By Elliot Smallidge, a student at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, Class of 2019
I was ecstatic when I heard about the opportunity to see Professor Jeremy Siegel speak. As the highly acclaimed author of Stocks for the Long Run, I knew that Dr. Siegel’s lecture would complement everything I had learned in school. His take on investing would corroborate the conclusions of class after countless class: buy and hold stocks because you can’t beat the market. I arrived at the Minnesota CFA Society Annual Dinner eagerly awaiting his remarks.
Dr. Siegel contracted the flu and was forced to withdraw on short notice. Replacing him would be Doug Ramsey, CIO at Leuthold Weeden Capital. This change of speaker didn’t just shake up my night, but rather my entire perspective on investing.
Every undergraduate portfolio management class teaches that markets are efficient. No amount of fundamental analysis, and especially not technical analysis, could give an investor a sustainable edge. Enter Doug Ramsey, CFA, CMT, and master of market technicals.
His remarks upended everything I had learned in class about investing. Never had I seen anyone seriously attempt to understand markets by examining patterns in the relationships between various economic data in the way that Mr. Ramsey did. His opening comments centered on what he called the eight “Bellweather” indices. Displaying a chart of the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and several sub-sectors, Mr. Ramsey pointed out that every sector (except utilities) had trended upward in unison through January 26; the market was rising broadly across all industries. In a further analysis, we broke the S&P into deciles based on market capitalization and found a similar result: strong stock performance across the board. This pattern, Ramsey explained, has historically indicated not the peak of a bull market, but rather an average of 59 more prosperous weeks.
All my life I learned that there was no science to historical trends, yet here it was so clear before me. I will admit, some of Mr. Ramsey’s further analysis went a bit over my head, but his message has stuck with me. I now know that, however unpredictable the markets are, I cannot discount the value of patterns in historical data.
I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Ramsey the next week at his office. In a phrase, the theme of our conversation was trust yourself. News outlets and publications are important, but at the end of the day, he cautioned me, your own analysis and critical thinking are the most valuable assets.
Although I did not have the chance to hear Dr. Siegel speak, my experience at the Annual Dinner altered my perspective on investing and opened my eyes to a brand new skill set in a way that I never could have imagined.
Thank you, Doug Ramsey and CFA Society Minnesota, for this wonderful opportunity.