Skip to main content
Message Font: Serif | Sans-Serif
 
No. of Recommendations: 25
The most recent price of Berkshire stock is up 36.56% relative to its average price in 2019 (= 17.2%/year compound annual rate).

But what has our actual return been? How much has wealth risen for a shareholder?
That price is measured in US dollars. Rather famously, that isn't a perfectly stable yardstick.

There are two main different ways to estimate the size of the impact.

Using US CPI inflation as the adjustment, aggregate inflation has been 5.27%, so the real BRK return has been 29.36% in that period or 14.0%/year compounded.
That's a pretty good estimate of how much more of the typical (median) product or service in the US you could buy with a share now.

Using the traded weighted US dollar as the adjustment, the US dollar has lost 6.79% relative to its peers, so the return is 27.28% or 13.1%/year compounded.
That's how much more of an average non-US currency you could buy with one Berkshire share now.
But that's before adjusting for the inflation rate (loss of real purchasing power) in THAT currency.

Since I'm sitting here looking out at the Med, let's say I take the local French inflation rate in Euros as a representative counterparty currency inflation rate.
(The Euro is the highest single weight in the US dollar index).
The French CPI measured in euros is up only 1.98% total since the average day in 2019 (1.0%/year), so my real local purchasing power gain is 24.82% = 12.0%/year.
Alas, that's quite a bit less than the 17.2%/year rise in US dollar nominal terms : (

<aside>
The loss in market value of the US dollar is relatively high and the inflation rate in Euros is relatively low, but that isn't entirely a coincidence.
Both here and there, commodities and most products and many services have a single global price, so currency moves become inflation moves to a substantial extent.
In a stretch with a strongly rising dollar you're likely to see lower headline inflation in the US than elsewhere.
</aside>

It has been quite a number of years since inflation was much of a bother.
I don't think higher inflation will kill our business or hurt our real rate of return materially unless it gets out of hand.
But it's a nuisance we'll definitely have to deal with in estimating how we're doing.
Even a bad inflation adjustment is better than no adjustment, but some sort of adjustment will be needed.

I do a personal balance sheet regularly to track how I'm doing.
Most of my investments are denominated in US dollars, but most big currency moves are actually moves in the dollar, not other major currencies.
So I take my net worth in dollars, and my net worth in euros, and take a simple average of the two each month.
That seems to give a much more stable and meaningful yardstick than one or the other. The FX squiggles may be big, but most of them are transient.
I nicknamed it the "mid Atlantic currency unit", or MACU.

Jim
Print the post  

Announcements

What was Your Dumbest Investment?
Share it with us -- and learn from others' stories of flubs.
When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.