Timing the Market: If Only You Knew What Mark Hulbert Knows…

by Alexander Green, Chief Investment Strategist
Monday, April 26, 2010: Issue #1246

For over a decade, I’ve been telling readers that timing the market isn’t just unhelpful… it actually hurts performance.

Now the evidence is even more definitive…

Sure, it’s easy to look back and see exactly when you could have been in or out of the market for maximum performance. That’s the beauty of hindsight.

But when you look ahead, things get a whole lot cloudier. So if you’re even thinking about jumping in or out based on some guru’s system or “market outlook,” listen up…

Trying to Time the Market? Don’t Do It!

The Journal of Financial Economics, an academic journal, recently published a new study – “Measuring Investor Sentiment With Mutual Fund Flows.”

Using easily available public information published by the Investment Company Institute, a mutual fund trade organization, the researchers focused on investor exchanges out of stock funds into bond funds and vice-versa.

This led to an interesting discovery…

  • The research shows that market timers, as a group, have god-awful instincts. In fact, you could hardly find a better investment system than to do EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what they’re doing.
  • The researchers built a hypothetical portfolio going all the way back to 1984 and switched back-and-forth between the S&P 500 and 90-day T-bills. They did the mirror opposite of what mutual fund flow figures showed switchers were doing.
  • Over the next 25 years, the portfolio produced an annual return of 12% – 1.6% a year better than merely buying and holding the S&P 500.

To put this in concrete terms, buy-and-holders turned a $10,000 initial investment (with dividends reinvested) into $118,639 over the period.

Those who did the opposite of mutual fund timers, however, turned the same $10,000 into more than $170,000. (Most fund switchers, on the other hand, did about as well as someone betting on black or red at the roulette wheel.)

That’s not the best part, however…

An Impressive Performance… For Serious Contrarians Only

What makes these numbers even more impressive is that the contrarian portfolio took on far less risk than being fully invested in stocks. After all, it was invested in riskless T-bills nearly half the time.

I’m not actually recommending that you follow this strategy, incidentally. For one thing, past performance – as every investment prospectus reminds you – does not guarantee future results.

Plus, 25 years as a portfolio manager and investment writer have proved to me that the overwhelming majority of investors lack the emotional discipline to invest contrary to the crowd. (So when the chips are down, you may still be out.)

As Mark Hulbert, editor of the independent Hulbert Financial Digest, concludes, the average investor “would be far better off if he never engaged in market timing.”

The Oxford Club doesn’t. And it shows in our results…

A Top Five Ranking for 10 Years Running

Of course, every newsletter editor brags that his investment letter gives superior returns. The industry bears an uncanny resemblance to Lake Wobegone, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average.”

It’s worth noting, however, that Hulbert ranks The Oxford Club Communiqué among the top five letters in the nation for risk-adjusted performance over the past 10 years.

That allows us to give entirely honest answers to the two most commonly asked questions:

  • “How has your investment advice worked out?” – Beautifully.
  • “What do you think the market will do next?” – We haven’t the foggiest notion.

Good investing,

Alexander Green

Editor’s Note: Are you trying to time the stock market? Don’t! There’s a better way to tackle the investing process: let some of the best, most successful analysts in the business do the work for you.

The Oxford Club’s pragmatic, “market neutral” approach has generated consistent, impressive results for many years, based on real facts, information and numbers that matter, not arbitrary stock market indicators or timing.

For more details on how you can profit from the stocks in The Oxford Club’s Communiqué portfolio, please visit this link. You’ll see why the Hulbert Financial Digest has ranked the Communiqué in the top five investment newsletters over the past 10 years and get the latest investing ideas, insights and recommendations that can make you money for the next year and beyond.