Investors: When should you buy or sell?
The act of buying and selling is quite easy, in fact maybe even a little too easy. It is as simple as pressing a button in front of your computer screen but what steps have you taken to make sure you are making the right choice? The question of when investors should buy and sell warrant a more detailed analysis and should have some real thought behind the process.
When to sell: Ideally, we should sell when a stock reaches its fair value. There are 9 other reasons to sell but I won't cover it here. So, what is a stock's fair value? I have covered this plenty of time. But, in general, a stock reaches its fair value when it is yielding 3% above the current free risk interest rate. I am using 10 year treasury bond as a proxy for free risk interest rate. Currently, the 10 year bond is yielding 4.46%. Fair value of a stock is therefore when it is yielding 7.46%. Inverting yield, we then got the widely used Price Earning Ratio. Yield of 7.46% corresponds to P/E ratio of 13.4
When to buy: This is an easier question to answer. We, of course, should buy stock lower than we sell. If we sell the stock at a P/E ratio of 13.4, then we should buy it when the P/E ratio is less than 13.4. How much lower ? It depends on how much return you aim for. If, say, you are aiming for 50% return, then your buying price is when the stock is trading at a P/E of 8.93. If you are aiming for a 34% return, then your buying price is at a P/E of 10.
In short, we should buy at a P/E of 8.93 and then sell at a P/E of 13.4, correct? Yes, but with a lot of caveats. I've covered those caveats in 5 common misuse of P/E ratio. To emphasize, the P/E ratio used here is not trailing P/E ratio, does not ignore the value of cash in the balance sheet, does not ignore one-time event and does not ignore the change in interest rate. At this point, I am ignoring earning growth simply because the fair value calculation is for a company with 0% growth.
You might be wondering where you might find stocks that are trading at a P/E of 13, let alone 8.93. Here is a few candidates to help you getting started. Seagate Technology (STX) has a forward P/E of 7.5 and $ 2.30 per share of net cash in the balance sheet. Western Digital Corporation (WDC) has a forward P/E of 9.75 with $ 2.65 per share of net cash. OmniVision Technologies Inc. (OVTI) is trading at a forward P/E of 10.3 with $ 5.30 per share of net cash. Magna International (MGA) is trading at a forward P/E of 9.72 with $ 4.58 per share of net cash.
Please note that this is not a buy/sell recommendation. You would do very well if you do your own homework.