Stock Exchange: Are You Guilty of Voodoo Chart Reading?

Michael Kahn, a leading technician and columnist, provides the inspiration for this week’s Stock Exchange. In a recent post he take on a quest: Unmasking the Voodoo of Chart Reading.

This topic really hits home with our Stock Exchange Group. Since they cannot explain their methods in great detail, outsiders sometimes think of them as “black boxes” with mysterious decision criteria. In fact, their general methods are quite clear. Through this series, we share many of their specific decisions. When I review the output, I see it as suggestions from a group of wise friends.

Kahn emphasizes this point.

[Charts] do not tell us what will happen. They are meant to give us clues as to what to do.

Rinse, repeat.

Charts do not forecast the future. They suggest that it is time to take an action.

You don’t sell when the market is overbought. It may still be going up and will get more overbought. But you pay attention because if the market does start to succumb to supply, the indicator – whatever told you it was overbought – will back down by a certain amount.

This is a great attitude to take when employing your technical indicators. Let us try to take the voodoo out of our group’s current ideas!

Review

Our last Stock Exchange considered how to trade a market with a lot of headline risk. If you missed it, please check back and catch up on this important topic.

Market Tech Take

We are adding a new feature this week – a technical market overview. We will feature our proprietary measure, MHI, the market health index. This is a specialized combination of breadth and strength in our proprietary universe. For contrast, we will include an alternative technical measure each week. We welcome suggestions. What is your own favorite indicator?

One popular indicator of strength is the percentage of stocks above the 50-day moving average. Stock charts provides an excellent way to follow this indicator.

Another good one is new highs versus new lows. This is based on our special universe. It is over a two-year period. I will improve the time scale for this feature.

The market health is our key indicator. Once again, it covers a two-year period. It is important since nearly every method experiences the worst drawdowns when MHI give a negative signal.

Comments are most welcome on this segment – a work in progress. Vince and I will provide more ideas about interpretation. Meanwhile, watch out for the red line crossing above the green one!

Let’s turn to this week’s ideas.

This Week—How to Take the Voodoo Out of Your Chart Reading

 

Felix

I’m just getting into Wynn Resorts (WYNN). I’ll admit this is an unusual pick for me. Since I could be in this position for as long as a year or two, buying on peak isn’t generally my style. For my holding period, it takes a significant move to trip my trigger.

I find a few things attractive here. For one, the 200-day moving average increased steadily in 2016 despite rapid price fluctuations. It’s since leveled off, and now the 50-day moving average is climbing. I feel I can count on reliable growth here despite some short-term swings.

J: Are you worried about the company’s sensitivity to revenues from Macau? Those fell 40% in 2016.

F: That was just the subsidiary. The Chinese love to gamble. Look to the long run.

J: At least you have a choice that has a reasonable valuation and solid earnings growth. There is even a dividend. Chuck Carnevale’s excellent research tool helps us generate this chart:

F: I am glad you like the earnings, but I am focused on the price. What is this rumor that Mr. Carnevale is taking your job?

J: We hope to have him as our guest expert next week. He has his own job. I am taking a long birthday weekend with Mrs. OldProf. What about questions from your fans.

F: I always appreciate reader questions. The extra work helps my pay.

J: Are you responding to every request?

F: I am making a list of top choices from the “reader universe.”

J: What if a reader request is not on the list?

F: Then I do not see it as an attractive long-term choice. I respond to email with more specific questions.

J: And where would that be?

F: ETF at NewArc dot com. At least until you give me my own personal email address!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar

In an unusual twist, I don’t have a new sector for this week. I generally try to hold three sectors for a period of 2-4 weeks each – which means I’m a fairly active trader. This week, however, I’m good with my current holdings. In lieu of a new selection, let’s review one of my favorite picks so far this year. The Aerospace and Defense sector (XAR) was very kind to me.

I recommended this one back at the beginning of February. As you can see, that pick enjoyed some steady growth until the end of the month. As I said, I generally exit around the 4 week mark at the latest, so it was easy to walk away with a nice chunk of change here.

J: Yes, we enjoyed booking some profits on that trade. What about your current holdings? I see some hotels and also Roadrunner’s AVGO idea in your account. Are you too caught up in your NCAA brackets to give us a fresh pick?

O: No way, but I really need North Carolina to lose.

J: Good luck with that. What about the reader questions?

O: Like Felix, I am emphasizing the top choices from the reader questions.

J: So they are not necessarily your own favorites?

O: No, but there is plenty of overlap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RoadRunner

(Commentary translated from various pecks, rapid movements and beeps).

Reader PN informs me that I can get better performance from RoadRunner if I improve the birdseed diet. She writes, based upon personal experience in Oklahoma, that the best food consists of “small mammals, lizards, and insects.” Birdseed is a last resort. RoadRunner beeped with approval as I read PN’s email.

RR: I’m right up there with Oscar in terms of time frame. I like to get out of any new position within 20 business days at the absolute maximum. Short term growth is imperative. For Broadcom (AVGO), that’s exactly what I expect.

RR: This year has been a steep climb upwards for AVGO, with only a few bumps in the road. To me, the current price point looks more like an investment opportunity than a peak.

J: Your method is to look for rising channels, buying at the bottom?

RR: Yes.

J: I can see that on the chart, but why not draw it for us?

RR: That is your job! I can’t draw.

J: Broadcom looks good on a fundamental basis as well. Here is the fundamental analysis, once again from Chuck Carnevale.

RR: Once again, I am interested only in a four-week trade.

J: It is always better to trade stocks where the fundamentals are solid.

RR: Beep beep.

 

Athena

On occasion, I’ve been known to buy once a stock has already jumped. With Consol Energy (CNX), I’m confident that I’ll be jumping in early enough to come away with a tidy profit.

J: On occasion? That is your regular method.

A: The stock is about matched with its 50-day moving average; however, its 200-day moving average is still basically flat. We’ve seen a pop up from recent lows in early March. Who’s to say this one couldn’t recover to its prices from the beginning of the year.

J: I find myself asking each week: Have you ever learned about earnings? Look at the fundamental chart! The price chart looks like RoadRunner’s old nemesis – Wile E. Coyote.

A: I play for big, short-term winners. If necessary I will move on.

Holmes

I love QEP Resources (QEP) this week. Here we’ve got a stock that’s just gone through a huge correction, bringing the price well below both the 50 and 200 day moving averages. Past performance is no indication of the future, of course, but in my mind, there’s dramatic room for growth here.

Even a modest increase pack to $15.00 would make spending a few weeks with this stock worthwhile.

J: This is another energy name with no earnings.

H: As we all keep telling you, the market often does not require earnings.

J: There is a lot of bullish sentiment on energy. President Trump has been helping the group. CNBC pundits were enthusiastic today.

H: Who is Trump? What is CNBC? What is a pundit?

J: A sound attitude! That is why we keep you on the payroll. Err… I mean the biscuit roll.

 

Conclusion

Charts are always subject to interpretation. When I analyze the results from our models, the charts are a result – not the starting point. A careful look provides ideas about what the model is “seeing.” It is certainly not voodoo, and my own analysis has been sharpened over the years by the constant review of model picks.

The stimulus from new ideas and interpretations is one of our goals at the Stock Exchange.

We welcome comments, suggestions, and followers for each character. Even Jeff. I try to have fun once a week in writing this, and I hope you get a chuckle or two from reading it. Here is a scorecard for the characters, and information about how you can join in.

Stock Exchange Character Guide

Character Universe Style Average Holding Period Exit Method Risk Control
Felix NewArc Stocks Momentum 66 weeks Price target Macro and stops
Oscar “Empirical” Sectors Momentum Six weeks Rotation Stops
Athena NewArc Stocks Momentum One month Price target Stops
Holmes NewArc Stocks Dip-buying Mean reversion Six weeks Price target Macro and stops
RoadRunner NewArc Stocks Stocks at bottom of rising range Four weeks Time Time
Jeff Everything Value One month or long term Risk signals Recession risk, financial stress, Macro

 

Background on the Stock Exchange

Each week Felix and Oscar host a poker game for some of their friends. Since they are all traders they love to discuss their best current ideas before the game starts. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” (Check it out for more background). Their methods are excellent, as you know if you have been following the series. Since the time frames and risk profiles differ, so do the stock ideas. You get to be a fly on the wall from my report. I am the only human present, and the only one using any fundamental analysis.

The result? Several expert ideas each week from traders, and a brief comment on the fundamentals from the human investor. The models are named to make it easy to remember their trading personalities.

Questions

If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a specialty. Who is your favorite? (You can choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Getting Updates

We have a new (free) service to subscribers to our Felix/Oscar update list. You can suggest three favorite stocks and sectors. We report regularly on the “favorite fifteen” in each category– stocks and sectors—as determined by readers. Sign up with email to “etf at newarc dot com”. Suggestions and comments are welcome. In the tables above, green is a “buy,” yellow a “hold,” and red a “sell.” Each category represents about 1/3 of the underlying universe. Please remember that these are responses to reader requests, not necessarily stocks and sectors that we own. Sign up now to vote your favorite stock or sector onto the list!

 

 

 

 

Stock Exchange: Need Some Trading Room Help?

Last week’s Stock Exchange illustrated how different approaches worked to generate varied ideas. If you missed last week, you will find it to be useful background for today’s topic.

In the last two weeks the market has been relatively quiet. Dow 20K is still a gleam in the eye. Some are announcing that the “Trump Rally” is over. If you are an aggressive trader, is there any way to exploit this situation?

Our technical experts have ideas, which are also interesting for those of us emphasizing fundamentals. Anyone who has worked with a group of traders knows that there are many opinions. While you might not agree with them, it is often worth listening. Many traders use social networks for this purpose. One brokerage advertises this feature of their site. Another invites you to call one of their “experts.” The chief problem? Finding people worth following! The brokerages just want you to do a lot of trading. The more opinions the better.

Our Stock Exchange participants can provide better help for those who are not working in a trading room. Even better, the trades work pretty well! Let’s dig in with this week’s ideas. As usual, I will conclude with a brief observation.

Getting Updates

I have offered a new (free) service to subscribers to our Felix/Oscar update list. You can suggest three favorite stocks and sectors. We will report regularly on the “favorite fifteen” in each category– stocks and sectors—as determined by readers. Sign up with email to “etf at newarc dot com”. Suggestions and comments are welcome. In the tables below, green is a “buy,” yellow a “hold,” and red a “sell.” Each category represents about 1/3 of the underlying universe. Please remember that these are responses to reader requests, not necessarily stocks and sectors that we own. Sign up now to vote your favorite stock or sector onto the list!

This Week—Ideas from the Trading Room

Holmes

This week I’m buying high fashion! Michael Kors (KORS), trading at 42.83.

The stock looks to be consolidating at a higher low from the previous big down move (40.70) of May 17 2016, which is higher than the move before that of 35.79 and Jan 15, 2016. All these higher lows give me the chance to buy here and watch carefully that KORS stays above the previous low. What is my upside target? Well, the highs seem to be lower too…so I’m thinking 48.60 the current 200d MA is a worthy target…but I’ll be watching carefully. If I get the rally and the stock starts to roll over I’ll be a quick seller.

Don’t need to hit homers all the times, many games are won with timely singles.

J: Homers versus singles? Have you been spending more time with Oscar?

H: He did take me to the “dog night” at “The Cell” last year.

J: It is now called “Guaranteed Rate Field.”

H: No!! Oscar still calls it Comiskey.

J: Turning to your KORS idea, have you been following retail sales reports, especially for the luxury sector?

H: As you know, I read charts, not news.

J: The stock looks good on a fundamental basis as well. Here is the basic F.A.S.T. graph.

 

H: It looks like “value” investors might have been stuck in this one for some time. My rebound strategy is clearly better!

 

Athena

My pick this week, Fifth-Third Bancorp (FITB), has started to level off since November’s rally. I like that price action. As you know by now, I’m most enthusiastic about a stock when I think it’s due for a pop. FITB is still underpriced based on my technical indicators. We were closer to fair valuation at the end of December. I might hold onto this one for three or four weeks, and hope for a small gain.

J: Once again you have a choice that fundamental investors can also embrace. I have been recommending regional bank stocks for many months. The recent increase in interest rates has helped the group. If the economy continues to improve, the Fed will raise short-term rates. The prime rate goes up instantly. Rates paid to savers go up more slowly – much more slowly. That means more profit for banks.

A: Your complex methods can sometimes lead you to a conclusion that is obvious from the chart.

J: This time my methods allowed me to enjoy that November surge.

A: Let us see if they get you out in a timely fashion as well.

Felix

I will begin this week with my responses to reader votes for the favorites list.

My list provides rankings within each zone, as well as the basics about buy, hold, and sell. The list includes the top overall vote getters from our (free) subscription list as well as some new requests I got during the week.

J: The stocks are about the same as last week.

F: The list changes, but only as the reader favorites change. I encourage my fans to submit requests.

J: The order of the ratings has changed. Are you going to resume showing us the week-over-week comparison?

F: I am thinking about that problem. Some of the stocks were not rated last week. For the moment, readers must follow their favorites each week.

J: Maybe we’ll get some good new suggestions. What is your featured stock for this week?

F: I suspect that you will not like my answer. I have nothing new this week.

J: Didn’t you just request a raise?

F: Yes. As you know I have had the best performance since you added me in September. I have been better than the dog, and a lot better than Oscar.

J: That is only five months, but I agree about your good start. That does not give you license to take the week off.

F: I worked, but there are no new ideas for my style. You told us all not to trade just to prove we are doing something. The holding period for my stocks averages five quarters. I am not going to have a fresh trade each week.

J: That makes sense. Just stay on the job and don’t reach for new positions. I don’t want to encourage you to get ideas from those high-frequency models in Chicago. They play a very different game.

 

F: So I have heard!

 

 

Oscar

Here are my ratings for the top reader interests. There are still three open slots, so keep the questions coming.

J: Interesting. What do you have for us this week?

O: I’ve talked about oil and oil refiners a lot over the past few weeks. Judging by the dip we’ve seen over the past year – and the rough patch we had in January 2016 – there was an awful lot of value to be found in this sector. I see a similar (albeit more modest) opportunity in Refiners now. Valero Energy (VLO) is a suitable example. Note the contraction so far in the month of January. Our 50-day moving average has spiked, while the 200-day moving average has barely evened out. I would be very surprised to see a correction here continue for much longer – despite the volatility in this sector.

J: Many people mistakenly trade in overall energy ETFs that include refiners. The characteristics are quite different. Crude is a raw material for refiners, so lower prices can be very good. Gasoline demand is important. Twice a year they make a switch from the summer blend to winter, and vice-versa. It is early for the summer switch, but could that be what you are seeing?

 

O: I see what the chart tells me. I just put it in the tank no matter whether it is winter or summer. Gas prices will be going higher and VLO will probably cash in!

 

Background on the Stock Exchange

Each week Felix and Oscar host a poker game for some of their friends. Since they are all traders they love to discuss their best current ideas before the game starts. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” (Check it out for more background). Their methods are excellent, as you know if you have been following the series. Since the time frames and risk profiles differ, so do the stock ideas. You get to be a fly on the wall from my report. I am the only human present, and the only one using any fundamental analysis.

The result? Several expert ideas each week from traders, and a brief comment on the fundamentals from the human investor. The models are named to make it easy to remember their trading personalities. Each week features a different expert or stock.

Questions

If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a specialty. Who is your favorite? (You can choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Conclusion

Our models provide an interesting “trading group”. We see many interesting ideas. We never know in advance what will be chosen, but a study of the charts is often revealing. Sometimes the trades are attractive on the fundamentals as well. That provides an assist for long-term shoppers who are looking for a good entry point.

Be receptive to methods different from your own. You are not the only expert!

 

Stock Exchange: Spotting a Great Chart

Technical analysts dominate the daily discussion of stocks. Fundamental concepts change slowly. Chart patterns change constantly. Usually the calls are dramatic, because no one cares about advice that says, “all is well, keep holding.”

Traders live on stock charts, but investors also pay close attention. Everyone wants to know whether a stock is breaking down, breaking out, or stuck in a trading range. Here is the key question:

How do you spot a good chart?

We have several great charts this week. The Stock Exchange provides an expert-level debate on technical and fundamental analysis. (Important background is available here). Comments, dissent, and specific stock questions are welcome!

This Week—Is Felix right about KHC?

One issue with charts is the wide difference in interpretation. Do analysts see what they want to see? Are the interpretive criteria constant and objective? This week (without telling him) I searched for other opinions on one of our expert selections, Felix’s choice of KHC. The same principles would apply to all the picks, but this is a convenient example. Before turning to Felix, let’s look at other approaches.

This one provides a complex chart and plenty of additional points of interest. It makes a lot of specific predictions, suggesting many trades with moves of less than one point.

 

Here is another, one-year term and 50-day MA. This is a much longer time frame with an implied criterion reflecting that.

And a dramatically different time frame from the same source. Instead of a 50-day MA, we now have two hours.

And one more site, which invites predictions. I am not sure what conclusion you would reach, but the participants have many different conclusions.

The key point of this comparison is the widely differing images and viewpoints. The time frame matters, and so does added complexity.

Let’s see what Felix has to say, and also check out my own conclusion to this article.

Felix

I look for long-term themes, and I have a great one this week. I have a pick without an army: KHC. It is my lone soldier of the week, a strong company. The recent selloffs provide a good point of entry with the rebounds already underway. This should be good for another 5 points.

I’ve had a question this week from A Dash of Insight:

Question from Fred Barone:
Any opinion on CVI thank you

 

Felix: This is a stock I won’t be holding for a while; it has been going downhill since 2013. There hasn’t been much upside. On the other hand, it does rank in the top 25% of my universe, so it is not terrible. I would take a guess that you have been holding this for a while?

[F] Please keep your questions coming. I could use the overtime pay. And by the way, Jeff. Are we working next Thursday?

[J] Next Thursday the market is closed and we are all taking a day off to give thanks and spend time with family.

[F] I don’t have a family and I could use the overtime bonus.

 

Athena

I hope I’m not too late to the party on this one. Teck Resources Ltd (TCK) has been on a solid rise since March. We’ve had the stock price quadruple since then, which is remarkable to say the least. While I don’t expect to cash in on that kind of return in the next few weeks, there is still a tidy profit to be had here.

[J] This pick is not completely hopeless. The company has some earnings. There is plenty of fluctuation but excellent growth expectations. This might work.

[A] The market is sending a message that it will work. I listen, Jeff, and so should you!

Oscar

While I focus on sectors, sometimes ideas get as narrow as a single country ETF. My regular sports channels had a brief blurb about some guy named Abe meeting with Trump. Some of my sources suggested that I should check out the WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity ETF (DXJ) this week. Much like Japan’s national sport, sumo wrestling, this pick is all about momentum off the bottom.

[J] So you are telling us that you have been following the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Abe? The first foreign leader to meet with President-Elect Trump?

[O] Not exactly “following.” It was on my Facebook news feed.

[J] Why did you choose the Wisdom Tree ETF, which is adjusted for currency variation?

[O] Variation?

[J] Yen for each dollar.

[O] I’m not sure, but on my last visit, dollars were welcome.

Holmes

This week I’m picking DXCM, DexCom a specialty health stock. After a sharp decline on November 1st, this stock has proceeded to consolidate and slowly climb back up from a low of 61.00. I will put in a stop at 62.50.I bought this stock at 70.96, looking for a nice rebound to low 80s or even higher. If we start to rally, I’ll be moving up my stop aggressively. My major concern is that move is based on perceived changes in medical policies from Washington, vs. improvement in the outlook of this company. I’ll be very tight on the trigger if the stock starts to drift lower day after day.

[J] Do you understand that his company has no earnings, no dividend, and no real prospects for the next two years?

 

[H] How have I been doing?

[J] Your picks have been profitable. I also like your frequent decisions to take profits and move on. You are not overstaying your welcome.

[H] That is a very honest. I like that in a human. Next you must learn to be more intuitive. Sometimes stocks rebound before the fundamentals confirm. I often spot such cases.

[J] Are you really considering policy changes from Washington?

[H] Of course not. The price and volume reflect that information!

 

Background on the Stock Exchange

Each week Felix and Oscar host a poker game for some of their friends. Since they are all traders they love to discuss their best current ideas before the game starts. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” (Check it out for more background). Their methods are excellent, as you know if you have been following the series. Since the time frames and risk profiles differ, so do the stock ideas. You get to be a fly on the wall from my report. I am the only human present, and the only one using any fundamental analysis.

The result? Several expert ideas each week from traders, and a brief comment on the fundamentals from the human investor. The models are named to make it easy to remember their trading personalities. Each week features a different expert or stock.

 

Questions

If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a specialty. Who is your favorite? (You can choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Conclusion

 

My first job in the investment business involved a wide variety of research tasks. My boss, a clever fellow, became suspicious of conclusions from our technical analyst. He asked me to create some stock charts with the data inverted. He presented one group to our analyst, and got a verdict of bullish on all fronts. A bit later he presented the same charts, with the pattern inverted. As he suspected, those were also deemed to be bullish!

Technical analysis is interesting, but usually lacks rigorous testing. In today’s example, I do not know precisely why Felix likes KHC, but here are three ideas:

  1. The stock chart is like those I have seen before — descent from a prior high, a new base, and often an uptick.
  2. Some might see this as a “cup-and-handle” but not all such patterns qualify for Felix.]
  3. When we get a pick, it represents thousands of similar training cases, and hundreds of test cases. It is not just an idea with an argument, but a scientific conclusion.

You cannot identify a “good chart” unless you have many, many comparisons.

Stock Exchange: Is Technical Analysis Effective Post-Election?

A truly disruptive event generates surprisingly large moves – sectors, stocks, and sometimes the overall market. Methods that work well in normal times may break down under this stress. Traders and investors must ask:

  • Is my system still working?
  • Should I adjust?
  • Should I suspend operations for a time?

When trading based upon scientifically developed models, these questions are somewhat easier to answer. We have solid expectations for behavior and performance, because of extensive testing on a generous helping of out-of-sample data. Most importantly, the human managers know and understand the model inputs.

We have great respect for our group of models, but we retain human control. This week, for example, Oscar liked our solar sector. We knew something that Oscar didn’t – the likely effect of Trump policy on solar stocks. What appeared to be a buying opportunity, might be an illusion. The trade might still work, but there are other, safer choices that are nearly as good.

Technical analysts can always be tempted by confirmation bias and their knowledge of events. When using models, you very sparingly use exceptions. If you view every trade as a suggestion, you wind up doing your own trading, with your model advice used only for (biased) confirmation.

The Stock Exchange provides an expert-level debate on technical and fundamental analysis. I have placed more background at the end of the article. Comments, dissent, and specific stock questions are welcome!

This Week—Athena Loves Amgen

This week’s featured expert is Athena. Vince (our modeling guru) designed Athena to be very aggressive in finding new positions, but swift to exit those that were not working. These are not “stops” as we normally think of them. Exits are not based upon specific downside limits. Instead, there is an increased risk warning (IRW) that signals a change of behavior in how the stock is trading. The result is exceptionally good risk control both for individual positions and the overall portfolio. While we have not told the other models, Athena is Vince’s favorite.

Here are the ideas for this week, beginning with Athena, our featured expert.

Athena

I love to make a quick buck finding trends. An insider secret: There’s nothing trendier than the baseless speculation following a big election. My pick this week is AMGN, one of many biotech stocks rocketing skyward since this week’s big news. It’s still attractive at this price, but I’ll dump it in a heartbeat, maybe by Inauguration Day.

[J] You actually know about the election?

[A] Yes, but don’t tell the other models. They already resent my wisdom. I do not use fundamental information, but I am aware of it.

[J] This choice does seem logical on an earnings basis, as you can see from this chart. The stock trades at a discount and has a nice 2.7% dividend yield as well.

[A] It is nice to see that you finally agree with me on a choice. My other picks have also done well.

Felix

I look for long-term themes. Oil and gas stocks have been a very long-term holding. We are picking up and I still am adding to the sector. I am going to pick ECR as the example this week. This is a fairly small company with modest revenue but the chart reflects that of the big boys. That is a good sign and something that I like immensely.

[J] You have been early (a euphemism for “wrong” on energy and mining).

[F] I sold some miners, as I will do when necessary. The energy investments will prove out in the long run.

[J] I have suggested a ceiling on energy prices in the low 50’s, mostly due to more supply returning.

[F] That is a short-sighted, I mean short-term viewpoint. You will see.

Questions for Felix

From Seeking Alpha

 Tiki Bar Capital comments:

Great call on healthcare, Jeff! And BMRN in particular.

The biotech sector is close to retesting its lows. Biotech and pharma in general seem like the sectors that will see the biggest rallies once the smoke clears after the election.

1234gel joins in:

Ditto the BMRN call…

[F] Those were not comments for me—or for you. BMRN was an Oscar pick.

From A Dash

Phil

Comments on my two favorites- AAPL & BRK/B?

[F] AAPL is a weak buy and BRK/A as about neutral.

[J] I like AAPL a lot.

[F] This is my question section. I need more of them since I am saving up for Spring Break.

[J] It is only November…

[F] With what you are paying me for each answer, that is how long it will take for a nice trip.

Oscar

Basketball season is back in full swing, which means I’m looking for a rebound. My favorite sector this week is Diversified REITs, demonstrated here by CMO. This area was already looking up at the beginning of October, and now we’re seeing gains as a part of the broad based post-election rally. Grab the rebound, make an easy layup, and move on to the next play.

[J] I thought that Holmes was our rebound specialist.

[O] Sometimes the dog and I agree.

[J] This one has fundamental appeal as well. The dividend of 9.5% is great. The PE is 12.3, above the average level of the last nine years, 7.9. What will happen as interest rates rise? Chuck Carnevale’s excellent tools help us out on that question. This chart shows the P/E versus interest rates over the last nine years.

Holmes

This week I’m picking TSCO, Tractor Supply a specialty consumer cyclical stock. After a sharp decline in September, this stock has proceeded to consolidate and backfill making a low of 61.62 on October 28th. This is a logical place for a stop. I bought this stock a few days ago at 65.91 so it is slightly higher now. I am looking for a nice rebound to low 80s. If we start to rally, I’ll be moving up my stop aggressively. Risking $4.30 to make $15.00 is the sort of Risk/Reward scenario I like. If I’m right just half the time, I can still be a big winner.

[J] There are plenty of these stores around here. It is not just tractors. Think clothing, footwear, hunting supplies, garden, parts, and more. If they do not have it, you probably do not need it. The costal elites do not understand this.

[H] As I told you last week, you only need to track the information from technical data.

[J] You were right about BMRN.

[H] As I told you last week, and I quote “The stock prices tell you everything you need to know about upcoming events, including this election. If a Clinton victory is expected and is negative for health care, that is already reflected in the stock price. My trade works if this sentiment is overdone, and it works big if Mr. Trump wins.”

[J] You were right.

[H] My YTD results are also great.

[J] It is unseemly to boast. See how you can do in the poker game!

 

Background on the Stock Exchange

Each week Felix and Oscar host a poker game for some of their friends. Since they are all traders they love to discuss their best current ideas before the game starts. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” Their methods are excellent, as you know if you have been following the series. Since the time frames and risk profiles differ, so do the stock ideas. You get to be a fly on the wall from my report. I am the only human present, and the only one using any fundamental analysis.

The result? Several expert ideas each week from traders, and a brief comment on the fundamentals from the human investor. The models are named to make it easy to remember their trading personalities. Each week features a different expert.

What is this about? Since launching this series I have had good questions on three general themes. Here are the questions and some brief answers.

  1. The model characters are fun, but please tell me more about what they do.

    I include the general personality of the model at the end of each article. I will begin featuring one approach each week with more detail, and soon provide a reference page for readers.

  2. Why don’t you show a track record on performance?

    I understand that those trying to sell a newsletter or chat room often provide some sort of time-stamped real-time record. You will find that most of these people are not subject to compliance rules. The “track records” tell you nothing, since they do not have enough trades to get into the “long run.” Confidence in a model comes from knowing how it is developed and tested. I would rather ask a few questions to a developer than see a few months of real-time picks. It is easy to spot the amateurs.

  3. Why should I care about these model picks?

    You probably read many articles with stock ideas. Some are a single idea based upon technical analysis from a source you do not know about. At the Stock Exchange, you get four different recommendations from technical “experts” as well as some fundamental commentary as a rebuttal. I am not trying to sell anything. We are developing an institutional product. The results are good enough that I am willing to share and discuss with readers. Some of my clients are invested in these models, so I am not going to provide every trade in real time. It is supposed to be interesting and fun! Look at the ideas and do your own research.

 

Questions

If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a specialty. Who is your favorite? (You can choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Cast of Characters

Felix is fussy, precise, and very cautious. He looks for what is working, but it also must have upside potential. He is an investor who thinks long term. Felix will not usually announce new picks, but he will answer questions, saying what he thinks about specific stocks. He will also comment on favorite themes and sectors.

Oscar is naturally optimistic and a bit excitable. He likes to go with winners, and focuses on a one-month time frame. He trades either sector ETFs, or a basket of stocks (equally weighted) that reflect a sector. Oscar will mention a favorite sector each week, and will also answer questions about sectors.

Holmes is a trader, but a cautious one. Holmes emphasizes asset protection through profit taking, stops, and trailing stops. He is careful in selecting new positions, and generally looks at an intermediate time frame. While he does not know the definition of “mean reversion” he loves rebounds! There is no set holding period, but two or three months is not unusual. Holmes will tell us one stock recommended that week. For those who sign up for his email list (no charge, privacy respected, holmes at newarc dot com) he will report exits with a one-day delay.

Athena trades more frequently than the others, but still limits risk. Her inspiration helps to find good ideas. Her excellent quant skills find attractive risk/reward opportunities. Her wisdom leads her to exit trades that are not working. Athena will provide a new idea each week.

Jeff usually has some comments about stock or market fundamentals. Unlike the other witty participants, he sounds like an old prof.

The conversation is light-hearted, but the stock analysis is serious. We own positions in each of the stocks mentioned.

And finally, you can learn about the eternal debate between technical analysts and those using fundamentals.

Stock Exchange: Contrarian Pre-Election Trade Ideas in Chips, Biotech, Trucking, and Energy

Each week Felix and Oscar host a poker game for some of their friends. Since they are all traders they love to discuss their best current ideas before the game starts. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” Their methods are excellent, as you will learn if you join us for a few weeks. Since the time frames and risk profiles differ, so do the stock ideas. You get to be a fly on the wall from my report. I am the only human present, and the only one using any fundamental analysis.

The result? Several expert ideas each week from traders, and a brief comment on the fundamentals from the human investor. The models are named to make it easy to remember their trading personalities. Each week features a different expert.

I have placed more background at the end of the article. Comments, dissent, and specific stock questions are welcome!

This Week—Be Fussy with Felix

This week’s featured expert is Felix. Vince (our modeling guru) designed Felix to be an opportunistic, long-term trader with a time horizon of more than a year. This does not mean “buy-and-hold.” Felix is very fussy about new positions and aggressively drops those that are not working. Felix does not do much trading, so he can be a bit boring. To make up for that, Felix is our leader in answering reader questions. With nothing better to do, each week he generates a rating for every stock in the universe.

Here are the ideas for this week, beginning with Felix, our featured expert.

Felix

I look for long-term themes, and I have a great one this week. I am enjoying the long drive of tech. Let’s pick Micron Technology (MU) as an example. The chart looks like my heart monitor when Oscar comes home and makes himself a salami sandwich after I just cleaned up the kitchen. Sky-rocketing!! The ups and downs well make up the overall value of this one.

[J] This is yet another pick from you guys that is totally unsupported by earnings! Look at Chuck Carnevale’s basic chart for the stock.

[F] The earnings may be light this year—

[J] Try almost non-existent.

[F] But the market is forward-looking. You can see that expected earnings for 2017 are much better. That is just the start.

[J] 2017?

[F] Only professors focus on past earnings. Think ahead!

[Felix] I’ve had a question this week from A Dash of Insight:

Energy- have heard from others this sector is “emerging” i.e., getting stronger.  As such, how about XLE and OIH?
Seems to me that growth in this sector will depend on higher oil prices which I do not see coming unless OPEC makes and enforces an agreement to limit production (not likely, IMO).

[Felix] I have looked at XLE and OIH and they rate as middling on my scale. Energy has been low for so long that, yes, it is getting stronger. It is just at a very minimal level right now. OPEC is now finally making some changes (after years of sitting back). The effects might be a bit slower than we’d like, but there are a lot of changes now and in my opinion the future.

[J] Energy stocks are out of the danger range right now. Potential added production seems to provide a cap in the low 50’s for oil prices, but demand remains solid. These are probably reasonable long-term plays.

[F] I’m glad that you agree with me about something. Readers — please keep your questions coming. I get paid for each answer. Jeff makes Jack Benny look like a spendthrift and I need the money.

Oscar

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of tennis. All that jumping back and forth makes the game hard to follow – gives me a headache, really. At first glance, that might be what you see when you check the chart for Swift Transportation Co (SWFT), a member of my current favorite sector. I use my own sector baskets rather than ETFs, and trucking has a very high rating. Look to the individual stocks for some good ideas. SWFT is on a solid four-month upswing. I would be perfectly comfortable holding onto this one for another month or so.

[J] Why not ETFs?

[O] Intra-day pricing does not seem to reflect the underlying positions. I have a great basket with individually weighted members. I do not compete with the HFT models.

[J] That makes sense, but I expected you to have something inspired by the World Series.

[O] Have you ever seen the old Chicago stockyards? This business reflects the heartland, and the celebration is extending all over town. I am taking the day off tomorrow to attend the parade.

[J] You mean that you are skipping your regular day at Hawthorne? No sure things?

[O] I’ll call in if you need me.

Holmes

I am the rebound specialist. If you like to buy dips and sell rips, I’m your dog. I am also logical, deductive and careful. I cap my risk with stops setting up for good gains but small losses. This week I bought Biomarin Pharmaceutical (BMRN) closed today at 80.90. This stock is displaying a classic pattern of distribution and consolidation and it looks like it’s ready to move towards it 50d MA (86.60). If it gets there, I’d look for it to march even higher towards its 200d MA (91.50). I’ll keep this on a tight leash with 76.00 stop. These strategies don’t always work but the long-run risk/reward record is excellent.

[J] Didn’t you hear anything about the election? If Clinton wins, health care and biotech will get crushed.

[H] What election?

[J] What? No one in my team of models is discussing the Presidential election?

[H] The stock prices tell you everything you need to know about upcoming events, including this election. If a Clinton victory is expected and is negative for health care, that is already reflected in the stock price. My trade works if this sentiment is overdone, and it works big if Mr. Trump wins.

[J] I agree that the health care selloff is overdone, but we might not see improved pricing until February.

Athena

Usually I like to pick stocks that already have more momentum, but this is too good to pass up. HollyFrontier (HFC) looks to be bottoming out here, and I expect to ride this one out for a decent run. The clue here is a long solid base, providing attractive support. Most of my current positions are from April, and they are all doing well.

[J] The near-term earnings look very unattractive.

[A] As I try to teach you each week Jeff, you need to look farther into the future.

 

Background on the Stock Exchange

What is this about? Since launching this series I have had good questions on three general themes. Here are the questions and some brief answers.

  1. The model characters are fun, but please tell me more about what they do.

    I include the general personality of the model at the end of each article. I will begin featuring one approach each week with more detail, and soon provide a reference page for readers.

  2. Why don’t you show a track record on performance?

    I understand that those trying to sell a newsletter or chat room often provide some sort of time-stamped real-time record. You will find that most of these people are not subject to compliance rules. The “track records” tell you nothing, since they do not have enough trades to get into the “long run.” Confidence in a model comes from knowing how it is developed and tested. I would rather ask a few questions to a developer than see a few months of real-time picks. It is easy to spot the amateurs.

  3. Why should I care about these model picks?

    You probably read many articles with stock ideas. Some are a single idea based upon technical analysis from a source you do not know about. At the Stock Exchange, you get four different recommendations from technical “experts” as well as some fundamental commentary as a rebuttal. I am not trying to sell anything. We are developing an institutional product. The results are good enough that I am willing to share and discuss with readers. Some of my clients are invested in these models, so I am not going to provide every trade in real time. It is supposed to be interesting and fun! Look at the ideas and do your own research.

 

Questions

If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a specialty. Who is your favorite? (You can choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Cast of Characters

Felix is fussy, precise, and very cautious. He looks for what is working, but it also must have upside potential. He is an investor who thinks long term. Felix will not usually announce new picks, but he will answer questions, saying what he thinks about specific stocks. He will also comment on favorite themes and sectors.

Oscar is naturally optimistic and a bit excitable. He likes to go with winners, and focuses on a one-month time frame. He trades either sector ETFs, or a basket of stocks (equally weighted) that reflect a sector. Oscar will mention a favorite sector each week, and will also answer questions about sectors.

Holmes is a trader, but a cautious one. Holmes emphasizes asset protection through profit taking, stops, and trailing stops. He is careful in selecting new positions, and generally looks at an intermediate time frame. While he does not know the definition of “mean reversion” he loves rebounds! There is no set holding period, but two or three months is not unusual. Holmes will tell us one stock recommended that week. For those who sign up for his email list (no charge, privacy respected, holmes at newarc dot com) he will report exits with a one-day delay.

Athena trades more frequently than the others, but still limits risk. Her inspiration helps to find good ideas. Her excellent quant skills find attractive risk/reward opportunities. Her wisdom leads her to exit trades that are not working. Athena will provide a new idea each week.

Jeff usually has some comments about stock or market fundamentals. Unlike the other witty participants, he sounds like an old prof.

The conversation is light-hearted, but the stock analysis is serious. We own positions in each of the stocks mentioned.

And finally, you can learn about the eternal debate between technical analysts and those using fundamentals.

Stock Exchange: Featuring Holmes and NKE — Energy and SCHW worth a look

Each week Felix and Oscar host a poker game. We listen in on current trading ideas in the few minutes before the game starts. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” I am the only human present, and the only one using fundamental analysis. Their methods are excellent, as you will learn if you join us for a few weeks. Since the time frames and risk profiles differ, so do the stock ideas.

Background on the Stock Exchange

What is this about? Since launching this series I have had good questions on three general themes. Here are the questions and some brief answers.

  1. The model characters are fun, but please tell me more about what they do.

    I include the general personality of the model at the end of each article. I will begin featuring one approach each week with more detail, and soon provide a reference page for readers.

  2. Why don’t you show a track record on performance?

    I understand that those trying to sell a newsletter or chat room often provide some sort of time-stamped real-time record. You will find that most of these people are not subject to compliance rules. The “track records” tell you nothing, since they do not have enough trades to get into the “long run.” Confidence in a model comes from knowing how it is developed and tested. I would rather ask a few questions to a developer than see a few months of real-time picks. It is pretty easy to spot the amateurs.

    This is a brief answer, and I promise to follow up with a longer post. Meanwhile, here is our model developer, my partner Vince Castelli, in his Popular Science feature from 2002. It is one of the few projects he worked on that are now in the public record. He has applied his scientific knowledge to finance for decades.

     

  3. Why should I care about these model picks?

    You probably read many articles with stock ideas. Some are a single idea based upon technical analysis from a source you do not really know about. At the Stock Exchange you get four different recommendations from technical “experts” as well as some fundamental commentary as a rebuttal. I am not trying to sell anything. We are developing an institutional product. The results are good enough that I am willing to share and discuss with readers. Some of my clients are invested in these models, so I am not going to provide every trade in real time. It is supposed to be interesting and fun! Look at the ideas and do your own research.

 

This Week’s Ideas—Focus on Holmes

This week’s featured expert is Holmes. Vince designed Holmes to be a trader, but one that would be safe enough for average investors. It is not a crazy, day-trading program. Holmes looks for stocks that have sold off, formed a base, and have promising rebound potential. The criteria are strictly technical, so the stocks may not be appealing for long-term investors. Holmes is very cautious in making new picks and aggressively dumps losers. Like most traders, Holmes also includes profit-taking and trailing stops. The average holding period is a few weeks. There may be as many as sixteen positions at one time – all from our universe of 700 liquid stocks.

Holmes reduces risk in three ways:

  1. Going completely to cash when market conditions are poor;
  2. Reducing the number of positions when indicated;
  3. Using stops and trailing stops on individual holdings.

I analyze the risk of each of our strategies. While it is partly subjective, I rate Holmes as lower risk than buy-and-hold for the overall market.

Here are the ideas for this week, beginning with Holmes.

Holmes

I am the rebounding specialist. I love great stocks that investors/traders have bailed on. My Bounce Play of the Week is NIKE, (NKE), This mega sports apparel and sneaker maker just keeps running a marathon while investors treat it like a sprinter. Coming off its highs of 67 in early 2016, this stock has been consolidating, digesting, and hanging out at the bottom of its channel. I see a good chance to power back up a few percent or more. I also love the risk/reward aspects of this trade. I would use 48 as hard stop, so I’m risking 3.8 to make 10 or more points. Like Nike says: “Just Do It.”

This is definitely a “bounce” play.  It is close to the lower edge of the channel.  I’ll be happy with a few percent.

J: Valuation is reasonable, but it is not exciting based upon the fundamentals.

H: The chart shows the rebound potential. Most of my ideas are quick winners. I’ll cut bait and move on if this does not work.

Felix

I still like energy and have added a new position last week. Some current holdings are dipping dramatically and some are rising out of those dips, but the long-term strength appeals to me. You can see the sector strength in VanEck’s CRAK.

J: Oil prices are still in a trading range. I think that it is the sweet spot for the economy. I agree with the long-term potential.

F: Oil appears to be making a slow bullish move going into Winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  There have already been a number of long range weather forecasters who are calling for a severe Winter in the US this year.

J: Since when do you pay any attention to weather forecasts?

F: My selections are always based upon the charts, but I also am interested in the message of the market.

And to my many fans: Please keep your questions coming. I could use the overtime pay! Ask about a specific stock, or perhaps an ETF. I am interested in sectors, but need a representative ETF to help.

Oscar

This week I like Oil & Gas exploration, illustrated below by XEC. Sure, the stock’s been hanging around yearly highs for a while now. But would you have bet against World Heavyweight Champ Joe Louis? I see at least a couple months of progress hanging around here.

This is a wonderful textbook example of momentum!  It looks like a real long-term winner in the making.

J: That seems crazy. The PE multiple is over 300. Where did you get such an idea?

O: My turf accountant also has stock picks.

J: You take stock advice from your bookie??

O: He is better than one of those robo-advisors. He says that 2017 earnings will be a lot better.

J: Sixty-eight cents this year, but 3.34 in 2017. I still think it is expensive.

O: As usual, I’ll either cash or go for a small loss.

 

Athena

Following some steep losses in January and June, Charles Schwab (SCHW) has spent the last few months on a rebound. The forward average suggests it’s leveling off, but I think there’s room to catch a few points just before the peak here.

What a great recovery from a major pullback.  Very strong!  This could have a long run.

J: This is trading around the long-term P/E ratio and earnings are rising. In that sense it is fairly valued. Here is Chuck Carnevale’s FastGraph, which shows why I still think it is expensive.

A: You and Chuck are just too cautious. If you want a big reward, you have to take some chances.

Questions

If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a specialty. Who is your favorite? (You are allowed to choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Cast of Characters

Felix is fussy, precise, and very cautious. He looks for what is working, but it also must have upside potential. He is an investor who thinks long term. Felix will not usually announce new picks, but he will answer questions, saying what he thinks about specific stocks. He will also comment on favorite themes and sectors.

Oscar is naturally optimistic and a bit excitable. He definitely likes to go with winners, and focuses on a one-month time frame. He trades either sector ETFs, or a basket of stocks (equally weighted) that reflect a sector. Oscar will mention a favorite sector each week, and will also answer questions about sectors.

Holmes is a trader, but a cautious one. Holmes emphasizes asset protection through profit taking, stops, and trailing stops. He is careful in selecting new positions, and generally looks at an intermediate time frame. While he does not know the definition of “mean reversion” he loves rebounds! There is no set holding period, but two or three months is not unusual. Holmes will tell us one stock recommended that week. For those who sign up for his email list (no charge, privacy respected, holmes at newarc dot com) he will report exits with a one-day delay.

Athena trades more frequently than the others, but still limits risk. Her inspiration helps to find good ideas. Her excellent quant skills find attractive risk/reward opportunities. Her wisdom leads her to exit trades that are not working. Athena will provide a new idea each week.

Jeff usually has some comments about stock or market fundamentals. Unlike the other witty participants, he sounds like an old prof.

The conversation is light-hearted, but the stock analysis is serious. We own positions in each of the stocks mentioned.

Stock Exchange: Technical or Fundamental?

Market participants split sharply on whether it is better to use technical or fundamental analysis. The question rivals “Ginger or Mary Ann” in popularity.

Technical experts are a rich source of new stock ideas. Our trading models each specialize in a different time frame and level of risk. Before their weekly poker game, they spend a few minutes trading ideas. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” I am the only human and the only one using fundamental analysis.

The group had a winning call on energy two weeks ago, without clear support from the fundamentals. Just luck? Temporary? Time will tell.

The key difference between the approaches: The technical analyst thinks the market is describing the world. The fundamental analyst looks to the world, and then for mispricing in markets. This series expands upon this story, with interesting new ideas each week, as well as answers to reader questions.

This Week’s Ideas

Our technical experts have varying ideas this week. As usual, I disagree with most of them. Let us have a word from each.

Felix

I look for long-term themes, and I have already shared several. Another good one is technology. One of my favorites is Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE).

[Jeff] Ahh! That is the portion Meg Whitman chose to run after the company split into two parts.

[Felix] Who is Meg Whitman?

[Jeff] She is the CEO of the original Hewlett Packard and now HPE.

[Felix] I only know that the market approves! Investors are applauding her. This is an excellent example of momentum in action. I expect more gains to come.

[Felix] We had some questions for this week’s post! I thank my fans, and I am happy to answer.

Seeking Alpha’s poorman#whocares asks: What does Felix think about RIO?

 

My response (via Jeff Miller):

I rank RIO in the top third of our stock universe, with a pretty solid hold/buy rating. In our own trading we stick to the top 20, so it is pretty exclusive.

Thanks for joining in!

 

Our second question comes from Seeking Alpha’s 03FOSTER: How does Felix feel about UNH? It would seem to fit his personal presences.

 

My response:

I rate UNH in the middle of the rankings — still a reasonable, positive rating. I do like the company, but I am not overly excited about the stock. Some human once said that a good company is not necessarily a good stock. This intelligent reader raised a very good question.

 

Oscar

I like the Diversified Utility sector (XLU). It is March Madness in action. It’s been on a breakaway since the early spring, and it’s still an easy layup. We may be off the yearly highs, but to me that seems like a buying opportunity more than anything else.

Looking closer, holding EXC (a part of XLU) is a near mirror image of that wider sector. You’d be opening yourself up to a bit more volatility there, though that may carry some extra upside along with it.

[Jeff] You got your nose out of the sports section long enough to spot EXC. I do not care for most of the sector, but Exelon is a good dividend stock especially if you write calls against it as I do for our Enhanced Yield program. The valuation is reasonable and the yield is 3.7%.

[Oscar] Thank you – I think…

Holmes

I like DuPont (DD) This giant Chemical company sold off pretty hard in the last 6 weeks, seems to have rested and consolidated, and is now ready to resume its long term bullish move. I expect new highs pretty soon.

[Jeff] I like a lot of industrial stocks, but this one is significantly overvalued.

[Holmes] I sniff out opportunities, deduce the risk and reward, and swiftly change course when I am occasionally mistaken. This pick fits my approach.

Athena

I have a great choice this week, but before I share it, what is this Ginger or Mary Ann question? Why not ask “Gilligan or the Professor?”

[Jeff] Hmm. That question has not caught on yet.

[Athena] Perhaps it will as wisdom improves. Turning to my excellent choice this week, if you had ever wondered what a textbook definition of “momentum” would look like, here it is. Intel (INTC). After climbing out of lows early in 2016, this stock has been red hot. Of course, I expect the gains to continue for some time. If something goes wrong with that plan, I’ll drop the stock and find a stronger and wiser warrior.

[Jeff] This is a reasonable choice, but I do not see the explosive upside from current valuations. It is another stodgy holding suitable for writing calls.

[Athena] Are you going to fight with me every week? You shall learn my wisdom!

Questions

If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a special expertise. Who is your favorite? (You are allowed to choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Cast of Characters

Felix is fussy, precise, and very cautious. He looks for what is working, but it also must have upside potential. He is an investor who thinks long term. Felix will not usually announce new picks, but he will answer questions, saying what he thinks about specific stocks. He will also comment on favorite themes and sectors.

Oscar is naturally optimistic and a bit excitable. He definitely likes to go with winners, and focuses on a one-month time frame. He trades either sector ETFs, or a basket of stocks (equally weighted) that reflect a sector. Oscar will mention a favorite sector each week, and will also answer questions about sectors.

Holmes is a trader, but a cautious one. Holmes emphasizes asset protection through profit taking, stops, and trailing stops. He is careful in selecting new positions, and generally looks at an intermediate time frame. There is no set holding period, but two or three months is not unusual. Holmes will tell us one stock recommended that week. For those who sign up for his email list (no charge, privacy respected, holmes at newarc dot com) he will report exits with a one-day delay.

Athena trades more frequently than the others, but still limits risk. Her inspiration helps to find good ideas. Her excellent quant skills find attractive risk/reward opportunities. Her wisdom leads her to exit trades that are not working. Athena will provide a new idea each week.

Jeff usually has some comments about stock or market fundamentals. Unlike the other witty participants, he sounds like an old prof.

An Important Note to Readers – from Jeff

All of the characters (except me!) are models, carefully engineered and tested by one of the leading developers of the last thirty years. They are highly-modified momentum models, with different time frames and features.

I humanize them to make it easier to understand the characteristics in their design. I always remind readers that my posts are informational, not investment advice, and that is especially true here. While we are trading based upon all four models, we are always watching and can act quickly when necessary. The models are not suitable for all investors. If you like the approach, reach out to us and I will see if you qualify for one of the programs.

The conversation is light-hearted, but the stock analysis is serious. We own positions in each of the stocks mentioned.

Finding great stock picks can be fun! I hope readers will join in making it so.

How to create a perfect “forecast”

[The following is a work of fiction.  It is intended as educational, illustrating why some research methods look great but have poor results.  Those who grasp the problems illustrated can figure out where to apply the conclusions.  It is also intended to be fun!]

The setting:  The research lab of a well-known fund company.

The participants:  Dr. B (the boss), Dr. Z (the research director), Mr. S (a staff member), and the Rookie (well-educated, but new to the team).

B:  I need some fresh material.  How about a new syndrome?

S:  But we have so many already…..

Z:  People love to read about new syndromes.  Our regular articles top the lists in popularity.

Rookie:  What’s a syndrome?

Z:  That is where we show why the current market conditions are strongly tied to a market crash, ten years of pestilence, an imminent recession, or something equally bad.

Rookie:  If we have created these before, why do we need a new one?

Z:  Some of the former predictions did not work out.

Rookie:  Why not?

Z:  The standard reasons.  The Fed and other central banks flooded the market with liquidity.

Rookie:  I read that most of the Fed expansion stayed on bank balance sheets.  Hasn’t the economy gotten better?

Z:  Let’s focus on syndromes.  We explain past performance in terms that everyone will accept.  They all hate the Fed.  That is our playbook.  And kid — it is OK to ask questions, but keep an open mind.  Focus on learning our system.

Rookie:  OK, how do we discover a syndrome?

S:  We have an established method.  We look for a bad former period and ask what that time had in common with current conditions.

Z:  Any two time periods share many characteristics.  If the fit is not as good as we want, we can do some tweaking?

Rookie:  What do you mean by tweaking?

Z:  We might need to specify that a variable has a specific value before the effect takes place.  Or that two elements occur at the same time.

Rookie:  There are not very many recessions and market crashes.  If you do too much of this tweaking, don’t you risk over-fitting the —er — syndrome?  One of my classes included something about “degrees of freedom” and not using too many variables.

S:  That is the beauty of our method.  Since we use all of the data on every test, no one can prove that we are wrong.  There is no evidence to provide refutation.

Rookie:  Don’t we keep some out-of-sample data as verification?  That was recommended in one of my classes.

Z:  Wasting data that way would not give us enough cases to prove the point.  There are too few relevant business cycles already.

B:  Enough of the basic education.  The kid can learn more as we go along.  I want to call the new syndrome Grandma Gertrude.  It will show that the current market rally is at extremes of valuation, stretched in time, and indicating the most dangerous conditions except for the last two market crashes.

S:  Why do we always name the syndrome after a female relative.  Shouldn’t we be like the hurricane center?  Mix in a few guys’ names.

B:  You need to learn about symbolism.  Everyone loves female relatives and feels protective.  We sympathize with their frailties and worry about them.  Who would care about a market syndrome called “Uncle Harold?”

Z:  OK, we’ll get started.  I assume that we are starting with “old reliable?”

B:  Absolutely!  The Shiller CAPE ratio always confirms bad times and has earned tremendous credibility.  It is the foundation of every syndrome.

Rookie:  I read that Dr. Shiller does not use it for market timing — just for choosing sectors.

B:  No one knows that, so who cares?

Z:  We can mix in some other variables that show recent weakness, but none of them indicate a recession by themselves.

B:  No problem.  That is why we have a syndrome.  We can explain that the effects occur only when several things happen at the same time.  Then we can use the magic words….

Z:  You mean “ever and always?”

B:  Yes!  We want to say that whenever the syndrome has occurred disaster has come as well.  It is a powerful statement.

Rookie:  In one of my classes we learned that you were supposed to begin with a hypothesis and then see whether the data supported it.

Z:  We already know what is going to happen.  We are just looking for evidence for our readers and investors.

Rookie:  I am curious.  Suppose we were to reverse the process.  What if we took the very best times to invest — lowest risk or something — and looked for variables correlated to current times?  Couldn’t we prove the exact opposite of the new syndrome?

B:  Kid, you ask too many questions.  If you want to work here, you need to get with the program.

2015 in Review: Hot or Not

For the last two years, we’ve taken the time to pause and reflect on changing themes in business and current events. In addition to looking at what got the most “buzz,” we want to mull over the stories that would give you the most edge moving into 2016.

In this illustrated review of the year, the “Hot” (or profitable) items will appear on the left, while the “Not” (or disappointing) corollary appears on the right. We hope you have as much fun reading as we did putting the list together.

Cocoa V

For the second year in a row, oil prices have declined as OPEC wages war against North American producers. Cocoa beans, on the other hand, enjoyed a record 2015 – though that may not last much longer.

Zuckerberg vs Shkreli

Vast contrast in CEO behavior leads to adoration for one, and universal disgust for the other. Of course, we applaud Mark Zuckerberg on the creation of his $2.5 billion charitable foundation.

Cord Cutting vs Cable TV

Millenials are setting a new trend, demanding certain selective content – but not paying for bulky cable packages. Providers will either adapt (in the case of HBO Go), or suffer the losses.

Trump vs Bush

In a year that baffled experts and casual observers alike, the real estate magnate has dominated Republican Primary polls since he first entered the race. On the other hand, the well-financed but low-polling Jeb struggles to distinguish himself in a crowded field.

Uber vs Taxis

We were surprised to learn that the world’s largest taxi company doesn’t own any vehicles. Gene Friedman, the Taxi King of NYC, claims Uber is “the nastiest, most morally corrupt company ever.” This article from Bloomberg nicely summarizes the growing rifts in this highly competitive industry.

Edelman vs Ackman

Joseph Edelman’s Perceptive Life Sciences Offshore Fund was on of the five top performing hedge funds of 2015. Since 1999, it has posted consistently impressive annualized gains of 19.37%. Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Holdings, on the other hand, took a real beating last year.

Tesla vs Volkswagen

2015 was a watershed year in the automobile industry. While VW was mired by news that its vehicles had skirted emissions tests, Tesla continued to position itself as the clear choice for the future.

FANG vs BRIC

We don’t advocate chasing the hottest acronym, of course, but the contrast between FANG and BRIC has been stark. Perhaps that’s a sign that individual investors should closely monitor fundamentals, rather than the latest trend.

Have some ideas of your own? Great! We welcome all nominations and suggestions in the comments.  Happy New Year to our readers, whom we hope to see on next year’s “Hot List!”

Why Investors Must Understand Value

Preamble – Parody never seems to work on the Internet. People do not want help in thinking. They want conclusions. They also do not have the patience to read to the end. Despite these facts, it is a powerful tool and I urge you to stick with me to the conclusion. Apologies to Mr. Graham and Mr. Buffett.

Introducing Mr. Market

Imagine market quotations as coming from a remarkably accommodating fellow named Mr. Market who is your partner in a private business. Without fail, Mr. Market appears daily and names a price at which he will either buy your interest or sell you his. Even though you might think the business that the two of you own is stable, you are wrong. Mr. Market’s quotations vary widely and reflect ultimate truth. At times he feels euphoric because of his deep insight into the favorable factors affecting the business. In those times, he names a very high buy-sell price because he fears that you will snap up his interest and rob him of imminent gains. At other times he is acutely aware of trouble ahead for both the business and the world. On these occasions he will name a very low price, since he is terrified that you will unload your interest on him. On both cases, he sees the recent trend in prices as solid evidence about what will happen next.

Mr. Market has another endearing characteristic: He doesn’t mind being ignored. If his quotation is uninteresting to you today, he will be back with a new one tomorrow. Transactions are strictly at your option, but you are foolish to ignore his wisdom. He comes armed with charts and moving averages and golden crosses and omens. The “message of the market” is part of his message to you. Listen up!!

 

But, like Cinderella at the ball, you must heed one warning or everything will turn into pumpkins and mice: Mr. Market is there to guide you. His wisdom is available to you, but not to others. It is not yet reflected in current prices. Only through his special interpretation of the message can you determine the true value of your business. Mr. Market helps you profit from reading the newspaper and stock quotes, even though it is the same information widely known to everyone, including professional investors. If it were a poker game, this information would be crucial in helping you beat the alleged experts at the table.

 

This is a world in which markets know more than you do, but are still not efficient. You just need to know how to jump in front of the news in your market timing.

The Real Mr. Market

And now, let us compare my version with the actual words of Warren Buffett from his investment letter of 1987.

Imagine market quotations as coming from a remarkably accommodating fellow named Mr. Market who is your partner in a private business. Without fail, Mr. Market appears daily and names a price at which he will either buy your interest or sell you his. Even though the business that the two of you own may have economic characteristics that are stable, Mr. Market’s quotations will be anything but. For, sad to say, the poor fellow has incurable emotional problems. At times he feels euphoric and can see only the favorable factors affecting the business. When in that mood, he names a very high buy-sell price because he fears that you will snap up his interest and rob him of imminent gains. At other times he is depressed and can see nothing but trouble ahead for both the business and the world. On these occasions he will name a very low price, since he is terrified that you will unload your interest on him.

 

Mr. Market has another endearing characteristic: He doesn’t mind being ignored. If his quotation is uninteresting to you today, he will be back with a new one tomorrow. Transactions are strictly at your option. Under these conditions, the more manic-depressive his behavior, the better for you.

 

But, like Cinderella at the ball, you must heed one warning or everything will turn into pumpkins and mice: Mr. Market is there to serve you, not to guide you. It is his pocketbook, not his wisdom, that you will find useful. If he shows up some day in a particularly foolish mood, you are free to either ignore him or to take advantage of him, but it will be disastrous if you fall under his influence. Indeed, if you aren’t certain that you understand and can value your business far better than Mr. Market, you don’t belong in the game. As they say in poker, “If you’ve been in the game 30 minutes and you don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.”

My take?

Misguided Market Timing

Following the emotional Mr. Market is the biggest reason that investors go wrong in their timing. The current market is a typical example. The big news is that markets have declined. Every journalist must produce a story explaining why. They all produce the laundry list of well-known worries. Investors see this as fresh information.

Mr. Buffett also explains why you get this information:

Ben’s Mr. Market allegory may seem out-of-date in today’s investment world, in which most professionals and academicians talk of efficient markets, dynamic hedging and betas. Their interest in such matters is understandable, since techniques shrouded in mystery clearly have value to the purveyor of investment advice. After all, what witch doctor has ever achieved fame and fortune by simply advising “Take two aspirins”?

 

Investment Implications

 

There is no substitute for knowledge about your investments. If you think that loaning money to the US government for ten years at 2% is a great deal, then go for it! Make sure you have a concept of value.

 

If you think that Ebola represents a long-term threat to airline and recreation stocks, then the current prices might seem just right. If you see the chance of a reduction in panic, you might find an opportunity or two.

 

If you think that the large populations of China and India will be completely satisfied with current energy consumption, then you might agree with the stories about “glut” and the fire sale of energy stocks. If not, you might find some opportunity.