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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Book Review: Phil Fisher - Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits

With so much happening in the Indian markets this week, I thought I will revisit one of my favourite investment gurus - Phil Fisher. His seminal classic Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits and Other Writings is a book that every investor should read. 

These are good times to take a step back from the market and read the classics to reinforce our understanding of the long term nature of markets and try to filter out the short term noise from the actual important signals.

Here are Phil Fisher's 8 principles.

Buy into companies that have practical plans for achieving dramatic long-range growth in profits and that have inherent qualities making it difficult for new entrants to share in that growth.
Focus on buying these companies when they are out of favour. That is, when, either because of general market conditions or because the financial community at the moment has misconceptions of its true worth, the stock is selling at prices well under what it will be when its true merit is better understood.

There are a relatively small number of truly outstanding companies. Their shares frequently can’t be bought at attractive prices. Therefore, when favourable prices exist, full advantage should be taken of the situation. Funds should be concentrated on the most desirable opportunities. 
Hold the stock until either (a) there has been a fundamental change in its nature (such as a weakening of management through changed personal), or (b) it has grown to a point where it no longer will be growing faster than the economy as a whole. Only in the most exceptional circumstances, if ever, sell because of forecasts as to what the economy or the stock market is going to do because these changes are too difficult to predict. Never sell the most attractive stocks you own for short-term reasons.

For those primarily seeking major appreciation of their capital, de-emphasize the importance of dividends. The most attractive opportunities are likely to occur in the profitable, but low or no dividend groups. Unusual opportunities are much less likely to be found in situations where a high percentage of profits is paid to stockholders.
Making some mistakes is as much an inherent cost of investment for major gains as making some bad loans is inevitable in even the best run and most profitable lending institution. The important thing is to recognize them as soon as possible, to understand their causes, and to learn how to keep from repeating the mistakes. Willingness to take small losses in some stocks and to let profits grow bigger and bigger in the more promising stocks is a sign of good investment management. Taking small profits in good investments and letting losses grow in bad ones is a sign of abominable investment judgment. A profit should never be taken just for the satisfaction of taking it.
A basic ingredient of outstanding investor is the ability to neither accept blindly whatever may be the dominant opinion in the financial community at the moment nor to reject the prevailing view just to be contrary for the sake of being contrary. Rather, it is to have more knowledge and to apply better judgment, in a thorough evaluation of specific situations, and the moral courage to act “in opposition to the crowd” when your judgment tells you you’re right.
In handling common stocks, as in most other fields of human activity, success greatly depends on a combination of hard work, intelligence, and honesty.

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