So, when are stocks on sale?

The following is a guest post from Rob L., a fan of My Own Advisor living in Munich, Germany.

Probably one of the hardest things for an investor to determine is when a stock might be on sale.  Today, I want to share three methods investors could use to help determine that.

#1 – Value Investing

Best known as “Graham Investing”, you can find out-of-favour stocks (hence undervalued stocks) by looking at such things as P/E ratios and book value.  While you may find bargains eventually, it is hard work and I suspect that most investors don’t have the time or the interest to do that.  If you’re really interested though I know there are MBA courses on it. Let’s move on to #2, something less sophisticated.

#2 – Beating the TSX

For Canadian dividend investors this is in my opinion one of the methods for scouting undervalued stocks. You may have heard of “Dogs of the Dow”, a rather simple method using dividend yield to identify undervalued U.S. stocks? Well, “Beating the TSX” is its northern cousin; the same principle applied to the TSX.  David Stanley has used this approach for years, decades in fact, with great success.  Some more details about David’s approach appear in a September 2012 Canadian MoneySaver article here.

#3 – Re-balancing

This is probably one method that is most applicable to the “average” investor and to those of us who want to hold U.S. and/or international index funds for diversification.  Both Garth Turner (Greater Fool) and Andrew Hallam (Millionaire Teacher) have referenced this approach a few times.  I’ll try and do it justice here.  The reason this method works?  It’s easy to understand and apply.  First of all, you should have at least three main parts in your portfolio:  a bond, some domestic equity and some U.S. or international equity.  Maybe these parts are in similar portions, say 33% allocated to each part.  Next, using this simple mix of index funds, when you have extra capital to invest, just put your focus on purchasing the index fund that is the cheapest at the time.  Let’s call this, buying the lagging index fund or ETF.  For example my current allocation is 60/40 stocks to bonds.  (I actually have no international holdings at the moment but stay with me).  With a surging equity market this year, my allocation has recently shifted to 65/35 stock to bonds; so this tells me I should probably invest in bonds to get my allocation back in line.  I don’t need to figure out if stocks are a good deal or not, clearly my asset allocation tells me it’s time to buy bonds (and avoid buying stocks that have appreciated in price).   Still confused?  Andrew Hallam wrote a great article on exactly how this works so I highly recommend taking 10 minutes to read it here.

As you might be able to tell I’m a fan of keeping things simple so I favour #3 but surely there are many other ways to find out if stocks are on sale.  Maybe you can tell me your tip?  Does My Own Advisor have any tricks?  How do you figure out when stocks are on sale?

Rob L. is a fan of My Own Advisor living in Munich, Germany.  Rob is passionate about investing and is currently working through his own plan for financial freedom, about 10 years away.

14 Responses to "So, when are stocks on sale?"

  1. I personally favor the value investing method of doing a complete stock analysis using things such as earnings growth estimates and P/E ratios. Of course I am an investing nerd and enjoy these types of analyzing activities.

    For those investors that are looking for a simpler strategy I like the Dogs of the Dow or TSX and the rebalancing methods.

    1. Ha. Well, if you have the time Dan, that approach could be very rewarding and profitable. I don’t have much time to research stocks so I just do a blended approach: dividend-payers and ETFs.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. The problem I have about rebalancing is knowing how much I have invested in percentages. Because I have investments in an online brokerage, GICs in a bank, etc. I have researched various programs and spreadsheets to try to keep track of the changing valuations (and therefore percentages) but haven’t found any that aren’t a lot of work (entering the info myself). I used to use MS Money, but that has been discontinued. Any suggestions?

  3. Yeah I tend to agree, I’m just in the process of diversifying into the States, looked at doing an ETF but ultimately decided that good or bad I prefer to hold individual stocks.

    BTW just looking at Potash right now, they are a sold dividend growth stock, and from what I’ve read the dividend looks pretty safe.

    1. I think so Rob, regarding POT dividend.

      Remember POT pays dividends in USD, so you might want to hold those in a non-registered account? Can you reclaim withholding taxes over there (Germany) with U.S. stocks held outside of any registered account?

      Regarding U.S. stocks, I hold a few U.S. stocks. The rest, I use VTI for. Just too easy not to use VTI:US. Thoughts?

  4. I like the article on “Beating the TSX”. This is exactly where I started, by analyzing companies in the TSX for value and yield. In fact my first go at a portfolio was also extremely heavy on the banks, but over time I’ve brought that down as I really don’t think that 5/8 of your wealth should be in one industry. There are lots of other opportunities out there!

    1. Thanks Avrom, Mark (My Own Adviser) also suggested a few tweaks which really helped. BTW you sent me an email back when I had my blog regarding Penngrowth, was going to buy a whole bunch of it as I was tempted by the yield. Not sure if I ever got back to you to say thanks, saved me some serious heartache.

      I will say the hardest part about investing isn’t finding good stocks, but finding the capital to do it with!


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