Happy birthday to our Founder/Chairman (and my dad) Sam Wang!
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.
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.
I just read an interview with retired fund manager Bob Rodriguez who managed award winning FPA mutual funds in stocks and bonds. Like us, Rodriguez believes in owning cash when there is a storm on the horizon and he held significant amounts of cash (30-40%) in 2000 and 2008 in his actively managed stock mutual fund. He is now retired but he is seeing a perfect storm developing thanks to the huge shift into passive management where there are NO cash holdings. When the next downturn hits, many of those invested strictly in passive instruments will likely be hit extremely hard and their timing will be poor to hit the sell button. Here are his insights on the coming storm:
The first half of the year has come and gone. The S&P 500 ground its way higher and finished the first half up 9.3%. Unsurprisingly it has been robust S&P earnings that drove the markets to new all-time highs. Reported earnings were up 18% year over year. Despite the new administration's failure to pass new tax policy so far, analysts weren't expecting much movement in 2017 so earnings estimates haven't disappointed in the least. In fact, companies have continued to beat expectations on the top and bottom line and we expect more of the same in the second half. This has the Runnymede investment team optimistic heading into the second half of the year. As the market continues to hit new highs, there seems to be a guru warning of the next crash on a weekly basis. Just ignore the noise for now.
I recently went to see a local production of "The Emperor's New Clothes" which is based off a short story by Hans Christian Anderson where two weavers promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don't see anything for fear that they will be seen as unfit or stupid. Finally a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!" and the weavers are exposed for the frauds that they are. Sadly this happens in real life and market gurus who get airtime on popular financial TV programs are there for entertainment, not for actual substance. Make sure that you know the difference.
I usually reserve Friday blog posts for lighter topics but with the FOMC meeting this week, I think it is important to touch on the Fed's plan to shrink its $4.5 trillion balance sheet. While the announcement was widely expected, it spelled out in greater detail plans to slowly unwind the Fed's sizable bond holdings. We believe that this step is very positive alongside interest rate hikes. The economy is doing well enough that the Fed can step back from its emergency measures, thus saving ammo for the next recession. We do not believe that this will cause a spike in long term rates but will monitor the situation closely.
During a bull market, it seem like every single year a chart will start circulating comparing the current price action to a terrible period like 2008, 1987 or even 1929. Well today is that time again. Yogi Berra said it best: "It's like déjà vu all over again." Here is the chart that is making its rounds on Wall Street.
Recently one of our clients sent me over an article from Yahoo Finance titled Mark Yusko: 'The US is going to have a crash and it will be massive.' Clearly that is a great title for an article because it is scary as hell. Just keep in mind in today's world, you have to say something like that to get quoted. Writers know that is great click bait. They salivate over quotes like that one from Yusko. But more importantly to me and you, is this really going to happen? Is the market going to crash? Perhaps eventually, but not likely in the near term. Is it going to be massive? Almost impossible to answer. Our view is that the market is still heading higher. S&P earnings are growing in the low teens and the global economy is on the upswing. Interest rates remain extremely low and are still near zero in Japan and Europe. These conditions don't suggest an imminent crash but we are always monitoring variables that could change our outlook.
IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION
Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Runnymede Capital Management, Inc.-"Runnymede"), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this blog will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this blog serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Runnymede. Please remember that if you are a Runnymede client, it remains your responsibility to advise Runnymede, in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/evaluating/revising our previous recommendations and/or services, or if you would like to impose, add, or to modify any reasonable restrictions to our investment advisory services. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. Runnymede is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the blog content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Runnymede's current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request. Please Note: Runnymede does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to Runnymede's web site or blog or incorporated herein, and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly.