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Shadow Stock Portfolio Up 14.9% in 2010

by James B. Cloonan

Shadow Stock Portfolio Up 14.9% In 2010 Splash image

The Model Shadow Stock Portfolio still has not reached its pre-2008 high but it has moved up 14.9% year to date (May 31, 2010). That is significantly better than the S&P 500, which is down 1.5% so far this year (as measured by the Vanguard 500 Index fund). Complete performance data can be viewed in Figure 1 and Table 3.

Volatility remains high with all the dramatic news in the eurozone and our own Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. As I write this in early June, the market has had several very weak days and it looks like volatility may remain high well into the summer.

Table 1 lists the current holdings and Table 2 explains the rules for the portfolio. As shown in Figure 2 on page 33, the number of stocks passing the initial screen increased slightly to 16. Most of those passing were already in the portfolio and we made our final selection based on liquidity and lower price-to-book ratios.

One of the differences between a theoretical portfolio and a real one, in addition to transaction costs, is that in the real world investors make errors and I have made a number over the years. At

the end of last March, MedCath MDTH should have been sold but I missed the negative

earnings report on February 3. Now MDTH has reported positive earnings on May 5, so I am not going to sell it unless it violates probation again.

Portfolio Changes

We sold three stocks in our second-quarter review, all three for violating probation (see Table 4). The three are Avalon Holdings AWX, Cascade Corporation CASC, and Tufco Technologies TFCO.

  Current
Price
($)
52-Week
High
($)
Market
Low
($)
P/E
Cap
($ Mil)
P/B
Ratio
(X)
Div
Ratio
(X)
Yield
(%)
 
 
Notes
AeroCentury Corp. (ACY) 18.95 25.00 7.85 29.2 4.7 0.7 0.0 not qualified as a buy for 2 yrs
Alamo Group, Inc. (ALG) 23.20 27.05 9.77 272.6 13.0 1.2 1.0  
Books-A-Million (BAMM) 6.79 15.00 5.77 107.7 7.7 0.9 2.9  
Capital Senior Living (CSU) 4.66 6.49 3.62 126.0 46.6 0.8 0.0 qualified as of 6/4/2010
Conn’s, Inc. (CONN)* 6.71 15.19 4.42 150.8 83.9 0.4 0.0 qualified as of 6/4/2010
CSS Industries (CSS) 17.88 27.28 16.09 173.0 nmf 0.7 3.4 earnings probation (2010q2)
Ennis, Inc. (EBF) 15.59 19.35 10.35 403.7 11.5 1.3 4.0  
Flexsteel Industries (FLXS) 11.46 16.50 6.51 76.1 10.2 0.7 1.7 qualified as of 6/4/2010
Hastings Entertainment (HAST) 7.72 9.38 3.60 71.8 12.1 0.7 0.0 qualified as of 6/4/2010
Jackson Hewitt Tax (JTX) 1.62 7.58 1.46 46.6 nmf nmf 0.0 earnings probation (2010q3)
Lithia Motors, Inc. (LAD) 7.95 16.49 5.18 206.5 20.9 0.7 2.5  
Marlin Business Servs (MRLN) 12.05 13.36 3.57 154.3 48.2 1.0 0.0 not qualified as a buy for 2 yrs
MedCath Corp. (MDTH) 8.67 13.63 6.62 177.9 nmf 0.6 0.0 earnings probation (2009q4)
Mitcham Industries (MIND)* 6.12 8.43 4.09 60.1 122.4 0.7 0.0 qualified as of 6/4/2010
OYO Geospace Corp. (OYOG) 45.58 52.50 19.05 274.9 93.0 2.2 0.0 approaching value limit
Paragon Shipping (PRGN) 3.90 5.67 3.25 199.8 3.0 0.4 5.1  
PC Connection (PCCC)* 6.56 7.95 4.77 178.1 65.6 0.8 0.0 qualified as of 6/4/2010
PC Mall, Inc. (MALL) 4.70 8.98 4.40 57.9 23.5 0.6 0.0 qualified as of 6/4/2010
RCM Technologies (RCMT) 4.93 5.01 1.47 64.1 17.0 1.0 0.0 not qualified as a buy for 2 yrs
Saga Communications (SGA) 27.50 29.00 4.95 117.1 105.8 1.7 0.0  
Shoe Carnival (SCVL) 21.25 29.26 11.54 279.9 13.4 1.2 0.0  
Standard Motor Products (SMP) 7.67 15.71 5.28 174.5 18.3 0.9 2.6  
Standex Int’l Corp. (SXI) 25.79 30.93 9.27 321.8 12.8 1.6 0.8  
SureWest Communic’ns (SURW) 6.02 13.93 6.00 86.5 75.3 0.3 0.0 qualified as of 6/4/2010
Twin Disc, Inc. (TWIN) 12.29 15.23 6.21 137.5 102.4 1.3 2.3  
Willis Lease Finance (WLFC) 10.05 17.61 10.05 92.9 5.9 0.5 0.0 not qualified as a buy for 2 yrs
*Company is new to the model portfolio. Source: AAII’s Stock Investor Pro/Thomson Reuters. Data as of 6/4/2010.

Explanation of Notes

Approaching Size Limit: Stocks are sold if their market capitalization goes above three times the initial maximum criterion. The current market capitalization maximum for initial screening is $200 million. Stocks are marked “approaching size limit” if their current market cap exceeds 2½ times the initial criterion, or $500 million.

Approaching Value Limit: Stocks are sold once their price-to-book-value ratio goes above three times the initial criterion. The current initial price-to-book ceiling is 0.80. Stocks are marked “approaching value limit” if their current price-to-book-value ratio exceeds 2½ times the initial criterion, or 2.00.
Earnings Probation: If last 12 months’ earnings from continuing operations are negative, the stock is put on probation; if a subsequent quarter has negative earnings prior to 12-month earnings becoming positive, the stock is sold. The date within the parentheses lists the fiscal quarter during which the company first reported negative trailing 12-month earnings.

Qualified as of:
Stock still qualified as a buy when the screen was run with current data. Stocks that don’t currently qualify as a buy are held until they meet one of the sell rules.

Not Qualified as a Buy for 2 Yrs:
Stock has not met the buy criteria for over two years and can be sold if cash is needed.

See the Shadow Stock Portfolio area of AAII.com for more information.

Table 2. Model Shadow Stock Portfolio Rules

Purchase and Sales Rules

Stock purchases must meet these criteria:

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  • No bulletin board or pink sheet stocks will be purchased.
  • Price-to-book-value ratio must be less than 0.80. (Figure will change gradually with changes in overall market values.)
  • Market capitalization must be between $17 million and $200 million. (Figure will change gradually with changes in overall market values.)
  • The firm’s last quarter and last 12 months’ earnings from continuing operations must be positive.
  • No financial stocks or limited partnerships will be purchased.
  • No stocks on foreign exchanges or ADRs will be purchased because of different accounting and/or withholding tax on dividends.
  • The share price must be greater than $4.
  • In order to reduce trading by avoiding stocks that are forever marginal, any stock that was sold within two years will not be rebought.
  • Note second item under Stock Order Guidance concerning spreads when buying shares.
  • Price-to-sales ratio must be less than 1.2. (Figure may change gradually with changes in overall market values.)

Stocks are sold if any of the following occur:

  • If last 12 months’ earnings from continuing operations are negative, the stock is put on probation; if a subsequent quarter has negative earnings prior to 12-month earnings from continuing operations becoming positive, the stock is sold.
  • The stock’s price-to-book-value ratio goes above three times the initial criterion.
  • Market capitalization goes above three times the initial maximum criterion.
  • After two years, sell if not qualifying as a buy currently. (But do not sell until there is a qualified stock to buy.) The two years should be measured from the last time the stock qualified, not from when you purchased it.

Stock Order Guidance

  • These rules are for general guidance. Your own experience, market conditions and the size of the position will impact your own decisions. The results in the model portfolio were obtained while sometimes paying more.
  • Market orders are not used. Instead, if the quoted bid-ask spread is less than 2% (ask price minus bid price, divided by ask price), place a limit order at the ask price for a buy and at the bid price for a sell. If the bid-ask spread is more than 2%, try to place a limit order between the bid and ask prices to keep transaction costs low. If necessary, build a position gradually. With low commissions, it is often better to place partial orders than to try to establish a large position all at once. Be patient.
  • Be careful if the average daily number of shares traded is not four times the amount needed for your position. It may be too difficult to get in and out of the position, but you may be able to grow the position gradually and sell gradually.
  • For NASDAQ stocks, it appears to be better to use day orders. If the order is not filled, it is placed again with a slight adjustment. For NYSE and Amex stocks, good-till-canceled GTC orders are used to keep a place in line in the specialists’ books. If the market isn’t close to the desired price, the price is adjusted in a few days with a new GTC order.
  • If price changes cause a stock to become ineligible (due to changes in price-to-book-value ratio or market capitalization) when only part of the order has been filled, stocks already purchased are kept but the balance of the order is canceled.

Management Rules

  • Equal dollar amounts are invested in each stock initially.
  • Decisions are made only at the end of each quarter. In order to react to the majority of earnings reports as soon as possible, quarterly reviews are made in February, May, August, and November.
  • Best judgment is used for tenders or mergers, but all criteria must be obeyed.
  • At the end of a quarter, if receipts from stocks sold exceed requirements for new purchases, the excess receipts—up to 5% of the portfolio’s value—are kept in cash until the next quarter. If the excess receipts are greater than 5% of the total portfolio value, the amount above 5% is distributed to smaller holdings that still qualify as buys. Efficient quantities are purchased: If over 10% of the portfolio is in cash, the price-to-book-value ratio can be moved up, but never over 0.90.
  • At the end of a quarter, if receipts from stock sales are insufficient to buy all newly qualifying stocks, purchases are made in order of lowest bid/ask spreads.
  • Note that if you are managing your own portfolio, it should consist of at least 10 stocks. If you are developing the portfolio gradually, you can do it stock by stock, but don’t put more than 10% of your funds in each additional stock. More than 20 stocks is not needed until the portfolio exceeds $1 million.

We made three purchases: Conn’s Inc. CONN, Mitcham Industries MIND, and PC Connection PCCC. This keeps the portfolio at 26 holdings.

Outlook

I am looking at the comments at the end of my April column and I could write exactly the same thing again. The bulls and bears are pretty well balanced, there are major concerns all around the world and as of this date there has not been much resolution to any

of them, and many of the uncertainties are not under United States’ control. We have the “wall of worry,” but the stock market does not seem to be climbing it.

Perhaps the nature of the market’s concerns will be different when I report on the Model Shadow Stock

Portfolio in the October AAII Journal. In the meantime, you can follow the portfolio at AAII.com.

  Avg An’l
Ret Since
Incep (%)
YTD
Ret
Annual Rate of Return (%)  
 
2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993
Shadow Stock Portfolio 15.2 14.9 72.3 -50.8 -1.8 29.4 17.9 43.7 73.1 10.8 21.4 -7.7 0.0 -8.9 44.3 22.3 20.7 2.0 32.3
S&P 500 (VFINX) 7.4 -1.5 26.5 -37.0 5.4 15.6 4.8 10.8 28.5 -22.1 -12.0 -9.1 21.1 28.6 33.2 22.9 37.4 1.2 9.9
Vanguard Small Cap (NAESX) 8.9 6.7 36.1 -36.0 1.2 15.6 7.4 19.9 45.6 -20.0 3.1 -2.7 23.1 -2.6 24.6 18.1 28.7 -0.5 18.7
DFA US Micro Cap (DFSCX) 10.7 8.8 28.1 -36.7 -5.2 16.2 5.7 18.4 60.7 -13.3 22.8 -3.6 29.8 -7.3 22.8 17.6 34.5 3.1 21.0
Company (Ticker) Reason
Sell
Avalon (AWX) negative earnings
Cascade Corp. (CASC) negative earnings
Tufco Technologies (TFCO) negative earnings
 
Buy
Conn’s Inc. (CONN)  
Mitcham Industries (MIND)  
PC Connection (PCCC)  
James B. Cloonan is founder and chairman of AAII.


Discussion

James from CA posted over 4 years ago:

I'm new to the web site. Suggest you add a column, Date and price of entry to your portfolio.


Stephen from CA posted over 4 years ago:

That's an excellent proposal. It would also have an indirect bearing on the important question of spreads and how to minimize them. For the individual investor, some solid information about this topic would rival in value anything AAII has ever presented.


Robert from GA posted over 4 years ago:

Agreed: would like to see entry date & price, along with %profit for each component stock.


Stephen from PA posted over 4 years ago:

IS there a min entry purchase for each pick? Being new to the site and not knowing the holdings of each makes it difficult to make realistic picks. I'm trying to setup my childrens 529 and have admired the sites portfolio criteria. Just looking for a little direction. thanks!


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