investment selection

Two Economists

© Can Stock Photo / skaron

The story goes like this. Two economists are walking down the street. One says, “Look! A $20 bill, just lying there!” and reaches to pick it up. The other says, “You fool! If that was really a $20 bill, somebody would have picked it up already.”

The underpinnings of this joke might be what is called the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, or EMH. It holds that all available information is already in the price of every security, so it is not possible to ‘beat the market.’ Related notions include the idea that investment selection does not matter, only the asset class or investment allocation.

Of course, our experience tells us that at times, certain investments do get mispriced. Condos in Las Vegas in 2007, tech stocks during the dot-com era, oil at $140 per barrel in 2008: all of these things seem to be examples of when the market was not efficient at all.

At these times, consensus expectations drifted far from the unfolding reality. “You can’t lose money in real estate” and “We’re in a new era, tech stock valuations don’t matter” and “Oil will never trade below $100 again” were the refrains of those faulty expectations. You may remember them.

Of course, we believe that the crowd can be wrong. That space between consensus expectations and the unfolding reality is where profit potential lives. One of our jobs is to try to find those exploitable anomalies and invest in them. Another is to go against the crowd when we believe it is wrong.

The simple rule, ‘never join a stampede in the markets,’ is one way we express this.

As a consequence, looking at the world with our own eyes, doing our own research, finding our own conclusions, this is what we do at 228 Main. It takes some courage to go against the crowd, to take unpopular actions, to stick with our strategies even when they require more patience than we had planned on. You and we are in this together: without your persistence, we could not do what we do over the long haul.

Hopefully from time to time we will find those $20 bills that others do not believe in.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Fall 2019 Market Themes

canstockphoto11584177

We believe potential investment gains live in the gap between the unfolding reality and consensus expectations. Often, this means finding undervalued companies in unpopular industries. The theory is, if the future turns out better than expected, values may rise. No guarantees, of course.

We look for promising investments by studying opportunities in detail, reading annual reports, SEC filings, analyst commentary, and doing our own arithmetic.

Although we look at individual companies, we often find themes in our list. Our current Buy List has certain points of emphasis.

Natural resources continue to attract us. Producers of copper may do well in the years and decades ahead, as solar and wind power and batteries combine in a new energy revolution. These things require copper for their manufacture. Companies that mine precious metals may do well in an environment of political and economic uncertainty.

Shares in biotech companies do not seem to reflect the potential for continuing dramatic strides in treatment and cure of disease. They sell at a discount to the market multiple; some offer dividend income.

The price of airline stocks have slipped, over fears of recession. We believe the current share prices more than adequately discount that possibility. And recessions are followed by recoveries (at least, they always have been).

Owning the largest company in a highly fragmented industry has sometimes been a good recipe for investors in the past. As industries consolidate, the bigger players often get bigger by acquisition of smaller companies. This may give them a growth rate in excess of the overall economy. We see opportunities in this concept.

We continue to be struck by the performance gap between international equity markets and the US, going back a decade. Overseas diversification makes increasing sense to us.

Our list includes other things as well, but each of these themes is well represented. We believe picking our spots, and paying attention to the fine points, is the right approach.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets.

The economic forecasts set forth in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

The payment of dividends is not guaranteed. Companies may reduce or eliminate the payment of dividends at any given time.