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

Equity Market

An equity market refers is an organized secondary financial market where shares of common and preferred stock of corporations are traded. These shares typically trade on a stock exchange, which are now mostly virtual in nature. An equity market is the same as a stock market.

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

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

What the Fear Index Is Telling Us About Stocks Now

By for Profit Confidential

Why This Stock Market Rout Is Here to StayOver the past few months, I warned my readers the stock market had become a risky place to be. While I also suggested euphoria could bring the market higher than most thought possible—to the point of irrationality—the bubble has now burst. Key stock indices are falling and fear among investors is rising quickly.

Please look at the chart below of the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX). This index is often referred to as the “fear index” for key stock indices. If this index rises, it means investors fear a market sell-off. If it declines, investors are complacent and not worried about the stock market falling.

Volatility Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

In just the last 18 trading days (between September 19 and October 15), the VIX has jumped 122% and now stands at the highest level since mid-2012. It has also moved way beyond its 50-day and 200-day moving averages, which shows strength and momentum to the upside from a technical perspective.

Sadly, the VIX isn’t the only indicator telling us that investors don’t want to be in the stock market. Below you’ll find the NAAIM Exposure Index chart, a measure of equity exposure of active money managers (the so-called smart money).

NAAM Exposuer Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Active money managers continue to reduce their exposure to equities as key stock indices fall. On September 2, 82% of their collective portfolios were exposed to the stock market. Now, it’s only 33%. This represents a decline of 60% in their equity market exposure.

On the fundamental front, the stock market is constrained as well. Each day, we are seeing deteriorating economic data … Read More

Plunging Oil Prices Next Big Investment Opportunity?

By for Profit Confidential

Declining Oil Prices the Market’s CatalystWhile corporate earnings continue to come in solid, stocks continue to be sold.

It’s not all the time that stocks follow oil prices, but they certainly have this time around and the selling momentum has gained on deflationary pressures from producer prices to declining expectations for global economic growth.

And the selling is happening to companies that beat consensus with their earnings, like J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. (JBHT), which beat Wall Street estimates for sales and earnings in what was a very solid quarter for the trucking company.

For J.B. Hunt, sentiment just wasn’t strong enough to carry the stock materially higher, even in the face of declining prices for diesel fuel, which is a big bonus for that company’s bottom-line.

The autumn sell-off also flies in the face of reduced pressure on the Federal Reserve to begin raising rates as recent data shows a softening of economic activity on a global basis.

If oil was the catalyst and economic data the accelerator, it’s important to remember where stocks have come from. The equity market has been due for a material correction for a number of quarters. It didn’t even need a reason for a correction only because share prices have come so far over the last several years.

The breakdown in oil prices has been truly spectacular and is now seriously affecting the business case for many energy producers.

And the breakdown isn’t just due to increasing domestic production; it’s a breakdown in sentiment based on declining expectations for the global economy.

So stocks have sold off and they may go further, but a five to 10% price … 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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