Friday, January 06, 2012

Ron Paul’s Outperforming Investment Portfolio

Presidential aspirant surely Ron Paul practices what he preaches…

From Jason Zweig at the Wall Street Journal,

Congressional financial-disclosure forms report holdings only in wide dollar ranges (for example, $15,001 to $50,000). If Rep. Paul owned gold bullion, estimating his investment performance would be fairly easy. But he doesn’t; he owns gold-mining stocks instead. And since the size of each stock holding is disclosed only within a broad band of valuation, there’s no way an outside observer can derive a long-term rate of return for Rep. Paul’s portfolio (or for any other member of Congress, for that matter). We did ask for comment, but his office didn’t respond.

And Mr. Paul’s portfolio generates investment returns almost parallel to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (20+% annual)…

There isn’t much doubt that Rep. Paul’s portfolio has outperformed the U.S. stock market as a whole. Ten years ago, the NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index, a basket of stocks in mining companies, was at $65; this week, it’s at $522. That’s roughly a 23% average annual return; over the past decade, by contrast, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, counting dividends, has returned some 2.9% annually.

Yet Mr. Zweig downplays Mr. Paul’s outperformance with the following self contradictory analysis…

In short, investing isn’t just about maximizing your upside if you turn out to be right. It’s also about minimizing your downside if you turn out to be wrong. Putting two-thirds of all your assets into one concentrated bet is a great idea if the future plays out just as you imagine it will – but a rotten idea if the future turns out to be full of surprises.

That’s why most investors diversify: to get cheap insurance against the two greatest risks we face.

One is the danger of other people’s ignorance and error: that governments will pursue reckless policies, that corporations will be run into the ground, that speculators will drive valuations of assets to euphoric highs and miserable lows. This is the kind of risk that Rep. Paul has insured against, so far very successfully.

The second risk is the danger of our own ignorance and error: that we will underestimate the resilience of people and markets, that we will mistake likelihoods for certainties, that we ourselves will be swept up in manias and dragged down into depression when markets go mad. Above all, it is the simple risk that we will end up so sure of our own view of the world that the future is certain to catch us by surprise. And this is the risk that Rep. Paul’s portfolio doesn’t appear to insure against at all.

Rep. Paul’s supporters admire him for the consistency of his political views. But if the future happens to unfold in ways he doesn’t expect, then his hot investment portfolio is likely to go cold in a hurry.

It would represent an oddity, if not impertinence, for Mr. Zweig to conclude that in any event that things don’t go as expected for Mr. Paul “his hot investment portfolio is likely to go cold in a hurry”. Such premises assume that Mr. Paul’s portfolio is in a permanent state, or that Mr. Zweig knows exactly what is in the mind of Mr. Paul and what Mr. Paul’s prospective actions are.

In addition, Mr. Zweig harangues Mr. Paul’s concentrated exposure on mining issues based on the vulnerabilities of ‘ignorance and error', yet ironically applies presumptive analysis and generalization of Mr. Paul’s portfolio which is also subject to Mr. Zweig's ‘ignorance and error’.

Ignorance and error would be especially magnified if we dismiss central banker’s actions as having lasting positive or “healing” effect on the markets and economy...

As for Mr. Zweig, he should heed Buddha’s advise:

Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.

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