Time to Dump eBay ($EBAY)

avatar By: IS
Date posted: 10.31.2014 (4:19 am) | Write a Comment
$ebayThis morning, I’ll be closing one of my two remaining 2014 long & short tech stock picks. Why? At this point, I can no longer support holding eBay. Why?

Valuing eBay as a Bank?

For years, I’ve been saying that I value eBay as a bank. Why? Mostly because I’m not a big believer in its “online auctions/store” business. There is very little growth left:
EBAY
Really, the growth is in its payments business:
EBAY2
That left a lot of “unlocked value”. But when eBay finally confirmed it was going to spin out Paypal, the stock reacted:
ycharts_chart
I’d argue that while not all of that value has been unlocked certainly a decent portion has.

Paypal Is In An Increasingly Bad Position

Two or three years ago, Paypal was the dominant payments player. That may still be the case but with leadership focused on irrelevant initiatives such as advertising networks, same-day shipping (which the company is now stopping), it wasted time and resources that could have been much better spent on payments.
Now, Paypal finds itself in a defensive position as it tries to fight off Apple Pay (already the clear leader), Google wallet and other initiatives by established and new players. Even worse is the clear trend where Paypal is losing momentum….
Look at this Google Trends and I would bet that 1-2 years from now, it will look very different:
I personally struggle to see much in terms of optimism when I look at $EBAY these days. The growth is slowing,The company has been so paralysed that it’s been unable to adapt fast enough to position itself . The payments (both offline and online) scene looks like it will be dominated by a few players led by Apple Pay, Google Wallets with a few outsiders like EBAY, McX and Square now looking like they’re in trouble. Of course, it’s still very early and there’s certainly a chance that Paypal could turn it around but I don’t see anything that leads me to believe that is likely.  Private company Stripe, through alliances with Apple, Alipay is clearly stealing much of Paypal’s platform with developers.
In the end, eBay no longer is a good opportunity at these levels and for now I prefer staying out of the stock
Disclaimer: Long eBay (EBAY) which will be closed on today’s opening

 

Should I Short The Nasdaq($QQQ) ?

avatar By: IS
Date posted: 10.27.2014 (3:00 am) | Write a Comment

qqqAs an investor, I believe in a few basic principles that guide my overall strategy. Most of my investments are concentrated into 2 key elements:

-My diversified, passive investing ETF portfolio
-My Ultimate Sustainable dividend portfolio

Both of those are highly diversified and I can sleep without any problems even if we do see another big market crash.

Another sector of my investments that is starting to worry me a bit more however is my technology stock investments. I’m not as worried about my long & short tech stock picks because they are “long & short” and thus would not be expected to do better or worse no matter what the market turns into. However we not get to the “problem”. I have my longer term speculative picks which are a growing part of my investments. I have made 1 in each of the past 3 years:

-2012: Facebook (FB)
-2013: Apple (AAPL)
-2014: TripAdvisor (TRIP)

Not only are they very significant investments from the start but the first two have done extremely well. I have no intention of selling in the near future and will likely make more such picks.

Why Are My Long Term Speculative Picks All “Tech-Related”?

The main reasons are of course that I believe that is where I have the best understanding of the companies, the environment and can make the best “picks” The big danger of course is that as will happen with other sectors, the tech stocks will most certainly go through another bubble. For technology stocks, it’s very easy to remember the last one where many dot com stocks did not even make it. I’m not sure I want to have 20-30% or more of my assets so vulnerable when something like that happens.

Solution = Shorting The Nasdaq?

By selling an ETF that tracks the Nasdaq Index, I would certainly be better protected if such an event occurs but there is of course the downside that I’d be paying to borrow the ETF. Also, if ever my stock pick returns are mainly due to the overall market, those returns will basically be “zero”. I’ll be long names that have gained big but shorting an index that has done the same. I decided to look at charts for the 3 names to see how they’ve done in comparison to QQQ:

ycharts_chart

ycharts_chart (1)

ycharts_chart (2)

It’s still very early to tell on TRIP but clearly the other 2 would have done extremely well even if I had those shorts.

What My Portfolio “Could” Look Like

Instead of owning $100K of tech stock names for examples outright. I could own:

-$100K of Tech stock names
-Short 100$K of the Nasdaq (through a short on QQQ)

This would make my strategy “cash neutral” more or less and would allow me to invest it in a more diversified manner.

I started considering this after hearing that many tech venture capitalists have such a strategy in place to limit their exposure to the sector since they generally have a significant portion of their savings invested in their own funds.

Any Thoughts?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. I’ll certainly be looking into the cost of such a strategy (basically how much the borrow on QQQ typically goes for). You could argue that QQQ is not the ideal hedge since holding a “internet stock” ETF would have more correlation but I fear the cost of such a “perfect” hedge would outweigh the additional benefits.

Closing 3 Trades

avatar By: IS
Date posted: 10.24.2014 (4:22 am) | Write a Comment

My long & short trades are generally a lot more volatile than my other trading portfolios which is why despite their strong performance, I will continue to put a limited amount of cash into that account. However, given the performance of the strategy over the past 5 years, it’d certainly be tempting to put more into it in 2015. I guess I’ll discuss that when I publish my post about the lessons that I take from my 2014 trading.

Today, I will be closing 3 of the 5 remaining long & short tech stock trades:

Long Apple (AAPL) & Short Yelp (YELP): +44,05% – Yelp is a company that has been overvalued for some time and putting up against a stock like Apple gave me good odds. The trade was negative for some time but then Yelp reported disappointing guidance:

ycharts_chart

Long Google (GOOG) & Short Blue Nile (NILE): -24,47% As many of you know NILE has been one of my favorite shorts over the years but it has recently become closer to what I’d consider to be its “fair price”. Still, shorting it against Google seemed like a good risk/reward trade but when Google fell short in terms of earnings, that trade went bad.

ycharts_chart (1)

Long Tripadvisor (TRIP) & Short Travelzoo (TZOO): +27,13% Ahh. I love this pairing. TRIP has had a tough run and I’m currently down over 10% on my long term speculative bet (to be fair, the market is also down) but I have no doubt that over tiem, TRIP is a superior play and you can expect me to put this trade up again at some point next year.

ycharts_chart (2)

The returns for the long & short portfolio now stand at +40,13%, a good return in any year and far beyond my yearly objectives for this portfolio.

Ultimate Sustainable Dividend Portfolio – October 2014 Update – Tough Market

avatar By: IS
Date posted: 10.17.2014 (3:00 am) | Write a Comment

Dollar treeAs many of you know the Ultimate Sustainable dividend portfolio was built over a year ago as an attempt to slowly become financially free. It is the most important part of my passive income plan and in weeks like the past 2 ones where we start to see panic in the financial markets, it’s a good process for me to go back and see how the portfolio is doing.

As is always the case, you can get extra information in my newsletter, it’s free to sign up for here:

Without further wait, let’s get started. Here are the portfolio holdings as of last night:

Ticker
Name
Shares
Oct 16 2014 Prices
Oct 16 Values
OMCOmnicom Group Inc32$66.16$2,117.12
MSFTMicrosoft Corp75$42.74$3,205.50
JCIJohnson Controls Inc43$40.69$1,749.67
PEPPepsiCo Inc/NC31$90.79$2,814.49
ETNEaton Corp34$59.92$2,037.28
DOVDover Corp27$73.44$1,982.88
ITWIllinois Tool Works Inc37$83.07$3,073.59
XLNXXilinx Inc40$38.49$1,539.60
SJMJM Smucker Co/The22$97.88$2,153.36
BLKBlackRock Inc14$310.69$4,349.66
TROWT Rowe Price Group Inc32$75.43$2,413.76
OXYOccidental Petroleum Corp25$86.44$2,161
XOMExxon Mobil Corp22$90.60$1,993.20
ADIAnalog Devices Inc47$44.60$2,096.20
HASHasbro Inc32$54.21$1,734.72
MATMattel Inc46$29.62$1,362.52
AFLAflac32$55.86$1,787.52
BAXBaxter International27$68.18$1,840.86
IVZInvesco Ltd70$35.85$2,509.50
CVXChevron21$111.06$2,332.26
TXNTexas Instruments Inc33$43.59$1,438.47
VWOVanguard FTSE Emerging Markets74$40.63$3,006.62
BNDVanguard Total Bond Market36$82.97$2,986.92
Cash$2,401.53
USDP$55,088.23
SPX17.0219547$3,395.03$57,790.05

Dividends Received

It has not happened much but this October will actually generate less money than October 2013 ($30.78 vs $41 last year). I’d have to check but I’d imagine it’s caused by a company moving its dividend dates a bit. Not a big deal but I’ll certainly continue to monitor.

 

usdp2

Ultimate Sustainable Dividend Portfolio News

Ticker Name News
TXN Texas Instruments Inc Dividend increase of 13.3%
VWO Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Dividend increase of 6.7%
BND Vanguard Total Bond Market Dividend increase of 3.8%

Returns

These are volatile times in the financial markets and in days like these, I’m thankful that I have some strategies where the focus isn’t as much about the value of the portfolio but rather the income that the portfolio generates. That being said, as we’d expect, the portfolio did out-grow the S&P500.
The worst return:
Dover Corp (DOV) -16,49%
The best return:
Vanguard Total Bond Market (BND) +1,1%
Clearly vindication that in a down market, there is a lot of value in holding some other asset classes.

 

usdp1

Trades

In addition to the normal “dividend reinvestments”, I also decided to add a bit to our positions in 2 of the stocks that have paid dividends since the last USDP update:

-Illinois Tool Works Inc (ITW) 6 shares – $500
-Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets (VWO) – 12 shares – $500

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Top 100 Dividend Stocks – October 2014 Edition – A New Leader Takes Charge

avatar By: IS
Date posted: 10.08.2014 (3:00 am) | Write a Comment

maldivesA few days late, but it’s that time of the month again. We’re starting to see a bit more volatility which always provides a few more investing and trading options. There are still some great opportunities out there and I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my Ultimate Sustainable Dividend portfolio. Why? Because it’s a key part of increasing my monthly passive income (see last update here). There is no “perfect” stock of course. The market is fairly efficient so it’s all about finding high quality stocks that are a good match for my portfolio and provide a good potential/downside risk ratio. Obviously, yield is just one criteria but it’s an important one and for that reason, looking at the top large cap stocks in terms of dividend payout is a great way for me to get started.

Here is the list!

Ticker
Name
Price
Dividend Yield
Payout Ratio
Ex-Dvd
DODiamond Offshore Drilling Inc3310.6288.6910/30/2014
RIGTransocean Ltd30.159.9563.7911/12/2014
WINWindstream Holdings Inc10.949.14250.7712/31/2014
ESVEnsco PLC38.267.8436.912/11/2014
NENoble Corp plc20.247.4125.211/13/2014
FTRFrontier Communications Corp6.446.21362.4212/09/2014
IRMIron Mountain Inc33.15.74213.9112/24/2014
HCPHCP Inc40.15.44106.9211/06/2014
CTLCenturyLink Inc415.27#VALUE!12/04/2014
TAT&T Inc35.365.253.1310/08/2014
HCNHealth Care REIT Inc62.785.073110.7711/06/2014
TETECO Energy Inc17.754.9696.6611/10/2014
MATMattel Inc31.7754.7855.211/24/2014
SOSouthern Co/The44.144.76107.3611/06/2014
PMPhilip Morris International Inc84.514.7368.0712/23/2014
VTRVentas Inc62.744.62164.0612/17/2014
PBCTPeople's United Financial Inc14.464.5687.6710/29/2014
RAIReynolds American Inc59.444.5179.112/10/2014
MOAltria Group Inc46.194.581.2112/22/2014
PCLPlum Creek Timber Co Inc39.224.49135.5111/12/2014
PPLPPL Corp33.484.4579.7912/09/2014
KMIKinder Morgan Inc/DE38.864.43138.4810/31/2014
VZVerizon Communications Inc49.714.4251.7310/08/2014
EDConsolidated Edison Inc57.034.4267.8911/10/2014
SCGSCANA Corp48.524.3360.312/10/2014
FEFirstEnergy Corp33.494.3245.2302/04/2015
ETREntergy Corp77.824.2783.1111/10/2014
DRIDarden Restaurants Inc51.594.26157.3710/08/2014
DUKDuke Energy Corp75.174.2382.3811/12/2014
TEGIntegrys Energy Group Inc65.624.1561.8411/28/2014
AEEAmeren Corp38.894.1175.8112/08/2014
KIMKimco Realty Corp21.964.1174.4812/29/2014
PNWPinnacle West Capital Corp55.534.0960.3110/30/2014
LOLorillard Inc60.274.0869.9211/26/2014
POMPepco Holdings Inc26.794.03245.4512/12/2014
SPLSStaples Inc11.9554.0244.2612/24/2014
PCGPG&E Corp45.54100.6112/30/2014
PEGPublic Service Enterprise Group Inc37.263.9758.5712/05/2014
XELXcel Energy Inc30.613.9258.4312/23/2014
COPConocoPhillips74.773.9141.6610/09/2014
FCXFreeport-McMoRan Inc32.323.8784.8210/10/2014
MACMacerich Co/The64.323.86252.3511/12/2014
COHCoach Inc35.113.8547.8812/05/2014
CNPCenterPoint Energy Inc24.733.84114.1511/14/2014
GASAGL Resources Inc51.263.8270.9311/19/2014
GRMNGarmin Ltd50.453.8157.4412/11/2014
AEPAmerican Electric Power Co Inc52.873.7864.4611/10/2014
KRFTKraft Foods Group Inc56.33.7345.0510/13/2014
CINFCincinnati Financial Corp47.633.752.2212/15/2014
CVXChevron Corp117.713.6734.8911/19/2014
CACA Inc27.463.6450.3911/18/2014
CMSCMS Energy Corp29.993.659.6911/05/2014
DTEDTE Energy Co76.873.5968.5312/18/2014
MCDMcDonald's Corp94.863.5855.7611/26/2014
OKEONEOK Inc64.253.58117.511/05/2014
WECWisconsin Energy Corp43.813.5656.9611/12/2014
PFEPfizer Inc29.223.5657.6811/05/2014
EXCExelon Corp34.883.5673.5511/17/2014
LEGLeggett & Platt Inc34.993.5487.7112/10/2014
PLDPrologis Inc37.633.51288.8212/18/2014
GEGeneral Electric Co25.43.4653.1112/24/2014
NUNortheast Utilities45.553.4558.8712/09/2014
FFord Motor Co14.593.432210/28/2014
PAYXPaychex Inc44.323.4381.3710/31/2014
DDominion Resources Inc/VA70.043.4372.8812/03/2014
CVCCablevision Systems Corp17.773.42122.8611/13/2014
SESpectra Energy Corp39.263.4180.5611/12/2014
LMTLockheed Martin Corp178.343.365211/26/2014
PSAPublic Storage167.63.34105.0212/08/2014
GMEGameStop Corp40.463.2637.2111/28/2014
AVBAvalonBay Communities Inc142.693.26932.9412/30/2014
GISGeneral Mills Inc50.473.2553.4110/08/2014
AIVApartment Investment & Management Co32.223.2431414.2711/12/2014
KKellogg Co61.193.236.1611/28/2014
EQREquity Residential62.613.19#VALUE!12/18/2014
WMWaste Management Inc47.63.15696.9411/28/2014
SPGSimon Property Group Inc165.813.14111.9611/10/2014
KMBKimberly-Clark Corp107.73.1258.0812/03/2014
ADIAnalog Devices Inc47.583.160.3212/03/2014
HASHasbro Inc55.423.172.8810/30/2014
MCHPMicrochip Technology Inc46.133.0971.1411/18/2014
SYYSysco Corp37.73.0872.3101/07/2015
WUWestern Union Co/The16.243.0834.7212/18/2014
PBIPitney Bowes Inc24.383.0862.6411/12/2014
NEENextEra Energy Inc94.233.0865.1111/26/2014
STXSeagate Technology PLC56.083.0735.8511/03/2014
CLXClorox Co/The96.473.0766.1610/27/2014
PGProcter & Gamble Co/The83.793.076110/15/2014
CSCOCisco Systems Inc25.313.0147.8501/02/2015
OXYOccidental Petroleum Corp95.96334.8412/08/2014
CAGConAgra Foods Inc33.333140.910/29/2014
LLYEli Lilly & Co65.672.9844.8911/14/2014
CPBCampbell Soup Co42.452.9450.8810/08/2014
MRKMerck & Co Inc59.92.94116.5312/11/2014
VNOVornado Realty Trust99.822.93#VALUE!11/05/2014
NUENucor Corp51.982.8596.7412/30/2014
BMYBristol-Myers Squibb Co50.852.8490.4401/07/2015
WYNNWynn Resorts Ltd182.282.7496.5911/07/2014
MWVMeadWestvaco Corp41.362.4255.3111/25/2014
CMECME Group Inc/IL80.952.32151.0612/05/2014

It’s Not All About Yield

Of course, as I always mention, dividend yield is one criteria and Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc (DDO) is a great example of that fact. Yes, it has a solid 10% dividend yield but look at the trajectory of its earnings, revenues and dividends:

ycharts_chart (1)

oh and the stock price hasn’t been doing too well either:

ycharts_chart

I will be writing more about these names soon in our free mailing list, join now if you have not done so yet:

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Increasingly Confused by Amazon ($AMZN)…the Good, The Bad And The Great

avatar By: IS
Date posted: 09.30.2014 (3:00 am) | Write a Comment

$AMZNMany of you know how much I believe in my “web ecosystem theory”. I have started working on a new article about it and the impact that mobile has had on that theory but as you can guess, I’m still a big believer in placing chips on the 5 major ecosystem players ($GOOG, $AAPL, $FB, $MSFT, $AMZN). I have already taken significant longer term stakes in Apple and Facebook which have worked out well so far. I’m certainly not saying that other tech players can’t have success but it’s important to keep in mind that they will need to co-exist with these established players in order to do well. Netflix ($NFLX), Twitter ($TWTR) and TripAdvisor ($TRIP – which I recently bought – are a few of the players which I think will do well despite not “controlling their ecosystem”.

Does Amazon Belong To The Group?

The one player that I often got questions about in this group was Amazon because the nature of their activites (ecommerce) was so different but the 5 names seem to be converging rather quickly and as players like Google move towards ecommerce and shipping while Amazon starts working on mobile devices, advertising services, video websites, gaming platforms, etc, it’s increasingly clear that the collisions between these 5 players are only getting started. One area where Amazon does not fit with them however is in terms of market cap. Just take a look at the biggest US companies (in terms of market cap):

topmktcap

You will see that 3 of the ecosystem plays are among the top 4. Facebook is not that far behind and being the most recently founded company, is well on its way to get there. The missing company? Amazon of course is ranked #26 on that list despite its incredible growth story? Why? It’s a rather simple reason: “Lack of profits”. Today I wanted to take a new look at Amazon after reading two very thought provoking posts written by two of the top guys when it comes to tech in the recent weeks that got me thinking. I highly recommend both:

-Losing my Amazon religion @ Stratechery
-Why Amazon has no profits (and why it works) @ Benedict-Evans

I won’t go over every statement in those 2 posts but if you are investing or considering trading Amazon, you do need to read both.

The Good

I certainly feel like Benedict-Evans explained it extremely well and perhaps even more clearly is the tweet by legendary VC Marc Andreeson:

Clearly, the reason why Amazon’s net profit has consistently been around $0 is because that is exactly what Jeff Bezos is trying to do.

ycharts_chart (1)

credit: yCharts.com

Spend as much as you can. Why? Because Amazon’s mission requires an incredible amount of resources. What is that “mission”. I’ll agree that it’s not clear and even being the “everything store” seems to under-estimate what Amazon is trying to accomplish. It’s much more than a “store” that can sell you everything.  Jessica Lessin, editor of the Information (a paid but incredibly valuable website) has the best vision that I’ve heard of what Amazon is trying to do: “Amazon-as-city“. Amazon wants to sell more than physical and digital goods and is increasingly moving towards services. The good news is that it’s working as it continues to gain market share and eliminate competition:

yyyy

1Amazon has also been able to make incredible progress when it comes to building these incredible warehouses. This post from Re/code gives a few maps that give you some idea of the progress that’s been made.  Clearly, no other company comes close to what Amazon has been able to build. Even companies such as Walmart that have a much broader physical presence are nowhere near as organized which is showing up in the numbers (no surprise here).

Amazon is taking over markets one at a time and if books are any indication, Amazon will be able to innovate greatly once it reaches that point. Just think of how it changed the whole ebook market, its print-as-you-go initiative, unlimited Kindle subscriptions, etc.

The Bad

I feel like Ben Thompson expressed it very well (again the link) and there are many products or ideas that Amazon is working on that make me scratch my head. Bezos is incredible and it’s a tough position to doubt Amazon’s success but it’s hard to argue that Amazon is not well positioned to compete with players such as Apple and Google when it comes to smartphones and tablets for example. Rumors that Amazon has only sold 35,000 Fire phones are a good way to think about how far the company has to go if it wants to become relevant. I understand why it would be important to dominate mobile but at what cost? How much are these products costing to develop and is it even clear that Amazon has a shot of catching up?

When Amazon spends a billion dollars to buy video gaming video community Twitch, it’s not clear how this will end up profiting Amazon. Yes, it’s a terrific property that Google was looking to buy and yes Amazon would like to have terrific video content to provide on all of its platforms. But what makes Amazon uniquely qualified to run Twitch? It seems like one more distraction.

I was very critical of eBay trying to launch an advertising network and can probably be almost as critical about Amazon’s idea to do the same. Yes, Amazon seems like its slightly better positioned but the strategy remains a mystery to me. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use that billion dollars to build more warehouses?

The Great

All of that being said, in the end I do think that Amazon remains worth the gamble. More transparency would certainly help because I’d like to make sure that most of what the company is reinvesting is being used for warehouses and other strategic purchases to feel even more at ease. But the fact remains that in its core business, Amazon is dominant, faces little to no competition (I’m not buying efforts like Google Shopping Express or ebay same-day shipping to this day) and as long as that trend continues, I do believe the “make no profits” philosophy makes sense. If this is a whole new industry that is being created and that we are still its infancy, it makes a lot of sense to reinvest as much as it possibly can to built the best infrastructure for this new world.

I have not yet found an entry point to my liking but believe me that I will be buying at some point if we see a setback.

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