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Value vs Growth Investing

Updated on January 14, 2015

Choosing A Strategy

One of the oldest debates within the investment community is between the benefits of value investing versus growth investing. Numerous arguments have been made in favor of both approaches at various different times. A basic understanding of the two approaches must first be gained to evaluate ones point of view.

Value Investing is based on the evaluation of securities which are trading at relatively low prices in relation to their earnings as well as other fundamental analysis. Value stocks produces returns that most often compromise both capital appreciation as well as dividends. These tend to be more established entities in comparison to their growth based counterparts.

Growth Investing targets securities which are expected to have faster rates of growth in the future when compared to the broad market indices. Growth stocks produce returns that are more dependent on capital appreciation with less, and in some cases no dividend income. They are often more speculative in nature than their value oriented counterparts.

Value oriented securities are often viewed as more dependable because of the more consistent cash flow from dividends. However, in certain market environments they can be more volatile. As one such example, much of the large cap value sector is heavily weighted towards financials which can be a detractor in certain market environments. The S&P 500 value index is currently made up of a 25% exposure to the financial sector. In contrast the S&P 500 growth index is comprised of less than 10% financial sector exposure. During environments which may produce greater stress on financials, large cap value investing may be a more challenging task.

Ultimately, there have historically been various periods which have favored both value and growth investing over the short term business cycle. Yet, the timing of shorter term market movements has been shown to be an exercise in futility for the average investor, and very often for investment professionals. So then the real question becomes whether or not there is a clear winner over the longer term performance trend.

The recent trend over the last decade has shown little evidence that either value or growth has been the dominant performer. The recent 10 year performance of Large Cap equities has given a slight edge to growth over value, with each having their years of outperformance. During the 10 year period ending December 2014…The S&P 500 Value Index posted returns of 6.74%. While the S&P 500 Growth Index posted returns of 8.55%. Yet, when looking a risk adjusted returns…The S&P 500 blended index seems to produce the best results. A similar result is seen when looking at the S&P 400 Mid Cap Value Index which produced returns of 9.33% versus the S&P 400 Mid Cap Growth Index which returned 10.03%. The story is also a familiar one when looking at small cap equities, with the S&P Small Cap Value 600 Index posting an 8.56% return. By comparison the S&P Small Cap Growth 600 Index posted a 10 year return of 9.47%.

A longer term look over the course of multiple decades has shown results that differ from the recent trend, favoring value oriented securities. The academic work of recent Nobel Laureate Eugene Fama and Kenneth French in their Fama/French Three Factor Model has shown that value securities clearly outperform growth securities when given enough time. However, since there are extended periods of time in which this trend can and has been reversed...an attempt to isolate a portfolio towards value or growth oriented securities can produce lower portfolio returns. Furthermore, this is in itself an attempt at timing market cycles, which has been historically difficult…if not impossible.

When looking at portfolio construction for the average investor, any bias in either direction should remain nominally tilted towards an increased weighting in one direction or the other. Often times the quest for cash flow resulting from dividends may drive an investor to heavily favor value over growth. However, as the last decade has demonstrated…this would have produced a lower cumulative return across US equities.

Investors focused on cash flow for the purpose of providing for and/or supplementing their lifestyle should be first concerned with aggregate returns. This is done most effectively by drawing cash flow proportionately from an overall strategic asset allocation that encompasses all asset classes…and not simply focused on exclusively dividend income. Dividends and value oriented securities are a fundamental part of proper portfolio construction. However, purchasing a security solely based on its dividend income is not a wise strategy. Dividends are not always a proper representation of the free cash flow or the fiscal condition of an organization or even a sector of the market. Dividends distributions change, as does the economic cycles we must endure as investors. It is inevitable that we’ll face periods such as the recent decade in which less income oriented growth securities will outperform their value counterparts. Staying properly invested in a blended allocation provides an investor the best risk adjusted probability of keeping pace with the markets and achieving their investment objectives.

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