Is Buffett Market Timing?

Warren Buffett stated in his recent New York Times Op-Ed that he had begun buying U.S. stocks for his personal portfolio, in which he previously held only Treasuries. Does that make him a market timer of sorts?

Morningstar’s John Coumarianos offers some interesting thoughts on that question, focusing his answer on the difference between value investors, like Buffett, and market timers or traders.

Value investors, like Mr. Buffett and others, look at investing as buying a piece of business, Coumarianos notes. These investors “think like a business owner and aim to purchase ownership units in businesses for less than those businesses are worth” and the timing element comes into play when you see a business trade below what you think the company is intrinsically worth. Conversely, a market-timer doesn’t care what the company does, what it is worth, what the fundamentals look like or anything else. They are really interested in the “psychology of market participants and what kind of supply-demand pressure that will create in the short-term than on the value of underlying businesses.” In the end, both strategies have a timing piece to them but the actual buy and sell decisions are based on a completely different set of criteria and understanding this difference is important to one’s overall investment approach.