Alabama’s Pension Bought Micron, Altria, and Honeywell Stock. Here’s What It Sold.

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Marlboro cigarettes, produced by a unit of Altria Group.


Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Alabama’s state pension made some big changes in its stock portfolio in the second quarter.

Retirement Systems of Alabama increased investments in

Micron Technology

(ticker: MU),

Altria

Group (MO), and

Honeywell

International (HON) stock, and slashed its stake in

Walt Disney

(DIS). RSA, as the pension is known, disclosed the stock trades, among others, in a form it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

RSA declined to comment on its stock trades.

The Teachers Retirement System component is the largest, accounting for $26.7 billion of RSA’s total assets of $40.7 billion as of Sept. 30, 2020. The teachers’ pension was 69.4% funded as of Sept. 30, 2019, the latest actuarial valuation; that means the pension had only 69.4 cents for every dollar of obligation. Other components of the RSA are similarly underfunded. That’s about par for the course, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts; using data from 2017, the organization found that state pensions were 70.7% funded on average.

The RSA bought 117,964 more Micron shares to end the second quarter with 1.2 million shares of the chip maker.

Micron stock hasn’t kept pace with the market so far in 2021. It rose 13% in the first half, and so far in July, Micron stock has slipped 10.6%. By comparison, the

S&P 500 index

rose 14.4% in the first half, and has gained 2.7% so far in July.


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Micron reported strong fiscal-third-quarter earnings, and raised guidance on the last day of June, but shares fell. Investors may be wary that demand could slow. With the pullback, we’ve noted that Micron stock seems cheap.

The pension bought 512,904 additional Altria shares to end June with 2.5 million of the tobacco giant’s shares. Altria stock rose 16.3% in the first half, and so far in July it is about flat.

Altria’s first-quarter earnings, reported in late April, were mixed. An analyst downgrade, citing several headwinds, followed soon after. Barron’s has noted that the shares seem cheap, and offer a hefty dividend yield.

Honeywell stock eked out a 3.1% gain in the first half, and so far in July it has added 4.5%. In May, we noted that the industrial conglomerate is continuing to transform itself into a software-centered company. Honeywell announced a deal in June to form a stand-alone quantum-computing company. Honeywell joined the

Nasdaq-100 index

last week.

RSA bought 215,159 more Honeywell shares to end the second quarter with 474,573 shares.

The pension sold 216,333 Disney shares to cut its investment to 923,039 shares of the media and entertainment giant. Disney stock slipped 3% in the first half of 2021, and so far in July it is flat.

We noted in June that Disney stock would be a winner if the economy reopened sooner than expected. Its film “Black Widow” had a strong opening earlier this month, with a good showing on the Disney streaming platform. We’ve suggested that after large companies such as Disney suspended dividends, the situation has stabilized.

Inside Scoop is a regular Barron’s feature covering stock transactions by corporate executives and board members—so-called insiders—as well as large shareholders, politicians, and other prominent figures. Due to their insider status, these investors are required to disclose stock trades with the Securities and Exchange Commission or other regulatory groups.

Write to Ed Lin at edward.lin@barrons.com and follow @BarronsEdLin.