Category: Investing Insight

Investing insight to make you a better investor.

Study reveals why economists suck at making predictions

The ability of forecasters to predict turning points is limited. Forecasts from the official sector, either from national sources or international agencies, are no better at predicting turning points.

So the explanation for why recessions are not forecasted ahead of time lies in three other classes of theories, which are not mutually exclusive.

  • One class says that forecasters do not have enough information to reliably call a recession. Economic models are not reliable enough to predict recessions, or recessions occur because of shocks (e.g. political crises) that are difficult to anticipate.
  • A second class of theories says that forecasters do not have the incentive to predict a recession, which – though not a tail – event are still relatively rare. Included in this class are explanations that rely on asymmetric loss functions: there may be greater loss – reputational and other kinds – for incorrectly calling a recession than benefits from correctly calling one.
  • The third class stresses behavioural reasons for why forecasters hold on to their priors and only revise them slowly and insufficiently in response to incoming information.

A more than a healthy dose of skepticism is always warranted when dealing with these so called “expert forecasts.”

Source: “There will be growth in the spring”: How well do economists predict turning points?

What can Modi do?

The following are excerpts from a recent JP Morgan special report titled “India: elections, markets & the tyranny of economic reality.”

The equity market exuberance, however, appears based on opinion polls increasingly pointing to a stable government post election, and the presumption of a dramatic economic pivot post election that jump starts a new capex cycle.

EM India Flow

The broad hope is that a positive cycle can be unleashed if projects get unclogged, increasing cash flow for infra companies (which account for 30% of stressed loans), enabling loan repayments, and healing bank balance sheets, which can allow a fresh lending cycle to start.

India stalled projects

But the problem is that the vast majority of projects are currently stuck because of issues that are under the purview of state governments, over which the central government has little jurisdiction.

India stalled projects reasons

And even if these problems were magically resolved, where is the money going to come from? Among the BSE-200 non-financials, 17% have operating incomes (before depreciation, interest and taxes) that are less than the perilous threshold of 1.5 times their debt service obligations. So a significant deleveraging would need to be undertaken before these infrastructure companies have the balance sheet strength to finance another investment cycle. This is a multi-quarter process.

India debt to equity

Banks are not in a position to lend. Public sector banks – which account for 70% of banking sector assets – are saddled with the overwhelming majority of impaired loans, and would need a significant quantum of capital injection by the government – far in excess of what has been budgeted – to finance any large pick-up in credit growth.

India bad loans

Given the economic reality on the ground, the translation from political stability to economic performance is likely to be far more lagged, incomplete and uncertain than the current market euphoria may be betraying.

IPOs Revisited

IPO performance

We had come out with the StockViz 5-day rule for IPOs back in July-2012 which basically stated that “if it [the stock] doesn’t pop within the first 5 days, chances are that it never will.” And subsequent performance of IPOs have validated that rule.

Since August-2012, there have been 53 IPOs, of which only 2 have made any real money for investors over the long-term: JUSTDIAL and REPCOHOME. Here’s how the 5-,10-,20-,50-,100-,200-day average return for IPOs look like, juxtaposed on the NIFTYBEES ETF return:


The IPOs that made money were not slam-dunks either. Here’s a splattering of commentary on Just Dial:

  • Hindu Business Line: Avoid (source)
  • Economic Times: Avoid (source)
  • Aditya Birla Money: Avoid (source)
  • Microsec: Seems unattractive, subscribe for listing gains (source)
  • HDFC Securities: Avoid (source)
  • GEPL Capital: Subscribe (source)
  • VS Fernando: Avoid (source)

There simply isn’t enough information about the company to evaluate whether the stock is a good investment or not at the time of the IPO. However, if you followed the rule, you would have cut your losses and retained the winners.

When it comes to investing in IPOs, remember the StockViz 5-day rule!

[stockquote]JUSTDIAL[/stockquote] [stockquote]REPCOHOME[/stockquote]

The answer is that there is no answer

Here are a bunch of excerpts from articles I have been reading that might sway you to conclude that all investment managers are bipolar masochists.

Howard Marks

The truth is, almost everything about superior investing is a two edged sword:

  • If you invest, you will lose money if the market declines.
  • If you don’t invest, you will miss out on gains if the market rises.
  • Market timing will add value if it is done right.
  • Buy-and-hold will produce better results if timing can’t be done right.
  • Aggressiveness will help when the market rises but hurt when it falls.
  • Defensiveness will help when the market falls but hurt when it rises.
  • If you concentrate your portfolio, your mistakes will kill you.
  • If you diversify, the payoff from your successes will be diminished.
  • If you employ leverage, your successes will be magnified.
  • If you employ leverage, your mistakes will be magnified.

Source: Dare to be Great II

Cam Hui

Value works. Growth works. Momentum works. Quality works. They just don’t all work at the same time. A combination of these factors work most of the time, but there are times when a single factor is dominant.

You have to be able to recognize the regime shifts and deploy the right combination of models out of your toolkit accordingly.

Source: A quant lesson from a technician

Herb Greenberg

The worst mistakes often come from being too smart for your own good, especially when putting too much trust in your experience, perspective and instincts.

Lessons learnt:

  1. The rules of retail can indeed be broken.
  2. Never count on the insular feeling of superiority of big, lumbering companies to catch a trend.
  3. Don’t overlook the obvious.
  4. As long as a company has a product customers fall head-over-heels for, the economics don’t matter until the growth stops.
  5. Good execution and a charismatic, brilliant CEO trump making money.

Source: My Worst Mistakes

Post-hoc Technical Analysis

Michael Harris over at Price Action Lab:

Saying that “if these levels hold prices will rise and if they do not, prices will fall”, is a statement that confuses event order. Price moves first and then we decide whether some level or indicator was violated. If a level does not hold, it is because price already moved below it or above it. It is not the other way around.
In technical analysis, use of any derivative of price, including support and resistance levels, indicators or patterns, is often useless, unless there is a measure of the probability of some event. Otherwise, just describing these levels is either only stating the facts or it is naive analysis due to ignorance.

Source: Technical Analysts Who Have Their Cake and Eat it Too