Advisor Roundtable: Netflix, Apple, and 5 Stocks Our Advisors Like
At our recent Motley Fool 2011 Investing Conference, a panel of Fool advisors talked about Netflix, Apple, one stock they like, and what's changed in their investment outlook in the past year.
You can watch the video of the panel (running time is approximately 33 minutes), or read the full, lightly edited transcript below. Note: This was recorded on Sept. 22, 2011.
Tom Gardner: OK, so we have got limited time, so I just really want to get right into it. I don't think we need introductions, but since we have some visitors here, I will just ask. We are going to go down the panel starting with Jeff and coming down toward David, and what I want you to do is just your name, the service that you are working on, and then one thing that represents your investment approach -- one key, unique principle about your investment approach. El Jefe?
Jeff Fischer: Hey, everybody. Jeff Fischer. I am on Motley Fool Pro and Motley Fool Options. The key thing that defines my investment approach would be steady income alongside your stock returns.
Andy Cross: I am Andy Cross, and I am the chief investment officer here, and I work with Tom and David and the other guys on Stock Advisor, and I am co-advisor of Hidden Gems as well. I have had the real great privilege of working with Tom and David [Gardner] for 15 years, but before that I worked with their uncle, who is a great investor, and his partner, Tom Russo. So through both of those experiences I really understood and learned the value of a great business and a great franchise, and so what I try to do is find those kinds of companies, and we invest and recommend.
Ron Gross: Ron Gross, Million Dollar Portfolio, and I am very value-focused. I am a tried-and-true value investor and really stick to the principles set forth -- old-time and Graham-and-Dodd-type investing.
Rick Aristotle Munarriz: Rick Aristotle Munarriz, been part of the Rule Breakers team. I work as part of the team that David Gardner assembled back in 2004, and I guess if you would have to describe my investment style and our investment style, it would be finding the small, young companies that people say are overvalued, yet they are going to make the companies that you own obsolete in a few years.
Charly Travers: Charly Travers with Million Dollar Portfolio and Hidden Gems, and I would describe my own personal style as eclectic. I like everything from speculative biotechs to deep-value, tangible book-kind of companies, because I think you can make money all different kinds of ways.
David Meier: I am David Meier, also with Million Dollar Portfolio, and I would characterize my philosophy as opportunistic.
Gardner: Thank you. So our goal today is to cover as many different investment philosophies that will be helpful to you all, and talk about some stocks along the way. We are actually going to build a CAPS portfolio as well during this panel [Editor's note: You can follow the CAPS profile here], and what I am going to encourage you to do, since we have all learned this at some point or the other at the Fool, either in the classroom or in the fellowship, you learn twice as much today if you take notes. So if you are sitting passively without a pen or a laptop or anything, you are going to learn X amount, which is great, but since we are here six hours together, I really encourage you to be active in your learning. Take notes and feel free to jump in with a question at any point. I want this to be as much of a conversation right now as possible.
So with that, there are a lot of things to talk about, but we should just start with Netflix (NAS: NFLX) . [Laughter.] And maybe this will be our entire panel. Good news, the market is down almost 4% today and Netflix is flat, so there appears to be a major reversal here in the trend. I want to start with Andy with Netflix as a recommendation in Stock Advisor, and I just want to get what you see as your present thesis for Netflix, given that it is a live recommendation and why. Are you worried about it, or do you continue to feel like, "Gosh, now it is really getting attractive from a valuation standpoint?"
Cross: Well, so Netflix is one of the cross-holdings, so it is on both David [Gardner] and Tom's side, so I will be speaking mostly for myself, and kind of a little bit of Tom thinking. It has been a multibagger winner for us and for our members in Stock Advisor, and it has taken some dings here over the last few weeks, after pretty much of a PR nightmare.
There are some business challenges, obviously, with some of the content costs and some of the competitive pressures that Netflix is facing, but I think the real disappointment for me and, I think, for many of us and Tom is the way that Reed Hastings, who we respect very much, went about the announcement of the price changing. And I know in some of the conversations that I have had with Tom, I think we feel that as he mentioned [unclear] the other day that the worry is that Reed is trying to focus more on Wall Street, and Seth even wrote this. If you haven't seen Seth's piece about Netflix on Fool.com, please read that; it is a great piece. [Editor's note: You can find the article from Hidden Gemsco-advisor Seth Jayson here.]
Focused more on Wall Street than on the members, and the one thing that we have loved about, both regardless of which approach, if you take more of a Tom approach or David approach, the one thing we have loved about Netflix is the focus on them to deliver the best service back when it was focused mostly on DVDs and now when it is on streaming, and a great product and a focus on the members. If they are starting to lose that, and if that type of modus operandi that they worked under for so many years and worked so well, if they lose that, that is our biggest kind of fear from the investing side.
I say fear, and I think Netflix is certainly more reasonably priced than it was a few months ago, and it has always been an expensive price. Rick has a lot of great insights into Netflix, who has followed it as well on Fool.com, so I'd be eager to hear what he says, but I think when you think about these great businesses that Stock Advisor is trying to find, Netflix defined much of that for so many years, and I think it still can. This was a little bit of a blunder I think on their parts, and understanding, really understanding how that is and how that is going to drive the rest of the value of their business is what is ultimately drives the value of the shareholder returns ...
Gardner: Now Rick ...
Cross: ... which again have been great, but we are investing from today on.
Gardner: Rick, you have defended Netflix recently in an article on the site. Tell us the title of the article, your basic thoughts, and then I am going to challenge you. [Laughter.]
Munarriz: So if I say what if Reed Hastings isn't stupid, that is going to be your challenge on that? [Editor's note: You can read "What If Reed Hastings Isn't Stupid?" here.]
Gardner: Well, I have a question or two about that.
Munarriz: I will explain my defense of Netflix right now. My faith has been shaken just like everybody else, when you see a stock go from $304 just a few months ago, down to $130 or whatever. If it is flat today, hooray.
But for the most part, here is a company that, everything that it did over the last three months, this company, that it has built over the past 10 years, it destroyed so much of its brand and consumer appeal in two months that it is now the laughingstock of Wall Street. But if you look at everything that the company did wrong -- this summer they raised the prices; people that do streaming and DVD, even though that is just half of the people on their plans, everyone in the media played that out as, "Oh, Netflix is raising prices in the sensitive economy." It wasn't true. The DVD plans actually went down for those who don't care about streaming.
A couple weeks later, Starz Media -- their biggest licensing for the streaming -- says, "Hey, we are not going to do anything. We are not going to renew our deal in February, even if you give us $300 million, or whatever the unannounced amount was." In Netflix's case, I thought, "Hey, that's a good move, because they are telling themselves, 'Hey, we are not going to be hostage to every single studio out there that is going to demand a king's ransom for every single deal. We don't need you.'" The consumers saw it differently. They said, "Hey, we are not going to get Big Daddy or Tangled on streaming in a few months." And really, did you really want to see Tangled?
And then the last mistake, which of course was the biggest blunder, was last weekend, last Sunday, Reed Hastings at 2, 3 in the morning out in California decides to put out a plan, basically a kind of migration policy saying, "All right, there is no more Netflix. If you want DVDs, it is going to be Qwikster.com, and it is not even spelled the way you think it would. But then again, Netflix was never spelled the way you thought it would be." But it was upsetting to people in general because they are going to have to manage two lines for the 12 million of the 24 million subscribers who take both DVDs and streaming. [Editor's note: Since the investing conference, Netflix has reversed course on the Qwikster decision.]
Yet on the same side, it will also help cement the Netflix brand as a pure streaming brand, something that is now available in Canada and, as of this month, in 43 different Latin American and Caribbean countries. So it is more of a global move for Reed Hastings. No one has ever portrayed the positives of any of these three things, because consumers didn't like it and the stock sold off.
Gardner: OK, so everyone in our company is going to be managing a portfolio of at least $2,500 if you don't have a Rising Stars portfolio already by April 1, if we achieve our challenge. So each of you is going to have to make a decision about what stocks to put into that account that you are managing.
So we are going to do a little quick survey of the crowd. Netflix has come from $300 a share, right around there, down to about $128 a share over the last six months. So I just want to see, raise your hand, first, if you are thumbs-up on Netflix over the next three years as an investor. OK, hands down. Now raise your hand if you are thumbs-down on Netflix over the next three years. Now raise your hand if you have no clue. OK, let's put you guys on the spot. [Laughter.]
So Ron, Netflix would look more like a, getting closer to a Graham-and-Dodd-type investment when it falls 50%. I know it is not in the zone of the sort of companies that you look at, but what is it that would cause you to think about investing in a company like Netflix in Million Dollar Portfolio?
Gross: So it is important to know that MDP is not necessarily the Ron Gross Portfolio; it is supposed to represent the best of all the Fool newsletters, including Rule Breakers growth stocks, so I don't put too much of those Graham-and-Dodd thoughts on to the entire portfolio.
But we don't want to pay up too much for growth to the point of where we are paying for things that we really are unsure of. It feels more like gambling when you do that. So if it comes back to a reasonable level and the growth that is priced in is reasonable and foreseeable, then that is the kind of thing where we would start to get interested.
Gardner: So to the entire panel, anyone who wants to speak to this, one of my concerns about Netflix now is that in focusing intensely on streaming, they are going to go head-to-head with Amazon. And if I just look at the balance sheets of the two companies, Netflix has about $370 million in cash; Amazon has about $6 billion in cash. So when it comes to negotiating for the content, Amazon versus Netflix, already Amazon now has 8,000 movies in their prime membership; 20,000 over on Netflix. What are the chances that Netflix is going to be able to outbid Amazon for the content, and isn't it just a matter of time before Amazon has the same library that Netflix has and the ability to price that lower for the consumer? Charly?
Travers: A couple thoughts on that. Cash is king, and I have been long a critic of Netflix's share-buyback policy. Since the beginning of '09, there have been $700 million buyback shares, and right now you really think they would prefer to have that as a war chest to go up against companies like Amazon. I have come to appreciate Apple's (NAS: AAPL) philosophy on how they use their cash. They just kind of build it up. They don't buy back stock, they don't pay a dividend, and it is there for strategic purposes when they decide they need it. And I wish that Netflix had kind of followed their lead on that point.
However, there is more to it than just money. Netflix provides the superior streaming experience to Amazon, which, really, as great a company as Amazon is, they are not an online media company, and it shows. I have bought shows from Amazon, and the player is fine, but it is kind of hard to find what you are looking for, and they just do not match Netflix, and you can tell that Netflix has a competitive lead over Amazon in providing a top-notch user experience. It is because they actually care about movies and how their customers view them far greater than Amazon does. Amazon's media offering is almost like a throwaway to entice people to buy Prime.
Gardner: Rick and then Jeff, and then we will move on to the next stock.
Munarriz: Well, I am a big fan of Amazon, and I am a Prime member, so I have done their streaming. I have noticed that if you don't speak Klingon, you are not going to be interested in seeing Star Trek a million different times, because their library is very limited right now. And what you have to understand about Amazon -- no offense to anyone who does speak Klingon; great language ... not very social, though, but it is a great language -- one thing that does happen with Amazon is that since it is basically a free service to anyone that is paying $79 a month for this free two-day shipping through their site, they are not going to be able to, if studios are unhappy with Netflix charging $7.99 a month, and that is why they are getting picky with their 20-some million subscribers about what they can pay and what they are going to let [unclear], they are not going to let Amazon have anything close to what Netflix has now.
So it is going to get to a point where studios, they are not going to want to devalue their product even more. Streaming is the future. It is the inevitable future, and Netflix already has -- sure, it went from $24.6 million to what will roughly be $24 million in three months. That doesn't mean it is going to keep shrinking forever, but it is still the biggest audience. And regardless of money, they are the ones who can monetize an investment more than anybody else. Amazon would have never paid $300 million for Liberty Starz, regardless. That is just my thoughts.
Gardner: Jeff, final word, Netflix.
Fischer: Does anybody remember how many subs AOL had at the peak?
Gardner: 23 million? 27 million?
Fischer: It was around the same as Netflix. My concern with Netflix ...
Gardner: Uh-oh. Wow. [Laughter.]
Fischer: My concern with Netflix is over the next three to five years, or possibly longer. I think there is a good analogy to be made that AOL or Netflix is kind of the AOL of streaming, and eventually you won't need Netflix. I think most content providers are going to keep as much content as they can, because that is where the value chain is, and it is going to be all over the Internet. Someone is going to consolidate that.
It is much like your cable channels. You have all these different channels to choose from. The Internet is going to be that way for streaming content. Somehow it is all going to be consolidated, and you will go to content providers to get the content and maybe pay per show that you watch, or what have you. But I think the whole, the way streaming is done online is going to completely change in the next three to five years, and Netflix has a good chance of being squeezed out of that.
Gardner: So we are putting the panel on the spot with a three-year portfolio that will be built on CAPS. They didn't realize they were working as a team, a team of people who definitely disagree on this, and probably every stock we talk about here over the next half-hour.
So we want you to vote. If four people vote yes, then we will be going thumbs-up or thumbs-down. If we get a majority on either side. If it is three to three, then we are not putting the stock in the three-year portfolio in CAPS. So over the next three years, please raise your hand on the panel if you are thumbs-up on Netflix beating the S&P. OK, just like the audience, just like the audience. We are making a market here today, and the market says Netflix, which, by the way, in just the last eight minutes, is now up 64 cents a share. The world is watching.
So now before we move to the next stock, I want to go back to philosophy, just very quickly. Just a few sentences. You may have heard or read at some point that Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's right-hand man, said that he feels that Buffett learned more as an investor between the ages of 62 and 77, during that 15-year period, more than any 15-year period in his investment career that Charlie Munger has known him.
And what that reminds us is that we are always learning. There is something new that we are finding and discovering about the way we look at businesses and investments. We may think we know so much now, but of course we are going to find as the world changes, there are so many things to learn.
So I would just like to hear, just very quickly, in two sentences. You can use semicolons. Starting with Jeff again and coming down this way, just a few sentences on something that you have learned about investing over the last year. Something that has changed in your thinking. I didn't prepare them for questions, so good luck, Jeff.
Fischer: Oh, man. Something I have learned. Well this is obvious, but you can be completely wrong, so I think making decisions on your macro instinct, you will be wrong half the time.
Cross: I guess the thing that I have, over the last three years, as Jeff said, macro, you will be wrong. The flipside of that is, I think, more are paying a little bit more attention to macro than before, where I think a lot of us thought bottom-up company focus, but for me, trying to understand the cycles of business and how businesses and demand is either on an upswing or a downswing across the industry is one thing that I am focusing on more and more, because I have seen that the returns for so many of the stocks that have done so well, had you identified those cycles and those themes sooner, certainly I would have had a better track record on some of my investments. I think that is the way that individual investors can think about finding the next big multibaggers.
Gross: I think working with MDP has really helped me realize that there truly is more than one way to make money investing, or even specifically in the stock market. You don't have to be a value investor. You don't have to be a growth investor. You don't have to be a dividend investor. You have to do what feels right for you. Sometimes that means a combination of several styles, but you really need to pick the one that helps you sleep at night and one where you think you can execute on to the best of whatever abilities you happen to have, and I think that is important to realize. I think that is what we are trying to do at MDP, obviously, by picking stocks from across all the newsletters and combining them into one portfolio.
Munarriz: One of David [Gardner]'s long-standing signs of the Rule Breakers -- we have six signs -- is that the company, by most accounts, is ridiculously overvalued, typically despised by the media because of that. I think this year more than any other, I can almost say that your most overvalued stock may be your best performer, even from that point on.
Looking at our scorecard, like most of the newsletter services and most of us as investors, we have had a lot of implosions on our scorecards this summer. But some of the better-performing stocks in Rule Breakers, at least early on in the year, were companies like Baidu, which were pretty fairly valued to begin with, and a company like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, which was even a popular short for some people, but all of a sudden Starbucks clinks their latte glasses with Green Mountain and all of a sudden Green Mountain's goes up. So it has learned that lesson that I have just cemented in my head. And as someone who deep down inside has some value-leaning instincts, I am always surprised when I see that some of our highest, most overvalued stocks are not overvalued at all.
Travers: Someone needs to throw out a high, hard one here, and it may as well be me. I don't intentionally go out of my way to rile up New Yorkers, so I am glad Rick is sitting between me and Ron, but I have like a Pavlovian aversion to the phrase "margin of safety." I generally think it doesn't work. If you buy a stock at $30 and your cash-flow analysis says it is worth $40, but the book value is only $10, well, I will tell you what. Your margin of safety is not 10 bucks, because when things go hairy, the stock is going to fall out from under you. So that has just gotten to where I come down in the past few years.
Gross: Wow, how do you follow that?
Gardner: It's getting ugly.
Gross: I cut my teeth as a value guy, and I have had the good pleasure of working a little closer with the Rule Breakers team over the past year or so. And I will say I have learned to appreciate the incredible value that a young company that is looking to change the world, what they can do.
Gardner: The bass guitarist for Thievery Corporation told me after that conference that reading The Motley Fool convinced him in 2002, I think it was, to take a fair amount of his concert money and put it into Apple. And I believe his original cost basis was $8.38 a share, he told me. I don't know what year that would have been. And he said using the long-term buy-and-hold principle, he has just held it. And the only time he has ever sold any is to pay off any bills that he has.
So I want to talk about Apple. Apple is now at $400 a share, one of the greatest stocks in American history, one of the greatest businesses in American history, one of the most innovative companies, one of the most beloved consumer brands in American history. Remembering, all of us, that 70% of the U.S. economy is driven by the consumer, at least now. We will see how much longer that lasts, but that means training our eyes to what is happening in the marketplace. Actually, David [Gardner]'s daughter, Katherine, wrote a great article on our site as a summer intern for one week this summer in which she said, her opinion is, as a 17-year-old, that the great investors should be spending as much time trying to understand the consumer as trying to understand the business and the valuation, because the consumer plays such a big role in what companies succeed and fail.
So here we are with Apple. I don't think anyone is going to have an argument against Apple as a business and Apple as an incredible platform, but at $400 a share, market cap of $375 billion, please advise the room as to whether or not they should be putting Apple in their $2,500 portfolio at The Fool over the next year. And again, we are thinking three years and out as investors. Who has a strong opinion? Let's go with Charly. He's angry.
Gardner: Let's just see where he goes with that.
Travers: So you used two buzzwords that catch on, which was "consumer" and "innovation," and as Steve Jobs ...
Gardner: I also meant to say "margin of safety."
Travers: Margin of safety. As Steve Jobs has passed the baton over to Tim Cook, who is a supply-chain guy [Editor's note: This conference was held before Steve Jobs' passing]. I love what Apple has done, but it kind of makes me hold my breath that they have the innovative culture still in place. Every company, especially one as big as Apple, is bigger than any one person, but with somebody who has been focused traditionally on making Apple efficient and having all the cost advantages that come with it, do they still have the spark in a post-Steve Jobs era is the one thing I am looking to see what they do over the next couple of years.
Gross: Well, first, for those of you who aren't familiar with the term "margin of safety"...
Gardner: This isn't going to be about Apple at all, is it, Ron?
Gross: Oh, it will be, it will be.
Gardner: I have got my sleeves rolled up.
Gross: You do your best to determine what you think a stock is worth, and then you try to buy it for less than that. It not only builds in a hopeful rate of return, but it builds in some safety in case you made a mistake, so I don't see how you could argue with that. [Laughter.] We have actually done a lot of work on Apple recently, started by Dave Meier and finishing up with some great work from Joe Tenebruso, and we actually do think the stock is trading for less than it is truly worth right now, even at $400 a share, and so we like it very much.
We have run multiple scenarios. What if growth isn't as high as we think it is? What if it is higher than we perhaps think it is, and it looks really good? It is not priced to perfection the way a Netflix perhaps was six months ago. It looks really strong from here. There is some risk to that and the management team, but we think Tim Cook is going to do a fine job, so we do like it here.
Meier: So I think there a couple of big trends that you need to recognize that Apple is in, that has a huge tailwind behind it. First, who does it serve? The consumer group that it serves, they have money and they are getting more connected, not less connected, and Apple is providing a lot of different devices to help do that.
The other thing is in 2010, there were 1.6 billion phones or mobile devices sold around the world. Only 300 million of those were smartphones. The smartphone growth is outpacing regular phone growth; they are sitting right in the middle of that sweet spot. So I think there is a huge tailwind behind Apple, and it is going to perform better than I think a lot of people think it will.
Gardner: So there is some positive advice about Apple on the panel, so I will take the other side just to make a point before we have our audience vote. Pretty much Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) in the 10 years up to, let's say, '91 to 2001, was about as great a stock as Apple was, has been, over the last 10 years. We often hear that the asset class that is great over one decade is in the bottom quintile over the next decade. And so, obviously, you can't boil that down to a single stock, that thinking, but here we are. It has been an unbelievable 10 years. Microsoft has been down 50% over the last 10 years, and everything looked great for them in 2000. So I am putting a little damper just as we go into the vote, but I am not really disclosing how I feel, because it doesn't matter.
Over the next three years, is the audience thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Apple? So next three years, we are going thumbs-up first. Raise your hand if you think Apple will beat the market over the next three years. I am shorting Apple now. And raise your hand if you think Apple will underperform. Got it. So let's go to the panel now. Apple over the next three years. Is the panel portfolio ... raise your hand if you are, on Apple over the next three years, thumbs-down. Thumbs-up. Wow. Can we hear some crowd groupthink?
Now we are just going to quickly turn it to any questions you have. We only have eight minutes left, so I have got one other thing I want to go through, but does anybody have a question for the panel? Tony?
Meier: Is there a question in there?
Gardner: Yeah, exactly. That is just how much love there is for Apple. Do you agree?
Gardner: You have eight seconds to answer this.
Munarriz: You are absolutely right, but this isn't a designing question; this is a marketing question, and I think Steve Jobs was a great marketer, regardless of what products [unclear] and this is what is going to suffer with Tim Cook. As brilliant as he is, if Oct. 4 is the day that everyone is rumoring is for the iPhone 5 announcement. You are not going to hear one more thing, and the hush and the magic and things being called "hobby" and stuff like that, and I think that is where the company is going to have its challenges. But again, my hand was way up and I saw all the little Apple Macs lighting up at us, so definitely.
Gardner: So in order that we can get the full time with Justin Fox, we are going to go down the panel quickly, and then I have one final question, but quickly, we will start with David this time and buy Jeff some time. I just want to hear what is your favorite stock right now and one sentence as to why. Just giving some stock ideas to everyone out here.
Meier: Favorite stock is Zipcar (NAS: ZIP) , and I think it is changing the way people use transportation, and I think it has a huge tailwind behind it.
Charly Travers: Markel (NYS: MKL) . We had [Markel President] Tom Gayner come up for the MDP event last year, and as David [Gardner] said in his opening speech, this is really a sailboat kind of company. Management, employee-owner culture, you could just buy this and forget about it, because you know these guys are going to look out for your interests as shareholders.
Munarriz: I am going to agree with David on Zipcar. Nobody say "groupthink," OK? Just for the simple reason that everybody here, whether you drove here or took Metro, your car right now is costing you money, idle outside, not being used. Car sharing is the future.
Gardner: Even though we are running out of time, can I very quickly ask a quick Zipcar question, which is aren't they losing a lot of their public parking spots to Avis and Hertz and other competitors that are now getting into the game?
Munarriz: Hertz and Enterprise; Avis not so much into the daily rental, but while you are right about that, Zipcar has the enterprising skill, just like Netflix with their content deals. They have the ability to pay more per space because they are making like 60-some dollars per day per car on their system, whereas nobody else has even come close to that because of the 600-some ...
Gardner: I saw some stat -- you tell me if this is true or not -- that in the D.C. area they have gone from like 84 public spaces to 12 over the last year. No? Strike that from the record. Next? Ron. [Laughter.] Look, I am just the host here. I am like the cruise director on the Love Boat. You are not supposed to trust me.
Gross: We are pretty high on a little company called Microsoft right now, speaking of Microsoft. Stock at $25 is basically priced for little or no growth in the future, and that is just not the case. The company is actually growing nicely and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, so it is not only a growth stock -- there is growth there, but it also looks like a value investment.
Cross: A two-time recommendation on Stock Advisor; it is a company called Teradata (NYS: TDC) , which is one of the largest data-warehouse companies in the world, and they are tied into a lot of cloud-computing aspects. Looking at these huge global growth opportunities and the amount of data that we are collecting and generating through all sorts of applications and technologies and the quest for the kind of, to make sense of all this safe, I think data warehousing and technology is a huge global play, and Teradata plays right into that. Symbol is T-D-C.
Fischer: I will say Autodesk (NAS: ADSK) . They are a leading software-design company. It has fallen about 40% since this summer on fears of a [whisper] recession. I think it is a value now. They sell software that helps you design buildings, cars, games, you name it.
Gardner: OK, so for a stock-centric panel, we are going to finish with a commodity question. Given what is happening with the market today and over the last year and people's concerns about the economy and the U.S. currency and other currencies around the world, we have a six-stock portfolio that is going to be entered into CAPS. Just letting everyone know the names again. Apple; they are all long. We are going to put Zipcar, Markel, Microsoft, Teradata, and Autodesk in there as well.
But I would like to finish with a question just about gold. So I would like to hear whether you think, one by one, gold is going to be at a higher price three years from now or not. It's at about $1,750 now, so who would like to step up? Ron? And this will be our final question, so get ready to give the standing-O when the final person is done, but take a second and explain why you think that.
Gross: I will speak in the words of Joe over there. The truth is, I have no idea. The reason I have no idea is because gold, for the most part, doesn't do anything. You take it out of the ground and you put it into a vault somewhere. It doesn't produce any cash flows, and since it doesn't produce any cash flows, I have no real viable way to ascertain what it is or is not worth. So if we have hyperinflation in the future, sure. I would imagine gold is going to go up significantly, but I have no idea. And if I have no idea, there is no way I can put capital at risk in the idea, so the truth is, I just don't know.
Gardner: Anyone feel that they do know?
Fischer: If I had to say higher or lower, I would say lower, just because there is so much fear right now. If this is as high as gold goes, because we are talking about Europe collapsing, the euro collapsing -- how much darker can it get? And the darker it gets, the higher gold will get, but how much darker can it get? And when it starts to get lighter and currencies are holding up and stocks are going up, why would you be buying gold? Meanwhile, it is a very crowded investment class right now. A lot of people own it. If I had to guess in three years, it would be lower. Which is also saying the economy, everything is going to get better, and I would rather be an optimist than be wrong, so ...
Gardner: I think USA Today, maybe it was a random poll, but everything I have said so far has been questioned by the crowd, so I am not sure who ran the poll, but I think individual investors felt that gold was like the best asset to be invested in now, which almost never shows up throughout history. But then again, you can say that gold tracks the monetary base pretty closely over time, and it looks like our monetary base is going to continue to expand. I think it has expanded 33% or so in the last year, but don't quote me on that either. So is anybody bullish on gold on the panel?
Meier: I am bullish on gold. I think it will be higher. I actually agree with Jeff that there is a lot of fear, but I actually think there is more fear coming. [Boos.]
Gross: You hate America. [Laughter.]
Gardner: Let's finish with that comment, really. Thank you all to the panelists, and we look forward to the rest of the day. Thanks to everyone for putting this together.
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