Apr 2018 Update

The month was relatively crazy with geopolitics driving the highs and domestic lunacy driving the lows.  In between were relatively strong earnings and interest rates inching higher driving the question of the bull market sustainability.  Personally, I’m not overly concerned yet but Marco Rubio‘s “implication that Republicans have found no good answer to the problems Mr Trump described is irrefutable.” may be an omen of things to come.   Meanwhile, I took advantage of some dips and stayed the course.  April saw the S&P rise 0.27% and my portfolio outperformed the index by registering a rise of 0.65%! YTD I still lag the S&P by 0.43%.

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Mar 2018 Update

A few days late since Easter got in the way with the markets being closed March 30th and dividends not being posted in a timely manner.  FX transactions were also delayed impacting my final accounting for the month and quarter.  This month the DOWs first quarterly loss since 2015 grabbed the headlines while the news getting my attention was the rising Libor particularly with its potential impact on adjustable rate mortgages and business loans.  March saw the S&P drop 2.69% and for the first time this year my portfolio outperformed the index by registering a drop of 0.06%!  YTD I still lag the S&P by 0.81%.

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to PWOD, WU and ABB
  • Initiated a position in VLVLY

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 amount of semi-annual, interim/final and annual cycles have been steadily increasing.

  • March delivered an increase of 39.79% Y/Y fueled by dividend increases and purchases.  In particular, my December buys were almost exclusively March payers.
  • March delivered a 11.44% increase over last quarter (December).
  • Dividend increases averaged 11.25% with 40.3% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 1 cut (GE) and 1 suspension (DST see M&A).
  • 2018 Dividends received were 29.3% of 2017 total dividends putting us on pace to exceed last year in early November.

Spinoffs:

Spirit Realty Capital (SRC) – Mar 6, Form 10 was filed publicly with spin completion targeted for 1H 2018.

Mergers:

Jan 13 – DST announced it was merging with SS&C for $84 cash per share.  As part of the merger agreement, the dividend has been suspended – the merger received shareholder approval on March 28th.   I expect the deal to complete in April or May.

Jan 31 – XRX announced a merger with Fujifilm for stock and $9.80 in cash.

A few others are rumored to be in play including Humana and Shire.

Summary

With my March call being spot on (… it appears we’re getting a preview of March Madness in the form of a Trump induced possible trade war.) the Paychex jobs data (small business) released this morning is keeping me in a cautious mood.  Yes it is only a one month view showing fewer jobs – but small businesses are supposed to be the economic driver in Trump World.  Perhaps it’s an aberration – but one to keep an eye on.  Overall a good month in spite of tariff uncertainty.

Hope all of you had a good month as well.

Feb 2018 Update

The theme for the month was volatility.  A couple of ETNs cratered as a result of the high volatility causing investors to lose significantly when using these levered products.   “We sincerely apologize for causing significant difficulties to investors,” Nomura said.  Credit Suisse stated “investors who held shares of XIV had bet against at volatility at their own risk.  It worked well for a long time until it didn’t, which is generally what happens in markets”.   Caveat emptor.

During the month, the S&P index dipped into correction territory before rallying to close the month down 3.89%.  My portfolio sympathized with the index closing down 5.53%.  I never hit correction so my peak drop was less but I also failed to recover as quickly.  Probably an area to perform a root cause analysis on at some point.  Following back-to-back monthly losses against the S&P, I’m down 3.44%  to start the year. Continue reading

Jan 2018 Update

The market came out of the chutes and barely looked back this month, the catalysts being the realization of the tax plan’s impact on corporate earnings and few earnings reports being significant disappointments.  The lower tax rates started trickling  into paychecks (average about 3.5%) but the average gas price nationwide increased by roughly 5% primarily due to the weakness in the US dollar  (caused in part by the prospects of increased deficits from the tax plan that haven’t been offset by jobs, productivity or GDP gains yet).  At least we can watch commercials touting unrealized benefits even though it is way too early for any tangible impact to  be realized.  Kind of makes me wonder a little.  For the month, the S&P index increased by 5.62%% while my portfolio value increased by merely 3.81% putting me behind by 1.81% to start the year. Continue reading

Let The Spend Begin

Curious minds have pondered the meaning of the Great Tax Reform Act of 2017, properly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.  The debate has centered on whether repatriation or employee salaries or buybacks or dividend increases or debt repayment or capital investment.  Until Walmart, announcements have centered on bonuses or hiring pledges.  Not wages.  Not anything, really, that is a truly lasting benefit to the working stiff.

 

And this week is no different.  In a nod to the roughly 50% of population that own stock, Thursday, DST Systems announced they were being acquired by SS&C Technologies Holdings in an all cash deal valued at $84 per share.  While M&A activity is not an unexpected byproduct of the tax bill, there were two noteworthy items in the release.  The first being SSNC’s deal financing being a combination of debt and equity.  Current SSNC shareholders will be facing some level of dilution.  The second item is that the “significant leverage” will be attenuated through “cost synergies to stem from data center consolidation and reductions in corporate overhead”.    This sounds like code words for force and facility reductionAre there that many data centers on the company books?

Not being a SSNC shareholder (current or apparently future) appears to be a blessing in this merger.  As a DST shareholder I will be happy to tender my shares (and vote my proxy in favor of) the deal.  My only regrets are two: 1) Kansas City (for which I have a fondness) losing another company’s headquarters , and 2) that I didn’t own more shares.

My shares were purchased in four tranches with an average (post split) basis of $62.71.  Total gain will be $21.29 per share or 25.3% total gain (annualized average gain would be about 11.7% depending on when it closes).  Not too shabby a return and a good start towards equaling last years’ results.  The merger is expected to close in the third quarter.

The only other negative is the (new) tax impact with these gains likely locking me into the higher bracket I was attempting to avoid.  My philosophical observation being unless you’re extremely wealthy, the best way to avoid taxes is to make no money.  A theory to which I don’t subscribe!

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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Baseball and Screeners

This is one of the times that another blogger’s post has triggered my (loosely defined) creative juices.  The post in question was Lanny’s (Dividend Diplomats)  Waste Management analysis.  Now I have no disagreement with his conclusion, in fact you could compare the DD Screener to delivering a fastball right down the middle.  The only alternatives to a strike are whether the pitch is high or in the dirt.

Personally, I like a little more strategy – the brush back before throwing a curve that nicks the corner.  Questions like EPA regulations or NIMBY impact on landfills.  Or the number of municipal contracts that are competitive versus monopolistic.  Issues obscured by a strict reading of batting and earned run averages.

The jewel in his analysis was:

I was driving around my neighborhood and was surrounded by a few waste disposal service trucks …

Aha!  A twist on the old kitchen cupboard investing strategy.  You know the drill … identify the companies behind the products you use.  I’m not sure of the absolute merits of this strategy, but there is comfort in investing in companies whose products and/or brands are familiar.  And it is one I use (to a degree) as well.  My assumption being, why not have my spending subsidized by companies I do business with through dividends?

I think I stated earlier I thrive in the obscurities, case in point being that last week I required a new prescription.  My meds generally delivered by mail from Humana (HUM).  One-off situations are handled by a local pharmacy.  In this case I chose Tom Thumb grocery as they accepted Humana insurance and I could wait at the Starbucks (SBUX) nearby.  I noticed on my paperwork that Argus Health was used for claim processing.  Argus is owned by one of my companies, DST.

There we have it.  Humana paid Tom Thumb which paid a processing fee to DST while I paid Starbucks while waiting.  Of which HUM, DST and SBUX all will provide a rebate (dividend) to me.  Although a topic I’ve mused on before, it is also one I feel never gets old.  One can always posit that this level of detail is irrelevant and perhaps it is.  But I feel it provides a broader snapshot of the business when inter-relationships are recognized.