Lombardi: Stock Market Commentary & Forecasts, Financial & Economic Analysis Since 1986

Corporate Earnings

Corporate earnings are also referred to as “company earnings” and “corporate profits:” basically, the amount of money a company makes in certain period of time. The price/earnings multiple is still the most common tool used to value a company. The stock market values a company based on the amount of money—the earnings and profits—the company has after all expenses, including taxes, have been paid. In a stock market where stocks are traded at an average of 12 times earnings, a company making $1.00 a share per year would be valued at $12.00. All things being equal, the more money a public company makes, the higher its stock price.

The Problem With Reality in 2014

By for Profit Confidential

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 to companies in the key stock indices and the profits they generate.

First, the U.S. economy is very, very weak. While we saw negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first quarter of this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just downgraded its U.S. economic projection. The IMF now expects the U.S. economy to grow by just 1.7% in 2014. (Source: International Monetary Fund, July 24, 2014.) One more … Read More

This Is Odd…

By for Profit Confidential

Demand for Stocks Outweighs Supply at This PointOne of the oddest things to happen with the stock market since it has recovered is that the number of shares trading hands each day has slowly disappeared.

In the table that I have created for you below, I list the trading volume for the S&P 500 for each June since 2009 and the percentage change in volume from the previous June.

Trading volume on the S&P 500 has dropped 60% since 2009!

Trading Volume, S&P 500, June of Each Year, 2009 – 2014

Year Volume (Shares Traded Per Month) Year-Over-Year % Change
June 2009 93,147,496,448
June 2010 91,971,043,328 -1.3%
June 2011 63,674,499,072 -30.8%
June 2012 59,703,365,632 -6.2%
June 2013 51,560,980,480 -13.6%
June 2014 38,765,629,440 -24.8%

Data source: www.StockCharts.com, last accessed July 1, 2014

What’s happening here? How can the stock market rise year after year if trading volume is down?

It’s very simple, but I’ll explain this new phenomenon in a moment. First, look at the chart of the S&P 500 below. Pay close attention to the volume at the bottom of the chart. As volume on the S&P 500 collapsed, the price of the index rose.

S&P 500 Large Cap Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Volume is collapsing because the number of shares companies have outstanding is being reduced at an accelerated rate. For example, in the first quarter of 2014, S&P 500 companies purchased $154.5 billion worth of their shares back (stock buyback programs). Over the trailing 12 months, S&P 500 companies purchased more than half-a-trillion-dollars worth of their own shares—$535.2 billion to be exact. (Source: FactSet, June 18, 2014.)

Add to the shrinking number of shares outstanding the fact that central … Read More

These Safest Names Still Offer the Best Returns

By for Profit Confidential

Same Old Trend to Continue Despite Improved Earnings NumbersThe earnings are beginning to flow and it’s a total mixed bag out there again.

Carnival Corporation (CCL) beat the Street with its second-quarter numbers, with cruise line sales growing four percent over the second quarter of 2013.

Guidance, however, was mediocre and the position sold off on its earnings results.

Walgreen Co. (WAG) has been very strong on the stock market over the last 12 months. The drugstore chain produced a six-percent gain in sales to $19.4 billion, and a 16% gain in earnings to $722 million.

But the company is getting squeezed both by health insurers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, so its business model is getting pressured.

Walgreen is considering reincorporating overseas to reduce its tax burden, but it won’t have details on any potential plan until later in the summer. The stock went up on the news.

Second-quarter earnings results were actually a bit better than expected and once we get into blue chip numbers, I think the market will be a bit more appeased.

It is important to remember where stocks are coming from. It’s been an exceptionally good last few years for equities; 2013 was outstanding.

The first quarter was a tough one, both due to the weather and general business cycle conditions. The market isn’t expecting second-quarter numbers to be strong, and that goes for both gross domestic product (GDP) and corporate earnings.

All that corporations have to do is meet or beat on one financial metric and either affirm or improve existing full-year guidance. With this backdrop, institutional investors will keep buying.

Monsanto Company (MON) soared to a record 52-week high after releasing a … Read More

Guess Who Is Pushing the Stock Market Higher Now

By for Profit Confidential

So That's Why Stocks Have Been Moving Higher…When I look at the stock market, I ask who in their right mind would buy stocks?

While key stock market indices creep higher, the fundamentals suggest the complete opposite. But despite valuations being stretched, insiders selling, corporate revenue growth being non-existent, and the U.S. economy contracting in the first quarter of this year, the S&P 500 is up seven percent since the beginning of 2014, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is getting closer to the 17,000 level, and the NASDAQ is back above 4,000.

As I have written before, a company can buy back its stock to prop up per-share earnings or cut expenses to improve the bottom line, but if revenue isn’t growing, there is a problem. In the first quarter of 2014, only 54% of S&P 500 companies were able to grow their revenue. (Source: FactSet, June 13, 2014.)

Going forward, things aren’t looking bright either. For the second quarter of 2014, 82 S&P 500 companies have already provided negative guidance for their corporate earnings. I expect this number to climb higher.

And consumer spending, the driver of the U.S. economy, is very weak, as evidenced by negative gross domestic product (GDP) in the U.S. economy in the first quarter of this year.

So if the overall environment is negative for the equities, who is buying stocks and pushing the stock market higher?

The answer (something I suspected some time ago): central banks are buying stocks.

A study done by the Official Monetary and Financial Institution Forum (OMFIF) called Global Public Investors 2014, states that central banks and public institutions around the world have gotten involved … Read More

Top Tech Cycle Play with Even More Legs

By for Profit Confidential

Will This Company Make It as a Long-Term Cycle PlayOracle Corp. (ORCL) reports on Thursday and it’s one of the first large corporations to do so this reporting season. Second-quarter earnings season is just about here, and it’s exactly what the stock market needs now.

The lull between earning seasons can make for some wacky trading action. Often trading volume diminishes and from a business perspective, what you want from a company you’re thinking about investing in (or divesting) is its most recent numbers.

I thought that first-quarter earnings season was pretty decent, and I think companies will surprise the marketplace again for the second quarter.

A couple of trends that emerged in the first quarter was that European operations of large multinationals showed improvement comparatively, and that’s important for these super big companies that do business in developed markets.

The other trend was that currency instability held back corporate earnings. In many cases I read reports where the bottom-line would’ve been one to three percent higher if it weren’t for major devaluations in developing economies with large populations. Of course, this is an ongoing investment risk that any multinational is going to face and as an investor, there really isn’t anything you can do about it.

It will be worthwhile perusing Oracle’s upcoming earnings report; it’s the company’s fourth fiscal quarter of 2014.

Oracle is a company that I’ve liked for a number of years as an investment-grade equity security for long-term investors. But the business does experience periods of stagnant growth. (See “Another Earnings Season Suggests Another Quarter of Slow Growth Ahead.”)

I was enthusiastic about this position early last year as a long-term cycle … Read More

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