February 3, 2014 Comments

As most of you are no doubt aware, on Monday markets were down fairly sharply. The S&P 500 was down 2.3% and Toronto was down 1.5%.

The only stocks on our list that escaped the damage were some preferred shares. Bonds had a comparatively good day as interest rates declined moderately.

One of our stocks, Liquor Stores N.A fell 10.4% to $12.85 .This was on news that British Columbia, where about 15% of its stores are located has tabled a report recommending that grocery stores be allowed to sell liquor. Quite possibly the stock reaction is overdone, as this change could still be a ways off and it seems possible that the (I believe) relatively few private stores in B.C. would be compensated. On the other hand our report on the company was not exactly concern-free. There is some chance that buying this is chasing a faltering a business. And certainly there must a reasonable risk that the dividend will be cut. The company has saddled itself with paying out all of its earnings (and a bit more). This policy dates back to its income trust days. Still, the company does appear to be profitable and over the long haul has shown good growth.

In reaction to today’s decline I did what I always tend to do. I remained calm. Market declines are a fact of life in the markets.

I had a standing order to add to my Liquors Store N.A. position if the price dropped to $13.67. The bad news was press released only an hour before the opening of trade (It was based on a report issued by the government on Friday or Saturday). The stock opened down only 5 cents but then fell steadily. This trading pattern illustrates a poor dissipation of news. If the stock had been halted for several hours to let the news spread (which takes extra time on a thinly traded stock) it would likely have opened down more substantially which would have been more fair. In any case my order to add 25% to my relatively small position was filled at $13.67 and then I decided to buy another similar amount at $13.00.

I also had an order in to buy back some Berkshire at $109.10 (I had sold almost all of my position months ago as the price rose.) It’s not really relevant what the price was when I sold but the comments below indicate I sold most of it on July 23 so that would have been a little over $118. I would say Berkshire is known to be worth more today than it was six months ago due to its strong investment gains since then and also due to its own retained earnings. As our report indicated, Buffett has indicated that Berkshire will buy back stock at prices up to 120% of book value, that limit was $101 as of Q3 but will likely rise several dollars after the Q4 numbers are released. So, we are not quite down to the level where Berkshire will buy back its own stock, but we are not far off.

If stock prices continue to decline there are some other stocks that I would want to buy. However I would like to take that slow. For one thing I want to wait until recent trades, including my purchase the National bank and Canadian Western Bank preferred shares settle in my account so I can better evaluate my cash position.

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