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If you like to have fun with your investing, you may have the impression that being a value investor would be the last thing you'd want to do. But despite the reputation that value investing has built over the years, value investors are increasingly buying stocks that they would never have even considered just 10 years ago.
Getting with the times
In general, the stocks that value investors like aren't necessarily the most exciting stocks in the world. After all, the stocks that grab the most attention are those that have hit the scene hard with amazing products that produce huge sales and impressive profit growth. As momentum builds, more and more investors jump onto the stock's bandwagon. And even if a growth stock eventually falls from glory, it still often creates a lot of wealth for those who sell all or part of their position before the bottom falls out.
In contrast, value stocks have traditionally come from down-and-out industries that have little or no potential for future growth. They're often low-risk stalwarts that trade cheaply but often never see their shares go anywhere, and sometimes they turn out to be value traps in dying industries that never deliver on the recovery shareholders hope for.
What value funds are doing
But now, the tide is turning. Increasingly, professional value investors are looking to sectors they once avoided like the plague -- and they're finding some great deals.
According to The New York Times, a number of value mutual fund managers have crossed traditional lines to grab stocks in growth industries. An example is Weitz Partners Value, which is run by the man some call the Other Oracle of Omaha. The fund doubled the return of the S&P 500 in 2010 by focusing on Liberty Media, whose programming and media distribution empire is at the epicenter of huge changes in how entertainment content gets to viewers.
The value equity group at Goldman Sachs has gone even further into traditional growth territory by looking closely at the technology sector, touting the attractive valuations of data storage stock EMC (NYSE: EMC ) and even Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) in comparison to their future growth prospects. In addition, financial stocks JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , which were among the growth darlings of the housing boom in the mid-2000s, now appeal from a value standpoint, as many investors have stayed away due to ongoing concerns about asset quality and Wall Street's bad reputation.
Value where you least expect it
Two factors are causing this revolution among value investors. First, companies that have matured beyond their initial growth phases now carry valuations that more closely resemble the boring stocks that value investors owned 20 years ago. Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) , for instance, posted rapid growth when its blockbuster drugs like Lipitor and Viagra were brand new. But as the pharma giant's revenue increasingly relies on drugs near their patent expiration, earnings multiples have dropped. Although some fear a value trap if revenue contracts, those who expect future pipeline success from the company have to like the pessimistic valuation the stock carries now. Similarly, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) has gone from an innovative computer-maker opening the floodgates to tech consumers to simply providing cheap products in an increasingly commodity-like business.
More importantly, though, value investors are getting away from the idea that value automatically means cheap. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , for instance, sells at 22 times trailing earnings, but even value investors are coming to the conclusion that underestimating the company's future growth could mean the shares are undervalued.
Find true value
The phenomenon of growth stocks turning into value stocks doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Given how entire sectors of the market go in and out of favor, it's almost inevitable that what some saw as growth opportunities at one time will be the value stock of tomorrow -- and vice versa.
So if you think value investing means having to stick to boring industries without any future prospects, think again. Increasingly, professional value investors are starting to get the concept that even what would once have been seen as solely a growth stock sometimes offers a solid margin of safety and a discount to its intrinsic value. As long as those investors are doing a good job identifying attractive values, then investors shouldn't shy away from value funds simply because of the particular stocks they happen to be buying right now.
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