It’s no secret that the practice of stock picking has often been compared to gambling, with most conservative, buy-and-hold investors warning against the destructive impact stock speculation can have on your nest egg. But leave it to a professional gambler to challenge that conventional wisdom.
A year ago this week, 23-year-old Ryan Riess won $8.4 million in the World Series of Poker — then let some of those profits ride — in the stock market. Riess also urged investors to be patient, find declining stocks to buy, and don’t panic and sell.
Let’s focus on Reiss’ first nugget of advice: Let some of the profits ride. While very few investors moonlight as professional gamblers, the raging bull market that started in March 2009 has delivered big returns — and perhaps an alternative to just taking profits.
Riess’ way of letting some of his profits ride was relatively conservative: his four top holdings are Apple (AAPL), Disney (DIS), Facebook (FB) and Union Pacific (UNP). Still, those four stocks have gained an average of 46% over the past year — stellar returns by any measure.
The wave that swept Republicans to control in the U.S. Senate and strong gains in the House and gubernatorial races should quicken the market’s pulse for the next few weeks. But that said, past performance is no guarantee of future results — particularly since the bull market won’t run on forever.
That calls for a different stock-picking strategy: Stay true to the buy-and-hold discipline and income investing, let a little cash ride on stocks that are more speculative, but have the ability to ride short-term trends to big gains.
Here are three stocks to buy with your bull market profits.
Stocks to Buy: DryShips (DRYS)
Dry-bulk shipping stocks have hit a reef in recent months and DryShips (DRYS), which is down more than 70% in the past year, has struggled more than most of its peers. DRYS stock is extremely volatile: Its beta of 3.1 suggests that DRYS is 200% more volatile than the broader market. The stock also plummeted 23% last month after DRYS announced a secondary offering of its common stock — 250 million shares at $1.40.
Add to that a heavy debt load, an oversupply of shipping capacity, and lower oil and iron ore prices and it is easy to see why DRYS is not a good long-term holding right now. Still, there are a couple of opportunities for investors looking for stocks to buy to cash in on short-term trends.
First, the Baltic Dry Index (BDI), which measures the cost of transporting commodities by sea, is up to nearly 1,500 this week — an indication that dry bulk shipping companies like DRYS are able to charge higher spot and new charter rates. Also, DRYS was trading up more than 2% on Thursday in the wake of a third-quarter earnings beat on 47% revenue growth compared to the prior year.
Another interesting sign: Blue Mountain Capital this week announced it had taken a 10% stake in DRYS — a big bet on a shipping industry rebound that will lift DRYS. There is a narrow window of opportunity to cash in on the market’s exuberance over rising dry bulk spot rates and the earnings beat — but DRYS (trading around $1.50 now) requires a higher risk tolerance and focus.
Stocks to Buy: Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV)
Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV) is in the business of building and selling single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums and mid-rise condominiums, primarily in planned residential communities.
Homebuilding stocks have been in a slump this year despite low interest rates and an improvement in the economy — consider some of the lackluster results from sector leaders like Toll Brothers (TOL).
That said, HOV has recently caught the attention of analysts, and HOV stock has received upgrades from JMP Securities, Zack’s and Compass Point in recent weeks, landing it on their lists of stocks to buy. The analysts cited HOV’s track record of outperformance when the housing sector improves, as well as the fact that the stock has underperformed this year.
If you buy HOV, be prepared for volatility: The stock has a beta of 2.2 — 120% more volatile than the broader market. The stock, which jumped 7% on Tuesday, remains down 36% year-to-date. That presents an opportunity for stock pickers who want to ride the optimistic hopes that the homebuilding sector will surge in the spring of 2015. The opportunity will be short-lived, however, so watch sector trends very closely as the end of the year approaches.
Stocks to Buy: Cytokinetics (CYTK)
If you’re looking for a poster child that captures the volatility of biopharmaceutical stocks, Cytokinetics (CYTK) is a contender. CYTK is developing small molecule solutions that can improve muscle function in the treatment of serious medical conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The stock has made big gains recently, in part because of an earnings beat last week — CYTK reported a 16-cent per share loss for its most recent quarter, much better than the 27-cent loss Wall Street expected. That’s impressive performance, particularly since some investors thought Cytokinetics was down for the count after its most promising ALS treatment missed its primary goal in a mid-stage trial. The reversal is what makes CYTK one of the hottest stocks to buy.
Cytokinetics is also developing a cardiac drug omecamtiv mecarbil, which is being tested as a potential treatment for heart failure. Amgen (AMGN) has an exclusive license from CYTK to market the drug worldwide, but has yet to commit to Phase III trials. While it is much too early to bet that Cytokinetics can deliver over the long term for buy-and-hold investors, there is a case for letting some of your profits ride — particularly since CYTK stock, which is trading around $4.40, has been in oversold territory for a couple of months.
Bottom Line: These stocks are probably not a good way for buy-and-hold investors to go right now — they are too volatile to be the foundation of a sound investment strategy. Nevertheless, they’re cheap and getting a good (but temporary) bounce now, which makes them great stocks to buy for short-term profit.
As of this writing, Susan J. Aluise did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.