Introduction / background comments
Not a great quarter for markets or the World in fact as the terrible Russian invasion of Ukraine is on going. While Covid seems to be doing its best to continue to disrupt things despite many Countries moving on from restrictions and trying to live with it as a mild endemic kind of thing. Coming out of that on the economic front we are facing inflationary pressures brought about by a hangover from the pandemic, the effects of the Ukraine invasion and in the case of the UK the on going issues arising from BREXIT, if I dare mention that?
As if that were not enough we also have behind the curve Central Banks trying to play catch up and put the inflation genie back in the lamp even though that is what they wished for. As indicated by Fed Chairman Powell when he updated their policy back in August 2020 when he said they would allow inflation to run hot for some time above their 2% target. Be careful what you wish for as the old saying goes!
With Central Banks and the US Fed in particular now ramping up their intention to raise rate we have seen an early inversion of the 2 year to 10 year yield curve there which has historically been a reliable indicator of a forthcoming recession within the next couple of years. There has been quite a bit of debate about the significance of this at present given the Central Banks policy of financial repression by keeping short rates artificially low.
So there is probably no need to panic about equities on the back of this just yet, but it does suggest that at some point as short rates rise then some problems may arise in the financial system. That in conjunction with the on going squeeze in living standards could then lead to a recession perhaps later this year of in 2023. However for now the economic indicators I follow and the market timing indicators for the main UK equity indices (FTSE 100, 350 & All Share) are still suggesting it is right to stay invested, although Mid Caps and Small Caps remain in a bear trend for now. Of Course you'd have to decide for yourself based on your own risk tolerance etc.
March was at least a positive month for the Compound Income Scores portfolio (CISP) with a +0.4% total return, although this again lagged behind the FTSE All Share which returned +1.3%. Thus in the year to date after declines in January & February the CISP has a -7.5% total return for the YTD versus the +0.5% for the FTSE All Share. See the table & graph at the top of this post which show this & performance together with longer time periods and since inception.
This recent underperformance and indeed some of the outperformance in the longer term is partly explained by the portfolio tilt towards Mid & Small cap names and away from FTSE. More of the FTSE has held up or have even gone up in the recent market conditions marking a rare moment in the sun compared to recent years when investor generally shunned them and chased tech shares in the US and elsewhere. This had left them looking pretty cheap and with a heavy exposure to Commodity names this outperformance may well continue for now.
I suspect the Mid & Smaller cap parts of the market may, in the main, be more sensitive to an economic pressures brought about by commodity prices and problems brought on by the cost of living squeeze. So I suspect the CISP may continue to struggle against that background, but I will try and address it as far as I can with the forthcoming monthly screenings.
Which brings me onto this months screening which did throw up quite a few names where the Scores had deteriorated enough to make me consider their position in the portfolio. There were 6 of these which I decided to keep as I am happy with their recent updates and fundamentals etc. in the current environment. One of these though, Ashtead (AHT), I did top slice given the lower score, as it had grown to be the second largest holding, but I will run the rest for now as it seems like a quality compounder.
Aside from that I did process three natural sales based on their Scores and the fundamental outlook. These were Kingfisher (KGF), which I must admit does look fundamentally cheap, although there are question marks about the outlook on the consumer / housing front etc. While the portfolio also has another name which is exposed to some of the same categories in a more limited way, but I'm trying to reduce duplication in the portfolio and increase the diversification by business type too when carrying out transactions, unless there is a strong trend or theme I'm looking to play to a greater extent.
In a similar way the portfolio also said farewell to a more successful position than Kingfisher with the sale of Jarvis Securities (JIM). This had been a beneficiary of the boom in trading during the pandemic, but that seems to have come to an end now. While they may be a beneficiary of rising interest rates, they have seen some big downgrades and the forecast outlook is pretty flat. This one has in the past gone to sleep in price terms & I suspect it could be entering another one of those periods, although it does seem a pretty good business in terms of its financial metrics for the longer term, so I wouldn't put you off holding if you want to. In the context of the CISP this is a another situation where it also holds a similarly exposed business but in this case it is the bigger, better diversified and cheaper IG Group (IGG). So with the waning of the dealing boom by private punters and a more difficult market back ground it seems reasonable to reduce exposure to that theme, but retain IG group which at least seems to benefit from tougher markets.
The final sale was of another seemingly cheap share Barclays (BARC) which has seen its score slip on the back of downgrades post what seemed like ok results. While it may also be a beneficiary of rising rates, it could also be more vulnerable to worsening economic and market conditions. Their case was also not helped by them over issuing a ETN offering which they will now have to pay a large sum of money in compensation. So out it went as it is a bank after all.
Against those sales on the purchase side I did add a couple of financials to replace the two sold which bring in the main a different kind of exposure to markets. One was a strong recent momentum play, while the other was a much smaller more contrarian value type of play. Aside from those I added a well managed, if somewhat boring packaging distributor Macfarlane (MACF) which has traded well and continues to look cheap on the back of some decent upgrades. Aside from those I also reinvested the proceeds of the Ashtead (AHT) top slice into another quality / growth situation which has de-rated quite a bit along with other higher rated names recently. So now seemed like a reasonable time to bring it up to an average weighting in the portfolio after their recent in line trading update seems to have reassured investors.
Subscribers will be able to see full details of the transactions in their Scores sheets. May I also take this opportunity to welcome all the new subscribers this quarter. If you'd like to join them then you can do so here.
Hopefully the rest of the year might be more productive for the CISP and your investments. So may I wish you well with your investing, mind how you go and don't forget to be careful what you wish for.