In researching financial markets, investment trends and investor behavior, we leave no stone unturned to bring you a thoughtful, well-informed point of view.

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THE SUM


Knowledge + care + discipline bring you peace of mind


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FANG, Indexing and Mystery Meat

Our spirited political environment now may include debate over the definition of what constitutes “news,” but this is not new. In Hollywood, public relations hype precedes every new supposed blockbuster. In sports, endless analysis precedes each week’s Game of the Century. In the investment world, repeated stories assess whether active investment managers as a group beat their index benchmarks.

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The Magic Window

Imagine you have a window in your house. Whenever you look through the window, you see only what you desire. Is having that window a good thing or a bad thing?

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Why Does Anyone Pay Attention to These People?

Optimism is supposed to be a virtue, and nowhere is this virtue stronger than Wall Street. Market strategists most commonly assess stock index valuation by comparing current prices to the level of future earnings predicted by the consensus of investment analysts. Stock prices are supposed to discount the present value of everything we expect is coming. Why pay attention to the past when what matters is the future

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Dow 20,000 – A Brief History of Magic Market Levels

Investors obsessively focus on round numbers for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. More than half a century ago, in late 1965, Wall Street breathlessly observed the Dow approach 1,000. In both January and February 1966, the index surpassed the magic level intraday, only to slip back by the market close. A bear market ensued, shaving a quarter off the index value, and excitement subsided.

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Prediction Addiction

You would think that 2016, above all other years, would have cured people of seeking predictions of the future, even leaving aside the Chicago Cubs. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump won the presidency, neither predicted by Las Vegas betting lines, political polls or prediction futures markets. Despite having failed in every possible way they could fail during the political season, pundits now confidently predict the aftermath. New Year’s predictions abound.

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Annual Chart through 2016

Below is our annual listing of different asset returns (large U.S. stocks, small U.S. stocks, foreign stocks and U.S. bonds) with a box around the best-returning asset for each of the past 51 years.  The 2016 winner was small large company U.S. stocks, by far the worst of the four assets, and therefore the most in disfavor, the previous year.  The ebb and flow of each asset’s returns show that good years may just be “borrowing” future returns.  Just about the time you fall in love with an asset, it is about to under-perform.  Everyone’s attention is on large U.S. stocks now, but they have been the best fewer times than the other three.  Rather than being disappointed by the market’s inability to conform to our predictions, we act to adapt our investments to maximize the chances of achieving realistic goals.

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No Country For Bold Men

In Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men, killer-for-hire Anton Chigurh gives some victims a chance to escape their fate by calling heads or tails on the flip of a coin. We all have made bets on the flip of a coin, so the excruciating suspense in the novel is not the result of the probabilities but from what is at stake.

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Stability Creates Instability

Talk to anyone baby-boomer age or older about families and you will hear complaints about the extremes modern parents go to protect their children. Today’s toddlers will never get a bruised face from a coffee table at home, because a rubber bumper surrounds the edges.

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Layers of Deception

Each significant financial market downturn reveals the excesses of the previous boom, including a number of scams and frauds. The exposure of these deceits in turn leads to the unflattering portrayals of the financial services industry in the media and further attempts to increase regulation.

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Annual Chart through 2015

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