Warren Buffett

The smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. For to a degree, people read the press to inform themselves – and the better the teacher, the better the student body.

The One Simple Moving Average Every Gold Trader Should Know

The One Simple Moving Average Every Gold Trader Should Know

The bears have their claws out again. By last Friday’s close the gold price tumbled from $1,292/oz to $1,249/oz. But, I believe, the yellow metal’s abysmal performance could present the first decent buying opportunity in a long time…

How could a chartist buy gold in this market?

Below is an old chart gold analysts have mulled over for years. It shows just one technical indicator: The 144-day moving average.

The One Simple Moving Average Every Gold Trader Should Know
The One Simple Moving Average Every Gold Trader Should Know

Source: Saxo Capital Markets

Now why the dollar/gold price has decided to pick the 144-Day Simple Moving average as its key support and resistance level in the last two major movements is anyone’s guess.

But there’s no question it’s been remarkably effective in predicting the correct “accumulation” points for gold bugs in the last five years. Between January 2009 and 12 December 2011, this mysterious support line held without fail. It was tested and held a total of 26 times, showing only one false break, which lasted only three days at the very beginning of the movement in January 2009.

For almost three years traders have used this indicator with uninterrupted success.

The line was first breached on December 12th 2011. And the resulting 9% correction was a clear indication the trend had changed. The signal was a clear exit from the metal and traders could have closed positions safely with a strong reversal on the 25th of January 2012.

The bear market was then established and this same moving average began predicting each lower high in gold’s subsequent 34% slump. Ironically, it was Valentine’s Day in 2014 when traders of the 114 Simple Moving Average began to rekindle their love of gold. This was the first day in over a year the dollar gold price managed to trade consistently above the line.

Since that day, the price has skidded along the 114 SMA. And over the next three months, gold tested the line another 14 times without breaking.

This is a clear signal gold is once again in a consolidation phase. Interestingly, the previous consolidation lasted for most of 2012. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we were in for another year of choppy sideways trade in gold, which is bad news for gold zealots but wonderful for gold traders. Especially if we see gold beginning to build a base at this level. If the consolidation continues, I believe it’s possible that by 2015 we’ll resume our upward path and the gold bulls will be back in charge.

Gold Trade Details:

The break down last Wednesday represents a 3% correction below the line.

In the previous consolidation phase there were two significant contra movements: A 5.90% and a 9.66% deviation above the line. I would thus start accumulating gold on a 5% dip below the 144-SMA all the way down to 7.5%. Your stop loss should be set at 12% below the 144-SMA.

A quick “napkin” calculation based on where we’re trading this week gives you your first entry point at $1,215/oz and you can continue buying all the way down to the $1,180/oz double bottom.

Your conservative profit target would then be $1,330/oz for a 10% ungeared movement.

The Other Side: The “Experts” have a different opinion…

The analysts at SocGen seem to hold a far more bearish view.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Societe Generale raised its near-term gold forecast, but said it remains very bearish over the medium to long term and continues to recommend selling gold rallies.

In a note dated Wednesday, it raised its 2014 average gold price forecast to $1,272 an ounce, attributing the increase to support from the Crimean crisis. Reports said the previous forecast was $1,180. Prices for the August gold futures contract GCQ4 -0.07% traded at $1,253.70 an ounce on Comex Thursday.

But Societe Generale said gold is likely to trade well below $1,200 next year, and to break below $1,000 in 2016 when the Federal Reserve is “likely to hike rates at a much faster pace than currently discounted by the market.”

Overall, the determination of the members of the Fed to “maintain the U.S. monetary policy towards tapering and gradual but protracted policy normalisation, including rising interest rates as the economic outlook continues to improve, underpin our bearish view about the gold price in the medium term,” they said.

As a result, it expects the gold price to average just $825 between 2017 and 2019.

– Excerpt Market Watch, “Societe Generale sees 2017-2019 gold price average of $825”, June 6th 2014

Now, Societe Generale might very well be correct, but if you are planning to sell rallies, rather than accumulating, the one thing I can say with certainty is, you should be watching the mysterious 144-Day Moving Average!

Buy Starbucks before April 24th and make a latte money!

Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) is reporting second-quarter earnings on Thursday, April 24th, and we want in!

Starbucks Fundamentals

The company is coming off the best year in its long history and we believe the coffee chain will deliver another robust quarter.

In Q1, it managed to generate a record $4.24 billion in revenue in a strong holiday season with higher store traffic. Recently it’s opened 417 new stores (bringing total store count to 20,184), which has put in on track to achieve the impressive goal of 1,500 new stores in 2014 – which would represent a 7.5% increase in total locations.

Continue reading Buy Starbucks before April 24th and make a latte money!

MTN: Buy the Rumour, Sell the Fact… And bank 130% on margin!

Today, in the ongoing battle over the pricing of Mobile Termination Rates (MTR), Judge Haseena Mayat ruled in favour of MTN, Vodacom, Icasa, Telkom Mobile and Cell-C in a confusing verdict where everyone seems to be both the winner and the loser!

Did I mention the legal battle would be “notoriously uncertain (and the verdict… surprising)”? I think I did in the 16th of Feb MTN coverage. Still, who would have expected this sort of tomfoolery from the South Gauteng High Court?

Continue reading MTN: Buy the Rumour, Sell the Fact… And bank 130% on margin!

The Ol’ Timey Midwestern Wisdom of Warren E. Buffett

An excerpt from Warren Buffett’s Letters to Berkshire Shareholders – published 28th of February 2014

Some Thoughts About Investing

Investment is most intelligent when it is most businesslike. — The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

It is fitting to have a Ben Graham quote open this discussion because I owe so much of what I know about investing to him. I will talk more about Ben a bit later, and I will even sooner talk about common stocks. But let me first tell you about two small non-stock investments that I made long ago. Though neither changed my net worth by much, they are instructive.

This tale begins in Nebraska. From 1973 to 1981, the Midwest experienced an explosion in farm prices,caused by a widespread belief that runaway inflation was coming and fueled by the lending policies of small rural banks. Then the bubble burst, bringing price declines of 50% or more that devastated both leveraged farmers and their lenders. Five times as many Iowa and Nebraska banks failed in that bubble’s aftermath than in our recent Great Recession.

In 1986, I purchased a 400-acre farm, located 50 miles north of Omaha, from the FDIC. It cost me $280,000, considerably less than what a failed bank had lent against the farm a few years earlier. I knew nothing about operating a farm. But I have a son who loves farming and I learned from him both how many bushels of corn and soybeans the farm would produce and what the operating expenses would be. From these estimates, I calculated the normalized return from the farm to then be about 10%. I also thought it was likely that productivity would improve over time and that crop prices would move higher as well. Both expectations proved out.

I needed no unusual knowledge or intelligence to conclude that the investment had no downside and potentially had substantial upside. There would, of course, be the occasional bad crop and prices would sometimes disappoint. But so what? There would be some unusually good years as well, and I would never be under any pressure to sell the property. Now, 28 years later, the farm has tripled its earnings and is worth five times or more what I paid. I still know nothing about farming and recently made just my second visit to the farm.

In 1993, I made another small investment. Larry Silverstein, Salomon’s landlord when I was the company’s CEO, told me about a New York retail property adjacent to NYU that the Resolution Trust Corp. was selling. Again, a bubble had popped – this one involving commercial real estate – and the RTC had been created to dispose of the assets of failed savings institutions whose optimistic lending practices had fueled the folly.

Here, too, the analysis was simple. As had been the case with the farm, the unleveraged current yield from the property was about 10%. But the property had been undermanaged by the RTC, and its income would increase when several vacant stores were leased. Even more important, the largest tenant – who occupied around 20% of the project’s space – was paying rent of about $5 per foot, whereas other tenants averaged $70. The expiration of this bargain lease in nine years was certain to provide a major boost to earnings. The property’s location was also superb: NYU wasn’t going anywhere.

I joined a small group, including Larry and my friend Fred Rose, that purchased the parcel. Fred was an experienced, high-grade real estate investor who, with his family, would manage the property. And manage it they did. As old leases expired, earnings tripled. Annual distributions now exceed 35% of our original equity investment. Moreover, our original mortgage was refinanced in 1996 and again in 1999, moves that allowed several special distributions totaling more than 150% of what we had invested. I’ve yet to view the property.

Income from both the farm and the NYU real estate will probably increase in the decades to come. Though the gains won’t be dramatic, the two investments will be solid and satisfactory holdings for my lifetime and, subsequently, for my children and grandchildren.

I tell these tales to illustrate certain fundamentals of investing:

  • You don’t need to be an expert in order to achieve satisfactory investment returns. But if you aren’t, you must recognize your limitations and follow a course certain to work reasonably well. Keep things simple and don’t swing for the fences. When promised quick profits, respond with a quick “no.”
  • Focus on the future productivity of the asset you are considering. If you don’t feel comfortable making a rough estimate of the asset’s future earnings, just forget it and move on. No one has the ability to evaluate every investment possibility. But omniscience isn’t necessary; you only need to understand the actions you undertake.
  • If you instead focus on the prospective price change of a contemplated purchase, you are speculating. There is nothing improper about that. I know, however, that I am unable to speculate successfully, and I am skeptical of those who claim sustained success at doing so. Half of all coin-flippers will win their first toss; none of those winners has an expectation of profit if he continues to play the game. And the fact that a given asset has appreciated in the recent past is never a reason to buy it.
  • With my two small investments, I thought only of what the properties would produce and cared not at all about their daily valuations. Games are won by players who focus on the playing field – not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard. If you can enjoy Saturdays and Sundays without looking at stock prices, give it a try on weekdays.
  • Forming macro opinions or listening to the macro or market predictions of others is a waste of time. Indeed, it is dangerous because it may blur your vision of the facts that are truly important. (When I hear TV commentators glibly opine on what the market will do next, I am reminded of Mickey Mantle’s scathing comment: “You don’t know how easy this game is until you get into that broadcasting booth.”)
  • My two purchases were made in 1986 and 1993. What the economy, interest rates, or the stock market might do in the years immediately following – 1987 and 1994 – was of no importance to me in making those investments. I can’t remember what the headlines or pundits were saying at the time. Whatever the chatter, corn would keep growing in Nebraska and students would flock to NYU.

There is one major difference between my two small investments and an investment in stocks. Stocks provide you minute-to-minute valuations for your holdings whereas I have yet to see a quotation for either my farm or the New York real estate.

It should be an enormous advantage for investors in stocks to have those wildly fluctuating valuations placed on their holdings – and for some investors, it is. After all, if a moody fellow with a farm bordering my property yelled out a price every day to me at which he would either buy my farm or sell me his – and those prices varied widely over short periods of time depending on his mental state – how in the world could I be other than benefited by his erratic behavior? If his daily shout-out was ridiculously low, and I had some spare cash, I would buy his farm. If the number he yelled was absurdly high, I could either sell to him or just go on farming.

Owners of stocks, however, too often let the capricious and often irrational behavior of their fellow owners cause them to behave irrationally as well. Because there is so much chatter about markets, the economy, interest rates, price behavior of stocks, etc., some investors believe it is important to listen to pundits – and, worse yet, important to consider acting upon their comments.

Those people who can sit quietly for decades when they own a farm or apartment house too often become frenetic when they are exposed to a stream of stock quotations and accompanying commentators delivering an implied message of “Don’t just sit there, do something.” For these investors, liquidity is transformed from the unqualified benefit it should be to a curse.

A “flash crash” or some other extreme market fluctuation can’t hurt an investor any more than an erratic and mouthy neighbor can hurt my farm investment. Indeed, tumbling markets can be helpful to the true investor if he has cash available when prices get far out of line with values. A climate of fear is your friend when investing; a euphoric world is your enemy.

During the extraordinary financial panic that occurred late in 2008, I never gave a thought to selling my farm or New York real estate, even though a severe recession was clearly brewing. And, if I had owned 100% of a solid business with good long-term prospects, it would have been foolish for me to even consider dumping it. So why would I have sold my stocks that were small participations in wonderful businesses? True, any one of them might eventually disappoint, but as a group they were certain to do well. Could anyone really believe the earth was going to swallow up the incredible productive assets and unlimited human ingenuity existing in America?

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

When Charlie and I buy stocks – which we think of as small portions of businesses – our analysis is very similar to that which we use in buying entire businesses. We first have to decide whether we can sensibly estimate an earnings range for five years out, or more. If the answer is yes, we will buy the stock (or business) if it sells at a reasonable price in relation to the bottom boundary of our estimate. If, however, we lack the ability to estimate future earnings – which is usually the case – we simply move on to other prospects. In the 54 years we have worked together, we have never foregone an attractive purchase because of the macro or political environment, or the views of other people. In fact, these subjects never come up when we make decisions.

It’s vital, however, that we recognize the perimeter of our “circle of competence” and stay well inside of it. Even then, we will make some mistakes, both with stocks and businesses. But they will not be the disasters that occur, for example, when a long-rising market induces purchases that are based on anticipated price behavior and a desire to be where the action is.

Most investors, of course, have not made the study of business prospects a priority in their lives. If wise, they will conclude that they do not know enough about specific businesses to predict their future earning power.

I have good news for these non-professionals: The typical investor doesn’t need this skill. In aggregate, American business has done wonderfully over time and will continue to do so (though, most assuredly, in unpredictable fits and starts). In the 20th Century, the Dow Jones Industrials index advanced from 66 to 11,497, paying a rising stream of dividends to boot. The 21st Century will witness further gains, almost certain to be substantial. The goal of the non-professional should not be to pick winners – neither he nor his “helpers” can do that – but should rather be to own a cross-section of businesses that in aggregate are bound to do well. A low-cost S&P 500 index fund will achieve this goal.

That’s the “what” of investing for the non-professional. The “when” is also important. The main danger is that the timid or beginning investor will enter the market at a time of extreme exuberance and then become disillusioned when paper losses occur. (Remember the late Barton Biggs’ observation: “A bull market is like sex. It feels best just before it ends.”) The antidote to that kind of mistiming is for an investor to accumulate shares over a long period and never to sell when the news is bad and stocks are well off their highs. Following those rules, the “know-nothing” investor who both diversifies and keeps his costs minimal is virtually certain to get satisfactory results. Indeed, the unsophisticated investor who is realistic about his shortcomings is likely to obtain better longterm results than the knowledgeable professional who is blind to even a single weakness.

If “investors” frenetically bought and sold farmland to each other, neither the yields nor prices of their crops would be increased. The only consequence of such behavior would be decreases in the overall earnings realized by the farm-owning population because of the substantial costs it would incur as it sought advice and switched properties.

Nevertheless, both individuals and institutions will constantly be urged to be active by those who profit from giving advice or effecting transactions. The resulting frictional costs can be huge and, for investors in aggregate, devoid of benefit. So ignore the chatter, keep your costs minimal, and invest in stocks as you would in a farm.

My money, I should add, is where my mouth is: What I advise here is essentially identical to certain instructions I’ve laid out in my will. One bequest provides that cash will be delivered to a trustee for my wife’s benefit. (I have to use cash for individual bequests, because all of my Berkshire shares will be fully distributed to certain philanthropic organizations over the ten years following the closing of my estate.) My advice to the trustee could not be more simple: Put 10% of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund. (I suggest Vanguard’s.) I believe the trust’s long-term results from this policy will be superior to those attained by most investors – whether pension funds, institutions or individuals – who employ high-fee managers.

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

And now back to Ben Graham. I learned most of the thoughts in this investment discussion from Ben’s book The Intelligent Investor, which I bought in 1949. My financial life changed with that purchase.

Before reading Ben’s book, I had wandered around the investing landscape, devouring everything written on the subject. Much of what I read fascinated me: I tried my hand at charting and at using market indicia to predict stock movements. I sat in brokerage offices watching the tape roll by, and I listened to commentators. All of this was fun, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t getting anywhere.

In contrast, Ben’s ideas were explained logically in elegant, easy-to-understand prose (without Greek letters or complicated formulas). For me, the key points were laid out in what later editions labeled Chapters 8 and 20. (The original 1949 edition numbered its chapters differently.) These points guide my investing decisions today.

A couple of interesting sidelights about the book: Later editions included a postscript describing an unnamed investment that was a bonanza for Ben. Ben made the purchase in 1948 when he was writing the first edition and – brace yourself – the mystery company was GEICO. If Ben had not recognized the special qualities of GEICO when it was still in its infancy, my future and Berkshire’s would have been far different.

The 1949 edition of the book also recommended a railroad stock that was then selling for $17 and earning about $10 per share. (One of the reasons I admired Ben was that he had the guts to use current examples, leaving himself open to sneers if he stumbled.) In part, that low valuation resulted from an accounting rule of the time that required the railroad to exclude from its reported earnings the substantial retained earnings of affiliates.

The recommended stock was Northern Pacific, and its most important affiliate was Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. These railroads are now important parts of BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe), which is today fully owned by Berkshire. When I read the book, Northern Pacific had a market value of about $40 million. Now its successor (having added a great many properties, to be sure) earns that amount every four days. I can’t remember what I paid for that first copy of The Intelligent Investor. Whatever the cost, it would underscore the truth of Ben’s adage: Price is what you pay, value is what you get. Of all the investments I ever made, buying Ben’s book was the best (except for my purchase of two marriage licenses).

Full document can be found at: http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2013ltr.pdf

 

 

FOMC Continues Taper by Unanimous Vote

Excerpt form FOMC Minutes:

Voting for this action: Ben Bernanke, William C. Dudley, Richard W. Fisher, Narayana Kocherlakota, Sandra Pianalto, Charles I. Plosser, Jerome H. Powell, Jeremy C. Stein, Daniel K. Tarullo, and Janet L. Yellen.

Voting against this action: None.

The vote encompassed approval of the statement below to be released at 2:00 p.m.:

“Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in December indicates that growth in economic activity picked up in recent quarters. Labor market indicators were mixed but on balance showed further improvement. The unemployment rate declined but remains elevated. Household spending and business fixed investment advanced more quickly in recent months, while the recovery in the housing sector slowed somewhat. Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth, although the extent of restraint is diminishing. Inflation has been running below the Committee’s longer-run objective, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee sees the risks to the outlook for the economy and the labor market as having become more nearly balanced. The Committee recognizes that inflation persistently below its 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance, and it is monitoring inflation developments carefully for evidence that inflation will move back toward its objective over the medium term.

Taking into account the extent of federal fiscal retrenchment since the inception of its current asset purchase program, the Committee continues to see the improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions over that period as consistent with growing underlying strength in the broader economy. In light of the cumulative progress toward maximum employment and the improvement in the outlook for labor market conditions, the Committee decided to make a further measured reduction in the pace of its asset purchases. Beginning in February, the Committee will add to its holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $30 billion per month rather than $35 billion per month, and will add to its holdings of longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $35 billion per month rather than $40 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. The Committee’s sizable and still-increasing holdings of longer-term securities should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative, which in turn should promote a stronger economic recovery and help to ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with the Committee’s dual mandate.

The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months and will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. If incoming information broadly supports the Committee’s expectation of ongoing improvement in labor market conditions and inflation moving back toward its longer-run objective, the Committee will likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings. However, asset purchases are not on a preset course, and the Committee’s decisions about their pace will remain contingent on the Committee’s outlook for the labor market and inflation as well as its assessment of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee today reaffirmed its view that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. The Committee also reaffirmed its expectation that the current exceptionally low target range for the federal funds rate of 0 to ¼ percent will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored. In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. The Committee continues to anticipate, based on its assessment of these factors, that it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate well past the time that the unemployment rate declines below 6-1/2 percent, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.

It was agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on Tuesday-Wednesday, March 18-19, 2014. The meeting adjourned at 10:55 a.m. on January 29, 2014.

Portfolio Manager, Trader, Market Commentator and Equity Analyst