The futility of selling early — Mind CTI again

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446822940_bf49440a9c_b (1)Having read my earlier postings about a programmatic approach to investment by way of MNDO (start here,) the equity of Mind CTI, and my earlier postings about the potential folly of dividend speculation (start here,) a reader of this blog suggested to me that selling ones position of MNDO immediately before the ex-dividend date would be an appropriate strategy, capitalizing on the — and I quote — “stupidity” of the dividend speculators.

Although the notion of capitalizing on the greed and ignorance of dividend speculators does appeal to me, I do not believe the reader’s approach to be long-term viable.

The issue is one of tax, liquidity, transaction expenses, and timing.

Assuming a cyclic behavior consisting of sell-before-ex-dividend-date followed by buy-after-price-drop, which, of course, implies a holding period of less than 12 months, the investor would be subject to taxation on a short term basis, which for me, for instance, effectively would result in a Federal income tax hit climbing towards 40%, supplemented by a state and local tax bordering on 10%, for a total tax bordering on 50%.

Had I, for instance, acquired $100 thousand worth of shares in 2013 at an average price per share of $1.75, amounting to approximately 55 thousand shares, and sold these at today’s rate ($2.30 per share,) my pre-tax yield would be $125 thousand, or so (accounting for transaction expenses and supply/demand pricing issues,) for a net pre-tax gain of $25,000 and a post-tax gain of $12,500.

Naturally, this approach raises demand for liquidity and is impacted by transaction issues and expenses — and, importantly, it is characterized by a per share price risk and the broad assumption that the price will not go up immediately after the ex-dividend date adjustment. Moreover, the ugly pairing of requirement for superb timing (the cause of death of many a trader) and risk comes into play — in particular since it is ultimately impossible to know, for sure that: (1) an initial position can be secured, (2) that the initial position can be sold at a the required premium, (3) that a later position can be secured, and (4) that a dividend will actually occur.

A 12.5% gain on a six to nine months investment is, of course, not shabby when compared to the average 0% interest that your local bank savings account carries, but it does not in any way perform substantially better in the long run than does the pure dividend play, which with more than 55,000 shares, no transaction costs, and, critically, no per share price risk, handily and consistently delivers more than $12,000 after taxes, assuming a dividend taxation of 15%, and produces more shares — and thus more dividends — year after year.

Now, it would, of course, be possible to argue that applying this strategy for a position held in an tax-advantageous retirement vehicle such as an IRA might work (it would certainly negate some of the tax issues,) but, generally, tax-advantageous retirement vehicle are best suited for long term hold strategies and the use of these vehicles for other investment strategies is something that should be thought through very carefully.

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