Peter Hodson: Investing should be rewarded, while trading should be discouraged
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I have (hopefully) picked up a few tidbits of knowledge after about 40 years in the investment industry. But one of the reasons I love this business is that there is always something new to learn. No one will ever know everything about investing, and no one — and we mean no one — really has any idea what is going to happen in the markets tomorrow.
This makes a career in investments challenging and entertaining. There is never a dull moment. Still, here are five things I would change if I was in charge to make investing life a little more, well, predictable and fair.
Banish analyst price targets
Goldman Sachs this week cut its target on Twitter Inc. to US$62 and called it a “sell.” Why is this noteworthy? Well, in February, the same broker raised its target on Twitter to US$112 and called it a “buy.” In barely seven months, the target price was reduced by 45 per cent. Investors following Goldman’s logic would have gotten completely whipsawed.
Is Twitter so bad? Not really: the stock is up 11 per cent this year and 54 per cent in 52 weeks. But I really think target prices do a disservice to investors. Ignoring that most are wrong anyway, they encourage excessive trading and set up a case of FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Need more proof? How about this quote from an analyst’s report in 2011 on Amazon.com Inc.: “Despite Amazon’s outstanding fundamentals, its stock is overvalued and over loved.” The report had a US$125 per share target. Sure, it’s been a decade since then — not really that much time in market land — but Amazon today is US$3,446.
Change taxes to reward investing
Let’s face it, taxes are going to go up in Canada. After all, we have to pay for all this pandemic spending, somehow. Right now, capital gains are taxed at 50 per cent. But it doesn’t matter if you hold a stock for five minutes or five years, your tax rate will be the same. Other countries have different methodologies, with some, such as the United States, having a higher tax rate if investments are held for a shorter time period. This makes sense to us, because investing should be rewarded, while trading should be discouraged.
If you’re day trading, you’re not really supporting any company. You’re just seeking quick profits. Buying shares in a company and holding them for years is harder, but, ultimately, more rewarding and should be encouraged by policy-makers.
A note to whoever wins the election next week: Tax the speculators and day traders, not the real investors who are beneficial to the country.
Rethink free trading
After sweeping across the U.S. these past few years, free stock trading has arrived in Canada, with several brokerages announcing commission-free trades this year. This sounds good, but it’s not as good as you think. We’re all for lower costs, but free trades really, really encourage excessive trading, which results in more taxes (see above) and lowers the amount of capital available to compound.
Volatile spikes in certain meme stocks have certainly increased because of zero trading costs. If we were in charge, we might ban free trades, but we might not have to if short-term trading taxes were increased. Essentially, we just want people to invest and not trade. After all, how many day traders do you see on all those world’s richest people lists? Answer: None.
Ban the phrase, ‘That stock is so expensive’
We’re kind of sick of how much we’ve heard this phrase this year. Many people are expecting a correction because stocks are so expensive based on historical metrics. Well, guess what? The buyers today obviously do not think stocks are expensive. They’re not buying with the expectation of losing money.
We chuckled after seeing Grit Capital’s recent thoughts on the Shiller P/E index, a measure of market valuation indicating the market’s valuation is 47 per cent higher than its 20-year average. Its comment sounded ominous, until it added that “following the famous P/E rule over the last 40 years, you would have owned equities for a grand total of 7 months (eye roll).”
Apply investor rules equally
If you are an accredited investor, you know how much of a pain the paperwork can be to invest in a hedge fund. The government wants investors to be protected, so it only lets rich investors access some products, on the thesis that they can take more risks. That’s all fine and great, and, at least in theory, makes sense. But what about extremely risky products that get regulatory approval and trade on stock exchanges? Nearly anyone can buy those, whether they are experienced, rich, young or whatever.
Sure, brokers still have know-your-client rules, but an investor who calls themselves aggressive can go out and buy double- or triple-leveraged exchange-traded funds (ETFs) all day long. Let’s look at Direxion Daily Junior Gold Miners Index Bear 2X Shares, a leveraged ETF on junior golds. Its three-year annualized return is negative 82.1 per cent. How about the ProShares Ultrashort Bloomberg Natural Gas Index ETF? It’s down 80 per cent this year alone. If I were in charge, I might apply some new restrictions, or at least warning labels, on some of these investments.
Peter Hodson, CFA, is founder and head of Research at 5i Research Inc., an independent investment research network helping do-it-yourself investors reach their investment goals. He is also associate portfolio manager for the i2i Long/Short U.S. Equity Fund. (5i Research staff do not own Canadian stocks. i2i Long/Short Fund may own non-Canadian stocks mentioned.)
Over the last twenty years, memory has risen from 10% of the semiconductor market to almost 30%, a trend that is expected to continue, propelled by compute at the edge all the way up to datacenter. To meet these demands, memory giant, Micron, has announced it will make $150 billion in internal investments, ranging from manufacturing and fab facilities to R&D to support new materials and memory technologies.
The nature of the announcement serves two purposes. The first is obvious, Micron is putting a stake in the ground around its bullish view for edge to datacenter growth and their role as a primary component maker. The second is only slightly less obvious: to compel the U.S. to match funds or continue new investment strategies to support U.S. fabs and semiconductor R&D.
While $150 billion is a sizable investment, the fab component of Micron’s plans will gobble up a significant fraction. While no fab is created equally, consider TSMC’s investments in new facilities, which are upwards of $9 billion. Such investments can take two to three years to yield but the time is certainly right. Gartner, for instance, estimates the costs for leading-edge semiconductor facilities to increase between 7-10%.
While DRAM and NAND are less expensive than leading edge technologies, Micron will need to choose carefully as it sets its plans in motion. Luckily, there is ample government support building in the U.S. for all homegrown semiconductor industry, although it is unclear how federal investments, including the $52 billion CHIPS Act, will augment Micron’s own ambitions.
Micron is seeking the attention of government with its broad R&D and manufacturing investment, pointing to the creation of “tens of thousands” of new jobs and “significant economic growth.” In a statement, Micron explained that memory manufacturing costs are 35-45% higher than in lower-end semiconductor markets, “making funding to support new semiconductor manufacturing capacity and a refundable investment tax credit critical to potential expansion of U.S. manufacturing as part of Micron’s targeted investment.”
“The growth of the data economy is driving increased customer demand for memory and storage,” said Executive Vice President of Global Operations Manish Bhatia. “Leading-edge memory manufacturing at scale requires production of advanced semiconductor technology that is pushing the laws of physics, and our markets demand cost-competitive operations. Sustained government support is essential for Micron to ensure a resilient supply chain and reinforce technology leadership for the long term.”
Micron CEO, Sanjay Mehrotra says the company will “look forward to working with governments around the world, including in the U.S. where CHIPS funding and the FABS Act would open the door to new industry investments, as we consider sites to support future expansion.” The subtext there is that the U.S. is only one country in the running, among others making investments.
Increasing government support will likely align with fabs and facilities but Micron says it’s working on next generation technologies set to keep pace with growing demand.
This is part of the company’s 2030-era plan for memory technology. Micron sees edge and cloud deployments expanding but also points to AI as the leading workload across deployment types. The company’s senior VP and GM for Compute and Networking, former Intel HPC lead, Raj Hazra, says that by 2025, 75% of all organizations will have moved beyond the AI experimentation stage into production.
To support this more practically, Micron has set forth some ambitious near-term targets, including reaching for 40% improvements in memory densities over existing DRAM, double SSD read throughput speeds over current 1TB SSDs, 15% power reductions over existing DRAM and 15% better performance for mixed workloads over existing NAND.
Walmart Inc said on Thursday customers at some of its U.S. stores will be able to purchase bitcoin using ATM-like machines installed by Coinstar.
Coinstar, known for its machines that can exchange physical coins for cash, has partnered with digital currency exchange CoinMe to let customers buy bitcoin at some of its kiosks.
There are 200 Coinstar kiosks located inside Walmart stores across the United States that will allow customers to buy bitcoin, a Walmart spokesperson said.
Walmart was subject to a cryptocurrency hoax in September when a fake press release was published announcing a partnership between the world’s largest retailer and litecoin. The news had briefly sent prices of the little known cryptocurrency surging.
(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)
Cooper Investors, an investment management firm, published its “Cooper Investors Global Equities Fund (Hedged)” third quarter 2021 investor letter – a copy of which can be downloaded here. For the rolling three months to one year, the Fund returned 5.7% and 28.24% respectively, while its benchmark, by comparison, returned -0.42% and 26.57% over the same period. You can take a look at the fund’s top 5 holdings to have an idea about their best picks for 2021.
Cooper Investors, in its Q3 2021 investor letter, mentioned Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) and discussed its stance on the firm. Intuit Inc. is a Mountain View, California-based software company with a $156.4 billion market capitalization. INTU delivered a 50.80% return since the beginning of the year, while its 12-month returns are up by 72.12%. The stock closed at $572.80 per share on October 19, 2021.
Here is what Cooper Investors has to say about Intuit Inc. in its Q3 2021 investor letter:
“The other meaningful deal during the quarter was Intuit’s acquisition of Mailchimp for $12bn. Intuit has reinvented itself over the last decade and thrived with a leadership position in QuickBooks Online, the financial accounting software for small businesses (effectively the ‘Xero of the US’). We originally invested in Intuit in February 2020, excited by the QuickBooks prospects.
Management have executed exceptionally well on the opportunity set which has seen the shares double since our initial purchase. However, the company has now conducted two meaningful deals in Mailchimp and Credit Karma worth a combined US$20bn over the last 12 months. The investment proposition has shifted from a focus on QuickBooks to now being a financial and small business software conglomerate. We continue to very much admire the company, but with Intuit now trading on 50x forward earnings we no longer see such attractive latency on offer, nor the rewards for the level of execution risk and thus we have exited the position.”
Based on our calculations, Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) was not able to clinch a spot in our list of the 30 Most Popular Stocks Among Hedge Funds. INTU was in 66 hedge fund portfolios at the end of the first half of 2021, compared to 68 funds in the previous quarter. Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) delivered an 11.34% return in the past 3 months.
Hedge funds’ reputation as shrewd investors has been tarnished in the last decade as their hedged returns couldn’t keep up with the unhedged returns of the market indices. Our research has shown that hedge funds’ small-cap stock picks managed to beat the market by double digits annually between 1999 and 2016, but the margin of outperformance has been declining in recent years. Nevertheless, we were still able to identify in advance a select group of hedge fund holdings that outperformed the S&P 500 ETFs by 115 percentage points since March 2017 (see the details here). We were also able to identify in advance a select group of hedge fund holdings that underperformed the market by 10 percentage points annually between 2006 and 2017. Interestingly the margin of underperformance of these stocks has been increasing in recent years. Investors who are long the market and short these stocks would have returned more than 27% annually between 2015 and 2017. We have been tracking and sharing the list of these stocks since February 2017 in our quarterly newsletter.
At Insider Monkey, we scour multiple sources to uncover the next great investment idea. For example, lithium mining is one of the fastest-growing industries right now, so we are checking out stock pitches like this emerging lithium stock. We go through lists like the 10 best EV stocks to pick the next Tesla that will deliver a 10x return. Even though we recommend positions in only a tiny fraction of the companies we analyze, we check out as many stocks as we can. We read hedge fund investor letters and listen to stock pitches at hedge fund conferences. You can subscribe to our free daily newsletter on our homepage.
Disclosure: None. This article is originally published at Insider Monkey.
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