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Stock Slammed in 2007/08 Making Strong Comeback

Harley-Davidson Riding New Wave BuyersFirst-quarter earnings results for Harley-Davidson Inc. (HOG) were good. The motorcycle manufacturer did a solid job boosting its bottom line on what was a decent gain in sales, particularly internationally. First-quarter earnings per share grew 22% to $1.21.

U.S. dealers sold 35,730 new motorcycles in the quarter for a three-percent gain. International dealers sold 21,685 new motorcycles during the quarter, up 11%, with comparative Asia-Pacific sales up 21%.

This produced total bike sales of $1.31 billion in the 2014 first quarter for a gain of 13% over the same quarter of 2013. Gross margin was higher and management reiterated previous guidance of a seven- to nine-percent increase in motorcycle shipments this year.

It was a solid quarter for the company, and the stock bounced nicely higher on the news.

So far this earnings season, the numbers have been pretty modest. Two emerging trends from reporting companies include strengthening business conditions in Europe and Asia, along with the confirmation of existing 2014 guidance. (See “Two Big Trends to Emerge This Earnings Season?”) Generally, the numbers are OK.

Stocks have been able to work through recent jitters and the main indices. Most of the economic data hitting the wires is … Read More


Business Conditions Soft? Not for These Two Companies

Strong Businesses Stock MarketIf business conditions are good for a public company, then it’s highly likely that its share price has already been doing well in this great monetary expansion.

With the stock market at a high, it’s tricky being a new buyer/speculator. As we’ve seen with biotechnology stocks, the price momentum can quite suddenly come to a halt.

One sector where there is more price momentum to be had is in oil. Not so much in the large, integrated oil companies but in domestic mid-tier producers as well as services. (See “My Top Energy Pick with Market-Defying Momentum.”)

In the large-cap space, Baker Hughes Incorporated (BHI) is now experiencing renewed momentum, both operationally and on the stock market. This oil and gas equipment and services company is seeing solid sales growth in North American operations as well as the Middle East.

In spite of unusually cold weather accounting for a drop in North America’s well count, the company was able to grow domestic first-quarter sales by 6.7% to $2.78 billion. Total sales for the first quarter grew 10% to $5.7 billion, while earnings grew 23% to $328 million.

Baker Hughes has been buying back a lot of its own … Read More


Market Dynamics Changing; Where’s the Upside for Investors?

Why Beating the Street Isn’t as Good as Real ValueBeing financial reporting season, it’s important to discern between results that beat Wall Street consensus and real economic growth.

Abbott Laboratories (ABT) just announced better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, but they weren’t better than the comparable quarter of 2013. Operating earnings, earnings from continuing operations, and diluted earnings per share were all down significantly compared to the first quarter of 2013.

So, the illusion can definitely become real in hot markets. Investors are always better off ignoring headlines and going right to the financial statements. Managed earnings are just that—managed.

One company that just produced a very good quarter was The Charles Schwab Corporation (SCHW). The stock broker’s first-quarter sales grew 15% to $1.48 billion on strong growth in asset management and administration fees.

Net earnings leapt 58% to $326 million, or 60% to $0.60 in diluted earnings per share. Top-line growth and strong expense control were the reasons for the strong bottom-line growth.

There’s no real reason why Charles Schwab’s share price should keep on appreciating near-term. All the good news is priced into the shares. The company beat consensus earnings by $0.02 a share, while revenues were in line.

This reporting season, earnings are here to justify current share … Read More


My Top Company for Income and Capital Gains

Why Every Investor Should Consider a Stock Like This One at This TimeOnce again, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has come through for investors. The company just reported a very solid first-quarter earnings report.

Continued strength in the company’s pharmaceutical business is the big reason for the growth. Total global sales grew 3.5% to $18.1 billion, with domestic sales growing 2.2% and international sales growing 4.5%.

Notable in the company’s latest numbers was strength in European sales, which is an emerging trend this earnings season. Johnson & Johnson reported a nine-percent gain in sales to Europe, growing to $4.89 billion during the quarter.

Excluding some one-time items, first-quarter earnings were $4.4 billion, or $1.54 per diluted share, for an increase of 7.8% and 6.9%, respectively, over the same quarter of 2013.

The company boosted its full-year 2014 earnings guidance to between $5.80 and $5.90 per share, up from the previous $5.75 to $5.85 per-share range excluding special items.

After the stock market sell-off in January, Johnson & Johnson’s share price dropped to around $87.00 a share by early February. It has since made a full recovery, now trading close to $100.00.

I still view this company as a position worth considering for a long-term portfolio when it’s down. Typically, the stock isn’t down … Read More


Why Economic Growth Doesn’t Guarantee Rising Share Prices

Why Today's Earnings Are for Yesterday's Stock PricesTrading action in stocks has been all over the map so far this year, while investor sentiment remained generally positive. The fact that there was a bunch of profit-taking after the solid recovery in February and March is neither a surprise nor unnatural for a market at a high.

The Federal Reserve continues to be more than accommodative to Wall Street with its words of comfort and its willingness to provide continued monetary stimulus past previously stated benchmarks.

Near-term, geopolitical events in Ukraine are likely the biggest risk for stocks. It’s been a slow start this earnings season with unremarkable results, but the numbers aren’t that bad. Growth is growth.

The NASDAQ Biotechnology Index has just now crossed its 200-day simple moving average, if that’s meaningful. It’s done so several times over the last five years and recovered after a period of consolidation.

Biotechnology stocks aren’t worth paying a lot of attention to in terms of portfolio strategy. These risk-capital stocks trade on their own unique set of business fundamentals. They’ve been powerhouse wealth creators for sure over the last few years. They are due for an extended break.

I think the best plays in this market are still with … Read More


Four Companies to Watch as Stock Prices Reset

Resetting of Equity Assets Next Leg in Stock Market's CourseThe significant price reversal in biotechnology stocks is very meaningful and appropriate, considering the massive capital appreciation the sector provided over the last three years.

There’s a reset going on with stocks, even with the Fed still onside. Earnings are not expected to grow that much in the first quarter of 2014, and big investors are booking profits as investment risk for both new and existing positions is going up.

This has been a very tough market for buyers, as stocks have already gone up in anticipation of decent earnings and revenue growth. There is very little in the way of value for investors, and there hasn’t been for a while.

This choppy action is a good reason not to get complacent when stock market indices are hitting new records. As prices go up, so does investment risk. Portfolio risk management is more important than the expectation for potential returns with stocks. Price trends easily last beyond reasonableness, but as history proves, the bubbles do eventually burst.

Right now is a great time to be reevaluating portfolio risk and identifying great stocks that you’d like to own if they were much better priced. (See “Risk vs. Reward: Is It Read More


Two Big Trends to Emerge This Earnings Season?

The Two Big Themes This Earnings SeasonLots of companies have broken out of their previous long-term trends on the stock market, and it’s a positive, contributing signal to a secular bull market.

One company that recently beat Wall Street consensus and just broke out of its previous price trend is A. Schulman, Inc. (SHLM) out of Akron, Ohio.

This business deals with resins and plastic compounds. It’s not very exciting, but the company is growing, it pays a dividend, and its corporate guidance is rising.

A. Schulman is one of the few companies that actually file their SEC Form 10-Q commensurate with their earnings press releases. It’s something that’s very much appreciated because this information is typically more in-depth than a plain earnings report. Even if you aren’t interested in the resins and plastics business, what a company like A. Schulman says about its business conditions is helpful in shaping your own market view.

The company just reported solid growth in its second fiscal quarter of 2014 (ended February 28, 2014). Management said that business in Europe is getting better, with noticeable sales gains in the automotive and electronics markets.

Most of the company’s sales come from Europe, the Middle East, and African regions, which is … Read More


Stock Market Setting Up for Extended Break?

Soft Q1 Suggesting Market Set for Extended BreakThe S&P 500 index really hasn’t done much since the beginning of the year but churn…but then again, why shouldn’t it?

For stocks, 2013 was an exceptional year. If we get another positive year on top of dividends, then it’s total gravy.

The capital gains over the last several years have been highly unusual, representative of the gains often seen after a major financial crisis.

There are no bandwagons to jump on in this stock market. Investor sentiment finally had a bit of an awakening over the last several weeks. Big investors booked some profits after the big price recovery in February, which occurred because of verbal reassurances by the new Fed chair, Janet Yellen. If there wasn’t further hand-holding from the Fed, stocks likely would have continued January’s sell-off into a full-blown correction, helped by events in Ukraine.

I’m of the mind that the stock market may take an extended break over the next two quarters, as it’s so often done in the past—probably more of a price consolidation over a correction; top-line growth is still pretty modest.

I’m still a big fan of dividend income and also a higher weighting given to cash within a portfolio context. … Read More


Top Wealth-Creating Stocks Defying Stock Market Sell-Off?

What Stocks Are Defying the Near-Term Stock Market TrendWith the broader stock market selling off, it’s amazing to see a company’s share price defy the near-term trend and appreciate in value.

Time and time again, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) gets bid when the broader market faces convulsion. It’s a powerful signal, and there is still a great deal of angst among institutional investors; they still want those dividends and the relative safety of earnings that are predictable.

Johnson & Johnson has been—and continues to be—an excellent wealth creator. The stock’s been bouncing off $95.00 a share the last while and just recently, it seems to have broken past this price ceiling.

There’s not a lot new with this position. One Wall Street firm recently boosted its earnings expectations for the company in 2015. Sales growth is expected to be in the low single-digits this year, but annual earnings growth combined with dividends should be in the low double-digits once again. The company reports its first-quarter numbers on April 15.

There’s definitely been a change in investor sentiment regarding speculative positions. Biotechnology stocks, which have been the market’s multiyear winning sector have finally seen investors book profits. It’s been long overdue and from a market perspective, is a healthy … Read More


Why These Four Rail Picks Are on My Radar

The One Stock Market Sector That You Need to Have on Your RadarThere’s a boom going on, and it’s old economy. The railroad business is alive and well. And equally as impressive as the freight and earnings results, railroad services and related businesses are benefitting.

Over the near-term, it’s likely there’s going to be further legislation regarding the safety of oil railcars, meaning the retrofit market will be substantial. I think investors should have the entire sector on their radar. Many of these stocks have already done well.

One company we looked at last year in these pages is The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. (GBX), which has plans this year to double its manufacturing capacity of tank cars, which are in high demand. (See “How to Play the Bakken Oil Boom While Oil & Gas Companies Are at Their Highs.”)

The company’s latest earnings results actually missed consensus, as the business wasn’t quite able to keep up with the hype. But this doesn’t mean that the future isn’t bright for this industry. Greenbrier’s one-year stock chart is featured below:

Greenbrier Cos ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

One company that only recently experienced new interest from equity market investors is American Railcar Industries, Inc. (ARII). This firm, out of St. Charles, Missouri, sells hopper and … Read More


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