• Introduction: An Old Story
  • The Rich (expensive growth) Get Richer…and Poorer
  • Conclusions & Exhibit

Introduction: An Old Story

A recent article from Bloomberg counted a leading quant from one of the world’s largest asset managers as a believer that there is “no way to tell if betting on ostensibly cheap companies will work again.” Noting that Tesla’s valuation, at 10,392x trailing earnings, 33x book value, and 11x sales made no sense on those metrics, the article suggests the secret to pricing Tesla, ostensibly, lies in using big data to tap into “…social media to gauge employee sentiment…”1 Kailash would like to note the following: if the price paid relative to cash flows is no longer the primary bridge to valuation, capitalism has changed. If markets will now allocate capital based on novel new metrics then corporations have a disincentive to seek profitability.

Unfortunately, Kailash believes the idea that things are different this time to be a very old and very flawed story big-data or no. For investors betting with managers purporting to glean market-beating information from bigdata, we encourage you to read the brilliantly written “Everybody Lies”2 by Harvard trained and former Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Familiarizing yourself with the curse of dimensionality might be important for you and your portfolio. To summarize the book’s finding regarding stocks, Big Data cannot predict which way stocks are headed.

Figure 1 below shows that growth’s lead over value has exploded since we first published the chart in Growth vs. Value: A Predisposition towards the Importance of Price has been Painful. Despite this, Kailash will not abandon a previous approach whose logic we understand (although we find it difficult to apply) even though it may mean foregoing large, and apparently easy, profits to embrace an approach which we don’t fully understand, have not practiced successfully and which, possibly, could lead to substantial permanent loss of capital. As any student of the markets will instantly see – the bolded statement is plagiarism. Those words were written by Warren Buffett in 19673 in response to pressure to pursue the “nifty fifty” whose exorbitant valuations were rationalized using a slew of new valuation methods.

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