Observations on Technical Verses Fundamental Analysis:

AMEX:IWY   iShares Russell Top 200 Growth ETF
Trend Following and Growth Investing

In Technical Analysis (TA), trend following is the equivalent of growth investing in Fundamental Analysis (FA). Further, in TA, mean reversion analysis ("overbought" and "oversold") is the equivalent of valuation ("overvalued" & "undervalued") in FA.

In both trend following and growth investing, the focus is on finding the best trends (price in TA, revenues in FA), without regard to "value". Therefore, a trend follower will hold onto a trending stock, regardless of how "overbought" it gets, much like a growth investor will hold onto a growth stock, regardless of how "overvalued" it gets. Conversely, a mean reversion investor will buy stocks that are very "oversold" relative to some anchor, such as the 200-day average or 52-week high, regardless of the direction of the trend, while a value manager will buy stocks that are "undervalued" relative to some anchor, such as earnings or book value, regardless of current fundamental performance. In other words, both mean reversion and value investors are making the case that the trends (price or earnings ) have simply gone too far and are unjustified. Understandably, we can see why trend following and mean reversion don't "work" at the same time, just as growth and value don't "work" at the same time.

In the end, the line in the sand between TA and FA is ego. A pure TA investor accepts the verdict of the market in terms of what it deems fundamentally "attractive" visa vie the existence of either a positive price trend in a timeframe that is driven by fundamental trends (as opposed to short term trends and noise) or a magnitude of "oversold" momentum that overlaps with historical valuation measures. A FA investor, on the other hand, invests perhaps hundreds of hours developing a personal opinion of what is "attractive", and often finds him/herself at odds with the market's verdict. Since we can never make money until the market agrees with us, we can see then how a more holistic investor who has the wisdom to unite the strengths of trend following with growth investing (or mean reversion with value investing) is better off than those who use only one of those inputs.

By leaning on trend, a growth investor will know when the market agrees with his/her painstakingly curated fundamental view, particularly when things are changing, most importantly from good to bad. Behavioral bias may prevent a growth investor from seeing the change in fundamentals that is being depicted by the change in price trend. Indeed, it is in this very moment (former highflying, expensive growth stock that breaks price trend in a meaningful timeframe) when "overbought and overvalued" conditions finally start to matter.

David Lundgren, CMT CFA
Chief Market Strategist
Co-Host "Fill the Gap" podcast

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