Value Trap

What is a 'Value Trap'

A value trap is a stock that appears to be cheap because the stock has been trading at low multiples of earnings, cash flow or book value for an extended time period. Stock traps attract investors who are looking for a bargain because these stocks are inexpensive. The trap springs when investors buy into the company at low prices and the stock never improves. Trading that occurs at low multiples of earnings, cash flow or book value for long periods of time might indicate that the company or the entire sector is in trouble, and that stock prices may not move higher.


Companies, and even sectors, can be doomed, because of situations such as the inability to survive competition, the inability to generate substantial and consistent profits, the lack of new products or earnings growth, or ineffective management. Often, a value trap appears to be such a good deal that investors become confused when the stock fails to perform. As with any investment decision, thorough research and evaluation is recommended before investing in any company that appears cheap when reviewing its relevant performance metrics.