Wednesday, 30 December 2009


There is only one strategy that works for value investors when the market is high – patience. The investor can do one of two things, both of which require steady nerves.

· Sell all stocks in a portfolio, take profits, and wait for the market to decline. At that time, many good values will present themselves. This may sound easy, but it pains many investors to sell a stock when its price is still rising.

· Stick with those stocks in a portfolio that have long-term potential. Sell only those that are clearly overvalued, and once more wait for the market to decline. At this time, value stocks may be appreciating at slow pace compared with the frisky growth stocks, but not always.

But come the correction, be it sudden or slow, the well-chosen value stocks have a better chance of holding their price.


The portfolio of one value investor shows what can happen when markets stumble off a cliff. In early September 1987, Walter Schloss’s portfolio was up 53%. The market as a whole had risen 42%, after a DJIA peak of 2722.42. Then in October the market fell off the mountain and the Dow lost 504 points in a single day. The market struggled back and Schloss finished 1987 with a 26% gain while the overall market made only a 5% advance. Schloss followed one of the first rules of investing – don’t lose money. Making up for lost ground puts an investor at a serious disadvantage when calculating long-term average returns.

Schloss is an experienced investor, and not all value investors will do as well in a rising market. It takes patience, “At a guess I’d say that (the value investor) should do a good 20% better than the market over a long period – although not during the most dynamic period of a bull market – if he is rigorous about applying the method,” says author John Train.

As for the hot stocks, when they take a hard hit the investor is cornered. If the stock is sold, the loss becomes permanent. The lost money cannot grow. If the investor hangs on to the deflated stock, the long trail back to the original purchase price will deeply erode the overall return.

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