Sunday, February 23

Month 104 - Retire with a Portfolio of Haven Stocks - February 2020

Situation: Once you retire, you’ll start to worry about outliving your nest egg, wondering when the next recession will start, and how bad it will be. If a market meltdown happens soon after you retire, and kicks off a long and deep recession, half of your retirement savings could go out the door.

You need to close that door ahead of time by focusing your portfolio on haven assets that you won’t sell under any circumstances. The problem is that haven assets are boring things, like Savings Bonds, 10-Yr US Treasury Notes, and stock in American Electric Power (AEP). On the opposite side of the coin are assets with moxie, like JPMorgan Chase (JPM), which are likely to lose a lot of value in a market crash. Why? Because buyers of moxie assets pile on, while sellers become relatively scarce. Market crashes can happen fast, especially those due to a credit crunch, so prices for moxie assets can fall too far too fast while their investors rush for the exit. “A run on the bank” is the apt analogy. The lesson is not to exclude moxie (i.e., growth stocks) from your retirement portfolio but to be careful not to overpay for those shares. That means you have to buy before the mania sets in. If your shares double in price but then fall 50% in the next market crash, you haven’t lost money. "For the investor, a too-high purchase price for the stock of an excellent company can undo the effects of a subsequent decade of favorable business developments." -- Warren Buffett.

The trick is to know when the shares you own in an “excellent company” are overpriced. Once you’ve made that determination, stop buying more but continue reinvesting dividends. To be clear, haven stocks aren’t just high-yielding stocks or value stocks. Growth stocks can also qualify, if not overpriced. So let’s look at metrics that Benjamin Graham used to determine if a stock is overpriced. Remember, he was Warren Buffett’s favorite professor at Columbia University’s business school. Graham started by calculating what a stock’s price would be if it reflected ideal valuation, meaning a price 1.5 times Book Value and 15 times Earnings per Share (EPS). He called that price the “Graham Number,” and calculated it as follows: multiply Book Value per share for the most recent quarter (mrq) by Earnings Per Share for the trailing twelve months (ttm), then multiply that number by 22.5 (1.5 x 15 = 22.5). Then calculate the square root of that number on your calculator. A stock priced more than twice the Graham Number is overpriced.

Another number he thought helpful is the 7-yr P/E, which is the stock’s current price divided by average EPS for the last 7 years. Graham thought that number should be no more than 25 for a stock to be considered fairly priced. In other words, a company that historically has a P/E of ~20 (which Graham thought to be the upper limit of normal valuation) might grow its EPS for 7 years at a typical rate of 3.2%/yr. That would result in a 7-yr P/E of 25. The “danger zone” for a stock’s current price to be thought of as overpriced is 2.0 to 2.5 times the Graham Number and 26 to 31 times average EPS over the past 7 years. So, if one of those numbers is in the danger zone and the other exceeds the danger zone, don’t even think about buying it for your retirement portfolio (see Column AG in our Tables, where that degree of overpricing is denoted with a “yes”).

Mission: Use our Standard Spreadsheet to analyze stocks likely to survive a deep recession. I’ll do this by referencing companies that are named in both of the most conservative indexes: 1) FTSE High Dividend Yield Index (VYM, the U.S. version marketed by Vanguard Group); 2) iShares Russell Top 200 Value Index (IWX).

Execution: see Table.

Administration: Any company listed in both those indexes that issues debt rated lower than A- by S&P is excluded, as are any that issue common stocks rated lower than B+/M by S&P. Stocks that don’t have a 16+ year trading record are also excluded because the data is insufficient for statistical analysis of their weekly share prices by the BMW Method. Companies with a zero or negative Book Value in the most recent quarter (mrq) are also excluded, as are companies with negative EPS over the trailing 12 months (ttm).

Bottom Line: The idea behind owning Haven Stocks is that you’ll “live to fight another day” after enduring an economic crisis. During a Bull Market, some of those value stocks will lag behind the market’s performance. But during Bear Markets, they’ll fall less in value. If market crashes haven’t become extinct, value stocks will outperform both growth stocks and momentum stocks over the long term. Just remember: When you buy a stock for your retirement portfolio, it needs to pay an above-market dividend because a time will come when you’ll want to stop reinvesting that stream of dividends and start spending it.

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

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into PFE, NEE, KO, INTC, PG, WMT, JPM, JNJ, USB, CAT, MMM, IBM, XOM, and also own shares of AMGN, DUK, AFL, SO, PEP, TRV, BLK, WFC.

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

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Sunday, January 26

Month 103 - Berkshire Hathaway's A-rated "Value" Stocks with High Dividend Yields - January 2020

Situation: In case your reason for buying stocks in your working years is to have growing income from dividends in your retirement years, we suggest that you prioritize “value stocks.” The bible of value investing is a book (The Intelligent Investor) written by Benjamin Graham, who was Warren Buffett’s instructor while Warren was earning his Master of Science in Economics degree at Columbia University. 

Why value investing, and what is a value stock? The main idea is to not overpay for either Earnings Per Share (EPS over the trailing twelve months, abbreviated ttm) or Book Value per share in the most recent quarter (abbreviated mrq). 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 [per share] below 15 could justify a correspondingly higher multiplier of assets. As a rule of thumb, we suggest that the product of the [EPS] multiplier times the ratio of price to book value should not exceed 22.5.” That is, 1.5 x 15 = 22.5.

How do you calculate the “Graham Number” -- the “rational” stock price listed in Column AA of the Table? It is the square root of 22.5, times (Earnings Per Share for the ttm), times Book Value per share for the 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 average 7-year Earnings Per Share (see page 159 of The Intelligent Investor), c) 3 times Book Value per share (ttm), and d) 3 times sales per share (mrq). If a company meets 3 out of 4 of those criteria, we call its stock a “value stock” in Column AF of the Table

Berkshire Hathaway’s stock portfolio contains 48 holdings worth $214,673,311,000 as of the last 13F SEC filing dated 11/14/19. The top 5 holdings (AAPL, BAC, KO, WFC, AXP) are worth ~$142B (66% of the total). We rate 8 of the 48 as being high-yielding “value” stocks (KO, PG, JPM, JNJ, TRV, USB, PNC, WFC), in that those companies meet an additional 4 criteria we like to use: 1) their bonds are rated A- or better by Standard & Poor’s (S&P), 2) their stocks are rated B+/M or better by S&P, 3) their stocks have the 16+ year trading record that is required for quantitative analysis using the BMW Method, and 4) their stocks are listed in both the iShares Russell 200 Value Index (IWX) and the Vanguard High Dividend Yield Index (VYM). You’ve probably figured out, by this point, that I’m encouraging you to think along these lines when building your own portfolio of retirement stocks. You can get a feel for the process by looking at 8 such stocks Warren Buffett has picked for Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio.

Mission: Update our Month 98 blog, using our Standard Spreadsheet to analyze value stocks in Berkshire Hathaway’s stock portfolio.  

Execution: see Table.

Administration: The 10 largest positions in Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio are:

Apple AAPL ($56B)
Bank of America BAC ($27B)
Coca-Cola KO ($22B)
Wells Fargo WFC ($19B)
American Express AXP ($18B)
Kraft Heinz KHC ($9B)
U.S. Bancorp USB ($7B)
JPMorgan Chase JPM ($7B)
Moody’s MCO ($5B)
Delta Air Lines DAL ($4B)

Six of those 10 are are either not high-yielding stocks or not “value” stocks (AAPL, BAC, AXP, KHC, MCO, DAL). Data for those 6 companies can be found in the BACKGROUND Section of the Table

A system for buying stocks can be boiled down and presented in a spreadsheet, as long as you realize that it omits assumptions used to estimate intrinsic value. But our Standard Spreadsheet won’t go far in helping you decide to sell a stock. All we have to go by is that Warren Buffett has told us he might sell for two reasons: 1) When a higher return is expected by trading to another asset (to include the loss incurred by capital gains tax); 2) When the company changes its fundamentals. He has also named two stocks he would never sell: Coca-Cola (KO) and American Express (AXP). American Express didn’t make our list for two reasons: 1) the S&P Rating for the company’s bonds is BBB+ as opposed to our minimum requirement of A-, and 2) the company is not in the Vanguard High Dividend Yield Index ETF VYM.

Bottom Line: The 8 A-rated high-yielding value stocks account for $57B (27%) of Berkshire’s stock portfolio. Five of those are in the Financial Services industry (Warren Buffett’s area of expertise). Take-home points include a) don’t overpay for a stock, b) buy what you know, and c) remember that the best bargains are to be found in the Financial Services industry. But note that all 4 of his bank stocks have above-market volatility in share prices (see Column I in the Table), which goes far toward explaining why they’re underpriced (average P/E = 13). Also note that while Coca-Cola (KO) and Procter & Gamble (PG) seem overpriced (see Columns AB-AH in the Table), you’d need to consider intrinsic value before coming to that conclusion.  

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 PG, JPM, JNJ and USB, and also own shares of KO, TRV and WFC.

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

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