched on a few of the questions an indexer must address. Like the proverbial onion, many more layers could be peeled away and, the deeper you go, the finer the nuances become.
One practical conclusion is that some indexes are much easier to translate into investable index funds than others. In addition, some lend themselves better than others to a sound, evidence-based investment strategy. In fact, indexes often may not be the ideal solution for that higher goal to begin with. In our next and final segment, we’ll explore the strengths and weaknesses inherent to index investing .
If you are a trustee of a charity or any other form of trust then you will have certain responsibilities to ensure the terms of the trust are adhered to. Your responsibilities can be split into a number of areas. These are:
Individual investors may face many “known unknowns”—that is to say, things that they know they don’t know. The UK’s referendum on EU membership is one of them, confronting people with a large degree of uncertainty.
But it’s not necessary to “make the right call” on the referendum or its consequences to be a successful investor. Our approach is to trust the market to price securities fairly; to take account of broad expectations of future returns.
In arguing for the status quo, the “remain” campaign is able to point out familiar characteristics of membership.
The “out” campaign, however, is based on intangibles that can only be resolved after the result of the referendum is known. It is impossible for any individual to predict the implications of these unknowns with certainty.
But this is no cause for concern. While the referendum is imminent and its implications are potentially vast and unpredictable, it is not necessary for individual investors to make any judgement calls on the outcome. We have faced many uncertainties in the past—general elections, market crises, recessions, wars—and throughout all of them, the market has done its job of aggregating participants’ views about expected returns and priced assets accordingly.
And while these events have caused uncertainty, volatility and short-term losses and gains, none of them has altered the expectation that stocks provide a good long-term return in real terms.
We have a global view of investing, and we know that the market is very good at processing information that is relevant to future returns. Because of this view, we don’t attempt to second-guess the market. We manage well-diversified portfolios that do not rely on the outcome of individual events or decisions to target the expected long-term return.
*The chart illustrates the long-term positive performance of world markets (1970–2015), through wars, crises and slumps. These events are not offered to explain market returns. Instead, they serve as a reminder that investors should view daily events from a long-term perspective and avoid making investment decisions based solely on the news. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. MSCI data © MSCI 2016, all rights reserved. Indices are not available for direct investment; therefore, their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. In GBP.
A recent report from one of the UK’s investment providers makes gloomy ready, especially if you have held large amounts of cash deposits for the last few years. This year marks seven years of the Bank of England Interest rates at 0.5%. The report confirms that over this period the average return on cash Isa’s was just 1% p.a.
The analysis of average annual cash ISA rates shows an average cash ISA saver has received just 6.8% over the seven-year period since interest rates were cut by the Bank of England.
Even though inflation is currently low the report reveals that in four of the last seven years Cash Isa savers have lost money in real terms as the return they have received has been less than the rate of inflation.
The report shows someone who has used their full allowance into the average cash Isa investment would have saved £24,911 since March 2009 and seen it grow to £26,272. The gain of £1,729, a 6.8% return before inflation.
Annual average cash ISA rates have at the highest point been up to 2.8% and have been as low as 1.4%. Inflation on the other hand has ranged between 4.48% and as low as 0.04%. In 2010, through to 2013 inflation was higher than average cash ISA rates.
Although inflation is expected to increase over the next few years, that does not mean to say the returns on cash will improve.
Investors need to be aware if we have a few more years of low inflation and low returns on cash then they could be faced with a whole decade whereby the total return on cash is less than inflation over the same period. A question I would always ask savers is whether they want the return on their investments and pensions to at least keep up with the rate of inflation. If the answer is yes, then it might be worth discussing the issue with your financial advisor.
Alternatively you can look at the moneyfacts site to find the best rates
In the light of recent market volatility, it's perhaps natural to be looking for ways to smooth out your portfolio's returns going forward.
In a fluctuating market, investing regularly – a strategy known as 'pound-cost averaging' – can help smooth out the effect of market changes on the value of your investment and is one way to achieve some peace of mind.
Increasing the long-term value
This simple, time-tested method for controlling risk over time enables you, as an investor, to take advantage of stock market corrections. By using pound-cost averaging, you could increase the long-term value of your investments. There are, however, no guarantees that the return will be greater than a lump sum investment and it requires discipline not to cancel or suspend regular Direct Debit payments if markets continue to head downwards.
Investing money in equal amounts
The basic idea behind pound-cost averaging is straightforward – the term simply refers to investing money in equal amounts at regular intervals. One way to do this is with a lump sum that you'd prefer to invest gradually – for example, by taking £50,000 and investing £5,000 each month for ten months.
Alternatively, you could pound-cost average on an open-ended basis by investing, say, £1,000 every month. This principle means that you invest no matter what the market is doing. Pound-cost averaging can help investors limit losses, while also instilling a sense of investment discipline and ensuring that you're buying at ever-lower prices in down markets.
Taking advantage of market down days
Investment professionals often say that the secret of good portfolio management is a simple one: market timing. Namely, to buy more on the days when the market goes down and to sell on the days when the market rises.
As an individual investor, you may find it more difficult to make money through market timing. But you could take advantage of market down days if you save regularly, by using pound-cost averaging.
Committing to making regular contributions
Regular savings and investment schemes can be an effective way to benefit from pound-cost averaging and they instil a savings habit by committing you to making regular monthly contributions. They are especially useful for small investors who want to put away a little each month.
Investors with an established portfolio might also use this type of savings vehicle to build exposure a little at a time to higher-risk areas of a particular market.
Averaging out the price you pay for market volatility
The same strategy can be used by lump sum investors too. Most fund management companies will give you the option of drip-feeding your lump sum investment into funds in regular amounts. By effectively 'spreading' your investment by making smaller contributions on a regular basis, you could help to average out the price you pay for market volatility.
Giving your savings a valuable boost
Any costs involved in making the regular investments will reduce the benefits of pound-cost averaging (depending on the size of the charge relative to the size of the investment and the frequency of investing). As the years go by, it is likely that you will be able to increase the amount you invest each month, which would give your savings a valuable boost. ν
Levels and bases of and reliefs from taxation are subject to legislative change and their value depends on the individual circumstances of the investor. The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invested.
Choosing the correct Ethical or Socially Responsible investments will depend on your own beliefs and values. A starting point is to use a screening process.This will help you to analyse which types of industries and companies they would like to either include or exclude.
There are primarily two types of screening, positive and negative.
The process of Negative Screening excludes investments that you might consider undesirable. For example you might want to exclude some of the following:
Positive screening helps to identify the businesses that demonstrate the potential to offer good quality, long-term ethical investment opportunities. The positive screening process will help you to avoid businesses that could encounter problems as their day to day operations might not be sustainable in the long term. Positive Screening might include companies involved with
By employing active shareholder engagement it is possible for shareholders and fund managers to encourage a more corporate and social business approach.
It makes sense to consider investing into companies that have the foresight and willingness to adapt.
Anyone seeking evidence that investment decisions can be hard often needs to look no further than the front page news. China, oil, VW and Glencore are among the assets that have made the headlines in the past few months after suffering sudden, unexpected and dramatic changes in price.
Investors with exposure to those volatile assets might be licking their wounds and reconsidering their positions. This is because many investors have an investment strategy that relies on their (or someone else’s) forecasts about the future. In the simplest terms, their starting point is a blank sheet of paper, where they build a portfolio of assets they think will do better than the alternatives. Sometimes those decisions are right; sometimes they are wrong.
We have a different starting point. Our investment philosophy is based on things we know rather than things we don’t know. For example, we know that financial markets do a good job of setting prices, so we don’t try to second-guess them. Instead, we begin with the belief that investors will, on average and over time, receive a fair return for investing their money.
Our aim is to give our clients access to that long-term return through broadly diversified, low-cost portfolios of assets that aim to beat the market average. The portfolios do this by using information in market prices that tells us about a security’s characteristics and its expected future returns.
The decisions we make about what assets to hold are based on decades of academic research rather than short-term hunches. This means we can focus on meeting your long-term goals rather than becoming absorbed by short-term market movements.
Generally speaking, investment decisions are hard, but if, like us, you start with information you know is backed by decades of evidence and build an investment philosophy and strategy around it, we think you can improve your chances of being a successful investor.
When we talk about the way we invest you might hear us saying we believe prices are fair; that we believe in the power of markets; or that we believe there is information in stock market prices. These are different ways of saying largely the same thing—that we believe the market does a good job of incorporating information into prices.
For example, when a company reports its quarterly results to the market, there is often a near-instantaneous change in price as the market reassesses how the new information changes the company’s future earning capability.
To understand more deeply what is going on in the stock market we can think of how another market, the market for bets on English Premier League, operated this season.
You will undoubtedly have heard that Leicester City won the league, a remarkable feat considering they were close to relegation last season and started this season with some bookmakers offering odds of 5000-1 on them becoming champions. Bookmakers considered the event as likely as finding Elvis alive, with an implied probability of 0.02% (zero). One cheeky bookmaker scrawled “pigs might fly” on an optimistic punter’s betting slip.
As the season progressed, however, bookmakers quickly revised their odds every time new price-sensitive information came to light. That new information reflected not only Leicester’s (sometimes unlikely) results but also the results of their title challengers, which of course had significant effect on Leicester’s chances. By Christmas, the odds had fallen to 10-1 and by mid-March they were 10/11 odds-on favourites.
Stock Market prices are forward-looking in the same way betting odds are an expression of the likelihood of a future event occurring. Throughout the season, bookmakers were pricing and repricing their expectation of Leicester lifting the trophy in the same way a market does when it collectively arrives at a security’s price. Company results, competitor’s results and a seemingly infinite number of other outside influences combine to set expectations of future security returns.
Our investment approach harnesses this collective knowledge and enables us to build investment portfolios that put the power of the market to work for you.
Click this link for more information on market efficiency and stock prices
Over the month weeks and months, we are looking to improve the personal finance portal (PFP) for our clients. The first stage is to introduce a live chat, audio and video service whilst clients are logged into PFP. This is the first level of improvements we will be making over the coming months. The live chat service is safe and secure.
Quite often friends and clients ask me about the best pension plans and I can understand. Pensions are complicated, even more so since Pensions Freedoms came into play.Successive Governments have tinkered with the pension rules and regulations time and time again. I started in the Financial Services Industry in 1984 and I can say each year the government has made some sort of change. Sometimes for the better or worse, but usually it adds another layer of complication. Terms such as Lifetime allowance, Fixed Protection, Capped and Flexi Access Drawdown are technical terms that generally confuse the public.In its simplest form a pension is a savings contract with tax breaks written under pension rules.