Hearts of Glass
Comment of the Day

August 05 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Hearts of Glass

This edition of Tim Price’s letter for Price Value Partners may of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

God only knows what the historians of the future will make of 2020. A global flu panic that results in countries shutting down entire economies sounds like the pinnacle of craziness – until you discover that Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries was periodically prone to something called the ‘glass delusion’, in which sufferers believed that they were made of glass and at risk of shattering into pieces. The French King Charles VI was one of the higher profile victims of the illness, and he would reportedly wrap himself in blankets to prevent his buttocks from breaking. Because human nature never really changes, we choose to allocate to uncorrelated investment vehicles known as systematic trend-followers, which make no attempt to predict the future, or to avoid seeming overvaluation, but which are simply content to ride such price trends as appear from time to time, both up and down, courtesy of the interests and enthusiasms of the mob.

We also allocate, at present, to precious metals-related companies, provided we can secure robust cash flows in the process from businesses trading on comparatively modest earnings multiples, and with little or no debt. As George Bernard Shaw once remarked,

“You have to choose (as a voter) between trusting to the natural stability of gold and the natural stability of the honesty and intelligence of the members of the Government. And, with due respect for these gentlemen, I advise you, as long as the Capitalist system lasts, to vote for gold.”

Eoin Treacy's view

Those gentlemen in government are primed to issue a vast quantity of debt. And why wouldn’t they? Interest rates are at historic lows and investors seem willing to invest in anything with a promise of a cashflow. The US Treasury is now stretching the maturity of outstanding debt which raises some important questions. 

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