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James Montier: The best example of narrow framing that I can think of is the use of pro forma earnings. Think about what pro forma earnings mean…. Investors regularly fail to look through the way information is presented to them in this fashion. Miguel: You talk about the benefits of reverse engineering DCF models — as a check on implied growth rates. Run us through the basic steps of a reverse dcf? However, its implementation is riddled with pitfalls.
With enough creativity a DCF can turn out any answer you like. So rather than try and combat this, I prefer to use reverse dcf. This effectively takes the market price, and backs out the growth that would be required to justify the current price. I can then compare that implied growth against a historical distribution of all company growth rates over time and see whether there is any chance of that growth actually being achieved.
In terms of the mechanics, these things can be as simple or as complex as you like. I tend to use a three stage model. I use the analyst inputs for the first three years, a trend GDP related growth rate for the terminal years, and then infer what the market implies for the middle period of growth. That is a cyclical sector with an implied growth rate double a generous estimate of nominal GDP growth. Cyclicals masquerading as growth stocks rarely end well for investors. Why do investors overpay for beauty and underpay for toads…after all they are one step away from becoming princes, are they not?
This heuristic complements the Anginer, et all study where ugly defendants are more likely to be found guilty and receive longer sentences than attractive defendants. James Montier: We humans have a bizarre bias against a bargain. For instance, my friend Dan Airely has done some great experiments in this field showing some pretty odd findings. The only snag is that the two wines are exactly the same. The same thing happens with pain killers. It is why branded pain killers exist alongside generic equivalents.
They both have exactly the same active ingredient, but people report the branded version works better. I suspect that something similar happens with stocks. The Anginer et al study shows some similar findings in the legal context. Ugly defendants get far worse sentences than attractive defendants. We have a hard time believing that attractive people could have been bad — a kind of halo effect, if you will. Tell us about the Trinity of Risk. Which of the three components do you think is the hardest to monitor, why?
First, there is valuation risk — you can simply overpay for an asset. Second, there is fundamental or business risk — something goes wrong with the underlying economics of the asset. I think you to consider all three aspects in order to gain a holistic view. Miguel: Why are we so terrible at predicting our emotions? James Montier: I wish I knew. However, all the evidence shows that we are truly appalling at predicting how we will act in the heat of the moment.
However, when that lower price arrives, we are caught like rabbits in the headlights. Learning to master your emotions is one of the most valuable things that investors can learn to do. What a wise statement; tell us more. James Montier: Regrettably, knowledge and behaviour are not the same thing. Now I know this, and I know that the easiest way for me to remedy this situation is for me to eat less.
The same is true when it comes to investing. We need to force ourselves to actually change our behaviour by altering the way we approach investing. Tell us how you look at cycles. Are there any indicators or measurements you rely on? The Philly Fed have a good by which I mean timely index called the ADS measure which tracks where we are in real time. Miguel: 2. You praise skepticism…How do you balance skepticism with a perma bear bias? James Montier: To me skepticism means questioning what I hear.
That tends to lead to a contrarian perspective. When everything I hear is bullish skepticism, that leads me to be bearish, and when everything I hear is bearish, skepticism pushes me to be bullish. Miguel: 3. History matters: Name 3 of your favorite financial history books. If I were allowed a fourth it would be J.
Studying these four books would do most investors a much greater service than studying for a CFA. Miguel: 4. I also find your Paul Wilmot and Emanuel Derman quotes quite interesting. James Montier: My work in this field was sparked by listening to gold medal winners being interviewed at the Olympics a few years back.
Invariably the interviewer would ask them what was going through their minds before the race started, where they focused on the gold? The response always came back that they were always focused on what they had to do i. Process is the one aspect of investing that we can control. Yet all too often we focus on outcomes rather than process.
Yet ironically, the best way of getting good outcomes is to follow a sound process. What do these findings imply about investment behavior? James Montier: Bob Kirby was an investment great. His writings on investing are right up there with the best, yet he remains a name that is relatively unknown. One of his papers was on the subject of the coffee can portfolio.
He harked back to the days of the old west, when people would keep their most prized possessions in a coffee can under the bed. He also explained what investors can do from a portfolio perspective if he is wrong. However, all sustained inflations seem to have one element in common: a wage-price spiral occurs. This is how inflation gets embedded in the system.
Much of the current debate focuses on whether the current upswing in inflation is transitory or permanent. For it to become permanent, we would need to see signs of resurgent labor bargaining power. There is no clear evidence of this just yet, although there may be a few tentative straws in the wind. TIPS are fine if you want an inflation hedge, but they come at a cost.
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