At a recent financial seminar, I gave a talk called “The Secret of the World’s Greatest Investors.”
What is that secret? I’ll give you three hints…
Baron Rothschild said, “The time to buy is when there’s blood running in the streets.”
(He added that the way he got rich was he “always sold too soon.” Always preferable to selling too late.)
John Templeton, the man who almost single-handedly pioneered the field of global investing, said the best bargains can only be found “at the point of maximum pessimism.”
And Warren Buffett, the world’s most successful investor, says, “You want to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”
Great investors have a contrarian spirit. They draw their own conclusions, not caring about the consensus.
For example, many investors scoffed at Warren Buffett in the late 1990s when he warned about the bubble in internet stocks.
Detractors said he didn’t understand the technology revolution, the so-called “New Era.”
They laughed that he was missing the boat.
Buffett just smiled, noting in Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report that “we have embraced the 21st century by entering such cutting-edge industries as brick, carpet, insulation and paint. Try to control your excitement.”
By the way, that ship he missed… it turned out to be the Titanic.
Between March 2000 and October 2002, the leading index of internet stocks declined more than 95%.
Contrarians know that fear and greed cause investors to push share prices too high or too low.
That means you have to look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy.
You want to profit from folly, not participate in it.
That’s why I urged readers throughout 2023 to take advantage of low share prices.
And our optimism was vindicated, especially in the fourth quarter.
True investors think long term. They often hold their stocks for years.
Indeed, Buffett insists that his favorite holding period is “forever.”
When you have a long-term perspective, you can sit comfortably when things go against you temporarily.
However, short-term trading is different.
Traders aim to generate short-term profits. They don’t want to wait years for profits. They want to generate them as quickly as possible.
For this reason, they should not use a contrarian approach. Here’s why…
Some pundits make a big deal of investing against “the crowd.”
But the trader who follows the major market trend is actually right most of the time.
It is only when the stock market goes to extreme highs, as it did in January 2022, or lows, as it did in October of that year, that the consensus opinion becomes wrong and a new trend begins.
If you want to be a good short-term trader, buy the healthiest, most profitable companies that are moving higher.
A rising share price signifies that the company is on track, growing sales and improving earnings.
Yet there are analysts out there who have been resolutely bearish on the market not just for years… but for decades.
They are not contrarians. They are ignorant… or stubborn, calling equity investors chumps, patsies and fools.
They relish this point of view even when they have egg all over their faces (which is most of the time).
They’re more interested in being contrary than being right.
That’s not intelligent contrarianism. And it’s no way to maximize profits.
As J.P. Morgan famously said, “You can’t pick cherries with your back to the tree.”
In short, a contrarian investor – who understands that economic setbacks are always temporary – wins out in the long run.
But the best traders follow the short-term trend.
You can be both a long-term investor and a short-term trader, of course.
But you should keep those portfolios separate.
Why? Because both contrarian investors and trend-following traders are generally successful.
Trend-following investors and contrarian traders, on the other hand, generally aren’t.