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My Dare-to-Be-Dull Investing Strategy Pays Off

Kathy Kristof, Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
My stocks are doing so well it's hard to find a laggard to sell to raise cash for new purchases.

As I mentioned in past columns, when the market took a dive in February and March, I swooped in to buy shares of two of my favorite companies: Boeing (symbol BA, $358) and Costco (COST, $207). Those purchases used up almost all of my cash. I even sold an underperformer to free up more money to pour into Boeing. I'm glad I did.

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Since I bought the shares, Costco's price has risen 13.6%, and Boeing is up roughly 8.6%. That has helped the Practical Investing portfolio beat the market over the first six months of 2018. (Prices and returns are through June 15.)

While the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index ETF (VTI, $144)--the benchmark that I measure my portfolio against--is up 5.5% since the start of the year, my portfolio has jumped 10.6%. But I am still behind the index since I started almost seven years ago. The performance gap is narrowing, though. With the index gaining 145% to my 110%, I'm now a mere 35 percentage points behind. (Yes, that mere was facetious.)

Even though the Boeing and Costco purchases helped, a few tech companies--Apple (AAPL, $189), Intel (INTC, $55) and Seagate (STX, $58)--were the biggest factor in my strong year-to-date performance. All three stocks soared by double digits. Apple was up 12.4% to mid June; Intel jumped 20.8%; and Seagate gained a stunning 43.3%.

In dollars, my portfolio is up by about $40,000 since the end of December, for a total value of $399,869. Apple accounted for $7,514 of the change, Seagate for $12,839, and Intel for $5,106. The fourth-biggest winner was Target, which gained $3,129, or 20.4%, during the first half of 2018.

Low expectations. What gave these stocks flight was a reversal of the market's low expectations for them. Wall Street was certain that Apple's earnings would disappoint, that Seagate wouldn't have the cash to pay its handsome dividend, that Intel would bungle new initiatives and that Target would be crushed by Amazon.

The market frequently leaves good companies for dead (or at least very ill), only to reverse course later when investors are surprised to find them thriving. Thus, my dare-to-be-dull strategy is to sit tight or buy when the market misprices what I think is a good stock. Because that occurs regularly, I like to have some cash ready to deploy into cheap shares. I now need to sell something to have that fresh powder. That's proving to be tough.

I had intended to get rid of a few odds and ends in the portfolio. I have a small number of shares in three companies: Invitation Homes (INVH, $22), a residential real estate investment trust; Knowles Corp. (KN, $16), which makes electronic components; and Spirit Airlines (SAVE, $40). I acquired Knowles and Invitation via spin-offs. I sold most of my Spirit shares a few years ago, as the airline's price took off. If I sold all three of these stocks, it would give me about $9,000. But when I examined each stock's prospects, I hit a snag.

Although Spirit's earnings are expected to drop slightly this year, the shares sell for just 12 times analysts' earnings estimates for 2018 and roughly 10 times projected 2019 earnings. Earnings are expected to soar 24% next year. With those numbers, I'd buy more if I had the cash.

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Knowles is selling for about 16 times projected year-ahead earnings, but earnings are expected to grow at a 16% rate, which makes the company well priced, in my estimation. Meanwhile, Invitation Homes' latest financial statements reflect a strong and growing business.

So where will the cash come from? I hope you'll excuse me for a moment while I formulate a Plan B.

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Copyright 2018 The Kiplinger Washington Editors