Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some quotes by Warren Buffet

To start  the new year, I thought it will be apt to pull back a bit away from the day to day fluctuations of the market, and remind one self about the flow of history and markets thru' the eyes of the 'Oracle of Omaha'. These musings can keep reminding us to keep our sanity when we get caught in the whirlpool of the moment. So here it goes:


Leaving aside tax factors, the formula we use for evaluating stocks and businesses is identical. Indeed, the formula for valuing all assets that are purchased for financial gain has been unchanged since it was first laid out by a very smart man in about 600 B.C. (though he wasn't smart enough to know it was 600 B.C.).
The oracle was Aesop and his enduring, though somewhat incomplete, investment insight was “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” To flesh out this principle, you must answer only three questions. How certain are you that there are indeed birds in the bush? When will they emerge and how many will there be? What is the risk-free interest rate (which we consider to be the yield on long - term U.S. bonds)? If you can answer these three questions, you will know the maximum value of the bus — and the maximum number of the birds you now possess that should be offered for it. And, of course, don't literally think birds. Think dollars.
Aesop's investment axiom, thus expanded and converted into dollars, is immutable. It applies to outlays for farms, oil royalties, bonds, stocks, lottery tickets, and manufacturing plants. And neither the advent of the steam engine, the harnessing of electricity nor the creation of the automobile changed the formula one iota — nor will the Internet. Just insert the correct numbers, and you can rank the attractiveness of all possible uses of capital throughout the universe.
We've long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune tellers look good. Even now, Charlie and I continue to believe that short-term market forecasts are poison and should be kept locked up in a safe place, away from children and also from grown ups who behave in the market like children.
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.
After some other mistakes, I learned to go into business only with people whom I like, trust, and admire. As I noted before, this policy of itself will not ensure success: A second-class textile or department-store company won't prosper simply because its managers are men that you would be pleased to see your daughter marry.
However, an owner — or investor — can accomplish wonders if he manages to associate himself with such people in businesses that possess decent economic characteristics. Conversely, we do not wish to join with managers who lack admirable qualities, no matter how attractive the prospects of their business. We've never succeeded in making a good deal with a bad person.
I mean it's just the scope of human beings to do crazy things, self-destructive things, things as a mob they do. You saw it on October 19, 1987 …. You saw Long-Term Capital Management. You've seen all kinds of things. There will be other things in the future. They will have similar factors. The human factor will be at the bottom of them. They won't be exactly the same. But it's like Mark Twain said, “You know history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes. ” We will see some things that rhyme with 1929 or whatever it may be. Well, I've seen all kinds of people with 160 IQs with intense interest in the subject, lots of experience in the investment world. I've seen them self destruct. And you have to have a certain amount of natural flow of juices just to be excited about the game and down there participating. And the trick of course is to keep control of those juices. And most people, even smart people, have trouble not getting caught up in the game and thinking I'll just dance one more dance like Cinderella at five minutes till twelve or something like that because they think they are smarter than the rest of the public. … Or they don't protect themselves against something that will come totally from right field. Long-Term Capital Management is a good example of that.
Ben Graham told a story 40 years ago that illustrates why investment professionals behave as they do: An oil prospector, moving to his heavenly reward, was met by St. Peter with bad news. “You're qualified for residence,” said St. Peter, “ but, as you can see, the compound reserved for oil men is packed. There's no way to squeeze you in.” After thinking a moment, the prospector asked if he might say just four words to the present occupants. That seemed harmless to St. Peter, so the prospector cupped his hands and yelled, “Oil discovered in hell.” Immediately the gate to the compound opened and all of the oil men marched out to head for the nether regions.
Impressed, St. Peter invited the prospector to move in and make himself comfortable. The prospector paused. “No,” he said, “I think I'll go along with the rest of the boys. There might be some truth to that rumor after all.”