The Stingy News Weekly (10/31/2010)
Your Adviser Is Scared to Set You Straight
"One danger is that if you voice a strong opinion, your adviser might not give you a second opinion. He might merely echo your own, making you think he is smart because he agrees with you—and clearing the path of least resistance to his next commission. Sometimes, acting like a sheep just pays better."
Enduring Values, Enduring Value
"There are four ways to create wealth it is not just cash flow. They are, one, having cash flow from operations available to security holders. A company can use that cash to expand its asset base, reduce liabilities or distribute the money to shareholders, either by paying dividends or buying back stock. Two, and probably much more important, is having earnings, which we define as creating wealth while consuming cash. Remember, though, that earnings for most companies do not have a long-term value unless the company also has access to capital markets because if it doesn't, sooner or later, it will to run out of cash. The third—and very, very important—value-creation method is resource conversion. Such as? Mergers and acquisitions, changes in control, massive recapitalizations, spinoffs, etc. The fourth wealth-creation method, which I touched on previously, is having extremely attractive access to capital markets."
More from less for more
"Engineer RA Mashelkar shares three stories of ultra-low-cost design from India that use bottom-up rethinking, and some clever engineering, to bring expensive products (cars, prosthetics) into the realm of the possible for everyone."
Labour and the left
"Last year there were more public-sector employees (7.9m) than private-sector workers (7.4m) in unions—the first time this has happened. And public-sector unions have a distinct advantage over private ones. 'Through their extensive political activity,' says Mr DiSalvo, 'these government-workers' unions help elect the very politicians who will act as 'management' in their contract negotiations—in effect handpicking those who will sit across the bargaining table from them, in a way that workers in a private corporation (like, say, American Airlines or the Washington Post Company) cannot.' And the public-sector managers sitting across the table don't have the same worries as private-sector bosses, who must answer to profit-driven overlords. The lack of competition in government services produces little pressure on management or unions to come up with the most efficient work agreement. As a result, public-sector unions have become accustomed to getting what they want."
Night of the Living Fed
"Since it is customary in polite society to apologize for causing distress, on behalf of the Fed, let me apologize for the extraordinary destructiveness of its policies for the last 15 years. Bernanke’s version of an apology, delivered in January this year to the American Economic Association, was to claim that the Fed’s monetary policy during the 2000-08 period was appropriate, and that there were no major failings, such as missing the housing bubble completely, that were worth mentioning. This stubbornness in the face of clear data is right up there with efficient market believers. And very impolite indeed."
The Hidden Costs of Indexing
"Petajisto estimated that from 1990 to 2005 the annual turnover drag for the small-cap Russell 2000 was at least 0.38%-0.77% and for the S&P 500 at least 0.21%-0.28%. Researchers Honghui Chen, Gregory Noronha, and Vijay Singal in a 2005 paper estimated the cost of index turnover drag at 1.30%-1.84% for the Russell 2000 and at around 0.03%-0.12% for the S&P 500. These figures imply that index funds that don't slavishly follow the index can beat their benchmarks by avoiding the price pressure surrounding index additions and deletions. It's one of those rare free lunches in investing."
Hidden Cost for Index Funds
"This paper empirically investigates the index premium and its implications from 1990 to 2005. First, we find that the price impact has averaged 8.8% and 4.7% for additions to the S&P 500 and Russell 2000, respectively, and -15.1% and -4.6% for deletions. The premia have been growing over time, peaking in 2000, and declining since then. Second, the implied price elasticity of demand increases with firm size and decreases with idiosyncratic risk, supporting theoretical predictions. Third, we introduce a new concept that we label the index turnover cost, which represents a hidden cost borne by index funds (and the indexes themselves) due to the index premium. We illustrate this cost and estimate its lower bound as 21-28bp annually for the S&P 500 and 38-77bp annually for the Russell 2000."
Buffett: Combs is 'a 100% Fit'
"Mr. Combs was one of hundreds of people who responded to an unconventional 'help wanted' request Mr. Buffett made in early 2007. But his initial inquiry didn't distinguish itself. Undaunted, the low-key father of three, who lives in Darien, Conn., recently sent another letter to Berkshire Vice Chairman Charles Munger asking for a meeting. Mr. Munger said in an interview that he gets 'hundreds' of such requests each year, but 'something in his request piqued my interest.' The two soon met for a lunch that extended well into the afternoon at the California Club in downtown Los Angeles. Mr. Munger later phoned Mr. Buffett and told him, 'this is a guy I am sure you are going to like,' Mr. Munger recalls."
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