Charlie Munger: Valued in two different ways

“Well, generally, you can say that stocks are valued in two different ways. One, they’re valued much the way wheat is valued, in terms of its perceived practical utility to the user of the wheat. And there’s a second way that stocks are valued, which is the way Rembrandts are valued. And to some extent, Rembrandts are valued high, because in the past, they’ve gone up in price. And once you get a lot of Rembrandt element into the stock market, and you fuel the stock market with massive retirement system purchases, you can get stocks selling at very high prices by past historical standards. And that can go on for a long, long time. That’s what makes life so interesting. It isn’t at all clear how it’s going to work out. It isn’t even clear what the level of interest rates is going to be. And nobody in this room ever expects to see 3 percent interest rates continue for a long time again. But that could happen. That would have an enormous effect on the price of equities. You live in a world where you can’t really predict these macroeconomic changes.” —Charlie Munger, 2000 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.