I have a technique that I call “portfolio reshaping,” to go along with my better known practice of “portfolio rebalancing.” (Better known to those who read me, of course.  Rebalancings happen often, but reshapings are relatively new to me, and have been slowly developed over the last three years.)

Four times a year, I sit down to make major portfolio changes.  Typically, I swap out names that have appreciated versus their fundamentals and trade for names that are cheap versus their fundamentals.  The idea is to compare the entire portfolio versus all of the replacement candidates all at once to make the best shift in aggregate.  This takes the emotion out of the decision for two reasons.  Number one, there are a lot of candidates vying to get in.  Two, I forget who recommended the idea to me, so I don’t rely on authority, but on my own analytical ability.

The process starts with a 1-2″ stack of papers acquired since the last reshaping.  I enter each ticker into a spreadsheet.  Typically that takes an hour or so.  This is the beginning of the process.  As the week progresses, I will show you more of the process as it unfolds.  This will end up being an article for RealMoney.com when it is done, but in a simpler and condensed form.

Family responsibilities have kept me from posting. As a father of eight (five adopted), I found the WSJ article on how much children cost fascinating. Fascinating, and hooey. It doesn’t take that much to raise children properly. In a large family, particularly, one of the benefits is that the children like having so many siblings (even as the parents go nuts). It restricts the number of extra activities that any child can take on, particularly as older children must help to make the family work.

It is very easy to be too indulgent with children. Children respect and love strict parents, if the parents are rational and communicate why they are that way.

But I digress. Last week was tough. I did 60 bp better than the S&P 500, and considerably better than small cap indexes. That’s cold comfort when you’re losing money.

Last week, some oddball names helped me. I sold some Fresh Del Monte Produce to rebalance my positions, because it had run so much. I will do the same with Grupo Casa Saba if it runs another 5%. Much as I think the stock is undervalued, on any stock I own I still take a modest amount of profits after every run of 20%.

Anyone looking at my broad market portfolio would see a decent amount of economic sensitivity in the names there. I am not trying to overdo it; I am aiming at cheap names in sectors that I like. That’s how I invest. I let industry selection and cheapness limit my risks, rather than exiting the equity market altogether.

More to come next week as I look at my indicators, and see how the market responds after the weekend. Personally, I would be neutral-to-positive over the next week.


It’s been a weird three days as far as portfolio management goes. Each day I outperformed the S&P 500 by 10-20 basis points. It’s been too regular, and it has to shift, but which way?

Cement names hurt me today, including Cemex and Lafarge SA. Barclays plc also hurt. On the plus side were SABESP and Grupo Casa Saba. On net, the results were nearly breakeven to me.

There may be other exogenous discontinuous events ready to smack the market around, but after early panic yesterday, the market became very rational in aggregate. The panic is over. Time to adopt a normal posture of moderate bullishness.

Moderate bullishness should be the posture of most investors because absent famine, plague, war on your home soil, and aggressive socialism, markets tend to appreciate over the intermediate term.

As I have pointed out at RealMoney, it is important to avoid non-prime lenders and homebuilders for now. Short them?! Well, that is for gamblers, not investors.

I was a little ahead of the market yesterday, say 10-15 basis points ahead of the S&P. Leading the charge were Fresh Del Monte (my current largest loser), and Grupo Casa Saba (what a great undiscovered stock). Fresh Del Monte was upgraded from underperform to neutral after their less bad earnings. Grupo Casa Saba reported excellent earnings. They run drugstores in Mexico, an excellent industry for a country with a growing middle class. For my balanced mandates, I kicked out the QQQQs that I bought yesterday. The rally wasn’t as big as the reduction in short term risk implied by the VIX.
At RealMoney.com, I had a post late in the day called, “What I Have Learned Over the Past 36 Hours.” It attempted to put forth a dozen things that have been revealed since the recent crisis hit. Here’s an explanation:

  1. China sneezes; the world catches cold. If we needed any proof that America no longer solely dominates the global scene we saw it on Tuesday.
  2. Systemic risk may or may not be a problem now, but a lot of people acted like it was a problem. Thus the rallies in the currencies used to finance the carry trades. The Yen and the Swiss Francs are good hedges here. I am more dubious about long Treasuries, though not long TIPS. (It was neat to see the rallies in the yen and swiss francs. Thne long bond fell more today than the carry trade currencies did.)

  3. The current equity market infrastructure is marginal to handle the volume of the last two days. Given the nature of modern finance, major errors are not acceptable. I got off a couple of good trades as a result of the accident, but those trades were accidental as well.
  4. The lack of human intermediaries with balance sheets leaves markets more volatile than before. It genuinely helps to have someone who can stop the market at certain volatile points, and then restart with an auction so that a fair level can be determined after news gets disseminated. Also, liquidity providers show their value in a crisis.
  5. Algorithmic trading and quantitative money management is making stock price changes more correlated with one another than they used to be. Markets behave differently in normal times, and under stress. The methods that make money when the market is calm exacerbate volatility when market stress appears

  6. Panic rarely pays.
  7. Patience usually pays.
  8. Diversification pays.
  9. In a crisis, strong balance sheets and free cash flow are golden. During times of stress, these four bits of wisdom pay off. They protect an investor from his own worst temptations.
  10. People want the Fed to loosen more than the FOMC itself does. The FOMC doesn’t care about weak GDP if labor employment is robust. The FOMC certainly doesnot care about te stok market unless i affects the banking system, which is unlikely.
  11. The oscillator is not oversold, yet. Sad, but true. We have a decent number of days in the rear-view mirror that aren’t so bad. The intermediate-term panic level is not high.
  12. What do you know? Cyclicals are cyclical. I’m just glad I didn’t get kicked worse yesterday. That’s the danger in playing cyclical names. I take my risk therethough, rather than in growth that might not materialize.

All this said, I feel well positioned for the next few trading sessions. I am working on my quarterly portfolio reshaping, which will take out a few companies, and replace them with cheaper companies in industries with more potential. Once I complete that analysis, you will hear about it on RealMoney and here.