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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


Blue Chip Stocks Expensive at This Point

With These Two Blue Chips Pushing HighsThere are a whole bunch of brand-name stocks that recently appreciated back close to their highs, many of which will soon be reporting their earnings.

Despite this fact, however, it still seems like a very difficult environment in which to be a buyer. Stocks just aren’t that attractively priced; in fact, many brand-name companies are priced for perfection. It’s still slow growth out there, and with equity prices at their all-time highs, this year’s returns may only be the dividends, which would just return the rate of inflation at best.

Colgate-Palmolive Company (CL) is a top-performing blue chip with an excellent track record of generating wealth for investors. The stock hit an all-time record-high last fall, and then backed off just like everything else did in January. It has since recovered.

The position boasts a forward price-to-earnings ratio of around 19.5, which makes it fully priced in my books. Sales growth in the first quarter of 2014 is expected to be minimal, and so are comparative earnings.

This year’s revenue consensus averages two percent among Wall Street analysts, rising to 5.4% in 2015.

Great companies like this tend to command higher multiples, as institutional investors pay for the certainty. But … Read More


What These Two Companies Suggest About the Trend in Employment Payrolls

These Two Companies Suggest Trend in Employment Payrolls RisingEarnings season is here and a number of companies have already reported. Some offer more useful information about the general economy and their earnings are a decent barometer.

Paychex, Inc. (PAYX) is the second-largest U.S. payroll company. It just beat Wall Street consensus on revenues and earnings.

The company said its fiscal third quarter of 2014 (ended February 28, 2014) saw revenues climb seven percent to $636.5 million, which is a very healthy comparable gain.

Payroll service revenues grew five percent to $413.9 million, based on growth in checks per payroll and revenues per check. Human resource service revenues improved 12% to $212.1 million due to client-based growth.

This produced a gain in bottom-line earnings of 11% to $160.1 million comparatively. Diluted earnings per share grew 10% to $0.44, up from the comparable figure of $0.40. Paychex reiterated existing revenue guidance for fiscal 2014. Earnings are expected to be higher than previously forecast.

Decent growth at payroll companies is a positive sign. With an attractive dividend yield of approximately 3.3% currently, this stock has room to tick higher if the broader market doesn’t come apart.

Paychex’s one-year stock chart is featured below:

PAYX Paychex ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Automatic Data Processing, Inc. … Read More


Have I Got a Deal for You! The Stock Selling at 573 Times Earnings That Just Keeps Rising

Have Stock Market Investors Lost Their MindsStock market valuations are severely stretched by historical standards. Earnings multiples and other financial ratios no longer make sense. But despite this, investors are still buying.

I continue to preach: the days left in the stock market’s rise are numbered.

As I see it, excessive speculation rules the stock market right now. And that is dangerous because investors are making decisions that they shouldn’t be making. Irrationality is growing. Those who say the stock market will decline, like me, are few and far between.

Investors are putting big money into companies that are nowhere near being profitable.

Just look at Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ/AMZN), a component of the S&P 500. According to bigcharts.com, Amazon.com stock is selling at 573 times its earnings! Since the stock market rally that began in 2009, the stock price of this online retailer has climbed more than 800%.

The price-to-book ratio of Amazon.com (that is the ratio of market value of the company compared to its book value) stands at 17.38. (Source: Yahoo! Finance, last accessed March 24, 2014.) The price-to-book ratio for Amazon.com’s sector—online retailers—is 11.0. (Source: New York University Stern School of Business web site, last accessed March 24, 2014.) By this measure, Amazon.com … Read More


Old Economy Strikes Again: Why Investors Need to Keep a Close Eye on This Rail Stock

This Old Economy Stocks the Best Indicator for the EconomyIt’s kind of odd to think about the railroad business providing such great returns to investors, but that’s what they’ve been doing. The old economy strikes again.

Union Pacific Corporation (UNP) just bounced off a record-high (again) on the stock market and the company reports April 17.

This company’s earnings are material, even if you have no interest whatsoever in the business of freight by rail. For the most part, Wall Street estimates have been going up for the company, for this year and next.

I don’t see the U.S. economy coming apart without some sign from Union Pacific. The company’s declining shipments of coal have been usurped by solid growth in oil railcars, construction materials, and automobiles.

If you’re inclined, check out the statistical data released by the Association of American Railroads (www.aar.org); it’s a treasure trove of economic conditions related to goods transported by rail and more useful than a lot of other data or commentary.

According to the association, for the first three months of 2014, U.S. railroads had cumulative volume of 3,301,422 carloads, up 0.4% over the first quarter of last year, and 2,937,811 intermodal units, up three percent comparatively.

Total combined U.S. … Read More


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