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

Posts Tagged ‘stocks’

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

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

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

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

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

How to Profit from the Surge in Domestic Oil Production

By for Profit Confidential

Best Investment Opportunity in Oil-Related StocksCrude oil has pulled back from its recent price strength, but it’s still holding up pretty well above the $100.00-per-barrel mark for West Texas Intermediate (WTI).

Energy is still a top sector for equity portfolios, but it is the case that many oil stocks have already moved up tremendously and valuations are a little stretched.

I’m a big believer in energy infrastructure and pipelines for income-seeking investors and junior energy stocks for risk-capital investors.

It’s more difficult to find value in this market; that’s for sure. But domestic oil and gas production, transportation, and storage remain a growth industry.

Halliburton Company (HAL) just reported another great quarter, with its oil and gas services still being pretty robust worldwide.

In particular, Halliburton’s management noted solid strength in the U.S. market for energy services, and that’s on top of several tremendously good years in recent history.

According to the company, 2014 second-quarter sales came in at $8.1 billion, up solidly from first-quarter sales of $7.35 billion and comparative second-quarter sales of $7.32 billion last year.

Recent quarterly revenues were a new record for Halliburton, with notable strength in its North American operations. In fact, domestic operations are so strong that management plans to immediately add new equipment, transportation capabilities, and work crews for hydraulic fracturing.

The company’s operating margins are rising (internationally, as well), and the board just increased its share repurchase authorization by a huge $4.8 billion to $6.0 billion in total.

Halliburton’s share price is up 40% year-to-date, and I’d say there’s a good probability the position is going higher yet, as it’s not overpriced for double-digit growth.

The company’s … Read More

How to Spot a Genuine Momentum Stock

By for Profit Confidential

How I Know This Stock's Headed HigherOne stock that’s experiencing serious upward price momentum is in the equipment rental business. Momentum stocks might typically be associated with other market sectors, but United Rentals, Inc. (URI) is doing fantastic operationally and the market is bidding.

It’s kind of odd to think of an equipment rental company soaring on the stock market, but United Rentals is doing just that. In its most recent quarter, the company handily beat Wall Street consensus and raised its full-year guidance.

According to the company, its second quarter produced sales of $1.4 billion, up 16.7% from $1.2 billion in the same quarter last year.

Management said that the company is experiencing solid demand in non-residential construction. It’s renting out more equipment at higher margins than normal.

Second-quarter earnings were $94.0 million, or $0.90 per diluted share, compared to $83.0 million, or $0.78 per diluted share, representing a gain of about 15%.

Adjusted earnings per share were $1.65 on a diluted basis, which was way above Wall Street consensus.

United Rentals is one of the largest equipment rental companies in the world, with more than 12,000 employees. The company is considered a mid-cap stock and has been doing extremely well since the middle of 2012, which you can see in the stock chart below.

United Rentals Inc Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Not only did United Rentals beat consensus, but it also raised its outlook for adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) and tightened its revenue range to $5.55–$5.65 billion for all of 2014, up from the previous outlook of $5.45–$5.55 billion.

Many companies do not have their SEC Form 10-Q documents ready when they … Read More

The Only Thing I Can Find to “Buy Low” These Days

By for Profit Confidential

The Second Half of 2014 What It Looks Like for GoldThe tally as of this morning:

The stock market is up 2.4% so far in 2014 as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, while gold bullion is up 8.1% for the year.

“As an investor, do I get into gold or stocks at this point in the year?”

Well, if you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know I’m not a fan of stocks right now. I simply believe the stock market has become a Federal Reserve–induced bubble.

And while there has been a lot written about price manipulation in the gold market, and while mighty Goldman Sachs still says the metal is headed lower in price, investors should look at gold bullion right now…that’s both old gold investors (so they can average down their cost) and new gold investors taking their first position.

Here are my reasons why…

In 2013, the Indian central bank and government imposed tariffs and restrictions on the importation of gold bullion into India, as they believed the demand for gold bullion in the country was hurting its national accounts. In the first quarter of this year, India started to ease its gold importation restrictions, and bang, last month, gold bullion imports into the country increased by 65% over June of last year. (Source: Bloomberg, July 16, 2014.) Demand for gold bullion in China, which I’ve documented in these pages, is also very strong.

Inflation, what gold bullion acts as a hedge against, is starting to gain momentum. The Producer Price Index (which tracks changes in the prices producers pay) increased by 0.4% in June from the previous month; that’s an annualized … Read More

My Top Tech Stock for Wealth Creation

By for Profit Confidential

Top Wealth-Creating Tech Stock for the Risk-Averse InvestorThe numbers are still coming in pretty good this earnings season and corporate outlooks are holding up well for the year.

Stocks have been trading off of Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen’s monetary policy report to Congress, and less so on earnings.

This market is tired and you can see it in the trading action of individual stocks that beat the Street with their earnings. Most market reaction is pretty mute.

One that wasn’t, however, was Intel Corporation (INTC). The company’s second quarter really got institutional investors fired up. The stock was $26.00 a share mid-May; now it’s close to $34.00, which is a very big move for this company.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) doesn’t report until next week, but the company’s shares moved commensurately with Intel’s.

Earnings strength from these older technology benchmarks is really good news for both the stock market and the economy in general. It means that the enterprise market is spending money again, and that’s exactly what the technology industry needs.

Even Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) got a boost from Intel’s earnings results. This stock has been trying to break out of a long price consolidation. It hasn’t really done anything on the stock market since its bubble burst in 2000.

I actually view Microsoft as an attractive company for equity portfolios looking for higher-quality stocks.

The position is very fairly priced and offers a current dividend yield of just less than three percent. And management has a multifaceted business plan focused on growth in personal computers (PCs), the cloud, and devices.

But the best potential with a company like Microsoft is its prospects for … Read More

The Big News on 2Q14 Earnings Season So Far

By for Profit Confidential

My Two New Favorite Stocks This Earnings SeasonThe numbers are in from Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and they’re good. The position sold off on the news, which is no big surprise considering how well it’s done since the beginning of the year.

Johnson & Johnson is still mostly a pharmaceutical play, but it won’t likely be able to produce the same growth results it experienced from its hepatitis C drug in its most recent quarter.

The company adjusted its earnings-per-share guidance slightly higher and lowered its full-year sales guidance also just slightly.

The second quarter saw the company produce sales growth of nine percent to approximately $19.5 billion and adjusted earnings growth (excluding one-time items) of about 12% to $1.66 a share, which handily beat Wall Street consensus. (See “Why This Institutional Favorite Tops My List of Stocks.”)

While I do think that second-quarter earnings from blue chips will be pretty decent, it’s not unreasonable at all for these positions to sell off on the news. Stocks have come a long way, even just since the beginning of this year.

The stock market needs a break, or at the very least, another material price consolidation. It would be a healthy development for the long-run trend.

Another company that just reported a decent second quarter was CSX Corporation (CSX), which is the biggest railroad in the eastern U.S. market.

Management cited broad-based economic momentum in its rail freight business. The company’s numbers basically met consensus with second-quarter sales growth of 6.5% to $3.24 billion and earnings of $529 million, or $0.53 per share, up a penny from consensus.

The company plans to increase its capital spending … Read More

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