Long-time readers should note some significant changes in how I communicate in the public domain. The primary purpose of this forum is now to attract new contacts with professional industry expertise to share research and receive feedback (confirmation / refutation) regarding my investment theses.
Accordingly, this document should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation of the companies or securities discussed herein. I am not an investment advisor and this is not an investment thesis. It is merely one part of the story, which I present for debate in hopes of determining all risks and upside potential. The disclosure at the end of this piece is critical to understanding the content of this document. Further, I frequently trade my positions and may buy, sell, or short the securities mentioned herein at any time, regardless of the facts or perceived implications of this article.
I should have posted this when I started this blog. But better late than never…
After semi-retiring from a successful institutional consulting career in 2008, I started donating time to write for Seeking Alpha (in early 2009). For four years, I dedicated myself to helping people make money. It was my way of giving back to a world that has blessed me with so much.
The results were nothing short of extraordinary.
Over that four year span, most of my picks tripled in value. Many of the rest doubled or were acquired before getting the chance to triple. The average stock in my Core Portfolio rose by well over 100%.
I was most proud of being publicly recognized for being the first analyst to provide proof that Himax (HIMX) would be the display engine behind Google Glass. Glass never took off, but big Wall Street firms latched on to my report and upgraded the stock. The shares tripled within six months and went on to be named the #1 tech stock of 2013 on CNBC.
My readers made millions.
As a result, my following grew to nearly 10,000 readers on Seeking Alpha and close to 40,000 followers on Facebook.
It sounds like a lot of fun, but helping people to get rich (or richer) is easier said than done. My skills required six years of formal education, over twenty years of experience, and two multi-millionaire mentors (one of whom was taught by the famous billionaire investor Jim Rogers).
But they couldn’t prepare me for the challenge of teaching 50,000 investors how to interpret and invest in the kind of companies I discover. Despite this, I made my best efforts to educate the investing public via my Seeking Alpha posts and later, via PTT Capital.
In the end, my attempts largely ended in failure. Running a retail-focused investment research company was very different than running an institutional research business. I had done the latter my entire career and launched my own institutional business in 2004 (which led to my 2008 retirement). Neither I, nor my partners, had any experience on the retail side of things.
Ultimately, improper attention to the details led the SEC to take a look at our practices, leading to the following:
As a result of my dispute with the PTT Capital partners, the company shut down… and I made a commitment to never accept compensation for my retail-focused research again. I’ll either do it for the love of collaboration or not at all.
A lot of good came from this though. It was a cautionary tale that exhibited just how challenging stock investing can be. The decade following 2009 made it easy for everyday Americans to believe that investing is easy… and it is, when the stock market is going your way.
However, most investors under the age of 35 have never experienced a bear market. This article is not a panacea… but it will help you hone your investing skills. This is something that I believe will become extremely important in the years ahead, starting in 2018!
Enough chatter. Let’s jump in…
KNOW WHAT (AND WHO) YOU’RE READING
First things first. Before you act on anyone’s stock analysis or advice, you should know as much as possible about that person. The Internet has made it easy for anyone to sway public perception regarding any topic, including the value of stocks. Many of them only want to do one thing – rip you off.
I’m not ashamed to admit — in my early 20’s, I actually fell victim to a rip-off newsletter. The profit they promised was too good to resist. As it turned out, the editors weren’t Wall Street professionals. They were crooks…and I was just a patsy in a pump-n-dump pyramid. So beware of “analysts” who tout penny stocks. Most of them don’t have the credentials to pick stocks. As a result, their picks are pure gambles
As for me, I started learning how to evaluate stocks in the mid-80s, a few years before the crash of ’87.
In 1988, I earned a Track & Field scholarship to attend Northeastern University. It was the only way I’d be able to afford such a school, so I took full advantage of it. I studied Finance and spent as much time in the library as I did in class. I wanted to become the best stock-picker possible.
By the time I gradated from college, I thought I knew a lot. In reality, it took another 10 years of training and real-world experience before I really started to know what I was doing.
Looking at the stuff I see on the Internet and written in newsletters, I can tell you one thing for sure — most of the what you read is just as likely to hurt you as help. It’s very clear that most “analysts” have no idea what they are doing. They cite P/E ratios and regurgitate press clippings with no real analysis. This is because most “analysts” don’t have the necessary training.
This is why you should always look into the author’s experiential background. They should have 1) investment experience and 2) real-world experience / expertise in the industry they are discussing.
This can not be overstated!
Many investors ask me why most of my picks are technology companies (and mostly software related). It’s simple — I am 100% not qualified to provide research on subjects such as Oil & Gas, Financial Services, Biotech, etc. Reports on such topics would be irresponsible of me to write (and foolish for you to read).
FOCUS ON RISK & REWARD
This is simple. Reward is how much you can make and Risk is how much you can lose. Many of the professionals I know insist on a 3:1 ratio of Reward vs. Risk. Further, I believe that investors should size their positions based on the level of Risk involved (not the potential reward).
Aside from that, investors need to realize that a fast-rising stock is generally decreasing in potential Reward and increasing in Risk (barring important news, which shifts the risk/reward profile).
In other words, be careful about chasing a stock up or placing market orders. Set a reasonable limit and stick with it. If the stock runs away from you, don’t worry — there will be more picks and opportunities in the future. I’ve been doing this for 25+ years and the world never runs out of picks.
Because of this, Risk/Reward charts are an integral part of my investing strategy. Risk/Reward charts make it easy to see when a stock is relatively cheap (or expensive) via parallel lines along which the stock should travel. This helps to decide when to buy (or sell)… and how much.
As my picks ascend within their Risk/Reward channels, I will generally look to trim my position. Conversely, as a stock moves toward the lower end of its channel, you can bet that I will strongly consider adding to my position. I often provide such charts in my articles, so check a few out to see what they look like.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
Making money is rarely something that happens without any work. Investors should monitor the news and SEC filings made by the companies whose stock you own.
Also, don’t overreact to earnings news. Almost every winning team takes losses on the way to a championship. Guessing when those losses will occur is a losing strategy. Further, earnings estimates are often a poor (and incomplete) way of judging a quarter.
Many of my picks only have one or two analysts covering them… and no two people’s expectations should ever be given “God” status.
Similarly, how a stock reacts to earnings is often not a good indication of whether the company made good progress during the quarter. Most people don’t listen to the earnings calls, so their trading reaction in uninformed… and therefore invalid (and often wrong)
In fact, I make a lot of money by taking advantage of overreactions and wrong reactions. This is how professionals invest (and beat the average investor).
Make no mistake, when something major happens with one of my picks, I will look to provide my analysis on a best-efforts basis. However, I don’t obligate myself to do so. So, take it upon yourself to learn about this on your own!
WHAT KIND OF STOCKS DO I PICK?
By design, my picks often focus on unknown, unloved, or even hated stocks. This is exactly how Warren Buffett started out. In fact, he once said that he would have never abandoned the strategy if he hadn’t become too rich to invest in small companies anymore. Not a bad problem to have!
After a careful screening process, I only choose stocks that I believe will reward investors for navigating its three major investment cycles, which I define as 1) Great Find, 2) Wait Time, and 3) Gold Mine.
A “Great Find” is a stock that most people haven’t heard of, but is starting to do great things. Being long before everyone hears the story can be very profitable.
However, you have to be careful. When it comes to stocks, stories usually take a long, Long, LONG time to play out. Because of this, the “Great Find” hype almost always dies out long before the company starts to gain real traction / profitability. The time between the hype dying and the story gaining traction is called the “Wait Time”.
You don’t want to be invested in stocks during their Wait Time. They usually retrace a big portion of their “Great Find” move… and it usually takes a lot longer than you expect for momentum to kick in. However, when it does (if it does), the stock enters the “Gold Mine” phase. At that point, it’s generally safe to hold the stock for a prolonged period of time.
More lessons to come. Stay Tuned!
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Disclosures / Disclaimers: This is is not a solicitation to buy, sell, or otherwise transact any stock or its derivatives. Nor should it be construed as an endorsement of any particular investment or opinion of the stock’s current or future price. To be clear, I do not encourage or recommend for anyone to follow my lead on this or any other stocks, since I may enter, exit, or reverse a position at any time without notice, regardless of the facts or perceived implications of this article.
I am not a financial advisor. Nor am I providing any recommendations, price targets, or opinions about valuation regarding the companies discussed herein. Any disclosures regarding my holdings are true as of the time this article is written, but subject change without notice. I frequently trade my positions, often on an intraday basis. Thus, it is possible that I might be buying and/or selling the securities mentioned herein and/or its derivative at any time, regardless of (and possibly contrary to) the content of this article.
I undertake no responsibility to update my disclosures and they may therefore be inaccurate thereafter. Likewise, any opinions are as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice and may not be updated. I believe that the sources of information I use are accurate but there can be no assurance that they are. All investments carry the risk of loss and the securities mentioned herein may entail a high level of risk. Investors considering an investment should perform their own research and consult with a qualified investment professional.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am receiving no compensation for it, nor do I have a business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article. The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular security or course of action.
The primary purpose of this blog/forum is to attract new contacts with professional industry expertise to share research and receive feedback (confirmation / refutation) regarding my investment theses.