This was the third quarterly re-screening since the portfolio was started and I have to say it was one of the hardest so far. Firstly I had to fight typical behavioural biases as I was tempted to apply some valuation constraints and thereby take some profits in some of the big risers. However, since I have not done this up to now and the behavioural bias I'm trying to avoid is selling winners too soon, I resisted the temptation again this time, although perhaps I will apply them with a full re-screening at the annual stage. Any way the other reason I avoided this was that using the 80 threshold on the Scores also suggested a rather excessive 6 sales, 2 of which seemed reasonable, 2 which seemed 50 / 50 and 2 which didn't seem to make that much sense. Thus for this quarter I went with 75 as the cut off which meant the 2 sales that seemed reasonable to me went ahead which I'll discuss in the next section.
After the strong recovery in October, November proved to be a bit more lack lustre with a small positive total return for the FTSE All Share of 0.57%. The Mid 250 led the way again, as it often does, with a 1.9% total return while FTSE 100 delivered a more modest 0.33% as the miners fell again after a strong bounce in October and the likes of Standard Chartered and Rolls Royce fell heavily on the back of corporate developments. Finally the Small Cap indices fell and produced a -0.33% total return.
Another positive month in terms of performance as the value of the portfolio increased by 3.13%. However, as you may re-call from yesterday's market update this lagged slightly behind the total return from the FTSE All Share Index which saw a +4.69% total return.
This is the first month in which the portfolio has been behind the index, but this is no surprise as up to now it has benefited from its bias towards mid and small cap / AIM stocks and a corresponding underweight in FTSE 100 stocks and some of the main sectors like Oils and miners which led the way down over the summer. As we saw in the market review it was FTSE 100 and some of these commodity stocks that led the way back up in October, while mid and small cap stocks overall recovered to a much lesser extent having gone down less beforehand. So therefore as I say no surprise that the portfolio lagged behind this recovery.
However it was pleasing to see the portfolio up by 3.13% which was more than the returns seen by the Mid Cap and Smaller indices. The winners that drove this performance this month were:
+26.7% 32 Red (TTR) the online casino & gambling business - a stunning performance from one of this months new holdings after the latest quarterly review at the end of September.
This just seemed to reflect a re-rating possibly in a belated response to their interims towards the end of September rather than any particular news flow this month.
+11.2% WH Smiths (SMWH) after well received results in the month.
+10.8% Maintel (MAI) - this smaller telecoms provider continued to respond positively to its results announced in September and broke out successfully from its trading range as I hoped it might.
On the downside the biggest losers were:
=5.4% RM Group (RM.) the education software provider a more subdued performance from another of this quarters new holdings, which sagged on no news but this may just reflect it closing at the bid rather than the offer last month.
-4.2% Renishaw (RSW) continued its de-rating from last month which has left this quality metrology Company looking better value on a mid teens PE.
-3.8% Howden Joinery (HWDN) the kitchen and joinery specialist is also de-rating but was probably down this month in sympathy with other repair and maintenance stocks as some of these reported weaker trading in recent months.
Summary & Conclusion
Another positive month for the portfolio with a +3.13% total return even if it was behind the broader index. This leaves it up by 11.62% since inception in April 2015. This compares to -3.73% from the FTSE All Share over the same time frame for an outperformance of 15.35%.
So a great start to the life of this portfolio but it is important to remember that given it only consists of 20 holdings and is completely different in construction from the index that we should expect the performance to differ widely from that of the index both in a positive and negative fashion. However if the Compound Income Scores are good at identifying attractive stocks then hopefully this divergence should be in a positive direction over time, so so far so good, but as I always say time will tell.
Meanwhile I have uploaded the updated Portfolio which you can view via the menu at the top of the website or via the drop down menu to the left on mobiles and tablets or by clicking here if that is of interest to you. Of note if I were doing a re-screen this month, which I'm not, the sell candidates on the back of post results down grades would have been IG Group (IGG) and Utilitywise (UTW) with scores of 64 and 71 respectively.
Finally If you are a new or recent reader - welcome and if you are wondering what the Scores are all about and want to learn more about them, then see the Scores heading in the menus mentioned earlier or click here to read & see more about them and how you can access them.
...as we have had a couple more updates from holdings in the portfolio. First up today we have had an Interim management statement for the 15 weeks to 11 October 2015 from Rank Group (RNK) which looks very good on the face of it. They have reported an 8% increase in like-for-like revenues for the period with total revenues increasing by 7%.
This seems to have been driven by 12% growth in total and LFL in the Grosvenor Casinos division. Mecca Bingo was ahead too but only by 1% total and 3% LFL. They say the growth in the Casinos division was driven by on line and London Casinos which augurs well for the roll out of their enhanced digital offering in Q1 2016. The growth in Mecca Bingo was apparently more balanced between venues and digital.
Steady as she goes here then as the full year revenue growth is forecast to be 8% and they seem broadly in line with that so far. Indeed on the outlook the Company said that the the Group's businesses continue to make progress in line with management's expectations and it remains confident in the Group's prospects for the year. Seems like a strong hold on a fullish looking 17x with a 2.4% yield and a CIS of 97 & a Stockopedia Rank of 96 - Bingo.
So it seems we are becoming a nation of gamblers as well as a nation of shop keepers, although personally I've never been in a Casino, apart from the Stock Market! Any way talking of shop keepers that brings me onto the other stock which reported today - the retailer W.H Smiths (SMWH). They reported full year results for the year to 31st August 2015. These are a bit of a conundrum because if you were starting out in business today you probably would not create it and it has been one of the most heavily shorted stocks in the UK market, although this is now at about 7% of the shares outstanding. Despite this as you can see from the chart at the end the shares continue to progress steadily.
As for the results these seem to be in line with forecasts with another 12 to 13% growth in the eps and dividends. This has again been driven by the travel business which saw 9% total revenue growth and 4% LFL. This helped to offset the on going decline in the high street stores which saw revenues decline by 4% in total and 3% LFL. They do however remain highly cash generative with £109m of free cash flow which has helped to fund the 13% increase in the dividend and another £50m share buy back programme. The high street stores also edge profits up on the back of more cost cutting.
So overall it seems like more of the same with shrinking high street stores delivering profits and cash flow on the back of on going cost cutting which helps to fund expansion in the travel business which benefits more from its captive audiences.
One has to wonder how much longer the cost cutting can go on and with recent publicity about retailers keeping VAT at airports and over charging at hospitals whether there could be regulatory intervention at some point on the travel side? Aside from that they shares also look fullish value on around 16.6x with a 2.8% yield for the year to August 2016. Despite this they still score well with a CIS of 98 and a Stockopedia Rank of 91, so on that basis they are likely to remain in the portfolio.
Finally in the portfolio I note that Maintel (MAI) has achieved the 800p level that I hoped they might achieve (where they now look over bought) when I reviewed their results.
With September having come and gone I'm sure investors will be glad to see the back of it as nearly all UK indices fell on the month. FTSE 100 again led the way down with its heavy weightings in commodity related stocks and produced a -2.86% total return while the All Share produce -2.73%. This reflected modest outperformance by mid and small cap names, but most of those also produced negative returns, with only the FTSE Fledgling index producing a positive return on the month with a total return of +0.12%.
For the Quarter it was a similar pattern with FTSE leading the way down with a -6.13% total return down to the Fledgling Index being the best performer again but that was still a -1.65% total return.
Market Timing Indicators
When I last looked at these at the end of August there were mixed signals from these moving average based indicators, with large cap indices indicating sell / cash, while mid and small cap indices were still above their 10 month moving averages and therefore in buy / invested territory.
After September's fall across the board all the indicators have now turned negative to suggest sell / cash although the small cap and Mid cap indices are only 1.1% and 1.6% below their moving averages. So a rally in October could turn those positive again whereas another fall would obviously leave them more in bearish territory. In contrast the large cap indices seem to be firmly into a bear trend as they are 6.3% to 7.4% below their moving averages, so it will take a big rally in October to turn these around in the short term.
So these trend following indicators are now suggesting a cautious approach may be best for now as the trend in the market may have turned negative now. I say may as these have given a number of negative signals which have then been rapidly reversed as the market traded sideways, but the recent sell off has been more decisive and may therefore mark a turn. However as we have passed St Ledgers day and we are approaching a seasonally stronger period I guess time will tell.
Mechanical Compound Income Scores Portfolio
Regular readers will know that this is a portfolio that I set up back in April this year based on top decile stocks in the Compound Income Scores. The portfolio which is skewed towards mid and small cap / AIM stocks has benefited from this in previous months and September saw a continuation of this trend. As a result the portfolio delivered a positive total return of +1.78% compared to the -2.73% for the FTSE All Share mentioned earlier, representing another 4.51% of outperformance this month.
This reflect the markedly different make up of the portfolio compared to the index and leaves it with a total return of
+8.24% since inception in April 2015, which compares with -8.05% from the All Share for outperformance of 16.28%.
Interestingly the annually re-balanced portfolio which has remained untouched since the start has produced +8.63% in the six months or so since inception reflecting the large commonality in stocks so far and slightly less in the way of frictional transaction costs.
However I'm not getting carried away with the success so far as, given the different make up of the portfolio, performance is likely to be volatile in both directions and it just so happens it has been in a positive direction so far. At least it is encouraging that the Scores have so far been able to identify attractive stocks even in a difficult market.
Talking of attractive stocks 14 of the 20 holdings were up this month despite the market falls and the big winners were Utilitywise (UTW) which bounced back by 24% from the previous months sell off. While the illiquid Maintel (MAI) rose by 13% from the bottom of its recent trading range to the top on the back of some decent results. Others that also benefited from good results were EMIS the healthcare software group (+11.3%) and IG Group (IGG) the spread betting / stock broking firm (+5.4%). While the big winners in the quarter were Alliance Pharma (APH), Finsbury Foods (FIF) and Rank (RANK)
On the downside Diploma (DPLM) -8.3% and A.G. Barr (BAG) -6.8% fell on the back of lack lustre updates in September. While Renishaw (RSW) -7.8% continued to drift off from an expensive rating post results earlier in the quarter. These names were also the biggest fallers over the quarter too.
Summary & Conclusion
So a tricky September has left markets and headline indices looking damaged with trends potentially broken to the downside for now with the often difficult month of October still to come. It will be interesting to see if investors regain some confidence and come back in for so bargains to produce a traditional year end rally or if the markets are sending an early warning sign of economic trouble on the horizon - China slow down, US rate rise etc.
However as ever it remains a market of stocks and it is always possible to find some attractive stocks and make some money, but like King Canute this may not be possible if the tide has really changed. Any way that's all I have time for now, good luck with your investing in these difficult times. I'll do the quarterly re-screen of the portfolio today as planned and report back later with the changes.