he fourth quarter swoon continued in earnest this month resulting in an annual loss for the markets. While the final trading day closed higher (DJIA up 265, NASDAQ up 51 and the S&P up 21) it was nowhere near close enough to avoid the worst December since 1931. Though surprised by the resiliency of the US dollar, last year’s intent to migrate further into foreign equities was largely preempted by tariff uncertainty. My other 2018 concern of rising federal deficits stifling the economy did not manifest itself as yet – though I remain skeptical of administration claims that growth can outpace the deficit. For the month, the S&P index dropped by 9.18% while my portfolio dropped by ‘only’ 8.44%. For the year the S&P posted an unusual loss of 6.65% while my overall loss was 3.57%. In an otherwise ugly ending to the year, my primary goal of exceeding the S&P’s return was attained marking the 33rd year (of 38) that I’ve been able to make this claim.
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!
It’s the time of year when winter is but a memory (for most of us), taxes have been filed and proxies are filling our mailboxes. As I review the filings and determine how to cast my votes, I’m struck with one of these off-the-wall thoughts that hit me every now and again. I wondered how much was earned – and the margins derived – via the annual proxy season. I didn’t delve into the number of trees sacrificed though I’ll wager it’s fewer than before electronic transmissions.
Generally I refrain from back-to-back posts with similar topics but decided to make an exception this week as the moving parts have kicked into high gear. My post last week addressed my uneasiness with cryptocurrency as well as my interest in the underlying blockchain technology. It appears that my view has some support as two blockchain ETFs debuted on January 17th (BLOK and BLCN) and one January 25th (LEGR). This should be followed by KOIN next week. Horizons and Harvest (HBLK) also have ETF applications pending. Grenadier penned a piece on Seeking Alpha that did some analysis on the first two. Four of LEGR’s top five holdings are included in either one or both of the originals so it will probably be similar. David Snowball highlights this sentiment in his piece There’s no idea so dumb that it won’t attract a dozen ETFs stating, “…there are no publicly traded companies that specialize in blockchain; there are mostly companies with a dozen other lines of business that have some sort of efforts going into blockchain.” This is 100% correct.
The general upward trend continued in July with major indices again hitting new highs. With my strategy shift in place, I did deploy new capital but only in a positioning move ahead of a spin. The S&P ended the month up 1.93% while my portfolio trailed with a gain of 1.77% largely due to the financial sector lagging the market. For the year, I’m ahead of the index by 4.86%.
Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):
- 7/5 – YUMC indicates reviewing possible dividend payout
- 7/7 – MET acquires FIG’s asset management business
- 7/10 – CM acquires Geneva Advisors
- 7/11 –BR acquires Spence Johnson Ltd
- 7/12 – ABM acquires GCA Services
- 7/12 – AAPL adds PYPL as appstore pymt option
- 7/13 – MFC reportedly reviewing sale or IPO of John Hancock
- 7/17 – CHD to buy waterpik
- 7/17 – China places restrictions on loans to Wanda (AMC)
- 7/18 – MKC to buy RBGPF’s food business
- 7/18 – CCI acquires Lightower
- 7/19 – HRNNF (H.TO) to acquire AVA
- 7/20 – SRC considering spinoff of Shopko properties
- 7/21 – BX and CVC Capital offer $3.7B for Paysafe (PAYS.L)
- 7/26 – SHPG rumored to be takeover target
- 7/27 – Ackman discloses stake in ADP
- 7/28 – IRM acquires Mag Datacenters LLC
- 7/31 – BX (w/ ETP 50.1%) buys 49.9% of holding co. that owns 65% of Rover pipeline
Note: my comment of July 21st on AMC (Dividend Diplomats) remains prescient in light of their warning on August 1st. I believe now is a viable entry point if cognizant of possible risk to the dividend particularly as related to lender covenants. EPR may have a slight risk as well.
- Added to MET (spinoff positioning)
- July delivered an increase of 2.14% Y/Y with the vast majority of the increase being attributable dividend increases.
- July delivered a decrease of 8.85% over last quarter (Apr) with TIS (dividend suspension) and foreign cycles (interim/final) being the culprits.
- Declared dividend increases averaged 10.81% with 61.02% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts and 1 suspension)
- YTD dividends received were 69.81% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last years’ total in early November
MET has declared their spinoff – Brighthouse Financial (BHF) – effective August 4th. Holders as of July 19th will be entitled to 1 share for each 11 MET shares owned.
AGU/POT (Nutrien), SGBK/HOMB remain pending
Overall another positive month with the only disappointment being the Q/Q dividend decline – which was expected. The primary metric (annual dividend increase) remains on target and well ahead of inflation.
March brought us the longest DOW losing streak in five and a half years on the heels of the first legislative defeat of the Trump administration. The talking heads then moved their focus to the “end of the earnings recession”. Frankly, I think as long as the US dollar remains strong, earnings will continue to suffer – except for domestically focused companies. As a leading indicator to this thesis, I would point to the slowing growth in dividend increases as a proxy. Regardless, the S&P closed the month down .04% while my portfolio rebounded ending the month up 3.3%. At the end of the first quarter, I lead the S&P by 1.35%.
Headlines impacting my portfolio:
- 3/1 – SQ buys OrderAhead (pvt)
- 3/6 – FMBI acquires Premier Asset Mgmt, LLC
- 3/9 – BR acquires Message Automation, Ltd.
- 3/13 – BUSE acquiring MDLM
- 3/16 – MMM acquiring Scott Safety from JCI
- 3/16 – Fed lowers barriers for <$100B bank mergers
- 3/20 – UL reviewing sale of spreads line
- 3/23 – BLK buys 5% stake in NTDOY
- 3/27 – BLL sells paint can line to BWAY Holding
- 3/27 – DST buys remaining UK JVs from STT
- 3/27 – SGBK to merge with HOMB
- 3/28 – KO and KOF close on AdeS line purchase from UL
- 3/29 – MA acquires NuData Security
- 3/30 – CM increases offer for PVTB
- Added to BCE
- Added to SQ
- Added to KO
- Added to TD
- Initiated position in AKO.B
- March delivered an increase of 9.15% over March 2016. 2.24% of this increase is attributable to purchases with the remaining 97.76% a result of dividend increases. The Y/Y comparison is a little distorted as four companies shifted pay dates and one special dividend did not reoccur.
- March had an increase of 6.44% over the prior quarter. This was primarily due to a pay date shift as a result of a merger.
- Declared dividend increases averaged 7.75% with 36.42% of my portfolio delivering at least one raise (1 cut – YUM).
- YTD Dividends received were 27.1% of total 2016 dividends. If the current run rate is maintained would exceed 2016 around October 15th – particularly with most of my semi-annual or interim/final cycles paying during the next quarter.
The MET spin (Brighthouse Financial – BHF) remains pending.
Agrium/POT, JNS/HGG.L and SGBK.HOMB remain pending