Week 286: On being wrong a lot
Top 10 Holdings
See the end of the post for my full portfolio breakdown and the last four weeks of trades
Thoughts and Review
The other day I was considering posting an article on SeekingAlpha. I couldn’t muster the energy. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt a strong resistance against it.
So I put it aside and in a couple of days it came to me why.
Take a look at my SeekingAlpha history. I’ve written a few articles for it. The list of names is, at best, uninspiring. Hercules Offshore went bankrupt not long after I wrote about them.
The fact is, I’m wrong a lot. At least a third of the time I pick a stock it doesn’t even go in the right direction. In a bad market that number is likely well north of 50%. And even when I’m right, I often miss by degree. The last couple of months, while my portfolio has done pretty well, it would have done much better if I was not weighted most heavily in two positions that have done absolutely nothing (Radcom and Radisys). My biggest winners are often afterthoughts where credit should only be taken with qualification.
If there is one redeeming feature about my strategy it is that I am fully aware of my own limitations. I am never certain. In my blog write-ups I try to phrase every position in terms of what might happen, both the positive and negative, with the expectation that I may have the thesis totally ass-backwards. If anything, the limitations of the medium (writing) convey more conviction than I generally have.
This doesn’t play well when writing an article that is trying to convince others about what a great idea you’ve just found. It might be, it might not. Who knows. What I can say is that as long as I cut my losses quickly, it presents a pretty good risk/reward. But I have no particular insight into whether its going to pan out or not.
It doesn’t make a compelling narrative.
Nevertheless after another pretty successful year, despite a whole lot of mind-changing and almost constant self-doubt, I can say that it worked pretty well once again. To summarize:
- I freaked out in January when my portfolio lost over 10% in a couple of weeks.
- I only tentatively added back as the market bottomed.
- I sold out of the years big winner, Clayton Williams, about $100 too soon.
- I mostly missed anticipating the Trump rally apart from a position in Health Insurance Innovations and a couple of construction plays I bought in the days immediately following the election.
- (As I will describe below) it only donned on me that community banks should be firing on all cylinders in the last few days.
Yet I’m up about 35% since July (my portfolio year end) and about 40% in 2016 (though with the asterisk that it is with far less than $50 million in capital 😉 ).
Most occupations don’t tolerate excessive uncertainty. I am fortunate to be involved in one of the few that reward it.
The last Month
Last month most stocks in my portfolio stagnated. The gains I had were fueled by a few oil names (Gastar Oil and Gas, Jones Energy, Resolute Energy) as well as Health Insurance Innovations, Identiv, DSP Group, and a last day move back up by Radisys.
Health Insurance Innovations has been a big winner for me. If only I had bought more! The stock has more than doubled since Trump took office. I sold some of my position in the last days of the year (I mistakenly sold all of it in the practice portfolio so that is why it doesn’t appear in the list below).
The second big winner has been Identiv. Unlike Health Insurance Innovations, I have not taken anything off the table. Identiv remains quite cheap, with only a $35 million market capitalization. There is a rumor that after a presentation given at the Imperial Conference the company suggested some recent business with Amazon, which, if done in mass, could be quite a big contract for the company. I have no idea if its true though. The stock has pulled back in the last few days, but I’m not too worried. As long as business continues along its current trajectory, the stock should do well in the coming year.
Key Energy Services
In mid-December I took a position in an oil services firm, Key Energy Services (KEY). I was given the idea by someone in the comments section of the blog. Key Energy operates a number of well services rigs, as well as having businesses in water management, coil tubing, and wireline services. This is a tough business, and has been a disaster over the last two years. At least 3 competitors in the space have been through bankruptcy.
At the time I bought the stock it was still trading in bankruptcy. Similar to Swift, existing shareholders received a piece of the new company and warrants.
Since exiting bankruptcy in late December the stock has traded up quite a bit but I think there is still some value there as oil services demand rises. What I remember from past cycles is how leveraged these companies are to improving fundamentals. They gain on both pricing and volume. With both natural gas and oil moving up, this may be the first time since 2012 where Key Energy has had pricing of both commodities as a tailwind.
The company has reduced its G&A, reduced interest expense via the bankruptcy process, and is the first of its brethren to make it through the restructuring process.
On the negative side, its a low margin business, I don’t get the sense that management was particularly astute heading into the slowdown, and in the current pricing environment even after restructuring they are still EBIDA negative.
Nevertheless I am willing to see if I can ride the cycle here. Its probably no multi-bagger, but I am looking for a move into the $40’s where I would sell.
The last thing worth mentioning is that after a month and a half of rallying, and the astute comment of Brent Barber asking me why I wasn’t looking at them, I finally spent some time on the community banks. Its soooo obvious, its painful to think that if I had spent a few hours on November 9th I would have quickly realized the same conclusion and ended up a number of dollars richer as a result.
Nevertheless, a good idea is a good idea. Though the names I bought are up between 10-20% in the last month and a half, I still think they have much further to run. I added positions in SB Financial (SBFG – former Rurban Financial, which I’ve talked about in the past and owned a small piece of of for some time), Sound Financial (SFBL – another bank I’ve owned for years), Atlantic Coast Financial (ACFC – which I have owned and written about in the past), Home Federal Bancorp of Louisiana (HFBL), Parke Bancorp (PKBK), and Eagle Bancorp of Montana (EBMT). I took a basket approach because all of these namess are illiquid and difficult to accumulate in too much size. I will write these up in more detail shortly.
Click here for the last four weeks of trades.