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Old 11-29-2007, 10:14 AM   #21
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Seriously, Clifp, have you read 4 pillars? It has lots and lots of crunchy data to chew on to support what's been said here. It includes some tracking of top performers year by year and how they did later on. As far as a secret cabal of market geniouses who consistently beat the market and hide from the public, well, we aren't going to find them, so why worry about it?
The only genius I know is Warren Buffett..........I think his 50 year investment average return is better than 20%............

Found the link, I waspretty close: http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2005ltr.pdf
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Old 11-29-2007, 11:59 AM   #22
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The line I've heard is that Warren takes over companies and actively manages them, he's a "value added" input, and that's how he beat returns. I think is conglomeration is too big for that now, and that he now benefits from a value tilt (which we know about) and being such a sage that people follow his moves, thus being a self fulfilling prophesy. Look at his purchase of silver a couple years back. No doubt though, he's good.
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Old 11-29-2007, 12:05 PM   #23
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The line I've heard is that Warren takes over companies and actively manages them, he's a "value added" input, and that's how he beat returns. I think is conglomeration is too big for that now, and that he now benefits from a value tilt (which we know about) and being such a sage that people follow his moves, thus being a self fulfilling prophesy. Look at his purchase of silver a couple years back. No doubt though, he's good.
I think he managed to control 10% of the world's supply of silver.........and THEN it leaked out that Buffett was buying up a lot of silver, the price went through the roof, and he got out pretty darn close to the top..........

He's got folks looking out for him..........I wonder if Congress is going to pass some big bill where they throw billions at the railroad companies because it's the cheapest way to ship freight..........Warren would make big money on that.............
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Old 11-29-2007, 03:42 PM   #24
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Seriously, Clifp, have you read 4 pillars? It has lots and lots of crunchy data to chew on to support what's been said here. It includes some tracking of top performers year by year and how they did later on. As far as a secret cabal of market geniouses who consistently beat the market and hide from the public, well, we aren't going to find them, so why worry about it?
Yup read 4 Pillar (actually the library had it on audio tape only so I didn't get to see all the charts.) Speigel's Stocks for the Long Run, Random Walk down Wall Street, Bogle on Mutual Funds and bunch of others

I don't own 4 Pillar but I what remember Berstein tracking was the performance of certain mutual funds managed by big name guys. I could be wrong but seems to the performance tracking was only for a relatively short period of time a decade or so and included only a single fund. What about Peter Lynch or Bill Miller before Magellan or Leg Mason, anybody seen a study on their lifetime performance?

As we know the law of big numbers pretty much puts a cap on open ended mutual funds significantly outperforming the market for long periods of time.
A hot fund in a bull market gets a big inflow of funds which reduces performance, in a bear market and/or in year of underpeformance it suffers from a large outflow of which also hurt performance. Large mutual funds also generally have a team of assistant managers who probably have less stocking picking skill (or perhaps more) than the big name manager.

When I put all of these factors together and add in a sizable ER, it isn't
a shock that managed funds do so poorly and only a handful of funds outperform the averages over long periods of time. The question is do these results prove that stock picking is a fool errand as the efficient market theory people contend,or do they just prove that open managed mutual funds aren't a good investment vehicle?

It seems to me that something like WSJ long running dart portfolio vs the pros. (In which the Pros beat the darts by a small but measurable amount) are a better test of my contention that stock picking is skill and not equally distributed.

Maybe we should start one on the board?
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Old 11-29-2007, 04:20 PM   #25
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The line I've heard is that Warren takes over companies and actively manages them, he's a "value added" input, and that's how he beat returns.
Most of the Berkshire Hathaway CEOs don't even meet each other outside of the annual meetings, and they usually call Buffett-- he rarely calls them.

There are only 19 employees in Berkshire's home office:
"Our federal return last year, we should add, ran to 9,386 pages. To handle this filing, state and foreign tax returns, a myriad of SEC requirements, and all of the other matters involved in running Berkshire, we have gone all the way up to 19 employees at World Headquarters. This crew occupies 9,708 square feet of space, and Charlie – at World Headquarters West in Los
Angeles – uses another 655 square feet. Our home-office payroll, including benefits and counting both locations, totaled $3,531,978 last year."

Here's their acquisition criteria:
"We are eager to hear from principals or their representatives about businesses that meet all of the following criteria:
(1) Large purchases (at least $75 million of pre-tax earnings unless the business will fit into one of our existing units),
(2) Demonstrated consistent earning power (future projections are of no interest to us, nor are “turnaround” situations),
(3) Businesses earning good returns on equity while employing little or no debt,
(4) Management in place (we can’t supply it),
(5) Simple businesses (if there’s lots of technology, we won’t understand it),
(6) An offering price (we don’t want to waste our time or that of the seller by talking, even preliminarily,
about a transaction when price is unknown).
The larger the company, the greater will be our interest: We would like to make an acquisition in the $5-20 billion range. We are not interested, however, in receiving suggestions about purchases we might make in the general stock market."

I think that his strength lies in finding companies run by good people with an estate-tax problem. They want to cash out or expand without giving up control, and they know that Buffett will allow them to solve both problems without bringing down a horde of consultants & assistants. In return they give him a good price.

As for stocks, he's generally a cheapskate or the stock has an exceptionally strong franchise. But stocks are a minority of Berkshire's holdings.
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Old 11-29-2007, 06:20 PM   #26
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I could be wrong but seems to the performance tracking was only for a relatively short period of time a decade or so and included only a single fund.
IIRC, the problem was that with the exception of lynch and millers magellan and legg mason value, no funds had beaten the S&P for longer than ten years. Including funds that didnt make it would seem fruitless.

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What about Peter Lynch or Bill Miller before Magellan or Leg Mason, anybody seen a study on their lifetime performance?
I hate to be flip, but if it was any good I doubt we'd be hearing anything BUT how long they'd beaten the market and by how much.

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As we know the law of big numbers pretty much puts a cap on open ended mutual funds significantly outperforming the market for long periods of time.
And therein lay the problem. It seems that predicting which funds/sectors/styles/combination of holdings will do well over the next ten years seems implausible. If someone were able to do this, the money would certainly be flowing in their direction. We can see it looking back with 20/20 hindsight. The hard part is seeing it looking forward, knowing when to get in, and knowing when to get out.

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The question is do these results prove that stock picking is a fool errand as the efficient market theory people contend,or do they just prove that open managed mutual funds aren't a good investment vehicle?
Honestly...I think both. I think some people that are very well disciplined can pick up bargains and hold them until they're fully valued and then part company with them, picking up others. I think its really hard to do, I think that many situations are so complex that even the best vetting can fail more often than one would like, and while you'll make money I dont know that after 25 years you'd be on the upside.

Buffet's performance may not be repeatable. He bought big long haul growth stocks at good prices and then kept them until they stopped being the top worldwide brand of choice. Once he'd amassed a considerable fortune he could buy atm-like businesses that reliably produced cash. Once he got that far, he could buy and fix businesses with favorable outlooks but some reparable problem.

If this was really doable, where are the thousands of fund managers who, like Lynch and Miller, would be crowing about their results in beating the markets for 10+ years? We should have at LEAST that many.

Instead, we have a bunch of schmucks who want to tell us about the one or two portfolios out of twenty that didnt hit bottom, with a start date of the beginning of the current bull run.
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Old 11-29-2007, 07:08 PM   #27
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Only thing I can't understand is why we spend so much energy proving that mediocrity is best after all. What is the hook?

Ha
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Old 11-29-2007, 07:26 PM   #28
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Only thing I can't understand is why we spend so much energy proving that mediocrity is best after all. What is the hook?

Ha
The hook is that even a schmuck such as myself can ER via boring as paint dollar cost averaging 500index, time in the market and good old cheap bastardhood(read frugal) - the horse I rode in on - in spite of forty years of 'brilliant legend in my own mind stock picking'.

Great entertainment - lots of thrill of victory/agony of defeat moments picking stocks but in the end - time in the market(sold and ate the duplex proceeds early in ER) ho hum balanced index.

heh heh heh - Then again Inherit The Wind is on the TCM channel right now - so if you like old time religion(opening theme song) the Norwegian widow says psssst Wellesley or the old timey widow and orphans - utes, telephone, oil, banks, food, drugs and REITs type dividend stocks.
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Old 11-29-2007, 07:31 PM   #29
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Buffet's performance may not be repeatable.
Or maybe it can be. There are "private investors" like Ruane and the Fishers who do quite well on their own but who don't want to contend with bloat. And there are at least four newbs at Berkshire Hathaway who are hoping that Buffett can train them to carry on his tradition, to say nothing of the thousands of blissfully ignorant ever-hopeful stockholders.

Let's not forget that the whole thing is one heckuva lot of work for people who aren't hardwired to get excited about reading the entire Moody's & S&P stock guides plus a half-dozen daily newspapers and then start making phone calls. Buffett's joke is "start with the stocks beginning with the letter 'A'..."

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If this was really doable, where are the thousands of fund managers who, like Lynch and Miller, would be crowing about their results in beating the markets for 10+ years? We should have at LEAST that many.
Instead, we have a bunch of schmucks who want to tell us about the one or two portfolios out of twenty that didnt hit bottom, with a start date of the beginning of the current bull run.
To be fair, there's also guys like George Soros, Eddie Lampert, and the Danahers. They've all hit rocky patches over the years, just like Buffett was an idiot in 1999 for not buying tech.
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Old 11-29-2007, 07:32 PM   #30
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Yup read 4 Pillar (actually the library had it on audio tape only so I didn't get to see all the charts.) Speigel's Stocks for the Long Run, Random Walk down Wall Street, Bogle on Mutual Funds and bunch of others
I'm on the road right now, so can't go to the bookshelf and check, but I'm pretty sure that Bernstein, Bogle, and Malkiel address the issue of performance not repeating by any more than random chance would predict.

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It seems to me that something like WSJ long running dart portfolio vs the pros. (In which the Pros beat the darts by a small but measurable amount) are a better test of my contention that stock picking is skill and not equally distributed.
Still doesn't mean that using their picks is better - are there results better than the dart throws after there reserach expenses, and more importantly, are there results better than the dart throws after the expenses that they'd charge you?

It's true that larger funds are somewhat handcuffed in what they can invest in, and impact costs are significant. Still, the guys that manage those funds are megastars in the investment world, making big bucks and having time, money, and staff to devote to the task. If they can't consistently beat the indexes, how can you and I reasonably expect to do so?

The biggest reason I can think of is that we can follow smaller stocks and don't have the impact costs. Peter Lynch makes this point in at least one of his books.

Any individual investor's results are not statistically significant - were they lucky, or good? I'm not aware of any good academic studies on this area.


In the final analysis, I have money to invest, and have to do something with it, even if it's just stuffing it in the mattress. I see no evidence to support the idea that I, as an individual with limited time to research stocks, have a reasonable expectation of beating those who do have the time/money/tools. I see solid evidence that indexing is a strategy that over the long term will put me in the top 25% of returns. So I go with low-cost, buy-and-hold, index, rebalancing.

I won't say that an individual can't beat the market; that's obviously false. I won't say that an individual can't beat the market through skill rather than luck, the evidence isn't that strong. I will say that I think the strategy most likely to provide superior performance is indexing.
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Old 11-29-2007, 07:39 PM   #31
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Only thing I can't understand is why we spend so much energy proving that mediocrity is best after all.
Well, what is mediocrity? If, over the long haul, indexing gets you into the top 25% of invetment results, isn't that superior?

Note that here I'm talking about comparing indexing against relevant benchmark - it's not correct to judge a small-value investor against a large-blend investor.

Also, correct market-timing and security selection provides a huge advantage over indexing; I've just not seen any evidence to indicate that I have a reasonable expectation of doing so.
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Old 11-29-2007, 08:09 PM   #32
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Or maybe it can be.
Sure. But can you find the guy that'll do it in advance and can you participate in the effort? I think thats the crux of it.

Tick-Tock...actually what Bernstein found was that the number of managers who "beat the market" was substantially below that of random average. I think he practically said 'active management is harmful'.

I summarized it right after I read it.

http://www.early-retirement.org/foru...ing-14508.html
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Old 11-29-2007, 08:45 PM   #33
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Thanks, cute fuzzy bunny!

I didn't want to make too strong a claim while away from the sources to cite.

*****************************

Okay, here's a real-world example.

An employee at my corporation got it into his head that a certain stock was about to explode upward, for various reasons.

So, he bought as much stock as he could with his savings, mortaged his house to the hilt, ran up all the credit cards he could get to the max, borrowed every penny he could get, and bought stock with all the money.

And, guess what















He was right!

The stock went through the roof, and he sold when it was through the roof, and he RETIRED!!!

Now, he has a bunch of the younger folk at the plant thinking this is THE WAY to make a lot of money and retire early.

So, was he lucky, or good?

Is it something you'd want to bet your future on? If the stock had merely stayed flat, he'd have been financially sunk trying to make payments on the money that he'd borrowed.

Oh, did I mention that he has a wife and kids? It's one thing to make a bet like that when it's only your own future at stake, but another when other folks are depending on you.
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Old 11-29-2007, 08:50 PM   #34
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Well, if anyone is interested, here are some articles on Mutual Fund Persistence.

I think the odds of me [or most anyone else] finding the next Buffet is pretty slim. I think I'll take Buffet's advice and invest in index funds.

- Alec
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Old 11-30-2007, 12:30 AM   #35
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In the final analysis, I have money to invest, and have to do something with it, even if it's just stuffing it in the mattress. I see no evidence to support the idea that I, as an individual with limited time to research stocks, have a reasonable expectation of beating those who do have the time/money/tools. I see solid evidence that indexing is a strategy that over the long term will put me in the top 25% of returns. So I go with low-cost, buy-and-hold, index, rebalancing.

I won't say that an individual can't beat the market; that's obviously false. I won't say that an individual can't beat the market through skill rather than luck, the evidence isn't that strong. I will say that I think the strategy most likely to provide superior performance is indexing.

My when you put it in this reasonable fashion, it is hard to argue with. Damn what fun is that .

Ok back to looking for other sacred cows to attack. How about retiring early is evil and immoral, that should get the board exicted.
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Old 11-30-2007, 01:17 AM   #36
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no funds had beaten the S&P for longer than ten years.
I never understood this sort of claim. Is the claim that no fund beat the market every year for 10 years straight, or that no fund has beaten the market in total return after 10 years?

My personal experience is that I've owned Vanguard's Health Care fund for 20+ years now, and the total return of that fund has beaten the market over that 20 year period.

I would imagine that any tech fund that held a large concentration of DELL, MSFT, and INTC also beat the market over a 20 year period.

If you capture the whole market, you're basically capturing US GDP growth + some speculative return (which should go away over time). It's always seemed obvious to me that some sectors grow faster than the overall economy, and if you capture that growth, you'll beat the market.

Random examples in this chart:

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Old 11-30-2007, 10:53 AM   #37
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Yahbut while sector (and individual stock) growth is obvious in the rear view mirror, its not going forward.

If it were, what would you be buying that'd be so obviously good right now thats a cant miss market beater for the next decade? And if it were so obviously good, why wouldnt everyone already have bought it?

Clearly by taking stakes in higher return, higher risk sectors and holding them for decades, one could do well.

How do ya think that health care fund would have worked out if Hillary's first health care endeavor had matured and come to fruition? That might have stunted a lot of profit dollars. I actually had most of my 401k in vanguard health care for some time, but pulled it out a few years ago. I cant see that gravy train going on for many more years at these rising profit levels. Who could afford to pay?

As far as returns, the benchmark is to beat it every year. Thats persistency. I had a triple digit return one year in the late 90's. Over the past 15 years I've absolutely killed "the market". In fact, except for 2000, every single year. Does it count if over time you're "beating" if you only did it once (albeit spectacularly) and never do it again?

Ya wanna send me some money to invest for you? I'll charge less than Bill Miller does!

So we're still in the same conundrum. You can look back and see what was better. But risk and probability adjusted, its not likely that you'd do so going forward.

Alec, didnt you post some stuff about individual stock picking once, what ones observed odds were of "hitting a big one"? IIRC it was something like one in six.
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Old 11-30-2007, 11:42 AM   #38
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As far as returns, the benchmark is to beat it every year.
That seems like a bogus benchmark. Not even the much vaunted Buffett, who is used as an "outlier" example, consistently beats the market.
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Old 11-30-2007, 11:49 AM   #39
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That seems like a bogus benchmark. Not even the much vaunted Buffett, who is used as an "outlier" example, consistently beats the market.
Buffett says rolling periods of say 5 or 10 yrs. For a lot of funds that is really hard too. There aren't many that beat the benchmark over a rolling 5yr period and then managed to hang on with the Index after the big influx of performance chasing money.
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Old 11-30-2007, 11:53 AM   #40
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That seems like a bogus benchmark. Not even the much vaunted Buffett, who is used as an "outlier" example, consistently beats the market.

So, this info is a lie??

http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2005ltr.pdf

Outlier or not, those numbers don't lie, and you CAN invest in his companies, through the "A" or "B" share class, so he IS a manager you can buy into, not like some high entry hedge fund guy.........
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