Friday, August 1, 2014

The industry is getting lazy...

I should preface this - and all of my posts for that matter - by saying that my scope and experience is purely on the retail advisory side. I've never worked in straight banking, nor on the institutional side and I don't have a CFA and am certainly NOT an equity analyst. I started straight out of University in 1993 and everything I know today I've picked up along the way.

I run individual investment portfolios - I manage the investments of your Mom or Dad, your Grandparents, or your Aunts and Uncles. I don't do futures or currencies and stick to running mostly vanilla stocks and bonds.

The more I read about how some people trade via twitter, the more I realize that my specific portion of the investment world is basically the phytoplankton of finance. We are small and individually insignificant but do play a big part in supporting the bigger financial ecosystem. Bigger players have other terms for us, "muppets" comes to mind.. which is fair enough, so call me Gonzo.

I will concede that perhaps the observations I make, as a small phyto-financial plankton don't mean a hill of beans to the bigger ecosystem. But if I do say so myself I think I have developed a bit of a knack for identifying problem areas before they occur.

Yes I admit it freely - I'm wired to worry.

I am more often than not inclined to take the safer road and the cautious approach than to seek out risk. Personally think you kind of need this mindset if you want to work in retail and manage "Other People's Money".

I mentioned the problem that I have with analysts getting "lazy" with their target prices and advice on stocks in "Charles Neuhauser meets the Asch Paradigm" - in today's market I am seeing a TON of target prices getting bumped up even as earnings estimates fall. Paying 24x next year's estimated earnings on a stock whose longer term eps growth rate averages 4 or 5% is just asking for trouble.. but, many ignore the rules.

AH well.

I'm seeing so many target prices being bumped up a few dollars via an expanded multiple assumption rather than any higher assumed earnings - just so analysts don't have to answer the question of why the stock isn't a sell.

It's that Keynesian career risk thing - you don't want to put a sell recommendation on a stock only to have it keep rolling higher on you.. client's don't dig that.

But you know what? An expensive stock is an expensive stock.. and call me naive but if you are simply slapping an additional 1.5x multiple on an ALREADY LOFTY forward PE.. just because the momentum of the stock continues to be higher.. what sort of value are you adding to the portfolio?

Also - given earnings growth and fundamentals are clearly NOT driving the share price.. how on earth are you going to know when to get the hell out of the way?

I find too many just accept the upside without paying too much attention to the fine print (or lack thereof).

Stock is moving through your target price? Well then take a look at your model and see if you are missing anything that could explain the action.. more growth coming from somewhere you didn't anticipate? Are your earnings expectations too conservative? But for god's sake don't just look at the street consensus and slap another 1.5x on so you can increase your target price by $5.00..

Clients pay us a lot of money to work diligently on their behalf.. if a stock is expensive.. it's expensive.. if it has a target price of $50.00 and it's trading at $56.00 with no new catalysts to push your earnings estimates higher.. you need to at LEAST do the math to see if you should ease the size of the position down.

If I'm running my own funds then it doesn't matter - but the last thing in the world you want to do is be overly optimistic on a stock or market with client money..

Most in retail tend to be fairly heavy in equity anyhow (some I know are basically 100% in stock.. holy crap..) - so if they are WRONG on the recovery and the bull market.. they don't get hurt.. but man, do the clients get smoked.

Just a small rant.. I saw about four 'increased target prices' using the same cheeky pe expansion (even as estimated earnings were REDUCED!!!)

Somewhere, Charles Neuhauser is shaking his head and waiting to say

"I told you so..."

be safe out there people.. :)


1 comment:

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