Friday, October 05, 2007

Sisyphusian Defiance

I would like to vent regarding a particular stock I have been short - save a few short intervals - for the past three years. That time horizon will itself raise some eyebrows. But it is a stubborn issue, that refuses against all natural forces of entropy, gravity, and shitty fundamentals (no growth, unattractive valuation, miserable future prospects) to return to the level from which it was speculatively launched into the Kuiper Belt back in 2004.

By sheer coincidence, it presently trades at the precisely the same price that it did two decades past, an ignominious distinction, to be certain. That is despite achieving no better than half of the peak operating profits they happened to achieve in their machinery niche during the boom times. Toyota Motor they clearly are not. One would be forgiven for asking why they remain in existence, the answer being some mixture of tradition, inertia and something peculiarly Japanese and irrationally uneconomic. Nevertheless, they do, and I do not begrudge their aging workforce continuing to assemble uninspiring, mediocre machinery for which the market itself is in terminal decline. But I am confounded by why someone (many ones in fact) speculatively return to the shares of this firm upon who the sun is undeniably setting.

Prices were highly elevated in the bubble. No doubt, their HQ sat upon tsubos that were imperially valued at that time, if nothing else they had this which provided justification to the specs. The stock shat for a decade and settled at the YEN200 level, languishing there for five years. In 2004, some specs came along and started lifting the share price, getting it up to nearly five-fold to YEN1100. Unwisely, I sold contra at closer to the YEN500 level as they were vaulting. But patience is one of my virtues, and though it was as pleasant as a hemorrhoid to watch it vault skywards, I kept my position and my conviction, finally [and only briefly] covering at the YEN350 level in a bout of rare, satisfying, and well-time prescience, which was just before it bounced to YEN500 whereupon I dropped it again, remaining short ever since.

As a persistent value-destroyer, with few redeeming qualities outside the HQ they probably own in Chiyoda-ku, given their time-honoured history, I believe they are likely to trade back to where they came. Unfortunately, like a Tourette's patient, or someone undergoing violent seizures every few months, the shares lurch on such seemingly random occasions by 20% or so turning over another fifth of the float, in an apparent desperate speculative attempt to defy entropy and gravity. That they've done this six times during the preceding 14 months, in the process snatching away my expected return but YEN100 from my target is beginning to get me annoyed, and as a result, I am getting frustrated by my unrequited expected profit remaining in sight, though out of reach.

Though tempted to puke, I shall keep my resolve. I will, instead, kick the cat (not too hard for PETA readers), go for a run, take a really deep breath, and try to return to the happy, happy place in my head that existed during the mid 90s, when Japanese speculators were trading stocks [poorly at that] instead of punting in Short Yen Carry baskets, and happily contributing to my offsprings' college fund. Breathe-in....breathe out....breathe-in...breathe-out....

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