Deep Value Cycle
Anyway, in one of the calls, he discussed a cycle he discovered that recurred over the past 40+ years. He said there have been four deep value cycles.
First, I should say that he defines deep value as the lowest quintile by price-to-book value of the 1,000 largest capitalization names. A 'naive' deep value strategy is to own those (I don't know how often it is rebalanced, though).
Anyway, here is what he said on the 1Q 2012 conference call (April 2012):
- During the last four value cycles spanning over 40 years, on average, five years after a value cycle peak, a naive deep value benchmark was still 12% behind the S&P 500 index and yet ended up with a 500 bps/year (basis points) advantage over the S&P 500 index over the length of the cycle, which lasted an average 10 years.
- This includes 7 years of outperformance during the cycle.
- Today (April 2012), exactly five years after the peak of the last value cycle, the deep value benchmark is 12% behind the S&P 500 index
He first described this deep value cycle in depth on the conference call held in February 2012. This is what he said:
- Cycles are long, 10 years on average with deep value outperforming in 7 of those years.
- Over the past four value cycles, deep value outperformed by 480 bps/year.
- Recent experience is consistent with these past cycles.
- Last peak was 58 months ago (as of February 2012) and deep value is 11.8% behind the S&P 500 index, almost exactly the same as the average in past cycles.
- The recent deep value upcycle started in December 2008, but was interrupted for six months in 2011, but this too is consistent with past cycles.
- There is significant pent up opportunity in the value category due to flight-to-safety and across the board, indiscriminate selling of cyclical businesses.
This deep value cycle, to me, is similar. You don't want to try to time in and out of it. But if you know that the deep value cycle is at a low or in the early stages of outperformance, you want to be aware of it.
Businesses Can Manage in Bad Times Too
In one of his calls, he also reminded investors that even during the high inflation, low growth period of 1975-1982, corporate ROE averaged 13.5%. Corporations are businesses run by people and not static entities. If there is low growth, they will manage for low growth. If there is inflation, businesses will manage for inflation. So whatever comes our way, businesses will manage through it.
Value Investing Makes Sense
At the PZN website, there is some interesting research. He has something posted there called the "White Paper". You can see it here. This was posted in July 2011, so it's a little old, but the story is still relevant. I will cut and paste some relevant charts here (without permission, but since I am spreading the gospel, I hope they won't mind).
First, people hate stocks now because it has done poorly over the past decade:
OK, so we've all seen this before. But let's look at how this compares to the favorite asset class of the moment, bonds:
Pzena points out that on an inflation adjusted basis, bonds are really risky.
Here is a frequency distribution:
The range of possible outcomes is narrower for bonds. This is why people tend to think bonds are less risky than stocks. Stocks have a much wider range of possible outcomes, therefore it's risky (according to conventional thinking). But which distribution would you rather own?
Also, Pzena points out that hard assets and commodities are popular now, but here is the true long term story of commodities:
So stocks are looking good, but can we do better than stocks? Pzena points out that one of the big risks in the stock market is overpaying. If you stick to value, that is a great risk mitigator for stocks:
So owning cheap stocks not only outperformed the S&P 500 index, but it did it with less volatility than the index, with a lower worst ten year loss and much lower probability of loss. What's not to like here?
This next step of eliminating the most volatile stocks seems a bit like a post-crisis over-optimization, but still, it's pretty interesting.
Next, he takes a look at the very popular hedge funds. It has lower volatility but not so good returns compared to cheap stocks:
And he notes that people are running to alternatives such as hedge funds post-crisis, but points out that hedge funds didn't really protect the downside. I think these returns are from the 2007 peak in the markets through some point in 2011.
So there is Pzena's case for value (or deep value) investing. The risk/return profile looks very favorable compared to bonds, hedge funds and commodities.
I know there is going to a be lot of "But..."s, but I do find this a compelling argument.
His second quarter 2012 Investment Analysis (July 2012) is also on the website here.
This may not be news to anyone, but he does point out that Europe is cheap now, and buying Europe doesn't necessarily mean Europe has to do well going forward; he points out the global nature of many European companies.
But here's the more interesting chart:
The valuation gap between low beta and high beta stocks is as high as ever. This sort of value differential is a great opportunity for deep value investors. Stock investors seem to be rushing to safety; low beta, high yield stocks, consumer staples etc. while running from the cyclical, high beta names. Of course this includes financials (and we all know financials are cheap).
It is a pretty stunning chart. If there is any valuation normalization going forward (this may take time), this would be pretty exciting for deep value investors.
And to close the loop in this post and connecting it to the other PZN post, PZN is a pure play deep value investor.
If you like the idea of deep value, and think it really is in a cyclically interesting position (poised to outperform), then PZN can be a really interesting play.