Monday, March 09, 2015

Why Investing Is No Longer Possible

In one of my classroom discussions (in a class I teach online), I answered one of my student's questions about dividends and whether it's possible to find an "undervalued stock" in today's market.  The answer ended up being a bit more profound and insightful than I anticipated and thought it might be of benefit to you yahoos:

"As for the art of picking stocks (or any other investment), correct.  The art is finding the undervalued ones, in spite of whether the overall market is overvalued or not. 
However, in the past 30 years, ESPECIALLY the past 6-8, the markets no longer reflect the value of investments or the securities they're supposed to.  This is largely due to:
retirement plans flooding the stock market
low interest rates prompting companies to borrow at low rates to repurchase shares
quantitative easing money ending up in the stock market
In other words, to pick stocks one can no longer look at the individual company or underlying assets of the investment.  You need to predict government policy, federal reserve moves, international monetary flows, and people's investing habits. 
Unfortunately, all of that renders traditional analysis moot and (frankly) makes the entire process of stock valuation even more impossible than it was before.  All that being said, it only reinforces the importance of finding an UNDERVALUED stock relative to its dividends or earnings ESPECIALLY given the trillions of NON-investment dollars that are flooding the market and distorting prices."


sanelity said...

Okay, so if value based investing is no longer possible, how about investing based purely on technical signals? Do you trade?

I understand that Buffet-style investing is less applicable for the reasons you mention. But there is still a LOT of money in the market. As you've pointed out before, part of the stock market advance is because there is simply no significant competition for investors dollar, so the influx of cash goes to equities.

We probably have at least another 7-10 years before the Boomer bubble starts selling. Even then, there will still be incoming cash from the Xers, and maybe some from the Millennials by then too. So I think the peak will be formed by a reducing slope, followed by a period of flat growth, then a gradual decline, as more boomers slowly sell off for regular income.

I don't think value investing is totally dead, just reduced in importance. Large, dividend paying stocks can still be a good choice, as long as the companies still have a solid future, regardless of stock price. The goal here would be income, with appreciation a nice bonus, but not necessary. Look for a lot of money to move from growth stocks to dividend stocks as the boomers roll out.

Anonymous said...

There is one overriding trend still in force - the shortage of lower risk investments that provide a decent cash return or "yield".

Pension funds, endowments and other institutional investors will continue to shift more of their investments into so-called "hard assets" that provide a cash return and a hedge against inflation.

Stocks such as Blackstone and Brookfield Asset Management are beneficiaries of this trend - one that will continue for at least the next decade.

grey enlightenment said...

The S&P 500 is up 200% in the past 6 years and even up 30% since 2007. this is excluding the large 2-3% YOY dividends. It's hard to bead those kind of returns.The PE ratio is only 17, which is about average. Beats getting 1% yoy in a 5 year bond