Valuable Insights from Around the Web – Tue 25 Apr, 2017

How The Passive Investing Mania Undermined Its Most Basic Assumption

A bit of a slow day for recordings at the KE Report as we are working on some things behind the scenes with new guests but here is a great post by our friend Jesse Felder dealing with the passive investing trend. We have discussed the popularity growth of passive investing a number of times but Jesse points out that the whole theory behind passive investing might be very flawed.

It is worth your read. Enjoy and be sure to check out Jesse’s site by clicking here. Also consider following Jesse on Twitter. I do and he posts very interesting data throughout the week.

I have argued that “passive investing” is an oxymoron because it denies precisely that which defines an investment: active analysis. Proponents of the strategy don’t seem worried about this inconsistency, though. This is likely due to the fact that most of them believe the market to be, to a great extent, efficient. From Wikipedia:

Efficient-market hypothesis (EMH) is a theory in financial economics that states that an asset’s prices fully reflect all available information. A direct implication is that it is impossible to “beat the market” consistently on a risk-adjusted basis since market prices should only react to new information or changes in discount rates (the latter may be predictable or unpredictable).

I don’t think anyone really believes this to be totally accurate anymore. The multiple bubbles we have witnessed over the past couple of decades have served as a real time refutation of the hypothesis. Still, some obviously believe it to be largely accurate. In fact, I would argue that the massive shift to passive in recent years is all the evidence we need to make this assertion. Investors clearly believe that simply buying the indexes, without any regard for price or valuation, will allow them to capture the economic gains of American business over the coming years. To the extent the markets are, indeed, efficient, this assumption would hold true.


The trouble with this idea today, however, is the fact that the more investors, inspired by EMH, embrace a passive approach the more inefficient the markets become. You see, the EMH rests upon the simple assumption that investors, as a group, are actually investing in the traditional sense. The markets are only capable of being efficient to the extent that investors, as a group, are efficient in their analytical processes and in how they apply them to the markets. Because more investors have abandoned price-sensitive strategies for price-insensitive ones than ever before the markets have also become less efficient than ever before.


We may not have reached the logical extreme Charlie Munger refers to just yet but we are certainly much closer to it than we were 20 years ago when he first uttered the phrase. One of the most preposterous results of this phenomenon is the fact that investors believe themselves to be acting rationally and efficiently in buying corporate securities that have never been more highly valued. What is most preposterous, though, is that investors are ignoring the blindingly obvious fact that the incredible popularity of their passive investing strategies has totally undermined their most basic assumption.


Only during a financial mania could investors ever embrace such preposterous rationale as we are seeing today in passive investing. “Euphoria” and “lack of inhibition,” part of the definition of a mania, are prerequisites for these sorts of episodes. We have seen it before and recently, too. History is certainly rhyming if not repeating. Ultimately, investors will again learn the hard way that extremely inefficient markets, sometimes called bubbles, created by mass herding and the suspension of reason are not something you really wish to tie your fortunes to.

Jesse Felder

  1. On April 25, 2017 at 12:57 pm,
    CFS says:

    With Trump inviting all 100 Senators to the Whitehouse tomorrow to attend a security briefing, it is possible some strike (?pre-emptive) may be forthcoming.

  2. On April 25, 2017 at 1:01 pm,
    CFS says:

    Most worrying to me is the USS Michigan, a guided missile submarine with 150 tomahawks is now on station off North Korea.

  3. On April 25, 2017 at 1:06 pm,
    Ebolan says:

    You boys better get ready to open up your wallets…Kusner and Ivanka may talk Trump into this non-sense…

    Al Gore’s New Group Demands $15 Trillion To Fight Global Warming

    Read more:

  4. On April 25, 2017 at 1:06 pm,
    Ebolan says:

    You boys better get ready to open up your wallets…Kusner and Ivanka may talk Trump into this non-sense…

    Al Gore’s New Group Demands $15 Trillion To Fight Global Warming

    • On April 25, 2017 at 1:12 pm,
      CFS says:

      Daily Caller already pulled that page

        • On April 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm,
          CFS says:

          And the simple-minded Al Gore, non-scientist, goes into a spiel that even a 5 year could understand, about trapping of light by the atmosphere warming up the earth.

          What is inherent in his lecture is that the radiation from the sun is constant.
          But totally missing is a statement of that erroneous assumption, and we are just going into a cyclical period of time when the solar radiation is decreasing……
          Oops…. Less sunshine > less warming, even if more infrared light is trapped by the atmosphere.

  5. On April 25, 2017 at 1:10 pm,
    CFS says:

    A discussion about North Korea….

  6. On April 26, 2017 at 9:20 am,
    OOTB Jerry says:

    Nothing going to happen with NKorea……deep state just making a boogie man out of an idiot.