Just as it is easier to draw straight lines than to think in nonlinear terms, it is simpler to buy stocks that have gone up a lot over the previous decade than to remain committed to the ones that have done nothing. However, linearity is for suckers. Success in investing comes from being able to see not what is in front of you but what is lurking just around the corner.Take heavy-equipment makers Caterpillar, Deere & Co. and Joy Global. It is easy to love these deeply cyclical companies, which have benefited from the run-up in commodity prices over the past decade. Their stocks are up manyfold over that period, and for good reason: Their sales and earnings have tripled or quadrupled during that time.
The story only gets better. Earnings for Caterpillar, Deere and Joy Global are expected to continue to grow in the double digits well into this decade. In theory, these American icons should be a value investor’s paradise because, despite their past success and expectations of their future wonderful growth, they are trading at low-double-digit P/Es. Cheap!
But before you run out and spend your hard-earned money on these darlings, let’s see what might be around the corner. The past few years were characterised by fairly robust growth of the global economy. Part of this was simply a recovery from the 2008 crisis; however, a significant part was spurred by global stimulus.
Let’s pause for a second and think about that. The 2008 global recession took place because of substantial borrowing from underreserved financial institutions that went into global malinvestment in fixed assets. That put a hurricanelike tailwind in the sails of deeply cyclical stocks. For eight years, until 2008, their sales and earnings grew as if Google were their middle names. Investors stopped treating them like cyclical stocks; they became deep seculars.
Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, CFA, is Chief Investment Officer at Investment Management Associates in Denver, Colo. He is the author of The Little Book of Sideways Markets (Wiley, December 2010). To receive Vitaliy’s future articles by email, click here or read his articles here.
Read more posts on Contrarian Edge »