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

U.S. Economy

Why I Expect a Big Boost in This Company’s 2015 Dividend Payout

By for Profit Confidential

Company 2015 Dividend PayoutEven with the recent price retrenchment, there’s not a lot of value circulating in this stock market. Everything’s already gone up and the capital gains have been great the last few years. But it’s still a slow-growth environment in the global economy, and despite a very accommodative monetary policy, stocks can’t go up forever without experiencing a meaningful retrenchment.

Company earnings are pouring in and there have been some disappointments. But for a lot of mature large-cap businesses, this is a reflection of their industries’ cycles. Large companies in mature industries don’t grow by very much more than the low single-digits.

Which is why a company’s dividends are so important in a stock market that’s at a high but offering little value.

It’s difficult to imagine stocks this year serving up double-digit returns on the back of 2013’s standout performance.

And investor sentiment has changed, too, with oil prices being the catalyst for the recent “deflation worry” sell-off. (See “Is This Stock Sell-Off Just a Blip?”)

The stock market’s existing winners are the way to go going into 2015. There’s plenty of cash in company coffers for more dividends and more share repurchases. It’s a formula that’s worked for large corporations over the last several years, and there’s no reason why it won’t keep working in a slow-growth environment.

Texas Instruments Incorporated (TXN) had a good quarter. The company beat Wall Street consensus, producing substantial double-digit gains in comparable earnings on eight-percent year-over-year revenue growth.

Texas Instruments achieved a new record in gross margin as both analog and embedded processors (which comprise just over 80% of the company’s total sales) … Read More

About That QE4…

By for Profit Confidential

Another Round of Money Printing Coming SoonIt’s widely expected that at the end of this month, the Federal Reserve will end its third round of quantitative easing (that began in September of 2012). This is QE3, where the Federal Reserve was printing $85.0 billion of new money every month and using it to buy U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). In the beginning of 2014, the Fed started reducing the amount of money it was printing each month.

Is there another round of quantitative easing (more commonly known as QE) coming?

Here’s why I ask…

First, U.S. long-term bond yields are collapsing. Back in 2013, when the Federal Reserve hinted that it might move away from quantitative easing, we saw U.S. bond yields soar. Between May and December of 2013, yields on the U.S. 10-year notes almost doubled. But since then the unexpected happened.

10 Year Treasury Note Yield Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Since the beginning of 2014, the yields on the same bonds have plunged 30%. Despite the Federal Reserve telling us it expects to raise interest rates in 2015 and 2016 (which would be catastrophic for bonds), bond prices are rising… Odd, to say the least.

Second, I hear hints about QE4 from key members of the Federal Reserve. In an interview with Reuters, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said, “If we really get a sustained, disinflationary forecast…then I think moving back to additional asset purchases in a situation like that should be something we should seriously consider.” (Source: “Exclusive: Fed’s Williams downplays global risks, eyes U.S. inflation,” Reuters, October 14, 2014.)

In other words, if inflation in the U.S. economy doesn’t meet the … Read More

What the Fear Index Is Telling Us About Stocks Now

By for Profit Confidential

Why This Stock Market Rout Is Here to StayOver the past few months, I warned my readers the stock market had become a risky place to be. While I also suggested euphoria could bring the market higher than most thought possible—to the point of irrationality—the bubble has now burst. Key stock indices are falling and fear among investors is rising quickly.

Please look at the chart below of the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX). This index is often referred to as the “fear index” for key stock indices. If this index rises, it means investors fear a market sell-off. If it declines, investors are complacent and not worried about the stock market falling.

Volatility Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

In just the last 18 trading days (between September 19 and October 15), the VIX has jumped 122% and now stands at the highest level since mid-2012. It has also moved way beyond its 50-day and 200-day moving averages, which shows strength and momentum to the upside from a technical perspective.

Sadly, the VIX isn’t the only indicator telling us that investors don’t want to be in the stock market. Below you’ll find the NAAIM Exposure Index chart, a measure of equity exposure of active money managers (the so-called smart money).

NAAM Exposuer Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Active money managers continue to reduce their exposure to equities as key stock indices fall. On September 2, 82% of their collective portfolios were exposed to the stock market. Now, it’s only 33%. This represents a decline of 60% in their equity market exposure.

On the fundamental front, the stock market is constrained as well. Each day, we are seeing deteriorating economic data … Read More

Off-the-Radar Company Delivering Attractive Earnings

By for Profit Confidential

One Off-the-Radar Company with Attractive ResultsOn the day that the DOW, S&P 500, and NASDAQ Composite dropped two percent on global growth worries, once again, several companies reported very good numbers.

But investors are paying less attention to corporate results and more attention to economic news from around the world that suggests that the only mature economic engine running at any positive speed currently is the U.S. economy.

PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) had another good quarter. The company’s two businesses, food/snacks and beverages, produced modest single-digit growth in consolidated sales.

Net earnings grew five percent, while earnings per share grew seven percent over the third quarter last year. Management also increased its expected constant currency earnings-per-share growth for this year from eight to nine percent.

The company expects to return a total of some $8.7 billion to shareholders this year, comprising approximately $3.7 billion in dividends and $5.0 billion in share buybacks.

PepsiCo is on track to deliver what investors expect. The stock just hit a new all-time record-high still with a 2.8% dividend yield.

Getting into third-quarter earnings season a little further should help focus the stock market’s attention but clearly, sentiment has really turned.

If the trading action continues to wane, good businesses are going to become more attractively priced and equity investors looking for new positions will have better choices.

I do believe that for the investment risk, sticking with existing winners is a good strategy regarding large-cap, dividend-paying blue chips.

Dividend income really matters in a slow-growth environment, and corporations would still rather return cash than take on major new ventures.

Previously in these pages, I’ve written that for long-term investors, I … Read More

Why Stock Buybacks Will End Up Being a Terrible Investment for Companies

By for Profit Confidential

Great Stock Buyback MirageIn these pages, I have been very critical about stock buybacks by companies on the key stock indices. I see them as nothing more than a form of financial engineering used to manipulate per-share corporate earnings…and a bad investment for the companies buying their stocks back.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg and the S&P Dow Jones Indices, companies on the key stock indices are expected to spend $914 billion on share buybacks and dividends this year. Looking at it from their corporate earnings perspective, public companies will be paying out 95% of what they earn. (Source: Bloomberg, October 6, 2014.) Look at it this way: for every $100.00 of corporate earnings, they are paying out $95.00.

Almost $2.0 trillion has been spent by public companies on stock buybacks since 2009.

When companies increase buybacks, all else unchanged, they show an increase in their per-share corporate earnings. Some of the biggest names in key stock indices are doing this. FedEx Corporation (NYSE/FDX) was able to increase its per-share corporate earnings by seven percent, almost all directly related to its stock buyback program (reducing the amount of shares it has outstanding).

Why do I think stock buybacks are bad?

Over the past few years, companies on the key stock indices, by buying their own shares back and removing them from the market, have created a mirage that business is good because their stock prices are rising.

But business isn’t better. If the S&P 500 companies are spending 95% of their corporate earnings on share buybacks and dividends, it means they are spending very few dollars on growing their business.

According to … Read More

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