John Reese is chief executive officer of Validea.com and Validea Capital, the manager of an actively managed ETF. Globe Investor has a distribution agreement with Validea.ca, a premium Canadian stock screen service.
While growth stocks continue to clobber value stocks, causing many investors to question their priorities, it’s not time to declare the death of value investing.
Sure, the technology-heavy Nasdaq is at yet another record high in the ninth year of a broad bull market, led by tech giants Facebook, Amazon.com, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet, not to mention Apple.
The rotation back to value stocks that many people started to anticipate two years ago has yet to materialize in the face of this relentless growth-stock rally. Instead, it seems some well-known value investors have shifted their thinking after five years of losing out.
It’s easy to see why. Without growth stocks, these investors have missed out on much of the gains over the past year. The iShares Russell 1000 Growth ETF is up more than 20 per cent in the past 12 months and 7.9 per cent year-to-date. That compares with the iShares Russell 1000 Value ETF, which is up 5.6 per cent over 12 months, but down nearly 2 per cent so far this year.
Value and growth are often seen as the opposite approaches. The former often represents companies that have mature business models with strong pricing power and steady but modest growth, such as banks, manufacturing and consumer-staples companies. Value stocks are selected based on their price relative to expectations for their prospects, which are presumably better. And they are meant to be bought and held.
Growth companies, on the other hand, are already outperforming the overall market and their peers. They tend to be trendsetters, but they aren’t always profitable and their valuations are subject to the whim of investors chasing hot stocks. Technology generally falls into this category, as do health-care and consumer-discretionary companies.
Still, even some household-name value investors, including Berkshire Hathaway`s Warren Buffett, lately have drifted into big tech stocks such as Apple, where Berkshire is the second-biggest holder as of the end of March. Mr. Buffett even acknowledged at the company’s annual shareholder meeting that he missed an opportunity to invest in Google and Amazon and he has admitted to misreading the opportunity at IBM.
Some of these stocks have taken on the characteristics of both growth and value options. Apple is no longer the pure-play growth stock it once was, with a high-risk, high-reward profile. Instead, it is a brand icon with a stable business and a long-term investment reflecting optimism for consumer spending in the future.
The current market resembles the frothy markets of the late dot-com boom in 1999 and 2000, when those who weren’t investing in hot tech stocks were missing out. There have been other times when growth outpaced value in the past, too. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, an earlier generation of technology giants dazzled investors. The “nifty fifty” – Xerox, IBM, Polaroid and others – could only make investors richer.
But over a far longer period of time, value stocks have consistently won, outperforming about three out of every five years or so. That’s perhaps because, over the longer term, human bias is less of a factor in returns. Investors naturally gravitate to stocks perceived as “good,” in the recent past, but value investing often means uncovering hidden gems. Evaluating value stocks forces investors to consider the strength of a business compared with expectations, and humans are naturally inclined to underestimate downtrodden companies. For investors, that means missing opportunities.
Mr. Buffett hasn’t given up on his long-held bank and consumer-staples stocks, such as Wells Fargo and Coca-Cola, even though Wells has been under fire over a fake customer accounts scandal and consumer preferences are shifting away from sugary beverages such as his beloved Cherry Coke.
Investors shouldn’t abandon value investing, either. If anything, the recent decade-long drought should foretell a reckoning is coming as rising interest rates benefit value stocks. Here are four stocks that get high marks across one or many value models we run. These are quantitative approaches built using the publicly disclosed strategies of great investors.
ZAGG Inc. (ZAGG-Nasdaq) is one of the leading makers of protective coverings for consumer electronics and hand-held devices. The stock, which has been a very strong performer over the past year and boasts a relative strength of 91, carries a below market price-to-earnings ratio of 11.1.
Diamond Hill Investment Group Inc. (DHIL-Nasdaq) is an investment adviser whose stock meets selection criteria of investing guru Peter Lynch, who would compare the P/E ratio of 12.73 with the long-term earnings growth rate of 20.8 per cent and find it favourable.
Argan Inc. (AGX-NYSE) is a small-cap firm with a diverse set of businesses including power systems, industrial construction and communications infrastructure. With a P/E ratio of 8.8 and a price-to-book ratio of 1.7, the stock gets above-average scores from three of our value-based methods.
Big Lots Inc. (BIG-NYSE) is a discount retailer with more than 1,400 stores across the United States. As a result of the firm’s consistent earnings and above-average profitability, the stock scores highly based on our Buffett investment model.