Mastering The Market Cycle – 01 – WHY STUDY CYCLES?

After the completion of the Bibliophile series on the book “The Intelligent Investors” by Mr. Benjamin Graham; I am hereby starting a series on the book “Mastering Market Cycle” by Mr. Howard Marks. I have already completed bibliophile series on his first book – The Most Important Things. He is one of the investors to whom I admire and learn about the cycle and always get to protect my wealth while nobody thinks about it.

As the cycle getting change, our odds also start getting change. It is mainly depending on our position to the cycle at where we stand to the cycle. If we are standing in a favorable position then we can increase our bets and reap the benefits of the cycle. Similarly, in unfavorable situations, we can protect ourselves from unfavorable changes in the cycle. If we are standing at unfavorable situations then we can adjust our position.

If we have the same information as others have and we analyze as similar to them then we cannot outperform the mass. Consistently outperform the mass is already a difficult task to perform.

Mr. Buffett has mentioned regarding the desirable piece of information – it has to be important, and it has to be knowable. Macro definitely affects the market so knowing it helps. But for consistently outperforming through knowing macro is difficult.

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When we are constructing the portfolio then we generally look at the difference between price and value. Also, we bought the company which has the highest value I. E. Company available at a discount to its value.

So, does it not look at the quality of the company?

Yes, it is right that for successful investing, we need to identify the company which understates the value proposition. Higher the upside, we can take a position accordingly. But if we adjust our position as per the upcoming market storm then it can be more profitable and can add further value to our investment journey. This estimation of the upcoming market situation helps us with the decision making to remain aggressive or to be defensive in our portfolio. We only make an aggressive /defensive decision when we know the investment environment and where we stand in a cycle. When we get investment opportunity at cheaper, discounts to value then we should be aggressive and when getting expensive, then we should be defensive.

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Similar we can do for the midcap and small-cap universe. And prepare ourselves from an upcoming cyclone.

We all talk about the risk but what actually risk mean? It can be loss of capital, academic says the risk is volatility in the price of assets. So, Mr. Marks has explained the types of risks in a good manner.

Opportunity loss, this is a missing out a potential gain, our investment has underperformed compared to what we missed and things do not happen the way we want it.

Risk means the occurrence of more things than we have predicted. If we know what is going to happen then there will be no uncertainty or not any risk. And if things are certain then we also get certain returns such as bank deposits. We cannot surely know the outcome of the events but we can assume the probability of the occurrence of the events. We assume the probability of the events that does not mean that we know the occurrence of the events. Anyone event can occur out of the many events. When we do not know the occurrence of the events, then we do not have an edge and we have to stay depended on luck. When we have the knowledge of the occurrence of the events then we have an edge and winning probability will increase with lower down losing probability.

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Superior investors are attentive to cycles and they capture the cycle for reaping profits.

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When a cycle is in our favor, we can earn good profits by taking benefits of it and visa Versa, when the cycle does not favorable to us then we can protect ourselves for loss of capital.

When cycle at extreme of Greed then we have to protect ourselves from capital loss. There will be a higher chance of incurring losses rather than earning profits.

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If we look at the P/E of Midcap and Small Cap index during the year 2017-18 then on the closing basis it was 37.22x and 86.19x respectively and high P/E of both during the same period was ~47x and ~114x respectively. At such valuation, we are not ready to buy a few growing large caps but having a huge hope of getting a return at such high valuation and transformation of small-cap as a future large cap. So that such a scenario is for protecting capital rather than chasing high returns. I had parked ~73% of my portfolio in the liquid fund during the same period which has helped me to survive in such cyclone. We need to focus on the cycle, pendulum where it is moving and where we stand in the cycle.

When in a similar cycle economy, corporate profits and prospects remain the same but pessimism among the participants provides an excellent opportunity to make an investment, increase our position to be more aggressive. And when the economy, corporate profits, and prospects remain the same but having a huge optimism among the participants then we should adjust our position as a defensive investor.

When our position in the cycle changes, our odds also get change and if we do not change our investment accordingly then we miss the opportunity to enhance return or protect capital.

Disclosure – Companies mentioned in the article are just for an example & educational purpose. It is not a buy/sell/ hold recommendation. 

Read for more detail: Mastering The Market Cycle: Getting the odds on your side by Mr.Howard Marks

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