In Sir John Templeton’s paper – 16 Rules For Investment Success, he discusses why the best time to buy is when things look darkest. Here’s an excerpt from the paper:
Of course, you say, that’s obvious. Well, it may be, but that isn’t the way the market works. When prices are high, a lot of investors are buying a lot of stocks. Prices are low when demand is low. Investors have pulled back, people are discouraged and pessimistic.
When almost everyone is pessimistic at the same time, the entire market collapses. More often, just stocks in particular fields fall. Industries such as automaking and casualty insurance go through regular cycles. Sometimes stocks of companies like the thrift institutions or money-center banks fall out of favor all at once.
Whatever the reason, investors are on the sidelines, sitting on their wallets. Yes, they tell you: “Buy low, sell high.” But all too many of them bought high and sold low. Then you ask: “When will you buy the stock?” The usual answer: “Why, after analysts agree on a favorable outlook.”
This is foolish, but it is human nature. It is extremely difficult to go against the crowd—to buy when everyone else is selling or has sold, to buy when things look darkest, to buy when so many experts are telling you that stocks in general, or in this particular industry, or even in this particular company, are risky right now.
But, if you buy the same securities everyone else is buying, you will have the same results as everyone else. By definition, you can’t outperform the market if you buy the market. And chances are if you buy what everyone is buying you will do so only after it is already overpriced.
Heed the words of the great pioneer of stock analysis Benjamin Graham: “Buy when most people…including experts…are pessimistic, and sell when they are actively optimistic.”
Bernard Baruch, advisor to presidents, was even more succinct: “Never follow the crowd.”
So simple in concept. So difficult in execution.
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