Opinion / Huang Xiangyang

Profits may lie where only fools fear to tread

By Huang Xiangyang (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-29 07:19

I admit it: I am not a good investor. Actually, I feel more like a loser in face of the unprecedented bull run than I did during the market's long, bearish winter.

Do not get me wrong. I am not losing money. But the profit of about 20 percent that I have made so far from my small portfolio of stocks and funds since the second half of last year is almost embarrassing, given the many people these days who boast of multiplying their original investment several times.

It is not that I am a terrible stock picker. In hindsight, some of my choices were brilliant, having doubled or tripled over the past year. But knowing what to buy is only half the formula for success. The other is timing - knowing when to sell and take profits.

But I got it all wrong, opted out too early. I hesitated when I should have been bold, influenced by experience and stock market "rules".

I saw the first "sell" sign at the start of the year, when one day I happened to hear people sitting at the table next tome in a smoky eatery brag about how easy it was to make big bucks from the stock market.

They probably were right. At that point, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index had surged 50 percent in less than six months, with hardly a pause. But that conversation reminded me of the saying from the Roaring 20s: "When even the shoeshine boys give stock tips, it's time to sell."

I had made some profits by then, and I did not want to lose them due to greed. So with no hesitation, I unloaded some of my holdings the next day.

My belief that the market had peaked-at least temporarily-was reinforced in the following days with news about how rookie investors were rushing to open new accounts. I saw it as the madness of crowds.

Then the dama dropped dancing on city squares to join the wealth hunt. Dama, or aunties, are middle-aged women who are not very well educated. They made headlines two years ago when they poured big money into gold and lost big as well. History repeats, and the market decline was imminent, I thought. So I sold more of my stocks.

Everyone knows what happened next.

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