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Ed Ponsi: Bill Ackman's Ahab Moment

Stocks in this article: HLF

NEW YORK (Real Money Pro) -- Nearly a year after his infamous attack on Herbalife (HLF), Pershing Square Capital Management's Bill Ackman is at it again.

At Friday's Robin Hood Investors conference, he sounded rather like Herman Melville's Captain Ahab. "We're going to take this to the end of the earth," said Ackman, having already sustained a $500 million loss. Investors realized that Ackman had no new harpoon to wield at the multilevel marketing giant, so Herbalife shares shot higher, rising nearly 5% to $71.65, closing at a three-week high.

Ackman sounds just like every investor who went down with the ship. He's doing the one thing that you can truly never do: He's made it personal.

How much smarter would Ackman seem -- and how much more respect would he have gained -- had he simply said something like this: "You know what? I truly believe that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme and that if it were to be investigated, it would be shut down and shares of the company would be worthless. But none of that matters because the company isn't being formally investigated. We're in a bull market, and stocks keep going higher, including Herbalife. I feel that I'm right about the company, but I refuse to fight the tape. That's why I've closed my short position."

If Ackman makes that statement, he'll find himself in a win-win situation. If at some point in the future Herbalife were identified as a pyramid scheme, the investing world would have to acknowledge his prescience and accuracy. On the other hand, if the company were exonerated, he'd be recognized as having been smart enough to take his loss and move on.

Make no mistake about it, Ackman is fighting the tape. According to the chart, the trade will continue to move against him. Herbalife shares have formed a massive cup-and-handle pattern over the past 18 months. This bullish pattern indicates that HLF shares are about to go on a tear.

Source: TradeStation

A close above $73.50 would complete the pattern and push HLF to a new all-time high. With no overhead resistance, and with sponsors like Carl Icahn and George Soros, there is no telling how far HLF might run.

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