An Inside Look at Three Chances to Beat the Market

Tuesday, 28 Jun 2011 08:16 AM

By Andrew Packer

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When it comes to picking stocks, 100 men and women beat the market hands-down. A recent study showed that these folks outperform the market by an average of 12.3 percent per year.

The catch? They’re the members of the Senate.

Don’t expect them to quit their day jobs and become money managers.

These returns come from the purview they have in holding hearings, making laws, and awarding contracts. They’re not alone in this informational advantage. Members of the House of Representative have outperformed the market by an average of 6 percent per year.

While you could try and trade based on what your elected officials invest in, it’s not worth the effort. That’s because financial disclosures for members of Congress are only reported once a year, and investments are only disclosed within a certain range.

But there is one group that also beats the market by a wide margin year after year: Insiders.

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While corporate insiders didn’t fare as well as performance in the Senate, their 7.4 percent average annual outperformance beat the returns by House members.

That makes corporate insiders the world’s second-best investors as a group. And because corporate insiders have to disclose purchases or sales within days to the SEC, it’s easy to follow along and trade as they do.

By comparison, average households tend to underperform the market by 1.5 percent per year. Unlike corporate insiders or members of Congress, individual investors have more investments in funds. Why?

Probably because they don’t have the time to understand their holdings as well as insiders (running a company full-time) or members of Congress.

Of course, most people who note the poor performance of individuals often point to fees and over-diversification. But clearly knowledge plays a key role in the investment process.

Investors looking for new opportunities during the summer doldrums for stocks would do well to buy alongside corporate insiders. Since stock options are a common part of executive pay, insiders often need to sell to raise cash, diversify portfolios, fund vacations and the like.

But when they buy, it’s for one reason: They expect shares to rise.

Here are three companies with recent insider buying worth a closer look:

• Phillip Morris (PM)

In recent weeks, one director of the big tobacco company bought up $75,000 worth of shares. That’s hardly chump change. Odds are that cigarette sales will stay steady no matter what the economy does, making PM a defensive play.

• Texas Industries (TXI)

This construction equipment maker is benefitting from growth in Texas (which just joined California and New York as states with trillion-dollar economies). The recent purchase comes from Longleaf Partners Funds Trust, which owns more than 10 percent of the company, and has picked up over $8.9 million in shares in the past month.

• Overseas Shipping Group (OSG)

Multiple insiders have bought up more than $2 million worth of shares of this oil-shipping company in the past month. When multiple insiders start buying, it may indicate that shares have bottomed out or the company’s fortunes are about to reverse.

While there’s no “sure thing” in investing, the informational advantage of insiders is a good indicator of safe havens in uncertain markets.

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