Conservative · Other

Portfolio Allocation – Conservative

200220764-001    Now that much of the fourth quarter earnings season is behind us and we have a better assessment of the upcoming guidance for the next quarter and the remainder of the year, I am tweaking the allocation profile for the conservative portfolio just a bit. Contrary to most analysts’ views, I am increasing the share of the pie for Zurich-based ABB, Ltd. by two percentage points to 9%, as I see some positives in the company’s operations of late. ABB still has its work cut out for it, but bolt-on acquisitions continue to increase market and geographic diversity, enhancing ABB’s presence in some short-cycle sectors like low voltage products and solar. And selective divestitures over the past year are allowing management to remain more focused on the company’s core competencies in power grids and automation technology. The shares are reasonably valued and yield nearly 3.7% and I believe Wall Street will begin to see value at current levels for some intermediate-term upside. CVS Health posted some decent results for the fourth quarter, despite slowness in the drugstore chain’s “front-of-store” business, sans tobacco. I don’t see what not to like here and are moving the allocation up from 10% to 11%, despite the shares relatively high valuation. I also believe that the Street is not seeing value in Verizon Communications and the shares have underperformed the past year, up by only 4.5% vs. the S&P 500’s nearly 16% advance. The shares are yielding 4.4% and are reasonably priced at 14 time’s estimated 2015 earnings offering, what I believe are, worthwhile total returns for the country’s largest wireless carrier. VZ adds a 1% share to the pie.  I am also seeing a lot more positives than negatives for Oracle Corp. and am increasing the allocation two points from 7% to 9%. A relentless focus on the secular transition to cloud architecture, combined with strategic acquisitions, should keep Oracle moving nicely forward. On the downside, I am moving Schlumberger lower by two notches, as it will be a rough road ahead for the oil service provider contending with sharply lower oil prices and the related reductions in capital spending by the major oil and gas companies. Likewise, despite a positive of lower fuel prices, I am less sanguine on United Parcel Service following a poor fourth quarter showing and a lower outlook for 2015, reducing UPS’ share of the pie two percentage points to 8%. Although I am still maintaining a positive outlook for 3M Co., the valuation has gotten a bit high after a 27% run up in price over the past 52 weeks and upside from current levels may now be more limited. High-quality 3M moves down 2 percentage points from 9% to 7%.  I am maintaining the allocation percentages from November for all the other candidates on the conservative list. Over the next few days, I will review the income and aggressive portfolio allocations for the next six months.

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