Patience, they say, is a virtue. Although, often implied as a recommended attribute of good portfolio planning over rolling periods of time, perhaps now, more than I can remember, "patience" is more than just a virtue; it should be a core principle within your investment strategy.
Two big issues drive the "patience/virtue" nexus. First up, cash as an asset class is not doing its protective job at present. Most bank deposit rates are below their corresponding base currency rate of inflation.
NRIs with their 9 per cent against a recently fallen Indian inflation rate (7.5 per cent) are a happy exception, leaving them only worrying about currency depreciation. For everybody else, money in the bank is losing purchasing power.
Bottom line: experienced investors need to be looking at assets that might grow sometime later this year in order to justify the "risk premium" of hanging around in low growth assets awaiting "the recovery". A strategy based on patience.
Second up, 2011 was a backward step for most assets. Many commentators are talking about "the failure of diversification". That's a bit simple. More accurately a near-failure of everything explains why diversification failed in 2011 as it did in the wake of Lehman's.
Last year, "successes" were few and far between. One upside of recent failure is the price thing: "when there is blood in the streets ... invest". For this, you require a healthy mix of timing and patience.
In this environment, the "patient" should be looking for assets that the market will drive "when the time comes". GMO Asset Managers describe themselves as a bit "contrarian" because they are prepared to invest where the herd is not currently investing.
Interestingly, I have heard the same sounds from two multi-managers, Sean Daykin at Emirates NBD and Glyn Owen at Momentum.
However, I will stick with last week's interview in the Financial Times with Ben Inker (Head of Asset Management) at GMO. The GMO creed, the article states, is that "markets revert to the mean, where the mean is fair value, a number based on the returns investors expect for taking the risk on a particular asset".
In this arena, three sectors seem to be worth a look. Firstly, Europe (ex-UK), supported by GMO, Momentum and EmiratesNBD. The price-story on Europe makes it compelling.
Inker accepts that it is "hard to buy Europe today when there is so much uncertainty and despondency".
However, for the risk takers, "there is something very special about an asset class that is cheap relative to fair value". The key, yes, you've got it: patience.
The second area of "cheapness" supported by GMO is Japan. Here EmiratesNBD and Momentum were also pro-Japan on price. However, they have been in the same place for the last two years on Japan. Patience wearing thin?
Inker though is "turning Japanese", and thinks: "The Japanese market has done very badly in the past because it started out so horrendously expensive".
Now Japanese prices are where what Inker calls "cheap"; in contrast, US stocks would have to fall 20 per cent to reach the same level of "fair value cheapness" according to the GMO metrics.
The third area for the patient: strongly pushed by Momentum and Emirates NBD was "energy stocks". One reason for the support in this area is the traditional issue of stock prices lagging energy prices.
In 2011, oil prices rose 15 per cent. While many of the large-cap energy stocks were well positioned, the mid-cap stocks are more likely to receive their benefits this year, according to both multi-managers.