Allstate (ALL)


One of my favorite spots on a perfect fall day. Onto the analysis . . . 

Key Statistics

Enterprise Value = $27.791 billion

Operating Income = $4.283 billion

EV/Operating Income =6.48x

Price/Revenue = .73x

Earnings Yield = 12%

Debt/Equity = 27%

The Company

Allstate is the 4th biggest insurance company in the United States (as measured by market capitalization) and their main focus is automobile and homeowners insurance. Interesting bit of history: Allstate was established in 1931 by Sears. Allstate originally marketed policies via mail and the Sears catalog, which was revolutionary at the time. After 62 years of operating within Sears, it was spun off in 1993.

Market sentiment is relatively weak against Allstate. The stock is down 20% over the last year. The stock has been punished due to rising interest rates and various extreme weather events over the previous few years. There is also fear that the rise of autonomous vehicles will afflict Allstate’s insurance premiums in the long run.

My Take

From a quantitative perspective, Allstate appears to be an excellent company at a bargain price. At a P/E of 9, this compares to an industry average of 16.05. On a price/revenue basis, Allstate currently trades at 73% of revenue, compared to an industry average of 127%.  The forward P/E is presently 9, implying that Allstate is expected to maintain its current level of profitability by most analyst estimates. Allstate’s present valuation also compares favorably to its history. Allstate’s average P/E over the last 5 years is 13, 44% higher than current levels. On an EV/EBIT basis, Allstate’s average multiple in the previous 5 years was 8.5, which is 31% higher than current levels.

Allstate is also a well-run company. The F-Score is presently 7, which places it at a high degree of financial quality. Allstate also achieves better results than its competitors, producing a return on assets of 3.31% compared to an industry average of 1.91%. It delivers these results without excessive leverage, with a debt/equity ratio of 27%.

Allstate also grows organically with the economy, with operating income and revenues steadily increasing over time. The share price has increased with the growth in business over time.


Regarding short-term risks, the Fed is signaling that the rate hikes will end, which ought to stop the pressure on its bond and loan portfolio. There is also the risk of extreme risk events, such as terrible weather events in the upcoming year. That is a constant risk for insurance companies that don’t vary much from year to year and is built into Allstate’s pricing models. With a history going back 87 years, I’m reasonably sure that Allstate can handle a bad hurricane season, for instance.

As for long-term risks, the fears about the rise of autonomous vehicles seem silly to me. We are a long way off from widespread adoption of autonomous cars, considering that most people keep their cars for 11 years. Even when autonomous vehicles are widely adopted, you will still need someone to sue when the car gets into an accident. Even if the car can drive itself, the driver’s insurance is still going to be held responsible when the car makes an error. I don’t think we’ll ever see a day when it will be legal for the driver to hang out in the back seat drinking whiskey while the car whisks away to its destination with the driver completely free of responsibility.

In short, Allstate is a well run, defensive pick that is experiencing organic growth and currently trades at an attractive discount to average valuations within the industry and Allstate’s history.

PLEASE NOTE: The information provided on this site is not financial advice and it is for informational and discussion purposes only. Do your own homework. Full disclosure: my current holdings.  Read the full disclaimer.

Manpower Group (MAN)


Key Statistics

Enterprise Value = $5.113 billion

Operating Income = $856.8 million

EV/Operating Income = 5.96x

Price/Revenue = .21x

Earnings Yield = 13%

Debt/Equity = 40%

The Company

Manpower Group is a global staffing company. They provide recruiting services. They place a broad and diverse group of workers, from office staff to industrial workers. They also have a rights management unit, which provides consulting for workforce issues, such as advice to improve overall productivity.

This is not a “good business” with high returns on invested capital. Its earnings are driven by the cyclical nature of the global employment trends. However, Manpower has been in business for 75 years and has a strong global footprint, with a concentration in Europe. 13% of their revenue is from the United States, 13% is from Asia & the Middle East, and the remainder is from Europe. They have a particularly big focus in France, where 26% of their revenue comes from.

Manpower is in the most cyclical industry that there is: staffing. Their fortunes are dictated by the performance of demand for global employment. The company has performed well as unemployment rates fell in Europe and the United States. Employment in the European Union peaked at 11% in the middle of 2013 and is now down to 6.8%. In the United States, unemployment peaked at 10% and is now down to 4%.

The stock has been punished all year long. From its peak of $136 in January 2018, it is now down to $73.16.

My Take

In the quantitative sense, Manpower is a compelling bargain. The current P/E of 7.93 compares to Manpower’s 5-year average of 15.69 and an industry average of 24.14. Analysts don’t anticipate a significant decline in earnings. The stock currently has a forward P/E of 8.83. Additionally, the current EV/EBIT of 5.96 compares to a 5-year average of 9.27, which represents a 55% discount.

A bet on Manpower is obviously a bet on the US and Europe avoiding a recession in 2019. The economies of the United States and Europe are tied at the hip. A recession in the United States will likely coincide with a recession in Europe. There are indeed exceptions to this synergy, such as the 2011-13 period, when Europe languished while the recovery remained strong in the United States, but for the most part, they are closely correlated. Manpower’s performance is primarily dictated by the employment fortunes of these companies, as you can see in the below.


As I’ve stated elsewhere, I do not think that we will experience a recession in the upcoming year. The 2-year vs. 10-year treasury yield, along with the 3-month vs. 10-year treasury yield, has not yet inverted. Typically, after the inversion, the US has 1-2 years before the recession begins. Usually, the unemployment rate doesn’t start ticking up until immediately before the recession. This means that Manpower group is likely getting into the best part of the employment cycle at an attractive valuation.

The market is apparently concerned that Manpower’s earnings and cash flows are at a cyclical peak. I believe we are close to a cyclical peak, but I think a lousy period for Manpower is likely 2-3 years away and is not imminent. In the meantime, I think this is an attractive bargain with the wind at is back.

Manpower has a strong footprint in temporary hiring. This is a segment of Manpower’s business that will likely benefit from where I think we are in the cycle: a period when temporary workers will be in demand as firms struggle to retain employees.

Overall, I believe Manpower will benefit from where we are in the cycle in the upcoming 1-2 years. I am purchasing the stock with a margin of safety, with the stock trading significantly below its historical valuation multiples.

PLEASE NOTE: The information provided on this site is not financial advice and it is for informational and discussion purposes only. Do your own homework. Full disclosure: my current holdings.  Read the full disclaimer.



Macro Environment & Upcoming December Rebalance


October’s price action seems to have given many investors the jitters. Mr. Market doesn’t quite need a defibrilator or even Pepto Bismol, but he is at least popping a Tums. This expansion and bull market have been long. They are going on 10 years now, which is relatively unprecedented. Unemployment is at historic lows. Meanwhile, the Fed is raising rates, which is usually the beginning of the end.

Valuations don’t help with the anxiety. Everyone knows that valuations are stretched. The CAPE ratio currently stands at 30.94, giving the market an earnings yield of 3.23%. The average investor allocation to equities is presently 44%, giving us an expected 10-year return of 2.3%. In other words, the realistic return that investors can expect over the next 10 years is probably somewhere in the vicinity of 2-4%. This does not provide much of a premium to the 10-year treasury yield, which is currently 2.993%. The AAA corporate bond yield is now 4.14%, a significant premium to what we can expect from equities.


A 2-4% return for US stocks isn’t going to happen in a straight line and it isn’t going to be evenly disbursed across all stocks. Stock market return averages are an average of abnormal returns. There are going to be years when stocks will advance by 30%, and there will be years when they decline by 50%. The decline will likely coincide with a recession.

Recession Watch

At the same time, while it’s evident to me that valuations are stretched, I do not believe we are going to have a recession in the upcoming year. This is the main reason I am comfortable remaining 100% invested in stocks that I feel are at attractive valuations, including cyclical stocks.

I believe that the Federal Reserve is the cause and cure of every recession. Right now, the yield curve is flattening but has still not inverted. The Fed typically chokes off an economic expansion by tightening too much. They then usually save the day by aggressively responding to the downturn by cutting rates, often overshooting and causing other problems. This seems to have been the case in the mid-2000s.

Despite the tightening of the last year and the flattening of the yield curve, the curve is still not flat and it is still not inverted. Scott Grannis recently had a great post about this here.


Typically, once the yield curve inverts, we get a recession within a year or two. Right now, the 10 year is at a .22% premium to the 2 years. This implies that the Fed hasn’t yet taken things too far with rate increases. A recession, therefore, does not appear to an imminent danger. To put this in historical perspective, this is where the yield curve was in 2005, 1997, and 1988.

Another thing that tends to happen before a recession is that the unemployment rate shifts its trend. The unemployment rate began to change direction back in 2000, long before the beginning of the recession in 2001. It also did this in 2007 before the Great Recession went underway. There is no sign that the unemployment has shifted course.

unemployment rate

This is further evidence that a recession is not imminent.

Another indicator that I look at is household debt payments as a percentage of disposable income. This shows you the sensitivity of households to rising interest rates. This is not worrisome at all.


December Rebalance

Hopefully, this gives context to decisions I am going to make in my portfolio in the upcoming month.

I am currently gearing up to rebalance my portfolio in December. I will sell many positions that are on their 1-2 year birthday and replace these positions. I have my eye on many stocks, which are listed below. If anyone has done any work on these securities, I would love to hear from you.

I’ve spent the last few weeks researching the below positions. They meet my quantitative criteria, and I am attempting to determine whether or not I feel they are likely to recover from the problems that the market perceives.


My opinion on the likelihood of a recession impacts what kind of stocks I own. In particular, it will determine whether or not I will buy stocks that are cyclical and closely tied to the performance of the macroeconomy. An example of this would be a company like Micron (MU), a cheap position that bears suspect is cheap because it is at a cyclical peak. Another example would be Thor (THO). These would be positions I wouldn’t own if I thought a recession was going to occur in the upcoming year. Some examples of cyclical positions on the above list that I am looking at include Manpower Group (MAN) and Hollyfrontier (HFC).

I’m also looking at cheap retail positions like GAP (GPS) and Chico’s (CHS), even though they have been historically graveyards for my portfolio.

It also determines whether I am comfortable holding cash. When a recession is imminent, I will likely move more of my portfolio to short-term treasuries while I wait for compelling bargains to appear. A 1-year treasury is expected to yield 2.69% right now, which compares favorably to what I expect from US markets over the next decade.

Of course, I fully acknowledge that my predict the future is as good as anyone else’s. This is the reason that I always attempt to purchase undervalued securities with a margin of safety. A margin of safety is very much a margin for error.

I’m also eagerly anticipating the next recession. While I would like to avoid some of its damage, I suspect this is the moment when I am going to find truly compelling bargains, which are now in short supply in the US. It will be an opportunity to buy sub-liquidation net-net’s extraordinarily cheap security on an earnings basis, as well. It will be an opportunity to do very well, and I’m looking forward to it.

Hopefully, this sheds some light on my thought process as I select new stocks to fill my portfolio in the upcoming month as we look to 2019 and my portfolio (and this blog) turn 2 years old. Let’s hope the “terrible twos” doesn’t affect my money.


  • I have been reading Paul Volcker’s book, Keeping at It. It’s a great book from a man that I believe is the greatest Fed chair of all time. I wrote about it here.
  • Work has been extremely stressful lately, especially because of issues in my personal life that I’ve hinted at previously in this blog. My main struggle these days is maintaining a positive attitude, mainly because I am in a leadership position at work and it is important for me to keep everyone’s spirits up. I’ve slipped up recently, but I want to make more of an effort to stay positive this month, especially with the holidays coming up.
  • I gave up sugar back in October. So far I’ve lost 10 pounds since making that choice. I fell a bit off the rails on Thanksgiving when I ate a significant amount of pie, but what the hell? That’s what Thanksgiving is for. I haven’t eaten any sugar since.
  • I started watching “The Man in High Castle” and have really been enjoying it. It makes me really appreciate the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation. If it weren’t for their efforts, the horrific world featured in that series would be a reality.
  • I was saddened to hear about the loss of George H.W. Bush. Looking back on him, whether you disagreed with him or not, he was an exceptional human being who treated the opposition with respect. He was the last President of the World War II generation, and that’s why I think his Presidency feels like a distant, bygone era. That generation had a better perspective on life. That’s why their passing brings a real sense of loss. I think their perspective comes from seeing a World War and living through a Depression. These were experiences so intense, so palpable that Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials can’t relate to these experiences on any level. Our worries are trivial compared to worrying about the Nazis winning World War II, or starving to death in the Depression. After going through times like a Depression and World War, they didn’t sweat the small stuff the way that we do. They realized that the stakes weren’t so high and you didn’t need to vilify people because you disagree with them about minor things like taxes, budgets, whatever. I really believe that things were better with that generation in power. People who vehemently disagreed with each other, like Tip O’Neal and Ronald Reagan, could hang out after work and still get along. I wish things were like that now. We weren’t entrenched into competing camps convinced that the other side was evil or bent out to destroy the country because they happen to disagree. I wish that’s a perspective that we could bring back. I wish I could have that kind of perspective. I worry that’s not possible, because it’s a perspective you can only earn from going through the sort of horrible times that they went through in their youth.
  • I’ve been listening to a lot of a synth band called Electric Youth. They sound straight out of 1984, and I love it.

PLEASE NOTE: The information provided on this site is not financial advice and it is for informational and discussion purposes only. Do your own homework. Full disclosure: my current holdings.  Read the full disclaimer.