The Federal Reserve is now famously ‘data-dependant’ when deciding whether to raise or lower US interest rates. And while – for reasons discussed in articles such as Gross misconduct – we do not share the US central bank’s confidence in the accuracy of preliminary estimates of economic data, the desire to react to the situation as it presents itself, rather than having a pre-planned strategy, is a prudent one.
We do not have any preconceived notions as to what we will do now the UK has voted to exit the European Union. There will undoubtedly be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from businesses up and down the country. And the stockmarket will inevitably react – indeed it did as soon as markets opened after the vote – moving share prices up and down, depending on its estimates of the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ from the situation.
The true fair value of businesses changes very slowly over time, however. There may be a prolonged economic downturn or there may not – no-one can say with any certainty. Of course, that will not stop economic pundits guessing although, if they were honest, they could not say they knew. Either way, for most businesses with a 50-year life span, the next six months or so will have a relatively insignificant impact on that true fair value.
It is therefore incumbent on us to do what we always do, here on The Value Perspective. That is, to take advantage of emotional swings in the market that are not justified by the swings in the true value of companies – in other words, to be buying when others are scared and to be selling when others are greedy. We do not have a playbook we simply follow by rote – indeed, the only thing we are ‘dependant’ upon is valuation.
If, say, financials fall more than is justified – thereby becoming significantly cheaper and as a consequence significantly less risky – we are likely to be adding to our positions. If they do not fall significantly, we will not be. And if the more stable stocks we own in our portfolios rally significantly due to fear over the coming months, we are likely to be reducing our positions. If they do not rally significantly, we will not be.
We do not know where share prices will settle – not today and not over the coming months. No one does. We will, however, act as we always do. Going wherever the value is in the market. Buying things others find uncomfortable. Often buying things others currently believe to be tainted in some way. Then as those negative perceptions and short-term issues alleviate, share prices rebound. Investors who have followed our strategies over time have been compensated for short-term discomfort through considerable long-term excess returns.
In truth, this is a different strategy to most other fund managers. We see very few competitors who follow this type of strategy – and that is good news. Those long-term excess returns our value strategies have delivered also serve to diversify our investors’ portfolios and so reduce their risk.
The next few months may be difficult and they may be volatile. It is our job, however, to take advantage of that volatility and exploit the emotional reactions of the market by remaining, as we have always been, valuation-dependant.