Dorsey Wright Polo Shirt Winner

March 6, 2012

Thanks to all who participated for the last few months in the bi-weekly Dorsey, Wright Client Sentiment Surveys.  Today, we’d like to announce this quarter’s winner of the polo shirt – Ms. Irene McGrath.  Ms. McGrath has been utilizing Dorsey Wright’s research and money management services for over 10 years now.  Here’s a highlight from her info page:

Since 2001 Irene has been named every year to RBC Wealth Management’s President’s Council for her outstanding performance and record of superior client service.

Again, we appreciate everyone who participated in the surveys, especially those who keep coming back week after week.  We are approaching our two-year anniversary next week, so look for some more detailed posts in the coming weeks.

Thanks again!

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Market Politics

March 6, 2012

A reminder from our finger-pointing friends in Washington.

Source: The Big Picture/Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

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Robust Systems

March 6, 2012

One of the most important considerations for a systematic method is that it be robust—in other words, changing markets and changing parameters will not cause it to stop working.  Relative strength is extremely robust, something that can be shown with Monte Carlo testing.  In Michael Covel’s The Little Book of Trading, the section on trend follower David Druz has this to say:

Once a system’s algorithms and parameters are established, the system must be followed exactly and religiously. A system cannot be second-guessed or used intermittently. Values of variables cannot be altered. Parameters cannot be arbitrarily changed. A robust system works over many types of market conditions and over many timeframes. It works in German Bund futures and it works in wheat. It works when tested over 1950•1960 or over 1990•2000. Robust systems tend to be designed around successful trading tactics not designed around specific types of markets or market action. And here is the amazing thing about robust systems: The more robust a system, the more volatile it tends to be! Druz gives this advice: “There are whole families of trend trading ideas that seem to work forever on any market. The down side is they are very volatile because they are never curve-fit. They’re never exactly fit to any particular market or market condition. But over the long run, they do extract money from the market. You want to be focused on how you divvied up the risk in your portfolio, how much risk you take in each market, how many contracts you trade in each market, that’s the stuff that really counts…if you have money management wired, you can let volatility go because you know it doesn’t have any correlation with the risk of ruin. You can use volatility to your advantage.”

Druz’s points are well-taken.  A robust system works over many timeframes and can adapt to a lot of market conditions.  However, because they are not optimized, they tend to be volatile.  We see this especially during periods when markets are relatively trendless or are in the midst of a changing trend.  There is always some specific method that is optimized and perfectly adapted to the current market—but as soon as the market character changes, it may fail miserably.

With a robust system, you are accepting a different trade-off.  It will probably never work perfectly in any market environment, but it will probably work pretty well in a wide range of conditions.  That’s a pretty good description of how relative strength works.  It goes through rough stretches but generally manages to adapt enough over time to deliver good long-term performance.  The trick for investors is to sit on their hands during the rough stretches—a truism for any long-term winning method, whether relative strength or value.

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Relative Strength Spread

March 6, 2012

The chart below is the spread between the relative strength leaders and relative strength laggards (universe of mid and large cap stocks).  When the chart is rising, relative strength leaders are performing better than relative strength laggards.    As of 3/5/2012:

RS leaders and laggards continue to duke it out without a decisive winner (over the past couple of years).  It’s always easier to make progress in the performance vs. a benchmark game when the wind is at your back.  We haven’t had that for a while, so we just might be about due.

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