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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

S&P 500 and TSX extremely cheap in relation to bonds

S&P 500 and TSX extremely cheap in relation to bonds

Nick Majendie

What a week in global equity markets! For the short term, we believe that a significant rally is likely over the next few weeks/months. For the long term, in relation to bonds, we believe the S&P 500 has recently been as cheap as it has ever been since 1979, while the TSX last week was as cheaply valued as it has ever been back to the late 1950s.

As longer-term investors start to allocate assets over the next few week/months, we believe there is a decent chance that they will conclude that it makes sense to increase equity allocations against competition from Government bond yields.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The interest rate reduction announcement in the US this week was in all the headlines and the buzz on the investment boards.

What was lost amidst all the panicky selling and then panicky buying, is that real yields, almost everywhere, are negative.

And when you have negative real yields almost everywhere, then you have the beginnings of a chance for things to recover.

Most recessions come at a time when there’s been a huge run-up in interest rates as central banks have been tightening and you already have high real yields and those real yields grow as prices fall during the recession phase because of inventory liquidations.

Well, this is going to be so different from past cycles. First of all, we start a recession with a record low inventory-to-sales ratio in the US. Now that’s contrary to past recessions where the crucial factor was a big build-up in inventories.

Well, the real answer is that real interest rates are below zero. Far below zero on the ten year note, which is what we price mortgages off. We’ve got a 3.66 ten year US nominal yield, which means it’s negative forty-one basis points. In past recessions the real interest rates were very high.

Therefore, we should get a bounce in the equity markets but in the short term logic does not matter. I am raising a little cash for now and will be buying back in when I feel safer. I still feel that income producing assets will suffer least.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Finacial Sense Newshour Transcript on Investing for Income

Investing for Income

Partial Transcript of Finacial Sense Newshour with Jim Puplava and John Loeffler on January 12, 2008

JOHN: Maybe the hallmark of the next few years is actually going to be the word “uncertainty” like we've been using here on the program today. A lot of people, baby boomers, a huge block of population moving into retirement, and if they are moving into retirement in a time of uncertainty, especially given the fact that the Social Security trust fund is bust, there is nothing in it, nor can it be sustained at these levels except by devaluating the currency (which means everybody will get their Social Security check, but it's not going to be worth very much), what does that mean for people who are trying to plan economically in these times?

JIM: Well, you know, we used to have these standard formulas. I started out as a certified financial planner –and you know, you retire, you put 50, 60% of your portfolio in fixed income because now you need income to live on because you no longer have a paycheck or money coming in from a business. But, John, that assumes that you're in a period where you have low inflation as we did throughout much of the 80s and 90s.

But what do you do in a period where you have high inflation? You know, it's very tempting, right now, to say, “okay, I'm going to retire, I'm going to turn my portfolio into fixed income, I'll get 4 or 5% income.” The problem that investors have today is if you look at where the yields are, you've got less than 2.6% on a two year Treasury note, a 10 year treasury note is less than 4% (it's actually less than 3.8) and it's probably going lower here in the short term. I sure in heck would not want to be investing long term given the levels of inflation that we see today. And so, you know, that's why we've always stressed about, you know, about blue chip dividend-paying stocks.

And over the long run, the rate of return is going to be much, much higher to an investor or somebody that is retiring today than, let's say, somebody who is going to be in a fixed income. I mean if I go out and buy a 10 year Treasury note today, let's say I invest $10,000. I can get right now 3.8%.

And every six months I'm going to get my check. I'll make $380 dollars a year every single year. The question is what is going to be the cost of living in the year 2018or 10 years from now, you know, because 10 years from now, I will get my $10,000 back, and I will have gotten $380 dollars a year. But that $380 dollars a year that I'm getting from that Treasury note is not going to buy the same goods and services 10 years from now that it will buy today.

And for that matter, the $10,000 that will mature 10 years from now is not going to have the same purchasing power. And if you just think about anything you're buying today, what does it cost to buy a house today compared to 10 years ago? My kids can only afford to buy a condo for the price that I bought a large house 10 years ago. And that's what's happened. I mean think of what a car costs today compared to 10 years ago.

Think of what it costs to send your kid to a four year college to get a degree compared to 10 years ago. Compare that to what you're paying to visit your doctor, compare that to what you're paying to just go out and take a vacation. It's just absolutely remarkable in terms of what we've seen and the cost of living in basic goods.

JOHN: Well, does that mean, then, that some people aren't going to retire? The day of Sun City Arizona and retirement places like that may be over, per se. People are going to have to work.

JIM: Yeah. I think that is probably more in the retirement formula today for a lot of boomers, which is going to be that you're going to retire, but during retirement, you'll be doing some sort of part-time work. And actually, you can look at it quite positively, John. They find people that keep themselves active in retirement, actually live longer, their minds are more alert.

And, you know, maybe you don't do what you did for a living during your working career. Maybe you do something that you enjoy doing. I had a client that retired many years ago who was in the publishing industry and he ended up being a tour guide at the Hearst Castle. Just absolutely loved it. I have another client that retired six, seven years ago and because he was a history professor he serves as a tour guide for one of the travel companies.

So let's say you're, I don't know, you're taking a trip to Europe, Italy or something like that, he's sort of a tour guide. So I mean he's having the time of his life. And actually, he gets to go free. So working during retirement is going to be part of the retirement picture for a lot of boomers, but I think more importantly investors or retirees are going to have to think differently about their portfolio in an age of low interest rates and higher rates of inflation.

I mean if you take a look at the yield on a two year Treasury note or one year Treasury bill or 10 year Treasury note, the yield on a 10 year Treasury note is less than the headline inflation number, and even though we know that headline inflation number is actually basically a sort of a fictitious number.

JOHN: Okay. Every year you put together, usually around this time of the year, a portfolio of 10 stocks. And say you had bought these stocks, what, 10 years ago?

JIM: Yeah.

JOHN: What would your income have been?

JIM: Well, what we do, and I use this as an exercise and I don't -- anybody listening to this, this is not an endorsement or recommendation. It is done for illustration purposes.

But mainly we take a look at the Dow 30 stocks. And we pick sort of a wide variety of stocks, some financial stocks, consumer stocks, industrial stocks, medical stocks, energy stocks. And we've been using this formula for these stocks mainly over the last couple of years to illustrate this point. But what we assume is you had a portfolio.

You had $100,000 and you put $10,000 into each one of these stocks and then you just held on to them for 10 years. And just once again, I'm going to mention the companies and this is not an endorsement. This is done strictly for illustration. But we had a financial stock, an insurance company AIG, a consumer retail McDonalds, Disney Entertainment, Johnson & Johnson (on the medical side), Honeywell, Exxon, American Express (financial company), 3M (manufacturing), GE (manufacturing) and Coca Cola (consumer products company). And so in 1998, had you invested in these stocks – remember, we were going through a stock market boom during that period of time, and stocks were expensive –but let's say you put $10,000 into each one of these stocks, you would have received in dividends at the end of 1998 holding them for a whole year roughly about $1700 in dividends.

Five years later in 2003, the 1700 in dividends grew to 2400 in dividends. So basically, we saw a 700 dollar increase in the value of those dividends. And finally 10 years later in the year 2007, dividends would have grown to a little over $4100. But what's really remarkable about this, assuming that you spent all of the dividend income, your $100,000 would have grown – and remember, that would have meant buying stock in 1998, and remember the terrible bear market that we went through for three years in 2000, 2001 and 2002 – during that period of time, you would have gotten over $81,000 of capital appreciation; you would have gotten almost $33,000 in income.

And so basically, without dividends, your return was 181,000. Final investment with dividends was 214,000. If you want to take a look at that, it was a simple return of 81% or 8.1% a year. If you want to look at total return, which was income –the dividends – plus capital appreciation, it was 114% return, or an annualized return of 11.4%, easily increasing what you would have gotten in fixed income.

What was even more remarkable, the top performing stocks, Exxon, McDonalds, 3M and J&J had the highest total dividend payments. So companies that had good business models, that had good cash flow and consistent earnings are able to increase their dividends at a much higher rate than companies that don't.

So the top performing of the 10 stocks were the stocks that had the highest total dividends payment. The worse performing stocks, AIG and Disney had the lowest dividend payments. And here's something that's even more remarkable. The average total return for the top two dividend players was 219%, an annualized return of 21.9% a year, while the total return for the two lowest paying dividend stocks was only 33.5%, or a return of a little over 3%.

The highest dividend paying stock out of the group was Exxon Mobil that had a total return of 282%; and even if Exxon stock price went nowhere, the dividend alone would have given you a return of 76%, an annualized return of 7.6% just on the dividends. And Jeremy Siegel in his book The Future For Investors did a comparison. I'm not going to repeat it here because we talked about it last year on the show where he took, from 1950 to the year, I think -- I think it was 2004, he took two stocks: and if one would have thought of the ideal growth stock in the year 1950, it would have been IBM (the computer industry was coming into itself and changing the way we work today with computers); and then Exxon, which is basically an oil stock. And the total returns from Exxon versus IBM were far superior. And here, John, is just the study that we do each year confirms this very same thing because the best performing out of those 10 stocks were the stocks that produced a consistent higher stream of dividends.

JOHN: And that would seem, you know, in this environment we're in right now of really high inflation, which threatens to stay that way for some time to have things in your portfolio that are going up which offset that, so you're keeping pace with it.

JIM: Absolutely. I mean if you look at Exxon in the last five years, Exxon has increased its dividends at an annual rate of 8.3% a year. Imagine getting an 8.3% pay raise every single year. If you look at Johnson & Johnson, another one of the top four performing dividend stocks, Johnson & Johnson has increased its dividends 15.3% a year over the last five years. Here's one that will blow your mind: McDonald’s. I mean we're talking about basically hamburgers here. McDonald’s has increased its dividend roughly 45% a year.

Think of that number. 45% a year over the last five years. How many of us would love to get a 45% pay increase every single year with the kind of inflation rates. And even 3M, a manufacturing company has increased its dividend roughly about 9.2% a year over the last five years. And this is why, John, I think that as you get into retirement, having blue chip companies, and that's why I like to look at the Dow stocks. They are the biggest, the most stable, sound financially. And you don't get to be a blue chip in the Dow without having a successful business model and being a very stable company. I mean Johnson & Johnson (medical), 3M (manufacturing), Exxon (oil), McDonald’s (food franchises and now they are getting into adding coffee bars to compete with Starbucks).

And whether you're looking at a book written by three authors Dimson and Marsh wrote a book called Triumph of the Optimists. They talked about dividend studies going back over the last 100 years. Not only just in the US but 16 other markets. Study after study after study, it's confirmed dividend investing is a far superior approach and a more stable approach. And especially for somebody entering into retirement that wants to be a little bit more conservative in thinking about what they are going to be doing when they retire: maybe they have 401(k) program or a pension that they are going to have to rely on. That's why I think in an age of inflation, you've got to think about the dividend approach for income with high stable companies because that's what's going to keep you even with inflation. A Treasury bond today, yes, it may allow you to sleep at night the first six months of the first year.

But with the levels of inflation that we're seeing today, it's not going to keep you even with inflation five years from now and you're going to be struggling 10 years from now if you're on a fixed income because what are you going to have that's going to increase and compensate you and allow you to buy the same goods and services that you buy today. It's absolutely amazing, but year after year, the study continue to improve itself.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bought 2,000 Units of NAL Oil & Gas Trust Today

This year has been terrible for stock market and I have been staying on the sidelines (like everyone else) and waiting for the market to bottom.

However, I could not resist and I bought 2,000 units of NAE.UN at $11.84 each.

The results of three high impact wells from the Seneca acquisition are nearing release. Depending on the outcome of the three Seneca wells, NAL could have further development potential opportunities with its partners.

Presently, NAE has has a $0.16 per month ($1.92 per year) distribution resulting in a yield of 16.2%. The payout ratio 69% and the payout ratio including capital expenditures is 114%. This Trust has some exploration upside potential. With a +15% yield you get paid to wait. Hopefully we not only get our distibutions but some capital gains potential too.

Monday, January 14, 2008

22 Startling Predictions for 2008 and Beyond

22 Startling Predictions for 2008 and Beyond

By Michael Masterson

January is a time to look ahead and make predictions.

As I look ahead, I can see one major trend. And it's one that will have repercussions for the economy as a whole. That trend involves baby boomers. Boomers have been a major factor in consumer spending, saving, and investing for 50 years. So it's likely they will continue to be. In fact, they will probably affect the economy for the rest of their lives - for the next 20 to 25 years.

If you accept this premise, the following 22 predictions may make sense to you:

1. Baby boomers will get poorer this year. They lost half of their retirement nest egg when the tech bubble exploded. And they have been losing much of the rest of it as real estate prices come down. This will continue in 2008. Credit will be harder to come by. Banks will get tougher with loans. And the many businesses that took stock in the real estate boom will continue to implode.

2. Scared by their shrinking wealth, some boomers will make one final, frenzied attempt to "get back" the wealth they never really had. They'll scrape together their last dollars. They'll borrow money. And they'll use it to make high-risk, leveraged financial investments in such things as currencies and commodities. The greediest sectors of the financial services industry will benefit, temporarily, from this short-term trend. Later, they will suffer from it a s their customers disappear.

3. As 2008 ends, boomers' speculative investments will fail to rescue them. So they will grudgingly accept the fact that they will never be as wealthy as they wanted to be. They will feel defeated, and they won't have the energy to start anew. As a result, they will drastically decrease their discretionary spending.

4. Following the boomers' lead, consumer spending in general will slow down. The Fed will do what it can, but it won't be enough. Lower credit rates won't be enough to stimulate the economy. Growth will slow. Businesses will continue to go bankrupt at record rates.

5. With decreasing revenues on one side and increasing fixed costs (related to real estate) on the other, retail will be especially hard hit. Many, if not most, medium-sized retail businesses that exist today will be defunct within 10 years.

6. On the bright side, Internet spending will continue to grow. But the growth will be much slower than in the past. Lots of opportunities will allow people to make money by marketing products and services on the Internet. But many of those who are in business today will go bankrupt as the market becomes more competitive.

7. Estate homes and multimillion-dollar condominiums will tumble in value, even below current prices. Many will be left vacant. It will take at least seven years for many of the properties that have been built in the past two years to be occupied. Investors in these properties will be wiped out.

8. More than 80 percent of the existing real estate development industry will go bankrupt.

9. Following real estate development will be the larger part of the banking and financial services industry. Thousands of young investment bankers and hedge fund managers will be out of work. This could happen as early as the middle of next year.

10. As the U.S. economy slides into a protracted recession, baby boomers will recognize that they are poorer than their parents were when their parents were in their early sixties. Without the appreciation of a house to cash in on, they will give up their long-held dreams of retiring comfortably at 65.

11. Luxury will be uncool. Understated elegance will be in.

12. The campaign against conspicuous consumption will accelerate. Twelve-cylinder cars will be ridiculed and possibly outlawed entirely.

13. Hippie values will return. Peace and love and blue jeans will prevail... simply because baby boomers won't be able to afford to indulge themselves materialistically as they have been doing for 40 years.

14. Technology and the baby boomers' shrinking wealth will favor products that are simple and small.

15. The wristwatch will begin a 20-year disappearing act.

16. Yoga, meditation, and Pilates will continue to increase in popularity. Aerobics, weight training, and kickboxing will diminish.

17. Yachts, luxury automobiles, and Learjets will stand in warehouses, unused.

18. Migration to the Sun Belt will slow because of hurricanes and high prices. Local Sun Belt municipalities will be forced to lower taxes. Services will decline.

19. Technical jobs will continue to be outsourced to India and Latin America. And in the U.S., boomers will start to agree to work phones and read X-rays for minimum wage.

20. The information-publishing industry - particularly the specialized information-publishing industry - will continue to grow, outpacing the general economy. Entrepreneurs who understand the difference between information, advice, and opinion will make fortunes.

21. Direct marketing will continue to grow as general advertising declines. Businesses that are unskilled at direct marketing will have a tough time staying competitive. Many will fail.

22. Boomers will "decide" to continue working during their retirement years. But many of them - lacking the skills to contribute to the Internet, information-publishing, or direct-marketing industries - will go unemployed.

Those are my predictions for 2008. But what good are such predictions? Can they make you any money?

I don't know. I do know a few things about investing in trends, though. Lessons I've learned from a lifetime of starting all sorts of businesses. For example:

You can make the biggest money on a new trend that emerges quickly and grows strongly... if you get in early.

It's difficult to predict new trends with precision. You can sometimes see that a certain change is inevitable, but it is often difficult to know when it will happen. Usually, it happens later than you expect.

For any given day or week or month, chances are good - some studies say 70 percent - that things will remain the same the following day or week or month. That's why it doesn't usually pay to play trends in the stock market. Unless, that is, you know what you're doing or are getting good advice from someone who does.

The sensible way to invest in trends is to buy into good businesses that provide neutral or positive cash flow. That gives you a Plan B. You can sit out short-term fluctuations while you wait for the long-term trend to take hold.

Sometimes even medium- and shorter-term trends are more obvious. This is especially true on the downside. Such is the case with the baby boomer driven economy today.

Emmett, a friend and business partner in real estate development, doesn't like it when I speak negatively about the future of the economy, and real estate in particular. He feels like I am being disloyal to the businesses he is running. He would rather have me encourage him to go full steam ahead. He seems to feel that if I were more positive, things would get better.

"I hope you're right," I tell him. "But no amount of hoping is going to make the U.S. debt go away. And no amount of positive thinking will get people to buy property if they don't have any money and can't get credit."

"Anything you can conceive, you can achieve," he tells me.

"So long as you achieve it before you go broke," I reply.

Hope for the best. But make your business plans based on a realistic assessment of current trends. Hoping against hope works in fairy tales. But in the real-life world of business, it's better to put aside the rose-colored glasses.

If I am right about the future for baby boomers, it won't be the end of the financial world. People who are smart enough to put their time and money into developing industries (such as direct-marketing, information-publishing, and Internet-related businesses) will do well. Others, like my friend Emmett who lives in Neve r-Never Land, will get poorer.

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If these predictions do come true I recommend you stay with the investing for income theme that we are promoting.
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