Sunday, August 20

Week 320 - Key Players In The Food Chain That Have Tangible Book Value

Situation: As a stock-picker, you need to invest some of your assets in mature industries. Those are the industries where sales growth is a function of population growth. Companies in those industries typically retain value during recessions. Food & beverage companies are the prime example.

Mission: Set up a spreadsheet of key players in the food chain. Exclude any that do not have positive net Tangible Book Value. Why? Because the SEC requires that before a company can issue stock for sale on a public exchange. Include S&P stock and bond ratings, as well as key Balance Sheet debt ratios. Determine whether Free Cash Flow (FCF) covered company dividend payments for the last two quarters. Determine whether the company is an efficient deployer of capital by comparing Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) to Return on Invested Capital (ROIC). The latter number should be at least twice the former.

Execution: see Table.

Administration: You’re a stock-picker because you think you have a strategy for beating a broad market index fund (e.g. SPY). You’re unlikely to succeed unless you avoid paying Capital Gains taxes until after you drop into a lower tax bracket (i.e., retire). Try to stick with companies that issue A-rated bonds and stocks, and practice other risk-reducing measures (e.g. deploy capital efficiently, have a clean Balance Sheet, and build a strong brand). 

You’re also unlikely to succeed if you invest in a volatile stock, i.e., one where the price varies more widely than the price of the S&P 500 Index. We identify that 3 ways:
1) Stock price change vs. change in the S&P 500 Index is greater in response to withdrawal of a key market support, e.g. the cost of taking out a loan or buying a house goes up 20%, or spot prices for key commodities go down 20% (see Column D in any of our Tables);
2) 5-Yr Beta exceeds 1 (see Column I in any of our Tables);
3) 16-Yr stock price volatility is statistically greater than S&P 500 Index volatility per the BMW Method, which we highlight in red (see Column M of any of our Tables).

Bottom Line: We have uncovered only 2 “buy-and-hold” stocks: Costco Wholesale (COST) and Coca-Cola (KO). Consider investing in a sector fund, e.g. SPDR Consumer Staples Select Sector ETF (XLP).

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

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into KO and MON, and also own shares of HRL, COST, AGU, and WMT.

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