What’s cheap?

Ouch. As of the 16 June, my portfolio is down 9.5% so far in June. Admittedly, my portfolio is leveraged (don’t try this at home, or arguably anywhere else!). Presumably at some point, it’s time to rustle down the back of the sofas, sell off the candlesticks, or forgo a weekend out and use the cash to start buying?

How many do I have to swallow?

Swallowing knives

I have been nibbling at falling things for a few months now. That’s partly how I’ve ended up in my predicament – my leverage is higher than it’s been since the halcyon days of 2016. Everything I bought cheaply earlier in 2022 has now dropped further. For instance:

  • In January I bought my first SHOP for just over $800 (40% down on peak – me spotting a bargain). A bottom-hunting Limit Order then bought more in March, at just over $500. Then I bought more in May at closer to $300. Today, it’s at $305. My January purchase is down over 60%.
  • In February I topped up ULVR, deliberating rotating into something ‘inflation friendly’. In February ULVR traded at around £38. Today my February purchase is down about 6% at £35.61.
  • In March I topped up MMM, a long term hold, at the price I first paid for it over 6 years ago – around $145. Back then its dividend was around $4.44; now the (ever increasing) dividend is over $6. That was a third more income for your money. But since March it’s down 10% at $131. That dividend is going to keep increasing though, you watch.
  • In April I thought HL had become cheap, at under £10/share (down from a peak of £24 in 2019). In 2019 that £24 bought you a dividend of 33p – a yield of 1.4%. But the share price has dropped in the last 2 months over 20% to £7.66. Now the dividend is over 40p – that’s a 5.2% yield. That’s 3.7x more yield in 2 years.
  • In May I’m hurting some, but stretch my margin / appetite / common sense and buy AMZN for (old money) $2200. In the last month it’s dropped over 6%, with a 20:1 stock split not making an appreciable difference. I also bought ADS, thinking branded trainers feel reasonably inflation proof too, on a dip at €180. In the same month, ADS is down 10%.

The tech sector is where the pain is most acute. The car dealing companies CZOO and CVNA catch a lot of headlines, both down over 90% since January alone. Unprofitable growth businesses have typically dropped 60-80%. The FTSE doesn’t have any of these, which has helped protect it. But AMZN makes far more profit than its critics ever imagined, as does GOOG and META and of course MSFT. These are all down 30-50%.

Tell me when this stops

At what point do we hit the floor? A big problem right now is knowing where the floor is.

Continue reading “What’s cheap?”

2nd homes: folly or fantasy?

I spent a fair bit of the summer thinking about second homes. At times it seemed as if every second person I knew had a second home – with plenty bought since lockdown started, as a getaway from urban London. They are (see map below) for the most part 2-3 hours drive form London; the Cotswolds just beyond Oxford and the Poole/Bournemouth coast in the southwest are particularly popular among my London circle.

I have had longstanding views on 2nd homes, so I found James Max’s summer FT article to be very thought-provoking on the topic.

Locations of 2nd homes of friends of mine

2nd homes as hassle and/or social problem

James Max starts with my position – that 2nd homes are fundamentally a hassle. Complexity. Things that can go wrong. Costs. An asset that is more of a liability. Like James, I don’t see myself letting a home out, via AirBNB, VRBO or the rest – so I wouldn’t see any income to offset the additional council taxes, utility bills, and occasional maintenance to deal with. Builders to find, gardeners and cleaners required.

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Margin loans in the UK – my experience

The UK has the most sophisticated financial services industry in Europe. And in some respects, one of the most sophisticated in the world. But in one area it clearly lags the USA – the stock market. Whether it comes to the size of the stock market, the % of society who own stocks/shares, or the number of stockbrokers – we in the UK are a long way behind our transatlantic cousins.

In the UK, even the concept of ‘margin loans’ would leave financially savvy stockmarket pundits scratching their head. Perhaps a couple of them – monevator comments readers I’m sure – would cross-reference to the excellent movie ‘Margin Call‘, starring Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore and Jeremy Irons, but that movie’s lack of success in the UK tells you what you need to know about the wider understanding of ‘margin lending’ in the UK.

As regular readers of this blog know, I am a member of that rare and unusual species – a UK user of margin loans. This page is to serve as some form of introduction to the concept for UK/European readers, as well as summarising some of my experiences and linking to further reading.

What is a margin loan?

Loans generally come in two shapes/sizes – secured loans, and unsecured loans. Secured loans – where the lender has some form of collateral – are cheaper, reflecting the lower risk that the lender is exposed to.

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