JT’s DAILY (WEEKLY as of 12/9/2013) BLOG for Month Of August 2017
Note: All previous month's posts are available in the archives, as noted above.
All postings for the month are available here, sorted in descending order - i.e. most recent at the top.
1st Posting for Week Beginning Monday 08/28/2017
Posted Monday 08/28/2017 07:30 AM
Stocks managed a decent relief rally on Tuesday, then held on to finish the week with a gain. As the week-end drew near, the weather became the primary topic of conversation, as Houston experienced the worst flooding ever from hurricane Harvey’s soaking aftermath.
Dividends are the primary objective of my investment approach. Here are this week’s batch of ex-dividend dates:
AGNC Investment (AGNC), 8/28/2017, yield 9.97%. AGNC pays monthly.
STAG Industrial (STAG), 8/29/2017, yield 5.05%. STAG also pays monthly.
Enerplus (ERF), 8/29/2017, yield 1.09%. The one-time Canadian high-yield trust, no longer yielding much of anything, pays monthly.
Prospect Capital (PSEC), 8/29/2017, yield 13.91%. PSEC pays monthly.
Kellogg (K), 8/30/2017, yield 3.18%.
Realty Income (O), 8/30/2017, yield 4.41%. The “monthly dividend company” pays, you guessed it, monthly.
Safety Insurance Group (SAFT), 8/30/2017, yield 4.47%.
McDonalds (MCD), 8/30/2017, yield 2.37%.
Pepsico (PEP), 8/30/2017, yield 2.77%.
CenturyLink (CTL), 8/31/2017, yield 10.77%.
Triangle Capital (TCAP), 8/31/2017, yield 13.39%.
Both firms listed last week as being scheduled to report did so as scheduled. That would be JM Smucker (SJM) and Seadrill (SDRL). For earnings details, see the firms’ press releases, articles on the mainstream financial media, brokerage compilations, or my preferred resource, Seeking Alpha. The consensus is that SDRL is done, will be declaring bankruptcy soon, and the common holders will end up with nothing. SDRL is a case-study of a high-flying, high-yielding stock, and what happens when things go south. It is also a case study of the likely outcome in rank speculation, in this case picking up shares of a former high-flyer for peanuts, hoping for a big gain if any kind of recovery occurs, and experiencing what you get when no recovery is possible.
As for this week, two firms on my lists will be reporting, Prospect Capital (PSEC) on 8/28/2017, and Greif (GEF) on 8/30/2017.
My weekly round-up of upgrades / downgrades of stocks on my lists is next:
Plains All American Pipeline L P (PAA) was upgraded from Hold to Buy at Jeffries.
Horizon Technology Finance (HRZN) was upgraded from Sell to Neutral at Compass Point.
Eni S p A (E) was downgraded from Equal Weight to UnderWeight at Barclays.
Statoil (STO) was downgraded from Equal Weight to UnderWeight at Barclays.
Total S A (TOT), was downgraded from OverWeight to Equal Weight at Barclays.
Horizon Technology Finance (HRZN) was upgraded from Hold to Buy at Maxim Group.
Frontier Communications (FTR) was reiterated at Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.
CenturyLink (CTL) was reiterated at Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.
JM Smucker (SJM) was downgraded from OverWeight to Neutral at JP Morgan.
Hershey Co (HSY) was reiterated at Neutral at Susquehanna.
ONEOK (OKE) was reiterated at Buy at Argus.
JM Smucker (SJM) was reiterated at UnderWeight at Morgan Stanley.
Transocean (RIG) was upgraded from UnderPerform to Sector Perform at RBC Capital Markets.
Noble Corp PLC (NE) was upgraded from UnderPerform to Sector Perform at RBC Capital Markets.
As the end of summer approaches, there are ominous clouds on the horizon, both literally (in Houston and all along the Gulf Coast) and figuratively (government shutdown risk, just one of many). The correction that seemed to be starting before last week has evidently been cancelled, or perhaps has just been delayed. Certainly now is not the time to go “all in” on anything! Conserve cash and be cautious, maybe even paranoid, is my recommendation.
1st Posting for Week Beginning Monday 08/21/2017
Posted Saturday 08/19/2017 07:30 PM
Stocks rebounded on Monday, as the world did not end in a nuclear holocaust, but then crashed again later in the week on the latest media-orchestrated Trump debacle, and yet another European terrorist incident. Many pundits continue to point to indications that a major pull-back could be at hand, and they may be right. But after so many false head-fakes ending with stocks roaring back higher than ever, don’t bet the farm on it. In fact, don’t bet the farm on any one thing, that’s the key to staying in the game. The longer you play this game, the more you realize two things; anything can happen, and no one knows anything, with any certainty at least.
As close to certain as you’re going to get are recurring dividends payments from blue chips, and a little less certain, but regular until they aren’t, payments from firms rated a bit less than blue chip quality. Here are the stocks on my lists going ex-dividend this week:
Pitney Bowes (PBI), 8/23/2017, yield 5.91%. PBI has paid regularly for a long time, but is definitely not in the blue chip category.
3M Co (MMM), 8/23/2017, yield 2.29%. MMM is as blue as it gets, which is why the stock price is over $200, and the yield barely above 2%.
Diebold Nixdorf (DBD), 8/23/2017, yield 2.03%. DBD is now on my Tier4 (no longer recommended) list, based on the reduced dividend and yield, and middling performance in recent quarters. A storied past does not mean much in the present, sorry to say.
Hershey Co (HSY), 8/23/2017, yield 2.43%.
NextEra (NEE), 8/23/2017, yield 2.64%. A highly-loved utility, NEE has a stock price to match. A better choice than the common may be NEE preferreds. NEE has several preferreds yielding close to 5% and available for just a bit more than par ($25), specifically G, H, I, and J. I may look further into this later. Just remember, if you pay more than par for a $25 preferred, you are guaranteed a capital loss if the preferred is called. But, if you can get it fairly close to par, one or two quarters of dividend payments will make it a guaranteed winner, even if called. The only real risk of a preferred is the stability of the issuing firm and the ability to make the payments. NEE scores high on that scale.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), 8/25/2017, yield 2.53%. Another deep blue stock, but perhaps ever so slightly less blue than MMM, since any firm in the health care sector could be impacted by an adverse government action. Remember, the government funds about 90% of health care in this worker’s paradise.
A noted omission from several weeks back, as far as dividends scheduled, was NuStar Energy L P (NS), which went ex-dividend on 8/3/2017, currently yielding 11.43%. I have owned 100 shares of NS since 2011, and have received nearly $2500 in dividends to-date. I wrote an article on the company (available on Seeking Alpha) back in 2012, when it didn’t look good for the firm. My faith has been rewarded, and while the current energy bust has hurt the stock price in recent months, I still believe NS is a good long-term hold, and worthy of remaining on my Tier2 list.
All three firms listed last week as being scheduled to report did so as scheduled. That would be Sysco (SYY), Cisco Systems (CSCO), and Wal-Mart Stores (WMT). For earnings details, see the firms’ press releases, articles on the mainstream financial media, brokerage compilations, or my preferred resource, Seeking Alpha. As I have noted before, Seeking Alpha often provides a transcript of the earnings conference call.
One firm on my lists reporting results recently that I missed was Nestle S A (NSRGY), which reported “first half” results on 7/27/2017. A transcript is available on Seeking Alpha. Foreign firms often do not report results on a regular schedule like US firms, and it is easy to miss their presentations.
Only two firms I track will be reporting this week, JM Smucker (SJM) on 8/24/2017, and Seadrill (SDRL), also on 8/24/2017. Note that SDRL has long been on my Tier4 list as a lost cause, and it certainly isn’t getting any better for SDRL. I speculated early on in the current energy bust on several offshore drillers, as their reduced share prices seemed worthy of a modest speculation. Unfortunately, I under-estimated the magnitude and the duration of the current oil bust, and of the four drillers I wagered on, SDRL is in the most precarious position, and looks like it will soon go bankrupt or close-enough to it that it may as well be bankrupt. I will continue to follow it as long as it exists. Continuing to track my Tier4 firms serves a purpose, to keep me grounded and cautious. Ben Graham warned of the risks of speculation, and at least I can say I knew what I was doing and was aware of the risks, which is why I went in small, thank goodness!
My weekly round-up of upgrades / downgrades of stocks on my lists is next:
Kimco Realty (KIM) was downgraded from OutPerform to In-Line at Evercore ISI Group.
STAG Industrial (STAG) was upgraded from Hold to OutPerform at Evercore ISI Group.
Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT) was downgraded from OutPerform to In-Line at Evercore ISI Group.
Calumet Specialty Products Partners L P (CLMT) was upgraded from Neutral to Buy at Janney Capital. Note that CLMT is on my Tier4 list, having eliminated the dividend some time ago. The firm may well survive and resume payouts at a more modest pace, but when, I can’t say. I bought and sold CLMT several times in 2013, always at a small gain, and fortunately I avoided the drop from the $30’s to the $5’s, where it is currently. I will keep an eye on it, and may get back in if dividends resume.
Transocean LTD (RIG) was upgraded from UnderPerform to Neutral at BofA/Merrill. RIG looks to be the most likely survivor of my offshore driller speculations. It remains to be seen if surviving will lead to prospering once again.
Energy Transfer Partners L P (ETP) was reiterated at Buy at Citigroup. ETP is priced for a dividend cut, currently yielding over 11%. If it doesn’t happen, investors getting in now will do very well. I have to admit I’m tempted, but still on the fence at this point.
Plains All American Pipeline L P (PAA) was reiterated at Buy at Citigroup. PAA has long been on the “dividend at risk” list, also yielding over 11%. Same comment as ETP applies. I bought into PAA just under $30 in 2015, as it had dropped precipitously, expecting a quick bounce. It didn’t happen, but I was able exit a year later at $32 on a short-lived rally, and obviously it was a good escape, as right after that the descent to the present $19 began. That memory is one thing that makes me hold back on ETP, or for that matter any MLP just now.
Freeport McMoRan (FCX) was initiated at Market Perform at Raymond James. FCX is on my Tier4 list, having eliminated the dividend, but I do own it, and I’m not selling, as I believe it is worth keeping as a precious metals miner that will eventually rebound.
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) was reiterated at Neutral at Citigroup.
Transocean LTD (RIG) was reiterated at Hold at Jeffries.
Paychex (PAYX) was upgraded from UnderWeight to Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.
Hershey Co (HSY) was upgraded from Market Perform to OutPerform at Bernstein.
Nucor (NUE) was downgraded from OverWeight to Sector Weight at KeyBanc.
Eaton (ETN) was downgraded from Neutral to UnderWeight at JP Morgan.
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) was reiterated at UnderPerform at RBC Capital Markets.
Plains All American Pipeline L P (PAA) was reiterated at Market Perform at BMO Capital Markets.
Right now, even as I have my doubts as to whether the recent weakness is the start of “the big one” that has been expected for so long, actually since 2009, as the rally that began then was dis-believed from the start, I am remaining in cash at an all-time high percentage for me. There just isn’t much out there available at an attractive price, other than select energy MLPs, a few of which have been discussed above. If I thought the present environment was going to continue for years, I could see buying some nice-yielding preferreds and Closed End Funds (CEFs), just to get some income, as cash yields effectively nothing these days. But I actually believe there is a chance that “the big one” could be coming, and with it a chance once again to pick up some true blue chips at a reasonable price, in six months to a year or two. If the market continues down, I advise to go in cautiously, starting small, even if prices are lower than seen in years in some cases. If the decline is anything like 2008, or even 2001, even better prices will be coming, so keep some dry powder in case that happens.
I’m currently re-reading two classics by my favorite living author, Nassim Taleb, “The Black Swan” and “Fooled by Randomness”, along with current market and economic guru Jim Rickard’s latest, “The Road to Ruin”. These three texts will definitely simulate your thinking and introduce you to the concept of risk in ways you might not have thought of before. The key take-away is risk is there, whether recognized or not. What you must avoid is being at risk but not being aware of it, such as the well-fed, comfortable life-style, complacent turkey the day before Thanksgiving.
1st Posting for Week Beginning Monday 08/14/2017
Posted Sunday 08/13/2017 06:00 PM
Fear returned to the markets last week, as all of the major averages posted declines, with a major one-day sell off occurring on Thursday, as the geopolitical rhetoric really heated up. Pundits have been saying for some time now that a correction is overdue, as the market exhibits many characteristics of a “tired” bull that have in the past preceded dips. Most agree that a pullback would be “healthy”, as long as it didn’t get out of control. I, for one, would certainly like to see some better entry points on top quality names than are currently available. Just remember, I’ve been waiting and waiting, for years now it seems, for such opportunities.
At least, I haven’t had to wait on dividends, as they just keep on coming. Stocks on my lists going ex-dividend this week are listed below, with the ex-dividend date and the current yield indicated. Assume a quarterly payout unless otherwise indicated.
MicroSoft (MSFT), 8/15/2017, 2.18%.
Chevron (CVX), 8/16/2017, 3.92%.
Kraft Heinz (KHC), 8/16/2017, 2.91%.
Horizon Technology Finance (HRZN), 8/16/2017, 11.35%. HRZN is a monthly payer.
Duke Energy (DUK), 8/16/2017, 4.12%.
Gladstone Investment (GAIN), 8/17/2017, 8.14%. GAIN pays monthly.
Pan American Silver (PAAS), 8/17/2017, 0.57%. PAAS is obviously not owned for the dividend, but rather a bet on silver prices. PAAS jumped up $2.00 Thursday even as the market dipped.
Southern Co (SO), 8/17/2017, 4.75%. SO has been under pressure for over a year now as high-profile expansion projects continue to experience delays and cost overruns, but the stock has held up and the dividend appears safe, at least for now.
Main Street Capital (MAIN), 8/17/2017, 5.72%. MAIN also pays monthly.
In reviewing various sources for firms with upcoming ex-dividend dates, I determined that I missed a couple in my most recent postings. Even though it is obviously too late now to buy and get the dividend, in the interest of completeness, here they are; Norfolk Southern went ex-dividend 8/3/2017, yielding 2.11%, and Buckeye Partners L P (BPL) went ex-dividend 8/10/2017, yielding 8.64%.
All nine firms listed last week as being scheduled to report did so as scheduled. See last week’s posting for the firms that reported. For earnings details, see the firms’ press releases, articles on the mainstream financial media, brokerage compilations, or my preferred resource, Seeking Alpha. As I have noted before, Seeking Alpha often provides a transcript of the earnings conference call.
Earnings season is effectively over, but three stragglers on my lists will be reporting this week, Sysco (SYY) on 8/14/2017, Cisco Systems (CSCO) on 8/16/2017, and Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) on 8/17/2017.
Upgrades / downgrades coming out last week on stocks I follow are listed below. See last week’s posting for my usual cautionary stance on taking these opinions too seriously.
Eaton (ETN) was downgraded from OutPerform to In-Line at Evercore ISI.
Triangle Capital (TCAP) was downgraded from Buy to Neutral at Hilliard Lyons.
Hercules Capital (HTGC) was resumed at Market OutPerform at JMP Securities.
Transocean (RIG) was reiterated at UnderWeight at Barclays.
Plains All American Pipeline L P (PAA) was downgraded from Sector OutPerform to Sector Perform at Scotia Howard Weil, was reiterated at Hold at Stifel Nicolaus, and was downgraded from OutPerform to Neutral at Robert W Baird.
United Parcel Service (UPS) was upgraded from Neutral to Buy at Citigroup.
General Dynamics (GD) was initiated at UnderWeight at Morgan Stanley.
Frontier Communications (FTR) was reiterated at Sector Perform at RBC Capital Markets. That seems strangely favorable for a firm that just hammered shareholders with a 10:1 reverse split, until you realize that the sector is performing terribly for telecoms not named AT&T or Verizon.
Noble Corp PLC (NE) was downgraded from Buy to Hold at Societe Generale. The mystery here is how did NE ever rate a Buy previously?
Diebold Nixdorf (DBD) was downgraded from OverWeight to Neutral at JP Morgan.
Raytheon (RTN) was initiated at Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.
Plains All American Pipeline L P (PAA) was downgraded from OverWeight to Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.
PennantPark Investment (PNNT) was upgraded from Neutral to OverWeight at JP Morgan.
Transocean (RIG) was upgraded from Sell to Neutral at Goldman.
Vodafone (VOD) was upgraded from Neutral to Buy at BofA/Merrill.
Unilever (UN, UL) was downgraded from Sector Perform to UnderPerform at RBC Capital Markets.
Monroe Capital (MRCC) was upgraded from Neutral to Buy at Ladenburg Thalmann.
Public Service Enterprise Group (PEG) was upgraded to Neutral at Goldman.
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) was upgraded to OverWeight at Stephens & Co.
We are heading into the “dog days of summer”, with the only good thing about August I can appreciate is the NFL preseason begins, to end the long drought (from football). For me personally, I begin an annual “8 week break” from my employment with a national tax prep firm, which allows me more time than usual to focus on my blog and my stock lists, which are in great need of some pruning and reshuffling. I will be taking care of this in the remaining days of summer. I have too many stocks, and too many yielding so little that it isn’t worth it to track them. For these stocks, dropped because of valuation, I will drop them completely, as my point is there is no reason to continue to monitor them, not that they are poor performing companies. These stocks will just disappear from my lists, but may re-appear in the future if valuations come back down to earth. One stock that has treated holders very well, but may be past it’s “sell by” date is Altria (MO), as I agree with articles I have seen recently that posit the future with MO is unlikely to be rewarding as in the past. A dim view of tobacco stocks is not new thinking for me, actually, as I made clear in my 2012 Seeking Alpha article “Yield, Value, And Safety Limited with 'Consumer Indiscretionary' Stocks”. Other changes needed are several that I will give up on and move to Tier4. I will continue to track these for as long as they exist, and always there is a remote possibility they may turn things around and move up from Tier4. On a brighter note, there are some new additions that meet my criteria for at least Tier2 or Tier3, and I will also add some closed-end funds, a group I have mostly avoided previously.
For now, until I get this rework done, pay more attention than usual to my buy-under prices, and it will be obvious which stocks to avoid because of valuation, even though the firms are mostly great companies doing very well. But with extended valuations and paltry dividends, they just are not attractive buys at this time.
1st Posting for Week Beginning Monday 08/07/2017
Posted Sunday 08/06/2017 05:00 PM
Occasionally, for the benefit of new readers, I preface my usual report with a quick recap of what the Facebook Page and my web site (www.optimumstockinvesting.com) are all about. Namely, to present a comprehensive approach to investing in stocks. I have an identified subset of stocks I follow, categorized into four lists, or tiers. I originally decreed that the number of stocks followed would be capped at 100, but currently the total is 130 plus. Tier1 stocks are the safest, strongest firms, the least likely to cut their dividends or go bankrupt. Tier1 yields are usually in the low single digits. Tier2 stocks are less safe, with risk factors that Tier1 stocks do not have, and while dividend cuts may occur, the firms are unlikely to go bankrupt, barring a severe economic downturn, or more likely, disastrous management decisions, such as an ill-advised acquisition. For example, MLPs are by definition in this category, as they have a built-in risk factor of an adverse change in the tax code. Tier3 stocks are either high-yield or high potential for capital gains, and can do very well if the economy remains strong and/or the fundamentals change for the better in their sector. Included here are BDCs, MREITs, rural telecoms, metals miners, and less substantial MLPs. Obviously, if hard times strike, these firms will cut or eliminate their dividends, and may go bankrupt. Tier4 stocks are the “walking dead”, stocks previously on the other lists, but now their dividends are absent or reduced, and bankruptcy is a real possibility. I have given up on these firms, but I will continue to track them as an exercise in masochism, as long as they continue to hang on. There is even a remote chance they may recover and get back to at least my Tier3 list. Also, occasionally a stock that is being acquired will move to Tier4, since it is no longer recommended, but will be followed for as long as it exists.
My web site explains the approach I follow in detail, and contains a wealth of information and resources. My approach is based on the value investing approach outlined by Ben Graham in his classic works, updated a bit for the modern era, with just a hint of a trader’s mindset incorporated. The key take-away I want viewers to gain from the site is an understanding of the risks inherent in stocks, as well as the rewards, and the need for caution and diversification, and most of all, the realization that ANYTHING can happen, nothing is 100% safe or guaranteed!
My weekly update focuses mainly on news and events related to the stocks in the universe I track, to include upcoming ex-dividend dates, earnings reporting dates, analyst upgrades and downgrades, and any other noteworthy developments that might affect these stocks.
Now, back to my regularly scheduled presentation.
Last week was mostly positive, with the headline Dow Industrials index again outperforming the other four indexes I track. (Note for English purists, the plural for stock index is indexes, not indices.) The Dow Industrials gained five days in a row, while the others gained overall on the week, but only slightly. See last week’s posting for details about the stock indexes I track. The week was punctuated by a better than expected monthly Jobs report on Friday, and it appears that the ongoing gnashing of teeth in Washington as well as internationally is being ignored by the market.
Stocks on my lists going ex-dividend this week are as follows:
Valero (VLO), ex-dividend date 8/7/2017, yield 4.09%.
Boardwalk Pipeline Partners L P (BWP), ex-dividend date 8/8/2017, yield 2.44%.
Amerigas Partners L P (APU), ex-dividend date 8/8/2017, yield 8.52%.
Entergy (ETR), ex-dividend date 8/8/2017, yield 4.53%.
American Electric Power (AEP), ex-dividend date 8/8/2017, yield 3.31%.
Statoil ASA (STO), ex-dividend date 8/8/2017, yield 4.03%.
Smucker JM Co (SJM), ex-dividend date 8/8/2017, yield 2.57%.
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), ex-dividend date 8/9/2017, yield 2.52%.
Emerson Electric (EMR), ex-dividend date 8/9/2017, yield 3.16%.
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.B), ex-dividend date 8/9/2017, yield 6.42%.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), ex-dividend date 8/9/2017, yield 4.84%.
Hercules Capital (HTGC), ex-dividend date 8/10/2017, yield 9.30%.
United Parcel Service (UPS), ex-dividend date 8/10/2017, yield 2.98%.
ExxonMobil (XOM), ex-dividend date 8/10/2017, yield 3.83%.
Spectra Energy Partners L P (SEP), ex-dividend date 8/11/2017, yield 8.24%.
Exelon (EXC), ex-dividend date 8/11/2017, yield 3.41%.
We are now past the hump of earnings season. Of 43 firms listed last week as being scheduled to report, 41 did so as scheduled. The two holdouts were TICC Capital (TICC), now scheduled for 8/8/2017, and Medical Properties Trust (MPW), now scheduled for 8/9/2017. See last week’s posting for the 41 firms that reported. For earnings details, see the firms’ press releases, articles on the mainstream financial media, brokerage compilations, or my preferred resource, Seeking Alpha. As I have noted before, Seeking Alpha often provides a transcript of the earnings conference call.
As for this week, we have a shorter list of firms I follow scheduled to report, tallied following by earnings reporting date.
PennantPark Investment (PNNT) and Plains All American Pipeline L P (PAA).
TICC Capital (TICC), Energy Transfer Partners L P (ETP), Energy Transfer Equity L P (ETE).
Medical Properties Trust (MPW), National Health Investors (NHI), Pan America Silver (PAAS).
In other news, Windstream (WIN) moves to Tier4 as a consequence of eliminating its dividend entirely. While management probably had to do it, the only reason to hold the firm was the dividend, so with that gone, there is no reason to buy. Since there isn’t much capital to salvage, considering the stock price decline, holders might want to hold on, effectively a bet on survival and some share price recovery. It could happen, but not anytime soon.
Before I present my weekly tally of upgrades/downgrades, reiterations, and initiations / resumptions of coverage from the previous week on stocks I track, it is time to repeat my standard admonition on the topic. While I’m always interested to learn of analysts’ opinions of stocks I follow, they are to be taken with a grain (or sometimes a whole shaker) of salt. That is, do not treat the ratings as actionable advice. For one thing, the ratings changes usually come far too late to be acted upon. If you haven’t bought or sold by the time the ratings to do so are out, you are way too late. Also, note that the ratings focus almost exclusively on the near-term expectation of the stock price movement, not the long-term value as an investment, with dividends considered. Another confusion factor is the fact that each firm has its own ratings terms and meanings, and sometimes different firms attach different nuances or meanings to the same term. I am also amused by the ratings that are effectively no rating, such as Neutral, Hold, Equal Weight, Sector Perform, Market Perform, or just plain old Perform. Perform? Yes the stock will perform in some fashion, but such a rating is ridiculous – it means nothing at all. The best I can do with it is to consider it equivalent to Neutral. Still, most ratings terms are more or less self-explanatory. Hold, Neutral, Perform, Market Perform, and Sector Perform are basically no calls – it is as if the analyst cannot come to a conclusion on what the prognosis really is for the stock. Still, I always find it to be of interest when a firm indicates a view of a stock I am following, whatever the view. For upgrades/downgrades, I give the prior rating if available from my source. I formerly skipped reiterations, since these are not rating changes, but now I include them, as they represent a new evaluation result, even if the review did not result in an upgrade or downgrade. Thus, I now present all available new ratings on my stocks.
Sometimes it is possible to view the complete analyst report, either via brokerage websites or online sleuthing, if a rating is of enough interest that one desires to determine what is behind the rating. The full ratings report can indicate the analysts’ thinking, which can be valuable information.
Here are the ratings that came out last week on the stocks I track:
Altria (MO) was upgraded from UnderPerform to Sector Perform at RBC Capital Markets.
Altria (MO) was also reiterated at Buy at Stifel, and reiterated at Neutral at UBS.
Verizon (VZ) was reiterated at Sector Perform at RBC Capital Markets.
Coca Cola (KO) was reiterated at Market Perform at BMO Capital.
Boardwalk Pipeline Partners L P (BWP) was downgraded from OutPerform to Sector Perform at RBC Capital Markets.
Kellogg (K) was reiterated at Sector Perform at RBC Capital Markets.
SCANA (SCG) was upgraded from Equal Weight to OverWeight at Barclays.
Southern Co (SO) was upgraded from Hold to Buy at Deutsche Bank.
Crestwood Equity Partners L P (CEQP) was upgraded from Hold to Buy at Stifel.
Statoil (STO) was reiterated at Sector Perform at RBC Capital Markets.
Pfizer (PFE) was upgraded from Market Perform to OutPerform at BMO Capital.
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) was initiated at OutPerform at Oppenheimer.
Pitney Bowes (PBI) was upgraded from Neutral to Buy at Sidoti, and downgraded from Hold to Sell at Cross Research.
Frontier Communications (FTR) was reiterated at Neutral at UBS. Frontier completed a 15:1 reverse split 7/10/2017, then later declared a $.60 quarterly dividend on the new shares, with an ex-dividend date 9/13/2017. At Friday’s closing price, the forward yield is over 15%. The question is, will there be quarterly payments after the first at the announced rate? FTR is a troubled firm, and has been so for a long time.
Triangle Capital (TCAP) was downgraded to Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette & Woods.
Eni S p A (E) was downgraded from OutPerform to Neutral at Credit Suisse.
Horizon Financial (HRZN) was downgraded from Market Perform to UnderPerform at Raymond James.
Frontier Communications (FTR) was downgraded from Neutral to UnderPerform at Hilliard Lyons.
Kellogg (K) was upgraded from Neutral to OverWeight at JP Morgan.
Windstream Holdings (WIN) was downgraded from Buy to UnderPerform at BofA/Merrill.
Kellogg (K) was reiterated at Market Perform at BMO Capital, and at Sector Perform at RBC Capital Markets.
Enterprise Products Partners L P (EPD) was reiterated at OverWeight at Barclays.
Hercules Capital (HTGC) was downgraded to UnderPerform at Raymond James.
Raytheon (RTN) was reiterated at Buy at Argus Research.
Another week, another round of new highs on the Dow Industrials, at least, while the broader market mostly just churns in place. The next bogeyman on the agenda of things that might spook the market is the upcoming need for Congress to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling. This is about the only time that anyone ever expresses any concerns about the mushrooming national debt. While the extension will almost certainly happen, what about the date, maybe not all that far away, when the Treasury is authorized to issue more debt, but there are no buyers? That’s when the real crunch will come, when practically overnight, the government will have to rein in spending to match income. At that point, nothing will be safe or guaranteed. It is not likely to happen soon, but it is definitely coming at some point, if nothing changes.