Jul 102015
 

You’ve probably heard on the news about the stock market correction in China. Last year, Chinese stocks experienced huge gains and surged more than 140%. Oh my Buddha, that’s insane! 😯 But since June 2015, the market has dropped by almost a third in value. Some people in the media claim this is some sort of catastrophic event comparing it to the Great Depression.

But we know better. 😉 First of all, a 33% drop, after a 140% gain is not such a bad thing. In fact that’s a net positive return of 60% in about 18 months, so who’s complaining? :) Secondly, due to strict foreign investment regulations only 1.5% of all the stock market shares in China are owned by foreign investors like Canadians and Americans. So this recent market decline has very little direct impact on investors outside of China. And lastly corrections inevitably happen after a parabolic upward trend, so this shouldn’t be a surprise to any informed investor. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~George Santayana

The Boom and Bust of China’s Stock Market

It all started a couple years ago when the Chinese government wanted to boost the country’s economy. It implemented policies making it easier for retail investors (average folks) to invest in the stock market. Things worked out even better than expected and the market quickly became detached from the fundamentals of the underlying economy. Last month the Shanghai Composite Index (SSE) started to fall. To make things worse many investors were investing on margin and had been forced to sell their stocks as their shares lost value which only perpetuated the downward momentum. 😕 Within a few weeks the SSE had dropped almost 33%. Here’s a comparison of stock markets over the last 12 months. (blue line = China, red line = Canada, yellow line = U.S.)

15-07-china-stock-market-shanghai-sse

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Jul 042015
 

Greece is holding a referendum tomorrow, Sunday, on whether or not they want to accept the bailout terms from their creditors. I’m not great at economic forecasts but I feel like the majority will vote yes for better or for worse.

[Edit] The result is out. Greeks voted No, lol. This is why I’m not an economist. [/Edit]

In other news it hasn’t been a very good month for global markets. Both the U.K. FTSE 100 and the French CAC 40 indices are down about 4% for the month of June. But China experienced the most dramatic loss. The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index fell by 25%. Sufferin succotash! 😲 A whole bunch of millionaires in China just lost 1/4 of their wealth in the span of 30 days.

Here in Canada our stock market index dropped 3.5%, not as bad as other countries, but still enough to wipe out any gains it’s accumulated so far in 2015. As a result my net worth is down for the first time in years, lol. This means my portfolio is finally large enough that my change in wealth is determined more by the fluctuations in the market than by my savings rate.

*Side Income:

  • Part-Time Work = $600
  • Dividends = $500
  • Interest = $0
*Discretionary Spending:
  • Fun = $100
  • Debt Interest = $1500

*Net Worth: (MoM)15-06-networthiq_chart

  • Assets: = $897,400 total (-5000)
  • Cash = $2,500 (-2000)
  • Stocks CDN =$93,600 (-1300)
  • Stocks US = $65,100 (-200)
  • RRSP = $51,200 (-1500)
  • MICs = $15,000
  • Home = $259,000
  • Farms = $411,000
  • Debts: = $508,100 total (-4300)
  • Mortgage = $193,500 (-400)
  • Farm Loans = $200,700 (-500)
  • Margin Loan CDN = $29,600 (-1900)
  • Margin Loan US = $25,800 (+100)
  • TD Line of Credit = $26,000  (-1000)
  • CIBC Line of Credit = $10,000
  • HELOC = $18,200
  • RRSP Loans = $4,300 (-600)

*Total Net Worth = $389,300 (-$700 / -0.2%)
All numbers above are in $CDN. Conversion rate used: 1.00 CAD = 0.80 USD

This is why it’s important to understand our financial decisions. Warren Buffett said “if you understood a business perfectly and the future of the business, you need very little in the way of a margin of safety.”

For example, when I look at my assets listed above I know what purpose each line item plays in my financial plan to reach early retirement. I know why I have $2,500 in cash right now, not more, not less. When I look at any of my investments I know why it’s in my portfolio. As another famous investor Peter Lynch once said, “know what you own, and know why you own it.” 😀

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Oct 192014
 

Overreaction leads to market turmoil

Over the last several weeks investors saw a 10% correction in the Canadian stock market, and a 9% correction in the U.S. Someone with a $100,000 portfolio invested in index funds could have just lost $10,000. Ouch. 😐 Is this market sell off justified or is it simply an overreaction to some recent bad economic news? First, let’s review what those news are.

  • The Canadian dollar has dropped to a 5 year low
  • Germany’s economy is weaker than expected
  • The rest of Europe is still in a mess of unemployment and stagnation
  • Last week the Athens Stock Exchange in Greece tumbled more than 6% in one trading day.
  • ISIS is causing havoc in the Middle East
  • Ebola fears

I currently own shares in the Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.) It’s one of the largest companies in the country and has been around for over 180 years. Over the last month the price of this stock fell 8%. Instead of asking where the stock will go from here, we should instead be asking does all the recent bad news justify an 8% drop in value for one of the largest banks in Canada? My answer is absolutely not. 😛 It’s important to remember that when we buy a stock we are literally owning a part of that company. This means we, as stakeholders in Scotiabank, are still entitled to split the $6.5 billion profit that the company makes every year, regardless of how the price of BNS shares performs in the short term.

14-10-overreaction

 

A lower loonie will likely spur economic growth and will not hurt Scotiabank’s profitability. Europe’s stalled economy is nothing new and Canadian banks don’t lend that much to Europeans anyway. The media has succeeded in sensationalizing the threat of Ebola in the U.S. Yes it’s a terrible disease, and there’s an outbreak in Africa. But Ebola will not hinder businesses in the U.S. and Canada from continuing to rake in profits. Literally more Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola – both a terrible fate. :(

For the intrinsic value of Scotiabank to actually fall by 8% substantial circumstances would need to be met, such as major accounting fraud or a 10% national unemployment rate, that would legitimately jeopardize the company’s ability to make money. The recent news is relatively trivial so an 8% correction of BNS shares seems like an overreaction. Imagine selling our stocks now only to see the markets rebound next month and regain all its losses. 😐

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Mar 132014
 

Some people have a fear of losing money. This prevents them from taking the necessary risk with their investments, like buying stocks, to give the best probability of a long term return. The S&P500 returned 20% over the last 12 months, so anyone who holds American stocks like me have probably done well with their net worth over the last year :) Despite reaching new record highs however, we don’t hear people talking about the stock market too regularly these days because things are going really well. But what if the S&P500 had lost 20% over that same period? I bet it would get a lot more attention wouldn’t it :) Bear markets certainly give the media more to talk about.

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This is because many people can’t stand losing money. In economics the tendency to prefer avoiding a loss rather than making a gain is called loss aversion. This psychological behavior prevents many people from making smart investment decisions.

Scientists have done experiments where they give monkeys a single banana each. Predictably the monkeys would appear satisfied :) The scientists then gave two bananas each to another group of monkeys and then took one banana away. Note that these monkeys still ended up with a free banana each, but they become noticeably angry and agitated at the scientists, as if they had just been robbed. So sometimes  1 ≠ (2-1).

In terms of behavioral finance,  we’re not that much different from monkeys. We feel pretty good about getting a $20 discount on a new pair of shoes, but we feel a whole lot worse if we realize we lost $10 because it had accidentally fallen out of our pocket. But learning how to process and react to losing money correctly is important to understanding the financial system. In fact Canadians who describe themselves as more knowledgeable investors are more likely to have experienced a major loss.

Here’s an easy experiment to find out if you are risk adverse. Pick a stock to follow and imagine you own it. Record how much it has increased or decreased after each day, and your feelings about it. Over time if you notice that you feel emotionally stronger toward losses than gains of the same magnitude then this means you have a lower risk tolerance for investing, which is fine. You simply value capital preservation more than potentially larger gains. Just be aware that the time when we should be taking on the most risk is when we’re young. If our investments fail at least we would still gain valuable knowledge and experience, which we probably can’t afford to do when we’re old and crusty 😛

To me a dollar lost has the same emotional intensity as that from a dollar gained :) I don’t get upset if I lose on a stock trade because I know I can just as easily make it back next time. I can also sleep well at night during a recession because I know bear markets don’t last forever. Thinking about losses logically can make us more happy 😀

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Random Useless Fact: While sitting in front of your computer, lift your right foot and make clockwise circles.
While doing that, take your right hand and draw the number 6 in the air.
For some people, your foot will change direction all by itself. Try it :)

Feb 232014
 

It’s so easy to make money in the market these days 😀 If you bought the Dow Jones index 18 months ago, your investments would be up 30% today!

But the chart below may be a strong signal that these good times will likely be ending very soon! *gulp* 😯 The darker green line indicates the Dow stock market index today and its performance over the last 18 months. As you can see it’s mostly good news 😀 But the lighter cyan line above represents the same index, also over an 18 month period, but 85 years ago.

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As you can see the 2 lines are very similar so far 😉  There’s probably something fundamentally the same within the different periods of time that’s driving this synchronicity 😕 It was right around this time of year back in 1929 when the market had a major correction, and by summer of 1929 the Dow had lost 20% of it’s value from the peak in early January. Does this mean the Dow will do the same this year in 2014? A 20% correction is not that rare for the stock market, and if the Dow continues to follow the historical trend set 85 years ago then maybe it’s time to sell some positions and lock in the profits. I mean, look at how eerily similar the 2 charts are 😐

If you believe we are in for a downturn then maybe add more bonds, like XBB, to your portfolio as a bit of protection. But if you think the charts lining up is purely coincidental then carry on with your stock investing. Personally I have no idea what to think about this data so I’m going to sit on the fence and hold all my long positions, and will not buy any new stocks until April.

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Random Useless Fact: Most foreign students only seem smart because all the dumb ones stay in their home countries. #NoOffence