April Showers

Below the shifting landscape that debates the notion as to whether tariffs are a negotiating ploy or the real deal, some pig farmers are now operating at a loss of thousands of dollars per week (futures markets have priced in tariffs) and soybean growers are considering whether to reduce their plantings to avoid the same fate.  Meanwhile the impact on our NAFTA partners is also being considered across the borders.  Canada can increase their soybean and pork sales to China but the net impact will still be negative to them considering the magnitude of trade volumes.  Mexico is expanding ties to China in an effort to mitigate the ‘Trump’ effect.  All the while, the administration has to be aware that China holds the ultimate ‘trump’ card in the debt held.  Some bearish views posit US interest rates could rise to 14% if China ceases their bond purchases.

With these headlines staring at us, it would be excusable to have missed some of the underlying news – one being in healthcare.  Two of my companies made the news this past week with possible or rumored deals; Shire (SHPG) and Humana (HUM).  Takeda’s interest in Shire has all the appearances of industry consolidation, Wal-Mart and Humana’s discussions are more along the lines of being one of the last gorillas.

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Shifting Sentiments

Generally I put together a watch list quarterly based first on overall portfolio goals.  As an example, the first quarter typically is used to readjust weightings where they’ve gone a little awry – particularly in my anchor and core positions.  This next quarter has historically been goosing returns as its’ priority.  Meaning, adding to out of favor positions (depending on the reason) which carry the highest current yield.  You could say it’s a personalized Dogs Of The Dow approach.  As always, market valuations have the final vote on my actions.

In preparing the list for next quarter, I’m finding more compelling reasons to avoid sectors as opposed to buying:

  • Example 1 – The first legislative test facing the Trump team is today’s vote on health care.  Even putting campaign rhetoric aside which placed a spotlight on the likes of CVS, the actual bill aims directly at Medicaid and indirectly at Medicare recipients.  Assuming the bill passes in its current form (unlikely), estimates are roughly 20 million people will become uninsured.  The indirect impact to health care REITs could blindside some investors.  Using CCP for one, some providers to which they lease could face reimbursement issues.   Simultaneously, the DOJ is pursuing a case alleging Medicare fraud against AET, CI, CNC and HUM.  Then there’s fraud in diagnostics resulting in one bankruptcy.  I think I’ll let the dust settle in this segment before treading any deeper.
  • Example 2 – My expansion into Hong Kong encountered some headwinds.  Swire announced a dividend which was effectively a cut (still figuring the magnitude, but about 38%) primarily on the heels of their 45% ownership stake in Cathay Pacific (CPCAY).  At least the poor fuel hedge (that my analysis missed) expires next year.  And, no, my efforts to increase my diversification outside the US are still intact.  If only the Yen would weaken …

Perhaps a correction is on the horizon as UBS suggests. perhaps not.  But the one certainty is there is plenty of uncertainty – especially with earnings season set to begin again.  I guess I need to finish my taxes to see what the budget for purchases looks like.