Jeremy Grantham's latest letter is out and it is an absolute must read. He like Buffett thinks stocks are fairly valued to mildly cheap and has started being a "steady" buyer. You have to realize with these guys that they invest billions. If you have 50 billion to invest or reallocate you can spend a month putting 5 billion to work and that only impact 10% of the portfolio. It is great being small but it also makes the problems bigger if you are wrong in the short term. Once again, a must read.
I said as far back as 1999, while suffering from selling too soon, that my next big mistake would be buying too soon. This probably sounded ridiculous for someone who was regarded as a perma bear, but I meant it. With 14 years of an overpriced S&P, one feels like a perma bear just as I felt like a perma bull at the end of 13 years of underpriced markets from 1973-86. But that was long ago. Well, surprisingly, here we are again. Finally! On October 10th we can say that, with the S&P at 900, stocks are cheap in the U.S. and cheaper still overseas. We will therefore be steady buyers at these prices. Not necessarily rapid buyers, in fact probably not, but steady buyers. But we have no illusions. Timing is difficult and is apparently not usually our skill set, although we got desperately and atypically lucky moving rapidly to underweight in emerging equities three months ago. That aside, we play the numbers. And we recognize the real possibilities of severe and typical overruns. We also recognize that the current crisis comes with possibly unique dangers of a global meltdown. We recognize, in short, that we are very probably buying too soon. Caveat emptor.
At under 1000 on the S&P 500, U.S. stocks are very reasonable buys for brave value managers willing to be early. The same applies to EAFE and emerging equities at October 10th prices, but even more so. History warns, though, that new lows are more likely than not. Fixed income has wide areas of very attractive, aberrant pricing. The dollar and the yen look okay for now, but the pound does not. Don’t worry at all about infl ation. We can all save up our worries there for a couple of years from now and then really worry! Commodities may have big rallies, but the fundamentals of the next 18 months should wear them down to new two-year lows.
I suggested last quarter that it was ridiculous to expect great financial and economic skills from the Chinese government, which is faced with the spectacularly complicated task of maintaining the highest economic growth rate in history. “Surely they will stumble,” I said. Well, the more I think about it, the more likely it seems that this is both the most likely and most dangerous disappointment (even shock) that awaits the current consensus.