As regular readers will know, I’m a growth stock investor. That’s even though I spent my first six years as an analyst/portfolio manager using value techniques almost exclusively–and then worked side by side with a motley crew of value investors for a ten-year period after that.
One way of describing the difference between growth and value is that:
–growth investors know when potentially price-moving news will happen (that is, when quarterly earnings are announced) but are less sure what that news will be
–value investors know what the news will be (if they’ve done their job right, they’re holding stocks where the market has already priced in every possible thing that could go wrong. All they need is one thing to go right). However, they may have little idea when good news will occur.
Each style has an inherent problem:
–for growth, it’s hard to find rising earnings during an economic downturn
–for value, it’s possible that a long time (say, two years) may pass before any of a portfolio’s diamonds in the rough are discovered by the market. In that case, the manager will likely be fired before the portfolio pays off. His/her successor will either reap the rewards of the predecessor or will dismantle the portfolio before any good stuff can occur.
At times, I do buy what I conceive of a value stocks. Intel when it was $19, trading at 8x – 9x earnings and yielding almost 4% (I’ve since sold most of what I own) is an example. But deep value investors would scoff at the notion that this is truly value.
For some time, I’ve been maintaining that value investing has lost its appeal in the 21th century. Two reasons:
–the stronger one is that the shelf life of physical plant, traditional distribution networks and brand names is no longer “forever” in a globalized, Internet-driven world. So buying companies that are rich in such assets but not making money is much, much riskier today than it used to be. Such assets can erode in the twinkling of an eye.
–a weaker claim would be that while there are still value names, it’s hard/impossible to fill out a portfolio of, say, 100 of them, which is the traditional value portfolio structure, in today’s world.
I’m rehashing the growth/value debate here because I’m thinking the stronger position isn’t as unassailable as I’ve believed.