In his latest Q2 2020 market commentary Bill Nygren provided some great insights into his definition of ‘value stocks’ and the reasons why stocks with high P/E’s like Alphabet and Facebook can be considered value stocks. Here’s an excerpt from his commentary:
Many strategists now claim that “value looks cheap compared to growth.” Though I understand what they mean, and even agree with it, the phrase bothers me. To them, “value” is a euphemism for inferior businesses. But “value” and “growth” aren’t opposites.
When we say we are value investors, it doesn’t mean that we limit our investments to below-average businesses. It simply means that we estimate what each business is worth based on its own unique fundamentals and buy only those that are priced well below that estimate.
It’s just logical that the value we ascribe to rapid growth businesses is more than we ascribe to slow growth—or declining—businesses. Using our definition of “value,” rapidly growing companies, like Alphabet and Facebook, are “cheap” today, despite having trailing P/E ratios that are higher than the average stock. And slower growth companies, like banks such as Citigroup and Capital One with trailing P/E ratios that are a small fraction of the average stock, also look cheap.
To us, “value stocks” are always cheap because, by our definition, they are the stocks priced at the largest discounts to our estimates of business value, regardless of their P/Es and growth rates. Notwithstanding our more inclusive definition of value, last quarter, on days the Russell 1000 Value Index outperformed the S&P 500, Oakmark and Oakmark Select performed better than both over 80% of the time. Based on that, we believe that we are well positioned to profit from a recovery of traditional value investing.
When strategists say that value is cheap, they are referring to stocks that are typically priced at a discount to the average stock (using a statistic like P/E or P/B ratio) and are saying that the current discount is larger than it normally is.
That is clearly the case for financial stocks today and is why we have more of your assets invested in that industry than in any other. Over the past 30 years, banks have been priced at an average P/E that is about 33% below the S&P 500. For that reason, they are almost always referred to as “value stocks.”
Because this year won’t be a representative year, P/E ratios based on 2020 earnings provide little information about how a stock is being priced. Using consensus 2021 estimates instead, the banks we own are selling at an average of 9 times earnings while the S&P 500 sells at 19 times. Selling at a P/E discount of 53% to the S&P 500, our banks would have to increase in price by 40% to be priced at their average discount.
You can read his entire market commentary here:
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