The absolute price of a stock has very little to do with the value that an investor receives, and yet there seems to be some kind of aura that surrounds stocks that are priced at extremely high prices, particularly those selling for more than $100.
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Part of this may stem from the existence of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A, BRK.B) and the success that the stock has enjoyed over the past generation, making millionaires out of its early investors.
In reality, there is nothing special about stocks selling at this level, because at the end of the day, what matters is what the value is per share, compared to what you are paying per share - the relative movement between buying and selling.
There are dozens of stocks currently trading at higher than $100 per share, some of them household names and others relatively unknown.
Seaboard Corp (NYSE:SEB) sells for $1,400 per share. The company is a conglomerate that is involved in many different businesses. These include food processing, power generation, containerized shipping, commodity trading and sugar and citrus production. (Huge companies may not be as infallible as previously assumed. (Find out why bigger isn't always better. Read Conglomerates: Cash Cows Or Corporate Chaos?)
NVR (NYSE:NVR) trades in the mid-$750 range per share. NVR is a homebuilder, doing business under the Ryan Homes brand name, and despite its triple digit status, the company suffered as much as its peers during the recession and financial crisis, hitting a low of $313 per share back in March, 2009.
Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) of course needs no introduction, as it is the go-go stock of the 21st century, the leader of the nifty 50, if you will. Google sells in the mid-$500 range.
There is more to the Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) than the famed namesake newspaper published in the nation's capital. The company also owns Newsweek magazine and several other newspaper properties, cable assets and TV broadcast stations.
Wesco Financial (NYSE:WSC) does some insurance business, and also owns a furniture rental business along with a steel segment. The company is majority owned by a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.
One company that sought out the fame of triple digit pricing is Steak N Shake Co (NYSE:SNS), which announced a one for 20 reverse stock split late in 2009. The shares closed at $14.55 on December 18, and then opened the following Monday at $288 per share. They have since moved sharply higher, to $360 per share.
The Bottom Line
Psychology is an important part of the investment process, and stocks selling at triple digits and higher seem to have panache that attracts certain types of investors. Although this can't be explained by any legitimate reason, it is still a part of the market that investors must deal with. (Investing in a corporate giant may not be as safe as you think. To learn more, check out Conglomerates: Risky Proposition?)
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