Value Investing: Business as Usual
For most millennials like myself the last ten years have formed what we believe the business to be: a bull market reinvigorated by the whims of the Federal Reserve Board. If anchoring is a powerful force in investor behavior, the anchor at the depths of our millennial beliefs is that value hasn’t worked.
The Risk Pendulum
A series of important factors in the U.S. stock market are in play which beg the question, “Are we at the beginning of a risk cycle or at an ending?” The answers will have a bearing on what to own and where to be positioned going forward. These thoughts won’t be exhaustive, but we hope to get you thinking on a few important subjects.
The Inevitables 2
As I watched this year’s Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting, one thing struck me. There was sheer enthusiasm around the annual shareholder meeting for anything tech-oriented. Yes, it was disclosed that Berkshire had taken a position in Amazon that Friday, but it goes deeper.
Did Vanguard Kill Wall Street’s Golden Goose?
Many are wondering why the market for Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) has performed so poorly, even though the flood of hot new ones came to market recently. It took three years to choke demand for money-losing dot-com IPO companies back in 1997, even though Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan called the mania for tech stocks in late 1996 an “irrational exuberance.” What has killed the goose which traditionally laid the golden eggs on Wall Street?
The Beyond Meat Market
We have written a good deal about the parallels of today’s market with the tech and telecom bubble of the late 1990’s. While no two time periods are ever the same, today’s rhymes are eerily similar in some respects, with the latest development in initial public offerings (IPOs) as the latest example.
Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting 2019: Who is Judas Iscariot?
Charlie Munger set the tone for the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. He said that people involved in creating cryptocurrencies, “honored the life and work of Judas Iscariot.” On many major subjects, questions were fired at Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger related to short comings which self-proclaimed expert observers see at Berkshire
Stock Market Morality
The history of the stock market lays some reliable markers for long duration investors when it comes to these morals. First, in the long run, a basket of the cheapest of the stocks in the S&P 500 Index has outperformed the expensive ones by 3.6% per year...
My career started in 1994, which was a stealth bear market for stocks and an outright bear market for bonds. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan hiked rates seven times as he played catch up in response to a percolating economy that rediscovered its sea legs coming off the 1991 recession.
Underperforming Like It’s 1999
The singer, Prince, wrote about “partying like it’s 1999.” We can tell you that 1999 was no party unless you owned the most popular tech stocks and the hottest initial public offerings of the latest dot-com company.
Antitrust “Internet Style”
We consider ourselves excellent spectators of competition and look forward to March Madness this month. We are reminded that these very competitive games can’t take place unless there are rules and referees to officiate. Our long-time readers are aware that we have warned of the danger surrounding the aggregation of power by the monopolistic tech behemoths.
Just Do the Math!
We remember looking at demographic charts back in the 1990s which compared the population of the peak borrowing age group (28-40) with the peak savings age group (49-62). At that time, 10-year Treasury bonds were still yielding 7.5-8% and investors wondered where interest rates were going.
Buffett’s Annual Letter: Forest for the Trees
There is an old expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” After reading through Warren Buffett’s 2018 Annual Letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders twice, we fielded questions from the media folks who reviewed the annual letter by focusing on very small trees mentioned by Buffett.
Channeling Warren Buffett
The most popular missives we write are associated with Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders and the annual shareholder meeting in Omaha. This year we thought it would be fun to channel Mr. Buffett and attempt to write his letter for him.
We See Dead Stocks
Financial euphoria episodes are a common occurrence in investment markets and the U.S. stock market. When a new one comes along, market participants accelerate their enthusiasm toward the end, which makes the shares of companies involved dead to us.
Dr. Jekyll Economy Meets Mr. Hyde Markets
In the famous book, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were one human being with a split personality. Dr. Jekyll healed people and Mr. Hyde murdered them. This economic environment and the U.S. stock market have the same kind of split personality.
Price for Clarity
The market hates ambiguity. That’s what we’re told, and on any short-term basis, we can see the market vote accordingly. In a world where investing has morphed towards algorithmic trading systems influencing daily volatility, many have come to accept this as a reasonable truth and participate by selling when things lose clarity or piling in when visibility is perceived.
C.I.a.P. Meets C.R.a.P.
Amazon recently announced that they are combing through the list of things they warehouse and sell to determine which items “can’t realize a profit” (C.R.a.P.).1 We found it very interesting how they are determining which items to pare from their website list.
Academia vs. The Real World – Part 2
We are revisiting our discussion of what the real world is like versus what academics claim in papers and debates. A good way of putting this is “Academia has a tendency, when unchecked (from lack of skin in the game), to evolve into a ritualistic self-referential publishing game.”
Academia vs. The Real World – Part 1
In preparation for a talk, I began to review Sir John Templeton’s track record with the Templeton Growth Fund (TEPLX), which he managed from 1954 to 1991. At the age of 34, with a father that broke into the investment business in 1980, I was very aware of Templeton’s success in his career, but unaware of how the results came to his clients.
Well Known Facts Can Hurt You
Our long-time readers are aware that we analyze the U.S. stock market through the prism of what we call “well-known facts.” A well-known fact is a body of economic information which is pretty much known to all market participants and has been acted on by almost everyone with available capital.
If I Fell, Again
Investors have called their five-year love affair with technology stocks into question over the last 35 days. For this reason, we at Smead Capital Management are calling in John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s beautiful ballad “If I Fell” to help answer the following questions.
Housing Consensus Dead Wrong
Most people tend to see what’s right in front of them, especially when it comes to housing affordability. Consider that most of the media organizations in the U.S. reside in the expensive coastal cities. These cities are suffering a decline in home values and contributing to a discussion on what higher home prices and higher interest rates could do to the number of new homes built nationwide.
Jerry Maguire Stock Market
The actor, Tom Cruise, is as enigmatic as the U.S. stock market. He has made many terrific movies over the years and today’s stock market reminds us of his classic sports movie, Jerry Maguire. Jerry was a top sports agent for a large agency and then suddenly, out of nowhere, was dumped out on the street with one client and a top college recruit to work with.
South Sea Forecast: Stockjobbing Becomes Technology
In 1720, the South Sea Bubble arose from what seemed to be good intentions. The South Sea Company was given an exclusive monopoly on the Spanish Americas in exchange for assuming a large part of England’s debt. The debt holders received preferred shares in the South Sea Company that paid 6% interest.
Framing the News
As contrarian investors and students of group-think crowd psychology, we look for investment opportunities in the way news is framed. There is an old Mark Twain saying, “Lies, damned lies and statistics.” We believe investors are getting mislead by statistics surrounding the U.S. economy and we will seek to dispel erroneous assumptions in search of long-term gains in the stock market.
Road Not Taken
We have written profusely about the investment myopia of today which has focused on “growth at any price companies” without regard to profits or free cash-flow. We do this because we know success in investing requires a healthy degree of discomfort for it to be profitable, and we know how much comfort today’s investor has found by owning what has worked.
Crowded Trade Exit
The recent action in the stock market seems to be governed by crowd psychology and reminds us of a theory we created in college called the “coat theory.” Back in the 1970s, the fraternities and sororities at my alma mater hosted several mixers so the students could get to know each other better.
Big Tech’s Three Identical Strangers
The U.S. government must determine how to deal with the negative consequences of some of the last decade’s most successful internet-based businesses. Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon grew up as strangers and have developed monopolies in search, social media and in e-commerce.
Disciplined Opportunism: Templeton and Price Revisited
For Templeton and Price to execute a “new era” approach today, we believe they would likely advocate avoiding the S&P 500 Index, mutual funds and ETFs, emphasizing growth stock investing and they would be very careful with ownership of anything related to technology. Price recognized that growth eras don’t continue forever and Templeton went wherever he thought he could make great money buying companies at depressed prices with positive economics. We believe our eight criteria for common stock ownership will shepherd us through this “new era.”
The Temperature of Market Leadership
At Smead Capital Management, we want to avoid excitement and expense in the marketplace. When a sector of the stock market gets white hot, there are usually a few stocks which dominate the market activity and see explosive price appreciation. We like to think that one of them becomes the thermometer of the market, in effect showing the temperature of the stock market.
Smoked in 1999 or Vaped in 2018 What You Pay Buying Shares Matters
It is no secret that the U.S. stock market has been completely addicted to discounting the future success of the most popular technology stocks. Momentum-based growth investing has had many bouts of success in the past, but this is the first episode in an era where indexed mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) were the largest aggregate owners of the largest capitalization companies.
Investment Humility and Economic Recovery
We make every effort to understand the way that investors go to extremes over what we call the “well-known fact” in the stock market. A “well-known fact” is a body of economic information which is known to virtually everyone in the marketplace and has been acted on by anyone with capital.
The Jim Carrey Parable
Today’s popular stocks have literally overwhelmed the stock market in the last four years and six months. To understand today’s financial euphoria, we will analyze three terrific movies made by the actor, Jim Carrey. In Liar Liar, The Truman Show and in Bruce Almighty, we learn morals which we believe should guide us in the long-duration investment process.
Global Dominance via Stocks, Not War
In the 1960’s, the slogan “Make Love, Not War” became a rally cry for anti-war protestors, but also typified their free love expression. They used the slogan to explain the harshness of the situation in Vietnam and to be countercultural to the capitalist and traditional way of life they saw in American society.
The stock market has put on quite a show over the last decade. Including dividends, domestic stocks have nearly quadrupled since the bottom in March 2009. Most of the crowd missed the best parts of the broader show, but that hasn’t stopped the excitement being built around the encore.
The Voting Machine vs. The Weighing Machine
The patriarch of value investing, Ben Graham, once said, “In the short run the market is a voting machine, but in the long run it is a weighing machine.” His statement is just as profound as the day it was first spoken. However, it is timelessly mystifying to most investors.
2018: The Math is Simple
We believe the math of common stock investing is pretty simple. When you buy a stock without leverage, you can only lose your original investment. Your gains can be unlimited over the longest term (long duration). Most of the benefit (90%) of diversification is reached by owning a twelve-to-eighteen stock portfolio...
Zero Cost of Capital
Massive investor popularity can produce some pretty strange circumstances in the U.S. stock market. Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes!” Today’s strange occurrence has been called a “zero cost of capital” and it rhymes with what happened in 1999-2000.
Imagining the Stock Market in Ten Years
What will the next ten years look like in the U.S. stock market? As we often do, we refer you to one of our favorite songs, “I Can Only Imagine,” and a book by George Friedman, The Next 100 Years. We believe the best performing securities of the next ten years will be very different from the securities and the sectors which currently capture the “popular imagination” of investors.
Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting 2018: A Mirage of Feelings
Much like the 1975 Billboard top ten hit song, Feelings, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger laid out their feelings on a variety of issues in Omaha at the Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB) Annual Meeting. We believe even the greatest investors of all time are being influenced by a mirage.
Stretching for Gilded Poles
Elon Musk is possibly the most interesting man in the world, in our opinion. His nobility comes from his past as a founder of PayPal, but his popularity only grows in this era as he seeks to tackle big projects that include the car business, space, mass transit and other subjects.
Mr. Market Grasps the Esoteric
We are reminded of Ben Graham’s Mr. Market analogy. In his analogy, the stock market is like having a business partner (Mr. Market) who offers to either buy or sell his half of the business to you, based on how the business is doing.
The Good Shepherd Investor
David was the King of Israel and the writer of many of the Psalms. He spent his formative years as a shepherd and framed his life’s work around the key concepts from his profession. Herds were the primary form of wealth back then, while common stocks are a primary form today.