Ask Colin

I have looked at your portfolio in relation to their charts. The buys, mostly I can see, but a lot of the sells I can't work out.

I publish my portfolio on my web site for only one reason. This is so that anyone reading my work in the Australian Financial Review or AFR Smart Investor magazine is aware of what I do or do not hold myself. This is required by law if I am commenting on stocks. Putting my portfolio on my web site overcomes a problem of just tacking a notice on the end of the article or column, in that my position may have changed by the time you read the article or column.

I would hope that my buys are explicable in terms of my method as explained in my books The Aggressive Investor (now Building Wealth in the Stock Market) and Hot Stocks (out of print). If not, I am not following my investment plan. I am therefore not surprised that you worked most of them out OK.

Sells are a little more complicated to follow at times. The ones that hit a sell stop level, or gave one of my three sell signals, should also be fairly easy to work out. However on top of this, there are other considerations.

The most important one relates to my market exposure strategy. At times I make decisions to vary my market exposure. The general rules for this strategy are set out in my book The Aggressive Investor. However, what is unstated is what I might be thinking. My current position is fairly much discussed in detail in my book Hot Stocks.

At other times I may make some other moves, which are driven by my personal situation. I might need to sell something to pay a tax bill. I may need to liquidate some investments to shift some assets from one tax-driven structure to another. And so on. These things will probably remain hidden from your thinking. I am sorry about that, but I can not legally give a running commentary on my actions in the market without crossing the line on not being able to give a view about the market without an adviser’s licence. The best I can offer is that if you ask me I will answer if I am legally able to do so at the time. I know this may sound like an evasion, but it is not. I simply cannot take the risk of breaking this important law which is aimed at investor protection, even if it is rather heavy-handed.

In this respect, I dare not answer your questions with any reference to the stocks you mention that you hold, because that could easily be seen as expressing a view about them.

Note: This was written in November 2007. I am now only writing for my website. The members website now has Stock Investment Journals for all stocks I own, which explain my reasoning when buying and selling.