Short Selling

There are so many different ways to make money in the stock market. The most basic way with stock shares is to buy them low enough and then sell them at a higher price later.

Did you know that it’s possible to make money in the reverse? You can sell shares in the market at a higher price first and then buy them back at a lower price later. This is called short selling.

The concept of short selling had me confused at first. I’d only heard that it was something a lot of traders did when they anticipated a drop in stock prices. None of it made sense until I executed my first short sale.


My First Short 

Many years ago, a certain company messed up royally and was getting a lot of bad press. Shareholders were selling in a panic and the share price was dropping in high volumes. I saw that the price was at around $76 and I believed it would go down more. I lined up my order to sell 600 shares at the current market price and I hit, “Short.”

After that, the price fell considerably. In the order box I clicked on, “Cover,” and I bought back 600 shares at the new market price of $74.75. That is a share price difference of $1.25. With 600 shares, I made $750, excluding commissions.

Broken down, it looks like this:

  • I short sell 600 shares for $76 per share (600 x $76 = $45,600). By doing that, I’m borrowing the shares from my brokerage to sell in the market for that price;
  • The share price falls;
  • Then I buy back (or cover) 600 shares at the current price of $74.75 (600 x 74.75 = $44,850)
  • At the end of my trade, those borrowed shares are returned to my broker. I get to keep the difference in the short sale for a profit of $750;
  • $45,600 – $44,850 = $750.

Despite the order at which the transactions occurred, the concept of buying low (at $74.75) and selling higher (at $76) is still preserved.


The Downside of Short Selling

As great as it sounds to make money when share prices are heading down, short selling is a riskier practice. Here are some reasons to consider:

1.Many investors don’t short sell or even know what that is. This means you don’t always have the majority of the market on your side.

2. Shorting is made possible when your brokerage firm has the shares to loan you from its own inventory of stocks. These stocks are either from the firm’s own positions or from the positions of the firm’s clients. If your broker doesn’t have the shares to loan you, you cannot short sell the stock. You end up missing out.

3. The market is generally optimistic. This means the fear and panic don’t always last as long as you might hope to support your short sell. Price reversals can happen fast. You generally need to have a shorter time horizon for shorts and you need to be watching your positions more closely.

4. When you buy a stock in the standard fashion, the worst thing that can happen is that your share price drops to zero before you’re able to sell it. In this scenario, the most you can lose is the entire amount of your investment. When you short a stock, the share price can go up indefinitely — this means you can lose more than the entire amount of your original position. Potential unlimited losses is what makes shorting considered a high-risk practice.

5. Profits from short selling are normally taxed as income rather than as capital gains. This is not favourable taxation.

6. If the company that you’re short selling is paying out a dividend, you have to pay the dividends owing to your firm or to the client those shares are being borrowed from.


Why I Don’t Short Sell

The reasons above are enough to discourage me from shorting, though there are many more that I haven’t mentioned. Short selling is a more advanced way to make money in the stock market and is best left to the pros. I don’t short stocks anymore because I prefer to own them.

I normally don’t discuss short selling because it’s not for most people, not to mention it’s really confusing. I only feel like it’s relevant to discuss shorting in a market like the current one so that new investors can understand the additional reasons why the prices of their stocks might be going down so much. It’s not just from investors collecting profits or abandoning their stocks out of fear of losing more — it’s also from short sellers trying to profit.

After the short sellers have had their fun and after all the panic selling and pessimism have subsided, it usually takes a while for a stock to recover before going up again with more investor confidence. I’ve got my wish list of stocks to consider buying when all the selling is over, so I’m just waiting for good setups and a better market.


Alternatives to Short Selling

Even when the whole market is negative, I don’t always want to sell my stocks, nor do I short any stocks, as you already know. Sometimes to combat the downward funk, I will buy shares of inverse ETFs to make money in the interim.

Inverse ETFs are exchange-traded funds made up of more complex financial instruments that generate money when the market is moving down. Like a regular ETF, its movements mimic the market index ETF it is modelled after, however, it’s designed to go in the opposite direction. Basically, when the market index goes down, the inverse ETF goes up. 

Index ETFs are often created in a way to move up to 3 times more than the index performance or up to 3 times less. These differences in performance can either enhance your trade or really hurt it when you’re wrong.  You have to be careful and consider this when selecting ETFs.

I still regard buying an inverse ETF a very risky strategy as it’s still in theory ‘shorting’ the market. Also, inverse ETFs tend to have higher management fees because they consist of higher maintenance assets than most regular ETFs. Higher fees and MERs in funds diminish their value and overall returns. For this reason, I usually only buy and sell them for shorter-term swing trades.


Before investing in an inverse ETF or deciding to short sell anything, please consider the risks. At this point in time (it’s December 2018), I think the market will go up a bit more before it goes down again early in the new year. We’re so close to the year’s lowest trading levels of the US markets. I don’t think things will really start moving up again until we at least break below those 2018 levels first.

I know a lot of investors who have been feeling beat up and want to do something to save their portfolios. If you’ve been feeling this way for the last few months, the best thing to do at this point is to think of your future strategies for your portfolio and be ready for them once the market is more positive.

Remember that downswings and bear markets are a normal part of the cycle for stocks – nothing goes only in one direction forever. Going short now after the market has gone down so much is not only is riskier, the returns won’t be as great had you gone short in early fall.

The Transparent RRSP: Vacay

The week of November 27
  • I deposited $150 into the RRSP ahead of December. There is $351.89 cash in the RRSP account.

JP and I are going away for a week to Costa Rica (we’re going to the Pacific side). We decided to only bring our tablet and phones. Neither of us has plans to trade while we’re away. Our main focus is to relax, enjoy the warm weather, check out the real estate situation there, and read and swim at the beach. I might squeeze in some study time whenever I can. Derivatives and options have my brain turned in on itself – to take a week off could mean excruciating reviewing when I return.

The airfare was too hard to turn down: $770 CAD for both our tickets! Yes, we’re travelling at a time when the weather isn’t totally unbearable in Ontario yet. We do, however, plan to go to Florida in late February. That’s usually when the cabin fever is at its most intense and could use a warm disruption. Before I take off, I must, of course, look at the markets.


 

November markets

SPY, QQQ, DIA, XIU ETF charts on freestockcharts.com

 

I don’t know how the market will trade after the US Thanksgiving holiday. December could be positive because of a stronger retail sector around this time. The bearish correction in the fall that I was bracing/hoping for never came. (And that is why we trade the trend, even if we don’t believe it’s still there.)

The trade volume in the US markets seems to be coming down while the prices are going up. The confluence of those two factors often means that: 1) savvy investors start to take profits, and 2) the public starts asking those investors if it’s a good time to buy Apple. The best thing to do is wait for 3) to happen, which is an actual correction.

I was in the Caribbean on my first and last cruise in early 2015 when this happened:

Caribbean

XIC ETF on freestockcharts.com

When JP and I checked our email for the most expensive 10 minutes of our lives, we also checked the markets. At the time, we were only day trading, which meant we were holding no positions in our accounts. Although we weren’t losing money, we figured good opportunities would be short-lived. We were concerned about entering a more hostile trading environment in which small fish like us would get eaten by the bigger, well-funded fish.

After we returned and got our sea legs back, we looked at Canadian companies that traded on both Canadian and US stock exchanges. We discovered they were CHEAP. We bought just a few to hold long term and had a gangbuster year. I doubt the market will do that in the week that we’re gone. Perhaps next January?


I have some stock charts worth checking out:

  • FIRE.V (New and risky, but cheap. Take fewer shares.)
  • IMH.V (Same as above.)
  • TCW.TO
  • SSL.TO (I already have this in my RRSP.)
  • SMF.TO

Please check the company, the sector, the earnings, the market, and the fundamentals that you think are important. Always do your due diligence to trade with confidence while respecting your risk tolerance. I do think that the market could pull back early in the new year. You could wait until then before buying or take fewer shares now and more later.

The Transparent RRSP: Thanksliving Day Weekend

The week of October 2
  • On Oct 2, I bought 10 shares of ZPR.TO at $11.61. This cost me $116.10.
  • To my horror, I realized later on that I meant to buy 15 shares of ZPR, not just 10. So I ended up buying another 5 shares the next day at $11.67 a share (6 cents more!). This cost me $58.35. Aw phooey!
  • I would have bought more ZPR on Wednesday when I finally had more funds in the account, but the price was up higher by that point. Instead, I bought 15 shares of GRL.TO at $7.96 per share. This cost $119.55.

I have $37.92 in cash left in my RRSP.

GRL and ZPR

Price charts for GRL and ZPR on freestockcharts.com

I bought both of these stocks earlier this year. In early January, I got 50 shares of ZPR for $10.86 and 50 shares of GRL for $7.74 in mid-February. When you work out the average price, it looks like this:

ZPR

  • 50 shares @ $10.86 + $0.50 in commission* = $543.50
  • 10 shares @ $11.61 = $116.10
  • 5 shares @ $11.67 = $58.35
  • This totals to $717.95
  • Take the total cost of $717.95 and divide it by 65 shares. You get $11.05 a share for ZPR.

* I forgot to buy this under the “Free ETF Investment” commission structure with Virtual Brokers. I did remember to choose the correct commission structure this time around. At least I got one important thing right.

GRL

  • 50 shares @ $7.74 + $0.50 in commission = $387.50
  • 15 shares @ $7.96 + $0.15 in commission = $119.55
  • This totals to $507.05.
  • Divide $507.05 by 65 shares = $7.80 a share

Oh, what fun math can be! 

I really need to work this out for all the stocks I’ve averaged or scaled into. I scaled into a few of my other stocks last week — as I’ve been doing throughout the summer. I wish I could be a little more type A when it comes to tracking.

My new year’s resolution was to get more organized with tracking my trades. I still use post-it reminders occasionally. I now have two bulletin boards and a whiteboard to post better visual reminders for my trade ideas, upcoming strategies, and items that need attention. While I’ve made improvements in keeping up with things, I’m still floundering in the tracking department.


Thanksgiving Day 

Tomorrow my in-laws are coming to stay with us for a few days. They know it’s going to be a vegetarian ‘Thanksliving’ (the term courtesy of Jesse Eisenberg), so I’m sure they’re getting their turkey fill tonight with the other half of the family in Calgary before they fly in tomorrow.

I’ve got yummy Tofurky on the menu (don’t knock it until you try it) along with savoury kale chips, grilled veggies, dessert cookies, and other things that go well with good wine and craft beer. This may seem unappetizing to many, but we’re decent cooks for a couple of veg-heads and have yet to disappoint our guests. Cholesterol levels will not be spiking tomorrow!

I’ve got some cleaning and prep to do tonight so that tomorrow, I can trade in the morning for my US margin account as the US markets are open. Once I’m done trading, Thanksgiving cooking – and drinking – begin in the early afternoon.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 

 

The Transparent RRSP: Portfolio Choices

The Week of Oct 2
  • Over the weekend, I deposited $150 into the RRSP. I will have $328.22 in cash in the account as it takes a couple of business days for the transfer to show up in the account.

September was a bit of hectic month for me. Other than scaling into THCX.V, a stock which I already owned in my TFSA, I didn’t do much in the portfolio department. Sometimes you just have to take care of other business before you can properly take care of the business.

Last week, I finished the Trader Training Course with the Canadian Securities Institute. The night I found out I passed, I immediately signed up for the Technical Analysis Course. Even though I read charts all the time and dream about them in my sleep, I always like to read up on the basics. The text and course have been recently updated and I must say, I’m pretty impressed so far with the really clear explanations. I’ve read a lot of other books on technical analysis and this one is the best one yet. It better be because it costs A LOT more!


Now that I will have more cash, I’m considering buying more shares of ZPR. Check it out.

ZPR

Price chart for the ZPR ETF on freestockcharts.com

In the summer, I was curious to see if this would continue trading sideways. It still is, but it could be starting to break out. The worst that could happen is that if the market turns, this one will too after I enter, but I don’t really care. They say you should never have a bias when it comes to your investments, but I can’t help but like this one. I have shares of this in my TFSA as well.

Since it’ll take a couple of days for me to have the other $150 in this account, I’ll put a limit order in for 15 shares on Monday (tomorrow). Once the other cash shows up, I’ll get more. We’ll see how it works out.


Some More Stock Picks

I like the monthly charts for the following stocks:

  • CPG.TO
  • WCP.TO
  • ERF.TO
  • EFN.TO (This one needs another week or so to set up better.)
  • ACB.TO (This could use another week or two to set up.)
  • EXE.TO (I already own shares of this. It needs to tighten up, but I’m watching this one closely.)
ACB

Price chart for ACB.TO on freestockcharts.com

ACB is interesting because it’s a young stock. When you don’t have much to go on for the longer term charts of the weekly, monthly, and yearly, then you have to look shorter term and rely on the daily, hourly, or even shorter intraday timeframes (30 min, 15 min). It becomes more of a risk when you have less historical information to make your decisions on. In these situations, you just manage your risk accordingly. Even though it’s a cheap stock, you might want to buy fewer shares. As time goes on and you have more information and encounter better setups, you can always buy more shares.

I say this because I normally wouldn’t enter a stock that has gone up for six straight weeks as seen on the weekly chart. It would have to have an amazing monthly chart, which this one doesn’t yet because it’s still new. However, the daily chart is great in that is has a lot of trade volume supporting its most recent uptrend. What’s also attractive about this uptrend is that it’s had four pullbacks testing the trendline since it started in late August.

I’m a little hesitant to buy a new weed stock for the RRSP, but I think I will take on a few shares of this for my TFSA.

As always, do your necessary research and only risk what you’re comfortable with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Transparent RRSP: Relative Strength

The Week of August 14
  • On Wednesday, August 16th, I bought 100 shares of Bombardier (BBD.B.TO) at $2.65 per share.
  • With $1 in commissions, the whole purchase was $266.00. I now have $18.47 in cash in the RRSP account.

I actually meant to buy the shares on Tuesday, but I totally forgot to put in an order! So, on Tuesday night, I put in a limit order to buy 100 shares at $2.68, a couple of cents above the current bid/ask price. I was peeved by my sloppiness, but I’d been stalking this stock all month, watching it against the market. I wanted it that badly that I was willing to pay more than I knew I should have.

Thankfully, on Wednesday, my order was filled at the lower price of $2.65! This happens sometimes; other times it can go the other way and your order will be filled at a much higher price. It’s called slippage when you get filled at a higher price than what you have on order. Slippage tends to happen more when stocks are lightly traded. Bombardier is a heavily traded stock, so slippage is less likely to happen.


Let’s do some chart analysis!

 

BBD analysis

Price charts for BBD.B and XIC on freestockcharts.com

On Chart #1, the pink arrow shows the day I bought BBD.B. No special day and it closed negative. On Chart #2, the pink arrow for the XIC market ETF shows the market on the day I bought BBD.B.

The blue arrows on both charts #1 and #2 show how they closed for the week. BBD.B closed more positive than the market did, showing relative strength. There’s been uncertainty in the overall markets in general with the possibility of war — and then you add violent protests and terrorist attacks to the mix and you get even more negativity. I hope this little stock, along with the rest of the RRSP portfolio (come on, LIQ!), will show resilience in the face of all this.

Chart #3 is the weekly chart for BBD.B. It’s a healthy looking chart with a very bullish setup. (If you’re not familiar with the market lingo, bullish means optimistic and positive because apparently, bulls look up when they’re in attack mode; bearish means negative and pessimistic because bears look down when they’re about to pummel you. There could be more to the meaning of these terms, but all that matters is that you get the picture.)

Chart #4 shows a lot of potential for BBD.B to move up if and when it gets past the previous price resistance points as seen on that pink dotted line.

Of course, all of this can go potty — regardless the relative strength and bullish setups — if the overall markets get really negative and there are more sellers than buyers. No matter what, just try to stay positive and strong!

 

The Transparent RRSP: Interest

Action taken the week of June 26
  • Transferred $150.00 into the RRSP. That gives me $170.90 in cash.

If I see anything that looks interesting, I’ll be ready to take action with some cash in the account again. I’ve been looking around and I found a few compelling charts. However, the market is just so uninspiring right now. I’d much rather wait for it to settle down before I do anything. It would be great if there was nothing to do until next month.

Another thing to note: If we raise interest rates sooner, that will greatly impact the market. I plan to consider, over the next week or so, some good trading/investing ideas.


July xic

XIC ETF in freestockcharts.com

Let’s look at the monthly chart of my favourite TSX index ETF, the XIC. I would like the market to pull back until the blue line. I mentioned in a previous blog that I’d like a market correction to come down to the same area we were at around November last year.

I think, though, that we’ll likely only pull back to the orange line, which is where we were at in December. This year so far, we had the heaviest selling volume in June. To get significantly below June’s levels we’d have to sell a lot more.

If interest rates do actually go up, a lot of sectors like retail and housing will be impacted. The financials, on the other hand, have been recovering since late May. Higher interest rates will be better for their business, especially after they’ve been running on low interest rates for so long.

I wrote previously that I think there’ll be a recovery in energy (oil) this summer – and I still think that. It’s worth considering swing trade opportunities in this sector as it could go up over the next few months to a year.

After a quick search, I noticed that the following stocks have had heavy selling volume the last few months:

  • SU.TO
  • PD.TO
  • CVE.TO
  • BTE.TO
  • ENB.TO
  • ECA.TO

If you feel conflicted about putting money into the yucky oil industry, you can just treat this as a study into my process when I look at sectors that have been beaten up. Here is a general run down of my process:

  • Watch the daily and weekly charts of stocks;
  • Look for signs of sideways trading;
  • Watch for reduction in trade volume. The volume should indicate less selling some more buying;
  • Check the monthly chart – it should look like a reversal is happening;
  • Compare all this to the sector ETFs;
  • Among the sector’s stocks, watch for the ones that are looking the best;
  • For swing trades, look at the strongest stocks that meet your criteria for entry, price, and trading ranges. In other words, figure out which ones that will give you the most bang for your buck.

I’ll share my ideas on this more recent trade idea and if I do take a trade, I will let you know. If this makes you nervous, then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy watching me fall flat on my face. I often go into trades thinking that I will do just that, but it’s exciting enough for me to take action. This mindset forces me to only risk enough so that I won’t be devastated if I’m totally wrong. Personally, it’s more devastating to not financially benefit from an idea I had that actually worked.

The Transparent RRSP: My Own Stocks and Father’s Day

No actions taken the week of June 12

It’s been a very busy week for me, but it’s a good time to be busy as the markets are still looking like they’re headed lower. I don’t feel the need to take action quite yet. The US markets need to go down through May’s lows – at the very least – before going up again. This could affect the Canadian market; we have already been weakening the last couple of months and going through our own correction. If the US market goes down more and we don’t, then that’s a good sign for us that our correction could be over.

markets.jpg

Price charts of QQQ, AAPL, XIC, and SPY on freestockcharts.com

Apple (AAPL) is a big part of the NASDAQ (ETF: QQQ) and it’s been weakest of the big tech stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google). Until it stops going down and levels out, it will continue to lead the NASDAQ down.

It’ll be interesting to see if the rest of the US market follows suit. I’ll keep my eye on the S&P 500 (the SPY ETF). Its financial sector (XLF) has been quite strong, but this sector is due for a correction. A slower summer market could cause it to stall and look less inspiring to investors. A correction in the financial sector could take the SPY down. There was a lot of selling last week in some of the big US banks (BAC, JPM and WFC) as well as Visa (V). Other big financial stocks (C, MA, and AXP) were trading strong. A divergence between a sector’s biggest stocks creates uncertainty.

Summer Trading Means Fewer Selections

Often, when the leading market heads lower, other markets eventually do the same. However, it can be different in the summer because of less trading volume. Performance is more stock and sector specific and less market dominant.

Investors and traders pile onto the fewer, more promising opportunities that stand out. Sectors kind of do their own thing and are less prone to overall market moves because there’s less of a dominant trend. It becomes more obvious which sectors are stronger and which ones are weaker. It’s actually a very good time to look for sectors and stocks that are about to embark on a new move or trend before it gets busier again in the fall.

For me, the summer is usually the time when I focus on the quiet under-performing sectors and I try to see if there will be a new longer-term opportunity in it. I’m going to watch the Canadian financial sector as it’s been weak since late February. I feel that it should correct just a titch more, and if it does, I will watch very closely for when it sets up again. If this happens, Canadian banks, here I come!

I didn’t have time to do a stock search this week – I only had time to look at my own portfolio. Here are a few of my stocks that I’m considering buying more shares of:

  • Aphria Inc. | APH.TO
  • Aritzia | ATZ
  • Bombardier | BBD.B
  • BMO SP TSX Laddered Index ETF | ZPR
  • ECN Capital Corp. | ECN
  • Extendicare REIT | EXE

I’ve been complaining a lot about having too many stocks. It’s better for me to focus on what I have and get more shares of the ones that I like. I just have to wait for a new entry point.


Thanks Dad!

My dad passed away in 2009. He was 59 and battling a long-term ailment. At least I can say that shortly before his death, he was living life to the fullest. What happened to me after his passing was something worth thinking about. Without his guidance, his half-believable stories, and hilarious anecdotes, I had to use whatever resources he’d passed onto me to keep going. I’m sure this recognition was all subconscious, but I finally had the courage to see things for what they were and let them go in order to do the things I most wanted to do. I took a promotion at my job, saw my career trajectory and said, “On second thought, I’m going to learn how to trade stocks. However that turns out.” The rest is my history.

I’m halfway through reading Jack D. Schwager’s, Market Wizards: Interviews with Top Traders. It’s been an incredible read so far. I’ve heard of some of these guys before. It’s so cool to hear about how they all had to overcome so many barriers to get to where they were. One thing none of them had to overcome was their gender. I can honestly say that neither have I, even though I am a woman.

Since I was young, my dad convinced me that being a girl was an advantage. His dad, my grandfather, was in the US Army, and he was away a lot. He served in WW2 and in Korea. So my grandmother ran the show when my grandpa was away. My dad was the youngest of seven siblings, four of whom were older, amazing sisters. My dad ended up being a very macho guy – who saw women as being greater than anything macho.

Because of my dad, I never felt disadvantaged for being a woman. I actually thought that I could do whatever I wanted to because I was female – he’d long convinced me it gave me an edge. Maybe it is true – our society has yet to accept this concept. Or maybe he just told me a tall tale knowing what I’d be up against. As I got older, I became more painfully aware of the disadvantages women frequently encounter. I love trading because the market doesn’t care about your personal details. You’re either in at the right time and right price, or you’re not. It doesn’t get more gender neutral than that.

As I’m reading Market Wizards, I feel that I can relate to these traders on so many levels, but it feels a bit too much like a boys club. I know there are a lot of extremely successful female traders out there. We’ll just have to cover our own stories. Whether or not I become a market wizard worth writing about one day, I’m sure my dad would be proud of me.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

 

The Transparent RRSP: Share Prices & Flash Crashes

Action taken the week of June 5
  • Bought 20 shares of TransAlta (TA.TO) for 7.74. This cost me $154.80 + 0.20 cents of commission. I now have 45 shares of TA. There is $16.90 in cash left in the RRSP account.

If you buy a stock at different times and at different prices, then it makes sense to figure out the average cost of the shares. The previous 25 shares of TA were purchased at $7.63 per share. I’ve worked it out below:

  • 25 shares * $7.63 = $190.75 + $0.25 commission = $191
  • 20 shares * $7.74 = $154.80 + $0.20 commission = $155
  • $191 + $155 = $346
  • $346 / 45 total shares = $7.69

This is also known as the adjusted cost base, or ACB. I use the share price of $7.69 to determine how much I make in profits (or losses) when I sell the shares at a different price later on.

If I want to determine just the average price of the shares, I can do the same thing, only I leave out the commission fees. It works out to be $7.68. It doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but that’s only because my commissions are extremely low.


Flash Crashes

Yesterday the Canadian market closed positive. We traded sideways all week. Not much action, which I prefer. The US market, mainly the NASDAQ, however, experienced a flash crash. I saw the charts and so I had to see what the news had to say about it. They explained that the mega-cap tech stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google – aka FAANG) were starting to sell off. They weren’t the only ones selling off hard before the crash. The semiconductor stocks (SMH is a semi-conductor ETF in case you’re interested in viewing its chart) were selling off heavily after noon. It had been a long while since the tech sector had shown any major weakness.

After hitting new highs this week, investors were starting to collect profits and play defence by unloading some shares to be less exposed to a sell-off. Well, if enough investors with large holdings (particularly institutional investors) get the same idea, this triggers a mass sell-off. These sales which began around noon triggered the automated trading programs to sell later on in the day, which led to an overall big sell-off in the market. This domino effect happens when giant stocks fall; sometimes even one giant stock can affect the general market. The NASDAQ market lost its last three weeks of gains in minutes. It recovered partially at the end.

I have shares in a few of these tech stocks and I was thinking this week, “Wow, I can’t believe it just keeps going up! When will it come to an end?” I had sold some shares to collect profits a few weeks ago; I was left with the disappointing feeling that I had acted a little too soon. However, I did so because I was anticipating this. (If you’ve been reading my blogs, then you know this isn’t hindsight commentary.) I’ve lived through enough flash crashes to know that I’d rather make my decisions away from such events, not in reaction to them. I still have some shares left in these stocks, but I’ll see how they do over the next couple of weeks.

The Canadian market came down a bit in reaction, but it came back and closed positively. These flashes tend to be more pronounced in the US markets. Because the US market is so big, a crash can affect the global markets if sustained recovery doesn’t follow.

It’s events like this that could deter people from wanting to ever invest in the market in the first place. These things can happen in any market, though, because people are prone to panic. Rather than cave into your feelings and react out of fear of the worst to come, it’s best to try to be objective: Observe the sentiment of other investors and see how your holdings are doing on the bigger time frames like the monthly charts. There is a good chance that your charts are still looking healthy. A correction here and there is to be expected as nothing ever goes straight up. All I can say to all that is to keep calm and let your stock carry on!

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The Transparent RRSP: Stock Picks

Action taken the week of May 29
  • I deposited $150.00 into the RRSP account. There is now $169.90 of available cash in the account.

I’m still waiting to see if the Canadian market will have a more definitive correction than what it gave in May. It could set up over the next few weeks/months for a new run, but I doubt it. The monthly chart looks like the market is inching downward. I still would like to see the market come down to the same level it was at in mid-November.

With the lower trading volume during the summer months, I put less emphasis on the market (as long as it’s not making any extreme moves that invite concern or attention) and I pay more attention to individual stocks that are getting a lot of action. I might casually pad my trading accounts now and then with extra cash so that should opportunities present themselves, I’m ready to take action.


Some Stock Picks

I found some stocks with nice charts, some of which are seeing a lot of recent action in price moves and trade volume. These have been trading better than the market – which doesn’t say much.

  • BBD.B.TO – I don’t like that Bombardier has gone straight up the last two weeks, but it’s been stronger than the market. I would prefer a correction on the daily time frame. It’s worth watching as the weekly chart is promising with a breakaway candle that held strong with increasing volume. I’ve owned this stock since early February 2016 and I can tell you that it’s not much of a mover. This can be a good thing when this stock experiences volatility because it’s less of a shock to your portfolio (unless you have a lot of shares and took on too much risk). While the monthly chart is very nice, the yearly chart is not inspiring.
  • BTO.TO
  • HGU.TO (This is a gold ETF.)
  • TD.TO
  • MG.TO
  • RY.TO
  • NA.TO
  • TA.TO – This is already in the RRSP. I was beyond busy this week and I wish I had a chance to look at the chart earlier this week. Depending on what it does next week, I might buy more shares.

If you’re not inspired to take on any risk, you can just watch these over the next few weeks and months and see how they do with or without the market. If you do feel inspired to trade, I’d recommend taking on less risk and buying fewer shares. I only say this because I still think the market will correct further and this could take down your stock and it could be a while before it starts to improve.

As always, please keep in mind the industry, sector, the company and its fundamentals, any recent news, upcoming earnings announcements, the amount of risk you’re taking, how it fits within your portfolio, your anticipated time horizon, etc. It’s always important that you look into what you need to in order to feel confident in your investments.

The Transparent RRSP: Just Watching

No action was taken the week of May 15 
  • I had been uneasy about the market all week, so my only play was to sit on my hands.

The last few months, I’ve been chipping away at making my trades easier to track, record, and analyze. This process was always interrupted by the market, attractive stock picks, sections of my portfolio that needed immediate attention, and addictive Netflix series. Each time I got back to where I left off, I found I disliked my method or format. You would think that after all these years, I’d have figured this out by now.

With summer coming, I expect the market to lighten up in volume and offer fewer opportunities. This means it’s a good time to get back on track with getting organized. I’ve been spring cleaning my house as well as all the portfolio information that I manage, making a bit of progress each day. It feels great to de-clutter my living space and streamline all the pertinent information for my trades. All I can do is keep at it until I’m in a place where I can function effectively on a consistent basis – and still watch my Netflix!


What a week! Here is my market analysis:
xic

The XIC ETF on freestockcharts.com

#1. The trade volume candlestick bars of April 24 and April 25 show an abnormal amount of buying.

With all that buying, there was such little price movement as you can see by the small size of the price candlestick bars. Big volume with little price movement often signifies a reversal. To trade beyond those prices would require even more buying. The following volume bars show that the market could not sustain so much buying. Another thing to note: we have not penetrated those prices since.

#2. What messy, volatile trading!

After April 25, there was more selling than buying. The candles show wider trading ranges, particularly the red bars, which depict heavier selling. I drew a square around this week alone to show you how, in such a short amount of time, the market can drop because of uncertainty, volatility, and buying fatigue.

On Wednesday (the day of that big red candle, third to last), the US market reacted to bad political news and this affected us (as well as many other markets). I believe that generally, markets are more prone to news when they’re already uncertain or weak. A strong market won’t be affected very much or will bounce back quickly. The following Thursday and Friday did show some buying. It will be interesting to see whether or not we can get back up to the previous trading ranges of the last two to three months.

#3. Lots of selling volume.

The trade volume over the last four weeks shows mostly selling. When you’re looking at longer time frames for longer-term buying opportunities, this situation is not tantalizing.

#4. First red monthly candle in almost a year!

We hit a new 2017 low with that one little day on Wednesday this week. What I like about the monthly chart is that it provides a bigger, clearer perspective.

The last time we saw significant selling volume was in June last year (remember the Brexit referendum?) and before that, the last major selling low was in January 2016. We’ve been going up for a year and a half. This new low is minor compared to the massive run we had. Way to go, Canada! If your portfolio didn’t do well last year, then maybe you should take a break from your advisor and consider buying a market index ETF – once it’s a good time to get in.


It will be interesting to see how we trade until the end of May. Whether we close positive or negative, this summer I would like to see a more substantial correction that comes down all the way back to where we were in November before going up again. For most folks – especially unrealistically optimistic people like me – this seems like a drastic thing to wish for. However, I believe that if you want a meaningful run in the market, you need a meaningful correction, not a one day sell-off like Wednesday’s.

I will be watching for how the US market impacts the Canadian market. The tech sector needs to take a break while the energy sector looks like it’s itching to make a run to the upside. I don’t think oil will ever trade back to its previous inflated levels, but I do think it will make a very short-term bullish move along with a short-lived rush in the gold sector. I don’t know if that would be enough to help the US market continue its upward trend. The Canadian market could still go down on its own, but it will to a greater degree if the US also makes a considerable correction.

 

The Transparent RRSP: Book Review

No action was taken the week of May 1

I did an extensive search and didn’t find any good candidates for the RRSP. I think that once we see a more substantial correction in the market followed by some stabilization, we’ll see more options.


 

Market

The XIC, SPY, and QQQ ETFs on freestockcharts.com

 

Chart 1 is the weekly chart of the XIC ETF. It didn’t budge much last week and traded sideways for the most part. However, as you can see from the arrow I drew, it had some strong selling as indicated by the red trade volume bar.

Chart 2 shows the monthly chart of XIC. We finished close to where we opened. The arrow shows that overall for the month of April, there was more buying. As we’ve seen from a shorter timeframe of the weekly chart, there was heavy selling last week. Well, investors like a strong finish.

Already in this week alone, we traded lower than the month of April’s lows. This means investors are getting cautious and losing a bit of confidence. They’re selling shares, taking profits, and holding out on new opportunities – and if investors do trade, it might be with fewer than normal shares to reduce risk. No market can go straight up, so this isn’t anything to get too nervous about.

Chart 3 is the monthly chart of the SPY for the US market’s S&P 500 Index. The arrow identifies trading in March. You can see there was heavier selling in March. April had more buying than selling, however, it wasn’t able to trade higher than it did in March. All week it has been trading sideways. It might still have a positive May, but watch the volume and look for signs of less buying.

Chart 4 is the monthly chart of QQQ ETF for the Nasdaq 100 Index. The tech sector, especially the semiconductors, have been extremely strong since last summer. May will mean the seventh month up on a strong move. The arrow shows that April had a huge move up, but with lesser buying than in March. Are the Qs losing steam? We shall see…

There is naturally lower trade volume going into the summer months, starting in May. I will be keeping a close eye on the weekly and daily charts to look for more immediate signs of a reversal in the markets.


Last week I finally finished reading Michael Lewis’ hugely entertaining book, Liar’s Poker. I was sad to be done, but I feel like the story hasn’t ended because I’m living it through my own trading and from watching the markets. There is a story behind every trade and each investment decision. He skillfully addressed throughout the book how the human element of emotion is what drives markets.

This true story was about Lewis’ introduction into Wall Street as a bond salesman for Saloman Brothers, a securities firm. Every successful sale was done by convincing an investor that what he was selling them was going to be worth more later on. This sounds conniving and this book reads more like a humourous confessional as Lewis grew increasingly conflicted the more successful he became.

Even though this book focusses on the bond market, it translates the same way for stocks and any other security for that matter. Optimism is what drives the markets and allows them to thrive and continue. Pessimism morphs into fear and will make most investors regret their decisions and jump ship into something else.

All year so far, I’ve been providing you with analyses of the ups and downs of markets and making shorter-term projections based on price moves and the corresponding trade volume. These moves occur because of optimism and pessimism. The reason why I trade is because I’m generally an optimistic person and my long-term view is that the markets will always keep going up because I believe that most people are inherently optimistic. That is why, despite all these tales of glory and failures that come out of Wall Street, it’s still around. The markets aren’t going anywhere and I’m happy to believe that more of us are getting involved.

 

The Transparent RRSP: Month-end Market Read

Action for the week of April 24
  • I transferred another $150.00 to the RRSP account’s current cash of $29.90, which will give me $179.90 for the month of May.

I also didn’t do anything for the RRSP last week (the week of April 17). I mainly sold more shares of other stocks in my TFSA. I was feeling exposed having so many stocks at a time that I feel the market is going to have a correction. The fact that I still have 28 stocks in this account is still a head-scratcher. I managed to make a decent profit on some of these, so I’m sitting on more cash than I have in a long while.


Marks

The XIC and SPY ETFs on freestockcharts.com

The Canadian Market

You can see on the XIC that the Canadian market has just been trading sideways. At the time of writing this, there still remains one more trading day this month. There is usually a lot of selling at around month-end mainly because funds are re-balancing their portfolios for cash to pay investors. So, it remains to be seen how we’ll close, but I don’t think it will be too far off from where we closed last month.

The Canadian market has been lagging the US market this year so far. It’s not a surprise. Check out the two bottom charts where I drew the circles. Upon quick visual inspection, you can see we covered way more distance in 2016 than the US market. We (our economy and our loonie) got beat up so badly from the underperformance of oil/energy in 2015, that we had so much room to climb up and recover. And that we did. Our sectors in energy, mining, and finance gave great performances.

Every good run needs a break to slow down and catch its breath. If I want to find out what is making the market do what it’s doing, or where the market could be heading, I will look at the major players. I’ll either check out the sector ETFs, or the biggest companies in the influencing sectors.

For this scenario, I’m keeping an eye on the banks, all of which are in the process of a correction. It could be just a bit of a selloff, or it could be a substantial selloff that will keep going until mid-late summer or fall. Now, don’t go on selling your dividend-paying bank stocks – I’m just saying keep an eye on them if you want to have a better gauge as to where the market is going.

I will suggest that if you’re interested in accumulating more shares in bank stocks, you might want to wait a while for the prices to come down more and have settled down for a bit before going up again. I am a huge fan of waiting for new buying opportunities and I will wait months, even years, to get into good stocks.

The US Market

I can’t invest or trade or think anything stock-related without looking at “the SPY,” the most popular American S&P 500 Index ETF. It’s more out of habit having used it so much for day trading than it is out of necessity. I look at it to get the feel for the market, its momentum, and its sentiment. It often is quite off from the actual S&P 500 Index, but it’s where the action is at. This is where I discovered the importance of monitoring trade volume.

I never look at the SPY without looking at the QQQ, the NASDAQ Index ETF. Plus, I never look at “the Qs” without looking at some of its big players/action stars: Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, etc. I attribute the US market’s most recent run, not as much to its new president (but I’m sure he’ll take full credit for it, very true), but to the technology sector. I’m sure this would stir a lot of debate, but I’m speaking from an on-the-ground perspective because I own a few tech stocks.

The tech sector has been the leading sector over the last year, so it’s important to keep an eye on it along with its biggest stocks. You can watch the Qs and the tech ETF, XLK and the semiconductor ETF, SMH. When observing the big players in tech, look out for shifts in volume and ask is the buying volume is lessening? is the selling volume increasing? or whenever the prices drop, is there a lot of buying or just a little?

I would also be watching the US financial sector’s ETF, XLF. Like Canada’s, the US financial sector has been pulling back the last couple of months. If tech starts to come down along with the financials, then I’d expect a more prominent correction in the US market before more new buying opportunities start presenting themselves again.


This is my process and how I see the market. I’m always trying to find clues that indicate optimism (buying), euphoria (heavy buying with big price moves), panic (heavy selling with quick and large drops in price), pessimism (selling), or neutrality (lower volume, sideways trading).

I still hear over and over that timing the market is useless. I don’t look at it as ‘timing’ because it’s not a science, nor is it something you can accurately measure. It’s more about reading the market. Investors’ feelings and sentiment move the markets, not numbers. I hope that one day, more people will see it this way and learn how to invest with the flow.

 

 

 

 

The Transparent RRSP: Post #2

Actions Taken This Week of January 9th

  • Deposited $150 into the RRSP account which increases my principal to $1150

After buying 50 shares of ZPR at $10.86 per share, I have $456.50 left in the RRSP (I paid 0.50 cents in commission). With another $150, I give myself a better chance to buy enough shares of something else when the opportunity arrives. Having more money gives me the ability to diversify my portfolio.


For most of my working life, I mainly saved any extra money that my expected budget permitted. While this allowed me to contribute more than I normally would from time to time, it still fostered sporadic saving rather than regular savings that could’ve compounded nicely in my investments. There is power in consistency. 

When you’re consistent, you’re better able to determine where you’ll be headed in the future. If you can figure out your rate of return from year to year and factor in your regular contributions, you can see the actual potential of your financial growth. This where a goal is more likely to become a reality, rather than just exist in the back of your mind as a half-baked wish.

The first fundamental concept of investing refers to the compounding effect of your invested money + its previously earned interest = more interest on top of your growing money. I, too, wrote about it in my book because it’s the most basic concept of growth. Interest on growing money is going to be more than interest on a static amount money.

It gets complicated when you try to calculate the rate of return on your portfolio of investments. Ultimately, you want your portfolio at the end of the year to be worth more than it was at the beginning of the year and not just because you’ve been putting money into it. 

So if you put $3000 in three stocks. The best-case scenario would be for them to be worth more year after year so that should you have to sell them at any point, you will make money. You buy stocks to make more money on the sale of them. Never forget this.

Another reason to buy stocks is to make dividend income. For some people, this is their primary reason to buy stocks. It’s a very good reason because if you buy enough dividend-paying shares, you can live off that money. Or it can be reinvested in a DRIP to buy more shares or you can use the cash to buy other stocks.

HOWEVER, you must keep in mind that dividends aren’t a company’s obligation and not all companies pay one. If a company does, it can increase, reduce, or stop its dividend payments to investors if it makes financial sense for them. So, if a company is in trouble and over the years you bought many dividend-paying shares, you’re not only out of income, you face a big capital loss once you sell your shares.

A lot of people can’t get over the varying outcomes that stock investing offers. I mean, you might not make a profit and you might not get your dividends! The reason why I feel it’s important to regularly pump money into your investment account is so that you have capital to buy more than the three stocks in my example. You need to diversify. 

Not all stocks go up and down at the same time. Just because a stock price is less than the price you got it at doesn’t mean it’s in trouble – it’s normal for this to happen and sometimes it’s even healthy. It could take a while before it shines and becomes the star of your portfolio.The nice thing about a well-diversified portfolio is that as performances may be cyclical, over time they should all be going up in value. Having different stocks can smooth out the negative effects of underperformance, capital loss, or a stop on dividend payments.

Having said that, if you diversify too much and have too many stocks from all the sectors, it could start to look like the market. It’s a lot of trouble (and commissions) to diversify only to look like the market (or worse) when you could’ve just bought shares of an index ETF. Don’t over-diversify or else you can dilute the overall performance of your portfolio.

My takeaway point is that you invest your savings regularly so that you can afford to diversify.

I believe investing regularly, reinvesting your gains, plus diversifying your holdings lead to a growth effect that transcends the old compound interest model. With lower interest rates and the negative impact of inflation on your money and investments, you must start thinking about stocks and their ability to do more for you than anything else.

The Transparent RRSP: Post #1

My Objectives for the Transparent RRSP:

  1. To teach and encourage people new to stock investing; and
  2. To make this account grow through regular contributions, market value, and investment income.

My Feelings About the Transparent RRSP:

Nervous and excited! You can buy a stock and be under water for a long time only to have it reverse and become your portfolio’s darling for a long time thereafter. Conversely, you can buy a stock and only ever see grow, grow, and grow in share price. I don’t know what to expect performance-wise, but my plan is to be prudent, strategic, and aware of a new stock investor’s perspective.

Actions Taken So Far:

  • Contributed $1000 to my RRSP through my discount brokerage, Virtual Brokers
  • Bought 50 shares of ZPR at $10.86

Some Points on the RRSP

Here are the main advantages of having an RRSP as long as you keep the money in the plan:

  • RRSP contributions may be deducted from your income to reduce taxation
  • Gains from the investments in your RRSP are not taxed

A big reason why I like RRSPs as a starting point is that contributing more means you can have a bigger tax return later. Why? Not so that you can go shopping with your return. My philosophy has always been to invest the tax return on top of what you have to contribute. Compound, compound, compound!

In my opinion, compounding savings + investing is the most crucial strategy you can employ as an investor who is starting out. I stress the importance of budgeting so that you’re able to contribute as much of your cash early on in your time horizon. A strong head start leads to an even stronger finish. 

Only when you make withdrawals from the plan will you be taxed on the income you used to contribute to the RRSP, plus any of the gains from trade profits and investment income. For this reason, I have a long-term outlook for my RRSP. I invest more aggressively with a shorter-term outlook for my TFSA because I want to have an account that I can withdraw from to ‘pay myself’ without getting taxed.

There are a lot of other advantageous features of the RRSP, such as the Home Buyers’ Plan, the Lifelong Learning Plan, and the Spousal RRSP. I get into these a bit in my book. There are a lot more ways you can juke and jive with your RRSP’s many features to really maximize the tax deductions and tax deferrals. But first, let’s invest in it!


Trade #1 for the Transparent RRSP

Today I bought 50 shares of an ETF called ZPR, the BMO Laddered Preferred Share Index ETF. I already own this in my TFSA and it’s one of those stocks I will buy over and over again because it’s very affordable and pays a monthly dividend. Affordable income-generating shares = the more shares I can buy, the more income I get! I have a feeling ZPR and I are going to grow old together. There are a lot of other comparable ETFs out there, but this one so far meets my own personal preferences of trading volume and price.

I don’t expect it to move like crazy in share price, but a considerable amount of its holdings are in Enbridge and financials which means it could have a good run if oil and the banks do.

50 shares at $10.86 = $543. My commission is a penny per share* so I paid 0.50 cents in commission. Today I paid $543.50 altogether, leaving me with $456.50 to invest. I didn’t want to use up all of my 1K in case something else comes up that I cannot pass up, like a great cheap stock or maybe a better ETF. I get paid this week, so for the sake of compounding, I’ll add more to this account.


*Not all my trades are a penny per share. Some of them are less, depending on the share price. Additionally, once every quarter, I have to do a trade at the full price of $6.50+ so that I don’t get charged an inactivity fee of $24.95 plus tax. My commission structure with Virtual Brokers is an old one from years ago and until now, I’ve been quite happy with these guys. I think the commissions and structure are quite different now, but are still inexpensive. Virtual isn’t paying me to write this either. Do your research on discount brokerage accounts and select the one that best suits the likely frequency of your trades.

20170104_162330

A VB freebie from the Moneyshow!

 

No Stock Picking Here. Just Buy the Market Through ETFs

49

When I started trading stocks, I did a lot of my learning in different online chatrooms where traders with their handles would list the stocks they were watching and their likely entry and exit points. Since I traded together with JP, I thought an appropriate handle for a couple would be something that always came in pairs, like ‘Skates’ or ‘Gloves.’ We settled on ‘Antlers’ because it thoroughly amused us whenever someone wrote something like, “Nice call, Antlers!”

Some days, there was little action and it was hard to find hot stocks. When this happened, the play would be to ‘buy the market.’ This meant trading the market ETF (exchange-traded fund). As a very short day trade, ‘trading the market’ is always the dodgiest pursuit (we’re talking going UP and DOWN all day), but I found that for the long-term, this is the way to go for most investors.

Trying to create a portfolio that outperforms the market is a very involved commitment. Picking stocks means searching, researching, and analysis. If you can find some great picks to give your stock portfolio the boost it needs to look better than the market, then keep up the good work.

For the busy investor who recognizes the trouble involved with outperforming the market, market ETFs are a great choice. The commission and MER fees are lower than they are for mutual funds. Additionally, they’re liquid like stocks and you buy them the same way as you would for stocks through your brokerage account. As ETFs are funds that offer the diversification of the different stocks in a market index, you also receive the dividends those stocks pay out in the form of distributions. Add all these benefits to market performance, and you’ve got something good going here!


Below are some ETFs that trade in the TSX. For your research convenience, you can click on their links to access their Fact Sheets and learn more about their distributions and stock holdings.

The following is a list of Canadian market index ETFs. There are a lot more, but these ones have higher volume than most of the other market ETFs in the TSX.

A well-diversified, balanced fund portfolio should have some foreign holdings from the US and globally. Here are few US market ETFs:

The global index ETFs generally have lower trading volume, but in this situation with fewer choices, that’s all right. Here are some to check out:

These are just some of the ETFs. There are hundreds to thousands of others available at different prices.


As you’ve read previously in Stock Picking 3, there are also sector ETFs. There are ETFs for pretty much any investment objective you can think of. There are ETFs with fixed-income assets such as bonds and T-bills, ones that cover specific industries, commodities, and foreign currencies. Please keep in mind that some of the more specialized ETFs require more research and management of the assets in the fund, so they’ll have higher MERs than the market index ETFs.

When I was still newish to investing, my portfolio consisted entirely of mutual funds. It was well-diversified, but I know now that I could’ve done better financially had I invested in ETFs because of the significantly lower MERs and commissions. BUT–I didn’t know what an ETF was back then or even how to open a brokerage account, so it didn’t matter. In the last 10+ years, ETFs have been growing so much in popularity and variety that now you could achieve a well-diversified portfolio consisting only of different types of ETFs.

I don’t own any market ETFs as I like to pick stocks and I especially like picking cheaper stocks. But personally, if I were to invest in ETFs, I’d wait until the new year once it’s clearer where the markets are going with interest rates (will they go up or stay the same?), quantitative easing, and a new US president.

Column Published in Investor’s Digest

 

investors-2

August 26th Issue

 

If you’re interested in investing in exchange-traded funds, you can read about the various ETF strategies I recommend in this issue of Investor’s Digest of Canada! 


Other columns published since…

October 7, 2016 Issue: Getting Heavy Into Metal

November 25, 2016 Issue: The Investor’s Investor and Stock Picking

February 10, 2017 Issue: Smaller Time Frames, Bigger Profits