Equity – The New Normal for Parking

Who’s the biggest…

…Ponzi…

…of them all?

Insurance companies?

There’s someone bigger.

The government. 

Legit.

Probably not going to go bust…

…at least in a hurry. 

Moves money from A to B…

…with minimum accountability. 

Resurrects skeletons and gives them infinite leases of life…

…with good, clean and fresh funds…

…that flow out of the pockets of helpless citizens. 

So, what about the government’s bond?

Sovereign debt.

The herd is flowing to sovereign debt, and to some extent to 100% AAA max 3 month paper duration liquid funds. 

This is after the johnnies at FT India miscalculated big-time, and had to wind-up six debt mutual fund schemes in their repertoire.

Should one do what the herd is doing?

Let’s break this down. 

First up, the herd exited credit-risk funds en-masse, post FT India’s announcement. Logical? Maybe. Safety and all that. Took a hit on the NAV, due to massive redemptions. I’m guesstimating something to the tune of 3%+. 

This seems fine, given the circumstances. Would have done the same thing, had I been in credit-risk. Perhaps earlier than the herd. Hopefully. No one likes a 3%+ hit on the NAV within a day or two.

Let’s look at the next step.

Sovereign debt is not everyone’s cup of tea. 

Especially the long-term papers, oh, they can move. 3% moves in a day are not unknown. 13-17% moves in a year are also not unknown. A commoner from the herd would go into shock, were he or she to encounter a big move day to the downside in the GILT (Government of India Long Term) bond segment. Then he or she would commit the blunder of cashing out of GILT when 10% down in 6 months, should such a situation arise. This is absolutely conceivable. Has happened. Will happen. Again.

There are a lot of experts advocating GILT smugly, at this time. They’re experts. They can probably deal with the nuances of GILT. The herd individual – very probably – CAN’T. The expert announces. Herd follows. There comes a crisis that affects GILT. Expert has probably exited GILT shortly before the onset of crisis. Herd is left hanging. Let’s say GILT tanks big time. Herd starts exiting GILT, making it fall further. Expert enters GILT, yeah – huge buying opportunity generated for expert.

More savvy and cautious investors who don’t wish to be saddled with the day to day tension of GILT, and who were earlier in credit-risk, are switching to liquid funds holding 100% AAA rated papers.

Sure. 

This is probably not a herd. Or is it?

Returns in the 100% AAA liquid fund category are lesser. Safety is more. How much are the returns lesser by? Around 1.5 to 2% lesser than ultra-short, floating-rate and low-duration funds. 

Ultra-short, floating-rate and low-duration funds all fall under a category of short-term debt which people are simply ignoring and jumping over, because apart from their large size of AAA holdings, a chunk of their holdings are still AA, and a small portion could be only A rated (sometimes along with another smallish portion allocated in – yes – even sovereign debt – for some of the mutual funds in this category).

The question that needs to be asked is this – Are quality funds in the category of ultra-short, floating-rate and low-duration funds carrying dicey papers that could default – to the tune of more than 2%?

There’s been a rejuggling of portfolios. Whatever this number was, it has lessened.

The next question is, if push comes to shove, how differently are 100% AAA holdings going to be treated in comparison to compositions of – let’s say – 60% AAA, 30% AA and 10% A?

I do believe that a shock wave would throw both categories out of whack, since corporate AAA is still not sovereign debt, and the herd is not going to give it the same adulation. 

The impact of such shock wave to 100 % AAA will still be sizeable (though lesser) when compared to its cousin category with some AA and a slice of A. Does the 2% difference in returns now nullify the safety edge of 100% AAA?

Also, not all corporate AAA is “safe”. 

Then, if nobody’s lending to the lower rung in the ratings ladder, should such industry just pack up its bags? If the Government allows this to happen, it probably won’t get re-elected.

The decision to remain in this category encompassing ultra-short, floating-rate and low-duration bond mutual funds, or to switch to 100% AAA short-term liquid funds, is separated by a very thin line

Those who follow holdings and developments on a day to day basis, themselves or through their advisors, can still venture to stay in the former category. The day one feels uncomfortable enough, one can switch to 100% AAA. 

This brings us to the last questions in this piece. 

Why go through the whole rigmarole?

Pack up the bond segment for oneself?

Move completely to fixed deposits?

Fine.

Just a sec.

What happens if the government issues a writ disallowing breaking of FDs above a certain amount, in the future, at a time when you need your money the most?

Please don’t say that such a thing can’t happen.

Remember Yes bank?

What if FD breakage is disallowed for all banks, and you don’t have access to your funds, right when you need them?

Sure, of course it won’t happen. But what if it does?

You could flip the same kind of question towards me. What happens if the debt fund I’m in – whether ultra-short, or floating-rate, or low-duration, or liquid – what happens if the fund packs up?

My answer is – I’ve chosen quality. If quality packs up 100%, it’ll be a doomsday scenario, on which FDs will also be frozen dear (how do you know they won’t be?), and GILTs could well have a 10%+ down-day, and, such doomsday scenario could very probably bring a freeze on further redemptions from GILT too. When the sky is falling, no one’s a VIP.

Parked money needs to be safe-guarded as you would a child,…

…and,…

…there spring up question marks in all debt-market categories,…

…so,…

…as Equity players, where do we stand?

Keep traversing the jungle, avoiding pitfalls to the best of one’s ability. 

How long?

Till one is fully invested in Equity. 

Keep moving on. A few daggers will hit a portion of one’s parked funds. Think of this as slippage, or as opportunity-cost. 

Let’s try and limit the hit to as small a portion of one’s parked funds as possible. Let’s ignore what the herd is doing, make up our own mind, and be comfortable with whatever decision we are taking, before we implement the decision. Let’s use our common-sense. Let’s watch Debt. Watch it more than one would watch one’s Equity. Defeats the purpose of parking in this segment, I know. That’s why we wish to be 100% in Equity, parked or what have you, eventually. 

As we keep dodging and moving ahead, over time, the job will be done already.

We’re comfortable with the concept of being fully parked in Equity. 

Whereas the fear of losing even a very small portion of our principal in the segment of Debt might appear overwhelming to us, the idea of losing all of one’s capital in some stocks is not new for us Equity players. We have experienced it. We can deal with it. Why? Because in other stocks, we are going to make multiples, many multiples, over the long-term.

Equity seems to be the new normal for parking

Bonding

As Equity players…

…we enter the bond segment to…

conserve capital.

There is no other reason.

Return?

We do make a slightly better return than a fixed deposit.

We’re not in bonds to make a killing.

That is outlined for the Equity segment.

We’re Equity players, remember. 

I was just going through the top ten holdings of each of FT India’s now “discontinued” (new word for mini-insolvency?) debt funds. (I’m uncertain just now what word they’ve used, was it “stopped”? Or “halted”?) [Just looked up the internet, the words used are “winding up”].

My goodness! 

The fund managers in question wanted to outperform all other funds at the cost of asset-quality. 

Many of these top ten holdings (for six funds, one is looking at six top ten holdings) one would not even have heard of. 

A top ten holding constitutes the backbone of the mutual fund being studied. 

If the backbone is wobbly, the whole structure trembles upon wind exposure. 

This corona black swan is not a wind. It’s a long-drawn out cyclone, to fit the analogy. 

This particular structure has crumbled. 

Fund managers concerned have acted out of greed – that’s the only explanation for above top ten holdings. 

No other explanation comes to my mind. 

That they are also holding large chunks of Yes Bank and Vodafone is more an error in judgement, albeit a grave one. 

People commit errors in judgement.

Could one still overlook the a large chunk’s (10%?) segregation in FT India’s Debt folios, where Yes and Voda bonds have been marked down to zero?

Such a hit is huge in the debt segment.

Why are we in debt?

To conserve capital. 

10% hit in debt?

NO.

Wobbly top ten holdings?

NNOO!

Had no idea that the FT India debt portfolio had so many red-flags. 

Till they dropped the bombshell that they were discontinuing their six debt-funds, from last evening, one had no idea. 

Now that it’s dropped, one digs deep to understand their mistakes.

Why?

One doesn’t want to make the same mistakes. 

One doesn’t want to be invested in any funds in the debt segment which are making the same mistakes.

However, another look at their holdings reassures one that one won’t be making such mistakes, of greed, and of comprehensive failure to read managements and road conditions – in a hurry.

Nevertheless, one wishes to be aware.

Now that one is, all measures will be enhanced to prevent even an inkling of such an outcome for oneself. 

Wait up. 

Such measures were already in place. 

Greed? In bonds? 

We’re in bonds to conserve capital. 

No greed there. 

Top ten holdings?

Rock-solid. 

That’s the fundamental tenet one looks for while entering any mutual fund, whether in the debt or in the equity segment. 

We’re good. 

Remember The Frog Who Lived in a Well?

Paramhans Yogananda once spoke of a frog who lived in a well. 

You see, this frog was visited by his cousin from the ocean, who invited him back to the ocean. Till that point in time, the well-froggy thought his well-world was the ultimate. When the well-froggy entered the ocean, his head exploded. 

Today, I feel like the well-froggy. 

Yeah, I’ve become serious about forex. I’m going to specialize in it. 

I’m already specialised in Indian equities, and am going to seal it off with this second area of specialization.

That’s after a controlled head-explosion, of course. 

Coming from the world of equity, forex feels like a borderless and unlimited party. It also feels very, very special.

Everything’s so enormous. So streamlined. So quality. 24×5. Volume. Paperless. Non-slippage. Pinnacle of technicals and fundamentals. Unparalleled and breaking newsfeed, if you want it … … …

I’m feeling blessed. This line is for me. I can feel it’s challenge. I think I’m cut out for it. I think I’m going to love it.

It’s taken ten years in finance to find this calling. 

I’ve tried everything that finance has to offer. Equity, bonds, derivatives, bullion / metals, commodities, currencies versus the INR, ULIPs, Arbitrage, mutual funds, real-estate, debt, private equity …….., you name it. 

Only pure equity has given me that kick till now. Of course I’m not going to throw it away. I’ll be in pure equity for life. 

And now, yeah, it’s forex on the world stage. 

And look how nature is responding.

It’s already directed me to a mentor. A lot of my thinking is changing. Till today, I’ve done good with just my common-sense in the world of finance. I suppose forex is a bit trickier than that, and that one needs a good mentor in the beginning. 

Wow! A world-class mentor in forex, when one is starting out with the nitty-gritty! That’s a big one!

I’m going to give it back. This blog’s a give-back too. I’m not going to be stopping any word-flow, I can promise you that. 

Cheers!

🙂

 

Where to, Mr. Nath?

Last month, I scrapped my market-play system.

Happens.

Systems are made to be scrapped later.

One can always come up with a new system.

I love working on a new system.

It’s challenging.

What I want to talk to you about is why I scrapped my last system.

I found four accounting frauds, as I did my market research, all online.

You see, my last system worked well with honest accounting.

It had no answer to accounting frauds.

Also, I got disillusioned.

Are we a nation of frauds?

How does one deal with a nation of frauds?

More importantly, how does one play such a nation?

Does one invest in it? Or, does one sheer trade it?

Questions, questions and more questions. These encircle my mind as I work to put my new system together.

I am in no hurry to come up with an answer. A country like India deserves a befitting answer, and that it will get, even if the sky comes down on me while I put my system together.

Slowly, I started to think. How many systems had I scrapped before?

Hmmm, four or five, give or take one or two.

I have an uncompromising market rule of going fully liquid when I scrap a system.

Full liquidity is a tension-tree state. It allows one to think freely and in an unbiased manner. Being invested during volatility impedes one’s ability to think clearly and put a new system together.

Ok, so what answer would my new system have towards fraud?

All along, it was very clear to me that future market activity would be in India itself. Where else does one get such volatility? I am learning to embrace volatility. It is the trader’s best friend.

Right, so, what’s the answer to fraud?

Trading oriented market play – good. Not much investing, really. First thoughts that come to mind.

Buying above supports. Selling below resistances. Only buying above highs in rare cases, and trailing such buys with strict stops. Similarly , only selling below lows in even rarer cases, and again, trailing such sells with strict stops.

Trading light at all times.

Fully deploying the bulk of one’s corpus into secure market avenues like bonds and arbitrage. You see, bonds in India are not toxic. Well, not yet, and with hawks like the RBI and SEBI watching over us, it might take a while before they turn toxic. If and when they do start turning toxic, we’ll be getting out of them, there’s no doubt about that. Till they’re clean, we want their excellent returns, especially as interest rates head downwards. In India, one can get out of bond mutual funds within 24 hrs, with a penalty of a maximum of 1 % of the amount invested. Bearable. The top bond funds have yielded about 13 – 15% over the last 12 months. So, that 1% penalty is fully digestible, believe me.

With the bulk of one’s returns coming from secure avenues, small amounts can be traded. Trade entries are to be made when the odds are really in one’s favour. When risk is high, entry is to be refrained from. A pure and simple answer to fraud? Yes!

You see, after a certain drop, the price has discounted all fraud and then some. That’s one’s entry price for the long side. On the short side, after a phenomenal rise, there comes a price which no amount of goodness in a company can justify and then some. That’s the price we short the company at.

Of course it’s all easier said than done, but at least one thing’s sorted. My outlook has changed. Earlier, I used to fearlessly buy above highs and short below lows. I am going to be more cautious about that now. With fraud in the equation, I want the odds in my favour at all times.

These are the thoughts going on in my mind just now. Talking about them helps them get organized.

You don’t have to listen to my stuff.

I’m quite happy talking to the wall.

Once these words leave me, there’s more space in my system – a kind of a vacuum.

A vacuum attracts flow from elsewhere.

What kind of a flow will my vacuum attract?

Answers will flow in from the ether.

Answers to my burning questions.

So, … … , When’s Judgement Day?

The “fiscal cliff” thingie has come and gone…

Gone?

People, nothing’s gone.

If something is ailing, it needs to heal, right?

What is required for healing?

Remedial medicine, and time.

Let’s say we take the medicine out of the equation.

Now, what’s left is time.

Would the ailing entity heal, given lots of time, but no medicine?

If disease is not so widespread, and can be expunged over time, then yes, there would be healing, provided all disease-instigating factors are abstained from.

Hey, what exactly are we talking about?

It is no secret that most first-world economies are ailing.

Specifically, the US economy was supposed to be injected with healing measures, which were to take effect from the 1st of Jan., ’13. Financial healing would have meant austerity and a more subdued lifestyle. None of that seems to be happening now. The healing process has been deferred to another time in the future, or so it seems.

You see, people, no one wants austerity. The consumption story must go on…

So now, since the medicine’s been taken out of the equation, is there going to be any healing?

No. Disease-instigating lifestyles are still being followed. Savings are low. Debt with the objective of consumption is still high. How can there be any healing?

Under the circumstances, there can’t.

So, what’re we building up to?

We’re all clear about the fact that consumption makes the world go round. What is the hub of the world’s consumption story? The US. That part of the world which does save, and where there is real growth, well, that part rushes to be a part of the consumption story. It produces cheaply, to sell where there’s consumption, and it sells there expensively. Yeah, like this, healthy economies get dragged into an equation with ailing economies. Soon, the entanglement is so deep, that there’s no turning back for the healthy economy. It catches part of the ailment from the diseased economy. Slowly, non-performing assets of banks in such healthy economies start to grow. The disease is spreading.

Hold on, stay with me, we’re not there yet. Yeah, what are we building up to?

Healthy economies take time to get fully diseased. Here, savings are big, domestic manufacturing is on the rise, and there a healthy demographic dividend too. Buffers galore, the immune system of a healthy economy tries to fight the contagion for the longest time. As entanglement increases, though, buffers deplete, and health staggers. Non-performing assets of banks grow to disturbing levels.

That’s what we are looking out for, when we are invested in a healthy economy which has just started to ail. Needless to say, we pulled out our funds from all ailing economies long back. Our funds are definitely not going back to economies which refuse to take medicine, i.e. which don’t want to be healed. Now, the million dollar question is …

… what’s to be done with our funds in a healthy economy which has just started to become diseased due to unavoidable contagion?

Nothing for now. Watch your investments grow. Eventually, since no one is doing enough to stop the damage and the spread, big-time ailment signs will invariably appear in the currently “healthy” economy, signs that appeared a while back in currently ailing economies. Savings will be disappearing, manufacturing will start to go down, and bad-debt will increase. Define your own threshold level, and go into cash once this is crossed. You might not need to take such a step for many years in a row. Then again, you might need to take such a step sooner than you think, because the ailing mother-consumer economy is capable of pulling everyone down with it, if and when it collapses. And it just stopped taking its medicine…

Let’s get back to your funds. In the scenario that you’ve gone into cash because you weren’t confident about the economy you were invested in, well, what then?

Option 1 is to look for an emerging economy that gains your confidence, and to invest your funds there.

Not everyone is comfortable investing abroad. What if you want to remain in your own economy, which you have now classified as diseased. There’s good news for you. Even in a diseased economy, there are pockets of health. You need to become a part of such pockets, just after a bust. So, remain in cash after a high and till after a bust. Then, when there’s blood on the streets, put your money into companies with zero-debt, a healthy dividend-payout record and a sound, diligent and honest management. Yeah, at a time like that, Equity is an instrument of choice that, over time, will pull your funds out of the gloom and doom.

You’ve put your funds with honest and diligent human capital. The human capital element alone will fight the circumstances, and will rise above them. Then, you’ve entered at throwaway prices, when there was blood on the streets. Congrats, you’ve just set yourself up for huge profit-multiples in the future. And, the companies you’ve put your money with, well, every now and then, they shower a dividend upon you. This is your option 2. Just to share with you, this is my option of choice. I like being near my funds. This way, I can observe them more closely, and manage them properly. I suffer from a case of out of sight, out of mind, as far as funds are concerned. Besides, when funds are overseas, time-differences turn one’s life upside down. This is just a personal choice. You need to take your own decision.

At times like this, bonds are not an option, because many companies can cease to exist in the mayhem, taking your investment principal out with them.

Bullion will give a return as long as there is uncertainty and chaos. Let there be prolonged stability, and you’ll see bullion tanking. Yeah, bullion could be option 3 at such a time. You’ll need to pull out when you see signs of prolonged stability approaching, though.

One can use a bust to pick up cheap real-estate in prime localities. Option 4.

You see, you’ve got options as long as you’re sitting on cash. Thus, first, learn to sit on cash.

Before that, learn to come into cash when you see widespread signs of disease.

Best part is, widespread disease will be accompanied by a big boom before the bust, so you’ll have time to go into cash, and will be ready to pick up quality bargains.

You don’t really care when judgement day is, because your investment strategy has already prepared you for it. You know what to do, and are not afraid. If and when it does come, you are going to take full advantage of it.

Bring it on.

Getting Too Comfy For Our Boots, Are We?

What a party we are having in the debt-market, aren’t we?

Exceptional payouts, day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s almost going to be year after year.

Are you getting too comfortable? Lazy, perhaps?

Meaning to say, that when you can get a 10 % return after tax without having to move your behind for it, it is a very welcome scenario, right?

People, scenarios change.

It isn’t always going to be like it is at the moment.

Are you flexible enough to change with the scenario?

Or will you be lost in the current moment, so lost, that you will not recognize the signs of change?

What would be these signs? (Man, this is like spoon-feeding….grrrrrr&#*!).

Inflation begins to fall.

The country’s central bank announces back to back interest rate cuts.

Too lazy to read the paper? Or watch the news? Ok, if nothing else, your online liquid mutual fund statement should tip you off.

How?

The payout, dammit, it will have decreased.

Also, something else starts performing.

What?

Equity.

Smart investors don’t like the debt payout anymore. They start moving their smart money into value equity picks.

Slowly, media stops reporting about a gloomy economy. The buzz gets around. Reforms are on the way.

Foreign direct investment picks up. The media latches on to it. It starts speaking about inflows as if the world begins and ends with inflows.

Now, the cauldron is hot and is getting hotter.

Debt payouts are getting lesser and lesser. Equity is already trending upwards, and has entered the meat of the move.

If the trend contnues, a medium to long-term bull market can result.

There you have it, the chronology played out till just before the start of a bull market of sorts.

Be alert. Recognize the signs early. Be mentally in a position to move out of the debt market, if the prevailing scenario changes.

Otherwise…

… you miss a first run in equity. Boo-hoo. When stocks cool at a peak, and start falling, you make multiple wrong entries into them.

You get hammered by equity, having caught it on the down-swing.

You missed the correct entry time-point in equity because the debt-market made you too comfortable. You were late to act. When you acted, finally, you caught a correction, and took a hammering.

One or two more hammerings like that, and you’ll be off equity for the rest of your life.

And that, my dear friend, would be a pity.

Why?

Because, in mankind’s history, it is stocks that have given the best long-term returns. Not gold, not debt, not bonds, but stocks.

You need to approach them properly, and timing is key.