tampabay.com

Little liquidity pours cold water on plan

By SCOTT LONG, Times Staff Writer
Published February 7, 2008


How liquid are you?

It's a common question in financial circles. It's why those with plenty of cash can swoop in and profit on sure-things that really are sure-things, like Google. It's why many of us will never qualify to own an Outback Steakhouse franchise. And it's why there's a limit on the profit I'll eke out of the Iowa Electronic Markets.

Or so I thought.

Of the $500 I invested in the IEM, a presidential futures market that works like a real stock market, I have just 24.7 cents in cash. Not even enough to play a game of Ms. Pac-Man, or to tumble dry my socks. Everything else is tied up in investments, and that makes it terribly difficult to pounce when a presidential Google appears.

But a thread of logic winnowed its way through my needlepoint investing brain Tuesday morning. If I sold my stake in John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, I'd lose a little bit of potential profit, sure, but I'd get something potentially much more valuable: liquidity.

It's a conundrum investors face every day. When do you cash in that workhorse in your portfolio that churns out dividends after dividends so you're liquid enough to take a chance on a streaking stock?

To get my answer, I huddled with my team of advisers, which is really just one very smart guy named "Mike" who wanders past my desk every day.

Mike agreed that I was smart to get out of the McCain biz. And he agreed the time to do it was after he dominated Super Duper Tuesday. The plan was to get out at about 95 cents. If McCain did get the nomination, I'd earn $1 for each share I held. So I'd sacrifice about a nickel a share in profit for a chance at a much richer reward by reinvesting those proceeds in the hotly contested Democratic race.

Hey, I think I'm on to something here.

And then the voters got in the way.

I curled up on the couch, and clicked on CNN to watch the returns. I began to wonder why the network forced me to listen to the Projection Music before Wolf Blitzer was allowed to tell me who won a state. I began to wonder who thought it was a good idea to put Lou Dobbs on TV so close to my bedtime. And I began to wonder how much Mike Huckabee was going to ruin my perfect plan.

There would be no McCain domination tonight. There would be no fresh water in my investment canteen. There would be no dough to dole out to Democrats.

And what a wild night this liquidless investor missed out on.

Hillary Clinton went into Super Tuesday with a share price of 53.9 cents. As the returns rolled in, her price bounced between 34.4 cents and 63 cents before settling at 59.1 cents. Barack Obama started at 48.8 cents, ended at 39.8 and pinballed between 36.7 to 64.9. All of this, of course, was on heavy, heavy trading.

And all I had was 24.7 cents. Not even enough to call someone who cares.

Portfolio snapshot
Times staff writer Scott Long has invested $500 in the Iowa Electronic Markets (iemweb.biz.uiowa.edu/), hoping to learn about the stock market, become a more informed voter and, of course, make money.
Day 27: $470.41
Week-to-week: Up 15.1 percent
Year-to-date: Down 5.9 percent
Current portfolio: Barack Obama (356 shares), John McCain (235), Hillary Clinton (175). No cash on hand.
On the Web: Read previous columns at money.tampabay.com.

Scott Long can be reached at long@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8556.