Buybacks (part 2)

To follow a theme outlined a couple of weeks ago, my going forward intent in my random musings segments is to view some of the issues of the 2020 presidential campaign under discussion.  My investing rationale has always been that to be successful, one has to understand all possible outcomes which means digging through a lot of crap to discern viable opportunities. It would appear at this early stage that much like 2016, 2020 will have plenty of that to wade through.  As an added bonus, I don’t want to disappoint my newest audience demographic by suppressing my irreverence. As always, these are only observations awaiting an investing opportunity that may never present itself.

The Pitchfork Economics series on buybacks continued on February 26th with Sen. Cory Booker (one of the multitude of Democratic presidential contenders) as a guest discussing his new bill, Workers Dividend Act.  Evidence cited to support his cause is twofold.

  1. American Airlines (AAL) wage increase was roundly panned by analysts.   Booker states the analyst opinions were misguided – which is true. To parlay these opinions into supporting rationale against buybacks is equally misguided as these were partially collectively bargained.  (i.e., benefit to unionized employees which is a goal of the bill.)
  2. His use of Walmart (WMT) as the proverbial case of buyback greed ignores some aspects that are detrimental to his position.  Walmart offers its’ employees matching 401K plans, stock ownership plans with a 15% discount and HSAs, of which some – if not all – allow employees to share proportionately in the “wealth” gained through buybacks.  The choice resides with the employee as to participation.

In an attempt to frame rhetoric with reality, I chose my oldest 15 holdings to identify what happened over the past three years.

Company201820172016
Comcast3.05% decline1.83% decline 3.18% decline
WEC Energy 0.09% decline .09% incr. 16.21% incr.
Chevron0.46% incr.1.33% incr.0.11% decline
Kimberly-Cl.1.77% decline 1.6% decline 1.26% decline
Norf. Southrn3.48% decline 1.93% decline 2.76% decline
Clorox1.19% decline 0.11% decline 0.8% decline
Prosperity B.0.51% incr. 0.28% decline 0.53% decline
Sysco0.5% decline5% decline 3.26% decline
Owens & Minor0.0% change 0.16% decline 0.16% decline
Walt Disney1.51% decline 3.72% decline 4.1% decline
Home Depot2.81% decline 3.82% decline 4.68% decline
PepsiCo0.9% decline 0.96% decline 2.22% decline
Kimco Realty0.62% decline 1.03% incr.1.66% incr.
Towne Bank0.13% incr.0.08% incr.1.05% incr.

Data from MacroTrends

In this scenario (excluding increases denoted bold/italic), the buybacks – as a percentage of the stock outstanding – actually decreased during each of Trump’s years as president despite the tax plan (from 2.1%/1.94%/1.45%).  Companies increasing their share count did so generally to use as currency in lieu of debt. In Chevron’s case this was to fund capital expenditures. Most of the others were for acquisitions.  It’s only slightly ironic that a merger cutting jobs and increasing capital concentration (banking sector) would be viewed more favorably due to an expanding share count

This discussion topic has also been picked up by Mr Tako Escapes who elaborates more skillfully than I.  I don’t dispute two points here, 1) Companies tend to have poor judgement in the timing of these transactions (buy high) and 2) the dollar amounts being expended.  But a dose of reality has to exist as well, I mean – realistically how many capex dollars should be spent to further the worldwide glut of steel (as one example)?

At least this exercise has been interesting but to draw any real conclusions requires a larger sample size.  More questions will also arise such as, ‘Are buybacks more prevalent in the overall S&P universe moreso than the DGI slice?’ or ‘Is my portfolio a large enough sample to be reflective of the stats bandied about by the Democratic candidates?’.  As usual in this blog, more questions than answers. I intend to complete this exercise for all of my holdings during the year

Other concepts will likely hit the garbage heap prior to getting much traction including a wealth tax (constitutional issues) and Modern Monetary Policy (hyperinflation).  As an aside, these concerns, per David McWilliams piece entitled Quantitative easing was the father of millennial socialism as presented by Ben Carlson makes for an interesting case. It certainly appears that the 2020 election season is off to a rousing start. Bottom line, I suspect some candidates will use this issue as a cry to rally the base with minimal substance to follow – similar in many ways to “Build the Wall” of yesteryear.  A reflection of what little has been learned over the last two years. In my mind not an investable theory.  

As always, opinions are welcome!

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My 3Rs – Revamp

Last post in this series I highlighted my views from the rear view mirror.  Going into 2019 will see more changes than normal.  No I’m not selling any positions but changing the emphasis (allocation) on certain issues.  The game plan is for reinvested dividends and fresh money to gradually swing the portfolio into balance with the new targets.

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The YOC Metric

Every now and again I believe a reminder is in store addressing the reason and rationale for various approaches we take.  One such topic relates to Yield On Cost which can generate passion on both sides of the debate.  One side equates this metric as little more than a head fake while the other swears by its’ value.  As with most issues, the real answer lies in between.  At the very least all sides agree on the definition which per Investopedia is:

Yield on Cost (YOC) is the annual dividend rate of a security, divided by its average cost basis.

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May 2018 Update

The month was fairly normal until the final week with Italy followed by Trump’s tariff rollout.  In between we saw the on again – off again negotiating style with North Korea and China.  Other than a couple of down days it appears the market is learning to ignore the noise.  Again I used the dips to my advantage and stayed the course.  May saw a rise in the S&P of 2.16% while my portfolio outperformed the index by registering a rise of 2.24%.  YTD I still lag the S&P by 0.35%.

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to CMCSA (making another round lot)
  • Added to my ETF group (CUT, EWA, EWW, JPMV, VGK)
  • Added to GE (on the rail spin (WAB) news)
  • Added SMTA (via SRC spin)
  • Added to BKSC (via 10% stock dividend)
  • Added to DGX on news of UNH strategic partnership

DIVIDENDS

This is where my main focus resides.  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.

  • May delivered an increase of 12.97% Y/Y fueled by dividend increases.
  • May delivered a 15.98% increase over last quarter (February).
  • Dividend increases averaged 12.14% with 55.98% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 1 cut (GE).
  • 2018 Dividends received were 46.53% of 2017 total dividends putting us on pace to exceed last year in early November.

Notes: the Q/Q shows an increasing trend line due only to timing of dividend payouts (pay date shifts).  Y/Y is only on par with dividend increases as dividends received were used to purchase next quarter (rather than current quarter) dividends.

Spinoffs:

GE‘s rail unit to spin then merge with WEB

Mergers:

XRX merger with Fujifilm cancelled.

SHPG to merge into TKPYY

Summary

Any month with increasing dividends and beating the S&P has to be considered a good one.

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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‘Tis The Season

It’s getting to be that time of the year and since I don’t think the grandkid reads this thing, I figured I’d share one of the presents she’ll be getting.  Just to review, each year since she came to live with us she has received shares in a company as a gift. This gift has been purchased in a company DRIP, established as a Custodial Account of which I’m the custodian. Generally, the company is one in which she can relate, i.e., Trix was her favorite cereal as a kid hence the General Mills stock.

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Week in Review

Blog Update

This week I finally decided to do a little housekeeping on the portfolio section of the site, getting rid of the XIRR column – which is probably meaningful only to me, and adding price (updated with roughly 20 minute delay), prior dividend, dividend frequency, ex-div date (which may or may not be retained) and cost basis.  The Div Wt column is updated when a dividend is credited and reflects the YTD weighting which is most accurate at the end of each quarter.  Basically I’m trying to reduce manual intervention.

Weather Updates

As Texas begins their recovery process from Harvey, Irma slams into Florida and Jose is lurking just behind.  One has to wonder as to the luck of Maersk (AMKBY) who diverted the Ohio from Houston (Harvey) to Freeport (Irma).   I’m also keeping an eye on Antigua and Barbuda where I’ve frequently vacationed and enjoyed their hospitality on my honeymoon years ago.  Impacted issues may include Disney (DIS) and Comcast (CMCSA) as well as the entire Florida tourism and orange businesses.

The End of the Year

As I was updating the site, I realized that two issues have already paid their final 2017 dividends.  Delving a little deeper shows all of my holdings are past the ex-dividend date for a September dividend leaving but one quarterly payment remaining.  This is only a reminder that time is running out on impacting 2017.  Generally I enter October with an eye on the strategy for the upcoming year as most of my moves will have a minimal impact on the current year.

More Dollar Weakness?

Deutsche Bank argues that more weakness is in store for the US dollar as a result of current monetary policy and a failure of the market to price in further 2017 rate hikes.  They may be onto something as hurricanes and a lack of rational policy agendas from Washington can also be added to the mix.  Now this could be good for exports but lousy for the typical consumer.

Hope your week was uneventful.