Sunday, September 29

Month 99 - Starter Stocks - September 2019

Situation: When I started investing, I picked up the phrase “stocks for widows and orphans.” Typically, Probate Court will assign fiduciary responsibility for investments made on behalf of a widow or orphan to lawyer. I later became acquainted with one of those and learned that she expected after-inflation returns from low-risk stocks to be well over 5%/yr. But she hadn’t fully considered transaction fees, taxes, or the need to balance stocks 50-50 with 10-yr US Treasury Notes (to hedge against what could be a catastrophic loss for a widow or orphan). And, few stocks make suitable long-term holdings in a portfolio that is supposed to be immune to gambling. Given that a stock broker’s main talent is to wisely supervise gambling, a broker is likely to welcome the prospect of building a portfolio of “boring” stocks that will have little turnover.

Many young but upwardly mobile “salary workers” face the same problem that lawyer is facing: how to invest wisely without gambling. I have 4 children who are trying to grapple with this problem; none have gained lasting satisfaction from consulting investment advisors. And, they don’t much like my advice, which is to research the problem and find their own solution, which is called DIY investing. But, they already have the most important asset: which is to be disinclined to gamble.

Starter Stocks, like those for widows and orphans, are usually (but not always) boring. Consumer Staples are most likely to be Starter Stocks, and Utilities are close behind. But then you’ll find that technology-related companies start to pop up from Health Care and Information Technology industries. 

Mission: Use our Standard Spreadsheet to screen out companies that are missing from either of the two key value indexes, which are the iShares Russell 1000 Value Index ETF -- IWD and the income-oriented variant of the Russell 1000 Index that was created as the FTSE High Dividend Yield Index but is marketed in the US as the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF -- VYM. Companies that issue bonds having an S&P rating lower than A- are also excluded, as are companies that issue stocks having an S&P rating lower than B+/M. Stocks must have a 16+ year trading record, to allow quantitative analysis by the BMW Method.

Administration: Most of the strategies that are likely to give high returns from owning stocks in a bull market also carry a high risk of loss in a bear market. So, when the market falls 25% those stocks might fall 50%. That means a 100% gain would have to occur over ensuing years just to get back to where the stock was priced when the last bull market ended. Banking and Finance faculty at business schools teach that this strategy is the only legal way to beat the market. In other words, reversion to the mean growth rate is sacrosanct. One way for an investor to hedge against such volatility is to pick stocks that go up or down less than 75% as much as the S&P 500 Index. In other words, exclude stocks with a 3-yr Beta that is higher than 0.75. Another way is to pick stocks issued by very large companies, namely those found in the S&P 100 Index. To be included in that index, companies are required to have an active market in put and call options at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, which means that “price discovery” for the underlying stock is efficient and relatively well insulated from “momentum” investors who are trading on the basis of fleeting rumors or sentiment. The other advantage of very large companies is that they have multiple product lines, at least one of which is expected to produce an attractively priced product during a recession. Integrated oil companies, for example, maintain a fleet of refineries that would be paying less for their feedstock (oil) during a recession--thereby allowing the company to make a nice profit from selling gasoline at a lower price than the customer had been used to paying. 

Bottom Line: The problem with screening for “Starter Stocks” is that you’ll pull up some that are broadly thought of as desirable. Both gamblers and non-gamblers will bid up such stocks but forget to sell them when shares become overpriced. Given that most Starter Stocks (see Table) are found in channels of the economy that are already saturated (i.e., companies can grow their revenues no faster than GDP grows), there is little reason to hold overpriced stocks in expectation that earnings will explode upward. For example, the stocks issued by all four of the Consumer Staples companies on our list (KO, PG, PEP, WMT) are overpriced (see Columns AB to AD in our Table). You’ll have to figure out when to buy (or sell) overpriced shares of such high-value stocks. A common strategy is to buy more shares when the price drops 5-10% below its usual range. This is called the buy the dip strategy. 

The easiest (and probably best) way to be certain of buying shares when they’re bargain-priced is to do it automatically. Sign up for a dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP) that takes a fixed amount of money out of your checking account on a specific date each month to buy more shares. That strategy is called dollar-cost averaging, and is the strategy that Warren Buffett favors to build a position in stocks that are often overpriced.

How well do our 10 Starter Stocks (at Line 10 in the Table) perform vs. the underlying ETFs -- VYM and IWD (at Lines 19 and 20)? Answer: quite a bit better (see Columns E, F and K).

Risk Rating: 6 (where 10-yr US Treasuries = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, gold = 10)

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into NEE, KO, PG, INTC, WMT and JNJ, and also own shares of PFE, DUK, SO and PEP.

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

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Sunday, August 25

Month 98 - Berkshire Hathaway’s A-rated High Dividend Yield “Value” Stocks - August 2019

Situation: In case your reason for buying stocks in your working years is to have a growing income from dividends in your retirement years, this blog has emphasized “value stocks.” The bible of value investing is Benjamin Graham’s book: The Intelligent Investor. His most famous student is Warren Buffett, who graduated from Columbia University in 1951 with a Masters Degree in Economics. 

Why value investing, and what is a value stock? The central thought is to discipline yourself not to overpay for earnings and/or assets (“book value”). On page 349 of the Revised Edition (1973) of The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham says “Current price should not be more than 1.5 times the book value last reported. However, a multiplier of earnings below 15 could justify a correspondingly higher multiplier of assets. As a rule of thumb, we suggest that the product of the [earnings] multiplier times the ratio of price to book value should not exceed 22.5.” In other words, 1.5 times 15 equals 22.5.

How do you calculate the “Graham Number” or rational stock price? It is the square root of 22.5 times Earnings Per Share for the Trailing Twelve Months (TTM) times Book Value per share for the most recent quarter (mrq). We suggest that you think of the share price of a value stock as being no greater than: a) twice the Graham Number, b) 25 times the 7-year average for Earnings Per Share (see page 159 of The Intelligent Investor), and c) no more than 4 times Book Value per share. When you purchase a stock meeting those 3 requirements, it is demonstrably worth what you paid for it. The details are shown in Columns AA-AE of Tables accompanying our recent blogs. 

Berkshire Hathaway’s stock portfolio contains 46 holdings worth $201,828,368,888 as of the last 13F SEC filing dated 8/14/19. The top 5 holdings (AAPL, BAC, KO, AXP, WFC) are worth $133,600,000,000 (66% of the total). Eight of the 46 companies have issued A-rated value stocks, since the company meets the following 4 criteria: 1) its bonds are rated A- or better by Standard & Poor’s (S&P), 2) its stocks that are rated B+/M or better by S&P, 3) its stocks have the 16+ year trading record that is required for quantitative analysis using the BMW Method, and 4) its stocks are listed in both the iShares Russell 1000 Value Index (IWD) and the Vanguard High Dividend Yield Index (VYM). 

The top 10 stocks in Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio, listed by valuation, are:

Apple AAPL ($51B)
Bank of America BAC ($25B)
Coca-Cola KO ($21B)
American Express AXP ($19B)
Wells Fargo WFC ($18B)
Kraft Heinz KHC ($8B)
U.S. Bancorp USB ($7B)
JPMorgan Chase JPM ($6B)
Moody’s MCO ($5B)
Delta Air Lines DAL ($4B)

Mission: Use our Standard Spreadsheet to analyze value stocks in the portfolio, based on the 4 criteria listed above.  

Execution: see Table.

Administration: Six of the top 10 stocks in the portfolio are not value stocks (AAPL, BAC, AXP, KHC, MCO, DAL). Data for those can be found in the BACKGROUND Section of the Table.

Bottom Line: The 8 A-rated value stocks account for $54 Billion (27%) of the portfolio’s value. These show that Warren Buffett’s area of expertise is not only value stocks generally but financial services stocks specifically, since 5 of the 8 companies are from that industry. The take-home points for retail investors are: a) don’t overpay for a stock, b) buy what you know, and c) remember that the best bargains are often in the Financial Services industry. But those stocks also tend to have the greatest volatility, which is a key reason why they are underpriced.

Risk Rating: 7 (where 1 = 10-year U.S. Treasuries, 5 = S&P 500 Index, and 10 = gold bullion) 

Full Disclosure: I dollar average into KO, PG, JPM and JNJ, and also own shares of AAPL and TRV.

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

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