Sells: Clearing out small positions to build cash

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, August 8, 2011

Or perhaps a better title would have been, “Pruning during a forest fire.”

As the markets go through wild swings (no, that’s not right — swings move both ways — I mean “wild drops”), I feel as I often do at times like these: That I wish I had more cash to invest. I’d never want to clear out of a core position in a company that I believe in when the market is moving this way, but I am willing to clear out peripheral holdings and small holdings, or stocks that I have lost confidence in for one reason or another, or, simply, the relatively small number of holdings in my portfolio that I’m willing to lose on a stop loss order (that’s when you leave instructions for your broker to sell a stock if it falls by more than 20%, say, or 50% at any point in time — I use them occasionally, and many newsletters use them religiously to make sure they limit losses and never hold ugly losing positions in their portfolios for very long).

So that’s been my reaction this week — sell some stocks I’ve been long thinking about selling, partly as a way to stop myself from selling stocks that I still think are excellent, this does not feel like a time when you want to cling to the duds. This way, if markets fall still further over the next few days, I’ll have some more cash on hand to add to my favorite positions or to snap up new ideas that look like bargains. So with that said, here are the positions I’ve zeroed out and no longer hold in my portfolio — not surprisingly, they’re also stocks that I write about very rarely as they’re small holdings and not “high conviction” ideas of mine:

Ambrian (AMNZF) — Small brokerage in London for AIM stocks, have held for a while for a decent dividend, but not much conviction on the shares.

Exelixis (EXEL) — small biotech, sometimes shows promise but I’m tempted to get out of the “biotech picking” business.

Frontier Telecom (FTR) — Received these shares as a dividend from Verizon (VZ) — I still hold VZ, but never had a personal interest in FTR and am happy to lose the small position.

FTI Consulting (FCN) — This was an “idea of the month” pick a couple years ...

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