Tater’s Takes – Charlie Munger

March 8th, 2012 by Potato

I still can’t believe how busy I am in unemployment. I figured if nothing else, having no steady income would be a chance to take some time to catch up on all the video games I didn’t play over the xmas break. Instead, I think I’ve been almost as busy as when I was working. The move didn’t help with that, so once I finish the last bit of unpacking (this week?) that might give me a bit of time back (and none too soon — Mass Effect 3 just came out!).

What I’ve found really shocking though is the complete silence on the job front. Not a single interview, even for the jobs I was perfect for. Ah, well, hopefully something will come up soon… On with the links!

An old speech of Charlie Munger’s is reposted, and it’s still good reading.

Rick Mercer epitomizes the condo insanity with the Condo Gun.

More and more housing bubble stories in the media, including the cover at Maclean’s. VREAA says this:

“Show of hands.. Anybody who hasn’t heard that Housing in Canada is in a ‘Bubble’?
Okay… so we’ve all heard.
Pumps are primed.
Now class… How are we going to respond to initial price drops?

Larry MacDonald puts up another blog post attempting to counter the housing bear sentiment. I will admit: I simply do not understand his position. He doesn’t seem to refute the severe overvaluation — indeed, he confirms it — yet for some reason it doesn’t seem to bother him. Instead he talks about the lack of catalysts: “I agree with him that there is over-valuation—but I also believe there are other factors to consider. […]the catalyst for an end to the U.S. housing mania—a major tightening in monetary policy. I don’t see it in Canada yet;[…]” [emphasis mine]. To put it in terms of a bad analogy, it’d be like being at a party and finding a gas leak. “I smell gas. This is dangerous, I’m getting out of here” I’d say. “I smell it too,” Larry might say, “but nobody’s smoking in here. It’s fine. we can just open the windows and it’ll slowly air out.” “Well, either it blows up, or we’ll feel a chill with the windows open. Either way, this party is going to suck. Later!”

After saying he was leaving blogging and posting less frequently, TMW returns with this little post on valuing real estate. What I find hilarious is that just a week or two ago the BoC released a report saying that this was exactly the algorithm people used when valuing real estate, and that it was faulty because all it did was check to see if a particular property was over/under-priced relative to recent market moves, but implicitly assumed that both the starting price and the growth rate were rationally determined by an efficient market. If those two conditions weren’t true — and believe me, they’re not — then bubbles easily form because very few market participants are doing absolute pricing analysis. So this is a great method to use if you want to try to price a property for sale (to meet current market conditions), and a good one to use if you don’t care about overall valuation and just want to avoid being the one sucker who buys the most over-priced condo in the building… but you need an additional check as to the overall market sanity (i.e.: a rent vs buy analysis for your situation).

John Hempton at Bronte Capital explains why, despite Bronte’s small size, he isn’t chasing small caps. In short, he doesn’t think they’re as over-looked as many who chase small-caps think.

Boomer & Echo compare index funds to the big bank’s equity mutual funds. It goes about as well as you’d expect.

Michael James wonders if Berkshire Hathaway may be an index alternative and suitable for a passive investor. I figure why not: it’s diversified, the fees are low, and the long-term track record is good.

An article in the New York Times describes research that shows people with high IQs may get better investment returns. Though it doesn’t look like the returns come from digging up under-valued stocks, simply from following common sense investing principles that don’t require a high IQ to understand. “[Economists…] argued in a paper published in 2008 that many households avoid investing directly in stocks out of vague fears that they might be deliberately misled or cheated.” I know I’ve seen that kind of misplaced distrust many times when discussing investing. Somehow, over-valued under-diversified real estate is safe, and stocks are a rigged game.

Teller talks about magic and human perception. A fun little read! [HT: Barry Ritholtz]

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