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

Stocks

Stocks are any equity securities traded on a stock exchange, the value of which fluctuates due to the supply and demand for such securities. Stocks are often grouped in a specific sector and can be viewed as representative of the broader marketplace.

Due to the subprime mortgage-related financial crisis of 2008/2009, stocks dropped significantly in value and the entire global financial system was at risk of collapse. Only after dramatic intervention by central banks around the world were stocks able to stabilize after the shock.

The financial crisis caused the Great Recession in the Main Street economy. Stocks hit a low in March of 2009.

With dramatic monetary policy intervention, stocks recovered from their collapse and were able to move up strongly thereafter. The last two years in particular produced strong capital gains for equity investors. Stocks today are vulnerable to another correction because of this recent price strength.

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 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

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

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

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