Last week’s lead story, “Praise Capitalism and Pass the Ammunition,” was very well received by readers and by many of my closest friends and colleagues. And while most of the feedback I received from the article was positive, I did get one interesting comment that I wanted to share with you today.
“Jim, that Ammo, Inc. donation to Ukraine is nothing more than a PR stunt.”
That is the comment I received from an acquaintance who never fails to send me critical remarks about my work, but who also somehow seems to read just about everything I write. Now, in thinking over his comment, I came to several realizations about the ideas embedded into his criticism. Because you see, the criticism waged here is not only wrong, but it I think it harbors a misunderstanding of the concept of “selfishness.” Let me explain.
First off, a good act is a good act, regardless of whether there are ancillary benefits to the person taking the action. In fact, I would argue that a “good act” is not one of self-sacrifice, but one that is, in fact, selfish.
Take, for example, one of my preferred charitable donations, the act of giving blood. I am very regular with my blood donations, going just about every eight weeks to have the blood bank extract my rarest of blood types, AB Negative. This donation helps save lives, as blood banks are constantly in need of all blood types, but especially the rarest types.
This donation also benefits me in a “spiritual” sense, i.e., I feel a sense of moral wellbeing at the kinship with my fellow man I am displaying. I also get the physiological benefit of a reduction in my red blood cell count, which for me tends to run high. A donation every eight weeks keeps my red blood cell count down, and that keeps me from experiencing the negative health consequences associated with an elevated red blood cell count.
In my case, donating blood is not a “selfless” act. Rather, it’s a “selfish” act that helps me in both body and spirit while also helping my fellow man. And that is the best possible outcome for everyone.
Your editor engaged in the “selfish” act of doing good for society and for himself.
Think of the converse of this situation. Would the act of donating blood only be “good” if I were to suffer negative health consequences as a result of my donation? Put in philosophic terms, would my donation only be moral if it also was self-sacrificial?
My answer is “no,” yet in the history of moral philosophy, I hold a minority opinion.
Now, back to my acquaintance’s comments on the Ammo, Inc. donation to the Ukrainian people of 1 million rounds of ammunition as being “just a PR stunt,” here we see that he also suffers from what I think is misguided ethics. The philosophic subtext of his commentary suggests that the Ammo, Inc. donation would only be “moral” if the company hadn’t announced to the world that they were doing so.
Yet the fact that Ammo, Inc. got a PR boost from its donation in no way negates the goodness of the act. In fact, in my opinion, the positive PR generated by the company’s generous and well-placed gift in support of freedom is not only intelligent, but in its own rational self-interest as an entity. It’s also to the benefit of everyone, because the more news of corporate donations to the Ukrainian cause, the more other companies are likely to act in kind. So yes, I consider it a “selfish” act, as it is in Ammo, Inc.’s rational self-interest, as well as in the rest of the world’s self-interest, to combat the forces of an invading army intent on occupying and subjugating free people.
I think what the world needs more of is people and companies to step up and do “selfish” acts that are in the rational self-interest of us all. By their doing so, everyone wins — and what can be more morally perfect than that?
ETF Talk: Analyzing a ‘Staple’ ETF
Sometimes, it is good to go back to basics.
While it can be glamorous to dream of the possibilities that the newest darling of Silicon Valley is cooking up to make our lives better and more efficient, we also cannot dismiss the consumer staples stocks, most of which belong to companies that manufacture the goods that people are almost certainly going to need right now.
The supply disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, as well as the wave of panic buying of certain goods as a result of either faulty or misinterpreted information, should only serve to underscore the continued importance of consumer goods, even in the face of rapid technological advancement.
One exchange-traded fund (ETF) that is heavily involved in staples stocks is the First Trust Consumer Staples AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEARCA: FXG). This ETF tracks an index of large- and mid-cap consumer staples stocks from U.S. companies.
While the fund’s managers use a multi-factor selection and tiered equal-weighting method to build FXG’s portfolio, it is important to note that the goal of this fund is not market exposure. Rather, its goal is to attempt to pick winners in this market sector by employing quantitative analysis to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, of the Russell 1000 index. As a result, the presence of some sector biases in this fund’s portfolio is not an impossibility.
Currently, the fund’s top holdings include Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (NYSE: ADM), Bunge Limited (NYSE: BG), McKesson Corporation (NYSE: MCK), Corteva Inc. (NYSE: CTVA), Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN), Conagra Brands, Inc. (NYSE: CAG), J. M. Smucker Corp. (NYSE: SJM) and Kraft Heinz Company (NASDAQ: KHC).
This fund’s performance has been outstanding when compared to the wider domestic equity benchmarks. As of March 8, FXG has been down 2.78% over the past month and up 3.84% over the past three months. It is currently down 1.66% year to date. That compares quite favorably to the S&P 500, which is down about 10.4% year to date.
Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com
The fund has amassed $345.62 million in assets under management and has an expense ratio of 0.64%.
While FXG does provide an investor with a way to profit from consumer staples, this kind of ETF may not be appropriate for all portfolios. Thus, interested investors should always conduct their due diligence and decide whether the fund is suitable for their investing goals.
As always, I am happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You just may see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.
In case you missed it…
Praise Capitalism and Pass the Ammunition
Last night, I had a dream about the day I stood in front of the American flag at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Los Angeles, lifted my right hand and took the Oath of Enlistment into the United States Army. On that day, I swore that I would support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I would bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
Now, I am quite sure why that dream flooded into my silent lucidity, because, for the first time in many years, the world has witnessed the beginning of what could be the next big global military conflict.
Indeed, the scenes of Russian missiles pummeling Ukraine have sickened the world. And if you’re like me, the images of Russian convoys rolling into Ukraine, families being torn apart, some 800,000 refugees fleeing their homes and even children dying in the streets have infused your very soul with a deep sense of horror.
Yet, perhaps the most infuriating feeling you’re having is the same one that I have, and that is a sense of deep frustration and anger at knowing that there isn’t much we can actually do as individuals to help the Ukrainian people combat this evil. I mean, being on the losing side of 50 isn’t the best time in life to volunteer to take up arms and go hunting members of the Spetsnaz.
I can, however, use this platform to connect with the roughly 100,000 The Deep Woods readers and tell you about one great American company that is actually doing something amazing to directly help the Ukrainian people fight its war against Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
That company is Arizona-based ammunition maker Ammo, Inc. (NASDAQ: POWW).
In a press release sent Monday, Feb. 28, the management of Ammo, Inc. announced that they have heard Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky’s plea for ammunition and decided to help.
“Ammo Inc. is offering to donate 1 million rounds of ammunition to the Armed Forced of Ukraine in support of their fight for independence and freedom,” a spokesman for the company said.
Here’s the money quote from Fred Wagenhals, CEO of Ammo Inc., regarding the ammunition donation:
“Ammo Inc., and we as Americans, stand firmly in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, as we stand for freedom and democracy everywhere. While we fervently hope for a quick and peaceful resolution to the crisis and that diplomacy will win the day, we condemn the Russian aggression and its threat to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and freedom. We recognize that events are unfolding rapidly on the ground in Ukraine, and we are prepared to move as quickly as possible to support Ukraine as it continues to defend itself and its freedom.”
To further explain and promote the ammunition donation, Ammo, Inc. board member and NASCAR legend Richard Childress took to the airwaves. In a segment on Fox News, Childress explained the why and the how of the ammunition donation to Ukraine, saying:
“To see the people in Ukraine fighting, it’s terrible to see the lives that are being lost over there. And we have to do all we can, and I felt that with Ammo, Inc. and myself we were doing the right thing, and we are going to get that ammunition to them as quick as we can.”
Now there is a man, and a company, that are doing more than their fair share to help the Ukrainian people, and by extension, the free world. Moreover, this is a beautiful example of how entrepreneurship and capitalism are forces for good in the world.
In the interest of full disclosure, I personally know several big investors in POWW, and I have recommended the stock in my investment advisory newsletters. However, I do not currently own the shares, though I do use the company’s outstanding STREAK, non-incendiary visual ammo in my own marksmanship.
Your editor testing the STREAK brand ammunition from Ammo, Inc.
Finally, at the beginning of World War II, there was a popular song titled, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.” This patriotic song by the composer Frank Loesser was a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor that marked United States’s involvement in the conflict.
Well, today, I think we are looking at a case of “Praise capitalism and pass the ammunition,” i.e., the passing of the ammunition from Ammo, Inc. to the valiant people of Ukraine.
May their righteous cause prevail.
On Petals and Blooms
“Public-relations specialists make flower arrangements of the facts, placing them so the wilted and less attractive petals are hidden by sturdy blooms.”
— Alan Harrington
Like good PR agents, we all should be trying to photograph ourselves in the best possible light. That doesn’t mean you should hide reality, but it does mean that you should accentuate your virtues so that the world can see the best within you, and not the less luminous aspects of your character.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.