Friday, December 26, 1997

The Daily Dow
by Robert Sheard

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. (Dec. 26, 1997) -- Many new readers have asked whether it's crucial to synchronize their own Dow Approach portfolios with the model portfolio we track here. The plain answer is No. The Dow Approach isn't a seasonal strategy, although in any given year, one time of the year may yield a group of stocks that performs better than another, but that kind of short-term performance is coincidental, not an event one can plan for.

Start this approach whenever you're ready to commit to a long-term investment program. Add money regularly. Be patient, disciplined, and unemotional. And above all, enjoy the freedom managing your own investments affords you.

For those of you contemplating a portfolio adjustment soon, let me revisit a column I wrote recently demonstrating how one would go about adjusting a Foolish Four portfolio.

Let's suppose Tim Onceayear began 1996 with a Foolish Four portfolio worth $10,000. He bought the following four positions:

A   $4,000
B   $2,000
C   $2,000
D   $2,000

At the end of the year, his portfolio had gained 18% and his four positions (plus his cash from dividends) were worth:

A         $4,500
B         $2,100
C         $2,600
D         $2,400
Cash       $200

Total   $11,800

Using that new portfolio value, Tim calculates the average position for next year this way:

--------- = $2,360

Since the Foolish Four overweights the #2 stock from the Beating the Dow rankings, you must treat it as two separate positions. Each of the other three stocks is accorded a single-position weighting. Therefore, you have five positions rather than four, even though you're only purchasing four actual stocks. So for next year, Tim wants $2,360 in each position.

The rankings and the ideal weightings for the next year's four are:

B      40%  ($4,720)
E      20%  ($2,360)
F      20%  ($2,360)
A      20%  ($2,360)

The next step is to sell the two stocks from last year that are no longer on his list for the next year (C and D). That raises $5,000. (I'm ignoring commissions for the sake of round numbers.)

The next step is to compare the two stocks Tim is holding for another year and adjust their values to match his new scheme. B is only worth $2,100 right now, so Tim has to buy $2,620 more of B to bring its weighting up to speed (since it's the stock to be weighted as two positions for the next year).

A is worth $4,500 now, but for the second year it's no longer going to be doubled. Tim must sell $2,140 of his position in A to bring it in line for the new year.

So let's see how much cash is left. Tim had $200 in cash at the end of the year and then sold C and D, bringing his cash to $5,200. He bought more of B, lowering his cash to $2,580. Then he sold some of A, raising his cash total to $4,720.

The final step is to buy the two new stocks, E and F, at $2,360 each. And the cash on hand now ($4,720) is exactly enough to do that.

Here's a summary of Tim's transactions, a total of six trades:

Event                              Cash Balance
Cash balance at the end of year one    $200
Sold C and D                         $5,200
Bought more B                        $2,580
Sold some A                          $4,720
Bought E and F                           $0

One important warning to keep in mind is that the adjustments to stocks you're holding over from one year to the next do not absolutely have to be performed if the values involved are small. If the adjustment required is only for a sale or purchase of a few shares, just live with the discrepancy and don't bother incurring another commission or the added tax paperwork for such a small trade.

Another major question we've received numerous times recently is what the effect will be of the new 18-month tax holding period if it's applied to the Dow Dividend Approaches. Unfortunately, we can't yet give you any specific answers based on our own research. Despite my best efforts to keep our researcher chained to his books and computer, he insists that he be allowed to eat and sleep occasionally and won't have any long-term historical results for us until January.

My own feeling, however, is that the holding period isn't likely to have a major effect. About half of the Dow Dividend Approach stocks will remain in a 12-month-cycle portfolio for a second and even a third year. Those positions, of course, will receive the lower tax rate associated with the 18-month holding period. Unless the 18-month holding period produces significantly higher pre-tax returns than the traditional one-year method, I don't suspect the difference will be all that great. But we should reserve final judgment until we've seen the research results.

Happy Holidays!

Stock  Change   Last
T    +   7/8   63.00
GM   +   3/8   59.31
CHV  -   1/16  75.31
MMM  -  11/16  83.56
                  Day   Month    Year
        FOOL-4   +0.62%   2.15%  28.79%
        DJIA     +0.25%  -1.84%  19.09%
        S&P 500  +0.40%  -1.98%  26.42%
        NASDAQ   +0.79%  -5.57%  17.07%

    Rec'd   #  Security     In At       Now    Change
   1/2/97  479 AT&T          41.75     63.00    50.90%
   1/2/97  153 Chevron       65.00     75.31    15.87%
   1/2/97  179 Gen. Motor    55.75     59.31     6.39%
   1/2/97  120 3M            83.00     83.56     0.68%

    Rec'd   #  Security     In At     Value    Change
   1/2/97  479 AT&T       19998.25  30177.00 $10178.75
   1/2/97  153 Chevron     9945.00  11522.81  $1577.81
   1/2/97  179 Gen. Motor  9979.25  10616.94   $637.69
   1/2/97  120 3M          9960.00  10027.50    $67.50

                             CASH   $2051.96
                            TOTAL  $64396.21