’Magic Numbers’? and Relative Valuations

So many people I speak to, seem to believe there are some magic numbers out there that equate to stock picking success.

So many people I speak to, seem to believe there are some magic numbers out there that equate to stock picking success.

Two things in particular that I hear over and over again when I’m helping people with their screening strategies, relates to P/E Ratios and Price/Book Values.

For some reason, many people believe that P/E Ratios of 20 or less and Price/Book Values of 1 or less are these so-called magic numbers.

Unfortunately, statistics prove otherwise.

Looking at the best performing stocks of 2006 (as qualified by stocks that were trading at $5 or higher at the beginning of the year, traded on average of 50,000 shares a day and that have increased in price by 50% or greater by the end of the year), only 41% of those stocks started with P/E’s (using 12 mo. EPS Actuals) of under 20 while the other 59% were over 20.

This may or may not sound like a big deal. But the point is, if you limited yourself to only those stocks with P/E’s under 20, your screen would have kept nearly 60% of the best performing stocks off of your radar screen. And that is a big deal.

True, there were/are stocks in there with P/E’s under 20, but you would’ve missed a lot of fantastic winners if you excluded those over 20.

As for the Price/Book Value, the median P/B was 2.9 at the beginning of the period and nearly 4 (that’s right, 4!) by the end. Percentage wise, only 2% of the stocks had P/B’s of less than 1 at the start. Which means, using the ‘magic number’ of 1 for a P/B value, would have excluded nearly every top performer of 2006.

So if you’re determined to look for stocks with ‘low’ valuations (P/E, P/B), try looking for ‘low’ valuations as compared to their Industries.

Why? Because 68% of the stocks on that list of winners had P/E’s under the average for their Industry and over 62% had P/B’s under the average for their Industry –- meaning the majority of the best companies would have made thru a relative valuation screen, giving you a chance to buy them.

So instead of thinking about ‘low’ valuations as an absolute number, try thinking about them as a relative measure.

And I’ve found that companies that are outperforming their Industries on earnings but are ‘undervalued’ to their group in terms of valuations are great candidates.

So in this week’s screen, I’m looking for companies with upward price momentum that are trading over $5, have a minimum average trading volume of 50,000 shares a day, have shown positive EPS growth over the last 2 quarters that’s greater than their Industry’s average and have lower P/E’s and Price/Book Values than their Industry’s average.
There were 12 companies that passed this screen for Tues., 1/23/07.

Company

Ticker

Price

Avg 20 Day Volume

Q EPS
this qtr/
prior qtr

Q EPS
last qtr/ prior qtr

P/E using 12 mo EPS

Price/ Book

% Ch Price 12 Weeks

CHEMICALS-DIVERSIFIED

M&F Worldwide

MFW

$30.51

168,805

37.5%

17.65%

19.43

1.61

92.49%

COMPUTER-SOFTWARE

Cognos Inc

COGN

$43.29

1,475,046

50%

64.71%

32.07

5.49

16.31%

FINANCE-INVESTMENT BKRS

Merrill Lync&Co

MER

$96.49

4,128,781

20.5%

22.7%

14.89

2.69

10.95%

FINANCE-INVESTMENT MGMT

Ameriprise Finl

AMP

$56.91

887,240

18.99%

5.33%

17.51

1.85

11.59%

MEDICAL INSTRUMENTS

Thoratec Corp

THOR

$17.88

374,479

16.67%

500%

71.52

2.6

13.74%

MEDICAL-DRUGS

Viropharma

VPHM

$14.77

891,224

32%

108.33%

13.43

3.02

12.32%

POLLUTION CONTROL EQ & SVS

Home Solutions

HSOA

$6.15

638,792

100%

50%

14.64

2.38

16.48%

RETAIL-MAIL ORDER & DIRECT

Pc Connection

PCCC

$15.17

185,359

30.77%

44.44%

36.12

2.23

37.66%

TELECOMMUNICATION EQUIP

Andrew Corp

ANDW

$10.38

1,356,546

66.67%

50%

26.62

1.1

13.2%

INTERNET CONTENT

Cdc Corp

CHINA

$10.00

3,448,265

14.29%

600%

47.62

2.53

51.29%

INTERNET SERVICES

Valueclick Inc

VCLK

$24.66

1,224,382

21.43%

55.56%

46.53

4

27.9%

INTERNET SOFTWARE

Interwoven Inc

IWOV

$15.20

434,901

10%

25%

38.97

2.15

21.8%

Try incorporating some of these ideas into your own stock picking strategies. And while relative valuations aren’t available in most screeners, they are available in the Research Wizard. (Not to mention 650 other items too, and the ability of creating your own.)

Click here to learn more about the Research Wizard stock picking and backtesting software and to sign up for a free trial.
http://researchwiz.zacks.com

Disclosure: Officers, directors and/or employees of Zacks Investment Research may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. An affiliated investment advisory firm may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material.

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