Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bill Miller 3Q Letter

Bill Miller is a famous value investor, who has beaten the S&P 500 index for 15 consecutive years from 1991 through 2005.

Here is his latest commentary at Legg Mason:
3Q letter to shareholders
The difference between what is unfolding now and the Crash of '87, or the problems with Long-Term Capital Management in 1998, is that they were confined to Wall Street, whereas this issue extends to Main Street and to the value of the biggest asset of most consumers, their house.
One of the enduring features of the findings in behavioral psychology as it applies to finance, a subject I have discussed many times over the years, is the almost complete inability of those who are aware of them to actually apply them. You can attend Richard Zeckhauser’s seminars at Harvard, read lots of articles and case studies, be reminded of how recency bias, or anchoring, or the representative fallacy, or myopic loss aversion impair clear thinking and skew decision making, and still fall prey to them and others of their ilk the moment you are confronted with real world situations.

The recent precipitous decline in financial stocks, especially those related to housing, which sent Countrywide Financial (CFC) to $12 last week, and led to 20 to 30% drops in financial guarantors in a day or so—after they had already dropped between 25 and 50% this year—is a case in point. After falling 20% in a only a few days on no news, and this after being down 50% for the year, CFC rallied over 30% in one day once they reported their results and indicated they would be profitable for the 4th quarter and expect to earn a reasonable return on equity of 10-15% for all of 2008. The price action on both sides was driven by emotion – first fear, then relief – and was hardly the result of a careful analysis of Countrywide’s long term business value. That, by the way, we think is in the $40’s compared to its current price of about $14-15.

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