Are Trump-Towns Next?

“let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933

With all the news coverage this month of the stock market slump there is a rising comparison with historical events.  Notable are the comparisons with 1931 which was when we were in the midst of the Great Depression.  Current events certainly lend themselves to shocking headlines with fearmongers like Jim Cramer piling on the bandwagon with comments like, “It’s not a safe market. It’s a treacherous market. This is the most treacherous market I’ve seen in a many a year.”  While probably true, this narrative is more ‘click-bate’ than substance.  Sad are the masses feeding from Facebook feeds with nary a thought towards deeper analysis.

After all these years historians remain at loggerheads as to the cause of the Great Depression, however to equate current events with history is misguided at best.  The common denominator is only that Hoover, Bush and Trump represent the Republican party.

Sivaram Velauthapillai penned a great thesis in 2009 laying out a case as to the differences between the Great Recession and the Great Depression.  In my view, the key points pertaining to the markets in the Great Depression were:

  • During the Depression there were two 100% market rallies
  • Dollar cost averaging mitigated losses for some investors
  • Currency liquidity was not increased
  • Maintaining the Gold Standard tightened money supply

The first two notes are only points of interest, the third point was not repeated in the Great Recession (TARP) and fourth, Nixon (another Republican) removed us from the Gold Standard in 1971.

Another Great Depression issue was Hoover remaining steadfast in cutting spending to maintain a balanced federal budget which (combined with a tightened money supply) contributed to his current day image as an uncaring soul and a lasting legacy of “Hooverville” shanty towns.

Fast forward to 2018 – while there are a few similarities with past crises these (my opinion) do not yet rise to levels where alarm bells are ringing.  Caution is warranted particularly on the trade and political fronts.  Uncertainty is the bane for business and commerce and this has been presented in abundance.  The market, being a reflection, has responded in kind ignoring some basic fundamentals while emotion – and fear – run amok.  Trump-towns aren’t a blip on my radar – yet.

The S&P has lost 12.45% of its value so far this month.  Even with an overweight in regional banks my portfolio lost 10.87% so far in December.  These are only paper losses and the strength I see are dividend increases announced thus far for 2019 outweigh the few decreases.  Yes, Virginia, there are some positives lurking in the shadows.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season!

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Work Freedom Day

Once per year – assuming a static or growing portfolio – the day arrives where current year dividends paid exceed the prior years’ total dividends.  For me, yesterday (October 19th) was the day.  Now the term, coined by Dividend Life in 2014, is a little bit of a misnomer as I don’t work but the concept is applicable.  This compares favorably with last year (October 25th) but still shy of my all time best (in retirement) of October 4th in 2016.  The improvement this year is largely attributable to Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which resulted in increased regular and special dividends.  Whether this is a one-off or sustainable remains to be seen but as my mother was fond of saying, “Don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth.”


I’ve been noodling over an article for awhile – one of those that need to be absorbed in doses.  I see bits and pieces of me across all levels, but probably a three – maybe a four.  The relevance?  In a recent post (9 Sep) I stated:

Bank OZK (OZK) has had some curious moves of late with a costly name change and repositioning from federal to state oversight. These, along with their increasing exposure to high value CRE gives me pause.

Obviously the esteemed Jason Fieber is not among my handful of readers as he initiated a position on 1 October citing:

There are some concerns over its loan portfolio (when are there not concerns about a business?), especially seeing as how the bank has aggressively moved into construction lending in recent years. This tiny bank is behind some of the biggest projects in some of the biggest markets in the US.

But these concerns seem to be more than priced in. It’s almost as if the last four years of growth are worth nothing. Of course, growth could, and likely will, slow in the new construction market. And sticking to strict lending standards means opportunities might dry up.

The market’s (and my) concerns were that “strict lending standards” weren’t consistently followed.  Fast forward to Thursday’s earnings report:

On July 16, 2018, the Bank changed its name to Bank OZK, changed its ticker symbol to “OZK,” and adopted a new logo and signage, all as part of a strategic rebranding. As a result of this name change and strategic rebranding, the Bank incurred pretax expenses of $10.8 million during the third quarter and $11.4 million for the first nine months of 2018.

During the third quarter of 2018, the Bank incurred combined charge-offs of $45.5 million on two Real Estate Specialties Group (“RESG”) credits. These two unrelated projects are in South Carolina and North Carolina, have been in the Bank’s portfolio since 2007 and 2008, and were previously classified as substandard. The combined balance of these credits, after the charge-offs, is $20.6 million.

The CRE issues are centered on two projects in the Carolinas, one a mall with Sears exposure.  I have no conviction that these are one-time issues.  Much depends on the economy and the hurricane related recovery in this area.  Yet I couldn’t resist the the opportunity to average down yesterday on the 26% price drop.  So yes my crystal ball worked this time, but no I didn’t sell in September, nor did I short.  Which is why I may not be a Level 4.


Inspired by Catfish Wizard and Jim Cramer’s Power Rankings, this weekend I’ll add the 2019 DGI Picks by Sector as a Menu Item (fun and games only!).  If you’d like to be included, submit your top pick for each sector.  I’ll probably recalibrate the results around Thanksgiving to provide a level playing field.  🙂

Gamblin’ Man

Lord, I was born a gamblin’ man

David Pratter (parody of Allman Brothers Ramblin’ Man)

I’m not sure what it is about October that causes some vicious swings in the market but this year remained true to form.   When viewed through the prism of percentages the two day drop was merely a blip,  for newer investors I’m sure it was gut wrenching all the same.  While the President was quick to cast blame on the Fed,  this is the same man  that was quick to criticize the Fed for keeping rates artificially low.  Others cast the net a little wider to include trade tensions with China.  Kind of like saying , “Look at the man in the mirror first!”  We don’t have to look any further than PPG’s pre-announcement to identify the culprits: Accelerating raw materials and transportation costs, slowing China demand, weakening auto paint demand and a stronger US dollar.  I wouldn’t be surprised if additional surprises are in store as more companies announce.

What does surprise me a little is the fact that costs like PPG is incurring has not yet worked into the CPI or PPI numbers yet.    One pundit mentioned inventories were being drained so the full increase will be felt in the future – unless a China agreement is on the short-term horizon.  Perhaps …

I was able to capitalize on the rout a little on Thursday by adding to seven positions – notably the foreign ETFs along with BOKF and CL.  Unless markets go haywire again, I have only one more purchase on tap for this month.

To come full circle to the title of this post, our friend Jim Cramer is in the process of releasing his selections for 2019.  He’s doing this in the format of Power Rankings which is a unique approach but one I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  The reason: there is already an embedded mindset of investing being a form of gambling.  Cramer says, “we’re rolling out power rankings for each sector of the stock market, just like how gamblers use power rankings to gauge the strength of football teams”.  Hmm … but I will keep an eye on these selections.  Mysteriously they stopped after three sectors were released, perhaps related to the market selloff?  All I can say is during week 1, 11 of his 15 selections were under water … so what was advertised as a one week rollout is now on hold?  Perhaps market conditions weren’t conducive for his track record?  Any way, more to come on this front I’m sure 🙂

Picking Winners & Identifying Losers

It has been said many times before that attempting to time the market is a fool’s errand. One approach common with Dividend Growth Investors the one taken by DivHut which is to  “…invest in a consistent and systematic manner. Over the long haul, being invested and staying invested in the stock market gives you the best long term odds of success.”  The benefits are consistency, removing emotions and dollar cost averaging while the disadvantages – particularly if fully invested – is the reduced ability to take advantage of “one day sale events” which are becoming more common.

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