We start this month’s Portfolio strategy discussion with the three cornerstones of our investment strategy: 1) Sell stocks of companies that are weakening as businesses, 2) Build a pile of cash by unloading weakening companies and also taking partial profits on favorites that have run to unsustainable valuations, 3) Build a watch list of high quality companies to buy when they hit designated entry points.
Conservative Holdings up 2.6 percent, Aggressive Holdings ahead by 12.8 percent, Top 10 DRIPS a -12 percent loss. Those are the CUI Portfolio returns for 2020. By comparison, the Dow Jones Utility Average gained 1.5 percent, also including dividends paid. And the popular Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSE: XLU) was up 0.07 percent.
We still have a few weeks left in 2020. But whatever happens, this will go down as one of the most eventful years in stock market history. There’s certainly plenty to recap already. The rapid swing from historic profit-taking opportunity in mid-February to equally compelling Dream Buy barely a month later is certainly without precedent in my career.
Economics not politics drive investment returns. Don’t get me wrong. Our Portfolio stocks came out very well in the recent election as businesses, future regulatory relations being the key concern.
The renewable energy focus of our electricity stocks is tailor-made for a new White House that will if anything try to speed up America’s ongoing energy transition. And the offshore wind stocks highlighted in the feature article are likely to be the next sector picks to pop, following example of contract generators like Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners (TSX: BEP-U, NYSE: BEP).
Surging prices for anything to do with renewable energy, lagging valuations for virtually everything else: That’s the current state of affairs for the Utility Report Card coverage as companies gear up to release results for now finished Q3.
Over the last 12 months, an investment in the Russell 1000 Growth Index has outperformed an identical stake in the Russell 1000 Value Index by more than 40 percentage points. That’s not just unprecedented outperformance. It’s unsustainable: Sooner or later, either value stocks will catch up with a strong rally, or growth will fall back.
Q2 results and guidance updates are in for roughly nine in ten companies in our Utility Report Card coverage universe. And they’re in for 35 of the 40 represented in the Model Portfolios. I’ll send an Alert if the view changes for the handful left to report.
Q2 earnings reporting season is coming up fast. And while no one is projecting blockbuster gains, certain baseline expectations must be met, and preferably beaten. Regulated utilities with posted earnings guidance offer the easiest benchmarks for gauging progress. Those updating in the past month offer the best odds of avoiding nasty surprises, always key to dodging downside.
Stocks’ recovery since late March looks a lot more like a “V” than it did a month ago. And after breaking through resistance this month, the S&P 500 is now just 6.3 percent from making a new all-time high.
Utility stocks have also perked up lately. As a group, they’ve lagged since mid-April. Nonetheless, we’ve seen some spectacular recoveries among Portfolio holdings.
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