Diary of a Stock Market Loser

Have you ever gone walking for five weeks, only to realize that you just went in a circle?

That's how I feel right now, because my current 4.81 player rating in Motley Fool CAPS matches the 4.81 rating I had five weeks ago.

I'll be fine. I'll just carve a new trail. Besides, even if 4.81 isn't much of a rating -- since it means that 95.19% of you out there are beating me in the Fool's stock-market simulation -- it's better than where I was when I started this weekly diary four months ago. Back then, I stood at 0.55 out of a possible 100.00. 

Here are my ratings over the past few weeks:

As I have done every week, let's go over some of my recent picks and pans.

Making moves and taking names
I made five new market calls this week, a few of them in anticipation of next week's earnings reports. I have gone bearish on Hovnanian (NYSE: HOV  ) and bullish on Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN  ) and Williams-Sonoma (NYSE: WSM  ) . All three companies step up with their quarterly reports next week.

I am pretty bearish on the homebuilders, and Hovnanian is a disaster. The company has posted six straight quarters of massive losses. Value investors may point out that the stock trades for roughly half of book value, but the company's been hacking away at the value of its assets. In fact, the company has lost more over the past four quarters than the sum of its market cap. As long as people are dumping existing homes at any price, developers of new homes will be hard-pressed to compete profitably.

As for Vail, I'm banking on a strong showing during the company's seasonally strongest quarter. I headed out with the family to a ski resort a few miles out of Vail, Colo., during Easter. Late March can often be a tricky time, but the snow conditions were great. Most of the area resorts extended their ski operations well into April, and this move should reflect kindly on Vail.

Initially, I was going to go bearish on Williams-Sonoma. If the housing market is in trouble, I figured, who's spending money to spruce up their digs with high-end wares? Well, a lot of people, apparently. The retailer has beaten Wall Street's estimates in eight consecutive quarters. Expectations are low this time around, so it'll be that much easier to keep the streak alive.

Beyond the earnings stage, I also went bullish on Chindex (Nasdaq: CHDX  ) , a provider of health-care services and products in China. I may be just another bull in a China shop, but I believe that Chindex is positioned well in a rapidly growing market.

I also bet against VistaPrint (Nasdaq: VPRT  ) . I'm typically bullish on Internet companies, but not ones that deal in physical inventory in a competitive climate with too many "me too" players.

Things can only get better
I did a little pruning, too. I closed up successful calls on a few retail establishments and also locked in my gain on Greenfield Online (Nasdaq: SRVY  ) by punching out. When even Facebook is opening up its platform for survey takers, it's going to be that much harder for Web survey pioneers to stand out.

I was also sorely tempted to close out my bullish call on XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR  ) , but I resisted the temptation. The FCC appears ready to issue a decision in June on its merger, but the concessions it requires may be too costly to see the deal through. I still believe in XM for the long haul, but I think the near-term uncertainty over the merger deal may rock the shares in June.

What will I do next? You're welcome to follow along on my CAPS page to see how I'm progressing even before next week's update.

You can also give Motley Fool CAPS a shot for yourself. The moment you start, you'll be way ahead of me, but I won't stop fighting just because there's one more person for me to beat. I'm not going to rest until my rating grows respectable. See you there!

Vail Resorts is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems stock pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is always up for a good game. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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