Saturday, May 29, 2021

More Investment Review Actions

 Following up on Parts 1 and 3 of the Investment Review I am making the following changes:

1. Switching from CFS Future Leaders to CFS Developing Companies

2. Closing investment in CFS Diversified Fund and switching one third to CFS Imputation Fund and 2/3 to Aspect Diversified Futures

The latter is a bet that trend-following will become more profitable again than it's been in recent years.

Investments Review: Part 3, Small Cap Australian Equities

CFS Developing Companies. Share of net worth: 2.14%. IRR: 12.86%. This is one of my oldest investments. I originally invested in May 1997. However, I sold out again in 1998 and bought back in in 2001. Until recently, when I closed my CFS superannuation account, we had a larger position. It's performance relative to CFS's "custom benchmark" has been erratic. It has strongly outperformed over 10 years but underperformed over horizons up to 5 years. Still it gained 80% in the year up to March 2021 but that was less than the benchmark's 104% gain. However, I don't see any reason to change this investment, unless someone knows a better small cap Australian fund. Wilson Microcap (WMI.AX) is such a fund but trading at a big premium to NAV.

WAM Strategic Value. Share of net worth: 2.04%. IRR: Too new. We have applied for shares in this listed investment company that is in the process of IPO-ing and is managed by Wilson Asset Management. The fund's goal is mostly to invest in undervalued closed-end funds in Australia with the aim to closing the gap. It doesn't qualify as a hedge fund as far as I am concerned because it won't go short or use puts etc. As most of these funds are small caps, I'm categorizing it as a small cap investment.

CFS Future Leaders. Share of net worth: 1.00%. IRR: 10.37%. This is the oldest investment I still have. I originally invested in December 1996. This fund invests in somewhat larger companies than Developing Companies does. It has not performed as strongly in the long run. Like Developing Companies, it outperformed its benchmark over 10 years, though not as strongly, and has underperformed in recent years. I'm inclined to roll this into Developing Companies, despite nostalgia.

Domacom (DCL.AX). Share of net worth: 0.73%. IRR: -3.04%. This is a company rather than a fund and its business is fractional property investment. The company has developed a series of innovative products but has struggled to increase funds under management and so continues to make large losses. My thesis for investing was that they would likely get acquired by a larger financial player who could put a lot more funds into their products. Really it is surprising that this is a listed company rather than a venture capital sponsored investment. Now the company has "voluntarily suspended" its shares because ASIC is investigating its merger/takeover of a company called AustAgri that has made all kinds of wild claims the most solid of which was it was buying Cedar Meats in Melbourne. Why they would want to become a Domacom managed fund, paying management fees to Domacom was not clear. In return they were supposed to receive Domacom shares. Whatever the outcome of this is I don't think this will be a complete loss, because again I think they could sell the platform. I don't have any choice but to hold at the moment.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Career Update etc.

About a month ago I posted about my career decision-making. So, because I ummed and ahhed, the incoming director found someone else for the leadership position for a year with a view to me doing it after that. On the other hand, she was happy for me to get a teaching reduction when I am in that leadership position.

I talked with HR and my immediate department head about long service leave. He was happy for me to get a reduction in teaching next year but not the course I wanted to drop. Instead, he suggested I drop both courses that are supposed to run in the first half of the year and do another course instead in the second half of the year. This is somewhat appealing as after a few year I get bored of teaching a course even though preparing a new course is a lot of work. So, then I would have a year out of teaching, then teach the new course, and then take on the leadership position while still teaching this course. 

That takes us to the end of 2024 when I will be 60 years old. So, my thinking is to then drop to a 50% position rather than retire outright and teach one course a year. 

On another front, a former student who I am collaborating with on research and maybe on another fintech business venture (at the moment I am on the informal "advisory board") is interested in trying to implement automatic systematic trading with my methods. He already has 2-3 other collaborators on the other (research intensive) business development. These guys are pretty expert in Python etc while I am relatively expert in markets. But he wants me to pay for their time up front for development. So, I really need to make sure I have something profitable before paying for this. So, I am going to do more extensive backtesting of my soybeans model, which is the easier one to backtest using my existing software. Most of the work is in compiling futures data together into a continuous series. I will go back at least to the Great Recession and maybe further. Currently I've tested about 6 years. If that works out (I am skeptical actually) they would then do more testing of other markets once we are trading the first market.

My thinking is to pay for development by being issued shares in return for cash in their (to be founded) company. After that when trading is up and running there would be profit sharing with the management company of which I would also be then a shareholder. One of the team is an accountant who would set all this up. They already have an IP agreement in place.

This actually all seems pretty crazy to me but you won't succeed if you don't try.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

TIAA Real Estate Fund

I haven't gotten around to reviewing the TIAA Real Estate Fund yet, but have decided to buy more of it. There are two reasons. First, after reviewing the CREF Social Choice Fund, I'm a bit concerned that it is 40% bonds even though it has been a pretty decent fund relative to benchmarks. Second, it looks like timing is good to switch into TIAA Real Estate. The following chart shows its monthly returns and a 12 month moving average:

The fund does well after recessions but with a lag compared to the stock market. The moving average has just turned the corner again and monthly returns are above anything seen in recent years. In March I switched out of this fund as I was worried about the pandemic and into Social Choice and Money Market. Then in December I switched back into Real Estate. Now I just switched most of my remaining holding of Social Choice.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Already Making Changes Based on the Investment Review

I've only done the first two parts of the Investments Review, but am already making changes to our portfolio based on it. I switched our holding of the Platinum International Fund for more units in the Generation Global Fund. The internal rate of return of the latter is twice that of the former and the alpha of the former is about zero, while the latter is around 3%. We still have a holding in the listed investment company Platinum Capital (PMC.AX). I also cancelled the automatic investment plan for Moominmama's account that holds the Generation Global Fund. Now that we are trying to get more money into superannuation, it doesn't make sense to keep putting AUD 2k per month into these accounts. Her account now holds the Generation investment (now 2.45% of net worth) and holdings in CFS Imputation (0.98% of net worth) and CFS Developing Companies (not reviewed yet).

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Third Point and AlphaSimplex

I don't write much on the blog about investments I evaluated but rejected. There are quite a lot of these, of course. Recently, I evaluated and rejected Third Point and AlphaSimplex. Third Point is  a well-known hedge fund managed by Daniel Loeb. Retail investors can invest in it through TPOU.L a closed-end fund on the London stock exchange. AlphaSimplex is a managed futures manager based in Boston that developed out of MIT. U.S. retail investors can invest with them through mutual funds issued by Natixis Funds. ASFYX has a USD 100k minimum and a lower expense ratio than AMFAX which has a low minimum investment. Non-U.S. investors can access them via Luxembourg based funds. There are institutional (USD 100k minimum and lower management fee) and retail classes (USD 1k minimum and higher management fee) and the funds are available in various currencies. Even the Australian Dollar! Kathryn Kaminski, their chief research strategist, was just on Meb Faber's podcast.

So, is this fund any good? And what about Third Point? Both these investments were interesting enough for me to do some proper analysis on them. These are some results using annual returns:

The period of analysis is the length of the track record provided by AlphaSimplex. All returns are in U.S. Dollars. None of this analysis deducts the risk-free-rate from returns. My returns in U.S. Dollars are not very good over the last ten years. In Australian Dollar terms they are much better.

So, it turns out that using annual data AlphaSimplex has a beta of 0.34 to the MSCI World Index and no alpha. Its correlation with the market is 0.4. Its average return was just 3.4% with a Sharpe ratio of 0.3. The Winton Global Alpha Fund has had similarly poor returns but actually has a negative beta and positive alpha. Before the 2020 debacle, Winton was a lot better than AlphaSimplex. I'm definitely not sold on AlphaSimplex.

Third Point is more attractive. However, it acts more or less like a good quality long-only fund. It's correlation with the MSCI is 0.92. It has an alpha of 1.4%. I added Pershing Square Holdings as a comparison. It has a much lower correlation to the market though it has a beta of 1.04. With an alpha of 4.3% it adds much more uncorrelated return. So, I haven't found Third Point convincing enough to add to the portfolio.

Investments Review: Part 2, Long-only Large Cap Equities

For the second part of the investments review, I am looking at our long-only large cap equities funds. Usually, I would divide these into Australian large cap, U.S., and rest of world equities, but Hearts and Minds spans all of these and Generation the last two. The funds all have strong IRRs. Note that the IRR of an investment depends both on its underlying performance and our trading and timing.

Hearts and Minds (HM1.AX). Share of net worth: 4.13%. IRR: 27.52%. This fund invests across Australia and global markets by picking the best ideas of a set of fund managers. 35% of the portfolio is allocated according to the stocks pitched at the annual Sohn Hearts and Minds Conference. 65% is allocated according to the best ideas of six core fund managers: Caledonia Investments, Cooper Investors, Magellan Financial Group, Paradice Investment Management, Regal Funds Management, and TDM Growth Partners. Instead of charging management fees, the fund contributes 1.5% of NAV to charity every year. Since inception, this fund has performed very well. On the other hand, it has been weaker this year as the conference stocks this time are mostly high growth stocks, which are now falling out of favor:

The China Fund (CHN). Share of net worth: 1.77%. IRR: 16.00%. This is a closed-end fund investing in Chinese stocks. There have been changes of manager over time and the latest manager seems to be doing well:

The reason to hold this fund is to tilt towards exposure to emerging markets. I think our diversified funds have a relatively low exposure to emerging markets, though it's impossible to get that information for most of them. OTOH, one of our "hedge funds", Platinum Capital has a 17% allocation to China and Hong Kong and 2% to India. So, this seems a good fund to get that exposure through. But is almost one third of our allocation to "rest of the world stocks" too much?

Generation Global Fund. Share of net worth: 1.60%. IRR: 16.50%. This fund is hosted on the Colonial First State platform and is closed to new investors. We are automatically adding AUD 400 to this fund every month. The question is whether to raise that or stop contributing to funds outside of super altogether. The fund is managed by Generation Investment Management, who are an ESG fund manager. Compared to the MSCI World Index it has a beta of 1.11 and annual alpha of 3.2% over the last five years. So, this is a good long-only fund.

Fortescue Metals (FMG.AX). Share of net worth: 1.60%. IRR: Too new. I very recently switched out of Treasury Wines and into this stock, which so far has been a very bad move. I guess I just like to do some trading with a small part of the portfolio. I am hoping this will pay nice franked dividends and that I at least won't lose capital value in the long term.

Colonial First State Imputation Fund. Share of net worth: 0.99%. IRR: 18.00%. This fund invests in large cap Australian stocks with strong "franked" dividends. There is little logic to hold both this fund and Argo Investments... Argo has a much lower management fee. On the other hand, this fund has outperformed the benchmark on many time scales despite the high management fee (0.96%):

So, if we retain this account, then I think this fund makes sense as one of the investments.

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/B).  Share of net worth: 0.87%. IRR: 9.80%. My thesis for investing in Berkshire is here. Berkshire is providing more exposure to the US market in the SMSF.

Argo Investments (ARG.AX). Share of net worth: 0.79%. IRR: 23.03%. This is a closed end fund (listed investment company) investing in mainly large cap Australian shares. The expense ratio is only 0.15%! Timing has boosted our IRR for this fund... The fund has outperformed the benchmark recently and over 20 years, but not over the interim time frames:

So, maybe this isn't such a good idea? I recently invested again in this fund to get more exposure to the Australian market after rolling over my Colonial First State superannuation fund into the SMSF. Note that the share price performed poorly recently as the premium to NTA fell, after which we purchased the fund.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Investments Review: Part 1, Diversified Funds

After noting that we had at a conservative count, 40 different investments, I thought it'd be a good idea to do a review of all of them to see what makes sense and what doesn't. Maybe my readers will learn about some interesting investments too. Or about what not to invest in. Each post will look at one type of investment starting with diversified funds. Shares of net worth don't include our house in net worth.

Unisuper Balanced Fund. Share of net worth: 10.02%. IRR: 10.64%. This is my employer superannuation fund. I think in theory we could have contributions made to another fund instead but then they would only pay the 9.5% (of salary p.a.) superannuation guarantee instead of 17%! What I do have an option to do is to switch to other investment options within Unisuper. I also think I could rollover the investment into another fund such as our SMSF. The balanced fund is diversified across Australian stocks (33%), international equities (27%), bonds (30%), property (5%), and infrastructure and private equity (5%). It is one of the better performing balanced super funds in Australia. I used to invest more aggressively by investing in the growth option instead. Unless our SMSF outperforms strongly, I'm inclined to leave this as it is.

PSS(AP) Balanced Fund. Share of net worth: 9.16%. IRR: 9.41%. This is Moominmama's employer superanniation fund. It's not quite as well-performing as Unisuper. They only offer four investment options now. There used to be more. They provide even less information about their investments than Unisuper do. Generally, it's amazing how little information most Australian fund managers provide compared to U.S. fund managers. The fund is allocated across equities (56%), bonds (18%), hedge funds (15%), and real assets (11%). I think there is a similar condition on fund choice.

Colonial First State Diversified Fund. Share of net worth: 3.12%. IRR: 10.31%. I contribute automatically AUD 500 into this fund each month. Before rolling over my CFS superannuation account into our SMSF we had a lot of superannuation invested in this fund too. There isn't really a strong justification for holding this fund, especially given the 20% of net worth that we have invested in the two superannuation funds above. Selling would mean a capital gains tax bill, but I'm really not sure why I am continuing to put money into the fund. The CGT bill would actually not be that big as the distributions have been taxed all along the way. The fund is allocated 30% to Australia shares, 20% to global shares, 30% to bonds, 5% to property securities, 5% to infrastructure securities, and 10% to "real return". It has returned 7.78% p.a. in the last ten years to March, which is less than our portfolio return.

CREF Social Choice. Share of net worth: 1.66%. IRR: 13.33%. This fund is 40% U.S. stocks, 20% rest of the world stocks, and 40% bonds with an ESG overlay. I use this as the core fund in my former U.S. employer retirement fund (403b account). Apparently, my market timing since 2002 when I first invested in this fund has paid off to boost the IRR. I have been both more aggressive and more conservative in the allocation in this account. It has returned 8.33% in the last ten years and outpaced the relevant Morningstar benchmarks. The question is whether to be more aggressive in this account and shift to the Global Equities option instead.

Ruffer Investment Company (RICA.L). Share of net worth: 0.97%. IRR: Too new. This is an extremely new investment that plays more of the role of a hedge fund in the portfolio. But as it doesn't use shorting or charge a performance fee I've classified it as a diversified fund. The allocation is 9% U.S. stocks, 31% rest of the world equities, 39% bonds (mostly index linked), 8% gold, and 13% in what they describe as "illiquid strategies" and options. The illiquid strategies seem to be hedge funds specialising in mitigating tail risk. I'm counting this part of the fund towards our hedge fund allocation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Adjusting Estimated Real Estate Exposure for Leverage

I realized that because the URF.AX fund, which is invested in New York and New Jersey real estate, is highly levered, my exposure to real estate is much greater than I previously estimated. The market value of this investment is AUD 51, but the underlying value of the real estate assets is almost AUD 1/2 million.

Based on this, the share of real assets in the portfolio is 17.28% currently, which is above the target share of 15%. The asset allocation pie chart now looks like this:

 In recent months the share of real estate increased a lot:

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Two More New Investments

We're still in the process of reinvesting after the most recent reorganization, which centred on rolling over my Colonial First State superannuation fund into the SMSF. I bought the first "tranche" of a position in Fortescue Metals (FMG.AX) replacing the just closed Treasury Wines position. By the way that position made around AUD 15k in profit with an internal rate of return of around 90%. Fortescue is expected to pay out an enormous franked dividend very soon. The interim dividend was AUD 1.47, which was double that in the previous year. Brokers expect the final dividend to be around AUD 2.50 per share plus franking. This is around a 16% annual yield. The reason the share price isn't higher is that brokers also expect profits to fall in the following years. The thinking is that the iron ore price can't remain this high for long. My thesis is that retail investors will continue to buy the stock to get the dividend and that maybe future profits won't fall as much as expected. In the last 90 days they have increased their forecasts of 2022 profits but the share price is below where it was a the beginning of the year.

The second investment is in Contango Income Generator (CIE.AX). This is a listed investment company (closed end fund). It has been a failure, losing money since inception. Wilson Asset Management got involved, buying up shares and agitating for change. The company switched to a new strategy managed by WCM Investment Management who are based in California. This is a global long-short equity strategy, which supposedly has performed extremely well:

Of course, it is trading below net asset value. It's not that liquid, and so getting a full position will take a little while.

We now have 40 different investments not including cash in various currencies, our house etc. And that's counting the eight paintings at Masterworks as one investment. I still have a couple more investments in mind.

Monday, May 10, 2021

And in to Ruffer


I invested most of the remaining cash in the SMSF into Ruffer Investment Company. This is a closed end fund trading on the London Stock Exchange. It is a diversified fund invested 40% in stocks, 40% in bonds – mostly inflation indexed – and the remainder in gold, options etc. They are betting on inflation. It has done very well during market crises. The fund:  "has a simple aim – consistent positive returns, regardless of how the financial markets perform. We try not to lose money in any 12 month period, and to grow the value of our investors’ wealth over the long haul. If we can do this, we should outpace inflation, protecting and increasing the real value of our investors’ income and capital."

Got Out of Treasury Wine

Was getting bored of Treasury Wine (TWE.AX) so I exited the position. Probably now there will be a takeover announced :) Previous rumours about takeovers didn't eventuate so far.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

First Investment through Domacom



I made my first investment using the Domacom platform. I bought some shares in a cattle grazing property in Victoria. Mostly, I just want to see how the platform works, so this is a very small investment. I also have made "pledges" for three "campaigns". Activity seems low on the platform in terms of either trading or crowdfunding campaigns. It's not surprising that the company seems to be focusing on other ways to generate funds under management. The platform provides quite a bit of information but I think deals mostly are a bit too nebulous to commit a lot of money to any one. For example, these are the financials for another farm property in Victoria:

What exactly are the outgoings? If there are finance costs, then how big is the mortgage on this property? The "position" has no loan listed. Was the loan paid off? But last year there were no finance costs. It's hard to understand the financials of most properties I looked at.

What farming activity is generating the rent? The pds says: "It is intended that this property will be used to derive income from mixed agriculture use including the farming of sheep and the growing of trees producing nuts." I'm doubtful about the latter. Is it happening? 

Most residential property listed on the site has fallen in value since the initial investment was made. Are initial valuations over-valuing the properties?

I think if this platform is going to be successful it needs to have much more transparent information.

Monday, May 03, 2021

April 2021 Report

This month we completed the initial investments in our self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF). I stopped systematic trading for the moment. We also reached a big round net worth number in  Australian Dollar terms. But once I raised the value of our house to reflect a recent sale in our neighborhood, I realised we would have actually reached that number in February.

The Australian Dollar rose from USD 0.7612 to USD 0.7725. It was another month of increases in world stock markets. The MSCI World Index rose 4.41%, the S&P 500 by 5.34%, and the ASX 200 rose 3.48%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 2.54% in Australian Dollar terms or 4.06% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio is expected to have gained 1.76% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index is expected to gain 2.07% in US Dollar terms. So, we outperformed these benchmarks and did OK vs. the MSCI. Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (currency neutral terms):

Hedge funds added the most to performance and only Australian small cap had a negative return. Things that worked well this month:

  • Tribeca Global Resources was the largest contributor in dollar terms contributing AUD 21k. Gold bounced back, contributing AUD 15k. Unisuper, Cadence Capital, and Pershing Square Holdings all also contributed more than AUD 10k. Other notable strong performers were URF.AX (NY/NJ residential real estate), 3i (UK private equity), and soybeans.
What really didn't work:
  • The worst performers were Hearts and Minds (HM1.AX) and Domacom (DCL.AX).

The investment performance statistics for the last five years are: 

The first two rows are our unadjusted performance numbers in US and Australian Dollar terms. The following four lines compare performance against each of the three indices. We show the desired asymmetric capture and positive alpha against the ASX200 index. Against the MSCI World Index we could be doing better and we are doing a little worse than the median hedge fund levered 1.6 times.

We moved decisively towards our desired long-run asset allocation again as I implemented our SMSF investments. In October 2018, when we received the inheritance we were 48 percentage points away from our target allocation at the time. Now we are less than 6 percentage points away. We compute this by calculating the Euclidean distance between the target and actual allocation vectors. This is the square root of the sum of squared differences between the actual and target allocations for each asset.  Real assets is the asset class that is now furthest from its target allocation (4.6% of total assets too little):

On a regular basis, we invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. This was a very busy month. I'm only recording net changes here:
  • Australian large cap: I invested in Argo Investments again.
  • Hearts and Minds (HM1.AX): I bought back 20k shares I had sold a while ago at higher prices. This is a long only global equities fund.
  • Hedge funds: I increased our holding of Regal Funds (RF1.AX). This wasn't intentional, but I didn't get the price I wanted in exiting part of our holding in a regular brokerage account while also establishing a position in the SMSF.
  • Private equity: I increased our holding of the Pengana private equity fund (PE1.AX).
  • Bonds: Our Medallion Financial baby bond matured and we bought shares in Scorpio Tankers,  Star Bulk Carriers, and Ready Capital baby bonds, increasing our net holdings of US corporate bonds by USD 50k. We also bought shares in the Australian MCP Income Opportunities Trust (MOT.AX).
  • Art: I invested in another painting at Masterworks.
  • Real estate: I invested in the Domacom and Australian Unity Diversified Funds. I also doubled our holding of URF.AX (NY/NJ residential property).
  • Futures: I successfully closed a calendar spread trade in soybeans and stopped systematic trading of ASX futures.