Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The little book that makes you rich: A critical analysis of the fundamental factors

Firstly apologies for the recent lack of posts, I've been enjoying a sojourn visiting some of my family in New Zealand. I've recently been reading Louis Navellier's 'Little Book that makes you rich' subtitled "a proven market beating formula for growth investing".

I'm generally skeptical of the benefits of growth investing. All too often growth investing simply seems to be a cover for buying the latest fad or fashion in the investing world. So when I saw a book purporting to offer a numbers based approach (what I have called evidence based investing) to growth investing I was intrigued.

Navellier starts out by listing out his eight criteria for fundamental investing.
1. Earnings revisions
2. Earnings surprise
3. Sales growth
4. Operating margin growth
5. Cash flow to MV
6. Earnings growth
7. Earnings momentum
8. ROE

When I looked at this list I was somewhat surprised. Many of these factors struck me as odd. For instance, I have never come across a single paper claiming that sales growth had any kind of positive relationship with returns, nor ROE. Others such as earnings revisions and surprises were less shocking.

I decided to run a quick check on each of these factors, using a variety of sources ( I will run a full set of tests once I'm back at work, but for now I'll rely on others results). For each factor I tried to find the study with the longest history. The table below presents the results showing how much each factor added to a long only portfolio vs the market.

1. Earnings revisions 4.8% p.a
2. Earnings surprises 2.7% p.a.
3. Sales growth -13% p.a
4. Operating margin growth N/A
5. Cash flow to MV 4% p.a.
6. Earnings growth -2% p.a.
7. Earnings momentum 0% p.a.
8. ROE 0.8% p.a

In fairness to Navellier, he does note that the importance of each of these factors waxes and wanes over time. However, with a number of his factors appearing to add no value over a consistent time horizon, one must wonder what these fundamental variables bring to the party?

Interestingly, one of the best fundamental factors turns out to be a value factor! Although Navellier dresses up his use of cash flow as a growth variable, nothing can alter the fact that it is really a value variable. This is consistent with work that I have done which showed that value strategies did well within a growth universe (see Chapter 31 of Behavioural Investing).

It is also noteworthy that despite spending around two thirds of the little book of these variables, they only get a 30% weight in the final system....so what is the this little book really doing? I'll examine this in my next post.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your sentiment, especially with regard to growth simply being a fad-following philosophy. However, you write "I have never come across a single paper claiming ... any kind of positive relationship with returns [and] ROE. I may be misreading your statement, but if not, in "What Works on Wall Street", James O'Shaughnessy finds that ROE and stock returns are positively correlated over significant periods .

Adrian Saville, Gone to the Dogs (www.adriansaville.blogspot.com)

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