Sunday, March 31

Month 93 - Members of "The 2 and 8 Club" in the S&P 500 Index - Winter 2019 Update

Situation: Some investors are experienced enough to try beating the market, but few tools are available to help them. Business schools professors like to point out that it is a settled issue, with only two routes are available: A stock-picker can either seek information from a company insider (which is illegal) or assume more risk (buy high-beta stocks). The latter route can provide higher returns but those will eventually be eroded by the higher volatility in stock prices. In other words, risk-adjusted returns (at their best) will not beat an S&P 500 Index fund (e.g. VFINX) or ETF (e.g. SPY). 

Mission: Develop an algorithm for investing in high-beta stocks. Use our Standard Spreadsheet for companies likely to have higher quality.

Execution: see Table.

Administration: We call the resulting algorithm “The 2 and 8 Club” because it focuses on companies that a) pay an above-market dividend and b) have grown that dividend at least 8%/yr over the most recent 5 year period. Quality criteria require that a company’s bonds carry an S&P rating of BBB+ or better, and that its common stock carry an S&P rating of B+/M or better. We also require 16 or more years of trading records on a public exchange, so that weekly prices can be analyzed by the “BMW Method”.  We use the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA) as our benchmark, given that it rarely has a dividend yield lower than 2% or a dividend growth rate lower than 8%. And, we use the US companies listed in the Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) High Dividend Yield Index as our only source for stocks paying an above-market dividend. That index is based on the FTSE Russell 1000 Index. The Vanguard Group markets both a mutual fund (VHDYX) and an ETF (VYM) for the ~400 companies in the FTSE High Dividend Yield Index. The same companies are found on each list, and weighted by market capitalization and updated monthly.

Bottom Line: As expected, this algorithm beats the S&P 500 Index (see Columns C, F, K & W) at the expense of greater risk (see Columns D, I, J & M). Its utility lies in risk mitigation (see Columns R & S), where the cutoffs for S&P rankings make these companies above-average for the S&P 500 Index with respect to the risk of bankruptcy. Only 23 companies in the S&P 500 Index qualify for membership in “The 2 and 8 Club”, and only 5 of those are in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (JPM, TRV, CSCO, MMM, IBM). An additional 5 companies are found in the FTSE Russell 1000 Index but have insufficient market capitalization to be included in the S&P 500 Index (WSO, HUBB, SWX, EV, R; see COMPARISONS section in the Table).

Risk Rating: 7 (where 10-Yr US Treasury Notes = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, gold bullion = 10)

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into JPM and NEE, and also own shares of TRV, MMM, BLK, IBM, R and CMI.

Caveat Emptor: This week’s blog is addressed to investors who a) have been investing in common stocks for more than 20 years, b) don’t use margin loans, and c) have more than $200,000 available for making such investments. Most investors are best served by maintaining a 50-50 balance between stocks and bonds, e.g. by investing in the total US stock and bond markets (VTI and BND at Lines 30 & 38 in the Table). That 50-50 investment has returned ~8%/yr over the past 10 years and ~5%/yr over the past 5 years. The same result can be found by investing in a balanced mutual fund where stocks and bonds are picked for you: The Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund (VWINX at Line 35 in the Table). Either way, you’re likely to have no more than 2 down years per decade: VWINX has had only 7 down years since 1970. NOTE: all of the stocks in VWINX are picked from the same FTSE High Dividend Yield Index that we use for “The 2 and Club”.

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

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Sunday, February 24

Month 92 - Dow Jones Industrial Average - Winter 2019 Update

Situation: There have been 30 companies in the $7 Trillion “Dow” index since it was expanded from 20 companies on October 1, 1928. Since then 31 changes have been made. On average, a company is swapped out every 3 years. Turnover decisions are made by a committee directed by the Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal. Dollar value is determined at the end of each trading day by adding the closing price/share for all 30 companies, and correcting that amount with a divisor that changes each time a company is removed & replaced. State Street Global Advisors (SPDR) markets an Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) for the Dow under the ticker DIA. To get “a feel for the market” before buying or selling a stock, investors around the world look to the Dow. They’re aided in that decision by Dow Theory, which uses movement of the Dow Jones Transportation Average to “confirm” movement in the Dow. If both march together to higher highs and higher lows, the primary trend in the market is said to be up if trading volumes are large. If the reverse is true, then the primary trend is said to down.

Mission: Use our Standard Spreadsheet to analyze all 30 companies in the Dow.

Execution: see Table.

Administration: Many investors use a tried-and-true “system” called Dogs of the Dow (see Week 305), which calls for buying equal dollar-value amounts of stock in each of the 10 highest-yielding companies in the Dow on the first trading day of January and selling those on the last trading day of December. The idea is to have better total returns on your investment over a market cycle than you would from simply investing in DIA. The system works most years and over the long term. Why? Because a high dividend yield a) moderates any price decreases during Bear Markets and b) is such a large contributor to total returns.  

Bottom Line: As a stock-picker, you need to keep up-to-date on Dow Theory and also know which high-yielding Dow stocks are among the 10 Dogs of the Dow. Dow Theory tells us that the stock market switched from being in a primary uptrend to being in a primary downtrend on December 20, 2018. The Dogs of the Dow for 2019 are the same as last year (see bold numbers in Column G of the Table), except that General Electric (GE) has been removed from the Dow and replaced by Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), which doesn’t have a high enough dividend yield to be considered a Dog. Instead, General Electric’s place has been taken by JP Morgan Chase (JPM).
        When picking stocks from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, be aware that the historically low interest rates we’ve seen over the past decade have led to excessive corporate borrowing. You’ll want to pay close attention to Columns N-S in the Table, where different consequences of corporate debt are addressed. Companies with items that are highlighted in red carry a greater risk of loss in the upcoming credit crunch than has been recognized in the price of their shares.

Risk Rating: 5 (where 10-Yr Treasury Notes = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, and gold bullion = 10)

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into NKE, MSFT, JPM, KO, INTC, JNJ and PG, and also own shares of MCD, TRV, CSCO, MMM, IBM, CAT, XOM and WMT.

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

Post questions and comments in the box below or send email to: