The ‘Value’ in Value Investing

With roots that date back to the 1930s, value investing is a price-driven discipline that seeks companies whose shares are selling at a discount to their true, or intrinsic, value.

While growth-oriented investors focus on firms whose earnings are growing at a rapid pace, a quality that makes them highly sought after, value investors seek companies that are temporarily out of favor. Their shares may be depressed due to factors ranging from company-specific issues to shifting investor sentiment, poor economic conditions, cyclical trends or an overall market decline. Sometimes they’re being ignored by the market for no good reason.

Over the past 25 years, three factors have amply made the case for the value style of investing: performance, diversification and risk control.

* Performance: First and foremost, value investing as a strategy has done well over time, rewarding investors with strong risk-adjusted performance. That has certainly been true over the past quarter-century.

Additionally, it is important to note that dividends have and continue to be a significant component of the stock market’s total returns – and particularly those of value stocks. In fact, according to Ibbotson Associates, a leading authority on asset allocation, dividends contributed, on average, 44 percent of the stock market’s total return from 1926 through 2003.

Diversification: Over time, value and growth stocks have tended to move in different cycles. When growth stocks are in favor, they tend to outperform value shares, and vice versa. That knowledge encourages many investors to construct portfolios employing both value and growth strategies, helping to ensure that they have equity investment with the potential to perform in changing market environments.

More to the point, the value strategy has more than held its own against its growth counterpart. Value’s outperformance has been particularly pronounced in recent years. From March 2000 through December 2004, value stocks, as measured by the Russell 1000 Value index, topped their growth counterparts as measured by the Russell 1000 Growth index by nearly 17.5 percentage points annualized.

* Risk control: By their nature, value stocks generally tend to be less volatile than their growth counterparts. In addition, because their shares are typically selling at depressed prices, value firms are better positioned to withstand market declines. Meanwhile, shares of growth companies normally have higher earnings expectations built into their prices and thus are subject to wider price swings as those expectations change.

American Century introduced its first value portfolio in 1993, complementing its long-standing efforts in the growth field by offering equity investors a lower-risk investment style. More than 11 years later, American Century’s stable of value offerings has grown to six funds, totaling more than $14 billion in assets.

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