Hands up if you had Southwestern Energy.

No? How about XTO Energy? Range Resources? Precision Castparts?

You should have. These were top stocks of the decade in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. Ten years ago, the smartest thing you could have done with your money was to invest in these. Each $1,000 invested then would be worth tens of thousands today.

Now look at the stocks the experts told you to buy instead.

The most widely recommended — according to a quick survey at the time in the Washington Post — were America Online, Cisco Systems, Qualcomm, MCI WorldCom, Lucent Technology and Texas Instruments.

Ahem.

Any people who invested in that portfolio have lost about two-thirds of their money. The average stock picked at random was up 3%, including dividends.

Beware of ‘Disaster’ Picks

Money Magazine’s ‘The Best Investments for 2000 and Beyond’: down about a fifth.

The SmartMoney/Wall Street Journal Sunday picks fell by about a half. The list was heavily weighted toward technology, and most stocks plummeted. MCI WorldCom and Nortel Networks ended up in Chapter 11.

OK, it’s easy to poke fun. But it’s something to think about — especially around this time of year, when wise men once again come bearing stock tips.

The embarrassments don’t stop there. Investors have just endured an absolutely terrible 10 years — a string of crashes, crises, financial scandals, recessions and collapsed bubbles.

According to Standard & Poor’s analyst Howard Silverblatt, it has actually been the worst decade for U.S. investors on record. When you look at total returns, including dividends, we’ve even done worse than the 1930s. Investors in the S&P 500 have lost about 10% this decade.

After you count inflation, investors have actually lost about 30%. That’s even behind the inflationary 1970s, when investors lost about 23% in real terms.

And that’s if you managed to hang on. Those shaken out during the crashes of 2001-2003 and 2007-2009 may have done much worse.

The Nasdaq Composite fell about three quarters from its peak, and, of course, many technology stocks were wiped out altogether. But how much warning did investors get from the pros? Almost none.

When Barron’s, our sister publication, held its annual investment roundtable in January 2000, just two of the 10 major Wall Street figures who took part warned investors about a looming bear market. This was just three months before the Nasdaq reached its all-time high — which is still more than double where it stands today.

Avoid ‘Coffee-Cart’ Tipsters

One fund manager admitted to Barron’s that ‘I have a guy who sells me coffee in the morning, who grew up in Bombay, and he is more into the stock market than I am,’ echoing those infamous tales of stock tips from shoe-shine boys just before the Crash of 1929. Yet even that ominous sign wasn’t enough to turn the group bearish. Instead Goldman Sachs strategist Abby Cohen said the stock market was ‘roughly at fair value based upon our view of S&P profits.’ Even technology stocks were ‘not overvalued’ based on standard measures, she insisted.

Hubris, meet schadenfreude. Face, meet egg.

(Goldman Sachs notes that Ms. Cohen did turn more cautious some months later, near the peak.)

Ten years later, some things have changed on Wall Street. But plenty hasn’t.

Much of the stock-market community is still just a marketing machine that happens to sell investments, the way, say, a drugstore like CVS sells pills. (Unfair? Just a little: CVS, after all, won’t deliberately sell you bad pills.)

Investors, forewarned after the last 10 years, are better forearmed ahead of the next 10. Anyone seeking to protect his or her money needs to correct for the biases of the financial industry.

The most powerful and dangerous force on Wall Street is the herd instinct. Look out.

It’s easy and safe for most ‘investment professionals’ to stick together and recommend the same things, no matter how foolish. It’s better — for them, though perhaps not for the clients — to be wrong in a crowd than risk standing alone. Few things are more dangerous to investors than a consensus.

And there is, of course, generally a strong bullish bias on Wall Street. Even today, as usual, most stock recommendations are positive. Never mind that the market is already nine months into a recovery that has seen the S&P 500 rise more than 63% and the Nasdaq jump over 70%. (And all the while, 17% of the country is unemployed, underemployed or has stopped looking for work.)

No matter how overvalued a stock, an analyst can always be found to say it’s cheap compared to some other (even more overvalued) stock. This was common during the dotcom bubble.

It hasn’t gone away. And no matter how dangerous markets may be, someone will always warn you — just as they did in 1999 — to stay fully invested because ‘you can’t time the market.’ That this advice happens to be in their interests is, of course, mere happenstance.

Don’t Chase Highflying Stocks

These days investors have relearned that the investments everyone is talking about are usually ones you don’t want to buy. The risks of chasing a highflier generally outweigh the rewards. It takes a 100% profit to recover from a 50% loss.

The best investments are usually the ones nobody is talking about. Ten years ago, everybody was talking about which technology stocks to buy. Almost nobody was talking about gold. The Bank of England could barely give the stuff away at $260 an ounce.

As I’ve poked fun at others’ poor foresight, I had better ‘fess up to my own, too. Ten years ago, a money manager friend repeatedly urged me to sell everything and buy gold.

Did I listen? Don’t ask.

拥有能源企业Southwestern Energy股票的请举手!

没有?那么你有天然气巨头XTO Energy的股票,或是油气生产商Range Resources和精密仪器厂家Precision Castparts的股票吗?

Tim Foley
你应该拥有它们。在过去10年中这些股票在标准普尔500指数中涨幅名列前茅。若倒退十年,你能做的最聪明的事情就是投资它们。你每投入1000美元到现在都涨到几万了。

现在,我们再来看看当时专家都推荐你买些什么?

当时《华盛顿邮报》(Washington Post)一个快速调查显示,受到最普遍推荐的个股是:美国在线(America Online)、思科系统(Cisco Systems)、高通公司(Qualcomm Inc.)、通讯公司MCI WorldCom、朗讯科技(Lucent Technologies)和德州仪器公司(Texas Instruments)。

唉。

不论是谁,只要是选择了这样的投资组合,都已经损失了将近三分之二。若将股息考虑在内,随机选择的股票平均涨幅都能有3%。

警惕灾难性的投资选择

财经类杂志《Money Magazine》选出的“2000年及之后最佳投资选择”怎么样呢?跌了将近五分之一。

财智/《华尔街日报》周日版(The SmartMoney/The Wall Street Journal Sunday)选出的股票跌了将近一半。科技类股在这份清单比重很高,而且它们当中大多数都出现了重挫。MCI WorldCom和北电网络有限公司(Nortel Networks Corp.)更是根据破产法第11章(Chapter 11)关门歇业了。

好吧,取笑别人总是容易的。但是我们需要多想想这个问题,特别是年底之际,此时聪明人又带着选股建议来了。

让人难受的事情还没完。投资者刚刚经历了一个非常糟糕的10年:一连串的暴跌、危机、金融丑闻、衰退和破灭的泡沫。

标准普尔(Standard & Poor)分析师霍华德·西尔弗布拉特(Howard Silverblatt)说,这是有纪录以来美国投资者经历的最糟糕的10年。当你用包括股息的整体回报来衡量的话,我们现在的处境比上世纪30年代还要悲惨。在过去的10年中,投资标准普尔500指数的投资者损失了大约10%。

若将通货膨胀因素考虑在内,投资者实际亏损了将近30%。这甚至比不上严重通胀的70年代,当时投资者的实际损失只有约23%。

损失几十个百分点的前提是你还活了下来。对于那些在2001-2003年以及2007-2009年股市暴跌中被踢出局的投资者来说,他们的境遇要糟糕的多。

纳斯达克综合指数较之峰值下跌了将近四分之三;当然,许多科技类股已经彻底消失不见了。但是投资者从专业人士那里得到了多少警告呢?答案是:几乎没有。

当本公司旗下另一出版物《巴伦周刊》(Barron’s)在2000年1月份举行年度投资者圆桌会议时,当时在场的十位华尔街大人物中只有两人警示投资者要注意熊市的迫近。仅仅在三个月后纳指就创下了历史上的最高点,之后的暴跌令如今的纳指还不到当时的一半。

远离咖啡摊股市预言家

一位基金经理对《巴伦周刊》说:当时,我每天早上在一个咖啡摊买咖啡,摊主在印度孟买长大,他对股市的兴趣比我还大,这倒是和1929年股市崩盘前擦鞋童大谈股票的故事“相映成趣”。不过即使是这么不祥的信号也不足以让这些人变成悲观派。相反,高盛(Goldman Sachs)策略师艾比·科恩(Abby Cohen)当时说,基于对标准普尔成份股公司收益的分析,股市基本处于合理价值。她坚称根据标准衡量方式,即使是科技股也不存在估值过高的问题。

傲慢自大最终只能让人幸灾乐祸。

(高盛说科恩在随后几个月、即股指接近峰值时变得更为谨慎了。)

10年过去了,华尔街上发生了一些变化,但没变的也有很多。

许多靠股市吃饭的机构依然只是叫卖投资品的营销机器,就像连锁药店CVS卖药片儿。这么说不公平?那好吧,修正一点点:起码CVS不会故意把坏药卖给你。

从此前10年中得到警告的投资者可以更好地迎战下一个10年。任何想要保护自己投资的人都需要改改自己对金融行业存在的偏见。

在华尔街最有力、最危险的力量是人们的跟风效应。千万要当心。

对大多数“投资专业人士”来说,大家采取同一立场给出同样的评价既容易又安全,无论那看上去有多傻。在他们看来(客户倒不一定这么想),和群体一起犯错要好过承受让自己与众不同的风险。对投资者来说,几乎没什么比专家众口一词更危险的了。

当然这里也有一种在华尔街普遍存在的错误乐观情绪。即便是今天,向往常一样,华尔街上大部分公司股票评估都是正面的,也不管股市已经连续九个月反弹,标准普尔500指数和纳斯达克综合指数涨幅分别超过了63%和70%。(而这段时间以来美国失业及未充分就业率高达17%,他们当中有人已经不再四处求职。)

不论一只股票已经高估到了什么程度,总能找到分析师说它比其他(更严重高估的)股票便宜。这在互联网泡沫破裂时期很常见。

这种情况没有过去。无论市况多么危险,总会有人告诫你(一如他们在1999年时那样)说,因为你无法做到低买高抛,所以你要保证全额投资。当然,他们这么说“碰巧”也符合自己的利益。

别去追捧价格窜升的股票

这些天投资者再次巩固了这样一个道理,那就是人人都谈论的投资通常是你不想买的。追逐高价股票的危险通常高于它们能带来的回报。50%的亏损要用100%的盈利才能弥补得回来。

最好的投资往往无人议论。10年前,每个人都在谈论该买哪只科技股,却几乎没人谈论黄金。英国央行(Bank Of England)曾经以每盎司260美元的价格出售黄金,还恨不得没人买。

在我嘲笑别人可怜的“先见之明”时,我最好也给自己揭揭老底儿。10年前,我一位当基金经理的朋友再三劝我把一切都抛干净,然后买黄金。

我听了吗?唉,别提了。

Brett Arends

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