Carbon tax: a sign that oil prices will stay lower for longer

The federal government of Canada plans to impose a national carbon tax on any province that refuses to establish one on their own. They argue that putting a price on carbon will give people and companies an incentive to look for lower emission options to save money.

In reality, Canada is the second largest country in the world, just ahead of the United States and behind Russia However, our population is one-tenth the size of our largest trading partner, the United States and one-quarter the size of Russia. I estimate that 75% of Canadians live in rural areas where driving is a necessity and switching to electric heating or electric cars is way too expensive.

At the Golden Globe Awards, Meryl Streep called Canadian actors nice. I would like to add that we, as a nation, are dumb when it comes to energy. Refineries in Eastern Canada are spending billions to purchase about 700,000 barrels a day of foreign oil to meet customer needs while 3 million barrels of Western Canadian oil is sold to the United States at a discount due to lack of pipeline capacity between producing fields in Western Canada and refineries in the East.

Our governments rely on tax revenues from the oil and gas industry which are down with the price of oil. In truth, this carbon tax has nothing to do with lowering emissions but just another tax grab. This is a clear sign that the government believes a rebound in the price of oil is many years away.

The Canadian economy is fragile and the last thing it needs is yet another tax. The potential costs for the average Canadian family by 2022 is up to $2,569 per year. The carbon tax will also increase the price of food and clothing. It will mean lost jobs and make Canadian businesses less competitive.

Lack of pipelines makes me bearish on the Canadian oil patch

  1. It will take years to build the Keystone XL pipeline even if approved by Trump. Plus there will be a massive backlash, both on the ground and in the courts that could tie this project up for many more years.
  2. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave the green light to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion but I expect protestors will also delay this project.
  3. The Line 3 Replacement Program was also approved and is the largest project in Enbridge’s history. The anticipated in-service date for this project is 2019, pending U.S. regulatory approvals.

Additional reasons to be bearish on Canadian oil stocks

  1. Most Canadian oil companies are still losing money
  2. The profitable ones have very high price to earnings ratios (CNQ – EPS for 2017 is $1.04 or 39 times earnings and SU is 27 times earnings for 2017)
  3. Shipping oil by rail is way more expensive than by pipeline
  4. The biggest risk to the Canadian oil patch is Trump! He could put a 20% border tax on imported oil.

Foreign oil stocks that I own for yield

I bought some Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) for it’s 6.8% yield in my wife’s retirement account. The dividend is exempt from U.S. withholding tax because it is in a retirement account. Converting the U.S. dividend to Canadian dollars gives me a current yield of 6.8% times 1.32 or 8.98% which is much higher than owning bonds. Plus I can sell covered call options that could boost my returns by 5% or to protect against a fall in oil prices.

I also own Alerian MLP ETF (AMPL) which is a energy partners ETF with a 8% U.S. dollar yield. It has a 10.5% yield in Canadian dollars but does has a high management fee of 0.85%, still better than owning bonds. There are higher yielding limited partnerships but they carry more risk than owning an ETF.

U.S. Shale producers are on my watch list

The majority of these producers are still losing money. At the top of my watch list is Marathon oil (MRO) which is currently trading at $17. 45 but has a book value of $27.40. Their losses have been decreasing and the earnings estimates for a fourth quarter is for a loss of 15 cents a share. I am waiting for Marathon to release their results on Feb 15 to confirm that they are lessening their losses and that their revenue is increasing before I invest.

What oil stocks do you own and why?

Disclaimer: Please do your own research or consult with a qualified financial advisor.

 

 

 

 

Bull call spread strategy update

call-spread

Back on December 13th,  I suggested that a bull call spread can be used as an alternative to a covered call strategy. I was hoping that out of the three examples, there would be one good, one bad and one ugly. All three examples were just paper trades for discussion purposes. It turns out that all three paper trades were profitable if they were closed as of today at 11:00 a.m.

Bull Call Spread: An Alternative to the Covered Call

Quotes as of 11:00 a.m. on Jan 5, 2017

Example #1 Apple @ $116.08

Original buy was 100 shares of Apple at $114.90 sell one call option Jan 20 at $115.00 for $2.60

Action: Buy back call for $2.02 sell stock $116.08

Profit: ($116.08 – $114.90 + $2.60 – $2.02) = $1.76 divided by $114.90 = 1.53%

Original Call spread: Buy 1 Jan 20 $105 call for $10.45 – sell one call Jan 20 at 115.00 for 2.60

Action: Buy back call for $2.02 sell 105 call for 11.10

Profit: ($11.10 – $10.45 + $2.60 – $2.02) = $1.23 divide by $10.45 = 11.79%

Example #2 Netflix @ $131.36

Original buy was 100 shares of Netflix for 123.75 – sell Jan 20 call at $130 for $4.50

Action: Buy back the call for $7.95 sell stock for $131.36

Profit: ($131.36 – $123.75 + 4.40 – 7.95) = $4.06 divided by 123.75 = 3.28%

Original Call spread: Buy one Jan $120 for $9.15 – sell Jan 20 call at $130 for $4.50

Action: Buy back the call for $7.95 sell call for 14.10

Profit: ($14.10 – $9.15 + 4.50 – $7.95) = $1.50 divided by $9.15 = 16.39%

Example #3 Facebook @ $119.65

Original buy was  100 shares of Facebook for$119.40 – sell Jan 20 call at $120 for $3.10

Action: Buy back call for $1.68 sell stock for $119.65

Profit: ($119.65 – $119.40 + $3.10 – $1.68) = $1.67 divided by $119.40 = 1.4%

Original Call spread: Buy one Jan 20 $110 for $10.45 – sell Jan 20 call at $120 for $3.10

Action: Buy back call for $1.68 sell call $9.75

Profit: ($9.75 – $10.45 + $3.10 – 1.68) = $ 0.72 divided by $10.45 = 6.89%

The capital required to purchase 100 shares of each of these three stocks is $35,805 minus $1020.00 from selling the covered call options equals $34,785. Total profit of closing these positions today would have been $749.00 dividend by $34,785 equals 2.15% (not including trading fees)

The bull call spreads requires a total outlay of $3,005 minus $1020.00 from selling the exact same covered calls equals $1985. Total profit would have been $345 dividend by $1985 equals 17.38%. (not including trading fees)

A bull call spread allows for a higher percentage return with less capital. Plus it allows you to trade higher priced stocks. In case you don’t remember, both Apple and Netflix were trading over $700 before they did a 7 for 1 split. Many small investors didn’t have enough capital to invest in these two stocks. In hind sight, I could have pick higher priced stocks like Amazon ($778.00), Google ($790.00) or Priceline($1501.00) but I didn’t currently feel very bullish on these stocks.

There are many stocks trading in the $200 to $300 range like Goldman Sachs, Biogen, Tesla and Chipotle where a bull call spread could be an alternative to a covered call strategy. To reduce trading costs, I would recommend call spreads that contain a minimum of buying 3 calls and selling 3 calls on the underlying stock.

If you are bullish, earnings season is just around the corner, a call spread strategy could boost your returns. Please note that call spread trading requires having a margin account and approval from your discount broker.

Disclaimer: This post is for discussion purposes only!

 

Dogs of the Dow: A winning strategy in 2016

The “Dogs of the Dow” strategy was popularized by Michael O’Higgins in his 1991 book “Beating the Dow.” The Dogs of the Dow are the 10 of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average with the highest dividend yield. The investor would allocate an equal amount into each of these 10 stocks and hold them for the entire year. They are called investment “Dogs” because rising dividend yields tend to be a function of falling prices.

Typically, an investor would need to only rid about two to three stocks every year and replace them with different ones. The stocks are typically replaced because their dividend yields have fallen out of the top 10, or occasionally, because they have been removed from the DJIA altogether. The strategy’s simplicity is one of its most attractive attributes.

The premise of this investment style is that the Dow laggards, which are temporarily out-of-favor stocks, are still good companies because they are still included in the DJIA. Therefore, holding on to them is a smart idea, in theory. Once these companies rebound and the market has revalued them properly, you can sell them and replenish your portfolio with other good companies that are temporarily out of favor.

Companies in the Dow have historically been very stable companies that can weather any market decline with their solid balance sheets and strong fundamentals. Furthermore, because there is a committee perpetually tinkering with the DJIA’s components, you can rest assured that the DJIA is made up of good, solid companies.

The 2016 returns:

Dogs of the Dow = 16.1%

Dow Jones Industrials = 13.4%

S&P 500 = 9.5%

Here are some historical returns:

Investment Symbol 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 1 Year 3 Year 5 Year 10 Year Since 2000
Dogs of the Dow 16.3% 9.9% 34.9% 10.8% 2.6% 2.6% 16.1% 14.9% 10.6% 7.9%
Dow Jones Industrials 8.4% 10.2% 29.7% 10.0% 0.2% 0.2% 13.3% 11.7% 9.1% 6.3%
S&P 500 2.1% 16.0% 32.4% 13.7% 1.4% 1.4% 15.8% 13.1% 9.1% 5.8%

Variations of the Dogs

Because of this strategy’s simplicity and its returns, many have tried to alter it in an attempt to refine it, making it both simpler and higher yielding. There is the Dow 5, which includes the five Dogs of the Dow that have the lowest per share price. Then there is the Dow 4, which includes the 4 highest priced stocks of the Dow 5.

A contrarian strategy of favoring the worst over the best doesn’t always work out, but it often does. Consider the worst-performing stock in the 30-member Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2015 was Wal-Mart. The retailer’s shares produced a dividend-adjusted loss of 26.6% in 2015 but was up 14.3% in 2016 including dividend. In contrast with Nike which had a big gain of 31.4% in 2015 but had loss of 17.4% in 2016!

The Dogs of the Dow for 2017

Symbol Company Price Yield
The Dow stocks ranked by yield 12/31/16 12/31/16
VZ Verizon 53.38 4.33%
PFE Pfizer 32.48 3.94%
CVX Chevron 117.70 3.67%
BA Boeing 155.68 3.65%
CSCO Cisco Systems 30.22 3.44%
KO Coca-Cola 41.46 3.38%
IBM International Business Machines 165.99 3.37%
XOM ExxonMobil 90.26 3.32%
CAT Caterpillar 92.74 3.32%
MRK Merck 58.87 3.19%

Dogs of the Dow strategy is not fool-proof

Dow Industrial Average is price-weighted but the Dogs of the Dow assumes equal weighting which can explain some performance differences over the long-term. Part of the outperformance can also be attributed to differences in overall dividend yields.

The Dogs of the Dow is a simple stock picking strategy and can be very effective over the long-term. Owning 10 of highest yielding stocks of the 30 Dow stocks which are out of favor with Wall Street gives the investor some downward protection and some extra income.

What do you think about “Dogs of the Dow?”

Disclaimer: This post is for discussion purposes only!

 

Tips on rebalancing your retirement portfolio

rebalance-moneyunder30

Many investors are in for a rude awakening when they open their year-end retirement plan statements. The bond portion will probably show negative returns. It could even wipeout a good portion of their positive returns from owning equities.

Now, the most common method used in rebalancing your established asset allocation mix would be to reduce the holdings that are up in value (sell stocks) and buy assets that have fallen in price (buy bonds). This practice may have worked very well in the past but interest rates are going up forcing bond prices down.

The chart below compares the S&P 500 with the IShares 20 plus year Treasury bond ETF

tlt

“The decades-long bull market in U.S. Treasuries has finally drawn to a close following Donald Trump’s surprise presidential election victory, according to mutual-fund manager Bill Miller.”

“Miller isn’t the first to call time on the bond bull market. Economist Henry Kaufman, the original “Dr. Doom” who is credited with calling the last bond bear market in the 1970s, told the Financial Times this week that the current bull run is at an end.”

In the past, when the Federal Reserve decided it was time to unwind its easy monetary policies, it would raise the federal funds rate fairly quickly. The Fed believes a neutral stance on monetary policy is reached somewhere above the 4% level. The current Federal Reserve is moving slower than normal. Based on an average of three rate hikes per year, it will take the Fed a little over 4 years to normalize interest rates.

Tip # 1

Short-term, reduce or eliminate investing in target date mutual funds since they automatically rebalance from equities to bonds. Plus they increase your bond exposure the closer you are to retirement.

Tip # 2

During a period of rising interest rates, the prudent strategy is to reduce the duration of your bond portfolio. That could mean using a short-term bond ETF or a ladder of GICs both of which would allow you to benefit from an increase in rates.

Tip # 3

If you’re comfortable with a little credit risk, use short-term investment-grade corporate bonds to get a little more yield.

Tip # 4

Cash is by far the safest asset class. Move some of your equity allocation and some of your fixed income allocation to cash. I have my doubts that President Elect Trump can get congress to pass all his stimulus agenda and even economists are unsure if these policies will actual increase economic growth.

Corrections in the bond market are not as uncommon as you think. Most have been short in duration. See the chart below:

lt-treas-losses

Keep in mind that in the past, rate hikes were implemented  at a much faster pace than what the current Fed has purposed. Losses in the bond market could continue for longer than expected.

Bull Call Spread: An Alternative to the Covered Call

call-spread

Most new option traders start with a covered call strategy. You buy 100 shares of company xyz and you sell one option that has a near month expiry date. One objective of this strategy is to earn extra income from the option premiums which hopefully expires worthless. Short term options decline in value very quickly if the stock price remains fairly flat or falls a little in value.

The covered call strategy is limited by the amount of capital you have to invest. Many popular stocks are trading over $100 like Apple ($114.90), Netflix ($123.75) and Facebook ($119.40) so buying 100 shares of these three companies would require about $35,805 of your capital.

An alternative to writing covered calls, one can enter a bull call spread for a similar profit potential but with significantly less capital requirement. Instead of buying the underlying stock in the covered call strategy, the bull call spread strategy requires the investor to buy deep-in-the-money call options instead.

To illustrate the difference, I am going to select 3 bull call spreads for the above three popular stocks. Disclaimer: These trades are for educational purposes only and are not recommendations.

Quotes as of 10:00 a.m. on Dec 13, 2016

Example #1

Buy 100 shares of Apple at $114.90 sell one call option Jan 20 at $115.00 for $2.60

Call spread: Buy 1 Jan 20 $105 call for $10.45 – sell one call Jan 20 at 115.00 for 2.60

Example #2

Buy 100 shares of Netflix for 123.75 – sell Jan 20 call at $130 for $4.50

Call spread: Buy one Jan $120 for $9.15 – sell Jan 20 call at $130 for $4.50

Example #3

Buy 100 shares of Facebook for$119.40 – sell Jan 20 call at $120 for $3.10

Call spread: Buy one Jan 20 $110 for $10.45 – sell Jan 20 call at $120 for $3.10

Now, the capital required to purchase 100 shares of each of these three stocks is $35,805 minus $1020.00 from selling the covered call options equals $34, 785. The bull call spreads requires a total outlay of $3,005 minus $1020.00 from selling the exact same covered calls equals $ $1985.00

Only time will time if these bull call spreads are good, bad or ugly. Stay tune for a follow-up post in the new year.

Another suckers rally in oil stocks?

opec

Over the past year there has been a lot of talk regarding the possibility of OPEC either freezing or cutting production. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Wednesday agreed to its first oil production limits in eight years, triggering an oil rally. The new norm for crude prices could be between $50 and $60 going forward.

OPEC has said it is seeking to secure 600,000 barrels per day of cuts from non-OPEC producers, and that Russia has committed to temporarily cut production by about 300,000 barrels per day in the first half of 2017. Russia and other non-OPEC producers are set to meet with OPEC on Dec. 9.

The key to all of this is whether these cuts will be implemented. Plus market watchers are also questioning whether the oil group will cheat. The sharp oil-price rally may well be short-lived, as oil production has been turning the corner in the U.S., with the rig count up 50 percent from lows in May.

Extracting oil from the Permian Basin, which spans west Texas and southeast New Mexico, is less expensive than it is in many major fields.

“Basically, $50 is good for Permian Basin stocks,” said Paul Sankey, senior oil and gas analyst at Wolfe Research. Pioneer Natural Resources and EOG Resources expanded their presence in the region in the last few months, and Sankey said the two companies would also benefit from $50 oil.”

In Conoco Phillips’ third-quarter conference call, management said the company was adding three rigs to its operations in the North Dakota Bakken oil fields for a total of four rigs in the region.

“The Trump Wild Card”

Cutting corporate income taxes will make U.S. shale producers more profitable and they could have extra cash to produce more oil. Less banking regulations could also allow more bank loans to the energy industry. Could Trump impose tariffs on imported oil? He is after all unpredictable!

The oil futures market has quotes for monthly contracts that are being offered at $53.00 for the first quarter of 2017 and $55 for the rest of the year. The trading volumes of contracts changing hands is very low which could be a bullish sign that oil producers believe that higher prices are coming.

Now over the last two years, I have avoided investing in oil stocks and posted many articles regarding the oversupply problem. I am currently doing research on some U.S. shale oil producers. Unfortunately, the fundamentals haven’t changed and most companies are still losing money at current oil prices.

What do you think?

Is this another suckers rally because hedge funds are rushing in to cover their short positions or is this the start of a bull market in the oil patch?