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Medicine: A Lesson In Efficient Markets

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MEDICINE: A Lesson In Efficient Markets


[By Dan Ariely PhD] http://danariely.com

The market for medicine is incredibly interesting. Almost every day we learn something new about a treatment that we thought would work but does not, or about a treatment that we didn’t think would work but does.

Beyond the particular fascination, I think that the medicine market can also teach us important lessons about rationality … read more:

Medicine: A Lesson In Efficient Markets



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5 Responses

  1. Second nasty week for stocks, and the markets, in 2016

    Following a second nasty week for stocks, the media is now beginning to ask if we are on the verge of a recession. Small-cap stocks have entered “bear” territory after a 20+% drop off the highs. Recession or not? Bear market just starting, or simply on-going?

    The evidence is mounting that the fundamental problem all along has been one of historic divergences within markets. Simply looking at headline averages belies this fact. All along, bear market behavior has been happening beneath the surface. All along, Utilities, Treasuries, and low beta stocks have continuously outperformed as small-caps, commodities, and emerging markets were in an on-going secular decline.

    Those very same headline averages, over the last 10 trading days, had their worst first two weeks to start the year in history going back to 1928. When divergences get extreme, the beginning of the convergence is equally as violent. It is clear now with hindsight that the extent of the divergence headline averages have had with everything else is precisely why active strategies of every stripe, whether alternative, unconstrained, or sector wise have had such a hard time. When divergences persist for a long period of time, fragility increases.

    The good news is that finally market behavior is respecting history and this should result in a massive shift away from passive return management to active opportunities. The bad news is that for asset allocators who have relied on passive indexing, this could get a lot worse before it gets better. The dilemma here is that unlike 2008 which was driven by a banking crisis, the Fed cannot bail out the Energy sector. The Fed can’t also suddenly lower rates after having just raised them as that would result in a complete loss of credibility by the marketplace. It turns out, the deflation pulse is much more severe than originally thought.

    The question of whether or not we are in an on-going bear market or one that has just begun is largely irrelevant when put in this context. The bigger question is how divergences resolve themselves. The biggest divergences are between stocks and inflation expectations, small-caps and large-caps, emerging markets and developed equities, and finally commodity levels and bond yields. We have written about these observations extensively for a long time now (click here to read). These divergences do not have to be resolved in a negative way. It is very possible in the coming months that inflation expectations rise, emerging markets melt-up, and commodities move higher pushing bond yields with them. The dilemma, however, is that inflation expectations, small-caps, emerging markets, and commodities tend to lead ahead of everything else falling around it. Those areas have been sending warning signs for a long long time now. Either those areas were right in foreshadowing a bear environment, or the signals get exhausted and reverse.

    Which plays out is unclear, but if Oil in particular continues its decent, we may be on the verge of another sector-driven crisis. The cure to low prices in commodities is low prices, but only to the extent that either supply collapses (through a crisis and mass bankruptcies), or there is a sudden surge of demand globally that lifts prices. The demand side looks problematic given the weight of the evidence against global growth and the clear ineffectiveness of any central bank to create lasting acceleration in anything except animal spirts for stocks. Credit spreads suggest the higher likelihood is a wave of defaults which cannot easily be assuaged.

    One thing is clear – the low volatility regime outlier is ending, and this will be a violent year in both directions. That brings many opportunities for disciplined strategies which had a hard time in the last cycle, but may have a far better future in the new one that has just begun.

    Michael A. Gayed CFA
    [Portfolio Manager]


  2. Buy Low … Sell High

    In times like this, where everyone seems to panic out of not just asset classes, but also strategies, introspection is a worthwhile endeavor. After having been on the road for nearly two years now and presenting to thousands of advisors on our award winning papers related to predicting stock correction and volatility (click here to download), I can share a great truth I’ve learned:

    Few truly buy low to sell high. Nearly all attempt to buy high, and sell higher

    Anyone with access to a Bloomberg terminal will clearly see this when analyzing mutual fund asset growth over time. Performance for some strategy/asset class attracts attention, assets then follow with a lag. Then, the cycle begins to turn against that strategy/asset class, performance dwindles, and money (again with a lag) sells until the actual bottom occurs. It is remarkable when one steps back and looks at asset classes or strategies which have drawdowns, and the lagged response money has to getting out at quite literally the exact wrong time. Buy low, sell high means to buy AFTER a severe drawdown has taken place. The reason why most asset allocators tend to have lackluster returns over very long cycles beyond the small sample we all live in is precisely because of this type of allocation behavior – selling after the decline rather than buying into it.

    Of course, one must in turn define what “severe” means. There is an old saying on the Street that “your largest drawdown is always to come.” Some define it by percentage, but more importantly one should view drawdowns in the context of what actually is happening in the market environment. Stocks so far in 2016 have had essentially their worst start to a year in history going back to 1928. We are quite literally living history as an outlier environment overwhelms the investing community. Does one sell, or buy into this? From the standpoint of the environment, there is one very clear fact to consider – passive indexing has resulted in tremendous complacency. That, combined with the Fed “put” belief likely means the bigger drawdown in US stocks is in front of us not behind. The environment still favors defense in the near-term.

    However, many strategies and asset classes already have had a massive decline, notably active tactical allocators who suffered numerous false positives in their methodologies. Somehow though, I get the feeling there is much more divesting in those beaten down large-drawdown plays than investing. Those who understand what they are investing in and more importantly why they are investing in it can shut out the noise and fear, and take the “brave” step of buying low when no one else does.
    Of course, knowing the exact day to buy into a large drawdown is impossible, but averaging in usually helps resolve that issue over time. Fear is palpable here. Having the courage to be rational and recognize that opportunities come after big declines is ultimately how to outperform over long cycles.

    Happy 2016! It’s been a strange year already.

    Michael A. Gayed CFA
    [Portfolio Manager]


  3. Pure Insanity?

    Can we all just step back for a moment and consider the complete insanity that is gripping markets?

    December ended with the first Fed interest rate hike in nearly a decade after years of talk that rates would rise. The Federal Reserve was lauded for doing the right thing after the financial crisis, supporting asset markets. The time had come, the economy could withstand higher rates, and 2016 looked hopeful.

    Then, what happens? Stocks have the worst first week of performance in history. Second week continued to make that history. All it took was 10 days, just 10 days, for every pundit, analyst, trader, and investor to scream that we entered a bear market. Just 10 days, for everyone to scream that we are entering recession, and that the Fed made a mistake.

    What changed? Nothing except a historic and vicious decline in equities; a decline that Treasuries in the weeks before did not anticipate. The fact that all it takes is but a few days for the narrative to shift so dramatically is utter insanity. To think that we “are entering” a bear market or recession completely disregards data that suggests weakness has been on-going for some time. Small-cap stocks didn’t “just enter” a bear market. They’ve been in a bear market for nearly a year now. Despite such weakness, broad market averages did not respect that fact as only a few select companies masked tremendous weakness under the surface.

    This is what the Fed hiked rates into – and in truth the Fed should have hiked sooner even into a bear market to restore some level of normalcy to “cost of capital.” Why fear a recession or painful bear market? Recessions are meant to cleanse the system of excess and inefficiencies. Bear markets are meant to correct overvalued stocks allowing investors who actually do have a long-term vision for their money to buy low. Instead, a sharp decline in stocks results in the masses who were so bullish on the future to so suddenly change their opinion on what’s to come.

    So now the Fed is being blamed for market volatility and the decline in stocks having raised rates into the “sudden” bear market and recession. Concurrently, the Bank of Japan has joined Europe in setting rates negative. Stocks cheer worldwide, and the narrative once again shifts to central bank negative rates as a tool to boost inflation and accelerate economic activity. Again, all it takes is a few short days causing everyone to seemingly come up with a completely new conclusion over what the future holds.

    Stop – please just stop. This is not investing. This is not even trading. This is manic-depressiveness and bipolar disorder that is infecting the world because of short-termism. Every move by the Bank of Japan and European Central Bank to ease has resulted in reinforcing short-termism despite any evidence that Quantitative Easing and negative rates solves anything. It is far more important to spend time understanding an asset class or investment strategy than spend time listening to news and changing one’s thoughts the moment something happens.

    Our research and market commentary (click here to view) are meant to help put things in perspective in a world full of so much noise and information that is either random or has no predictive power. Yet, we must fight for perspective. It’s the only fight we can fight to maintain our sanity as well.

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    Michael A. Gayed CFA
    Portfolio Manager



    As the labor market remains strong but slows modestly, some pundits expect wage growth to continue increasing gradually through 2016 and beyond. Against this backdrop, they anticipate that unemployment will likely stay below 5% through 2016, bolstering wage growth’s gradual ascent.

    Education Subset

    For example, in 2005, 82,380 Americans worked in educational support services. By 2014, that figure grew to 147,881; a 79.5% increase. By contrast, the broader educational services sector, which includes industries such as medical colleges and universities, elementary and secondary schools, and technical and trade schools, among others, grew by just 5.3% over the same period.

    Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA


  5. Top psychologist joins world’s first peer-to-peer insurance startup

    Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University, said he joined Lemonade because he wanted to help the company make the relationship between the insurer and the insured less “adversarial.”


    Ariely, Lemonade’s new chief behavioral officer, also said funds are shared communally, rather than hoarded by the insurance agency. Lemonade has raised $13 million in initial funding.


    Dr. David E. Marcinko MBBS MBA CMP™


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