Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A few market-timing/forecasting thoughts...

A friend of mine just got back from an investment committee meeting where he listened to a mutual fund wholesaler forecast low interest rates well into 2016. I attended a presentation recently by a government pension portfolio manager who all but predicted, among other things, a 9% stock market gain for the second half of the year. I read a Seeking Alpha article yesterday that deftly dispelled any notion that the present bull market is anywhere near long in the tooth. Oh, and my investment committee friend also commented on how the fund wholesaler's company was ranked number one by Barron's for its 10 year results (as a fund family).

Pardon my skepticism, but:

As for low interest rates into 2016: They (the people who pay the young man to address investment committees)---believing it'll be good for stocks their assets under management---so want rates to stay low into 2016. So much so that they see low single-digit economic growth, troubles in emerging markets and a walking-dead bond market for many years (well, at least 3) to come. All the bias confirming data they glom onto notwithstanding, making a 3 year interest rate prediction is a very dangerous game to play with other people's money.

As for a 9% gain for the second half of this year: Bless his heart, the pension portfolio manager is so hopeful, and inexperienced---and wanting to please his audience---that he was willing to parrot what he heard that hedge fund guy say the day before on Bloomberg. God help him if that hedge fund guy is wrong!

As for the Seeking Alpha article: The author makes great points, but at the end of the day he's long stocks and needs to be right.

As for the best fund group over the past 10 years: For this one I'd ask the gentleman; "So were you the highest ranked 10 years ago?" (That would be a no btw.) "Oh, so who was the best?"  (He wouldn't know---but let's say he did.) "Oh, and where did they rank for the past 10?" (Not near number one [I'm speculating from experience] btw.) "Oh, so I guess we better stay away from you guys then." My point: 10 year mutual fund track records are almost worthless. There's absolutely no reason to believe that the number one strategy for 10 years (could've been 3 or 4 phenomenal years which produced the best average over 10) will remain such going forward. The odds of a mere human fund manager possessing the insight, and humility (after having been the best for 10 years), to know when the old strategy's luck has run out---and what to do to remain number one going forward---are, well, you tell me.

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