The Stock Market as a Beauty Contest

“The stock market is the type of beauty contest  in which you choose the girl that most others will find most beautiful, not the girl you find most beautiful.” most difficult.

This points to a key difference between long-term investing using fundamental analysis and trading. In essence the trader/speculator skill’s lies in seeing how others will view events and makes his bets accordingly. This is the case even if someone with an intermediate term horizon relies on fundamentals in their analysis. In contrast the long-term investor (horizon measured in next few years) implicitly trusts not in his or her ability to anticipate how others will react but assumes superior knowledge in anticipating the future fundamentals of a company will enfold and considers if the security is likely to provide a superior return over that longer horizon given how the market usually perceives such a future state on the assumption that the usual influences on a stock short-term will at some point reflect the future values perceived by such an investor. To the extent that the market is driven by the former, opportunities can occur. For example, in a market downturn long-term opportunities may arise but the market could continue falling because of a near-term focus of most market participants. Accumulating a position over time would allow one to avoid buying the possibility of buying at even better future prices while avoiding the possibility of not taking advantage of current prices entirely should the market have reached bottom. Naturally a long-term investor has to be prepared to hold (avoid leveraging) his or her position and for periods of low or negative returns. Naturally that same fundamental investor will improve his or her performance to the extent that he or she can predict how traders will react and impact near to intermediate term price movements to time their own transactions.

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