Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Formula Timing - Buying in low markets and selling in high markets. No simple and fool-proof formula. Select a ins and outs formula timing plan that is simple and convenient .

Let's look at the possibilities and limitations of a policy of entering the market when it is depressed and selling out in the advanced stages of a boom.

This bright idea appeared feasible from a first inspection of the market chart covering the gyrations of the past fifty years.

But closer study indicated that no simple and fool-proof formula could be counted upon to work out in the future.  

For example, the history of the Dow-Jones Industrial Average suggests that it should be possible to buy at 140 during the next few years and sell out at 280 later.

But this is only an indication and not a true prediction.

Nor can we tell whether the probability of its working out is good enough to justify the basing of an investment policy upon it.


The various formula timing plans, which have come into prominence in recent years, all represent a compromise attempt to deal with this probability.

Instead of planning to do all the buying at 140 - or some similar price - and all the selling at 280, the formula user buys at various stages on the downside and sells in installments on the upside.

By this means he can obtain some benefit from market fluctuations, even if they do not fall precisely within the range suggested by the chart.

Thus his formula assures him at least some profit if the future performance of the market is only reasonably close to that of the past.


A simple application of this idea would be to sell 10 percent of your holdings when the market advances 10 per cent above a chosen base or central level; then to sell 20 per cent of the remainder when it advances another 10 per cent and so on.

Repurchases would be made after the market had declined to the central level, and on some similar schedule.
Following this plan, you would have sold all your stocks if and when the market level reached double the base figure, and you would then have realized a profit of 37 per cent above the base.

You can apply these ins and outs of formula timing plans, using various types of plans, to calculate their possible results, using the record of your own actual operations and also applied to hypothetical or imaginary funds.


There is some danger here for both writers and investors to lose themselves in a maze of alternative procedures.  

It is well to bear certain basic facts in mind.  No one plan has a priori or guaranteed advantage over any other.

The relative results of various plans will depend on how well each happens to fit the market fluctuations of the future.


1.  The more certain the investor is that the range of future fluctuations will duplicate the past, the more justified he is in concentrating his buying close to the bottom line of the Dow-Jones performance chart and his selling not much below the top line.  

2.  But since we lack any proof that the past range must determine that of the future, most of us will prefer a compromise formula by which buying and selling is done in various stages below and above the indicated median level.

3.  So too, there is no assured advantage as between a plan to sell 100 per cent of our stock holdings by the time a designated high point is reached and a plan that assures retention of some stocks under all circumstances.  The latter in some measure protects against an inflationary breakout of a permanent character into a much higher band of fluctuation than we have experienced hitherto.

But like all the other choices in formula timing plans the wisdom of this one depends not on reasoning but on results.


The sovereign virtue of all formula plans lies in the compulsion they bring upon the investor to sell when the crowd is buying and to buy when the crowd lacks confidence.  

If the reader adopts a formula plan today and it happens to turn out badly - because the market chances to soar upwards to unexpected heights and does not return - it will still prove to have been worth while.

For the principle and the psychology will remain sound and applicable to the markets of the future, however far removed their middle range may be from the line of the past.


Since all the rest is a matter of detail or of guesswork, we strongly advice to "formula investors" that they select a plan that is simple and convenient in their circumstance.

Benjamin Graham
Intelligent Investor

No comments: