As I write this, I'm sitting in Times Square in New York City. Anyone familiar with the area knows that this is quite a feat -- there are no benches to be found in all of Times Square. Heck, there's not even a square. Why didn't they call it the "Bowtie" or something?
Instead, there's an endless supply of flashing screens, blinking lights, news tickers, and hustle and bustle. It is perhaps the antithesis of "bucolic." Another staple of Times Square is the Nasdaq MarketSite building. It's a pretty neat structure, with an exterior that serves as a giant television screen. On the ground floor there is a set, where yesterday I watched the management team from Lexicon Genetics
Given that the Nasdaq is a computerized network without a floor, and has its main base of operations in Connecticut, this is a wholly worthless activity. There's some sturm und drang, some speechifying, and, with the exception of me, there was exactly no one else watching who wasn't a part of the production. So what's the point?
Immediately after watching the dog-and-pony show, I turned around for a panoramic view of Times Square. And it hit me: there were no less than six stock tickers telling me what shares were doing at that exact moment. Lexicon spent a small-to-large sum of money bringing 20 or so of its senior managers to the Nasdaq MarketSite building for the same reason that all of these brokers and news services let you know exactly where certain stocks are trading at the moment: They all want you to do something. Not just any something, actually -- a specific something. Lexicon wants to increase awareness in its stock so that people might buy it. Other organizations, from Merrill Lynch
But what are the chances that you'll find your best-ever stock idea by noticing who opened a trading floor that doesn't exist? And what is the potential for seeing a stock ticker fly across the marquee of a building in Times Square and saying, "Oh, I gotta get some of that." These are not the places where you're most likely to find your next great stock idea.
So what if we were to tell you a place where you just might find your next great idea? Would that be something that is worthwhile to you?
Yeah, finding a great idea is fantastic. It's also very difficult. Harder still is waiting for your great idea to play out. The market sometimes makes your great ideas seem, well, not so great. In 2001, both McDonald's
Keeping your research up to date
Of course, taking advantage of attractive prices in the market presupposes that you are able to distinguish between a company that is justifiably down and one that is not. Just because your analysis was sound at the time you bought shares doesn't mean you're entitled to excellent returns by buying again later at a cheaper price. You need to keep on top of your holdings to be able to distinguish an opportunity for profit from an opportunity to throw good money after bad.
Now, that doesn't mean slavishly pumping in tickers to get real-time quotes throughout the day. That way lies madness. Instead, you should be periodically doing a deliberate and thorough checkup on all of your holdings to know what the real news with them is, and how the value of the underlying business may have changed since you last analyzed your holdings. You can do that once a week, once a month, once every three months, or whatever is right for you, but it should be a regular part of your portfolio maintenance.
Although we include company updates of major news in every issue of our Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter, twice a year we review all our active recommendations. We go through them A to Z -- or, at least, from Alderwoods
Foolish final thoughts
It's not necessarily the case that your review will lead you to recommit to a company that is down from your initial purchase price. For example, in our review edition, which is being released today at 12 noon EST, we're most excited about two companies. One has had a sluggish start since our recommendation, down almost 20%. The other has been a market-beater. But it isn't the past performance of the stock that ever determines the value of the business or the attractiveness of the stock.
Having a pre-existing relationship -- which you do when you already own a stock -- gives you an advantage in finding good opportunities. If you make a routine of periodically and systematically adding money to what you already own and know best, I think it will help you to beat the market, too.
Bill Mann partners with Fool co-founder Tom Gardner in the Hidden Gems newsletter. To date, the newsletter's picks are outperforming the market by 17 percentage points. The Hidden Gems six-month review issue releases at 12 noon EST today. If you'd like to be among the first to find out what picks Bill and Tom like for new money,click herefor a free trial membership. A 30-day trial gives you full access to everything ever published in the pages of Hidden Gems -- including the more than 40 formal small-cap stock recommendations -- and there's no obligation to subscribe.
Bill owns shares of McDonald's and USA Mobility. Home Depot is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has a strictdisclosure policy.