O.K., so what is the speed of dark?

Thirty six years ago I bought an oak long-cased Grandfather clock that had been made by John Charlton of Durham. It is old, because he died in the late 1790s and one must assume that he made it before he died!

Recently it needed the winding mechanism repairing and I took the opportunity of asking that the moon phasing also be fixed, as it had never worked whilst in my possession. The clock was repaired and returned to me last week.

Now the moon phasing had to be set, and to my astonishment I found that it ran from zero, a new moon, for twenty nine and half days to the next new moon. My first reaction was that Mr John Charlton had made a mistake and the silly man did not know that there were thirteen lunar months of twenty-eight days in a calendar year. Just to be sure, I went to Wikipedia to check.

Well as you might know already, or have guessed, he was correct and I, the long-term navigator, was wrong. In my defence, and it is not much of a defence, the sun and the stars are used for navigating and not the moon. Amazingly, it turns out there are five celestial variations of the lunar month, none of which are twenty-eight days. The twenty-eight day month is a common law period and was adopted in the Law of Property Act of 1925.

I hope that this is not too boring, but I will lay out the facts as I now understand them to be.

  • SIDEREAL MONTH. (27days 7hours 43minutes) This is the time it takes the Moon to return to a similar position among the stars.
  • SYNODIC MONTH. (29days 12hours 44minutes) This is an average period and references a line joining the Sun and the earth. This varies because the Earth’s orbit around the Sun is elliptical and not circular and the timing is dependent on the position of the Moon relative to the Earth and the Sun.
  • TROPICAL MONTH. (27days 7hours 43minutes) This is a similar time to the Sidereal month and is the time taken for the Moon to cycle with respect to the vernal equinox. I am starting to get lost at this point!
  • ANOMALISTIC MONTH. (27days 13hours 18minutes) This is a similar time to the Sidereal month, but is longer due to the allowance that has to be made for the fact that the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical and not circular. This we can observe in the different apparent diameters of the moon at different times of the year as its distance from earth varies.
  • DRACONIC MONTH. (27days 5hours 5minutes) I like this name as it refers to a mythical dragon, said to live in the lunar nodes and eat the Sun or Moon during an eclipse. The Draconic month is the average interval between two successive transits of the Moon through the same node. I said it might hurt!

SUMMARY – All Lunar months approximate to the mean length of the Synodic month, the average period the Moon takes to cycle through its phases and back again to the starting point. The Moon completes one orbit around the Earth every 27.3days (a Sidereal month), but due to the Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun, the Moon does not finish a Synodic cycle until it has reached the point in its orbit where the Sun is in the same relative position.

PHEW!

At the moment we are all intrepid adventurers on the high seas of investment. My apologies for yet again returning to the subject of technology funds, but these are the only funds that are making progress at the moment. The recent minor correction in these funds however poses the big question. Will they return to their upward momentum of the last few years, or are we due for a real fall should the FAANG businesses falter?

As a sterling investor, the strengthening of the dollar has recently made a significant contribution to the rise of these funds that have many of their investments in dollar-based businesses.

This brings me to the subject of Brexit. Sorry about that! But whichever way this mop flops it will affect the value of sterling. A good deal for the U.K. (whatever that is) and one would imagine that sterling would appreciate against the dollar and other currencies. The reverse is true if there is a disorganised W.T.O. no deal result. At the moment I am in a quandary and can see no way that one can anticipate the result. Certainly not from listening to and reading the news.

So for the moment, until the mists start to clear, I intend to hold on to the four technology funds that I hold. (Scottish Mortgage Trust, Smith and Williamson Artificial Intelligence, Polar Capital Technology and AXA Framlington Technology).  I have held them for some time, and they have served me well and still show favourably in our numbers. I am however on full alert.

Somebody once said that there is nothing wrong with optimism, as long as you do not get your hopes up!

Best wishes and good investing,

Douglas.

Founder & Chairman

The direction of the dollar, the dollar, the dollar, this conundrum is the stuff goose pimples are made of.

I have over the years, cribbed and acquired a set of rules that I use when trying to make what I hope are sensible investment decisions. They are as follows:

  • Don’t buy fund Managers on reputation. Buy them when their investment style is working.
  • Momentum remains the simplest way to identify those getting it right.
  • Never invest in hype and be aware of vested interest in financial reporting.
  • Don’t let your heart rule your head. Stick to the facts and regularly review the funds and sectors you are invested in.

With the above rules in play I have been looking at those Technology funds, American and Global funds which are reported in Sterling, but are heavily invested in American or dollar designated economies. I have to be careful not to be too optimistic, because as some of you will realise I have a natural affinity for technological developments and the global arena. It is nice when the underlying business investments in these funds are performing well, but it is a double whammy when the dollar strengthens. Conversely, a falling dollar can just as quickly remove these gains.

So what is the likely future of the the dollar when it has already strengthened 7% against Sterling within as many weeks? This is not saying that Sterling is weak as it has been strengthening against the Australian, New Zealand, South African and Indian currencies, whilst marking time with the Euro. Looking at the economy of America today these are the facts as I see them.

  • Q.E. is over and the Fed has already started to raise interest rates ahead of the rest of the world.
  • American Bond yields are now on the rise.
  • Unemployment is at its lowest level for sixty years, wage rates are now rising and spending at US retailers is soaring.
  • Tax revenues are rising as the economy expands and some firms are repatriating their financial offices back to the USA on account of the lowering of corporation tax rates.

These four points are factual and on their own should lead to a continual strengthening of the dollar against Sterling and most other currencies. Yes, we do have President Trumps personal tariff war against most of the civilised world, but at the end of the day is this just posturing to secure better trading terms when the dust settles?

This week’s Saltydog figures and graphs for North America and Tech & Telecomms are very impressive, and have been so for the last couple of months. In their own right, these graphs are saying that an upwards momentum is already established and currently is showing no sign of slowing down. Therefore what is there not to like?

I already have small investments in Baillie Gifford American, Baillie Gifford Global Discovery, AXA Framlington Global Technology, Scottish Mortgage Trust and Polar Capital Global Technology. I am now persuaded, and intend to increase the percentages that I hold in these funds and trusts. I will also look at Allianz Technology Trust which shows gains of 6.7%, 20% and 31% over 4, 12, and 26 weeks. That investment trust had slipped in below my radar.

N America Inc Sm Cos

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Last week I spent a day in the Basque fishing port of Getaria and I was amazed to see the number of large modern deep-sea fishing trawlers. There were a dozen tied up getting ready to put to sea and others had already left. Apparently these numbers are mirrored in many other ports around the North Spanish coast. What a difference to the situation in the UK where over the last sixty years our deep-sea fishing fleet has been decimated. I wonder if there will be a reversal of fortunes after the Brexit negotiations are completed. It is hard however to see the Spaniards accepting a major change to their livelihoods.

I have always been interested in the sea. My father wanted me to have all the educational opportunities he never had, so it was a close run decision between a girls school and going to sea. As a result, at fourteen I did my first trips on trawlers as an unpaid ‘decky learner’ fishing in Icelandic waters shortly before the start of the cod wars. This was prior to joining the Merchant Navy as an Officer Cadet. I can clearly remember that at the weekend the Hull trawlers filled St Andrews Dock from side to side, unfortunately this dock has long since been filled with concrete. I don’t think I would wish this result on the Spaniards.

Three men of a certain age (my age) met on the golf course…

Three men of a certain age (my age) met on the golf course. The first said “It’s windy today”, the second said “No, it’s Thursday”, and the third said, “So am I, let’s go to the pub!”

The above is a situation that can occur when deafness starts to impair our hearing. In this case, for the point of the article, it is an innocent example – a little like the game of Chinese whispers that one played as a child.

There is however the story from the First World War where a message was sent back from the front line saying “send reinforcements I am going to advance”. This arrived back at headquarters as “send three and four pence I am going to a dance”. The request was not acted upon and as a result many British soldiers are said to have lost their lives.

Current social media and irresponsible reporting of financial and political events definitely falls into the category of destructive Chinese whispers. In today’s world, who and what to believe is worthy of a University degree course in its own right. Mr Trump’s taking America towards isolation, North and South Korea doing the chicken dance, China heading up massive infrastructure projects both at home and in Asia and Africa, Italy finely balanced on the edge of bankruptcy and the UK and the EU with their Brexit problems. You can find good and bad news in all of these events, but who in their right mind would try to predict which will, and won’t occur, and what the knock on effect might be for your investments.

All of you that have read my previous emails will know that on a personal level I now hold a significant percentage of my investment in cash and I do not see that changing in the near future. I have however taken heart from the recent performance of the U.K. sectors as shown in our Saltydog numbers. They have been unloved and neglected for quite a long time, but have perked up in the last month. I have therefore taken a small holding in both UK small companies and UK income funds that have their investments in the UK and are not too exposed to the movement of the US dollar. Let’s hope that this does not turn into the kiss of death!

One of the oldest stock market adages that is frequently quoted is “Sell in May and go away”. This was usually associated with wealthy investors and stock-brokers who left their offices to head out of the country to warmer climes to spend and enjoy their “ill-gotten” gains. Their absence left the markets on hold until they returned in the autumn. We now live in modern times of computers and easy communication so whether this is still true must be debatable and I would not like to bet on which way this particular mop flops. Certainly in recent years we have seen substantial rises at this time of year and of course some falls. This year it may be good advice to be out of the market, and by the autumn funds may have become less volatile and also a lot cheaper.

I am now looking for that fund that will allow me to place a small amount of “blue sky” money into cryptocurrency and also blockchain technology. It must be a fund in order to spread the risk, as I fail to understand sufficiently the detail of each to make a singular company investment and I would be happy to rely on a fund manager and his team. So far I have only come up with the ETF “First Trust Index Innovation, Transaction and Process”. Before I invest I would be very interested to hear if anybody has found alternative funds.

Best wishes and good investing,
Douglas.
Founder & Chairman

If this market volatility continues I will be sending out for iron tablets.

What the Dow does today, the European markets seem to do tomorrow – it is like being on a see-saw. Up and then down, but is the down going to continue further or are we going to see the markets recover to where they were a few months ago? The graphs are starting to resemble previous occasions when we experienced major corrections.

Then again, when we get a turn up, should we believe that the worst is over? It may look like a boat, but will it float?

There is nothing but bad sentiment in the news at the moment. Donald Trump is economically “willy waving” at the Chinese, the Russians, the Europeans and anybody else that disturbs his karma. The Syrian war is escalating with the use of poison gases and over the weekend air strikes by the West. The large technology companies have seen their share prices go into reverse with further to fall as their tax havens are being assaulted. The pound is inexplicably showing signs of strengthening against the dollar, even though interest rates have been raised in America, and the U.K. is enjoying the doubtful joys of Brexit negotiations. Surely none of this can be encouraging for stock-markets; therefore would reason dictate that they have further to fall?

I should not be unhappy with this situation. On a personal basis 90% plus of my investments are now in cash with a small percentage held in property funds. A major correction would suit me perfectly; I will wait until the sharks have stopped circling and then afterwards put to sea again. This becomes just a question of patience and waiting for sufficient major investors to indicate when the market has properly turned. There is absolutely no need to be leading the way. Let somebody else volunteer for that honour first.

I am reminded of the time when aged fifteen, along with seven other stalwarts I joined the New Zealand Shipping Company’s cargo-carrying cadetship as a “first tripper”, this being the start of the first of five eight month voyages. It was January 2nd 1958 in Falmouth and it was bitterly cold. We were assembled on deck in front of the Bosun, who looked and sounded like the windjammer sailor he had been. He asked whether any of us been at sea before and like a fool my hand was up. Yes sir, I have been on deep sea trawlers fishing off Iceland. What a mistake to make. With that he shouted “come here sloppy bollocks” and he proceeded to give me the run around. It was easier for him to remember this nickname rather than the real names of the other new starters. Unfortunately the name stayed with me for the three years I was aboard. The lesson is obvious, do not be first, and do not seek attention, it is quite OK to be a follower.

An investment area that might fall outside the restrictions that I mentioned above is the boom in marijuana production. As I have previously written, when prohibition in America ended there was an enormous boom in the sales and distribution of alcohol. People like the Kennedys made their fortunes and this same money is still in trust today providing the lifestyle for the Kennedy descendants. We now have a similar situation with marijuana in America where the law is changing to make its use legal both medically and personally – there could be a similar explosion in demand as that which occurred at the end of liquor prohibition. Canada is already farming vast acreages destined for the conversion plants. Three ETF funds already exist that could be worth further examination.
• Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index (HMMJ)
• MG Alternative Harvest (was MJX now just MJ)
• Marijuana Opportunities Fund (MJJ)
When I first found out about these funds I could access them in my Standard Life SIPP, via a company called Stocktrade, but I know that other people have struggled with the normal fund supermarkets. If anyone else has been able to get hold of them, please let me know.

I hasten to add that I am not advocating or encouraging the use of this drug. It could however provide an interest to follow whilst the politicians and the markets continue to mess with our minds.

Might does not make right, it makes reality.

The above expression sums up many of the ruling classes of Southern African countries. It most certainly applies to the ANC party which controls South Africa, and also until two months ago to Mugabe who controlled Zimbabwe.

I have always had an interest in this part of the world, and some twenty years ago I owned a factory near Durban. It manufactured pine furniture, which we shipped back to the U.K. and then into our main furniture sales and distribution system.

At about the same time I almost became involved in setting up a saw mill and processing plant in Zimbabwe to supply timber to the furniture plant in Durban. It was an attractive proposition and the Shona race, the largest population in the country, was educated, friendly and not averse to hard work. Fortunately, as it turned out, we did not go ahead with the project because it was obvious the direction the country was heading under the rule of Mugabe.

As a result of these projects, my wife and I have many friends in South Africa and most years we will visit there on holiday. In recent years it has become more and more obvious that the “Zimbos” have been moving to S.A. to find work, and then repatriate money back home to keep the wolf away from the family door. Their work ethic and attitude makes them stand out amongst the rest of the S.African working population, and they have ended up with the better jobs.

This now brings me to the point of this article. Mugabe has gone, and it looks as if his successor Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa may be about to try to turn the clock back towards the time when Zimbabwe was the bread-basket of Southern Africa and it’s people were well educated and gainfully employed. That is a big ask, but any recognisable step in that direction will likely result in the return of the Zimbabweans to their home country. Achieve that and Zimbabwe, rich in agriculture and natural assets, will bloom again – but this time on a more equitable racial footing.

Another major problem in investing into these areas has been the disappearing value of their currencies. In 2015 the Zimbabwean dollar, after years of hyper-inflation, had become virtually worthless, and trade was being conducted in other world hard currencies. Now that Mugabe is leaving, perhaps the Zimbabwean dollar will obtain a value again.

In a similar fashion the S.African Rand was at 15R/£ in 2008, but after a few years of President Zuma`s careful attention it had fallen in value to 23.5R/£. Now that he is at long last heading for the sunset, and a cosy retirement, it has recently strengthened to 16R/£.  It will be good news for investors if Mr Cyril Ramaphosa is also able to ring the changes on the South African economy and the Rand continues to strengthen.

There are many funds that have Africa in their title, but frequently their investments are in international companies and are continent wide.

These two occasionally turn up in the Saltydog numbers.

  • African Opportunity Investment Trust
  • HSBC MSCI South Africa ETF

There are also many Emerging market unit trusts that have a percentage of their investments in Southern Africa but then you also carry the baggage of the other country investments.

If the above scenario was to come to pass, it would be nice to find that unit trust fund which was more country specific. Of course one would want to know that the above process was definitely, and irreversibly, underway before making an investment.

Using nautical terminology; “when approaching an unknown coast or port it is better to do this on a rising tide”. That is sound logic, and anyone who thinks otherwise should submit to counselling!

 

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has recently had its largest single day fall of the last six years, with this coming after one of its largest one year rises. This fall then spread to all other world markets.

For somebody who had been invested through this bull market, the fall represented a mere couple of months of previous rises. So why all the upset, and why do I feel so unsettled? Obviously, it is because I don’t know which way the markets are going to move, and I just really, really hate that uncertainty.

Is this a minor blip, or are we heading for a major correction? Who knows; market overpricing and the potential of rising inflation are worrying, but countering that, the world economy is said to be growing, so where to next?

There are those that say we are due another major correction because that is just the way of the world. I have some sympathy with that statement when I look at the graph of the FTSE100 over the last 25 years.

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For a variety of reasons these corrections do occur. First there was the bursting of the dotcom bubble, then in 2008/9 it was the financial crisis, in 2011 it was the Eurozone debt crisis and in 2015 it was a panic over China`s growth. They are like rogue waves at sea, they are just going to happen. However, that is not to say there aren`t signs that suggest being cautious.

We have just experienced a minor roller, which might or might not be the precursor of a damaging investment tsunami. So in my book, it was a straight-forward decision and I have put on my life-jacket and sold off some of my funds into cash.

If nothing adverse materialises then I have lost a gain and will buy back again later, but if the worse happens and the markets do crash then I have suffered less of a loss. That is my preferred position. I am not in the lifeboat yet, but I have one hand on the gunwale.

Please remember that I am not a financial shaman, but just an ordinary DIY investor with access to fund performance numbers. I am in the same position as yourselves, and like you I am bombarded by commentary about Cape Numbers (performance index) and VIX numbers (volatility) and articles written by readers of chicken bones all telling me that I should be able to tell what is going to happen next.  Well I cannot, and nor can they!

The only thing that I do know is that in the past when there have been falls, the recovery time varies from a few weeks to over twelve months, and that is fact. You can take precautions and reduce your exposure to the markets or you stay where you are and see what happens. You pays your money and takes your choice, quite literally!

At times like this I am reminded of the Jesse Livermore quotation…

“No person can accurately predict what will happen in the future, and you should not listen to people who tell you that they can.”

 

Everyone has a photographic memory, some just don’t have film!

I have recently been reading about the Kennedy clan and how their vast wealth was generated.

The Kennedys moved from Ireland to America in the mid nineteenth century, but did not start to accumulate wealth until Joseph P.Kennedy took the family reins at the beginning of the twentieth century. He is reputed to have made his money from trading on the stock market, in transport, real estate speculation and liquor distribution. Although he went on to become the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the American Ambassador to Great Britain, many of his methods of accumulating his business success were questionable.

Today the billion dollar fortune that he created still carries on down through the Kennedy generations, protected by family trusts.

Now why might this be interesting to a Saltydog investor? Here is why.  A great deal of his wealth came from his liquor distribution business, which straddled the ending of prohibition in America. The consumption of alcohol simply exploded with the changing of the law and this created a vast fortune for Joseph Kennedy.  He subsequently re-invested this into the stock market and real estate with – it is rumoured – considerable help from his friends!

Again today we have a similar situation in America, as the law is changing so that the production and use of Marijuana will no longer be illegal. It is used both medically and also personally so there could be a similar explosion in demand as that which occurred for liquor at the end of prohibition. This requirement will be met by legal farming and conversion companies, in which it should be possible to invest.

There are already a couple of ETFs taking advantage, like the Horizons ‘Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF’ (HMMJ), which was launched last April in Canada, and the ‘ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF’ (MJX), which was launched in the US at the end of last year. Another ETF, ‘Marijuana Opportunities Fund’ (MJJ) began trading last week in Canada.

Although these funds aren’t readily available in the UK at the moment, they will be at some point. Your broker may also be able to get hold of them if you ask.

I hasten to add that I am not advocating or encouraging the use of drugs, although my wife says that perhaps if I were to participate I might get my film back!

The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity. (George Carlin)

This is a similar situation to the funds in my own portfolios. The 70% that take the strain in the boring ‘Slow Ahead’ and the slightly more exciting ‘Steady as She Goes’ Groups receive a lot less attention than they should. They go about their business quietly and with lower volatility.

Whereas the other 30% – in the more exciting and engaging ‘Full Steam Ahead’ areas of Technology, Emerging Markets, Asia and China – get my full attention and are never far from my mind.

One of my New Year’s investing resolutions was to turn this around and direct more attention to these low lying areas. At my age I am not looking to make decisions that might put at risk my family`s inheritance. At least that is the directive I have been given by my daughters! A global return of 10% to 12% should meet these requirements. Simple arithmetic says that 70% earning 10% p.a. would yield 7%p.a. and 30% earning 15% p.a. would yield 4.5%p.a. making a grand total of 11.5% p.a. This result doubles the pot every six years, and would certainly satisfy even my most vocal supporters.

This result would be less than I would normally expect to attain, but it would be achieved with far less worry and aggravation. Why chase the 30% to make big returns, whilst leaving the 70% to make low returns of around 5% to 6% as I have done recently?

There was a time, soon after the last financial crisis and at the height of QE, when getting 10% out of funds in the ‘Slow Ahead’ Group was straight-forward. Those of you who’ve been on board with us from the beginning might remember favourites like the ‘Old Mutual Corporate Bond’ – it went up by 36% in 2009 and 16% in 2010. It only went up by 4% in 2011, the year of the UK Gilts and Index-Linked Gilts, but then went up by 18% in 2012.

I’ve never felt particularly comfortable with the funds in the ‘Slow Ahead’ Group – it seems strange to me that people are investing in ‘fixed interest’ investments to get capital gains – and yet the numbers have been strong enough to convince me. Like the Saltydog demonstration portfolios, the majority of my ‘safer’ money has also been in the ‘Slow Ahead’ Group – that is no longer the case.

Look below, at the sector annual returns data for 2017, and it is not difficult to see that last year the sectors in the ‘Slow Ahead’ Group were not the most rewarding place to be – with annual returns varying between 2% and 6%. However, placing the bulk of a portfolio into the top sectors of the ‘Steady as She Goes’ Group, which has relatively low volatility, and the balance into the ‘Full Steam Ahead’ Groups would have made the overall target a shoe-in!

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Of course it would still have to be managed to keep the funds in the sectors carrying the momentum of the moment. It is most unlikely that one sector will continue its forward run for a complete year so it will mean changing horses throughout the race, but that is what makes it interesting. Watching the numbers and then taking the appropriate action is my message of the year to myself.

I do realise however that there will be times when abrupt financial market movements and politicians’ utterances will mean moving your investments quickly into cash, the only safe haven in those circumstances. Today we live in unsettling times, but for the moment we still move forward.

Remember there is nothing wrong with optimism, as long as you don’t get your hopes up.

Investing in Vietnam

“How stupid can you get?”, was a question teachers often used to ask me. “How stupid do you want?” was always my reply.

Over the last few years I have written articles about the attraction of Vietnam as an investment destination. Before proceeding further I must admit to travelling there 56 years ago when in the Merchant Navy, and now my youngest brother is a doctor in Ho Chi Min City. His experiences, and my recent visit, confirm my opinion of this country.

The population of Vietnam is around 93 million with an average age of 35 years. More than half now live in the cities and have aspirations to live a western lifestyle – this includes mobile phones and the internet.

Originally the roads were packed with bicycles, then it moved to scooters (carrying the whole family plus livestock) and now there are cars. Vast sums of money are being spent on roads, rail and infrastructure in general.

The country is self-sufficient in oil and rice, and the surplus is supplied into the rest of the Asian community. China, America and Japan have off-shored manufacturing here for a number of years due to the low wages and the “can do” attitude of a young population. When these countries do well, then so do the Vietnamese.

Just look at the graph below, showing two means of investing directly into Vietnam.

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In 2003 one of my first investments ever was into the VinaCapital Vietnam Opportunity Fund where my money almost doubled before I exited in 2007, fortunately ahead of the world markets collapse of 2007/8.

I revisited Vietnam five years ago to holiday with my brother, and the activity there was just simply startling. On my return to the UK I observed how the SDI numbers covering Asia and the Pacific region appeared to be turning favourable, so I reinvested.

Here is the rub, and the reason I was reminded of my old school teachers. Although I was aware of two ways to make an investment into Vietnam, through an Investment Trust or an ETF, I only ever used the VinaCapital Vietnam Opportunity Fund. This was the one I was familiar with, and I ignored the Vietnam tracker ETF. I put all my eggs into the one basket, and then compounded the error by not keeping track of the performance of the ETF (both investments feature in the Saltydog numbers).

A quick glance at the table and the graph for the last six months hammers home the error of my ways. That has now been rectified.

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Now don`t get me wrong, this single investment has proved very lucrative. But it was poor decision making to travel solo.

As for the future, will this performance continue? Who can be certain, but if China and Japan continue to perform well, and they are on Vietnam`s doorstep, then why not?  This probably also applies to the Asia Pacific region in general.

 

Ninety nine percent of Financial Advisors give the rest a bad name!

Now as you all know, I do not profess to be an authority on financial investment. I am just a person who together with Richard and David has come up with a system of producing a regular supply of unbiased fund performance numbers which indicate the direction of travel of the I.A.sectors and investment funds. Anybody with access to these numbers, and a good fund supermarket to place their trades, should be able to enjoy success.

The idea is pretty simple. Use the numbers, and endeavour to rule out sentiment and the outside noise that comes from financial commentators dressed as life-guards throwing you anvils.

That is the tricky bit and definitely what I find difficult. I enjoy reading and sifting through financial comment and numbers. Unfortunately, this has on occasions resulted in my anticipating a trend which has subsequently turned out to be a mirage. I am fighting with such a situation at the moment in the form of Mr Trump and the USA Market.

In the last year, the world`s intelligentsia and media have enjoyed poking fun at the intemperate tweets of the President. However the financial situation for the USA, for the working class and blue collar workers, could well be on an upward self-sustaining virtuous spiral.

  • The imminent lower corporate tax structure changes could persuade the large American conglomerates to repatriate their financial offices back into the USA. This would result in more taxes being paid and business expansion occurring at home, which means more employment.
  • These same large conglomerates have also been offered a one-off low tax payment on the trillions of dollars they already hold offshore so they can clean up their act and be good Americans. If this occurs, then the USA debt can be reduced and large amounts of money can be spent on improving infrastructure. Again more employment.
  • The dollar has also fallen to a low value against the standard international basket of currencies. This must result in higher exports and lower imports, both of which create employment at home.
  • At the same time as the above is happening, employment has already fallen to a very low level and wages have started to rise as demand outweighs supply. This trend must surely accelerate. More people at work with more money to spend will continue the demand for more goods. The tax collection also rises and the country has a virtuous circle of expansion.

Therein lies my problem, for if I put any credence in the above argument I would expect it to be showing in our Saltydog numbers and it does not. I have graphed a great many of the American funds that we cover and by and large they have very similar results. One year results of 5%-10%, three years 45%- 55% and five years 130%-140%. Their performance is falling and this at a time when the USA stock markets are approaching all-time highs.

I would have expected fund prices to follow the market trends, but apparently not.

Maybe the market is inflating on the back of the major technology funds and is not yet reflected in the market sectors as a whole. Perhaps as Sterling investors, part of the poor performance can be laid at the door of currency movement because Sterling has appreciated against the dollar by around 10% in the last twelve months.

These however do not account for the large discrepancy between the market and fund price movements. Still, what do I know?

The Ocean Liner made a small investment in an American fund at the end of last year, but my personal portfolios will remain un-invested in this sector until I understand more, and the numbers start to reflect the arguments.