Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lessons Learned in the Decade- GMO

Just getting back after some time off to go vacation, spend some time with family, run a half-marathon, etc. I hope to have some interesting posts and some new materials in the coming weeks and months. With that, I found the below 'lessons learned" from Grantham and company at GMO rather telling while providing some great food for thought. I also provided my comments in the parentheses.

Lessons Learned From GMO
  1. The Fed wields even more financial influence than we thought. (This should be plainly obvious but.....)
  2. Low rates have a more powerful effect on driving financial assets than on driving the economy. (Massive swings in assets prices despite little to no change in the economy makes this an obvious statement. However, I wonder if asset price volatility will eventually bleed into the economy, as price discovery remains one the most influential aspects on long-term economic viability and integrity.)
  3. The Fed is capable of being extremely out of touch with the real world – "what housing bubble?" – plus more doctrinaire – "no, the low rates had no effect on housing" – than anyone could have imagined. (Then why do we continue to listen to them? Maybe point one?)
  4. Congress is nearly dysfunctional, primarily controlled by large corporations, and hamstrung by the supermajority now routinely required in the Senate. (Nearly?)
  5. Government administrations can be incompetent for long periods. (When you look at history, most of the 'established' administrative offices never existed.)
  6. Poor leadership can really damage a country’s hard- won reputation in a mere 10 years. (probably less)
  7. Obama is not a miracle worker! (see point six)
  8. The two time-tested investment tools, value (P/E ratios and P/B ratios) and price momentum, are now much more heavily used and not so reliable as they once were, say from 1977 to 1997. (This, in my opinion, reflects GMO's 7-year asset price forecast, which I have not presented but I believe can be found on the company's website.)
  9. Asset classes really are more inefficiently priced than individual stocks on average, and therefore offer greater opportunities for adding value and reducing risk. (I always thought that broader indexes and combination of assets tend to reduce inefficiencies, and not enhance them. Maybe GMO has more insight into this thought?)
  10. Developed countries, including the U.S., are past their prime compared with developing countries: it is indeed a new world order. (Just look at debt levels relative to GDP or infrastructure spending needs. What does this say about the proverbial currency war and the value of the US dollar?)
  11. Education and training are the keys to increasing wealth on a sustainable basis and the U.S. is in danger of losing its once large edge here. (I would like to see some stats around this. However, the minimum wage debate highlights this idea in my mind.)
  12. We all live on an island, which can be overexploited and turned into a barren Easter Island if we are not careful. Resources are finite and biodiversity is fragile, and both must be protected. Carbon emissions are the single greatest threat. (In my opinion, yes and no. We do live in a bubble of sorts and natural resources are finite. However and although I am a proponent of the many peak energy theories, I also think human ingenuity and innovation remains disregarded in this statement. More so, I do not buy the hype that carbon emissions will lead us to out doom.)
  13. Being a global policeman is expensive, and somewhere between difficult and impossible. (Hasn't Iraq and Afghanistan proven this in recent years? What about Vietnam? One should throw no punches unless threatened.)
  14. The Fed learns no lessons! (And yet, we still listen to them.)

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