NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Will a merger receive a blessing or a beat down from the Justice Department? What is the likelihood that a drug will be approved by the FDA?
These types of questions can send stocks soaring or plummeting, and institutional investors spend millions on research to figure out the answer to these questions. Whether it's talking to analysts, industry experts or perusing Bloomberg Terminals, institutional investors sure appear tohave all the advantages over retail investors.
There is a group of retail investors, however, with perhaps an even greater advantage than the institutional investor. I am talking of course about the college student.
As a student in college, not only do you not have to worry about paying bills for several years, but you have access to some of the greatest resources available. University professors are experts in their respective fields, and they can offer enormous knowledge about particular industries.
Moreover, university libraries can offer unique insight into an industry, and your school's finance lab may offer Bloomberg terminals.
I have used all of these resources in the past, and it has led to some highly profitable trades. Biotech stocks were some of the biggest winners in 2013, but as an accounting and finance major, I had little understanding of the biotech industry. I knew all the major players, but I did not fully understand the process drugs had to go through to get approved, nor did I understand the potential of these drugs if they received approval. There was a huge number of biotech stocks to choose from, but I did not have the knowledge to distinguish between the winners and the losers.
To solve this I did a ton of research on the Internet and in the medical library, and I spoke with some doctors and medical students at my school to gain insight into the industry. It soon became clear to me what diseases were the largest problems and which drugs had the largest potential.
Celgene (CELG) became my biotech pick.
I now had a better understanding of the biotech industry; I focused next on antitrust laws.
The airlines have never been an investible industry -- that is until U.S. Airways purchased American Airlines. This would create an oligopoly and put an end to the pricing wars that plagued the industry for so long. The only problem is that the Justice Department intended to block the merger to preserve competition.
To get a better understanding of antitrust law I went online, I went to the law library, and I spoke to several professors in the law school. Given the past history of mergers in the airline industry and the industry's low profitability, I became convinced a merger would go through with few concessions. I bought U.S. Air and continue to hold the newly formed American Airlines.
College is the perfect time to invest. It is the time when you are able to take more risk than any other time in your life, and you have all the resources available to make informed decisions. At no other time will experts in nearly every industry be so readily available unless you become an institutional investor yourself. With enough research and work, you may just pay for your college education before you even graduate.
--Written by Alex Pottmeyer for MainStreet