Monday, February 27, 2017

How Buffett's business empire could unravel

Josh Brown had a terrific comment about the secret of Warren Buffett's success. Buffett is unabashedly "permabullish" on America:
One of the hallmarks of Berkshire’s success has been its willingness to raise or lower its formidable cash hoard in response to the presence (or lack thereof) of viable investing opportunities. One of the other hallmarks of Buffett’s approach has been to tune out forecasts and de-emphasize the importance of them in general.

The one thing Buffett has never given up on is the idea that American productivity, innovation and economic dynamism will always lead to substantially greater prosperity in the future. And he’s been right for decades, through all sorts of setbacks, crises and challenges for the nation.

So if the choice is to be in the Buffett camp vs the David Stockman camp or the Peter Schiff camp, well, I regard that as no real choice at all.

Lastly, permabulls need not be blind to the possibility of market declines, economic catastrophes (real or imagined) and other momentary trials and tribulations. Buffett’s got these possibilities built right into his manifesto:

Charlie and I have no magic plan to add earnings except to dream big and to be prepared mentally and financially to act fast when opportunities present themselves. Every decade or so, dark clouds will fill the economic skies, and they will briefly rain gold. When downpours of that sort occur, it’s imperative that we rush outdoors carrying washtubs, not teaspoons. And that we will do.
That formula has worked out well. Stay bullish on the belief of the dynamism of America, and buy good businesses when they become cheap. In a post-election interview with CNN, Buffett expressed confidence in the supremacy of the American businesses (click on this link if the video is unavailable).

There is much to be said about the Buffett formula. According to Credit Suisse, US real equity returns has been the highest in the world. Though the stock market has experienced serious losses, prices have always come back.

A value orientation, as proxied by a high price to book, outperforms the market. Buffett then couples the value discipline by buying companies with a moat, or a sustainable competitive advantage. The combination of buying value companies with a moat has been the secret of success.

However, we may be reaching an inflection point for Buffett`s brand of investing. In the Age of Trump, the tailwinds on Buffett`s value approach may be coming to an end.

The full post can be found at our new site here.

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