Most investors read news reports to evaluate a company's prospects. Bullish or bearish articles naturally impact our perception -- and positions. Yet in most cases we interpret the news in the wrong way. News headlines are, by definition, a lagging indicator. And because stocks often don't act the way news suggests they "should," we should skip the headlines and monitor the markets themselves.
Case in point: shipping stocks, where the news has gone from bleak to downright grim. This, even as a rally in risk assets has pushed the Dow Jones Transpiration Index to within 6% of its all-time-high. Last year the billionaire chairman of supertanker operator Frontline (FRO)
The Baltic Dry Index, which measures the cost of transporting goods by ocean freight and was discussed in this column last year, has dropped as much as 63% in 2012, hitting a 25-year low, including a 33-day run in which the index fell every single day.
Even now shipping costs remain unsustainably low. Because large tankers can deteriorate more rapidly docked than in use, some fleet owners are now actually paying users to rent its vessels. According to published reports, Global Maritime Investments chartered a vessel to commodities trader Glencore International for a rate of negative $2,000 a day, essentially paying the company to ship its own grain.
Yet amid these dour reports, many shipping stocks, including the Guggenheim Shipping ETF (SEA)
Positive price action combined with negative headlines? As one part of a risk portfolio, I'd consider that a winning bet.—Jonathan Hoenig is managing member at Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC. At the time of writing, Hoenig's fund held positions in many of the securities mentioned.