A model portfolio of large cap stocks

I’ve started an experiment where I’m keeping a public portfolio of large cap stocks via the Motley Fool CAPS system- you can view it here.  I would like to see if I can generate value on the long side… something that I find much, much more difficult than shorting.

My criteria are:

  1. Pick only the quality businesses in a particular sector.  For example, Dollarama is the clear leader among discounters.
  2. Not overpriced.  For that reason, Amazon and Netflix don’t make the cut (just look at what happened to Amazon during the Dot-Com Bubble).
  3. I avoid industries where there are no clear industry superstars.  Oil and mining stocks simply don’t make the cut as none of them are quality businesses.
  4. Lastly, I avoid dying or shrinking industries.  Profits ultimately don’t grow in dying industries and therefore those stocks almost never do well.

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US health insurers

US health insurance stocks have performed extremely well.  Even if you had bought the worst ones, performance would have been similar to the S&P 500.  Why?

While the overall US healthcare system is dysfunctional relative to those in other developed countries, a broken healthcare system doesn’t explain why insurance stocks have done better than hospital stocks.  While hospitals engage in abusive practices such as surprise out-of-network medical bills (balance billing), hospital stocks have been mediocre investments.  A better supported explanation is scale.  One manifestation of scale is in dialysis treatment, a unique market where Medicare is the biggest negotiator with at least 90% of patients.  Commercial payers, with their lack of scale in this situation, are charged many times what Medicare pays.  SIRF’s analysis puts it at roughly $1,050 per treatment versus $250.  Of course, no health insurer enjoys 90%+ market share so their scale advantages are smaller.

Here’s a look at how market cap (a proxy for size) correlates with return on assets:

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