Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010: Win Some, Lose Some


We found 2010 to be a challenging year for stock picking. We had more solid winners than losers. Overall, we are pleased with the opinions expressed on these pages. We finish the year with a lesson learned; stick to your discipline. We found that when we deviated from our discipline, the results were unprofitable.

We began 2010 with writing in January about three companies: Sorl Auto Parts (SORL), Fuqi International (FUQI), and Hormel Foods (HRL). Sorl Auto Parts is a Chinese company manufacturing air brakes. We expected Sorl to do well because the automotive and truck manufacturing sector in China is doing well. We were wrong. Sorl is down about 17% since we wrote about it. Fuqi is Chinese company in the jewelry business. We expressed caution with Fuqi though we expected the growing middle class in China to be a major driver of growth. The stock is trading down about 69% from January. Sorl and Fuqi are our biggest losers for the year. In both cases, we deviated from our discipline to benefit, we thought, from the explosive Chines market. Lesson learned; stick to what you know.

Our third topic in January was Hormel Food. We recommended Hormel based on its strong financials and moderate growth prospect. We were rewarded with a return of about 34%.

In February, we offered an opinion on Western Digital (WDC). At the time, Western Digital was trading at $39.43 and has since dropped about 14% to $33.83. We still think WDC is a great company in excellent financial condition. We expect that when the market projects greater future growth for this storage device maker, the stock will soar.

Our buy opinions from March have worked out extremely well. We recommended Endo Pharmaceuticals (ENDP) for the second time and have been rewarded with a 58% return. We also recommended Advanced Auto Parts (AAP). Advanced Auto has returned about 58% since we wrote about it and it remains on our buy list.

We expressed caution on the two companies we wrote about in March and our opinions have stood the test. We wrote about GameStop (GME) and Comtech Telecom (CMTL). We thought GameStop has a good business facing significant challenges from online gaming. The stock has remained essentially flat. Comtech had a decline in both sales and earnings. We recommended that readers wait until a pull-back to $27 before purchasing shares. CMTL has declines about 14%, from $32.55 to $27.90.

Our choices in May, Garmin (GRMN) and Core Laboratories (CLB), provided mixed results. We noted that Garmin faces increased competition cell phone-based GPS services. GRMN is trading down about 9% from when we wrote about it. On the other hand, we recommended CLB as a buy at $67.36. Shares are now trading at $90.27, 34% higher.

We offered no recommendations or opinions during June.

In July, we wrote about AstraZeneca (AZN). AstraZeneca is Big Pharma and reflects the problems common to those companies. We recommended AZN at $48.79n but have seen the shares decline about 6% to $46.03.

August was a productive month with two buy opinions and one speculation. We liked Hawkins, Inc. (HWKN), up about 29% and Tractor Supply Company (TSCO), up 41%. Our speculation was the solar power company, GT Solar International (SOLR). Investing in a solar tech company is much like investing in China, a lot of promise, a lot of hype. GT Solar is up about 15%.

September saw us write about Clearwater paper (CLW), decidedly unsexy company but one that provided returns of about 11% these last three months.

We managed more activity in October when we recommended Lubrizol (LZ) at $105.95 and Telecom Argentina (TEO) at $23.40. Lubrizol is up about 2% and TEO about 7%. We were also cautiously optimistic about InterDigital (IDCC). InterDigital is a telecom equipment manufacturer. The stock is now trading a stunning 45% higher than the $29.61 price it traded at when we wrote our story.

It is too early to draw any conclusions about the companies we wrote about in November and December. In November we wrote that Brinker International (EAT), the restaurant chain, was a hold. EAT is up about 13%. We also wrote about NeuStar (NSR) and Humana (HUM). Neustar provides services to the telecom industry and trades at $26.32, essentially no change during the past month. Humana is in the health insurance business. The potential here will play out with the changes in the healthcare law and regulations.

Finally, in December, we recommended Sandisk (SNDK), the manufacturer of solid state storage and flash memory. Our final recommendation is Amerigroup (AGP), the operator of healthcare facilities. 

We look forward to a profitable 2011 and wish all our readers a happy, healthy and profitable new year.

Disclosure: Author has a long position in AAP, AGP, ENDP, HUM, IDCC, NSR, SNDK, and TEO.
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