We are MOVING :)

Its been a nice time with WordPress though its time to move to our own domain. Please update your book marks and hope you continue to visit us as we move on to make available better research with regard to markets and more.

Our new home lies at www.portfolioyoga.com/wp/ (Link)



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Investing in Markets – Ways and Means

We have hundreds if not more number of studies that has shown that over the long term, the best growth is delivered only by equities. While in India, Real Estate has also proven to be a bonafide wealth generator, I strongly believe that growth over the next decade or two will more likely come in Equity with Real Estate more or less providing sub-optimal returns.

So, how does one go about in investing into the markets. For a lay man, there lies there options of investing his savings into the markets

1. Investing via a Mutual Fund

Theoretically speaking, this is the easiest way to gain exposure to the markets. But then again, not all Mutual Funds are the same and hence some amount of research is necessary to ensure that we invest in the funds that have showcased long term growth vs chasing funds that have made a mark in the very near past.

While most mutual funds in United States haven’t been able to beat the benchmark consistently, in India, we have hordes of fund managers who have beaten the benchmark returns year after year. Whether this is due to they being Genuis or whether its because of the fact that the benchmarks are not really that good a criteria to compare against is a story for another time.

But having said that, its a fact that top funds keep changing over time. Prashant Jain is a much acclaimed fund manager, but lets face the facts – his top fund, HDFC Top 200 has generated a CAGR return of 13.36% DSP BlackRock Micro Cap Fund which over the same period has seen a CAGR return of 24.5%.

What I have done above is known as Selection bias. I have selected the DSP fund not by foresight but by using  current returns. In 2008 and 2009, the best large cap fund (5 year returns) was Reliance Growth Fund. Over the last 5 years, this fund has provided a CAGR return of 12.8%.

Over a similar period Nifty Total Return Index has shown a CAGR growth of 11.68%. While one can still argue about there being a alpha out there in funds such as HDFC Top 200 and Reliance Growth, we need to also consider the fact that they hold stocks outside of Nifty constituents and in essence, comparing the performance to Nifty is erroneous.

Personally my family is invested into multiple funds across the spectrum and overall, returns have been decent enough. As Warren Buffet once said, diversification is the only free lunch and this applies to Mutual funds as well.

A step above Mutual Funds comes a more personalized investment vehicle.

Portfolio Management Scheme (PMS for short):

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I am a very strong skeptic of PMS as a investment vehicle. My main objection comes from the fact that for most brokerage led PMS, this is not something where the objective is to generate above market returns for the client but is a nice way to churn the portfolio as much as possible in an attempt to garner as much brokerage as can be culled from the account.

In fact, it is a surprise that Assets under Management of PMS has growth substantially over the years despite most of them not even providing decent returns (let alone market beating) and worse of all, hiding the facts from the potential investors.


I do not have the break-down as which firm manages what amount, but just as a simple exercise, lets review the performances of top names in this business

Coming up first would be Sharekhan (Link)

AUM: Around 32 Crores


What surprises me is not the under-performance but the fact that NSE Nifty returns are shown as having given different returns when compared with different products.

India Infoline (Link)

AUM: 4600 Crores

India Infoline runs a multitude of funds



Motilal Oswal (Link)

AUM: 1400 Crores


One of the few which has beaten their benchmarks. But then again, these are 1. Weighted Returns (and not everyone would get the same) and 2. Am not sure if these are after fees or before fees (Fees are substantial in nature, refer to page 14 of the document).

There are at least another 25 – 30 firms offering PMS, but I do hope you get the idea. PMS is not a ideal vehicle to ride the markets. In fact, one PMS firm actually managed to lose money when the markets were going up and lost money when the markets were coming down. The fund manager is now a star investment advisor 🙂

Last but not the least

Direct Investments into Equity:

Directly investing into equities is one of the most risky ways to put savings to work if you are neither willing to work hard nor have a clue about how markets work. Too many folks have burnt their hands in equity investing to swear off anything related to equity (Direct or not). But having said that, the only way to beat the returns generated elsewhere can be found here.

But if you are willing to put in the hours required to learn and understand the various way to analyze the markets, its a effort that can provide for worthwhile returns with total control in your hand.

But a caveat first – International evidence has shown that the average equity investor under-performs the markets very badly. In fact, many would have been better off just putting the cash under their pillow than investing into markets


While the above data comes from Mutual Fund investments and redemption by individual investors, with human psyche being the same, direct returns by investors would not be too different.

Investing (no matter how large or small your investments is) is a full time endeavor. Unless you are willing to devote a substantial amount of time, this is definitely not a area to dabble in since not only would the returns be below par, but the time spent could have been better utilized elsewhere.

To fill this gap, we have many a person offering to advise (Newsletter based generally) for a small fee. But with the vast majority of them being pure snake oil sellers, I would generally avoid all such stuff unless they have proof of their pudding (Audited returns of their own funds which in turn should be substantial portion of their net worth)

To conclude, while its true that some funds have shown ability to beat the markets, I recommend novice investors to distribute between a few select funds and a few ETF’s that track the index (Index funds). Invest regularly and you would turn out fine regardless of the gyrations we see in markets.

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Of Helmets & Stop Losses

Bangalore (like many other cities) has had a rule for compulsory wearing of helmets by those riding a two wheeler. But what I observe is that many a helmet are worn to protect not the head but the risk of getting caught by the police constable. At the first instance of a risk to the head, the helmet would be sure to bail itself out leaving the head to take care of the mess by itself. And since the wearer of the helmet in a way thinks that his head is protected, he may actually take more risks than what he would have when he was not wearing one (before it was made compulsory).

So, what is the relationship between the helmet and the stop loss you may ask. Well, there is one. A wrong stop loss like a wrong helmet may cause more grief to the user than to a trader who trades without one.

A stop loss is said to protect one from the loss while allowing the winners to remain in the system. But the thing about stops is that if not placed right, it has a ability to cause more damage than one where it was not used in the first instance.

So, what is the ideal stop you may wonder. Is placing a stop above a resistance / below a support a good idea? Or should one just stick to one’s risk profile and say that if a stock loses more than X% of my capital, I am out?

With the increase in algorithmic trading, stops below support / resistance are the easiest to take out since everyone sees more or less the same chart and comes more or less to the the same conclusions.

As to those using X% of risk per trade, the problem comes by the way of the fact that the stock may not necessarily fit that profile. Some stocks have very high volatility while some remain bland for most of the time but then spurt up in one swing what would be a multi X deviation from the mean.

So, when is that one should sell or buy (based on one’s existing long or short position). To me, the best way is the way described by Jesse Livermore (which I shall paraphrase) where he says that if a stock is good enough to sell, it should be good enough to short as well. So, if you are placing a stop at level X, not only should you be happy to sell your longs there, but also be willing to go short.

That does not mean that one has to go short every time one wants to exit a long, but its the conviction that matters.

On the other hand, if you are using a portfolio / ranking based model, the above assumption may not be required since you will be exiting one stock in favor of other which your model is showcasing as one with a better opportunity.

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How often does the Sensex double

Recently when Sensex breached (for a few moments) the 30000 mark on Sensex, Anchors on CNBC-TV18 dressed up with T-Shirts with 30000 printed in bold numbers (and in Red for added effect).

Way back in 2007, with Sensex breaching one round number after another, it was a series of parties in the studios of business channels. But I wonder if television anchors celebrated when Sensex crossed above the 25600 mark.

Whats so important you may ask about the 25.6K mark. Well, it signified the 8th instance of Sensex doubling in price. Below is the table as to when we crossed the mark and how many days it took to achieve it.

The fastest double for the Sensex came in 1990 when it doubled in just 188 days (all calculations are on calendar days and not trading days). The slowest on the other hand took all of 4656 days (translating into 12.75 years).

Average time taken by Sensex to double is around 4.5 years. 51200 is the next double number & I do wonder if we shall scale that peak by 2020


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Comparing PE Ratio of Sensex & Nifty

For a long time, we looked at only one Index when it came to the Indian Markets and that was the Sensex. Even years after Nifty had come into the picture, Sensex reigned supreme. While Bombay Stock Exchange is the oldest exchange in Asia, when it came to the Sensex, the whole concept is fairly recent  having been first compiled in 1986, more than 110 years after it was founded.

But with derivative trading in Nifty taking precedence, Nifty is the key Index most participants look at. While we have seen Sensex too becoming available for trade, the first mover advantage has meant that Nifty has virtually steam rolled over it.

When it comes to analyzing how expensive or cheap the markets have been, I have most of the time stuck to Nifty since NSE has made the download free and easy. But today I decided to update my Sensex PE and the variation was very interesting to say the least.

First out, here is the updated Nifty Price Earnings (trailing 4 Quarters, Standalone) chart with long term average and standard deviations


NSE provides data from 1999 and the calculation suggests that we are closing on to the peak valuation of 2010.

Theoretically speaking, the Sensex PE should show a similar number despite the fact that it has lower number of stocks compared to Nifty. But Sensex Price Earnings number seems to suggest that the market is not all that expensive. A caveat here, While I downloaded the Sensex Price Earnings number from its website, I could not gather as to whether the same is based on Consolidated numbers or Standalone and that in itself can make a difference.


What is interesting is that sector weights aren’t too different from each other. Below is the sector weight charts for both Nifty and Sensex.

Nifty Sensex

As you can see, the difference in weights is not so much as to impact the net valuation on a big time.

To better understand the moves of Sensex PE Ratio and Nifty PE Ratio, here is the chart of them combined (Relative Comparison)


One of the things that is straight away visible is that while they have more or less moved in sync in the past, this time around, Nifty PE Ratio has shot up more substantially than that of Sensex.

And here is a Relative Comparison chart of Nifty & Sensex


And finally, a ratio chart where I divide Sensex with CNX Nifty


What the above chart shows is the points Sensex moves for every point on Nifty. Since 2001, this has been in a broad range.

Personally, I would stick with the NSE Price Earnings Ratio but it would be interesting to know why we are seeing this sudden difference in the Price Earnings of Sensex vs Nifty. The difference lies in a few company results, but it would be interesting to know which of them have actually caused this action.

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Traders biggest Worry

What is the biggest worry for a systematic trader?

If you said, Loss, you are wrong. Yes, a loss does hurt a trader, but unless he has no clue as to what he is doing, he knows that losses are inevitable, even big losses. What he worries more is the risk of his system going into a losing steak.

Lets assume your system is doing fine and you suddenly find markets moving against you and by the time your system comes with its signal, you are on a non leveraged basis looking at a loss of 8%. A loss that big hurts and for some one who is leveraged say 3 times, he would have just seen 24% of his capital vanish into thin air.

But what if the same trader sees a draw-down of say 4.75% but not in one big swoop but one that comes as a streak of 9 consecutive losses and one that lasts over 44 calendar days. Which one do you think shall be more painful?

In case of the 1 big negative trade, While the pain will be immense, it will quickly pass as the trader moves to his next trade (with a much lower position size) and hopes that he can at some point of time recover from the hole he has fallen into.

In case of the 9 small but consecutive trades, the pain is much more dragged on as the trader spends nearly 1.5 months with every trade he has taken going for a toss. Its very tough for even those with strong hearts (not to mention a nice bank balance) losing their sanity and deciding that pulling the plug from the system may be the only way out.

But losing streaks are fairly common and as I shall showcase later, something that you shall have unless your system has a win rate of 100%. When you run a back-test, most reports do provide you with the number of losses that have come in a streak.

But what if your system is more mechanical driven and hence cannot get such a number. The easy way out is to just measure the win or loss % of trades and then check the following table.


The above table lists the probability of you seeing a draw-down of X number of trades based upon your systems winning / losing percentage.

Most trend following systems have a win percentage that ranges between 35 and 45 and if you can check out the same in the above table, you can see that there is a very strong probability that your system at some point of time shall witness a streak of losses ranging from 6  – 9 and that can be said with near 100% confidence.

So, what can be done about that you may like to ask. Unfortunately, there is nothing much you can do other than to keep trading while reducing your position size at every drop of equity. This way, by the time you hit your 8th or 9th losing trade, your position size will be considerably smaller and hence the account will still be able to trade without having to witness fresh capital deployment from outside.

What is interesting though is the fact that even if you have a streak of 9 losing trades, the loss in money terms is generally lower than the biggest losing trade. For example, I was just testing the same for a simple Moving Average Cross over system (3 by 5).

The biggest loss (period being 1st June 2009 to today with trades taken on Close) was a loss of 346 points (8.07%) which took just one day (Entry on 30-07-2009 & exit on 31-07-2009). On the other hand, the streak of 9 losses (loss in point terms being – -40, -9.4, -39.95, -22.45, -44.55, -39, -65.6, -13.2, -20) stretched from 20-07-2010 to 02-09-2010).

While the system may still be positive, that 45 days of bleeding is something that will not pass off in a hurry and like a deep wound would remind the trader every time he encounters a loss.

What is also noteworthy is that a longer streak may not actually be the most painful (in terms of loss). While the 9 trades in total lost around 4.75%, the same back-test data provides evidence of smaller streaks having a bigger impact (in terms of losses).

While there is no escape from such streaks, having a good position sizing algorithm would ensure that the pain in terms of loss of capital would be lower than what it would be if a single position size was maintained throughout.

Use a position size that is neither too aggressive or one that is too meek. In case of the former, you risk blowing up your account while in terms of the later, you never can take advantage of the good runs. But whatever you do, remember that unless the system is faulty, streaks do not stretch to infinity and hence one needs to keep his cool and take all the trades as and when they are signaled.

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Getting carried away

Way back in 2007, a good friend of mine called me to ask me to check out a company by name Jindal SouthWest Holdings Ltd. He said that he had heard from some one that it had quite a nice value  and was currently trading at pretty discounted rates.

Checking on what I could, I saw that the Intrinsic value of the company (based purely on what it held) came to around 2500 – 3000 per share and the company was trading around 500 bucks (though a couple of years ago, one could have had it much cheaper). While in US, most holding companies are valued at pretty low discount rates, in India due to the fact that most of these holdings will never be sold, holding company valuations have never been aggressive to begin with.

Yet, the deep discount did entice me to invest into the same. The timing of my entry in hindsight proved to be one of great acumen as the stock straight away started to move substantially higher. At 2000, I decided to get rid of half my quantity but the stock showed no signs of weakness. At 3000, I got rid of the rest of it as well (to fund some other idea which ultimately ended up eating both my capital & profits :P).

But before I sold, I did a revaluation of the holdings and voila, instead of the 2500-3000 which was there before this rally started, the valuation had now changed to 5000-6000 🙂

This is not a story to boast my stock picking ability (which I have none anyways) but to remind one not to get carried away with the momentum. Some months back, I got into another stock – a very small quantity but one that has been moving pretty strongly on the back of a report of a small cap fund manager initiating a position in the said stock. While there has been no change in the fundamentals of the stock, the hype given the story and the person who picked it up has meant that the stock is now 300% above my purchase price.

But this cannot really last unless there is really a pot of gold at the end. I do not know when this will end, but the ending generally is not good either. A stock that moves up in Buying freeze generally comes back in selling freeze making it tough if not impossible to exit such stocks.

While not everyone can have a deep understanding of the DCF / SOTP), as a investor, its essential that you know what you are paying for. There is no point in paying 5 times the price just because of some hidden quality which may or may not materialize in the future.

Even in this bull market, there are plenty of stocks that are moving down and hence its always pays to be cautious and fearful than let the greed of easy money carry us away. I am a guy who can be called  a perma-bull, but just because the long term is good and the road ahead is a path of roses, there will always be thorns that can cause significant damage to those who are unprepared.

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