Randomness For July

Typically I gain inspiration from the news or other bloggers – or a combination thereof. When a thought – or concept – materializes my research kicks in to validate (or invalidate) the idea. Unlike others, my approach doesn’t follow a given model nor does it lend itself to a generic screening process. This isn’t to imply I ignore PE ratios, Dividend Growth Rates, Dividend Coverage, et.al., because I don’t. It’s just that outside the core 36 holdings I want to see a story, a compelling reason or something that makes me scratch my head and think.

Hidden in plain sight this week were a few that fit this category, so without further introduction, I present these for your consideration.

Bottling/Snacks Skirmish?

Pepsi announced the acquisition of South Africa’s Pioneer Food Group. I believe this intensifies the battle between the two giants and provides Pepsi a leg up in the snack segment, adds some bottling and expands their distribution capabilities. Conversely, Coke has pretty much divested their bottlers with the exception of Africa. So the question becomes, “What’s up with Africa?” and which one holds the answer to this riddle. Category: scratching my head

Watch List Addition

A friend of mine sent me a link to the Australian version of 60 minutes with an interesting (but non-standard) treatment for stroke victims. There are many more questions than answers with this treatment, most notably sustainability, yet the initial findings hold some promise. Ever the sucker for a speculative play in the realm of strokes (remember my Nexeon investment – (currently tardy in their filings)), perhaps a small investment may bear fruit. The drug in question is Etanercept and the company is Amgen. Bonus points for AMGN paying a dividend. Category: Good Story

Political Thought

We’ll delve into the political arena a little as the Democrats have initiated an opening salvo illustrating to the world they might be able to walk and chew gum simultaneously. This effort is in the form of a Senate bill provocatively titled, “Stop Wall Street Looting Act of 2019“. This bill aims to stem some of the more egregious acts of private equity firms when they take companies private. Assuming this gets through the proverbial roadblock in Mitch McConnell and the unrelenting lobbyists, I have a one minor concern (outside the name) that should be addressed in order for bipartisan support to be obtained. Section 309 is applicable to workers and places a higher priority on pension funding, which is well and good. The issue I have is in the charge to bankruptcy judges to consider job retention in a liquidation (sale) event. If I thought I could profit via productivity gains (technology) at the expense of labor, I would have no incentive to prevent full on bankruptcy – waiting to buy the pieces after the fact. Category: Compelling Reason (probable GOP inaction to avoid debate)

With these thoughts, I hope the week ahead is good for you!

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!

Harvey

Hurricane

Mother Nature certainly is a beast at times.  Watching her ongoing treachery on the television is heartbreaking to say the least.  Looking out the window, I see sporadic rain – which will continue for a few days – but nothing of the magnitude being experienced just a couple hundred miles away.

As my mind wanders a little due to the same images being replayed over and over, I can’t help but thinking of the economic impact of Harvey.  Being resident in Texas, my portfolio has a little bias towards my home state.  In a similar vein, which companies stand to lose – or gain – from this tragedy?  I figured I’d lay out my thoughts – which probably are incomplete – as a basis for determining whether my portfolio can weather (pun intended) a storm of this severity.

Continue reading

Insider Dealing?

The news cycle appears to be churning ever faster.  Whether as a reaction to events, an attempt to manage the narrative or obscure the message is a debate that will occur for some time with the real answer becoming apparent in the hindsight of history.  Not to minimize the Charlottesville tragedy or the headline grabbing Bannon ouster, but these stories are playing out in several flavors depending on the source.  As one who attempts to discern the impact of issues on my investments, two (possible) financial headlines crossed my desk amid the other events that intrigued me.

Continue reading

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.

April 2017 Update

April brought more noise to the market with geopolitical issues front and center.  The market appeared to acknowledge the fact that even with Republican control of government, a more centrist approach is necessary to accomplish much of anything.  The President’s first 100 days ended with one legislative win; a Supreme Court Justice.  As earnings season kicked into high gear and the French election completed (runoff pending), the markets rebounded and the S&P ended the month with a .91% gain.  Including new money (mostly IRA maximization), my gain was 3.41% (2.32% excluding new money).

Loyal3 Migration

The forced move from the Loyal3 platform is essentially complete.  Full shares arrived at Schwab April 27th.  Fractionals did not move – basically a he said/she said scenario.  Schwab says they would accept them while Loyal3 said they wouldn’t.  All fractional shares on Loyal3 were sold April 28th, netting $218.59.  Loyal3 was basically my ‘spare change’ broker and illustrates the benefits of investing even small amounts.  The trades will settle Wednesday and Friday I’ll transfer remaining funds – after I see which direction the YUM dividend goes.

I decided to use Schwab’s synthetic DRIP for PEP, DIS, SBUX, KO and HAS to mitigate the sting of having to sell shares – even fractionals.  I’ll take the cash on YUM, AMC, AAPL and K.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 4/3 – IBTX closes Carlile merger
  • 4/4 – NJR/SJI discuss merger
  • 4/4 – MSGN discusses sale
  • 4/7 – JNS merger date expected 5/30/2017 new ticker expected to be JHG w/ qtrly divs
  • 4/10 – UNIT acquires Southern Light (pvt)
  • 4/17 – CCI to acquire Wilcon Holdings
  • 4/17 – BX acquires Eagle Claw Midstream
  • 4/20 – UMBF sells institutional investment arm to RJF
  • 4/20 – SLF acquires Premier Dental
  • 4/24 – NWBI to close consumer finance subsidiary
  • 4/27 –TOWN to acquire PBNC,
  • 4/27 – IVZ to acquire Source UK

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to JNS
  • Added to VALU
  • Initiated position in PWCDF
  • Initiated position in ARD
  • Initiated position in HOMB
  • Sold LB
  • Sold UL
  • Reduced (fractional positions) YUMC, SBUX, PEP, K, YUM, DIS, SQ, KO, AMC, AAPL, HAS

Dividends:

  • April delivered an increase of 32.55% over April 2016.  17.25% of this increase is attributable to purchases, 48.41% a result of semi-annual cycles (Ireland, Australia) and the remaining 35.51% a result of dividend increases.
  • April had an increase of 20.28% over the prior quarter due primarily to the same reasons.
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 8.72% with 42.94% of my portfolio delivering at least one raise (including 2 cuts – YUM, XRX).
  • YTD Dividends received were 38.1% of total 2016 dividends.  If the current run rate is maintained would exceed 2016 in early November – particularly with most of my semi-annual or interim/final cycles paying during the next quarter.

Spinoffs:

The MET spin (Brighthouse Financial – BHF) remains pending.

Mergers:

Agrium/POT, JNS/HGG.L (estimated completion 30 May) and SGBK/HOMB remain pending.  I did add to JNS and HOMB as both appeared undervalued versus the merger price.

No more Loyal3

Every now and again you wind up getting what you pay for and there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  I probably came to this realization last summer when I ensured that even my smallest holding on the Loyal3 platform had greater than a fractional share.  So the news this week of their migration to FolioFirst was no big surprise.  The issue I have with FolioFirst is the $5 monthly fee.  So transferring my holdings becomes priority one.  In fact Dividend Growth Investor lays out the options fairly succinctly in his post.

Early on, my strategy with Loyal3 was twofold:

  1. Move three horses to the platform to generate enough dividends to play with.  This was accomplished with PEP, AAPL and SBUX.
  2.  Build a group of speculative holdings (less than 1% portfolio weighting) via dividends generated by the first goal.

The free trades with Loyal3 accelerated this process.  Today I’m faced with a (slight) strategy shift.

Sells

An order was placed this morning to sell Unilever (UL) and L Brands (LB).  Unilever due to taking profits off the table and for a sense of protection from a potential single headquarter  location and the possible corresponding tax implications.  L Brands due to uncertainty with their ability to maintain comps while the malls where their stores are located appear to be imploding.  I’ll use this as a tax loss against UL and the required fractional share sales.

Transfer

My remaining Loyal3 full share holdings (YUM, YUMC, AAPL, K, SBUX, HAS, DIS, SQ, PEP, KO and AMC) will be moved … Loyal3 will not move fractionals which will need to be sold.  My goal is to have the transfer complete prior to May 1st which is the ex-div date for the next payer, Hasbro.  I can then sell any remaining fractionals, wait for YUM’s dividend to post (May 5th, went ex-div April 14th), then move any cash into my bank.

My default approach will be to consolidate the holdings into my existing brokerage account which provides the alternative to reinvest dividends.  I will, however, meet with TD Ameritrade today as they (via phone conversations) have indicated they perform OTC ‘grey market’ trades with no surcharge.  As Schwab charges a $50 surcharge, this may clinch the deal for AMTD.

So any Loyal3 strategy shifts in your future?

Update: 20 Apr 2017 – UL and LB sold, decision finalized on move of remaining to existing Schwab account.  AMTD has no set ‘grey market’ policy but will normally adjust the fee.  Lack of certainty killed this option.