There's a question I hear and see far too often. I hear it in
the office, on the train, at parties & picnics, and on
investment blogs. You would think that investors could come to some
level of understanding, and the question wouldn't come up as often.
It's something that can take various forms, but the gist is:
"why is the stock I just bought losing money?"
The story usually starts with someone buying a stock that was
recommended by someone or highly rated by an analyst or ranking
system. After learning about the stock, the investor buys it. Then,
for some unknown reason perhaps, the stock goes down over the
short-term. Understandably, the investor feels disappointed and
begins to question his or her decision. Often, the investor will
blame the source of the tip and possibly label it as "no good."
There are many reasons why the stock might have gone down and I'll
touch on a few "big picture" points.
The Reasoning Behind the Why
The first and foremost question you should ask is whether or not
your source has a proven track record of success. Does the source
or strategy actually provide information to help you pick winning
stocks with proof to back it up? Although past performance doesn't
guarantee future success, it's a good place to start. While not as
good as real-time performance, historical testing or backtesting is
another way to discover profitable ideas. The point is, if you
don't have actual proof that something works, then you shouldn't
even consider the information provided by the source or strategy.
Once a proven, solid source has been determined, you have to give
it time to reveal its worth. Frequently I hear of someone buying a
stock at a certain price and, within days or even hours, becoming
concerned when the stock is trading at a lower price. The reality
of the stock market is that there are significant amounts of
short-term noise that dissipate when you look at longer horizons.
Therefore, it's best to not to determine success based on the daily
swings of the market. There will be days your portfolio will be up
and days it will be down. To be profitable, you just need those up
days to outnumber the down -- and that takes endurance.
How you determine success is also important. Do you judge success
based solely on whether or not you are losing money? Or do you look
at performance relative to a market benchmark? For example, your
portfolio might have a +3% return, but underperforming the market's
+8%. That means you left some money on the table by following your
strategy rather than your benchmark. Additionally, if you find a
strategy that experienced a -2% return while the benchmark had a
-5% return...well then, you just saved yourself some money.
This next point is one of my favorites. As I
discussed in a previous article
, all strategies will have misses. You're never going to be able to
find something that has a 100% success rate. In fact, it's going to
be much lower than that. Even the Zacks Rank with its fantastic,
live, annualized performance figure (26% from 1988 through March
2012) has an individual stock success rate of just over 55%. So
even with one of the best stock ranking systems available to
individual investors, your likelihood of picking just one winning
stock is just above 55%. That means about 55% of the time the Zacks
Rank will identify a profitable stock and 45% of the time it will
not. That's considering just one stock.
So, as with the "Vote Early and Often" approach that Chicago was
known for, you need to ensure the odds are stacked in your favor.
The only way to do that is to turn it into a numbers game and use a
proven scoring system as often as you can. So if you bought 100
stocks based on the Zacks Rank, you should expect, on average, 55
to be winners. Obviously you're not going to be able to buy 100
stocks at once, so you'd need to, once again, give it time and
trading to prove itself.
Given the need to have a large sample size to prove its worth, I
chuckle when I hear a strategy branded as a failure based on the
fact that a single recommended stock has a disappointing
performance. In reality, one should feel disappointed if they
bought 100 stocks and only 45 proved profitable. And I can't help
but ponder on the investor who begins to follow a strategy that
only has a 45% win rate and buys the first stock or two that
subsequently go up. They may think they have found the Golden
Goose. But by following that strategy, they're going to slowly end
up in the poor house. Unfortunately, it'll take them a long time to
Discover a Proven Strategy
By now it should be crystal clear that not only do you need an
outperforming strategy, you need to follow it as closely as
possible. To do the latter, you need to make it an individual habit
to follow and not deviate from the strategy. As with many things in
life, it takes two to tango. Accordingly, if you could bring the
disciplined habit to the table, I could show you how to find a
Zacks Research Wizard
. It's just the tool you'll need to discover those winning
strategies on your own or to use of one of the many that we've
already identified. If truth be told, one of my preferred
strategies in RW is the pre-built Analyst Anomaly strategy. We tend
to like things we design ourselves and perhaps that's why I like
Here's how the Analyst Anomaly portfolio compared to the S&P
500 on a historical test from 2002-2011.
Those results show that over time, the strategy made more than ten
times from the market's return even with a smaller maximum loss.
For 2012, the Analyst Anomaly portfolio has returned over 20% in
real-time compared to the S&P 500's 13%. Consequently, the
Analyst Anomaly has proven its value both in historical backtesting
and through a real-time portfolio.
Those that subscribe to the Research Wizard can see the entire
detail. For the rest of you, I'll provide only some highlights of
Buys high volume, large-cap U.S. stocks
- Takes a look at a company's valuation
- Evaluates at earnings estimate revisions
Here are five of the ten stocks that passed the screen this week
- Phillips 66
Phillips 66, based in Houston, Texas, is an independent downstream
energy company. It operates in three segments: refining and
marketing, midstream and chemicals. The stock of this company looks
inexpensive by almost any measure. Its Price/Earnings, Price/Sales
and Price/Book are all lower than the industry average. Earnings
estimates for the next two quarters as well as for the next fiscal
year have all improved.
- AutoNation, Inc.
AutoNation is one of the largest automobile retailers in the United
States and one of the bright spots in an otherwise beaten-down
industry. Relative to the general market, AutoNation remains a
value-buy, but what really is interesting about this company is the
number of improved earnings estimates. The company has also beaten
those estimates in six out of the last seven quarters.
- Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.
Huntington Ingalls designs, builds and maintains nuclear and
non-nuclear ships for the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard and provides
after-market services for military ships around the globe. Despite
the company's stock price being up over 29% YTD, the company is
still inexpensive relative to the market when viewed by P/E, P/B,
P/S and P/CF. For the recently completed quarter that ended in
June, the company greatly exceeded profit expectations. The result
has been increasing earnings projections for the coming year.
- Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.
Fresh Del Monte engages in producing, sourcing, transporting and
marketing fresh and fresh-cut produce worldwide. This company has
had some mixed results in the past, but seems to have gotten itself
on track this year. Based on almost all valuation measures, the
stock price is inexpensive relative to both the general market and
industry peers. The first half of 2012 saw the company exceed
earnings expectations, so analysts have been boosting their
earnings projections for the next two to four quarters.
- Delek US Holdings Inc.
Delek is a diversified energy business focused on petroleum
refining, marketing and supply of refined products, and retail
marketing of fuel and general merchandise. Despite Delek's stock
surging this year, it remains a good value on every metric. This
company has surpassed earnings expectations for over two years and
this has led to significant increases in estimates for the coming
Try for Yourself
There could be various reasons why your stock underperformed, some
of which might be beyond your control. What you can control,
however, is the skillfulness of your strategy, how often you play
the game, your patience and your effort to ensure that performance
is measured relative to an appropriate benchmark. These are all
recipes to reach the full potential of your stock-picking system.
Picking one, two or even a dozen stocks isn't going to reveal much
about what to expect from a strategy. Statistics say a sample size
should be about thirty to begin to approach the "trueness" of a
strategy and that will require time and patience.
If you're looking to improve your stock-picking aptitude the
Zacks Research Wizard
can help. With the program, you will be able to research strategies
to find those with high success ratios. You'll also be able to save
your strategy and find stocks likely to outperform as often as you
wish. It takes just a few clicks of the mouse to produce a list of
Starting today, you are invited to use it free of charge. You'll
have 14 days to create, tweak and backtest your strategies. At the
same time, you can see the latest picks from pre-loaded winning
strategies with average gains of up to +67.4% per year.
Learn more about your
free trial >>
Let's make some money!
Kip Robbins is a Quantitative Analyst with Zacks.com. He
analyzes screens and strategies for Zacks customers and for use in
which empowers individual investors to use market-beating screens,
build their own, and backtest their results.
AUTONATION INC (AN): Free Stock Analysis Report
DELEK US HLDGS (DK): Free Stock Analysis Report
FRESH DEL MONTE (FDP): Free Stock Analysis
HUNTINGTON INGL (HII): Free Stock Analysis
PHILLIPS 66 (PSX): Free Stock Analysis Report
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