Value investing is a long-term strategy. Warren Buffett, for example, buys stocks with the intention of holding them almost indefinitely. He once said, “I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years.” You will probably want to sell your stocks when it comes time to make a major purchase or retire, but by holding a variety of stocks and maintaining a long-term outlook, you can sell your stocks only when their price exceeds their fair market value (and the price you paid for them).
Category: Value Investing
Who Is Mr. Market?
First coined by Benjamin Graham, “Mr. Market” represents a hypothetical investor that is prone to sharp mood swings of fear, apathy, and euphoria. “Mr. Market” represents the consequences of emotionally reacting to the stock market, rather than rationally or with fundamental analysis. As an archetype for her behavior, “Mr. Market” speaks to the price fluctuations inherent in markets, and the emotions that can influence these on extreme scales, such as greed and fear.
Along with analyzing a company’s price-to-earnings ratio, which can illustrate how expensive a company is in relation to its earnings, common metrics include the price-to-book ratio, which compares a company’s share price to its book value (P/BV) per share.
Importantly, this highlights the difference between a company’s book value and its market value. A B/V of 1 would indicate that a company’s market value is trading at its book value. Free cash flow (FCF) is another, which shows the cash that a company has on hand after expenses and capital expenditures are accounted for. Finally, the debt-to-equity ratio (D/E) looks at the extent to which a company’s assets are financed by debt.
Common sense and fundamental analysis underlie many of the principles of value investing. The margin of safety, which is the discount that a stock trades at compared to its intrinsic value, is one leading principle. Fundamental metrics, such as the price-to-earnings (PE) ratio, for example, illustrate company earnings in relation to their price. A value investor may invest in a company with a low PE ratio because it provides one barometer for determining if a company is undervalued or overvalued.
What Is a Value Investment?
Value investing is an investment philosophy that involves purchasing assets at a discount to their intrinsic value. This is also known as a security’s margin of safety. Benjamin Graham, known as the father of value investing, first established this term with his landmark book, The Intelligent Investor, in 1949. Notable proponents of value investors include Warren Buffett, Seth Klarman, Mohnish Pabrai, and Joel Greenblatt.
Example of a Value Investment
Value investors seek to profit from market overreactions that usually come from the release of a quarterly earnings report. As a historical real example, on May 4, 2016, Fitbit released its Q1 2016 earnings report and saw a sharp decline in after-hours trading. After the flurry was over, the company lost nearly 19% of its value. However, while large decreases in a company’s share price are not uncommon after the release of an earnings report, Fitbit not only met analyst expectations for the quarter but even increased guidance for 2016.8
The company earned $505.4 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2016, up more than 50% when compared to the same time period from one year ago. Further, Fitbit expects to generate between $565 million and $585 million in the second quarter of 2016, which is above the $531 million forecasted by analysts.8
The company looks to be strong and growing. However, since Fitbit invested heavily in research and development costs in the first quarter of the year, earnings per share (EPS) declined when compared to a year ago. This is all average investors needed to jump on Fitbit, selling off enough shares to cause the price to decline. However, a value investor looks at the fundamentals of Fitbit and understands it is an undervalued security, poised to potentially increase in the future.
Listening to Your Emotions
It is difficult to ignore your emotions when making investment decisions. Even if you can take a detached, critical standpoint when evaluating numbers, fear and excitement may creep in when it comes time to actually use part of your hard-earned savings to purchase a stock. More importantly, once you have purchased the stock, you may be tempted to sell it if the price falls. Keep in mind that the point of value investing is to resist the temptation to panic and go with the herd. So don’t fall into the trap of buying when share prices rise and selling when they drop. Such behavior will obliterate your returns. (Playing follow-the-leader in investing can quickly become a dangerous game.
Conventional investment wisdom says that investing in individual stocks can be a high-risk strategy. Instead, we are taught to invest in multiple stocks or stock indexes so that we have exposure to a wide variety of companies and economic sectors. However, some value investors believe that you can have a diversified portfolio even if you only own a small number of stocks, as long as you choose stocks that represent different industries and different sectors of the economy. Value investor and investment manager Christopher H. Browne recommends owning a minimum of 10 stocks in his “Little Book of Value Investing.” According to Benjamin Graham, a famous value investor, you should look at choosing 10 to 30 stocks if you want to diversify your holdings.
Another set of experts, though, say differently. If you want to get big returns, try choosing just a few stocks, according to the authors of the second edition of “Value Investing for Dummies.” They say having more stocks in your portfolio will probably lead to an average return. Of course, this advice assumes that you are great at choosing winners, which may not be the case, particularly if you are a value-investing novice.
Buying Overvalued Stock
Overpaying for a stock is one of the main risks for value investors. You can risk losing part or all of your money if you overpay. The same goes if you buy a stock close to itsfair market value. Buying a stock that’s undervalued means your risk of losing money is reduced, even when the company doesn’t do well.
Recall that one of the fundamental principles of value investing is to build a margin of safety into all your investments. This means purchasing stocks at a price of around two-thirds or less of their intrinsic value. Value investors want to risk as little capital as possible in potentially overvalued assets, so they try not to overpay for investments.
Ignoring Ratio Analysis Flaws
Earlier sections of this tutorial have discussed the calculation of various financial ratios that help investors diagnose a company’s financial health. There isn’t just one way to determine financial ratios, which can be fairly problematic. The following can affect how the ratios can be interpreted:
- Ratios can be determined using before-tax or after-tax numbers.
- Some ratios don’t give accurate results but lead to estimations.
- Depending on how the term earnings are defined, a company’s earnings per share (EPS) may differ.
- Comparing different companies by their ratios—even if the ratios are the same—may be difficult since companies have different accounting practices.