Another day, another mega-M&A deal taking advantage of abnormally low bond rates, this time however not involving biotechs or a specialty pharma seeking to purchase a debt-free balance sheet, but one involving the Oracle of Omaha himself, and his Heinz investment, which will merge with Kraft Foods whose market cap was over $40 billion this morning on the news of the merger, and create the third largest food and beverage company in the US, and 5th largest in the world. And while the resulting company will certainly be a food giant, here is the rationale behind the deal and the punchline for American workers: "significant synergy opportunities." Translation: thousands of layoffs imminent.
Recall Lenin’s quote: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Today, of course, the capitalists don’t even sell the rope; they give it away, for nothing. But what’s not to like? Stock investors are getting rich. Bondholders are making money. The government can spend as much as it likes. And the voters are bamboozled by it; they think it helps make the economy work better. This is going to be a hard habit to break. So, here’s the gist of my conclusion: Governments won’t break the habit of getting something for nothing. It will break them. But how?
Whether it’s subprime auto lending, Janet Yellen’s “stretched” biotech sector, or corporate credit, bubbles abound in today’s fragile market. Prem Watsa thinks valuations in one sector are particularly outrageous.
As HFT shops begin to turn on each other, it seems appropriate to reflect on the impact that Michael Lewis' Flash Boys book had on exposing the ugly truth that many have been discussing for years in US (and international) equity (and non-equity) markets. As Lewis concludes, after explaining the attacks he has suffered from the HFT industry, "If I didn't do more to distinguish 'good' H.F.T. from 'bad' H.F.T., it was because I saw, early on, that there was no practical way for me or anyone else... to do it. ... The big banks and the exchanges [have] been paid to compromise investors’ interests while pretending to guard those interests. I was surprised more people weren’t angry with them."
Berkshire Hathaway is getting into the car-retailing business with the purchase of the country's biggest privately-held dealership chain. With auto sales set to stall thanks to subprime jitters, is the Oracle stepping into the wrong business at just the wrong time?
Last week, Buffett moved the goalposts. If money were what really matters, Warren Buffett would have no peer. He has had unparalleled success in this world; surely he has a first-class ticket to the next. And if his good fortune were of his own making, what would he have to fear? But what if fortune, which smiled on him so broadly for so many years, begins to frown?
It wasn't the vetoed Keystone XL pipeline which exploded today: it was a tanker train carrying 103 trains of oil and belonging to none other than Obama's tax advisor, Warren Buffett, that ended up in a dramatic fireball in the middle of rural Mississippi.
The day the Buffet "value-investing" fanatics have been looking forward to all year, almost as much as the annual pilgrimage to Omaha, has finally arrived - hours ago Warren Buffett released his historic, 50th annual letter to shareholders, which is extra special because as the Oracle notes in the foreword, "Fifty years ago, today’s management took charge at Berkshire. For this Golden Anniversary, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger each wrote his views of what has happened at Berkshire during the past 50 years and what each expects during the next 50."
Warren Buffett once famously chided that all the gold in the world would form a cube of 67 feet (20 meters) on each side. In doing so, he was attempting to argue that there was no point in owning gold since all the gold in the world would be an unproductive, useless hunk of metal. What’s ironic (and completely lost on the venerable Mr. Buffett) is that you could make the same argument about the paper-based financial system.
The fact that there is a debate about a quarter-point rate hike tells us that extraordinarily low interest rates have mostly failed to deliver a robust recovery. That people opposed to even the tiniest increase in rates are resorting to hyperbole tells us that they too know this. The thinking seems to be that six years into near-zero policy, the only reason it hasn’t worked is because it hasn’t been tried long enough. Meanwhile, the dangerous side effects of year after year of artificially low rates continue to grow.
The world has begun to devolve into two distinct factions. The imperialist actions of the American Empire in the Middle East and Ukraine have pushed Russia, China, India, Brazil, and Iran closer together regarding trade deals; transacting commerce without using the USD; oil and gas pipelines; and military cooperation. Totalitarian regimes are known for using foreign threats to distract the populace from domestic suffering. As a matter of fact, all regimes use this tactic. When the global economy rips apart at the seams due to the debt saturation, world leaders will attempt to blame other countries for their dire circumstances. Foreign enemies are good for business. Ask our Nobel Peace Prize winning President. War is inevitable.