Portfolio Updates

Monthly Needs Portfolio

The NAMCOA® Monthly Needs Portfolio™ is a actively managed equity long portfolio with an objective of providing long term capital appreciation and dividends.

The Portfolio adheres to a simple strategy of investing in a weighted portfolio of 25 stocks consisting of sectors that the average consumer spends monies on each month. The Portfolio was up 4.49% for the second quarter, ahead of the S&P 500 benchmark by 19 basis points which was up 4.30% for the quarter.

Click here for most recent NAMCOA 06-30-2019 1st Q 2019

For more information, contact Walter Hester Senior Portfolio Manager .

Yield Curve Inverts (again, and continuing)

Yesterday, and this morning, the yield on the 30-yr Treasury bond made its all-time historic lows.  This is extraordinary, especially given the vast amount of stimulus and low unemployment rate.

However, the news on the teevee seems to be harping on the Yield Curve Inversion regarding the 10-yr and 2-yr treasury rates.   This is old news.   Yield curve inversions have been everywhere over the past several months, yet barely a mention from the mainstream financial press.  What I was expecting when I turned CNBC on late in the day was the never-before-seen rate on the 30-yr going below the Fed Funds effective rate.   Additionally, the classic ‘inverted yield curve’ is when the 10yr treasury rate goes below the Fed Funds rate (which tracks closely to the 90-day t-bll), which almost occurred January 2019 and again in March.   This inversion first took place May 23rd well into the stock market swoon that began on May 1.

Below is a chart of the Fed Funds rate, 2-,5-,7-, 10-, and 30-yr rates.  In a normal environment the curve steepens from low short-term rates to higher long-term rates.  Inflation expectations and time value of money are what drives this structure.  So, when we see longer term rates move below shorter-term rates it is at a minimum, unusual.  Analysts generally agree that when this normal structure changes, that changes in the economy and markets are afoot.

Rates below Fed Funds

As you can see, yields have been falling since late summer 2018.  This coincides with many data points (durable goods, autos, housing starts, etc.) that peaked and began to move down, indicating slower growth (still growing but slower and slower).   It was the last rate hike (light blue line) where the structure began to invert, and March 2019 when rates began to invert strongly.   There was very little reporting about the 2-/5-/7-yr rates going below the Fed rate.   The reason behind the lack of attention is that the stock market was doing well.   If stocks are up, any negative news is spun as “investors brush off X”.   Ignoring information that doesn’t agree with what we see or would like to see is a form of confirmation bias.

In 2007 Bernanke raised rates right through the 10-yr yield to slow down the real estate bubble.  Powell has raised rates and ended QE, making effective rise in the Fed rate much higher and faster than past, going against other central banks, leading to a very strong dollar.   Powell’s statement in July and fair economic data today, make a rate cut in September unlikely, despite market rates screaming to lower.

As I have mentioned before in my Observations, while there will be a recession again in the US, when it occurs is difficult to predict.  The last 3 recession were immediately preceded by a re-steepening of the yield curve.  Stay tuned!

Client Note August 2019

August 1, 2019

 Portfolios saw modest gains in July, approximately 1-1.75%, while the SP500 saw similar gains.  Small cap stocks moved up less than one-half percentage point.   International equities dropped more than 2.5% with emerging markets trailing.

The long Treasury etf (TLT) was down most of the month, until the last day when it managed to finish flat for the month.  Corporate bonds fared slightly worse with high yield underperforming corporates and treasury bonds.  Lower interest rates most directly impact Treasuries as there is no risk of default, whereas on corporates and high yield, a change in the perception of the quality of the debt can push prices despite change in interest rates.

Gold was flat, giving up a percent on July 2, climbing into mid-month then giving it back to end flat for the month.   Gold miners also dropped out of the gate, then climbed almost 11% before dropping yesterday and ending the month up almost 4%.

We are seeing some very constructive moves in the cannabis sector, after significant declines Curaleaf gained 10% in July and Charlottes Web almost 20%.  The etf, MJ was sold out as its heavy weight in Canadian issues continues to wither.

All told, the general equity and bond markets were flat, international did poorly, precious metals were positive and other commodities (base metals, agriculture and oil) fared poorly.

Fed Announcement

Yesterday’s announcement by the Fed to reduce the overnight rate it lends to banks from 2.5% to 2.25% was expected.  Prior to the announcement markets had priced in an 80% likelihood of a .25% cut and only a 20% change of a .5% cut.  Over the past 12 months, growth in auto production, housing, durable goods orders have all been in a gradual decline.  I and others have stated that the Fed had tightened far more quickly than in other periods.  Some combination of slowing growth and recognition that the Fed tightened too much too quickly are what likely brought about today’s action.  June’s economic numbers in some areas have shown an uptick.  It may be a change in trend or just a pause in a continued decline, only time will tell.

Yesterday’s and today’s violent market reactions to ‘not promising more rate reductions’, and a very modest increase in tariffs on Chinese goods bely the fragile psyche of the market.   Very poor economic numbers in the Eurozone and China (which together are about 25% greater than US GDP) are pulling the global economy down and parts of the US economy are beginning to feel it.  After the sugar-high of corporate tax cuts, earnings in 2019 are looking to be about 2% lower than last year.

End-of-trade-war hopes, expectations of better earnings, the gift of cheaper money have been the drivers of stock prices this year.  These ideas are getting denied or delayed and without some re-ignited positive expectations we may see the general stock market vacillate until there is more clarity.   Or, these two days may just be a temper tantrum, showing the markets waning tolerance of slower global trade and dramatic difference between US interest rates and Europe.  And after another day or two we may be off to the races again with the expectation that these issues will be resolved soon.

Adam Waszkowski, CFA

Mutual Fund vs Managed Portfolio?

Mutual Funds and Managed Portfolios may have similar financial objectives for an investor, but are really very different. Managed Portfolios are known as “SMA”s or “Separately Managed Accounts”.

With a Managed Account or SMA, it is disclosed to the investor what you own, letting you know in real time, each of the securities in your account, versus investing in a mutual fund, where you own units or shares without
owning the securities outright, and being a little behind in knowing what the fund actually owns. This causes problems with portfolio overlap, and other conflicts with an investors objectives.

But there is much more to discover and think about. Click here to read more.

Happy Fathers Day!

Wishing a Happy Father’s Day to the extraordinary dads who provide support, sacrifice and love every day for their families. 

We’re thankful for these incredible men who truly make a house a home, filling our spaces with fond memories and laughter day in and day out. We celebrate dads everywhere today from all of us at NAMCOA. 

Monthly Needs Portfolio

The NAMCOA® Monthly Needs Portfolio™ is a actively managed equity long portfolio with an objective of providing long term capital appreciation and dividends, has provided gross returns exceeding 10% in the last 12 months.  Click here to view portfolio results

The Portfolio adheres to a simple strategy of investing in a weighted portfolio of 25 stocks consisting of sectors that the average consumer spends monies on each month. Even though the portfolio has some companies with retail distribution, the portfolio is not weighted to that sector and is not focused on the retail end, but is mainly made up of manufactures, processors, and service providers for each one of the sectors selected. The Portfolio focuses primarily on U.S large-cap value stocks, but can invest in mid to small cap equities and foreign companies as well.

For more information, contact Walter Hester whester@namcoa.com

Fed Does a 180

Does the most dramatic change in the Federal Reserve’s policy outlook indicate a change in the economy?

Prior to December 1, the Fed had widely broadcast that it intended to raise it benchmark rate 3 more times in 2019.   At the December meeting, they lowered that to 2 times in 2019.  In January after the horrid December stock market fall, the Fed changed once again, removing expectations of further rate increases.

The Fed has claimed to be data-dependent and the major economic data points have been indicating slowing growth for most of 2018, and more so since Q2 2018.   The Fed may have realized it overtightened, having raised the Wu-Xia Federal Funds Shadow Rate (Atlanta FRB) by more than 5%.  This was the fastest rate of increase in almost 40 years.

Now the Fed’s balance sheet normalization plan is being questioned and pundits are calling for an early cessation.   In November 2017 the median targeted estimate for the Fed’s balance sheet was just under $3 trillion.   The balance sheet peaked at $4.5 trillion and is currently a tick under $4T.  At the beginning of 2008 it was $800 billion.

So, from a target Fed Funds rate of 3% and Fed balance sheet of $2.75T, to a ‘normalized’ rate of 2.25% and a Fed balance sheet of $4 trillion.    The last few recessions we have seen the Fed raise rates right into economic weakness, only to cease then ease as the recession begins.   With that kind of track record its no wonder people believe the Fed to either be behind the ball, or the outright cause of recessions.

The irony is that the US may have crossed the Rubicon regarding diminishing returns from cheap credit (low rates) aka velocity of money.   While over the past 40 years we have lowered the cost of credit to induce consumption, each recession we must lower the rate below the previous recession lows.  And while we ramp up credit expansion to boost the economy (borrowing more and spending more today) each time, we are getting less and less growth for each dollar borrowed/spent (velocity continues to decrease).  And when there is low velocity, in order to create growth, exponentially larger amounts of money (credit) are required.

I have seen a few reports discussing the idea that low rates decrease future potential growth.  Essentially low rates fail to attract capital, reducing investment, reducing future productivity gains which reduces overall growth.

We have seen the Fed essentially stop tightening (balance sheet runoff should continue to at least this summer) the next step will be for the Fed to ease again, indicating a recession has begun.

Self-storage Construction Increasing

Private investors continue to place assets in Self-storage for income and capital appreciation, new units are absorbed quickly to meet growing consumer demand. Today 9.4% of all households use a self storage space, for a variety of reasons.

Below is Self-storage Sector Snapshot

U.S. self-storage sector snapshotData
Annual industry revenue$38 billion
Number of storage facilities (range)44,000-52,000
Total rentable self-storage space2.3 billion square feet
Self-storage space per person7.06 square feet
Percentage of households that rent a self-storage unit9.4 percent
Average monthly cost for a self-storage unit$91.14


Number of self-storage facilities in the U.S.

Between 44,149 (Self-Storage Almanac, 2018) and 52,000 (Self Storage Association, 2018). Sources vary depending on definition and methodology.

Industry ownership is fragmented, with 18% of facilities owned by the six largest public companies, 8% owned by the next top 100 operators (minus the REITs), and 74% owned by small operators. (Self-Storage Almanac, 2018)

Largest self-storage operators (publicly traded) in the U.S. (by annual revenue)

  1. Public Storage: $2.51 billion (2017)
  2. Extra Space Storage: $1.1 billion (2017)
  3. CubeSmart: $558.94 million (2017)
  4. Life Storage: $529.75 million (2017)
  5. U-Haul: $286.89 million (fiscal 2017 – self-storage revenue only)
  6. National Storage Affiliates Trust: $268.13 million (2017)

Data from most recently reviewed company earnings reports.

Largest self-storage operators in the U.S. (by number of facilities, owned or managed)

  1. Public Storage: 2,386
  2. Extra Space Storage: 1,483
  3. U-Haul: 1,482
  4. CubeSmart: 936
  5. Life Storage: 675
  6. National Storage Affiliates Trust: 533

Data from most recently reviewed company earnings reports. U-Haul number reported by MiniCo Storage Almanac 2018.