Howard Marks, Chairman of Oaktree Capital Management, is scheduled as one of the presenters for the 6th Annual Value Investing Congress West that will take place on May 3 & 4 in Pasadena, California. Well known for his memos, Mr. Marks is also coming out with a book this year, The Most Important Thing, which should find its way to all value investors’ bookshelves. Much of what he writes in his memos is advice that stands the test of time, as evidenced by the quotes below, which I pulled from some of his memos in the 1990’s.
"Instead, we will continue to try to "know the knowable" -- that is, to work in markets which are the subject of biases, in which non-economic motivations hold sway, and in which it is possible to obtain an advantage through hard work and superior insight. We will work to know everything we can about a small number of things…rather than a little bit about everything.
Convertible securities, high yield bonds and distressed company debt are all markets in which market inefficiencies give rise to unusual opportunities in terms of return and risk. We will continue to exploit these opportunities in a manner which is risk-averse and non-reliant on macro-forecasts."
"It is often said that the market runs on fear and greed, but I believe it usually runs on fear or greed; that is, at most points in time, one or the other predominates."
"Warren Buffett said, in one of my favorite adages, "The less prudence with which others conduct their affairs, the greater the prudence with which we should conduct our own affairs." Another adage I'm fond of is, "What the wise man does in the beginning, the fool does in the end." No course of investment action is either wise or foolish in and of itself. It all depends on the point in time at which it is undertaken, the price that is paid, and how others are conducting themselves at that moment."
"I feel cyclicality is one of the few constants in the economy and markets. Cycles are the result of human behavior, herd instinct and the tendency to psychological excesses, and these things are unlikely to evaporate. Galbraith cites "the extreme brevity of the financial memory" in explaining why markets are able to move to extremes of euphoria and panic. And few adages have been borne out as often as "What the wise man does in the beginning, the fool does in the end." It is rare for trends to be curtailed at a reasonable point before swinging to the excesses from which they invariably correct."
"There is a right time to argue that things will be better, and that's when the market is on its backside and everyone else is selling things at giveaway prices. It's dangerous when the market's at record levels to reach for a positive rationalization that has never held true in the past. But it's been done before, and it'll be done again."
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