The Third Pig

Volatility Is Not Risk

Posted by Ben Taylor on January 11, 2008 12:42 PM

Red DiceExcerpt from Brick Financial's June 2006 Client Letter:  

We believe that risk should be measured as the probability of permanent loss of capital. Too many professional and novice investors alike measure risk in terms of price fluctuations. An unfortunate byproduct of this view is that the more risk one takes on, the higher one’s potential returns. In other words, high beta stocks should garner high returns. As it turns out this is not really true. We pointed to Robert Haugen’s book, The New Finance, in our February Client Letter as providing evidence that low beta (low risk) stocks actually perform better in the long term than do high beta (high risk) stocks. Another side of this coin is labeling stocks risky or not risky by the beta or fluctuation compared to the market is foolhardy.

By way of example, let’s say we buy the stock of a company for $50 per share. In our analysis we have estimated the stock of this company should be selling for something close to double that price in the range of $90 to $110. In this example, we have very little risk as we wait for the market to recognize what we have and close the price to value gap by purchasing the stock at increasing prices. But if the stock suddenly falls in price to let’s say $30, the beta of the stock actually increases. The stock has become more volatile thus conventional wisdom says it has also become more risky. If the value of the company has remained unchanged, then the reality is the stock has become less risky as its price to value ratio has become more favorable – the proverbial margin-of-safety has increased. In this example an investor would have the opportunity to by an asset worth a $1 for just 30¢. Prior to the price decline that investor would have only been able to by that $1 for 50¢ although a fifty cent dollar is nothing to sneeze at.
The information contained on Brick Financial Management’s web site is solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be relied upon as a source of investment advice. While every effort has been made to offer the most current and correct information possible, inadvertent errors can occur. Although Brick Financial believes the information and data in this report were obtained from sources considered reliable and correct, we cannot guarantee their accuracy or completeness. No commentary that appears here, or any opinions expressed herein, should be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to acquire any securities or other investments mentioned herein. Persons associated with this firm may own or have an interest in securities or investments mentioned in this presentation. Their positions may change from time to time and they may buy or sell such securities or investments. Past returns are no guarantee of future performance.