Ahh, Thanksgiving. A time to talk turkey, watch football and, of course, review the holiday portfolio.
There is plenty to be thankful for in this year's portfolio, especially when you consider that one turkey -- Pfizer (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report -- is down over 20% (more on that later). In total, the portfolio has worked just about as I had hoped.
When I first put this version of the holiday portfolio together, I was looking for five stocks that would provide opportunities in a year that would likely see the beginning of an economic recovery. That said, knowing that the beginning of an economic recovery is both uneven and sometimes unnerving, I was hoping to combine the stability of income-producing equities with companies that were poised to benefit from economic growth, with the income providing a hedge if my timing was wrong. With the exception of Pfizer -- one that has been ripped by the headlines of Big Pharma -- the portfolio has worked just about as planned.
Before I take a closer look at the five members of the portfolio, let's quickly review the purpose of this exercise I call the holiday portfolio.
I created the first holiday portfolio three years ago, hoping to craft an occasional column (for those looking for something to read on market holidays) that would track a concentrated portfolio of core equities for an entire year. Doing so gives me (and you) the chance to think longer-term about the fundamentals of a company's business as well as its industry. We follow the stocks in the holiday portfolio -- regardless of their performance -- throughout the year. The only way a stock is removed from the portfolio is if it merges with another company or ceases to trade on a major exchange.
Not only should the portfolio serve as a forum for more in-depth discussion of investment decisions and company strategy, it should also serve to reinforce the importance of ongoing portfolio analysis. In addition, through occasional comments on the stocks in the
Columnist Conversation, it provides an opportunity to look at both short-term trading strategies and longer-term investment strategies with the same stocks.
This year's twist is the readers' selection. On
New Year's Day I asked you to review the stocks you routinely follow and send me your best idea for the portfolio. And after over 250 unique suggestions, the readers' pick was Pfizer! (Ouch!)
The big swoon in Pfizer has had the most significant negative impact on the portfolio in the last two months.
problems with Vioxx, combined with concerns over generics and longer-term development pipelines of the major pharmas, have punished all the big names, and Pfizer is no exception.
While it's hard to catch a falling knife, Pfizer is very intriguing at current prices. Next week, for example, Pfizer is hosting an R&D day that will highlight its pipeline, and that could help the stock rebound from the recent swoon. While I am cautious on the large drugmakers, I would watch Pfizer ahead of and into this important gathering. It should rebound a bit into the end of the year.
Another portfolio challenge this year has been
Equity Office Properties
, a commercial office property REIT that has struggled with occupancy and rent issues in the economic downturn. As
discussed before, the company took a large position in the California market just as the economy -- and real estate markets -- turned south.
However, after a swoon earlier this year on concerns about both lease-rate recovery and the ability of the company to cover its dividend with cash flow, the company has done a good job of assessing portfolio strengths and appears poised to refocus on core markets, something Equity Office has consistently done well.
And as I've noted before, Equity Office has a salty management team led by Chairman Sam Zell and CEO Richard Kincaid, and that will go a long way to maximize Equity Office shareholder value as the market continues to improve. You now get a 7%-plus dividend to let this story play out, one I am willing to be patient for as the economy improves.
Finally, just under water on a price basis is the Southeast regional financial player
. Many banks have been volatile -- even while trading around break-even -- this year, as interest rate policy continues to evolve. But First Horizon continues to perform with its multifaceted financial services menu, from banking to capital markets. Earlier this year the company changed its name from First Tennessee to eliminate the geographic label. While the company's performance has cooled off, it remains a prime target should regional consolidation return to the banking world.
The winner in the portfolio to date is
, now up over 36% since January. While smaller than an
, ConocoPhillips remains a solid exploration company and is taking a deeper plunge into Russia with a play for a meaningful stake in Lukoil. Oil over $40 and natural gas at $6 will allow ConocoPhillips to continue its growth plans into the new year.
has moved up nicely since our last update in September. GE remains a broad market and economic recovery play and should perk up with the market as we enter the fall. Its recent acquisition of the commercial vehicle leasing business from
is a sign that GE believes 2005 will see further economic strength.
As mentioned in
September, I would pay particular attention to the environmental services group at GE as well as its power engineering business. Those two businesses have been weak as the economy corrected in past years, but there are signs of life in both sectors, and they deserve a close eye in the coming months.
We will take one final look at the holiday portfolio on Christmas Day and introduce the 2005 portfolio. Hopefully, we'll get a little uptick in Pfizer and finish the year strong.
Until then, I'm truly thankful for a wonderful family -- especially my new baby daughter Margaret Christine and wife Sonnet -- my colleagues at
and all of the wonderful relationships I have built over the years with readers like you. We have a real community of people who have come together to learn more about finance and the markets. There couldn't be a better gig in all the world.
Have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.
At time of publication, Edmonds was long ConocoPhillips, GE, Pfizer and Equity Office Properties, although holdings can change at any time.
Christopher S. Edmonds is vice president and director of research at Pritchard Capital Partners, a New Orleans energy investment firm. He is based in Atlanta. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. While Edmonds cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback and invites you to send it to