Industry Ranks June 2011

I’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 with more potential over the next 1-5 years.

I like some technology names here, some energy some healthcare-related names, P&C Insurance and to a lesser extent Reinsurance, particularly those that are strongly capitalized.  I’m not concerned about the healthcare bill; necessary services will be delivered, and healthcare companies will get paid.

A word about reinsurance: I suspect this year will have yet more property catastrophes, particularly from hurricanes.  A lot of flexible capital has rolled into Bermuda over the last few months, so I would be disinclined to play too heavily there until late in the year.  There’s too many financial players that think there is easy money to be made in reinsurance after the recent spate of catastrophes, but that added capital is eliminating any hard pricing environment that might have emerged.  Maybe if they take losses later this year, capital won’t flow so freely for a while… I can dream.

A word on banks and REITs: the credit cycle has not been repealed, and there are still issues unresolved from the last cycle — I am not interested there even at present levels.  The modest unwind currently happening in the credit markets, if it expands, would imply significant issues for banks and their “regulators.”

I’m looking for undervalued and stable industries.  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 pretty cyclical at present.  I will be very happy hanging out in dull stocks for a while.

That’s why I’m not digging through any red zone stocks this time.  I don’t see the value, especially if we have a slowdown globally, and/or in the US.  I don’t trust this economy.