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Screening Strategies

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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: -19.0%
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: -19.4%
Walter Schloss 'New Lows' Screen

A value investing screen based on Walter Schloss's dedicated focus on stocks that are hitting new lows and those trading at a price lower than their Book Value per Share.  Schloss summarized his own approach as being: “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. You can read more here. more »

Bargain Stocks
6 Month Return: -20.5%
Piotroski F-Score Price to Book 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 (having a low Price to Book Value) have strong collective returns, there is very wide individual variability. “Embedded in that mix of companies, you have some that are just stellar. Their performance turns around [but] half of the firms languish; they continue to perform poorly and eventually de-list or enter bankruptcy.” 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, i.e. the bottom 20% of the market in terms of price to book value, 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. more »

Value Investing
6 Month Return: -23.3%
Peter Lynch Growth Screen

This is a 'fast growers' screen which looks for consistently profitable, relatively unknown, low-debt, reasonably priced stocks with high, but not excessive, growth. Mr. Lynch developed his investment philosophy at Fidelity, and gained his considerable fame managing Fidelity's Magellan Fund. His selection approach is strictly a bottom-up "buy what you know" one. He suggested focusing on companies familiar to the investor, applying fundamental analysis which emphasizes a thorough understanding of the company, its prospects, its competitive environment, and whether the stock can be purchased at a reasonable price.  It’s frankly impossible to come up with a screen that exactly replicates Lynch’s multi-faceted investing strategy. Nevertheless, the following approach seeks to emulate some of the key elements of his search for “fast growers”. You can read more here. more »

Growth Investing
6 Month Return: -24.3%
Benjamin Graham Enterprising Investor Screen

A hardcore intrinsic value investing screen based on buying with a significant Margin of Safety but not as demanding as Graham's set of Defensive Screen criteria. Despite the name, this is not a growth screen. Graham felt defensive investors should confine their holdings to the shares of large, prominent/important, and conservatively financed companies with long histories of profitable operations. In contrast, entreprising investors could expand their universe outside of these “important” companies. He suggests looking at i) the relatively unpopular large company, ii) “special situations”, and iii) “bargain issues”.  more »

Value Investing
6 Month Return: -27.2%
Negative Enterprise Value Screen

Some companies trade so cheaply that their cash balance is worth more than the company's enterprise value (i.e. the sum of the market cap and total long term debts).  This is known as a negative enterprise value (EV) and searching for such companies is a common bargain stock strategy. While, in theory, a negative EV may seem to be an easy arbitrage opportunity, whereby one could buy all of the debt and equity in a firm and use its cash balance to cover costs and keep the difference, there are a number of reasons to be cautious: Firstly, the enterprise value may not have captured all of the debt outstanding in the firm (e.g. the present value of lease commitments) and secondly the cash balance is from the balance sheet (rather than stated at the today's date used for the market cap). Given how quickly firms burn through cash, what you see on the balance sheet may not reflect what the firm has as of today as a cash balance so be careful! You can read more here. more »

Bargain Stocks
6 Month Return: -33.7%
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