• November NFP = 178K, Unemployment Rate Drops to 4.6%
    Posted by on December 2nd, 2016 at 9:29 am

    The November jobs report shows that 178,000 net new jobs were created last month. The jobless rate fell to 4.6%. Spitting out the decimals, that’s the lowest jobless rate since August 2007.

    Average hourly earnings for private-sector workers rose 2.5% in November compared with a year earlier. Wage gains had been accelerating this year as competition for workers intensified. October’s 2.8% was the strongest annual wage growth since June 2009.

    The U.S. labor market has been one of the brightest spots in a long recovery marked by sluggish growth. But even with consistent job creation, a historically large share of Americans have opted out of the workforce and wage gains have remained below prerecession levels.

    The unemployment rate is lower now than it was for every month from October 1973 to November 1997.

  • CWS Market Review – December 2, 2016
    Posted by on December 2nd, 2016 at 7:08 am

    “The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.”
    – Jason Zweig

    I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. On Wall Street, the market gods appear to be thankful for the “Trump Rally,” which continues to roll on. On Thursday, the Dow Industrials closed at yet another all-time high. Over the summer, I said on CNBC that the Dow could hit 20,000 before the end of the year. Brian Sullivan said he should start calling me, Eddy Elfenbull. Now 20,000 doesn’t seem quite so far away.

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    This is an interesting rally because it’s highly selective. This is an important point investors need to understand. Bonds, for example, have been left behind. During the month of November, the global bond market lost an astounding $1.7 trillion. All across the globe, investors are shifting their assets towards areas of growth. Or perhaps I should say, “towards areas believed to offer prospects for growth.”

    In this issue, I’ll tell you what it all means. I’ll also survey some of the recent economic data. As I’ve been saying, the case for modest optimism for the economy continues to be strong. I’ll also bring you up to speed on our Buy List stocks. Remember that I’ll unveil the 2017 Buy List in three weeks. Before we get to that, let’s look at what’s driving the Trump Rally.

    The Trump Rally Rolls On

    Over a three-week span ending on the Friday following Thanksgiving, the S&P 500 vaulted more than 6.1%. Like the election itself, this was almost completely unexpected. What’s happened is that investors are sharply favoring areas based on robust economic growth. This move is mirrored by a shunning of conservative, income-based assets.

    I’ll give you a good example. Over the summer, the Consumer Staples ETF (XLP) reached an all-time high of $56 per share. I love many consumer-staple stocks (like Hormel Foods), but these are areas that tend to flourish when folks get nervous about the economy. After all, when the economy gets weak, people cut back on vacations, not on soap. On Thursday, the XLP closed at $50.25 per share. That’s a 10% drop in a few months during a largely bullish overall market.

    On the flip side, banks and financial stocks have been doing very well. Since November 4, the Financial Sector ETF (XLF) is up 17.5%. That’s a huge move for less than one month’s work, but it makes perfect sense. Banks love to see a resurgent economy because it means fewer bum loans. It also means wider yield spreads, which is how the banks make ends meet.

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    I always think it’s interesting to look at how small-cap stocks are performing. Smaller companies tend to be skewed toward domestic manufacturers. That’s because there aren’t many small-cap conglomerates. The Russell 2000, which is a small-cap index, rallied for 15 days in a row. From November 3 to 25, the index added 16.5%. I think this is clearly a positive omen for the industrial sector. Sure enough, the recent data confirm this. On Thursday, the ISM Manufacturing Index came in at 53.2, compared to 51.8 for October. Any number above 50 means the factory sector of the economy is growing.

    Perhaps the best economic news we had this week was the Q3 GDP revision. Now I should add that this is a bit of old news since it deals with the third quarter. Still, we learned that the economy grew by 3.2% during Q3. That’s an upward revision of 0.3%, and it means that last quarter was the U.S. economy’s best in two years.

    What about for Q4? That’s hard to say just yet, but we had strong income and spending reports for October. On Wednesday, the government said that personal income rose 0.6% during October. Consumer spending rose by 0.3%, and the figure for September was revised up to 0.7%. The Atlanta Fed now projects that the economy will grow by 2.9% in Q4. Again, I want to be cautious. The economic news is looking better, but we still have a long way to go.

    I also have to mention that surprising OPEC news. Apparently, the oil cartel isn’t dead just yet. The always-bickering members actually agreed on a production cut. I was pretty impressed they were able to do that. Of course, who knows how long it will last, or if the members will abide by it?

    Still, they’re all smiles now, and the price of oil jumped to $51 per barrel. (To be fair, it’s merely back to where it was a few weeks ago.) Energy stocks, in particular, loved the news. From May 2014 to January 2016, the Energy Sector (XLE) dropped in half. It’s now made back about half of what it lost.

    The long end of the bond market has been in rough shape, as yields have climbed steadily higher. In fact, Thursday’s closing yield for some points of the yield curve was the highest in years. The five-year had its highest closing yield (1.90%) since 2011. For the three-year (1.45%), it was the highest since 2010.

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    Mostly this is a good thing, since it’s shaking money from the bond market, and that money is finding a new home in the stock market. I don’t expect yields to rise too high. The Fed will almost certainly raise interest rates again later this month. After that, they’ll probably hold off for a while. Prices still seem quite tame.

    Overall, this is an ideal time to be a stock investor. The economy is getting stronger. Inflation is low. Rates are only beginning to move higher. The earnings picture is getting much better. My advice to investors is to remain concentrated in a portfolio of high-quality stocks such as those you’ll find on our Buy List. They don’t get much more high-quality than our favorite Spam maker and its amazing dividend streak.

    Hormel Raised Its Dividend for the 51st Year in a Row

    Last week, Hormel Foods (HRL) reported fiscal Q4 earnings of 45 cents per share, which matched Wall Street’s consensus. That’s a nice 22% increase over last, and quarterly revenues rose 9% to $2.63 billion, beating estimates.

    “We had a strong finish to fiscal 2016, achieving record earnings for the fourteenth consecutive quarter,” said Jim Snee, president and chief executive officer. “Three of our five business segments delivered sales, volume, and earnings growth, again demonstrating our balanced business model. Refrigerated Foods and Jennie-O Turkey Store both had excellent quarters, with growth coming from value-added, branded products and improved market conditions. Grocery Products enjoyed a strong quarter aided by the inclusion of the JUSTIN’S® specialty nut butter business in addition to strong results from SPAM® luncheon meat and SKIPPY® peanut butter,” Snee said.

    “Specialty Foods sales declined, primarily due to the divestiture of Diamond Crystal Brands in May, while sales of MUSCLE MILK® protein products were strong,” mentioned Snee. “Specialty Foods earnings decreased primarily due to increased advertising. Our International segment had a tough quarter as the team continues to work through challenging market conditions in China.”

    The Spam maker wrapped up a great year. For 2016, Hormel earned $1.64 per share, compared with $1.32 last year. Hormel also gave 2017 guidance of $1.68 to $1.74 per share. Wall Street had been expecting $1.68 per share.

    Hormel also raised its quarterly dividend by 17% to 17 cents per share. That brings its full-year dividend to 68 cents per share. Based on Thursday’s close, that gives the stock a yield of just over 2%. This is Hormel’s 51st annual dividend increase. That’s one of the longest streaks around.

    Like other consumer staples, Hormel has been a bit weak lately, but that doesn’t concern me. This week, I’m going to lower my Buy Below on Hormel to $37 per share.

    Buy List Updates

    Earlier this week, Elliott Management sent a letter to Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTSH) outlining how the company can boost its stock. Elliott said Cognizant could be between $80 and $90 per share by the end of next year. That’s up from $54 right now. You can read the full letter here.

    For now, I’ll reserve comment on Elliott’s letter. I will note that many of their criticisms strike me as compliments. They think the company too conservative, with too much cash and too little debt. As I read their letter, I kept thinking to myself, “exactly, that’s why I like CTSH!”

    At least the letter gave a nice shot to the share. Cognizant remains a buy up to $57 per share.

    Wabtec (WAB) finally completed its merger with Faiveley Transport. The deal cost $1.7 billion. Faiveley has annual sales of $1.2 billion.

    Raymond T. Betler, Wabtec’s president and chief executive officer, said: “Our combination with Faiveley Transport brings Wabtec many complementary products, a strong presence in the European and Asia Pacific transit industries, and solid relationships with blue-chip, global customers. Together, we will be a more efficient global competitor, with a focus on technology, quality and customer service, and a singular mission: to help customers improve their safety, productivity, and efficiency.”

    Wabtec also updated its guidance. Excluding charges, the company expects to have earnings of $3.95 to $4 per share for 2016. For 2017, WAB expects earnings growth of 8%, excluding charges. Wabtec is a good example of a good company that’s operating well in a terrible environment. I still like this stock a lot. I’m lifting my Buy Below on Wabtec to $90 per share.

    Shares of Ford Motor (F) jumped nearly 4% on Thursday after a good sales report for November. At one point, Ford was up 7% on the day. The automaker saw its sales rise 5.2% last month. Ford sold 197,574 vehicles, including more than 72,00 trucks. Higher oil prices could help Ford since the shift to aluminum bodies was designed to be more fuel efficient. Ford remains a buy up to $13 per share.

    We only have two Buy List earnings reports this month. HEICO (HEI) is due to report on December 13. Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) will report on December 21.

    That’s all for now. The November jobs report is due out later this morning, but it won’t have any impact on the Fed’s plans for later this month. Next week will be fairly quiet as far as economic reports are concerned. The productivity report comes out on Tuesday. Consumer credit is on Wednesday. Perhaps the biggest news next week will be the European Central Bank meeting on December 8. The ECB will decide on more stimulus. A lot of folks will be watching this closely. 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

    P.S. Here’s a video of my appearance on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.”

  • Morning News: December 2, 2016
    Posted by on December 2nd, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Russia Says Foreign Spy Agencies Preparing Cyberattacks on Banks

    Offshore Yuan Heads for Best Week Since January as Rates Climb

    Italian Assets Show Little Panic Before Vote

    With Presidency in Play, Can France Embrace Economic Change?

    Brazil’s Braskem Close to Leniency Deal in U.S., Brazil

    Trump Threatens ‘Consequences’ For U.S. Firms That Relocate Offshore

    Fed May Face Unnerving Shake-Up Under Trump Administration

    Aixtron Tumbles as Obama Said Poised to Block Chinese Takeover

    Howard Schultz Stepping Down As Starbucks CEO

    Wells Fargo to Keep Commissions-Based Retirement Accounts Under Fiduciary Rule

    `Never Say Never’: Why A Beloved Silicon Valley Website Sold For $20 Million

    Johnson & Johnson Just Got Hit With a $1 Billion Verdict Over Faulty Hip Implants

    A Few Billionaires Are Turning Medical Philanthropy on Its Head

    Jeff Miller: Stock Exchange: Model Picks Teach Us to Manage Risk

    Cullen Roche: Why The US Government Should NOT Refinance the National Debt with Longer Bonds

    Be sure to follow me on Twitter.

  • The Rotation to Cyclicals Continues
    Posted by on December 1st, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    The market is still digesting the OPEC news. Banks and energy stocks are up today while tech and income stocks are down. If you recall the “Elfenbein Theory to Explain the Entire Stock Market,” today is a classic Quadrant I & II day.

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    Bonds are doing poorly and stocks are rotating to cyclical areas.

    Ford reported that November was a good month for sales:

    Ford’s sales increased 5.2% for the month to 197,574 vehicles, easily beating expectations. That included a 10% increase in retail sales, bolstering the bottom line. The company’s flagship Ford brand was up 4.6%. Its luxury Lincoln brand continued its hot streak, rising 19.1%.

    This morning, we also learned that the ISM Manufacturing Index rose to 53.2 last month from 51.9 in October.

  • Morning News: December 1, 2016
    Posted by on December 1st, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Global Bonds Suffer Worst Monthly Meltdown as $1.7 Trillion Lost

    Euro-Area Manufacturing Picks Up as Weaker Euro Bolsters Exports

    Eurozone Unemployment Lowest Since Mid 2009

    China Stands to Gain From OPEC Deal

    China’s New Tax Could Hurt Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Rolls-Royce

    Delinquencies Rise on Growing Volume of Subprime Auto Loans

    Wall Street Wins Again as Trump Picks Bankers, Billionaires

    Trump’s Treasury Pick Says US Should Get Out of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

    How Trump Plans to Keep Jobs in America: Pressure and Promises

    Court Rules IRS Can Seek Information on Bitcoin Customers

    Though Awash in Fakes, China Rethinks Counterfeit Hunters

    Netflix Allows Subscribers to Binge-Watch Shows Offline

    ChemChina Setting Up $5 Billion Fund to Help Finance Syngenta Bid

    Josh Brown: “The Best People”

    Jeff Carter: If You Are A Bitcoin Developer, Don’t Walk, Run To Chicago

    Be sure to follow me on Twitter.

  • OPEC Agrees to Cut Production and Oil Soars
    Posted by on November 30th, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Apparently, OPEC ain’t quite so dead just yet. The oil cartel just surprised a lot of folks, including me, by overcoming a mess of internal squabbling and agreeing to cut back oil production.

    The move is intended to boost the economies of the big oil producers which have been shattered by lower oil prices. Russia’s economy, for example, has been in a tailspin. Venezuela’s is reaching crisis levels.

    On the other hand, the production cut is a big help for U.S.-based shale drillers. Right now, crude oil is up about 7% on the day. The Energy Sector ETF is up over 4%. Halliburton is up more than 10%.

  • Personal Income Rose 0.6% Last Month
    Posted by on November 30th, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Today is the final trading day of November. It looks like the S&P 500 is about to snap its three-month losing streak. November may go down as the index’s best month since March.

    This morning, the government said that personal income rose 0.6% last month. That’s a good number as it suggests that the Q3 GDP may be followed by another good one for Q4.

    Consumer spending rose by 0.3% in October, and the figure for September was revised up to 0.7%.

    Solid spending and income growth this fall could be a sign that consumers have the capacity to step up purchases during the holiday-shopping season. Steady hiring and modest wage gains are allowing some households to spend more. Spending on goods intended to be used quickly, such as gasoline and clothing, rose sharply in October. Spending on services fell.

    Here’s how income and spending have fared since the recession ended.

    The futures market now thinks there’s a 94% chance that the Fed will raise rates in two weeks. After that, however, it’s not so clear. Futures traders don’t expect another hike until June, and even that is nearly 50-50.

  • Morning News: November 30, 2016
    Posted by on November 30th, 2016 at 6:40 am

    Euro-Area Inflation Accelerates Before Key ECB Decision on QE

    German Joblessness Extends Decline as Growth Seen Picking Up

    RBS Fails UK Regulators’ Stress Tests. Now What?

    China Adds Curbs on Pulling Money Out of the Country

    China Warns of Safety Risks as Rally in Coal Price Spurs Mining

    OPEC Members Meet in Vienna Amid Market Optimism

    Justin Trudeau Approves Oil Pipeline Expansion in Canada

    U.S. Bank Earnings Up Nearly 13% in 3Q

    Cabinet Pick Wilbur Ross Has Used Trade to His Benefit

    Paying Breitbart’s Bills: Advertisers Pulling Away From Hateful Content Now That Steve Bannon Is In The White House

    Trump to Announce Carrier Plant Will Keep Jobs in U.S.

    Philip Morris CEO Sketches a Future Where the Company Doesn’t Sell Cigarettes

    Baker Hughes to Place Some Operations Into New Land Pressure Company

    Howard Lindzon: iRobot is Unhinged

    Roger Nusbaum: Market Melting Up

    Be sure to follow me on Twitter.

  • BC Forbes Says It’s Time to Buy!
    Posted by on November 29th, 2016 at 1:49 pm

  • How Do You Know If You’re Ready To Invest?
    Posted by on November 29th, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    At MarketWatch, Shawn Langlois noticed a young investor with $10,000 asking for advice.

    “I have $10k sitting in my TDAmeritrade taxable account, ready to trade with, but I’ve been learning about investing for the last 1-2 months. I bought ‘The Intelligent Investor,’ and ‘A Random Walk Down Wall Street.’ I’m not done reading the books, yet, but how will you know when you’re ready to start investing? I’m anxious to get started, but how do I know if I’ll be ready?”

    Shawn then reached out to some stock bloggers to hear what they had to say. Here’s a sample:

    Michael Batnick, director of research at Ritholtz Capital Management:

    Start now! I would never recommend somebody do this with their retirement money, but taking risks for huge gains isn’t a terrible idea for a young person, especially given how favorable market conditions have been recently. But I will warn you of a few things: The likelihood of you doubling or tripling your money is slim at best. And if you do stumble upon beginner’s luck, the odds that you’re going to walk away with those gains is slim to none. Here’s why: There are a lot of really smart people who will be more than happy to take the other side of your trade. 90% of trading volume is done by institutions who spend millions of dollars a year on research. They have more information and resources than you can possibly imagine.

    If you’re reading those two books, especially “A Random Walk,” you already know how difficult it is to beat the market. But this is one of those things that you have to find out for yourself. Nobody opens up a brokerage account, buys the total global stock market and forgets about it. So take risks. Double your money, lose it all. The only way to learn is by doing, so get going!

    Eddy Elfenbein of the Crossing Wall Street blog:

    When it comes to “how do I know if I’ll be ready,” I always tell investors to try paper investing first. It sounds corny, but it works. Draw up a fictional account, but one that you think you’d like. Compute the number of shares, expected dividends, etc. There are countless resources where you can follow this on the web. Then, sit back and follow it.

    You’ll soon learn things about yourself. Do you constantly check it every five minutes. Are you freaking out if it drops a little bit? Trust me, you may realize you’re not the kind of investor you thought you were.

    And if you want to really test yourself, see how your portfolio acted in 2007-08. Could you watch yourself take a 50% bath? It ain’t so easy. If you can do that, then you’re ready.