Beating the Market, Part I

Because I'm currently studying for the second (of three) CFA® exam, I'm going to take a break from my usual article analyzing some aspect of alternative energy.  This week and next, I'll take a step back and try to answer an existential question: How can I possibly hope to beat the market, when "the market" consists of professional money managers with resources far exceeding my own?  Every active investor should ask themselves this question: the answer will either make you a better investor, or save you a lot of time and money if you are humble enough to realize...

Your Portfolio is Hooked on Fossil Fuels

Garvin Jabusch Oil addiction photo via BigStock You are drilling for oil and natural gas, and you probably don’t even know it.  What, you say you’ve never been near a drilling rig, and aren’t even sure what one looks like?  You’re still drilling, because companies you own are drilling. Many financial advisors and asset managers routinely assume that broadly diversified stock portfolios will have holdings in fossil fuels companies.  Even most stock mutual funds that identify themselves as ‘green’ funds contain natural gas and even oil holdings. This...

A Quick Clean Energy Tracking Portfolio

Yesterday, I outlined a strategy to approximately replicate the performance of a Clean Energy mutual fund at much lower cost, with only a couple hours of effort.  I gave a cost example based on $5000 invested in 5 stocks, with another $1000 worth of a single stock added in each subsequent year.   This is the procedure I would use to select the initial five stocks. Collect all the top five or ten holdings of the available Clean Energy mutual funds.  This data is available from Morningstar, and on fund sponsor's home pages. A few of these holdings may...

The Short Side of Clean Energy

Green Energy Investing For Experts, Part I Tom Konrad, CFA You don't have to be long Renewable Energy stocks to have a green portfolio.  Shorting, selling calls, or buying puts on companies and industries which are heavily dependent on dirty and finite fossil fuels not only makes a portfolio greener, it can protect against the effects of a permanent global decline caused by peak oil. Nate Hagens presented this slide at the 2009 International Peak Oil Conference:   It shows his conception of the different schools of thought among those of us who understand peak oil.  Those represented in...

Why Do Green Energy Experts Buy Solar Stocks? 

Tom Konrad CFA Green energy experts accept that solar panels are one of the least cost effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint.  Nevertheless, many buy solar stocks.  They should rethink their investment strategies. I recently spoke on "Stock Selection in the Era of Peak Oil and Climate Change" at the ASPO 2009 International Peak Oil Conference.  Whenever green energy enthusiasts find out that I analyze green energy stocks professionally, they react in one of two ways.  Many want to know my top stock pick in general (New Flyer Industries NFI-UN.TO/NFYIF.PK) or in their favorite sector (see below.)   ...

Down and Out in 2011: Headlines from Possible Futures

Tom Konrad, CFA If you don't know what could go wrong in 2010, it could still hurt your portfolio. In Nassim Taleb's Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, he describes an exercise at one of his early jobs.  In order to become aware of risks they otherwise might have overlooked, they were to assume that they would lose all the money under their management in the coming year, and they work backwards to figure out how that might have happened. This struck me as an excellent idea, which investors...

Market Call: We’re Near the Peak

Tom Konrad, Ph.D. The current rally from the March 5 bottom has been breathtaking, especially in Clean Energy, with my Clean Energy Tracking Portfolio up 70.5% since it was assembled at the end of February (as of May 1), 11% higher than it was at the three month update last week, and the S&P 500 is up 41% from its March low.  Even in a better economic climate, gains of this magnitude would have me running for cover.  In the current economic climate, with a gigantic mountain of debt keeping consumers out of the stores, makes me feel this...

Green Energy Investing for Beginners: A Small Investor’s Perspective

This is a guest post by Brad Wright, who felt that my "Beginners" series was a too high level to really live up to the name.  He's probably right about that, so here is his effort to bring it down to basics for the small Canadian investor.  The links and section headers are mine.   Tom Konrad. Motivation The goal of this article is to assist with your future investments by explaining investment options, how they work and potential alternatives that may be of interest to you. The take away I’m looking for is with a little research you can...

Better, or Beta?

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA My Quick Clean Energy Tracking Portfolio has produced unexpected out-performance.  Is it because of high beta (β) in a rising market? I recently asked why two portfolios which I had designed to track green energy mutual funds ended up out-performing them by a wide margin.   This is the first of a short series of articles looking into possible causes.  Could the portfolios be outperforming because the stocks they contain rise more when the market rises (and fall more when the market falls) than do the mutual funds they were designed to track?  In...

The Big Short and Picking a Money Manager

If you're going to have someone else manage your money, consider their incentives carefully. I just finished reading Micheal Lewis's excellent book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine on the Wall Street's role in the subprime mortgage meltdown and the few investors who saw it coming. I began with a low opinion of the effectiveness of the vast majority fund managers and advisors who manage other people's money for a living, but the the highly-paid gross negligence and/or incompetence of the people running the CDO operations of the big Wall Street banks in the years leading...

Calling for a Marshall Plan, not a Manhattan Project

Electricity too cheap to meter.  For many renewable energy advocates, that is the holy grail… new technology which will not only solve the problem of carbon emissions, but be so transformative that we no longer have to worry about turning off the lights when we leave the room. We could argue for days about the viability of any such technology, be it cold fusion, hydrogen, or photovoltaic nanodots.  I personally have strong opinions about the likelihood of any technology to produce energy so cheaply that it would not make sense to use some mechanism...

A Year Later: Market Up, Clean Energy Down

Tom Konrad, CFA When I called the peak a year ago, it was too soon for the broad market, but not for clean energy stocks.  I think both have room to fall, but clean energy may bottom first.  Almost a year ago at the start of June, I wrote saying "we're near the peak" of the stock market.  I was too early, and admitted it in August.  But I also said that it was a bad time to be in the market: the risks of a decline far outweighed the potential gains of remaining in an...

How to Beat the Market: Less Money and More Judgement

Last week, I looked at how a small investor could gain an advantage in the market by understanding the other players.  The most important other players are institutional investors such as hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds, and investment banks who have considerably more resources and valuation skills than the individual investor, and so trying to take them on directly to beat them at their own is likely to be an expensive exercise in futility. Two Exploitable Weaknesses On the other hand, I argued that institutional investors have certain handicaps and biases which do allow small investors to enter...

An Investor’s Reaction to a Trump Victory

See my response here: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/how-one-clean-energy-investor-is-reacting-to-a-trump-victory Tom Konrad

The Catholic Church Shouldn’t be Investing in Abortion Clinics

Tom Konrad CFA Jesus Saves, but where does he invest? Photo via Bigstock. This article is not about the Church, or abortion.  As far as I know, the former does not invest in the latter. This article is about investing, and morality. Since 350.org began its campaign to get endowments and pensions to divest from fossil fuels, I've heard two basic criticisms of the movement from my colleagues in the investment management profession. Endowments selling their fossil fuel investments won't stop us from using fossil...

Green Energy Investing For Beginners, Part III: Before You Invest

Tom Konrad, CFA Before you consider green stock market investments, invest in yourself. A reader of my article on asset allocation for green energy investors brought up an important point: we may have green opportunities in our own lives, such as improving the energy efficiency of our homes, which will return much safer and higher returns than green stocks, especially when the market as a whole is as overvalued as I currently believe it is. Homeowners typically have a large number of high-return energy efficiency investments they can make.  Since energy efficiency reduces energy use, it both produces returns...
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