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Fundamental analysis is the process of looking at the basic or fundamental financial level of a business, especially sales, earnings, growth potential, assets, debt, management, products, and competition. This type of analysis examines key ratios of a business to determine its financial health and gives you an idea of the value its stock.
Many investors use fundamental analysis alone or in combination with other tools to evaluate stocks for investment purposes. The goal is to determine the current worth and, more importantly, how the market values the stock. Usually fundamental analysis takes into consideration only those variables that are directly related to the company itself, rather than the overall state of the market or technical analysis data but here I’m going to describe a top down approach to the typical fundamental evaluation.
It starts with the overall economy and then works down from industry groups to specific companies. As part of the analysis process, it is important to remember that all information is relative. Industry groups are compared against other industry groups and companies against other companies. It is important that companies are compared with others in the same group. First and foremost in a top-down approach would be an overall evaluation of the general economy. When the economy expands, most industry groups and companies benefit and grow. When the economy declines, most sectors and companies usually suffer. Once a scenario for the overall economy has been developed, an investor can break down the economy into its various industry groups. If the prognosis is for an expanding economy, then certain groups are likely to benefit more than others. An investor can narrow the field to those groups that are best suited to benefit from the current or future economic environment. If most companies are expected to benefit from an expansion, then risk in equities would be relatively low and an aggressive growth-oriented strategy might be advisable. A growth strategy might involve the purchase of technology, biotech, semiconductor and cyclical stocks.
If the economy is forecast to contract, an investor may opt for a more conservative strategy and seek out stable income-oriented companies. A defensive strategy might involve the purchase of consumer staples, utilities and energy-related stocks. To assess a industry group’s potential, an investor would want to consider the overall growth rate, market size, and importance to the economy. While the individual company is still important, its industry group is likely to exert just as much, or more, influence on the stock price. When stocks move, they usually move as groups. Once the industry group is chosen, an investor would need to narrow the list of companies before proceeding to a more detailed analysis. Investors are usually interested in finding the leaders and the innovators within a group.
The first task is to identify the current business and competitive environment within a group as well as the future trends. How do the companies rank according to market share, product position and competitive advantage? Who is the current leader and how will changes within the sector affect the current balance of power? What are the barriers to entry? Success depends on an edge, be it marketing, technology, market share or innovation. A comparative analysis of the competition within a sector will help identify those companies with an edge, and those most likely to keep it. At point you will have a shortlist of companies and the final step to this analysis process would be to take apart the financial statements and come up with a means of valuation. Some of the more popular ratios are found by dividing the stock price by a key value driver.
Fundamental Analysis Tools
These are the most popular tools of fundamental analysis. They focus on earnings, growth, and value in the market. For convenience, I have broken them into separate articles. Each article discusses related ratios.
However, before you dive too deep into it, you might want to read this Motley Fool Review to find out how they pick stocks based on company fundamentals.
None of these mean much on their own but when you combine some of them together and adapt your combinations based on the sector the company you’re analyzing is in you will find that they are very good identifying the true value of a stock, thus find you identify the “ticket price” of your potential investment and to determine if your current investments are at or near their full potential. This methodology assumes that a company will sell at a specific multiple of its earnings, revenues or growth. An investor may rank companies based on these valuation ratios. Those at the high end may be considered overvalued, while those at the low end may constitute relatively good value. But it could also mean that the ones on the low end are “bad companies” and are not worth investing in while the ones on the high end could be very good companies which still have room to grow. Remember that the market is usually right in the long run. After all this work you will be left with a handful of candidates and this is where I recommend using technical analysis to develop a trading plan for each one of them.
I know investors tend to shy away from technical analysis but this a grave mistake, in my opinion. Knowing how to read charts and understanding that technical analysis is in fact understanding basic human psychology will help you maximize your gains and minimize your losses; how does that sound to you? So here, in a nutshell, are the advantages and disadvantages of fundamental analysis:
Fundamental analysis is good for long-term investments based on long-term trends, very long-term. The ability to identify and predict long-term economic, demographic, technological or consumer trends can benefit patient investors who pick the right industry groups or companies.
Sound fundamental analysis will help identify companies that represent a good value. Some of the most legendary investors think long-term and value. Graham and Dodd, Warren Buffett and John Neff are seen as the champions of value investing. Fundamental analysis can help uncover companies with valuable assets, a strong balance sheet, stable earnings, and staying power.
One of the most obvious, but less tangible, rewards of fundamental analysis is the development of a thorough understanding of the business. After such painstaking research and analysis, an investor will be familiar with the key revenue and profit drivers behind a company. Earnings and earnings expectations can be potent drivers of equity prices. Even some technicians will agree to that. A good understanding can help investors avoid companies that are prone to shortfalls and identify those that continue to deliver. In addition to understanding the business, fundamental analysis allows investors to develop an understanding of the key value drivers and companies within an industry. A stock’s price is heavily influenced by its industry group. By studying these groups, investors can better position themselves to identify opportunities that are high-risk (tech), low- risk (utilities), growth oriented (computer), value driven (oil), non-cyclical (consumer staples), cyclical (transportation) or income-oriented (high yield).
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Stocks move as a group. By understanding a company’s business, investors can better position themselves to categorize stocks within their relevant industry group. Business can change rapidly and with it the revenue mix of a company. This happened to many of the pure Internet retailers, which were not really Internet companies, but plain retailers. Knowing a company’s business and being able to place it in a group can make a huge difference in relative valuations.
The main disadvantage for me is that if used on its own, fundamental analysis (FA) doesn’t take into consideration the “herd mentality” phenomenon. In the long run, the price per share (PPS) of companies is driven by their earnings, i.e., the profit they’re yielding. In the short term, the momentum can be quite influential on the PPS; I’m sure you’ve noticed that some stock are considered market darlings and, to a certain degree, it doesn’t matter what their quarterly results are; people keep on buying. The same applies for companies that, all of a sudden, fall out of favor for whatever reason, genuine or not. They keep getting hammered regardless of the results the company pumps out, until one day it reverses. FA doesn’t consider this irrational behavior.
Fundamental analysis may offer excellent insights, but it can be extraordinarily time-consuming. Time-consuming models often produce valuations that are contradictory to the current price prevailing on Wall Street. When this happens, the analyst basically claims that the whole street has got it wrong. This is not to say that there are not misunderstood companies out there, but it is quite brash to imply that the market price, and hence Wall Street, is wrong.
Valuation techniques vary depending on the industry group and specifics of each company. For this reason, a different technique and model is required for different industries and different companies. This can get quite time-consuming, which can limit the amount of research that can be performed.
Fair value is based on assumptions. Any changes to growth or multiplier assumptions can greatly alter the ultimate valuation. Fundamental analysts are generally aware of this and use sensitivity analysis to present a base-case valuation, a best-case valuation and a worst-case valuation. However, even on a worst-case valuation, most models are almost always bullish, the only question is how much so.
The majority of the information that goes into the analysis comes from the company itself. Companies employ investor relations managers specifically to handle the analyst community and release information. As Mark Twain said, “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” When it comes to massaging the data or spinning the announcement, CFOs and investor relations managers are professionals. Only buy-side analysts tend to venture past the company statistics. Buy-side analysts work for mutual funds and money managers. They read the reports written by the sell-side analysts who work for the big brokers (CIBC, Merrill Lynch, Robertson Stephens, CS First Boston, Paine Weber, DLJ to name a few). These brokers are also involved in underwriting and investment banking for the companies. Even though there are restrictions in place to prevent a conflict of interest, brokers have an ongoing relationship with the company under analysis. When reading these reports, it is important to take into consideration any biases a sell-side analyst may have. The buy-side analyst, on the other hand, is analyzing the company purely from an investment standpoint for a portfolio manager. If there is a relationship with the company, it is usually on different terms. In some cases this may be as a large shareholder.
When market valuations extend beyond historical norms, there is pressure to adjust growth and multiplier assumptions to compensate. If Wall Street values a stock at 50 times earnings and the current assumption is 30 times, the analyst would be pressured to revise this assumption higher. There is an old Wall Street adage: the value of any asset (stock) is only what someone is willing to pay for it (current price). Just as stock prices fluctuate, so too do growth and multiplier assumptions. Are we to believe Wall Street and the stock price or the analyst and market assumptions? It used to be that free cash flow or earnings were used with a multiplier to arrive at a fair value. In 1999, the S&P 500 typically sold for 28 times free cash flow. However, because so many companies were and are losing money, it has become popular to value a business as a multiple of its revenues. This would seem to be OK, except that the multiple was higher than the PE of many stocks! Some companies were considered bargains at 30 times revenues.
To conclude, fundamental analysis can be valuable, but it should be approached with caution. If you are reading research written by a sell-side analyst, it is important to be familiar with the analyst behind the report. We all have personal biases, and every analyst has some sort of bias. There is nothing wrong with this, and the research can still be of great value. Learn what the ratings mean and the track record of an analyst before jumping off the deep end. Corporate statements and press releases offer good information, but they should be read with a healthy degree of skepticism to separate the facts from the spin. Press releases don’t happen by accident; they are an important PR tool for companies. Investors should become skilled readers to weed out the important information and ignore the hype.
Quantitative and Qualitative
You can define fundamental analysis as “researching fundamentals.” This is not much help to an investor who does not know what “fundamentals” are and how to use them. Basically, fundamentals include things like revenue and profit. Fundamentals also include everything from the company’s market share to the quality of its management.
Fundamental factors are grouped into two categories: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative factors are capable of being measured in numerical terms. Qualitative factors relate to the quality or character of something, as opposed to size or quantity.
Quantitative fundamentals are numeric characteristics about a business. The easiest way to identify quantitative data is the financial statements. Revenue, profit and assets can be measured with great precision.
Qualitative fundamentals are less tangible factors – things like quality of a company’s board members and key executives, its brand-name recognition, patents or proprietary technology.
What Is Fundamental Analysis?
Fundamental analysis (FA) is a method of measuring a security’s intrinsic value by examining related economic and financial factors. Fundamental analysts study anything that can affect the security’s value, from macroeconomic factors such as the state of the economy and industry conditions to microeconomic factors like the effectiveness of the company’s management.
The end goal is to arrive at a number that an investor can compare with a security’s current price in order to see whether the security is undervalued or overvalued.
This method of stock analysis is considered to be in contrast to technical analysis, which forecasts the direction of prices through an analysis of historical market data such as price and volume.
- Fundamental analysis is a method of determining a stock’s real or „fair market“ value.
- Fundamental analysts search for stocks that are currently trading at prices that are higher or lower than their real value.
- If the fair market value is higher than the market price, the stock is deemed to be undervalued and a buy recommendation is given.
- In contrast, technical analysts ignore the fundamentals in favor of studying the historical price trends of the stock.
Understanding Fundamental Vs. Technical Analysis
Understanding Fundamental Analysis
All stock analysis tries to determine whether a security is correctly valued within the broader market. Fundamental analysis is usually done from a macro to micro perspective in order to identify securities that are not correctly priced by the market.
Analysts typically study, in order, the overall state of the economy and then the strength of the specific industry before concentrating on individual company performance to arrive at a fair market value for the stock.
Fundamental analysis uses public data to evaluate the value of a stock or any other type of security. For example, an investor can perform fundamental analysis on a bond’s value by looking at economic factors such as interest rates and the overall state of the economy, then
studying information about the bond issuer, such as potential changes in its credit rating.
For stocks, fundamental analysis uses revenues, earnings, future growth, return on equity,
profit margins, and other data to determine a company’s underlying value and potential for future growth. All of this data is available in a company’s financial statements (more on that below).
Fundamental analysis is used most often for stocks, but it is useful for evaluating any security, from a bond to a derivative. If you consider the fundamentals, from the broader economy to the company details, you are doing fundamental analysis.
Investing and Fundamental Analysis
An analyst uses works to create a model for determining the estimated value of a company’s share price based on publicly available data. This value is only an estimate, the analyst’s educated opinion, of what the company’s share price should be worth compared to the currently trading market price. Some analysts may refer to their estimated price as the company’s intrinsic value.
If an analyst calculates that the stock’s value should be significantly higher than the stock’s current market price, they may publish a buy or overweight rating for the stock. This acts as a recommendation to investors who follow that analyst. If the analyst calculates a lower intrinsic value than the current market price, the stock is considered overvalued and a sell or underweight recommendation is issued.
Investors who follow these recommendations will expect that they can buy stocks with favorable recommendations because such stocks should have a higher probability of rising over time. Likewise stocks with unfavorable ratings are expected to have a higher probability of falling in price. Such stocks are candidates for being removed from existing portfolios or added as „short positions.
This method of stock analysis is considered to be the opposite of technical analysis, which forecasts the direction of prices through an analysis of historical market data such as price and volume.
Quantitative and Qualitative Fundamental Analysis
The problem with defining the word fundamentals is that it can cover anything related to the economic well-being of a company. They obviously include numbers like revenue and profit, but they can also include anything from a company’s market share to the quality of its management.
The various fundamental factors can be grouped into two categories: quantitative and qualitative. The financial meaning of these terms isn’t much different from their standard definitions. Here is how a dictionary defines the terms:
- Quantitative – capable of being measured or expressed in numerical terms.
- Qualitative – related to or based on the quality or character of something, often as opposed to its size or quantity.
In this context, quantitative fundamentals are hard numbers. They are the measurable characteristics of a business. That’s why the biggest source of quantitative data is financial statements. Revenue, profit, assets, and more can be measured with great precision.
The qualitative fundamentals are less tangible. They might include the quality of a company’s key executives, its brand-name recognition, patents, and proprietary technology.
Neither qualitative nor quantitative analysis is inherently better. Many analysts consider them together.
Qualitative Fundamentals to Consider
There are four key fundamentals that analysts always consider when regarding a company. All are qualitative rather than quantitative. They include:
- The business model: What exactly does the company do? This isn’t as straightforward as it seems. If a company’s business model is based on selling fast-food chicken, is it making its money that way? Or is it just coasting on royalty and franchise fees?
- Competitive advantage: A company’s long-term success is driven largely by its ability to maintain a competitive advantage—and keep it. Powerful competitive advantages, such as Coca Cola’s brand name and Microsoft’s domination of the personal computer operating system, create a moat around a business allowing it to keep competitors at bay and enjoy growth and profits. When a company can achieve a competitive advantage, its shareholders can be well rewarded for decades.
- Management: Some believe that management is the most important criterion for investing in a company. It makes sense: Even the best business model is doomed if the leaders of the company fail to properly execute the plan. While it’s hard for retail investors to meet and truly evaluate managers, you can look at the corporate website and check the resumes of the top brass and the board members. How well did they perform in prior jobs? Have they been unloading a lot of their stock shares lately?
- Corporate Governance: Corporate governance describes the policies in place within an organization denoting the relationships and responsibilities between management, directors and stakeholders. These policies are defined and determined in the company charter and its bylaws, along with corporate laws and regulations. You want to do business with a company that is run ethically, fairly, transparently, and efficiently. Particularly note whether management respects shareholder rights and shareholder interests. Make sure their communications to shareholders are transparent, clear and understandable. If you don’t get it, it’s probably because they don’t want you to.
It’s also important to consider a company’s industry: customer base, market share among firms, industry-wide growth, competition, regulation, and business cycles. Learning about how the industry works will give an investor a deeper understanding of a company’s financial health.
Quantitative Fundamentals to Consider
Financial statements are the medium by which a company discloses information concerning its financial performance. Followers of fundamental analysis use quantitative information gleaned from financial statements to make investment decisions. The three most important financial statements are income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.
The Balance Sheet
The balance sheet represents a record of a company’s assets, liabilities and equity at a particular point in time. The balance sheet is named by the fact that a business’s financial structure balances in the following manner:
Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders\‘ Equity
Assets represent the resources that the business owns or controls at a given point in time. This includes items such as cash, inventory, machinery and buildings. The other side of the equation represents the total value of the financing the company has used to acquire those assets. Financing comes as a result of liabilities or equity. Liabilities represent debt (which of course must be paid back), while equity represents the total value of money that the owners have contributed to the business – including retained earnings, which is the profit made in previous years.
The Income Statement
While the balance sheet takes a snapshot approach in examining a business, the income statement measures a company’s performance over a specific time frame. Technically, you could have a balance sheet for a month or even a day, but you’ll only see public companies report quarterly and annually.
The income statement presents information about revenues, expenses and profit that was generated as a result of the business‘ operations for that period.
Statement of Cash Flows
The statement of cash flows represents a record of a business‘ cash inflows and outflows over a period of time. Typically, a statement of cash flows focuses on the following cash-related activities:
- Cash from investing (CFI): Cash used for investing in assets, as well as the proceeds from the sale of other businesses, equipment or long-term assets
- Cash from financing (CFF): Cash paid or received from the issuing and borrowing of funds
- Operating Cash Flow (OCF): Cash generated from day-to-day business operations
The cash flow statement is important because it’s very difficult for a business to manipulate its cash situation. There is plenty that aggressive accountants can do to manipulate earnings, but it’s tough to fake cash in the bank. For this reason, some investors use the cash flow statement as a more conservative measure of a company’s performance.
The Concept of Intrinsic Value
One of the primary assumptions of fundamental analysis is that the currently price from the stock market often does not fully reflect a value of the company supported by the publicly available data. A second assumption is that the value reflected from the company’s fundamental data is more likely to be closer to a true value of the stock.
Analysts often refer to this hypothetical true value as the intrinsic value. However, it should be noted that this usage of the phrase intrinsic value means something different in stock valuation than what it means in other contexts such as options trading. Option pricing uses a standard calculation for intrinsic value, however analysts use a various complex models to arrive at their intrinsic value for a stock. There is not a single, generally accepted formula for arriving at the intrinsic value of a stock.
For example, say that a company’s stock was trading at $20, and after extensive research on the company, an analyst determines that it ought to be worth $24. Another analyst does equal research but determines that it ought to be worth $26. Many investors will consider the average of such estimates and assume that intrinsic value of the stock may be near $25. Often investors consider these estimates highly relevant information because they want to buy stocks that are trading at prices significantly below these intrinsic values.
This leads to a third major assumption of fundamental analysis: In the long run, the stock market will reflect the fundamentals. The problem is, nobody knows how long „the long run“ really is. It could be days or years.
This is what fundamental analysis is all about. By focusing on a particular business, an investor can estimate the intrinsic value of a firm and find opportunities to buy at a discount. The investment will pay off when the market catches up to the fundamentals.
One of the most famous and successful fundamental analysts is the so-called „Oracle of Omaha,“ Warren Buffett, who champions the technique in picking stocks.
Criticisms of Fundamental Analysis
The biggest criticisms of fundamental analysis come primarily from two groups: proponents of technical analysis and believers of the efficient market hypothesis.
Technical analysis is the other primary form of security analysis. Put simply, technical analysts base their investments (or, more precisely, their trades) solely on the price and volume movements of stocks. Using charts and other tools, they trade on momentum and ignore the fundamentals.
One of the basic tenets of technical analysis is that the market discounts everything. All news about a company is already priced into the stock. Therefore, the stock’s price movements give more insight than the underlying fundamentals of the business itself.
The Efficient Market Hypothesis
Followers of the efficient market hypothesis, however, are usually in disagreement with both fundamental and technical analysts.
The efficient market hypothesis contends that it is essentially impossible to beat the market through either fundamental or technical analysis. Since the market efficiently prices all stocks on an ongoing basis, any opportunities for excess returns are almost immediately whittled away by the market’s many participants, making it impossible for anyone to meaningfully outperform the market over the long term.
Examples of Fundamental Analysis
Take the Coca-Cola Company, for example. When examining its stock, an analyst must look at the stock’s annual dividend payout, earnings per share, P/E ratio, and many other quantitative factors. However, no analysis of Coca-Cola is complete without taking into account its brand recognition. Anybody can start a company that sells sugar and water, but few companies are known to billions of people. It’s tough to put a finger on exactly what the Coke brand is worth, but you can be sure that it’s an essential ingredient contributing to the company’s ongoing success.
Even the market as a whole can be evaluated using fundamental analysis. For example, analysts looked at fundamental indicators of the S&P 500 from July 4 to July 8, 2020. During this time, the S&P rose to 2129.90 after the release of a positive jobs‘ report in the United States. In fact, the market just missed a new record high, coming in just under the May 2020 high of 2132.80. The economic surprise of an additional 287,000 jobs for the month of June specifically increased the value of the stock market on July 8, 2020.
However, there are differing views on the market’s true value. Some analysts believe the economy is heading for a bear market, while other analysts believe it will continue as a bull market.
Die Methode zur Vorhersage von Preisen auf dem Devisenmarkt, die auf einer Analyse von wirtschaftlichen Indikatoren und politischen Ereignissen basiert, die eine oder mehrere Länder betreffen.
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Fundamental analysis definition
What is fundamental analysis?
Fundamental analysis is a method of evaluating the intrinsic value of an asset and analysing the factors that could influence its price in the future. This form of analysis is based on external events and influences, as well as financial statements and industry trends.
Fundamental analysis is one of two major methods of market analysis, with the other being technical analysis. While technical traders will derive all the information they need to trade from charts, fundamental traders look at factors outside of the price movements of the asset itself.
Examples of fundamental analysis
There are various tools and techniques that can be used for fundamental analysis, but they have been categorised into two types of fundamental analysis: top-down analysis and bottom-up analysis. Top-down analysis takes a broader view of the economy, starting with the entire market before narrowing down into a sector, industry and finally a specific company. Conversely, bottom-up analysis starts with a specific stock and widens out to consider all the factors that impact its price.
Most fundamental analysis is used for evaluating share prices, but it can be used across a range of asset classes, such as bonds and forex.
The tools that traders might choose for their fundamental analysis vary depending on which asset is being traded. For example, share traders might choose to look at the figures in a company’s earnings report: revenue, earning per share (EPS), projected growth or profit margins. While forex traders may choose to assess the figures released by central banks that allow insight into the state of a country’s economy.
Pros and cons of fundamental analysis
Pros of fundamental analysis
Fundamental analysis helps traders and investors to gather the right information to make rational decisions about what position to take. By basing these decisions on financial data, there is limited room for personal biases.
Rather than establishing entry and exit points, fundamental analysis seeks to understand the value of an asset, so that traders can take a much longer-term view of the market. Once the trader has determined a numerical value for the asset, they can compare it to the current market price to assess whether the asset is over- or under-valued. The aim is to then profit from the market correction.
Cons of fundamental analysis
Fundamental analysis can be time consuming, it requires multiple areas of analysis which can make the process extremely complicated.
As fundamental analysis takes a much longer-term view of the market, the results of the findings are not suitable for quick decisions. Traders looking to create a methodology for entering and exiting trades in the short-term might be better suited to technical analysis.
It is also important to consider the best and the worst-case scenario. While fundamental analysis provides a more well-rounded view of the market, it is possible for negative economic, political or legislative changes to surprise markets.
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