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

Monetary Policy

Monetary policy is the mechanism through which the supply of money is controlled by monetary authorities. The goal of almost every monetary authority around the world is stability of prices. If prices are unstable—either too high or, in some circumstances, decreasing—this causes unforeseen and unwanted consequences for the economy as a whole. Monetary authorities usually enact changes to interest rates for the purpose of changing the demand for money. Monetary policy can be either expanding, when interest rates are lowered and more money is available at a cheaper, or contracting, when interest rates are raised to make money more expensive to slow price increases.

Why I Expect a Big Boost in This Company’s 2015 Dividend Payout

By for Profit Confidential

Company 2015 Dividend PayoutEven with the recent price retrenchment, there’s not a lot of value circulating in this stock market. Everything’s already gone up and the capital gains have been great the last few years. But it’s still a slow-growth environment in the global economy, and despite a very accommodative monetary policy, stocks can’t go up forever without experiencing a meaningful retrenchment.

Company earnings are pouring in and there have been some disappointments. But for a lot of mature large-cap businesses, this is a reflection of their industries’ cycles. Large companies in mature industries don’t grow by very much more than the low single-digits.

Which is why a company’s dividends are so important in a stock market that’s at a high but offering little value.

It’s difficult to imagine stocks this year serving up double-digit returns on the back of 2013’s standout performance.

And investor sentiment has changed, too, with oil prices being the catalyst for the recent “deflation worry” sell-off. (See “Is This Stock Sell-Off Just a Blip?”)

The stock market’s existing winners are the way to go going into 2015. There’s plenty of cash in company coffers for more dividends and more share repurchases. It’s a formula that’s worked for large corporations over the last several years, and there’s no reason why it won’t keep working in a slow-growth environment.

Texas Instruments Incorporated (TXN) had a good quarter. The company beat Wall Street consensus, producing substantial double-digit gains in comparable earnings on eight-percent year-over-year revenue growth.

Texas Instruments achieved a new record in gross margin as both analog and embedded processors (which comprise just over 80% of the company’s total sales) … 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

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

What Recovery?

By for Profit Confidential

The Biggest Boom in the U.S. EconomyAccording to Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, “More jobs have now been created in the recovery than were lost in the downturn… the unemployment rate, at 6.2% in July, has declined nearly 4 percentage points from its late 2009 peak.” (Source: “Labor Market Dynamics and Monetary Policy,” Federal Reserve, August 22, 2014.)

Great news, right? On the surface, yes. But when you look closer at the numbers, the jobs market paints a very different picture as to what is going on in this country.

Prior to the Great Recession, in January of 2007, there were 4.24 million Americans who were working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time work. In July of this year, the number of Americans working part-time (because they couldn’t find full-time work) was 76% higher at 7.51 million. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed August 25, 2014.)

The boom in the jobs market has been in part-time work! How do you feed a family with part-time employment?

But the jobs market misery doesn’t end there…

In January of 2007, the average duration of unemployment in the U.S. economy was 16.3 weeks. In July of 2014, this number stood at 32.4 weeks. Once unemployed today, people are taking over seven months to find another job—double the time it took to find a job before the Great Recession. (Source: Ibid.)

And let’s not forget that the “official” government unemployment numbers exclude those people who have given up looking for work. If we look at the jobs market and include those people who have given up looking for work and those who have part-time jobs because … Read More

With Stocks Still Near Their Highs, What Should Your Priority Be?

By for Profit Confidential

One Key Index Close to Breaking This MarketThe Dow Jones Transportation Average is close to breaking its 50-day simple moving average. This, in itself, is not the end of the world; it did so most recently in April and recovered nicely.

But it is worth keeping an eye on, especially because the stock market is looking so tired right now.

Earnings are still streaming in and are generally okay. But there’s diminishing momentum. If the broader market opens up on positive news, on many days, it’s not able to sustain the gains. This is indicative of a stock market due for a break.

Summer action is typically slower, and while a 10% stock market correction would make it easier to put new money to work, the investing guide should be corporate outlooks—and they are pretty good going into 2015.

With Federal Reserve certainty, which includes diminishing quantitative easing and a very low interest rate environment going into 2015, the stock market is well informed regarding monetary policy.

Balance sheets remain in excellent condition, especially among blue chips, and the NASDAQ Composite is maintaining its leadership relative to the other benchmarks, which resumed about one year ago.

While the stock market has definitely earned a meaningful break, it very well could turn out to be another positive year with high single-digit returns, not including dividends. This is on the back of an exceptionally good year in 2013—a breakout year from what I view as the previous long-run cycle, that being a 12-year recovery period for the stock market.

But with this fundamental backdrop, I still view investment risk as being high and that quality is something that equity … Read More

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