Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dogs Of The Dow Update: As Of June 21, 2019

With the first half of 2019 nearing an end, the Dogs of the Dow strategy is keeping pace with the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index. However, the Dow Dogs for 2019 trail the return of the broader S&P 500 Index. The Dogs of the Dow strategy is one where investors select the ten stocks that have the highest dividend yield from the stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index (DJIA) after the close of business on the last trading day of the year. Once the ten stocks are determined, an investor invests an equal dollar amount in each of the ten stocks and holds that portfolio for the entire next year. The popularity of the strategy is its singular focus on dividend yield.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Understanding The Purchasing Managers Index

No one variable provides the key to the future direction of the economy or market. However, one economic data point that tends to get a lot of attention is the Purchasing Mangers Index for both manufacturing and non-manufacturing parts of the economy. In fact in an article I wrote earlier this week I highlighted the optimism being expressed by manufacturers and small businesses. Many of my articles get republished on Seeking Alpha as did this one. One reader comment to the article stated I must not be "paying much attention to the manufacturing PMIs, which are showing a severe turn to pessimism." PMIs are important variables we do review; however, we believe many misinterpret the meaning behind the PMI's.

A key misinterpretation revolves around contracting manufacturing versus a recession level PMI reading. PMI readings below 50 do indicate manufacturing is generally contracting but it does not mean with certainty that the economy is headed for a recession. According to the Institute for Supply Management that reports PMI data, they note,
  • "A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting."
As it relates to economic expansions though, ISM states,
  • "PMI® above 42.9 percent, over a period of time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy [emphasis added]. Therefore, the May PMI® indicates growth for the 121st consecutive month in the overall economy and the 33rd straight month of growth in the manufacturing sector. 'The past relationship between the PMI® and the overall economy indicates that the PMI® for May (52.1 percent) corresponds to a 2.7-percent increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) on an annualized basis,' says Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committe."
As the below chart of the PMI data shows, PMI readings below 50 occur frequently and a recession does not always follow. 

Last week several additional manufacturing reports exhibit weakness. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey's General Business Conditions Survey Index was reported at -8.6, below  the consensus expectations of 10.0. The drop from the prior month reading was 26.4 points, the largest drop in the index's history which dates back to 2001.

Thursday's Philadelphia Fed business Outlook Survey missed expectations at .3 versus consensus of 11.0. Econoday noted though,
"Yet outside of the headline which is not a composite but a general sentiment reading based on a single question, details in today's report are less alarming. New orders did slow but not very much and remain respectable and solid at 8.3. And unfilled orders are building nicely so far this month, at 10.2 for a more than 8 point gain which is very strong for this reading. Shipments continue to move out the door at 16.6 and hiring remains solid at 9.4."
In  conclusion, the manufacturing data is indicating a slowdown, but it is not at recessionary levels. Globally, PMI's have improved with the Eurozone PMI trending higher for most of this year. Also, the emerging market and China PMIs have improved to above 50 after dipping below 50 earlier this year. So PMIs in the low 40's would be more of a concern versus brief periods falling below 50.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Manufacturers And Small Businesses: Widespread Optimism

It seems one topic of interest continues to be talk of a recession as a result of the trade and tariff situation. A recent CNN Business article noted, "America's business leaders are growing more worried that the United States will enter a recession by the end of 2020. Their primary fear: protectionist trade policy." Who are these business leaders? "The survey, based on 53 economists, is a leading barometer of where the US business community thinks [emphasis added] the economy is headed." I do not want to minimize the importance of economists; however, recent surveys of the small business and the manufacturing community suggest anything but a recession.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Seems All About The Fed At The Moment

Since the Federal Reserve began raising the Fed Funds rate in December 2015, there have been nine rate increases. Now that the Fed is in a pause mode, strategists and investors have turned their focus on rate cuts. It seems as though strategists believe the equity market and economy can not move ahead unless the Fed cuts interest rates. By now many have heard that every recession since World War II has been preceded by an inverted yield curve, i.e. short term interest rates are higher than long term interest rate. And therein lies the issue with the focus on the Fed's interest rate decisions.

Friday, June 07, 2019


I recently ran across an article on the blog of Better Investing written by Vitaliy Katsenelsom, CFA and CEO of Investment Management Associates. When I first began publishing articles on our blog in 2006, Vitaliy was an individual who early on connected to some of my content from his blog, ContrarianEdge. Over time our careers paths varied but were driven by our passions. Vitaliy's writings continue to be worthwhile readings.

His recent article caught my attention as I have had an opportunity to have conversations with a few younger colleagues in our firm and we discussed the importance of having a passion for one's career aspirations. Passion for what one does can supply the drive and lead to the success one desires over time. The importance of passion is the fact a key component is it is a strength developed by oneself and that it can't be taught and it is doing something one loves and is developed from within.

In Vitaliy's recent article he writes about his firm's effort to hire an intern. In the past his firm would advertise for the openings and then receive hundreds of resumes. What his firm found was, "We have learned from experience that educational background, prior experience, and even working toward the CFA designation had very little predictive power as to whether a person would end up doing great or just mediocre research." So what change did they make. The firm's approach was focused on finding an individual that had "passion" for investments, the position and learning. Passion can be hard to measure so the application process required:

  1. List the books you’ve read over last 12 months (not limited to just investment books)
  2. Provide a sample of a stock idea analysis
  3. Write a few paragraphs about two people (dead or alive) who impacted you the most and tell us why
  4. Tell us about three books that have impacted you the most and why; and finally, 
  5. Write us a cover letter to tell us why we’d be making the biggest mistake of our professional lives by not hiring you
Instead of receiving hundreds of resume's they received four dozen and most were simply resumes with a standard cover letter. A dozen met the above noted requirement. The entire blog Vitaliy wrote is a worthwhile read and contains a final "Letter to a Young Investor (or my younger self)"

Recently, I have had the opportunity talk with a couple of graduates looking for jobs and we have talked about the importance of doing something one is passionate about and how important this is in one's long term success. In short, if you love what you do, you have a high likelihood of being successful and the monetary rewards will follow. Conversely, if one is doing something just for the money, life will likely be filled with more disappointments as monetary success does not occur in a straight line.

Whether one is getting started in a career or looking at a career change, pursue your passion.