Why You Never Say Never In The Stock Market

Robert Downey Jr.

Investing may be your passion, but the process — the analytical process you need to find winners — should never fall prey to the trap of sentimentality, or worse yet, nostalgia.

This is where investing and art part ways.

As Americans we love our art, which in this modern world really means television.  With six-hundred channels to choose from we stalk our content with a retardedly keen eye, curating out that which resonates deepest in our soul, and throwing the rest away as if the chaff of the craft.

We binge watch our favorite shows, infusing an immediate and intense relationship with our favorite characters.  We love them — often more so than the material figures in our lives — exulting in their triumphs and despairing with their failures.  It is a part of our human condition, which forgets the line between art and reality.

Not so long ago I found myself in the restroom of an office building, standing in front of a waterless urinal which had recently been installed.  I turned to the right and remarked to my colleague standing next to me;

“Do they really expect these things to catch on?  The smell is awful.”

“Well they are supposed to cut down on water use.  It’s all a part of a drive to make the building more green,” he said.

“It sounds like they want to make it more yellow,” I replied, my Shakespearian wit going into overdrive.

“They’ll never go for it,” came the reply from my left.

“Who?” I said, turning to face the author of these comments

“The unions.  They will never go for it.  These waterless urinals mean no plumbing.  No plumbing, no work for the plumber’s union.  They will never go for it.”

The author of these comments was a forty-something man, who despite his scraggly beard, unkempt hair, and baseball cap pulled low across his brow, could not hide a somewhat boyish face.  There was a familiarity in his eyes that I could not immediately place.

“Right,” I said.  “The unions. They will never let them get away with this.”

“Besides,” he continued.  “They make the place smell like piss.”

We all laughed and small talk was exchanged as we washed our hands and made our way out into the hall.  Turning away from the stranger, I looked at my colleague and almost immediately, as he said, “Do you know who that was?” realized in fact who I had been talking to just a moment earlier about urinal politics.

“Luke Perry,” I said.

“Luke Perry,” he replied.

Imagine a time before the internet, before social media, and before six hundred channels of cable pumped content into our homes 24/7/365.  A time known as 1990, when there were only three and a half real television networks, and if you were on one of them with a hit show, you were a true superstar.

And Luke Perry was a superstar.  Playing the role of the ever brooding Dillon on the seminal show “Beverly Hills 90210,” he reached a level of fame that you could only imagine today if Robert Patterson and Justin Bieber were mutated in some horrible industrial accident into the cutest vampire pop star that ever lived.  It’s too dreamy to even imagine.

He was white-hot.  Every girl wanted to sleep with him and every boy wanted to be him.  But when his show ended, effectively so did his career.  Now he is the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question.   A Twitter punchline at best.

This is where art and investing reconnect.  Stars, once fallen, traditionally never rise again.  And stocks, particularly momentum stocks, once broken, do not return to their glory days.

The overwhelming exception to this rule seems to be $NFLX.  A stock which rose 600% in a little over two years and then lost 83% of it’s value in the following year.  This stock should, like Luke Perry’s career, be dead and buried.

History is full of momentum darlings that crashed and burned and have never recovered.  $CSCO, $BRCM, $BBRY, and $POT immediately come to mind.  That is the way it has always been.  Like a financial law.  So has it been written, so shall it be done.

But this bull market is changing the rules.  Stocks like $NFLX are not only resurrecting themselves, but surpassing their previous glory.  Look around.

$QCOM, a 90’s internet bubble casualty is getting dangerously near its all-time highs.  $TASR, a one-time momentum favorite in the early 2000’s is about 33% off its all-time high.  Doesn’t sound too impressive until you realize that from its peak at one point it had lost 99.992% of it’s value.

This market is so powerful that it has done the near impossible.  It has turned “Luke Perry” stocks into “Robert Downey Jr.” stocks.

I don’t know if this is a good sign or bad sign for the future prospects of this market, but it is sure more interesting to talk about than waterless urinals.

Brilliant stuff like this rains down like..well, rain, on my stream during the week. If you want to get wet, follow me on Twitter and StockTwits. You can also pick up my book Trading – The Best of the Best: Top Trading Tips For Our Times by clicking here.

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  1. Pingback: Tuesday links: valueless portfolios | Abnormal Returns

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