August 1, 2007

Maturity to handle losses

I typically write posts beforehand and publish them later. The following was written around the 15th of July.

Over the last 7-8 years of investing I have outperformed the index by around 8-9% per annum. This has been mainly with a buy and hold type of investing and without any leverage, options or any other type of investments. However I have underperformed the index several times. I have underperformed around 2 out of 8 years of investing. If I reduce the time horizon, the number of times I would have underperformed the index will be even higher, maybe 30-40 % of time if I consider monthly buckets.

There is no fun in lagging behind the index. As I put it in another post, the benchmark I follow is the BSE index. My entry into active investing was also perfect. I started actively and seriously investing around dec 1999, right around the peak and promptly saw my portfolio cut by 25% in a years time.

I remember reading charlie munger and warren buffett say that temprament and ability to take losses without going nuts is crucial to investing. Most of us will have losses over our investing lifetime (diffcult for most to believe now as the indian market has been in a bull run from 2003).

I am still pained when I lag the index or when my stock goes down by 5-10%. However the advantage I have now is that I have experienced it several times and am able to be rational about it. When I was new to investing it was diffcult for me figure whether the market was being irrational or if I was missing something and my analysis was at fault.

For example I invested in concor in 2002 at around 250 –300 Rs/ share. The stock promptly dropped to around 180-190 Rs/ share. This company has a big competitive advantage to the point of a monoploy in container transport, high return on capital and was selling at around 5 times earnings then. When the stock dropped, I was not able to understand the reason behind it. I could see nothing wrong with the stock even after analysing it again. So I kept faith on my analysis and held on to the stock. The stock sells at around 2400 now. It is easy to look smart or stupid in retrospect, but I was not a 100% sure then.

The difference now is that I have more faith on my analysis and have more experience (and scars !!). I still get pained by losses, but am able to keep my emotions better under control.


I did not realise that I would be seeing the market crash so soon. Earlier I would read and try to check for the reasons behind the crash. Now, I usually don’t bother. The main reason is that my guess is as good as anyone else’s which in the end is a guess. However not bothering to find the reason does not mean ignoring the market crash. On the contrary, stocks which were cheap earlier are now cheaper and some stocks are getting more interesting. So if the price drops further, I see a good opportunity to pick up a few stocks or increase my investments in a few exisiting ones. Ofcourse the assumption here is that the underlying analysis is correct and nothing has changed from a fundamental standpoint.

The above viewpoint is ofcourse not conventional wisdom and is painful to execute especially when your holdings have already dipped below cost.


Ranjit kumar said...

Hi Rohit,

Kothari Products is on a continuous downtrend after hitting a high of 1183 currently at 750/- on a 5% down circuit

Ranjit kumar

Rohit Chauhan said...

Hi ranjit
yes i noticed that. i guess the original thesis of avoiding such companies holds true