Views on the market and where it's going?
I have no idea were the market is going to go. I prefer it going down. But my preferences have nothing to do with it. The market knows nothing about my feelings. That is one of the first things you have to learn about a stock.
You buy 100 shares of General Motors (GM). Now all of a sudden you have this feeling about GM. It goes down, you may be mad at it. You may say, "Well, if it just goes up for what I paid for it, my life will be wonderful again." Or if it goes up, you may say how smart you were and how you and GM have this love affair. You have got all these feelings. The stock doesn't know you own it.
The stock just sits there; it doesn't care what you paid or the fact that you own it. Any feeling I have about the market is not reciprocated. I mean it is the ultimate cold shoulder we are talking about here. Practically anybody in this room is probably more likely to be a net buyer of stocks over the next ten years than they are a net seller, so everyone of you should prefer lower prices.
If you are a net eater of hamburger over the next ten years, you want hamburger to go down unless you are a cattle producer. If you are going to be a buyer of Coca-Cola and you don't own Coke stock, you hope the price of Coke goes down. You are looking for it to be on sale this weekend at your Supermarket. You want it to be down on the weekends not up on the weekends when you tend the Supermarket.
The NYSE is one big supermarket of companies. And you are going to be buying stocks, what you want to have happen?You want to have those stocks go down, way down; you will make better buys then. Later on twenty or thirty years from now when you are in a period when you are dis-saving, or when your heirs dis-save for you, then you may care about higher prices.
There is Chapter 8 in Graham's Intelligent Investor about the attitude toward stock market fluctuations, that and Chapter 20 on the Margin of Safety are the two most important essays ever written on investing as far as I am concerned.
Because when I read Chapter 8 when I was 19, I figured out what I just said but it is obvious, but I didn't figure it out myself. It was explained to me.I probably would have gone another 100 years and still thought it was good when my stocks were going up. We want things to go down, but I have no idea what the stock market is going to do. I never do and I never will. It is not something I think about at all.
When it goes down, I look harder at what I might buy that day because I know there is more likely to be some merchandise there to use my money effectively in.
Source: Lecture at the University of Florida Business School
Time: October 15th 1998
WB: I could expand on that question, but I couldn’t answer it. Charlie and I haven’t the faintest idea where it goes next week, next month or next year. We are not in that business. It isn’t our game. We see thousands of companies priced every day. We ignore 99% of what we see.
Every now and then, we find an attractive price for a business. When we buy it, we would be happy if the market was closed for a few years; you wouldn’t get a price quote daily if you owned a farm. We look at expected yield, cost of taxes. If you buy a farm, you would look at the cost of fertilizers, what a farm produces relative to the purchase price, price per acre, production per acre, etc. We make judgments.
CM: Nothing to add.
WB: He’s been practicing for weeks. [laughter]
Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2008 Boodell Notes
[Q - In 2008 you highly recommended buying US stocks. What is your opinion on market going forward? What is reasonable rate of return?]
WB: I write articles on general level of market itself rarely, only 4 or 5 times in forty years. It turned out I was pretty premature in Oct 2008. But I felt it would be way better to own bonds or cash. I thought I would be eventually alright.
I have no idea what the stock market will do this week or next year. I do think I’d rather own equities than cash or 20yr bond over the long term. This is partly because I am unenthusiastic on alternatives. I think there will be a modest positive real return over time.
CM: Equities are best of a bad lot of available opportunities. I think you are right, and people should get used to ordinary real returns – not exciting.
WB: We like owning businesses. They do beat holding cash or 5, 10 or 20yr bonds.
Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2010 Boodell Notes
[Q -Is there a bear market coming?]
Humans are still made up of the same psychological makeup, and opportunities will always present themselves. All these people have not gotten more rational. They are moved by fear and greed. But I'm never afraid of what I am doing.
Source: Student Visit 2005
Time: May 6, 2005
Opinion of forecasts?
CM: People have always had this craving to have someone tell them the future. Long ago, kings would hire people to read sheep guts. There’s always been a market for people who pretend to know the future. Listening to today’s forecasters is just as crazy as when the king hired the guy to look at the sheep guts. It happens over and over and over.
Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2004 Tilson Notes
Comment on the 1998 market?
In 1998, there were incredible opportunities. Just like today, there were a lot of smart people with 150 IQs running around with lots of money, but there was a panic.
For example, there was a 30 basis point difference in the yields of on-the-run and off-the-run 30-year Treasuries. Literally, a 29 1/2- year traded 30 basis points higher than a 30-year because of the slight liquidity difference. You could have made a lot going long one and short the other. You wouldn’t have thought this kind of thing was possible, but it happened.
The high-yield market went crazy as well. In the span of only 14 months, you had yields go from 25%-60% to 7%. [Buffett put up the following chart.]
Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2005 Tilson Notes
Do you think the current rally is for real?
What's going to happen tomorrow, huh? Let me give you an illustration. I bought my first stock in 1942. I was 11. I had been dillydallying up until then. I got serious. What do you think the best year for the market has been since 1942? Best calendar year from 1942 to the present time. Well, there's no reason for you to know the answer.
The answer is 1954. In 1954, the Dow … dividends was up 50%. Now if you look at 1954, we were in a recession a good bit of that time. The recession started in July of '53. Unemployment peaked in September of '54. So until November of '54 you hadn't seen an uptick in the employment figure. And the unemployment figure more than doubled during that period. It was the best year there was for the market.
So it's a terrible mistake to look at what's going on in the economy today and then decide whether to buy or sell stocks based on it. You should decide whether to buy or sell stocks based on how much you're getting for your money, long-term value you're getting for your money at any given time. And next week doesn't make any difference because next week, next week is going to be a week further away. And the important thing is to have the right long-term outlook, evaluate the businesses you are buying. And then a terrible market or a terrible economy is your friend.
I don't care, in making a purchase of the Burlington Northern, I don't care whether next week, or next month or even next year there is a big revival in car loadings or any of that sort of thing. A period like this gives me a chance to do things. It's silly to wait. I wrote an article. If you wait until you see the robin, spring will be over.
Source: Buffett & Gates at Columbia Business School
Time: November 12th 2009
[In response to a shareholder expressing the many reasons why he is concerned about the future outlook for the economy and the market, Buffett replied:]
I would say that at any given point in history, including when stocks were the cheapest, you could have found an equally impressive list of negatives. In ‘74, you could have written down all kinds of things that would show the future would be terrible.
We don’t pay any attention to this kind of thing. Our underlying premise is that this country will do very well and that businesses will do very well. We used nuclear bombs, endured the cold war, etc., but over time the opportunities have won out over the problems. I expect this will continue, barring use [against us of] weapons of mass destruction – it would be hard for businesses to win out over this.
Going back to ‘59, I can’t think of any discussions Charlie and I have had in which we’ve passed on something because of a view on macro conditions. It won’t be the economy that will do in investors; it will be investors themselves. If you’d just owned stocks over time, you’d do fine. We’re unaffected by the variables that you mentioned. Show us a good business tomorrow and we’ll jump.
[CM: We wouldn’t be surprised if professionally managed money in the US will have unimpressive returns relative to the high returns we had until three years ago.
Our expectations were more modest than most three years ago [see Buffett’s Fortune article, Mr. Buffett on the Stock Market, 11/99]. We didn’t project the end of the world, but said anyone who thought they could sit at home and day trade to double digit returns was living in a fool’s paradise. It’s hard to understand how people could believe such things. To some extent, they’re sold these beliefs.
Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2004 Tilson Notes
What do you think of the current market? (2000)
Can see anything in markets. Don't see any cases of incredible under valuation, if we did find it they probably will have been bought out.
[CM: Present time is a very unusual period. Residential real estate and common stock value grew so quickly.]
Company's that themselves couldn't borrow 100 million and is worth billions. Most extreme time period, even including the 1920's.
[CM: I think it's the most extreme period since modern capitalism, the 30's created worst depression in 600 years. This time period is almost as extreme as 30's but in a different direction.]
Doesn't make it easy to predict an outcome. No question in last year the ability to monetize shareholder ignorance has been exceeded.
Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2000
Time: April 29th 2000