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Sunday, 25 July 2004
A Reader Writes, "I'm still struggling with stock selections and exits."

Hello Friends!

I have my review to look forward to this afternoon, but first I went and checked my mailbox, and was delighted to find that there was mail on Sunday! I love getting letters. I figure it shows that those statistics on "hits" on my counter are real people and not just robots wandering by. Please DO remember that I am an amateur investor, so please check with your professional investment advisors before acting on any information on this website.

Gus writes,

Hi Bob,

I'm still struggling with stock selections and exits. Nearly all my stocks have blown up on me for every reason you can name. I have lost confidence in holding a stocks and take profits on a 5-10% gain , thereby losing the real winners. Your comments would be appreciated.

Do you use any technical analysis for entry or exits, If so which ones?
When do you enter as soon as you identify a stock that meets your criteria or next day open?
Do you use market orders?
stocks that you have sold after a huge gain would you be buying them back after they base on another breakout.?
All your stocks meet IBD rating system. Do you use IBD in your stock selections?
Do you select only from strong groups?
I feel that you must have a very good knowledge of market trends and cycles to be able to hold your stocks through several pullbacks. How do you manage to hold on? Do you use a market timing method/service?
Is there a way to screen/prequalify a list of stocks and place on a watch list to buy on break out?
You have the best stocks in your portfolio. There are many choices it still comes down to picking the one. What has the final say when several that meet your criteria are breaking out daily?
So many break outs that I entered on have been the high even on stocks that had a good base.
Do you buy all the stocks in your picks list?
Do you short?

Any time you carry to spare in answering these questions is appreciated,

Gus


Now THAT was a lot of questions. I will try to answer all of them or at least comment on your questions. Please remember that I am NOT a professional investment advisor so am not qualified to give you individual advice, but I can give you my opinions on the questions you raise.

1) "Do you use any technical analysis for entry or exits, if so which ones?"

There are two things I do when picking an actual stock to purchase that might be described as technical analysis, including looking at stocks with strong price momentum that day....I scan the lists of top percentage gainers for candidates, and I like to look at a point & figure chart from stockcharts.com. Quite frankly, I am not much of a technician. I would just rather purchase stock simply in a company which has a stock price which appears to be moving higher. I do not use moving averages or trading bands to time purchases or sales.

2. "When do you enter as soon as you identify a stock that meets your criteria or next day open?"

When I identify a stock I wish to purchase I generally enter the order as a market order online with Fidelity. I do not use limit orders.

3. "Stocks that you have sold after a huge gain would you be buying them back after they base on another breakout?"

Fortunately, I do own some stocks that have made huge gains (although they have been giving back much of their gains lately). I do not have a plan of ever unloading a stock on a big gain. That is not my strategy. I sell small portions of a stock on pre-set sell-points as the stock rises. Like so many investors, I try to pull the cost of my initial investment out of a swiftly climbing stock, but I do this very slowly so as not to penalize a stock that is performing for me. I like to sell 1/4 on a 1/3 gain....(1/4 of 4/3 is 1/3, leaving 3/3..or original investment $'s still invested), and sell 1/4 again for four consecutive times at each 30% gain (30, 60, 90, 120). After that I plan to sell 1/4 on 60% gain sites allowing the investment to start growing. If I do sell a stock on fundamental bad news or on a decline (again I have sell-points on the downside, (8)% if I have never sold any at a gain, 0% if I have sold once, 30% if have sold at 60%, and then selling points would be at 1/2 of the highest % gain point. This allows a 50% retracement, giving greater lee-way for the strongest performing stocks in the portfolio.

I certainly would consider rebuying a stock if I sold it on some bad news or a pull back if it hit the top percentage gainers list, I was in the market for a new purchase, and it made sense. But generally, I have been buying new stocks that I have not owned before.

4. "All your stocks meet IBD rating system. Do you use IBD in your stock selections?"

As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I have been greatly influenced by IBD and William O'Neill's CANSLIM techniques. I have adapted some of these ideas to what I am doing. I use the 8% loss limit that O'Neill discusses. However, O'Neill generally recommends adding to existing positions to concentrate your holdings when you identify a performing stock. I tend to be a bit more conservative and like to sell a little bit as it rises. I share O'Neill's views that stocks that will perform the best ultimately are a function of their underlying earnings performance. I do subscribe to IBD and enjoy reading some of their articles, but my lists of stocks come from my own investigations. I have been pleased to see that many of the stocks discussed have shown up on the IBD list of 100 top stocks each Monday. I think I am doing something right!

5. "Do you select only from strong groups?"

Not intentionally :). That is, when I am in a position to purchase a new stock for my portfolio, which occurs after I have sold a portion of an existing position at a gain, I apply my criteria to the lists of stocks making nice moves THAT day. After I have found a couple of candidates, I use my "seat of the pants" judgment to pick my stock to purchase. I may be using groups strength intuitively, but I do NOT check group strength when selecting a stock to purchase.

6. "How do you manage to hold on? Do you use a market timing method/service?" This Market Timing thing concerns me greatly. One of the books I have read, was "How to Make $1,000,000 in the Stock Market Automatically!" by Robert Lichello. I am sure you can find a copy cheap on Amazon. Mr. Lichello started me thinking about market timing. I do NOT use any service but am trying to have my portfolio direct me how to behave in relation to the market.

Mr. Lichello thought it wise to have two funds, equity and cash, and to move funds back and forth between these two accounts automatically as a function of the market activity. Now I don't do that. But I very much want to avoid compounding my losses as much as possible. If the market is declining I would like to have a system in place which will gradually reduce my exposure to equities. At the same time, if the market is improving, I want to do the opposite.

What I do is very simple and is actually far too slow to respond adequately. I think I might be able to do better (?).

Simply put, I have a portfolio of stocks. You can see what I own on my trading portfolio. I need to update it. My profits have SHRUNK these past two weeks...and my paper gain is down to $20,000 from $30,000 just a few weeks ago...so I am not immune to the market action. Now what I do is try to LISTEN to my portfolio. That is something O'Neill points out in his book. Your portfolio is talking to you :). When I sell a stock at a loss, I do NOT replace the stock (I used to jump right back in with another issue). I WAIT, I sit on my hands, until another stock in my portfolio has had a portion sold at a GAIN. Thus, as the market declines, I gradually sell off positions, and wait until the market is strong enough to provide me with gains.

I have been using margin which is just TERRIBLE in a declining market and WONDERFUL in a climbing market. If I use 50% equity as fully invested (50% margin), then I would consider 50% cash to be my fully "dis-invested" level. That is, continuing to reduce exposure 'automatically' until down to 50% cash and 50% equity. I figure that will mean a portfolio of 6 positions as a MINIMUM. At that point, I WILL replace issues if they are sold at a loss.

7. "Is there a way to screen/prequalify a list of stocks and place on a watch list to buy on a break out?"

That is a good question. I am sure there is a way....and I do review LOTS of stocks on my blog. What these review do is to familiarize myself with these "players" in the market. When I AM in the market to purchase a new position, and one of them shows up on the top % gainers lists, I tend to buy what I am familiar with. It doesn't always work out as my recent experience with DJ Orthopedics shows... But this pre-screened list and break-out technique is simply not what I do. It doesn't mean it isn't a good idea...it might be. I just don't do it.

8. "You have the best stocks in your portfolio."

Thank you. I consider this a form of "investment natural selection", or survival of the fittest :). I sell LOTS of stocks from my portfolio. Just look at all the footnotes on my trading portfolio. Thus, for a stock to stay, it cannot decline much after the purchase. That they may have a large gain, is indicative that the homework I did before making a purchase was on the mark.

9. "There are many choices it still comes down to picking the one. What has the final say when several that meet your criteria are breaking out daily?"

Now THAT is an excellent question. First of all I don't buy ANYTHING no matter how pretty it looks unless my "market timing system" tells me it is ok to purchase a stock. (Meaning I just recently sold a portion at a gain!). When there are several, I tend to try to buy the stock that I have heard of before, or perhaps have posted before on the blog. I like stocks over $10, I like the MOST CONSISTENT earnings and revenue grower. If they have INCREASING free cash flow, and have an excellent balance sheet all the better. If they pay a dividend too why not. And I would like to see a nice point & figure graph. I go through all of these things, but when it comes right down to it, I have to be "intuitive". Sometimes I make a good pick, but I don't worry too much, if it pulls back EVEN THE NEXT DAY....out if goes.

10. "So many break outs that I entered on have been the high even on stocks that had a good base."

The failure of the market to follow through on stock moves recently is indicative of a poor investment climate right now. Do not fight the market. Sit on your hands. Wait. Increase you cash and maintain some level of equity until the market tells you to add positions.

11. "Do you buy all the stocks in your picks list?"

Absolutely not. I wish I had bought TASER when I listed it...but I literally have reviewed hundreds of stocks and only purchased a handful of them for my trading portfolio.

12. "Do you short?"

There have been many brilliant people that have made fortunes going short on issues. However, I do not short. I go long. I have invested in options in the past and lost my shirt. I am concentrating on what I think I know, identifying strong stocks for potential capital gains.

Good luck Gus, I hope this answers your questions. If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me at bobsadviceforstocks@lycos.com .

Bob


Posted by bobsadviceforstocks at 4:56 PM CDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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