Climbing the Wall of Worry

When they've given you their all, some stagger and fall -- after all, it's not easy banging your heart against a mad market's wall.

Anders Bylund
Anders Bylund
Mar 30, 2007 at 12:00AM
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Have you seen the writing on the wall? Don't be afraid to act on your well-researched hunches -- it's how you find tomorrow's winners at a discount, before the rest of the market understands their genius.

The traditional meaning of a "wall of worry" is macroeconomic, meaning that stock prices sometimes climb such a wall in times of great uncertainty, only to drop once the tension has been resolved. But I'm going to talk about a very different wall today.

Hanging around the Motley Fool Rule Breakers service for a while will introduce a different worry-wall model. This one involves a company facing seemingly insurmountable troubles and seeing its share price get pushed way down. But you've done your homework, so you can see that the Generally Accepted Anxiety Producer is way overblown, or just a misunderstanding.

Investing in such stocks when they're at the base of that towering wall can be a great way to make money, and it's entirely in keeping with the early-adopter ethos of Rule Breakers. Allow me to walk you through the process to the sweet sounds of Pink Floyd.

... We came in?
It all starts with finding a company that's facing uncertain times and uncertain stock prices. Maybe it's Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), facing certain death at the hands of downloadable movie services, video on demand, or rival Blockbuster's (NYSE:BBI) Total Access service. Perhaps it's Rule Breaker IMAX (NASDAQ:IMAX) watching theater revenues collapse all around. Or it could be TASER (NASDAQ:TASR), another newsletter pick with shifty management and a trunkful of lawsuits.

Sounds bad, right? But if you want to find out what can stop their demise, you'll just have to claw your way through this disguise.

The Happiest Days of Our Lives
It could be intuition, an intimate industry knowledge, or tons of sweaty research. Or you could go to our message boards and soak in the results of all your forward-thinking peers sharing their own insights.

Whatever the method, you might realize that DVDs will rule home entertainment for many years yet and that Netflix has an untouchable, patent-protected business model. Or you may see that IMAX theaters offer added value, making the movies an event again after years of small-screen commodity doldrums. And TASER's stun guns could be so good and necessary that product excellence outweighs even bad management.

So you invest, knowing that the market is overreacting to minor nuisances, or to news blown entirely out of proportion.


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One of My Turns
Of course, as a Rule Breaker, you have to get used to volatility. Just when you think the share price can't go any lower, there's a negative earnings report or another lawsuit, or new competition shows up, ready to party. And the cries echo across Wall Street: Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) might enter the DVD-by-mail market? Sell! Sell! Sell!

Don't Leave Me Now
That's not a good time to have a twitchy trigger finger. Go back and re-examine your original investment thesis. Roll up your sleeves and dig into the news. If it's as bad as they say, it's time to say "Goodbye, Cruel World" to that holding. Sometimes, the outcome is cloudy, and you'll sleep better at night with a reduced position in that stock.

But if your original analysis was correct, chances are good that it's still valid and the worrywarts are panicking for no good reason. Wal-Mart couldn't match the DVD-distribution prowess of Netflix, because the retail giant wasn't built for it. One more TASER lawsuit in the books? Check out the claims and see whether this one makes sense, unlike most of the others. IMAX couldn't find a buyer, but it's building new theaters in China, Brazil, and Russia.

So you hold on tight, or maybe even increase your holdings at these new, low prices. And you keep climbing that wall of worry.

Outside the Wall
This investing style takes plenty of patience -- day traders need not apply. It could take years before you reach the summit of that wall and your company can hold up its excellence for the world to see.

Sometimes it doesn't work out. Nobody hits a home run with every swing. But you don't need to be right very often to be in the black with Rule Breaking, and you need to remember that the losses are only theoretical until you sell.

Today, the Rule Breakers portfolio as a whole is outperforming the market, despite a plethora of picks in the red -- like TASER and IMAX. But they're still climbing their walls, and they could still be the next breakout success stories. Five of our current picks have at least doubled their returns since their selection, and you can see each one just by taking a free trial to the newsletter service right now.

And having reached the top, you can hold on to your newfound riches, or you can cash in and go looking for the next Breaker.

Isn't this where ... ?

The show must go on:

TASER and IMAX are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Sign up for a free 30-day trial pass today and join the revolution!

Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick, and Netflix and Amazon may be rivals, but they share a bunk bed in the Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Netflix shareholder and longtime customer, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He is also a lifelong Pink Floyd fan and knows this masterpiece by heart. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure breaks just the right rules.