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Thursday, 11 March 2021

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week. If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate it.

Why Valuations Probably Won’t Matter For a While

  • Markets are in an uptrend
  • Easy money is here to stay for a while
  • The government isn’t going make the same mistake it made following the last crisis by pushing for austerity
  • The consumer is in better shape even after a pandemic-induced recession
  • Housing prices are on fire
  • And there is a light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

On the other hand, valuations are stretched, we are coming off a 10+ year bull market that never truly got reset during the pandemic plunge and there is a speculative frenzy among investors that hasn’t been seen since the dot-com bubble.

Markets, in many ways, are insane right now.

Yes, fundamentals will always matter eventually when it comes to the markets but the next 18-24 months is setting up to be one of the better economic environments we’ve seen in some time. But there is just so much money sloshing around that it seems like any correction will see buyers step in.



Is Tiny Cars the future of EVs?

Having decided that the future of mobility is electric, the Chinese government has subsidized sales of standard electric cars since 2010. With close to 1.18 million sold in 2019, China accounts for just over half of electric-vehicle sales globally. The country has set a top-down target for electric vehicles to make up 40% of car sales by 2030. Tiny cars, which first began appearing in the early 2010s, have more than double the sales of regular electric cars but have never benefited from subsidies. Nor do advertisements for them air on television. As they don’t technically require licenses, tiny cars tend to be popular with migrant workers, who struggle to pay for driving lessons and other car-related costs. The elderly, too, find tiny cars attractive since, up until October of last year, people over 70 could not apply for a driving license in China. They’re also convenient for anybody who wants a car to pick up groceries or their kids from school: No tiny car is longer than 1.5 meters, and their speed tops out at between 40 and 56 kilometers an hour. They’re for the short trips of daily life, not for traveling from one side of the city to another.



The next big risk

A few years back that some hackers managed to get a hold of the Swift credentials of Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of Bangladesh, and caused several tens of millions of dollars to disappear from Bangladesh Bank’s master account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Some of the money was recovered, but some of it seems to have disappeared into casinos in Macau—walked out the door and was never recovered. In this case it was not a failure of the Federal Reserve. Someone managed to get access to the Swift credentials of a bank that had an account at the Federal Reserve, and they drained that bank’s master account.

As we discovered in the pandemic, there’s a lot of systemically important companies. It suddenly became obvious to everybody. Without Amazon or Google or our internet service provider, our problems would become even greater.



What's the dumb thing you can do here?

In a new interview, billionaire Thomas Tull — who runs a holding company called Tulco modeled in part after Buffett's — described just a piece of advice from Buffett that shifted his approach to investment decisions. At a meeting in Buffett's office in Omaha, the legendary investor shared the lesson during a two-hour conversation, which Tull said he'll "treasure for the rest of my life." The lesson involved an approach taken by Buffett and his longtime business partner, Charlie Munger.


"There was a moment," Tull says. "Where I was describing and talking through the business model [of Tulco] and how I thought about something."


"I said, 'What we're trying to do is be smart about,' and [Buffett] stopped me and said, 'I gotta be honest, for years, Charlie and I have always asked, 'What's the dumb thing we could do here?'"


"I kind of laughed, and he said, 'No, I'm dead serious. We always ask. We don't want to be in the clever pile. What what could we do here that would be the dumb thing, and how do we avoid it?'" Tull says. "Honestly, it actually has had a fair amount of impact on the way that I assess and think about situations."



The future of education is online

In 2011, Stanford professor Andrew Ng—along with the help of Daphne Koller—posted videos of his course on machine learning. Within weeks, there were over 100,000 learners who viewed it.  To put things into perspective: Ng’s on-campus course would involve about 400 students per year. This meant that he would have to teach for 250 years to get the same levels achieved on Coursera.

In today’s economy in which the skills needed to succeed are rapidly evolving, education is becoming more important than ever. As automation and digital disruption are poised to replace unprecedented numbers of jobs worldwide, giving workers the opportunity to upskill and reskill will be crucial to raising global living standards and increasing social equity. Online education will play a critical role, enabling anyone, anywhere, to gain the valuable skills they need to earn a living in an increasingly digital economy. In 2019, the spending on global higher education was $2.2 trillion. As for the online degree category, it was $36 billion in 2019 and is forecasted to hit $74 billion by 2025.


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