Category: Boring Investor

Will ARA US HT Carry Out a Rights Issue?

The financial reporting period for REITs has almost come to a close. One of my biggest worries in the COVID-19 fallout is the devaluation of assets held by REITs, which could lead to their aggregate leverage ratios rising above the regulatory limit and…

Should First Reit Be Given a Second Chance?

First Reit had been a good investment for me over the years. It had provided good distributions regularly and also some capital gains. The reason I sold it away was because its Debt-to-Equity ratio had exceeded my comfort zone of 50% or less. F…

Will Suntec Reit Carry Out a Rights Issue?

It is the new year already, and in another 3 weeks’ time, REITs will start to report their financial performance. For REITs with December as their Financial Year-end, they will also have to update their property valuations. With COVID-19 having caused …

Possibly The Worst Time to Invest – 6 Years On

This year’s blog post on the same series comes out later than usual, as I wanted to see how the rest of 2020 would pan out for my passive portfolios. In fact, my plain vanilla passive portfolio has just past the 7-year mark while my spicy passive portfolio is 5.5 years old.  You can read more about them in The Passive Portfolio and The Anti-Fragile Portfolios.

In Mar this year, the unrealised profits of my 2 passive portfolios dropped by nearly half. Prior to Mar, my plain vanilla portfolio had an unrealised profit of 57.7% since inception while my spicy portfolio had unrealised profit of 54.8%. Almost half of that profit accumulated painstakingly over 5-6 years vapourised in just 1 month! Is that it, the crash that I had been waiting for in the past 5-6 years? Would stock prices revisit the lows during the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-2009? Looking back at the lost profits in Mar, I wondered if I should have rebalanced and locked in some of the profits in Feb while the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a new high (yet again, for the past 6 years). 

No, stocks did not go into an unrelenting free fall. 5 months later, by Aug, the value of the 2 passive portfolios recovered to their highs in Feb. This time round, I carefully considered whether I should rebalance out of the equity funds into fixed income funds. But the rules that I set for rebalancing at the start of the portfolios had not been reached. The rules call for rebalancing whenever allocation to the equity portion reaches either 62% or 78% (i.e. +/-8% margin from the initial allocation of 70% to equities and 30% to fixed income). Equity allocation for the plain vanilla portfolio reached only 73% while that for the spicy portfolio reached only 77%, just a tad shy of the rebalancing trigger. In the end, I decided to stick to my original rules and not rebalance.

The portfolios dipped slightly in Oct, but recovered after the US presidential elections in early Nov. To-date, the 2 portfolios have reached new highs. Unrealised profit on the plain vanilla portfolio is 65.2%, while that of the spicy portfolio is 62.6%. I am glad that I had not tinkered with my rebalancing rules when the portfolios recovered to their Feb highs in Aug. To-date, neither portfolio has reached the rebalancing threshold, with equity allocation for the plain vanilla portfolio at 74% and that for the spicy portfolio at 77%.

COVID-19 is a major public health crisis, with significant economic impact on many sectors such as aviation, hospitality, tourism, retail, etc. Stock markets sold off sharply in Mar, but thanks to the massive fiscal and monetary responses from governments around the world, stock markets have recovered from their steep declines in Mar to post new highs. We are still not out of the woods yet, as vaccination from COVID-19 would take many months to complete, and there are reports of mutation of the COVID-19 virus. Nevertheless, this episode shows that we should not stop investing because we are worried of market crashes, so long as there are good defence mechanisms in the portfolios to manage them. 

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Banks’ Operating & Financial Metrics Explained

Recently, the 3 local banks reported a better set of results than expected. Banks have a unique set of operating and financial metrics that are different from other industries and their financial statements cannot be analysed based on the usual metrics…

Things Don’t Look Good for Retail Landlords

The massive sell-down in Mar brought many REITs to rare, multi-year lows. This re-ignited my interest in REITs, as I have been out of them for many years due to their increasing debt levels and decreasing yields. However, I passed up the opportunity wh…

Not All Hospitality Trusts Are Created Equal

In the past 2 months, investors have been selling off Hospitality Trusts (HTs) listed on SGX due to travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world to stem the spread of COVID-19. There are 6 HTs listed on SGX, namely:ARA US HTAscott Reside…


How time flies. It has been exactly 7 years since I started this blog. It has not been a continuous process, though, as I stopped blogging for exactly a year from Jun last year to this year. The cause? Burnout.
For 5 over years, I have tried to blog at least once a week. It gives readers continuity, as they know that I am always around. This is especially important during times of market stress, as readers know that I do not talk about investments only during good times and leave them in the lurch during bad times. Also, they only need to check my blog once and only once a week. The inspiration for a weekly blog came from a current affairs blog that I had regularly visited in the past —, which is now no longer updated as the author has passed away. I liked the regularity of his week blog, which provided updates on a sufficiently regular basis but is not too frequent to follow. I thought too that I could achieve the same kind of regularity, but alas, trying to think up an idea, research about it, organise the thoughts and write it out, and then repeating the cycle for 52 times a year proved too much to bear and I burned out.
It was not just blogging that I stopped. Almost everything connected to personal finance stopped. I stopped tracking my expenses, which I had done for the past 24 years. I also stopped monitoring the performance of my portfolio, which I had done for the past 20 years. Naturally, since I stopped blogging, I also stopped thinking about specific stocks and bonds.
During this 1-year hibernation, I wondered whether my blog has added clarity to investment issues or simply contributed to the noise. Individually, each blog might have very good reasons for their recommendations, but because different blogs have different opinions on even the same topic, to a person who is trying to search for some clarity on the internet, he might end up being more confused after reading these blogs than before he started. Nevertheless, my wife consoled me that I have done my best to value-add to the investing community. There will be some readers who would appreciate the unique opinions that I have.
Although I stopped thinking about specific stocks and bonds, I was still keeping up with financial news and there were issues that bothered me and made me want to blog about them. Such issues include the restructuring of Hyflux and DBS Vickers’ plans to move the retail stock trading into the bank. Although upset, I did not have the time and energy to restart my blog. 
The issue that finally made me restart my blog was the IPO of Astrea V bonds in Jun. Coincidentally, my last posts before I stopped blogging were on the Astrea IV bonds. In my second-to-last post, I had blogged that I would not be applying for the Astrea IV bonds, although I corrected my initial thinking and acknowledged that the Astrea IV bonds had sufficient safeguards in my last post of 2018. Fast forward to 1 year later, I decided to apply for the Astrea V bonds and I thought I should come out and reiterate my thoughts about the Astrea bonds before I applied for them. See Astrea V 3.85% Bonds – Understanding What You Are Buying Into for more info.
Once I restarted, the inertia was overcome and it became easier to continue blogging again. Nevertheless, I am conscious of the demands of a weekly blog and I would only be blogging whenever time permits and when ideas come to me. It is more sustainable this way. 
During the 1-year hibernation, although there were issues that made me want to restart blogging, there was also an incident that made me felt that all these years of blogging had been wasted. In Jan this year, I attended the Astrea Investor Day. During the Question & Answer session, one participant asked “could we have more of Astrea bonds?”. This was despite the ongoing debacle of the Hyflux preference shares and perpetual capital securities. While I acknowledge that the Astrea bonds have safeguards to protect retail investors, I do not think that they are sure-win investments. Is it a case of the bonds having no risks at all, or that particular participant being blissfully ignorant of the risks? After coming back from hibernation, I wrote a series of posts on the Astrea/ Private Equity (PE) bonds. Readers can read and gauge for themselves whether the Astrea/ PE bonds are really risk-free or not.
That question really hurts. It hurts much more than if someone were to criticise my blog posts. For so many years, I have been blogging and keeping the blog free for all so that it could add value to the investment community and make a small difference to the world. That question just proved that it was probably my wishful thinking and my blog never really made much of a difference. It made me wonder whether I should still continue blogging. So, please, do not let me hear such questions again. It really hurts. 
Finally, for readers who have been regularly reading and supporting this blog, I thank all of you for your time and sharing of your views.
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Possibly The Worst Time to Invest – 5 Years On

US-China trade wars, Hong Kong protests, US yield curve inversion, etc. You probably would be thinking now is a bad time to invest. I had the same feelings 5.5 years ago in Dec 2013, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was then near an all-time high and interest rates near an all-time low. You can read more about it in Possibly The Worst Time to Invest. Nevertheless, I still went ahead to initiate a plain vanilla passive portfolio comprising 70% in global equities and 30% in global bonds. In 2015, I also added a more spicy passive portfolio comprising 70% in US equities and 30% in Asian bonds.
Each year, I would blog about whether that decision in Dec 2013 turned out to be correct or not. Each year, the blog post would say the passive portfolios were up and there is inherent defence mechanism to manage the fearsome stock market crashes through portfolio rebalancing. These once-a-year blog posts on this series almost sound like a broken record.
This year, the plain vanilla portfolio is up by 39.5% since inception 5.5 years ago, while the spicy portfolio is up by 34.7% since inception 4 years ago. You can read about last year’s figures in Possibly The Worst Time to Invest – 4 Years On.
Each year, there are bound to be events that worry us and stop us from investing. But each year, the stock market would somehow manage to shrug off the worrisome events and continue its upwards march, reaching new highs which previously seemed unimaginable along the way. A couple of years later, would you still remember the events that stopped you from investing? Do you still remember the taper tantrum in 2013, the threat of Grexit and yuan devaluation in 2015, the shock Brexit vote and US presidential election in 2016? Some of these events have faded from memory, and some people might wonder what was the fuss that stopped anyone from investing in 2013/ 2015/ 2016, etc. But when these events were playing out, the mood was cautious and the stock markets were falling. A couple of years from now, would most people still remember the US-China trade wars, Hong Kong protests and US yield curve inversion that are causing the stock markets to drop currently?
There will be a time when the stock market crash really arrives. But no one can predict reliably when it will arrive. The best way to deal with it is not to stop investing, but to have a good defence mechanism in place while investing.
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