I lived through Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was only the third Category 5 storm to make landfall in the United States in recorded history, and it was a doozy. I remember waiting for the deafening gusts to subside before venturing out to see the savage destruction that the killer storm had caused.
When it comes to windstorms, Category 5 is as intense as they get. When it comes to investing, growth stocks would be the market's equivalent.
Growth stocks are powerful, which can sometimes be a good thing. Find the right stock on the cusp of blowing apart the landscape, and you can go from being a modest investor to a rich one in the blink of a hurricane's eye. Think Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE) just as the casual dining chain began to expand out of its Southern Californian stronghold. Imagine buying into eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) just before it went on the verb acquisition spree that found the leading auction site also owning PayPal and Skype.
By the same token, growth stocks are volatile. I saw it when I stepped outside my home in 1992. You can see it, too, in a portfolio ravaged by the wrong growth stocks. Planet Hollywood? 3DO? They both blew my portfolio to pieces way back when.
Bracing for the big one
Snapping up the right growth stocks is the aim of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service. Every month, David Gardner leads a team of analysts in unearthing a couple of ultimate growth stock ideas. When he's right, Category 5 investing can be a thing of beauty. Six of the 24 recommendations from 2005 have gone on to more than double. Three have more than tripled in value! When he's wrong, the damage can be brutal. 12 of last year's picks are sporting double-digit losses.
The key to aggressive growth stock investing is to let your winners run. If you land that 10-bagger, it means that nine other similar investments can go to zero and you'll still have broken even.
Taking chances has led the service to single out some pretty eclectic -- if not outright eccentric -- companies. Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) has quadrupled since being singled out a year ago. It remains China's leading search engine, a sweet place to be in a country of 1.3 billion where the Internet adoption rate is still in the pre-teens on a percentage basis.
Network security specialist Secure Computing (NASDAQ:SCUR) is another intriguing storyteller. Companies need to protect their corporate networks as hackers get craftier and Secure is there to save the day. If the market doesn't see it that way, a serial acquirer like Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) may if only to put its thick Rolodex to the test.
Buying into search engines and search protectors can be risky. That's OK. Disruptive technology may not disrupt overnight, but when it does, the upticks can come in a hurry. It's better to be early -- like buying into Google at its IPO that was so out of favor that it was marked down from as high as $135 to its ultimate IPO price of $85 -- than late, like buying The9 (NASDAQ:NCTY) after its flagship World of Warcraft online fantasy game begins wearing thin in China.
I'm fortunate enough to have been with The Motley Fool in the mid-1990s, when David was recommending the purchase of companies such as America Online, PayPal, and Amazon.com. They seemed like radical investments at the time. AOL was battling it out in the cutthroat realm of dial-up online services. PayPal was battling established financial-services titans in the field of online micropayments. Amazon was trying to turn retail distribution upside-down by shipping book orders placed online directly to the end user. AOL, PayPal, and online shopping took off, and so did David's real-money Rule Breaker portfolio.
Andrew, 15 years later
The storms keep coming. I still live in Miami, so I've had my share of windstorms come by in recent years. Two years ago, Katrina and Wilma came, and this year's season is an active one so far.
Last summer, I looked at investing styles and labeled them as hurricane categories:
- Category 1 took a peek at high-yielding investments.
- Category 2 emphasized value stocks.
- Category 3 approached the merits of a balanced portfolio.
- Category 4 explored small-cap stocks.
Wrapping things up with the most powerful -- and sometimes deadly -- basket of stocks makes sense. I'm part of the Rule Breakers team of analysts. I buy stocks in all shapes and flavors, though I'm always smitten by a good young growth stock with a great story to tell.
I don't mind the exotic. I don't fear Category 5 investing.
Are you a Category 5 investor? If so, want to learn more about these powerful stocks? Give Rule Breakers a spin with a free 30-day pass to see if growth investing is right for you.
This article was originally published July 21, 2006. It has been updated.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz believes in taking chances to earn superior returns. He does own shares in Cheesecake Factory. Baidu and Secure Computing are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. eBay is a Stock Advisor pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.