Thursday, October 11, 2007

How the Cubs are like Japanese Stocks

I'm a sucker for baseball metaphors, so this bit about relative return limits in investing from Morningstar made me smile:

The Cubs and Diamondbacks both won their respective divisions, but those groups were not equal. Arizona topped a strong division, while the Cubs barely won baseball's weakest. In fact, more than a third of baseball's 30 teams had better records than the Cubs'. Clearly, topping a weak group doesn't always equate to absolute strength. And just as important, quality teams are often hidden in the middle of tough groups.

The same is true in investing. We sort funds by similar styles so that we can make apples-to-apples comparisons among peers. Such comparisons are important. But, they should always be set against a backdrop of absolute performance. As the old saying goes, you can't eat relative returns. A glance at the 10-year annualized returns for Morningstar's domestic- and foreign-stock categories shows a range from 15.7% down to 2.3%. In the basement are Japan stock funds. Even the top-rated funds in this category haven't meaningfully compounded capital over time.

Based on the article, the Diamondbacks are more like the Tweedy Brown Global Value Fund (TBGVX). Of course, I've been saying that for months.

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