Famed investor reflecting on his mistakes:
One that stands out for me:
Instead of focusing on how value factors in general did in identifying attractive stocks, I rushed to proclaim price-to-sales the winner. That was, until it wasn’t. I guess there’s a reason for the proclamation “The king is dead, long live the king” when a monarchy changes hands. As we continued to update the book, price-to-sales was no longer the “best” single value factor, replaced by others, depending upon the time frames examined. I had also become a lot more sophisticated in my analysis—thanks to criticism of my earlier work—and realized that everything, including factors, moves in and out of favor, depending upon the market environment. I also realized that you were far better off seeing how a stock scored on a composite of value factors that took more aspects of the balance sheet into account.
The lesson? No single factor or fundamental piece of data is ever the answer or solution to the complicated question of how to pick stocks that outperform. For example, I have long been a fan of shareholder yield (Dividends+Net buy backs) but even though it performs well on its own, it performs much better when selected from a group of stocks that are very cheap; have good earnings quality and have a high conviction in their buybacks, as evidenced by percentage of outstanding shares they are buying. As Einstein is reputed to have said, “make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”