Let’s start with the U.S. housing market. Has the recovery for it ended or just stalled?
My answer comes in one sentence: While it’s always a matter of location, only the high-end housing market is doing well, while the general market is weak.
I can see it in the mortgage numbers. People just aren’t taking loans to buy homes in the U.S. economy. In fact, mortgage applications are tumbling.
In the second quarter of 2014, Bank of America Corporation (NYSE/BAC) funded $13.7 billion in residential home loans and home equity loans—down 49% from a year earlier, when it funded $26.8 billion in similar loans. (Source: Bank of America Corporation, July 16, 2014.)
JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE/JPM) originated $16.8 billion in mortgages in the second quarter (ended June 30, 2014)—down 66% from a year ago. (Source: JPMorgan Chase & Co., July 15, 2014.)
And Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE/WFC) also reported a massive decline in mortgage originations. In the second quarter of 2014, it originated $47.0 billion in new mortgages—down 62% from the second quarter of 2013. (Source: Wells Fargo & Company, July 11, 2014.)
So even though interest rates continue at a record low, people are not borrowing to buy homes in the U.S. economy.
But it’s not just the housing market that is weak. The entire U.S. economy is soft…masked by an artificial stock market rally and skewed “official” government statistics that don’t give us a true picture of the unemployment situation or inflation.
We’ve all heard by now that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ/MSFT) is planning job cuts of almost 20,000. (Source: USA Today, July 15, 2014.) There are already 1.57 million workers in the U.S. economy who have been laid off. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed July 16, 2014.)
Manufacturing is a thing of the past for the U.S. economy. The industrial capacity utilizatio… Read More
One stock that’s experiencing serious upward price momentum is in the equipment rental business. Momentum stocks might typically be associated with other market sectors, but United Rentals, Inc. (URI) is doing fantastic operationally and the market is bidding.
It’s kind of odd to think of an equipment rental company soaring on the stock market, but United Rentals is doing just that. In its most recent quarter, the company handily beat Wall Street consensus and raised its full-year guidance.
According to the company, its second quarter produced sales of $1.4 billion, up 16.7% from $1.2 billion in the same quarter last year.
Management said that the company is experiencing solid demand in non-residential construction. It’s renting out more equipment at higher margins than normal.
Second-quarter earnings were $94.0 million, or $0.90 per diluted share, compared to $83.0 million, or $0.78 per diluted share, representing a gain of about 15%.
Adjusted earnings per share were $1.65 on a diluted basis, which was way above Wall Street consensus.
United Rentals is one of the largest equipment rental companies in the world, with more than 12,000 employees. The company is considered a mid-cap stock and has been doing extremely well since the middle of 2012, which you can see in the stock chart below.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Not only did United Rentals beat consensus, but it also raised its outlook for adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) and tightened its revenue range to $5.55–$5.65 billion for all of 2014, up from the previous outlook of $5.45–$5.55 billion.
Many companies do not have their SEC Form 10-Q documents ready when they announce their quarterly earnings, so it’s always appreciated when a company like United Rentals does. (See “The Stocks That Will Be the Highlight of 2Q14.”)
United Rentals pr… Read More
A few years ago, investors couldn’t get enough of Chinese stocks. This led to numerous frauds committed by crooks in China that has since tarnished the reputation and reliability of all Chinese companies, whether they’re legitimate or not, despite their operating in one of the top growth areas in the world.
While I’m not focused on Chinese stocks at this moment due to better trading opportunities in the domestic stock market, I monitor the country and remain convinced it’s still a key place to have some risk capital invested in. When the broader market understands this, I would expect renewed buying in Chinese stocks sometime in the future.
My view is that the country’s current leadership under President Xi Jinping, who assumed power in March 2013, has a vision to create a country of consumers, just like the United States; albeit, I doubt it will come close to what we see here with consumer spending driving 70% of gross domestic product (GDP) growth. In China, consumer spending drives about 30% of GDP so there’s work to do. In the second quarter, retail sales continued at a double-digit growth of 12.4% year-over-year.
The objective to cut the country’s dependence on exports and foreign investment makes sense. With a potential market in excess of one billion people, it’s the right move.
China may not be in the spotlight for investors now, but you cannot ignore the country. With the recent years of underperformance, I see great longer-term upside in Chinese stocks.
The Chinese economy is growing at well below the double-digit growth of the past, but comparatively, the growth is far superior to the rest of the industrial countries.
In the second quarter, China grew its GDP 7.5% on an annualized basis, which was just ahead of the 7.4% estimate. (Look at the muted U.S. GDP, or flat-line growth in Europe.) Fixed asset investments surged 17.3%, while industrial productio… Read More
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