Investors like to examine pricing anomalies, particularly related to commodities that could be viewed as substitutes but trade at radically different prices. One barrel of crude oil has approximately six times the energy content of one thousand cubic feet (mcf) of natural gas. One mcf of natural gas is approximately equivalent to one million BTUs (MBTU). Despite the energy equivalence, for a variety of reasons, the pricing relationship between oil and natural gas is almost never exactly six to one. Read this article for our analysis.
Much of what we do as investors involves studying businesses and critically evaluating the returns that are likely based on management’s competitive strategy. The elusive search for true “moats” is often frustrated by quick technological change which can make yesterday’s incumbent firm today’s dinosaur. Investors who pay a rich valuation for a business with a moat must be confident that the advantages leading to high returns today are not destroyed by new types of competition in the near term. Smart phones may soon threaten to drive retailers without a coherent competitive strategy to extinction.
We are pleased to publish a guest article by Meir Statman, the author of What Investors Really Want. Professor Statman is a pioneer in the field of behavioral finance and his book should be required reading for anyone involved in financial markets. Whether an investor is “seeking alpha” or satisfied with the low cost approach of index funds, investing without a keen appreciation for the behavioral pitfalls that impact nearly all of us can be a costly mistake.
The mid-term election results appear to match what market participants expected in the days leading up to voting yesterday. We will refrain from political commentary other than to make the observation that there is a difference between “benign gridlock” when the country’s course is essentially sound and gridlock when our fiscal situation is heading for disaster — which to us seems more like a suicide pact than a political strategy. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is set to announce the details of its second round of quantitative easing later today. QE2 is essentially a euphemism for printing money, which in our modern economy takes the form of the Federal Reserve buying treasury bonds of intermediate to long term maturities. Read this article for more commentary.
According to the Financial Times, Google is planning to construct a price index that could eventually serve as an alternative to official government statistics. While the Google Price Index (GPI) is still a work in progress and only tracks web-traded goods, the potential for expansion into other sectors of the economy could provide a more complete picture of inflation in the future. If fully developed, the GPI may keep government statistics honest in periods of higher inflation.