Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More good news and bad news

This week, my portfolio had good news and bad news. The good news is that Canon paid their year end dividend. Since the exchange rate has fallen to about ¥100 to the dollar, the ¥60 dividend worked out to be 60¢ a share. Canon's dividend yield is about 2%, but based on my original cost basis, I'm earning closer to 3%. As long as Canon continues to raise its dividend, I will be happy to hold my shares.

The bad news was that TERI, the non-profit that First Marblehead uses to insure its loans, declared bankruptcy. Now I believe the bankruptcy is for technical, not fundamental reasons, and I think the effect on First Marblehead will be very little in the long run. But my position has been battered to a considerable degree and perhaps permanently. At the very least, the news makes an immediate recovery very difficult.

At no time have a felt that First Marblehead was a bad risk/reward proposition at the current price, so in one sense I don't feel I made a mistake. But I did ignore one of my fundamental sell signals: to get out when a dividend is cut or lowered. If I'd done that, I would have saved myself a lot of money and aggravation. Further, there will often be an opportunity to buy the shares back at a later date when I've had a chance to analyze the company independent of the dividend.

At the moment, this sell signal only applies to Canon and my token position in Alberto-Culver. Which reminds me: selling Alberto has easily been my most costly decision to date since it freed up cash to buy First Marblehead.

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