Everyone would like a “money machine.” Follow simple rules, and “Wow, this makes money.” This is that kind of book but it has better foundations than most in its class.
The book examines three types of investing, most of which are foreign to average investors. Most investors don’t invest in equity by shorting it, and most investors are not currency traders.
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But that is what the book encourages. I’m going to digress here, because I have to explain some salient matters, and say what I think, so that my later critique makes sense.
Volatility and credit are cousins. After all when markets go nuts, and everything is in disarray, those that have been trying to borrow at low interest in one currency, and invest at higher interest in another currency get hosed. Why? Because in volatile times, the riskier currencies face capital flight versus safer currencies that have the confidence of the markets.
All of the methods mentioned in this book as a result are making bets on volatility/credit, and try to control the bet by monitoring implied volatility, credit spreads, and momentum. They limit when they are in the market and when they are out.
I don’t have a problem with the theory here, but with the ability of average people to carry it out. This book would be good for quantitative hedge fund managers; I am less certain about individuals here.
As an aside, what the book describes is how PIMCO has done so well at bond investing over its history — shorting volatility to pick up yield.
But the main criticism is this: the author optimized the book to fit her full data set. When you read the last chapter, and see that you could have earned 30%+/year for 13 years, if you were as clever as the author, you should think, “Yes, if I had 20/20 foresight.” The methods will not do as well in prospect as in retrospect.
There is little that I disagree with in the book on a theoretical basis. Where I differ comes in two areas: individual investors will not have the fortitude to carry out what is a complex method of investment. Secondly, when enough hedge fund money adopts these strategies, the pricing in the market will shift, and the hedge funds will no longer have easy money.
Who would benefit from this book: If you are willing to do the work of a volatility-selling hedge fund manager, this is the book for you. If you want to, you can buy it here: Rule Based Investing.
Full disclosure: The publisher sent me the book after he offered me a review copy.
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By David Merkel, CFA of alephblog