Musing Over Current Performance

June was a good month for me, but in the middle of June, it felt like something was shifting in the markets, and it was showing up in my portfolio.  Then, July hit me like a ton of bricks.  The market was down, but I was way down.

Now, I have a number of disciplines that help me on average and over time as I manage equity money.  That doesn’t eliminate the “pit in the stomach” when nothing seems to be working.  It does give me something to do about it, though.  Evaluate poor performers (“what, down so much on no news!”), do some rebalancing trades (“ugh, cash is shrinking… will I have to move into concentration mode as I did in 2002?), and search for errors in my macro views (“why do I have so much cyclicality in the portfolio?”).

My performance versus the market as a whole tends to streak.  There are several reasons for that:

  1. The portfolio has a value tilt.
  2. Market capitalizations are smaller than the S&P 500.
  3. I concentrate the industries that I invest in.
  4. I turn over my portfolio more slowly than most investors.

But, as of Wednesday, as the market bounced back, my portfolio did even better.  I’m behind the S&P 500 by less than a percent now.  But this is what puzzles me here: ordinarily, I expect to outperform more in bear markets than in bull markets, but it seems to be flipped here.

I am overweighted in financials — though all of them are insurers, and none in the financial guarantee business.  Given all of the basket and ETF trading that goes on today, maybe my insurance names are getting dragged along with the banks.  In the short run, that can persist, but eventually industry performance emerges in stock prices.  That’s my best explanation for now.

Away from that, I did a rebalancing sale on YRC Worldwide today.  First rebalancing sale in a while.  Trucking is a volatile industry.  Then again, in cyclical industries, it is always a question of value over the cycle.  The stocks move more than the industry prospects do, so if you resist trends with companies strong enough to survive the cycle, you will make money in the long run.

Full disclosure: long YRCW, and many insurers  (full portfolio available at Stockpickr.com)