FOMO anyone?

Sure, buy…

Where were you some days back?

Buying was a breeze, for quite a while. 

Lately, as in, since Tuesday, it’s not so much a breeze. 

Pharmaceuticals are already up to their pre-crisis prices, and IT needs to recover another 10 – 15% and it’s there. 

If this trend continues for another week, we could be talking about an interim recovery. 

Prices haven’t recovered fully, you would argue, right?

Fine. That’s a valid perspective, in the event that you are a long-term investor.

What’s your compromise?

You won’t be getting full margin of safety at these prices. 

Also, on these up days, there’s so much upwards pressure that the bid-ask spread squeezes you generously to the upside. 

A few days back both these avenues were reversed. 

Still want to buy?

Wait for a big down day.

Margin of safety will be slightly better, and downward pressure will let you buy on limit, lucratively set to harness the downward momentum. 

How do we know that a big down day is coming, in the first place?

We don’t.

What if there aren’t any more big down days in the near future?

Wonderful.

Lock your spare funds away safely, and wait patiently for the next shock. 

Waves operate in shocks. 

This is the age of shocks. 

Buy in the aftermath of a shock. 

What if one isn’t able to buy anymore?

Even better.

Lock in whatever you’ve bought, and divert your attention to other activities.

Like?

Trade.

What?

Currency.

Oil.

Bullion.

Energy.

Industrial metals. 

Do something that takes away your attention from your locked in equity.

Why?

That way you will be able to sit without spoiling your compounding that will happen while you sit. 

Just forget about FOMO. Live in the now. Have your job cut out. Wait for the right conditions to appear. Then act.

Are you Saying These are Small Losses, Mr. Nath?

No. 

Everything is taking a hit. 

Sure. 

Hit’s actually in the “Wealth” segment…

…and not as such in the “Income” segment.

Would you like to elaborate on this one, sounds pivotal?

Yes it is exactly that, pivotal. Because of this one fact, I’m talking to you with a straight face.

I see.

Auto-pilot income-creating avenues are still doing what they’re supposed to do, i.e. creating income. Nothing has changed there, yet.

You mean something could change there?

Sure, if companies start going bust, their bonds won’t create income. Instead, principal will take a hit. It’s not come to that yet, at least in India. You have an odd company going bust here and there now and then, but nothing major as of now. Income is intact, for now. If were done with CoVID in two months, this factor might not change. Let’s focus on this scenario. 

Right. 

Secondly, we’re highly liquid. We try and become as liquid as possible during good times, ideally aiming to be 80% in cash before a crisis appears. 

How do you know a crisis is going to appear?

This is the age of crises. A six sigma event has now become the norm. After Corona it will be something else. This has been going on from the time the stock market started. It’s nothing new. Come good times, we start liquidating all the stuff we don’t want. 

Don’t want?

Ya, one changes one’s mind about an underlying down the line. At this point, one shifts this underlying mentally into the “Don’t Want” category. Come good times, one makes the market exit oneself from this entity on a high.

Makes the market exit oneself?

Yes, through trigger-entry of sell order.

Why not just exit on limit?

Then you’ll just sell on the high of that particular day at best. However, through trigger-exit, your sell order will be triggered after a high has been made and the price starts to fall. It won’t be triggered if the underlying closes on a high. That way, if you’re closing on a high, you might get a good run the next day, and then you try the same strategy again, and again. In market frenzies, you might get a five to seven day run, bettering your exit by 15-20%, for example. Who wouldn’t like that?

You talk of market frenzies at a time like this, my dear Sir…

The market is like a rubber band. What were witnessing currently is the opposite pole of a market frenzy. Humans beings are bipolar. If they’re reacting like this, they sure as hell will react like the opposite pole when conditions reverse. Especially in India. We’re brimming with emotions. 

Which brings us back to the initial question…

Yes, these notional losses look huge. But, who’s translating them into actual losses? Not us. We’re busy enhancing our portfolios as multiples get more and more lucrative for purchase. That’s entirely where our focus is. We are numb to pain from the hit because our focus is so shifted. 

And there’s no worry?

With such high levels of liquidity, shift of focus, income tap on, dividend tap on – yeah, please don’t ignore the extra big incoming dividends, underlyings taking a hit currently are paying out stellar dividends, and these big amounts are entering our accounts, because we’ve bought such quality – – – we’re ok.

Stellar would be?

Many underlying have shared double digit dividend yields with their shareholders! That’s huge!

So no worries?

No! We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing, i.e. buying quality. We’ll keep getting extraordinary entries as the fall deepens. 

What if that takes a long-long time?

Well, the year is 2020. We’re all on speed-dial. 18 months in 2020 is like 15 years in 1929. Because we follow the small entry quantum strategy, our liquidity should hold out over such period, providing us entries through and through. 

And what if it’s a four digit bottom on the main benchmark, still no worries?

NO! Look at the STELLAR entry over there. A bluechip bought at that level of the benchmark can be held for life without worries. So yes, NO WORRIES.

Thanks Mr. Nath.

One more thing.

Yes, what’s that?

What’s my maximum downside in an underlying?

100%.

Correct. Now what’s my maximum upside in an underlying?

Ummm, don’t know exactly.

Unlimited. 

Unlimited?

Yes, unlimited. Entries at lucrative levels eventually translate into unreal multiples. Looking at things from this perspective, now, the size of these notional losses pales in comparison to potential return multiples. It’s a combination of psychology, fundamentals, mathematics and what have you. In comparison, these are still small losses. If we can’t take these swings in our side, we shouldn’t be in the markets in the first place, focusing our energies on avenues we’re good at instead.

Right, got it. 

Cheers, here’s wishing you safe and lucrative investing. 

🙂

My Buddy called Compounding

Compounding…

…is my happy space.

When I’m having a difficult market day,…

…I open my calculator…

…and start…

…compounding.

My friend clears all doubts in a flash.

It’s easy to compound on the calc.

In German they’d say “Pippifax”.

The younger tribe in the English-speaking world would say easy peasy…

…(lemon squeasy).

Let me run you through it.

Let’s say you wish to calculate an end amount after 25 years of compounding @ 9 % per annum.

Let z be the initial amount (invested).

The calculation is z * 1.09 ^25.

That’s it.

You don’t have to punch in 25 lines. It’s 1 line.

What if you went wrong on the 18th line?

So 1 line, ok? That’s all.

What’s ^ ?

This symbol stands for “to the power of”.

On your calculator, look for the y to power of x key, and then…

…punch in z * 1.09 (now press y to the power of x)[and then punch in 25].

What does such an exercise do for me?

Meaning, why does this exercise ooze endorphins?

Let’s say I’m investing in sound companies, with zero or very little debt, diligent and shareholder-friendly managements, and into a versatile product profile, looking like existing long into the future, basically meaning that I’m sound on fundamentals.

Let’s say that the stock is down owing to some TDH (TomDicK&Harry) reason, since that’s all it’s taking for a stock to plunge since the beginning of 2018.

I have no control over why this stock is falling.

Because of my small entry quantum strategy, I invest more as this fundamentally sound stock falls.

However, nth re-entry demands some reassurance, and that is given en-masse by the accompanying compounding exercise.

At the back of my mind I know that my money is safe, since fundamentals are crystal clear. At the front-end, Mr. Compounding’s reassurance allows me to pull the trigger.

Let’s run through a one-shot compounding exercise.

How much would a million invested be worth in thirty years, @ 11% per annum compounded.

That’s 1 * 1.11^30 = almost 23 million, that’s a 2300% return in 30 years, or 75%+ per annum non-compounded!

Now let’s say that my stock selection is above average. Let’s assume it is good enough to make 15% per annum compounded, over 30 years.

What’s the million worth now?

1 * 1.15^30 = about 66 million, whoahhh, a 6600% return in 30 years, or 220% per annum non-compounded.

Let’s say I’m really good, perhaps not in the RJ or the WB category, but let’s assume I’m in my own category, calling it the UN category. Let’s further assume that my investment strategy is good enough to yield 20% per annum compounded.

Ya. What’s happened to the million?

1 * 1.20^30 = about 237 million…!! 23700% in 30 years, or 790% per annum non-compounded…

…is out of most ballparks!!!

How can something like this be possible?

It’s called “The Power of Compounding”…,

…most famously so by Mr. Warren Buffett himself.

Try it out!

Pickle your surplus into investment with fundamentally sound strategy.

Sit tight.

Lo, and behold.

🙂

Nadir Non-Focus

Scared to enter?

Things look gloomy?

Forever?

NO.

Look at History.

Markets are where they are despite what’s happened. 

Governments, scams, frauds, bribes, wars, disasters – the list is endless. 

In the end, we are still where we are.

Is that good news?

YES.

What does it mean?

Growth – reflects in the corresponding market – eventually. 

Sure – we might not be growing at 7%+.

We definitely are growing at 5%+, perhaps at 5.5%+.

In a few years, growth could well accelerate.

Why?

Earning hands are growing.

So are aspirations. 

The consumption story in India is alive and kicking. 

What we’re seeing currently is a result of eighteen months of bad news. 

Such a long spate of negative stuff churning out gets the morale down. 

People start letting go of their holdings in despair. 

Maybe there’s another eighteen months of negativity left – who knows. 

That’s not the right question.

Don’t worry yourself about the bottom and when and where it is going to come. 

Why?

Please answer something far more fundamental first.

If you don’t have the courage to go in at this level (with small quanta of course, we do follow the small entry quantum strategy)…

…do you really thing…

…that you will muster up…

…anything remotely resembling courage…

…at a number that is let’s say 20% below current levels?

Gotcha there?

Sometimes, you don’t like it

Sure.

Like now.

Bloodbath in small-caps.

Alleged suicide.

NPAs.

Witch-hunt.

Did you choose Equity as an area of expertise?

Ok, then deal with it.

First up, India’s History is laden with scams.

We are where we are despite these.

Secondly, there’s growth. In other parts of the world, there is not much growth.

India is an emotionally volatile nation.

So are its markets.

Since this is where we act, let’s get used to things.

If you’ve been following the small entry quantum strategy, well, then you’ve got ammunition…

…at a time, when the value of this ammunition is immense…

…because lots of stuff has started to go for a song.

You do feel the pinch though…

… because whatever’s already in, is bleeding.

You don’t like it.

It’s normal.

Going in at a time like this, you will feel pathetic.

However, for your money, you are getting quality at cheap multiples. This will translate into immense long term wealth. Quality at cheap multiples multiplies fast.

Here are a few reasons you should feel ok about going in.

The small entry quantum strategy has rendered you liquid…

…after sorting out your basic family life, income-planning and what have you.

You are going in with money you don’t require for a longish time.

Muster up the courage.

Get over your pinch.

Engage.

Buy quality.

Debt-free-ness.

Shareholder-friendliness.

Generated free cashflow.

Transparency.

Diligent managements.

Product-profile that’s going to be around.

Less dependency on water.

Versatility.

Adaptibility.

Make your own list.

Use the stuff above.

Wishing you lucrative investing with no tears and with lots of smiles.

It Boils Down to Good Governance 

India’s at the Olympics and all. 

We’ve had near misses. 

Sure. 

Athletes qualified fair and square. 

Not a word against India’s squad. 

They’re really trying very hard. One of our gymnasts has even risked her life by vaulting a successful Produnova. Rio-presence is achievement-based, not nepotism-based. It’s tough. It’s incorruptibly monitored. Footfall is highest ever. Indians have made the international cut in many events, like never before. Finishes are all decent. A few finishes are very, very decent, missing the podium by decimals. Our athletes deserve some podium finishes. 

However, what are 80 Indian officials doing in Rio, accompanying a squad of 119? Only a few of these 80 are allowed arena access. The rest are what? Long live the exchequer? We build up the exchequer by paying our taxes. We’d like to see its contents used judiciously. 

Let’s cast a glance at how our officials are conducting themselves at Rio. Actually, we’ll leave it at the official warning they’ve just received to behave themselves. SHAME SHAME. 

Is this good governance? 

NO. 

Do our officials deserve a podium finish?  

No. 

We’ll have to spend where it counts, on facilities, proper diets and trained physios. We’ll have to save on useless paraphernalia. Red-tape be damned. We’ll have to embrace good governance. We do want podium finishes, don’t we?

One looks up to one’s peers. If they’re corrupt, out of shape and / or out of whack, even the best athlete suffers a psychological downer. Our officials will need to trim down and get their acts together. All of them will need to behave like exemplary ambassadors of the country. They will need to give their wards that psychological boost. Coaches will themselves need to be in shape, to set good examples. Podium finishes will then be around the corner. 

Cut to stock-selection. 

The biggest and first thing to look for is good governance. 

Just cut all the nonsense out of the way, first up, because where you find good governance, you won’t find nonsense. 

It all boils down to good governance. 

When Push Comes to Shove 

Genetically… 

… we’re savers. 

Indians. 

Save. 

That’s a good thing. 

Since the ’00s though, our banks have started pushing loans as if there’s no tomorrow.

The motto seems to be : we don’t care who you are, just borrow. If we know who you are, here, borrow some more

That is dangerous policy. 

It sets the stage for a push comes to shove scenario. Savings are being lent further, and they might not come back. 

What counts when push comes to shove? 

Deposits in the bank? No. Gone. 

Real Estate? No. No buyers. No renters. Illiquid stuff just won’t move. 

Equities? No. Dumps. Good entry levels though. No resale value for a while. 

Bonds? Perhaps. Short duration ones, provided underlying doesn’t go under. 

Gold? Yes. Big. 

Trading? Yes. Options, forex, commodities, what have you. 

Cash? Yes. Provided there’s no hyperinflation. Use it for day to day life. Use surplus to acquire great bargains. 

Farmland? Yes. You’re then sorted as far as food and water are concerned. 

Use your imagination. 

Prepare for a push and shove scenario. 

It probably won’t happen. 

However, you’re prepared, just in case. 

Harnessing FD-Power within your Meta-Game

Everyone’s heard of fixed deposits (FDs). 

Are they so non-lucrative?

I believe that in some countries, you need to pay the bank to hold a fixed deposit for you. 

Why does our system shun savings? 

What are savings, actually?

On-call cash. Ready for you when an opportunity arises. 

That’s exactly it. The system doesn’t want you to have ready cash when an opportunity is there. 

Why?

Because finance people have already dibsed on your cash. They want it when opportunity is there. The cash should be available to their institution, not to you.

That’s why, your bankers generally try and get you to commit whatever spare cash floats in your account. They try for commitment towards non-access for a specific period of time.

I don’t know how things are in other parts of the world, but in India, a fixed deposit is still considered ready cash, because one can nullify one’s FD online, in a few seconds. Some banks charge a penalty for such nullification, but this penalty is charged on the interest generated, not on the principal. Therefore, in India, you have access to at least your FD principal (plus a part of the interest generated) when you really need it, all within a few seconds. 

What’s the meta-game here?

You “lock” your money in an FD for one year, for example. Let’s suppose that within that one year, no opportunity arises for you. You cash out with full interest. In India, as of now, if you’re in the top taxation bracket, and are a senior citizen, you’re still left with a return of between 6.6%-6.8% after tax, whereby we are not looking at the effects of inflation here, to keep the example simple, though I know, that we must look at inflation too. We’ll go into inflation some other day. 

Meanwhile, your FD has been on call, for you. Let’s assume that a lucrative investment opportunity does arise within the year, and your break your FD after 6 months, reducing earned interest to 4% annualised from 9.5-9.75% p.a. However, your investment yields you 20% after tax, because it was made at the most opportune moment.

You do the math.

Do you see the inherent power of ready money?

Your FD has thus worked for you in multiple ways. 

It has worked as an interest-generator, yielding a small return. Simultaneously, it has worked as ready cash, on-call in case of opportunity. Should the opportunity arise, and if the investment that follows works out well, a handsome return could be made. It’s all should/could/would in a meta-game. 

There is yet another way FDs are used. I use them this way. 

FDs are a safety-net. They allow you to take high risks elsewhere. You lose the fear of high risk once you know that your family is secured through your safety-net. In a safety-net, sums are large enough and deposits are regular enough to discount (actually effectively / realistically nullify) the power of inflation. With the haven of a safety-net going for your family, you can enter high-risk arenas fearlessly. Fearlessness is a perquisite to do well in high-risk arenas. If you’re afraid of loss, don’t enter such areas. Safety-nets make you lose your fear of loss elsewhere. 

People – SAVE! 

Create FDs. Don’t listen to your bankers. Commit your money to an uncompromisable lock-in only if you’re convinced that the investment is safe and really worth the lock-in for you. Harness the power of the FD for yourself. A safety-net of FDs is the first step towards the formulation of a profitable meta-game.

Did you also know that when you create an FD, the money used to create the FD doesn’t show up as ready cash in your account. Bank accounts with large amounts of ready cash over long periods of time are like red flags which online fraudsters look for. Creation of FDs gives extra online safety to your money. 

ONLY you are responsible for your money.

Start looking after it. 

Start making it grow.

Start saving. 

NOW.

Charting Charting Charting

Why don’t you just…

… trade what you see?

Trade the chart, dammit.

Not the level.

Not the expectancy of a turnaround.

And, although I still do this because it gives me a kick, why do we even trade corrections?

Why can’t we just trade the sheer chart?

Every chart is either going up, down or nowhere.

So it’s pretty obvio, that the first step would be to…

… to what?

… to decide where the chart is going.

Again, it should be pretty obvio, that if a chart is going nowhere, then you are doing… what?

Are you trading such a chart?

NO!

Wait for such a chart to break out in one particular direction.

Wait for the LTT to turn in this direction.

Then trade this chart. Not before.

Yeah, LTT stands for long-term trend.

Yeah, we’ve befriended the LTT so much, that we have an abbreviation going for it…

Once you’ve sorted out the direction, look for an entry setup.

Be patient.

If the entry setup hasn’t formed yet, wait for it. If you can’t stop your twiddling fingers from doing something, feed in a trigger entry in case of a hypothetical setup formation within the next few hours / days, if your trading station allows this.

There’s no up or down anymore, to be honest. You are going where the chart is going, period.

You are also not asking the stooopidest question of them all…

… you guessed it… “Did the sensory index go up, or down?”

Just forget about the sensory index, ok?

I mean, we’re so done with sensory indices in this space.

Why?

DLF could tank 20 bucks on a day the Sensex goes up. Dow Jones could be down 50 points, but Pfizer could just spring into a stellar upwards move. Why should we have lost the short-side opportunity that DLF hypothetically gave, or the long-side opportunity that Pfizer could present, for example? We will do exactly that, i.e. lose the opportunity, if our focus is on the sensory index.

Focus on the underlying.

To be more precise, focus on the chart of the underlying.

Happy trading.

🙂

That Thing about High Growth

Panipat, India, 2004…

The Asia-Pacific Head’s speech was intriguing. I still remember it, even though it was delivered a decade ago. 

He’d come to inaugurate his bank’s branch in our town. He said that he loved opening new branches in the middle of chaos, where he can barely manage to park his car, and where there is just about an iota of order amidst disorder. 

We were puzzled, and I believe one of the invitee’s even ventured asking why. “That’s where 8%+ growth exists” replied he, or something to that effect, and his words stamped themselves in my memory. 

Cut to 2014.

Look around you.

Can you find any corner in the world, where high growth is linear?

Very low single digit growth can be linear, yes. In such countries, there are systems, that check short-cuts and mal-practices. Governments are overall honest. Social security systems are up and running. 

There is some element or the other of a banana republic to any really high-growth economy you find today. You don’t really know what’s cooking in China’s soup, do you, behind the media-ban? Brazil’s let so many starve to host a successfully organised world cup. How much of Russia is about mafia, and crime? And, India might be a democracy, but you just need to look at the inflation and deficit numbers to figure out that something’s off. We’ve just gone through the BRIC nations, prime examples of high non-linear growth. 

Let’s not grieve about what all is wrong with high-growth nations. Let’s look at what we do have going in our favour. What’s common to such nations?

 

– The fact that growth comes in spurts, when some conducive event occurs, like a sound governance stretch.

– The fact that these economies are all highly volatile. 

– The fact that we don’t need anything else – to trade them. 


Yes, we are going to trade such economies. Regular volatility, both ways, is what a trader wants. 

You can invest in such economies if you want to, sure. In that case, you’ll need to use your common-sense and not believe every balance-sheet that is being presented to you. You’ll need to read between the lines at every step. Some people are good at that. 

I’m more comfortable trading a volatile market. 

Thus, I really don’t care why a Ranbaxy might be poised to go down. I’ll just be looking to purchase a cheap Put upon noticing that a key support level has broken down. 

At the same time, I couldn’t care less if an Infosys is just about to disclose stupendous numbers. I’ll just be looking to purchase a cheap call based on a technical level being pierced towards the up-side. 

That’s the thing I love about trading. You don’t need to ask more than a few basic questions before taking the plunge. Also, with avenues like options now being liquid both ways, risk is exactly defined and relatively low. 

The thing about high-growth economies is that you can play them well enough with options. 

Wishing for you happy and safe trading.

🙂

Who’s Responsible for that Last Technical Bit?

Planning a technical trade?

You’ve got your chart open. Scrip’s been falling.

You plan to initiate a buy on that last support. Still a few percentage points to go. 

Your buy point seems a bit off, right? 

Scrip might not reach it, huh?

It might just take off before reaching your buy point, hmmm?

What you need to understand is this – for nothing comes nothing.

You don’t want to risk a buy at current market price. That’s a fact. An acceptable one. Fine … as long as you are willing to pay the price for this fact. 

The price is that you might not be in the trade as the scrip might take off without your stop-type trigger entry price being hit. 

The up-side is that the scrip might correct to your buy price, triggering your entry, and thereby giving you a perfect technical entry point, along with a great margin of safety, since you’ll then have bought low as compared to current market price. 

Yeah, that’s the trade-off.

Is this trade-off acceptable to you?

Yes?

Fine. In my opinion, you would not be doing anything wrong in going ahead with your planned course of action, as long as you have mentally accepted the trade-off. 

What’s the other guy at? You know, the fellow who’s entering at current market price. Well, he’s taking a risk. He’s buying a little high, without margin of safety. What’s his trade-off? For starters, he’s in the trade. Scrip can take off immediately for all he cares, leaving you behind. He’ll be most happy. What’s his down-side? Scrip can correct to technical support, your buy-point. He’ll already be in a losing trade, and you’ll be just entering. In his worst-case scenario, his stop will already be hit as you are just entering. If the scrip takes off on him now, he’ll probably be puking. Yeah, that’s his trade-off. He’s accepted it mentally. After such acceptance, in my opinion, he’s doing nothing wrong by entering at current market price. 

What’s going to happen?

No one knows. Either of the outlined scenarios can play out.

Who’s that last technical correction left for? Yeah, who or what exactly will be responsible for that last technical correction?

An event. A negative one.

At this point, a negative event can happen. On the other hand, it may not happen. 

If it happens, the scrip will very probably open at the technical buy point the next day, and your buy will be triggered. 

If there’s no negative event, and buying pressure goes up, the scrip will take off without you.

Why is that last bit left to an event?

Events give prices a push or a pull, depending upon their positivity or negativity. 

That last support was made a bit low, right? You were wondering how the scrip reached so low, huh? In high probability, an event pushed it low for a few hours, and a low was made. If this low coincided with a past low, one started to speak of a lowish support, which was a little low considering current market price, and for which the scrip needed a pull-back to reach. 

Like this morning’s pull-back. The US decides to allow air-strikes in Iraq. Japan opens 3% down. India opens 1% down. 

A lot of scrips open really down this morning. 

Some of them even open at lowish supports they were not (at all) intending to touch yesterday. 

Taking the Pan out of Panic

Panic – Pan = ic = i see = I SEE.

Times are unprecedented.

We’re breaking new lows of evil everyday.

Ours looks to be a hopeless nation.
Is it over for us?

Shall we pack up our bags and migrate?

Just take a deep breath. Bear with me for a moment. Try and cast your panic aside. Try and think clearly.

I’ll share with you an observation. Take any Indian. Doesn’t have to be an outperformer. Take an under-averagely performing Indian, for all I care. Weed him or her out of our pathetic system, and place him or her in a nation with good governance.

Lo and behold, our candidate will start performing. Not only that, soon, he or she will be outperforming. After a decade or so, he or she will probably have mastered the system and punctuated it with innovative short-cuts.

Get my point?

We are a resilient race. We might look fickle, frail and harmless superficially, but we can struggle, bear, survive, and finally break out. Just give us good governance.
Don’t panic. We’re not going down that easily.

What’s happening currently is a purge. Yeah, it’s a catharsis with a big C. While it continues, asset classes across the board will probably get hammered.

What does that mean for you?

Only one thing.

Stay in cash. Accumulate it. Learn to sit on cash. Sit on it as long as the purge lasts. Let its value depreciate, doesn’t matter. Park it safely with a conservative private bank. Fixed deposits would be the instruments of choice. Yeah, you don’t want to leave unattached cash lying around. Potentially, unattached cash could be susceptible to online fraud. Attach your cash, safely, and keep it before your eyes. Put some watch-dogs in place, as in sms and email alerts. Password-change attempt? You are immediately alerted. New payee added? You are immediately alerted. Watch-dogs bark.

As per my instinct, though we probably won’t go bankrupt as a nation, we might just go a long way down before the purge is over. After the purge, there will be tremendous bargains on offer, across the board, in all asset-classes. Cash will be king. Save your cash and sit on it – for that day.

Meanwhile, your wealth-manager will try to push you into panic purchases with your cash. As in, buying gold at 32k, and the USD at 65. Don’t listen. These are crazy levels. One doesn’t invest at crazy levels. These are not even normal trading levels. Yes, they are institutional trading levels. One does not invest at institutional trading levels.

It’s time to use your common-sense and maintain a cool head.

You can only do that by refusing to panic.

What’s your Answer to Dictatorial Legislature?

Cyprus almost bust…

Money from savings accounts being used to pay off debt…

Five European nations going down the same road…

US economy managing to function for now, but without any security moat (they’ve used up all their moats)…

Our own fiscal deficit at dangerous levels…

Scams in every dustbin…

Mid- & small-caps have already bled badly…

Let’s not even talk about micro-caps…

Large-caps have just started to fall big…

Just how far could this go?

Let’s just say that it’s not inconceivable to think… that this could go far.

Large-caps have a long way to fall. I’m not saying they will fall. All I’m saying is that the safety nets are way below.

I see one big, big net at PE 9, and another large one at PE 12. Getting to either will mean bloodshed.

Inflation figures are not helping.

In a last-ditch attempt to get reelected, the government recently announced a budget for which it’ll need to borrow through its nose.

Oops, I forgot, it doesn’t have a nose.

The whole world is aware about work-culture ground-truths in India.

Things are out of control, and this could go far, unless a miracle occurs and Mr. Modi gets elected. Before such an eventuality, though, things could go far.

When large-caps fall, everything else falls further.

How prepared are you?

Hats off to those with zero exposure.

Those with exposure have hopefully bought with large margins of safety.

Those who are bleeding need a plan B.

In fact, a plan B should have been formulated during good times.

Anyways, how prepared is one for a Cyprus-scenario, where dictatorial last-minute legislature allows the government to whack money from savings accounts?

In future, you might need to find a solution for loose cash in savings accounts. It needs to be kept in a form where government doesn’t have access to it.

As of now, what’s serving the purpose is an online mutual fund platform, through which loose cash can be moved and parked into liquid mutual fund schemes. For government to exercise full control over mutual fund money, it’ll probably need to be more than a bankruptcy scenario.

That’s just for now. Adaptability is the name of the game. It’s always good to be aware of one’s plans B, C & D.

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.

Can Anyone Match Our Financial Sentinels?

It was the aftermath of ’08.

There was blood everywhere.

In my desperation to get a grip on things, I was about to make yet another blunder.

The Zurich International Life pitch had found its way into my office through a leading private bank.

The pitch was fantastic.

I got sucked in.

Access to more than 150 mutual funds world wide…

No switching fee…

Switch as many times as you want…

Joining bonus…

Premium holiday after 18 months…

I quickly signed the documents.

What remained cloudy during the pitch was the 10-year lock-in.

Also, nobody mentioned that the exit penalty was exorbitant. I mean, as I later found out, the level of the exit penalty would make Shylock look like JP Morgan.

In the pitch, I found myself hearing that one could exit after 18 months upon payment of 9% interest p.a. on the joining bonus.

Nobody mentioned the full management fees, which I later calculated to be a staggering approximate of 7.75% per annum for myself, since I had opted for a premium holiday as soon as I could.

I mean, when about 7.75% was being deducted from your corpus each year, what in the world was the corpus going to generate? I found myself asking this question after four years of being trapped in the scheme.

I had soon realized that the pitchers had lied in the pitch. In the fine-print, there was no such clause saying that one could exit after 18 months upon payment of 9% interest p.a. on the joining bonus. If I escalated the matter, at least three people would lose their jobs. Naehhh, that was not my style. I let it go.

When I would look at interim statements, the level of deductions each time made me suspect that there were switching fees after all. I could never really attribute the deductions to actual switches, though, because the statements would straight-away show the number of mutual fund units deducted as overall management fees. If there were switching fees, they were getting hidden under the rug of management fees. Since the level of overall fees was disturbing me totally, I had this big and nagging suspicion that they were deducting something substantial for the switches, and were not showing this deduction openly in their statements.

When I compared all this to how Unit-Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) were handled in my own country, I was amazed at the difference.

In India, customer was king.

The customer had full access to the investment platform, and could switch at will from his or her own remote computer. Zurich did not allow me such direct access.

The expense-ratio in India was a paltry 1.5% – 2.0% per annum. Compare this to the huge annual deductions made in the case of my Zurich International Life policy.

Lock-ins in India were much lesser, typically three odd years or so.

Some ULIPs in India allowed redemptions during lock-ins, coupled with penalties, while others didn’t. Penalties were bearable, and typically in the 2 – 5 % (of corpus) range. Those ULIPs that did allow such redemptions only did so towards the latter part  of the lock-in, though. Nevertheless, lock-in periods were not long when compared to ten whole years, during which the whole world can change.

The debt-market funds paid out substantially larger percentages as interest in India when compared to the debt-market funds encompassed by Zurich International Life.

In India, deductions from ULIP premiums in the first few years (which were getting lesser and lesser each year due to legislature-revision by the authorities) were off-set by absence of short-term capital gains tax and entry/exit equity commissions upon excessive switching. This meant, that in India, short-term traders could use the ULIP avenue to trade without paying taxes or commissions. Whoahh, what a loop-hole! [I’m sure the authorities would have covered this loop-hole up by now, because this research was done a few years ago.]

ULIPs in India allowed at least 4 switches per annum that were totally free of cost. After that, switches would be charged at a very nominal flat rate of typically about the value of 2-9 USD per switch, which, frankly, is peanuts. I was suspecting that the Zurich fellows were knocking off upto 1% of the corpus per switch, but as I said, I didn’t see the math on paper. Even if I was wrong, their yearly deductions were too large to be ignored. Also, was I making a mistake in furthermore deducing that Zurich was deducting another 1% from the corpus each time the corpus changed its currency? I mean, there was no doubt in my mind that the Indian ULIP industry was winning hands-down as far as transparency was concerned.

In India, people in ULIP company-offices were accessible. You got a hearing. Yeah. Zurich International Life, on the other hand, was registered in the Isle of Man. Alone the time difference put an extra day (effectively) between your query and action. Anyways, all action enjoyed a T+2 or a T+3 at Zurich’s end, and the extra day made it a T+4 if you were unlucky (Indian ULIPs moved @ T+0, fyi & btw). Apart from the T+x, one could only access officials at Zurich through the concerned private bank, and as luck would have it, ownership at this private bank changed. The new owners were not really interested in pursuing dead third-party investments made by their predecessors, and thus, reaching Zurich could have become a huge problem for me, were it not for my new relationship manager at this private bank, who was humanitarian, friendly and a much needed blessing.

By now, I had decided to take a hit and exit. It would, however, be another story to get officials at Zurich to cooperate and see the redemption through. On her own level, and through her personal efforts, my diligent relationship manager helped me redeem my funds from Zurich International Life.  I am really thankful to her. Due to her help, my request for redemption was not allowed to be ignored / put-off till a day would dawn where really bad exit NAVs would apply. Zurich did have the last laugh, knocking off a whopping 30 odd percent off my corpus as exit penalty (Arghhh / Grrrrr)! Since I had managed to stay afloat at break-even despite all deductions made in the four years I was invested, I came out of the investment 30% in the hole. The moment it returned, the remaining 70% was quickly shifted to safe instruments yielding 10%+ per annum. In a few years, my corpus would recover. In less than 4 years, I would recover everything. In another two, I would make up a bit for inflation. Actually, the main thing I was gaining was 6 remaining years of no further tension because of my Zurich International Life policy. This would allow me to approach the rest of my portfolio tension-free.

The Zurich International Life policy had been the only thorn in my portfolio – it was my only investment that was disturbing me.

I had taken a hit, but I had extracted and destroyed the thorn.

It was a win for the rest of my portolio, i.e. for 90%+ of my total funds. Tension-free and full attention heightens the probability of portfolio prosperity.

Yeah, sometimes a win comes disguised as a loss.

When I look back, I admire the Indian financial authorities, who ensure that the Indian retail customer is treated like a king.

Retail customers in other parts of the world receive very ordinary treatment in comparison.

I know this from first-hand experience.

I don’t plan to invest overseas as long as our financial authorities continue to push such discipline into our financial industry.

I don’t often praise too much in India, but where it is due, praise must emanate from the mouth of a beneficiary. We are where we are because of our fantastic financial sentinels!

Three cheers for the Securities and Exchange Board of India, for the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, and, of course, three cheers and a big hurray for the Reserve Bank of India.

And How Are You This 20k?

20k’s knocking on our sensory index.

How are you feeling, this 20k?

I remember my trading screen, the first time 20k came. Lots of blue till it came, and when it came, the screen just turned into a sea of red.

Sell orders hit their auto-triggers, as if it were raining sell orders along with cats and dogs.

What is it about round numbers?

Why do they engulf us in their roundness?

I don’t think I am making a mistake in stating that the first person to recognize the significance of round numbers in the game was Jesse Livermore, the legendary trader. Jesse developed a round number strategy that he pulled off repeatedly, with enormous success. It is because of Jesse Livermore that a trader takes round numbers … seriously.

So, what is it about the roundness of 20k?

Plain and simple. The 0s engulf the 2. You don’t see the 2 anymore, and the 0s scare you. Or, they might excite you. Round numbers make the human being emotional.

Big question for me, to understand my own mindset – how am I reacting to 20k?

I would like to share my reaction with you, because it could help you understand your own reaction.

Also, writing about it makes me understand my own reaction better. Thoughts get assimilated.

Yeah, it’s not all social service here, there’s some selfish element involved too.

Besides, I have a bit of a guilty conscience about the amount of research the internet allows me to do, free of cost. I mean, I can get into the skin of any listed company with a few button-clicks. All this writing – is a give-back. You’ll get your calling soon enough. Nature will tell you where you need to give back. When that happens, don’t hold back – give freely. It’s a million dollar feeling!

Back to the topic.

I’ve seen 20k twice before, I think, perhaps thrice. Oh right, between late September and December ’10, it came, was broken, then it came back, to be again broken on the downside, all within a few months.

The aftermath of the first time I saw it (in November ’07) hammered me, though, and taught me my biggest market lessons. I’m glad all this happened in my early market years, because one doesn’t normally recover from huge hammerings at an advanced stage in one’s market career.

The second / third time I saw 20k, I was profiting from it to a small extent. A vague kind of strategy was developing in my mind, and I was trying all kinds of new trading ideas so as to formulate a general strategy for big round numbers.

This morning, I saw 20k for the fourth time, for a few minutes.

By now, I was on auto-pilot.

A human being will have emotions. A successful market player will know how to deal with these emotions.

I bifurcated my emotions into two streams.

One was the fear stream.

The other was the exuberance stream.

The former helped me decide my future investment strategy.

The latter helped me decide my future trading strategy.

In my opinion, a good investment strategy in times of market exuberance would be to not look for fresh investments anymore. This morning, I decided to stop looking for fresh investments, till further notice.

Sometimes, when you’re not looking for an investment, you might still chance upon a company that sparks your investment interest.

If that happened, I would still scrutinize such a company very, very thoroughly, before going ahead. After all, these were times of exuberance.

Yeah, fresh investments would be on the backburner till margins of safety were restored.

Now let’s speak about the exuberance stream.

Market looked ripe for trading. Fresh market activity would take the shape of trading.

Trading is far more active an activity, when compared to investing. We’ve spoken a lot about the difference between trading and investing, in previous posts. Investors enter the market when stocks are undervalued, because the general market is unable to see their intrinsic value. Traders take centre-stage when stocks are overvalued, because the general market is repeatedly attributing more and more value to stocks, much more than should be there. Traders ride the market up, and then short it to ride it down.

Yeah, till further notice, I would be spending my energies trading. After a while, I would re-evaluate market conditions.

That’s what I thought to myself this morning.

Due Diligence Snapshot – IL&FS Investment Managers Ltd. (IIML) – Jan 14 2013

Price – Rs. 23.85 per share ; Market Cap – 499 Cr (small-cap, fell from being a mid-cap); Equity – 41.76 Cr; Face Value – Rs. 2.00; Pledging – Nil; Promoters – IL&FS; Key Persons – Dr. Archana Hingorani (CEO), Mr. Shahzad Dalal (vice-chairman) & Mr. Mark Silgardo (chief managing partner) – all three have vast experience in Finance; Field – Private Equity Fund managers in India (oldest), many joint venture partnerships; Average Volume – around 1 L+ per day on NSE.

Earnings Per Share (on a trailing 12 month basis) – 3.55

Price to Earnings Ratio (thus, also trailing) – 6.7 (no point comparing this to an industry average, since IIML has a unique business model)

Debt : Equity Ratio – 0.35 (five-year average is 0.1); Current Ratio – 1.05

Dividend Yield – 4.7% (!)

Price to Book Value Ratio – 2.1; Price to Cashflow – 5.1; Price to Sales – 2.2

Profit After Tax Margin – 32.85% (!); Return on Networth – 35.24% (!)

Share-holding Pattern of IL&FS Investment Managers – Promoters (50.3%), Public (39.2%), Institutions (4.9%), Non-Institutional Corporate Bodies (5.5%). [The exact shareholding pattern of IL&FS itself is as follows – LIC 25.94%, ORIX Corporation Japan 23.59%, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority 11.35%, HDFC 10.74%, CBI 8.53%, SBI 7.14%, IL&FS Employees Welfare Trust 10.92%, Others 1.79%].

Technicals – IIML peaked in Jan ’08 at about Rs. 59.50 (adjusted for split), bottomed in October of the same year at Rs. 13.60, then peaked twice, at Rs. 56.44 (Sep ’09) and Rs. 54.50 (Aug ’10) respectively, in quick succession, with a relatively small drop in between these two interim high pivots. By December ’11, the scrip had fallen to a low pivot of Rs. 23.30 upon the general opinion that the company wasn’t coming out with new product-offerings anytime soon. A counter rally then drove the scrip to Rs. 32, which is also its 52-week high. During the end of December ’12, the scrip made it’s 52-week low of Rs. 23. People seem to have woken up to the fact that a 52-week low has been made, and the scrip has risen about 4 odd percentage points since then, upon heavier volume.

Comments – Company’s product profile and portfolio is impressive. No new capital is required for business expansion. Income is made from fund management fees and profit-sharing above designated profit cut-offs. Lots of redemptions are due in ’15, and the company needs to get new funds in under management by then. If those redemptions are done under profits, it will increase company profits too. Parag Parikh discusses IIML as a “heads I win (possibly a lot), tails I lose (but not much)” kind of investment opportunity. His investment call came during the mayhem of ’09. The scrip is 42%+ above his recommended price currently. What a fantastic call given by Mr. Parikh. Well done, Sir! Professor Sanjay Bakshi feels that IIML has a unique business model, where business can keep on expanding with hardly any input required. He feels, “that at a price, the stock of this company would be akin to acquiring a free lottery ticket”. I opine that the price referred to is the current market price. Before and after Mr. Parikh’s call, the company has continued to deliver spectacular returns. The company’s management is savvy and experienced. They made profitable exit calls in ’07, and fresh investments were made in ’08 and ’09, during big sell-offs. Thus, the management got the timing right. That’s big. I have no doubt that they’ll get new funds in under management after ’15, alone on the basis of their track record. Yeah, there’s still deep value at current market price. Not as deep as during ’08, or ’09, but deep enough.

Buy? – Fundamentals are too good to be ignored. They speak for themselves, and I’m not going to use any more time commenting on the fundamentals. Technicals show that volumes are up over the last 3 weeks. People seem to be lapping the scrip up at this 52-week low, and the buying pressure has made it rise around 4% over the last 3 weeks. If one has decided to buy, one could buy now, preferably under Rs. 24. The scrip seems to be coming out of the lower part of the base built recently. There is support around Rs. 23 levels, so downside could be limited under normal market conditions.

Disclaimer and Disclosure – Opinions given here are mine only, unless otherwise explicitly stated . You are free to build your own view on the stock. I hold a miniscule stake in IIML. Data / material used has been compiled from motilaloswal.com, moneycontrol.com, equitymaster.com, valuepickr.com, safalniveshak.com and from the company websites of IIML & IL&FS. Technicals have been gauged using Advanced GET 9.1 EoD Dashboard Edition. I bear no responsibility for any resulting loss, should you choose to invest in IIML.

Stock-Picking for Dummies – Welcome to the Triangle of Safety

Growth is not uniform – it is hap-hazard.

We need to accept this anomaly. It is a signature of the times we live in.

Growth happens in spurts, at unexpected times, in unexpected sectors.

What our economic studies do is that they pinpoint a large area where growth is happening. That’s all.

Inside that area – you got it – growth is hap-hazard.

To take advantage of growth, one can do many things. One such activity is to pick stocks.

For some, stock-picking is a science. For others. it is an art. Another part of the stock-picking population believes that it is a combination of both. There are people who write PhD theses on the subject, or even reference manuals. One can delve into the subject, and take it to the nth-level. On the other hand, one can (safely) approach the subject casually, using just one indicator (for example the price to earnings ratio [PE]) to pick stocks. Question is, how do we approach this topic in a safe cum lucrative manner in today’s times, especially when we are newbies, or dummies?

Before we plunge into the stock-picking formula for dummies that I’m just about to delineate, let me clarify that it’s absolutely normal to be a dummy at some stage and some field in life. There is nothing humiliating about it. Albert Einstein wasn’t at his Nobel-winning best in his early schooldays. It is rumoured that he lost a large chunk of his 1921 Nobel Prize money in the crash of ’29. Abraham Lincoln had huge problems getting elected, and lost several elections before finally becoming president of the US. Did Bill Gates complete college? Did Sachin Tendulkar finish school? Weren’t some of Steve Jobs’ other launches total losses? What about Sir Issac Newton? Didn’t I read somewhere that he lost really big in the markets, and subsequently prohibited anyone from mentioning the markets in his presence? On a personal note, I flunked a Physical Chemistry exam in college, and if you read some of my initial posts at Traderji.com, when I’d just entered the markets, you would realize what a dummy I was at investing. At that stage, I even thought that the National Stock Exchange was in Delhi!

Thing is, people – we don’t have to remain dummies. The human brain is the most sophisticated super-computer known to mankind. All of us are easily able to rise above the dummy stage in topics of our choice.

Enough said. If you’ve identified yourself as a dummy stock-picker, read on. Even if you are not a dummy stock-picker, please still read on. Words can be very powerful. You don’t know which word, phrase or sentence might trigger off what kind of catharsis inside of you. So please, read on.

We are going to take three vital pieces of information about a stock, and are going to imagine that these three pieces of information form a triangle. We are going to call this triangle the triangle of safety. At all given times, we want to remain inside this triangle. When we are inside the triangle, we can consider ourselves (relatively) safe. The moment we find ourselves outside the triangle, we are going to try and get back in. If we can’t, then the picked stock needs to go. Once it exits our portfolio, we look for another stock that functions from within the triangle of safety.

The first vital stat that we are going to work with is – you guessed it – the ubiquitous price to earnings ratio, or the PE ratio. If we’re buying into a stock, the PE ratio needs to be well under the sector average. Period. Let’s say that we’ve bought into a stock, and after a while the price increases, or the earnings decrease. Both these events will cause the PE ratio to rise, perhaps to a level where it is then above sector average. We are now positioned outside of our triangle of safety with regards to the stock. We’re happy with a price rise, because that gives us a profit. What we won’t be happy with is an earnings decrease. Earnings now need to increase to lower the PE ratio to well below sector average, and back into the triangle. If this doesn’t happen for a few quarters, we get rid of the stock, because it is delaying its entry back into our safety zone. We are not comfortable outside of our safety zone for too long, and we thus boot the stock out of our portfolio.

The second vital stat that we are going to work with is the debt to equity ratio (DER). We want to pick stocks that are poised to take maximum advantage of growth, whenever it happens. If a company’s debt is manageable, then interest payouts don’t wipe off a chunk of the profits, and the same profits can get directly translated into earnings per share. We want to pick companies that are able to keep their total debt at a manageable level, so that whenever growth occurs, the company is able to benefit from it fully. We would like the DER to be smaller than 1.0. Personally, I like to pick stocks where it is smaller than 0.5. In the bargain, I do lose out on some outperformers, since they have a higher DER than the level I maximally want to see in a stock. You can decide for yourself whether you want to function closer to 0.5 or to 1.0. Sometimes, we pick a stock, and all goes well for a while, and then suddenly the management decides to borrow big. The DER shoots up to outside of our triangle of safety. What is the management saying? By when are they going to repay their debt? Is it a matter of 4 to 6 quarters? Can you wait outside your safety zone for that long? If you can, then you need to see the DER most definitely decreasing after the stipulated period. If it doesn’t, for example because the company’s gone in for a debt-restructuring, then we can no longer bear to exist outside our triangle of safety any more, and we boot the stock out of our portfolio. If, on the other hand, the management stays true to its word, and manages to reduce the DER to below 1.0 (or 0.5) within the stipulated period, simultaneously pushing us back into our safety zone, well, then, we remain invested in the stock, provided that our two other vital stats are inside the triangle too.

The third vital stat that we are going to work with is the dividend yield (DY). We want to pick companies that pay out a dividend yield that is more than 2% per annum. Willingness to share substantial profits with the shareholder – that is a trait we want to see in the management we’re buying into. Let’s say we’ve picked a stock, and that in the first year the management pays out 3% per annum as dividend. In the second year, we are surprised to see no dividends coming our way, and the financial year ends with the stock yielding a paltry 0.5% as dividend. Well, then, we give the stock another year to get its DY back to 2% plus. If it does, putting us back into our triangle of safety, we stay invested, provided the other two vital stats are also positioned inside our safety zone. If the DY is not getting back to above 2%, we need to seriously have a look as to why the management is sharing less profits with the shareholders. If we don’t see excessive value being created for the shareholder in lieu of the missing dividend payout, we need to exit the stock, because we are getting uncomfortable outside our safety zone.

When we go about picking a stock for the long term as newbies, we want to buy into managements that are benevolent and shareholder-friendly, and perhaps a little risk-averse / conservative too. Managements that like to play on their own money practise this conservatism we are looking for. Let’s say that the company we are invested in hits a heavy growth phase. If there’s no debt to service, then it’ll grow much more than if there is debt to service. Do you see what’s happening here? Our vital stat number 2 is automatically making us buy into risk-averse managements heading companies that are poised to take maximum advantage of growth, whenever it occurs. We are also automatically buying into managements with largesse. Our third vital stat is ensuring that. This stat insinuates, that if the management creates extra value, a proportional extra value will be shared with the shareholder. That is exactly the kind of management we want – benevolent and shareholder-friendly. Our first vital stat ensures that we pick up the company at a time when others are ignoring the value at hand. Discovery has not happened yet, and when it does, the share price shall zoom. We are getting in well before discovery happens, because we buy when the PE is well below sector average.

Another point you need to take away from all this is the automation of our stop-loss. When we are outside our safety zone, our eyes are peeled. We are looking for signs that will confirm to us that we are poised to re-enter our triangle of safety. If these signs are not coming for a time-frame that is not bearable, we sell the stock. If we’ve sold at a loss, then this is an automatic stop-loss mechanism. Also, please note, that no matter how much profit we are making in a stock – if the stock still manages to stay within our triangle of safety, we don’t sell it. Thus, our system allows us to even capture multibaggers – safely. One more thing – we don’t need to bother with targets here either. If our heavily in-the-money stock doesn’t come back into our safety zone within our stipulated and bearable time-frame, we book full profits in that stock.

PHEW!

There we have it – the triangle of safety – a connection of the dots between our troika PE…DER…DY.

As you move beyond the dummy stage, you can discard this simplistic formula, and use something that suits your level of evolution in the field.

Till then, your triangle of safety will keep you safe. You might even make good money.

PE details are available in financial newspapers. DER and DY can be found on all leading equity websites, for all stocks that are listed.

Here’s wishing you peaceful and lucrative investing in 2013 and always!

Be safe! Money will follow! 🙂

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.

Anatomy of a Multibagger

Wouldn’t we all like to rake it in?

A multibagger does just that for you. Over a longish period, its growth defies normalcy.

In the stock markets, a 1000-bagger over 10 years – happens. Don’t be surprised if you currently find more than 20 such stocks in your own native markets.

Furthermore, our goal is to be a part of the story as it unfolds.

Before we can invest in a multibagger, we need to identify it before it breaks loose.

What are we looking for?

Primarily, a dynamic management with integrity. We are looking for signs of honesty while researching a company. Honest people don’t like to impose on others. Look for a manageable debt-equity ratio. Transparency in accounting and disclosure counts big. You don’t want to see any wheelin’-dealin’ or Ponzi behavior. If I’d been in the markets in the early ’80s and I’d heard that Mr. Azim Premji drove a Fiat or an 800, and flew economy class, I’d have picked up a large stake in Wipro. 10k in Wipro in ’79 multiplied to 3 billion by ’04. That can only happen when the management is shareholder-friendly and keeps on creating value for those invested. Wipro coupled physical value-creation with market value-creation. It kept announcing bonus after bonus after bonus. God bless Mr. Premji, he made many common people millionaires, or perhaps even billionaires.

A good management will have a clean balance-sheet. That’s the number two item.

The company you’ re looking at will need to have a scalable business model.

It will need to produce something that has the ability to catch the imagination of the world for a decade or more.

The company you’re looking at will need to come from the micro-cap or the small-cap segment. A market-cap of 1B is not as likely to appreciate to 1000B as a market-cap of 25M is to 25B.

Then, one needs to get in at a price that is low enough to give oneself half a chance of getting such an appreciation multiple.

Needless to say, the low price must invariably be coupled to huge inherent value which the market is not seeing yet, but which you are able to correctly see.

After that, one needs the courage and conviction to act upon what one is seeing and has recognized.

One needs to have learnt how to sit, otherwise one will nip the multibagger in the bud. Two articles on this blog have already been dedicated to “sitting”. Patience is paramount.

The money that goes in needs to be a small amount. It’s magnitude shouldn’t affect your normal functioning.

Once a story has started unfolding, please remember one thing. If a stock has caught the imagination of the public, it can continue to quote at extended valuation multiples for a long time. As long as there is buying pressure, don’t exit. One needs to recognize buying pressure. That’s why, one needs to learn charting basics.

Phew, am I forgetting something here? Please feel welcome to comment and add factors to the above list.

Here’s wishing that you are able to latch on to many multibaggers in your investing career.

🙂