This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS - See his portfolio and get alerts BEFORE every trade. Learn more NOW!

When Is a Bubble Not a Bubble?

The following article has been adapted from "Value: The Four Cornerstones of Corporate Finance" by McKinsey & Co.'s Tim Koller, Richard Dobbs and Bill Huyett. The publisher is John Wiley & Sons.

It's easy to construe all instances of sharply rising, then falling, stock prices as bubbles, but most of the time they're not.

True stock-price bubbles are essentially nonexistent at the level of the aggregate economy, very rare in specified industry sectors and not common for individual companies. The fact that they are so rare makes it all the more important for the value-minded executive to be able to spot them.

What, then, is a bubble? Bubbles occur when one group of investors irrationally pushes a stock price far above a level that can be justified by its potential financial performance, and other, often more sophisticated investors, aren't able to offset the actions of the less rational investors due to structural constraints and the liquidity risks of shorting stocks.

Financial crises are often described as bubbles, but they're not the same. Bubbles are the rise and fall of company share prices. An unlike debt, equities don't have maturity dates or covenants that can allow the holder to immediately demand cash from the company. Therefore, when bubbles burst, they don't have a drastic effect on the economy (unless they're accompanied by large amounts of debt).

Financial crises, on the other hand, do have a dramatic and far-reaching effect on the real economy, because they're brought about by excessive financial leverage, which has a negative domino effect when the value of the underlying assets falls and those who owe the debt can no longer service it. The debt crisis causes an economic downturn, which then causes the stock market to decline. But we can't call this a bubble if stock prices were reasonably valued in light of the economic conditions before the crisis.

A good example of a stock bubble was when 3Com (COMS) spun off its Palm subsidiary 10 years ago. Immediately after the share sale, the market capitalization of Palm was $45 billion. At the same time, 3Com's market cap was only $28 billion, even though it owned 95% of Palm (presumably worth $41 billion). The only way that 3Com could be worth 60% of Palm would be if the rest of 3Com's businesses were worth negative $13 billion!

1 of 3

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Try it NOW
Only $9.95
Try it NOW
14-Days Free
Try it NOW

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG
EAT $59.50 0.00%
AAPL $129.36 0.00%
FB $79.60 0.00%
GOOG $573.64 0.00%
TSLA $199.56 0.00%

Markets

DOW 18,203.37 -85.26 -0.47%
S&P 500 2,107.78 -9.61 -0.45%
NASDAQ 4,979.9010 -28.1950 -0.56%

Partners Compare Online Brokers

Free Reports

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs