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Screening Strategies

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Neglected Firms Screen

This screen involves seeking out stocks that are covered by few, if any, financial analysts and attempting to discover sources of value that may have been overlooked by other investors. Neglected firms tend to be small, low-profile companies that have not received much media attention. Areas of the market that attract media attention, public interest or sophisticated institutional followings are more likely to be properly priced than areas that are off the beaten track. more »

Value Investing
6 Month Return: -1.9%
Beneish M-Score Screen

This is a short-selling strategy based on Professor Beneish's M-Score - this is a mathematical model that uses eight financial ratios from the company's financial statements to assess the degree to which the earnings may have been manipulated. It is similar to the Altman Z-Score, but it is focused on detecting earnings manipulation rather than bankruptcy. The research suggests that a score greater than -1.78 indicates a strong likelihood of a firm being a manipulator. Here is the link to the original Detection of Earnings Manipulation paper as well as the subsequent paper - The Relation between Accruals and Earnings Manipulation. The screen below highlights companies that have had a M-score above the threshold for two years in a row in order to reduce the likelihood that a given year's result is coincidental or a rogue data input error. more »

Short Selling
6 Month Return: -1.9%
Large Cap Dividend Attraction Screen

This is a large-cap dividend focused screen, loosely based on the "Dividend Attraction" screen discussed by Kevin Matras in his useful book, "Finding Number 1 Stocks". It focuses on the added dividend security to be found amongst larger-cap stocks in a credit-constrained environment. In Matras' version, however, the primary filter is the Zacks Rank (a proprietary metric analysing analyst forecasts for i) Agreement, ii) Magnitude, iii) Upside Potential, Surprise). However, this version just uses the 3 month change in analyst forecasts instead. The other elements are: i) A market capitalisation above £1.5 bn, ii) Positive 5 Year Dividend growth, iii) Above Average Return on Equity, iv) Above Average EPS Growth and v) Price to Operating Cashflow. more »

Income Investing
6 Month Return: -2.3%
Martin Zweig Growth Screen

A Growth at a Reasonable price (GARP) investing strategy that uses both fundamental analysis and market timing. It focuses on strong growth in earnings and sales, a reasonable price-earnings ratio given the company's growth rate, insider support, and relatively strong price action. Martin E. Zweig was a reputed US growth money manager back in the 1990’s as well as an investment newsletter writer. He was named stock picker of the year 2 times in a row and wrote a book titled “Winning on Wall Street”, which outlines his investing strategy. Zweig is essentially a growth investor but with a conservative streak, focusing on selecting growth stocks with certain value characteristics, through a system that uses both fundamental analysis and market timing. more »

Growth Investing
6 Month Return: -2.5%
Price Momentum Screen

A momentum screen based on buying prior winning stocks and selling short prior losers based on the empirical observation that Investments exhibit persistence in their relative performance. Buying winners inherently conflicts with the contrarian philosophy that is part and parcel of many successful investors. Nevertheless, it has long been noted by traders that good performing investments tend to continue to do so, whereas those that have performed relatively poorly tend to continue on the same path. This screen looks for high relative strength in the last six to twelve months compared with the market (top 25%) - relative strength doesn't work over short timeframes, such as one month. It excludes the most illiquid stocks, i.e. the bottom 25% of stocks based on market capitalisation. You can read more here.  more »

Momentum Investing
6 Month Return: -2.6%
Benjamin Graham NCAV Bargain Screen

This is a deep value screen based on Ben Graham's writings. It is a simplistic screen which just looks for stocks where the market cap is less than net current asset value. It is not to be confused with his more involved Enterprising Investor and Defensive Investor criteria which have been modelled separately. As a reminder, NCAV = Current Assets - Total Liabilities. That's a stringent requirement, since most companies have negative NCAVs but Graham was looking for firms trading so cheap that there was little danger of falling further. In addition, Graham would have requested a margin of safety of at least 33%, so his P/NCAV threshold would have been 0.66. Graham argued such companies were typically priced at significant discounts to the likely value that stockholders could receive in an actual sale or liquidation of the entire corporation. Because of the kind of unloved/troubled companies it generates, this is not a strategy for the faint-hearted. Graham sought safety from individual bankruptcy risk by diversifying his portfolio with a large numbers of companies – he suggested 30.   more »

Bargain Stocks
6 Month Return: -3.6%
Philip Fisher Growth Screen

This is a growth screen based on the approach of the late Phil Fisher, one of the great investors of all time and the author of the classic book Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits. Fisher started his money management firm, Fisher & Co., in 1931 and over the next seven decades made tremendous amounts of money for his clients. Philip Fisher had a famous 15 point checklist for investing in stocks. Even though it includes numerous qualitative factors, it's possible to glean some key quantitative criteria too: Consistently strong profitability; Consistent sales growth; Growth exceeding industry norms; Little or no dividend payout; and Reasonable price compared to future growth prospects You can read more about Philip Fisher's approach here. more »

Growth Investing
6 Month Return: -4.0%
Jim Slater ZULU Principle Screen

The Zulu Principle is an investment strategy made famous by Jim Slater in the book of the same name. It is a GARP investing style which uses a combination of growth and value, looking for shares where brokers are forecasting high earnings growth, but which are currently valued at a price that is low relative to their forecast earnings. The strategy aims to capture growth companies at a reasonable price by using the PEG Ratio. Slater uses forecast earnings to calculate both PER and the EPS Growth Rate. As Slater puts it: "I have always been attracted to growth shares, particularly those that can be purchased at what I perceive to be a discount to their proper value”.  more »

Growth Investing
6 Month Return: -4.3%
Bold Earnings Revisions Screen

This screen seeks to identify stocks that have experienced recent revisions in the earnings estimates. Specifically, it looks for stocks that have seen one analyst revision in the last week/month, to try to see if there is an analyst moving away from the consensus. This follows research that showed "bold" estimates like this have a significant impact on share price performance. Note: that this screen on its own isn't able to only pull back revisions that are "bold" (moving away from the consensus), as opposed to revisions that are "herding" (moving closer to the consensus). This will need to be done by analysing the actual list of companies produced in more detail. more »

Momentum Investing
6 Month Return: -5.4%
R&D Breakthroughs Screen

This screen seeks to identify research-led businesses that are investing significantly in future development in order to try to identify their potential future growth before the market does.  As Jack Hough notes, "When a company announces a breakthrough drug or a sudden advance in computer-chip technology, its shares often soar right away. Imagine being able to foresee which companies are due for such lucrative discoveries". Specifcially, the screen looks for R&D investment levels that are increasing and which equal at least 5% of annual sales and 5% of total assets. It also looks for Price to R&D ratios that are below 20x. more »

Quality Investing
6 Month Return: -5.4%
Altman Z-Score Screen

This is a short-selling strategy based on the Altman Z-score which combines five weighted business ratios to estimate the likelihood of financial distress. The idea is that, if the Altman Z-Score is close to or below 3, it is wise to do some serious due diligence. The Z-score results usually have the following "Zones" of interpretation: any Z-Score above 2.99 is considered to be a safe company. Anything below 1.80 is in the distress zone, with a strong likelihood of the company going bankrupt within the next two years, while anything between 1.80 and 2.99 is in a "grey zone". In line with Altman's result, this work is based on last annual reported results and does not factor any interim updates. According to the research, the Altman score does experience false positives (i.e. classifying the firm as bankrupt when it does not go bankrupt) in approximately 15-20% of cases. more »

Short Selling
6 Month Return: -5.9%
Greenblatt's Magic Formula

This screen implements the Magic Formula value investing strategy pioneered by hedge fund manager, Joel Greenblatt. It is based on buying 20-30 "good, cheap companies" defined as having the best available combined MFI ranking in terms of Earnings Yield and a Return on Capital.  Greenblatt argues that return on capital is the best determinant of whether a business is a good one or not (companies that can earn a high ROC over time generally have a special advantage that keeps competition from destroying it, such as a unique business model). Earnings yield is his metric for 'cheapness'. Greenblatt believes that stock prices of a firm can experience “wild” swings even as the value of the company stays relatively constant giving investors opportunities to buy low and sell high. more »

Quality Investing
6 Month Return: -6.1%
Piotroski F-Score Price to Earnings Value Screen

The Piotroski F-Score screen aims to identify deep bargain-bucket stocks that are in recovery.  Josef Piotroski, a finance professor, recognized that, while it has long been shown that bargain stocks have strong collective returns, there is very wide individual variability. What he wondered was whether it was possible to weed out the poor performers and identify the winners in advance. He therefore sought to develop a simple accounting-based scoring system for evaluating a stock’s financial strength. Piotroski's F-Score looks at value stocks and tests nine variables from a company’s financial statements. One point is awarded for each test that a stock passes. Piotroski regards any stocks that scored eight or nine points as being the strongest. In this version of the screen, Price to Earnings, rather than Price to Book, is used as the measure of "cheapness".  more »

Value Investing
6 Month Return: -6.3%
Benjamin Graham Net Nets Screen

This strategy is one of Ben Graham's most famous bargain stock strategies aiming to find stocks trading for less than their liquidation value.  The idea is to find stocks  trading at such a cheap price that you could buy the whole company and sell off all the assets at a profit with near minimal risk.    It is a simplistic screen which just looks for stocks where the market cap is less than the so called 'Net Net Working Capital'  (defined as  Cash and short-term investments + (75% of accounts receivable) + (50% of inventory) - All Liabilities).  The formula is very conservative in estimating the value of inventory and receivables due to the likelihood that not all will be collectible in a firesale. About such stocks Graham wrote: ‘ No proprietor or majority holder would think of selling what he owned at so ridiculously low a figure…In various ways practically all these bargain issues turned out to be profitable and the average annual result proved much more remunerative than most other investments’. This is not a strategy for the faint-hearted due to the high risk companies that qualify. Graham sought safety from individual bankruptcy risk by diversifying his portfolio with a large numbers of companies – he suggested 30. more »

Bargain Stocks
6 Month Return: -6.8%
Benjamin Graham Defensive Investor Screen

A demanding intrinsic value-based screen designed for less experienced investors which focuses on “important” companies with long histories of profitable operations and strong financial condition. Graham felt defensive investors should confine their holdings to the shares of large, prominent, and conservatively financed companies with long histories of profitable operations. By this, he meant a firm of substantial size and with a leading position in its respective industry. Additionally, Graham sought companies with: 1) Strong financial position (based on the current ratio & debt to working capital). 2) 20 years of uninterrupted dividends 3) No negative earnings in the last 10 years & a 10-year annual earnings growth rate of at least 3% 4) A reasonable price-earnings ratio & a moderately low ratio of price to assets more »

Bargain Stocks
6 Month Return: -9.9%
Earnings Downgrade Momentum Screen

This is a strategy that aims to zero in on stocks where brokers are downgrading their earnings estimates.  In theory, this is a short-selling strategy! The idea is that brokers have a behavioural bias which anchors their new estimates too closely to their previous estimates thus making a high likelihood that earnings estimates will continue to fall in future. Continuing earnings estimate downgrades can be negative for stock prices.   However, research has shown that investing on the basis of broker recommendations does not generally work because of the bias in those recommendations. Research suggests that focusing on positive recent changes in broker recommendations may be more fruitful, particularly in combination with other signals, although this doesn't appear to be true for downgrades. You can read more here.  more »

Short Selling
6 Month Return: -11.9%
Earnings Upgrade Momentum Screen

A momentum screen based on buying stocks with rising analyst earnings estimate revisions in light of empirical findings that stocks with their estimates revised often outperform the market over at least the next 12 months. Although investing on the basis of broker recommendations alone does not appear to be a successful strategy because of the bias in those recommendations, research suggests that focusing on recent changes in broker recommendations is more fruitful, particularly in combination with other signals. You can read more here.  more »

Momentum Investing
6 Month Return: -14.3%
Trading below Cash Screen

This screen is loosely based on the "Cash Index" approach outlined by James Altucher in his book, "Trade Like Warren Buffett". He suggests a multi-pronged approach to analysing potential bargain/arbitrage stocks in times of market distress (post 2001 bubble / Iraq War). First of all, he suggests that it's important to recognise that these stocks are likely to be trading for less than cash for a reason, namely the mar­ket thinks they will eventually declare bankruptcy. Some of the possible risks include: i) Inaccurate reflection of "cash on hand" in their books (leases, severance packages, etc), ii) Business model destined to fail, iii) Management with no incentive to return value to shareholders. To minimise risk of buying a turkey, Altucher looks for eight factors: i) Market cap below cash, ii) Very low leverage, iii) Enough cash headroom to cover the current annual burn-rate, and iv) some stability in revenues and earnings. In addition to these easily-screenable criteria, he suggested looking out for more qualitative factors: v) A reasonable belief that the sell-off in the stock was partly irrational, vi) Favorable arbitrage analysis - , i) Insider buying and viii) Institutional ownership.  more »

Bargain Stocks
6 Month Return: -16.4%
Earnings Surprise Screen

When companies report earnings significantly higher than analyst's earnings estimates the result is known as an 'earning's suprise'.  While earnings surprises often create spikes in the share price on the day of the announcement, they have also been observed to trigger longer term increases in the share price.  This effect is known as the  "Post Earnings Announcement Drift" and can last for several weeks or even months after the announcement date.  The effect is generally attributed to the fact that analysts are slow to revise their forecasts and the market does not fully react to the information about future growth conveyed by the earnings surprises.  The idea behind the strategy is to buy stocks that report earnings surprises and hold them over this time period. Positive surprises often happen at the beginning of a turnaround, or a new growth cycle where sales start to accelerate beyond the historical rates, “surprising” the analyst community.  You can read more here. more »

Momentum Investing
6 Month Return: -16.5%
James Montier 'Unholy Trinity' Screen

This is a three point short selling screen based on the approach outlined by James Montier in 2008 to identify potential candidates in weak markets.   1. High Valuation (Price to Sales Ratio > 1) - Calling the Price to Sales ratio 'insane' as a valuation measure due to its lack of focus on profitability,  Montier first screened for companies trading at a multiple of at least 4 times sales. 2. Weak Fundamentals  (F Score < 4) -  With the valuation side covered, he then qualified this list by screening for the financially weak companies having a Piotroski F Score of 3 or less.  3. Poor Capital Discipline (Asset Growth > 10%) -  But unsatisfied with only focusing on high valuation and weak fundamentals, Montier also showed that company executives were often wasteful capital allocators; research showing that companies with low asset growth rates highly outperform companies with high asset growth rates by 13% annually.  more »

Short Selling
6 Month Return: -16.5%
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