Snake(like) Investors

Being in bed following a minor medical procedure yesterday brought me full frontal to the shenanigans playing out on the ‘news’ shows.  Edited clips framed to curry favor depending on the audience is the rule.  No longer can we – the consumer – decide whether a story is right or wrong without blatant editorializing.  As Sammy Davis, Jr. aptly stated in reference to The Huntley–Brinkley Report, “My only contact with reality. Whatever I’m doing, I stop to watch these guys.”  (Life magazine, 1964).  Or as Warren Buffett writes in his recent letter, “… media reports sometimes highlight figures that unnecessarily frighten or encourage many readers or viewers.”

My contact with reality was found in the (probably edited) recitation by our president of the lyrics to a song in his speech to CPAC members.

“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin
You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in
The Snake by Oscar Brown, Jr., 1963

Applause erupted, a pregnant pause ensued, before he mentioned the words “immigration”.  I really thought he was referring to himself for a minute.  But it does provide a decent lead into this weeks’ post.

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Sector Allocation – 2017

On a regular basis, articles are written regarding Sector Allocation. In a nutshell, this refers to the allocation of a portfolio across various business lines (industry sectors). There are several methodologies in use, but most use a risk tolerance/individual preference/age matrix to identify an investing strategy tailored to ones’ circumstance.

Last week I shared my International Allocation to close 2017, this week my focus will be how I allocated the portfolio between sectors.  This is a composite view as I don’t currently differentiate between US and international companies.  Also, my approach to investing likely differs from most in that I attempt to identify trends or situations that may prove to be profitable. Then I’ll run with the idea until the broader market adjusts its’ pricing. An example of this is Financials which represented 16.6% of my portfolio in 2015 on the assumption that it was ripe for consolidation. I added further in 2016 on the premise of rising interest rates. The market caught up with – and exceeded – my expectations with the election and hope for 2017 regulatory reform. I’m not much of a buyer now in this sector as frankly there remains little upside potential and I consider myself overweight.   I continue to hold with the expectation of rising dividends through the stress tests, CCAR cycle and further interest rate increases.

The downside of investing based on a thesis is – unless diligent – the portfolio can quickly get out of balance.  The upside is that if correct, you tend to beat the market.  One could say it’s timing based on external events.  So let’s first check my themes:


Small Banks 15 May 2014 76.1% 56.0%
Transaction Processor 29 May 2014 39.4% * 54.4%
Smaller banks 2 Sep 2014  60.6%  47.1%
Consumer focus 6 Jan 2015  72.2%  44.0%
USD weakness 25 Mar 2015  24.3% *  38.9%
Underlying Primerica assets 24 Dec 2015  22.2% *  38.4%
Coke bottlers 31 Oct 2016  19.7%  32.0%
Blockchain/China controls 14 Dec 2017   5.2%   3.0%
* indicates mergers or spins which distort reported returns.  Of these, only Primerica lagged the S&P.  The other laggard I suspect will be a beneficiary of the tax plan.

The ‘meat and potatoes’ of the portfolio resides in the ‘Anchor’ holdings which are targeted at 18% in total.  These three issues have lagged the target for a couple of years (and are currently about 13.5%) hence my renewed effort to increase my KMB, CLX and WEC holdings this year.

Two other components factor into my 2018 thought process – free trades.  In prior years, I performed a handful of trades in my brokerage account sometimes in 10 share increments, but more often in 25 or 100 share lots.  This was done to reduce the percentage paid in fees to a nominal amount.  My broker has placed 20 free trades in my account while Motif has implemented a no-fee option which I tested on Friday morning.  While these no-fee trades exist I will probably execute more – but smaller – transactions, essentially filling in some gaps in my smaller holdings.   This may also result in the sector allocation for 2018 seeing minimal improvement.

With the caveats out of the way, let’s take a look at my end of year sector allocations:

SECTOR YE 2017 YE 2016
Discretionary 24.36% 25.43% will be reduced to 11.47% with 2018 sector changes
Energy 6.46% 6.20%
Financial 32.18% 29.29% some of the increase could be considered Technology
Health Care 2.54% 3.72%
Industrials 5.27% 5.11%
Materials 0.68% 0.79%
REIT 1.88% 2.06%
Staples 12.34% 12.93%
Technology 7.19% 6.44%
Telecommunications 1.36% 1.55% will be increased to 14.25% with 2018 sector changes (Communications Services)
Utility 5.75% 6.5%
Sector changes on schedule for September 2018

Basically little change from last year – a little heavier in financials. I’m hoping my purchase strategy reduces this to some degree, but I’m willing to wait a little further into the rate hike cycle before getting overly concerned.  But it’s a little like herding cats – you get most of them heading one direction and invariably a couple dart another direction.

As I’m finished with my analyses for 2017, next week regular programming returns.

Volatility Returns!

With the wild ride in the markets this week, I perused some of the community’s blogs to gauge the reaction.  While not meeting scientific norms regarding sample size, I was surprised by the lack of reference to the pullback in 66% of them – including ones with posts as recent as yesterday.  Perhaps it’s a lack of funds to take advantage or the deer in the headlights syndrome.  One blog, Fully Franked Finance, had a timely piece a few days prior which stated the importance of a ‘shopping list’ – as many others also encourage.  I too, engage in a strategy which emulates  the ‘shopping list’ strategy.  So, what were my moves so far this month?

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Jan 2018 Update

The market came out of the chutes and barely looked back this month, the catalysts being the realization of the tax plan’s impact on corporate earnings and few earnings reports being significant disappointments.  The lower tax rates started trickling  into paychecks (average about 3.5%) but the average gas price nationwide increased by roughly 5% primarily due to the weakness in the US dollar  (caused in part by the prospects of increased deficits from the tax plan that haven’t been offset by jobs, productivity or GDP gains yet).  At least we can watch commercials touting unrealized benefits even though it is way too early for any tangible impact to  be realized.  Kind of makes me wonder a little.  For the month, the S&P index increased by 5.62%% while my portfolio value increased by merely 3.81% putting me behind by 1.81% to start the year. Continue reading