Food

  • 04 Dec

    CAG looks like a smart value play

    Monday started the week off with a bang, as the Trump administration announced that it had reached an agreement with China to put a temporary pause on the imposition of any new tariffs. The market cheered the news, hopeful that this will be a positive step that creates constructive discussion toward a long-term compromise that works for both countries. That could give the market a pretty good lift in the short-term, but it doesn’t mean that it’s time to jump back into market with both feet yet. I think it’s still smart to be cautious. More →

  • 30 Nov
    Food stocks can be a good defensive play – but FDP is a sucker’s bet

    Food stocks can be a good defensive play – but FDP is a sucker’s bet

    Until the beginning of this week, the market seemed to be getting more and more bearish every day. After watching the major market indices all decline by more than 10% in October, they staged a short-lived rally at the beginning of November, only to turn back again with a resounding series of consecutive down days last week that pushed the market once again into correction territory. This week has seemed like something of a respite as the market has has rallied off of lows only a little above the 52-week bottom it reached in April. That could be a good thing, but it isn’t a given, More →

  • 02 Nov
    NTRI surged 9% yesterday after beating earnings – should you jump on board?

    NTRI surged 9% yesterday after beating earnings – should you jump on board?

    So far this week stock market has managed to bounce off of support and rally pretty strongly after touching its lowest point since May on Monday. In the last three days the S&P 500 has rallied about 5% higher, using strong earnings reports as a primary driver, along with optimistic comments from President Trump about the chances of reaching a compromise on trade with China even as his administration has started to plan tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports if talks fail later this month. More →

  • 19 Oct
    Want to get defensive? Stay away from this value trap

    Want to get defensive? Stay away from this value trap

    The market’s volatility over the last week and a half has started to put a lot of people on edge. I’ve noticed an increasing number of talking heads on market media starting to throw out words that just don’t apply to the market yet, like “correction” and even “bear market” in a few cases. It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the hand-wringing and anxious nerves that always seem come when market volatility starts to pick up. More →

  • 15 Oct
    TR makes tasty treats – their stock could be one, too

    TR makes tasty treats – their stock could be one, too


    More than two decades ago, I was just getting my start in the financial industry, working as a licensed representative for a major mutual fund company. In order to help new hires like me get more familiar with what mutual funds were about, and to start learning how the stock market worked, my employer encouraged studying the investment philosophies of a lot of the most well-known fund managers of the day. At the time, that meant paying attention to the “rock stars” of the mutual fund industry, and at that time there weren’t too many more popular or well-known names than Peter Lynch. More →

  • 10 Oct
    Is SJM undervalued enough to be a smart defensive investment?

    Is SJM undervalued enough to be a smart defensive investment?

    Over the last week, uncertainty appears to have become the primary theme of the market, as concerns over interest rates and global growth are starting to take hold and lead investors to question the market’s ability to sustain its long, bullish trend. As of this writing, in fact, the S&P 500 is sitting right on top of its 50-day moving average line, an indicator that a lot of technical investors like to use as a visual queue for the market’s intermediate-term trend. A break below this line could signal at least a short-term reversal, with more downside ahead that could see the market drop as much as another 4% before finding its next support level. That’s not exactly correction territory, but it is enough short-term downside to keep uncertainty high and prompt investors to start looking for “safe haven” investments that offer some measure of protection should things get even worse.

    If the market keeps dropping, I think there could be some very interesting opportunities in defensive industries, and as I wrote yesterday, I think some of the best valuations in the market right now are coming in the consumer sSJMles sector in general, and the food industry in particular. If you’re looking to be conservative about the positions you take, it’s smart to be selective about how many stocks you buy in a single industry, and so even though I’ve been highlighting different stocks in the industry that I think offer interesting value propositions, you should take some time to compare each one carefully and decide for yourself which ones you think would offer you the right mix of opportunity, fundamental strength, and risk management.

    One food company that I do think is really interesting right now is The J.M. Smucker Company (SJM). The name probably makes you think about the same products I do – fruit spreads. That’s because the company’s namesake Smucker’s brand is the #1 fruit spread brand; but this is a company that also owns the leading peanut butter (JIF), coffee (Folger’s), and dog snack (Milk-Bone) brands. When you consider they own other well-known brands like Crisco, Dunkin’ Donuts, Kibbles ’n Bits, and Carnation, to name just a few, you have a company with a pretty well-diversified product line that covers a pretty broad spectrum of the packages food industry. There are some risks about the food industry that have started to impact some important measurable components of SJM’s profile; however for the most part, this is a company with strong fundamentals, including good cash flow, decent (albeit declining) margins, and manageable debt. They also carry a very attractive dividend yield right now, with a very compelling long-term value proposition. Let’s take a look.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    The J. M. Smucker Company is a manufacturer and marketer of branded food and beverage products and pet food and pet snacks in North America. The Company’s segments include U.S. Retail Coffee, U.S. Retail Consumer Foods, U.S. Retail Pet Foods, and International and Foodservice. The Company’s U.S. retail market segments consist of the sale of branded food products to consumers through retail outlets in North America. In the U.S. retail market segments, the Company’s products are sold to food retailers, food wholesalers, drug stores, club stores, mass merchandisers, discount and dollar stores, military commissaries, natural foods stores and distributors, and pet specialty stores. In International and Foodservice, the Company’s products are distributed domestically and in foreign countries through retail channels and foodservice distributors and operators, such as restaurants, lodging, schools and universities, healthcare operators.SJM’s current market cap is $11.6 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings increased almost 18%, while sales growth increasing not quite 9%. Growing earnings faster than sales is difficult to do, and in the long-term generally isn’t sustainable, but it is also a positive mark of management’s ability to maximize business operations. In the last quarter, earnings decreased almost 7%, despite an increase in sales of almost 7%. That points to increasing costs, which right now are coming from from foodstuffs as well as transportation costs. This reality is also reflected in SJM’s margin profile; over the last twelve months, Net Income was nearly 18% of Revenues, but declined in the last quarter to about 7%. That is a red flag, but the company’s balance sheet indicates that their margins remain adequate.
    • Free Cash Flow: SJM’s free cash flow is good, at a little over $800 million for the trailing twelve month period; that translates to a Free Cash Flow yield of about 7%.
    • Debt to Equity: SJM has a debt/equity ratio of .78, a relatively low number that indicates the company operates with a generally conservative philosophy about leverage. This number did increase significantly in the last quarter from .59, which I believe is a reflection of their acquisition of pet food company Ainsworth in May of this year for $1.7 billion. In the last quarter, their long-term debt increased from about about $4.7 billion to almost $6.2 billion, suggesting the larger portion of the purchase was financed by debt.
    • Dividend: SJM pays an annual dividend of $3.40 per share, which translates to a yield of 3.33% at the stock’s current price.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for SJM is $69.72 per share and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 1.46 at the stock’s current price. Their historical Price/Book average is 2.04, which suggests that the stock is trading at a discount right now of about 39.5%. Their Price/Cash Flow ratio offers an even more optimistic perspective, since it is currently running 62% below its historical averages. Between the two measurements, the long-term target price, based strictly off of value analysis could lie anywhere in a range between $142 and $165 per share. The low end of that range was last seen in the early spring of 2017.



    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The chart above traces the stock’s downward trend from late April of 2017, where it peaked at around $144 per share, to its trend low point at close to $100. It also informs the Fibonacci retracement lines shown on the right-hand side of the chart. The stock is currently sitting near that trend low, with strong support at that point from previous pivot lows in November 2017 and June of this year. The stock is about 15% below the resistance marked by the 38.2% Fibonacci retracement line, so a bounce higher off of support could see the stock revisit that level fairly quickly. A break below current support at around $100 could give the stock additional room to drop to multi-year lows that may not find support until around $90 per share – a level last seen in early 2013.
    • Near-term Keys: A strong bullish pivot from the stock’s current support level could be taken as a good signal for a short-term bullish trade using call options or even buying the stock, with a near-term target between $110 and $115 per share. The strength of the stock’s downward trend, however could push the stock below its current support at $100, which would be a strong indication to consider shorting the stock or working with put options. Given the stock’s valuation measurements and general fundamental strength, including a very healthy dividend, the current price represents a very impressive bargain if you’re working with a long-term time horizon and don’t mind accepting some nearer-term price volatility.


  • 09 Oct
    Interest rate fears are making the market jittery – that could be a good thing for defensive stocks like TAP

    Interest rate fears are making the market jittery – that could be a good thing for defensive stocks like TAP

    Over the last few days, one of the things that has put the market a little bit on edge is concern that interest rates could be forced higher sooner than possible. Fed chair Jay Powell gave investors room to start feeling anxious last week when during a televised question and answer session, More →

  • 25 Sep
    Not all related stocks are created equal, and HRL proves it

    Not all related stocks are created equal, and HRL proves it

    One of the regular themes of my posts for the last several months, as well as the trades I’ve been placing since the late winter and early spring months of this year, has been the need to focus on making my investment approach more conservative. That flies in the face of a lot of analysts and experts More →

  • 21 Sep
    Among Food stocks, PPC’s no turkey

    Among Food stocks, PPC’s no turkey

    For the last few months, I’ve made defensive investing in the stock market a fairly regular theme of my daily posts. And while it isn’t unusual for me to cite concerns about trade tensions between the U.S. and its trading partners, that is just one reason that I think it’s smart to think about ways you can find value in the stock market right now. My biggest reason is far simpler: as we move into historically unprecedented territory for the bull market that began in 2009, I think you have to be more attuned than ever to the reality that no upward trend lasts forever. The elements that can force the market to finally turn and move even more than the 11% or 12% we saw in the early part of this year are hard to predict, because there isn’t really any one catalyst or set of catalysts that has set previous bear markets charging downhill. In 2000, it was the “dot-com bust”; in 2007, it was a financial crisis triggered by overaggressive lending policies.

    What will be the straw that breaks the back of this particular bull market? That’s really anybody’s guess. It’s easy to point a finger at President Trump, simply because many of his ideas – about trade, taxes, and even interest rates – fly in the face of conventional wisdom, and he doesn’t seem to care what you or I, or anybody else really thinks about it. His behavior is disruptive and forces change, which is really the one thing the markets abhor more than anything else in the short term. The truth is that an extended trade war could be a big driver to a reversal of current economic strength in the U.S. economy, but it isn’t a given that it will. Gradually rising interest rates could also set the stage for a bubble-like burst – if the economy begins to show signs of accelerating growth that forces the Fed to change the pace and size of its current policy. Again, it’s a possibility, but not a given.

    As uncertainties keep rising, expect the market to stay volatile. That means big short-term swings from high to low as investors keep trying to read the changing winds of market and political news. That also means that a lot of stocks that dominate headlines and media attention could be at risk in the short to intermediate term of extended price declines, which is another reason I think it’s smart to pay attention right now to stocks that tend to be less cyclic in nature and that are usually pretty resilient when economic trouble raises its head. The Consumer Staples industry is a good place to look, and Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation (PPC) is an interesting stock to keep an eye on.



    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation is a retail feed store. It is a producer and seller of chicken with operations in the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico. It is engaged in the production, processing, marketing and distribution of fresh, frozen and value-added chicken products to retailers, distributors and foodservice operators. It offers a range of products to its customers through national and international distribution channels. Its fresh chicken products consist of refrigerated (non-frozen) whole chickens, whole cut-up chickens and selected chicken parts that are either marinated or non-marinated. Its prepared chicken products include ready-to-cook and individually frozen chicken parts, strips, nuggets and patties, some of which are either breaded or non-breaded and either marinated or non-marinated. As of December 25, 2016, the Company marketed its portfolio of fresh, prepared and value-added chicken products across the United States, Mexico and in approximately 80 other countries. PPC’s current market cap is $4.7 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings decreased by more than 43% while revenues posted an increase of almost 26%. That’s typically a sign the company is becoming less efficient, and the truth is that PPC has been under pressure from rising material costs, such as feed, and in interest expense. The company also operates with a pretty narrow margin profile, which isn’t unusual in the Foods industry. Net Income over the last year was 5.3% of Revenues, and decreased in the last quarter to about 3.65%. Not all of the news is bad: export volumes and revenues, from Mexico as well as Europe are expected to increase into next year, along with volume in the U.S., and the company is positioning itself to benefit from expanding its products into wider-margin areas including prepared foods.
    • Free Cash Flow: PPC’s free cash flow is quite healthy, at more than $472 million over the last twelve months. That translates to a Free Cash Flow Yield of 10%, which is pretty attractive.
    • Debt to Equity: PPC has a debt/equity ratio of 1.26, which is higher than I normally prefer to see, but is also not unusual for food stocks. The company’s balance sheet demonstrates their operating profits are more than adequate to service their debt.
    • Dividend: PPC does not pay an annual dividend.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for PPC is $8.25 per share and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 2.28 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 4.3, which suggests the stock is trading right now at a discount of nearly 88%, and that puts the stock’s long-term target at about $35.50 per share. That is just a couple of dollars per share away from the stock’s 52-week high, reached in November of last year before the stock began its current downward trend.



    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The red diagonal line measures the length of the stock’s downward trend from December 2017 to its low in August of this year; it also informs the Fibonacci trend retracement lines shown on the right side of the chart. Since finding that bottom at around $16, the stock has hovered in a narrow range between $16 on the low side and $19 on the high side. That marks a consolidation range that could provide a catalyst for a sizable trend reversal – but the stock would need to break above that resistance at $19 first, and probably get to about $21 to make that trend reversal sustainable.
    • Near-term Keys: This is an interesting stock because its price activity over the last few years doesn’t really indicate much in the way of downside that the stock hasn’t already seen. It could, of course, break below $16 and test even lower ranges that date as far back as 2013, when the stock was below $10; but given the size of the decrease the stock has already seen since December of last year, and the generally positive fundamental strength the company demonstrates, that seems unlikely. The long-term value proposition is excellent, and so if you’re looking for a straightforward value play, and are willing to work with a long-term perspective, this could be an excellent stock to consider. If you’re a short-term trader, don’t consider buying the stock for any kind of momentum or swing-based move until the stock breaks resistance at around $19; the best signal point would likely be at around $21 based on the stock’s current price levels. At that point, there could be a good opportunity to buy the stock or to start working with call options with an eye on the $25 price level as indicated by the 38.2% retracement line.


  • 04 Jul
    Is TSN a good defensive investment?

    Is TSN a good defensive investment?

    When markets become volatile, it usually means that investors are becoming increasingly uncertain and nervous. Uncertainty can come from all kinds of different things – concerns about inflation, wage growth, central bank monetary policy, earnings trends, and geopolitical events. For most of the last three months, most of the uncertainty in the market has revolved around the spectre of trade war between the U.S. and its biggest trading partners. That fear is raising its ugly head once more this week as new tariffs from the U.S. against China are set to take effect on July 6. Besides those tariffs, there are also looming duties against Canada and Mexico along with the steel and aluminum tariffs against the European Union and other trade allies. At the same time the U.S. will begin imposing duties on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports on Friday, Beijing is set to respond in kind with tariffs on a range of products including soybeans, seafood and crude oil.

    When economic concerns increase, investors often start to look for investments that are defensive in nature; that is, they’ll usually start moving money into less volatile, more “secure” assets like Treasury bonds and T-bills, or into stocks that they think should be less cyclical in nature and so have less risk than other stocks. Food companies, including Packaged Foods, which is the industry that Tyson Foods, Inc. (TSN) sits in, often fits into that description. While the stock is down since the latter part of 2017 from a high at around $85 per share to its current price around $67, it has also been holding its value pretty well since the beginning of May, when trade war rumors were really beginning to heat up. Does that mean that TSN, whose sales outside of the U.S. accounted for only about 12% of their total sales in 2017, could be a good stock to hold? Let’s take a look.


    Fundamental and Value Profile

    Tyson Foods, Inc. is a food company, which is engaged in offering chicken, beef and pork, as well as prepared foods. The Company offers food products under Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Ball Park, Wright, Aidells and State Fair brands. The Company operates through four segments: Chicken, Beef, Pork and Prepared Foods. It operates a vertically integrated chicken production process, which consists of breeding stock, contract growers, feed production, processing, further-processing, marketing and transportation of chicken and related allied products, including animal and pet food ingredients. Through its subsidiary, Cobb-Vantress, Inc. (Cobb), the Company is engaged in supplying poultry breeding stock across the world. It produces a range of fresh, frozen and refrigerated food products. Its products are marketed and sold by its sales staff to grocery retailers, grocery wholesalers, meat distributors, warehouse club stores and military commissaries, among others. TSN has a current market cap of $24.4 billion.

    • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings and sales both increased, with earnings growing at almost 26%, while sales increased about 7.5%. Growing earnings faster than sales is difficult to do, and generally isn’t sustainable in the long-term; however it is also a good indication of a management’s ability to maximize their business operations.
    • Free Cash Flow: TSN’ Free Cash Flow is healthy, at almost $1.6 billion. That number has increased modestly over the past year, but is about 20% lower since the beginning of 2017.
    • Debt to Equity: TSN has a debt/equity ratio of .73, which is pretty conservative. Their balance sheet indicates operating profits are more than sufficient to service their debt.
    • Dividend: TSN pays an annual dividend of $1.20 per share, which at its current price translates to a dividend yield of 1.79%.
    • Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for TSN is $33.03 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a Price/Book Ratio of 2.0. Ratios closer to 1 are usually preferred from a value-oriented standpoint, however higher multiples aren’t that unusual, especially in certain industries. The average for the Packages Foods industry is 1.7, while the historical average for TSN is 2.0. This implies the stock is fairly valued, without a great deal of upside. On the other hand, the stock’s P/E ratio is currently 38% below its historical average, which many investors will take as a positive valuation sign.


    Technical Profile

    Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

     

    • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The diagonal red line outlines the stock’s downward trend beginning in December of last year. The stock hit this line in mid-June and reversed lower, but to this point has failed to establish a new, lower pivot low below the dashed blue line I’ve drawn to illustrate the stock’s current support level. Assuming the stock continues to hold above this level, it could begin to draw bullish momentum to push back up to its nearest resistance, which should be around $72 per share (around the yellow dashed line). TThe stock has been holding in this general range since April, when trade fears began to emerge.
    • Near-term Keys: With the stock currently holding around support at about $66, there could be an opportunity for short-term swing traders to take a bullish position using call options or by buying the stock outright if the stock starts to move higher. Look for volume on up days to increase compared to volume on down days, with the price moving above $68.50 per share. On the other hand, if the stock drops below $66, the downward trend will be reconfirmed, with the next most likely support level sitting anywhere between $57 and $60. A break below $66 could be used as a signal to short the stock or to start working put options.


1 2