January 1, 2014 Comments

I have updated the composition of my own portfolio. It’s not the intention that anyone copy it but it is provided for the sake of transparency and disclosure.

For purposes of performance tracking for 2014, the above ratings will be used as the start of 2014 rating. In all cases the closing 2013 price will be used as the starting 2014 price.

On the last trading day of 2013 the S&P 500 rose another 0.4% closing at 1848 for a stellar rise of 29.6% in 2013. The Toronto market rose 0.3% to 13,622 posting a gain of 9.6% for 2013. In 2013 Stocks and particularly American stocks provided returns that were a lot higher than the earnings of the underlying companies. That partly reflects the fact atht there were previous years when the opposite occurred. Over long periods of time investors cannot expect to make returns that are larger than the underlying earnings.

In terms of an outlook for 2014, my guess is that the earnings on the S&P 500 will advance perhaps 5 to 10%. However the (trailing earnings) P/E ratio which is at about 19 will be hard pressed to maintain that level. It is unlikely to rise. Therefore my guess in that the return from the S&P 500 index in 2014 will not exceed 10% and is more likely to be closer to 0% or less. That does not means that certain U.S. stocks will not rise. Of course, many will. I expect the U.S. economy to continue to improve and house prices there to continue to rise.

For Canada it is much harder to guess the direction of the overall stock market due to its heavy representation from commodities and resource stocks. I won’t hazard a guess. Certainly there will be many Canadian stocks that will do well.

Our performance figures for 2013 have been updated. It was an exceptionally good year, one of our best ever. Interestingly the three stocks that were in the Buy range that declined were all high yield stocks.

In preparation for the new year I am removing a few stock picks that are older and that I am not updating. These are MicroSoft, Blackberry (Research in Motion) and Shaw Communications. I plan to make some new additions to the list before too long.

RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust is updated and rated Buy at $24.77. This is not the type of investment that is going help anyone earn something exciting like 15%. But it should be a relatively safe investment. The units would fall in price if long-term interest rates increase. However it also has modest growth potential and may have a place in the mix of many portfolios.

RioCan Preferred Shares are updated and rated lower Buy at $24.90. The yield at 5.3% is perhaps attractive. But they have little or no upside potential (due to the fact that the company can redeem at $25 in 2016). If long-term interest rates were to fall these units would fall in price and could remain permanently lower unless interest rates declined again. They may be a reasonable investment for the yield but I would choose the Trust units rather than these to get the growth potential. In a taxable account these might be the better choice due to the dividend tax credit. Unless I was dependent on spending the cash flow from a taxable account I would not want to hold these in a taxable account unless I was in a position where the tax was close to zero.

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