Monday, November 24, 2008

John Hussman Becomes a Guru

Dr. Hussman takes his place among the diverse group of value investors designated as gurus at

Here is Dr. Hussman's latest market commentary: "The Cornerstone of Capitalism". Below are a few excerpts.

On the government's response to the financial crisis:

The two most important actions that government can take to address this crisis are: 1) continue to provide capital directly to the banks, rather than purchasing troubled assets, and 2) reduce the mortgage principal of distressed homeowners in return for a claim on future price appreciation.


...Treasury was absolutely correct to abandon the awful idea of buying up distressed assets directly from the banks. As I noted in September (9/29/08 – You Can't Rescue the Financial System if You Can't Read a Balance Sheet), if you buy the bad assets off the balance sheet at their market value, nothing changes on the liability side. The only way buying questionable assets would increase capital (particularly “Tier 1” capital, which is what gives depositors confidence) would be for the Treasury to overpay for those assets.

Secretary Paulson has repeatedly said that the Treasury abandoned the plan to buy distressed assets because “the facts changed.” The only fact that changed is that the Treasury realized that this was a really bad idea.


I don't believe that the U.S. economy needs any massive “stimulus” targeted toward consumers. The force of this economic downturn is coming from mortgage losses, and the interventions we require must be targeted at 1) bank capital and 2) mortgage principal reductions in return for property appreciation rights.


Boost bank capital and restructure the payment obligations of distressed mortgages, and credit, confidence and consumption will quickly be restored.

On investment returns:

Investment returns aren't “free money.” Over the long-term, they are compensation for providing scarce, useful resources – liquidity, information, and risk-bearing – to other market participants. No useful services are provided to the market by a speculator who follows the crowd and chases glamour stocks higher late in an extended bull market run.


In contrast, the market compensates investors – not over the short-term, but predictably over the long-term – for the willingness to bear risk when other investors are unwilling; for the willingness to provide liquidity by holding out bids (gradually and at depressed prices) to panicked holders stampeding to get out; and for improving the information content of market prices by reducing the pressure for undervalued stocks to become even more distorted in relation to their probable cash slows. Long-term returns in a market economy are always compensation for providing scarce, useful resources to other participants in that market. If the activity is not scarce, and is not useful to others, there is no reason to expect it to to be profitable.

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