How to Use the News to be a Contrarian Investor

If you follow the lead of media hype in your investment decisions, writes InvestmentNews senior columnist  John Waggoner, you “might meet the same fate as most contrarians: Flat on the ground and covered with hoof marks from the herd on the Street.”

He cites the “classic” example of a 1982 Business Week cover titled “The Death of Equities” which was immediately followed by “the greatest bull market of the 20th century.” Part of the problem, writes Waggoner, lies in the very nature of the news business: “Because cover stories tend to be big, involving time spent reporting and editing, they tend to be published long after reporters or editors have noticed a trend.”

That said, writes Waggoner, an investor might be well-served to pay attention to “company-specific stories in business magazines.” He cites a 2007 study by the Financial Analysts Journal which found that they can be “decent contrary indicators,” because they’re bound to highlight only the best aspects of an operation.

“If you’re going to be a true contrarian,” Waggoner warns, “realize that you’re not just trying to go the opposite way that everyone else does. You’ll get crushed.” Instead, Waggoner advises looking for “significant inflection points in the market.”