...well it feels like mid winter what with all the snow and cold weather recently and the chill blowing through the stock market this year too. Thus although it still feels like mid winter outside here in the UK, we are already at the end of the first quarter. Thus we have the March update for the Monthly timing indicators which have also cooled decidedly recently too.
Now after this months further decline in markets I can report that all the UK indices are now negative and trading some 2 to 3% below their respective moving averages. So these suggest that a cautious approach is still warranted, but the economic indicators still do not suggest a recession is on the immediate horizon, so to avoid being whipsawed I would suggest continuing to ignore these signals for now. But I will be keeping a close eye on the stats and bond yields, inflation etc. for signs of trouble ahead. Having said that though I note that the FTSE chart has made a death cross this month (when a short term moving average cuts down through a longer term one) which is a negative signal as far as chartist are concerned - so perhaps I should not be too complacent, especially with the Nifty four Fang stocks losing their bite recently & the threat of a Trump trade war rising.
Any way as for the Compound Income Scores portfolio (CISP) the performance here in March also cooled as it ended the month down by 2.2% in total return terms, although this did compare favourably with the FTSE All Share which was down by 2.8% on the same basis. This leaves the CISP down by 5.15% year to date which means it has lost value more slowly than the FTSE All Share this year which is down by 7.14%. Since inception in April 2015 the CISP has produced a total return of 60% compared to 17.2% from the FTSE All Share and has outperformed in 26 out of 36 months or roughly 72% of the time which is not a bad strike rate.
I'll try and do a more in depth review of the performance and some commentary on the stocks and any changes from this months screening on Easter Monday and I hope to be able to make an offer for readers to try the Scores for free, so if you are bored this weekend don't forget to check back then.
As I'm sure you are aware by now February was a poor month for stock markets and the UK was no different. The larger indices led the way down with the FTSE 100 producing a -2.55% total return. Mid and Small Cap stocks held up slightly better this month again but they also produced negative returns, so there was no place to hide from the down draught. This has brought the main larger and broader indices such as FTSE 100, 350 and All Share below their simple 10 month moving averages by 0.8%., 0.7% & 0.6% respectively. While the Small Cap and Mid Cap indices, having held up slightly better in the sell off remain just above their moving averages by 1% and 0.1% respectively for now.
Thus a mixed picture on these indicators which ordinarily would suggest a note of caution towards the market in the main and could suggest the start of a more bearish trend generally. As discussed here before however, these type of indicators can be vulnerable to whipsawing - where they force you to sell out and then buy back in higher up when they then subsequently turn positive again. Thus I tend to use these as a guide to overall market mood, but I am not following the signals in the short term unless they are confirmed by economic indicators like economic growth generally and in particular the US Unemployment rate, ISM indices and the shape of the yield curve.
Since these other indicators are all currently in positive territory I'm not inclined to take action based on the market timing indicators other than thinking that it might represent a buying opportunity in the short term - perhaps. Having said that though it is worth bearing in mind that the general consensus is that we have entered the late stage of this particular cycle. Now while last year was unusually calm and profitable making many novice investors think that this game is easy and that they investment gods, I suspect this year will be much more testing. Indeed the late stage of the stock market cycle is typified by increased volatility and the market has certainly been taking no prisoners on the hint of any disappointment so far this year.
Now that's not to say that the market can't go higher from here if the earnings and dividend growth that is expected is delivered. It is just that progress from here is likely to be much less serene and will probably be more a case of two steps forward and one step back. We will however of course have to keep an eye on how "events" pan out and see if all the concerns about rising inflation, interest rates, wages, trade tariffs, BREXIT etc. etc. finally prove sufficient to derail economies and stock markets. So given the icy weather and the cooler tone in the market wrap up warm and be careful out there as sliding down hill on snow and in the markets can be painful.
Just a quick update on the performance of the Compound Income Scores Portfolio (CISP). After such a promising start it was a fairly disappointing month in the end. FTSE 100 and the broader FTSE All Share Index both ended the month with total returns of nearly -2%, while the Mid 250 stocks did slightly worse with -2.24%. As is often the way at the start of a sell off (if that's what this is) the Fledgling & Small Cap Indices held up better with Small Caps flat and Fledgling stocks actually delivering positive returns of 1.83%. The more general weakness seems to have been led by nervousness about rising bond yields on the back of the gradual withdrawal of Central Bank Quantitative Easing or QE being therefore replaced by Quantitative Tightening or QT.
So onto the CISP and its returns for the month of January were similarly drab but were at least just about positive at +0.06%. This compared to the 1.93% loss from the FTSE All Share giving 2% of out performance on the month. Since inception of this portfolio in April 2015 it is now up by 68.8% which equates to an annualised return of 25.3%, albeit that this has been achieved in a very favourable market background. Within the portfolio it was pleasing to see one of last months new purchases - Miton Group (MGR) - coming in as the top performer with a near 20% rise, while Hays Group and Bodycote delivered 11.5% and 6.6% respectively on the back of their updates. On the downside the laggards were Games Workshop (-10%), Jupiter Fund Management (-6.1%) & Bellway (-4.3%) which all probably succumbed to profit taking after previous strong performance.
Personally since I'm be using the Compound Income Scores, together with Stockopedia Stock Ranks more this year to manage my portfolios I was also able to benefit from the rise in Miton Group too. I firmly believe that these quant models can be a great help in identifying shares that outperform, as demonstrated by CISP and other portfolios based on ranking sytems. If you are not familiar with the Compound Income Scores (which have been updated for subscribers today) you can read more about the background to them and how to get access to them if you want by clicking here.
Finally we have the US Unemployment data with the non-farm payrolls today. These should still be fine, while the main FTSE Indices all still remain about 2.2 to 2.4% above their moving averages, with the Small Cap index is nearly 4% above. So these still suggest that we should not be that worried about the sell off just yet, although I guess it could develop into something nasty given valuations and the levels of complacency that have built up over the last few years on the back of QE which meant that corrections were few and far between recently.
October passed off positively for investors in the UK despite hurricane force winds and the 30th anniversary of the Black Monday Stock Market crash in 1987. The positive total return of 1.9% for the FTSE All Share on the month & slightly higher returns for the Mid and Small cap indices has left them all still 4 to 5% above their 10 month moving averages. This plus the fact that the economic indicators are still sending out positive signals, although it will interesting to see today if the US Non Farm Payrolls can bounce back from their hurricane driven decline last month. This all suggests that one should continue to ride this extended bull market despite its age and the stretched valuations in some cases, especially with the usual seasonally strong period to come too.
It was also another excellent month for the Compound income Scores Portfolio (CISP) which saw a total return of 4.8% on the month. This leaves the CISP up by 33.1% year to date and by 61.1% since inception in April 2015 compared to 9.8% & 22.5% from the FTSE All Share over the same time periods. This months performance was driven by 5 stocks which produced double digit gains with XL Media & XP Power both up over 20% on the month. At the other end of the scale there were fewer losers with just two stocks, Ferrexpro and Character Group down by double digits amounts. Somewhat surprisingly Character Group still scores well, despite the recent profits warning, as this years numbers were maintained and it was only next years numbers that were reduced, it therefore remains in the portfolio.
In light of the strong performance this year, some stocks had got rather large and meant a concentration risk in one sector, so breaking all the old adages about running winners, in addition to the regular sales based on a CIS score of less than 75, I also trimmed some of the winners like XP Power & XL Media on valuation grounds and sector concentration risk respectively. The proceeds of this re-balancing and the regular sales were then used to add five new holdings to take the total number up to 25 from 24 previously. You can see the full performance statistics and further details of the portfolio by clicking the highlighted link above.
Just a brief update on the Monthly timing indicators for the UK markets which I have been producing for a while now, plus a few other things. If you are a new reader or not familiar with these timing indicators and the background to them then please see the archive of articles by clicking here or in the list of categories on the right of the website or at the bottom of the page if you are on a mobile or tablet.
Now you may be worried about this as we saw negative returns from FTSE 100 & FTSE 350 in September, although Mid Cap and Smaller Companies continued to provide positive returns. This trend was probably helped by the continued recovery in the pound from its BREXIT induced collapse which at the time was a bigger benefit to the more international larger companies. These returns leave the various indexes 2.5% to 2.9% above their respective moving averages in the case of the larger focused indices like FTSE 100, 350 & All Share, while the Mid 250 & Small cap indices are 4.5% & 5% above respectively.
Meanwhile the other economic indicators that I follow to enhance the signal from the equity indices are still looking robust, although US Unemployment has ticked up recently and could soon threaten its moving average if that trend is maintained. So it will be important to watch this weeks non farm payrolls on Friday, although the forecasts are for reasonable numbers and an unchanged unemployment rate.
So overall noting too much to worry about on this front, aside from the continued high valuations on Wall Street, although this is not a good indicator for timing the market short term it does suggest that returns going forward from this point are likely to be low. Apart from that it is October, Donald Trump is President of the US & the Federal reserve and maybe one day the Bank of England are talking about raising rates & withdrawing QE. So this bull market could be on borrowed time as well as money so maybe we could even end up with another crash as the 30th Anniversary of the 1987 crash is coming up. If any of you are too young to remember that it is otherwise known as Black Monday.
Talking of crashes and market corrections there was a good interview over at PIWorld (who do some investing & corporate video aimed at Private investors) with my former colleague John Rosier talking about market corrections etc. if that is of interest and you haven't seen it already, then you can watch it below or at the PI World site via the link above.
Otherwise I hope you continue to enjoy the ride in this on going bull market which seems to have been especially kind to small investors in the last year or so. I know as I have seen quite a few fellow investors posting their year to date returns and talking about 20%+ and in some cases 30%+ returns in the year to date. Thus I guess it is not that unique that the Compound income Scores Portfolio was up again last month by 1% and has now produced a total return of 27% year to date too. So as everyone is probably feeling like an investing genius this year I'll not go into the detail as no one will be interested any way. Just don't forget pride comes before a fall and markets are no always this easy.
Finally, as you know I like my music, so I'll leave you with an updated Wall Street Shuffle, which seems appropriate music for markets in recent years. Plus I was saddened to hear about the untimely death of Tom Petty last night, so I also provide one of his classic tracks below which hopefully as investors we won't be doing any time soon - enjoy and happy safe investing.