As the year draws to a close, it's always nice to look back at what got us to this point. As investors, it's extremely important to keep up with the calls that we make. Some are right, some are wrong, but at the end of the day we learn from them all.
Some fatherly advice
This past June, I put together a simple yet diverse portfolio with the goal of beating the market. To be clear, this is not a real-money portfolio. I coined it the "Father's Day Portfolio"; you can see the holdings and learn more about it here. My primary goal is to beat the market over long periods of time, and with the six-month anniversary of the portfolio's inception upon us, let's look at where things stand.
Of the 10 stocks I picked, all 10 are showing positive returns today, as of this writing. No doubt the market's had a great year, but I'm still proud of that. When pitting each one versus the market, six are outperforming and four underperforming, which is right in line with Peter Lynch's old axiom: "In this business, if you're good, you're right six times out of 10. You're never going to be right nine times out of 10."
The top performer is Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN), beating the market by almost 30 percentage points, and the worst performer is Home Depot (NYSE: HD), which is losing to the market by just over 5 percentage points. In total, based on a hypothetical $1,000 invested in each stock along with a matching position in the S&P 500, the Father's Day Portfolio has returned 20.5% versus the market's 10.1%.
Winners like winning
Amazon.com has had a great 2013, with the stock up more than 50% and outpacing the market handily. On one hand, there are the perpetual concerns over the stock's valuation based on its astronomical P/E ratio, and I get that concern. However, I also believe this isn't the best way to look at Amazon, as the power of its retail business model is better seen through the measure of its operating cash flow, which is closing in on $5 billion over the most recent 12 months.
As sure as the sun will come up, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will continue to plow all of that money back into the business in order to grow. I'm not going to get into a debate over Amazon's valuation; that's a futile conversation that will never end. But when I consider the totality of this business' reach beyond just the e-commerce platform, it's impressive to consider.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce sales as a percentage of total retail sales are just 6% today. There's a tremendous market opportunity here, and Amazon is hell-bent on staking its claim. The potential for Amazon Web Services is impressive as well. Estimates for AWS's total revenue for 2013 are in the $3 billion range in a market that will also continue to grow considerably in the coming decade. I'm happy to have Amazon in the Father's Day Portfolio, and I'm as encouraged as ever by its long-term prospects.
Lessons from losers
Home Depot hasn't performed poorly, per se; the stock is up almost 25% for the year. But it is losing to the market, and that can't be overlooked. In its most recent quarter, the company grew top-line sales 7.4% over the same quarter last year, and its U.S. stores chalked up 8.2% comps thanks to a slowly but surely improving economy. With total transactions growth of 4% and average ticket growth of 3.2%, Home Depot is witnessing its share of traffic.
Thanks to low interest rates, many Americans (including yours truly) have been able to refinance their homes and put some of the savings toward home improvement projects -- a trend I believe will continue in the new year. And Home Depot's scale is an advantage as well. Its store presence of 2,260 versus the 1,831 for competitor Lowe's affords it more financial resources as well as consistently better margins, which is better for shareholders in the long run.
The Foolish bottom line
I'll be the first to admit that six months does not a portfolio make. But as it stands, I like where the Father's Day Portfolio is headed. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Investing is as easy or as difficult as you want to make it. There are a lot of great businesses out there that can generate substantial long-term wealth if you let them. The key is to know what you're looking for and then be willing to kick back and let time do the heavy lifting for you. After all, that's what Foolish investing is all about. So join me, won't you? Let's make 2014 the year of the investor!
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