2019 Year End Report

Looking back at last years’ End Of Year post, the concerns raised at that point all remain valid.  I have to admit that even with the evils of tariffs, rising deficits and US dollar strength the economy remained surprisingly strong.  I did nail one right – the administration’s claim that GDP growth can outpace the deficit was wrong. If it can’t be done when the economy is hitting on all cylinders – the question becomes ‘when can it?’

For the month, the S&P index rose 2.73% and my portfolio (excluding October and November purchases) rose 4.26%.  When those purchases are included, the monthly increase was 10.51%. Yes my gain would have been larger had I re-invested the dividends throughout the year but at least I was fully in the market during the last quarter run-up.  For the year the S&P rose 30.43% (depending on how it’s calculated) the best year since 2013. My Portfolio rose 34.54% allowing me to extend my claim of the 34th year (of 39) that I’ve beaten the index.

Dividend cuts were the big obstacle for the year as I endured five in total.  Frankly, it wasn’t until December that my Dividend Goal (10% annual increase) was in the bag.  This is typically attained in late October or early November. 

I have only three new companies on my watch list with limit orders in place on two.  All are foreign with Canada, Hong Kong and Japan tagged. I have a few I’m willing to shed with a couple more needing repositioning due to mergers.  For the first time in probably five years I’m in a position to reduce my holdings while beefing up my Anchor and Core positions.

Thirteen countries were represented in my portfolio (18.5% of my dividends), losing Ireland but gaining Japan via a merger.  The top countries were Canada (9.77%), UK (2.61%), Singapore (1.21%) and Sweden (1.02%). I’m continuing the migration of Canadian companies from my taxable accounts to my IRA to take advantage of the tax treaty (no Canadian tax withholding for most issues).

Continuing with the Monthly Recap in its newest iteration, I’m still finding pieces that require some elaboration in order to rationalize it.

For instance, the net purchase expense threshold is not a pure indicator of my cash position.  I’m thinking it’s in the 2-3% range as my cash position increased last month despite the purchases.  The Incr/Decr from the market — yes, 99.2% of the increase in portfolio value was due to the market.  A slight disappointment is the Dividend Raises. They weren’t enough to even round up to 0.01% (more a reflection of portfolio size than wimpy raises).

Dividends:

  • December delivered an increase of 40.87% Y/Y with most of the increase attributable to the Oct/Nov purchases, the OMI fiasco of last year aging off and a weaker US dollar (finally).
  • Dividend increases averaged 10.11% with 68.28% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 5 cuts.  Basically a lackluster performance.
  • 2019 Dividends received were 13.78% greater than 2018 dividends and exceeded last years’ total on December 1st.  It would have been over 15% had there been no cuts.

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:

Spirit MTA REIT (SMTA) voted on Sept. 4th, 2019 to approve the liquidation of the REIT. I am awaiting the final settlement payout and as of December 31, this issue was delisted. I fully expect a profitable outcome for one of my most speculative positions.

SCHW to acquire AMTD for 1.0837 sh SCHW to 1 AMTD.  My only surprise with AMTD being taken out was the suitor – I had expected TD.  Regardless, I have three concerns over this deal, 1) profit margin compression with the onset of $0 fee trades, 2) possible liquidation of a partial TD stake to reduce their ownership share from 13.4% to 9.9% (the same issue Buffet regularly faces) and 3) 10 year phase-out of AMTD/TD cash sweep account relationship.  The third one means TD has a low cost (albeit, decreasing) source of deposits for the foreseeable future. After the first of the year, I’ll probably cash in AMTD and increase TD a little further.  

Although XRX is officially off the list with their Fujifilm settlement, Icahn & Co. couldn’t wait for the ink to dry before stirring things up with HPQ.  As of now, I am considering exiting my XRX position.

Splits and Stock Dividends

Although splits are agnostic, I consider them a positive with reverse splits a negative.  Two of my companies split this year – PWOD and FFIN with no reverse splits to report.

Five companies showered me with shares of stock ranging from 3% to 5%.  I do love stock dividends and this year the benefactors were: CBSH (5%), HWBK (4%), LARK (5%), AROW (3%) and CVLY (5%).

Summary

As we slide into tax season, we’ll see if my readjustments panned out.  My goal was to achieve the 0-10% tax bracket by taking a one year tax hit.  The first part was completed so the results will be evident in the next month or so.  Overall, not one of my better years but I did attain (at least) my minimum objectives.   

Hopefully your year was great or at least in line with the market. 

Dec 2018 Update and Year End Review

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.

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September 2018 Update

It was a tale of two markets this month with highs being set on the 20th before pulling back through month end.  It’s a riddle of sorts when consumer sentiment is off the charts and the ultimate consumer stock (BBBY) plunges on terrible sales.  How about the Fed raising rates again but bank stocks fall?  Then Mexico appears to tap the brakes on a possible bilateral trade deal in favor of retaining a trilateral including Canada with the Trump threat being tariffs on Canadian cars.  Yes, a conundrum indeed. I was off the sidelines during the first half of the month but going silent during options expiration and the sector changes later in the month.  September saw a rise in the S&P of 0.43% while my portfolio lagged by registering a decrease of 0.42%.  YTD I’m ahead of the S&P by 0.21%.  The biggest factor being my cash position – which is normally minimal.  I only report stock positions – but if cash were reported the results would have been a wash.

Portfolio Updates:

  • added to KMB prior to ex-div
  • added to GBNK (hedge on IBTX merger)
  • sold IBTX (locking in a 46% gain – I’ll get these back post merger)
  • sold one CHD position (completed last month’s repositioning)
  • sold one JNJ position (completed last month’s repositioning)
  • added to CMA (minor rebalance)
  • added to EPR (minor rebalance)
  • added to CBSH (minor rebalance)
  • added to FFIN (minor rebalance)
  • added to MAIN (minor rebalance)
  • added to MKC (minor rebalance)
  • added to PYPL (minor rebalance)
  • added to PNC (minor rebalance)
  • added to PRI (minor rebalance)
  • added to SHPG (minor rebalance)
  • added to TSS (minor rebalance)
  • added to UNH (minor rebalance)
  • added to VLO (minor rebalance)
  • added to V (minor rebalance)

DIVIDENDS

My main focus resides on dividends.  Market gyrations are to be expected but my goal is to see a rising flow of dividends on an annual basis.  I’m placing less emphasis on the quarterly numbers as the number of semi-annual, interim/final and annual cycles have been steadily increasing in my portfolio.

  • September delivered an increase of 13.54% Y/Y, the impacts being dividend increases and a sizable special dividend (AMC).
  • September delivered a 15.65% increase over last quarter (Jun).
  • Dividend increases averaged 14.96% with 71.03% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 1 cut (GE).
  • 2018 Dividends received were 92.71% of 2017 total dividends putting us on pace to exceed last year next month.

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:

GE‘s rail unit to spin then merge with WEB

GE to spin 80% of the health business

NVS proposed spin of Alcon scheduled for shareholder approval Feb 2019

Mergers:

XRX merger with Fujifilm cancelled (now being litigated).

SHPG to merge into TKPYY

GBNK to merge into IBTX (shareholders approved)

COBZ to merge into BOKF (expected completion 1 Oct 2018)

GNBC to merge into VBTX (semi-reverse)

Summary

My repositioning is almost complete so next month I can begin to front load into 2019.   Dividends this month hit a new record.

Hope all of you had a good month as well.

Dec 2017 Update and Year End Review

The upward trend continued this month with catalysts being the tax plan and holiday sales.  My guess remains that the first half of 2018 will be good for corporations (i.e., dividends and buybacks) with a shift in focus later with deficits and mid-term elections playing a leading role.  I remain convinced the yearlong weakness in the US Dollar will continue and expect to allocate more cash into foreign equities during the first half 2018.  I will review this plan as my personal tax implications become clearer.  For the month,   the S&P index increased by .98% while my portfolio increased by 3.29% largely fueled by Financials (again).  For the year the S&P increased by a stellar 16.26% while I came in at +20.58%! The S&P return with all dividends reinvested adds about 2.41% which my hybrid approach still beat.

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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

Dec 2016 Update

December was a continuation of the Trump effect with significant  reassessment underway in many portfolios.  The DOW continued its march to 20,000 before failing and pulling back at month end.  While consumer optimism is at multiyear highs, this has not resulted in holiday sales records probably due to the inability of a President-Elect’s posturing to translate  into tangible policy change.  This month The S&P gained 1.82%.  My portfolio recorded a gain of 3.92% largely reflecting my overweight position in the Financial sector which has been a beneficiary of election sentiment.  This increases my lead over the S&P for the year to 19.83% achieving one of my 2016 goals of besting the S&P index.

Headlines impacting my portfolio:

  • 12/7 – CIBC/PVTB merger vote postponed
  • 12/13 – WFC fails ‘Living Will’, BAC passes
  • 12/14 – Fed raises .25%
  • 12/20 – BAC sells UK MBNA assets to Lloyd’s
  • 12/20 – AMC receives last approval for CKEC merger
  • 12/21 – KO buys BUD African, El Salvador and Honduras bottlers
  • 12/21 – MET financing for spin secured (BHF)

Blog Updates:

Basically chose to be a slug through the holidays

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to HAS
  • Added to HWBK
  • New position – CNDT (XRX spin)
  • Added to CVLY (stock dividend)
  • Added to LARK (stock dividend)
  • Added to CBSH (stock dividend)

Dividends:

  • December delivered an increase of 24.0% over December 2015.  This was due about evenly between dividend increases (Y/Y) and October purchases from merger proceeds.
  • December had a 5.4% increase over the prior quarter.
  • Dividend increases averaged 12.3% with 74.5% of my portfolio delivering at least one raise.
  • Dividends received exceeded total 2015 dividends by 29.3%.

Spinoffs:

The MET spin (Brighthouse Financial – BHF) secured financing.

Mergers:

LSBG/BHB expected to close in January 2017.

Dividends: Stock vs Cash

There are companies that as a normal course of operation pay a portion of their dividends in stock (sometimes referred to as script). I’m not referring to companies that lack the cash to pay the dividend either, as a number of these companies are resident on the CCC list maintained by David Fish. Some of these pay a stock dividend irregularly while others pay a stock dividend annually. So the ultimate question is which is better for the investor? Let’s dive into a real example to get the answer.

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