CWS Market Review – November 16, 2012

“Investing is where you find a few great companies and then sit on your ass.” – Charlie Munger

So true, Charlie. So true. Unfortunately, sitting on our rear ends has been rather unpleasant lately as the stock market has thrown yet another temper tantrum. On Thursday, the S&P 500 broke below 1,350 for the first time since late July.

For several weeks now, I’ve warned investors to be prepared for a difficult market this autumn. The hour cometh, and now is. The day after the election, the S&P 500 dropped 2.37% for its second-worst day of the year. This was unusual because the electoral results were largely expected. The next day, the index closed below its 200-day moving average for the first time since June. That apparently gave the bears a shot of confidence. Yesterday, the index fell to its lowest level since July 26th.

In this week’s CWS Market Review, we’ll take a closer look at what has the market so grumpy. The good news is that it shouldn’t last much longer; I expect a strong year-end rally to begin soon. I’ll also highlight Medtronic’s ($MDT) upcoming earnings report. I’m a big fan of this medical devices company which has increased its dividend for 35 years in a row! Plus, I’ll show you some Buy List stocks that look especially good right now. But first, let’s look at why the market’s recent downturn is running out of steam.

Why This Sell-Off Will End Soon

Measuring from the market’s closing peak on September 14th, the S&P 500 is now down 7.64%. That’s hardly a horrifying drop especially considering the market’s tremendous run over the last three-and-a-half years, but it caught a lot of professionals off guard. Actually, it’s not even the worst drop this year. We’re still short of the 9.93% sell-off the S&P 500 put on between April 2nd and June 1st.

If we dig beneath the numbers of this current sell-off, we can see it has been unusual which leads to me believe that it’s a reaction against events rather than a sober judgment of future corporate cash flow. As sophisticated as we may think Wall Street is, the truth is that traders often act like hyperactive children at a swimming pool (“hey, look at me, look at me, are you looking??”). Simply put, this market is an attention whore.

I’ll give you an example. When the market initially broke down, the Financial sector led the way. That’s to be expected. But what’s interesting is that it didn’t last long. After two weeks, the financials turned around and started leading the market (meaning, not falling as much). That’s unusual. Investors don’t normally turn to financial stocks for comfort during stressful periods.

Broadly speaking, the cyclicals have had similar reactions. For example, the Industrials have been particularly strong and until very recently, the homebuilders were acting like all-stars. We can also see a lot of strength in the Transportation sector. Again, that’s not the usual pattern that a recession is on the way. The economic data continues to suggest that housing is helping consumer spending get back on its feet.

Nor has the bond market reacted as strongly as you would expect. The yield on the 10-year Treasury is back below 1.6%, but it is well above the ultra-low yields we saw this summer. Furthermore, the volatility of Treasury bonds has nearly dried up. Despite the problems in Europe, our economy continues to recover, albeit at a tepid pace. Expect to see Treasury yields gradually creep higher as investors migrate towards bargain stocks.

A worrying market would be when investors bail out of Financials and Cyclicals and crowd into bonds and Defensive stocks. That’s pretty much what we saw during the spring. This time around, the laggards have largely concentrated on the Tech space. This is where things get truly weird. Intel ($INTC) dropped for nine days in a row and now yields 4.5%. Microsoft ($MSFT) is at its low for the year. And look at Apple ($AAPL). Heavens to Murgatroyd! That stock is down more than $180 in less than two months. That’s a loss of $170 billion in market value, or $540 per every American.

But our Buy List continues to motor along. Since October 15th, the S&P 500 is off by 6.03% while our Buy List is down by 4.40%. Obviously, our goal is to profit, not lose by less, but it’s a good sign that our conservative approach holds up well when Wall Street decides to be a drama queen. We have an excellent shot of beating the market for the sixth year in a row.

Another reason for optimism is that downward momentum is starting to exhaust itself. An important gauge that a lot of chart watchers like to follow is the 14-day relative-strength index. The 14-day RSI closed below 30 for the first time since June. This may cause some bulls to jump back into the fray. Plus, the earnings outlook is holding its own. While earnings estimates for Q4 have come down, the consensus on Wall Street still expects growth of 9.4% which is a nice change from the earnings decline of 3.5% for Q3.

Investors are clearly concerned about a number of political factors. For one, there’s the prospect another stand off between the White House and Congress over the impending “fiscal cliff.” Personally, I doubt this will be as serious as some people fear. The business community is clearly not in the mood for more political drama. I have to think that some sort of deal will be reached before any economy-wrecking plans take effect. There’s too much to lose.

Investors need to be disciplined and not expect the market to gain 20% overnight. Our Buy List is poised to do well, and we just had another good earnings season. Continue to focus on strong dividends, especially companies with long histories of raising their payouts. Speaking of which, we have an earnings report coming next week from one of my favorite dividend champions.

Medtronic Is a Buy Below $44

Medtronic ($MDT) is due to report its earnings on Tuesday, November 20th. If you’re not familiar with them, Medtronic makes medical devices such as products that treat diabetes. The company has increased its dividend every year for the last 35 years.

This earnings report will be for their fiscal second quarter which ended in October. Wall Street currently expects earnings of 88 cents per share which would be a small increase over the 84 cents per share from last year’s second quarter. Medtronic’s earnings reports are usually very close to expectations. If not dead on, it’s rarely more than one or two pennies per share off. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I like MDT.

Medtronic used to be a glamour stock but it’s lost a lot of its luster. The P/E Ratio has been massively squeezed but the company still churns out steady earnings growth. I was pleased to see Medtronic’s stock turn a corner earlier this year. As traders got nervous and bailed out of riskier bets, Medtronic’s stability suddenly become attractive. From June 4th to October 4th, MDT jumped 24%, although it has given back 8.5% since then.

Medtronic sees earnings ranging between $3.62 and $3.70 per share for this fiscal year. That works out to growth of 5% to 7%, and it means the stock is going for 11 times FY 2013 earnings. The company seems to be on track towards hitting their target. This is a very good stock but I don’t want you to chase it. I’m lowering my Buy Below price to $44 per share.

Some Buy List Bargains

The market’s recent downturn has given us several attractive stocks on the Buy List. If you’re looking for income, Reynolds American ($RAI) currently yields 5.9%. Nicholas Financial ($NICK) is now below $12 per share which gives the stock a yield above 4%. As I predicted two weeks ago, Sysco ($SYY) raised their dividend by a penny per share. That makes 43 dividend increases in a row. SYY now yields 3.7%.

Moog ($MOG-A) currently looks very cheap. The stock just dipped to a new 52-week low. That’s odd because Moog just had a good earnings report and they reiterated their earnings guidance of $3.50 to $3.70 per share. I think Moog can be a $45 stock within a year. Just to be safe, I’m going to lower my Buy Below price to $38 due to the recent sell-off.

Oracle ($ORCL) just dropped below $30 per share. This is a very good company. Oracle is now going for about 10 times next year’s earnings. Oracle is a strong buy up to $35 per share.

I also want to tighten up a few Buy Below prices due to the market’s recent sell-off. I’m lowering Bed, Bath & Beyond’s ($BBBY) Buy Below to $62. (How’s that for alliteration?) I’m also paring back CA Technologies ($CA) to a strong buy below $24. We have a lot of excellent stocks on our Buy List so per dear old Charlie, sitting on our asses is a wise strategy.

That’s all for now. Next week should be fairly quiet. The market will be closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving. On Friday, there will be an abbreviated session that ends at 1 p.m. This is usually one of the lightest volume days of the year. Be sure to keep checking the blog for daily updates. I’ll have more market analysis for you in the next issue of CWS Market Review!

– Eddy

Posted by on November 16th, 2012 at 7:17 am

The information in this blog post represents my own opinions and does not contain a recommendation for any particular security or investment. I or my affiliates may hold positions or other interests in securities mentioned in the Blog, please see my Disclaimer page for my full disclaimer.

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