Apple has been performing amazingly well for years. They keep producing blockbuster hits over and over. Not only are these hits enormously popular they are enormously profitable.
The only real objections to Apple’s stock I can see are: the overall market value is so huge it just has to collapse (over $400 billion – the largest in the world) or it has to be time for a huge reversal of fortunes.
The problem with the view that it will fall is that the stock is very cheap by any rational measure. You are not paying much for all the earnings. Even if Apple does not continue the trend of the last 5 years, if it just stopped growing altogether, it is still cheap (if it does continue that trend it will break $1 trillion by 2014 – but I don’t think it will). The biggest risk is the profit margin shrinks drastically. That is possible. It is even somewhat likely to shrink a fair amount. But there isn’t much reason to think revenues will not grow. And to me, the current price makes sense only if revenues fall and profit margins fall. It takes the worst case scenario to make this stock seem overpriced.
The data on the last quarter (and for 2011 overall) are impossible (except they actually happened).
- record quarterly revenue of $46.33 billion ($26.74 billion in 2010)
- record quarterly net profit of $13.06 billion ($6 billion in 2010)
- Gross margin was 44.7 percent compared to 38.5 percent in the year-ago quarter
- $17.5 billion in cash flow from operations during the quarter (and $38 billion in the last year)
- $100 billion in cash now ($97.6 billion to be exact but since the data was gathered they probably passed $100 billion anyway). That is more than the market cap of all but 52 companies in the world.
You can’t grow quarterly sales from $26.7 billion to $46.3 billion. $26 million to $46 million, fine that is possible, billions however – not possible. Except Apple did. You can’t grow a $6 billion quarterly profit to $13 billion in 1 year. Except Apple did. You can’t generate a cash flow of $17.5 billion in a quarter. Except Apple did. You can’t have a stockpile of $100 billion in cash. Except Apple does. These figures would not have been seen as unlikely just 3 years ago. They were impossible. But Apple achieved them.
These figures are not short term blips. They are the latest in a long stream of amazingly results.
Apple has numerous, incredibly strong businesses. Each could be the linchpin of an extremely valuable company.
- iPhone initial sales and reoccurring income (over 50% of Apple’s revenue)
- app sales (for iPhones, iPads and Macs)
- Their retail store business – selling all their products
The 12 stock for 10 years portfolio consists of stocks I would be comfortable putting into an IRA for 10 years. The main criteria is for companies with a history of large positive cash flow, that seemed likely to continue that trend. I am considering adding Abbot to the portfolio, and maybe dropping Cisco.
Since April of 2005 the portfolio Marketocracy* calculated annualized rate or return (which excludes Tesco) is 5.7% (the S&P 500 annualized return for the period is 3.9%). Marketocracy subtracts the equivalent of 2% of assets annually to simulate management fees – as though the portfolio were a mutual fund – so without that (it is not like this portfolio takes much management), the return beats the S&P 500 annual return by about 380 basis points annually (it would be a bit less with Tesco, but still close above 3%, I would think – calculating rates of return with purchases and sales and dividends is a complete pain, which is one reason Marketocracy is so nice).
The current stocks, in order of return:
|Stock||Current Return||% of sleep well portfolio now||% of the portfolio if I were buying today|
|Amazon – AMZN||350%||9%||7%|
|Google – GOOG||187%||17%||14%|
|PetroChina – PTR||115%||8%||6%|
|Templeton Dragon Fund – TDF||85%||8%||7%|
|Templeton Emerging Market Fund – EMF||44%||5%||7%|
|Danaher – DHR||43%||10%||10%|
|Apple – AAPL||42%||9%||9%|
|Intel – INTC||18%||6%||6%|
|Cash (likely to be ABT soon)||-||4%||6%|
|Cisco – CSCO||-2%||5%||4%|
|Toyota – TM||-8%||8%||12%|
|Pfizer – PFE||-9%||6%||7%|
|Tesco – TSCDY||-13%**||0%*||5%|
The current marketocracy results can be seen on the Sleep Well marketocracy portfolio page.
See the full list of Dividend Aristocrats below. The stocks in this index are companies within the S&P 500 that have increased dividends every year for at least 25 consecutive years. After 10 were added and 1 removed, this month, there are now 51 companies included (so just over 10% of all S&P 500 stocks) – and remember many S&P 500 stocks haven’t existed for 25 years, or pay no dividend today, or didn’t 10 or 20 years ago (Google, Apple, Intel, …). It is surprising so many companies have successfully done this.
I’ll take a look at a few of them here (I looked at the new additions in my previous post: Investing in stocks that have raised dividends consistently).
||div/share 2011||div/share 2000||% increase|
|Abbott Laboratories (ABT)||3.5%||$1.92||$0.74||159%|
|Cincinnati Financial (CINF)||5.3%||$1.60||$0.69||132%|
|Coca-Cola Co (KO)||2.8%||$1.88||$0.68||176%|
|Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM)||2.4%||$1.85||$0.88||110%|
|Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)||3.6%||$2.25||$0.62||263%|
|Procter & Gamble (PG)||3.2%||$2.06||$.67||207%|
Just looking at this data Aflac sure looks appealing. Having both a high yield and strong growth is an appealing combination. And Warren Buffet agree (he owns quite a bit) which is also reassuring (he also owns a large stake in Coke). Of course strong growth over the last 11 years won’t necessarily repeat (in fact it gets much harder). On the other had some slow growth companies would likely continue slow growth (at best): Exxon Mobil, 3M…
Really almost all of these stocks are pretty attractive. Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson and Abbot Laboratories look particularly appealing to me (along with Aflac and Kimberly-Clark). I would have to do more research on any of these (other than Abbot Laboratories, which I already own) before deciding to buy, but they sure look good as safe long term investments. Health care is a growing need (in the USA and globally). It is true the costs in the USA have to be reduced, and this could make things more difficult for companies in the health care industry.
Full list of Dividend Aristocrats, an index measures the performance of large cap, blue chip companies within the S&P 500 that have followed a policy of increasing dividends every year for at least 25 consecutive years.
The Dividend Aristocrats index measures the performance of S&P 500 companies “that have followed a policy of increasing dividends every year for at least 25 consecutive years.” S&P makes additions and deletions from the index annually. This year 10 companies were added and 1 was deleted.
||div/share 2011||div/share 2000||% increase|
|HCP Inc (HCP)||4.9%||$1.92||$1.47||31%|
|Illinois Tool Works (ITW)||3.1%||$1.40||$0.38||268%|
|Genuine Parts (GPC)||3.1%||$1.80||$1.10||64%|
|T-Rowe Price (TROW)||2.9%||$1.24||$0.27||359%|
|Franklin Resources (BEN)||1.2%||$1.00||$.0245||308%|
You can’t expect members of the Dividend Aristocrats to match the dividend increases shown here. As companies stay in this screen of companies the rate of growth often decreases as they mature. Also some have already increased the payout rate (so have had an increasing payout rate boost dividend increases) significantly.
The chart also shows that a smaller current yield need not dissuade investing in a company even when your target is dividend yield, giving the large dividend increase in just 10 years. Nucor yielded just 1.5% in 2000 (at a price of $10). Ignoring reinvested dividends your current yield on that investment would be 14.5%. To make the math easy 10 shares in 2000 cost $100, and they paid $1.50 in dividends (%1.5). Dividends have now increase so those 10 shares are paying $14.50 in dividends (14.5%). Of course Nucor worked out very well; that type of return is not common. But the idea to consider is that the long term dividend yield is not only a matter of looking at the current yield.
The period from 2000 to 2011 was hardly a strong one economically. Yet look at how many of these companies dramatically increased their dividend payouts. Even in tough economic times many companies do well.
Where is the economy headed? With the troubles of huge debt (by governments and consumers) and the possible collapse of the Euro it is very hard to be certain. And where is the stock market headed? That is also difficult to predict. Of course, where the stock market is headed in the short term is never easy to predict. If you can predict, you should be rich (though it likely takes a bit more, knowing how much to risk…).
At least by knowing what has happened you can be ahead of where many people are. The USA economy has not been in a recession, we have actually been growing. Just doing so very slowly. And doing so without many added jobs. Companies however, have been doing very well.
For investors knowing if this is a positive trend that can be expected to continue or an aberration is key. But I have no way of knowing. My guess is it is at least partially something that will continue (but maybe a portion of the gains are an aberration) – but this is just a guess. This bloomberg article looks more at the issue.
The margins of non-financial companies in the U.S., a widely used measure of profitability, reached 15 percent in the third quarter, according to data from Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. That was the highest level since 1969. When the recession ended in the second quarter of 2009, the comparable number was 8.7 percent.
The most compelling data supporting my belief is the long term trend.
But where this trend ends and starts reversing won’t be obvious until years after it happens. But investors that can predict (or guess) margin changes will likely be rewarded financially.
Related: The Economy is Weak and Prospects May be Grim, But Many Companies Have Rosy Prospects – Is the Stock Market Efficient? – Investment Risk Matters Most as Part of a Portfolio, Rather than in Isolation
High frequency trading is rightly criticized. It isn’t bad because rich people are getting richer. It is bad because of the manipulation of markets. Those being
- Front running – having orders executed milliseconds in advance to gain an edge (there is no market benefit to millisecond variation). In the grossest for it is clearly criminal: putting in orders prior to known orders from a customer to make money at the expense of your customer and others in the market. My understanding is the criminal type is not what they are normally accused of, of course, who knows but… Instead they front run largely by getting information very quickly and putting in orders to front run based on silly price difference (under 1/10 of a cent).
- Putting in false orders to fake out the market – you are not allowed to put in false orders. It is clear from the amount of orders placed and immediately withdrawn they are constantly doing this. Very simply any firm doing this should be banned from trading. It wouldn’t take long to stop. Of course the SEC should prosecute people doing this, but don’t hold your breath.
Several things should be done.
- Institute a small new financial transaction tax – adding a bit of friction to the system will reduce the ludicrous stuff going on now. Use this tax to fund investigation and prosecution of bad behavior.
- Redo the way matching of orders is done to promote real market activity not minute market arbitrage and manipulation – I don’t know exactly what to do but something like putting in a timing factor along with price. An order that is within 1/10 of cent for less than 1,000 shares are executed in order of length of time they have been active (or something like that).
- Institute rules that if you cancel more than 20% of your order (over 10 in a day) in less than 15 minutes you can’t enter an order for 24 hours. Repeated failures to leave orders in place create longer bans.
- Don’t let those using these strategies get their money back when they do idiotic things like sell bull chip companies down to 20% of their price at the beginning of the day. You don’t get to say, oh I didn’t really mean to buy this stock that lost me 50% the day I bought it, give me money back. There is no reason high frequency traders should be allowed to take their profits and then renege on trades they don’t like later.
Speculation is fine, within set rules for a fair market. Traders making money by manipulating the system instead of through beneficial activities such as making a market shouldn’t be supported.
To the extent high frequency trading creates fundamental buying opportunities take advantage of the market opportunity. Just realize the high frequency traders may be able to reverse you gains (and if you lose you are not going to be granted the same favors).
The truth is the billions of dollars high frequency traders steal from others market returns matters much less to true investors. For long terms holdings the less than a cent they steal from other market participants is small. It is still bad. Just people really get more excited about it than they need to. I would love to just get 1/1000 of cent on every trade made in the markets, I could retire. But they are mainly stealing very small amounts from tons of different people. Now the fake orders and trades that go against them that they then get reversed are a different story.
My preference is for a lower use of bonds than the normal portfolio balancing strategies use. I just find the risks greater than the benefits. This preference increases as yields decline. Given the historically low interest rates we have been experiencing the last few years (and low yields even for close to a decade) I really believe bonds are not a good investment. Now for someone approaching or in retirement I do think some bonds are probably wise to balance the portfolio (or CDs). But I would limit maturities/duration to 2 or 3 years. And really I would pursue high yielding stocks much more than normal.
In general I like high yielding stocks for retirement portfolios. Many are very good long term investments overall and I prefer to put a portion of the portfolio others would place in bonds in high yielding stocks. Unfortunately 401(k) [and 403(b)] retirement accounts often don’t offer an option to do this. Luckily IRAs give you the options to invest as you chose and by placing your IRA in a brokerage account you can use this strategy. In a limited investing option retirement account [such as a 401(k)] look for short term bond funds, inflation protected bonds and real estate funds – but you have to evaluate if those funds are good – high expenses will destroy the reasons to invest in bond funds.
There are actually quite a few attractive high yield stocks now. I would strive for a very large amount of diversity in high yield stocks that are meant to take a portion of the bonds place in a balanced portfolio. In the portion of the portfolio aimed at capital appreciation I think too much emphasis is placed on “risk” (more concentration is fine in my opinion – if you believe you have a good risk reward potential). But truthfully most people are better off being more diversified but those that really spend the time (it takes a lot of time and experience to invest well) can take on more risk.
A huge advantage of dividends stocks is they often increase the dividend over time. And this is one of the keys to evaluate when selected these stock investments. So you can buy a stock that pays a 4% yield today and 5 years down the road you might be getting 5.5% yield (based on increased dividend payouts and your original purchase price). Look for a track record of increasing dividends historically. And the likelihood of continuing to do so (this is obviously the tricky part). One good value to look at is the dividend payout rate (dividend/earnings). A relatively low payout (for the industry – using an industry benchmark is helpful given the different requirement for investing in the business by industry) gives you protection against downturns (as does the past history of increasing payouts). It also provides the potential for outsized increases in the future.
There are a number of stocks that look good in this category to me now. ONEOK Partners LP pays a dividend of 5.5% an extremely high rate. They historically have increased the dividend. They are a limited partnership which are a strange beast not quite a corporation and you really need to read up and understand the risks with such investments. ONEOK is involved in the transportation and storage of natural gas. I would limit the exposure of the portfolio to limited partnerships (master limited partnerships). They announced today that the are forecasting a 20% increase in 2012 earnings so the stock will likely go up (and the yield go down – it is up 3.4% in after hours trading).
Another stock I like in this are is Abbott, a very diversified company in the health care field. This stock yields 3.8% and has good potential to grow. That along with a 3.8% yield (much higher than bond yields, is very attractive).
My 12 stocks for 10 year portfolio holds a couple investments in this category: Intel, Pfizer and PetroChina. Intel yields 3.9% and has good growth prospects though it also has the risk of deteriorating margins. There margins have remains extremely high for a long time. Maybe it can continue but maybe not. Pfizer yeilds 4.6% today which is a very nice yield. At this time, I think I prefer Abbott but given the desire for more diversification in this portion of the portfolio both would be good holdings. Petro China yields 4% today.
When invested in a retirement portfolio prior to retirement I would probably just set up automatic reinvesting of the dividends. Once in retirement as income is needed then you can start talking the dividends as cash, to provide income to pay living expenses. I would certainly suggest more than 10 stocks for this portion of a portfolio and an investor needs to to educate themselves evaluate the risks and value of their investments or hire someone who they trust to do so.
I believe in weak stock market efficiency. And recently the market is making me think it is weaker than I believed :-/ I believe that the market does a decent job of factoring in news and conditions but that the “wisdom of crowds” is far from perfect. There are plenty of valuing weaknesses that can lead to inefficient pricing and opportunities for gain. The simplest of those are spotted and then adopted by enough money that they become efficient and don’t allow significant gains.
And a big problem for investors is that while I think there are plenty of inefficiencies to take advantage of finding them and investing successfully is quite hard. And so most that try do not succeed (do not get a return that justifies their time and risk – overall trying to take advantage of inefficiencies is likely to be more risky). Some Inefficiencies however seem to persist and allow low risk gains – such as investing in boring undervalued stocks. Read Ben Graham’s books for great investing ideas.
There is also what seems like an increase in manipulation in the market. While it is bad that large organizations can manipulate the market they provide opportunities to those that step in after prices reflect manipulation (rather than efficient markets). It is seriously annoying when regulators allow manipulators to retroactively get out of bad trades (like when there was that huge flash crash and those engaging in high frequency “trading” front-running an manipulation in reality but not called that because it is illegal). Those that were smart enough to buy stocks those high frequency traders sold should have been able to profit from their smart decision. I definitely support a very small transaction tax for investment trades – it would raise revenue and serve reduce non-value added high frequency trading (which just seems to allow a few speculators to siphon of market gains through front running). I am fine with speculation within bounds – I don’t like markets where more than half of the trades are speculators instead of investors.
The fundamental truth right now is that the overall economy in Europe, the USA and Japan is weak and has some serious long term problems. But the connection between that and company weakness is not incredibly strong. Many companies have huge cash hoards, built up through the large profits they continue to make. Yes, the economy entering a serious downturn will hurt many companies. A railroad is going to lose some sales if retail sales decline (and so they don’t have to be shipped). Airlines (historically problematic companies to begin will) will struggle. Banks that pay exorbitant amounts to senior staff have trouble making money without handouts of taking huge risks that then result in more handouts once the risks fail (as usually a bad economy will expose the risks they have taken). Companies that can only do well based on large top line growth will suffer. But that isn’t all companies.
When you look at companies like Google, Apple, Tesco, Danaher, Amazon even Toyota I really don’t see many problems looking forward. They seem perfectly capable of staying profitable, even growing profits, even in the face of economic decline in Europe, the USA and Japan (if that happens: it is possible, but not certain – very low growth is possible). Companies that have very good prospects at staying profitable, even getting more profitable going forward are hardly the type of investment I want to sell. Especially not to put it in the bank and get 0%, or a money market fund and pay someone for the privilege of having my money.
The options for investing today don’t look so great. But I really don’t see any reason to be concerned about owning stocks that have good prospects to do well even if the quite a few large economies do poorly in the next decade. In fact I am happy to own them. Frankly the biggest worry I have is that the senior executives will loot the owners profits with exorbitant pay (this is not a worry at Toyota and less of one at Amazon). I would worry more about owning index funds in such an environment. But even as bad as things look now, I am not sure they will really turn out as bad as we fear – especially for many companies, for some yes, but many are well prepared for change).
And the prospects in emerging markets look incredibly good to me. Yes they will slow their growth a bit if the large economies stall, but I think it is foolish to avoid investments in China, Singapore, Brazil, Korea, India, Ghana, Malaysia, Indonesia. In fact that is where companies like Google, Tesco, Apple, Toyota and Amazon are going to be making lots of money. Emerging markets are volatile and the companies in them are too. This will continue.
His point on dollar cost averaging is sensible. Markets go up, more than down, overall [the statistically best approach] if you have a lump sum to invest the best strategy would be to invest it all now. There is added risk with this however, which he would accept. Also it doesn’t change the main reason people end up dollar cost averaging (by default, with retirement savings from each paycheck).
He discusses these ideas, and many more in his book: Debunkery: Learn It, Do It, and Profit from It-Seeing Through Wall Street’s Money-Killing Myths.