Sunday, March 15, 2015

5 mistakes small investors should avoid near a stock market top

The Indian stock market has been in a bull phase since Dec 2011. Nifty had touched a low of 4531 on Dec 20 ‘11, and rose to touch a lifetime high of 9119 on Mar 4 ‘15 – doubling in a little over 3 years.

Can the market rise even higher? Sure it can. Can it double again in the next 3 years? Anything is possible in the stock market – but the probability will be low because of the higher base.

So, expectations of making windfall gains should be moderated. Does that mean that there are no multibaggers left in the market? The market always provides opportunities – but investors need to be patient rather than chase after the ‘next Infosys’ or the ‘next L&T’.

Making huge gains is what motivates small investors to enter the stock market. But more important than making huge gains is preserving capital. The best way to do that is to avoid some common mistakes small investors make near a market top.

Here are five of them:

1. Looking at the Sensex and Nifty levels on a daily basis

Sensex and Nifty should be looked at for determining the long-term trend in the market. An easy way to do that is to look at an index chart with the 200 day EMA superimposed on it. A rising 200 day EMA with the index trading above it indicates a bull market. A falling 200 day EMA with the index trading below it represents a bear market.

Unless you own the 30 Sensex stocks or the 50 Nifty stocks, knowing the precise levels of Sensex and Nifty are not of much consequence and induces needless greed or fear. It is the performance of your portfolio that you need to monitor. Your asset allocation plan should tell you which assets you should buy or sell or hold.

Don’t have an asset allocation plan? Better make one – otherwise your investment decisions will be based on hearsay and gut-feel, which are sure tickets for disaster!

2. Selling in a panic if the market corrects 5-10%

There is a tendency for stock markets to correct when indices hit levels with several zeros in them, e.g. Sensex at 30000 or Nifty at 9000. Many traders (and investors) prefer to sell (or buy) at such levels. Note how call and put options are written at 7600 or 8800 – never at 7562 or 8793!

Corrections are part and parcel of a bull market. Corrections of 5-10% are quite common. These should be taken in stride, and in fact, welcomed as opportunities to add more. If you sell off in a panic, you may either miss the next leg of the up move, or re-enter at higher levels.

3. Getting swayed by economic and/or political news

Various economic and political news – which may or may not affect the stock market – flow into the market on a daily basis. Some companies win a few coal blocks in the auction – their stock prices go up. The IIP number is lower than expectations, the market falls.

The trick to avoid getting influenced by news is to realise that the effect of most news lasts 2 to 3 days at most. Things return to normal soon. It is the actual performance of the companies you own (yes, you own a small ‘share’ of the company whose stock you purchase) that matter over the longer term.

4. Buying ‘cheap’ stocks because the good stocks are ‘too expensive’

Regardless of when you enter the market, good stocks will typically trade at a premium. This is more so near a market top. If a stock is trading at a ‘cheap’ valuation, there is usually a very good reason for it to do so. Remember that ‘cheap’ stocks have a tendency to get even ‘cheaper’ – often just after you buy a large chunk of it!

If you are not an expert stock picker, and are confused about which stocks to buy during the ongoing correction in the market, choose a good diversified equity fund or a balanced fund. And keep investing your surplus savings in the fund regularly. After a few years, you will be amazed at the fortune you have generated with very little effort.

5. Holding on to your losers in the hope of getting back your ‘buy price’

If your portfolio has losers – don’t feel ashamed or blame your luck. Despite careful selection processes, stocks fail to perform as per expectations or lose money.

The big mistake – and this is perhaps the biggest cause of loss for most small investors – is to keep holding on to the losers in the hope of getting back your ‘buy price’. If a stock is losing money near a market top, it is unlikely it will ever make any money. Remember that the market doesn’t care about your ‘buy price’.

The best time to get rid of your losers is near a market top – when you may still find a buyer for them!


satvinder Pal Singh said...

Sir I am holding on to Tata steel which is a loser when mkt. is at top. But I am still confident that it will perform sooner or later.
Plese share your views.


Subhankar said...

The Corus acquisition has been like the albatross (in Coleridge's poem) around Tata Steel's neck. At some point they will come out of the mess.

Technically, the stock is inside a support zone between 300 and 330. Can be added if it breaks out above 330 with strong volumes.