One of the most popular theories about stock market prices is that at any given time prices reflect all that is known about a company. Known as the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH), it became especially popular during the 1970s, as the rise of the Information Age brought about exponential increases in the storage and exchange of data.
It would thus stand to reason, that five decades later, when even the most casual investors have access to valuation tools that the most sophisticated traders of the 1950s would never even have dreamt about, that prices have reached an efficiency where stocks are always fairly and accurately priced.
However, Warren Buffett doesn’t believe when it comes to the market that there is anything efficient about it, and that in fact, far from the market always reflecting an accurate valuation of a company’s worth, that it is “built into the system that stocks get mispriced.”
“The beauty of stocks is they do sell at silly prices from time to time,” Warren Buffett said at the 2012 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. “Ben Graham writes about it in Chapter 8 of The Intelligent Investor… Chapter 8 says that in the market you’re going to have a partner named ‘Mr. Market,’ and the beauty of him as your partner is that he’s kind of a psychotic drunk, and he will do very weird things over time and your job is to remember that he’s there to serve you and not to advise you. And if you can keep that mental state, then all those thousands of prices that Mr. Market is offering you every day on every major business in the world, practically, that he is making lots of mistakes, and he makes them for all kinds of weird reasons. And all you have to do is occasionally oblige him when he offers to either buy or sell from you at the same price on any given day, any given security.”
Buffett’s full explanation on the stock market and stock prices
© 2021 David Mazor
Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.