Author Topic: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?  (Read 22332 times)

innerscorecard

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #50 on: April 07, 2014, 09:11:08 PM »
This thread is very telling.

It's very easy to simply parrot Boglehead standard doctrine and apply it meaninglessly. I think Boglehead received wisdom is generally correct and based on fairly rigorous data, but to then go out and call Warren Buffett completely unskilled and just lucky is beyond ridiculous.

This just goes to show that the reader should be wary when taking advice from many on this forum. There are many on here who give great free advice, but there are also a lot of people who are 100% sure on things they are almost completely uninformed about. That is the most dangerous combination of person to take advice from.

DaKini

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #51 on: April 08, 2014, 03:43:58 AM »
This is also a matter of theory of mind, as in how your particular model of the world works and thus how you are perceiving and processing of the "raw data" you get from the world is interpreted.

For some, seeing a person throwing 10 consecutive times a 6 with a dice, it cant just be luck - it has to be truly skill as the chance to do this just by luck is so damn small.
For others, it would  be suspicious there would not be someone to achieve this given 10.000.000 people trying - as the chance for this is truly small.

Also, you can't prove that a strategy is right by its outcome.

lano

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #52 on: April 08, 2014, 12:53:51 PM »
Buffett just does factor investing similar to a small/value tilter (but slightly more nuanced). There is extremely strong evidence that Buffett isn't skilled at all, which of course is what the math long ago predicted. This is perhaps the most prestigious study on the topic though by no means is it the only one. Rather, he just chose an intelligent strategy from the outset and stuck to it. It's more mechanical than anything.

http://www.econ.yale.edu/~af227/pdf/Buffett's%20Alpha%20-%20Frazzini,%20Kabiller%20and%20Pedersen.pdf


This is a straw man argument IMHO. 

There are people (Professors / Grad Students, etc.) who examine returns, and form theories about price movements, and risk, while completely ignoring basic business analysis.  All the ratios and terms come from the price movements only:  "Why is one company riskier than another company... because its daily price moves up and down a bit more." 

You (or the linked paper) define "skill" within that space only.

That is silly and a straw man argument as mentioned.

I believe that Mr. Buffet is very skilled in analyzing businesses -- among other things.   





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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #53 on: April 08, 2014, 02:27:51 PM »
This thread is very telling.

It's very easy to simply parrot Boglehead standard doctrine and apply it meaninglessly. I think Boglehead received wisdom is generally correct and based on fairly rigorous data, but to then go out and call Warren Buffett completely unskilled and just lucky is beyond ridiculous.

This just goes to show that the reader should be wary when taking advice from many on this forum. There are many on here who give great free advice, but there are also a lot of people who are 100% sure on things they are almost completely uninformed about. That is the most dangerous combination of person to take advice from.

Excellent comment.

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #54 on: April 08, 2014, 05:48:27 PM »
I think most any multi-billionaire who did not inherit their fortune is mostly skilled.  Buffett saw opportunities and took them.  So did Bill Gates.

DaKini

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #55 on: April 09, 2014, 02:37:12 AM »
Quote
I think most any multi-billionaire who did not inherit their fortune is mostly skilled.  Buffett saw opportunities and took them.  So did Bill Gates.

Of course they did, and successfully so.
But the big question is: what determined that success?
Basicly they made bets on the future (Gates with his programming stuff hit a nerve, but at the time he made his bets he could not possibly be sure it would work out making him rich) and won those bets.
There are countless other business founders who also made bets and have loosed. Also there are countless other traders who bet on certain strategys and loosed. Buffet bet on a strategy that has won in the past. Could he know he will be a big winner when making his business decisions?

What if buy-and-hold turns out to be a loosing game in the future? Everyone betting on this currently would not meet their financial goals down the road and join the loosers crowd. Some other guys would become very rich by following a different strategy. There would be people arguing that they were extraordinary skilled because the saw the opportunitys and took the risks (and won their bets).

It all boils down to this saying: "It is difficult to make predictions, particularly about the future."
Strategy is always something looking forward in the future where skill is always looked at in retrospect.

There is some fallacy i dont know the name of that very good describes whats going on in this thread: It is about people always reasoning success with skill but loosing with external factors.

innerscorecard

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #56 on: April 09, 2014, 03:53:00 AM »
Simply "buy and hold" does NOT accurately summarize the totality of Buffett's strategy, especially now. Buffett started off as a classic value investor, grew beyond that with the creation of Berkshire Hathaway as an insurance and industrial conglomerate, and has often opportunistically done things far beyond simply "buy and hold." He's even done silver trading, when it made sense!

A much better summary of Buffett would be someone who has melded investing and the evaluation and management of whole businesses. He always looks at investments like businesses and businesses as investments. Sounds simple, but it is really quite divorced from how many in finance have looked at it throughout the years.

In regards to your specific claim, I do NOT think Buffett has good process because he is "successful" by some metrics. I don't idolize people based on their net worth. I think Buffett is the culmination of value investing and American business, and I think he is one of many to learn from in terms of their successful models.

I believe that you and others in this thread are sort of doing the opposite fallacy out of contrarianism - that just because someone is successful, that means he must NOT be special but that luck is a better explanation. Since you are posting on this forum, why don't you apply the same logic to MMM? He was just some guy who got lucky, right? Of course, it is obvious that he had a process which led to his current outcome. Anyone who has seriously studied Buffett would come to the same conclusion. It is only those with Wikipedia (at best) level understanding of Buffett who say that his success is solely due to luck.




DaKini

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #57 on: April 09, 2014, 06:21:03 AM »
Quote
Simply "buy and hold" does NOT accurately summarize the totality of Buffett's strategy [...]
Sorry if i made the impression that i wanted to say this, it is however not the case if you read carefuly. I did not say what you understood. I used the "B&H"-strategy example just because my impression is that the majority in this community follows this strategy overall. It was not my intention to link that to buffet as i know he did far more than B&H.
The choosen particular strategy does not matter for what i tried to lay out above.

My claim is, that a strategy (even an indefinitely  complex one) must always be choosen and adapted with data from the past and present, yet it points to a not-yet-known possible future. With a given strategy you try to exploit a particular future that will emerge without knowing how it will turn out when choosing your strategy. If you do this well, you try to strenghten your strategy to succeed in as many possible-futures as possible which does increase your overall success rate. But the success rate can only be determined afterwards (when the future becomes the past and one particular future of all those many-many-many possible ones becomes reality).

Quote
Since you are posting on this forum, why don't you apply the same logic to MMM? He was just some guy who got lucky, right?
I apply this logic to him too, as well as me and it holds true so far. Everything MMM did was in perspective to an unknown future. If the russians would pose nuclear WWIII upon us and the world comes to an end even MMMs life would change drastically, possibly to a point in which we would not see it as success.

Take me for example: I prepare my life- financial strategy to be able to bear a wide range of possible "futures". Yet i do not know which one will become reality. My success rate (meaning retirement before 60) has a high probability of success - but there are possible futures where i will never be able to retire (the one where i get divorced in two years and loose my job and never get another one, for example).
I depend on the overall world conditions (which i think will be awesome, btw) for my life to turn out good, like everyone else. Also Buffet would have not been able to become what he is now if markets werent in his favor. The particular market that we have seen the last 100 years where purely luck. BTW by "luck" i mean not "gamble in the casino". It is a question of probability that you can find everywhere where systems (even deterministic ones) are complex and unpredictable.

Imagine the one fictional history where Buffet invested in silver "because it made sense" but against all odds he lose the bet and also some other assets crashed badly. Would you say, he was 100% sure that what he did was riskless? Certainly no, because if that would have been the case, we would have a magnitude more Buffets by now (or more likely the deal would not yield very much).
It was Buffets "luck" that none of his major risks (he was not able to cover) ever turned out to bite him in the back. This was luck and not buffets skill. His skill maybe lies in the fact that he maximized his success rate quite good.


If i think about it, i think we have a different definiton of "luck" and its outcomes.

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #58 on: April 09, 2014, 06:30:32 AM »
Well, you only get paid for risk.  You don't get paid for safety.

This is why you make more in the stock market than you do in the bond market and why you make more in junk bonds than you do in government bonds.

But even government bonds have some tiny risk (government stability, inflation risk).

So yes, in a small way Buffett was lucky because the risks he took, while low, did pay off quite well.  He was mostly skilled though to mitigate those risks.

DaKini

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #59 on: April 09, 2014, 06:42:21 AM »
Quote
He was mostly skilled though to mitigate those risks.
Yes, of course. But he was lucky that the rare risks did not materialize in this our reality which of course also would have been not the case. Here we are back at the law of the big numbers. Risks thend to unforeseen realize themselfes from time to time (otherwise they would not be risks). Some of those realizations would have Buffet disallowed to become wealthy. It was not in buffets might to prevent such events, it was purely luck (for example that the cold war did not escalate into nuclear meltdown).

Sorry, i reach my cognitive and language skill borders to better explain what i want to say. I was not lucky enough to be born a high intellectual individual with english as mother language.

innerscorecard

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #60 on: April 09, 2014, 06:52:53 AM »
Quote
Simply "buy and hold" does NOT accurately summarize the totality of Buffett's strategy [...]
Sorry if i made the impression that i wanted to say this, it is however not the case if you read carefuly. I did not say what you understood. I used the "B&H"-strategy example just because my impression is that the majority in this community follows this strategy overall. It was not my intention to link that to buffet as i know he did far more than B&H.
The choosen particular strategy does not matter for what i tried to lay out above.

My claim is, that a strategy (even an indefinitely  complex one) must always be choosen and adapted with data from the past and present, yet it points to a not-yet-known possible future. With a given strategy you try to exploit a particular future that will emerge without knowing how it will turn out when choosing your strategy. If you do this well, you try to strenghten your strategy to succeed in as many possible-futures as possible which does increase your overall success rate. But the success rate can only be determined afterwards (when the future becomes the past and one particular future of all those many-many-many possible ones becomes reality).

Quote
Since you are posting on this forum, why don't you apply the same logic to MMM? He was just some guy who got lucky, right?
I apply this logic to him too, as well as me and it holds true so far. Everything MMM did was in perspective to an unknown future. If the russians would pose nuclear WWIII upon us and the world comes to an end even MMMs life would change drastically, possibly to a point in which we would not see it as success.

Take me for example: I prepare my life- financial strategy to be able to bear a wide range of possible "futures". Yet i do not know which one will become reality. My success rate (meaning retirement before 60) has a high probability of success - but there are possible futures where i will never be able to retire (the one where i get divorced in two years and loose my job and never get another one, for example).
I depend on the overall world conditions (which i think will be awesome, btw) for my life to turn out good, like everyone else. Also Buffet would have not been able to become what he is now if markets werent in his favor. The particular market that we have seen the last 100 years where purely luck. BTW by "luck" i mean not "gamble in the casino". It is a question of probability that you can find everywhere where systems (even deterministic ones) are complex and unpredictable.

Imagine the one fictional history where Buffet invested in silver "because it made sense" but against all odds he lose the bet and also some other assets crashed badly. Would you say, he was 100% sure that what he did was riskless? Certainly no, because if that would have been the case, we would have a magnitude more Buffets by now (or more likely the deal would not yield very much).
It was Buffets "luck" that none of his major risks (he was not able to cover) ever turned out to bite him in the back. This was luck and not buffets skill. His skill maybe lies in the fact that he maximized his success rate quite good.


If i think about it, i think we have a different definiton of "luck" and its outcomes.

Good post. I totally get what you are saying. Everything in life is in fact probabilistic. But the skill in life comes in knowing which risks are worth it and which aren't. MMM talks about this when he mentions why he doesn't wear a helmet.

Broadly, I do think we all run a Risk of Ruin. Cancer or some other serious disease could wipe even the most well-capitalized of us out in the blink of an eye.

EricL

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #61 on: April 16, 2014, 12:31:15 PM »
Warren Buffett is like, 80 something years old.  He spent most of those years running a business, which, even if its success is mostly due to others, should have taught him quite a bit.  Since most of that business is investing in solid companies it certainly helps to have 60+ years to watch the interest compound. 

Regardless, check out his Berkshire Hatheway reports: http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/reports.html

He his refreshingly candid about his business, it's success and when he occasionally screws the pooch and loses money - sometimes a lot of money. 

hodedofome

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #62 on: April 16, 2014, 09:32:59 PM »
It is true that the future is unknowable and anything can happen. However, most good Traders know that you can make money without knowing what's going to happen. Luck plays a part but it is not the only part.

DrTesla

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #63 on: April 17, 2014, 07:17:49 AM »
100% skilled and wise and he did it all without investing in 401ks, IRAs, and Index funds, what a shocker!!!

Buying high quality companies when they are very low, or working out deals to buy them undervalued. Then he held them for awhile and sold at new record highs for the company. Like his latest deal with Netflix. His team suggested he buy at $63/share, and then sold around $432/share after a year, of course, to reduce the capital gains tax.

He donates shares of his own company (that at the beginning was worthless by the way.) now to charitable funds for a charitable deduction (up to 50% of his adjusted gross income).

$60 Billion at 4% minimum earnings for dividend growth is $1.92 Billion a year (-20% div taxes), let alone any capital gains he has chosen to take.

hodedofome

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #64 on: April 19, 2014, 07:18:22 PM »
I recommend reading The Myth of the Rational Market. It discusses the history of the efficient market hypothesis and all the guys that were a part of it. Many believe the markets are rational and efficient however the guys who made the theory and have the Nobel prizes because of it actually came to a compromise with the behavior economics guys years ago that markets are mostly efficient and there are times they aren't. Those times that they aren't are enough for someone that is good to exploit.

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. How many people do you know make bad decisions? It's probably most people that you know. Just walk through Wal-Mart if you can't think of anyone. These folks make dumb decisions all the time and they do the same thing in financial markets. They are irrational people and somehow if we get all these people together we suddenly have a rational market? Hogwash.

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #65 on: April 22, 2014, 09:14:18 PM »
He plays by literally the exact same rules.   

Not at all. At this point, news that he's invested in something causes an immediate investor reaction which drives the price up. When he invested in Bank of America, for instance, the price spiked 25% when the news broke. It's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy now.

Additionally, Berkshire Hathaway owns enough of many companies that it can affect their management and business decisions. Berkshire has the potential to improve and alter the course of these companies, something the average investor cannot.

hodedofome

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #66 on: April 23, 2014, 12:19:05 PM »
He plays by literally the exact same rules.   

Not at all. At this point, news that he's invested in something causes an immediate investor reaction which drives the price up. When he invested in Bank of America, for instance, the price spiked 25% when the news broke. It's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy now.

Additionally, Berkshire Hathaway owns enough of many companies that it can affect their management and business decisions. Berkshire has the potential to improve and alter the course of these companies, something the average investor cannot.

No doubt. And who do you know that has a bat phone to the White House and Fed? Does GS call anyone in here with an investing opportunity at unbelievable terms? He's not on a level playing field now, for sure. However, there was a time when he was just like you and me and did pretty well for himself then too.

innerscorecard

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #67 on: April 24, 2014, 03:26:26 AM »
And WB has said that if he were to start all over again today, he'd do basically the same thing he did then. Most small listed companies have zero analyst coverage, so if you do the ground-work (that's what he did - driving around the country and going to warehouses and kicking tires, etc.) you can actually have a real edge.

Takes a lot of work though, and it's harder than it was then. No more "net-nets."

clifp

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #68 on: April 24, 2014, 03:16:26 PM »
I'd say 80% skill at least.  But there clearly is some luck involved especially in the early days he made some early bets in strange commodities which could have gone south. These are all well documented in the very excellent biography The Snowball  Buffett may just happen to be the best, but I think as he talks about in this speech The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsvile
http://www.tilsonfunds.com/superinvestors.html value investors out perform the market.   I think if you give Warren Buffett, or any of the guys he discusses,  a chance to start over with $1 million and 100K salary (like Warren gets) in Jan 1, 2009 they would have all crushed the market by today. I bet most would be worth $5 million today.

There would have been no hesitation in recognizing that market was severely oversold by any of the guys and they probably would have applied leverage margin loans or options to increase their returns. Contrary to the efficient market hypothesis there are always securities which are mispriced and at times the market's manic depressive nature is evident and virtually every stock is either too cheap or too expensive.  It takes a modest amount of skill and particular type of temperament to recognize these opportunities.

alm0stk00l

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #69 on: April 25, 2014, 01:14:05 PM »
Quote
Simply "buy and hold" does NOT accurately summarize the totality of Buffett's strategy [...]
Sorry if i made the impression that i wanted to say this, it is however not the case if you read carefuly. I did not say what you understood. I used the "B&H"-strategy example just because my impression is that the majority in this community follows this strategy overall. It was not my intention to link that to buffet as i know he did far more than B&H.
The choosen particular strategy does not matter for what i tried to lay out above.

My claim is, that a strategy (even an indefinitely  complex one) must always be choosen and adapted with data from the past and present, yet it points to a not-yet-known possible future. With a given strategy you try to exploit a particular future that will emerge without knowing how it will turn out when choosing your strategy. If you do this well, you try to strenghten your strategy to succeed in as many possible-futures as possible which does increase your overall success rate. But the success rate can only be determined afterwards (when the future becomes the past and one particular future of all those many-many-many possible ones becomes reality).

Quote
Since you are posting on this forum, why don't you apply the same logic to MMM? He was just some guy who got lucky, right?
I apply this logic to him too, as well as me and it holds true so far. Everything MMM did was in perspective to an unknown future. If the russians would pose nuclear WWIII upon us and the world comes to an end even MMMs life would change drastically, possibly to a point in which we would not see it as success.

Take me for example: I prepare my life- financial strategy to be able to bear a wide range of possible "futures". Yet i do not know which one will become reality. My success rate (meaning retirement before 60) has a high probability of success - but there are possible futures where i will never be able to retire (the one where i get divorced in two years and loose my job and never get another one, for example).
I depend on the overall world conditions (which i think will be awesome, btw) for my life to turn out good, like everyone else. Also Buffet would have not been able to become what he is now if markets werent in his favor. The particular market that we have seen the last 100 years where purely luck. BTW by "luck" i mean not "gamble in the casino". It is a question of probability that you can find everywhere where systems (even deterministic ones) are complex and unpredictable.

Imagine the one fictional history where Buffet invested in silver "because it made sense" but against all odds he lose the bet and also some other assets crashed badly. Would you say, he was 100% sure that what he did was riskless? Certainly no, because if that would have been the case, we would have a magnitude more Buffets by now (or more likely the deal would not yield very much).
It was Buffets "luck" that none of his major risks (he was not able to cover) ever turned out to bite him in the back. This was luck and not buffets skill. His skill maybe lies in the fact that he maximized his success rate quite good.


If i think about it, i think we have a different definiton of "luck" and its outcomes.

I understand what you are saying, but there is no value in it. The idea that any success I have should be attributed to luck because Russia hasn't instituted a nuclear WWIII is ridiculous. To say that Warren Buffet is only successful because he is lucky that this planet created a life-supporting ecosystem or that he is lucky his dad happened to run into his mom when leaving a bar one night is useless. You are implying that if market conditions had been different over the last 48 years that Buffett would have been less successful. There is absolutely no evidence of that. Market conditions changed drastically over his investing career and he adapted to it in a very successful manner. Adapting to changes seems to be more skill-based than luck-based, in my opinion.

Additionally, I have no idea what you are trying to say about strategy. It seems you deem the success of a strategy as luck because you don't know the future. Strategies are designed to remove luck from outcomes, and the most successful strategies are malleable. When playing chess, at a high level, each player has a strategy. You would not say that the outcome of every game is luck because you don't know how your strategy will pan out would you?

As for not being able to predict the future, that is not true either. At least not in the sense that you represent it. Determining the current value of a company and their growth potential and deciding to invest is not the work of a fortune-teller. It is a very focused field with applicable algorithms and patterns. I can predict the landing spot of a thrown ball given a few pieces of information at the time it is thrown and Warren Buffett can predict the success of a business over a period of time given a few pieces of information at the time he is deciding to purchase it. Neither one of us must rely on voodoo to be successful. The future is not unknowable if you apply constraints to your focus. I cannot predict that a child named "Henry" will be born at any particular hospital on any particular day, but I can easily predict that a child will be born at a hospital today. Additionally, if given the current birth rate and death rate in America, I can predict if our population will grow, shrink, or maintain its current level. I cannot accurately predict the exact number of people on any given day, but I can easily predict the overall trend. Buffet never had to determine the exact dollar amount of a particular investment in a given timeframe, only if it would grow, shrink, or stay steady. That seems like a skill.

hodedofome

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #70 on: April 25, 2014, 02:32:05 PM »
I agree that projecting earnings and 'moat' into the future is a skill. However, Buffett and everyone else are wrong at times. Sometimes successful investors/traders are wrong more than 50% of the time yet they still make good returns. A skill that all the good ones have is the ability to ADMIT they are wrong, cut their losses and move on to something else. You can see this a lot with Soros. He can go on CNBC and spout all kinds of BS as to why the Euro is going to crash, and yet a week later he says not only was he wrong, but that he's even been buying the Euro the past few days. This ability to admit defeat and cut losses is not a normal part of human nature. All of us humans have cognitive biases that keep us from making good investing decisions. The good investors are those that have overcome their human nature and have a different mindset from the general public. This is why their performance is not a fluke/luck but one of skill. Of course luck plays a part, sometimes a big part. Buffett and Soros had no idea some of their trades would be as big as they were, however something told them to buy. Skill got them into the trade, but luck allowed the trade to go bigger and farther than they ever imagined. It's really no different than poker. A good poker player only knows the odds that his hand is best. Any card not showing has the chance of falling on the table, but if he plays the odds, over time, he should come out ahead. Some nights the cards don't fall in his favor. Some nights they do. Over time, the player with the most skill usually ends up with all the money. Good investors apply the same logic. They see a stock that, historically, has a pattern of doing one thing over another in the future. They base this on past information. They look at the odds, place their bet, and let fate/luck/the market, decide if it turns out to be a winner or not. If it's a winner, let that baby run. If it's a loser, cut it fast.

clifp

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #71 on: April 25, 2014, 02:40:32 PM »
I'll give you another example of Warren's skill. His 2009 purchase of BNSF railroad.
Warren has been following the the number of railroad car loading (Alan Greenspan also followed it) for most of his life. It's one way of measuring economic activity.  (I tried following it for a while but frankly couldn't make head or tails of it.)  He has long been interested railroads but never bought one.  Strategically buying railroads makes sense lots of trade with China is going to be happening in the next 20 plus years and railroads are very cost and energy efficient way of moving resource and goods to west coast port.  Berkshire business throw off a lot of cash and expanding a railroad is very capital intensive

Even at the time 2009 looked like a good time to buy stocks, (and in hindsight it was brilliant time.) so buying railroad was not necessarily a stroke of genius.  But there are 11 Class 1(big) railroads in the US/Canada so why BSNF? Union Pacific was just as big , Norfolk Southern was more efficient. Well it turns out that BNSF lines run right through the heart of the oil shale country in the Dakota.
So here you have a huge valuable commodity with no cost effective way of getting it to market.  Of course the most cost efficient way of transporting the oil, would be a pipeline, but Mr Buffett has good relationship with  President Obama.  I think he is too ethical to lobby the president, but he probably had a good idea that no pipeline was going to be built during the Obama time in office.

At the time of the purchase lots of commentary was made about the purchase of BNSF, with lots of people thinking that "well he probably overpaid in the short run, but in the long run it will probably work out."  Fast forward 5 years and BNSF shipment of oil has has exploded, and they'll have a virtually monopoly on oil shipments for at least 5 years and probably 10 year.
Yet in all the commentary I read about the purchase back in 2009, practically nobody mentioned the growth of shale oil shipping as being a huge profit opportunity.

Now I suppose it is possible was just a happy coincidence, that Warren bought the railroad best positioned to take advantage of shale oil,at a time right before shale oil production really took off.
But after I while Warren's has had enough lucky coincidences in his life that you have to believe that he made the vast majority of his luck.

« Last Edit: April 25, 2014, 02:43:12 PM by clifp »

hodedofome

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #72 on: April 25, 2014, 03:07:59 PM »
You think more highly of him than I do. I think of Buffett as a shark, very similar to the guys you see on the Shark Tank show. He smiles on camera and sips his cherry Coke, while he stomps on your throat and squeezes every last nickel out of you in the boardroom. His businesses took plenty of TARP money back in the day, and I'm sure he had no problem with that whatsoever. He was bailed out just as much as anyone else on Wall St. Heck, he gets to withhold the stocks he's buying for a period of time so that he can build his position. NOBODY ELSE gets to do that! He's a shrewd investor that takes every advantage he can possibly get. This is not to take away all that he's accomplished, but I think people have this depiction of him based on the media that is not entirely correct.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2014, 03:10:04 PM by hodedofome »

clifp

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #73 on: April 25, 2014, 04:03:37 PM »
You think more highly of him than I do. I think of Buffett as a shark, very similar to the guys you see on the Shark Tank show. He smiles on camera and sips his cherry Coke, while he stomps on your throat and squeezes every last nickel out of you in the boardroom. His businesses took plenty of TARP money back in the day, and I'm sure he had no problem with that whatsoever. He was bailed out just as much as anyone else on Wall St. Heck, he gets to withhold the stocks he's buying for a period of time so that he can build his position. NOBODY ELSE gets to do that! He's a shrewd investor that takes every advantage he can possibly get. This is not to take away all that he's accomplished, but I think people have this depiction of him based on the media that is not entirely correct.

I agree he is a tough negotiator  Shareholders  of one the business he acquired (Clayton Homes IIRC) sued basically on the grounds that if Buffett bought a business he had to be getting a bargain, so management should have held out for more.  :-)

But I am almost positive you are wrong no Berkshire Hathaway business received TARP funds.  (Plus who cares TARP actually made money for the government, unlike say the investment in GM, AIG, or any of the countless solar energy companies)

You are also wrong about nobody else getting to withhold information about stock purchases. How many times have you had to file information with the SEC when you bought stock?  I bet is precisely that same number of time I've had to make a filing ZERO.  SEC rules require big investors like Buffett to disclose when the own more than 5% of a stock, but they have a process to request a waiver. According to the NY Times about 60 requests are received each quarter a fair number are granted.

hodedofome

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Re: Is Warren Buffett skilled or lucky?
« Reply #74 on: April 25, 2014, 04:17:21 PM »
Sorry, I was referring to businesses that Buffett was invested in received TARP money. I don't know if any of his 100% owned businesses received some. His GS investment comes to mind.

Yes, I was referring to the 5% rule. Buffett gets that all the time while other hedge fund managers don't. I don't know the statistics of the approvals vs declines however.