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

Posts Tagged ‘corporate earnings’

The Economy: What Will Break the Camel’s Back This Year

By for Profit Confidential

Baltic Dry Index Collapses Again; Not a Good Sign for EconomyThe International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered its growth forecast for the global economy. It says the world economy will now grow by 3.6% in 2014 and 3.9% in 2015; it grew at three percent in 2013. (Source: International Monetary Fund, April 8, 2014.)

I see the IMF forecast on global growth as being far too optimistic. In fact, I think we’d be lucky to get three percent growth in the global economy this year. Key indicators I follow suggest demand in the global economy is close to outright collapsing.

Consider the chart below of the Baltic Dry Index (BDI). This index tracks the shipping prices of dry goods in the global economy. If it declines, it suggests global demand is declining. The BDI has plunged more than 48% since the beginning of the year, pointing to slow growth for the global economy ahead.

Battic Dry Index Chart Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Manufacturing is another indicator of demand in the global economy that we follow. If manufacturing activity increases, it means demand is increasing and that consumers are buying more. Sadly, global manufacturing is suggesting an economic slowdown is the most likely scenario ahead.

The JPMorgan Global Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index declined to its lowest level in five months in March. (Source: Markit, April 1, 2014.)

Adding to the misery, most economic hubs are telling the same tale.

The eurozone is still in trouble; the European Central Bank is contemplating its own quantitative easing program as Italy just reported its highest unemployment rate ever recorded. China is pumping out weak economic data. Japan’s economic slowdown isn’t taking any break despite the central bank … Read More

One in Five Companies Warning on Earnings?

By for Profit Confidential

All of a Sudden, Quarterly Corporate Earnings Are in TroubleTraditionally, the first big American public company to kick off each new corporate earnings season is Alcoa Inc. (NYSE/AA). For the current quarter, Alcoa reported a net loss of $178 million, or $0.16 per diluted share. The company stated it had some special restructuring costs in the quarter; if you were to exclude them, its corporate earnings were $0.09 per share. (Source: Alcoa Inc., April 8, 2014.)

As usual, investors grasping for any good news as a reason to push stock prices higher didn’t hold back. The chart below shows what happened as soon as the market for Alcoa shares opened after its corporate earnings release.

Alcoa Inc ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Alcoa’s stock prices gapped up almost five percent on its news that “it lost money but really didn’t lose money if restructuring charges were excluded.”

But how did Alcoa really do? The first thing I would do as an investor is see if sales at Alcoa are rising. In this case, Alcoa reported its revenue fell 6.5% in the quarter from the same quarter last year.

Then I would look at stock buybacks. Did Alcoa buy back any of its stock in the quarter that would have the effect of boosting its quarterly per-share earnings? Well, lo and behold, in the first quarter, the number of Alcoa’s diluted shares declined by more than five percent!

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Alcoa shares are a sell. In fact, I don’t follow the company at all. But when I see the stock market pushing the stock price of a company higher despite the company reporting a corporate earnings loss, … Read More

One-Third of S&P 500 Companies Report No Revenue Growth

By for Profit Confidential

Why This Is Such a Risky Stock MarketThose who follow the stock market closely know that on days when we hear the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve speak and she mentions something about “easing” or how the central bank will continue to use its “extraordinary measures” for a long period of time, the stock market jumps.

I’ve talked about this phenomenon many times in these pages. Another example of this happened on March 31, when the Fed chairwoman spoke in Chicago. Please see the chart below. It’s a minute stock chart of the S&P 500. I’ve circled a rough area around the time when Janet Yellen spoke.

 SPX S&P 500 Large Cap Index ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

As she spoke more of that “easing” talk, the stock market jumped, as usual.

So it has come to the point where the stock market rises when it hears the Fed will keep interest rates artificially low for a prolonged period of time and when a poor jobs report comes out (like last Friday morning’s), saying jobs have been created in spite of the fact that there is a heavy concentration of jobs growth in low-paying sectors and millions of people have given up looking for work.

In other words, we have reached the point where the stock market takes any news as a reason to move higher; this is characteristic of a market top.

When we look at the fundamentals of the stock market, we see companies in the S&P 500 are using financial engineering to boost per-share earnings. These companies have bought back their shares and have been cutting costs to boost profits as revenue growth just isn’t there anymore.

The proof? In the … Read More

Just How Stupid Do Public Companies Think Investors Are?

By for Profit Confidential

When All Else Fails to Explain Declining Earnings, Blame the WeatherAccording to FactSet, between January 1 and mid-March of this year, 195 of the S&P 500 companies have used the word “weather” in some manner in their conference calls. This is 81% higher than the same period a year ago, when 108 of the S&P 500 companies used the term “weather” in their conference calls. (Source: FactSet, March 14, 2014.)

Public companies in key stock indices are preparing investors for poor first-quarter earnings by saying poor (extra cold) weather conditions this year are putting a damper on sales.

Take FedEx Corporation (NYSE/FDX) as an example of the many companies on key stock indices blaming the weather for dismal corporate earnings. While presenting its most recent quarterly corporate earnings for the three months ended February 28, the CEO of the company said, “While severe winter weather often affects our (fiscal) third-quarter results, the impact from multiple severe storms and frigid temperatures was significantly more pronounced this year and we are reducing our full-year earnings per share guidance as a result of the weather impact.” (Source: “FedEx Corp. Reports Third Quarter Results,” FedEx Corporation, March 19, 2014.)

How can you lay blame on one quarter’s “bad weather” for the entire year’s earnings performance? The way I look at it, the “weather” is just a “blame factor” for companies in key stock indices that are facing earnings growth issues.

Stock analysts have really been busy lowering their corporate earnings expectations for companies in key stock indices. In the first quarter of this year, on average, analysts expect the corporate earnings of the S&P 500 companies to increase by only 0.3%. At the end … Read More

What These Two Large-Cap Techs Are Saying About the Upcoming Quarter

By for Profit Confidential

What These Two Companies Signal for Tech Stocks This QuarterYou know another earnings season is right around the corner because Oracle Corporation (ORCL) and Adobe Systems Incorporated (ADBE) always report their fiscal results just ahead of the calendar quarter end.

Both technology stocks are bellwethers, and while they are mature enterprises, they do help set the tone in sentiment. It’s exactly what the marketplace needs now so investors can have something else to worry about over geopolitical events.

Oracle’s been going through its own issues trying to generate top-line growth. Revenue and earnings the last several quarters have been very modest.

And so have Adobe’s numbers, but Wall Street analysts have been boosting their earnings estimates for the company in 2015 and the stock has doubled over the last 18 months.

Oracle is definitely more of a value play, and the company pays a dividend. Adobe is expensively priced and while much smaller, still boasts a stock market capitalization of approximately $34.0 billion.

In previous quarters, it was pretty obvious what the Street was looking for in terms of earnings results. At the beginning of 2013, investors just wanted to know that corporate earnings would hold up. Then they were happy with modest growth so long as dividends were increased.

This quarter, there doesn’t seem to be a financial metric that the market is looking for just yet. The choppy trading action is a reflection of all the uncertainty in the world, but also a market that hasn’t experienced a material price correction since 2008/2009, which is a long time to go.

As much as a broad stock market correction would be a healthy development for the long-run trend, … Read More

Two Most Important Charts on Stocks You Will See This Year

By for Profit Confidential

What a Bubble Looks LikeThis month marks the fifth year of the rally in stocks that started in March of 2009. Back then, the Dow Jones Industrial Average traded as low as 6,400 and uncertainty was severe. In the midst of all this, a buying opportunity of a lifetime was born. I told my readers to buy close to when the market bottomed in March of 2009.

Five years later, the opposite is happening. I continue to believe the stock market is reaching a top; I continue to tell my readers stocks are very risky. The upside potential for the stock market is diminishing and the risks of a severe downside move are increasing: preserve your capital is my message now.

From March of 2009 to the end of February 2014, the S&P 500 has gone up about 155%. Other indices like the Dow Jones Industrial Average and NASDAQ Composite have shown similar—if not better—performances.

But as key stock indices soar, we are seeing the fundamentals that traditionally drive stocks higher weaken. Corporate insiders are dumping stocks at an alarming rate; corporate earnings growth has dropped to its slowest pace since 2009; the Volatility Index is near the low it was at just before stocks collapsed in 2007; and margin debt on the NYSE has reached a record high—all very bearish factors.

And from a technical point of view, something interesting has also happened on the key stock indices. Below is the weekly chart of the S&P 500.

$ SPX S&P 500 Large Cap Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Since the beginning of 2012, there hasn’t been any major correction or pullback in the stock market and trading volume has steadily … Read More

Stock Margin Debt Reaches Record-High, Surpassing 2007 Pre-Crash Level

By for Profit Confidential

Proof Stocks Are Near Their TopAs key stock indices like the S&P 500 make new highs, bullishness increases almost daily, and stock advisors are saying buy more.

I am not surprised by this. All of these irrationalities tell us something very important: the bear is doing a great job of luring investors back into stocks as it gets ready to take their money away once again.

Dear reader, heed the warning signs of a market top…

Those who are very close to the companies in key stock indices are selling their shares at an extreme pace. According to CNBC, in February, insiders sold $5.3 billion worth of shares and bought roughly $268 million worth of shares; for every one dollar of stock they bought in February, they sold about $20.00 worth. (Source: “Insider Activity and Concentration by Industry,” CNBC web site, last accessed March 5, 2014.)

According to the Vickers Weekly Insider Report, corporate insiders are more bearish on the stocks of the companies they work for today than at any other time since 2007. (Source: MarketWatch, March 4, 2014.)

But insider selling activity isn’t the only indicator that worries me about the direction of the key stock indices. We see problems in corporate earnings, as well.

The number of companies warning about their corporate earnings for the first quarter of 2014 continues to increase. So far, 84 companies on the S&P 500 have issued negative guidance about their first-quarter 2014 corporate earnings. (Source: FactSet, February 28, 2014.) Remember: corporate earnings, at the core, are what drive the key stock indices higher. Even analysts aren’t very optimistic about corporate earnings; they are expecting first-quarter … Read More

Why the Chinese Economic Slowdown Matters

By for Profit Confidential

Chinese Economy to See Black Swan Type EventUnderstanding the economic slowdown in the Chinese economy is very important because not only does it impact American companies doing business there, but what happens in the Chinese economy—now the second-largest economy in the world—affects the global economy.

While media outlets tell us the Chinese economy will grow by about seven percent this year (30% below the 10% the economy has been growing annually over the past few years), the statistics I see point to much slower growth.

In February, manufacturing activity in the Chinese economy contracted and hit an eight-month low. The final readings on the HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for February showed manufacturing output and new orders declined for the first time since July of 2013. (Source: Markit, March 3, 2014.)

And there are other troubles. The shadow banking sector in the Chinese economy shows signs of deep stress, but we don’t know how much money is really on the line here. China keeps much of its real economic news to itself, but we do hear how firms that are involved in the sector are defaulting on their payments.

And the Chinese currency, the yuan, keeps declining in value compared to other major world currencies. The Wisdom Tree Chinese Yuan Strategy (NYSEArca/CYB) is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the performance of Chinese money market instruments and the yuan compared to the U.S. dollar. Look at the chart below:

WisdomTree Dreyfus chinese Yuan fund ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Since the beginning of February, the Chinese yuan and Chinese money market instruments have been showing signs of severe stress, largely unnoticed by mainstream media and economists.

There is no doubt in my mind … Read More

If You Think Our Stock Market Is Overpriced, Wait Until You See This

By for Profit Confidential

Why We Are Reaching a Stock Market TopThe stock market in France has been on a tear! Below, I present a chart of the French CAC 40 Index, the main stock market index in France.

Looking at the chart, we see the French stock market is trading at a five-year high. With such a strong stock market, one would expect France, the second-largest economy in the eurozone, to be doing well. But it’s the exact opposite!

As its stock market rallies, France’s economic slowdown is gaining steam. In January, the unemployment rate in France was unchanged; it has remained close to 11% for a year now. (Source: Eurostat, February 28, 2014.) Consumer spending in the French economy declined 2.1% in January after declining 0.1% in December. (Source: National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, February 28, 2014.) Other key indicators of the French economy are also pointing to an economic slowdown for the country.

CAC French CAC 40 Index (EOD) Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

And France isn’t the only place in the eurozone still experiencing a severe economic slowdown. In January, the unemployment rate in Italy, the third-biggest nation in the eurozone, hit a record-high of 12.9%, compared to 11.8% a year ago.

I have not mentioned Greece, Spain, and Portugal because they have been discussed in these pages many times before; as my readers are well aware, they are in a state of outright depression.

Just like how investors have bought into the U.S. stock market again in hopes of U.S. economic growth, the same thing has happened in the eurozone. Investors have put money into France’s stock market in hopes of that economy recovering—but it hasn’t. We are dealing with a … Read More

Why the U.S. Housing Market Recovery Will Falter This Year

By for Profit Confidential

Housing Market Recovery in JeopardyThe chart below is of the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index, an index that tracks home prices in the U.S. housing market. As the chart shows, from their peak in 2007 to their low in late 2011, U.S. homes prices fell by about 30%. Since then, prices in the housing market have improved, but they are still down about 20% compared to 2007. Basically, home prices have recouped only one-third of their losses from the 2007 real estate crash.

Yes, the U.S. housing market has regained some lost ground, but it’s far from being back to where it was in 2007. And I’m very worried about the pace of the housing market recovery; I feel that the recovery is in jeopardy.

HPI SP Case-Shiller Home Price Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Consider this: the interest rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage tracked by Freddie Mac increased to 4.43% in January of this year from 3.41% in January of 2013. (Source: Freddie Mac web site, last accessed February 26, 2014.) While there hasn’t been much mainstream media coverage on this, mortgage rates have increased by 30% in one year’s time. With the Federal Reserve cutting back on its quantitative easing program, interest rates are expected to continue their path upwards in 2014.

Higher interest rates are pushing would-be homebuyers away from the housing market. The U.S. Mortgage Bankers Association reported last week that its index, which tracks mortgage activity (of both refinanced and new home purchases), fell 8.5% in the week ended February 21. (Source: Reuters, February 26, 2014.)

And new homebuilders are seeing demand from homebuyers decline in the housing market as well. While presenting … Read More

Reckless New Fad: Companies Raise Money to Buy Back Stock, Pay Dividends

By for Profit Confidential

The Tale of Share Buybacks Few TellLast Thursday, the CEO of DIRECTV (NASDAQ/DTV) said “…we are pleased to announce a share repurchase program of $3.5 billion. This repurchase program reflects our strong balance sheet and confidence in continued strong DIRECTV revenue, earnings and free cash flow growth, as well as our belief that our stock is far below our intrinsic value.” (Source: “DIRECTV Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2013 Results,” DIRECTV, February 20, 2014.)

DIRECTV is buying back its shares because it believes they are undervalued? Since when did CEOs of companies on key stock indices become stock pickers?

In 2013, DIRECTV’s total corporate earnings came in at $2.85 billion. That means the company is spending 122% of what it made in 2013 to buy back its stock. Talk about pumping up per-share earnings!

Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ/CSCO), another major component of key stock indices, reports it is “raising” $8.0 billion to repay some of its debt. It will use the remainder of the money to buy back its shares and pay dividends. (Source: Cisco Systems, Inc., February 24, 2014.) Yes, instead of raising money to invest in equipment, technology, or research and development (R&D), the new fad is for companies to raise money to buy back their shares and pay dividends.

These are only two examples of companies in key stock indices using share buybacks to make their per-share corporate earnings look better. There are many others that are doing the exact same thing.

Dear reader, with corporate earnings growth falling to its lowest level since 2009, companies have no choice but to prop up earnings via stock buyback programs. Companies in key stock … Read More

On the Way to Higher Stock Prices, Something Suddenly Happened

By for Profit Confidential

Stock Investors Lose Touch with RealityOn February 24, the S&P 500 broke to a new all-time high. There was panic buying as soon as the markets opened that day, as the chart below depicts.

Looking at this, I can’t help but ask if investors have completely lost touch with reality. It seems the fundamentals that drive stock prices higher—corporate earnings—have been ignored.

And as investors are driving key stock indices higher, the state of the global economy is becoming worrisome. This can’t be stressed enough: the U.S. economy isn’t immune to a disturbance in the global economy. But this isn’t all; if the global economy sees an economic slowdown, the companies on U.S. key stock indices suffer as well.

S&P 500 Large Cap Index ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

One clear example of this, as it stands, is Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE/CAT), a giant industrial goods manufacturer and component of the S&P 500. The company reported that annual sales declined 16% in 2013. Caterpillar’s revenues were $55.65 billion compared to $65.87 billion. The company’s corporate earnings per share were down more than 32% in 2013. The reason for this: a challenging business environment in the global economy. (Source: Caterpillar Inc., January 27, 2014.)

The global economy is going to disappoint in 2014.

First in line is Asia. Look anywhere on that continent, and you will see economic slowdown looming in the air. China, the biggest economic hub in the region and the second-biggest in the global economy, is outright slowing down. In February, the manufacturing activity in the country dropped to a seven-month low. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) registered at 48.3 in February compared to 49.5 in … Read More

The Great Social Media Stock Bubble of 2014

By for Profit Confidential

Allan Greenspan Be Bearish on the Stock Market Right NowA few days ago, I woke up to news that reminded me of the “Dot-com Boom” of the late 90s and early 2000. I’m sure you remember those days—the days when any company with “.com” attached to it received a lot of attention….and a high stock price. Investors bought these stocks without any concern for non-existent revenues; forget earnings.

These days, social media stocks are the new “dot-com” wonders. We recently heard that Facebook Inc. (NYSE/FB) bought “WhatsApp,” an instant messaging application for smartphones, for $19.0 billion. The valuation doesn’t make much sense; the company has only 50 employees, 460 million monthly users, and no clear business model.

Last year, we saw Twitter, Inc. (NYSE/TWTR) do an initial public offering (IPO). On its very first day of trading, the stock price increased by more than 70%. This company lost more money in 2013 than it did in 2012. Twitter’s loss per share in 2013 amounted to $3.41 compared to a loss of $0.68 in 2012. (Source: Twitter, Inc., February 5, 2014.) But investors shouldn’t fear; in the last quarter of 2013, hedge funds got into the game and bought Twitter’s stock.

Dear reader, I’m not saying Facebook or Twitter is a sell. What I am saying is that the behavior we see on the key stock indices, especially for social media stocks, is not sustainable. It resonates with what we have seen in the past—investors pouring money into companies with no business model to generate profits.

In Allan Greenspan’s past words, key stock indices are showing signs of “irrational exuberance.”

I’m concerned about the big picture for key stock … Read More

Stock Prices and U.S. GDP; Historic Relationship Turns Bearish

By for Profit Confidential

Historic Relationship Tur​ns BearishIn the first five weeks of this year, investors bought $22.0 billion worth of long-term stock mutual funds. (Source: Investment Company Institute, February 12, 2014.)

But as investors poured money into the stock market, hoping to ride the 2013 wave of higher stock prices, stocks did the opposite and went down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down three percent so far this year.

Looking at the bigger picture, corporate earnings and key stock indices valuations are still stretched. The S&P 500’s 12-month forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio stands at 15.1. This ratio is currently overvalued by roughly nine percent when compared to its 10-year average, and 15% compared to its five-year average. (Source: FactSet, February 14, 2014.)

This isn’t the only indicator that says key stock indices have gotten too far ahead of themselves. In the chart below, I have plotted U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) against the S&P 500.

S&P 500 Large Cap Index ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

The chart clearly shows a direct relationship between GDP and the S&P 500. When U.S. GDP increases, the S&P 500 follows in the same direction, and vice versa. When we look at the 2008–2009 period (which I’ve circled in the chart above), we see that when GDP plunged, the S&P 500 followed in the same direction.

Going into 2014, we saw production in the U.S. economy decline; consumer spending is pulling back, unemployment is still an issue, and the global economy is slowing. U.S. GDP is far from growing at the rate it did after the Credit Crisis. Take another look at the chart above. In 2011, you’ll see U.S. GDP was very strong; but after … Read More

Stocks: Why I’m Starting to Favor the Second Half of 2014

By for Profit Confidential

Certainty from the Fed Could Support Further Capital Gains in 2014The single greatest certainty capital markets are looking for is policy stability from the Federal Reserve, and Janet Yellen, the new Chair of the Federal Reserve, delivered the goods for Wall Street.

With certainty in regards to short-term interest rates and the expectation that quantitative easing will continue to be reduced over the coming quarters, the fundamental backdrop for the stock market remains positive.

Many companies sold off after reporting earnings results that basically met consensus. This was well-deserved, especially in a market that has not experienced a meaningful correction for a number of quarters.

Particularly for large-caps, corporate earnings results in the last quarter of 2013 were decent and corporate outlooks for 2014 were also relatively positive, considering the current state of things.

Add in the high likelihood of rising dividends from blue chips in the bottom half of the year, and you have the makings of another decent year for stocks.

Corporate balance sheets are in top-notch condition, and the cost of capital is cheap. From the corporate perspective, this is the perfect backdrop for greater growth, and sales growth translates to the bottom line.

For the last couple of quarters, I’ve been reticent about investors buying this stock market. Long investors benefitted tremendously in 2013, even by owning blue chips. While the expectation has been for a major stock market correction (or collapse), one has yet to transpire. Instead, we are getting meaningful price consolidation, which is happening again.

The lack of a meaningful double-digit price correction in the stock market illustrates the continued underlying fervor that institutional investors have to be buyers. With continued certainty from … Read More

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