Sunday, May 26

Month 95 - Dow Jones Industrial Average - Spring 2019 Update

Situation: The S&P 500 Index has recently posted a new all-time high, and “The Dow” is only 1% away from a new all-time high. However, Dow Theory won’t label that achievement (if it happens) as the beginning of a new Primary Uptrend. Why? Because the Dow Jones Transportation Average still has to go somewhat higher before it “corroborates The Dow.” Conclusion: Dow Theory still places the US stock market in a Short-term Downtrend. If you’re a stock-picker, that means you still need to consider selling the overpriced stocks in your portfolio. Why? Because things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Mission: Use our Standard Spreadsheet to highlight DJIA stocks that appear to be overpriced.

Execution: see Table.

Administration: It is almost impossible to distinguish an overpriced stock from a stock that is pulling in more investors because they see a bright future. If the company is already highly regarded because of its Balance Sheet, Product Lines, and Brand Penetration, I would hesitate to call its stock overpriced at any P/E (think of Amazon with its P/E of 81). 

I’m a numbers guy, so I use two numbers to decide if a stock is overpriced (where “price” or P is defined as the 50-day moving average):
   1) the 7-yr P/E is greater than 30. 
   2) the stock’s Graham Number, which is the square root of 22.5 times Earnings Per Share multiplied by Book Value Per Share, is more than 250% of its price. 

If only one of those two numbers is over the limit, the stock is still overpriced if the other number is close to the limit, i.e., more than 25 or 200%, respectively. (For Amazon, those numbers are 53 and 752%. So, it’s overpriced and I sold my shares.)

Deciding whether or not to buy a stock is also tricky. To give a more nuanced estimate of a stock’s value to the investor, I’ve devised a Basic Quality Screen that has only 6 elements and a maximum score of 4 (see Table): 
   1) If price appreciation over the past 16 yrs has been greater than 1/3rd the risk of short-term loss as determined by the BMW Method, one point is added. In other words, price appreciation in Column K is greater than 1/3rd the risk in Column M.
   2) If Tangible Book Value in Column S is negative and LT-debt represents more than 50% of Total Capital (Column O), or Total Debt is more than 250% of EBITDA (Column P), one point is subtracted.
   3) If the S&P Bond Rating in Column U is BBB+ or better, one point is added. 
   4) If the S&P Stock Rating in Column V is B+/M or better, one point is added. 
   5) If Net Present Value of accumulated dividends and cash-out after a 10 year Holding Period is a positive number, when applying a Discount Rate of 10% (see Column Z), one point is added. 
   6) If the two markers of an overpriced stock noted above (see Columns AB and AD) indicate that the stock is indeed overpriced, half a point is subtracted.

The final SCORE is found in Column AJ.

Bottom Line: How to sell a stock is always harder to learn than how to buy a stock. The 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average are great companies. So, those are even harder to abandon once you’ve seen the way their stocks perform in your portfolio. And, the prominence of these companies in the press is guaranteed to attract investors who don’t think they need to do their own due diligence before adding stock in a famous company to their portfolio. You see the problem: We have here the makings of a Perfect Storm that will hit someday. 

Conclusion: There are 11 Dow stocks that appear to be overpriced now: MRK, MSFT, V, NKE, BA, UNH, MCD, KO, HD, JNJ and MMM. And, even though the stock market is generally thought to be overpriced, an equal number appear reasonably priced (see Column AJ in the Table): PFE, CSCO, DIS, AAPL, INTC, PG, TRV, JPM, WMT, CAT and UTX.

Risk Rating: 6 (where 1 = 10-yr US Treasury Notes, 5 = S&P 500 Index, and 10 = Gold bullion).

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into MSFT, NKE, BA, INTC, KO, PG, JNJ, JPM and CAT, and also own shares of PFE, CSCO, MCD, AAPL, TRV, WMT, MMM, XOM and IBM. (All dividends are automatically reinvested.) 

My holdings of stock in those 18 “Dow” companies are meant to represent a cross-section of the US economy. But you shouldn’t think my future returns (adjusted for risk, transaction costs, and capital gains taxes) will beat The Dow. Only a full-time trader has better than a one in twenty chance of beating the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the next two market cycles. And that trader will likely find it necessary to buy and sell stock options (so as to protect large positions from market-turning events). She might also minimize transaction costs by working from a Globex Terminal, meaning her trades are guaranteed by a firm with Globex Registration at the Chicago Board of Trade.

The rational basis for us, as retail investors, to buy shares of stock in specific companies is to have a growing stream of Dividend Income during retirement years, while leaving Principal intact, i.e., the shares that generate those dividends would only be sold to handle a severe financial emergency. 

P.S.: Warren Buffett advises his friends and family to invest 90% of their savings in a low-cost S&P 500 Index fund marketed by the Vanguard Group , such as VFIAX.

NOTE: This text was written on 5/6/2019.

"The 2 and 8 Club" (CR) 2017 Invest Tune All rights reserved.

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Sunday, April 28

Month 94 - Food and Agriculture Companies - Spring 2019 Update

Situation: Investors should pay attention to asset classes that fluctuate in value out-of-sync with the S&P 500 Index. Such asset classes are said to have minimal or negative “correlation” with large-capitalization US stocks. Emerging markets and raw commodities are important examples. Those are a natural pair, given that most countries in the emerging markets group have an economy that is based on the production of one or more raw commodities. 

The idea that you can find a safe haven for your savings, one which will allow you to ride out a crash in the US stock market, is a pleasant fiction. Articles in support of that idea are published almost daily. But unless you are a trader who can afford to rent or buy a $500,000 seat on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, you probably aren’t deft enough to arbitrage the various risks accurately enough before they develop (and at low enough transaction costs) to avoid losing money in a crash. 

If you really want to ride out most crashes, invest in a bond-heavy balanced mutual fund that is managed by real humans. The Vanguard Group offers one best, and it comes with very low transaction fees (Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund or VWINX). To refresh yourself on the competitive advantages of investing in food and agriculture companies, see our most recent blog on the subject (see Month 91). To refresh yourself on the competitive disadvantages, study this month’s Table and Bottom Line carefully.

The essential fact is that economies require money for spending and investment. That comes down to having consumers who are confident enough about their employment prospects and entrepreneurs who are confident enough about their ability to invest. Those consumers and entrepreneurs can be relied upon to transfer their successes to the larger economy by saving money, taking out loans, and paying taxes. National economies are interlinked. Because of the size and innovation of its marketplace, the US economy is the main enabler for most of the other national economies. Logic would suggest that the valuation for any asset class will roughly track the ups and downs of the S&P 500 Index, either as a first derivative or second derivative

Mission: Use our Standard Spreadsheet to analyze US and Canadian food and agriculture companies that carry at least a BBB rating on their bonds (see Column R).

Execution: see Table.

Administration: Of the 25 companies listed in the Table, only one meets Warren Buffett’s criteria of low beta (see Column I), low volatility (Column M), high quality (Column S), strong balance sheet (Columns N-R), and TTM (Trailing Twelve Month) earnings plus mrq (most recent quarter) Book Values that yield a Graham Number which is not far from the stock’s current Price (Column Y). That company is Berkshire Hathaway. We use a Basic Quality Screen that is less stringent as his: 1) an S&P stock rating of B+/M or better (Column S), 2) an S&P bond rating of BBB+ or better (Column R), 3) 16-Yr price volatility (Column M) that is less than 3 times the rate of price appreciation (Column K), and 4) a positive dollar amount for net present value (Column W) when using a 10-Yr holding period in combination with a 10% discount rate (to reflect a 10% Required Rate of Return).

Bottom Line: Only 8 companies on the list pass our Basic Quality Screen (see Administration above): HRL, COST, PEP, KO, DE, FAST, CNI, UNP. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 9 companies have a below-market S&P bond rating of BBB. So, those stocks represent outright gambles. 

Aside from Berkshire Hathaway, none of the 25 companies can be said to issue a reasonably priced “value” stock. We’re dealing with 24 “growth” stocks, only a third of which are of high quality. Three of the 9 with BBB bond ratings have high total debt levels relative to EBITDA (see Column O in the Table) that are unprotected by Tangible Book Value (Column P): SJM, MKC, GIS. The good news is that only one of the 9 appears to be overpriced, and that company (MKC) is a quasi-monopoly that has little risk of bankruptcy because it has “cornered” the US spice market

In summary, you can do well by investing in this space as long as you understand that you’re dealing with a fragmented food industry, one that is flush with companies of dubious quality. You might like to be well-informed about these companies because food, like fuel, is an essential good, and the food industry enjoys steady growth. Why? Because the number of people in Asia & Africa who can afford to consume 50 grams of protein per day grows by tens of millions per year.

Risk Rating: ranges from 6 to 8 (where 10-Yr US Treasury Notes = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, and gold bullion =10).

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into TSN, KO and UNP, and also own shares of AMZN, HRL, MO, MKC, BRK-B, CAT and WMT.

"The 2 and 8 Club" (CR) 2017 Invest Tune All rights reserved.

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