What is Contrarian Investing?

Contrarian investing is an investment strategy that involves going against prevailing market trends or sentiment. Contrarian investors believe that certain market movements, particularly extreme ones, can create opportunities to buy undervalued stocks or sell overvalued ones. This approach often requires a strong understanding of market psychology, a deep conviction in one’s analysis, and the patience to wait for the market to recognize the true value of the investments.

How Contrarian Investing Works

Contrarian investing works on the principle that markets often overreact to news, events, and trends. When the majority of investors are overly optimistic about a particular stock or sector, contrarian investors believe these assets become overvalued. Conversely, when the market is excessively pessimistic, contrarian investors see opportunities to buy undervalued assets.

For example, during market panics or corrections, stocks often trade below their intrinsic value due to widespread fear and selling pressure. Contrarian investors step in to buy these stocks, anticipating that their prices will rebound once the market stabilizes. Similarly, during times of exuberance, when stock prices are driven up by hype and speculation, contrarian investors may sell or avoid these assets, expecting their prices to decline when reality sets in.

Key Principles of Contrarian Investing

Market Sentiment: Contrarian investors closely monitor market sentiment to identify extremes. Indicators such as the Volatility Index (VIX), investor sentiment surveys, and trading volumes can provide insights into whether the market is overly optimistic or pessimistic.

Fundamental Analysis: Thorough fundamental analysis is crucial in contrarian investing. Investors need to determine the intrinsic value of a stock and compare it to its current market price. This involves analyzing financial statements, industry trends, and the company’s competitive position.

Patience and Discipline: Contrarian investing requires patience and discipline. It can take time for the market to correct its overreactions, and investors must be willing to hold their positions despite short-term volatility.

Examples of Well-Known Contrarian Investors

Warren Buffett: While often associated with value investing, Warren Buffett has employed contrarian strategies throughout his career. He famously advised investors to “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” During the financial crisis of 2008-2009, Buffett made significant investments in companies like Goldman Sachs and General Electric when the market was in turmoil.

John Templeton: Sir John Templeton was a pioneer of global investing and a renowned contrarian. He made his mark by buying stocks during periods of maximum pessimism, such as his investment in Japanese stocks in the 1960s when Japan was still recovering from World War II. His Templeton Growth Fund achieved impressive long-term returns by focusing on undervalued stocks worldwide.

David Dreman: David Dreman is another notable contrarian investor known for his work on behavioral finance. He emphasized the importance of buying stocks with low P/E ratios and avoiding market trends. Dreman’s research demonstrated that contrarian strategies could yield substantial long-term returns, often outperforming the broader market.

Long-Term Returns of Contrarian Investing

Contrarian investing can yield impressive long-term returns when executed correctly. Studies have shown that stocks with low valuation multiples, such as low P/E ratios or high dividend yields, tend to outperform the market over time. For instance, David Dreman’s research found that portfolios of low P/E stocks significantly outperformed high P/E stocks and the overall market.

However, contrarian investing is not without risks. It requires a deep understanding of market dynamics and the ability to withstand prolonged periods of underperformance. Investors must also be cautious of value traps—stocks that appear undervalued but continue to decline due to fundamental issues.


Contrarian investing is a strategy that involves going against the crowd and capitalizing on market overreactions. While it requires patience, discipline, and a thorough understanding of market fundamentals, contrarian investing can offer substantial long-term returns. Notable investors like Warren Buffett, John Templeton, and David Dreman have successfully employed contrarian strategies to achieve impressive results. As with any investment approach, it is essential to conduct thorough research and consider individual risk tolerance before adopting a contrarian strategy. Consulting with a Fee-Only financial adviser can also provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to individual investment goals.

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