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.
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
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?
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
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.
In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, the topic of cryptocurrency arose as he has started accepting Bitcoin in his business. Though more enamored over the possibilities of wealth through hoarding and/or trading, he began to look under the hood to figure out why I had a greater fondness for Blockchain over any cryptocurrency. His insight surprised me: “You’re like the sluice box salesman in the California Gold Rush.”
I choose to think of myself as a shortstop hitting singles rather than a home run hitter going for the fence, but his analogy was apt. I prefer to get a slice of many transactions as opposed to getting the big one. I play the percentages. He was able to visualize I place a greater value on the tools (mining), transport (exchanges) and utility (ancillary applications) rather than the commodity itself. Meaning, I’d rather sell the Levi’s than look for (and mine) the gold vein.
It appears the revisions to the tax plan being discussed will be slightly less draconian than previously announced resulting in a little lead time for portfolio adjustments. My guess (pure speculation) is the first half of 2018 will be relatively good but a little choppy. The last half I suspect we’ll be seeing a weaker dollar, a little uptick in inflation and minimal tangible results from the administration’s policies. Anyway, an emphasis on appreciation over dividends in a rising tax environment may result in tax deferral possibilities. This belief is the basis for next years’ strategy as subsequently outlined.
- Continuation of the primary portfolio strategy in regards to moving closer to the defined target allocations. One example of this was my first December purchase, KMB which is an Anchor holding of mine.
- With the tax bill still in an uncertain status, load the maximum allowable contribution to the IRA. These funds have been allocated and will be moved by month end. A small Canadian holding in my taxable account has been identified as my new IRA purchase which will probably be made in January (pre ex-div). A by-product of this will be a temporary overweight status in this issue. Since I don’t like redundant holdings across accounts, my smaller taxable holding will be sold post ex-div. This should shield more income from taxation (under current tax).
- Implemented (December 14th) my side strategy for 2018 titled Sluice Box which is a reference to the Gold Rush days. This represents about 1% of the portfolio and was created (and bought) in my Motif account (shameless plug). The emphasis is on Bitcoin, Blockchain, Growth and my first Swiss stocks with a couple of beaten down issues thrown in.
My 2018 strategy research began in earnest when I encountered Fortune magazines’ November 1st article, In Search Of ‘Vital’ Companies. Of the fifty companies listed, my selection process drilled into the dividend payers – albeit at low yields. Then on November 7th, Investor Place published The 10 Best Growth Stocks You Can Buy Now. I chose to ignore The Dividend Guy’s August 23rd launch of Dividend Growth Rocks as I tend to shy away from paid sites particularly when operated by one person with multiple pseudonyms. Besides, only one of his selections (Nordson – NDSN) was either not owned already or replicated in the other analyses.
Once the data was combined, I removed issues already owned and ones I had no inclination to buy. Basically I had to be convinced of the opportunity and that the price (subjective argument) remained reasonable.
The following table presents my 2018 picks and the primary reason. All but one are dividend payers and I front-loaded my purchase to 2017 to ensure receipt of CME’s special dividend (ex-div Dec 28).
|SLUICE BOX (Motif: 2018 Growth)|
|NVIDIA Corporation (1,2)||NVDA||7.30%||0.32%||Bitcoin chipset|
|CME Group Inc||CME||7.30%||1.76%||Bitcoin Futures|
|Cboe Global Markets Inc||CBOE||6.70%||0.86%||Bitcoin Futures|
|Intercontinental Ex. (1)||ICE||6.80%||1.14%||Coinbase investor|
|Microsoft Corp. (2)||MSFT||6.80%||1.98%||Blockchain (Azure, Ethereum)|
|JPMorgan Chase & Co. (2)||JPM||6.80%||2.68%||Blockchain (hyper ledger)|
|Veritex Holdings Inc||VBTX||5.90%||0.00%||emerging growth co. (JOBS Act)|
|Ottawa Bancorp, Inc.||OTTW||6.10%||1.10%||2-step conversion (growth)|
|Newell Brands Inc||NWL||6.50%||3.02%||Brands|
|Energizer Holdings Inc||ENR||6.50%||2.44%||Brands|
|Cognizant Technology (1)||CTSH||6.50%||0.84%||Future 50|
|Intuit Inc. (1)||INTU||6.70%||1.00%||Future 50|
|Novartis AG (ADR)||NVS||6.70%||3.21%||possible Alcon spin|
|ABB Ltd (ADR)||ABB||6.70%||2.91%||purchased a GE segment|
- Future 50 (also currently own: MA, V)
- Investor Place 10 (also currently own: V, SQ)
- Other Bitcoin/Blockchain indirect investments include: GS, IBM, WU, AMTD
At the very least it will be interesting to observe the Crypto phenomenon in more of a supporting role. I also need to acknowledge Dividend Diplomats whose research on NWL was enlightening.
Each year I establish a basic plan to govern my investing activity based on sectors, segments or locales able to deliver a little alpha to my portfolio. The past couple of years had a focus on the Financial industry with the outcome being rewarded with mergers (small banks) and outsized dividend increases (money center banks). I also began increasing my Canadian allocation in 2015 from 2.5% of my dividends to the current 8.6%. Since the election, I was accelerating the increase in my other foreign holdings to the current 13.6% on two theories, 1) gridlock in Congress would persist as the Republican majority would be too narrow to push through sweeping changes, and 2) this inaction would result in a weaker dollar. It appears I was correct on both counts as the US dollar is now at an eight month low.
With my alpha agendas now too pricey (at least for slam dunk results), a re-prioritization is in order. With the Fed Chairs’ testimony this week indicating that GDP growth of 3% would be difficult, the Trump agenda which projects a higher growth rate is likely in peril – even ignoring the self-inflicted wounds. Without an improvement in the GDP, deficit hawks will be circling. It is likely the last half of the year will present some opportunities, but my view these will be predicated on external events. My eyes will remain open to the USD exchange rate – on strength I may buy foreign issues.
My portfolio allocation between holdings labeled Anchor, Core and Satellite have been imbalanced for a year or two primarily due to merger activity and the acceleration of adding foreign issues. Now that the major mergers have completed, the last this past January, and other alternatives are slim, I figure it’s time to get back to basics.
My going forward strategy can be summarized as follows:
- Non-US equities when secured at a favorable exchange rate
a)I have 2 Japanese, 2 Swiss, 1 UK and 1 Swedish company on my watch list in the event an attractive price presents itself
- Assess corporate actions (spins, splits, mergers) for opportunities
a) Generally I’m agnostic to splits except when the result would be a weird fractional. I can easily manage tenths or hundredths of shares. Smaller sizes are troublesome so I avoid when possible.
b) Spins (and mergers) are assessed to prevent (if possible) weird fractionals. For instance, I added to my MET position earlier this month as their spin will be at a ratio of 11:1 which would have otherwise delivered a weird fractional.
- Assess portfolio for average down and other opportunities
a) An example of this was last months’ purchase of KSU. To this end, I recently updated my Dividends (Div Dates) Google sheet to flag when the current price is lower than my cost basis.
b) An example of “Other Opportunities” would be BCBP which is resident in my Penalty Box due to dilution. The dilution (secondary) might be explained (now) with their announced acquisition of the troubled IA Bancorp. If the regulators provide their seal of approval, it may be time to remove BCBP from Penalty status and perhaps add to this 3.5% yielder.
- Add to holdings that are below target weighting
a) This is where I expect most of my second half activity to reside.
Of my 26 stocks labeled Anchor, Core or Satellite; 5 can be considered at their target weight (within .5% of the target) and 4 I consider to be overweight. The remaining 17 will receive most of my attention. As most of these rarely go on sale, I’ll likely ignore price and place a higher priority on yield and events – at least until I’ve exceeded last years’ total dividends.
The following table highlights this portion of my portfolio:
|First of Long Island/FLIC||C-(3%)||0.85%|
|Bank of the Ozarks/OZRK||C-(3%)||0.67%|
|NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely|
|PNC Financial Services/PNC||C-(3%)||0.30%|
|Legacy Texas Financial/LTXB||C-(3%)||1.48%|
|NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely|
|Flushing Financial Corp/FFIC||S-(1.5%)||0.99%|
|NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely|
I will provide the caveat that this plan is subject to not only the whims of the market but of my own as well. In addition, this plan may be changed if/when a better idea comes along.