Friday, May 2, 2008

Leveraged Investments

I have always been intrigued by the power of leverage. Using leverage means borrowing money to invest in something for the purpose of magnifying your profit potential.
When you are right, leverage works in your favor. When you are wrong though, leverage could result in disastrous results and bankruptcy.
An interesting leveraged instrument is SSO, which generates double the daily return of the S&P 500 through investments in stock index futures. If the S&P 500 rises by 1 %, SSO will increase by about 2%. The changes are never EXACTLY twice the rate of change for S&P 500 due to tracking errors.
I gathered daily data for S&P 500 going back to 1950. I then calculated the returns for the 58 year period for twice the daily changes in the index. I didn’t account for taxes, commissions, dividends and interest for simplicity purposes. The results are truly astonishing.
Investors who could have stomached the extra volatility from the increased exposure to the S&P 500 could have enjoyed average annual returns of almost 14.33% annually. The worst drawdown in annual returns occurred from 1972-1974 -68.60%, and 69.50% during the 2000 - 2003 bear markets. In addition to that, investors who bought the back tested index at the end of 1999 are still underwater by 37%.Here are the results per decade:

Year $1 invested at the beginning of the decade grows to: at the end of the decade
1950's $ 11.32
1960's $ 2.13
1970's $ 1.14
1980's $ 7.77
1990's $ 14.14
2000's $ 0.78

For example if you invested $1 in the SSO at the end of 1980, your investment would have grown to $55 by the end of 2007. On the other hand, the same $1 investment in an S&P index fund would have grown to $22.50.
So how should investors incorporate leverage in their portfolios? I believe that a 5% to 10% of ones portfolio could be invested in a leveraged instrument like SSO as a long-term investment. Over time this investment should boost your profitability overall.

Relevant Articles:

- Outperform S&P500 with S&P500 futures, Part 1
- Outperform S&P500 with S&P500 futures, Part 2
- Covered Calls for additional income
- An alternative strategy to covered calls


  1. Your blog sounds interesting.Keep updating.

  2. Anshul,

    Thanks a lot for the nice words.

  3. Do you ever visit this website :

  4. Rita,

    You could always make a stock list that has certain dividend characteristics. I don't know how this guy's list has evolved over time, and what has the performance been over time as well.
    This site does look interesting as a starting point. Thus being said, I personally do not subscribe to paid investment newsletters. That's why I would keep my blog free, as long as I am in charge of it ;-)


Questions or comments? You can reach out to me at my website address name at gmail dot com.

Popular Posts