An economic slowdown is a contraction in the economy. This can be viewed by using several indicators, including lower gross domestic product (GDP), higher unemployment, lower industrial production, lower business investment, a decline in retail sales, and a decrease in corporate profits. Not all of these factors need to be declining for an economic slowdown, but these are some of the main indications to watch for regarding the overall health of the economy. Some consider a recession to be occurring when there are two consecutive down quarters of gross domestic product (GDP). According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, a recession is “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real money, employment, industrial production and wholesale retail sales.”
You don’t often hear a lot about United Technologies Corporation (UTX) these days; it’s an old economy name that doesn’t seem to garner much attention from the media.
Nevertheless, the company that makes elevators, helicopters, airplane engines, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and fire/security systems continues to perform excellently. It’s a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the stock’s had an exceptional year. (See “The One Market Sector That’s Consistently Outperforming the Rest.”)
Approximately $17.0 billion of the company’s total sales in 2012 came from its “UTC Climate, Controls and Security” business. Next was “Pratt & Whitney” aircraft engines at $14.0 billion. “Otis” elevators and escalators brought in $12.0 billion in sales last year, followed by “UTC Aerospace Systems” at $8.3 billion and “Sikorsky” helicopters at $6.8 billion.
As a conglomerate with a strong constituent in aerospace, United Technologies has an excellent track record of increasing its dividends to stockholders.
In 2012, the company increased its common share dividend by a total of 11.5%, representing its 76th consecutive year of paying dividends. According to the company, from fiscal year-end 2002 to year-end 2012, United Technologies delivered a 225% total return to shareholders, which is more than double the total return of the DOW or S&P 500.
In 2008, the company paid out $1.35 in total dividends per share. By the end of last year, that figure was $2.03 per share.
Of the company’s total sales, 40% are in the U.S. market, followed by 26% in Europe and 20% in the Asia Pacific region.
Since the recession, United Technologies’ sales, earnings, and earnings per share … Read More
In late February, we took a look at Drew Industries Incorporated (DW) out of Elkhart, Indiana. The company is a major component supplier to the recreational vehicle (RV) market and also sells to the manufactured homes market.
The RV market has been experiencing a significant upswing in business conditions. Drew Industries’ total sales are 87% in the RV segment, and the company just reported another solid quarter of growth.
For the company, 2009 was a very tough year. Net sales dropped by more than $100 million compared to 2008, and the company incurred a major net loss. But business conditions turned around in 2010, and have been especially good over the last two years.
During the Great Recession, the company’s 2009 sales dropped to $398 million. By 2012, total sales were a record $901 million, which is a pretty significant turnaround for any business.
Last year Drew Industries returned $45.0 million to shareholders with a special cash dividend of $2.00 per share. Between 2001 and 2012, the company quadrupled its content per travel trailer and fifth-wheel RV. Drew Industries now operates 31 manufacturing facilities in 11 states.
Drew Industries’ five-year stock chart is featured below:
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Drew’s third quarter of 2013 also revealed continued economic growth. The company’s consolidated net sales grew 11% to $251 million. Earnings jumped significantly, growing 52% to $14.8 million, or $0.62 per fully diluted share. The company finished the third quarter with a solid gain in its cash position.
It’s great to see genuine new business growth in an old economy industry. Drew’s solid business execution is noteworthy, especially in an industry … Read More
If you are a stock market investor, you’ve probably come to the same realization I have: the stock market is behaving irrationally. These days, the fundamentals don’t really matter. What’s even more frustrating is that when you do talk about the fundamentals behind the market’s continued advance missing, you are ridiculed.
Soft revenues at public companies are just one area of concern. As of October 25, 244 companies on the S&P 500 have reported their third-quarter corporate earnings; only 52% of them registered revenues above the expectation, which means companies are selling less than they expected—not a good sign. Third-quarter corporate earnings growth is now expected to be just 2.3%. A month ago, the same number stood at an even three percent. (Source: FactSet, October 25, 2013.)
We are seeing some of the well-known bears of the stock market turning bullish. “Dr. Doom” is suggesting investing in stocks, and others like David Rosenberg, who has been bearish for years, are turning bullish.
Is this the peak optimism?
As it stands, investors believe the stock market is a safe place to be again. The charts of key stock indices only show an upward trajectory.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
What will happen once the euphoria comes crashing down again? After all, irrationality cannot go on forever.
The most recent and best example of a stock market crash we have is from the financial crisis of 2008. We saw key stock indices come down like a rock. That stock market crash wiped out consumer confidence. Those who were retiring and saving each dollar for their golden days (by investing in stocks) saw … Read More
I harp on about this over and over again: economic growth is when the average consumer is optimistic about their future; they are spending money, they know they will have a job tomorrow, and they are saving. In the U.S., we are seeing the opposite of all this.
In fact, consumer confidence in the U.S. continues to plummet; the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, an indicator of consumer spending, plunged more than 11% in October from September. (Source: Conference Board, October 29, 2013.)
But the misery doesn’t just end there for consumers in the U.S. economy. They are struggling to even buy the most basic of needs—food.
According to a recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2012, 17.6 million households in the U.S. economy were “food insecure”—they had difficulty bringing food to the table due to a shortage of resources. (Source: United States Department of Agriculture, September 2013.)
And as a result of so many Americans having trouble putting food on the table, it is costing taxpayers significantly. According to the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, over the last five years, the U.S. government has spent $3.7 trillion on 80 different poverty and welfare programs. The amount of money spent on these programs was five-times greater than combined spending on NASA, education, and all federal transportation projects over the time period. (Source: U.S. Senate Budget Committee, October 23, 2013.)
When I look at all these statistics showing how Americans are suffering, talk of economic growth or economic recovery just doesn’t sit well with me. I tend to focus on facts, rather than the noise. The noise … Read More
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