Being a successful contrarian investor takes skill and preparation; yet many talented and hard working contrarians are often proven wrong for too long before eventually being proved right in the long run, their portfolios paying a steep price in the process and often jeopardizing hard-earned gains–John Paulson comes to mind here. In a market as treacherous and volatile as today’s stock market, dominated by high frequency traders and double and triple inverse or leveraged ETFs, playing contrarian to investor sentiment can be disastrous. Good examples of this are Netflix and MF Global Holdings, two companies that could hardly be any more different from each other. One, a (once) high-flying Internet darling and the other a self-styled up-and-coming investment bank with more ambition than capital to support it. Yet they have at least one thing in common: they are both members of MarketGrader’s Declining Sentiment list, currently featured on our web site as the free stock idea list of the week. This list highlights the 100 stocks with the biggest four-week drops in Sentiment score.
While Netflix’s story reached a climax this week with the company’s disappointing earnings announcement, in which the it revealed a jaw-dropping loss of 800,000 subscribers in one quarter, the tug of war between NFLX bulls and bears has been playing out for months. And while today’s rock bottom Sentiment score of 1.1 (out of 10) might seem like yesterday’s news, NFLX has been a member of this not-so-select group for more than a month. Actually, signs of deteriorating Sentiment first surfaced based on MarketGrader.com’s analysis as early as June, when the stock’s Sentiment rating was first downgraded from Positive to Neutral. While the score stayed in a Neutral Sentiment range for most of the following two months a second major decline occurred in mid September when the Sentiment rating was downgraded from Neutral to Negative. This should have given cautious investors warning a month ahead of the company’s earnings announcement. While many would argue today that the company still has a solid business, generally strong fundamentals (we won’t argue with that) and a clear plan to steer its business away from DVD deliveries and towards streaming digital content (can’t argue here either,) such deterioration in Sentiment should have given investors pause in waiting for a better entry point given the stock’s lofty valuation (here our Rating Style Change feature comes in quite handy.) And for long term owners of the stock it should have served as a sign to take some money off the table and wait for the storm to pass. A history of Netflix’s Sentiment rating in the last two years is illustrated below.
MF Global’s story played quite differently in the last few months yet it had a similar (and scarier) ending this week. While MarketGrader.com has rated MF a ‘Sell’ since 2008, unlike NFLX which we rate a ‘Buy’ based on its fundamentals, a similar decline in the stock’s Sentiment score took place two weeks before yesterday’s earnings announcement. On October 11th MarketGrader.com downgraded MF’s Sentiment rating from Neutral to Negative and added the company to the Declining Sentiment list. The chart below illustrates the decline in Sentiment earlier this month. The stock fell 47% yesterday following the company’s earnings report and is down again today more than 32% at the time of this article’s publication.
Investors without a MarketGrader.com subscription wondering who else might be on our Declining Sentiment list may view it for free for a limited time by clicking here. They may then view our complete analysis, both top-down (Sector, Industry and Sentiment) and bottowm-up (Fundamentals) for every company on the list. Subscribers may, of course, always access this and all other daily-updated lists in the Stock Ideas section under the StockGrader tab in MarketGrader.com.