Sunday, October 12, 2014

Market fluctuation

When there is market fluctuations or consolidation as experienced in recent times, it is time to revisit some of the best advice out there. This is from Berkshire Hathaway's Annual Report in 1997 at a time when there were some market challenges. Remember our "Tom Yam effect"?

How We Think About Market Fluctuations 

A short quiz: If you plan to eat hamburgers throughout your life and are not a cattle producer, should you wish for higher or lower prices for beef? Likewise, if you are going to buy a car from time to time but are not an auto manufacturer, should you prefer higher or lower car prices? These questions, of course, answer themselves.
     
But now for the final exam: If you expect to be a net saver during the next five years, should you hope for a higher or lower stock market during that period? Many investors get this one wrong. Even though they are going to be net buyers of stocks for many years to come, they are elated when stock prices rise and depressed when they fall. In effect, they rejoice because prices have risen for the "hamburgers" they will soon be buying. This reaction makes no sense. Only those who will be sellers of equities in the near future should be happy at seeing stocks rise. Prospective purchasers should much prefer sinking prices.
      
For shareholders of Berkshire who do not expect to sell, the choice is even clearer. To begin with, our owners are automatically saving even if they spend every dime they personally earn: Berkshire "saves" for them by retaining all earnings, thereafter using these savings to purchase businesses and securities. Clearly, the more cheaply we make these buys, the more profitable our owners' indirect savings program will be.
      
Furthermore, through Berkshire you own major positions in companies that consistently repurchase their shares. The benefits that these programs supply us grow as prices fall: When stock prices are low, the funds that an investee spends on repurchases increase our ownership of that company by a greater amount than is the case when prices are higher. For example, the repurchases that Coca-Cola, The Washington Post and Wells Fargo made in past years at very low prices benefitted Berkshire far more than do today's repurchases, made at loftier prices.
      
At the end of every year, about 97% of Berkshire's shares are held by the same investors who owned them at the start of the year. That makes them savers. They should therefore rejoice when markets decline and allow both us and our investees to deploy funds more advantageously.
      
So smile when you read a headline that says "Investors lose as market falls." Edit it in your mind to "Disinvestors lose as market falls -- but investors gain." Though writers often forget this truism, there is a buyer for every seller and what hurts one necessarily helps the other. (As they say in golf matches: "Every putt makes someone happy.")
      
We gained enormously from the low prices placed on many equities and businesses in the 1970s and 1980s. Markets that then were hostile to investment transients were friendly to those taking up permanent residence. In recent years, the actions we took in those decades have been validated, but we have found few new opportunities. In its role as a corporate "saver," Berkshire continually looks for ways to sensibly deploy capital, but it may be some time before we find opportunities that get us truly excited. 

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The recent consolidation is hardly a time to think about opportunities yet, but would be good if it is to deteriorate further taking a cue from the above.

4 comments:

GL said...

Hi Felice What do you think about SKP Resources... thinking of accumulating along the way. ..

nixiao100 said...

Hi Felice,

Today's big news is acquisition of OSKP and PJDEV by RHB and OSKH. I'm a shareholder of OSKH but the deal is too complicated to me. Do you think it is something good for OSKH shareholders?

felicity said...

Hi nixiao
Generally this merger is good for the property arm as it will combine into a larger property arm. This is good for branding cost reduction. However I did not look through the impact directly to OSK.

Low Paul said...

good sharing about investing.

thanks!!

paul

from singapore