**If you are a golfer you know that you don’t always hit the ball perfectly.**

Sometimes you miss the ball ever so slightly and the results are horrible.

But sometimes the reverse is true – you miss the shot, but your drive still turns out all right and somehow it seems as though the better you get at the game, the more it happens.

How can that be?

Of course, if you improve your skills, the better at the game you will get. That’s a given.

So then when you hit the ball badly, you have practiced enough on your swing not to make a complete mess out of the shot.

That’s all very good, but what has that got to do with investing?

Quite a lot it turns out.

If you are getting into the habit of analyzing your stocks you will gain some skills.

Those skills are crucial when it comes to determine if a certain stock provides good value or not.

**It is a dream of many investors is to hit a “ten bagger”.**

A “ten bagger” is where you are making more than ten times your initial investment when exiting the investment.

Of course, it’s nice when it happens, but it’s important to remember that not all stocks have that potential.

During the course of your life you will be lucky to get 5 or 10 of those, maximum.

In most other cases stocks will be so overvalued that it will be virtually impossible to find a stock that grows as much.

The question then becomes what do you do when you can’t find any good investment opportunities.

To answer that question we first need to recognize that there are many different investment strategies. You can for example look at the charts, at growth companies or you can buy them all in an index-fund.

But the one that I favor is one where you are buying great value at a decent price (and not the other way around).

That is the reason why it pays off in the long run to wait for the opportunities to arise. They always do.

So you may think that you are wasting your time when you are not buying, but it is not true. What you are really doing is that you are waiting for the price to come down to a more favorable point.

This is a weekly chart of crude oil:

The chart is heading up towards the descending trend line and right now it sits just at it. From now on it will be interesting to see where prices will be going, if they go up or down. If they go up they could rise fast, but my hunch is that they will go down from here.

This is a weekly chart of gold:

The chart broke out of a descending trend line a few weeks back. Now it has hit the trend line again, but from the upside this time. We have to wait and see what happens on Monday morning, but normally I would consider this chart pattern being a buying opportunity.

This is a weekly chart of crude oil:

The chart is caught between two opposing trends: One descending trend line above and one lateral trend line below. Prices are now pushing up agains a rising 50-week moving average which makes a break-through likely.

In this scenario prices go through both the 50-week moving average as well as the descending trend line above.

This scenario is fairly likely. I would give it a probability of 70 per cent.

In this scenario prices falter at either the 50-week moving average or the the descending trend line. Given the chart pattern I don’t believe it being very likely. I would give it a probability of 15 per cent.

This is where prices go south from here. I would also give such a scenario a probability of 15 per cent.

This is what a gold chart looks like:

We have a breakout!

Now there is nothing holding gold back and all the resistance is gone.

But would I be buyer at this stage?

Probably not. I would prefer to wait for a pull-back down at the descending trend line.

But essentially this is good news if you are bullish on gold.

This is what a chart of crude oil looks like:

We are still caught between the 50-week moving average and the 100-week. It looks as though the chart hasn’t really decided for which trend to follow.

In this scenario prices bouncing off the 100-week MA and continue up through the 50-week and the descending trend line.

In this scenario prices are falling through the 100-week MA and continue through the lateral trend line that is drawn in Figure 1.

I would give both these scenarios a probability of 50 percent at this stage.

The chart is squeezed between two opposing trends. The 100-week moving average is acting as support.

In the bearish scenario prices falling down from here and then go through the rising 100-week moving average. I would give such a scenario a probability of 10 per cent.

In this scenario prices are falling down to the 100-week moving average, but then they rebound and go higher. I would give such a scenario a probability of 30 per cent.

In this scenario prices go through the descending trend line that is acting as resistance in the chart. I would give such a scenario a probability of 60 per cent.

Looking at the chart it becomes clearer to me that it is in a head-and-shoulders-pattern. The chart looks heavy.

In the bullish scenario prices find their footing at the 100-week moving average and then move higher. Given the current chart pattern I would give such a scenario a probability of 15 per cent.

In the bearish scenario prices along their current path and go lower. That means that they will penetrate through the 100-week moving average without any resistance. Given the chart pattern, I would give such a scenario a high probability of 85 per cent.

This is a weekly chart of crude oil:

**Fundamenal analysis of S & W Seed Company (ticker: SANW), May 19, 2017**

The company made a loss of $11.8 million last year which equates to -$0.67 per share. Despite of that the share is traded at $3.175 which is a lot of money. Last year the stock was trading at over $5.00. I’m not really sure that S&W Seed constitutes good value at present.

The company just made 2 cents per share last quarter. If this trend continues and S & W Seed makes 10 cents for the whole of 2017 the forward P/E ratio 34.5. The Price to Book value is still high at 2.5.

Looking at the Balance sheet things look a little better. The company has a Book value of $21 million which equates to $1.40 per share. The Working capital is $16 million which is good.

The company has a Free cash flow of $4.1 million which equals 27 cents per share. No dividends are paid out.

Given the erratic earnings I would not be a buyer of S & W Seed at these prices.

S&W Seed Company is an agricultural company that is specializing in the breeding, growing and commercialization of alfalfa seeds.

SANW is expensive at trailing a P/E of 172. The average earnings over the past three years is looking even worse at a negative 6 cents.

Consequently the P/E ratio over the average three years is negative.

The Price to Book value is 2.5 which is high.

The earnings are to say the least erratic over the years. Last year they 2 cents per share and the year before the company had a loss of 25 cents per share.

The Shiller earnings since 2009 are a negative 4 cents.

Then we come to the balance sheet and here things looks a little better.

The Working capital is a solid $16,000,000 which equates to $1.08 per share.

The company has a Debt to equity ratio of 0.9 and a Current assets to Current liabilities ratio of 1.4.

The company has a good Free cash flow of $4,000,000, but they do not pay out any dividend which seems reasonable given their non-existent earnings.

S & W Seed has great potential, but it is not an investment for me at current prices.

**No matter how long you’ve been investing, there will inevitably come a time when you ask yourself if there’s a financial metric that is better than the others. What financial metrics can do is to help you to put a number on the value of a company.**

So the question is, how do you find the best financial metric for your taste? If it’s already popular by other investors, you should also be able to use them, *right*?

Here are my 10 preferred financial metrics (listen in no **particular** order):

**The Price to earnings**(**P/E) ratio**. This is a classic when it comes to valuation. What you do is that you take the current market price of the stock and divide by the earnings per share. What you end up with is a number that tells you how much you are paying for the stock. The lower the number the cheaper the stock.**The Price to average earnings ratio.**This is an alternative to the normal P/E ratio. What you do is that you take the current market price of the stock and then you divide the average over a given number of earnings. What I prefer to do is to look at the three years, but at least in theory, any number would do.**The Price to trailing earnings ratio.**This is when you follow the stock in detail and know the exact each quarter. Then you can calculate a trailing P/E ratio even in, let’s say, the second, third and fourth quarter without estimates.**The Price to forward earnings ratio.**This metric is similar to the one above but the difference is that instead of calculating the full four quarters earnings, you estimate next quarters’ earnings. I somehow prefer this metric to the one above.**The CPI-adjusted Price to earnings ratio.**This deep value ratio can come in handy if you have a period of intense inflation that distorts the real value of the average. What we are doing here is that we are adjusting every earning with the CPI. What that gives us is a number that is adjusted for inflation. The problem with this kind of metric is that the business is likely to change during the ten years that we are looking at. I therefore prefer to only look at five years back.**The Price to book ratio.**This is where you take the current price of your stock of choice and you divide with the book value. Now, the book value is calculated by taking the company’s total assets and subtracting its total liabilities and also the intangible assets that the company might have. If you are an observant reader, you will recognize that total assets minus total liabilities is what is called Shareholders’ equity.**The Free cash flow yield.**The free cash flow is an important metric for calculating how much comes in and out of the company in given year. The metric is defined by taking the operational cash flow and then subtracting the costs that company infers for maintaining its asset base. The free cash flow yield then comes from taking the price of the stock and then divide by the free cash flow per share**Current assets to current liabilities.**This metric tells you how much more current liabilities that there are in the company. The numbers for this can be either be found in the balance sheet of the company’s quarterly or annual report.**Debt to equity.**This is where you compare the total liabilities that the company has to its equity. The number tells you something about if the debt load is high or low. The numbers for this can also be found in the balance sheets of the quarterly or the annual reports.**Return on equity.**This profitability metric tells you how much profit the company makes in relation to the equity. The number tells you how good the company is at reinvest its capital. Personally, I prefer to see a ROE above 17 per cent in order to be happy.

Today I’ve been talking about my favourite financial metrics. Have I missed any? Leave your comments below!

**Today I want to talk about the Free cash flow yield and discuss why it is important for value investors.**

In theory value investing is easy.

You buy an undervalued stock, you reinvest the dividends and you repeat for a long time.

The trouble is that you cannot be certain when the stocks that you are looking at are really undervalued – perhaps the company had just one year of good earnings that skews the Price to earnings ratio.

That is why I prefer to look at the Free cash flow. The Free cash flow is the amount of money that the company is making after paying off costs to maintain or expand the company’s asset base.

The Free cash flow is the money that the company can spend to pay dividends or to buy back shares.

Quite a lot, it turns out.

The Free cash flow per share complements the earnings per share and gives a broader picture of the money made.

Because it cannot be as easily manipulated as the earnings per share, it gives a fairer picture of how much money that flows into the company.

First of all you need to find the Free cash flow. Go to the company’s web site and download the most recent annual report.

In there you will find something that is called *Comprehensive cash flow statement*.

You take the Cash flow from operating activities and you enter it into Excel. Then you will find something called *Investment in plant, property and equipment*. Then finally you add the two together, like so:

Then you need to find the number of shares that the company has outstanding and you divide the Free cash flow with this number.

Then it turns out that the Free cash flow yield is easy:

You divide the Free cash flow per share with the price per share, like so:

What you end up with is a percentage that you can use as a valuation metric.

In my experience, a free cash flow yield above 5 per cent indicates that the share is undervalued, if it is between 3 and 5 per cent it is worth considering and if it is below 3 per cent the share is outright expensive.

That is the reason why you want to consider the Free cash flow yield as another value metric.

Why not give it a go?

Pepsico is valued at 26.5 times 2016 earnings which is expensive. If we assume that the company will be making $4.50 this year, which is in line with what they’ve been earning so far in 2017, the P/E ratio comes in at 25.7 which is still very expensive. The P/E over the past three years’ earnings is 28.2.

The Free cash flow yield comes in at 4.4 per cent which qualifies the stock in the “watch” category.

The only reason why you would want to own such a stock is the dividend of $3.06 per share (2.6 per cent yield). In an environment where you are getting 2.17% on a 10-year note this may be interesting for some people. However, as it stands the stock is too expensive for me.

The day after publishing this we figured out that the company presented their earnings.

The earnings came in better than anticipated and we can now make estimated guesses for next year’s earnings.

We think they will come in around $4.50 per share which equates to a forward P/E of 25.3.

That is still far too expensive for my taste.

Yesterday interestingly the share went down 0.5 per cent to $113.74.

At $115 and a trailing P/E value of 26.5 the PepsiCo share is expensive. Over a period of three years, the P/E ratio is even higher at 28.2. Because of their high degree of intangible assets the Book value is negative so a measure like Price to book does not make sense.

PepsiCo has a Working capital of $6 billion but the Working capital to debt is low at only 0.1. The Debt to equity ratio is extraordinarily high at 5.6.

In all, PepsiCo’s balance sheet could look better.

The company has a Free cash flow of $7.4 billion which equates to $5 per share. Of this they both buy back outstanding shares and pay a good dividend of $2.96 (2.6 per cent). The earnings look stable.

PepsiCo has been paying out uninterrupted and increasing dividends for more than 25 consecutive years.

At 26.5 times trailing earnings PepsiCo is too expensive for my taste. At these prices I would call it a SELL.

**Fundamental analysis of McDonald’s (MCD), June 24, 2017**

McDonald’s is marginally more expensive since the last update. The company is now valued at 29.2 times 2016 earnings. The price over the average three years’ earnings is 31.7 which is way too much.

To be a serious buyer of the company I would like to see prices drop with at least 50 per cent.

McDonald’s had an earnings call yesterday and even if they had a reduction in sales last quarter compared to the same quarter last year of 3.5 per cent, they managed to increase their earnings per share by 30 per cent. The current earnings per share is $1.70.

The current P/E ratio is still very high at 28.9 with a forward P/E ratio of 26.2. The Book value is negative due to the high proportion of intangible assets.

If you buy the stock now, you believe that their earnings will continue to grow indefinitely.

It doesn’t make sense to buy McDonald’s stock at these prices.

McDonald’s is not a small-cap stock, but nevertheless a value proposition that fits into this article.

The company is one of the world’s leading fast food chains with more than 36,000 restaurants around the world.

McDonald’s is not cheap at 28.4 times earnings. Average earnings of the past three years come in at 5.02 which gives a P/E ratio of 30.8. Because of the high Goodwill, the Book value is negative. The company has $1.4 billion in Working capital which means that it is able to pay its short-term bills.

The company has a negative equity which in theory means that a shareholder owes money to creditors if the company goes bankrupt. This does not look good.

McDonald’s has a Free cash flow of $4.2bn which allows the company to pay out a nice dividend of $3.61 per share. Furthermore, the company is part of the Dividend Aristocrats which means that they have paid out uninterrupted and increasing dividends over the past 20 years. The dividend yield, on the other hand, is low at 2.3%.

At $154.64 the McDonald’s stock is too expensive for me.

**What does it take to say no?**

As an investor, you are more likely than not to have been in a situation like this:

You are listening to a presentation of a company that you are interested in.

The CEO is making his pitch and it is tempting. The business model sounds fool proof and you are on the verge of buying equity in the company.

But is it a good idea to buy just when you’ve listened to a presentation with a CEO?

Of course it is not. As always, you owe yourself some due diligence before making any investment decisions.

That is why I advice you to wait a week before buying if you’re tempted. If by then, it’s still a good proposition then buy. Otherwise you say no.

As famous investor Benjamin Graham once said:

Every investment decision should be taken with safety of principal and a good rate of return in mind.

In the example above, the safety of principal is to say the least dubious.

There is simply no guarantee that you will be able to get your money back if you invest in an “interesting startup”. Additionally, the rate of return will almost certainly be non-existent in a speculation like this.

You don’t want to go there.

You need to take an ice cold look at the prospect and not letting your feelings run high.

You need to carefully analyze the investment proposition looking at different key numbers from both the company in question and competing companies.

One thing that is extremely important is the earnings where a good investment is characterized by solid earnings. It makes no sense to invest in a company that is loss making.

If you after careful analysis come up with a negative outlook for the company, then you owe yourself to say no.

The more you look at different companies, the more experience you will acquire.

What that means is that you will look at many investment propositions before finally acting on one or two.

You will then be more secure in your decisions and not waste any money on useless propositions.

**Fundamental analysis of Target Corporation (TGT), July 17, 2017**

Target is valued at 11.6 times 2016 earnings which is cheap enough to make it interesting. If we assume that the company will make $4.50 for the whole of 2017 – which is in line with the earnings reported so far – the P/E ratio comes in at 12.1. This number is not cheap, but not extremely expensive either.

The problem is of course that it is a retailer – a business model that is under heavy attack from e-commerce competitors. However, for the time being Target is making real money which potentially makes it an interesting value proposition.

Target Corporation operates a household retail business in the United States. It is based in Minneapolis, MN.

Given the strength of its business, the company is reasonably priced at 11.5 times earnings. Average earnings over the past three years are low with one year of loss. Price to forward earnings comes in at 11.8.

Price to book value is high at 2.9.

The earnings history seems a little bit erratic with 2014 being a year with a loss. They actually lost $1.6 billion that year which equates to a loss of $2.56 per share. Hopefully, Target Corporation will stay away from those years in the future.

The company’s current liabilities are greater than its current assets so the net working capital is negative.

The Debt to equity ratio is 2.4, a number which usually is associated with high risk.

The company last year had a Free cash flow of $3.9 billion which equates to $6.70 per share. Of this they are paying out a dividend of $2.36 (2.8%).

Because the company is reasonably priced, I’m tempted to dip my toes in the company. The only problem is the high debt levels.