Tuesday, July 28, 2009

understanding interest rate trends: contrarian history

who knew that the recent economic super-bubble was built on a empire of easy money?
a small number of people who can now claim 20/20 hindsight.
how did they make their observations?
who are they anyway?

After doing a lot of research (reading books, the news and talking to experienced investors) I came to see that the people who understood what interest rate trends say about the overall economy were the ones who were predicting an impending calamity.

Hardly anyone got the timing of when catastrophe would break out in the financial markets and spread into the real economy. In fact, the few people who did move out of the stock market right before the crash were usually just lucky to have cashed out at the right moment.

But all of these people, who understand interest rate trends, were relatively protected from losing great sums of money in the crash, largely because before the economic crisis they were considered highly conservative investors.

At one point, some people do make large bets on the stock market and perform well. But overall, their personal savings (and their recommendations for the average Canadian retail investor) were always conservative.

Why were they conservative if they were experienced and educated with respect to interest rates and finance in general?

because they understand that falling interest rates are generally related to easy money. If it's easy for corporations to borrow and for banks to lend, this generally inflates the economy and inflates the value of the stock market.

So why be highly conservative?
Because if you do the extra homework required to understand international trade and debt you would have seen all along, how deeper and deeper into debt the entire western world was becoming- excessive and increasing debt is never sustainable.
you would have therefore focused on protecting the majority of your capital by ensuring it is repaid to you in full and that you are earning an amount of interest that is safely above the current inflation rate (a spread of 5%- or 500 basis points- from the rate of inflation to the amount of interest paid is generally considered an optimum return for investment grade bonds).
you would have (if you were so inclined) still put some money in play in the stock market, to enjoy the upside, but also perhaps taken a greater risk because the majority of your money is guaranteed to be repaid- this could be more profitable or much less- depending on your choices.

My point is that I follow the wisdom of those who enjoyed success and longevity of their successes. I maybe don't understand the lessons when they're first taught. Who among us has ever been told we need to understand interest rate trends, and immediately forgotten to make it our top priority?

it is certain, with respect to understanding interest rate trends, that you will educate yourself and see the world in a different way once you do.

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