Advice to Security Analysts

The subject matter of security analysis can be divided in various ways. One division might be in three parts: First, the techniques of security analysis; secondly, standards of safety and common stock valuation; and thirdly, the relationship of the analyst to the security market.

Another way of dividing the subject might be to consider, first, the analyst as an investigator, in which role he gathers together all the relevant facts and serves them up in the most palatable and illuminating fashion he can. And then to consider the analyst as a judge of values, or an evaluator. This first division of the subject is rather useful, I think, because there is a good field in Wall Street for people whose work it will be mainly to digest the facts, and to abstain from passing judgment on the facts, leaving that to other people.

Such sticking to the facts alone might be very salutary; for the judgment of security analysts on securities is so much influenced by market conditions down here that most of us are not able, I fear, to express valuation judgments as good analysts. We find ourselves almost always acting as a mixture of market experts and security experts. I had hoped that there would be some improvement in that situation over the years, but I must confess that I haven’t seen a great deal of it.

Analysts have recently been acting in Wall Street pretty much as they always have, that is to say, with one eye on the balance sheet and income account, and the other eye on the stock ticker. It might be best in this introductory lecture to deal with the third aspect of the security analyst’s work, and that is his relationship to the security market. It is a little more interesting, perhaps, than the other subdivisions, and I think it is relevant as introductory material.

The correct attitude of the security analyst toward the stock market might well be that of a man toward his wife. He shouldn’t pay too much attention to what the lady says, but he can’t afford to ignore it entirely. That is pretty much the position that most of us find ourselves vis-a-vis the stock market.

-Ben Graham,circa 1940 

(Oh…how little do things change !)

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