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me and my money

Chris Kobryn is a graduate student and part-time computer programmer.

Chris Kobryn

Occupation

Computer programmer (part-time) and graduate student

The portfolio

Mostly cash since September; shares include Teck Resources Ltd., FuelCell Energy, Inc., Dream Office Real Estate Investment Trust and MEI Pharma Inc.

The investor

Some family friends in the financial industry got Chris Kobryn interested in investing when he was a kid. Managing a virtual stock portfolio in high school sealed the deal.

Mr. Kobryn, who is 23 years old, knows that making risky bets in the stock market is best done when you are a young adult. If you mess up, there is lots of time to get back on track.

How he invests

On the speculative side, his toolkit includes short sales, options and leveraged exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These tools are often used for swing trades (duration is several days). For example, he'll buy or short sell a stock just before the release of an earnings report, seeking to profit from the market reaction.

On the investing side, his portfolio has longer term positions in the shares of companies that "are poised for growth in the near future" or otherwise have significant upside. His most recent purchase: shares in Teck Resources Ltd., made in early February.

Although the large coal and zinc miner has substantial debt, Mr. Kobryn believes Teck Resources will survive the downturn because it has many assets that can be sold. Earnings have also held up, thanks in part to aggressive cost cutting.

Sales are denominated in U.S. dollars while most expenses are in Canadian dollars, further supporting earnings. And as smaller producers fall by the wayside, their market share will default to bigger players, like Teck. Teck also has a significant interest in a Suncor Energy Inc. project that should start producing oil by late 2017.

Best move

It was purchasing triple-leveraged bearish ETFs on Russian stocks when the U.S. and other countries threatened Russia with sanctions during the Ukraine crisis. After he bought, the ruble and Russian stock market cratered, pushing his triple-leveraged bearish ETF to a big gain.

Worst move

"Trying to swing-trade oil-price movements … I tried to predict oil-price movements and got it wrong almost every single time."

Advice

"Don't trade like I do," he says, laughing. "I have had my share of bad trades from being risky … Whenever anyone asks me for advice I tell them to invest in value stocks … Especially if the company has been around for a long time, pays a dividend and generates consistent earnings."

Want to be in Me and My Money? Contact Larry MacDonald at mccolumn@yahoo.com.