Archive for October, 2013

  • Chicago PMI Has Biggest Jump in 30 Years
    , October 31st, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I usually don’t write about the Chicago PMI, but today’s report had the largest jump in 30 years. The stat measures economic activity in the Chicago region.

    Chicago PMI, a gauge of manufacturing in the Midwest, surged to 65.9 in October, from 55.7.

    This is the highest level since March 2011, and the biggest monthly increase in over 30 years.

    This crushed expectations for 55.

    While the stock market is slightly positive, the bond market is selling off. The 10-year bond yield had been at a four-month low, but the yield has creeped up about 10 basis points since yesterday. It’s not a lot, but the PMI report is about the only data point showing strong economic activity.

  • Nicholas Financial Earns 35 Cents Per Share
    , October 31st, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Nicholas Financial ($NICK) reported earnings of 35 cents per share:

    CLEARWATER, Fla., Oct. 31, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Nicholas Financial, Inc. (NICK) announced that for the three months ended September 30, 2013 net earnings decreased 16% to $4,317,000 as compared to $5,150,000 for the three months ended September 30, 2012. Per share diluted net earnings decreased 17% to $0.35 as compared to $0.42 for the three months ended September 30, 2012. Revenue increased 1% to $20,949,000 for the three months ended September 30, 2012 as compared to $20,705,000 for the three months ended September 30, 2012.

    For the six months ended September 30, 2013 net earnings decreased 5% to $10,017,000 as compared to $10,558,000 for the six months ended September 30, 2012. Per share diluted net earnings decreased 6% to $0.82 as compared to $0.87 for the six months ended September 30, 2012. Revenue increased 1% to $41,425,000 for the six months ended September 30, 2013 as compared to $41,133,000 for the six months ended September 30, 2012.

    “Our results for the three months ended September 30, 2013 were adversely affected by a non-cash charge related to the change in fair value of interest rate swap agreements, an increase in operating expenses as a percentage of finance receivables, net, and an increase in the net charge-off rate,” stated Peter L. Vosotas, Chairman and CEO. “We continue to develop additional markets and expect to open between 1-3 new branch locations during the remainder of our current fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2014.”

    This was much less than I expected. I saw them earnings 45 cents per share, give or take.

    I’m surprised by the sharp rise in operating costs. One year ago, operating costs were 60.2 cents per share. Last quarter that rose to 65.6 cents per share. This is in the context of revenue-per-share being almost identical to one year ago.

    The provision for credit losses rose from 26.8 cents last year to 32.3 cents this year. The difference between credit losses and operating costs knocks about 11 cents per share off NICK’s pre-tax income. The stock is currently down about 4%.

  • Morning News: October 31, 2013
    , October 31st, 2013 at 7:06 am

    Central Banks Give Each Other Access to Currency

    Fracking Rules Set in Spain to Boost Shale Gas, Oil Work

    BoJ Content to Ignore Fed Tapering and Go Its Own Way

    Fed Extends Stimulus as Growth Stumbles

    Citigroup, JPMorgan Said to Put Currency Dealers on Leave

    Bitcoin Pursues the Mainstream

    Mobile Ads Fuel a Jump in Profit at Facebook

    Shell Profit Misses Analyst Estimates as Global Production Drops

    Sony’s Hirai Cuts Forecasts as Tsuga Leads Panasonic Revamp

    Alcatel-Lucent Reports Narrower Third-quarter Loss

    Lufthansa, Air France – KLM Post Lower Profit in Q3

    Robert Shiller: Young People With A Moral Purpose Should Work For Goldman Sachs, Not Google

    Billionaire Eike Batista’s Dreams Crumble

    Pragmatic Capitalism: Why the Fed Can’t Taper

    Credit Writedowns: Has US Retail Sales Growth Peaked?

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  • Today’s Fed Statement
    , October 30th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    As expected, no taper:

    Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in September generally suggests that economic activity has continued to expand at a moderate pace. Indicators of labor market conditions have shown some further improvement, but the unemployment rate remains elevated. Available data suggest that household spending and business fixed investment advanced, while the recovery in the housing sector slowed somewhat in recent months. Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth. Apart from fluctuations due to changes in energy prices, inflation has been running below the Committee’s longer-run objective, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

    Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth will pick up from its recent pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee sees the downside risks to the outlook for the economy and the labor market as having diminished, on net, since last fall. The Committee recognizes that inflation persistently below its 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance, but it anticipates that inflation will move back toward its objective over the medium term.

    Taking into account the extent of federal fiscal retrenchment over the past year, the Committee sees the improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions since it began its asset purchase program as consistent with growing underlying strength in the broader economy. However, the Committee decided to await more evidence that progress will be sustained before adjusting the pace of its purchases. Accordingly, the Committee decided to continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative, which in turn should promote a stronger economic recovery and help to ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with the Committee’s dual mandate.

    The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months and will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. In judging when to moderate the pace of asset purchases, the Committee will, at its coming meetings, assess whether incoming information continues to support the Committee’s expectation of ongoing improvement in labor market conditions and inflation moving back toward its longer-run objective. Asset purchases are not on a preset course, and the Committee’s decisions about their pace will remain contingent on the Committee’s economic outlook as well as its assessment of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.

    To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee today reaffirmed its view that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored. In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.

    Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; James Bullard; Charles L. Evans; Jerome H. Powell; Eric S. Rosengren; Jeremy C. Stein; Daniel K. Tarullo; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against the action was Esther L. George, who was concerned that the continued high level of monetary accommodation increased the risks of future economic and financial imbalances and, over time, could cause an increase in long-term inflation expectations.

  • The S&P 500 Matches Inflation-Adjusted High
    , October 30th, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Great news! Adjusted for inflation, the S&P 500 has done nothing in the past six years! And it’s taken a lot for us to get there.

    This morning, the government released the inflation report for September. I had to do a little massaging of the numbers, but if we assume the inflation trend that we had in September continues in October, then the S&P 500 just surpassed its inflation-adjusted peak from October 2007.

    Note that this is just the S&P 500 and it doesn’t include dividends. All things being equal, you can expect the market’s dividend rate to follow the inflation rate fairly closely. While we’re above the 2007 peak, the S&P 500 is still about 18.5% below the inflation-adjusted peak from 2000.

    We can never say for certain where the inflation-adjusted index is because there’s some lag time before the inflation report comes out. Here’s the latest FRED chart which goes from 1957 through September 2013. The next data point should reflect the six-year high.


    It’s interesting to see that the 2009 low nearly matched the 1966 high.

  • WEX Inc. Earns $1.29 Per Share
    , October 30th, 2013 at 10:57 am

    More good earnings news today. This morning, WEX Inc. ($WEX) reported Q3 earnings of $1.29 per share. That’s 10 cents more than estimates. Three months ago, WEX said that earnings for Q3 would be between $1.16 and $1.23 per share.

    Quarterly revenue jumped 19% to $191.5 million. These are very good numbers. The shares are currently up 5% this morning. WEX’s CEO had good things to say in today’s report.

    “We continue to experience momentum throughout our business, driven by the solid execution of our long-term strategy. For the quarter, revenue increased 19% year-over-year and was towards the high-end of our guidance, while adjusted net income, increasing 20%, exceeded our expectations. Our results were driven by robust volume growth, Other Payments growth, foreign exchange rate contributions and expense management,” commented Michael E. Dubyak, WEX’s chairman and chief executive officer.

    “We continue to see ongoing expansion in our domestic fleet business as we realize synergies from Fleet One and further bolster our competitive position. Furthermore, investments in our virtual card product are continuing to generate positive returns as we penetrate attractive geographies including Europe, Asia Pacific and South America. Looking towards the future, we expect to continue to leverage the foundations we are building and our dynamic pipeline to drive growth as we close out the year,” concluded Mr. Dubyak.

    For Q4, WEX sees earnings coming in between $1.04 and $1.12 per share. Wall Street had been expecting $1.11 per share. WEX also raised their full-year guidance range to $4.37 to $4.44 per share. The earlier range was $4.27 to $4.37 per share.


  • Morning News: October 30, 2013
    , October 30th, 2013 at 6:47 am

    China Official PMI Seen Hitting 18-Month High in October

    Spain Exits Two-year Recession as Rajoy Seeks Recovery

    German Unemployment Rises a Third Month as Growth Slows

    RBS Said to Review Currency-Trading Practices Amid Probe

    World’s First Bitcoin ATM Launched in Canada

    Chocolate Factory, Trade War Victim

    Consumer Confidence in U.S. Slumps by Most Since August 2011

    The President Wants You to Get Rich on Obamacare

    Housing Prices in U.S. Cities Rise by Most Since Early 2006

    Barclays Profit Rises to $1.2 Billion But Fixed Income Trading Slumps

    Linkedin’s Conservative Forecast Gives Pause To Sizzling Stock Surge

    Sears Weighs Spinoff of Lands’ End

    Honda Q2 Net Up 42% on U.S. Sales Rise, Slightly Below Forecast

    Joshua Brown: The Starbucks Global Takeover

    Howard Lindzon: Being Wrong Works at Scale…Hedge Funds and Bank of America

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  • AFLAC Earns $1.47 Per Share, Raises Dividend 5.7%
    , October 30th, 2013 at 12:04 am

    After the closing bell, AFLAC ($AFL) reported Q3 earnings of $1.47 per share which was one penny below Wall Street’s forecast. In July, the company gave us a range for Q3 of $1.41 to $1.51 per share, so at least AFLAC is hitting its own guidance. The problem continues to be the yen/dollar exchange rate which knocked 21 cents per share off AFLAC’s earnings last quarter.

    If you ignore the exchange rate issue, AFLAC’s operations are doing just fine. The company also gave forward guidance which assumes a yen/dollar rate between 95 and 100. Here are the details: AFLAC narrowed its full-year 2013 guidance to $6.16 to $6.21 per share. The previous range was $5.83 to $6.37 per share. For Q4, AFLAC expects earnings between $1.38 and $1.43 per share. Wall Street had been expecting $1.42 per share. Excluding the exchange rate, AFLAC aims to grow operating earnings by 4% to 7% this year.

    AFLAC also gave its first guidance for 2014, again assuming a 95 to 100 exchange rate. For next year, they see earnings coming in between $6.28 and $6.52 per share. They’re aiming to grow operating earnings by 2% to 5% next year.

    I have to stress that this is all in earnings-per-share because AFLAC plans to buy back a whole lot of shares. The company plans to buy $800 million of shares this year, and another $800 million to $1 billion next year.

    AFLAC also raised their dividend by 5.7%. The quarterly payout rises from 35 to 37 cents per share. This is the 31st year in a row that AFLAC has raised their dividend.

  • Fiserv Earns $1.56 Per Share
    , October 29th, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Fiserv ($FISV) just reported third-quarter earnings of $1.56 per share which was five cents more than Wall Street’s consensus.

    From the CEO:

    “Results for the quarter were solid across the board and in-line with our performance expectations for the full year,” said Jeffery Yabuki, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fiserv. “Strength in our payments businesses along with continued strong sales is compelling evidence of the market-leading differentiation and value embedded in our solutions.”

    More highlights from the quarter:

    Adjusted earnings per share increased 24 percent in the quarter to $1.56 and increased 18 percent in the first nine months of 2013 to $4.39, as compared with the prior year periods.

    Free cash flow grew 21 percent in the first nine months of 2013 to $598 million compared with $496 million in the prior year period.

    Adjusted operating margin was 30.5 percent in the quarter, an increase of 60 basis points compared with the third quarter of 2012, and increased 50 basis points to 29.8 percent in the first nine months of 2013, compared with the prior year period.

    Now the important stuff — forward guidance:

    Fiserv expects its full year 2013 adjusted earnings per share from continuing operations to be in a range of $5.94 to $6.02, or growth of 17 to 19 percent over 2012. The company expects full year adjusted revenue growth of approximately 10 percent, and adjusted internal revenue growth of approximately 3 percent.

    “We remain on track to achieve our 2013 financial objectives and have meaningful momentum as we head into 2014,” said Yabuki.

    That’s an increase of ten cents per share to the low-end of their range. Fiserv has already made $4.39 per share for the first three quarters, so that implies a range of $1.55 to $1.63 per share for Q4. The shares are up a bit after hours.

  • Earnings Call Harris Corp.
    , October 29th, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Here are some highlights from today’s earnings call from Harris ($HRS):

    Operating income was $64 million and operating margin was strong at 15.5%, as a result of very good program performance.

    Turning to Slide 8. Free cash flow was strong at $139 million versus $77 million last year, and capital expenditures were $33 million compared to $44 million in the prior year.

    During the quarter, we repurchased about 1.7 million shares of our common stock for a total cash outlay of $100 million, and our effective tax rate for the quarter was 32.2%.

    Moving to Slide 9. Fiscal 2014 guidance remains unchanged at a range of $4.65 to $4.85 per diluted share for our income from continuing operations, and a revenue decline of 1% to 3% compared to the prior year. We’ve also made no changes to segment information, which is detailed on this slide.

    It sounds a little dull, but I like to hear companies say that guidance is unchanged. That just means they’re executing as expected. That’s good news.