Monday, January 23, 2012

Well, it was another year of frustration for “real investors”. By “real investor” I mean those of us who trade without access to inside information and who cannot augment our returns through hidden fees or commissions. While we will lick our wounds and carry on, we should also track where the smart “professionals” were focused in 2011 to see where we missed the boat.

Consensus Forecasting for 2011: The “professionals” forecast the market performances every year and then a “consensus report” is tabulated to allow us to peak under the curtain and see what active traders are doing to beat the markets. The asset class forecasts were very clear that security performance in 2011 would see returns ranked as follows:

-          Equity stocks would be the best performing asset class

-          Commodities would be the second best performing class of assets, and

-          Bonds would trail the above classes and provide weak performance

Based upon the forecast, you would overweight equities, diversify with commodities, and minimize your bond holdings.Let’s see how well the smart money did in forecasting 2011.

-          Equity returns in Canada ( TSX broad market total return index) -8.71% and if you choose to look just at the blue chip TSX 60 returns were -9.08%

-          Commodities as measured by the Auspice Broad Commodity Index was 1.78% to the positive side

-          Bonds as measured by the Dex Bond Universe was up 9.7%

Wow, the smartest guys on the street managed to show an amazing dyslexia of returns! They used thousands of analysts to crank out the research math and got everything backwards! In fairness however, the forecasts were great for revenues at the brokerage firms as investors traded heavily into the markets based upon the forecasts. By the end of the investment rich RRSP seasons investors had bid up the equity markets and the research looked great. However, once all the, investors were fully invested, the professionals did a quick sprint to the exits, leaving the retail investors holding a smelly mess of equities. The TSX dropped from the lofty mid 12,000’s to the more realistic low 11,000’s. Unfortunately, those who followed the advice in late February and early March can only wish they had lost 8 or 9%! In fact many will see 15-20% drops with their RRSP investment money.
So, how did a conservative indexer do in this type of market? If the pro’s got it wrong we can only assume the indexers got creamed! Our conservative 50/50 balanced model would have received the returns of a typical mix of ETFs somewhat like the following: 

Cdn Equity
US Equity


Well, it was definitely a tough year; however staying diversified reduced the damage significantly. Even if investors reduced the risk by splitting the fixed income between short and long duration bonds (50% XBB and 50% XSB), the overall return would be -0.3% for the year 2011.
Obviously the higher the Canadian equity component or the EAFE equity component, the worse the overall portfolio performance. For those active traders that jumped on the gold bandwagon the entry point was a challenge. On the whole XGD (the gold ETF) was down 14% and the much recommended emerging markets saw a decline of 16.4% as measured by the emerging market index. So, if you followed the professionals you were heavy equities, heavy emerging markets, heavy gold and light weight bonds. If you followed your Investment Policy Strategy as a conservative investor you retained your capital! Thank goodness I am a dull investor with a conservative IPS!


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