Friday File: Panic in the time of Purell

More thoughts on how to invest through the coronavirus panic, along with some buys and sells in the Real Money Portfolio this week

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, March 6, 2020


It’s been an unusually active month in the Real Money Portfolio — a couple big sells, several brand new positions, and quite a bit more churn than I usually have. Those transactions have mostly been fairly small, the largest position that I opened or closed was the sale of my sub-2% Facebook position, but that’s still a total of close to 10% of the portfolio that’s been bought and sold in a few weeks, much more than is typical for me.

The reasons are varied… over the past several weeks I stopped out of two fairly large positions that I have been ready to sell for some time, Fairfax Financial (FFH.TO, FRFHF) and Facebook, had huge gains that I felt I had to take in some derivatives (DocuSign options and Virgin Galactic warrants), and ran into good-looking valuations in several long-time positions that I added to pretty recently, and then I also happened to come across several appealing smaller growth stocks whose prices looked relatively appealing, a few of which I bought (PAR, FSLY, TDOC and ROKU most recently). And the selling was larger than the buying, so my cash balance has built back up a little bit, getting close to 10% again, which suits me fine in the current environment — I see lots of things that I’m willing to buy in smaller bites, but nothing that I think is at insanely low “gotta go in big now” prices. Not yet, at least.

But what, now, do we do during the waning hours of a crazy week, when stocks have recovered and then fallen again as rumors and conjecture and fear over COVID-19 have turned into the first inklings of real economic impact in the US? To some extent the market reaction over the past day or two seems to just be from the acknowledgement that the outbreak will hit the US economy directly — business travel is the first casualty, hurting airlines and hotels, for example (the airlines and airplane manufacturers, on average, are down by about 30% in two weeks, and many of them dropped 10% or so yesterday). The wind is whispering “What should I do” questions, and times of wild stock market gyration are generally good times to sit back and do more thinking than acting.

A great set of questions to ask yourself was posted by Ben Carlson here… if you’ve never ...

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