Recent Stock Activity – Updated as of the end of March

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.  Recently updated again…

  • 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 $25, although it briefly hit over $40 / share (which is why the current price is about 60% of its 52 week high).  Watching for now
  • 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).  Watching for now
  • Dow Dupont (DWDP) – Complicated chemical company about to split into multiple units.  Had some senior resignations and is down about 20%.  Watching for now
  • Elbit (ESLT) – Israeli defense contractor recently picked up Uzi machine gun maker from Israeli government.  Down about 20% recently.  Watching for now
  • Facebook (FB) – a whole series of publicity gaffes and issues with privacy have damaged the stock recently
  • 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. On watch
  • 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 30%+ hit for a number of reasons including delays in their newest car lines.  May want to sell
  • Wal-Mart (WMT) – Wal-Mart is also down about 20% from its peak, for various reasons, including never-ending competition from Amazon.  They also are now looking to buy Humana which is interesting

More Stocks in the News

COMCAST

Portfolio one owns Comcast (CMCSA).  We bought Comcast many years ago and it languished at a low price, without much of a dividend or return.  Comcast then went on a run as it grew to be a dominant, seemingly well-run (from a financial perspective, at least) cable (and internet and phone) company.  Comcast also owns a lot of its own content, so it makes money not only from distribution but from creating the original series in the first place (like NBC).

Comcast recently put in a big order to buy Time Warner Cable, and create a gigantic company.  As a general “rule of thumb”, acquisitions are BAD for the company that MAKES the acquisition, and the company being acquired takes their premium as a gain (the sales price over the price directly before the merger).  This is due to the fact that most acquisitions traditionally destroy value.

However, there are always exceptions to every rule, and even this “rule” has a lot of doubters (especially the high priced M&A folks that push for mergers or inorganic growth and well as the CEO’s who bet their shareholders’ money on these purchases).  Maybe this deal will work out well, because there are cost savings (they can work together to bid for programming) and there isn’t much overlap between their cable systems (since they are geographic monopolies anyways).

Thus Comcast is a stock to watch and at least their stock didn’t plummet on the news of the merger.  It went down a bit (while Time Warner Cable went up to about half of the stock premium, indicating that there is uncertainty in the market as to whether or not the government will let the deal go through).  The “first day” indicator on the announcement is the most indicative of what the market thinks of the deal, and every day thereafter this becomes just another element in the stock market valuation story.

CLIFFS NATURAL RESOURCES

Cliff’s Natural Resources is owned by Portfolio Three.  Recently an activist investor (an outsider) called for a new CEO and for changes in the stock.  The company disregarded their suggestion and appointed an insider as CEO.  The company also recently released earnings results (last night, Feb 13) which beat analyst estimates and caused the stock to rise 7% in after hours trading.

As a general rule activist investors are something to watch for your portfolio companies.  They try to agitate for change and new strategies (such as spin offs of assets) to raise profitability, cash flow, or some other attribute that they think will cause the price of the stock to rise or reach its “fair value”.  As a shareholder, competition for ideas and a focus on raising the stock price are good for you, although sometimes these activist investors’ ideas are no better (or worse) than those of current management.  In any case it always seems to spark a discussion and focus since current management wants to keep their job.

New Stop Loss Orders Entered

Back in October we set up some stop-loss orders.  None of these orders were executed because the market has been up since then (for my stocks, at least).  Since the orders didn’t occur they were free to set up and it is free when they expire (or I cancel them).  We did “pull the trigger” on some stocks that have been on watch (Riverbed, Bancolumbia).

Stop loss trades are good for 60 days, and then they expire.  Given that the market has been on a tear, it makes sense to set up some more stop loss trades in case we move into an extended downward phase – I don’t want to watch the run-up and then watch them go back down.

While there isn’t a “rule” on stop losses, I am going to make some now.  In general:

– I don’t want more than 1/3 of a particular portfolio in “stop loss” mode (this may not apply if you have only a few stocks, like 4 or 6).  These are long term investment vehicles, and I don’t want to deal with re-buying an entire portfolio after a 10% small market correction

– If a stock needs to be sold, then sell it, don’t use stop losses as a wimpy sales mechanism.  We did clean up a couple of stocks that were on watch recently

– Remember that while stop loss orders can prevent you from taking a big loss, they also take you “out of the market” if it goes right back up

– Sales near year end will generate gains that may generate additional taxes for the government.  In general these portfolios are not as tax sensitive because they are owned by individuals who don’t pay much in taxes but if we had a big selloff it could cause them to pay some additional amounts to Uncle Sam

– Finally, remember that money sold off needs to be re-invested.  Back in 2007 I sold off some stocks that made big runs, and we did well and many of the stocks haven’t reached their pre-crash peaks.  However, that money has to be re-invested, and often the stock you pick is as over-valued as the one that you are selling.  This isn’t a free lunch…

Portfolio 1 – 20 stocks

  • Urban Outfitters – URBN – at $35 (don’t want to ride this back down)
  • PM – recently dropped from $92 to $85… Stop loss at $80
  • SNP – went from 70 in July to 90 then down to $84.  Stop loss at $78
  • TSM – was down to $12 then up to $20 now at $17.  Stop loss at $15
  • CMCSA – from $37 to $50… a big run… At $44
  • EBAY – big rise and then recently from $58 to $52…  at $47

Portfolio 2 – 18 stocks

  • Urban Outfitters – URBN – at $35 (don’t want to ride this back down)
  • SI – from $82 to $131…  At $123
  • SNP – went from 70 in July to 90 then down to $84.  Stop loss at $78
  • WYNN – from $94 to $164… at $150
  • FB – $20 to $51, now $47… at 43
  • SPLK – $26 to $75, now $72… at $65

Portfolio 3 – 10 stocks

  • Urban Outfitters – URBN – at $35 (don’t want to ride this back down)
  • SI – from $82 to $131…  At $123
  • WYNN – from 94 to 164… at $150
  • SPLK – $26 to $75, now $72… at $65

Portfolio 4 – 10 stocks

  • NUE – from $41 to $55, now $51.  At $46
  • SSW – from $15 to $25, now $21… At $18

Portfolio 5 – 9 stocks

  • SI – from $82 to $131…  At $123
  • SNP – went from 70 in July to 90 then down to $84.  Stop loss at $78
  • SSW – from $15 to $25, now $21… At $18

Portfolio 6 – 4 stocks

  • SSW – from $15 to $25, now $21… At $18

 

Buy And Hold Works… Sometimes

For these trust funds we work to link stock selections with long-term thinking. These portfolios start when the beneficiary is 11 or so years old so they have a long time horizon.

With that, there are times that it is wise to sell. If you believe that a stock has been part of a huge run-up and gains are not sustainable, you should sell. We sold a number of stocks in 2007 when valuations were insanely high (such as China Mobile (CHL), which peaked near $100 in 2007-8 and now is settled back in around $50 / share) and many of them have not recovered back to those levels. Unfortunately, we re-invested the proceeds into new stocks which promptly went down with the rest of the market but it still was the right thing to do.

On the other hand, some stocks seem to get permanently impaired or on a downward spiral from which they never recovered. We bought Nokia (NOK) and then sold at a loss – and the stock has kept dropping since, damaged by their dismal position in the smart phone market. We also did the same with Cemex (CX) which also had a high near $40 in the 2007-8 time frame but has settled to around $10 / share.

It is hard to know when to capitulate, and when to hold on to wait for the rebound. Urban Outfitters (URBN) was selected because it had low debt and seemed well run – until they had a bad earnings report and the stock tanked. We held onto it for over a year after it had lost about a third of its value, and then a lot of their top management resigned. Yet recently it came back and is now above its original purchase price. Other stocks that we waited on until they came back include Comcast (CMSCA) and Ebay (EBAY). On the other hand, we are still waiting for recovery on Canon (CAJ), Riverbed (RVBD), WYNN, Exelon (EXC), and Alcoa (AA). I am bullish EXC in the long term as well as RVBD; I think there is hope for CAJ because they are well run; and watching WYNN and AA.

Stock Portfolio Review

In any portfolio it is good to keep and eye out for stocks that have had a big run up and might be at a point to sell as well as stocks that have dropped and don’t seem to have a chance to come back in the near term. We also watch for stocks that are just stagnant.

While we don’t rapid-trade in these funds we do rebalance occasionally. I am looking to re-balance before we buy stocks again as part of the annual purchase process (I contribute $500, they contribute $500, and then I “match” $500 for a total of $1500 every year) which happens at the end of the summer. Since many stocks are held in more than 1 portfolio I only describe them one time.

Portfolio One

– Urban Outfitters – low debt, seemingly well run, has recently had departure of top executives. Holding on a bit to see if they can turn things around since drop already priced in. if they don’t turn around by end of summer will drop

– Procter and Gamble – has been a core of the portfolio for a long time with a strong dividend. The CEO recently had a bad conference call and the company hasn’t been growing much when compared to rivals

– Canon – has been a good long term performer but Japan still refuses to have a stock market rally. Need to look at this more but want to have some Japan exposure

– Comcast – held on for a long time when the stock did nothing or tanked because believed in broadband growth and they also added and boosted their dividend over the years. Will watch to see if now it is over valued after the run up

– Ebay – another stock that did nothing for years and went down but finally came back. No dividend but basically a bet on pay pal since they sold Skype. Will look into this some more may want to take profits

– Exelon – the nations’ biggest nuclear utility. Now getting beat because of the low price of natural gas. This hurts coal much more than nuclear because nuclear always runs but it limits its profits, as well. They just took over a big Eastern utility. Will keep holding but watch

– Wal-Mart – recently ensnared in a bribery case. Given their massive size it didn’t move their stock price that much. They have been buying back shares aggressively and boosting the dividend which increases profits per share. On watch

– Philip Morris – had an immediate, great run up. Also a good dividend. May want to see for gains

Portfolio Two

– Also Urban outfitters, Wal-Mart

– Wynn – took almost a 20% hit out of the gate with the share holder dispute issue. Has regained half that loss. Still a great play on China gambling. Will watch

– Siemens – had a big run up but now back to break even. OK run but subject to Euro issues and overseas expropriation and potential corruption issues. Will watch

– Diageo – had big run up and fall, much of which was caused by gyration of UK currency vs. US dollar. Up now at some point may take profits

Portfolio Three

– Also Urban Outfitters, Siemens, Wal-Mart, Wynn

Portfolio Four

– Also Wal-Mart, Exelon

– Nucor – a well run metals company in the US that is subject to vagaries of US economy as well as foreign price competition. Will watch but hate to part with it because it is well run but may not be able to sustain high valuation (see Southwest Airlines)

Portfolio Five

– Also Seimens

– Alcoa is a company like Nucor, well run but hit hard by foreign competition and international prices and demand. Like Nucor would benefit from US rally post “great recession” but that never really materialized. Will continue to watch

– Riverbed – a company with high growth prospects that lost 30% of its value in a single day when they slightly missed their earnings. Held on and since they have hung on at about the same price. Will hold through an earnings release or two seems transient not permanent