Monday, April 30, 2018

Observations and Sample of Recent Trades: NVS, PG


First-quarter GDP grows solid 2.3%: MarketWatch

That is the first estimate.

The personal savings rate was estimate at 3.1%, up from 2.6% in the 2017 4th quarter.

There was a jump in core PCE inflation to 2.5% from 1.9% in the 4th quarter:

Personal consumption expenditures were reported at an anemic 1.1% which is the smallest gain since 2013 (Table 1). Business spending materially contributed to growth during the quarter. 

Growth in final sells, which does not include changes in inventory, declined to +1.9% from 3.4% in the prior quarter. Domestic final sales, which excludes trade effects, declined to 1.6% from 4.6%. 

Core PCE inflation rose to 2.5% from 1.9%.    

GDP First Quarter Advance Estimate.pdf

U.S. Growth Cools to 2.3% While Compensation Costs Accelerate - Bloomberg

Stingy consumer spending in GDP report grabs the attention of economists - MarketWatch

Business spending will tail off provided consumer spending continues in the 1% to 2% range. The tail does not wag the dog.

U.S. business spending on equipment cooling; labor market strong | Reuters


Markets and Market Commentary

Fed will make 4 rate hikes this year, economists say after latest GDP, ECI reports - MarketWatch


Portfolio Management:

The current small ball list with the last purchase prices is reproduced below:

The small lot buying program is being funded by proceeds received from maturing short term bond and CDs. Up to a net of $5K will be used each month in this strategy using commission free trades. Three stocks which had been on that list have been sold (AGNC, CYS, and HT) and have been removed from the snapshot. Two stocks (NVS & ORIT) were removed because the "buying program" was completed. 

So far, it looks like 2018 will be a bust year for a balanced portfolio. Perhaps the Stock Jocks were too enthusiastic when taking the S & P 500 to new highs last January.    

The YTD total return for the S & P 500 ETF (SPY) was .29% through last Friday. The low cost Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund ETF (BND) had a total return YTD of -2.5%. Longer duration bond funds are down more. The iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) total return YTD was at -5.7%.  

Interest rates did decline Thursday and Friday after the ten year treasury hit 3.03% last Wednesday. The close was at 2.96% last Friday. The high water mark in 2013 was at 3.04% (12/31/13). 2013 Daily Treasury Yield Curve Rates  

The GDP report may have provided some solace to the Bond Ghouls. I suspect that buyers emerged last Thursday simply to avoid for now what might happened with the ten year treasury yield bursting above 3.04%.

I am currently expecting interest rates to rise persistently throughout 2018 across the entire maturity spectrum. The usual caveats apply to that future prediction based on subsequent risks and events that can be identified now. For example, there is certainly a possibility of a trade war. That could cause a recession later this year and a decline in interest rates. 

The market is currently predicting a 100% chance that the FED will raise the federal funds rate by .25% at its June meeting: 

Countdown to FOMC: CME FedWatch Tool

The probability of another .25% at the September meeting is currently at 77.3%. The odds of a 1% total increase this year is at 46.5%. 

With 3 or 4 twenty-five basis point hikes in the federal funds rate during this year, and other pressures leading to higher intermediate and longer term U.S. interest rates, I currently anticipate that the ten year treasury will move into a choppy range between 3.25% to 3.5% range by year end. 

The other pressures include accelerating inflation, particularly core and sticky inflation numbers, the acceleration of U.S. budget deficits which will require massive increases in new borrowings with no end in sight, and the FED allowing its balance sheet to run down. 

With that forecast, the fixed income allocation will continue to be substantially weighted in short term bonds and CDs. I define those as maturing within 3 years after the date of purchase. 

The two year treasury note closed last Friday at 2.49%. I would call that the sweet spot in terms of yield and interest rate risk. The ten year yield closed at 2.96%, so the investor picks up less than .5% by going out another 8 years.  

2-Year Treasury Constant Maturity Rate-St. Louis Fed

This preceding chart highlights the extreme abnormality of rates during the Near Depression period and for extended period thereafter.   

The treasury has an auction for the two year note once a month: Treasury Auction Schedule.pdf The next one is on May 23, 2018.


Republicans Sack House Chaplain for Two Unforgivable Acts

Paul Ryan reportedly sacked House chaplain over tax-bill prayer - MarketWatchHouse chaplain forced out by Ryan | TheHillRyan Mocked for Ousting of House Chaplain

The Reverend Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit, offended House republicans deeply by saying that politicians needed to be “fair to all Americans” and inviting a Muslim to lead a prayer.  Luckily for the Reverend, he was not 
hanged, drawn and quartered on the Capital steps.  

I have heard from unreliable anonymous sources that the Republicans allegedly were heard saying a line made famous by Henry II: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” 

I believe that this was the first sacking of the House Chaplin before the expiration of the term. 


Mike Mulvaney: One of Trump's Favorite Swamp Creatures

Mick Mulvaney is Trump's Director of Management and Budget and is the Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau where he is engaged in dismantling consumer protection laws and regulations. 

Mulvaney gave a speech at the American Banker's Association that highlights his character. He made this play-for-pay statement:  "If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you."

Mick Mulvaney: ‘If you were a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn't talk to you.’ - The Washington Post

Mick Mulvaney Met With Lobbyist Donors While at Trump White House

Mick Mulvaney and the Trump Administration’s Sellout to Wall Street | The New Yorker

What We Found in Trump’s Drained Swamp: Hundreds of Ex-Lobbyists and D.C. Insiders -ProPublica

Pruitt’s New Deputy: A Coal Lobbyist Steeped in Washington’s Ways - The New York Times (this coal lobbyist is now the deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency)



Trump Says He May Curb Russia Probe as Mueller Bill Advances - Bloomberg

Lawyer Who Was Said to Have Dirt on Clinton Had Closer Ties to Kremlin Than She Let On - The New York Times In an interview aired on NBC last Friday, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya made the following statement: "I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.” Her claims of having Clinton dirt closely matched an internal memorandum circulated by a top Kremlin official  Yuri Y. Chaika.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson to propose tripling rent for some low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies ("will propose tripling the amount the poorest households are expected to pay for rent as well as encourage those receiving housing subsidies to work, according to the administration’s legislative proposal") Part of Trump's Make America Great initiative. 

Why Trump Gets Away With Lying - Bloomberg While I would agree generally with the premise of that article that it is easier to manipulate those who feel marginalized, the bottom line is that informed people will recognize false statements. Those who are  easily misled have virtually no accurate information deposited in their brain cells and compound the problem by making a conscious effort to avoid and/or to dismiss reliable information.  


Scott Pruitt-Nominated by the GOP for Sainthood

Scott Pruitt testified last Thursday before Congress. He was pretty much tarred and feathered by Democrats and Republicans elevated him to the GOP's Patron Saint status. 

EPA chief Pruitt tells lawmakers ethics charges are distractions, lies | Reuters 

Republicans defended Pruitt, who, according to David McKinley (R-WV), was being subjected to a “classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism” by the Democrats. 

Kevin Cramer (R-SD), who is running for South Dakota's Senate seat, defended Pruitt as well, arguing that Pruitt's "greatest sin, if any, is you’ve actually done what President Trump ran on, won on and what he’s commissioned you to do.” That line will work on the True Believers. 

For republicans like Cramer, a good EPA administrator is one who does exactly what the pollution industry tells them to do. Pruitt by that standard is the best EPA administrator in U.S. history. 

Rep. Kevin Cramer likens voting against Trump to cheating on your wife: USA Today 

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) calls Scott Pruitt 'the victim' and thanks him for stopping Obama's 'radical clean air' agenda

The House republicans see nothing wrong with Pruitt's conduct and probably want to give him a medal for his impeccable ethical conduct; his unwillingness to spend taxpayer money on non-essential matters; his unwavering commitment to tell the truth just like his boss; and above all his ceaseless efforts to avoid even an appearance of  impropriety and conflicts. Or, more succinctly put, just another GOP alternate reality creation that is laughable.   

Recent Articles About Scott Pruitt: 

So, Scott Pruitt totally lied about raises for his employees - CNN 

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt's aides and security agents spent $45,000 on trip to Australia: CNBC 

EPA chief Scott Pruitt's $43,000 phone booth violated spending laws: CNBC 

Scott Pruitt Met With Lobbyist Whose Wife Rented Him a $50-a-Night Condo - The New York Times (Pruitt claimed there was no such meeting)

Despite denials, lobbyist tied to condo met with EPA chief Scott Pruitt: NBC 

86 Questions and Counting for Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt’s condo scandal and mounting ethics questions, explained - Vox


Trump and North Korea

Did Kim receive a brain transplant within the past month or so? He has certainly made an interesting transition from the Devil's Spawn to Mr. Happy Face.  

I do believe that talking and listening is a better option than militaristic bombast from both sides. 

So North Korea will give up its nukes provided the U.S. agrees to end the Korean War with a formal non-aggression pact. 
Kim Prepared to Cede Nuclear Weapons if U.S. Pledges Not to Invade - The New York Times What is wrong with that picture? The U.S. would gladly trade a non-aggression pact for NK giving up its nukes and would have done so in a heartbeat at anytime since NK began its nuclear program.  

NK has promised in the past to give up its nuclear program and reneged quickly on that commitment. 

The Trumpsters are ready to give Trump the Nobel Peace Prize now. John Bolton at least remains skeptical of what he call NK propaganda that is long on words and short on details.   

And what happens with the NK negotiations if Trump unilaterally terminates the Iran nuclear deal? Pompeo says Trump likely to leave Iran nuclear agreement-CNNMacron says he expects Trump to scrap Iran nuclear deal: NBC News That termination will make a NK deal harder.  

My gut tells me that Kim has simply switched his plan away from active confrontation through nuclear tests and missile launches which was not getting him anywhere and has resulted in sanctions that are hurting North Korea's economy. 

Kim's new plan may involve one or more of the following: (1) breaking up the U.S.-SK military alliance; (2) continuing the nuclear program in secret  and hiding nuclear weapons while giving assurances that it the program has ended and all nukes have been destroyed; (3) receiving tens of billions in aid and the end of sanctions; and (4) blaming Trump for a break down in negotiations after NK and Mr. Happy Face (formerly known as Rocket Man) appeared to be so reasonable and accommodative in its search for peace, thereby creating a NK argument that China and Russia need to end their participation in the sanctions. 

In short, Kim is going to try and play Donald to see what he can get without giving up much, if anything, that is concrete and verifiable. 

Beware the Korean Peace Trap - Bloomberg

As Two Koreas Talk Peace, Trump’s Bargaining Chips Slip Away

Trump’s bet on a North Korea summit is looking riskier than ever - The Washington Post

North and South Korea Summit Is Short on Details, but Long on Theater - The New York Times

The market could care less based on its recent movements. 

Maybe investors are more skeptical about anything happening that actually resolves the problems long term; or possibly the NK issue was never a major concern unless nuclear missiles were actually fired at the U.S. and/or its Asian allies. The possibility of a nuclear war, which would lead to Kim's destruction, is rightfully viewed by the stock herd as a highly unlikely event anyway. 


1. Small Ball-Catching Falling Knives:

A. Added 2 PG at $73.96 and 2 at $72.49 -Used Commission free trades:

Quote: Procter & Gamble Co.  (PG)

PG Analyst Estimates

Chart: Bear Market Trend

At the time of purchase, the mean E.P.S. estimate for the current fiscal year was at $4.18 and $4.5 for the next F/Y. The current fiscal year ends in June 2018.

P/E Using F/Y Ending 6/30/19 E.P.S. Mean Estimate and $73.96 Price = 16.44

and at $72.49 Price= 16.11

Annual Report for the 2018 F/Y Ending on 6/30/17

Position: 37 shares (may buy up to 50 shares using small ball rules)

Average Cost Per Share: $82.62

Highest Cost Lot at $88.33 (10 Shares-too high)

Dividend: Quarterly at $.7172  ($2.87 annually; recently raised)

Splits & Dividend History | P&G

Dividend Yield at TC = 3.47%

Last Ex Dividend Date: 4/19/18

Dividend Reinvestment: Yes at below $80

Last Substantive Purchase Discussions:

Item # 3.B. Added 2 PG at $78.09, 1 at $76.55 and 2 at $76 (3/25/18 Post)

Item # 3.B. (3/19/18 post)

Last Sell DiscussionItem # 1.B. Sold at $91.59(1/28/18 Post)

Recent Earnings ReportP&G Announces Third Quarter Earnings

The market reacted unfavorably to this report which was released before the market opened on 4/19/18.

Close 4/18/18 $77.48

Close 4/19/18 $74.19 (ex dividend for $.717 per share; $74.9 adjusted for dividend)
PG Historical Prices

I was not expecting much, so I was not disappointed:

PG "reported third quarter fiscal year 2018 net sales of $16.3 billion, an increase of four percent versus the prior year. Organic sales increased one percent. Diluted net earnings per share were $0.95, an increase of two percent versus the prior year while Core earnings per share increased four percent to $1.00."

"Operating cash flow was $3.4 billion for the quarter. Adjusted free cash flow productivity was 95%. The Company returned $3.2 billion of cash to shareholders through $1.8 billion of dividend payments and $1.4 billion of common stock repurchase. Earlier this month, P&G announced a 4 percent increase in its quarterly dividend, marking the 62nd  consecutive year the Company has increased its dividend. P&G has been paying a dividend for 128 consecutive years, since its incorporation in 1890."

Organic sales were anemic on a company basis and were negative in two major categories on a constant currency basis: 

The beauty category was the only bright spot. 

Company gross margins declined in part due to pricing reductions in several categories including grooming, family care, and oral care products. 

"Reported gross margin decreased 100 basis points, including approximately 10 basis points favorable impact from lower non-core restructuring charges versus the prior year. Core gross margin decreased 110 basis points, including 20 basis points of negative foreign exchange impacts. On a currency-neutral basis, core gross margin decreased 90 basis points as 230 basis points of productivity savings were more than offset by 100 basis points of commodity cost increases, 110 basis points of unfavorable geographic and product mix, including 40 basis points of transportation cost hurts, 80 basis points of unfavorable pricing impacts and 30 basis points of innovation reinvestments."
The combination of input cost inflation and price reductions is not a good mix. 
Possibly to offset the weakness contained in recent reports, PG also announced on the day of this earnings release an agreement to acquire the consumer business of Merck KGaA for approximately €3.4B: P&G Acquires the Consumer Health Business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Those consumer products are sold primarily in Europe, Latin American and Asia. 
There were a host of broker downgrades in response to this last earnings report: Bank of America downgrades Procter & Gamble on 'longer lasting' challenges: CNBC (price target lowered to $82 from $90). SunTrust lowered its price target to $75 from $90. Stifel lowered its price target to $83 from $85 and reaffirmed its hold rating. Argus downgraded to hold from buy: Argus-Benzinga RBC reduced its price target to $79 from $80. Deutsche Bank downgraded PG to hold from buy. The forgoing creates an impression of herd behavior.  

The PG "small ball buying plan" was to round up to 50 shares with one lat 13 share purchase. The negatives are piling up to such a decree that I will continue 2 share purchases using small ball rules with the final purchase, if made, being 3 shares. The next 2 share purchase has to be below $72.49.  

I don't think that Nelson Peltz is helping the company and a good argument could be made IMO that he is hurting the company. P&G appoints Peltz to board despite losing proxy battle: CNBC

The most recent decline has to be frustrating for long term PG investors. As previously mentioned, I sold a 50 share at $63.33 on 11/10/2010. 

Stocks, Bonds & Politics: SOLD 50 PG at $63.33 

Almost eight year later, a buyer at the closing price that day would have an annual average total return of 4.93% compared to 13.31% for the S & P 500 ETF SPY. DRIP Returns Calculator-Dividend Channel 

Basically, long term PG investors have earned a slight return in excess of the dividend yield since 11/10/10. 

Starting on 4/27/17 through 4/27/18, the total return for PG was -14.3% compared to +13.74% for SPY. That kind of severe underperformance indicates a de-risking process for PG, but does not reflect a substantive resolution of PG's problems. 

Closing Price Last Friday (4/27/18): PG $72.81 +0.06 +0.08% 
B. Added 2 NVS at $77.91; 2 at $76.9 and 18 at $77.34-Used Commission Free Trades:

The last purchase of 18 shares, executed last Friday, completes the NVS "buying program".

Quote: Novartis AG ADR (NVS)

Position in This Account: 40+ shares

I have now replaced the 30 shares sold earlier this year and added 10 more. Item 2.A. Sold 30 NVS at $93.85 (2/3/18 Post) 

NVS had closed at $87.21 on1/23/18 and closed at $91.44, $93.65 and $93.91 on successive trading days thereafter. 

The brief pop was probably due to earnings reports released prior to the market's open on 1/24/18 and secondarily to the market's ebullience in January. Novartis delivered good operational performance and landmark innovation in 2017, entering our next growth phase | Novartis

I will sell my highest cost 10 shares when I can do so profitably. I am currently comfortable with a prediction that this can be done within the next 18 months. 

Average Cost Per Share in this Account: $79.96

Highest Cost Lot: 10 Shares at $85 (first purchase in this chain)

Item 5.C. Bought 10 NVS at $85 and 2 at $82.9 (2/15/18 Post) 

I also received the annual dividend which was used to purchase additional shares. Of the 40 shares currently owned in this account, only 12 shares were owned on the ex dividend date. 

Chart: Bear Market Trend

NVS Analyst Estimates

E.P.S. 2019 = $5.57
P/E at $79.96 and $5.57 = 14.36

Dividend: Annual

The gross dividend paid in 2018 was $2.9365 per share. The dividend is paid in Swiss Francs that are converted into USDs. The dividend yield will depend on the then existing conversion rate.  

Dividend Yield at Average Cost Per Share: Based on the 2018 dividend in USDs, the yield at an average cost of $79.96 is about 3.67%. 

Last Ex Dividend Date: 3/6/18

Foreign Tax on Dividend: 15% Swiss Tax for U.S. citizens, provided the investor's broker asserts tax treaty rights to secure "relief at source".

Position in Vanguard Account: 108+ shares

Average Cost Per Share in this Account: $74.63

Dividend Reinvested Vanguard Account:

The tax withholding percentage of $46.11 was 15% of the $307.42 total. The fee of $.84 is paid to the ADR custodian and is an annual charge deducted from the dividend amount. I have been able to recover the foreign taxes withheld from dividend payments as a credit to my U.S. federal income tax obligation. 

Recent Earnings Report: Q/E 3/31/18

Novartis delivered a strong first quarter and acted to become a more focused medicines company (released before the U.S. market opened on 4/19/18)

The market reacted negatively to this report. I viewed the reaction as ignoring the positive developments and accentuating relatively minor issues into major ones.

CC = Constant Currencies

Among the positive developments, Alcon's sales increased by 12% (+7% in CC). Core operating income in this division, which had been a problem, was US$380M up 29% in constant currencies. 

For some reason, investors viewed the results from the generic division Sandoz as a major negative. Revenues rose 4%, but declined 4% in CC due to price erosion in the U.S. Operating income, however, increased by US$409M, up 1% in CC, "mainly driven by continued gross margin improvement and gains from the divestment of non-strategic assets."  Generic sales will fluctuate up and down based on factors that normally increase and contract revenues in that market. 

Innovative medicine sales were up 6% in CC to US$8.4B. Operating income in this category was up 18% in CC to US$2.1B. 

Some pundits did not think the revenues from Cosentyx were high enough. Revenues for that drug increased by 35% in CC to US$580M. There was a sequential decline in growth from the 2017 4th quarter, when the growth rate was at +53% in CC with revenues at US$615M. Over the past few weeks, I have started to frequently see television ads for this drug.

Growth Drivers

Results from Ongoing Clinical Trials

Itemized Drug and Unit Sales:

The USD priced NVS has underperformed the ordinary shares priced in Swiss Francs recently due to a decline in the CHF/USD exchange rate. XE: CHF / USD Currency Chart. Swiss Franc to US Dollar Rates The CHF priced shares have also been declining in price which creates a Double Whammy for owners of NVS. 

3 month Comparison Chart

NOVN: Blue Line (Price in CHFs)
NVS: Black Line (Price in USDs)
1 NOVN Share = 1 ADR NVS Share

In a report dated 4/19/18, the Morningstar analyst assigned a 4 star rating to NVS and an $87 fair market value. The price was then at $81.7. 

In a reported dated 4/24/18, the S & P analyst assigned a 4 star rating and a $90 12 month price target. The price target was lowered by $4 after this last earnings report. The analyst lowered the 2018 E.P.S. estimate due to the disposal of the consumer health unit and potentially higher R & D costs. Novartis to sell stake in consumer healthcare joint venture to GSK for USD13.0 billion to focus on strategic priorities | Novartis 

Closing Price Last Friday: NVS $77.27 +$0.06 +0.08%

2. Intermediate Term Bond/CD Ladder Basket Strategy

A. Bought 1 J.P. Morgan 3.375% Junior Bond Maturing on 5/1/23

I now own 2 bonds. This security is called "senior subordinated" bond which is just a fancy way of saying junior bond. It is junior to senior unsecured and senior secured.  

FINRA Page: Bond Detail (prospectus linked)

Credit Ratings: 

Bought at a Total Cost of 98.975 (with $1 IB commission)
YTM at Total Cost Then at 3.599%
Current Yield at TC = 3.41%

B. BOUGHT 2 Alexandria Real Estate 3.95% SU Bonds Maturing on 1/15/27-A Roth IRA Account:

FINRA Page: Bond Detail (prospectus linked)

Issuer: Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. (ARE)

Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter and Year Ended December 31, 2017

2017 Annual Report (debt listed and discussed starting at page F-40)

ARE SEC Filings

Credit Ratings:

Bought at a Total Cost of 98.162 (with $4 Vanguard Commission)

YTM at TC Then at 4.203%
Current Yield at TC =  4.024%

C. Bought 1 Wisconsin Electric Power 2.95% SU Bond Maturing on 9/15/21:

This one barely qualifies as an intermediate term bond.

FINRA Page: Bond Detail (prospectus linked)

ISSUER: Wholly Owned Subsidiary of WEC Energy Group Inc. (WEC)

WEC Analyst Estimates

WEC 2017 Annual Report (debt listed at pages 80-81; this bond listed under "WE" at page 80)

Investor Update February 2018


Bought at a Total Cost of 99.793

YTM at TC Then at 3.014%
Current Yield at TC = 2.9588%

3. Short Term Bond/CD Ladder Basket Strategy:

A. Bought 2 AT & T 2.3% SU Bonds Maturing on 3/11/19:

FINRA PAGE: Bond Detail (prospectus linked)

Issuer AT&T Inc. (T)

T Analyst Estimates

AT&T Reports First-Quarter Results (viewed negatively by investors and deservedly so IMO)

Credit Ratings:

Fitch Maintains AT&T's 'A-' L-T IDR on Rating Watch Negative (10/20/17)

Bought at a Total Cost of 99.801

YTM at TC Then at 2.524%
Current Yield at TC = 2.3046%

B. BOUGHT 2 UBS Bank 2.1% CDs (monthly interest payments) Maturing on 4/18/19:

5 Stars: UBS Bank USA Reviews and Ratings -

C. Bought 2 Northpointe Bank 1.85% CDs (monthly interest payments) Maturing on 9/18/18:

Rated 5 Stars: Northpointe Bank Reviews and Ratings -

DisclaimerI 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.