Jim Cramer's "Mad Money" is to investors what "Sex in the City" was (and still is) to fabulousshoe-loving women everywhere -- an obsession.
Thousands of people watch and learn from Cramer every night. But he speaks so fast and spews so many facts that sometimes you just can't get everything he says.
So, we've decided to help. Our "Booyah Breakdown" column will take topics from the shows that may seem a bit advanced or unclear and expand on them for you.
Don't get me wrong, Cramer does a fantastic job of explaining stuff. But he can't possibly break down and define every topic he touches in his hour-long show.
So, if he says something during the show that you don't understand,
let me know. Just keep in mind that we don't do stock picking. Ask me to explain the fundamentals, some definitions or even how to search for research -- but don't ask me if you should buy or sell something. You'll need to call Cramer's show for that advice.
Now on to this week's topic.
Cramer often mentions that some stocks are value plays and others are momentum plays. And while there's a big distinction for the seasoned investor, it might be just be a bunch of jargon to the beginner.
So here it is in a nutshell: The big differences between value stocks and momentum plays are the creation and length of the relationship.
Value investing is a lot like getting married. You take time to pick the right partner. Ideally, you meet when you're young and stay for the long haul.
On the flipside, momentum investing is more like a one-night stand. You don't really know much about the person, and you leave pretty quickly.
'Till Death Do Us Part
Value investors generally pick stocks that are "out of favor." These investors believe that their value stock's price is lower than it should be and believe it's only a matter of time before the masses catch on and drive up the price, says Dan Noll, director of accounting standards at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
To watch Tracy Byrnes' video take of this column, click here
A typical value investor does a ton of homework. He reads the financials and does some serious fundamental analysis. He does his own mini-audit of the company's numbers and typically looks for stocks with a low price-to-earnings ratio or price-to-book ratio.
Once the value investors find something they like, they'll buy it and wait. Because they're believers. They presume the market will come around eventually and realize it's a good company. Then the stock price will rise. And the value investors will gloat because they got in at a very low price when no one was looking.
This slow-and-steady approach is exactly why value investing is generally recommended forlong-term investors.
And it should come as no surprise that many value investors will argue that over the long haul, value stocks outperform the market over the years.
Love 'Em and Leave 'Em
A momentum trader often doesn't care what a stock looks like, whether it pays a dividend, or what its plans for the future are. He just cares that it's moving quickly, and not much else matters.
"It's simply a horse you want to ride for short time," says Jake Bernstein, founder of
trade-futures.com and author of
Momentum Stock Selection: Using the Momentum Method for MaximumProfits
. And how quickly you jump on and off will determine your gains.
You can't be greedy in this game. You need to set a breakpoint and get out while it's still good. You need to tell yourself, "When the stock price hits X, I'm selling, regardless of how much more I think I can squeeze out of it."
Remember, "it's strictly a quickie," says Bernstein. Momentum investors typically hold a stock for a few days -- but it could be as short as a few hours -- so they need to monitor their holdings daily. As a result, momentum trading can be very risky and requires a lot of time.
But if you play it right, it can be a profitable game to play.
To find a good momentum play, traders look for a few basic things in a stock: a strong price chart, rapid earnings growth and recent positive changes in earnings-growth forecasts. So, these guys don't spend a ton of time analyzing financial statements.
But they do follow the trend, says Noll. If people are talking about it, the momentum guysare interested.
One way to find good momentum plays is to use a stock-screen filter. You can program it to find the stocks that have had the biggest percentage gains or losses over a certain period of time. Or it can list the stocks that have really high volume.
And there are some good software products out there that can help you do this.
are reliable, user-friendly options, says Bernstein.
So put in your parameters, and watch your momentum stocks pop up. These days, you're sure to find
on your list since it has big moves every day. Same goes for the
Chicago Mercantile Exchange
, which operates as a futures exchange on the frenzied commodities world. And pretty much any petroleum stock can be a momentum play as well these days.
So while each momentum trader has his own set of rules and parameters, the essence is thesame. They're in and out and play on speculation.
That means if you're going to play this game, stay on top of it. There are too many pros outthere who do this for a living. "It's similar to going to Vegas and sitting down with the pokerpros. If you don't pay attention, you don't stand a chance," says Bernstein.
And there you have it. The difference between value and momentum plays. And I should mentionthat there's one other category of stocks we didn't hit on -- the growth stocks. And they're muchakin to getting married later in life. But that's fodder for another day.
Now it's up to you. What kind of relationship are you looking for these days?
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Tracy Byrnes is an award-winning writer specializing in tax and accounting issues. As a freelancer, she has written columns for wsj.com and the New York Post and her work has appeared in SmartMoney and on MarketWatch. Prior to freelancing, she spent four years as a senior writer for TheStreet.com. Before that, she was an accountant with Ernst & Young. She has a B.A. in English and economics from Lehigh University and an M.B.A. in accounting from Rutgers University. Byrnes appreciates your feedback;
to send her an email.