Timing the stock market is a losing proposition. A much easier and proven way to make money in the market is as easy as cooking your favorite meal. By following a simple recipe you can not only create a tasty dish, but also a well-performing portfolio.
Dishing up a balanced portfolio
Studies show that 90% of variability in portfolio returns is derived from asset allocation, not market timing or stock selection. So while stock selection can make a difference over the long haul, higher-level portfolio decisions overwhelmingly dictate your results.
Benchmarks offer us guidance in structuring our portfolio, keeping risk in check and evaluating our performance over time. Benchmarking helps us make strategic decisions on sectors, while maintaining diversification, so we can manage risk appropriately. A properly benchmarked portfolio helps us mitigate uncertain market conditions since sectors perform differently over bull, bear, and flat markets.
Think of a benchmark as a set of instructions, like a recipe for cooking a meal. If you're preparing chicken curry, you know that chicken, spices, garlic, yogurt, and coconut milk are required ingredients. The recipe spells out the ingredient list and the quantity of each necessary for crafting a palatable dish.
We'll use the MSCI World Index as an approximate benchmark for determining how much of each sector -- or ingredient -- you'll want to consider for your portfolio.
Source: Industry weightings adapted from MSCI World Index.
The industry weightings provide you with a starting point for making decisions. If your stock portfolio carries the same weightings as the index, then you are neutral from an industry standpoint; you'll prepare your chicken curry as the recipe dictates. If you feel strongly about a particular industry and buy stocks only in that industry -- effectively overloading your dish with handfuls of spices -- then you take on more risk and potential reward.
Grab your apron or order out
Once you've determined your strategy, execute on it. One method is buying broadly diversified mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), effectively procuring premade curry. For those who prefer take-out, broadly diversified ETFs like Vanguard S&P 500 ETF and SPDR S&P 500 ETF do the trick.
Or get in the kitchen and roll up your sleeves. You can screen for stocks based on predefined criteria, like valuation, or look for companies with sustainable competitive advantages. Today, let's take a look at some stocks to consider for the consumer staples and consumer discretionary sectors -- or ingredients -- mentioned above.
We know Tesco (NASDAQOTH: TSCDY.PK) here in the U.S. for its Fresh and Easy grocery chain. But even though Tesco is growing its U.S. and Asian footprints, this U.K.-based company derives most of its business from Brits. Tesco's largest shareholder, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, owns 5.08% of company stock. While you shouldn't blindly buy a stock just because Buffett does, there are many compelling reasons you should consider Tesco, including its trailing P/E of 9.
Starbuck' growth initiatives include the recently announced $100 million acquisition of San Francisco bakery retailer La Boulange and a deal with Coinstar to sell Seattle's Best coffee in automated kiosks across the country.
Israeli company SodaStream
Considered the McDonald's of Latin America, Arcos Dorados Holdings
Foolish bottom line
Now that you're equipped with a recipe and know the type and quantity of ingredients needed, you can better evaluate stock ideas that come your way. Take a look at your stock portfolio and see how it stacks up. Then focus on finding great stocks in sectors that you are underweight.
We've looked at consumer goods companies in this article, but if you're interested in beefing up the tech portion of your portfolio, look no further. Our analysts uncovered one under-the-radar tech company whose clients include blue-chip bellwether Coca-Cola. The stock is highlighted in a free report, but it won't be around forever -- get your copy today.
Fool contributor Nicole Seghetti does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. She does enjoy fizzy drinks though. Follow Nicole on Twitter @NicoleSeghetti. The Motley Fool owns shares of SodaStream International, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Berkshire Hathaway, Arcos Dorados Holdings, Starbucks, and Tesco. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Starbucks, Tesco, Unilever, Berkshire Hathaway, Coinstar, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and SodaStream, and have recommended writing covered calls on Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.