Posts tagged ‘growth investing’

Twinkie Investing – Sweet but Unhealthy

Source: Photobucket

It’s a sad day indeed in our history when the architect of the Twinkies masterpiece cream-filled sponge cakes (Hostess Brands) has been forced to close operations and begin bankruptcy liquidation proceedings. Food snobs may question the nutritional value of the artery-clogging delights, but there is no mistaking the instant pleasure provided to millions of stomachs over the 80+ years of the Twinkies dynasty. Most consumers understand that a healthy version of an organic Twinkie will not be found on the shelves of a local Whole Foods Market (WFM) store anytime soon. The reason people choose to consume these 150-calorie packages of baker bliss is due to the short-term ingestion joy, not the vitamin content (see Nutritional Facts below). Most people agree the sugar high gained from devouring half a box of Twinkies outweighs the long-term nourishing benefits reaped by eating a steamed serving of alfalfa sprouts.

Much like dieting, investing involves the trade-offs between short-term impulses and long-term choices. Unfortunately, the majority of investors choose to react to and consume short-term news stories, very much like the impulse Twinkie gorging, rather than objectively deciphering durable trends that can lead to outsized gains. Day trading and speculating on the headline du jour are often more exciting than investing, but these emotional decisions usually end up being costlier to investors over the long-run.  Politically, we face the same challenges as Washington weighs the simple, short-term decisions of kicking the fiscal debt and deficits down the road, versus facing the more demanding, long-term path of dealing with these challenges.

With controversial subjects like the fiscal cliff, entitlement reform, taxation, defense spending, and gay marriage blasting over our airwaves and blanketing newspapers, no wonder individuals are defaulting to reactionary moves. As you can see from the chart below, the desire for a knee jerk investment response has only increased over the last 70 years. The average holding period for equity mutual funds has gone from about 5 years (20% turnover) in the mid 1960s to significantly less than 1 year (> 100% turnover) in the recent decade. Advancements in technology have lowered the damaging costs of transacting, but the increased frequency, coupled with other costs (impact, spread, emotional, etc.), have been shown to be detrimental over time, according to John Bogle at the Vanguard Group.

Source: John Bogle (Vanguard Group)

During volatile periods, like this post-election period, it is always helpful to turn to the advice of sage investors, who have successfully managed through all types of unpredictable periods. Rather than listening to the talking heads on TV and radio, or reading the headline of the day, investors would be better served by following the advice of great long-term investors like these:

 “In the short run the market is a voting machine. In the long run it’s a weighing machine.” -Benjamin Graham (Famed value investor)

“Excessive short-termism results in permanent destruction of wealth, or at least permanent transfer of wealth.” -Jack Gray (Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo)

“The stock market serves as a relocation center at which money is moved from the active to the patient.” - Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway)

 “It was never my thinking that made big money for me. It always was my sitting.” – Jesse Livermore (Famed trader)

“The farther you can lengthen your time horizon in the investment process, the better off you will be.”- David Nelson (Legg Mason)

 “The growth stock theory of investing requires patience, but is less stressful than trading, generally has less risk, and reduces brokerage commissions and income taxes.” T. Rowe Price (Famed Growth Investor)

 “Time arbitrage just means exploiting the fact that most investors…tend to have very short-term time horizons.” -Bill Miller (Famed value investor)

“Long term is not a popular time-horizon for today’s hedge fund short-term mentality. Every wiggle is interpreted as a new secular trend.” -Don Hays (Hays Advisory – Investor/Strategist)

A legendary growth investor who had a major impact on how I shaped my investment philosophy is Peter Lynch. Mr. Lynch averaged a +29% return per year from 1977-1990. If you would have invested $10,000 in his Magellan fund on the first day he took the helm, you would have earned $280,000 by the day he retired 13 years later. Here’s what he has to say on the topic of long-term investing:

 “Your ultimate success or failure will depend on your ability to ignore the worries of the world long enough to allow your investments to succeed.”

“Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.”

 “My best stocks performed in the 3rd year, 4th year, 5th year, not in the 3rd week or 4th week.”

 “The key to making money in stocks is not to get scared out of them.” 

“Worrying about the stock market 14 minutes per year is 12 minutes too many.”

It is important to remember that we have been through wars, assassinations, banking crises, currency crises, terrorist attacks, mad-cow disease, swine flu, recessions, and more. Through it all, our country and financial markets most have managed to survive in decent shape. Hostess and its iconic Twinkies brand may be gone for now, but removing these indulgent impulse items from your diet may be as beneficial as eliminating detrimental short-term investing urges.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in WFM, BRKA/B, LM, TROW or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

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November 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm 1 comment

Snoozing Your Way to Investment Prosperity

When it comes to investing, do you trade like Jim Cramer on Red Bull – grinding your teeth to every tick or news headline? With the advent of the internet, an unrelenting, real-time avalanche of news items spreads like a furious plague – just ask Anthony Weiner.    As fear and greed incessantly permeate the web, and day-trading systems and software are increasingly peddled as profit elixirs, investors are getting itchier and itchier trading fingers. Just consider that investment holding periods have plummeted from approximately 10 years around the time of World War II to 8 months today (see GMO chart below). Certainly, the reduction in trading costs along with the ever-proliferating trend of technology advancements (see Buggy Whip Déjà Vu) is a contributor to the price of trading, but the ADHD-effect of information overload cannot be underestimated (see The Age of Information Overload).

Source: GMO (James Montier)

But fear not, there is a prescription for those addicted, nail-biting day-traders who endlessly pound away on their keyboards with bloody hangnails. The remedy is a healthy dosage of long-term growth investing in quality companies and sustainably expanding trends. I know this is blasphemy in the era of “de-risking” (see It’s All Greek to Me), short-term “risk controls” (i.e. panicking at bottoms and chasing performance), and “benchmark hugging,” but I believe T. Rowe Price had it right:

“The growth stock theory of investing requires patience, but is less stressful than trading, generally has less risk, and reduces brokerage commissions and income taxes.”

This assessment makes intuitive sense to me, but how can one invest for the long-term when there are structural deficits, inflation, decelerating GDP growth, international nuclear catastrophes, escalated gasoline prices, and Greek debt concerns? There are always concerns, and if there none, then you should in fact be concerned (e.g., when investors piled into equities during the “New Economy” right before the bubble burst in 2000). In order to gain perspective, consider what happened at other points in history when our country was involved in war; came out of recession; faced high employment; experienced Middle East supply fears; battled banking problems; handled political scandals; and dealt with rising inflation trends. One comparably bleak period was the 1974 bear market.

Let’s take a look at how that bear market compared to the current environment:

Then (1974)                                                    Now (2011)

End of Vietnam War                        End of Iraq War (battles in Afghanistan and Libya)
Exiting recession                              Exiting recession
9% Unemployment                          9% Unemployment
Arab Oil Embargo                            Arab Spring and Israeli-Palestinian tensions
Watergate political scandal            Anthony Weiner political scandal
Franklin National Bank failure       Banking system bailout
Rising inflation trends                     Rising inflation trends

We can debate the comparability of events and degree of pessimism, but suffice it to say the outlook was not very rosy 37 years ago, nor is it today. History never repeats itself, but it does tend to rhyme. Although attitudes were dour four decades ago, the Dow Jones exploded from 627 in late 1974 to 12,004 today. I’m not calling for another near 20-fold increase in prices over the next 37 years, but a small fraction of that improvement would put a smile on equity investors’ faces. Jim Fullerton, the former chairman of the Capital Group of the American Funds understood pundits’ skepticism during times of opportunity when he wrote the following in November 1974:

“Today there are thoughtful, experienced, respected economists, bankers, investors and businessmen who can give you well-reasoned, logical, documented arguments why this bear market is different; why this time the economic problems are different; why this time things are going to get worse — and hence, why this is not a good time to invest in common stocks, even though they may appear low.”

Rather than getting glued to the TV horror story headline du jour, perhaps investors should take some of the sage advice provided by investment Hall of Famer, Peter Lynch (Lynch averaged a +29% annual return from 1977-1990 while at Fidelity Investments). Rather than try to time the market, he told investors to “assume the market is going nowhere and invest accordingly.” And Lynch offered these additional words of wisdom to the many anxious investors who fret about macroeconomics and timing corrections:

•    “It’s lovely to know when there’s recession. I don’t remember anybody predicting 1982 we’re going to have 14 percent inflation, 12 percent unemployment, a 20 percent prime rate, you know, the worst recession since the Depression. I don’t remember any of that being predicted. It just happened. It was there. It was ugly. And I don’t remember anybody telling me about it. So I don’t worry about any of that stuff. I’ve always said if you spend 13 minutes a year on economics, you’ve wasted 10 minutes.”
•    “Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.”
•    “Whatever method you use to pick stocks or stock mutual funds, your ultimate success or failure will depend on your ability to ignore the worries of the world long enough to allow your investments to succeed.”

Real money is not made by following the crowd. Real money is made by buying quality companies and securities at attractive prices. The prescription to generating above-average profits is finding those quality market leaders (or sustainable trends) that can compound earnings growth for multiple years, not chasing every up-tick and panicking out of every down-tick. Following these doctor’s orders will lead to a strong assured mind and a healthy financial portfolio – key factors allowing you to peacefully snooze to investment prosperity.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Performance data from Morningstar.com. Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in TROW, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

June 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm 1 comment

O’Neil Swings for the Fences


Approaches used in baseball strategy are just as varied as they are in investing.  Some teams use a “small ball” approach to baseball, in which a premium is placed on methodically advancing runners around the bases with the help of bunts, bases on ball, stolen bases, sacrifice flies, and hit-and- run plays. Other teams stack their line-up with power-hitters, with the sole aim of achieving extra base hits and home runs.

Investing is no different than baseball. Some investors take a conservative, diversified value-approach and seek to earn small returns on a repeated basis. Others, like William J. O’Neil, look for the opportunities to knock an investment out of the park. O’Neil has no problem of concentrating a portfolio in four or five stocks. Warren Buffett talks about how Ted Williams patiently waited for fat pitches–O’Neil is very choosy too, when it comes to taking investment swings.

The Making of a Growth Guru

Born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas, William O’Neil has accomplished a lot over his 53-year professional career. After graduating from Southern Methodist University, O’Neil started his career as a stock broker in the late-1950s. Soon thereafter in 1963, at the ripe young age of 30, O’Neil purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYX) and started his own company, William O’Neil + Co. Incorporated. Ambition has never been in short supply for O’Neil – following the creation of his firm, O’Neil the investment guru put on his computer science hat and went onto pioneer the field of computerized investment databases. He used his unique proprietary data as a foundation to unveil his next entrepreneurial baby, Investor’s Business Daily, in 1984.

O’Neil’s Secret Sauce

The secret sauce behind O’Neil’s system is called CAN SLIM®. O’Neil isn’t a huge believer in stock diversification, so he primarily focuses on the cream of the crop stocks in upward trending markets. Here are the components of CAN SLIM® that he searches for in winning stocks:

C             Current Quarterly Earnings per Share

A             Annual Earnings Increases

N             New Products, New Management, New Highs

S              Supply and Demand

L              Leader or Laggard

I               Institutional Sponsorship

M            Market Direction

Rebel without a Conventional Cause

In hunting for the preeminent stocks in the market, the CAN SLIM® method uses a blend of fundamental and technical factors to weed out the best of the best. I may not agree with everything O’Neil says in his book, How to Make Money in Stocks, but what I love about the O’Neil doctrine is his maverick disregard of the accepted modern finance status quo. Here is a list of O’Neil’s non-conforming quotes:

  • Valuation Doesn’t Matter: “The most successful stocks from 1880 to the present show that, contrary to most investors’ beliefs, P/E ratios were not a relevant factor in price movement and have very little to do with whether a stock should be bought or sold.” (see also The Fallacy of High P/Es)
  • Diversification is Bad: “Broad diversification is plainly and simply a hedge for ignorance… The best results are usually achieved through concentration, by putting your eggs in a few baskets that you know well and watching them very carefully.”
  • Buy High then Buy Higher: “[Buy more] only after the stock has risen from your purchase price, not after it has fallen below it.”
  • Dollar-Cost Averaging a Mistake: “If you buy a stock at $40, then buy more at $30 and average out your cost at $35, you are following up your losers and throwing good money after bad. This amateur strategy can produce serious losses and weigh down your portfolio with a few big losers.”
  • Technical Analysis Matters: “Learn to read charts and recognize proper bases and exact buy points. Use daily and weekly charts to materially improve your stock selection and timing.”
  • Ignore TV & So-Called Experts: “Stop listening to and being influenced by friends, associates, and the continuous array of experts’ personal opinions on daily TV shows.”
  • Stay Away from Dividends: “Most people should not buy common stocks for their dividends or income, yet many people do.”

Managing Momentum Risk

Although O’Neil’s CAN SLIM® investment strategy does not rely on a full-fledged, risky style of momentum investing (see Riding the Momentum Wave), O’Neil’s investment approach utilizes very structured rules designed to limit downside risk. Since true O’Neil disciples understand they are dealing with flammable and volatile hyper-growth companies, O’Neil always keeps a safety apparatus close by – I like to call it the 8% financial fire extinguisher rule.  O’Neil simply states, “Investors should definitely set firm rules limiting the loss on the initial capital they have invested in each to an absolute maximum of 7% or 8%.” If a trade is not working, O’Neil wants you to quickly cut your losses. As the “M” in CAN SLIM® indicates, downward trending markets make long position gains very challenging to come by. Raising cash and cutting margin is the default strategy for O’Neil until the next bull cycle begins.

While some components of William O’Neil’s “cup and handle” teachings (see link)are considered heresy among various traditional financial textbooks, O’Neil’s lessons and CAN SLIM® method  shared in How to Make Money in Stocks provide a wealth of practical information for all investors. If you want to add a power-hitting element to your investing game and hit a few balls out of the park, it behooves you to invest some time in better familiarizing yourself with the CAN SLIM® teachings of William O’Neil.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP® 

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Wade Slome, President of Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM), worked at William O’Neil + Co. Incorporated in 1993-1996. SCM and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds,  but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in NYX or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

May 17, 2011 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

A Rare Breed: Father of Growth Investing

The man, the myth, the legend.

Successful long-term growth managers are part of a rare breed, but Thomas Rowe Price, Jr.  – also known as the “Father of Growth Investing” – certainly qualifies. Too often, value legends like Warren Buffett and Benjamin Graham are highlighted in media circles. Using a baseball analogy, growth heroes like Mr. Price are more akin to atypical knuckleball pitchers, like Hall of Famer Phil Neikro. Writing about Mr. Price is consistent with my belief that investors striving to improve performance will be served well by studying great investors (for other growth superstars, see also Phil Fisher, Ron Baron, and John Calamos, Sr.).

History

T. Rowe Price was born in Linwood, Maryland, in 1898 and died in 1983. Price graduated from Swathmore College in 1919 with a degree in Chemistry, and then went onto work at Baltimore-based Mackubin Goodrich, which eventually became Legg Mason  Inc. (LM). In 1937 he founded T. Rowe Price Associates (TROW) and successfully ramped up the company before the launch of the T. Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund in 1950. Expansion ensued until he made a timely sale of his company in the late 1960s (fortuitously before the 1973-1974 crash).

Philosophy

How did Price feel about growth investing?

“The growth stock theory of investing requires patience, but is less stressful than trading, generally has less risk, and reduces brokerage commissions and income taxes.”

This philosophy makes perfect sense to me; however it runs contrary to the strategies implemented by many managers whom are categorized in the “growth” style box today. In the hyper-sensitive, short-term focused performance world, many “momentum” managers play in this same “growth” sandbox. Typically this means managers buy stocks that are going up and sell stocks that are going down (see “momentum” article) over relatively short time frames, on average.

Price also firmly believed in fundamental research. As part of the investment process, Price believed in the “Life Cycle Theory of Companies,” meaning companies followed the phases of a human (birth, maturity, and decline). Price expands on this idea by stating the following: “An understanding of the life cycle of earnings growth and judgment in appraising future earnings trends are essential to investing.” He placed emphasis on investing in quality companies in good times and bad. In order to strip out economic cycle impacts, he compared company performance to peer performance  – regardless of macroeconomic conditions.

John Train, the writer of “The Money Masters,” maintained the following factors were key underpinnings of Price’s investments:

  • Superior research to develop products and markets.
  • A lack of cutthroat competition.
  • A comparative immunity from government regulation.
  • Low total labor costs, but well-paid employees.
  • At least a 10%  return on invested capital, sustained high profit margins, and a superior growth of earnings per share.

Buy and Hold

The proof was in the pudding when it came to the “patience” referenced in Price’s quote above. For example, in the early 1970s, Price had accumulated gains of +6,184% in Xerox (XRX), which he held for 12 years, and gains of +23,666% in Merck (MRK), which he held for 31 years (Lessons from the Legends of Wall Street, Nikki Ross). Timing was not the most important factor in pulling the decision trigger:

“It is better to be early than too late in recognizing the passing of one era, the waning of old investment favorites and the advent of a new era affording new opportunities for the investor.”

In the polluted world of mass information that we sift through every day, I recommend reviewing the strategies of greats, including the “Father of Growth Investing” (T. Rowe Price). That’s my fatherly advice for you.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and its clients owns certain exchange traded funds, but currently have no direct position in LM, TROW, XRX or MRK. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

November 20, 2009 at 2:00 am 3 comments

Standing on the Shoulders of a Growth Giant: Phil Fisher

Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton

It was English physicist, astronomer, philosopher, and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton who in 1675 stated, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Investors too can stand on the shoulders of market giants by studying the timeless financial knowledge from current and past market legends. The press, all too often, focuses on the hot managers of our time while forgetting or kicking to the curb those managers whom are temporarily out of favor. Famous and enduring value managers typically have gained the press spotlight, rightfully so in the case of current greats like Warren Buffett or past talents like Benjamin Graham, because they managed to prosper through numerous economic cycles. However, when it comes to growth legends like Phil Fisher, author of the must-read classic Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, many people I bump into have never heard of him. Hopefully that will change over time.

The Past

Born on September 8, 1907, Mr. Fisher lived until the ripe age of 96 when he passed on March 4, 2004. Fisher was no dummy – he enrolled in college at age 15 and started graduate school at Stanford a few years later, before he dropped out and started his own investment firm in 1931. His son, Ken, currently heads his own investment firm, Fisher Investments, writes for Forbes magazine, and has authored multiple investment books. Unlike his dad, Ken has more of a natural bent towards value stocks.

Buy-And-Hold

Philip A. Fisher

Phil Fisher’s iconic book, Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, was published in 1958. Mr. Fisher believed in many things and perhaps would have been thrown under the bus today for his long-term convictions in “buy-and-hold.”  Or as Mr. Fisher put it, “If the job has been correctly done when a common stock is purchased, the time to sell it is – almost never.” Not every investment idea made the cut, however he is known to have bought Motorola (MOT) stock in 1955 and held it until his death in 2004 for a massive gain. Generally, he gave initial stock purchases a three-year leash before considering a change to his investment position. If the conviction to purchase a stock for such duration is not present, then the investment opportunity should be ignored.

Fisher’s concentration on growth stocks also shaped his view on dividends. Dividends were not important to Fisher – he was more focused on how the company is investing retained earnings to achieve its earnings growth. Like Fisher, Peter Lynch is another growth hero of mine that also felt there is too much focus on the Price/Earnings (PE) ratio rather than the long-term earnings potential. 

“Scuttlebutt”

Another classic trademark of Fisher’s investing style was his commitment to fundamental research. He was focused on accumulating data covering a broad range of areas including, customers, suppliers, and competitors. Fisher also emphasized factors like market share, return on invested capital, margins, and the research & development budget. What Mr. Fisher called his varied approach to gathering diverse sets of information was “scuttlebutt.”

Buying & Selling Points

Although Fisher believed firmly in buy and hold, he was not scared to sell when the firm no longer met the original buying criteria or his original assessment  for purchased was deemed incorrect.

When buying, Fisher preferred to buy stocks in downturns or temporary problems – contrary to your typical momentum growth manager today (read article on momentum).  Fisher has this to say on the topic: “This matter of training oneself to not go with the crowd but to be able to zig  when the crowd zags, in my opinion, is one of the most important fundamentals of the investment success.”

Learning from Mistakes

Like all great investors I have studied, Phil Fisher also believed in learning from your mistakes:

“I have always believed that the chief difference between a fool and a wise man is that the wise man learns from his mistakes, while the fool never does.”

He expanded on the topic by saying the following:

“Making mistakes is inherent cost of investing just like bad loans are for the finest lending institutions. Don’t blindly accept dominant opinion and don’t be contrary for the sake of being contrary.”

I could only dream of having a fraction of Mr. Fisher’s career success – he retired in 1999 at the age of 91 (not bad timing).  As I continue on my investment journey with my investment firm (Sidoxia Capital Management, LLC), I will continue to study the legendary giants of investing (past and present) to sharpen my investment skills.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

 

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) or its clients owns certain exchange traded funds, but currently has no direct position in MOT or BRKA/B. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

November 17, 2009 at 2:00 am 4 comments


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