Baseball and Screeners

This is one of the times that another blogger’s post has triggered my (loosely defined) creative juices.  The post in question was Lanny’s (Dividend Diplomats)  Waste Management analysis.  Now I have no disagreement with his conclusion, in fact you could compare the DD Screener to delivering a fastball right down the middle.  The only alternatives to a strike are whether the pitch is high or in the dirt.

Personally, I like a little more strategy – the brush back before throwing a curve that nicks the corner.  Questions like EPA regulations or NIMBY impact on landfills.  Or the number of municipal contracts that are competitive versus monopolistic.  Issues obscured by a strict reading of batting and earned run averages.

The jewel in his analysis was:

I was driving around my neighborhood and was surrounded by a few waste disposal service trucks …

Aha!  A twist on the old kitchen cupboard investing strategy.  You know the drill … identify the companies behind the products you use.  I’m not sure of the absolute merits of this strategy, but there is comfort in investing in companies whose products and/or brands are familiar.  And it is one I use (to a degree) as well.  My assumption being, why not have my spending subsidized by companies I do business with through dividends?

I think I stated earlier I thrive in the obscurities, case in point being that last week I required a new prescription.  My meds generally delivered by mail from Humana (HUM).  One-off situations are handled by a local pharmacy.  In this case I chose Tom Thumb grocery as they accepted Humana insurance and I could wait at the Starbucks (SBUX) nearby.  I noticed on my paperwork that Argus Health was used for claim processing.  Argus is owned by one of my companies, DST.

There we have it.  Humana paid Tom Thumb which paid a processing fee to DST while I paid Starbucks while waiting.  Of which HUM, DST and SBUX all will provide a rebate (dividend) to me.  Although a topic I’ve mused on before, it is also one I feel never gets old.  One can always posit that this level of detail is irrelevant and perhaps it is.  But I feel it provides a broader snapshot of the business when inter-relationships are recognized.

 

2017 Mid Year Correction

Each year I establish a basic plan to govern my investing activity based on sectors, segments or locales able to deliver a little alpha to my portfolio.  The past couple of years had a focus on the Financial industry with the outcome being rewarded with mergers (small banks) and outsized dividend increases (money center banks).  I also began increasing my Canadian allocation in 2015 from 2.5% of my dividends to the current 8.6%.  Since the election, I was accelerating the increase in my other foreign holdings to the current 13.6% on two theories, 1) gridlock in Congress would persist as the Republican majority would be too narrow to push through sweeping changes, and 2) this inaction would result in a weaker dollar.  It appears I was correct on both counts as the US dollar is now at an eight month low.

With my alpha agendas now too pricey (at least for slam dunk results), a re-prioritization is in order. With the Fed Chairs’ testimony this week indicating that GDP growth of 3% would be difficult, the Trump agenda which projects a higher growth rate is likely in peril – even ignoring the self-inflicted wounds.  Without an improvement in the GDP, deficit hawks will be circling.  It is likely the last half of the year will present some opportunities, but my view these will be predicated on external events.  My eyes will remain open to the USD exchange rate – on strength I may buy foreign issues.

My portfolio allocation between holdings labeled Anchor, Core and Satellite have been imbalanced for a year or two primarily due to merger activity and the acceleration of adding foreign issues.  Now that the major mergers have completed, the last this past January, and other alternatives are slim, I figure it’s time to get back to basics.

My going forward strategy can be summarized as follows:

  1. Non-US equities when secured at a favorable exchange rate
    a)I have 2 Japanese, 2 Swiss, 1 UK and 1 Swedish company on my watch list in the event an attractive price presents itself
  2. Assess corporate actions (spins, splits, mergers) for opportunities
    a) Generally I’m agnostic to splits except when the result would be a weird fractional.  I can easily manage tenths or hundredths of shares.  Smaller sizes are troublesome so I avoid when possible.
    b) Spins (and mergers) are assessed to prevent (if possible) weird fractionals.  For instance, I added to my MET position earlier this month as their spin will be at a ratio of 11:1 which would have otherwise delivered a weird fractional.
  3. Assess portfolio for average down and other opportunities
    a) An example of this was last months’ purchase of KSU.  To this end, I recently updated my Dividends (Div Dates) Google sheet to flag when the current price is lower than my cost basis.
    b) An example of “Other Opportunities” would be BCBP which is resident in my Penalty Box due to dilution.  The dilution (secondary) might be explained (now) with their announced acquisition of the troubled IA Bancorp.  If the regulators provide their seal of approval, it may be time to remove BCBP from Penalty status and perhaps add to this 3.5% yielder.
  4. Add to holdings that are below target weighting
    a) This is where I expect most of my second half activity to reside.

Of my 26 stocks labeled Anchor, Core or Satellite; 5 can be considered at their target weight (within .5% of the target) and 4 I consider to be overweight.  The remaining 17 will receive most of my attention.  As most of these rarely go on sale, I’ll likely ignore price and place a higher priority on yield and events – at least until I’ve exceeded last years’ total dividends.

The following table highlights this portion of my portfolio:

JAN/APR/JUL/OCT

COMPANY TYPE PORT DIV%
Kimberley-Clark/KMB A-(6%) 4.01%
First of Long Island/FLIC C-(3%) 0.85%
Sysco/SYY C-(3%) 1.81%
Bank of the Ozarks/OZRK C-(3%) 0.67%
PepsiCo/PEP S-(1.5%) 1.51%
First Midwest/FMBI S-(1.5%) 0.3%
Comcast/CMCSA S-(1.5%) 8.32%
Toronto-Dominion/TD S-(1.5%) 1.58%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

FEB/MAY/AUG/NOV

COMPANY TYPE PORT DIV%
Clorox/CLX A-(6%) 3.68%
PNC Financial Services/PNC C-(3%) 0.30%
Legacy Texas Financial/LTXB C-(3%) 1.48%
Starbucks/SBUX C-(3%) 1.07%
Blackstone/BX S-(1.5%) 2.58%
Apple/AAPL S-(1.5%) 1.26%
Lakeland Bancorp/LBAI S-(1.5%) 1.04%
Webster Financial/WBS S-(1.5%) 0.82%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

MAR/JUN/SEP/DEC

COMPANY TYPE PORT DIV%
WEC Energy/WEC A-(6%) 5.61%
3M/MMM C-(3%) 0.76%
Home Depot/HD C-(3%) 7.32%
Blackrock/BLK C-(3%) .22%
ADP/ADP C-(3%) 1.60%
Southside Bancshares/SBSI S-(1.5%) 0.96%
Chevron/CVX S-(1.5%) 9.52%
Norfolk Southern/NSC S-(1.5%) 1.99%
Flushing Financial Corp/FFIC S-(1.5%) 0.99%
Wesbanco/WSBC S-(1.5%) 1.14%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

I will provide the caveat that this plan is subject to not only the whims of  the market but of my own as well.  In addition, this plan may be changed if/when a better idea comes along.

Small Banking Revisited

Periodically I encounter an article that hits at the core of one of my strategies.  As many of  you know, I’m currently a little overweight financials with an emphasis on regional banks.  This was not always the case as I (fortunately) exited the sector in late 2007  reentering only in early 2013.  My five year pause was bookended by what Richard J. Parsons refers to as the Great Panic of 2008-2009.  His article, Finding Alpha In Reliable Dividend Banks(14 June 2017) struck a chord with me and illustrated some of the style I came to embrace for a time. Though I’m not selling my banks, other than special situations, I’m currently not a buyer either.  If you are a bank investor (or considering being one) I’d recommend reading his article.

His article highlights 30 regionals that actually raised dividends during the Panic.  By comparison, my hypothesis was segmented into three ‘buckets’ which were:
1.Good dividend payers
2.Stock dividend payers
3.Acquisition candidates

Although he includes some stock payers (CMBH, AROW, SBSI, and FLIC (roundups on splits)) this is not his article’s focus.  I’ve written on these before so I’ll exclude them.

His article also points out that only one of the original 30 was acquired which is a slight disappointment when one of my goals is to obtain a merger premium.  Several on his list were acquirers which kind of proves my rationale to expand the universe to include potential acquisition targets in my bank holdings a couple of years ago.

Leaving us with his list.  One notable point is his geographic analysis.  “Certain states are more likely to be home to these reliable dividend banks: Indiana, Texas, California, Kentucky, Missouri, and upper state New York.”  This melds with my findings though I attributed this to state regulatory agencies as certain states had disproportionate numbers of bank failures.  Therefore I excluded western (California) and southern US banks.  To his mix, I found Pennsylvania to be a viable candidate as well.  This difference could be that mutual conversions (notably preeminent in PA, NY, NJ, VA and MA) were identified as likely targets by my study.

Another note on his analysis, “…a few critical factors influence long-term success in banking: hands-on expert management…”  In fact he elaborates a little on this in the comment stream.  A tidbit is both Missouri banks on his list were established by the Kemper family.

So the actual question is how do my portfolio holdings stack up against his list?  Half of the thirty are owned.  Of the nine owned by Richard, seven are owned (one obtained via a merger).  One being in California was excluded by geographic screening.  I’m not sure offhand though, why I excluded CBU out of New York.  My primary takeaway from his article was a validation of my strategy and I need to further investigate a few.

His complete list follows:

Access National ANCX 1.4B VA
Arrow Financial Corp. AROW 2.7B NY
Auburn National Bancorp AUBN .8B AL
BancFirst Corp.   BANF 7.2B OK
Bar Harbor Bankshares  BHB 3.4B ME
Bank of Marin Bancorp BMRC 2.0B CA
Bryn Mawr Bank Corp. BMTC 3.3B PA
Bank of Oklahoma   BOKF 32.6B OK
Commerce Bancshares   CBSH 25.3B MO
Community Bank System CBU 8.9B NY
Cullen/Frost Bankers CFR 30.5B TX
Community Trust Bancorp CTBI 4.0B KY
First Capital  FCAP .8B IN
First of Long Island Corp.  FLIC 3.6B NY
Farmers & Merchants Bancorp  FMCB 3.0B CA
Horizon Bancorp   HBNC 3.2B IN
National Bankshares NKSH 1.2B VA
Norwood Financial Corp.  NWFL 1.1B PA
Bank of the Ozarks OZRK 19.2B AR
Prosperity Bancshares  PB 22.5B TX
People’s United Financial, Inc.   PBCT 40.2B CT
Stock Yards Bancorp  SYBT 3.0B KY
Tompkins Financial Corp.  TMP 6.3B NY
United Bankshares UBSI 14.8B WV
UMB Financial Corp.  UMBF 20.6B MO
Westamerica   WABC 5.4B CA
Washington Trust  WASH 4.4B RI
First Source  SRCE 5.5B IN
First Financial THFF 3.0B IN
Southside Bancshares SBSI 5.7B TX
Bold-owned by Richard, Italics-owned by me

Federal Budget and Investing Impacts

Trump’s first budget was unveiled this week and in its wake left much to dislike.  The talking heads are parsing the details and if enacted as is (which is certainly debatable) will result in probably the largest transfer of wealth between classes that I have ever seen.  The obvious campaign promises (wall, security, etc.), the social welfare programs (which are garnering the headlines) and calculation errors (double counting on both sides of the ledger) will be the news.  But as I prefer the more obscure, my questions are more aligned to the question of impact on investments.  To this end, my focus is on two areas – farmland and healthcare REITs.

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Portfolio Breakdown by Geography

I’m always intrigued by how investors position themselves in providing a measure of protection against market downturns.  Most common is sector diversification where the theory is a downturn in one area of the economy is offset by outperformance – or at least stability – in other areas.  DivHut recently posted his quarterly sector review which – as he indicated – is reasonably aligned with his risk tolerance and goals.  The weakness in this approach is his low exposure to Technology or in my case an overexposure to Financials.  So long as potential weaknesses are identified, this approach does allow a portfolio to be tilted towards sectors which the investor believes will outperform the broader market.

Another approach was presented by Roadmap2Retire last March where the attempt was made to isolate the geographic revenue diversification of the companies he owned.  A daunting effort to be sure, but I’m not sure the data he obtained was complete.  As an example, he reports BCE’s revenue as 100% Canadian.  That is likely as reported in filings.  Not reported is their 37.5% stake in Maple Leaf Sports which owns the Maple Leafs (NHL) and Raptors (NBA).  The NBA pays revenue sharing in US dollars (not Canadian).  Basically any minority stake, investments or joint ventures with other companies are likely to be excluded from any of the companies he owns.  The question becomes – is this revenue identifiable and negligible?

The approach I take is – first sector and secondly the country where the company is headquartered.  Dividends paid are recorded post exchange to US currency which does result in some fluctuation based on the relative strength (or weakness) of the dollar.  The following table illustrates the non-US source for roughly 15% of my dividends.

8.98% Canada
0.53% United Kingdom
0.04% Bahamas
2.44% Australia
0.13% Ireland
0.32% Mexico
0.00% China*
1.29% Hong Kong
0.20% Chile
0.26% Luxembourg
1.47% Singapore

* no dividend paid at this time

The UK dividends are set to increase once a merger involving one of my US companies is complete.  I may be forced to slow foreign purchases as recent political events have resulted in the US dollar weakening and the Yen and Swiss Franc strengthening.  If so, I’m sure I can find a few US companies to put my money into!

 

 

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.

My 2017 Strategy (Coca-Cola)

Usually during the third quarter of each year I analyze my portfolio’s performance, do a little tweaking and cast about for an underlying strategy for the new year.  2016 was especially difficult due to a couple of mergers wreaking havoc on my portfolio structure as well as the uncertainty caused by the election.  The easy fix is to add to my anchor, core and satellite holdings at reasonable price points to get them to their target weightings.  This is illustrated by my recent purchases of KMB, CLX and SBUX with more to come.  The more difficult issue was identifying potential value plays for an ancillary portion of the portfolio.

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