January 25, 2019
A series of reviews of investment research services
Many people with some interest in choosing their own investments are frustrated with the quality of information available and deciding who to trust. The advent of the Internet has made plenty of data available to everyone - but that does not necessarily make it any easier. Choosing good investments depends not just on data but how it is interpreted. Making use of professional research sources requires weeding through those promoting their own products (unfortunately most brokerage firms and funds) and avoid human nature as to not be swayed too much by newsletters that promote themselves through predictions that the next financial crisis is just around the corner.
The good news is the business of providing investment research has evolved substantially in recent years. In the past, most investment analysis came from brokerage firms. Clients could get access if their accounts and commission totals were big enough. Since the brokerage firms main purpose was to generate business for the firm, they tended to be permanently bullish. Therefore, even if you qualified to get access it was not that useful anyway. This situation was very much the same for professional investors. A mutual fund manager or hedge fund would also look to their brokerage firms for research as a perk to go with their commission flow. One of the good things that came out of the crashing of the dot-com bubble was a change in the investment research business. Remember Elliot Spitzer? He was the New York Attorney General during the tech crash. Before spending most of his time with prostitutes, he was instrumental in forcing the research industry to separate from investment banks and brokerage firms. There were expectations at the time that serious investment research of any sort would not be available anymore, that no one would be willing pay for it. This was not been the case, plenty of analyst left the major Wall Street firms and setup businesses offering quality research geared towards institutions and many for the average investor.
Another factor that has supported the growth of the research business has been the maturation of hedge funds as an asset class. Hedge funds have increased in quantity dramatically over the years and have plenty of money to spend on research. One good idea will cover the bill for a lot of reports. This world of independent research may not be apparent to the average investor. This serious of blog posts will review sources I find worth considering, discuss what their specialty and expertise is, and offer an opinion when and how their research is most useful. You might be thinking that good research is going to be too expensive, obviously we all do not have hedge fund size research budgets (my advisory business does not either). This is not an issue though, there are plenty of sources that are relatively inexpensive and sometimes even free. There are some very smart investment minds that offer their views carte blanche with the goal to widen their audience and draw interest in their more advanced research products or their money management businesses. (Nothing wrong with that, that is one reason for this blog.) Here is the current list of candidates for future blog posts, I will add to this as time goes on:
· Marc Faber’s Boom Doom and Gloom Report
· Jared Dillian, the author of The Daily Dirtnap
· Evergreen Gavekal’s Virtual Advisor
· Jim Grant’s infamous Interest Rate Observer
· Real Vision’s quest to change financial media
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