Friday, September 18, 2015

Phil Fisher on the best way to invest

From Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits:
The purpose of this book is not to point out every way such money can be made. Rather it is to point out the best way. By the best way is meant the greatest total profit for the least risk. The type of accounting-statistical activity which the general public seems to visualize as the heart of successful investing will, if enough effort be given it, turn up some apparent bargains. Some of these may be real bargains. In the case of others there may be such acute business troubles lying ahead, yet not discernible from a purely statistical study, that instead of being bargains they are actually selling at prices which in a few years will have proven to be very high. 
Meanwhile, in the case of even the genuine bargain, the degree by which it is undervalued is usually somewhat limited. The time it takes to get adjusted to its true value is frequently considerable. So far as I have been able to observe, this means that over a time sufficient to give a fair comparison—say five years—the most skilled statistical bargain hunter ends up with a profit which is but a small part of the profit attained by those using reasonable intelligence in appraising the business characteristics of superbly managed growth companies. This, of course, is after charging the growth-stock investor with losses on ventures which did not turn out as expected, and charging the bargain hunter for a proportionate amount of bargains that just didn't turn out. 
The reason why the growth stocks do so much better is that they seem to show gains in value in the hundreds of per cent each decade. In contrast, it is an unusual bargain that is as much as 50 per cent undervalued. The cumulative effect of this simple arithmetic should be obvious.