Current Portfolio-13 Year Track Record

 

Sacola                   182%

TSX                           76%

DJIA                          97%

S&P 500                   107%

Past trades total 29 wins and 3 losses with an average gain of 34%. The average holding period was 2.3 years.

Wednesday
May102017

House prices in Toronto might seem overvalued, “but the fact is that fundamentals have all changed” (such as jobs and population growth), said Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada, in April.  Does that sound familiar?  It should.  Back in 2006 we heard Ben Bernanke, Former Federal Reserve Chair, state pretty much the same thing; rising house prices in the US “largely reflect strong economic fundamentals such as jobs and population growth”.  Canada could be different, but we doubt it.  

The Economist’s house-price indicator shows that Canada’s home prices are the second most overvalued when compared to rents, and the fourth most overvalued when compared to incomes.  This does not only confirm that house prices are overvalued, but shows that renting is the better option.   Of the fifteen countries they track, only half of the markets favour buying, based on incomes.  The indicators show that only four markets (Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan) offer the potential for a decent investment going forward.  

Prem Watsa, the founder and CEO of Fairfax Financial, recently insinuated that Toronto’s market could face a substantial drop in prices when he stated that our financial institutions could not withstand a 50% correction in Toronto’s house prices.  He has raised subtle hints that Canada’s prices are out of whack for years.  Only this year did he raise the alarm bells. 

Either Statistics Canada’s data is 100% wrong or the banks and mortgage lenders are giving out loans with nothing down or very little.  Obviously, risky mortgages are a problem given Home Capital’s, Canada’s largest alternative lender, most recent meltdown.  Either way, house prices in Canada bear no relationship to family income and will correct. 

In Canada, the average house price ($460,000) is roughly 5 times family income.  This does not include lawyer fees, transfer taxes (up to $27,000 in Toronto), moving costs, and so on.  We are baffled trying to figure out where the money is coming from to buy the average mom and pop home.  The rule of thumb is, with or without a down payment, to never pay more than 3 times income for brick and mortar.  In big cities like Toronto and Vancouver families are paying up to 10 times income.  Even if these people put down 50% they are still heading for a financial nightmare.

The household debt-to-income ratio now stands at 169.4, up 23 per cent from a decade ago, and on par with the U.S. at the peak of its housing bubble.  Wage increases are around 1% annually.  This is before taxes which continue to creep up.  Cash pays anywhere from .05 of 1% to 1.25%, before tax.  In order to stick to the 3-times income rule, a family trying to purchase an average house, while maintaining a healthy balance sheet, must save at least $10,000 a year for 18 years to get a down payment in todays low interest rate environment.  In Toronto and Vancouver it will take up to roughly 35 years.  Given Canada’s low savings rate, how many Canadian families are actually saving $10,000 a year? 

A TD branch had an ad that the customer could pick the type of mortgage they wanted.  One choice was interest only.  In other words these people will be hoping house prices will continue the price appreciation of the past decade, which is literally impossible.  What the borrower does not think about is if they cannot make the full interest payment for one month, the difference is added to the principal.  This means future monthly payments will be even higher.  This is also a road to a financial nightmare.

Canada has a home ownership rate of 70%, the highest on record.  Like household debt, this is on par with the US in 2006.  Today, US home ownership is at a 50 year low.  Part of the reason US home prices started to decline was because too many people owned, equating to fewer potential buyers to hold up prices.  This resulted in a large price decline that tried to attract the few potential buyers.  It was a perfect house of cards.  Stocks cannot increase in price with few buyers.  Brick and mortar is no different.

Contrary to popular belief, we believe there is no shortage of housing.  If there is, it will only be temporary.  In fact, we are willing to bet that homes are being overbuilt.  Everywhere one travels they will see numerous cranes across the skyline.  So many people are becoming amateur landlords and buying second homes speculating that prices will continue to rise.  This is confirmed by a CBC report which found that 50% of condo units in Toronto and Vancouver are bought by investors.  Basic finance dictates that anyone who bought a rental property at current prices is losing cash because rents cannot cover costs unless one puts a significant down payment on the property. 

The most recent data released by CMHC also confirms our surplus belief.  The report highlights an epic proportion of new construction underway. As of February 2017 new homes under construction across Metro Vancouver are up 30% year over year.   Home sales are down over 20% from last year.  Falling sales and increased inventory does not make a healthy market.  The markets that are representing the bulk of Canadians are most likely similar.

Because the debt levels are so high and people having little to no savings, the collapse in real-estate will last for many years. Maybe even a generation given the amount of debt we are responsible for.  Lenders are not obligated to renew mortgages.  If prices fall many new owners may not be able to renew their mortgage without putting money down.  If they do not, they will be facing bankruptcy because their outstanding debt will easily exceed the value of their property.  This was also an issue in the US collapse. 

If politicians were serious about correcting the housing market they would make it law that there must be a minimum 20% down payment and the loan cannot exceed three times household income.  It should also be law that an audit should be conducted to ensure that the borrower actually saved the downpayment.   

When the correction comes house prices will fall back to their long term norm.  Just like they did in the late nineties, during the late seventies, and every other bubble in the past.   There will be few buyers around and lenders will quickly tighten lending.  It sounds unreal in today’s world, but every boom is followed by a bust.  This is just history repeating itself. 

We hope it does not take place but we can see no way to stop the coming correction.  History has shown prices always revert to yhr norm.  Tomorrow will be no different.  Cash is the number one asset to own.  Debt in any form is your number one enemy in this phase of the cycle.

Saturday
Apr152017

In the past twelve years we have recommended 42 stocks. Thirteen of those still remain on our recommendations list. Our past 29 trades have averaged a 34% return in just over two years.  There were three losses.          

Our current recommendations have returned 182% in eight years on average. We have outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average ( +97%), the S&P 500(+107) , the Teranet 11 Home Price Index (+125%)  and the TSX (+76%) since the first issue.  The NASDAQ closed five percentage points higher. 

The above returns do not include converting our US stocks into Canadian funds.  Doing so would bump the average return to 22.7% annually.

Dividends account for 46% of the above returns.  If you qualify for the Dividend Tax Credit, be prepared to tack on another 1 percentage point. 

Investing is all about patience.  A good portfolio should not have to be monitored on an ongoing basis.  The investor should be able to glance at their statements to watch the dividends roll in and not have to worry about the capital.  Boredom should also accompany a good portfolio because one should be able to buy and hold a stock, hopefully forever, resulting in very little to do once the company is found. 

Our strategy of buying and holding companies with a history of stable dividend increases is boring, but it works.  A stable dividend will place a natural floor below a share price.  As the dividend increases so does the floor. We continue to outperform the market year-over-year.

________________________________

 

“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”

 

                ..Woody Allen

________________________________

It is probably due to tax season but we have had a few requests for information on what people paid for their equities.  Many have held a security for years and lost their paper work or did not keep records.  These numbers are required for capital gains, stock (share) exchanges, for estates and for personal curiosity.  Most brokerage month-end statements give a record of a persons purchase price so one should keep all month end records.  Unfortunately, we find some are incorrect.

For example we will use Interpipeline (IPL).  When the company changed from a Unit Trust to a common share there was an option for investors to record the conversion as a sale at $24 per share.  Everyone who took this option had to pay a capital gains tax and their new purchase price became $24.  Yet, many did not take the option (us included) so they still have a purchase price of $7.90 (our purchase price on page 6).  Today’s month end statement shows the purchase price of $24.  For those who did not change and put down $24 they will be hit with a reassessment.  The outcome will be pay back taxes and, more often than not, a penalty and interest on taxes owed.   So it is so important to keep accurate records.

Another common problem occurs when an investor adds to their position by purchasing additional shares.  Often the average purchase price on the month end statement is wrong.  We strongly recommend everyone keep a log of all securities one holds.  This should show date of purchase(s) and how many shares or bonds you bought.  If you made multiple purchases of a single security, you will need to find out the average purchase price (e.g. 200 shares of X shares in 2010 at $10 and 200 shares at $12 in 2014 for the average of 400 shares at $11.)  Then every January you update the list. 

The advantage of this is that you never have to go back through years of paperwork to get the numbers required.  Once you have set up this system it will take about an hour in January.  Going back years can take hours and might cost you money if you need the help of a lawyer or accountant.

We have clients that have held a security over 20 years. Going back all those years to find the right information will be a headache. Revenue Canada has access to all the numbers you might require but they do not give out this sort of information.    It is 100% your responsibility.  

Wednesday
Mar152017

Stock markets have been on a tear since the Trumpster got elected. Their values are based on the hope Trump will wave a magic wand and make “America Great Again”.  So far the moron has made things worse.  Any improvements that have occurred are a result of Obama’s policies having a lagging effect, not Trump.  Unemployment is flat.  This should be the low in unemployment during Trumps presidency because he is scaring away foreign businesses from opening up in the U.S.  The cost of checking every person these businesses intend to hire is going to be not worth the effort.  Plus, no one has any idea what his tax changes will be.  The only thing we do know is that all tax changes will benefit the wealthy. 

Trump is under the illusion that all Americans have too much money and they are just waiting to spend.   In truth, Americans have little savings and household income is one of the lowest in the industrialized world.  With Trump making a mess of the U.S. there will be very small wage gains, if any, during the next four years. 

How can anyone believe what Trump says?  He is proving to be a compulsive liar.  He is deterring foreign investment in America and is acting as if he wants a wants a trade war.  If he does, America will get one and lose miserably.   The rest of the world will just improve relationships with other countries and do their trade elsewhere.  Europe has over half a billion consumers and the Far East and Asia are home to billions.  The US market is a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the world. The results are already bearing fruit as many governments are switching their attention to trading more with South American countries.  Even Canada has sent junior bureaucrats down to South America to explore possibilities. 

American corporate earnings are up from a year ago.  For the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) earnings increased 1.8% to $98.31.  The bigger sample of earnings, the S&P 500 index, came in at $9.54, up from $8.78.  Corporate profits are still down from two years ago when Trump announced he was running for President.  Specifically, profits for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were $106.25 while the S&P 500 profits fell from $10.26.  On these falling earnings both the DJIA and S&P500 are up 11.2% and 4.4%, respectively.

On March 1, the S&P 500 traded at its all-time high of 25.1-times earnings.   The Dow Jones Industrial average is currently the 2nd most expensive in its 97 year history. This means the stock market expects earnings to double in three years in order bring markets back to their historical averages.  If this was the case, earnings would need to be increasing by 25% annually for just over the next two and half years.  This has never occurred, nor will it ever.  So, either earnings must soar or the stock markets must correct back to their norm, which is roughly between 16-17 times earnings. 

By every yardstick stock markets are in very expensive territory. They are vulnerable to a 25% pullback just to get back to this century’s average price earnings ratio, and a 40% decline to bring it back to the average of last century. 

We suggest no more investing in the U.S.  Canada is a better place to keep ones money.  The only US based companies you want to hold are those that conduct the majority of their business offshore.  Our two recommendations fall into this category.  There is 46 months left of Trump.  He is determined to destroy his country and will most likely be successful at it.  

Wednesday
Feb152017

The Trumpster stated he wants a cheaper U.S. dollar.  Why? We haven’t a clue.  For a successful businessman, you would think he would realize a cheaper currency is a slow trip to the poor house.  Clearly he does not understand that a higher dollar can buy more goods outside of his borders.  There has not been one economy that has experienced benefits from a falling currency.  It does exactly the opposite. 

During the nineties America was “Great”.  They even balanced the Federal budget and some years had a surplus.  2002 to 2007 belonged to Canada.  The rising Loonie created surplus budgets and positive trade numbers.  Australia has been a top performing economy for the past 26 years.  And, while their dollar slowly moved higher over this period, they have not experienced one recession.  New Zealand’s booming economy also continues to grow as their dollar has soared against most currencies. 

New Zealand today is the biggest supplier of dairy products to many Asian countries, especially China.  Yet, their dollar has soared.  New Zealand is producing top quality, safe dairy products which the world demands.  This is the priority, not what a currency is worth.  In the future another Asian country will figure out how to equal or better New Zealand production and shipping.  As the economy changes businesses must adapt or disappear.  This is how the world works.

If Mr. Trump gets his way the cheaper dollar will cost millions of jobs and their negative trade and budget numbers will get worse.  As it is today, both deficits are out-of-control.

Mr Trump knows nothing about basic economics.  He figures foreigners will beat a path to buy American goods.  They will not.  First, they make very little that the world demands. Secondly, Asian countries will just lower prices to equal or better American costs.  It must be remembered that today’s economy is based on the computer and knowledge.  The only thing a cheaper currency might have an effect on is  food, oil and some metals.  

Mr. Trump does not realize nothing needs to be done on the job front.  Currently at 4.6%, the unemployment rate is actually full employment.  Many of the 4.6% do not have the necessary skills for what the world demands.  Some people have physical problems and some cannot afford to move where a job might be.

The main problem Mr. Trump has is their negative trade figures and the ever growing government debt, now at $20t.  Forcing a ‘made in America’ policy will not work because they make very little what the world demands.  What they do make foreigners will simply match prices. So, who will America sell to?

Ripping up Free Trade deals is destructive mostly to America.  Sure, some changes must be made due to the growth of technology, new products being developed and so on.  But, these must be ongoing discussions at the trade table.  By cancelling existing agreements Mr. Trump is telling the world do not trust America nor himself.  Not to mention, he is opening up America to retaliatory tariffs on what little the U.S. does produce.

America is not a place to invest in today.  Foreign countries will just shift their trade to other willing countries.  This makes America the loser.   Plus, a real danger is that if America runs rough-sawed over his trading partners many will not forget.  In the future they might try to get even.  Then America will be the sole loser.

Sunday
Jan152017

 

Making capital gains over the past two years has been hard.  The Toronto stock market (TSX) is up 4.6% and the Dow Jones Industrial average was flat, until 8 months ago.  The past 8 months have been one of the best on record, up 11.7%.  Most of the upswing has taken place after Trump won the election, up 5.4%.  It is based solely on hope that Trump will make 'America Great Again'.  He will not.  In fact, when he takes office unemployment will be 4.6% (December 2016 figure), the lowest since 2006.   His policies will result in rising unemployment and a slowing economy.

We have consistently recommended investors buy dividend paying shares.  In August (Issue 206) we pointed out how much the dividend yield was based on the purchase price of our portfolio listed on page six.  It worked out to 7.5%.  If an investor qualified for the Canadian Dividend Tax Credit (CDTC) it could have resulted in a possible annual yield of 9.3% 

We expect ten of the companies on our list to increase their dividend in 2017.  Two already have and two others recently announced they will be raising their payouts.  These potential increases could push the dividend yield closer to 8 percent, or 10% if an investor qualifies for the CDTC. 

The big question is Trump.  Will he be good for America or a disaster?  Time will tell.  Stock markets say he will be incredible.  Based on corporate earnings the Dow Jones average is predicting profits will double in 3.3 year.  This is hilarious since it has never happened because it is impossible. Stock markets are vulnerable to sizeable drops in order to fall in line with earnings.  If Trump turns out to be bad, the NYSE can fall 40%, but a 15-25% decline is more likely.

2017 will be an interesting year, no doubt.  While the stock markets are currently foreshadowing explosive growth, the reality remains that the stock markets have got ahead of themselves and are overvalued.  The best thing to do is to remain on the sidelines until Trump is sworn in.  He is very unpredictable and will most likely not be able to make America Great Again.

We expect the peak in the stock markets to be somewhere between January 10 to 31st.  Trump takes over on January 20th at which time reality will set in.  It is also the day, give or take a one or two, when the U.S. government debt hits $20t.  It will climb higher under Trump’s control since he is already on record saying that he will add to the debt.  This is not a positive for stock markets around the world. 

Stock markets are very expensive today.  At best they will remain flat, although we expect a decline.  How far will depend on what Trump does.  Our 7.5% dividend yield will outperform the stock markets in 2017, just as they have for the past 2 years.