Joel Greenblatt on How to Achieve a 40% Return a Year

Joel Greenblatt on How to Achieve a 40% Return a Year

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00:00
so if you believe what ben graham said that this horizontal line is fair value and this wavy line around that horizontal line are stock prices and you have a disciplined process to buy perhaps more than your fair share when they're below the line and if so inclined sell or short more than your fair share when they're above the line the market is throwing us pitches all of the time
00:31
so even warren buffett says the vast majority of people should index and i agree with him so are there any questions or do i have any time then again i get well i have time so uh then again you know warren buffett doesn't index and neither do i so i thought i'd tell you why uh and then maybe you'll have some more information to decide for yourself what makes makes sense for you and in a sense it
01:04
shouldn't be that hard i actually i had a friend uh who's an orthopedic surgeon and is in charge of a group of orthopedic surgeons and he asked me to speak to them at a dinner about the stock market and i said okay these are smart educated guys they can understand this stuff and i spoke for about 35 minutes explaining how the stock market worked and everything else and then i started getting questions along the lines of oil went down two dollars yesterday what should i do or market was up two percent yesterday uh what do i do about that
01:36
so my interpretation of those questions was i had just crashed and burned so last year uh i was lucky enough to be asked to teach a 9th grade class a bunch of kids mostly from harlem and i had just sort of crashed and burned with the orthopedic surgeons and i didn't want to do that with the kids uh and so i started to try to think of what could i do uh to explain the stock market a little bit better uh and so i walked into class the first
02:06
day uh and i handed out a bunch of three by five cards and i asked uh i brought in this jar of jelly beans right here and uh i asked uh the students uh you know passed around the jar jelly beans asked them to count the rows do whatever they wanted to do and write down their best guess for how many jelly beans were in the jar collected the three by five cards then i went around the room one by one to each one of the kids in the room uh and i said listen you can keep your
02:37
guests you can change your guests that's up to you and i went one by one around the room asked people how many and wrote down the the various guesses so it turned out the uh guess uh the average of the guesses for the three by five cards was 1771 jelly beans uh there are 1776 jelly beans in the jar so that was pretty good uh the guests when i went around the room uh that was 850 jelly beans uh and i explained to them that the
03:08
stock market's actually a second guest okay because everyone knows what they just read in the paper what the guy next to them said what they saw in the news and are influenced by everything around them and that was the second guess and that's the stock market the cold calculating gas when they were counting rows and trying to figure out what was going on that's actually was the better guess that's not the stock market but that's where i see our opportunity you know once a year in my class at columbia i uh at least for the last five six
03:40
years somebody raises their hand and asked a question that goes something along the lines something like this hey joel congratulations you've been doing this for 35 years and you've had a nice record but now there are more computers there's more data there's more ability to crunch numbers and kind of isn't the party over for us isn't it just more hedge funds there's just a lot more competition isn't the party over for us so my students are generally second year mbas i'd say average age 27 or so
04:12
so i just answer it this way i tell let's go back to when you learn how to read uh let's take a look at the most followed market in the world that would be the united states let's take a look at the most followed stocks within the most followed market in the world those would be the s p 500 stocks let's take a look at what's happened since you learned how to read so i tell them from 1997 uh when they were 9 or 10 uh to 2000 the s p 500 doubled from 2000 to 2002 it halved from 2002 to
04:44
2007 it doubled from 2007 to 2009 it halved and from 2009 to today it's roughly tripled which is my way of uh telling them that people are still crazy that was just the last 17 years uh and i'm way understating the case because the s p 500 is an average of 500 stocks if you lift up the covers and look underneath what's going on this huge dispersion of those 500 stocks between those at any particular time that are in favor and those that are out of favor and so there's a wild ride going underneath the covers if you look under
05:16
the covers the wild ride of those 500 stocks at any particular time and that doubling and having doubling and having with the average of 500 stocks really smoothing the ride so there should be an opportunity and if you understand what stocks are and i uh guarantee my students first day of class i make a guarantee every year they walk in and i guarantee them this if they do good valuation work of a company i guarantee them the market will agree with them i just never tell them when could be a couple weeks could be two or three years
05:47
but if they do good valuation work the market will agree with them stocks are not pieces of paper that bounce up and down you put complicated ratios on like sharp ratios or certain ratios stocks are ownership shares of businesses that you are valuing and if so inclined tried to buy at a discount so if you believe what ben graham said that this horizontal line is fair value and this wavy line around that horizontal line are stock prices and you have a disciplined process to
06:19
buy perhaps more than your fair share when they're below the line and if so inclined sell or short more than your fair share when they're above the line the market is throwing us pitches all of the time uh the reason people don't outperform the market they're a behavioral problem there are agency problems but it's not because we're not getting those opportunities i will show you briefly let me tell you how we value stocks it's not very tough and i think most of
06:48
you will understand it uh and i think the best example that resonates seems to resonate with most people is thinking about buying a house and to keep the numbers simple let's say that someone is asking a million dollars for the house they want to sell and your job is to figure out whether that's a good deal or not so there's certain questions you would ask first one of the first questions i'd ask is well how much rents could i get for that thing okay so in other words if i rented out that million dollar house how much rent would i collect
07:22
if i uh we're going to collect 70 80 90 000 a year seven eight nine percent yield on that house that's one way i might go about valuing it and what's the next question you would ask i'm pretty sure i know what it would be uh what are the other houses on the block going for in the block next door in the town next door how does this compare how relatively cheap is this relative to all my current choices so that's what we do we look at how relatively cheap is this business relative to other similar businesses relative to a whole universe of choices that i have
07:55
we do that we also go back in history look at how this company or this house has traditionally been valued versus other ones in the neighborhood or versus uh other communities and how is it being valued now so measures of absolute relative value absolutely cheap you know on a rental basis absolutely cheap or relatively cheap on all different kinds of measures that that makes sense to you now you wouldn't use any of these measures all by themselves if you just use relative cheapness uh if some of you remember the internet bubble
08:26
and you bought the cheapest internet stock that wasn't cheap it was just cheap relative to all the other crazy priced uh stocks at the time but we users are we use our measures of absolute relative values checks and balances against each other try to zero in on fair value so when you do this uh just want to show you a simple chart uh this is actually a study we did of our evaluation methodology very very similar to the way i just said we value a house this is how we we looked at the
08:55
2000 largest companies in the u.s over a 20-year period this was 1992-2012 and we rank them on a daily basis from one to two thousand based on their discount to our assessment of value using these metrics the x-axis here you probably can't see it uh is just a valuation percentile all this means is if you're in the bottom left-hand corner and you're in the first percentile you're the 20 companies at any particular time out of those 2000 that measured cheapest according to our measures of absolute relative value uh go to the 99th percentile uh
09:28
you would be the 20 companies that measure most expensive out of those 2 000. the y-axis is uh the year forward return on average during those 20 years what this chart simply says is on average stocks that fell in our first percentile the cheapest 20 uh averaged a one-year forward return during those 20 years of 38 percent stocks that ranked in our second percentile averaged a one-year forward return of about 37 percent and then we dropped down to this best fit line which we always say we don't mind missing when we're making extra money and then as we measure something more
09:59
expensive the year forward return drops and if you were sitting in my class at columbia and i said hey does anyone see a long short strategy you might pursue if you could predict ahead of time which stocks would do best second best third best in order and you did not say i guess i'd buy these guys up here in the upper left hand corner and short these guys in the bottom right hand corner if you didn't say that i'd probably throw you out of class because it's very straightforward that's what you should do and by the way that's what we do the important thing to understand is that stocks are ownership shares of businesses
10:29
okay now uh by the way that beautiful chart i showed you with the 90 fit you know why doesn't everyone do this uh well unfortunately it doesn't look like that when you're living through that that's an average over 20 years if i showed you a snippet of three or four years uh if it would be nice it might be 0.55 0.6 something like that but uh it's not going to be very cooperative right if what we did worked every day and every month and every year everyone would do it it would stop working but but it uh
11:00
it it doesn't unfortunately uh but the reason that we stick to what we're doing even when it's not working is that chart meaning the way we value companies our measures of absolute and relative value or approximately how the market values them over time if we were for instance momentum investors okay and i will tell you that uh for those of you who know what that means uh momentum has been studied uh across the globe over the last 30 40 years in the us it's worked pretty much everywhere
11:31
uh not all the time but on average it's worked very well over 30 40 years and not just in this country but here's the problem what if it didn't work over the next two or three years it could be uh that we just have to be patient you know it's it works over time and it's cyclical and so it's out of favor and we just have to stick to our guns because it's something that's worked or it could be if it didn't work in the next two or three years that the explanation is hey it's not so
12:02
hard to figure out a stock used to be down here and now it's up here it's got good momentum and with all the data and the ability to crunch numbers and computers and studies that have come out it's a crowded trade it's degraded it's not as is not as good as it used to be and if that's what happened over the next two three years i would know the answer to that question i didn't know which one it was should i just be patient or has the trade degraded but if you view stocks as ownership shares of businesses that you value and try to buy at a discount and that doesn't work for a couple of years
12:33
i'm not going to change what i'm doing i'm not going to buy the bottom uh right right-hand corner you know by all the money losers and the companies uh that don't earn anything or trading at 100 times free cash flow i'm not going to buy those even if it works in one particular year and then sell the ones that are cheap relative to everything get me high rents and everything else i'm not i'm not going to change my strategy uh and i believe that uh stocks will eventually not right now but eventually uh people will get it right and i may have to be patient that's really what i have to do
13:04
what that chart tells me is i'm on the right track meaning that's sort of our true north and we just have to be patient to get there uh the reason that these simple metrics don't get arbitraged away is the example i uh usually use for arbitrage is uh oh you see gold in new york at twelve hundred dollars and and it's selling at london simultaneously at 1201. well and arbitrage sitting on a trading desk someplace we'll see that and buy up gold in new york at 1200 and push the price up a little bit he'll simultaneously sell gold in london at
13:35
1201 push the price down and they'll convert someone somewhere in the middle it'll happen so fast on a trading desk that you don't really even get to see that but what if i told you you could buy gold in new york today at 1200 sometime in the next two three years you're gonna make money but you could lose twenty percent of your money while you're waiting there's no guy sitting on a desk anywhere that really uh can do that and and frankly uh time horizons are getting shorter uh it used to be when i was uh younger i used to get quarterly statements and most people would throw them in the garbage now you can check your stock
14:06
price 30 times a minute on the internet maybe some of you do uh and time horizons are shrinking and we're just playing time arbitrage we're being patient buying cheap good businesses and waiting for the market to recognize the value we see

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