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

Posts Tagged ‘IPOs’

Market Dynamics Changing; Where’s the Upside for Investors?

By for Profit Confidential

Why Beating the Street Isn’t as Good as Real ValueBeing financial reporting season, it’s important to discern between results that beat Wall Street consensus and real economic growth.

Abbott Laboratories (ABT) just announced better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, but they weren’t better than the comparable quarter of 2013. Operating earnings, earnings from continuing operations, and diluted earnings per share were all down significantly compared to the first quarter of 2013.

So, the illusion can definitely become real in hot markets. Investors are always better off ignoring headlines and going right to the financial statements. Managed earnings are just that—managed.

One company that just produced a very good quarter was The Charles Schwab Corporation (SCHW). The stock broker’s first-quarter sales grew 15% to $1.48 billion on strong growth in asset management and administration fees.

Net earnings leapt 58% to $326 million, or 60% to $0.60 in diluted earnings per share. Top-line growth and strong expense control were the reasons for the strong bottom-line growth.

There’s no real reason why Charles Schwab’s share price should keep on appreciating near-term. All the good news is priced into the shares. The company beat consensus earnings by $0.02 a share, while revenues were in line.

This reporting season, earnings are here to justify current share prices.

I’d be very wary of buying corporate good news now. Market jitters aren’t going away and all it takes is a small catalyst for institutional investors to pull the sell trigger again.

A meaningful correction or price consolidation would be a positive development for the longer-run trend and a good opportunity to consider adding to blue-chip positions.

A good deal of speculative fervor has come out of this market, … Read More

Chinese Stocks Promise Higher Potential Gains?

By for Profit Confidential

Three Keys to Profiting from China-Based StocksIf you think Chinese stocks are too speculative to consider and buy, then you need to read what I’m going to say over the next few paragraphs.

Yes, it’s true that China-based companies have subjected U.S. capital markets to erroneous results and reporting in the past and that it is likely continuing to some degree, but that does not mean you should bypass Chinese stocks. You just need to be extra careful.

With the recent moves by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to force Chinese companies looking to list in the United States to use approved auditors along with other tighter reporting requirements, we have seen the flow of China-based initial public offerings (IPOs) dry up. There were only about two Chinese IPOs setting up shop on U.S. exchanges in 2013; so far, this year has proven to be no different.

Yet the reality is that Chinese IPOs continue to attract frenzy when they list here, perhaps due to the limited issues. The biggest coup was the recent decision by China-based e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which decided to list in the United States and bypass Hong Kong. The IPO is estimated to be at around $15.0 billion and will be the largest IPO listing from a Chinese company. The reason for the decision, I believe, is the currently extremely receptive environment for IPOs in America. It’s likely Alibaba will create so much buzz that its share price will explode out of the gate for those lucky enough to own shares.

The reality is that even if you cannot get your hands on Alibaba, which has … Read More

What the “Microsoft Indicator” Says Now

By for Profit Confidential

Microsoft the Best Market Indicator at This TimeEarnings estimates for Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) are going up and the stock, which recently accelerated, finally looks like it has broken out of a 13-year consolidation.

Microsoft has been an income play for quite a while. Currently yielding three percent, the company’s forward price-to-earnings ratio is around 12.5 and is not dissimilar from many other blue chips.

Then there’s Intel Corporation (INTC). This company has been struggling for capital gains, but it’s yielding 3.6% and isn’t expensively priced.

What these technology companies illustrate so well is the business cycle, both in terms of operational growth and also as equity securities. Getting the cycle correct (the right place/stock at the right time) is the toughest thing for any investor or businessperson.

Regarding stocks, both Microsoft and Intel’s long-term charts clearly show how extremely overpriced their share prices were during the bull market of the 90s. Intel’s long-term stock chart is featured below:

INTC Intel Corp. Nasdaq GS Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

The benefit of the very long term is that it provides a normalized but still decent rate of return with these kinds of stocks. No enterprise or investor can escape the business cycle, whether it is industry-specific, a local reality, or the general economy.

Railroad stocks have been super hot over the last several years, but for long periods of time, they were not. The solid dividend-payers that they are, you’d be hard-pressed to find Union Pacific Corporation (UNP) competing with Apple Inc. (AAPL) or Google Inc. (GOOG) for headlines.

I feel that stocks have broken out of their previous consolidation phase in favor of a new long-term cycle. But while last year’s stunning … Read More

If This Indicator Turns, the Stock Market’s in Trouble…

By for Profit Confidential

Factors Now Creating a Positive Backdrop for This Stock MarketWith the stock market jittery due to geopolitical events, its underlying strength is highlighted by the relative outperformance of the NASDAQ Composite, the Dow Jones Transportation Average, and the Russell 2000. If these indices are doing relatively better than the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average, then there is still an underlying strength to a market that hasn’t experienced a material correction for far too long.

The stock market has done a very good job of recovering from January’s sell-off. Certainty from the Federal Reserve, fourth-quarter earnings results that were modest but mostly met expectations, and strong corporate balance sheets are providing a decent fundamental backdrop. The stock market can have another decent year if it isn’t sidetracked by some sort of lasting shock.

The other indicator that is not directly related to the stock market but certainly is worth taking note of is the spot price of oil. Oil prices have been holding quite solidly above the $100.00-per-barrel level.

Stronger oil prices are a reflection of their own specific fundamentals, but they’re also a barometer or gauge on the part of speculators regarding future economic activity. The spot price has brought back a lot of oil stocks that recently sold off and valuations are creeping up close to previous levels (which was very expensive for Bakken oil stocks).

I maintain a positive outlook for the stock market given current fundamentals and recognize, of course, that geopolitical events can turn investor sentiment on a dime. If the stock market were to experience a substantial price correction right now, I would view it as a buying opportunity.

Earnings estimates for … Read More

Strong Balance Sheets, Fed Liquidity; What’s Not to Love About This Stock Market?

By for Profit Confidential

Things Looking Rosy for the Stock MarketThere is a lot of liquidity out there, and all kinds of stocks are experiencing significant price momentum.

It’s a bull market still, and no matter how long it has to run, it seems that valuations aren’t as important as owning the right stocks for institutional investors. Countless names have fought back in price from recent sell-offs and are now pushing new record-highs once again.

These stocks include Netflix, Inc. (NFLX), priceline.com Incorporated (PCLN), and Google Inc. (GOOG), among others. You could buy a basket of these stocks and if nothing were to change in terms of monetary policy, they probably would be higher in a month’s time.

But while momentum remains strong and existing winners keep outperforming, stocks haven’t really experienced a material price correction in more than two years and because of this, investment risk remains high.

Previously in these pages, we looked at some top-ranked biotechnology stocks that continue to be tremendous wealth creators for shareholders. (See “Can the Rally in Biotechs Keep Its Momentum?”) But their amazing price-performance also illustrates the froth in the stock market. While speculative fervor for initial public offerings (IPOs) has diminished since the beginning of the year, existing winners just keep on plowing higher.

Investor sentiment can always change on a dime, but it needs a catalyst to do so. This could include a change in monetary or fiscal policies, a geopolitical event, a derivatives trade gone bad, currency destabilization—the list is endless.

The Federal Reserve recently gave the marketplace the certainty it was looking for: quantitative easing is going to continue to be reduced and short-term interest rates … Read More

How to Profit from Institutional Investors’ Unwavering Love of These Stocks

By for Profit Confidential

One Sector Institutional Investors Love and You Should Know Everything About“Outback Steakhouse,” “Carrabba’s Italian Grill,” “Bonefish Grill,” “Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar,” and “Roy’s” are all owned by Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. (BLMN). With 1,500 restaurants in the U.S. and 21 other countries, business for the company is solid.

Fourth-quarter sales grew 5.1% to $1.1 billion due to new restaurant openings and an increase in comparable restaurant sales. The company opened 15 new locations during the quarter and completed 36 restaurant renovations. This resulted in bottom-line earnings of $59.0 million, or $0.46 per share (with a one-time gain), or $34.2 million, or $0.27 per share, on an adjusted basis for a 35% gain over adjusted earnings in the same quarter of the previous year.

The company’s shares rose 12% on the earnings report.

If there’s one restaurant stock that continues to amaze with its share price performance, it’s Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (CMG). This stock has more than doubled over the last 16 months and, while expensively priced, is still a powerhouse of growth.

The company’s earnings estimates have continued to increase since I last wrote about the stock in October. (See “Two Old Restaurant Stocks Offer Investors Growth.”) Fourth-quarter 2013 revenues grew 21% to $844 million, which is a huge accomplishment, all things considered.

Fourth-quarter earnings grew 30% to $80.0 million. The cost of food is the company’s single largest expenditure at 34% of total sales, followed by labor at 23%. Fourth-quarter comparable restaurant sales grew 9.3% and there were 56 new locations for a total of 1,595.

Anything double-digit is a big deal in today’s world, and you can find it in the right restaurant stocks. … Read More

The Last Group of Burgeoning Stocks

By for Profit Confidential

The Income Stocks Investors Now CraveQuite a bit of speculative fervor has been zapped out of this market, which is helpful for the longer-run trend.

With the exception of biotechnology stocks, trading action has softened in initial public offerings (IPOs), 3D (three-dimensional) printer stocks, cloud software stocks, and even a lot of restaurant stocks that only recently were very hot.

The stock market is just a continuing cycle of fluctuating investor sentiment. Valuations among junior energy producers got really excessive last year and the entire group now seems to be in consolidation.

Gold and silver stocks appear to have been toast for a while. As is always the case in resource investing, even the best growth stories can’t generally get their share prices moving if the underlying commodity price is stagnant. Precious metals stocks have always traded in manias, and this is not likely to change.

In a slow-growth environment, dividend income is key. And after an exceptional year like 2013, it may just be the only rate of return to be had.

But like so many large-cap stocks last year, some of the best dividend payers have already gone up tremendously. There isn’t a lot of value for an equity buyer these days.

One specific sector that continues to be relatively hot is the master limited partnerships (MLP) of energy companies. There is very good yield to be had from this sector in addition to the potential for capital gains. There have been countless new listings of these securities, and the North American production boom is the reason.

One firm that illustrates the combination of capital gains and income that can be found … Read More

If You Can Take the Risk: My Top Three Chinese Stocks

By for Profit Confidential

Could These High-Risk Stocks Pay OffWe all know about some of the insane valuations with social media and Internet services stocks, such as Twitter, Inc. (NYSE/TWTR), Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ/FB), and Yelp, Inc. (NYSE/YELP), as I have discussed in these pages before. (Read “Two More Internet Stocks to Watch.”)

These valuations make it extremely risky to buy, as a change in the market perception and valuation could lead to a sell-off in the stock, as was the case for Twitter recently.

Now, if you are willing to assume the risk, there are some more attractive Chinese Internet and social media stocks that offer far better valuations than their American counterparts, but these China-based companies also come with much higher risk.

A look at the valuations of these Chinese stocks really doesn’t tell us much, but based purely on strict metrics and valuations, these Chinese stocks look pretty good—in fact, the prices of these Chinese stocks seem too good to believe. And therein lies the risk: due to the questionable reliability of the financial reporting, auditing, and statements in China, these Chinese stocks carry a lot of risk. Sometimes, it seems as though numbers have been made up to suck in investors and drive the share price higher.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as I said in a previous commentary on China, has been trying to clean up the reporting requirements and offer some potential hope that the numbers being reported are valid. While it’s a good step forward, there’s still no guarantee that crooks will not escape the watch of the SEC.

I was reading how there may be 30 or so … Read More

Investment Opportunities in Depressed Chinese Stocks

By for Profit Confidential

Where to Find New Investment Opportunities in the Emerging MarketsThe Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is currently shutting down numerous Chinese shell companies trading on U.S. exchanges, such as the over-the-counter market and the highly speculative Pink Sheets stock exchange.

This is good and is something the SEC needs to continue to pursue and enforce, so domestic investors can regain some lost confidence towards Chinese stocks.

The American appetite for Chinese stocks has been picking up; albeit, it’s nowhere near where it was a few years ago when Chinese stocks were all the rage.

Yet if you think there’s little interest in Chinese stocks, take a look at some of the sizzling debuts of the few Chinese initial public offerings (IPOs) that listed in the U.S. last year.

There are now worries China may be set for a downside slide. I have been hearing how the Chinese economy was set to burst, especially regarding the real estate and financial sectors in China. So far this has yet to happen, but we are continuing to hear continued bearish comments towards China.

It’s true the Chinese economy is stalling and may find it difficult to get back to its former double-digit growth, but with gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 7.7% in 2013 and estimated to rise 8.2% this year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), these are not bad numbers. By comparison, the U.S. economy is predicted to grow 2.9% in 2014, according to the OECD. (Read “OECD Predicts China #1 Economy by 2016; Consumer Spending to Soar.”)

A recent showing of contraction in Chinese manufacturing in January was used by the Chinese bears … Read More

Top Long-Term Wealth Creator Right Now

By for Profit Confidential

How to Create Wealth in This Stock MarketStocks are selling off after companies report their fourth-quarter earnings and that’s a positive development. It’s time for earnings and expectations to catch up to share prices. We could very well get trendless, choppy trading action for a number of months.

While corporations are not beating Wall Street estimates with conviction, the numbers are not that bad and balance sheets remain strong.

In terms of equity market dynamics, speculative fervor is diminishing, especially with initial public offerings (IPOs). It all seems to be a function of a marketplace that’s a little tired and wants to just digest data instead of betting on the future. If investor sentiment is currently subdued, it’s all perfectly normal after seeing such strong capital appreciation last year.

There are lots of good numbers out there. Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB) just ploughed through $300.00 a share after consolidation of around $225.00. (See “A Must-Read for Long-Term Equity Investors.”) This biotechnology company’s fourth-quarter sales grew 39% to $2.0 billion, earnings grew 57% to $457 million, and management guided 2014 total sales higher than consensus.

Also in the biotechnology space, Amgen Inc.’s (AMGN) fourth-quarter sales grew 13% to just over $5.0 billion. The company’s adjusted earnings per share grew 30% to $1.82, while GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) earnings per share grew to $1.33 from $1.01. Amgen also boosted its quarterly dividend by 30%.

Even The Dow Chemical Company (DOW) reported a solid fourth quarter that handily beat Wall Street consensus. Total quarterly sales grew three percent to $14.4 billion on a two-percent gain in volume and a one-percent gain in prices. Adjusted earnings per share … Read More

The Stock Everyone Is Talking About; How Much Higher Can It Go?

By for Profit Confidential

What’s Keeping Tesla Motors Alive in the Stock MarketTesla Motors, Inc. (TSLA) is the perfect example of a hot stock that’s experiencing trials and tribulations in what is still a very decent market for equities.

After a pronounced, unheeded valuation price gain on the stock market, the position retrenched significantly following the news of a couple fiery car wrecks. But Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk didn’t try to downplay the investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He did, however, take issue with the agency using the word “recall” to describe its requirement for an upgraded wall adaptor and charging software.

But it doesn’t matter what’s necessary to mitigate any potential fire risk with battery-powered vehicles; he’s got to keep the operational momentum going.

And it looks like he’s doing just that. Tesla’s “Model S” shipped some 6,900 units in the fourth quarter of 2013, surpassing previous expectations. The company said its fourth-quarter revenues will exceed its original forecast by approximately 20%.

The company expects full profitability in fiscal 2013 with current Wall Street consensus of about $0.58 a share. 2014’s earnings-per-share estimate averages $1.50, and total sales are expected to grow 35% comparatively. Future sales figures are likely to be adjusted higher.

While Tesla’s Model S is a stunning four-door sedan, the company has high hopes for its upcoming new vehicle, the “Model X,” which is a hatchback SUV with gull-wing doors. It’s a very intriguing concept, which should have appeal in multiple markets around the world.

Tesla’s share price jumped more than $20.00 a share, or 15%, on news of better-than-expected sales of the company’s Model S. (See “This Company a Model of Read More

“Fast Casual” the New Buzzword Among Risk-Capital Speculators

By for Profit Confidential

Why This Restaurant IPO Stands Out from the PackThe great thing about noodles is that they’re cheap—and this is also what makes a restaurant chain selling noodles a very good investment opportunity.

Restaurant stocks should always be on any speculative investor’s radar. Consumers’ tastes change, disposable incomes change, and so on…but there is always fervor to eat out, especially at the right price point.

The latest buzzword in the world of chain restaurants is “fast casual,” a combination between a fast food quick-service outlet and a sit-down casual restaurant. There’s going to be more and more of these types of chains coming to the market, and there have already been some hot (and expensive) initial public offerings (IPOs) in this sector recently.

Among several fast casual restaurant stocks that recently listed, Noodles & Company (NDLS) out of Broomfield, Colorado just opened another 12 locations in its 2013 fourth quarter, bringing its total corporate-owned locations to 318, with 62 additional franchised restaurants.

Typically, developing restaurant stocks that can offer the most capital appreciation potential on the stock market are those with a large number of corporate-owned locations. This enables management to keep full control over operations, while improving the concept as business conditions and geographic locations dictate.

Noodles & Company came to market selling 5,357,143 shares at $18.00 a share with an overallotment of 803,571 shares. Illustrating the speculative fervor for restaurant stocks at the time, the company’s shares opened around $36.00, and then proceeded to appreciate to $47.00 a share before consolidating for the rest of 2013.

Recently, the company announced preliminary fourth-quarter results that came in just shy of the Street’s estimates.

Fourth-quarter 2013 sales are expected … Read More

Strong Corporate Earnings Worthy of a Sell-Off?

By for Profit Confidential

Why Earnings Results Now RuleSome earnings reports are coming in now and a lot of them are pretty decent. At the very least, many are beating consensus and/or previous outlooks for upcoming quarters.

This is all recognizing, of course, that earnings are managed and that a lot of corporations purposely downplay their expectations for the future, so it makes it easier to outperform when results are due. Still, this is the way the system works and the market trades off these relative expectations.

From the numbers that I’m reading so far, the outlook for fourth-quarter earnings season is looking pretty good. There have been a few misses so far, but mostly in regards to guidance for future quarters.

The Container Store Group, Inc. (TCS) was one of the market’s misses in that it reported adjusted earnings per share that beat its comparable quarter by over 37.5%, with a seven percent gain in sales to $188.3 million. Its 2014 full-year sales were forecast to be $754.0 million, just slightly below previous guidance of $756.2 million, and the position sold off.

TCS has been one of the stock market’s hottest IPOs of late and it’s still a decent growth story. The shares doubled in the stock’s market debut back in November. Price volatility is inherent in IPOs; they are almost always overpriced to begin with.

But a lot of companies have so far beaten consensus and increased previous guidance for 2014. Solid earnings results have come from Frischs Restaurants, Inc. (FRS), The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. (GBX), Constellation Brands, Inc. (STZ), Monsanto Company (MON), Team Inc. (TISI), UniFirst Corporation (UNF)…and the list goes on.

UniFirst has been … Read More

Institutional Investors’ Risk of “Having to Be in Stocks” High

By for Profit Confidential

investment opportunityIt’s an amazing performance that few people predicted at the beginning of the year—this stock market might just keep on climbing right into the New Year.

Just recently we looked at Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP) as it broke a new all-time record high of $77.00 a share. Now, the position has surpassed $80.00 a share, still boasting a 2.4% dividend yield. It was $60.00 a share in January.

The stock market should have experienced a major correction this year, but it consolidated during the summer and reaccelerated instead.

The huge price movements of so many large and mature enterprises are not unusual in the historical performance of the stock market. In the middle of 1998, ADP was $30.00 a share (split adjusted). Two years later, the position hit a new, all-time record-high around $60.00 before correcting with technology stocks.

ADP and so many other positions illustrate the power that monetary policy has on the stock market’s business cycle. Clearly, equities today are overbought, but institutional investors have to be buyers, because investors don’t pay fees to have money sitting in cash.

While I feel that the stock market can close this year out strongly, generally speaking, I am not enthusiastic about investors buying this market. The fundamentals are slowly coming together to support the case for rising equity prices, but all the good news in terms of balance sheets and earnings outlooks are already priced into this market. Anything can happen going forward, but expectations for investment returns have to be extremely low if one is buying a stock market that’s already gone up.

A profound and prolonged correction … Read More

If You Don’t Want to Leave This Market, Stick with These Proven Winners

By for Profit Confidential

dividendsAs evidence of the fervor to which institutional investors are bidding this market, Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI) jumped five percent on the day the company announced a new $3.65-billion share buyback program and a 16% increase to its dividends.

These are good times for corporations and equity investors. Companies can borrow on the cheap, and they are keeping shareholders happy with rising dividends and share buybacks.

Johnson Controls is based in Milwaukee and sells a great deal of equipment to the automobile and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industries.

The company’s dividends have been rising consistently, and for the quarter ended June 30, 2013, earnings per share grew an impressive 32%.

Not surprisingly, the stock’s been doing extremely well. At the beginning of the year, it was trading around $31.00 a share; now, it’s around $50.00.

This kind of capital gain has been very common among countless blue chips. It is a highly unusual and monetary policy-fueled rise. In my view, in the case of Johnson Controls, the company’s share price is overvalued, even with the recent news regarding its dividends.

While there is certainly a lot of liquidity in the stock market now—and there is good action to be had, generally speaking—I’m very reticent to be a buyer. At the very least, it is difficult finding attractive stocks to buy that haven’t already gone up tremendously.

I view equities as one big hold right now, and I do think that share prices will be able to finish out the year strongly, given current information.

Looking at the financial results of countless large-cap corporations, there is operational … Read More

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