Magic Recipe 0.26%
Deep Value 0.33%
Star List 0.79%
S&P 0.29%
Today's Performance (see long-term performance)

MagicDiligence vs. Magic Formula

This article was updated 8/18/08 at 2pm EST to account for splits and dividends within the MFI screen. The change in overall results is minimal.

Can you prove that MagicDiligence is better than following the Magic Formula strategy unaltered?

While not in so many words, this is the question that is on many reader's minds, both members and non-members. It is a question in my mind as well. Joel Greenblatt, in The Little Book that Beats the Market, says that the strategy's 30%+ return was an average. He makes no bones about the fact that those following the strategy as prescribed would buy losers - sometimes big losers. But, buying blindly yielded a great average annual return. The point of MagicDiligence was to do research to weed out the stocks that brought the average down, by looking for strong competitive advantages, good financial health, etc. I fully expected this approach to avoid some of the big losers, but I also knew that it would cause MD to miss some big, unpredictable winners. However, the net outcome should outperform the unfettered strategy.

So, at this point the MD recommendation portfolio has performed well against the benchmark, the S&P 500 ETF "SPY". But how has it done against the Magic Formula screens themselves? Would investors have done as well (or better) by simply following the strategy of random selection off the MFI screen?

Before I get to the results, let me explain why the Magic Formula screens are not good benchmarks. In investing, you want to benchmark against an achievable alternative goal. For nearly all mutual funds and newsletters, that benchmark is the S&P 500. This is the case for 2 reasons. First, the S&P 500 represents the vast majority of the U.S. stock market - over 70%. Second, it is very easy to duplicate the S&P 500's return through indexed mutual funds or ETFs.

It is virtually impossible for an individual investor to duplicate the return on the complete Magic Formula screen. For example, MagicDiligence uses two MFI screens - 100 over 50 million market cap, and 50 over 2 billion. To duplicate the returns of these, the investor would have to buy all 100 or all 50 stocks on those screens in a single day. There are no mutual funds or ETFs to make this possible.

This said, the point of the site is to improve the Magic Formula, and we all want to know if that's being achieved. MagicDiligence only has MFI screen records back to March 13, so some picks are not included. Using the new MFI Historical Performance Tool (free trial), here are the results:

vs. ScreenScreenMagicDiligenceDiff% MD Picks Outperforming
100 > 50 million6.03%9.82%+3.79%73%
50 > 2 billion0.08%9.82%+9.74%82%

MagicDiligence picks have significantly outperformed the average return of both screens, and at good accuracy rates. Doing due diligence and picking only the best companies in the screen seems to be adding value to the strategy... so far!

It's interesting how wide a performance gap there has been between the small-cap screen and the large-cap screen. This seems to lend support to Greenblatt's results of about 10% better annual performance by including small cap stocks. This likely adds volatility to returns as well.

Lastly, I thought it would be interesting to list some of the Magic Formula's "Greatest Hits" in the past 5 months... as well as some of the value traps it has dug up!

Greatest Hits

GHM - Graham Corpup 174%
HIRE - HireRightup 110%
CSGS - CSG Systemsup 73%
CRDN - Ceradyneup 62%

Value Traps

CROX - Crocs Incdown 78%
BWLRF - Breakwater Resourcesdown 76%
IAR - Idearcdown 72%
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