The Risks of Owning an Individual Stock
How risky is it to buy an individual stock?
This is a question investors should ask themselves when deciding to buy a single stock. However, many investors tend to get caught up in the story about why company XYZ is going to double over the next year.
As an educated investor, it makes sense to know the odds table. What we hope to do here is present a distribution of the total returns one would have earned by owning an individual stock.
The distribution is generated over two time periods. The first period is 1/1/1983 – 12/31/2006 and the second period is 1/1/2007 – 12/31/2014. The universe is created on 12/31/1982 (and 12/31/2006) by selecting the top 3000 stocks ranked by market capitalization. The initial universe is then compared to owning the Russell 3000 index. We examine the excess returns an investor would have earned by owning one stock compared to the universe.
The excess return is computed monthly by taking the stock’s total return and subtracting off the index return. So if stock XYZ earned 10% in January, while the Russell 3000 index earned 4%, the “excess return” for the month would be 10% – 4% = 6%. For each stock, we then compute the cumulative excess return over time, by compounding the monthly excess returns.
The results are shown below:
First Period: 1/1/1983 to 12/31/2006
- Around 63% of individual stocks underperform! This means that only 37% of individual stocks outperform the benchmark!
- The probability of beating the benchmark by more than 100% is only 11%!
Second Period: 1/1/2007 to 12/31/2014
- Around 54% of individual stocks underperform! This means that only 46% of individual stocks outperform the benchmark!
- The probability of beating the benchmark by more than 100% is only 10%!
So while it appears that the more recent time period was better for stock pickers, the odds were still against buying an individual stock. An additional concern when buying one stock is that the investor takes on a lot of idiosyncratic risk. This can lead to larger drawdowns if there is bad news about your one stock portfolio. Here we examine the (gross) drawdowns of individual stocks.
Lifetime Rolling 5-Year Maximum Drawdowns:
To be included in the analysis, we require stocks to have at least 5 years of performance data.
- Between 1983 and 2006, around 73% of firms had a drawdown of larger than 50% (the SP500’s MaxDD during this period is around 44%). From 2007 – 2014, this number is 82% (the SP500’s MaxDD during this period is around 50%). Holding one individual stock can be very risky!
Buying an individual stock can be risky, and beating the market is difficult. Individual stock picking can also lead to large drawdowns, which are hazardous to one’s wealth. Hopefully, armed with our odds table above, we all form nice diversified portfolios!
Note: This site provides NO information on our value investing ETFs or our momentum investing ETFs. Please refer to this site.
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Please remember that past performance is not an indicator of future results. Please read our full disclosures. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Alpha Architect, its affiliates or its employees. This material has been provided to you solely for information and educational purposes and does not constitute an offer or solicitation of an offer or any advice or recommendation to purchase any securities or other financial instruments and may not be construed as such. The factual information set forth herein has been obtained or derived from sources believed by the author and Alpha Architect to be reliable but it is not necessarily all-inclusive and is not guaranteed as to its accuracy and is not to be regarded as a representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the information’s accuracy or completeness, nor should the attached information serve as the basis of any investment decision. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission from Alpha Architect.
Definitions of common statistics used in our analysis are available here (towards the bottom)