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The Problem With Reality in 2014

U.S. Economy Halfway to a Recession AlreadyEarlier this month, Jeremy Siegal, a well-known “bull” on CNBC, took to the airwaves to predict the Dow Jones Industrial Average would go beyond 18,000 by the end of this year. Acknowledging overpriced valuations on the key stock indices are being ignored, he argued historical valuations should be taken with a grain of salt and nothing more. (Source: CNBC, July 2, 2014.)

Sadly, it’s not only Jeremy Siegal who has this point of view. Many other stock advisors who were previously bearish have thrown in the towel and turned bullish towards key stock indices—regardless of what the historical stock market valuation tools are saying.

We are getting to the point where today’s mentality about key stock indices—the sheer bullish belief stocks will only move higher—has surpassed the optimism that was prevalent in the stock market in 2007, before stocks crashed.

At the very core, when you pull away the stock buyback programs and the Fed’s tapering of the money supply and interest rates, there is one main factor that drives key stock indices higher or lower: corporate earnings. So, for key stock indices to continue to make new highs, corporate profits need to rise.

But there are two blatant threats … Read More


Three Retail Stocks Showing Impressive Growth This Earnings Season

Three Retail Stocks That Are Nailing the Second QuarterIt wasn’t too long ago that NIKE, Inc. (NKE) reported another great quarter of solid growth in its business.

The company’s fiscal fourth-quarter numbers beat Wall Street consensus, and its sales from continuing operations grew 11% to $7.4 billion, or 13% on a currency-neutral basis.

In this market, double-digit growth is significant no matter if it’s in the top or bottom line.

Like the last several earnings seasons, corporations are typically only beating consensus on one financial metric (either earnings or revenues). But this is enough to keep investors buying.

Under Armour, Inc. (UA) blew the doors off of Wall Street consensus and the stock shot strongly higher.

The company reported a surge in new apparel sales. Total revenues grew a whopping 34% over the second quarter of last year to $610 million.

Breaking it down, the company’s apparel revenues grew 35% to $420 million, while footwear sales grew 34% to $110 million on new product offerings. The company experienced significant sales growth of 30% in North America, while international sales doubled (representing approximately 10% of total revenues).

Previous guidance for 2014 was for sales growth of between 24% and 25% over 2013. Management boosted this guidance to between … Read More


Why This Company’s a Solid Pick for Any Long-Term Portfolio

PepsiCo Still a Solid Stock for Any Quality PortfolioThe numbers are piling in, and there have been some disappointments as usual. This is why individual stock selection always matters in a portfolio, and equity investors should be willing to make changes depending on what stage of the business cycle a company is experiencing.

One company that’s proven itself to be a good business to own is PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP). It’s a brand-name mature enterprise with an excellent track record of long-term, reliable wealth creation for stockholders. It’s not the fastest growing large-cap in the marketplace, but the snacks and beverage business is consistent and so are the dividends.

Wall Street and institutional investors would love to see PepsiCo spin off its food and snacks business from beverages, similar to what recently transpired with Kraft Foods Incorporated.

A spin-off would, no doubt, be a boon to shareholders, but I don’t see it happening, because the company’s management needs the profits from Quaker foods (oatmeal) and especially “Frito-Lay” (potato chips) to help with the slow-growth world of soda and juice.

PepsiCo’s organic global snacks sales grew five percent comparatively in the second quarter of 2014 and two percent for global beverages.

Currency translation was unfavorable during the most recent quarter, … Read More


Small-Cap vs. Big-Cap: The Real Winners in This Market

Why I'm Not Giving Up on Small-Cap StocksHealthy second-quarter results from technology and banks are helping to drive buying in stocks. On Tuesday, the S&P 500 traded at an intraday record and is again looking toward 2,000, while the blue-chip DOW is edging toward another record.

While we are hearing about how the S&P 500 will break 2,000 and the DOW will reach 20,000, we are not hearing much about small-cap stocks, which have been under some pressure this year after leading the pack in 2013.

The Russell 2000 is struggling after failing to hold above 1,200 on two occasions; it’s currently down about 0.66% this year and 4.6% from its record.

Russell 2000 Small Cap Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

I recently read how the failure of the Russell 2000 to follow the broader stock market higher is a red flag that could warn of a pending correction in the stock market.

Now, while small-cap stocks are probably the most vulnerable to selling at this time, I don’t feel that it’s time to simply ignore this high-beta growth group and focus solely on big-cap stocks.

My thinking is that investors are simply dumping some risk from their portfolio after recording strong returns in 2013. It’s not that small-cap stocks are … Read More


My Top Tech Stock for Wealth Creation

Top Wealth-Creating Tech Stock for the Risk-Averse InvestorThe numbers are still coming in pretty good this earnings season and corporate outlooks are holding up well for the year.

Stocks have been trading off of Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen’s monetary policy report to Congress, and less so on earnings.

This market is tired and you can see it in the trading action of individual stocks that beat the Street with their earnings. Most market reaction is pretty mute.

One that wasn’t, however, was Intel Corporation (INTC). The company’s second quarter really got institutional investors fired up. The stock was $26.00 a share mid-May; now it’s close to $34.00, which is a very big move for this company.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) doesn’t report until next week, but the company’s shares moved commensurately with Intel’s.

Earnings strength from these older technology benchmarks is really good news for both the stock market and the economy in general. It means that the enterprise market is spending money again, and that’s exactly what the technology industry needs.

Even Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) got a boost from Intel’s earnings results. This stock has been trying to break out of a long price consolidation. It hasn’t really done anything on the stock market … Read More


Simple Wealth-Creating Strategy for Long-Term Investors

Compounding Strategy Every Investor Should ConsiderAs a strong believer in the wealth-creating effects of large-cap, dividend paying stocks, I’m also an advocate of dividend reinvestment, which is the purchasing of a company’s shares using the cash dividends paid.

This can be done commission-free from your broker and/or through the company itself if it offers such a program.

Dividend reinvestment is a powerful wealth creator if you do not require the income paid out by a corporation. It is a great way to invest and to grow your money over the long-term.

As the timespan increases, the percentage return produced by the S&P 500 becomes weighted to dividends. It’s kind of old school, but the numbers add up. Even over a few short years of good broader market performance, total investment returns can increase substantially over simple capital gains.

For example, if you bought shares in Intel Corporation (INTC) at the beginning of 2010, that stock would have produced a capital gain to date of approximately 50%.

But if you reinvested the dividends paid by Intel into new shares each quarter, your total investment return, including dividends and new shares, jumps to approximately 75%, which is a very big difference!

In the utility sector, Duke Energy … Read More


Why This Institutional Favorite Tops My List of Stocks

Why This Company Is One Great Long-Term PlayOne of my favorite companies for long-term, income-seeking investors is Johnson & Johnson (JNJ).

While pharmaceuticals are the company’s anchor, its other business lines help with cash flow and dividend increases.

Investors have bid Johnson & Johnson shares tremendously in recent years, and it’s difficult to consider buying the company now, as the position is up another 10 points since March.

But Johnson & Johnson is the kind of stock income-seeking investors should keep an eye on for more attractive entry points, even though they may not come around all that often. The most recent possible entry points were in late September of last year and late January of this year.

My expectations for a mature company like this is for total annual sales to grow by the mid-single digits, with earnings growth and dividends producing an approximate 10% total annual return.

With a 10% annual return on investment, your money doubles every seven years.

Johnson & Johnson is typically priced at a slight premium to the S&P 500, but the company has earned its higher valuation by providing relatively consistent growth, reliable corporate outlooks, and a strong track record of dividend increases.

The company’s stock chart is featured … Read More


Your Top Priority When Investing in a Record-High Market

What to Prioritize with Stocks at an All-time HighStocks are going to gyrate around second-quarter earnings, but that’s exactly what this market needs—the corporate bottom line and expectations for the rest of the year.

With so many stocks trading at their all-time record-highs, I view investment risk in equities as being high at this time.

This is actually a tough environment in which to be an investor looking for new positions. There’s not a lot of value around and good businesses have already been bid.

It’s been years now since the stock market was first in need of a material price correction, and the next one will probably come out of nowhere.

It could be a shock from the Federal Reserve, but the central bank has been extremely delicate in how it effects and communicates monetary policy. More likely, stocks will be vulnerable to an unforeseen shock like a geopolitical event or a big derivative trade gone bad.

The risks are out there and stocks are long overdue for a reckoning.

With this in mind, I’m still a fan of the market’s existing winners, especially dividend-paying blue chips. In the absence of a shock, I think they’ll just keep pushing new highs going right into 2015.

3M Company … Read More


What Investors Need to Know About the Current Market Cycle

What These Large-Caps Are Revealing About the Current Stock Market CycleIf there ever was an equity security epitomizing the notion that the stock market is a leading indicator, Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) would fit the bill.

This manufacturer is in slow-growth mode, but it’s been going up on the stock market as institutional investors bet on a global resurgence for the demand of construction and other heavy equipment and engines.

And the betting’s been pretty fierce. Caterpillar was priced at $90.00 a share at the beginning of the year. Now, it’s $110.00, which is a substantial move for such a mature large-cap. (See “Rising Earnings Estimates the New Catalyst for Stocks?”)

The stock actually offers a pretty decent dividend. It’s currently around 2.6%.

While sales and earnings in its upcoming quarter (due out July 24, 2014) are expected to be very flat, Street analysts are putting their focus on 2015. Sales and earnings estimates for next year are accelerating, and it’s fuel for institutional investors with money to invest.

The notion that the stock market leads actual economic performance is very real. Just like there are cycles in the economy, the stock market itself is highly cyclical. And while every secular bull market occurs for different reasons, there are … Read More


Growth, Income, and Quality: This Top Stock Offers It All

This Top Company the Complete PackageThere are some companies—mature businesses with well-known brands—that continue to execute in a manner worthy of the finest growth stories.

While the stock market does its thing every day, I find that there are actually very few investment-quality stocks that deliver respectable returns consistently over time.

The business cycle exists, and so does the enthusiasm that institutional investors have for particular companies.

One company that I continue to like for long-term investors is NIKE, Inc. (NKE). Here’s the thing about this well-known athletic footwear and apparel manufacturer—the company just keeps on growing.

The fact of the matter is that the running shoe business is a good one, and solid management execution has allowed this company to deliver continued double-digit comparable growth in a world where mature economies are barely growing at all.

NIKE is worthy of long-term portfolios. The company pays a dividend with a current yield that is approximately 1.3%.

The stock has been in consolidation for a good seven months, but it’s performed incredibly well over the last 10 years and should continue to do so.

Once again, NIKE beat Wall Street consensus and the stock jumped after it reported great 2014 fiscal fourth-quarter and year-end financial results…. Read More


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