Do you ever hear a big hedge fund manager come on air anymore and say he likes the market? That it's attractive to commit money to, right here?
Do you ever hear any of them say "you know what, I have looked into Facebook (FB) and it is actually cheap on 2018 earnings, and I think it's a buy given how well run it is and all the ideas they have?"
Do you recall any big-time chieftain type telling you "Apple's (AAPL) really ready to roll and you have to get in it," when the stock was in the $90s?
Do you ever hear any of this ilk say "the cloud is for real and you need to be in Salesforce (CRM) or Adobe (ADBE) or ServiceNow (NOW) ?" Or, "these industrials are doing superbly, maybe Illinois Tool Works (ITW) and Cummins (CMI) need to be bought now, before they soar?"
In fact, I would go further. I think that most of the people who run big money, who can go long or short, most likely wouldn't be caught dead owning any of those stocks and would most likely feel beholden to be short them.
I have now read enough investor letters, heard enough interviews, and read enough stories to know that no "thinking person" in the hedge fund business would come forward right now and say they owned a lot of stock. The most you will get out of them is that they aren't all that short ... yet.
I can't tell you how much this stuff drives me crazy. But I think I know why they can do it. Why they can get away with not playing.
The people who are quoted, the people who speak out, tend to be people who made a ton of money in a different era. They made it short in '87 or short in '07. They made it long in 1999 and then short in 2000. They made it in a couple of big trades at a time not relevant to this and at an age where they took big risks.
So many of these people don't have to buy anything at all. They can sit there and say "it is too expensive" without ever trying to figure out why they missed so many points because, you see, if you are already really rich having made it in another time, you aren't missing anything but opportunity cost, which isn't a real cost if you already have been successful.
In fact, all you can do is lose.
It's that asymmetrical risk element that always drives me crazy.
So, take a billionaire who made his billions short the stock market in several discrete moments or long it in others. Right now, that person's programmed response is 1. The market's really very high on all sorts of standards, but 2. It is very overvalued and, 3. It can keep going higher, but not with his money.
Oh Lordy, talk about a win-win position? How can that person lose?
But that's exactly the position you would have, if you have already made the money. It is not the position you want to have if you haven't. You are still out there trying, even as these big hedge fund managers just avoid taking a stand, other than to throw potshots at the market and, of course, anyone who thinks it might be a buy.
I remember when Action Alerts PLUS charity portfolio holding Apple was at $93 and one of the smartest men in the world would send me endless emails about how I was going to kill everyone in my path because of my amateurish way that I said to own Apple, not trade it. I was a fool, according to this observer, who had drunk the Kool-Aid and should have known better, and was going to hurt so many people on the way down.
I would write about the service revenue and about how the new products are going to sell and how the balance sheet is great and the dividend growing, and it mattered not one whit.
He doesn't write to me anymore. Maybe he wrote to me just to make me feel stupid because I liked a stock that he thought was overvalued. Maybe he stopped writing because it is boring to not hector.
Whatever. All I know is that I come out every day looking for ideas and many of these titans don't even come out. They aren't even trying.
Who can blame them?
They can't lose now. They are always going to be seen as smart, unless they do something wrong. So, doing nothing?
It's the smartest path of all, because you only need to get rich once, and they already are.