Diary of a Stock Market Loser

I'm pumped, though it's all relative.

Ever since I began to provide weekly updates on my quest to get out of the gutter in Motley Fool CAPS, the stock-picking community experience where you join your fellow investors by sharing stock ideas, it's been three months of pain. I take baby steps up, only to find that the wobbly baby tumbles back down.

This past week was a breakthrough, though. Five of the six new market calls that I discussed last week beat the market, and there were signs of life in my older CAPS selections.

My rating has gone from 0.51 a week ago -- meaning that I was losing to 99.49% of you -- to 4.81 this morning. OK, that means that 95.19% of you are still in front of me, but at least I'm heading in the right direction for a change.  

Here's how my ratings have clocked in over the past few weeks:

Let's go over some of my recent picks and pans, shall we?

Making moves and taking names
My strategy last week worked. I looked over the list of stocks reporting earnings in the week ahead and picked out the ones that I thought would be moving (with four bullish calls and a pair of bearish ones). I may as well give it another shot with the week ahead.

I've made five new calls on companies set to report their quarterly results next week. My first pick is a bullish call on Sohu.com (Nasdaq: SOHU  ) . Expectations are high for the Chinese dot-com darling. Wall Street is looking for earnings to triple. However, let's look at a refreshing trend that I've seen taking place between Sohu and those same analysts.

EPS Est.

EPS Actual

% Difference

Q2 2007

$0.13

$0.15

15%

Q3 2007

$0.21

$0.25

19%

Q4 2007

$0.31

$0.39

26%

The last column shows how much Sohu's actual results have clocked in ahead of the market's expectations. See the trend? Sohu is trouncing guesstimates by a wider margin with every passing quarter. This doesn't mean that Sohu won't stumble -- it missed expectations in Q1 2007 -- or that Wall Street has finally caught up with how to model Sohu's growth trajectory. I'm just going to go with the trend, looking for another impressive win out of Sohu come Monday.

I'm also rolling bullish on Burger King (NYSE: BKC  ) . I realize that the soft economy has finally hit the fast food joints. BK's rivals have either been posting soft numbers or have caved in at fire-sale prices, like Wendy's (NYSE: WEN  ) . I think Burger King is different, because it has pulled off a masterful turnaround, rattling off 16 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales growth along the way. It's like the HP of burger flippers, catching up to the industry after losing its way earlier this decade.  

I also expect ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) and TheStreet.com (Nasdaq: TSCM  ) to perform well after next week's earnings reports, so I've tagged both stocks with outperform ratings. In ExxonMobil's case, it's all about the pesky fuel prices. Gas isn't getting any cheaper, and I can vent my frustration by riding the country's most profitable company higher. I am not so keen on TheStreet.com nailing its numbers. This is a tough market and investors aren't as hungry for stock research as they would be during a bull run. However, the company finally renewed its contract with Jim Cramer earlier this month. With the market showing signs of life again, this is a good proxy on a market turnaround.

Things can only get better
This brings me to Garmin (Nasdaq: GRMN  ) . The stock has been hammered lately, so it pains me to make a bearish call on it heading into next week's earnings. I've been happy with my Garmin portable GPS for two years now. The problem is that I haven't used it in weeks. Ever since I got an iPhone, I find its rudimentary mapping features satisfy my navigational needs. With so many non-Garmin devices now providing GPS functionality, I can't fall into the trap of a cheap P/E ratio. If earnings head lower, the earnings multiple goes the other way.

I realize that there is no reason to expect that to happen. Analysts expect earnings to grow and Garmin has topped Wall Street's profit targets over the past few quarters. The company is making tactical moves to ensure it will continue to matter come tomorrow. Still, it's hard for me to get excited about Garmin as my Nuvi collects dust.  

What will I do next? You're welcome to follow along on my CAPS page to see how I'm doing between now and next week's update.

Another thing you may want to do is to give Motley Fool CAPS a shot. The moment you start you'll be way ahead of me. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to stop fighting.

I'm not going to rest until my rating grows respectable. See you there!


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