Saturday, September 01, 2007

Warren Buffett: Value Investors Only Care About Bear Markets

A value-oriented investment approach in the style of Graham and Buffett does not focus on bull market performance. In fact, by definition, true value investing always focuses on weathering the bear market storms and coming out relatively unscathed. During bull markets, a lot of people are mistaken for investment geniuses when in fact it's the rising tide that's moving them up in the world. Bear markets, on the other hand, distinguish the intelligent investor from the fly-by-night speculator. My approach and the ultimate purpose of value investing is to outperform bear markets.

In his 1961 letter to partners, a 31-year-old investor in Omaha named Warren Buffett told his partners that they should be judging him during times of turmoil and not times of jubilance. "I would consider a year in which we declined 15% and the [Dow Jones Industrial] Average 30%, to be much superior to a year when both we and the Average advanced 20%." Very early on in his career, Buffett was aware that performing well during market turmoil was the key to long-term success as an investor. During the 13 years that Buffett ran his partnership, not only did he destroy the Dow Jones Average during both bull and bear markets, but he also never had a down year. So while other investors have come along and produced records that outshine Buffett's, its Buffett's preservation of capital that has allowed him to compound money at such a staggering rate.

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