Stock Picking 5: Selling

Before I discuss selling stocks, let’s do a recap of the Stock Picking posts up until now.

Part 1: Looking for Stocks

Here, I introduce my stock searching process for Canadian and US stocks. I feel more confident in stocks that have higher trading volume. I look for major Canadian stocks under $20 that trade over 10,000 shares a day. For US stocks, they must be over $5 and average at least 500,000 shares a day.

Part 2: Determine Your Investment Goals

I talk about the different reasons you might want to buy stocks. There are different stocks for different investment objectives better suited by shorter or longer-term time horizons. Whether the time horizon is short, medium, or long, I like to get in early before a stock’s price really starts to take off. To determine this, I look at a stock’s price history chart. For shorter-term trades, I seek additional information by looking at the charts of a stock’s corresponding sector and the market.

Part 3: Factoring in the Sectors and the Stock Market

I generally look for stocks in a sector that has been quiet for a while and is just starting to warm up. I’m not as concerned if a sector has been lagging the market, as long as it’s not going down the tubes, especially if the market isn’t. If I’m interested in several stocks in a sector that is starting to heat up, then I’ll pick the stocks that meet my criteria in volume, price, and charts.

No Stock Picking Here. Just Buy the Market Through ETFs

Stock picking is not for everyone as it’s hard to outperform the market. It’s a matter of strategy, research, and some luck. You can simplify the whole process if you ‘buy the market’ by buying the market index ETF. What’s great is that you can also get extra money from an ETF’s distributions or dividends. You can buy ETFs for the Canadian, US, or international markets, or even sector ETFs. You can have a whole portfolio of just ETFs to meet a variety of investment objectives!

Part 4: Investment Income

Here, I discuss my interest in stocks that pay dividends and how I invest in the blue chippy stocks for my retirement fund. What a great source of income as you can also enjoy a profit if you sell your shares later on at a higher price! For these income-generating stocks, I’m less concerned about their sectors.


Part 5: Selling Your Shares

Objective: To determine when to sell some or all of your stock.

Why Sell Your Shares?

Here are a few reasons to:

  • Bank profits
  • Rebalance your portfolio because you’re aging and you need to reduce your riskier assets
  • You need the money to spend or to invest in other things
  • Tax-loss selling (a capital loss can be subtracted from other capital gains, thus further reducing taxation on profits)
  • Play defense because there’s been an interest rate hike or a recession, so you want to lower your exposure and risk
  • Your stock stops paying a dividend
  • Your stock’s company or sector is in trouble and this is affecting the share price
  • Your stock is an underperforming dud
Banking Profits for Retirement

My retirement fund will consist mostly of investment income-producing assets. I’m optimistic to a fault. This means I sit back thinking that most of the dividend-paying stocks for my retirement fund will be worth a lot more in share price too. When I’m a spry elderly lady, livin’ large, and planning my next world adventure, I’ll sell some of those shares and use the massive profits to pay for my trip. If the markets reach exaggerated highs, I might sell some shares to buy a decent annuity.

Banking Profits for My Swing Trades

For my swing trades, I try to give a stock time as it moves within the profit zone, which is anywhere significantly higher than what I paid in share price. I look at the price charts to try to determine how far they’ll go before they experience a major selloff.

It’s a lot more realistic to expect a cheaper stock to double, triple, or increase multiple times in value. Once my investment has more than doubled in value, I usually sell half to 2/3rds of the shares and keep the rest of my shares in for the longer term. This way, I get back my principal investment and I can reinvest it along with the profits in another stock. If the remaining shares don’t keep going up in share price, I’ll sell them for a smaller profit — or break even at worst.

I’ve mentioned before that I like my Canadian stocks cheaper because my Canadian trading account is less funded. I also like them cheaper because I can buy more shares. I find that in general, Canadian stocks don’t move as quickly in price. I can still make money, even with smaller price moves, since I have a lot of shares. For my US swing trades, I use fewer shares than I do for Canadian stocks because they’re more expensive.

US stocks are good for swing trades mainly because they usually can move a lot more in price in a shorter amount of time than Canadian stocks. In other words, they get a lot of price action. I look for stocks that move on average at least $1 in share price in a day. The downside is, when stocks move faster, you have to act faster. If you’re not paying attention, it might get right into the profit zone and then sell off more quickly than it took to get there.

For more expensive stocks, it will take much longer for your total investment to double in its full value. This can take years. Sometimes you’ll have a jackpot situation where there’s a buyout; however, you can’t just wait and hope for these rare events to happen. So what swing traders do is decide how much of their investment they’re willing to risk losing (not all) and see if they stand to gain at least twice, three times or more that amount.

What…?

A lot of traders talk about ‘stops’ to minimize losses. A stop is basically your uncle point where you decide it’s better to take a calculated loss at a certain price than to lose more than that. Once a stop is determined, a trader will calculate how much he or she expects to gain and whether it’s realistic given the stock’s chart, its sector, the market, etc.


I’ll break down here how stops and setting targets work

lulu

  • Let’s say you bought 100 shares of a stock trading at $59.00 per share. Your investment is $5900. But there’s no way you want to lose an entire $5900 if things go south. And how long will it take for the stock to double in price to $118 a share? 
  • You might determine through analysis of its price history and other data that you will not accept a loss lower than $54 per share. You don’t want to lose more than $5 per share, which is $500. So of your $5900 investment, you’re only risking $500 of it. 
  • For this trade to be worth it, you want to at least get double the money you’re risking. Some traders want more, some are okay with less, it’s a personal thing for each person.
  • Take the $5 risk and to get double the reward would mean a $10 price increase at $69.00 ($1000 profit). Triple reward is a $15 increase at $74.00 ($1500 profit). All because you were willing to risk $500 of your investment.

This is a trade I actually took this week. It had a good earnings report (are see-through yoga pants back in style?) and it jumped close to the triple reward zone. It was good enough for me, so I sold 80% of my shares at $71.90.

For my remaining 20%, I’ll hang on to see if it’ll keep going up. Each time it surpasses another risk-reward multiple ($74, $79, $84, $89), I’ll move the stop up on that. If it breaches any of those multiples, I’ll sell the rest.


I use a very loose form of the stop method as I found it to be a pain to bother with stops. I found that with most of these trades if I’d waited a bit longer, I wouldn’t have taken a loss–instead, I would’ve ended up with a huge gain. I found that once I started to set more loosey goosey expectations as to what I’m willing to lose and what I expect to gain, my trading account started to flourish. Yes, I am a loosey goosey swing trader.

I find that if the stock is of a good company in a strong sector, even if you had to endure the discomfort of underperformance, the only thing you really lose is time. Because once the stock really starts to rock, it was totally worth the wait.

This is why sectors are important. If the sector is strong and your stock is strong or stronger than the sector, then you reduce the chance of sitting painfully through negative numbers. If, however, your stock is much weaker than its sector and is going down while the sector is going up, then there could be something else going on with the company that you might have to look into.

Having said all this, I’m not saying to ignore your threshold for losses. You must figure out what works best for you and trade responsibly out of respect for your money. For me, a good swing trade is more than just price action. It’s a combination of factors such as the company, its sector, and the market. Since I consider multiple reasons, I’m okay with waiting out the unforeseen downturns and I don’t totally wig out if the price gets a little out of whack.

Thanks to a diverse portfolio, I only ever have a small fraction of underperformers while the others do well. Sometimes these turn a corner and become the top performers in my portfolio.


Swing Trading is NOT for Everybody

Why do I swing trade? I don’t live much of a structured life (although I sometimes crave one) nor do I have dependents. I have a higher risk tolerance so I can endure the dry spells and downturns and patiently wait for the profits. I’m quite happy to aggressively grow my account in the mid-term while my more solid stocks grow for the long-term. It’s exciting, interesting, engaging, and I can go on about the fun I get out of being tapped into the markets.

Making money like this isn’t for everybody. I’m only sharing my strategies so that curious readers will have a better idea of what I do with my own money. All of what I write is only for information sharing purposes.

While there is a risk component to any kind of investing, there are many ways to reduce that risk with good diversification. To do this effectively, it’s good to be knowledgeable, even of the investment basics. Most working people, in my opinion, are better off saving regularly for their goals and investing their extra savings with a part of it in conservative stocks and ETFs that pay a dividend. No doubt, a lot of money can be made this way!

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