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

Posts Tagged ‘stock market’

What the Worst Jobs Report of the Year Really Tells Us

By for Profit Confidential

What We Found Buried in August’s Jobs ReportA week ago today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its jobs market report for the month of August. To say the very least, there was nothing in that report that says the labor market in the U.S. economy is back on its feet. In fact, the report painted a gruesome image of employment in this country.

In August, 142,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy—the lowest monthly pace in 2014. And the jobs market numbers previously released for June and July were revised lower. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 5, 2014.)

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Americans who have been out of work for more than six months continue to make up a significant portion of the total unemployed population—31.2% of all unemployed to be exact. Over the past few years, this number hasn’t really come down much.

What’s worse is that the labor force participation rate, that is the rate of those who are in the working-age population and are looking for work, stood at 62.8% in August. This is the lowest rate of labor force participation in the U.S. economy seen since the late 1970s! (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed September 5, 2014.)

Adding to the misery, and as I have reported many times in these pages, we are seeing more part-time jobs created than ever and job creation remains concentrated in the low-wage-paying sectors, like service and retail.

There’s another problem that doesn’t get much attention. Incomes in the U.S. economy are falling. According to a report by the Federal Reserve, median household … Read More

Large-Cap Tech Doubling in Price and Headed Higher

By for Profit Confidential

Dependable Large-Cap Tech Stock’s Success an Untold Story This YearLarge-cap technology stocks, particularly old-school names, have really been on the rise, though they remain an untold story this year.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) is on a major upward price trend and is getting close to its all-time record-high set during the technology bubble of 1999.

The company’s stock market performance has been tremendous as of late, rising from around $27.00 a share at the beginning of 2013 to its current level of approximately $47.00, its 52-week high. Its share price has increased by more than $10.00 this year alone. (See “Eight Stocks to Beat the Street.”) And that’s with a current dividend yield of 2.6% and a trailing price-to-earnings ratio of just less than 15.

I think Microsoft is going to keep on ticking higher right into 2015 based on its sales and earnings growth momentum combined with a solid interest on the part of institutional investors seeking earnings predictability in a slow-growth environment.

Microsoft would be a solid investment-grade pick in this market for those investors considering new positions and looking for income.

Even without the company’s dividends, it should experience solid sales and earnings growth going into its next fiscal year. And in an environment where institutional investors are bidding old-school names that are offering earnings reliability, $50.00 a share shouldn’t be too difficult for Microsoft to achieve by year-end.

Share price momentum in previous technology growth stocks like Microsoft and Intel is indicative of a bull market, but one that’s still risk-averse.

Price momentum in these stocks is healthy for the broader market because large-cap tech companies like Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) and Facebook, Inc. (FB) … Read More

About That $38-Million Ferrari…

By for Profit Confidential

The Other Side of the Ferrari StoryA 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta has set a new record selling for $38.1 million at an auction in Pebble Beach, California. News of the sale was all over the Internet and made it into major newspapers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.

But it’s not just old, rare cars that are selling. The high-end luxury car market is also booming. For example, Maserati sold 6,573 cars this past July, compared to only 1,536 cars a year ago. (Source: Motor Intelligence web site, last accessed September 2, 2014.)

The markets for high-end real estate and high-end fashion goods are hot in the U.S. economy, too.

The mainstream is looking at the boom in various luxury markets and calling it economic growth. Truth be told, only a very small fraction of Americans can afford to live a lavish lifestyle and buy expensive cars, homes, and other gadgets.

The other side of the story—the story of the 99%-plus—usually goes untold.

What follows below is a picture (I personally took) of a sign posted in every grocery store I went into in a prominent town very close to New York City. The picture not only shows how the average American is struggling, but it also puts a big dent in the theory of economic growth in the U.S. economy.

We Accept WIC Check and Food Stamp
Americans are using food stamps and other government assistance programs like never before. The truth is that if the U.S. economy was witnessing economic growth, we wouldn’t have 46.25 million Americans and 22.5 million households using food stamps in the U.S. economy…. Read More

Why Are Oil Prices Collapsing?

By for Profit Confidential

Global Economy Just Getting WeakerOil plays a critical role in economic growth as oil is used in a variety of industries. In times of economic growth, oil prices rise. When the economy is soft, or getting soft, oil prices fall as demand for oil wanes.

Over the past two months, oil prices have collapsed for the simple reason that the global economy is getting weak.

The chart below shows the steep sell-off in oil prices that started in mid-June.

Light Crude Oil-Spot Price ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

What’s interesting to note is that oil prices are falling at a time when we have numerous troubling events in the Middle East and Russia. In normal circumstances, these developments would have caused oil prices to soar.

One more chart I want to show you today (which continues to spell trouble ahead for the global economy) is the Baltic Dry Index (BDI). Since the beginning of the year, this indicator of global economic activity has been collapsing.

Baltic Dry Index ChartChart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Since January, the BDI has fallen 45%. The BDI is an indicator of trade in the global economy; the less trade in the world, the weaker the global economy.

Over the past few months, the chances of the global economy witnessing an economic slowdown have risen significantly.

As I have been writing, the eurozone is in very deep economic trouble again. Japan, the third-biggest hub in the global economy, is begging for growth. And the manufacturing and real estate sectors in the Chinese economy are slowing at a staggering rate.

The continued growth of the global economy is critical for the U.S. economy. In 2012, 46.6% of the S&P 500 … Read More

One Group of Stocks Investors Can’t Ignore

By for Profit Confidential

Stocks That Really MatterSo long as transportation stocks are ticking higher, the stock market is much less susceptible to a price retrenchment.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average just blew past 8,500, recently hitting a new record-high after taking a well-deserved break around mid-July and August.

Airline stocks led the index’s recent price strength. Some examples: JetBlue Airways Corporation (JBLU) was $8.00 a share in May, now it’s pushing $13.00. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) was $20.00 a share at the beginning of the year, recently hitting a price of more than $33.00 for a new all-time record-high.

But it isn’t just airline stocks that are doing well on the Dow Jones Transportation Average; railroad stocks and trucking companies are pushing through to new highs, too, and earnings estimates for a lot of these companies are increasing, especially for 2015.

It may seem like an old-school concept, but strength in transportation stocks is still a leading indicator for the broader market. Price strength in these stocks often shows up at the beginning of a new business cycle.

Union Pacific Corporation (UNP) is one of my favorite railroad stocks for investors and it’s a great benchmark for determining your investment strategy, even for those not interested in the company. Monitoring this stock is a great way to gain market and economic intelligence.

This position still has good potential for further capital gains and earnings forecasts have been going up across the board—including estimates for the company’s third and fourth quarters, all of 2014, and all of 2015.

The stock’s been in a well-deserved price consolidation since May, but it recently broke out of this trend … Read More

Another Warning Sign: Stocks Hit Highs on Collapsing Volume

By for Profit Confidential

The Only Bear Left StandingSo the S&P 500 has touched the 2,000 mark.

Will the S&P 500 continue to march to new highs?

Well, my opinion towards the stock market hasn’t changed. I remain skeptical for a variety of reasons, many of which I have shared with my readers over the past few months.

But I have a new concern about the stock market, something that hasn’t been touched on by analysts: trading volume is collapsing.

Please look at the table below. It shows the performance of the S&P 500 and its change in trading volume.

Year Performance Change in Volume
2012 11.73% - 17.58%
2013 14.50% - 24.91%
2014 8.40% - 44%*

*Until August 25, 2014

Data source: StockCharts.com, last accessed August 25, 2014

Key stock indices like the S&P 500 (it is the same story for the Dow Jones) are rising as volumes are declining, suggesting buyers’ participation in the stock market advance is very low. For a healthy stock market rally, any technical analyst will tell you that you need rising volume, not declining volume.

It’s Economics 101: rising demand pushes prices higher. In the case of the S&P 500, we have declining demand (low trading volume) and rising prices. Something doesn’t make sense here.

Looking at the economic data, it further suggests key stock indices are stretched. We continue to see the factors that are supposed to drive the U.S. economy to deteriorate.

Just look at the housing market. The number of new homes sold continues to decline. In January, the annual rate of new-home sales in the U.S. was 457,000 units. By July, it was down more than 10% … Read More

Why These Housing Stocks Are Still Attractive

By for Profit Confidential

Why I Still Believe Housing Is AttractiveIn spite of some doom and gloom scenarios for the housing market, so far it has been full steam ahead as the sector continues to blaze along since bouncing out of the Great Recession in 2008.

With interest rates and mortgage rates continuing to be relatively low, and with the jobs market producing more than 200,000 new jobs monthly, the ingredients are there for continued strength in the housing market, which I view as a good buying opportunity.

Yes, while it’s true much of the easy money has been made in the housing market, there are still opportunities to squeeze some profits out from homebuilder stocks.

Housing starts and building permits continue to be fairly strong with more than one billion annualized units for each segment in July.

As I previously said, the low rate environment and jobs growth will continue to provide the catalyst for growing the housing market. And I expect this to hold for at least another year or so until rates move higher to levels that will hurt the housing market.

One of the top housing market stocks is Toll Brothers, Inc. (NYSE/TOL), which just produced an impressive fiscal third quarter (ended July 31) in which revenues grew at 53% year-over-year to $1.06 billion. The company delivered 1,444 units at an average of $732,000. Toll also drove earnings up 110%, more than double the prior year’s same quarter.

The company ended with a strong backlog of $3.1 billion and 4,204 units at an average of $737,000. Currently trading at 15.56X its FY16 earnings per share (EPS) and a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 0.42, the … Read More

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

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