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Author, Andrew Sheldon

Global Mining Investing is a reference eBook to teach investors how to think and act as investors with a underlying theme of managing risk. The book touches on a huge amount of content which heavily relies on knowledge that can only be obtained through experience...The text was engaging, as I knew the valuable outcome was to be a better thinker and investor.

While some books (such as Coulson’s An Insider’s Guide to the Mining Sector) focus on one particular commodity this book (Global Mining Investing) attempts (and does well) to cover all types of mining and commodities.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why the 'buy & hold' strategy is flawed

I was having a discussion with a guy on a Japanese bulletin board - a useful reference if you are going to Japan. His argument was:

[QUOTE=Gaijin 06] I disagree with your assertion that the buy and hold strategy has had it's day. I fundamentally disagree with this as no amount of technical analysis nor fundamental analysis can accurately predict market highs or lows.

My response is that you must have fundamental or technical reasons for buying a security. On what basis can you buy a security - if not based on fundamental or technical reasons, better still a combination of both. There is utterly no reality to the 'buy & hold' strategy. You might as well have been throwing dice. The strategy worked marvellously for the last 20 years because markets, credit and globalisation was growing. But as we know, cycles go up & down. The problem is that people have been on a good think as far as 'easy money' is concerned, that they think 'this cycle is different', that our central bankers have conjured up this magnificent system which allows you to make endless profits. These 'true believers' will be the last to sell in the panic, and sadly at the bottom. They have lost perspective. Its a reality that the biggest transfer of wealth occurs during economic downturns, not to mention the biggest destruction of wealth. Thats destruction of wealth is more pernicious than the monetary loss because its changing people's consumption patterns from optimism to pessimism. Thats why crashes hurt. But people forget the pain, and a great many have not felt it. They think the Asian Currency Crisis was bad. :) The central banks just pumped money into the economy. There is no solution to prevent inflation. Monetary discipline (prevention) is the only cure. Thats why the central bank strategy of targeting 'low inflation' is really just fluff because the government measures inflation and its setting policy on symptoms which lag rather than preventing the cause.
This economic expansion is based on the pernicious creation of credit on a scale as never before. There will be a crash and it will be bigger than any other precisely because there is so much credit. Thats not to say that economic prosperity was a total distortion. There was real gains in productivity, there was the creation of factories and so forth, but to a large degree your propensity to spend has been driven by easy money, and that will eventually be curtailed by rising wages. There is already inflation, its just financial markets have no interest in seeing it as long as you dont see it. And you have no interest in seeing it as long as your house is increasing in value by $20-50K per year, offering tax cuts, or you are gainfully employed. We are all told that oil and food prices are not good measures for the CPI because they are volatile/seasonal, so they are excluded (nevermind that they have a seasonally adjusted index), but it has suited politicians to include rent because you ensure high vacancy rates by building houses. It suits them to include qualitative fudge factors to lower 'real prices' because your hard disk is 100x faster, never mind that thats a productivity benefit (double counting) or that you might not even use the capacity. But it is true that less metal is being used to make a CPU - yet metal prices are up 400% regardless.
Credit creation arises because commercial banks have the capability of creating money through debt creation. Money was once an asset in itself - under the gold standard. Now its a claim on others incomes in the form of tax receipts, which dont even pay the US interest on its federal debt, and private debt is only partially backed by assets, which includes 'dubious assets' called debt securities, which are claims on others, based on their ability to pay. In some cases these are protected by derivatives, which are securities which protect your downside, except the fact that their counterparty has unlimited exposure, and his security is even more 'dubious assets' called debt securities. It might comfort you that their institutional exposure to these financial instruments is balanced, but the problem is, not all counterparties are of equal standing. It was only 5 years ago that the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) even talked about regulating derivatives. Its not discussed, but the major players in derivatives are the some of the same players (the likes of J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs) that own the Federal Reserve - that private bank that most people think is the US government.
Many economists believe inflation can be controlled by demand simply raising rates. But the serious rise in interest rates in the 1980s by Fed Chair Paul Volcker disproved that. Volcker did it because he came to realise there is no escaping inflation because its not a demand-phenomena, its a monetary one.
There are reasons why markets go up, and there are reasons why they go down. Its difficult but not hopeless. I pick markets all the time...sadly I dont follow my own thinking on a great many occasions because of 'flawed psychology'. But thats the end of that 'session'. I can demonstrate it to you on this website.
Charts provide the best guide for investors and traders. They will not tell you which stock will offer you the best entry, but they will give you a powerful tool for entering and exiting the market. But you need to watch them, and ACT when your tool suggests you sell. There is a problem with using charts in that often they are 'lagging' signals, which is why I prefer chart patterns than the indicators like Moving Averages (MAV), Bollinger Bands. The reason I dont want to lag is that I dont want to miss out on upside and the possibility of an announcement-driven recovery. Corrections are quick - I think you need to use short term charts for short term decision making. Perhaps use a volatility index to gauge when you should use a short or long term chart trading solution.
My experience is that charts give you very good basis of picking direction - better than pot luck. The challenge is watching them if you are busy. And you must apply the discipline of applying them. If I expect the market to move in a certain direction based on fundamentals, take a position, but if the charts prove you wrong, follow the charts until they prove you are right, or your fundamentals appraisal is changed. Some times when the charts are coming off a very long term uptrend which has alot of support, I get very excited and maximise my exposure. But a time will come when that long term trend will be broken, and it will be convincingly so. Thats why its good for you to know when those turning points are coming, and thats why it would be good for you to focus on those 'critical moments' because alot of professional traders managing alot more money than you will be. The best way to handle these situations is to have good charting software and to use alerts to monitor your stocks and important indices. But always look at your reasons for buying and the charts before you sell, and focus on short term charts in those critical moments....if you can. If you can't because of work commitments...its a negligible setback in your long term performance and much better than the 'buy and hold' strategy that sees you wearing the losses that institutions will be selling into. You need only appreciate that the institutions that tell you to 'buy and hold' are the ones selling to you.
You can take the emotion out of trading by setting and acting on the basis of price alerts set on the basis of chart patterns. Follow your strategy though...dont procrastinate. You can always change your strategy later for 'good reasons'. :)
There will be a few surprises like a few months ago when the Dow broke resistance after establishing a new high. It defied my expectation, but as a result of selling I was cashed up when the charts told me it was about to recover, so I profited greatly from a lower weighted average price. You dont loose your shirt. You dont need to predict highs and lows, just change when the trend changes. eg. A lower low signalling downtrend.
Long term charts dont always provide a good indicator, so its useful to watch shorter term charts. If you have the time, learn about candles and how candle patterns can actually signal changes in trends, eg. Engulfing candles, hangman, etc. Understand chart patterns like flag structures and ascending wedges. You dont need to know fundamentals, but it helps a great deal. Because bad news can wipe 30-70% off the value of a company in minutes because of bad news that cant be determined from chart patterns. eg. A poor result from drilling, a law suit against the company for price manipulation or the withdrawal of a takeover. Thats why its better to have both skills. If you dont, then you need to diversify, and even if you have special insights, its probably prudent to diversify because you will make mistakes, or things you are not told are wrong, or there are things you can't possibly know. If you know what you dont know, then you will sell before it can impact on you. eg. If a company is drilling a project and there is an anticipation of good results, sell before the results are due.

The 'buy & hold' strategy works fine during economic expansions with growing leverage, but in the 1930s, 1950s and 1975-85, equities long term went nowhere for decade-long periods, as profits were eroded by inflation, or because there was excess capacity in the economy. During these periods the 'buy & hold' strategy did not work. Advisors like to recommend it because its easy to sell because it worked for the last 20 years. But in these periods of poor equity market performance my strategy of taking trade gains on the basis of charts was able to deliver investors good profits because their were periods when equities offered a 20-30% gain on average. Thats why you need to keep an eye on trend changes. Look at commodities, they were down for 15years. You need only use a simple chart pattern to give you entries and exits. When you see a commodity moving above a 10-year previous high - thats significant. Gold just broke a 27-year high, so we can expect it to move up much higher. Its not convincing yet, but the upside is huge, the downside is 5%. If I'm wrong and gold doesnt go up, then you take your small loss. Move onto the next opportunity. Maybe the move in gold will come 6mths later. Fine! Take a new position when the charts suggest. You wont profit on every position, but you will do well overall. Was it a short term change of trend or was it a long term trend change? The best buys are based upon long term trends, but when they break, the rally is going to be greater. Now sugar prices are showing positive signs. Precious and agricultural commodities are the flavour of the month.

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