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Posts from the ‘Sherritt International (S)’ Category

Week 324: Underlying Conditions

Portfolio Performance

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 late spring and early summer months were a trying time for my investments.

I haven’t written up my portfolio in a while.  Part of that was due to the summer, being away and not having the time to do my usual work.  But I also went through a 3 month period, from mid-May to mid-August, where I lost money and struggled with why. That dampened my spirits for putting pen to paper.

Losing money is hard enough, but it is harder when you have been generally right in your decisions.   I try, like the namesake of this blog, to analyze underlying conditions and let that determine my general bent on sectors and the market.  Where there is a bull market I like to be very long those stocks, and when there is a bear market I like to pull back significantly, retreat into cash, and go short where I can.

Throughout the spring and summer I found myself in a general bull market in US stocks, one that had made me a lot of money throughout the winter.  I was, quite rightly, very long US stocks.  The market kept going up, albeit in fits and starts.  But I began to lose money.  Now I didn’t lose money quickly.  In retrospect that may have been a better route as at least I would have been forced to discover my error.  But instead my losses slowly accumulated over the months of May and June.

What’s more, I did not see noticeably poor performance from any of the stocks I owned.  Sure my names weren’t breaking out to new highs, but my core positions at the time, the likes of Radcom, Silicom, Sientra, Combimatrix, Identiv and Vicor were not by any means breaking down (I leave out Radisys as it is a separate discussion).

It wasn’t until my portfolio was down about 6%, in the middle of June, that I woke up to the fact that something was wrong.  I scoured my list of stocks but found nothing worrisome with the names I held.  I knew that the Canadian dollar had been rising so that must have been having some effect but I had never really quantified my currency exposure.  I had always thought of currency as an afterthought, something that balances itself out in the end.

As I crunched through the numbers on my currency losses, I realized that while in the very long run my theory that currency balances itself out might be correct, in the short run a currency can make or break you.  The Canadian dollar was in the midst of unwinding 2 years of gains in two months.  Measuring my losses from the portfolio top in mid-May, I was 6% down, of which 5% came from currency.

It is here that I made my first big mistake. I was armed with the information I needed to act decisively.  I knew my problem: stocks were in a bull market, but clearly the US dollar was not, and I was, rather unwittingly, very long the US dollar.

So what did I do?  Something that, in retrospect, was absurd.  I made only a token effort towards the problem, taking only the excess US dollar cash in my portfolio and putting it into a Canadian currency ETF.  This effort, while directionally correct,  impacted about 15% of my US dollar holdings and thus did nothing to alleviate the problem.  I followed this up with an even more inexplicable move, even to me looking back on it now.  I put on index shorts to hedge my long positions.

Here I was with losses proving that I was wrong.  I had determined the source of those losses.  And what did I do?  I did something that was likely only to exacerbate them.

It really goes to show how wrong one’s logic can be when you are trying to cling to what you had. The reality, I think, is I didn’t want to do what was right.  What was right was to sell my US stocks.  Not because my US stocks were going down. They were not.  Not because the theses behind these positions was not sound.  They were.  But because I was losing money on those US stocks.

Unfortunately I could not wrap my head around this.  All I saw were good stocks with strong catalysts.  How could I sell my positions?  It’s a bull market!

I spent most of June compounding my problem with band-aid solutions that only dug me in deeper. I fell back on oil stocks as a Canadian dollar hedge.  This had saved me the last few times; in the past the Canadian dollar had risen because oil had risen, so I had gone long oil stocks and my losses on currency were more than compensated with my gains on E&Ps.  I was saved a lesson and left none the wiser to how impactful currency could be.

But this time around the currency was not rising because of oil.  My appraisal that I should be long oil stocks was based on the flawed logic that what works in the past must work again regardless of conditions.  That is rarely the case.  In June and July I bought and lost money on companies like Resolute Energy, US Silica and Select Sands, all the time continuing to hold onto US dollars and lose on them.

I also went long gold stocks on the similar thesis that if the US dollar is weak then one should be long gold.  In this case I was at least partially correct.  That is the right thing to do given conditions. But my conviction was misplaced. Rather than being long gold stocks because I thought gold stocks would go up, I was long gold stocks to hedge my US dollar positions.  You cannot think clearly about a position when you are in it for the wrong reasons even if a right reason to be in it exists.  Thus it was that in late July I actually sold a number of my gold stock positions. It was only a couple weeks later, finally being of a clear head (for reasons I will get to) that I bought them all back, for the right reasons this time, but unfortunately at somewhat higher prices.

As I say it was at the beginning of August that I finally was struck by what I must do.  I’m not sure what led me to the conclusion but I think an element of deep disgust played a part.  I had just seen my biggest position, Combimatrix, get taken over for a significant premium. My portfolio took a big jump, which took down my losses from my mid-May peak from -10% (over 8% due to currency!) to -7.5%.  But then in the ensuing days I saw those gains begin to disappear.  Part of this happened because Radisys laid an egg in their quarterly results, but part of it was just a continuation of more of the same.  Currency losses, losses on index short hedges, some losses on my remaining oil stocks, and the ups and downs of the rest of my portfolio.

I simply could not handle the thought of my portfolio going back to where it was before Combimatrix had been acquired. I was sick of losing money on currency.  And I was reminded by the notion that you never see conditions clearly when you are staked too far to one side.  So I sold.

When I say I sold, I really mean I sold.  I took my retirement account to 90% cash.  I took my investment account to 75% cash.  There were only a couple of positions I left untouched.  And I took the dollars I received back to Canadian dollars.

I continued to struggle through much of August, but those struggles took on a new bent.  I was no longer dealing with portfolio fluctuations of 1%.  The amounts were measured at a mere fraction of that.   This breathing room afforded me by not losing money began to allow me to look elsewhere for ideas.

I don’t know if there is an old saying that ‘you can’t start making money until you stop losing it’, but if there isn’t there should be. When you are losing money, the first thing you need to do is to stop losing it.  Only then can you take a step back and appraise the situation with some objectivity.  Only then can you recover the mental energy, which until that time you had been expending justifying losses and coping with frustration, and put it towards the productive endeavor of finding a new idea.

In August, as my portfolio fluctuated only to a small degree but still with a slight downward slant, I mentally recuperated. And slowly new ideas started to come to me.  It became clear that I was right about gold, and in particular about very cheap gold stocks like Grand Colombia and Jaguar Mining, so I went long these names and others.  I realized that being short the US market was a fools errand, and closed out each and every one of those positions.  I saw that maybe this is the start of another commodities bull run, and began to look for metals and mining stocks that I could take advantage of.  I found stocks like Aehr Test Systems and Lakeland Industries, and took the time to renew my conviction in existing names like Air Canada, Vicor, Empire Industries and CUI Global.

Since September it has started to come together.  I saw the China news on electric vehicles and piled into related names.  Not all have been winners; while I have won so far with Albemarle, Volvo, Bearing Lithium and Almonty Industries, I have been flat on Leading Edge Materials and lost on my (recently sold) Lithium X and Largo Resources positions.  Overall the basket has led to gains.  I’ve also been investigating some other ways of benefiting from the EV shift.  It looks like rare earth elements and graphite might be two of the best ways to play the idea, and I have added to my position in Leading Edge Materials (which has a hidden asset by way of a REE deposit at the level of feasibility study) to this end.  Likewise nickel, which is not often talked about with electric vehicles and has been pummeled by high stock piles, has much to gain from electric vehicles and could see a resurgence over the next couple of years.  I’m looking closely at Sherritt for nickel exposure and took a small position there so far.

I saw that oil fundamentals were improving and got back into a few oil names, albeit only tentatively at first.  Such is the case that once you are burned on a trade, as I was when I incorrectly got into oil stocks in June and July for the wrong reasons, you are hesitant to return even when the right reasons present themselves.  Thus it has taken me a while, but over the last couple of weeks I have added positions in Canadian service companies Cathedral Energy and Essential Energy, and E&Ps Gear Energy, InPlay Oil and even a small position in my old favorite Bellatrix.  A company called Yangarra Resources has had success in a new lower zone of the Cardium, and I see InPlay and Bellatrix as potential beneficiaries.  These newer names go along with Blue Ridge Mountain Resources, Silverbow, and Zargon, all of which I held through the first half slump in oil.

I even saw the Canadian dollar putting in the top, and converted back some currency to US dollars a couple of weeks ago.

Most importantly, got back to my bread and butter.  Finding under the radar fliers with big risk but even bigger reward.  I have always said it is the 5-bagger that makes my returns.  If I don’t get them, then I am an average investor at best.

I found Mission Ready Services, which hasn’t worked yet but I think is worth waiting for.  I found some other Canadian names that I think have real upside if things play out right (in addition to the above mentioned metals an oil names, I added a position in Imaflex). Most profitably, I was introduced to Helios and Matheson after reading an article from Mark Gomes.

I don’t completely understand the reason why, but good things do not come to you when you are mired in a mess of doing things that are wrong.  It is only when you stop doing what is wrong that other options, some of which may be right, will begin to present themselves.

I also don’t know which of what I am doing now will turn out to be right, and what will turn out to be wrong.  I will monitor all my positions closely and try to keep a tighter leash than I have been.  What I do know is that I will not continue to be wrong in the same way I was through the months of May to August.  And that is a big step in the right direction right there.

Portfolio Composition

Click here for the last eight (!!) weeks of trades.  Note that in the process of writing this update I realized I do not have a position in Gear Energy or Essential Energy in the practice portfolio.  I have owned Gear for over a month and Essential for a few weeks.  This happens from time to time.  I miss adding a stock I talk about and own in my real portfolio.  I added them Monday but they are not reflected below.

Note as well that I can’t convert currency in the practice account.  I know I could use FXC but in the past I haven’t, I have just let the currency effects have their way with the practice portfolio. Thus you won’t see the currency conversions that I talked about making in my actual portfolio.  I may change this strategy the next time the Canadian dollar looks bottomy but as I am inclined to be long US dollars at this point, I’m leaving my allocations where they are for now.

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More Quarterly Results: Sherritt Thesis Intact

I’ve owned Sherritt International since January, when I posted about the idea here. The timing of my stock purchase coincided with the start of the Indonesian export ban on ferrous nickel and nickel in pig iron.  I bought Sherritt throughout the low to the mid $3’s (my average cost is $3.48) and did pretty well on with it until the last couple of weeks when the stock has dropped back to the $4 range.

About half of that drop occurred after the release of the second quarter results.  The stock pulled back because nickel production from the Moa joint venture was a bit weak in the first half and because full year guidance for the Ambatovy joint venture was reduced (from the range of 44,000-50,000 tonnes to 37,000 – 41,000 tonnes).  The Cuban oil business saw production in-line with what I had expected and the company has recently signed an extension on its oil production sharing contract with the Cuban government and expects to expand that agreement to include new exploration targets.

The Ambatovy Ramp

The slow ramp at Ambatovy comes as no surprise.  Its been slowly ramping for almost two years now.  The mine has seen one hiccup after another.  Yet there is progress being made towards positive cash flow.  By the first quarter of 2015 Sherritt is expecting the mine to operate at 90% capacity (its currently in the mid-70’s) and when it does cash costs are expected to drop to the $3-$5 per pound range. Read more

Week 149: Earnings Update on a few companies

This isn’t a complete portfolio update. I won’t be posting my performance or trades; I will leave that for another week.  I just want to give a short update on some of the earnings reports that have come out or are still to come out while the thoughts are still fresh in my mind.  Here is a quick snapshot of the top positions in my portfolio as of Friday’s close.

05-10-14 topholdings

MagicJack

MagicJack earnings come out Monday after the market close.  I’m nervous about them, because the stocks action has been poor, it is a large position for me and because I’m not convinced the numbers will be great.

The company lowered advertising spend significantly in the quarter in anticipation of the release of the new version of the device and the app.  That will help costs, but it will also probably hurt revenue. On the fourth quarter call the company said that they expected the first half of the year to be “soft”. Read more

Week 141: Portfolio Allocation

Portfolio Performance

week-141-yoyperformance

See the end of the post for the current make up of my portfolio and the last four weeks of trades.

week-141-Performance

Recent Developments

I’ve been on vacation and so am a couple weeks late getting an update out.

My portfolio had a big move up, thanks mostly to the movement of Pacific Ethanol and MagicJack. Pacific Ethanol had a one day gain of 67% last Thursday, and is nearly a 4-bagger since I bought in. MagicJack is nearly a double.

But what has really helped is that even before the run-up Pacific Ethanol was my largest position. MagicJack was my fourth largest position.

One of the ironies of writing about the stocks I own, is that what I write about most is often not what I have the biggest position in.  The stocks I have the most to say about are the one’s that are on the cusp, where I am constantly debating whether to hold on to them or not.  My biggest positions; Pacific Ethanol, Yellow Media and MagicJack, for example, I have written only a single post about.  That post states the thesis, and as long as that thesis is valid I don’t have much else to say.

Yet the stocks in my portfolio are far from being of equal weighting.   I usually have a lot of stocks. Unless the market is going down, the stocks number at least 30 and has recently approached 40. But most of the positions are quite small, in the 1-2% range.  These as starter positions; enough to keep me interested and following the company, but not enough to hurt me too much. If my thesis for these companies plays out, or if, as I learn more I become more comfortable with the idea, I add.  If not, if the company materially lags or sometimes if time simply passes and I lose interest in the idea, I drop the position and move on. Read more

Week 135: Retail Changes

Portfolio Performance

week-135-yoyperformance

See the end of the post for the current make up of my portfolio and the last four weeks of trades.

week-135-Performance

Recent Developments

During the Christmas break I began to focus my attention on the Canadian market, searching out stocks that had not yet participated in the bull market or that had further room to run.  I started to call these stocks my “Venture” ventures but that is not really accurate; I’ve actually only invested in a couple of companies that trade on the Venture exchange.  But they do tend to be small and micro and even nano cap companies, so many of them are Venture in spirit if not name.

My thesis was based upon a few pillars.  First, the Canadian markets severely underperformed the US markets in 2013 and given the tie between the trade of the two countries I didn’t think this disconnect could continue forever.  Second, The Canadian markets were dragged down by a rout in commodity stocks, particularly gold, and I wondered how much of the general downdraft had resulted in non-commodity businesses being dragged down unfairly.  Third, the Canadian dollar had fallen 10% and I had to think that this made any kind of export based business much more attractive.

The fall of the Canadian dollar also provided me with another reason to return to my home-country market.  I have done really well in the past year owning stocks in American dollars.  Its been a 10% gain across the board, even if a individual stock did nothing. But this force can work two ways and I am wary of a 5% correction to the upside that causes my portfolio to take a hit. Read more

Sherritt and the Indonesian Nickel Ban

I spent my free time during the last couple of days reviewing Sherritt International.  I wanted to get some more clarity on my investment and come to a conclusion about the size of the position that I should have.  As I have talked about in the past, my free time is limited and so my upfront research on names can be less than complete.  I usually take small starter positions, between 1-3%, and then increase the size of those positions once I have had time to digest and review the idea in more detail.

As I tweeted last week, there were a number of catalysts that led me to take a position in Sherritt:

After digging deeper into the name, the conclusion that I came to is that Sherritt is really a play on nickel.  I think that as goes the price of nickel, so goes Sherritt. Read more