Investing in ETFs For Dummies
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If you’re more interested in cannabis-focused exchange traded funds (ETFs), venture capitalist (VC) funds, or private equity (PE) funds, than you are in individual cannabis stocks, you can find the best tools for tracking down cannabis funds.

Most websites and online brokers that feature stock screeners also include an ETF screener, but they rarely include screeners specifically for cannabis ETFs or for VC or PE funds, which makes the Daily Marijuana Observer’s investment fund databases so unique and so useful to you as a cannabis investor.

Before you invest in any fund, research the fund manager as thoroughly as you would research the founders and managers of a business. Make sure the person knows the cannabis industry inside and out. A fund’s return depends directly on the people who are choosing where to invest the fund’s capital.

What to screen for

Screeners typically feature a variety of filters that enable you to focus on securities based on different parameters, such as region or country, market capitalization, price, sector, and industry. You set the parameters and execute your search, and the screener displays a list of only those securities that match the specified parameters.

Not all screeners use the same parameters. In fact, the two screeners covered in this article that are most useful for identifying cannabis investment opportunities support very few of the parameters I describe next. However, if you use one screener to find a stock and another to dig up more details about it, having an understanding of these parameters will help. In the following section, I use the Equity Screener at Yahoo! Finance as an example.

First up: The major categories

When you first access a market screener, you usually enter some general parameters first to start the process of narrowing your list of candidates. For example, if you go to Yahoo! Finance, click Screeners in the menu at the top, and click Equity Screener, you’re prompted to specify the following parameters (see the following figure):
  • Region: Here you enter data about your chosen country to refine your search. If you’re looking for U.S. stocks, the choice, of course, is “United States.” For cannabis stocks, you probably want to focus on the U.S. and Canada, and perhaps Australia, Germany, and Israel.
  • Market Cap: In the Market Cap category, you choose the size of the company—Small Cap, Mid Cap, Large Cap, or Mega Cap.

Looking for growth potential? Go for small cap or mid cap. Looking for more safety? Go to large cap or mega cap.

  • Price: In the Price field, enter a minimum and maximum. For example, if you’re interested specifically in penny stocks, you can enter a maximum of $5.
  • Sector and Industry: A sector is a group of interrelated industries. For example, the health care sector has varied industries, such as hospitals, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, drug retailers, and so on. After choosing a sector, you can narrow your search further by specifying an industry within that sector; for example, if you choose health care as the sector, you can then choose biotechnology or drug manufacturers as the industry.
Yahoo! Finance’s Equity Screener. Source: Yahoo! Finance (

Yahoo! Finance’s Equity Screener

The main event: specific filters

After specifying your preferences, you can click + Add Another Filter to display a pop-up menu containing many additional filters broken into several groups, including Fair Value, Share Statistics, Balance Sheet, Income, and Valuation Measures (see the following figure). Using these filters, you can further narrow the list of stocks. Every screener has a different way to access these filters, and some may not offer certain filters.

cannabis screening filters Source: Yahoo! Finance (

Add filters to narrow the list of stocks that meet your criteria.

Share statistics

The group of filters labeled Share Statistics contains more than 40 stock-related criteria ranging from share price action (the 52-week high or low) to fundamentals, such as total assets or total liabilities. One area I like to focus on is the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio. This ratio is one of the most widely followed ratios, and I consider it the most important valuation ratio (it can be considered a profitability ratio as well). It ties a company’s current stock price to the company’s net earnings. The net earnings are the heart and soul of the company, so always check this ratio.

All things considered, I generally prefer low ratios (under 15 is good, and under 25 is acceptable). If I’m considering a growth stock, I definitely want a ratio under 40 (unless there are extenuating circumstances that I like and that aren’t reflected in the P/E ratio).

Cannabis stocks tend to have much lower P/Es than those of well-established companies in well-established industries, because the cannabis industry isn’t mature yet. More private companies have earnings at this point than do publicly traded companies.

Make sure your search parameters have a minimum P/E of, say, 1 and a maximum of between 15 (for large cap, stable, dividend-paying stocks) and 40 (for growth stocks) so that you have some measure of safety (and sanity!).

If you want to speculate and find stocks to go short on, two approaches apply:
  • You can put in a minimum P/E of, say, 100 and an unlimited maximum (or 9,999 if a number is needed) to get very pricey stocks that are vulnerable to a correction.
  • You can put in a maximum P/E of 0, which would indicate that you’re searching for companies with losses (earnings under zero).


The Income group offers some important filters tied to sales and profits. Keep in mind that income in terms of sales and profits is one of your most important screening criteria.

Sales revenue (called Total Revenue in the Yahoo! Equity Screener) may be expressed in absolute numbers or percentages. In some stock screeners, ranges may be described as something like “under $1 million in sales” up to “over $1 billion in sales.”

On a percentage basis, some stock screeners may have a minimum and a maximum. An example of this is if you were searching for companies that increased their sales by at least 10 percent. You’d enter 10 in the minimum percentage and either leave the maximum blank or plug in a high number, such as 999. Another twist is that you may find a stock screener that shows sales revenue with an average percentage over three or five years so that you can see more consistency over an extended period.

Profit margin (called Net Income Margin % in the Yahoo! Equity Screener) is, basically, the percent of sales representing the company’s net profit. If a company has $1 million in sales and $200,000 in net profit, the profit margin is 20 percent ($200,000 divided by $1,000,000). For this metric, you’d enter a minimum of 20 percent and a maximum of 100 percent because that’s the highest possible (but improbable) profit margin you can reach.

Keep in mind that the data you can sift through isn’t just for the most recent year. Some stock screeners give you a summary of three years or longer — such as what a company’s profit margin has been over a three-year period — so you can get a better view of the company’s consistent profitability. The only thing better than a solid profit in the current year is a solid profit year after year (three consecutive years or more).

Valuation measures

For value investors (who embrace fundamental analysis), the following parameters are important to help home in on the right values. In Yahoo! Equity Screener, all of these are in the group labeled Valuation Measures:
  • Price-to-sales ratio: A price-to-sales ratio (PSR) close to 1 is positive. When market capitalization greatly exceeds the sales number, the stock leans to the pricey side. In the stock screener’s PSR field, consider entering a minimum of 0, or leave it blank. A good maximum value is 3.
  • P/E/G ratio: You obtain the P/E/G (price/earnings to growth) ratio when you divide the stock’s P/E ratio by its year-over-year earnings growth rate. Typically, the lower the P/E/G, the better the value of the stock. A P/E/G ratio over 1 suggests that the stock is overvalued, and a ratio under 1 is considered undervalued. Therefore, when you use the P/E/G ratio in a stock-screening tool, leave the minimum blank (or at 0), and use a maximum of 1.
  • Price/Book Value (P/B): This ratio compares a company’s market value (share price multiplied by number of outstanding shares) to its book value (net assets of the company). Anything under 1.0 is considered a great P/B value because it indicates a potentially undervalued stock. A P/B value of 3.0 or less is good.

Financial highlights

In the Financial Highlights group, Return On Equity % is a useful filter. ROE is a good measure of how wisely a company uses its equity (original investment plus any money it borrowed) to generate profits. Because this is an average (in percentage terms) over five years, do a search for a minimum of 10 percent and an unlimited maximum (or just plug in 999 percent). If you do get one that’s anywhere near 999 percent, by the way, call me and let me know!

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