Berkshire Shares Negative Now For 19 Months And Counting

The financial press loves to flog viewers with bullish quotations at all times, but especially from Warren Buffett, and especially near cycle tops when valuations are the least attractive for investment. See a detailed discussion in the recent article Warren Buffett is a hypocrite.

I last touched on this topic in a May 2018 article ‘Buffett indicator’ screaming ‘fire’ to risk-blind stockholders, to wit:

In recent years, I have written a few times about Why Buffett won’t warn that stocks are in a bubble. With more than $700 billion in assets under management, and positions too huge to move out of easily, Buffett’s fund has become synonymous with buy and hold, long-always stock holdings, that move up and down largely in lock step with the S&P 500.

Trouble is that since 1998 we have been moving through a secular bear market born of the highest valuations and worst investment return prospects in decades of market history.And valuations are the most definitive factor in determining future returns.Case in point, Berkshire Hathaway shares lost half of their market value in both of the last two bear markets along with the broad markets, and spent five+ years thereafter, just waiting to grow capital back to even.

The latest Berkshire’s shareholders’ annual meeting extravaganza held on May 5 attracted the usual media scrum with lots of hopeful hype about stock returns looking forward. The inconvenient truth however, is that on every metric, including Buffett’s self-named favorite valuation tool–being the total market capitalization of US stocks divided by US GDP (shown below since 1950)–stocks are screaming capital loss prospects, higher than in 2008 and nearly as high as the tech bubble top in 2000

Right on cue, after rising on QE flows into January 2018, Berkshire shares topped and are down nearly 5% over the past 19 months and counting.

The question for holders is how many years will it take to grow back principle after the full bear market as run its course and how many will be able to hold on without liquidating in losses just to sleep at night or pay their bills.

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Disclosure: None.

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Comments

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Leslie Miriam 4 months ago Member's comment

Debbie Downer wrote that. Definite influence piece. Half the people on following $BRK-B say "oh, it hasn't done anything in two years," which isn't true. It was at about $175 two years ago. At least the author reframed it to 19 months, but that's pretty convenient, isn't it? You can do that with any stock if you just choose a specific set of dates and then use scary words about how bad things are.

$BRK-B will be fine. Those 19 months are in the past (#Trump was President that whole time so it makes sense that #WarrenBuffett wanted to keep more cash in this environment. Turns out he was right considering how this is playing out). It's time to move on. #Berkshire shares are way undervalued around 200. The Oracle of Omaha still has a few tricks up his sleeves... even on his 89th birthday. Cheer up!

Wannabe Warren 4 months ago Member's comment

Yes, it amazes be how #Buffett continues to impress despite his age.