Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits

There is only one theme in Philip A. Fisher's Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits: a high-growth company is suitable for a common stock investment if it is competitive. Most of the chapters in the book go on to explain what a competitive company looks like. Chapters 5 and 6 argue that an investor should not attempt to time the market when buying or selling a growth stock, and that the investment will continue to be a wise one so long as the company remains competitive. My copy included Fisher's Conservative Investors Sleep Well, which further explains competitiveness, and Developing an Investment Philosophy, which outlines his personal investing experiences. They were worth reading, but didn't offer much additional theory.

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Philip A. Fisher book Read more reviews on Amazon Although Warren Buffett claims to be "15 percent Fisher," he did not make his fortune investing in the kinds of companies Fisher did. By his own admission, Buffett does not understand technology and instead invests in simple, reliable products like Coca-Cola. Fisher only addresses investments in companies with relatively rapid earnings growth, which are usually technology-driven companies. What he and Buffett would agree on are the various characteristics of a well-run organization. Fisher pioneered the strategy of buy and hold in innovative companies that develop great products, but he would never recommend holding on to a company that began to show signs of complacency and incompetence.

Fisher warns the reader about his writing skills, and he wasn't joking. It often takes a bit of unraveling and untangling to figure out what he is trying to say. Consequently, the book could probably be condensed to about two-thirds its size. Another weakness of Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits is that Fisher's tactic of "scuttlebutt" is obsolete—there are now more efficient ways of learning about a company than visiting in person. But if you're willing to trudge through Fisher's clumsy writing, you can learn an investment strategy that becomes more and more relevant as the years go on.

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