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

Posts Tagged ‘dividends’

Jumping on the Risk Bandwagon? Think Again

By for Profit Confidential

The stock market has an underlying strength to it, seemingly only to be undone by geopolitical events. Fed action always has the potential to shock the system. Negative economic news isn’t fazing this market. On the back of a pretty decent second quarter, many corporate outlooks predict another year of decent growth, particularly with earnings. While the stock market retrenched recently, positive days are still led by the Dow Jones Transportation Average, the Russell 2000 Index, and the NASDAQ components, which are traditionally positive for broader sentiment. Some speculative fervor has come back to two stock market sectors that are traditionally volatile—biotechnology stocks and restaurant stocks. But there really isn’t an underlying trend to latch onto. Jumping on the bandwagon of risky stocks seems unwise considering the stock market is at an all-time record-high. This is a market where equity investors have to be highly selective and wait for the right opportunities to present themselves, if you’re considering new positions at all. This can be in the form of a specific sector theme (like oil and gas, for example) or looking for good companies that have retrenched for their own specific reasons. In any case, with the stock market at a record high, it’s difficult to find value, and new positions become entirely reliant on market momentum, not necessarily individual corporate achievement. There are very few companies that I would consider now, but within the context of a long-term stock market portfolio, investors want their money to be put to work. In equities, I still think that portfolio safety is the name of the game. This is a market that hasn’t experienced a material price correction for five years. There have been retrenchments and price consolidations, but no reset, no revaluation that would make stock market investors with cash want to jump into a marketplace still beset with huge monetary stimulus and strong balance sheets—a marketplace still extremely favorable to equities. Companies for consideration at this time that fit into my earnings (and dividends) safety list include Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and 3M Company (MMM). There should be exposure to oil and gas in this short list, too. Previously, I liked Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. (KMP), but with news that this high-yielding limited partnership is being bought out by Kinder Morgan, Inc. (KMI), I’m looking for a solid new pick in this sector. (See “This Company’s $70.0-Billion Acquisition a Boon for Investors.”) A lot of investors are more risk-tolerant than these mature enterprises might present. But institutional investors are still skittish; they are still buying earnings safety in this stock market. Accordingly, dividend-paying blue chips remain highly correlated to the broader market and for the investment risk, given that this market could experience a 20% correction at any time for a multitude of reasons, new buyers of equities should consider stocks offering earnings and dividends safety. In the equity market—which is a secondary market with a pricing mechanism subject to fear, greed, and the herd mentality—capital preservation is a worthy investment goal. So far in this bull market, blue chips have performed exceedingly well relative to the rest of the stock market and they are still where institutional investors want to be.The stock market has an underlying strength to it, seemingly only to be undone by geopolitical events. Fed action always has the potential to shock the system. Negative economic news isn’t fazing this market.

On the back of a pretty decent second quarter, many corporate outlooks predict another year of decent growth, particularly with earnings.

While the stock market retrenched recently, positive days are still led by the Dow Jones Transportation Average, the Russell 2000 Index, and the NASDAQ components, which are traditionally positive for broader sentiment.

Some speculative fervor has come back to two stock market sectors that are traditionally volatile—biotechnology stocks and restaurant stocks.

But there really isn’t an underlying trend to latch onto. Jumping on the bandwagon of risky stocks seems unwise considering the stock market is at an all-time record-high.

This is a market where equity investors have to be highly selective and wait for the right opportunities to present themselves, if you’re considering new positions at all.

This can be in the form of a specific sector theme (like oil and gas, for example) or looking for good companies that have retrenched for their own specific reasons.

In any case, with the stock market at a record high, it’s difficult to find value, and new positions become entirely reliant on market momentum, not necessarily individual corporate achievement.

There are very few companies that I would consider now, but within the context of a long-term stock market portfolio, investors want their money to be put to work.

In equities, I still think that portfolio safety is the name of the game. This is a market that … Read More

Why This Is Still My Favorite Entertainment Stock

By for Profit Confidential

How This Entertainment Stock Has Become a Top BusinessA top stock for investors and a strong equity market leader has been, and continues to be, The Walt Disney Company (DIS).

It’s a Dow Jones component, a solid dividend payer and, similar to other dividend-paying blue chips, it’s offered earnings (growth) safety to date. Institutional investors have bid this business tremendously.

The company’s latest quarter, its third fiscal quarter of 2014 ended June 30, 2014, produced a very good increase in sales, from $11.58 billion in the same quarter of 2013 to $12.47 billion.

Earnings grew impressively as well, coming in at $2.25 billion, or $1.28 per diluted share, compared to $1.85 billion, or $1.01 per diluted share, the year earlier.

These are impressive gains for such a mature business, and they support the company’s strong capital gains on the stock market.

Disney’s two-year stock chart is featured below:

Walt Disney Co. NYSE Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Within the numbers, there’s an excellent snapshot of what’s happening in the entertainment industry. Business conditions are really good.

The company’s largest operations are its media networks division, which includes cable networks and broadcasting. This division continues to grow and remains highly profitable.

Also growing is Disney’s theme park business, with fiscal third-quarter revenues coming in at $3.98 billion, compared to $3.68 billion last year.

Along with Shanghai Shendi (Group) Co., Ltd., Disney is building the Shanghai Disney Resort theme park for approximately $5.5 billion. Completion is expected to be early next year. Shanghai Shendi owns 57% of the park, while Disney has majority ownership in its management.

The company noted that it is seeing higher attendance and higher average guest spending at its domestic … Read More

Why You Shouldn’t Overhaul Your Portfolio Right Now

By for Profit Confidential

Stocks Rolling Over Signal TroubleBiotechnology stocks and the Russell 2000 began rolling over at the beginning of July, followed by transportation stocks at the end of the month.

It’s definitely a signal that the stock market is tired, but after such a strong breakout performance in 2013, the market still hasn’t experienced a material price correction in quite some time.

Second-quarter earnings came in mostly as expected and many blue-chip stocks sold off on good results, while companies backed existing full-year guidance. This happens often, as management teams try to make it easier for the company to “outperform” Street consensus. In a lot of cases, the only reason earnings per share advanced comparatively was increased share repurchases.

But it was mostly a decent earnings season and corporate balance sheets remain strong.

There’s not a lot of action to take in this market. Stocks have gone up tremendously and earnings are playing catch-up with valuations.

A little extra cash isn’t a bad thing with equities at their highs; however, finding good value with the prospect of growth in this market is becoming difficult.

I still think the domestic energy sector has a lot to offer investors, particularly those who are looking for income. Pipelines are a good business to be in as they throw off lots of cash and in many cases, revenues are not tied to the spot price of the underlying commodity.

With speculative fervor now reduced as evidenced by the trading action in biotechnology stocks, initial public offerings (IPOs), and select technology companies, it’s reasonable to expect the next couple of months to be pretty lackluster in terms of trading action. (September … Read More

This Company’s $70.0-Billion Acquisition a Boon for Investors

By for Profit Confidential

Four Strong Businesses Now One Great CompanyAs evidence of the continuing bull market, Kinder Morgan, Inc.’s (KMI) massive acquisition of its partnership companies is a significant sign that business conditions remain strong in the energy industry.

Kinder Morgan surprised the marketplace by announcing plans to purchase Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. (KMP), Kinder Morgan Management, LLC (KMR), and El Paso Pipeline Partners, L.P. (EPB) in an enormous $70.0-billion consolidation.

The wealth effect from the news was immediately significant, with all partnership units rising substantially on the stock market.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners is the largest master limited partnership in the United States and has been a top choice among income-seeking investors. The partnership was worth approximately $80.0 billion, or $80.00 per unit, with a 6.9% yield before news of its acquisition. It opened 20% higher, close to $100.00 per unit, on news of the deal.

Investors can choose cash or take up new shares in Kinder Morgan, Inc., which plans to increase its dividend 16% in 2015 to $2.00 a share. The company also plans to increase its dividend by at least 10% per year until 2020, and it’s likely that there will be a number of smaller divestitures over the coming quarters.

Once the company acquires all its related corporate entities, it will be the largest energy infrastructure company in North America. Management expects its debt to be investment grade, and the combined company should be able to garner a lower cost of capital.

The current environment is a great time to be in energy infrastructure. Transportation and storage of hydrocarbons is a growth business with rising domestic production.

And it’s tough to find double-digit … Read More

Drop in This Company’s Stock Price Makes It Very Attractive Now

By for Profit Confidential

Top Company for Dividend ReinvestmentJohnson & Johnson (JNJ), which is one of my favorite long-term stocks for income and dividend-reinvesting investors, just dropped below the $100.00-per-share level and is becoming more attractive each day.

This stock has been doing extremely well over the last few years and should continue to do so. The position has been a worthy buy when it’s down and according to its recent trading history, it typically isn’t down for long.

If you’re a shareholder in this company or are considering a long-term position, you’ll want to take a look at the company’s recently filed Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Form 10-Q, which was submitted August 1.

This quarterly SEC filing reveals much more information over and above a company’s regular earnings press release. It gives a much better snapshot of a company’s financial position, where the sales are, which divisions are the most profitable, and where the company sees its operations in the near future.

In Johnson & Johnson’s recently filed Form 10-Q, the company’s overall profitability, that is its net earnings as a percentage of total sales, leapt higher from 20.7% to 24.1% in the first half of this year compared to last.

This is a huge accomplishment for a company this large and a major reason why stockholders should feel so confident about increasing dividends in the future, along with more share buybacks.

The company’s average common shares outstanding in the first half of 2014 dropped by approximately 3.3 million shares on a diluted basis compared to the same period last year.

Johnson & Johnson’s two-year stock chart is featured below.

Johnson & Johnson Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Johnson & … 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

Why Exposure to Healthcare Sector Is a Must

By for Profit Confidential

How These Companies Celebrate a Great QuarterIn what is on par with the course in today’s stock market, biotechnology firm Amgen Inc. (AMGN) posted double-digit revenue and earnings growth while raising its full-year outlook.

The kicker for this stock and its recent price strength was the news that the company plans to cut 12%–15% of its global workforce (2,400 to 2,900 employees) and close four of its facilities in Washington and Colorado. A lot of the job cuts will be to middle management, according to Amgen’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Form 8-K.

The company’s second-quarter sales grew 11% to $5.18 billion on strong sales and better margins on “ENBREL,” which is a treatment for arthritis. GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) earnings grew 23% to $1.55 billion, while adjusted earnings per share grew 25% to $2.37.

On the back of such a strong earnings performance, you’d think the company would be hiring. But such is the marketplace with large corporations and large institutional investors.

Amgen has finally broken out of a 12-year price consolidation on the stock market and is set for more capital gains.

A share split wouldn’t be a surprise and the company is well positioned to provide shareholders with another dividend increase at the beginning of next year.

While Wall Street earnings estimates are going up for this company, I would say that a lot of good news (and drug development expectation) is built into the share price. Still, I don’t see Amgen as overpriced considering its business plan for the next few years. The company’s new restructuring plan is substantial and is likely to be rewarding to stockholders.

Healthcare-related stocks are proven … Read More

Why It’s Time to Cull Your Stocks

By for Profit Confidential

Still Buying Stocks StopGood numbers are one thing, but stocks did go up in advance of what’s turning out to be a fairly decent earnings season.

It’s not unreasonable at all to expect the market to take a solid break, perhaps for the next two to three months. Of course, predicting corrections and/or consolidations among stocks is a difficult endeavor in an era of extreme monetary stimulus. The Federal Reserve is slowly chipping it away, but it remains very committed to helping capital markets, especially as the economic data continues to be pretty soft.

Stocks are still looking stretched and this market is tired. A 10% to 20% correction would be a healthy development for the longer-run trend. Stocks need a catalyst for this to happen. It could come out of nowhere, and I’m reluctant to be a buyer with so many positions trading at record-highs.

Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI), a large U.S. auto parts manufacturer, had a modestly positive third fiscal quarter with sales growing three percent to $10.8 billion due to more sales in China.

The company had some one-time restructuring charges during the quarter. Earnings per share from continuing operations (excluding restructuring and one-time items) grew a hefty 17% to $0.84. Management confirmed its full-year guidance, which pleased the Street, but the position is breaking down a bit.

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company’s (DD) numbers were uninspiring and the company tried to keep investors interested with a four-percent increase to its quarterly dividend. The position’s starting to roll over and with agriculture being such an important part of the company’s business, changing preferences among farmers hurt its … Read More

Why This Company’s a Solid Pick for Any Long-Term Portfolio

By for Profit Confidential

PepsiCo Still a Solid Stock for Any Quality PortfolioThe numbers are piling in, and there have been some disappointments as usual. This is why individual stock selection always matters in a portfolio, and equity investors should be willing to make changes depending on what stage of the business cycle a company is experiencing.

One company that’s proven itself to be a good business to own is PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP). It’s a brand-name mature enterprise with an excellent track record of long-term, reliable wealth creation for stockholders. It’s not the fastest growing large-cap in the marketplace, but the snacks and beverage business is consistent and so are the dividends.

Wall Street and institutional investors would love to see PepsiCo spin off its food and snacks business from beverages, similar to what recently transpired with Kraft Foods Incorporated.

A spin-off would, no doubt, be a boon to shareholders, but I don’t see it happening, because the company’s management needs the profits from Quaker foods (oatmeal) and especially “Frito-Lay” (potato chips) to help with the slow-growth world of soda and juice.

PepsiCo’s organic global snacks sales grew five percent comparatively in the second quarter of 2014 and two percent for global beverages.

Currency translation was unfavorable during the most recent quarter, bringing the growth rates down to two percent for global snacks and a decline of one percent for global beverages.

But despite the slow growth, the company’s operating margin improved a solid 10% during the second quarter, and that’s the big story that got the shares moving on the earnings report.

PepsiCo’s two-year stock chart is featured below:

Pepsico Inc Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

The company also boosted its full-year 2014 earnings-per-share … Read More

Simple Wealth-Creating Strategy for Long-Term Investors

By for Profit Confidential

Compounding Strategy Every Investor Should ConsiderAs a strong believer in the wealth-creating effects of large-cap, dividend paying stocks, I’m also an advocate of dividend reinvestment, which is the purchasing of a company’s shares using the cash dividends paid.

This can be done commission-free from your broker and/or through the company itself if it offers such a program.

Dividend reinvestment is a powerful wealth creator if you do not require the income paid out by a corporation. It is a great way to invest and to grow your money over the long-term.

As the timespan increases, the percentage return produced by the S&P 500 becomes weighted to dividends. It’s kind of old school, but the numbers add up. Even over a few short years of good broader market performance, total investment returns can increase substantially over simple capital gains.

For example, if you bought shares in Intel Corporation (INTC) at the beginning of 2010, that stock would have produced a capital gain to date of approximately 50%.

But if you reinvested the dividends paid by Intel into new shares each quarter, your total investment return, including dividends and new shares, jumps to approximately 75%, which is a very big difference!

In the utility sector, Duke Energy Corporation (DUK) increased on the stock market about 30% over the last three years. But by reinvesting the company’s dividends into new shares during that same time period, your total return could have climbed to around 49%. Again, this is a material improvement.

Of course, dividend reinvestment excludes the potential returns to be had with the income being applied to other potential assets.

But the process is so easy, and … Read More

Your Top Priority When Investing in a Record-High Market

By for Profit Confidential

What to Prioritize with Stocks at an All-time HighStocks are going to gyrate around second-quarter earnings, but that’s exactly what this market needs—the corporate bottom line and expectations for the rest of the year.

With so many stocks trading at their all-time record-highs, I view investment risk in equities as being high at this time.

This is actually a tough environment in which to be an investor looking for new positions. There’s not a lot of value around and good businesses have already been bid.

It’s been years now since the stock market was first in need of a material price correction, and the next one will probably come out of nowhere.

It could be a shock from the Federal Reserve, but the central bank has been extremely delicate in how it effects and communicates monetary policy. More likely, stocks will be vulnerable to an unforeseen shock like a geopolitical event or a big derivative trade gone bad.

The risks are out there and stocks are long overdue for a reckoning.

With this in mind, I’m still a fan of the market’s existing winners, especially dividend-paying blue chips. In the absence of a shock, I think they’ll just keep pushing new highs going right into 2015.

3M Company (MMM) is an enterprise worth following and owning as a long-term, income-seeking investor.

The company’s earnings are material and offer good market intelligence, even if you aren’t interested in owning the stock.

The position has tripled in value on the stock market since the beginning of 2009, while also paying some great dividends.

The stock is still strong in the current environment, and the company represents exactly the kind of … Read More

This Company a Benchmark for the Entire Stock Market?

By for Profit Confidential

One Company, One Benchmark Stock for EverythingUnion Pacific Corporation (UNP) is a company that’s getting upgraded by the Street and earnings estimates are ticking higher. It’s great news for this benchmark stock and top wealth creator.

The business cycle in old economy industrial businesses still has legs, and while Union Pacific’s share price is up some 25 points over the last 12 months, I think this stock can keep ticking higher into 2015.

The railroad business has proven to be a good one over the last several years. Most railroad companies have been able to increase their prices for freight without affecting demand, and that’s a very important metric and telling indicator.

Union Pacific’s share price was around $26.00 a share this time in 2009. Now it’s just over $100.00 (the company recently effected a two-for-one stock split) and the company has increased its dividends paid seven times since 2009. This is a good business, and it continues to pay as a stock market investment.

The company’s volume growth is coming from both agricultural and industrial products. And even its coal transportation business is showing improvement.

Union Pacific is moving a lot of freight cars related to the domestic oil business. While many might see this as carloads of crude, the company actually ships more carloads of fracturing sand than oil. It’s a growth area for the business, and it has been for several years.

The company’s one-year stock chart is featured below:

Union Pacific Corporation Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

This is a stock that has proven to be a worthy buy when it’s down. It hasn’t been down for long, and it remains a favorite among institutional investors, … Read More

What Do This Quarter’s Mixed Earnings Results Mean?

By for Profit Confidential

Market May Be Entering a New Cycle—But Don't Buy Just Yet!Oracle Corporation (ORCL) announced a quarterly revenue gain of three percent, but Wall Street was looking for more and the company’s share price retreated on its earnings results.

If it weren’t for the Federal Reserve, we probably would be in a correction, if not a consolidation, which has been the broader market’s go-to trend when it should have retreated further.

It’s such a mixed bag out there both in terms of economic news and corporate reporting.

While I think dividend-paying blue chips have the advantage going into the second-quarter earnings season, if the Federal Reserve wasn’t so extremely sensitive to Wall Street, this market would probably be a lot lower.

Even the Fed’s recent language is assuaging. If this market had to operate on its own (with free market interest rates and liquidity), things would be a lot different.

But this isn’t the environment we live in. Economic history clearly supports the scenario that it doesn’t pay to fight the Fed and that Wall Street will move mountains when it has Fed certainty.

Lots of investors bemoan the quarterly earnings cycle or game, but I don’t. I want to know a public company’s up-to-date financial results as frequently as possible.

While earnings are managed, over time, a business can’t manufacture success unless it’s a fraud (which, sadly, does happen).

Big companies have the operational leverage and the cash to keep boosting their earnings per share. Oracle’s latest financial results were uninspiring, and while recognizing that this is a very mature business with growing competition in the cloud, the position advanced a material 10 points since last June—this seems so overdone…. Read More

A Stock Market Break? These Indices Say No

By for Profit Confidential

These Turning Indices Show How Stocks Can Go HigherThe great monetary expansion is still alive and well and the effect on equity securities continues to be profound.

But what I find striking about the stock market’s continued advancement is that it’s blue chips that are pushing through to new record highs.

Speculative fervor in several sectors has diminished, but hasn’t completely disappeared. But it’s the big brand-name companies—a lot of which pay dividends—that just keep on trucking as institutional investors buy earnings safety and outlook reliability, and are betting on revenue and earnings acceleration going into 2015.

Union Pacific Corporation (UNP), a benchmark railroad stock, just hit another new record high on the stock market, breaking through the $100.00-per-share level. It was $35.00 a share this time in 2010.

And this from an old-economy, industrial enterprise that is probably not on many investors’ wish lists.

Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) broke down considerably at the beginning of the year when it was trading around $400.00 a share. It recently broke $300.00 a share, but has bounced back significantly and the position looks to be fighting hard.

And this is one of the speculative stocks on which investors booked their profits. This stock is on the comeback trail and so are Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO), The Priceline Group Inc. (PCLN), Oracle Corporation (ORCL), Apple Inc. (AAPL), and Google Inc. (GOOG).

The stock market has been digesting continued mediocrity in domestic economic data and slightly more positive numbers from China. Institutional investors are buying. I think that, in the absence of some kind of shock or new catalyst, the stock market can slowly keep grinding higher. It could very well turn … Read More

How to Invest in a Market Constructed by Central Banks

By for Profit Confidential

How to Profit in a Fed-Built MarketThe resilience the stock market continues to have is a reflection of what continues to be extreme monetary stimulus. And while the stock market is a leading indicator and a bet on a future stream of earnings and economic activity, throughout history, the underlying goal of central banks has been price inflation.

Seemingly, the capitalist economic system is based on two basic underlying factors: property rights and price inflation. And in modern history, the latter, through central bank intervention, is the most important catalyst for the stock market.

In capital markets, long-run history is a very good guide and an important tool in helping to shape your market view. And most importantly, it’s very helpful in laying the groundwork for separating present-day conjecture from what has actually transpired before.

I’m reminded of J. Anthony Boeckh’s book titled The Great Reflation, which provides a non-political long-run analysis on the U.S. economy and its cycles.

It’s a historical breakdown of interest rates, inflation, and monetary and fiscal policies, and how they have affected the stock market. It is required reading for any serious long-term investor.

Written in 2010, the book breaks down financial crises and looks at the long-run effects of price inflation and the effects on capital markets. Boeckh offers some poignant analysis on all kinds of financial topics, and many of his observations have not only come to fruition, but they are also worth consideration.

Boeckh plainly states that the global financial system is flawed because of fiat paper money. And because we use paper money, price inflation exists and capital markets are subject to bubbles.

Add in … Read More

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