Nearly Out Of Fresh Ideas Except For Cash

by: Mike Arnold

I have a global perspective when investing in marketable securities. I also have a bias towards a contrarian orientation.

As such, one of my favorite investors of all time is Sir John Templeton, considered by some to be the pioneer in international investing and staunch contrarian.

Accordingly, one of my favorite quotes from Templeton is:

Do not tell me where the news is best - tell me where it is the worst.

Readers of my previous column will note the subject companies discussed range the globe and industry sectors, many times where the news is the worst.

I mean, who would be crazy enough to invest in these companies?

I go where the headlines tell me to, even while others might be headed for the exit. Gold prices are plummeting, great, where is value in that sector?

Egypt is undergoing political turmoil, awesome (from an investment perspective), what is the best value in Cairo? Europe is in shambles, sweet (again, from an investment perspective), what companies are quietly global businesses with a large portion of sales and profits occurring in healthier markets?

Like Sir John Templeton observed, when there is uncertainty, price becomes volatile and, because markets are inefficient, they tend to overshoot fair value in both directions depending on sentiment. There is still a lot of value in this market, investors just need to follow the headlines. Another asset class that is under fire: cash.

Cash is trash, some pundits say. They say there is too much opportunity cost in holding it, including the potential of eroding purchasing power if inflation rears its head. That is true. But the opportunity cost in not holding cash is not being able to buy up securities that become suddenly become bargains.

Because of the "water cooler risk" [1] of holding cash, that might be precisely the reason to hold it right now. Of course, there could be some gains to miss on the upside, but preservation of capital (and purchasing power) is just as important as big returns for long term investment success.

In an effort to be transparent, I have included my portfolio in order from largest to smallest, to show readers how I have positioned myself for the time being. [2] [3]

  • Cash (38%)
  • Vivendi (20%)
  • Orkla (9%)
  • NCR (NYSE:NCR) (9%)
  • First Pacific (5%)
  • Syneron Medical (5%)
  • Billabong (5%)
  • Orascom (4%)
  • Grupo Prisa (2%)
  • Nova Gold (2%)

Each asset has specific catalysts which I discussed in each column I linked to above, if investors want more detail.


I share Sir John Templeton's views: buy at the moment of maximum pessimism and search for value where the news is worst. Today that is in the gold miners, Europe and companies such as Billabong and Grupo Prisa that are or were subject to a binary event of bankruptcy or multibagger upside, depending on the outcome of debt restructuring.

And lastly, cash, as an attractive asset class as it is for safety and for opportunistic reasons, it is derided by investors as being trash. You know what they say: one man's garbage is another man's treasure.


[1] To my knowledge, I made this term up. Water cooler risk according to me is the risk of getting jealous of your colleagues as they talk about racking up paper gains, while not participating in a stock market rally. It is a risk inducing phenomenon.

[2] Rounded to nearest point, differences due to rounding.

[3] I have a limit order set for Dundee Corporation (OTCPK:DDEJF) and Dundee International REIT (OTC:DUNDF), both are thinly traded OTC.

Disclosure: I am long OTCPK:VIVHY, OTCPK:ORKLY, NCR, OTCPK:FPAFY, ELOS, OTCPK:BLLAY, OTCPK:ORSCY, PRIS.B, NG. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.