Saturday, February 19, 2011


The ultimate goal is to avoid the big disasters like 2001 and 2008 even if you whipsaw a few times along the path. If you can just do that, you will be outperforming over 90% of all money managers and mutual funds.

The Wall Street journal has a story on this tortoise that beat the hares. A quite amazing story - in August of this year the fund received more inflows than it did in its first 25 years combined

We have had holdings in PRPFX for quite some time and, during the past buy cycle (since 6/3/09), it was the only fund/ETF that never reacted much to market pullbacks and consequently never caused a whip-saw signal.

This fund lends itself perfectly to trend tracking but the name is a bit of a misnomer. While indeed it held up better than most during the 2008 massacre, you would have been better off selling it as per our trend tracking exit strategy. Nevertheless, it comes as close as I have ever found a fund to be “permanent.”

Prior to the above story, I had just finished by own back testing to see how PRPFX might have performed during the “lost decade” (12/31/1999 to 12/31/2009), during which the S&P 500 and just about any other fund showed negative returns.

Here is the testing methodology I used:

1. Buy PRPFX on 12/31/1999

2. Hold it until a 7% trailing sell stop on close takes you out of the market.

3. Re-invest as soon as the price has risen again by 3% above the price you were stopped out at
    or buy when the 50 day MA crosses above the 200 day MA for one week and the 200 day MA 
    is moving up. This will more than double the profit shown below. This works good for Stocks, ETFs
    and Mutual Funds.

4. If you get stopped out again, use the same reinvestment process

Using this simplified approach, PRPFX would have gained (including dividends) +125.18% for the “lost” decade. As comparison, the S&P 500 (as represented by SPY lost 10.32% (including dividends).

Here’s the important part. Because of PRPFX’s lack of volatility, you only would have been stopped out “four times” in 10 years. While this does not represent true trend tracking, it nevertheless demonstrates that the tortoise can beat the hare.

I tested a variation of the above by allocating 50% to PRPFX and 50% to a bond fund (VBMFX) and applied the same principles over the same period. This combination returned a total of +93.88%. While PRPFX again had 4 buy/sell signals, the bond fund had none.

Again, this is merely meant to be a demonstration and not any guarantee that similar performances can be repeated in the future. However, it clearly shows that you don’t have to be in the hottest fund or latest ETF to outperform the S&P 500 or just about any other fund.

The key to this success was clearly the fact the major downturns were avoided, which to my way of thinking is the number one portfolio wrecking ball. Moderate upside along with bear market avoidance will give you better odds at long-term success.

If you happen to have invested in a sharply rising fund/ETF, which now follows the market reversal back down just as quickly, you may witness a 20% gain turn into a 2% profit as the trend line gets crossed to the downside. That’s were implementing a 7% sell stop has its advantages, since it would have locked in a gain of some 13%.

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