Category Archives: Investor Psychology

Transcendental Meditation: Another Cult or Blissful Nirvana? Greenwald Lectures

Because intelligence is absolutely no barrier to cult recruitment. This is because a person’s intelligence is totally bypassed during the process of cult recruitment. When reality testing is suspended then one’s intelligence is not applied at all in order to ascertain the reasonableness of the cult’s teachings.

Do you want to transcend your consciousness and be blissfully happy forever?  https://www.tm.org/

Or

Don’t Fall Down The Rabbit Hole

An ex-TM teacher peels back the union and reveals the dark side of the TM and the TM organization.  The Maharishi was a sociopath in his eyes.  A very thorough discussion of cult mind techniques from an insider of Transcendental Meditation: Skeptical TM

What does questioning the benefits of TM have to do with investing?  Be skeptical.  Attack your favorite ideas. Never stop questioning and learning.  Note that several TM instructors quit when they saw paid scientists doctoring studies to benefit the TM.org.

There are benefits to meditation and, yes, transcendental meditation–if done in a limited fashion for relaxation–can induce a state of deep relaxation.  The problem is the hype and supposed need to learn from a teacher or “guru.”   ONLY an expert knows your proper mantra.  PLEASE…….

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section10

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/06/05/meditation-and-mindfulness-arent-as-good-for-you-as-you-think/?utm_term=.4f77cda26b65

The simple Relaxation Response helps me be better focused. I avoid having a “monkey-mind.”   My suggestion is to learn for free (Don’t pay $1000’s for TM training) by viewing the video below and give yourself a few weeks. Keep a journal of your progress.  If you see no benefit then stop.   I take fifteen minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon.  No, your problems won’t evaporate nor will you transcend humanity and see God, but you may be more relaxed, less irritable, calmer, more focused, and, strangely, more compassionate.

Greenwald 2010 Lectures in Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG_BdWV-S4w&list=PLIR4XkMl-oZAz3T7V8GCzqoNxDX-sGdeh&index=1

FREE SOLO

So what do you think? Are you enthused, impressed, and a believer?   Read

Here is an early interview of Eliz. Holmes: Could this finger prick blood test be the next “Game-Changer? Imagine if this company can change the cost and inconvenience of diagnostic care? Wow!

Why study this case of Theranos?

Whenever you study an investment, you should make notes on your thoughts at the time to go back and check your thinking and biases.  How else can you improve as an analyst?

Now, unless you have been living in a cave, you know what happened.   However, pretend that you didn’t know the outcome and you were reading the articles above for the first time and seeing the video.   What RED FLAGS jump out at you.  Or what would you need to prove in order to invest?  And if you could not find the answer easily to the main question of the investment, what else would you scrutinize carefully?    Think hard before reading on………..


Fortune Article Author Follow up with how he was misled by Theranos

Notes on Bad Blood

I highly recommend the above book as a great read.  You will also learn about investor manipulation, the will to believe and how it shuts off our critical thinking abilities, incompetent governance, employee abuse, EXTREMELY bad management, criminal actions, and a female sociopath.  I could not put the book down–read it in a day.

Next, a few years later, when Theranos, a private company with an estimated $9 billion value (!), faced a barrage of critics over the lack of transparency and no verification of the technology (“The Edison”), Cramer gives her a chance to rebut her critics.

Cramer asks Holmes about her Technology. What do you think of the answers? If you were an investor, what would be the first area to investigate?) Did Cramer ever follow-up specifically? No.

By the way, did you notice her deep (affected?) voice and her black uniform. Creepy.

As a former employee said Theranos product was like building a bus while driving down the highway with passengers.   The problem is that people could get killed.   This fraud hit home since I have amyloidosis.  Not only did she and her accomplices hurt employees, investors, and–most importantly–PATIENTS! She and her CEO deserve a minimum 25-year sentence.

Note how SOCIAL PROOF euthanized investors critical thinking.   Look  at the prestigious board: George Schultz, General , etc.   But note the lack of specific product/industry expertise to vet Holmes’ claims.    She brilliantly piggybacked on the prestige of others.   Any investor could have visited the Walgreen stores to check on the accuracy and completeness of the tests. Red flags would fly.

The employee turnover and secretiveness would have been other flags.  What relevant experience to this field did she have?  I am not knocking outsiders, but she and her CEO lacked any background in biochemistry.   That isn’t enough to suspect problems, but it would place more urgency on verifying the efficacy of the technology.

Case Study on Managing A Company

View the Town Hall Meeting At Barrick Gold

https://www.barrick.com/news/news-details/2018/town-hall-with-john-thornton/default.aspx

Q218-Town-Hall-Presentation

Q218-Town-Hall-Transcript

A very interesting presentation of how Barrick is planning its future.

CORRECTION

I have often mention gold as a “Store of Value.”   I never defined my terms.

I apologize.  A better explanation by Keith Weiner of www.monetary-metals.com

Store of Value Fallacy
And this leads us to make one final, if tangential point. We often hear people talk about gold as a “store of value”. If you have a tank, that is a store of water. A grain silo is a store of wheat. In both cases, what is being stored is a quantity of a commodity. In this sense, a vault is a store of gold.

However, economic value—as we see above—is whatever the bidder is willing to pay. Gold’s moneyness does not come from it commanding the same amount of wheat today as it did last year or 2000 years ago. In fact, its purchasing power of wheat is not fixed. Over the last ten years, pricedingold.com shows that wheat has ranged from about 0.9 grams gold per bushel to 3.6g. The highest price during this time is 4X the lowest.

One reason for gold’s moneyness is that we value the next ounce of gold—the marginal ounce—the same as the last one. Proof of this extraordinary claim is observed in the extraordinary fact that virtually all gold ever mined in 5,000 years of human history is still in human hands. Gold is not produced to be consumed, but to be held. And we keep on producing, regardless of how much has already been produced.

In other words, we measure the value of gold like we measure the value of all other things in the economy—in gold. Gold does not have constant purchasing power (perhaps we should use scare quotes “purchasing power”). It has a constant price. The price of gold is always 1. This is not expressing a tautology. It is expressing that gold has constant marginal utility.

Gold is the steel meter stick of measuring economic values. Even if we climb in elevation (quantity) the meter (ounce) does not shrink.

Gold in $US to be at $0.00 in 2020; TREASURE CHEST!; Breaking Biases

On April 11, 2018, the price of gold in US Dollars was $1,370.  This morning on July 19th, the price was $1,2110.90 for a decline of $159 in 99 days.  If current trends continue, then in 712 days or less than two years, the Gold price in USD terms will be about $0.00.  The trend is your friend!

The Single Greatest Mistake Investors Make

By Jesse Felder  (Sign up:https://thefelderreport.com/blog/)

January 22, 2015

The single greatest mistake investors make is to extrapolate recent history out into the future. They take the financial returns of the past 5 days or 5 years or even 50 years and assume the next few days or years will look just the same without any consideration for the historical context or conditions that provided for those returns.

They forget that, while ‘history may rhyme, it doesn’t repeat itself’ (Twain). Or that, “the only thing that is constant is change” (Heraclitus). These two famous quotes apply to the financial markets as much as anything.

Ignoring these truths and instead simply extrapolating is why investors are suckered into pouring money into the stock market only after a run of great performance. They believe that the recent gains are about to repeat to their great benefit when they should be thinking about what conditions allowed for those gains to take place and analyzing whether they are still relevant or not.
This is also why they are suckered into selling only after a painful decline as they did at the lows made during the financial crisis. They believe that they are about to suffer another 50% decline on top of the one they just endured when they should really be reminding themselves that change is the only guarantee in life.

I believe this is one of the biggest problems with so-called “passive” investing. It is built upon the faulty premise that it is ‘impossible to forecast’ the future returns of any asset class over any period of time so we should just own all of them all the time. My response to this is that while ‘ignorance may be bliss’ it’s not a valid investment strategy.

In his 1992 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Warren Buffett wrote:
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. However, it is clear that stocks cannot forever overperform their underlying businesses, as they have so dramatically done for some time, and that fact makes us quite confident of our forecast that the rewards from investing in stocks over the next decade will be significantly smaller than they were in the last.
Much can be learned from this short passage. First, short-term stock market forecasts are, indeed, nearly worthless – essentially a guessing game. Second, long-term forecasts, on the other hand, can be made with ‘confidence.’ “How?” you ask.

It’s actually very simple. Rather than fixate on recent history and extrapolate it into the future you must abandon this natural tendency. And as I said earlier you also need to analyze the conditions that allowed for those returns to see whether they are still relevant to today’s market.

In Buffett’s example he’s referring to the wonderful returns equity investors experienced from 1982-1992. During that span investors roughly quadrupled their money. Over the coming decade they merely doubled their money so Buffett was right that the decade beginning in 1993 would fall far short of the return of the prior decade even if they were still very good.
sc-22

But Buffett made another prescient forecast in November 1999 when he wrote:
Today, staring fixedly back at the road they just traveled, most investors have rosy expectations. A Paine Webber and Gallup Organization survey released in July shows that the least experienced investors–those who have invested for less than five years–expect annual returns over the next ten years of 22.6%. Even those who have invested for more than 20 years are expecting 12.9%. Now, I’d like to argue that we can’t come even remotely close to that 12.9%… you need to remember that future returns are always affected by current valuations and give some thought to what you’re getting for your money in the stock market right now.

You probably already know that stock market returns from 1999 to 2009 were not very kind to investors.

And Buffett tells us how he was so confident that this would be the case. He examined the conditions that allowed for returns to be so wonderful from 1982-1999 but were no longer present in 1999: wonderful valuations. Stocks were so cheap in 1982 that the coming decade was virtually guaranteed to be better than the decade that preceded it. (1972-1982 was another decade that was not fun for investors.) Then in 1999 valuations were so expensive that there was almost no possibility of decent returns going forward.

So let’s take a look at Buffett’s favorite valuation yardstick which he refers to on both of those prior writings. It tracks the total value of the stock market in relation to Gross National Product.

From the chart, it’s plain to see that valuations were extremely attractive back in the early 1980’s. This is why stocks performed so well over the next 20 years. However, I find it absolutely fascinating that stock market valuations today are essentially equivalent to valuations in November 1999 when he wrote that latter passage. Yeah, go back and read that last line again. It’s a doozy and it’s absolutely fact.

This is also why the past 5 years or even the past 50 years are totally irrelevant to equity investors in today’s market. There is almost zero possibility today of achieving a return anywhere close to what those historical returns represent. So shun forecasts if you want. Plead ignorance if it makes you feel blissful. But at today’s valuations you should at least be aware of the fact that it’s exceedingly dangerous to fall into the trap of extrapolating without analyzing.

What The Buy-And-Hold Cult Doesn’t Want You To Know

By Jesse Felder   July 19, 2018

https://thefelderreport.com/2018/07/19/what-the-buy-and-hold-cult-doesnt-want-you-to-know/

Buy-and-hold, and all of its related strategies like BTFD, garnered a cult following a long time ago and it’s only gotten even more popular in recent years. (There may be no better evidence of this than the StockTwits merch store – which I love, btw). And after one of the longest and strongest equity bull markets in history this should not come as any surprise. Investors are always influenced by recency bias and prone to extrapolation.

What is surprising, however, is that, despite that fact that it’s long-term (20-year) performance still crushes that of the broad stock market, gold has become so maligned among investors of all stripes, including gold bugs themselves. Yes, the past few years have favored equities over precious metals and I guess that’s where the recency bias kicks in again. But the truth is it has paid far better to be gold bug over the past two decades than to be an equity bull.

The point being to understand your time preference and time reference!

Update:

fred hickey @htsfhickey 20/July 2018 5 PM

Here’s Managed Money(mostly hedge funds) COT details: 134.2K short, 11% higher than highest level (gold’s bottom) seen in 2015, so likely a record.. Net short -26.5k contracts-essentially equal to Dec. 2015 gold bottom. For comparison, at gold’s mid-2016 top they were net 270K long ago

The setup: Gold bugs totally demoralized. Gold sentiment(DSI)down to just 7% with extreme dollar bullishness(92% DSI). Trump beginning to talk $ down (will continue). FY ’19 $1T+ budget deficit. Gold seasonal demand (starts now). Managed Money (hedge funds) net short& have to cover.

It’s likely these are record level shorts. That means there are more shorts than at the bottom in late-2015 – before gold exploded 30% & miners +160% in 6 months and more shorts than at late-2008 bottom before gold soared over 75% in 1 year. Perfect setup-assuming gold’s bottomed.

Whoa Nelly! Just as I suspected it was short traders driving gold down. Thru Tuesday (likely even worse now), a slight increase in longs& another massive 27.7K jump in large spec. futures shorts. In past 5 weeks +121% jump in short contracts to 161K -highest level in at least 11yrs.

BUT, ALWAYS STUDY THE OTHER SIDE–GOLD TO KEEP FALLING.

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4188651-downside-case-gold-david-brady-cfa-19-07-2018

TREASURE CHEST!

Goto: http://www.austinvaluecapital.com/resources.html

 Value Investing In Action

Markets Go Up and Down; Shorting Stocks

I am on my knees buying gold/silver/uranium miners with both hand this prior week (ouch!).  Since the chart of the futures positions (COTS) is now more extreme–money managers are probably short now like back at end 2015/beginning 2016.  I use the blog as a diary/bulletin board on occasion. I hate miners as a business but love the values.   Note the vast underperformance of hard (read: miners) vs. financial assets (SPY).   Not a recommendation, just a “diary” post.

  1. The Economics of Gold Mining_Myrmikan_Research_2017_03_14
  2. Gold mining equities Myth and Reality by Paulson
  3. Why Gold Mining is a Tough Business_Pollitt
  4. In-Gold-we-Trust-2018-Extended-version-english

Common sense from a grizzled veteran

Bob Moriarty                                       Archives                                            Jul 3, 2018

Entire article:  http://www.321gold.com/editorials/moriarty/moriarty070318.html

Buying resource stocks has nearly nothing to do with the commodity. And near zero to do with management or country risk or interest rates or the dollar or what the DOW is doing.  Those who are always wrong about markets spend a lot of time mumbling about all those things and they are just wasting ink.

Unbeknownst to GATA or the other PermaBulls who believe some munchkin at the Federal Reserve pulls the levers all of the time, markets go up and markets go down. They all do and they do it constantly. So if someone is telling you silver is the rarest mineral known to mankind and it should go up everyday of the week, forever, he’s lying to you in order to get you to pay for a subscription to his service. In short he’s like a bible thumping preacher or politician, he wants your support, and he specializes in telling you the lies you want to hear.

During the bull phase of the metals markets even the biggest piece of crap stocks go up. During the eventual bear phase of the metals markets even the best run with the most desired commodity in the safest jurisdiction goes down.

So investors in junior resource stocks need to keep two things in mind. You have to trade markets and take a profit when you can or the only alternative is to take a loss. I have had hundreds of investors tell me their biggest mistake was not taking a profit when they could. And given that something like 95% of investors in junior lottery tickets lose money, sell when you can, not when you have to.

You need to align yourself with the phase of the market you are in and let the wind be on your back. We had major lows in 2001 in gold and silver, again in 2008 and late in 2015. Don’t try to second-guess the market. If you were a buyer of anything from 2001 until 2008 you had a wonderful opportunity to profit. If you bought in 2009 or 2016, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. If you didn’t sell in March of 2008 or September of 2011, you got creamed regardless of the merits of the project or company. The phase of the market will either put money in your pocket or extract it regardless of what anyone says about a company.

Kase Learning Channel (9 Videos on Shorting Stocks)  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7igQqc_-k3LWCeUGnpE7Cg

Value Investing Seminar; Hating Finance; Doing Research

Value Investing Seminar in Cyprus

I know nothing about this but to let you know: https://cyprusvalueinvestor.com/

Hating Finance

Why Everyone Hates Finance and What to Do about It
By Paul McCaffrey

Finance can be a noble profession, yet too many people don’t see it that way.
Mihir A. Desai, the Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School and professor of law at Harvard Law School, explained why finance has a trust problem and offered a simple strategy to address it at the 71st CFA Institute Annual Conference.

“Finance is being demonized, and it’s being demonized because people don’t understand it,” he said. “If we want to stop demonization, we have to make it accessible . . . And it turns out stories and the humanities are a really powerful way to do that.”

Though he says much of the criticism of finance is unfair, Desai, the author of The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return, acknowledged that some of the industry’s reputational wounds are self inflicted.
“Why do we have more than our share of Martin Shkrelis?” he asked. Largely because of attribution error. What sets finance apart from most other disciplines is that performance feedback is clear and constant. And that can breed arrogance.

“If you’re an investor,” Desai explained, “you get feedback all the time about how you’re doing every day. And it’s super precise and inflated by leverage. What happens in those settings? Human beings do what human beings do everywhere. Every good outcome is because of me. Every bad outcome is because of the world.”

As that process continues through the years and the outcomes are mostly good, people come to believe in their skill, that they earned and deserve their returns.
But in finance and investing, skill is difficult to assess and practically impossible to prove.

“The greatest lesson in finance, of course, is it’s very hard to tell the difference between luck and skill,” Desai said. “It’s better to operate as if it’s luck.” He also pointed to the emphasis on value extraction over value creation in recent decades as another culprit behind finance’s lackluster standing among the public.

These criticisms aside, Desai believes that finance does much more good than harm and that finance professionals need to highlight the benefits that it creates.

Rehabilitating Finance

“If we re-aim the practice of finance and the underlying ideas that are incredibly noble, we can make finance into something aspirational, which is what it should be,” he explained. That requires thinking about the big ideas, the first principles of finance, and explaining them to people in ways that resonate.

“And frankly equations and graphs don’t work for many people,” he said. “It turns out there’s a whole section of the population that just doesn’t get that.”
That’s where literature and the humanities come into play.

Inspired by the structure of The Wisdom of Finance, Desai broke finance down into seven concepts during his presentation, what he calls “the biggest ideas in finance,” which are

  1. risk and insurance;
  2. risk management —
  3. options/diversification;
  4. value creation and valuation;
  5. corporate governance;
  6. mergers;
  7. leverage/bankruptcy.

As Desai explains it, when reduced to its essence, finance comes down to insurance. “Insurance is underneath all of finance in a remarkable way,” he said. “Once we think about risk and insurance, we have to think about risk management. That’s going to be about options and diversification. Instead of doing it with fancy calculus, we’re going to do it with stories.”

Risk and The Maltese Falcon
To explain risk, Desai recommends the Dashiell Hammett novel, The Maltese Falcon, which was made into a motion picture starring Humphrey Bogart as the hard-bitten San Francisco private detective Sam Spade. In the novel, Spade recounts a story about a man named Flitcraft, who disappears one day, leaving a wife, family, and career behind. Some years later, the wife receives word from an acquaintance that Flitcraft has been spotted in Spokane, Washington. She calls Spade to investigate.

Spade learns after traveling to Spokane, that the man is Flitcraft, as it turns out, only he’s changed his name to Charles Pierce. Spade confronts him and Flitcraft admits his ruse and explains why he abandoned his family.

“‘I was walking along, and a huge iron beam fell right next to me, and a piece of sidewalk jumped up and hit me in the face,’” Desai said, quoting Flitcraft’s words. “‘And at that moment, I realized that life was totally random. And I’d been living my life as if the universe was well ordered so my life had to be well ordered. But, in fact, the universe is random. So I’m going to change my life at random.”

So Flitcraft left to build an entirely new identity. “But then,” Desai continued, “Sam says, ‘The best part of the story is, when I found him in Spokane, he had recreated the same life he had . . . He had the same kind of wife and house and job and kids and everything was exactly the same.’” The names Flitcraft and Charles Pierce were not chosen by chance. Allen J. Flitcraft was a leading actuary and author of a life insurance manual. Charles Sanders Peirce was a philosopher dubbed the “father of pragmatism.”

What Hammett and Spade were getting at was that what looked chaotic and haphazard was not entirely unpredictable. There was an underlying order to it.
“The fundamental thing in life is randomness,” Desai explained. “And what do finance and insurance understand? They understand that we can navigate it by looking for patterns. Things that look totally random are not. . . That’s what the foundation of finance is: Seemingly random outcomes actually behave along patterns.”

Pride, Prejudice, and Risk Management

So how does Desai explain the concept of risk management?
“We could talk about options and diversification with modern portfolio theory and stochastic calculus,” he said. “Or we could use Jane Austen.”
It turns out her 19th-century English romantic novel Pride and Prejudice, describing the courtship rituals of the day and how the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, and other young women respond to their various suitors, has a lot to teach on the subject.

“So what’s the risk management problem?” Desai said. “Potential suitors come by and you don’t know which one to take. And there’s always a problem. Some of them are rich, some are drunk, some of them are nice, some of them are ugly.”
Indeed, the novel features one of the worst marriage proposals ever. A Mr. Collins asks Bennet for her hand rather bluntly: “You’re not that pretty. You’re not that rich. Here’s an offer. I suggest you take it,” Desai recalled. “And of course, what’s he doing? He’s playing off her risk aversion.”

Bennet rejects the offer, but soon after, Collins shifts his attention to her friend Charlotte, to whom he makes a similarly mercenary proposal, one that that she excitedly accepts.

“The neat part about that story is the risk management problem is solved with options and diversification,” Desai said. “These characters give voice to what we think of as modern financial institutions.” “Finance needs some humanization.”

Desai’s message was simple: The best way to reclaim finance’s reputation is to demystify it and to do it through literature and the humanities, through storytelling.

“If it becomes all about spreadsheets and screens, then we detach ourselves from humanity,” he said. “We should think about the human consequences of what we do. And these stories are a wonderful way to get reattached to what the moral content of our ideas are.”

https://blogs.cfainstitute.org/investor/2018/05/22/why-everyone-hates-finance-and-what-to-do-about-it/

Doing Research

https://youtu.be/c34vmUxXZ1A

Condemned to Repeat the Mistakes of the Past

Here We Go Again……..

Financial bubbles are not accidents but rather inevitable outcomes of our asset-backed banking system. To illustrate: imagine a homeowner who owns a $1 million house free and clear. He goes to a bank and borrows $800,000 against the house. This credit money springs into existence as an accounting entry of a private bank—it is the creation of credit out of nothing. The borrower goes out into the market with these newly created funds and starts purchasing other assets: stocks, perhaps, or a weekend house. The new money drives prices higher, including those of the assets that form the collateral of the banking system. Since its collateral value has increased, the banking system is happy to increase its loans to borrowers, which pushes prices yet higher, and so on in a positive feedback loop. Price signals then prompt over-development, which
eventually lowers rents, which causes borrowers to default, the fractional reserve
process goes into reverse, and the banking system collapses.

Irving Fisher, whom Milton Freidman anointed “the greatest economist the
United States has ever produced,” described it thus:

In boom times, the expansion of circulating medium accelerates the
pace by raising prices, and creating speculative profits. Thus, with new
money raising prices and rising prices conjuring up new money, the
inflation proceeds in an upward spiral till a collapse occurs, after which
the contraction of our supply of money and credit, with falling prices
and losses in place of profits, produces a downward spiral generating
bankruptcy, unemployment, and all the other evils of depression.

CREDIT INSANITY

Performance_Update_2018_04 (1)

Bitcoin: the World’s Largest Pump and Dump in History. Who Knew?

The clues and facts add up. Let’s sit and think for a minute:

In what rational universe could someone simply issue electronic scrip — or just announce that they intend to — and create, out of the blue, billions of dollars of value?

Bitcoin tangent

Did you guys notice something really interesting? The financial guys that really love bitcoin are some of the guys that either blew up or closed funds due to poor performance. The two most prominent fund manager bitcoin boosters are like that. It almost feels like they are so happy to have found their Hail Mary pass. And the most prominent guys that have good performance and didn’t blow up tend to be the guys that don’t like bitcoin and think it’s stupid, a bubble or whatever.

Think about that for a second. Oh, and that former hedge fund guy, after bitcoin plunged put his new bitcoin hedge fund on hold (buying high and selling low?). Now wonder he didn’t do well with his hedge fund; if you’re going to be making decisions based on short term volatility like that, you are bound to get whipsawed and lose money.

This is interesting because we can never really understand and know everything. But it is useful to know who you can listen to and who you should ignore. Sometimes, this saves a lot of time! From http://brooklyninvestor.blogspot.com/

Monday, April 30, 2018
Warren Buffett: Bitcoin is Gambling Not Investing

In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Finance in Omaha, Neb., leading up to Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting, which will be held om May 5, Buffett laid out his latest thinking on cryptocurrency investing. He nailed it.

“There’s two kinds of items that people buy
and think they’re investing,” he says. “One really is investing and the other isn’t.” Bitcoin, he says, isn’t.

“If you buy something like a farm, an apartment house, or an interest in a business… You can do that on a private basis… And it’s a perfectly satisfactory investment. You look at the investment itself to deliver the return to you. Now, if you buy something like bitcoin or some cryptocurrency, you don’t really have anything that has produced anything. You’re just hoping the next guy pays more.”

When you buy cryptocurrency, Buffett continues, “You aren’t investing when you do that. You’re speculating. There’s nothing wrong with it. If you wanna gamble somebody else will come along and pay more money tomorrow, that’s one kind of game. That is not investing.”

Buffett’s point is that the assets he lists such as a farm, an apartment house, etc., generate income. Bitcoin does not.

I would add there is another type of asset people hold and that is money. As Ludwig von Mises taught us, money is the most liquid good and people hold because of this liquidity. They know they can instantly exchange it, at a fairly stable price, nearly anywhere for goods and services.

This is where Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies fail in the money category. They are from an instrument at present that can be exchanged for any good or service and they are far from stable in price. Many people who have purchased Bitcoin over the last 6 months have lost as much as 50% of their purchasing power. That is not a stable asset, not even when compared to the U.S. dollar which is run by the Federal Reserve in crony reckless fashion.

Moreover, the idea of a world where a cryptocurrency is the world’s medium of exchange is a frightening notion. It is quite simply a remarkable way for government to track all transactions and prohibit transactions in specific books and other goods that it doesn’t want individuals to buy.

The idea that the government can’t track Bitcoin is a delusion view held by Bitcoin fanboys.

The Intercept recently reported:
Classified documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the National Security Agency indeed worked urgently to target bitcoin users around the world — and wielded at least one mysterious source of information to “help track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins,” according to a top-secret passage in an internal NSA report dating to March 2013. The data source appears to have leveraged the NSA’s ability to harvest and analyze raw, global internet traffic while also exploiting an unnamed software program that purported to offer anonymity to users, according to other documents.
Although the agency was interested in surveilling some competing cryptocurrencies, “Bitcoin is #1 priority,” a March 15, 2013 internal NSA report stated.
-Robert Wenzel

What is money Bastiat?  If you understand money, then the Bitcoin Scam becomes obvious.

Bitcoin is the greatest scam in history
It’s a colossal pump-and-dump scheme, the likes of which the world has never seen.

By Bill Harris Apr 24, 2018

Okay, I’ll say it: Bitcoin is a scam.

In my opinion, it’s a colossal pump-and-dump scheme, the likes of which the world has never seen. In a pump-and-dump game, promoters “pump” up the price of a security creating a speculative frenzy, then “dump” some of their holdings at artificially high prices. And some cryptocurrencies are pure frauds. Ernst & Young estimates that 10 percent of the money raised for initial coin offerings has been stolen.

The losers are ill-informed buyers caught up in the spiral of greed. The result is a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary families to internet promoters. And “massive” is a massive understatement — 1,500 different cryptocurrencies now register over $300 billion of “value.”

It helps to understand that a bitcoin has no value at all.

Promoters claim cryptocurrency is valuable as

(1) a means of payment

Bitcoins are accepted almost nowhere, and some cryptocurrencies nowhere at all. Even where accepted, a currency whose value can swing 10 percent or more in a single day is useless as a means of payment.

2. Store of Value.

Extreme price volatility also makes bitcoin undesirable as a store of value. And the storehouses — the cryptocurrency trading exchanges — are far less reliable and trustworthy than ordinary banks and brokers.

3. Thing in Itself.

A bitcoin has no intrinsic value. It only has value if people think other people will buy it for a higher price — the Greater Fool theory.

Some cryptocurrencies, like Sweatcoin, which is redeemable for workout gear, are the equivalent of online coupons or frequent flier points — a purpose better served by simple promo codes than complex encryption. Indeed, for the vast majority of uses, bitcoin has no role. Dollars, pounds, euros, yen and renminbi are better means of payment, stores of value and things in themselves.

Cryptocurrency is best-suited for one use: Criminal activity. Because transactions can be anonymous — law enforcement cannot easily trace who buys and sells — its use is dominated by illegal endeavors. Most heavy users of bitcoin are criminals, such as Silk Road and WannaCry ransomware. Too many bitcoin exchanges have experienced spectacular heists, such as NiceHash and Coincheck, or outright fraud, such as Mt. Gox and Bitfunder. Way too many Initial Coin Offerings are scams — 418 of the 902 ICOs in 2017 have already failed.

Hackers are getting into the act. It’s estimated that 90 percent of all remote hacking is now focused on bitcoin theft by commandeering other people’s computers to mine coins.

Even ordinary buyers are flouting the law. Tax law requires that every sale of cryptocurrency be recorded as a capital gain or loss and, of course, most bitcoin sellers fail to do so. The IRS recently ordered one major exchange to produce records of every significant transaction.

And yet, a prominent Silicon Valley promoter of bitcoin proclaims that “Bitcoin is going to transform society … Bitcoin’s been very resilient. It stayed alive during a very difficult time when there was the Silk Road mess, when Mt. Gox stole all that Bitcoin …” He argues the criminal activity shows that bitcoin is strong. I’d say it shows that bitcoin is used for criminal activity.
In what rational universe could someone simply issue electronic scrip — or just announce that they intend to — and create, out of the blue, billions of dollars of value?

Bitcoin transactions are sometimes promoted as instant and nearly free, but they’re often relatively slow and expensive. It takes about an hour for a bitcoin transaction to be confirmed, and the bitcoin system is limited to five transactions per second. MasterCard can process 38,000 per second. Transferring $100 from one person to another costs about $6 using a cryptocurrency exchange, and well less than $1 using an electronic check.
Bitcoin is absurdly wasteful of natural resources. Because it is so compute-intensive, it takes as much electricity to create a single bitcoin — a process called “mining” — as it does to power an average American household for two years. If bitcoin were used for a large portion of the world’s commerce (which won’t happen), it would consume a very large portion of the world’s electricity, diverting scarce power from useful purposes.

In what rational universe could someone simply issue electronic scrip — or just announce that they intend to — and create, out of the blue, billions of dollars of value? It makes no sense.

All of this would be a comic sideshow if innocent people weren’t at risk. But ordinary people are investing some of their life savings in cryptocurrency. One stock brokerage is encouraging its customers to purchase bitcoin for their retirement accounts!

It’s the job of the SEC and other regulators to protect ordinary investors from misleading and fraudulent schemes. It’s time we gave them the legislative authority to do their job.

William H. Harris Jr. is the founder of Personal Capital Corporation, a digital wealth management firm that provides personal financial software and investment services, where he sits on the board of directors.

Read full article here: https://www.recode.net/2018/4/24/17275202/bitcoin-scam-cryptocurrency-mining-pump-dump-fraud-ico-value

COUNTER-ARGUMENT:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/ktorpey/2018/04/24/founding-paypal-ceo-bill-harris-says-bitcoin-is-a-scam-heres-why-hes-wrong/2/#2d9379a166b9

Where have we seen this type of behavior before?

UPDATE: Friday April 27th 2018

Read: http://thecharlieton.com/whitney-tilson-why-the-hell-didnt-i-listen-to-charlie-munger/

Lesson be humble about what you attempt.

Below is an email from Whitney Tilson from Kase Learning announcing his:

Program Guide-Kase Learning Short Selling Conference-May 3,__ 2018

Attached is the program guide, which includes an agenda for the day and bios of all of the speakers. Registration and continental breakfast begin at 7:15am, the first speaker is at 8:15am, there are morning, lunch and afternoon breaks, and the last speaker ends at 4:15pm, followed by a networking cocktail reception until 7:00pm. The NYAC is on the corner of Central Park South and Seventh Avenue, and it has a dress code – no jeans, shorts, sneakers or t-shirts.

This full-day event is the first of its kind dedicated solely to short selling and will feature 22 of the world’s top practitioners who will share their wisdom, lessons learned, and best, actionable short ideas. I’ve seen many of the speakers’ presentations and they’re awesome! Companies that will be pitched include Tesla, Disney, Kraft-Heinz and Stericycle, plus internet ad fraud and gold.

The idea for the conference is rooted in the fact that this long bull market has inflicted absolute carnage on short sellers, and even seasoned veterans are throwing in the towel. This capitulation, however, combined with the increasing level of overvaluation, complacency, hype and even fraud in our markets, spells opportunity for courageous investors, so there is no better time for this conference.

Reporters from all of the major media outlets will be there, and CNBC is covering it as well. I was on their Halftime Report yesterday discussing the conference: www.cnbc.com/video/2018/04/26/kases-whitney-tilson-talks-the-art-and-pain-of-short-selling.html. I also just published the fourth, final (and my favorite) article in a series I’ve written entitled Lessons from 15 Years of Short Selling: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4166837-lessons-15-years-short-selling-veterans-advice

I’d be grateful if you’d help spread the word about the conference among your friends and colleagues, and wanted to pass along a special offer: when they register at http://bit.ly/Shortconf, they can use my friends and family discount code, FF20, to save 20% ($600) off the current rate.

I look forward to seeing you next week!

Sincerely yours,

Whitney Tilson
Founder & CEO
Kase Learning, LLC
5 W. 86th St., #5E
New York, NY 10024
(646) 258-0687
WTilson@KaseLearning.com

Acq. Multiple, Yog Berra and Financial Satire, and Hedge Fund Quiz

While at all times Wall Street analysts try to justify the valuations, here is a fun quote (via Bloomberg) from 2002 looking back from Scott McNeely, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, one of the darlings of the 2000 tech bubble:

“At 10 times revenues, to give you a 10-year payback, I have to pay you 100% of revenues for 10 straight years in dividends. That assumes I can get that by my shareholders. That assumes I have zero cost of goods sold, which is very hard for a computer company. That assumes zero expenses, which is really hard with 39,000 employees. That assumes I pay no taxes, which is very hard. And that assumes you pay no taxes on your dividends, which is kind of illegal. And that assumes with zero R&D for the next 10 years, I can maintain the current revenue run rate. Now having done that, would any of you like to buy my stock at $64? Do you realize how ridiculous those basic assumptions are? You don’t need any transparency. You don’t need any footnotes.

What were you thinking?”

An educational, savagely satirical view of our current market conditions and lessons on valuation.   I read about 40 investment letters a quarter and this is about the best I have read in five years. Hilarious! Mark McKinney – Its Like Deja Vu All Over Again – Final and his prior letter: I Dont Get It – Mark McKinney – Final 8292017 New

An excellent interview by Tobias Carlisle.   CHEAPNESS not quality wins!  Yes, I was somewhat shocked.   Why?

http://www.valuewalk.com/2018/01/tobias-carlisle-talks-acquirers-multiple-valuetalks/

ACKMAN INTERVIEW

Ackman’s embattled Pershing Square hedge fund laid off 18 percent of its staff on Friday — a total of 10 pink slips that brought head count down to 46.

Investors have suffered in Pershing Square (PSHZF) vs. S&P 500:

He wants to hire an analyst who can THINK INDEPENDENTLY.  You walk into his office and he asks you, “Can you think independently as an analyst?”

How do you reply.   Be careful…………think for awhile before you reply.  What proof can you give?

If you are struggling to answer, then  https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/conversion-via-twitter-westboro-baptist-church-megan-phelps-roper

will provide clues.


What determines the price of gold:

How the price of gold is determined Monetary Metals 2018

Multiple Delusions: Paper Wealth, A Booming Economy, and Bitcoin

Let us not, in the pride of our superior knowledge, turn with contempt from the follies of our predecessors. The study of the errors into which great minds have fallen in the pursuit of truth can never be uninstructive.”
– Charles Mackay

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

A good read on investor psychology by John Hussman: https://www.hussmanfunds.com/comment/mmc171218/

Be careful not to blindly label every steep chart a bubble; it leads to sloppy thinking.

Just remember what the current stock market feels like with its low volatility and steady rises because this is what a bear market FEELS like (Video link):

https://youtu.be/X-bogN0V8RM?t=1m56s

Why Ackman struggles:https://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/b15ywsstynx8fm/whats-eating-bill-ackman     Hint: he overpays.