History is a great subject because it is full of all kinds of great stories, events, people, and situations which actually took place. Many of these events caused great sorrow and destruction, like World War One and Two, the murders of the Holocaust, and the massive loss of human life during the Civil War and Crusades. It is instructive to pay attention to these events because you can learn how the world came to be where it is today, and how countries and regions were shaped from previous generations.
Just as important, you can also digest how people have been successful in various different situations or industries. I think the whole process of learning encourages and stimulates growth in many different ways. There is much in the media about how college costs, especially student loans, are so great that it has rendered a generation saddled with so much debt it will be hard for them to get out from under the loan repayment burden. However, there is always another perspective. Knowledge can be gained in many ways, and growing as an individual is a never ending process. Part of the growing process is meeting and socializing with people who have different backgrounds and knowledge bases than you do. They can help you discover worlds which you may not have known existed. Most people change jobs many times during their lives. Yet, in many instances, the group you meet and become friends with in college or high school are your most cherished acquaintances and may even become part of your immediate family. Can one really put a price or value on those relationships? I think not.
As my focus usually involves the equity markets, this week I spent some time learning about some of the legends in the financial world and how they approached investing. Many are people I am very familiar with or had extensive knowledge of before this weeks quest. Still, what I found interesting about many is the mindset they had in their approach to the market and life in general. The common theme was staying optimistic, constantly learning about new companies and industries, and to not worry about broader problems in the global or domestic economy. In addition, having a healthy lifestyle and a robust social life were important as well. Many of these individuals lived very long lives, made huge fortunes, and are a shining example of good for their communities. All of these attributes are noteworthy for anybody and if I can have a smidgen of their success I will consider myself very fortunate.
In the financial world, the major events of last week included the focus on the fiscal cliff negotiations, as well as Bill Ackman's announcement and presentation of his best investment idea ever, the short of Herbalife. Herbalife's stock, as well as those of similar ilk (Avon, Nu Skin Enterprises), suffered losses of over 30% during the last two days. Yes, 30% in the last two trading sessions. Mr. Ackman has what is called market credibility. Having seen many of Mr. Ackman's presentations, he is incredibly thorough and spent a year researching Herbalife. Not all of Mr. Ackman's investments have had great success, as Border's and Target come to mind. Many are openly skeptical of how his position in J.C. Penny's will fare, and as of today, it remains to be seen how the famous department store can turn their financial performance around. However, I would not want to take the other side of the Ackman trade because he is like a dog with a bone. He will not exit the position if he feels he is right. It took him many years to take down MBIA, yet he ultimately prevailed and made a ton of money doing so. The position with Herbalife all goes to charity, so he really has no personal skin in the game. Still, it is a situation I will definitely keep my eye on.
The fiscal cliff situation remains unresolved and most analysts believe it will not get solved before 2013 arrives. During the presidential election, I commented to friend's and family the same belief I have today, only I will apply it our entire political leadership in Washington. Please take no offense at the language as it is harsh. If it is bothersome, I am sorry. THEY COULD NOT LEAD A WHORE TO BED. A major problem is neither side cares that the positions they take and will affect the other side. The President does not want to cut spending for fear it will hurt his group of constituents. John Boehner does not want to raise taxes as it is a bedrock principle of Republicans. So what do they do? They do what they do best- go on vacation, and next week they will probably give themselves a raise. Fabulous. (Sorry for the sarcasm)
Many believe market participants are way too calm given the number of problems facing the global and U.S. economy. If the answer is cash, CD's or Treasuries, I would rather be calm-
Don't look now, but look what is the number one free application- http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/22/its-a-facebook-and-google-world-on-apples-app-store-poke-hits-1-a-day-after-its-release/
A pretty cool article on where mobile networks are headed-
If you are really into the tax situation, an interesting editorial commentary on the capital gains debate. I do not agree with the reasoning at all because it does not take into consideration incentives, but that is just my two cents-
Finally, I hope you have a great weekend. In addition, I hope the holiday season is a happy and healthy one for you and your family!!!!
Y H & C Investments, Yale Bock, and the family of Yale Bock own positions in securities mentioned in the blog post. Investing in stocks can lead to the complete loss of your capital. As always, on any company mentioned here, past performance is not a guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk of losses on invested capital. One should research any investment and make sure it is suitable with your objectives, risk tolerance, risk profile liquidity considerations, tax situation, and anything else pertinent to your financial situation. Also, the CFA credential in no way implies investment returns will be superior for any charterholder.