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Shadow Stock Portfolio Makes the Case for Buy and Hold

by James B. Cloonan

Shadow Stock Portfolio Makes The Case For Buy And Hold Splash image

Well, we almost made it. The Model Shadow Stock Portfolio just about reached its pre-recession high by the end of November.

The portfolio is up 33.9% year-to-date. This compares with 7.7% for the S&P 500, as measured by the Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFINX).

As I write this the market is strengthening, and we may surpass our pre-recession and all-time high. This certainly makes a case for the “buy and hold” approach, which has been bad-mouthed a lot lately. Of course the major indexes have not recovered as yet, but they are dominated by a few dozen companies. It has always been my opinion that individual investors should not bother with the 100 largest companies.

I should point out that a view of Figure 1 will quickly show you that the portfolio lost more than half of its value during the Great Recession, so buy and hold takes some fortitude, particularly for those who had a large segment of their portfolio allocation in common stocks. Complete performance data is shown in Figure 1 and Table 2.

The current holdings are shown in Table 1. As shown in Figure 2, the number of stocks currently passing the original screen decreased slightly to 16. I am still not able to attach future market direction to this figure.

In addition to the usual liquidity and price-to-book criteria for selecting stocks for the Model Shadow Stock Portfolio, I also eliminated Chinese companies that passed the initial filter. While I generally have no problem with foreign stocks if they are traded on an American exchange, there has been some concern about manipulation in some newer Chinese issues. Since I don’t have the facilities to do the research needed on these stocks and I had a sufficient number of other candidates, I simply avoided them.

Portfolio Changes

We sold OYO Geospace (OYOG). It had been close to the value limit for some time and finally broke right through it. It should fit nicely into someone’s midcap growth portfolio, but it is no longer a micro-cap value stock.

Since OYOG had gone up so much, the proceeds enabled us to add three stocks. (Remember this is a real portfolio, and we can only buy additional stocks when we sell something.) The stocks we bought are Audiovox Corp. Class A (VOXX), Kendle International Inc. (KNDL) and Rocky Brands Inc. (RCKY). The changes are summarized in Table 3.

Company (Ticker) Current
Price
($)
52-Week Market
Cap
($ mil)
P/E
Ratio
(X)
P/Book
Ratio
(X)
Div
Yield
(%)
 
High
($)
Low
($)
 
Notes
AeroCentury Corp. (ACY) 16.96 25.00 13.00 26.2 5.9 0.61 0.0 qualified as of 12/10/2010
Alamo Group, Inc. (ALG) 26.74 27.72 15.08 315.8 12.6 1.26 0.9  
Audiovox Corp. (VOXX)* 7.77 9.74 6.07 178.2 8.4 0.49 0.0 qualified as of 12/10/2010
Books-A-Million (BAMM) 6.02 8.43 5.27 93.5 6.7 0.84 3.3  
Capital Senior Living Corp. (CSU) 6.90 7.10 4.21 186.9 53.1 1.13 0.0  
CONN’S, Inc. (CONN) 4.52 9.13 2.94 143.5 13.3 0.34 0.0  
CSS Industries (CSS) 20.64 21.92 14.87 200.3 nmf 0.86 2.9 earnings probation (2010q2)
Ennis, Inc. (EBF) 18.04 19.62 13.72 467.5 10.5 1.41 3.4  
Flexsteel Industries (FLXS) 17.39 17.50 8.29 116.3 10.0 0.97 1.7  
Hastings Entertainment (HAST) 6.18 9.38 3.82 54.4 9.1 0.54 0.0  
Jackson Hewitt Tax Service (JTX) 1.47 5.85 0.75 42.6 nmf nmf 0.0 earnings probation (2010q3)
Kendle International (KNDL)* 9.39 21.79 7.68 140.1 20.4 0.58 0.0 qualified as of 12/10/2010
Lithia Motors, Inc. (LAD) 13.73 14.20 5.18 359.3 47.3 1.14 1.5  
Marlin Business Servs (MRLN) 11.11 13.60 7.35 143.0 30.9 0.93 0.0  
Mitcham Industries, Inc. (MIND) 10.16 10.41 5.56 101.1 29.0 1.10 0.0  
Paragon Shipping Inc. (PRGN) 3.43 5.17 3.40 180.9 5.2 0.36 5.8  
PC Connection, Inc. (PCCC) 9.04 9.88 5.75 242.6 12.2 0.98 0.0  
PC Mall, Inc. (MALL) 7.35 7.70 3.20 89.2 24.5 0.87 0.0  
RCM Technologies (RCMT) 4.50 5.30 2.35 59.4 10.0 0.86 0.0  
Rex American Resources (REX) 15.72 19.30 12.51 150.2 12.1 0.60 0.0 qualified as of 12/10/2010
Rocky Brands, Inc. (RCKY)* 9.35 10.66 5.68 69.3 12.1 0.68 0.0 qualified as of 12/10/2010
Saga Communications (SGA) 24.03 29.00 10.82 102.3 32.0 1.35 0.0  
Shoe Carnival, Inc. (SCVL) 29.37 30.09 16.24 387.2 15.1 1.50 0.0  
Standard Motor Products (SMP) 13.80 13.80 7.00 312.6 19.4 1.49 1.4  
Standex Int’l Corp. (SXI) 30.49 30.93 19.49 383.3 12.5 1.83 0.8  
SureWest Communica’ns (SURW) 10.66 10.75 5.61 148.0 106.6 0.54 0.0 qualified as of 12/10/2010
Twin Disc, Inc. (TWIN) 27.74 28.48 8.77 314.5 54.4 3.05 1.0 approaching value limit
Willis Lease Finance (WLFC) 13.03 17.61 8.12 121.4 20.0 0.60 0.0 qualified as of 12/10/2010

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 the 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.

CONN’S Inc. (CONN) had a rights offering for current stockholders. The rights were traded and could have been sold or they could have been exercised. The offering expired at the end of November, and I hope your broker notified you. Since the offering details were released on November 8 and the rights expired on November 30, there was not much time to act. It is important that you follow the headlines relative to all stocks in your portfolio at least weekly to check for any news that requires action. You can’t always count on your broker for news.

  Avg An’l
Ret Since
Incep (%)
2010
YTD
Ret
(%)
   
 
Annual Rate of Return (%)
2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993
Model Shadow Stock Portfolio 15.8 33.9 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
Vanguard 500 Index (VFINX) 7.7 7.7 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 Idx (NAESX) 9.2 18.6 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) 11.0 21.3 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

This stock was on earnings probation at the time of the rights offering, but the trailing 12-month earnings swung into positive territory after results for the quarter ending October 31, 2010, were released on December 2.

Outlook

In my view, the outlook for both the long and short term depends very much on what happens in Congress during the “lame duck” session and early in the new Congress. I have no idea what will come from the extreme deficit reduction suggestions. The approach to deficit reduction, if there is one, will be key to any stock, bond or commodity analysis.

Company (Ticker) Reason
Sell
OYO Geospace Corp. (OYOG) exceeded value limits
Buy
Audiovox Corp. (VOXX)  
Kendle International Inc. (KNDL)  
Rocky Brands, Inc. (RCKY)  
CONN’S, Inc. (CONN) exercised rights offering
acquiring additional shares

There should at least be some tax decisions before my next column in April. In the meantime you can follow the Model Shadow Stock Portfolio at AAII.com.

Purchase and Sales Rules

Stock purchases must meet these criteria:

  • 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.

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.
James B. Cloonan is founder and chairman of AAII.


Discussion

Raymond from TX posted over 3 years ago:

How could you buy RCKY on 12/2/2010 when it was sold on 3/6/2009? This would seem to violate the rule against buying stock sold within the last two years.


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