Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Retrospective #2: Worst Positions of the Year

I’ve already posted about three positions where I took losses during 2012, but in this retrospective post I wanted to go back and take another look at them – in the style of yesterday’s post, I have some lessons learned from each of these that I’ll share.  The yarn will unwind chronologically based on the date I closed the position, the order they are listed in the post’s title.

Adding up the absolute losses on the three positions, you get a total of $9,086.06.  That is a lot of money, but by the end of the year my account value showed a gain – so I rest on the strength of the portfolio model.  I am going to take some losses from time to time, and in these cases I believe I understand what went wrong. 

They’re mistakes I’ll try not to make again.

Biting the Bullet on Legacy Holding ACM

ACM is the company I used to work for, and one of the options for the 401(k) plan there was to buy shares at a discount to market.  I was there for nearly four years, and had accumulated 800 shares by the time I left.  The basis of the shares was around $25, so this position represented about 20 percent of the portfolio I was holding in the Rescue My IRA account after I transferred it.

Soon after I left the company and completed the transfer, the stock dropped from $28 or so to $22.  I could handle this and had planned to wait for the comeback.  But then, early this year, it dropped again to $15 or so, as I recall.  While I could have taken on some kind of stock recovery plan, I’d lost my patience and sold the shares (it turned out that I would have needed to because of some business conflicts at my current job as well). 

I sold the shares and took the loss, rolling the funds into a position with URS – a similar large architecture and engineering firm.  I still hold that 400 share position, and it appears to be performing up to my standards on the account. 

Here’s a repeat of the position analysis for ACM:

November 2012:  Transferred 880 shares in from my 401(k) during the rollover.  I sold 80 shares immediately so I would have 8 round lots.  My basis was about $25.00 per share.
5/8/2012 Sold 800 shares at $14,784.66, average share price $18.49
Total stock LOSS:  -$5,233.34

Over the course of this holding, I have had covered calls with March, June and September expirations at strike prices between 22.50 and 25.00; total options income:  $204.91

ACM is not a dividend payer.  It is a legacy holding that was not selected based on the trading plan, and has always been a candidate for divestment because of this.

Net Profit:
1) Stock loss:  -$5,233.34
2) Options income:  $201.91
3) Dividend Income: $0

Total Net loss upon divestment:  -$5,233.34 + $201.91 + $0.00 = -$5,028.43
Estimated Absolute Return on Investment: -25.14%
Annualized Return:  Not calculated

This is a case where I probably should have eliminated more of the position when I made the rollover.  ACM didn’t fit in my portfolio, as defined by my trading plan (it is unrated by S&P and it doesn’t pay a dividend are two of the reasons).  The concentration in the shares represented about 20% of my portfolio, where I generally won’t have more than 8% in a position.  So, with all of that working against the position, it’s a wonder I didn’t take a worse hit.

The shares have recovered somewhat in value, but I judge the position as an underperformer in any case.  I feel quite confident about the current URS position.

ADM – Just a Bad Pick

This symbol is so similar to ACM – perhaps if I were more suspicious, I would have anticipated that I was going to run into some trouble with this one.  During a summer of volatility, the stock reported disappointing earnings and the bottom dropped out.  I took the loss, but was able to make up for it inside of the month given the ongoing market action – and I moved the funds into a new CAT position, which I am still holding at the time of this post.

ADM was rated 3 stars by S&P when I bought it, so again, this is a case of not following the trading plan.  I’ll keep the analysis on this one brief:

300 Shares, basis $30.82, cost $9,246.88
Option Premiums (total):  $597.97
Dividends Collected:  $52.50
Stock Loss:  -$1,724.05
Total:  -$1,073.58

Rushing to Purchase HPQ

HPQ is another stock where I made a bad pick.  There was dramatic news for the company during 2012, information that I deemed positive.  And since I needed to get my funds back to work quickly, I simply may have rushed the situation, violating some of my trading plan rules in the meantime. 

As far as the good news goes, it came early and then everything went pretty bad.  I pulled the trigger on 400 shares in August because there was a new CEO, who had a good reputation.  It was a 3 star S&P stock, which led to a lesson I’ve finally learned:  I will only invest in S&P 4 and 5 star companies now. 

Then came some poor earnings news.  I thought I could leverage my basis down with 100 shares and added them, and then I adjusted my covered call strategy to maximize cash yields.  Finally, there was the news that the company had made a bad purchase decision on an acquisition, and I decided that it would just be a lot of work to fix the position.  It was called away in December on the ex-dividend date.

Now, there were some promising aspects of this position – counted by themselves, the returns I earned from call premiums and dividends are almost 9 percent, which annualized meets my goals on returns. But my loss exceeded that amount.  That smarts, but I figure that is something that will happen from time to time, as it did with ACM and ADM.  We have to hope that the portfolio model I use can absorb this variation, covering it and then some with a few gains and mostly steady performers.

Here’s the story of the HPQ position:

8/20/2012 – Bought 400 shares for $7,919.00.
9/25/2012 – Bought 100 shares at $1,697.99.
Share basis of 500 shares is $19.23

Total Option Premiums:  $802.16
Total Dividends:  $52.80
Total Stock Loss:  -$3,634.10
Total Absolute Gain/Loss on the position:  -$2,779.14

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