Author Archives: Chris Versace, Chief Investment Officer

About Chris Versace, Chief Investment Officer

I'm the Chief Investment Officer of Tematica Research and editor of Tematica Investing newsletter. All of that capitalizes on my near 20 years in the investment industry, nearly all of it breaking down industries and recommending stocks. In that time, I've been ranked an All Star Analyst by Zacks Investment Research and my efforts in analyzing industries, companies and equities have been recognized by both Institutional Investor and Thomson Reuters’ StarMine Monitor. In my travels, I've covered cyclicals, tech and more, which gives me a different vantage point, one that uses not only an ecosystem or food chain perspective, but one that also examines demographics, economics, psychographics and more when formulating my investment views. The question I most often get is "Are you related to…."
Thematic Reads: March 9, 2020

Thematic Reads: March 9, 2020

Each week Team Tematica consumes a voracious amount of content as we look to stay on top of the latest data and mine it for tailwind and headwind signals for our 10 investment themes.

Aging of the Population
The global demographic shift towards a more senior population


Cleaner Living
Growing demand for items that claim to be better for you and the planet:


Cyber Security & Data Privacy

Securing individuals and organizations against cyber threats and privacy violations:


Digital Infrastructure
The Buildout and upgrading of our Networks, Data Storage Facilities, and Equipment


Disruptive Innovators
Business models designed to transform an entire industry and leap-frog over incumbents.


Digital Lifestyle
The increasingly digital landscape that now underpins the entire consumer experience.


Guilty Pleasures

The products and services people will consume no matter the economic environment.


Living the Life

Those things that bridge the gap between want and ability at every socioeconomic level.


Middle-Class Squeeze

Consumers trading down when and where possible or looking to stretch the disposable dollars they do have.

Sizing up thematic returns in February

Sizing up thematic returns in February

Equities continued to swoon during February as investors came to grips with the expanding impact of the coronavirus. Amid a growing sea of corporate warnings that led investors to question earnings forecasts for the current quarter as well as all of 2020, all the major stock market indices finished February down 6.4%-10.1%. The hardest hit was the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the US stock market barometer that is the S&P 500 fell 8.4% in February, which added meaningfully to its decline year to date. 

Despite investors taking profits in the Technology and Healthcare sectors, they along with Communication Services helped temper the market’s February selloff. Names like Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN), Biogen (BIIB) and Gilead Sciences (GILD) saw gains on advances in potential coronavirus treatment development in particular. While markets overall were impacted by unfolding events during the month Energy, Utilities and Consumer Discretionary names seemed to lead the way down. Muted demand for oil due to reduced manufacturing activity and fears of continued softening in the global economy saw oil prices drop almost 17% during the last week of the month. Unsurprisingly, cruise line operators Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH) and Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCL) were among the worst performers this month both posting losses over 30% with Carnival Corporation (CCL) not too far behind losing over 23% of its market value as those companies paired back 2020 expectations due to the coronavirus’s impact. The same was had with airlines with American Airlines Group (AAL) down 29.68% and Alaska Air Group (ALK) off 21.88% as they too canceled flights and reduced schedules owing to the virus.  

At Tematica we’ve often questioned the notion of the S&P 500’s construction as well as the ability of an 11-sector framework to accurately capture the evolving landscapes that we and other investors find ourselves confronting as structural changes associated with our 10 investment themes continue to unfold.  In our view a different perspective is needed, a thematic one, to properly identify those companies at the forefront of these unfolding structural changes. For example, cruise lines such as the ones mentioned above fall into the Consumer Discretionary sector while companies such as Omega Healthcare Investors (OHI) that offer long-term healthcare facilities is classified as Real Estate even though both are feeling the tailwinds of Tematica’s Aging Population investing theme on their respective businesses.

Another example of looking at the world thematically is found in the Tematica Research Cleaner Living Index, which focuses on the shifting consumer preference for cleaner products and services that are better for you, your body, your work, your workplace, and the environment.  Despite sharp February sell-offs in several index constituents, including Acuity Brands (AYI). Fresh Del Monte Produce (FDP) and Hain Celestial (HAIN), solar energy systems companies Sunrun (RUN) and SolarEdge Technologies ((SEDG), as well as plant-based alternative Beyond Meat (BYND) and Tesla (TSLA), led the Cleaner Index to slip by only 3.1% in February. That decline more than offset the index’s modest rise posted during January leaving it down 2.6% year to date vs. the S&P’s 8.6% drop at the end of February. 

Of note during February, 

  • Plant-based meat alternatives notched another win as Beyond Meat announced the Beyond Meat sandwich will be available at Starbucks’ (SBUX) nearly 1,200 coffee shops across Canada on March 3. The sandwich will include cheddar cheese and egg on an artisanal bun. Not to be outdone, Impossible Foods announced its plant-based meats will be available across Walt Disney (DIS) theme parks and cruise lines come Feb. 28. 
  • Confirming the drivers for Cleaner Living are global, during February it was reported by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) that 61.2% of Germany’s net public electricity generation was from renewable sources, marking a new monthly record. 
  • And while Tesla has an early lead in the electric vehicle space, BMW is set to take the wrap off its i4 electric concept car and General Motors (GM) is slated to discuss its electric vehicle and battery strategies at its upcoming EV Day on March 4. GM’s battery facing comments will be ones to watch ahead of Tesla’s “Battery Day” slated for April.

Amid the coronavirus headlines investors were digesting during February, there were two powerful reminders of the growing need for cybersecurity and digital privacy solutions. The first was the announcement from gaming and hospitality giant MGM Resorts International (MGM) that it had been the victim of a data breach in 2019. The second was a statement from the US State Department blaming the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU for the cyberattacks that hit Georgia last October and disrupted “several thousand Georgian government and privately-run websites and interrupted the broadcast of at least two major television stations.”

Those attacks are but the latest high-profile ones to be reported and point to the increasing need for companies, governments, other institutions and individuals to protect their data, especially as the regulatory environment could increase the frequency of financially motivated cyber-attacks. Each week in Thematic Reads, we share some of the latest headlines and news stories surrounding the Foxberry Tematica Research Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Index. As society becomes increasingly connected as part of our Digital Lifestyle investment theme and as new technologies associated with our Digital Infrastructure investing theme look to connect more devices than ever before, we continue to see an increasing demand profile for the constituents that comprise the Foxberry Tematica Research Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Index. During February the index fell 8.2% as gains registered in the shares of Cloudflare (NET), Norton Lifelock (NLOK) and ForeScout Technologies (FSCT) were offset by declines in Palo Alto Networks (PANW), Globalscape (GSB) and Mimecast (MIME) shares. 

Turning to the Tematica’s Thematic Dividend All-Stars Index, which is comprised companies with at least ten consecutive years of increasing annual regular dividend payments and whose business models will benefit from multiple thematic tailwinds tracked by Tematica’s Thematic Scorecard, its total return for February was -8.1% vs. the total return for the S&P 500 of -8.3%. Among the index’s 65 constituents, only Healthcare Services Group (HCSG), Albemarle Corp. (ALB) and Target (TGT) finished higher in February, leaving meaningful declines at Aaron’s (AAN), Nu Skin (NUS) and Invesco (IVZ) to have a greater impact on this equally weighted index. 

Generally speaking, companies that continually increase their dividends to shareholders tend to see a positive step function higher in their share prices. During the first two months of 2020, just over 25% of the index constituents announced fresh dividend increases including Aaron’s (AAN), Analog Devices (ADI), Digital Realty Trust (DLR), Best Buy (BBY) and AT&T (T). Given the positive impact of tailwinds associated with Tematica’s investment themes, we look forward to sharing news of new dividend increases at the other 72% of the index constituents in the coming months. 

‘Hidden apps’ to drive an increase in mobile malware attacks

‘Hidden apps’ to drive an increase in mobile malware attacks

“Consider the number of applications on your smartphone today. Which ones are actively used? Which ones are no longer used? While this is a simple check, more important questions often go unanswered. For example, do you know what data each app collects?

So begins the latest McAfee Mobile Threat Report, which points out that mobile malware is becoming increasingly common as cybercriminals focus their attention on smartphones, the device that has become for many the go-to device for communicating, banking, shopping, and other forms of transactions and data consumption. According to data published by the Gartner, exiting 2019 there were 1.5 billion smartphones being used across the globe, which in the view of hackers offers a target-rich environment.

Per McAfee’s findings, how they are looking to attack those devices is through ‘hidden apps,’ which are malicious applications that are designed to avoid user discovery. In some cases, attackers are using a MalBus attack, which involves criminals targeting the “account of a legitimate developer of a popular app with a solid reputation…adding an additional library to the apps and uploaded them to Google Play. During installation, the malicious library checks whether it is already installed, and, if not, runs an update process to download and dynamically load a malicious Trojan disguised as a media file.”

McAfee sums this latest report with two key observations: first, 2020 is likely to be the year of “mobile sneak attacks” and attackers will increasingly look to make their activities appear more legitimate. In our view, this only solidifies the growing importance and demand for data privacy and cybersecurity solutions represented by the Foxberry Tematica Research Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Index.

Some interesting observations from the latest McAfee Mobile Threat Report include:

According to figures in the newly released McAfee Mobile Threat Report, the total number of detections for different types of mobile malware reached over 35 million during the final quarter of 2019, representing a jump of 10 million detections compared with 2018.

Thousands of apps are actively hiding their presence after installation, making them difficult to locate and remove while annoying victims with invasive ads.

In order to help bypass security protections offered to Android users by the Google Play Store, cyber criminals are turning towards other channels to help distribute their malicious apps. This often sees attackers use comments below YouTube videos, or links in popular chat apps like Discord, that claim to offer free or cracked versions of well-known applications.

The download pages for these fake applications will use icons, text and imagery of the real app to add authenticity and encourage potential victims to download the malicious software – but then the app will seemingly disappear after installation.

Apps will sometimes just disguise themselves as something under the ‘settings’ menu of the phone, or the app will claim that it can’t be installed in the user’s country – while secretly installing the malware all along.

And because the application is hidden in such a way that the user is unlikely to be able to find it, the malware will drain the phone battery by performing actions that generate ad revenue.

Source: Warning over ‘hidden apps’ as mobile malware attacks increase – and get sneakier | ZDNet

Thematic Reads: March 2, 2020

Thematic Reads: March 2, 2020

Each week Team Tematica consumes a voracious amount of content as we look to stay on top of the latest data and mine it for tailwind and headwind signals for our 10 investment themes.

Aging of the Population
The global demographic shift towards a more senior population


Cleaner Living
Growing demand for items that claim to be better for you and the planet:


Cyber Security & Data Privacy

Securing individuals and organizations against cyber threats and privacy violations:


Digital Infrastructure
The Buildout and upgrading of our Networks, Data Storage Facilities, and Equipment


Disruptive Innovators
Business models designed to transform an entire industry and leap-frog over incumbents.


Digital Lifestyle
The increasingly digital landscape that now underpins the entire consumer experience.


Guilty Pleasures

The products and services people will consume no matter the economic environment.


Living the Life

Those things that bridge the gap between want and ability at every socioeconomic level.


Middle-Class Squeeze

Consumers trading down when and where possible or looking to stretch the disposable dollars they do have.

This Dividend Aristocrat Is Well on Its Way to a ‘Coronation’

This Dividend Aristocrat Is Well on Its Way to a ‘Coronation’

Recently I touched on the several new additions to the S&P Dow Jones Dividend Aristocrats, a group of S&P 500 constituents that have increased their dividends for at least 25 years. Now, I am circling back to the latest dividend payment from an existing Aristocrat: PepsiCo (PEP) .

Widely known for its products that include Pepsi, Lays, Mountain Dew, Doritos, Gatorade, Tropicana, and Aquafina water, the company has been paying consecutive quarterly cash dividends since 1965. Indeed, 2019 marked the company’s 47th consecutive annual dividend increase, which has the company approaching the rarified air of the Dividend Kings. As a reminder, a Dividend King is an S&P 500 company that has increased its dividend for at least 50 consecutive years, an incredible achievement, which explains why there were only 28 such names in 2019.

Read more here

Disclosure

Hackers are ramping up attacks on retirement accounts

Hackers are ramping up attacks on retirement accounts

When we think of cyber attacks we tend to think of ones against companies, large or small, but we as cybercriminals become more sophisticated we are seeing them target a different set of targets. One of these newer targets includes new types of financial accounts, which bleeds over in data privacy, a key aspect of the Foxberry Tematica Research Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Index

 

Bank accounts are a top target for hackers, and retirement accounts may not be far behind. Cybercriminals are moving toward retirement and loan accounts. Although the number of consumers affected by identity fraud has declined between 2017 and 2018, hackers are targeting new types of financial accounts — such as customer rewards programs and retirement plans, according to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research.

Part of the problem is identity theft, which can provide hackers the keys to getting into important accounts.

 

With the burgeoning 5G market expected to hit a tipping point in the coming quarters, giving rise to the industrial internet (otherwise known as the internet of things), we suspect this is only one of many new target vectors we will be reading about in the coming months.

Source: Hackers are ramping up attacks on retirement accounts — how to keep yourself safe – MarketWatch

Want to Beef Up on Dividend Stocks? Here Are Some NOBL Opportunities

Want to Beef Up on Dividend Stocks? Here Are Some NOBL Opportunities

One of the time-tested strategies for investors is buying companies with an increasing dividend policy. To say it is one of the most loved and most watched strategies would be something of an understatement given the incremental income it generates for investors and the $6.7 billion in assets held by ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats exchange-traded fund (NOBL) , which tracks the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index. If there was any question as to the results of the strategy of buying a portfolio of companies with a long history of boosting their dividends, the below chart should be enough of an answer:

The companies that comprise the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index are a cross-section of S&P 500 constituents that have increased their dividends for at least 25 years. The index is equal-weighted in nature, which means the position size for each is the same, and the qualifying universe of companies is reviewed each January. In addition, per the index’s methodology document, prospective index constituents must also have a minimum float-adjusted market cap of at least $3 billion at the time of the rebalance data and have an average daily value traded of at least $5 million for the three months prior to the rebalancing reference date.

Last year, four companies were added to the Dividend Aristocrats: Caterpillar (CAT), Chubb Limited (CB), People’s United Financial (PBCT)  and United Technologies (UTX), which lifted the number of constituents to 57 up from 53 in 2018. With January 2020 having come and gone, the S&P has added…

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Disclosures

Thematic Reads: February 10, 2020

Thematic Reads: February 10, 2020

Each week Team Tematica consumes a voracious amount of content as we look to stay on top of the latest data and mine it for tailwind and headwind signals for our 10 investment themes.

Aging of the Population
The global demographic shift towards a more senior population


Cleaner Living
Growing demand for items that claim to be better for you and the planet:


Digital Infrastructure
The Buildout and upgrading of our Networks, Data Storage Facilities, and Equipment


Disruptive Innovators
Business models designed to transform an entire industry and leap-frog over incumbents.


Digital Lifestyle
The increasingly digital landscape that now underpins the entire consumer experience.


Guilty Pleasures

The products and services people will consume no matter the economic environment.


Living the Life

Those things that bridge the gap between want and ability at every socioeconomic level.


Middle-Class Squeeze

Consumers trading down when and where possible or looking to stretch the disposable dollars they do have.


New Global Middle Class

Areas around the world where rising disposable incomes are driving demand for a host of products and services.


Safety & Security

Reflecting the evolving needs across individual, cyber, corporate and homeland security.



What Else We Are Loving

Other reads, experiences, products, services and the like that we enjoyed so much this past week we just had to share

  • We along with other investors continue to assess the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the global economy as well as corporate earnings. As we have witnessed time and again, a pain point tends to give rise to potential solutions, and we are watching that unfold in response to the virus that has resulted in more than 45,000 cases worldwide and more than 1,100 deaths.  China has launched an app that allows people to check whether they have been at risk of catching the virus. People identified as being at risk are advised to stay at home and inform local health authorities.

 

Disclosures

Thematic Reads: February 3, 2020

Thematic Reads: February 3, 2020

Each week Team Tematica consumes a voracious amount of content as we look to stay on top of the latest data and mine it for tailwind and headwind signals for our 10 investment themes.

Aging of the Population
The global demographic shift towards a more senior population


Cleaner Living
Growing demand for items that claim to be better for you and the planet:


Digital Infrastructure
The Buildout and upgrading of our Networks, Data Storage Facilities, and Equipment


Disruptive Innovators
Business models designed to transform an entire industry and leap-frog over incumbents.


Digital Lifestyle
The increasingly digital landscape that now underpins the entire consumer experience.


Guilty Pleasures

The products and services people will consume no matter the economic environment.


Living the Life

Those things that bridge the gap between want and ability at every socioeconomic level.


Middle-Class Squeeze

Consumers trading down when and where possible or looking to stretch the disposable dollars they do have.


Safety & Security

Reflecting the evolving needs across individual, cyber, corporate and homeland security.



 

 

 

Daily Markets: Coronavirus Delivers Sharp Shift To The Markets

Daily Markets: Coronavirus Delivers Sharp Shift To The Markets

First off, after a nail biter of a game heading into half time, the Kansas City Chiefs dominated the fourth quarter to win Super Bowl LIV.  Before the game, the AFC and the NFC were tied for Super Bowl victories at 27 each. The last time both conferences had the same number of wins was back in 1990 at 12 a pop. In the prior five years when the 49ers won the Super Bowl, the S&P 500 was up for the remainder of the year every time by an average of 20.2%. The one time the Chief won the Super Bowl was in 1970 which saw the S&P 500 fall 0.3%. The one other time they made it but lost to the Packers, the S&P 500 gained 14.1% in the remainder of the year.

Before the big game, last week we closed the books on January and to say it ended on a weak note would be a bit of an understatement. Coronavirus contagion fears dominated not just the stock market, but the global economy. Last Friday stocks fell sharply, with the major US indices falling between 1.5% and 2.1%. The hit from coronavirus fears has been so profound the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the NYSE Composite and the Russell 2000 were all in negative territory YTD as of Friday’s close. The Nasdaq 100 and the Nasdaq Composite remained up 3% and 2% YTD, respectively, but even that is dwarfed by the near 37% jump in the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index.

And for context on the sharp shift in the markets last week, consider this: a week ago, every major global equity index was at least one standard deviation above its 50-day moving average. After Friday’s close most were in oversold territory except Australia and New Zealand, which were aided by currency declines.

As the Chiefs and their fans celebrate their victory…

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Disclosures