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Bulkowski’s How to Pick Stocks, Part 1

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As of 02/20/2019
  Industrials: 25,954 +63.12 +0.2%
  Transports: 10,627 +9.81 +0.1%
  Utilities: 746 +2.71 +0.4%
  Nasdaq: 7,489 +2.30 +0.0%
  S&P 500: 2,785 +4.94 +0.2%
Tom's Targets    Overview: 02/14/2019
26,000 or 24,600 by 03/01/2019
10,900 or 9,900 by 03/01/2019
755 or 725 by 03/01/2019
7,700 or 7,050 by 03/01/2019
2,825 or 2,650 by 03/01/2019

Written by and copyright © 2005-2019 by Thomas N. Bulkowski. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: You alone are responsible for your investment decisions. See Privacy/Disclaimer for more information. Some pattern names are the registered trademarks of their respective owners.

My book, Trading BasicsTrading Basics: Evolution of a Trader book., shown on the left, is the first book in a series of three called the "Evolution of a Trader." It will teach you about the four styles of trading (buy-and-hold, position, swing, and day trading).

If you click on this link and then buy the book (or anything) at, the referral will help support this site. Thanks. -- Tom Bulkowski

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Picking Stocks Introduction

One of the frequently asked questions is how do I select stocks to trade? This page provides information on building a core group of stocks, ones you will want to hold for the long term. That may mean a year, three years, or longer. Michaels Stores, for example, was a stock bought out in 2006 that I have owned since 1989. So, yes, you can hold onto a stock for the very long term, and the longer you hold, the more likely it is to double, triple, or perform as well as Michaels. I bought and held shares from 1990 at a split-adjusted price of 88 cents and the buyout was at 44. That is nearly a 5,000% increase, and that is the type of return I seek from my core holdings.

Picking Stocks: One Approach

There are many approaches to stock selection and one that does NOT work is searching for stocks on the monthly scale, then the weekly, and finally the daily scale. What looks great on the monthly scale is trash on the daily scale.

Instead, do the reverse. Find a stock you like on the daily scale (or the scale you normally trade) then check the higher scales - weekly and monthly - to be sure the story is still compelling. If so, then consider buying.

Another method is to bottom fish. Look at stocks grouped by industry. If you find a stock making a new yearly low but it is the only one in the industry doing so, then stay away from it. Chances are it is a dog, a stock that may stay down for a long time while the others soar. Clearly, there is something wrong with the stock or else it would not be trading near the yearly low.

Look for entire industries that are weak. Then find a compelling situation within that industry. Take your time before you buy. Weak stocks have a tendency to get weaker and make new lows. When the bottom comes, price will make an ugly double bottom. The other stocks in the industry will be showing higher lows, too. If so, that might be the time to start nibbling. Price might still collapse, so be careful. Over the long term, a year or two, you will be buying near the bottom and setting yourself up for the double, triple, or better.

Buying an industry that is doing poorly takes courage. It is a dangerous play, but one that can lead to large profits over the long term.

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Picking Stocks: Approach Two

Bottom fishing, where you select weak industries, is risky because weak stocks and industries tend to remain weak, as outlined in One Approach. I have not had much luck bottom fishing. Remember the phrase that bottom fishing is like trying to catch a falling knife? You can get very bloody doing so.

Instead, much of my success comes from picking stocks and industries that are making new highs. These strong relative strength stocks and industries tend to remain strong.

I understand that it takes courage to buy a stock after it doubles, as in the case of a high and tight flag, but see if you can make it work for you. Buy stocks breaking out to new highs. Buy stocks that show a descending triangle with a downward breakout that reverses and then breaks out upward. These busted chart patterns tend to do well and if you combine them with being close to the yearly high, so much the better!

Buying at or near the yearly high means you don’t have about overhead resistance setup by prior peaks or valleys because there are no prior peaks or valleys, only round number resistance (10, 15, 20, and so on).

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Picking Stocks: Approach Three

Go to yahoo!finance ( and page down until you see Market Movers on the left side. Below that is the line, Most Price % Change. That link will take you to the stocks with the largest percentage change each day. Use the list as a spring board to stock selection.

How? Scan down the list for pharmaceutical companies or biotech companies. Research the stocks that interest you and do not buy. Sometime in the future, they will be cheaper than they are now. That will be the time to buy. Hold them, probably for years, until the value you seek is realized.

One financial consultant I know uses this technique to make incredible gains in the market, time after time, but she is willing to hold the stock until it reaches what she considers full value.

Picking Stocks: Industry Selection

I use a top-down approach, getting the big picture and drilling down to the individual stocks. I consider demographics, population trends, and other factors when I examine industries I think will do well over the long haul.

First, where do you find a list of industries? Yahoo!finance is a good place to start. They have an extensive list of industries:

As you scan down the list, ask yourself how you think the industry will do in the next 3 to 5 years. Will rising energy costs, an aging population, increasing medical expenses, the health of the economy, and actions by big government, hurt or help the industry?

Once you find an industry of interest, click on the profile (generally located in the center bottom of the web page) to read of developing trends in the industry. Not all industries have a profile, and many are duplicated.

Then, go to the library and pull out Value Line (Value Line). Value Line is a newsletter, nothing more, so treat it as such. But it does have a good reputation even though I have found its projections wildly optimistic.

At the end of the company index (on page 24), Value Line shows industries ranked in order of timeliness. Timeliness is an industry rank of the stocks in that industry for price performance over the coming 6 to 12 months. Value Line recommends you pick stocks from the top 6 industries, but I pick from industries I like and think will do well. From those industries I select companies.

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Picking Stocks: Company Selection

Let’s stay with Value Line. When evaluating a stock, I look for the following on the Value Line pages.

  • I read the industry comments at the start of each industry/company list, just to see if I am making a mistake or not. I also look at the relative strength (RS) graph on the industry page. If the industry RS is going down, then I may reconsider buying any company in that industry. I like to see RS trending upward. If you think of bottom fishing, think again. A falling RS may turn flat for years before beginning a new up trend. Look at several industry RS charts and you will see what I mean.
  • Flip to a company page. In the upper left are the rankings. You will want to select stocks ranked 1 or 2 for performance and considered safe. Value Line recommends safety ranks of 1 or 2 for conservative investors or 3 to 5 for aggressive ones willing to assume more risk.
  • Immediately below the rank are the 3-5 year price projections. If the stock does not have a good price target years out, then skip it unless you think otherwise. The projections as guesses, so keep that in mind.
  • Below the price projections are the record of insider trading. If the company officers are dumping the stock, should you be buying? I like to see knowledgeable people buying the stock. If they are not, then that is unfortunate, but acceptable.
  • On the price chart, I want to see a stock that has a heartbeat -- price looks like waves approaching shore or is trending upward at a good clip. Along the top of the chart are the yearly high and low prices. Look for doubles and triples between the yearly low and high. The company may be a dud but if you can buy near the yearly low and double or triple your money in a year, then that’s good. Avoid stocks that are flat ( unless they pay big dividends and you are interesting in collecting dividends) or trending downward. Focus on stocks with price trends moving up.
  • At the top of the page, it shows the P/E ratio and relative P/E ratio. If you see NMF (not meaningful) in one or both entries, then turn the page unless you have a strong feeling about the company.
  • In the tables, look for higher earnings each year without any or few recent deficit years. As a good rule of thumb, the last 3 years should show higher earnings. If the economy was in a recession or the industry was having problems, then make allowances.
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  • Look at the annual sales. You want to find a small company. They are the ones that do well in a growing economy. The big caps are good when the economy/stock market tumbles. Many mid caps stocks are good, just not as good as the small caps. My book Trading Classic Chart PatternsTrading Classic Chart Patterns book., pictured on the right, looks at market caps and invariably, chart patterns in small cap stocks perform best in a bull market.
  • On the middle left, where Value Line talks about capital structure, you sometimes find the market cap category. Again, small caps do best, then mid caps and then large caps in a rising stock market. In a falling stock market, the order reverses. Large caps retain most of their value and small caps get wasted.
  • Look at the long-term debt. As my research on fundamentals shows, companies with long term debt tend to perform better, much to my surprise. Many startup companies have no long term debt and many of them go broke. Debt is fine as long as it is not burdensome. In a recession, no long term debt helps.
  • Below the rows of numbers is the “Business” section. At the end of this section, it shows how much of the company stock the insiders and institutions hold. I like to see insiders holding lots of stock. That way, they feel my pain when the stock tumbles, and I want their blood mixed with mine when it happens.
  • In the same section is the company address. I avoid foreign companies. I once received a dividend notice from a company in Canada and my dividend check was kept by the government for taxes. I could ask for a refund by filling out a form and mailing it in, but the cost of doing so was more than the dividend was worth. I skip that hassle and just invest in U.S. companies.
  • Dividends. If a company pays a dividend, that is a plus for mature companies but a detriment for young companies. You want to find the fast growers, the ones in which earnings are exploding. If companies pay out their earnings in the form of dividends, then they are not investing as much in the company. Don’t misunderstand: I like companies that pay dividends, just not when they are starting out. When growth slows and they start loading up on div payments, then send me the check!
  • Be sure to read the comments about the company in the lower middle of the page, but recognize that they are just guessing about trends. Value Line reviewers are optimistic, meaning they make statements that do not materialize. Just read some Value Lines that are years old and you will see what I mean.

These are the steps I go through when looking for stocks to add to my portfolio. Whether they will outperform or not is a different question. By ‘add to my portfolio,’ I mean I may monitor the stock for years and never buy it.

-- Thomas Bulkowski

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See Also

Written by and copyright © 2005-2019 by Thomas N. Bulkowski. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: You alone are responsible for your investment decisions. See Privacy/Disclaimer for more information. Some pattern names are the registered trademarks of their respective owners. I may not be right, but I can sure sound like it.