"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 get 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.
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 Steve Wymer of Fidelity Growth Co. 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
History proves that you'll need more than math to discern what, exactly, is mispriced. Take the market's 10 best stocks. Environmental cleanup specialist Clean Harbors (Nasdaq: CLHB ) failed to produce a penny of meaningful earnings 10 years ago. Or, for that mater, from 1996 to 1999. A value investor simply looking for stocks with P/Es below the market average would have missed the 33-bagger to come.
Investors taking a sip of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR ) in 1998 had to pay 36 times earnings. Their reward? A 34-bagger. You get the idea.
The very best value stocks
Stock market myth says that only value investors zig as others zag. Hogwash. Wymer owns shares of Elan (NYSE: ELN ) , salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM ) , and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: VRTX ) , none of which look "cheap" by the numbers. Yet Wymer, by investing where others won't, has crushed the market.
David Gardner can claim similar success. And that's in spite of the current market malaise. Eight stocks in David's Motley Fool Rule Breakers portfolio have at least doubled, including mega-exchange NYSE Euronext (NYSE: NYX ) . No surprises there. It was misunderstood. It was cheap relative to its growth potential. In short: It was a value stock.
Rules breaking, fortunes in the making
So, please, 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 multibaggers in the making -- if you do.
This article was originally published on Jan. 31, 2007. It has been updated.
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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a sucker for growth stocks and a regular contributor to Rule Breakers. Tim didn't own shares in any of the stocks mentioned in this article at the time of publication. NYSE Euronext and Vertex are Rule Breakers recommendations. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a rebel on Wall Street.