A comprehensive (and demonstraby successful) investment approach - beyond mere stock screening, June 13, 2009
By William L. Lyman "FreeMarket" (ATLANTA, GA USA) - See all my reviews
The CANSLIM stock investing methodology outlined in "How to Make Money in Stocks" is a time tested method that incorporates how the equity (stock) market(s) really work - for the passive, minority, outside investor. It is a 80/20 approach (with William O'Neil's approach, proprietary metrics and tools you can achieve 80% of the success with 20% of the effort) and explicitly rides the coattails of the market (read and react - don't fight/argue with the market). This system *IS* designed for the individual investor and small professional investor - I'm not sure it would scale for $250 million portfolios and above (but I'm not sure that it wouldn't either).
CANSLIM is part fundamental (here earnings growth is the primary focus), part structural, part timing/technical and part money/risk management (this part is **crucial** to investment success). The vast amount of other investing books will typically provide only a screening/selection approach, but "How to Make Money in Stocks" provides a comprehensive investment approach including stock selection, portfolio composition, selling criteria and money/risk management.
In short - buy stocks that have a reason to go up (a new product/management catalyst, a leading stock in one of the top 20% of the 196 IBD industry groups, strong earnings growth (>25%), solid Return on Equity (> 17%), reasonable leverage, etc.) when the stock is poised to breakout (strong and increasing institutional shareholder support, has outperformed at least 80% of the market over the previous 52 weeks, the stock is consolidating after a price run-up and breaks-out on trading volume that is significantly higher than the average trading volume over the last 50 days, etc.) and finally - and this is important - scale into your positions, pyramid up in the first 5% or price appreciation and cut you losses when the stock moves against you at 7-8% from your purchase price - NO QUESTIONS/NO EXCUSES/NO RATIONALIZATION.
Check out the independent and unbiased American Association of Individual Investors (AAII Dot Com) - they have tracked the monthly performance of 56 stock screens since January 1998 (now 11+ years) and the CANSLIM screen is consistently in the top 3 screens with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) over that time in excess of 25%. While the AAII "recipe" for CANSLIM (and other screens for that matter)is a simplified approach and does not implement a strict constructionist approach (and contains buy rules only - no sell rules, just monthly re-screening - and no money/risk management techniques), it is an OUTSTANDING educational tool to learn about the pros and cons of the various stock screens and provides a starting point for anyone considering CANSLIM for their portfolios.
I personally have used CANSLIM with tremendous success since the late 1980s and participate in our local Meetup (AAII-atlanta Dot Com) where we utilize the CANSLIM approach. While most people assume this approach generates outstanding returns in the go-go bull markets (and it does), it really earns its keep in the down markets by utilizing the 7-8% stop loss on a stock by stock basis as part of a concentrated portfolio. It was a financial life safer in 1999/2000 and again in 2008/2009. Value investors (mutual funds), by contrast, were obliterated in 2008 - down some 50-60%! If that great "margin of safety" doesn't pay off in that environment - when does it?!
This growth/momentum approach differs substantially from a valuation driven approach (e.g., the Morningstar 5-star system based Morningstar's estimate of "fair value" of the stock compared to its current stock price). But if you trade based only on your (or a 3rd-party's) estimate of fair value, be prepared for some roller-coaster rides. In fact, check out Morningstar's own performance of their 5-star ranking system for the 2,000+ stocks that they cover and for their tortoise and hare portfolio - it pales in comparison to CANSLIM. The valuation only approach is for full-time professionals only - and even then - only the best of the best have been able to produce reasonable returns over time. Like the choice embedded in the title of Ned Davis's book "Being Right or Making Money", CANSLIM allows you to make money, while the purist value investors will argue about "being right" with *their8 discounted cash flow calculations (if only the market marched to that tune).
And finally, yes, the book discusses the Investors Business Daily (IBD) newspaper (and of course, CANSLIM) as the IBD newspaper and associated website (Investors Dot Com) have the tools to easily implement the CANSLIM methodology (SmartSelect(TM) ratings and other proprietary metrics). And William O'Neil is not just another financial author - he is a very successful investor, entrepreneur and financial data services provider.
I wholeheartedly endorse this book and methodology - and recommend it to EVERYONE who is considering investing directly in common stocks. Even if they pursue another style of investing, there are many excellent lessons to embrace from "How to Make Money in Stocks".