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Grantham of GMO's Q2 letter

Grantham of GMO's Q2 letter



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Published by: pkedrosky on Jul 27, 2009
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of long-term fundamentals, but was merely a response togreat stimulus and great implied promises.Well, this time once again, enough risk takers were foundto get the job done, and the market rose to 950, withpresumably at least a decent shot (say, 50/50) at risingover 1000 in the next two to three quarters.In addition to making the sharpest upward move since1938, the market had a record speculative bias, asshown in Exhibits 1 and 2. On this topic I failed badly toemphasize enough one aspect of the analogy to the thirdyear of the Presidential Cycle: it is usually extremelyspeculative. Where the S&P outperforms normal by 12percentage points in Year Three, the most volatile quarterof the market outperforms by 21%! This is a lot of moneyin a year. Exhibit 1 shows the gap between high and low
July 2009
Waiting for Markets to be Silly Again
A year is certainly a long time in markets, and so is aquarter. A year ago, equities globally – and everythingelse for that matter – were very overpriced, particularlyif they were risky. A quarter ago, in mid March, priceseverywhere were cheap. Now they have all – or almostall – converged for a few unusual moments at fair value.A year ago, it was very easy to know what to be: a risk avoider. It was not so easy reinvesting when terri
ed, butmost of us knew that we should have been doing more.But today? It’s dif 
cult to be inspired at fair value.Since early March, the market has had the type of strongspeculative rally that often follows extreme declines.The danger of a breathtaking rally is that it leaves thosefew investors who raised considerable cash waiting fora pullback and psychologically invested in the case fora new bear market leg. This was covered in our mid-March posting, “Reinvesting When Terri
ed.” Thattheme was developed a few weeks later for me when thepenny dropped: the extreme stimulus and moral hazardof recent quarters resembled the stimulative third yearof a Presidential Cycle. Indeed, it seems to have turnedthis usually restrictive Year One into a giant Year Threeeffect. The market in Year Three typically outperformsits average by 12 percentage points predicated on muchless desperation exhibited by the authorities than we hadthis year. A notionally independent Fed has to be at leastsomewhat discreet in its friendly support of an existingadministration in Year Three. While in Zurich on April 1(you get what you pay for on April 1), under the impactof that penny dropping, I told
Finanz und Wirtschaft 
that“Der S&P 500 Index kann rasch auf 1100 steigen.” That is,the S&P could move rapidly to 1100. I actually remembersaying that the move could be between 1000 and 1100,but journalists hate wasting space. In a belated quarterlyletter a few weeks after that, I tried to make the point thatsuch a rally had absolutely nothing to do with the logic
Boring Fair Price!
Jeremy Grantham
Exhibit 1Speculative Rallies I
Source: GMO 
Note: The universe for the above data is the top 1000 U.S. stocks by market cap.
Top Quartile versus Bottom QuartileVolatility Return after Market Bottom48.7%15.4%-7.6%-7.4%
   C  u  m  u   l  a   t   i  v  e   3  -   M  o  n   t   h   R  e   t  u  r  n   D   i   f   f  e  r  e  n  c  e
Quarterly Letter – Boring Fair Price – July 2009
volatile stocks in each of the most impressive marketrecoveries in recent decades, and Exhibit 2 shows the gapbetween stocks under $5 and over $50, which has a verygood record as a risk proxy. This current move clearlylooks like the record holder! And the rally did indeed leaveinstitutional investors feeling left behind. In an informalsurvey at a recent meeting of 150 or so institutions, thoseadmitting to feeling nervous about underexposure to risk outnumbered those feeling too aggressive by a neat 10to 1! This also suggests how a speculative rally can keepgoing longer than reasonable investors expect.We at GMO, while we were really quite good in re-enteringthe market, perhaps under-responded to the probabilitiesof a particularly risky rally. As value purists (at least mostof the time), we were very constrained by the fact that westill measured U.S. quality blue chips as the highest returnglobal equities even at the very low. This was in completecontrast to the situation at the low in 2002, where the bestvalues were in risky emerging markets and small caps,and we simply had to follow our value noses to reallyparticipate in, even outperform, a strong rally. For anyapproach, some market stages cooperate and some try toreally mess with you. We came very close to getting thepoint this time but still missed it, although all the pain canand very well may be recovered. One of the encouragingthings about investing is that you only have to be partlyright: in our typical global balanced accounts, for example,we fell last year with an average of 42% global equity andwe rose off the low with an average of 62%.On its way up from 666, the S&P
ashed through its fairvalue of about 880 on our best estimates (our estimate of fairvalue has decreased slightly again due to write-downs of book value, among other factors). The market’s overshootto 950 caused our seven-year forecast for the S&P to dropto 4.8% real compared with its 5.7% estimate at fair price.After 20 years of more or less permanent overpricing of the S&P, we get
ve months of underpricing. There is no justice in life! Well, at least not for the apparent handfulof us who welcome the opportunity to invest at bargainprices! There is more happiness, it seems, for the armiesof investors who prefer the temporary endorphin rush thatcomes with a rising market, even if it’s overpriced.In March and April, I wrote about Plan A: you must forceyourself to invest in a cheap market even when you areterri
ed by rapidly falling prices, as I admit I was to someextent. I also suggested Plan B: if you missed the earlierlows, you must grit your teeth and phase slowly into acheap market. You can’t gamble that it will oblige you byanother low, and historical analogies with earlier, muchlower market lows are fraught with genuine differences.Now it is time for Plan C.
Plan C: What to do if the Market Overruns
Given our view that we are in for seven lean years in whichthe market will be looking for an excuse to be cheap, werecommend taking some risk units off the table, includingbecoming underweight in equities – between 1000 and1100 on the S&P, if it gets there this year. Around 880you should continue to move slowly to fair value, twiddleyour thumbs, and wait to see what happens. Boring!Otherwise, it is time to focus on the lesser issues: whichtypes of equities are cheaper or more expensive thanthe market. This leads us back once again to the bet onquality stocks.
The Quality Bet
The easy winner of the cheapest equity sub-categorycontest is still high quality U.S. blue chips. They werereally trashed on a relative basis by the second quarterrally in junk. I understand a rally in junk after the recorddecline, but this was excessive and based apparentlyon unrealistic hopes for a strong, sustained economicrecovery. Such a recovery seems most unlikely, whereasa temporary, weaker recovery appeared very likely three
Exhibit 2Speculative Rallies II
Source: GMO 
Note: The universe for the above data is the top 1000 U.S. stocks by market cap.
Stocks Under $5 versus Stocks Over $50-6.6%4.7%67.9%90.9%
   C  u  m  u   l  a   t   i  v  e   3  -   M  o  n   t   h   R  e   t  u  r  n   D   i   f   f  e  r  e  n  c  e
Quarterly Letter – Boring Fair Price – July 2009
months ago as the substantial size of the stimulus packagewas revealed. The latter scenario still seems probable.Our original estimate for the timing of some economicrecovery to occur late this year or early next year stillstands. Without an unexpectedly strong improvement inthe economy, it is hard to see high quality stocks losingmuch more ground, given their extreme value gap over junky stocks – more than an 11 percentage point spreadper year on our seven-year forecast! If our numbers arecorrect, long quality (or long quality and short junk) issubstantially the most outlying bet available today inall global equities. (Let me admit here, once again, thatthere is always more subjectivity and, hence, doubt inmeasuring “quality” as a sector than there is in, say, largecaps versus small caps. But we have been estimatingquality this way for 30 years and think we have a goodrecord in doing so.)Our other perennial favorite – emerging market equities– has had an amazing recovery, all things considered,and is no doubt also vulnerable to a reassessment of howquickly the global economy is recovering. Decipheringthe strength of the Chinese economy will also play amajor role in formulating our view of any future relativestrength of emerging. My colleague, Edward Chancellor,strongly suspects that the Chinese economy is dangerouslyunbalanced and very likely to come unhinged in the nextfew quarters, surprising the pants off investors. On theother hand, the strong longer-term case that I outlined in“The Emerging Emerging Bubble” 15 months ago seemsintact. I suggested then that emerging equities wouldsell within
ve years or so at a distinct P/E premium tocelebrate their obviously superior GDP growth comparedwith that of an aging developed world. Emerging marketequities are already selling at a modest premium to EAFEand the higher quality half of the U.S. equity market.Being pro-emerging yet anti-China is a dilemma forus; we are working to resolve it. Meanwhile, emergingequities, like most risky asset components, are moderatelyoverpriced. We in asset allocation may, however, pushour luck in emerging – particularly ex-China emerging –using inertia to reduce our current modest overweight. If we do this, it will be out of respect for the high probabilitythat emerging equities will sustain and increase theiroverpriced level relative to the rest of the world.
What we specialize in at GMO, not surprisingly perhaps,is doing the easy job: we wait for extreme situations andpredict that they will become normal once again. Whenmarkets sell at normal prices, life for us becomes muchharder, perhaps 10 times harder. Predicting movementsaway from rational prices in an irrational world shouldnot be easy, and indeed it is not. Our one and only effortat predicting a bubble – in emerging markets – is likelyto stay just that. Only U.S. quality feels (and measures) tous like a real outlier. As for the rest, if you feel yourself becoming overcon
dent about anything, take a coldshower and start again. Just be patient. In our strangemarkets, you usually don’t have to wait too long forsomething really bizarre to show up.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are the views of Jeremy Grantham through the period ending July 24, 2009, and are subject to change at any time based onmarket and other conditions. This is not an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security and should not be construed as such. References tospeci
c securities and issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, recommendations to purchase or sellsuch securities.Copyright © 2009 by GMO LLC. All rights reserved.

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