A gainer in your investment portfolio could actually be a loser, and vice versa.

Evaluating Winning and Losing Investments: It’s All Relative

As you evaluate the investments in your portfolio, you probably shouldn’t expect that everything will move in the same direction at the same time. In fact, if you have a balanced portfolio, with investments representing different types of assets, you probably don’t want all of your investments behaving in the same way.

“A portfolio where all of your investments are moving in the same direction may highlight a lack of diversification,” said Joe Correnti, senior vice president of brokerage product at Scottrade.

It’s also possible that within a balanced portfolio, your losers might actually be winners and your winners might really be laggards in disguise. Performance is a relative thing.

Evaluating Performance with Benchmarks

Whether a stock has lost ground in the last year, or a mutual fund has had a double-digit gain, might be less important than understanding how those securities did relative to similar assets.

One way to evaluate performance is by comparing securities to benchmarks. A large-cap stock mutual fund, for example, could be compared to an index like the S&P 500. An exchange-traded fund that specializes in a particular market sector could be compared to an index tracking that sector. An individual stock could be measured to an index, to competitors or to the performance of its sector.

So, although looking at whether a stock gained ground or lost ground is a good first step in the evaluation process, comparing those securities to benchmarks helps complete the evaluation process.

Other Ways to Evaluate Your Investments

There is a limit to evaluating the performance of your securities by comparing them to benchmarks, sectors and to competitors. All of those comparisons are based on past performances, which might not repeat themselves. Alternatively, you can consider reviewing analyst reports on specific securities, use screening tools, or rely on fundamental and technical analysis.

Evaluating Based on Portfolio Management

Once you’ve evaluated securities, you’ll have to consider what actions to take. One possible course would be to implement a rebalancing strategy for your investment portfolio.

Let’s say, for example, the stock portion of your portfolio rose significantly over the past year and you’re now overweighted in stocks. You might have to sell equities to get your portfolio back in balance.

“This is where your evaluation comes into play,” Correnti said. “You could consider selling equities that have had gains, you can add to your account to bring it back in balance, or you can maintain your existing weightings.”

Portfolio Approach

Correnti explained that investors should probably avoid making knee-jerk decisions to sell all losers and keep all winners.

“You should consider basing those decisions on how they impact your overall portfolio and your overall investment strategy,” he said.

Question: How often do you sell securities in your portfolio?

Next Step: Scottrade clients can filter or group their securities by logging in and using the Gainers & Losers tool. Not a Scottrade client? You can evaluate securities on our Quotes & Research page.

The information and content provided is for informational and/or educational purposes only. The information presented or discussed is not, and should not be considered, a recommendation or an offer of, or solicitation of an offer by, Scottrade or its affiliates to buy, sell or hold any security or other financial product, or an endorsement or affirmation of any specific investment strategy. You are fully responsible for your investment decisions. Your choice to engage in a particular investment or investment strategy should be based solely on your own research and evaluation of the risks involved, your financial circumstances, and your investment objectives. Scottrade, Inc. and its affiliates are not offering or providing, and will not offer or provide, any advice, opinion or recommendation of the suitability, value or profitability of any particular investment or investment strategy.

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