The Stingy News Weekly (02/26/2012)
New @ StingyInvestor
Investing theory collides with new facts
"It makes one wonder just how long the long-term should be when studying stocks. Even the 5 decades from 1951 to 2003 weren’t sufficient to suss out the weakness in the lowest decile of P/B stocks. Might more trouble might be revealed if the numbers are tracked back another 25 years – or followed forward for another 25?"
A crystal ball for stocks?
"At a very deep level, we're all suckers for patterns. The problem is, it's easy to stumble on erroneous patterns in large mounds of data. You can see the result on TV almost every night in the form of new medical breakthroughs. You know, titillating things like the discovery that eating yellow foods decreases the risk of having a heart attack. But after loading up on squash and turning a strange shade of pale, another study might come along that refutes the first and instead points to the cancer causing properties of yellow food. It's a wonder health-conscious people eat anything all. (Rest assured yellow foodies, these examples are fictitious.) The problem being, just because you've spotted a pattern doesn't mean that it's predictive or, in math speak, correlation does not prove causation. All too often what the researcher actually uncovered occurred simply by chance. That doesn't keep our love of predictable patterns from infiltrating the markets in all sorts of unexpected ways."
Berkshire Hathaway 2011
"At our limit price of 110% of book value, repurchases clearly increase Berkshire’s per-share intrinsic value. And the more and the cheaper we buy, the greater the gain for continuing shareholders. Therefore, if given the opportunity, we will likely repurchase stock aggressively at our price limit or lower. You should know, however, that we have no interest in supporting the stock and that our bids will fade in particularly weak markets. Nor will we buy shares if our cash-equivalent holdings are below $20 billion. At Berkshire, financial strength that is unquestionable takes precedence over all else."
Is 'derisking' even riskier?
"When you 'derisk,' be sure you understand whether you are eradicating risk—or just replacing old risks with new ones."
Canadian audits of China firms
"Canada’s audit regulator has demanded accounting firms fix deficiencies in their audits of 12 China-based companies whose shares trade on Canadian stock exchanges, saying their work has been a “disappointment.”"
Negative real rates of return
"If it's just you on a desert island and you have to bury food in the ground for safe keeping chances are you will dig up less food than you bury. In general investing only makes sense when there is seasonality, which is why tropical animals don’t do it. And, animals that do invest always take a loss even if they invest in the form of fat stores. However, because the marginal product of labor is vastly different between the spring and the winter it is worth it in utility terms even if the material return is negative. That humans don’t always take a loss is why the world we live in is so vastly different. Our world changes over time because we can use our brains to think of ways to get more out than we put in. However, this is a special case and should not be taken as some basic property of the world. Its just not."
"Germany once prided itself on being the “photovoltaic world champion”, doling out generous subsidies—totaling more than $130 billion, according to research from Germany’s Ruhr University—to citizens to invest in solar energy. But now the German government is vowing to cut the subsidies sooner than planned and to phase out support over the next five years. What went wrong?"
RIP: Walter Schloss
"Walter Schloss, the money manager who earned accolades from Warren Buffett for the steady returns he achieved by applying lessons learned directly from the father of value investing, Benjamin Graham, has died. He was 95."
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