Tuesday, March 03, 2020

February 2020 Report

This month the whole family traveled to New Zealand for a week.This was baby Moomin's first international trip. He also started daycare two days a week. Moomintroll started going to free pre-school at the local public school 2.5 days a week and 2 days a week he is going to a private school where we can still get a childcare subsidy from the government.

It's been more than 3 months since we started trying to transfer our mortgage from Commonwealth Bank to HSBC. I went to the HSBC branch again, midmonth. The manager claimed that she had an incorrect email address for me and so I didn't get her message querying various things. They want to reduce the cash out component and the loan term length, both of which I was happy with. 

I also tried to raise our Commonwealth Bank credit card credit limit from AUD 15k to AUD 20k. I was unsuccessful :( I always think it's strange that they don't consider assets or net worth in these applications.

All stock markets fell sharply in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.6695 to USD 0.6499. The MSCI World Index fell 8.04%, the S&P 500 8.23%, and the ASX 200 7.46%. All these are total returns including dividends. We lost 3.8% in Australian Dollar terms and 6.61% in US Dollar terms. This was the worst monthly investment return ever in terms of absolute Australian Dollars lost (AUD 141k). The target portfolio lost 2.55% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index lost 1.67% in US Dollar terms. So, we under-performed these benchmarks though did better than equity indices. Updating the monthly AUD returns chart:

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class:

The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Strangely, the China Fund was the best performer, gaining USD 4k. I sold it at the right time.
  • The TIAA Real Estate Fund rose a tiny bit for the month. Apart from those other gainers were all bonds.
  • Though it did lose money, the PSS(AP) superannuation fund was very resilient, only losing 2.1%.
What really didn't work:
  • Junkier bonds like Virgin Australia and Tupperware and even Commonwealth Bank hybrids lost big time. Baby bonds generally did OK, though.
  • Winton Global Alpha fund fell by 2.86%, providing little diversification benefit.
  • Listed hedge funds were crushed, including Pershing Square (down 8.6% for the month), Platinum Capital (-23.3%), Regal (-11.4%), Tribeca Global Resources (-33%), and Cadence Capital (-20.5%). In most cases the stock price has fallen much more than the net asset value. This chart compares the actively managed ETF, PIXX.AX and the closed end fund PMC.AX, which are invested in similar portfolios:

We moved a a bit away from our new long-run asset allocation. The shares of bonds, gold, and real estate rose and all others fell:

On a regular basis, we invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Other moves this month:
  • We sold USD20k of Tupperware bonds and USD50k of Energy Transfer bonds and bought USD25k of Medallion Financial (MFINL) and USD25k of General Finance (GFNSL) baby bonds (i.e. 1,000 shares of each) and USD50k of Ford and USD25k of Virgin Australia bonds. USD40k of Kinder Morgan bonds matured. So, our corporate bond holdings rose by USD15k. Selling Tupperware was a good move. Buying Virgin Australia was not.
  • We also bought 500 more CBAPI.AX Commonwealth Bank hybrid securities (convertible bonds). It wasn't a good idea.
  • We bought AUD 50k by selling US Dollars.
  • We exercised our rights to buy 50,000 Pengana Private Equity (PE1.AX) shares in the rights issue. The actual transaction will come in March.
  • I Sold 2,000 China Fund (CHN) shares after they recovered from the initial coronavirus scare. I expect there to be further implications of coronavirus, though of course I could be wrong. 
  • I bought another 2,000 IAU shares (a bit less than 20 ounces of gold). 
  • I bought a net 10,000 shares in Tribeca Global Resources Fund (TGF.AX) when the price seemed particularly depressed after one of the companies they lent money to entered US Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Also, one of the two main portfolio managers quit recently. This is now our worst investment ever in terms of dollars lost. We did a tax loss harvesting sale as part of this transaction, buying back shares in our other account. Different people, so not a "wash sale". I was too early.
  • I bought 20,000 more shares of Cadence Capital (CDM.AX) another depressed LIC (listed hedge fund). Too early here too.
  • I bought 20,000 shares of US Masters Residential Property Fund (URF.AX) - an even more beaten down closed end fund. We previously held this and sold at a small loss before the price really dived.
  • I bought 4,957 shares of Platinum Capital (PMC.AX).

Friday, February 28, 2020

Asset Allocation Since October 2018

Since October 2018 when we nominally received the inheritance, the total allocated to cash, futures, gold, and bonds has remained fairly constant at 50%. There have been big shifts into bonds and to a lesser degree gold and I have bought Australian Dollars and sold US Dollars. But on net I haven't deployed money into real estate, private equity, hedge funds, and shares. Again, there has been some change in the mix of those "risk assets". Some of my bonds have also turned out to be quite risky...

Now it is looking more and more likely that there will be a recession and opportunities to buy risk assets cheaper. Though, if I really knew that I would have sold a lot of risk assets or shorted the market. So, I don't really know. Mainly I'll be watching the yield curve. The long-run target allocation to all these risk assets is around 70% and 30% in gold, bonds, and futures.

I am planning to increase purchases of Australian Dollars from AUD 10k per week to maybe AUD 15k per week in the short term.

Monday, February 03, 2020

January 2020 Report

A relatively uneventful month. Even though I went into the branch, I still have no news from HSBC on refinancing our mortgage...

The Australian stock market rose sharply in January as the Australian Dollar fell, but overseas markets fell. The Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.7023 to USD 0.6695. The MSCI World Index fell 1.08% and the S&P 500 0.04%. On the other hand, the ASX 200 gained 4.98%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 3.46% in Australian Dollar terms and lost 1.38% in US Dollar terms. This was the biggest monthly investment return ever in terms of absolute Australian Dollars gained (AUD 124k). The target portfolio is expected to have gained 4.00% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index lost 0.19% in US Dollar terms. So, we under-performed all our benchmarks. Updating the monthly AUD returns chart:

MSCI is positive here in January because of the fall in the Australian Dollar.

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class:

Gold and Australian stocks did well. The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms. Our gains in gold in Australian Dollar terms were near 10% (AUD 27k increase in value).

Things that worked well this month:
  • Gold did very well.
  • Diversified portfolios at Unisuper, PSSAP, and CFS Diversified Fund all performed well.
  • Hedge fund Regal Funds (RF1.AX).
What really didn't work:
  • Hedge funds Platinum International and Tribeca Global Resources did poorly
  • Our futures position betting on a steepening of the yield curve lost heavily as the curve moved back towards inversion.
We moved a little bit further towards our new long-run asset allocation:

On a regular basis, we invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Other moves this month:
  • USD10k of Genworth and USD 16k of Dell bonds were called, USD 50k of Tomari bonds matured, and bought USD 25k of Ready Capital baby bonds (RCP). So, our corporate bond holdings fell by USD 51k.
  • We bought AUD 40k by selling US Dollars.
  • We sold out of our position in URF.AX (10k shares) when they announced a write-down of their US real estate portfolio. We made a small loss, but since then the stock has fallen a lot more.
  • We sold 25k of Pengana Private Equity (PE1.AX) shares after they hit AUD 1.70 (NAV of 1.33) and announced a 2 for 1 rights issue at NAV. We still hold 25k shares and plan to buy our full allocation of shares in the placement, ending up with a 50% bigger position than we started with. We need to increase our allocation to private equity to reach our target allocation.
  • I bought 500 CHN shares in the wake of the coronavirus scare. This looks like being premature. We do need to allocate more to non-US stocks.

How Well is Baby Moomin's Portfolio Doing?

Back in August last year I designed a portfolio and invested for Baby Moomin with Generation Life. How well have his investments done? I have just downloaded price data from their website and computed this graph:
I adjusted the actual portfolio returns for tax paid to get the pre-tax rate of return. This just about has matched the target portfolio to date and outperformed the ASX 200 a little. It has underperformed the MSCI in AUD terms so far. So far, there hasn't been a negative month. The best performing fund so far is the Ellerston Market Neutral Fund, which has made 8.93% post tax since August.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Why Not Just Invest in Stock Index Funds?

Financial Independence recently asked in the comments why I don't just invest in a portfolio of stock index funds. I answered that I am more interested in protecting against the downside now than getting richer. But basically I think you can do better than that. This is the simulated performance of our target portfolio against the MSCI All Country World Index and ASX200 in Australian Dollar terms:

Notice what happened during the 2000-2002 Tech Wreck and 2007-2009 Global Financial Crisis? The target portfolio more or less flatlined, while Australian shares dropped 40% in 2007-9 and the MSCI fell around 20% in AUD terms. Over this whole period the portfolio also outperformed the MSCI index, though not in recent years.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Contributions of Individual Investments 2019

Here are the contributions of each of 86 individual investments or trading vehicles in the 2019 calendar year (Australian Dollars):

Of course, these deoend on how much we have invested in each one and the superannuation funds that head the list are our biggest investments.

Annual Report 2019

Investment Returns
In Australian Dollar terms we gained 12.61% for the year and in USD terms we gained 12.16%. This is a lot less than stock markets gained, but I now prefer to compare our performance to the average hedge fund, which gained 10.35% in USD terms. The MSCI gained 27.3%  in USD terms and the ASX 200, 25.6% in AUD terms. These are the US Dollar returns month by month compared to the MSCI and HFRI indices:

We followed HFRI very tightly until September, when, apparently because of an increase in the volatility of the Australian Dollar, our performance became more volatile than the hedge fund index.
I posted equivalent Australian Dollar returns in the December monthly report. The next chart shows long term returns in Australian Dollar terms compared to the MSCI, ASX200, and the target portfolio:

In recent years, we've followed the target portfolio quite closely. Here are annualized returns over various standard periods:

US Dollar returns are not very good over longer periods, but they still beat the HFRI, especially over the 3-5 year horizon.

Investment Allocation
The main change in allocation over the year was that we converted cash into bonds and gold and then began to run down the bond allocation mostly in favor of hedge funds:

Also, at the beginning of the year, I was still a part owner of my mother's apartment, which was then sold.

Here are our annual accounts in Australian Dollars:

There are lots of quirks in the way I compute the accounts, which have gradually evolved over time. There is an explanation at the end of this post.

We earned $152k after tax in salary, business related refunds, medical payment refunds, tax refunds etc. We earned (pre-tax including unrealized capital gains) $251k on non-retirement account investments. The latter number was up strongly from last year. The former number continued its decline. The investment numbers benefited from the fall in the Australian Dollar ($40k in "forex" gain). Total current income was $403k. Not including mortgage interest we spent $133k. Total actual spending including mortgage interest was $147k, which was up 12.3% on last year.

$9k of the current pre-tax investment income was tax credits – we don't actually get that money so we need to deduct it to get to the change in net worth. We transferred $135k into retirement accounts from existing savings in "non-concessional (after tax) contributions. Near the end of the year we paid off the mortgage. Including mortgage payments during the year, that meant a total $520k transferred to our housing account.

The change in current net worth, was therefore -$394k. Looking at just saving from non-investment income, we dissaved $636k. Both these are crazy numbers...

The retirement account is a bit simpler. We made $46k in pre-tax contributions (after the 15% contribution tax) and made an estimated $204k in pre-tax returns. $23k in "tax credits" is an adjustment needed to get from the number I calculate as a pre-tax return to the after tax number. Taxes on returns are just estimated because all we get to see are the after tax returns. I do this exercise to make retirement and non-retirement returns comparable. Net worth of retirement accounts increased by $362k.

Finally, the housing account. I estimate that our house gained $24k in value. We spent $15k on mortgage interest. We would have paid $17k in mortgage interest if we didn't have an offset account. After counting the transfer of $520k into the housing account housing equity increased $527k of which $504k was due to paying off principal on our mortgage.

Total net worth increased by $495k, $48k of which was saving from non-investment sources. These numbers are steeply down from last year. The net worth increase last year mostly came from the inheritance.

Though our saving is down sharply on last year, we still saved in total 24% of our after tax non-investment income. Of course, this is less than last year's 33% and 2017's 54%! Including investment income our savings rate was 77%. This is based on our income calculated here at a ridiculously high $643k.

How Does This Compare to My Projection for This Year?
At the beginning of the year, I projected a gain in net worth of only $60k based on an 0% return on investments and a 6% increase in spending. As you can see, spending rose 12% and return on investments was also about 12%. As a result net worth increased by $495k. So, this was a big forecasting fail, as was last year's projection.

So, it's probably a mistake to try to make a projection for 2020 :) The baseline projection in my spreadsheet is for a 12% rate of return, a 6% increase in spending, and flat other income, leading to a $425k increase in net worth. I expect that forecast will fail big time again.

Notes to the Accounts
Current account is all non-retirement accounts and housing account income and spending. Then the other two are fairly self-explanatory. But housing spending only includes mortgage interest. Property taxes etc. are included in the current account. There is not a lot of logic to this except the "transfer to housing" is measured using the transfer from our checking account to our mortgage account. Current other income is reported after tax, while investment income is reported pre-tax. Net tax on investment income then gets subtracted from current income as our annual tax refund or extra payment gets included there. Retirement investment income gets reported pre-tax too while retirement contributions are after tax. For retirement accounts, "tax credits" is the imputed tax on investment earnings which is used to compute pre-tax earnings from the actual received amounts. For non-retirement accounts, "tax credits" are actual franking credits received on Australian dividends and the tax withheld on foreign investment income. Both of these are included in the pre-tax earning but are not actually received month to month as cash.... Finally, "core expenditure" for housing is the actual mortgage interest we paid. "Expenditure" adds back how much interest we saved by keeping money in our offset account. We include that saved interest in the current account as the earnings of that pile of cash. That virtual earning needs to be spent somewhere to balance the accounts... It is also included in the "transfer to housing". Our actual mortgage payments were less than the number reported by the $2k in saved interest. For current accounts "core expenditure" takes out business expenses that will be refunded by our employers and some one-off expenditures. This year, there are none of those one-off expenditures. "Saving" is the difference between "other income" net of transfers to other columns and spending in that column, while "change in net worth" also includes the investment income.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

December 2019 Report

This month I decided to stop short-term trading again. I think you can make money doing what I was doing, but trading at a size that makes a real difference generates too much anxiety for me. I didn't hear from HSBC on refinancing our mortgage. I sent them one email. Will need to chase them more in January.

The Australian stockmarket fell a bit in December and the Australian Dollar rose, but overseas markets rose. The Australian Dollar rose from USD 0.6764. to USD 0.7023. The MSCI World Index rose 3.56% and the S&P 500 3.02%. On the other hand, the ASX 200 lost 2.08%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 0.28% in Australian Dollar terms and 4.11% in US Dollar terms due to the rise in the Australian Dollar. The target portfolio is expected to have lost 0.82% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index is expected to have gained 1.07% in US Dollar terms. So, we out-performed all our benchmarks, which is rather unusual. Updating the monthly AUD returns chart:

MSCI is negative here in December because of the rise in the Australian Dollar. We haven't lost money on a monthly basis in Australian Dollar terms since November 2018...

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (futures includes managed futures and futures trading):

Hedge funds and gold did very well, which is the opposite of last month. Trading detracted most from returns. The largest positive contribution to the rate of return came from hedge funds. The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Hedge funds Platinum Capital/International Fund and Tribeca did very well. Tribeca (TGF.AX) is no longer our worst ever investment in dollar terms, though it is still hugely drawn down.
  • Gold did well, almost reaching this year's highs again.
What really didn't work:
  • Bitcoin lost heavily and we stopped trading it.
We moved a little bit further towards our new long-run asset allocation:

This is what the target portfolio would look like:

On a regular basis, we invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Other moves this month:
  • USD15k of Ford bonds were called and we didn't buy any new bonds.
  • We bought AUD 40k by selling US Dollars.
  • We traded very badly...
  • We bought 500 shares of a Commonwealth Bank hybrid (CBAPI).

Sunday, December 29, 2019

New Target Portfolio Allocation

Following up on mypost on the best portfolios for Australia, this post will lay out the new target portfolio allocation. The basic idea is to reduce the allocation to managed futures from 25% in my previous target portfolio to 10%. This is because I plan to do little active trading going forward and futures funds have had lacklustre performance for several years. Maybe they will come back, but we should see them more as a potential hedge than as a main asset class at this point I think.

At the top level the portfolio is 60% in stocks and 40% in other assets. The other assets are allocated equally between bonds, futures, gold, and real estate. The stocks allocation is roughly equally divided between Australian and international stocks. 10% of the portfolio is allocated to private equity and 50% to public. Then the public allocation is divided between long only and hedge fund strategies. Within the long only Australian allocation, 1/3 is devoted to small cap stocks. The full allocation is:

10% Australian large cap
5% Australian small cap
12.5% International stocks
10.75% Australian oriented hedge funds
10.75% International oriented hedge funds
10% Private equity
10% Bonds
10% Real estate
10% Gold
10% Managed futures
1% Cash

We will also usually use some leverage or gearing. 1% in cash seems sufficient given the ability to borrow.

The Best Portfolio for Australia

The portfolio charts website, I wrote about before, now lets you do analysis using Australian assets, inflation etc! It turns out that the best portfolio for Australia isn't the same as the best for the US... The following table shows the average and standard deviation of real returns, the maximum drawdown, and the safe and permanent withdrawal rates (preserves capital) for a 30 year retirement horizon:

This is based on data since 1970. Based on the permanent withdrawal rate the Ivy Portfolio developed by Meb Faber is best. The 100% Aussie stocks portfolio (TSM) has a slightly higher return, but the lowest permanent withdrawal rate. So, I think Aussie investors should start to think about portfolio design from something similar to the Ivy Portfolio. It's no surprise that I have been a fan of Meb Faber and endowment style portfolios...

Using ETFs, this portfolio recommends putting 20% into each of Australian stocks, international stocks, intermediate term bonds, commodities, and REITs.

Using the build your own portfolio tool you can see what tweaking this beginning portfolio can do. For example, replacing half the commodities allocation with gold and half the bond allocation with extra international stocks, increases the return to 6.1% and the SWR and PWR to 5.2% and 4.4% with almost no increase in drawdowns.

Going to 60% stocks divided equally between Australia and the rest of the world and 10% in each of bonds, gold, commodities, and REITs, is actually quite similar in return profile to the Ivy Portfolio. The key thing is to hedge Australian stocks with international and real assets. This latter portfolio is probably going to tbe basis of my own new target portfolio.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Pulling the Plug on Short-Term Trading

I've decided to stop short-term trading. In recent months it hasn't made any money, it takes up a lot of time, and it gives me a lot of anxiety. Even though I am doing systematic trading I find myself looking at the market a lot and worrying about my positions. I can't seem to stop it. And my current position sizes are quite small. After a sleepless night, I've had enough. I already cancelled my orders that were waiting to execute. I will keep the existing Bitcoin and palladium positions until they exit naturally

Going forward, I will need to think about our overall financial plan again. Trend following funds aren't doing well in recent years, so we won't want to allocate that much to them compared to the current target allocation to "futures". What should we invest in instead? Should I still plan to set up an SMSF? I delayed that while I waited to see if trading was going to be a big part of it.

I've been here a couple of times before.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Trading Update

Well, that didn't last long. In November's report I said I would raise the risk allocation to palladium and soybeans. I just got stopped out of palladium futures though the contract is ending the day more or less where it began. I actually made a little money on the trade, but I'm not willing to take so much risk. So, I'm going to go back to trading palladium CFDs with a smaller amount of risk. I'll cut soybeans back to USD 2,500 risk as well. Yesterday, Bitcoin had a double stop out. First the long position was closed for a loss and a short opened and then the short was stopped out intraday. After all that, the contract ended near where it started:

I'm seriously thinking again of giving up on trading. Yes, you can make money doing this and I am now disciplined enough to always do the trades the algorithm says to do. But in practice there is still quite a lot of anxiety and mood swings. If I keep trading so small that I only make say a thousand dollars a month at it, it's not really worth the hassle. But if I make it big enough to make a difference I will have too much anxiety. That's the dilemma at this point. So far this financial year I am just losing money. I've given back all of last month's profit in the first week of this month.

Monday, December 02, 2019

November 2019 Report

A less frenetic month financially but somehow I didn't get to make any blogposts since October's monthly report. We started on refinancing our mortgage at a lower interest rate, but the transaction is not yet complete.
The Australian stockmarket fell a bit in October and the Australian Dollar rose, but overseas markets rose. The Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.6894 to USD 0.6764. The MSCI World Index rose 2.48% and the S&P 500 3.63%. The ASX 200 gained 3.51%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 2.17% in Australian Dollar terms but only 0.25% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio is expected to have gained 1.53% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index is expected to have gained 0.75% in US Dollar terms. So, we out-performed our target portfolio but lagged other benchmarks. Updating the monthly AUD returns chart:

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (futures includes managed futures and futures trading):

Stocks and real estate did well while hedge funds, private equity, and gold did poorly. The largest positive contribution to the rate of return came from large cap Australian stocks and the greatest detractor was gold. The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms.

Things that worked well this month:
  • The Unisuper superannuation fund gained more than any other investment in dollar terms.
  • Soybeans and Bitcoin were the next best  performers.
What really didn't work:
  • Crude oil and gold lost heavily.
  • Regal Funds (RF1.AX) fell sharply after it was reported that the firm was under investigation by the regulator, ASIC.
Trading:  The month started with two losing Bitcoin trades but then a big winning trade and we ended the month positive in Bitcoin with a USD 6.1k gain. We also did well in soybeans, shorting four contracts (more than 500 tonnes of soybeans...). The trade is still open and up USD 6.5k. On the other hand, we lost a lot in crude oil, which had six losing trades in a row and more than cancelled out the gains in soybeans.

Using a narrower definition including only futures and CFDs we made 3.55% on capital used in trading or USD 6.5k. Including ETFs we lost just 0.01% or AUD 46. Using the narrow definition, we are catching up to last year's returns. This graph shows cumulative trading gains using the narrower definition year to date:

I think I should increase the risk allocations to soybeans and palladium to USD 5,000 each from USD 2,500 and AUD 1,250 currently. These would be roughly the allocations suggested by the portfolio optimization given current allocations to Bitcoin and oil (USD 3,670 and 2,500). Risk allocation is the maximum potential loss on a single trade.

We moved further towards our new long-run asset allocation.

Futures, bonds, and gold fell and all other asset classes increased their shares.

On a regular basis, we invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Other moves this month:
  • I rebought 100,000 shares of Domacom (DCL.AX).
  • I bought 10,000 shares of Regal Funds (RF1.AX) after the price fell sharply following an ASIC investigation of the firm.
  • USD 100k of bonds (Virgin Australia & Viacom) matured. I bought USD 25k of Dell,  16k of Nustar, and 25k of Tupperware bonds. So our direct exposure to corporate bonds fell by USD 34k.
  • I transferred AUD 45k to my Colonial First State superannuation account, investing in the Conservative Fund.
  • I bought around AUD 43k and GBP 7k, selling US dollars.
  • I bought 750 shares of 3i.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Performance of Optimal Portfolio

The graph shows the monthly profits from idealized trading of an optimal portfolio of Bitcoin, palladium, crude oil, and soybeans futures. The risk budget is the maximum loss possible in one day under ideal conditions.

My results this year somewhat track these. My trading hasn't always been ideal, I have been developing my methods, and my portfolio doesn't have the optimal weights yet. Midyear there were strong returns available and I also did well. Then, in the last four months returns were lower or negative and I also lost money. November was again a good month though not as good as April-June.

Next month I am looking to move closer to the optimal weights and increase the risk budget so that the average return would in theory be around the same amount as my salary, which is one of the goals I have set.

Monday, November 25, 2019

PAYG Installments

I received a letter from the Australian Tax Office that I need to pay quarterly estimated tax payments. However, if the total estimated tax is less than AUD 8,000 you can pay the installments annually. If you self-prepare your tax this means apparently that you don't actually need to pay any installments. So, I selected that option online.

On the other hand, I think Moominmama is going to need to make quarterly payments.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

October 2019 Report

This month we "inverted" our mortgage, paying off the mortgage and then redrawing it for investment purposes. As a result the mortgage interest should now be tax deductible. I carried out quite a lot of trades and money shuffling to carry this out.

The Australian stockmarket fell a bit in October and the Australian Dollar rose, but overseas markets rose. The Australian Dollar rose from USD 0.6752 to USD 0.6894. The MSCI World Index rose 2.76% and the S&P 500 2.17%. The ASX 200 fell 0.35%. All these are total returns including dividends. We lost 0.20% in Australian Dollar terms but gained 1.90% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio lost 1.03% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index is expected to have gained 0.83% in US Dollar terms. So, we out-performed our target portfolio, the HFRI, and the ASX, while underperforming compared to the MSCI World Index and the S&P 500 (a bit). Updating the monthly AUD returns chart:

Hmmm... It is looking like my performance is an average of the MSCI and the target portfolio in recent months.

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (futures includes managed futures and futures trading):

Private equity, real estate, and gold did well while hedge funds and futures did poorly. The largest positive contribution to the rate of return came from private equity and greatest detractors were futures and hedge funds. The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Pengana Private Equity and Bluesky Alternatives did very well, gaining AUD 8.7k and AUD 10k, respectively. Hearts and Minds gained AUD 5.3k.
  • Gold gained (AUD 7.3k).
What really didn't work:
  • Winton Global Alpha lost significantly, reversing recent gains.
  • Pershing Square, Cadence Capital, and Tribeca Natural Resources all lost money.
Trading: We started the month closing a winning trade in Bitcoin, but then there were six losing trades in a row before a winner. We also lost money trading palladium. Using a narrower definition including only futures and CFDs we lost 0.96% on capital used in trading. Including ETFs we gained 0.89%. Using the narrow definition, we are now behind where we were at this point last year. This graph shows cumulative trading gains using the broader definition year to date:

Using this definition we are still ahead of where we were at this time last year.

We moved further towards our new long-run asset allocation.

The table shows how leverage increased this month as we moved the mortgage into the investment portfolio. Cash and bonds fell and all other asset classes increased their shares.

On a regular basis, we invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Other moves this month:
  • USD 21K of Kraft-Heinz bonds were called early and we didn't buy any new bonds So, our direct bond holdings declined by USD 21k.
  • We traded at a small loss, as discussed above.
  • I sold 100k of Domacom (DCL.AX), 40k of Tribeca Global Natural Resources (TGF.AX), and 79k of Cadence Capital (CDM.AX) shares to harvest tax losses and obtain cash for the mortgage inversion. I subsequently bought back 40k of Tribeca and 80k of Cadence. I now have the funds which are marginable and/or are likely to pay large franking credits in my account and the non-marginable funds, which mostly also are likely to pay out fewer franking credits in Snork Maiden's account. As franking credits are applied to the tax bill it doesn't actually matter which account they are in, but I like to see my larger tax bill cut more :) I have a margin account with Commonwealth Securities, while Interactive Brokers don't offer margin loans to Australian customers.
  • I bought 20k shares of Hearts and Minds (HM1.AX) before the upcoming annual Sohn Conference. The fund is currently winding down the investments in the stocks recommended at the last conference and will invest in new recommendations following this year's conference. The share price is very close to NAV and I think following the conference there could be a boost in price. The fund has done very well since inception.
  • I went to Regal Fund's presentation here and was impressed and bought 20k more shares of RF1.AX.
  • I sold 50k of Pengana Private Equity (PE1.AX) shares because the price seemed unsustainably high but then bought back 50k at lower prices. This is not looking like a good move given the tax implications
  • We bought AUD 40k of Australian Dollars.
  • We moved around AUD 1/4 million to our offset account and paid off the mortgage. We then redrew AUD 1/2 million and sent it to my CommSec account and Moominmama's Interactive Brokers account. This reduced my margin loan a lot and increased the cash in her account a lot. The latter is deemed to be "futures" in the pie chart above. Cash in our offset account fell to AUD 40k.

Passed-in at Auction

There was an auction today for the house next door to us. It is almost identical though it is in better condition inside (our house will probably need AUD10-20k of refurbishment to put on the market I reckon). It doesn't have as good views/surroundings. The highest bid was AUD 690k from a bidder in another state on the phone and it passed in. Unless there was a post-auction negotiation, I guess we will see it on the market next week at a fixed price. Next week we should also hear from HSBC on how much their valuer values our house at.

P.S. 7 November 
This house is now for sale at $829,500. In the meantime, the bank's valuer valued our house at $850,000. I guess they want to sell fast.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Mortgage Refinancing: Reality Check

I met today with a "Premier Relationship Manager" at HSBC. We are going ahead with the mortgage refinancing. They will send a valuer to value our house tomorrow...

So, she first checked whether I could service the loan based on the data I submitted. Based on just my salary of AUD 176k per year and our spending and a AUD 500k loan the answer was no. Given my salary is supposedly in the top 5% or higher, our house value is only a bit above the median price for houses here, and lots of people drive luxury cars etc. and we don't, you'd think this wouldn't be a problem. She said our spending was "very high". Either government income data is too low (but the banks ask for tax returns), or people somehow hide spending from the banks (but the banks ask for bank statements), or what? It's hard to reconcile what I see with the data.

Our net worth is in the top 300,000 or so of households and my income in the top 400,000 of taxpayers according to this official data.

By the way, five plus years ago, when we were looking to buy a house, the banks were willing to lend us much more money. Lending standards really have tightened.

Monday, October 28, 2019


Capitalise is an automated trading platform that uses commands written in near natural English at a very high level. I heard about it when Interactive Brokers told us that we now have access to it. At the moment the service is free. You can put in commands where buy/sell levels and stops depend on functions of past prices and also various technical indicators. There is no need to learn a formal programming language like Python or understand any of the intricacies of actually executing strategies. They are based in Israel.

This would be great for me except at the moment it doesn't allow position sizing based on functions of prices. You have to give it a numerical position size. I chatted with Arica on their platform and she said that they might develop that functionality in the future. For now I can handle updating my orders each morning (Australian time) as I am only systematically trading in 3 markets (Bitcoin, palladium, and oil). Maybe they will have this functionality by the time I can't handle trading manually anymore and I won't need to learn Python etc or collaborate with someone who does know that stuff.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Mortgage Inversion Complete, What Next?

I completed the transfer of money into our brokerage accounts from the "mortgage inversion".  That completes a major step in our financial restructuring since the inheritance. We've completed the first two steps on this list. I am thinking of refinancing our mortgage to get a lower interest rate now I don't care about having an offset account with my main bank. But how to go about this? Should I go to a mortgage broker or just contact a bank, like HSBC, who are offering a low rate?

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Silver, Six Losing Bitcoin Trades in a Row...

I tested silver futures as a possible addition to the trading portfolio. When combined with Bitcoin, palladium, and crude oil its optimal portfolio weight was 2%. So, I'm not going to be trading that.

Overnight and in today action in Bitcoin has been insane. I was up around USD 5k on my last Bitcoin trade and then it became a USD 1k losing trade, the sixth in a row. We switched to long from short and subsequently bitcoin skyrocketed to over 10,000 from around 7,500. This long trade is only one contract though compared with two contracts on the previous short. It seems like this spike might have been generated by Xi Jinping's new enthusiasm for blockchain. He told party members to study blockchain. This is despite China banning cryptocurrency exchanges, though a lot of Bitcoin mining takes place in China.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Five Losing Bitcoin Trades in a Row

The bad news is that the worst historical losing run in Bitcoin is eleven losing trades in a row. The good news is that least we now have the losses more under control after adopting position sizing and a constant (more or less as we use rounding of contract numbers) maximum dollar risk. I am also now 100% disciplined in following the algorithms. That was a big struggle. We are now back to short again.

Without slippage the previous trade would have been a $120 win. We had a $30 loss. The last trade though was a $2,000 loss when rounded up to two contracts.

Mortgage Redrawn

Just enter the amount, press the button, and:

Now to transfer the money to investment. This is how I account for this re-structure:

Almost all our historical savings from wages etc ("current savings") have now been converted into housing equity and extra retirement contributions. Housing equity is now a few hundred dollars short of the value of the house as I left a small amount of the mortgage unpaid in order not to potentially trigger something undesirable by totally paying it off.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Trading and Mortgage Inversion Update

We switched from short one contract of Bitcoin to long two this morning, booking a USD 30 loss on the short trade. We are long two as the per contract risk is lower now. After four losing Bitcoin trades, hopefully this is a winning one...

I sold a lot of shares this morning and already was allowed to move some of the proceeds to our offset account. I also paid down AUD 100k of the mortgage and was surprised to see that I could redraw it immediately. I had thought I would need to wait to 4th November for the redraw balance to update. This means that I might be able to complete the inversion this week.


So I paid off another AUD 300k later in the day. Am still waiting on a transfer of AUD 100k from my margin loan. When I get it I should be able to complete the "inversion".

Monday, October 14, 2019

Optimizing Trading Portfolios and Shifting to Return on Risk Metric

I started exploring testing portfolios of trading strategies. For this, I decided that in looking at return on capital where capital is the face value of a futures contract doesn't make much sense. It seems to make more sense to look at the return on money at risk. It makes the most sense to measure that in dollars as a share of a total risk budget. This then leads me to making the primary measure of return also to be in dollars. Here is an optimized portfolio of Bitcoin, oil, and palladium:

The portfolio has a total risk budget of USD 5,000. This is then allocated across the three markets with the resulting profit curves. The analysis assumes that you can trade fractional futures contracts. Oil and palladium help diversify Bitcoin and increase the information ratio. Using a zero benchmark and daily returns on risk the portfolio IR is 2.96 rising from 2.17 for Bitcoin alone.

Oil hasn't gone anywhere in the last year, but did well in 2018 when Bitcoin struggled. Going forward, I will test whether each new market I look at improves the portfolio IR or not.

This approach then also leads to computing the prices for continuous futures contracts additively rather than multiplicatively – so that differences in dollars are preserved -– and to focusing on a constant risk budget in dollars. It also allowed me to simplify the back-testing program quite a bit. In the following chart the blue line is the daily profit curve for trading one contract of Bitcoin futures:

The red curve is based on completed trades only. The green curve has a constant dollar risk equal to the average of the single contract. To be more realistic I have rounded the number of contracts to the nearest whole number, which could be zero. This keeps the strategy out of the market in late 2017 and early 2018, when the single contract strategy had a big drawdown. The constant risk strategy has a higher return and a smaller maximum drawdown than trading a single contract. So, this is the strategy I am adopting for Bitcoin going forward. This morning, we switched from one contract long to one contract short...

Thursday, October 10, 2019

2018-19 Income and Spending Breakdown

After doing our tax returns I can now report the breakdown of income and spending for the 2018-19 financial year, following up on the breakdown for 2017-18:

On the right there is a breakdown of some of the larger categories into sub-categories. Unlike some bloggers I can't say what we spend on food, or clothes etc. I just know how much we spend at different sorts of retail outlets.

One of the biggest changes from last year is the reduction in cash spending from 13% to 3.5% as we started to use credit and debit cards more to track our spending better. Restaurants is up as former cash spending was converted to spending using cards. Other major changes are:
  • An increase in health spending from 7% to 16% due mainly to costs of pregnancy/childbirth. 
  • A major increase in housing spending from 16% to 26% as we undertook renovation work and paid more mortgage interest due to having less money in our offset account.
  • A major reduction in travel from 14% to 3% as we only went on a trip to Sydney this year instead of to Europe and Japan.
These trends all continued in the first quarter of this financial year, just completed.

Income was up strongly on the previous year, mainly due to futures trading. As a result, taxes were also up strongly to over AUD 100k. OTOH total spending and saving also rose strongly. Note that "current saving" here is much higher than my usual definition of saving, which only includes saving from salaries and similar income. Here, total income includes investment income and so saving is correspondingly higher.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Planning the Mortgage Inversion

I first wrote about this four years ago. I realized today that I could actually pull this off next month. At this point, I have close to AUD 300k in our bank account (which is an offset account). The mortgage is AUD 490k. If I sell some shares, which are currently in the red, like Tribeca Global Resources, realizing capital losses and transfer some Australian dollars from Interactive Brokers I can reach half a million dollars in our bank account. The amount of cash that can be redrawn is only updated on the 4th of the month, so I will wait to a little later this month to sell the shares and transfer the cash and pay off almost all the mortgage. Then in early November I will redraw the cash and transfer it to our brokers. As the mortgage is in both our names, I will transfer the money 50/50 to accounts in each of our names. After that, almost all of our mortgage interest should be tax-deductible. Of course, I could just pay off the mortgage. But the interest rate for a home equity loan is higher than for an owner occupier mortgage and am happy to have debt at relatively low interest rates and invest it in stuff that hopefully will pay a higher return.

Monday, October 07, 2019

2018-19 Taxes

Here are my taxes for another year:

On the income side, Australian dividends, capital gains, and foreign source income are all up strongly. I finally ran out of past capital gains tax losses and so recorded a net capital gain for the first time in a decade. Foreign source income is mostly from futures trading and bond interest. My salary still dominates my income sources. As far as replacing salary with other income goes, you need to consider the joint picture with Moominmama's tax return below and the earnings of our superannuation accounts...

Increased deductions are mostly due to increased margin loan interest.

Franking credits (from Australian dividends), foreign tax paid, and the Early Stage Venture Capital (ESVCLP) offset are all deducted from gross tax to arrive at the tax assessment. Unlike in the past, I expect to pay a lot of extra tax.

Gross cash income deducts franking credits and adds the long-term capital gains discount to gross income. The former aren't paid out as cash and the latter are but aren't included in taxable income.
Net after tax cash income then deducts tax and deductions from gross cash income.

Moominmama's (formerly Snork Maiden) taxes follow:

Here there is more dramatic change. Salary was up further in the bounce back from maternity leave and in preparation for the second maternity leave now in progress. Foreign source income was up dramatically due to futures trading. We do more of our trading in this lower taxed account.

Work related travel expenses were down to almost nothing, as the tax year started during our last big trip to conferences etc. I haven't yet managed to do the mortgage inversion that should increase deductions and so deductions are down.

As a result, income and taxes were up dramatically and we will owe a lot of tax. I expect we will have to start making quarterly tax payments from now on.

Trading Progress

I've now tested Bitcoin, ASX200, palladium, and crude oil futures trading using Barchart data. So far, only ASX200 futures were not profitable. I'm now trading one contract long or short of Bitcoin futures, trading palladium with position sizing using CFDs, and have put in an order to short crude oil futures.

With palladium I am aiming to risk about 10% of the CFD account on each trade. My current position is long 10 ounces of palladium and I have an order to short 20 ounces of palladium. The typical risk for trading a 100 ounce palladium futures contract is too big at this stage. The contract face value is around USD 160k. So, even if the stop is 5% from the current price you are risking USD 8000.

On the other hand, a crude oil contract has a face value of around USD 50k (1000 barrels of oil). I am targeting 5% of the face value as the risk we can take on. To compute the number of contracts we can trade we calculate: 0.05*price/abs(price-stop) and round it up or down to the nearest integer. If that is zero then we don't put an order in. This is why I only have a short order at the moment and no order to go long.

Both oil and palladium have longer optimal periods for measuring breakouts against than Bitcoin does. My palladium strategy looks for breakouts from the last seven days of prices in either direction. My oil strategy uses breakouts from the last eleven days. However, it will exit a long (short) position if the price falls below (rises above) the previous day's low (high).

Palladium has about the same risk/return trade off as Bitcoin, but oil isn't as good a risk/return ratio. Here are the average maximum potential loss and the average trade profit for trading with a single contract:

Bitcoin: Risk =  USD 3,722, profit = USD 1,036, ratio = 0.28
Palladium: Risk = USD 4,910, profit = USD 1.462, ratio = 0.30
Crude oil: Risk = USD 2,030, profit =  USD 225, ratio = 0.11

Compared to face value of the contract, the average Bitcoin profit is a 2.7% return, while for palladium and oil it is 0.9% and 0.4%, respectively. Relative to required margin, though, Bitcoin is not so good compared to the others.

The reason for trading all three of them at this stage is for diversification. I want to have more consistent returns rather than boom and bust. That's why I am still allocating the largest amount of risk to Bitcoin. I also still have a treasuries futures trade on and am long more than 100 ounces of gold via the IAU ETF.

At this point, I think I got beyond the experimental stage of trading and am now in a more developmental period. My backtesting programs work pretty well, I have good quality data, am more used to trading in a disciplined way, and am now testing which markets and position sizes make most sense.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

September 2019 Report

In September the Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.6729 to USD 0.6752. The MSCI World Index rose 2.15% and the S&P 500 1.87%. The ASX 200 rose 2.08%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 0.52% in Australian Dollar terms and 0.87% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio lost 0.28% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index lost 0.27% in US Dollar terms. So, though we under-performed all three stock indices we out-performed our target portfolio and the HFRI. Updating the monthly returns chart:

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (futures includes managed futures and futures trading):
Private equity and hedge funds did very well while gold and futures did poorly. The largest positive contribution to the rate of return came from hedge funds greatest detractor was gold, which was the exact reverse of the previous month. The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Hedge funds shined as Platinum Capital, Regal, and Cadence gained significantly but Tribeca lost more money.
  • Pengana Private Equity gained.
What really didn't work:
  • Gold and Winton Global Alpha lost significantly, partly reversing recent gains.
  • Tribeca lost as noted above.
Trading: We gained modestly in Bitcoin and US treasuries futures and lost moderately in Palladium and big time in gold. Using a narrower definition including only futures and CFDs we gained 0.48% on capital used in trading. Including ETFs we lost 1.53%. Using both definitions we are a bit ahead of where we were at this point last year. This graph shows cumulative trading gains year to date:

The picture is better using the broader definition.

We moved a further towards our new long-run asset allocation.* Cash increased most and private equity and bonds decreased most as we received the proceeds from the IPE.AX delisting:

On a regular basis, we also invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Then there are distributions from funds, dividends, and interest. Other moves this month:
  • We sold $50k of Tenet Health Care bonds when they were called and $50k of Discovery Bonds matured. We bought $50k of HSBC bonds So, our direct bond holdings declined by $50k.
  • We traded with moderate success, as discussed above.
  • I bought a small number of Platinum Capital shares as their price was a lot below net asset value.
  • We started buying Australian Dollars again, buying AUD 20k this month.
  • We received the proceeds from the delisting of Oceania Capital.
  • As a result of all this our cash holdings increased by around AUD 120k.
* Total leverage includes borrowing inside leveraged (geared) mutual (managed) funds. The allocation is according to total assets including the true exposure in leveraged funds. We currently don't have any leveraged funds.