Being right for the wrong reasons

Andy RosenbergerAndrew Rosenberger, CFA, Senior Investment Manager

Investors betting on a Hillary win should be grinning ear-to-ear with the outcome of the election. Picture this for one moment. Imagine if I had told you last week who would win the election – but nothing else. Odds are, particularly after listening to the “experts” that you would have sold everything. Maybe if you’re the type who likes to speculate, you would have also used those cash proceeds to short the market, buy some VIX, or perhaps buy long-term Treasuries. After all, the standard meme was Trump = Bad for Markets, Clinton = Good for Markets. Good thing that crystal balls don’t exist. It’s a classic case of being right for the wrong reason. Or, taking the other side of the coin, being wrong for the right reason. As we all digest the outcome of events and try to comprehend what this all means, here are a few ruminations that come to mind:

  • Event-driven investing is REALLY hard. Event-driven investing is the idea of speculating on the outcome of a specific event. It sounds easy. But think about all the factors that go into it. You have to be right on calling the outcome. You have to be right on how the market reacts to that outcome. You have to know how much is already discounted into the market already. You have to have better information than everyone else. You have to structure the trade in such a way that it’s profitable. Like many things in life and investing, it sounds easier than it is.
  • Income relative to duration matters. In one single day, over a year and a half worth of income was wiped out for anyone investing in long term Treasuries. Prior to the election, the 30 year bond was yielding approximately 2.6%. The Wednesday after the election, the Barclays Long Term Treasury Index was down -4.14%. So now investors will have to wait over a year for the income generated on their bonds to make up their losses. Or, maybe they could try out some event-driven investing tactics mentioned above.
  • Volatility is dynamic. When regimes change, low volatility may suddenly be high volatility. It seems like a no-brainer. You can outperform the market with less risk by simply investing in stocks with lower volatility. Forget that it’s the topic du jour. Forget that there are immense amounts of money flowing into this group of stocks. Forget that valuations for these types of stocks have never been higher. It’s worked in the past. Well, until it doesn’t. I acknowledge it’s only one day. But yesterday’s dramatic underperformance of low volatility reemphasizes the point that there’s more to investing than simply investing in what worked historically.
  • Consensus is usually right…until it isn’t. Unlike low volatility stocks, just a few months ago everyone hated financial and healthcare stocks. After all, the yield curve was going to stay flat forever hampering banks and insurance company’s ability to generate returns. Separately, politicians were going to destroy the profitability of pharmaceutical companies by reversing sky-high drug prices. Bad fundamentals. Check. Bad technicals. Check. Market experts agree with you. Check. Unfortunately, when these views reverse, as we’ve seen as of late, they do so extraordinarily fast.
  • In statistics, sample sizes do not represent the overall population. How is it that in an era of big data and interconnectivity that our methods for predicting elections have gotten worse, not better? Certainly the migration away from landline phones and the shy Trump voter effect were both major factors. But anytime we talk about polling, we have to remember that we’re taking small samples of a very large population. I, for one, have NEVER been asked by a polling authority who I’m voting for. With over 119 million voters this election, I would imagine there are quite a few others who weren’t part of the sample size either. Statistics matter but so too does the means with which they are applied.
  • Politics can be very emotional for individuals. Particularly within investing, emotion and outperformance rarely coincide with one another. Investing is hard enough as it is. Billions of dollars of research has been dedicated to the art and science of getting a competitive advantage over other investors. And most haven’t been very successful.

The bottom line is that investors should focus on the long-term outcome knowing that over time, Democrat or Republican, 2% growth or 4% growth, Fed rate hike or no rate hike, that their investments will work for them in the long-term.

Brinker Capital understands that investing for the long-term can be daunting, especially during a time like this but we are focused on providing multi-asset class investment solutions that help investors manage the emotions of investing to achieve their unique financial goals.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. 

Investing involves risk, including risk of loss. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss. Past Performance is no guarantee of future results. 

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