Skip to comments.Buffett's Billion-Dollar Boo-Boo
Posted on 03/14/2006 1:48:55 PM PST by LM_Guy
In his annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett acknowledged that his bet against U.S. currency had collectively cost them almost $1 billion. Buffet wrote, "My views on Americas long-term problem in respect to trade imbalances, which I have laid out in previous reports, remain unchanged. My conviction, however, cost Berkshire $955 million pre-tax in 2005. ..."
In recent years, Buffett has increasingly used his platform as an extraordinarily skillful mutual fund manger to criticize the economic performance of the country under President Bush. In last year's letter he announced that he had been significantly increasing his position against the dollar, citing a growing trade deficit as the reason. Buffett's statement that America was moving from being an ownership society to a "sharecroppers society" and other criticisms received quite a bit of media attention.
As the chart shows, rising trade deficits cannot be presumed to cause a falling dollar. The data show the dollar strengthening against the euro at a time when trade deficits are rising. This also happened during the Reagan Administration. It is consistent with supply side economics, which sees the value of the dollar determined by the tightness or looseness of our central bank. A free flow of goods, services and capital across borders does not seem to have had any negative impact on the value of the dollar.
In the long run (and we don't know how long that is), Buffet is right.
That's gotta hurt bigtime!!
But then Buffett is playing politics to f' Bush and crash the US Economy and the US Dollar.
So I'd say he should have lost $2 Billion instead; that'd teach him a lesson or two!
I'll bet this has something to do with the Wil Ferrel thing going around.
I agree with his concern that we are moving from an ownership society to a sharecropper society.
Ya Gotta Learn how to Zig when everybody Zags.
FReepers knew this was a Losing Bet
So is Will deceased?
IT'S A HOAX
Everybody loves the Zags (unless you're a U of Washington fan):
Pessimist are always right ...either that, or they are dead
|Squanderville versus Thriftville (Warren Buffet) ^
|Posted by dennisw
On News/Activism ^ 01/07/2004 11:35:03 PM EST with 15 comments
fortune ^ | oct 2003 | Warren Buffet
By Warren E. Buffett, FORTUNE I'm about to deliver a warning regarding the U.S. trade deficit and also suggest a remedy for the problem. But first I need to mention two reasons you might want to be skeptical about what I say. To begin, my forecasting record with respect to macroeconomics is far from inspiring. For example, over the past two decades I was excessively fearful of inflation. More to the point at hand, I started way back in 1987 to publicly worry about our mounting trade deficits -- and, as you know, we've not only survived but also thrived....
I know! Buffet needs more cowbell!!
"My views on Americas long-term problem in respect to trade imbalances, which I have laid out in previous reports, remain unchanged. My conviction, however, cost Berkshire $955 million pre-tax in 2005. ..."
Pre-tax, huh? Which means, that after write offs, capital losses, and so forth... he'll end up making a 100 million or so off the government probably.
I mean, would the Buffett of old have bragged about purchasing companies willy-nilly, three days after they fax him a purchase proposal?
There is no direct or necessary tie between a trade "deficit" and a rising or falling dollar.The value of the dollar is directly related only to the number of dollars in circulation as opposed to the market demand for dollars(for stable prices). The value of the dollar as denominated in other currencies depends on changes in that number of dollars relative to the changes in the amount of those other currencies. Buffett's bet against the dollar, if actually made for the reasons stated betrays a basic lack of understanding of economics. Or the move could have been an attempt at a self-fulfilling prophecy- a "talking down" fo the dollar, or was made on a guess that the Fed would be increasing the money supply at a faster rate and/or the euro and yen would be supplied at a decreasing rate.
The smart freepers did, but there're still many who'll say "Buffet is right." (re post 2 ) no matter how much money he costs his dupes. Buffet's a looney liberal. You can read about his endorsement of Kerry from other socialists here.
Not all of them.
40 seconds behind you.
Well sure. I'll make a prediction: the Dow will go to 13,000. I don't have any idea when but it will.
I'll also predict that the dollar will lose value and then regain it - and then lose it again.
Buffet is only good at one thing: buying good companies at deep discounts and holding on for ten years.
By then Mr. Market has repriced the company correctly.
None that I can see either. The idea should be that a cheap dollar makes US goods easier to sell. What really ends up happening is that a trade surplus comes with high unemployment, but spikes in the value of dollar seem to happen whenever they happen.
Increasing foreign bank holding of dollars reduces the domestic effects of the inflation that Bush and the Fed have been hustling since W announced the "devaluation" of the dollar shortly after he was elected. In the era of fixed and minutely managed exchange rates devaluation meant that the government increased the number of dollars it would permit/require a holder to exchange for a given foreign currency. With the advent of market valuation of currencies, devaluation just means that the government is increasing the rate of money creation. The benefits are only temporary and quickly reversed and then neutralized as users of money readjust their own evaluations. Devaluation is not quite "useless," however. To the extent that foreign governments increase their holdings of devaluing dollars they are importing our own inflation and reducing its effects here. The foreign banks are increasing the number of dollars they hold but not necessarily the value of their dollar denominated assets. Devaluation also serves to reduce confidence in the money and makes economic calculation more difficult and thus less efficient, acting as a drag on the devaluing/inflating economy.
What really ends up happening is that a trade surplus comes with high unemployment.
And high unemployment happens when Unions gain power and "minimum wages" go up. So the other markets then have to rise.
Let's, but spikes in the value of dollar seem to happen whenever they happen.
They happen when they happen so that the same rate of exchange happens everywhere. The US Selling a .75 cent can of Coke to Mexico where they are paying 12 pesos: the same price, ultimately everywhere regardless of type or name of currency. If say, Japan makes and distributes more money -- the rates of exchange will change around the world accordingly. That's the rule about exchange ranges: The same "value" (price) of goods must be "even" all over the world. And therefore, the spikes in re "rates of exchange".
Make sense, but then why is it that the biggest recent devaluations were '85 - '88, and 2002 -'04 (look at the value of dollar, again), and both times the economy soared.
To the extent that foreign governments increase their holdings of devaluing dollars they are importing our own inflation and reducing its effects here.
Bears a repeat. :)
Of course, you know the familiar JM Keynes response?
W is a professed Keynesian, albeit a "conservative" one. That just means that he desires outcomes that conservatives desire but he has a wholly inapropriate toolkit.
On balance, he's $2 billion ahead right now. Following is the entire paragraph from page 17 of Buffett's annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway.
My views on Americas long-term problem in respect to trade imbalances, which I have laid out in previous reports, remain unchanged. My conviction, however, cost Berkshire $955 million pre-tax in 2005. That amount is included in our earnings statement, a fact that illustrates the differing ways in which GAAP treats gains and losses. When we have a long-term position in stocks or bonds, year-to-year changes in value are reflected in our balance sheet but, as long as the asset is not sold, are rarely reflected in earnings. For example, our Coca-Cola holdings went from $1 billion in value early on to $13.4 billion at yearend 1998 and have since declined to $8.1 billion with none of these moves affecting our earnings statement. Long-term currency positions, however, are daily marked to market and therefore have an effect on earnings in every reporting period. From the date we first entered into currency contracts, we are $2.0 billion in the black.
As you can see, the last sentence in the paragraph that Bowyer excerpted states that Buffett is currently $2 billion ahead on his currency contracts. I'm sure that Bowyer just forgot to mention that. In any case, Buffett says that he is shifting somewhat from direct positions in currencies to foreign equities in the next paragraph:
We reduced our direct position in currencies somewhat during 2005. We partially offset this change, however, by purchasing equities whose prices are denominated in a variety of foreign currencies and that earn a large part of their profits internationally. Charlie and I prefer this method of acquiring nondollar exposure. Thats largely because of changes in interest rates: As U.S. rates have risen relative to those of the rest of the world, holding most foreign currencies now involves a significant negative carry. The carry aspect of our direct currency position indeed cost us money in 2005 and is likely to do so again in 2006. In contrast, the ownership of foreign equities is likely, over time, to create a positive carry perhaps a substantial one.
That was a lot of investor money Buffett invested into the Democrat Party/Kerry campaign. I remember when he announced that he was betting against our currency and I thought to myself, "investors better bail out fast." Anything liberals touch loses profit. Once Buffett became a liberal politician rather than an investor, it was inevitable the loses would follow.
If I understand the reason correctly, its this:
1) Countries send tons of stuff here and get tons of $ in return.
2) The generally need to change those dollars into their native currency in order for it to be useful in their home country.
3) This results in many people wanting to sell dollars, hence the decline in its price relative to other currencies.
Hard to argue with that really.
In the past, that situation has been somewhat ameliorated by the $ being the world currency - which diminishes the need to sell dollars since they're useful on the world market.
But widespread acceptance of the Euro has hurt that to some degree.
Also, aren't they talking about trading oil in Euros now on some Arabic exchange?
"I'll also predict that the dollar will lose value and then regain it - and then lose it again."
There's the difference between what Buffet is saying and what you're saying. He's not predicting a random rebound in the dollar absent changes to the underlying trade deficit.
So you're telling us that Wil Ferrel never existed in the first place? ;-)
"The value of the dollar is directly related only to the number of dollars in circulation as opposed to the market demand for dollars."
And the demand for dollars is a measure of how many people want to buy as opposede to sell them. And - except for currency speculators - that relationship is directly related to our trade deficit. How else do you think people end up with dollars but instead wanting their own currency? Its by shipping us tons of goods and getting payed in dollars. No?
Wow, the import credit idea is pretty good!
Except it doesn't happen.
Over the past few decades the balance of payments went back and forth from capital to current, inflation went up and down, and the dollar's exchange rate went up and down. [poster's note to the internet-challenged: right click on each of the three links and open them in "New Window" --and compare] There's no one trend that had any reliable predictable relationship with any of the other trends. Buffet likes getting his name in the paper and getting Democrat politicians to hint about making him some kind of economic king pin or something. He likes it so much that he'll make promises to gullible investors that if they bet on Bush being a miserable failure they'll make a fortune.
Here's an actual proven case where some people actually believed Bush's trade policies were bad enough to put their money where their stupidity was. They lost a billion dollars.
The trade "deficit" is a phony measurement that exists for liberals to have some reason to say the economy is bad during boomtimes because the trade deficit number is always high in a good and improving economy. Foreigners invest their money in a good American economy because it is the safest place for their money.All that investment improves the economy and provides the money with which Americans buy foreign goods. The trade "balance" measures only half of that transaction and will always show more money going out than coming in in a boom because it simply does not measure the money coming in. It torques me to no end when conservatives, otherwise apparently intelligent conservatives, insist on getting all wrought up as a result of a contrived liberal "measurment" for trashing a booming economy.
You're entitled to you opinion, but the trade deficit is not a phony stat, nor was it invented by "liberals".
Without supporting clarification, your graphs are pretty much worthless to me.
For instance: the dollar's value went up and down in comparison to which currency?
It is half a stat. When the trade deficit number is "good" the economy is bad and vice very much versa. It's ONLY fucntion is to make a good economy look bad.
And in the long run, we are all dead. ;~))
Buffet is a fine business man but every time he tries to play economist, he gets burnt. You would think he would have learned the difference between business and economics by now.
You don't know, and you're not interested in searching (clusty, answers, or atheweb) your way through it. I'm guessing, but it sure seems to me that either this kind of independent thinking is beyond you, or your specialty is complaining, not doing. Either way, this means that you have no supporting data of your own because you never needed any --that your position is based on emotions, not facts.
I'll know I'm right if you come back at me with a bunch of name-calling. I'll know I'm wrong if you double check my plots by finding/making your own numbers and you then prove me wrong by showing me how you're making money on some trend I didn't know about.
I'd really prefer being proved wrong.
--and it doesn't stop there:
What about our labor shortage-- employers are even hiring illegals because they can't get any applicants. Then there's also the fact that every time somebody makes a bigger fortune we have greater income disparity between the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor.
No wait --I'm just getting started!
We go from $20 trill net worth ($25T assets - 4$T debt) to $50 trillion ($61T-$10T) ---that's bad because we have more debt now! Interest rates up? -- we're being gouged by the evil bank lenders. Rates down? Miserly bankers won't pay us for what our savings are worth!
Face it-- anyone who never believed the conjecture about the infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of keyboards, has never visited the freerepublic.
That's because UW fans actually know where Gonzaga is, so it loses its mystique. I call it the Notre Dame Effect. Nobody knows where you're from, so they just start rooting for you and call it good.