In essence, the stock market represents three separate categories of business.They are, adjusted for inflation, those with shrinking intrinsic value, those with approximately stable intrinsic value, and those with steadily growing intrinsic value.
Government policies and regulations in the postcrisis era have aided the hollowing-out of middle America far more than anything the private sector has done. These changes even expanded the wealth gap by making asset owners richer at the expense of renters.
Throughout the universe of public and private funds, managers are measured quarterly against one index or another, defined by statistics, and corralled into this category or that category so that fund of funds, pensions, and other institutions can make comforting - if not necessarily prudent - asset allocation decisions.
Americans have so much natural entrepreneurial drive. The caveat is that it is technology that should be a tool making lives better in the real world, and in line with the American spirit of getting better and better at something, whether it's curing cancer or creating a better taxi service.
My natural state is an outsider, and no matter what group I'm in or where I am, I've always felt like I'm outside the group, and I've always been analyzing the group.
The post-crisis perception, at least in the media, appears to be one of Americans being held down by Wall Street, by big companies in the private sector, and by the wealthy. Capitalism is on trial. I see it a little differently. If a lender offers me free money, I do not have to take it.
Sadly, in the highest levels of economic thought in government, questions are not tolerated. It is as if we're dealing with the binary thinking of a fundamentalist religion.
What you want to watch are the lenders, not the borrowers. The borrowers will always be willing to take a great deal for themselves. It's up to the lenders to show restraint, and when they lose it, watch out.
Subprime mortgages, typically defined as those issued to borrowers with low credit scores, make up roughly the riskiest one-third of all mortgages.
I had begun to worry about the housing market back in 2003, when lenders first resurrected interest-only mortgages, loosening their credit standards to generate a greater volume of loans. Throughout 2004, I had watched as these mortgages were offered to more and more subprime borrowers - those with the weakest credit.
Innovation, especially in America, is continuing at a breakneck pace, even in areas facing substantial political or regulatory headwinds. The advances in health care in particular are breathtaking - so many selfless souls are working to advance science, and this is heartening.
In early 2005, I really studied the prospectuses of these mortgage pools that were tranched out into different-rated slices rated by agencies like S&P and Moody's. They had names like Park Place and People's Choice. It was clear to me that many of the buyers of these repackaged subprime mortgages were doing little analysis.
Fresh, clean water cannot be taken for granted. And it is not - water is political, and litigious. Transporting water is impractical for both political and physical reasons, so buying up water rights did not make a lot of sense to me, unless I was pursuing a greater fool theory of investment - which was not my intention.
I will always choose the dollar bill carrying a wildly fluctuating discount rather than the dollar bill selling for a quite stable premium.
The major reform legislation, Dodd-Frank, was named after two guys bought and sold by special interests, and one of them should be shouldering a good amount of blame for the crisis.
Credit-default swaps remedied the problem of open-ended risk for me. If I bought a credit-default swap, my downside was defined and certain, and the upside was many multiples of it.
It is a tenet of my investment style that, on the subject of common stock investment, maximizing the upside means first and foremost minimizing the downside. The deleterious effect of permanent capital loss on portfolio returns cannot be overstated.
I started trading stocks, options and futures while I was at UCLA, using my earnings from working summers at the old IBM plant on Cottle Road. I never lost interest in how companies work. It's fundamental to who I am.
I seek individual investments that will allow me to target total portfolio returns of at least 20% annually after fees and expenses on an annual basis over a period of years, not months.
Common hedging techniques include shorting stocks, buying put options, writing call options, and various types of leverage and paired transactions. While I do reserve the right to use these tools if and when appropriate, my firm opinion is that the best hedge is buying an appropriately safe and cheap stock.