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.
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.
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)
Basically chose to be a slug through the holidays
- 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)
- 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%.
The MET spin (Brighthouse Financial – BHF) secured financing.
LSBG/BHB expected to close in January 2017.
In my inbox I found a message inspired (?) by my last post. In a nutshell, it was a request for further insight into my October purchases. I have to admit that, on the surface, the appearance is that I was throwing stuff against the wall to see what would stick. I would like to think I’m slightly more calculating. To set the scenario, I had an oversized cash position due to a merger, the markets had started their pre-election downward drift and the FBI just breathed new life into Candidate Trump’s aspirations.
Last month the sky was falling primarily on Brexit concerns. Just a few short weeks later, the S&P and DOW are setting all time records. Similarly you can choose a Cleveland view of the US economy (“it’s on the cusp of a recession”) or the Philadelphia view (“Tremendous progress has been achieved”). Sadly reality probably sits squarely in between. Meanwhile, I’m keeping an eye on Italian banks. For good measure, the S&P outperformed my portfolio for the first time this year – 3.56% vs 3.0%. For the year though, I’m ahead by 11.65%. Headlines related to my portfolio this month include:
In the vernacular of my teenage granddaughter when she finds that my strategies didn’t quite pan out as expected, “That was a Fail, Grandad“. I have to concur, it was a fail. Not a large one, but a Fail nonetheless. In a recent post, Retire Before Dad railed against DRIP plan fee increases. While generally in agreement with his sentiments, I now have to add a caveat to his view. Yesterday I initiated the process of opening a new DRIP account with AST. All because of the Fail.
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.