I'm not doing so well with the Motley Fool CAPS community stock-rating experience. I've been providing weekly updates on my attempt to dig myself out of a horrible slump, but it's starting to feel like an eternity.
Here's how my ratings have clocked in over the past five weeks:
The ratings go from 0 to 100, so don't go applauding that 1.54. It still means that 98.46% of you are doing better than I am in picking winners and panning losers.
Making moves and taking names
I realize that my biggest mistake has been gunning for high-beta stocks. In swinging for the fences, I'm susceptible when the market is slipping. It has obviously been a bad strategy so far for 2008.
Did I change my approach this week? No. However, I've tried to play next week's earnings reports from both sides of the spectrum.
For instance, I pegged Famous Dave's of America (Nasdaq: DAVE ) as a near-term underperformer. Don't get me wrong. I love a good barbecue. I ate at the Famous Dave's that sits on the marina adjacent to Cedar Point two years ago, and I can still taste the bread pudding. Great stuff. I have even spoken with Dave, at a few Rainforest Cafe events in the late 1990s when his own concept was just taking off. Great guy.
So why am I betting against Famous Dave's? Well, I've seen too many casual dining chains disappoint investors in recent weeks with their holiday quarter reports. Texas Roadhouse (Nasdaq: TXRH ) -- which is a kissing cousin to Famous Dave's in the sense that both have laid-back themes catering to carnivores -- took a big hit this week after its own lackluster performance.
Wall Street is already discounting a bad report for Famous Dave's. Analysts expect earnings to fall by nearly two-thirds, to $0.06 a share. However, my gut tells me that the company is going to be cautious about its near-term outlook. Way too many of the meat-lover eateries are doing the same thing for Famous Dave's to buck the trend now. We'll see if I'm right after Wednesday's report.
On the long side, I pegged both Ctrip.com (Nasdaq: CTRP ) and eLong (Nasdaq: LONG ) as market winners in the near term. The two Chinese online travel sites report next week, and given the upbeat reports from other China-based dot-com bellwethers like Baidu.com (Nasdaq: BIDU ) and NetEase.com (Nasdaq: NTES ) , I expect good things out of the two companies.
And even though it's a move that I made last week, I dodged a bullet by ending my bearish call on Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund (Nasdaq: CUBA ) . The fund was finally trading at a discount to its net asset value. That was close, since the fund that specializes in buying companies that will benefit from a free Cuba popped higher this week after Fidel Castro stepped down.
Things can only get better
You're welcome to follow along on my CAPS page to see how I'm doing even before next week's update. If it's been anything like these past few weeks, bring a book for entertainment.
Progress has been slow -- and somewhat uneven -- in my pursuit of a respectable CAPS score.
Then again, that probably means that it's a great time for you to give Motley Fool CAPS a shot if you have yet to check out the service where the community works together to drum up better stock picks.
You know I'll be out there looking for ideas. I'm not going to rest until my rating gets respectable. See you there!