Beyond Buffett 超越巴菲特
The agonies of traditional value investing are a sign of frothy stockmarkets—and a changing economy
FOR A MOMENT in November investors could afford to ignore stockmarket superstars like Amazon and Alibaba. As news of a vaccine broke, a motley crew of more jaded firms led Wall Street higher, with the shares of airlines, banks and oil firms soaring on hopes of a recovery. The bounce has been a long time coming. So-called value stocks, typically asset-heavy firms in stodgy industries, have had a decade from hell, lagging behind America’s stockmarket by over 90 percentage points. This has led to a crisis of confidence among some fund managers, who wonder if their framework for assessing firms works in the digital age. They are right to worry: it needs upgrading to reflect an economy in which intangibles and externalities count for more.
For almost a century the dominant ideology in finance has been value investing. It has evolved over time but typically takes a conservative view of firms, placing more weight on their assets, cashflows and record, and less on their investment plans or trajectory. The creed has its roots in the 1930s and 1940s, when Benjamin Graham argued that investors needed to move on from the pre-1914 era, during which capital markets were dominated by railway bonds and insider-dealing. Instead he proposed a scientific approach of evaluating firms’ balance-sheets and identifying mispriced securities. His disciple, Warren Buffett, popularised and updated these ideas as the economy shifted towards consumer firms and finance in the late 20th century. Today measures of value are plugged into computers which hunt for “factors” that boost returns and there are investors in Shanghai loosely inspired by a doctrine born in Depression-era New York.
The trouble is that value investing has led to poor results. If you had bought value shares worth $1 a decade ago, they would fetch $2.50 today, compared with $3.45 for the stockmarket as a whole and $4.65 for the market excluding value stocks. Mr Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has lagged behind badly. Despite its efforts to modernise, value investing often produces backward-looking portfolios and as a result has largely missed the rise of tech. The asset-management industry’s business model is under strain, as our special report this week explains. Now one of its most long-standing philosophies is under siege, too.
Value investors might argue that they are the victims of a stockmarket bubble and that they will thus be proved right eventually. The last time value strategies did badly was in 1998-2000, before the dotcom crash. Today stockmarkets do indeed look expensive. But alongside this are two deeper changes to the economy that the value framework is still struggling to grapple with.
The first is the rise of intangible assets, which now account for over a third of all American business investment—think of data, or research. Firms treat these costs as an expense, rather than an investment that creates an asset. Some sophisticated institutional investors try to adjust for this but it is still easy to miscalculate how much firms are reinvesting—and firms’ ability to reinvest heavily at high rates of return is crucial for their long run performance. On a traditional definition, America’s top ten listed firms have invested $700bn since 2010. On a broad one, the figure is $1.5trn or more. Intangible firms can also often scale up quickly and exploit network effects to sustain high profits.
The second change is the rising importance of externalities, costs that firms are responsible for but avoid paying. Today the value doctrine suggests you should load up on car firms and oil producers. But these firms’ prospects depend on the potential liability from their carbon footprint, the cost of which may rise as emissions rules tighten and carbon taxes spread.
Value investing’s rigour and scepticism are as relevant as ever—especially given how frothy markets look. But many investors are still only just beginning to get their heads round how to assess firms’ intangible assets and externalities. It is a laborious task, but getting it right could give asset management a new lease of life and help ensure that capital is allocated efficiently. In the 1930s and 1940s Graham described how the old investing framework had become obsolete. Time for another upgrade.
They are a nice family, although/though I don't like young Sandra much.
(2) 但两者也有不同：though在日常口语或不太正式的写作中更常用，可作连词和副词用；although只可用作连词，可用于各种场合。Although the murder of the Archduke was the immediate cause of the First World War, the real reasons for the conflict were very much more complicated. 虽然谋杀大公爵是爆发第一次世界大战的直接原因，但这场冲突的真正原因却要复杂得多。
I'd quite like to go out, although/though it is a bit late.
You can count on him, though. 你倒是可以信赖他。
It seems to me though that he is running a serious risk in doing a thing like this. 在我看来他做这样一件事情倒是在冒极大的风险。
(3) though常可与even或as连用(even though, as though) 进行强调，although则不可。Even though I didn't understand a word, I kept smiling.
Davy and my father acted as though nothing had happened.
Exhausted though she was, there was no hope of her being able to sleep.
It was a quiet party; I had a good time, though.
The strongest argument, though, is Britain's economic and political dependence on the United States.
(7) though, although连接的两个短句，不能再用but。如不能说： Though she was not very well, but she went to work. (though和 but两者应去一个。)但如有三个短句，则可以。这原则就是：连接两个短句，只需一个连词，而两个连词可以用来连接三个短句。Although she was not very well, she went to work, but she didn't stay there long. 虽然她身体欠佳，她还是去上班了，但她在那里没待多长时间。
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