Monday, February 13, 2017

Observations and Sample of Recent Trades (VGSTX, GMRE, AMU, EBAY, MS): 2/15//2017

Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

On the day Obama imposed very mild sanctions on Russia for interfering in the U.S. election, Michael Flynn called the Russian Ambassador to discuss issues. 

He has denied that he discussed the sanctions imposed that day. 

The Vice President went on National TV and denied flat out that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador. Face the Nation transcript January 15, 2017: Pence- CBS News

As it turns out, the NSA of course was listening to the conversation according to numerous sources, and Flynn did talk about the sanctions. 

The WashingtonPost cited nine sources: National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say - The Washington PostNational Security Adviser Mike Flynn, Security Risk

"Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president."

There is a legal issue about whether Flynn violated the Logan Act in talking to the Russian ambassador. An interesting issue is who asked him to initiate the conversation. I would suspect Donald told him to make the call in order to assure Russia that a different policy would be followed when Trump became President.  

Trump has not said a word in Flynn's defense. 

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's job security in jeopardy - CBS News

Reince Priebus is being attacked publicly as incompetent. Trump friend says Priebus is ‘in way over his head’ - The Washington Post

We have not even made it through a month yet, and the Chief of Staff and the National Security Advisor may be looking for new employment.


Bond Buying-Small Lot Trades:

I am buying bonds in 1 and 2 bond lots.

In the event interest rates move up and bond prices fall, I have the financial capability to average down with more 1 and 2 bond purchases. I will also have proceeds from maturing bonds and CDs to reinvest at higher yields.

I am more likely to add to intermediate term bond positions since I would not anticipate meaningful downward price adjustment on the short end.

The bonds discussed in Item # 1 below would likely be examples where I would buy more with the proceeds of maturing bonds and CDs.

Brokerage commissions are not a relevant cost factor since I pay the same commission at Fidelity or Interactive Brokers when I buy one bond five times or 5 bonds at the same time. I pay $5 in both scenarios.  

I do not pay a commission to buy newly issued CDs or fixed coupon treasuries in my Schwab and Fidelity accounts. Since I have to pay a commission to Schwab when buying treasury strips or TIPs, I will not use that broker to buy those securities, but will instead use Vanguard or Fidelity where I can buy those securities commission free.

The treasury strips and TIPs will only be bought in ROTH IRA accounts for tax reasons. When held in a taxable account, the taxpayer would have to pay taxes on "income" that is not received. I am philosophically opposed to doing that.

1. Intermediate Term Bond Ladder Basket Strategy-Underweighted

A. Bought 1 Northern States Power 2.6% First Mortgage Bond Maturing on 5/15/23


FINRA Page: Bond  Detail (prospectus linked at Finra page)

Moody's RatingAa3 (01/31/2014)
Standard & Poor's RatingA (05/14/2013)
Fitch RatingA+ (12/22/2016)

YTM at Total Cost (99.915) = 2.632%

Fitch Rates Northern States Power Company-Minnesota's FMBs 'A+'

Northern States Power is an electric utility company and a wholly owned subsidiary of Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL).

B. Bought 2 EBAY 2.6% Senior Unsecured Notes Maturing on 7/15/22:

Finra Page Bond Detail (prospectus linked at Finra Page)

Moody's RatingBaa1 (07/20/2015)
Standard & Poor's RatingBBB+ (07/20/2015)
Fitch RatingBBB (09/27/2016)

YTM at Total Cost (97.892 ) = 3.023%

In July 2105, Fitch downgraded Ebay's senior unsecured debt to BBB from A- due to the PayPal separation. Moody's downgraded to Baa1 from A2 for the same reason.

2016 4th Quarter Earnings Report

C. Bought 1 Morgan Stanley 2.5% Senior Unsecured Maturing on 4/21/21

FINRA PAGE: Bond Detail

Moody's RatingA3 (04/21/2016)
Standard & Poor's RatingBBB+ (04/18/2016)
Fitch RatingA (12/13/2016)

YTM at Total Cost (99.321 ) =  2.671%

2.  Short Term Bond/CD Ladder Basket Strategy

A. Bought 2 Praxair 1.25% Senior Unsecured Bonds Maturing on 11/7/18

FINRA Page:  Bond Detail (prospectus linked at Finra Page)

YTM at Total Cost (99.732) = 1.406%

Moody's assigns A2 ratings to Praxair's new notes

Company Website: Industrial Gases, Supply, Equipment & Services | Praxair, Inc.

SEC Filings

2016 3rd Quarter Earnings Report

Last Bond Offering Prospectus (February 2016: 3.2% senior unsecured maturing in 2026)

B. Bought 2 Lakeside Bank .55% CDs (monthly interest) maturing on 6/19/17

C. Bought 2 Bank of China .55% CD Maturing on 4/17/17:

I have another Bank of China CD, with a .75% coupon bought in late December, that matures on 4/19/17. I am continuing to group maturities in the Spring and summer as I anticipate a .25% FF hike on or prior to the FED's July meeting. 

3. Equity REIT Common and Preferred Stock Basket Strategy

A. Bought 50 GMRE as a Potential Trade (used Commission free trade)

Quote: Global Medical REIT Inc. (GMRE)

I may average down with another 50 share purchase when and if the price sinks below $8.

GMRE is a new and small externally managed REIT that owns healthcare properties. The market cap at the $8.36 price is close to $148M. The initial public offering occurred last June with stock sold to the public at $10 per share. Prospectus

Website: Global Medical REIT

This REIT has been busy acquiring properties since its IPO:

2/1/17 Press Release: Global Medical REIT Inc. Provides Acquisition Update

1/4/2007 Press Release: Global Medical REIT Inc. Provides Acquisition Update

12/21/16 Press Release Global Medical REIT Inc. Provides Acquisition Update

11/30/16 Press Release: Global Medical REIT Inc. Provides Acquisition Update

10/10/16 Press Release: Global Medical REIT Inc. Announces Closing of Multiple Acquisitions of Medical Properties

Prior Trades: I owned this stock briefly last year and managed to exit the position profitably which was not easy to do. I discussed selling 150 shares in Comment Blog # 7 (12/17/16 at 10:31 A.M.)

I discussed those purchases in my SA Comment Blogs. I realized a short term capital gain of $121.75. (snapshots at Stocks, Bonds & Politics: Gateway Post: Equity REIT Common and Preferred Stock Basket Strategy).

My most recent discussion was in a comment published here.

Given that this REIT is new, I do not anticipate that the dividend will be covered by cash flow.  The last earnings report had negligible revenue and negative cash flow. 2016 3rd Quarter Financial Report 

The market reacted negatively to that report. The close prior to the release was $8.51 and at $7.82 on the date of the release (11/10/16) with an intra-day low of $6.73. GMRE Historical Prices  It is hard to fathom what investors were expecting.

I would anticipate an improvement when GMRE reports its 4th quarter results, but it will be awhile before the quarterly dividend of $.2 per share is even supported by FFO, let alone FAD.

I am not going to buy more than 150 shares of this REIT until the dividend is well covered by cash flow. Until then, I am in a flipping mode.

Global Medical REIT Inc. Announces Cash Dividend of $0.20 Per Share

4. Continued Paring Stock Allocation:

A. Sold 209+ AMU at $21.27

Profit: Net of +$267.66

As shown in the preceding snapshot, I had to average down after I made a less than optimal purchase on 7/13/2015. Since this ETN has a good dividend yield, I am satisfied harvesting the net profit after receiving several quarterly dividends.

I see own 100 AMU shares and 231+ shares of the functionally equivalent AMJ which tracks the same index.

B. Eliminated the Vanguard Star Fund (VGSTX) Position at $24.36:

VGSTX is a low cost fund of funds with a expense ratio which includes only the expenses charged by the funds owned by VGSTX. The fund does not charge investors for a fee above those expenses. It is a balanced fund that is weighted 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds. Sponsor's Website: Vanguard - Vanguard STAR Fund (MUTF:VGSTX)(expense ratio .34%)

I previously pared this position by selling shares bought with dividends. Item # 2. Pared Highest Cost Vanguard Star Fund shares Bought With DIVIDENDS: Update For Portfolio Management And Positioning As Of 10/24/15 - South Gent | Seeking Alpha I then sold my highest cost 45.523 shares bought with dividends for a profit of $51.07. 

This fund has a 4 star rating from Morningstar.
I am concerned about both stock and bond valuations. The Vanguard Star Fund has a weighting in low yielding investment grade quality bonds through its ownership of the Vanguard Long-Term Investment Grade Fund, the Vanguard GNMA Fund, and the Vanguard Short Term Investment Grade Fund.  

In the event of a major downdraft in the stock market, those bond funds would probably enable the Vanguard Star fund to outperform the S & P 500. However, if interest rates are rising during that stock market decline,  those funds would be going down as well. During times of extreme stress such as October 2008-March 2009, even high quality corporate bonds went down in price. U.S. treasuries managed to produce gains during that period.   
The preceding links to the investor class funds. I am not sure why this fund does not own the slightly lower cost Admiral Class shares which require a $50K minimum. 
Those bond funds will likely restrain the performance going forward IMO even if stocks continue to move up. 
My out-of-pocket investments were made in 2009 and 2010: 

The remaining shares were purchased with dividends. 

Vanguard only provides at its website the dividends paid for the past two years:  Vanguard - STAR Fund - Distributions

Profit Snapshot = +$3,782.44

Quote: Vanguard STAR Fund (VGSTX:MFD)

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor but simply an individual investor who has been managing my own money since I was a teenager. In this post, I am acting solely as a financial journalist focusing on my own investments. The information contained in this post is not intended to be a complete description or summary of all available data relevant to making an investment decision. Instead, I am merely expressing some of the reasons underlying the purchase or sell of securities. Nothing in this post is intended to constitute investment or legal advice or a recommendation to buy or to sell. All investors need to perform their own due diligence before making any financial decision which requires at a minimum reading original source material available at the SEC and elsewhere. A failure to perform due diligence only increases what I call "error creep". Stocks, Bonds & Politics: ERROR CREEP and the INVESTING PROCESS Each investor needs to assess a potential investment taking into account their personal risk tolerances, goals and situational risks. I can only make that kind of assessment for myself and family members.


  1. South Gent,

    MS and ebay are both good quality companies. However, MS is leveraged and eBay's balance sheet is mostly intangible assets. Are their bonds suitable for an intermediate bond ladder?

    1. I can not offer an opinion on whether those bonds are suitable to you. I can only say that I am not currently concerned about the credit risk of those issuers given my risk tolerances, situational risks (none) and financial circumstances.

      Ebay's earnings report for the 2016 4th quarter was fine from a bond owner's point of view IMO.

      I certainly did not see anything in that report that would cause me to question Ebay's ability to service its debt.

      There is also a lot of cash on the balance sheet.

      Ebay had no trouble selling last March $1.5B in senior unsecured debt.

      I own two other Ebay senior unsecured bonds maturing in 2019.

      I will generally keep my exposure to Ebay issued securities between zero and $6,000. I am now at $4K with senior unsecured bonds.

      As to MS, I will keep generally cap my exposure to MS issued securities at $5K. My highest cap is $15K. That lower cap is in part to the risks inherent in a leveraged business model and that risk is driven home by what happened to MS during the Near Depression. I would not view the MS business model to be as risky now as it was in 2008. Over the past 8+ years, I have moved into and out of the MS common and preferred stocks, particularly MSPRA, and no longer have a position in any security lower in the capital structure than senior unsecured debt. So I am light in my exposure now to MS.

      Circumstances do change, sometimes quickly, that can change the risk profile of a bond. I doubt that many owners of Lehman bonds in the 2007 summer thought there would be a BK filed in September 2008. So events have to monitored continually.

    2. I still own 30 shares of the ETB EBAYL that was bought with a commission free trade, though I have sold the lot bought in a Roth IRA.

      EBAYL has a potentially long duration.

  2. The White House appears to be chaotic to me. Another example occurred today when Ms. Conway asserted that Trump still had confidence in his National Security Advisor Flynn. Later in the day, Sean Spicer would not confirm that Trump still had confidence and was still evaluating the situation.

    Then you have Trump conducting a foreign policy meeting in the terrace just above the Mar-a-Lago public restaurant where restaurant patrons took pictures for their Facebook pages:

    Stephen Miller told the media last Sunday that no one can question Donald Trump's national security actions.

    "The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned."

    He does have that SS aura and look. Maybe he reminds me more of Reinhard Heydrich and sort of looks like a younger version too:

    The authoritarian streak in Trump is pretty clear to me, as is the major trend toward millions of U.S. voters willing to embrace or at least accept an authoritarian leader who persistently attempts to undermine institutions essential to a properly functioning democracy.

    Beyond Lying: Donald Trump’s Authoritarian Reality

    With a willing enough base, Hannah Arendt noted that a leader "could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”

    Hannah Arendt: "The Origins of Totalitarianism"

  3. "Stephen Suttmeier, technical research analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, predicted the S&P 500 will rally to 2,445-2,460 by July on its way to 3,000 by 2019, and then hit 5,000 by 2024."

    I like to note these predictions.

  4. Barron's Technical Analyst"

    "Energy Stocks Are on Sale And on Verge of Breakouts"

    Over the past week or so, I have been adding Lotto size purchases in the small cap Canadian E & P space.

    The latest buy was 100 shares of Surge Energy:
    C$2.77 Change -0.04 -1.42%
    Volume 955,399
    Feb 13, 2017, 4:00 p.m

    I have been adding, as previously discussed, small positions in energy CEFs and ETFs.

  5. Before Trump fired Sally Yates as the Acting Attorney General, she told the Trump Administration that "Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said."

  6. "Treasury yields jump as Yellen seen priming the market for more rate hikes"

    iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF
    $104.53 Change -0.54 -0.51%
    Volume 1.16m
    Feb 14, 2017 11:50 a.m.

    I did not see anything in her testimony that would signal a FF hike next month. She said it was to early to gauge the impact of Trump stimulus plans since no plan has been submitted to Congress yet.

    The testimony is consistent with at least two FF hikes this year. My current view is that the first one will occur in July and the second in December. I still view 3 hikes this year as more likely than 1. This kind of forecast is relevant for me now primarily in building maturity clusters in the May-July 2017 and November 2017-January 2018 time periods.I hopefully will be able to roll over the proceeds at higher short term rates.


    If there was not a recording of Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador, he would still be denying that he discussed the sanctions imposed for Russia's interference in the U.S. Presidential election on behalf of Donald.

    Even now, Flynn would only admit in his resignation letter that he "inadvertently" gave Pence and others "incomplete information" about his discussions with Russia's Ambassador to the U.S.

    It is however still two open questions.

    Did Trump asked Flynn to discuss Obama's sanctions and to inform the Russians that a change in policy was coming in a few weeks? I suspect that Donald did urge Flynn to do what he did.

    The other question involves the communication made by the Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, made shortly before her being fired by Trump, to the White House counsel informing that person about the recording and the potential for Russia to blackmail Flynn. What did he do with the information? Who did he tell? Apparently the VP was not told, but did he tell Trump or did he go through Bannon or Miller?

    Another issues is whether the republicans in Congress will even permit an investigation of those issues. I seriously doubt it.

    They will probably not investigate whether top secret national security issues were in fact discussed in the open air terrace of a public restaurant either. You will not see the hypocrites getting on their high horses when the shoe is on the other foot.

    Any of the three replacements being discussed would be better than Flynn anyway.

    1. I hope that I am wrong about the republicans sweeping the Flynn matter under the rug.

      The Russians are not happy with his departure:

      "Russian lawmakers rush to the defense of Trump’s ex-national security adviser"

  7. Flynn and Trump: Some issues have been cleared up today.

    Trump knew for 17 days that Flynn was lying about his discussions with the Russian ambassador.

    On 12/29/16, Obama imposed sanction on Russia for its interference in the recent Presidential election.

    Flynn discusses those sanctions with the Russian ambassador and then Putin stated on 12/30 that he would not retaliate. Trump published a tweet praising Putin that day.

    Having intercepted the call, the FBI folds that conversation into its ongoing investigation of Russia meddling in the U.S. election to support Trump.

    On 1/11/2016, Trump denies categorically that any member of his staff had discussions with Russia while Obama was still President. He also denied that Russia had compromising information on him.

    On 1/12/17, the failing Washington Post reported that there had been contacts between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador.

    On 1/13/17, Spicer denied that this conversation was about sanctions and that Flynn had only called to schedule a meeting with the Ambassador after Trump become President.

    On 1/15/17, VP Pence categorically denies that Flynn discussed sanctions.

    On 1/19/17, the the directors of the CIA and National Intelligence, as well as the acting Attorney General, want to inform the WH that Flynn is lying. The Director of the FBI, James Comey, who was of such assistance to Trump in the election, vetoed that idea and wanted to keep it private.

    On 1/20 or 1/21, the FBI interviews Flynn about his conversation with the Russian ambassador. It would be fair to assume that they had a transcript of the conversation. Lying to the FBI is a felony.

    ON 1/23/17, Spicer reaffirms that Flynn had told him categorically that sanctions were not discussed.

    On 1/26/2017, Sally Yates goes ahead and tells the White House counsel Donald McGahn that Flynn was lying and expressed the FBI's concerns about Flynn being potentially subject to blackmail, the White House counsel discussed the matter with Trump that day.

    On 1/30/17, Trump fires Sally Yates for betraying the Justice Department that purportedly involved her unwillingness to enforce the Muslim Ban.

    In response to Yates' discloser, other than to fire her, Trump does nothing and allows Flynn to carry on as national security director

    On 2/9, the failing Washington Post, a leader of the Lying Press, ran a story that multiple sources had confirmed that Flynn had discussed sanctions. Pence is told about the FBI transcript.

    On 2/10, Flynn changes his story, saying he no longer can be 100% certain that sanctions were not discussed. Trump tells reporters that he knows nothing about the WP stories.

    On 2/13, Conway tells the nation that Trump has full confidence in Flynn and Spicer contradicts her in an hour saying the President is reviewing the matter.

    Late on 2/13, the Washington Post runs a story that the Sally Yates had told the White House counsel in late January that Flynn was not telling the truth and warned the Trump Administration that he was potentially subject to Russian blackmail.

    Flynn resigns saying that he "inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador."

    Without the WP, Trump would have allowed Flynn to continue national security advisor.

  8. The parallels with Watergate are striking, particularly regarding the role of the press.

  9. Bloomberg published a list of national security lapses committed by the Trump Administration over a three week period.

    No doubt, we will be hearing the True Believers chant "Lock Him Up" any day now.

    There are several reports that Putin has violated the nuclear arms treaty with the U.S.:

    CBS also had an interview with a Canadian woman, a citizen of Canada and a Muslim, who was denied entry into the U.S. with her child after being questioned by border guards about her religion and whether she liked President Trump. She was held for five hours. The border guards did not like her prayer videos on his cellphone and told her go back home.

    Trump says he is only deporting illegals who are hardened criminals, the worst-of-the-worst. What Trump has actually done is expand the definition of "criminal" to include minor offenses.

    A Mexican woman who has been living in the U.S. for 20 years and had two American born teenagers was deported for using many years ago a fake ID to secure a job. Her children were left in the U.S.

    Trump supporters are thrilled.

    I suspect there will be another EO on immigration that will be tailored to remove some of the constitutional issues. The government has been engaged in what I would call bad lawyering since the original EO was signed by Trump. For example, the ban did not exclude legal U.S. residents. Homeland Security saw the constitutional problems and interpreted the ban initially as inapplicable to those legal U.S. residents. They were overruled by the SS twins and later the White House Counsel who saw the problem overruled the SS twins. However, Trump never signed a revised order and the White House Counsel has no authority to change the order through a memo written by him.

    The Seattle judge who issued the TRO denied the government's motion to stay further proceedings. This means that discovery, including depositions, can proceed in preparation for a trial on the merits. It also means that the temporary injunction has been extended into an indefinite one.

    The Ninth Circuit has asked the parties to file briefs by 2/16 on whether an 11 judge panel should review the 3 judge panel's decision after one of the 25 judges requested it. This is called a hearing en banc.


  10. "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence"

    "Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials."

  11. I noticed a lack of emails... so sure enough, new blogs.

    It's been an interesting and depressing news cycle. So likely we have a president Trump because of Russia. That's inexcusable.

    Turns out firing Attorney General Sally, may have been over Russia, not immigration EO.

    Crosses my mind, and doesn't immediately leave, that there was voter fraud in the rust belt. He said and fussed over fraud. Usually a sociopath tells what they've done, though may be coyly. If they were be talking with Russia intelligence and lying about it... I wouldn't put voter fraud out of reach.

    I've heard the number of spelling and formality errors at the WH is over the top, mis-stating titles, and misspelling names.

    1. LMH: I will start leaving a notice in my last post whenever I publish a new one.

      I just published a new one: