Long-time readers of this column know of my affinity for following bellwether stocks. When a company gets to such a large critical mass, it really becomes representative of what’s happening in an industry. It’s also a great way to read the “corporate economy.”
The corporate economy isn’t really what’s happening in the Main Street economy. It’s more the systemic activity inherent in an organization, the sole purpose of which is to maximize profits. In spite of the broad weakness in the Main Street economy, many corporations are able to generate excellent financial growth. This is because their operations are so lean and so well managed that they are easily able to adapt to fast changes in consumer sentiment.
Case in point: The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE/PG). This stock is down about 10 points from its all-time high, but if you pull up a one- and five-chart on the stock, you’ll see that this company’s track record of wealth creation has been very remarkable.
In the first quarter of 2008, the companys revenues grew to almost twenty-and-a-half billion dollars, up some 9.5% from revenues of almost nineteen billion dollars in the first quarter of 2007. Frankly, a 9.5% increase in sales from a company this large is just plain impressive.
Earnings in the first quarter beat Wall Street expectations, with net income coming in at $2.71 billion, or $0.82 per share, as compared with net income of $2.51 billion, or $0.74 per share, in the comparable quarter.
P&G is a bellwether stock that I always follow. This company’s first quarter numbers were really good when you consider the weakness being experienced in most other industries around the country.
In 2000, P&G reported financial results that were well below Street expectations and the stock dropped by half in a short period of time. It took five years for the stock to recover to its previous all-time high. Looking back, it really was the investing opportunity of the century.