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The Stingy News Quarterly (Q3/2008)

New @ StingyInvestor

Top 200 Summer Update
"For most of us, picking stocks is as tricky as ordering a seven-course dinner at a swanky new restaurant. Lots of items on the menu sound appetizing, but that's where our knowledge ends. Rather than simply point and hope, smart diners look for an expert opinion on the restaurant's offerings. To provide smart investors with a similar scouting report, we're pleased to present you with our candid take on all of Canada's largest stocks. We've worked hard to produce a rating system that's easy to use, logical, and appealing to all types of investors. We think the Top 200 provides you with a more objective look at large Canadian stocks than you're likely to find from any other single source. If you're looking for a sensible take on any large Canadian stock, you'll find the Top 200 to be an invaluable way to generate promising investment ideas."

Rebundling Passive Performance
"Advisors using actively managed funds have taken a beating from index-fund advisors in the popular press over the issue of fees. But the argument for indexing is usually made by relying on raw index returns and usually targets investors who don't want advice. The case for indexing is substantially weaker when all of the costs associated with advice on passive portfolios are added up."

Stingy Investor Tip Sheet

Sell, Sell, Sell!
I'm a little reluctant to even post this quick look at the history of stock market declines in the United States. I'm not really interested in inspiring panic. But I do want to take a look at what history has to say about the downside risk for stocks.

Shorts squeezed
Let's be practical and look for stocks that made big gains today but are down even more over the last year. We're picking on these stocks with the view that the short sellers might have been right but were forced out of their positions.

Turning Japanese
Our Japanese friends are earning a king's ransom on their government bonds compared to U.S. investors. Are we heading into a Japanese-style malaise?

Graham gone wild
In a nut shell, my Graham looks for low price-to-earnings and low price-to-book-value ratios, high current ratios, plus some earnings growth and dividend growth. Here are a few U.S. stocks that currently pass the test.

Banks with book value
As U.S. banks collapse one after another, let's take a quick look at the situation north of the border. Sure, some Canadian banks suffered setbacks this year but life is pretty good in Canada.

A little positive momentum
After spending the day following the collapse of financial titans, I was in the mood for something more positive. Thankfully there is good news out there. To find it, join me on a hunt for stocks with positive momentum.

Lehman and the languishing laggards list
Lehman's plight got me thinking about other large-cap stocks which have fallen on hard times. My laggards list is composed of firms in the S&P500 that have fallen more than 50% this year. The list is stuffed full of brand-name firms. Even the hip Whole Foods has declined 54.8% this year.

Graham's Simple Way plus Dividends
Why not seek Simple Way stocks that also pay dividends? Now that sounds interesting. Today I screened for NYSE-listed dividend payers that pass Graham's low price-to-earnings and low debt tests.

Lots of Cash on the Cheap
Like most folks, we like cash. Big piles of cash. We're fond of companies whose vaults are stuffed full of filthy lucre. Today we search for U.S. stocks with lots of cash per share. But we want even more and stuck to companies generating positive earnings. We also avoid high-debt firms and demanded our bargains have low price-to-book-value ratios. Check out the list.

Dividends with Earnings Please
Big juicy dividends are nice but we like stocks even better when they can back up their dividends with earnings. Today we set out to find Canadian stocks with the highest dividend yields that also earn more than their dividends.

The Best Stingy Links

Stingy Links: Academia

Value and momentum everywhere
"We study jointly the returns to value and momentum strategies for individual stocks within countries, stock indices across countries, government bonds across countries, currencies, and commodities. Value and momentum generate abnormal returns everywhere we look. Exploring their common factor structure across asset classes, we find that value (momentum) in one asset class is positively correlated with value (momentum) in other asset classes, and value and momentum are negatively correlated within and across asset classes. Long-run consumption risk is positively linked to both value and momentum, as is global recession risk to a lesser extent, while global liquidity risk is related positively to value and negatively to momentum. These patterns emerge from the power of examining value and momentum everywhere at once and are not easily detectable when examining each asset class in isolation."

The Halloween effect in US sectors
"All US stock market sectors and industries perform better during winter than during summer in our sample from 1926-2005. In more than two-third of all sectors and industries this difference in summer and winter returns, known as the Halloween effect, is statistically significant and in half of all sectors and industries risk premia are negative during summer. However, while all sectors and industries show this effect, there are large differences across sectors and industries. The effect is almost absent in sectors related to consumer consumption but strong in production sectors."

Investor timing and fund distribution channels
"This study examines the investment timing performance of equity mutual fund investors and its relationship to the distribution arrangement of the fund. We find that investors who transact through investment professionals using conventional distribution arrangements experience substantially poorer timing performance than investors who purchase pure no-load funds. Investors in all three principal load-carrying retail share classes (A, B, and C) significantly underperform a buy-and-hold strategy. Among all load funds, Class B investors suffer from the poorest cash flow timing, underperforming a buy-and-hold strategy by 2.28% annually, compared with annual underperformance of 0.78% for investors in pure no-load funds. No-load index funds are the only funds found to show no evidence of poor investor timing. Although investors are ultimately responsible for their own investment choices, these findings question the value being added by investment professionals who sell mutual fund shares through conventional distribution arrangements."

Mutual fund flows and investor returns
"We examine the timing ability of mutual fund investors using cash flow data at the individual fund level. Over 1991-2004 equity fund investor timing decisions reduce fund investor average returns by 1.56% annually. Underperformance due to poor timing is greater in load funds and funds with relatively large risk-adjusted returns. In particular, the magnitude of investor underperformance due to poor timing largely offsets the risk-adjusted alpha gains offered by good-performing funds. Investors in both actively managed funds and index funds exhibit poor investment timing. We demonstrate that our empirical results are consistent with investor return-chasing behavior."

Stingy Links: Behaviour

Perceptions about income influence lottery purchases
"Do you feel poor ... or at least a lot poorer than your friends and neighbors or the people you pass on the street? Then be careful. There is evidence that this feeling will cause you to do ridiculous things with your money and perhaps undermine your opportunity to eventually become richer. You might even throw your money away on the lottery."

The new economics and the pursuit of happiness
"The revolution begun by Kahneman and Tversky is now some three decades old, and it is generating excitement well beyond the borders of academe--and so this is a good time to examine whether it has lived up to its promise. Bruno S. Frey's Happiness and Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational together offer a fine occasion to begin such a reckoning. Not all the revolutionaries in economics are discussed by Frey; the media star Levitt does not even make an appearance. Ariely, who teaches at MIT, helps to fill in the picture. Like Levitt, he has climbed the best-seller list with some of the most counterintuitive findings of behavioral economics. One is dry and humorless, the other is sprightly and inviting, but between them these books offer an overview of what this new economics is all about, and enable us to evaluate whether it is as innovative as its adherents claim."

Stingy Links: Bogle

John Bogle says U.S. government seems 'punch drunk'
"John Bogle, who created the $106 billion Vanguard 500 Index Fund in 1976, said the U.S. government is 'punch drunk' with proposals to rescue the financial system."

Stingy Links: Brokers

Scotiabank to buy E*TRADE Canada
"Scotiabank will purchase E(*)TRADE Canada for USD$442 million (approximately C$444 million), subject to regulatory approvals. The completion of today's announcement will double Scotiabank's footprint in the Canadian online investing market." [There goes another independent broker.]

Financial advisers vs. academia
"Do investors need financial advisers? Not according to some university professors and other researchers. Financial advisers say they have the expertise to guide investors to better results and can keep them from making mistakes such as under-diversifying, chasing hot funds/stocks, and selling out at the bottom of a bear market. However, empirical studies carried out by academics find otherwise. Let's take a look at three."

Stingy Links: Buffett

Buffett becomes vulture
"Ron Peltier runs HomeServices of America Inc., the second-largest U.S. real estate brokerage, and unlike No. 1 NRT Inc., his company is making money in the worst housing slump since the Great Depression. HomeServices also has a parent, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., with $28 billion of cash to help finance the purchase of brokerages that can't weather the housing recession. By contrast, NRT's parent Realogy Corp., owned by Leon Black's Apollo Management LP, has at least $875 million of debt that has an 89 percent chance of defaulting within five years, credit-default swaps tracked by London-based CMA DataVision indicate."

The backstory on the Buffett book
"One of the most anticipated books of the fall is "The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life." The title's publisher, Bantam, paid $7.2 million for the North American rights and expects to sell more than 1 million hardcover copies of "The Snowball," which is due out Sept. 29. Few investors have generated as much sustained public interest as Mr. Buffett, one of the world's richest men, with a fortune estimated as high as $62 billion. R.R. Bowker's Books in Print says there are an estimated 60 titles in print about him, with more than a dozen new ones on tap this year. Now Bantam is about to find out whether there's a limit to Buffetmania."

Three hours with Warren Buffett
"I think I said one time that, you know, you only find out who's been swimming naked when the tide goes out. Well, we found out that Wall Street has been kind of a nudist beach. There's--it's just one discovery after another of firms that either didn't know what they were doing or that did things that they shouldn't have knowingly. And all of the troubles have not been revealed the first time around, usually, so there's considerable disillusionment that's set in in terms of are these guys telling us the truth now or maybe they just don't know what the truth is."

Why Buffett is buying
"Buffett, 77, can afford to throw a little mud on his competitors in the private equity industry. Wall Street's acquisition machine has seized up, while Buffett, in the valedictory chapter of a career stretching back more than 60 years, is on a buying spree. He has $35.6 billion in cash to spend, and he's looking for companies that he can buy at a reasonable price, that have experienced managers he trusts, products with strong market positions or other competitive advantages."

Warren Buffett gets busy
"But Buffett is putting things in perspective. Recession does not equal the second Great Depression or economic Armageddon. Rather, Buffett seems to be following the tried and true investing axiom that the best time to make long-term bets is when fear is at its peak. And make no mistake, this is a market ruled by fear right now."

Market turmoil? It doesn't rattle Warren
"This week's market turmoil might make you feel nauseous but it makes Warren Buffett giddy - or more so at least. Back in February, while on a visit to Toronto, Mr. Buffett told an audience that he was '370 points giddier,' referring to a drop in the Dow Jones industrial average. He added that he wasn't quite elated yet. 'Things are not ridiculously cheap.' The index is 1,000 points lower today from back then, so presumably Mr. Buffett is closer to giddiness than he was six months ago. Wouldn't it be nice to enjoy markets that roil and plunge like he does? If you invested like Mr. Buffett, you would."

Warren Buffett's happy housing story
"Not every subprime lender is drowning in red ink. Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary Clayton Homes, the nation's largest maker and financer of prefab and mobile homes, has been a bright light in a mortgage market that has generated $500 billion in write-downs since the start of 2007."

My $650,100 lunch with Warren Buffett
"What would you pay to have lunch with the richest man in the world? For me and Mohnish Pabrai - a friend who, like me, runs a U.S.-based investment fund - the answer is $650,100. That's how much we forked over for the privilege of dining with Warren Buffett on June 25."

Stingy Links: Debt

Is debt your destiny?
"Credit changes the way we spend and think. If you're broke, research shows, there's a good chance you'll stay that way a long time. But there are ways to fight the pattern."

The death of the credit card economy
"The most revolutionary notion in commerce today is one of the oldest. If you want to buy something, you may actually have to pay for it. We are reverting from a "borrow and buy" economy to the "cash and carry" model of our grandparents."

Another inconvenient truth
"America's infamous debt clock, near New York.s Times Square, was switched off in 2000 after the national burden started to fall thanks to several years of Clinton-era budget restraint. However, it was reactivated two years later as the politically motivated urge to splurge once again took over. The debt has since swollen to $9.5 trillion, with the value of unfunded public promises (if you include entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare) nudging $53 trillion.or $175,000 for every American.and rising. On current trends, these will amount to some 240% of GDP by 2040, up from a just-about-manageable 65% today."

Stingy Links: Derivatives

The day the ticking time bombs went off
"The underlying philosophy behind derivatives sounds terrific. The weak can get rid of risks they can't handle and the financial system should be stronger as a result. In the right hands, derivatives can perform this role. But the general practice is very different, as the great investor Warren Buffett worked out years ago. His 2002 letter to his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders made headlines by condemning derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction". They were "time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system"."

Counterparty risk and CDSs
"Given the crisis on Wall Street and the focus on American International Group Inc., one of the world's largest insurers, everybody is suddenly talking about counterparty risk. What is counterparty risk, and why is it now an issue? In the simplest terms, counterparty risk is the chance that the person on the other side of a deal - the counterparty - won't be there when it's time to pay up. Take an example most people can relate to: Selling a home. There's always the chance that when it comes time to close the deal a month or so down the road, the buyer won't show up or won't have the money."

Stingy Links: Disaster

Hurricane Ike may cost insurers up to $18 Billion
"Ike may cause $8 billion to $18 billion in insured losses on land as it moves from coastal Galveston to Houston and further inland, the Oakland, California-based firm said in an e- mailed statement today. Disruption to energy production is 'not expected to be extensive,' the firm said. Flagstone Reinsurance Holdings Ltd., the Bermuda-based insurer, predicted damage of $10 billion to $16 billion industrywide."

Stingy Links: Dividends

Dividends start to crumble
"If you look at dividend payouts in the past 12 months, there has been a 9.73 percent increase overall, Silverblatt said. Still, that's less than the rate the payouts rose from 2004 to 2007. Each of those years, dividend increases exceeded 11 percent, he said. Many companies are now decreasing the rate at which they increase their dividends." [How to turn 9.73 percent growth into an alarming headline.]

There's more to the story than dividend yield
"There are two ways a company returns capital to shareholders: dividends and share buybacks. True yield measures the dividend yield, adjusted for any growth or shrinkage in the number of shares outstanding."

Dividends more reliable than share price rises
"Growth in dividend payments is far more reliable than rises in share prices, according to analysis by Fidelity International. The research found that dividend payments from the UK market have shown an annual increase in all but five years since the beginning of 1965."

Stingy Links: Dorfman

10 questions for John Dorfman
"The Robot screen contains low P/E outliers. It calls our attention to some of the very cheapest stocks in the market, in the bottom percentile of price/earnings ratios. It screens out stocks that have excessive debt. From this screen we recently bought Om Group (OMG), the largest U.S. dealer in cobalt. It also deals in metal powers. The stock is selling for less than book value and less than six times earnings. We also bought some Cal-Maine Foods (CALM). It produces and sells eggs. Now that some of the crazier diet fads seem to be receding, I figure that eggs can rebound a little bit as part of a well-rounded diet for most Americans. The stock sells for 6 times earnings."

The Robot stalls
"Each stock we chose early in January had a market value of at least $500 million. They all had announced more than a penny of profit per share in the latest 12-month period. They had more shareholder equity than debt, and a low share price relative to earnings. We chose the cheapest stocks without having more than one in a particular industry sector."

Stingy Links: Dreman

Bear market opportunities
"Should you flee the market, given all this? It's a tough call, but I wouldn't. For one thing, the Administration and Congress can play a much larger role in alleviating the liquidity crisis than they have up to now. This being an election year, I have a strong feeling we'll see considerably more help from them in the next few months. Most likely the Fed will eventually move to fight inflation. Raising rates usually hurts the markets at first, but over time stocks have been one of the best inflation hedges you can find. In these circumstances, I wouldn't try to be too clever. You don't see market timers who own yachts. If you pack up now, chances are you'll miss a good part of the next bull market. A large part of the gains are always made in the first few months of one, when market-timing investors are still on the sidelines."

Stingy Links: Economics

Do economists need brains?
"These new neuroeconomists saw that it might be possible to move economics away from its simplified model of rational, self-interested, utility-maximising decision-making. Instead of hypothesising about Homo economicus, they could base their research on what actually goes on inside the head of Homo sapiens. The dismal science had already been edging in that direction thanks to behavioural economics. Since the 1980s researchers in this branch of the discipline had used insights from psychology to develop more 'realistic' models of individual decision-making, in which people often did things that were not in their best interests. But neuroeconomics had the potential, some believed, to go further and to embed economics in the chemical processes taking place in the brain."

Mexicans and machines
"'No job is safe from the robot threat!' warns Carey. Of course, the warning is more than a little tongue-in-cheek. There.s no need to take a sledgehammer to a robot, because, although technology shakes up the labor market, it ends up giving us higher living standards as well as more and better job opportunities." [Warning: Video contains scenes of violence and humour.]

Consumers as accurate as economists
"Thomas and Alan Grant of Baker University in Kansas analyzed surveys of U.S. and Australian consumers collected from 1978 through 2005. For the U.S. data they used the Michigan Survey, which involves monthly telephone interviews with 500 households. The U.S. respondents were asked several questions, including how much prices will go up or down in the next 12 months. On average, the consumers predicted inflation rates that were off by 1.1 percentage points. The researchers compared the results with those found with the Livingston Survey of professional economists, finding a similar error in predictions."

Stingy Links: Economy

Pain spreads as credit vise grows tighter
"Lenders of all types had already been raising the bar for borrowers, turning away all but the best customers. This week, they became even less willing to part with their money, further crimping budgets and family spending. An economy propelled by easy credit for more than a decade is fraying as credit disappears. American Express, to take one striking example, is reducing the maximum credit limit for half of its tens of millions of cardholders."

Stingy Links: Education

Two years inside the cauldron of capitalism
"The weirdest and creepiest episode is when a student writes to the entire school, confessing to a 'regrettable property-damage incident', a gorgeous euphemism for urinating against a neighbouring student's door. 'His behaviour had made him realise he still had work to do figuring out exactly who he was.' Ye-es . . . or maybe he should just resolve not to pee against people.s doors in future. Even more creepily, Delves Broughton finds that he no longer responds to such tosh with a healthy snort of laughter. 'It was serious, right? Leadership. Core values. Transformation. Being true to oneself.' It takes his wife - his American wife - to inject some common sense. 'These people are freaks..'"

Are we a nation of financial illiterates?
"How important is widespread financial literacy to the health of a modern society? Well, I would say very. So would Lusardi. When you have a society with a modern and fairly complex financial system, it's probably not a good sign that more than half of the citizenry can't handle even the basics"

Financial education unlikely to be of any help
"Teaching people how to manage their money is unlikely to make them any better off, research by the financial regulator reveals. As Britons struggle to adjust to rising inflation, higher borrowing costs and general economic uncertainty, it has emerged that there is little evidence that the millions poured into financial education programmes are of any help."

Stingy Links: Fun

Nation demands new bubble
"A panel of top business leaders testified before Congress about the worsening recession Monday, demanding the government provide Americans with a new irresponsible and largely illusory economic bubble in which to invest. "What America needs right now is not more talk and long-term strategy, but a concrete way to create more imaginary wealth in the very immediate future," said Thomas Jenkins, CFO of the Boston-area Jenkins Financial Group, a bubble-based investment firm. "We are in a crisis, and that crisis demands an unviable short-term solution.""

Mad TV - Free Credit Card
A skit on the perils of credit from Mad TV

A glossary of incompetence
"The "Peter Principle" states that "in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence; the cream rises until it sours." People who show competence are promoted whether or not they are qualified to perform competently at the next level. Eventually they go beyond their limits, become incompetent, and stop getting promoted. Macbeth, a success as a military commander, rose to become an incompetent king. Which is to say, "nothing fails like success."" [An oldie but a goodie.]

Welcome to the nanny state nation
"Even if we don't particularly like something we should be wary of banning it because every ban is backed up by the force of law. Plus, would you want to live in a nation that bans everything that offends someone?"

Dazzling dandelions foment new commodities craze
"Commodities speculators have a new darling: dandelions. Each day brings a new Wall Street report touting dandelion leaves and flowers for use as both feed for livestock and fuel for vehicles." [Drink some dandelion wine while soaking in the silliness.]

Top-earning pirates
"Depletion of fortune due to rum and wenches was not assessed, nor were divisions of treasure among the crew. Plunders were often split in equal shares, with the captain receiving double--not much of a premium for leadership. A good lesson to modern shareholders: The best way to achieve fair compensation and rule out golden parachutes is to have your leaders expecting murderous revolts if they hoard profits."

Stingy Links: Funds

Running a hedge fund is harder than it looks
"Do you remember a time, only a short while ago, when virtually anybody could start a hedge fund? It seemed so easy: billions of dollars were being thrown around like confetti, even at first-time managers. You could make money with your eyes closed. Or so it seemed."

Hedge fund returns money
"The best-performing hedge fund manager of the past two years has closed down his funds and is returning money to investors after concluding that the danger of losing money from a bank collapse is too high."

Money market fund says customers could lose money
"The fund said that because the value of some investments had fallen, customers now have only 97 cents for each dollar they had invested. This is only the second time in history that a money market fund has 'broken the buck' - that is, reported a share.s value was less than a dollar."

Manulife shows Mawer love
"Mawer is that rarity in the mutual fund industry, a company that does everything well, whether it be Canadian equity, U.S. and international equity, balanced or bond funds. You've probably never heard of Mawer, but Manulife certainly has. Just recently, it introduced a new lineup of Mawer-managed funds that are sold by Manulife agents. Announcements like this aren't rare in the fund industry. Many insurers strike deals in which they stick their names on funds run by smart outside firms. What's different here is the marketing fuss that Manulife is making over its new lineup of Mawer funds. You'd almost think Warren Buffet himself was on board."

John Templeton dies at 95
"John Templeton, the billionaire U.S. philanthropist who made his fortune as the pioneer of global investing in the postwar boom, has died. He was 95."

Stingy Links: Government

Abnormal returns from the U.S. senate
"The actions of the federal government can have a profound impact on financial markets. As prominent participants in the government decision making process, U.S. Senators are likely to have knowledge of forthcoming government actions before the information becomes public. This could provide them with an informational advantage over other investors. We test for abnormal returns from the common stock investments of members of the U.S. Senate during the period 1993--1998. We document that a portfolio that mimics the purchases of U.S. Senators beats the market by 85 basis points per month, while a portfolio that mimics the sales of Senators lags the market by 12 basis points per month. The large difference in the returns of stocks bought and sold (nearly one percentage point per month) is economically large and reliably positive."

Ban the shorts? A BIG mistake!
"For all the talk of capitalism now being dead given the government's plan to likely assume much of the banking industry's mortgage-related illiquid assets as well as the takeovers of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG, the SEC's action is far more ominous for those who believe in free markets."

Florida's big insurance problem
"When Hurricane Ike took a left on Sept. 8, heading away from Florida, locals breathed a sigh of relief. Not only are their homes on the line with each burst of violent weather but their pocketbooks are increasingly at risk, too. Over the past four years, Florida taxpayers' vulnerability to a major weather catastrophe has grown. The quasi-governmental company that was conceived as an insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance, has become Florida's top underwriter of homeowners' insurance. Citizens now has more than $433 billion of property exposure on its books, and Florida has exacerbated that risk by getting into the reinsurance business as well."

U.S. turns away from decades of deregulation
"The housing and financial crisis convulsing the U.S. is powering a new wave of government regulation of business and the economy. Federal and state governments alike are increasingly hands-on in their effort to deal with failing businesses, plunging house prices, worthless mortgages and soaring energy prices. The steps add up to a major challenge to the movement toward deregulation that has defined American governance for much of the past quarter-century since the "Reagan Revolution" of the early 1980s. In fact, some proponents today of a bigger oversight role for government are Republican heirs to the legacy of President Reagan."

Stingy Links: Graham

Prepare to have a nose for a bargain
"Stocks should be bought like groceries and not like perfume. A few days ago, I was reminded of this advice from Ben Graham, the father of value investing, by David Shapiro, the manager of the value-orientated Collins Stewart UK Focus Fund. And with the FTSE 100 index falling 250 points between last Friday and this Wednesday . wiping more than 50bn off the value of the UK.s top companies . the equity market certainly seems more like Aldi or Lidl than an eau de toilette counter at Harrods. In fact, the scent wafting from most dealing desks has smelled suspiciously like Whiff of Fear."

Stingy Links: Grant

Why no outrage?
"Through history, outrageous financial behavior has been met with outrage. But today Wall Street's damaging recklessness has been met with near-silence, from a too-tolerant populace, argues James Grant"

Stingy Links: Hallett

Timing errors affect performance
"treat your investments like a bar of soap; the more you touch them, the smaller they get. This saying is so true. In practice, I've rarely found any need to make many changes more often than every two years. Advisors who can't resist the itch to rejig client portfolios should at least keep a running score of how their 'new' advice fares against the 'old,' unchanged portfolio in subsequent years. If the changes detract from performance more often than not, this should be kept in mind the next time the itch to switch returns."

Stingy Links: Indexing

An active value strategy in disguise
"In this paper we critically examine the novel concept of fundamental indexation. We argue that fundamental indexation is by definition nothing more than an (elegant) value strategy, because the weights of stocks in a fundamental index and a market capitalization-weighted index only differ as a result of differences in valuation ratios. Moreover, fundamental indices more resemble active investment strategies than classic passive indices, because (i) they appear to be at odds with market equilibrium, (ii) they do not represent a buy-and-hold strategy and (iii) they require several subjective choices. Last but not least, because fundamental indices are primarily designed for simplicity and appeal, they are unlikely to be the most efficient way of benefiting from the value premium. Compared to more sophisticated, multi-factor quantitative strategies, fundamental indexation is likely to be an even more inferior proposition."

The prescient are few
"The researchers found a marked decline over the last two decades in the number of fund managers able to pass the False Discovery Rate test. If they had focused only on managers running funds in 1990 and their records through that year, for example, the researchers would have concluded that 14.4 percent of managers had genuine stock-picking ability. But when analyzing their entire fund sample, with records through 2006, this proportion was just 0.6 percent - statistically indistinguishable from zero, according to the researchers."

Stingy Links: Klarman

Seth Klarman interview
"Seth Klarman is nobody.s idea of a fast-buck, quick-change investor. Since helping to found Boston-based Baupost Group in 1982 with $27 million pooled from four families, he has emulated prototypical value-investment role models like Warren Buffett and the late Benjamin Graham. He buys underpriced equities and securities of bankrupt or distressed companies and usually steers clear of leverage and shorting, though last year he made very profitable investments in credit protection and recorded his best-ever annual return (52 percent)."

Stingy Links: Law

Your dog's bite could bankrupt you
"But all dog owners need to understand their potential liability should their animal bite, maul or, heaven forbid, kill someone. A single bite could cost you tens of thousands of dollars -- a lawsuit hundreds of thousands -- and your insurance coverage might not apply. If the attack is especially serious, you could even go to jail."

Bankrupt retailers: pushed to the brink
"All filers are covered by the new bankruptcy law, but the changes were particularly harsh on retailers. For companies that already are short of cash - and, in the current environment, unlikely to find new financing - these new provisions in the law can amount to a death sentence. "Liquidity is sucked out of the debtor in a way that it becomes hard to survive," says Lawrence Gottlieb, chair of the bankruptcy and restructuring practice at New York law firm Cooley Godward Kronish, who has represented creditors' committees in the bankruptcies of Sharper Image and Linens 'n Things."

Lawyer finds gaping hole in securities law
""Allowing a member to resign and therefore escape sanction for improper acts committed while a member of a [self-regulatory organization] can hardly be said to protect investors. ... Certainly, the public would have less confidence in capital markets where sanctions for misconduct could be avoided by a simple letter of resignation," Judge Carnwath wrote."

Stingy Links: Management

Superstar CEOs
"Compensation, status, and press coverage of managers in the U.S. follow a highly skewed distribution: a small number of .superstars. enjoy the bulk of the rewards. We evaluate the impact of CEOs achieving superstar status on the performance of their firms, using prestigious business awards to measure shocks to CEO status. We find that award-winning CEOs subsequently underperform, both relative to their prior performance and relative to a matched sample of non-winning CEOs. At the same time, they extract more compensation following the award, both in absolute amounts and relative to other top executives in their firms. They also spend more time on public and private activities outside their companies, such as assuming board seats or writing books. The incidence of earnings management increases after winning awards. The effects are strongest in firms with weak governance, even though the frequency of obtaining superstar status is independent of corporate governance. Our results suggest that the ex-post consequences of media-induced superstar status for shareholders are negative."

Retailers reprogram workers
"Retailers have a new tool to turn up the heat on their salespeople: computer programs that dictate which employees should work when, and for how long."

From good to great ... to below average
"Nine of the eleven companies remain more or less intact. Of these, Nucor is the only one that has dramatically outperformed the stock market since the book came out. Abbott Labs and Wells Fargo have done okay. Overall, a portfolio of the 'good to great' companies looks like it would have underperformed the S&P 500."

Stingy Links: Markets

Long-Term Capital: It's a short-term memory
"A financial firm borrows billions of dollars to make big bets on esoteric securities. Markets turn and the bets go sour. Overnight, the firm loses most of its money, and Wall Street suddenly shuns it. Fearing that its collapse could set off a full-scale market meltdown, the government intervenes and encourages private interests to bail it out. The firm isn't Bear Stearns - it was Long-Term Capital Management, the hedge fund based in Greenwich, Conn., and the rescue occurred 10 years ago this month."

Sell-side analysts more accurate than buy-side
"Investors rarely have access to the buy-side analyst reports of institutional investors, and according to a new study by a trio of Harvard Business School researchers, they likely aren't missing much. The study finds buy-side analysts are more optimistic and less accurate than their sell-side counterparts, who freely distribute their recommendations."

The giant pool of money
"A special program about the housing crisis produced in a special collaboration with NPR News. We explain it all to you. What does the housing crisis have to do with the turmoil on Wall Street? Why did banks make half-million dollar loans to people without jobs or income? And why is everyone talking so much about the 1930s? It all comes back to the Giant Pool of Money."

Global equity market declines
"There's no doubt about it -- it's bad everywhere" [Falling like a BRIC. China -68.34%, Russia -57.44%, India -36.36%, Brazil -33.04%.]

Oil traders caught in squeeze
"Crude oil climbed more than $25 a barrel, the biggest gain ever, as traders scrambled to unwind positions on the October contract's last day of trading. The more-active November contract rose $6.62."

The smartest advice I ever got
"I was nine years old, and I saw my father reading the financial pages. They didn't look like the sports pages or the comics, so I asked him what they were. He said, "Well, these are stocks." I said, "What's a stock?" And he said, "See this thing? This represents a company. And see this 'plus .25'? That means that if you own one share of this company today, you have 25 more than you had yesterday." And I said, "I can have this thing yesterday, I can go to sleep, wake up and have 25 more and not do any work?" And he said, "Yes." I had come in from mowing the grass for three hours to earn 25. So the lesson I took was that in the stock market you can make money without doing any work. And since I have always had an almost infinite capacity for indolence, I thought, "This is great.""

Skimming the froth
"Emerging markets have been subject to some violent downswings in the past and, with the economic health of some countries deteriorating, there is scope for some nasty shocks in terms of corporate profits and bank losses. Long-term investors may be willing to put up with the bad news in the hope of a rebound in 2009 but it seems unlikely that we will be hearing any more safe haven talk for a while."

Mathematicians predicted crash years ago
"Mandelbrot, 83, contends that portfolio theory, which tries to maximize return for a given level of risk, treats extreme events (like, say, yesterday's market shockers) with 'benign neglect: it regards large market shifts as too unlikely to matter or as impossible to take into account.' The faulty assumption of modern portfolio theorists, in Mandelbrot's view, is that price changes do not drift far from the mean when observing daily ups and downs - so extreme events are exceedingly rare. 'Typhoons, in effect, are defined out of existence,' he wrote."

Money markets get a lifeline
"The Treasury Department and Federal Reserve took steps Friday to help stabilize the U.S. money market fund industry, which has come under severe strain following the dramatic events that took place across the financial system this week. The Treasury said it would guarantee up to $50 billion dollars for the next year for both retail and institutional investors."

S&P500 dividend yield highest since June 1995
"The S&P 500 is currently yielding the most it has since June 1995 at 2.49%. After declining for about 20 years from the early 80s to the late 90s, the dividend yield has been on a steady rise this decade."

Curbing short-selling abuse
"The naked short regulations promise to have more teeth than last weekend's announcement that the SEC would police rumors on Wall Street. That was widely interpreted as a weak attempt to herd cats. Traders now won't be able to skirt borrowing rules to short shares of a rival firm. Up until now, traders were merely required to "locate" shares they'd be borrowing to short. As in: "Yeah, my cousin Vinny in Hoboken has them." The location requirement is a weaker standard that leaves plenty of room for "interpretation" if not outright abuse. Pre-borrowing is a much firmer commitment and eliminates the probability that a stock lender will lend out the same shares to several different traders."

Shortsighted naked-short solution
"The latest Wall Street cesspool is the short-selling arena, where greedy hedge funds, beleaguered investment and commercial banks and an incompetent regulator--the Securities and Exchange Commission--have made bollocks out of a crucial arena of the markets."

SEC to limit short sales
"The requirement would prohibit the practice known as naked short selling, in which traders avoid the financial burden of borrowing shares when betting they'll fall." [A long overdue move.]

Short sellers under fire
"The SEC said today that it will halt short selling of U.S. banks, insurance companies and securities firms through Oct. 2, while the Financial Services Authority in the U.K. banned short sales of financial shares for the rest of the year."

A nightmare on Wall Street
"Like a Hollywood monster that is impervious to bullets, the credit crisis refuses to lie down and die. The authorities have bombarded it with interest-rate reductions, tax cuts, special liquidity schemes and bank bail-outs, but still the creature lumbers forward, threatening new victims with every step. Global stockmarkets are suffering double-digit losses this year, and credit markets are once again gummed up."

The wisdom of crowds?
"When people discover that I am an economist, they rarely ask me for my views on subjects that economists know a bit about - such as how to respond to climate change or pay less at a supermarket. Instead, they ask me what will happen to the economy. Why is it that people won't take "I don't really know" for an answer? People often chuckle about the forecasting skills of economists, but after the snickers die down, they keep demanding more forecasts. Is there any reason to believe that economists can deliver?"

AIG booted out of the Dow
"Dow Jones & Company, which oversees the 30-stock index, said that Kraft Foods (KFT) will take AIG's place."

Lessons from a 'lost decade'
"Most dismiss the idea that America could suffer the same fate as Japan, but some of the differences are overstated. For example, some claim that Japan's bubble was much bigger than America's. Yet average house prices nationwide rose by 90% in America between 2000 and 2006, compared with a gain of 51% in Japan between 1985 and early 1991, when Japanese home prices peaked"

Stingy Links: Miller

Legg Mason Q2 letter
"A group of us were standing around a few weeks ago when Warren Buffett wandered over. Chris Davis had dubbed us the Value Support Group, as we all adhered to that approach to investing. We were commiserating over how badly we had done in this market, how valuation appeared not to matter and had not for the past couple of years, how it was all about momentum and trend, and how we were all losing clients and assets over and above our losses in the market. It seemed like we needed a 12-step program to cure us of our addiction to buying beaten-up stocks trading at large discounts to our assessment of their intrinsic value."

The plight of the value investor
"This is a tough time to be a value investor. The value philosophy tries to outsmart the stock market by investing in companies that are deemed undervalued, often trading at a low multiple relative to earnings. It was developed by Benjamin Graham and championed by Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A) Warren Buffett"

Stingy Links: Munger

Buffett's best man
"Munger, 84 and blind in one eye, walks stiffly to the stage. A prestigious physics professor waits to interview him, but once the lanky, thick-bespectacled guest starts blaspheming some favorite targets, the prof rarely gets a word in edgewise. Munger's topic du jour is the spiraling credit crisis: He flings vitriol at bankers, saying they've been selling investors "a hapless mess of super-complexity." The accounting profession has "disgraced itself" with its lax standards, and so has academia. "The idea that we need derivatives is just so much twaddle," he says. Yet despite all this inanity and skullduggery, Munger still sees the investing world as a place where common sense can triumph -- if only because "it isn't so common.""

Stingy Links: Real Estate

The mortgages of the future
"Mortgages could be structured differently, so that adjustments in payments would be made as a matter of routine - systematically, automatically and continuously - starting even before any distress is perceived by borrower or lender. By avoiding thousands and even millions of individual family crises, we might also make institutional crises, like the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, less likely."

Foreclosure fallout: Houses go for a $1
"So desperate was the bank owner of 8111 Traverse Street to unload the property that it agreed to pay $2,500 in sales commission and another $1,000 bonus for closing the $1 sale; the bank also will pay $500 of the buyer's closing costs. Throw in back taxes and a water bill, and unloading the house will cost the bank about $10,000."

Steeper drop in Canada's existing home prices
"The average price of a home sold in Canada's major markets dropped 5.1% in August from a year ago, the largest decline in more than 12 years, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. House prices have dropped for three straight months and it's probably only the beginning, says Benjamin Tal, senior economist with CIBC World Markets."

'Stealth' housing bailout
"The numbers are staggering and likely to get much larger. What we have here is, through a variety of programs, a stealth bailout where more than a trillion dollars of taxpayer guarantees have been extended to the housing market, both to keep it going and to clean up the mess from the past."

One third owe more than house is worth
"Almost one-third of U.S. homeowners who bought in the last five years now owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, according to, an Internet provider of home valuations."

Real national prices decline to Q4 2002 levels
"In real terms, the Case-Shiller National Home price index is off 25% from the peak. Real prices are now back to the Q4 2002 level (nominal prices are back to mid-2004)."

Stingy Links: Retirement

Your post-subprime portfolio
"Saving for retirement has never been easy, but the past year has made a complicated task all but overwhelming. The ongoing collapse of the credit markets, sparked initially by problems in subprime mortgages, has challenged some of investors' most cherished and reliable investment beliefs and strategies. Auction-rate securities sold as "cash equivalents" ended up sticking investors with huge losses, supposedly low-risk bond funds blew up, and for those who thought they'd pay for retirement by selling the house.well, need we say more?"

Spending safely
"If you're getting ready to retire, you may already be familiar with "the 4% solution." For more than a decade, financial advisers have warned retirees that draining over 4% of their nest eggs in their inaugural retirement year could ultimately lead to financial ruin. The 4% mantra started with Bill Bengen, 60, a soft- spoken investment adviser in El Cajon, Calif., who has written a series of landmark research papers since 1994 on safe withdrawal rates. What most people don't realize, though, is that Bengen no longer recommends the 4% rate."

Stingy Links: Stocks

How can the New York Times be worth so little?
"At its current $12.48 stock price - down 46.3% from a year ago - Times Co. has a $1.79 billion market cap. To put this in perspective, CBS recently acquired tech publisher CNET, a much weaker media brand, for $1.8 billion. Add in the company's $1.1 billion of debt, subtract $42 million for its cash on hand, and the company's total enterprise value - a valuation measure that totals up those items in such a fashion - is just $2.85 billion."

Selling the family jewels
"Selling heirloom assets is frequently a last-ditch alternative. In instances in which assets have appreciated massively (such as SunTrust's Coca-Cola stock or Merrill's stake in Bloomberg), the sales can generate hefty tax bills. Such moves are also recognitions that management has screwed things up so royally in the core business that it has no alternative but to sell the remaining assets that the market still likes. But in this climate, many banks may find they don't have a choice."

AIG falls
"AIG, seeking to raise $20 billion in capital and sell $20 billion of assets, rejected investments from buyout firms KKR & Co., TPG Inc. and J.C. Flowers & Co., people familiar with the talks said. AIG instead sought a $40 billion bridge loan from the Federal Reserve, the New York Times reported, citing an unnamed person. The shares plunged $6.25 to $5.89 at 9:42 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Warrren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., 'is thought to be in talks' with AIG about a possible investment, the Insurance Insider reported today, citing unidentified sources." [It seems likely that Buffett would take a pass on the firm but be willing to buy some of its assets at fire-sale prices.]

AIG gets up to $85 Billion Fed loan
"The U.S. government agreed to lend as much as $85 billion to American International Group Inc. in exchange for a 79.9 percent stake to save the country's biggest insurer from collapse."

Lehman files biggest bankruptcy case
"Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank, succumbed to the subprime mortgage crisis it helped create in the biggest bankruptcy filing in history. The 158-year-old firm, which survived railroad bankruptcies of the 1800s, the Great Depression in the 1930s and the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management a decade ago, filed a Chapter 11 petition with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan today. The collapse of Lehman, which listed more than $613 billion of debt, dwarfs WorldCom Inc.'s insolvency in 2002 and Drexel Burnham Lambert's failure in 1990." [So much for the too big to fail idea]

IndyMac seized by U.S. regulators
"IndyMac Bancorp Inc. became the second- biggest federally insured financial company to be seized by U.S. regulators after a run by depositors left the California mortgage lender short on cash."

Stingy Links: Taleb

A map of the limits of statistics
"We can identify where the danger zone is located, which I call "the fourth quadrant", and show it on a map with more or less clear boundaries. A map is a useful thing because you know where you are safe and where your knowledge is questionable. So I drew for the Edge readers a tableau showing the boundaries where statistics works well and where it is questionable or unreliable. Now once you identify where the danger zone is, where your knowledge is no longer valid, you can easily make some policy rules: how to conduct yourself in that fourth quadrant; what to avoid."

Stingy Links: Taxes

Take advantage of the dividend tax credit
"It's interesting, but the marginal tax rate on eligible dividends is now lower than the rate on capital gains in most provinces at most income levels. In fact, at lower income levels, the marginal tax rate on eligible dividends is often negative. That is, adding more eligible dividend income to your tax return can actually reduce your overall tax bill. Why? Because the dividend tax credit available will offset not only that dividend income, but the tax on other income as well. British Columbia has the deepest negative marginal tax rate in 2008 at negative 15.55 per cent for the lowest income earners. This means, for example, that if you live in B.C., are in the lowest tax bracket, and you add one dollar of eligible dividend income, you'll actually pay 15.55 cents less in tax than without the dividend. What a bargain."

Student tax planning can save a bundle
"So, if you've got a child heading off to postsecondary school this year, congratulations, I expect your child will make smarter decisions. And there are some smart decisions related to your child's tax planning that can help too. Let me share some of those today."

Selling your cottage needn't be so taxing
"Let's assume that James now owns the cottage. He could shelter the cottage from tax by designating it as his PR for the years prior to 1982. For years after 1981, only one exemption is available and the couple would designate the cottage for those years. The result is twofold: There is no tax to pay on the sale of the cottage this year since it has been designated as a PR for every year it was owned. Further, Kate has not yet designated a property as her PR for the years prior to 1982. She could designate the Oakville home for those years. The result? We've now sheltered part of the eventual gain on the Oakville home as well."

Transfers can come with tax surprises
"Be aware that you'll be subject to the U.S. estate tax as any U.S. citizen if you're considered "domiciled" in the United States. Simply residing in the U.S. doesn't make you "domiciled" there. Domicile is a concept that involves an intention to permanently reside south of the border. And so, it seems that domicile is something to be avoided. Perhaps - but only if careful planning is undertaken before your transfer, because not being domiciled in the United States can lead to tax problems too. Let me explain."

Opening the door to savings
"I'm commonly asked: "Now that I'm married, what tax benefits exist?" The fact is, having a spouse can come with some tax opportunities. And by the way, a spouse under Canadian tax law includes a common-law partner (same sex or not) that you've been living with in a conjugal relationship for 12 months or more. So, when I use the term "spouse" today, I'm referring to legally married couples, or those common-law partners I just mentioned. While there will be other ideas, the following are six of the key opportunities available to spouses."

Stingy Links: Thrift

American savers have drawn the short straw
"American savers, take a bow. This is your moment of vindication. Your hour of glory. And you earned it (in a manner of speaking). You resisted the siren call of plastic teaser APRs, dutifully living within your means to store money for a rainy day. You never took out an interest-only mortgage. Never had to pawn the copper pipes from your exurban McMansion to pay the reset on your liar loan. Your credit score would have gotten you into Harvard at age 12. Good for you! Your reward: injurious savings yields, inflationary rot, and election-season neglect, all served up with a dollop of institutional insecurity."

Wise investing: no substitute for saving
"The problem is that while the financial-services industry is very good at marketing and selling investment products, it's very bad at marketing and selling thrift, and living within one's means. After all, the only thing which is marketed more aggressively than investments is credit products. But if you want a financially comfortable retirement, the first best and pretty much only thing you need to do is save a lot of money while you're working."

Why Generation Y is broke
"Today, people in their 20s and 30s are more educated than ever before. Some 85% of those aged 25 and older hold a high school diploma, and 27% have a college degree. This generation of adults is also, of course, the most technologically sophisticated to date, with about half using cell phones for text messaging and 90% on e-mail. And yet stats indicate our generation's financial literacy is abysmal, with personal finances to match. Only 52% of high school seniors passed a recent national financial literacy test, meaning adults entering the work force do not know enough about basic budgeting, interest rates or taxes to make sound decisions for their own lives."

How to leave your wife
"If your marriage is crumbling, you need to pay attention to money matters -- or suffer harsh consequences. Here's what to do, men." [A link to a similar article for women is provided near the top of this article. But thrifty couples will work hard to avoid divorce.]

Can a family eat on $100 a week?
"Did we make it? First, let's say that any reduction in my grocery bill was welcome, as most weeks we spend nearly $250 at a grocery store. That's well above the $182 budget the U.S. government considers "moderate" for a family of our size and ages. Spending less than half what we normally do was tough. A $100 budget gave us $1.19 a meal per person, obviously not enough for dinners or coffees out and barely enough to put decent meat on our plates."

Stingy Links: Value Investing

John Templeton
"Sir John Templeton spent his life going against the flow. In September 1939, when the war-spooked world was selling, he borrowed $10,000 to buy 100 shares in everything that was trading for less than a dollar a share on the New York Stock Exchange. All but four eventually turned profits. In early 2000, conversely, he sold all his dotcom and Nasdaq tech stocks just before the market crashed. His iron principle of investing was 'to buy when others are despondently selling and to sell when others are greedily buying'. At the point of 'maximum pessimism' he would enter, and clean up."

The marks of a great value investor
"John Templeton's market aphorisms was that "the time to buy is at the point of maximum pessimism", although I believe he has a good claim also to be the true originator of the saying that the four most dangerous words in investment are "this time it's different". Does he think that we have reached such a point in the credit crisis? Alas, we shall never hear his views again, following his death two weeks ago at the grand age of 95."

Value stock losers Buffett, Miller poised as winners
"The five prior times since 1952 that growth beat value two years in a row, the latter group recovered and won by 17 percentage points annually on average for seven years, the data from Societe Generale show. Cheap stocks are becoming more attractive because of tumbling commodity shares, which had led the five-year bull market that ended in October, according to Societe Generale's James Montier"

CanWest woes may force Fairfax's hand
"Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. has made a name as a patient, deep-value investor in the mould of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., so the company has been surprised to find itself cast lately in the role of an activist player."

Robert Tattersall
"If you can tolerate double-digit losses like the ones we've seen recently, veteran fund manager Robert Tattersall suggests picking up a classic book on value investing and then just sitting tight. "

Patient Capital Q2 2008
"As we had hoped these investor fears have provided us with some investment opportunities. Indeed we have invested some of our capital in what we believe to be very strong companies that offer the potential for excellent long [term] returns."

Fairfax Financial beats bad markets
"Prem Watsa, Chair of insurance conglomerate Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., began to worry about a credit meltdown a few years ago. So he and his investment team devised a defensive strategy. Today, Fairfax is in great shape financially, despite lousy markets. The company has even defied gravity and two weeks ago its credit was upgraded. This reflected its stellar investment performance on its US$19.8 billion investment portfolio, good operations at its underlying insurance companies and a jump in shareholders. equity from US$2.856 billion in 2006 to US$4.8 billion today."

Value funds may be poised for comeback
"There's an old chestnut about value investors that says they're never wrong, they're just early. Unfortunately for the professional ones, when you run a mutual fund that gets marked to market every day though, it doesn't really matter. If you're early, you're wrong, and if you're wrong, you get redeemed as investors chase performance like a dog chases a rolling Frisbee."

Ways to gauge value
"It's what every analyst likes to cite and probably the most widely used tool on Wall Street. But the price/earnings ratio, or P/E, of a stock might not be the perfect gauge of its value, especially now."

Longleaf Partners Q2 2008 letter
"We do not know how long economic uncertainty and shareholder fear will last. Bear markets do not die of old age. The mispricing, however, is providing the opportunity to own high quality companies with terrific five year outlooks that imply high long-term IRRs. We are aggressively adding personal capital to the Funds and encourage our partners to do the same. Given that bullish sentiment is at its lowest level in 14 years and that some are recommending exiting equities altogether, there is plenty of panic in the air. Historically, the best time to invest has been when owning stocks has felt the worst."

Stingy Links: Whitman

Whitman's glass-half-full take on market
"Marty Whitman, the octogenarian dean of deep-value investing, sees great bargains to be snapped up from the current stock market meltdown. "It's a great time," enthused the 83-year-old founder of New York-based Third Avenue Management LLC before speaking yesterday at a conference organized by AIC Ltd. "We can't try to pick the bottom, but it seems to me that there are great values out there now, just like in 1974," the firm's co-chief investment officer said in an interview."

Third Avenue Q3 2008 letter
"Distress securities seem to be trading at ultra attractive prices. Discounts have widened appreciably for the common stocks of very well-capitalized companies where the common stocks trade at meaningful discounts from readily ascertainable net asset values ('NAVs'); and where the prospects appear good that over the next five years, such NAVs will increase by not less than 10% per annum compounded. Admittedly, near-term outlooks are generally poor. But, TAVF focuses not on the near-term outlook, but on buying what is 'safe and cheap'. I have the unique perspective of being a distressed investor for many decades, and safe and cheap on a long-term basis seems to be about as attractive as it was in the 1970s."

Stingy Links: World

The key to happiness is freedom not income
"Off and on, usually provoked by the release of a new study, the media will turn to the question of happiness and incomes. While the Wall Street Journal has exhibited a tendency to tout research that shows that the rich are happier, the results are far less clear-cut. Once a certain income level has been reached (typically, enough to provide for a middle class standard of living in that society and allow one to accumulate a cushion for emergencies) more money does not produce much if any gains in happiness. And some findings have been under-reported in the US. For instance, while some studies have found that being in the top income group or having high educational attainment is correlated with higher levels of happiness, living in socially stratified societies leads to less satisfaction across all groups. And remember, Nigeria, hardly a bastion of wealth, has scored as the happiest country in a multi-year international survey. An article today in the Financial Times suggests that researchers may have been looking at the wrong axis in looking for a strong correlation between income and happiness. Roberto Foa (a researcher in the same international survey mentioned above) contends that freedom is a far more important factor than economic attainment."

What your global neighbors are buying
"How people spend their discretionary income - the cash that goes to clothing, electronics, recreation, household goods, alcohol - depends a lot on where they live. People in Greece spend almost 13 times more money on clothing as they do on electronics. People living in Japan spend more on recreation than they do on clothing, electronics and household goods combined. Americans spend a lot of money on everything."

European recession looms
"The eurozone is tipping into a deeper downturn than America itself despite the tremors in the US mortgage industry, and may already be in full recession for the first time since the launch of the single currency."

Russian emergency funding fails to halt stock rout
"Russia poured $44 billion into its three largest banks and halted stock trading for a second day in a bid to stem the most severe financial crisis since its devaluation and debt default a decade ago. The Finance Ministry extended the repayment period on loans available to OAO Sberbank, VTB Group and OAO Gazprombank to three months from one week. The benchmark Micex stock index plunged as much as 10 percent, taking its three-day decline to 25 percent, and brokerage KIT Finance said it's in talks with investors to sell a stake after failing to meet some obligations."

Clouds gather again over the Pampas
"At 55% of GDP, Argentina's public debt is still large. But the cost of servicing it has been low, partly because of the tough restructuring Mr Kirchner imposed on bondholders. Even so, to service its debts, the government needs to find an extra $2.5 billion or so next year. It cannot tap the international capital markets, because it has still not settled with some bondholders nor its sovereign creditors in the Paris Club. Instead, it is relying on Hugo Chavez. This month Venezuela's president bought another $1 billion in Argentine bonds (taking his total purchases to $7 billion). The latest bonds pay interest of 15% - the same rate agreed by Domingo Cavallo, a former finance minister, in a notorious bond swap in 2001 on the eve of the collapse."

The 65 mpg Ford the U.S. can't have
"If ever there was a car made for the times, this would seem to be it: a sporty subcompact that seats five, offers a navigation system, and gets a whopping 65 miles to the gallon. Oh yes, and the car is made by Ford Motor (F), known widely for lumbering gas hogs."

The Big Mac index
"Many of the currencies in the Fed's major-currency index, including the euro, the British pound, Swiss franc and Canadian dollar, are overvalued and trading higher than last year's burger benchmark. Only the Japanese yen could be considered a snip. The dollar still buys a lot of burger in the rest of Asia too. China's currency is among the most undervalued, but a little bit less so than a year ago."

Stingy Links: Zweig

How to control your fears
"What goes on inside your head when your portfolio implodes? One of the fear centers in your brain, the amygdala, can respond to upsetting stimuli in 12 milliseconds, or one-25th the time it takes to blink your eye. These brain cells fire when an attack dog snarls at you, a spider drops down your shirt or the Dow Jones Industrial Average takes a dive."

Stop worrying, and learn to love the bear
"When you bought into the gospel of "stocks for the long run," did you have any idea how long the long run can turn out to be? Exactly 10 years ago, the Standard & Poor's 500-stock Index was at 1164; it closed Friday at 1239. That's an annualized average return of 0.63%. At that rate, it will take you 111 more years to double your money in the stock market."

Frugally Yours,
Norman Rothery
ISSN 1499-2787

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