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Latest Valuentum Commentary

Feb 25, 2022
Update: Analyzing Valuentum’s Economic Castle Index: A Walk Forward Case Study
There are two things generally wrong with a pure economic moat assessment, or economic “moat factor.” First, it is much easier to assess outsize economic returns in the near-term than it is to assess outsize economic returns over the long haul. Quite simply, nobody can predict what will happen tomorrow, and they certainly don’t know what will happen 20 or 30 years from now. Second, a rational investor should generally prefer expected near-term outsize economic returns than expected long-term ones given the uncertainty of the latter--somewhat related to our first point, a bird in the hand (or large economic returns in the near term) is worth two in the bush (or large economic returns in the long run that may not materialize). The time value of money reinforces this notion. Near-term economic returns are generally worth more than long-term ones in real terms, even if they may be smaller nominally. This is where our Economic Castle rating comes in. The goal of the Economic Castle rating is to identify those companies that are likely to generate a lot (or not so much) shareholder value over the foreseeable future. Instead of pondering a guess as to how the landscape will look 20 or 30 years from now, something not even the Oracle of Omaha can do with any sort of certainty (e.g. IBM, KHC), the Economic Castle rating ranks companies based on near-term expected economic returns, or returns that are more likely to be realized as opposed to those that may be built on “castles in the air” over 20-30 time horizons. By evaluating companies on the basis of the spread between their forecasted future return on invested capital (‘ROIC’) excluding goodwill less their estimated weighted-average cost of capital (‘WACC’), we measure a company’s ability to generate an “economic profit” over the foreseeable future, which we define as the next five fiscal years. Companies that generate a forecasted spread of 50 percentage points or more are given a “Very Attractive” Economic Castle rating and firms that are forecasted to generate a spread of 150 percentage points or higher are considered “Highest-Rated”. Firms that carry an Unattractive Economic Castle rating are those that are forecasted to generate a forward ROIC (ex-goodwill) less estimated WACC spread that’s meaningfully below zero (firms near economic parity can receive a Neutral Economic Castle rating, assigned by the Valuentum team).
Feb 16, 2022
The Castle Trumps the Moat
Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett has popularized the concept of an “economic moat,” perhaps best described in common language as sustainable competitive advantages. Whereas economic moat analysis focuses on the duration of a firm’s economic profit stream, as measured by return on invested capital less the costs of which to attain that capital, economic castle analysis focuses on the magnitude of economic profit creation over the realizable near term. Unlike the substantial duration risk inherent to predicting economic profits 20, 30 or more years into the future, the economic castle framework posits that the strongest performing companies during certain phases of the economic cycle will be those that generate the most economic value over the foreseeable future. The results in this paper showcase the aggregate outperformance of a select number of outsize economic-profit creators within the Valuentum Economic Castle Index relative to both S&P 500 firms and companies with “wide” economic moats.
Jan 14, 2022
The Success Equation Book Review: Is the Skill Paradox a Myth in Investing? We Think So
Image: The game of baseball has changed during the past 100 years. While many point to a declining standard deviation and coefficient of variation in batting averages for evidence of a paradox of skill in baseball, it's more likely the game has changed. Players are hitting more homeruns, sacrificing batting average as a result. Note the red part of the line is when the game of baseball expanded to the current number of 30 teams. Data from the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season omitted. Source: Baseball Almanac. There's a lot of informational value in reading The Success Equation (and everyone should pick up a copy), but please be careful to come to your own conclusion. From where we stand, there is not a paradox of skill in investing (or baseball, for that matter). The games have simply changed based on new incentives. Some wise person may have written this before: Be careful not in what you read, but rather in the conclusions you draw from your reading. We wish Mauboussin could re-write The Success Equation considering some of the thoughts in this article. Maybe he will!
Dec 3, 2021
Dividend Increases/Decreases for the Week December 3
Let's take a look at companies that raised/lowered their dividend this week.
Oct 26, 2021
I Don’t Know How Lucky I Am, Do You?
Image: The category of large cap growth (SCHG) has outperformed a 60/40 stock/bond rebalanced portfolio (VBIAX) by ~310 percentage points the past 10 years. Image Source: Morningstar."Sometimes, I get beat up over a stock idea not outperforming or the simulated newsletter portfolios hitting a rough patch, and it’s hard to stomach. Sometimes, I sit in frustration because I know how others are “playing the game,” and how lucky I am to be a stock picker. Quite simply, if you’ve been picking stocks the past 10 years and didn’t fall into the quant value trap of small cap value, it’s very likely you’ve hit the ball out of the park relative to what you might have ended up with had you gone with a sophisticated asset allocation model with management fees. I hope you can see how lucky you are, too. Thank you so much for being here. Stocks for the long haul!" -- Valuentum's President, Brian Nelson, CFA
Oct 20, 2021
Quants and High-Frequency Trading the Real Cause of the GameStop Frenzy?
Image: The cause of the GameStop trading frenzy remains largely unclassified as it appears to us that quant and high-frequency trading played a much bigger role in the market disruption than what is being reported. We think the SEC staff put out a fantastic “GameStop Report” with some excellent information. However, the report did not get to the crux of the matter, failing to disclose what actually caused the extreme market volatility in meme stocks, while glossing over the substantial increase in institutional accounts, likely belonging to quant/trend/momentum funds, that contributed to the trading frenzy this year. We think investors and market participants deserve to know more about what caused this threat to market integrity and structure as the continued proliferation of which may only grow larger and larger in the coming decades. If it was quant trading, then we encourage the SEC to take steps to ensure that such trading is curbed effectively as it is clear that such price-agnostic activity is not contributing to market efficiency.
Sep 13, 2021
The Investment Case for More Gender Diversity
Image: The Impact Shares' YWCA Women’s Empowerment ETF (WOMN) has trounced the S&P 500 since inception, while the SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE) has bested the quantitatively-hailed small cap value ETF over the same time period. There has been a plethora of research over the years regarding the value of diversity on teams, in corporate boardrooms, and across asset management. One of the forms of diversity is gender diversity. It has been documented that diverse teams create more innovative ideas and creativity, which can serve as quite an advantage in industries where margins are slim, or there are few barriers to entry. While a 2019 study summarized in the Harvard Business Review indicated that the value of gender diversity is highly context-dependent and tends to have the greatest benefit where it is already valued, the corporate environment, and arguably the stock market, itself, are a few of those areas where value has been demonstrated.
Feb 8, 2021
Stock Market Outlook for 2021
2020 was one from the history books and a year that will live on in infamy. That said, we are excited for the future as global health authorities are steadily putting an end to the public health crisis created by COVID-19, aided by the quick discovery of safe and viable vaccines. Tech, fintech, and payment processing firms were all big winners in 2020, and we expect that to continue being the case in 2021. Digital advertising, cloud-computing, and e-commerce activities are set to continue dominating their respective fields. Cybersecurity demand is moving higher and the constant threats posed by both governments (usually nations that are hostile to Western interests) and non-state actors highlights how crucial these services are. Retailers with omni-channel selling capabilities are well-positioned to ride the global economic recovery upwards. Green energy firms will continue to grow at a brisk pace in 2021, though the oil & gas industry appears ready for a comeback. The adoption of 5G wireless technologies and smartphones will create immense growth opportunities for smartphone makers, semiconductor players and telecommunications giants. Video streaming services have become ubiquitous over the past decade with room to continue growing as households “cut the cord” and instead opt for several video streaming packages. We’re not too big of fans of old industrial names given their capital-intensive nature relative to capital-light technology or fintech, but there are select names that have appeal. Cryptocurrencies have taken the market by storm as we turn the calendar into 2021, but the traditional banking system remains healthy enough to withstand another shock should it be on the horizon. Our fair value estimate of the S&P 500 remains $3,530-$3,920, but we may still be on a roller coaster ride for the year. Here’s to a great 2021!
Dec 4, 2020
Dividend Increases/Decreases for the Week December 4
Let's take a look at companies that raised/lowered their dividend this week.
Nov 19, 2020
Normalizing our Fair Value Estimates for the Money Center Banks
Image Source: Mike Cohen. During the past few weeks, positive news surrounding the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines means that, while times will still be tough for banks as bad loans pile up, losses and defaults perhaps won’t be as bad as we had originally predicted at the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19. The unemployment rate has steadily crept lower from the 14.7% rate it hit in April 2020 (it stands at 6.9% as of October), and businesses have been battling hard through the worst of times with help from the Paycheck Protection Program, among other stimulus efforts. There have still been many business failures, however. Several banks’ net interest margins have faced pressure, too, but 30-year rates have managed to ease a bit higher from the sub-1% mark on March 9, 2020, to 1.62% at the time of this writing (November 18). The widely-watched 10-year/3-month Treasury yield spread has also advanced to 79 basis points, representing a meaningful improvement from most of February and early March when the 10-year/3-month Treasury yield spread was negative. The probability of an adverse tail-event is also substantially reduced (if not, eliminated), given the laser-focus of the Fed/Treasury to do whatever it takes to get to the other side the COVID-19 crisis. With all of this in mind, we expect to raise our fair value estimates for the money center banks upon their next update, effective November 21. That said, we’re not changing our general views on the banking and financials sector. Banks are being used more and more these days as extensions of government fiscal intervention/policy via myriad stimulus programs (which makes them more like “utilities”), while regulatory oversight has put a limit on just how much capital they can return to shareholders. This adds a degree of unnecessary complexity for dividend growth and income investors. Returns on equity remain relatively unattractive for many banks when compared to some of the strongest Economic Castles on the market that put up ROICs north of 100%, for example, some even higher. Systemic risk remains present, too, with most lending books opaque and intertwined within a global financial system that remains far from healthy due to COVID-19.

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The High Yield Dividend Newsletter, Best Ideas Newsletter, Dividend Growth Newsletter, Nelson Exclusive publication, and any reports, articles and content found on this website are for information purposes only and should not be considered a solicitation to buy or sell any security. The sources of the data used on this website are believed by Valuentum to be reliable, but the data’s accuracy, completeness or interpretation cannot be guaranteed. Valuentum is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for results obtained from the use of its newsletters, reports, commentary, or publications and accepts no liability for how readers may choose to utilize the content. Valuentum is not a money manager, is not a registered investment advisor and does not offer brokerage or investment banking services. Valuentum, its employees, and affiliates may have long, short or derivative positions in the stock or stocks mentioned on this site.