x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

I'm sliding deeper into the oil slick

How has my £15,000 fantasy stock portfolio performed this week? Read on to find out.

All right, I admit it. I panicked; flunked it. Took fright. Lost my nerve. I was determined to do the grown-up, long-term, Warren Buffett thing, to stand by my selections resolutely, unmoved by the short-term ebb and flow of the market. Then I made the mistake of looking at my online statement. It was the sight of a perfectly aligned flight of red arrows heading south with all the precision of an RAF aerobatic display team minus its pilots that had me reaching for the ripcord.

So much for Domino's Pizza and ITV, FTSE teammates and the twin agents of my cunning plan to take advantage of World Cup fever in the UK. Footie and the FTSE, it seems, don't play nicely together. Imagine my surprise when, once again, England put on a miserable performance, dashed a nation's ill-founded hopes and were kicked out of a major tournament by a ruthlessly efficient German side. What England fan could possibly have guessed this might happen?

And down with the hopes of England fans went the value of shares in ITV, the only terrestrial broadcaster screening the games in the UK, and with them those of Domino's Pizza. Who could stomach pizza while watching Germany and Argentina prancing about in Cape Town tonight at England's expense? So I dumped both. ITV was 4 per cent down on the price I'd paid originally and, although Domino's was actually up 1 per cent, I figured it wouldn't last. And, when I say "figured", I do, of course, mean I took a thoroughly wild and uneducated guess. Which, so far, has turned out to be wrong.

Luckily - or, to be more accurate, stupidly - when I sold my pizza holding I typed in the wrong number and inadvertently ended up hanging on to one solitary share, worth (at last count) £3.74 (Dh20.85). Well, that's my retirement taken care of, then. Naturally, I also had to dump my shares in the travel company Thomas Cook. I had bought them as a bet-hedger on the ground that those who hated football might choose to escape the World Cup by going on a month-long holiday.

Now, it seemed somehow unpatriotic to profit from them. Not that I need have worried. They, too, were down 4 per cent. It was only while pondering this latest evidence of my financial ineptitude that I noticed something on the website of The Share Centre, which is hosting my practice account, that perhaps I should have registered before. Advice. Data. Intelligence. Including performance charts covering a stock's history from the past few hours to the past decade.

Oh, well, if I'd known this sort of stuff was on tap... I mean, this is virtually cheating, surely? Studying Domino's Pizza's intel file after my hasty sell was, to say the least, something of an education. Its shares seem to have risen pretty steadily from 2000 to mid-2007, when they took a slight tumble before rallying for a bumpy year or so and then climbing to their current all-time high, giving every sign that they would continue to do so.

Oh, and look: here's a handy "What the brokers say" analysis: seven out of 10 say "strong buy", one says merely "buy", another votes "neutral" and a lone dissenting voice suggests "sell". And no mention of the World Cup, oddly. All of which was mere displacement activity as I put off confronting the fate of my main investment - BP. Now, I don't know about you, but considering this is currently one of the most hated companies on the planet I don't think that a 20 per cent fall in value is really all that bad.

And how much worse can it possibly get? After all, this is a very, very big company, sitting (and, in the Gulf of Mexico, currently floating) on an awful lot of the world's most sought-after commodity. Anyway, even I could see that bailing out of my BP investment now was a loser's gambit - equivalent to flushing down the toilet one fifth of my original investment (not unlike buying a new car, in fact).

But what did the mystery brokers have to say about it? Ignoring the six-month price chart (not dissimilar in outline to the trajectory of an artillery shell coming under the inevitable influence of gravity) as damaging to morale, I scrolled down for the answer. Rather more brokers, it seems, have declared their views about BP than about Domino's Pizza - 39 of them, in fact. Only three recommended selling; 10 sat on the fence, eight said buy and 18 voted "strong buy".

Hold on. You mean, I have done the right thing? So I shall hold on to my BP shares, even though their continuing losses amount to a short-term kicking. Sell now, and my investment of £9,938.58 would have shrunk in value to £7,988.40 - a loss of 19.62 per cent. And what, I hear you ask, did I do with the cash left after I'd sold everything else? Well, not quite everything else. I must admit that last week I failed to disclose that I had tried to buy some shares in Royal Dutch Shell, on the basis that surely one global oil giant must benefit from the travails and struggles of another.

The problem was that I hit the "buy" button without having sufficient funds left over from the original imaginary £15,000 in my account, with the result that somehow I ended up owning - or, I suppose, not owning - minus one share, worth minus £17.58. I didn't have the strength to approach the Share Centre's help team for guidance and so I just said nothing. I'm sorry. I hope this won't affect the trust between us.

Now, however, armed with the £4,781.55 left after my fire sale of shares (which had cost me £4,945.90 to buy, so a mere 3.32 per cent loss there, then - virtually a triumph!), I plunged the lot into Royal Dutch. I am now the proud owner of 271 of its shares, bought at a cost of £4,796.86. And the experts? They're on my side, overwhelmingly rating this stock as a strong buy. I reckon I could do this for a living.

Well, provided I didn't need to eat, or anything. Overall, at last count my entire portfolio was worth £12,558.93, a loss just shy of 15 per cent. jgornall@thenational.ae