The Absurdity of Modern Portfolio Theory Part 2

Discussion in 'Risk Management' started by Justo, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. Justo


    MPT – Strike 2: Markets Are Efficient
    Ready for the next blunder that Modern Portfolio Theory assumes? Are you?!?! Well get ready for the next big assumption that MPT makes which is……………………………
    What this means in that in order for MPT to work the model assumes that markets are efficient, meaning (more or less) that at any given time the price of a stock reflects what a company is worth based on all readily available public information and that prices instantly change to reflect new public information. In very simple terms efficient markets are saying that the market is a weighing machine. Stock prices accurately reflect, at any given moment, what a company is worth.
    What all investors need to understand is that the market is only a weighing machine (and only sometimes) in the long run. In the short run, it is a voting machine, and a poor voting machine at that. There will be all sorts of price discrepancies in the short run due to, overconfidence, overreaction, representative bias, information bias, and various other predictable human errors in reasoning and information processing.
    And if markets were efficient there would be very little money to be made, as companies would never become undervalued nor overvalued. Furthermore there would be zero arbitrage opportunities (taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets). But let’s look at some examples of a few market inefficiencies.
    1. The 2000 – 2002 financial crisis. Things were going so well in the stock market before 2000. The market was reaching new highs and people were making money. But of course we know that the market was grossly overvalued at this point. By believing in this idea that markets are efficient, financial leaders were inconsiderate to the chronic underestimation of the dangers of asset bubbles breaking. This inevitably led to one of our great recessions as the market corrected itself.
    2. Lululemon at its current price of around $60 is disgustingly overvalued. It is currently trading at over 60X what it is earning. Meaning that for every dollar you put into it you will earn, as an owner of the business (in theory), less than two cents on that dollar. Even its price to book ratio is huge at about 20X, meaning that even if the company liquidated for every dollar that you put into it right now you would only get back about five cents! Now don’t get me wrong Lululemon is an amazing company, but the current price that some people are buying into it at right now is extremely overvalued. Its prospects and growth don’t even justify a price this high! Even the average price to earnings ratio for the industry is only about 27X!! So even if we use this average (although this is still very overvalued) it should be trading at about $25. But in my opinion that is still too high. $15 or $20 would be more understandable. There is no safety of principle with Lululemon at its current price, and if the market were efficient, the price of Lululemons stock would be much lower. (Please note that when I originally wrote this Lulu was trading at about $120, however recently they did a stock split so the share price is halved. The ratios are the same however.
    3. China Linen Textile Industry at its current price of around 2.25 is disgustingly UNDERvalued. The company sells linen and yarn in China, and has both excellent management and fantastic prospects. What is more interesting to note is that it should be trading at about $18.00 based on some calculations that I have done (I also strongly urge everyone to check these guys out). Its current EPS for the first quarter of 2011 was a whopping $0.44! We can also safely assume that this number will continue in subsequent quarters, as their business is not cyclical or seasonal, meaning they should finish the year with an EPS of about 1.86. That means the P/E ratio is only 1.3X! This means that if you were to buy today you would make back (as an owner) more than half of your initial investment in one year. Furthermore, the company is poised for growth, as it plans to take over other companies in the surrounding area, and also receives some unique help from the Chinese government (again, check these guys out). So why the price discrepancy? Who knows?! The point here is that the market is not efficient. If it were, this company would be trading at a price much higher than what it is currently trading at.
    So there are three examples on how the market is not efficient. Obviously we would need only one to disprove this assumption, but three really drives the point home. And of course there are many other examples out there, but we’ll stick with these ones for now.
    Strike two MPT. The second assumption that the market is efficient does not stand up for modern portfolio theory to work.
    “Here batter batter! Swing batter batter!”