Writers from the Rule Breakers and Inside Value teams are dueling again this week. Which argument gets your vote? Read the commentaries byRick MunarrizandChuck Saletta, and thenvotefor which one you like the most. Also, take a look at the previous duel here and here.
One-string fiddle? The wax wings of Icarus? Philip Durell certainly didn't hold back in taking his swings at growth investing last week. As the value guru behind our excellent Inside Value newsletter service, Philip's words command respect. He may be too modest to mention this, but since his first issue last September, his stock picks have more than tripled the S&P 500's market return.
So Durell isn't wrong all that often. He just happens to be wrong -- dead wrong -- this time. Rule Breakers investing is the superior approach if one is willing to put up with risk in order to achieve the potential of superior market returns. Philip turned to mythology in likening the hypergrowth investing philosophy to Icarus and his failed wing-melted demise when he flew to close to the sun. I liken that kind of cynicism to someone heckling Wilbur and Orville Wright before that historic flight in Kitty Hawk with chants of "I-ca-rus! I-ca-rus!"
Famous mythological characters with sun block for $100, Alex
The Rule Breakers mindset was put to the test as David Gardner ran a real-money (and real public) portfolio during the Fool's formative years. The homeruns easily offset the strikeouts. That included owning America Online, long before it was absorbed into the hardened-artery Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) blood steam, as it soared by 2,418%. Philip writes off that particular gain as a "one-string fiddle" before strumming his own "12-string guitar," ripe with a dozen great value stock moves that Philip has recently played. They were spectacular returns in a rocky market, averaging gains of 116%.
Yet, here's the deal. If you rode AOL as a brilliant 25-bagger and had invested the same amount in 11 other busted fiddle strings that eventually were marked down to zero, you would be much richer today than if you were tuning into Philip's 12-string concerto.
Yet the original Rule Breakers portfolio had many other marvelous melodies to play like Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) and Iomega (NYSE: IOM ) that appreciated many times over. Am I cherry picking? Were these just the coattail riders of the growth-friendly 1990s?
I don't think so. Many of the stocks in the portfolio like Amazon, Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) -- classic Rule Breakers -- went on to tack on even greater gains on this side of the millennium.
Didn't eBay implode last week?
Why, yes. It did. Yet the shares have still tripled over the last three years.
Are those numbers in your pocket calculator, or are you just happy to seethe me?
Philip points to a study by the data crunchers at Ibbotson Associates, showing how value stocks have outperformed their growth stock brethren over the past few decades. I'm not going to dispute that. I'm a realist. If you have a basket of unloved stock trading at bargain multiples, there's a good chance those forgotten equities will outgrow euphoria's overpriced basket.
Yet Rule Breaker investing has never been about a blanket statement covering every single growth opportunity. There's a story stock born every minute. We in the Rule Breakers camp are just busy toiling away to ferret out the story stocks that are likely to have happy endings.
That's not an insignificant point. Philip tags the pursuit of value stocks as investing. He then goes on to label the buying of growth stocks as speculation. I don't buy the distinction.
When value maven Benjamin Graham likened the market to a polling device in the near term, but a weighing machine in the long run, it wasn't an admission that guessing correctly on a company's worth based on past events will eventually be rewarded by the market. All investors are ultimately speculating on the future. Whether it's identifying the catalysts for growth or the potential of a turnaround, a successful relationship with the market is more about seeing the potential for a stock than banking on when the market will come around to interpreting history your way.
Investing clichés are like falling steak knives. See! I've done it again.
Stabbing selectively, Philip mocks Taser (Nasdaq: TASR ) . The stun gun manufacturer has stumbled lately and it was one of the recommended stocks in the December issue of Rule Breakers. Notice that he could have gone back an issue earlier to showcase a pair of stocks -- including Overstock.com (Nasdaq: OSTK ) -- that have outrun the market on the upside. Yet volleying short-term winners and losers doesn't make for much of a game.
I'm sure that Philip would agree with my opinion that long-term results are what ultimately matter. That's why, with just a few months of operating history under our respective newsletter service belts, it would be premature to declare a unanimous winner in this bout. Time will tell and Philip and I can both be patient.
So perhaps the best route would be for you to take advantage of free trials that are now being offered for both Rule Breakers and Inside Value. Kick the tires. See which investing style is for you. Each service offers a vibrant online community to go along with monthly newsletters that offer far more than mere stock picks and executive interviews and other features. Unless you fancy fence-straddling as an investing philosophy, the free trial is likely to convince you one way or the other. Me and my steel wings and amplified fiddle? We'll side with Rule Breakers.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story. He is a member of theRule Breakersanalytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its stage of defiance.