Managed Futures for Managing Rising Interest Rates?

If I’ve learned anything about the markets in the last decade, it’s that they are anything but rational.  Investments that appear to be expensive are traded higher while those with reasonable valuations languish.  Although I’m an advocate of  fundamental analysis, I’ve been searching for an opportunity to take advantage of this irrational behavior.

Enter Managed Futures.

The benefit of Managed Futures comes from the material improvement in the downside deviation.

Longboard Asset Management: The Case for Managed Futures

Managed Futures are a form of trend following that allows for profiting from the direction of the ‘herd,’ but what makes it most interesting is that it is direction agnostic; up or down it’s possible to benefit.  I’ve used sparingly used Managed Futures in the past, but was never quite satisfied with the performance. Because short hold periods are susceptible to volatility, even when the trend direction was correctly identified, the price movements rendered positions unprofitable. Some companies are avoiding this tendency by holding for much longer time periods than what is typical for the managed future strategy (12-16 months vs weeks), unfortunately, this is usually reserved for those who play in the hedge fund world.
Another interesting aspect to managed futures is the way the contracts are collateralized.  Treasury Bills and other high quality short term investments are used to secure the portfolio of futures which, in a period of rising interest rates (a trend), would contribute additional income to the portfolio while also profiting (hopefully) from the decline in bond prices (as a result of the rising interest rates).
Fortunately, I recently met with a company with a fund that is doing exactly what I’ve described (I won’t mention names for compliance disclosure reasons) and will be integrating them into portfolios in the coming weeks (See disclosure in the below).

If you are not already a client (because if you are I’m familiar with your plan) , I’d like to hear your strategy for combating a declining market/ and or a rising interest rate environment.

Not sure what to do?  Send me a message or ask a question in the comments below.


Learning: Powered by Imagination

memriseWant to learn something or maybe you’d just like to improve your memory ?  Now you can with the website (and recently launched smartphone app) from Memrise.  By utilizing the human brains enhanced capacity to recall images (especially “unique” ones) memory masters have accomplished what appear to be “super human” feats of memorization. was created by memory champ, author,  and mentor Ed Cooke to help people learn the methods of the world’s Grandmasters of memory.  I first leaned of the system and of Ed in Josh Foer‘s 2011 book “Moonwalking With Einstein,” then later when he partnered with Tim Ferriss for a $10,000 memory challenge.  Rather than memorize cards I’ve been using it to relearn Spanish and some technology related things.

Try it out and let me know what you think.  If you decide to use it, look me up: Joe on Memrise.

Schools in the Cloud

An insightful talk by Professor of educational technology at Newcastle UniversitySugata Mitra on the legacy and shortcomings of an empire driven educational system and how his “hole in the wall” experiments compelled him to develop a new method of education.

It’s quite fashionable to say that the educational system is broken. It’s not broken. It’s wonderfully constructed. It’s just that we don’t need it anymore.

– Sugata Mitra

Book Review: Small is Possible

Small Is Possible: Summarized.

2013-06-21 12.50.21Is a self sufficient local economy really possible?  It’s the question that led to the publishing of Lyle Estill’s 2008 book, Small is Possible; Life In a Local Economy.

I found it to be an easy but insightful read into the politics, struggles, and rewards of a group of North Carolina residents trying to live local.  The book is divided into two parts with the first, “Funky Town” providing some background and context to the authors experiences and beliefs.  The second part, titled “Homegrown” is Estill’s practical explanation and examples of how they’ve done it, or would.
It is this section of the book that I found most helpful in starting to think of ways to not only live and purchase locally, but it shows how one might begin to think about the types of businesses (and investments) that would be necessary for a community to replace it’s dependence on imported goods and services.

At 216 pages, with 16 chapters the material is easily digestible and well worth the time…even if you (like me) don’t agree with all of the author’s ideas.

Check it out at your local library or purchase it here: Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy

Brookfield Sells Longview Fiber and Timber Holdings

BrookfieldEarlier this week Brookfield Asset Management announced the sale of two of it’s Northwest assets; Longview Fiber and 645,000 acres of timber.

In 2007 they purchased Longview Fiber and it’s assets for $2.15 billion.  Over the last 6 years they restructured the manufacturing business and separated the timber holdings culminating in 2 concurrent but unrelated sales this week to Weyerahauser (645,000 acres of Northwest timber for $2.65 billion ) and KapStone Paper and Packaging (the manufacturing business for $1.025 billion).

The deals are interesting in that they involve regional companies (Longview Fiber and Weyerhauser) and significant timber sale from a company (Brookfield) that has been very adept at profitably acquiring and selling assets of this type.

Only time will tell who made the wiser decision.

The Brookfield Press Release

The Stock Market – Explained

Stock Exchange PhotoMany discussions have been devoted to the question of “what is the stock market” and/ or its variant “how does it work?”  Rather than rehash what others have said, I’ll attempt to reframe the question in a way that I believe is more relevant and then provide something of an answer.  The purpose of the exercise being to stimulate thought and conversation, as well as to get it off my chest.  I’m interested in hearing what others think on the topic, so, please add your perspective to the comments.

As I examined various methods for evaluating the utility of the stock market, I wanted to address it in a way that was most relevant.  Asking the right question is critical to receiving applicable information (good journalists and attorneys are adept at this skill) and it struck me that while exploring the mechanisms of the stock market might be interesting, a better question might be something more direct.

Is the stock market the ideal way for most people to invest?

Admittedly, at present  it’s something of a moot point in that there are very few options outside of the stock market to legally, cost effectively invest, especially retirement funds, but I believe it’s worth exploring.  Sure, there are other ways of creating wealth, such as business and real estate, but in reality all are all variations on the same theme: the growth of cash flow and assets.  A business sells a product or service to generate profit while real estate relies on rental and lease income. For the sake of brevity,  I’ll limit this discussion to the stock market.

Interestingly, the original concept of the stock market (exchange) is that business ownership could be reliably bought and sold, without the shenanigans of auctioneers.  As with many things, the original function has been fundamentally altered over time by regulation, technology, and unintended consequences. What was originally conceived as a practical way to transfer the ownership interest of business ventures has been burdened with things like derivatives, program trading, massive concentrations of capital, and onerous regulation.  The result is a system where, practically speaking, all money must flow through Wall Street.

For some the “industrialization” of investing might be a beneficial thing (I’m thinking primarily of the people at Goldman Sachs and their contemporaries), but for the rest of us it’s been a different story.  Diversity is almost universally accepted as a prudent investing practice by nearly everyone with an opinion on the subject and yet we are presented a homogenous pool of investment choices.  I am regularly amused (dismayed?) at the investment “options” of most company retirement plans.  Typically they consist of a domestic bond fund or two, a few US equity funds, and maybe if the company offering the plan is really progressive an international equity fund or something really crazy like a real estate fund.  Tragically, this sort of “diversification” falls well short of the intended purpose (non correlation of returns and risk if you are curious), even for the few investors who actually utilize all the available funds (remember 2008?).    It reminds me of Henry Ford’s famous quote,

Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black.

This lack of genuine diversity is only one defect exposing the shortcomings of the stock market.  Aside from the obvious presence of suboptimal investment returns, there are more insidious repercussions impacting  the economy on both a local and national scale.   As of their April 2013 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the number of unemployed at 11.7 million. If a portion of the capital locked up in the traditional stock market were made available for local investment, I wonder how many unemployed people could start productive businesses?  According to Small Business Administration, small businesses (those with less than 500 employees) accounted for 64% of net new jobs, yet the 2 primary sources of financing for small businesses are owner investment and bank credit.   I may be the exception, but I’m not aware of many banks lending to unemployed people…or as Bob Hope once observed,

A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.

Downtown BendIt’s been estimated that, in the last 100 years, the recirculation rate of money in America has fallen from 25-30 to less than 10.  This phenomenon is present in cities and towns across the nation stripped of their “community” by globalization.  The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker are symbolic  contributors to the local ecosystem, symbiotically producing and consuming.  When citizens shop at national chains, selling imported products, they (we) act like parasites, draining communities of essential financial resources.

The solution I propose is a mechanism that would allow people to invest efficiently in businesses connected through geographic proximity or aligned values.  The profit generated by these ventures, both by businesses and the investors, would then be available to recirculate throughout the community, thus strengthening the economic ecosystem by providing stable employment, additional investment opportunities, and resilience against macroeconomic problems.

What do you think?