Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Mental Model: Regression to the Mean (LINK)

Pat Dorsey Follows Buffett’s Lessons to Pick Stocks [H/T Linc] (LINK) [Related book: The Little Book That Builds Wealth]
How has your understanding of “economic moats” evolved over the years? 
The biggest mistake I made at Morningstar was underplaying the value of good management. At a smaller business, the ability of a manager to create something incredible out of not much is quite striking. Buffett started with a textile mill -- the worst raw material of all -- and look what he did. Or look at what John Malone did at Liberty. But not every manager needs to be insanely brilliant. Beyond that, you just find a great business run by a smart manager who has the ability to reinvest excess free cash flow at a high incremental rate of return. That, to me, is the key. Having a moat is great. Having a good capital allocator at the helm is important. But the business also needs a good runway ahead of it, so the manager can reinvest the cash inside their moat. That’s what we’re looking for. 
Do you hedge against currency risk in any of the countries where you invest?

No. Full hedging is expensive. The costs are certain; the returns are uncertain. And selective hedging would just give us something else to be wrong about. The strength of the U.S. dollar has been painful for us, but the currency drag has been smaller so far this year. Some years, currency will make you look like a genius; some years, it will make you look like an idiot. You’re probably neither.
David Einhorn's Q2 Letter (LINK)
Greece has been anything but sun-kissed. We continue to hold a small position in Greek bank stocks and warrants. The best we can say is that from the outset we recognized this to be a high-risk, high-reward proposition and sized the position accordingly. Neither our losses nor remaining downside exposure are significant. 
Last year, it appeared that Greece had finally turned the corner after years of suffering through imposed austerity and the resultant 25% collapse in GDP. Much like the Seahawks’ ill-fated decision to pass the ball at the end of Superbowl XLIX, instead of giving it to monster running back Marshawn Lynch, Greece snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by electing the populist anti-austerity, pro-debt-writedown, Syriza coalition. 
Puerto Rico’s governor recently said of its own debt, “This is not about politics; it’s about math.” The math for Greece is easy: austerity hasn’t improved the economy and its debts are unsustainable. Knowing this, Syriza no longer wanted to play the “extend and pretend” game. Further, Greece’s recently resigned finance minister Yanis Varoufakis believed they wouldn’t have to. Mr. Varoufakis, who kept reminding everyone that he is a professor of game theory, believed that the European leaders would prefer to make concessions now rather than manage the disruption of a Greek default. He must not be familiar with the Tyler Durden school of negotiation: the first rule of using game theory is you do not talk about using game theory. What’s more obvious is that Syriza didn’t understand what the game is. 
This is not about math; it’s about politics. Consider that the main difference between Greece and France is that France is a big fan of extend and pretend. And as long as France says it will pay, its bonds might yield just a bit more than Germany’s. Though Greece has a superficially unmanageable ratio of debt to GDP, the debt had been restructured so that there is little debt service burden for the next several years. Politically, European leaders prefer to leave the future problems in the future. Syriza’s refusal to play along is a problem not just for bondholders but also for those holding seats of power. The European leaders fear that if Syriza can claim even a moral victory, it will inspire other European countries to oust their current leaders in favor of populist governments who campaign on the promise of debt repudiation. 
Though Mario Draghi promised he would do whatever it takes to save the euro, that doesn’t include lifting a finger to assist Greece financially or in any way signal that the ECB has Greece’s back. Just days prior to the January elections, Mr. Draghi announced that the ECB would exclude Greece from quantitative easing for at least six months. Doing whatever it takes is proving to be a conditional promise, as denying Greece access to the capital markets is a key tenet of the European strategy to pressure Syriza. 
For anyone still missing the joke, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda summarized the view of the global central planners when he said, “I trust that many of you are familiar with the story of Peter Pan, in which it says, ‘the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.’ Yes, what we need is a positive attitude and conviction.” Perception supplants reality. The moment leaders (or markets) start making it about the math, gravity comes into play.
Hoisington Quarterly Review and Outlook, Second Quarter 2015 (LINK)

Saving Greece, Saving Europe (LINK)

This is pretty funny, and makes a great point - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Stadiums (video) (LINK)

The New Horizons spacecraft photographs Pluto (LINK)

And a great quote from Einhorn's letter: “A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to the job.” -Thomas Edison