Has Wall Street Speculation Pushed Small Investors To Real Estate?

Henry Blodget on Clusterstock notes that the average holding period for New York Stock Exchange stocks has declined to six months. Blodgett’s take is that this doesn’t constitute investing.

In any event, can we please stop pretending that what most fund managers are doing every day is “investing”? Holding stocks for six months isn’t investing. It’s trading. And because trading is a negative-sum game–one largely focused on trying to figure out what everyone else is doing–it is really speculating.

When you’re speculating, there’s no reason to pay attention to things like fundamental analysis, valuation, future cash flows, and all the other stuff they teach you in security-analysis school. For holding periods of less than six months, those things don’t mean jack. Over holding periods that short, the game is all about figuring out what everyone else thinks and then gambling that you’ll be right and they’ll be wrong.

So remember that next time your favorite fund manager sends you a note patting himself on the back for his investing prowess. What he’s really talking about is speculating.

One of the things that I’ve found puzzling has been the the willingness of small investors to embrace the residential real estate market. By all accounts, investor interest in single family rental homes is higher now than even during the bubble years. One might have expected a distinctly different reaction but maybe Henry’s point helps explain the contradiction.

It might very well be that the small investor has caught on to the game going on in the securities markets and figured out that his ability to control his own destiny in those markets is close to nil. Having seen a decade of sub-par returns and then being immolated in the meltdown earlier this year, they may have just tossed in the towel.

Possibly they’re saying of real estate, I can understand this, I control the investment and given prices I can be relatively confident I’ll generate positive cash returns. If it appreciates over a number of years then fine, I’m even further ahead. In other words, they’re trusting that old-fashioned buy and hold with a positive current carry will still work.

If that’s the case — I realize I’m doing some heavy duty speculating here — then perhaps the next Wall Street trend will be back to real buy and hold with an emphasis on current income. They would just have to figure out how to justify their fees and replace the churning income.

About Tom Lindmark 401 Articles

I’m not sure that credentials mean much when it comes to writing about things but people seem to want to see them, so briefly here are mine. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from an undistinguished Midwestern university and masters in international business from an equally undistinguished Southwestern University. I spent a number of years working for large banks lending to lots of different industries. For the past few years, I’ve been engaged in real estate finance – primarily for commercial projects. Like a lot of other finance guys, I’m looking for a job at this point in time.

Given all of that, I suggest that you take what I write with the appropriate grain of salt. I try and figure out what’s behind the news but suspect that I’m often delusional. Nevertheless, I keep throwing things out there and occasionally it sticks. I do read the comments that readers leave and to the extent I can reply to them. I also reply to all emails so feel free to contact me if you want to discuss something at more length. Oh, I also have a very thick skin, so if you disagree feel free to say so.

Enjoy what I write and let me know when I’m off base – I probably won’t agree with you but don’t be shy.

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