You always hear that "slow and steady wins the race." While I appreciate the premise of these words of wisdom, I don't think anyone will dispute that it has never been true in Olympic competition and as far as I am concerned, it is even less true on Wall Street. These are more myths that I have committed to dispel in this New Year. Because if my experiences have taught me anything it's that, sometimes "fast and furious" is just as effective. But regardless of your preference, the recurring theme in both mantras is timing.
The Anxiety of "When"
Here's another myth that has become so widespread of late, "you can't time the market." Not only is this not true, but with it, comes the implication that everyone is on the same timeframe or time zone, and the same investment objective. Clearly this is not possible. If you have been reading my articles of late, you would have discovered a sense of exactly where my thinking is. Said differently, is now the best time to secure profits when everything is going to so right? "Buy low and sell high" is one of only a handful of Wall Street themes to which I have subscribed. Even then, to successfully execute this strategy requires the perfect timing.
Several analysts concede that the perfect time to buy several of today's high fliers was in October (or some time before it) when firms such as Bank of America (BAC) was trading at $5 and when Sirius XM (SIRI) bottom at $1.27. Fast forward two months later - they are two of the hottest stocks on the market. But, if you are like me, it means you are faced with some decisions. Unlike some of the rises that we have seen in the market over the years, there hasn't been anything "slow and steady" in terms of the surge of neither the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 over the past two months. The points have come fast and they have come furious - which means, in such a manner, investors may likely see it disappear. I think this should be a reasonable expectation. As the stock market keeps surging higher, the "anxiety of when" only increases. "When" being the operative word in deciding of "when to buy" and "when to sell."
On the Clock
On Monday, stocks finished (for the most part) flat suggesting that investors have decided to take a break from all of the euphoria and looking for confirmation to sustain this rally - in other words, pausing for more information. I can only speculate that one such information will come from the Fed which will meet on Tuesday for the first time this year with a two-day session. The Fed's rate-setting panel will release its policy statement on Wednesday which will likely give investors an indication of "timing" and appropriate courses of action not only for this remaining quarter, but possibly the next two as well. As these decisions are being made, I will continue to monitor my portfolio and seek to minimize any undue "anxieties of when." Here are some stocks that are now on the clock and next to which I will place a flag.
Apple (AAPL) - Target $550
Apple has been on the clock for the past four months. Not only is this current quarter the most widely anticipated earnings announcement (arguably) of all time from any company, but the company's projects and product releases keep both investors and consumers on pins and needles - whether it's the iPhone 5 or iTV or the highly anticipated iPad 3 which has been rumored to be a smaller rival to Amazon's (AMZN) successful tablet and built for the sole purpose of "putting out the fire." So I think it is fair to say that Apple has never really been off the clock.
On Tuesday, after the market close, it will be like Christmas has (again) come and gone because the world will be able to (at least) enjoy a good night's sleep since its numbers will finally be known. Investors can expect a "decent" quarter from Apple as the company is likely to cash in on the recent success of its iPad 2. The consensus is that quarterly earnings per share will jump by 54.7% on a 44.3% surge in net sales. Last quarter, Apple sold 11.12 million iPads which represented a 166% unit increase over the prior year quarter. The company has also been experiencing explosive growth in its iPhone and Mac unit sales. Apple shares have risen 20.5% in the last year.
Research in Motion (RIMM) - Undecided
Research in Motion has been on the clock every day for the past year. I suppose the more appropriate term would be "life support." Ever since the company announced that both co-CEOs were demoted from the role of co-chairmen, I suggested that within 30 days, they both would be out as CEO. Well, it has taken 18 days if my count is correct. Two weeks ago, I gave you three ways that Research in Motion could be saved. On Monday, it became official that the company has placed a check mark next to one of the ways. Now as far as whether or not the company has found the right replacement is subject for debate. But I think it is more than fair to say that anyone else would be an immediate upgrade over the former leadership.
The two remaining components of the three are finding new markets and devote its attention toward services - specifically its Mobile Fusion software. The reality is, though turnaround stories often take a long time to be fully realized, but it is not impossible to develop. The same way that Apple was able to expand into new markets such as music, smart phones and now possibly TV and cloud services, RIM should seek new markets and understand that a turnaround is indeed possible. The question is, does it have what it takes to execute in the manner that it needs to in order to be successful? With this announcement of new leadership, (at least) it has bought itself some time. Will it waste it? - That too remains to be seen.
Micron (MU) - Target $10
Micron closed on Monday at $7.87 which represents an increase of 82% from its recent low of $4.32 in October. As with Sirius XM and Bank of America, Micron clearly touched bottom and the question now is, how long will the run last before the market realizes the fast and furious nature of 82% in such a short period of time? Will it be able to last until my target of $10 is reached? The sector in which it operates has been in a downward trend. But I thought that its shares had been so oversold that it deserved a long. But on the flip side, as much as I see its value, I'm inclined to think that it has now become overbought.
I first recommended the stock on January 3 when it traded around $6 and since then it has added 30% premiums. Its story is like many other tech and chip stocks that have fallen on hard times due in large part to macro events. Micron was beaten up for most of last year and it didn't help that it recently reported disappointing earnings results and missed expectations that were already "average" at best. It appears that the fortunes of the company are clearly starting to change and the market has taken notice.
Netflix (NFLX) - Target $125
For Netflix, the situation is a little bit different. Its timing effect has more to do with when it will be acquired and less to do with the movement of its stock. I'm a Netflix subscriber and I love the service. How else can one watch six seasons of the show "Lost" in six weeks? The company (to me) has tremendous value, but I just don't think it can thrive under its current leadership. The state of the company, or the fate of the company, continues to dominate articles and message boards everywhere. And now, it appears that the public relations nightmare that it caused several months ago over its recent price increase stirred up a lot of emotion and anger from its customers - to the extent that it has cost former CMO Leslie Kilgore her job.
Under new leadership or better yet, new ownership, this streaming market leader can once again rise once the company can convince the market that the subscriber defections have indeed been stabilized and it is no longer hemorrhaging cash. As heated as the competitive landscape is for its business, Netflix has the benefit of having a great lead in the market - something that any acquirer will not be able to immediately duplicate. For this reason, and as I've said previously, Netflix remains one of the top M&A targets of 2012.