Sunday, January 14

Week 341 - Companies in “The 2 and 8 Club” with Strong Global Brands

Situation: You’d like to own stocks that won’t give you heartburn when the market crashes. There are only two ways a company can predictably weather a recession better than others in its industry. By having 1) a clean Balance Sheet (see Columns P-S in any of our Tables) and/or 2) a strong Global Brand. During a recession, consumers will have less money to spend because they’re not making as much. They’ll cut back on frills but keep spending on necessities marketed by companies they respect. Economists call such spending inelastic, and also speak of those companies as having a strong brand. Accountants struggle to define brand value, even though it obviously runs to the billions of dollars for a number of companies, so they call it an intangible asset.  

Mission: Use our Standard Spreadsheet to analyze the 33 companies in the Extended Version of “The 2 and 8 Club” (see Week 329), selecting only those that have a Top 500 Global Brand.

Execution: see Table, where all 21 such companies are ranked by brand value in Column AC.

Administration: We need to know what fraction of sales for each company originate outside the United States. That information should be in every company’s Annual Report but is often missing. Perhaps the reason is that those companies often retain revenues in the country of origin (to avoid double taxation should revenues be repatriated to the USA). But we know that Microsoft, the largest company in this week’s Table, draws more than 60% of its revenues from outside the United States. Over the past 5 years, I have seen two articles estimating that 45-50% of all revenues for S&P 500 companies occur outside the United States.  

For you to attempt to own shares in a third or half of the 21 companies on our list (see Table), you’ll need to keep track of two variables: 1) Dividends (Yield & Growth rates), and 2) Global Brand value. Both will change over time. Brand values are easy to follow (see link above). But some companies will mature in their market and no longer be able to grow dividends faster than 8% a year. A company might cut its dividend, in which case it would no longer be listed in the US version of the FTSE Global High Dividend Yield Index. There will also be new members of “The 2 and 8 Club.”

To move in and out of positions as indicated by your research, you’ll have to become an active stock trader. Dollar-cost averaging is still a good idea, but you’ll likely find that an online Dividend Re-Investment Plan (DRIP) doesn’t have the flexibility you’ll require. A recent study of 13 broker-dealers offers detailed information about those that have the low transaction costs and attractive reward programs. Ally Financial (ALLY) is their top-ranked brand.

Bottom Line: There are only two ways a company can insulate itself from a looming recession: 1) maintain a Clean Balance Sheet, and 2) keep making money because of having a strong Global Brand. This week’s Table highlights 21 brand leaders, over half of which have clean Balance Sheets.

Risk Rating: 6 (where 10-Yr Treasury Note = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, and gold bullion =10)

Full Disclosure: I dollar-cost average into MFST, MMM, IBM, KO and JPM, and also own shares of MO, TRV, PFE, CAT, and TXN.

"The 2 and 8 Club" (CR) 2017 Invest Tune

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