Ask Colin

In early 2004 you increased your portfolio holdings significantly. Does this indicate increased confidence in the market?

I try not to take a view on the future of the market. You will already be aware that I never try to predict the market. Instead, I try to assess the condition of the market, by which I mean the level of risk, and adjust my strategy accordingly.

My strategy calls for initial investment when I think we are seeing distress selling and then buying strong stocks, which means stocks trending up and making new highs. That came in late 2002 and early 2003.

The second stage of buying is when the Coppock indicator signal comes and then continuing to buy strong stocks. That came in 2003.

The third expansion of holdings is when the index starts trending. That came progressively in 2003.

The final buying campaign is once the market survives a significant correction. That came at the end of 2003 to early 2004.

You should have been able to see that process in my portfolio changes. However, something has complicated it that is really outside my investment plan. That is a significant addition to my investment capital, resulting from a switch in the second half of 2003 of funds that were previously managed in a different way. This was not entirely easy to quickly integrate into the plan. In particular, there was a decision about what to do about existing positions that had already run a long way from initial entry, but which should theoretically have been larger under the new capital total. In some cases, I decided not to increase them, but to go into other stocks instead. Hence, my portfolio currently has more stocks that usual in it.

The other problem was that since my capital had increased significantly, I needed to take much larger positions. Although this is easy to grasp intellectually, it is not so easy emotionally and I have been feeling my way to the greater allocations indicated by the plan (Dr Elder teaches this as 'size does count'). I am getting there, but it has been something of a mind game. This has also meant I have more stocks in my portfolio than the plan indicates.

One thing you should take away from this is that everyone's situation is different and it can change over time. It requires a lot of courage sometimes to make changes and there realistically should be a period of adjustment. My portfolio is on my web site to meet statutory requirements for disclosure. It can be used as a kind of case study, but it must always be borne in mind that what I do is aimed at my situation, not all of which may be known to an observer.