Timing the market or buying cheap?

A few days ago, we wrote a blog post Timing the market …. I got a call from a friend, Priyesh Sampat, who read the post and had a question. He asked about a certain strategy adopted by some financial advisors, which changes the allocation between equity and debt based on the P/E ratio (or P/BV ratio) of the market. Even some fund houses have schemes that change the allocation between equity and debt based on certain valuation parameters.

I did not refer to such a strategy, which I would call tactical asset allocation strategy based on market valuations. Market timing generally means getting completely out of a scheme or an asset category based on a negative view. In case of tactical allocation, one would change the allocation but not reduce the same to zero.

Here is an excerpt from the book that talks about the relation between valuation at the beginning and the next five year returns:

Stock markets have enormous amounts of data and hence we decided to take an example from that market. We have taken the PE ratio as an indicator of valuation and the Nifty Total Return Index as a proxy for the equity asset class.

The PE ratio is derived by dividing the current market price of a share by the profit per share of the company. Since both these are mentioned on a per share basis, one can also calculate the PE ratio by dividing the company’s market capitalization by the profit generated by the company. The higher the ratio, the more costly the share; and lower the ratio, the cheaper the share.

The PE ratio is a function of too many parameters in case of a company and hence it is very difficult to generalize the above line while comparing two different companies. At the same time, when we are looking at a broader (diversified) index, the PE ratio could act as an indicator of valuation of the overall market or a segment of the same. Over the last two decades, since the inception of the National Stock Exchange, the PE ratio for the index has moved between roughly 9 at the bottom to 29 at the top.

The Nifty Total Return Index (TRI) is constructed using the same composition as the CNX Nifty Index, with the dividends paid by the companies reinvested in the index. Thus, the Nifty TRI could be helpful to calculate the total returns generated by the index – the sum of both the change in the index value plus the dividends thereof.

Below is a graph of the 5-year return from the Nifty TRI against the Nifty PE ratio at the start of the investment period.

PE ration vs future returns

(Source: Nifty TRI and Nifty PE ratio data from www.nseindia.com)

It is clear from the above chart that investments made at lower valuations have generally delivered higher returns. However, if the investments have been made at high PE ratios, the future returns have been lower.

#RidingTheRollerCoaster – 184

Advertisements

Timing the market …

Who says timing the market is impossible? Look at the behavior of most of the investors and you will be amazed to see their impeccable sense of timing: Consistently, they buy high and sell low.

Read the excerpt below from the book, “Riding The Roller Coaster – Lessons from financial market cycles we repeatedly forget”

If the market valuations are high, an investor would be better off having a lower allocation to equity and vice versa. Let us check this with the reality. Do investors at large follow this rule? Some of the data points are presented here for a quick check on the above.

During the quarter of December-2007 to February-2008, the Sensex was at around 19,000 points. It was in the same range in the quarter of July-2013 to September-2013. However, in the first period, investors across the country invested close to Rs. 25,000 crores in equity mutual funds, net of redemptions. In the second period, mutual funds saw an exodus of Rs. 3,600 crores after adjusting for purchases. Subsequent to the huge inflows, the Sensex went down from 19,000 to 9,000; whereas after the huge redemptions, the same went up from 19,000 to 28,000. If the investors were right as a group, the reverse should have happened. (These numbers and periods have been taken randomly. To put things into perspective, compare the Sensex level with the net flows in equity mutual funds).

Buy high, sell low seems like the mantra that people follow on average. However, as logic would suggest that mantra would be the surest road to disappointment, if not ruins.

#RidingTheRollerCoaster – 181