Just because investment banks and stock brokerages say you should diversify doesn’t make it true. For the knowledgeable investor, diversification for its own sake merely reduces profits. So, if you’re an independent thinker, what are your alternatives?
Talk with an investment advisor, and what’s the first piece of advice you will hear? Diversify your portfolio. The case for diversification is repeated so often that it’s come to be thought of as an indisputable rule. Hardly anyone makes the case against diversifying your portfolio. But because we believe that too much liquidity has made all markets act similar to one another, we make that case. Heresy? Not at all. Just because investment banks and stock brokerages say you should diversify doesn’t make it true. After all, their analysts nearly always say that the markets look bullish and that people should buy more now. For a breath of fresh air on this subject, read what Bob Prechter thinks about diversification.
Excerpt taken from Prechter’s Perspective, originally published 2002, re-published 2004
Question: In recent years, mainstream experts have made the ideas of “buy and hold” and diversification almost synonymous with investing. What about diversification? Now it is nearly universally held that risk is reduced through acquisition of a broad-based portfolio of any imaginable investment category. Where do you stand on this idea?
Bob Prechter: Diversification for its own sake means you don’t know what you’re doing. If that is true, you might as well hold Treasury bills or a savings account. My opinion on this question is black and white, because the whole purpose of being a market speculator is to identify trends and make money with them. The proper approach is to take everything you can out of anticipated trends, using indicators that help you do that. Those times you make a mistake will be made up many times over by the successful investments you make. Some people say that is the purpose of diversification, that the winners will overcome the losers. But that stance requires the opinion that most investment vehicles ultimately go up from any entry point. That is not true, and is an opinion typically held late in a period when it has been true. So ironically, poor timing is often the thing that kills people who claim to ignore timing.
Sometimes the correct approach will lead to a diversified portfolio. There are times I have been long U.S. stocks, short bonds, short the Nikkei, and long something else. Other times, I’ve kept a very concentrated market position. My advice from mid-1984 to October 2, 1987, for instance, was to remain 100% invested in the U.S. stock market. During the bull market, I raised the stop-loss at each point along the wave structure where I could identify definite points of support. If I was wrong, investors would have been out of their positions. The potential was five times greater on the upside than the risk was on the downside, and five times greater in the stock market than any other area. Twice recently, in 1993 and 1995, I have had big positions in precious metals mining stocks when they appeared to me to be the only game in town. In 1993, it worked great, and they gained 100% in ten months. Diversification would have eliminated the profit. And every so often, an across-the-board deflation smashes all investments at once, and the person who has all his eggs in one basket, in this case cash, stays whole while everyone else gets killed.