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Dec. 1, 2018, 3:18 p.m. EST

How to be a better investor: Apply your shopping skills when buying stocks

George Young of Villere & Co. discusses investors’ psychological traps

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By Philip van Doorn, MarketWatch

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Axon Enterprise

Axon Enterprise /zigman2/quotes/208329414/composite AAXN +18.15%  was formerly known as Taser, and changed its name to reflect its new focus on body-worn cameras for law enforcement officers and the storage of the video data. Axon was formerly the name of Taser’s body-camera division.

“So they give away the cameras” to municipalities for their police forces, Young said, because “storage of the data will ultimately make more money than the cameras.” There’s an obvious need for body cameras, but storing and retrieving the data is a complicated business. There are various rules about how long the data need to be stored, and many important details to be managed. “If it is a minor, you have to cover the face. If there are license plates of uninvolved bystanders, you have to cover those,” Young explained.

“Since the Taser people have relationships with all of these municipalities, it is kind of a lay-up to sell them body-worn cameras and related services,” Young said.

Axon’s third-quarter sales were up 16% from a year earlier to $104.8 million, while its cloud services revenue rose 47% to $23.9 million. On a projected annual basis, recurring revenue rose 60% to $101.6 million.

Villere has owned the shares for about three years, and Young said the name change and focus on data storage was “very wise.”

Get used to volatility

Volatility in the stock market has driven away some investors. But that would be a mistake, according to Young, who invests for the long run.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.36%  has fallen 6.5% since the end of September (not including dividends), while the S&P 500 Index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.38%  is down 8%. From all the craven headlines in the financial media, one might expect that the U.S. economy is already in the doldrums or that the end of the world is nigh.

The S&P 500 has even been in “correction territory” during this period (meaning a decline of at least 10% from a peak), but “corrections happen more than once per year on average,” according to John Buckingham, editor of The Prudent Speculator.

“A lot of people have seen a lot of volatility over the past two months, which has not been fun, but over the past 10 to 20 years, these periods have become blips in the rearview mirror,” Young said.

In other words, you’re probably used to these pullbacks, and if you are not, you had better expect them and ride them out. If you panic, which is easy to do, your returns will likely suffer, as you will be very unlikely to move your money back into the market before it has already moved higher than it was when you sold your shares.

Here’s a two-year chart for the S&P 500:


FactSet

Over the past two years, the index has risen 21% (not including dividends), but you can see that this period has included several significant declines, which of course supported elevated levels of gloomy daily financial media headlines.

Villere Balanced Fund

Young said the Villere Balanced Fund’s /zigman2/quotes/209434593/realtime VILLX +0.37%  allocation is about 22% bonds. The fund has $245 million in assets and typically holds between 20 and 30 stocks. It can hold up to 50% bonds as part of its strategy of providing “sustainable long-term growth with reasonable valuations,” according to Villere’s description of the fund.

The fund is ranked two stars out of five by Morningstar, as its recent performance hasn’t been good.

“We fell victim to a bunch of stocks with earnings that were slightly weak, and they were whipped with, say, 25% declines,” Young said. “I went out and bought more. In a year we’ll know if we were right.”

“With smaller-cap stocks that have less liquidity, if short-sellers can borrow the shares, they go right down. This affected a few of the stocks,” Young added. He emphasized that Villere has always made long-term investment decisions based on detailed, bottom-up analysis and close contact with the companies.

Young said there really is no appropriate benchmark index for the Villere Balanced Fund. So here’s how it has performed against its Morningstar category and the S&P 500, through Nov. 27:

Total return - 2018 Average annual return - 3 years Avg. return - 5 years Avg. return - 10 years Avg. return - 15 years
Villere Balanced Fund 1.1% 4.6% 2.1% 11.5% 6.8%
Morningstar category: Mid Growth with 70% to 85% equity allocation -2.5% 6.1% 4.8% 8.7% 6.6%
S&P 500 Index 2.1% 10.9% 10.5% 14.1% 8.6%
Sources: Morningstar Direct, FactSet

Here are the fund’s top 10 stock holdings as of Oct. 31:

Company Ticker Industry Share of fund Total return - 2018 through Nov. 27
Visa Inc. Class A /zigman2/quotes/203660239/composite V Finance/Rental/Leasing 6.2% 20%
Steris PLC /zigman2/quotes/203973646/composite STE Medical Specialties 5.1% 33%
Progressive Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202480455/composite PGR Property/Casualty Insurance 4.2% 12%
Kearny Financial Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209526978/composite KRNY Savings Banks 3.7% -8%
Howard Hughes Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206056706/composite HHC Real Estate Development 3.6% -17%
Euronet Worldwide Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201180589/composite EEFT Data Processing Services 3.5% 35%
Pool Corporation /zigman2/quotes/200443753/composite POOL Wholesale Distributors 3.3% 21%
Weight Watchers International Inc. Other Consumer Services 3.2% 11%
LKQ Corp. /zigman2/quotes/210317139/composite LKQ Automotive Aftermarket 3.2% -32%
Genesee & Wyoming Inc. Class A Railroads 2.1% 2%
Source: FactSet

You can click the tickers for more information about each company.

Don’t miss: Utility stocks have beaten the S&P 500 in two months of turbulence and in the long run

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/zigman2/quotes/208329414/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 89.75
+13.79 +18.15%
Volume: 4.98M
June 1, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$4.54 billion
Rev. per Employee
$303,079
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/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
25,475.02
+91.91 +0.36%
Volume: 341.22M
June 1, 2020 5:27p
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/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
3,055.73
+11.42 +0.38%
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/zigman2/quotes/209434593/realtime
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 21.58
+0.08 +0.37%
Volume: 0.00
June 1, 2020
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/zigman2/quotes/203660239/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 194.35
-0.89 -0.46%
Volume: 6.01M
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-0.24 -0.14%
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0.89%
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$14.07 billion
Rev. per Employee
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/zigman2/quotes/202480455/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 78.34
+0.66 +0.85%
Volume: 1.75M
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12.93
Dividend Yield
0.51%
Market Cap
$45.47 billion
Rev. per Employee
$857,441
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/zigman2/quotes/209526978/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 8.48
-0.09 -1.05%
Volume: 274,636
June 1, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
17.76
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3.77%
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$716.99 million
Rev. per Employee
$402,534
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/zigman2/quotes/206056706/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 51.47
+0.82 +1.62%
Volume: 416,991
June 1, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$2.78 billion
Rev. per Employee
$761,726
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/zigman2/quotes/201180589/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 98.21
+3.48 +3.67%
Volume: 578,958
June 1, 2020 4:00p
P/E Ratio
17.39
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$4.95 billion
Rev. per Employee
$357,272
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/zigman2/quotes/200443753/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 267.76
-1.26 -0.47%
Volume: 331,090
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P/E Ratio
42.12
Dividend Yield
0.87%
Market Cap
$10.74 billion
Rev. per Employee
$749,524
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/zigman2/quotes/210317139/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 28.05
+0.59 +2.15%
Volume: 1.57M
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P/E Ratio
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Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$8.35 billion
Rev. per Employee
$232,876
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Philip van Doorn covers various investment and industry topics. He has previously worked as a senior analyst at TheStreet.com. He also has experience in community banking and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.

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