Tuesday, June 02, 2020

May 2020 Report

This month the stockmarket rose at a slower pace.

This month, our spending was again low relative to pre-COVID-19. We spent AUD 5.3k which is up on April's AUD 4.6k.

The Australian Dollar rose from USD 0.6524 to 0.6647. The MSCI World Index rose 4.41%, the S&P 500 4.76%, and the ASX 200 4.42%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 2.49% in Australian Dollar terms and 4.40% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio is expected to have gained 1.53% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index 1.69% in US Dollar terms. So, we strongly out-performed these latter two benchmarks and matched the MSCI return.

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



The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms. Small cap Australian stocks and hedge funds again performed best after a terrible performance in March and a strong performance in April. Hedge funds and bonds contributed most to the total return.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Regal Funds and Pershing Square Holdings were the top performing assets in dollar terms. Some other listed hedge funds (Cadence, Tribeca) also did well.
  • Gold.
  • CFS Developing Companies Fund.
  • Pengana Private Equity.
  • Domacom continued to rebound from the lows of March.
What really didn't work:
  • Winton Global Alpha managed futures fund lost 4.6%. I now have lost money overall from investing in this. Is trend-following really dead?
We moved further towards our new long-run asset allocation. The share of hedge funds rose most while the share of bonds fell most:



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:
  • Dish and Scorpio Tankers bonds matured, releasing USD 50k plus interest.
  • I invested AUD 100k in the APSEC hedge fund.
  • I bought 20,000 more shares of the Tribeca Global Resources Fund (TGF.AX). 
  • I sold 20,000 shares of Pengana Private Equity (PE1.AX) when the price rose a lot above net asset value.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Margin Loan Limits

So, Interactive Brokers finally allowed Australian clients to again borrow money. I enabled margin borrowing on both Moominmama's and my account. I was surprised at how low the buying power was. Much, much lower than the standard FAQ suggested. It turns out that retail clients borrowing power is capped at AUD 25k! This is stated in the footnote on that page. This seems crazily low to me. I currently have a loan cap of AUD 500k with Commonwealth Securities. But their margin rates are far higher. If I can show I am a wholesale investor  I could get the cap lifted. If they require individual income of AUD 250k and/or net worth of AUD 2.5 million, that would be tough/impossible to show and would probably need to get an accountant to assess it... So, looks like I should keep more assets with Commonwealth Securities than I was planning on. I'm not planning on borrowing big to buy shares, but having borrowing power is useful.

PS

Actually, I easily qualify as a wholesale investor based on net worth. Turns out, I have 3/4 of our joint household net worth. My immediate thoughts are that this isn't optimal tax-wise and whether it is worth paying an accountant to certify it? On the other hand, borrowing in my name is a good tax move.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

New Investment: Atlantic Pacific Australian Equity Fund

I made an investment in this unlisted hedge fund that is open to retail investors. Our long-term goal is to invest 10.5% of assets in Australia focused hedge funds. At the end of April we only had about 4.7% of financial assets (i.e. not including our house) invested in this category. This investment brings this up to about 7%.

The fund is long-bias equity market hedge fund buys and short sells, Australian listed securities and derivatives. It has performed particularly well in the current crisis:


It didn't perform very well in the previous 5 years, though it has always been good at avoiding downside in the market and so is a potentially good diversifier.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

April 2020 Report

This month saw a rebound in the stockmarket and in Australia the rate of new COVID-19 infections and deaths fell to near zero (and zero in our city) after peaking in March. The local state government had said that schools will remain closed for all of the next term, which ends in early July. But yesterday, their resistance to re-opening weakened. I am working for home and our university campus also will be mostly closed over this period. So, it is hard keeping up with everything - full time job, co-parenting two small children, and keeping on top of our finances. At least I am already set up to work from home comfortably and have converted part of the office I share with Moominmama into a mini-classroom complete with whiteboard I brought home from my campus office...


My main scenario is still that the stock market lows will be at least be retested. Only in 1987 really was there such a steep fall in the market that did develop into a longer bear market. And even then there was more bouncing along the bottom than there has been so far. This is probably like the March-May 2008 rally. The bullish case is that government's and central banks are pouring so much money into the financial markets and broader economy that this time it will be different. On the other hand, though people are comparing this period to the Great Depression, I think there is no chance that stock prices will fall as much as they did then because of all the government action.

I don't usually talk about monthly spending, but this month we only spent AUD 4,300. This doesn't include mortgage interest, which is now treated as an investment expense. Still, it is the lowest monthly spend in a long time. Including mortgage interest it would be AUD 5,800, which is the lowest since July 2017.

The Australian Dollar rose from USD 0.6115 to USD 0.6524. The MSCI World Index rose 10.76%, the S&P 500 12.82%, and the ASX 200 8.78%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 4.02% in Australian Dollar terms and 10.98% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio is expected to have gained 2.93% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index gained  4.79% in US Dollar terms. So, we strongly out-performed these latter two benchmarks and beat the MSCI by a little. 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. Small cap Australian stocks and hedge funds performed best after terrible performance in March. Hedge funds and bonds contributed most to the total return.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Gold
  • Hedge funds rebounded. In particular, Regal Funds and Tribeca Global Resources.
What really didn't work:
  • Virgin Australia. The company went into voluntary administration and unfortunately I'm still holding USD 25k in face value of their bonds. 
  • Though it only lost AUD 142, I was surprised by the poor performance of the PSS(AP) superannuation fund (balanced option). This is the main public service superannuation fund for workers who joined the service in recent years. With stock markets and corporate bonds rebounding strongly and a roughly even balance between Australian and foreign assets it must have lost big in real estate or hedge funds to post this result. Unisuper (the universities superannuation fund) gained almost 7%.
We moved further towards our new long-run asset allocation. The share of hedge funds rose most while the share of bonds fell most:



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:
  • General Motors and Anglogold bonds matured, releasing USD 72k plus interest. I bought USD 15k of Woolworths (Australia) bonds, reducing net exposure by USD 57k.
  • I shifted USD 16k from the TIAA Real Estate Fund to the TIAA Money Market Fund. I am concerned that the direct real estate investments the fund holds will be written down soon.
  • I bought 4 September out of the money put options on the S&P 500 E-Mini futures as downside insurance in case the market lows are retested or worse.
  • I bought AUD 25k by selling US Dollars.

Friday, April 03, 2020

March 2020 Report

This month the financial crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic intensified. Up to around the 20th of the month there was chaos in financial markets. Many bonds fell as much or more than stocks and gold fell too as everything was liquidated. Then there began to be some stability with gold and many corporate bonds rallying again. I am now thinking that Australia might come out of this better than countries like the US and so betting a bit on Australian recovery makes sense. I am only doing that though in terms of moving towards our long-run allocation. Not over-allocating to Australian assets yet.

I expect HSBC are now happy they didn't give us a mortgage. It's not worth chasing them any more I think. We are keeping our children out of daycare and school, though technically they are still open. There was some miscommunication about applying for the subsidy and only this weekend I completed the application. Now the government announced today that childcare will be free to parents during the pandemic. I was thinking about cancelling the service, but if it is free, of course I won't. It's not 100% clear yet whether it will be free.

I think I will keep paying for my 4 year old's private preschool as we are considering the school as a long term schooling option (it goes through to year 10). Also, we are receiving a government subsidy. It's unclear yet whether this pre-school qualifies for the free childcare deal. We want to have a school for him when this crisis hopefully ends later this year. He goes to that school 2 days a week and 2.5 days to the public preschool.

All stock markets fell sharply in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.6499 to USD 0.6115 and at one point reached USD 0.55. The MSCI World Index fell 13.44%, the S&P 500 12.35%, and the ASX 200 20.42%. All these are total returns including dividends. We lost 8.95% in Australian Dollar terms and 14.33% in US Dollar terms. This was the worst monthly investment return ever in terms of absolute Australian Dollars lost (AUD 319k). The target portfolio lost 5.05% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index is expected to lose 5.88% in US Dollar terms. So, we under-performed these benchmarks though did better than the ASX 200. The value of our house, which is not included in this investment return, increased. Well, the price of houses in our city went up. 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. All asset classes lost money. Australian small cap stocks was the worst performer and gold the least bad. The biggest detractors from my overall return were bonds and hedge funds. These supposed diversifiers didn't work to mitigate losses in stocks. Hedge funds in general both lost from fund performance and from the fall in the price of listed closed end funds relative to their net asset value.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Pershing Square Holdings - this hedge fund did perform as intended, with the share price rising. The manager Bill Ackman made a big bet on credit default swaps that hedged the losses in the stock portfolio. Subsequently, he has closed those positions and bought more stocks. I bought more shares in PSH, which are trading around 65% of NAV.
  • Treasury futures - my bet on a steepening yield curve worked and I closed half the position. The remaining position has backtracked since then.
  • China Fund - I bought back our position, which has since performed well.
What really didn't work:
  • Regal Funds - this was our worst performing investment this month in dollar terms. It lost 45% for the month.
  • The Unisuper and PSS(AP) superannuation funds were the next biggest losers in dollar terms. They lost 13% and 9%, respectively, which is about what would be expected given a 20% fall in the Australian stock market.
  • Junkier bonds like Virgin Australia. The value of Virgin Australia bonds halved. It's not our only distressed bond at this point, but just the worst. I don't know what I was thinking, buying this in the first place.
  • Domacom (DCL.AX) shares fell by 2/3.
There are plenty more losing investments... We moved a little towards from our new long-run asset allocation. The shares of gold, private equity, and rest of the world stocks rose most:


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:
  • Washington Gaslight and Lexmark bonds matured, releasing USD 60k plus interest. We didn't buy any new corporate bonds, so our exposure fell.
  • We bought AUD 104k by selling US Dollars.
  • I bought 25k Pengana Private Equity (PE1.AX) shares after the rights issue was cancelled. My timing could have been better as the shares then dipped before rebounding.
  • I bought back our position in the China Fund (CHN). I figured that China is now rebounding. So far, that was good timing.
  • I bought 25k Cadence Capital shares (CDM.AX). This fund has been a disaster, but the shares were trading at the value of cash that the fund has per share. So far, a good move.
  • I bought 10k Tribeca Global Resources (TGF.AX) shares. Another disastrous investment in the long run, but the new shares have risen since buying them.
  • I bought 25k Bluesky Alternatives shares (BAF.AX). They were trading at about 50% of NAV. I expect some of the fund's investments will be written down, but not that much overall.
  • I shifted USD 4k from the TIAA Real Estate Fund to the CREF Social Choice Fund.
  • I shifted about AUD 36k from the CFS Conservative Fund to the CFS Diversified Fund that has a higher risk allocation.

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.

Accounts
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 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

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.