Friday, 6 August 2010

Famous Mr. Market Parable

Stocks will fluctuate substantially in value. For a true investor, the only significant meaning of price fluctuations is that they offer ". . . an opportunity to buy wisely when prices fall sharply and to sell wisely when they advance a great deal." 

Using his famous Mr. Market parable, Graham suggests the attitude one should adopt toward fluctuations in prices. Imagine owning a $1,000 interest in a business along with a partner, Mr. Market. 

Every day the accommodating Mr. Market offers either to buy your interest or to sell you a larger interest. Sometimes his price is ridiculously high, allowing you a good opportunity to sell. At other times his price is ridiculously low, allowing you a good opportunity to buy. Still at other times, his quotes are roughly justified by the business outlook, and you can ignore them. 

The point is that the market is there for your convenience and profit. And market valuations are often wrong. Price fluctuations, Graham believes ". . . bear no relationship to underlying conditions and values." It is a mistake, he argued, to let the market determine what stocks are worth. 
Generally an investor will be wiser to form independent stock valuations, and then to exploit divergences between those valuations and the market's prices.

Graham's Mr. Market parable is related to his view of technical analysis. According to Graham, nearly all of technical analysis is based on buying stock when prices have risen and selling when they have fallen. Based on over 50 years' experience, he had ". . . not known a single person who had consistently or lastingly made money by thus 'following the market.'" This approach, he declared, ". . . is as fallacious as it is popular." 

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