Mr. Market Trades the Brexit

Legendary investor Benjamin Graham wrote in his 1940 classic book, The Intelligent Investor, about a fictional character named Mr. Market.

Graham asks you to imagine jointly owning a business with Mr. Market, who frequently offers to buy or sell your shares.  The trouble with Mr. Market is that he’s manic depressive and the prices that he offers swing wildly over short periods.

Even though the true value of the business may not be changing much, he’s overwhelmed with dramatic bouts of optimism and pessimism and sets his prices based on how he’s felling, not on a cold calculation of value.

Of course, Graham recommends to buy more stock when Mr. Market is feeling gloomy and sell when he’s cheery.  Warren Buffett has said that this is one of his favorite parts of the book, which he in turn calls the best investment book ever written.

Mr. Market has been busy at work in the last two weeks.  Since June 15th, a Wednesday, the S&P 500 is perfectly even, with a marginal positive return of 0.03 percent.  In the meantime, it was 2.05 percent higher than it was yesterday and -3.4 percent lower, and the high and low day were just two days apart.

The MSCI All Country World ex US index is actually up 0.77 percent for the same two week period, but was 4.71 percent higher than the close yesterday and -4.2 percent lower too.

One of my faithful and appreciated readers sent me an email during the downdraft and asked, ‘Do you think Buffett is panic selling right now?’

Obviously, it was a rhetorical question since Buffett is famous for saying that investors should be nervous when others are greedy and greedy when others are nervous.

I’m proud to say that most of the conversations that we’ve had with clients since the Brexit news have been very positive.  Nobody is happy about losing money, but it is nice when we’re all on the same page and focused on the long-term.

At the same time, I think it’s wise to be cautious from here.  The result of the referendum simply opened the door to more uncertainty, which will be felt in the form of more volatility.  While the past two up days are the good kind of volatility, they won’t all be like this.