Thoughts on the stock market from a hedge fund manager

Seth Klarman, a billionaire hedge fund manager, is quoted at length in John Mauldin’s latest ‘Outside The Box’ newsletter (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format).  Here are a few of his pithy thoughts in point form.

  • No one can know what the future holds, but any year in which the S&P 500 jumps 32% and the NASDAQ Composite 40% while corporate earnings barely increase should be cause for concern, not further exuberance.
  • When the markets reverse, everything investors thought they knew will be turned upside down and inside out. ‘Buy the dips’ will be replaced with ‘What was I thinking?’ Just when investors become convinced that it can’t get any worse, it will. They will be painfully reminded of why it’s always a good time to be risk-averse, and that the pain of investment loss is considerably more unpleasant than the pleasure from any gain. They will be reminded that it’s easier to buy than to sell, and that in bear markets, all too many investments turn into roach motels: ‘You can get in but you can’t get out.’ Correlations of otherwise uncorrelated investments will temporarily be extremely high. Investors in bear markets are always tested and retested. Anyone who is poorly positioned and ill-prepared will find there’s a long way to fall. Few, if any, will escape unscathed.
  • As experienced traders who watch the markets and the Fed with considerable skepticism (and occasional amusement), we can assure you that the Fed’s itinerary is bound to be exceptional, each stop more exciting than the one before … Weather can suddenly turn foul, the navigation faulty, and the deckhands hard to understand. In short, the Fed captain and crew are proficient in theory but lack real world experience. This is an adventure into unexplored terrain, to parts unknown; the Fed has no map, because no one has ever been here before. Most such journeys end badly.
  • Before 2009, the Fed had never bought a single mortgage bond in its nearly 100-year history … By 2013, the Fed was by far the largest holder of those bonds, holding over $4 trillion and counting. For that hefty sum, GDP was apparently raised as little as 25 basis points in the aggregate. In other words, the policy has been a near-total failure. Bernanke is left arguing that some action was better than none. QE in effect, had become Wall Street’s new ‘too big to fail’ policy.

There’s much more at the link.  Bold underlined text is my emphasis.

Today’s newsletter is worthwhile reading for all investors, and for those worried about the bloated, over-inflated value of stocks at the present time and the economy in general.


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