2017 Mid Year Correction

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

JAN/APR/JUL/OCT

COMPANY TYPE PORT DIV%
Kimberley-Clark/KMB A-(6%) 4.01%
First of Long Island/FLIC C-(3%) 0.85%
Sysco/SYY C-(3%) 1.81%
Bank of the Ozarks/OZRK C-(3%) 0.67%
PepsiCo/PEP S-(1.5%) 1.51%
First Midwest/FMBI S-(1.5%) 0.3%
Comcast/CMCSA S-(1.5%) 8.32%
Toronto-Dominion/TD S-(1.5%) 1.58%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

FEB/MAY/AUG/NOV

COMPANY TYPE PORT DIV%
Clorox/CLX A-(6%) 3.68%
PNC Financial Services/PNC C-(3%) 0.30%
Legacy Texas Financial/LTXB C-(3%) 1.48%
Starbucks/SBUX C-(3%) 1.07%
Blackstone/BX S-(1.5%) 2.58%
Apple/AAPL S-(1.5%) 1.26%
Lakeland Bancorp/LBAI S-(1.5%) 1.04%
Webster Financial/WBS S-(1.5%) 0.82%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

MAR/JUN/SEP/DEC

COMPANY TYPE PORT DIV%
WEC Energy/WEC A-(6%) 5.61%
3M/MMM C-(3%) 0.76%
Home Depot/HD C-(3%) 7.32%
Blackrock/BLK C-(3%) .22%
ADP/ADP C-(3%) 1.60%
Southside Bancshares/SBSI S-(1.5%) 0.96%
Chevron/CVX S-(1.5%) 9.52%
Norfolk Southern/NSC S-(1.5%) 1.99%
Flushing Financial Corp/FFIC S-(1.5%) 0.99%
Wesbanco/WSBC S-(1.5%) 1.14%
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.

June 2017 Update

June was an interesting month in that the Tech sector hit a rough patch, some IPOs had trouble getting out the door and financials had a second wind.  Frankly I think a lot of the action had more to do with repositioning as some funds/traders’ positions didn’t perform as anticipated and are now playing ‘catch up’ during the last half of the year.  The S&P ended the month up 0.48% while my portfolio recorded a gain of 1.44% largely on the heels of the bank CCAR results.  For the first half of the year, I’m ahead of the index by 5.02%.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 6/12 – HYH explores sale of surgical line (infection prevention)
  • 6/12 – SBSI acquires Diboll Bancshares
  • 6/14 – OUT acquires Dynamic Outdoor
  • 6/23 – IBTX sells 9 Colorado branches to TBK
  • 6/23 – CM completes PVTB merger
  • 6/23 – Upon merger, POT/AGU to be renamed Nutrien
  • 6/27 – V takes stake in Klarna
  • 6/27 – XRX sells France research center to NHNCF
  • 6/29 – MET spin finalized
  • 6/30 – OCFC to acquire SNBC

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to KSU
  • Added to CLX

Dividends:

  • June delivered an increase of 31.84% Y/Y with, once again, the vast majority of the increase being attributable to foreign dividend cycles (larger, although less frequent).  With one exception this should now be normalized.
  • June delivered an increase of 12.4% over last quarter (Mar).    The breakdown of the increase is:
    • 37.4% replacement for TIS (which paid in April (late) and suspended the div)
    • 36.2% April purchase for tax reduction
    • 14.8% foreign cycle
    • 11.3% purchases from dividends/dividend increases
    • For the second month in a row, no new cash invested
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 10.82% with 56.5% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts and 1 suspension)
  • YTD dividends received were 59.58% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last years’ total in early November

Note: My portfolio additions have begun migrating back to US equities as the weakness in the US dollar has been faster than I forecast.  Unless geopolitical events occur to reverse this trend I suspect fewer foreign issues will be acquired.

Spinoffs:

MET has declared their spinoff – Brighthouse Financial (BHF) – effective August 4th.  Holders as of July 19th will be entitled to 1 share for each 11 MET shares owned.

Mergers:

AGU/POT (Nutrien), SGBK/HOMB remain pending

 

Recent Buy – KSU

ksu

Usually I don’t announce my incremental purchases, preferring instead to report in bulk as part of my monthly recap.  There are occasions when an exception is warranted so I figured I’d share my thought process with this week’s post – and the subsequent events.

Kansas City Southern is the smallest of the Class I railroads in the US and operates in Mexico through a wholly owned subsidiary.  Since the election, it has been beaten down as Mexico is reviewing its’ concession, concerns over NAFTA trade and a weakened peso (impacting earnings).

While reviewing my holdings last weekend, I noticed:

  1. The price appeared to have hit bottom and began moving higher
  2. The current price was significantly lower than my $115.07 cost basis
  3. The ex-dividend date was around the corner (Jun 12th)
  4. The Mexican peso has risen over 5% (now 6%) against the USD since October

Figuring there was minimal downside left, on Monday (June 5th) I bought enough (at $95.87) to average down my cost basis to $98.69 – though it’s still less than 1% of my portfolio.

Where it gets interesting is:

  • June 6th – US and Mexico reach agreement on sugar trade – KSU closes at $96.57
  • June 7th – US appears to seek resolution in lumber spat with Canada ($97.46 close)
  • June 8th – Guy Adami (CNBC’s Fast Money) announces position ($98.86 close)
  • June 9th – Pete Najarian (Fast Money) announces position ($99.59 close)

I certainly did not expect this level of activity but sure am glad I chose to average down when I did.  Also not sure what option activity got Fast Money’s attention but suspect we’ll see a little pullback as we go ex-dividend.  Still, 3.7% price improvement in a week and now I’m no longer underwater plus the dividend (small though it may be) – have to say it was a good week!

Now to attempt an encore …

A Sea of Change

There are events that present opportunities through chaos and the US election – as Brexit was – appears to be one.   During these times as the sands are shifting I find it prudent to attempt to handicap the situation identifying strengths and weaknesses primarily using my portfolio as a lens.  Many questions currently have no answers and some stock gains appear to be based on assumptions more than facts.  I do reserve the right to modify my thoughts as more data is obtained.

REITs have generally taken a beating primarily on interest rate fears.  but the same could be said for Telecoms and Utilities.  Telecoms appear to have been spared due to M&A activity.

Financials appear to be a tale of diverging paths.  Pundits are bullish on the big banks but not so much on the little guys.  My guess is M&A will slow among the small banks as Dodd-Frank is tweaked but will accelerate as the reality of profitability through synergy is identified.  Multinational banks will continue to have to deal with Basel III to remain competitive globally tempering some of potential gains.

Healthcare is a wildcard.  To repeal a dysfunctional new scheme to implement an old dysfunctional scheme without morphing it into a newly dysfunctional scheme is ludicrous and where this sector’s profits will be found (until Congress gets wise).

Discretionary will depend on the economy – is the new plan recessionary?

And Mexico?  Strangely silent have been F, UTX, KO, DE and a host of others with operations there.  Then there is the NAFTA treaty which requires Senate action to modify.  It’s difficult to see many California or Texas senators supporting an action that would raise unemployment and reduce tax receipts by shuttering logistics centers.

Basically I see no immediate strategic portfolio change but additional diligence will be required.  A possible watch list might include UMBF, WBS and ONB for exposure to Health Spending Accounts (HSAs); KSU (Mexican trade); and KOF.  Other then the peso valuation and the ADR trade, I know of no other US exposure for KOF (Coca-Cola Femsa).

And how are you surviving?

2015: What Went Wrong

This is the final segment to the best and worst of 2015. This series was inspired Bespoke Investment Group’s article tailored to actual holdings in DGI portfolios. The first post, 2015: What Went Right can be found here.

Again I need to address the caveats:

  • Only publicly disclosed data culled from portfolios in my Blog Directory were used. If your blog is not listed, your data was not included.
  • My data only reflects a snapshot in time. Once entered in my database I generally make no updates.
  • I make no guaranty as to the accuracy of the data either through input errors, processing errors, or the legitimacy of the source data. Meaning, use at your own risk – or you get what you pay for.

Bespoke’s article raised a number of questions in my mind. Although not specifically targeted to the DGI community, I found it to be timely none-the-less. So the question today is why were so many ‘losers’ contained in DGI portfolios?

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