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Three Things to Do Instead of Sitting on Your Hands

Investors hate being told to do nothing. And at times like the present--right after a big correction, and amid rollercoaster volatility--it’s especially hard to watch the market without reacting. Maybe you want to pick up some screaming bargains, or maybe you’re itching to sell everything at any price. But sometimes--like...

Investors hate being told to do nothing. And at times like the present—right after a big correction, and amid rollercoaster volatility—it’s especially hard to watch the market without reacting. Maybe you want to pick up some screaming bargains, or maybe you’re itching to sell everything at any price. But sometimes—like now—it can be best to ignore those fear- and greed-driven urges, and simply do nothing. As Ron Rowland, Editor of All Star Fund Trader wrote in the most recent Dick Davis Investment Digest, “Time will tell whether buying or selling is the better decision right now. Doing nothing is also a decision—and can sometimes be the best one.”

But doing nothing doesn’t have to mean sitting on hands. Here are three ways to occupy your hands—and mind—while you give your portfolio a breather.

1. Make a Watch List

This is one of those things the Cabot analysts are always saying—over and over and over again. Just last week, Cabot China & Emerging Markets Report Editor Paul Goodwin put it very nicely, writing: “Rallies reward you with gains. Corrections reward you with time to think, refine your strategy and build your watch list.”

Obviously, it’s more fun, after researching a stock thoroughly, to buy it than to add it to a list. But the list step will help you make better choices by giving you time to watch a stock’s performance, without any money on the line to cloud your judgment. Creating a watch list now will also better prepare you to profit when the buying environment turns favorable again.

2. Review Your Performance

This is one of Cabot Market Letter Editor Mike Cintolo’s favorite pieces of advice. When you have a little extra time on your hands, like now, it’s a good idea to look back at your trading history and see how you’ve done. Don’t just look at overall returns: Think back on every trading decision you made, and consider whether you could have made a better decision.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20:20, so you should be able to learn something by inspecting your trading history. Are you missing out on gains by selling winners too early? Are you losing gains by selling winners too late? Are you incurring losses by giving underperforming stocks too much leeway? Or are you getting stopped out on minor corrections by being too harsh with your loss limits?

Obviously, all of these things happen to investors once in a while, but if you see any patterns in your trading history—like stocks that rise even more after you sell them—try to adjust your decisions accordingly.

3. Collect Dividends

This one isn’t for everyone, but I wanted to include it here in a nod to our Dick Davis Dividend Digest subscribers. Sure, even conservative, dividend-paying stocks have been hit hard over the last couple weeks. But stock market gyrations generally don’t affect companies’ dividend payments. In fact, yields go up as prices go down! Holding a handful of income-generating securities can even out your portfolio returns during rough markets. And if you’re primarily an income investor focused on those dividend paychecks rather than market returns, so you have fewer decisions to make during downturns.

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On that note, I thought I’d choose a dividend payer for today’s investment pick. And I have just the stock for you.

Intel Corporation (INTC) is one of those stocks that I see recommended nearly every week. It has something for everyone. Value investors like to point out that the stock is trading at the same level as in 2002, despite the company having grown many-fold since then. Growth investors focus on the company’s continuing contributions to the chip industry, and its emerging market opportunities. And income investors can’t get enough of Intel’s big fat dividend that just keeps growing and growing. Most recently, Intel’s many virtues were touted in the August 10 Dividend Digest by Richard J. Moroney, in a recommendation from Dow Theory Forecasts. (Intel actually boosted its dividend again after his recommendation was published, so I’ve substituted the new figures below.)

“Intel’s quarterly dividend, initiated in 1992 and now $0.21 per share, has jumped more than 80% over the last five years. The semiconductor titan’s 4.3% yield is generous by industry standards, yet the company pays out less than one-third of its earnings in dividends, suggesting Intel can keep boosting the distribution without sacrificing investment in growth initiatives. Moreover, stock repurchases trimmed Intel’s share count by 3% in the June quarter to its lowest level in at least 20 years. In July, Intel said that growth in emerging markets remains hearty, offsetting weak personal-computer demand in developed markets. Although some analysts question Intel’s optimism regarding the personal-computer market, the 2011 consensus calls for both per-share profits (projected to rise 16% this year) and sales (projected to rise 24%) to surpass Intel’s five-year annualized growth rates (14% for earnings per share and 6% for revenue). Intel’s long-term prospects appear healthy, with Wall Street projecting annual profit growth of 11%. Intel is a Buy and a Long-Term Buy.”

Wishing you success in your investing and beyond,

Chloe Lutts

Chloe Lutts Jensen is the third generation of the Lutts family to join the family business. Prior to joining Cabot, Chloe worked as a financial reporter covering fixed income markets at Debtwire, a division of the Financial Times, and at Institutional Investor. At Cabot, she is a contributor to Cabot Wealth Daily.