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.
What a start to the final month of the year. At least there is a little something for everyone. First the CME tripped the first wave of circuit breakers in the futures market. Then the chartists found the S&P closed the week in a death cross. Then there’s news of a possible yield curve inversion. Lest we not forget, the most recent China issue which may or may not even be legal. While the Huawei issue is unfolding, Lighthizer continues to stir the pot by saying he considers March 1 “a hard deadline” otherwise the delayed tariffs will be imposed. Hmm … kind of like bringing a gun to a knife fight – or – perhaps the administration really believes that “free and fair trade” is an outgrowth of convoluted negotiations.
If week one is any indication, the traditional “Santa Claus Rally” will be delivering a lump of coal this year. Being the eternal optimist, I’ll argue Christmas isn’t here yet so I had to take advantage of the sell-off to do a little buying:
- First, I added to my ETF group. I accomplished two things with this:
- As the majority of these are foreign, they are underwater. Therefore, an ‘average down’ scenario.
- These all pay December dividends (one quarterly, three semi-annual and one annual) all yet undeclared. All are now captured.
- Second I executed a rebalance on a small portion of the portfolio. I chose a ‘rebalance’ as the fees were lower than the alternatives. End result being:
- Sale of BOKF. I had this issue in two accounts due to a merger, now it’s only in one, with the proceeds and accumulated dividends:
- Added to ADP, MMM, KIM, FAF as these are underweight target holdings
- Added to AVNS as they may have received a good price for the division sold to OMI
- Added to LARK and CASS – missing the ex-date for the stock dividends
- Added to BR, CNDT, CDK, FHN, JHG, KSU, PJT, WU, XRX – capturing WU’s December dividend
I still have another rebalance queued pending completion of a merger (might be into the new year) and then we return to normal operations.
I also will be selling my OMI – perhaps later in the month to see if Santa really exists!
As a kid I enjoyed a good riddle every now and again but as the years went by thought I’d outgrown them to a large degree. Until now. One of the companies in my portfolio announced a dividend. In reviewing the announcement (specifically the SEC 6-K filing), I noticed the dividend amounted to an increase of 13.16%. Not shabby – in fact it exceeds the average of my portfolio (12.08% current). So imagine my surprise to find the amount to be credited resulted in a 15.23% reduction! Hmm … kind of blows away the increase, doesn’t it? Of course I had to investigate – it appears like that’s what I seem to do.
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.
It’s been about two years since I first invested in Australian issues, choosing to take a slow approach while I obtained some practical experience first hand. Certainly many of the yields are good, but the economy – much like Canada – is resource based. Then there’s the whole franking deal. Plus the foreign exchange conversion – but this has been relatively stable at 75 – 80 cents per USD. Add to that, until recently the selection was limited to ADRs or using a cost prohibitive foreign desk.
May was generally quiet with the market trending generally higher. With few pullback opportunities, I barely deployed new dividends so my cash position increased again. At least the turmoil I experienced moving from Loyal3 subsided and I could resume a more moderate pace. An upcoming election in the UK may present a buying opportunity on weakness in the GBP versus the US dollar. The S&P ended the month up 1.16% while my portfolio recorded a gain of 1.37%. For the year (so far), I’m ahead of the index by 4.07%
Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):
- 5/1 – DRE sells medical office portfolio to HTA
- 5/1 – TIS suspends dividend
- 5/4 – FHN to acquire CBF
- 5/30 – JNS/HGG.L merger completed (becoming JHG)
- 5/31 – KEY acquires HelloWallet from MORN
- Initiated position in SGAPY
- Added to IVZ
- Added to PWCDF (proceeds from sale of TIS)
- Added to DST
- Added to PLD
- May delivered an increase of 51.44% over May 2016 with the vast majority of this attributable to foreign dividend cycles not held last year.
- May delivered an increase of 38.94% over last quarter (Feb) for the same reason.
- Declared dividend increases averaged 8.89% with 48.02% of my portfolio delivering at least one increase (2 cuts – XRX and YUM; 1 suspension – TIS)
- YTD dividends received were 47.11% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last year’s total in early November.
Note: with 14.6% of current dividends paid by foreign sources, the weakening US dollar is providing a tailwind with exchange rates i.e., increasing my return.
The MET spin (Brighthouse Financial – BHF) remains in regulatory review.
Agrium/POT, SGBK/HOMB remain pending