April 2020 Update

The market staged a little recovery this month seemingly shaking off – or at least minimizing – any effects of the ongoing Covid-19 devastation, due in part to the partial ramp up of the economy in some states.  My state is one where a ‘phased’ approach is underway and there is uncertainty as to whether the peak has been attained (thereby ignoring the federal template).  While the economic malaise is running rampant through the states, it is doubly acute in the oil patch where state budgets (Texas) are dependent on a 4.6% tax on extraction (in a declining price environment) addition to an otherwise robust economy.  It will be an interesting social experiment as to how quick the average consumer will embrace the new reality (capacity limits in restaurants, for one), the ability for these businesses to turn a profit anew and if this throttling can move the needle on the economy (GDP, unemployment) without a corresponding spike in cases and/or mortality.   For one, I’m willing (and able) to wait at least two weeks and reassess at that time.

Due to the broker reshuffling caused by Motif shutting down, I can only provide a close estimate for the month.  Currently about $2,000 (cash, dividends, sells, buys) is in the ether migrating amongst accounts.  A full accounting is probably a week or two out.

Portfolio Value:  An estimated increase of 10.8% versus the 11.26% gain of the S&P.  For the year I’m up 2.06%.  All full share positions have been received by my primary broker with.

Dividends:  As previously acknowledged, my dividend increase run rate was not sustainable.  This came to bear in April with a 7.49% year-on-year actual increase.  I don’t think I lost any dividends with the timing of the transfer, but I may take a slight temporary hit as I await the cash to redeploy it.  Also some of the cycles will change as I exit some issues.

The pace of dividend cuts/suspensions continues to increase while any increases tend to be muted by 2019 standards.  Net increase for the portfolio stands at 5.75%, meaning my 10% dividend growth rate goal is in jeopardy.

Strategy Shift: In probably an overabundance of caution, I’ve decided to exit REITs that have a retail focus.  If the crisis is prolonged, rents, vacancy rates, property values and ability to refinance could come under pressure.  The ones retained are the four industrial and specialties in my portfolio.

I borrowed this illustration from one of my companies (BOKF) and modified it for my portfolio to begin to gauge potential impacts.  Currently PEP and KO’s biggest impact would reside in their fountain drinks (restaurants and venues).  I have yet to calculate a total …
Covid-19 Impact Areas

Entertainment & Recreation
Gambling Industries EPR
All Other CMCSA, DIS, T, AMC, PEP, KO, MSG, BATRA
Retail
Convenience Stores & Gas Stations CASY, VLO, CVX, RDS.B
Restaurants CBRL, YUM, YUMC, SBUX, MCD
Specialty OUT
All Other Retail KIM, SRC, WRE, VER
Hotels MTCPY
Churches & Religious Organizations CMPGY
Colleges & Universities SYY
Airlines LUV, SWRAY
Identified Businesses most impacted by Covid-19 mitigation efforts approximately xx.xx % of portfolio

I’m using this template strictly as a guide.  The retail facing REITs are all sold (with the exception of Kimco), Southwest Airlines has been reduced, the others on this list are cautious holds.  I continue the review of my portfolio with an eye on secondary impacts – like who really considered any impact to banks because church services weren’t being held?  I probably need to expand my thought process to include further knock-off effects.

Later in May I’ll update my posted portfolio – once the confirmations (and money) arrive.  What will be clearer is the shift to larger but fewer holdings.  While the portfolio remains sizable, I will retain  some speculative stocks and a few where I remain undecided.  By and large, banks with no dividend growth or ones where M&A prospects have dimmed will be pruned.  In June I expect to exit ETFs as well.  For the near term (12-24 months) I’m willing to accept a lower dividend yield if I gain quality – and limited Covid-19 exposure – in return.

Here’s hoping your month turned the corner!

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!

My 3Rs – Revamp

Last post in this series I highlighted my views from the rear view mirror.  Going into 2019 will see more changes than normal.  No I’m not selling any positions but changing the emphasis (allocation) on certain issues.  The game plan is for reinvested dividends and fresh money to gradually swing the portfolio into balance with the new targets.

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October 2017 Update

This month was pretty solid with the market continuing its upward grind.  Earnings season was in focus with good reports outweighing the bad.  Most of the attribution to the hurricanes was legitimate but a few did raise my eyebrows.  The US dollar turned in a second rising month.  The S&P index increased by 2.22% while my portfolio lagged (again) by only increasing 2.03%.  The two culprits were international currency weakness and a drop in value in my October (speculative) purchase.  For the year I’m still ahead of the index by 2.7%.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 10/3 – IRM acquires Bonded Services Holdings from Wicks Group, LLC
  • 10/4 – IBM acquires Vivant Digital (pvt)
  • 10/5 – YUMC initiates quarterly dividend scheme
  • 10/5 – IRM buys CS datacenters in London and Singapore
  • 10/6 – K acquires Chicago Bar Company LLC (RXBAR)
  • 10/11 – BHB sells insurance business
  • 10/11 – FHN acquires Professional Mortgage Co.
  • 10/16 – SJI buys NJ/MD assets from SO
  • 10/17 – SYY acquires HFM Foodservice
  • 10/18 – India approval for POT/AGU merger received. awaiting  US and China.
  • 10/18 – DGX to acquire Cleveland Heart Lab
  • 10/19 – JNJ acquires Surgical Process Institute
  • 10/25 – AAPL acquires PowerbyProxi
  • 10/30 – DGX aquires some California Laboratory Associates assets
  • 10/30 – TU to acquire Xavient Information Systems

Portfolio Updates:

  • initiated position in NXNN

Dividends:

  • October delivered an increase of 24.59% Y/Y with the about half of the increase being attributable dividend increases and the other half purchases.
  • October delivered an increase of 8.53% over last quarter (July).
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 10.91% with 70.62% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts and 1 suspension).
  • YTD dividends received were 103.83% of total 2016 dividends which exceeded last years’ total on October 25th.

Spinoffs:

Spirit Realty Capital (SRC) has been announced.

Mergers:

AGU/POT (Nutrien) remains pending.

Summary

With the primary goal of exceeding last year’s dividends completed, my focus turns to developing a strategy for 2018.  Meanwhile adding NXNN (speculative) in October and DRE for November’s primary purchase.  DRE as they go ex-div next week and a special dividend is likely in December as a result of the sale of their Medical buildings to HTA this past May.

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.

6 Degree Investing

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everything is six or fewer steps …
“Invest in what you know (coupled with serious fundamental stock research)” attributed to Peter Lynch
“Own What You Love” Loyal3 slogan
These are common themes used widely among investors. Presuming due diligence has been performed and ones minimum requirements are attained it makes perfect sense. One example is my granddaughter’s portfolio. Each Christmas she receives a stock that she can relate to and one with a company sponsored DRIP. Her first was General Mills as she liked Lucky Charms. When she studied US history it was Washington Gas Light (WGL) as they keep the Capitol lit. Over the years her portfolio has grown to also include Hershey, Walmart, Procter & Gamble, Union Pacific, Disney and Kraft-Heinz. This year’s addition was Texas Instruments since she applied – and was accepted – to a high school sponsored in part by them. It is a moderately diverse portfolio, but more important is the fact that she can identify with it.  Although none are owned through Loyal3, it is a kind of Own What You Love portfolio.

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Ode to the Mantra

It would appear that another fixture in the DGI community has bitten the dust.  I don’t know the full story – and I doubt many do – but whether it was greed, misrepresentation, miscalculation, lack of understanding, or a combination of these Dividend Mantra is no more.  Long Live The Dividend Mantra Team?

Reviled by some, but revered by many, through his knowledge and hard work successfully monetized his passion.  From media  interviews to authoring a book, he built the Dividend Mantra brand from nothing to something.  But his most lasting accomplishment is the number of people that became investors through his inspiration.

This is not to say I agreed with all of his decisions, I didn’t.  Orchids Paper is not a DGI stock.  It’s yield chasing.  I was surprised when he added it.  Yes I own it – but I’ve been to their Oklahoma plant.  And I reduced my holdings prior to their secondary.  He and I also disagreed on his decision to sell Sysco.  So it’s dividend wasn’t growing fast enough?  Well when you buy into a company just after the ex-div date and sell it prior to an ex-div date you’ve artificially reduced your return. He had a extreme dislike for the YoC metric, I tend to favor it.  His doubling into BBL is questionable, particularly with their exposure to Materials and China.  It could wind up being very profitable but their loss of a dam at their Brazilian mine last week doesn’t help.

His overall success has been well documented, which makes this latest chapter all the more perplexing.  Previously he stated a desire to offload the work required with his blog’s popularity.  He obviously was a willing seller and he located an obviously willing buyer.  My guess is after the contracts were signed, DM realized he gave up editorial control, evidenced by his post that some blog sections would no longer be published.  Likewise, the buyers have come to realize (belatedly) that a blog’s popularity is a reflection of its creator – not the owner.

Is it now too late to recover?  Well the jury’s still out.  I fear that DM the man will be late to realize he has lost – perhaps destroyed – the orchestra.  It is unfortunate the benefits he enjoyed will be diminished as well.  And DM the team is obviously late to recognize they bought the music but not the conductor.  Meanwhile the patrons are fleeing to the exits.  Any hope for recovery is reduced by the day.