This memo covers three ways in which securities markets seem to be moving toward reducing the role of people: (a) index investing and other forms of passive investing, (b) quantitative and algorithmic investing, and © artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Travel to clients abroad and preoccupation with my coming book on cycles (final draft submitted just the other day) have combined to keep me from writing a memo since September, but fortunately not from thinking. Thus I have ideas to set down on two significant subjects: the market environment and the new tax law. Further, I’m highly motivated to do so, since if I skip a few months, people start writing in, “Are you sick?”
“There They Go Again . . . Again” of July 26 has generated the most response in the 28 years I’ve been writing memos, with comments coming from Oaktree clients, other readers, the print media and TV. I also understand my comments regarding digital currencies have been the subject of extensive – and critical – comments on social media, but my primitiveness in this regard has kept me from seeing them. The responses and the time that has elapsed have given me the opportunity to listen, learn and think. Thus I’ve decided to share some of those reflections here.
I’m in the process of writing another book, going into great depth regarding one of the most important things discussed in my book The Most Important Thing: cycles, their causes, and what to do about them. It will be out next year, but this memo will give you a preview regarding one of the most important cyclical phenomena.
In my 2016 year-end review, which went only to clients, I included a discussion of the use of subscription lines by closed-end funds in areas such as private equity, real estate, distressed debt and private credit. It’s my impression that their use has become fairly pervasive in recent years, and in response to clients’ requests and market trends, Oaktree has utilized subscription lines in some of its newer funds.
The opinions of experts concerning the future are accorded great weight . . . but they’re still just opinions. Experts may be right more often than the rest of us, but they’re unlikely to be right all the time, or anything close to it. This year’s election season gave us plenty of opportunities to see expert opinion in action. I’ll start this memo by reflecting on them.
While people search the market’s behavior for logic, there really doesn’t have to be any. In “On the Couch,” I mentioned that sometimes the market interprets everything positively, and sometimes it interprets everything negatively. The market often fails to act rationally in the short run, primarily because of the role played by people in determining its course. Thus two key observations can be made based on last week’s developments.
I’m starting this memo a week before Election Day. I promise to try to stay away from the merits of the candidates and the question of who will win, and instead confine myself to the important messages that we should take away from the election and the actions we should push for as a result. The outcome of tomorrow’s election won’t change these things as far as I’m concerned.