After the carnage of March we had something of a relief rally in April, or as I suggested last month the reflexive rebound stage which is quite common during bear markets. As a result the FTSE All Share managed to bounce back and provide a positive total return of 4.9% for the month. This does however leave it with a negative total return of 21.5% for the year and as you can see from the chart above, the UK market has lagged the recovery in other markets around the world. Some of this lag is probably explained by the make up of the various indices with Nasdaq obviously being helped by it tech bias and the FTSE 100 in the UK being held back in the main by its heavy exposure to more vulnerable sectors like Banks & Oil.
Talking of Oils and the headline on the chart about markets being detached from economic reality. I think we had a dose of that the other day as Royal Dutch Shell finally bowed to the inevitable and cut their dividend for the first time since the war. In addition results in the US from a couple of the market darlings, Apple & Amazon were somewhat underwhelming too.
Thus it looks like we may have seen the best of the rally for now and we might even be into the next down leg of the bear market or again as I suggested last month the drawn-out fundamental downtrend.
Indeed referring back to my FTSE ready reckoner that I shared in my recent webcast, with the Royal Dutch Shell dividend cut this week, this brings the 50% dividend cut for the market more into view and futures market is suggesting that too. This would also be in line with the worst case scenario foreseen by Link Asset Services in their Q1 2020 Dividend Monitor update. Thus the risk reward from where we were (briefly) above 6,000 on FTSE recently looks skewed to the downside I would suggest.
While it is worth remembering how bear markets pan out and there was a good reminder of that recently in a good post on the Real Investment website (see highlighted link above) that I recommended in a recent post and on Twitter. Below is their graphic on how the current one compares to the last two bear markets and the different phases discussed above.
Market Timing Indicators
As for the market timing indicators, which to remind you turned negative in February and were confirmed when the US Unemployment rate and other economic indicators indicated that a recession was coming in March. Despite the rally in April these still remain some way (about 12 to 14%) below their trend moving averages suggesting that one should still be cautious of the market from here. Indeed if you feel over exposed and didn't reduce before, the recent rally has probably given you a good opportunity to adjust if you don't want to ride it out for the long term.
With that in mind, on that same Real Investment Website mentioned earlier, there was a slightly alarming post about CSPA (crash statistical probability analyses) and Bull & Bear Tracker algorithms. These seem to have called the recent low and are now calling the end of the rally, as per previous bear markets. It is also making the following bold predictions:
Compound Income Portfolio
Which leads me onto the Compound Income Portfolio (CIP) based on the Scores, which as discussed last month is throwing caution to the wind despite the above discussion and continuing to invest through this bear market to see how that compares with the Market timing signal. So far one month into the experiment it is 1-0 to time in the market versus timing the market, but this is likely to be a marathon rather than a sprint and an easy win for market timing if the alarming post above is to be believed. As ever time will tell on that I guess.
So after March's record fall of 22.2% the CIP saw a record monthly rise or total return of 13.5% versus the 4.9% from the FTSE All Share. This meant that it had clawed its way back ahead of the FTSE All Share Year to date by 4.5%, but that just means it has produced fewer losses with -17% versus -21.5%. Since inception just over five years ago the CIP is now up 68.1% versus 7% from the FTSE All Share or 10.8% per annum versus 1.3%, which is nice. If you would like to see the full history of that in table form then click here or you can see a graph of that below.
Much of this months performance was accounted for by the unwinding of the under performance by Mid and Small Cap names, where the portfolio is overweight versus large cap names and which had driven the fall in the previous month. In addition 3 of the 4 purchases last month did pretty well with two up by over 30% and another up by over 10%. As I mentioned on the Blog during the month one of these was Jarvis (JIM) which has since reassured and then put out a trading ahead of expectations update - which I had manged to predict. So I'd say it is definitely worth focusing on individual names and see if you can see how they might come through this OK and try and avoid those that might not rather than getting too hung up on market level.
Against that 2 of the 3 sales I undertook last month didn't do much but one, Games Workshop (GAW) also went up by more than 30%. So you win some you lose some I guess. This was however on the basis that they were going to start selling on line again and despite some hefty downgrades which has now left it on over 30x earnings so I'm not sure I'd be buying that up here myself now. I maybe worried too much about the operational gearing on the down side. i also just wondered if all their customers would have as much disposable income to spend on their hobby and may even think more about spending their time on more important things like family and friends after all this perhaps? Any way fair play though to those that have held on, may you escape all your Dungeons and slay all your Dragons or whatever the hell it is that their games are all about?
Aside from that, as suggested last month, I did make one switch intra-month where one stock Ramsdens (RFX) had, I felt, recovered far enough and with downgrades it was now on a rather high 20x versus a more normal 10x maximum or so and it is still not operating. Now while Pawn Broking & gold trading might boom on the back of all this I felt that the FX business, which accounts for 40% of their profits, might be missing in action for longer through all this as it seem likely that foreign holidays and air travel may be slow to return, but I could be wrong as it went up another 13% since I sold it!
To replace that I bought a more defensive counter in the food manufacturing sector that came up with a good Score and which was in the main (80%) still trading. This was Finsbury Foods (FIF), which hasn't done much yet since, so maybe I shouldn't bother with the intra month trading? Nevertheless it looks pretty good value to me on around 6x their likely earnings this year (June year end), although they too have withdrawn their profits guidance and latest dividend for now. I would however expect them to pay some kind of final and they should mostly be back up and running in their next financial year. It also looks pretty well invested and as a result does carry some debt, but they have confirmed that they have enough financial flexibility as things stand so shouldn't need to issue shares etc. Now it is not the highest quality operation but as I say it should be fairly defensive (bread and cakes to food retailers 80% and 20% food service) and as such I could see it re-rating back towards its more normal 10x or so and therefore I'd look for it to recover towards 80p to 100p levels from where it has come recently for a potentially decent return of 33 to 66%, although again I could be wrong.
In terms of the Monthly Screening a couple of semi-operative retailers came up as natural sales. One had not been as defensive as I'd hoped (although I didn't expect retailers to get shut down) and although it's not the highest quality, it is at least very financially robust so I was in two minds, but nevertheless let it go given the uncertainty surrounding when and how retailing might return. The other one had recovered more and is more exposed indirectly to housing activity and is more discretionary in nature in terms of the spend. So given the portfolio has a few names that are either directly or indirectly exposed to housing demand, which I think may well be weak going forward - I sold that one too.
Against those I purchased a couple of Companies in different industries that are still operating and which are in the main not that badly affected by the Global Virus Crisis. Any way subscribers to the Scores will be able to see the detail of these and all the other transactions in their Scores sheets and be able to follow the success or otherwise of these. If you would like to join them for less than the price of a cup of coffee per week then click here to find out and sign up for access if that is of any interest to you.
Summary & Conclusion
Well we are certainly living through unprecedented times as everyone keeps saying. As a result we have seen unprecedented falls and rises in share prices in the last two months and May has already started with a down draught. Thus I won't be getting carried away with the bounce back in the market or the CI Portfolio this month. This is because based on my experience and prior bear markets we are probably in or have just gone through the reflexive rebound rally stage. We may already be in or may soon enter the drawn out fundamental downturn stage.
The market timing indicators that I follow also suggest that it is too early to turn bullish too. While an article about some algorithms is also suggesting another down leg starting about now and being done potentially in double quick time again, which would at least tie in with the first two phases of the Global Virus Crash (GVC) a term I'm looking to coin after the GFC last time. Beyond that, if it comes to pass, we might then get a longer drawn out bottoming & recovery phase which could also include some sharp rallies along the way. One other depressing thing that has occurred to me is that west seems to be following Japan, but with about a 10 year delay, although I know this is not an original thought. So as the Japanese market is still below its bubble highs after 30 years, it is depressing to think that on that basis the FTSE might still be below 7,000 in another 10 years time.
Having said all that there are always opportunities for stock picking even in a bear market or sideways trading pattern, you just need to be active and nimble to take advantage of them, although I'm doubtful of any ones ability to perfectly time the market but I'm sure there are some exceptions out there who can claim to disprove that. Consequently I'm keeping the CI Portfolio pretty much fully invested throughout while trying to pick my way through the fall out from the GVC by trying to gravitate towards stocks that might benefit from it like Jarvis (JIM) last month and one of this months purchases.
Consequently it will hopefully be interesting to see how this plays out against the on going bear market and whenever the timing indicators / economic indicators suggest that it is safe to go back in the market. As I like to say, I guess time will tell on that. Talking of which thank you for taking the time to get this far and if you have as a reward or punishment (depending on your view of my musical taste) I'll leave you this month with a few more music tracks. Take care, stay safe and take your time in investing your cash I'd say if you have any to invest and good luck when you do!
A quick note for subscribers in these difficult times. On the Scores sheet in addition to the usual Scores measuring financial security, operational quality, dividend cover, & estimate revisions amongst other things. I am planning from today's update to add the underlying data points for these to the sheet to help you with monitoring and filtering stocks financial health, earnings changes and resultant dividend cover etc. more directly as the crisis evolves and we start getting more financial updates and guidance from Companies. I would recommend looking in particular at the interest cover column at the moment as anything less than 3x here could well indicate a company that may get into financial trouble from this or be in need of extra funds depending on how badly their business is impacted.
Secondly just to note that one of the stocks that was added to the Compound Income Portfolio this month, Jarvis Securities (JIM) when I said "Bought on Score as still operating & probably benefiting from more client trading, looks very cheap compared to HL. & AJ Bell & has cash rich balance sheet.
The CEO has put out a reassuring letter to shareholders. In this they suggest that they will still pay an interim dividend on or around 11 June 2020, to shareholders on the register at 22 May 2020, in line with the Company's dividend policy and a further announcement will be made when this dividend is declared. He also added that, as I suspected would be the case, that they had seen a pick up in trading activity post the election and since the virus outbreak, in common with other financial platforms. More encouragingly and something I was concerned might hit them he also claimed that he believed the reduction in the Bank of England base rate should have a negligible effect on interest income.
So all in all good news and it has cash on the balance sheet and the CEO finished his letter by saying; "Finally, I would like to reassure Jarvis' shareholders and wider stakeholders that despite the seriousness of the current situation globally and the effect this will have for the economy we are not seeing a detrimental impact on the Jarvis business model at this time."
Just be aware though that it is right at the bottom end of the market cap. size that I normally invest in and has a small free float so as such it is not terribly liquid and therefore the spread can be quite wide too. See the graphic below for a comparison on Jarvis with Hargreaves Lansdown & A.J.Bell. Take care, stay safe and enjoy the rally in the market while it lasts.
Quite an interesting and tricky month for the screening with four potential sale candidates coming up based on their Scores. VP the plant hire group again fell into this category, but as I kept it in last time awaiting their results, I am going to do that again this month as these are due this week on the 5th June. The shares have had a good run into this week and the prior update was of the in line variety. So it seems unlikely that there should be any surprises unless they have deliberately kept expectations low so they can pleasantly surprise, perhaps. Lets hope they don't disappoint and leave me regretting my decision to await the results rather than selling before, which might have been the lower risk option. Other than that with the acquisition of Brandon Hire late last year it will also be worth watching out for an update on how the integration is going there for any problems or increase in the expected synergies & cost savings.
Another sale candidate that I decided to give the benefit of the doubt to was Hays Group (HAS) the staffing company which had a positive trading update and looks set for a strong year which ends this month. The main reason the score has fallen is due to no changes to the forecasts in the short term and a decline in the cover ratio as they are expected to pay a much larger dividend via the payment of a special dividend. Thus with the year end approaching I thought I'd await the year end up date & see if that leads to upgrades and an improvement in the Score again and the possibility of hanging on to collect the final and special dividends too. Alternatively I could have switched into the better scoring and similar company Robert Walters, but this was not much cheaper so I dismissed that idea to keep the trading costs down, which is one of the few costs that an investor can control.
The remaining two sales candidates which I let go through were Headlam Group (HEAD) & Jarvis Group (JIM). Of these I had given Headlam the benefit of the doubt previously and indeed topped it up last month. But having taken the final dividend their score has deteriorated again after their trading update this month led to downgrades. While it remains lowly valued and they seem to be taking action to manage the business against a difficult background, they acknowledge that achieving their targets will depend on a customary stronger second half & no continuation of recent weaker trends, which leaves them open to the risk of having to warn on profits later in the year. Equally it may all pan out as they hope and the shares might then re-rate on the back of relief over there being no profit warning, but as ever we'll have to wait and see on that.
As for Jarvis Group the score has deteriorated here after their somewhat cautious statement that accompanied their bumper full year figures. Thus the expected growth looks pretty lack lustre and there is no dividend growth forecast. Thus although it is probably fine for the long term it doesn't seem to offer that greater value on around 15x earnings. In addition the CIS portfolio has a lot of exposure to financials any way, with two fund management companies, so out it goes, but personally I'll probably continue to hold it myself for the long term as part of a more broadly diversified portfolio.
In terms of the replacement candidates a few interesting ideas came up including Phoenix Spree Deutschland (PSDL) which is a property fund that is now specializing in Berlin property. While I toyed with the idea, it seemed a bit too off piste for what I'm trying to demonstrate with the CISP but I might treat myself to a few for a bit more diversification. Aside from that Howden Joinery (HWDN) came up again as a potential re-entrant to the portfolio. But having sold Headlam on around 10x I was reluctant to replace it with another similarly exposed consumer cyclical on 15x, although it may be better quality. Meanwhile Henry Boot (BOOT) also came up as another that could have re-entered the portfolio. But since the portfolio has a housebuilder (Bellway) and plant hire via VP I decided to give that a miss too.
In addition I could have picked Abcam (ABC), Renishaw (RSW), Patisserie Holdings (CAKE), Advanced Medical Solutions (AMS) & even Fevertree Drinks (FEVR) but I overlooked these due to my value bias. It does highlight the fact that the Compound Income Scores are not just for yield stocks, but can highlight attractive, quality growth stocks too - hmm perhaps I should rename them the Compounding Scores? Or maybe as I have suggested in the past perhaps I should run an unconstrained portfolio based on the Scores, but of course if you subscribe to them yourself you're able to do that if you want.
Any way in the end I decided on a couple of cheaper alternatives in Renew Holdings (RNWH) which may not be the highest quality outfit, but the nature of their business (essential maintenance in the main) should provide a bit of stability. In addition they have seen some upgrades post their recent interims and made a reasonable looking acquisition too. This bolsters their exposure to railway maintenance and is expected to be materially earnings enhancing with the return on investment also expected to comfortably exceed their cost of capital. So on this basis I think there could be more upgrades to come and a possibility that the share which have sold off this year, could may be return toward their previous highs around 480p, perhaps.
Finally the other stock I settled on was Forterra (FORT) a brick making company, which trades quite cheaply, but looks to be trading well given the on going push to build houses and shortage of bricks which is leading them to invest in more capacity funded from their cash flow. Obviously not without its risk if the housing market or economy should suddenly go into reverse, but for now it seem fine so into the portfolio it goes. It does also add to the housing and construction exposure on top of Bellway & VP. The portfolio will also pick up the final dividend of 6.4p which goes XD on 14th June for an immediate yield of 2% which will help recover the cost of these trades.
So after those changes that leaves the CISP on a forward PE of around 14.5x with a forecast yield of 3.25% on the back of expected dividend growth of 13.2% which all seems OK to me. Don't forget if you'd like to Score your portfolio or get more ideas like these on a regular basis then check out the Scores link here or at the main menu at the top of the site or in the three bars if you are on a mobile.
... results today from Jarvis Investment Management (JIM) the small (£60m Market Cap.) stock broking outfit. The results were excellent, as expected, with the headlines of a 22% increase in profits and earnings together with a 34% increase in the dividend, although the Chairman's statement rather managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This was quite downbeat in tone given the increased regulatory requirements that their industry is facing. He said that considerable time and resources have been, and continue to be, spent preparing and satisfying the requirements of MIFID II and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). He went onto say:
"That these all come at a commercial cost for the firms' required to implement and enforce them. In the latter half of the year, and going forward, we will be incurring higher costs on software, data feeds and higher staff numbers to ensure policies are correctly implemented and monitored."
He then went onto talk about the growth the business has seen over the last few years and how it has now represents the maturing of Jarvis from small company beginnings. He finished off by saying:
"With that in mind I am urging investors to be realistic about near term results. As highlighted above our cost base has increased, so revenues will need to increase at a higher rate to maintain the growth of the past. That is not to say it cannot be done, especially if interest rates increase."
So he seems to be trying to dampen expectations after such a stellar year and suggesting that some growth will be required just to cover the extra costs and I guess if it doesn't materialise this year then the profits could even go backwards given the higher cost base.
It is however worth bearing in mind his comment about interest rates as they can and do earn quite a bit from cash on deposit with them and you never know the B of E might one day raise base rates from their emergency level of 0.5% given the inflation & employment situation.
So a bit disappointing to say the least and to see the shares off first thing, but probably not surprising given the statement, although the initial fall seemed a bit over done to me. We will have to wait and see where the forecasts come out given these figures probably beat expectation but the statement has probably tempered the potential for any upgrades or could even lead to downgrades. This should be clearer by the time of the next monthly re-screening of the CISP so will have to see how it looks then once the dust has settled.
Jarvis (JIM) has announced a Q1 dividend of 5p per share , which is up by 17.9% on last year.
I would expect they have continued to trade well in light of this and if anything the recent volatility may have meant they saw more trading activity too. This plus their previous positive updates leads me to suspect they will beat market forecasts for this year as these do not seem to have been updated. Just talking next years numbers as currently forecast leaves it on a reasonable looking 16x with a yield of likely over 4% as they have come back recently with the market.
There was also a trading update from Bellway (BWY) a long standing member of the CISP. This was for their first half which appears to suggest revenue growth in excess of 13%, which is roughly in line with rates of growth factored into current forecasts for the year as a whole. This came from a combination of 6.3% higher completions and increased selling prices of 7.8%, while they say the outlook is still positive despite the rise in interest rates in November. They also say they expect margins just above 22% for H1 and at that level for the full year if the market conditions remain the same.
In this positive trading environment, they say "interest from customers remains high, with website traffic and visitors to sales outlets both ahead of last year. Reservations have followed their usual seasonal trend, with the quieter, albeit positive, summer period followed by an increase in activity over the autumn months. The Group has taken 178 reservations per week (2017 – 166), an increase of 7.2% compared to the same period last year and the cancellation rate, a barometer of customer confidence, remains low at under 11% (2017 – under 12%)."
So overall sounds like a steady as she goes kind of update which probably won't lead to many changes in forecasts. The shares, as ever, look excellent value on around 8x with a 4% yield having come back £3 or so from their 12 month high recently which has left them looking a bit oversold.