I get a lot of eye rolls when folks ask me for investment advice...
My typical quip is: "Buy low and sell high." People can never tell if I'm being serious or being a jerk.
While my "advice" is more glib than helpful, it's undeniably true. Every investment textbook spends chapters trying to say just that. (When someone wants to talk to me long enough, I do give them a more detailed answer.)
But buying low and selling high isn't the only way to make money.
Today, I want you to flip that universally accepted philosophy around.
I want you to adopt the mindset of buying high.
Now, this can sound daunting... maybe even crazy. Most folks get queasy when they buy a stock that's at or near an all-time high. They think they've already missed their chance to profit... and that anyone still buying is a trend follower who's about to get burned.
It's an understandable mindset. But it's wrong.
Stocks that are approaching 52-week highs often outperform stocks chosen through other strategies.
Several academic papers have looked at decades of data to support this theory. One research paper by Thomas J. George and Chuan-Yang Hwang titled "The 52-Week High and Momentum Investing" showed that the closer a stock's current price is to its 52-week high, the stronger it performs in the future.
The question most people find themselves asking is: How can stocks that are near highs still be undervalued?
The answer involves the mental mistake commonly called the "anchoring bias." Daniel Kahneman – the only psychologist to win a Nobel Prize in economics – first coined the term for this phenomenon.
When you provide folks with an initial price or number, it skews their thinking. They "anchor" to the old info.
Here's a classic example of the bias from a 1974 experiment run by Kahneman and Amos Tversky...
Participants of the study had to spin a "wheel of fortune" to get a random number. Half of the folks ended up with the number 10. The other half got 65.
The participants were then asked whether the percentage of African countries in the United Nations was greater or less than their number from the wheel of fortune. Folks who got the number 10 estimated the percentage to be 25. Folks who got 65 estimated 45%.
The low anchor numbers biased the guesses lower relative to the effects of the high anchor.
There are countless examples like this from all different kinds of studies. We also see the anchoring bias in effect every day in marketing and negotiation. The first number or price you hear is the one you anchor to – even when that information is irrelevant on its face.
This phenomenon is at work in the stock market every day, too. Specifically, investors want to anchor to a stock's high share price.
It's easy to find whether a stock is at its 52-week or all-time high. So that's what investors anchor to.
If a stock is down 20% from its high, that tells some folks it's a good value. And if the stock is trading at its high, they expect it to head lower.
You have to set aside your emotional reaction to a stock trading near its highs. There are better ways to determine its real value...
We always start thinking about a stock by remembering it's a real business. If you buy great businesses at good prices, you'll win over the long term. We talked about this often over the years. And, of course, a company's share price by itself tells you nothing about the company's actual valuation. For instance, if a company's revenues and profits have grown to all-time highs, why wouldn't its stock price follow suit?
Many stocks hit new highs because their companies are doing something right. If they keep doing those things, prices can keep rising.
So don't get hung up on a 52-week high. A stock's previous price doesn't tell us where it's going next. When the valuation is still compelling, disregard my old quip and buy high.
That's why when someone asks me when to start investing, I say it's always a good time to invest. Even when markets are volatile, there are still plenty of opportunities to be found.
According to Wall Street legend Marc Chaikin, there's a major financial reset on the horizon. And as it plays out, it'll be critical to move your money out of cash and popular stocks... and into an opportunity with the potential to double, triple, or even quadruple your money.
Marc recently went live with his presentation. If you didn't get the chance to hear what Marc had to say, you can access all the details here.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: Warren Buffett is doubling down on Japan.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
June 21, 2023