equity portfolio analysis to do now

Investors, even professionals, typically don’t want to look at their equity portfolios during a market downdraft.  It’s too ugly and too painful.  I’ve always thought, however, that if you can keep yourself from becoming too emotionally distraught from viewing what is after all a natural occurrence in equityland, you can get a lot of valuable insight into how the market will unfold as stocks inevitably turn up again.

Just from eyeballing charts–I’m too lazy to go back and do precise calculations–we had a particularly long and deep correction in 2011, two (maybe three, depending on how you count) in 2012, two 5%+ corrections in 2013–all before this one in 2014.

I’m pretty sure this correction has ended.  No one knows for sure until the downturn is clearly in the rear view mirror–and sometimes my native optimism gets the better of me.  I feel better  having made this disclaimer, even though there’s been enough if a reversal of form in stocks previously being pummeled (meaning most of my portfolio) to have me pretty well convinced

In any event, I think we should all do what I’m about to recommend, even if there does turn out to be another leg down.

First, two rules:

— Generally speaking, when the market declines value stocks go down less than the market; growth stocks go down more.  When the market begins to rise again after a correction, the pattern reverses itself.  We want to find stocks that are acting out of character–both good and bad.

–Often market leadership–meaning the industries/sectors that do the best–changes during/after a correction.  This change may simply validate ideas we already have  …or it may show us some economic development that we’d overlooked so far.  Either way we want to identify and ride new trends.

use a chart

For me, the simplest way to do this is graphically.  Set up a Google or Yahoo chart that will compare the performance of each stock in your portfolio with the S&P 500 from September 19th until now and look for anomalies.

Throw in some well-known names, stocks you think you might like but don’t own, volume leaders…to get a feel for what’s going on with names you don’t own.

The best case is a stock that has outperformed on the way down and which is rebounding more strongly than the market.

The worst is the opposite   …a stock that underperforms during the downturn and fails to bounce back during the rebound.  These are ones you especially want to detect and investigate.  In my book, you have to have very compelling reasons to hang on to a stock like this.  In my view, you don;t want a stock like this to be your largest position, no matter what reason you come up with.

Do this without having any expectations.  Just see what the numbers say.  Then you can begin to interpret.

Don’t make excuses in advance for stocks.  If a holding has, say, declined by a third during the correction and isn’t rebounding,  chances are that something is wrong.  Facebook (I don’t own it), on the other hand, did better than the market on the way down and continues to outperform.  Other social media stocks appear to be doing the same.

More tomorrow.



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