Monday, October 20, 2008

A Letter From Warren Buffett

From the NY Times.

THE financial world is a mess, both in the United States and abroad. Its problems, moreover, have been leaking into the general economy, and the leaks are now turning into a gusher. In the near term, unemployment will rise, business activity will falter and headlines will continue to be scary.

So ... I’ve been buying American stocks. This is my personal account I’m talking about, in which I previously owned nothing but United States government bonds. (This description leaves aside my Berkshire Hathaway holdings, which are all committed to philanthropy.) If prices keep looking attractive, my non-Berkshire net worth will soon be 100 percent in United States equities.

Why?

A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors. To be sure, investors are right to be wary of highly leveraged entities or businesses in weak competitive positions. But fears regarding the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies make no sense. These businesses will indeed suffer earnings hiccups, as they always have. But most major companies will be setting new profit records 5, 10 and 20 years from now.
Let me be clear on one point: I can’t predict the short-term movements of the stock market. I haven’t the faintest idea as to whether stocks will be higher or lower a month — or a year — from now. What is likely, however, is that the market will move higher, perhaps substantially so, well before either sentiment or the economy turns up. So if you wait for the robins, spring will be over.

A little history here: During the Depression, the Dow hit its low, 41, on July 8, 1932. Economic conditions, though, kept deteriorating until Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in March 1933. By that time, the market had already advanced 30 percent. Or think back to the early days of World War II, when things were going badly for the United States in Europe and the Pacific. The market hit bottom in April 1942, well before Allied fortunes turned. Again, in the early 1980s, the time to buy stocks was when inflation raged and the economy was in the tank. In short, bad news is an investor’s best friend. It lets you buy a slice of America’s future at a marked-down price.

Over the long term, the stock market news will be good. In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.

You might think it would have been impossible for an investor to lose money during a century marked by such an extraordinary gain. But some investors did. The hapless ones bought stocks only when they felt comfort in doing so and then proceeded to sell when the headlines made them queasy.

Today people who hold cash equivalents feel comfortable. They shouldn’t. They have opted for a terrible long-term asset, one that pays virtually nothing and is certain to depreciate in value. Indeed, the policies that government will follow in its efforts to alleviate the current crisis will probably prove inflationary and therefore accelerate declines in the real value of cash accounts.
Equities will almost certainly outperform cash over the next decade, probably by a substantial degree. Those investors who cling now to cash are betting they can efficiently time their move away from it later. In waiting for the comfort of good news, they are ignoring Wayne Gretzky’s advice: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”

I don’t like to opine on the stock market, and again I emphasize that I have no idea what the market will do in the short term. Nevertheless, I’ll follow the lead of a restaurant that opened in an empty bank building and then advertised: “Put your mouth where your money was.” Today my money and my mouth both say equities.

Warren E. Buffett is the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a diversified holding company.

5 comments:

Panamericana said...

Stock Market 101

Once upon a time in a place overrun with monkeys, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.

The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest, and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and as supply started to diminish, they became harder to catch, so the villagers stopped their effort.

The man then announced that he would now pay $20 for each one. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again. But soon the supply diminished even further and they were ever harder to catch, so people started going back to their farms and forgot about monkey catching. The man increased his price to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so sparse that it was an effort to even see a monkey, much less catch one.
The man now announced that he would buy monkeys for $50! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on his behalf.
While the man was away the assistant told the villagers. 'Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has bought. I will sell them to you at $35 each and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.
The villagers rounded up all their savings and bought all the monkeys. They never saw the man nor his assistant again and once again there were monkeys everywhere.

Money Talks said...

Great BLOG
The Coming Depression

Jade East said...

Buffet has made more money than I could even think about but something seems odd about this letter. It's just so gosh darn rah-rah USA that I question weather or not this is based on a solely patriotic notion.

Metaldwarf said...

I have been waiting patiently to plow some money into The iShares Morningstar Large Value Index Fund (JKF)

http://us.ishares.com/product_info/fund/overview/JKF.htm

Not an endorsement just one I've been watching.

though with the exchange rate doing whats its doing i think i might stick to the CAN side and go with The iShares™ CDN Value Index Fund (XCV)
http://ca.ishares.com/product_info/fund_overview.do?ticker=XCV

Panamericana said...

re:Buffett

http://www.lewrockwell.com/decoster/decoster136.html