18 months. We are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
It is very difficult to hide intent and the truth will always be revealed. This is because we are all sentient beings. We can feel, empathize and understand other sentient beings. That is why even though animals do not speak, we feel for them. Dog owners intuitively know if their dogs are happy or sad, sick or about the face death.
In many sense, this is very similar to stocks. Truth is intrinsic value. The reason why stocks will always revert to its intrinsic value it because that is the true value. It cannot trade way above or below its intrinsic value forever. If it is way below, someone, someday will take over and benefit from it. Conversely, if it trades above, it will fall. Or in case of an overpaid buyout, someone will suffer. The example that comes to mind is Time Warner overpaying for AOL.
This is the same with lying, dishonesty and doing things without integrity.
Someone, someday will figure it all out. Well it depends on the scale and atrocity of it all. If you lied about test score and burnt the test paper, maybe your parents will not find out this time. But do it enough, the truth comes out. Good deeds and bad deeds cancel out. You can make amends. Alas, we are just too lazy to do that right? If we got away once, we will do it again. Hence the saying,
"Don't go down the slippery slope."
There are people who doesn't believe in all this crap. They believe that can forever puff it up and pretend they are something that they are not. Well, after all, Trump did become President and Jack the Ripper did get away. They believe there are ways to be rich, or famous, or powerful, with lies, threats, dishonesty, dis-integrity and Ra-Ra. They believe they can have enjoy the fruits of success without putting in the effort.
This is very similar to some stocks that sell some castle-in-the-sky story and skyrocket to the moon. They believe this can go on forever. But sadly when you are judged by the stock market, with millions of intelligent investors, the truth will always come due. You can punch above your weight for a while, but the market will knock you out sooner or later. The Enron story comes to mind (chart above and link below).
That is what I see happen to people who ra-ra too much in real life as well. Other people see the intent and the truth behind the puff, smoke and lies because we are all sentient beings. Trump's debacle is playing out. He will go down in history books as the only US President who got impeached twice. I believe we have not seen his bottom yet. If he doesn't hit bottom that can only mean in his life, he had done enough good things to offset the bad that we don't see.
So, if we adhere to be true value investors, buying stocks below their intrinsic values maybe we should strive to live a life of honesty and integrity, don't ra-ra, punch our weight right, not above and not below. Strive to promise and deliver (not over-promise and under-deliver). Compound our own intrinsic value the hard way, with discipline and effort.
Three charts for today.
US property prices keep rising despite COVID-19.
HK property prices not falling despite umbrella riots and COVID-19. This is the power of QE. Do not fight the Fed.
Another chart to drive the point home. Apple's market cap hit 2.34 trillion dollars. We were so excited then it was closing in one trillion just 18 months ago.
Do not fight the Fed.
Happy Chinese New Year! Huat Ah!
Gamestop is a game retailer in secular decline which was made worse by the pandemic. Well, it's in decline simply because we buy consoles from Amazon and games itself are now downloaded online so there is no reason to visit Gamestop ever again. But in recent days, Gamestop found itself becoming the epicentre of an epic war. Its stock price rose 1700% as the internet generation wanted to make a statement to Wall Street.
The statement was made on Reddit. War rallies on social media to save Gamestop from evil Wall Street hedge funds shorting the stock to bankruptcy. Gondor calls for aid. And Rohan will answer. Yes, they were answered. Millions of gamers and internet trolls bought Gamestop and drove the share price up so that short sellers will get hurt. They won the first battle, some hedge funds sold and a few even went bankrupt.
Two days ago, on 28 January 2021, Wall Street fought back. Various trading accounts, using share price manipulation as the reason, restricted trading on the name, driving the share price down from $469 to $132, an over 70% drop. The saga did not end, millions of Robinhood account holders complained and the restrictions were lifted. The stock proceeded to rise over 100%! So the fight continues. This is yet another manifestation that we are in this pandemic induced bubble. Irrationality overwhelms and share price volatility explodes.
We know this is not going to end well. Gamestop will not be saved (for the simple reason that Gamestop doesn't have an intrinsic value of USD22 billion) and many people will lose their shirts.
Well, the answer is yes.
A slew of reputable investors have come out to say we are in a bubble. When I say reputable, we are not even talking about David Einhorn or Dan Loeb. Here's market veteran Jeremy Grantham who has studied bubbles over 50 years and he is telling us, we are in a bubble and this may become the biggest bubble we have seen.
There are a few characteristics about bubbles. First it is when valuations are inexplicable. Look at Tesla.
We discussed this before. This company has never made money for shareholders. It produces less than 500,000 cars and yet it is now bigger than almost all of the global automakers combined. In a bubble, it is easy to just look at the stock price. Nothing else really matters. Dividends, accident and safety record, resale value. Well, who's tracking anyways. People who bought Tesla look like heroes. Most would not have done thorough analysis but who cares. They made a lot of money and Elon Musk is their god.
The second characteristic is about people. We know we are in a bubble when everyone is crazy about stock markets. In the past, it was when grandmothers ask for stock tips. This time, it is exhibited over the social media. It started a few years with bitcoin. Remember ICOs? Then Robinhood allowed account holders to buy bitcoins. Bitcoin is now back with a vengeance.
The last characteristic relates to compounding and hyperbolic charts. Stock markets over time follow compounding charts and not hyperbolic charts. It is very subtle but important. All investors should understand this. The chart below shows Nasdaq. As with bitcoin, it went hyperbolic in 1999 and it is going hyperbolic now. When that happens, it has to crash. We just don't know when. It can last another year, or two or even three but it cannot go hyperbolic forever.
The next chart shows how healthy compounding looks like. Costco is the best retailer in the world. It gives customers a value proposition by selling things cheap in bulk. This discount is passed on to its customers who pay an annual membership fee. It is said that Costco is simply earning membership fees because it sells products at cost to its members. But because Costco provides such a strong value proposition, it compounds. It has done so over 40 years and will continue to compound healthily. No bubble here.
As you can see, the difference is very subtle. The Costco chart and the Nasdaq chart differs only during 1999 and maybe today. When we stretch out the x-axis over time, the Nasdaq bubble in 1999 does not seem so bubblish. Over time, like 40-50 years, it becomes a blip. But people who rode it up in 1999 and failed to get out lost their shirts. Today feels like 1999. We don't want that to happen to us.
There is a natural order to growth. A bubble grows by sucking everyone to buy in a very short time and money eventually runs out. Costco grows its earnings slowly, providing value proposition to consumers. It will continue to grow steadily until every single household in the world becomes its member and even then, it can continue to increase its product mix, continuing to provide value.
Bubbles are not about providing value, it is feeding on people's fear and greed. The fear of missing out and the greed to make a quick buck. Hence, bubbles always burst. We may be in the biggest one ever. Let's be really careful in 2021.
In the next post, we will explore a bit more about this pandemic bubble.