January 2018 Portfolio Update

Wednesday, Jan 31 2018 by

They say that investing is a learning process and that's certainly true in my case. While I've had various amounts of money invested in shares for almost 15 years now I've never quite reached the point where I feel that I know or do enough (quite the opposite in fact). An example of this is that I've never systematically recorded my reasons for buying shares (or continuing to hold them for that matter) and without an audit trail it's hard to identify what I'm doing well/badly. This became obvious when I wrote my review of 2017 and so this post is the start of my attempt to be a bit more organised when it comes to trading.

Essentially my plan is to write up short, contemporaneous notes of my investment decisions on a monthly basis. This will include brief thoughts on trading statements and results even where I do nothing as deciding not to trade is just as significant a decision as buying or selling. Finally I'll probably tag on a few sentences regarding the portfolio performance in the month and which shares made the difference; this should make other people feel better if nothing else.


H&T Group Bought 355.5p - Jan 18

As a first trade of the year I've promoted H&T Group to a full position size. My initial holding was only taken out in December but their Trading Update of 8th Jan speaks of profits being ahead of market expectations with the Personal Loans book increasing by a remarkable 94.7%. Note that this follows a previous "above expectations" update on 3rd Nov. So H&T clearly have the wind in their sails and aren't notably expensive on a forward P/E of 12.4 when they're flagging up 33% profit growth for 2017 and 13% in 2018. This latter figure feels too low given the way in which the business is performing.

Boohoo.com Bought 205.5p - Jan 18

Like many small-cap investors I've been aware of Boohoo for over 3 years now; all the way from Paul Scott's prescient post identifying their early profit warning as an excellent buying opportunity. Sadly I wasn't open to this at the time and missed out as the share price 10-bagged. Such is life. Still I've kept half an eye on their trading and operating performance and noted how the management have done an excellent job in growing their Boohoo brand and bringing new ones (PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal) in house.

So when the price stopped defying gravity last summer, and entered some sort of consolidation phase, I started to wonder if a buying opportunity might be presenting itself. On the face of it the trading announcements and interim results all appeared positive although I can see how weakening margins and large director sales could have encouraged some holders to bank their gains. Anyway on 11th Jan Boohoo put out their post-Xmas Trading Update and I couldn't help but notice their doubling of sales in the key UK and US regions with strong growth elsewhere. A stark contrast to traditional clothing retailers and encouraging enough for me to open a position.

Henry Boot Bought 338.4p - Jan 18

Following their Trading Update, mentioned below, I didn't hesitate in promoting my holding here to a full position. For such a positive update I was surprised at how little the share price reacted but then again it came out on a fairly negative day for the market and previous upgrades have pushed the price up a number of times over the past year. Also the comment regarding the annual property portfolio valuation coming in below expectations could have put off some buyers. Either way I think that the shares are notably cheap on a P/E of 11 with the ROCE being both reasonably good, and improving, while leverage is well under control. The shares are very cyclical though, as shown by the fact that they lost 80% of their value in 2007/08, and so they'll never warrant a huge rating but I do think that they're doing well operationally and seem to be on something of a roll.

FDM Group Bought 964.2p - Jan 18

On receipt of their Trading Update, discussed below, I felt happy to make this a full position. Solid growth is taking place in all geographic regions with Mountie numbers up by 17% overall and continued demand showing in all areas. Given that the group is self-financing with an ungeared balance sheet, an operating profit margin >18% and ROCE >68% I'm finding very little here to dislike about the company. I suppose that a P/E of ~30 puts it on the expensive end of the spectrum but it's been at this rating for the last 3 years with the share price tripling in this time - exactly the same as the profits.

Accesso Technology Bought 2332.5p - Jan 18

I've long admired Accesso and its relentless drive for international growth under the stewardship of Tom Burnet. I heard him speak about the company way back at Mello 2014 and was incredibly impressed by his grasp of the ticketing industry and ability to explain his long-term strategy. Sadly I didn't buy any shares, at a mere £7, as I judged them to be too expensive! Fortunately I've kept them in mind over the years and watched them expand into being a more holistic customer experience solution provider as those strategic aims outlined so many years ago come to pass. In their most recent Trading Update it's clear that all areas of the business are performing well with the latest acquisition TE2 particularly strong. A good time to add more in my view.

Keywords Studios Bought 1462p - Jan 18

I first came across Keywords Studios back in 2015 when Andrew Day spoke at a ShareSoc seminar. Looking at my notes I can't quite believe that I didn't immediately take a position but hindsight shows us that they've successfully acquired and consolidated for the last 2 years - and this was my biggest concern. Like Accesso the company has a very clear strategy for bringing together small operations in the computer gaming sector and providing access to larger clients along with cross-selling and cost-saving benefits. So far this repeatable process has worked well with the share price up by 7x since this meeting! Anyway with a trading update imminent I think that the share price is treading water waiting for decent news and this is as good a time as any to take an initial position.


Natwest 9% Preference Shares Sold at 172.2p -Jan 18 - 102.2% gain

I've held these solid preference shares for the better part of a decade and in that time they've provided excellent capital growth and a very healthy yield (of 6-10%). Now though the share price seems to have plateaued at around 170p and the yield is down to 5.2%. This doesn't mean that they won't go further but right now buyers seem to have lost interest and the price is sitting at a 20-year high. So when I needed to release some funds in order to top up Henry Boot it wasn't a tough decision to wave goodbye to this stalwart holding. Every share has its time in the sun but I believe that these have largely run their course now.

LLoyds 9.75% Preference Shares Sold at 184.9p - Jan 18 - 69.2% gain

As with the Natwest preference shares I bought these slightly higher-yielding prefs a while back and, in a similar pattern, their price has also levelled off with the current yield at 5.3%. My gut feel is that while these type of shares will always have a place in an income portfolio the risk now is that their capital values will fall when interest rates start to normalise. Of course we've been expecting this to happen for the last decade and so far not a lot has changed on that front! So I've only sold half of my holding here in order to retain an economic interest in what happens next for LLPD.


Next: I was unsure how Next might report given their weak trading over the last couple of years but, surprisingly, Q3 improved on expectations with both Retail and Online strengthening. Obviously the high-street stores are still a real drag with 2017 profits forecast to drop by 5.7% compared to 2016 but perhaps trading has stabilised here. As ever the company is a cash machine with around £300m of surplus cash forecast for 2018 and this is enough to buy back almost 5% of the company; quite amazing although I'd rather have a special dividend. A quality company and an easy hold. (Update)

Plus 500: I'm a little bit wary of holding this online CFD provider, given its historical troubles and volatility, but strong momentum in Q4 trading and customer attraction leading an ahead of expectations announcement is always welcome. It looks like the crypto-currency frenzy has really helped push trading here and I'm sure that this boost will continue for a while yet (even if this particular bubble bursts eventually). Definite hold. (Update)

Taptica: Working in the advertising space Taptica acquired Tremor Video DSP in August and it seems that integration has occurred faster than expected with profitability being reached in this calendar year. The core business has also expanded, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, and adjusted EBITDA will be ahead of expectations. Curiously sales will be in-line and so EBITDA margins have improved which is great news. Definite hold. (Update)

Robert Walters: Some recruiters suffered in 2017 but these guys have improved their net fee income in every geographic region with Europe being particularly strong. Usefully 70% of the income is international and that should help the group withstand Brexit volatility. Really no obvious areas of weakness and with cash of £30.7m in the bank and an out-perform trading statement in December business is looking really strong here. Definite hold. (Update)

Games Workshop: As was perhaps expected these interim results sparkled with profits near enough tripling, compared to 2016, and cash generation doubling. All areas of the business seem to be performing well, without requiring high investment, and this is why the return on capital has risen from an excellent 40% to an astonishing 119%. I don't think that these growth rates are sustainable but it does look as if the company has transformed the way in which it operates and it's hardly expensive on a P/E of ~16. Definite hold. (Results)

Focusrite: Pretty terse AGM statement with no profit guidance given. Still confirmation of continued strong growth in both revenue and cash generation is worth having. Not much more to add except that I believe this to be a quality business operating in a well-defined niche for music and audio products. Hold. (Update)

XP Power: Strong trading in all regions with Comdel acquisition bedding in. No guidance on profits but cash generation looks good as they seem to be paying off the acquisition cost and heading back to a net-cash position pretty sharpish. I wonder if the 2018 forecast for a mere 6.5% growth in profits is a bit under-cooked? With luck we'll see something like 2017's 20% increase in forecast profits over the year! Definite hold. (Update)

Somero: I love the focus and clarity of this company and it seems that customers recognise this too with sales and cash generation improving in most regions (especially Europe). Enough for revenues to be slightly ahead of expectations and EBITDA comfortably ahead which suggests that costs are being controlled and margins are improving. There are also the corporate tax law changes in the US to consider which should help the company and stimulate increased demand. Sounds positive to me and a definite hold. (Update)

Watkin Jones: Since floating a couple of years ago WJG has expanded the amount of student accommodation that it builds and moved into the build to rent sector. To reduce risk new developments are forward sold to external investors which means that they aren't financed with debt and, in fact, the company operates with net cash of £41m on the balance sheet. Overall a 13% increase in sales led to a similar increase in profit and current forecasts are for a 9% rise in 2018. On a P/E of ~14 I don't see the company as being expensive given the quality of their earnings and positive outlook for the coming year. (Results)

Henry Boot: A sequence of profit upgrades last year continues into this year with strong trading in the final couple of months leading to profits being comfortably ahead of revised expectations. In addition the 2018 expectations are already being slightly raised even at this early point in the year. The only fly in ointment seems to be that the valuation of their property portfolio has come in below management expectations; although without any figures the size of the miss is unknown. Still looking good and perhaps a little underappreciated in my view. (Update)

New River: I've been a little worried about NRR as its price has been dropping for the last six months but this Q3 update reassures that their portfolio is performing well and significantly better then the wider UK retail market. What this seems to mean is that like-for-like footfall has risen by 0.5% over the quarter (2.7% above the benchmark) and by 1.9% in December (4.5% above benchmark). Occupancy remains high at 97% and the average rent has held reasonably steady at £12.70 per sq ft (although a slight decline from £12.82 per sq ft in Sep 2017). So they do appear to be performing well and have almost no exposure to the troubled department store sector. (Update)

Computacenter: Following a number of profit upgrades in 2017 the full-year figures are raised yet again (ahead of board expectations) in this pre-close update. Usefully management give some clear guidance on why 2018 will be a period of consolidation as some one-off costs occur and historically extended credit terms adjust to a more normal footing over the year. That said positive momentum in their markets should continue and the company must be pretty confident since just a day later they launched their £100m tender offer to shareholders. I don't intend to tender my shares but I appreciate the way in which this deal is structured so that no one gets shafted. (Update)

FDM Group: Another outfit reporting good performance in H2 this is enough to ensure that profits will be ahead of previous expectations. Impressively the number of consultants (known as Mounties) deployed in all territories has increased by 17% with APAC showing a high 30% growth in headcount. This momentum continues with positive demand in all markets plus growth in new market verticals (along with building a presence in new geographies). Sounds pretty good to me and that's why I've updated my holding to a full position. (Update)

dotDigital: The last 6 months have been busy here with the acquisition of Comapi and progress in other strategic areas (such as strengthening partnership relationships). Usefully the acquisition is bedding in well with revenues since purchase ahead of original expectations. In various geographies sales are growing well with channel partners/integrators such as Magneto and Shopify driving this expansion. That said a note of caution is sounded with regard to GDPR regulation and the fact that sales to European customers are taking longer then normal; on the flip-side the dotDigital platform can assist them to achieve compliance and so maybe there's a silver lining. (Update)

XL Media: In a simple notice of results the board managed to slip in that they can "confirm that trading remained strong throughout 2017 and in line with its previous trading update on 21 November 2017". Usefully the company is also hosting a presentation for retail/private investors when they release their notes on 13th March. I like this level of engagement with smaller shareholders. (Update)

Fevertree Drinks: Another stunning update from this drinks distributor with profits comfortably ahead of market expectations. This is all down to strong sales growth across all channels, formats and flavours in the UK driving revenue up by 96% with other regions growing by 39-57%. Particularly exciting is the transition to taking US operations in-house with investment here being bought forward to meet demand. Frankly I find this to be an astonishing company and very much hope that it doesn't get taken over in the near future! If I wasn't already overweight here I'd be tempted to top up.(Update)

Accesso Technology: A fine update from Accesso with adjusted EBITDA substantially ahead of expectations on the back of lower revenue growth; the implication being that EBITDA margins are much improved. Driving this is strong trading across the group with recent acquisition TE2 performing well ahead of expectations and with lower costs. While sales from TE2 are described as non-recurring its speciality of personalising guest experiences suggests that customers are likely to keep coming back if it makes their clients happy. In addition debt is down to <$6m so cash generation is strong. Time to top up this position. (Update)

PPH Hotel Group: An inline update from this lifestyle hotel group with like-for-like revenue growth of 10% and RevPAR up by 11.5% (benefiting from strong growth in Germany and Croatia). Usefully debt refinancing and sale-and-leaseback activity in the year have generated a lot of capital to plough back into the portfolio; which means plenty of renovation and plans to build an art'otel in London. A slightly cautious note is struck by indicating that 2018 might be subdued due to cost pressures and renovation work but in the long term this share should deliver. (Update)

Polypipe: An inline update here from the largest plastic pipe manufacturer in the UK. With analyst estimates indicating just over 22% earnings growth for 2017 that's not too shabby for a company on a P/E ~15 (although this growth is a little down on 2015 and 2016). In the same announcement we also find that they are selling their French operations for €16.5m; this seems like an excellent idea given that the operating margin for this part is just 2.2% and it sells into a very competitive market. Other than that it looks like business as usual here. (Update)

End of month summary

In contrast to a superb December I'm afraid that January was rather a soggy month for the portfolio; despite being over 2.2% up mid-month a volatile few days this week have dragged my performance down to 0.8%. Drilling into the portfolio the big gainers are Plus 500, Somero and Next while the big fallers are IQE, Games Workshop and Boohoo; other than that most of my shares just kind of bobbed about despite the deluge of solid trading updates. With more results and updates to come I'm sure that February will be just as exciting.

Disclaimer: the author holds, or used to hold, all of the shares discussed her


As per our Terms of Use, Stockopedia is a financial news & data site, discussion forum and content aggregator. Our site should be used for educational & informational purposes only. We do not provide investment advice, recommendations or views as to whether an investment or strategy is suited to the investment needs of a specific individual. You should make your own decisions and seek independent professional advice before doing so. The author may own shares in any companies discussed, all opinions are his/her own & are general/impersonal. Remember: Shares can go down as well as up. Past performance is not a guide to future performance & investors may not get back the amount invested.

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H&T Group plc is a non-trading holding company. The Company provides a range of simple and accessible financial products tailored for a customer base, which has limited access to, or is excluded from, the traditional banking and finance sector. Its segments include Pawnbroking, which is engaged in providing secured loans against collateral (the pledge); Gold Purchasing, which is involved in buying Jewelry directly from customers through its stores; Retail, which is involved in retail sales of gold and jewelry, and the retail sales are forfeited items from the pawnbroking pledge book or refurbished items from its gold purchasing operations; Pawnbroking Scrap, which comprises various other proceeds from gold scrap sales other than those reported within Gold Purchasing; Personal Loans, which comprises income from its unsecured lending activities, and Other Services, which comprises third party check encashment, buyback, prepaid debit card product and foreign exchange currency services. more »

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FDM Group (Holdings) plc is a United Kingdom-based company, which is engaged in providing professional services focusing on information technology (IT). Its four geographical operating segments: the United Kingdom and Ireland; North America; Rest of Europe, Middle East and Africa, excluding UK and Ireland (EMEA), and Asia Pacific (APAC). The Company's principal business activities are recruiting, training and placing its own permanent IT and business consultants (Mounties) at client sites. The Company also supplies contractors to clients, either to supplement its own employed consultants' skill sets or to provide greater experience where required. It is engaged in a range of technical and business disciplines, including Development, Testing, Support, Project Management Office, Data Services, Business Analysis, Business Intelligence and Cyber Security. more »

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Henry Boot PLC is a land development, property investment and development, and construction company. The Company sources and acquires land; promotes planning consents; acquires, develops, manages or sells investment properties and service constructors with plant; runs its Private Finance Initiative (PFI) project, and refurbishes and constructs buildings. Its segments include Property Investment and Development, which includes property investment and development and trading activities; Land Development, which includes land management, development and trading activities, and Construction, which includes its PFI company, plant hire and regeneration activities. Its subsidiaries include Hallam Land Management Limited, Henry Boot Developments Limited, Stonebridge Projects Limited, Henry Boot Construction Limited, Banner Plant Limited and Road Link (A69) Limited. more »

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9 Posts on this Thread show/hide all

Howard Adams 1st Feb '18 1 of 9

Hi Damian

An interesting posting, thanks for that. I also hold a few of the stocks you mention (and have investigated most of the others at some point) and it was interesting to read your thoughts.

As a matter of interest do you work purposely to a particular style of investing?

Do you assess buy, hold, top ups or exits against any specific metrics which you favour?

I am interested to read your thoughts as, for example, I am working on incorporating quite a few of Mark Minervini's ideas into my own evolving style and have found the new disciplines to be illuminating both with regard to the stocks I examine as well as how they are encouraging me to apply greater rigour to my investing behaviours.


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Damian Cannon 1st Feb '18 2 of 9

In reply to post #307843

Hi Howard,

Thanks very much for your comments. I've shifted my approach pretty radically in the last year or so and now almost exclusively employ a checklist approach. What I'm looking for is a mixture of quality, momentum and value but, of course, using all of these criteria within a single filter means that you end up with very few matches. So I have a multi-step process to find interesting companies:

1) I run three separate filters (one quality, one Zulu inspired, one Minervini inspired)

2) I combine the lists produced by all of the filters into a master list and score every company on how well they rank for each filter (Stockopedia is great for showing you how closely any share missed being selected by)

3) I then rank all of the companies by their combined score to give a master ranking

4) Then I go through them from the top making short notes on pros and cons, how positive their last update was and suchlike (the manual sanity check)

5) Any near the top which I don't already own are then candidates for purchase

It is a fair amount of work but I don't need to do this too often as I'm usually fully invested. As for other price targets I like to take my holdings to an average position size and then leave them alone. Exits are only really a response to profit warnings or an unexpectedly large fall taking out a stop loss (although selling here is very much at my discretion).

I haven't read Minervini yet but I have used some of the work done by others in this area - thanks guys!

BTW I put together a post reviewing my changing approach in 2017 the other day which may shed more light on my strategy: https://www.stockopedia.com/content/portfolio-review-2017-305543/


Blog: Ambling Randomly
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Howard Adams 1st Feb '18 3 of 9

In reply to post #307943

Hi Damian

Wow, thanks for such a clear and comprehensive response and the link to your post 2017 review.

I like your three filters approach. Minervini recommends multiple filters and I am certainly heading in that direction more so than I have in the past.

I have also adopted Minervini's approach to exiting a holding and this has proved extremely useful (drawn from the last two Chapters of his first book). In brief, if a trade is going against you exit 50%, if it continues to deteriorate exit 100% (I believe Ed uses 33%, 50% 100%). This guidance really helped me not to hold positions that little bit too long.

As you have adopted, I am also evolving the checklist procedure and plan to augment it with a scoring for each of the assessment tests I feel are important (some of which a qualitative in nature e.g. biographies of top team). These evolutions to my system are in their early stages so your note has been a helpful addition to my own reflections.

Many of your comments resonate - the volatility you experienced over different years; how your style has evolved and your desire to incorporate a more systematic approach to recording buy and sell reasons. I think all of these are going to be very necessary in 2018 and beyond.

Now, having tuned into your investing thoughts and stock picks I will look forward to reading how things develop over the next months/year.

Thanks again for taking the time to write up your approach. I appreciate it.


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Damian Cannon 1st Feb '18 4 of 9

In reply to post #308033

Hi Howard,

Thank you for your generous response. This is exactly the kind of conversation that I was hoping to stimulate by sharing the nitty-gritty details of my process and how it works in practice. As time goes by I'm increasingly aware of how we all need our own individual strategy which matches our psychological and emotional traits.

So while I am ever impressed by the posts of Ed and Paul on this site, and the returns which their very different approaches generate, I can't personally walk either of their paths. Instead I'm happiest when the dispassionate rigour of a checklist combines with my own gut feel around management, sector, forecast earnings and future outlook. Which is to say that I believe that we're of a similar mind on this front.

Anyway I'm glad to have provided a little input into your journey and look forward to hearing your thoughts in the future.


Blog: Ambling Randomly
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Trigger14 1st Feb '18 5 of 9

Hi Damian

Thanks for sharing your notes and approach. I’m all for more discussions about investing strategy. There’s a clear tilt to QM in your holdings that resonates with me. I have several of the same holdings in my portfolio or watchlist. Your structured multi-filter then combined ranking system also resonates with me. Do you have any further thinking about why those particular filters fit well together or is it just about balancing QVM as best you can?

I’ve been experimenting with similar sorts of approaches. My current approach is a quality filter to identify a watchlist of the 100 highest quality shares I can find. This has a qualitative element looking at competitive advantage and growth prospects as well as a quant screen looking at ROCE, margins and consistency of growth. I then pick between them based on ranking momentum and value (though with more focus on momentum). I’ve done my screening this way because I don’t want to compromise on quality and it shouldn’t vary much over time - so I think merits a bit more detailed focus. That said I want to see if I can do better than just buying and holding the highest quality by also trading momentum and valuation. It’s work in progress for me but seems to be working out pretty well so far.


Blog: Quality Share Surfer
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Damian Cannon 1st Feb '18 6 of 9

In reply to post #308113

Hi Trigger,

Thanks for the comments. From taking a look at your blog, which is both interesting and well argued, I can see that our approaches have a lot in common on the QM front. It looks like your portfolio really took off in mid-2016 and has barely looked back. Impressive. Did you change your approach at that time?

On the filtering front I believe that the filters play well together because they are really selecting along three different dimensions - quality, momentum and value - but in a different way to the stock ranks. The quality filter cares most about ROCE and margin, the momentum filter is really about price and earnings forecast action while the value one uses PEG values. But, I hasten to add, none of this has been tested rigorously; it's just a combination of the characteristics which I like and seem to underlie decent investments. To paraphrase though I'm trying to be approximately right rather than exactly wrong.

Anyway we're clearly working along similar lines although I try to sell as infrequently as possible - especially when a company is putting out in-line or above expectations announcements. To my mind I should run my winners, which means keeping the ones that are doing well operationally and going up in price, while always selling my losers (which means anything that warns on profits or any company which is very much hedging its bets in announcements and the price drifts down to my stop loss).


Blog: Ambling Randomly
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Trigger14 1st Feb '18 7 of 9

In reply to post #308153

Thanks. Yes I did change my approach quite drastically around mid 2016 to be more systematic and rigorous in only selecting from a high quality watchlist (well high quality as far as I can tell). I started the blog to keep track shortly afterwards and have been refining/experimenting with the details since then. It seems to be working out well so far though not been long yet.

I’m trying to run winners as well, though at the moment I’m probably being overly zealous in jumping ship if the price starts falling. I think maybe reading Minervini’s books has been a bad influence in making me want to trade too much, though it’s also partly because I’m preoccupied with how to approach a possible market crash e.g. when to start holding cash vs being fully invested. Do you have a plan for that or would you remain fully invested?

I think your filters sound well chosen so I’m interested to keep track of how they work in combination. I’ve noticed you also have a blog so will have a look. Best of luck

Blog: Quality Share Surfer
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Damian Cannon 2nd Feb '18 8 of 9

In reply to post #308223

Well I'm pretty much fully invested at the moment and was also fully invested in 2008-09 (which was a painful experience). I don't have any plan to start selling and moving to cash because I don't believe that I can forecast the next crash (I certainly couldn't last time).

However, unlike last time, I am now much less inclined to hold shares through thick and thin in the belief that they'll eventually recover. Now I'm much more likely to sell out even though that will crystallise an immediate "loss" and particularly so if most of my holdings are falling simultaneously. Obviously the devil is in the detail here - in a crash liquidity dries up and I may be simply unable to sell out at any reasonable price.

This being the case my underlying hope is that by choosing shares with some level of resilience and quality then they should be able to continue trading reasonably well during a market crash - which should lead to any correction being relatively short lived and/or shallow.

Still who really knows what will happen in the next crash and how I'll need to react!


Blog: Ambling Randomly
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RMundy 9th Mar '18 9 of 9

Interesting post Damian, and thought-provoking comments all. Thanks for taking the time.

The area I need to work on most is definitely the exit strategies, and having some firm rules like Minervini's 50% that you describe is something I think I need to implement. Perfect example is Fulham Shore (LON:FUL) which I should have scaled back months ago...

Have a good weekend chaps, R

Website: Research Tree
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