Here’s What I’ve Learned from Making These Bad Calls

The problem with writing an investment newsletter for 15 years is that there’s nowhere to hide when you’re wrong.  But that’s nothin’ compared to being wrong when you’re managing money for some of the largest institutions and wealthiest people in the world like I have for the last 25 years.  Believe me, I’ve got the bumps and bruises to prove that I’ve had skin in the game for the last 25 years.  But while I wear them proudly, that doesn’t mean they sting any less.

Nobody is harder on me than me when I make a bad call.  I have broken more than my share of telephones in my day in frustration at how the world refuses to see things my way.  But when I am acting like a two-year old and trashing another iPhone or, in the old days, a land-line, I know I am angry at myself.  I missed something that I should have seen and took a pounding because of my own failure.  Even if the only thing I failed to see is other people’s myopia or irrationality, I still blew it.   John Maynard Keynes taught us a long time ago that the markets can stay irrational far longer than we can stay solvent, but the job of a manager or anyone making investment recommendations is to live to fight another day. 

This is a tough business and if you don’t learn how to own up to your mistakes and how to learn from them, you aren’t going to last very long. 

Here’s what I’ve learned from making a few bad calls in the recent past – and what you can learn, too…

The Real Reason Awful Companies (Like This One) Are So Overvalued

With an unfriendly Fed, rising and excessive federal and corporate debt, and tepid corporate earnings, investors are overlooking a great deal to keep stocks trading near record highs. Then again, when investors are no longer sentient beings but machines and park-your-brains-at-the-door ETFs, economic and corporate fundamentals don’t matter, only sentiment and momentum.

Investors poured $426.1 billion into domestic ETFs over the past 12 months (through the end of February) including $44 billion in February alone (and $62.9 billion into global ETFs in the shortest month of the year), raising the total to $124 billion for the first two months of 2017. There is now roughly $2.8 trillion invested in U.S. ETFs (see the image below, which shows the year-over-year growth).

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