Stocks aren’t Bad, they’re just not Good

When we’re doing our due diligence on an Alternative Investment, one of the first questions we ask managers, is what are the market environments in which the program struggles to find returns. And once we get into when they’re likely to do poorly, we then analyze just what that poor performance looks like.  In essence – how bad is it when it’s bad?

Does everyone/anyone who tracks the stock market with low cost index tracking ETFs do the same? With stocks all but flat since mid-way through 2014, some investors are starting to question where the returns are, rightly so. But the stock indices aren’t human. We can’t tell them to try a little harder. Or go for a moonshot. Or shake off the rust and get back into the game. No, the stock indices are a rule based investment model.

So while pundits and economists are grasping at straws to identify the problem, we’re more apt to ask the manager of the investment model “Why is the current market making it difficult for your trading model to find returns?”

We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, stock indices like the S&P 500 are a trading system; or if you prefer a set of investment rules or stock picking model. Look no further than Winton Capital’s CEO on the matter. We really couldn’t have said it better.

Harding: “The S&P 500 is a trading system. The S&P 500 is a set of rules for buying and selling stocks. And by the way… not a very good one!

Think about this for a second. If you took the S&P 500’s monthly returns and put them under some sophisticated sounding hedge fund name, everyone would tell you the drawdowns are too large and last too long, while the annualized volatility is too high for the performance it generates. There would be a Bloomberg article demonizing the system for large drawdowns and for tricking investors.

And what’s worse, this model is a one trick pony. It’s solely focused on one asset class, and only makes money when that asset class goes up. Of course, it does have the Fed doing everything in its power to avoid a 20% drawdown in the markets at the cost of creating a future bubble. Not to mention buybacks are preventing real growth while  3 companies make up 10% of the market’s capitalization.

Put that all together and the S&P 500 is nothing more than an investment model that is high reward-high risk. We dare say, it’s a very basic equity focused hedge fund, choosing which stocks to “own” and which to avoid. To paraphrase Captain Barbossa, “You better start believing in hedge funds Ms. Turner – you’re in one!

Barbossa Ghost Stories

There’s bouts of volatility, drawdowns, and low risk-adjusted returns. But that doesn’t make the most beloved system in the world a bad investment. By all means, take a look at it. There’s a lot to like. Chief among them is probably choosing to align yourself with the majority of investors out there; the government and a huge industry hell-bent on seeing it go up year after year.

The S&P 500 isn’t a bad investment, it’s just not a good one. It will test your nerve, and then test it some more. As a recent post by Reformed Broker noted:

Just because it’s cheap and easy to get exposure to stocks these days, that doesn’t mean it’ll be mentally cheap and easy to stick with them.

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Disclaimer
The performance data displayed herein is compiled from various sources, including BarclayHedge, and reports directly from the advisors. These performance figures should not be relied on independent of the individual advisor's disclosure document, which has important information regarding the method of calculation used, whether or not the performance includes proprietary results, and other important footnotes on the advisor's track record.

Benchmark index performance is for the constituents of that index only, and does not represent the entire universe of possible investments within that asset class. And further, that there can be limitations and biases to indices such as survivorship, self reporting, and instant history.

Managed futures accounts can subject to substantial charges for management and advisory fees. The numbers within this website include all such fees, but it may be necessary for those accounts that are subject to these charges to make substantial trading profits in the future to avoid depletion or exhaustion of their assets.

Investors interested in investing with a managed futures program (excepting those programs which are offered exclusively to qualified eligible persons as that term is defined by CFTC regulation 4.7) will be required to receive and sign off on a disclosure document in compliance with certain CFT rules The disclosure documents contains a complete description of the principal risk factors and each fee to be charged to your account by the CTA, as well as the composite performance of accounts under the CTA's management over at least the most recent five years. Investor interested in investing in any of the programs on this website are urged to carefully read these disclosure documents, including, but not limited to the performance information, before investing in any such programs.

Those investors who are qualified eligible persons as that term is defined by CFTC regulation 4.7 and interested in investing in a program exempt from having to provide a disclosure document and considered by the regulations to be sophisticated enough to understand the risks and be able to interpret the accuracy and completeness of any performance information on their own.

RCM receives a portion of the commodity brokerage commissions you pay in connection with your futures trading and/or a portion of the interest income (if any) earned on an account's assets. The listed manager may also pay RCM a portion of the fees they receive from accounts introduced to them by RCM.

See the full terms of use and risk disclaimer here.

Disclaimer
The performance data displayed herein is compiled from various sources, including BarclayHedge, and reports directly from the advisors. These performance figures should not be relied on independent of the individual advisor's disclosure document, which has important information regarding the method of calculation used, whether or not the performance includes proprietary results, and other important footnotes on the advisor's track record.

Benchmark index performance is for the constituents of that index only, and does not represent the entire universe of possible investments within that asset class. And further, that there can be limitations and biases to indices such as survivorship, self reporting, and instant history.

Managed futures accounts can subject to substantial charges for management and advisory fees. The numbers within this website include all such fees, but it may be necessary for those accounts that are subject to these charges to make substantial trading profits in the future to avoid depletion or exhaustion of their assets.

Investors interested in investing with a managed futures program (excepting those programs which are offered exclusively to qualified eligible persons as that term is defined by CFTC regulation 4.7) will be required to receive and sign off on a disclosure document in compliance with certain CFT rules The disclosure documents contains a complete description of the principal risk factors and each fee to be charged to your account by the CTA, as well as the composite performance of accounts under the CTA's management over at least the most recent five years. Investor interested in investing in any of the programs on this website are urged to carefully read these disclosure documents, including, but not limited to the performance information, before investing in any such programs.

Those investors who are qualified eligible persons as that term is defined by CFTC regulation 4.7 and interested in investing in a program exempt from having to provide a disclosure document and considered by the regulations to be sophisticated enough to understand the risks and be able to interpret the accuracy and completeness of any performance information on their own.

RCM receives a portion of the commodity brokerage commissions you pay in connection with your futures trading and/or a portion of the interest income (if any) earned on an account's assets. The listed manager may also pay RCM a portion of the fees they receive from accounts introduced to them by RCM.

See the full terms of use and risk disclaimer here.