Robert Arnott, the founder and chairman of Research Affiliates and the “Father of Fundamental Indexing,” seems to have acquired a reputation as a “perma-bear.” But he might more accurately be described as a contrarian.
“What has happened is that I happened to be a bear when there were very few around,” he says. “I think there are currently a lot of markets that are very attractive. So, I have a bit of an outlier perspective.”
Instead, he describes himself as a bear at times when the markets are expensive and yields are low. In one of the roughest markets in modern history, Arnott sees plenty of attractive areas.
Conversion bonds, at their current levels, strike him as interesting. “Through October, they have fallen more than the stock market, which is weird, because they’re bonds.”
But Arnott notes that in November, although stocks have fallen further than conversion bonds, their drop is still remarkable.
“It represents a marvelous opportunity for those with resources to buy,” Arnott says. Other areas he thinks present opportunities are emerging markets and TIPS.
Many investors and analysts seem intent on calling a bottom, but Arnott feels there’s a better than 50-50 chance of another meltdown in the markets. “Some of the bond markets are priced to reflect a repeat of the Great Depression,” he points out.
If the bonds are, in fact, correct, stocks will indeed have another meltdown. But if the stocks are right, bonds should deliver spectacular returns, and some areas of bonds are more attractively priced than the broader market, he notes.
Last week, the country witnessed the beginnings of some direction from President-elect Barack Obama. Arnott is pleased with what he’s seen so far.