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Harmonic Inc. (NASDAQ:HLIT): What Does Its Beta Value Mean For Your Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

If you own shares in Harmonic Inc. (NASDAQ:HLIT) then it's worth thinking about how it contributes to the volatility of your portfolio, overall. In finance, Beta is a measure of volatility. Modern finance theory considers volatility to be a measure of risk, and there are two main types of price volatility. First, we have company specific volatility, which is the price gyrations of an individual stock. Holding at least 8 stocks can reduce this kind of risk across a portfolio. The other type, which cannot be diversified away, is the volatility of the entire market. Every stock in the market is exposed to this volatility, which is linked to the fact that stocks prices are correlated in an efficient market.

Some stocks mimic the volatility of the market quite closely, while others demonstrate muted, exagerrated or uncorrelated price movements. Beta is a widely used metric to measure a stock's exposure to market risk (volatility). Before we go on, it's worth noting that Warren Buffett pointed out in his 2014 letter to shareholders that 'volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' Having said that, beta can still be rather useful. The first thing to understand about beta is that the beta of the overall market is one. A stock with a beta below one is either less volatile than the market, or more volatile but not corellated with the overall market. In comparison a stock with a beta of over one tends to be move in a similar direction to the market in the long term, but with greater changes in price.

See our latest analysis for Harmonic

What does HLIT's beta value mean to investors?

Zooming in on Harmonic, we see it has a five year beta of 0.88. This is below 1, so historically its share price has been rather independent from the market. This means that -- if history is a guide -- buying the stock would reduce the impact of overall market volatility in many portfolios (depending on the beta of the portfolio, of course). Many would argue that beta is useful in position sizing, but fundamental metrics such as revenue and earnings are more important overall. You can see Harmonic's revenue and earnings in the image below.

NasdaqGS:HLIT Income Statement, October 2nd 2019

How does HLIT's size impact its beta?

Harmonic is a small cap stock with a market capitalisation of US$552m. Most companies this size are actively traded. Small companies can have a low beta value when company specific factors outweigh the influence of overall market volatility. That might be happening here.

What this means for you:

One potential advantage of owning low beta stocks like Harmonic is that your overall portfolio won't be too sensitive to overall market movements. However, this can be a blessing or a curse, depending on what's happening in the broader market. In order to fully understand whether HLIT is a good investment for you, we also need to consider important company-specific fundamentals such as Harmonic’s financial health and performance track record. I highly recommend you dive deeper by considering the following:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for HLIT’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for HLIT’s outlook.
  2. Past Track Record: Has HLIT been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of HLIT's historicals for more clarity.
  3. Other Interesting Stocks: It's worth checking to see how HLIT measures up against other companies on valuation. You could start with this free list of prospective options.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.