Category Archives: Edward

The Market at Ebb Tide

By Edward A. Studzinski

“In three words I can tell you everything I have learned about life. It goes on.”

                          Robert Frost

Golden Stacks Again

One of the more entertaining stories of September, reflecting just how far we have fallen, was to be found in the Business Section of the New York Times on Continue reading →

Consequences – Unintended or Not?

By Edward A. Studzinski

“The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern.  Every class is unfit to govern.”

          John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, aka Lord Acton, “Letter to Mary Gladstone” (24 April 1881)

The continued shrinking of liquidity has been a continued concern of mine.  We are at a point where the danger signals are again blinking, except the danger will come not from the direction Continue reading →

Antitrust Law, What Antitrust Law?

By Edward A. Studzinski

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

English proverb sometimes attributed to FDR

There is a tendency among investors, especially younger ones, to extrapolate their assumptions about investments far off into the future, beyond just a normal year or two. Once something has started working – growth rates, earnings increases, share price growth – expectations become unrealistic AND unsustainable. We have seen that in the last few years about the Continue reading →

Dotcom 2018 – This Time It’s Different?

By Edward A. Studzinski

“If you attack stupidity you attack an entrenched interest with friends in government and every walk of public life, and you will make small progress against it.”

     Samuel Marchbanks

Those of us who were value investors and running money back at the beginning of 2000, remember what a horrible time it was. For some years value had been lagging growth in performance. We were routinely told, either in emails or other communications from our investors, that our style of investing was never coming back, that we were dinosaurs who hadn’t recognized that we were extinct, and that technology stocks were the place to be as they represented the Continue reading →

Not in Kansas Anymore!

By Edward A. Studzinski

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the things you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”    Mark Twain

With June, we have had the coming of another Morningstar Conference. Repeatedly I studied the agenda. I could not see anything I thought worth hearing. Rather than presenting many of the leading investment professionals of the mutual fund world, this year the key seemed to be Continue reading →

Active Value versus Indexation – Godzilla versus the Smog Monster

By Edward A. Studzinski

The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

 Nietzsche

Some years back my colleague Clyde McGregor and I used to have philosophical discussions about the market positioning of our fund, the Oakmark Equity and Income Fund (OAKBX), vis-à-vis our competitors. And while some of our focus was on fees, most of the Continue reading →

Rolling Down the Appian Way

By Edward A. Studzinski

“To succeed in the world, it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.”

Voltaire

There is a show on Showtime cable that purports to give a pretty good reading of the world of hedge funds and their masters, called “Billions.” It is now into its third season. A scene in the third episode of this season resonated with me regarding some of the issues and problems that active managers face today. The main character, Bobby Axelrod of Axe Capital, has surrendered his rights to trade as a hedge fund manager/chief investment officer in return for having his personal capital unfrozen and thus accessible. His successor as Chief Investment Officer at the firm, Taylor Mason, has begun a search to find some quantitative managers that can be brought into the firm, hoping they will be additive to the Continue reading →

Popping the Balloon

By Edward A. Studzinski

“We live in an age of great events and little men.”

       Winston S. Churchill

We have made it through another month, and another quarter. It was not quite so painless for either investors or money managers, as year to date the S&P 500 has now dropped into negative territory. Volatility is clearly back. And while active managers made a valiant effort during the last week of the quarter to move the averages back up into positive territory, it was not to be.

What comes next? Stocks are Continue reading →

It Was the Best of Times ……

By Edward A. Studzinski

“I have to change to stay the same.”

Willem de Kooning

Horses for Courses

One of the columnists I have a great deal of time for is John Authers, who writes the “Markets Insight” column for the Financial Times of London. On 22 February, his column discussed the publication of this year’s edition of the Global Investment Returns Yearbook produced annually for Credit Suisse by the Elroy Dimson, Paul Marsh, and Mike Staunton. Historically they have looked at Continue reading →

What You See …

By Edward A. Studzinski

“If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.”

       Kingsley Amis

These days, given the continuing march of new highs in the market indices, coupled with the ongoing extremes of most valuation metrics on individual securities, there is not a lot for a conservative investor to say that hasn’t been said before. What is different this time is the continuing flight from higher fee investment vehicles by both retail and institutional investors. And that money is flowing either into exchange-traded Continue reading →

Conflicts and Contradictions

By Edward A. Studzinski

“Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.”

        Winston S. Churchill

Some time ago, I was surprised by a conversation with my colleague Charles, finding him quite incensed about a visit he had made to a money manager, one of a series of such encounters that began at the Morningstar conference this year. It appears to have been a disconcerting discovery to Charles that the firm in question, rather than lowering their fees, which fell somewhat on the high side, preferred to keep the fees high so as to support the high life. Charles would define the high life as expensive office space in the high-rent district, along with a propensity for displays of Continue reading →

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

By Edward A. Studzinski

“In wars then let our great objective be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”

                  Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Another year-end is in sight. Those of us who have been conservative in our asset allocations and predicting the end of the world have once again it seems, been proven wrong. Or perhaps not, for as the market keeps rising, the breadth keeps getting narrower. Or least it had been. It begs the question of whether we are setting up for a blow-off, heading straight up through year-end, or something else.

Attached is a Continue reading →

Fall Frolics

By Edward A. Studzinski

“Maybe this world is another planet’s hell.”

                                 Aldous Huxley

Investment Committees and Performance

We are at that point in time when investment returns trickle in from the endowments of schools and other not-for-profit organizations for their fiscal years ending June 30, 2017. In terms of preliminary numbers, the top ten college/university endowments had total returns Continue reading →

“One for the Gipper”

By Edward A. Studzinski

“There is much to be said in favor of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.” Oscar Wilde

A recurring theme in investment letters, usually when one suspects that performance or personnel issues (often directly related) need to be glossed over, is a discussion about the need to have “team players” in the investment management and research process. Now there were hedge funds, such as Tiger Management in its heyday and Maverick Capital which used to make a virtue of recruiting former athletes in high school or Continue reading →

Ruminations at Summer’s End

By Edward A. Studzinski

Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn.

                                 George Bernard Shaw

Book Review

David Snowball recently asked if I would have any interest in reading Joel Tillinghast’s (Fidelity Low-Priced Stock Fund) new book entitled Big Money Thinks Small. While I am usually reluctant to read what often end up being collections of anecdotes about how smart someone was, the fact that it had been published by Columbia Business School Publishing overcame my initial reluctance. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed the book immensely, and found it to be a very thoughtful work. Let me first say that I do not know Mr. Tillinghast, other than by reputation. However, I have served on committees with people who do know Mr. Tillinghast and have worked with him. They are uniform in their praise of him both as an investor and as an individual. He is a true polymath with almost total recall. And unlike many who content themselves with a formulaic approach to investing, e.g. mean reversion, he seeks to understand the quality of a business, the numbers supporting the business, and the character, intelligence, and integrity of management. Two chapters in particular I would recommend to all are “Gamblers, Speculators, and Investors” and the last chapter entitled Continue reading →

For Whom Does the Bell Toll?

By Edward A. Studzinski

In the dawn, although I know

It will grow dark again,

How I hate the coming day.

                        Fujiwara No Michinobu

Buffett’s irreproducible edge

First, some addenda to last month’s comments, as there were a number of readers interested in private equity. One reader, whom I happened to agree with, identified Berkshire Hathaway as a private equity proxy, given that (a) Buffett is dealing with permanent capital with a true long-term time horizon, and (b) he has been clearly disciplined and dedicated to going where opportunities surface that others are inclined or required to ignore. It has actually been quite instructive to watch him complement his major holdings in Berkshire’s insurance businesses as well as the equity investments that he owned pieces of, such as American Express and Coca Cola, with the wholesale acquisition of an Continue reading →

Summer Musings

By Edward A. Studzinski

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present, are certain to miss the future.”

      John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Speech, Frankfurt, 25 June 1963.

The first six months of 2017 are gone, and most global markets have surged during that period. So those like me who thought valuations were starting to look extreme at the beginning of the year, once again cried “wolf” too soon. For those six months, Vanguard’s S&P 500 Admiral Fund achieved a total return of 9.3%, with an expense ratio of four basis points. Many actively managed funds, alas, did not perform quite as well for their investors, although their managers continued to do quite well, purchasing Continue reading →

The Boys of Summer

By Edward A. Studzinski

Everything is on such a clear financial basis in France. It is the simplest country to live in. No one makes things complicated by becoming your friend for any obscure reason. If you want people to like you, you have only to spend a little money.

   ERNEST HEMINGWAY

In recent weeks, a number of articles and books have made their way into print, and they are things worth taking a gander at as one ponders where we are in the economic cycle One of my favorite blogs to read is “The Brooklyn Investor,” which can be found at brooklyninvestor.blogspot.com which is updated intermittently. A recent piece was titled “High Fees” and posted May 19, 2017. The author discusses a Continue reading →

The Fifty Year Reich

By Edward A. Studzinski

 

“It is dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid.”

  George Bernard Shaw

Some thirty-odd years after its founding, the transformation of Morningstar is complete. From a firm that got its start providing tools and research to assist the individual investor, we now see a firm that exists to offer tools, support, and research to financial advisors or intermediaries. To a large extent, that evolution was necessary given the changes in the marketplace for mutual funds, as well as the changes in the regulatory environment. And once Morningstar became a public company, it would have been incumbent upon its employees and management to focus on Continue reading →

Nothing Personal, It’s Just Business

By Edward A. Studzinski

“This is the business we’ve chosen. I didn’t ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business.”

Hyman Roth speaking to Michael Corleone in the movie “Godfather II”

Another month has gone by, and the current period of disruption has not only continued, but accelerated in the mutual fund management business. For all but the true believers (or perhaps those holding stock in the publicly-traded fund managers), it should be apparent that we are witnessing not just a cyclical decline, but a secular one.

Let’s start with the settlement between Bill Gross and Continue reading →