Sunday, December 29, 2019

New Target Portfolio Allocation

Following up on my post 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.