Industry Ranks August 2010

Industry RanksI’m working on my quarterly reshaping — where I choose new companies to enter my portfolio.  The first part of this is industry analysis.

My main industry model is illustrated in the graphic.  Green industries are cold.  Red industries are hot.  If you like to play momentum, look at the red zone, and ask the question, “Where are trends under-discounted?”  Price momentum tends to persist, but look for areas where it might be even better in the near term.

If you are a value player, look at the green zone, and ask where trends are over-discounted.  Yes, things are bad, but are they all that bad?  Perhaps the is room for mean reversion.

My candidates from both categories are in the column labeled “Dig through.”

If you use any of this, choose what you use off of your own trading style.  If you trade frequently, stay in the red zone.  Trading infrequently, play in the green zone — don’t look for momentum, look for mean reversion.

Whatever you do, be consistent in your methods regarding momentum/mean-reversion, and only change methods if your current method is working well.

Huh?  Why change if things are working well?  I’m not saying to change if things are working well.  I’m saying don’t change if things are working badly.  Price momentum and mean-reversion are cyclical, and we tend to make changes at the worst possible moments, just before the pattern changes.  Maximum pain drives changes for most people, which is why average investors don’t make much money.

Maximum pleasure when things are going right leaves investors fat, dumb, and happy — no one thinks of changing then.  This is why a disciplined approach that forces changes on a portfolio is useful, as I do 3-4 times a year.  It forces me to be bloodless and sell stocks with less potential for those wth more potential over the next 1-5 years.

I still like energy names here, some utilities, and reinsurers, particularly those that are strongly capitalized.  I’m not concerned about hurricanes for the strongly capitalized (it’s not likely to be a strong season anyway; if it hasn’t been strong yet, it likely will not be); they will be around to benefit from the increase in pricing power after any set of hurricanes.

I’m looking for undervalued and stable industries.  Human resources — sure, more part time workers.  Healthcare information?  A growing field, even with the new “health bill.”  Same for Biotech.

Even in a double dip, toiletries will still be purchased.  Phone calls will still be made, and the internet will still be accessed.  Perhaps life insurers are worth a look here; after all, the Bush tax cuts are expiring, and there will be more demand for tax avoidance.

I’m not saying that there is always a bull market out there, and I will find it for you.  But there are places that are relatively better, and I have done relatively well in finding them.

At present, I am trying to be defensive.  I don’t have a lot of faith in the market as a whole, so I am biased toward the green zone, looking for mean-reversion, rather than momentum persisting.  The red zone is more highly cyclical than I have seen in quite a while.  I will be very happy hanging out in dull stocks for a while.


  • Emiliano_s says:


    Regarding insurance, do you have any thought on Axis (AXS)? what would you recommend me to look in their business lines to detect attractiveness?

    In historical numbers seems interesting. Annual book value growth 13%. History of setting free reserves. Cost of “float” around negative 12% combined with a float growth of 30% per year. P/B around 0.68.

    • I like AXS, they seem very competent, the only thing that bugs me about them is that their management team seemed cocky the last time I visited them. Since then, May 2007, the stock has been down -4.2%/yr annualized including dividends. Here was my post then:

      But no such thing as a bad asset, only a bad price. At 75% of book and 7x 2011 earnings, it is worth kicking the tires.

    • One more aside, ENH, AWH, and PRE all did better over the same period. Past isn’t prologue, but when I was a buyside analyst, I had a good handle on the space.

    • Oh, and the company I thought was too conservative did best. Score one for Platinum; my criticism proved baseless.

  • Yes, this is an encouraging graph for stocks. There have been other cases where it hasn’t worked though, like the two lost decades of Japan. I think your odds are better now than in 2000, but remember, we have built up more debt this time than during the Great Depression.

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