Self-Directed Excellence

This Week at MANIFEST (1/24/2020)

“Life is like a snowball, all you need is wet snow and a really long hill.” — Warren Buffett

This past week, we lost a very special charter subscriber to Manifest Investing. My Father. I think his ID number was single digits. He was also a charter member of our Chicago-based investment club, evolved into an investing warrior … and was quite simply, my favorite EAGLE.

A couple of weeks ago I huddled with my father over his monthly ritual of opening his E*Trade envelope. A careful slice of the envelope (he saved every single one of them, every one) and I heard him say some of my favorite words, “My Colgate-Palmolive stock is worth how much? That can’t be right.” A $2000 investment in CL was now worth $28,000. This was typical of many holdings. In fact, the gains in Gentex, Pepsi, and Vanguard Technology (VGT) were actually much bigger.

His experience with General Electric was “different.” He shared his disappointment with GE often.

But he fixated on the steady delivery of Colgate. As the accompanying image shows, the company occupied Mom and Dad’s Christmas tree. We first talked about this long ago, see: When Monsters Are Created. It’s a story about consumer and stakeholder loyalty. This past weekend, I noticed that all of the squeezed toothpaste tubes on the bathroom sinks (including those toted by his grandchildren) were Colgate. He left a mark.

The image of Mom and Dad was captured at an Investor Fair in Springfield, Illinois. Long story short, the Biomet investor relations representative had told Mom and Dad over breakfast that $2000 invested in Biomet circa 1980 was worth $1,000,000 in the late 1990s. It’s a fact. (For more, see Raise A Cup: Million Dollar Moment — April 2012) It’s also potential freedom. Magic and miracles happen when given a chance.

Dad was a magnificently complicated man. He often chided me for complaining about bears and investing. “Not all bears are bad. I give one to your mother every Valentine’s Day. Besides, we loaded up on some pretty good stocks in March 2009 thanks to one of your bears.” Much wisdom.

And, in closing, one of the simplest and 100% effective lessons ever: Lessons From Fathers & Simple Things, Solid Results (Some might note that this may have been the earliest reference to Five Below)

Bottom Line: Dad took his investment club experience back in the 1990s and deployed it with an IRA that was invested in a CD that also happened to be charging $75/year for “custodial service.” We recently calculated that it would have worth approximately $20,000 if left in that paltry “risk free” situation. We moved it to E*Trade and he carefully selected companies like Gentex, Johnson & Johnson, AFLAC, Walgreen/CVS and leaned heavily on Vanguard Technology (VGT) despite his age. His balance grew to be a lot more than $20,000. When we talked about “risk”, I observed that “Dad, you’ve NEVER, EVER, acted your age.” He didn’t think long term investing included the risk they talk about on television and teach in colleges and business schools. He was right.

For so many of the deepest lessons and love imaginable, THANK YOU, DAD.

MANIFEST 40 Updates

  • 23. Pepsi (PEP)
  • 32. Tapestry (TPR)
  • 39. Ulta Beauty (ULTA)
  • 40. Costco Wholesale (COST)

Round Table Stocks

  • Costco Wholesale (COST)
  • Dollar General (DG)
  • Five Below (FIVE)
  • Schwab, Charles (SCHW)
  • Skechers (SKX)
  • TJX Companies (TJX)
  • Tyson Foods (TSN)
  • Ulta Beauty (ULTA)

Best Small Companies (2020 Dashboard)

The status of the 2020 Best Small Companies can be tracked at:

Investing Round Table Sessions (Video Archives)

Investing Topics (Video Archives)

Results, Remarks & References

Companies of Interest: Value Line (1/24/2020)

The median Value Line low total return forecast for the companies in this week’s update batch is 5.5% vs. 4.6% for the Value Line 1700 ($VLE).

Materially Stronger: Wal-Mart (WMT), Aaron’s (AAN), Costco Wholesale (COST), AutoZone (AZO)

Materially Weaker: Conn’s (CONN), Designer Brands (DBI), Children’s Place (PLCE), Fossil (FOSL), Kohl’s (KSS), Ollie’s Bargain (OLLI), Molson Coors (TAP)

Discontinued: Avon Products (AVP), Medicines Co. (MDCO)


Market Barometers

The thing very few people tell you about “overvalued” markets is that, occasionally, the fundamentals arrive to justify them. — Joshua Brown

Value Line Median Appreciation Projection (VLMAP) Forecast. The long-term median appreciation projection for the 1700 companies featured in the Value Line Investment Survey is 8.8%, a DECREASE from 9.7% last week. For context, this indicator has ranged from low single digits (when stocks are generally overvalued) to approximately 25% when stocks are in the teeth of bear markets like 2008-2009.

Update Batch: Stocks to Study (1/24/2020)

Long & Short Term Perspectives. (January 24, 2020) Proj Ann Return (PAR): Long term return forecast based on fundamental analysis and five year time horizon. Quality: Percentile ranking of composite that includes financial strength, earnings stability and relative growth & profitability. MANIFEST Ranking: Combination ranking that equally weights PAR and Quality. VL Low Tot Ret: Value Line forecast, expressed as low total return forecast. Owner’s PROC: Projected Return on Capital via 5-year EPS forecast versus current capital — equity and debt. Morningstar and ACE and P/FV: Price-to-Fair Value estimates from the (2) sources. 1-Yr ACE Tot Return: One year total return estimates via ACE.

Season For Shareholder Loyalty

It’s absolutely a beautiful thing when we engage friends and family and lead them to the discovery of long-term investing. The opportunity to make a substantial difference, enabling better futures, is massive. We know that long-term investors also often become loyal (even rabid) consumers for the companies that they own. Regular vigilance combines with routine consumption. I wish I could change the names in the following story to protect the guilty … but it serves as a reminder of how powerful these forces of discovery can be.

I’d made the sojourn again from southeastern Michigan back to the shores of the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois. As a fairly frequent traveler, my bags are generally packed carefully to make sure that I have all of the necessities for effective travel. I’d arrived back at my parent’s residence well after midnight and settled in for a good night’s sleep knowing that I’d see them at the breakfast table in the morning.

Sunrise came … but something was wrong. It was one of those gnawing feelings. I could have sworn that I stuck that tube of toothpaste in my overnight bag. No matter how deep I dug, it was clear that I was on the road without this necessary item? But my toothbrush was there? If it was there, how in the world did I forget the tube of toothpaste?

Sure enough, Mom and Dad were already seated at the kitchen table. We exchanged hugs and greetings and my instincts began to kick in.

“Dad, you wouldn’t have any idea why I can’t find my toothpaste, would you?”

Grinning, as he often does, like a Cheshire Cat but with his face aimed at his cereal, he responded, “Hmmm. That’s too bad, sorry to hear that. I probably have some real toothpaste you can use.” He was now snickering and giggling while continuing to munch on his cereal. He was also clearly avoiding eye contact.

“What’s with the Annual Report standing next to the bathroom mirror?”

Mom mumbled something along the lines of, “… Oh no. Here we go again.” The cereal crunching continued, but he offered up, “You’ve been warned.” There was still no eye contact.

“Enlighten me, Dad. I don’t seem to recall any warnings?” (It was a white lie. Hairs were now standing on the back of my neck and I was clearly in the danger zone.)

“You should know better than to bring that contraband into this house.”

Mischievous giggling continued. Mom was now grinning, siding with the suspect.

“Why don’t you join the rest of the world and use Colgate ($CL) toothpaste instead of that ‘stuff’ ($PG) from Cincinnati? Would you like to see a Fact Sheet?”

It was crystal clear now. My toothpaste had been hijacked and replaced with a Colgate-Palmolive annual report. Dad became a Colgate stakeholder after seeing a company presentation at an investment conference a few years ago. It seems he also became an ardent evangelist and enforcer for their products.

Value Line Low Total Return Screen (3/29/2013)


Companies of Interest

Whoa. We’ve not seen a listing for “Materially Stronger” like that in quite a while!

But keep it in context. Despite significant strengthening of fundamentals, virtually none of these show up on the study target list. And in fact, we had to stretch the parameters in order to have a list.

We made an exception for Blyth (BTH) because usually a quality ranking of 14 would normally keep it off the list. But the return is speculative and if you can build a case for a turnaround, BTH could be worth a closer look.  BTH is clearly a restructuring-in-progress.

Fluor Corp (FLR), a Beardstown Ladies favorite, is here as a reminder. Some of you may recall that the Ladies continued to hold FLR despite a low single-digit PAR a few years ago (something we explored during a Dashboard Diagnostics webcast). The reminder is that stocks can stay overbought for a long time — but that vigilance, and in some cases, protective measures can be prudent.

Colgate-Palmolive (CL) is on the list because 10.2% is a pretty solid return forecast when the average return forecast is only 6.8% and the excellent quality rating stands out here. (Plus, it’s my Dad’s favorite stock)

Sonoco Products isn’t about gasoline and it’s a good study although probably worth waiting for a stock price dip before getting wrapped up in it.

Materially Stronger: Lumber Liquidators (LL), Masco (MAS), Simpson Mfg (SSD), Universal Forest Products (UFPI), Eagle Materials (EXP), Martin Marietta (MLM), Texas Industries (TXI), Mastec (MTZ), HNI (HNI), Tempur-Pedic (TPX), KB Homes (KBH), Lennar (LEN), Pulte Homes (PHM), Ryland Group (RYL), Fastenal (FAST), International Paper (IP), Headwaters (HW), NRG Energy (NRG), Potlatch (PCH), Lowe’s (LOW), Tractor Supply (TSCO)

Materially Weaker: Foster Wheeler (FWLT), St. Joe (JOE), GT Advanced Tech (GTAT), AES (AES)

Market Barometers

The median Value Line low total return forecast is 6.8% vs. 6.8% last week.

As the first quarter of 2013 comes to a close, it’s probably time to check in on our run-for-the-hills indicator, the track record for new highs vs. new lows.

Despite the generally bullish and potentially overbought general market, there’s no reason to load up the family truck and head for the hills, Beverly or otherwise, Jed.