Monthly Archives: March 2015

Performance review February 2015 – Comment “Interest rate surrender”

Performance February

In February, the portfolio gained +5,7% against +7,2% for the Benchmark (Eurostoxx50 (25%), Eurostoxx small 200 (25%), DAX (30%),MDAX (20%)). Still worse than the benchmark but closer than in February. Year to date, the score is +9,2% against +16,1% for the benchmark.

For the first time since its inception (1.1.2011), the portfolio has now doubled in value with an overall gain of +100,6% against +67,3% for the benchmark.

Outperformers in Fabruary were Miko (+16,5%), Draeger (+14,7%), KAS Bank (+12,6%) and TFF (+12,4%). Losers were Koc (-10,2%), Installux (-5,2%) and the TRY Depfa Zero (-3,2%).

February showed the typical “catch up” of small caps which often outperform with a certain time lag to the liquid markets. Overall with around like 20-30% of cash & cash equivalents, I can clearly not expect to match the benchmark in such a phase. This is the strongest start into a calendar year for the stock market since I run the portfolio and my low beta approach then doesn’t work so well.

Portfolio transactions

February was a slow month. The two exceptions were that I sold out the remaining part of Cranswick and increased my Electrica position by 1%. Direct cash ist now at 12,8% plus a further 11% in cash like positions (HT1, Depfa LT2, MAN). I clearly see the problem of some shares reaching fair value and not generating a lot of great new investment ideas.

The number of holdings is now at a reasonable 25. Above 25 I don’t feel too comfortable, so if I would add a new position, I will most likely “kill” an old one. Most obvious candidates would be my smallest holdings, Koc and Trilogiq. The month end portfolio as alaways can be accessed via the “Current portfolio” page.

One remark here on my portfolio holdings: Currently, a lot of companies issue “preliminary annuals”. I always hesitate to fully read them because often they lack important information which is only disclosed in the annual report. I find it much more time effective to wait for that annual report and then decide what to do, unless something really dramatic happened.

Comment: “Changing interest”

Normally I tend to stay away from most macro related issues because it makes my head spin. This comment will be a small exception. First an interesting datapoint: What do you think was the best asset class in 2014 at least in “developed” markets ? Well, US stocks with 15,3% look strong but the German 30 year bund made around +34% in 2014. For many people this is surprising as how you can make +34% in a year with an instrument which had a yield of 2,8% at the end of 2013 but this is the “power” of duration and convexity.

But the even more interesting thing (at least for me) is that for the first time in my 20 year professional career in finance, most of the people I talk to have changed their expectations with regard to interest rates. Even back in the 90ties, everyone was convinced that interest rates could only go higher. The lower rates went, the louder the voices grew. Bond bubble, hyper inflation etc. etc. were the buzzwords and shorting the bund was the absolute “No brainer” trade.

Looking at the historical yield of the bund future (the proxy for 10 year Bund yield), we can clearly see that this “interest rates can only go up” attitude was to a large extent a combination of “Recency bias” and “Anchoring”:


It clearly shows that at least for the last 25 years there was no mean-reversion in interest rates.

I guess the events early this year, mainly the Swiss Franc de-pegging plus the Draghi announcement to buy 60 bn EUR monthly for the foreseeable future combined with negative yields all around have somehow silenced many of the pundits. With negative rates, being short duration now suddenly really starts to hurt. Keeping cash in a long tem pension portfolio until now did not really hurt, but now, if you really have to pay money for deposits, people do anything to get yield. It almost looks like that negative yields force many institution to “surrender” and go long duration, no matter how low yields are. It will be interesting to see for instance what “my friends” at FBD are doing after betting on rising interest rates for the last few years.

Historically, such large scale surrender situations have often marked a mid-term turning points. I would not bet on this nor am I sure that this observation is relevant. However it is definitely a change in expectations compared to the last 25 years. Which I find interesting.

18 observations from Berkshire’s 2014 annual report

Just an upfront note: I have written down those items while reading the 2014 annual report for the first time. Usually I read them at least twice. This year’s report contains a 4 page letter from Charlie Munger (page 39), nicely summarizing the “Berkshire system”. Overall, Buffett and Munger seem to emphasize in this year’s report that they see a great future ahead for Berkshire, even without them on board.

I would recommend anyone to read the annual report first before reading any comments from secondary sources. It is a lot to read but it is definitely worth your time.

My personal take is that it will be extremely hard for any succesor to fit into Buffett’s (and Munger’s) shoes. This company was built by and around two geniuses. Yes, the “Berkshire system” does have some enduring qualities but combined with the size of the company, it will be extremely hard to deliver outstanding performance ging forward.

Call for comments: Comments from my readers about what items you did find especially noteworthy would be highly appreciated !!!!

1. 50 year history

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