Should I buy or sell foreign stocks given today’s conditions?
Today’s Q&A combines two related questions into one, “Should I buy or sell foreign stocks given today’s conditions?”
The first question is from Lou, “I see that the PE ratios on foreign stocks are a lot less than with U.S. stocks. Should I be buying foreign stocks?”
Then there is this from Phil, “I see foreign stocks haven’t done as well as U.S. stocks. Should I be selling my foreign funds?”
We put those together to get “Should I buy or sell foreign stocks given today’s conditions?”
The questions highlight the simple fact that you cannot buy unless someone sells and you cannot sell unless someone buys. Lou and Phil are grappling with the same issue but from different angles.
First, what is a “P/E ratio?” “P” stands for price and “E” for earnings. P/E ratio is simply the ratio of price to earnings. When you own stock, directly or through a traditional mutual fund or exchange traded fund, you own part of the company and have a claim on your share of the earnings. As a general rule, the less you pay for a dollar of earnings the better. Lou sees a lower price as a better value.
One reason the P/E ratio on foreign stocks is lower than U.S. stocks is because the prices of foreign stocks haven’t risen as much as the prices of U.S. stocks. This lagging behind is what has Phil thinking about selling.
What tends to happen is that as foreign stocks lag, the difference in relative value increases, at some point traders want to buy more foreign shares, their price rises and foreign stocks do better than U.S. Stocks. So, Lou is on the right track. However, when exactly this process kicks in and foreign stocks start to do better is not at all predictable. PE ratios are lousy timing tools. The differences in valuation and performance can and has persisted for multi-year periods, many times in the past.
Phil, whether he thinks of it this way or not, is betting that the process won’t kick in any time soon and foreign stocks will continue to lag. Both Lou and Phil are indulging short-term thinking and are closer to speculating than investing.
We think a better way to deal with the differences between how foreign stocks and U.S. stocks perform is to own both on a continual basis and rebalance periodically to a consistent allocation of foreign versus domestic. Doing this has historically produced less overall volatility in portfolios over the long term. This strategy also works well with other asset classes.
Why stay in one fund when another is performing better? – Explains the destructive effects of “returns chasing” and trying to move between asset classes.
What will the market do now – Lists principles to adapt to maintain an effective disposition
How to invest for your goals – not for headlines – Explains the importance of diversification and why one should expect differences between asset classes in a well-diversified portfolio.
We frequently produce Q&A columns for Florida Today and MarketWatch, a personal finance website of the Wall Street Journal, as well as pieces for Investopedia, Orlando Sentinel, Financial Advisor magazine and others. Below is a sampling from the last three months.
We continue to help the Orlando Sentinel with reader questions for its Ask An Expert feature. Tommy Lucas,CFP® explained how a life-changing event may lower Medicare premiums and Mike Salmon, CFP® helped a reader who asked, “How will I be taxed on the sale of my house?”
Dan Moisand,CFP® continues to write for MarketWatch, Florida Today, and Financial Advisor:
In the News…
Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo, LLC again made Financial Advisor magazine’s list of the top independent Registered Investment Advisor firms in the U.S. The list is based upon total assets under management.
Dan Moisand did a video interview for the Financial Planning Association during their Retreat conference. FPA spoke with several veteren financial planners and included Dan’s thoughts in this package of tips for new planners. Dan’s top tip was to be patient. Learning is a lifelong process. His clip starts at 0:57
Things We Found of Note
The average amount of savings Americans have for retirement is just $84,821 and,
78% of Americans surveyed say they are “somewhat” or “extremely” concerned about not having enough money for retirement. (Northwestern Mutual survey)
Of retirees that said they were generally happy, 97% credited that to a strong sense of purpose. (Transamerica)
Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo, LLC is an Orlando, FL and Melbourne, FL based fee-only financial planner serving central Florida and clients across the country. Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo, LLC specializes in providing objective financial planning, retirement planning, and investment management to help clients build, manage, grow, and protect their assets through all phases of one’s life and the many transitions in between.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything further, please give us a call or send us a note.
If you are not a client and wish to receive emails notifying you of new posts – no more than once per month – fill out the subscription information in the sidebar to the right.
Important Additional Information & Disclosures
Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo, LLC-“MFT”), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this blog will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.
Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this blog serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from MFT.
Please remember that if you are a MFT client, it remains your responsibility to advise MFT, in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/evaluating/revising our previous recommendations and/or services, or if you would like to impose, add, or to modify any reasonable restrictions to our investment advisory services. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. MFT is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the blog content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. Tax advice is given only to clients and only when agreed to by MFT. A copy of the MFT’s current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request.
Please Note: MFT does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to MFT’s web site or blog or incorporated herein, and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly.
Please Note: Limitations: While MFT does NOT pay for recognition, awards, or publicity, neither rankings and/or recognition by unaffiliated rating services, publications, or other organizations, nor the achievement of any designation or certification, should be construed by a client or prospective client as a guarantee that he/she will experience a certain level of results if MFT is engaged, or continues to be engaged, to provide investment advisory services. Rankings published by magazines, and others, generally base their selections exclusively on information prepared and/or submitted by the recognized adviser. Rankings are generally limited to participating advisers. No ranking or recognition should be construed as a current or past endorsement of MFT by any of its clients. ANY QUESTIONS: MFT’s Chief Compliance Officer remains available to address any questions regarding rankings and/or recognitions, including providing the criteria used for any reflected ranking.
Historical performance results for investment indices, benchmarks, and/or categories have been provided for general informational/comparison purposes only, and generally do not reflect the deduction of transaction and/or custodial charges, the deduction of an investment management fee, nor the impact of taxes, the incurrence of which would have the effect of decreasing historical performance results. It should not be assumed that your MFT account holdings correspond directly to any comparative indices or categories. Please Also Note: (1) performance results do not reflect the impact of taxes; (2) comparative benchmarks/indices may be more or less volatile than your MFT accounts; and, (3) a description of each comparative benchmark/index is available upon request.