• When markets behave like a voting machine, they tend to ignore a business’ underlying fundamentals. Learn more.

Analysis in selling could be just as important as buying

Analysis in selling could be just as important as buying

In the world of investing, there is significant attention spent on which stocks to buy and add to a portfolio – fundamental company and industry research, techniques to determine intrinsic value and financial analysis are just three potential areas of focus for a prospective investment. Rarely however, do you see much attention devoted to the other critical part of the equation – when to sell.

While the intuitive explanation is that these strategies advocate a buy and hold approach, individual stocks don’t always deliver positive compounding returns – if they did, you would rarely – if ever –sell your stock (unless you needed the capital for another opportunity).

A recent empirical paper titled “Selling Fast and Buying Slow: Heuristics and Trading Performance of Institutional Investors” by Akepanidataworn, Di Mascio, Imas and Schmidt highlighted this discrepancy:

  1. Investors displayed clear skill in buying – positions added to the portfolio outperformed both the benchmark and a strategy which randomly bought more shares of assets already held in the portfolio.
  2. Selling decisions failed to beat a no-skill strategy of selling randomly chosen positions – the level of underperformance was observed to be significant, such that it dragged down performance by 50 to 100 basis points.
  3. Selling decisions coinciding with releases of portfolio-relevant information outperform – for example, following the release of company earnings announcements.

So why the discrepancy in buying and selling? While buying decisions are forward looking, the study suggests investors tend to place too much importance on past returns when deciding to sell; in fact, assets with extreme returns (whatever has gone up a lot or down a lot) were more than 50 per cent likely to be sold than those in the middle of the pack. The paper however found no such bias when evaluating buying decisions.

As demonstrated by point iii), investors incorporating information to predict the future returns of an asset when determining whether to buy AND sell should improve the overall investment performance of a portfolio.

A simple technique that may help with the selling decision is to ask yourself the question: “Would you be willing to invest at the current price?”

This helps to frame the selling decision as a forward-looking issue, as opposed to relying on heuristics that are often backward looking in nature.


Joseph is the Portfolio Manager of The Montgomery Fund and Head of Fundamental Research. Joseph has over fourteen years’ experience in equities research, funds management and M&A. Before joining Montgomery, he was a Senior Analyst at Colonial First State Global Asset Management responsible for coverage of resources, energy, infrastructure and industrials sectors. Joseph’s prior experience includes roles in equities research at JP Morgan and at Ellerston Capital.

This post was contributed by a representative of Montgomery Investment Management Pty Limited (AFSL No. 354564). The principal purpose of this post is to provide factual information and not provide financial product advice. Additionally, the information provided is not intended to provide any recommendation or opinion about any financial product. Any commentary and statements of opinion however may contain general advice only that is prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial circumstances or needs. Because of this, before acting on any of the information provided, you should always consider its appropriateness in light of your personal objectives, financial circumstances and needs and should consider seeking independent advice from a financial advisor if necessary before making any decisions. This post specifically excludes personal advice.

Why every investor should read Roger’s book VALUE.ABLE


find out more


Post your comments