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. 

What about Daddy Cool? 

Boney M sang this blockbuster hit in the ’70s.

I’m sure you’ve heard it, because it’s still the rage. 

he’s crazy like a fool – what about daddy cool? 

Who’s Daddy Cool? 

You tell me. 

Is it you, in a cool cucumber moment, slow to respond to stimulus, devoid of anger, master of your situation in a kinda non-bossy, non-micro-managing (cool) way? 

And what of Mr. Hyde’s Dr. Jekyll nature? 

We’re talking about your “like a fool” moment.

Just for your information, winning behaviour is often termed foolish by the crowd. 

Contrarian investing is one such example. 

Successful derivative trading is another. 

To cap it, let’s not even talk about private equity in real-estate. 

Did someone mention high-yield structured-debt? 

There are many examples of “foolish” behaviour. 

These same examples earn very well. 

So… 

… how do we do it? 

We maintain our cool. 

We keep all basics going, as they are. 

With a small portion of our surplus, we take calculated risks, in a controlled environment. 

Sure, these risks will appear foolish to someone on the outside. 

However, our controlled environment has installed riders for our safety. 

A balance-sheet might be stressed, but not stressed enough for bankruptcy. 

A lock-in might be ultra-short. 

A stop-loss might be in place. 

Collateral might be up to 4x.

There might be a highly reputed Trustee in between. 

What have you.

Have your Daddy Cool fool-moments. 

Take some calculated risks with small portions of your surplus. 

These should give your portfolios an extra-boost. 

And What’s so Special about Forex?

Imagine in your mind …

… the freedom to trade exactly like you want to.

Is there any market in the world which allows you complete freedom?

Equity? Naehhh. Lots of issues. Liquidity. Closes late-afternoon, leaving you hanging till the next open, unless you’re day-trading. Who wants to watch the terminal all day? Next open is without your stop. Then there’s rigging. Syndicates. Inside info. Tips. Equity comes with lot of baggage. I still like it, and am in it. It doesn’t give me complete freedom, though. I live with what I get, because equity does give me is a kick.

Debt market? A little boring, perhaps. Lock-ins.

Commodities? You wanna take delivery? What if you forget to square-off a contract? Will you be buying the kilo of Gold? Ha, ha, ha…

Arbitrage? Glued to screen all day. No like. Same goes for any other form of day-trading.

Mutual Funds. Issues. Fees. Sometimes, lock-ins. MFs can’t hold on to investments if investors want to cash out. Similarly, MFs can’t exit properly if investors want to hang on. And, you know how the public is. It wants to enter at the peak and cash out at the bottom. 

Private Equity? Do you like black boxes? You drive your car? Do you know how it functions? You still drive it, right? So why can’t you play PE? Some can. Those who are uncomfortable with black boxes can’t. 

CDOs? @#$!*()_&&%##@.

Real Estate? Hassles. Slimy market. Sleaze. Black money. Government officials. Bribery. No like.

Venture Cap? Extreme due diligence required. Visits. Traveling. The need to dig very deep. Deep pockets. Extreme risk. No. 

Forex? 24 hr market. Order feed is good till cancelled. Stops don’t vanish over weekends. Stops can be pin-pointedly defined, and you can even get them to move up or down with the underlying, in tandem or in spurts. You can feed in profit-booking mechanisms too, and that too pin-pointedly. You watch about 10-11 currency pairs; you can watch more if you want to. 10-11 is good, though. You can watch 4, or even 2 or 1, up to you. Platforms are stupendous, versatile, malleable, and absolutely free of charge. You can trade off the chart. Liquidity? So much liquidity, that you’ll redefine the word. No rigging – market’s just too large. The large numbers make natural algorithms like Fibonacci work. Technicals? Man, paradise for technicals. Spreads? So wafer thin, that you barely lose anything on commissions. Oh, btw, spreads are treated as commissions in forex; there’s no other commission. Money management? As defined as you want it to be. Magnitude? As small or as large as you want to play? Comfort? You make your morning tea, sip it, open your platform, feed in orders with trigger-entry, stop and limit, and then forget about the forex market for the rest of the day, or till you want to see what’s happening. Yeah, comfort. Challenge? You’re playing with the biggest institutions in the world. What could be more challenging? I could go on. You’re getting the gist. 

Yeah.

Forex is a very special market. 

Also, the forex market is absolutely accessible to you, online. 

If you decide to enter it one day, play on a practice account till you feel you’re ready for a real account. 

If and when you do start with a real account, for heaven’s sake start with a micro account, where 1 pip is equal to 0.1 USD. 

🙂

 

 

 

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!

🙂