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Blog | The Portfolio Doctor

The Portfolio Doctor

My blog provides valuable insights into Nobel Prize-winning financial strategies for investors. By utilizing decades of worldwide peer-reviewed capital markets research and analysis, I demonstrate how to build better investment portfolios with lower risks. I also examine common financial media misinformation and how investors can make better financial decisions.

Perspectives on Factor Investing

March 2019

Dimensional Fund Advisors launched the first factor based fund in 1981 – the US Microcap Portfolio. Since then financial factor research and products have mushroomed. Academic papers have identified over 400 equity factors. There are currently 130 open-end mutual funds and over 600 ETFs that are factor based.

The primary reasons for this radical change are the low cost of ownership and return attribution. In a diversified stock portfolio, academic research (as well as own internal studies) have shown that 90%-99% of return variability can be explained with just five financial factors: Beta, company size, relative value, profitability, and momentum. This fact has profound implications for investors because the research shows where the overwhelming majority of equity investment returns (and premiums) come from. It also means focusing on other issues such as individual stock selection, active manager selection, and market timing are unnecessary and very likely counterproductive. It then begs the question how does an investor put together a portfolio of equity factors designed to have the highest probability of success? The answer rests on four primary considerations:

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Perspective on Premiums

March 2019

Investors may be tempted to extrapolate recent returns into the future, which can lead them to abandon their investment philosophy at potentially inopportune times. While negative outcomes are disappointing, investors should view them with the proper perspective and stay the course.

When you leave your server a tip, do you round it to a whole-dollar amount and often in multiples of $5? Does a 60th birthday seem more significant than a 59th? If you answer yes to these questions, you’re not alone. Most of us prefer round numbers.

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Getting to the Point of a Point

March 2019

A quick online search for “Dow rallies 500 points” yields a cascade of news stories with similar titles, as does a similar search for “Dow drops 500 points.”

These types of headlines may make little sense to some investors, given that a “point” for the Dow and what it means to an individual’s portfolio may be unclear. The potential for misunderstanding also exists among even experienced market participants, given that index levels have risen over time and potential emotional anchors, such as a 500-point move, do not have the same impact on performance as they used to. With this in mind, we examine what a point move in the Dow means and the impact it may have on an investment portfolio.

IMPACT OF INDEX CONSTRUCTION

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was first calculated in 1896 and currently consists of 30 large cap US stocks. The Dow is a price-weighted index, which is different than more common market capitalization-weighted indices.
An example may help put this difference in weighting methodology in perspective. Consider two companies that have a total market capitalization of $1,000. Company A has 1,000 shares outstanding that trade at $1 each, and Company B has 100 shares outstanding that trade at $10 each. In a market capitalization-weighted index, both companies would have the same weight since their total market caps are the same. However, in a price-weighted index, Company B would have a larger weight due to its higher stock price. This means that changes in Company B’s stock would be more impactful to a price-weighted index than they would be to a market cap-weighted index.

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Gerard O’Reilly on Understanding Investment Performance

 

Dimensional’s Co-CEO and Chief Investment Officer answers questions about investment returns, benchmarks, and evaluating managers.

Investors often start the year by evaluating how their portfolios have performed. Gerard O’Reilly recently sat down with Scott Mardy, a Vice President and Investment Strategist with the firm, to talk about what investors should consider when evaluating investment performance.

Key Takeaways
  • Your performance evaluation framework should answer a simple question: Has your money manager delivered what they committed to deliver?
  • The point of analyzing performance data is to help investors make informed investment decisions. The noisier the data, the weaker the inferences you can make.
  • If you’re going to invest time understanding how a manager operates and potentially commit assets to them, you want a manager who is as committed to the long term as you are.
  • Over short time periods, outperforming or underperforming a benchmark is not necessarily evidence that a manager failed to deliver what they said they would deliver.
  • There’s no magic time frame for considering returns—different time frames provide different information.

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Do You Ever Wonder Who is Buying When Everyone's Selling?

A Question of Equilibrium

“Sellers were out in force on the market today after negative news on the economy.” It’s a common line in TV finance reports. But have you ever wondered who is buying if so many people are selling?

The notion that sellers can outnumber buyers on down days doesn’t make sense. What the newscasters should say, of course, is that prices adjusted lower because would-be buyers weren’t prepared to pay the former price.

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