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.

This Week at VL: VLLTR Opportunities

The subtle, even stealthy, deterioration of fundamentals continues. There’s a fair amount of slippage in the long-term forecasts. As we’ve been saying, it will be interesting when the 2015 estimates begin rolling and Value Line ratchets their 3-5 year forecasts to the next year. Top 40 regulars Pepsi (PEP) and Coca-Cola (KO) continue to be compelling studies during these times of reduced long-term forecasts.

Materially Stronger: Apollo Group (APOL), Spartan Stores (SPTN)

Materially Weaker: SodaStream (SODA), ROVI (ROVI), Strayer Education (STRA), Canon (CAJ)

Pepsi (PEP)

Pepsi (PEP) showed up during this week’s Value Line update as one of the potential companies of interest — even if the return forecast was at the lower end of the featured stock spectrum.

At a Value Line low total return forecast of 13%, that actually compares quite favorably to the median Value Line low total return forecast of 7.9%. And now we trust, but verify.

Pepsi (PEP) is ranked #13 in the MANIFEST 40 (December 2012) with an excellent quality rating.

With a sales growth forecast of 5%, net margin of 11% and a projected average P/E of 18x, the projected annual return is 10% … a little less robust after conditioning the expectations by factoring in the opinions of S&P and Morningstar.

But 10% is still pretty good for this high-quality industry leader.

Value Line Low Total Return Screen (1/25/2013)

Speaking of inflections, check out the number of weaker long-term price forecasts (listed below) versus those that have strengthened. This trend has been in place for some time.

Much rides on the 4Q2012 earnings reports, particularly this week.

We’ll also start to get a look at a few of the 2014 annual forecasts as they come out of the blocks.  Much rides.

There’s a plethora of study and investment candidates this week. We’re a little reluctant to look at any of these with a return forecast greater than 22.5% (simply from a statistics perspective) but there are plenty of those blue chip stalwarts that are currently getting kicked around. Might the Lost Decade be found?

Universal Electronics (UEIC) and Pepsi (PEP) are among those that trigger attention — and we’ll take a look at least one of these this week.

Materially Stronger: Bridgepoint Education (BPI)

Materially Weaker: Dolby Labs (DLB), Activision Blizzard (ATVI), Treehouse Foods (THS), Village Super Market (VLGEA), Apollo Group (APOL), DTS (DTSI), Career Education (CECO), Avid Technology (AVID), Diamond Foods (DMND), ITT Educational Services (ESI), Synutra (SYUT), Zynga (ZNGA)

Note: After continuing the update (incorporating and factoring in forecast changes and the opinions of S&P and Morningstar, etc.) degradation of fundamentals in Strayer Education (STRA), Synutra (SYUT) and Nutrisystem (NTRI) would have resulted in their removal from the Companies of Interest list. In other words, their quality rating dipped below 55 (Good) and they would no longer qualify for this screen.