Dow 36,000! Crypto $3 Trillion! Charting a Wild Decade in Finance
To mark Enterprising Investor’s 10th anniversary, we have compiled retrospectives of our coverage of the most critical themes in finance and investing over the last decade.
Dow 36,000, crypto, Brexit, GameStop, pandemic.
Imagine you uttered these terms back in the autumn of 2011, when Enterprising Investor first launched. What would they have evoked for you and your audience?
Now, fast-forward 10 years and compare what they meant then with what they mean to us today.
It is a different world, isn’t it?
This time a decade ago, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hovered in the 11,000s. Four years removed from the worst financial crisis in generations, it had yet to recoup its pre-crisis highwater mark. The bullish 1999 prediction of James K. Glassman and Kevin A. Hassett sounded as farfetched then as it did when the tech bubble burst in the early aughts.
Inflation, meanwhile, was hardly a cause for concern, surely not with near-zero interest rates. Despite rampant monetary stimulus, deflation was in many respects the bigger worry.
And what about crypto? Aside from bitcoin, the crypto market was an empty canvas, still more the realm of science fiction than actual investment products. Certainly, had you forecasted bitcoin eclipsing a $1 trillion market cap or exceeding $65,000 a pop, you’d have raised a few eyebrows. Same if you had suggested that bitcoin mining would someday match the energy usage of entire countries.
And it’s a fair bet that the portmanteau Brexit would have registered a few “Huhs?” as well. The United Kingdom’s continued membership in the European Union was something no one had much reason to doubt. To be sure, no referendum had been scheduled, and even if one had, few would have given it much chance of changing the status quo. Eurosceptics were to be found across the UK political spectrum, but whether Tory or Labour, they tended to be confined, if not to the fringes, at least to the margins. Amid the European sovereign debt crisis, Grexit, or Greece’s exit from the EU, seemed a much likelier scenario in those days.
As for GameStop, it was then what it is now: A mall store that sells videogames. “Retail apocalypse” had not yet entered common parlance, but amid the sputtering recovery that followed the Great Recession, GameStop hardly looked like a growth stock. There was nothing in its chart then to suggest it would warrant a $15 billion market cap, and no analyst could have predicted it would become the fundamentals-immaterial poster child of the meme stock phenomenon.
And as for “pandemic,” certainly COVID-19 was not on anybody’s radar in those days. And while earlier outbreaks of SARS and H1N1 had caused global concern and hinted at the underlying threat, their scale was thankfully small and their impact limited. Few living had any experience with the sort of massive worldwide outbreak that would close borders, lock down the planet, and incur such a terrible toll in human lives.
Yet here we are today. The Dow has breached that 36,000 ceiling. Inflation, dormant for a generation, has jumped to unfamiliar heights. Crypto’s total market cap stands at around $3 trillion even if skeptics calculate its intrinsic value at exactly 0. Fueled by its own incarnation of a populist political trend that has swept much of the world, the UK has executed a somewhat messy divorce from the EU. GameStop has soared to illogical heights and has yet to return to earth, propelled by a revolt of the commons in the retail market, the ramifications of which will likely reverberate for years to come. And more than 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives are incomparably different. When it comes to the nature of work, decades of change have been compressed into a year and a half.
Prediction: The Future Will Be Different
It’s an old saw in finance that there are only two kinds of forecasts: the lucky and the wrong. And no one scanning the market landscape in 2011 could have anticipated the chaotic gyrations of the last 18 month, let alone the frenetic developments — the shocks, panics, taper tantrums, and flash crashes — of the last 10 years. There was no predicting how much would change or how much wouldn’t.
At Enterprising Investor, we’ve published many forecasts and perspectives in our 10-year history. Some were extremely prescient. Many were not. But the lesson that underlies all these efforts is that while analysis may not always yield attractive returns for our own or our clients’ portfolios, the process itself will nevertheless serve us well. And like the time value of money, the longer we keep at it, the greater the compounding benefits will be.
Acquiring skills and expertise, reading and consulting widely, developing theses and testing them, indulging our curiosities, and always keeping our eyes on what’s directly in front of us as well as what’s on the horizon will give us a better understanding of ourselves, the markets, and each other. And that will pay dividends whether or not they’re of the financial variety.
With that in mind, below is a curated selection of some of our most popular and time-tested content. These selections illuminate many of the key themes of the last 10 years while also offering compelling lessons on how to approach, understand, and succeed in the world of finance and investing.
With our first decade behind us, we look forward to bringing you more and better insights in the months and years ahead and invite you to join our community as a subscriber and to consider sharing your own research and perspectives as an Enterprising Investor contributor.
“A portfolio manager once told me that half the research on my desk was a complete waste of time,” Robert J. Martorana, CFA, writes. “‘Figure out which half is garbage and you’ve just doubled your productivity,’ he advised.” With this lesson in mind, Martorana developed the How to Read Financial News series to help investment professionals optimize their reading and better distinguish the narrative from the noise.
What can you do to improve your chances of getting hired as a research analyst? Jason Voss, CFA, outlines a number of steps that aspiring analysts can take.
Where do investment ideas come from? Joachim Klement, CFA, shares his process and outlines several key steps.
“Institutional investors are characterized as ‘big fish’ and ‘smart money,’ but what else are they?” Thomas Brigandi, CFA, and Sloane Ortel ask. The two go on to explore the seven major types of asset owners and the motivations that are driving them.
What skills does an analyst need to become a portfolio manager? According to Dato’ Seri Cheah Cheng Hye, there are seven steps they need to master. Larry Cao, CFA, explains.
Intangible assets are increasingly critical to corporate value, and new valuation methods need to be deployed to accurately calculate their worth. Antonella Puca, CFA, CIPM, CPA, and Mark L. Zyla, CFA, CPA/ABV, ASA, explore some of the more incisive valuation techniques.
After some bad formative experiences with horrible and ineffective bosses, Barbara Stewart, CFA, came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that she would have to behave like a jerk to get ahead in a traditional organization. She made a decision to “lead herself” and hasn’t looked back. She believes that this sort of self-leadership may become the most important kind of leadership of all.
How can you take advantage of the current moment to advance your career? Eric Sim, CFA, shares his advice on how to build and leverage your social capital.
What are two of the most important things an investor needs to do to succeed? Manage risk and know where we are in the market cycle, says Howard Marks, CFA. Lauren Foster considers his perspective.
“If you look at the collective evidence across acquisitions,” Aswath Damodaran said, “this is the most value destructive action a company can take.” Paul McCaffrey examines Damodaran’s reasoning.
Why do the benchmark indices in India and the United States display completely opposite trends relative to GDP growth? Saurabh Mukherjea, CFA, shares his analysis.
Could the predictive models have anticipated NMC Health’s earnings manipulation and bankruptcy risk? Binod Shankar, CFA, crunches the numbers.
Central Bank of Brazil governor Roberto Campos Neto, CFA, explains the monetary policy response to the COVID-19 crisis in an interview with Marg Franklin, CFA.
In whose interest should companies be run? “I think ’What should companies maximize?’ is the most important question we face in modern capitalist economies today,” Luigi Zingales explained. Julie Hammond, CFA, CPA, discusses his analysis.
When it comes to the choice between active and passive, investors have at least three questions to consider, Hansi Mehrotra, CFA, explains.
The golden age of fixed income is over, Mark Armbruster, CFA, writes. That means we have to rethink portfolio management and risk control.
As the population ages, who will be left to buy stocks? Nicolas Rabener gives his analysis. His conclusion? “Like passengers on the sinking Titanic, investors have no place to hide and no safe harbor from which to wait this out.”
“Life is risk. We adapt, innovate, and make intelligent trade-offs to go forward,” Laurence B. Siegel and Stephen C. Sexauer write. “We manage risk, because we cannot live risk-free, even if we wanted to. In fact, to change is to take risks, and all economic progress comes from change.”
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image credit: ©Getty Images / Sean Murphy
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