My portfolio at the end of 2017
Here’s the summary of my positions at the end of 2017. Please note that any PE’s that I give are always based on adjusted earnings, which very rarely may also have small modifications of my own.
Let me start off with a thought (very slightly paraphrased) that Mauser posted during the month. It’s wonderful, and I don’t want you to miss it: What matters is what you buy, not what you didn’t buy. The latter will always include stocks that beat your performance. What an insightful thought!!! It can really help you to quit berating yourself about the ones you missed, as long as the ones you bought did well. It has helped me.
My portfolio closed the year up 84.2%. Believe me, when we started the year, I never would have expected that. It’s far beyond what I anticipated. As I remember, I was talking about hoping to average 20% going forward. Don’t expect an 84% result like that from me, or from yourself, next year, or any year. If it comes, we can be happy, but don’t set yourself up for disappointment with wildly unrealistic expectations.
This has been a cooperative effort, in which we have all helped each other to find great stocks, discuss them and evaluate them. I have certainly got many of my stocks from posters on this board. Thanks to you all, and again, PLEASE don’t expect me to be up another 84% next year! It ain’t goin’ to happen.
I wrote last month that “I know that there’s no way this can continue like this forever, and that there are bound to be reverses. By the end of next month the results may be significantly down from these levels for all I know.” It turns out they are. I wasn’t a star this month. The position I added in a big way is down. The ones I sold did better. That’s life.
As far as my portfolio being down from a month ago, I’m no good on timing the market, and I don’t try. If I did, I would probably have exited all my positions at the end of April, when I was up 26% in four months and was “aware” that it was “impossible” and couldn’t continue like that. It’s hard to remember now, but…back at the end of April, up 26% seemed like a ridiculously enormous amount in four months, and way “over-bought.”
For the end of the year, I thought I’d also give you some long-term results:
For the last 10 years (since the end of 2007), I am up 149.6% (or at 249.6% of where I started, a two and a half bagger, for those who count baggers.)
For the last 20 years (since the end of 1997), I am up 4654.0% (or at 4754.0% of where I started, a forty-seven and a half bagger.)
Please note that my 10-year results at the end of 2018 will be almost triple these current 10-year results, even if I just break even in 2018, as 2008 will finally ride off into the sunset. Basically it’s because my 10-year results a year from now will start after the big market crash of 2008, while my current 10-year results start the year before it. I hope that that makes sense.
For example, right now, while my current 10-year results are up only 149.6%, my current 9-year results are up 563.0% (because they start at the end of 2008), so if I just break even in 2018, the 10-year results will still be up 563%, and if I can eke out a 10% gain, my 10-year results will be up 629.3%.
The three indexes that I’ve been tracking against are as follows:
The S&P 500 finshed up 19.9% for the year. (It started the year at 2239 and is now at 2684). Some people like dividend-added results. This would add a couple of percent, but make no significant difference in the overall comparisons. I will keep using actual price results for consistency with my earlier summaries.
The Russell 2000 Small Cap Index finished up 13.6% for the year. (It started the year at 1357 and is now at 1542).
The IJS Small Cap Value ETF finished up 9.7% for the year. (It started the year at 140.0 and is now at 153.6).
These three indexes thus averaged up 14.4% for the year. (The average would be a point or so higher if you use the S&P with dividends added). You can make your own comparisons of my results (and your own), with the averages.
You may ask, “Why these three indexes?” When I started this board I compared my results to the S&P 500. Then I considered that the S&P is all large caps, and smaller caps tend to do better over the long term, so I added the Russell 2000, a small and mid-cap standard. Then last year, it was claimed that the IJS, which tracks the S&P 600 Small Cap Value Index, has the best long term results. So I added the IJS. This gives me 500 large caps (the S&P), 2000 small and mid caps (the Russell), and 600 small cap value stocks (the IJS), which combined ought to give me a very representative set of standards to compare against. I’m sure some people will say “Why not drop this index and add that one?” but these are the three indexes I compare against currently, and I will probably continue to do so. I think they give me a pretty good approximation of how the market overall is doing.
Does anyone still doubt that intelligent stock picking with a modified buy-and-hold strategy can beat any index or average? How could it not? When an “average” is just that: an average of good, mediocre, and poor companies?
Here’s a little table of the monthly progress of my results so far this year:
**End of Jan + 8.5%** **End of Feb +13.9%** **End of Mar +20.4%** **End of Apr +26.1%** **End of May +36.2%** **End of Jun +38.1%** **End of Jul +45.7%** **End of Aug +48.7%** **End of Sep +64.8%** **End of Oct +76.6%** **End of Nov +97.0%** **End of Dec +84.2%**
I’m sure that some of you have done even better, as I made some bad choices along the way that cratered as soon as I bought them, and others that continued going up after I sold them.
The stocks I’ve been in since the beginning of the year are Arista, LGI Homes and Shopify, and they make up 32.8% of my current portfolio.
For those who want a time frame, current positions I added since Jan 1st have been:
Feb – Talend
Mar – Square, Hubspot
Aug – Nvidia
Sep – Nutanix
Oct – Wix
Nov – Nektar
Dec - Alteryx
During Dec I sold out of my positions in Ubiquiti and Splunk, and also the one I had taken in Varonis, when I decided to take a full position in Alteryx. I exited Ubiquiti because it was one in which I had lower longterm confidence, Splunk because I liked Alteryx better, and Varonis because I preferred Alteryx’s 50% growth rate and low cost of customer acquisition to Varonis’ 30% growth rate. In Nov I took little try-outs in Align and Nektar. I decided to exit Align and keep Nektar, but in a smallish position. I’ve continued to add to it, but it is still small at about 2.6%. I wrote at the end of Sept that Alarm and Brinks were little positions that I wasn’t sure I’d keep. I sold out of Brinks in October and out of Alarm in November, not because I found anything wrong with them, but because they just weren’t my really my kind of company, and I needed cash for other purchases. I sold out of Instructure in Nov because I felt it would be years until they showed a profit, if then, in spite of everyone loving their products. I’ve toyed with taking a tiny position back, but I haven’t. I was briefly in and out of a small position in Teladoc in September. I liked the story but then realized that they had just taken on a lot of debt to make a very expensive large acquisition of a no-growth company, and the story reminded me too much of Synchronoss. In October, I was briefly in and out of TFSL, a little bank stock. Nothing wrong with it, a good value stock, but just not my thing. Twilio was a tryout in August. I never built up my position and exited it in September. It was my second trial with it and I just wasn’t comfortable. I held Kite since January but it was bought out in September for a huge gain. I exited Mulesoft and Splunk also in September. I had held Mulesoft since March and finally gave up on it. I started the year with Splunk. In fact I held it for about a year, and it went nowhere for most of that time. It was reorganizing its business model, but diluting its stock a great deal, and I just had had enough. I liked the “story,” but I felt I had better places for my money. I dipped my toe back in in October, but as I wrote above, I sold it in December.
Here’s how my stocks have done during 2017. I’ve arranged them in order of percentage gain. I’ve used the start of the year price for stocks I’ve been in all year, and my initial buy price for stocks I’ve added during the year.
Note that the prices of my positions Shopify, Square, Arista, Talend, Nvidia, and Alteryx were all down this month! Only Hubspot, LGIH, Nutanix, Wix, and my little position in Nektar, were up.
**CURRENT POSITIONS**. **LGI Homes** from 28.73 to 75.0, **up 161.1%** **Arista** from 96.80 to 235.6, **up 143.4%** **Shopify** from 42.90 to 101.0, **up 135.4%** **Square** from 17.50 to 34.67, **up 98.1%** **Hubspot** from 62.4 to 88.4, **up 41.7%** **Talend** from 26.80 to 37.48, **up 39.9%** **Nvidia** from 161.2 to 193.5 **up 20.0%** (3rd time) **NEWER POSITIONS taken in the last 4 months** **Nutanix** from 21.70 to 35.28, **up 62.6%** **Nektar** from 46.0 to 59.7, **up 29.8%** **Alteryx** from 27.72 to 25.27, **down 8.8%** **Wix** from $69.20 to 57.55, **down 16.8%** **EXITED POSITIONS THIS YEAR** (showing prices when I entered or the beginning of this year, and when I exited) **Kite** from 47.50 to 179.00, **up 276.8%** PayCom from 45.50 to $69.00, up 51.6% Splunk from 51.15 to 67.75, up 32.5% (1st time) Amazon from 750 to 985, up 31.3% Splunk from 64.50 to 84.00 up 30.2 (2nd time) Horton from $8.31 to $10.44, up 25.6% (1st time) Horton from $10.90 to $12.75, up 17.0% (2nd time) Ubiquiti from $57.80 to $66.90 up 15.7% Nvidia from $146.3 to $166.1 up 13.5% (2nd time) Brinks from 79.70 to 85.65 up 7.5% Instructure from 31.75 to 34.05, up 7.1% Signature Bank from $150 to $160 up 6.7% A O Smith from $51.10 to $53.80 up 5.5% Twilio from $28.85 to $30.00 up 4.0% (1st time) Alarm from 43.85 to 45.50 up 3.8% Nvidia from $149.5 to $154.4 up 3.3% (1st time) Align from $255.0 to $261.1 up 2.4% Wix from $73.25 to $74.00 up 1.0% (1st time) TFSL from $15.80 to $15.79 down 0.1% Trade Desk from $51.90 to $50.65 down 2.4% New Relic from 47.2 to 44.75, down 5.2% Varonis from 51.00 to 48.00 down 5.9% Mulesoft from 22.25 to 20.80, down 6.5% Twilio from $30.90 to $28.75 down 7.5% (2nd time) BlackLine from 37.40 to 29.95, down 19.9%
I also exited four biopharmas in July (Cellectis, ZioPharma, bluebird, and Matinas) at prices ranging from a gain of 20% (Cellectis) to a loss of 42% (Matinas). All of the positions were tiny and none of the results were material as far as my portfolio results.
I’d like to note that since 2010 (with fears of a double dip recession), well-intentioned people have been warning us constantly that another bear market and/or recession is coming. “The bull market is too old.” or “The market is too high.” or “This technical indicator proves the the market is in a bubble.” All of their charts and indicators proved it in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and again this year in 2017. Really, I’ve heard the same song every year! Eventually they’ll be right, and think “See! I was right all along!”
Of course a marked correction will come eventually. Look, it could come next week for all I know! But we never really know when. And what a price those people have paid in “keeping their powder dry” and staying out of this market for the past eight years, waiting for the big correction that never came. Picking good stocks makes much more sense than trying to pick good stocks AND trying to time the market too.
I don’t see ANY euphoria. All I hear is warnings! It seems to me the market is climbing a wall of worry. Also large caps (S&P) are up much more than small caps (Russell and IJS), which doesn’t sound like people are wildly casting aside caution. But what do I know?
Now let’s look at my position sizes. I’m still trying to keep my portfolio concentrated and streamlined and I’m currently back down to 11 positions.
Here are the positions in order of position size.
**Shopify 14.7%** **Arista 12.6%** **Hubspot 12.2%** **Alteryx 12.1%** **Nutanix 11.9%** **Square 10.1%** **Talend 6.9%** **LGI Homes 5.5%** **Wix 4.9%** **Nvidia 4.8%** **Nektar 2.6%**
Eye-balling that list you can see that there is one over-sized position (Shopify), five quite large positions running from 12.6% to 10.1%, then four mid-size positions running from 6.9% to 4.8%, and finally, Nektar, a small position at 2.6%. (It was 0.9% a month ago but I kept adding small amounts as it rose).
Let’s start with Shopify, my largest position.
Shopify helps small merchants, and increasingly larger ones, open and operate online stores. It’s growing VERY fast, and grew to be my largest position by far. It got up much higher than I was comfortable with, and well above what I recommend to others, and I’ve trimmed it down some, mostly for cash. I know that it’s still quite a large position, but I haven’t seen too many Shopifys in a lifetime of investing.
I bought Shopify last year at about $27 as I remember… It closed Friday at $101, which is up about 274% since I bought it maybe a year and a half ago (but down almost $11 this month). Growth is slowing slightly with size but it remains an incredible success story.
This is a SaaS company with no GAAP earnings. They guided to positive adjusted earnings in the December quarter, but they surprised, as I predicted they would, with positive earnings a quarter early (in the Sept quarter). Revenue is almost all recurring in one sense or another. They weathered a short attack from Citron in October. It’s a smaller percent of my total portfolio than it used to be, partly because its price was hit by the short attack while the rest of my portfolio was going up, but also, as I said, I sold some for cash, including some this month. It’s still well above my next four positions, which are grouped close to each other.
Arista is in second place at 12.6%. I’ll let Smorgasbord explain what they do:
They make ethernet switches, which has been Cisco’s bread and butter for decades. However, instead of each switch being its own separate entity, Arista’s switches use SDN (Software Defined Networking), which enables the entire network (no matter how complex) to be modeled and controlled via software
Arista was founded by a small group of very smart people who used to work at Cisco. They developed a better way of doing something (using SDN), but Cisco didn’t want to deploy it (the legacy dinosaur’s dilemma) because it would undermine their legacy products. So the Arista guys (and gal) left, started their own company, and got sued by Cisco because they are taking market share left and right. They have been moving up steadily as the threat from Cisco’s law suits diminishes, but like Shopify, they were also down this month, about $6.40 to $235.60,.
Their last quarter was another incredible one with revenue up 51%, and up 8% sequentially, and EPS up 89% year over year and 21% sequentially. I bought some after earnings, even though it had already shot up. I added more in December at $217 and $229.
Hubspot is now in third place at 12.2%. It’s another SaaS company with very rapid growth, lots of recurring revenue, and just breaking into positive adjusted earnings.
What does it do? It’s a complicated and long description, so see my Oct end of the month summary, which you can access on the right panel of this page
They’ve been reporting great earnings and revenue and raising guidance regularly. This quarter they moved their conference (which fell into the Dec quarter last year), back into the Sept quarter where it usually is, but this cost them about 12 or 13 cents in yoy comparisons in the Sept quarter. This just didn’t register for casual observers, and the stock initially fell somewhat. Then smarter people figured out what was going on, and the price finished up about $6 on the month to finish at $88.40. This month there was a rather foolish short attack by Citron, and the price has actually risen quite a bit since then. I net added a bit this month at $82.
Alteryx is now in fourth place at 12.1%. It’s a new position and I have written interminably about it this month, so I won’t repeat myself. It is now at $25.27, down about 8.8% from my initial purchases. It’s very rare that I take a large position like this in a new stock within a few weeks.
Nutanix is still in fifth place at 11.9%. It was a new position in September, which I entered when Bert praised it very highly, and it was discussed at great length on the board at the time, with a lot of skepticism. While Nvidia has gotten a lot of adulation on the board, it is up just 20% since I bought it in August, while Nutanix, which got all the skepticism is up 62% since September, when I took that position. It was up about a dollar this month. I added to my position at $35.
Nutanix is growing revenue at a great rate, has loads of deferred revenue ($409 million last quarter, up 48% from the year before), but no earnings as of yet. It’s area is “hyper-converged infrastructure” in data storage. Like Arista, in a way, it sells hardware, but what counts is its software and operating system. They are, in fact, doing away with the pass-through zero-margin hardware that they were selling, and pivoting to be a pure software company (also moving towards a SaaS model). This makes their revenue look growth look deceptively slow (hardware sales no longer being counted).
Square has dropped to sixth place, at 10.1% of my portfolio, and at a price of $34.67, it gave back all it had risen in November. I started my position in March at an average price of about $17.50, and have added several times along the way, but then selling a little at about $45.50 and $47.00. It’s proportion of my portfolio is mostly due to the large stock price drop during the month.
Square is also growing revenue like mad (45% last quarter, which accelerated from 41% growth the quarter before), and also has a lot of recurring revenue. It has been profitable for the past six quarters, but not a huge amount.
Square’s original purpose was to allow any merchant with a mobile device to be able to accept card payments. Since then, it has evolved into a robust payments solutions business, and it also provides more sophisticated services such as:
Instant Deposit, which allows retailers to receive money instantly in their bank accounts upon swiping a customer’s credit card, instead of waiting up to four days. For each instant deposit, Square charges 1%. This is incredibly lucrative for Square, as it’s a three-to-four day loan at 1% (which is a huge compound rate, at little risk).
Square Capital is a service that facilitates loans to Square’s merchants, who pay the loan back gradually, as a percent of transactions. These loans especially appeal to small businesses that don’t normally have access to capital. And, because Square is so familiar with its customers’ businesses, it can decide whom to offer loans to with a high degree of safety.
Caviar – this might seem an odd service for a payments company. After all, restaurant delivery and pick up services are fiercely competitive. However, Caviar has quickly grown since coming aboard. The most important thing is that restaurants that use it often sign up for all the rest of Square’s services.
Talend is in seventh place at 6.9%, and a price of $37.48, down about $5 on the month. I wrote it up early in May, and you can probably look up my summary. Suffice it to say that it’s another big-data analyzer that is growing very rapidly, has no earnings, but has huge amounts of deferred revenue, and is free cash flow positive. I consider it a category crusher as well as a disrupter, as it seems to have no effective competition at present. In the May conference call the CEO said:
…our win rates remain ridiculously high, which is evident from the growth rate… The market dynamic is that the large (legacy) players continue to be challenged, and long term I think most of the competitive battle is going to be fought with very small players that are trying to get up to scale right now. So we’re in this kind of special period in the middle right now (with no functioning competitors) and we’ll see how long that lasts.
This still seems to be the situation. I added to my position this month at about $39.75.
LGI Homes is now in eighth place at 5.5%. That’s down from 9.1% a month ago. LGIH is a small home builder that specializes to selling first homes to apartment dwellers. It started this year at $28.75 and is now at $75.00, which is up 161%, and up $7.50 this month alone. You know the story about their weak closings in Jan and Feb, followed by huge closings numbers from May to Oct. They “weathered” the Sept hurricanes without excessive damage, and they are opening new communities like mad. I pleaded with guys on this board who had “lost faith in management” and sold out 161% ago, not to do it. I tried!
I realize that this is a cyclical industry, and that it eventually will get overbuilt, but there is a nationwide shortage of homes now, and they are selling them as fast as they can build them. Their current PE is 17.4.
What have I done this month? I’ve continued to reduce my position. Why? First, this is a stock in a cyclical industry. Second it’s up over 290% from the $19 it was at two years ago, and up over 160% from the $28 it was at earlier this year, and Third, it’s gotten a lot bigger by growing and opening new communities, but it will hit the law of big numbers and the RATE of growth will gradually slow down. I certainly haven’t exited, or even considered exiting, but it’s now one of my mid-sized positions, while it used to be my second largest, which was just too big for a home builder after such a large fast rise.
I believe LGIH will continue to beat estimates, and to grow revenue and earnings, just perhaps not at a 50% rate again. Note that it will have great closings comparisons in Jan and Feb comparing to the very weak months in 2017, and thus a spectacular Mar 2018 quarter comparison to 2017. (Remember though that they had extraordinary June through November closings this year, and comparisons won’t be as favorable as the first quarter.
Wix is in ninth place at 4.9% and a price of $57.55, up $2.70 on the month. It’s been discussed a lot on the board. It’s growing very rapidly, at 50%, 51%, and 47% the last three quarters. Its Free Cash Flow and Operating Cash Flow both keep growing every quarter. And they finally made a small profit last quarter after breaking even the quarter before. They also came out in December with a new product called Code, which was very well received. I originally took a position at about $70. I sold some in November when I got discouraged when they fell a huge amount after earnings, but I bought most of it back this quarter.
Nvidia is in tenth place at 4.7%, at a price of $193.50, down $23.50 on the month. I got back into it in August, talked into it by all the great write-ups and discussion by members of the board. I have nothing that will add to the discussion, except that I was making an exception in buying shares in a “chip” company, but I have since learned that they are at least 50% a software company. I sold some during the month for cash.
Nektar is in eleventh and last place, at 2.6% of my portfolio, and a price of $59.70, up $7 from the end of November, which, as I mentioned above, has irons in the fire in a number of biopharma areas, and good partnerships. I took my initial position at $46 in November and the stock price rose from there and I kept adding small amounts. It’s really something that I don’t try to keep up with. It’s just to have a little representation in the biopharma field.
I wrote in my November summary about a peculiar sequence: Friday, before the opening, Nektar announced that one of its products didn’t reach the looked for results and was being terminated. It was off 7% to 8% in the premarket. I thought that this was a peripheral product and I hadn’t even figured it into my hopes for the company, and I added to my little position at down 7.4% in the premarket. Later in the day I saw that it was back to unchanged, and by the end of the day it closed up 6%. Up 6% because one of its products was being closed down??? The only thing I can figure is that momentum players and robo computers saw it going back up, didn’t know anything about it and just bought because it was going up. It’s a strange world we live in, but that made my buys in the premarket very lucky purchases.
Totals. In past months I’ve explained that my total positions for my portfolio added up to 102% to 104%, because I had a 2% to 4% margin across my entire portfolio. I currently have roughly a 1% positive cash position, and my stock positions should thus add up to about 99%.
What happened this month? I think a lot of our companies went up too fast and too far, and are taking a rest. On the other hand, I couldn’t understand at all a number of them having drops on Friday, the last trading day of the year. Why in the world would anyone sell a stock with a big profit on the last day of the year, when he or she could sell the next trading day and be albe to wait until Apr 2019 to pay taxes on the gain. My only explanatory guess is that it was hedge funds, etc, putting on shorts.
What will happen next year? I don’t have a clue. I’ve heard though that big winners this year, like Apple, Facebook, and Netflix, now have large short positions. I imagine it’s the same for a number of our stocks, and I have to think that’s a big positive for the year.
Finishing up. When I take a regular position in a stock, it’s always with the idea of holding it indefinitely, or as long as circumstances seem appropriate, and never with a price goal or with the idea of trying to make a few points and selling. I do, of course, eventually exit after months, or sometimes years, but I’m talking about what my intention is when I buy.
I do sometimes take a tiny position in a company to put it on my radar and get me to learn more about it. I’m not trying to trade it and make money on it, I’m just trying to decide if I want to keep it long term. If I do try out a stock in a small position and later decide that it’s not what I want, I sell it without hesitation, and I really don’t care whether I gain a dollar or lose one. I just sell out to put the money somewhere better. If I decide to keep it, I add to my position and build it into a regular position.
You should never just try to follow what I’m doing without making up your own mind about a stock. In these monthly summaries I’m giving you a static picture of where I am currently, but I may change my mind about a position during the month. In fact, I not infrequently do, and I make changes in the position. I usually don’t announce these changes until the end of the month, and if I’m busy or have some personal emergency I might not announce them even then. Don’t just follow me blindly! I’m an old guy and won’t be around forever. The key is to learn how to do this for yourself.
Since I began in 1989, my entire portfolio has grown enormously. If you are new to the board and want to find out how I did it, and how you can try to do it yourself, I’d suggest you read posts #4 through #8 at the beginning of the board, and especially the Knowledgebase that Neil keeps for us, which is a compilation of words of wisdom, and definitely worth reading (a couple of times) if you haven’t yet.
I hope this has been helpful.
For Knowledgebase for this board,
please go to Posts #17774, 17775 and 17776.
We had to post it in three parts this time.