Quotes of 2013
Munger and Buffett: High-Frequency Trading and the Flash Crash
"I think the long term investor is not too much affected by things like the flash crash. That said, I think it is very stupid to allow a system to evolve where half of the trading is a bunch of short term people trying to get information one millionth of a nanosecond ahead of somebody else." - Charlie Munger
"I think it is basically evil and I don't think it should have ever been allowed to reach the size that it did. Why should all of us pay a little group of people to engage in legalized front-running of our orders?" - Charlie Munger
"...it [HFT] is not contributing anything to capitalism." - Warren Buffett
"The flash crash didn't hurt any investor. I mean, you know— you're sitting there with— with a stock. And, you know, and the next day...it's gone past. The frictional cost in...investing for somebody that does it in a real investing manner are really peanuts. I mean, they're far less than the cost in real estate or farms or all kinds of things. So it's— unless you turn it to your disadvantage by trying to do a lot of trading or something of the sort, it's a very, very inexpensive market to operate in...and all that noise should not bother you at all. Forget it." - Warren Buffett
"Our current problems are very confusing. If you aren't confused, you don't understand them very well." - Charlie Munger
Market Freezes Up
"Plainly, physics has made a different kind of contribution to human society than economics has. Then, again, physics is an easier nut to crack than economics. Electrons don't have feelings, as they say.
Progress in science is cumulative; we stand on the shoulders of giants. But progress in finance is cyclical; in money and banking, especially, we seem to keep making the same mistakes." - From Page 17-18 in Grant's Interest Rate Observer, Volume 31 Summer Break, August 23rd, 2013
Deadly Sins of Investing
"What happens in the fund business is the magic of compound returns is overwhelmed by the tyranny of compounding cost. It's a mathematical fact. There's no getting around it. The fact that we don't look at it, too bad for us." - John Bogle
John Bogle on "The Last Gatekeeper"
In this Morningstar interview, John Bogle points out that if you add together the money managed by the 25 largest firms in the mutual fund business, it represents something like 50% of the equity in America.
"A small handful of corporations, particularly the top five of them, control corporate America. And corporate America needs a lot of cleanup, a sweeping out. Executive compensation is a disgrace. Political contributions made by corporations are a disgrace..."
Bogle then later added...
"So when you look at the whole picture, really we're the last gatekeeper. Think about that for a minute; I have a chapter in the book about gatekeepers. We're the last gatekeeper. We, the mutual fund industry. The courts have failed us in terms of shareholder rights. The regulators have failed. The security analysts have failed. The money managers have failed. Right down, the press has in many respects failed with a few exceptions. The fund and corporate directors have both failed, and we're now down to the last line: the shareholders who own those companies. And if they don't speak, there's nobody left, and corporations should not be left to operate as private fiefdoms of their chief executives."
Grantham on Efficient Markets, Bubbles, and Ignoble Prizes
"Economics is a very soft science but it has delusions of hardness or what has been called physics envy. One of my few economic heroes, Kenneth Boulding, said that while mathematics had indeed introduced rigor into economics, it unfortunately also brought mortis. Later in his career he felt that economics had lost sight of its job to be useful to society, having lost its way in a maze of econometric formulas, which placed elegance over accuracy.
At the top of the list of economic theories based on clearly false assumptions is that of Rational Expectations, in which humans are assumed to be machines programmed with rational responses. Although we all know – even economists – that this assumption does not ﬁ t the real world, it does allow for relatively simple conclusions, whereas the assumption of complicated, inconsistent, and emotional humanity does not. The folly of Rational Expectations resulted in ﬁve, six, or seven decades of economic mainstream work being largely thrown away. It did leave us, though, with perhaps the most laughable of all assumption-based theories, the Efﬁcient Market Hypothesis (EMH).
We are told that investment bubbles have not occurred and, indeed, could never occur, by the iron law of the unproven assumptions used by the proponents of the EMH. Yet, in front of our eyes there have appeared in the last 25 years at least four of the great investment bubbles in all of investment history." - Jeremy Grantham
"So, economics has been more or less threadbare for 50 years. Pity then the plight of the Bank of Sweden with all that money to give away in honor of Alfred Nobel and in envy, perhaps, of the harder sciences." - Jeremy Grantham
Happy New Year,
Quotes of 2012