Friday, March 21, 2008

Return On Equity Formula For Stock Market Beginners

How can stock market beginners use the return on equity formula to start investing in quality companies?

In recent articles, I've discussed dividend investing, price to earnings ratios and net current asset value as ways for beginners to find value in the stock market. Today I'm going to discuss return on equity, or ROE for short. While dividend yield, price earnings ratios and net current asset value are great methods for value investors to find undervalued stocks, they don't necessarily uncover quality businesses - just cheap ones. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

What Is Return On Equity?

The first thing we should do is define return on equity. In simple terms, ROE is just the rate of return a company earns on it's stockholders' funds. What it represents is the efficiency with which the management of a corporation is able to use its net assets (net assets are total assets less total liabilities). In other words, how much profit is generated from shareholder funds.

How To Calculate Return On Equity.

The return on equity formula or equation can be expressed as follows:

ROE = Net Income / Stockholders' Equity

Net Income, known in some countries as Net Profit After Tax is the total revenue of the company less all expenses including interest and tax. Stockholders' Equity can be calculated by subtracting the total liabilities from the total assets of the business. Because stockholders' equity changes over time, it's common to use average stockholders' equity in this calculation. This means you will need to take an average of the figures as of the start of the year and the end of the year.

Unlike dividend yields and price earnings ratios, ROE is not always published in the financial press. But some of the financial websites (like Yahoo Finance) do publish the figures. However, beginner stock market investors should definitely know how to calculate this financial ratio.

Advantages Of Return On Equity?

As I said at the start of this article, return on equity differs from the value investing types of financial ratios I've discussed in recent articles (P/E, dividend yield, etc) in that ROE is a useful measure of the quality of a company's business. Companies with low P/E ratios and high dividend yields are normally trading at relatively low prices and this is part of what value investors should be looking for. But this doesn't give any indication as to the quality of the company. In fact, often the stock price is cheap because the business is just an average one. That's not to say there may not be value there. I tend to think that there is value in the stock of most corporation if the price is low enough.

By using return on equity, you should be able to find good quality businesses. The theory goes that a superior business is able to achieve and maintain higher returns on its stockholders' funds. A company with a consistently high ROE probably has good quality management or operates a business in an industry with high barriers to entry or both.

Things To Consider When Using Return On Equity.

One of the things to keep an eye on, especially when first starting out in the stock market, is the level of debt. Because of the how return on equity is calculated, high levels of debt can inflate the figures. I wont go into great detail on the maths behind this, but by being more highly leveraged a company can generate higher returns for shareholders given the same level of stockholders' funds. And while these higher returns are good up to a point, you will need to make sure that the company's debt levels are not excessive. I will write more about this in a future article, but using a gearing ratio of 50% makes sense - that is stay away from stock where the gearing ration is greater than 50% if you want to maintain a conservative investment stance - even if the ROE is high.

You may also want to look at return on equity vs return on capital. Return on capital essentially uses total assets instead so it will account for debt levels. I'll write more on this in the future.

Another thing to consider is the industry in which a business operates. I noticed that Wikipedia made the point that consulting businesses which have very low capital requirements tend to have high return on equity ratios. They also note that because of the low barriers to entry they are much more susceptible to competition than companies operating in capital intensive industries. I think another thing to consider here is whether the company has some other intangible asset (think of brand name or intellectual property) which may make it's position more defensible. I'm thinking of a company like Coca Cola which I believe has relatively low capital requirements but which is in a very strong position because of both brand and intellectual property. I think the main point is to compare ROE of companies in the same or similar industries.

Return On Equity And Growth.

ROE in isolation wont necessarily identify growth companies. You will need to have a look at what a company does with its profits. If a corporation has a high rate of return on equity but it pays out all of its profits in dividends, then it's unlikely to be a growth company - that's not to say it's not a good business. But if it's paying out all of it's profits in dividends it probably doesn't have any way in which it can reinvest its profits to grow the business. This may be because it's in a mature industry, or it may be the dominant player in it's industry with no room to grow it's market share. The fact that it earns high returns on its shareholders' funds probably means its a good business - just not a growing one. At the right price, it may still make a good investment though.

If we now look at the opposite situation, where a business earns high return on its equity and pays little of its profits out as dividends, this is a candidate for a growth stock. If it can consistently reinvest profits back into the business and consistently generate a good return on this expanded equity (reinvested profits add to shareholders' equity) then this is most likely a growth stock. Companies like these tend to trade at higher multiples because of the compounding effect of having profits reinvested in the business.

But there are a couple of things to watch out for with growth stocks. A business wont stay in this high growth phase forever. At some point growth will start to slow. Markets and not infinite in size. It will reach a point where the market is saturated, or a competitor may enter the market. So look at the trend of ROE over time. A falling ROE may indicate it's nearing the end of its growth phase.

And this is the other thing to watch out for. As the stock market gets a sniff that growth is slowing, the price will normally be discounted. Stock market participants tend to be very future-focussed. They will try to anticipate when a company will go ex-growth then move on to find the next big thing. Stock market beginners need to make sure they don't pay too much for a growth stock nearing the end of its growth phase.

I've written more than I intended on this subject, so if you've made it this far - well done. There's just one more thing I wanted to mention before I finish up, so bear with me. Joel Greenblatt (I always find that name amusing - like a character out of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - no offense intended to Joel) wrote a book called The Little Book That Beats The Market. Joel seems like a pretty smart guy and in the book he advocates using a variant of return on equity along with a kind of modified price to earnings ratio as a way of ranking stocks. I think there's a lot of merit in this idea as it brings together a measure of quality with a measure of value. I'll need to re-read Joel's work to refresh my memory, but I think that was the gist of it. I will write more about Joel Greenblatt's Magic Formula in a future article.

Well that's definitely enough now. I think this is the longest post I've written so far. Hopefully stock market investing beginners have gained a decent grounding in return on equity after that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stock Market For Beginners - Price & Value

Stock market investing beginners need to understand the difference between price and value.

In my last post Stock Market For Beginners I discussed the basics of what the stock market is and how it works in simple terms. Hopefully those wanting to get started investing in shares will have got a good grounding buy reading the post. If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you go and read it now.

In the article I briefly discussed price and value - two very important investment concepts. I didn't go into the difference in any great detail, except to say that the price of a stock may differ greatly from what the underlying value in the company. Today I want to discuss this concept in greater detail.

The price at which a stock trades is a function of normal market forces - that is supply and demand. Regardless of the underlying value (or lack thereof) in the corporation whose shares are being traded, the price will only be what someone is willing to pay. Human emotions, both fear and greed frequently seem to have a large bearing on the price at which a company's stock changes hands.

We've seen it again and again through the history of stock market investing. The market booms and then it crashes. Think the dot com boom, the crash of 1987 and so on. For those that aren't familiar with these events, the prices of shares increased by a large amount in a relatively short period of time to reach unsustainable levels. As the prices increased, more and more investors (or perhaps more accurately speculators) bought in hoping to make a quick buck. This caused prices to keep rising which in turn led to more buying.

Eventually investor sentiment changed and nobody wanted to buy the shares anymore. Even worse, everyone panicked and tried to sell at the same time. If you'll recall earlier, I said that the price of a share will be whatever someone is willing to pay for it. When nobody wanted the buy the shares, sellers had to drop their price a great deal before anyone was willing to buy.

This brings me the the value of a share as distinct from the price. The value of a stock is dependent on the underlying value of the company which issued it. How much cash can it generate? What are it's assets and liabilities? And so on...

During many past stock market booms, the underlying value of companies didn't increase by very much, yet the price of the stock increased by a great deal. Similarly, when the stock prices of some companies dropped by more than 50% in a matter of days, the value of the companies themselves hadn't changed by anywhere near that much (if at all).

Typically, while the value of a company changes relatively slowly over time, hopefully for the better (but sometimes for the worse), the price of a company's stock changes much more quickly. The stock price of some companies can differ greatly from the underlying value, both on the upside and the downside. This a very important investment concept - the price and value of a stock are not necessarily the same.

This is where value investors like Benjamin Graham used things like Dividend Investing and Price To Earnings Ratios to try to exploit these differences between price and value. Graham believed that if he could buy shares which were at a steep enough discount to their underlying value, he would profit when the share price increased and the gap between price and value closed.

The main thing stock market beginners need to remember is that the price a company's share trades at is based on market forces - the perception that people collectively have of a company. And while this consensus view is mostly correct, there are times when the market get it wrong - but on an individual stock level, but also with regard the stock market as a whole.

You have a choice as to whether to buy or sell at a particular price. Don't take the stock market at face value. Make sure a high-priced stock is worth what is being asked - look at its fundamentals. Exercise some skepticism. Similarly, don't pass over the market pariah until you're sure there is no value there. If the market isn't interested in a particular company and marked its price down, this is a good place to start looking for value. But again, be sure of the fundamentals.

If stock market beginners keep this difference between price and value in mind, they will be well on the way to a successful investing career.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stock Market For Beginners

An introduction to investing in the stock market for beginners.

In this article I will explain the basics of the stock market. Those first starting out in investing need to grasp the basics of what it is and how it works. Who are the participants and how does an ordinary investor fit into the picture? The first thing we need to do is understand some of the basic concepts.

What Is A Stock?

A stock or share represents part ownership in a company or corporation. When you buy a stock you become part owner of a business - it may only be a small fraction of the business, but it's still important to consider yourself an owner. Ownership of the stock entitles you to all of the rights and responsibilities a business owner normally enjoys. You're entitled to share in any profits the company makes. You'll receive the benefits of any success the company has. This could be through share price appreciation, stock dividends, capital returns and so on.

When you buy stock, it's important to understand that you are buying a piece of the business, not just lending the company some money. If you lend a company money (by buying a bond or debenture) you're entitled to receive regular interest payments and a specified rate. Anything the company earns in excess of that amount becomes the property of shareholders. This means that as an owner you can receive potentially unlimited benefits if the company does well.

However, if the company does poorly and doesn't make much money, the creditors (people who decided to lend money to the company) will normally be paid their interest payments before shareholders receive any dividends. And in the worst case, where a company goes out of business and gets wound up, the shareholders stand last in line. Everybody else must be paid in full before shareholders receive a cent. This means employees, other secured and unsecured creditors, the government - everybody gets paid before stock holders. Only if there are excess funds after paying all of these other people and institutions do the owners of the company's stock receive anything.

What Is The Stock Market?

The stock market is an institution which facilitates the buying and selling of shares. It provides a mechanism for owners of listed companies to sell their stock to those interested in buying. The price of a stock at any given time is a basically what someone is willing to pay for it. This is an important concept to grasp and I will explain it more fully in a future post. But for now you just need to understand that price and value are 2 different things. The underlying value of a stock may be vastly different to the price at which it trades.

Where was I? That's right, the stock market is a place where people can buy and sell shares. When (and if) you decide to invest in shares, the stock market is the institution which will facilitate this. Whether you're investing on the NYSE, the NASDAQ, the LSE (London Stock Exchange) or the Bombay Stock Exchange (Indian market), the principles are the same.

What About The Dow, S&P 500 and the FTSE?

When you hear commentators saying things like "...the market was up by 25 points today..." what are they talking about? Normally they're talking about stock market indices. A stock market index is kind of like an average representation of a particular market (or segment). The stock prices of a group of companies is averaged out (it's actually more complex than a simple average but that will do for now) and presented as a single number. That number is then used to give an indication of the direction the market moved on a particular day - ie. up or down - and its relative level over time.

The most well known market index is probably the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) often just called The Dow. The DJIA is comprised of the 30 largest and most widely held companies in the United States. The index is currently comprised of companies like IBM, Microsoft and General Electric. I say currently because the composition of the index changes from time to time. As companies grow and shrink, or merge with other companies, the top 30 companies can change so the index is altered to reflect this.

Other stock market indices include the following:

  • S&P 500 - The S&P 500 is made up up 500 large capitalization corporations in the US. It's maintained by Standard and Poors and is a broader based index than The Dow. This means it should give a better indication of the broader activity of the market.
  • FTSE 100 - The FTSE 100 idex is comprised of the largest 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
  • SENSEX - The top 30 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
  • Hang Seng - 40 largest companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
  • DAX - 30 large cap companies listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
  • Nikkei - An index of stocks on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
  • CAC 40 - 40 of the top 100 stocks on the French Stock Exchange.
Why Invest In The Stock Market?

So why would you want to invest in stocks? The fundamental reason is to generate wealth (or put more bluntly, to make money). But this can be accomplished in two main ways.

The first method could be called stock market trading (others may call it speculation). This normally entails buying a stock to take advantage of short term price movements. The underlying value of a company is sometimes of secondary importance. The buyer is normally more interested in whether the price of a company's stock will go up in the short term. People engaged in this sort of activity may only hold the stock for a matter of days (sometimes even hours).

The second method can more properly be called investing. It entails buying stock in a company because you believe in the long term prospects of the company and because the stock can be bought at a reasonable price. Determining a fair price to pay is another article (or articles) in itself, but you can do worse than starting with fundamentals like price to earnings ratios and dividend yield for investing. Having bought the stock you would normally hold onto to it, bank the dividends when they arrive and only sell it when it becomes overvalued or a better opportunity arises.

How To Buy Shares On The Stock Market.

An ordinary investor normally can't participate directly in the stock market. You will need to engage a stockbroker to do your buying or selling for you, for which you will be charged a fee or commission. The stockbroker holds a license to buy and sell shares on your behalf. I wont go into the mechanics of it here, but you basically call your broker and ask him to buy or sell stock on your behalf. Most stockbrokers now have only share trading facilities which allow you to buy and sell over the internet, normally for much lower fees.

There is obviously a lot more to investing than I've been able to cover in one article. However, in a nutshell, this is the stock market for beginners.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Stock Market Value Investing Concepts - Net Current Asset Value

What is net current asset value (NCAV) and how can beginners apply it in stock market value investing?

Benjamin Graham, author of The Intelligent Investor, is credited with developing an investment strategy to find undervalued companies in the stock market by employing a measure called the Net Current Asset Value. Benjamin Graham was a big believer in buying stocks at a significant discount to their intrinsic value. His theory was that eventually the underlying value in the company would be reflected in the share price and in the worst case scenario, an investor would be protected from significant losses because the price of the stock shouldn't fall much further.

What Is Net Current Asset Value?

Put simply, net current asset value is the value of a company's current assets less all of it's liabilities. This means that you discard the value of any tangible non-current assets like plant and equipment as well as any intangible assets like goodwill. You only take into account current assets like cash (and cash equivalents), receivables and stock on hand. You then take away all liabilities - both current and non-current (this means things like long term debt, trade creditors and any provisions).

The idea is that this number (either on a per share or an aggregate basis) should be what a company is worth in the worth case scenario if the company is wound up. In the event of a company being wound up the value of assets like plant and equipment is normally greatly diminished and so is not taken into account in this calculation. In the other hand, all creditors will be lining up to claim what's owed to them, so all liabilities need to be considered at 100% of face value.

If you wanted to be even more conservative, you could discount the value of stock on hand as well, as the carrying value may not be realized in the case of a fire sale. You could discount it be 50% or even more.

The main concept to grasp with this stock investment strategy is that the net tangible asset value should be the absolute minimum amount that a company will be worth.

How Can Stock Market Investors Use Net Current Asset Value?

Benjamin Graham advocated a portfolio approach to value investing. He suggested buying a group of companies which exhibit favorable characteristics. In this way investors are further insulated from risk by minimizing the potential for a loss in any one company to cause significant pain to an investor.

Investors would buy and hold stocks in such a portfolio until either the value of any company was realized in it's share price, or the fundamentals of a company changed to such a degree that holding it was no longer deemed worthwhile.

How Can Investors Find These NCAV Bargains?

To my knowledge, there are no screens available to identify companies trading at a discount to their net current asset value. And it's not a figure that's published in any stock market data on any of the finance websites (Yahoo Finance and such).

Your best option is probably to find a short list of companies trading below their book value then work from there. Some sites allow you to display a selection of financial statistics and in addition apply a filter to the list. By selecting Current Assets, Current Liabilities, Non-Current Liabilities and Market Capitalization (or a similar set of statistics) then filtering on companies trading below book value, you should then be able to download the resulting data to a spreadsheet to complete your calculations.

However in my experience, patience is required. There have not been many companies trading at a discount to NCAV in recent times. I should say that in my search, I normally require a company to be profitable and also have a minimum market capitalization such that costs of liquidation wouldn't absorb all of the margin between the current price and the net current asset value.

Even if you don't find many prospects, you'll be surprised how much beginners can learn about stock market investing while doing this sort of in-depth analysis.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Warren Buffett Video Clips On Stock Market Investing - Part 2

If you missed yesterday's Warren Buffett Stock Market Investing Video Clip post, I suggest you go back and check it out. In this post I am showing the last 5 video clips in the set of 10 that make up a talk that Warren Buffett gave to some MBA students.

As I said yesterday, if you have the time a strongly urge you to watch all of these video clips. The enormous amount of common sense the man brings to the subject of stock market investing always amazes me. It's a pity he never wrote a book on investing - I'm sure it would be a great read for those just starting out in the stock market but also to those who have been around for a while.

On that note, if you are interested in reading Buffett's writings, I suggest you head over to the Berkshire Hathaway website and read his letters to shareholders. The complete set is available for viewing or downloading. They make for a great read.

Anyway, enough from me for now - on the with the second half of the set of video clips.

Warren Buffett Video - Part 6

Warren Buffett Video - Part 7

Warren Buffett Video - Part 8

Warren Buffett Video - Part 9

Warren Buffett Video - Part 10

As I said earlier, the man makes an enormous amount of sense. I like the point he made about Coca Cola (sorry, I can't remember what number clip it is now). It might pay to keep that example in mind as you approach your next investment. Think about what the company (and therefore the stock) will be doing years from now, rather than just months. It's something not just beginners need to keep in mind. Even those who have been investing in the stock market for a while can forget to take a long term view.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Warren Buffett Video Clips On Stock Market Investing

Warren Buffett is considered to be one the most successful practitioners of stock market investing of all time - and beginners can learn a lot from him. It's hard to write a stock market investing blog without writing about him, and I've already mentioned him in passing in Great Stock Market Investing Minds - Benjamin Graham and Stock Market Investing Books For Beginners and I will write more about him in an umcoming article. But for now, I thought I would pass on some videos I found on YouTube. If you haven't discovered it already, YouTube is a great way to waste time online.

What follows is a series of videos which record a talk Warren Buffett gave to a group of MBA students about stock market investing, life and everything else. There are 10 video clips in the series. I'll include the first 5 in today's post and the last 5 in tomorrow's post. So sit back and enjoy. You may want to grab a pen and paper - as usual he imparts some true pearls of wisdom.

Warren Buffet Video - Part 1

Warren Buffet Video - Part 2

Warren Buffet Video - Part 3

Warren Buffet Video - Part 4

Warren Buffet Video - Part 5

Come back tomorrow to see the rest of his talk. I'm sure you'll agree watching these video clips is worthwhile. Whether you're a beginner at stock market investing, or a seasoned professional, you're sure to learn something.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dividend Yield Investing For Beginners

What is a dividend yield and how can beginners use it in their stock market investing?

Dividend yield is one of the handy fundamental analysis tools we can use when scanning the stock market for good value stocks to buy. It simply measures the cash return an investor can expect in the form of dividends on in investment in any particular stock. In my last post I discussed price to earnings ratios as a way to value stocks and dividend yield can be used in conjunction with the p/e ratio. In fact Benjamin Graham was a proponent of both of these measures.

How To Calculate Dividend Yield.

Like the price earnings ratio, the dividend yield of most stocks is published in financial newspapers and online on websites like Yahoo Finance. However the dividend yield formula is very simple and easy to calculate yourself. Here is the formula:

Dividend Yield = Dividends Per Share / Share Price

As an example, if a company pays an annual dividend of $2.00 and the current share price is $100 then the dividend yield calculation would be as follows:

Dividend Yield = 2 / 100 = 0.02 or 2%

So in the above example, you could expect a cash return of 2% on the hypothetical company at the price quoted. Of course as the price of a company's stock fluctuates, so does it's dividend yield. A higher stock price pushes the yield down and a lower price will raise it. You will notice that I said cash return above. By this I mean the income you will receive from the investment each year. On top of that, you would expect the capital value of the stock to appreciate. That is, you want the stock price to go up so that ultimately you will make a capital gain when you sell the stock.

So How Can You Use Dividend Yield In Your Stock Market Analysis?

The simplest method to do this would be to just buy a group of stocks with the highest dividend yield as listed in your local financial press. In doing so, you should end up buying the best value stocks on offer at a given time and receive a handy annual income from your stock market portfolio at the same time. But what might the pitfalls be with this method?

One of the first things you might like to check is the payout ratio or times covered figures. The dividend payout ratio is the percentage of annual profits paid out by a company as dividends. Check for companies with payout ratios over 100% - this means they are paying out more in dividends than they are earning. There may be a legitimate reason for doing this in the short term, but over the long term it's not sustainable. Dividend times covered is simply another way of expressing this ratio. It indicates how many times a company's profits cover their dividend. In this case a measure of less than 1 again indicates that they are paying out more than they're earning.

Another thing to consider is what the average dividend yield is. While the return may look good in the most recent year, you will need to look at what was paid out in years past? It could be that the company has paid a larger than normal amount in the most recent period and that this is not expected to continue. This will sometimes explain an unusually high dividend yield.

The main problem with high dividend yields is that it usually means the market doesn't think much of the company's stock. This could be because the company is not expected to exhibit very high levels of profit growth in the years ahead. Or it could be because the company is experiencing financial difficulties and is therefore considered to be a high risk proposition. Whatever the reason, it is usually a result of negative market sentiment.

But this is the type of situation in which value investors may be interested. A value investor may see the high dividend yield (and therefore relatively low share price) as a buying opportunity. A value investor may see the company's difficulties (whatever they may be) as temporary in nature. They may expect to see considerable share price appreciation once the uncertainty is passed.

Another option in dividend investing for beginners is to find high dividend yield mutual funds. Some funds specialize in this area and as such can be well suited to investors looking for income but who don't have the capital, the confidence or the time to enter the stock market directly.

When Is A Low Dividend Yield Good?

There is a school of thought that says that high dividend yields are an indication of a poor quality business. If management have adopted a dividend policy which sees the bulk of profits distributed to shareholders, it means they don't have any more profitable ways in which to reinvest it in the business. I think Warren Buffett is an advocate of management retaining earnings within the business when they can continue to generate high returns on invested capital. He believes that shareholders will benefit more in the long run from growth in the business than they would if earnings where distributed. And I read somewhere that Berkshire Hathaway has only paid 1 dividend under Warren Buffett's leadership.

Measuring Stock Market Strength.

Dividend yields may also be used as an average to measure the relative strength of the stock market over time. The dividend yield of the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the S&P 500 has been used as an indicator of the overall value of the market. At market peaks, the average sinks below 2%, whereas during extreme lows it's been known to creep into double figures. Just keep in mind when comparing figures that payout ratios tend to be lower now than they've been in years gone by.

Hopefully this article has given you some useful background to another tool you can use in your fundamental analysis. Beginners in stock market investing can now add dividend yield to their fundamental analysis toolkit.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Great Stock Market Investing Minds - Benjamin Graham

A beginner's guide to 'The Father Of Value Investing', one of the great stock market investing minds.

I thought I would write a series of articles about some of history's greatest stock market investing minds starting today with Benjamin Graham. Benjamin Graham was a professional investor, a successful author and is widely considered to be the father of value investing. And in a stint teaching at Columbia University 'The Dean Of Wall Street' taught some of great minds of the following generation of investors.

Graham first went to work on Wall Street for Newburger, Henderson & Loeb after graduating from Columbia at the age of 20. Then in 1926 he formed the Graham-Newman partnership with Jerome Newman. Graham is believed to have been personally ruined by the great stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression which followed. His partnership survived the crash and recovered to produce outstanding investment returns over an extended period. From what I recall, his average annual return was in the vicinity of 17%.

In 1934, along with co-author and fellow Columbia professor David Dodd, Benjamin Graham published Security Analysis. Security Analysis was an attempt by the authors to bring some structure and rigor to the field of stock market investing. After the carnage of the 1929 crash this was greatly needed.

Security Analysis is a hefty volume and I wouldn't recommend it to beginner investors, however it's well worth a read if you can set aside the time. Don't make it the first stock market investing book you read, but once you have the investing basics under control then you should definitely tackle Security Analysis.

The other perhaps better know volume to be penned by Graham was The Intelligent investor. I have already mentioned this book in Stock Market Investing Books For Beginners. The Intelligent Investor is one of the best stock market books I've ever read. As a beginner, the simple yet powerful concepts introduced in the book were both enlightening and inspiring. First published in 1949 and regularly updated until his death in 1976, this book has stood the test of time. Value investors the world over frequently quote Graham's text.

Benjamin Graham is responsible for the Mr Market metaphor. Mr Market wasn't a superhero, but rather a way for investors to think about the stock market. Graham said to consider your participation in the stock market to be like co-owning a profitable, stable business with a partner called Mr Market. Each day he will approach you with a price at which he would be willing to either buy out your share of the business, or sell you his. However, Mr Market is manic-depressive and the prices he offers fluctuate wildly as his mood changes. But the good news is he cames back day after day with a new offer and you are under no obligation to either buy from or sell to Mr Market on any given day. Your challenge is to not be distracted by Mr Market's erratic behavior and to take advantage of outstanding opportunities presented by Mr Market as they arise.

(Please note: My copy of The Intelligent Investor is out on loan, so the above description may not be true to Graham's original writing. However you should get the general idea.)

Another theme central to Benjamin Graham's teachings is the concept of a Margin Of Safety. What this means is that when you approach a particular investment opportunity, you should ensure you buy at a price sufficiently below what you think the value is that, should anything unforeseen happen you should still end up with a satisfactory result. In addition, he advocated diversification as a way of reducing the risk associated with any given investment.

Measures used by Graham to determine value include Price To Earnings Ratios, Dividend Yields and Net Tangible Assets. In addition Debt Levels and management attitude to shareholders should also be considered.

I'm running out of time and space in this post. There is much more the Benjamin Graham's teachings to what can be condensed into a single blog post. I suspect I will write another one at some point to fill in all of the gaps I have left in this post. I just wanted to finish up here by giving some indication of the caliber of students he taught while at Columbia.

Warren Buffett is possibly the most famous and arguably most outstanding of these. Buffett actually spent some time working with his teacher in the Graham-Newman partnership. He then went on to form his own investment partnership before eventually leading Berkshire Hathaway to almost unparalleled success.

Other student's of Graham's include Walter Schloss and William Ruane. Both very successful professional investors in their own right, William J. Ruane went on to manage the very successful Sequoia fund while Walter J. Schloss recorded a return of 16% over a half century of stock market investing.

I highly recommend Benjamin Graham's writings and teachings. Both beginners and the more experienced will learn a great deal about stock market investing from Benjamin Graham.