How To Choose Better Stocks

Consider investing in the best stocks from an industry you’re interested in, instead of buying more than two from the same industry, as there usually aren’t that many great investing ideas.

If you’re a low-risk, conservative investor, you should consider focusing your investing dollars on stocks that:

  • have stable earnings or cash flow generation,
  • have an investment-grade credit rating or stocks that have little to no debt and are not rated, like Facebook (FB),
  • have weighted average interest rates of about 4% or lower,
  • don’t dilute shareholders,
  • have little short interests, and
  • are trading reasonable valuations.

Stocks from the same industries are subject to the same operating environments/challenges and risks. So, it makes sense to compare stocks from the same industries. Additionally, you’d generally want to compare with peers of similar size (i.e., large cap to large cap and small cap to small cap).

In general, you don’t want to hold too many stocks in the same industry because such stocks tend to move in tandem, and you want to reduce risk through diversification. Besides, why not choose the best stock from an industry you’re interested in? The aim is to lower your risk for satisfactory returns.

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Are High Return Investments Too Good to be True?

Who doesn’t want high returns on their investments? However, when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. More specifically, when certain stocks deliver excellent returns, ask yourself what’s the risk behind them.

coins stacking higher and higher with plant behind each stack indicating growth of money

Here are some examples.

High Return Tech Stocks

Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) has got to be one of the highest return tech stocks out there. Here’s a chart that shows its total returns since inception compared to other big tech names.

Yes, Shopify stock kicked the butts of the FANG stocks, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)(NASDAQ:GOOG).

SHOP Chart

SHOP data by YCharts

However, Shopify’s valuation is super duper expensive. At about US$200 per share, it trades at a blended P/E of about 500 and a PEG ratio of about 20.

Compare that to:

  • Facebook’s P/E of about 23.2 and a PEG ratio of about 1.5 at US$175 per share,
  • Amazon’s P/E of about 83.6 and a PEG ratio of roughly 1.4-2.8 at US$1850 per share,
  • Netflix’s P/E of about 120 and a PEG ratio of 2.4-3.9 at US$361 per share, and
  • Alphabet’s P/E of about 27.3 and a PEG ratio of 1.5-1.9 at US$1208 per share for GOOGL.

Surely, Shopify is growing at a super fast rate. For example, revenue growth was 59% in 2018. However, because of its astronomical valuation, it’s especially subject to an especially huge drawdown when we experience a market meltdown.

By the way, I don’t categorize the little correction we had from October to December 2018 as a market meltdown. In that period, Shopify fell from a high of about US$168 to a low of about US$120 for a drop of 28%. Imagine what a real market meltdown can do to Shopify stock (at least in the short term).

Biotech Stocks

Biotech stocks did very well for a long time. The long-term price chart of iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology Index (NASDAQ:IBB) illustrates the big picture.

Source: Google Finance with author annotatio
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How To Choose Stocks For Your Defensive Dividend Portfolio

The U.S. market has been led by the bull for pretty much 10 consecutive years. So, it’s better to take a more defensive stance to prepare for attacks from the bear. A core component of a defensive portfolio is it can utilize conservative dividend stocks as its foundation.

Here are some tips for choosing your foundation conservative dividend stocks.

Earnings or Cash Flow Stability

Healthy dividends are paid from earnings or cash flow. So, stable earnings or cash flow generation improve the dividend safety of a stock.

Typically, utilities, REITs, the big Canadian banks, the big Canadian telecoms, and energy infrastructure stocks are good places to search for businesses that generate stable earnings or cash flow.

Dividend Safety

When checking for dividend safety, the first 2 things to look at are the payout ratio and dividend track record of the company. Typically, the lower the payout ratio, the safer the dividend.

However, certain industries like REITs and utilities tend to have higher payout ratios. So, it’s best to compare a company’s payout ratio to that of its industry peers.

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