Proprietary investment strategy
401 Advisor, LLC specializes in building client portfolios using dividend paying stocks due to their long term history of providing superior returns over non dividend payers. I recently contributed to an article posted by U S News on their web site. The article highlights warning signs that a stock may be cutting their dividend in the future.
One of our more popular holdings, McDonald’s (MCD) has come under a bit of pressure lately – both in the media and on Wall Street. After reaching a high near $102 a share in May of this year the stock price has dropped to below $90 a share in October. The media has pounded their menu saying that the younger millennials are avoiding MCD for healthier alternatives. And yet I’ve doggedly held their stock in many client accounts.
While the jury is still out, we are starting to see the reasons for holding and our continued purchase of MCD. First, MCD is held in our Dividend and Growth strategy accounts. Their dividend has been above 3% even at its peak price. More importantly the dividend has been increased for 38 consecutive years and in this area MCD did not disappoint – they announced a 5% dividend increase payable to shareholders at the end of November. This brings their current yield to 3.59% as of market price on 11/6/2014 and annualizing the dividend.
Part II of my thesis is that McDonalds is still a cherry job for anyone in advertising. Their contract has to be one of the largest in the advertising world. Money buys the best and the brightest. MCD will find a way to come back into the good graces of the fast food consuming public. Survey’s are already showing some in roads from campaigns such as this social media campaign that coincides with the relaunch of the McRib sandwich.
MCD is a great example of an investing concept I will come back to in future posts: the difference between buying a company and buying a stock. Stock buyers look for price appreciation in the near term. The media is created for stock traders. Investors like the Warren Buffets of the world buy companies. Companies generate cash flow that is unaffected by stock price that allows them toraise dividends by 5% even when their stock price slides by 12%.
While I’m not happy with the stock, I am happy owning the company, mainly because they pay my clients a 3.59% dividend while we wait for their stock to turn around. And next year we will likely get another raise.
While the markets have shown some recent volatility, the one thing we can count on is our dividends and dividend increases. One of our popular holdings, Microsoft (MSFT) announced a dividend increase yesterday. Their quarterly payment has been upped from $.28 to $.31 giving investors an 11% raise in their income. When is the last time you received an 11% raise?
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Here is a link to an article, Biotechnology ETFs Show Rebust Health In August I was quoted in posted at investors.com – the online publication of The Investor’s Business Daily (IBD). Short article focusing on two of the hottest market sectors, biotech and solar/green energy. My take is that it is mainly a consequence of a “risk on” market attitude that comes from global central banks jointly adding money into their respective economies. “Don’t fight the Fed” is particularly appropriate when multiple Fed’s are all pursuing the same easy money policy. Especially now that the ECB has decided to join the party.
The short version is that the stock market seems to be continuing along in its uptrend. Despite a few recent bumps and a little volatility the trend is firmly in place. However, and this is becoming a more and more troublesome “however,” there is definitely some signs of worry appearing. You may have heard or read about a selloff in high yield bonds. Or you may have noticed that we sold a large position from your account (BKLN) if you are a client in our Dividend and Growth Strategy. High yield bonds have in the past acted as an early warning signs to trouble in the stock market. A sharp selloff is worth watching.
Specifically in this case, it is my opinion that such a selloff has occurred because there is way too much money in the high yield market that doesn’t really belong there. That is normally “safe” money that would be in bank CD’s or maybe higher quality corporate or even government bonds or mutual funds. But since yields and interest rates are so low, the money has migrated up the risk sladder to grab the 5%+ yields in the high yield market. Money that is stretching for yield is typically skittish – it heads for the exits quickly with a hint of trouble. And that is what we saw at the end of July into early August.
The point of my article is that the same conditions – safe money stretching for return, exists in the stock market. CD money is eschewing sub 1% interest rates for 3%+ dividend yields. Investors have taken out record amount of margin debt (borrowing money using stocks as collateral to buy more stocks). Record high margin levels as we have now were associated with both the Tech Wreck of 2000 and the Financial Crisis collapse in 2007. Although I don’t see a particular reason for a stock market collapse, should a selloff get started it could very easily begin to snow ball, and a “normal” 10% correction could become twice that or more very quickly.
Bottom line. Now is not the time to take on added risk to your portfolios – unless you have a very defined plan to act and act quickly should a market selloff start. We have refocused our portfolios on high quality dividend payers, and have sold our high yield investments. I’m currently targeting a 25% cash position.
As of noon today our “Growth” portfolios will be 80% in cash.
I anticipated that the market would be a little volatile as we head into earnings season, but selling sentiment seems to have been unusually strong over the past week.
Hopefully markets will rebound with earnings announcements, but if sell off is related more to China and Europe, than this could be more than just a 10% “correction.”
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Last week market sentiment was decidedly negative. While the news has focused on turmoil in emerging markets (not a factor), the real question is economic growth in the U. S. As I have said many times, corporate earnings have to be strong in 2014 to justify current market values. Last week’s sell off centered around a PMI report that came in much weaker than expected. My feeling was that the market did not fully consider December’s bad weather, and the affect of mid-week Christmas and New Year’s holidays. This week we have seen some stabilizing technical indicators that imply the market is holding at these levels and is due a rebound.
In response, for our Dividend and Growth Strategies we have sold off a fixed income position and purchased Ford (F), Altria Group (MO), and GE (GE). I have avoided owning tobacco stocks for 27 years, but at current valuation and a 5.65% yield I had to jump on MO. GE is one of my favorite stocks, and looks better now after an 11% decline and a 3.59% dividend yield. While Ford is more cyclical than I like, it has suffered an 18% decline and is cheap with a 2.72% yield. I am very bullish on the outlook for the aluminum bodied Ford F-150 pickup truck.
While these purchases over allocate us to equities, I expect to re-balance in a couple of months if not weeks. I’m comfortable that we can ride through a correction due to our relatively high dividend yields and low valuations across the portfolios. If we see the short term rally I expect, we’ll take profits and reallocate back into our 20% fixed income position.
I just wanted to post a quick note that the stock market is giving us a very bullish signal – so far today. First, yesterday’s low did not drop below a level of support that would be consistent with this bull market trend that started in March of last year. Second, today’s price history on the S&P 500 is creating what we call a “Spinning Top” candle formation. This is a very bullish turnaround formation. We saw a similar formation in both June and October of last year when the market bottomed at the support line as well. While one day does not make a (new) trend, I would not sell holdings today. Aggressive investors might be buyers if you have cash on the sideline. More prudent action would be to give the market a couple more days to discern its direction.