“In the long-term, stock prices correlate closely with a company’s earnings and cash flow. Our goal is to outperform the market average over time.”
In the short-term, stock prices may react to current events, such as world political news, currency devaluations, central bank changes in monetary policy, rumors, changes in sell-side analyst recommendations, forced selling by mutual funds experiencing redemptions, trading by momentum-driven speculators, short covering, option expirations, quarter-end window dressing, and computer-driven block trades. These factors may have little to do with a company’s intrinsic value, but may present opportunities to take advantage of temporary differences between market valuation and inherent value. In the long-term, stock prices correlate closely with a company’s earnings and cash flow. For instance, in the ten-years ending August 2014, Walt Disney’s earnings grew 15% annually on average and the stock returned 15% annually.
Our focus is on a company’s long-term earnings prospects, and we prefer that our investment performance be measured over at least a five-year period. The heart of Sir John Templeton’s stock picking method was to favor stocks that had the lowest stock price relative to his five-year earnings forecast. Warren Buffett prefers to be measured over a rolling-five year period and has said that he wants to have a reasonably good idea of what a company will earn in ten years. Peter Lynch said that you might as well flip a coin to decide if stocks will be higher or lower in two to three years, but that stocks are relatively predictable over twenty years. While one cannot forecast five-year forward earnings with 100% accuracy, the earnings-based analytical process focuses on the right variables, such as the durability of a company’s competitive advantage and the predictability of the business.
The long-term earnings forecast process also distinguishes us from many sell-side analysts, who seldom forecast beyond two years, and from many investors who simply bet on whether a company will beat consensus earnings estimates for the next quarter. Our goal is to outperform the market average over time.