Monday, September 15, 2008

Best Bets in a Falling US Market

Which stock are you going to buy in these bad times, if you happened to stay in the United States? Probably, nothing. But isn't that being foolish, being scared of the dips in the markets. Dips are good because they cleanse the system. The only problem, this time around, is that we don't know which sectors are well insulated. Automobiles are in the lurch and financial services, along with insurance and real estate, are to be avoided. That doesn't leave us much room. Pharma stocks are uncertain right now but they wouldn't be a bad bet in the long run.

Today, I would like to speak about a company that has never failed to amaze me. I am sure all of you have heard about it. We are talking about the great Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway and about its Class A stock, which is awfully expensive to buy.

You can track the stock here at the AOL Finance website. The current market price is $120,400, so, if you had the money, you could make a purchase. The stock has taken a beating because of the broader market trends and I find it a pretty defensive stock in these market conditions.

(This post does not purport to give advice in the stock markets and constitutes the personal views of the author.)

Only Good News in Stock Market Gloom

The only good news in the present stock market gloom is the fall in oil prices. Oil is selling a bit under $100 per barrel. It has really taken a hit from its highs of $140 odd per barrel. If we had a spike in oil price, even if it were a speculative one, or if we had any other oil related crisis the world over, it would send the financial markets in a real tailspin.

There is real fear on Wall Street. And most companies believe that they might be the next after the fall of Lehmann Brothers. So, the United States government, along with its friends in the OPEC, should ensure stability, or even better a fall, in oil prices for the next week or two till the present crisis subsides. One also hopes that Wall Street does not come up with further gloomy news.

Collapse in Stock Markets

There is a major fall in the stock markets. Wall Stress has been badly bruised. Another one of the venerable financial firms has collapsed. Lehman Brothers is no more and it had been there for the last 158 years. And add to this, another bit, Merrill Lynch has decided to sell itself to Bank of America. And AIG, American International Group, which offered Tata-AIG insurance in India, is trying to keep afloat.

This wave of collapses some after an earlier wave, where we had Bear Stearns being sold off for a pittance. And Citi taking in a big write-down. We also had Fannie and Freddie in deep waters.

The Indian markets are ruling about 4.5% down at the moment. Interestingly, there is nothing which is so serious with India that it should be fall. So, this is actually sentimental. Yes, when the US sneezes, the world catches a cough.

It is undoubtedly shocking and very terrifying for anyone who is into the financial markets right now. But there isn't much room for real panic for the people in the Indian stock markets. In fact, I would suggest my NRI friends and other foreign nationals to seek avenues for investment in the Indian markets.

There is good and real qualitative money to be made from the Indian markets at this juncture. The only important thing to keep in mind is to adopt an intelligent approach.

Management Lessons from Dhirubhai Ambani

For those of you, who haven't heard of the great Dhirubhai Ambani, you have heard nothing all your lives. He was one man who rose from middle class beginnings and became one of India's biggest industrialists. He singlehandedly created Reliance Industries, the great brand and the conglomorate that it is today.

Here is one management gem from him:

Dhirubhaism: Change your orbit, constantly!

He would often explain that we are all born into an orbit. It is up to us to progress to the next. We could choose to live and die in the orbit that we are born in. But that would be a criminal waste of potential. When we push ourselves into the next orbit, we benefit not only ourselves but everyone connected with us. Take India's push for development. There was once a time our country's growth rate was just 4 per cent. Look at us today, galloping along at a healthy 7-8 per cent. This is no miracle. It is the product of a handful of determined orbit changers like Dhirubhai, all of whose efforts have benefited a larger sphere in their respective fields.

However, when you change orbits, you will create friction. The good news is that your enemies from your previous orbit will never be able to reach you in your new one. By the time resentment builds up in your new orbit, you should move to the next level. And so on.

Changing orbits is the key to our progress as a nation.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Alexa Ranks and Further News

I am really sorry, my dear folks, about my absence, or rather my silence. It has been few days but the truth of the matter is that I was exceptionally busy with a number of things, and so busy, that I didn't even have the time to complete my sleep well. I'm not exactly out of the woods yet but would surely be soon.

The good news here is that we have broken into the first million with the Alexa rank as of today. The latest Alexa rank of this blog is:

944, 361

This is really a very important milestone and it means a lot.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Stock Picking Strategies: Cherry Picking

There are a number of stock picking strategies. One of them is known as cherry picking. The idea of cherry picking is to buy those stocks which are available at rock bottom prices or which are going through bad times due to various reasons. Cherry picking is a sure short strategy but something that requires a lot of patience from the investor. It is quite possible for the investor to lose faith and exit quickly, which would either result in a loss or in minimal profits.

So, how do you pick the cherries? If you were in the US, should you buy General Motors (GM)? I'm a member of Social Picks, the social networking site on stocks that Reuters runs. I am upbeat on General Motors but a number of other investors feel that it is an absolutely wrong and foolhardy choice. But wait a bit... GM is a pretty old company, which is going through really bad times. There are fears that the company could fold up. The stock price is really down. But does it mean that the company would file for bankruptcy protection? Not really.

The company is going through what are known as classic recessionary conditions. Accumulating such a stock in small and regular quantities is not a very bad idea. It has its risks and it requires a high degree of patience on part of the investor. But it also has the potential of creating decent profits. The only risk with a company like GM is if it were to file for bankruptcy or were to be bundled out for a cheap price, like Bear Stearns. Unless that happens, any worse case scenarios aren't so bad. The company could recover from high oil prices and falling sales. The United States could recover from the recession. If GM performs very badly, it could be taken over by another foreign company, which might as well have a positive effect on stock price.

So, if you think logically, cherry picking isn't such a bad idea.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Obama's Latest

This seems just off the wires. I don't know how authentic this is or whether it is simply one of those rhetorical comments by a budding politician. I found a rather sensational piece of news on the Indian Express website, where it quoted Obama saying that 'Pakistan is preparing for a war with India'.

You can read the news here.

Recent Stock Market Experiences

Now, believe me, I'm not bragging at all. I had bought shares of Apollo Tyres last month for Rs. 30 a share and today, after the fall in the markets, Apollo Tyres is still selling at Rs. 37 a share. So, we are essentially talking about a profit of Rs. 7 or 23% profit within a month. I don't think that's bad. I could have easily sold my stock. But I am trying to change my investing strategy these days. For a long time in life, I have tried my hand at various trading strategies, inluding day trading, BTST (Buy today-sell tomorrow), very short term trading (with a week's margin), short term and medium term investing (selling stocks at a profit within a time frame of two to six months).

But now, I would like to try my hand at a very different investing strategy in life. There was a time in life, about ten years ago, when I used to follow this strategy. But those days, this strategy wasn't very well worked out in my mind. Now, it seems that it has been well worked out mentally. These days, I have begun investing in stocks the same way as one invests money in long term bank deposits. I am now following the classic long term investment strategy and I have this strong feeling that it is going to pay me pretty well.

Stock Market Moves

Isn't it nice when you find that your own evaluations of the stock markets are backed by well-known brokerages? On August 11, 2008, Anand Rathi, a well-known Indian brokerage recommended Development Credit Bank [DCB] at the current market price of Rs. 58 with a stop loss of Rs. 50 and a medium term target of Rs. 78. Earlier this year, I had bought the stock at Rs. 110 and sold it at Rs. 145 within a short span of three weeks. So, when it started falling and it reached a low of Rs. 45, I thought that was the right time to buy it. But when I was signalling a buy in my personal charts, there was no brokerage recommending it. But now when it began rising a bit, we have Anand Rathi recommending a buy.

I find this really interesting. And fascinating. I am only hampered by big time finance, which is why I am still a small time player. With more finance or with investment finance from some of my friends, I could do a pretty good deal. I would not be able to beat the legendary Warren Buffett because he has been a genius and I have often found him pretty inspiring. But I would have done pretty well if I had started off with an investment partnership.

And I would do pretty well even if I opened one right away!

Crash at Wall Street

Yesterday, there was a major crash at Wall Street and it seems that the experts did not seem to know the reason behind it. As a result, there was a major sell-off in Asia and Asian indices fell heavily across the board. The Bombay Stock Exchange in India fell 415 points. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell and breached 20,000, which is the lowest in seventeen months. It seems as if the economists expect the United States to have lost another 70,000 jobs last month. There are still fears of recession in Europe. Interestingly, this fall in the Wall Street came yesterday even as oil prices fell. Usually, a fall in oil prices leads to a rise in stock prices. So, the movement in the markets yesterday was somewhat perplexing. It seems as if the markets are still trying to find their bottom and they don't seem to have stabilized anywhere at all, despite some rally in stocks that we saw in the eight weeks or so. Oil has certainly fallen from its peaks but the stocks would still need another booster dose to get fired up. This also means that any rise in oil prices could have a rather debilitating effect on the stock markets worldwide, especially with the depressed market sentiments.

Palin Good for the Democrats, Too

I thought this was a pretty fascinating little piece-->

Notes on Blogging

The difficult thing about blogging is that you should blog every day or few times a day even though the format of the blog allows you the freedom to be erratic. However, you should blog every day for a variety of reasons, which include your being a 'professional blogger' but they also include the fact that a blog is a constantly read document. It is a weblog, a web diary, but it is also something that people read and if you have few readers who would read your blog regularly, it would be so painful for them to log onto your site any given day and not find anything new. So, even if you don't have commercial reasons for blogging, you should blog for the sake of those who would like to read what you write.

Further Updates

One of my former students has been asking me to lend him some books that would help him increase his knowledge about Parsis and about the Zoroastrian community. I have been slow to respond here for the simple reason that I have been possessive of my books. But I would lend him some of my books and that gave me another idea-->

Why shouldn't I also write about it on my blog?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Latest Alexa Ranks--Going up fast

Dear Folks,

The latest Alexa rank for my blog is 1,085,320. On August 27th, it was 1,236,843, which you can read here

The Alexa rank on August 23 was 1,370,821 about which you can read here-->

And the Alexa rank on August 21, 2008 was 1,485,817 and you can read about it here-->

So, in the last two weeks, we have moved up 400,000 in Alexa rankings for our blog. I know it would be tough to grow at the same pace in the coming days but I am sure your support and repeat visits would certainly help.

Thanks a lot, folks.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Personal Note

I am sorry for being lax for the last four days. I had promised myself that I would have one hundred posts in August but I missed it by a whisker. But that doesn't mater. I understand that you might have found my silences deafening. I am sorry about it but I was too fatigued to write anything here. There was a lot of physical fatigue that caught up with me and I was too busy with some other projects.