Benjamin Graham’s Seven Criteria for Picking Value Stocks

7 value stock criteriaValue investing, perhaps more than any other type of investing, is more concerned with the fundamentals of a company’s business than its stock price or market factors affecting its price.

In Cabot Benjamin Graham Value Investor, we apply the value investing strategy developed by Benjamin Graham in the 1920s. The details of this value strategy are spelled out clearly in his book, “The Intelligent Investor,” published 60 years ago. The objective of Graham’s strategy is to identify unappreciated stocks and show you how to find undervalued stocks that meet certain criteria for quality and quantity … stocks that are poised for stellar price appreciation.

How to Find Undervalued Stocks. Investing the Benjamin Graham Way

How to Find Undervalued Stocks: Investing the Benjamin Graham Way

A growing number of undervalued stocks available for the conservative, steady investor to snap up and hold for long-term gain. It’s an exciting time to be a value investor! And we have a FREE Special Report, How to Find Undervalued Stocks: Investing the Benjamin Graham Way, to help you get started.

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Below are Benjamin Graham’s seven time-tested criteria to identify strong value stocks.

Value Stock Criteria List:

Value Criteria #1:

We look for a quality rating that is average or better. You don’t need to find the best quality companies–average or better is fine. Benjamin Graham recommended using Standard & Poor’s rating system and required companies to have an S&P Earnings and Dividend Rating of B or better. The S&P rating system ranges from D to A+. We try to recommend stocks with ratings of B+ or better, just to be on the safe side.

Value Criteria #2:

Graham advised buying companies with Total Debt to Current Asset ratios of less than 1.10. In value investing it is important at all times to invest in companies with a low debt load, especially now with tight lending in a weak economy. Total Debt to Current Asset ratios can be found in data supplied by Standard & Poor’s, Value Line, and many other services.

Value Criteria #3:

We check the Current Ratio (current assets divided by current liabilities) to find companies with ratios over 1.50. This is a common ratio provided by many investment services and is especially important now, because you want to make sure a company has enough cash and other current assets to weather any further declines in the economy.

Value Criteria #4:

Criteria four is simple. Find companies with positive earnings per share growth during the past five years with no earnings deficits. Earnings need to be higher in the most recent year than five years ago. Avoiding companies with earnings deficits during the past five years will help you stay clear of high-risk companies.

Value Criteria #5:

Invest in companies with price to earnings per share (P/E) ratios of 9.0 or less. We are looking for companies that are selling at bargain prices. Finding companies with low P/Es usually eliminates high growth companies, which should be evaluated using growth investing techniques.

Value Criteria #6:

Find companies with price to book value (P/BV) ratios less than 1.20. P/E ratios, mentioned in rule 5, can sometimes be misleading. P/BV ratios are calculated by dividing the current price by the most recent book value per share for a company. Book value provides a good indication of the underlying value of a company. Investing in stocks selling near or below their book value makes sense.

Value Criteria #7:

Invest in companies that are currently paying dividends. Investing in undervalued companies requires waiting for other investors to discover the bargains you have already found. Sometimes your wait period will be long and tedious, but if the company pays a decent dividend, you can sit back and collect dividends while you wait patiently for your stock to go from undervalued to overvalued.

One last thought. We like to find out why a stock is selling at a bargain price. Is the company competing in an industry that is dying? Is the company suffering from a setback caused by an unforeseen problem? The most important question, though, is whether the company’s problem is short-term or long-term and whether management is aware of the problem and taking action to correct it. You can put your business acumen to work to determine if management has an adequate plan to solve the company’s current problems.

In Cabot Benjamin Graham Value Investor, we use all of the criteria above to select the best value stocks on the market—stocks that will provide double-digit returns in any market. Over the last 20 years, we outperformed the Dow every year, providing our members stable and profitable returns.

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Timothy Lutts

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Timothy Lutts heads one of America’s most respected independent investment advisory services. Each week, Tim personally picks the single best stock in his exclusive Cabot Stock of the Week advisory. Build your wealth and reduce your risk with the top stock each week for current market conditions

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*This post was originally published in 2016 and is periodically updated.

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