Doubt is an uncomfortable position but certainty is a ridiculous one. (Voltaire)

The year 2018 has certainly been my worst investment year since I started controlling my own portfolio some fifteen years ago. It was a fine start for the first eight months, on the back of the performance of the dollar-based funds, technology funds and Vietnam, but then it all turned South. Fortunately I headed for cash and gold funds in the last quarter, but in hindsight I could have been more speedy and taken larger steps. At the end of the day I have been left with a small annual profit of 2% down from an expected 8%-12%. No question, a very disappointing year.

The big question however is what to expect from 2019? At the moment there are no clear signs as to which direction it will move, be it down or up. If it moves up, one has to be careful that it is not Mr Market coaxing everybody back into the pool before he throws in the toaster!

The graph below clearly shows that during the last financial crisis there were a number of false starts before the recovery really got underway. The decision as to when to re-invest is the generator of goose bumps, and can only be taken by you looking at the best numerical information available at the time. It is only natural to try and anticipate the direction of the market by looking at, and examining, the potential investment opportunities and pitfalls – the difficulty will be in staying your hand before you have finite confirmation. This is no easy decision, and for my part I will take Jesse Livermore’s advice, and when I do decide to start reinvesting I will take small steps first, whilst the direction of travel becomes certain.

b5Looking at the downside into 2019 I see that my Four Horsemen of the Investors Apocalypse are in obvious plain sight. They are Brexit, Trump, Corbyn and a potential EU financial stumble. I can see little point about discussing these, as like me you are probably bored to the back teeth with the endless rambling in the media, none of which can be trusted as meaningful or useful. My own tongue-in-cheek take on the four is – Mrs May is like a fly looking for a windscreen – Mr Trump will continue to frustrate the political world whilst lining his family’s pockets – Mr Corbyn probably wishes he was not in his present role, and hopes that he does not become Prime Minister only to be forced to reveal the paucity of his communist economics – Mrs Merkel, who runs the EU for the benefit of Germany is hoping that her retirement comes before the finances of the EU start to collapse!

Looking to the upside is more difficult. I can see no obvious standout positives. I do wonder whether China and Trump will reduce their differences so that combined with China’s major spend on railways and infrastructure in general, it might kick start a recovery in this market. If this were to happen, then Asian Emerging markets would also pick up and follow suit. Wishful thinking perhaps, but if it did occur then I would reinvest, especially into Vietnam.

I also wonder how long the dollar will stay strong and why the American markets have not reflected the increase in tax take, the dramatic fall in unemployment and the significant increase in labour wage rates. Perhaps when the falls in the FAANG values and the rises in the FED interest rates have been fully absorbed, this will be reflected in a more positive future market price. I guess that Brexit might produce some interesting opportunities for the future, especially should the exit result in some form of WTO. Like it or not, this would certainly produce a switch back ride for both Sterling and the UK markets.

Well, what can we expect from 2019? It is certainly going to be an interesting year and hopefully if there is to be a general recovery, then my cash must be used to join in with these gains. I do believe in being an optimist when looking at my investments and to have faith that tomorrow will be better than today. Surely after the last quarter of 2018 that is not such a big ask!

Best wishes and good investing,

Douglas.

Why did they stop making the Land Rover Defender?

This time last week I wrote about electric cars, Moore’s Law and the Kardashev scale.

It’s always great to hear from our members and I look forward to the comments on the ‘thoughts’ that I send out – thank you, please keep them coming.

Below is one reply that I particularly enjoyed and thought that I would share with you …

Thanks for your thoughts, Douglas.

They call to my mind the question “Why did they stop making the Land Rover Defender?”; the answer to which we might think is “Lack of demand from buyers” – not true – or maybe “Old design of engine not good enough for EU emissions rules” – no, it wasn’t that either.

For a while it has been on my mind that most car miles are travelled with a single person in the car – the driver. So, a person weighing probably less than 100kg schleps around approximately 1000kg of metal with him to get from A to B. This is insanely inefficient.

My take on personal transport in the future is a series of what ifs.

What if people demand smaller, lighter vehicles to get around in? Like this little beauty.

b2(A 2-parent, 2-child family would need two of these little things, but so what? There are loads of two-car families around the UK as it is.)

What if we start taking exercise more seriously (or governments incentivise their people to do so) and, for short journeys, opt for something like the (electrically-assisted) Podbike below?
b3

Or something between the two? Current legislation defines three-wheelers as motorcycles and there is no requirement for fairings to offer crash-protection, so even a fully-enclosing fairing would not add much weight to the thing. Perhaps we could have a fully-faired three-wheel ‘motorcycle’ weighing 250kg ferrying two people around in the dry.

I read recently that the whole planet’s current energy requirements could be met by harnessing the energy from the Sun falling on a small percentage of the Earth’s land area (For example various deserts within, say, 30 degrees of the Equator); so, what if humanity got their act together to exploit the world’s deserts for solar energy?

Finally, the reason the Defender was canned was because it was deemed by the EC to be ‘too solid’. Other supposedly ‘safe’ cars with excellent NCAP ratings were simply obliterated in crash tests with the Defender! What if this marks the high tide mark in the decades-long trend of ever-heavier cars in the quest for ever-safer cars? What if the authorities accept the need for lighter vehicles, requiring less energy to propel them? And, to address safety concerns arising therefrom, we limit vehicles’ ability to hare around at crazy speeds? Given the right incentives, people would respond favourably to such developments.

When all is said and done, I think your conclusion is correct: tech funds should continue to do well for decades to come.

Wishing you a rewarding 2019,

Mark

May you have ten minutes in heaven before the devil knows you have gone.

That is how I feel about Brexit and the stock markets. It would be marvellous to have a period of time without this avalanche of informed opinions, false news and continued market volatility. Time to gather one’s senses. Mind you at the moment, holding such a large percentage of my portfolios in cash, a major bear market would come in very handy. Clear the air and make a nice start again time.

I accept that the finance industry advocates of “hold and grit your teeth” might be taking a different view. Still this is the advice they give to you about what to do with your money. I wonder what they do with their own? We will never know!

I see that our government, amongst others, are requiring that all cars on our roads should be electric by 2050. This sounds a long way away, and one can imagine that our car manufacturers left to their own devices (fat chance) would manage to convert their manufacturing processes to achieve this target. I could also imagine that governments after many cock-ups, overspends and false dawns might have a system in place to satisfy recharge demand. What I struggle with is where the power, the electricity, is going to come from?

It is said that in the UK, we will have to generate an additional 30% more juice just to keep these cars moving. It also assumes that the public will have enough income to finance this change to their vehicles. These are both big questions with “nebulous” solutions. Tidal, solar, and wind will not cut the mustard. It makes no sense to increase coal and oil generation as that defeats the green objective. So for today, and for the near future, that leaves us I believe with nuclear, but possibly not as we know it.

In the late sixties Gordon Moore stated ‘the number of transistors in a chip will approximately double every 24 months’. We now have many other areas of technology that are being subjected to such expansion of knowledge and practical development. One of which is energy generation in all its forms but particularly solar. So perhaps electric cars by 2050 may not be so far-fetched. Desalination plants which run for free would also be a fairly attractive proposition.

Around the same time as the introduction of Moore’s Law, the Kardashev scale was formulated. This is a new name to me – I had thought that this was a measure that American women used when discussing the size of their bottoms!

Apparently not, Nikolai Kardashev was a Russian astrophysicist who developed the scale as a way of measuring a civilization’s technological advancement based upon how much usable energy it has at its disposal.

  • A type 1 civilisation can use and store all of the energy available on its planet – this would give us more than 100,000 times the amount that we currently produce.
  • A type 2 civilisation is able to harness all the energy from its closest star, and this does mean “all” the energy that the star produces.
  • A type 3 civilisation can harness the power of the entire galaxy.

This really is Dan Dare and Mekon stuff and would almost certainly make Elon Musk cough, but who knows what the next centuries will bring when you look at the progress of the last fifty years.

It does leave me very confident that technology companies and funds will still be a strong source of growth and income in the years to come, when the present upsets have passed through the system. For sure, there will be recoveries in the UK, China and the Emerging Markets, and other sectors to take advantage of, as and when they happen, but technology should surely be the “banker”.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2019.

Douglas.

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

We have all been in the situation on a night out where the people you are with want to leave, and after you have left they don’t know where to go to enjoy a better experience. You cannot return to the original venue, because they won’t let you back in without charging you more. It is your own fault, you left without a sensible back-up plan, and now you end up line-dancing when you wanted to tango, eating a kebab when you wanted steak!

If Mrs May’s Brexit negotiations are a success it leaves me wondering what would count as a failure? I admire her tenacity and how she fights on against what appears to be universal condemnation of her plans by most other MPs of all persuasions. Unfortunately this may be a case of pig-headiness rather than a considered reasoned conclusion. At the moment her plan appears to be like a corpse waiting for an autopsy. We have however been treated to the spectacle of EU democracy in action. Twenty-seven wolves and one lamb debating what to eat for dinner.

It is about time that it was explained to our politicians and media commentators that communicating poorly and acting smug is no substitute for intelligence. Instead of giving them the keys to the city it might be better to change the locks!

During the last two years, whilst the Brexit shenanigans have been taking place, it would appear that UK stocks and funds have become uninvestible. There was the golden opportunity, immediately after the referendum in 2016 when Sterling fell in value, to make considerable gains from those technology funds which were priced in dollars. It was a double whammy, tech funds going up and a 12% currency gain in addition. Even our relatively cautious Ocean Liner portfolio (which at the time was holding 30% in cash) experienced a dramatic uplift. Since then however, it has been one-way traffic downhill and billions and billions of dollars must have been withdrawn from UK stocks and funds. After all, as an international investment manager why would you gamble forward and take the risk of a no-deal Brexit, or a Corbyn government with the accompanying higher taxes and capital controls.

conclusion

We as UK private investors can take a more simple approach and wait and see what actually transpires. We might get a repeat of 2016, and sterling collapses again. This would benefit funds holding assets overseas which would experience a currency gain along with any capital gains.

If Brexit turns out to be better than forecasted, then the UK businesses and funds under-priced for so long, should leap ahead. Having been immersed in UK manufacturing and exporting for more than thirty years, I am supremely confident in the ability of this country’s people and management to succeed under most circumstances. We just need to encourage more and more SMEs whilst reducing the dominance of finance and the interference of inexperienced and misguided politicians.

Best wishes and good investing,

Douglas.

It’s inevitable that you will lose sometimes. The trick is not to make a habit of it!

I have no mind-blowing observations to make, but then those of you who read my emails are already aware of that fact. I am not in the business of forecasting the future. I will report that the tide is coming in, but only when my feet get wet.

Stock markets, as you can see from the table below, are showing drops of anything between 3% and 27% from their highs earlier this year. The only important question to ask is which way will they move now?

inevitable

These corrections occur at regular intervals, and normally after such an event one watches and waits for the signs of a recovery. Not so this time. World debt, Mr Trump and Brexit all combine together to make me feel that there is more pain to come. More a time for asbestos underwear than sunshades!

As a subscriber to Saltydog, I hope that you have followed the direction of our own portfolios and like me are sitting on large percentages of cash. When the world changes then you can use this cash to move into the new progressing sectors, leaving behind those areas that are failing. It is not much fun at the moment making no gain from the cash, but it is surely better than losing.

It would be worse to be fully invested all through a crash and then try to recover with half your initial investment already lost when the markets start to pick up. That would be like starting a game of strip poker already naked. Rather like the UK Brexit negotiations!

I recently read an interesting observation about the American economy. We are all aware that the Fed intends to continue to lift interest rates throughout next year with the possibility that US Bond rates would follow on and could reach 4%. That alone would possibly mark the end of the meteoric rise of growth stocks such as the FAANG businesses. These companies are due a correction and that could be the banana skin that sets it off. The other interesting observation was that the FED has stopped doing Q.E. and is set to recover much of these monies. What I had not been aware of was that it was the intention of the American government to spend more than $700billion on defence with this money aimed at American manufacturing and development companies. This is simply Q.E. in a different guise. Less being purchased abroad, and in particular from China. It is a sad thought but perhaps this, along with the trade wars already launched, means America is already involved in a second cold war. This time with China!

On a lighter note I read a paragraph written by Merryn Somerset Webb which gives an explanation as to why Momentum Investing, although successful, does not receive much press. She wrote, “Fund management companies are mostly paid a percentage of the assets they have under management. In the main, it is easier to get in new assets by getting a good marketing manager to tell an interesting stock market story to investors, than it is to grow by performing well. After all, what kind of marketing story would include the words “we just buy the stuff that is going up and sell that which is going down.” Spot on Merryn!

Best wishes and good investing,

Douglas.

Remember that patience is your most powerful weapon. (Warren Buffett)

The last few weeks has certainly been taxing my patience, which is not one of my strong suits. I am now sitting with 75% of my investment portfolio in cash and it is burning a hole in my pocket. The 25% balance is split between property, gold, healthcare/pharmaceutical and technology funds. The recent weeks have resulted in a balance between the rises of the property and gold, and the relative stability of the healthcare versus the losses of the technology funds.

The press seems to be full of speculation about which way the markets will move next. There are finance houses advocating being fully in the market because after this correction the next move is a “melt up”(a new expression to me). Maybe they really believe that, but more likely it is to put their own subscribers` and investors` minds at rest after their recent sizeable losses. I said in my last article that I feel there are many reasons for the market to move downwards, rather like a theatre slowly filling with smoke – how long before there is a rush for the exit?

At times like this I revert to the sayings of Jesse Livermore to endeavour to control my urge to reinvest before the time is right. The following are four of his many recorded sayings.

•    It was improper and unwise for me as a speculator to allow myself to be influenced by any consideration to act against my own judgement.
•    A man cannot be convinced against his own convictions, but he can be talked into a state of uncertainty and indecision, which is even worse.
•    The trend has been established before the news is published, and in bull markets bear items are ignored and bull news exaggerated, and vice versa.
•    One of the most helpful things that anybody can learn is to give up trying to catch the last eighth – or the first. These two are the most expensive eighths in the world.

With these maxims in mind I intend to stay with last month’s tactical retreat and will wait further until the time to reinvest becomes more obvious. The only exception will be if the markets do continue to correct, then I will build up my holding in gold funds as in these circumstances they can be expected to pick up.

Best wishes and good investing,

Douglas.

Last week was enough to give the devil the hot sweats.

After a couple of really volatile weeks, Friday saw many of the world’s stock markets closing down by more than 10% from their recent highs. This I understand is called a correction and not a collapse. So there it is, everything is fine and dandy, and it is not a life savings implosion.

Many financial commentators and fund managers have been writing over the weekend that this is simply the way of the investing world, just sit on your hands and the fall will produce buying opportunities in the future. What arithmetical world do these people live in? Most investors have their pension pots or portfolios as a finite quantity. If it falls in value, where do they get the money from to take advantage of these buying opportunities in the future? They presumably have to sell some of their portfolio at the lower value to reinvest back in again at the lower value. Now that makes no sense at all.

Surely it would have been much better to be moving into cash at the time of the impending “correction” to have this money available later on to reinvest at the lower prices. Higher valued cash, buying lower valued funds.

O.K., the argument is that before the correction took place, how did we know if, and when it would occur, and when to be selling funds and moving back into cash? Well of course we did not know, but there have been sufficient warnings to suggest getting such action underway might be a sensible course of action.

  • The American Bond yield starting to rise.#
  • Brexit.
  • Chinese stock markets dropping by over 25%.
  • Trump’s trade wars and America First policies.
  • The Italian economy.
  • Oil prices rising.
  •  Most major economies are carrying enormous debts which are still rising at an uncontrolled rate.

This is quite a list of grim reasons to say “that all is not well in the state of Denmark”. Something in the bilges is smelling, and needs to be resolved!

So if like the Saltydog portfolios you are sitting on around 50% cash, the question is what to do next? Will the markets continue to fall? Will they rise back up only to fall back again in what is fashionably called a “dead cat bounce”? Perhaps they will recover their mojo and ignore the points made above. Who is to know the definitive answer to this question? Certainly not me, so for the moment I intend to sit on my hands and the cash, whilst nature and the markets take their course.

By taking this action I have halved the loss if the market falls further, and if it rises I will have missed some of the gain, but at the moment I think that the chances of the first occurring outweighs the chances of the second.

On a personal basis it has been painful, if not unexpected, to see the old technology funds take the largest knock, with one of my favourites Scottish Mortgage Trust falling by over 20% inside a week. The new technology, medical and pharmaceutical funds seem to have taken the strain a little better with an average decrease of 3% to 4%. Perhaps one could read into this, that those funds heavily invested into the over-valued FAANG businesses have come off worse, and there may be more to come to bring their p.e.ratios down to more realistic levels.

In May I discussed the potential of being able to invest into the newly legalised marijuana industry via the ETF Horizon Marijuana Life Sciences Index. This turned out not to be easy, and I struggled to find a UK platform prepared to carry this fund. Eventually I was able to purchase it through a company called Stocktrade (A division of Brewin Dolphin Ltd) and it sits inside my Standard Life SIPP.  The end of month prices since the purchase are 1039, 1013, 929, 1288, and 1424. The recent increase would seem to be due to the passing of the bill to legalise marijuana for personal use throughout Canada, and in more and more states in America. I have also heard that one of the major drinks companies is considering incorporating it into one of their products, as is a tobacco company. Should this come to pass it would not be unreasonable to expect further fund price increases. It would be interesting to hear from any of you that have found other funds that are boarding the marijuana train.

In the early sixties I spent the last twelve months of my Merchant Navy life as the navigator on the Jamaica Banana Producer where the crew was mostly of Caribbean extraction. Their use of marijuana was endemic and this produced on occasions some very alarming actions, especially when they would consider challenging Newtons Laws of Gravity whilst working aloft. As a result I struggle to come to terms with the thought that in the future some people might be legally driving cars whilst high on wacky baccy!

Best wishes and good investing,

Douglas.

The early bird sometimes catches the worm, but the second mouse always gets the cheese.

In the last few weeks I have had the almost unbearable desire to bail out of Western Stock market sectors. A combination of the Brexit machinations, Mr Trump’s continuing unconstructive trade tariff utterances, the Developed World’s phenomenal debt, along with Mr Putin’s total disregard for International border niceties, in my mind all add up to an impending market disaster – the perfect storm!

Fortunately, as yet I have only taken partial action by halving my investments in Technology, Global, and dollar-based funds. I say fortunately because a glance at our Saltydog numbers still shows a slight lift in these sectors. Admittedly it does seem to be up one week and then down the next, and appears to have a direct correlation to the sterling/dollar relationship. I do not hold U.K. or European sectors or the sectors in our Slow Ahead group. As a result, for the moment my cash holdings are steadily becoming the largest part of my portfolio.

I am not unhappy with this situation, just unsettled. I still believe in technology as one of the investment places for my money in the future, but maybe not that much at the moment. Sciences are rushing forward at an uncontrolled rate and it is likely to produce some interesting moments in the next ten years. No one person can be an expert in everything: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Nanotechnology, Genetics etc-etc, and no one will be capable of connecting all the dots at the same time to see the developing big picture. This will definitely be out of the scope of the world`s politicians. The question then will be, who will be able to absorb all the latest scientific discoveries and be able to predict how the global economy will look and work in the future? Who will apply the brakes? Now that is a big job!

The above does not mean that there is not a potential investment opportunity lurking around the corner. I refer to the Asian economies.

China’s stock markets have taken an enormous hit over the last year falling by 20% to 25% and this has dragged down the Emerging Markets which rely on receiving work from China. Australia is in a similar position since its economy relies on selling vast volumes of commodities such as coal and iron to China. India’s market has also been on the back foot for different reasons as Prime Minister Modi endeavours to reduce the corruption in industry and streamline and increase tax receipts.

earlybird

China today still has annual growth rates of 6% that the West would love to experience. It also has a large well-educated young workforce and is slowly but surely arriving at the point that exporting to Europe and America becomes less essential as it becomes able to consume its own production. India already sits in this position with low levels of exports to the West. The rest of the Asean countries will just cling onto the coat tails of these two mighty economies when they take off again. At this point it will really be a mighty self-contained trading block, and surely a good place to have some of your pension money.

The big question for me, is when to put my toe back into these Asean waters? Whether to be the early bird or, what I would prefer as a momentum investor, be the second mouse. Wearing my rose-tinted glasses I think that the Saltydog numbers are starting to indicate a reduction in the rate of fall of the Chinese markets. The VinaCapital Vietnam Opportunities fund is a favourite of mine.  Before the Chinese fall it stood around 370p, then it fell to around 310p and is now back up at 345p. This perhaps is also a positive indicator of investment sentiment. Still, for the moment I think I need more good news on the Chinese markets themselves, before heading for the cheese.

Best wishes and good investing,

Douglas.

The right to the pursuit of happiness.

The American Declaration of Independence established the right to the pursuit of happiness alongside the right to life and liberty. This was not a guarantee of happiness, just the right of the individual to chase the concept. The state would not be held responsible for the achievement of this goal.

In the late 1700s the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham declared that the supreme good is “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” He concluded that the aim of the state, the market and the scientific community was to increase global happiness. Politicians should make peace, business people should foster prosperity, and scholars should study nature. This was not for the greater glory of king and country, but to enhance the happiness of the population.

At first glance one would think that there is not a lot of evidence to suggest that much progress has been made in achieving these aims, but a second glance suggests otherwise. Lifespan is now dramatically increased, poverty worldwide is hugely reduced, as are deaths from conflict. This progress continues and in the last few decades we have seen the right to pursue happiness morph into the right to happiness itself! Citizens now hold their governments responsible for whether they are satisfied or not, and by default, this means increasing the power and meddling of the state in all of our affairs, not the limiting of its interference as was the intention of Thomas Jefferson.

Happiness means different things to different people. Two thousand years ago Epicurus said that immoderate pursuit of pleasure is likely to make people miserable rather than content. The higher expectations are set, the more likelihood of failure and disappointment. Buddha taught that the pursuit of pleasure is the very root of suffering and by reducing this craving we would enhance our happiness. Now, at the start of the 21st century, the biochemical solution is to produce products that provide us with an unending stream of pleasant sensations. Science and technology are set up to provide ever more efficient painkillers, smart phones to remove boredom, more comfortable mattresses to sleep on, alongside a dumbing down of media information, all with the aim of keeping the masses happy. The capitalist juggernaut says that “happiness is pleasure”. Period!

The above is my attempt at a précis of the start of the book Homo Deus written by Yuval Noah Harari. I would heartily recommend it to you, because it is thought provoking and has made a contribution to my approach to life and also investment strategy. It is one of those books which you read three pages forward two pages back, and like his first book, Homo Sapiens, it is full of fascinating content.

Recently I have been attempting to control my desire for continuous investment gain by setting more realistic targets. This in order that I might achieve Yuval Noah Harari style happiness! Today this philosophy is under severe stress. I still have more than 30% of my investments in cash, and the rest is mainly in Dollar, American and Technology based sectors. Over the last few years this has been a really good place to be, that is until the last few weeks. Although the Dow and the Nasdaq indices have now moved to, or near to, their highest ever, the above sector prices have gone sideways and not up. This would seem to be a direct result of the currency relationship between the dollar and sterling. During the last month sterling has been as low as 1.281 and yet last week it temporarily peaked at just above 1.329, a gain of almost 4%. During this period a 100% dollar-based fund would have been knocked backwards by the same 4% when converting back to sterling prices. That is simple arithmetic.

What is not simple, is to sit on your hands whilst the diplomats, politicians and media commentators endlessly thrash the living daylights out of the Brexit negotiations. A successful conclusion to the trade and border discussions might see Sterling move back up to where it was before the referendum, when it was moving in the range of 1.40 to 1.50 £/$. A failure to reach agreement might see this range move down to 1.10 to 1.20 £/$. In the first case the above sectors would fall in sterling terms by around 10% and in the second case they would rise by around 13%.

pursuithappiness

Quite a conundrum.  Trying to forecast the end result is the job for mystics and people who read chicken bones. I do not fall into that category, so for the moment I intend to stay put, and only after the race is run, or the result is obvious, will I move either to increase or shed my holdings in these sectors. In the long term, when the dust settles, I still believe that the technology sector is the place to be invested in for the twenty first century.

Best wishes and good investing,

Douglas.

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