July 2019 Update

The market continued to defy gravity this month as the only external turmoil was leveled at the Fed with encouragement to cut rates in excess of a quarter point. At month end, the Fed chose their own path and the market tailed off from the highs recently attained. Earnings season has been generally good to mixed with ongoing concern regarding Trump’s Tariff strategy the main issue. This month the S&P gained 1.3% while my portfolio gained 1.8%. For the year, I remain ahead of the benchmark by 1.0%.

PORTFOLIO UPDATES

  • finally sold out my OMI position (prior dividend cut) and used the proceeds to increase my RY position
  • Sold my UNIT (dividend cut/debt covenant issue) and LAMR (reporting discrepancies (my opinion)) positions using the proceeds to increase positions in ABM, ARD, BLL, CHCO, KOF, CCEP, CTBI, AKO.B, HOMB, IRM, NWFL, OCFC, OUT, PLD, QCOM, SRC, SMTA, BATRA and VALU as a rebalance
  • increased my CHD position
  • increased my JNJ position

DIVIDENDS

My primary focus resides on dividends with the goal being a rising flow on an annual basis. This month marks the removal of the quarterly comparison as this has proved to be steadily meaningless.

  • July delivered an increase of 4.64% Y/Y. This is off my typical run-rate due to two foreign pay cycles hitting in August this year, rather than the July of last year.
  • Dividend increases averaged 10.13% with 57.27% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 4 cuts (two being OMI)). This is off last years’ pace and I believe a new personal record for dividend cuts in a single year since about 1980.
  • 2019 Dividends received were 64.31% of 2018 total dividends putting me on target to exceed last years’ total in late October. The YTD run rate is 107.66% of 2018, slightly under my 110.0% goal – but still recoverable.

Note: I updated my Goals page to provide a visual of these numbers.  Based on Mr All Things Money’s instruction set with a conversion to percentages.  My code only updates when the monthly Y/Y number is exceeded.  Otherwise, the prior year actual is used.

SPINOFFs

On Oct 4, 2018 MSG filed a confidential Form 10 to spin the sports business which remains in progress.

MERGERS

XRX merger with Fujifilm cancelled (still being litigated). Pending settlement expected in September.

TSS to merge into GPN (all stock, .8101 sh GPN for each TSS sh) estimated to complete in October – Upon the announcement, I was prepared to sell my TSS position to book almost a triple in just over 4 years as GPN currently pays only a penny per share dividend per quarter. However, page 14 of their slideshow states: Dividend – maintain TSYS’ dividend yield. This would appear to indicate an increase in GPN’s dividend, so for now I’ll hold.

PB to acquire LTXB for 0.528 shares and $6.28 cash for each LTXB share. I plan to vote in favor of the transaction (on both sides), pocket the cash and sell the new shares – retaining the old and perhaps use some of the cash to purchase additional PB shares post-merger.

VLY to acquire ORIT for 1.6 sh VLY to 1 ORIT. This merger will result in a slight dividend cut November forward as the rate will be normalized to VLY’s current rate. In my view, the other positives outweigh this negative.

PBCT to aquire UBNK for .875 sh PBCT to 1 UBNK. I plan to hold this one as I wouldn’t be surprised if PBCT gets taken out at come point.

The last three continue to validate my strategy of bank consolidations from a few years ago. The only flaw (so far) was the holding period required – but dividends were received while waiting.

SUMMARY

Overall, no complaints. It appears the pending mergers might provide premium to improve my performance over the index, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself yet. I still see a little consolidation in my holdings through the last half by migrating to a slightly risk off stance, offset slightly by companies with compelling stories. My cash position does remain slightly above mean.

Here’s hoping your month was successful!

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Razzle Dazzle

Give ’em the old flim flam flummox

Fool and fracture ’em

How can they hear the truth above the roar?

Richard Gere performing Razzle Dazzle in the movie Chicago, 2001

One of the many stanzas from the song with which could apply to the theme of this holiday special edition. I decided to present this weeks’ activity as a special post since the number of transactions is greater in three days than my normal 4-5 per month. Also included are three sales which I will elaborate on in some detail.

Roadmap 2 Retire presented another cautionary view reinforcing my approach. While I’m beginning to feel a little like Chicken Little, there are conundrums aplenty from which to choose when attempting to make sense of the economy. Perhaps the best illustration is the fact that Wisconsin farmers are going bankrupt in record numbers. This is a good part of Trump’s base in which their downturn has been accelerated by his policies. And the theory of ‘trickle down’ hasn’t made it to these rural enclaves yet he still carries a 42% approval rating there. It seems that every positive in the economy (low unemployment, low inflation, lower taxes (in theory) carries an equal negative (slowing GDP growth, low wage growth, increasing deficits).

Give ’em the old three ring circus

Stun and stagger ’em

When you’re in trouble, go into your dance

Since I’m no fortune teller I can’t provide any timing, but I dare say this juggling act will come to an end. Hopefully it’ll be a prettier end than any of his four bankruptcies. Like R2R, I’m perusing my portfolio and trimming a little of the speculation. Although I’ve been musing on this for awhile, it was time to begin the execution. Following are the first moves of mine in the pivot from macro to micro.

SELLS

  • Owens & Minor (OMI)
    • Following not one but two dividend cuts. I probably had a bit more patience with this one as it was an IRA holding, but enough already. Sold July 1st – net loss 74.2%.
  • Uniti Group (UNIT)
    • This one has been in the cross-hairs of the Windstream bankruptcy. As a result, they cut their dividend to preserve cash and satisfy their lenders. One lesson I previously learned (Orchids Paper (TIS), anyone?) is to bail when lenders force a dividend cut. Sold July 2nd, net loss 59.2%.
      • After market close, UNIT announced the issuance of 8.68m common shares in conjunction with a preferred redemption. UNIT closed down July 3rd 2% from my sale price.
  • Lamar Advertising (LAMR)
    • This one I groused about all year with the shenanigans they were playing with their 2017/2018 year end pay date. At tax time, I confirmed the forms sent to me and the corporate IRS filing were out of sync. Not being an accountant, I can’t say there’s any illegality – but this is one that has questions – therefore it was booted off the team on July 2nd with a gain of 46.6%.

The proceeds from the LAMR and UNIT sales were used to rebalance a portion of the portfolio across thirteen stocks. I have a pending limit order in place to deploy the OMI proceeds into RY.

With any luck this run will continue, however the pessimist within says it would be unlikely (check back around earnings season …)

Recent Sell – GE

I decided to publish this as my weekly post as time is of the essence for any of my readers contemplating a similar decision.

Since the most recent dividend cut, I’ve been holding my GE stock – and almost pulled the trigger to buy more – for one reason: the potential value of the proposed spinoffs. The healthcare unit being a crown jewel and the rail unit being an interesting one.

Word on the street is that the healthcare IPO may not be as lucrative to GE investors as previously thought as GE may monetize a greater share (probably good for the company, though). This I was willing to overlook until the terms were actually released.

My decision to sell was reached when the revised terms of the rail unit were released. Last week it was announced that GE would monetize more of the deal – basically to shore up the balance sheet a little with cash and by shifting the tax liability to shareholders. End result is each share of GE will receive approximately .005403 shares of WAB. You read that right – owners of 100 shares will receive about a half of a share of WAB. As no fractional shares are to be issued, cash in lieu of shares is to be expected.

I’m willing to take a slight loss (as I previously averaged down). What I am unwilling to take is a possible tax liability as well. Frankly, my faith in this company no longer extends that far.

The record date has been set for February 14th with the spin and merger occurring February 25th. If so inclined, I’ll buy WAB at a later date. I am willing to buy into the healthcare unit at (or post) IPO depending on the structure.

I have to acknowledge that the days of playing the contrarian are probably over for this stock. My prior strategy – which was profitable – had been to buy companies which had purchased units that GE was offloading. Under this CEO – and for the first time in many years – this plan is no longer viable.

Where’s Santa?

What a start to the final month of the year.  At least there is a little something for everyone.  First the CME tripped the first wave of circuit breakers in the futures market.  Then the chartists found the S&P closed the week in a death cross.  Then there’s news of a possible yield curve inversion.  Lest we not forget, the most recent China issue which may or may not even be legal.  While the Huawei issue is unfolding, Lighthizer continues to stir the pot by saying he considers March 1 “a hard deadline” otherwise the delayed tariffs will be imposed.  Hmm … kind of like bringing a gun to a knife fight – or – perhaps the administration really believes that “free and fair trade” is an outgrowth of convoluted negotiations.

If week one is any indication, the traditional “Santa Claus Rally” will be delivering a lump of coal this year.  Being the eternal optimist, I’ll argue Christmas isn’t here yet so I had to take advantage of the sell-off to do a little buying:

  • First, I added to my ETF group.  I accomplished two things with this:
    • As the majority of these are foreign, they are underwater.  Therefore, an ‘average down’ scenario.
    • These all pay December dividends (one quarterly, three semi-annual and one annual) all yet undeclared.  All are now captured.
  • Second I executed a rebalance on a small portion of the portfolio.  I chose a ‘rebalance’ as the fees were lower than the alternatives.  End result being:
    • Sale of BOKF.  I had this issue in two accounts due to a merger, now it’s only in one, with the proceeds and accumulated dividends:
    • Added to ADP, MMM, KIM, FAF as these are underweight target holdings
    • Added to AVNS as they may have received a good price for the division sold to OMI
    • Added to LARK and CASS – missing the ex-date for the stock dividends
    • Added to BR, CNDT, CDK, FHN, JHG, KSU, PJT, WU, XRX – capturing WU’s December dividend

I still have another rebalance queued pending completion of a merger (might be into the new year) and then we return to normal operations.

I also will be selling my OMI – perhaps later in the month to see if Santa really exists!

Ho-Ho-Ho …

My 3Rs – Revitalize

In the first two posts of this series, I highlighted my thought process in basically the recent past and present.  Today will attempt to bring the investment landscape of the future into focus.  I will be the first to admit that I have a jaded view of the present – i.e., not being aligned with the economic views espoused by the current administration.  The upcoming midterms have the ability to shuffle the deck even further.  The assumption set I used (which easily could be argued with) is:

  • The current administration will continue to be embattled by prior missteps – primarily in vetting – (resulting continuing indictments and guilty pleas)
  • This could be further hampered by loss of one – or both – chambers of Congress
  • I (currently) anticipate no major activity regarding impeachment, 25th amendment or resignation

Basically a recipe for gridlock – which will put the brakes on some of Trump’s more polarizing policies.  Without a Democratic landslide, I don’t see a major rollback but also don’t see further continuation on a partisan path.  Therefore my view is a continuation of trade tensions (notably Canada and China), rising deficits and interest rates resulting in a slowdown in the US economy.  While the economy is currently growing, the metrics I am watching are debt levels (student loan and state government), the inability of rising wages to keep pace with inflation and savings rate.  Though the concerns are endless, a greater domestic focus tends to mitigate much of the risk but bring me to one conclusion: Regular Americans’ disposable income may be in shorter supply next year.

With this theory outlined, it’s time to fit the remaining pieces into my puzzle of a portfolio which allows for roughly 1/3rd allocation to conservative speculation.  Frankly, my outlook is a bet that the US economy has been front-loaded into the midterm elections.  The downside if incorrect is that I’ve added some slower growth positions.  If correct I’ve generated a little alpha.

Tariff Myself

In the spirit of the times, I completed the move of my Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Church & Dwight (CHD) positions to M1 Finance.  I plan to add Colgate (CL) as a new position in the near future.  With M1 being a no-fee broker, my intention is to add new funds whenever I purchase toothpaste, mouthwash or deodorant throughout 2019 with the aim for these companies to attain about 2%, 3% and 1% of the portfolio respectively.

Corporate Actions

I intend to ride the M&A wave in addition to selected spinoffs.  I rarely participate in IPOs but do make an exception from time to time.  I continue to add to my banks that have completed two-step conversions.  This month has seen activity in this area as follows:

  • added to GBNK and sold IBTX locking in a total gain of 46.4% (16.3% annual return).  Assuming their merger with GBNK completes I’ll be assigned more shares of IBTX than I previously had.
  • added to SHPG as they received another approval in their merger.
  • Initiated a post-IPO position (from the 30 day over-allotment period) in Amalgamated Bank (AMAL).  This due to their intention to initiate a dividend next quarter.

Averaging Down

Yes, there are times when I’m underwater on some investments, most of these being holdings of less than 1%.  It would be a fair assessment that something was amiss in my initial analysis as several of these are foreign caught in the cross hairs of the strong US dollar.  One reason I tend to scale in to investments is to take advantage of opportunities to average down when my  original premise remains intact.  These tend to be intermittent purchases.

There, in three parts, is my strategy going into 2019.  As my dividend goals for 2018 are close to being met, I am now starting the realignment process so I’ll be hitting the new year with a running start.

I’d love to hear your thoughts the processes you use!

 

Recent Sell – TIS

It appears to be a busier month than normal.  Today I exited a position that I’ve held since 2013.  Orchids Paper announced this week the suspension of their dividend.  I can’t say this was a total surprise as I’ve had them in my penalty box for a while.  In fact, the comment I made when Investment Hunting sold his position seems eerily prescient:

Yes I still own it but it has never been a DG stock. With a
stagnant dividend, a high payout ratio, previous management’s penchant
for diluting current owners and the frequent misses on earnings I’m at
about break even on this one. This one is a gamble on current
management, their strategy (expansion), and their execution of their
plan with the wild card being stable pulp pricing.
(June 12, 2016)

Since then, the South Carolina expansion has encountered delays, their Mexican venture has had difficulties, they’ve decided to spend money moving the headquarters to Tennessee and finally go hat in hand to their lenders (led by US Bank) for waivers to their loan covenants (which was the likely cause of the suspension).  As this holding was in my IRA, I have no room for a non-dividend payer in that account.

In searching my database, it appears in addition to IH, Broke Dividend Investor sold in September and I think Dividend Pursuit sold around year end.   Meanwhile, Weekly Investment, Passive Income Mavericks, Mr Free at 33 and A Frugal Family’s Journey are contemplating their options.

So an $80 loss is booked which includes the offset by dividends received.

No more Loyal3

Every now and again you wind up getting what you pay for and there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  I probably came to this realization last summer when I ensured that even my smallest holding on the Loyal3 platform had greater than a fractional share.  So the news this week of their migration to FolioFirst was no big surprise.  The issue I have with FolioFirst is the $5 monthly fee.  So transferring my holdings becomes priority one.  In fact Dividend Growth Investor lays out the options fairly succinctly in his post.

Early on, my strategy with Loyal3 was twofold:

  1. Move three horses to the platform to generate enough dividends to play with.  This was accomplished with PEP, AAPL and SBUX.
  2.  Build a group of speculative holdings (less than 1% portfolio weighting) via dividends generated by the first goal.

The free trades with Loyal3 accelerated this process.  Today I’m faced with a (slight) strategy shift.

Sells

An order was placed this morning to sell Unilever (UL) and L Brands (LB).  Unilever due to taking profits off the table and for a sense of protection from a potential single headquarter  location and the possible corresponding tax implications.  L Brands due to uncertainty with their ability to maintain comps while the malls where their stores are located appear to be imploding.  I’ll use this as a tax loss against UL and the required fractional share sales.

Transfer

My remaining Loyal3 full share holdings (YUM, YUMC, AAPL, K, SBUX, HAS, DIS, SQ, PEP, KO and AMC) will be moved … Loyal3 will not move fractionals which will need to be sold.  My goal is to have the transfer complete prior to May 1st which is the ex-div date for the next payer, Hasbro.  I can then sell any remaining fractionals, wait for YUM’s dividend to post (May 5th, went ex-div April 14th), then move any cash into my bank.

My default approach will be to consolidate the holdings into my existing brokerage account which provides the alternative to reinvest dividends.  I will, however, meet with TD Ameritrade today as they (via phone conversations) have indicated they perform OTC ‘grey market’ trades with no surcharge.  As Schwab charges a $50 surcharge, this may clinch the deal for AMTD.

So any Loyal3 strategy shifts in your future?

Update: 20 Apr 2017 – UL and LB sold, decision finalized on move of remaining to existing Schwab account.  AMTD has no set ‘grey market’ policy but will normally adjust the fee.  Lack of certainty killed this option.