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Executive Summary August 15, 2014

The Economy

While stock market gains greatly outpaced economic improvement last year, we continue to see a touch of a reversal in 2014, with moderate stock gains underpinned by some of the best economic data the US has posted in years.

The July jobs report, for example, showed that the private sector added 198,000 jobs during month, with overall nonfarm payrolls rising by 209,000 -- the fifth straight month the figure has topped 200,000. May and June's total nonfarm payrolls were also revised upward by a total of 15,000. The unemployment rate did rise slightly to 6.2%, but that appears to have been because more people were looking for jobs -- the number of people not in the workforce fell by 119,000. The "U-6"unemployment rate, which unlike the headline rate takes into account those who have given up looking for a job, ticked up slightly to 12.2%.

New claims for unemployment, meanwhile, remain lower than they've been for some time. The four-week moving average is at levels not seen since early 2006, while continuing claims are 14% below where they stood a year ago.

The service sector also expanded in July for the 54th straight month, according to the Institute for Supply Management, doing so at the fastest pace since its 2008 inception. The New Orders sub-index continued to rise and is at an extremely strong level, while the Employment sub-index made a nice gain, indicating that employment conditions in the sector keep improving.

Manufacturing activity also expanded at an accelerating pace in July, ISM said -- its fastest pace since April 2011. It was the 14th straight month the sector expanded. New orders also jumped, as did ISM's employment sub-index for the sector.

Retail and food service sales were unchanged in July according to the Commerce Department. They are now about 4.2% above where they stood a year ago, a pretty healthy year-over-year increase.

In the housing market, prices are moderating, which probably good given the rapid rise we'd experienced in recent years. Home prices across 20 US cities rose an average of 1.1% in May, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price indices. But when seasonally adjusted, they actually fell 0.3%.

Since our last newsletter, the S&P 500 returned 1.3%, while the Hot List returned 3.0%. So far in 2014, the portfolio has returned -11.4% vs. 5.8% for the S&P. Since its inception in July 2003, the Hot List is far outpacing the index, having gained 222.4% vs. the S&P's 95.4% gain.

Portfolio Update

It's been a fairly tame two weeks for the stock market, but a few big winners have helped the Hot List gain some ground over the fortnight.

Overall, 7 of the portfolio's 10 holdings were in the black since our last newsletter. Leading the way was Rex Natural Resources, which was up nearly 15% (all performance data as of mid-afternoon trading on Aug. 14). Rex seems to be continuing to ride the wave that has been pushing ethanol firms higher since excellent corn crop data was announced a few weeks ago.

Not far behind Rex was Silicon Motion Technology Corp., up 14.4%. SIMO has had a couple of upward earnings revisions over the past month or so, and it looks like that has investors turning bullish on the stock.

USANA Health Sciences was another big winner, gaining 9.7%. Its shares had fallen sharply in late July after an earnings announcement that fell short of expectations, so its strong performance since then may be a bounce-back gain as investors respond to the initial overreaction.

On the downside, BBVA Banco Frances SA was off 14.6%. The Argentina-based bank, like many of the country's stocks, was hit hard when Argentina defaulted on its debt late last month. The situation remains uncertain, though the latest reports indicate that chances of a quick resolution to the crisis are fading. BBVA's fundamentals and financials continue to earn it pretty strong scores from my strategies, however. In two weeks, we'll rebalance the Hot List, at which time we will see whether the stock has what it takes to remain in the portfolio.

 
Editor-in-Chief: John Reese










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Guru Spotlight: Warren Buffett

With his humble Midwest beginnings, plainspoken wisdom and wit, and incredible wealth, Warren Buffett has become the most-watched investor in the world. But as interesting a character as Buffett is, the more important piece of the Buffett puzzle for investors is this: How did he do it?

My Buffett-based Guru Strategy attempts to answer that question. Based on the approach Buffett reportedly used to build his fortune, it tries to use the same conservative, stringent criteria to choose stocks that the "Oracle of Omaha" has used in evaluating businesses.

Before we get into exactly how this strategy works, a couple notes about Buffett and my Buffett-based strategy: First, while most of my Guru Strategies are based on published writings of the gurus themselves, Buffett has not publicly disclosed his exact strategy (though he has hinted at pieces of it). My Buffett-inspired model is based on the book Buffettology, written by Mary Buffett, Warren's ex-daughter-in-law, and David Clark, a Buffett family friend, both of whom worked closely with Buffett.

Second, while most of my Buffett-based method centers on a company's fundamentals, there are a few non-statistical criteria to keep in mind. For example, Buffett likes to invest in companies that have very recognizable brand names, to the point that it is difficult for competitors to take away their market share, no matter how much capital they have. One example of a current Berkshire holding that meets this criterion is Coca-Cola, whose name is engrained in the culture of America, as well as other parts of the world.

In addition, Buffett also likes firms whose products are simple for an investor to understand -- food, diapers, razors, to name a few examples. In the end, however, for Buffett, it comes down to the numbers -- those on a company's balance sheet and those that represent the price of its stock.

In terms of the numbers on the balance sheet, one theme of the Buffett approach is solid results over a long period of time. He likes companies that have a lengthy history of steady earnings growth, and, in most cases, the model I base on his philosophy requires companies to have posted increasing earnings per share each year for the past ten years. There are a few exceptions to this, one of which is that a company's EPS can be negative or be a sharp loss in the most recent year, because that could signal a good buying opportunity (if the rest of the company's long-term earnings history is solid).

Another part of Buffett's conservative approach: targeting companies with manageable debt. My model calls for companies to have the ability to pay off their debt within five years, based on their current earnings. It really likes stocks that could pay off their debts in less than two years.

Smart Management, and an Advantage

Two qualities Buffett is known to look for in his buys are strong management and a "durable competitive advantage". Both of those are qualitative things, but Buffett has used certain quantitative measures to get an idea of whether a firm has those qualities. Two of those measures are return on equity and return on total capital. The model I base on Buffett's approach likes firms to have posted an average ROE of at least 15% over the past 10 years and the past three years, and an ROTC of at least 12% over those time frames.

Another way Buffett examines a firm's management is by looking at how the it spends the company's retained earnings -- that is, the earnings a company keeps rather than paying out in dividends. My Buffett-based model takes the amount a company's earnings per share have increased in the past decade and divides it by the total amount of retained earnings over that time. The result shows how much profit the company has generated using the money it has reinvested in itself -- in other words, how well management is using retained earnings to increase shareholders' wealth.

The Buffett method requires a firm to have generated a return of 12% or more on its retained earnings over the past decade.

The Price Is Right?

The criteria we've covered so far all are used to identify "Buffett-type" stocks. But there's a second critical part to Buffett's analysis: price -- can he get the stock of a quality company at a good price?

One way my Buffett-based model answers this question is by comparing a company's initial expected yield to the long-term treasury yield. (If it's not going to earn you more than a nice, safe T-Bill, why take the risk involved in a stock?)

To predict where a stock will be in the future, Buffett uses not just one, but two different methods to estimate what the company's earnings and stock's rate of return will be 10 years from now. One method involves using the firm's historical return on equity figures, while another uses earnings per share data. (You can find details on these methods by viewing an individual stock's scores on the Buffett model on Validea.com, or in my latest book, The Guru Investor.)

This notion of predicting what a company's earnings will be in 10 years may seem to run counter to Buffett's nonspeculative ways. But while using these methods to predict a company's earnings for the next 10 years in her book, Mary Buffett notes: "In most situations this would be an act of insanity. However, as Warren has found, if the company is one of sufficient earning power and earns high rates of return on shareholders' equity, created by some kind of consumer monopoly, chances are good that accurate long-term projections of earnings can be made."

Solid Performer

My Buffett-based 10-stock portfolio wasn't one of my original portfolios, instead coming online in late 2003. Since then, it's returned 107.5%, vs. 83.4% for the S&P 500 (figures through Aug. 13). That's 7.1% annualized, vs. just 5.8% for the S&P.

The portfolio has been a very strong performer over the last few years. While the broader market was flat in 2011, the Buffett-based portfolio jumped 10.2%. In 2012, it gained more than 15%, again topping the index. Last year, it gained 34.8% vs. the S&P's 29.6%. It's down in 2014, but I suspect that's a short-term hiccup.

In the end, Buffett-type stocks are not the kind of sexy, flavor-of-the-month picks that catch most investors' eyes; instead, they are proven businesses selling at good prices. That approach, combined with a long-term perspective, tremendous discipline, and an ability to keep emotions at bay (allowing him to buy when others are fearful), is how Buffett has become the world's greatest investor. Whatever the size of your portfolio, those qualities are worth emulating.

Now, here's a look at my Buffett portfolio's current holdings. It's an interesting group, and some of the holdings might not seem like "Buffett-type" plays on the surface. But they have the fundamental characteristics that make them the type of stocks Buffett has focused on while building his empire.

The TJX Companies, Inc. (TJX)
Monster Beverage Corp. (MNST)
Ross Stores, Inc. (ROST)
NetEase Inc. (NTES)
Credit Acceptance Corporation (CACC)
Polaris Industries Inc. (PII)
Dollar Tree, Inc. (DLTR)
World Acceptance Corporation (WRLD)
Accenture plc (ACN)
Syntel, Inc. (SYNT)




News about Validea Hot List Stocks

Liquidity Services, Inc. (LQDT): The firm reported fiscal Q3 earnings per share of $0.31, $0.04 better than the analyst estimate of $0.27, StreetInsider.com reported. Revenue came in at $127 million versus the consensus estimate of $122.9 million. Liquidity Services expects Q4 2014 EPS of $0.13-$0.19, well below the consensus of $0.27, however. It expects FY2014 EPS of $1.00-$1.06, versus prior guidance of $1.1-$1.27 and the consensus of $1.12. Investors all in all seemed pleased with the news, as shares jumped nearly 10% on August 11, the first full trading day after the firm filed its quarterly report with regulators.



The Next Issue

In two weeks, we will publish another issue of the Hot List, at which time we will rebalance the portfolio. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at hotlist@validea.com.


Current Portfolio






Detailed Stock Analysis

Disclaimer: The analysis is from Validea's selection and interpretation of content from the guru's book or published writings, and is not from nor endorsed by the guru. See Full Disclaimer

VLO   |   PJC   |   BFR   |   SIMO   |   REX   |   LQDT   |   AGCO   |   ANIK   |   WSM   |   USNA   |  



Valero Energy Corporation (Valero) is an independent petroleum refining and marketing company. Valero's refineries can produce conventional gasoline's, distillates, jet fuel, asphalt, petrochemicals, lubricants, and other refined products, as well as a slate of premium products, including conventional blendstock for oxygenate blending and reformulated gasoline blendstock for oxygenate blending, gasoline meeting the specifications of the California Air Resources Board, a diesel fuel, and low-sulfur and ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel. It also owns 10 ethanol plants in the central plains region of the United States with a combined ethanol nameplate production capacity of about 1.1 billion gallons per year. It operates in three business segments: refining, ethanol, and retail. In May 2013, CST Brands Inc announced that the Company which includes Corner Store and Depanneur du Coin, spun off from Valero Energy Corporation.





Piper Jaffray Companies is an investment bank and asset management firm, serving the needs of corporations, private equity groups, public entities, non-profit entities and institutional investors in the United States and internationally. The Company operates in two segments: Capital Markets and Asset Management. The Capital Markets segment provides investment banking and institutional sales, trading and research services for various equity and fixed income products. The Asset Management segment includes traditional asset management activities and related services. The Company markets the investment banking and institutional securities business under Piper Jaffray name. Its asset management business is marketed under Advisory Research, Inc. In July 2013, Piper Jaffray Companies announced that it has completed its purchase of Seattle-Northwest Securities Corporation. In July 2013, the Company announced that it has completed its purchase of Edgeview Partners L.P.





BBVA Banco Frances SA is an Argentina-based bank. The Bank is engaged in the provision of financial and non-financial services, through a network of over 239 retail branch offices, over 25 branch offices specialized in the middle-market segment and seven branch offices for corporate and institutional customers. Its services and products also included securities operations in the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange, Asset Management, as well as financial assessment in mergers and acquisitions (M&A).





Silicon Motion Technology Corporation (SMTC) is a holding company. The Company's operations are conducted through Silicon Motion, Inc. (SMI Taiwan), a wholly owned subsidiary located in Taiwan and FCI, Inc. (FCI), a wholly owned subsidiary of SMTC, located in Korea. The Company is a fabless semiconductor company that designs, develops and markets, high-performance, low-power semiconductor solutions for the multimedia consumer electronics market. SMTC designs, develops and markets high performance, low-power semiconductor products for the multimedia consumer electronics market. Its products include mobile storage, mobile communications, multimedia systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) and other products. Its product offerings address three main markets: mobile storage, multimedia SoCs and mobile communications markets. On October 25, 2011, its subsidiary FCI acquired BTL System, Inc.





Rex American Resources Corporation (REX) is a holding company to succeed to the entire ownership of three affiliated corporations, Rex Radio and Television, Inc., Stereo Town, Inc. and Kelly & Cohen Appliances, Inc. As of January 31, 2012, the Company had lease agreements, as landlord, for six owned former retail stores and had 16 vacant former retail properties. The Company also owns one former distribution center that is partially leased, partially occupied by its corporate office personnel and partially vacant. As of January 31, 2012, the Company invested in five ethanol production entities, two of which the Company has a majority ownership interest in. These properties include One Earth Energy, LLC, NuGen Energy, LLC, Patriot Renewable Fuels, LLC, Levelland Hockley County Ethanol, LLC, and one group consisting of Big River Resources, LLC-W Burlington, Big River Resources, LLC-Galva and Big River United Energy, LLC.





Liquidity Services, Inc. is an auction marketplace for surplus and salvage assets. The Company enables buyers and sellers to transact in an automated online auction environment offering over 500 product categories. The Company's marketplaces provide professional buyers access to a global, organized supply of surplus and salvage assets presented with digital images and other relevant product information. It organizes its products into categories across industry verticals, such as consumer electronics, general merchandise, apparel, scientific equipment, aerospace parts and equipment, technology hardware and specialty equipment. It's online auction marketplaces are www.liquidation.com, www.govliquidation.com, www.govdeals.com and www.liquibiz.com. It also operates a wholesale industry portal www.goWholesale.com. In July 2012, the Company acquired GoIndustry-DoveBid plc. In November 2012, the Company acquired National Electronics Service Association.





AGCO Corporation (AGCO) is a manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment and related replacement parts globally. The Company sells a range of agricultural equipment, including tractors, combines, self-propelled sprayers, hay tools, forage equipment and implements. It also manufactures and distributes grain storage and handling equipment systems, as well as protein production systems. Its products are recognized in the agricultural equipment industry and are marketed under a range of brands, including Challenger, Fendt, Massey Ferguson and Valtra. The Company distributes its products through a combination of approximately 3,100 independent dealers and distributors in more than 140 countries. In September 2013, Grain Systems, Inc. (GSI), a global brand of the Company announced that it has purchased Johnson System Inc. (JSI), manufacturer of catwalks, towers and support structures based in Marshall, Michigan.





Anika Therapeutics, Inc. (Anika) develops, manufactures and commercializes therapeutic products for tissue protection, healing and repair. These products are based on hyaluronic acid (HA), a naturally occurring, biocompatible polymer found throughout the body. As of December 31, 2011, Anika's wholly owned subsidiary, Anika Therapeutics S.r.l., had over 20 products commercialized, primarily in Europe. These products are also all made from hyaluronic acid, based on two technologies: HYAFF, which is a solid form of HA, and ACP gel, an autocross-linked polymer of HA.





Williams-Sonoma, Inc. is a multi-channel specialty retailer of products for the home. The Company is an e- commerce retailer with brands in home furnishings. It operates retail stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, and franchises its brands to a third party in a number of countries in the Middle East, including Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Its products are also available to customers through its catalogs and online worldwide. The Company operates in two segments: direct-to-customer and retail. The direct-to-customer segment has seven merchandising concepts (Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, West Elm, Rejuvenation and Mark and Graham) which sell its products through its seven e-commerce Websites and eight direct-mail catalogs. The retail segment has five merchandising concepts (Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, West Elm and Rejuvenation) which sells products through its retail stores.





USANA Health Sciences, Inc. develops and manufactures science-based nutritional and personal care products. The Company has operations in 15 markets worldwide, where it distributes and sells its products by way of direct selling. The Company reports operations in two geographic regions: North America and Asia Pacific, which is further divided into three sub-regions; Southeast Asia/Pacific, Greater China, and North Asia. North America includes the United States, Canada, Mexico, and direct sales from the United States to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Southeast Asia/Pacific includes Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines; Greater China includes Hong Kong, Taiwan and China; and North Asia includes Japan and South Korea. The Company's customer base consists of two types of customers: Associates and Preferred Customers. As of December 31, 2011, the Company had 222,000 active Associates and 64,000 active Preferred Customers worldwide.





Watch List

The Watch List contains the highest scoring stocks according to our guru consensus system that are not currently in the Hot List portfolio. We provide this list both for informational purposes and for investors who are not comfortable with a portfolio of ten stocks.





Disclaimer


The names of individuals (i.e., the 'gurus') appearing in this report are for identification purposes of his methodology only, as derived by Validea.com from published sources, and are not intended to suggest or imply any affiliation with or endorsement or even agreement with this report personally by such gurus, or any knowledge or approval by such persons of the content of this report. All trademarks, service marks and tradenames appearing in this report are the property of their respective owners, and are likewise used for identification purposes only.

Validea is not registered as a securities broker-dealer or investment advisor either with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or with any state securities regulatory authority. Validea is not responsible for trades executed by users of this site based on the information included herein. The information presented on this website does not represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks or any financial instrument nor is it intended as an endorsement of any security or investment. The information on this website is generic by nature and is not personalized to the specific situation of any individual. The user therefore bears complete responsibility for their own investment research and should seek the advice of a qualified investment professional prior to making any investment decisions.

Performance results are based on model portfolios and do not reflect actual trading. Actual performance will vary based on a variety of factors, including market conditions and trading costs. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. Individual stocks mentioned throughout this web site may be holdings in the managed portfolios of Validea Capital Management, a separate asset management firm founded by Validea.com founder John Reese. Validea Capital Management, which is a separate legal entity and an SEC registered investment advisory firm, uses, in part, the strategies on the web site to select stocks for its clients.