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.
Compound Income Scores Portfolio Performance
October didn’t turn out to be such a dangerous or spooky month as it has done in the past or as Mark Twain once joked. The FTSE All share produced a total return of +1.8%, while the Compound Income Portfolio saw a return to outperformance this month with a total return of +2.4%. This leaves the portfolio with a total return of +27.3% in the year to date which is some 11.7% ahead of the FTSE All Share which I use as a benchmark.
Meanwhile the longer term performance of the Compound Income Scores Portfolio compared to the index is shown in the bar chart graph above. It is pleasing to note that the portfolio has compounded at just over 15% per annum since inception just over 6 years ago, which is also around 10% ahead of the FTSE All Share. See the graph at the end of this post for comparisons with other UK Indices like the FTSE Mid 250 and FTSE Small Cap.
Top contributors to this months outperformance were Luceco (LUCE) & Sylvania Platinum (SLP) as they bounced back from particularly steep falls recently having announced Quarterly updates which seemingly reassured investors. The negative side of the attribution ledger was headed by Qinetiq (QQ.) as their updated disappointed on the back of Geo-political and short term supply chain issues which led to some small downgrades. Admiral (ADM) also tacked backwards for the portfolio this month for no apparent reason other than perhaps the fact that Munich Re placed around 12 million shares from their strategic stake at 2940p. While City Of London Investment Group (CLIG) featured on the negative side this month as the former founder Barry Olliff reduced his stake again at the 550p level and the earnings estimates continued their inexplicable yo-yo run with downgrades this month after last months upgrades. Seemingly one house may be marking to market and currency adjusting on a month by month basis maybe?
British American Tobacco (BATS), EMIS, & Paypoint (PAY) all featured again this month together with Renew Holdings (RNWH) as holdings with scores in the second quartile & as part of the process I therefore consider whether they should remain in the portfolio or if there might be better quality or cheaper alternatives available. Of these I decide to give BATS and EMIS the benefit of the doubt again as their scores were still not that far into the second quartile. BATS remains cheap as they continue to manage the decline of tobacco products and invest in new vaping products & the NHS even approved the use of their Vaping Products recently to help those trying to quit smoking, so that could be a drag on as well as a puff to BATS profits I guess. While EMIS continues to trade well as reported in the results recently and they are confident of hitting their full year targets. So I’ll continue to run that one for now as a quality compounder for even though the rating has got a bit richer, although it and BATS did both underperform last month.
As Paypoint came up yet again I decided to get back to following the process as their score remained anchored around 50, although I was sorely tempted to to hold it again ahead of the H1 results in November. These could still be good and lead to upgrades for the full year – or not as the case may be. So I wouldn’t put you off holding them if you want to. That’s just the way the process is supposed to be applied – so I’m getting back to that and locking in a total return of around 20% from Paypoint since it was purchased for the Portfolio in May this year. Indeed Selling Strix (KETL) on a similar basis last month worked out fortuitously as the shares subsequently fell on the back of some chunky directors sales.
Renew Holdings (RNWH) looked a more finely balanced call as their Score was 67 and they also have results due shortly after a recent positive update, although somewhat surprisingly this has led to some downgrades in the last month. While it seems OK and the results should be fine, I decided to sell this one too given it has re-rated to a fairer looking rating. I also have some concerns about their balance sheet and the way in which they finance their business plus the fact that they are quite acquisitive and seem to have had quite a few write off's subsequently along the way in the past. I could of course be too cautious there, so again feel free to carry on holding if you are so minded to do so.
In addition to the two natural sale candidates which I pushed the button on this month, since I have a lot of performance in the bank this year, I also decided to sell a couple of other higher scoring stocks too. The rationale here being that it was possible to switch into higher Scoring similar alternatives which looked better value.
One was City of London Investment Group (CLIG) mentioned earlier in the performance review. This has been a good performer for the portfolio and again I wouldn’t put you off continuing to hold it. I chose however to switch into one of their larger competitors which has also undertaken an acquisition and is also struggling to grow its assets. It is however trading slightly cheaper than CLIG on traditional value measures and around half their level in terms of its pricing to AUM, although the difference in profitability levels they are currently making may explain some of this.
The second relative value switch I undertook was by selling dot Digital (DOTD) which has been a big winner for the portfolio and nearly trebled since it was acquired in April last year. Now I know this goes against all the advice of running your winners, although that is what I had done already by relaxing my usual valuation biases to get to this position. My natural value tendencies just felt offended with this one on around 60x PE, with an earnings yield of less than 2% and a dividend yield of under 0.5%. They also have results due which should be good given their last update, but unless there are dramatic upgrades on the back of those I think the shares could be vulnerable like other highly rated stocks that have come under pressure recently given rising interest rates on the back of higher inflation. Or failing that going sideways for a while to grow into the rating perhaps.
The stock I switched into, while still a bit rich for my own personal value tendencies, looks to be better value than DOTD after a recent positive update and massive upgrades ahead of their own results due soon too. So I guess time will tell if any of these prove to worthwhile. Subscribers will have seen full details of these in the transactions and the stocks that were purchased against them in the transactions and portfolio sections of their sheets along with brief bullet explanations in the Journal section.
Summary & Conclusion
After a disappointing end to the summer in the UK last month we have had a better start to the Autumn in markets and also for the Compound Income Scores Portfolio as we approach a traditionally stronger seasonal period.
I don’t have a lot to add to last months Macro type comments about the inflation outlook as that seems to remain a feature despite the slight fall back in the head line rate in the UK last month. Consequently some eyes are on Central Banks to see what the say and do with regards to easing back on QE or even raising rates perhaps in the case of the Bank of England. While the budget passed by without any further hits to investors.
I say some eyes as markets seem to have remained frothy (especially in the US) as they have rallied again towards their highs and some speculative rubbish and SPAC’s seem to be taking the lead again despite stretched valuations over there. I guess all we can do in poor old Blighty is be thankful that our market looks better value as it has been so far off the pace that it looks quite cheap and has big exposure to the non ESG sectors like oils and miners plus a fair share of Banks that it might just hold up better in a sell off if we’re lucky.
Any way as this is already over a thousand word post I’ll leave you there with the graph of the longer term performance that I promised at the beginning as a picture paints a thousand words and a couple of music videos. Otherwise may I wish you good returns from your investments this month and hope that it doesn’t rain too much in November wherever you are.
Compound Income Scores Portfolio Performance
So more blue in evidence on investors screens this month as UK equities continued to rise and thereby provided total returns of +1.1% as measured by the FTSE All Share which I use as a benchmark for the Compound Income Scores Portfolio (CISP). This did better than the market again this month with a +2.6% total return and thereby continued its winning streak against the index this year and over all periods since inception.
That actually makes it six month in a row since November last year, although I should probably point out that this is more clawing back a sharp underperformance that the portfolio saw in November 2020 on the back of the vaccine inspired rally when many financially challenged and low quality names led the way. Nevertheless it is good to see the portfolio now pulling further ahead having made up the underperformance seen in November as the market has perhaps focused more on fundamentals again and maybe started to question how great the re-opening benefits will be in some cases. If it is of interest you can see the full performance history here.
With practically a years worth of outperformance in the year to date, I decide to do some portfolio tidying in addition to the regular sells that were suggested by the Scores. This involved trimming back a couple of big winners that have been run successfully.
The first of these Sylvannia Platinum (SLP) has gone up 3.6 times since purchase in October 2019 and as such it has grown to become the largest holding in the portfolio and has been flirting with a 10% weighting in recent months. Thus I decided to reduce it on risk control grounds. Now call me a wimp, as I know some people like to run with massively concentrated portfolios, which is fine if you are comfortable with that, but that's not how I roll as I like to run with a broadly equally weighted portfolio of around 20 to 30 positions. As this one still looks cheap and continues to Score very well it has been maintained as the largest holding, just not 9 to 10% any more.
The second reduction of a still high Scoring stock was done on valuation grounds and involved Dot Digital (DOTD) which was bought in April 2020 based on its Score and as a SaaS business with 90% recurring revenue I felt it would be resilient to the Covid crisis & could even be a beneficiary. Since then it has gone up 1.5x and re-rated and I feel that the rating has got a bit rich for my tastes with a PE of > 50x seeming expensive for the single digit growth that is currently forecast. The yield is also now < 0.5% and the EBIT/EV yield is also looking rich too at 2%. On that basis and given the current trend for switching away from expensive tech / growth stocks and towards more cyclical recovery / growth plays I feel OK with going against the old adage of running your winners, although in this case I have retained a position as despite the valuation it still Scores in the top decile.
Aside from these there were two sales based on their Scores with Avast (AVST) also confirmed by the new treble momentum trends that I mentioned in my last post. The other one Mondi (MNDI) was suggested as a hold on those trends so I wouldn't put you off holding it if you do. It has however been coming up as a potential sale for a few months now and having given it the benefit of the doubt a couple of times I decided to let it go as part of this month more active trading round as it Scores pretty averagely across the piece.
The proceeds from all these sales gave sufficient fire power for three new positions which takes the number of holding up to 30 which is the upper end of my preferred range. The new positions did however all bring something different to the portfolio and help with the diversification which after all is the whole point of a more broadly based portfolio, but as I say each to their own if you want to do it differently.
Summary & Conclusion
Another positive month for UK equities and the CISP as the recovery rally which has continued to gather pace since the vaccine news in November last year shows no sign of flagging despite some concerns about inflationary pressures.
Given the out performance by the portfolio this year and the extent to which some winning holdings had moved I took the opportunity for some portfolio house keeping in terms of risk reduction and profit taking on valuation grounds in addition to the normal sales thrown up by the monthly screening process (see above for more details). This leaves the portfolio with decent exposure to the factors underpinning the Compound Income Scores and it still looks to be offering a decent mix of value and growth with the overall PE being 16x with a 3.6% yield for the current year based on forecast dividend growth of 11% which excluding any rating change tends to suggest that the portfolio could still deliver close to its compound return since inception of around 15% per annum. So I'm happy with that and the progress shown by the portfolio in the year to date and indeed since inception.
Subscribers will be able to see details of all the new purchases and the resultant make up of the portfolio on their sheets, together with the new triple momentum trend suggestions for Buys, Holds, Avoids and Sells for every stock in the Scores. I hope this might help you with your decision making process when using the scores by tapping into the power of momentum too.
Aside from that on a personal & musical note it was a welcome change to see some blue sky outside in addition to the blue on the portfolio. Hopefully we are through the worst of the Covid crisis now and can look forward to finally enjoying some fun in the Summertime. While I probably won't be enjoying a Dreadlock Holiday any time soon it is good to see some cricket back on TV as I don't like cricket, I love it. Whatever you are up to this summer, assuming we are allowed out, take care and may the sun continue to shine on you and your portfolio.