Damien Klassen


The four big fixes for better financial planning

Financial planning has long had two major problems, and the intersection of the two problems is where the action is. The Royal Commission into banks is merely uncovering what most people in the industry have known for a long time. Problem 1: Do Financial Planners provide advice or sell product? If I go to a


10 lessons from the RC’s financial advice slaughter

Yesterday’s Royal Commission had all the elements for some great headlines: a celebrity taken down,  a $500,000 stuff up, impersonating clients and fake degrees. But what I want to talk about is managed accounts. First, some context from Fairfax: High-flying celebrity financial planner Sam Henderson’s world came crashing down on Tuesday as the banking royal commission heard he instructed his employees


March MB Fund Performance

March was a shocker for the ASX with the ASX200 down over -4%. Investors in our tactical funds did much better, led by our income and accumulation funds increasing +0.4% and +0.3% respectively.  International shares performed much better than Australian shares (helped by a falling Australian dollar) finishing down -1.1%. In particular, our March performance


IAG: Driverless cars 20 years away

David Harrington from IAG channels Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”. From The Australian: Australia has 700 pieces of different regulation that need to be changed before driverless cars can take to the roads, according to Insurance Australia Group, which


Is dividend imputation distorting Australian capital?

There have been changes proposed by the Labor party to imputation credits. We have put together a quick series looking at a number of aspects for investors: In Part 1 (link) we looked at the winners and losers from the proposed changes In Part 2 we look at some peripheral issues (a) at how management


Has Uber self-driving crashed?

I have blogged a number of times about self-driving cars being the key to working out the path for oil prices and so it is important to work out if the recent pedestrian death by an Uber self-driving car is a sign that self-driving cars are further away than we expected. Electric Car Economics An


International shares and tax

There have been changes proposed by the Labor party to imputation credits. We have put together a quick series looking at a number of aspects for investors: In Part 1 (link) we looked at the winners and losers from the proposed changes In Part 2 we look at some peripheral issues (a) at how management


The problem with buybacks

The last few weeks have confirmed our view that most of the cash from Trump tax cuts will end up as dividends or buybacks. At the same time, we are awash with articles warning of the dangers of buybacks, from Vox to the FT  to the Harvard Business Review. I’m hoping none of these arguments


Winners and losers from franking credit changes

Labor has proposed a number of changes to franking credits paid on dividends. The proposal absolutely has some merit behind it, as a system set up so that people weren’t taxed twice has evolved into a system where some people get taxed zero times.  But the current implementation has significant issues and creates a lot


MB Fund February Performance

Our pitch to investors has been that by investing in a mix of quality and value stocks you can avoid a lot of market volatility.  Our portfolios didn’t chase the market higher in January, and then made up ground in February with our direct international portfolio posting a 1.6% gain and our tactical portfolios all returning between


US prints profit season pearler

The main concern that I have with profit growth driven by tax cuts is that it doesn’t reflect true economic strength. So, while global earnings growth during reporting season looks impressive (Australia being the exception) I want to know what’s behind it: And margins: So, it is an interesting asset allocation decision: Markets are expensive, we


Why do retail investors lose?

There is a battle going on in the financial press for the hearts and wallets of retail investors. On one side is research houses Morningstar and DALBAR who both regularly publish studies showing that retail investors underperform – DALBAR’s most recent report thinks retail investors do 3.5% worse per year than the market, Morningstar think


Update on battery pricing

I had a few questions from investors about how the numbers from Reneweconomy earlier this week showing that batteries+solar are at grid parity in Adelaide stack up against our analysis.  The short answer is that salesmanship is all about framing. The numbers are similar, with high electricity prices, relatively good solar resources in Adelaide and


MB Fund January Performance

Given the events of the last week, it feels like performance for January is largely irrelevant. The headline is that the US market is down 10%+ from its peak a few short weeks ago, punctuated by two ~4% down days. But, the headline doesn’t mention the rapid rise in January, or that for Australian investors


Is short vol the pebble that triggers an avalanche?

In June 2007,  two relatively obscure Bear Stearns mortgage funds closed. With the benefit of hindsight, this was the start of a wave of mortgage defaults that heralded the start of the financial crisis. In October 1987, a stock market correction turned into a rout as a trading strategy called portfolio insurance saw markets accelerate


What to do in a market meltdown

With markets in free fall over the past two days,  the question for investors is what to do? Here is a quick list of things that I go through in market downturns: 1. Don’t panic – assess the situation rationally. Retail investors have a distinct tendency to buy when markets have risen and sell when


Australia to make electric cars or die of Frydenbergitis?

Some Coalition in-fighting on electric cars and a new electric “Black Cab” in London caught my eye overnight and given our investment interest in electric cars I thought it worth an update on the investment arithmetic. Electric Vehicle investment numbers Of more interest, given our view that electric cars are at the cross-over point for taxis


MB Fund December Portfolio Performance

Good news: Stock selection continues to support performance with our international portfolio outperforming a falling world market. Bad news: Statistically, December was the worst month so far for our Tactical Portfolios. Perspective: A 3-day fall in global shares (priced in AUD) between Christmas and New Year was the only reason for the negative performance, and


WSJ drinks MB’s kool-aid on China

Wall Street Journal on a theme dear to our hearts – Chinese growth slowing: The Business Cycle Is Different This Time—Thank China Diverging Chinese and U.S. growth are behind the confusion in global markets right now Commodities and stocks have started 2018 with a bang. U.S. oil is trading over $60 a barrel for the


Mobile Payments – Open Thread

There was an interesting Wall Street Journal article yesterday on mobile payments in China – I knew mobile payments were big in China (and that the US is a long way behind on cashless) but I hadn’t realised how stark the difference is: BEIJING—Soliciting handouts near a grocery store, Zhao Shenji, a slender man with


Bracing for a near term melt-up

I wanted to follow up on Jeremy Grantham’s comments from yesterday and run through some of GMO’s asset allocation views from the perspective of an Australian investor. Jeremy Grantham & Co. at GMO have put out two thoughtful (as always) pieces in the last 3 weeks. I rate the team there highly and so when


IMF debunks “China is different” meme

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) put out a white paper Friday entitled “Credit Booms—Is China Different?” The answer? Not in any meaningful way. Here are some selective quotes and charts (the yellow notes are my comments – and apologies on the IMF’s behalf for the poor quality of their charts): Strong Chinese output growth after the


Deutsche: Inequality getting worse

Via the FT, Deutsche has a big report out on inequality:   And they think its only getting worse. No surprises there. This is one of our megatrends (see our primer for more details) that we see at the root of the lack of demand and the increases in debt. My take is that we are


Stocks to short for your grandkids

Richard Bookstaber recently put out an interesting post on sectors that he thought had problems on a 30-40 year view.  Richard is the author of a number of good finance books – I liked A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation and I have his new one The End


Earnings down on Trump tax cuts?

A few companies have come out recently talking about the effect of Trump tax cuts and flagging large losses/write-downs. From the FT:   in the short term, the cut in corporation tax to 21 per cent will lead to a revaluation of all BP’s US deferred tax assets and liabilities. On current estimates, the impact


Tax cuts are wrapped, waiting on Trump to sign the card

Both branches have now approved the Trump tax cut bill, which is now just waiting on Trump’s signature. His signature didn’t come immediately, with the suggestion that Trump may be holding off to delay some of the spending cuts until 2019. My view continues to be that the tax cuts are a short-term sugar hit for the


Sell the fact?

Buy the rumour, sell the fact is a well-worn truism.  The question is whether the Trump tax cuts will fall into this pattern (i.e. the stock market increases while the potential of tax cuts exist, only to fall once the legislation is actually passed) is a good one and there are many arguments for and


Santa rally continues

With Trump looking increasingly likely to leave tax cuts under the Christmas tree for all the good boys and girls (i.e. anyone who is rich), and lumps of coal for anyone concerned about climate change, the US market powered on again overnight: The US dollar took a breather:   Oil was largely flat overnight, but two