Nearly a decade after the financial crisis interest rates remain at zero. Fed watchers have been arguing for years that policymakers will soon raise rates, only to see the possibility put off yet again (and again and again). While many believe Yellen and company have stuck with ZIRP due to worries about the impact of a hike on the stock market, a bigger concern might be housing.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or on a commune somewhere, you know the big news in the markets over the past few weeks has been the plummeting price of oil. With domestic production at record levels thanks to the fracking revolution and OPEC stubbornly refusing to cut production, oil is getting cheaper and cheaper. Investors have predictably responded by selling off energy company stocks in a big way. That makes sense. Lower prices mean lower profits and, especially for smaller producers, possible bankruptcy.
But there are two related stories to the drop in oil that don’t make sense, in my opinion–and they could signal potential opportunities on the long and short side.
In case you missed it, a foreign company nobody had ever heard of until recently staged a gigantic IPO this past week. But lost in all the hype and hoopla was a much more important development here at home: the beginning of the end of the US real estate slump.
New-home sales in the U.S. surged in August to the highest level in more than six years, a sign that the housing recovery is making progress.
Purchases of new houses jumped 18 percent to a 504,000 annualized pace, the strongest since May 2008 and surpassing the highest forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The one-month increase was the biggest since January 1992.
The oldest adage in the investment game is, of course, “Buy low, sell high.” The second-oldest is, “Don’t fight the Fed.” And with the August housing numbers, the Federal Reserve’s monomaniacal six-year campaign to reconstruct the real estate sector from the ashes of the subprime catastrophe is finally starting to show results. At the same time, the stocks of major homebuilders like Pulte, KB Home and DR Horton are all down YTD.
Hear that knocking? That’s a little visitor named opportunity.
Last week, I finally got around to reading The Hedge Fund Mirage. It was published in 2012, so I’m only two years behind, and the book’s main message is just as valid today as it was when it was written. Namely, the average hedge fund is the last place you should even think about putting your money. The very first sentence of the book makes this point quite persuasively:
“If all the money that’s ever been invested in hedge funds had been put in treasury bills instead, the results would have been twice as good.”
Ouch. The book’s author, Simon Lack, goes on to explain this sorry record by proving and reproving an obvious yet little-acknowledged law of money management. I discuss it in my book, as well (available now for pre-order!): asset size is the enemy of return. Hedge funds produce much better investment results when they manage a relatively small amount of money, but those returns shrink toward mediocrity (or worse) as a fund’s assets increase.
Put simply: the more capital you’ve got under management, the poorer your investors are probably going to be.
I know I’ve been talking about the population boom in Texas quite a bit lately, and I promise to move to other subjects soon, but I really do feel like this is the biggest story nobody is talking about—especially if you’re on the lookout for stocks to buy.
Most investors like growth. I’m no exception. And in this era of the perpetual non-recovery recovery, the only place to find real growth (on this continent anyway) is deep in the heart of the Lone Star State.