Against The Top Down Approach To Picking Stocks

stockpicking
If you have heard fund managers talk about the way they invest, you know a great many employ a top down approach. First, they decide how much of their portfolio to allocate to stocks and how much to allocate to bonds. At this point, they may also decide upon the relative mix of foreign and domestic securities. Next, they decide upon the industries to invest in. It is not until all these decisions have been made that they actually get down to analyzing any particular securities. If you think logically about this approach for but a moment, you will recognize how truly foolish it is.

A stock’s earnings yield is the inverse of its P/E ratio. So, a stock with a P/E ratio of 25 has an earnings yield of 4%, while a stock with a P/E ratio of 8 has an earnings yield of 12.5%. In this way, a low P/E stock is comparable to a high – yield bond.

Now, if these low P/E stocks had very unstable earnings or carried a great deal of debt, the spread between the long bond yield and the earnings yield of these stocks might be justified. However, many low P/E stocks actually have more stable earnings than their high multiple kin. Some do employ a great deal of debt. Still, within recent memory, one could find a stock with an earnings yield of 8 – 12%, a dividend yield of 3- 5%, and literally no debt, despite some of the lowest bond yields in half a century. This situation could only come about if investors shopped for their bonds without also considering stocks. This makes about as much sense as shopping for a van without also considering a car or truck.

All investments are ultimately cash to cash operations. As such, they should be judged by a single measure: the discounted value of their future cash flows. For this reason, a top down approach to investing is nonsensical. Starting your search by first deciding upon the form of security or the industry is like a general manager deciding upon a left handed or right handed pitcher before evaluating each individual player. In both cases, the choice is not merely hasty; it’s false. Even if pitching left handed is inherently more effective, the general manager is not comparing apples and oranges; he’s comparing pitchers. Whatever inherent advantage or disadvantage exists in a pitcher’s handedness can be reduced to an ultimate value (e.g., run value). For this reason, a pitcher’s handedness is merely one factor (among many) to be considered, not a binding choice to be made. The same is true of the form of security. It is neither more necessary nor more logical for an investor to prefer all bonds over all stocks (or all retailers over all banks) than it is for a general manager to prefer all lefties over all righties. You needn’t determine whether stocks or bonds are attractive; you need only determine whether a particular stock or bond is attractive. Likewise, you needn’t determine whether “the market” is undervalued or overvalued; you need only determine that a particular stock is undervalued. If you’re convinced it is, buy it – the market be damned!

Clearly, the most prudent approach to investing is to evaluate each individual security in relation to all others, and only to consider the form of security insofar as it affects each individual evaluation. A top down approach to investing is an unnecessary hindrance. Some very smart investors have imposed it upon themselves and overcome it; but, there is no need for you to do the same.


A Spiraling Market and Rising Penny Stock Opportunities


shree-securities_stock-market-success-resizedIt’s been a wild and wooly couple of weeks on the international stock markets. But is the recent slide grinding to a halt…or just taking a breather before tumbling some more? And more importantly, what does it mean to astute penny stock investors?

Wall Street recently stumbled to its worst week of the year, and global stock markets fell dramatically on concerns about rising interest rates and slowing growth. After rising almost 9% in the first four months of the year, the Dow Jones industrial average has fallen about 6.5% from a six-year high, reached May 10, 2006.

Stocks have been ailing because penny stock investors fear the Fed could be so focused on inflation that it ignores signs of an economic slowdown, raises interest rates too high and sends the economy into a recession.

Global stock markets were sent reeling last week after golden-tongued U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke shocked penny stock investors in saying the Fed will continue raising interest rates to keep inflation in check.

And that decision will have a direct impact on the penny stock market. Higher interest rates hurt penny stock prices because investors believe it will curb economic growth and corporate profits.

But why is inflation heating up? Higher energy costs. Traders and penny stock investors are also worried that with the hurricane season officially under way, Gulf Coast refineries and oil production sites could be damaged again this summer and fall.

And higher interest rates have the ability to affect the entire economy. Finance charges on credit cards will rise. So too will rates on mortgages and home equity loans, putting additional pressure on homebuyers and a softening housing market. Ultimately, it will cost more to borrow for expansion.

But does this signal doom-and-gloom for the penny stock market? Au contraire. While the temptation to sell everything can be overwhelming, some see this as a great opportunity. “I would not be selling. I would tend to be buying,” said one New York analyst.

So how exactly is this an opportunity? It just so happens that many companies caught in the market’s downward spiral are cheaper than they were a few weeks ago. And as any seasoned penny stock investor will tell you, buying a great penny stock when it’s been beaten down isn’t a bad way to make money over the long haul.

If you can stomach some of the volatility that is. While many blue chip investors have difficulty handling the market’s unpredictability…it’s par for the course.

So, “snap out of it,” said another watcher. A month of dizzying selling has brought the markets into an attractive range. Is it possible the markets will fall more? Absolutely. After all, no penny stock is a sure thing. But one thing is certain: “Stocks are much cheaper now than they were two months ago.”


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