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The Free Cash Flow (FCF) Yield Shows Us When to Invest

The Free Cash Flow (FCF) Yield Shows Us When to Invest

One of my favorite financial metrics is free cash flow (FCF) yield.

FCF is the cash a company has left after deducting its capital expenditures in a given period.

FCF yield is what you get when you divide free cash flow by price. (Price equals market cap in the world of stocks.)

Many growth companies generate negative FCF yields. They put the money they generate back into growing the firm.

However, the bulk of the companies in the large-cap S&P 500 Index generate positive FCF.

In general, the more FCF a stock generates compared to its price, the better a value it is.

Today, there’s a lot of angst that this market is too expensive and is due for a pullback.

FCF boils through a lot of the noise to tell us where today’s market is. Read on to learn what it’s showing today…

Higher Free Cash Flow Is Better

Take a look at this chart of the S&P 500 (the white line) plotted against its historical FCF yield (in green) every quarter since 1990.

S&P 500 Plotted vs. FCF Yield

The higher the FCF yield, the better.

As you can see, the market was super cheap in 2009 based on this metric. At the end of the first quarter, the FCF yield of the S&P 500 was 11.2%.

But it wasn’t just the start of that year. Stocks were quite cheap again in the second quarter the next year (10.9%). After falling, the FCF yield returned to 9.5% in September 2011.

And Today?

Stocks aren’t as cheap today as they were during the Great Recession.

As of March 11, the market’s free cash flow yield is about 5.4%.

Don’t let this fool you, though. It’s less than its highs, but this doesn’t mean the market’s expensive.

The valuations of the years 2007 through 2011 were the exception, not the norm.

From 1978 to 2018, the average FCF yield of the S&P 500 was 4.85%.

That means stocks today are generating more FCF than normal.

When stocks trade with a yield at or above that of today, they generate solid returns.

I went back and looked at all the times they did since January 1990. Here’s what they did next:

Next Steps

The positive returns that followed may soothe some of your worries.

This isn’t a guarantee, but it’s a great sign.

In the past, when companies are generating this much cash, they do well in the near future.

So, if you’re worried about the market’s future, use this as a guide. Based on historical FCF yield, stocks are reasonably priced.

Good investing,

Brian Christopher

Editor, Insider Profit Trader

P.S. In 1966, the musical duo Peaches & Herb told the world that we are in this thing together.

Seven-time Grammy winner Al Jarreau followed in 1981. He told many of us what we already knew … in a much more beautiful fashion than I ever could. We’re in this thing — this love — together.

Later, in their industrial style, Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails described how we are in this together. That was 1999.

Other musicians have done the same.

You don’t have to know all these songs to appreciate where they’re coming from.

And the fact is: They’re all right.

We’re in this life together. You and me. Me and you.

I see in the news every day — and sometimes in my own town — that many have decided to hate each other in this life.

I would just ask those of you who hate to ask yourselves: Is this person against whom I have so much anger as different from me as I think he or she is?

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