Thursday, July 14, 2011

Felix Salmon addresses something that's been bothering me for a long time

You should read the whole thing, but this passage in particular caught my eye:

The deeper thing going on here is what might charitably be called a momentum trade, or what might less charitably be called a sell-low strategy. First you pick your sector, then you pick funds in that sector. If the funds do well, that’s great; if they do badly, then you sell those funds and instead you buy funds which did do well over the time period in question. Then, next year, presumably, you rinse and repeat.

I realize this is not my field and there are a lot of subtle questions here about random walks and efficiency, but a great deal of the financial advice I hear reminds me of an ad from the late Nineties. In it a man is listening to the radio and hears about a stock that has just doubled in price. He rushes to his computer to buy some of this newly expensive stock only to discover that his cut-rate internet provider is down. He howls in anguish. (even at the time I remember thinking "so this is what a bubble looks like.")

I understand that there's more to investing than buy low/sell high, but many investment strategies seem to strive for the opposite. Wouldn't there have to be an unreasonably big momentum factor for this to make sense?

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