Do you ever get the feeling that you're going in circles?
That's how I've felt since I decided nearly three months ago to share my battle to rise up through the ranks on Motley Fool CAPS. Since I started chronicling my trades on the community-driven interactive market simulation, I have crept up from a rating of 0.55 -- meaning that I was doing better than only 0.55% of the players -- to the 0.65 rating I have today.
Ouch. It seems as if whenever I take a step forward, I find a way to take another one backwards the following week.
Here's how my ratings have clocked in over the past few weeks:
In pursuit of answers, let's go over some of my recent picks and pans.
Making moves and taking names
I made three new calls this week. The first one was betting against Sealy (NYSE: ZZ ) . The company reports earnings next week, and after watching some of the high-end specialty mattress makers falter in their most recent reports, I'm not expecting much out of mainstream titan Sealy.
Sensing that Mexico's gravity-bucking first-quarter gains were no fluke, I also wanted to find something south of the border to spice up my CAPS return. I think I found that in cement maker Cemex (NYSE: CX ) , a Global Gains recommendation. The shares have come under pressure, clearly a reaction to the slowdown in the stateside real estate development market, but we live in a big world these days.
As the world's third-largest maker of cement, Cemex has access to plenty of the residential and commercial properties going up in economies on the rise. I'll thank a nearsighted market for giving me a long-term opportunity to cash in on Cemex.
The last of my moves this week was to tag Landry's (NYSE: LNY ) with an outperform rating. I have been skeptical of restaurant chains lately -- the soft economy is clearly not helping matters. However, Landry's has a CEO who has made public overtures about buying the rest of the shares that he does not own at higher prices. Even if that sentiment has cooled, it gives me some confidence in Landry's. Shares of the company with interests in seafood restaurants and casinos are now fetching less than 11 times this year's projected earnings, and I like that, too.
Things can only get better
I got serious about dumping many of my bigger losers this past week. I ended my bullish calls on Sport Chalet (Nasdaq: SPCHB ) , Think Partnership (NYSE: THK ) , NightHawk Radiology (Nasdaq: NHWK ) , and Stamps.com (Nasdaq: STMP ) .
I made all four of those picks more than a year ago, and I neglected to keep better tabs on them as they went on to erode in value by 35% to 59%.
What did I see in them? Well, I thought that Sport Chalet would be a beneficiary of the buying sprees we've seen in the sporting-goods space. Stamps.com had a hot item in customized photograph stamps, and Think Partnership was a low-priced IT play.
I was particularly fond of NightHawk, which was growing quickly by offering outsourcing for wee-hours medical work. If you slipped on a fast-food wrapper and broke your leg at 2:00 in the morning, you'd have a hard time finding someone at a hospital with the skills to interpret your X-ray right away. That's where NightHawk steps in. It gives domestic hospitals the ability to beam over that X-ray to a certified radiologist in Australia or Switzerland for a quick read.
But it was all too good to last. Great ideas without moats are easily copied. It wasn't long before NightHawk and Stamps.com found others aping their models and disrupting pricing and margins.
What will I do next? You're welcome to follow along on my CAPS page to see how I'm doing even before 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 I'll stop fighting just because there's one more person ahead of me.
In fact, I won't rest until my rating grows respectable!