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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Economic Malaise

horse and buggy theslayersmarketthoughts.filminspector.com


I read an article recently about how social media companies and similar new age technology companies are growth engines that are "powering America's growth." This made me think a bit about the truth of this position, which is accepted as a virtual truism among some niches of society.

I take the opposite position, at least as regards whether social media companies and so forth are "powering America's growth."

Facebook et al. may be growth companies in the sense of generating massive revenues and market capitalization. However, and it is a big however, the problem with them is not that they produce nothing. That is a false argument. They do produce something, and what they produce, they produce a lot of. What they produce is useful and serves a need.

However, it is what they produce that is also the problem.

Social media/"the Internet" makes people and business more efficient, and handy gadgets and smartphones only add to that efficiency. That is pretty much undeniable. That seems to be the basic premise of people who believe in the new economy, and I agree.

Where I part ways, though, is the overall effect this is having. Far from "powering American economic growth," in many ways it is doing the precise opposite.

The social media companies and these other new wave companies like Tesla are - or aim to be - cannibalizing other industries left and right. Competing industries may not be outright destroyed like buggy whip manufacturers, but they are being undermined.

Who? Just look around at what you do online. You read the news - no need for a daily newspaper. You watch movies - maybe you don't need that television after all (I don't use a tv, haven't needed one for years in fact). You pick your own stocks with the information provided - no need for a broker except to take orders. Need an appliance? No need for there to be an appliance store nearby when Amazon will take care of it. And, to heap insult onto injury, the manufacturing done by these paragons of America's growth send their manufacturing jobs overseas.

On and on. The economic malaise that has developed in the US is not in spite of these "powerhouses of growth." It is because of them. Is that a bad thing? Not for all the people who work at those social media companies. For them, it is glorious.

But for all the displaced workers who get such short shrift these days as simply being behind the times and viewed as being simply unable to keep up with the modern world, and thus deserving of their sad fates - maybe so.

You may have heard increasing murmurings in the political press about wealth inequality, which is sometimes called wage inequality and sometimes other things. This never really used to be a political cause in the United States. Back in the "bad old days," there were television factory workers and newspaper press handlers and music hall bands. Today, there's Apple.

In 1975, college graduates were paid 43 percent more than those without a degree; in 2008 that premium had soared to 92 percent for men and 70 percent for women. It is becoming an all-or-none job market, where either you are a king or a joker. The broad middle tier, the oft-derided "middle manager," who used to be able to support his or her family, is being wiped out with a few strokes of a keyboard.

I know, I'm a Luddite, I don't "understand" the new thinking, I'm stuck in the 1950s. Think as you wish. I'm actually at the forefront of all this, have been working with computers for a full 40 years now (remember dot matrix printers which could only be used to make pictures of dogs?), I understand them and their uses, and, well, here is the key point: understanding it all is what makes me empathize so much with those people who are consigned to oblivion because they never learned to code.

horse and buggy theslayersmarketthoughts.filminspector.com




2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Investing: Where Do I Start?

Background

I am going to post some articles from time to time on the basics of investing. This series will offer very general thoughts about how someone completely new to investing might consider approaching it, from the very first step to a method for choosing stocks. It is a starting point for discussion.

So, this series is not intended to be the "last word" on anything. Instead, it will set forth my own thoughts on investing and offer practical strategies that I have used and some which I wish I had used.

investing theslayersmarketthougts.filiminspector.com


Part I: Getting Started with Investing
Should I Invest in the Stock Market?

Let us assume that you have never had a brokerage account or held any kind of security. You do know some people who own stocks, though, and the idea is interesting because you have some free cash saved up and would like to get some return on it rather than have it just sit idle in the bank.

Everything depends on personal circumstances. For most people, though, investing is a good idea as long as you stick with it and exercise some prudence.

The figures speak for themselves. Stocks provide better returns than other investments such as bonds, and they sure beat getting no return in a checking account. The S&P 500 has returned over 7% per year at a minimum when held over ten-year periods, and more than that when calculated in different ways.

The drawback to investing your money in the market is that you might suffer losses. This is the part that causes many people to vow never to invest in anything related to the market, and it is perfectly understandable. We have all heard horror stories about people, sometimes family or friends, who lost money in the stock market.
However, you minimize that risk if you commit to holding your positions for years and not days or months.
(click to enlarge)Stock Returns
Source: Business Insider.

As the chart shows, the longer that you hold the basket of stocks in the S&P 500 Index, the more likely you are to achieve positive returns. The likelihood of suffering a loss dwindles into insignificance over the course of a full decade.

There are many caveats to this. If you hold individual stocks rather than an index fund, then all bets are off and anything could happen. If you are just starting out, an index fund is a good place to get some low-risk experience with minimal long-term risk.

As a general matter, my conclusion is that you should would be better off investing in the stock market as long as you have a sufficient time horizon of five years or more, and also choose the right types of investments.

Should I Start Investing by Opening a Brokerage Account?

For most people, my answer to this is a definite "No."

In my opinion, for most people, beginning your investing career by opening a brokerage account is a terrible idea. As I pointed out above, investing is a good idea if you have the proper time horizon, patience and are judicious about your investments.

The best way to start investing depends upon your situation. I personally started out at a very young age with a passbook savings account. Yes, that was back in the day in a world that is long gone. You won't find those any more, but it was a great experience to go to the bank and deposit $5 or $10 into my savings account every so often and see the little typewritten entry in the book. Just getting used to saving money and watching my account balance rise absolutely gave me a life-long love of the value of investing. You can still do something similar today by setting up a money market account at a local bank.

Many people who are new to investing are just starting out in the work world, have a new job, and want to do something with the cash flowing in. For those people, my view is that the place to start is through the retirement plan offered by your employer. That is what I did, and, looking back, it was a good strategy even though it was right before the market "crash" of 1987 and I quickly lost money.

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, that would be my first choice. Dump as much of your income into the company plan as you feel prudent. Even if you don't expect the job to last very long, you should be able to take the money with you later. Be sure to take full advantage of any corporate match of your contributions as much as you can, most major companies will match up to a certain level.

If your employer doesn't offer any retirement plan, my suggestion again is to forget about opening a brokerage account. Instead, I would open an IRA at a local bank. You will get a tax break, and your income will accumulate without your having to pay taxes on it until you withdraw the funds some day.

The sooner you can start up a Roth IRA, which allows your funds to accumulate tax-free but which does not give you a tax break up front, the better. A Roth IRA is a huge advantage to savers who have a long time horizon. Once you pay the initial tax, you should never (under current law) have to pay any taxes on that money ever again. It's a nice insurance policy against changes in the tax law. Roth IRAs are a topic unto themselves, though, and I don't want to get ahead of matters. The point is, avoid the whole brokerage account idea and stay local with some flavor of IRA.

These days, banks will offer you enough choices in an IRA to get you started in investing. Your first investment should not be any individual stock, particularly not your employer's stock even if the company offers you a discount. Just pick the broadest index fund that you can, preferably one that follows the S&P 500 or similar large index. If all they offer is certificates of deposit, choose one with a short maturity date. Just get started, don't try to finance that beach house on Tahiti just yet.

The bottom line is that, for your first investment, you should either do it through your employer or keep it local. If you can't invest through a good employer retirement plan, an IRA that you set up locally is an excellent place to start.

Why Should I Not Open A Brokerage Account?

I am a big fan of trading individual stocks, as I often discuss in my series of articles on my Generation Portfolio. So, it may sound a bit odd for me to suggest that you not open a brokerage account as your first step in investing.

There are several reasons for this.

First, you need to get your feet wet. The stock market is an intimidating place, and the idea is for you as a new investor to remain within your comfort zone. Get used to investing and the ebb and flow of the stock market without trying to figure it all out at once. Read the news, follow the averages, notice what people say causes the market to rise and fall. It has distinct rhythms which you can't predict, but which recur over and over. Starting out as I proposed above will start giving you the biggest advantage - perhaps the only one - you will ever have as an investor: experience.

Second, you are just setting yourself up for failure if you start trading stocks without having years - yes years - of experience closely watching the market. I opened my first brokerage account several years after my first investments through my employer's retirement accounts, and even that was too soon in my opinion. There is a very steep learning curve associated with trading stocks. The more you can reduce the losses associated with moving along that curve, the better off you will be.

Third, having a brokerage account offers too many temptations and possibilities for poor choices which result from your inexperience. There are many great salespeople in the investing world, and every financial channel has them on every day telling you how wonderful their stocks or products are. There's no reason to give matches to a child, and there is no reason for a new investor to have the weapon of self-destruction that a brokerage account can become.

Fourth, brokerage accounts play to your ego in the worst possible way. We all consider ourselves knowledgeable, with special insight about this, that or the other thing. Perhaps you've excelled in school, or at work, or with friends or family or a hobby or whatever it is. That is unlikely to transfer over to investing decisions. The market can become a very humbling place. Don't invest through a brokerage account until you are absolutely, positively certain that you are ready. You aren't ready unless you have been watching the market and economic developments for years.

Fifth, the competition in the stock market is unlike anything else you are likely to experience. In baseball, they have the rookie leagues, the high minor leagues, and then the Major Leagues. There is a place for people to work out their strategies and skills.

In the stock market, there is only the major leagues. You have no training leagues, except the ones I've discussed above. Immediately, on your first day of trading, you are facing people who have been doing it longer than you have been alive. Experience is the most important skill you will have as a trader, and it is just asking for trouble to start trading until you develop some.

Conclusion

This is Part I of a projected series on basic investing topics. No individual article is intended to cover the entire realm of investing. However, my hope is that, in the aggregate (once I have written them), they will provide a useful introduction to people who are completely new to investing and want a place to think about it and discuss their ideas or questions with others.

My conclusions in this article are that: the stock market is a good place to invest if you have the proper time horizon and adopt the proper strategy to begin with; that you should begin investing either through your employer or by opening up a local retirement account; and that you should avoid opening up a brokerage account until you are truly ready. These rules should keep you out of trouble until you are ready for the next steps, which I will get to in future articles.

Thanks for stopping by!


2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

Zerohedge

I use this space to ramble on about things that are kind of off topic, but may still interest people in the financial world. These Instablog posts are just to provoke thought, not convince people of anything.

People who are unfamiliar with Zerohedge probably have no idea what a zerohedge is. Zerohedge is a website that takes a dim view of modern economic practices. The name also refers to the guy who runs it, Tyler Durden, but it's kind of an all-encompassing word for "anti-establishment economic hard-headedness."



I'm not endorsing Zerohedge (apparently it's two words, though not in the url, so most people just type Zerohedge) or dismissing it/him (I'll just call it "it" for convenience). However, Zerohedge is a fact of the Internet, and I may as well comment on it and give my thoughts because, well, that's what I do here.

Zerohedge is the People Magazine for the Tea Party financial crowd.

My take on Zerohedge (and everyone familiar with it has their own opinion, many of which I couldn't put down here) is that it is a useful tool for understanding some of the mechanics of the financial markets. Tyler doesn't actually write most of the stuff that appears on there, he gets some very top-notch guest columnists who really know what makes things work. But they all have the Zerohedge spirit.

I like to learn things about the markets, so I do read some articles on Zerohedge. While many of the articles are extremely dense and often, dare I say it, difficult to follow (these guys are not writers, they are bankers and economists), there are nuggets of truth buried everywhere.

In a way, the articles on Zerohedge tend to be financial geek rants. Now, there's nothing wrong with that. Everybody has to let off steam. You can learn a lot from someone who is ranting, especially when they are inside the system itself.

However, and this is a big however, the predictive value of Zerohedge is near, well, zero. If you believed everything published on Zerohedge, even by the biggest names (and they get real big shots to write there), you'd have cashed out every penny you owned and stored it as gold in the basement long ago. QE long ago blasted inflation to 50% and rising, Europe collapsed by 2012 due to Greek and Spanish bonds becoming unmarketable, and so on and so forth.

Basically, everything that is done by the Fed and big banks and just about everyone else with power in the financial world is a catastrophic mistake in the Zerohedge world, done for venal purposes to keep the dying machine running until everyone involved is retired (like Ben Bernanke). And the worst part is, they all know what they're doing, they know it is catastrophic, and they do it anyway.

That is Zerohedge in a nutshell.

As I said, you can learn a great deal on Zerohedge. The added bonus is that it has great amusement value if reading about how global bankers create billions of dollars with a few keystrokes strikes your funny bone (and I do find some of that amusing).

However, the modern financial system is such a large and complex machine that, even if everything printed on Zerohedge were 100% accurate and happening exactly as they say, the people running things could still keep the whole edifice afloat using all sorts of tricks. There may be a piper to be paid at some point, but he hasn't started, well, piping yet.

So, there's nothing wrong with Zerohedge, as long as you take it in the proper skeptical spirit. If anyone has any idea what I'm talking about, feel free to leave a comment below.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Generation Portfolio


As those of you following me on SeekingAlpha.com know, I have a continuing series of articles published there concerning something I have grandiosely chosen to call the Generation Portfolio. This is an account that I manage for no compensation for certain parties with whom I am not related in a family sense.

I have published the following articles to date about the Generation Portfolio:
I most likely will not keep this page updated. Whenever you read this, there is a strong likelihood that I have added additional articles not listed above.

I have thought a great deal about this, and reached a decision. While there is no need to do this and nobody has asked for it, for purposes of complete transparency, I will this one time show confirmations to date for my opening trades of the Generation Portfolio. They are sans the dollar amounts and identifying information for obvious reasons.

I am not going to post any more of these screenshots - this is it - but I want to give anyone interested "the goods" to show, well, whatever this shows. Unless I made some unintentional error, the entries should match what I posted in my articles.

Generation Portfolio theslayersmarketthoughts.filminspector.com

Generation Portfolio theslayersmarketthoughts.filminspector.com

Generation Portfolio theslayersmarketthoughts.filminspector.com

Generation Portfolio theslayersmarketthoughts.filminspector.com




Don't go by the times, as they are wacky compared to my local time. Not sure what they represent, actually.

The account still has a few minor legacy positions besides Ford Motor Company (F) that show up on the list as paying dividends. I'll probably liquidate them around the time when the market hits new highs, whenever that may be, depending on the price action of those stocks. In any event, they have nothing to do with what I am creating in the Generation Portfolio.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below. Thank you for stopping by, and be sure to check out my articles on Seeking Alpha!




Friday, February 6, 2015

Articles on Seeking Alpha

Where I've Been Sharing



I haven't been posting much on this blog for a while, which is pretty obvious if you look back at the posts. Instead, I have been sharing ideas on the blog site SeekingAlpha.com.

Some of my ideas are in the following articles (listed at the bottom of this page) that are available on Seeking Alpha. I have published roughly 50 articles there as of this writing. While my articles cover a broad spectrum of sectors, I have focused lately on the REIT field. That could change, however.

My Current Thinking (February 2015)


I am focusing on REIT stocks right now, which is somewhat against the current 'common wisdom.' My thinking is that during volatile times, the best refuge is an income stock which provides a strong, sustainable dividend. Should the market have problems and such a stock sink, you will have a consistent tool for lowering your basis over time by reinvesting the dividends. The primary danger is a sudden rise in interest rates, but a gradual rise in rates should not do income stocks much damage. It is the type of rate increases that matter, not just the fact that there are interest rate increases.

Plus, I simply like the compounding effect of reinvesting dividends. So, income stocks work for me during good times, too.

Snapshot in time: 21 February 2015

At the present time (February 2015), with rates at extreme lows, there is no question that at some point the Fed will increase interest rates. However, with the strong dollar and weakening economies overseas, there are definite limits on how far US interest rates can rise before capital inflows and a deleterious effect on the trade balance cause that to become a dangerous strategy. I currently do not expect a rate hike in 2015 ("The Case for Reits in 2015 "). However, that will be determined by events.

Why I Like Certain Income Stocks


I have been writing mostly about REITS lately. That label is somewhat deceptive: REITs display a huge amount of variety, and the label is more descriptive of their organizational structure for tax purposes than an indication of what they actually do. The fact that many REITs don't even own any real estate (or minimal real estate as an adjunct to their main business) should tell you all you need to know about that.

As a general matter, and take this for what it is worth, I believe that real estate has been and remains the best way for the ordinary person to accumulate wealth over time without extraordinary luck, wisdom or connections - though the wisdom part does help. It worked for me.

However, it is customary to aggregate REITs together, so I will, too. I like REITs for two reasons: I love the pass-through structure (I like BDCs and utilities for the same reason), and I also like a focus on real estate (though not necessarily exclusively). I would rather receive the majority of the income that a) a company manages to earn rather than b) have someone with who knows what ethics and/or agenda at the company decide what to do with it, and c) have that income subject to the double taxation of corporate taxes on it to boot, and then d) have the market decide if those people within the company have done a good job. Too many places in that stream for something to go wrong, and I have a very dim view of the supposed 'wisdom' of the market.

Snapshot in time: 26 April 2015

In other words: Just give me the money. I'll decide whether the company is doing a good job with my money and perhaps reward the managers by giving it back the capital (through reinvestment) rather than rely on the market, with all its momentary passions, booms and busts. I admit that I am a bit sour on stocks that do not pay dividends. Too often, you can sit with a stock for ages, build up equity - and then see it all gone because Russia invaded the Crimea, some officer committed fraud or some other extraneous factor that is completely out of your control and/or contemplation. At least you have built up your share count through reinvestment and perhaps taken some off the table along the way with a dividend.

An Investing Trick That I Use


Since you have made it this far and must like something about my work to even be here in the first place, I want to reward you with an investing trick that I have used over and over to great effect. At some point, I will publicize this elsewhere, but here it is. It has worked for me and is extremely easy and simple. No, I have not re-invented the wheel, do not fancy myself to be Warren Buffet, and do not purport to be the last word in anything like Elon Musk. This is a money management technique that I think all income stock investors could benefit from at some point, and is based on years of trading experience. Either use it or disregard it as you see fit. I have all sorts of other techniques that I use surrounding dividends, but I will leave those for another day.

I will own a dividend stock for a while, and after I have collected the dividends over a few cycles, I will look for an opportunity to sell the stock and take whatever profits I have achieved without the accumulated dividends. Thus, say I buy XYZ for $50 in February, and collect a couple of dividends. In October, I may look for an exit point anywhere north of $50. However, and this is the critical part, I will only sell the original stake.

My article on MORL reached the top of the SA "Top Articles (most read)" list.

Thus, I will leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind me. If you choose the right income stocks and reinvest the dividends, you can accumulate a nice little seed for future growth just from the dividend. Take your original stake and put it to work elsewhere to create a new seedling - and leave the accumulated shares acquired through reinvestment alone.

There are practical considerations here, and the primary one is transaction costs. You will incur an additional fee for selling the reinvested shares some day. There is a way around this - you can do another trade eventually with your main capital in that position and 'scoop up' the original reinvested shares without incurring any additional transaction costs.

Snapshot: June 3, 2015

A secondary consideration is tax consequences. Having a lot of small positions can be a trial at tax time. However, most brokerages will help you out by allowing you to import your tax information to your software package. In any event, I only go hog wild on this strategy in my tax-advantaged accounts, though I do practice it with a bit less tenacity in my taxable accounts.

A tertiary consideration is size. You do need to have positions of a certain size for this to make sense. However, even if you are trading 1000 shares, this strategy will help you to accumulate a diverse, income-producing portfolio over time that may surprise you. It will be self-sustaining and on automatic pilot as you choose to do other things and enjoy your life.

If someone were to hand you, say, $15 every three months for the rest of your life - is that something you would reject as being not worth reaching out your hand and putting it in your pocket? And that $15 will become $20, $30, $50 if you invest wisely, reinvest your dividends and have a modicum of luck. And then you will have two such positions, then four, then six - your only constraint is time and your skill at picking the right times to open each position and the stocks that you chose - just like with anything else in the market. As with any other stock, you could get unlucky and see your position drop due to a 'taper tantrum' or an interest rate increase or any of a hundred other influences outside your control. However, income stocks are much less volatile than most other stocks (as a general matter), so that reduces your risk to your principal right off the bat - though nothing can eliminate risk completely if you want to gain worthwhile returns in the market.

theslayersmarketthoughts.filminspector.com
Snapshot: 9 July 2015

This tactic likely will reduce volatility in your account and provide you with 'free' and diverse income streams that accumulate over time. I did this with my Banco Santander stock - selling my original stake and just keeping the reinvested shares - and it worked wonders when the bank made some changes to the dividend and the shares dropped by about 25%. I wound up only seeing a paper loss on the shares from the original reinvested dividends, my original principal was long gone. I can live with that.

Incidentally, I am in the middle of one such play as I type this. It is nearing its end phase, I have accumulated four good-sized dividends and the share price is higher than when I bought the original position. I will not mention the name of the stock because I am not trying to sell you anything or benefit in any way from this. That's just the way it is. I mention this only to illustrate the ability of this strategy to work, believe it or disregard it as you so choose. I intend to sell the initial position some time this year (probably this summer) and then move on to the next play, with the reinvested shares added to my collection of 'free' shares from other such plays.

The shares from each such play have many similarities (they all pay a healthy dividend, for instance), but they also provide a degree of diversification. If a thief at some company commits fraud, or a particular stock's sector gets downgraded, those shares will be damaged for sure - but not the others. I prefer in these cases to pick individual stocks and not just index ETFs or funds because I am going for a higher-than-mediocre return. However, I don't turn my nose up at index funds either and have pursued this strategy with those types of securities, too. The main problem with the index funds is that there are only so many good index ETFs/funds to practice this on, and adding diversification upon diversification upon diversification gets pointless after a while when you are only dealing with a certain defined area (decent dividend payers) of the market anyway.

theslayersmarketthoughts.filminspector.com
100 articles, 16 October 2015

In general, dividends give you flexibility, and I take advantage of it. That more than makes up for some studies that purport to prove that dividend stocks perform slightly worse than others.

The Very Best Strategy of All


This will sound a bit odd coming from someone who analyzes the market and actively trades stocks, but the best way to make money in the stock market is to do as little as possible. I don't even think that is open to much debate.

Snapshot 17 October 2015 - 1400 Followers.

Jeremy Siegel's 2005 book "The Future for Investors" explains that years of stock performance have shown that buying solid companies and doing as little trading of them as possible produces the largest returns over time. On the other hand, trying to time the market or move in and out of different stocks by picking those with the best prospects or size produces the worst returns. His research is based on analysis of the S&P 500. S&P has teams of analysts to pick the stocks with the best prospects, but even that outfit's highly rigorous and fact-based approach tends to cherry-pick companies that are too 'hot' and ripe for a fall.

Naturally, everyone on the Internet will tell you of their fantastic returns buying this stock or that stock, trading in and out of this or that, buying some stock that has incredible recent performance at its recent lows or the 2009 lows and so forth and so on. They aren't all liars or shall we say 'exaggerators,' but the ordinary investors that do most of the talking about stocks on the Internet are those who do have some boasting to do and want some applause for their canny judgment. You won't hear them talk a lot about their losers, or hear at all from many others who have experienced failure (unless they are calling in to some business-oriented chat show to bemoan their situation and get a shoulder to cry on). It's a simple fact of life, basic human psychology. No doubt, many investors get lucky every day and latch on to stocks that do very well for them. That doesn't happen for everyone by a long shot. You also can get a string of 7s or 21s in Vegas despite not knowing what you are doing. There will always be winners, and always be a few big winners, it is a numbers game. Same for losers.

1000 followers 14 September 2015. Big day.

Always go with the facts. There will always be exceptions to any rule, for the sake of your own financial health, ignore them. The research shows that, over all, you will do better over time just buying and holding quality stocks. Of course, anything is possible over the short term. However, if you create stock seedlings as I discussed in the previous section and simply move on to other plays to create more, that takes advantage of the long-term power of compounding while you remain an active investor. Learn to do nothing.

Take 'Tip' Sites with a Huge Grain of Salt



Incidentally, I am ranked on various 'tip' sites that grade bloggers on the returns generated by the stocks they mention in their articles. I had nothing to do with that, and did not even know that was the case until someone pointed it out and I went looking. I suppose that means I now am a 'public figure' or something. Anyway, I do well on them, but it depends on the market for the income stocks that I write about.

James Bjorkman theslayersmarketthoughts.filminspector.com
I took this at random on 5 May 2016 - first time I have visited the site in months. Looks like I'm doing pretty well. If income stocks tank, so will my ranking, I suppose.

I would like to caution you about taking their findings too literally. For instance, one major such site that shall remain nameless and unlinked here gives me a certain score based on (as I write this) about twenty stocks I have written about.

However, I have actually written about more than twice that many stocks (see below) and have made about twice that many recommendations. Some of my articles cover several recommendations, such as here (3 utility stocks) and here (5 foreign stocks) and those sites are not equipped to recognize them. Their software looks for certain phrases and words and misses articles that do not fit into what they are looking for. The stocks mentioned in those articles appear on none of the 'tip' rank sites; for whatever reason, they don't even pick up all the plays mentioned in single-stock articles, which you would think would be fairly easy to do, much less the multi-stock ones.

In addition, those sites somehow always include the stocks that don't do well but manage to miss some of the big winners (such as my article in August 2014 about Hawaiian Electric, which within months was up 50% - but no tip site picks that one up). I could go to the trouble of trying to keep those sites updated - but really, what is the point beyond sheer ego. It would require constant updates and wrangling with them to no real purpose. I think any interference with those places smacks of (attempted) manipulation. Incidentally, beware anyone who tries to awe you with their ranking on one of those places - it is easy to manipulate the results by emailing them and arguing with them, 'just bringing this to your attention' and so forth. I've seen some authors mention having done this and, quite frankly, was not impressed that this was so important to them.

There are other problems with such sites. For instance, the returns that they calculate for stocks do not include dividends - and for huge swathes of stocks (including the vast majority about which I write), the dividend is pretty much the only reason to own it. Dividends account for 50% of all long-term returns for the S&P 500, so ignoring the effect of dividends is simply wacky. Basically, these sites judge you on what types of stocks you write about in relation to how those stocks are currently doing in the economic cycle. Were I to want to 'game' such rankings, I would just write articles about Apple and be done with it. Like anything else, if you focus on improving some indicator of value, you can usually manage to gin it up - without affecting the quality of your work one iota. Picture placing a lit match underneath a thermometer on a cold day, anyone can do it and it certainly changes the results you derive, but it means nothing beyond creating a false front.

More fundamentally, and all other quibbles aside, they simply are not accurate. They do not update very frequently, so their ratings can be out of date. Every stock that they pick up as being a "recommendation," which isn't always the case, exists there eternally. Thus, if you ever change your mind about a security, that doesn't matter - it will haunt your rankings forevermore.

So, caution is advised when using such sites, they are not accurate at all. Just because someone is ranked highly at some point in time (and I have been at times) or lowly (that happens at times too) really means nothing except as a very general barometer.

My Articles



The below articles are all reviewed by editors and checked for content and form (I receive feedback on content with maybe half of my submissions, rarely regarding form). The articles are not necessarily recent, so check the dates, but even the older ones could be useful for background information. The list also is not complete; instead, it is intended merely to provide a starting point and give a feel for the types of stocks that I write about. I shall be updating this list from time to time, but just follow any of the links and you should be able to find all the other articles.

If you do go to visit Seeking Alpha, be sure to follow me there and drop me a note. These are in no particular date order or anything like that.

General:

The Case for Reits in 2015 
The Hidden Danger of Index Funds (NYSE:SPY)
What is a Quality Stock and When Are They Buys (NYSE:SPY)
The September Jobs Report Does Not Support A Fed Rate Hike (NYSE:SPY)
Why The Fed Is Making Me Nervous (NYSE:NLY)

Monthly Dividend Stocks

My Top 10 Monthly Dividend Stocks (NYSE:O)
My Top 10 Monthly Dividend Stocks: Updated (NYSE:O)
My Top 10 Monthly Dividend Stocks: Updated (NYSE:O)
Monthly Dividend Payers: Your Port In A Storm (NYSE:O)

The Generation Portfolio

The Generation Portfolio (NYSE:SPY)
The Generation Portfolio: Wells Fargo, Disney, MFA Financial, Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:WFC)
The Generation Portfolio: Coke, Wal-Mart, Ventas, Kinder Morgan, Medical Properties Trust (NYSE:KO)
The Generation Portfolio: W.P. Carey, AT&T, Verizon And 3M Company (NYSE:WPC)
The Generation Portfolio: Main Street Capital And Williams Companies (NYSE:MAIN)
The Generation Portfolio: Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)
The Generation Portfolio: Reinvesting (NYSE:ABR)
The Generation Portfolio: Rate Fears Consume The Market (NYSE:HSY)
The Generation Portfolio: Six Month Update (NYSE:LXP)
Generation Portfolio: Wish List (NYSE:AAPL)

REITs:

Urstadt Biddle (NYSE:UBA)
Gladstone Commercial (NASDAQ:GOOD)
Acadia Realty (NYSE:AKR)
American Assets Trust (NYSE:AAT)
Lexington Realty Trust I (NYSE:LXP)
Lexington Realty Trust II (NYSE:LXP)
Chambers Street (NYSE: CSG),
Columbia Property Trust (NYSE:CXP)
Hannon Armstrong I (NYSE:HASI)
Hannon Armstrong II (NYSE:HASI)
American Realty Capital Properties (NYSE:VEr) (December 2014)
American Realty Capital Properties (NYSE:VER) (January 2015)
American Realty Capital Properties (NYSE:VEr) (February 2015)
HCA Holdings (NYSE:HCA) (Part 1)
National Retail Properties: Dips Are Buying Opportunities (NYSE:NNN)
A Projected Holiday Sales Jump Could Be Jolly For National Retail Properties (NYSE:NNN)
Liberty Property Trust (NYSE:LPT)
Government Properties Income Trust (NYSE:GOV)
Senior Housing Properties Trust (NYSE:SNH)
Sunstone Hotels (NYSE:SHO)
Whitestone REIT I (NYSE:WSR)
Whitestone REIT II (NYSE:WSR)
UMH Properties (NYSE:UMH)
OHI Healthcare I (NYSE:OHI)
OHI Healthcare II (NYSE:OHI)
Stag Industrial I (NYSE:STAG)
Stag Industrial II (NYSE:STAG)
Washington REIT (NYSE:WRE)
Arbor Realty Trust I (NYSE:ABR)
Arbor Realty Trust II (NYSE:ABR)
REITs and You: An Introduction, With Some Tips (NYSE:MORL)
My Top 3 Mortgage REIT Picks (NYSE:CYS)
3 Key Takeaways From CYS Investments' Conference Call (NYSE:CYS)
Annaly Capital Management and the New Fed Paradigm (NYSE:NLY)
W.P. Carey (NYSE:WPC)
W.P. Carey II (NYSE:WPC)
Chatham Lodging Trust (NYSE:CLDT)
New York REIT (NYSE:NYRT)
Ashford Hospitality Trust (NYSE:AHT)
Starwood Property Trust Needs To Step It Up (NYSE:STWD)
Is Starwood Property Trust Bottoming? (NYSE:STWD)
Why REITs Emphasizing Sustainability Can Make You Money (NYSE:GGP)
CareTrust REIT: Lots Of Value In This Reliable Dividend Payer (NYSE:CTRE)
10% Yield, Good Earnings, What's Not To Love About This REIT? (NYSE:SIR)

BDCs

Main Street Capital (NYSE:MAIN)

ETF/ETN Analysis

REIT ETF/ETN Showdown: REM Vs. MORL (NYSE:MORL)
ETN Showdown: MORL Correlations And Strategies (NYSE:MORL)
ETN Showdown: Is MORL Overvalued? (NYSE:MORL)
ETN Showdown: BDCL Vs. MORL (NYSE:BDCL)
ETN Showdown: SMHD Adds Diversification And Yield (NYSE:SMHD)
ETN Showdown: Are MORL - And All mREITs - Doomed By Rising Rates? (NYSE:MORL)
ETN Showdown: MLPL, A Great Play For An Oil Rebound (NYSE:MLPL)
AMZA: An Insider's Look At The MLP Sector (NYSE:AMZA)
ETN Showdown: Why Now Is The Time To Consider MORL (NYSE:MORL)
Why I Like High Yield ETFs And ETNs (NYSE:MORL)
Why Annaly Capital's Earnings Report Was Positive For MORL And REM (NYSE:MORL)
ETN Showdown: Fed Chair Janet Yellen To MORL's Rescue (NYSE:MORL)
ETN Showdown: MORL Correlations And Strategies II, Financial Stocks (NYSE:MORL)
PFF: Why I Own This Preferred Shares ETF (NYSE:PFF)
5 Top Floating Rate Funds (NYSE:FRA)

Utilities:

Hawaiian Electric (NYSE:HE)
NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE)
Exelon Corp. (NYSE:EXC)
Pinnacle West Capital (NYSE:PNW)
FirstEnergy Corp (NYSE:FE)
3 Utility Stocks For Today (NYSE:DUK)
3 Utility Stocks to Consider Now (NYSE:ED)

Why REITs Emphasizing Sustainability Can Make You Money (NYSE:GGP)

Entertainment Companies:

DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA) (July 2014)
DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA) (December 2014)
DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA) (November 2015)
Disney Is A Buy On Dips (NYSE:DIS) (August 2014)
Why I Still Like Disney (NYSE:DIS) (October 2015)
IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) (August 2014)
IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) (January 2015)
Lion's Gate (NYSE:LGF)

Retail

Home Depot (NYSE:HD)