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Screening Strategies

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James Montier 'Cooking the Books' Screen

James Montier Cooking the Books is a short selling strategy based on research by economist and equity strategist James Montier. It uses Low Quality criteria to identify stocks that could be at risk of bad accounting practice. The 6-point C-Score checklist looks at the divergence between net income and cash-flow, increasing days sales outstanding, increasing days sales of inventory, increasing current assets to revenues, declining depreciation relative to property, plant and equipment and high total asset growth. Montier found that the C-Score was even more effective when used to assess stocks that look over-valued on a price-to-sales ratio basis. James Montier wrote: "In good times, few focus on such 'mundane' issues as earnings quality and footnotes. However, this lack of attention to 'detail' tends to come back and bite investors in the arse during bad times." Montier found that stocks with a C-score of 5 and a price-to-sales ratio of greater than 2 tend to generate a negative absolute return of 4% per year. Short selling shares can be very risky but the C-Score can still be used as an indicator of which stocks should be avoided. more »

Short Selling
3 Year Return: -19.2%
Richard Driehaus Screen

Richard Driehaus Momentum is a momentum investing strategy inspired by an approach used by US investor Richard Driehaus. It combines a focus on price and earnings momentum in small and mid-cap companies with strong, sustained earnings growth. Importantly, Driehaus wanted to find companies that had produced significant earnings surprises over the previous year by beating analyst forecasts. Driehaus said: "I would much rather invest in a stock that's increasing in price and take the risk that it may begin to decline than invest in a stock that's already in a decline and try to guess when it will turn around." Driehaus's fund management firm Driehaus Capital Management was reported to have delivered compound annual returns of 30% during the 12 years after it was started in 1980. Driehaus was named in Barron's "All-Century" team of the 25 most influential and powerful mutual fund managers in 2000. more »

Momentum Investing
3 Year Return: -20.4%
Benjamin Graham Defensive Investor Screen

Benjamin Graham Defensive Investor is a demanding, deep value 'bargain' investing strategy based on rules suggested by legendary investor, Benjamin Graham, who wrote The Intelligent Investor. The strategy focuses on value stocks with good quality financial characteristics. It uses price-to-earnings as a valuation measure and looks for larger companies with a consistent track record of earnings and dividend growth, manageable debt and a high current ratio. Ben Graham wrote: "An investment operation is one which, upon thorough analysis, promises safety of principal and an adequate return. Operations not meeting these requirements are speculative." Defensive Investor is a stricter approach than Ben Graham's enterprising strategy, which look for unpopular companies, special situations and 'bargain' issues. more »

Bargain Stocks
3 Year Return: -25.7%
James Montier 'Unholy Trinity' Screen

James Montier Unholy Trinity is a three point short selling strategy inspired by research by economist and equity strategist James Montier called Joining The Dark Side: Pirates, Spies and Short Sellers The approach uses three risk factors to identify stocks that might be overvalued, financially weak and poorly managed. It uses the price-to-sales ratio to find companies that appear to be overvalued based on their revenues. It looks for signs of low quality by finding stocks that score less than 3 out of 9 on the Piotroski F-Score of financial health. Finally, Montier looks for companies where asset growth could be excessive, based on the theory that management tend to be wasteful allocators of capital. James Montier wrote: "It never ceases to amaze me that whenever a major corporate declines the short sellers are suddenly painted as financial equivalents of psychopaths. This is madness, rather than examining the exceptionally poor (and sometimes criminal) decisions that the corporate itself took, the short sellers are hauled over the coals." Montier found that between 1985 and 2007 a portfolio of Unholy Trinity stocks rebalanced annually would have declined over 6% p.a. compared to a market that was rising at the rate of 13% p.a. in Europe. Short selling shares can be very risky but the Unholy Trinity can still be used as an indicator of which stocks should be avoided. more »

Short Selling
3 Year Return: -28.4%
Walter Schloss 'New Lows' Screen

Walter Schloss New Lows is a value investing strategy based on an approach used by Walter Schloss, who was a disciple of value investing legend Benjamin Graham. The strategy uses value and price factors as its main rules. It searches for companies that are trading below book value, using the price-to-book ratio, and at prices that are close to new lows. Schloss said: "We want to buy cheap stocks based on a small premium over book value, usually a depressed market price, a record that goes back at least 20 years?and one that doesn't have much debt." Between 1956 and 2000, Schloss's fund produced a compound annual growth rate of 15.7%. In a 1994 shareholder letter, Warren Buffett wrote: "Walter continues to outperform managers who work in temples filled with paintings, staff and computers. And he accomplishes this feat by rummaging among the cigar butts on the floor of capitalism." more »

Bargain Stocks
3 Year Return: -37.2%
Trading below Cash Screen

James Altucher Trading Below Cash is a bargain investing strategy loosely based on an approach described by US investor and writer James Altucher in his book, Trade Like Warren Buffett. This is a deep value strategy that Altucher found was highly effective in periods of market distress. He acknowledged that stocks that are priced at less than the value of their cash present a challenge to investors. It is difficult to get an accurate view of how much cash is actually in a business, plus they may have broken business models or dis-incentivised management. The strategy looks for stocks with a market cap below cash, low debt, sufficient cash to cover the annual burn-rate and some stability in revenues and earnings. Altucher wrote: "There is always the danger that management doesn't care about the shareholders but instead enjoys sitting on the assets of the company and using it for their personal benefit. Diversification is the tool that we can use to reduce the risk of corrupt, or at best, uncaring, management.? more »

Bargain Stocks
3 Year Return: -51.1%
Negative Enterprise Value Screen

Negative Enterprise Value is a deep value bargain strategy inspired by the writings of investment writer, Jae Jun. It looks for companies that are priced so cheaply by the market that their cash balance is worth more than their enterprise value (the sum of the company's market cap and total long term debts). On paper, these stocks present an arbitrage opportunity: you could buy all of the debt and equity using the company's cash to cover the cost and simply pocket the difference. Jae Jun says: "If done correctly, it looks like this strategy is hugely profitable, but it does come with a lot of volatility." Jae Jun's back-testing for the US market exhibited significant outperformance over a 10 year period. A word of warning: company cash balances change all the time, so it's essential to know precisely how much cash a company has got. Likewise, make sure all debts are taken into account when it comes to calculating enterprise value. more »

Bargain Stocks
3 Year Return: -63.5%
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