Archive for September, 2015

  • Buy List Performance YTD
    , September 30th, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    The third quarter is now on the books.

    For the first three quarters of 2015, our Buy List is down 2.22% while the S&P 500 is off by 6.74%.

    Adding in dividends, our Buy List has lost 1.37% while the S&P 500 is down 5.29%.

    Company Symbol 9/30 Close Buy Below YTD %
    Fiserv FISV $86.61 $93 22.04%
    Hormel Foods HRL $63.31 $68 21.52%
    Cognizant Technology Solutions CTSH $62.61 $70 18.89%
    CR Bard BCR $186.31 $204 11.82%
    Snap-on SNA $150.94 $169 10.38%
    Signature Bank SBNY $137.56 $139 9.21%
    eBay EBAY $24.44 $28 3.47%
    Ross Stores ROST $48.47 $54 2.84%
    Wabtec WAB $88.05 $103 1.34%
    Stryker SYK $94.10 $101 -0.24%
    Express Scripts ESRX $80.96 $92 -4.38%
    PayPal PYPL $31.04 $38 -4.49%
    Microsoft MSFT $44.26 $47 -4.71%
    AFLAC AFL $58.13 $65 -4.85%
    Wells Fargo WFC $51.35 $56 -6.33%
    Ball Corp. BLL $62.20 $68 -8.76%
    Ford Motor Company F $13.56 $15 -12.52%
    Oracle ORCL $36.12 $40 -19.68%
    Bed Bath & Beyond BBBY $57.02 $65 -25.14%
    Moog MOG-A $54.07 $60 -26.96%
    Qualcomm QCOM $53.73 $59 -27.71%
  • Morning News: September 30, 2015
    , September 30th, 2015 at 7:08 am

    Eurozone Faces Renewed Deflation Threat as Consumer Prices Fall

    German Labor Market Resilient Despite Unemployment Uptick

    China’s Xi Struggles to Show Softer Side on U.S. Charm Offensive

    WTO Cites China, U.S., Refugee Costs As Risks To Trade Growth

    A Key Tenet of Janet Yellen’s ‘Lowflation’ Call Might Be Off the Mark

    Petrobras Raises Gasoline and Diesel Prices Amid Cash Crunch

    Chesapeake Guts Workforce to 10-Year Low on Gas-Price Rout

    ComScore to Buy Rentrak in Stock Deal Topping $800 Million

    Big Shift At Ralph Lauren And A Big Blow For The Gap

    Amazon Taps ‘On-Demand’ Workers for One-Hour Deliveries

    Potential Anheuser-Busch InBev Takeover of SABMiller Has Pitfalls

    Elon Musk Delivers Tesla’s First Model X SUVs in California

    Drone-for-Hire Business Makes Big Bet on Industry

    Jeff Carter: The Icahn Speaks

    Howard Lindzon: My Business Insider Story… and The Death of TV of Course

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  • Value Has Underperformed for Eight Years
    , September 29th, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Check out this chart which shows the S&P 500 Value Index divided by the S&P 500. This shows that value stocks have lagged the overall market for more than eight years.


    Some of this is because financial stocks are often put in the value bucket, and those stocks were not treated well during the financial crisis.

  • The Market Is Smarter than You
    , September 29th, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Let me begin this post by admitting that there’s something I don’t know. I realize, dear reader, that this may come as a great shock to you. But yes, this does happen to many great men, even me.

    Here’s what I don’t know. Yields on Treasury Inflation Protected securities (TIPs) are much lower than I would expect, and I have no idea why. The 10-year TIPs yield is a minuscule 0.71%. I would think it would be much higher. Even above 2%. This completely baffles me.

    But here’s our lesson. I’ve seen a lot of smart folks go into finance and quickly leave the ring battered and bruised. This is especially true for people with backgrounds in engineering and math. The market chews these people up.

    I think the reason these people fail is that they don’t have adequate respect for the market. Ultimately, that’s what investing teaches you. A person with lots of equations would simply conclude that, in our case, the market is wrong on TIPs yields, and prices will soon adjust.

    Perhaps. But that’s often not the case. The market has its reason for its prices. Sure, they may not be good reasons, but they are reasons. As an investor, you have to deal with markets as they are, not as you or your model would wish them to be. It takes a lot of guts to say that an immense, highly liquid market is wrong. The market always knows more than you do. Always.

    I’m not a technical analyst but one of its great benefits is that it dispenses with “why” questions at the outset. Why is IBM down today? The technician would say “who cares?” He has no idea why, nor is he interested. But he’s keenly aware that whatever the reason, IBM is in fact down. That part we can agree on. It’s the ability to face reality head on that’s key for investors.

    Maybe the market is picking up new information that you don’t yet see. Maybe the relationship you think is solid is merely transitory. Maybe the prices are “wrong” but the factor causing them is large and powerful and can outlast your position. As Keynes famously said, “Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”

    Please don’t take this to mean that markets are always right, or even efficient. The whole reason for this blog is to show people that markets can be beaten. But don’t be so quick to dismiss the market’s opinions as irrational.

  • Morning News: September 29, 2015
    , September 29th, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Rajan Surprises Again With Bigger-Than-Forecast India Rate Cut

    China’s 2017 Carbon Timetable May Be Hit by Slowing Economy

    `Cold Fusion’ Needed as Central Banks Look for Help With Growth

    Commodity Rout Hits Traders, Emerging Markets

    The Perils of Forcing a Sale of Illiquid Assets

    With Extremists Ascendant In House, Ex-Im Bank Supporters Need New Approach

    U.S. Inflation Outlook Slumps to Six-Year Low as Fed Sees Pickup

    How Congress May Have Saved Goldman Sachs From Itself

    Yahoo to Go Ahead With Alibaba Spinoff Without IRS Approval

    Halliburton and Baker Hughes Announce Additional Divestiture Proposals

    Energy Transfer to Buy Williams For $33 Billion After Long Quest

    Chip Cards Will Require Users to Dip Rather Than Swipe

    Reynolds to Sell Some Brand Rights to Japan Tobacco For $5 Billion

    Roger Nusbaum: Diesel Debacle

    Cullen Roche: Did the Fed Cause the Commodity Bubble?

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  • Lowest Close Since August 25th
    , September 28th, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Today was a very unpleasant day on Wall Street. The S&P 500 fell 2.57% to close at 1,881.77. This was the market’s lowest close since August 25.

    To give you an idea of how ugly today’s market was, new lows beat the new highs by a score of 73 to 0. Ten stocks closed higher and 492 closed lower. (Yes, there really are 502 stocks in the S&P 500.) The Nasdaq lost just over 3%, and the Dow closed 1.89 points above 16,000.


    Energy, Healthcare and Materials were down the most today. Biotech continues to feel the brunt of the sell-off. The Biotech ETF (IBB) was down 6.33% today. But we should remember that Biotech has had a tremendous rally since 2011 prior to a few weeks ago. IBB briefly peeked its head over $400 in July, and it was less than $90 four years ago.

    The Healthcare selling spilled over into quality names. For example, both Stryker (SYK) and CR Bard (BCR) were down over 4% today. There’s no news today that should impact either one. Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) fell 4.4% to close at $57.15. The stock’s EV/EBITDA is currently 6.07. Wells Fargo (WFC) yields nearly 3%. Microsoft’s (MSFT) yield is now over 3.3%. Ford (F) is at 4.6%.

    Utilities (XLU) and Staples (XLP) did the best today, meaning they were down the least. Except for health care, this was a classic defensive day. The 10-year yield is back to 2.1%.

    There’s not much to say, but get ready to ride the madness out. I’ve been saying that this won’t be over until the VIX closes below 20, and that hasn’t happened yet. The VIX rose 16% today. It appears that the market wants to “retest” the low from August 24 when the S&P 500 got as low as 1,867.01.

    I’ve been especially surprised by the weakness in Materials stocks. Of course, they should be down with the global meltdown in commodities but it’s still stunning to see how dramatic it’s been. Since June 18, the Material Sector ETF (XLB) is down 22%.

  • Q2 GDP Growth Revised to 3.9%
    , September 28th, 2015 at 11:05 am

    I didn’t mention this on Friday but the government revised higher its estimate for Q2 GDP growth to 3.9%. The initial report had been 2.3%. That was later increased to 3.7%, and now it’s up to 3.9%.

    We won’t get an estimate of Q3 GDP until the end of October, but today’s personal income and spending reports hint that it could be over 3%. Since the recession ended, the economy has had a hard time delivering three quarters in a row of solid GDP growth.

    Here’s a look at quarterly GDP over the last 25 years. You can see how the recoveries have grown softer.

  • Worst Quarter in Four Years
    , September 28th, 2015 at 10:18 am

    The stock market has started the week on a down note. The S&P 500 has been as low as 1,908 this morning, and it may soon break below 1,900. The index just barely dipped below Thursday’s low. The S&P 500 hit its lowest point since September 1.

    Today is a classic defensive stock day outside one big exception—Healthcare. So far, Utilities and Staples are down the least while Energy, Materials and Healthcare are down the most. Normally, Healthcare and Staples are pretty close together, but Biotech has taken it on the chin lately. But today’s weakness isn’t just Biotech; it’s Healthcare in general. The third quarter comes to an end on Wednesday, and this will be one of the worst quarters for stocks in four years.

    This morning, the government reported that personal spending rose 0.4% in August while personal income was up 0.3%. This was a good report and it suggests that Q3 GDP will be pretty good. The personal income and spending reports come at the end of the month, and they’re usually good hints at GDP. We now have two income and spending reports for Q3.

    Incidentally, on Friday, Q2 GDP was revised higher to 3.9% growth. That’s quite good and it’s an impressive increase from the initial report of 2.3% growth.

  • Morning News: September 28, 2015
    , September 28th, 2015 at 7:03 am

    German Prosecutors Open Investigation Into VW’s Winterkorn

    India Replaces China as Next Big Frontier for U.S. Tech Companies

    China And India’s Most Popular Ridesharing Apps Didi Kuaidi And Ola Unite Against Uber

    Crude Oil Dead At $45

    The More Yellen Talks Up Inflation, the Less Traders Believe Her

    Glencore Slumps Most Ever as Investec Sees Value Evaporating

    Horizonte Acquires Glencore’s Brazil Nickel Project For $8 Million

    Shell Halts Alaska Offshore Exploration After Failing to Find Enough Oil

    Alcoa to Split Into Two Publicly Traded Companies

    Liberty Global Bonds Drop to Records as Talks With Vodafone End

    Comcast Buying 51% of Universal Theme Park in Japan

    Nike Sprints Ahead as China Sales Defy Economic Slowdown

    Brands Woo Millennials With a Wink, an Emoji or Whatever It Takes

    Joshua Brown: The Definition of Irony

    Jeff Miller: Will Global Weakness Drag Down the U.S. Economy?

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  • CWS Market Review – September 25, 2015
    , September 25th, 2015 at 7:08 am

    “I anticipate that it will likely be appropriate to raise the target range
    for the federal funds rate sometime later this year.” – Janet Yellen

    If the Fed were purposely trying to confuse Wall Street, they could not have done a better job. The above quote is from Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s speech on Thursday in Amherst, and it’s completely changed Wall Street’s outlook. Allow me to explain.

    Instead of rallying after last week’s “no go” decision, Wall Street got spooked. It looked like the Fed might put the whole higher-rates project on the back burner for several more months. There was even talk of another round of QE. The S&P 500 closed lower for the last three days in a row, and it finished Thursday at its lowest level in three weeks.


    Now Janet tells us rates are going higher? Before the end of the year? What in the name of William McChesney Martin is going on here?

    This has been a terrible case of bad policy communication from the central bank. In this week’s CWS Market Review, I’ll try to clean up some of the mess. I’ll also preview the upcoming third-quarter earnings season. This will be the fourth quarter in a row of declining earnings, but it looks like that streak will end next quarter. I’ll also discuss the earnings report from Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY). Later on, I’ll highlight some good bargains on our Buy List. Thanks to the recent ruckus, several stocks have dropped down to be attractive values, especially for investors with a long-term focus. But first, what’s up with the Fed and their mixed signals?

    Yellen Plans to Raise Rates Soon

    In the last few issues of CWS Market Review, I’ve cautioned you not to get too worked up about the Federal Reserve and its plans for interest rates. All we have to concern ourselves with is that interest rates will be going up soon. When and how much is largely irrelevant for now.

    Obviously, the Fed’s September meeting was highly anticipated. Lots of observers thought there was a good chance that this would be the first time in nine years that the Fed would raise interest rates.

    But then in August, we got a curveball. China shocked world markets by deciding to devalue the yuan. That gave a super atomic wedgie to several Asian markets. It also ruffled our feathers but to a much lesser extent.

    Ever since the devaluation, the market grew more and more doubtful that a rate hike was coming in September, and it was right. Last week, the Fed decided to hold off. Instead of calming the markets down, though, it caused frayed nerves to get even more frazzled. Soon, the futures markets weren’t expecting a rate hike until early next year. Maybe as far away as March. As I said in last week’s CWS Market Review, “If there’s one key takeaway from the Fed’s ‘do nothing,’ it’s that the central bank has taken a clear dovish stance.”

    Apparently not! But in this case, I won’t blame myself for getting the message wrong. All of Wall Street seems to have heard the same thing. What caught a lot of people’s attention was that the Fed specifically highlighted the problems with “recent global economic and financial developments.” In other words, China.

    The overriding issue impacting the global economy is commodity deflation. Name just about any commodity and its price has been falling. Plunging! Oil is down. Copper is down. Sugar is down. The CRB Index is near a 40-year low. Check out this chart, which shows the relative strength of Materials stocks, along with the CRB Index. Sometimes a simple chart tells you all you need to know.


    Stocks like ExxonMobil (XOM), DuPont (DD) and Chevron (CVX) are near 52-week lows.

    Which brings us back to China. So did that mean the Fed was adding China to its list of concerns? Of course, the Fed is in charge of U.S. monetary policy, so they shouldn’t be worried about China’s mess. But Wall Street’s takeaway was that they had to look at China to get a clue as to what the Fed was going to do.

    That leads us up to this week, when China released its latest PMI report. Normally, Wall Street doesn’t care too much about this report, but not this week. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know. The report was terrible. It was the worst PMI for China in more than six years. That only added to the concern that the Fed wasn’t going to move. And that’s why Janet Yellen’s Thursday speech was such a surprise.

    Let me try to boil this down to simple terms. The Fed has done a very poor job of communicating its intentions to the markets. Janet Yellen is a smart economist, and I think she realized how bad it had gotten. That’s why she took the opportunity this week to state clearly that rates are going higher this year. There are only two meetings left in 2015, one in October and another in December.

    Rates are going up, and that’s that. The Fed is probably moving too soon, but I don’t think one hike can cause too much damage. The open question is, “Will the dollar continue to rise with higher rates?” If so, that will cause even more commodity deflation, and a rotation away from Energy and Materials stocks.

    There’s still a healthy demand for Treasury bonds. This week, the U.S. Treasury auctioned off three-month T-bills at 0.005%, which is the lowest yield ever. Investors paid $9,999.87 for the privilege of getting $10,000 three months from now. Some six-month bills went off at 0.115%.

    For now, investors don’t have much to fear from higher interest rates. The key is for the economy to keep growing. In two weeks, the third-quarter earnings season kicks off. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

    Third-Quarter Earnings Preview

    The third quarter officially comes to an end next week. Soon after, we’ll start getting third-quarter earnings reports. Within one month, 17 of our 21 stocks will report earnings. This is a very important time for investors like us who seek out high-quality stocks.

    Analysts on Wall Street have been busy hacking their earnings estimates for earnings season. Generally, I don’t pay too much attention to what the analysts think, but it’s a good way to see what the conventional wisdom is.

    For Q3, Wall Street now expects the S&P 500 to earn $28.74 per share. That’s the index-adjusted number. (Every one point in the S&P 500 is worth about $8.83 billion.) To put this in perspective, at the start of the year, analysts were expecting Q3 to come at $33.35 per share. In other words, they slashed expectations by nearly 14% in nine months. Most of that is due to the strong dollar.

    This is expected to be the fourth quarter in a row with a year-over-year earnings decline. In fact, the full-year earnings for 2015 will probably come in just a hair below the earnings for last year. Once again, that’s due to the strong dollar which has weighed heavily on commodity-based businesses.

    For 2016, analysts expect the S&P 500 to earn $129.73 per share. Again, I don’t place a huge amount of faith in that figure, but it’s useful to see where Wall Street’s head is. That number means the S&P 500 is going for less than 15 times next year’s estimate. That’s hardly excessive. The key is that if the economy continues to grow, there’s no danger of the stock market falling on its face.

    Until there’s hard evidence that the commodity bust is impacting employment, you can expect the economy to grow moderately over the next few months. Stocks are still the place to be. Now let’s look at our one Buy List earnings report from last week.

    Bed Bath & Beyond Earns $1.21 per Share

    After the closing bell on Thursday, Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) reported fiscal Q2 earnings of $1.21 per share. That’s not so bad. If you remember, the company had told us to expect earnings to range between $1.18 and $1.23 per share. So they’re hitting their numbers.

    Like a lot of companies, BBBY has felt the sting of the strong dollar, but the impact is far less than that felt by other companies. Bed Bath reported that Q2 sales rose by 1.7% to $2.995 billion. But in constant-currency terms, sales were up 2.2%. Compare that to Oracle (ORCL), where the similar numbers for last quarter were -1.7% and +7%.

    The key figure I like to watch is same-store sales. For Q2, that was up 0.7%, and 1.1% in constant currency. That’s below the company’s guidance of 2% to 3%.

    Once again, Bed Bath continues to gobble up its own shares at a rapid clip. The number of outstanding shares fell from 191.5 million one year ago to 166.6 million last quarter. That’s a 13% reduction! BBBY’s net income fell by 10%, but the per-share figure rose from $1.17 to $1.21.


    As I’ve said, I’m not much of a fan of share buybacks, but I’ll tip my cap to companies that truly act to reduce share count, and Bed Bath is one. They just announced that they’re adding another $2.5 billion to the existing buyback program. That’s huge. Now let’s look at guidance.

    For Q3, which ends in November, BBBY sees earnings ranging between $1.14 and $1.21 per share. That’s fine. They see same-store sales for the rest of the fiscal year coming in between 1% and 3%. The previous guidance was for 2% to 3%, so that’s a small downgrade.

    Once again, Bed Bath & Beyond reiterated its full-year earnings forecast. They expect earnings to rise from flat to mid-single-digits. Let’s say that’s 0% to 5%. Since BBBY made $5.07 per share last year, this year’s guidance works out to $5.07 to $5.32 per share. While I’m not crazy about the sluggish same-store sales, the full-year guidance isn’t too bad.

    I’m going to keep my Buy Below at $65 per share. Although the company’s performance hasn’t been as strong as I’d like, the stock is going for a good value. If the guidance is correct, BBBY is trading at less than 12 times earnings. This will take some patience, but BBBY has long-term value.

    Four Buy List Bargains

    Thanks to the market’s recent case of rattled nerves, a few of our Buy List stocks look especially good at the moment. I consider any of our stocks trading below their Buy Below prices to be a buy, but these are especially good buys.

    Last week, I highlighted Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTSH) and Express Scripts (ESRX), and I continue to see them as solid bargains. But don’t expect much movement from either one until earnings season. Microsoft (MSFT) continues to look good, especially with its shiny new dividend. If you can get it below $44, you got yourself a good deal. I also like Wabtec (WAB) below $90 per share.

    As always, make sure that you’re diversified. Pay attention to our Buy Below prices, and don’t worry about stocks that run away from you. Wait for good stocks to come to you.

    We may be in for some more turbulence. I wouldn’t be surprised if the S&P 500 tries to “retest” its low of 1,870. That often happens before the bears’ party comes to an end. I’ve said that I’m ready to give the all-clear once the VIX closes below 20. We haven’t had that yet, but we’re getting close.

    I also want to lower my Buy Below prices on two of our stocks. I’m lowering Ball Corp. (BLL) to $68 per share, and Moog (MOG-A) to $60 per share. This is the second week in a row that I’m lowering Moog.

    That’s all for now. The third quarter officially comes to a close this Wednesday. I’ll have a summary of how well the Buy List is doing. We still have a pretty good lead over the S&P 500. On Monday, we’ll get revised personal-income and spending reports for Q2. On Wednesday, ADP will release its payroll report. Then on Thursday we have ISM. That sets us up for Friday and the big September jobs report. I suspect it will be a good number. I also think the figure for August will be revised higher. 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