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

Earnings Season

Public companies, firms that have their shares trade on an exchange, must make their financial reports available for investors to research every quarter, or four times a year. In an earnings report, a firm must supply revenue, expenses, net income, earnings per share, income statement details, cash flow, and balance sheet. Usually the months following the quarter-end are busiest, as this is when most companies will report their earnings.

An earnings season refers to the time period in which public companies report their audited or unaudited financial results as required by law. This typically occurs at the end of each calendar quarter, four times a year, including year-end numbers.

In recent earnings seasons, corporate reporting has shown solid financial performances, especially from large-cap blue chip companies. The standout in their financial reports over the last three earnings seasons is their strong balance sheets with large cash positions.

3Q14 Earnings Results Suggest Strength into 2015?

By for Profit Confidential

3Q14 Earnings Results Suggest Strength into 2015Corporate earnings are flooding in, and while there are always disappointments—typically in not meeting Wall Street expectations—the numbers are pretty good.

The stock market was relieved when conglomerates started reporting. 3M Company (MMM) saw its share price pop almost five percent higher after beating estimates and reporting a solid improvement in U.S. market demand.

I continue to like this position for long-term, income-seeking investors. (See “Off-the-Radar Company Delivering Attractive Earnings.”)

The company reported record third-quarter sales growing a modest 2.8% comparatively to $8.1 billion, with local currency sales growing 3.9% and acquisitions adding 0.1% to sales.

Currency translation, which is a big issue for any company with international operations, reduced third-quarter revenues by about 1.2%, according to the company.

Net income came to $1.3 billion, or $1.98 per share, representing an 11% gain over the same quarter last year with operating margins exceeding 22% in all of the company’s operating subsidiaries.

It was a very good quarter for 3M Company. It’s important to remember that this is a mature conglomerate, so nobody is expecting double-digit top-line growth in this environment.

Still, the bottom line was impressive along with management tightening its 2014 earnings range to between $7.40 and $7.50 per share from the previous $7.30 to $7.55 per share.

Also jumping on the stock market after announcing its financial results was Alaska Air Group, Inc. (ALK). The company is up almost seven percent after reporting a record third quarter.

This airline has been a very hot stock over the last five years. Passenger revenues in the third quarter grew a solid seven percent over last year. Excluding some one-time items, … Read More

Crushed Oil Sector a Profitable Opportunity?

By for Profit Confidential

Crushed Oil Sector

The big news so far this earnings season isn’t corporate financial results but the price of oil, which continues to be under pressure.

Domestic production has finally caught up to spot prices and combined with reduced expectations for the global economy, oil prices continue to be vulnerable.

Resource investing is inherently volatile; risk related to commodity-based investing is always higher. But as oil prices have given oil stocks a well-deserved buzz-cut, value is appearing, which is not a common trait in today’s stock market.

There are countless growth stories in domestic oil and gas production. The smaller-cap growth stories have been expensively priced for a considerable period of time. They just got a big haircut as well, and all of a sudden, they are much more fairly priced.

For quite some time, oil prices held firm just over the $100.00-per-barrel level, which makes the recent drop all the more momentous. Conspiracy theories abound.

Some of the best opportunities when oil bottoms, I believe, will be in the large-cap space, but it’s important to consider that the price of oil is currently in “turmoil”—it can’t, in a sense, be counted on near-term.

One company that’s a standout in the current environment is Kinder Morgan, Inc. (KMI), which is going through a major corporate reorganization. Acquiring its related master limited partnership (MLP) entities, it is now the fourth-largest domestic oil company by market capitalization.

This corporate reorganization is a rejection of the MLP business model, but also an opportunity for management to shed non-core assets. (See “This Company’s $70.0-Billion Acquisition a Boon for Investors.”)

What I like about Kinder Morgan is that … Read More

Why This Company Is a Consistent Winner for Investors

By for Profit Confidential

One Company That’s Proven It Can Adapt to the MarketplaceAmid all the turmoil in capital markets, I’m reminded of all the good corporate earnings being released.

Of course, the stock market is a system of discounting future business conditions and the recent sell-off has been pronounced, but stocks have come so far over the last several years. If the catalysts were deflationary pressures among oil prices and global economic activity, a little haircut in share prices is well deserved.

One of the first businesses to show a real turnaround after the financial crisis sent stocks and the economy tanking was Winnebago Industries, Inc. (WGO).

The first thing that dries up when there’s a shock to the economy is spending on luxury items and/or non-essential products. Likewise, the recreational vehicle market is very sensitive to prevailing economic conditions. For a number of years now, however, Winnebago Industries has been on a turnaround roll.

Based in Forest City, Iowa, the company’s fourth fiscal quarter of 2014 (ended August 30, 2014) saw revenues improve a solid 15% to $246 million, up from $214 million in the same quarter last year.

The company reported that it experienced a 15% improvement in total motorhome sales. A 25% comparable gain in motorhome unit growth was offset by lower average selling prices.

Earnings came in solid with management noting particular bottom-line strength in towable recreational vehicles. Total fourth-quarter operating earnings grew 19% to $18.3 million. Net earnings grew to $12.9 million for a comparable quarterly gain of 22%, while net earnings per diluted share improved 26% to $0.48.

All in all, it was another very good financial report from Winnebago Industries and the company just reinstated … Read More

Is This Stock Sell-Off Just a Blip?

By for Profit Confidential

Is This Stock Sell-Off Just a BlipIf there’s one thing the stock market needs, it’s a distraction from global growth worries and geopolitical events. And corporate earnings are the ticket for that as this season’s numbers are starting to pour in.

Pharmaceutical benchmark Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) once again beat Wall Street consensus, generating another good quarter of both sales and earnings growth.

The company completed a major divestiture of its ortho-clinical diagnostics division during its latest quarter; even so, it was able to generate domestic sales growth of 11.6% over the same quarter last year. Total consolidated sales grew 5.1% to $18.5 billion. Excluding the impact of the company’s recent divestiture, domestic sales would have increased 14.8% comparatively.

Excluding gains, litigation accrual, tax adjustments, and integration costs from the large acquisition of Synthes, Inc., Johnson & Johnson’s bottom-line earnings grew 9.5% to $4.5 billion, or 10.3% to $1.50 on a diluted earnings-per-share basis.

Once again, global pharmaceutical sales, including over-the-counter products, were the driver of growth, up 18.1% over the same quarter last year.

Johnson & Johnson clearly continues to have operational momentum. Positive price action in the stock may be slow near-term commensurate with the broader market, but this company is still delivering the goods.

Management increased its full-year earnings guidance and a $5.0-billion share repurchase program is still available at their discretion.

Another big-name corporation reporting solid earnings results was Wells Fargo & Company (WFC), the largest U.S. mortgage lender. The company beat Street consensus on revenues and matched the earnings estimate.

And Citigroup Inc. (C) experienced a big increase in its revenues, too, coming in at $19.6 billion, up from $17.9 billion. … Read More

Off-the-Radar Company Delivering Attractive Earnings

By for Profit Confidential

One Off-the-Radar Company with Attractive ResultsOn the day that the DOW, S&P 500, and NASDAQ Composite dropped two percent on global growth worries, once again, several companies reported very good numbers.

But investors are paying less attention to corporate results and more attention to economic news from around the world that suggests that the only mature economic engine running at any positive speed currently is the U.S. economy.

PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) had another good quarter. The company’s two businesses, food/snacks and beverages, produced modest single-digit growth in consolidated sales.

Net earnings grew five percent, while earnings per share grew seven percent over the third quarter last year. Management also increased its expected constant currency earnings-per-share growth for this year from eight to nine percent.

The company expects to return a total of some $8.7 billion to shareholders this year, comprising approximately $3.7 billion in dividends and $5.0 billion in share buybacks.

PepsiCo is on track to deliver what investors expect. The stock just hit a new all-time record-high still with a 2.8% dividend yield.

Getting into third-quarter earnings season a little further should help focus the stock market’s attention but clearly, sentiment has really turned.

If the trading action continues to wane, good businesses are going to become more attractively priced and equity investors looking for new positions will have better choices.

I do believe that for the investment risk, sticking with existing winners is a good strategy regarding large-cap, dividend-paying blue chips.

Dividend income really matters in a slow-growth environment, and corporations would still rather return cash than take on major new ventures.

Previously in these pages, I’ve written that for long-term investors, I … Read More

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