Topic: Growth Stocks

Investor Toolkit: Profit from the difference between growth and momentum stocks

Growth Stocks

Every Wednesday, we publish our “Investor Toolkit” series on TSI Network. Whether you’re a new or experienced investor, these weekly updates are designed to give you specific investment advice. Each Investor Toolkit update gives you a fundamental piece of investing strategy, and shows you how you can put it into practice right away.

Today’s tip: “To get the maximum reward from rising stocks, it’s essential to pick stocks with clear growth prospects and not simply momentum stocks with uncertain futures.”

By definition, growth stocks are companies that have above-average growth prospects. They are firms whose earnings growth has been above the market average, and is likely to remain above average. It is often the case that they pay small dividends or none at all. Instead, they re-invest their cash flow in the business, to promote their growth.

Although these stocks can be highly volatile, they often make good long-term investments. They may be well-known stars or quiet gems, but they do share one common attribute—they are growing at a higher-than-average rate within their industry, or within the market as a whole, for years or decades.

Understanding two fundamental factors will help you select the growing stocks with the best prospects—and avoid mistakes that can kill your profits:

  1. Know the difference between momentum stocks and growth stocks: It’s very easy to confuse growth stocks with momentum stocks. Like growth stocks, momentum stocks often move up faster than the market averages. But momentum stocks attract a different kind of investor. Growth-stock investors are in for the long haul, while momentum investors aim to profit from short-term trades. Momentum investors are particularly keen to jump in on a so-called “positive earnings surprise.” That’s when a company outdoes brokers’ earnings estimates.
  2. Momentum investors see a “negative earnings surprise” (or lower-than-expected earnings) as a sell signal. They use a number of formulas to make buy and sell decisions, but all come down to “buy on strength and sell on weakness.” So they tend to pile into the same stocks all at once, and the gains that follow are something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The trouble is that when the stock’s rise wanes, momentum investors also try to get out as a group. But there are never enough buyers to accommodate them. That leads to violent fluctuations in the stock’s price.

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  3. Value stocks can lower your portfolio’s volatility: Most successful investors will hold some growth stocks and some value stocks at any given time, depending on where they discover the best opportunities.
  4. Value stocks are stocks trading lower than their fundamentals suggest. They are perceived as undervalued, and have the potential to rise. Many technology stocks, for instance, start out as growth stocks and transition into value stocks. One company that appears to be making this transition successfully, for example, is security and anti-virus specialist Symantec, symbol SYMC on Nasdaq (a stock we analyze in our Stock Pickers Digest newsletter).

    Together, growth stocks and value stocks can form a winning combination. A growth stock can be a top performer while the company is growing. However, a single quarter of bad earnings can send it into a deep, though often temporary, slide. Value stocks can test your patience by moving sluggishly for months, if not years. But they can make up for it by rising sharply when investors discover their true value.

If you invest as we advise—by spreading your investments across the five main economic sectors, investing mainly in well-established companies and staying away from stocks in the broker/media limelight—you will automatically own some growth stocks and some value stocks.

That helps you achieve good results while decreasing volatility. In the end, however, the relative amounts you invest in growth and value stocks are less important than your portfolio’s diversification and overall investment quality.


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