The Stingy News Weekly (06/24/2012)
Mortgaging the future
"Uncontrolled public debt threatens to rupture society as the older generation thrives at the expense of the young."
Mauboussin on buybacks
"This report looks at buybacks from four distinct points of view: companies, shareholders, prospective shareholders, and the media. Naturally, the issues are intertwined."
Michael J. Burry commencement address
"2012 UCLA Department of Economics Commencement featuring Dr. Michael J. Burry as keynote speaker"
Desperately seeking income
"Many retail investors - and their advisors - are desperately seeking higher-income solutions in this ultra-low-rate environment. And institutional investment themes continually draw the retail sector to the trough - but usually only after the easy money has been made. Unlike institutions, however, retail investors must accept trade-offs. In an ideal world, retail exposure to institutional investment themes would boast abundant liquidity and reasonable fees to go along with their high income. But this has proven to be an elusive combination as high fees have squeezed returns and exposure is sacrificed for liquidity."
"I don't know who in their right mind is lending the US government money for 10 years at 1.59% and for thirty years at 2.67%. You have to believe inflation will be lower than these values just to get your money back, let alone make any real return. (The best I can do is to opine that these are not long-term investors, and they think they can get out before rates rise. I will admit that understanding such low rates is stretching my rational-investor efficient-market prejudices.) Well, no matter. When offered a screaming good deal, you should take it!"
Why Mutual Fund Boards Are Failing
"But while individual qualifications are rarely an issue, investor advocates say mutual funds allow far too many directors to serve on multiple boards. In the realm of public companies, people can draw criticism for sitting on more than a handful of boards. But YieldPlus's trustees, in 2010, each served on the boards of 72 other Schwab funds -- each with its own lengthy prospectus, regulatory filings and compliance issues to review. And that, it turns out, is nothing compared with Bruce Crockett's responsibilities on behalf of investors in the Invesco family of funds. Crockett, a former CEO of satellite company Comsat, is a shareholder watchdog for 140 stock and bond funds, roles for which he was paid $693,500 in 2011. For many critics, vetting so many funds is hard to fathom and is a prescription for overwhelmed and passive boards. 'Maybe we're just not as smart as they are,' says Steven Melnyk, a former ABC golf commentator-turned-investment banker, who says he has his hands full serving on three fund boards at Longleaf Partners. 'But I can't imagine how, if you're at a large fund complex, you could find the time to really review everything you need to look at.' The required reading alone, says John Bogle, founder of fund giant Vanguard, underscores the challenge. 'Mutual fund directors,' he says, 'are either not being paid nearly enough for what they should be doing -- or far too much for what they actually do.'"
A glimmer of hope?
"We've got a bank run. How to stop it? Ah, deposit insurance! But who is going to pay for that? 'Countries' are not credible. The whole problem is that 'countries' used their banks as piggy banks, stuffing them with sovereign debt. So, if the countries default on their sovereign debt, the banks go under, and the same 'countries' obviously don't have the money to guarantee deposits. A cross-national deposit insurance scheme, while banks are already stuffed with sovereign debt, is back to Plan A, run for the exit and stiff Germany with the bill."
The allure of long-term treasuries
"Financial advisers continue to profess that US treasuries should be a large part of a balanced portfolio. With the 10-year treasury yielding around 1.6%, the advice is hardly based on return expectations. It is also not due to expectations of mark to market gains. The up-side case in being long the 10-year treasury would be if the rate were to drop to the level of Japan's - just over half (a fairly unlikely outcome). The mark to market gain would be 7.5%. The downside case on the other hand would be if the 10-year yield rose to what it was just a year ago (or higher) - say around 3%. The mark to market loss would be around 11.5%. So the instrument effectively has an asymmetric payout profile and terrible current yield. What gives?"
"Over the years, newspaper owners have built monuments to themselves in the form of giant buildings, statues and plaques commemorating their roles in their communities and the country at large. At the headquarters of The Buffalo News here, a sand-colored office building across the river from a fragrant Cheerios factory, the only visible sign of the owner is a small photograph hanging in the office of the publisher, Stanford Lipsey, signed, 'To the best in the business, Warren.'"
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