Thursday, March 3, 2011

Price Earnings Ratio

Price = earnings times average p/e ratio
Personally, I would never consider buying stocks in a company simply based on the recommendation of someone else.  Still, I get questions from friends about buying this stock, or that, based on a phone call they received from some "well-intentioned advisor".  Usually the story is pretty compelling, and there is always a sense of urgency to get in before it is too late.

While I struggle to comprehend the value provided by sell-side analysts, I suppose their value is not lost on firms trying to engineer the case for buying the next hot stock.

There is one piece of information those analysts provide which I do use.  It is the annual earnings number.  These people know and follow their companies better than I ever could.  They crunch the numbers and come up with an estimate for company earnings for the end of the next year.  I don't rely on any one estimate, but I do look at the average of all of the estimates for a company.

For that reason alone, if a company does not have an analyst following it, I won't buy it.  I am only interested in owning companies with a long enough track record and sufficient size to have analyst coverage.  How else can we put any probability on what the company is going to do in the future?  How many times have I seen people lose money in the stock of companies that never made a single cent?  Never mind the hype and the hyperbole, show me the money!

Did you pay full price for the vehicle you are currently driving?  If so, why?  They want our business, and will make concessions to get it.  Do you buy groceries and pay full price when you know there is a sale coming up for the same items, or a coupon which is good at a future date?  Why should we purchase any stock unless it is on sale?

Any company I would be interested in, has to have a track record, have a couple of analysts covering it, and it has to have made money for, at least, a few years.  I have no desire to own penny stocks, or hopeful wannabe's.  The companies I want to own have a great, if not the best track record in their market.  Since I know the future earnings numbers and I also have historical price to earnings ratios, I can calculate what the price of a single stock is worth.  Earnings per share multiplied by the historical average for the price/earnings ratio equals what the stock is worth.  If that is the current price, why would I buy it?  The lower the current price is below the result of my little calculation, the more interested I become.

Don't take the recommendations of other people, especially those trying to sell something.  We need to do our own homework, and calculate what the stock is worth.  Myself, I still wouldn't run to the computer and buy it without, first, doing some technical analysis to figure out a good point in time to buy.  Regardless, unless it is on sale, I won't even consider it.       

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