"Growth and value investing are joined at the hip."
You think that's crazy? Tell Warren Buffett. He's the one who said it, not me.
But, of course, I think he's right. I'm writing today because the largely semantic differences between value and growth often gets lost, even here at the Fool.
Head to head
That's because there is a temptation to equate growth investing with speculation, as fellow Fool Chuck Saletta did here.
But that's just wrong. Real growth investors don't bet on companies whose sky-high expectations make it nearly impossible to produce meaningful returns. More often, gurus like Will Danoff of Fidelity Contrafund or John Laporte of T. Rowe Price New Horizons invest in firms whose superior growth characteristics have yet to be recognized or rewarded by the stock market.
Value investors, on the other hand, look for stocks that trade for less than their intrinsic value, or stocks that the market has unfairly undervalued. Often, these firms are experiencing problems that investors believe to be temporary.
Both strategies, although seemingly different on the surface, operate on the premise that the market has mispriced a stock.
The obvious won't help you
Of course, you'll need more than math to discern what, exactly, is mispriced. Take the market's 10 best stocks. American Eagle Outfitters was trading for 28 times trailing earnings 10 years ago. A value investor simply looking for stocks with price-to-earnings ratios below the market average would have missed the 78-bagger to come.
Same with Chico's, an 87-bagger, which was trading for 21 times earnings a decade ago. Frontier Oil (NYSE: FTO ) , a 36-bagger, hadn't produced a penny of profit for three straight years at the dawn of 1997.
The very best value stocks
Stock market myth says that only value investors zig as others zag. Hogwash. Laporte has been buying shares of Global Payments (NYSE: GPN ) , Waste Connections (NYSE: WCN ) , and SBA Communications (Nasdaq: SBAC ) none of which looks "cheap" by the numbers.
Yet, Laporte, by investing where others won't, has obliterated the return of the S&P 500 for more than a decade. So has Fool co-founder David Gardner. His best picks are the result of studying businesses whose capacity to rule high-growth industries leads to huge gains in cash flow. That's why aQuantive (Nasdaq: AQNT ) last week became a daybagger for Rule Breakers subscribers. It was misunderstood. It was cheap relative to its growth potential. In short: It was a value stock.
Rules breaking, fortunes in the making
Don't make the mistake of confusing growth investing with speculation. You'll miss out on just about all of the market's best value stocks -- the misunderstood multi-baggers in the making -- if you do.
Click here now if you'd like to join us at Rule Breakers in our quest to find the market's next 10 best stocks. Your pass is free for 30 days and there's no obligation to subscribe.
This article was originally published on Jan. 31, 2007. It has been updated.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of aQuantive at the time of publication. American Eagle is a Stock Advisor pick. T. Rowe Price New Horizons is a Champion Funds recommendation. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a rebel on Wall Street.