Berkshire Hathaway is close to a milestone that Warren Buffett doesn't want to achieve. On Friday, the company reported that it held $99.7 billion in cash at the end of the second quarter. Thanks to a collection of businesses that generate lots of cash, Berkshire's cash has been growing steadily in recent years. Because the company doesn't pay a dividend and rarely buys back its own stock, Buffett is on the hook to find ways to invest those funds. The huge cash hoard shouldn't be taken as a pure bearish signal. Remember he didn't sell assets to raise cash. In fact, he would love to spend some and he said "I hate cash" earlier this year. However, he is having trouble getting the right company at the right price.
Strategist Jim Paulsen just said the perfect quote to be scoffed at on social media. Of course he doesn't believe this but it makes for the headline of the day for CNBC. Gotta love it. In the past, you would probably say that this signals a market top but if you look below the headline, his bullish case is much like ours. He just said the quote to gain more views and mission accomplished on that.
This week I spent a couple of days in Hartford attending IMPACT Live 2017 where I met other great bloggers and inbound marketing experts. Thanks to IMPACT CEO Bob Ruffolo for the invite and incredible conference. I'm already looking forward to next year. While the conference centered on marketing, the talk that blew people's minds was from Paul Roetzer on "The Path to a More (Artificially) Intelligent Future." It definitely made for great lunch conversations shortly afterward. Here are some of the highlights and my thoughts.
The S&P 500 is roughly halfway through earnings season with 237 companies having reported. It has been a very strong period so far with 79% of companies beating expectations vs an average 73% over the last 10 years. Earnings are on track for double-digit growth once again and this should be a bullish catalyst for the market in the second half of the year. As we discussed in our last quarterly webcast for clients, reported earnings continue to accelerate and we view this as extremely positive for the stock market. Here is the chart from our call:
I recently watched the Netflix documentary "Tony Robbins: I Am Not your Guru" and it is an inspiring film that makes you want to change your life for the better. If you haven't watched it, I highly recommend it. While Robbins is known for his life coaching, he found that the American public needed to become better educated about their investments and especially their relationship to financial advisers. This year he released his latest book, "Unshakable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook" based on interviews with some of the titans in finance like Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates and Vanguard legend Jack Bogle.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that President Trump is considering renominating Janet Yellen as Fed Chair but also views his economic adviser Gary Cohn as a top candidate. The president has changed his tune since the election season when he criticized Yellen repeatedly. Now he says that he thinks she is doing a good job and has "a lot of respect for her." Cohn would represent a dramatic shift away from an academic led Fed to a savvy business leader in Cohn who had a 26 year career at Goldman Sachs.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revised its China's GDP growth forecast for 2017 and 2018 to 6.7% and 6.4% respectively. This is up from an upgrade made in April to 6.6% and 6.2%. China's growth is expected to continue to be a key driver for a firming recovery of the global economy.
Back in 1999, I was covering technology IPOs for CREF Investments. The theme was that brick and mortar stores were going to be crushed by online retailers. All you needed was eyeballs on your website and your stock would go up 10% per day. It was a crazy time. The theme would turn out to be a good one but way too early and most of the companies that I saw during that period are now bankrupt.
As the father of a 5-year-old, I worry about the cost of college and I'm sure many parents of young children do. Prices at my alma mater, the University of Richmond, have risen close to 200% since I graduated in 1997. Has the quality of education also improved by that much? It's doubtful. While amongst friends, we laugh uncomfortably at the thought of million dollar tuitions, but one wonders if there has to be a breaking point where people just turn their backs on higher education. At what point is it unaffordable?
I'm out on the West Coast this week for a series of business meetings, and I brought a book. Call me old school. Putting in earplugs and settling in with a good book is a great way to fly, a welcome break from the usual screen time, and it conserves my iPhone battery. Sure, the seats are cramped, lousy food costs extra, and flight delays are routine. Yet, the earplugs block out the noise in the sky. And being 35,000 feet up for several hours, without internet, blocks out the noise below.
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