If you’re bullish or bearish — you’re right


I have just received a release from Investment Solutions that makes a lot of sense out of where the markets are right now.

It basically says that there is going to be a huge amount of market volatility over the next few years and, depending on the month of the year, both the bulls and bears will claim victory.

Glenn Silverman, global chief investment officer at Investment Solutions, who has just returned from a trip to London and New York to meet 20 of the world’s top asset managers to gauge their market thinking, says that there are likely to be multiple “bull” and “bear” periods over the next few years.

“We think that there will be higher amplitude and increased frequency of bull and bear periods in the coming years. And many of the leading managers feel similarly.

“This could be akin to the Japanese experience since 1989. They have seen multiple, extended bull rallies, within an overall bearish trend for the last 20 years. It will make for a wild ride and a tricky few years where timing will be paramount. A long-term, buy-and-hold strategy is unlikely to provide the best returns,” says Silverman.

At this point it is probably worth mentioning that it would be in asset managers’ best interests to advocate a more active approach to investing.

Right now index-tracking funds are mounting a serious challenge to actively managed fund managers who struggle to outperform and at higher costs.

The question one needs to ask when following a more active approach (“where timing will be paramount”) is whether the fund managers will get the timing right at all?

My guess is that some will but only some of the time. History shows us that few fund managers have any aptitude at timing the market, and it is when they believe they can that things usually turn pear-shaped.

What seems a more sensible approach is to stick to valuations when investing to avoid getting caught up in the many mini-bubbles that are expected to appear.

The monthly investment
The beauty of investing on a monthly basis is that you actually don’t need to worry about market movements.

If for example you invest R1 000 a month and the unit cost is currently R10 a unit, you would buy 100 units. If the market gets more expensive and a unit now costs R12, you will buy fewer units (83) at this higher price. If markets fall, and the unit price is R8, then you buy more units (125) at the lower price. Monthly investing (also known as rand cost averaging) creates a natural valuation bias.

Lump sum
For those people who are looking at investing a lump sum, markets are thought to be “overbought” following the recent strong gains so sticking the whole lot into the market right now may not be a good idea.

Silverman suggests that a barbell strategy may be effective for an uncertain outlook. That would mean, for example, buying equities for growth, along with put options (which protect you when markets fall), or possibly gold or even cash, to provide downside market protection.

(Jargon buster: Put options gives the buyer the right to sell shares at a predetermined price in exchange for a premium payment.)