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.

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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

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.

Continue reading

November 2017 Update

The upward trend continued this month fueled by the progress on the tax plan.  If finalized, my guess is that the first half of 2018 will be good for corporations (i.e., dividends) with reality setting in later in the year that the average consumer received a raw deal and has less disposable income than advertised.  That is unless trickle down really works.  The wild card being the government (or lack thereof) as a second felony plea was accepted with individuals tied to the campaign or administration.  The S&P index increased by 2.81% while my portfolio increased by 3.22% largely fueled by Financials.  For the year I’m still ahead of the index by 3.12%.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 11/1 – OMI buys HYH‘s Surgical and Infection Prevention (S&IP) business
  • 11/2 – SBUX sells Tazo line to UL
  • 11/6 – AVGO bids to acquire QCOM at $60 cash & $10 stock per share
  • 11/6 – BCE acquiring ARFCF
  • 11/9 – AAPL acquires InVisage Technologies
  • 11/13 – GE cuts dividend by 50%
  • 11/13 – AMT buys Idea/VOD Cellular towers in India
  • 11/13 – VER selling Cole Capital to CIM Group
  • 11/14 – Baupost Group initiates 3,565,361 sh position (abt 6.25%) in AMC
  • 11/14 – MSG to sell WNBA team (Liberty)
  • 11/15 – SQ launches ability to buy and sell Bitcoin
  • 11/16 – PYPL sells $5.8B loan package to SYF
  • 11/16 – IRM buys China assets from SFG.CO
  • 11/20 – MSG acquires Obscura Digital
  • 11/27 – PNC acquires The Trout Group, LLC
  • 11/28 – BLK to acquire C‘s Mexican asset management business

Portfolio Updates:

  • increased position in existing DRE holding

Dividends:

  • November delivered an increase of 18.3% Y/Y with the about 60% of the increase being attributable dividend increases and the remainder purchases.
  • November delivered a 1.0% decrease over last quarter (August) due to two payouts being moved to December.
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 11.9% with 71.75% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts (XRX and YUM) and and 1 suspension (TIS)).  Note: GE’s announced cut is counted as 2018.
  • YTD dividends received were 109.86% of total 2016 dividends which exceeded last years’ total on October 25th.

Spinoffs:

Spirit Realty Capital (SRC) – Nov 21, Form 10 was filed confidentially with spin completion targeted for 1H 2018.

Mergers:

AGU/POT (Nutrien) remains pending with the US being the only approval pending.

Summary

My 2018 strategy is forming with the focus turning towards Consumer Staples and Utilities (existing holdings).  I expect to incorporate a side strategy on lower yielding but faster growing companies which I’ll publish in the next week or two.   Of course I will continue to also pursue opportunities as they arise.

And how was your month?

Tax Plans – Part 2

Much has transpired over the past week in regards to tax reform.  With the Alabama Senatorial special election now being too close to call, Congress is kicking into high gear to try to get it passed while the Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate.  This past week saw the House passing their version with no debate although appearances were that many were unaware of the full impact.  Case in point is the CNBC interview with Diane Black (R-TN) where she had the wrong definition of carried interest (she thought it was applicable to car dealers not hedge funds).

If it passes the Senate in something close to its current form, the result will be a reduction in the number of people qualifying for tax deduction itemization from the current 29% to an estimated 6%.  This is the “gotcha” for many filers including myself.  The proposed increase in the standard deduction is large enough to wipe out itemization yet too small to prevent an overall tax increase.  The only viable course of action (for me) is to front load deductions into the current tax year and hope it is not a retroactive change.  I’ve eliminated one alternative from consideration (establishing a corporation) as it would only be a wash in my current bracket and would choose accelerate my 2018 income up to the 25% tax level while reducing subsequent years to fall below the 0% rate.

This plan also has some potential ‘unintended consequences’ which may impact both Trump’s agenda as well as 2018 (and beyond) investment strategies.  Last week I identified home builders as a potential casualty, this week I’ll present a few more that I’m looking at .

Chained CPI

This will impact retirees first and wage earners later.  Essentially this modifies cost of living increases to a lesser increase than regular CPI.  Social Security and Veterans benefits will have lower increases than before reducing disposable income.  Wage earners will see tax brackets expand more slowly potentially (eventually) putting them in a higher bracket faster than the current structure.  End result is (my opinion) a positive for Staples and Utilities with Discretionary taking it on the chin.

Municipal Bonds

The plan would eliminate – or curtail – issuance of private activity bonds (hospitals, nonprofit colleges and universities, and airports) or Municipal Bonds for stadiums.  These types of bonds are often used for rehabilitating cities – think infrastructure.  If one tool is eliminated what is the chance of Trump’s Public/Private partnerships getting off the ground?  I see this as a negative for some Industrials.

General Electric

In the midst of GE’s dividend cut and restructuring I had to hit the pause button.  Their game plan going forward is to focus on three segments; Aviation, Healthcare and Power.  All fine and well – at least it’s a plan.  The remaining business lines will be sold or spun off – which is why I remain interested (although prior spins haven’t been shareholder friendly).  Now the tax plan injects an additional wildcard.  The Power division is the most troubled.  The Renewable Energy segment may be a spin candidate especially as the tax plan targets the Wind Energy production tax creditRetroactively.  Talk about throwing a monkey wrench into the thought process.


With all the unknowns, I believe my 2018 strategy will be to prioritize growth over yield.  The rationale being to delay taxable events as much as possible.  Next year is certainly on tap to be full of uncertainty and  surprises.

Are you considering alterations to your strategy?

 

September 2017 Update

This month for my portfolio was choppy to say the least.  Impacts were the start of calculating hurricane damage, data breaches, fears of a primary tenants’ possible bond default, continuing geopolitical fears and a strengthening of the US dollar at month end (again). With a portfolio currently weighted 15.35% pure international and a little overweight towards Texas it’s not too surprising the S&P index outperformed by increasing 1.93% versus my 0.36% increase.  For the year I’m still ahead by 2.9%.  On the other hand, dividends received set a new monthly record.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 9/7 – SQ to apply for UT banking license as an industrial loan co.
  • 9/7 – BANF acquires First Wagoner Corp and First Chandler Corp
  • 9/7 – EFX announced massive dB hack
  • 9/11 – UNH makes formal offer to acquire BANMEDICA.SN
  • 9/11 – Cdn approval for POT/AGU merger received. awaiting  US, India and China.
  • 9/14 – MMP forms JV w/ VLO for marine termimal in Pasadena, TX
  • 9/21 – GBL (Mario Gabelli) increases stake to 7.74% in BATRA
  • 9/25 – GE sells industrial solutions unit to ABB
  • 9/28 – DGX acquires Shiel Medical Laboratories from FMS
  • 9/28 – IVZ buys Guggenheim Ptnrs ETF business
  • 9/29 – AIG sheds SIFI designation

Portfolio Updates:

  • added to FFIC prior to ex-div on market weakness (N. Korea)
  • added to NWFL (stock split)
  • added to AROW (stock dividend)
  • added to HOMB and lost SGBK (merger)

Dividends:

  • September delivered an increase of 47.56% Y/Y with the about half of the increase being attributable dividend increases and the other half purchases with an assist from a merger premium.
  • September delivered an increase of 16.87% over last quarter (June).  Semi-annual payers, a purchase and dividend increases being the reasons.
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 10.98% with 65.54% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts and 1 suspension)
  • YTD dividends received were 92.61% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last years’ total in late October.

Spinoffs:

Spirit Realty Capital (SRC) has been announced.

Mergers:

AGU/POT (Nutrien) remains pending, SGBK/HOMB completed September 26th.

Summary

With the primary goal of exceeding last year’s dividends in sight, my focus turns to developing a strategy for 2018 – which will likely hinge on the degree of success – if any – to be expected in Year 2 of this administration.  Otherwise I’ll probably continue with the current adding to the underweight holdings unless news erupts.