Another poor month for stock markets generally on the back of on going inflationary worries & the Russian invasion of Ukraine which unsettled investors and added to those inflation concerns. As a result it seems that my concerns that this years returns might be poor after bumper returns last year are so far being realised.
The UK stock market actually held up relatively well against that background given it was not as expensive as some others having lagged behind in performance terms in recent years. This was due to heavy weightings in old non tech type sectors like oil & mining which all did relatively well as a result of rising commodity prices. Consequently the FTSE 100 continued to outperform this month & thus it and the broader FTSE All Share, which it is a large part of, maintained their existing bullish trend - for now. In contrast the Mid 250 and Small Cap Indices fell further behind and both are now in bear trends.
For the Scores Portfolio these trends hit the performance again this month as having benefitted from being overweight Mid Cap, Smaller and AIM names previously this is now weighing on performance. Subscribers can see some monthly attribution figures towards the right hand side in the Portfolio sheet. Also worth noting that a summary of all the Scores has been added here for easy checking along side the triple trend momentum buy, hold, avoid & sell suggestions.
The impact of this at the portfolio level is shown in the table above with the fall back in the last 6 months and year to date reducing some of the outperformance achieved last year. Nevertheless the longer term performance remains good. Please seen the link to the table of returns under the Portfolio menu for the full performance history or click here if that is of interest.
A couple of sales and purchase this month as I held onto a few stocks where the Score had slipped on the basis that they have updates or results due soon. Subscribers will be able to see the details of these in the Portfolio sheet of their Scores file.
Summary & Conclusion
Another poor month in what is so far shaping up to be a poor year for stock market investors after good times for the last decade or more albeit with other sell offs along the way. Obviously the current situation in Ukraine is another fairly extreme concern coming so soon after the Covid shutdowns etc. and the debt / asset bubbles that have been blown up on the back of that. On top of that we have the inflation problems and the complication of Central Banks trying to deal with that in the face of the Ukraine war.
Thus it is probably not a time for taking too much risk but equally maybe best not to panic either as in the past crises have tended to blow over and markets have often been higher 12 months later. No doubt as events develop there will threats and opportunities & I'm sure the Scores may help to identify some of those along the way, but however you do it mind how you go and good luck with your investments this year.
Further to the last post about the major upgrade to the Scores. Just wanted to mention the way in which the sign up process works now affords the opportunity for a storming free trial. The founder member fixed annual pricing is available by signing up for an annual direct debit. If you wanted to sign up now this will be set up to be taken on or around 21st March 2022 and annually thereafter.
Thus you could try the Scores & get access to the Portfolio for two or three weeks before you buy and cancel your direct debit mandate a week or so before the 21st March if you decided they were not for you. If you did decide to pay you'd be able to lock in the super low pricing that works out at just £1 a week. Not sure where else you can find such priceless information for that price, but then I'm biased.
Any way mind how you go on this stormy day in the UK and safe investing however you decide to do it.
This post is to inform subscribers & potential subscribers of a major upgrade to the Scores.
Firstly to emphasise there will be no changes to the existing Compound Income Scores which will still seek to quickly help investors identify for further research good quality dividend paying stocks in the UK market with the potential to grow their income over time.
What is being added?
There are three new Scores being added which will cover a broader range of names in the UK market including those that do not pay dividends. This will take the number of stocks covered up from just over 500 to just under 1500. The new Scores are as follows:
Quality, Value & Momentum Scores (VQM).
These are based on work from a while back by the late Robert Haugen which found dramatic, consistent, and negative payoffs to measures of risk, positive payoffs to measures of current profitability, positive payoffs to measures of cheapness, positive payoffs to momentum in stock return, and negative payoffs to recent stock performance. The full details of the research can be found here. The metrics used in this research are reflected in the VQM Scores with one tweak where they are using 12 month total return rather than pure price momentum as I have always felt that ignoring dividends biases this measure against dividend paying stocks. although overall it will make little difference except where dividend payments are significant compared to price changes.
Shareholder Yield Score (SHY).
Going one step further than the Haugen Scores is the Shareholder yield (SHY), which takes into account share buy backs when calculating a share holder yield. This has generally been suggested as a more effective way of selecting stocks for purer yield based strategies. While some suggest that debt pay back should also be taken into account, so a separate Debt Pay Back Yield is also presented for consideration, but not included in the actual SHY calculated and ranked. While others suggest also looking at quality and momentum factors along with this. Research from the guys at Alpha Architect can be found here. While the practical application of this in a fund from one of the early researchers / adopters, Mebane Faber, can be found here. In this case you could look at the Haugen VQM Scores alongside the SHY as well as the CI Score all on the one sheet.
Conservative Formula / Low Volatility (CFLV)
Finally we have added the Conservative Formula which is based on research by Pim van Vliet and David Blitz which found that low volatility stocks tended to do better over time. The research which is sub titled Quantitative Investing made easy, uses a volatility measure along with Shareholder yield and 12 month - 1 month price momentum. So it dovetails in quite nicely with the SHY Scores and adds extra information on volatility and pure price momentum. Volatility is also presented separately and ranked too with lower volatility stocks given a higher score, given that the research found that they do on average give better returns, so lower volatility is better and like all the other Scores 100 is best and 0 worst. This tendency for low volatility / low risk out performance also ties in with the findings of the Robert Haugen research.
All Scores (New Sheet)
These new Scores together with the extra data on Debt pay down and volatility are all presented in the new All Scores sheet which summarises the Scores for all the stocks covered. The Compound Income Scores, where available, are also shown on this sheet too, although they are more limited in number given the yield requirement for them to qualify for the original Scores. All in all this will expand the universe of stocks covered from just over 500 for the existing Compound Income Scores to nearly 1500 in the All Scores.
Summary of Changes
So to summarise, subscribers will continue to get access to:
New features available on the new All Scores sheet:
Hopefully existing subscribers will find the new Scores a useful addition to their research tools. It should give you the ability to search for, sort or filter stocks and sectors etc. and see at a glance how they rank quantitatively in terms of value, quality, momentum, volatility and different combinations of those as detailed above. While of course still being able to see how those that qualify on yield grounds score in terms of their Compound Income potential as well as the newly introduced Shareholder Yield.
The Scores have been held at their current price level since launch some years ago, despite increased costs along the way and to come. I do however wish to reward initial founder members / subscribers for their loyalty & support by maintaining their pricing despite the cost pressures and the major upgrade to the coverage and Scores now on offer. So if you are a current subscriber, rest assured that you will be able to continue to benefit from that low price for as long as you remain a subscriber.
Pricing & New Subscriber offer.
If you are new to the site and would like to benefit from the same value pricing as founder members, I can offer new annual subscribers the same fixed price offer if you sign up by 14th March 2022. After that date the price will be going up by 25%. If that is something that interests you then please click here to subscribe for an annual subscription via direct debit.
Alternatively if you would prefer to pay monthly but at the newly introduced monthly rate you can do so by clicking here to set up a monthly direct debit instead.
Either way you will get access to the Scores and the Portfolio etc. via google sheets or directly via the subscriber link under the Scores heading on the site menu.
Thanks for reading & subscribing if you are a subscriber - good luck with your investing.
As I feared in the year end update last month, it seems that returns this year may well not be as good. This may be especially so if the old axiom that so goes January, so goes the year does have any substance to it, although I've seen research in this interesting post that it is not that predictive. This also looks at the thorny issue of market timing & seems to conclude that it is hard to find evidence of it being done successfully.
For what it is worth the market timing indicators that I maintain are still in above trend bullish territory for the larger headline UK indices like FTSE 100, FTSE 350 & FTSE All Share. Interestingly Mid 250 & Smaller Company Indices in the UK have fallen below trend and therefore into sell / beware territory after they were hit hard in January. However, the economic indicators that I use along side those are still positive - so in the absence of a recession, hopefully this will just turn into a normal correction at this stage (10 to 20% or so) rather than a horrible -50% bear market. Of course there are plenty of other things to worry about like cost of living, supply chains, Russian aggression etc. but as the other axiom says - the market climbs a wall of worry.
Given that Mid & Smaller companies led the way down while the larger FTSE 100 held up better, it was probably no surprise that the Compound Income portfolio gave back some out performance as it is more exposed to Mid & Small cap names than the FTSE All Share that I use as a benchmark. Please see the graphs at the top of this post for full details of that and other time periods including the 15% per annum achieved since inception in April 2015.
Update on this months Screening & to the Scores.
No update here on this months screening due to time pressures (more on that in a moment). Subscribers will however have been able to see details of this months trades in the transactions sheet & discussion of those stocks considered in the journal sheet.
Aside from that I have been spending some time working on an update to the Scores to bring a broader set of data and greater stock coverage for those who are interested in shares that do not meet the income requirements to be in the Compound Income Scores investment universe. Rest assured the Compound Income Scores will remain in their current form, just that subscribers will have access to a broader information set & rankings which should give some useful insights into all of the stocks covered including those currently in the Compound Scores universe.
Watch this space for a further post with details about the enlarged and enhanced scores when they become available. Any way mind how you go out there in these tricky markets, hopefully with all the focus on inflation & a cost of living crisis doesn't mean we are flying back to a 1970's style stagflation environment. With that in mind I'll leave you with an appropriately naff song from that period.
December proved to be a positive month for the UK market as a “Santa Rally” finally arrived despite the on going concerns in the UK & elsewhere about the spread of the new variant of the Corona virus. It seems that although it has spread rapidly & become the dominant variant it doesn’t, as I hoped, seem to be as severe in terms of the illness that it causes. While some existing vaccine booster shots seem to reduce the risks of hospitalization further and new pills for treatment are either imminent or on the horizon. Thus it seems it was right, in the short term, not to panic last month.
As we entered the New Year traders seemed to be bidding up travel and leisure stocks which seems to indicate that the general consensus is thinking along those lines on Covid. Hopefully we might be through the worst of the latest bout by Spring / Summer without too many more restrictions and learn to live with it longer term thereafter. What follows is a review of the performance for the year & over the longer term for the Compound Income Portfolio and a few outlook comments.
If you are pushed for time you can skip the the Summary and Conclusion which tries to sum it all up briefly.
The UK market as measured by the FTSE All Share index (which I use as a benchmark) produced a total return of +4.68% in December and +18.32% for the year. The Compound Income Portfolio underperformed this month with a 3.66% return but did still have a terrific outcome for the year of +29.9%. I calculated the returns that could have been had from just holding the same portfolio from the end of last year and also one selected from the Top Scoring Stocks alone. Both of these returned around 20% for the year, so still a modest outperformance, but it does suggest that this year at least, the process of monthly screening have added value – which is what I have found in the past too So I’ll stick with that again for the year ahead.
Big winners during the year included Ashtead (AHT), Airtel Africa (AAF) and IMI which have all grown to become top 10 holdings. While Renew Holdings (RNWH) which enjoyed a re-rating and Ultra Electronics (ULE) which received a bid were also big contributors although they have since exited the portfolio. Another former position that did well was Dotdigital (DOTD) which I managed to run quite successfully by relaxing my normal value tendencies to sell on valuation ground until such time as the rating and growth rating did not marry up for me. While a risk control reduction of Sylvania Platinum (SLP) at 130p also helped as they subsequently slumped to under 100p.
Talking of slumping, spread betting company CMC (CMCX) disappointed as lockdowns lifted and subsequently sold. I regretted selling Ultra Electronics early in the bid timetable to buy Qinetiq (QQ.) as they came up with some disappointing contract news and Hikma Pharmaceutical (HIK) proved to be worthy but dull and therefore drifted off despite performing reasonably well as a business. Finally some exposure to other precious metals miners like Polymetal (POLY) and Caledonia Mining (CMCL) & the more diversified Rio Tinto (RIO) failed to pay off in price terms but they did pay good dividends which they continued to pay and increase.
Dividend / Income Commentary
Here it was encouraging to see that the income from the portfolio bounce back strongly this year after the Covid inspired cuts seen last year. The income from the portfolio increased by 125% from the 2020 figure which had fallen by 31%. This meant it was up by around 56% from the level of income achieved in 2019 & 2018 pre Covid. This represented a yield of 5.1% on the starting value of the Portfolio – so a bit better than the suggested income yield of 4.5% which expected from the Portfolio at the start of 2021. Obviously it does reflect some changes to stock positions along the way as I’m not comparing a static portfolio and there were also a few large special dividends included in that which will have boosted the total. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the headline total were to decline a little next year if some of those are not repeated.
On these dividends, it is worth pointing out that I don’t target a particular yield from the portfolio. It tends to be a residual result from the stocks selected from the top decile and held along the way, although obviously the process does direct me towards dividend paying stocks and no zero yielders are held. That’s just the way the process is managed, although others may wish to target a certain level of income or yield and try to increase that each year. Personally I do like to see my income rising each year and try to keep it up with or ahead of inflation in the medium term, which I have managed to do generally over the years.
It is worth noting that the RPI Index has grown at 3% per annum since 1989. So assuming the Government / Bank of England are not trying to inflate away all the debt that has been taken on before and during the pandemic then it might be worth factoring in inflation of at least 2.5% to 3% to your run rate calculations for real returns. It is also worth remembering that UK equities have generally returned around 5% per annum in real terms (after inflation) - so you would probably need a total return of around 7.5% to 8% to maintain the real value of your portfolio in the long term.
Fortunately that was not so difficult this year as dividends bounced back strongly as inflation came roaring back & the market was strong in capital terms. The coming year may be more difficult if inflation remains elevated and various cost pressures such as energy, labour and supply chain issues cause Companies to be more cautious on the dividend front.
Longer Term Performance – 5 years in a row and 6 out of 7 years of outperformance.
The performance for the year and the last two, three and five years and since inception back in April 2015 is shown in the Bar Chart at the start of this post above, which are more meaningful periods of time to look at rather than one month or year to date figures. It is also pleasing to note that the portfolio has now outperformed for five years in a row (a pretty rare event in itself) & six out of seven years since inception in April 2015 so that one wasn’t a full year. This line graph at the top also shows that this and that the portfolio has now almost made it back to almost to an all time high value it reached this summer and significantly outperformed all the main UK Indices. While the table below shows most of that in numbers form.
The table above shows performance year by year has been somewhat volatile, with good years for harvesting returns followed by fallow drought type years for returns. So with that in mind, given the strong returns that the Portfolio and the market have delivered recently I can’t help thinking, along with most commentators probably, that 2022 may be a more difficult year for investors than 2021 was. This is especially so given that Central Banks seem to have started tightening and draining liquidity. While investors have gone all in with US individual investor stock holdings at record highs and the inflows into US equities in the last 12 months having matched those seen in total in the previous 19 years! (Source:Merrill Lynch). Breadth has also been poor with the FAANG stocks mostly driving the headline indices, where the ratings look to be towards the top end of their range seen at previous frothy occasions like 1999 / 2000. While margin debt over there is close to all time highs, although has come of a little recently, which can apparently also be a bearish signal.
Thus I think you couldn’t rule out a rougher ride for the market in the first half with a possible normal type correction if rising rates, slowing economic growth, Corona virus issues and continued inflation hit sentiment. Aside from that the economic indicators that I follow for flagging a recession and a more serious setback in economies & markets are all in positive territory, as are the market timing indicators that I compile. So while I might be a bit more cautious short term, beyond that I think we should be OK provided the Central Banks don’t lose control & have to overdo the tightening. In the absence of that they will probably come back in yet again if things do cut up rough.
Having said that though looking at the Portfolio valuation it shows that at the end of the year it had a weighted average one year forward PE of 14.4x which is around the long term average for the market I would say. While on the yield front the forecast yield for the portfolio for the year ahead is 3.8% with forecast dividend growth of 9.5%. This suggests that hopefully I’m being too pessimistic about the outlook as in the absence of a re-rating either way the portfolio could return around 13% which is not far off the 15.2% per annum achieved since inception in April 2015. Given that the UK market overall continues to look reasonable value compared to some other international market, maybe the UK could buck the trend even if things turn out less favourable elsewhere, but as ever I guess time will tell on that.
Summary & Conclusion
So a better month for markets and although this month the Compound Income portfolio didn’t manage to outperform, it did achieve another year of outperformance against the FTSE All Share. This make it 5 years in a row now that it has outperformed and 6 out of 7 years since inception. Compounded annual total returns since then have been 15.2% versus the 5.7% from the broader market.
Income from the portfolio bounced back well to more than double from the Covid induced cuts last year and represented a 5%+ yield on the portfolio value at the start of the year versus the 4.5% that was expected. This did include a number of special dividends which may not be repeated next year and it is most unlikely that the income will double again in 2022, indeed it could drop back a little if there are fewer specials and as I do not specifically target a level of income when constructing the portfolio.
The outlook for the market looks a bit less auspicious this year, especially in the US perhaps. There private investor seem to have gone all in at a time when valuations look stretched and the market has been led by a few big tech giants. While headwinds abound in the shape of the US Federal reserve aiming to raise rates and drain liquidity to deal with high and rising inflation as the economy maybe slowing a little from its rapid Covid induced bounce back.
While in the UK the authorities and the markets face similar issues in terms of inflation and rising interest rates. While the UK market looks more reasonably valued, having lagged the US and other markets for the last few years and private investors seem less enthused. Being heavily exposed to more commodity type sectors like oil and miners may also help the UK market to perform better if commodities continue to be strong in the inflationary environment. Of course though, an economic slow down and any restrictive measures from the Chinese government could of course undermine that view with a likely dampening effect on commodity prices.
Having said all that the Compound Income Portfolio looks reasonably well placed to weather some volatility if we see it this year. As the PE is around the long term average for the market at 14x and the dividend yield close to 4% based on high single digits suggests it might be able to deliver returns close to its longer term average of around 15% per annum in the absence of any dramatic change in ratings. Thanks for your attention and persistence if you got this far or just skipped to this bit and may I wish you good luck with your investments in the year ahead no matter what markets and the Covid virus throw at us.