Issue: December 2011 / February 2012


You have to marvel at the genius of the markets.

Gould...reaching the grassroots
So far this year, to end-September, the best performer on the FTSE Eurofirst 300 was the tobacco index. It returned 8,4%. In fact, it was one of only two indices to have produced positive returns.

The other was the healthcare index. It includes providers of equipment and services for lung-cancer sufferers.

Truly, a classic win-win hedge.

In these turbulent times, respect the economists.

As it’s been noted, they’ve accurately predicted eight of the last five recessions.

To put the US Budget into perspective, start with its tax revenue of $2 170 000 000 000. Then match it to:

  • Federal budget: $3 820 000 000 000
  • New debt: $1 650 000 000 000
  • National debt: $14 271 000 000 000
  • Recent budget cut: $38 500 000 000

Now remove eight zeros from each and pretend it’s a household budget:

  • Annual family income: $21 700
  • Money the family spent: $38 200
  • New debt on credit card: $16 500
  • Outstanding balance on credit card: $142 710
  • Total budget cuts: $385

If that doesn’t help you understand why western economies are in such a mess, nothing will.

Many of us are worried, deeply worried, about the experts’ warnings of where the sovereign-debt crisis will lead.

Take heed of the typically forthright comment from Reinet chairman Johann Rupert in his report to shareholders: “Highly qualified observers make very compelling arguments that are diametrically opposed to their outcomes.”

All the more reason to stick with your strategy, as he has, irrespective of the noise. Are the financial planners out there listening?

The longest cricket test ever played was between SA and England in Durban 72 years ago. To achieve a result, it was to have continued with no limitation on time. But, because the match had to be abandoned after nine days or the England players would have missed their boat home, it ultimately ended in a draw.

The way that the surplus-stripping criminal trial of Simon Nash is going, it would seem that another “timeless test” is under way. After decisions on the trial within a trial are taken on review, and appeals to ever-higher courts follow whatever the poor magistrate decides, this test can end in a draw too.

Nobody will need to catch a boat. They’ll merely need to keep spending money, and live long enough, to see the end of it.

My favourite curator, Tony Mostert, has done well for former members of the “Ghavalas” funds. He’s done well for himself too.

So well, it would seem, that on rough calculations he’ll sometimes be getting more in curator fees and legal costs than the surpluses accumulated for former members; quite a lot more, relatively, than the total distributions to former members who can actually be traced.

Still, without Mostert’s recoveries, they’d receive nothing. Be grateful, not envious.

On the Classic FM radio show the other day, I was asked a pertinent question by genial host John Fraser: “If you’re a 55-year old who hasn’t saved and is obliged to retire at age 62, to whom should you go for advice?”

The appropriate answer only occurred to me later: A priest.

Alcohol does not solve any problems. But then, neither does milk.