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Quote of the Day
“If horses had controlled investment decisions, there would have been no auto industry.”
-Warren Buffett, in his 2015 letter to shareholders in a great section on capital allocation and why the structure of Berkshire Hathaway gives it such a great competitive advantage.
February 15th – This Day in Stock Market History
February 15th, 1898 – The US Battleship Maine is sunk near Cuba after hitting a mine. US Stock markets would decline 16% over the next 4 weeks as fear of war spread. By April the United States would be at war with Spain.
Source: Panic on Wall Street: A History of America’s Financial Disasters
February 15th, 1933 – Then President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt escapes an attempted assassination in Miami. A man shouting “Too many people are starving!” as he fired several shots at FDR – evidence of the terrible economy Roosevelt was destined to inherit and turn around. Stocks fall 2.15% the following day.
February 15th, 1955 – Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates announces that it will acquire Hathaway Manufacturing Company in exchange for 400,000 shares of Berkshire common stock. The new company will be called “Berkshire Hathaway Inc.”
At the time the company would be a giant in America’s northeast textile industry. The new company would have 10,000 employees and 14 different textile plants. However joining forces would not save the company from trouble. Over the next 7 years, Berkshire Hathaway would close 9 of its 14 plants and would see the company’s value shrink by 37%.
It would be another 10 years before Buffett takes over the company and turns it into the famous Berkshire Hathaway that we know today.
Source: Berkshire Hathaway 2015 shareholder letter
February 15th, 1985 – The U.S. government begins allowing Treasury securities to be carved up, creating “STRIPS,” or Separate Trading of Registered Interest and Principal of Securities. Investors can now hedge much more easily against changes in interest rates by trading either the interest or the principal portion of a given bond, vastly increasing the liquidity of the government bond market.
For example, a Treasury note with 10 years remaining to maturity consists of a single principal payment, due at maturity, and 20 interest payments, one every six months over a 10 year duration. If this note was converted to STRIPS form, each of the 20 interest payments and the principal payment would become a separate security.
Best February 15th in Dow Jones Industrial Average History
1991 – Up 2.0%, 57.42 points.
Worst February 15th in Dow Jones Industrial Average History
1932 – Down 4.24%, 3.64 points.
Read of the Day
Buffett mentions Berkshire Hathaway’s structure as one of its major competitive advantages. We have an article identifying several other competitive advantages you should be on the look out for when making investment decisions:
9 Signs of a Competitive Advantage (#9 is One of Buffett’s Favorites to Look For!)
Also, for those looking to tackle the topic of identifying competitive advantages further, Michael Porter’s classic book, Competitive Strategy is the place to start.
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