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

Dow Jones Industrial Average

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a weighted index representing the stock price action of 30 of the largest U.S. corporations. The world’s most widely followed stock market index, the DJIA was created on May 26, 1896 by Charles Dow and Edward Jones. When it was first launched, the Dow Jones stood at 40.94.

The DJIA is calculated by taking the average price of the listed stocks and dividing that figure by a number called the divisor. The divisor is there to take into account stock splits and mergers, and it changes frequently.

Much broader U.S. stock market indexes have since been created, including the S&P 500 index (which monitors the stock prices of the top 500 U.S. corporations); and the Wilshire 5000 (an index based on the market capitalization of 4,100 stocks actively traded in the U.S.).

The earnings and revenues of large corporations are often leading economic indicators. Hence, economists often look at the DJIA as an indicator of economic activity. If the index is hitting new highs, economic activity can be expected to be brisk in the next six months. Comparatively, if the index is falling to new lows, poor economic times could lie ahead. When news sources declare the markets up or down, they are generally referring to the DJIA.

What does it take to get included on the DJIA? There are no specific rules for inclusion; rather, there is a set of broad guidelines that require large, respected, substantial enterprises that represent a significant portion of the economic activity in the United States.

When the DJIA was launched, the index comprised 12 industrial companies.

Most of the original companies listed on the Dow are still in existence, though, after 100 years, not necessarily in the same form. Early industrial companies included: American Cotton Oil, American Tobacco, Chicago Gas, Tennessee Coal Iron and RR, U.S. Leather, and United States Rubber. The only component still trading in its original form and currently on the DJIA is General Electric Company (NYSE/GE).

In 1916, the DJIA was updated to 20 stocks. Some of the new companies included: American Beet Sugar, American Locomotive, Goodrich, Republic Iron & Steel, Studebaker, Westinghouse, and The Western Union Company (NYSE/WU).

The DJIA reached its current 30 components in 1928. The 30 companies occasionally changed to adapt to the evolving market.

During the stock market crash of 1929, the DJIA lost nearly 90% of its peak value, and would not surpass that (inflation-adjusted) peak again until 1954.

The Dow first passed the 1,000 mark in November 1972; it crossed 10,000 for the first time on March 29, 1999. This growth trend would extend into the 1990s. At the turn of the millennium, the average began to level off near 10,500.

On October 9, 2007, the DJIA peaked at 14,165. This was followed by the 2008 financial crisis. On March 9, 2009, the Dow Jones index hit bottom at 6,547, or 55% below its October 2007 high.

After March 9, 2009, the Dow Jones began another bull run after investors, for better or for worse, accepted that the Federal Government and Quantitative Easing had stopped another Great Depression.

Since May 26, 1896, the Dow Jones list of companies has been reconfigured 49 times. Most recently, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. (NASDAQ/KRFT) was removed from the list in favor of UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (NYSE/UNH).

A broader index than the name implies, the most recent configuration of the DJIA includes: Bank of America Corporation (NYSE/BAC), Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE/CAT), E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (NYSE/DD), Exxon Mobile Corporation (NYSE/XOM), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE/JPM), International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE/IBM), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ/MSFT), The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE/PG), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT), and The Walt Disney Company (NYSE/DIS).

There are several ways in which investors can trade the bull and bear markets on the DJIA. Several equities are designed to trade at par with or on the inverse of the DJIA. Investors can also purchase futures and options through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE).

The Nine-Month Check-Up

By for Profit Confidential

Nine-Month Check-UpWith nine months behind us this year, today we look at how two popular forms of investment have done in 2014 and where I think they are headed for the remainder of the year.

Starting with stocks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed yesterday up 2.8% for the year. Given the risk of the stock market, 2.8% is no big gain. I wrote at the beginning of 2014 that the return on stocks would not be worth the risk this year. I was on the money. When we look at the broad market, the Russell 2000 Index is down 5.4% for the year.

Going forward, as you know as a reader of Profit Confidential, I see stocks as risky. Plain and simple, stocks are overpriced in an environment where the Federal Reserve is putting the brakes on paper money printing and is warning that interest rates are going higher.

On a typical day, I see the Dow Jones up 100 points; the next day, it’s down 100 points. This is happening in an environment where trading volume has collapsed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see October deliver us a nasty stock market crash.

Moving to gold (and this is very interesting), gold is flat for the year in U.S. dollars. But if we look at gold in Japanese yen, gold is up 4.6% for 2014. If we look at gold in Canadian dollars, bullion is up 4.6% as well this year. And if we measure gold in euros, we find gold bullion prices are up 10.4% in 2014.

What explains this?

Yesterday, the U.S. dollar hit another six-year high … Read More

About That 500% Jump in Interest Rates…

By for Profit Confidential

Economy and Stock Market Handle a Five-Fold Jump in RatesThe verdict is in…

Last week, at the end of its regularly scheduled meeting, the Federal Reserve said:

1)      It would continue to reduce the amount of money it creates each month. The Fed said it will be out of the money printing business by the end of this year. By that time, the Federal Reserve will have created more than $4.0 trillion new American dollars (out of thin air).

2)      And when the Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities the Fed has bought mature, they will roll them over—which means they will just continue collecting interest on the securities they bought as opposed to taking the cash when they mature. (Source: “Press Release,” Federal Reserve, September 17, 2014.) I doubt the Fed has any choice on this. If the Fed doesn’t roll over the Treasuries it has bought, who would buy them when they hit the market?

The Federal Reserve also provided its economic projection on where it expects the federal funds rate, the key U.S. interest rate, to be down the road:

1)      The central bank believes the U.S. economy will grow between two percent and 2.2% in 2014, then grow in the range of 2.6% to three percent in 2015. From there, it goes downhill. In 2016, the Federal Reserve projects more of the same—U.S. economic growth of between 2.6% and 2.9%. In 2017, the U.S. growth rate is projected to be sluggish and in the range of 2.3% to 2.5%. (Source: “Economic Projections,” Federal Reserve, September 17, 2014.) Hence, we are looking at four more years of slow growth.

2)      A majority of the members of the Federal … Read More

What This Company’s Earnings Say About the Broader Market

By for Profit Confidential

Company’s Earnings Say About the Broader MarketFedEx Corporation (FDX) just bounced off a new record-high on the stock market and is an important component of the Dow Jones Transportation Average.

In its fiscal first quarter of 2015 (ended August 31, 2014), the company’s sales and earnings surged. It was a great quarter and a strong indicator for the rest of the market.

Total revenues grew six percent to $11.7 billion. This may not sound like a lot of growth, but it is for such a mature enterprise in a very competitive industry.

But the big news was the company’s strong earnings growth. Net income grew 24% over the same quarter last year to $606 million. Diluted earnings per share grew 37% to $2.10, of which $0.15 per share of the total was due to share repurchases during the quarter. The company bought back 5.3 million of its own common shares in its fiscal first quarter and no shares remain now under existing repurchase authorization.

Each of the company’s three main operating divisions posted solid gains in revenues and operating earnings.

Higher rates are not affecting demand. In fact, FedEx is experiencing higher revenue per package including increases in residential and fuel surcharges, and this is going right to the bottom-line. And rates are going up by an average of 4.9% at the beginning of 2015 for FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, and FedEx Freight, which cover most of North America, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What the company didn’t do in its latest earnings report was increase its existing financial guidance for fiscal 2015. But this isn’t unusual for management to underplay their … Read More

Eight Stocks to Beat the Street

By for Profit Confidential

How Investors Can Beat the StreetCountless stocks are pushing new highs and a lot of them are still blue chips. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is lagging the other indices this year, but this is not unusual.

The fact that many blue chips are still slogging higher is further indication of a bull market, despite all the shocks, risks, and the fact that stocks haven’t experienced a real correction for a number of years now.

PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) had a great second quarter (for such a mature brand). The company increased its quarterly dividend once again and Wall Street earnings estimates for this year and next have been going up across the board.

What large corporations and well-known business brands say about their operating conditions is as useful as any other kind of information or opinion regarding the equity market. Stocks get overvalued and undervalued, but the best investing information I’ve found is what corporations actually report about their businesses, regardless of whether a company meets, beats, or comes in below consensus.

What Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) says about its global heavy equipment sales is material information, even if you aren’t interested in buying the stock. The same goes for Intel Corporation (INTC), The Boeing Company (BA), Visa Inc. (V), and The Walt Disney Company (DIS).

Second-quarter earnings season came in better than expected, and while many blue chips reiterated their existing guidance, I suspect it’s a simple strategy to make it easier to beat the Street by keeping expectations modest.

It could easily be another great year for stocks with a fundamental backdrop that is still so favorable to equities. And this includes the reality … Read More

History Repeats: Car Loans to People Who Don’t Qualify?

By for Profit Confidential

Sharp Rise in Auto Loan Delinquencies ConcerningBetween the first quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2014, auto sales in the U.S. economy have increased 16%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed August 21, 2014.) And auto sales this year have been stellar, too. In July, auto sales reached the highest level since 2007 and are up eight percent from this past January. (Source: Motor Intelligence, last accessed August 21, 2014.)

As auto sales have risen, auto loans have increased as well. In the first quarter of 2012, auto loans amounted to $737 billion; now they are just short of $1.0 trillion. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York web site, last accessed August 21, 2014.)

More auto sales, more auto loans; sounds right. But the problem is that more and more cars are being sold to individuals with bad credit scores.

Looking at it percentage-wise, the amount of auto loans to people with poor credit scores is much higher than to those with good credit scores. As an example, in the second quarter of 2014, $20.6 billion in new auto loans were issued to those with a credit score below 620. That’s an increase of 33% to this group from the first quarter of 2012.

Meanwhile, auto loans to those who have credit scores above 760, called super-prime customers, only increased 17% over the same period.

Now, here comes the kicker…

In the second quarter of 2014, 15.1% of all auto loans originated in the U.S. economy were delinquent for more than 30 days. That’s a 44% jump in auto loan delinquencies from the first quarter of 2012. … Read More

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