Buy-and-Hold Is Dead

NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- One of the many things I do to express my inner geek is read academic studies on markets and finance. Many market innovations and tools have come out of the ivory towers over the years and it is foolhardy to dismiss them out of hand.

A lot of it is nonsense like the efficient market theory and other elegant theories that work well in the classroom and not nearly as well out in a real world full of messy emotions and personal bias. Others, like the work of Lakonishok, Piotroski, Altman and others, are applicable and can help us gain a tremendous advantage in our investing activities.

One of my favorite academics to follow is Dr. Andrew Lo. His adaptive market hypothesis is one of the best papers on stock markets and investor success I have ever read. He tells us that markets adapt and the forces of evolution and natural selection apply to market returns just as they do to the rest of the world. Investment styles come and go so investors must adapt to succeed according to Lo. At the end of the day, the ultimate job of a long-term investor is to survive. That makes a lot of sense to me. One of the reason I favor the deep value and distressed approach to markets is that it reduces the risk of permanent loss of capital and helps ensure survival.

Recently, as I was sitting around the house practicing the art of nothing while watching market forces give a lift to my grab-bag of cheap stocks, a friend sent me a recent interview with Lo. In a discussion with Charles Wallace of "Money Magazine," Lo said that buy-and-hold was dead as an investment approach. He blamed the demise of the long-held market shibboleth as the result of the increase in volatility in the financial markets. Holding an index or mutual fund for decades will not work for today's investor as spikes in volatility and risk can quickly wipe out any gains. We have seen this twice since the turn of this very young century.

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