The Importance of Downside Protection

Big-Risk = Big-Return is true for individual securities. But not for a portfolio. A common misconception for investors (and traders).

Risk-Reward has a positive correlation, but it’s not perfect.

Risky securities are diversifiable by lower correlated/negative correlated securities. By buying low correlated securities to hedge your risky security, are you lowering your upside? No. You’re lowering your downside.

For investors, capital preservation is more important than the growth of capital. The bigger the investment loss, the greater the gain required to break even. A 20% investment loss requires a 25% gain to get back to the initial investment value. Whereas a 40% loss requires 67% and 70% loss requires 233%. The best offense is a good defense.

The Importance of Downside Protection

If you invest $10,000 in S&P 500 ETF and a recession causes the market to drop 30%, the $7,000 value would need to gain 43% to get back to $10,000.

Let’s look at the following 3 portfolios, each with a different strategy:
  • Portfolio 1 is invested 100% in S&P 500 (SPY).
    • SPY’s annualized standard deviation is 15%.
  • Portfolio 2 is invested 60 and 40 in S&P 500 (SPY) and Investment Grade Bond Fund (FBNDX).
    • Both are 0.31 correlated, based on annual returns.
    • FBNDX’s stdev is 4%.
  • Portfolio 3 is invested 33.34%, 33.33% and 33.33% in S&P 500 (SPY), Investment Grade Bond Fund (FBNDX) and U.S Real Estate ETF (IYR), respectively.
    • IYR is 0.69 correlated to SPY. 0.63 correlated to FBNDX. Correlation is based on annual returns.
    • IYR’s stdev is 21%.

* I initially wanted to backtest them for 30 years, but since IYR was the only real estate ETF I could find with the earliest fund inception date (June 2000), the backtest is from Jan 2001 to Dec 2016.

** Link to the data above can be found here.

Each portfolio is rebalanced annually. Dividends and distributions are reinvested. Taxes and transaction fees are not included.

Here’s the growth of each portfolio over the past 16 years.

3 Portfolio Backtest (Inflation Adjusted). January 2001 – December 2016
  • Port 1 has returned annual growth rate of 3.26%, after inflation.
  • Port 2 has returned annual growth rate of 3.36%, after inflation.
  • Port 3 has returned annual growth rate of 4.75%, after inflation.

Portfolio 1 and 2 have very similar returns. However, the traditional 60/40 portfolio (port 2) took much less risk than all-in portfolio (port 1).

Port 2 had a maximum drawdown of 35% while port 1 had 51%. Portfolio 2’s standard deviation (9%) was almost half the stdev of portfolio 1 (15%).

Port 3, on the other hand, had 45% max drawdown with a standard deviation of 11%, both in the middle of port 1 and port 2. However, they returned much higher.

3 Portfolio Backtest. January 2001 – December 2016. The “Final Balance” and “CAGR” numbers you see above are not inflation-adjusted.

Also, port 3’s Sharpe ratio, Sortino ratio, and Treynor ratio are all higher than the other two.

There are a lot of things to look at when determining which portfolio might be the best for a long-term investor. My favorite is portfolio 3, although the volatility is higher than portfolio 2. REITs (in port 3) provide a strong portfolio diversification with lower exposure to market volatility and attractive dividends.

You can see the backtest here for yourself.

Investors vs. Mr. Market

Downside protection strategies may help prevent investors from their bad habits of overreacting to downside volatility and incorrectly timing the market, missing the boat of high returns. Over the past year, S&P gained 18.10% while an average investor gained half of the growth.

S&P 500 vs Average Investor Return.
1-Year up to September 8, 2017.
Source: Openfolio

If you are a passive investor, consider downside protection strategies to limit volatility and build wealth over the long-term.

Diversify portfolio with:

I endorse the idea of employing a multi-asset strategies that lower the downside potential while increasing the upside potential or even decreasing the upside potential less than the decrease in the downside potential.

I am not saying you should allocate your portfolio to every asset there is. It depends on your goals, lifestyle, risk preferences, your responsibilities, the investment % of your overall capital, etc etc etc.

How you allocate each security is up to you (or your financial advisor), or me me me me.

No portfolio is risk-free, but minimizing the downside can help mitigate the pain inflicted by market “fire and fury” and a changing risk landscape in globalization era.

If you have any questions/comments/suggestions, feel free to contact me personally and/or leave a comment below.

PS: Maybe make Bitcoin/Ethereum/Litecoin 5% of your portfolio.

PS: Active traders should also minimize the downside risk, especially if you work, have school, etc.

PS: Never mind. Thank you for reading. Don’t forget to subscribe.

Equity/Commodity Portfolio Performance: Inception & 2016

In the previous article, I laid out my performance for Forex portfolio since inception and for the year 2016. This one will briefly lay out the equity/commodity portfolio performance. Briefly, because I don’t have much statistics on it than for FX……for now.

Before going further, I should note: “Average price” includes Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP) – the dividends I received were used to buy additional shares in the company.


Since inception (summer of 2014), I’m down 31%. I’m currently holding 9 companies, including the ones I wrote article(s) about; GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO), General Electric (NYSE:GE), and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO). I don’t have Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) since my broker doesn’t allow me to short.

All shares of 9 different companies belong to 1 class: domestic equity. 59.4% is in large cap. 18.89% in mid cap. 3.66% in small cap. And 18.05% in “other domestic equity.” Will change the allocation this year; international equity, fixed income, etc.

On February 16, 2015, I wrote about Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) when the share-price was $43.95. Today, it’s trading at $62.14. I missed the opportunity to go long on it.

On April 12, 2015, I wrote about GE and believed GE was a strong by (it still is). Since then, GE is up 12.30%, from $28.06 to $31.51 (dividends not calculated). Dividends are automatically invested in new shares. Average price I paid for the shares is $25.99. I’m currently up 21.24%.

In the summer of 2015, I wrote about CSCO (part 1, part 2 AND 4Q FY’15 earnings report). Since the first article, CSCO is up 7.97%, from $27.99 to $30.22 (dividends not calculated). Average price I paid for the shares is $24.85. I’m currently up 21.61%.

On November 21, 2015, I wrote my first article on LLY and believed it was overvalued (it still is). Since then, LLY is down 13.98%, from $85.50 to $73.55. Second article on LLY was posted very recently.

On December 26, 2015, I wrote about GPRO and believed it was a buy. Since then, GPRO (and I) are down whopping 52.62%, from $18.34 to $8.69.

For the last year, my equity portfolio is down 12.61%. Because of $9.99 trade fee and low capital, I have refused to buy some stocks I wanted at times.

I recently opened Robinhood, broker with $0 commission. I’m planning to use it to actively trade equities and commodities.

As to commodities, I’m up 8.25% since inception (fall of 2016). I’m currently holding 50 shares of Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X Shares (NUGT), which is up 24.03%.

I might change my broker to Interactive Brokers (IB) from TD Ameritrade, as IB offers more tools for portfolio analysis.

If you didn’t like this performance/article, read the “Forex Portfolio Performance: Inception & 2016.” Maybe you’ll like that performance/article enough to like me again.

If you do, follow me on Twitter (@Khojinur30). I tweet out my trades live. If you don’t, peace.

Houston (Fed), We Have A Problem (Problems) – Part 2/2

In the previous article, Houston (Fed), We Have A Problem (Problems) – Part 1/2, I addressed two risks (growing monetary policy divergence and emerging markets)  that will force the Fed to “land” (lower back) rates this year. I will address more risks here.

One huge risk that I will not address here, but will address in a future article is “lack of liquidity”. While I was doing research, I came across more information that I expected. I’m still getting more information and I believe it will be a great article. I will give a sneak peek of the article in the bottom of this article.

Junk Bonds, Credit Spreads, Energy, Manufacturing, Earnings Decline:

Earlier last month (December 10, 2015), Third Avenue’s Focused Credit Fund (FCF), a large mutual fund specializing in risky, high-yielding bonds, announced it would block investor redemptions, “no further subscriptions or redemptions will be accepted.” In mid-2014, they had $3.5 billion assets under management (AUM). As of December 31, 2015, they only had AUM of $660.67 million, as investors rushed to get their money back because of weakness in the junk bond market.

Now, investors’ money are being held hostage. “The remaining assets have been placed in a liquidating trust”, said David Barse, CEO of the firm, as the investor requests for redemptions and the “general reduction of liquidity in the fixed income markets” made it impossible for the fund to “create sufficient cash to pay anticipated redemptions without resorting to sales at prices that would unfairly disadvantage the remaining shareholders.”

The process is a pain in the ass, “Third Avenue anticipates that the full liquidation process may take up to a year or more.” Again, investors’ money are being held hostage.

This events highlights the danger of “over-investments” into risky areas, high levels of corporate debt, AND the lack of liquidity (will be addressed in a future article). With interest rates hovering around 0 (well, before the rate-hike in December), U.S. companies have rushed to issue debt.

Investors who poses a higher risk appétit can find junk bonds, yielding higher interest rates, to be “useful” for their style and capacity of investment. More rewards for more risks, right?

As the global economy continues to struggle, namely China and emerging markets, yield on junk bonds have been increasing since they are a higher chance of defaulting.

Rising interest rates adversely impact bond prices, pushing their yield of the bond higher (inverse relationship). While increase in rates does not largely affect junk bonds since they have a higher coupon (yield) and shorter maturities (shorter maturity means less price sensitivity to rates), current junk bond market combined the impacts of a stronger dollar and low commodity prices can be extremely adverse and dangerous.

High-yield debt yields, as represented by Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Master II Effective Yield, have been increasing since mid of last year. It rose from 5.16% (June 23, 2014) to current 9.23%. That’s whopping 78.88% increase, representing the growing risks of junk bond market.

BofA Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Master II Effective Yield Source: retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
BofA Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Master II Effective Yield
Source: retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

 

According to Lipper, investors pulled out a total $13.88 billion from high-yield funds in 2015, with $6.29 billion in December alone. As redemptions increase, funds may suffer as high-yields are harder to trade due to its lack of liquidity (will talk more about the major risk of illiquidity in a future article) and funds may have to take an action like the Third Avenue did.

Credit spreads (difference in yield between two bonds of similar maturity but different credit quality) are widening, which possibly signals a wider economic trouble ahead. Widening credit spreads mark growing concerns about the ability of borrowers to service their debt. Not only borrowers will suffer, but also lenders since they lost money.

BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II Option-Adjusted Spread, representing the credit spread of the high yield bond market as a whole, have been increasing the middle of 2014. It’s currently at 775 (7.75%) basis points (bps).

BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield CCC or Below Option-Adjusted Spread is currently 1,804bps wide (18.04), a level of highly distressed territory. Credits are defined as distressed when they are trading more than 1,000bps (10%) wide.

BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II Option-Adjusted Spread AND BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield CCC or Below Option-Adjusted Spread Source: FRED Economic Data
BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II Option-Adjusted Spread AND BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield CCC or Below Option-Adjusted Spread
Source: FRED Economic Data

I believe it will continue to increase this year, reflecting the worsening of the credit conditions that would cause greater concern among investors and policymakers (Hi, Ms. Yellen. Time to reverse the policy?)

iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE: HYG), an index composed of U.S. dollar-denominated, high yield corporate bonds, is already down 1.39% year-to-date (YTD) and was down 10.58% in 2015, expressing the increasing uncertainty by the investors, as they pull back their money from high-yielding bonds/ETFs. The exposure of the index to CCC rated bonds, B rated bonds, and BB rated bonds, are 8.88%, 38.73%, and 50.25%, respectively. Stronger U.S. dollar and lower commodity prices are expected (and it will) to hurt the earnings of U.S. companies, increasing the chances of defaults, especially in energy.

iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE: HYG)
iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSE: HYG)

The index’s energy exposure is 9.38%. Recently oil prices plunged to levels under $30. Energy companies borrowed a lot of debt during oil price boom, to increase production (so that they can gain more market share), are now being haunted by their own actions. A lot of energy companies are currently under an extreme pressure to make a dime, as oil prices plunge. According to law firm Haynes and Boone, 42 North American oil and gas producers filed for bankruptcy last year. Those 42 defaults account for approximately $17 billion in cumulative secured (over $9 billion) and unsecured debt (almost $8 billion).

2015 E&P Bankruptcy Filings Source: Law firm Haynes and Boone - Slide 5
2015 E&P Bankruptcy Filings
Source: Law firm Haynes and Boone – Slide 5

Out of those 42 bankruptcy filings, 18 of them come from Texas, a leading state in energy production. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Texas had a capacity of over 5.1 million barrels of crude oil per day and accounted for 29% of total U.S. refining capacity, as of January 2015, and accounted for about 29% of U.S. gas production in 2014.

In 2014, Texas gross domestic product (GDP) increased 5.2% year-over-year (Y/Y), the second greatest change in state GDP after North Dakota. Mining industry accounted for 1.25% increase to GDP, its largest contributor. Texas’s GDP accounted for 9.5% of U.S. total GDP in 2014.

The collapse of energy prices over the past several years are “fracking” down the Texas economy. The Dallas Federal Reserve’s general business activity index “collapsed” to -34.6 in January, the lowest reading since April 2009, when Texas was in recession. Same with company outlook index, it fell to -19.5 in January from -10.5 in December.

Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey – General Business Conditions Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey – General Business Conditions
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

The production index – a key measure of state manufacturing conditions – fell all the way from 12.7 in December to -10.2 in January. New orders index fell -9.2 in January from -7 in December.

Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey – Business Indicators Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey – Business Indicators
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Employment Index, on the other hand, sharply dropped to -4.2 in January from 10.9 in December. Texas is a home to many energy giants, such as Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB), Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI), Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP). The companies slashed off tens of thousands of jobs over the past year and cut capex significantly, as the current stressed energy market heavily weighted on them.

In January 21, Schlumberger reported 38.7% decrease in fourth quarter revenue Y/Y, and net income declined substantially to a loss of $989 million, compared with profit of $317 million in the same period of 2014. Texas-based energy giant’s North American region 4th quarter revenue fell 54.79% to $1.9 billion from $4.3 billion in the same quarter of 2014. The company’s earnings announcement warned of a “deepening financial crisis in the E&P industry, and prompted customers to make further cuts to already significantly lower E&P investment levels. Customer budgets were also exhausted early in the quarter, leading to unscheduled and abrupt activity cancellations.” As a result of a weaker quarter and worsening conditions, they plan to lay off 10,000 workers, adding to already laid-off 34,000 workers, or 26% of its original workforce, since November 2014.

On Monday (January 25, 2016), Halliburton reported its fourth quarter earnings. Halliburton’s 4th quarter revenue fell 42% in Y/Y to $5.08 billion, including a 54.4% plunge to $2.1 billion in its North American region, which accounted for 42.4% of total revenue in 4Q.  On a GAAP basis, the Texas-based energy giant (and another one) reported a quarterly net loss of $28 million ($0.03 per share) compared with net income of $9.01 million ($1.06 per share) in the fourth quarter of 2014.

On Thursday (January 28, 2016), Baker Hughes reported a 48.85% decrease in fourth quarter revenue to $3.4 billion from $6.6 billion in the same period of 2014. On GAAP basis, the Texas-based energy giant (and another one) reported a quarterly net loss of $1 billion ($2.35 per share) compared with net income of $663 million ($1.52 per share) in the fourth quarter of 2014. Its North American region revenue fell 65.59% to $1.14 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with $3.30 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Chevron Corp., (NYSE: CVX), California-based energy giant, posted its first loss since the third quarter of 2002 on Friday (January 29, 2016). It reported a fourth quarter loss of $588 million ($0.31 per share), compared with $3.5 billion ($1.85 per share) in the same period of 2014. During the same period, its revenue fell 36.5% to $29.25 billion from $46.09 billion.

Below is a graph by EIA, showing how the cost of debt service for U.S. oil producers has grown since 2012. In the second quarter of 2015, more than 80% of these producers’ cash flow went to service their outstanding debt, leaving very little cash to fund operations, to pay dividends, and to invest for the future. To adjust to those pains, the producers have significantly reduced capital expenditures.

Debt service uses a rising share of U.S. onshore oil producers’ operating cash flow Source: EIA
Debt service uses a rising share of U.S. onshore oil producers’ operating cash flow
Source: EIA

During the end of Q2 2015, oil prices were around $58. It’s currently at $38. Clearly, the situation has only gotten worse.

Both Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips will report its fourth quarter earnings next week.


I believe oil prices have hit bottom and it won’t break $27 this year.

Why do I say that?

I believe the market already priced in Iran’s entry into oil war. Recently, hedge fund bearish bets on oil were at all-time high (crowded trade). Crowed trade includes: a large numbers of participants who share similar beliefs and heavy short-term bag holders (speculators). I tend to take advantage of this types of situations.

Not only bearish bets on oil are at all-time high and not only I believe Iran is already priced in, but some OPEC countries, including Nigeria and Venezuela, already started calling for emergency meetings to try to cut production. I’m starting to believe that they can no longer handle the pain. While this is a political game – to gain and preserve more market share – it won’t last long enough to get oil breaking below $27. They can no longer bluff.

For many OPEC members, operating costs are around $30. With slowing global growth, they can’t afford to have even lower oil prices.

Conclusion: Oil has hit bottom and it won’t break below $27 this year. If you disagree with me, feel free to comment below.


Speaking of junk bonds, the energy sector makes up about a fifth of the high-yield bond index. Fitch Ratings forecast the US high yield energy sector default rate to hit 11% this year, “eclipsing the 9.7% rate seen in 1999.”

According to Fitch Ratings, at the beginning of December of last year, “$98 billion of the high yield universe was bid below 50 cents, while $257 billion was bid below 80 cents. The battered energy and metals/mining sectors comprise 78% of the total bid below 50 cents. In addition, 53% percent of energy, metals/mining companies rated ‘B-‘ or lower were bid below 50 at the start of December, compared to 16% at the end of 2014, reflecting the decline in crude oil prices.”

Not only energy companies will suffer, but also banks. The biggest U.S. banks – Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase – have exposure to energy as part of their overall portfolios.

  • Morgan Stanley: Energy exposure assumed at 5% of total loans.
  • Citigroup: Energy exposure assumed at 3.3% of total loans.
  • Bank of America: Energy exposure assumed at 2.4% of total loans.
  • Goldman Sachs: Energy exposure assumed at 2.1% of total loans.
  • Wells Fargo: Energy exposure assumed at 1.9% of total loans.
  • JPMorgan Chase: Energy exposure assumed at 1.6% of total loans.

According to Fitch Ratings, exposure to energy sector were “cited as higher risk segments for the banks.”

The collapse in oil prices, strong U.S. dollar, and weakening global economy “crippled” manufacturers across the country. The Empire State manufacturing index fell to -19.4 in January from -6.2 in December, the lowest level since March 2009. The reading suggests manufacturing sector is slowing down and it raises questions about the outlook for the economy.

Manufacturing is very important to the U.S. economy. According to National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), there are 12.33 million manufacturing workers in the U.S., accounting for 9% of the nation’s workforce. Manufacturers recently contributed $2.18 trillion to the U.S. economy. “Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the ninth-largest economy in the world.” according to NAM. For more facts and details, click here.

The manufacturing index have been below zero since July. Not only did the headline fell, but so did new orders index and shipments index. New orders fell 23.5 in January from -6.2 in December. Shipments fell -14.4 in January from 4.6 in December.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York
The Empire State Manufacturing Survey
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Slump in new orders can shift the production into lower gear and possibly jeopardize jobs. The employment (number of employees) index continued to deteriorate for a fifth consecutive month. The weaknesses in the Empire State indexes suggests that the earnings of manufacturers are under pressure.

According to FactSet, the S&P 500 is expected to report a Y/Y decline in earnings of 5.7% for the fourth quarter. For Q4 2015, the blended earnings decline is -5.8%. A Y/Y decline in earnings for the fourth quarter will mark the first time S&P 500 has reported three consecutive quarters of Y/Y declines in earnings since Q1 2009 through Q3 2009.

For Q1 2016, 33 companies out of S&P 500, so far, have issued negative EPS guidance and 6 companies have issued positive EPS guidance.

Another drag on earnings can be the current inventories to sales ratio. Since early 2012, the ratio has been increasing.

Total Business: Inventories to Sales Ratio Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Total Business: Inventories to Sales Ratio
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

An increasing ratio is a negative sign because it shows companies may be having trouble keeping inventories down and/or sales have slowed. If they have too much of inventories, they may have to discount the products to clear their shelves, dragging on the earnings.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and/or leave comments below. Thank you.

Sneak peek of a future article that addresses one huge risk (lack of liquidity):

“With low liquidity in the bond market and increasing HFT transactions in it, the threat is real. Automated trades can trigger extreme price swings and the communication in these automated trades can quickly erode liquidity before you even know it, even though there is a very high volume. While liquidity in the U.S. bond market is high, it’s not high enough to battle the power of the technological progress.”

Portfolio Update

In this post, I will be giving an update on the investment ideas I wrote about.

Note: “Average price” includes Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP) – the dividends I received were used to buy additional shares in the company.


On February 16, 2015, I wrote about Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and believed it was a strong buy. Ever since then, MSFT is up 19.07%, from $43.95 to $52.33 (dividends not calculated). On December 29, 2015, MSFT reached $56.85, the highest since 2000. I do not own the shares of MSFT. Yes, I did miss the opportunity. At the time, I couldn’t afford it to buy enough shares and cover the commission fees.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) – Daily

On April 12, 2015, I wrote about General Electric (NYSE: GE) and believed GE was also a strong buy (it still is). Ever since then, GE is up only 1.39%, from $28.06 to $28.45 (dividends not calculated). On December 28, 2015, GE reached $31.49, the highest since May 2008. I do own the shares of GE. I bought it in August 2014. The average price I own at is $25.87. I’m currently up 9.97%.

Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) – Daily

Last summer, I wrote about Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) (article part 1 and part 2) and believed it was undervalued (it still is). Ever since then, CSCO is down 11.47%, from $27.99 to $24.78 (dividends not calculated). I do own the shares of CSCO. I bought it in August 2014. The average price I own at is $24.73. I’m currently up mere 0.2%. I will take advantage (buy more shares) of lower prices.

Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) – Daily

On November 21, 2015, I wrote about Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) and believed it was overvalued (it still is). Since then, LLY is down 3.85% from $85.50 to $81.25 (dividends not calculated). I’m not short on LLY. I cannot afford to short it, due to my capital.

Eli Lilly (LLY) - January 2016
Eli Lilly and Company (LLY) – Daily

On December 26, 2015, I wrote about GoPro (NASDAQ: GPRO) and believed it is a buy (it still is). Since then, GPRO is down 12.10% from $18.34 to $16.12.

GoPro (GPRO) – Hourly

Cisco’s Impressive 4th Quarter Earnings Report

This is a follow up post to the previous post (Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) Undervalued). Before continuing to read this post, I suggest reading the previous post if you haven’t already. The previous post includes some important facts that are not included in this post. If you have any questions/comments, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me. Thank you.


On Wednesday (August 12, 2015), Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) reported its first earnings report with Chuck Robbins (CEO of Cisco) at the helm and it was very impressive. For 4th Quarter Fiscal Year 2015 (Q4 FY’15), revenue was $12.8 billion, up 3.9% year-over-year (Y/Y) from $12.4 billion and EPS (GAAP) was $0.45 per share, up 4.7% Y/Y from $0.43. Net income (GAAP) was $2.3 billion, up 3.2% Y/Y from $2.2 billion.

This earnings report concludes Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Let’s take a look at FY GAAP results. FY’15 revenue grew 4.3% year-over-year to $49.2 billion from $47.1 billion. Net income grew 14.4% to $9 billion from $7.9 billion and EPS grew 17.4% to $1.75 from $1.49.

During FY’15, Cisco continued its commitment to shareholder return – returning $8.3 billion through share buybacks and dividends – 73% of free cash flow. Yet, Cisco has total cash, cash equivalents, and investments of $60.4 billion, up 16.02% Y/Y from $52 billion in Q4 FY’14.

Key Financial Measures
Key Financial Measures – Cash, Debt, OCF

The company has $25.4 billion in debt, 21.26% increase Y/Y. Their operating cash flow increased 14.56% Y/Y to $4.1 billion. I don’t see the current debt as a problem since the company has a strong balance sheet.

Regional Performance:

Americas revenue increased 6.63% Y/Y to $7.8 billion. EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) was slightly flat at $3.1 billion. APJC (Asia-Pacific, Japan and China) was flat at $1.9 -billion. Both EMEA and APJC revenue was affected by forex (currency) headwinds. With strengthening dollar – which hurts sales revenue aboard – Cisco should be able to offset the headwinds from it because of a strong domestic market. Stronger dollar makes American goods expensive and less competitive overseas, hurting earnings for U.S. companies. Cisco has a very strong domestic market and continues to increase its footsteps.

Geographic Revenue
Geographic Revenue

Guidance: (Not a big fan of guidance)

Cisco expects 2%-4% Y/Y revenue growth and EPS of $0.55-$0.57 for Q1 FY’16, in-line with a consensus for 2.5% growth and EPS of $0.56. While company’s guidance is important, I believe your own guidance for the company is more important.

Segment Performance:

Cisco Segment Performance - Q4 F'15
Cisco Segment Performance – Q4 F’15 – Source: Slide 7

Product revenue grew 4% Y/Y. Out of nine segments, two segments (“Service Provider Video” and “Other Products”) declined Y/Y, but remaining seven segments grew.

Today, Cisco is looking to acquire businesses focusing on wireless software, video delivery, cloud-based security technologies and investments in cyber-security. They are more likely to acquire smaller companies with strong presence in areas (product and geography) that Cisco itself does not have. The company plans to invest $1 billion into the United Kingdom over the next 3-5 years to boost the country’s technology sector, especially Internet of Things (IoT). During the Q4 FY’15 Conference call, Kelly Kramer, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) stated that Cisco was “…committed to looking at the right acquisitions at the right price to drive our growth strategy.” I’m currently looking into companies that I believe Cisco should acquire (post to come regarding it, if I find a suitable company).

Key Financials:

Key Financials (Q4 FY'10 - Q4 FY'15)
Key Financials (Q4 FY’10 – Q4 FY’15)

In the “Key Financials” chart above, you see “EBITDA” and “EBIT”. Let me take a moment to explain what they are and why they are important.

EBITDA: An acronym for “Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, and DD&A (Depreciation, Depletion and Amortization)”. It’s an income statement metric which represents earnings prior to the payment of interest expense, taxes, depreciation, depletion and amortization. EBITDA is a proxy for (but not a substitute for) cash flow generated by the assets of a company (In this case, Cisco) before debt holders and tax authorities are paid. A good EBITDA growth rate can show investors that the company has a future for potential growth.

EBIT: An acronym for “Earnings Before Interest and Taxes”. EBIT is similar to EBITDA, but It’s an income statement metric which represents earnings prior to the payment of interest expense and taxes.


5-Year CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate):

  • Total Revenue: 4.19%
  • Gross Profit: 2.86%
  • EBITDA: 4.14%
  • EBIT: 3.57%
  • Net Income: 2.95%

While 5-Year CAGR numbers may look small, it’s very reasonable for a company of Cisco’s size.

I love the valuation at current levels. My target price is $32, unchanged from previous post. I’m taking “Warren Buffett” style approach on Cisco. I’m in this for a longer-term and my target price will change as time goes on. Strategic acquisitions, for example, will increase my target price because in the longer-term, the acquired company (depending on the company) will bring in more income although there will be costs in a short-term. After all, it’s the opportunity cost.

Any pullbacks in the stock price will be taken as an opportunity to buy more shares. The only con are the brokerage fees that comes as a disadvantage to small investors like myself.

If you have been wondering why non-GAAP numbers are not listed here, it’s because I don’t look at them much. Companies can do whatever they want to do with it and it’s hard to trust the non-GAAP numbers. On Cisco’s financial reports, they state “These non-GAAP measures are not in accordance with, or an alternative for, measures prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and may be different from non-GAAP measures used by other companies.”

Non-GAAP is a propaganda tool to raise capital and/or stock price (AKA equity compensation).

I’m not saying I don’t look at non-GAAP numbers, but GAAP is much more important to look at. Exceptions to look at non-GAAP are when there are such reasonable large write-downs and/or restructuring charges (one-time, non-recurring” expenses). Reasonable.

All comments welcomed.


Disclosure: I’m currently long on the stock, CSCO. I went long last year at price just below $25. I will continue to be long.

Note: All information I used here such as revenue, income, etc are found from Cisco’s official investor relations site, Bloomberg terminal, FactSet, and S&P Capital IQ. The pictures you see here are my own (except “Cisco Segment Performance – Q4 F’15”).

Disclaimer: The posts are not a recommendation to buy or sell any stocks, currencies, etc mentioned. They are solely my personal opinions. Every investor/trader must do his/her own due diligence before making any investment/trading decision.

GE’s slight positive earnings report and it’s about to change

Previous post about GE: http://www.outofwacc.com/ges-massive-makeover/

UPDATE:

On April 17, 2015, General Electric (NYSE:GE) reported Q1 2015 earnings results. GE reported $34.09 billion and $5.08 billion in segment revenue and profit, respectively, compared to Q1 2014 results of $35.06 billion and $5.21 billion in segment revenue and profit, respectively. In earnings per share (EPS) terms, GE reported EPS of $0.31 per share, which compares against $0.33 per share in the same quarter last year, down 6% year-over-year, but still managed to beat the consensus estimate of $0.30 per share.

Their earnings were impacted by Forex market and significant charges related to GE Capital exit activities. During the Q1 2015 conference call,  Mr. Jeffrey Bornstein, Senior Vice President (SVP) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for GE, highlighted a common issue felt by many international companies: “Foreign exchange was approximately $940 million drag on Industrial segment revenue and about $120 million impact on op profit.” Almost $1 billion currency market impact only effected 4% of industrial revenue. However, the management stated “Despite this headwind, industrial segment operating profit was up 9%.

 

GE Industrial Segment Revenue year-over-year
GE Industrial Segment Revenue year-over-year

 

As seen above, the picture shows Industrial Segment revenue year-over-year. There was not much of change. I believe it’s going to change since GE is taking a bold move.

Even though GE faced many headwinds, including from foreign exchange and low oil prices, they still managed to grow. Strong dollar and low energy prices are only temporary. It’s just a matter of time before the dollar depreciates and oil prices rebound. I have no doubt that GE will continue to succeed.

GE recorded a health margin improvement in the 1st quarter. Industrial segment gross margin increased 90 basis points (bps), or 0.9% to 26.2%, while operating profit margins increased by 120 bps, or 1.2% to 14.6%. The company is cutting costs and simplifying operations to lift margins, which is a positive sign.

Recently, GE announced to reduce the size of its financial arm, GE Capital, significantly. Last quarter, revenue from GE Capital fell 39%. This is because GE have already started reducing the size of GE Capital to become an industrially focused company, which I look it as positive in the longer term. A negative side of GE Capital reduction are taxes. GE will be losing out on significant tax breaks. GE Capital has helped GE lower its effective tax rate in the past. In 2014, GE’s effective tax rate was around 10%. Now, it moved up to about 23%. While this is a big difference, it should not be concern for investors, because it is in line with other industrial companies. Financial companies are the most vulnerable to shocks of the global financial markets. Thus, GE is taking the right move to spin off its financial unit. In a long-term, I believe more focused industrial company is positive for GE.

GE is known for its dividends. GE pays shareholders $0.92 annual dividend, or 3.43% yield, which is really impressive.

GE expects double-digit Industrial operating EPS growth to $1.20-$1.20 per share, 2%-5% industrial segment organic revenue growth, and increased margins. The company also expects high-value industrial to comprise more than 90% of GE earnings by 2018.

To conclude, I plan to hold my position (more details on previous post: http://www.outofwacc.com/ges-massive-makeover/). I will be adding more shares through dividend reinvestment, or Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP) program. I also might buy additional shares. I strongly believe GE’s restructuring plan will lead to significant capital appreciation and I have no doubt GE will increase its dividend distribution.

 

General Electric (NYSE: GE) Hourly Chart
General Electric (NYSE: GE) Hourly Chart

 

Feel free to comment below. If you need to contact me, click “Contact Me” above and send your message. Thank you.

GE’s massive makeover

Last Friday (April 10, 2015), General Electric (GE) announced a plan to sell off real estate and reduce the size of their financial business. They will be selling majority of GE Capital Real Estate assets for about $26.5 billion. GE will also sell away the remaining portion of GE Capital. It aims to complete the sale of GE Capital over the next two years.

GE’s financial unit is one of the largest financial entities, with assets of half a trillion dollars. It includes everything from consumer loans to property. When the financial crisis hit, earnings from GE’s finance unit collapsed. There were (still is) strict regulations on financial services. As a result, Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, promised to shrink the finance arm.

Ever since the financial crisis, G.E. has taken small steps to shrink its finance operations. Last year, it spun off its private-label credit card business, known as Synchrony Financial (Ticket: SYF), for $2.9 billion initial public offering (IPO).

To who? GE said it would sell nearly all of its real estate portfolio to investors including Blackstone Group and Wells Fargo & Co for $26.5 billion. There are a further $165 billion of assets that needs to be sold. There will be buyers other than Blackstone Group and Wells Fargo & Co. The company plans to keep the finance assets directly related to selling its products such as jet engines, medical equipment, and electrical grid gear. Remember; Warren Buffett has a stake in both GE and Well Fargo. I believe Warren Buffett will be increasing his stake in GE.

Why now? GE is selling their real estate and financial business for two reasons. First, commercial real estate prices are up. Commercial real estate prices are higher today than it was before the financial crisis. Lastly, rates are still low. If the Fed hikes interest rates (cost of borrowing rises), it will be unattractive to finance any deal. Therefore, it’s a perfect time to take an advantage of the low rates and the high prices.

Source: http://www.greenstreetadvisors.com/about/page/cppi/
Source:       http://www.greenstreetadvisors.com/about/page/cppi/

GE is taking the right move, by focusing more on industrial sector. By beginning to sell $26.5 billion worth of real estate assets, GE will be returning to a kind of company it is supposed to be, an industrial company. GE’s operations include jet engines, oil drilling equipment and medical devices. I would not be surprised if GE makes industrial acquisitions, both small and big. I would not even be surprised if GE merges with another industrial business.

Investors are very happy with the deal, including me. General Electric’s stock (Ticker: GE) rose more than 10%, on a heavy volume, to $28.68, highest since September 2008. On Friday, more than 350 million shares (GE) were traded. GE expects to return more than $90 billion in cash to investors through dividends, share buybacks and the Synchrony exchange through the end of 2018. $50 billion will come from a share repurchase program, one of the biggest on record. As of January 31, GE had 10.06 billion shares outstanding. GE expects to reduce it by 20% to 8-8.5 billion by 2018. In the longer term, the stock price will continue to increase.

GE (General Electric) - Daily
GE (General Electric) – Daily

Not only GE wins here, but also Uncle Sam. GE will bring back $36 billion in cash that resides overseas and will have to pay tax to the U.S government, ranging from $4 billion to $6 billion.

GE said it would take after-tax charges of about $16 billion for the restructuring in the first quarter, with $12 billion being non-cash charges. It will reduce their Earnings Per Share (EPS). On Friday (April 17, 2015), GE will report their first quarter earnings.

GE expects that by 2018 more than 90% of its earnings will be generated by its industrial businesses, up from 58% in 2014.

Past & Future:

GE's past and future
GE’s past and future (source: http://www.ge.com)

 

 Note: I currently own shares in GE, which I brought last year at $25.83. I plan to hold on to it. I may even buy more shares. I believe GE’s share-price will reach $38 by the first half of 2016.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, and/or leave comments. Thank you.

UPDATE: Click http://www.outofwacc.com/ges-slight-positive-earnings-report-and-its-about-to-change/ or click here.