Recent Stock Activity

Earlier in the year we had a mini-correction of sorts. Since then, many of the stocks in the portfolio have recovered, but some haven’t. I went through the recent stock performance of all the stocks in the portfolio and here are a few that were highlighted.

  • Appian (APPN) – Appian creates low-code software for corporations.  They went IPO in 2017 and had a big run up; since then their shares have been volatile.  Our portfolios bought in at about $23-24 / share and now it is at $26, although it briefly hit over $40 / share (which is why the current price is about 60% of its 52 week high).  Given that we bought this stock for the long term and it is holding up well overall for now we are going to keep holding and ignore that interim price spike
  • Comcast (CMCSA) – Comcast has been on a 5 year + run but recently hasn’t bounced back from the recent dip and is about 20% below its’ peak.  Comcast lives in a very complex regulatory and technological environment that is difficult to summarize without being an expert in that field (which I’m not).  There is also the fact that Comcast is the most-hated company in the USA.  Maybe it is time to give up on them
  • General Motors (GM) – GM had been on a good run lately and has a 4% dividend which is also helpful.  They recently took a 20% hit and haven’t bounced back.  Some of this is likely due to tariff and protectionist talk since they import a lot of components and also have Chinese operations very subject to retaliation.  It depends on whether you think the tariff war will really happen.  They also face the metaphysical challenge of “what is a car maker” with the advent of electric cars and competition (in the stock market at least) from companies like Tesla (TSLA).  Will watch this a bit and see
  • Juniper (JNPR) – Juniper is a networking company that was a potential takeover candidate (there was talk of this in the market and the stock went up).  In general I feel that this company will either be bought out or be damaged by the move to the cloud and the rise of players like AWS.  It is down about 15% from its peak and may be time to sell (although it could also shoot back up if it became a serious takeover candidate)
  • Procter and Gamble (PG) – Procter and Gamble is a storied company with a reputation for being well run.  They are down almost 20% from their peak and haven’t come back.  Like GM they have a nice dividend of 3.5%.  The question is – is P&G going to be hurt badly by companies like AMZN or do they have enough brand firepower to thrive long term (they definitely will survive in some form).  Will watch this but hate to give up on what seems to be a well run company
  • Tesla (TSLA) – Tesla is a wild-card company whose valuation is dependent on Elon Musk’s awesome salesmanship.  Recently it has taken a 20% hit for a number of reasons including delays in their newest car lines.  Since there is no fundamental reason for its high valuation except future expectations which depend on your point of view (Tesla is valued roughly the same as massive companies Ford and GM) you are really betting on Elon’s ability to keep up whatever it is that he does.  I am open to staying or selling
  • Wal-Mart (WMT) – Wal-Mart is also down about 20% from its peak, for various reasons, including never-ending competition from Amazon.  Wal-Mart has an OK dividend of 2.3% that keeps rising and seems well run and committed to efficiency.  I don’t know if it is time to give up on this horse as an investment and take our winnings, but I’m considering it.

Portfolio Four Updated February 2018, and It’s Tax Time

Portfolio Four is 8 1/2 years old.  The beneficiary contributed $4500 and the trustee $9000, for a total of $13,500.  The current value is $18,309 for a gain of 36%, which is 6% / year adjusted for the timing of cash flows.  Go here for details or use the link on the right.

For tax purposes, during 2017 we sold 2 stocks, Devon (DVN) and Spirit Airlines (SAVE) for $465 in long term capital losses, and earned about $297 in dividends.

The portfolio is doing pretty well and has bounced back from recent market losses.

Portfolio Three Updated February 2018, and It’s Tax Time

Portfolio three is 10 1/2 years old.  The beneficiary contributed $5500 and the trustee $11,000 for a total of $16,500.  The current value is $23,251 for a gain of $6751 or 41%, which is 5.6% / year when adjusted for the timing of cash flows. Click here for details or use the link on the right.

During 2017 there were no sales and there was dividends of approximately $322.  The portfolio is generally doing OK and has bounced back from the recent market activity.

Portfolio Two Updated February 2018, and It’s Tax Time

Portfolio Two is our second longest lived portfolio, at 13 1/2 years.  This portfolio is unique because the individual stocks have been sold off and replaced with ETF’s and a CD.  See the details here or at the link on the right.

The beneficiary has invested $7000 and the trustee $14,200 for a total of $21,200.  The current value is $38,428 for a gain of $17,228 or 81%, which is 7.7% a year when adjusted for the time value of cash flows.

Walking through the detailed transactions often helps you to find items you’ve overlook – we noted that the biotech ETF IBB had a stock split (3-1) in December 2017 so I have been understating the value of this portfolio by almost $2000 since that time on my consolidated view.

There were no stock sales last year so the only tax impacted item is dividends which were approximately $632 during 2017.

The portfolio is doing well.  It is interesting to see that the VEO ETF has returned 33% including dividends since we’ve owned it but the HEFA ETF has returned 19% including dividends… the difference is due to the 10% or so fall in the US dollar vs a basket of other world wide currencies.  HEFA is hedged so you get returns in original currencies while VEO also includes the net effect of the dollar on returns (which magnified returns in this case).


Portfolio Performance February 2018

US and most world markets had a pretty strong rally after the 2016 election. From about April 2017 through January 2018 our assets (consolidated across all 8 portfolios) went from about $137k to a high of $165k prior to recent market turmoil, a gain of about 20% (we had some assets added and withdrawn across that time period which roughly netted out). This 20% or so gain is about the same as the SPY ETF ticker which matches the S&P 500.

In the last few days, we gave back about 40% or so of that gain… so we are up by about 12% since that April rally began. While recent events had some of the biggest drops in indexes like the Dow in “numeric” terms, in percentage terms the impacts were smaller.  We are around the 10% reduction mark which is typically called a “correction”.

These will be interesting times.  The market has come back from recent lows and there is much more volatility now.  We will need to watch and see what happens next.

Thoughts on Portfolio One

These portfolios started out as a long run risk taking vehicle that (hopefully) would grow and show the importance of investing. The average person has a net worth of zero (after you take into account debt on cars and mortgages) and has little cash in the bank. With these stock portfolios at least everyone has some core body of savings that they can use for investing or to purchase key capital goods (an initial house, a wedding ring). Now, for some of the participants, the portfolios have moved away from a long term risk vehicle to more of a generalized investment portfolio that should logically be slanted towards equities and higher risk since the participants are young but also has to take into account the possibility of a correction that could reduce equity values 25% – 50% for some extended period of time (years) like it did in 2008. You do not want to be in a position where you sell at a downturn and don’t stay in the market because you have to liquidate remaining stocks to cover necessary investments.

For some of the participants we needed to move out of individual stocks and into ETF’s because their professions make owning individual stocks more complicated. ETF’s, however, share the same mix of risk and return as underlying stocks and during the transition we’ve also shifted some of the money out of equity ETF’s and into CD’s and gold as a hedge and partial hedge.

Our current goal for portfolio one is to take some level of risk out of the portfolio and replace it with a combination of CD (get a return of about 1.5%), gold (generally holds more during a crash), or cash (if you need it in the next few months). Depending on the short term interest rate the brokerage account gives in the cash fund we may just choose to leave it in cash instead of CD’s.

Portfolio One is worth about $45k. We could take out $15k or so which would leave $30k in stocks. This is still a pretty high percent of stock for the market (about 70% equity).

Continue reading “Thoughts on Portfolio One”

The Impact of the Dollars’ Fall on Portfolios

A few years’ back the dollar fell significantly against other currencies around the world.  US citizens who don’t travel overseas may not have seen the impact, but the impact was real in terms of investors in that anyone holding overseas assets (Europe, Canada, Australia) saw a “double return” in that the investments themselves rose and the return after the currency surge was an even bigger boost.

Then the dollar rose against most other currencies, and there were discussions that the Dollar / Euro ratio would move towards 1/1.  In general, if anyone has a prediction about FX, treat it with more than a grain of salt, because the consensus is often very wrong.

ETF’s took notice of investors wanting to get the underlying return of foreign stocks without the impact of the US dollar vs their currency, and ETF’s like HEFA were created.  HEFA takes a non-US portfolio of large capitalization stocks from major markets around the world and hedges them against fluctuations in the US dollar.  While it isn’t a perfect mix (because the underlying weighting of stocks comprising each index are different), HEFA under-performed the Vanguard non-US stock  ETF VEU by a bit less than 10%.  This is what you’d expect because the dollar fell by about 10% when compared to a basket of major market currencies during the last 12 months.

In this case, buying HEFA hurt returns because the dollar fell against foreign currencies.  When the dollar falls, you are better off in foreign assets.  On the other hand, HEFA would have been a superior investment to VEU during all the times when the US dollar was strengthening.