Market Overview

Peter Lynch On Picking Bottoms


If they don’t scare you out, they will wear you out

Bottom fishing is a popular investor pastime, but it’s usually the fisherman who gets hooked. Trying to catch the bottom on a falling stock is like trying to catch a falling knife. It’s normally a good idea to wait until the knife hits the ground and sticks, then vibrates for a while and settles down before you try to grab it. Grabbing a rapidly falling stock results in painful surprises, because inevitably you grab it in the wrong place. If you get interested in buying a turnaround, it ought to be for a more sensible reason than the stock’s gone down so far it looks like up to you. Maybe you realize that business is picking up, and you check the balance sheet and you see that the company has $ 11 per share in cash and the stock is selling for $ 14. But even so, you aren’t going to be able to pick the bottom on the price. What usually happens is that a stock sort of vibrates itself out before it starts up again. Generally this process takes two or three years, but sometimes even longer

How many times have you heard people say this? Maybe you’ve said it yourself. You come across some stock that sells for $ 3 a share, and already you’re thinking, “It’s a lot safer than buying a $ 50 stock.” I put in twenty years in the business before it finally dawned on me that whether a stock costs $ 50 a share or $ 1 a share, if it goes to zero you still lose everything. If it goes to 50 cents a share, the results are slightly different. The investor who bought in at $ 50 a share loses 99 percent of his investment, and the investor who bought in at $ 3 loses 83 percent, but what’s the consolation in that?

The point is that a lousy cheap stock is just as risky as a lousy expensive stock if it goes down. If you’d invested $ 1,000 in a $ 43 stock or a $ 3 stock and each fell to zero, you’d have lost exactly the same amount. No matter where you buy in, the ultimate downside of picking the wrong stock is always the identical 100 percent.

Sometimes it’s always darkest before the dawn, but then again, other times it’s always darkest before pitch black.


Lynch, Peter; Rothchild, John (2012-02-28). One Up On Wall Street. Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

This was originally shared on Ivanhoff Capital

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