When Everybody Knows that Something is So, Nobody Knows Nothing

William Smead
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Investment Officer







Dear Clients and Prospective Clients:

Andy Grove was the CEO of Intel for many years and was asked what the best advice was that he’d ever been given in business. His answer was that a professor at the City College of New York taught him that “When everyone knows that something is so, nobody knows nothing”. It means that when the crowd of market participants reach more than 80% agreement on matters of business or investng, you have to disagree with them and do the opposite of what the crowd is doing.

A few examples for newer readers. When everyone thought in 1998-1999 that the profit to be made from tech investments was unlimited, you had to flee the area. A year ago when investors were rabid for international stocks (especially emerging markets), you had to assume the bubble would burst. Last summer when Oil hit $145 per barrel and commodities were flying high, we warned everyone who would listen to get clear and forget you’d ever heard of BHP Billiton, Transocean, Mosaic and Freeport McMoran.

At Smead Capital Management we crave the opportunities created by this phenomena we call a “Well-Known Fact”, which is a body of economic information which is known by all participants and has been acted on by the 80% majority. Unfortunately, for the last 10 years, most of the “Well-Known Facts” were things to avoid as opposed to sectors made attractive for new investments. Avoiding overvalued areas saves you money while pursuing undevalued sectors could make us wealthy.

I’m pleased to report the latest “Well-Known Fact”. The “new” fact is that the recession which started a year ago is going to be the longest and deepest since the 1930’s. Therefore, the crowd of investors assume that the most violent decline since the 1930’s in the U.S. stock market (from October of 2007 to November 20th of 2008) is not good enough to discount all the bad news which will come for however many months that the recession lasts. Individual investors are approaching having 2.5 times as much of their aggregate household assets in treasury bills, checking, savings and certificates of deposit as they own directly in common stock. It is almost the exact opposite of the top of the market at the end of 1999 when they owned $10 trillion of common stock directly and had $4 trillion in the safest and historically lowest paying instruments. Warren Buffett says, “Uncertainty is the friend of the buyer of long-term values” and “So if you wait for the robins, spring will be over”.

Here is our opinion based on the current “Well-Known Fact”:

Buy quality U.S. stocks with balance sheet strength and powerful brands.

Assume that Treasury interest rates will rise dramatically in the next two years.

Assume that recently hot sectors like commodities, oil, international/emerging market and gold will be dead money in the “Next Great U.S. Stock Market.”

Assume the largest self-help and psychological counseling group in the U.S. in 2010 will be made up of the folks who sat on low interest rate money market and “cash is king” investments at the end of 2008 and watched a once in a lifetime fire sale in America’s finest companies pass them by.

Lastly, if we don’t currently manage money for you and your portfolio doesn’t line up well with this advice, don’t waste time getting the dust off your feet before you call us.

Best Wishes,

William Smead

We Advise Investors

Sign up to get our advice sent straight to your inbox.

Recent Missives

A Ticket to Purgatory

February 27, 2024

The Sherman Antitrust Act was created to stop our democratic republic from being ruined by "the concentration of capital in vast combinations." The fear was that if too much of the success of...

⟶ Keep Reading

The Great Conflagration

February 21, 2024

We consider Ben Bernanke to be the father of 21st-century central bank policy. His work in dealing with the credit crisis in 2008-2009 was just the right policy at that time. The problem...

⟶ Keep Reading

Drivers and Stock Pickers

February 13, 2024

In studies, 90% of drivers think they are above average. We believe that 100% of the people who pick stocks for a living think they will be above average. Is being above average...

⟶ Keep Reading

Business Insider: Cole Smead, CFA on the Potential Fed Policy Decision and Stock Market Failure

February 2, 2024

  The Fed risks making a big policy mistake this year that could spark a 30% drop in the stock market, portfolio manager says By Jennifer Sor For more information […]

⟶ Keep Reading

Chronological Snobbery

January 30, 2024

C.S. Lewis coined the term ‘chronological snobbery’. According to Lewis, the definition of chronological snobbery is “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has...

⟶ Keep Reading

Stock Market-Interest Rate Rhymes

January 23, 2024

Warren Buffett regularly reminds his shareholders that interest rates are a gravitational pull to stock prices. History shows that the movement of stock prices and interest rates don’t necessarily happen simultaneously but play...

⟶ Keep Reading

We Advise Investors

Sign up to get our advice sent straight to your inbox.

US INVESTORS

Individual Investors

OR

Financial Advisors, Family Offices,
and Institutional Investors

OR

NON-US INVESTORS

Individual Investors

OR

Financial Advisors, Family Offices,
and Institutional Investors

OR

Scroll to Top