Fundamental analysis – The January Effect

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Part 8: Fundamental Analysis – The “January Effect” – An opportunity or a myth?

Have you ever heard of the January effect? January is said to be a month in which you can make profit most easily. Read the following article to learn how much this is true, to what extent this is just a wishful thinking and what to do to profit from this effect.

January effect

The January effect is not a myth, it’s statistics. It has been empirically proven that gains in stock markets are statistically bigger in January than in any other month. As you can see in the picture the average return on shares in January is nearly three times higher than in the rest of the year.

Return month by month (1927 to 2001)

Using this theory, you should buy shares no later than at the beginning of January and, sell them at the end of January. That’s all. Statistically, each January you should receive an average profit of 3.9% year by year. However, the question is: which company is the one to buy?

How to trade in January

If you believe in the January effect, you can speculate on prices of the stock market index. The index is derived from a combination of several shares, typically of major companies in a region, country or segment.

These indexes, ideally those offering diversified shares (i.e. from multiple segments), should reflect the January effect. If you prefer laboriously analyze each share (stock) individually you can do so to choose the one of which you think that offers the biggest potential.

Where to trade January effect

Shares are normally available from major Forex CFD brokers. If you find the January effect an interesting phenomenon look at the portfolio of your broker. You will surely find there some shares or indexes that fit you. This applies to binary options, too. Look for example what IQ Option offers in this respect. It’s all up to you to choose either a Forex broker or a binary options broker and try to open trades for the duration of January..

Some brokers offer entire stock market indexes such as S&P500. By opening your binary options trading session for the whole month of January you would have earned, instead of mere 3.9%, up to 92%! (Source: IQ Option, return from options)

January 2020: Bloodshed of cryptos and rising shares

There is an exception to every rule. Strong capital returns and soaring prices of the vast majority of cryptos in 2020 suddenly ended at the beginning of 2020. As to cryptos, the January effect in January 2020 worked in the opposite direction. The digital currencies market (worth 830 billion dollars on 7 January 2020) shrank to 500 billion by the end of January and the trend continues.

The major cryptocurrency Bitcoin traded on 17 December 2020 for USD 19 300 fell to USD 6 580. Is this the bursting of the crypto bubble or just an expected healthy correction? For hodlers, this price decline is an ideal opportunity to buy new cryptos for little money before another rise.

Unlike cryptocurrencies, shares experienced solid growth in January. Stock market indexes such as S&P500 have grown by 4.7 % and Dow Jones by 5.3 %. Yet, in the first February week, the prices went down again by 9 and 7% respectively. This means that unless you had strictly followed the January effect (selling all your shares before the end of January) you would have easily lost all your earned money.

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January effect is not the golden Grail

As said above, it’s only statistics that can be exploited to your benefit. However, if some bad news spreads across the market early in January, no January effect will save you. By the way, while reading this article did you reveal what is the core of the January effect? Why are things happening the way they do? The explanation is quite simple:

In December, traders take their profits and often withdraw some of their investments. On the contrary, in January they invest again. This is partly because at the beginning of each year investors tend to be more optimistic. If you had missed the opportunity this year don’t despair. Look at the charts and statistics and if you find the January effect an attractive challenge go for it next year!

Author

More about the author J. Pro

Unlike Stephen (the other author) I have been thinking mainly about online business lately. I wasn’t very successfull with dropshipping on Amazon and other ways of making money online, and I’d only earn a few hundreds of dollars in years. But then binary options caught my attention with it’s simplicity. Now I’m glad it did because it really is worth it. More posts by this author

January Effect

What Is the January Effect?

The January Effect is a perceived seasonal increase in stock prices during the month of January. Analysts generally attribute this rally to an increase in buying, which follows the drop in price that typically happens in December when investors, engaging in tax-loss harvesting to offset realized capital gains, prompt a sell-off. Another possible explanation is that investors use year-end cash bonuses to purchase investments the following month.

Key Takeaways

  • The January Effect is the seasonal tendency for stocks to rise in that month.
  • From 1928 through 2020, the S&P 500 rose 62% of the time in January (56 times out of 91).
  • The January Effect is theorized to occur when investors sell winners to incur year-end capital gains taxes in December and use those funds to speculate on weaker performers.
  • Like other market anomalies and calendar effects, the January Effect is considered by some to be evidence against the efficient markets hypothesis.

Understanding the January Effect

The January Effect is a hypothesis, and like all calendar-related effects, suggests that the markets as a whole are inefficient, as efficient markets would naturally make this effect non-existent. The January Effect seems to affect small caps more than mid or large caps because they are less liquid.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the data suggests that these asset classes have outperformed the overall market in January, especially toward the middle of the month. Investment banker Sidney Wachtel first noticed this effect in 1942. This historical trend, however, has been less pronounced in recent years because the markets seem to have adjusted for it.

Another reason analysts consider the January Effect less important as of 2020 is that more people are using tax-sheltered retirement plans and therefore have no reason to sell at the end of the year for a tax loss.

January Effect Explanations

Beyond tax-loss harvesting and repurchases, as well as investors putting cash bonuses into the market, another explanation for the January Effect has to do with investor psychology. Some investors believe that January is the best month to begin an investment program or perhaps are following through on a New Year’s resolution to begin investing for the future.

Others have pontificated that mutual fund managers purchase stocks of top performers at the end of the year and eliminate questionable losers for appearance sake in their year-end reports, an activity known as “window dressing.” This is unlikely, however, as the buying and selling would primarily affect large caps.

Other evidence supporting the idea that individuals sell for tax purposes includes a study by D’Mello, Ferris, and Hwang (2003), which found increased selling for stocks that experienced heavy capital losses before the end of the year and more selling of stocks with capital gains after the start of the year. Further, the trade size for stocks with large capital losses tends to decrease before year-end and for capital gains after the start of the year.

Year-end sell-offs also attract buyers interested in the lower prices, knowing the dips are not based on company fundamentals. On a large scale, this can drive prices higher in January.

Studies and Criticism

One study, analyzing data from 1904 to 1974, concluded that the average return for stocks during the month of January was five times greater than any other month during the year, particularly noting this trend existed in small-capitalization stocks. The investment firm Salomon Smith Barney performed a study analyzing data from 1972 to 2002 and found that the stocks of the Russell 2000 index outperformed stocks in the Russell 1000 index (small-cap stocks versus large-cap stocks) in the month of January.

This outperformance was by 0.82%, yet these stocks underperformed during the remainder of the year. Data suggest that the January Effect is becoming increasingly less prominent.

An ex-Director from the Vanguard Group, Burton Malkiel, the author of “A Random Walk Down Wall Street,” has criticized the January Effect, stating that seasonal anomalies such as it don’t provide investors with any reliable opportunities. He also suggests that the January Effect is so small that the transaction costs needed to exploit it essentially make it unprofitable. It’s also been suggested that too many people now time for the January Effect so that it becomes priced into the market, nullifying it all together.

Fundamental Analysis

What Is Fundamental Analysis?

Fundamental analysis (FA) is a method of measuring a security’s intrinsic value by examining related economic and financial factors. Fundamental analysts study anything that can affect the security’s value, from macroeconomic factors such as the state of the economy and industry conditions to microeconomic factors like the effectiveness of the company’s management.

The end goal is to arrive at a number that an investor can compare with a security’s current price in order to see whether the security is undervalued or overvalued.

This method of stock analysis is considered to be in contrast to technical analysis, which forecasts the direction of prices through an analysis of historical market data such as price and volume.

Key Takeaways

  • Fundamental analysis is a method of determining a stock’s real or “fair market” value.
  • Fundamental analysts search for stocks that are currently trading at prices that are higher or lower than their real value.
  • If the fair market value is higher than the market price, the stock is deemed to be undervalued and a buy recommendation is given.
  • In contrast, technical analysts ignore the fundamentals in favor of studying the historical price trends of the stock.

Understanding Fundamental Vs. Technical Analysis

Understanding Fundamental Analysis

All stock analysis tries to determine whether a security is correctly valued within the broader market. Fundamental analysis is usually done from a macro to micro perspective in order to identify securities that are not correctly priced by the market.

Analysts typically study, in order, the overall state of the economy and then the strength of the specific industry before concentrating on individual company performance to arrive at a fair market value for the stock.

Fundamental analysis uses public data to evaluate the value of a stock or any other type of security. For example, an investor can perform fundamental analysis on a bond’s value by looking at economic factors such as interest rates and the overall state of the economy, then
studying information about the bond issuer, such as potential changes in its credit rating.

For stocks, fundamental analysis uses revenues, earnings, future growth, return on equity,
profit margins, and other data to determine a company’s underlying value and potential for future growth. All of this data is available in a company’s financial statements (more on that below).

Fundamental analysis is used most often for stocks, but it is useful for evaluating any security, from a bond to a derivative. If you consider the fundamentals, from the broader economy to the company details, you are doing fundamental analysis.

Investing and Fundamental Analysis

An analyst uses works to create a model for determining the estimated value of a company’s share price based on publicly available data. This value is only an estimate, the analyst’s educated opinion, of what the company’s share price should be worth compared to the currently trading market price. Some analysts may refer to their estimated price as the company’s intrinsic value.

If an analyst calculates that the stock’s value should be significantly higher than the stock’s current market price, they may publish a buy or overweight rating for the stock. This acts as a recommendation to investors who follow that analyst. If the analyst calculates a lower intrinsic value than the current market price, the stock is considered overvalued and a sell or underweight recommendation is issued.

Investors who follow these recommendations will expect that they can buy stocks with favorable recommendations because such stocks should have a higher probability of rising over time. Likewise stocks with unfavorable ratings are expected to have a higher probability of falling in price. Such stocks are candidates for being removed from existing portfolios or added as “short positions.

This method of stock analysis is considered to be the opposite of technical analysis, which forecasts the direction of prices through an analysis of historical market data such as price and volume.

Quantitative and Qualitative Fundamental Analysis

The problem with defining the word fundamentals is that it can cover anything related to the economic well-being of a company. They obviously include numbers like revenue and profit, but they can also include anything from a company’s market share to the quality of its management.

The various fundamental factors can be grouped into two categories: quantitative and qualitative. The financial meaning of these terms isn’t much different from their standard definitions. Here is how a dictionary defines the terms:

  • Quantitative – capable of being measured or expressed in numerical terms.
  • Qualitative – related to or based on the quality or character of something, often as opposed to its size or quantity.

In this context, quantitative fundamentals are hard numbers. They are the measurable characteristics of a business. That’s why the biggest source of quantitative data is financial statements. Revenue, profit, assets, and more can be measured with great precision.

The qualitative fundamentals are less tangible. They might include the quality of a company’s key executives, its brand-name recognition, patents, and proprietary technology.

Neither qualitative nor quantitative analysis is inherently better. Many analysts consider them together.

Qualitative Fundamentals to Consider

There are four key fundamentals that analysts always consider when regarding a company. All are qualitative rather than quantitative. They include:

  • The business model: What exactly does the company do? This isn’t as straightforward as it seems. If a company’s business model is based on selling fast-food chicken, is it making its money that way? Or is it just coasting on royalty and franchise fees?
  • Competitive advantage: A company’s long-term success is driven largely by its ability to maintain a competitive advantage—and keep it. Powerful competitive advantages, such as Coca Cola’s brand name and Microsoft’s domination of the personal computer operating system, create a moat around a business allowing it to keep competitors at bay and enjoy growth and profits. When a company can achieve a competitive advantage, its shareholders can be well rewarded for decades.
  • Management: Some believe that management is the most important criterion for investing in a company. It makes sense: Even the best business model is doomed if the leaders of the company fail to properly execute the plan. While it’s hard for retail investors to meet and truly evaluate managers, you can look at the corporate website and check the resumes of the top brass and the board members. How well did they perform in prior jobs? Have they been unloading a lot of their stock shares lately?
  • Corporate Governance: Corporate governance describes the policies in place within an organization denoting the relationships and responsibilities between management, directors and stakeholders. These policies are defined and determined in the company charter and its bylaws, along with corporate laws and regulations. You want to do business with a company that is run ethically, fairly, transparently, and efficiently. Particularly note whether management respects shareholder rights and shareholder interests. Make sure their communications to shareholders are transparent, clear and understandable. If you don’t get it, it’s probably because they don’t want you to.

It’s also important to consider a company’s industry: customer base, market share among firms, industry-wide growth, competition, regulation, and business cycles. Learning about how the industry works will give an investor a deeper understanding of a company’s financial health.

Quantitative Fundamentals to Consider

Financial statements are the medium by which a company discloses information concerning its financial performance. Followers of fundamental analysis use quantitative information gleaned from financial statements to make investment decisions. The three most important financial statements are income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.

The Balance Sheet

The balance sheet represents a record of a company’s assets, liabilities and equity at a particular point in time. The balance sheet is named by the fact that a business’s financial structure balances in the following manner:

Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders\’ Equity

Assets represent the resources that the business owns or controls at a given point in time. This includes items such as cash, inventory, machinery and buildings. The other side of the equation represents the total value of the financing the company has used to acquire those assets. Financing comes as a result of liabilities or equity. Liabilities represent debt (which of course must be paid back), while equity represents the total value of money that the owners have contributed to the business – including retained earnings, which is the profit made in previous years.

The Income Statement

While the balance sheet takes a snapshot approach in examining a business, the income statement measures a company’s performance over a specific time frame. Technically, you could have a balance sheet for a month or even a day, but you’ll only see public companies report quarterly and annually.

The income statement presents information about revenues, expenses and profit that was generated as a result of the business’ operations for that period.

Statement of Cash Flows

The statement of cash flows represents a record of a business’ cash inflows and outflows over a period of time. Typically, a statement of cash flows focuses on the following cash-related activities:

  • Cash from investing (CFI): Cash used for investing in assets, as well as the proceeds from the sale of other businesses, equipment or long-term assets
  • Cash from financing (CFF): Cash paid or received from the issuing and borrowing of funds
  • Operating Cash Flow (OCF): Cash generated from day-to-day business operations

The cash flow statement is important because it’s very difficult for a business to manipulate its cash situation. There is plenty that aggressive accountants can do to manipulate earnings, but it’s tough to fake cash in the bank. For this reason, some investors use the cash flow statement as a more conservative measure of a company’s performance.

The Concept of Intrinsic Value

One of the primary assumptions of fundamental analysis is that the currently price from the stock market often does not fully reflect a value of the company supported by the publicly available data. A second assumption is that the value reflected from the company’s fundamental data is more likely to be closer to a true value of the stock.

Analysts often refer to this hypothetical true value as the intrinsic value. However, it should be noted that this usage of the phrase intrinsic value means something different in stock valuation than what it means in other contexts such as options trading. Option pricing uses a standard calculation for intrinsic value, however analysts use a various complex models to arrive at their intrinsic value for a stock. There is not a single, generally accepted formula for arriving at the intrinsic value of a stock.

For example, say that a company’s stock was trading at $20, and after extensive research on the company, an analyst determines that it ought to be worth $24. Another analyst does equal research but determines that it ought to be worth $26. Many investors will consider the average of such estimates and assume that intrinsic value of the stock may be near $25. Often investors consider these estimates highly relevant information because they want to buy stocks that are trading at prices significantly below these intrinsic values.

This leads to a third major assumption of fundamental analysis: In the long run, the stock market will reflect the fundamentals. The problem is, nobody knows how long “the long run” really is. It could be days or years.

This is what fundamental analysis is all about. By focusing on a particular business, an investor can estimate the intrinsic value of a firm and find opportunities to buy at a discount. The investment will pay off when the market catches up to the fundamentals.

One of the most famous and successful fundamental analysts is the so-called “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett, who champions the technique in picking stocks.

Criticisms of Fundamental Analysis

The biggest criticisms of fundamental analysis come primarily from two groups: proponents of technical analysis and believers of the efficient market hypothesis.

Technical Analysis

Technical analysis is the other primary form of security analysis. Put simply, technical analysts base their investments (or, more precisely, their trades) solely on the price and volume movements of stocks. Using charts and other tools, they trade on momentum and ignore the fundamentals.

One of the basic tenets of technical analysis is that the market discounts everything. All news about a company is already priced into the stock. Therefore, the stock’s price movements give more insight than the underlying fundamentals of the business itself.

The Efficient Market Hypothesis

Followers of the efficient market hypothesis, however, are usually in disagreement with both fundamental and technical analysts.

The efficient market hypothesis contends that it is essentially impossible to beat the market through either fundamental or technical analysis. Since the market efficiently prices all stocks on an ongoing basis, any opportunities for excess returns are almost immediately whittled away by the market’s many participants, making it impossible for anyone to meaningfully outperform the market over the long term.

Examples of Fundamental Analysis

Take the Coca-Cola Company, for example. When examining its stock, an analyst must look at the stock’s annual dividend payout, earnings per share, P/E ratio, and many other quantitative factors. However, no analysis of Coca-Cola is complete without taking into account its brand recognition. Anybody can start a company that sells sugar and water, but few companies are known to billions of people. It’s tough to put a finger on exactly what the Coke brand is worth, but you can be sure that it’s an essential ingredient contributing to the company’s ongoing success.

Even the market as a whole can be evaluated using fundamental analysis. For example, analysts looked at fundamental indicators of the S&P 500 from July 4 to July 8, 2020. During this time, the S&P rose to 2129.90 after the release of a positive jobs’ report in the United States. In fact, the market just missed a new record high, coming in just under the May 2020 high of 2132.80. The economic surprise of an additional 287,000 jobs for the month of June specifically increased the value of the stock market on July 8, 2020.

However, there are differing views on the market’s true value. Some analysts believe the economy is heading for a bear market, while other analysts believe it will continue as a bull market.

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