Q1 2024 client letter

David MoonUncategorized

April 2024 Dear clients and fellow shareholders: Over a period as short as a few months – or even a year – stock prices can be influenced by almost anything, including factors that are completely unrelated to the actual values of the underlying businesses. The 5-to-10% rise in the U.S. stock market during the first quarter was a pleasant reminder of that fact. (Our stock portfolio increased approximately 13% during the first quarter. Your actual equity portfolio returns in each year likely differed somewhat from our model, due to your specific asset allocation, possible legacy positions in your account and/or … Read More

NAACP calls state lotteries systemically racist

David MoonBlog

Imagine that the private pilots who use Knoxville’s Downtown Island Airport wanted a bunch of infrastructure improvements around their rich man’s playground, including a new terminal, covered automobile parking and 24-hour on-site concierge service. Now further imagine that these pilots convinced City of Knoxville officials to pay for these projects and ongoing services by assessing a tax on KAT bus riders – with a portion of that tax paying for a permanent advertising campaign extolling the virtues of poor people riding the bus. Ridiculous? Of course. Just like state run lotteries, including the one in Tennessee. State lotteries are rigged … Read More

Pistachio shopping offers optimism

David MoonBlog

While grocery shopping this past week, I noticed that my favorite snack food company, Wonderful Pistachios, had added Jalapeno Lime to its lineup. Standing in the aisle at Kroger, I could select from 9 different varieties of nut snacks, all from one company. I imagined what my father might think, knowing that I was about to happily pay $11 for a handful of nuts that had already been taken out of the shell. I’m guessing that my father never ate a pistachio in his life. I am certain he never had the opportunity to stroll comfortably through an air-conditioned grocery … Read More

Housing costs and nasal economics

David MoonBlog

At a press conference announcing a proposed “Green New Deal for Housing,” New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman advocated for a rent to be capped at 20% of income. He described it as “plantation capitalism” for someone to pay 60% of their salary towards rent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, housing comprises 33.3% of total expenses for the average American household. Despite a massive increase in housing costs since Covid stimulus payments, that share has remained remarkably stable for decades. In 2019, that percentage was 32.8%. Twenty years ago, it was 32.1%. Curiously, in New York City, where … Read More

Do politicians understand economics even a little?

David MoonBlog

I saw a meme floating around The Google last week implying that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) had already parlayed her brief political career into a $29 million net worth. This claim didn’t pass the smell test, so I reviewed her most recent financial disclosure. Based on the broad categories used in these disclosures, her net worth is somewhere between negative $47,000 and positive $30,000. While I’m glad Rep. Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t seem to be building a political shakedown empire, her balance sheet doesn’t strike me as a glowing reference for someone to serve on our nation’s primary taxing authority. In defense … Read More

What motivates Darwin Award candidates?

David MoonBlog

While driving through the Home Depot parking lot a week ago, I passed a young man making an impressive effort to become a Darwin Award winner. Instituted in 1985, a person is recognized with a Darwin Award when he unwittingly contributes to the advancement of human evolution by removing himself from the gene pool in some extraordinary way. It’s like the Olympics of Stupidity, where contenders compete for the title by meeting their demise while engaging in feats such as climbing into a zoo’s tiger exhibit to take a selfie or trying to jump a dirt bike over a moving … Read More

Highlights from Warren Buffett letter

David MoonBlog

Every February, Berkshire Hathaway publishes CEO Warren Buffett’s shareholder letter, an eagerly awaited annual missive. Most CEO letters are either meaningless happy talk written by communications directors, or they are stuffed full of industry-specific technical jargon designed to intimidate or impress mere mortal shareholders. Instead, Buffett’s letter is uniquely folksy and readable – and is always full of insights from one of the world’s richest men on a wide variety of topics. This year’s letter lived up to expectations, although it did begin on a somber note. Buffett addressed the passing of his long-time partner Charlie Munger who died last … Read More

Lies, darn lies and statistics

David MoonBlog

An old joke claims that 72.35 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot – and the more precise the conclusion, the more likely the claim is to have been contrived from thin air. That’s why I tend to question highly specific conclusions drawn from statistics that are buried multiple links away from the headline. I recently read an article titled Gun Laws Save Lives, which described a study that compared per capita gun deaths with a compiled index of 50 different policies related to gun laws, each weighted by some factor determined by the study’s authors. As … Read More

Technology facilitates fraud, rewards reputation

David MoonBlog

When I was a kid, anything in the National Enquirer was assumed to be fiction and anything on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite was granted almost gospel status. Technology now makes it possible for any teenager to produce believable video and audio evidence of Bigfoot emerging from a Martian spaceship in the middle of a Tennessee football game, taking Tim Burchett hostage, and whisking him away to the Kremlin to officiate the wedding of Taylor Swift and Donald Trump. If you see that video, the first thing you need to do is verify the credibility of the platform … Read More

Super Bowl and super money

David MoonBlog

The Kansas City Chiefs paid its quarterback Patrick Mahomes $59.3 million this season, the fourth year of a 10-year contract that is scheduled to pay Mr. Mahomes a total $450 million. His annual income from football is 1,000 times greater than the $56,000 average salary of a Knox County public school teacher. There are plenty of reasons this massive disparity exists, none of which are that being a very good NFL quarterback is more important than being a very good schoolteacher. As tempting as it is for high wage earners to fully credit hard work for discrepancies in income, the … Read More