The Stocks That Got Away
Losing is where the lessons live.
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Greetings from a sleepy New York, where staying up until absurd hours (for me) watching the Yankees drop a tough one to the Angels and their loathsome inflatable noisemakers has me flashing back to 2002. Almost impossibly, the Angels were even more agitating back then, with not only the noisemakers but a Rally Monkey flashing on the scoreboard at the slightest sign of an Angel's pulse, causing my friends and me to make a near-endless series of "Outbreak" jokes.
The Giants owned the Angels for five games and 6.5 innings when the roof caved in. The shift in tide was so obvious, so painful, that we turned off the game and watched the South Park movie on DVD before the end of the eighth in game six.
So forgive me for my melancholy today. I just can't watch my (new) team lose in a stadium with a bizarre waterfall, thunder sticks, and flipping monkeys. "The four worst words in this language are 'what might have been' " said famed bull slinger Lou Holtz.
Here are some stocks where the moves have me wallowing in a hot tub of remorse:
- Amazon (AMZN) is simply screaming pre-market after emolliating earnings estimates last night. I love everything about Amazon. Good retail is a narcotic to me and Amazon is the guy down the hall who will hook me up 24/7/365. It's grown from the poster boy of dot-coms, ruined the poster boy of dot-com analysts (Hi, Henry), and created a marketplace with the Kindle that's so good that Sony (SNE) is trying to compete with it. Sony never met a losing battle it wouldn't engage in and Amazon is best of breed in so many ways. I've all but genuflected before the company for years and as recently as a month ago. Despite my open love affair, I sold the stock at former resistance which is now about ten points below. I got cute. Suffice it to say, "cute" isn't really my forte.
- J Crew (JCG) another earnings-crushing screamer. I once did a five-minute video using J Crew's Mickey Drexler as exhibit A of an investing thesis called "Don't Bet Against Ticked off Geniuses." Why was Mickey ticked? Because he built Gap (GPS) from 1987 until 2002. Mr. Market smote the Gap for an entire decade after the frog walked Mickey out the door. I know the entire story of Mickey by heart. I regard him as a retail genius, a pantheon level of respect I've given only four others. I could be long the Gap, but ignore J Crew?! The horror...
- Apple (AAPL), Goldman (GS), Bank of America (BAC), Ford (F), the USO ETF, and yes, Amazon. Bought them all in size last March. The only one I didn't book the trade on by June was the USO. It was a great trade. I flipped from obsessive bear 13 months ago to bull at the right time. Then I flipped the sell-trigger instead of simply chilling. I turned a potential Hall of Fame trade to merely a great one. I had the shot, I had the position but I lacked the patience. Which brings us back to Lou and "What Might Have Been".
Why wallow in all of this? Because losing is where the lessons live. Also, I'm pretty much fueled by slights both real and imagined; even if I have to make them up myself. At the end of the day, I'm Gatsby rowing toward the Green Light; I not only don't care that perfection is impossible, I actively make myself pursue it. When I stop rowing toward the light it will be time to hand over the game to someone else.
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