機関投資家の手中に資金が流入する限り、四半期ごとの報告利益が安定的に成長しており、ほぼ一貫して株価が上昇している数十の銘柄ばかりを注視した投資が行われるのはまちがいないだろう。しかし実際には、すべりやすくて非常に危険な坂道であるのもたしかだと思われる。以前の株価上昇時に優る理由がないのに株価が上昇するときには、いずれ高く売れるからと考えて買う連中がいる。インターネット株にみられる熱狂を考えてみてほしい。株式分割の単なるうわさがあがると、まったくもって価値とは無関係なのに株価が飛翔しただけでなく、そのグループ全体の株が同調して上昇した。 このような投資のやりかたは、投資候補のファンダメンタルズをみるのではなく、市場が将来どうとらえるかに基づいた購入そのものと言える。価値に基づいてはじめから購入する投資家は、すでに割安な株価がさらに下落すれば購入するし、株価が価値の満額に達すれば売却する。しかしインターネット株を買ったり、非常に優れた会社ながらも非常に割高な株価で買った投資家は、価格が上昇あるいは下落した時にどうすればいいのか判断できない。これは大多数の投資家にはジレンマとなる。しかし、わずかな人にとっては真の機会となるのだ。

History Doesn't Quite Repeat

History never repeats itself exactly. So in 1998 investors urgently seeking liquidity are selling not Washington Post but small-cap and emerging-market equities. Investors tired of underperforming don't sell Dell Computer (no one, it seems, sells Dell), which they love for what it has done for them no matter how expensive it has become. It is so much easier for them to sell whatever has recently disappointed investor expectations, no matter how inexpensive it has become. Mutual-fund managers, desperate to put cash to work, don't buy what is cheap but what is working, since what is cheap by definition hasn't been working.

It seems obvious that so long as there are inflows into the hands of institutional investors, there will be a telescoping of investment into the several dozen names that have reliably reported quarter-by-quarter earnings growth and almost constant share-price appreciation. It seems obvious, but is actually a slippery and very dangerous slope. When stocks are rising for no better reason than that they have risen, the greater fool is at work. Consider the Internet-stock mania, where the mere rumor of a stock split, as irrelevant to value as a rumor could be, sends not only that stock flying but a whole group of stocks rising in sympathy. This is no different from the purchase of any investment based on how the market might possibly regard it in the future rather than on investment fundamentals. An investor who initially purchases based on value knows to buy more when an already undervalued stock falls and to sell when it becomes fully valued. An investor in an Internet stock or in the extraordinarily expensive shares of a very good company has no idea what to do when the price moves up or down. This creates a serious dilemma for the great majority of investors and a real opportunity for a few.

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