Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 in Review

At the end of each year, I like to re-visit my hits and misses. Let's start with the misses.

My biggest mistake was thinking we didn't need any capitulation (July 25, 2008). The market hit the skids shortly thereafter. At the time I made the call, the S&P 500 was 1,257--now it's 869. That's a loss of around 30%. (Not as bad as Hilary Kramer, but too close for comfort.)

Of course, the market did capitulate later on, and on September 18, 2008, I said it was a good time to slowly re-enter the market. Unfortunately, the S&P 500 was 1206 on September 18, 2008--now it's 869. That's a loss of around 28%.

I also had a near-miss. On July 30, 2008, I praised Garmin when it was selling around $36/share. Fortunately, less than a week later, on August 5, 2008, I sold my shares, writing, "I sold Garmin (GRMN), taking a [small] loss. I violated the rule of never catching a falling knife." Garmin is now around $19/share.

My top hits in 2008?

1. Not only did I predict Longs Drugs would be bought out, I also identified the eventual buyer:

Longs is going to be a good company and attractive takeover target...CVS is going to be knocking one of these days.

I made the call on May 29, 2008. On August 12, 2008, CVS announced it was buying Longs Drugs.

2. On September 19, 2008, I correctly said that Transmeta (TMTA) was trying to conserve cash to become more attractive as a buy-out candidate.

TMTA looks like a company trying to conserve cash to survive. If you're looking for a growth story, this isn't it; however, as long as its patent portfolio remains viable, TMTA may be a potential takeover target or value play at the right price.

On November 17, 2008, Novafora bought Transmeta.

3. I correctly called a short-term bottom in banking stocks and Colonial Bancgroup (CNB) shares. My joyful reaction at making the correct call is here.

4. I called MGM overpriced and told the CEO at MGM's shareholder meeting he was propagating unrealistic expectations:

[Despite your rosy outlook] you're basically telegraphing that you're going to lose money because you're expanding and spending money while entering a recession...

In the same post, I wrote,

Overall, I believe MGM will not be able to replicate its record in 2007 and will make less money in the short term.

At the time, MGM was selling for around $52/share. Now it's at $12.74/share.

If you read the full post, you will see that I disliked the CEO at the time, Terrence Lanni. Mr. Lanni recently resigned after the WSJ reported that he had falsified his resume.

(By the way, the only other CEO who rubbed me the wrong way was Trimble Navigation's (TRMB) Steven W. Berglund. Let's see what happens with him and his company in 2009 and beyond.)

5. Recently, I called the drop in the Canadian dollar overdone. So far, it appears I accurately called the bottom.

6. I called GE a good buy when it was around $14.66 a share. It closed today at $15.66. GE's current dividend yield of 7+% shows it is willing to pay investors to wait until better times.

My favorite "hit," however, had nothing to do with a prediction. At the Yahoo shareholder meeting, I told Chairman Bostock to stop talking about Microsoft, comparing his repeated and unnecessary public proclamations to words from a jilted ex-girlfriend. I also politely suggested Mr. Yang go on a sabbatical. We haven't heard a peep out of Bostock for months now, and Mr. Yang has gracefully exited. Meanwhile, Yahoo stock has quietly made a comeback from around $9/share to around $12/share.

Aside from hits and misses, what was my biggest lament? That this article wasn't more popular among my regular readers. I don't think we're going to see the end of "OCM," so perhaps the article will gain more popularity with time.

As for my thoughts on 2009, I am looking forward to it. I think the S&P 500 will hit 1012 in 2009, but whether it stays there is anyone's guess. Here's the annual Barron's challenge if you're into forecasting.

My riskiest 2009 stock is Maxim (MXIM). I am hoping it will go to $14.90/share by early 2010. I started buying Maxim shares at around $12/share and have been averaging down. Maxim closed today at $10.98/share. If I'm right, my Maxim shares will appreciate 30+% in around one year.

The market's gyrations notwithstanding, it's important to remember that most Americans enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. If you disagree, may the new year bring you knowledge and a much-needed passport.

The information on this site is provided for discussion purposes only and does not constitute investing recommendations. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities or make any kind of an investment. You are responsible for your own due diligence.

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