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TheStreet Open House

Buy, Sell or Hold Apple: Psychology, Sentiment and Your Cost Basis Matter

Stocks in this article: AAPLAMZN

Three key points on that: One, why do you even have to take a side? Look for stocks that have and will likely continue to outperform AAPL, while triggering less anxiety. Two, wait for the inane dust to settle before you buy. Why buy AAPL into what might be the continuation of a hornets' nest? If it goes up and the noise takes a breather, I reckon you won't miss out on the entire run from $500 to $700. I will take a little less upside if it means less anxiety each day of the week.

I'm not sure why the "Fast Money" crew was so taken aback by that. The first half of this Tweet from Twitter follower @popiboi states it well:

Not sure about the information flow part, but I often think "traders" just don't understand long-term investors. That's pretty clear when you make a statement like cost basis only matters for tax purposes. Really?

If you're the average long-term investor, you really shouldn't be making buy more/sell/hold decisions on the day of Apple's biggest earnings report ever. As of last night, the options market hints at a 10% move in AAPL, to either side, on Thursday (via veteran options trader @FredRuffy). Again, not the type of stock that provides a good night's sleep for most long-term, risk-averse cats.

That said, reality, for large swaths of long-term investors, is straightforward: They do not go into a position with discipline, using pre-determined -- and quite possibly scaling -- stop losses and profit targets. In other words, if it drops this much, I sell this much. If it goes up this much, I sell this much. There's a time to have strong hands or let winners run, no question, but discipline trumps trying to use intuition. The latter blows up portfolios.

So, you're looking at your cost basis ahead of earnings. Maybe you say, I got in at $300. I am up 67%. That's pretty damn good. How will I feel if I hold some or all of my position through earnings, AAPL gets hit and my on-paper profit drops to, say, 50%? Or can I live with myself if I sell now and take these respectable profits, but miss out on another 15% or so of upside?

That's just one scenario and a handful of a practically infinite number of questions AAPL longs are likely asking themselves right now. And it's all about cost basis, emotion, psychology, volatility and headlines.

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