Buybacks (part 2)

To follow a theme outlined a couple of weeks ago, my going forward intent in my random musings segments is to view some of the issues of the 2020 presidential campaign under discussion.  My investing rationale has always been that to be successful, one has to understand all possible outcomes which means digging through a lot of crap to discern viable opportunities. It would appear at this early stage that much like 2016, 2020 will have plenty of that to wade through.  As an added bonus, I don’t want to disappoint my newest audience demographic by suppressing my irreverence. As always, these are only observations awaiting an investing opportunity that may never present itself.

The Pitchfork Economics series on buybacks continued on February 26th with Sen. Cory Booker (one of the multitude of Democratic presidential contenders) as a guest discussing his new bill, Workers Dividend Act.  Evidence cited to support his cause is twofold.

  1. American Airlines (AAL) wage increase was roundly panned by analysts.   Booker states the analyst opinions were misguided – which is true. To parlay these opinions into supporting rationale against buybacks is equally misguided as these were partially collectively bargained.  (i.e., benefit to unionized employees which is a goal of the bill.)
  2. His use of Walmart (WMT) as the proverbial case of buyback greed ignores some aspects that are detrimental to his position.  Walmart offers its’ employees matching 401K plans, stock ownership plans with a 15% discount and HSAs, of which some – if not all – allow employees to share proportionately in the “wealth” gained through buybacks.  The choice resides with the employee as to participation.

In an attempt to frame rhetoric with reality, I chose my oldest 15 holdings to identify what happened over the past three years.

Company201820172016
Comcast3.05% decline1.83% decline 3.18% decline
WEC Energy 0.09% decline .09% incr. 16.21% incr.
Chevron0.46% incr.1.33% incr.0.11% decline
Kimberly-Cl.1.77% decline 1.6% decline 1.26% decline
Norf. Southrn3.48% decline 1.93% decline 2.76% decline
Clorox1.19% decline 0.11% decline 0.8% decline
Prosperity B.0.51% incr. 0.28% decline 0.53% decline
Sysco0.5% decline5% decline 3.26% decline
Owens & Minor0.0% change 0.16% decline 0.16% decline
Walt Disney1.51% decline 3.72% decline 4.1% decline
Home Depot2.81% decline 3.82% decline 4.68% decline
PepsiCo0.9% decline 0.96% decline 2.22% decline
Kimco Realty0.62% decline 1.03% incr.1.66% incr.
Towne Bank0.13% incr.0.08% incr.1.05% incr.

Data from MacroTrends

In this scenario (excluding increases denoted bold/italic), the buybacks – as a percentage of the stock outstanding – actually decreased during each of Trump’s years as president despite the tax plan (from 2.1%/1.94%/1.45%).  Companies increasing their share count did so generally to use as currency in lieu of debt. In Chevron’s case this was to fund capital expenditures. Most of the others were for acquisitions.  It’s only slightly ironic that a merger cutting jobs and increasing capital concentration (banking sector) would be viewed more favorably due to an expanding share count

This discussion topic has also been picked up by Mr Tako Escapes who elaborates more skillfully than I.  I don’t dispute two points here, 1) Companies tend to have poor judgement in the timing of these transactions (buy high) and 2) the dollar amounts being expended.  But a dose of reality has to exist as well, I mean – realistically how many capex dollars should be spent to further the worldwide glut of steel (as one example)?

At least this exercise has been interesting but to draw any real conclusions requires a larger sample size.  More questions will also arise such as, ‘Are buybacks more prevalent in the overall S&P universe moreso than the DGI slice?’ or ‘Is my portfolio a large enough sample to be reflective of the stats bandied about by the Democratic candidates?’.  As usual in this blog, more questions than answers. I intend to complete this exercise for all of my holdings during the year

Other concepts will likely hit the garbage heap prior to getting much traction including a wealth tax (constitutional issues) and Modern Monetary Policy (hyperinflation).  As an aside, these concerns, per David McWilliams piece entitled Quantitative easing was the father of millennial socialism as presented by Ben Carlson makes for an interesting case. It certainly appears that the 2020 election season is off to a rousing start. Bottom line, I suspect some candidates will use this issue as a cry to rally the base with minimal substance to follow – similar in many ways to “Build the Wall” of yesteryear.  A reflection of what little has been learned over the last two years. In my mind not an investable theory.  

As always, opinions are welcome!

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September 2018 Update

It was a tale of two markets this month with highs being set on the 20th before pulling back through month end.  It’s a riddle of sorts when consumer sentiment is off the charts and the ultimate consumer stock (BBBY) plunges on terrible sales.  How about the Fed raising rates again but bank stocks fall?  Then Mexico appears to tap the brakes on a possible bilateral trade deal in favor of retaining a trilateral including Canada with the Trump threat being tariffs on Canadian cars.  Yes, a conundrum indeed. I was off the sidelines during the first half of the month but going silent during options expiration and the sector changes later in the month.  September saw a rise in the S&P of 0.43% while my portfolio lagged by registering a decrease of 0.42%.  YTD I’m ahead of the S&P by 0.21%.  The biggest factor being my cash position – which is normally minimal.  I only report stock positions – but if cash were reported the results would have been a wash.

Portfolio Updates:

  • added to KMB prior to ex-div
  • added to GBNK (hedge on IBTX merger)
  • sold IBTX (locking in a 46% gain – I’ll get these back post merger)
  • sold one CHD position (completed last month’s repositioning)
  • sold one JNJ position (completed last month’s repositioning)
  • added to CMA (minor rebalance)
  • added to EPR (minor rebalance)
  • added to CBSH (minor rebalance)
  • added to FFIN (minor rebalance)
  • added to MAIN (minor rebalance)
  • added to MKC (minor rebalance)
  • added to PYPL (minor rebalance)
  • added to PNC (minor rebalance)
  • added to PRI (minor rebalance)
  • added to SHPG (minor rebalance)
  • added to TSS (minor rebalance)
  • added to UNH (minor rebalance)
  • added to VLO (minor rebalance)
  • added to V (minor rebalance)

DIVIDENDS

My main focus resides on dividends.  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 number of semi-annual, interim/final and annual cycles have been steadily increasing in my portfolio.

  • September delivered an increase of 13.54% Y/Y, the impacts being dividend increases and a sizable special dividend (AMC).
  • September delivered a 15.65% increase over last quarter (Jun).
  • Dividend increases averaged 14.96% with 71.03% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 1 cut (GE).
  • 2018 Dividends received were 92.71% of 2017 total dividends putting us on pace to exceed last year next month.

Note: I updated my Goals page to provide a visual of these numbers.  Based on Mr All Things Money’s instruction set with a conversion to percentages.  My code only updates when the monthly Y/Y number is exceeded.  Otherwise, the prior year actual is used.

Spinoffs:

GE‘s rail unit to spin then merge with WEB

GE to spin 80% of the health business

NVS proposed spin of Alcon scheduled for shareholder approval Feb 2019

Mergers:

XRX merger with Fujifilm cancelled (now being litigated).

SHPG to merge into TKPYY

GBNK to merge into IBTX (shareholders approved)

COBZ to merge into BOKF (expected completion 1 Oct 2018)

GNBC to merge into VBTX (semi-reverse)

Summary

My repositioning is almost complete so next month I can begin to front load into 2019.   Dividends this month hit a new record.

Hope all of you had a good month as well.

Road Trip Musings

Settling in at home after wandering the country a little, provides an opportunity to reflect on my observations, discussions and tenor of the people I engaged with.  I thoroughly enjoyed the visits and sometimes lively discussions and following are a sampling of these.  There is but one potential action item for my portfolio review – which is less than normal for these adventures.

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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

Volatility Returns!

With the wild ride in the markets this week, I perused some of the community’s blogs to gauge the reaction.  While not meeting scientific norms regarding sample size, I was surprised by the lack of reference to the pullback in 66% of them – including ones with posts as recent as yesterday.  Perhaps it’s a lack of funds to take advantage or the deer in the headlights syndrome.  One blog, Fully Franked Finance, had a timely piece a few days prior which stated the importance of a ‘shopping list’ – as many others also encourage.  I too, engage in a strategy which emulates  the ‘shopping list’ strategy.  So, what were my moves so far this month?

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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.

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