Who Loves a Surprise?

This week has been flowing a river of surprises and I’m not talking about the nasty ones, like dividend cuts – of which I’ve had my fair share already this year. Rather I’m talking about the good surprises, the ones that put a smile on your face and lift your spirits. The ones that validate theories and reward accordingly. In this holiday shortened week, I have three to share.

Qualcomm/Apple Peace Treaty

On the eve of their dirty laundry being aired in court, the battle ended. Worldwide. Mark Hibben covers essentially all of the thought process I had when I topped off my holdings a little last July. My current thinking is that Intel was having some difficulty engineering a design that avoided patent violations and emanating minimal heat. When asked my position on this, I allowed it is a win for all three parties – QCOM in the short tern, AAPL in the mid to long term and Intel long term. My rationale? The length of the agreement is double Moore’s law providing Intel and/or Apple the runway to leapfrog 5G and focus on 6G – securing some initial patents for themselves. (Long QCOM, AAPL)

Blackstone Converts (finally …)

The long rumored conversion of Blackrock from a partnership to C-Corp will be effective July 1st. This was greeted enthusiastically by the markets, and I applaud as well. This is a positive result of Trump’s tax plan but my reasons are more the personal impact. In my portfolio I hold Blackstone in an IRA resulting in the annoyance of a K-1 as well as the possibility of Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI). Going forward I’ll have the opportunity to add to this holding without looking over my shoulder at tax consequences. (Long BX)

AB Volvo (Wow!)

The one least expected actually occurred two weeks ago but I had to spend a little time digging into their numbers a little to figure out the why. The announcement from Volvo was a dividend increase to SEK 5.00 (17.65%) plus a SEK 5.00 special dividend. As they pay annually, this will hit my account this month. As the news reports in the states depicts Europe on the brink of a recession, I just had to plow through their report.

Looking at the numbers, I see a little weakness in the bus line, likely due to uncertainty around the revised NAFTA. Their otherwise record results included increases in construction, trucks and heavy equipment. Currency was a positive impact as well. As a multinational, they appear poised for continued strength in light of the Trump team’s escalating war of sanctions with the EU. Deere and Caterpillar were named last week as possible retaliatory targets. (Long VLVLY)


All in all a nice and surprising week. Here’s hoping these April showers result in a torrent of May flowers!

A Sea of Change

There are events that present opportunities through chaos and the US election – as Brexit was – appears to be one.   During these times as the sands are shifting I find it prudent to attempt to handicap the situation identifying strengths and weaknesses primarily using my portfolio as a lens.  Many questions currently have no answers and some stock gains appear to be based on assumptions more than facts.  I do reserve the right to modify my thoughts as more data is obtained.

REITs have generally taken a beating primarily on interest rate fears.  but the same could be said for Telecoms and Utilities.  Telecoms appear to have been spared due to M&A activity.

Financials appear to be a tale of diverging paths.  Pundits are bullish on the big banks but not so much on the little guys.  My guess is M&A will slow among the small banks as Dodd-Frank is tweaked but will accelerate as the reality of profitability through synergy is identified.  Multinational banks will continue to have to deal with Basel III to remain competitive globally tempering some of potential gains.

Healthcare is a wildcard.  To repeal a dysfunctional new scheme to implement an old dysfunctional scheme without morphing it into a newly dysfunctional scheme is ludicrous and where this sector’s profits will be found (until Congress gets wise).

Discretionary will depend on the economy – is the new plan recessionary?

And Mexico?  Strangely silent have been F, UTX, KO, DE and a host of others with operations there.  Then there is the NAFTA treaty which requires Senate action to modify.  It’s difficult to see many California or Texas senators supporting an action that would raise unemployment and reduce tax receipts by shuttering logistics centers.

Basically I see no immediate strategic portfolio change but additional diligence will be required.  A possible watch list might include UMBF, WBS and ONB for exposure to Health Spending Accounts (HSAs); KSU (Mexican trade); and KOF.  Other then the peso valuation and the ADR trade, I know of no other US exposure for KOF (Coca-Cola Femsa).

And how are you surviving?