“In this section, you will encounter, early on, the story of an investment bet I made nine years ago and, next, some strong opinions I have about investing. As a starter, though, I want to briefly describe Long Bets, a unique establishment that played a role in the bet. Long Bets was seeded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and operates as a non-profit organization that administers just what you’d guess: long-term bets. To participate, “proposers” post a proposition at Longbets.org that will be proved right or wrong at a distant date. They then wait for a contrary-minded party to take the other side of the bet. When a “doubter” steps forward, each side names a charity that will be the beneficiary if its side wins; parks its wager with Long Bets; and posts a short essay defending its position on the Long Bets website. When the bet is concluded, Long Bets pays off the winning charity.
Here are examples of what you will find on Long Bets’ very interesting site: In 2002, entrepreneur Mitch Kapor asserted that “By 2029 no computer – or ‘machine intelligence’ – will have passed the Turing Test,” which deals with whether a computer can successfully impersonate a human being. Inventor Ray Kurzweil took the opposing view. Each backed up his opinion with $10,000. I don’t know who will win this bet, but I will confidently wager that no computer will ever replicate Charlie. That same year, Craig Mundie of Microsoft asserted that pilotless planes would routinely fly passengers by 2030, while Eric Schmidt of Google argued otherwise. The stakes were $1,000 each. To ease any heartburn Eric might be experiencing from his outsized exposure, I recently offered to take a piece of his action. He promptly laid off $500 with me. (I like his assumption that I’ll be around in 2030 to contribute my payment, should we lose.) Now, to my bet and its history.
In Berkshire’s 2005 annual report, I argued that active investment management by professionals – in aggregate – would over a period of years underperform the returns achieved by rank amateurs who simply sat still. I explained that the massive fees levied by a variety of “helpers” would leave their clients – again in aggregate – worse off than if the amateurs simply invested in an unmanaged low-cost index fund.
Subsequently, I publicly offered to wager $500,000 that no investment pro could select a set of at least five hedge funds – wildly-popular and high-fee investing vehicles – that would over an extended period match the performance of an unmanaged S&P-500 index fund charging only token fees. I suggested a ten-year bet and named a low-cost Vanguard S&P fund as my contender. I then sat back and waited expectantly for a parade of fund managers – who could include their own fund as one of the five – to come forth and defend their occupation. After all, these managers urged others to bet billions on their abilities. Why should they fear putting a little of their own money on the line?
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While the amount of uses in one barrel of oil is quite incredible, we still need a mind-boggling amount of the natural resource each year to sustain consumption.
Oil production per year: 34 billion barrels (incl. other liquids)
Oil market size at current prices: $1.7 trillion per year
To consider how big this actually is, we compare the annual market sizes of all major metals and minerals that are mined throughout the world:
- Gold: $170 billion
- Iron: $115 billion
- Copper: $91 billion
- Aluminum: $90 billion
- Zinc: $34 billion
- Manganese: $30 billion
- Nickel: $21 billion
- Silver: $20 billion
- Other metals: $67 billion (Including platinum, palladium, titanium, tin, moly, uranium, and more)
The total amount works out to $660 billion – just a tiny fraction of the size of the oil market.
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“Property is as safe as houses, at least until the roof falls in. Our latest tally of global housing markets shows that American house prices have recovered to a new nominal high, and in Spain and Ireland, prices are again rising at a decent clip. In the English-speaking Commonwealth countries of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, prices have risen largely unabated in recent years.
Since autumn 2014 $1.3trn of capital has flowed out of China. Some of that cash has found its way into residential property in some of the world’s most desirable cities. In America, Chinese investors bought some 29,000 homes in the 12 months to March 2016 with a total value of $27bn, according to the National Association of Realtors. Much of this money is focused on a handful of cities: Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Miami. Foreign money has helped propel skyrocketing prices in other places, too. In Vancouver, home values have risen by 47% in four years; in London they have risen by 54%; and in Auckland the rise has been a whopping 75%. The influence of foreign capital flows on housing markets is being scrutinised, particularly as affordability becomes ever more stretched.
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According to the latest data on global GDP released by the World Bank this February, the U.S. still is the world’s biggest economy – by far. As shown by this Voronoi diagram, the United States (24.3%) generates almost a quarter of global GDP and is almost 10 percentage points ahead of China (14.8%), in second place, and more than 18 percentage points ahead of Japan (4.5%) on three.
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A Columbia University study suggested that with a fleet of just 9,000 autonomous cars, Uber could replace every taxi cab in New York City – passengers would wait an average of 36 seconds for a ride that costs about $0.50 per mile. Such convenience and low cost will make car ownership inconceivable, and autonomous, on-demand taxis – the ‘transportation cloud’ – will quickly become dominant form of transportation – displacing far more than just car ownership, it will take the majority of users away from public transportation as well. With their $41 billion valuation, replacing all 171,000 taxis in the United States is well within the realm of feasibility – at a cost of $25,000 per car, the rollout would cost a mere $4.3 billion.
- Car ownership has been rising with the growing global middleclass. There are 3.5 billion or so global middle and this could rise to 5.5 billion by 2030
- Self driving cars will start bending that curve or car and vehicle ownership and the growth of driving and driving related jobs
- Intel just announced they will spend $15.3 billion to buy Mobileye (a maker of self driving car components)
- Qualcomm spent $47 billion to buy NXP, the largest automotive chip supplier
- Google, Uber, Ford, Tesla, Nvidia and others are pushing hard to make self driving cars
- Regulation and laws
Peak Car – Rise and fall or car ownership
According to a forecast by PwC, a total of 107.4 million vehicles will be manufactured worldwide in 2020. Globally over 90 million motor vehicles were produced in 2015 and there were about 73 million passenger cars built.
Self driving cars will mean that far fewer drivers and cars and trucks will be needed to fulfill many of the motor vehicle related tasks.
- Delivery of goods
- Non-commuting passenger travel Read more »
Investors are more likely to reach their long-term goals if they remain invested and avoid short-term decisions that may take them off course. As the hypothetical example below shows, investors may make suboptimal decisions when emotions take over, tending to buy out of excitement when the market is going up and sell out of fear when the market is falling. Markets do ultimately normalize, and when they do, those who stay invested may benefit more than those who don’t.
To help reason prevail, first make sure you’re comfortable with your allocation to riskier assets and that it makes sense in light of your time horizon. You also need a logical framework for financial decisions and a plan that anticipates periods of market turbulence. A systematic approach for reviewing portfolio results, with pre-established guidelines for selling, may help as well.
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S&P Index at inflection points
Source: J.P.Morgan Asset Management, as of Feb. 28, 2017
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Source: J.P.Morgan Asset Management
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