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Use Zen Score to quickly analyze stock fundamentals, even if you don't have a finance background. We run time-tested due diligence checks inspired by legendary investors like Warren Buffett, and score each company based on how many they pass/fail.
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"He who lives by the crystal ball is destined to eat ground glass" Ray Dalio
At WallStreetZen, we incorporate analyst ratings and analyst stock forecasts into our fundamental analysis model and due diligence checks.
We have a stock forecast section on every company that shows analyst price targets, analyst stock predictions related to revenue and earnings, and analyst stock ratings.
However, it's important to understand the limitations of Wall Street analyst forecasts so you can make informed decisions.
Sell-side analysts have a strong bias towards giving a "buy" recommendation.
After all, the way stock investing worked for most of its history was that a firm's stockbrokers would sell stocks and earn a commission, while offering research from their firm's own equity analysts. While there are regulations designed to keep the analysis and sales sides of firms separate, the natural incentive for analysts is to lean towards buy, rather than sell recommendations.
While most individual investors no longer use individual stock brokers to buy stocks, the same banks that publish analyst research and ratings are still the same banks that provide investment services to institutional investors and retail investors alike.
A study by S&P Global Market Intelligence found that during a typical quarterly earnings season, ⅔ of the companies on the S&P500 published earnings per share guidance that was higher than the consensus estimates among analysts.
Why is that? After all, if analysts estimates were completely unbiased, you would expect that this rate should be somewhere closer to 50%. Why would this number consistently hover around 67%, like some rule of nature?
It turns out you just need to look at incentives to understand what's going on. Because a company's share price often goes up if they beat their earnings guidance, companies usually offer earnings guidance that they can "beat" - in other words, their incentives are to under promise and over deliver.
Analysts are offering stock forecasts that optimize for their own track record of making winning bets.
While analyst research can offer useful insights into a company or an industry, take their stock forecasts and predictions as just a single data point to incorporate into a comprehensive research process.
We incorporate analyst forecasts as a data point to help you make better long-term investment decisions, but they should be taken with a grain of salt.
Analysts follow companies closely and so they may have some insights into the future earnings and revenues of a company. Most models for calculating the intrinsic value of a company require some form of forecasting and attempting to project a company's prospects for growth, so some amount of trying to look into the future and make predictions is required for creating relatively accurate valuation models.
However, you should not make investments by blindly following analyst recommendations.
In fact, if you don't have the time or knowledge to do your own research into a company's numbers, you should take Warren Buffett's advice and simply invest in index funds that track the market:
"Over the years, I've often been asked for investment advice, and in the process of answering I've learned a good deal about human behavior. My regular recommendation has been a low-cost S&P 500 index fund."
Here at WallStreetZen, we've seen no evidence to contradict Warren Buffett's assertion that the vast majority of investors (both part-time and professional) will get better returns investing in index funds, rather than attempting to pick individual stocks.
However, our mission is to help those part-time investors by providing easy to use tools and education to make understanding those numbers easier. Our mission is to support those investors who are passionate about understanding the fundamentals, and helping those investors who strive to learn and improve their mental models.
The financial media likes to obsess about the stock market's future. They provide minute by minute coverage of every fluctuation in the markets like it's a competitive sport.
If you watch/read Bloomberg CNBC Money, or any other financial news outlet - you'll be bombarded with pundits flashing authoritative credentials, pontificating on the direction of the markets.
This might lead you to believe that the best path to stock market investing success is to try to guess which way the market is going, and bet accordingly.
But what's important to understand is that the media has its own incentives system. The financial media is driven by views, clicks, and watch time - these benefit from a constant obsession with the market, while investors benefit from buying quality companies at fair prices and holding for the long term.
Instead of listening to the financial media's prognostications, we should listen to what successful investors themselves have to do and say.
Successful investors like Warren Buffett suggest that investors should focus on long-term fundamentals of companies, rather than the day to day fluctuations of the market.
Warren Buffett's mentor, Benjamin Graham, has been quoted as saying "In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine."
In other words, if you invest at a fair price into companies with good fundamentals and a durable competitive advantage, then you shouldn't care what the price of the stock is on any given day, since the stock price on any given day is a reflection of the fear and greed of other investors, rather than the actual value of the company's underlying business and cash flows.
But over long periods of time, the stock market will recognize a company's consistent long term performance and adjust accordingly. Quality companies will continue to generate outsized earnings and reinvest into growth, or pay dividends for the long-term.
Instead of monitoring the price of stocks, Warren Buffett suggests that you should be focused on a company's fundamentals.
In practical terms, you should only adjust your investment if the underlying fundamentals of the company change, not whether the price changes.
"The money is made in investments by investing," Buffett said in a 2016 interview with CNBC, "and by owning good companies for long periods of time. If they buy good companies, buy them over time, they're going to do fine 10, 20, 30 years from now."
"If they're trying to buy and sell stocks, and worry when they go down a little bit … and think they should maybe sell them when they go up, they're not going to have very good results," Buffett said.
The billionaire investor Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world with $160 Billion dollars under management, teaches that trying to perfectly time the market is something that even professionals like himself often fail at, and that the average person would find almost impossible to do successfully.
"To [time the market] well you have to beat the pros, who themselves typically can't do that well."