Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why I bought even more First Marblehead (or why I'm a glutton for punishement)

After I sold my Canon shares and put money down for a house, I had some cash left over. Today, I used that cash to buy First Marblehead at $1.42 a share. That is less then 10% of what I paid for shares way back in February. In the meantime, the credit markets have fallen apart, TERI has filed bankruptcy and First Marblehead has slashed the accounting value of its trusts.

Even so, I think the company is an even better buy than it was nine months ago. The liquidation value has fallen to about $4 a share, so the market has priced in a considerable chance of complete failure. Further, the residuals are priced as if they are extremely risky—they must be discounted at 25% yield in order to get a $1.42 price. I've been greedy all the way down, so I'm not the best person to ask. On the other hand, there just don't seem to be any more shoes to drop.

One thing I know, this market makes me feel really dumb.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why I sold Canon

I'm pretty far behind in updating my transaction diary. Partially that's because I don't want to think about the carnage done to my portfolio in recent weeks and partially because I got busy with other things (i.e. buying a house). Because I need some cash to use as a down payment, I sold off my Canon shares at a price less than what I consider to be their value. On August 6, I got $46.49 a share. The first lot (bought in December, 2003) returned 62% compared to 6% for the S&P 500. The second lot (bought in December, 2004) returned 47% compared to 7%. The annualized return was about 11% for both lots. Needless to say, both lots were excellent investments.

Canon has lost a lot of market cap since I sold, so I lucked out there. Since Berkshire had about the same price to value ratio, I was tempted to sell it instead. But I resisted in part because I assumed consumer electronics will be harder to sell in the next few years and Berkshire will be able to pick up some good deals over the same time period. Like Oracle, I suspect Canon will be a compelling value and on my investment radar in the future.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Shifting to stocks

Because the markets are free-falling and the yield curve has become more favorable, I've shifted my market-timing position from bonds to stocks.

Updated October 23, 2008

I didn't actually publish this on October 10, but I did make the shift on that date in my 401(k) plan. The markets have been choppy since then, but all indications (besides stock prices themselves) say I did the right thing.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Wait 'til next year!

A little over year ago, I posted a list of mutual funds in my portfolio as if they were a baseball team. In that time, the markets have been rocked and it seemed like a good time to review their performances. The statistics (5-year return/expense ratio/turnover ratio) have been updated to include the most recent numbers I can find for them. I'm also commenting on "last-year's season", which I define as 1-year return from October 3. Today's market was way down, so I expect performance to be a bit worse for these funds. My benchmark is -27%, which about what the market has lost over the same period. Brutal.

  1. First Eagle Overseas - 11.59/0.88/34 (CF)
  2. -18.82% — For a fund that has been heavily invested in gold, losing double digits seems pretty bad. Maybe Jean-Marie Eveillard inherited some bad positions. Maybe, like most of us these days, he had a few positions blow up. In any case, the fund deserved its lead-off spot as it beat the S&P 500 and all but one of its teammates.
  3. T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Stock - 4.61/0.71/40 (SS)
  4. -26.46% — At almost exactly league average, OTCFX does not look good and hasn't for a long time. On the other hand, I suspect the environment will turn around as more good companies get beaten down with the bad. For the moment, I'm hanging on, but a lineup change may be coming soon.
  5. Vanguard PRIMECAP - 7.27/0.31/11 (1B)
  6. -20.04% — At 7% better than average, PRIMECAP continues to be a solid performer.
  7. Dodge & Cox International Stock - 10.94/0.65/16 (RF)
  8. -32.89% — At 6% less than the market, my prediction that the fund might be too big for its britches seems to have been correct. As a result, I'm demoting it to a 5% position and considering cutting it altogether.
  9. Oakmark Global - 8.26/1.13/35 (LF)
  10. -26.94% — Oakmark Global has held its own with almost exactly market returns over the last 12 months. Since the US has done better than other countries in this market(!), that's good for a global fund. If the fee were lower, it might well be a 10% position for me.
  11. Raytheon - 16.10/0.00/0 (DH)
  12. -14.4% — Raytheon has done well recently as it collects more government contracts. I continue to pay only slight attention to this position, but I suspect government spending will shift away from defense in the coming years. Hopefully, Raytheon will find a way to follow the money or build more civilian products.
  13. S&P 500 Index - 3.24/0.01/4 & PIMCO Total Return - 4.66/0.43/226 (C)
  14. -27.07% —
    4.49% — Thankfully, the PIMCO fund has been in the lineup this year so I get a modest positive return rather than the dreadful negative return. Fortunately, I've allowed this position to grow to 25% of my account. As of tomorrow after the close, I will have sold some of this portion to rebalance the lineup. I'll be favoring funds that have performed well over the last 12 months and that I have confidence in.

    The next question is: has the market fallen far enough to shift from bonds back to stocks? As I noted when I originally bought the fund, the inverted yield curve was my primary reason for switching to bonds. Conditions have been turning to start favoring stocks, but it's taken most of the year. I anticipate switching shortly after the Federal Reserve meets again to lower rates at the end of the month.

  15. Turner Emerging Growth - 8.54/1.55/88 (2B)
  16. -25.81% — I haven't expected much from this fund and I haven't been disappointed. The return has been only a little better than average, but that makes it one of my better positions this year.
  17. Fidelity Equity-Income - 2.57/0.67/24 (3B)
  18. -33.40% — I don't plan to add money to Fidelity Equity-Income unless and until there is some compelling reason to do so. Underperforming by 6% or so, is not compelling.
  19. Columbia Value & Restructuring - 5.36/0.94/11 (P)
  20. -34.37% — Excelsior Value & Restructuring has been renamed to Columbia Value & Restructuring, but it has the same management and structure. In a recent interview manager Dave Williams suggested that some restructuring situations take five or more years to develop. I'd hoped that this fund would be counter-cyclical, but it seems to have suffered from fewer buy-outs and mergers in the last 6 months or so.

-19.9% — My fund team has not performed as well as I'd hoped during the downturn in the market, but better than the market as a whole. PIMCO Total Return was the hero of the group as might be expected. Among the stock funds, First Eagle Overseas and Vanguard PRIMECAP earned their high spots in the batting order. Next year, I hope to report the S&P 500 anchoring a strong lineup of stock funds to make back some of this year's losses.