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

Posts Tagged ‘stock market’

Why I Like These Two Health Care Stocks

By for Profit Confidential

If You Can Stand the Risk… Two Strong Healthcare StocksOne of the problems with pure-play biotechnology stocks is that they are 100% risk-capital securities in which the probability of success is entirely beyond your control.

But healthcare and related industry investments are very much worthwhile in an equity market portfolio for the simple reason that they can be so profitable.

One company that serves the healthcare industry, but isn’t a pure-play drug discovery enterprise, is Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc. (BRLI). Based in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, this stock is an interesting way to play the sector.

Bio-Reference is the third-largest diagnostic laboratory in the U.S. The company’s customers are physicians, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and government institutions. It has laboratory testing facilities in nine states and provided 7.8 million laboratory test requisitions in 2013, which continue to grow at a double-digit rate.

The company’s latest quarter set a new record in total revenues. Sales grew a solid 20% to $222 million on a 16% increase in patient count and a three-percent increase in revenue per patient.

Quarterly earnings came in at $15.3 million, or $0.55 per diluted share, compared to $14.7 million, or $0.53 per diluted share, in the same quarter last year.

Company management said its earnings per share for the upcoming fiscal quarter should grow approximately 15% above the most recent quarter.

Over the last 10 years, Bio-Reference has really found its stride as an enterprise and the stock is finally breaking out of a two-year price consolidation.

The company is now involved in genetic testing and believes that this will be a growth business going forward.

The stock jumped after the company’s recent earnings results and is … Read More

Feel Like You Are Missing Out?

By for Profit Confidential

Stock Market Correction Very HighIf you follow the financial news, it feels like the stock market is moving higher and higher…a situation in which investors often feel they are missing out.

But the reality of the situation is very different. So far this year, almost eight full months in, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up only three percent.

Would you buy stocks with the Dow Jones trading at 17,100, near a record-high price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple and a record-low dividend yield? I wouldn’t. Hence, the question changes from “Am I missing out?” to “Is it worth the risk?”

On Monday, the chief market strategist at BMO Capital Markets said, “Longer term we are in the camp that believes U.S. equities are the place to be. They are the most stable asset in the world.” (Source: “Bull market will charge higher for 15 more years says strategist,” Yahoo! Finance, August 18, 2014.)

The belief that “stocks are the place to be” has gone mainstream now. And that’s very dangerous.

The reality of the situation: (1) stocks are trading at very high historical levels when measured by the P/E multiple and dividend yield; (2) the Fed is stopping its money printing program; (3) investors are pulling money out of the stock market; (4) consumer spending is tumbling; (5) stock advisors have remained too bullish for too long; and (6) the chances of a 20% stock market correction are very high.

According to the Investment Company Institute (ICI), between April and June, mutual funds that invest in U.S. stock markets witnessed net withdrawals of $19.1 billion. While July’s monthly figures are not updated just yet, looking at … Read More

Two Important Economic Signals to Share with My Readers This Morning

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Consumer Confidence CollapsingA good gauge for me on how consumers in the U.S. economy are faring has always been the statistics coming out of Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE/WMT) reported its operating income in its second quarter (ended July 31, 2014) declined by 2.4%. Its subsidiary, Sam’s Club (wholesale store), saw its operating income, after taking out fuel, decline by 10.2%. (Source: Wal-Mart Stores Inc., August 14, 2014.)

For its entire 2015 fiscal year, Wal-Mart now expects to earn in the range of $4.90 to $5.15 per share compared to its previous estimate of $5.10 to $5.45 per share.

The performance of Wal-Mart is very important to economists like me because the massive reach of Wal-Mart is a good indicator of consumer spending. Wal-Mart is the biggest private employer in the world, with a staff of approximately two million, and the largest retailer in the world. More than one hundred million people visit a Wal-Mart store weekly.

So when Wal-Mart comes out with soft earnings, it gives me a reason to be concerned about the direction of consumer spending. But that’s not the only thing I’m worried about in respect to the economy.

According to FactSet, of those major public retailers that have reported their second-quarter same-store sales, 46.8% of them have reported sales below estimates.

Retail sales are stagnant for the simple fact that consumer spending is getting very soft here in the fifth year of the so-called economic “recovery.”

Below is a chart of the widely followed University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index.

University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

As you can see, consumer sentiment has tumbled to its lowest level … Read More

Stock Market Fake? Economic Growth Falls to Slowest Pace Since 2009

By for Profit Confidential

Eurozone Economic Growth PrecariousNot too long ago, I reported that Italy, the third-biggest economy in the eurozone, had fallen back into recession.

Now Germany’s economy is pulling back. In the second quarter of 2014, the largest economy in the eurozone witnessed a decline in its gross domestic product (GDP)—the first decline in Germany’s GDP since the first quarter of 2013. (Source: Destatis, August 14, 2014.)

And more difficult times could lie ahead…

In August, the ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment, a survey that asks analysts and investors where the German economy will go, posted a massive decline. The index collapsed 18.5 points to sit at 8.6 points. This indicator has been declining for eight consecutive months and now sits at its lowest level since December of 2012. (Source: ZEW, August 12, 2014.)

Not only does the ZEW indicator provide an idea about the business cycle in Germany, it also gives us an idea of where the eurozone will go, since Germany is the biggest economic hub in the region.

But there’s more…

France, the second-biggest economy in the eurozone, is also in a precarious position—and a recession may not be too far away for France.

After seeing its GDP grow by only 0.4% in 2013, France’s GDP came in at zero for the first two quarters of 2014. (Source: France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, August 14, 2014.)

France’s problems don’t end there. This major eurozone country is experiencing rampant unemployment, which has remained elevated for a very long time.

While I understand North Americans may not be interested in knowing much about the economic slowdown in the eurozone, we … Read More

One Industry That’s Holding Up the Rest

By for Profit Confidential

Resilient Industry the Reason the Market’s Still UpThe resilience of this stock market is uncanny. Just when transportation stocks, a leading market sector at any time, took a well-deserved break, components turned upward and are once again pushing record highs.

Union Pacific Corporation (UNP) is a benchmark stock in transportation. It’s up fivefold since the stock market low in 2009 and looks to have continued upward price momentum.

This is an exceptional performance for such a mature, old economy type of enterprise. The position has a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of approximately 17 with a current dividend yield of 1.8%.

Three weeks ago, Union Pacific increased its quarterly dividend 10% to $0.50 a share, payable October 1, 2014 to shareholders of record on August 29, 2014.

In three of its last five quarters, the company has increased its quarterly dividend at a double-digit rate and as much as anything else, this is responsible for its great stock market performance.

Union Pacific had an exceptionally good second quarter. Freight revenues grew 10%, driven by gains in freight volume and rising prices.

The company’s operating ratio, which is key in the railroad industry, hit an all-time quarterly record of 63.5%, and management bought back 8.3 million of its own shares during the quarter, spending $806 million.

It’s a very good time to be in the railroad business. Not only are the pure-play rail companies mostly doing well, but the railroad services sector is also experiencing great business conditions.

The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. (GBX) is a company we’ve looked at before. It has been a huge stock market success. (See “Why These Stocks Are a Leading Indicator of the Read More

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

Having Trouble Coming Up With Four Hundred Bucks

By for Profit Confidential

Economic Growth in 2014The burning question that’s facing economists like me today and that will only be answered in the future: did creating $3.0 trillion in new money out of thin air really make things better or worse for America?

My personal view, as expressed in these pages, is that the rich (the big banks and Wall Street) got richer from the “printing press” era, while the average American did not directly benefit from the Fed’s actions.

In fact, in America today, the spread in wealth between the rich and the poor has never been so great. As for the middle class, they are becoming extinct.

The “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2013,” recently published by the Federal Reserve, says 34% of Americans feel they are worse off today than they were five years ago, and 42% said they are holding back on the purchase of major or expensive items. (Source: Federal Reserve, August 7, 2014.)

But the data gets worse…

Of those Americans who had savings prior to the 2008 recession, 57% of them say they have used up some or all of their savings in order to combat the after-effects of the Great Recession.

Only 48% of Americans said that they would be able to cover a “hypothetical emergency expense” that costs $400.00 without selling something or borrowing money. Simply put, about half of Americans have less than $400.00 in emergency funds!

Meanwhile, 31% of Americans say they do not have any retirement savings or pension. Of those who are between the ages of 55 and 64, 24% of them expect to work as long as possible, … 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

If the Economy Is Improving, Why Are Investors Pricing in a Slowdown?

By for Profit Confidential

U.S. Economy Slowing Down Here in 2014The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) surprised even the most optimistic of economists when it reported the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of four percent in the second quarter of 2014.

On the surface, the number—four percent growth—sounds great. But how serious should we take that gross domestic product (GDP) figure?

Firstly, I’d like to start by pointing out that the BEA often revises its GDP numbers downward. We saw this happen in the first quarter. First, we saw the BEA say the U.S. economy grew by 0.1% in the first quarter, then after a couple of revisions, they said the economy actually contracted 2.9% in the quarter.

I obviously expect the BEA to lower its initial second-quarter GDP numbers again.

But here’s what really worries me…

If the GDP data suggests the U.S. economy is growing, why are investors pricing in an economic slowdown?

The chart below is of the 10-year U.S. Treasury, the so-called safe haven. Back in 2007 to 2009, investors ran to U.S. Treasuries as a safe haven. As the U.S. economy improved, the yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury started to rise as interest rates rose with general optimism towards the economy.

10 Year Treasury Note Yield Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

But since the beginning of this year, yields on the 10-year U.S. notes have declined 18%. This is despite the fact the biggest buyer of these bonds, the Federal Reserve, has stepped away from buying these Treasuries as its quantitative easing program comes to an end.

At the same time, we have the stock market finally starting to give in. So if the stock market is a … Read More

Finding Solid Capital Gains in a Slow Market

By for Profit Confidential

These Two Stocks Offering Solid Capital Gains in a Slow MarketThe one thing a business can’t do is manufacture growth. An enterprise is at the whim of the marketplace and the economic conditions that are present. This doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t very good businesses to own, even if they do experience the business cycle.

All companies go through periods of slower, sometimes negative business growth. Once having identified a really good business, the catalyst for ownership becomes valuation.

AAON, Inc. (AAON) is a micro-cap company based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. This enterprise sells heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. It has a long track record of producing solid business growth and providing good capital gains on the stock market.

The company’s most recent quarter actually came in below consensus, but this is still a good enterprise to consider, as it is fairly valued.

Second-quarter sales were a record $92.3 million, but only grew 1.2% over the same quarter last year. Earnings were down 6.2% during the quarter, from $12.1 million to $11.4 million, comparatively.

Management noted that the increase in sales was mostly due to rising prices. The company finished the second quarter with lots of cash in the bank. The company is debt-free and expects full-year 2014 revenues and earnings to be stronger than last year.

As a business, AAON has a very good record of fairly consistent growth—and this is from the HVAC industry, which is mature and saturated.

The company’s first quarter of 2014 was very strong and contributed to a record first half of the year in terms of sales and earnings.

Another good business that’s very likely to keep producing good capital … Read More

Alan’s Words of Wisdom for Stocks (He Was Right Last Time)

By for Profit Confidential

History Repeating Itself with This Stock MarketRemember Alan Greenspan? He was the chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006. Several media sources, including this one, blamed the sub-prime mortgage fiasco that led to the Credit Crisis of 2008 on the easy money policies under the leadership of Greenspan.

But the Credit Crisis aside, it is ironic but true that Greenspan has had a knack for calling stock market bubbles correctly.

For example, in December of 1996, while chairman of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan grew wary about the stock market. In a now famous speech called the “Challenge of Central Banking in a Democratic Society,” along with other observations on the value of stocks, Greenspan essentially argued that the rise in the stock market at that time wasn’t reflective of the poor economic conditions that prevailed.

Within two years of that speech, the stock market started to decline and stocks did not recover until 2006.

In an interview with Bloomberg a few days ago, Greenspan said, “the stock market has recovered so sharply for so long, you have to assume somewhere along the line we will get a significant correction.” (Source: “Greenspan Says Stocks to See ‘Significant Correction,’” Bloomberg, July 30, 2014.)

In the interview, Greenspan says long-term capital isn’t growing and as a result, productivity and the economic recovery will be in jeopardy.

Greenspan is out of the Federal Reserve. But the leader of the Fed today, Janet Yellen, also has reservations about the value of certain stocks. As I wrote on July 16, Yellen had been quoted saying tech stocks were priced “high relative to historical norms.” (See “How Many Warnings Can Read More

Why a Full-Blown Market Correction Should Be Expected

By for Profit Confidential

Investors Can't Overlook to Succeed in This MarketThe monetary environment is still highly favorable to stocks and should continue to be so well into 2015. However, while this market can handle higher interest rates, stocks can only advance in a higher interest rate environment if gross domestic product (GDP) growth is there to back it up.

Because of the capital gains over the last few years and the across-the-board record-highs in many indices, investment risk in stocks is still high. Accordingly, it’s worthwhile reviewing your exposure to risk, particularly regarding any highflyers in your portfolio; they get hit the hardest when a shock happens.

Currently, geopolitical events between Ukraine and Russia have the potential to be the catalyst for a correction. It could happen at any time depending on what transpires.

The risk of stocks selling off on the Federal Reserve’s actions is diminishing. The marketplace is well informed about the central bank’s intentions and it’s quite clear that Fed Chair Janet Yellen doesn’t want to do anything to “surprise” Wall Street.

I still view this market as one where institutional investors want to own the safest names. The economic data just isn’t strong enough for traditional mutual funds and pensions to be speculating.

This is why the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other large-cap dividend paying stocks are so well positioned. They offer great prospects for increasing quarterly income, some capital gain potential (still), and downside protection compared to the rest of the market.

Of course, all stocks are risky. An equity security is priced in a secondary market where fear, greed, emotions, and a herd mentality are part of the daily pricing mechanism.

Accordingly, anything … Read More

What Sports and a Winning Portfolio Have in Common

By for Profit Confidential

Why a Good Defense Is Key in Both Sports and StocksIn sports, teams usually require strength from both the offensive and defensive players on a team. Without consideration for one or the other, it makes winning more difficult.

In hockey, for instance, you can form a highly offensive team that can score at will, but if that output dries up, then you run into problems. The old belief that a good defense wins championships is often valid.

This approach can also be used for the stock market, especially given the current situation in 2014, when trading is largely erratic and devoid of any strong sustainable direction.

Over the past four years, when the bull stock market was firing on all cylinders, just simply buying stocks was a no-brainer. The gains tended to come easily and quickly.

Yet here we are in what has been a frustrating year for the stock market after the stellar gains in 2013. In fact, just like my sports example, it’s time to review your defense and make sure you have set up the right formation in your portfolio should the stock market continue to waver.

We all kind of knew that it would not be easy for the stock market this year. At the beginning of the year, the negative start in January suggested that there was a 46% probability the stock market would decline this year, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

So while the DOW and Russell 2000 are negative this year, there’s still a chance these key stock indices can rally and finish in the black by year-end. Considering that the S&P 500 is up about 180% since the beginning … Read More

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