CWS Market Review – November 2, 2012

“Success or failure in business is caused more by the mental attitude even than by mental capacities.” – Walter Scott

In last week’s CWS Market Review, I mentioned how I saw the market heading for “rough waters.” Of course, I meant that as a metaphor but it came literally true this week as Hurricane Sandy pounded the New York area. For the first time in more than 120 years, the New York Stock Exchange closed for two days in a row due to weather. I hope everyone survived the storm intact.

Despite the abbreviated trading this week, our Buy List continues to do well. I told you in last week’s issue to “look for an earnings beat” from Ford ($F), and that’s exactly what we got. The automaker smashed Wall Street’s expectations by 33%. Once trading resumed on Wednesday, the stock gapped up nearly 8%, and it pushed even higher on Thursday to reach its highest close in six months. Also on Thursday, shares of AFLAC ($AFL) closed at their highest level since May 17, 2011.

However, not all of our earnings reports have been great. Nicholas Financial ($NICK) had a mildly disappointing report, and WEX Inc. ($WXS), the new name for Wright Express, fell six cents shy of estimates. I still want investors to position themselves defensively. We’re not out of the woods just yet, but we are getting close.

In this week’s issue, I’ll survey our recent Buy List earnings reports; plus I’ll discuss the final batch of earnings reports due next week. But first, let’s look at the remarkable turnaround at Ford Motor.

Ford Is a Strong Buy Up to $13

I have to admit that I had been baffled by the steady erosion in Ford’s ($F) share price since the beginning of last year. The company was clearly doing well and all of the problems negatively affecting their business were out of their control. Sure, their European sales were going down the drain, but they’ve been working to cut back production there.

On Tuesday, we got the results and they were very good. For the third quarter, Ford earned 40 cents per share which was 10 cents more than Wall Street’s consensus. This was despite a 4% drop in overall revenues. I’ve looked over Ford’s numbers and what’s most impressive is that they got their profit margins in North America up to 12%. That’s outstanding.

The success of this earnings report was laid a few years ago when the company dramatically restructured itself. Ford worked to cut costs and change its operations. That’s basically what Ford is planning to do in Europe today. Looking at the numbers, we can see that Europe was clearly Ford’s weak spot. The company lost $468 million in Europe.

Ford is doing amazingly well in North America and that drove the strong results. On Wednesday, Ford jumped 7.7% to $11.16. On Thursday, the stock rose another nine cents to $11.25. The last time the stock was this high was on April 30th. Despite the rally, shares of Ford are still attractively priced. I think Ford can earn as much as $1.62 per share next year which means the stock is going for less than seven times next year’s earnings. I’m raising my Buy-Below on Ford to $13 per share.

Nicholas Financial Earns 42 Cents Per Share

I had been eagerly waiting for Nicholas Financials’ ($NICK) earnings report but the results were a slight disappointment. For the third quarter, the used-car financier made 42 cents per share. Their results were hurt by higher operational costs and for their interest rate swaps. I don’t want to overstate my disappointment. The company is still doing very well and my long-term view of the company hasn’t changed. With short-term interest rates poised to remain low for the next few years, plus a slowly recovering economy, the future looks bright for NICK. I think the company can continue to earn about 45 cents per share (give or take) for the next several quarters. Don’t let any short-term bumps rattle you, NICK is doing well. The stock continues to be a strong buy up to $15.

Fiserv ($FISV) has been a great stock for this year (+28.35% YTD). Except for a dip in May, the stock has climbed nearly every month this year. On Tuesday, the company reported third-quarter earnings of $1.27 per share which was inline with Wall Street’s consensus. Fiserv also reiterated its full-year forecast of earnings growth of 11% to 14% which comes to $5.05 to $5.20 per share. Earnings for the first three quarters were up 13% to $3.75 per share so Fiserv should have little trouble hitting their full-year target. In fact, I think they have a shot of slightly beating that. Fiserv remains a very good buy. I’m raising my Buy-Below price to $80 per share.

For such a quiet stock, Harris ($HRS) has been very volatile recently. The shares got knocked down by 8% over two days in mid-October due to a downgrade. On Monday, the company reported quarterly earnings of $1.14 per share which was two cents more than expectations. The most important news is that Harris is sticking by its full-year guidance of $5.10 to $5.30 per share. If the next three quarters are like the first, Harris will hit that target easily. When trading resumed on Wednesday, the stock dropped, which I found puzzling. Sure enough, the shares rallied back strongly on Thursday to reach a three-week high. Harris remains a good buy up to $50.

WEX Inc. ($WXS), which used to be known as Wright Express, reported third-quarter earnings of $1.08 per share which was six cents below estimates. Revenues rose 6% to $161 million. WXS sees Q4 earnings ranging between $1.01 and $1.08 per share. The Street had been expecting $1.10 per share. Despite the earnings miss and poor guidance, the shares are holding up well. WXS is a good buy anytime the shares are below $75.

The Last Batch of Q3 Earnings Reports

We have three more Buy List earnings reports coming up. Moog ($MOG-A) reports on Friday, November 2. The results are probably out by the time you’re reading this. Unfortunately, Moog’s stock has been a dud this year. It’s the single worst-performing stock on our Buy List.

The problem is that Moog makes flight control systems for commercial and military aircraft. That whole sector has been…well, a no-fly zone this year. Wall Street expects earnings of 89 cents per share (this will be for Moog’s fiscal Q4). I’ll be curious to see if Moog reiterates their guidance for FY 2013 (which we just started). Earlier Moog had said it expects fiscal year earnings of $3.50 to $3.70 per share. The good news is that the stock’s lagging performance has made it an attractive buy. I rate Moog a strong buy up to $45 per share.

On Monday, November 5th, Sysco ($SYY) is due to report earnings, and DirecTV ($DTV) follows on Tuesday, November 6th, which is also Election Day. Sysco is expected to earn 50 cents per share which sounds about right. The stock currently yields 3.42% which is a very good deal. Here’s the thing: Sysco has raised its dividend for the last 42 years in a row. Even though their earnings were about the same as last year’s, I think they’ll want to keep the dividend streak alive, so look for a penny-per-share increase in the quarterly dividend very soon. Sysco is a good buy up to $32.

That’s all for now. Obviously the big news next week will be the election. 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 2nd, 2012 at 8:28 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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